DC Universe: Deus ex Machina, Chapter 1: The Usurper

by Libbylawrence

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Clark Kent smiled as he entered the Daily Planet Building. Even though his super-senses of sight and hearing allowed the mild-mannered reporter in the blue suit to notice an almost-infinite array of details as he gazed around the busy city room, he relished all he saw and heard. He truly enjoyed his job and felt as if the great metropolitan newspaper was a second home to him.

A man with red hair and freckles glanced up from his own work to greet his pal as Kent drew closer to the other workers. “Clark, that was a nice piece you did on the possible re-formation of the 1000,” said Jimmy Olsen. “Nobody has really followed up on them since they used Metallo against Superman and Cannonball a while back!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: Cannonball: Hero for Hire.]

Clark nodded modestly and replied, “Thanks, Jim. I’d say that criminal group may indeed be up to their old tricks. Some of their old bosses are out of jail and have returned to the city. That can’t be good news for honest citizens.”

Before Jimmy could reply, a pretty woman with dark black hair and a vivacious manner hurried out of the office of Planet editor Perry White. Lois Lane wore a short black dress with heels, and she waved in passing as he crossed the large room. “Like the Beatles sang, hello, goodbye!” she said. “I’m late for my flight to Boston. I can’t afford to be late for my own tribute!

“Congratulations again!” said Clark. “We’re all proud of you.”

Jimmy nodded and said, “Yeah, Lois deserves that Women in Journalism Award for a lot of reasons, in addition to her sensational story on the invasion!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Lois Lane: Where Have All the Heroes Gone?]

Lois shrugged and said, “Thanks, fellas. That story was pretty special to me. I’m flattered the W. in J. group picked it as Outstanding Story of the Year.”

A sultry, redheaded woman in a short pink skirt and white blouse leaned into the doorway and said, “C’mon, luv. I’m not about to share the flight out with Lola. I mean, how many times can she crow about her win for that gossipy story she did on super-hero romances?

“OK, Lana. I’ll just grab my bag and join you,” said Lois.

As she and Lana Lang exited from the room, and Clark leaned over to Jimmy. “Well, I hope Boston is ready for those two,” said Clark. “Trouble can follow them, as well you know.”

“Right!” said Jimmy. “Too bad for trouble that they can usually handle almost anything. Plus, I’m sure Superman will check in on them if they do need help.”

Clark nodded in agreement. “Right.” He was amused at Jim’s deft handling of the fact that he now knew Superman was really Clark Kent. He had proven to be very useful to Clark in helping him keep that fact a secret since he first admitted that he had learned the truth. (*) The two friends walked over to the windows and gazed down as Lois and Lana emerged below and hailed a taxi. I hope they have a good time. I doubt very much could go wrong at a respectable banquet like that, thought Clark.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Revelations.]


In a spacious laboratory in Arizona, a man in a white lab coat paced restlessly as several costumed figures waited patiently for instructions. He rubbed at his black mustache and finally peered nervously over his glasses to address the men and women he had assembled. “He’s in action over Washington state,” he said. “This is your chance to get him and make him pay for what he took from us! This is my chance for bloody revenge!”

A very tall blonde woman said, “Don’t sweat it, Doc. We’ll bring him down. The Power Elite won’t let you down!”

Dr. Harold Melrose remained silent for a moment, then replied, “For your sakes, you’d better succeed. I do not suffer failure lightly!” They hurried out of the lab, leaving the brooding scientist to mutter to himself as he watched a display on a machine.

“That’s right, Starman,” he said in an angry tone. “Enjoy your little joy ride. Your stolen powers won’t be yours much longer!”


Power of a different kind, or the lack of said power was troubling another very different man as he brooded over a beer or three in a Boston bar. He leaned over the counter and said, “I could use another.”

An elegantly demure blonde waitress gazed at him with a perceptive, if dismissive glance. “I’m sorry, sir, but I think you’ve had enough for this… month,” she said.

He nodded and stood up on unsteady feet. “Yeah, thanks… Kelly, is it? Kelly Kelly — what a strange name,” he said as he stumbled out of the bar, running a hand through his long, straggly red hair.

“Well, Len, you’ve worn out your welcome at another bar. Just what is there to do when you’re a balding stud without a friend or dime to his name?” he said, staggering down the sidewalk. Gazing up at the plush Boston Arms Hotel, he said, “Man, I could do with a good night’s rest in a pace like that, but my bedbugs have bedbugs, so I doubt they would welcome me with open arms.”

He looked at a sign on the hotel’s wall and read, “Welcome, Women in Journalism. Sorry, news-babes, but I guess you’ll have to do without my company.” As he made his way down the street, a folded black object fell out of his pocket. He never noticed as he swiftly left the hotel and a bit of destiny behind.


Dr. Harold Melrose was not so much an evil man as he was a driven scientist who regarded himself above concepts of good and evil. He simply viewed the world as a place in which he could experiment for the advancement of a higher cause, namely his own fame and fortune. He had worked with funding derived from the remnants of the criminal organization known as the 100, now known as the 1000. The mob bosses had allowed the scientist to channel their ill-gotten wealth into the creation of a satellite that drew energies from deep space and then broadcast the same power into a tightly focused ray that would grant tremendous power to anyone who came within range of its stellar fire.

He had been prepared for glory shortly after the cosmic Crisis on Infinite Earths shook the universe, but his efforts had failed, or so he thought. Only after rechecking his facts and studying reports of a new super-hero known as Starman had the genius discovered a possible truth. His ray had not failed, but it had been diverted through some cosmic fluke until it had hit a young man beyond Melrose’s control group. This man gained super-powers and became Starman. The glory that Melrose hoped would belong to him through control of his super-powered subjects had wrongfully gone to this usurper.

Melrose worked ceaselessly to achieve two new goals, making use of the limited resources left to him to give different, weaker powers to his own team. The Power Elite became his team of agents. Then he used his scanners to track down the unique cosmic energy that was almost a signature of Starman’s powers when they were in use. Now, with certain rather direct threats from the 1000 looming over his head, Dr. Melrose was desperate to capture Starman and regain what he viewed as his own rightful power.

He looked up eagerly as the team of four men and two women entered. All of them wore variations of a black and gold body-suit. He didn’t feel they needed to display any sign of uniqueness or use colorful names, since they were merely agents serving his own glory. Their purpose was to achieve any goal Melrose, their master, deemed to be necessary. “We got him! We took him down just like we promised!” crowed the burly Dennis Andrews as he gestured to where the super-strong and very tall woman carried in a prone figure.

Sammi Cooper grinned and said, “He folded like a card table after we hit him from all sides.”

The sultry Heather Lodge smiled coldly and said, “I used my shape-shifting powers to appear like a damsel in distress, and he fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.”

“Yeah,” said Stan Mantle. “And I kept him from flying away with my levitation and gravitational power.”

“He was tough, though,” said Frank Jones. “Why deny it? He took a direct hit from my concussive blasts, and he just kept coming like some type of human rocket.”

“He has changed his costume, but we still knew he was the target,” said Dave Doiley.

Dr. Melrose nodded slowly. “Of course, he has to be the one we need. He matched the energy signature, and for better or worse, the accursed Starman is one of a kind!”

Heather smiled wickedly and said, “That’s funny. Your scanner doohickey is blinking like there was another Starman out there!”

Dr. Melrose scowled and turned to look. He didn’t like the way Heather schemed and talked back to him, defying him and making him feel defensive. He gasped in dismay as he saw her words were all too true. “Good heavens! There is another Starman out there! You’ve captured the wrong person! Just who is this being?” he demanded as they glanced down at the stunned young man in red and blue.


At one of many homes owned by the wealthy Steve Dayton, a beautiful young girl sat in meditation within a luxurious botanical wonderland. Dayton’s vast wealth had made the creation of the massive, greenhouse-like complex possible, and perhaps the greatest sign of the man’s thoughtfulness was indicated by the fact that the entire area was designed for the girl in question. She moved her rose petal lips slowly, as if in conversation with the plants around her. This was, in fact, exactly what she was doing. She was talking to the plants. Her uncanny if inhuman beauty made her a natural wonder in several ways. Her pale pink skin, flower petal eyelashes, and nearly bare body marked her as one with a strange and wonderful relationship to the botanical world. She was much like a human/flower hybrid. Her name was Blossom, and she was very much at home here.

A clanging sound echoed through the lush setting as an equally odd man made of metal sheepishly entered the room. Although his metallic features displayed only an unchanging expression of certain if slightly manic determination, he did possess normal human feelings, since his human mind rested inside the artificial body. “Blossom, I hate to intrude like this,” said Cliff Steele. “I guess I’m not exactly demure on a good day. I just wanted to let ya know that I’m headin’ out on a little vacation.”

Blossom smiled and ran a hand through her long flowing hair. She stood up and extended one slender and graceful hand to the cold metal grip of the man once known as Robotman. “Cliff, Blossom, would come with you,” she said softly. “Blossom would enjoy seeing more!”

“Ya sure?” asked Cliff. “I mean, I know ya like to hang out in this hothouse Dayton fixed up for ya. If ya want, sure, you can join me. I’m planning to visit an old pal from the bad old days.”

The plant girl nodded and said, “Blossom would like to meet your old friends. They must be special to have nurtured and germinated one such as you.”

Cliff Steele shook his head and said, “Uh, yeah, right. Well, get packed, and we’ll make tracks.”

She smiled and spread her arms wide as she stood before him in her customary floral bikini. “Blossom is ready,” she said.

He nodded and suggested, “Maybe we could just grab a coat or something from one of the gals.”


At the Boston Arms, dozens of well-known female journalists from print and broadcast media mingled at the Women in Journalism pre-awards social. The elegantly decorated ballroom was filled with famous women whose bylines or images had graced hundreds of papers and screens.

Central City’s Linda Park looked around the room with a certain air of cynicism. She wore a long green gown with high heels, and she tried to conceal the fact that she was more than a little dismissive of the entire affair. The same dinosaurs get honored every year: Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Vicki Vale, the late Iris Allen, she thought. Those same names always dominated this thing. If it is a TV award, leggy Lana gets it. If it is a print award, Superman’s girlfriend Lois gets it. The photo field was always divided between Batman’s special gal Vale and Iris Allen, who kept company with the Ringmaster and the Flash in her day. The Flash — I thought for a while that I was going to use him for a ticket to the top, but that just didn’t pan out. She frowned as Lana Lang entered in a red beaded gown and high heels.

“Well, she sure caught everyone’s eye,” said a black woman in a blue dress.

“Tawny Young? I think I’ve seen your stuff from out west,” said Linda as she turned to face the speaker.

“I broke the story on Green Lantern,” said Tawny, “the second G.L., I mean.”

Linda nodded and said, “I like your style. Very hip, very incisive.”

Tawny rolled her eyes as a very pretty woman with long auburn hair styled in a fluffy hairdo entered in a demure pink gown. “Who’s the prom queen?” she asked. “She looks like she just stepped off a Homecoming float.”

“I don’t know her, either,” said Linda.

The prom queen was smiling happily as she greeted a stunningly clad Lois Lane, who wore a sparkly black gown and heels. “Miss Lane? I’m Megan O’Dell. I admire you so much!” gushed the younger woman.

Lois smiled and said, “Megan? I think I’ve seen a few of your pieces on the Blue Devil. I think you have a real eye for a story.”

“Well, the Blue Devil seems to attract the strangest elements,” said Megan. “I never know when a story about him will lead to an alien invasion or a mad gnome attack.”

The lilac-clad, dark-haired Olivia Ortega of Gotham City listened as she drew closer to the pair. “It’s not like that in Gotham City,” she said. “Batman leads to trouble, but rarely does he mix it up with space aliens or vampires… er, at least not much any more.”

Lois laughed and said, “But working in Gotham City puts a girl at risk of ending up frozen in ice or tied to a giant flaming umbrella or something.”

A soft whistle passed the lips of the slightly tacky Vicki Vale as she saw a blonde in a silver minidress and strap heels enter. “Cat Grant! She is all body and no brains,” said Vicki.

“Oh, don’t judge a book by its cover,” said the pretty, auburn-haired Joan Lincoln.

Vicki nodded and placed one hand on Joan’s bare arm. “Sorry. That was a bit catty. Excuse the expression.”

“Forgive me for being so serious,” said Joan. “I’ve just gotten back from Markovia, and the perils and hardships those brave people face with their heroic ruler makes me get a bit sober.”

A pretty woman in a light blue gown that revealed a lot of leg swept into the room and smiled winningly. “Markovia? Isn’t that home to that gorgeous Geo-Force? We simply must talk!” said Lola Barnett.

The famous women mingled, joked, fawned, and sneered as the evening passed. And as many of them made their way back and forth in and out of the ballroom, a very differently garbed woman appeared.

Outside the ballroom, a lithe woman in a tight red costume and thigh-high, ornate, high-heeled boots and a cross-laced bustier waited in the shadows. The Executrix will collect a nice sum for blowing all these busybodies away, she thought. The 1000 will pay me well to end the careers of snoops like Lois Lane and Lana Lang.

Before she could raise the multiple weapons that were strapped to her back or hips, the Executrix heard a sound and whirled around in a battle stance. Nothing! I must be getting nerves, she thought as she returned to her previous position.

Above her in the shadows of a stairwell, another woman watched in silence. She wore a daring gown and fingered something soft and black in her clenched fists.

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