Monday, April 03, 2006

Abstract, Chapter 3

Season 3, sequel to "Whisper"
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC comics, not to me

By the time I caught up with Chloe, she was crouched in front of the plate glass windows, mostly hidden (I hoped) from the robber, or robbers, by a large pyramid of two-liter sodas just inside the windows. Thank God she hadn’t gone straight into the store and started taking photos. I wouldn’t have put it past her to do something so incredibly stupid in the pursuit of a story, but apparently she wasn’t quite as reckless as I’d feared.

She was clicking away enthusiastically, but she looked up when I dropped down beside her. “Clark!” she exulted. “I can’t believe the luck! It’s not just any old robber. It’s a meteor freak!”

I was relieved to find that I could still focus on her voice, even outside, where the noise of the city was louder and more overwhelming. The roar pounded against my skull, but I did my best to ignore it and squinted into the building. Sure enough, there was something really weird in there. There was a gun, all right, but it almost seemed to be hovering in midair, against a colorful backdrop of soup cans and soda bottles. Something was holding it, a mass of colors that shifted and swirled. It looked almost like an abstract painting come to life.

“Weird,” she said. “He’s almost invisible, but not quite.”

“Chromatophores,” I said.

She looked away from the camera and stared at me. “Huh?”

“Am I the only one who pays attention in biology?”

“I pay attention. But not all of us have your freakishly perfect memory. What the hell is a chrome—whatever you just said?”

“Chromatophores,” I repeated. My stomach turned over with the effort of forcing out words, but I kept talking anyway. “The cells… chameleons have in their skin.”

“I get it,” she said, looking back into the store and clicking away. “You mean his skin is trying to shift colors so we can’t see him?”

“Yeah. But I think there’s too many colors around him, and it’s not… not working quite right.”

“It’s a good trick, though. It would make it impossible for witnesses to identify him. And it also means he’s not wearing any clothes.” She made a face. “Gross. He’s holding up the HastyMart naked.”

I looked through the window again, leaning my forehead against the plate glass, and saw she was right. The guy was clad in nothing but chromatophores, all the way from head to toes. Lovely. Fortunately most of his anatomical features weren’t really visible, thanks to the color-changing effect, but still. Bleah.

I glanced away from Chameleon Guy and noticed there was a body sprawled on the tiles. “The guy on the floor—“

“It’s the motorcyclist. He must have walked in on the robbery.”

Despite the fact that my head was killing me, my stomach was roiling, and I wanted very much to go home and never, ever leave Smallville again, I kept myself upright and studied the fallen man more carefully. I was pretty sure the motorcyclist would live to rev his engine again. It looked like he’d been hit in the head, but he was definitely still breathing.

But the fact that Chameleon Guy hadn’t hesitated to clobber an innocent bystander with the butt of his handgun meant that he wasn’t messing around. Pain or no pain, I really needed to stop this guy before he seriously hurt someone.

I forced my X-ray vision to activate, and saw that underneath the weird chromatic effect of his skin, the meteor freak had a perfectly normal human skeleton. And then I saw that the skeleton was heading for the door. The robbery was over, and it was time for the getaway.

My heart started to thud heavily, and I realized it wasn't just because of the noise-induced headache. I was scared. The last time I'd gotten in the way of a holdup, an accident involving my heat vision and a piece of kryptonite had left me blind for two days-- a terrifying experience I wasn't eager to repeat. Intellectually, I was aware it had been a freak occurrence, and the chances of anything similar ever happening again were negligible, but that knowledge didn't make my heart stop pounding. My nausea got worse, and I swallowed hard to keep breakfast where it belonged.

But right now, scared or not, my first duty was to keep Chloe safe. I pushed the panic away. “Chloe,” I said. “Get around the corner, now.”

“What? No, Clark. I need to--”

“Now!” I yanked her up and gave her a shove. She took my less-than-gentle hint and scuttled around the brick corner of the store.

I managed to get into a crouching position, despite the noise hammering at me. I paused for a second to give myself a pep talk.

Even if you’re in pain, even if you're scared, you still have your strength and your speed, I told myself. You can take this guy.

The skeleton walked out the door, and I lunged for him. He fired his handgun reflexively, and I dropped to the ground, yelling in agony.

No, not because he’d shot me. Along with being inhumanly fast and strong, I’m bullet-proof—did I forget to mention that? Anyway, bullets don’t hurt me. When I was younger, they left bruises on my skin, but now they don’t even do that. If the bullet had hit me, I didn’t notice. What hurt was the fact that I’d focused my attention on him, along with my superhearing, and the sharp sound of the gunshot was more than I could take. I found myself curled back into a ball on the sidewalk, my hands clamped over my ears.

Through the haze of pain, I heard a shrill voice yelling some very unladylike expletives. Chloe, I deduced foggily. I cracked open my eyes to see Chloe flinging herself right at the guy.

That was Chloe for you. She’d peered around the corner (probably trying to get one more photo) and seen me go down, and she’d obviously jumped to the conclusion that I’d been shot. So naturally she was now attacking a man with a handgun, armed with nothing other than her fists and a really vile mouth. She was cussing a blue streak, as my dad would say. I’d never heard her swear like that, and I was impressed despite myself.

I guess reporters have to have extensive vocabularies.

The guy actually staggered backward at her attack, then he reached out one of his arms—the skin on it shifting colors all the while in an attempt to match the bricks behind him—and snagged her around the neck. He pressed the gun against the side of her head. Chloe abruptly stopped swearing and struggling, and her eyes went wide with fear. It’s good to know the girl has a little sense. Not much, mind you. But a little.

I tried to force myself to stand up, but the guy aimed his gun at me and fired again, and I fell back to the ground, overcome by a wave of pain. I swear I thought my ears were going to start bleeding. The agony was so excruciating that I blacked out.

When I came to, Chloe and the chameleon guy were gone.

Read Chapter 4 here.

1 comment:

blackheart_me said...

LOL. Love the display of his photographic memory in the beginning and it's refreshing to see Chloe get excited for a story like this again ^_^. Oh man I love that they're working together but ahh hate that the gunshot made him fall. I love Chloe for going all violent on the guy, but the guy has a gun. I gotta go with Clark. Girl doesn't have much sense here :P Oh snap Elly. this ending was MORE of a cliffy :( i'm so glad there's more to this lol.