M.P.D. Safe House...
Daryl looked from the second story window out on to the bustling suburb below. It was the epitome of everything he held dear, and had suddenly lost. Kids were delivering papers or taking their dogs a walk before school, every one seemed happy, not like him. They were normal kids, with families to come home too, people to love them. In his mind he saw his mom putting his lunch ready for school, and he smelled her home baked cookies. These were things he would never see again, and it hurt because it was his fault. Why hadn't he seen their future, just like he did others? Why hadn't he known in time to alert someone?
Afraid of the answers Daryl flicked on the pc the cops had provided for his 'entertainment'. It was no substitute for life or normalcy, but it had given him a much needed distraction during the night when he couldn't sleep. He hadn't slept since that fateful day, not even for an hour, maybe he never would again, and all because he was 'different'.
A young girl giggling down on the street caught his ear and he sighed, knowing the computer would offer no relief today. Dejectedly he switched it to stand by and lay on the bed, stuffing his head into a pillow to try and drown out the real world. It was then that he realized only one other person might know how he felt, and perhaps would understand him. The detective on his parent's case was special, just like he was, maybe when the case was over he would help?
Daryl exhaled, letting his mind clear. It would be a simple task to find out more about Detective Kent, and to know if he ever would help. At one time 'seeing' the future had been a random thing, only switching on and off when it so chose, but as Daryl had grown, so had the extra brain mass. Now if he concentrated he could control it, manipulating what he saw, and who he saw in the future. To access any imminent event he simply had to pick a target, and right now that was Clark.
Letting his body relax, Daryl brought the cop to mind, wanting to see just what would happen in the next few hours, or at most days. He twitched as his cortex began accessing data from some unknown ethereal source, but what he saw was not what he had intended...
Sometimes his visions still went astray, as if he were on the correct path, but not quite reaching his destination. Today was one such day, when his youthful mind could not quite command the gift it had been given. In a way Daryl was glad, because now perhaps he might save a life, instead of causing yet more heartache.
Once latched onto his subject, Daryl closed his eyes, not wanting to lose the connection. He had never seen the people before, or the place, and yet he knew the young girl was unmistakably the cop's sister; Karyn Kent.
The room the girl sat in appeared grim and dirty, and Daryl suspected it hadn't been used by anything but rodents in quite some time. She was tied to an old wooden chair, her mouth gagged by a piece of silver tape, and her eyes darting to and fro in a curious but panicked frenzy. Behind Karyn he could see a window, its glass panes as grimy as the rest of the room; at least what was left of them. He focused his mind on the small broken sections, trying to peer through the jagged edges of glass to the outside. If he could see anything at all, then maybe he could guess where she was being held captive.
Daryl felt his brain begin to lose a grip on his contact and he concentrated harder, wanting to see the exterior of the room before his mind gave in and returned him to the present. The external images came to him in a blur, no one thing staying in focus for more than a second. Overgrown trees and shrubs at first hid the all important clues he would need, and he sighed, angry with his own subconscious. Then a small flash of rusty metal showed itself through the kaleidoscope of broken pictures, and Daryl recognized the corroded hulk of a train and its carriage. More locomotives came into view, and they too were tarnished, and obviously disused.
Daryl squinted, wanting to see more, but his overloading psyche had had enough. Abruptly it flicked back without warning to the room, and to the girl. A man was with her now, his tone suggesting he was angered to the extreme. He wore a blue mask, hiding his features from view, but his body language said enough. The gun in his hand waved in the air constantly, and his voice became more irate as his mood blackened.
"Your brother won't swap the Weiss kid for you! Does he think I'm not serious? Does he think I'm not man enough to carry through with my threat?" The man paced slightly as the little girl watched him terrified, but unable to reply. "I think its time I showed them what I'm capable of, Moore was a wuss compared to me..."
Daryl watched with a new sense of fear and presentiment. Clark's sister was going to be killed right before his eyes and there was nothing he could do to change it. The gunman touched his weapon with a kind of admiration, then brought the end of the barrel up to Karyn's skull, pressing it into her flesh till it marked her pale skin. "Say bye bye honey..."
Daryl recoiled from his premonition just as the bullet erupted from the chamber with a huge crack, sending out a fine spray of gunpowder residue on its victim; or what was left of her. It was a sight he didn't want to see, and yet he felt guilty for it anyway. It's my fault, but maybe I can stop it this time. No one else need die because of me...
Daryl sat forward on the edge of his bed and pulled the quilt around him, suddenly feeling a chill through his whole body. The only way to put and end to this was to give them what they wanted, and he could do that all by himself. He looked over to where the computer still sat innocently on stand by. All he needed now was to find out exactly where the place he had seen was, and it could all be over. If what I saw doesn't happen before I can get there...
The pc came back to life with just one click of a key, and Daryl swiftly logged onto the net. What he had spotted must surely be an old train station or loco scrap yard, and no matter how big Metropolis was, there couldn't be too many of those around. Knowing the best search engines for this kind of hunt, Daryl was on the trail of the kidnappers in just over ten minutes. The place he had seen appeared on the local historical society's web page, and was apparently in an area the locals called 'suicide slums'. It had been tagged for redevelopment for more than five years now, but the low life that inhabited the area were proving hard to remove. It certainly wasn't a place his parents would have wanted him to frequent, but then they weren't exactly in a position to complain anymore.
Mapping out a route on a nearby notepad, Daryl forced a hand in his jeans pocket and tugged out a palmful of loose change. If he was lucky, then maybe it would buy him a bus ride most of the way across town, but he would have to walk the rest and cut through the old station's 'boneyard' of defunct vehicles. Shrugging he moved to the door from his room and peeked through as he opened it just a small crack. The cop guarding him sat at a table, sipping coffee and reading some sports magazine. There was no way he could be passed without questioning.
Daryl turned back, undaunted, and walked over to the window. It was quite a drop to the grass below, and from this height he could easily break a leg or more if he fell. Not caring, he launched himself out onto the ledge anyway and shuffled along till he reached the far end. Just out of his small arms reach lay the rear metal fire escape, if he could grab onto it and slide down his problems would be over. All it would take was one leap, and a whole lot of luck. Daryl sighed and looked to the ground again, because just lately, luck had not been on his side...
The Safe House,
Twenty Five Minutes Later...
Clark hammered his huge fist on the door, impatience and worry getting the better of him. When no one at first replied he thought about smashing straight on through, then he calmed and remembered he could see inside without such a destructive act. As his eyes cut through the door the detective on duty swung it open, giving Clark a full view of his skeleton and the Danish he had chewed on before answering the door.
"Where's Daryl?" Kent pushed his way inside, not waiting for the obese cop's reply. "Shouldn't you be watching him?"
The guard shrugged. He hated 'babysitting' duty, and it was all too apparent. "He's in the bedroom, playing on that damn computer again. It's all he does, even at night."
Clark swung open the adjoining door with a harsh shove, already knowing it was empty. The window lay open where the kid had left it, and in the morning breeze a nearby notepad's pages flicked back and forth. Kent honed in on them, and even from this distance could still see the indentations the last writer had made. It looked like directions, and yet they appeared to have been scribbled in a hurry, and in no particular order. Without the author they were useless.
"You let him get out!" Clark couldn't hide his disgust. "Do you realize what they'll do to him if they catch him?"
Again the guardian seemed nonplussed. He sauntered back to his second Danish and switched off the TV that had been running in the background. "Relax. What's all the fuss? I mean they already got the Rainman."
If Clark had been a violent man, or even his father, the detective might have gotten more than a tongue lashing for his incompetence. As it was Kent shook his head and turned back to any evidence he might find at hand. "If you'd been keeping up with developments you'd know my sister has been taken, and they want Daryl in exchange."
An uneasy silence followed as Clark inspected the still warm pc, and ignored the embarrassed officer at his side. On the flat screen he scrolled through the most recently viewed sites, noting every one showed Metropolis landmarks and places of interest. Now it was his job to draw a parallel between them all and the directions so hastily jotted down. Any man could have done the task, but not as quickly as Clark's speeding brain cells allowed.
After calculating all the possibilities he scrawled a quick note of his own. "Take this," he pushed the directions in the fat cop's chubby hand, "send backup as fast as you can, and tell them to be careful. There are two kids in there, and hopefully they're still alive."
"Count on it!" Eager to redeem himself, he reached to the food filled table for his radio. When he spun back around Kent had vanished, leaving not even the echo of his footsteps on the unadorned stairs...
The Old Station Yard...
The yard seemed strangely quiet to Clark after the flurry of activity in the city, but he didn't kid himself for one moment that this place could ever be innocent; it was in the wrong part of town for that. Every scumbag and lowlife in Metropolis had spent time here at one point or another in their lives. It was a regular den of inequity, and sooner or later someone had better clean it up.
He glanced around the broken down trains and carriages, secretly searching for his sister or Daryl, but each vehicle held only an abundance of local wildlife. Some had bats hanging from their dilapidated and rotting ceilings, others had rats, mice, and an overabundance of insects and other creepy crawlies. He moved on, taking each step with care and precision, not wanting to alert the kidnappers to his presence.
Up ahead the cop noticed the multitude of weeds and wild couch grass had been recently well trodden. It could mean this place was being used as a hideout for any of the slums known criminals, or it also could mean Daryl had been correct in thinking Karyn was here. As long as I got here before he did, we still might have a chance of this ending without more bloodshed...
A creaking of metal alerted Clark to another's sudden arrival and he whirled, perhaps a little faster than normal. Brett Falmer grinned back with his usual sarcastic face, then lowered his already drawn sidearm. "How do you always get to the scene first?" He jogged up beside his ex-partner and winked, rolling a piece of gum around his mouth as he surveyed the area. "I just got the call as I came by this place; I guess I couldn't have been closer if I'd planned it."
"See anything yet?" Clark queried, continuing his visual sweep.
Brett shook his head, and then nodded towards the ramshackle complex of buildings to the South. "I don't think our guy is in the bone yard. Maybe over in the workshops, or upper story offices?"
Clark had to agree, but it was one huge risk to go over there with Falmer on his tail. Without the use of his powers it would be almost impossible to control the situation. The only alternative was to do whatever it took, even if that meant revealing himself to save a life. "Let's go take a peek, and hope the rest of the backup doesn't take too long..."
The workshops massive shutter door hung rusted and limp, leaving plenty of room for anyone who so wished to enter. Clark crouched down first, slipping his large frame through the gap with ease. Brett tagged along behind, his weapon still in the defensive position should anyone attack. "Still not getting your gun out?"
Kent pretended not to hear the mocking remark, and instead began scanning the upper offices as quickly as his vision would allow. They were all dark and foreboding, each one an advertisement of why not to visit this part of Metropolis. The place had obviously been used for illicit purposes for many years, but would it now become a home to murder too?
The detective almost shuddered at the thought, then paused when his x-ray mode caught full view of a skeleton tied to a chair. He turned down the intensity of his scan, and looked again, knowing the tiny figure was his sister. She appeared unharmed apart from a few bruises to her wrists, but the terror in her expression was almost too much to bear.
"You see something?" Falmer edged in closer, and then took the lead up an open stairwell to the next floor. The walls here were graffiti filled, mostly with things Clark wished Karyn hadn't been exposed to. She was far too unsullied for all of this.
"Not yet." Clark told a white, but necessary lie, then searched more of the rooms for the kidnappers, but no one seemed to be around. It was unusual, and it scared him slightly for the kids' sakes. "We should go this way..."
Not caring whether Falmer followed or not, Kent veered off down a corridor and stopped outside the office his sister was in. He checked again, just to be sure, and then knowing it was clear quietly entered. Karyn's eyes bulged at the sight of her rescuer, and were she not gagged she would have cried out in pleasure. Clark put a finger to his lips as he began to undo her bonds, indicating he required her silence when he removed the gag. She nodded then patiently waited as Brett came into the room too. Seeing it was clear, he pushed his revolver back in its hip holster then casually sauntered over to a dented filing cabinet that sat to the right of the window.
"Funny how things are never what they appear isn't it Clark? Just like you?" Falmer picked up a shiny new weapon from the cabinet without even stopping to slip on any latex gloves. That coupled with his strange sentence caused Kent to stop what he was doing and raise a brow.
The gun was now pointed in his and Karyn's direction, waving to and fro as if its owner couldn't decide whom to shoot first. Brett smiled, and then grabbed a spare clip that was lying in the dust and threw it at Clark. "See what I found!"
Thinking Falmer was taking one of his all too frequent jokes too far, Clark instinctively grabbed what was headed his way then cringed. The one thing he had never expected was happening, and he had fallen for it. As the metal casing hit his open hand the kryptonite enhanced bullets inside began to affect his body, and he collapsed on the floor in agony, dropping the clip as he rolled on his side.
"You?" The failing cop's voice couldn't hide his amazement and anguish at his old friend being involved in such heinous crimes. Now all too late he noted the gun Brett had retrieved from the cabinet was a Desert Eagle, just like the one he had been shot with. "Why?" He gasped, trying to hold onto consciousness for Karyn's sake.
Brett moved closer, the distorted light from the grimy window making his shadow all the more fiendish and demon-like. "I wish I could give you some moral reason, like they do on TV? But to be honest Kent I haven't got one. I'm in this for the money." He stopped, checking his watch. "I wish I had more time, then I could ramble on and let you find a way out. Something else they do on the shows huh? Well not here, this is reality. All I want from you is where that little brat Weiss is, and I'll end it real quick for you..."
Clark coughed, trying to move his shaking hand enough to push the evil cache of bullets away, but Falmer simply kicked them closer. Shaking his head he leaned till his head was close to his victim's, waiting for a reply.
"You'll kill me and Karyn anyway...I won't risk Daryl's life as well..."
Falmer smirked, then stooped to retrieve Kent's own gun. It gleamed from regular cleaning, although it had still yet to be fired off the range. "I won't kill Karyn Clark, you will, and with your own weapon. Later in a fit of guilt for your involvement in all of this you might just kill yourself too, or maybe I can shoot you when I catch you in the act of being the kidnapper. That would certainly be a plus on my record." He stuffed Kent's weapon into the top of his trousers and leered.
Kent's eyes blurred, but he refused to give into the evil green menace. "You expect them to think I was in on all of this with Moore?"
"I won't need to do much work to convince them, after all Manning already suspects you're over the edge. Just think, I'll be a hero for shooting you! Now, where is the Weiss kid?"
Karyn fidgeted with her almost untied wrists, trying desperately to finish the job Clark had started, so she could act before he got his brains splattered across the room. She had known once Falmer had spoken who he was; even without the mask his voice had betrayed him. The problem was being gagged it was impossible to get through to her brother in time. Now she feared her valiant efforts would be in vain, and they would both die.
Brett was forcing his Desert Eagle to the side of Clark's head now, making the misery he felt double with the proximity of yet more tainted bullets. Still though he wouldn't give in, his body writhing from the effects as his cells were attacked by the meteor radiation. "Going to tell me yet?" Falmer let sarcasm tinge his already contemptuous voice.
"He'll never give in to you!" Karyn, finally loose enough from her bonds and gag, launched herself at her brother's attacker without thinking. It was totally a spontaneous reaction, and had she thought it through fear might have stopped her. As it was she charged at her kidnapper with the chair still half fastened to her legs. She tripped unintentionally, and as Falmer turned the pair crashed to the floor, his all too precious Eagle skimming away from his loosened grasp before he could respond.
"Damn you!" He half rolled, pushing the little girl and her attached chair away, but Karyn wasn't done yet. With her free hand she grabbed his short blonde hair and yanked hard, just like he had done to her. The unexpected action made him roar with anger and he kicked her off, spinning her closer to Clark as he hunted for his lost sidearm.
Any normal ten year old might have curled up and bawled by now, but not Karyn. In her mind Clark had once saved her life, and she would repay her brother a thousand-fold were it possible. For now all she could do was try and boot away the clip that was causing him all the trouble. In her inverted position, half bound to the chair it was difficult, but somehow she managed to lash out just enough to send the thing flying off into the corner.
Instantly Clark began to recover and clambered to his feet. "Are you alright?"
"Go get him or he'll get away!"
Nodding Kent whirled to see Brett dashing out the doorway... without his Eagle. The only weapon he had now was Clark's gun, and that was of no use against its very special owner. "Stay here!" Clark barked the order to his sister as he super sped after his foe. It was personal now and he didn't want Karyn involved anymore, because being a criminal was bad enough, but being a bent cop was far worse...
In the outer passageway it was dark to everyone save Clark, but then he could see in any type of light, and that would always give him the upper hand. Right now though he was surprised to see Falmer had vanished. At first it seemed an unfathomable mystery, so Clark let his ears join in the hunt. Down the corridor the unmistakable sound of leather, sliding on something metallic made Kent burst into action and resume the chase.
A lone steel wire hung from a collapsed section of ceiling, and somehow Falmer had used his belt wrapped around it to abseil over the exposed balcony, and down into the workshops below. It was a brave move, and one that almost worked. Clark however, needed no such crude devices to follow in his wake.
With one slick dive he was over the balcony and floating to the oil and diesel ridden floor below, his jacket billowing in the downdraft like some would be cape. Even after years of disuse he could smell the pungent odors that had once filled this place. Trains had been overhauled here for over half a century, and even now one ancient hulk sat quietly on the turntable, waiting for a refit that would never come. Clark ignored it, instead watching Brett as he stood on the far side of the revolving floor section.
"You have a family of your own, how could you be part of this?" The question wasn't meant as a distraction. It was more for Clark's own peace of mind. How can a man I trusted for so long be so evil?
"Because I wanted to. Money can do lots of things..." The crooked cop backed up, glancing to his left and right for a means of escape. "If I had known just what you're capable of though, I wouldn't have let my involvement become quite so high profile." He retreated more, till his boot caught on the ledge of the train track.
Clark observed him, noting his onrush of fear from the sudden increase in his heartbeat. He's still going to try and make a run for it...
Knowing he had to put an end to Falmer's actions before the rest of the backup arrived Clark looked for an opportunity to thwart his foe, and found one. The almost antique turntable they stood on had lain dormant for so long its underground gears had corroded solid, but to this cop that didn't matter. Clark dropped to the ground, confusing Brett and giving Clark ample time to grab a section of track and tug at it with his super strength.
The floor lurched as cogs that had seized up strained under the pressure, then with a howl of metallic pain, the turntable spun around just as Kent had intended. The whole action had only taken seconds, causing Falmer to be tossed from his feet by the pitching movement beneath him. He screamed in anger and pain as his body slammed into the rusted train rails, then he grabbed Kent's weapon that still lay tucked in his trousers.
"What kind of freak are you? Luthor said you were different but..." Not knowing what else to do the corrupt cop let off a round in temper at his indestructible enemy.
"No!" A child's voice shrieked from an old storage cupboard, and Daryl burst into view. He hadn't been here long, but he had seen enough to know that Clark was in real trouble. The one thing he didn't realize now was that Brett was using his friend's own gun, and that the bullets were quite harmless to him. "Take me, I'm what you wanted!"
Falmer turned just as Kent launched himself between the two, hoping to deter any slugs that headed for Daryl. "I don't mind if I do Weiss!" Brett tugged hard on the trigger, emptying every last slug at the kid.
Clark saw them as if he had just put the world on pause. Each projectile fanning out from the original firing point and zooming straight towards their young and innocent victim. Even at his phenomenal speed it was going to be a close call. With his outstretched hand he cuffed the first two slugs harmlessly to the side, and then he rolled over almost in mid air, letting his back take the impacts of the rest... at least that's what he hoped. Two painless blows to his spine soon told him otherwise, and as he turned back he watched in horror as Daryl's wiry frame crumpled to the dirt ridden floor, his body taking one or more of the stray slugs.
Falmer grinned. "Guess that's the last of the little brats. My job here is done." Keeping Kent's weapon and forcing in another clip he turned tail, running for the small entrance point they had come in by.
Kent bit into his lower lip with frustration, although he never felt it. He had choices to make, stay with the dying ten year old, or trap a killer. His eyes fell on Daryl and he rushed over, not wanting the kid to be alone for one moment. Clark cradled him, letting his almost weightless body rest in his arms. Blood ebbed onto his shirt, but Clark ignored it, anger so intense making him want to do the unthinkable to Falmer.
Daryl stirred, somehow perhaps even sensing the cop's thoughts. "You have to stop him, but you can't hurt him...there's always another way, you know that." The words were almost a whisper as Daryl's eyelids began to flutter. "Trust me; just don't let him leave...he'll get what he deserves..."
Clark nodded. Falmer was nearing the exit now, running like a man possessed, or a man not wanting to face the wrath of one Clark Kent. He never stopped to look back, but if he had he would never have believed his eyes anyway. Clark had gently propped Daryl up on the nearest wall, noting the life's blood that spattered it from the kid's back. Now he'd returned to the turntable, picking up the derelict train like a toy. Its weight was nothing to him, but its sides rocked as he lifted it high above his head, angling for the shot just like he would when shooting hoops.
The oxidized metal began to cave in under the cop's iron grip, and he knew he had to take the shot or lose the opportunity. With one last heave he let the locomotive fly, watching awestruck as his own power sent it soaring across the workshop at precisely the right angle. It was an impossible sight, made real only by his very alien origins.
Finally realizing something was happening, Brett whirled around just as the train began its descent. It collided with the concrete floor like a lightning bolt from the blue only yards from his position, sending shards of debris skimming in every direction. Falmer braced himself, shielding his eyes from the earth shattering landing, and all the flying wreckage. When he looked back up the dust was already dissipating, and he expected Kent to be waiting. As his field of vision cleared however, he was amazed to see the cop once again by the Weiss kid's side. What the hell is he? He has all those abilities and he puts the dying brat first? No wonder he never drew a gun...
Satisfied his escape would be an easy one, Falmer decided he needed to find a new exit and fast. He frenziedly scanned the workshops, and then a new sound made him stop in his tracks. Before he could deliberate any further an intense blast signaled the entry of Metropolis police department's finest S.W.A.T. team. Several officers suddenly descended from the roof on ropes, others exploded through the recently blown hole in the side wall, their machine guns drawn for action.
The leader held up a hand to keep his men at bay while he gave the murderer one last chance. "Give it up Brett..." His voice came out muffled through the black mask he wore, but his gun hand remained perfectly steady.
Falmer didn't wait to give a reply. He had spotted one last chance for freedom, but it meant making a run passed Kent. He didn't care, firing his last few bullets at the lead cop; he dashed back the way he had just come. Some would have said his actions were suicidal, but to Brett they were totally justified. He didn't want to die here, and he sure didn't want to die in some Kansas prison after years on death row. Perhaps though the most frightening thought of all came from another source, because if he didn't escape, Luthor would surely have him removed as a security risk, either way his last run was the only chance for life.
Clark turned as the armed response unit opened fire in retaliation at Brett's shots. Bullets whizzed in every direction, some hitting the walls and ricocheting around the stark abandoned work place until the noise was almost unbearable to his sensitive ears. Instinctively he covered Daryl's view of the scene, not wanting him to see Falmer's death. It was something that could have been avoided, the whole mess was, and as ever Clark blamed himself. The true blame lay with Lucas Luthor of course, but with Brett gone and Daryl lying dying was any of it worth it?
The leader of the S.W.A.T. team approached, and as he pulled down the mask that hid his appearance Clark could see it was Manning. The captain's moustache twitched as he noted his subordinates bloodied clothes, and the young victim he now held. Frantically he gestured towards another team member. "Its all clear! We need those medics in here now!"
Clark almost didn't hear. Instead his gaze never moved from the now very still boy in his arms, only one thing pounding in his brain. Was it worth it? Is it ever worth it...?
A Metropolis Cemetery...
The October rain had once again given way to early morning sunshine, its rays falling on the recently churned earth like some bleak reminder that life did go on no matter what. Bird's chirped, oblivious that they were intruding on the sleep of the dead. No one came back from here though, because their slumber was interminable.
Clark watched the proceedings from a distance, noting only a few close family members had attended Brett Falmer's funeral. It was to be expected he supposed, but it still made him wonder how so many people could have not known the truth behind the mask of Falmer's personality. How do people turn out this way?
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Kent turned to the welcome sound of his partner's voice, and stuffing his hands in his trouser pockets he started to walk towards the next grave he needed to see with Lois in tow. "I was wondering what turns a person into a killer? Do we all have the instinct within us, waiting to be awakened like some dormant disease?"
Lane didn't know. The criminal mind was an enigma she had long given up trying to decipher. One thing she did know though was that maybe Kent wasn't the ideal cop. Ever since the Weiss kid incident he had blamed himself, saying the shooting couldn't have happened if he hadn't been carrying a weapon. Maybe he was right, but while ever the bad guys were armed, Lois thought the cops needed to be too. "So do you think there's any hope for mankind with such heinous crimes becoming more common every day?"
Clark paused, looking down at the recently engraved headstone he had come to see with a heavy heart. The inscription was a simple one, made all the more poignant by the fact that it was a kid's final resting place. Daryl Weiss, Too young to die, too special to live...
The boy had been placed next to his parents, no flowers or tributes marked the site, just three simple tombstones. There was no one left in the world to come visit this family. Clark leaned, brushing a hand over the cold stone, and then oddly smiled. "There has to be hope Lois, or life wouldn't be worth living..."
"But all this and Lucas Luthor still won!" Lane's angry words echoed in the silence of the graveyard, startling a nearby squirrel as it watched them from an overhanging branch. "How can we ever pin all this on him?"
Clark straightened up, inhaling deeply. "We will, I promise you that much..."
The sound of crunching gravel made both detectives look up and pause their conversation. It was unusual for unauthorized vehicles to be allowed entrance here, and yet a lone black limo was approaching. Its slow speed made Lois wonder if its driver had become detached from some funeral procession, but Clark knew otherwise.
"I need to go have a word with someone. Meet me back at the station?"
Lane acknowledged his request with a quick nod, then watched as he jogged up to the brand new stretched Mercedes. All the windows were blacked out, and she suspected they would be bulletproof too. After all, it wasn't too hard to guess whom this show of cash actually belonged to. Lex Luthor still gave her the creeps, and for once she was glad she didn't have to follow her partner to see him. The bald Senator may have saved Kent's life, but it would be a long time before her instincts let her trust him...
Clark tapped on the Plexiglas window with a smirk on his face. As he had made his way over, the license plate to the armored limousine had caught his eye, and it had amused him to see that Lex had changed the vanity registration to SLL, rather than various variants of LL. It was easily apparent why, because he didn't want associating with the LL that stood for Lucas Luthor...
"I see you changed your plates. Are you sure they're legal?" Clark feigned an expression of seriousness and hopped into the immense leather clad interior.
Lex let his gaze fall on his old friend with a look of mirth, then to his younger passenger. "What do you think Daryl?"
"I think I like your car sir!" Daryl gritted his teeth as he sat forward to investigate the wealth of buttons at his disposal, letting the pain he still felt in his damaged body show without thinking. He pushed several of the switches anyway and a bar emerged in front of them. Tastefully stocked with non alcoholic drinks for the kid's and his benefit, Clark noted.
"Are you sure you should be up and about yet? I thought the doctors said next week at the earliest..." The detective looked concerned as Daryl winced again, but grabbed himself an ice cold Coca Cola from Lex stocks anyway.
"I'm fine. You should stop worrying about me and deal with that box in your back pocket!" The still hurting kid looked knowingly at his elder. "I mean I know you do in the end, so it may as well be sooner rather than later..."
Clark's cheeks blushed slightly and Lex raised a brow, but the cop wasn't about to tell his newest secret just yet. Trying in vain to alter the topic he grabbed a cool drink and turned his attention back to Lex. "Seriously, is he ok to be out so soon?"
"Stop worrying, I paid for the best and I got the best. I've been assured he'll be fine. Once the surgeon gives the all clear I have a nice little place for him to stay where Lucas won't find him. My top security people will be with him." Lex ruffled Daryl's hair. It was strange but he was becoming attached to the kid, but then he had liked Ryan too, and couldn't help but draw a comparison. "I've arranged for a similar body to have been placed in the casket, so should Lucas wish to check on the validity of Daryl's demise..." He let the sentence hang; knowing Clark would have something to say.
"Just where did you find suitable remains?" As an afterthought Clark waved off his own question. "On second thoughts, I guess I shouldn't even ask..." He took a gulp from his bottle, the fizzy drink refreshing his taste buds and making him want more. "Have you heard anything about Lana?"
Luthor's eyes twinkled. "She's staying with Mayor Ross at the moment, but she has enquired if she can spend some time with Daryl once he's relocated, and frankly after all they've been through I think it's a good idea."
Lana knows Daryl's alive? How?" Clark sounded incredulous that the kid's very alive status could be so easily discovered. He wasn't afraid Lana would tell anyone, but the more knew the truth, the harder it would be to keep quiet.
Daryl looked at his new and very wealthy mentor for support. "I kind of asked Mr. Luthor to tell her. I feel so alone...and Lana's been through all this before. I know we talk in the future, I've seen it..."
Surprised and satisfied Clark gave in. "Okay, but no one else needs to know." He looked outside as the now moving car stopped at a red light. "I have to be going, I guess its time I did sort out this huh?" He tapped the back pocket that contained the small box, then winked at the youngster.
Lex frowned, hating all the witty subterfuge that was bouncing around in his car. It was one thing to tantalize him, but not to ever give him the answer was just going too far. "You can't leave without telling me what this is all about!"
The much lamented Kent grin flashed across Clark's face as he popped open the rear door. "Oh you'll know soon enough..." And with that he was gone, lost in the milling crowds of shoppers.
"He's like a teenager on a first date again..." Lex voiced his thoughts as the car began to move once more out of the city. "If I didn't know better...ah well I don't have such concerns."
Daryl's eyes glinted. "You will Lex, and her name will be Jacqueline..."
The billionaire's normally invulnerable façade melted in a second, and he gaped open mouthed at his young passenger. Knowing the future could be a good thing, but right now he wasn't sure how much of it he wanted revealing. Ever since Helen Bryce he had maintained a certain distance from getting involved with any woman. There had been countless girlfriends of coarse, but they're relationships had been purely physical. He had vowed no one would ever hurt him again the way Bryce had, and yet here and now, Daryl had this startling news.
"Are you sure it will be serious?" Somehow he felt foolish questioning a kid about impending events, but then his 'crystal ball' kind of clairvoyance had yet to be wrong. He sat forward, impatient for a reply, even though it might not be one he wanted.
Daryl couldn't stifle a small laugh of pleasure at Lex's astounded face. Their long journey back to where he was being tended was going to be a fun one, because now he knew just how to peak Lex's curiosity...
Outside The Daily Planet Offices...
Clark gently pushed his way through the morning throng of business people and early shoppers, searching the multitude of people for Chloe. A brief flash of her head caught his attention as she padded behind a hotdog stall, and he jogged over towards her.
"Chloe!" He waved a hand in the air, although his height meant he was still reasonably easy for the young reporter to spot, even in these crowds. She gestured back, then paused, waiting for his imminent arrival.
"Clark?" Her voice and expression were both quizzical, "what are you doing here? You never come by The Planet..."
Clark gently took her arm but refused to answer. Instead he lightly guided her to a shop front where they could at least be shielded from the bustle of the city street. A young boy breezed by selling papers, and at his cry of 'Luthorcorp shares drop in serious market crash' Chloe tried to pull away.
Clark held her back with a firm hand. "Don't worry about that. We have more important things to discuss. I wanted to talk to you about my apartment..."
An air of mystery came over the young detective and Chloe's journalistic instincts were peaked. She watched longingly as the kid with the papers moved away, and wondered just why she hadn't heard the Luthor news first. After a brief craving to know what was going on, her eyes settled back on Clark.
"You know I was wondering how long it would take for you to ask me?" She raised her brow and her eyes sparkled.
"Ask you?" Now it was Clark's turn to fake surprise.
Chloe continued unabashed. "Ask me to move in silly. I mean with the way you live, you need a woman around to keep the kitchen stocked!" The reporter looked at her watch. She was going to be the one late for work for a change, not Clark. "I really should be getting up to my job or Perry will freak."
Clark shook his head in more surprise and pulled her back as she began to head over to The Planet's lobby. "Chloe, you moving into my apartment wasn't really what I had planned for my future...I mean it's not even what I wanted to talk to you about..."
The reporter froze on the spot, a look of anguish replacing her momentary mirth. She had gone through this before with Clark, back in their teens, but it had never occurred to her that he would back out again. After all they were adults now, things were different, weren't they? She felt tears well in her eyes and whirled around, not wanting him to see how vulnerable she still really was, but Clark spun her back anyway.
The smile she loved so much looked down on her from high, and as she gazed helplessly back into his eyes he lifted her chin with a loving finger. "I don't want you to just move in Chloe..." His free hand tugged a tiny wrapped box from his pocket, and shakily he undid the ribbon that held it fast. Once open he offered it up to her, his heart pounding more than if he'd done a round the world trip at super speed. "Chloe, will you marry me?"
The sidewalk spun as he popped the elusive question out of thin air. Of all the things she had expected, a proposal wasn't one. Light headed was an understatement, as Chloe was left speechless for one of the few times in her life.
"Go on! You gotta say yeah!" The hotdog vendor had been watching from his vantage point, and as the couple turned they realized they had unwittingly drawn an audience. A mass of people now encircled them, and to Chloe's horror one of the onlookers was Perry White. She expected a growl from his direction, but in its place she got an order.
"Well don't just stand there! Give the man an answer!"
This time the tears did come. There was no stopping them, and as they streamed down her face she hugged the lofty detective, never wanting to move for fear it was a dream.
After a long moment she snuggled close to his ear and whispered softly. "Ha! You're only asking me this because I know your deep, dark secret!"
Clark pulled away ever so slightly and winked. "Pete knows, but I didn't ask him to marry me!"
Chloe threw a punch at him and giggled like she was still a school kid. "In that case I better say yes before you change your mind."
Clark's grin grew even wider, and as the mass around them cheered he leaned low and softly kissed his bride to be. Chloe wanted it to last forever, to stand the test of time just as their relationship had, because things hadn't always been this easy...
As their lips met her mind flashed back to the day they had argued, the day she had very nearly fell under Lionel Luthor's evil spell. If Lionel hadn't been killed soon after she might even be working for him now, but luckily fate had dealt a hand, and instead she had simply moved on. She didn't know why, but Clark had changed that day too. She had never once expected him to want to become a cop, and yet he suddenly had the notion that that was what he must do. Either way after their quarrel they hadn't spoken in years. It had become a sore point at Smallville High, and Chloe had been glad when the opportunity came to return to Metropolis and work at The Planet. Still though, their destiny's it would seem were intertwined...
It had been a warm summer night, some two years ago, and Chloe had been out to meet a contact about a story. As it happened the lead was a false one, and she had wasted her time and effort. Frustrated, the young reporter had been on her way home around 11pm, her police scanner switched on in case she heard any breaking story. That was when it had happened. The call went out to the fire department first; a building had caught fire right on the next turn off to Chloe, and several people, including kids were trapped on an upper floor. She glanced skyward and could already see billowing smoke plumes ebbing into the darkness. If she hurried she could be there even before the emergency services.
Giving her late model Pontiac more gas Chloe turned off the road and hopped out of her door, grabbing her digital camera as she raced down the street. A crowd had gathered outside the main exit, and in the distance wailing sirens signaled help was on the way. Looking up through her lens she could see two people waving frantically from a window as flames licked ever closer, and thick black smoke clouds curled around them in an ominous portent of what was to come. Those fire dept guys' better hurry or they aren't going to be in time...
She watched a moment longer, then her keen eye spotted a flash of color speeding down a side alley to the blazing apartment block. Convinced it wasn't a trick of the light she trotted over, ignoring the risk to herself for the good of the story. At the alley's entrance she stopped, trying to see through the smog the fire was causing. Never once did she expect to see someone she knew, and yet as she squinted more she recognized the blur to be Clark Kent. He hadn't seen her, so intense was his desire to save the stranded victims above, and for now Chloe wanted to keep it that way.
Chloe backed up, taking shot after shot and hoping at least one came out through the miasma of smoke. It was an amazing sight for anyone, as the off duty cop kicked in the smoldering side door, and without thought for himself dived straight into intense heat and flames. As he vanished inside, seemingly unharmed, Chloe drew closer and from her position could see just what he was doing. It defied the laws of nature, but somehow Clark was extinguishing, or at least repelling flames with his breath. As he moved towards the stairwell she captured a full shot of him 'in the act' and swallowed hard in incredulity. From here there was little more she could do but wait, and hope he made it back down with survivors. Somehow though, she knew he would.
The rest of that night Chloe hadn't slept much, and when she had her dreams had been fitful and frightening. Just what was Clark? She had always had her suspicions he was different, maybe that was what had kept them apart? Don't be ridiculous Sullivan you know Lana was the real problem... She rose from her insomnia and made coffee, then tugged out her laptop and began to type. This was one of the best story's she was ever likely to get, and she had pictures to prove it. Lithely her fingers danced on the keys, then when she finished she looked down on her work with pride. This was her crowning moment in journalism. 'Off Duty Cop Saves Family...'
That morning when the first issue went out, Chloe had ambled over to her favorite cafe and had binged out. She was just in the process of stuffing in her second sandwich and espresso when a hand on her shoulder had made her jump. The voice that went with it was both familiar, and grateful.
She had looked up to see Kent watching her, a certain fear in his eyes because he knew she had seen the awful truth, and had suppressed it just for him. It hadn't been easy to tell the tale without adding how Clark had managed to save those people against all odds, but she had managed it with her usual flair with words. Of coarse she would have preferred to get a Pulitzer for the real scoop, but one thing time had taught her was there was more to life than that.
She patted the cheap plastic covered bench seat next to her, and then unzipped her purse, retrieving her tiny camera. "I think we have a lot to talk about Clark. It's been a long time..."
He had sat beside her then, wanting their old rift to be healed and suddenly not caring what she knew about him. It didn't matter though, because as Chloe showed him the pictures she had on her illuminated view screen, he knew in his heart she would never give up his one true secret...
Finally, back in the here and now, Chloe let her lips pull away and felt like her world had just exploded...and for the better. The mob was at last moving away, satisfied that their lovers were going to tie the knot and that they had their fairy tale ending.
"So where do we go from here Kent?" Chloe slipped on the perfect fitting ring and couldn't help but stare at its beauty. "I mean, I'm still late for work..."
Clark frowned, and then smiled. "That's the least of my worries. I have to go tell Mom and Dad the news..."
"Ha! You know they'll love it!" She entwined her arm with his then squeezed his huge hand. "Now, while we're on the way to your folks, you can fill me in on this Luthorcorp scandal I seem to have missed..."
Clark let his pupils shrink. "Mnn, I might just be able to help you there..." The pair headed off with much to discuss, and much to plan. To most it was just another day in Metropolis, to this couple it was just the beginning of many exploits to come...
A Seemingly Abandoned Japanese Restaurant...
Lucas Luthor sat at the head of the table, enjoying the succulent sushi as he commanded everyone present's attention. In the old days of his youth he didn't care what he was seen doing, but these days he had to resort to these more clandestine meetings to keep his name out of public view. Lex was the one he wanted kept in the limelight, taking the brunt of the accusations for crimes he had actually had committed.
Tonight Lucas was angry once again that his elder brother had thwarted his attempts at being framed. He tossed a piece of the raw fish across the food ridden table in disgust at the man he held accountable. "Tanner, why couldn't you and that idiot Falmer get one simple job right? And why was Kent's father left alive? He could easily point the finger if he recognized you."
Jez Tanner didn't need telling twice, but the blame wasn't entirely his. "The hotel guy came through...it was easier to leave than get messy Mr. Luthor." Tanner kept his eyes to the floor. He was in a totally hostile environment now, and he had heard what Lucas sometimes did with those who failed him.
The ornate Japanese sculptures and decorations that adorned Luthor's hideaway seemed to laugh at him as he began to panic. It was an optical illusion brought on by his fear, but nevertheless Tanner wanted to get up and run. A candle flickered on the table, sending dancing shadows across the far wall like some oriental nightmare, because that was where Luthor kept his weapons...
"I see you've spotted my collection," Lucas stood and walked over to his antique weaponry. "A fascination of mine from my youth..." Plucking the topmost sword down he returned, letting its blade slide slowly down Tanner's arm and stopping at the wrist. It tickled the hairs and flesh, but for now did no damage. "You know my Yakuza friends have a way of dealing with failures like you...if the transgression is small the employee may offer up a token of his regret. Sometimes a finger I hear. If the failure is more serious then a full ritual suicide is required..." Luthor faced Tanner now, letting the information sink in.
Tanner gulped but didn't move. "If there's anything I can do Sir..."
Lucas smirked. He liked the power he held over people just as much as his father had. "For now you're safe, but next time I will expect a penance." Keeping the samurai weapon he reseated himself, toying with it tauntingly. "Now, down to business. Someone is bringing Luthorcorp shares down, and I suspect my brother. However, my oriental friends could also be behind this in a bid to get their hands on the new strain being developed at level three. I want you to find out which one is responsible..."
Lucas whirled the sword expertly as he had been trained to do. "And then do nothing, simply report the facts to me as you find them, and I will take care of the rest."
Tanner stepped forward, cringing at the raw fish dish Luthor had suddenly decided to tuck back into. "And if Kent interferes again? I can't stop him, nobody can..."
"Kent is busy planning his wedding, and by the time he returns from his honeymoon I will be well on the way to having a little something to curb his eagerness to fight. It's a much more comprehensive 'cure' to our problem cop, trust me."
Luthor laughed for the first time in front of his minion, and instantly Tanner felt alone and afraid. What Lucas was doing at the Smallville plant was tantamount to treason, and he wished now that he had not become involved. Killing was one thing, but on such a vast scale that could occur, it would be nothing more than genocide. Now though with the threat of Luthor's Eastern 'partners', Tanner saw no escape from the hole he'd dug himself into. "I'll find out the data you require Sir."
Lucas nodded, then boorishly waved Tanner out before his next dish was served. "And remember, Kent will soon be a dead man walking...just like you if you fail me again..."
A Back Road Into Smallville...
Clark let the wind breeze through his hair as the Harley sped along the highway at a very modest speed; at least compared to what he was capable of. Chloe hung on behind, squeezing her arms tightly around his waist in a loving hug. He hadn't known if she would find the same thrill as he did from cruising on his dad's bike, but in the end Chloe had enjoyed the purring motorbike more than him. He glanced through his shades at her, and caught her smiling back at his leather clad figure. I sure hope mom and dad take this well...
In reality he had no doubt that they would, but it was just an inbuilt and childish fear he couldn't shake. A bend ahead made him slow a little, dropping the huge bike down a gear and guiding it through the turn. As he built up more speed again a wail from behind made him inhale. It was a police siren, and this close to Smallville he suspected it could be only one person, even after all this time. With a sigh he pulled into the soft verge as soon as it was safe, then tugged off his sunglasses before the sardonic sheriff arrived, hand on hips.
"Well if it isn't our Mr. Kent." The drawl to her voice never changed. "Just because you're some big city cop now, don't mean you can come back home and speed on my roads!"
Chloe let go of her fiancé and scowled at the local police woman with contempt. She had never really forgiven the self righteous know all for making Clark pick up trash, and that was just one thing in list of many the reporter disliked her for. "Well excuse me, but we were not speeding as well you know! Maybe you should be back in town giving out parking tickets, but then I guess you only give those out to harmless little old ladies..." The scorn in Chloe's comment made it easily apparent she meant the sheriff could do better things with her time than pick on innocent people when there were plenty of criminals around.
Adams took the mocking tone in her stride. "Do you want to spend a night in my cells explaining your attitude problem towards the law, Miss Sullivan?"
Chloe refused to back down, and Clark had no intention of defending her. As always it was much more fun to see her verbal sparring, especially with someone as acerbic as Adams. "Do you want to spend a day on the front page of The Planet for police harassment?"
The sheriff huffed, and tucking her thumbs in her belt she tugged it up, trying her hardest to carry on her air of officialdom like she had when they were teens. "Seeing as Mr. Kent here helped catch the Rainman I'm willing to let it go this time, but I'll be watching..." She gave the reporter her best 'evil eye', then slipped back behind the wheel of her patrol car and promptly called in Clark's registration, just to be doubly sure there was nothing she could book them for.
"Do you think she'll ever stop being such a misery?" Chloe poked Clark teasingly as they watched the prickly cop get back in her car. "I mean sheesh, we're not teenagers anymore, who does she think she is?"
Clark slipped an arm around his wife to be. "Maybe we're acting like a couple of teens again and that's why?"
The reporter chuckled. "You may have a point...just promise me something though?" She looked deep into his eyes, attempting to look serious before bursting out in more laughter, "Next time can we fly? It would have been so much simpler to get to your parents."
The cop strengthened his grip and beamed. "Why wait till next time?" With a swift push off from the bike seat he was airborne, taking Chloe with him without breaking a sweat. So fast was his ascent not another living soul saw the pair soar into the heavens, leaving the Harley and one very puzzled sheriff behind.
Adams heard laughter and giggling as the confirmation of Clark's details came through. Annoyed that she could still find nothing to fine the pair for, she looked up into her rearview, about to glower at the two lovers on the bike. Instead all she saw was a lone motorcycle propped on the highway, its fancy frame rocking as if it had just been vacated. Frowning she pushed her door back open and scoured the surrounding roads and countryside, but there was nothing for miles. It was if the earth itself had swallowed them. A cold sensation ran through her as she recalled the freak stories about this town, then she had to smile to herself. I always knew there was something different about you Mr. Kent...