Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Land of Confusion, Chapter 4

Season 6, following my story "Wherever You Will Go"
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read Chapter 3 here.

Clark had a busy night. He saved a middle-aged woman from getting gang-raped on Forty-Ninth and Main, saved an elderly man from being robbed on Church and Belvedere, and got fifteen people out of a burning apartment building in the Lochinvar section of town. He broke up a gang war over drugs, then took the drugs and dropped them into deep water in the harbor. He rescued two people who'd been living in a condemned building that had collapsed.

There was work for him everywhere. Metropolis wasn't the city he remembered. Back when he'd visited Chloe at the Daily Planet every day, there had been plenty of crime, just as there was in any big metropolitan area, but the city had been essentially stable except for a few hot spots. Now the whole city was a hot spot, a churning mass of rage and hunger and violence. And this was where the government was headquartered. Other major cities were even worse off.

Ironically, the place that seemed most stable was Suicide Slum, once the worst part of the city. It was ruled by a gang, who kept order with the threat of violence. The rest of the city streets were prowled by criminals... and even law-abiding citizens had turned into criminals in the absence of any real police presence. People fought for food, for drugs, for places to get out of the rain, or for no reason at all.

The city was dark, almost as dark as Smallville had ever been. Far above the glass and concrete canyon walls, stars glowed brightly against an inky sky. There was almost no electrical service. The sole exception was the LuthorCorp tower, which glistened with lights.

Clark imagined the people of the city starving, fighting for shelter and scraps of food, while Lex sat far above it all, in well-lit, luxurious comfort. The thought made his teeth grind together.

After a couple of hours of steady work, Clark melted into the shadows and paused, listening for cries of help.

He didn't hear any voices raised in supplication, but he did hear the distinct sounds of a physical altercation, not too far away. He could hear the thud of knuckles hitting flesh, the grunts of a man being struck, the sound of boots striking ribs. He could hear gasps of pain.

Someone was down, and getting the hell kicked out of them. He jumped into superspeed.

A second later, he hesitated in the shadows of an alleyway, taking stock of the situation. He saw five men, standing over a single figure. The guy on the ground was down and out, but that didn't stop the other guys from kicking him.

Clark didn't know what this was all about,-- if indeed it was about anything at all, and not just one of the random outbreaks of violence that plagued the city-- but he did know that five against one wasn't fair. Irritated, he whooshed into the conflict, grabbed the nearest guy, and tossed him into the others. They all went over backward in a tangled heap.

Seconds later, three of them were back on their feet, knives drawn. Their faces were set in snarling, feral masks, identical animalistic expressions that said they wouldn't hesitate to gut anyone who got in their way.

Clark didn't get out of their way. He stood between them and the guy sprawled on the ground.

The leader slunk forward wolfishly, then lunged, slashing at Clark's stomach.

The blade of his knife shattered.

Clark glanced down. His impenetrable aura had even protected his t-shirt, since it was pretty close to his skin. The guy was shaking his hand, looking pained.

"What the fuck?" he said, then glared at the guys flanking him. "What are you morons waiting for? Get him!"

The other men looked slightly perturbed, but they moved on Clark, slashing at his throat and face. Clark stood and waited, letting the knives break against his skin.

"It's one of those government agents," one of them said in a loud whisper. "Nothing can hurt them. Come on, let's get the fuck out of here."

Clark knew that Lex was altering some of his people so that they possessed superpowers. He strongly suspected it would drastically shorten their lives, because human physiology couldn't maintain superpowers for long without serious damage. But as long as they were alive, they were invulnerable, which made them very dangerous adversaries. They had Clark's attributes, such as superstrength and superspeed, but without his one weakness.

The men turned and fled. The ones on the ground scrambled to their feet and got the hell out of Dodge, too. Clark began to turn to check on the guy they'd been beating.

Suddenly he felt very ill, his skin writhing, his stomach twisting inside him. Something sharp poked the side of his throat-- and it hurt.

He turned his head slightly, and found himself looking at a guy in green leather. He wore a hood, and dark shades that appeared to be sunglasses, but were probably night vision goggles. He held an old-fashioned bow in his hands, drawn and ready to shoot. And judging from the sharp pain Clark felt, there was an arrowhead right against his skin. But it ought not to hurt, unless...

"That's right," the man said. His voice was artificially deep, clearly altered mechanically. "It's meteor rock. I made this one up just for you."

The proximity of meteor rock stole Clark's powers away, so he couldn't jump into superspeed and run. The fear of being vulnerable, the fear of pain, coiled in his gut. Given the sharp pointy object against his throat, he judged it best not to speak, but his face apparently asked his questions for him, because the guy laughed, a deep, sardonic laugh.

"I have my sources," he said.

This must have been a trap, Clark realized glumly. He'd been set up, probably by Lex. Obviously the government had figured out he was in the city, helping people, and they'd set this situation up to capture him. Despite the terrible weakness in his limbs, despite his awareness that the meteor rock-tipped arrow could go right through him, he opened his mouth.

"You're working for the government," he said.

"Hell, no. I hate the government."

Even through mechanical distortion, the note of loathing in the guy's voice was unmistakable, and Clark's heart rose slightly. Maybe this hadn't been a trap, after all. "So do I."

"Yeah, I knew that. But the government wants you, very badly. So I figure you might be worth checking out, my friend. You obviously have something Luthor wants."

"I'd be happy to talk this over with you," Clark said, very evenly, "but only if you move the arrow away from me."

"I don't think so. I've heard a few things about you over the past week. If I move the arrow away, you'll be gone before I can blink."

Clark turned his head a fraction of an inch and looked at the guy. Deprived of his x-ray vision, he could only see the lower half of the other man's face, but something about the way the guy looked was reassuring. Maybe it was his mouth. Clark had seen a lot of feral snarls lately, as people regressed to a state of wildness. This guy wasn't snarling. He was watching Clark carefully, but he didn't look like he wanted to hurt him if he could possibly help it. He looked determined, but not vicious.

"I won't go," Clark said at last. "Not till we have a chance to talk. You have my word on it."

The guy looked at him regretfully. He pulled the arrow away just a few inches, far enough so that Clark could see it glowing green in the darkness, but not far enough that his symptoms eased.

"I wish I could believe you," he said. "But no one's word is worth much nowadays."

He nodded to someone behind Clark, and something struck him in the back of his head.

Everything went dark.

Read Chapter 5 here.


Adrienne said...

oooo That has to be Oliver. Who else uses a bow and is dressed in leather? Wonderful post, I was getting worried when you didn't post in a while...yes I know it was only last week but you usually post more often.

Anonymous said...

this is so good I'll have to start from the beginning because I have no idea what's going on
off to catch up

~ sabine

Elly said...

Thank you, guys. Adrienne, I've been ill, but I'm feeling a little better now. Sabine, this is insanely long (more so now that I moved "Beyond the Sunset" so it's identified as part of the series) and very complex. I hope it all makes sense to you when you've finished it:-).