Chapter Twenty: Epilogue
Lex Luthor was lounging in his cell. Apparently the success of the alpha wave tracker had earned him some privileges, including a choice of classical music piped in and much nicer bedding. No direct access to electronics, of course; his captors were not complete
fools, after all.
There was some motion at the other end of the common area. What was this? They seemed to be bringing in some new prisoners for the adjacent cells. He wondered if this new company would prove interesting, or as stultifying as most of his companions in the penitentiary. He would need to make friends regardless, but it was becoming more and more difficult to suffer fools gladly.
The first in was a fox-faced man with unruly dark hair. "Who's my new neighbor, gentlemen?" Luthor asked the guards. The sandy-haired one he'd already pegged as a weak link responded. "Well, since you two are going to be working together, I guess we can do introductions. This here is Ethan Rayne. Ethan, I'm sure you know who this is."
"My, my, the great Lex Luthor. The amount of chaos you could have produced had you been more successful against Superman would have been... impressive. If
you had been more successful, as I say." Rayne smirked as he was led to his cell.
"And I suppose you could have done better," Luthor snarled after him. "What are you in for, anyway, Rayne?"
The slender man looked back at him, smirk intact. "Oh, just a little black magic. Maybe I'll show you a thing or two if we're here long enough."
"Magic? As if. Maybe I'll show you a thing or two if you learn to respect your betters."
The next transfer was a large man almost entirely covered in a large overcoat. Something seemed to be shifting uneasily around his shoulders under the fabric. It took a moment for Luthor to recognize the man with the dark glasses they allowed him to wear.
"Dr. Octavius? I thought you were dead. Weren't you reported dead drowning your own fusion experiment?" Here was somebody whose intellect Luthor could respect, just so long as he wasn't as crazy as the media had portrayed him. The man slowly lifted his head.
"Dead? No, not dead. I didn't drown, and neither did my children. We just slept for awhile, and when we woke they had separated us. But we can be together, yes, they promised us, if we do some good work. Together, yes, that would be good. Good." The man's voice was low, almost hopeless sounding. It actually sent a shiver down Luthor's spine. When he referred to his children... the man must still be connected at some level with the tentacle waldos that had supposedly taken him over and caused a rampage through New York City. He was glad to see Octavius locked into his cell.
Finally the guards wheeled in a tightly bound and masked figure in on a gurney. General Lane himself accompanied this prisoner to the doorway of the cell. Luthor hesitated for a moment, but decided he had to know. "So, who's this one, General? Why the getup? You must think he's almost as dangerous as me to have him trussed up like that."
The General turned with a rather scary grin. "Oh, I don't suppose he works on the same scale as you, Luthor, but one on one? He's far more dangerous. Killed two guards with the needles from his own IVs while in the hospital before we learned better." He paused. "He's here on suspicion of being an internationally renowned assassin and terrorist. You know those Kryptonite munitions we've started you on? He's going to be the delivery system." The General started walking away as the cell door closed. "They call him Bullseye."
The Doctor busily fussed with the dials, pumps, and buttons of the TARDIS control console. "I'll have you know that we're taking this trip against my better judgement. I mean, really, just because somebody tells me they remember their father's crystal-based simulacrum saying that I visited the planet on a certain date and tried to warn said father of its impending doom, does not
mean we have to head back and close the time loop right this instant." He hopped around to another section of the console to continue his work, and the column accelerated its up and down motion until everyone heard the whining roaring sound that signified the living time machine was starting its travels. "I mean, that's the thing about time travel, isn't it? You should never feel like you're in a hurry, because after all, no matter how long you wait to get started, you still get there at the same time, don't you? Eh?"
"Oh, come off it, Doctor," said Rose. "You know you're as curious as anyone to find out what's going on with the terrific time twins here." She indicated Superman and the rather delicious looking youth he called Clark where they were standing looking around curiously. "And you were the one that suggested a good place to start would be going back in time to see if there's more than one Krypton, too, or if you can spot the signs of anyone meddling."
"True enough, true enough," admitted the Doctor. "I always was one for a good puzzle; just ask young Sexton. Except you can't, not since we got Victoria's reign declared off limits to us, at least as long as I wear this face and you're, well, you. Still, I can't remember the last time I've taken this many passengers on the TARDIS in one go. And what's the deal with you insisting that your friend Buffy, if that can really be her name, tag along too, eh?"
"Actually, Doctor, it was me that insisted," interrupted the blonde in question. "And I'm coming along on this little shindig for a couple reasons. One, what you were saying back at Canary Wharf was making it sound like having two Men of Steel around at the same time could be dangerous to reality, and stopping apocalypses... apocalypsoi... damn, what is
the plural of that, anyway? Anyway, stopping them is even more my specialty than his," she said, cocking her thumb at Superman. "I know you claim not to believe that, 'magic is poppycock' and all that, but it's true."
"Second, I remember what it was like being Rose's age, and
I have some experience dealing with, um, special friends who are hundreds of years older than a girl, so I intend to hang around until I am dead certain that Rose is not being taken advantage of. Or there'll be shovels involved, mark my words," she continued with a hard glare at the Doctor despite his pose of put-upon innocence. "You
know what I mean, buster."
"And third, I'm coming along for the bragging rights. Xander will just about die when he hears about this, and Andrew might actually die for real. I mean, this?" she said, turning in a circle to survey the console room of the TARDIS. "Traveling through time, in the company of not one but three aliens, to investigate shenanigans on a now dead and exploded planet (sorry, guys) just before its end? That is just so cool
To which Clark and Rose could only nod, while the Doctor and Superman looked at each other in shared consternation as to just what they were getting themselves into...
"After action report, General?"
"Well, I'm afraid the action was pretty much limited to surveillance and analysis, Director. Pretty much none of our ops teams were ready to stand up at this point - you know that recruitment has been slow. We did send one squad of those NID transfers out with the taser weapons they brought with them, and another with some RPGs and the zat'niktel; both teams performed well, but would have to be expanded significantly to be a patch on the performance of some of the metahumans we monitored."
"And what are your conclusions from your surveillance and analysis?"
"Well, even though the entire crisis was resolved in a matter of hours, its clear that Task Force X is needed, badly. First the Sycorax last Christmas, now this? And with Superman back, can we ever be sure we won't have to deal with the Trio, or their equivalent? No, I'm more convinced than ever of the necessity of this project, despite the degenerate scum I've been asked to work with. Speaking of which, what is the deal with this Rayne character? What can he do, that he claims to be a magician?"
"That's on a need to know basis, General. Trust me, you'll need him soon, but until then you don't have the need, any more than you do to grill Finn and his team. I'll tell you one thing that you won't believe till later. Those two jokers you met in Metropolis? We weren't just catering to a psychosis to save trouble; you would have had a problem without that special ammo. Drop the side of the investigation about those girls in London, too. What else did you learn? What are our assets in this fight?"
"Well, first of all, we don't have a lot of organized competition, at least not for the ground fighting side. The SGC didn't know how to mobilize, given that the invaders were right in our cities, and their limited manpower, besides their secrecy needs. Manning was on the air already tonight trying to put a blanket over coverage of his pet monster, so I'm guessing he's the best they've got. OSI was nowhere to be seen; I don't know if they have any active agents right now or if they were just leery of using them against a massed enemy considering the price tag if they lost any."
"On the other side," he continued, "there are a lot
of metahuman resources out there that we didn't know about before this, besides the better intel on a possible Trinity-level threat. Besides the obvious crew in New York, there were a number of previously unrecorded contacts in Metropolis, including the 'Angel of Vengeance', some action in LA, and even some in Stanford and in Westchester, NY. We're looking at recruiting this one kid in Stanford who took out a whole squad of the invaders; not too high on the power scale but a hell of a fighter. In Westchester we spotted a feral that might almost be on the same level as the Parker kid, a blaster that could probably take out tank armor, and what we think might be a weather elemental, if that's even possible. Nothing that we think could match Big Blue for sheer power, but combined with the arsenal Luthor and Octavius are going to be able to cook up for us, and the menagerie in Belle Reve if need be, we might have a shot in a little while."
"Don't jump the gun, General. Remember, the entirety of Task Force X is designed only to serve as a contingency in case of an immediate alien, metahuman, or other paranormal threat. We only go after Big Blue upon receiving proof positive that he's going the way of Trinity; in the meantime, he's our big deterrent and safeguard against the others, at least until we can get a handle on the process of metagenesis." The Director's bulk shifted backwards a little bit. "Hmmm... perhaps it's time to bring Luthor and Octavius in on Project Green Jeans... they'll be fascinated. Then, if they do good work, even Cadmus, or perhaps the old Rebirth files."
"Are you sure, Director?" asked the General. "You know how devious Luthor in particular can be, and Octavius is kind of unpredictable now."
"Yes, just be careful," said the Director. "As long as the closest Luthor ever gets to any green meteor rocks is seeing them over a video screen, I don't think we need to worry about him figuring out how to give himself superpowers. Now, have our British friends seen fit to release any of those files marked Torchwood yet?"
"No, ma'am," he replied. "Very well, then," said the Director, "I've got to get back to Washington. With any luck, this is the week I'll be able to give you full access to the inmates at Belle Reve. Carry on."
And with that, General Lane was gratefully able to part ways with his boss, one Amanda Waller, known far and wide in the black ops community as "The Wall".
Situated comfortably in the space between two heartbeats, in full control of the flow of time around her even as the vessel she was in itself traveled through the time vortex, Illyria was very pleased with herself. Her limited conduit to the Source of speed and time allowed her to whisper like a ghost about the others within this living ship, even the two humanoids who could themselves accelerate their personal timelines. Right now, engaged in conversation with humans, they stood no chance of perceiving her. Only the Elder God, the Gallifreyan known to many Old Ones as the Oncoming Storm, he who had conquered even the mighty Fenric for a time, only he and the ship that loved him betrayed even the slightest unease. Meanwhile Illyria remained just out of phase with their perceptions, easily hiding in the ripples caused by clashing timelines. This should be... interesting, she decided.