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
Fine walked away, presumably to let Clark think about the situation for a little while, and we heard a heavy door slam. Clark began stalking around the cell restlessly, looking over the steel walls carefully.
"I don't think you're going to find any doors," I said.
His shoulders stiffened, but he didn't look back at me. "I have to get you out of here, Chlo. You and your family are in danger, and it's my fault."
"Uh, yeah, because you asked a meteor freak to join up with an alien robot and kidnap us all."
He twisted his head around and glared at me. "If I didn't have all these enemies," he said, in a low, terse voice, "then you wouldn't be in danger all the time."
I knew he was thinking, not just of our current predicament, but of everything he'd suffered through in the past few days, when Fine had apparently managed to change history and erase me entirely. Not that I remembered any of that, because I'd been, well, erased. But it had obviously hit him extremely hard.
"So why is Fine so determined to get you to do his dirty work for you?" I asked. "Why can't he just release Zod on his own?"
He turned slightly and looked at the wall again. "Apparently the only way to release Zod is through the Fortress," he said. "And the only person who can affect the Fortress is me."
I considered that for a moment. The Fortress of Solitude is this giant ice castle in the far North, created by the AI that calls itself Jor-El-- an electronic replica of Clark's biological father. Who was apparently a Grade A asshole, judging from the way he kept treating Clark.
Not that Fine was exactly a model intergalactic citizen, either. On the whole, Clark was the only decent representative of his species I'd met. Although I'm the first to admit that most humans aren't much better. Anyway, the Fortress had been created specifically for Clark, so it made sense that no one else could operate it.
Clark's eyes were narrowed with distress and anger. I knew he hated feeling powerless, hated the effect the artificial red sunlight had on him. I guess if I were used to being strong enough to toss a truck around, I'd hate feeling that way too. In fact, come to think of it, I did hate it. Being stuck in a room and waiting for a guy to come torture me was a bit on the stressful side.
But Clark looked even more stressed than I did. I reached out and patted his shoulder gently.
"Take it easy," I said. "We'll get out of here somehow."
He glared at the wall. I was afraid he was going to try to put his fist through it again, but he apparently thought better of the impulse.
"Chlo," he said softly. "I don't want you to get hurt. I really hate that you're in danger because of me."
Clark has an amazing ability to beat up on himself, but this really wasn't the time for him to indulge in it. "Look, Clark, you need to quit blaming yourself so we can figure a way out of this mess."
"There may not be a way out."
His voice was bleak, and I sighed. "Come on, Clark, work with me. Try to hold onto some optimism. You've defeated Fine before, right? The first time, you impaled him on the crystals in the Fortress."
He winced a little. I knew he didn't like killing people, even if they didn't stay dead. "Yeah. And the next time I killed him with a crystal from the Fortress, too. Jor-El gave it to me."
"So crystals from the Fortress are the only way to take him out?" Damn. That wasn't good news, because the Fortress was quite a hike from here.
"I don't know if they're the only way. Just the only way I've figured out so far." He frowned, looking thoughtful. "Although my mom did manage to do him some damage with a pitchfork."
"No kidding?" I thought of Martha Kent, taking on a superpowered alien AI armed only with a pitchfork, and had to smile. "Pity we're fresh out of pitchforks."
"I don't think it would have taken him down for long, anyway. It just disabled him for a few seconds."
"A few seconds might be enough. We just need a chance to get through that door."
He sighed. "Well, unless you've got a pitchfork..."
I thought about what I was carrying with me. Not much. All my really effective toys, like my Taser and my flash grenades, were in the trunk of my car. Clark probably had keys, but I doubted something as blunt as keys would go through Fine's artificial dermis. Hell, they wouldn't even do much damage to a human, unless you managed to stick them straight into an eyeball. Clark didn't carry a pocketknife, or anything along those lines, because someone as strong as Clark doesn't really need tools.
My keys were no longer in my pocket-- presumably they were still dangling from the steering column in my poor squished Bug-- but I could feel a light weight there, and I was pretty sure my little pocketknife was still there. I always kept a little pocketknife in my pocket, complete with all the usual little foldup gizmos, like a corkscrew and a nail file. Not to mention a couple of decently sharp knife blades.
Apparently Red's men hadn't bothered to search my pockets. Inexcusably stupid, really, but then most of her people were mind-whammied, so they probably didn't think too well on their own.
I considered the notion for a moment, turning the idea over in my mind. Was there the slightest chance that something as simple as a pocketknife could disable Fine, even for a few seconds? If there was, surely he wouldn't have left it in my pocket.
Then again, if Clark was right, something as low-tech as a pitchfork had taken him out earlier. Maybe Fine just underestimated humans and their technology. He had a tendency toward extreme arrogance, a habit of regarding humans as no more of a threat than cockroaches. So it was conceivable he'd just overlooked the possibility I might be carrying something that could hurt him.
Clark was watching me intently, as if he could read my thoughts. I knew he couldn't hear my thoughts as words, but we'd somehow communicated without words a few times today, presumably as a side effect of our bonding. Call it empathy, call it rudimentary telepathy, call it whatever you wanted-- but apparently we didn't really need words anymore.
I lifted my eyebrows. I think I have something that might work.
He frowned. Hand it over. I don't want you to get hurt.
It was bizarre. I could understand what he was thinking just fine. Even though I couldn't hear it as words, the meaning came through perfectly clearly.
I glanced up, at the camera in the corner. He'll know we're planning something if I hand it to you.
He hesitated, then shrugged. Okay. I guess it's our only chance. I'll try to distract him when he comes back. But be careful.
I could tell he wasn't really positive about our chances. Well, neither was I. For all we knew Fine might not even bother to open the door. I remembered the way he'd sent a metal spike into the room, right through the bars of the door, and there was every chance he might do it again. There wasn't any way I could possibly take Spike out if he didn't even walk into the room.
But if we were very, very lucky, he'd come in and give me a clear shot at him. And even then I didn't have much of a chance, because Fine's as fast as Clark normally is, and that's pretty damn fast. It would be like a snail trying to stab a cheetah.
This is crazy, I thought, hoping Clark didn't pick up on the negative thoughts I couldn't quite quell. It'll never work.
We were planning on taking on a psychotic alien robot bent on world domination, armed only with a pocketknife. We had all the chances of a mosquito plotting to kill a human. It was impossible. It was insanity.
But crazy though it sounded, it was our only chance.
Even though I didn't have x-ray vision, I knew what Chloe had in her pocket, because she always carried one of those little pocketknives around. I didn't think there was a chance in the world that those little blades were going to go through Fine's skin, let alone actually disable him. But I couldn't think of any reasonable alternative plan. All the plans I could come up with involved superstrength and heat vision.
Damn it. When I'd lost my powers and become mortal, Chloe had ribbed me, joking that without my abilities I didn't have any useful skills. And even though she'd meant it as humor, I was afraid she was right. Under the bulbs that mimicked Krypton's sunlight, I didn't have a chance in the world of beating Fine.
Fine was going to torture Chloe, and I couldn't bear watching that. In about ten seconds, I'd crumble and agree to release Zod.
I thought about that. If Fine had to take me to the Fortress, I'd be out of this room and away from the artificial sunlight, which would mean I'd have my strength back. But Fine wouldn't be stupid enough to let me get my abilities back. He'd probably expose me to kryptonite. Even so, at least I'd be out of this stupid light, and if I could get away from the green k...
I'd been lost in my thoughts for several moments. Apparently concerned by my silence, Chloe walked to my side. "Clark," she said gently, taking my unbattered hand in hers. "It'll be okay."
That was Chloe. Optimistic to the end. She was definitely a glass-half-full kind of girl. Me, I was more of a someone-knocked-over-the-damn-glass-and-now-it's-empty guy. Especially when my girlfriend-- my lifemate-- was about to be tortured. The whole situation didn't do a lot to inspire optimism in me.
I wrapped my fingers around her hand and and closed my eyes, feeling the gentle, reassuring buzz where our EM fields intersected. Even though my EM field functioned differently in this light, it was still there. It just behaved more like a human electromagnetic field, no longer protecting me or enabling me to perform superhuman stunts like crashing through brick walls. It didn't even glow when I touched Chloe.
Just an ordinary guy, that was me.
"Chloe," I said, and my voice sounded choked even to my own ears. I opened my eyes and looked down at her. "I'm really sorry about all this."
She squeezed my hand. "Stop apologizing for stuff that isn't your fault, Clark."
"No. I mean it. Stop, or I'm going to kick your ass." She gazed up into my eyes, her lips quirking. "I can do that now, you know."
"Yeah, right," I answered, doing my best to match her light tone. I might not be superpowered right now, but I still outweighed her by a hundred pounds or so. "You and what army?"
She smiled a little more honestly, and lifted her other hand to my arm. "You don't think I can take you?"
"Maybe if you had some krypt..." All of a sudden I totally forgot what I was going to say. I trailed off into silence, staring at her hand with shock.
It was glowing.
I looked back at her, my eyes wide. I must have looked stunned, because she frowned in puzzlement. Before I could tell her what I'd seen, before I could even communicate it wordlessly, the metal panel slid aside, revealing Fine's angular face.
"It's time for an answer, Kal-El. Will you release Zod?"
Chloe spun around and glared at the AI. "No," she snapped. "He won't."
Fine looked amused. Yes, he's a robot, but a pretty advanced one, and he does seem to have a sense of humor. Besides, Chloe is kind of funny sometimes-- a hundred and twenty pounds of bad attitude and snark. She's been known to intimidate large men-- hell, she intimidates me sometimes-- but Fine was obviously not intimidated.
"And you aren't troubled by his choice? You're willing to be tortured and killed?"
"Better me than the whole world," Chloe answered.
In that moment, I knew why I'd chosen Chloe as my lifemate. The girl had guts. I was starkly certain she wasn't bluffing. She really would give up her life for the world if she had to.
"And you, Kal-El." Fine's gaze shifted to me. "You are willing to sacrifice your girlfriend for the good of the world?"
Hell, no. "Yes," I answered, but without a whole lot of conviction. I've never been a good liar. And yeah, in theory I knew I should let Fine kill Chloe rather than give in to his demands. I'd met Zod in the other timeline, and even though he'd been wearing my body, it was evident to me that he would be seriously bad news for the world. Like Spock said in "Star Trek," The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.
But I'm not Vulcan. I'm Kryptonian, and I was bonded to Chloe for life now. I remembered the words I'd said to her, the words I'd found myself compelled to say:
I will always come to you
Protect you from danger
Guard you from enemies
Be there for you.
I had to protect Chloe from danger. It wasn't an option, something I could choose not to do. It was part of who I was, part of what made me Kryptonian. Chloe was mine to protect, and I had to protect her to the best of my ability, no matter what.
I had a feeling Fine knew that, and was counting on it. Even if he didn't realize we'd bonded, he knew I'd do anything at all to protect the woman I loved. He'd been built by Kryptonians, and obviously understood them pretty well. But the flip side was that he didn't understand humans at all. In his eyes, they were merely vermin to be squished and thrown aside. Even though he'd studied human history, he still thought of humans as primitive. He really didn't comprehend humans and what they could accomplish.
The metal bars of the door slid aside, and Fine came into the room. Despite the sketchy plan we'd agreed on, I stepped around Chloe, putting myself between her and Fine, spurred by my need to protect her. Not that I had much hope of really protecting her against him.
Fine lifted his hand, and a metal spike shot out, faster than my eye could follow. It stabbed into my thigh, slicing through the muscle like a ginsu knife. And it hurt. God, it hurt. Being impaled is not something I've had a lot of experience with, and it's something I very much want to avoid in the future. I've discovered recently that I really don't like pain.
I gave a yell of agony and collapsed to the metal floor, leaving Chloe unprotected and vulnerable.
It hurt so badly my vision went gray and spots danced in front of my eyes. But the thought of Fine hurting Chloe like this kept me conscious. Chloe, I thought, struggling to lever myself up off the floor with my arms. I had to protect her. I just had to. I'd sworn to protect her, and I'd meant every word of it. Trust me... I will always come to you... protect you from danger... guard you from enemies...
But despite my best efforts, I couldn't get up off the floor. I couldn't protect Chloe.
She was going to get hurt, tortured, maybe even killed, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.
Read Chapter 12 here.