Well, this is it for now, folks ;)
Clark reached out to push Chloe back physically when she still didn't budge, but the move came almost too late. Somewhere below, Dvorkin was already firing up the generator, and its effects began to open up an invisible hole in the sky in front of them. With the hole came the same hellish white glare as before.
"No!" Clark screamed as he released the controls and dived in front of Chloe at superspeed, shielding her from the onslaught of brilliantly opaline light that was being emitted from the heavens.
Chloe fell backwards at his touch and instinctively put her forearm across her face. Without a pilot, and trapped once more in a cross dimensional storm, the plane pitched heavily and began to dive to its left. Both teens tumbled into the rear of the cabin with the motion and became a momentary tangle of limbs.
"It's happening again, isn't it? Answer me, dammit!" Richard's veins bulged in his neck as he yelled for some kind of response, but none came. "What's happening?" He yelped more, tugging frantically at his bonds even though he could go nowhere.
"Clark!" This time it was Chloe who was doing the shouting. Somehow, she'd managed to unravel her body from underneath the farmboy's and was now trying desperately to scramble to her feet in the rocking cabin. "Clark, are you alright?" It was a silly question, because from the way he was trying to grab at the nearest seat it was obvious he was not.
"Get me back into the cockpit!" The reply came back more of an order than an answer, and the change in his tone surprised Chloe. She'd never heard such a commanding side to Clark Kent before. Clark was still going to try and fly the plane, no matter what was wrong with him, and that took more than courage, that took a hero- something she knew he'd always be.
Stifling the urge to demand more answers to why he was struggling to get up, Chloe fought the shuddering of the Learjet deck and grabbed Clark's arm, guiding him up and forward. He blinked several times as they scrambled back in the cockpit, confirming her suspicions. "You can't see, can you?"
Clark retook the pilot's seat and rubbed at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. "I'm not blind, Chloe, I just can't see clearly. My vision will clear if I give it a moment." I hope…
The jet bucked again, and its nose took a decidedly downward turn. Chloe grabbed the back of Lex's seat to stop herself from going headfirst into the instrument panel and then huffed. "In case you hadn't noticed we don't have a moment! Is there anything I can do to help pull this thing up?" Her voice juddered in time with the violent motion of the plane.
Clark took a breath and tried to recall all Lex had taught him in his one and only flying lesson. "Chloe, you have to find the artificial horizon and altimeter and read what they say out loud to me." He retook the yoke in both hands and began to gently pull back. He may not know everything yet, but even through blurred vision he knew they were going down way too fast.
Chloe scoured the array of electronic instruments and realized just what she'd pushed Clark into volunteering for. It took a minute to even locate the correct screens, but when she did, she read back the readings calmly and without panic. Clark doesn't need a screaming reporter on his hands right now!
"We're going down too fast, Chloe. I can't lower the undercarriage like this!" Clark didn't mention he couldn't see far enough ahead to pick out anywhere to land anyway. That problem would have to be dealt with later. "When I pull back the throttles I need you to read out the speed as it decreases…" He reached out his right hand and struggled to find the central throttles with his fingers.
"Um, it says 312…and slowing," Chloe bit her lip, hoping her words meant something to Clark, because she had no clue what speed the jet should be going down at. She waited a moment and read out more figures as the digital clock whirled backwards. Eventually, Clark took his hand from the throttles, signalling their speed was somewhat more acceptable, "Can you see yet?" She dared to ask above more howling from Richard.
"I'm getting better, but the flash was like looking at the sun for too long. I have this patch of white haze wherever I look…" He rubbed at his eyes again and they appeared to water a little from the action, "At least I guess this is what it's like to look at the sun for a…for you…" Clark caught his own slip of the tongue. There was no need for Chloe to know his true heritage while they were in this situation.
Chloe took the hint that he couldn't normally have vision problems, but still had no clue that he was an alien. "So, can we put the wheels down now and land this puppy before I go grey?"
"Do you see anywhere we could make a landing yet?" Clark squinted, but beyond the cockpit safety glass was still one big blur. In fact, Chloe's features were so hazy she could be smiling at him and he wouldn't even know it. The only thing he had to be thankful for was that his sight was getting better. He hadn't lied to the reporter on that fact. His days of keeping the truth from Chloe were over once they got home. She deserved that much.
Chloe leaned over, unable to get the best view because the pilot and co-pilots area was pretty cramped. They weren't in a 747 after all. From the window she got a slightly bumpy view of their surroundings. It was hard to tell from the air, but she was pretty sure they were heading towards Smallville and the infamous Crater Lake. "Let's just say we really don't want to belly flop this thing into a meteor infested lake anytime soon. You might want to take her a little further yet…"
Clark flexed his fingers and his grip on the controls tightened. Crater Lake would be like landing in an acid bath if things went wrong. He felt his heart start to race at the thought and he tried to breathe more slowly to calm his nerves. Not far now. Not far to plenty of wide open fields…The subconscious chant almost worked until an alarm klaxon began to sound in the cabin.
"Clark, I um, think we have a problem." Even though he couldn't see her expression, Clark could just picture Chloe's face as she glanced at him, "We have a fuel warning light flashing and I don't think we can fill this thing up at Davenport's even if it is just over that ridge!" To convince herself she double checked the digital fuel gauge and immediately wished she hadn't, "The fuel level is going down rapidly!"
An image of the fuel line he'd repaired instantly hit Clark, followed by Lex's comment about being worried about it. They were dumping fuel and in mid air there was no way to stop it. The jet was going down whether they wanted to land yet or not. "Chloe, we have to lower the undercarriage now before it's too late."
Clark struggled again to find the right controls, but now when he squinted things were at least getting back into focus. He flicked the switch for the hydraulics and said a silent prayer that the front wheel followed the rest. His sensitive ears picked up on every slight movement as the three wheels came down, and finally he could rest at the triple thud that confirmed they'd all locked into position.
This time, please do as I ask, Chloe. Go in the back and buckle up." Clark gave the reporter a pleading look and she obeyed. There was little more she could do to help with Lex's prone form taking up the only spare seat.
With a woeful glance back she vanished into the passenger compartment leaving Clark alone. He squeezed both eyes tightly shut and then reopened them while kicking into x-ray mode. The plan worked, and he was able to check Chloe was doing as he asked. Thankfully, she was halfway through strapping herself in and he smiled. Chloe actually did as I asked her for once!
Satisfied, Clark turned his attention back to the rapidly approaching cornfield that looked like it was going to be their landing space. Oh no, not another cornfield! This time though, at least the sheaves of corn were the right size. I guess we really made it through the portal!
Clark shook off his euphoric though and settled back in to the task at hand. The Learjet shook again and suddenly both engines began to sputter and then slow. The fuel was gone. The teen had expected this, but knew that thankfully the plane wouldn't just drop from the air. It would, however be harder to control. Like I have control anyway!
Despite several more negative thoughts, Clark kept his mind on the instruments and keeping the plane level. From the feedback through the controls it felt like they were already brushing the tops of the corn with the underbelly. Or was that just his imagination? If he'd had time he could have used his x-ray vision to check, but right now, even through slightly blurry eyes, Clark saw something ahead of the plane as it at last slammed full force into the corn.
Before he could determine what the object was, the whole world seemed to turn upside down. Clark might have many gifts, but surprise was always an element that could even catch him out.
The nose gear had apparently snagged on something below the corn- maybe a rut in the earth. Now, the plane was spinning to the left and its left wingtip was gouging into the field as it bit down hard into the earth.
Clark felt his harness pull tight as he was pitched forward, and then it loosened again as the Learjet finally slowed. Being cautious, Clark quickly shut down everything on board he could find and glanced over to Lex. The billionaire appeared oblivious to what had happened and still lay unconscious in his seat. Clark wasn't sure that was a good sign, but now that they were back, Smallville Medical Center was only a short distance away. He should be okay…
The teen quickly unbuckled his harness and scrambled through the door to check on Chloe. The blonde was already up out of her seat and racing towards him as he smiled at her.
"You did it! I knew you could! And just look at the size of those corn stalks!" Chloe bounded into his arms and squeezed hard, "I'll never call corn that size again!" Chloe carried on babbling for another minute before she took a breath, stood back and inhaled.
"I should run and call for help." Clark headed for the door, thinking he could kick into superspeed and reach the nearest phone in seconds, "Lex doesn't look so good…" He grabbed the emergency release lever and pushed hard until the door hissed open.
"Maybe we should get the others outside first?" Chloe grimaced. She was not looking forward to being left alone with Richard and an unconscious Lex again. "What if the plane catches fire or something?"
Clark pulled a face that clearly said, 'Oh come on Chloe, you know better,' but replied anyway. "What is there to catch fire? We lost all the fuel!" He hopped outside and finally noticed the thing that they had hit as he had come in to land.
It was strewn to the side of the jet with a piece torn from the far corner, but even with its front facing the earth Clark knew what it was. The shape and size was unmistakable. It was poetic really, but he had slammed the Learjet straight into the 'Welcome to Smallville' sign. Chloe followed his gaze and jumped out to join him.
"Wow! You really know where to land, farm boy!" She walked up to the broken sign and had the urge to turn it over and set it straight, even though she wasn't strong enough. It was like they had disturbed something precious after being away from Smallville and home.
Clark guessed what was on Chloe's mind and kneeled, grabbing the outer edge of the wood and flipping it over to the colourful, painted side. He'd seen the thing so many times, and until today its message of 'meteor capital of the world,' had always brought about a pang of guilt. Now, he was so glad to be back even that message was comforting- or at least it should have been.
Both Clark and Chloe took a step back in the trampled corn as they read the message on the board. At first glance it looked the same as ever, but then the words and picture hit home. 'Welcome to Smallville, Kansas. Creamed Corn Capital of the World.'
Chloe's lip quivered. She'd seen the old style board on archive photos at the Torch, and that could only mean one thing- well maybe two.
Clark's thoughts matched the young blonde's. "Chloe…" He backed up another step and took her tiny hand, unable to accept what his now improved eyesight was telling him. "Chloe, we're not home…"
The End…for now.