Do you believe in destiny? Do you trust that your fate is preordained by some mysterious force in the universe and cannot be altered?
What if by one split second reaction to a choice, you could unknowingly change the very essence of your future and that of the people around you, perhaps even the world as you would have come to know it...
2003 The Kent Farm Storm cellar.
The teenager moved warily among the shadows of the cellar, searching around the darkened room for some form of courage to attempt the unthinkable. It hadn't been an easy decision to come out here and try to destroy his own destiny, but it was something he must do if the life he loved so much was to stay intact.
He fidgeted in his favorite red jacket, inhaling and exhaling deeply as he approached the ship that had given him life. He had traveled far across the galaxy in this tiny pod, but now its steely gray form threatened to take away what it had given. Clark gazed upon it longingly one last time as his fingers began pressurizing the silver casing in his hands.
In that moment everything seemed clearer to him. The smell of the well-trodden earth beneath his feet, the bellowing of his father's cattle in the nearby field...the evil green glow of the kryptonite key as he let his all too powerful strength finally crumble the container that held it safe.
Clark looked down as the key began to burn like a white-hot fire in his hand, sending spikes of pain along his fingertips and turning his veins into something akin to emerald green tentacles. Somehow in that instant all of time seemed to stand still for him. In fact only milliseconds had elapsed, but the unforeseen pause in his actions gave his unwanted mentor one last chance to rise from beyond the grave...
"The hopes and dreams of your people live through you Kal- El. Your destiny must be fulfilled..."
The teenager backed away, surprised and somewhat taken aback at the ship's sudden and abrupt resurrection. His hands shook with the stress of holding the kryptonite his body was so allergic too, and finally as he almost reached the stairs he lost his tenuous grip on the object and it tumbled to the floor. Already tired from the agony and pressure the key placed on his physiology, Clark dropped to his knees, squinting as the pod rose from the ground once again.
"Why?" Clark begged for answers, for mercy from a father he would never meet, "I won't give in to your ways, I won't hurt the people I love..."
The ship hovered, filling the room it inhabited with an incandescent glow like some firefly illuminating a bleak skyline. It remained airborne, as it appeared to take in Clark's question and statement. Then without warning it repeated an action the teen had only once encountered before. The radiance seemed to intensify as if the pod were amassing some kind of power, its shell vibrating slightly with the effort.
Clark held a hand to his face expecting the backlash of energy that he knew would wash over the room, and sure enough after a moment a rush of air and a tiny pulse wave engulfed him. The teen kept his head low; knowing it was safer till the show of force was over. A soft whispering voice soon told him that it was, and as he glanced up he already knew he would find Lionel's fake key no longer held its hellish green color.
"It is time to leave here Kal-El. You must begin your journey..."
The ship taunted him again, although now it shimmering ovoid profile rested helplessly on the ground. Its unearthly shape emitting white wisps of vapor with the effort it had just taken to neutralize the aggressive meteor stone.
"You will rule over this planet Kal-El. Your destiny empowers you to watch over them, to protect those innocents who are weaker than yourself..."
Clark tugged at his weary form, wanting to run up the stairs at super speed and never return, but somehow his legs seemed cemented to the earthy ground. At first the latter parts of his long dead father's words didn't even sink into his terrified brain. All he could hope was to get away and never return for fear of what he might become.
"You must save them from themselves Kal-El, for you alone can draw power from Sol...You alone can protect the innocents..."
This time Clark paused. This message was different, clearer in its intent. He whirled around to stare at the object that had instilled such fear in his heart with a new respect. Slowly it floated off the floor once more and drifted in his direction. It bobbed gently on an invisible air current then settled beside him like some dog to its master.
Clark's expression changed from apprehension to a new kind of reverence for his people. He raised a brow as the knowledge the blast in the cave should have given him finally sank in to its full potential. "You wanted me to help them all along...How was I so blinded by the words I didn't see their true meaning..."
Awestruck the youngster found an aged tractor tire and sat on it as an impromptu chair. His huge frame sank into the perishing rubber but he never noticed, now all his mind could think of was his future, his destiny. There was no way for him to know now what might have been if he had succeeded in his mission with the key, no way of knowing what the world would have been like if he hadn't altered the timeline by pausing for just one split second ...
Clark sat in the cellar for what seemed like hours. It never occurred to him that he had missed his best friend's wedding, or that his parents would be concerned about his whereabouts. All he could dream of now was how he could fulfill the goal his people had set for him. In a way he sensed the journey had already begun the day he had landed in Smallville, because hadn't he already protected the innocent here?
"You alone can protect the innocents..."
The line resounded in his head as if it should mean something. Some pointer as to how he could best use his gifts in a world where revealing them could cost all. Then like a lightning bolt through a clear blue sky he recalled conversations long forgotten, buried deep in the back of his consciousness...
"I just can't help thinking that Whitney wasn't bullet-proof, his bones weren't unbreakable, but he still put himself in harms way so the world could be safer. I wonder if I didn't have my abilities if I'd have that same kind of courage..."
"Son, there is no doubt in our minds that you would."
"Son, there is no doubt in our minds that you would."
Then there had been the careers open day...
"I see you in a uniform flying..."
Clark doubted he would ever be a good pilot, he could barely get off the ground without getting dizzy despite his trip in the balloon with Ryan, but the uniform idea made him think. He stared back fixedly at the pod that had put these new professional callings in his head and it appeared to grin at him like its contoured surface bore a face.
"Protect the innocents..."
Clark smiled for the first time in two days as the sentence played in his mind for the last time. Finally he had chosen a vocation in life, and from the silence of his biological father's very soul he guessed the ship had no argument with his selection.
The teenager pulled his muscular body from its soft and still inviting perch and glanced down at his watch. Once again he was late for a very important moment in his life, but then maybe if he hurried he could still catch Lex and Helen before their flight. In a blur of motion Clark left tiny whirls in the dusty interior of the underground storeroom as he departed. As the microscopic particles of earth came to rest they settled on his pod. There they would stay for many a year as the teen became a man, and finally fulfilled one possible destiny that fate had in store...
Metropolis, October 2013.
A slight breeze blew under the doorframe of the upper story apartment, sending a mini dust cloud across the bare wooden flooring. The two-roomed abode had been uninhabited for some time now, save for the roaches that scurried to and fro, and for the visitor that only came on windswept, stormy nights such as this.
A creaking on the stairs signaled his arrival as if on cue, and the hollow sound of his footsteps echoed along the tiny corridor that led to this would be sanctuary. The key turned effortlessly in the lock, and the rain drenched figure entered; tugging off his saturated long black overcoat he took the only seat in the room and exhaled.
As if noting his mood the downpour outside intensified, each torrent of rain pounding on the grimy glass windowpane like some hammer from the very bowels of Hades. The man smiled at the connection his mind had made, because hell was indeed where he belonged. How long could he continue the tasks he had been set without detection? How long could his already tortured mind carry out these foul deeds?
He stood and paced across to a dark cobweb filled corner, not wanting to reflect on his own transgressions, but all that awaited him was the mirror. Every time he came here he was forced to look at it, forced to gaze upon his own agonized soul. Tonight was no different; the spineless creature that he was stared back at him like a paragon of evil. He may still be a man, but could he be considered a human?
The thought tantalized him more and he touched the reflective glass with his fingertips, letting every tactile sensation run through him. He may not be normal, but here he was master of everything. He smiled, and then hated himself for it. Hated the way his personality had become like a double-edged sword.
The only escape now was to finish the task and pray for his own quietus, his own ending to the insanity. With the realization, he pushed hard on the center of the mirror and it popped open with a slight groan. Beyond lay the darkened chamber only he and one other knew about. Here he kept his tools, and his brutal trophies.
On the wall lay an empty mount, which he swiftly filled with his most precious of implements. The samurai sword slid effortlessly into the cradle that had been made for it and sat there innocently, despite the amount of blood that still stained its already chipped blade. The blood made him wince at the memory of what he had just done, because some part of him, some alter ego reviled the atrocities he did in the name of self- preservation. Still, it made no difference, for now it was time to add the new trophy to the two he already had.
With his head held low as if he didn't wish to see his own depraved work, he drew out the item. A gory red mush met his hands as he pulled it from the aged burlap sack he had swathed it in, and as he gripped the long flowing black hair of the severed skull he felt his own stomach begin to wretch.
The eyes were always the worst, staring at him accusingly from their long dead sockets. He stifled the urge to lose his last meal, and then placed the decapitated head with the already decomposing forms of his previous kills. Three faces seemed to laugh back at him mockingly, faces of children who would never see their eleventh birthdays...
The Following Morning...
The early city traffic droned relentlessly by the ten story apartment building, waking all but the heavy sleepers that dwelled within. The previous evening's rain had finally succumbed to a glorious sunrise as Metropolis began to come to life in a hive of activity, and as always this apartment was no exception.
Clark Kent watched as the dawn sun's rays rose high over the skyscrapers and signaled the start of yet another busy day downtown. He had only been home a few short hours, and in that time his own conscience had afforded him no sleep. As a cop it was his job to protect the city, but when the shift ended his work secretly continued as he watched over those less fortunate than himself. Now, as he sat in his sparse living quarters, he couldn't help but wonder if he had made the right career choice after all. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how quickly he could respond, he could never be in two places at once. Dejectedly he gazed down at an old photo album and yearned to be back at Smallville High. It hadn't seemed like it at the time, but those days had been far simpler.
Gently he flicked a ragged page to a newer set of photos, and found himself smiling as he looked down upon himself in his uniform. Martha and Jonathan had been so proud of him the day he got his first partner and had taken to the streets, proudly protecting and serving the community, but had that long ago decision been the right one? He would never be sure, but one thing he did know was that it had cost him his relationship with Lana. He sighed, suddenly feeling weary even though his body didn't tire. He still remembered the day he had told her vividly in his mind, expecting her to be happy about his choice, only to find her angered and upset.
"Don't you think I went through enough with Whitney? What is it with all you men, wanting to wear a uniform and go get yourself killed? Why can't you have a normal job? Why can't you just be normal!"
The pain in her eyes had said it all, and although they hadn't split up right then, it hadn't been long after that things had taken a spiraling downward turn. Clark guessed fate just had other things in store for both of them. Now he wondered if there even was such a thing as fate. Maybe destiny was just another word for shaping your own life.
The twenty-seven year old gazed around the room, glancing at what life had given him. The walls were plain pastel blue, nothing extravagant. A few neat and inexpensive pieces of furniture adorned the polished wooden floor, and in the corner stood his prize possession. Jonathan had given him the bright red Harley Davidson softail on his twenty-first birthday.
"Son, you've ridden the darn thing more than me, I figured it may as well be registered in your name..."
Clark smiled as his father's words came back to him crisp and clear, then his gaze moved onto the chair next to the bike and he froze. The nine-mil police issue automatic sat innocently hanging in its leather shoulder holster, waiting for him to slip it on before his shift. Clark hated it, and he hated the violence that it stood for, but if he had to wear it to be able to do his job then wear it he must. That didn't mean however that he would ever use it.
"Clark?" A soft and familiar voice echoed from the kitchen, "why is it you never get home till its time to go back to work?"
Clark heard the door gently shut behind her as Chloe let herself into his home. They had been together for what seemed forever now, but they never seemed to be able to find time to spend with one another. The radio by the microwave clicked on and Clark guessed Chloe was eager for the early news as she made breakfast. Instead all she got was the classic Evanescence blurting out 'Bring me to life' so loud he thought the speakers would burst.
"Another busy night?" The Daily Planet reporter queried, popping her head around the door as she rummaged in the almost empty cupboards.
Clark nodded thinking of all the crimes he hadn't been able to stop. "I sometimes wonder if even I make a difference out there..."
Chloe re-emerged from the kitchen and wrapped her arms around his huge frame. "You know you do! Anyway after today you'll be getting a little help..." She looked up naively into his now beaming face, but Clark knew with the glint in her eye that she had something to tell him.
"What's so special about today?" Teasingly he gently tickled her side and she jumped back in surprise.
"Clark!" Chloe feigned anger then smirked, "Captain Manning is giving you a new partner today..." She let the words sink in then suddenly had the urge to return to the cupboards in search of food. She knew Clark would tag along behind until he had extracted more information, even if he had to threaten her with more torture.
The intrigued detective pulled out a dining chair and watched her rifle through his things. "So? How exactly did the roving journalist dig that up?" He sighed, eagerly awaiting her excuse for knowing internal police business.
"Keep your hands off and I might tell you!" She finally conceded. "It's simple, my cousin Lois told me all about it..." Chloe grinned back slyly and tugged at a cornflake packet only to find it empty. "And you're wondering how she knows? That's simple too, she's your new partner! We always thought she'd go into journalism ya know but..."
Clark's face showed his shock and surprise even further and he placed a hand to his temple in both worry and exasperation. "I can't have your cousin as a partner!"
"You're telling me 'bullet-proof Kent' can't hack a female partner?" Chloe was enjoying the verbal sparring match now and wanted to take it up to the next level. It was always good practice before facing Perry White at the Planet's main offices. Waiting for Clark's reply she found the bread bin actually did contain bread and hastily pushed two slices in the toaster.
"Chloe! You know it's not like that! I just can't afford to be seen 'doing things'. Especially not by your cousin." He looked at her pleadingly then glanced at the nearby wall clock and realized it was time he got ready. In a second he had traversed the room, grabbed his gun and jacket, and was back in front of Chloe.
"Pete can't fix things forever you know. How he got you through the police physical I'll never know, but he won't be Mayor Ross for all eternity. What will you do then?" She scrutinized the toaster, exasperated that it still hadn't popped.
Clark flashed her his ice-melting smile and shrugged. "I'll improvise?" Then he grabbed her and pulled her forward in his arms till both their eyes met. "Why didn't you get upset when you found out my secret Chloe? I wouldn't have blamed you?" He softly asked unexpectedly.
Chloe liked this game. "Because I love you?" She smirked, planted a fleeting kiss on his lips then pulled away and looked back to the toaster. "You do realize your toaster is kaput? What will I eat? I really think it's time you went shopping ya know?" She rolled her eyes and for a split second it was like being back at the Torch's office so very long ago.
The already late for work detective grabbed both pieces of bread, tossed them in the air and in a flash super-heated the slices with his eyes, just like he used to back on the farm. As they fell back down he grabbed them and had spread them with jelly without Chloe even perceiving him move. "I need a toaster?" He couldn't help but quip.
"Show off!" She took a section anyway and began to amiably chew on it, "so, before you disappear in a puff of smoke or whatever. Any news on the 'Rainman' murders I can give to Perry to appease his Monday morning rage?"
Clark's mood instantly changed and his face grew somber. It was this spate of attacks that had brought on his early morning melancholy, and until the beast was caught he doubted his mood would change. Only the previous evening his captain had asked him to take over the case because his old friend Brett Falmer had had enough. Brett had a young kid of his own and the gruesome killings were playing on his mind far too much for his work to be detached and impartial. Clark had accepted the job without question, because if anyone could catch this monster he could. The grisly decapitations weighed heavily even on him, probably because his sister Karyn was the very same age as all the victims. He shuddered reflexively at the thought.
"I'm taking over the case." He finally divulged, "But I don't want anything in the papers yet Chloe?" He gave her a disparaging look and she appeared to comprehend his meaning. "Besides, now I have your cousin to deal with I think I'm in enough trouble..."
Chloe grinned and finally finished off the slice in her hand before heading over to the door. "Oh you'll love her trust me!" She grabbed her purse from the dining table as she passed, then remembered an almost forgotten fact, "and don't say I didn't remind you that Lana and Byron are supposed to be coming over tonight..."
Clark nodded. "Don't worry I hadn't forgotten..." Then he locked the door behind them and began to fret even more. The child murders were on his mind, and if this Lois was half the woman Chloe was he was in for one hell of a ride to boot. The last thing he was going to worry about right now was entertaining two old friends.
Metropolis Police Department.
Lois Lane ambled through the brightly lit corridors taking in the feel of her new home away from home. The walls were almost pure white, and the place had the smell of some sterile environment, as if it had been meticulously cleaned only moments earlier. In fact it had the aura of a hospital more than a fully functional police station, and she instantly found herself liking it. There was no disorganization; no general mêlée like was often seen on cheap cliché ridden cop shows.
Lois rounded the corner smiling at her last thought and almost bumped into her new superior. He smiled affably then took note of the name on her badge.
"Ah detective Lane, I was just on my way to meet you..." He held out a welcoming hand then gestured to a sizeable office by a set of overlarge windows. "I'm Captain Manning, if you hadn't already guessed..."
Lois had in fact seen the senior officer's picture in several articles on how to run an efficient station, and was quite impressed with his high standards. For now though she kept the information to herself, not wanting to appear too forward.
"I've heard a lot about you, and I'm looking forward to working in your department." She smiled taking the chair he pulled out for her. "I have however also heard rumors that you want me here to spy on a certain officer? And to be honest I don't like the idea..."
Manning nodded brushing a hand through his graying moustache. He could understand how rumors could get around, and how this one had obviously snowballed as usual. "I don't want you to spy detective. I just want you to do your job, but also to let me know if Kent does anything that could endanger his own life or that of a fellow officer." The commander leaned back in his chair pleased that Lane had come right to the point with her feelings, he like that in a person. "I've had reports for months now saying he can act rather strangely, and then there is the matter of him not drawing his weapon..."
Lois analyzed what she was being told. She had heard all the crazy gossip about this cop too, and frankly she'd thought most of it was hearsay, at least until now. Some people said he had never drawn his weapon on duty once, even if he'd been in the middle of a shootout. The question was did Manning want to fire Kent, or save his life? She looked her new boss straight in the eyes, making note if he could hold her gaze and surprisingly he did. His soft expression and apparent wisdom told her he was sincere, but then looks could still deceive.
"I still detect doubt Miss Lane, and I can understand that. Look at it this way, unless he does something you feel is inappropriate you don't have to tell me a thing." He shook his head, "I've met his parents and I just don't want to be the one to have to tell them I let their son get killed."
The female cop could understand that reasoning, after all her cousin Chloe was going out with the guy. If he had some kind of death wish Chloe deserved to know. "If he does anything strange I'll keep you informed sir."
Manning seemed satisfied with the answer and smiled. "I sincerely hope you have nothing to report other than how much you're enjoying it here. I like Kent, he's good at his job, I just don't want him in a coroner's meat wagon some day." The captain rose from his seat, tugging his jacket together. "Now let me introduce you to the rest of our humble homicide department..."
After a few formal introductions Manning had left Lois to her own devices, assuming she would mingle with the rest of his staff far better if left alone. Now she was wondering just what she had let herself in for. Not only had every single cop she had met so far told her this Clark Kent was crazy, but some even said they would refuse to be his partner if their life depended on it. One had even told her they nicknamed him 'Robocop'. When she had inquired why the duty sergeant had laughed in her face and simply answered.
'Because he thinks he's a man of steel and nothing can hurt him'.
After that she had wearily found the desk that she had been assigned to and awaited his arrival with baited breath. As she glanced at the wall-clock she realized he was already late and found herself gazing at a nearby fish tank out of sudden boredom. Its tropical occupants mesmerized her and she didn't even hear anyone approach.
"He's not as bad as they say you know?"
Lois looked up to see a blonde haired cop grinning like a cat at her. He perched himself on the edge of her desk and folded his arms as if he intended staying there all day. "And you would know because?" She found herself snapping the words out before she had thought them through.
"Because Clark and I were uniform partners straight out of police academy. My name is Brett Falmer by the way..." He held out a hand and Lois took it apologetically. "He's actually the best cop around here except for the gun thing..."
"It's true then, he won't draw it?" Suddenly Lois had forgotten all about the fish and sat up straight in front of her desk.
Falmer nodded, but was still grinning. "It's true. Although I've never known him need to. You know he has the highest score on the weapons range too? Weird isn't it that he refuses to use a gun out on the streets. In fact, he has the highest arrest rate for anyone in this precinct, now you tell me how a guy does that?"
"Hard work!" Clark finally appeared from nowhere, late as always. "Don't you know it's rude to talk about someone behind their back Brett?" The words sounded serious but the young detective was smiling as he said them. "And I take it you're Lois?"
She nodded. "You must be the guy Chloe never shuts up about."
Brett laughed and finally left his seat so that Lois could pop her laptop on the now empty workspace. "He's the one nobody shuts up about!" He threw a mock punch Clark's way but found it was dodged effortlessly as usual. "All bad so I hear..."
Clark couldn't help but grin as his ex-partner jogged back to his own desk as the phone on it began to ring, then he turned his attention back to Lois. She was setting out all her items neatly before her, arranging the work area as ergonomically as the space provided would allow. She noticed him watching as she booted up her slim-line Compaq and turned to him questioningly.
"Where do you keep all your notes? I'll need to be brought up to speed on this case right away." She tapped gracefully at the keypad opening up a new file ready, but Clark shook his head.
"Most of the stuff I keep in here till I have to make a report." He patted the side of his skull. "It's safer that way, and besides, I only just got the case myself. Brett was working on it but it got too much with his family and all..."
Lois frowned unimpressed with his reasoning. "You don't keep organized records, you don't draw your gun, is there anything you do actually get right?"
The detective shrugged his shoulders and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "I catch the bad guys?"
His new partner groaned knowing she had walked straight into his trap, and suddenly found herself liking him despite all that she knew. At times he looked far too young and naïve to be working homicide, then on other occasions she had already noted he had a strange quality about him that made her want to know more. Maybe his unique personality was what Chloe liked, but for now all that Lois knew was that for some reason she had no fear of going out on a case with him, even if the other cops did.
"Kent? Lane?" Both officers whirled around in the cool air-conditioned room to see Manning poking his head out from behind the glass paneled door that led to his office. "We've got another kid's body dumped out in the suburbs..."
For now the introductions and evaluations of one another were over. It had been the news neither cop had wanted to hear, the news that meant that two killings had grown to three, and that they were now definitely dealing with a serial killer the local press had already dubbed 'The Rainman'.