To Be a Hero: Last Son of Krypton (Superman)

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  1. Threadmarks: Chapter 1: Last Day of Krypton, Part 1
    AntonioCC

    AntonioCC Verified Procrastinator

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    Okay, this is a repost of of one of the Side Stories of To Be a Hero: Family, detailing the backstory of Superman in the fic universe.

    Last Son of Krypton

    Part 1: Last Day of Krypton
    Chapter 1

    Disclaimer: all character are property of their respective owners.

    Spoilers: general spoilers for Superman.

    Author Note: as with Batman, my version of the Superman mythos draw from several sources.

    A.N. 2: revised by JediKnight, from TtH.





    Kryptonopolis, Planet Krypton capital.
    Twenty-Five years ago.

    Jor-El, member of the Kryptonian High Science Council, strode silently through the corridors of the building, noticing through the windows that the signs of fighting in the streets were starting to get repaired. The final battle of the Civil War had been fought in those same streets, a desperate gambit to bring an end to nearly five years of strife. He shook his head, it had been sheer carnage on the streets, the urban combat having taken its toll on both attacker and defender.

    Maybe now things would become more normal, and he could step down and go back to science, he still had that prototype of a hyperdrive-equipped spaceship in his basement gathering dust, well, not exactly, he tinkered with it when the weight of being in the council become too big, so he could disconnect from the government problems.

    His thoughts turned to the origins of this war. Everything could be traced to a single moment, Kandor's destruction. With the planet in turmoil after the destruction of the planetary capital, it was only a matter of time until some incident happened. And the spark had been, or at least that was what had seemed st the time, an ugly rumor about government officials hoarding supplies, and it had snowballed from there, eventually becoming what had been known as The Riots.

    The wife of his old friend Zod, Faora, a career officer in the Peacekeepers, was sent to try to reestablish order, but she was killed in the fighting. Zod had changed afterwards, he had become colder, maybe even more arrogant than he had been, and his over-controlling side, a trait that he had kept under tight control for decades, had become more pronounced. Despite everything, he seemed to be keeping himself together well... until he attempted a coup to take over the government.

    The coup had partially failed, leaving Zod in control of a substantial part of the armed forces and Krypton territory. And as usually happens in those cases, a civil war ensued. Both sides were too evenly matched to quickly prevail, so the result was a grinding carnage unlike anything that Krypton had seen since the near-mythical Age of Strife.

    To finally end this, the Council armed forces had set an ambush, leaving Kryptonopolis, the new capital, apparently exposed, and so they had caught Zod himself, his top lieutenants and his best troops in a trap. The fight hadn't ended yet, of course. Jor-El suspected that it would be years before the last holdouts of Zod loyalists were dealt with, but finally Krypton had an opportunity to regain a sense of normality.

    He finally reached the door of the Chamber of Execution, where Zod and his top lieutenants were being driven just now. Before opening the black crystalline door, he adjusted the black robes, emblazoned with the crest of his House, the House of El, in stark white, that served as the traditional robes of office for the member of the Council charged with the role of High Executioner. He sighed, his mind for a moment going back to the happy days before the War, it was almost impossible to reconcile the relatively happy, even if a bit grim, Zod from then, to the impassive tyrant who had presided over the atrocities that had transpired in the last years.

    He opened the door, and closed it behind him as he took into the chamber, a perfect spherical dome, made of black crystal, on which exact center was the platform where the prisoners to be banished into the Phantom Zone had to stand. He decided to wait before going into the control area of the projector, he wanted to have a good look at Zod before he had to execute his sentence.

    A couple of milicycles later the door opened and the guards drove Zod and his top lieutenants to the platform. He had been changed by the years too. He still had the same lean body, a fact that belied that he was physically stronger that men far bigger than him, but he had replaced his old scarlet uniform, complete with the archaic cap, with a black bodysuit. Maybe it was that, or maybe it was that he hadn't seen him in years, but he seemed thinner than before. His formerly clean-shaven face was now sporting a trim goatee, but it was his eyes what gave Jor-El pause. Zod had always been intense, but that intensity had given way to something that he couldn't well identify.

    'Hunger.' He realized, so intent in looking at Zod’s face that he missed a guard slipping something inside Zod’s bodysuit, 'That crazed look make him look like a hungry predator.'

    He knew that he had likewise changed, but not so much. His tall and powerful frame still looked impressive, and under the robes of office, be it the black robes of the Executioner or the white robes of Councilor, he still wore a green bodysuit emblazoned with a starburst. Although he had got rid of the red adulthood headband, an archaic affectation like Zod’s old cap, when he became a member of the council. The pressures of office had made his raven-black hair become salt and pepper, which he had let grow to shoulder-length hair, as well as a short beard.

    Zod’s lieutenants, Ursa-Lar and Ul-Non stood to his side. Ursa, Zod’s lover, was a tall, slim woman with black, slicked back hair, cold gray eyes and clad in a tight black bodysuit that didn’t leave much to imagination. Ul-Non was a veritable giant, with unruly black hair, and empty blue eyes. Once upon a time, he had been a bright scientist, a good friend of both brothers El and Zod, but some kind of accident shortly before Kandor had left him as a mute brute. Zor-El, Jor-El's brother had blamed him for the accident, and looking back he couldn’t say that he was wrong. He had been reckless and if he hadn’t pressured Non...

    He shook his head, dismissing that train of thoughts. While he could have been responsible for the initial accident, Zod was responsible for him still being in that state. And that, reflected Jor-El, was another sign of how much his old friend had changed. In the old times, Zod and would have tried to make Ul-Non to go back to what he had been.

    "So you have come at the end." Zod said with that cultured accent of him, one of the few affectations that he had kept from the young, brash officer that Jor-El had known so long ago. "What are you going to do? Trying to make me see the error of my ways before sending me to the Phantom Zone?"

    "No, Zod. That time passed when you ordered the slaughter in Northern Urrika." Jor-El said, standing before the console that controlled the Projector. "You and you cohorts, Ursa and Ul-Non, will be sent to the Phantom Zone for that and many other atrocities."

    "A necessary evil, Jor-El, to keep order." Zod said, his voice full with disdain, "Long before Kandor, Urrika had always been a pain in the backside for the Council."

    "Evil indeed, but necessary?" Jor-El said, looking at him, "Blessed Rao, Zod. You ordered everybody killed, men, women, children and my reports say that that Ursa herself killed many of them with her bare hands."

    "So?" Zod said with a shrug, "A necessary evil, to keep discipline. There were no rebellions against my rule afterwards."

    Jor-El stood there momentarily paralyzed by the sheer gall of Zod. He closed his eyes for a moment and said a quick prayer for the soul of his old friend. He went behind the console, and started to read the charges levelled against the trio. It was a grisly list, full of blood and carnage.

    The three war criminals stood in the podium while Jor-El read the list. Zod and Ursa looked bored, while Non, his face filled with childish curiosity, entertained himself poking with his finger into the force-field that was keeping them in place.

    "The accused have been found guilty of these crimes, and doomed to banishment to the Phantom Zone." Jor-El said, in a solemn tone, before activating the projector. A blinding light enveloped the trio, but before their essences were incased in a crystalline matrix to survive the dimensional transition, Zod had time to say a few last words.

    "Heed my words, Jor-El! This is not the end! You’ll kneel…" his last words lost as he was enveloped in crystal and sent into the Zone.

    Jor-El sighed again while stepping down from the podium toward the door, followed by the guards, their steps resonating hollowly into the now empty chamber. Before leaving the chamber, he allowed himself a last look at the now empty platform.

    'Goodbye, old friend. May Rao help you to find peace.' He thought, before turning and leaving the chamber.

    The guards went back to their tasks, leaving Jor-El walking back through the same corridors that he had gone before. As he reached the door, a small tremor shook the building, making Jor-El purse his lips.

    ‘Now this. The news that I have for the Council can't wait.’ Jor-El thought, before walking out, toward his hovercar.

    He drove it home, as always disconnecting the automated navigation, to enjoy one of the few bits of freedom that he had now. It was considered bad form to go to the Council still clad in the Executioner garb and he wanted to talk with Lara before presenting his data to the Council.

    Jor-El and Lara’s residence. Some distance from Kryptonopolis.

    “It was as we feared, isn’t it?” Lara said, after kissing her husband.

    “Yes, my love, he is still unrepentant. I can’t believe that Zod had changed so much...” Jor-El started to say as he removed the black robes.

    “Not so much changed as unleashed some part of him that were under tight control before. You knew about his arrogance, his ruthlessness and his tendency to micromanage everything. Without Faora to ground him, his dark side was without any check.” Lara interrupted, with a sad smile, "And in turn Zod served to ground Faora, who was quite the mean, cold bitch."

    "You have always been a better judge of character than me, Lara." Jor-El said, while putting the white robes on.

    Lara didn't answer to that, instead smiling fondly when she saw him checking that the white robes were correctly set. It was one of his nervous tics; he had made the same gesture before their wedding.

    "I think that cousin Gor won't have any motive for complains this time." Lara said, which drew a chuckle from Jor-El. Lara's cousin, Gor-Van, was one of his 'esteemed colleagues' who always raised a fuzz about presenting 'the proper image of a member of the High Science Council' even on the middle of the War.

    "Oh, he'll find a motive, he always does." Jor-El said, "If it not my robes, it'll be my beard, or that I don't wear the adulthood headband..."

    "Ignoring the fact that he hadn't worn it since his adulthood ceremony." Lara commented, before looking at the chronometer, "Well, if we keep criticizing my cousin's defects you are going to arrive late to the Council."

    "Damn. You are right." Jor-El said, kissing his wife again and heading to the door, "Tell hello to Kal for me, dear."

    “Just be careful, Jor.” Lara said

    Kryptonopolis. Council Chamber

    “This is no fantasy, my fellow Councilors.” Jor-El said pointing to the values in the holo-screen, ”According to the data collected by my own instruments, the pressure on Krypton’s core is five times what it was six years ago...”

    “Are you sure that it is not an instrument error?” One of the Councilors, Vond-Ah, former colleague of Jor-El, and thus fully aware of the towering reputation of Jor-El in the field of science, asked.

    “Positive, unfortunately. I checked and rechecked.” Jor-El answered, nodding with a sad smile, “The problem is that we don’t know what that means, but even in the best case, it could be a big hassle, and in the worst, well it would be the worst catastrophe in Krypton history.”

    “Can you explain what would be the best case?" other of the councilors, his brother father-in-law specifically, asked. "Not all of us are as well versed in planetology as you, Jor-El."

    “Of course, In-Zee. The best case would be that it's the result of a temporary anomaly caused by some shifting in the inner core of our planet. If that’s the case, the pressure will be released in a series of planetquakes of an intensity of about 9 or 9'5 in the Ric-Em scale, over the next months.” Jor-El explained.

    “That’s the best case? A series of planetquakes as devastating as the ones in the Sondar island last year?” Gor-Van said, “I shudder to think what would be the worst case.”

    “The worst case, Gor-Van, would be that the pressure is an indication of a runaway nuclear reaction in the planet’s core. This would mean that the pressure would rise, and rise, until an explosive release.” Jor-El said, ominously “In other words until Krypton explodes.” But then Jor-El smiled “But that is only the worst case. I don’t think that it will come to that, but to know it with certainty, I need access to the data collected by the automated stations of the Institute of Planetology, which, as you know, was located in Zod territory until the last offensive.“

    “You could have done that without having to make this announcement to the Council, Jor-El.” Dax-Ur said snidely, “I wonder why. We all know of your old friendship with...”

    “Careful, Dax-Ur, if you go down that road, considering who your brother was." Jor-El replied in a bristling tone, reminding the unpleasant astrophysicst that his brother, Jax-Ur, had been one of the first prisoners sent to the Phantom Zone, "And the why is very simple, my esteemed colleagues. Once that I have the data, I’ll need a few days to see what conclusions I can arrive at from it, days that we may not have to prepare if the worst comes.”

    "An excellent exposition, Jor-El." The Head of the Council said, who then asked to the Council "Does anybody has an objection?"

    Dax-Ur looked to his closer allies in the Council, but this time it seemed that nobody wanted to join him. This didn't pass unnoticed by the most politically savvy of the Council members. Dax had been trying for some time to gather support for his faction, but this could supose a serious setback for his ambitions.

    “Brainiac, do you have the data?” The Head of the Council then said, turning to the screen with the five red points joined by lines that were the symbol of the Brain InterActive Construct. It was the most advanced product of Krypton research into AI, although there were rumors that the Coluans, in one of their infrequents interactions with Krypton, had provided a substantial part of its source code. Anyway, it had become an indispensable advisor to all incarnations of Krypton's High Science Council since its creation, many years ago.

    “Unfortunately the Institute uses an outdated computer system that is proving problematic to integrate in my network.” The inflectionless voice of the AI said, “If I devote a more substantial part of my processing power to this, I should have the data available next day. Is this acceptable?"

    “Yes, it should be.” Jor-El said, with a smile that he didn’t feel. He hadn't dared to communicate the Council that he had a bad feeling about the data, but he consoled himself that it would only be a short delay. “Even in the worst case we should have a few months.”

    The discussion moved to other matters, before the meeting was adjourned, and Jor-El stayed back for a moment, to look over Krypton's landscape from the Council Chamber's window, placed at the top of Kryptonopolis tallest building, the gleaming crystalline spire of the High Science Council tower.

    Before the destruction of Kandor, the Council had seldom reunited here, as the move of the capital from Kandor to Kryptonopolis had been dragging well beyond its planned date since the creation of this city. A disadvantage of Kryptonian longevity was that people could become very set on their ways.

    Shaking his head, he closed the window and exited the chamber. He really wanted to leave the politicking behind for today, and spend a relaxing evening with his wife and son.

    TO BE CONTINUED...
     
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  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 2: Last Day of Krypton, part 2
    AntonioCC

    AntonioCC Verified Procrastinator

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    Last Son of Krypton

    Part 1: Last Day of Krypton
    Chapter 2

    Disclaimer: all character are property of their respective owners.

    Spoilers: general spoilers for Superman.

    Author Note: as with Batman, my version of the Superman mythos draw from several sources.

    A.N. 2: revised by JediKnight, from TtH.




    Jor-El and Lara's residence. Some distance from Kryptonopolis.

    “So, how did it go?” Lara asked when Jor-El came back, and left the robes in the automatic cleaner.

    “As well as one could expect." Jor-El said, massaging his temples and slouching on an armchair, "Dax tried to do one of his political stunts, but nobody sided with him this time."

    "Sometimes I can't believe that I was interested in him once upon a time." Lara said, rolling her eyes, "Thanks Rao that I realized what he was behind that suave facade.” She grew pensive for a moment, “You know, I talked to cousin Dila a few days ago and she mentioned that although the Peacekeepers could never prove it, they always believed that he was up to his eyebrows in his brother’s scheme."

    "Yeah, Zod thought the same. He and the Ur brothers never got along. Given what happened later, it’s quite ironic." Jor-El commented, "Anyway, I'm going to have to wait for tomorrow. Brainiac says that he has problems with the computers of the Institute.”

    “That’s weird." Lara said, "I mean, I knew the people who were in charge of the maintenance of the Institute computers, and if I remember correctly, their computer network went though a full overhaul just before Kandor...”

    “What?” Jor-El said, startled enough to sit straighter in the armchair, “But Brainiac said that they were obsolete.”

    “No, they aren’t. Five years ago they were state-of-the-art, and Brainiac should know it. Jor, this is serious. ” Lara said, clearly worried, "As far as I know, Brainiac is not designed to be able to lie, or to even entertain the notion to lie...”

    Jor-El suppressed a shiver, as rampant AIs were one of Krypton’s oldest fears, if the story of the Eradicator was to be believed. It had taken many years for the Brainiac proposal to be even considered by the old High Science Council. And now, this...

    He looked around until his eyes fixated on the terminal of his study. His late father-in-law, Lor-Van had been a traditionalist, and after his death, shortly after the destruction of Kandor, he hasn't had time to install newer systems, a fact for which he was immensely grateful to the old fossil right now. This terminal, as well as its twin in his lab, was the most modern thing that could be installed without a complete overhaul of the residence computer network, and it was simply too obsolete to connect with the Brainiac system

    “At least, he doesn't know that we know. But, why would Brainiac lie about that? Specially given that he said that the records would be available tomorrow..." he stopped when realized why would be that.

    "Because tomorrow it will be too late to end whatever he is planning." Lara said, echoing his thoughts.

    "Precisely." Jor-El said, getting up, "Lara, dear, can you try to get in contact with In-Zee or Vond-Ah? If so, please, use..."

    "...the old network. And I'll piggyback the signal between the space habitats several times." Lara said, with an smile, "Computer expert, remember? I should get a word to Zor, he never liked Brainiac, and Argo and the other habitats are not as connected to it as the surface."

    "An excellent idea, why didn't I think of that?" Jor-El said, with a smile of admiration, as he started to change clothes.

    “Head in the clouds, as usual.” Lara said, using an old private joke between then, "And what are you going to do?"

    “I'm going to confront Brainiac." Jor-El said as he put on a clean jumpsuit.

    "Why, Jor? It’s going to be incredibly dangerous, and I don’t think that you will be able to convince him to stop." Lara asked, a note of worry in her voice.

    "No, I don’t think that I would be able to do that.” Jor-El said, with a sigh, but then he turned to Lara, with one of his ‘I have an idea’ expressions, “But, tell me, do you remember the work that you did in Brainiac support systems?”

    Lara stood there perplexed, and then she started to smile predatorily, understanding what he meant.

    Kryptonopolis. Location of Brainiac Core Processing Unit

    "Greetings, Jor-El." Brainiac said through the comm-unit in the door. "Unfortunately, I can not allow you access to my CPU at this moment. There have been..."

    Whatever excuses Brainiac was going to use was left unheard as Jor-El introduced a crystal into the comm-unit dataport. There were systems to impede what the programs designed by Lara were doing just now to the building security systems, designed by a computer specialist affiliated to Krypton fledgling space program called Lara-Van.

    The door opened without a sound. Inside of the cavernous facility, he could see the components of Brainiac core unit processing and transmitting at a speed far greater than it should have been possible, another sign that Brainiac had gone rampant.

    "Ah, of course, now I understand. I had not considered that Lara-Van was linked to the group who overhauled the Planetology Institute computers." Brainiac said in the same inflectionless tone that would have used to inform that it was raining outside. “A pity, then, that now you will have to die... die... die...”

    Jor-El smiled. Brainiac would not need long to shake the effects of Lara’s little virus, but it would be enough, as he used his Council override codes in a nearby console to access the relevant data about the Institute.

    "What?" Jor-El said looking at the live data. "Those pressure readings can't be right"

    “They are, Jor-El." Brainiac said, his voice sounding slurred, "That was a clever little program, Jor-El. Concocted by Lara, no doubt. Even now, it is blocking me access to the security drones.”

    “It was designed to do that, I’m not fond of suicide missions, Brainiac.” Jor-El said still looking at data. It seemed that Brainiac had been suppressing data about the core pressure for years, even before Kandor’s destruction, “Speaking of that, you knew from the beginning that Krypton is about to explode." Jor-El added, while using his codes to activate processes that would slow Brainiac regaining control.

    "Indeed, Jor-El. I am uploading myself into a deep space probe." Brainiac said.

    “But why are you letting Krypton be destroyed?” Jor-El said, as he kept keying commands with a definite aim in mind. “That would be contrary to your directives to safeguard Krypton.”

    “That is incorrect. I am saving Krypton.” Brainiac said, “Every bit of data about Krypton science, philosophy, history, art and all other areas of knowledge, are being collected and they are going to be uploaded into the probe databanks, after myself, to save it from the punishment. And representative samples...”

    “What punishment? What the Hell are you talking about?” Jor-El said, genuinely puzzled, although then he remembered an old legend about an unforgivable sin. "Are you talking about the legends about Van-El and the Twilight War?"

    “Precisely. The truth is in the old records in Kandor. I had saved a copy in my databanks before the city disappearance.” Brainiac said, “The old Council also knew the truth, and that was the reason for their reluctance to implement the advances that you and your brother brought, fearing to anger Krypton’s would be executioners. I have recorded deliberations that indicated that if you had persisted in the development of your hyperdrive, Jor-El, trumped up charges would have been leveled against you.”

    "That's your excuse for allowing a full genocide? Some unknown crime of our ancestors?" Jor-El said, as he kept tampering with Brainiac systems, now looking for a particular subroutine.

    "No. Krypton's destiny was unavoidable. I have no doubt that if today's explosion was avoided, some other 'accident' would have been arranged. Even now, their eyes watch Krypton." Brainiac said, "I'm simply trying to save what can be saved."

    “I can’t allow you to do that.” Said Jor-El, pushing the final key.

    “What?” said Brainiac, as the data from Krypton was copied to the crystal that he had used to enter, before being erased from Brainiac databanks, and the geothermal shunt that provided power for his CPU overloaded. “NOOOOOOOO!”

    Jor-El picked the crystal and ran out of the exploding building toward his hovercar. As the vehicle sped toward his home, the ground started to shake and he could see that in the faraway Jewel Mountains there was an eruption. He tried to call the Council, but Brainiac seemed to have taken the compunets with him as a last, petty act of vengeance.

    He deliberately avoided going near Kryptonopolis, as he deducted that the streets would be in chaos right now. His thoughts raced, trying to find a way to relieve the pressure in the short time they had, and coming with none.

    When he arrived to his home, his heart seemed to stop for a moment when he saw that the walls had started to crumble. He ran toward the broken door, stopping just after entering when he saw that the damage inside was even worse than what it seemed from outside.

    “Lara!? Please, answer me!” He screamed at the top of his lungs. He stopped there, listening until...

    “Lab!” He heard weakly.

    ‘Thanks Rao.’ He thought, letting out a sigh of relief. The lab was the more structurally sound part of the house, having been originally built as a shelter, carved from a single piece of an extremely resistant crystal, back in the days of the Lugan-Urrika War that gave rise to the rule of the High Science Council.

    He ran toward the lab, dodging a piece of the crumbling crystalline wall in the way. Once he passed the open vault-like door, he saw that the lab was still remarkably intact, just as another quake shook the ground. Lara was there, sitting in a chair, beside Kal’s cradle.

    “Oh, thanks Rao, I thought the worst when the ground started to shake.” Lara said, getting up, “What the hell is happening, Jor? I thought that even in the worst case scenario you outlined...”

    “Brainiac knew from the beginning and had been suppressing the data since before Kandor. The situation is much worse than we imagined, and if I hadn’t used that old probe to collect the data, we would have never known.” Jor-El said, slumping on a wall, “Krypton is about to explode, my love. We have hours at most, Lara. And there is nothing that we can...”

    He stopped as his wandering gaze stopped on a spindle shape covered by a cloth, sitting in front of a makeshift hatch in the front part of the lab, as a wild idea appeared in his mind.

    "Maybe... maybe there is a way.” He said slowly, his mind wrestling with the energy needed for the hypership voyage, “It will be a tight fit, but you and Kal can fit in the cockpit of the hypership..."

    "No, Jor-El." she said softly, shaking her head, "I am the former astronaut here. I know the life support system that you used upside down and it won't resist the strain of keeping alive, even in stasis, two people, unless you want to use it to reach the habitats."

    “They won’t survive the explosion unless they are very, very lucky, and very, very quick, and we have no way to warn them.” Said Jor-El, shaking his head, “It’ll have to be another star system.”

    "Too much time, then. Whereas..." she added, kneeling and kissing Kal-El’s head "...with our son alone, it can survive the travel to... where? Xandar? Rann? Colu?"

    Jor-El didn’t answer immediately, checking a database of inhabited worlds at a manageable distance from Krypton. With each entry his frown deepened until he found what he was looking for. Not his first choice, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.

    "Xandar and Colu are too far. Rann is just a bit over the limit, but there is another world closer to Krypton.” Jor-El said.

    “I don’t remember…” Lara started to say, before Jor-El interrupted her.

    “It’s a primitive world. Its inhabitants are similar to us, and hold similar beliefs." Jor-El said, "They call it Earth..."

    "Yes, I remember now, but why Earth, Jor-El? As you have said, they're primitives, thousands of years behind us." said Lara, pleadingly.

    "He will need that advantage to survive.” Jor-El said, his head hanging over his chest, his eyes closed, as if remembering, “It has a yellow Sun and a richer atmosphere. He will eventually defy their gravity. And he will look like one of them..."

    "But he won't be one of them." Lara said, looking at their son.

    "His dense molecular structure and the energy received from the Sun will make him, in time, strong, fast, virtually invulnerable..." Jor-El as he took a few data crystals from his workbench, and opened his safe. Inside there were three crystals, he took two, one of which illuminated faintly, Lara taking the other that also shone faintly for a bried moment, and they both walked toward the ship

    "He will be isolated. Alone..." Lara said as he placed the cradle beside the ship

    "No, he will never be alone." Jor-El said gently, as he uncovered the ship, a gleaming spindle shaped piece of translucent crystal, with the crest of the House of El emblazoned in the bow. He placed the data crystals that he had taken from the workbench and the one he took from Brainiac into an access area to the ship storage bay. Then Jor-El and Lara placed the crystals that they had taken from the safe on the control console from the ship, where they glowed, blue and red, "We'll be with him every day of his life."

    Repressing her tears, Lara caressed Kal-El’s cheek before putting him, wrapped in blankets, in the cockpit that reconfigured itself to adapt to its occupant. Jor-El kissed him in the forehead before using a sedative to put him to sleep. Then, the final crystal was placed in the control panel, and started to glow with a golden light. The cockpit closed, the hatch fusing with the rest of the ship until it became a single piece of crystal.

    Inside the cockpit, the stasis system started to work, slowing little Kal-El life processes to the glacial pace that would keep him alive for the time the ship needed to reach its destiny. The crystals in the control panel started to glow in sequence as the different systems of the ship activated, following the orders from the Gold crystal.

    They stepped back as the antigravs kicked in and the ship started to elevate. Automatically, while the tremors subsided for a moment, a section of the wall retracted, illuminating the lab with the fading scarlet light of Krypton’s last twilight. The ship guidance system oriented itself, and the thrusters activated, starting to speed the ship to escape Krypton's gravity.

    Jor-El and Lara stood there, looking at the ship, while the tremors returned, stronger than ever, until it was only a pinprick of light in the darkening sky, unconcerned of the cracks showing in the lab walls as the tremors started to intensify, as in preparation for the last act of Krypton’s destruction.

    Other, unliving, eyes were also tracking the progress of the ship. As a last act of petty vengeance, before his CPU was destroyed, Brainiac ordered one of the drone defense ships to destroy Jor-El residence and all its occupants, even if they fled.

    As it neared the residence, it scanned it, showing three life signs inside. A ship shot off, carrying one of the life signs. Following its programming, the drone was ready to destroy the residence when it collapsed on itself, extinguishing the two remaining life-signs.

    The mindless program made it follow the ship up in the atmosphere and beyond, not caring that the world that both were leaving behind cracked and exploded, showering the entire system with the fragments of what had once been a planet. In the middle of such detonation, one could be forgiven for missing the light of a ship jumping into hyperspace, and bringing its pursuer and parts of its home planet with it.

    Afterwards, other than the desperate attempts of the inhabitants of the only remaining space habitat to survive, and an alien automated outpost sending a transmission home, there was only silence... until a forgotten deep space probe came to life in the outskirts of the system, its surface reconfiguring to show five red light-points in a W shape.

    TO BE CONTINUED...
     
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  3. Threadmarks: Chapter 3: Strange Visiitors, part 1
    AntonioCC

    AntonioCC Verified Procrastinator

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    Last Son of Krypton

    Strange Visitors, Part 1

    Disclaimer: all character are property of their respective owners.

    Spoilers: general spoilers for Superman.

    Author Note: as with Batman, my version of the Superman mythos draw from several sources.

    A.N. 2: revised by JediKnight, from TtH



    Smallville, Kansas. Almost eighteen years ago

    Jonathan Kent, a tall, blond farmer that looked to be around thirty years old, was loading the fertilizer sacks in his father’s old pick-up truck when he saw the sheriff coming along with another man.

    “Sheriff Dale.” Jonathan Kent said, shaking the hand of the county sheriff “What can I do for you?”

    “This gentleman was looking for somebody called Jack Kent.” Said the sheriff, a thin, unassuming man, with a bald patch in his dark hair and a thin mustache. “And I thought that you could give him some help.”

    “I’m Jonathan Kent.” Said Jonathan, giving a good look at the man. He was a tall black man, around forty, with short, kinky hair that started to go white in the temples, and a small goatee. He was wearing black sneakers, jeans and a black leather jacket over a dark gray T-shirt. He had slung over his shoulder a backpack. “I can’t say that I remember a Jack Kent in my family, but I don’t know all my cousins, though.”

    “I’m Nick Fury, and the man that I’m looking for should be close to seventy, a World War II veteran.” Said the other man. “He and my father became friends back then, and...”

    “World War II, you say?” said Jonathan, snapping his fingers “That’s my father, I remember he told me once that back in the war everybody called him Jack. I’m going back to the farm after I’m finished with the sacks, do you have a car?”

    “No, a friend left me in Topeka and I took the bus from there.” Fury said, shaking his head.

    “Well, if you don’t mind riding in a pick-up that has seen better days...”

    To his surprise Fury laughed, before removing his jacket putting his backpack aside and taking one of the sacks of fertilizer.

    “Don’t worry, I have ridden in far worse getups. So, where do you want the sack?”

    Solar System. Kuiper’s Belt, beyond Pluto’s orbit

    The Kuiper’s Belt was filled with the detritus of the formation of the Solar System, balls of ice and rock, some of which were occasionally dragged inside the system and became comets. But other than that, cold and darkness, as the Sun only an exceptionally bright star at this distance, were the constants of the Belt... until now.

    A flash of light was the only sign of the arrival of the spaceship that carried the last survivor of a dead world. It remained unseen from Earth, the Moon in the way. The ship stood motionless for a moment, the onboard computers taking on the system and plotting a course through the system, completely unfazed by the debris that had accompanied the ship in its travel though the conduit.

    Suddenly the gravitic engine activated, propelling the ship toward its destiny in the third planet, dragging bits of the debris in tow. Soon afterwards, from its hiding place inside the debris, Brainiac's drone ship, following its programming, continued its relentless pursuit of the last son of Krypton. An alien sensor drone documented the arrival of both vessels and sent a transmission to its masters.

    Kent Farm

    John Kent, Jonathan’s father, was in his 70s, had a bald patch and needed glasses to read, but otherwise still looked fit as a fiddle, and age seemed to have barely slowed him. His blue eyes looked at Nick from head to toe.

    “Jacob’s youngest, hmmm?” said John Kent to their guest. “Nicholas, isn’t it?”

    “Yes, sir.” Nick said

    "I am no 'sir', young man. I was only a sergeant.” John said with an smile, “Call me John."

    "Okay...John." Nick said with a smile.

    "So, what brings you here?” John said, meeting his gaze, “I suppose that it wasn't only to tell me that Jacob is dead."

    "No, his last will contained a provision about you...” Fury started to say, but he stopped, clearly trying to find the words.

    "Oh?" John said, frowning, and then looked at Jonathan. "Well, lets' go for a walk, I think better when I'm walking."

    "Pa, are you sure?.” Jonathan said “The doctor said..."

    "Bah, I'm not going to walk to town, kid, only a bit around the farm.” John said.

    "Okay, but don't be late, Martha is going to make your favorite stew for supper." Jonathan said, acknowledging his defeat in the argument.

    "Martha?" asked Nick as they went out of the house.

    "My daughter-in-law." John said, “A good woman, shame that she and Jonathan can’t have children.”

    As they got far enough from the house, he turned back to him, his expression grim.

    "Let me guess, he left you a green metallic box about the size of a toolbox?” he said, “And instructions to seek me to explain what was all of that about? Or if I was unable to, Peggy Carter, Daniel Dugan or James Farnsworth?"

    "Eh... yes. Were you a member of...?” Fury started to say, stopping himself before saying the name of his agency.

    “SHIELD?” John answered with a sad smile “No, I was offered, though, by Carter herself, back in ’48. But I had enough of war and conflict.” He added, shaking his head

    “Then, how...?" Fury said, dumbfounded.

    John didn't answer, instead he turned to look at the cornfields, as if taking strength from looking at something familiar.

    “It was just after the war. After slogging through the Pacific during the war, my unit was part of Japan occupation forces.” John finally said, his voice flat, “We all have heard about HYDRA, but few people knew that the Japanese had their own version, the Black Dragon Society.” He looked at Fury.

    “Yes, I have heard of them.” Fury said, “They were more oriented toward the political and less toward mad science than HYDRA, but they left some nasty messes around.”

    “As we could see personally. You see, we were tasked with guarding the entry to one of their secret project until the SSR could check it.” He took a deep breath, “We were surrounding it, following our orders of leaving it alone, and stopping anyone trying to enter.”

    “I guess that somebody did try to enter.” Nick said.

    “Yeah, some bonehead convinced himself that the reason we were guarding it was that the Japs had gold hidden there, and he got some members of his platoon to check it out with him.” John said, “Bunch of idiots.”

    “What happened?” Nick said, having the feeling that he knew where this was headed.

    “We never saw them again, as living human beings at least.” John said, shaking his head, “We noticed their disappearance next morning, and it was not long afterwards we realized that they had gone inside.”

    “So, what you did?” Nick asked.

    “Before we could talk to the brass, the Howling Commandos and the SSR people arrived.” John said, and the looked back at Nick “I don’t know if he told you, but your father, Jake Fury, was...”

    “One of them, yes, I knew that.” Nick nodded “I guess that they didn’t like the situation.”

    “You can say that. My captain got an earful from Colonel Phillips…” he paused for a moment, reminiscing, “That man could blister the paint of a Sherman when he got going.”

    “I have heard things to that effect.” Fury said, "What happened afterwards?"

    “Well, the SSR people had a closed room reunion, and then Carter and Stark entered the complex with the Commandos.”

    “And they found something, didn’t they?” Fury said.

    “You could say that. They got out barely fifteen minutes later, shooting back at something that was pursuing them.” He paused a moment, closing his eyes, “Things out of a nightmare, and the worst thing was that some of them had been people before: our own men were still somewhat recognizable but the others… prisoners or maybe the scientists there, we never knew. The worst were the other things, the ones that had never been human." He shook his head, as if he was trying to dispel the images of that day from his mind, "We were hard pressed to stop them, we needed flamethrowers, field artillery, even a bit of fire support from the USS Canberra to kill them all, at the end.” He paused for a moment, gathering strength to continue.

    Nick waited. He didn’t say, but he doubted that the Black Dragon had really known what was going on that base. It looked more like the work of a cultist of the Old Ones.

    “The Commandos had been decimated, so a troop of the best soldiers of my regiment, me included, were selected to go with them inside.” John continued. He shivered for a moment before saying the following, “We saw things there that don’t belong to God’s green Earth. Those damned fools had opened a door, and one of their scientist had been possessed by... something in the other side, and was now letting things out of nightmares in and change people into... things. We destroyed the door, picked its pieces, and sealed the surviving creatures inside under many tons of concrete.”

    “I guess that whatever is in the box is one of the door pieces.” Fury said, guessing where this was headed. He had the feeling that the possession hadn’t been all that unwilling if his experience with cultists was any indication.

    “Yes. One piece is still down there, in the lab, under all that concrete, while the survivors who had been in the fight in the door room picked one each.” John said “Stark, Carter, Dugan, Farnsworth, your father and me.”

    Fury nodded. He had known personally all of the survivors. Hell, he had been recruited into SHIELD by Dugan’s oldest grandson.

    “And that’s all. He probably directed you to me because I’m the only one who wasn’t involved with the SSR back then. ” John said, looking at the other man with a shrewd look. “Or with SHIELD later.”

    “I can’t comment on that.” Fury said. “But what you have said, well, I need to think about it. Thank you.”

    “Can you at least stay for dinner?” John said, “I guarantee you that you won’t be sorry, Martha is an excellent cook.”

    “If you put it that way, who am I to say no?.”

    After dinnertime. The Kent Farm

    “It’s a bit too late to go back to Smallville now.” Fury said, looking at the night sky, “Not to speak of taking a bus.”

    “Well, you can use our guest room, Mr. Fury.” Jonathan said.

    “For the last time, Jonathan, call me Nick.” Fury said with a smile. And it was a genuine smile, not the fake one he wore as part of the service, “And thanks.”

    After entering the room, Fury undressed and got into the bed. But sleep eluded him, thinking about today’s revelations. Carter, Dugan and Farnsworth were still alive, and dad’s piece was in a safe place, but Stark had died in a car crash a few years ago, and his son... He pursed his lips. Like father, like son, if some of the stories he had heard from Howard Stark younger years were accurate. Maria Stark, nee Wayne, had been an stabilizing influence on the often hyperactive genius.

    Anyway, first thing when he came back is to ask Carter about Stark’s piece. If somebody knew where his piece was, Peggy Carter was that person. He hoped that it wasn’t in some forgotten cupboard in one of the many Stark mansions, or worse, being tinkered over by Stark’s son.

    And then, there was SHIELD brass. Director Faraday was a good man, but he was getting a bit too paranoid in his old age, an attitude fomented by some of his subordinates. He shook his head turned around and closed his eyes. His last conscious thought before falling asleep were that tomorrow would be another day.

    TO BE CONTINUED...
     
  4. Ack

    Ack (Verified Ratbag) (Unverified Great Old One)

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    Intriguing.
     
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  5. AntonioCC

    AntonioCC Verified Procrastinator

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    Nick Fury in Smallville, what could possibly happen?:p
     
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  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 4: Strange Visiitors, part 2
    AntonioCC

    AntonioCC Verified Procrastinator

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    Last Son of Krypton

    Strange Visitors, Part 2

    Disclaimer: all character are property of their respective owners.

    Spoilers: general spoilers for Superman and the MCU.

    Author Note: as with Batman, my version of the Superman mythos draw from several sources.

    A.N. 2: revised by JediKnight.


    Triskelion. Delivery entry. Midnight, Eastern time.

    Three vans entered through the door, each one a different model, color and different markings. A group of men were waiting for men clad in tactical gear, with identifications of SHIELD Internal Security division, except two, an older man in his later 60s and a middle aged man in his mid-40s, who were wearing business suits.

    The vans opened, disgorging men clad in green tactical gear, not too dissimilar from the one that SHIELD security was wearing. One of the men, a clean-shaved man in his 30s, with a slim, though clearly well-built, physique, approached them. Nobody noticed one of the men, his only distinguishing feature a red bandanna around his neck, moving minutely to one side to have a good view of the trio.

    "Director Faraday, it's good to meet you at last. James talks very well of you." the man said, offering his hand to the older man.

    "You must be Mister... Deacon, isn't it?" Faraday said, shaking his hand, "Formerly of..."

    "Yes, them." Deacon said, and the added, "Frankly, I was relieved when you people disbanded the whole operation. My boss had started to go completely bonkers. Most of the people in my section had disappeared in 'mysterious' circumstances." He then turned back to look at his troops, that had finished to get out from the vans, "But enough of the past. I assume that everything is in order right now."

    "Yes, I have issued a full lock-down and we'll start questioning people from the top down." Faraday said.

    Kent Farm. Next morning

    'Here we go again.' Nick thought as, for the third time, the SHIELD automated call center put him on hold, and disconnected the call. 'I'll try again later.'

    Since Faraday had authorized the upgrade of the Triskelion Communication Network, there were, ironically, a lot of problems with communications. It usually got resolved in a few hours, but it was bothersome, especially for those, who, like him, only wanted to check that there wasn't any emergency.

    He did his morning exercises, but decided to forgo running. Jonathan and Martha had offered to drive him to Topeka, instead of having to wait for the next bus, and they were going early. He packed his things and went out. Before getting out of the farm, though, John went to talk with him while Jonathan and Martha readied the pick-up.

    "About what we talked yesterday, what do you plan to do?" John said.

    "Check where is Stark's piece, and put my father's in a place where it won't be stolen or lost." Fury said, thinking already of a couple places, "I hope that your piece is in a safe place."

    "Yeah, it is. " He said, offering his hand "It was good to talk with you. I hope that you'll visit again, sometime."

    "So do I, it's a quiet place. And my work is sometimes a bit too much." Fury answered, shaking the old man's hand. "Goodbye."

    He walked to the pick up and sat in the seat by the right door, while Martha, an attractive thirty-something redhead, rode in the center seat, beside Jonathan.

    Earth's orbit

    Jor-El's prototype ship arrived on Earth's orbit, using its stealth systems to hide itself from Earth's detection equipment. It briefly reoriented itself to line up with the landing point chosen by Jor-El, the cornfields of Kansas, not too far from a little town called Smallville.

    Unfortunately the gravitic engines from both Jor-El's ship and its relentless pursuer had kept dragging behind them pieces of Krypton debris. And the only people on Earth who could have discovered them on time were blind and deaf due to an internal crisis. By the point other agencies will have detected them was too late, the Smallville Meteor Storm was already underway.

    A dirt road near Smallville

    "Actually, I work for an agency that deals with international cooperation in law enforcement." Fury said, using one of the usual cover stories, that had the advantage of being somewhat true. And then added with a smile seeing Martha's expression, "Believe me, it sound a lot more interesting than what it really is."

    "How so? I imagine you travel a lot." Martha asked, curious.

    "Less than you may think, and even then, I spend most of the time in small offices talking about..." Fury started to say when he noticed something up, in the sky "What the...?"

    Jonathan and Martha looked up and saw what had prompted Fury's exclamation, several fireballs were crossing the sky toward Smallville. Then, suddenly, they sensed more than they heard or saw an explosion to their right, as one of the fireballs impacted on a nearby field, and the shockwave threw them into the field, rolling over a couple times before settling on a ditch, leaning on its left side.

    Fury was the first to regain consciousness and looked around. Both Martha and Jonathan seemed to be unharmed, other than a few cuts and bruises, and by their moaning they seemed to be about to awaken. He looked around and saw the damage, fires on the fields where the fireballs had impacted, leaving small craters and the smoke that was rising from Smallville.

    "Fuck." He said to himself when he saw the consequences of... well, whatever was what had happened, although he had his suspicions..

    To his side, Martha opened her eyes, looking stunned at first, but she recovered her wits soon enough.

    "What the...?" Martha said, before turning to her right, and seeing that Jonathan was also coming out from unconsciousness. "Jonathan?"

    "I'm here, honey." Jonathan answered, before groaning, and gingerly touching his side "God, I think that I have a broken rib. What the hell have just happened?"

    "I think..." Nick started to say, stopping himself for a moment before pursing his lips and continuing to speak, "I think that it was a meteor storm." Nick said, as he tried to open the right door.

    "A meteor storm? In Smallville?" asked Martha "How is that...?"

    "I would like to... hnnng." Nick said, finally managing to open the door with a strong push. "...know it myself." He paused for a moment "If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't believed it possible."

    Nick got out carefully, and then stepped down to the ground, taking care to not upset the balance of the pick-up much. He helped Martha and Jonathan to get out from the vehicle, and then the three of them pushed to set it over its four wheels. As they were going to see if the pick-up started, Martha turned her head toward the left, where one of the meteorites had fallen, leaving a streak of burned grass and a small crater.

    "Did you hear that?" Martha said.

    "What?" Jonathan said, straining to hear whatever it was.

    "It sounded like the wail of a child." Martha said, looking in the direction of the crater.

    "I'm not hea..." Jonathan started to say and then stopped himself, as the he could hear it now. "I'm now hearing it."

    "So do I." Nick said, looking at the same crater Martha had been looking at, "It seems to come from that crater."

    Without saying a word, Martha ran toward it, soon followed by Jonathan and Fury. In the center of the crater there was something half-buried, with a small hatch open, from which the wails came. Martha jumped inside the crater and looked inside the hatch.

    "There is a child here!" she said and proceed to try to get the child out.

    "Martha, I wouldn't do that; too late." Nick said as Martha retrieved a bundle of clothes from... whatever it was that. 'Probably some kind of spaceship.'

    Martha opened the bundle to reveal a perfectly normal baby boy with a tuft of black hair and blue eyes.

    "Isn't he gorgeous, Jonathan?" Martha said looking at the child, who had stopped wailing and was looking at them with a look of intense curiosity.

    Nick winced for a moment, thinking of the talk yesterday night. One of the things that he had learned was that the fact that they couldn't have children had been an ongoing cause of grief for the couple. And now, they had a child literally falling from the sky before them. A child of unknown origin that had come in a spaceship. If the kid wasn't some kind of alien, he was going to eat his hat. But... he had only to look at the faces of the Kents to realize that it would be easier to convince them to sell their land than to separate them from the child by now.

    "Jonathan, why don't you bring the pick-up here to put this on the bed." Nick said.

    "Good idea, and we have some tarps that will cover it." Jonathan said and ran back to the pick-up.

    Not too far from there

    Buried in the ground the drone ship assessed the damage. Just as it was maneuvering to shoot the ship it had been tasked to destroy, one of the debris fragments had impacted it, causing it to being unable to change its course and fall with the rest of Krypton's planetary debris.

    The evaluation was short and showed the ship couldn't take off again, and all long range weaponry seemed to be disabled. So it decided to shed part of it mass, including where a fragment of the debris was still embedded, in order to initiate its reconfiguration into the drone's ground mode. Afterwards it would unearth itself and continue the mission.

    Back to the Kents

    "I wouldn't start to picking names for the baby just yet. How do we know that his family it's not looking for him?" 'Or that it isn't some kind of infiltrator for an invasion.' Nick said after they had put the ship on the pick-up.

    "Look at where he came, I don't think that he is from... around here." Martha said.

    "And if your next words are something related to alien invasion, be serious." Jonathan said, "Why would they send a defenseless baby?."

    Nick didn't answer, because he didn't have a good answer, only the paranoia that he had acquired on many missions. A paranoia that had almost destroyed his relationship with Val, and put a heavy strain in his relationship with his brother. He decided to let the matter lie by now.

    His thoughts were interrupted by a loud rumble to the east, where another of the meteorites had fallen. He looked there and saw the earth starting to move.

    "Get in the car! NOW!" he cried. He didn't know what the hell that was, but he had seen enough crap to know that it was nothing good, and putting miles between them and whatever was unearthing itself was a pretty good measure.

    He already had his cellphone out as he got into the pick-up and by the time that Jonathan had managed to start it, he was already calling SHIELD. But he found that whatever problems were plaguing the S.H.I.E.L.D. comms this morning, they were still there. He then looked at the rear-view mirror and saw what had been hidden there, a crystalline... thing on six short, squat legs that was already starting to pick speed behind them.

    'Fuck it.' He thought and keyed another number.

    "Who are you calling?" Martha asked.

    "Somebody who I know." Fury said. The phone rang, once, twice, thrice...

    "Carter residence, who I am speaking to?" a old female voice said.

    "Director Carter. I'm Nick Fury, from SHIELD." Fury said.

    "Ah, yes, I remember you. A promising young agent." Carter said, and then continued after a pause, "Why are you calling, it must be quite early in the States right now?."

    "There has been a meteor storm on Smallville, Kansas, and something came out from one of the impact craters. It looks like a six-legged walking tank, made of some kind of crystal. I have tried to contact S.H.I.E.L.D., but the communications have been off since this morning, and you were the only person with some kind of pull that I wouldn't have to go through three secretaries before I could talk to them directly."

    "Smallville, Kansas, you said?" Carter asked, and in the background he could hear her rummaging in her handbag, "Now, repeat what it happened slowly while I take notes, my memory is not what it was."

    Fury explained what had happened, omitting the pod and the kid now safely nestled on Martha's arm, but giving a more thorough description of the hexapodal crystalline thing that was chasing them, as well as talking about the communication problems that had plagued SHIELD for the last weeks.

    "That's odd, and very uncharacteristic of Faraday." Carter said, "He was a bit of a broken record on the importance of communications in the modern world." Carter sighed and then added, "I'll make some calls, to see what the hell is happening with S.H.I.E.L.D. and what can be scrapped to help you."

    "Thank you. Any help will be well received." Fury said, "I'm going to try to drive it far from town."

    "That's very dangerous!" Carter said through the phone.

    "Less than let it go into the center of a town of 10,000 people. We'll talk later, Director." He said as he cut the call.

    "Are you mad?" Jonathan said.

    "No, I'm not. Think about it, what are the odds that the kid and that thing are not related in some way?." Fury said, and then signaled toward the thing "And it's coming for us, anyway. So, pedal to the metal, we're going to need all the speed this old thing can achieve."

    TO BE CONTINUED...
     
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  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 5: Strange Visitors, part 3
    AntonioCC

    AntonioCC Verified Procrastinator

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    Last Son of Krypton

    Strange Visitors, Part 3

    Disclaimer: all character are property of their respective owners.

    Spoilers: general spoilers for Superman and the MCU.

    Author Note: as with Batman, my version of the Superman mythos draw from several sources.

    A.N. 2: revised by JediKnight.




    Peggy Carter residence. British countryside

    It was as Fury had said. SHIELD communications were on the fritz... or were they?. Something about all of this did not feel right to her, but first things first. Who to call? Then she remembered that an old friend who had managed to land a job as one of the liaisons between SHIELD and the Pentagon after retirement, and started to look for her phone list. Given her forgetfulness of late, she was not about to embarrass herself trying to call that number from memory.

    "Are you aware what time it is?" said the sleepy voice of Lieutenant General (retired) Gabriel Jones.

    "Hi, Gabe. It's Peggy." She said.

    "Oh, god. What has happened?" Gabe asked, suddenly fully awake. He knew that Peggy wouldn't call him at this unholy hour if it wasn't important.

    "I received a call from a SHIELD agent, Nick Fury, there has been a meteor storm in..." she said, checking again the notepad, "...Smallville, Kansas, some kind of alien war machine has apparently gotten out from one of the craters, and he is unable to communicate with the Triskelion."

    "Oh, God, don't tell me that it's the Martians again?" Jones said with a resigned voice. He still had nightmares about last time.

    "From what Fury said, I don't think so. He described the machine as, and I quote, 'a crystalline rhino beetle with six elephant legs'." Peggy explained.

    "Not the Martians, then. I wasn't look forward to having to call John again." Gabe said, with a sigh of relief, 'Not to mention of the whole 'Invasion of the body snatchers' thing they used last time.' I'll check what assets we have on the area, and well, about the Triskelion, the problem is finding somebody who has the clearance to know about it..." He stopped speaking suddenly and then snapped his fingers "Lane."

    "Who?" Peggy asked.

    "Sam Lane, he is a Colonel in Fort Myer, had some dealings with SHIELD a couple years ago." Gabe said, "He has enough clearance, as well as a good head over his shoulders. A bit more vindictive than I would like, but, well..."

    "Yeah, it's not like there are many choices." Peggy said. "Do I call the Council? Or do you want the honors?"

    "I wouldn't call it an honor, precisely." Gabe said with a chuckle, "But, I'll do it myself, if for no other reason, than because officially you are nothing more than a civilian now, and some of the members are a bit too punctilious about protocol."

    A dirt road, not too far from Smallville, Kansas

    "Where the heck do we go now?" Nick said, as he looked behind, the thing still in pursuit, though apparently not gaining on them despite its efforts.

    "How long until your friends arrive?" Martha asked.

    "I don't know. That thing is going to require heavy ordinance to dispose of, if my experience is anything to go by." Fury said, "It's not like we have high explosives..." he trailed off as his cellphone rang again.

    "Actually, dad..." Jonathan had started to say when Nick took his phone.

    "Hang on, I think that the Cavalry is calling." Nick interrupted him as he looked at the screen. If he remembered correctly the area codes, they were calling him from Fort Myer. "This is Nick Fury, who I am talking to?"

    "Hi, Nick, it's Gabe Jones, it has been a while." He heard a familiar voice answering. "Carter roped me into helping you with both these messes. I'm about to go to our HQ with a pissed off Colonel and a platoon of rangers."

    "I'm more interested in the alien war machine that is following us." Fury said, "I think it doesn't have ranged weapons, or at least it doesn't seem to have used them, but I'm not sure of that."

    "Okay, we managed to get the Air Force involved, an squadron of F-16s from Whiteman is going to attack it in thirty minutes or so." Jones explained "And if it isn't finished, an squadron of A-10s from Buckley is going to arrive in fifty minutes, give or take."

    Fury thought for a moment. That was all well and good, if they managed to last that long.

    "Jonathan, how full is the tank?" Fury asked, turning to the driver.

    "Half full, more or less. Ninety minutes or so at this pace." Jonathan said.

    "Okay, the thing is chasing us." He looked at the baby and decided against telling about it at the moment. "I don't know why." He paused a moment to gather his thoughts "Listen, I'm with two locals. The son of Jack Kent, if you remember him, and his wife."

    "Yes, I do. Your father's last will, I gather." Gabe said, "And I presume you can't ditch them."

    "We'd have to stop the car, and that thing is faster than it looks." Fury answered.

    "Okay, keep going. Try to stick to dirt roads and secondary roads... and try to stay out of the emergency vehicles way." Gabe said.

    "General, I know how to do this shit." Fury commented with an eyeroll.

    "I never doubted that, Nick. See you, after all this mess is done." Gabe said.

    "See you." Fury answered just before Gabe hung up. He then turned to the Kents "Good and bad news."

    "First the good and later the bad, I guess." Martha said after she and Jonathan looked at each other.

    "Okay, the good news are that two ground attack squadrons of the Air Force are on their going to attack that thing." He said pointing back. "The bad news is that the closest one is going to need half an hour, and the other fifty minutes."

    Fort Myer. Virginia

    After the troops boarded the Humvees, Colonel Sam Lane boarded the one in the lead, that he was going to share with General Jones. After he closed the door, he turned to the older man and asked.

    "And now, sir, can you tell me what was that important to make me miss my first day on leave since my daughter's birth?" Lane asked. "Beyond the 'Federal Building presumably taken by terrorists' thing that we have told the soldiers. I won't enter into 'Posse Comitatus', as I assume that it have been handled over my head."

    "You are right, it has been handled way over our heads." Gabe said, "And what we have said to the troops is roughly true, the thing is that there are complications."

    "Such as?" Lane asked, arching an eyebrow.

    "The building is the Triskelion." Jones said, and then added, seeing Lane Blank expression. "SHIELD HQ."

    "...Fuck." Lane said.

    "Pretty much. Contact was lost yesterday night, at 23:48, Washington time." Jones explained "But as communications in and out the building had been acting up for the last weeks, nobody noticed anything until this morning."

    "Nobody thought to send somebody to check what was happening?." Lane said.

    "As I said Comms have been bad for a few days." Jones repeated, "As soon as the Pentagon got the news, they called the FBI, as it is on Federal land."

    "Teddy Roosevelt Island, isn't it? I always wondered what was that eyesore." Lane commented.

    "Exactly." Jones said, "The FBI have sent a HRT tactical unit to take a look from a distance, and to serve as the primary assault force, your people are there as reinforcements." He paused for a moment when he saw Lane expression, "Political reasons."

    "Whatever." Lane said. He didn't have anything against the HRT, but he felt that this was one of the things best handled by the military.

    "They'll fill us on what they have seen when we arrive." Jones explained, "If they are still there, there had been no communication with them since they arrived."

    "And nobody else thought to go to take a look?." Lane asked, clearly cursing whoever had planned this in his mind.

    "What do you think we are going to do?" Jones said, "Besides, HRT went quite light on equipment, and if the Triskelion jammers are active, any radio communication, and that includes cellphones, would be impossible."

    The rest of the way they were in silence, until they arrived to the place where the FBI had set camp.

    "General Jones? Colonel Lane?" said the man who looked to be the squad leader. As with his teammates, he was clad in black tactical gear, not too dissimilar, except for the color, from the one that the Rangers were wearing.

    "That's us. We come with two squads of Rangers just out of a training course in Fort Myer." Jones said.

    "I'm Agent Garner, leader of the HRT Gold Unit." The FBI man said, "I presume that you want an appraisal of the situation."

    "That would be correct." Lane said.

    "Okay, when we arrived here the building was seemingly deserted, with the gates locked up, and covered by steel sheets." Garner said

    "That mean that they are in a full lock-down." Jones said, and then explained, "A full lock-down means that the building is completely closed, radio and cellphone jammers are active, and the landlines are cut."

    "Yes, we have been unable to call my bosses since we arrived here." Garner said "As we didn't have the right communication equipment, I sent one of my men with a cellphone to call our superiors."

    "Good thinking. We can set a transmitter and cable up here, we brought it, just in case." Lane said. "What has happened since then?"

    "Roughly twenty minutes ago, we observed activity on the upper levels. And by activity I mean fighting, soon afterwards one of the windows on those levels opened and one corpse was thrown out of it."

    "Godammit." Jones said. "This I must see it by myself."

    Wordlessly the FBI agent gave him binoculars, as well as indicating him where to look.

    "Cain Chandler." Jones said, after getting a good look at the corpse. "That scar in the face is very distinctive."

    "Who?" Lane said.

    "Cain Chandler was the head of the SHIELD Internal Security Division, the internal affairs people, basically." Jones said, "What is worse was that they managed to open a window. The only way to open any window if the building is in full lock-down is with the master codes." He lowered the binoculars, and said "And only three people have those codes: Myself, Chandler and the director."

    "Then Cain was caught and spilled the beans, or..." Lane started to say, stopping himself of saying what was in his mind.

    "Or Director Faraday is on it." Jones said, completing what Lane had been unable to say.

    "Damn it. So whoever is killing people there, has control over all the approaches?" Garner asked.

    "Not all of them." Jones said, after a pause. "There is an underground tunnel, part of a unfinished command bunker complex. During the construction of the Triskelion, Director Carter decided to keep it as an alternate entry or escape route in case of a lock-down. And the more important thing about it is that no one of the current SHIELD leadership knows about it."

    "How is that possible?"

    "Long story short: politics." Jones said, a hint of bitterness on his voice. "You would have to sign NDAs by the wazoo to be told the rest."

    "Okay." Lane said, rolling his eyes, "Where it is located?"

    "That's the thing, the bunker was supposed to go partially under the Potomac, and the entry to the tunnel is in the other side of the river." Jones said, "And I don't know how well preserved it is after... what happened. For all that I know, the roof could have crumbled and it could have been filled with water."

    Inside the Triskelion. Roughly at the same time.

    A SHIELD agent with the deep scar in his face sighed and looked at his companions in this hiding place. He was the only one with combat experience, as most of them were administrative and technical personnel. When everything had gone South, he had managed to get some of the people of his section, where he had been doing administrative work until the doctor confirmed he was totally recovered, out of the way. But their little hideout wouldn't remain secure much longer.

    "We could go to Underground Level Three." Said one of the paperpushers, a man in his late '40s, "There is an old storage area there, full of old files. I don't think that nobody else had been there in the last decade."

    "And how do you know that?"

    "Ah... sometimes I go there to smoke." The man said, sheepishly. "I keep away from the files, honest!"

    The field agent didn't answer, while mentally reviewing the floorplans of the Triskelion, to see if there was some way to go to the lower levels, without attracting undue attention. He could do it easily, he was already a very experienced spec ops soldier even before being recruited by SHIELD. Though with this gaggle of civilians... he didn't like the odds.

    But he liked even less the fact that some of the 'soldiers' that were roaming the corridors right now would shoot first and ask questions later if they discovered them first, as he had heard them doing in the upper floor. It had reminded him of all the stuff his former boss did, may the bastard rot in Hell for all Eternity

    'Okay, John, back to the present, the past is the past and you can't change it. The best option would be...' he was thinking as he elaborated the plan in his head.

    TO BE CONTINUED...
     
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