by Starsky Hutch 76
Lex Luthor, disguised as Kobra, sat at the end of a long table opposite Ra’s al Ghul, who was flanked by his daughter Talia, his large and faithful servant Ubu, and several of his soldiers. Kobra/Luthor was flanked by Louto Malono, the siamese twins Pluto and Plato Statler, and several snake-uniformed soldiers. Though they were exchanging pleasantries and a glass of wine, they eyed each other as if engaged in a difficult game of chess.
“You have my interest, Kobra, which is why you have gotten as far as you have. It is time to set hollow pleasantries aside now.” He poured himself a glass of wine and handed it back to the servant, who immediately went to the other end of the table to offer the bottle to Kobra/Luthor.
“Of course,” Kobra/Luthor said, taking the bottle and pouring himself another glass. He took a sip and said, “Excellent.” He snapped his fingers and gestured to two of the snake-uniformed soldiers.
“Yes, Naja-Naja,” they said, bringing a display covered with a sheet to the table. They bowed and then backed up to where they stood before.
“What do we have here?” Ra’s Al Ghul said.
Kobra/Luthor yanked the sheet off with flourish, revealing a model of the city of Metropolis. In places where there was still kryptonite in the actual city, there was a familiar shiny yellow metal.
“An expensive model,” Ra’s Al Ghul remarked.
“The actual element was far too valuable to use,” Kobra/Luthor said. “And you’ll see why I chose this particular element for the display in a few seconds.”
A device was placed near the model that looked like a miniature laser cannon. More gold was dumped onto the city. “This represents the kryptonite you and I have already taken,” Kobra/Luthor said. “It has been specially treated for the experiment. It will react to that which is already in the city.”
A miniature version of one of Kobra’s airships flew over the model, controlled by remote by one of the snake-uniformed soldiers. It released a chemical spray onto the model. “This is to treat the remainder of the city.” He pointed to the miniature cannon and said, “This device acts as the catalyst.”
The device fired, enveloping the model in energy. Suddenly, the entire model was transformed to gold. A fly that had the misfortune to fly in the vicinity of the model fell to the table, now gold as well. It went through brief death throes before growing still.
“Amazing,” Ra’s al Ghul said. “You have broken the secrets of the ancient alchemists and can turn lead and other common elements into gold. You could have wealth beyond imagining.”
“I already have wealth,” Kobra/Luthor said. “What I want is revenge. With this process, using our kryptonite and what is left in Metropolis, Superman’s city shall become his tomb. Every brick, every rock, every living being shall be transformed!” He slammed his fist into his other open hand for emphasis. “In every respect, it shall become a Kryptonite City. If he’s lucky, his invulnerability won’t protect him, and he’ll die a quick-though-very-painful death. Otherwise, he’ll die slowly and agonizingly, which I would prefer.”
Ra’s al Ghul looked intrigued. “Such hatred. Assuredly, Superman has thwarted your plans before, but no more than Batman or other members of the cape-wearing community. Why this sudden vitriol for the Man of Steel? It puzzles me. You have this amazing invention, and you should choose to use it in this manner — for the destruction of one man — when it could be used for wealth and power, which has always been the goal of the Cobra Cult.” He leaned forward and eyed Kobra/Luthor warily. “Tell me, what is it you are hiding beneath that scaly cowl of yours?”
The real Kobra floated in the seemingly endless void Lex Luthor had named the L-Zone in honor of himself. It was a void outside of time and space, much like the Phantom Zone. And like the Phantom Zone, it was a prison that would last for all eternity to those unfortunate enough to be sent there.
Such was the fate Luthor had planned for him, but he would find a way out. Of that much, he was certain.
As he had so many times during the indefinable span he’d been in the zone, when he thought of moving, he seemed to blink out of existence and reappear elsewhere. He appeared next to debris that had somehow also become trapped in the zone — damaged machinery that had obviously been sent there as a result of an explosion, a failed experiment, perhaps. What were Luthor’s words? “It could have been my greatest triumph. But Superman ruined it, like he’s ruined so much in my life. Now it serves as a monument to my pain.”
Did this equipment belong to Luthor? The circuitry in his uniform had managed to capture the energy signature of Luthor as he transported them to this realm. All he lacked was the means to use it. Perhaps he could use this equipment to escape this prison.
He was distracted from his thoughts by a figure floating toward him from the distance. As the figure grew close enough for him to be able to make it out, he thought he must be losing his sanity. It appeared to be a bald woman in a wedding dress. Then he remembered the newscasts some years before in which he’d seen her before. “Angela Blake?” he gasped. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Luthor’s Day of Reckoning,” Action Comics #512 (October, 1980).]
“Do you want to be a part of this or not?” Lex Luthor snapped, fuming beneath the hologram, a simulated visage of Kobra.
“Oh, most assuredly,” Ra’s al Ghul said. “An event such as the one you’re planning cannot help but throw the United States into chaos. A major metropolitan city such as it is… instantly transformed? The entire country would be in a panic. The possibilities are endless.”
“But Father, what of your own plans for Metropolis?” Talia whispered into Ra’s al Ghul’s ear as she leaned forward eyeing Kobra/Luthor warily.
“Consider them a contingency plan,” he whispered back, touching the side of her face lovingly. “Either way, the Kryptonian will be crushed. But so much more will result from our scaly friend’s plan.”
Ra’s al Ghul turned back to Kobra/Luthor. “What will you need from me to make this plan a success?”
“The Cobra Cult has enough air power for all the kryptonite — if you are willing to donate it to the cause.”
“Certainly,” Ra’s al Ghul said, raising his glass. “It is at your disposal. After all, if this plan works, there will most certainly be enough kryptonite for you, I, or anyone.”
“Truer words were never spoken,” Kobra/Luthor laughed.
Nearby, one of Kobra’s soldiers sweated nervously beneath his cowl. I’ve got to get out of here somehow and get word to my superiors! But for the life of him, secret agent Cory Renwald didn’t know how he would do it.
“Now that the formalities of our plan are settled,” Ra’s al Ghul said, “perhaps you and I should adjourn to my study to talk more in private. After all, the world could become a very different place as a result of our actions. We should discuss what place your organization and mine will have in it.”
“True… true,” Kobra/Luthor said. “Let us be off, then.” He turned to his Kobra foot-soldiers and said, “All return to your ships except for my elite guard, who shall be posted outside the study.”
“Yes, Naja-Naja,” the soldiers said, bowing before turning off in the direction of the Kobra aircrafts. Louto, Pluto, and Plato watched nervously as their leader left with the master of assassins.
Ra’s al Ghul poured two cognacs from his private stock and offered Kobra/Luthor a cigar from a wooden box. “Havana?”
“Fine cognac and a good Cuban cigar on top of wine from your own private reserves. You’re starting to spoil me,” Kobra/Luthor laughed.
“I wouldn’t think that the greatest scientific mind the criminal world has ever known would think anything was too good for him. Is that not so, Mr. Luthor?”
“What?” Lex Luthor sputtered, nearly choking on his cognac.
“Come, now, Mr. Luthor. Such tricks may fool the untrained masses, but I’ve lived a very long time. I assume the disguise is located somewhere in that magnificent armor of yours. Holograms, perhaps?”
With a burst of static, the image of Kobra disappeared and was instantly replaced by that of an unhappy Lex Luthor. “If you were serious about your earlier interest in my plan, I assume you know it hinges on those fools outside continuing to believe I am the real leader of the Cobra Cult.”
“Of course,” Ra’s al Ghul said, laughing as he lit Lex Luthor’s cigar. “I have absolutely no intention of revealing your secret.”
Agent Cory Renwald looked over his shoulder, watching cautiously as the Kobra soldiers went about their various duties. When he thought it was safe, his fingers moved rapidly across the keyboard. He pressed the button to send out his message and silently prayed the necessary parties would recognize it and be able to decode it.
“Soldier, you are not at your correct station,” a Kobra officer said.
“Yes, sir,” Agent Renwald said. “I will return to my post at once.”
As the covert agent left, the Kobra officer stared at the computer console he had been at. Seeing nothing unusual, he went about his business.
“We received this transmission at approximately 09:00 hours today,” General Tom Hartley told a grim-faced Superman.
“As if my city hasn’t been through enough,” Superman said. “Facing Kobra would be bad enough,” he said, flashing back to the time the leader of the Cobra Cult had buried Metropolis in sand. “But Kobra and Ra’s al Ghul?”
“Perhaps Batman should be called in on this,” the General said. “He’s the expert on dealing with Ra’s al Ghul. Between the two of you–”
“Batman has his own problems to deal with right now,” Superman said. “Considering all that has happened in Gotham, with Swamp Thing’s retaliation for his wife’s trial and the escaped Arkham inmates, his city’s in almost as bad shape as mine.”
“If what Agent Renwald tells us is true, Gotham won’t be safe from this threat for long, either. Ra’s al Ghul could hold it or any city hostage,” the General said.
“I’ll be sure to pass that on to him,” Superman said. “In the meantime, I know of someone else I might be able to call on for help in dealing with this.” He gritted his teeth. Now, not only was he worried about the kryptonite poisoning his city, but the lives of all its citizens as well. Not only that, he was deeply concerned for Agent Renwald. Now that Kara was dead, Cory was the closest thing he had to family left on Earth. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Zero Hour For the Kents,” New Adventures of Superboy #19 (July, 1981).]
Kobra cursed as sparks shot out from the machinery as he attempted to manipulate the circuitry. Though given the best education possible by the Cobra Cult that had raised him to be their messiah, he hardly considered himself a scientist, much less in the league of Lex Luthor when it came to technical know-how.
He was determined to figure out the purpose of the machinery he had found, though, and to repair it and make it work for him. His life’s goal was now to make Lex Luthor pay. His gaze drifted to the comatose form of Angela Blake anchored by a cable to the machinery he worked on to keep her from drifting off into the endless void of the L-Zone. By her glazed expression, he could tell the woman clad in a wedding dress was still in shock from her imprisonment. Somehow, she would be the tool with which he acquired his revenge. He smiled to himself in satisfaction as he continued to work.