THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (V)
Written by MalloryDyatlov59 :: [Thursday, 10 August 2023 14:20] Last updated by :: [Friday, 17 November 2023 11:53]
This is the fifith chapter of my fanfic about Superwoman.
In this installement we seeClara Kent/Superwoman meeting Batman/Bruce Wayne in Gotham and together thwarting a strange smuggling operation. Our superheroine also tries to interview Lex Luthor with fateful consequences!
For character context, introduction and fanart you can check here
For the first chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (I) - SuperWomenMania
For the second chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (II) - SuperWomenMania
For the third chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (III) - SuperWomenMania
For the third chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (IV) - SuperWomenMania
For a fanfilm about the story see here!(1) SUPERWOMAN 1948 - YouTube
Gotham, 6 October 1948
Clara Kent and Jimmy Olsen paused for a moment and looked up. The massive Wayne Tower, the third tallest building in America after the Empire State Building and the Metropolis TELCORP Tower, loomed in front of them. Clara closed her eyes and with her super hearing she could make out thousands of voices, including the familiar voice of Bruce Wayne talking to his advisors.
– I don't like the fact that we're going back to the age of the tycoons," Jimmy sighed.
– I'm sorry?
– I don't know, Clara, the war's over and now half the names in the press are big millionaires… Luthor, Strauss, Lord, Wayne, Rockefeller… their opinions count for a lot in politics, in diplomacy, again. I thought that was over with the crash of '29 and the New Deal. But here we are again, interviewing a millionaire playboy for his opinion on current affairs.
Clara smiled sheepishly at Jimmy. Poor Jimmy, he didn't know what Bruce was going through and the effort he was making. Bruce was stubbornly pretending to be a frivolous playboy with occasional moments of lucidity to distract everyone, while at night, and sometimes for long days, he was fighting evil as the Batman. Nor did Jimmy know that under her pale blue shirt and beige plush jacket and skirt, she wore the blue tights and red cape of Superwoman.
– Mr. Wayne is still an important person in the tech sector… he has Lucius Fox in his company, who is said to be the best mind in America after Lex Luthor.
– Luthor, if he didn't hate Superwoman so much and have such an ugly face, I'd like him better than Wayne. At least he's a great philanthropist and has a reputation as a liberal.
Oh Jimmy, if you only knew who Lex Luthor really is… Jimmy scratched his head and photographed the skyscraper.
– I think Mr. Wayne likes you.
– Don't be silly Jimmy, he likes anything with a skirt on, Clara lied.
– When we saw you with him in the bar at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, we couldn't believe it.
Clara blushed, -Jimmy, I just wanted to interview him and get some information about Luthor, he knows I don't like him, and he's interested in having good relations with the press.
– Yes, that's right-Jimmy laughed -I prefer him to Louis, to be honest, I think he's a better catch.
Clara got angry.
– Jimmy, you must know how to keep your mouth shut sometimes.
– I'm sorry, I was joking.
– It's not funny.
– Well Clara, you're not known for having much of a sense of humor.
They both entered the grand foyer of Wayne Tower.
– Did Louis say anything to you about the Metropolis mayoral election?
– Mmm… no, now that you mention it, he's only talking about the senate and presidential elections
– So, the rumours are true.
– Which rumours?
– Mason Norris was always said to be Pat Lane's lover.
Clara was startled…she knew that Pat Lane, Louis' wife, had been unfaithful to him many times…and indirectly Louis had told her that in the past they had come to some sort of arrangement so that she could make a life for herself. But she didn't know that Mason Norris, the handsome millionaire art patron and Republican candidate for mayor of Metropolis, was Pat Lane's lover. There was so much Louis didn't tell her…
– I thought Louis didn't like Norris because he was from the liberal wing of the Republican Party. Now Jimmy, please stop gossiping.
– You didn't know?
– Jimmy, please don't talk to me about these things.
– Sorry, Clara.
Clara didn't want to be angry with Jimmy…they never talked about Louis. He was her best friend, but she knew he disapproved that kind of relationship she had with Louis. They went to one of the counters.
– We're Clara Kent and Jimmy Olsen from the Daily Planet, we have an interview with Mr. Wayne and Mr. Fox at 10am.
The receptionist made several calls and three men in suits led them to a special lift. They travelled up more than sixty floors until they reached the executive floor. They were made to wait in a large lobby with a huge glass window overlooking all of Gotham.
– Wow, what a view - Jimmy went up and took several pictures.
A cheerful voice interrupted them.
– Miss Kent… it's good to see you again.
Bruce Wayne appeared out of nowhere. Clara looked at him with amusement. There he was, tall, strong, elegant, wearing a tailored suit, with his farsighted glasses replaced by contact lenses when he fought crime as Batman. Now it was time for a pantomime, as if they barely knew each other.
Clara shook his hand as Bruce held back a laugh. Jimmy looked at them a little strangely.
After Bruce Wayne came Lucius Fox, one of America's most admired scientists and inventors. He was also a symbol of the African American population. Lucius Fox was from Mississippi and had lived a hard life before becoming the Chief Technology Officer of Wayne Industries. His books on mechanics and aviation were read in every university and college. He was one of the few black men who had openly succeeded outside of film and show business, overcoming racism in all other fields. His popularity declined, however, because he had declared himself an enemy of nuclear power.
Clara asked the usual questions about the atomic bomb, which the Russians now had, the Rand Corporation, developments in aeronautics, the possibility of researching alien technology, the future of aviation, the need for peace-oriented technology and mass consumption. Almost all the answers were given by Lucius Fox, while Bruce pretended to be frivolous and repeated advertising slogans, even daring to wink at Clara once, but Jimmy didn't notice, he was too busy photographing them.
When the interview was over, Lucius left, and Bruce invited Clara into his office for a quick off-the-record chat. Jimmy looked at Clara mischievously and said he would wait for her at reception. Clara and Bruce entered the millionaire's brightly lit office. Bruce greeted her warmly and kissed her on the cheek.
– How are you, Clara?
– How was yesterday?
– Terrible, I spent ten hours rescuing injured people after an earthquake in Turkmenistan. I'll go back and help again as soon as I'm free of Jimmy. Not to mention the usual everyday thefts and accidents.
– Have you thought about what we talked about last week?
– Yes, I don't want you and Barry to do anything stupid. You won't try to raid a US base. You'd end up behind bars sooner or later.
– Aren't you afraid of what the government and Luthor are planning?
– Of course, I'm afraid, but we can't be labeled as public enemies.
– We already are to the government, even if they don't dare say it.
– They'll have to make the first move. Besides, Luthor will never obey the government, he's a megalomaniac and he's obsessed with me. Eventually, he'll try to act on his own. Then we will hunt him down and expose him. His downfall will affect the Rand Corporation and with the political turmoil there will be a commission of inquiry.
– You're too optimistic, Clara.
– I don't want to violate the laws of my government.
– A government that's funding and working with the people who want to kill you.
– Maybe with the change of government…
– I don't think so. McArthur and Admiral Strauss, who are in line to be Secretary of Defense if Dewey wins, hate you even more than the present Secretary of Defense.
– The only thing I have to defend myself when I'm publicly attacked is that I follow all the laws and I'm only in the business of saving lives, Bruce. That's all we have.
– Well, I don't do the former. Batman has 27 counts against him in the Miskatonic District Attorney's office. I'm damn lucky the police are in the business of sabotaging Harvey Dent and his team of attorneys.
Clara sighed and looked through the large glass window of Bruce's office.
– Do you have any plans for tonight?
– I'm going to need the cavalry, either you, or Barry. According to my research, there's a ship coming in with smuggled weapons and possibly forced prostitutes smuggled in from Europe. It's being brought in by a second-rate mobster who's got some weird FBI protection, but I think I can disrupt the landing and force the police to act.
– Of course, count me in. As soon as I'm done in Turkmenistan, I'll be with you, hand in hand. At what time?
– Batman will be there at 1am, but he doesn't intend to act until 2am.
– BRUCE, DON'T TALK ABOUT YOU IN THE THIRD PERSON-Clara started to laugh.
Bruce took her hand.
– How's everything else going?
– Well, work is good, my bosses seem to like my series of articles on the defense industry and the Rand Corporation… but yesterday's earthquake hit me hard.
– Clara, Superwoman can't be everywhere, and I don't think she can stop the tectonic plates from moving.
– If I can make tsunamis collapse in on themselves and stop them, or disintegrate hurricanes, maybe one day I can do something about earthquakes.
– Clara, you can't, I have a certain scientific background and…
– Batman, scientist and detective
They both smiled at each other, Bruce turned and walked around the office.
– And Mr. Lane?
Clara looked wistful.
– Mr. Lane is completely preoccupied with the election and his daughter, but it looks like we're doing better and there will be changes soon…maybe…
Thoughtfully, Bruce sank into an armchair. Clara looked at him lovingly. Bruce was still madly in love with Selina Kyle, the second-rate music-hall singer who, thanks to her wonderful agility, had later become a thief and perhaps a superheroine? Catwoman. But after a terrible confrontation with the Joker and the Penguin, Selina was in a mental hospital… in a terrible depression. Bruce spent a fortune on doctors and visited her every morning, though Selina barely recognized him. Bruce had never told her the full story. It had happened in 1943, before they met, and before Superwoman came on the scene. It had all been indirect references or discreet comments from Alfred. A few weeks earlier, Bruce talked openly about the issue, he was very happy that Selina was getting better.
– I like Mr. Lane, Clara, I think he's a decent guy.
– You two are a bit like… you like to be real twits, but then you're very nice men.
– I don't understand why he won't leave his wife for you.
Clara shrugged sadly.
– It's because of his daughter… and well, they're Catholics, it's not easy for them.
– Clara, you should tell him the truth. I'm sure it would be difficult at first, but he would understand everything. There would be no stumbling blocks. I assure you from my experience that there are certain lies that it is a mistake to maintain for too long.
– When he's ready, and when I'm ready. To tell him now would only serve to alienate him from me and to put him in danger.
– I don't understand how he hasn't yet realized that you're the same woman.
– Neither do I, but maybe you men aren't as smart as you think you are…well Bruce, I should go, otherwise Jimmy will think there's something strange going on here.
– One question…does he still subscribe to the theory he's had for years that Batman is actually several men hired and trained by the police and the city's moguls to maintain order beyond the law and to serve as a publicity symbol for the city?
– Yes, he certainly believes it, and that one of them broke his arm.
– The year 40 was very complicated, and your dear Louis was then a professional thug, what I did was to save his life, he broke his arm by himself.
– You and I did not get along well at first.
– I remember it very well.
Bruce smiled and put his hands lovingly on her shoulders.
– Well Superwoman, I'll see you tonight. Thanks for your help.
Clara gave him a mocking military salute.
– At your service, Mr. Bat!
Clara met Jimmy downstairs and they took a bus to the hotel. Jimmy looked at her strangely.
– What did Mr. Wayne tell you?
– He gave me names of people I'm interested in for my research.
– I see… And why is he helping you?
– She found me sympathetic, and he doesn't like people associated with the Rand Corporation.
When they arrived at the hotel, Jimmy suggested they could walk around the area looking for stories or good photos. Clara pretended to be sleepy and told Jimmy that she wanted to stay at the hotel to rest and prepare the article. They entered the elevator and Jimmy got out on the third floor. Clara was left alone. Well, up, up, and away! in a fraction of a second, she undid her bun, took off her glasses, removed her skirt, shirt, and jacket, revealing her blue tights and her red and gold crest with the House of El emblem on her chest as she unfurled her red cape. She lifted the roof of the elevator slightly and flew off to Turkmenistan to help the victims of the earthquake. The elevator arrived empty at the fifth floor.
Superwoman returned to her hotel room after nearly eight hours of rescuing the wounded and helping earthquake survivors in Turkmenistan, as well as performing a few rescues and quick arrests of the few criminals who dared to challenge the trinity of Batman, Flash, and the Lady of Steel daily. She quickly changed into Clara Kent and had dinner with Jimmy in the hotel restaurant. Jimmy kept glancing sideways at her.
– Who do you think will win, Clara?
– I guess Dewey.
– Do you think he'll ask Congress to legislate about Superwoman? They're talking about special legislation.
– No, I don't think so.
– What do you think?
– Well, I think as long as they let her keep saving lives, legislation to give people peace of mind wouldn't be a problem. I'm sure Superwoman will obey the law whether she likes it or not.
– Don't you think we're being a little ungrateful?
– I don't think it's a question of gratitude. I don't think we need to be grateful to her. She's trying to do her duty like everybody else. I don't look at her any differently than I look at the police or how I look at doctors and nurses.
– Clara, you are the person in the office who is the least excited and the least interested in Superwoman.
– I think we've seen so much in the last few years…Superwoman is just one more," Clara sighed, "plus I think she's trying to be discreet and not get involved in public life. I think any politician or public figure gives us more headaches.
– You're the only one who thinks that way.
– I must admit that you take good pictures of her, very good pictures.
Jimmy moved a little closer to Clara.
– Sometimes I get a little scared.
– She looks like she's posing for me.
Clara hid her embarrassment and adopted a joking tone.
– Maybe she has you on file and likes the way you take pictures.
– Why do you think she let us interview her first? Louis Lane is a great interviewer and a good journalist, but he's relatively young and he'd just come back from the war, he'd been out of journalism for four years. There are a lot of bigger name journalists who would have done a great interview. Cat Grant or Menken at our paper, without going any further, Paul Anderson, Edna Lee Booker, Liebling, Lipman, Tess Harding?
– Jimmy, my darling, Chance, I'll spell it for you: c-h-a-n-c-e.
– I don't believe in those things, Clara, I think we've got her close.
– Oh, Jimmy, what nonsense… as long as Superwoman isn't Pat Lane…
Clara's heart was beating fast, Jimmy suspected something…she thought she could trust him, she thought she knew him well, but what if Jimmy found out before she could explain it to him? What if there were more people who found out and ended up with his secret identity? Clara tried to cover her nervousness with jokes and they ended up talking about silly things. When they finished dinner, Clara said she was very sleepy, she quickly left and went back to her room where she quickly changed and as Superwoman she flew at super speed through the window.
Well, today should be easy, arrest a few mobsters, it's only bullets and machine guns, nothing that will take me more than a few minutes.
After several rescues, she flew to the harbor around one in the morning, where she found Batman perched on the roof of a warehouse, watching something with binoculars.
Bruce was transfixed by the faint lights of a freighter. Despite the darkness, he could make out the letters through the night vision of his binoculars, KARAKORUM, K-A-R-A-K-O-R-U-M, undoubtedly the rusty ship he had been waiting for. Days earlier, he and Alfred had picked up a phone conversation between two mobsters, Dutch Galante and Jimmy Kaplan. Galante was an expert smuggler who had fallen out of favor after 1942 for working too closely with the smooth operators of the Italian Fascist regime in Gotham's Italian-American community, but now he was back with strange police protection. That protection was provided by Jimmy Kaplan, a Metropolis mobster who had settled in Gotham in 1940 to avoid prosecution. Kaplan was elusive, had many political connections, and his nightclub was one of the most successful in the city. He had inherited many of Intergang's businesses from Polito, and Alfred had a theory that Kaplan was simply taking care of Intergang and the Penguin's business while they were in prison, using his political connections and his talkative nature. This was the first time he thought he could nail Kaplan. The two mobsters had talked about the freighter, its time of arrival, the absence of guards, and the cargo it was carrying: "white veal" (a terrible code for trafficking in women forced into prostitution, usually refugees fleeing Europe) and "marbles" (guns). If he disrupted this landing and got the police involved, it would be a good coup, at worst they could arrest Galante.
A strong breeze blew behind him.
– Good night, Bruce.
– Don't call me Bruce when we're in the field. We are Batman and Superwoman.
– Mr. Bat, if you only knew how much I dislike the name Superwoman…
Superwoman flirtatiously wiggled her red cape and kissed Batman on the cheek, who growled.
– This is very serious, Superwoman, we can expose the Harbor Patrol and take down two very important gangsters. I know everything but earthquakes and aliens is easy for you, but there are kidnapped women on that ship… and weapons that are likely to be used by the Mafia for more sinister purposes.
– Batman, I just like that we do operations together, and I don't think this one will be difficult.
Batman explained his plan to Superwoman; they would both burst in as soon as Galante's henchmen arrived. Superwoman would cover Batman as he entered the ship and freed the kidnapped women. Then the two would wait for the police to arrive and hand over the women and the detained henchmen, while exposing the shipment of weapons.
The freighter was still quietly docked and there was a little more movement. Three cars with their lights off pulled up next to the freighter and about ten armed men got out. Clara and Bruce's hearts skipped a beat when they saw that there were three men in army uniforms among them.
– What the hell is going on?
– I don't understand.
Superwoman sensed that something wasn't quite right. She sharpened her super-hearing.
– Lieutenant Bentham?
– Are you Maldini?
– Yes, I'm your contact.
– Well, we don't want to be here too long. There are five boxes of papers and two sealed boxes. Take them out immediately. We don't want to get involved in anything else. A truck will be here for us in about 10 minutes.
– The agreement was that you would hold off the port police for four hours so we could get our cargo down.
– It has been one hour. Give the order to unload our cargo immediately.
– Batman, these military men are here to pick up a shipment… I don't understand.
– I do. Smuggling. Or a certain general wants to hide something from the rest of the army.
– I'm going to zoom in quickly to see if there really are people being held hostage inside…
– We're going to act anyway; the police must intervene.
Flying at superspeed, Clara made several passes with her x-ray vision, undetected by the freighter crew or the henchmen. The cargo included cotton, radios, scrap metal… but she also saw a group of fifteen women locked in a bunk room talking to each other in Polish. She detected the armed men inspecting five large crates of papers and two crates sealed with lead… Great Scott! lead, lead again! Clara feared that the two sealed boxes were sealed with lead to prevent her from seeing what was inside. She hurried back to Batman.
– Bruce you were right, there are kidnapped women inside, I think they are Polish. I haven't seen any signs of weapons, but there are some sealed lead boxes that I find disturbing.
– Superwoman, we must go in.
– We'll wait for the ship's crane to remove the lead boxes first.
The wait took forever. Soon the crane lifted seven large crates, which Superwoman identified as the ones filled with papers and the two lead boxes.
– Well, here we go, Clara.
Superwoman smiled - we agreed no names, right?
Batman jumped onto the roof of a black Studebaker. Before the surprised henchmen had a chance to set their machine guns to work, Batman began punching and kicking the henchmen to the ground. Batman carefully dodged the three military men, who still began firing at him. Luckily for Batman, the bullets ricocheted off the generous chest of Superwoman, who used her super-speed to disarm everyone in the dock.
– Damn it! Damn it! Let's get out of here! We need to call the General now!
The three military men ran into a car as Batman cut down the rest of the henchmen, but Superwoman lifted the car over her head and brought it back down while carefully ripping off the wheels.
– You shouldn't have come tonight; you'll stay here until you can explain to the police what you were doing in such bad company. Excuse me for making sure you stay with us.
Superwoman ripped off the car door and, under the astonished eyes of the three soldiers, turned it into three metal bars, which she bent with her super strength and used to bind the soldiers. Deep down, she was scared and feared the consequences of what had happened…officers working together with mobsters!
Batman had jumped into the ship and was fighting the crewmen, who were firing rifles and machine guns at him, barely dodging Batman. Superwoman stretched out her long bright red cape to protect Bruce as bullets ricocheted off her. They both climbed down into the ship and opened the door of the room where the kidnapped women were being held, crying in confusion. They escorted them out, trying to explain that they were safe. The crew members and henchmen who were not wounded or tied up jumped into the water or fled across the harbor. Up on deck, the crane operator had fled, and the platform was swaying slightly. Two of the paper boxes had fallen. One had crashed into the water and the unreadable papers were floating in a mess, another had fallen and exploded on deck and papers were flying in all directions. Superwoman grabbed some of them. They were illegible papers in German, calculations, blueprints of strange machines, copies of symbols and writing that Clara recognized as Kryptonian, her heart skipped a beat. Black and white photos of strange stone blocks and excavations, rusted machinery, two empty pods that were undoubtedly Kryptonian… all pages were stamped with the Nazi symbol and the dates 1942 and 1943. What the hell is this?
– Bruce, please pick up all the papers you can.
Superwoman took off gently and floated over to the other boxes, there were the lead boxes. She felt her heart racing, but also a strange headache and dizziness. She knew very well the sensation of heat, overpowering and vomiting…It couldn't be. She approached the lead box with trepidation and set it down on the deck. Her heart was pounding. She opened it.
Her hands and face felt as if they were on fire, and she coughed on all fours.
It was Kryptonite. A greenish, hideous, metallic powder. At least a ton of powdered kryptonite.
Bruce rushed over to her.
– Clara, what's wrong? What's wrong with you?
– It's kryptonite, Superwoman said, coughing and convulsing.
Superwoman managed to stand up, walk over to the metal box and punch it. The box flew into the water, and a cloud of greenish dust disappeared over the ocean. Police sirens wailed in the distance. Patrol cars entered the harbor.
– Let's get out of here, please, Bruce.
Superwoman struggled to her feet, flew to the crane and grabbed the other lead box. She could barely hold it. She threw it with all her might far out to sea and could see the box bursting against the water in the distance, leaving a strange green trail. She then fell on the deck and went falling through several levels, almost fainting, until it pierced the bottom of the ship. The ship began to take on water as Superwoman nearly lost consciousness as she floated beneath the hull of the ship.
Bruce shouted at the hole left in the ship by Superwoman's fall but he had no time, the gangway was down, the ship was tilting dangerously. He dragged the wounded or handcuffed henchmen and crewmen and the refugee women onto the bridge. The police had already arrived and were shouting everywhere as flashlights illuminated the ship. The tilt of the ship had knocked over the other boxes of papers that had burst against the deck, the water or the dock. Papers were flying everywhere.
Batman was sweating and feared for Clara, he could get arrested this time, it would be the end of Batman's career…But Clara? She was hurt, maybe badly, how to rescue her? The tilt of the boat suddenly corrected itself and a force pushed it against the dock. A red and blue blur repositioned the gangway.
Bruce smiled; Superwoman was all right. The Dark Knight invited the women to follow him to the gangway, which was already occupied by the police. As the police silently pointed their guns at him, Bruce raised his arms and calmly walked toward a young officer he knew, John Blake.
– Officer Blake, these fifteen women were being held hostage on this boat. I believe it is in your best interest to speak with them.
The fifteen women shivered and looked around in confusion.
– Why are there three army officers tied up?" the policeman asked.
– I think you must talk to them; seems they were interested in the shipment. A lot of the people we captured will be of interest to you, and I'm sure they are in your files.
The cops looked around in confusion. Then Superwoman landed gently. She was soaking wet, her face flushed and red, and she was carrying reams of papers.
– Good evening, gentlemen… I think you should take care of the welfare of these ladies and of these criminals we captured while we… uh… go.
Superwoman grabbed Batman by the waist and flew off into the night.
Officer Blake looked out at the half-submerged ship, the swirls of paper, the women wrapped in blankets and the handcuffed crewmen and henchmen. These nights are the worst.
Superwoman flew with difficulty; she couldn't fly very fast. She was coughing and kept feeling this dizziness and this burning sensation in her face and hands. In one arm she carried a pile of papers she'd picked up from the ship, though she didn't know if they made any sense, and in the other she held a mute Batman.
They landed at a waterfall and entered the Batcave. There, Superwoman fell to her knees and began coughing again.
– It was Kryptonite, Bruce, at least two tons, how barbaric.
Bruce picked up the papers and started going through them.
– Please rest, sleep a few hours and we'll go over the papers in the morning.
– I must get back to my hotel, I have an 8 a.m. train to Metropolis.
– You are in bad shape, Clara.
Alfred appeared with a blanket and a box of medicine.
– Miss Kent, we've been through this before, please rest and take this.
– I was only exposed for a few seconds, I'll be fully recovered in a few hours. I need to go to my hotel and rest. Jimmy can't be suspicious.
Before the Bat and Alfred could say anything, Superwoman disappeared.
Jimmy read the newspaper on the train while Clara leaned against the window and tried to doze off.
– You look very bad Clara, are you feeling well?
– I had an allergy attack last night, I didn't sleep, and I coughed a lot.
Clara adjusted her glasses and sighed. She was still exhausted and a bit dizzy. Exposure to kryptonite for only a few seconds had done that to her. But where did the two tons of kryptonite powder come from? What did the Nazis have to do with it? Why was the military trying to smuggle it in on a Mafia freighter? Did it have anything to do with the Rand Corporation? She would arrive in Metropolis, deliver the article to Louis or Cat Grant, and go home to rest and sleep for a few hours. If only the world wasn't in danger during that time! Then she would meet with Bruce to try to understand what had happened the night before.
– Can I borrow the paper, Jimmy?
Clara anxiously checked the Gotham Tribune for any reference to last night and found it.
LAST REPORT OF A MAJOR RAID AGAINST SMUGGLING: In the early hours of this morning, Gotham police arrested a total of twenty-five people in an anti-smuggling raid from Europe that began with a shooting in the harbor. Police freed fifteen Polish refugee women who were believed to have fallen into a trafficking ring. Half of those arrested were crew members of the Finnish-flagged freighter that sailed from Norway, and the other half are believed to be members of Gotham organized crime. No further information has been released at this time, but it is the largest bust in Gotham Harbor since Prohibition. The freighter was damaged by the crew itself and now lies half sunk in the southern docks.
Great Scott! No mention of Superwoman or Batman! And no mention of the presence of three military men. Clara worriedly wondered what was going on and if Luthor had anything to do with it.
Her memory flashed back to the first time she had confronted Luthor, shortly after defeating Zod, when he had used mercenaries and even murdered people to steal wreckage from Kryptonian ships. She burst into his office, threatening, and Luthor was genuinely frightened, but as usual, she had no evidence to bring Luthor to justice. She could feel the fear and hatred in the billionaire, and how the latter overcame the former as Luthor regained his composure and sneered at her.
Lex Luthor was reviewing some test reports on some special aerospace metals when his secretary, Mercy Graves, entered his office with a worried look on her face.
– Mr. Luthor, you have a call on the secure line, it's General Hardy… he says it's very urgent.
Luthor showed no emotion and stood up quickly, but inside he cursed Hardy, whom he considered an extremist and incompetent military man, what would have happened now…
Luthor entered an enclosed and padded room where there was a secret telephone line that operated outside the normal circuit. Next to the phone was a detector that could tell if the caller's line was being tapped; when it was, the light flashed red. Now it was blinking green, the line was secure. Luthor sat up and picked up the phone.
– Hardy? Talk to me.
– How are you, Luthor? I'm sorry to bother you, but we have a small problem that could seriously affect us.
– Small problem but could seriously affect us…What happened?
– I don't know where to begin.
– General…Get to the point, tell me what the problem is, and then explain the causes to me, if you dare to do so…
– We tried to bring two tons of refined kryptonite and documentation of German experiments and research on Kryptonians and antediluvian civilizations. We used Baroness Von Gunther to put us in touch with former Abwehr, Ahnenerbe and SS agents who had hidden this information and the kryptonite in Denmark, we passed it on to Norway and brought it in illegally on a freighter. We wanted to avoid having to report it to the OSS or the Department of Defense who might interfere with the process…the landing went badly because Superwoman and Batman broke in during unloading and destroyed the shipment.
Luthor didn't move a muscle as he absorbed the information, the silence disturbed General Hardy.
– I am here. Are you going to tell me what happened?
– Luthor, it's information we already knew about the excavations of antediluvian ruins and alien remains in the Urals, Argentina and Antarctica. Baroness von Gunther managed to find a fugitive SS chief in Switzerland and retrieve the kryptonite and the files. It was about a hundred thousand pages of excavations, the experiments and a very useful method of extracting kryptonite from metals where there are traces of it, much better than ours…the scientists in charge are in the hands of the Soviets or dead.
– Why was I not informed?
– It was a strictly military operation, we wanted to avoid any leaks or problems until we had the shipment with us… only Mr. Lord knew.
Stupid, incompetent bastards, a bead of sweat trickled down Luthor's forehead.
– Why did Mr. Lord know?
– He was the one who pressured the Baroness, he's the brain behind the operation to get the files and the kryptonite… and he was the one who got the freighter… from, uh… his contacts.
– What contacts?
Luthor smiled a little. He hadn't expected to get the Kryptonite and the Nazi files, he knew there was something, but he thought it was in the hands of another branch of the government or the Soviets, now he had General Hardy and Maxwell Lord on his hands.
– Did you think that a couple of smugglers was the answer to something this important?
– There will be no negative consequences for us, I think.
– I beg your pardon?
– Three officers under my command were neutralized by Superwoman and arrested by the police, but I managed to get them released.
– What a disaster, Hardy, what a disaster… all our work was about to be exposed. You don't know what you've done. I'm resigning from the Rand Corporation and our task force.
– We need to discuss this in person.
– Yes, we need to discuss this in person, but unless we take a very strict line and act directly and swiftly against our dear caped friends and stop the conspiracies with former Nazis, I will go and report the facts directly to the President, but not before causing an earthquake in the scientists' teams.
Hardy gasped on the other line…I've got them in my hands, Luthor smiled.
Metropolis, Planet Building
Superwoman entered an empty room in the Planet Building at super speed through the window, carrying a bag containing an evening gown she had rented from the Bellvue store. She had just picked it up as Clara Kent but had to act quickly as Superwoman to prevent two children from being run over as they picked up a ball from the subway tracks. As soon as she heard their screams, she ducked under a car, shed all her clothes and glasses in a split second, and then the children were rescued by a beautiful blue-eyed brunette in blue tights and a red cape. The two children came face to face with their favorite superhero, the Maid of Might, Superwoman.
– What did you think you were doing?
– We…we're sorry…we dropped the ball.
– You could have been killed. I should take you home to your parents and ground you. You would have died for a ball.
The children trembled, but the woman in the red cape softened her expression and stroked their hair.
– I'm very angry, but I'm not going to tell on you, and don't ever step on a subway track again…unless you have super speed.
She winked and disappeared. As she flew over Metropolis, she sighed, I'm feeling weaker and slower and sleepier…today I needed six hours of sleep when I usually only need two or three…a few minutes of exposure to that Kryptonite dust and I've had a week's worth of after-effects.
Now Superwoman pulled out the evening gown she'd rented from Bellvue. She didn't have the money to buy it, but she did have the money for a one-night rental. She wouldn't let Louis or Bruce give her something like this as a gift. It was very dark navy blue dress, satin, with a generous neckline and very short sleeves. It was a bit daring for her style, but she wanted to look pretty…and show it off to Louis.
Now it was time to hide the Superwoman costume and cape under the dress. Even though the cape was long and the tights and boots covered her entire body up to her chest, they were remarkably thin and easy to fold. Normally it was very easy to hide them under her stockings and her normal office outfits, but with an evening gown it was more difficult because she would be wearing cleavage and her arms in the air. She had to fold the boots and hide them in her purse. The rest of the suit and cape had to be folded over and over and wrapped around her stomach. It barely bulged. The dress was not too tight, and the folds of the satin hid it well. It didn't even look like she was wearing a girdle. Clara always preferred to wear the Superwoman costume under her clothes, she always had to have it handy, and hidden in her purse someone might discover it.
She took her time to put her hair up in a fancy bun, apply her makeup and put on her new glasses. She had decided to swap her old "schoolteacher" glasses for a more elegant and modern frame. The earrings Louis had given her were downstairs in the office they shared.
Louis was smoking as he finished an article on what he called a "conservative electoral wave" that was manifesting itself in Italy, France, Greece, Belgium, and soon, with Dewey's victory, in the United States. He was engrossed when he heard Clara's familiar voice clear her throat.
Louis was surprised and couldn't help but smile in admiration as he saw Clara Kent, his assistant reporter, walk in wearing a very elegant and daring navy blue evening gown. Clara was radiant, with new glasses…the dress accentuated all her curves. Louis felt a little dizzy and embarrassed as a rush of desire went through him as he looked at Clara. She smiled at him with her deep blue eyes, which Louis concentrated on so as not to look at her cleavage.
– Well Louis… what do you think?
– You look beautiful Clara.
Clara turned around and held up her skirt in a ballet move.
– Where did you get it?
– From Bellvue, rented.
– Had I known, I would have given it to you myself.
– Oh, don't be silly, Louis.
– It really suits you.
Clara sat down at her desk and put on the small pearl earrings Louis had given her.
– I will wear the earrings you gave me.
– Clara, this is about interviewing Luthor, not winning him over.
Clara smiled coyly at him.
– You know I strongly dislike Luthor, Louis.
– Me either, he seems like a dangerous guy, we shouldn't get too close to him… be nice and discreet, and if you can play dumb, all the better.
I know exactly who Luthor is, dear Louis.
– I don't have to play dumb to do my job.
– Sometimes you interrogate and bite more than you interview, with Luthor that's dangerous, it's better not to be in his crosshairs, be very careful.
Oh, Louis, you're telling me to be careful, but I've had to save your life six times, six.
– Well, Louis, don't worry, I'll try not to scare or upset Luthor.
Louis approached her. Clara gave him a flirtatious look and discreetly stuck out her chest. How I adore this fool.
– I'd love to join you, but well, I want to get home in time to be with my daughter, and I'm leaving tomorrow with Dewey's campaign command.
– I'll miss you, but I can make it on my own, Whiskers.
Louis laughed; Whiskers was Clara's new nickname for him.
Clara was happy to see Louis laugh, and to notice his desire and interest in her. She forgot for a few seconds the disturbing news Bruce had given her. The papers they had collected from the freighter made no sense, they were just a disjointed part of larger works, but after studying them carefully with Lucius Fox it was clear that the Nazis had found ruins in Patagonia, in Lapland and in Antarctica where they had found Kryptonian remains, from those prehistoric visits and coexistence with humans that Kelex had told her about. And they had conducted studies with kryptonite. It was clear that the army was trying to bring back all the results of those investigations and experiments…and it was certainly Luthor and the Rand Corporation.
Louis turned on the radio.
No doubt this wonderful song by the great Vera Lynn will remind many of our dear listeners of the long wait of loved ones in that war that had to be won, the hope of returning home in those listeners who were at the front…
– I loved this song Clara, we heard it a lot in the front, and when we entered Paris. It brings back so many memories…they were horrible moments but at the same time I have a certain nostalgia.
And I will just say hello
To the folks that you know
Tell them you won't be long
They'll be happy to know
That as I saw you go
You were singing this song
Clara also remembered that hopeful and optimistic song, playing all the time on the beaches of Guadalcanal, in the Field Hospital, in New Guinea. How tears came to her eyes when she listened to it with her nurse's uniform stained with mud and blood under the rain.
– It's a wonderful song…shall we dance?
We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day
They danced together in each other's arms. Louis kept his head high and his face expressionless, as always when he wanted to repress his instincts. Clara squeezed him tightly…When all this will be over? When we will be together?
– Clara, as soon as the elections are over everything will be clear.
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
'Til the blue skies chase those dark clouds far away
– Louis, my dear, sometimes there's no need to talk, shut up-they kept on dancing.
We'll meet again
Don't know where
Don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day
– I would have loved to have met you in the war Clara, I don't know if it sounds frivolous, I would have loved it.
– What a stereotypical movie Louis…the village nurse and the wealthy young war hero," Clara replied provocatively.
– With you around, everything would have been more bearable.
– For me too, whiskers.
When the song ended Louis offered to call her a cab and hurried away, telling himself for the umpteenth time that all would be clear soon.
On the way to the Ritz Carlton, Clara's memories took her back to one of her first serious arguments with Louis, and one of the times she realized that she was very much in love, and that maybe that love was reciprocated. It was at another ball in the same hotel, the press gala. Clara was at a separate table with the chief secretary and her husband, some young sports or movie reporters, Jimmy and Lucy, who slipped away from the presidential table as soon as she could to sit with them. Clara kept looking at Louis and his wife, who wore a beautiful white dress, while she wore a cheap pearl-gray loose-fitting dress that tried to hide her muscles. Pat Lane seemed to her to be a beautiful and elegant woman… "Louis' wife is gorgeous, Lucy, she looks like a doll" "A poisonous doll, Clara, don't get between them. They seem to hate each other, but they are an unbreakable marriage, plus, they are Catholics"… She was offended by Lucy's harsh words. Then Louis came to take her dancing. The orchestra was playing old-fashioned songs from the early 30's in a modernized way that reminded her of her childhood and dancing in the kitchen with her father, My silent love…. She danced a little with Louis in front of everyone, she was angry and did not understand well if she was jealous, full of desire or that she thought Louis was a hypocrite, "Are you dancing with me to make your wife jealous?" she spit out at Louis. He tried to grab her wrists hard, she let him, though Louis' strength couldn't move her a millimeter… "You're a resentful country bumpkin, how can you believe something so horrible," Louis replied in her ear, and left the ballroom. She went to the bathroom to cry, then took off her dress and flew like Superwoman out of a hotel window, away from everyone. They didn't speak for a week in the office, Louis wouldn't even look at her…
The party at the Ritz Carlton seemed rather dreadful and boring to Clara. She had been invited by the Tesla Foundation itself. She knew almost no one. A few faces sounded familiar to her as friends or acquaintances of Louis. She didn't see Louis' parents, whom she had met a few times and found very nice. There was the mayor, Mason Norris his opponent, the famous Admiral Strauss- who was openly hostile to Superwoman-people from both parties… also Perry Weiss and Cat Grant, but they were surrounded by important people- Clara didn't approach them out of a mixture of shyness and laziness.
With her super-hearing she had noticed that her dress and figure were a sensation among men, and a few of them had approached her to chat but she had been able to scare them off by being boring or unfriendly. Finally, she spotted Luthor, chatting animatedly with some ladies. Clara pricked up her ears and listened as Luthor talked to them about Native American myths and legends.
Clara approached discreetly. Already behind Luthor, she took a deep breath. She had faced that short, bald, thin man with the icy stare many times before, but she had always done so as Superwoman, wearing her red cape, not just as Clara Kent.
Luthor turned and looked at her sympathetically.
– Mr. Luthor, I'm from the Daily Planet, Clara…
Luthor cut her off, the look of sympathy turned to surprise and masked anger.
– Are you Miss Kent?
– A pleasure, Mr. Luthor.
– I believe we've never met.
– Not in person.
– Are you having a good time?
– I'm not used to these kinds of parties.
– They're not my favorite, Miss Kent, but unfortunately, we have to entertain certain people, so they'll give us some money for the people who really need our help.
– I have nothing against entertainment or philanthropy.
– But you do object to the defense industry.
– No, Mr. Luthor, I just think the public should be at least minimally informed about what the government is doing with big business and taxpayer money, and the governed should be able to demand that minimum standards be met.
– I deeply regret that war is not democratic, not even war in defense of democracy.
– I don't want to discuss politics, you wanted to be interviewed.
– And I am here to answer all your questions. I'm not even going to ask you who told you about our test site in Nevada.
– Do you have alien technology in Nevada?
– Honestly, Miss Kent… Don't you want a friendly dialogue before we get into it? Anyone ever tell you look a little bit like Gene Tierney?
The two ladies accompanying Luthor laughed. Clara felt she had burned through her cartridges too quickly. Luthor walked up to her and grabbed her arm with nice manners.
– Miss Kent, let's take a step back and apologize for the manners. No offense. I'm not a big fan of journalists, that's my fault. I don't fully understand their methods and etiquette, but they do a great job. Every time the fourth power is more and more important. I'm glad it is that way.
Clara thought it was all a false and rehearsed speech.
– Mr. Luthor, I'd like to impress upon you…
– Miss Kent, of course we're working with alien technology, but only with the few things Superwoman didn't destroy from her Kryptonian relatives in the '46 invasion, and we're authorized by Congress. The President himself has publicly criticized Superwoman for destroying all the technology the invaders left behind and throw them into space. But our core business is military aviation, as we stated in the press release. That's no secret. Tell me, are you afraid of the Kryptonians?
– No, Mr. Luthor. What do you think about the accusations of witch-hunting within the Rand Corporation?
– In none of the teams or companies where I have decision-making power is anyone bothered about their present or past political ideas. As long as they are not openly defending dictatorships and murderers. But in the military they are very nervous about the communist threat. We scientists and businessmen do not understand the threats and security risks as well as they do. Let them work, everything is protected by laws and courts.
– What laws, Mr. Luthor?
– I am not a lawyer, Miss Kent, but I believe that if someone were to be unlawfully persecuted for their ideas, no court in a free country would allow it.
Luthor's smile was almost mocking, he seemed to be saying all this with an ironic tone that made Clara uncomfortable.
– Mr. Luthor…
– Were you in the war, Miss Kent, were you a war correspondent?
– No, I was a nurse, in the Pacific.
– Then you understand what a horror it was. We are just working to have the technology to prevent that kind of war. Good deterrent and defense technology. The worst armed peace will be better than the most beneficial war. And then we have the planetary threat…We have already been visited by hostile aliens, and we have a super powerful host who has absolute power over our lives… tell me, are you working with Louis Lane?
Clara was startled by the question. Her heartbeat quickened considerably. She knew that Luthor knew about the connection between Superwoman and Louis Lane in the past… Luthor had even kidnapped him once to force Superwoman to fight Metallo. She decided to lie.
– I don't know him very well, he works in another department in the paper.
– Read again his articles. I don't know if you share the same political views, but Mr. Lane makes the best conservative critique from a Catholic but also enlightened point of view of the dangers of sacralizing Superwoman. Absolutely brilliant, and I don't share his political positions. If you talk to him, tell him that I am a reader of his and that I send him my best regards. He recently quoted Lord Acton: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely". Please mention my interest in that phrase. We at the Rand Corporation and TELCORP are working to develop technology that will prevent anyone, human or otherwise, from having absolute power.
– Do Nazi scientists work at the Rand Corporation?
– The government has already acknowledged that de-Nazified scientists are working with the country's technological efforts. But I am not aware of this at the Rand Corporation.
– Do you know Baroness von Gunther and Bruno Mannheim?
– Baroness von Gunther is not and has never been a Nazi, she is a conservative Catholic Austrian monarchist…very similar to Louis Lane, Mrs. Kent, she was a passive resister against the Nazis. We can't ask everybody to be a hero. The other one, I don't know who he is.
– My sources don't agree with you.
– Then check them again. I must go now. It's been a pleasure, Miss Kent. You're a very observant and calm woman. We need reporters like you.
Luthor shook her hand to Clara's astonishment and returned to the party crowd.
Mercy Graves probably knew and understood Lex Luthor better than anyone else, better even than his wife, whom Luthor adored and was fully loyal to. That's why she was unsettled when she saw Luthor come through the crowd and the party with a look that she knew meant rage and excitement close to madness.
Luthor brought his mouth close to her ear.
– Mercy, I need you to go immediately to the Secure Phone Line at my offices. Talk to Captain Hendricks or Melvin Faisst, try to reach them, tell them we have a security problem, call it that, with a number of reporters. Ask them to get the intelligence reports or military service record of Clara Kent and Louis Lane within 24 hours. And not to talk to General Hardy, which is a direct claim of mine and the President. Give them the password Ahssenbach.
Luthor withdrew as soon as he had given her the order and stepped into a congratulatory crowd.