THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (VII)
Written by MalloryDyatlov59 :: [Friday, 15 September 2023 12:10] Last updated by :: [Friday, 17 November 2023 12:01]
This is the seventh chapter of my fanfic about Superwoman.
In this installment, Luthor has made great strides with his experiments as the world political situation deteriorates dramatically. Clara Kent is torn between her duties as Superwoman and her new life with Louis…but thanks to the delusions of a desperate Luthor, Doomsday appears in their lives and turns them upside down!
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 fourth chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (IV) - SuperWomenMania
For the fifth chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (V) - SuperWomenMania
For the sixth chapter of the fanfic you can check hereSWM Library - THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (VI) - SuperWomenMania
For a fanfilm about the story see here!(1) SUPERWOMAN 1948 - YouTube
May 3, 1949, TELCORP Center, Meredith Island, Metropolis Bay
Luthor watched closely as the three scientists carefully introduced the guide through a millimeter-sized opening they had managed to create in the capsule of the Kryptonian they had named CRONOS. Unlike…his descendant? ICARUS, already nearly dismembered and turned into an object of medical and biological study, CRONOS was still in his strange sarcophagus, under a cover of a metal that looked extraordinarily like gold and crystal panels, surrounded on the inside by a strange series of metal clamps that seemed to be made of nanotechnology and covered by a strange layer of blue frost. They still didn't know how it worked, but somehow the sarcophagus received power wirelessly, which it used to keep the Kryptonian cryogenically frozen. The machine had been working for 12,000 years. Luthor had installed an extremely powerful generator to power the capsule. A strange black liquid screen with strange metal particles permanently displayed symbols in one corner of the capsule that they had not yet been able to decipher.
Six months had passed since that sarcophagus or pod had arrived in Metropolis disguised as agricultural machinery. Six months it had been in the basement of the TELCORP Center on Meredith Island, in what was supposed to be a vault for experiments with static electricity. Now lined with lead and what little kryptonite Luthor had left. A team of a dozen scientists, either loyal to Luthor or sent by the USSR under false identities, led by a Norwegian, Peder Skarg, worked with him. Engineers, geneticists, physicians, chemists, biologists… Meanwhile, Luthor continued to work closely with Baroness Von Gunther, who had become something of a hostage to him, at the Rand Corporation, and thanks to the retro-engineering of the ship found on Death Island, they had made great strides in aircraft engines. Death Island was now militarily occupied by nearly five thousand American troops and surrounded by the navy. Both Soviet and American nuclear bomb flight plans were ready to wipe it off the map if necessary.
Too much had happened in the past seven months. The disappearance of the military cargo ship USS Aludra and the pocket submarine had been publicly blamed on a storm, but the government was convinced it were the Russians the ones behind. The president and the military chiefs did not know they had lost a Kryptonian body, but the small group around Maxwell Lord and General Hardy did. Hardy had committed suicide, it was said publicly that there had been an accident while cleaning his weapon, and Lord was in a panic. All the military men who had participated in this secret operation had fallen into an absolute neurosis, looking for moles and traitors everywhere and pushing for an escalation of hostilities with the USSR.
Tensions continued to rise. The government was taking advantage of Superwoman's presence in the skies around the world, helping and rescuing civilians of all nations, and creating invulnerability for her country of origin. The U.S. had succeeded in sweeping away the Communists in Greece and forcing a plebiscite in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, which had been demilitarized and removed from the Soviet bloc. East Germany remained socialist but was surrounded, and civil war was about to break out in Romania. The Soviets responded with increased threats, nuclear tests, and aid to the Communists in China, Korea, and Indochina. Peace talks were going nowhere, while the USSR was developing the same missiles retro-engineered from alien remains that were also being built at Area 51.
We did not win the first round, but in my hands is the end of Superwoman, the door to strategic balance and Worldwide Peace. Luthor felt invulnerable. The incipient witch hunts and the Un-American Activities Committee had not touched him. He was still a man trusted by the government. No one knew. No one suspected anything. Only Baroness Von Gunther, who, thanks to blackmail and false and hopeful news about her brother, had become just another Soviet agent, completely subservient to Luthor.
As for Clara Kent, Luthor already knew all about her. He was still debating whether Clara Kent was a clever disguise, the super-powered alien disguised as a kind, ordinary woman hiding propagandistic views of the future, a new messiah who was a reporter because she wasn't a carpenter… or really the most powerful being in the known universe was stubbornly living a human life and had been raised on a farm. But that didn't change his plans. He had very little time. He had to act before the political situation got out of hand for both governments, especially the one Luthor more or less obeyed, Stalin's. All this from Metropolis, the heart of American capitalism, which considered Luthor one of its most lucid cadres.
The guide and the kryptonite needle of extraordinary fineness, the product of months of work, carefully pierced the glass and entered the pod. There was no sound and no reaction. The symbols on the display in the corner of the capsule changed to a reddish color, but nothing else.
– Gently, millimeter by millimeter.
– Yes, Mr. Luthor.
– On my command, slow down.
The kryptonite needle touched the blue frost covering the body and pierced it. Soon they touched the body, in an arm. They had calculated that there should be a vein there. ICARUS had shown that Kryptonian physiology was identical to human physiology, even if their genetics seemed to be slightly different. The needle entered the body as a syringe was pushed over the capsule.
– Let's hope not all the blood is frozen.
A small motor began to suck the contents from the syringe. Just tiny clots of blood, but soon liquid blood, as red as human blood, began to arrive. After several hours, they managed to extract 5 milliliters.
Luthor was ecstatic.
– This is a real success, comrades, a real success.
His small team applauded enthusiastically. The small vial of 5 milliliters of Kryptonian blood was treated like the Holy Grail. Some cried.
Luthor leaned against the wall with a sigh.
Finally, we will be able to study the Pathogen's reaction to living Kryptonian organisms. We have little time and few options, but we are so close…
To cheer the group up, he read Rudyard Kipling's poem "If," knowing that their supposed Soviet overlords would censor it if they heard it.
Meanwhile, 15 kilometers from Meredith Island, at the Planet Building, Louis Lane leaned out of the window in his shirtsleeves, adjusting his tie. It was getting dark. There was a cool breeze. He stuck his head out and inhaled. For him, the last seven months had been very different and full of changes. The separation from his wife had been finalized and he was finally together with Clara. Since college, Louis had forgotten what it was like to give and receive love daily. Living with Clara had changed everything. He was now a completely happy man…and increasingly distracted from the present. The disasters of his marriage, some certain vital loneliness, and the terrible memories of the war began to fade. Clara and his daughter occupied all his time and almost all his thoughts. During the weeks when Emily did not sleep with him, he did not separate from Clara, and they slept together in his apartment or hers…and with Krypto at the foot of the mattress. Clara was loving and attentive to Emily, the little girl adored her. His parents also thought well of her, and his mother was in favor of the relationship, as long as he didn't start divorce proceedings with Pat and an annulment was possible. Clara's mother had spent some time in Metropolis last month and was a sweet, unassuming woman who, while not comfortable with the situation, was supportive of both. She shared an incredibly close bond with her daughter.
Despite the discretion, the entire paper and the entire Upper East Side knew about their relationship. It had been far less scandalous than expected, and Pat had begun to be seen in public with the defeated Republican mayoral candidate. If he could get an annulment, he could marry Clara. If not, despite the weight of what he considered a sin, she would be his partner, the second mother of his daughter, and hopefully the mother of other children. They fought sometimes, Clara had forced him to give up smoking and almost to stop drinking, and he was clumsy and distracted in his work as a journalist, a consequence of his new and long-awaited happiness. But nothing else mattered.
Suddenly, he saw a red and blue stylized blur streaking across the sky. Louis looked up distrustfully. The red and blue blur soon took the form of a woman in a long red cape and began to slowly descend vertically…some applause was heard, and many heads looked out of the windows of the skyscrapers. Although Superwoman had directly or indirectly strengthened the fight against communism and the position of the US, this was not what Louis wanted…not like this, we can't make democracy depend on an uncontrollable superpowered being. It is not humane. It's not civilized. There is no way to enforce our laws on Superwoman. He insisted on this in columns and lectures that were increasingly criticized and to which Clara reacted with enormous coldness. The physical resemblance between the two kept him awake at night, especially on nights when they did not sleep together. Clara's absences and her resemblance to Superwoman sometimes rose like the shadow of a guillotine in his happiness, tormenting him for a few hours until he convinced himself for the umpteenth time with dozens of rational arguments that Superwoman and Clara Kent were not the same person.
The red caped superheroine seemed to wave to the cars and crowd below her and took off into the sky at full speed. If only she would disappear from our lives… if only she wasn't so necessary… we are her hostages.
Within seconds, Clara Kent appeared radiantly through the door, wearing a very elegant light gray suit jacket with a rhinestone brooch and her usual tic of adjusting her glasses. There were a few things she hadn't changed since she arrived four years ago in her small-town schoolmarm look and Navy nurse uniform.
– Hi, my dear! How was your afternoon?
– I already finished the interviews I had to do! Now all I have to do is type them up and I'll be done.
The reporter approached him without closing the door, pulled him close and kissed him on the lips.
– Did you miss me?
– Quite a lot.
– Any news?
Louis held out a teletype.
– Georghe Tartarescu, the Prime Minister of Romania, has just committed suicide. A bullet in the temple. The opposition and his party have called for a general strike, but so have the communists. Troop movements all along the border. I have to wait for a communication from Washington, there will be more leaks of information to me. I may have to go get Emily and bring her back to the office.
– No way, I'm staying with her if necessary…What do you think's going to happen?
– I think the government has assumed that they're not going to be as lucky as they were in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. There's no way the communists are going to let Romania stay neutral. They are going to accept that the communists will take power and a bloody dictatorship.
– And then?
– Pressures from the communists to return to the government of Poland, even if it is in a government of national unity with the right wing, so the USSR will have its border secured. But that will be more difficult. The USSR is not going to support a Finnish model for the Eastern European countries.
– Will people die?
Clara asked in an agonized, sad, almost sorrowful tone. Louis looked into her blue eyes.
– There will be some deaths these days in Romania.
– Why don't we negotiate to arrest or expel all the ex-Nazi collaborationists in all the governments to give the Soviets guarantees of peace?
– It is not a relevant issue Clara, and it's left-wing propaganda. There are no war criminals in positions of power in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, or Hungary. And besides, Stalin doesn't care about that. It wouldn't change anything.
– It is not true that we are not supporting criminals and ex-Nazis, Louis.
The reporter snorted and grabbed his arm. She looked at him with love and desire.
– Louis, do you think I could come tonight with Krypto to sleep with you and Emily, and tell her stories?
– Only if you want to.
– Why do you think I'm asking?
Clara hugged him tightly, but Louis was thinking of the unbearable tensions that threatened the post-war order.
Clara looked at Louis. What a crazy few months… She didn't even know if she was the happiest woman on earth or the most miserable. She oscillated between the two feelings in a matter of seconds. The happiest moments of her life were running almost parallel to her worst worries. Seven months of love and living with Louis, the man she loved and who gave her strength, confidence, and happiness. Seven months of increasing political pressures and the drums of war on her, on Superwoman, even though she felt more secure than ever. Seven months of lying to Louis, who, to her astonishment, while becoming happier and more affectionate with her, was also becoming more critical and aggressive with Superwoman. Seven months putting the sleeping pills Bruce Wayne had given her in Louis' drink every night they slept together, so that he would sleep soundly while she saved the world every night in her red cape, being the lady of steel, Superwoman. Seven months in which President Truman had admitted to her that they possessed Kryptonian technology and had shown her a capsule that had been buried for 12,000 years on an island in the Aleutians. She had begged the President to destroy it in front of a smiling Lex Luthor whom she could not yet denounce in public…she could not bear to keep lying to Louis and she suspected something terrible was coming.
– I'll ask Menken to stay tonight and cover me, I'll come in early in the morning to find out what's finally happening with Romania.
Clara stroked his face and Louis kissed her hands.
– Krypto and I will be at your house around six.
When Louis left, she sat down and buried her head in her hands. No matter what happened, she would not waver one millimeter from her duty to protect civilians and the protocol she had explained at the UN. She would protect civilians, whether it was from an armed robber on a street corner in Metropolis, against an armed gang for political reasons, or after an earthquake.
Jimmy opened the office door.
– Clara, you have a visitor.
– Hello, Miss Kent!
A slender, vivacious teenage girl in a red jacket bounded into the office.
Clara stood up smiling. Roberta Lee was a teenager whose Chinese-born family had been haunted by a Klu Klux Klan cell a few months earlier… Superwoman had captured the gang, and Clara Kent and Louis Lane had written a four-handed article about it. Roberta and Clara had hit it off; the girl wanted to be a journalist and go to college.
– I was in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by and say hello.
Roberta walked through Louis and Clara's office as if it were her home and sat down at Louis' desk.
– Thank you for coming, dear. How is school going? And your writing essays? Clara asked affectionately.
– Do you think I could finally end up working here in the summer? Quickly asked the teenager ignoring Clara's question.
Roberta had shown great courage and insight. At the same time, she didn't quite fit in; Clara had seen herself reflected in her at her age.
– I think Mr. Lane and I will find you a corner.
– Even if it's just to sort papers, Miss Kent!
Clara was about to answer her when she heard in the distance the cries for help after the first storms of a hurricane began to make landfall along the coast of Honduras and Nicaragua.
– Roberta, I must leave right now, I'm late to an appointment in…uh…Hoboken, I'm really sorry, please forgive me…
– Could you write me a letter of recommendation for college? Actually, I need several.
– As many as you need! Said Clara while exiting the office at full speed.
Roberta turned to Jimmy.
– She left her purse.
– Sometimes it happens-answered Jimmy.
Superwoman spent several hours flying at super speed over the Caribbean, in all directions, generating whirlwinds at high altitudes and using both her heat vision and her freezing breath to destroy the hurricane and turn it into a series of different soft storms that soon dissipated. After catching some criminals, Superwoman had to stop the first shooting of civilians in Romania in a square in Bucharest, this will be in the papers tomorrow, she thought with sorrow.
Then she raced back to Metropolis, picked up Krypto and they landed on the roof of Louis' building. Now dressed as Clara Kent knocked on Louis and his daughter's door. As usual, Krypto pounced on Louis and Clara went straight to kiss Emily. The little girl was bouncing on the couch with a red cape tied behind her back.
Clara turned amusedly to Louis, who raised his eyebrows.
– I'm not going to scold her for that," he replied quietly.
They had dinner, put the girl to bed and pretended to go to different rooms. Then she slipped into Louis' room, and they shared their love, trying to combine silence and passion until they were exhausted. Clara brought Louis a glass of water with the sleeping pill already dissolved in. She waited for him to fall asleep…hopefully one day you will understand Louis, please forgive me. When she was sure he was asleep, she put on the Superwoman costume in a fraction of a second and went out the window at super speed, making no noise but leaving the curtains of the room fluttering as if they were subjected to a hurricane wind.
May 17th, 1949, TELCORP Center, Meredith Island, Metropolis Bay
In a soundproof room, Luthor and Peder Skarg were reviewing the results of the last two weeks' tests on CRONOS' body, especially on the blood they have been able to extract from it.
– Luthor, time is running out…the experiments we have done, the small openings we have made in the pod, extracting his blood… now the cryogenics are failing, the body is weakening. It is thawing little by little, and I suspect not by the usual or proper procedure the kryptonians would use. CRONOS can come back to life at any time or begin to rot. We have calculated that in two weeks it will probably thaw in a way that will lead to its relative destruction. We will no longer be able to use it to analyze the effects of the pathogen on living Kryptonian organisms.
Luthor looked at him coldly and angrily. Not really at him, he respected Skarg deeply, he was a disciplined communist, and he did his job very well…but because he himself had made a mistake. He had trusted that those clamps on CRONOS' body would keep him frozen, and that slightly puncturing and resealing the capsule would not alter the cryogenization process. When they did their first analysis inside the pod, there was inside basically a composition of oxygen and hydrogen more or less similar to Earth's, with some arsenic, and they had even reinjected those elements in gaseous form in the same ratio. It had been a rookie mistake, driven by haste, Soviet pressure, and his hatred of Superwoman. He had given in to people more mediocre than himself and had been driven by his passions.
– Luthor…lose the body or launch Cadmus I.
Cadmus I was how Skarg and Luthor had called one of the possibilities they had shared with their Soviet bosses: mutating CRONOS. Blood studies with the Pathogen and the refined Pathogen showed that they were a viable weapon against Superwoman. With the normal pathogen, the living kryptonian organisms and tissues strengthened and mutated, expanded, and absorbed energy. Heat strengthened and multiplied them even as it also changed them, but at an extraordinarily high heat point, those tissues and organisms deteriorated very rapidly until they soon died. With the refined pathogen, the same phenomenon occurred, but weaker, the mutations were smaller, but the degeneration produced after a very intense heat was much more rapid and abrupt. They concluded that the ancient Kryptonians, faced with the impossibility of creating something that would affect Kryptonians and humans alike, had designed a perverse and incomprehensible tool in the form of the Pathogen. The Pathogen destroyed human tissue, but mutated Kryptonians…turned Kryptonians into monsters. Was it some kind of punishment for Kryptonians living with humans? Did they turn Kryptonians into monsters to wipe out humanity for them, and then destroy them with atomic bombs? Did the aberrations created by the pathogen self-destruct after a while? Was it an experiment? A religious ritual? Had the pathogen been used to wipe out 99% of humanity 12,000 years earlier as one study suggested?
– Luthor, we must take a decision. It's very risky, very risky. But it is in accordance with political directives.
Luthor stood and walked silently around the table as Skarg watched him.
Throw Pathogen over the body of CRONOS, turn him into an aberration, let him cause chaos, let him take on Superwoman. It was an equivalent of her own species, mutated to be bigger, tougher, probably irrational… and what if it wasn't violent? The creatures created with the pathogen from the remains of dead Kryptonian bodies were violent and aggressive…CRONOS would probably become another monster. They had calculated that it would likely injure and weaken Superwoman…time to drop a nuclear bomb on Metropolis and wipe out both creatures? Launch refined Pathogen on both, so that both beings involved in the battle would perish? All the statistical calculations they could make about that were mere fiction.
What if millions of people died in Metropolis? What if instead of discrediting the U.S. government and Superwoman… they made a martyr of the superheroine? Was it enough to eliminate her? What if this monster started a nuclear war and the U.S. government accused the USSR of being behind the attack? Luthor didn't even know what he would do…if he finally released the monster, stay at the helm until he saw what was happening…commit suicide, or flee to the USSR once the nuclear bombing took place or the superheroine died…
He knew there was an American contingency plan in case Superwoman turned against humanity, Unthinkable III, and it consisted of nuking her, several bombs at once, to limit her ability to escape. They may lost control, and Luthor feared that his plan to destroy Superwoman would drag humanity into a nuclear war. Luthor's head was spinning with hundreds of ideas. No, they could not move forward.
A scientist from Skarg's team knocked several times on the doorbell of the soundproof room. Luthor opened the door.
– What's going on?
– Peace talks in Romania have just been cancelled, there's a military alert in Moscow and Washington. The President will speak in a few minutes…Stalin is expected in a few hours, first thing in the morning in the USSR.
Skarg turned to Luthor.
– Luthor, the American government is going to continue to increase the pressure, counting on Superwoman to be invulnerable. This escalation will be daily. In two weeks, we will have lost CRONOS, and a dead Kryptonian body mutated with the Pathogen will be an eyesore but Superwoman will be able to destroy it with a blow. It's now or we quit. We may miss our chance.
– I'll work out a plan tonight and contact Moscow.
Luthor got up and left in confusion.
Fate had a little nudge in store for Luthor at his moment of greatest weakness and confusion. Arriving at the TELCORP Tower, he was greeted by Mercy Graves, who whispered that his secure line had received seventeen calls from untapped phone booths in San Francisco. She had refused to answer the phone until the last call. A male voice had simply said "CROATOAN" and then hung up.
Luthor understood instantly and collapsed in his chair, his eyes popped out of their sockets and his bald head drenched in sweat. He understood perfectly. CROATOAN meant that Karla's network had fallen in San Francisco, that they had been discovered somehow. The network was captured or on the run. CROATOAN meant that even though the network was down, he was still safe and should be communicating with a network in Mexico City. If Luthor was in danger, the word should have been KUMARI KANDAM.
Luthor hesitated…what if it was a trap? What if they had all fallen and confessed? What if CROATOAN was a trap for the government to catch him communicating with Soviet spies in Mexico City? No, it was all too risky, the magnitude of his leak and betrayal was so great that if the government knew or suspected anything at that moment, he would already be in an FBI or OSS basement in front of thirty panicked interrogators. He was no ordinary second-rate diplomat or science advisor who needed to be caught red-handed. It was clear that the net was down. How much time did he have? How long would it take the government to get to him? His brain insisted that his hours as a free man were numbered. He had lost and he had only one card left to take down Superwoman.
Luthor worked all night to perfect the plan, and after much meditation and relaxation reading poetry, he made a momentous decision. To ensure that the possible death of Superwoman in the battle against CRONOS and the collateral casualties would not trigger a nuclear war, he would publicly take full responsibility. He would say that he had stolen the body with the help of mercenaries, that he had experimented on it alone, and that he had released it on his own responsibility.
He would exonerate the USSR. He prepared a speech and a letter of confession to be taped and distributed. He also prepared a confession and a memorandum to the President of the United States, explaining that he had acted on his own free will and because of the government's paralysis in understanding the danger that Superwoman posed. He enclosed a copy of the scientific report recommending a nuclear bombing and, before that, a refined pathogen bombing of Superwoman and CRONOS in case he could not finish the two creatures in time. He would send his confession to the mainstream media at home and abroad. He would turn himself in to the military. He wished he had some belief in the afterlife, and even recited some forgotten prayers from his childhood, and after some Buddhist sutras or verses from the Koran that he had learned on his travels.
Superwoman would die, probably thousands of people too, but without Superwoman the two powers would have to talk, and the US would have to give up expansion in Eastern Europe. There would be no war. His confession would exonerate the USSR. The world would be free from the domination of an alien, from the domination of a false goddess. It would be a new beginning.
He sent the plan to Mexico in an urgent flight case. Someone called him on a secure line and just told him he had received a good book. Two days later he received the Soviet response from Moscow inside some books that were sent to Mercy Graces. They rejected his plan; CRONOS could cause a catastrophe and military escalation. It was too risky, if the body thawed and lost vital signs, defeat had to be assumed. Political negotiations continued in order to demilitarize all of Eastern Europe. The USSR did not want a war or to provoke a massacre in Metropolis. Other ways to neutralize Superwoman would have to be found. The network from San Francisco was down, only Karla has escaped but he was the only who knew Luthor's identity. Anyways his position was not safe, and he should accept extraction in no less than three weeks.
Luthor crumpled up the answer and set it on fire in the cinerarium. All his doubts were gone. He felt dizziness and pain, but his confession and his idea of the refined pathogen bombing followed by the nuclear bombing eliminated the main risks of the operation. The battle between Superwoman and the creature would probably last for hours, maybe Metropolis could be evacuated and there would be fewer casualties. Alea Jacta Est. He would disobey the USSR as he had betrayed the U.S. government. He was the sole captain of his soul, and only he could defeat Superwoman.
Over the next few days, Luthor fired nearly all of the scientists working with him at CRONOS, pretending to be following Soviet orders. Skarg left, grumbling that they were losing their last chance to defeat Superwoman. He made several billion-dollar donations to charities of his choosing and gave his employees time off for the day he had planned the event.
He called a dozen people he held in high regard, advising them to leave Metropolis because of his position as an insider to the inner workings of the government. Some Secret Service agents picked up on Luthor's activities but dismissed him as irrelevant, just a big businessman spooked by diplomatic tensions.
Then came the hardest part, convincing his wife and daughter.
– Aline, you must leave Metropolis, go to West Virginia with Leda and our grandson.
– Alexander, I'm not leaving until you tell me what's going on.
– I only ask you to do this for a week, there is a real menace of dangerous events in Metropolis.
– What kind of events?
– Dangerous events, the leaks have not been detailed.
– And why doesn't anybody alert the public?
– Because the risk level is too low to cause panic, but I'm asking you to leave.
– That is unfair, Alexander.
Eventually, Aline, Leda, his grandson, and a retinue of servants left for Luthor's country home in West Virginia.
Now alone at last, he had hired two dozen mercenaries. Wild, desperate men from Gotham and Metropolis who had been thrown out of work by the fall of the mob in recent years thanks to Superwoman and Batman. He needed no more.
CRONOS was on Meredith Island, he had about fifty liters of pure Pathogen and another thirty of refined Pathogen. The day was marked on his calendar. He thought about engaging or forcing a dialog with Superwoman. Maybe he should also deal with Louis Lane. He stirred the newspapers of the past few days: Superwoman saving families in India from a city fire, Superwoman saving a Comet DeHavilland with a hundred people aboard from certain death, Superwoman saving civilians from communist violence in Romania, catching thieves, preventing car accidents…Superwoman asking the judge to release a thief she had caught to give him a second chance after proving he had been rehabilitated… the superheroine said that everyone had the right to change and be forgiven. All these lies will soon come to an end.
In the last few days, it seemed that the political pressure and diplomatic tensions had eased. Clara smiled. The day before, Superwoman had dined at an orphanage in Philadelphia with a group of children who had written her a letter. Without giving too many details, she told them a few things about her childhood. Today she was at Louis' house with his daughter, sitting in silk pajamas reading stories to Emily. Louis was typing furiously as he wrote about the domestic implications of the Soviet proposal to demilitarize Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia without giving up the Soviet bases in East Germany and Kaliningrad.
– Louis, dear, your article is coming out in two days, come with us.
– Yes, Daddy, come with us.
– What are you reading?
– Tales and Legends of Burma.
Louis snorted and smiled, sitting down next to them.
– Don't you want to read it to her?
– No, I'd rather prefer you do it, Clara.
Clara smiled at him. She was extraordinarily happy at that moment. Louis was happy too. He must understand that all this is true, and that it is not incompatible with me being Superwoman.
Her work on the Rand Corporation and Luthor had stalled and was no longer of interest to the public or her bosses. On the other hand, she and Louis had finally found a publisher and illustrator for their children's stories about DeeDog, Mr. Leezard, and the Komfy Dragon. Clara was very excited about the project. She had even been able to read two stories over the radio on the KBBL children's program, which had received very good reviews.
On the other hand, she had gone to the White House as Superwoman and the President had explained to her all the experiments with Kryptonian technology, and despite her pleas he had refused to cancel the research. The President would brief her regularly. Clara wondered if Luthor would take advantage of these investigations to attack her…. Remember what your father said, if you think too much about your personal worries you will lose your mind, think more about helping others.
May 26, 1949, Metropolis
Luthor received the information from one of his investigators. Clara Kent and Louis Lane were going that night to the Metropolitan Opera to see Mahler's Seventh Symphony. Tomorrow was the day, it was all planned, but he wanted to get close to the couple. He didn't know if he wanted to scare them, make them nervous, or just study their reaction. It didn't really matter, they would have to face him tomorrow, but he wanted to see them, he had to surprise them. It was a stupid thing to do, but Luthor couldn't resist his temper, so he put on a tuxedo and went to the opera house.
Clara and Louis walked holding each other's arms through the foyer. They were elegantly dressed, Clara with a high bun, her new glasses, a long green evening grown, and the pearl necklace Louis had given her a few days before, Louis with an elegant Tuxedo. Clara tried to concentrate on enjoying the evening with Louis, the music…
– How do you see the diplomatic negotiations, Louis?
– The tension seems to have eased in the last few days, but you've seen the USSR…they've threatened to withdraw from the UN Security Council if any Superwoman action outside US borders is not banned, even if it's humanitarian, unless it has legal permission from the local government.
Clara sighed inwardly…legal permission to save people. My government or I will have to negotiate with other governments to let me save someone from drowning or being crushed to death, or civilians from being killed….
– This was bound to happen, Clara, Superwoman couldn't be the world's police. Anyway, let's forget about it, because you and I are neither here nor there, Cat Grant will follow up on this.
– What would you like to do this weekend? Would you like to go away to any little town?
– I don't want to go near the ocean this time. Let's go to the mountains and sleep outside on Saturday.
– I'll get dehydrated if you keep me away from the sea, Clara-Louis laughed.
– Hi there, the most important reporting couple in the universe…I wonder how many of the people around us can imagine your incredible significance.
Clara's heart skipped a beat as she recognized Luthor's voice. She felt a mixture of hatred and fear run through her entire body, never hate anyone, Clara, there is nothing worse than that. Louis had already turned around and looked at Luthor coldly. The millionaire scientist stood alone and looked at them with a strange smile.
– Nice to see you again, Mr. Lane.
Louis stood in front of Clara, the reporter could see a look of absolute rage on Louis's face and how he wrung his hands.
– What do you want, Luthor?
– To greet you both, that's all. It's exciting to see people like you mingle with the crowd. How does Mr. Lane feel? Do you feel like Mary Magdalene must have felt according to the apocryphal gospels? Chosen for the Messiah's greatest intimacy!
Louis' expression changed from violent to one of shock and incomprehension, Clara saw Louis raise his arm to strike Luthor and she quickly stopped him.
– Louis, please don't listen to him, he's a psychopath.
– Miss Kent, we've only met once and you're already calling me a psychopath? But actually, we've met a few more now that I think about it… Mr. Lane, listen to her, you know she's much stronger than you.
Louis was petrified, looking at Luthor with hatred and incomprehension. Luthor looked at him intently, ignoring Clara.
– I see you are surprised and as if you don't understand me…" Luthor turned to Clara with a malicious smile and then back to Louis, "Don't tell me you didn't know! You look at me as if you don't understand anything! Didn't you know that the day Clara was born there was a freak meteor shower in northeast Kansas?
– Enough Luthor!
Louis tried to lunge at Luthor, but Clara grabbed him again. Louis turned to Clara with an expression of deep pain and strangeness, perhaps surprised by the strength with which the journalist held him and prevented him from lunging at Luthor.
– You're very calm, Miss Kent… Mr. Lane, I've always found you to be an intelligent and noble person. You've always been calm in our encounters. Do you remember Metallo? Miss Kent remembers him too.
He knows, he knows, what a shame, he knows, you evil monster… oh Louis! Clara stepped in front of Louis and spoke to Luthor in an almost inaudible tone.
– Luthor, if you don't leave, you'll regret it for the rest of your life, I swear to my father's memory.
– Miss Kent, you shouldn't threaten or swear…Where are the good old ways? It's disappointing to hear that from a supposed Quaker.
Luthor smiled beatifically and slipped away through the crowd. Clara felt like crying and like disintegrating Luthor with her heat vision. She was afraid to turn to Louis, but he grabbed her hand.
– He's mentally ill, I warned you, a real sicko. Maybe we shouldn't have questioned him so openly in the past…now he's ranting about some absurd, delusional madness…forget it. He just wanted to make us uncomfortable. Let's have a drink - Louis' message was reassuring, but his voice and expression were mechanical and utterly cold.
For the rest of the concert, Louis didn't turn around for a single second, staring straight ahead with a completely lifeless expression. Clara knew him very well, when Louis acted with coldness and forced indifference, something very painful and violent was going on inside him. Clara's tears came to her eyes several times, and not because of the music. Luthor watched them with binoculars from his opera balcony…what strange couple, how could he not know about it…Tomorrow will be an absolutely historic day.
In the taxi they did not share a single word. Clara was anxious but Louis remained calm. She took his hand, and he took hers in what seemed to Clara a strange way. They went to Louis' house. Emily wasn't there, she was with her mother. The first thing Louis did was to go into the living room, take out a bottle of whiskey and pour himself an almost full glass, which he drank in one gulp.
– Do you want anything to drink, Clara?
With elegant gestures, Louis poured himself a second glass, which he also drained in one gulp. The journalist sat down in an armchair with the glass and the bottle, trying not to look at Clara. She approached him.
– Give me that, please, I beg you.
Louis ignored her but got up and left the glass and bottle on the drinks trolley. Clara was afraid to speak or say anything, but finally she dared.
– Don't you want to talk?
– Talk about what?
– Louis, I don't want to play cat and mouse.
– Who's the mouse and who's the cat? That's a fair question.
Clara adjusted her glasses. She was ready to take them off, to let her hair down, to take off her dress and reveal her red cape and her Superwoman costume. They had been in love for years, finally seven months loving each other with freedom and living together. Louis had to love the woman she was, everything they had told each other and experienced was true. He had to understand that the woman he loved was there. She just was the woman who sometimes, to do her duty and use the talents God had given her, jumped out of the window with a red cape. It wasn't two women, it was just one, he had to be able to see it if he really loved her.
Louis continued to ramble on in a self-satisfied tone.
– After all, what is Truth?
– The truth is I…
– I didn't ask for a specific truth, I asked what Truth is. They are different questions.
Clara began to get angry. You are cowardly and unfair, Louis, deeply cowardly and unfair. But he reached out to her and took her shoulders lovingly.
– How short is the time of happiness.
– Louis, I love you, that's the first and most important thing, our whole story is true, if it's of any use to you.
But Louis answered with a sardonic smile and silence.
– Louis please…
Clara couldn't stand it any longer, she wanted to take off her glasses and her dress. She didn't want to get into a cruel game of recriminations between shadows and misunderstandings with Louis, but he turned around.
– There's a one-in-a-million chance I'm wrong, and that you're wondering what the hell I'm talking about.
– No, you're not wrong," Clara replied coldly and firmly. No more lies.
– Then I have let a stranger into my house, please go away.
– Louis, I beg you…" Clara broke down in sobs.
– I beg you to leave. We'll talk when I can, if you want, but for tonight, believe me, I've had enough. If you don't go, I'm the one going. Probably you have duties elsewhere - Louis drew the curtains of the living room and opened the art deco windows of his house. Mostly all of Manhattan Skyscrapers were lit up.
Clara looked at him hurt and defiant…she wanted to tell him she loved him but didn't dare. With super speed she flew out of the window and was lost in the sky.
Louis went back to the drinks trolley, pulled out another whiskey and began to sip.
May 27th, 1949. Metropolis. In the morning
Louis had to drink a lot to sleep. He dreamed that everything he had experienced the night before was a nightmare. He had dreamed of normality, but when he woke up he realized that it was real. He had drunk a little more than a bottle. It was ten in the morning. He decided to stay in bed. He felt a deep sorrow but also an enormous relief. All his doubts, that shadow-chasing, his self-deception… it was all over. He felt a deep anger, but he did not feel surprised…the surprise had lasted only a short time. It was all too obvious, too obvious. Perhaps deep down he had always known, he had simply been deceived. In his quiet despair, he decided that morning that Clara Kent never existed, that she had only been a clever disguise for an abysmally superior alien, that she had grown to like him as one does a pet.
But he needed rest, he needed sleep, he needed to forget the world and plan a graceful exit from the newspaper, from his present life. Poor Pat, what a situation I got you into for such a short love spree, our sham of a marriage was more bearable than this. Louis fantasized about having fired Clara Kent in her first few weeks at the Daily Planet, when she responded in bad ways to him and conscientiously disobeyed all his orders. It didn't matter. He had his daughter, his parents, his siblings, a somewhat future opportunity in college and in politics, and if Pat wanted to return to some hypocritical arrangement, he was ready. He acted like the gambler who was relieved to have lost all his money and wanted to forget it quickly and hide it by going back to his normal life.
He called the newspaper, to Cat Grant, and Menken's secretary.
– Mrs. Blakenship? How are you? This is Mr. Lane…please tell Mrs. Grant or Mr. Menken that I won't be at the paper until Tuesday…that's right, until Tuesday. No, I'm leaving town. Mrs. Grant has copies of my articles for Sunday and Monday, so it won't be a problem. Just a family matter.
The secretary's voice suddenly said what Louis feared the most.
"Miss Kent is just here, Would you like to speak to her?"
Louis immediately hung up and started packing. He trusted Superwoman to respect him and leave him alone…but what if she didn't? What if she turned on him? He couldn't go to his house in Oyster Bay or his parents' house in Hyannis Port, Clara knew those places. She also knew the hotels where he liked to hide out in Innsmouth, Nantucket, Arkham - right next to his beloved University - and Dunwich. He had taken her to all these places. Lovers' adventures. He decided to go to the southern New Jersey shore. A former sergeant in his battalion, with whom he had fought a thousand battles in the war, Dick Malverne, lived there. They were very different men, Malverne a tough but charming mechanic married to a black woman. They had been forced to leave Virginia because of segregation laws. He had a strange correspondence friendship with him. They had done each other favors, and he had left Him money. He felt hopeful running away for a few days. On Tuesday, he would return, confront Clara and leave the Daily Planet gracefully. And move on.
The doorbell rang. God forbid it isn't her, I hope she wouldn't dare. But if Clara wanted to come in, she had plenty of ways to get in. The doorbell rang again. He decided to answer it, forgetting to look through the peephole before. Louis felt infinitely tired when he saw Luthor, wiry and thin, wearing a hat pulled back to his eyebrows, accompanied by two huge men who looked disturbing and were undoubtedly armed.
– Good morning, Mr. Lane.
– I beg you to leave me alone if you are looking for Miss Kent.
– Don't worry, we can do without her for now, we know you're alone.
Luthor came in without asking permission and took a tour of Louis' apartment.
– Very elegant, lots of books, you have very good taste… do you know how sixty per cent of Americans live?
– Luthor, do you know it, or have you just heard about it?
– I'm not interested in debating with you. I see you were packing a suitcase, finish it and come with us. And don't even think about warning your girlfriend.
– I think you know her better than I do… and I'm not going anywhere.
One of Luthor's escorts pulled out a gun and pointed it at him.
Luthor approached him and spoke very quietly.
– Don't get nervous and keep your voice down. In my offices and at my home, I have an ultrasonic machine whose sounds are unbearable to the Kryptonian, so I can talk in private. I'm used to it. Here we are exposed. Be a good boy, Lane. I know it's hard for you, but this is the end of the escape. Finish packing your suitcase, throw in a few books or a beloved Bible of yours, and join us happy and smiling. We now have around an hour before your friend is no longer entertained by the distraction we have prepared for her.
– And if not, what will happen? Louis put on a silly tone as he tried to approach a drawer where he had a gun. Let them put a bullet in my head right now and that would be the end of it.
– Don't be silly Lane, I think the world of you, now I'll end up thinking you're nothing more than a melodramatic rich kid. If you resist, we'll put a bullet in your head, and I'll kidnap your official wife and daughter. That way I can better experience the limits of Superwoman's reactions and her true feelings for humanity.
Louis shuddered, closed his eyes and accepted. Under no circumstances would he risk his daughter's life or Pat's. It was terrible to be in the hands of a madman, but he would accept it. Maybe this was the end. He felt a strange calmness.
– Good boy.
By midday they were on a TELCORP boat heading for Meredith Island. Luthor looked curiously at Louis Lane who remained silent and impassive. What a specimen of the new America. Bourgeois, military, journalist, grandson of immigrants, Jewish background but baptized Catholic, staunch anti-communist but anti-Nazi, rather stupid, unimaginative, system believer, drunkard, adulterer…the new ruling class of America. Luthor did not know if he found it preferable to the old aristocracy. The new ones would be harder to crack but would also do more damage before falling. What would the superheroine have seen in him? He was an attractive man in a good position, one of many, but he was not particularly noted for either. Luthor would have understood better if the superheroine had taken a liking to Bruce Wayne, but maybe the Kryptonian just didn't like costumed strongmen.
They disembarked at the industrial facility, which was empty except for several guards whom Luthor had ordered to return ashore in the launch. Louis was led by Luthor to a large elevator where they descended into a sort of glassed-in room with several military computers, study tables and wiring. The room looked out onto a huge circular room with a metal dome with light bulbs. In the center of the room was an electrical generator making noises and sparks, next to what looked like an open metal and glass sarcophagus in which a male body, barely discernible in the light, was convulsing over and over.
– Luthor… what have you done?
– What would you be willing to sacrifice to save the lives of millions? We are over three billion people… how much is the life and future of our children and grandchildren worth… what price would you be willing to pay?
– Listen to me, we are multiplying, we are reaching marvelous heights in art and technology, we are about to touch space with our fingers…at the same time we continue to generate terrible famines and wars, untold atrocities. People like you are driving a suicidal economic model, and those on the other side are great theoreticians, but when they collide with reality, they resort to cruelty, sometimes unnecessary, I recognize it. But we are all human, we lack the spirit of brotherhood and self-improvement to understand that we are all brothers in this blue ball… and that we must be free and dignified. Did you know that my geneticists calculated that 12,000 years ago, 99% of humanity was wiped out by your girlfriend's ancestors? Do you want us to be dependent on them? Or do you want a nuclear war overseen by the lady in the red cape to corrupt and extend worldwide a fake "American way of life"?
Louis was overwhelmed by Luthor's verbiage. But he understood what he was getting at.
– I like one of the two combatant powers better, Mr. Lane, I think it has a tighter calculation of the future and a better grasp of history, I refer of course to the Soviet Union, I don't know if this surprises you…but they are wrong in their cruelty and in their handling of human freedom and dignity. They do not understand the genius of mankind. I have concluded that the best thing is for the two to be in a perpetual standoff, under a sword of Damocles, sometimes watching each other, sometimes working together, but letting man be man and moving forward. We cannot do that by submitting to a super-powerful alien that also helps one of the two powers and could make one crush the other, unbalancing the world and making it easier to control.
Louis thought of all the moments he had shared with Clara and their common values; he was unable to imagine her enabling a war or controlling Humanity…but she had the capacity to do that and much more.
– Do you know how long the life of Mrs. El, or Mrs. Kent, or whatever you want to call her, would last? I was able to analyze her blood once after her fight with Metallo. From the age of thirty, she ages thirty to forty times slower than a human. At six or eight hundred years old, she will barely look fifty. Do you think that in six or eight hundred years this being will not realize that she is not a reporter, or a farmer and she will realize that the world belongs to her completely? You are a Catholic… are you prepared for the arrival of the Antichrist? Of the false Messiah…
– Mr. Luthor…
– She is already here to abolish man and his history, to make him a slave, to manage him at her whim, as she has done with you. Forget her caresses and her disguise as a model young New Deal girl…you've written about it…you're ready for what Superwoman means…and more importantly, you're ready to do what needs to be done?
– What do you want from me? Luthor had opened the valve of doubt inside Louis.
– Help me take her down, we have very little time, maybe we can avoid a lot of death and a lot of chaos. If you side with me. Maybe we can come up with a quick way to finish her off and avoid using that thing you see in the middle.
Louis collapsed, not understanding what this body they were electrocuting in the middle of the room was. Luthor's words had struck a chord in his fears and beliefs. But he couldn't trust him. What if he was deceiving him? What if he was responsible for millions of deaths? What if Superwoman was really Clara, a woman full of generosity and love who would always do her duty and would never harm or control humanity? What if he killed the woman he loved because he believed the delusions of a millionaire mad scientist who wasn't even loyal to America?
– What will you do, Lane?
– I don't trust you, Luthor. There's no way I don't see death and betrayal in what you're offering me.
– Then pray and wait. You're a coward. You have no strength to live-Luthor turned to the mercenaries-Take him downstairs and chain him up, set up an ultrasonic generator next to him…you see Lane, we want to keep you very close, but we don't want Superwoman to know about it, let's say she hunts by hearing.
Louis regained his composure and dignity. He began to pray in silence while looking defiantly at Luthor.
– Who or what is that? Louis pointed to the convulsing body.
– My dear Mr. Lane, what we have here is the doomsday for a fake goddess. You'll understand soon enough.
"…the doomsday". Louis silently prayed that was not true.
May 27th, 1949. Metropolis. 16.00 PM
Clara Kent fought back tears as she rearranged a series of index cards in Louis' handwriting. She was in the office they once shared. Cat Grant sat at Louis' desk, bundled up in her fur coat despite the heat, with her sunglasses still on.
– I bet my dearest Clara you don't know what a terrible hangover is, but you look like you haven't slept at all.
Clara didn't answer.
– Men are very unpleasant, aren't they, my dear? Don't neglect your career…how are those index cards coming? I need all the information Louis has on these Romanian diplomats. He is our most knowledgeable person in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. Before he runs off to the State Department or with McArthur, we need to get all his files. We'll be the queens of political reporting. Well, actually I already am, but I've always focused more on Western Europe.
– Yes, of course," Clara replied reluctantly. She didn't like working for Cat. She had had one of the worst nights of her life. Not for a second had she stopped helping people dressed as Superwoman, but the whole time she suffered from her fight with Louis. She wanted to talk to him again, but she did not dare to. In the morning Superwoman had had to save a 40,000-ton Italian liner with 1,800 people on board from sinking. She lifted it into the air and brought it to port, the rescue lasted for two hours. There had been a strange explosion in the hold…terrorists? But she couldn't stop thinking about Louis…and about Luthor either… Why had he done it? To hurt her?
– Clara dear, you have a lot of potential, but I think working with Louis is making you rusty…I suspect you'll be seeing a lot of him outside the office from now on. I think it's time you stopped being an assistant reporter and became a senior reporter. I'm not that bad to work with me. Louis loves me. Perry loves me.
Clara ignored her as she continued to go through the files, then an unbearable sound caused her ear to hurt intensely. She couldn't help but gasp and put her hands to her head. She knew it well…ultrasounds…it was the way first Zod and then Luthor had used to contact her. Inside her heart the beats accelerated.
– Are you all right, dear?
– My head hurts so much.
The beeping sounded again, neither Cat nor anyone else heard it, of course, but to her it was unbearable. Then a message came over the air in a very recognizable voice, and despite the worry, pain and anger, it didn't surprise her.
Clara Kent, Kala-El, Superwoman… how many names do you use… how many will you use in the future? Anyway, I want you to come to Meredith Island immediately. It will be easy for you to find me. I have a very important proposition for you. If you ignore this message, Mr. Lane will suffer an ominous fate, and worse things will happen anyway. Don't be late, you have five minutes, I know you can make it in less than one.
Clara jumped up like a spring.
– Where are you going? We haven't finished the files, I need them for my article, Cat Grant said with displeasure.
– Cat, I'm really sorry, but I'm really sick and I have to go," Clara said as she slammed the door.
In two steps she reached a filing room, it was locked, but she was so determined that she ripped off the lock and went inside. In less time than a human eye could blink, Clara took off her glasses and opened her jacket and shirt, revealing the crest of the House of El, that red and yellow symbol similar to a stylized "S". She tore off her skirt and stockings as she spread her cape and flew out the window at full speed. Superwoman was to the rescue.
Cat Grant saw the red and blue blur in the sky above the Daily Planet and sighed to herself, "Poor girl, she's the best we've got.
Superwoman landed on Meredith Islan. The noise from the various ultrasonic systems was torture, but Luthor had turned down the volume. She tried to find Louis, but his heartbeat sounded cut off by interference. He was close, but he could be anywhere in the city. But Luthor was very close. There was a lead dome underground, she couldn't see what was inside, so at super speed, spinning like a top, she made a hole in the ground and went down through concrete, iron and equipment.
A cloud of debris preceded Superwoman as she landed in the room. She was visibly upset, and with her eyes lit by the heat vision. She moved at super speed, knocking down all Luthor's bodyguards, who fell violently to the ground, and launched herself at Luthor, grabbing him by the neck and pinning him against the wall.
– What a performance, calm down Mrs. El.
– It's over, Luthor, it's over forever.
Superwoman squeezed his neck and Luthor began to feel short of breath.
– Look to your right, you monster!
Clara turned and saw for the first time, in the center of the large room under the dome, a body in a strange sarcophagus writhing in sparks next to a generator.
The superheroine rushed to the body but was struck dumb with astonishment when she saw that it was not Louis, but a slender, young, long-haired man dressed in an exoskeleton she recognized from Ancient Krypton. Similar things had been shown on Kelex holographs. He was bound to the sarcophagus by strange metal clamps with Kryptonian symbols on them. The sarcophagus was filled with a strange blue water that channeled electricity.
– It's not Louis, it's a little gift from history, come back and let's talk," Luthor yelled as he tried to pull himself together and coughed. His bodyguards were writhing on the ground, bound hand and foot by their weapons, which had been bent with super strength at the speed of light.
Clara floated over to Luthor and grabbed him by his shirt and jacket.
– You're going to jail. You're not getting out of this one. I don't think you have government approval for this…tell me where Louis is, or you'll regret it.
Louis' heartbeat sounded sometimes close and sometimes far away.
– You understand nothing, Mrs. Krypton. Absolutely nothing. You are in no position to ask for anything.
Superwoman threw him to the table. Luthor was bleeding a little from the corner of his mouth. She felt guilty…her father Joe Kent's voice sounded far away on a Kansas farm in the early 1930s…These gifts you have, Clara, many people will not understand them, they will fear them, and to use them well to help others quietly and discreetly is extremely difficult. The possibility of abuse or excess is certain. The world needs humble people who work quietly and turn the other cheek. We have a surplus of leaders with great human powers… imagine having one with powers that are not from this world.
Superwoman breathed in and out and calmed herself. She went over to Luthor and helped him to his feet.
– Luthor, I beg you, what do you want from me? Let's get this over with.
– Today everything ends, for you and for me.
– What do you mean?
Luthor coughed blood with an almost smile that frightened Clara and pointed to the sarcophagus.
– That thing there is one of the greatest paradoxes in history. It's a heroic paradox. It is possible that no one but us will ever know it, and that is one of its wonders. How many times has the history of the world been twisted by miracles like this that were never known by common people and historians.
– LUTHOR TELL ME THE TRUTH! Clara screamed.
Luthor looked at her with satisfaction.
– That's an ancestor of yours over there, from your planet, a few generations before you. He came 12,000 years ago. I believe you know the story. He came with an armada to ravage the Earth, wipe out humanity, and punish the Kryptonians who lived alongside the humans, or so we've speculated. They almost succeeded, almost wiped us out. But they failed. They caused the greatest extinction mankind has ever known, but they failed. And here we are. He was left in that ship you saw with the President, buried under water and mud. And here he is. A Kryptonian who came here to destroy us. You're another Kryptonian who's here to wipe us out… not today, but who knows, in a few decades or centuries, you've got plenty of time. You do not belong in this world; you represent its end or its corruption. You are a false goddess…I was talking to Mr. Lane earlier…you are the Antichrist the Christians wrote about.
– LUTHOR, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?
– Nothing you can give me. You will not take your own life of your own free will, and you will not leave of your own free will in search of another world, at least not without conditions that will allow you to return, and that is intolerable. I want your end. I want the triumph of humanity over the Titans, the Nephilim, and the fake gods. This is your doomsday, Kala-El from Krypton.
Luthor pressed a remote control in his hand and the ultrasounds grew louder, causing Clara to scream in pain and fall to the floor. Just then, she heard a small explosion. Some objects had fallen from an opening in the ceiling, Clara hadn't seen them clearly, but they were a series of crystal warheads with a black liquid. They had fallen on the Kryptonian prisoner who was now writhing in black smoke, stained with liquid that looked like oil. The sparks were even bigger and the whole room was filled with electricity. Clara began to cough and felt tired, she soon understood, a large part of the dome was lined with Kryptonite.
– My God Luthor, what have you done, why have you done this?
With pain, Clara felt in a few seconds how Luthor's fears and accusations intertwined with the fears of her adoptive parents, with the rejection of Louis and so many others to Superwoman, with Pete Ross… that afternoon, a few days after they got engaged, walking in the outskirts of Smalville, when she was just 21 years old, an apprentice elementary school teacher, when she wanted to show Pete her powers and he ran away terrified. How it took days before he wanted to see her again, and how difficult it took Clara to convince him that she wasn't possessed by the devil, and yet he broke off the engagement…to marry her friend Lana Lang years later.
– Just watch me," Luthor said self-deprecatingly as he pressed another detonator and more crystal warheads fell on the Kryptonian to a stunned Clara.
The Kryptonian then began to scream, but they were inhuman, lifeless cries. They were like the mooing of a slaughtered bull. He was completely burned. His hair began to burn. His body began to swell and blacken. But then the Kryptonian sat up and ripped off his restraints.
Superwoman flew toward him, trying to grab him, but was surprised by the force with which the creature rolled, punching back, and sending her crashing into the ceiling of the dome, slamming into a sheet of Kryptonite. Superwoman fell to the ground in pain as she watched in horror how the Kryptonian mutated.
His body continued to swell, his teeth fell out and were replaced by sharper ones, his arms grew longer and thicker, and his fingernails became claws. As his body grew, his Kryptonian exoskeleton broke, either separating from his body or becoming trapped in his muscles as pieces of sharp metal emerging from his flesh.
Superwoman managed to sit up and turned her heat vision on the creature, seeming to sear its flesh and cut it open, but the more beams she threw at it, the more the creature swelled. The openings in its body closed again, broken bones pierced the monster's skin and covered it with deformities. Clara, you were able to defeat Zod and his terrible machines, you managed to help all of humanity, you stopped hurricanes, tsunamis, nuclear missiles, war criminals, mobsters, mutants… you can do this and much more.
At super speed, she began to punch the monster. Again and again, but the more she hit it, the more pain she felt. The creature's bones and the remains of its exoskeleton cut her hands, which were soon bloody and full of wounds. The creature groaned in pain but struggled against her, slamming her to the ground as Clara made her way through several floors to what must have been the basement. The creature jumped through the hole and landed on top of her and began to pounce on her. It grabbed her cape and threw her upward. Superwoman went through the dome and fell back into the rubble.
Her cape and part of her costume were shredded, and she felt intense pain in her hands, chest, and stomach. The dome began to collapse. The monster was on the floors below, pounding God knows what and bringing the entire complex down. In a last-ditch effort, Clara grabbed Luthor's bodyguards and pulled them out of the failing complex at superspeed. There were several boats outside, and Clara ripped off the bent weapons she had used to tie them. Luthor was nowhere in sight.
– Get out of here, disappear, I never want to see you again. Oh my God, Louis.
He grabbed one of them.
– Where's the man you captured, a man with a mustache, what have you done with him?
– He is on the top floor, in a cell in the northwest area.
Clara watched as the floor and buildings crumbled beneath her feet.
Louis, I have to save him, for God's sake, he's here, Louis my love hang on…
From a hole in the ground the monster jumped several tens of meters, it was now almost five meters tall, and its humanoid form was almost unrecognizable.
Despite the pain and the fact that she might be bleeding internally, Superwoman flew towards it.
Some distance away, in a sleek motorboat heading for a freighter where he would set up his command post, Luthor looked through binoculars. The buildings on Meredith Island were collapsing as if in an earthquake. Suddenly, a swollen and deformed greenish-brown humanoid was ejected from the earth, and he could see the recognizable red-blue blur hurtling toward him, trying to push him into the ocean. The skyscrapers of Metropolis rose in the distance. Meredith Island was only fifteen kilometers from Central Park.
Maybe we'll make it, maybe we'll make it.