Clark looked over at the sleek white form of the Luthorcorp jet and sighed. The aircraft was brand new- even the company insignia had yet to be painted on its bullet shaped fuselage, and yet he still felt trepidation at boarding it.
The purely natural sensation of flying he had discovered while under the influence of his biological father had done little to quell his fears of man-made flight. Why do I still get butterflies even though I know nothing is going to happen to me? Clark pulled a pained expression at no one in particular as he stuffed his hands in his blue jacket's pockets and ambled across to the Learjet.
"Still afraid of taking to the skies?" Chloe smirked playfully and wrapped a hand around his forearm as they approached the plane together, "I really thought you'd gotten over that. I mean a guy like you…" She bit her lip and let the words hang in mid air.
Ever since Alicia Baker's little revelation about Clark's abilities she'd been letting small comments slip out. It wasn't a voluntary thing- the words just popped out of her mouth before she actually engaged her brain.
Clark scowled but didn't appear to take in the third implication that day that he was anything but 'normal'.
"I just think if we were meant to be up in the heavens we'd have been given the ability to do it without sitting in a hunk of metal that barely defies gravity." He took hold of the rail on the Learjet's steps and quickly clambered aboard before he changed his mind.
It had been a strange weekend in Metropolis for them both. They'd spent two days visiting a technology seminar for students set up by Luthorcorp. If it hadn't been for Lex's insistent offer for them to join him on the plane ride home, Clark would have happily taken the bus.
"Ah, the two wanderers finally made it!" Lex was already seated comfortably at the rear of the cabin, and smiled cheekily as they entered his aircraft's luxurious interior.
He held a bottle of Tynant water in one hand and gestured with the other for his guests to take a seat.
Clark glanced around, feeling somewhat out of place in his jeans and plaid. The internal trappings could have come straight out of Airforce One- not that Clark had ever had the pleasure of riding in that particular aircraft.
"You um don't bring lots of teenage guests on board here do you?" Clark grinned a little as he noted Lex's extensive drinks cabinet.
Lex returned a wry smile of his own, "Just the ones I can trust not to sample my liquor collection." The millionaire pressed a small button embedded in his seat's armrest, "Richard, we're all set."
A disembodied voice echoed back through a concealed speaker in the cabin, "Understood, Mr. Luthor. The tower reports clear skies and a light tail wind. I'll have you home in no time, Sir."
The metal steps creaked slightly as they retracted automatically into the fuselage door and it swung closed with a hydraulic hiss. Clark reflexively grabbed his seat. He'd travelled on the old Luthorcorp jet all the way to China with Lana, and he knew once they'd taken off he'd be fine. It was just the gut-wrenching feeling he had when the wheels locked up and the plane left the ground that made him feel nauseous.
Chloe sympathized. "I once had the same problem with water. Dad never got over not having a son, so he tried taking me fishing for two whole summers before he realized I got sea sick just looking at the boat!"
"But you overcame your fear?" Lex prompted.
"Kind of," Chloe couldn't help but tease, "I found it better if I avoided the boat, the water, and the fishing!" She shrugged, "I mean come on, ace reporter Sullivan with a fishing line? No way!"
The mirth in her eyes made even Clark relax a little and he settled back into his seat. Maybe a short nap while they travelled home might be a good idea. He knew Chloe had a million reporter questions to bombard Lex with while she held a captive audience, and he really didn't want to be the one in the middle. When Chloe sank her teeth in, she rarely let go.
"So, what can you tell me about your new research facility at Luthorcorp? Is it more meteor rock testing…?"
Clark lets the barrage of words from Chloe slowly fade into his subconscious as he drifted off to sleep. His head nuzzled against the soft leather seat and he was soon floating on a cotton-like substance- were they clouds? The dream was a comforting one, and he had no idea how long its peaceful bliss lasted. Time could be so deceiving when you were deep in slumber.
The first indication that something was wrong came in a bright and glaring flash. One minute he was among the imaginary, heavenly clouds, the next he was coming too with a start in the now rocking cabin.
Chloe was at his side, digging her hands and nails into the leather of her seat until a small tear appeared. "Clark!" She almost screamed his name, and the stark reality of the situation hit home.
Something was gravely wrong with Luthorcorp's newest airborne acquisition, and it wasn't just turbulence.
Clark's eyes widened as he pulled his body upright despite the Learjet's insane rocking.
"What happened?" He could hear the words coming from his mouth and realized that common sense was taking over from his well founded fears about artificial flight.
Chloe gulped and still clung to her seat like a limpet, "Lex and I were talking meteor rocks when there was this blinding flash of light," She grimaced at the memory, and as the plane's whole frame juddered she struggled to form coherent words, "The flash was so intense we were engulfed in it…and then…then the plane started going down!"
Clark could see Chloe was panicking. The jet was obviously in trouble, but from their angle in comparison with the horizon he didn't think they were going to slam into the ground anytime soon. The engines seemed to be making an unnatural whining noise that his sensitive ears had detected the moment he had been yanked awake, but that too was better than an out and out stall.
Clark stumbled from his lavish chair as they hit a huge air pocket, and he grabbed the side of Chloe's seat to keep his balance. He leaned over her reassuringly, trying to appear calmer than his stomach actually felt. "Chloe, listen, I need to know where Lex is?"
Chloe dared to lift a hand and point to the crew cabin. "He thought the jet was out of control. He went up front to check on the pilot…" She guessed Clark's next intention and decided she didn't want to be left alone, "Don't you dare leave me alone in this Twilight Zone, Kent!"
"Chloe, it's safer if you stay seated," Clark was shouting above the intense high pitched engine noise now, but to prove his point he took hold of the safety straps and buckled Chloe in. "I'll be right back, I promise!"
Clark turned away quickly, knowing Chloe would protest if he gave her half the chance. He'd never seen her scared like this before- well, only once when she'd finally known the terrible truth about her mother. Hold on, Chloe. We're going to get through this!
The jet seemed to veer to the left sharply as Clark reached the cockpit area door. He leaned with the pitching and steadied his body by bracing himself in the open doorway until the sideways dive abated.
"Lex!" Clark pushed forward until he was in the pilot's cabin with a view of the earth below.
Lex was in the co-pilot's seat struggling with the overly heavy controls. The yoke was rigid in his hands and his knuckles were white with exertion at trying to pull it back. In the pilot's seat, Richard was slumped back, cradling his head as if he had the migraine of the century. Red streaky tears spilled down his face, and when Clark took a closer look he realized the pilot's eyes looked eerily blank. He's blind!
"Can you get him into the back?" Lex glanced over his shoulder at the swinging door to the passenger compartment, "I could do with some help with the controls. She's too heavy for me to handle on my own. It feels like the hydraulics aren't working correctly…"
The Learjet bucked wildly and then settled again as another gigantic air current battered it. Most of the electronic gauges flashed erratically on the instrument panel, and the electronic altimeter appeared to spew out random readings as if it had been confused by some inexplicable event.
Clark wanted to know just what had happened to cause such a phenomenon, but for now the questions could wait. Careful to keep his footing on the shaking deck plate, the teenager quickly unbuckled the pilot's harness and gently grabbed him under each arm. He moaned softly as Clark pulled him backwards and settled him in the first seat in the back.
"The light…it was so bright…just like flying into the sun…" Richard seemed to be incoherent.
Maybe it's shock? Maybe someone let off a nuclear weapon! All kinds of thoughts and fears came to Clark's mind, Electro magnetic pulses can bring a plane down…and that would explain the bright blinding light… "Everything will be alright. Lex will get the plane down and we'll get you to a hospital." While he talked, the teen strapped the pilot back in, because their landing might just be a bumpy one.
Once he was sure Richard was as safe and comfortable as possible he ducked back into the cockpit. Every fibre of his being wanted to check on Chloe first, but Lex was in need of help at the controls or they all might die.
Clark slid behind the pilot's yoke and looked to his long time friend for directions. He may have super powers, but he had no clue how to fly a plane.
Lex dared to take a hand from his own yoke and adjusted the two center throttles to try and keep them from stalling, "Pull back on the yoke until we can get the compass horizon line level…"
Clark glanced around. Amid all the computer controlled instruments there was an old fashioned altimeter than didn't rely on so much technology. It appeared to be working and was indicating they were on a downward path. He nodded he understood and drew back his controls as quickly as he dared without showing Lex he had untold strength. Even to Clark the resistance from the aircraft's systems was blatantly apparent.
As if to voice his fears, Lex looked across the cockpit with a grim expression. He had after all been through this twice before. "We have to land, Clark, and I don't mean at an airport…You might want to strap in."
Clark had expected as much but they were at least almost back home. They had plenty of reasonably soft cornfields to land in- he hoped. "What do I do?" The teen gulped and wondered somewhere deep down what he would have done if Lex hadn't been aboard.
"Just stay calm, and do everything I tell you…" Lex reduced the airspeed, "Help me lower our angle of descent just a little more and I can get the undercarriage down without stalling…"
Clark felt his mouth go dry. If he messed up now he'd live, but three others would die. Gradually, he forced the yoke forward until the artificial horizon showed the correct angle. Lex nodded, beads of perspiration forming on his bald cranium. He pulled back a short lever and hit a yellow button and the plane juddered as its wheels began to lower.
Clark heard an unmistakable sigh of relief from his friend. Lex thought the wheels weren't going to go down! The respite was short lived. "Um, Lex, I don't mean to be negative but aren't those fields getting pretty big, pretty fast?"
Lex checked the altimeter and their speed. He even tapped the unit's glass fascia with his forefinger to make sure it wasn't stuck. "We can't be as high as that says…we're almost on top of those corn sheaves! I can almost see every ear…" The millionaire frowned as he stared at the Kansas earth and crops below, "This is going to sound ridiculous, but…"
"But we're about to land in a corn field the size of the United States!" Clark instinctively drew back on his controls as he finally accepted what they were seeing. The ground below hadn't suddenly become closer, it was simply a LOT bigger than they were expecting. "Lex, I don't think we should try and land in that!" The teen was no expert, but the size of the corn stalks in relation to their own minute dimensions meant it would be like ramming the jet into a building, not a field of crops.
Lex nodded and pulled back on his own yoke, trying desperately to skim over the top of the yellowing corn. A wingtip caught on an ear as it lashed in the breeze and the jet bounced like it had been hit with a giant baseball bat. The blow pushed it forward, but also downwards, and their fate was only saved by the fact that they were now at the edge of the crops.
Clark continued to try and control the spiralling jet, as did Lex, but it was a futile attempt given their position. The plane hit the furrowed perimeter of the next field and slid along the ground until it slammed into the next ridge of soil. The huge mound of damp earth repelled the tiny aircraft into the first few rows of corn and the front wheel gave way under the stress. The conical nose hit the nearest stalk and became an effective brake for the now battered little plane. Something hissed from the rear tail like steam, and as Lex moved his arms from over his face he thought he smelled the pungent aroma of aviation fuel.
"Clark?" Lex blinked and noted his left eye was blurred. He touched his forehead and realized he must have cut his head in the crash. Blood from it had seeped into his eye and was causing the problem. "Clark, are you alright?" He began unbuckling his harness with shaking hands.
"Never better…I think…" Clark looked around in a daze. This can't be happening. I must still be asleep! He frowned at Lex, wondering if he dare ask the next question, "Am I dreaming, or did we just hurtle into a giant corn field?"
Lex's staid demeanour told Clark to get serious- fast. "You're not dreaming about the size of the corn, and I'm not imagining the smell of fuel. Come on, we have to get Richard and Chloe clear of the plane until we can check it out." The millionaire hopped from his seat and clambered through into the rear cabin. Even though their situation was ridiculous he was keeping his usual cool.
Clark was on his feet and following at his heels within the second. "Chloe!"
The young blonde stirred and squinted at the sound of her name. She winced when she moved her head one way, but after a brief moment decided she was reasonably in one piece. "Lex, where did you learn to fly?" She griped as Clark unfastened her belt, little knowing what was outside.
"No time for that now. We need to get off the jet. Lex thinks it might be leaking fuel." Clark hurried Chloe from her seat, keeping his arm wrapped around her trembling frame for support.
Chloe's brow creased as she was escorted to the door and Clark hit the emergency release lever. "Wait, where are the emergency services? Didn't we even make it back to the airport?"
Clark opened his mouth, but had no real explanation to give. Instead, he glanced back to see how Lex was doing with the pilot. The millionaire had the man's arm over his shoulder and was already struggling halfway down the aisle bearing his weight. Satisfied, Clark determined to let the outside world speak for its self. He pushed hard with his shoulder on the sticking door mechanism and after a momentary groan the metal gave way and slid down to form a step. Had he not been on board, they may have all been trapped due to the faltering hydraulics, but with Clark's abilities it was an easy fix- if only their over-sized surroundings could be remedied so easily.
The jet was at an angle with its nose firmly in the ground, and as Clark lowered Chloe down he noted they were at least camouflaged by a few metres of corn. He blinked, still not really able to take in the huge crops that towered above him. Jack and the Beanstalk…
Chloe had yet to look around and realize just where they had come to rest. She bounced down to the earthy floor and as Clark and Lex lowered the pilot she helped to steady him. Once they had all exited the jet and were at a safe distance, she finally took in that they had landed in a rather unusual location.
"Just what did you drop us in?" Chloe put her hands on her hips and her eyes bulged as she noted the immense tubular shafts that encircled them. She glanced skywards and eventually understood what she was looking at. "What is this, another Luthorcorp fertilizer project gone awry? How do you hide this stuff from people?"
Lex shook his head. They had just nearly died in some freak aviation accident, landed in a titanic sized batch of corn, and all that Chloe could think of was another Luthorcorp conspiracy theory. He was about to argue his company's case with a vehemence when he realized that in her way, Chloe had a point. If Luthorcorp didn't cause this, what the hell did? Has dad been scheming behind my back again? It might appear a dumb question to be thinking when the air was filled with gasoline fumes, but it was something they would sorely need to answer if they were to ever escape this place.
"Chloe, I hate to say this, but from the view I got from the cockpit, we're not just in a giant corn field…we're about the only small things in Smallville!"
Both Lex and Chloe stopped glaring at one another and stared at the tall teen instead. He shrugged back. "It's not just this field that's bigger, everything looked huge. I'm not even sure we're in Kansas anymore…"
"Yeah, well click your heels Dorothy, because I don't intend spending a night in this nightmare!" Chloe was starting to get scared of what might go bump in the darkness of a vast sea of corn, and her snark was in full swing, "Did you guys ever see Honey I Shrunk the Kids? There could be giant insects out here, or worse!"
Lex rolled up his shirt sleeves. "Not exactly my kind of movie, but I take your point, and it's a well founded one. Whatever happened up there," He shot a glance beyond the lofty corn, "It only seems to have affected us. As of now, we're fair game to anything and everything. I suggest we start making an inventory and check the plane out."
Clark looked at the now scarred and blackened Luthorcorp jet as it lay nose first in the dirt. Even if they could repair and refuel it, how on earth could they get back home when they had no clue where home was anymore, or how they had even become so small?