"He's gone." One science geek repeated, while the other stood frozen to the ground, dumbstruck.
Chloe wanted to scream and when Clark vanished before her eyes, she thought she probably had. Her research told her these two weird science candidates were holding onto reality by their fingertips, but nothing had indicated their top secret project was suppose to be a weapon. Nor had Clark reacted like any kryptonite, err, meteor rocks were around so when the beam of light struck Clark, the machine couldn't have harmed him. He was impervious to lasers. Chloe fought back the fear and seized hold of her anger to steady herself.
"I can see he's gone. Where is he? What the hell is this thing supposed to do?"
"It worked, it must have worked; but he wasn't supposed to go," Lab coat number two finally found his voice. "How dare he interfere with the project?"
Chloe advanced on him with vicious intent clearly shining in her eyes. "How dare he interfere?" Both of her mad scientists took a step back as her fury built. "You use University funds for unauthorized experiments, break into the science building to steal what you couldn't embezzle, and then turn your dooms day device on the first person to walk through the door. You both had better start talking real fast as to why I shouldn't take this sledge hammer and destroy your baby." Only the outlandish stories she picked up from their neighbor was keeping her from complete panic. If there was any truth in those outrageous tales, then Clark might be ok. Otherwise, the device wouldn't be the only thing on which she used the sledgehammer.
"It was an accident, I got nervous." The first inventor volunteered.
Chloe recognized him as Victor Davinhoe as she took a step closer with the hammer. "Not good enough"
"Wait! Don't damage it. You need it if you ever want to see your friend again," the second one shouted leaping in front of the contraption.
"Milton Hamlish," Chloe identified the protector as she continued, "I still don't hear any explanations. Start talking now. What happened to Clark?" She shifted hands along the wooden handle of the heavy hammer.
"Tell her," Victor urged.
"Fine, we've developed a way to peel back a layer and slip into an alternate universe. We've done testing on inanimate objects and even mice. Today I was going to go."
"Then bring Clark back right now and I might not use this taser on you." She dropped the hammer, pulled out a dangerous looking black object, and let the energy build-up crackle for effect.
"It's not that easy," Milton replied.
"What do you mean? You said you did testing; that you were going to use it yourself."
Victor answered, "We used a tag, a marker to retrieve those things. Your friend traveled without that."
Chloe knew about the multi-verse theories skimming around the world of science. Most felt it too far out in left field to give the theory any credence, but she had seen stranger things come true. "So fine, Milton you were going to go anyway. You can go, tag him, and bring him back."
He slowly shook his head. "There could be hundreds of thousands of copies of this reality, this universe we know. He's in one of them, but we don't know which universe he slipped into."
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Blinding light flared. His other senses dimmed, muffled like being under water, and then he staggered forward. A moment before, he was helping Chloe explore an unregistered science lab in a crowded corner of the University's archival basement section of the library. Clark spun around; not only was Chloe gone, but any remnant of the lab was also missing.
He called out her name and then used his abilities to scope out the building. Earlier he and Chloe had an easy time getting in undetected. The newly built section of the University Library, where the rare manuscripts and computers were located, might have used stationed security guards in addition to the regular alarm and motion detectors. But, in the old wing, where study carousels occupied the upper floors and the basement levels housed a wide variety of defunct paraphernalia, a standard lock and a simple alarm easily bypassed was all that stood in the way in an otherwise empty building. Now, he picked up scattered life signs all over, but heard nothing that made him think they belonged to Chloe or the two from the lab. From the snippets of conversation he tuned into, the study carousels were kept open 24/7 for finals. But hadn't Chloe just finished finals last Friday? Most of the University students already had cleaned out their dorm rooms. Only those working as teaching assistants or summer students stayed on. Something wasn't right. He needed to find Chloe.
He zipped over to the dormitories. Just an hour ago, the place had been a ghost town. Now muffled music contained behind closed doors burst through the air whenever students slipped in and out of the hallways. The crowds in the corridor made blending in easy, but Clark's apprehension grew in front of Chloe's dorm room. On the door was a poster of a very un-Chloe like fluffy unicorn. He checked the dorm room number. This was her room. He visited both her and Lana enough to be sure he was not in the wrong spot.
Before he could knock, the door swung open. A pair of heavily made up eyes registered momentary surprise and then switched to calculated appreciation. Clark smiled nervously and asked, "Is Chloe here?"
"Chloe Sullivan, this is her dorm room."
A disappointed pout appeared on her face. The very pretty piece of male candy wasn't looking for her. "Sorry sugar, but you're in the wrong place. I've been in the room all year, just me and Juanita. No Chloe's here. Maybe you're on the wrong floor," she ended with a smile that hinted she would like to keep him for herself.
Clark barely paid any attention to the girl, as he scanned the room and the rooms around it. He didn't waste time trying to understand what was happening. He absently thanked the girl and headed out. The Daily Planet, he should be able to find her there or wait until she showed up.
He delayed using his super speed until he ducked into the empty stairwell. At the edge of campus, he stopped in surprise. The skyline was different and off to the east moonlight played on the surface of a bay before reaching out into a large body of water, water that shouldn't be there. According to the sign, he was definitely standing on the campus of Metropolis University. He zoomed in on the license plates of the cars going by. None belonged to the state of Kansas. What was going on?
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Chloe's mind went numb. They were telling her Clark was lost, gone, trapped. Grief spiked through her and a half sob, half gasp escaped her. "No," she couldn't believe it. "NO!" She wouldn't believe it and wouldn't give up on Clark that easily. "Clark is out there somewhere and you two are going to figure out how to find him."
"I told you it's not that easy," Milton began. "Without the tagging device to amplify his signature in space, we can't track him down."
"Wait, you said the tagging device just boosts his signature," Chloe tried to reason out.
Victor stepped in to explain, "Yes, we found that every object, whether living or inanimate, gives off a unique signal."
"What kind of signal? Why can't you track that down?"
"You wouldn't understand," Milton said dismissively.
Chloe narrowed her eyes in annoyance, "Then make me understand."
Victor cleared his throat nervously and said, "Our work is highly sensitive and if word got out there are those who would try to take credit for..."
Chloe impatiently cut him off. "Word is about to get out in a very big way if you two don't get me some answers and if we don't get Clark back I wouldn't be surprised if the police hold you for murder."
"Murder! We didn't kill anyone!" Victor proclaimed turning pale as he spoke.
"Maybe not," began Chloe, "but they will be way more likely to believe you created some kind of laser weapon that you used on Clark than you just accidentally sent him to an unknown universe." They both just looked at her. "Now start explaining everything."
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Clark needed to get his bearings. He knew his way around his Metropolis, but not this one. He found a phone booth and looked up the Daily Planet in the directory. He sighed in relief when he spotted the familiar logo of the Planet. He noted the address and then scanned the downtown map that the phonebook company so thoughtfully provided. In a flash, he stood before the entrance of the Daily Planet.
The building was different. This Planet was an old granite Art Deco period building instead of made up of steel and glass. The whole neighborhood around the Planer felt less urban than the gritty, high-traffic area he remembered. Inside everything was different too. A guard sat at the desk not really paying attention during what looked like a shift change. Clark went to the bank of elevators and rode one to the newsroom floor.
The doors slid open and even though it was after nine on a Friday night, all the lights were on and a small crowd was listening intently to the instructions barked from a grey haired man with his shirt sleeves rolled up. One by one, the crowd peeled off to carry out their orders until just three people stood with the man obviously in charge. Clark listened in as the youngest in the group excitedly informed "Mr. White" that the Justice department had confirmed their allegations.
Mr. White pumped his fist in the air, shouted, "Take that Mindy Church!" and then gesturing wildly, turned to the well-dressed couple standing with him. "This is big, so ah, I need to have your notes right away and the article written in my hands ASAP." The striking brunette assured him they would have it finished in twenty minutes. He threw his hands up in the air, "Then what are you waiting for?" Clark watched the couple go to one of the nearby desks and huddle together over the keyboard rapidly making final additions. The whole room thrummed with energy. Chloe had to be here. She loved when a big scope hit the newsroom and the editor called in everybody to make sure it made it to the front page by the next edition.
Clark looked around the newsroom but did not spot Chloe. He walked down the few steps that separated the elevators from the bullpen and headed toward the back of the room and other more likely places to find an intern's desk. He was passing Mr. White as he finished giving instructions to "Jimmy". The name startled Clark. He looked again at the errand boy. The Planet must have more than one Jimmy on the payroll, because Clark didn't recognize him. A moment later Jimmy called out, "Hey, wait a minute." Jimmy grinned at him and asked, "Can I help you? You look like you're looking for someone."
"Yes, could you tell me where is Chloe Sullivan's desk?"
Jimmy scrunched up his forehead thinking. "Chloe Sullivan, I don't recognize the name. Is she new?"
Clark felt that little bit of panic again, "No, she's been at the Planet for more than a year."
"Ok, let me just check the list, what did you say your name was?"
Jimmy looked up from the clipboard he was holding. "Kent? If you're looking for Clark Kent, he's over there with Lois. But you'd better not disturb them until after they turn in that article or Perry will have my head."
Clark looked where Jimmy pointed him. He saw that couple from before. Did Jimmy just say Clark Kent was over there? For a brief moment, he expected to see himself. Instead, he saw someone around ten years older and who (except for the dark hair) looked nothing like the face Clark stared at every morning in the mirror. The guy was even wearing glasses. Clark dismissed it from his mind. "So, do you have Chloe listed?"
Jimmy shook his head, "Sorry man, I don't see her name any where on the list." At Clark's look of confusion he added, "Look, maybe I'm wrong, but I usually make it a point to get to know all of the ladies around here. A guy's got to know the playing field if you know what I mean." When he didn't get a guy-to-guy look of understanding, he turned and gestured toward to two reporters finishing up. "If you want to wait, I can check with them. Lois has been here for years and Clark has knack for knowing what's going on." Jimmy laughed, "What Lane and Kent don't know ain't worth knowing."
"Clark Kent and Lois Lane?"
Jimmy was surprised how puzzled the guy seemed. He turned toward the bullpen where they were working and said, "Yeah, in the flesh." He felt a breeze and when he turned back to the visitor, he was gone. "Where'd he go?"