Chapter XX

It All Comes Together

Clark's first trip was back home to the farm to pick up some food and some water bottles. While he was there, he also dumped all the books out of his school backpack, and grabbed a couple of hats and flannel shirts and the kitchen first-aid kit and a tarp. The huge tumbled rocks that had blocked Jenny's attempts to walk out of the canyon were no barrier to him, and he didn't have any trouble finding the place again, either. Just another convenient feature of his alien brain -- Clark never seemed to get lost.

When Clark set down his backpack full of supplies in front of Andy's rock, Lex looked up from his Napoleon watch and said, "Thirty-seven minutes."

"Hot dog!" Andy exclaimed. "I don't believe it! You're jet-propelled!"

Mrs. Hakes unpacked the fruit and muffins out of Clark's backpack and declared, "Hallelujah! Praise God and all his blessings!" She gave Clark a big smile before she bit into a Kent Organic apple. "Thank you, child, and may the good Lord bless you and keep you forever!"

Clark blushed and shuffled his feet a little. "What next?" he asked.

Lex explained the plan that he, Andy, and Jenny had refined while Clark was gone. Clark picked Andy up carefully, and took the young pilot and the Kent's big canvas tarpaulin on a quick trip up the mountainside, to the debris field left from the crash of Mr. Alvin's Cessna 172.

Meanwhile, Lex unpacked the first-aid kit from Clark's backpack (resignedly putting on one of Jonathan Kent's ugly fishing hats to protect his sensitive scalp from sunburn) and nerved himself to unwrap Jenny's burnt hand.

By the time Clark and Andy returned to the rest of the group with a big bundle of plane parts, Lex had finished cleaning and re-bandaging the hand. He was proud of himself for not having displayed any of the revulsion he'd felt at the sight of the blackened and blistered flesh. Jenny looked a little pale, but she busied herself with praises to God that the hand didn't seem infected, and thanked Lex profusely once he was done.

Clark set Andy down gently. "Do you feel up to looking at these parts, Mrs. Hakes?" he asked. "Andy said the data plate from the tail-section and the part of the engine-case with the serial number on it. Does that seem like enough?"

"Did you bring back the whole engine, dear? Several of the engine parts have serial numbers, too."

"Yes, ma'am. It was only broken into three pieces." Clark unrolled the tarp and picked through it, then showed Mrs. Hakes all the engine parts he'd gathered.

"That should do. Do you understand where to find my old 172?"

"It's in the barn out past the airfield, right? Where Merrick runs his beef cattle?"

"That's right. Replace the engine with this one, and swap out the data plates, too. Are you sure you can take Andy back with you on the same trip as all those parts?"

"Piece of cake," Clark replied with a grin. "And just leave all the rest of these pieces in the barn?"

"That would be fine. We were just using that old junker for parts, anyhow."

Clark easily lifted Andy into his arms, and slung the tarp full of crashed airplane bits over his shoulder. "Hang on, Andy," he said, "and tuck your head in."

"Are you two sure you've got your story straight?" Lex asked before they could speed away.

Andy sighed heavily. It was going to be embarrassing to have to say he'd run a plane off the end of the runway only one day after getting his license, but it was undoubtedly the best plan. No one would be too hard on a beginner, and he couldn't fly for eight weeks anyhow on account of his leg. The most likely enforcement action would be a 90-day suspension and being required to take a few more hours of instruction. Clark and Lex had promised to sing his praises to Chloe in return for his cooperation, but that wasn't really necessary. He couldn't let a guy get dissected for saving his life, after all!

"I'm sure," Andy said. "I know just what we're going to claim happened. I just wish it wasn't going to make me look like such an idiot!"

"There, there, Andy. The tree is known by its fruit. Everyone who knows you knows you're not an idiot," Mrs. Hakes reassured him. "Godspeed, boys!"

While Clark and Andy were gone, Jenny and Lex moved their little camp back to the crashed Cessna 180. Despite the thorn-bushes, the plane was less dirty and had better shade. Jenny was asleep almost as soon as she got back into her pilot's seat, leaving Lex with nothing to do but think.

So, Clark was a Meteor Mutant? It made a lot of sense, but Lex wasn't sure that it was the whole story. He wondered if his best friend would ever trust him enough to tell him the complete truth, and envied Mrs. Hakes for being able to sleep.

About an hour and a half later, Lex awoke with a start. "Lex! Hey, Lex!" Clark was yelling at him from outside the plane.

Lex shook his head to wake himself the rest of the way up, and slid out of the right-hand door of the plane. "Did everything go as planned?" he asked.

Clark beamed at him from about twenty feet away. "It went great!" Clark answered, without coming any closer. "Uh, Lex, could you come over here, so, you know...."

Lex went over to his friend. "Yeah," he said, "I know. So if you're like this because of the meteorites, why do they make you sick?" He knew he was making Clark uncomfortable, but he was grumpy and dirty and tired of being lied to.

Clark's smile had vanished, but he was still looking at Lex. "I'm not a mutant," he said very quietly and very fast. "I came in a little spaceship that crashed the same day the meteorites did."

Lex felt his eyes bug out. He was speechless. "Wow," he finally said.

Clark just looked at him.

"Wow," Lex repeated. He broke out in a huge grin. "You're an alien?" he whispered.

Clark smiled back and nodded.

"That's so cool," Lex added.

"Don't tell anyone," Clark whispered.

"I won't. Wow." After a moment, Lex got back to the matter at hand. "So, how did things go back at Smallville Municipal Airport?"

"Fine," Clark answered. "We swapped out the parts and crashed the Hakes's old 172 at the end of the runway. I set it on fire with my eyes -- yes, I can do that -- and then I took Andy to Smallville Medical Center, and he called the NTSB. Chloe's there, cheering him up. His leg's gonna be fine."

"Good," Lex replied. He was grinning again, and he made himself stop. "I'll bring the backpack and you can strap it on, and then I'll go back and wake up Mrs. Hakes and bring her out."

"Great. Oh, and Chloe looked up Nick Sloane. He really is wanted for fraud, and the picture of him she found looks sort of a lot like Nick Johnson, but with different hair and no mustache. She should be telling the authorities about it already."

"Terrific." Lex went and got the backpack, then woke Jenny up. "Time to go, Jenny," he said. "I bet Mr. Hakes will be glad to see you again."

"Oh, thank God," the woman exclaimed upon waking. "I dreamed it was all a dream." Lex helped her up and out of the plane.

With Clark's assistance, it was easy for Mrs. Hakes to get over the obstructing boulders. Well before nightfall, Clark had gotten both of his slower, weaker, human companions safely into the little ski-resort town of Crested Butte, Colorado.

They had their story together; Clark and Lex had been hiking when they saw the wrecked plane and went down to investigate. They claimed to be Rick Peterson and Frank Morgan, both students at Kansas State (Clark had been genuinely shocked when Lex produced fake ID's for the both of them. "What?" Lex asked. "I thought I might be able to take you out clubbing some day.") They'd helped Mrs. Hakes climb out of the canyon, shared their supplies with her, and walked her to safety.

The authorities were thrilled to have the pilot found safe. Jenny quietly bid Clark and Lex goodbye in the sheriff's office. "See you around, boys. Be good!" she said, and hugged them both.

Clark and Lex walked to the edge of town. Then Clark picked Lex up and ran back home to Smallville.

Ten minutes later, just outside the Smallville Municipal Airport, Lex was shaking his head to clear it. "That's remarkable," he said. "Absolutely unbelievable." He looked up at Clark and grinned. "You're faster than a McLaren F-1!"

"Yup." Clark grinned back. They saw four men in dark suits leading Sloane (alias Nick Johnson) and Rankin out of the hangar for Hakes Air Transport Company. Mr. Hakes was standing in the doorway of his office, shaking his fist at the two men from Gotham and shouting something about villainy.

The two boys nonchalantly made their way to Lex's car, which was parked in front of the terminal. "Well, that about takes care of that," Clark said.

"It looks like it," Lex replied. "With Jenny's testimony and the evidence from her crashed plane, I can't imagine that their scheme for perpetrating bank fraud will be able to go on as they had planned."

"Cool," Clark said, grinning. "We thwarted crime."

Lex suddenly stopped. "D-dang!" he exclaimed. "I still didn't get my electronic parts back!"

(Note: the thirteenth and fourteenth paragraphs of Chapter III are taken verbatim from "The Missing Chums" by Franklin W. Dixon, copyright 1962 -- only the names and location of the party have been changed -- there really was a girl dressed as a fairy princess. So Lana is practically Hardy Boys canon!)