Monday, March 31, 2008
Land of Confusion, Chapter 1
Season 6, following my story "Wherever You Will Go"
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Oh, Superman, where are you now
When everything's gone wrong somehow
The men of steel, these men of power
Are losing control by the hour
This is the time, this is the place
So we look for the future
But there's not much love to go around
Tell me why this is a land of confusion
I remember long ago
When the sun was shining
And all the stars were bright all through the night
In the wake of this madness, as I held you tight
So long ago
Now this is the world we live in
And these are the hands we're given
Use them and let's start trying
To make it a place worth fighting for
-"Land of Confusion," Disturbed
Trust Me, Book 7
The couple in the corner of the tavern seemed entirely unremarkable. She was a small, slight woman whose dark hair fell straight to her shoulders, partially obscuring her face... perhaps by accident, perhaps by design. She wore ragged, loose clothes that concealed the slight bulge of early pregnancy.
He had shaven his head entirely, in the fashion that had so recently become popular. He was a large man, but somehow managed to make himself seem much smaller by his slumped posture. Most people didn't look twice at either of them.
They had chosen the darkest table in the tavern. In these chaotic times, electrical service had become a rarity, and batteries were worth their weight in gold. Thus the tavern was lit only by candles, and their corner was shadowed and dim.
Every once in a while, when their hands happened to brush together, a golden light glowed, briefly illuminating their corner. But no one noticed the peculiar effect, and the two seemed to carefully avoid touching as much as possible. Even so, the way they spoke quietly, heads bent close together, left little doubt that they were lovers.
They seemed much like a million other displaced souls, wandering aimlessly in the wake of a disaster too great to be quickly rectified. They were merely strangers keeping to themselves, people made cautious by the newly dangerous world, just like many of the other homeless folk who had passed through the countryside in the past three months. They were anonymous, unworthy of notice, and utterly unremarkable.
Few people would have looked at the average, ordinary pair and guessed they were the world's most wanted criminals.
"Lex is consolidating his power," Chloe said, very softly. Despite the noise level in the tavern, she could whisper and be easily heard, because Clark's superhearing could hear the slightest of sounds. In fact, they shared a sort of rudimentary telepathy, developed when the two of them had bonded, but it worked best for simple concepts. More complex ideas still required speech if they were to understand each other clearly. "I heard today that his army put down a rebellion in New York."
"Chlo." Clark shook his shaven head at her. "His army doesn't put down rebellions. It keeps the peace."
"Don't quote Newspeak at me, farmboy. We both know perfectly well what Lex is doing."
"You mean President Lex."
"I certainly do not mean President Lex." Chloe bristled. "I don't care how often people call him that. He's not the president, damn it. He's just a power-greedy dictator who..."
"Take it easy." Clark held up a hand. "Keep your voice down, Chlo. I know you get passionate on this subject-- but this isn't the place to get passionate. Lex's spies are everywhere."
"Yeah. Okay." She sighed, so hard the candle on their table flickered. "I just... this is all my fault, you know?"
"Isn't that my line?"
"Ha, ha. I'm serious. I made a series of bad decisions that led straight to this mess. I voluntarily gave Zod my body--"
"In order to save the universe, as I recall."
"Well, yeah, I couldn't see any way around it. But there must have been a better way, if only I could have figured it out. And then I asked Lex for help--"
"Because otherwise innocent people were going to die."
"--and he grabbed the opportunity to take over the country. People are suffering, Clark, and it's all my fault."
Clark didn't try to make a joke this time. Perhaps he could feel her very real anguish through their bond. He looked at her for a moment, then reached out and touched her hand, very lightly. She knew he wanted to hold her hand, but the intersection of their EM fields caused a very noticeable glow, and they both knew it.
"You did the best you could, Chlo," he said, very gently. "So did I. If we're going to be totally honest about it, both of us made decisions that contributed to this, but there was nothing else we could do, really. Anyway..." He sighed. "Yeah, Lex is a dictator, but right now he's the only one holding the country together."
"Bite your tongue."
"It's true, Chlo. You know it as well as I do. The country's in chaos, the government is falling apart. The only thing keeping us from total civil war, the only thing preventing us from slipping entirely into the Dark Ages, is Lex and his army."
Chloe bit her lip. "I can't applaud a regime that's hunting meteor freaks and killing them."
"I'm not applauding him, believe me. I'm just stating a fact. Lex is keeping things together, along with Hope and Mercy--"
"Lois and Lana, you mean."
"-- while we're hiding out in the sticks."
"Clark." It was her turn to sigh. "We've talked about this before. We don't have any choice but to hide. Lex would like nothing more than to make a very public example of both of us. I don't know about you, but I hate being executed. Being executed puts a damper on my whole day."
"But there's so much we could be doing to help." Clark's eyebrows lowered like stormclouds.
"There's so much you could be doing. I'm just another human."
His eyebrows lifted a little, and he smiled his genuine, sweet smile, which was all too rare nowadays. "You're a lot more than just another human, Chlo. Trust me on that."
Unable to resist his boyish grin, she smiled back. "Maybe we can come up with some way to help," she said. "If we went back to Metropolis, then..."
"No way. Metropolis is filled with Lex's people. There is no way I'm exposing you to that kind of danger. Not to mention our baby."
"So you'd rather not help at all? Is that what you're saying?"
"I'm just saying we both have an obligation to our child to..."
He looked to the side as the door opened, and the rest of his comment died unspoken as two men strode in, wearing the black uniforms of Lex's guard.
"Crap," he said, very quietly. "My spider sense is tingling."
"Please. You're not a comics character, you know. Relax. Pick up your drink and look like you're not a wanted criminal."
Clark lifted the mug to his mouth, obscuring his face. But the soldiers strode over to talk to the bartender, and a moment later the bartender pointed in their direction.
"Damn it," Chloe said. "Now my spider sense is tingling, too. What now?"
Clark put his mug down, a look of grim determination on his face. "We run for it."
He started to get up, but the men approached, and he fell back into his chair, gasping.
"Clark!" Her voice rose more shrilly than she had intended. "Are you okay?"
"No." He spoke through gritted teeth. "They've got kryptonite."
Read Chapter 2 here.