Monday, April 03, 2006

Redemption, Chapter 1

Season 5, sequel to "Vengeance"
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC comics, not to me

Things had been perfectly okay between me and Chloe earlier in the day. I’d dropped by the Daily Planet, the newspaper in Metropolis where Chloe worked, to see how she was.

“I’m fine,” she answered absently, clicking away at her keyboard. The office was quiet, and no one else was within earshot. “Just composing the usual hard-hitting journalistic opus.”

“I thought you were doing obituaries and wedding announcements.”

She glanced up briefly and stuck out her tongue. “Thank you so much for reminding me of cold, hard reality, Clark.”

I bit back a grin. Chloe could always make me smile, even lately, when things had been pretty bleak. We’ve been good friends forever, and in some ways I’m closer to her than I am to my girlfriend, Lana Lang. My relationship with Lana left me frequently confused. Like right now, when we were “on a break.” Whatever the hell that meant. My friendship with Chloe, on the other hand, never confused me, and I always knew where I stood with her. She was someone I could depend on. Someone I could lean on.

“I actually figured maybe you’d be writing something about Andrea,” I said.

Chloe and I had just been through a wild couple of days. This meteor freak, whom Chloe had dubbed “The Angel of Vengeance,” had saved my mom from muggers. Apparently she’d been hanging around Metropolis for a couple of months, kicking bad guys’ asses, and she’d happened across my mom getting mugged, just in time to save her life.

We’d discovered that the so-called Angel actually worked at the Daily Planet, and her real name was Andrea. She was gorgeous in an athletic way, with all this shiny black hair and a figure that looked pretty amazing in her black and red costume, and we’d sort of connected because both of us had lost parents recently. I thought she was cool, and the whole vigilante thing was kind of inspiring.

Unfortunately, I’d seen the darker side of vigilantism when she’d chosen to kill someone. I still felt pretty guilty about the whole thing. I’d been right there, but totally unable to save the guy, because Andrea had immobilized me with this kryptonite pendant she wore. I’d had no choice but to lie there on the ground, unable to move, just listening to him scream for mercy while she stabbed him to death.

Even though the guy was a lowlife who’d killed her mother (and happened to be the very same one who’d mugged my mom), killing someone for revenge was stepping over the line, and Andrea knew it. She’d cleaned out her Daily Planet desk and disappeared, and Chloe and I figured she was gone from Metropolis for good.

“I might write that article,” Chloe said now, “if I had any solid proof of her identity, or any eyewitnesses besides an alien who probably doesn’t want his name to appear in the paper unnecessarily.” She looked away from the screen and shot me a curious glance. “Speaking of which, why isn’t the alien at school? Don’t you have World History on Wednesdays?”

“Um,” I said. I'd been attending Central Kansas A&M, which was right in Smallville. “The thing is, I kind of dropped out of school for a while.”

She stopped clicking and looked up at me. “Say what?”

“There’s a lot of work to be done on the farm,” I said stiffly. I’d already had this discussion with my mom a couple of days before, and I was more than a little defensive on the subject. “My mom can’t handle it alone.”

“Clark,” she said in a soft voice. She stood up, rested her hip on the corner of her desk, and put a hand on my arm. “I know you’re still grieving for your dad, but you can’t stop living.”

“I’m not,” I said, lifting my chin and looking over her head. That look of deep sympathy in her eyes made my throat close up, and I didn’t want to bawl like a baby in the Daily Planet offices. That would be a bit on the embarrassing side. “It’s just that my mom needs me right now.”

She narrowed her eyes into hazel slits. “And you can’t get all the work done and go to classes too? I have two words for you, Clark. Super. Speed.”

As a Kryptonian, I can run pretty fast. I can get from Smallville to Metropolis in under ten minutes, and since it’s a three-hour drive by car, I can obviously pretty much scorch the pavement when I want to. So Chloe’s comment had a lot of merit. But I bristled anyway.

“Some things can’t be done at superspeed, Chloe. Like taking care of the animals. It freaks them out when I move that fast. And you can’t milk a cow at superspeed.”

“Even so,” she said, obviously trying to keep her voice calm and reasonable. “You can do most things at superspeed, can’t you? You can get it all done. There’s no good reason for you to drop out of school.”

I knew she was right, but I didn’t want to admit it. “It’s not like I’m quitting forever, Chlo. Just this semester.”

“Yeah, that’s what Lois said, and now look at her.” Lois Lane was Chloe’s cousin, and my personal candidate for Most Annoying Person Ever. Being compared to Lois really irritated the hell out of me, and Chloe knew it. “She’s making minimum wage serving cappuccinos over at the Talon. She could really do something worthwhile with her life, Clark. So could you. But you guys need to get your acts together.”

I glared at her, feeling belligerent. Which was fine, since I preferred that to feeling like I might bawl. “There’s nothing wrong with working on a farm, Chloe. My father did it all his life. So did his father.”

“Whoa,” she said, holding up her hands. “Point those eyes somewhere else, buddy. I don’t want you to set my desk on fire. Or me.”

Along with superspeed, I have heat vision, which enables me to set things on fire just by looking at them. I’d never set my best friend on fire, though. Although I have to admit I was seriously tempted the time she dropped by the farm, snuck up to my room, stole a pair of my boxers, and proceeded to run them up the Smallville High flagpole the next day.

But I digress. The fact was, I was overreacting, and I knew it. I tried to tamp down my annoyance a bit. “I’m just saying that working on the farm is doing something worthwhile with my life, Chlo.”

“Working on your family’s farm is fine,” she admitted, “if that’s what you really want to do for the rest of your life. But is it?”

I sighed. I knew perfectly well that the idea of working on the farm forever didn’t really thrill me. The problem was, my dad had just died and I had to hold the farm together for my mom. I could easily see how I could wind up doing it for the rest of my life out of a sense of obligation. Just like that guy in that old movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the guy who dreamed of traveling the world but never left his hometown because of family responsibilities. I had this sinking feeling that I might never leave Smallville.

Not exactly the way I’d envisioned my life turning out.

I looked down at my dad’s old watch, which was on my wrist, and swallowed hard. “It’s what I have to do right now, Chloe.”

She nodded and patted my arm. “I understand,” she said softly. “A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, right?”

Well, that was a different movie from the one I’d been thinking of, but it worked.


“Okay,” she said. “I understand. But you can’t limit your options, okay? You need to get back to school next semester.”

I nodded. “I will,” I promised.

“Cool,” she said. She sat back down at her chair and started typing again. “I have to finish this obit,” she said. “But after that, since you’re free, you want to have a coffee with me?”

Chloe is incapable of going more than five minutes without caffeine. I think it’s the fuel that runs her, in the same way that the sun fuels my superpowers. I’m solar-powered, and Chloe is coffee-powered.

“Sure,” I answered. “Over at the Coffee Depot?”

She nodded, already immersed in her work. “Uh-huh,” she said absently. “I’ll meet you over there in a few.”

Read chapter 2 here.

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