Chapter Four: The Man Comes Around—Part Five
Manufactured light cut through the dimness, danced off the walls and floor as Liz and Kyle descended into the cave. The flashlights were more a prop then anything else, either one could have illuminated the cave bright as day. That however would have been hard to explain if somebody were to stumble upon them.
So for the time being they pretended to be normal humans.
"Wow," Kyle breathed out gazing at the wondrous grotto before him. "This place is—"
"Sacred," Liz said as she ran her fingers over the cave wall with a feather light touch. The natural stone was rough with age. "You can feel the past here." Closing her eyes she allowed the image of years long past to wash over her. "This was a holy place," she said. Her voice sounded far away to her own ears. Louder by far were the chants, ancient songs of worship.
Kyle watched Liz with trepidation as she moved deeper into the cave. A blissful, sublime look had spread across her face as soon as she closed her eyes. With a quick step he caught up with her. "Holy place," he prompted a little uneasily.
"Gods would dwell among them from time to time. This was their place. Shamans would come here to commune with them."
"Like what the Antarans do?"
"No," Liz said with a small shake of her head. "Antarans need a host body—"
"And what these others don't?" Kyle asked as he followed her deeper.
"They could," Liz answered. "But they're cold, dispassionate people and while they look like us, they're not like us. They believe we're beneath them, that we're, at best, pets meant to be kept, at worst, vermin that need to be exterminated."
"And people worshipped them?"
"They… It was different back then, the people, they didn't understand, couldn't understand, couldn't comprehend what they were dealing with. They were simple people; there was this world and the spirit world. And these gods, they looked like us but possessed power beyond comprehension."
"So don't we," Kyle pointed out.
"Beyond comprehension," Liz repeated as her fingers grazed over one of the intricate series of symbols. "They were…" She paused in thought. Her fingers touched something different and her eyes snapped open, light flared brilliant as a blazing sun. Liz felt a tug, a gentle but insistent pull. "Kyle." There was genuine fear in her voice as she reached out for her one time high school sweetheart.
Without the slightest hesitation Kyle grabbed Liz's outstretched hand and was jerked forward as Liz was sucked into some type of interdimensional rift. "I've got you," he shouted pulling back with all his might and felt his hands slip on Liz's skin. He grunted, muscles strained as he pulled back yet slid forward. His heavy work boots weren't getting any traction.
He cares for you deeply. The voice said from all around her. It boomed like rumbling thunder, yet was soft as a whispering wind. Beyond all, he prizes you most.
"Who?" Liz shouted, or thought she shouted. She felt the strain but didn't hear any sound. Not sound as she was used to hearing it.
The Betrayer. The word sounded a curse, a sin worse then naming someone a pedophile. The Destroyer. There was such hatred in those simple words, such all consuming loathing. Whoever this person was destroying him utterly, obliterating him so that no trace of his existence remained was too good a fate for him.
Liz could feel the raw emotion oozing into her, seeping into her pores, filling every fiber of her being. "Who?" She demanded, only vaguely worried when she heard the echoes of the same unbridled hatred in her own words.
Zan. Eons of pain and grief, rage and longing swelled in that single word. They crashed into her, buffeted her from every side. A solitary island, small and desolate in the midst of the raging sea.
"No!" She screamed pushing back against the overwhelming, crushing assault upon her very self. A calmness settled over the area. Liz could tell the entity was taken back by her strength. "You haven't the right."
Who has more right? The voice crackled with savage arrogance Who has more cause then I? Who else has witnessed his butchery, his craving for power, for dominance over all life.
Liz shook her head, at least it felt like she shook her head, her body felt so distant. "Max doesn't care about power, dominance."
Tell that to the world he destroyed. The people obliterated in a blink on the whim of a presumptuous child.
"Max wouldn't, none of them would do what you say," Liz argued angrily.
Forty years ago, as you humans count the passage of time, the being you know of as Max, Child King of the Antar Federation, sowed the seeds to the destruction of my world. Brokering peace with me while plotting our annihilation with General Zod.
"That isn't possible," Liz muttered.
Twenty one years ago, shortly after the birth of my son, I uncovered their treachery. Too little, too late to save my world. Denounced as a hysteric, laughed at and ridiculed by my peers. Enough knew the truth when they saw it. Enough to save a remnant of my people. Thousands of a race that numbered billions. It would be enough.
Twenty One years ago I sent my son to Earth with the key to our people's salvation and now, when the time of fruition is upon us, Zan seeks to thwart my plans. Seeks to undo all that I have strived for.
"Max wouldn't… He couldn't. He remembers nothing of his time before Earth," Liz said in a rush. She could feel him exerting his will once again. He was so powerful, so strong. She knew she wouldn't be able to resist him for long.
If at all.
But there was a way. If she could simply convince him.
I could kill him where he stands. But he needs suffer loss like I have.
"He has," Liz screamed at him, only her voice sounded so very small. "He's lost everything once. Bet…"
He hasn't lost you.
"… rayed by those he loved to one he trusted."
"Kyle!" Liz's shout filled his ears, amplified by her powers in a way Kyle didn't understand. "Don't let go!"
"I won't! I'll never let go!" And he wouldn't. No matter what he would never let go of Liz. In a way, never had let go of her. "Never," he vowed softly and concentrated, focusing his shoulder his head turned to the side with his cheek pressed against the rift, left arm bent at the elbow with his hand pressed flat against the cave wall. He would die before he gave another inch.
"It's in here Kyle, They're here."
Her voice sounded so far away, farther then it should have. He strained, stretching, intent on keeping his vice like grip on her forearm.
"They hate Max!"
"Liz!" Kyle growled. "You have to help me Liz." Her arm was sliding through his fingers. Her skin felt slick, like she just lathered them in grease.
"Hate them all!"
"Concentrate Liz." He was losing her. He gritted his teeth and squeezed harder. He'd apologize later for the broken bones. Suddenly she was jerked out of his hand. "No!" He shouted, lunging forward.
The rift swallowed him, the only thing left outside was his left arm from finger tips to his elbow and his legs somewhere around mid thigh. It was strange, he could feel himself outside, just like always, but inside his body felt as if it had dissolved into a million subatomic fibers; it was like he was everywhere and nowhere, that he was hardwired into everything.
He groped blindly trying to grab hold of anything. He wasn't sure how he was able to grope, or how he expected to hold onto anything. He had no body, no real body, but he knew—
The boy had such strength for a human, was as strong as the girl. It was unprecedented in the length of human history. Jor-El knew he could easily overwhelm both of them if he could spare a fraction more of his will, but diverting that much of his attention from Kal would allow his son to escape before he was ready to face what was to come, and that could not come to pass, the fate of two worlds hung in the balance.
While they were of intense interest to him, he could not allow his attention to be diverted at this crucial junction. He only needed one, and the boy, while a curiosity, was simply that, as much as the odd Sapiens Superior, that have cropped up over the last dozen or so millennium. Recently their numbers have become more prevalent, some with powers that may one day even rival that of a true Kryptonian, but still, they were only a curiosity.
The girl however was anything but. She was a balm to a vexing problem and the opening salvo to the one thing he never thought he would see…
Discovering the Antarans, not just on Earth, but in Smallville, was an event he had never dreamt of. He believed it to be an impossibility. He had thought it was going to take centuries before he could bring those responsible for the destruction of Krypton to justice. And while this wouldn't be justice, it would be just.
Now all he need do was relieve himself of the boy. Despite him being a servant of the Antarans, Jar-El sensed no ill intent in him. He was simply concerned for his friend and determined to return with her.
Jor-El did have a solution. The girl he had used to host Kara's essence slept in a limbo like state. There was a risk to releasing her back upon Earth, but she had served his purpose, and the potential gain far outweighed the risk involved.
Lindsey Harrison deserved a chance to resume her life, though after nearly twenty years and the alterations required to her genetics for her to hold the essence, the power of a Kryptonian without causing permanent damage, would make having, leading a normal life next to impossible. Lindsey didn't deserve to be consigned to oblivion; she was very much like Kara, their personalities meshed so well, which was why she had been chosen to host Kara's essence in the first place. She was an honest girl, caught in an untenable position, much as Kara being the daughter of Zor-El put her in one. Lara loved Kara like her own, and he would have done near anything to make that a reality, but unlike his brother, he would not spill the blood of a member of the house of El; which had left Kara at her father's mercies. Of all the things he failed at, Kara was by far the most personal.
His hand struck something. He thought it was a hand, and latched on with everything he had and pulled backward. He heaved and groaned, slowly pulled back. Every part of his body burned with the effort, every muscle felt like it was going to burst with the strain, but he refused to give up.
Time had no meaning, hours could have passed and it only felt like seconds, seconds could have stretched into hours.
Before Kyle even knew what happened he was outside the rift, in the cave. His entire body throbbed; pain pulsed through his every pore and intensified with each millimeter it descended.
Through the pain, there was the hazy awareness of somebody lying next to him. He patted her arm, tried to anyway. He wasn't sure if he actually succeeded or not. "Its okay Liz," he murmured or thought he did. It might have only been in his head. "I got you out o…" Kyle managed before darkness claimed him.
Max stumbled back, his legs buckling underneath him. The only thing that kept him from collapsing was Michael grabbing hold of him. "What the hell?"
Isobel grabbed hold of his other arm guiding him to a chair. "My god you're burning up," she whispered.
"What happened to the no healing aspect of this plan?" Michael growled as Max settled into the chair.
Max's hand shook with the effort needed to wipe the sweat from his brow. "They weren't natural," he murmured trying to regain his composure. He felt like he'd just ran halfway to the east coast with a thousand pounds strapped to his back.
"How couldn't they be natural?" Isobel asked. She liked her world to make sense, even if it wasn't the sort of sense anybody else would see as such. "Why would somebody fake a heart problem?" Not to mention everything else in his chart.
"They weren't fake," Max answered sounding a little less harried. "More like…" He shook his head like he couldn't believe the thought in his brain.
"Like what?" Michael demanded. Patience was never his strength, and had run out of them rather quickly once Max started healing Kent. The only thing that had kept him from pulling Max off the farmer was Isobel's restraining hand.
Max caught Michael's gaze and despite his fatigued state made his voice hard as a driven beam and said, "Like somebody was exacting a price."
"Why would someone…" Isobel let the question trail off as she looked over at the still comatose Jonathan Kent. The death like pallor was gone. For the first time since entering the room he looked alive. His vitals were stronger then they had been, his breathing was better.
Michael snorted at the question before saying, "More importantly, who could do it?"
"The entity from the cave," Max answered pushing himself to his feet. He sagged a little but quickly locked his knees. He looked from his sister to his eldest friend. "I'm sorry guys, but I think we stumbled into something here. More then we bargained for."
Lex grimaced as he slipped on his deep black shirt. He began doing up the buttons with a slow, steady place. He was sore and felt weak as a day old kitten, but it was better then the alternative. Whatever poison he ingested was so exotic that the doctors couldn't identify more then a handful of the compounds used in its creation.
He thought it would have taken more then a simple blood transfusion to save his life. His doctors agreed that it should only have bought him a few hours, at most. They were stunned, when after a few hours, he had regained consciousness. They were left speechless when his test results came back clean.
Little sister had some explaining to do.
Once he found her, if he found her.
Since he learnt of her existence two years ago during her incarceration in the Orange County Women's Maximum Security Prison he has been debating whether he should contact her or not. At the time he thought it would benefit her more if she could concentrate on her rehabilitation and not the dysfunctional family she was a member of.
She had been doing well, aside from a few fights early on, Faith was a model prisoner. That was until a visit from Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, the same man she confessed to kidnapping and torturing. With feats of superhuman prowess, smashing through unbreakable, bullet proof glass and not just surviving a four story high dive but running away from it without so much as a hitch in her step, she escaped.
After the breakout she dropped off the radar for another six months before resurfacing in England last week with her slate wiped cleaned. No record of her confession, her conviction, nothing. This Council she worked for had muscle, that they could make it disappear… It was as if they waved their hand and it all just vanished, like magic. Nobody he talked to in the California Penal System had ever heard of Faith Wells.
Before two years ago he never heard of her either, that was when a letter finally reached him, forwarded to him over two and a half years and several continents. It followed him from School in Europe to Metropolis back to Europe back to Metropolis and finally Smallville.
It was a strange letter from Richard Wilkins III, the Mayor of a small California town a few hours outside Los Angeles called Sunnydale. The man was looking to adopt a young girl, Faith Wells. Wilkins claimed Faith was his sister, and he couldn't go through with the adoption unless her family gave up all legal rights to her.
Most of the man's letter was insanity wrapped in the vanilla mask of civility. Tracking the man down had been easy, gleaning any information out of him was impossible since he died only a few weeks after sending out the letter, killed, in what the local papers were calling a tragic accident, when a gas main running under Sunnydale High ruptured and exploded during the graduation ceremony.
Wilkins death was less then a day after Faith had been stabbed and thrown off a building of unknown height. Either should have killed her. Neither did, instead she spent the next eight months in a coma. The fact she woke up at all was incredible, that she walked out of the hospital before anybody was aware of her change in condition defied explanation.
Faith had a lot of explaining.
As much explaining as he had to do. When they finally met. No where near what Lionel owed them. A soft knock on his door pulled Lex's mind from his current thoughts. He had learnt earlier in the day that when a nurse knocked it was simply perfunctorily because they never waited for him to respond before opening the door. "Come in." His voice was loud enough to be heard.
The door opened and he smiled, genuinely pleased to see the head that poked in the door. There was actual emotion in his voice when he said, "Mrs. Kent." There was so much more that he wanted to say, so much gratitude that he wanted to express only the words seemed to lodge in the back of his throat.
He hadn't expected many people to visit him, but he thought the few friends he made in Smallville would have dropped in once or twice, but none had. He knew Clark was angry with him for some perceived slight, but thought Clark would have set his feelings aside long enough to visit.
Lana flying back from Paris only hours after arriving wasn't very likely, plane tickets didn't just grow on trees, but it had been a pleasant fantasy; her rushing through the door just as he regained consciousness.
Much as he claimed otherwise Lana had carved out a special place in his heart. Something he thought was impossible after all these years, with his innate cynicism and distrust of his fellow man.
None of that had come to pass. From the little information he pumped out of the nurses he had exactly two visitors, Faith, who disappeared some time last night after the blood transfusion, and Martha Kent, the woman who was gliding effortlessly into the room.
Martha returned the smile, but it was forced, edged with a bitter tension. "You're certainly looking better." It was there, in her voice as well.
"It's good to see a friendly face Mrs. Kent." He didn't realize just how true those words were until he said them. It was good to see a friendly face, somebody he didn't have to worry about maneuvering around or watching his back for the poison dagger. Not that Martha didn't understand business or wasn't dangerous. When she worked for Lionel he found out, very quickly, it would be unwise to underestimate her.
"And it's good to see you back on your feet," she returned. It was the honest truth, but Lex couldn't help but feel he was responsible for the resentment in her voice. "It feels like forever since…" She let the sentence trail as she took in his clothes, a slight arch to her brow before she asked, "Are you sure it's a good idea for you to check out? I'm sure the doctors are going to want to run some sort of test to make sure you're alright."
Lex smirked, the barest hint of a smile; one that said they were more then welcome to try, but I'm Lex Luthor and things are going to be done my way. "Honestly Mrs. Kent, I feel fine, better then I have in ages." Fact was despite his weakness he felt oddly supercharged, exhilarated. As if the world was moving too slow for him.
A lot of explaining to do.
"The blood transfusion worked then," Martha said causing Lex to blink wondering how she could have known about that. Her next words clarified that as she continued, "Faith was positive it would."
"You've met Faith?" There was no keeping the shock out of his voice.
Martha nodded, the barest movement as she said, "Last night. She was, an intriguing young woman."
"What is it?" Lex demanded. He could hear something else in her voice something that sounded like concern.
Mary Jane stared at the breathtaking landscape, that sped by the black '65 Spider Porsche she found herself in, without really seeing it. Her mind was too focused on Peter, on the months it has been since she last saw him and she wasn't quite sure what kind of greeting she was going to give him. It was a toss up between throwing him to the ground and have her wicked way with him or slugging him, spider powers be damned.
She brushed a handful of stray locks out of her face and sighed softly. The Oscorp leer jet had landed at a private airfield on the outskirts of town. Harry said it belonged to an associate who bounced around the prep school, private academy circuit. Lex and him, they weren't friends, but they crossed paths enough to be functionally civil.
Getting to Smallville was easy and had taken very little time, only minutes. If she wasn't so concerned about Peter, Mary Jane would have been a little more concerned about the speed that Harry was racing around at. What they had to wait around for the longest, was the crew unloading his Porsche.
It took better then thirty minutes, but Harry had been insistent. Mary Jane had suggested renting a car, but Harry had scoffed at the idea. Muttering that rental agencies wouldn't carry a black, '65 Porsche Spider.
She didn't think about it, just accepted it. If she had given it a moment's thought she would have realized the oddity. Harry never drove himself anywhere, but now he was driving like a formula one stockcar driver.
But she wasn't and she didn't.
The country side would have made the perfect Midwest picture postcard, with its endless seas of corn stalks swaying lazily in the mid summer breeze. The sort you would send back to friends and family who had never been away from the big city, had never seen such an expanse of open sky.
Harry downshifted smoothly, the Porsche slowing with a surge that caused Mary Jane to take stock of where she was. Even with the rapid deceleration they were fast approaching a dirt driveway, a simple wooden arch stood a few feet from the roadside. It was big enough to allow even large dump body pay loaders underneath. Hanging from the crossbar was a simple wood plaque that proclaimed the land beyond to be the property of the Kent's'.
"We're here?" Mary Jane murmured dreamily as Harry turned onto the dirt driveway before coming to an abrupt stop. The Porsche idling restlessly as it sat there. "We stopped," she said turning frantic eyes on Harry. "Why'd we stop?"
Harry stared at the house in the distance. It was a sturdy, solid building with a massive red barn close enough to be considered an oversized out building. A functional pickup truck was parked in the front yard, and a large tractor was around the side of the barn. "No reason," he answered after a protracted pause.
"Harry," Mary Jane began with patience she didn't feel. She wanted to find Peter, and find him now, only Harry looked like he was wrestling with a ghost, and the ghost definitely had the upper hand. Most people wouldn't have seen it, but most people didn't know Harry as well as she did, or thought she did. All they would see was the thin frown, maybe mistake it for being petulant, and maybe he was.
To most his face would have seemed carved from stone, for all the emotion in it, a particularly brittle kind of stone that would shatter if hit the right way.
He exhaled, an impatient sound. She could almost read the worry playing over his face. It was so much like a little boy who thought they were in trouble and didn't want to face their parents. Mary Jane knew the feeling, she's been avoiding her father for years now, but she didn't understand why Harry would want to avoid Peter. Harry claimed he didn't hold Peter responsible for Norman's death, said he had a fairly good idea of what happened that night, Norman actually being the psychotic super villain known as The Green Goblin.
"I'm not sure I can do this MJ," he finally said.
"You what?" She hissed. Shock and surprise were quickly replaced by annoyed anger. "You drag me all they way out here and now, you don't know."
"I'm not sure Peter even wants to see me. What, with how the two of us left things in New York?"
Mary Jane blinked at his response. It was vague beyond Harry's normal standards. She knew there had to be more to what he had to say, only he had no clue what to say.
"Why wouldn't Pete want to see you? Despite everything you're still Pete's best friend—"
Harry snorted derisively before he said, "That's not saying a hell of a lot about Pete's friends MJ."
"Harry," Mary Jane said with deliberate slowness, "what aren't you telling me?"
Looking up slightly Harry chewed on his cheek. "I almost killed him," he mumbled after a brief hesitation. "I don't know how much Peter told you about that night with Octavius, but… I was the one that set him on Peter and Spider Man. If he captured Spider Man for me, I'd give him the tritium he wanted. I held a knife over his heart, was seconds away from plunging…" He shook his head dismissively, a single, sharp movement. After a calming breath he began again. "If I hadn't pulled off his mask, If I just struck… Peter would be dead, you'd be dead. Most of New York would be a crater. God, MJ. I really screwed up."
Her temper had always been quick to flare up, much like a flash flood, and normally left her with almost as much debris to clean up once she cooled down. Right now it was smoldering and she didn't know who she was angrier with; Peter for not telling her or Harry for waiting until now to tell her.
"You son of a bitch," she growled between clenched teeth.
Her open hand slap caught Harry flat footed. The sting faded quickly, but the impression it left on his check lingered.
She forced the door open without being aware of it as she muttered on unintelligible epitaph at Harry Osborne. Harry's face colored, he hadn't been aware that Mary Jane knew that phrase, much less how to use it properly. The door slammed shut and Harry winced at what sounded like glass shattering inside the door.
"Son of a bitch," she mumbled again as she began to walk up the long driveway.
Harry quickly pulled up alongside her. "MJ, get back in the car," he pleaded with her.
"Fuck off Osborne."
"I'm sorry Mary Jane. I didn't mean for any of that to happen, didn't mean for you to get caught in the cross—"
Mary Jane whirled, hurling her purse at Harry as she shouted, "Screw you Harry."
The purse would have struck true only Harry managed to catch it. Her eyes were filled with rage, but underneath the anger was the shock of betrayal, as if part of her foundation had been stripped away in the last few minutes and he had to wonder if it was him she was furious with, or Peter.
"What the hell do you want? Want me to forgive you, fine you're forgiven. Want Peter's forgiveness?" She laughed at her own question. It was laughter hinged on hysteria. "Funny thing is, he probably forgave you right after it happened, Peter's sort of funny like that."
"Are you done MJ?" Harry asked patiently.
Her scowl didn't lesson, in fact it seemed to intensify as if she was looking for something to say, another barb to throw at him. "No," she finally answered in a huff.
When it became apparent she wasn't going to say anything else Harry began speaking. "I screwed up, I was so angry, the kind of anger that can make people see everything wrong and make it seem not only justifiable but right. My father's dead, my company was in financial ruin and at the heart of it all was Spider Man. I would've dealt with the devil himself if that was what it took. Instead, Octavius came calling."
Mary Jane wasn't sure why she got back in the car. Maybe it was as simple as she didn't want to walk up the driveway, having to navigate her way through ruts and the pits and other little obstacles meant to trip the unwary foot. Maybe it was the fact her anger was already simmering down. She was still upset, more then upset, her life had nearly ended that night. She knew she would forgive Harry if she hadn't already.
He was one of her few friends left over from high school and she wasn't about to toss him to the curb. She wasn't going to forgive him out of hand either. This was definitely a black mark in his ledger and he was going to have to work very hard to get back in her good graces.
"I'm not looking for for—"
"Don't Harry," Mary Jane warned.
Harry frowned softly but didn't say anything. What was left for him to say? He didn't want their forgiveness, not with them simply handing it to him. It needed to be earned, he needed to earn their trust again.
With something like negligence, Harry accelerated the Porsche. It surged forward with a quick leap, in only a few seconds he was pulling to a stop as close to the house as he could without driving on the lawn. He didn't feel like apologizing to anybody else.
Mary Jane glanced over at him and shook her head before she opened the door and slid out of the car. Harry exhaled softly as he pushed open his door. Mary Jane was already at the house rapping on the front door.
It was with heavy footsteps that he trudged up the walk. He shoved his hands into his pockets as he reached the stairs. "I've got a feeling," He began as he started climbing the wooden steps. "That nobody's home."
"What the hell time do people out here get up?" She grumbled looking at her watch. Seven forty-five.