Season 5, following my story "Here Without You," which followed two other stories and "Void"
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me
When I woke up, Chloe was sitting next to me, looking simultaneously wary and concerned. There was an odd, watery, reddish light glowing from the ceiling that made her hair look almost auburn. I blinked at her, trying to figure out where I was, and why I was here.
My voice was barely a whisper, but Chloe seemed to understand me well enough. Not that we really seemed to need words to communicate any more. “Apparently they captured us,” she said.
“Hell.” My voice got stronger, along with the rest of me, and I sat up and frowned at the cell. It wasn’t all that different from the little room Red had kept us in last time, except the walls and floor and ceiling were plain metal. Last time she’d had them covered with kryptonite-laced paint, making it impossible for me to tear through them. But getting through plain steel was a piece of cake.
I stood up and slammed my fist into the nearest wall, only to yank it back with a yell of agony.
“Clark.” Chloe grabbed my hand and examined it. “You’re hurt.”
“No… kidding,” I gasped. I could barely get words out past the pain. I’m a big wimp when it comes to pain. “I think I… broke something.”
“You sure busted up your knuckles pretty badly.” She pulled my hand to her shirt and pressed it there, trying to stop the bleeding, then looked back up at me. “Moron. Didn’t it occur to you they probably knew better than to put you in a plain steel room?”
"Well..." Actually, it hadn't. I was so used to thinking of steel as a substance I could tear through it never occurred to me that maybe I couldn't. Humans don't think twice before trying to rip up a piece of paper, and I don't think twice before trying to put my hand through metal.
"Idiot," she said, gently smoothing her fingers over my hand. My skin didn't glow, but I could still feel the tingling of our EM fields as we touched. It helped the pain a little, and I found myself able to breathe without gasping.
“I don’t get it,” I said, looking around the room as the pain ebbed a bit. Maybe I hadn’t broken anything after all, but I was sure as hell bruised pretty badly. “The walls aren’t painted like they were last time. Did they impregnate the steel with kryptonite or something?”
“It’s not just the walls, Clark. You’re actually hurt.”
I looked down at my torn and swelling knuckles and realized she was right. I was pretty much invulnerable to everything, except when I was exposed to green kryptonite. I didn't bruise or bleed or show any signs of injury, even if you ran me over with a freight train. So there must be some green K somewhere in the room.
But the strange thing was that green K usually makes me feel nauseated and dizzy, too, and I felt okay. Maybe a little weak, but okay.
“That’s weird,” I said. “Because I feel fine.”
“Are you sure?” She looked up at me, licking her lips nervously. “I thought maybe this red light was, you know, red kryptonite radiation.”
I looked around the small room, observing the weak red glow. Red K turns me into a thrill-seeking, oversexed, somewhat violent hedonist, which explained the cautious look in her eyes. “I don’t think so. I don’t feel like throwing a party or anything.”
“That's good.” Some of the wariness ebbed from her expression. “But whatever it is, it’s definitely doing something to your powers.”
I frowned, pulled my hand away from hers, and started stalking around the small enclosure, looking for a way out. “How’d we get here, anyway?”
“Someone ran right out in front of the Beetle. Do you remember?”
“I swerved, but it was too late to miss him. I hit him. I think…” She swallowed. “I’m pretty sure I killed him.”
“Chlo.” Responding to the pain in her voice, I took two long strides and put my arm around her. “Not your fault.”
“I know.” Her voice wobbled. “I’m guessing he was one of Red’s people. She probably told him to throw himself in front of the car, Clark. She has that kind of power. And I heard him… I heard a crunch under the tires…”
I remembered hearing that awful sound, and I understood her horror, because I’d felt it, too. “The car went into the ditch,” I said, remembering. “And then…”
I couldn’t remember what had happened next. I’d intended to jump out and get Chloe and Lois to safety, but all I could remember was agonizing pain, fading to black.
“Someone used kryptonite on me, didn’t they?”
She nodded. “I think so. I was kind of unconscious at the time.” She got herself under control, swallowing hard, and lifted her chin. “We should have realized they never really expected us to walk blindly into that trap, Clark. They just used the call from Sam to get us headed in the right direction, then ambushed us when we weren’t braced for it.”
“And killed one of their own people in the process,” I added.
“Somehow I don’t think Moira Redburn is a people person,” Chloe said dryly. “A little thing like compelling someone to throw themselves under the wheels of a speeding car wouldn’t bother her.”
I guessed she was right. When you can get any man to do your bidding, keeping loyal minions safe probably isn’t high on your priority list. Obviously men were extremely replaceable as far as Red was concerned.
“So where’s Lois? And Sam, and your dad?”
“Haven’t seen them. I hope Lois is okay.” Her lip quivered a bit, and I realized she was worried Lois hadn’t made it out of the car alive.
“I’m sure she’s fine,” I assured her. “It wasn’t a really bad wreck or anything. And I’m sure Red has her somewhere so she can use her as leverage.”
“Assuming I need any leverage.”
The low, sultry voice spoke from the front of the cell as a metal panel slid aside. Red stood there behind a metal grid door. To me, it looked extremely fragile, but considering my failure to smash my hand through plain old steel, those metal bars probably weren’t going to bend for me, either.
I walked toward the door, doing my best to look intimidating, despite the bashed and bloodied hand. I noticed the light outside the door had the same reddish quality. I couldn't see normal fluorescent lights, or the brighter glow of sunlight, anywhere. “Let them all go, Red, and I’ll cooperate with you.”
“Oh, please,” she drawled. I could still see that she was esthetically gorgeous, but now that I was bound to Chloe, I didn’t feel the slightest attraction to her. Which was a little scary, considering this woman looked like a walking advertisement for sex. Evidently I wasn’t just life-bound… I was dead.
But oddly enough, I didn't mind.
"I swear. Let them go, and I'll do whatever you want."
Red looked at me with a sardonic grin. “You won’t cooperate voluntarily with me, Kal. We both know that. But I see you’ve already discovered you can’t break your way out of here, either.”
I shot a rueful glance at my busted-up hand, then looked back at her quizzically. “What have you done to me, anyway?”
She looked up at the ceiling. “It’s artificial red sunlight, Kal. Perhaps you didn’t realize this, but on your home planet, which revolved around a red sun, the people had no unusual powers. It’s exposure to the yellow sunlight on Earth that gives you your special abilities. When you're exposed to red sunlight, it saps your powers.”
I frowned. I’d known most of that, as it happened, but she sure as hell shouldn’t. “How exactly did you discover all this?”
She gave her lovely, evil smile. “I’m working with a friend of yours, Kal. He told me quite a bit about you. And in exchange for your capture, I’m getting some very interesting technology.”
A light dawned. “Fine,” I said. “You’re working with Fine.”
She smiled. “You do occasionally show glimmers of intelligence.”
I ignored the barb. Like I said before, the entity that had called itself Milton Fine, history professor, was actually a Kryptonian artificial intelligence that had it in for me. He’d been the one to alter time so that Chloe disappeared, and then he’d given me a device that had sent me back in time, causing me to almost destroy reality as we know it. I’d managed to thwart him and fix things, but now it looked like he was after me again, probably with the intention of forcing me to release the Kryptonian dictator Zod.
This explained how Red had gotten out of prison. Human technology was pretty easily circumvented by a walking alien computer. And once he'd broken her out, he'd offered her revenge and power.
Just what every deranged meteor freak wants most.
Chloe walked across the small space and stopped beside me. “You shouldn’t trust Fine, you know,” she told Red. “He’ll betray you. He thinks of humans as insects to be stepped on.”
Red's smile grew colder, until it was utterly wintry. “He’s promised me technology you can’t imagine. With what he’s giving me, I don’t have to settle for being a crime boss any more. I could rule Metropolis. I could rule the world.”
“He already has someone in mind for that position,” I said. “Look, Red, you can’t trust him. He's dangerous.”
It was true, but it’s also the first rule of getting yourself out of a situation like this—try to drive a wedge between the bad guys. But apparently I didn’t really need to bother. Because all of a sudden a long metal spike shot out, impaling Red right through the ribs.
The spike slid all the way through her body like a knife through butter, with a terrible wet swooshing sound. Her eyes went wide and her mouth opened in a silent scream, and then the metal spike withdrew, and she collapsed to the floor, a puddle of crimson beneath her.
Her eyes were still wide open, but she was quite obviously dead.
Chloe made a noise of shock and stumbled back, covering her mouth like she thought she might throw up. I didn't blame her. My stomach was roiling unpleasantly, too.
“You know,” Fine said, walking into view, “I hate it when people give away the twists in my plot before the end of the story.”
Oh, great. Just what I needed, to have to deal with Fine again. I'd already killed him-- it-- twice, but the AI was apparently capable of replicating itself from the Kryptonian ship that had landed during the last meteor shower. And no matter how many times I killed him, he just wouldn't stay dead... which was a very annoying personality trait.
Anyway, I'd just gotten the freaking space-time continuum straightened out from our last encounter. Was it really too much to ask that I could have a day or two to spend recovering, and making love to my girlfriend?
Apparently it was too much to ask for. Because here he was, grinning that nasty little smile I'd come to loathe.
I recognized that the big problem here was that I wasn’t invulnerable right now, thanks to the weird light, and he could spike me through the gut just as easily as he'd spiked Red. I was pretty sure Fine's abilities weren't powered by sunlight the way mine were, so he was probably still superstrong, and pretty much invulnerable, no matter how much red light he was exposed to. Which meant he could kill me with the careless ease of a human flattening a mosquito.
I figured he wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble if he just wanted to kill me, though. He needed me to open the portal to the Phantom Zone in my Fortress of Solitude. Since no one could affect the Fortress except me, I was probably safe for now.
But Chloe… not so much. I stepped in front of her, hoping to shield her from any sharp protruberances that Fine might suddenly develop.
“Don’t worry,” Fine said. “I won’t hurt your girlfriend or her family, as long as you cooperate.”
I looked pointedly at the dead body on the floor. “Yeah, and your word is worth so much.”
Fine looked down at Red's corpse. "She was only human, Kal-El. Humans aren't worthy of honesty."
I'm lifebound to a human, I almost said, but I decided to keep that little nugget of information to myself. Fine already knew that Chloe was my soulmate, which was why he'd altered history and made her vanish, but as far as I knew, he didn't know we were bonded yet. I wasn't sure if that knowledge would give him any more leverage against me than he already possessed, but the less he knew the better.
"What exactly do you want?" I said. "Or is that a dumb question?"
"Dumb questions seem to be your specialty," he said dryly. "I want you to release Zod."
I looked down at Red's corpse. Not that I was really inclined to shed any tears for her, but I did wonder how she'd gotten mixed up in all this.
"How come you decided to make Red do your dirty work for you? Why not just capture me yourself?"
He shrugged. "It's easy to manipulate humans into doing one's work. And it seems that every time I try to take you on, I somehow get bested. You have the damnedest luck, Kal-El."
"I see," Chloe said, regaining some of her snark. "So you were afraid of getting killed again."
"I can't be killed, Miss Sullivan. My memory continues, even when my physical shell is broken. As long as the ship exists, I exist."
Okay. That was handy information to have. I marked that down on my mental to-do list: Escape, get Chloe and her family out of danger, have lunch, destroy Kryptonian ship.
Of course, that'd be easier to accomplish if I could ever find the damn thing. It-- and Fine-- had a dismaying habit of moving all over the globe.
"At any rate," he added, "I intend to take over this organization. It has a good deal of power in Metropolis, and will serve my master as an excellent launching pad for global conquest."
"It might. If your master were, you know, running around loose. Unfortunately for you, he's not."
"He will be." Fine met my eyes, then stretched out his hand. His finger suddenly transformed into a sharp piece of metal, which suddenly shot out, whipping around me and heading right toward Chloe. I yelled in terror, spun around, and knocked her to the ground, covering her with my body.
"Quick reaction, considering your lack of proper Kryptonian reflexes right now," Fine said. The long spike of metal withdrew back into his hand and disappeared. "But you can't protect her all the time, Kal-El. And you can't protect her family, either. I have them in another cell, where they're out of your reach. So you'll either cooperate, or see your soulmate tortured in a very unpleasant way." He smiled more nastily than before. "You really don't want to see me take a human body apart, Kal-El. It's easy work, but you may find it... dismaying."
The thought of seeing Chloe tortured to death made my mouth dry and my heart pound. I knew I simply did not have the strength to endure that. I'd probably agree to release Zod the minute Fine threatened her. And that would be very, very wrong, because it sounded like Zod was seriously bad news. For everyone.
But there was no way I could stand here and watch Fine hurt Chlo.
I got to my feet and helped Chloe up. She glared at the AI, her hand clutching mine.
"Clark won't do what you want him to," she told him, her chin lifted imperiously into the air. "He'll never release Zod. Ever."
I appreciated the support, even though I was uncomfortably aware she was wrong. I squeezed her hand, then turned my head and stared at him, as defiantly as possible. "She's right," I said. "Your master will just have to rot in hell for eternity, because I'm not letting him out."
He just looked at me and smiled, and I swallowed. Damn it. He knew I was bluffing.
I really needed to get my powers back. And fast. Or we were all going to be in serious trouble.
Read Chapter 11 here.