Episode One – Corruption
A dark Cadillac limousine pulled up beside the Luthorcorp Building and double parked beside the line of parked cars. Traffic came to a shuddering halt behind it and drivers honked their horns impatiently. The uniformed chauffeur got out, staring snootily at the other drivers, while a police officer on a horse approached.
“You can’t park here, buddy,” he said.
The chauffeur ignored him, nose in the air, hat pulled down to shade his eyes. He quickly moved around to the back door, opening it wide and allowing his three passengers to get out. Two were dressed in the finest European fashions money could buy. Both were wearing long cloaks which seemed incongruous in the warmth of a late Metropolis summer.
They were clearly extremely wealthy and so arrogantly full of themselves that they paid absolutely no attention to the continued shouts and horns of the drivers still trying to pass the huge vehicle.
The third man was dressed simply in a black suit with a white shirt and grey tie. He joined the other two waiting at the kerb.
One of the cloaked men, a man with an aristocratic nose and long, silvery dark hair, spoke rapidly in French to the chauffeur.
“Gustave tourné autour de l'immeuble ” he ordered.
“Oui monsieur,” the chauffeur nodded.
The three men went inside while the chauffeur went back to the vehicle and got in, driving off. The police officer had written out a ticket and placed it under the windscreen wipers, but it soon flew away.
The dark haired man swept in as if he was attending a premiere event, rather than heading toward the bank of elevators. The other two followed him into the lift, waiting as the car ascended to the fifth level where the main Luthorcorp reception area was housed.
The man swept out of the elevator and stared at the woman at reception.
“Something you want?” she asked casually, glaring at the three men.
“Monsieur Luthor, s’il vous plait.”
“I ‘ave already told you. Monsieur Luthor, s’il vous plait.”
“I meant your name,” she said, with an uninterested air.
“I am Baron Yves de Rochefort,” he told her, expecting her to be impressed.
“Un huh. Do you have an appointment? Mr Luthor is a busy man.”
“I? I do not need an appointment,” he said with a heavy accent. “I am the Baron de Rochefort. And I am a very busy man myself. Mr Luthor, s’il vous plait. And I do not care to repeat myself once again.”
The woman sighed, yawned, then picked up the phone.
“Yeah, Luce, there’s some guy here wanting to see Mr Luthor. Says he doesn’t have an appointment. Yeah, I told him that, but ... I don’t know. He’s got kind of an accent. I can barely understand a word he says. Some baron, or something.”
She looked up at the man once again.
“What was your name again?” she asked.
The baron harrumphed in impatience. “I am the Baron de Rochefort.”
“Is there something I can do to help you gentlemen?”
The Baron turned and looked at the redheaded woman. She was beautiful. Her facial features seemed to be European in their ancestry. He wondered if her family had come from France, or a neighbouring country.
“And you are?” the Baron enquired.
Yves de Rochefort snorted in derision. English. The name’s origin was either Scottish or English, but the meaning was that of a purveyor of fine silks and fabrics of great luxury. Unless, of course, her name was derived from that of le Mercier, but never mind, he thought.
“I am ‘ere to see M’sieur Luthor. Kindly direct me to him.”
“Mr Luthor is a busy man. Please state your business.”
“Very well, Mademoiselle Mercer. My business is that I wish to discuss an, ‘ow do you say, alliance, with Mr Luthor in regard to the one known as Superman.”
Tess’ eyes widened and she nodded. “Follow me,” she said.
The three men followed the redhead to the bank of elevators and joined her in the car. They stared straight ahead, aware of the curious looks of the redhead. But she said nothing.
It wasn’t long before the elevator reached the sixtieth floor of the Luthorcorp building. Tess opened the double doors and walked in.
De Rochefort saw the bald man sitting at the glass topped table. He knew much of Luthor’s recent history. Luthor had disappeared four years earlier after what had been publicised as an accident at a drilling site in the Arctic. Two of Luthor’s men had been killed at the site, after an avalanche had caused the collapse of the structure. Luthor had somehow made it out and had been virtually crippled.
During that time, he had used stem cell research to restore himself back to full health. Lesser men, de Rochefort supposed, would not have been able to survive under such circumstances. But Luthor himself was unique.
“Tess, what the hell?” Luthor said.
“I’m sorry, Lex, but they insisted on seeing you and wouldn’t leave until ...”
De Rochefort strode forward. “M’sieur Luthor, I am Baron Yves de Rochefort. This is my associate, the Marquis Antoine de Sade and Doctor Francesco Donatello. We wish to discuss an alliance with you.”
“An alliance?” Luthor looked puzzled. “What alliance?”
“May we sit?”
Luthor waved his hand. “Of course.”
De Rochefort smiled. But it was not a smile of friendship. Lex could see that this was a man who was used to getting his own way. The Marquis, as well. Both had the look of European aristocrats. The doctor, Donatello, was clearly Italian. His suit was well-cut and obviously by an Italian designer. Armani, perhaps.
Lex got up from behind his desk, not wanting to appear unapproachable.
“We know you are an extremely clever man, M’sieur. We have learned much about you and your miraculous recovery from your accident four years ago. We know about your Project 33.1 and your work with, uh, ‘ow do you say, mutants? We would propose an alliance against the alien known as Superman and we would like your assistance in a very special, er, ‘ow do you say, project?”
“The hybrid. We wish to study it.”
“Hybrid?” Lex asked, puzzled. He thought for a moment.
Doctor Donatello seemed to take his silence for refusal.
“We can take the child with or without your assistance, Mr Luthor. We wish to study it.”
Lex still remained silent, trying to think of a way out of this. Firstly, Superman was his enemy, and something he considered to be his property. Secondly, Lex might be a lot of things, but he would never kidnap an innocent baby. From what he’d heard, Lois Lane had given birth to a baby girl a month earlier. There’d been an announcement in the Daily Planet. Mara. That was her name.
Given that he’d lost his own brother in infancy, he was loath to take an infant away from its mother. No matter who the father was. Lex might hate Clark Kent and all he stood for, but he wasn’t about to let these aristocratic bastards get their hands on the half-human child of Clark Kent. Not if he didn’t want to incur Superman’s wrath.
“What is your answer, Luthor?”
“There will be no alliance. Superman may be an alien and a thorn in my side, but he is my problem and I will not ally myself with the likes of you.”
“You do not comprehend who you are dealing with, Luthor,” de Rochefort told him. “We are very powerful men, you see, and we will do this with or without your aid.”
“Get out of my office,” Lex hissed. “And stay away from Superman.”
De Rochefort turned to his associate and spoke rapidly in French. So rapid that even Lex had trouble keeping up.
“Cette américain refuse une alliance avec nous! Ses gens la sont des vrais barbares ... voila pourquoi il faut aussi surveiller Luthor je refuse que ses anciennes colonies sans histoire et cultures nous donne des orders a nous des européens sans nous il existerais même pas ses primitifs.”
Lex knew a lot of languages and he got the gist of the Baron’s words. In essence the Baron was berating Lex for refusing an alliance and that Americans were barbarians, without history or culture. The Baron was suggesting they should monitor him as well. Lex didn’t appreciate that. Nor did he appreciate the idea that they felt because of them, or their ancestors, America would not exist.
De Sade held out a hand and spoke in French as well.
“Biens sur baron mais nous devons être intelligent nous aurons tout le loisir de les manipuler patience ...patience mon cher ami bientot. “
(Baron, we are on his property, we have to be smart and wait for an opportunity. We need to handle this with patience. Patience my friend. Soon.)
But when the Marquis and the Baron turned cold, sadistic smiles on him, and Tess as well, he shuddered, as if someone was walking over his grave.
De Rochefort’s tone was as cold as ice as he continued.
“Listen to me, M’sieur Luthor. You have no choice. You work with me and my associates. I have many friends here in America and we could ruin your company. You would end up a pauper, miserable and alone, forced to wander the streets. I have a good relationship with your government and with some very powerful businessmen who would ... ‘ow do you say, be desirous to become majority shareholders.”
Take over his company? Over his dead body, he decided.
“Your empire is very powerful M’sieur Luthor, but my Illuminati brotherhood control the world and the system.”
Lex drew in sharp breath. The Illuminati? They were supposedly a shadowy group which claimed to be the power behind the world’s governments and were behind events designed to bring about a new world order. But Lex had never believed in it and as far as he was concerned it was just a conspiracy theory. But what if they weren’t, he asked himself.
“You understand now?” de Rochefort asked, his face a cold mask.
“I don’t take kindly to threats,” Lex returned, a lot braver than he felt. “And as for the Illuminati, they are a myth.”
De Rochefort grinned, reminding him of his father’s own shark-like grins when he was about to destroy someone.
“You have one week to reflect on what I have suggested. I am staying at the hotel Sheridan. If you change your mind, you may contact me there.”
Lex watched them leave, then looked at Tess.
“Find out everything you can on these people. And I mean everything.”
Tess nodded. She walked out, then pulled out a small communicator as her manicured finger pressed the button on the lift. But instead of pressing the down, she pressed up. As soon as the lift doors opened, she walked in, staring straight ahead as the doors closed.
Less than thirty seconds later, Tess emerged on the roof of the Luthorcorp building. She pressed the communicator into her ear and activated it.
“Watchtower, this is Mercer. We have a problem.”
The lift ground to a squeaky halt and the doors opened with a creak. A pair of feet in patent leather high-heeled shoes walked out backwards, followed by four wheels of what could only be a baby carriage. The wheels spun around and the high heels turned, walking forward.
The woman was dark-haired and beautiful with hazel eyes that seemed to be rimmed with gold. She walked with confidence as she pushed the carriage along the corridor, ignoring the looks from co-workers as well as the whispers. Her waistline still showed signs of a pregnancy, her belly soft and slightly rounded.
A hand came down to gently stop the carriage. Lois Lane-Kent stared up at her tall, dark and handsome husband. She lifted her hands, circling her eyes in what was by now a familiar gesture. Clark Kent looked absently at her, then his eyes widened.
“Honey,” she said. “I know you hate wearing them, but this was your idea, remember?”
Clark hurriedly pulled his horn-rimmed spectacles out of his pocket and put them on. Instantly he went from tall and rather spectacular to stooped and, for want of a better word, nerdy. His hair was slicked back and he smiled sheepishly.
“What are the two of you doing here anyway?” he asked as he opened the door to their small office. Lois noticed the names on the door. The name Clark Kent was written above hers. She supposed it was done alphabetically, but she was top banana in this working partnership and everyone knew that. The only time Clark Kent ever got top billing was ... actually, she told herself, she still got top billing there too.
“Mara was missing Daddy,” she answered finally, taking the opportunity to check out her husband’s tush of steel. “She kept asking for you.”
“She’s a month old, Lois. She’s not even talking yet.”
Caught, she thought. Ah well, can’t win ‘em all.
“Okay, sue me. I missed this place.”
“Lois, you’re on maternity leave,” Clark sighed.
“Yeah, and who knows what you’ll mess up while I’m gone,” she said as he picked their daughter up in his arms just as she started to cry. It was still amazing to her how his super-hearing could pick things up in an instant. He began to rub his daughter’s back and she began to coo.
“It’s amazing how you can do that,” Lois marvelled.
“I guess I just have the magic touch, Lois.”
“Cute Kent. But I am still getting those Ops guys to change the door.”
“That’s if you can find them,” Clark commented dryly. “Since they heard Mad Dog Lane was on the prowl, they’ve developed skills in hiding that even Superman would be hard-pressed to beat.”
De Rochefort paced the hotel suite. It did nothing to settle his mood. He was pissed at Luthor. But never mind, he thought. Luthor was but an insect to be crushed.
De Sade entered the room and spoke in rapid French.
"Les hommes viennent d'arriver a la ferme." (The men are on their way to the farm)
“Excellent,” de Rochefort smiled. But the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “What have they told the sheriff’s man?”
“Exactly what you told them to say.”
One hour earlier
A man aged in his late thirties was sitting at the desk in the sheriff’s office in Smallville. He looked older than his age of thirty eight – he would be thirty-nine in three months. His face had a drawn, pale look to it and his eyes appeared sunken. There were dark shadows underneath.
“Yes?” he said, looking at the two men who had walked into his office. They looked official enough, with what appeared to be expensive suits.
One of them waved an identification badge which looked suspiciously like government agent. But there was something off about them. They didn’t smell like government agents – or at least the government agents he knew. Since most government agents were poorly paid and these guys looked like they didn’t buy off the rack.
“We’d like to talk to you about a Mr ...” the man consulted a notebook. “Clark Kent?”
“What for? And let me see those badges again.”
“That isn’t necessary, Sheriff,” one of them said coolly. Rutherford’s hackles were instantly up.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think is necessary. I want to see those badges again. Now whip ‘em out.”
He peered at the badges, noting down their numbers and the departments the two men, Crawford and Hammersley, worked for. He would make some phone calls later.
“Now, what do you want with Mr Kent?”
“You’re an intelligent man, Sheriff. So we’ll get straight to the point. Our agency is investigating Mr Kent.”
“Like hell it is. Mr Kent is a citizen and a respected member of this community, not to mention the fact that he is the son of a United States Senator. And believe me, he could make a lot of noise, and not just through that paper he works for. If you think I’m going to look the other way, while you boys turn that farm upside down, well you can forget it.”
Crawford and Hammersley walked out of the office, sighing. Obviously the sheriff’s reputation as a straight arrow was right on the money. They had already decided that buying their way into getting onto the farm weren’t going to work with the sheriff.
On the other hand, they thought, there might be hope yet with the sheriff’s deputy, Kelley.
“Mr Kelley,” Crawford said. “Might we have a word?”
They pulled the younger man aside, out of the hearing of Rutherford.
“It must be difficult, trying to raise a family on your wages,” Crawford said. They’d already done their research on the younger man and had learned he worked two jobs just to feed his family.
“It has its moments.”
“We know some people. In the Bahamas. We can get you a good job. You can leave Smallville, with your family.”
Hammersley took out a wad of cash and Kelley eyed it greedily. They’d known he was not above corruption and bribery, for the right price.
“The Bahamas, huh?” he said.
The two men nodded.
“And what do you want in exchange?”
“You screen any calls about any intruders at the Kent Farm. We know that Kent is working at the Planet today and his wife is out. We just need two hours max.”
“Do I want to know what this is about?”
“It’s better you don’t. Do we have a deal?”
Kelley was still eyeing the money. He nodded cautiously, then took the money.
“You guys better not be kidding about the Bahamas.”
“Sure,” Crawford smiled. “We’ll be in touch.”
They headed to the farm and began their search. They were looking for anything which might connect Kent to Superman. Their superiors suspected that Kent was Superman, but they needed proof.
Crawford started upstairs, checking the master bedroom. There was a wedding portrait on the wall next to the bed of Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Married a year and already with a baby. He snorted in derision. Freak, he thought. He hated Superman. There was no doubt in his mind that Clark Kent was the alien. And it bugged the hell out of Crawford. Superman thought he was so superior, up on his high moral pedestal, telling people he was here to guide the people of Earth, not to interfere in human affairs. Sure, Crawford thought.
That was why the Illuminati was so interested in Superman. His presence upset their plans for the new world order.
He made his way into the next bedroom. It had been converted into a nursery. There were motifs on the walls. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Idiotic parents, Crawford thought. Well, it wouldn’t be long before they would have the hybrid child. And once they had that, they could control Superman.
There was a yell from downstairs and Crawford ran, drawing his gun. He stared at the beautiful blonde holding Hammersley up against the wall by the throat.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my friends’ home?” she said with a glare that Crawford was sure would have turned them both to ashes if the alien girl had been so inclined.