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Thread: Episode 17 - "Countdown" (PG-13)

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    Episode 17 - "Countdown" (PG-13)

    Title: Countdown
    Written by: Fiona

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 01: 11.00am-12.00pm
    Luthor-Corp Head Office, Metropolis


    The large conference room on the top floor of the LuthorCorp Head Office block was a hive of activity. Caterers, waiters, waitresses, security personnel, and a professional party organiser were all running around double checking everything and generally barking orders at anyone who looked like they were listening. A DJ booth had been set up in one corner, the lights and rigging already in place.

    Stationed beside the main table where Lex Luthor and his party would be sitting a man in a security guard’s uniform was talking softly on a radio. His eyes took in everything that was going on around him as his radio conversation parried back and forth.

    “All understood,” he said a moment later and turned off the radio. Looking around the room he caught the eye of one of the waitresses and gestured with his chin towards the bar.
    She nodded and pushed the tablecloth-covered trolley she had been assigned to keep an eye on, over to the bar, her eyes flicked nervously around the room as she made her journey.

    “Relax,” the guard hissed at her in Russian as she neared, “you will draw attention to yourself. Now quickly and carefully hand them to me one at a time.”

    Kneeling down, she opened the trolley and handed the packages to him. He placed the first two under the bar, behind the mixers. Over the next thirty minutes they moved around the room, placing the packages in varying places.

    “Hey you, stop flirting with the maids,” the head of security called out, “we have work to do.”

    “Inform the others,” he whispered to her before following the other guard out of the room.
    As soon as he was out of sight and after making sure no one was looking at her, she slipped out another door to make the calls.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 02: 12.00pm-13.00pm
    Kent Farm, Smallville


    A concerned looking Martha watched Clark and Lana as they sat at her kitchen table sipping coffee as they waited for Jonathan. It had been several weeks since Jason Teague’s death and everyone was still in a daze. And to think it was as a result of a burglary at Lex’s place. Although she didn’t know him very well Martha had always found him to be a pleasant, friendly young man. ‘Such a tragic loss of a young life,’ she thought.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    “I’m not sure whether I’m looking forward to this party or not,” said Lana, “everything seems to have been moving in slow motion lately.”

    “Yeah, it’s been weird all right,” replied Clark, “but it was good of Lex to invite us, considering what had happened with his father.”

    Lex had invited them, plus Chloe and Lucas to a party he was throwing at the LuthorCorp head office in Metropolis. It was to serve as a fundraiser for the hospital, and he had said it looked like everyone could do with a night away from Smallville after the tragedy of Jason’s death.

    “Remind me why we agreed to go again?” asked Lana, a pleading look on her face.

    Clark sighed as he regarded her, “as long as Lex is willing to try, we have to try too.”

    Lana nodded and smiled at Clark, but internally she couldn’t help but wonder if Lex had an ulterior motive for inviting them. After their angry confrontation days earlier, she couldn’t help the feeling. Too many things had happened recently for her to completely trust Lex again. She hated the feeling but it wouldn’t go away. Plus there was his decision not to help his father, Lana had agreed with Clark on that one, thinking that despite everything Lionel had done he was still Lex’s father. Things were even more complicated by the fact that, as Clark had confided in her, Chloe had sided with Lex on the decision not to help.

    She’d been surprised and disappointed in her friend, but was worried more about why Clark wouldn’t tell her how he’d found out that Chloe had sided with Lex. She had a suspicion it had something to do with the effects of the hallucinogen the town had rarely escaped a few weeks ago.

    “Are you ok Lana?”

    She blinked and turned to see a worried Clark looking at her. If Clark could give Lex another chance, she needed to try as well, and if nothing else she needed to be there for her friends. Smiling she laid her hand over his, “I’m fine, I’m just thinking about… things.”

    “About Jason?” prodded Clark.

    “No, actually I wasn’t,” replied Lana truthfully, “I was thinking about Lex.”

    “Lex!” exclaimed Clark, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice.

    “I wasn’t thinking about him like that,” said Lana rolling her eyes, a habit she had picked up from Chloe, “I was just thinking about his invite.” ‘There,’ she thought, ‘not completely a
    lie.’

    “Oh,” said Clark, “I’ve been kind of thinking about things as well,” he added, a faint blush covering his cheeks.

    “What sort of things?”

    “Well… I was… wondering… actually more hoping… if, em, you wouldbemydatefortheprom?” he finished in a rush.

    “Sorry Clark I didn’t quite catch that.”

    “Would you be my date for the prom?” he mumbled much slower this time.

    “Oh,” replied Lana, causing Clark to lift his head so he could look at her. “I’d love to go with you.”

    A huge grin broke out over Clark’s face, and inwardly he breathed a sigh of relief.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 03: 13.00pm-14.00pm
    Lex Luthor’s Office - Metropolis


    “No I have everything I need here, you need only bring yourself and the others,” said Lex.

    He was seated at his desk, looking over the seating plan for the party as he spoke to his brother over the phone. “No I won’t put you sitting beside Clark, yes I do know he bores you to tears and that you have no interest in cows,” Lex shook his head and resisted the urge to sigh as Lucas went on about Clark. “Lucas can we continue this later, I really need to go. Ok good, I will see you all later then. Bye,” and he hung up the phone.

    “Brothers,” he muttered as pushed the seating plans over to the other side of the desk.

    Things were still a little strange between him and Lucas after his decision to not help Lionel
    and everything that happened as a consequence. He hoped the fundraiser tonight would ease some of those tensions—and perhaps put a smile back on Chloe’s face. He’d seen Lucas make her smile before and hopefully, it would help alleviate some of his still lingering guilt about Jason.

    A copy of the Daily Planet caught his eye, well the headline caught his eye; the death of Jason Teague was still front-page news. Evidently the media had latched on to the idea that a death at the Luthor Mansion was this month’s hot topic: the gossip columns were speculating wildly and the accusations were spilling over onto the financial pages where the LuthorCorp share price had taken a sharp dip. Closing his eyes Lex ran his hand over his head, Jason’s death, Lionel’s disappearance the strain and tension between himself and Clark over his decision not to help his dad, the underlying tension between himself and Chloe also as result of not helping Lionel, even though she agreed with his decision, all these were starting to take their toll on the young billionaire.

    Turning to his computer he brought up his personal file, and after adding in the password made a few additional entries on the file before saving and closing it up again.

    “Mr Luthor, Tom Carter from security is here to see you,” his PA’s voice came over the intercom.

    “Thank you Laurie, send him in please.”

    In the minute it took for Tom to enter the office all the traces of tiredness and stress that had appeared on his face had disappeared, and once more the cool mask of Lex Luthor slipped into place.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “His meeting with Luthor won’t take long,” the heavyset man barked in English, “so hurry up.”

    The two men unloading the truck cursed in Russian under their breath at him as they quickly, but carefully unloaded the boxes from the truck.

    He was about to tell them to hurry up again when his cell-phone rang. Quickly he answered it, “it’s being done as we speak,” he said, “we’ll be done this part in about fifteen minutes.”
    He listened as the voice on the other end spoke for a while.

    “I will head there next,” he replied and then hung up. “What are you two staring at? Get back to work,” he snapped at the two men watching him.

    “Idiots,” he muttered.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 04: 14.00pm-15.00pm
    Helipad – Luthor-Corp Plant, Smallville


    “I’m still not hearing a good reason for why we shouldn’t just take off without them,” said Lucas with a grin.

    “There will be no reasons given Lucas,” replied Chloe, “for the hundredth time, we are not going without Clark and Lana.”

    “But I don’t like them,” he said, injecting a whiney tone in to his voice, “they are such sugary, wholesome goody-goody Prom King and Queen material that they make my teeth ache.”

    Chloe laughed, as the image of Clark and Lana dressed as a couple of candy canes sprang into her mind.

    Lucas smiled as he heard Chloe laugh; laughter had been a rare sound from her lips in the past few weeks. He knew Jason and Chloe had been a couple, and everyone had said how close they were, so his death had really hit her hard, even though she was putting on a brave face. He had liked Jason himself, although he didn’t know him very well. He’d seemed to be a good guy, ‘and other innocent gunned down, literally by Lionel Luthor,’ he thought.

    ‘God Lex, I really, really hope that you had nothing to do with it,’ thought Lucas. He firmly believed this, hell it was pretty obvious it was Lionel who had pulled the trigger, but there was a tiny part of him that wouldn’t put it past his brother. A lot of weird things had happened lately and Lex seemed to be at the center of some of them.

    “Actually, Clark and Lana really are Prom King and Queen in waiting,” grinned Chloe. “Damn, the Prom,” her grin fading, “I’d forgotten about it, and probably not sure about going, I was going to ask J…” she trailed off before saying his name.

    “Did you know Chloe, that I have this little business on the side,” said Lucas, throwing a friendly arm around her shoulders, wanting to make her smile again. “I have this very lucrative business where I take girls to their Proms if they can’t find anyone themselves,” he grinned, giving her a wink. Not that bringing Chloe to the Prom would be a chore; in fact Lucas thought it would be a pretty good night if he did.

    “I wouldn’t joke about that Lucas,” teased Chloe, very grateful for what Lucas was trying to do, “I may take you up on that business offer.”

    They were smiling at each other when Clark and Lana arrived with Jonathan.

    “Oh lucky us, papa and son Kent,” muttered Lucas, earning a subtle dig in the ribs from Chloe’s elbow.

    “Welcome to air-Luthor,” Lucas called out.

    The assistant pilot helped Jonathan load Clark and Lana’s bags onto the helicopter as everyone said their hellos.

    “Where’s Lex?” asked Clark.

    “In Metropolis,” replied Lucas, “he had business there and combined it with making sure everything was set up for the party. He will be there to meet us when we land.”

    “We’re all set to go as soon as you are ready Mr Luthor,” the pilot called out.

    “Well folks, let’s get this orgy in the air,” grinned Lucas and climbed into the helicopter before anyone could comment. A slightly smiling Chloe was quickly behind him, followed by the other two as soon as they had bid Jonathan goodbye.

    As soon as the older Kent was at a safe distance the pilot began his procedure to take off.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    From his truck Jonathan watched the helicopter fly off. “A Lex Luthor soiree,” he muttered, “the amount of things that could go wrong are endless.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 05: 15.00pm-16.00pm
    Banquet Room, LuthorCorp Metropolis


    “And your party will be sitting here Mr Luthor,” said Evan, the party organiser as he swept his arm towards the main table.

    Lex looked around, gauging the position of his table in proximity to the rest of the tables and the exits. His own self-preservation coupled with that of his brother, Chloe and the others being foremost in his mind.

    “I’m assuming everything is to your satisfaction Mr Luthor,” said Evan.

    “Never assume anything,” replied Lex, “and it takes more than a few placed tables and an expensive menu to satisfy me.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw his head of
    security. “If you’ll excuse me,” and Lex walked off leaving a rather put out and fuming Evan staring after him.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Now this is the way to travel,” grinned Chloe as the helicopter made it’s way to the LuthorCorp building. “Imagine landing this in the school parking lot every morning!”

    “Talk about making an entrance,” laughed Lana.

    “Or how about landing it on the street in front of the Talon while I pick up my morning latte,” added Chloe, both girls laughing now.

    “Oh do you need anything in the store, I’m just going to fly down now,” gasped Lana between laughs.

    Clark and Lucas shared a ‘they’ve gone mad’ look.

    “Giving the keys for a helicopter to a valet to park for you.”

    “Ok, ok,” said Lucas, holding his hands up, “enough please, you two could go on forever.”

    Clark grinned, glad that Lana and Chloe were having fun, even if it was with very corny jokes, but after Jason’s death, anything that could lift the spirit was welcome.

    “Spoilsport,” muttered Lana good-naturedly, while Chloe stuck her tongue out at him.
    “Oh no, I’ve become the responsible one,” gasped Lucas, “no say it isn’t true!!!”

    “Welcome to maturity Lucas,” said Chloe with mock seriousness, patting his shoulder, causing everyone to laugh.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Pulling her coat tighter around her, the young maid hurried out of the LuthorCorp building through the basement. She had done her part, only one more phone call to make and then her job would be done and she would be paid.

    Glancing sadly at the building over her shoulder, she once again picked up her pace and headed towards the bus stop.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 06: 16.00pm-17.00pm
    Lex’s Penthouse Suite, Metropolis


    “What a view,” gasped Chloe as she looked out over Metropolis from Lex’s apartment. She could make out the tiny figures of the people rushing back and forth, cars, buses, taxis all filed up and down the streets. She missed this, the hustle and bustle of the big city, the breakneck speed it moved at.

    Her gaze moved from one skyscraper to another till it landed on the Daily Planet building and she sighed longingly. “One day,” she whispered, “I’ll be back there.”

    “And I’d put money on you being editor,” Lex’s voice sounded behind her.

    Chloe spun around quickly, a little too quickly, and had to grab onto the back of the chair beside her to steady herself. “Ooh dizzy,” she muttered, rubbing her temples.

    “Sorry,” said Lex, approaching her, “didn’t mean to scare you.”

    “You didn’t scare me, just caught me off-guard,” replied Chloe, her voice casual. She still wasn’t quite sure how things stood between them, the emotions of Jason’s death still foremost in her mind, and it’s connection to Lex still painful. “Is everything all organised for the party?”

    ‘Okay, small talk,’ thought Lex. “I believe everything is, the organiser assures me that everything will be perfect.”

    “That’s good,” she said as Lex joined her at the window. Both fell into silence as they looked out over the city.

    “How have you been?” asked Lex after a moment.

    Chloe took a deep breath as she pondered how exactly to answer that question. And while she didn’t feel quite comfortable discussing her feelings with Lex after everything that had happened recently, he did deserve an answer.

    “I guess the best word to use would be ‘numb’,” she replied. It was true, despite her attempts to laugh and smile for her friends, she couldn’t put her whole heart into it.

    “Yes, and there is a surreal element to what happened. Jason was… he was a good man Chloe…I liked him,” Lex laid his hand on her arm, “and I…”

    “Yo Lex, your bar is out of sc…” Lucas trailed off as he entered the room. “Oh sorry, did I interrupt something?”

    Lex’s hand dropped quickly from her arm. “No,” he said, “your timing is, as always, just perfect.” He had a smirk on his face but Lucas could see in his eyes that Lex was not at all happy with his presence just now.

    “Where are Clark and Lana?” asked Chloe, not noticing the looks between the brothers.

    “Not doing what you would expect a teenage couple to be doing away from home with a double bed at their disposal,” grinned Lucas.

    “Eeew,” said Chloe, visibly shuddering, “Scary, scary mental images.”

    “I agree,” said Lex, “I think I need a drink.”

    “That’s why I came in, you’re out of the really good scotch.”

    “There’s a bottle in my office,” said Lex.

    “I think I may need a drink,” groaned Chloe, “well that or have my brain scrubbed.”

    “I’ll get the bottle,” said Lex, “I need to check on something in my office anyway.”

    He left the room as Lucas made his way over to Chloe. As he headed down the hallway to his office he could hear Chloe laughing at something Lucas had said. Ignoring the little voice telling him that he never made her laugh that easily and focusing on the fact that at least she was laughing, as he’d hoped, after what happened, he continued to his office. On the way he passed by the dining room where he spotted Clark and Lana sitting together on the couch talking softly to each other.

    Entering his office he indulged in a deep sigh when he had closed the door. The party would be starting in a few hours and he could relax a little then, the atmosphere would be less tension filled than the one the confines of the apartment seemed to be cultivating.

    Lex headed to his desk to check his email, he was waiting on a specific correspondence, and so Lucas’ drink would have to wait for a moment.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 07: 17.00pm-18.00pm
    Basement, LuthorCorp Building


    “Son of a…” grunted the man as he struggled to open the box housing the main electrical circuitry control panel that fed the LuthorCorp building with power.

    “Keep it down Rollins,” his companion hissed, “the guards will be making their sweep soon.”

    “Shut up Derry, I know what I’m doing,” he said, again wrestling with the lid.

    “Doesn’t sound like it,” his companion muttered, his eyes now glued to the monitor in front of him. He watched as the guards inside the control room joked amongst themselves before setting off on their rounds.

    Derry rolled his eyes as the swear words increased in quantity but thankfully not volume from his friend. He was about to issue another ‘shut up’ when he heard the sound of the swearing stop and a soft cry of ‘eureka’ uttered.

    “About damn time,” he said, “you have exactly two minutes to do what you have to do. If you hadn’t spent so damn long trying to get the stupid thing open you would have had more time.” His companion ignored the words, concentrating on the job assigned to him.

    “Hold this,” said Rollins pushing a small flashlight into Derry’s hands, “and point it here,” indicating to the cluster of wires.

    As soon as the small light was in place he quickly cut and crossed the necessary wires. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a couple of circuit clips and placed one on the red wire in the cluster and the other on a black wire.

    “Ok, all done,” said Rollins, “help me close the box again.”

    Both men worked fast, and managed to get the box closed and themselves and their equipment hidden as the guards made their sweep around the basement. Inwardly breathing sighs of relief they stayed completely still and waited the four minutes it would take the guards to complete their rounds.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “And camera one is ours, and cameras two, three and four, we have them all,” grinned Ivan as images appeared on his own four screens. The work that Rollins and Derry had been dispatched to do looked to be a complete success.

    He was in the back of an unassuming van parked just down the street from the LuthorCorp offices. The back of the vehicle was an array of computer screens and cables, and a chain-smoking man sat huddled in front of them.

    As soon as all the images where to his liking he picked up his phone and made a call.

    “Derry and Rollins have done their job,” he said in Russian when it had been answered, “I can see everything now.” He paused as the voice on the other end spoke.

    “I understand,” he said, “I will be ready. I am setting the timer… now.”

    He listened to a couple more instructions and then hung up the phone. Lighting another cigarette he glanced once at the timer and then turned his full attention back to the monitors.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 08: 18.00pm-19.00pm
    Lex’s Penthouse Suite, Metropolis


    Lex and Lucas stood in the main living room sipping their drinks while waiting for the others.

    A grin appeared on Lucas’ face as Clark entered the room, tugging at the bow tie of his tuxedo. “A tuxedo virgin,” he quipped, “or just not used to wearing one.”

    Clark dropped his hand and gave them a sheepish grin. “It feels to constricting. You two seem comfortable with them.”

    “I’ve learned that a tuxedo can make all the difference when talking business,” said Lucas, “or charming a woman,” he added with a smirk.

    “I’ve been wearing tuxedos for varying reasons since I was eight Clark, they were insisted upon,” said Lex.

    “So remind me again what exactly this party is for?” asked Clark, moving towards the brothers.

    “It’s a fund raiser of sorts for the Metropolis Hospital with LuthorCorp sponsoring it,” replied Lex, “people have paid a lot for the tickets and they will be pledging even more money tonight. I have said that LuthorCorp will match whatever is pledged tonight and also give the proceeds from the ticket sales.”

    “You can almost see it,” said Lucas, a hint of mischief in his voice.

    “See what?” asked a confused Clark.

    “A glint of halo around Lex’s head, it’s faint mind you and has a lot of black clouds and history to get through, but it’s there,” teased Lucas, but Lex caught an underlying hint of seriousness in his brother’s voice.

    Clark laughed, not used to seeing Lex teased this way, while the man in question allowed himself a small smile at his own expense. For just a moment, he thought it felt like old times, when he and Lex had not had…everything that had happened…between them.

    ‘Prove me wrong Lex,’ thought Lucas as he watched his brother, ‘prove them all wrong.’

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Clark asked me to the prom,” said Lana as she sat on Chloe’s bed waiting for the other girl to finish getting ready.

    “Unsurprising,” replied Chloe, “and a good thing too, think how it would look if the prom king and queen didn’t arrive as a couple,” she added with a grin.

    Lana rolled her eyes and gave Chloe a pointed look.

    “Don’t look at me like that Lana Lang,” said Chloe, seeing the look in the mirror, “it will be a harbinger to the end of the world if Clark Kent and Lana Lang are not crowned king and queen of the prom.”

    “You look great Chloe,” said Lana sincerely when the other girl turned around.

    “Yeah I don’t scrub up too badly,” grinned Chloe, “you look great as well.”

    Both girls had gone for simple enough dresses. Similar in styles they were full-length; Lana had opted for a black halter-neck design while Chloe went with a deep wine dress with spaghetti straps and it dipped low in the back. Both girls had also opted to wear their hair up.

    “Who are you taking to the prom?” asked Lana.

    “No one yet,” replied Chloe, sitting down beside the brunette, “I was going to ask J…” she trailed off.

    “It’s ok,” smiled Lana sympathetically. She wanted to say something more, to see if Chloe would actually talk about her feelings, but realized the time was not right. “I’m sure you will have no problem finding a date. Now shall we find the others?”

    ‘Yeah right, no problem, easy for you to say,’ thought Chloe, ‘Lucas Luthor may live to regret his offer.’

    Banishing thoughts of the prom and dates and Jason, Chloe stood up, smoothed down her dress and followed Lana out of the room.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 09: 19.00pm-20.00pm
    Banquet Room, Luthor-Corp Metropolis


    Unlike most speeches at these things that tended to bore everyone to tears, Chloe found herself listening to Lex’s speech. He was talking about the need for the hospital to have more money and how everyone in this room could help by pledging. He was really working the crowd.

    ‘He is a natural politician,’ thought Chloe, and then felt a shiver run up and down her spine, remembering the vision of Lex in the caves. She clenched her fist under the table as the feeling intensified.

    “Are you ok?” whispered Lucas, leaning close to her, “you’ve gone a little pale.”

    “I’m fine,” she whispered back, smiling at him and turning back to look at Lex on the podium.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark looked around the room as Lex spoke, he recognised some of the faces from the society pages he knew his mother read, but denied.

    The room reeked of money. ‘More money than sense,’ he thought as he looked at women dripping in diamonds and men sucking on fat cigars. Only for the fact that they were guests of Lex’s and sitting at the head table Clark knew the other guests would not be covering up the fact they were looking down their noses at them.

    He felt very uncomfortable in this setting and resisted the urge to tug at his bow tie and fidget in his seat. His gaze fell on Lucas and Chloe who were watching Lex and then to Lana who, like him, was looking around the room.

    Their eyes met and she smiled softly at him, and he couldn’t help but smile back.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Two of the bartenders watched the proceedings with bored expressions on their faces. For the moment there was nothing to do except wait for the speeches to be over before they could serve any drinks.

    “You could make a killing on the jewellery alone,” one whispered to the other.

    “I know,” the other replied, “and that’s not to mention whatever cash they’re carrying as well.”

    “Pity that’s not what we’re here for.”

    “Perhaps, but that’s not to say we can’t make sure that we are looked after. We’re hired help, not part of their great plan, hell we don’t even know what the great plan is. I don’t see why we can’t help ourselves when things hit the fan.”

    “You’re right,” agreed his companion, smiling. “We’ll look after ourselves when the moment comes.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    In the back of his van Ivan watched the party on one monitor, then turned his attention to another where another van was entering the basement car park. Another screen showed him the corridor leading to Lex Luthor’s office, and the last one was blank, for the moment anyway.

    “It’s getting cold out there,” a voice said as another man entered the van. “And have you ever heard of ventilation,” he added with a cough, waving his hand though the smoke.

    “You don’t have to be here,” replied Ivan, lighting another cigarette and purposely blowing the smoke in the other man’s face.

    “Unfortunately I do.” Ignoring Ivan, Donnie set up his laptop and began the process of hacking into the LuthorCorp security mainframe.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 10: 20.00pm-21.00pm
    Banquet Room, LuthorCorp Metropolis


    “Never thought I’d hear a DJ playing this kind of music,” said Chloe as she and Lucas danced.

    “Yeah it’s a bit weird hearing 19th century music coming out of a 21st century machine, the wonders of technology,” he replied. “Lex said it would be like this at the start, loosen the purse strings on them first, get them to pledge and then the party would really start.”

    Chloe laughed, “that may be so but can you imagine some of these people here, getting down and lighting up the dance floor?”

    “Not a chance,” grinned Lucas, “but damn it will be fun to watch.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lex stood at the bar meeting and greeting the various people that passed. The pledging was in full swing and as predicated, large sums of money were being thrown around. This fund-raiser and subsequent donation to the hospital would do LuthorCorp’s public relations a world of good. There had been far too much bad press since Lionel’s exploits; he needed to present a good side to the company, even if it was only for a little while.

    He watched as Chloe and his brother danced, and a little behind them Lana and Clark danced. ‘Alone in a room full of people,’ he thought, and resisted rolling his eyes at his clichéd words. But as clichéd as they sounded, there where times, and they were more frequent than not, when he really did feel alone, no matter who was around him.

    Lionel was gone, although Lex harboured no fanciful thoughts that he was gone for good, no, Lionel was off licking his wounds, trying to find a cure, and no doubt plotting.

    ‘Plotting to screw up my life even more,’ he thought. Smiling falsely at one of the guests passing him Lex wished he could leave the party and go get very drunk.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Basement

    The six men and two women unloaded all the equipment as their four colleagues; two men and two women approached the security control room with stealth.

    ‘Do not kill the guards, just make sure they are subdued,’ were their instructions.

    Communicating with hand gestures they positioned themselves to attack.

    “Time for my round,” said one of the guards, standing up from his seat and stretching. “Damn we really pulled the short straw being stuck down here with the party going on, on the top floor.”

    “Oh I don’t know,” said another, “I think I’d rather be down here than being stuck in a room with a pile of rich pretentious snobs.”

    “At least Mr Luthor isn’t like that,” piped up another, “he’s actually ok.”

    “That’s true,” spoke up the oldest among them, “far nicer than his father, now there was a bastard.”

    Chuckling to himself the guard standing headed out the door to start his rounds.

    It all happened so fast; none of the guards had any time to react. He had no sooner stepped outside then he was grabbed and something sprayed in his face, the wave of unconsciousness washed over him and he slumped to the ground.

    The other guards seemed to move in slow motion as the four intruders entered the office. A very brief struggled ensued, and with a couple of minutes all the guards were
    unconscious and being bound up.

    “We’re in and in position,” one of them said into a walkie-talkie.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 11: 21.00pm-22.00pm
    Office Corridors, Luthor-Corp Building


    The gang of twelve moved swiftly through the corridors on the top two floors. Six were dispatched to each floor to make sure they were empty. While the surveillance equipment showed no guards, they were to check all the offices, closets, and especially the bathrooms, places where there weren’t any cameras.

    All twelve met at the top of the stairs leading down to the next floor. “Top two are clear,” the leader spoke into his radio, “we are proceeding onto the next two floors.”

    He switched off his radio and turned to the others, “same formation as before, swiftly and with stealth. Let’s go.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Ivan’s Van

    “Are you ready?” asked Ivan, his eyes on the monitors as he watched the team move through the floors.

    “All set,” replied Donnie, “I am ready to take complete control when you give the word.”
    “Perfect, we have less than forty minutes to go.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Banquet Room

    “Mind if I cut in?” asked Lex.

    Clark glanced at Chloe and she nodded her head. “Not at all Lex,” he said, and dropping his arms from Chloe stepped back to let Lex take his place.

    Lex placed his arms around Chloe; he didn’t hold her as close as Clark did and they began to move. Clark left the dance floor to join Lucas and Lana who were at the table talking.

    “So, raised enough dollars to make a dent in the LuthorCorp profits?” she asked after a moment.

    “These people aren’t that generous,” replied Lex, “but we have made a lot, and with LuthorCorp matching the amount the hospital will do well out of it.”

    “It’s a good thing you’re doing Lex.”

    Lex gave her one of his small smiles and continued to move her around the dance floor.

    “Have you heard from him?” she asked.

    He knew she meant Lionel. “No, nothing,” he replied, “I’m not expecting to. Well not yet at least, but I will tell you if I do.”

    Chloe nodded and didn’t say any more on the subject.
    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    All the floors had been checked and any obstacles had been taken care of, they were all now in position, waiting for the word to move.

    In his van Ivan sat poised over his screen, a radio in one hand, a cell phone in the other, waiting for the go ahead.

    Donnie sat hunched over his laptop, fingers hovering above the keyboard, ready to take control of the computer systems.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Banquet Room

    After taking a couple more turns around the dance floor, Lex brought Chloe back to their table.

    “Lucas, I was wondering if I could have a word with you,” he said. “We won’t be long,” he said to the others.

    “What’s this about?” asked Lucas as Lex led him towards the exit.

    “It will be better if we talk in my office,” replied Lex.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    As soon as Lucas and Lex were gone, Clark and Lana continued their conversation; well it was more a case of the two whispering to each other and smiling. Chloe felt a sharp pang, realizing Jason should have been there whispering softly to her, holding her tightly as they danced.

    She suddenly felt a great need to get away, feelings and emotions threatening to swamp her. “I’m just going to the ladies room,” she said, rising from the table.

    There was no response from Clark or Lana. Shaking her head Chloe headed off to the ladies room.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 12: 22.00pm-23.00pm
    LuthorCorp Building, Metropolis


    “So what is all this about?” asked Lucas when they had entered Lex’s office.

    “Have you heard from Lionel lately?”

    Lucas shook his head, “I don’t think he’d contact me. You were always number one son; you’d be the one he’d get in touch with. But he really does seem to have disappeared.”

    “I wouldn’t bet on that. After what I didn’t do I’d say he’s off planning my demise, and may contact you.”

    “And you’re wondering where my loyalties may lie?”

    “No I’m not Lucas, that would make me just a bad as Lionel,” replied Lex, his tone sincere. “You do whatever you want to do…it’s your life after all, anyway I have no doubt that when the time comes you will make the right decision.”

    Lucas stared at his brother, he could hear the sincerity in his voice that he wouldn’t try and influence any decision he may make, but he could also pick up the underlying threat, the ‘you really don’t want me for your enemy’ tone. And there was still the knowledge that
    Lex had refused to help Lionel, thus in some way, making himself responsible for all that had happened.

    “That’s all I wanted to ask you about,” said Lex, “we should head back to the party, it wouldn’t be fair to leave Chloe on her own with Clark and Lana for too long.”

    “Actually I have something I want to ask you before we head back,” said Lucas. He knew it was now or never, and he had to know.

    Lex stopped, his hand on the door, “what is it?”

    Lucas took a deep breath. “Did you have anything to do with Jason Teague’s death?”

    The sound of gunfire interrupted before Lex could answer.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe was checking her hair when she heard a number of loud bangs followed by screams.

    “What the?” exclaimed Chloe, running to the door. She opened it slightly and her eyes widened as she saw masked people running around the banquet room, waving and shooting guns.

    “Not good, not good,” muttered Chloe, breathing hard. She frantically looked around the bathroom as she heard one of the ‘terrorists’ telling another to check everywhere, including the bathrooms.

    “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” she mumbled. She began tearing through the bathroom, all the while being as quiet as she could. “Come on, cut me a break here.”

    She struggled against the cabinets under the sinks, but they all seemed to be locked, until she reached the middle one, and as she pulled at it, it began to open. “Thank you, thank…” she jumped as another gunshot rang out.

    Scrambling she squeezed into the cabinet, almost gagging at the smell of bleach. Dragging her dress and bag around her she just about fit in and pulled the cabinet shut, closing it as much as she could. Covering her mouth and nose with her hand, she listened closely and bit her hand to prevent a scream escaping her as she heard the bathroom door being pushed open.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    As soon as the gunshots rang out and the masked people flowed into the room Clark jumped up and pulled Lana behind him. People were screaming and running around.

    “Oh god,” gasped Lana as she saw one of the guests get hit across the back of the head as they tried to escape.

    “Everybody SHUT UP,” one of the men in a mask shouted and fired his gun into the air.

    The screams quieted down to whimpers and cries.

    ‘Where’s Chloe,’ thought Clark frantically looking around. ‘Bathroom, she said something about the bathroom.’ He turned his gaze to the ladies bathroom and concentrated, using his x-ray vision to peer through the doors and walls. He gasped softly as he saw an armed man in there, and almost shouted out her name when he saw her huddled in a cabinet. ‘Don’t move Chloe, don’t move.’

    “Where are Lex and Lucas?” whispered Lana, holding Clark’s arm tightly.

    Clark ignored her for the moment, looking around, trying to see a way out.

    “Now that we have everyone’s attention,” the masked man said, “let me tell you exactly what’s going to happen.”

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 13: 23.00pm-0.00am
    Luthor-Corp Building


    “What the hell is going on?” said Lucas, as they heard more screaming, shouting and gunshots.

    Lex said nothing as he tried another phone, but like the previous five he’d checked, there was no dial tone. “Ok, the telephone system is down, and whoever our guests are have jammed the cell-phone signals, and none of the computers are online.”

    “Very professional,” murmured Lucas, “I wonder…”

    “Quiet,” hissed Lex as he thought he heard something.

    Motioning to Lucas they backed into his office.

    “There’s someone out there,” he mouthed to Lucas.

    Lucas picked up the large glass paperweight from Lex’s desk and clutched it in his hand.

    Lex grabbed Lucas’ hand and shook his head, “this way,” he whispered and led his brother over to the back wall. Smirking at Lucas, Lex pressed his hand against the wall, and a door opened.

    Lucas’s eyes widened and he clamped a hand over his mouth to keep from saying something.

    “Come on,” mouthed Lex and the two entered the small corridor, with Lex closing the panel behind him.

    “That is so cool,” whispered Lucas.

    “Only the guy who installed it and I know about that door,” replied Lex, “well now you as well. It doesn’t show up on the computer plans either. Come on, we can make our way to the banquet hall and see what’s happening there.”

    ‘Go Lex,’ thought Lucas, sending his brother a look of admiration as he followed him.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe had no idea how long she had remained cramped in the cabinet. She had heard whoever had come in rummage around and then leave. Afraid to come out in case anyone else entered she refused to move. But soon the smell of the bleach and other cleaning chemicals got to be too much and fearing she would vomit or pass out, she slowly pushed open the cabinet door with her foot while brandishing a can of polish in her hand.

    Breathing a sigh of relief Chloe got out of the cabinet and approached the door; resting her ear against it she listened carefully, the can of polish still in her hand. She could make out the faint sounds of people crying, but thankfully no more gunshots.

    “Ok, can’t go out that way,” she whispered to herself, “and there is no way I’m staying in a bathroom. Think Chloe think, you’re a rational person, don’t panic, you can get through this…I hope.”

    Moving once again away from the door she surveyed the bathroom. Turning her gaze to the ceiling, she saw air vents over the toilet cubicles, air vents that looked like they could be unscrewed.

    “It’s like a bad hostage movie,” she muttered to herself as she entered one of the cubicles.

    Rummaging through her bag she pulled out a nail file. “Damn I’m good,” she whispered with a grin. Kicking off her shoes, she stood on the toilet and found she just about reached the vent. Stretching her arms, she set about working on the screws.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark and Lana sat huddled at one of the tables with a bunch of other guests that their captors had rounded up. Clark had never felt so helpless in his life, here he was, with all these gifts and, for the moment, unable to use them: the room was filled with people and CCTV cameras, and he couldn’t risk Lex getting his hands on those tapes.

    The leader of the terrorists, as Clark had taken to calling them, informed everyone that no one would be hurt as long as no one tried anything funny.

    One man had demanded to know what they thought they were doing, and he ended up getting the butt of a gun rammed into his face.

    ‘Where are Lex and Lucas,’ he thought. He looked towards the bathroom again, and concentrating saw Chloe standing on a toilet. ‘What is she up to now?’

    “I haven’t seen Chloe,” Lana whispered to him, her voice filled with worry.

    “She went to the bathroom just before all hell broke loose,” Clark whispered back.

    “Oh,” gasped Lana, her hand covering her mouth, “so she’s still in there.” Her eyes landed n the bathroom door.

    “Don’t look,” hissed Clark, as he noticed one of the gunmen looking at them.

    Lana dropped her head and stared at her hands. Clark reached out and covered them with his own. “It will be ok,” he said softly.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 14: 0.00am-1.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    “The banquet room is just down here,” whispered Lex, “we need to be quiet. Ok?”

    Lucas nodded, and the two men slowed their walk as they reached what looked like a large ventilation grate. Sharing a quick glance at each other they stood on either side of the grate and peered in.

    Lex’s eyes moved over the room, looking for signs of the others. He allowed himself an internal sigh of relief when he saw Clark and Lana.

    “Can you see Chloe?” whispered Lucas.

    “No,” Lex whispered back, “that doesn’t mean anything. She could be in a part of the room that we can’t see from here.”

    “Who are you trying to reassure,” quipped Lucas, “me or you?”

    “Come on,” whispered Lex ignoring the question, “there is another grate around the corner, we can check out more of the room.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “At last,” gasped Chloe as she managed to get the grate unscrewed. Pushing it up she was relieved to see it had hinges and easily opened. “Now to get up there.” Getting off the toilet she grabbed her shoes, can of polish and bag off the floor, sticking the nail file back into her bag, she got back on the toilet and threw it and the other items up into the grate.

    Take a deep breath she climbed up on the cistern and looked into the vent. “Ok It’s big enough for me to crawl along, that’s good, as long as I can get up there. This is not going to be fun, or easy.”

    The next fifteen minutes Chloe spent huffing and swearing silently but eventually she managed to hoist herself up into the vent. She lay there, breathing hard.

    “Go adrenalin,” she murmured, rolling over onto her hands and knees and closing the grate again. It would have to remain unscrewed, but unless the terrorists actually looked for an unscrewed vent it wouldn’t make any difference.

    Pushing her shoes out of the way, she grabbed her bag in one hand and the can of polish in the other and began crawling along the air vent corridor.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Ivan’s Van

    “The brothers Luthor seem to have disappeared,” said Ivan, “they were in the hall and then left, heading towards the elder one’s office. And from what I can see, never left it.”

    “Didn’t some of the others check the offices?” asked Donnie.

    “Yes, but I don’t know how deep they went.”

    “So, the Luthors could be hiding out in the office,” replied Donnie. “Who cares, I’m searching for the files we were asked to retrieve, and even if Lex and Lucas Luthor are hiding in his office, they can’t prevent me looking for and eventually downloading the files. Now light another cigarette and stop worrying.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “I can’t just sit here and do nothing,” murmured Clark, but so far he had been unable to do anything. The men were carrying guns, and the leader stood beside what looked like a small safe. He had tried looking into it but it was made of lead, and his x-ray vision wouldn’t penetrate it. So he couldn’t make any move until he knew what was in that box.

    He watched as the two bartenders who had been working the party laughed and joked with the masked men. “Inside job then,” he thought.

    He glanced over to the other side of the room where Lana was getting bottles of water for the guests. Some of the older members of the party guests had started to feel the effects of their hostage situation. Lana and another one of the female guests had approached one of the masked men and asked if they could get some water.

    He had waved them towards the bar with a grunt of ‘yes’.

    Sighing Clark looked once again over at the bathroom, and bit his lip when he saw that

    Chloe was no longer there, looking up he saw what looked like a pair of shoes in the ventilation shaft and he allowed himself a small smile. ‘Go Chloe,’ he thought.

    “No, please don’t take it, my husband gave it to me.”

    Clark’s attention was drawn to an elderly woman who was trying to stop one of the bartenders from taking her wedding ring.

    “Hey leave her alone,” cried out Lana, rushing to the older woman’s side. The bartender pushed Lana away, hard, and the brunette went flying back, slamming her head off the bar, and slumping to the ground.

    “Don’t even think about it,” a man said as Clark stood up and he felt the gun being pressed into his back.

    “Leave the old woman alone,” the terrorist called out. “And you,” gesturing to one of the maids, “check on the girl.”

    “S-S-She’s ok,” stammered the maid after she checked Lana’s pulse, “just knocked out.”

    “Please,” cried Clark, “Let me go to her.”

    “No funny business,” growled the terrorist, and poked Clark in the back with his gun.

    Sighing in relief Clark ran over to Lana and gently cradled her in his arms. She was breathing, but there was a nasty gash on her head, and it was bleeding slightly.

    ‘Come on Chloe,’ he thought, ‘get out and get help.’

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 15: 1.00am-2.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    “YAY,” cheered Chloe softly as she reached a passage where she could stand up. Her hands and knees were starting to kill her from crawling. She stood up and groaned softly as she stretched.

    “This place is like a maze, trust Lex Luthor to have such a complicated air conditioning system. What I need is a radio so I can talk directly to the bad guys in a witty banter back and forth like Bruce Willis in Die Hard,” she giggled at her own silliness.

    She paused as she heard what sounded like muffled voices that seemed to be coming from behind the vent. Taking a deep breath she held the can of polish in her hand up like a weapon and slowly began moving forward.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Is she ok?” whispered Lucas as they watched Clark cradling Lana through the vent, “and come to think of it, we still haven’t seen Chloe at all, where is she?”

    “How the hell should I know,” snapped Lex, making it sound even harsher as he was still whispering. ‘Everything goes wrong,’ thought Lex, ‘every damn thing. I can’t even throw a small fund-raiser without everything hitting the fan.’

    Lucas chose not to comment on Lex’s rebuke, he knew Lex was probably already beating himself up inside over everything that had happened. ‘Poor Lex,’ he thought, ‘he tries to do good.’

    “Come on,” said Lex, “we need to get to a phone or a radio, we have to get word to the outside and tell them what’s going on.”

    “Hang on Lex, it looks like one of our uninvited guests is about to say something.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    As Chloe approached the corridor the sound of the voices got louder. Moving quickly but silently she edged towards a large vent. “Oh,” she gasped as she looked in and saw the banquet room. Scanning her eyes around she looked for any sign of Lex and the others, but from her viewpoint couldn’t see them. All she could see where some of the other guests and people in black with masks and guns.

    “Can I have everyone’s attention please,” a heavily accented voice called out. There were cries and whimpers from the guests and Chloe could see a couple of the gang members chatting amongst themselves.

    “QUIET,” the voice called out and fired a shot into the air.

    Chloe jumped and slapped a hand over her mouth to keep from making a sound. Inching closer to the vent as her heart rate slowed down a little after the shock on the gunshot, she leaned in to hear what was going on.

    “Good, I have everyone’s attention now,” the man continued, “we do not wish to harm anyone, but make no mistake if any of you attempt to escape or to disarm us we will not hesitate in hurting you, any of you,” he glanced around the room, making sure to meet the eyes of those that were brave enough to look at him.

    “We are here for a specific objective, and when that objective has been achieved we will leave, and providing no one decides to be a hero you will all be unharmed. Now, in case anyone is harbouring thoughts of standing in our way we have a little incentive here to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

    He stepped back as the small lead box was pushed forward.

    Clark sat up. Making sure Lana still rested comfortably against him his eyes stared at the box in great interest.

    The man barked something in a foreign language to one of his colleagues, who then rushed forward and opened the box.

    A collective gasp echoed around the room, and Clark’s eyes widened as they saw what was inside. A bomb, with a nice timer display unit on it greeted them. But that’s not what had Clark so concerned, it was the sight of what looked like kryptonite, attached to either side of the bomb that frightened him the most. ‘Damn lead,’ he thought.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Oh crap,” gasped Lucas, as he and Lex looked down onto the bomb.

    “We need to hurry Lucas,” said Lex, “we need to get out and get help. Come on."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Not good, not good,” murmured Chloe, as she heard the rumblings around the room. She could not see what the gang leader had shown the guests, but the whispers and gasps of the word ‘bomb’ told her everything.

    “Ok Sullivan, time to be the Clark Kent of this situation, and save the day.” Steeling herself she backed away from the vent and set about finding a way out of the ventilation shafts and finding a telephone.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 16: 2.00am-3.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    Lucas chuckled softly as he took off his jacket and undid his tie.

    “What can possibly be funny? Asked Lex. He had stopped and turned to face his smiling brother who was currently stuffing his tie in to his pocket.

    “Oh come on Lex, don’t tell me you can’t see it,” grinned Lucas, unbuttoning his shirt sleeves and rolling them up, the ventilation shafts were getting quite warm.

    “Lucas, we have far more important things to worry about. We do not have time for this,” and Lex continued walking, “there should be an exit down here that will lead to the basement and the security room, hopefully we can find a way to communicate there.”

    “Die Hard,” said Lucas.

    Sighing Lex turned to face Lucas once again, “What?”

    “The movie ‘Die Hard’, you know terrorists, lone hero saving the day, witty lines,”

    “I know the movie Lucas, I don’t know why you’ve brought it up and what it has to do with our situation.”

    Lucas shook his head and sighed dramatically, “never mind Lex, you’re right, we should get going.” He walked by his brother, not noticing the smirk that appeared on Lex’s face.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    After about five minutes Chloe decided that there was no one in the room. Holding her breath she opened the grate and very slowly lowered herself into the room, well it wasn’t really a room, more like a janitor’s closet.

    “What is it with me and cleaning products today,” she murmured as she looked
    around, “and not one of them any use in cleaning my now ruined dress,” she added as she placed the can of polish she had been carrying onto a shelf.

    Picking her bag up from where it had dropped on the floor she took out her cell-phone, “come on, give me a signal, come on please, it’s a friggin janitor’s closet, your phone jamming waves aren’t going to want to fill a janitor’s closet, come on…”

    She began waving the phone over her head, her voice now taking on a pleading tone.

    “Yes,” she cried out as it looked like a faint signal appeared. She quickly pressed ‘911’, “oh thank god,” she said when it was answered and began babbling, she didn’t know how long the signal would last, “police, police please, I’m at the LuthorCorp building, masked men guns, lots of guns, and a bomb they have a bomb, you need…NO. Damn you, NO,” she cried when the phone died on her again, “please let them have heard if not then at least some of it,” a tear trickled down her cheek, “please.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Here you go.”

    Clark was startled and whipped his head around to see the elderly woman Lana had defended earlier standing there holding out a cloth napkin and a bottle of water.

    “For your girlfriend,” she said with a smile.

    “Thank you,” replied Clark and took the items. He poured some of the water on to the napkin and then gently wiped at the dried blood on Lana’s forehead. Her breathing had evened out and she looked and sounded like she was in a deep sleep.

    “You should probably try and wake her,” said the woman, “that was a nasty bang to the head she got and letting her sleep would not be good.”

    “Oh god,” gasped Clark, manoeuvring Lana so that she lay on the ground, “I never thought to wake her.” He took off his jacket, rolled it up and placed it under her heard.

    “It’s ok,” said the woman, laying her hand on Clark’s shoulder, “other things were going on.”

    “Lana,” said Clark softly, gently shaking her, “wake up Lana, come on,” he shook her a little harder.

    The brunette barely stirred but a let out a low moan.

    “That’s it dearie,” cooed the old woman, “wake up now.”

    “Please Lana, wake up,” Clark shook her harder.

    “Ow, stop,” mumbled Lana, “hurts, stop,” her voice was slightly slurred.

    “I know it does Lana but please wake up, open your eyes now, come on.”

    Lana’s eyelids fluttered and then opened halfway, she closed them again and then opened them fully, blinking as she tried to focus. “Cl…Clark.”

    “Yes, it’s me, stay awake now.”

    “Tired, head hurts.”

    “I know it does, but you need to stay awake.”

    The old woman ran the wet cloth over Lana’s face. “Try and sit her up,” she said.

    Very gently Clark lifted Lana into a sitting position, “no,” she protested, “sleep.”

    “You can sleep all you want later,” said Clark as he kept her sitting up. He took the cloth from the woman and ran it over the back of Lana’s neck. “Can you get me some ice?” he
    asked, “it might help.”

    “I’ll be right back,” and she got up and headed over to the bar.

    Lana moaned softly, but Clark was happy to see that her eyes were still open, they weren’t really focusing, he could tell by the glazed look in them, but at least they were open.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 17: 3.00am-4.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    Lex was losing his patience, Lucas could tell. As they made their way along the corridors

    Lex, too, had shed his jacket and tie, and Lucas could tell by the look on his brother’s face that heads were going to roll when they got out of this. The older Luthor’s face was taut and hard; his mouth was drawn into a fine line and his eyes held a hint of danger.

    ‘It’s definitely going to hit the fan when this is over,’ thought Lucas, quickening his stride to keep up with Lex.

    “What time is it?” he asked.

    Without breaking his stride Lex glanced down at his watch, “3.21am,” he replied.

    “God, we’ve been wandering around for hours,” murmured Lucas, “I never realised how big this place was.”

    “That’s because you usually travelled around it in elevators,” said Lex, “and as much as I would love to use one to take us to the basement, we don’t know if they have been tampered with.”

    “Do you have any idea who’s behind this?” asked Lucas as he fell into stride with Lex.

    “Well let’s see who hates the Luthors,” replied Lex sarcastically. But deep down Lex didn’t believe this to be the work of LuthorCorp’s normal business rivals, no this was something else, these were professional terrorists, but what were they looking for, what was important enough to warrant blowing the entire building up. Sure he had files hidden away about some of the company’s more secret dealings and projects, but still…

    “Lionel,” said Lucas, startling Lex. “It is a distinct possibility,” he offered as Lex looked at him.

    “Yes it is, but terrorism, I think that my even be a bit much for Lionel, but that’s not to say dear old dad is not to be completely struck off the list of suspects.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    After conversing with one of the masked men Clark was allowed to move Lana over to one of the large couches in a corner of the banquet room. The old woman, Eve she said her name was, had accompanied him and they sat Lana between the two of them, making sure she remained upright and awake.

    Eve chattered on about her children and grandchildren, and had managed to get a smile out of Lana once.

    Clark was relieved that Lana seemed to be ok, and he was also relieved to be further away from the bomb, the close proximity to the Kryptonite had started to drain him.

    With Eve chatting away to Lana to help keep the younger girl conscious, Clark took a couple of deep breaths to relax himself and began concentrating on the walls, once again peeling away the layers of brick and wood he set about trying to find where Chloe was.

    “Lex, Lucas,” he gasped after a moment as his gaze met two figures. ‘How did they end up there, but at least they are safe,’ he thought, ‘but where is Chloe.’ He concentrated even harder, pushing his x-ray vision to the limit, moving down floor up floor of stone he was about to give up when he saw her. She seemed to be in a small room, but what was even better was the fact that she wasn’t more than a floor away from Lex and Lucas.

    ‘Let them find each other,’ he said, ‘and get help.’ Clark had a feeling their unwanted guests were getting restless.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe yawned loudly and then quickly covered her mouth with her hand, she was so tired and kept forgetting to keep silent. She had been in the janitor’s closet for a while now, hoping to get another hint of a signal from her phone, but it had been no use, it was completely dead again.

    “Ok Chloe, hiding away in a janitor’s closet hoping that your phone will come back to life or that the call you made earlier did get through and that the police are on the way has got to stop. There are people here in danger and you can help them by getting word to the outside world. So, enough of this, you have to find a way, there is a security room in the basement, there would be a good place to start. The corridors seem to be empty and if you take to the stairs you should make it.”

    Buoyed by her little pep talk Chloe grabbed her trusty can of polish and her bag, toed off her shoes and tiptoed to the door. Placing her ear against it she listened closely for a few minutes… Satisfied that no one was outside she open the door slowly and quietly and then slipped out into the corridor.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 18: 4.00am-5.00am
    LuthorCorp Building

    Ivan’s Van


    “Well Mr Computer Expert have you got the information yet?” teased Ivan as Donnie swore once again.

    “Don’t push me,” he snarled, never taking his eyes from the computer screen, “I am not in the mood.”

    “It’s only a few files you said, no trouble at all to get them you said, we’ll be done in an hour, two at tops, you said,” continued Ivan, “we have been here hours and you are no closer. Our colleagues are getting restless, very restless.”

    “Shut up,” snapped Donnie, turning to face the other man, “so I was wrong, the files weren’t easy to find. How was I to know that Luthor had them buried, she never said anything about that, she was the one who said they would be easy to find. Now, shut up and leave me to do my job.”

    While both men were arguing they didn’t notice the petite blonde make her way down a corridor and open the door leading to the stairs. These were service stairs, no cameras there at all, and if Ivan hadn't of chosen that exact moment to tease Donnie again they might have noticed the Luthor brothers on the floor below the blonde, make their own way down the service stairs.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “He still hasn’t got them,” the man standing right beside the bomb said to his colleague when he switched off his radio.

    “He’s been at it for hours, what the hell is taking so long.”

    His companion shrugged his shoulders.

    “He’d want to hurry up, I’ve just been informed that Lex and Lucas Luthor are wandering around the building, they could cause a lot of trouble.”

    “I have an idea,” he leaned in and whispered into his colleague’s ear.

    “Very good,” he said after a moment, “that could work to our advantage. How long?”

    “It may take about an hour to set up.”

    “Do it, and I know exactly the ones to use when you have everything set up.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Lex, do you hear that?” said Lucas, looking up the stairwell.

    They both stopped and listened closely.

    “It’s your imagination Lucas, there is nothing there,” replied Lex after a minute, “come on, we still have a number of floors to go,” and he continued walking. Both men had left their shoes behind, their stocking feet assisting them in moving faster and quieter.

    They had only moved down a few more steps when there was definitely a noise heard above them.

    “Told you,” whispered Lucas as they stopped again.

    Lex moved over the staircase and looked up, trying to see if anyone was there. Seeing nothing he backed away.

    “Anything?” mouthed Lucas, and Lex shook his head.

    “Let’s keep moving, but slowly,” Lex mouthed, and they slowly descended the stairs again, listening carefully.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Damn,” muttered Chloe as she looked over the ledge, she couldn’t see anyone, but she had definitely heard something coming from below her.

    Her heart pounding she continued her descent, slower than before, the can of polish in her hand, the cap off, she had left it on the last landing and her finger poised.

    “Polish will not be much good if you come up against a gun,” she muttered to herself, “maybe I can offer to clean it!”

    Tip-toeing down the stairs, she paused again when she reached the next landing, listening for any noises. Satisfied that everything was quiet she moved down the next flight, all the while listening for any noises. Her heartbeat refused to slow and her knuckles turned white with the grip she held on the can…

    Lex and Lucas had stopped their descent when they reached the next door. They hid just behind it, determined to see who was making the noises they had heard.

    Purposely leaving the door open, Lex took one side while Lucas took the other, ready to strike…

    Chloe made it down the next flight and saw the opened door. Biting her lip she edged closer to it, her arm outstretched, the can ready, her hand shaking slightly…

    ”On three,” Lucas mouthed to Lex as the heard the breathing of their pursuer. Lex nodded.

    “One…Two…THREE,” he called out and Lex and Lucas jumped out.

    Chloe screamed and pressing her finger down sprayed the polish at whatever was coming towards her.

    “Ouch, damn my eyes,” Lucas cried.

    “Chloe, Chloe stop, it’s me Lex.”

    “Who? Lex?” gasped Chloe, dropping the can and she almost cried in relief when she saw Lex standing there. “Oh god,” and before she knew it, was hugging him.

    Taken aback slightly Lex didn’t know what to do, but soon recovered and patted her back awkwardly. “It’s ok,” he murmured.

    “What was that stuff?”

    Chloe stood back from Lex and wiped quickly at her eyes. “Oh, Lucas I’m so sorry, it’s...its polish, I’m sorry, did I hurt you badly?”

    “No, it only barely got my eyes, but damn it stings.”

    “Don’t be such a baby,” said Lex “Now Chloe, how did you get out?”

    She began to explain in a whisper.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 19: 5.00am-6.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    Relief didn’t even begin to describe how Chloe felt when she met up with Lex and Lucas.

    She was starting to get very frightened wandering around on her own, meteor mutants were one thing, masked men with guns and bombs were an entirely different thing.

    After sharing the stories of how they got where they met up they continued their descent down the flights of stairs to the basement.

    “Any thoughts on who might be behind this?” she asked.

    “Not really, although one name keeps popping up,” replied Lex.

    “Lionel,” said Chloe, and Lex nodded.

    “But isn’t this,” Chloe waved her hand around, “a little obvious for Lionel?”

    “Yes,” said Lucas, “but the more I think of it the more I believe that Lionel is behind it.”

    “We can worry about that later,” interrupted Lex, “what’s important now is taking care of our unwanted guests and ensuring no one gets hurt. We have to go with the premise that your message didn’t get through Chloe, I think that if it had we would have heard something from the police by now.”

    Chloe nodded and all three started walking again.

    “Hey you ditched your shoes as well,” exclaimed Lucas, as he just noticed that Chloe was shoeless like them, “it’s getting more and more like that movie, even you can’t deny it Lex.”

    “And are you wearing a white vest under that shirt Lucas?” grinned Chloe. She couldn’t
    help it, she needed something to ease the stress she knew they were all under.

    Chloe and Lucas stared at each for a moment before grins appeared on their faces, “Die Hard,” they said at the same time, their grins turning into huge smiles.

    Lex shook his head and continued on his walk, they really didn’t have time for this.

    “Yippe-Ki-Yea Mother…”

    “Lucas,” Lex’s voice interrupted.

    “Spoilsport,” muttered Lucas and he and Chloe laughed softly to relieve some tension as they once again followed Lex.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Ivan’s Van

    “It’s for you,” grinned Ivan as he hit speakerphone button.

    “I am very, very disappointed in you Donnie,” the distorted voice said, “I was led to believe that you were the best, the you could find what I wanted in an hour, and yet here we are, many hours later and still no files.”

    “I’m sorry,” stammered Donnie, his face going pale, “but they are just not there. I’ve looked everywhere on the system and there is no sign of them, actually there is no sign of anything like those files ever having been there. Are…are you sure he has them on the system?”

    “Don’t question me…” the voice snarled, “You have two more hours, and I am being very generous with that, and if you haven’t found the files by then, you will be blown up along with the building,” and before Donnie could say anything the caller had hung up.

    “Donnie’s in trouble,” grinned Ivan in a singsong voice.

    “Shut up,” snapped Donnie, “or I’ll make sure you suffer as well.”

    “Ooh I’m so scared,” laughed Ivan, and then muttered something in Russian.

    Glaring once more at Ivan, Donnie then turned his attention back to his computer, and a fearful expression coloured his face. He was convinced, after hours of searching that their mysterious boss was wrong about the files. There was no way they were in the Luthor computer system and Donnie was sure they had never been there. And now he had two hours to find files that didn’t exist.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 20: 6.00am-7.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    “She’s a very pretty girl,” said Eve with a smile as she wiped Lana’s brow with a
    cloth. “You do make a handsome couple.” Clark gave her a small smile.

    Lana had been drifting in and out of consciousness for the last couple of hours and Clark was getting very worried. He had asked around all the guests and surprise, surprise, for a fundraiser for a hospital there wasn’t one doctor among them.

    She needed to get to a hospital, of that Clark was sure, but there was no way he was going to get her to one unless he picked her up in his arms and ran out of the building, and that was not going to happen. Besides, whatever his feelings for Lana were, he couldn’t leave all the guests, including Chloe, Lex and Lucas here with these people and that bomb.

    He had been eavesdropping on the various conversations the masked men were having. Some made no sense as they were speaking some foreign language he had never heard before. The two bartenders had spoken of ‘getting paid’ as soon as everything was over, and he had picked up on another conversation about computer files.

    ‘Please Lex,’ he thought, ‘please let this not be about something you are involved in. After everything that has happened I think this would be the last straw if you are the cause of this.’

    “Are you all right dearie?” asked Eve, patting his hand gently and stirring him from his thoughts.

    “I’m fine,” replied Clark, “just thinking about… things,” he gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile.

    “Everything will work out,” she said, “I have a feeling it will.”

    “I hope you’re right,” muttered Clark.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “You two stay out here,” said Lex, “and I’ll take a look around.”

    “You shouldn’t go alone Lex,” said Chloe, “we’ll all go together.”

    “No, if there is someone in there, it will do no good if we all get captured. There is no point arguing Chloe, you and Lucas will stay here.”

    Lucas watched the two of them, he could hear the concern in Chloe’s voice for Lex, and even though his brother’s tone left no room for argument he could hear the underlying concern Lex had for Chloe and himself.

    “Be careful Lex,” said Lucas, “don’t try being a hero in there, think of the damage to your reputation it would be,” he added, and although he was teasing there was real concern in his voice.

    “Don’t worry, I won’t,” replied Lex, and then giving Chloe a small smile, he gently opened the door to the basement, and slipped quietly inside, closing it behind him.

    “He’ll be fine Chloe,” said Lucas, laying a hand on her shoulder and squeezing it gently.

    “I know he will,” she replied, her eyes still fixed on the closed door. She was trying desperately hard not to think of what she would do if she lost someone else she cared about. Jason’s face flashed before her eyes and she shook off a tremor, steadying herself to deal with whatever might happen next.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lex moved slowly and silently, keeping close to the wall. He manoeuvred his way around, moving towards the security room.

    “All clear so far,” he murmured, as thankfully he hadn’t seen anyone. Keeping his eyes fixed on the security room door he didn’t notice the obstacle on the floor, and stumbled to the ground, hitting his knees hard on the floor when he tripped over it.

    He let out a cry as stinging pain ran though his legs, and then his head snapped up, fearful his cry had alerted someone.

    After a few moments when no one appeared Lex realized he hadn’t been heard. Breathing hard he made a move to get to his feet, and then stopped as he saw what he had stumbled over… a body.

    “Oh no,” he gasped as he recognised the man as one of his security guards. Changing direction, Lex once again knelt down and reached out his hand, placing two fingers against the man’s neck. He breathed a sigh of relief as he felt a pulse, a faint one, but a pulse nonetheless.

    “We’ll get you help soon,” he murmured to the unconscious man. Lex stood up and winced slightly at the pain in his knees. Without sparing the guard another glance he continued his trek to the security room.

    Once there he found more unconscious security guards. Checking to make sure they were alive, he then moved to examine the screens on the panel but they showed nothing, all of them were blank. He tried the phone, but like all the others it was dead.

    Turning back to the guards, he checked them to see if they still had their radios, or maybe even a cell-phone, but they had all been removed.

    “Damn it,” he muttered, running his hand over his head, “come on, give us a break, just one.”

    Composing himself he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. And before decided on the next plan of action he headed back across the basement to get Chloe and Lucas.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 21: 7.00am-8.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    Clark had been at the bar, handing out water to people. He was also listening in again to the various conversations the captors were having, but unfortunately none of them told him anything. Eve was still sitting with Lana, chatting away, and it seemed to be working, Lana seemed a little more alert than before, although her eyes were still glazed.

    “The Luthors…”

    Clark’s ears perked up as he heard the name. Making it look like he was rinsing glasses, he concentrated on the conversation the two bartenders where having.

    “Yes,” said one, “apparently, both Lex and Lucas Luthor are nowhere to be found. They left the banquet hall and went to the bald one’s office. There are no cameras in there so our friend in the van didn’t hear or see what went on. But when all hell broke loose here and the others were searching the offices they weren’t there.”

    “Typical,” snorted the other, “just like Lex Luthor to sneak away. He’s probably living it up enjoying himself and not caring about his guests.”

    “That’s the rich for you,” said the other, and then they moved away.

    “Good,” breathed out Clark, “Lex and Lucas haven’t been caught. And they don’t know about Chloe at all. Let’s hope they are finding a way to get us freed.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Nothing works,” said Chloe, her entire demeanour radiating anger, “no phones, no computers, nothing, it’s like they’ve locked down the entire building.”

    “They probably have,” said Lex, “and it’s probably being controlled from outside.”

    “So does that mean they have control of the security cameras?” asked Lucas.

    “If they’re controlling the computers then yes they have the cameras as well. But don’t worry, the stairs we came down, my office, the bathrooms, none of those places have cameras in them,” said Lex. “Although after what has happened today I think I will be re-
    evaluating that set up.”

    “Lex, this is not your fault,” said Chloe, “this could have happened to any of the big business in the area, they just happened to pick LuthorCorp. Don’t blame yourself,” she hoped he took her words to heart, but with the business with her memories, denying Lionel the blood needed to save him, although she totally agreed with Lex on that part, and then Jason’s death, she knew that Lex was going to blame himself for this, and the cloud of guilt over his head would just swell and get bigger.

    ‘Jason,’ she thought, and as usual she felt a stab of pain in her heart, the usual every time she heard his name or pictured his smiling handsome face. ‘Not now Chloe,’ she told herself, ‘focus on getting out.’

    “Hey, look at this,” cried Lucas, pointing at one of the computer screens.

    Lex and Chloe stood behind him, and all three looked at the screen. It seemed to be nothing more that a blur of files running across the screen. And when Lucas pressed a key on the keyboard nothing happened, just the continuous scrolling of files.

    “Do you think it’s them, whoever has taken the place hostage?” asked Chloe.

    “Yes,” said Lex, “and it appears they are searching for something in the LuthorCorp mainframe.”

    “And what could they be possibly looking for?” asked Lucas, staring at his brother, a hint of accusation in his voice.

    “I don’t know,” replied Lex, his eyes still on the screen, and it was an honest answer, he had been very careful about where he stored anything relating to LuthorCorp’s more shadowy endeavours, and the LuthorCorp mainframe was the last place he’d store them.

    So he didn’t know what they were looking for.

    Lucas looked at Chloe and saw that she was looking at Lex, and the expression on her face was not one of disbelief at his answer, a look he was expecting to see, but more so a look of sympathy at what Lex must be going through.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Ivan’s Van

    “Tick tock the minutes are running out,” said Ivan with a laugh, blowing smoke into Donnie’s face.

    Donnie paid him no attention, sweat beaded on his brow as he furiously worked on a plan to save his life. As suspected he had found no files and he knew that the next phone call from their boss would be to order something nasty to happen to him. They just didn’t believe the files weren’t there, but Donnie wasn’t one of the best in his field for nothing and if the files wouldn’t come to him, then he would just have to produce the files himself.

    The clock has no sooner passed the mark of two hours since the last phone call when the phone rang. Ivan practically jumped to answer it, laughing as he did.

    “Oh yes he’s here,” he said into the handset and then hit the speaker button.

    “Donnie, I do hope you have good news for me,” the distorted voice echoed throughout the van.

    “As a mater of fact I do,” he replied, delighting in the shocked and somewhat disappointed look that appeared on Ivan’s face.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 22: 8.00am-9.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    “You have? That is excellent news. What do you want us to do now?”

    Clark watched the expressions on the man’s face as he listened to his instructions coming through the radio. He couldn’t pick up what was being said as the man was standing right beside the bomb, and for some reason Clark couldn’t hear what was being said, it was probably the close proximity to the kryptonite in the bomb that was causing it.

    But Clark didn’t need to hear what was being said to know it wasn’t good. The expressions on the man’s face went from happy to confused to anger and then finally delight, and the evil grin that found its way onto the man’s face as he disconnected his radio did not bode well for everyone.

    Clark moved over to Lana and Eve, the very woozy brunette gave him a small smile.

    “What’s wrong Clark?” asked Eve.

    “I don’t know,” he replied, “but I have this feeling that things are about to take a turn for the worse for us all.” He turned away from the captors and looked at Eve.

    “Eve, I want you to stay with Lana, and when the time comes, and believe me you’ll know when that will be, I want you to get her and yourself under one of the tables.”

    “Clark, you’re scaring me, what do you know?”

    “Nothing concrete, but they,” he jutted his chin in the direction of their masked
    friends, “are planning to end this. So promise me please, that you’ll get yourself and Lana to safety?”

    “Of course my dear,” replied Eve, “we’ll be ok, and so will you, someone will get word to the police and save us, you don’t have to worry.”

    ‘I’m sure they will get word to the police,’ thought Clark, ‘but will it be in time?’

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Hey look, the scrolling has stopped,” said Chloe.

    Lex and Lucas hurried back over to her, and sure enough the screen was now blank.

    “It’s still not responding though,” continued Chloe, banging her hand against the keyboard.

    “What do you think it means?” asked Lucas.

    “That they found what they were looking for,” replied Lex, “or they have given up, either way this is not good.”

    “What do you think they’ll do?” said Chloe.

    “I’d say detonating that bomb is a pretty good bet,” replied Lucas.

    “I’d say you’re right,” said Lex.

    “Wow, you two agreeing with each other, what is the world coming too,” said Chloe, trying to ease the tension with a humor that was almost hysterical.

    “Lex, I know you develop this twitch every time I mention the movie Die Hard, even though we are living it,” said Lucas, “but the way he got the cop’s attention in it might help us out.”

    “Lucas, we are not dropping a body out of a window.”

    “HA, I knew you had seen it,” exclaimed Lucas.

    “Maybe dropping one of the computer monitors would do,” offered Chloe.

    “Not a bad suggestion Chloe, but I think we need something that isn’t going to smash into pieces. We should attach a note to it, so we need something that won’t explode on impact.”

    “One of the office chairs then, and only drop it from the first or second floor,” she said.

    “That could work,” said Lex, smiling at her. “Ok, it’s the best idea we’ve got. Let’s make our way to the second floor, we can get a chair there and compose our note.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Ivan’s Van

    “That was quite a save earlier Donnie-boy,” said Ivan, “I thought you were a goner.”

    “Sorry to disappoint you,” replied Donnie sarcastically. He had just finished packing up his equipment and couldn’t wait to get out of the van, and as far away from Metropolis as possible. When the discovery about the files was made, he would be a dead man.

    “Hey why are you leaving now, don’t you want to stay and see the fireworks?”

    “No, I have no desire to see a bunch of innocent people killed.” He snapped his laptop case shut and grabbed his jacket. “I’d love to say it’s been a pleasure working with you, but it hasn’t. Goodbye Ivan, I hope I never see or hear from you again.”

    Donnie had just made it to the van door when the gun was fired. It was over in seconds, the bullet entering his skull.

    “Sorry Donnie,” grinned Ivan, lightening another cigarette, “but you were a loose end.”

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 23: 9.00am-10.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    “Ladies and gentlemen if I can have your attention for the moment please?” the leader of the captors said, and fired a single shot from his gun for effect.

    Clark cringed as it hit the ceiling, sending a shower of plaster down over a group of people. All eyes landed on the men with the guns, and there wasn’t a sound to be heard, except for the odd cry or whimper.

    “Thank you,” said the man. No one could miss the sarcastic tone to his voice, and Clark could see the smug grin on his face. All the captors that had been wearing masks removed them a couple of hours ago, and that move reinforced Clark’s belief that things were going to get worse. Why else would they care that they could now be recognised, if they expected no one to survive to recognise them?

    “Our time with each other is coming to an end.”

    As he spoke the other members of his gang moved round the room and began handcuffing the guests together and then moving to bind their feet. Lana and Eve were cuffed together. Clark made a show of struggling as they began handcuffing him. “Don’t boy,” a voice sounded behind him and he felt the barrel of a gun being pressed into his back.

    “We are going to be leaving you soon,” the man continued, bending down and arming the bomb. “And you all have 45 minutes to say your goodbyes to each other.” And with those words, everyone could see the timer light up on the bomb. 44:58 it read, the seconds counting down.

    People began crying and struggling against their bonds. Clark was about to break out of his when the man dragged the bomb over and left it right beside him. “You look like you can keep on eye on it,” the captor said, and then laughed as he moved away.

    Clark felt his strength wane as the kryptonite drained him. “Come on Chloe, you, Lex and Lucas have to get us out.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Immediately after pushing the chair, with the note out of the second floor window (along with thanking whomever had built the building for leaving several windows pure glass and not reinforced with a non-breakable coating), Lex, Chloe and Lucas made their way quickly back to the air vents and headed towards to the one that overlooked the banquet hall.

    They could hear the screaming and crying the closer they got to the vent.

    “Oh god what is happening?” murmured Chloe.

    Quickly hurrying to the grate they looked in to see the guests struggling against their bindings, many were screaming and crying.

    “Where are the captors? There is no sign of them,” said Lucas.

    “Over to the other side,” said Lex, “there is a better view.”

    All three hurried around to the other vent and gasped in unison when the saw the bomb, and it rapidly decreasing numbers.

    “They’re gone, the bastards are gone and they left them to die,” snarled Lex and kicked at the grate.

    “Oh god Clark,” exclaimed Chloe as she saw her friend slumped against Lana, who also seemed to be unconscious.

    Lucas had started kicking the grate as well, but it wouldn’t budge.

    “Follow me,” said Chloe, “I know a way in. We can get through the vent I escaped through, but we have to hurry.”

    Giving the vent one last kick Lex followed Chloe and his brother.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The sirens screamed as the police and emergency vehicles tore along the streets of Metropolis. A bomb-disposal van led the way as they hurtled towards the Luthor-Corp building. Chloe’s idea had worked; a beat cop eating his breakfast in the park across the street from the LuthorCorp building had seen the chair fly out the window and gone to investigate. After reading the note he’d immediately called it in and within minutes police and the SWAT and bomb teams were converging on the office building, along with several ambulances and fire trucks.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lucas helped Chloe down and they followed Lex who had already left the bathroom. When they entered the banquet hall, Lex had started to untie the ropes around Clark’s feet.

    Lucas and Chloe followed his lead and began untying the other guests. The handcuffs were another matter, and without the key they didn’t have the time to try and break them open.

    “Just get them on their feet,” Lex called out, “the timer is down to 10 minutes. Get them upright and out of here.”

    “Come on Clark,” he said, shaking the boy, “not like you to sleep on the hero-job.”

    “He seemed to collapse suddenly about 30 minutes ago,” the old woman that was cuffed to Lana said. “And this poor thing took a very nasty blow to the head,” she added, indicating to Lana.

    “Can you support her if I get the two of you to your feet?” Lex asked.

    “I can,” said Eve.

    Lucas came over and helped Lex with the two women. “Chloe is directing the last of them out,” he said to Lex’s unspoken question.

    “Get them out,” said Lex, “and make sure Chloe doesn’t come back in.”

    “What about you?”

    “I’m right behind you with Clark. Now go Lucas, and remember, don’t let Chloe come back in.”

    Lucas nodded and helped the two women out.

    “Come on Clark,” gasped Lex, trying to pull the younger man to his feet.

    “Who? What? Lex?” murmured Clark, shaking his head.

    “Yes it’s me, come on we have to get out,” Lex glanced at the timer, 04:56 it read. “Come on Clark, get up!”

    “Weak, so weak,” muttered Clark.

    “We’re not going to make it,” muttered Lex. “DAMN.”

    Looking frantically around, he tried to remember which side faced the back alley—the place hopefully no one would be. Abandoning Clark he ran to the other said of the room and picked up a fire extinguisher and then began hitting the window with it. “Break you son of a bitch, break,” he growled as he hit it over and over.

    Unlike the windows below, this one was not going to be as easy to break. But desperation leant strength to his blows as he hit the window over and over.

    He’d never been more grateful to hear the sound of shattering glass.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Lucas, Lex and Clark are still in there, we have to get them,” Chloe struggled against the grip Lucas had on her.

    “He said he was right behind me,” said Lucas.

    They were outside, the police tending to the hostages, Lucas had told them not to go in, that there wasn’t enough time to get to the bomb and disarm it.

    “Please don’t die, don’t die,” murmured Chloe, “please.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Arms aching from the effort used to break the window, Lex struggled with the bomb. It wasn’t the best plan, there was the danger of someone being below, but it was the only plan he had. At least it would stop the entire building from coming down—and killing them in the process.

    The counter was on its final countdown, 8 seconds, “come on Luthor, COME ON,” he gritted his teeth and lifted the bomb over his head. 5, 4, 3… And threw it out the window, dropping to the ground as he did.

    …2…1… It exploded.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Hour 24: 10.00am-110.00am
    LuthorCorp Building


    The area outside the Luthor-Corp building was a hive of activity. Police, paramedics, SWAT and National Guardsmen were all running around, most moving in and out of the office block.

    Lex had done it, with a few seconds to spare he had thrown the bomb out the window, and it had exploded in mid-air. He and Clark had been showered in glass as a result of the explosion, but thankfully only suffered cuts and scratches. Even better, no one had been in the alley when the bomb went off.

    After exiting the building and confirming that Chloe was ok Clark left to accompany Lana and Eve to the hospital. Lucas took it upon himself to talk to the police while Lex was looked over by a doctor.

    Chloe stood, clad in a blanket, a cup of coffee in her hands looking up at the building. The adrenalin had worn off and now she felt very tired. Drawing her gaze from the building a small smile appeared on her face as she saw Lex coming towards her.

    He greeted her with a small smile in return and stood beside her as they watched the various emergency personnel go about their business.

    “Where there any causalities?” she asked.

    “Other than the unconscious security guards and Lana’s concussion, no,” replied Lex, “thankfully. A second later… well we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

    Chloe narrowed her eyes as she looked at him, the past 24 hours tension and stress had taken it’s toll on him and she could clearly see the guilt he felt over what had happened written all over his face. He blamed himself, it was his fund raising party, in his office block and the captors had been looking for files on his system.

    “I have no idea what they wanted,” he continued, weariness evident in his voice, “there isn’t a single file missing from the mainframe… not a damn thing,” he ran his hand over his head, “chalk this one up as another mystery to be solved, possibly on the list under Lionel’s name.”

    Chloe gently laid her hand on Lex’s arm, “you did a good thing Lex, you saved the day,”
    she said with a smile, “Like you said the outcome could have been tragic. This wasn’t your fault Lex.” Despite everything, she meant the words. She might not always agree with him, might still have her doubts about the path he was on, about the things he wasn’t telling her, but she knew he wouldn’t let anything happen to her. It was a strange and dangerous friendship, but she realized it was one nonetheless. And with all the guilt they were all carrying around lately, she wanted to help alleviate some of it for Lex.

    Lex felt something close in his throat at her words. The fact that she didn’t blame him, despite everything she knew about him, the things he’d done, it was more than he’d hoped. Theirs was a strained and strange one, but he finally realized that it was a friendship he valued more than most. He was about to cover her hand with his when Lucas came over, “sorry to interrupt guys but the press people are really clamouring for a quote from you Lex.”

    “Ok, I’ll say something. Thank you Chloe,” and then nodding to his brother headed over to the waiting press.

    “You ok?” asked Lucas, turning to look at Chloe.

    “I will be,” she replied, her eyes watching Lex, her mind wondering what Jason would have said about her decision to believe Lex. The thought of Jason brought its usual melancholy but this time, something else stirred inside her heart and mind. The events of today had been traumatic, but they’d also shown her how short life could be. Too short, she was sure
    Jason would say, to mourn what had been lost.

    “What a day,” murmured Lucas, rubbing the back of his neck, “I feel like getting very drunk, maybe I can convince Lex to join me when he is done.”

    “Lucas, remember what you said before we left Smallville about the prom,” said Chloe. She could swear Jason was smiling at her from somewhere in the sky above her. She would never forget him, never forget what they’d shared, but she could finally allow herself to let go.

    “Yes, why?”

    “Well I was wondering if the offer was genuine?”

    Lucas looked at her, sensing a new sense of determination and calmness about her.

    Something had changed in Chloe Sullivan in the past 24 hours and he had to admit, it was
    a relief to see the spark, still dim, but definitely back in her eyes. “Yes it was, are you sure about this Chloe?”

    “Yes, after tonight and what happened to Jason,” she swallowed hard after saying his name, “I need to do this, and although I can’t go to my prom with him, spending it with someone I consider a friend would be a close second,” she gave him a small smile.

    “I’ll have to see if I’m free of course,” he teased, “I am rather popular as a prom date as you can imagine…” he paused as her smile widened. “But I think my calendar’s free and I’d be honored to take you Chloe.”

    Chloe nodded before turning back to watch the activity around her.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    “You don’t seem too upset that the building survived,” grinned Ivan, “or that the files were fake.”

    “I’m not, on either count. This entire plan was to scare Lex Luthor, and if possible find out something about the whereabouts of Lionel Luthor. But I do believe his son has no idea where the snake is.”

    Ivan shivered at the menace in her voice. “You really have it in for the Luthors, don’t you ma’am?”

    A bitter laugh was his only reply.

    “So what now?” asked Ivan, feeling slightly uncomfortable at the almost maniacal laughter.

    “We continue to keep an eye on Lex and that silly little town he calls home. Lionel is bound to put in an appearance eventually; the urge to govern his son’s life will be too great. And when he does, the Luthor will pay for what they’ve done to my family.”

    “Yes Mrs Teague, of course…”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    TO BE CONTINUED IN EPISODE 18

  2. #2
    An Accused Heretic Senior Member Kit Merlot's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 17 - Countdown (PG-13)

    What an action packed chapter!

    I like that it was Chloe, Lex, and Lucas to the rescue instead of Clark's saving the day

    And Jason's mom is pretty damn evil--nicely done on this episode.
    Last edited by Kit Merlot; 3rd January 2010 at 04:27.
    KATHY

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  3. #3
    NS Full Member TrinityR's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 17 - Countdown (PG-13)

    Great episode! Though I would really like Chloe and Lex to finally be closer! And I have only three episodes left to read!

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