Monday, April 16, 2007

Ever the Same, Chapter 6

Season 5, following my story "Never Let Me Go"
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.

The present

Chloe frowned, trying to remember what Clark had told her about his adventures in time. It wasn't easy, because she felt like she was drowning beneath the weight of her memories. "When Fine went back in time and erased me," she said slowly, "Clark said that all the photos of me in the present disappeared."

Lois lifted an eyebrow. "No offense, cuz, but it sounds to me like Smallville watched Back to the Future one too many times."

"I'm serious," Chloe said impatiently. She stared around the room, looking at the photos that were scattered around. A couple of important pictures of her and Clark were framed, but since she wasn't exactly rich, most of her photos were tacked up on a bulletin board near her desk. She got up and paced across to them, studying them.

She recognized all of them, could associate them with memories, yet the memories rioted insanely, conflicting in her head and confusing the hell out of her. Pictures of her and Clark going to the spring formal together in freshman year. Pictures of them at the senior prom, matching crowns on their heads. A big picture of them getting married. A picture of Clark kissing Lana at someone else's wedding, while she looked on wistfully.

"If time had been altered," she said, struggling to think despite the weight of too many memories, "then all these pictures would have disappeared."

Lois looked dubious. "If your name is McFly, maybe."

"I'm serious. That's what Clark said happened. And I believe him." She hadn't been aware of the alteration in time, of course. Clark had said something about Kryptonians standing outside the flow of time. He'd told her humans were unaware of changes made to the timeline, because their minds didn't work that way.

Which begged the question, why was she aware of something being different now? And why was Lois?

"Okay," Lois said, frowning. She knew enough about Clark now to know that he hadn't been just the ordinary, slightly dorky Kansas farmboy he pretended to be, and Chloe knew that she had been beginning to develop a grudging respect for him. "We both have all these memories, so something's obviously going on. Unless we're both going crazy, anyway. So maybe you're right. Something must have happened to change things. Seen any DeLoreans go by?"

"Not lately." Chloe sighed. "But I don't get it. If something happened to change time, why do we have all these memories? Last time Clark said everyone but him forgot everything."

"So maybe time was altered a little differently this time."

Chloe frowned at the photos, and the answer slowly dawned on her. "That's it," she whispered.

"Stop talking in riddles, cuz. What's it?"

"Time wasn't just altered. It broke."

Lois gave an incredulous laugh. "It broke?"

"Yes. It broke." Chloe turned around, her hands waving through the air. She tended to talk with her hands when she got excited, though she was barely aware of the habit. "Fine had one of those crystals. All Kryptonian crystals look alike to me, and he used it to kill Clark, so I figured maybe it was just a weapon. But Clark said Fine used something similar to send him back into time and alter the timeline. So maybe it wasn't just a weapon, after all. Maybe it was a time-changing crystal."

"But it didn't send Clark back. It didn't send anyone back."

"No. Because there was an explosion." Chloe's hands were waving frantically now. "What if instead of sending anyone back in time, it just kind of... shattered everything?"

Lois dropped her head into her hands. "You make it sound like time is, I don't know, a vase or something. 'Oops! I dropped it! Damn, now I'm gonna have to sweep that up!'"

"I know it sounds crazy. But it's the only thing that makes sense, Lo."

"No." Lois jerked her head up and glared. "It doesn't make any sense, Chloe. If time was actually shattered somehow, then it would break into a bunch of different timelines. I get that. But time goes forward, not backward. So things would split from this morning onward. I mean, no matter what that crystal could do, it couldn't have created new timelines in the past. Could it?"

"I don't know," Chloe said, pacing back and forth, her hands still fluttering. "I don't know anything about how the space-time continuum works. Except what I got from Back to the Future, anyway. But what if it's kind of like..." She struggled to articulate her thoughts. "Like when you throw a pebble into the water, and the ripples spread out in all directions? Or like when you drop a rock on a sheet of ice, and it shatters in every direction. The cracks spread out all around the rock, right? Not just in one direction, but in every direction. Forward and backward."

"But at the middle, where the rock is, everything kind of comes together." Lois frowned. "So are you saying we're in the middle?"

"Maybe. The explosion happened in this room. Maybe it's the middle of everything, the one place where the whole effect comes together." Chloe stalked back and forth. "Or maybe I'm the middle. I was there for the explosion, so it could be that everything radiates out from me."

And that was so insanely egotistical a thought she could barely wrap her mind around it. Chloe Sullivan, the center of space-time. But nutty as it sounded, it might be true. Because she could remember so many different pasts, could feel the weight of a thousand different timelines pressing down on her brain...

She wondered how long it would take before she drowned in it all and went crazy.

Lois dropped her head back into her hands. "Great. Just great. We broke the space-time continuum."

"Not us. Fine. And I'm pretty sure he didn't mean to." Chloe frowned. "I think he probably just meant to send Clark back in time again with that crystal. But instead there was this big explosion, and everything just... shattered."

Lois raised her head and stared at her. "So is this room the center of everything, where everything comes together? Or is it you?"

"Beats the hell out of me. Let's try an experiment. Go outside and take a walk, and when you're a couple of blocks away, give me a call."

Lois scowled. "This is insane, Chlo."

"Humor me. I want to know if you remember anything outside this room and away from me. It could be everyone remembers all these different pasts, not just us. In which case the whole world will be going crazy, very soon."

"I'm pretty sure it already is going crazy." Lois rolled her eyes, but she unfolded her long, leggy form and headed for the door.

A few minutes later, Chloe's cell phone rang. "Hey, cuz."

"Hi," Chloe said. "Do you remember what we were talking about just now?"

There was a beat of puzzled silence. "When?"

"When you were in my dorm room a couple of minutes ago."

Another moment of silence. "I just came out for a walk, and I thought I'd give you a call. I haven't been over there since this morning."

"Okay," Chloe said. "Tell me something. When did Clark and I start dating?"

"Your freshman year of high school," Lois answered without hesitation.

"Did I ever mention how?"

"You went to some dance together, and kissed for the first time on a dance floor covered in balloons." Chloe could practically hear Lois' eyes roll. "Sweet, in a painfully clich├ęd kind of way."

"You're sure that's how we started dating?"

"Of course I'm sure."

"All right," Chloe said slowly. That was one question answered, anyway. "Go back to your walk, Lois. And thanks."

She pressed "end" and stared at all the photos on her desk. The many images of Clark made her eyes smart with tears, but she blinked them back. She didn't have time to grieve right now. She had a problem to figure out. A really big problem.

She headed out the door. She walked for several blocks, then stood and tried to remember the first time she'd kissed Clark.

Memories unfolded in her mind, memories on top of memories on top of memories. So many memories she felt like she was drowning in them. It's getting worse, she thought miserably. Whatever the explosion had done, the effect must still be unfolding, with more and more time lines being created.

But painful though it was to try to sift through the memories assaulting her, she'd figured out some important facts. Lois could remember other realities when she was in Chloe's vicinity, and Chloe was willing to bet people would be able to, too. But Chloe could remember all her varied memories outside her dorm room, and Lois couldn't. She didn't want to remember them, because they were rapidly driving her crazy, but they were all there, in her head, filling her brain to its limits.

Which meant that the focal point of whatever had happened wasn't her dorm room. It was her.

Great. She was now officially the center of space-time.

On the up side, that would look really awesome on her resume. But she had a feeling the weight of memories would drive her nuts long before she could type up a new resume.

And bad as that was, she wasn't even the big issue here. There was a lot more at stake here than just Chloe Sullivan, or even the loss of a superpowered alien that Chloe Sullivan had loved. Space-time was in the process of shattering, and that couldn't be a good thing.

She remembered her earlier mental image, the way she'd tried to envision the space-time continuum as a damaged sheet of ice. She imagined the network of cracks growing ever denser, until the ice shattered completely under the stress, until it simply collapsed into the water and disappeared from sight forever.

Somehow, that didn't strike her as an encouraging thought.

Read Chapter 7 here.


SelfAppointedCritic said...

Chloe as the "center of space-time"? AWESOME! And the intrigue continues...Fantastic update Elly, I just can't wait for more. I really can't--though I promise to wait patiently. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

did you do a lot of research about space & time continuum? that was pretty awesome detailed explanation and i understood every bit of it. good job with that =)!

of course, not surprised that chloe was able to figure some stuff out; very intelligent woman, i tell you =)!


Anonymous said...

God, it's like Doctor Who! Great, just great