Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ever the Same, Chapter 10

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 past

"To think that you would sacrifice your Kryptonian heritage for a single homo sapien. You are a pitiful disgrace."

Fine gazed contemptuously down at Clark, who lay writhing in pain on a slab of ice, a glowing green stone on his chest. The great edifice of ice and crystal that was Clark's Fortress shuddered around them as if it were shaking itself apart, and its crystalline walls glowed an unhealthy shade of crimson.

"Goodbye, Kal-El," Fine said at last, turning his back on Clark and walking toward a strange golden light that seemed to open upward into nothingness. He gazed up into the light, held out his arms like a priest praying for deliverance, and spoke in a fervent, deep voice. "Welcome to our new home, General Zod."

The moment his back was turned, Chloe scuttled out from behind an ice formation. She'd followed Clark here through the cave portal, and that was fortunate, because Fine had obviously double-crossed him.

She grabbed the kryptonite from Clark's chest, turned, and hurled it away as far as she could. "Clark," she hissed, grabbing his arm and shaking him. "Clark."

Clark was already struggling to his feet, shaking and unsteady. He looked ill and haggard from the kryptonite exposure, but his jaw was set in firm, stubborn lines. He staggered toward the console, grasped the dark purple crystal, and yanked it out. The shuddering stopped, the crimson glow faded from the walls, and the ominous golden light flickered out. Fine turned his head and glared.

"What have you done, Kal-El?"

Clark looked steadily back at him, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

"Fixed a mistake," he said.


The present

Chloe couldn't help but think that she might wind up regretting any agreement she made with Fine. Clark had discovered very quickly that dealing with Fine was a mistake, and that the AI wasn't trustworthy. She knew the way he'd played Clark, and it occurred to her that he might be playing her just as much. For the first time, she wondered if he'd accidentally ruptured space-time, or if it had been a deliberate action on his part to force her hand somehow.

No, not her hand. She was small and irrelevant, not even as much as a pawn in this Kryptonian chess game. If Fine was trying to play anyone, it was Clark. Maybe he'd meant to shatter space-time, in order to force Clark to cooperate, and Clark had been killed entirely by accident.

Or maybe it had been a wholly unintentional effect. Even for Fine, the total destruction of the fabric of space-time seemed a little over the top.

She reminded herself that Fine was an AI, with a casual disregard for all organic life. Except Zod's, apparently. She wondered if Fine would prefer to see all of creation smashed to bits rather than see Zod never regain power.

Despite her concerns, she couldn't stop herself from answering in a small, wavering voice. "Clark's not dead? But... I saw him die."

"Oh, he died, in one timeline." Fine smiled his dangerous smile. "And yet he's still very much alive, trapped in a shard of space-time like this one, isolated and alone. He has no idea what is happening to the universe. And you must retrieve him."

She frowned, suspicious. "Why can't you do it?"

"Do you really think I could talk Kal-El into returning with me? I would have to use force. And since he is as strong as I am, that is something I strive to avoid. He might defeat me again, in which case time would have been wasted. And time is something we do not have a great deal of."

"Uhhh..." She had to admit that made a certain amount of sense. Clark knew better than to trust Fine, and if he'd really been isolated from the space-time continuum somehow, he'd have no reason to believe that things were falling apart. He wouldn't listen to Fine, wouldn't believe that the situation was truly dire. "Okay, you might be right. But I thought humans couldn't travel through time." She distinctly remembered Clark telling her that at one point, that for a human to travel the wrong direction through time would kill them.

"You won't be traveling directly through time. You'll be traveling from this timeline to a pocket universe. Even though it will appear to be the future there, traveling at right angles to time will not destroy your mind, the way traveling along a single timeline would."

She chewed her lip dubiously, and Fine spoke, his voice clipped and impatient. "We do not have a great deal of time for you to make up your mind. You must do this, Miss Lane. At this point, the Fortress is the only thing that can possibly repair this disaster, and Kal-El is the only person who can operate the Fortress."

A light started to dawn in her head. "And conveniently enough, the Fortress is where you need him to go in order to release Zod."

"Miss Lane." At her glare, Fine sighed. "Miss Sullivan, then. Existence is on the verge of collapsing in on itself. We do not have time to concern ourselves with one Kryptonian general."

"You were programmed to concern yourself with one Kryptonian general," Chloe answered. "It's what you do. There is no way you're going to convince me Zod isn't at the top of your priority list, just because the universe happens to be falling apart around us."

Fine hesitated, just a split second. Then he sighed.

"Very well. You are correct. Yes, I intend to force Kal-El to release Zod. But if you don't bring him back, then everything will be destroyed. Everything. Not just Earth, not just this solar system, not even just this galaxy-- but everything. Will you really refuse to help, simply to prevent a single Kryptonian from escaping his prison?"

She gritted her teeth together, struggling with the problem. Everything would be destroyed if she didn't agree to help Fine. Everything. And besides... if she didn't do this, she would never see Clark again. It was a minor point, in the grand scheme of things, but it mattered a great deal to her. She wanted to see her farmboy again, so badly she hurt with the need. She wanted to know for sure that he was alive.

She wanted to hold him again.

If she was going to be honest about it, she didn't have a lot of choice here. Damn it. She stared into Fine's cold, reptilian eyes and answered the only way she could.

"I'll help you," she said. "I'll bring Clark back."

Read Chapter 11 here.


RichardAK said...

This just keeps getting better. I figured Chloƫ and Brainiac would end up making some kind of bargain, but I like that you've written it such that they're both going into it with their eyes open. You've also raised a fascinating question: what if Brainiac had outlived Zod? How would he, or, more precisely, it, have reacted to Zod's death?

Sarah said...

The amount of thought you have put into this just boggles my mind. It's incredibly well-written and (from my point of view) pretty much without continuity errors, which is pretty incredible for this kind of story. SV writers sure couldn't handle this shit! I can't wait to read more!

Katie said...

Elly if only there were words to describe your writing. How did you come up with it all? It all fits in, it all makes sense and most importantly overall it's pure genius! The SV writers need to retire their brains could never process such genius