Friday, May 19, 2006

Here Without You, Chapter 6

Season 5, following my story "What the World Could Be," which followed "Void"
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the WB and DC Comics, not to me

The agony was so intense that Clark could hardly breathe. His stomach lurched, and he was pretty sure that he was going to throw up again. He could only hope it would be all over Fine.

“All right,” Fine said. His angular face was set in a rather nasty smirk. “Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about releasing Zod.”

Clark gritted his teeth against the pain and managed to force a single word out. “Never.”

“If you take me to the Fortress,” Fine said, “I’ll give you this.” He reached into a pocket and produced a long, purple crystal, which looked a lot like the one he’d tried to trick Clark into using to destroy the Fortress and release Zod. One piece of Kryptonian technology looked a lot like another, as far as Clark was concerned. “It’s programmed to take you back into the past and correct what I did.”

“What… did you do?”

Fine smiled. “That’s something you’ll have to figure out on your own, Kal-El. But at least with this, you’ll have a chance.” He didn’t relent, kept the kryptonite pressed firmly against Clark’s face, and he could almost smell his skin burning. “Otherwise, you’ll die in agony, and your beloved Miss Sullivan will have been erased from reality, forever.”

Clark swallowed against the bile that rose in his throat. “I’m not… releasing… Zod,” he whispered. “No matter what.”

“Just like your father,” Fine commented coolly. “He was willing to die for his beliefs, too. Misguided though they were.”

He moved the meteor rock, so it pressed against Clark’s forehead. The skin burned, and Clark hissed in pain. He struggled to move his arm, just a little, but couldn’t.

“Are you really willing to die for these people? People who would fear you if they knew what you were? People who would imprison you, torture you in the name of science, even kill you because you aren’t one of them?”

A whimper of pain rose up in Clark’s throat, and he clenched his jaw together to keep it inside. He wasn’t going to give Fine the satisfaction of hearing him whimper.

“Yes,” he answered at last, fighting to keep his voice steady despite the pain. “I’m willing to die for them.”

Fine's face suddenly contorted in rage. “You are so totally unworthy,” he snarled. “Putting the good of these ignorant apes above—“

His voice trailed off, and he suddenly staggered to his feet, still clutching the kryptonite. The rock dropped to the ground, a few feet away, and Clark rolled away from it. Still shaking, he managed to get to his knees, groping frantically in his pocket for the device Jor-El had given him.

Then he looked up and saw Fine twitching spasmodically. The pitchfork Clark had dropped earlier was sticking out of his back, and Martha stood behind him, her eyes narrowed in fury.

Gratitude and affection flooded Clark. His mom wasn’t ordinarily a violent person, but she’d defend her child to the death if needed. Although her actions had been wildly reckless, because Clark would never have imagined the pitchfork would be able to penetrate Fine's artificial skin. Apparently Fine wasn't invulnerable in the same way he himself was, and his body didn't generate a protective field the way true Kryptonians' did. But in all likelihood, whatever Fine was constructed of beneath his changeable outer layer didn't need protection.

Clark seriously doubted something as primitive as a pitchfork was enough to kill Fine, and in fact the pitchfork hadn't penetrated far, only an inch or two, but it had certainly disrupted the AI's functions to a certain degree. At least it had given him the few seconds of distraction that he needed. He forced himself to his feet, yanked the device from his pocket, and slammed it into Fine’s chest.

Fine disappeared in a flash of light, and the pitchfork fell to the floor with a clang, along with the purple crystal.

Clark stood, breathing heavily. Martha quickly retrieved the kryptonite and threw it hard, halfway across the barn, then turned back to her son.

“Oh, Clark,” she whispered, looking at his face with wide eyes. “It’s not healing. Why isn’t it healing?”

He understood her concern. Ordinarily any damage he sustained while under the influence of kryptonite disappeared almost instantly when the rock was removed from his presence. But his body had obviously begun to lose a good deal of its recuperative powers after he’d lost Chloe. The burns on his cheek and forehead hurt like hell, but he did his best to ignore them.“It’s because I’m sick,” he told her.

She glared down at the pitchfork. “It’s because of him, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” He sighed, steeling himself. “Look, Mom, I have to figure out how to use that crystal now. And I don’t know what’s going to happen. Fine said it was the device I needed, but he might have been lying. And even if it is what I’m looking for… well, it’s possible that I might not see you again.”

Her eyes went wider. “I don't know what's going on here, Clark. But don’t touch that crystal. Please. Don’t take the chance.”

“I have to,” he said. He stepped closer to her, put an arm around her. “I love you, Mom.”

"I love you too," she whispered. She leaned her head against his shoulder for a moment, hugged him, then stepped back and looked at him with eyes that were calm, even though they shone with tears.

“Do what you have to do, Clark.”

He nodded. Kneeling, he looked carefully at the crystal. It looked just like any crystal in the Fortress, except it was purple instead of clear, and he didn’t have the foggiest idea how to activate it. He saw no buttons, no keys, and certainly no instruction manual.

Damned inscrutable Kryptonian technology. He was sure that if he’d been brought up on Krypton, these things would make perfect sense to him, but as it was he felt like a chimpanzee trying to figure out how to operate a laptop.

He remembered that when he went back in time to save Lana, all he’d had to do was hold the crystal. Experimentally, he wrapped his fingers around the device.

And the world changed.

Read Chapter 7 here.

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