Sunday, May 28, 2006

Here Without You, Chapter 7

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

Where the hell am I?

Clark staggered, then regained his balance and looked around. He was standing in the middle of a Kansas cornfield, a familiar sight that could have easily existed twenty years ago, or in his present, or twenty years into the future. His surroundings didn't give him a clue as to the year. But he recognized the Smallville water tower in the distance, and his heart sank.

Whatever year the purple crystal had sent him to, Chloe probably wasn't here, because he was pretty sure she'd never been to Smallville before eighth grade. He listened closely, but didn't hear her heartbeat. Which proved nothing, since he was sure he wouldn't recognize it if she were a child. If he'd moved through time, she might be a baby here, or she still might not exist in this reality. The absence of her heartbeat didn't provide him with any useful information.

But since he was standing in Smallville, he had the distinct feeling that Fine had tricked him somehow. It figured, because he hadn't thought it was too likely Fine would really allow him to fix whatever the AI had changed. Fine tended to play deep games, and that would have been altogether too easy.

But then again, it was possible he was in fact in the correct time, and simply not the correct place. Obviously he was going to have to do some reconnaissance.

He realized he was still holding the purple crystal, somewhat to his surprise, since last time the crystal had disappeared. Evidently this was a slightly different technology. Well, it would have to be, since it wasn’t just moving him back along his own timeline. If he’d really come back to when Chloe was a baby, he himself might not even be born yet. He certainly wasn’t here on Earth yet. This must be a slightly different form of time travel.

Assuming it was time travel at all. He needed to find a newspaper or something to figure out when in the hell he was.

He shoved the crystal into his pocket, looked around, and decided to head toward "downtown," the rather grandiose word used by locals to describe Smallville's Main Street. He still couldn't force his sick, exhausted body into superspeed, so he jogged slowly for the road, trying to ignore the pain he felt in his burned face with every jolting step. Suddenly he came to an abrupt halt, staring up at the sky.

"Oh, shit," he said, and dove for the ditch as the first meteors screamed to the earth in a green blaze of fire.

He heard a loud whooomph as a meteor hit nearby. He'd been through one meteor shower last year, but he'd had his powers intact, been able to get out of the way of the meteors quickly. Without superspeed, he was just as vulnerable to the green death raining down as anyone else.

More so, maybe, because dust rained over him, and agony instantly followed. Vaguely, he realized that some of the particles from the meteor had settled onto his skin.

It hurt, more than the burns on his face, more than the deep sickness racking his body. He was already in bad shape, and being covered in kryptonite dust only made his pain that much worse. He writhed, shuddering in agony, and a soft sound of torment rose from his throat, a small sobbing noise that no one could possibly hear over the thudding of the meteors as they fell to earth.

He was in too much pain to scream.

He heard the screech of tires as a car stopped abruptly, heard running feet, felt someone reach down and grab him. The sudden feel of someone's hands wrapping around his arms, pressing against his skin, made his already overtaxed nerves explode in protest.

He fainted.


Clark slowly drifted back to consciousness, feeling himself to be in motion somehow. Or maybe it was just dizziness. He moved his head slightly, and nausea rolled over him in a wave. He wasn't sure if it was the same sickness that had plagued him earlier, or if it was from the meteor dust on his skin and clothes. Either way, he kept his eyes closed tightly, afraid that if he opened them, he'd pass out again.

"I think he's coming around," a voice said.

Clark recognized the voice, and pain cut into his mind, even more agonizing than the pain in his body. He'd obviously failed in his mission and returned to his present before he'd accomplished a damn thing. Maybe being covered in kryptonite had forced him back to his own time. Damn it.

He wondered if the purple crystal would work again. For that matter, he wondered if he was strong enough to even make the attempt to go back into the past a second time.

But he had to. Because he was still grimly determined to get Chloe back.

"Mom," he said, his voice a bare whisper. "How'd I get back here?"

"He's delirious," his mother's voice said.

"Well, he's been through a lot," a deeper voice said.

Clark knew that voice, too. His eyelids snapped open in shock.

He found himself in a pickup truck, traveling down a back road he knew very well. Jonathan Kent glanced in his direction for a second, offering a warm, friendly smile, then looked back at the road. "How are you doing, young man? Feeling better?"

Clark stared at him, confusion, shock, and distress all whirling frantically in his brain.

Then he doubled over and threw up again.


After that, Clark descended into his own personal hell of pain and nausea. He was barely aware of the truck stopping, only vaguely conscious of Jonathan Kent getting him out of the truck and half-carrying him, half-dragging him into the old yellow farmhouse the Kents had called home for generations. Jonathan eased Clark down onto the couch, and Clark groaned. His parents' voices sounded distant, as if he was hearing them down a long tunnel.

"Shouldn't we take him to the medical center?" his mother asked. "He's got a bad burn on his face."

"Martha," Jonathan said, still panting, "the house was a lot closer, and being in the truck was obviously making him miserable. Besides, the medical center's bound to be overflowing with people right now. It looked like some of those meteors hit downtown."

"All right," she said. "Let's see if we can make him more comfortable."

Before long Clark was conscious of a wet, cool cloth wiping the dust away. He knew in a vague way that he was lucky that none of the particles had imbedded themselves under his skin, or he wouldn't be breathing now. He'd landed face down in the ditch, so none of the particles had settled on his raw, blistered skin, and Martha was careful not to run the cloth across that part of his face.

She got most of the dust off his exposed skin and out of his hair, and he started to feel a little less like his stomach was about to crawl out of his throat. He opened his eyes.

"Are you feeling better?" she asked.

"A... little." Speaking was still an immense effort for him, but he wasn't sure if that was due to the residual kryptonite on his clothing, or his other problems. He looked at his mother's face carefully, no longer in doubt as to when he was. There had been two meteor showers in Smallville, but she looked much younger than he remembered her, so this was the first meteor shower.

The meteor shower he'd arrived in.

He swallowed. "The field. The road. Where you found me. We have to... go back."

Jonathan moved into his field of vision, so real, so solid, that Clark felt tears sting his eyes. It was good to see his father again, even if he didn't belong here. Jonathan's voice was as deep and resonant as ever. "Relax, young man. You're not in any shape to go anywhere right now."

"But there's..." Clark took a deep breath, trying to force a full sentence out. "A kid. In the field out there. We have to get him."

Jonathan's eyes narrowed. "A kid? Your kid?"

Clark thought about it for a second and decided there wasn't any other way to convince them to go back out there. There's an alien child running around the cornfield, and I know because I'm him from the future was not the sort of statement people were likely to accept. Not even the Kents, who were capable of accepting many strange things. Like him.

"Yeah," he said. "My kid. I was... looking for him... when the meteors hit."

"Damn," Jonathan said. "All right. I'll go back and look for him. I hope he's all right. But you should know that it looked like a really big meteor hit not far from where you were, son."

Son. He'd never thought he'd hear Jonathan's voice saying that word again. More tears burned Clark's eyes, and he blinked them back.

"I have... to go... too," he said.

"You're not in any shape to go," Jonathan said, but Clark struggled upright, staggering to his feet.

"I have to," he insisted. If the kid-- he himself-- wasn't there in the field, he had to figure out where he was and get him back to the Kents somehow. Because otherwise, he was totally screwed.

Although he had the unpleasant certainty that he was already totally screwed. His mind was working again, at least to a certain degree, and he had a feeling he'd stumbled into Fine's backup plan when he touched the purple crystal.

He could envision the AI's complex thought process. Remove Kal-El's future lifemate from this reality and force him to release Zod. If Kal-El refuses, send him back to his own past and make sure that he never creates the Fortress of Solitude in the first place.

Because only Clark could influence the Fortress, and by extension, the Phantom Zone in which Zod was trapped. But if someone else created the Fortress... maybe they'd be the one person who could influence it. Which meant they'd be able to release Zod.

Why Fine hadn't simply traveled back into the past and killed him as a child, or altered the past himself, Clark couldn't guess. But he was definitely sure that he was in a huge amount of trouble here.

And so was the world.

Read Chapter 8 here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I did NOT see this coming - and that's a great thing. Loving it!