Earth Crisis – Part 4

Several heroes gathered at the Justice League Watchtower in civilian garb with the purpose of infiltrating a LexCorp press tour of the company’s new Telluric Current Research facility. Clark Kent had arranged for some to have Planet press passes, while Oracle had created credentials for others. Dinah Lance (Black Canary) passed out the latter to those who needed them as they met at the Watchtower. She also informed them that she’d talked with Cave Carson again, and that on her describing the mysterious controllers of the mole monsters they’d encountered at the LexCorp research facility the previous week, he believes he now knows who is behind the attacks on LexCorp and can take the heroes there deep below the Earth.

But for now, the heroes were intent on seeing what they could learn about the LexCorp telluric facility and its possible role in the current Earth Crisis. Firestorm was there as Ronnie Raymond, and Troia in her Donna Troy identity, going as a photographer. Batman was in full disguise as an aging professor, John F. Butler, and Batgirl was disguised as Bonnie Butler, a reporter. Dinah was going with press credentials from the Planet, and CyberArrow was there in civilian ID as well. Batman also indicated that a friend of his who possessed some expertise of value to the excursion would be joining them. This turned out to be a Ms. Katie Johnson, who did indeed join the party as they arrived at the lobby of the LexCorp building.

The tour group was to be led by Lex Luthor himself, and included Planet stalwarts Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen and a young man named Jack Wilde who said he was there as a scientific observer on behalf of Gotham University. Luthor began by promoting himself and his discoveries in telluric current as a great breakthrough and benefit for Metropolis that would usher in a new era of clean affordable energy for the city, as well as offer a means to protect Metropolis from threats such as that posed by Isis and the recent creatures that had attacked the city and LexCorp. He wasn’t too happy with penetrating questions from Lois Lane, Batman as Butler, or Batgirl as Bonnie, but covered over these with his usual bluster. Finally he suggested that those ready for the tour go by his security guard Sam who’d check them with a scanner.

Dinah was feeding a video of the procedings to Oracle via a hidden camera in her press pass, and Oracle warned that her analysis showed the scanner wasn’t just a simple metal detector. Fortunately, Batman had anticipated this and had brought scramblers in his disguise that should mask them against any scans for metahumans or other anomalies. The scramblers seemed to be working–until the metal in CyberArrow’s body set the scanner off. He managed to explain this away as metal rods that were inserted surgically due to a snowmobile accident when he was young. Dinah supported this by claiming she’d seen them set off scanners before when they were working the same story at an airport. Luthor grudgingly allowed him to continue on the tour since Dinah had vouched for him.

Luthor ushered them all into the elevator and they descended into the bowels of the earth below LexCorp to arrive finally at the Telluric Current Research facility. There, they emerged into a large room with a circle of computer banks and control consoles surrounding an odd looking device extending from ceiling to floor, seemingly surrounded by raw cascading electrical currents. As the group gathered around the roped off device, Luthor introduced it as his Telluric Current Generator–the future of energy–and also introduced his chief research scientist on the project, Dr. Helmut Wassermann.

As the reporters began jockeying for position to get photographs and ask questions, Batman began a scan of the device, while alerting his associate Ms. Johnson to attempt to collect any physical evidence she could steal on his signal. Meanwhile, Dinah tried to get Oracle a clear view of the procedings so that she, too, could scan and try to analyize what they were seeing. Donna concentrated on taking as many photos as she could in the hope that analysis of them later would reveal things they might otherwise miss. Batgirl tried to get in more questions from Luthor as a distraction, while Ronnie tried to avoid somehow setting off the device by getting too close to it. Jack Wilde, meanwhile, seemed almost overwhelmed to actually be in a LexCorp research facilty.

On first seeing the supposed Telluric Current Generator, Dinah knew something was wrong, as this definitely wasn’t the same device they saw when the heroes had teleported in previously to the facility, nor was this the same area. Oracle confirmed this with an analysis of the scan she was getting from her feed, and Batman’s scans also indicated that whatever they were being shown, it wasn’t capable of what Luthor was claiming. After Lois Lane labeled it a bunch of props cobbled together from a Frankenstein movie, there was a round of contentious questions from Batman and others, with Luthor continuing to bluff his way through the presentation, touting his own genius in discovering a way to make the telluric current accessible to everyone. Meanwhile, Katie feigned a fall so that she could leave the group and hope to slip away to do some recon and perhaps engage in a bit of pilfery with a guard’s stolen badge that she’d managed to lift.

Finally Batman managed to goad Luthor into a demonstration of his “telluric current generator.” He agreed mainly to shut up the annoying old man, but as he was ordering Dr. Wassermann to start the generator, a slight rumble and barely noticeable tremor could be heard and felt. Ignoring this, the scientist fired up the device and as it began to spark and glow impressively, Luthor crowed over it . . . until Batgirl stumbled into it, hoping to break it and expose its fakery. Instead, she received a nasty jolt for her efforts and a scowl from Luthor. Suddenly, however, a huge crack opened in the floor, causing the device to tip over and send a huge bolt of electricity into Jack Wilde as the ground shook and a pair of volcanic vents erupted into the room, spewing forth dark sulfuric clouds and a spray of lava.

As Wilde’s body seemed to spark with electricity, others in the room panicked. Lab techs hunkered down behind their work stations and the journalists on the tour ran back toward the elevator–only to be stopped as massive steel doors descended on all the openings, sealing off the room. The room went into lockdown, with even the air vents closing on them–not good with the foul gasses the vents were spewing forth. And to make things worse, a pair of lava streams oozed out of the vents and then formed into two huge lava creatures! As pandamonium erupted, Luthor ordered his guards to take on the lava creatures, which quickly proved a suicide mission for most of them, as they were incinerated and reduced to ash one by one.

Batgirl and Donna continued to take pictures of what was happening, including pictures of the now damaged “telluric current generator.” Katie tried to find a way out, while Batman scanned the volcanic vents and the creatures, looking for a way to defeat them. Wilde’s body continued to emit cascading shields of electrical energy, one of which kicked Dinah back when she tried to help the young man, frying her feed to Oracle. As one of the guards who’d hesitated asked Luthor if he shouldn’t stay behind to protect the telluric device, despite its current state, Luthor accidentally blurted out to the man that it was a fake, before catching himself and claiming that he’d set up a fake elsewhere to lure in any potential attackers, in case anyone else had heard him . . .

Donna and the others started trying to get the remaining civilians to move toward the elevator and out of harm’s way, despite there being no way out now, while Ronnie contacted Jason mentally so that the two could merge into Firestorm. Batgirl helped pull Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen away to relative safety and began trying to work on the doors with her computer tablet to try to get it to open again. Batman’s scan of the lava monsters indicated that, like the other menaces they’d faced, these were likely being controlled from a subsonic signal from below. Dinah approached him with the same idea, and Batman gave her the frequency of the signal in the hope she could scramble it with her Canary Cry.

Donna asked Luthor as he, too, headed toward the door about the fire suppression system, which seemed to have malfunctioned, as the room was continuing to fill with fiery gas from the volcanic vents and heat from the lava creatures. As one of the lava monsters shot a stream of lava at the guards, who were desperately shooting at the creatures to no avail (watching their bullets melt), a cascade of sparks from Wilde hit the telluric generator, causing it to explode, downing the techs who’d been hiding at their stations near it. Firestorm decided to try transmuting the floor beneath the lava monsters into water, a technique that had worked for him withi the magma giants previously. Batman began to move quickly now, giving up on emulating an old man, so that he could pass out miniature rebreather units to everyone to help against the rapidly deteriorating air–giving Luthor pause on observing this after seeing Firestorm present already.

As Batman aided Batgirl on trying to open the door, Dinah rushed around the control bank to get out of direct sight of those at the door and aimed a subsonic Canary Cry at one of the lava monsters that had begun trying to burn through the steel door that led to where she believed the actual telluric current device might be hidden. She attempted to emulate the signal pattern Batman had given her. The two creatures had already partially fallen into the pits of water that Firestorm had opened up below them, but they’d somehow managed to spread themselves out to fill the holes and were only partially down. The one at the door was still trying to burn through it, while the other shot a stream of lava back at Firestorm.

Dinah’s Canary Cry hit the one creature, and suddenly a spot at the back of its neck seemed to explode–and it rapidly melted down into slag. The stream of lava from the other was turned into vapor by the Nuclear Man, as meanwhile, the huge steel door blocking the elevator began to buckle from something outside attempting to take it down. Donna managed to find and get the fire suppression system working, and suppressing gasses began to enter the room, putting out the fires and causing the volcanic vents to start shutting down . . . but ironically adding to the problems with the air in the room. As Luthor ordered his few surviving guards to be prepared for whatever was about to come through the steel door, Dinah ran to try to target the other lava creature–only to see its neck also explode from feedback from the first and it, too, melt down to slag.

Just then, the steel door blocking the elevator was suddenly ripped from its moorings and fresh air flooded into the room . . . revealing that it was Wonder Woman behind it. She’d heard from Oracle about what had been happening and had gotten the coordinates and made her way down to the facility to try to rescue those trapped inside. And just in time. Firestorm transmuted what was left of Luthor’s fake telluric generator into a huge fan to help air out the room. Unfortunately, it was too late for Jack Wilde, who finally collapsed from a combination of stress, as the electrical forces played across his body, and asthma. Dinah managed to get to him and help him out of the facility as Wonder Woman waved the others out, ignoring Luthor’s offer of a blank check to her favorite charity in return for her help.

Outside, those in need were ushered to ambulances, while in the confusion, Katie Johnson managed to use the stolen guard’s badge to pilfer . . . something from the building before she made her own escape. As everyone seemed to be all right–and most disguises still intact–the heroes decided to reconvene another day to see what they might have learned from the night’s excursion. Dinah, meanwhile, resolved to contact Cave Carson to see if they could get to the bottom–literally–of who was attacking LexCorp. Even if Luthor had instigated it with his telluric experiements, too much damage and death was resulting from the attacks. And there was still Isis to worry about . . .

To be continued . . .

Heroes Present: Dinah Lance (Black Canary), John F. Butler (Batman), Bonnie Butler (Batgirl), Donna Troy (Troia), Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm), CyberArrow, Wonder Woman.

Villains Present: Lex Luthor, LexCorp Security, Lava Creatures.

Civilians Present: Katie Johnson (?), Jack Wilde (?), Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Dr. Helmut Wassermann, LexCorp lab techs, reporters on the tour.

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