by Starsky Hutch 76
“Here is your child as you requested, Queen Mother,” the nurse said as she entered Angela Blake’s bedroom and handed her her infant son.
“Where is my other baby?” she asked.
“I’m right here, mother,” an imperious voice said from the doorway.
Angela looked over to the doorway, and for a split second she thought her husband had been returned to her. It was not him, though. The kindness was missing from his eyes, the kindness their love had put there. This was not the Kobra who had rescued her from the L-Zone and had nursed her back to health. He looked more like the cruel Kobra she had seen in news photos and television casts.
“I have lost my child,” she said sadly.
“Nonsense, mother. I’m still here,” he said, entering the room, followed by two of the elders. He was wearing the same haughty smile, as if he were the parent addressing the child. “I have just assumed my rightful position sooner. If you feel lacking for not having raised me, you still have my brother. But my people need me to lead them now.”
“Of course,” Angela said sadly, drawing her remaining infant closer to her.
“Rest, Queen Mother. Gather your strength,” the new Kobra said. “We are about to enter a glorious new age. You shall see.” He turned to the doorway and looked back over his shoulder toward them, specifically at his infant brother, and his expression made Angela’s blood run cold. And he and the elders left the room.
“We have a problem,” the new Naja-Naja said to the elder who walked with him as he walked away from the Queen Mother’s suite.
“My father and his brother had a psycho-genetic link that came close to killing him on several occasions. Enemies were even able to duplicate that link after his brother’s death. If my brother has this same link, he could be a threat to me, to the Cobra Cult, and thus to Kahndaq. He needs to be dealt with now, before that can happen.”
Angela slowly closed the door and stepped back, horrified. Her baby was in danger — the only baby she had left.
Holding her infant to her, she quickly moved to the dresser and pulled out a small device. Lex had slipped it to her discreetly when he had moved to her side. If she had not been in the throes of labor, she might have thrown it back at him. Instead, she had clutched it in a death-grip throughout the entire delivery.
It was a small black device about the size of a pack of gum, with a single switch on it. She had no idea what it did, but instinct told her it was a way out. She hit the switch, and she and her child vanished from the room.
Angela and her child reappeared in the living room of a house a continent away. Her adrenaline was running too high to sit still, so she immediately began exploring her surroundings.
The western décor told her she was, thankfully, far from Kahndaq. The house also appeared to be empty, which was a relief. This was one of the many safe-houses Lex Luthor maintained throughout the globe.
A sudden realization hit her that Lex might show up to see if she had used the device, and she didn’t want to see him. He might have given her the means to escape, but he was still the man who had killed her husband.
She moved to one of the bedrooms and looked around. As she threw open the closet doors, she made a startled but happy noise. Inside was a closet full of expensive-looking, high fashion women’s clothing. She realized this room must have belonged to Wanda Nordo, who had been in Luthor’s last gang before she had been killed during Kobra’s invasion of Black Island.
Angela quickly pulled on a casual sundress and sandals and then continued to rummage through the closet. She found a large suitcase and filled it full of clothes. As she dug through the back of the closet, she let out a gasp. Underneath a pile of clothes were stacks upon stacks of bundles of Italian lire.
“Well, that answers the question of where I am,” she said to herself. “Looks like Wanda didn’t have much faith in the Italian banking system.”
She found a duffelbag and quickly began shoving the stacks of money into the bag, filling it nearly to the top before shoving in two sweatshirts over the pile to hide it should anyone look inside.
After looking through the house, she found a laundry basket and piled blankets inside it to serve as a makeshift bassinet. She held her child to her and continued to check the house.
When she got to the garage, she let out a gasp. Inside was a shiny, practically new silver Ferrari. A sweep of the vehicle found a spare key box secured with a magnet to the underside of the car.
After throwing the suitcase and duffelbag in the trunk, Angela placed the basket with the baby into the passenger seat and then climbed in the driver’s seat and started the engine. Once the garage doors raised up, she pulled out onto the road and toward freedom.
For once, Clark Kent didn’t feel slowed down by ordinary air travel as he rode the plane back from Kahndaq. He was glad for the opportunity to just sit, gather his thoughts, and relax — try to relax, anyway.
The newscasts and magazines were filled with the Cobra Cult’s whitewash of events, declaring victory against the invaders. There was even a new Kobra pretending to be the old one. As far as Clark Kent’s own news team knew, it was the same guy, so it would be hard to expose the truth without exposing himself.
Back in his Superboy days, Pa Kent had tried time and time again to keep him from beating himself up when someone would die on his watch. He still remembered the speech Pa Kent had given him the first time it happened. “You can’t save everyone. These crazy, wonderful powers of yours give you abilities beyond your fellow man, and, as a result, responsibilities to your fellow man, too. They do not, however, make you a god. You’re still only mortal. You did your best, and that’s all anyone can ask of you in the end.
“Thanks, Pa,” he had said glumly. “I still feel bad, though.”
“You wouldn’t be half the man you are if you didn’t,” Pa Kent said. “How many people did you save today?”
“I dunno… a lot.”
“A lot of people who wouldn’t be around if you hadn’t been there for them. Families who won’t know loss and tragedy because you were there for them. You can’t save everyone, son. So don’t dwell on the ones you couldn’t save. Consider the ones you did.”
Those words had stayed with him throughout his career as Superboy and had carried on into his career as Superman. He tried to hear those words now as he closed his eyes for some much-needed rest, but they did little to drown out the screams of the hurt and dying Kahndaqis that still echoed through his head.
Lex Luthor slumped sullenly in his chair as he watched the news from Kahndaq. Victory did not taste half as sweet as he had anticipated. The Cobra Cult had apparently already found itself an impostor to act as their fallen leader, so the only ones who knew he had won were himself, Angela, and Superman.
That was what really galled him. He had beaten Superman, slain Kobra, and he still wasn’t happy.
In a way, he felt cheated. The man he had faced in Kahndaq was not the man he had nursed a hatred for, not the man whose death he had so eagerly sought. Angela Blake had already defeated that foe. The Kobra he had faced had been someone new entirely — a loving husband and the savior of Kahndaq. He had killed a good man and discovered there was no joy in it.
If Kobra’s death had left him feeling so unhappy, so empty inside, then what would his final defeat of Superman feel like? If there was a chance that it would be just as unfulfilling, then what was left for him?
Lex Luthor rested his head in his hands. Now he was really depressed.