The Fallow Season
Smallville – Monday
The cold Kansas rain cascaded down on the small cemetery. A line of cars rolled silently towards a tent-covered grave. If in their grief, the occupants had glanced out the window, they would have seen one young man standing alone in front of two headstones. Dressed in black, his silhouette was nonetheless impressive against the grey sky. It was his face that would have pulled at their hearts, though. It was a face in anguish. His eyes were red from crying. It had been a month since Martha Kent's death and Clark was lost. Friends had stopped to try and cheer him up, but how do you console the inconsolable? These two simple people, Martha and Jonathan Kent were his link to the world, his only family. Most of who he was came from them. Now he would never see either again. You don't just cheer up from that. Questions without answers tormented him. How do you move on when you're world is falling apart? How do you get past the feeling that you'll always be alone? For the past month he'd been wrestling with what to do now. The thought of going back to the life he'd been leading held little appeal to Clark. What was really left of it anyway, he thought? He needed to get away, far away from everything and everyone.
If he noticed the rain it wasn't apparent as he started walking back to the farm. Neighbors stopped and offered rides, but he politely turned them all down. As he rounded the bend and saw the house he'd grown up in, there was none of the usual joy that always filled him before. It was empty now. The spirit that made it a home was gone. Stepping onto the porch, he could hear the wind chimes tinkling in the breeze. A sad smile crossed his lips as he remembered Ma and Pa putting those up. His fingers lightly touched them as the memory came back. Pa had won them at the fair for Ma. Clark could still picture him boasting about his skill and Ma laughing as they picked out the perfect spot to display the wood and metal ornament. Little memories like that had been popping into Clark's mind all the time lately. He could see them both so clearly in his mind. They had been so full of life back then. His soul ached just thinking about how that was all in the past. It made his decision easier. As he turned the key in the front door lock, a figure stepped out from the shadows on the porch.
"Thank you for coming, Jonn," Clark said, as he opened the door. His whole nature seemed despondent. "Come on in out of the rain."
Clark stepped into the silence of the big empty house. He took on his coat and hung it on the hook. Jonn followed and closed the door behind him.
"Have a seat," Clark offered. Even in his depression, he tried to be a good host. "Do you want something to drink or eat?"
"No, thank you," Jonn replied, moving over towards the couch. He was worried about his friend. The pain and anguish were plain on his face. Jonn knew about these emotions from his past. He wished he had some comforting words to say, but knew there were none. Clark was in the depths of this and only he could pull himself out.
"How are you my friend," Jonn asked. Clark sat down across from him. He didn't even seem to notice how wet his clothes were.
"I've been better." Clark offered, giving Jonn a small smile.
"I know this is a difficult time for you, Kal-El, but remember who you are." Jonn found himself saying, even though he knew it was futile.
"I've been trying, Jonn, believe me, I have," Clark replied. Some of his angst slipped through, but he quickly composed himself. "I ask you here today for a favor, Jonn."
"I'm going away for awhile, Jonn, perhaps a long while, I don't really know. I was hoping you would occasionally fill in as Clark Kent while I'm gone. I don't want to risk anyone else being hurt because of me."
Concern rose in Jonn as he listened to Clark. The thought of him disappearing was not good.
"The world still needs you Superman," Jonn said forcefully.
"I think it can get along without me for a while, Jonn," Clark replied. He dropped his head, running his strong fingers through his damp locks.
"I believe you're mistaken, my friend. You're a symbol of hope for so many."
"I can't be a symbol of hope if I have none, Jonn. Please, understand, I just can't stay here right now." Clark offered him. When he looked up, Jonn saw just how lost Clark really was. Jonn knew it was pointless to try and talk him out of it, but he found himself trying anyway.
"Leaving won't stop these feelings, Kal-El, only facing them will. I know things seem bleak at the moment…" Jonn said, but Clark cut him gently off.
"Please, Jonn, I appreciate what you're trying to do, I really do. I just can't stay. I've taken care of everything. The house is paid for and there's money from the insurance that should be more than enough for anything you might need."
"Why, Kal-El? Tell me why?"
"There's a million reasons that wouldn't make any sense to you or anyone else," Clark replied. "It really doesn't matter what reason you want to believe, it's just something I have to do. Please, will you do this one thing for me? Please?"
"Yes, but I still believe this is a mistake."
"Maybe, I don't really know, but it feels like my only choice at the moment."
"Why do you feel you must leave, Kal-El? Give me one reason. Tell me why?"
Clark looked at his friend. How do you tell someone you think you'll go mad if you stay? How do you tell them it hurts too much to remain? How do you explain you're so far down that if you don't leave you might never climb back out? Are there any words that can convey the abyss you feel like you're in? Whatever explanation you give will be inadequate.
"Tell me why," Jonn said softly. "Just one reason, Kal-El. Tell me why?"
"I don't like Mondays."
Metropolis – Monday evening
Lois Lane had returned to the city. She was trying to move on with her life, but her thoughts kept returning to Clark. She had come back for Martha's funeral and was struck by the sight of him. She had never seen anyone as devastated as he looked that day. Watching him throughout the rest of that day, it was as if he were on autopilot. He said all the right words, but the look in his sky blue eyes spoke of something broken inside. She had made the trip down to Smallville several times, but it was like visiting a ghost. She had tried everything, compassion, tenderness, anger, but nothing seemed to get through the wall of sorrow that surrounded him. He was in such a deep depression, part of her feared for his life. When Perry had asked her to come back, she had jumped at the chance if only to be nearer to him. She'd hoped that she could help him, to bring him around, but nothing changed. He took a leave of absence from the paper and no one expected him to return anytime soon. Reluctantly she realized that only Clark would be able to pull him out of the depression he was in. She would gladly be there for him every step of the way, but he was going to have to take the first step alone. It went against her very nature to give in, but this was one time she would have to just wait.
The familiar rush of wind made her heart skip a beat as she turned to look at her balcony. She was so used to seeing Superman there, it caught her by surprise to see Clark standing there instead. He was dressed differently than she ever remembered seeing him. He was in all black and wore a long coat.
"Hello, Lois," he replied. He didn't move towards her and remained standing on the balcony.
"Well, come in for awhile," she said.
"No, I just stopped by to say good bye," he replied.
"Good bye? What are you talking about?"
"I'm leaving, Lois."
"When? Where are you going? For how long are you going?" The questions tumbled out automatically.
"Always the reporter, asking the five W's," he said with a sad smile. "I'm leaving tonight, Lois. I don't really know how long I'll be gone. I just wanted to let you know and apologize for everything."
"You-You can't just leave!"
"I have to," he replied, some of his sadness slipping through. "With everything that's gone on, I just wanted to apologize for how things ended with us. I hope you can forgive me for all the mistakes."
"Clark, don't talk like that!" Lois was frantic, as she saw the serious look in his eyes. While things hadn't turned out the way she wanted, the thought of him not being around was too troubling to consider. "We both made mistakes! I forgive you, you forgive me, we move on. That's the way it's done! You-You don't just disappear!"
"What will you tell the world?" She was clutching at straws, trying desperately to think of anything to make him reconsider.
"I'll leave that up to you. I trust you, Lois. Good bye," Clark said, beginning to rise. As she rushed towards the balcony, he was already climbing into the sky.
"No! Don't do this, Clark!" Lois shouted, but he was already too high for her to see. She stood there on the balcony, bewildered about what to do.
Wally had pulled monitoring duty and glumly sat watching the screens. There were probably a hundred places he'd rather be, but duty calls. His attention was suddenly focused on a small blip on one of the screens. It was coming from the Midwest. As he ran a scan, it turned out to be a ship traveling up at incredible speed. Following protocol, he hit the warning signal and started running the scans of the ship through the computer database. In the next moment the ship broke through the atmosphere and then disappeared out of the solar system within seconds. Jonn was the first to arrive.
"What is it, Wally?"
"A ship just left Earth heading for deep space. The configuration is unfamiliar to me. I've got the computer running it now," Wally informed him. Both of them stood watching as the computer did its work. The resulting answer was a complete surprise to Wally.
"Kryptonian? What the hell? Do you think it was Zod?"
There was a sad look on Jonn's face as he reached over and turned off the warning.
"Unfortunately no," Jonn said, as he slowly walked out of the monitoring room.
Granny Goodness was breathing hard as she ran down the corridor. The sound of battle continued to draw nearer with each passing second. There was a look of fear in her eyes as she slammed and locked a huge metal door blocking the corridor. It wouldn't stop her, she knew, but it might slow her down. As she reached the throne room, several elite guards stood at attention.
"Oh, my boys, my boys, protect your Granny from that horrible girl! She's out of control!"
The guards took up defensive positions, even as the sounds of battle continued to draw closer. Granny didn't stop, dashing into the throne room and slammed the doors closed behind her. She bolted them and then headed towards the throne. Her lord and master would save her, Granny told herself. As she entered the main chamber, she gasped. Darkseid wasn't there. Thinking quickly, she knew most of her avenues of escape were closed off. She couldn't outrun her, but Granny hadn't survived this long without a trick up her sleeve. She quickly found a hiding spot to ambush her pursuer. Huddled from view, she waited. She could hear the sounds of weapons fire and the screams. They grew closer and closer. The great doors to the hall began to bend and warp under a repeated assault. Suddenly they gave way, exploded inward and sending a plume of smoke and metal into the air. Granny ducked down even further. As the smoke cleared, Lashina was standing there holding the unconscious bodies of Stompa and several of the elite guards.
"Granny! Show yourself, you evil old hag!"
Granny clutched her Omega Rod tighter, waiting the just the right moment to strike at her insolent pupil. Lashina dropped the bodies and moved into the throne room. The field commander of the Furies seethed with anger. It was far beyond anything she had ever experienced in her life. She had learned early on that Granny Goodness was a sadistic, manipulative taskmaster, but this was too much.
"You can't escape me! Your death will be long and painful at my hands, you heartless old bitch!"
Granny waited until Lashina's back was to her and then struck. Her Omega Rod made contact with the young Fury sending her tumbling across the room.
"Oh, you've been a very bad girl, Lashina. Threatening and insulting your dear old Granny just will not do. I will have to make you pay for that," Granny said, the malice evident in her voice. As she moved in for the next strike, Lashina's whip flicked through the air and wrapped itself around Granny's arm. The electrical current made Granny scream and drop her Omega Rod. Lashina was on her feet again. Her whips found their target again and again, punishing Granny. She would have beaten her to death if not for the twin beams that hit her and knocked her across the hall.
"What is the meaning of this," asked the cold, menacing voice of Darkseid. Granny scrambled over to his side as quickly as she could. There were cuts and bruises all over her body.
"Oh, great Lord, this impunity girl has attacked her dear old Granny. Punish her!"
A cruel smile spread across Granny's face as she waited for Lashina to be disciplined by Darkseid. Lashina had been knocked back to where she had dropped the elite guards. She struggled to stand and face her dark lord.
"Great Darkseid, she killed him! While I was off serving you, Granny took my son! She took him to her orphanage and killed him! His blood is on her hands!"
"The boy was weak," Granny said with a snarl. "He probably gets that from his father. He needed to be taught discipline."
"You murdered him," Lashina screamed, her whips sizzling in her hands.
"If he wasn't strong enough to survive like the rest, he deserved to die," Granny fired back, even as she moved a step further behind Darkseid.
"He was mine! You will pay for his death!" Lashina screamed, with all the anger and pain spilling out.
'You are mistaken, Lashina," Darkseid said evenly. "On Apokolips, everything belongs to me. The child you had with Kal-El while he served me was mine as well. Nothing is yours except what I give you. Granny followed my orders concerning the boy. Your affection for him made him weak. The weak die on Apokolips!"
"You had no right!" Lashina screamed. "He was mine, just mine! He was the one thing that was truly ever mine! You killed him for no reason!"
"You forget your place, Fury!" Darkseid voice made the room tremble with his rising anger. "All on Apokolips live or die at my whim!"
"Punish her, O Great Darkseid," Granny whispered malevolently. "Teach her the lessons she seems to have forgotten."
Lashina stood there facing her Lord and Master. She had served him all her life, never questioning anything he told her or did. She'd even died at his hands, but had thanked him when he brought her back. The hard cruel lessons had been beaten and tortured into her by Granny from the time she could walk. Never in all that time had she doubted anything Darkseid did. Today, in this moment, she did. He had just told her; the one bright and beautiful thing in her entire life had been snuffed out at his whim. It was too much for her to accept. Lashina experienced a crisis of faith.
"Submit and apologize, Lashina and I might allow you to live," Darkseid said to her.
"What?" Granny said in shock. She couldn't believe anyone could be foolish enough to defy Darkseid. Her prized pupil was about to die. Granny stepped out from behind Darkseid with a cruel smile on her face.
"Kill her, O Great Lord."
"To Hell with both of you," Lashina spat out. With a flick of her wrist, her whip snapped out and cut a deep gash across Granny's face. The older woman screamed in pain as blood spit out from the wound. Darkseid said nothing but fired his Omega rays at her. Lashina knew this was coming and at the last moment lifted the unconscious elite guardsman in front of her. He turned to ash in her hands. Granny screamed in frustration as she witnessed this.
Darkseid backhanded Granny for her insolence and fired another volley at Lashina. Again she managed to use a guardsman as a shield. As he turned to ash in her hands she made her escape. Parademons were swarming the throne room. She fought her way through them using their bodies for cover against Darkseid's deadly beams. Tossing two of them towards a window, she followed, diving out of the tower. The rest of the Parademons followed her.
Darkseid stood in front of his throne watching all of this. Granny finally managed to get to her feet. The nasty gash on her face was bleeding, but her first instinct was to Darkseid.
"Forgive my weakness, O Great Darkseid," she said to him.
"Does the boy live?"
"Oh, yes, yes, Great Darkseid! I did as you commanded. Not a hair on his pretty little head has been touched," Granny replied quickly.
"See that it doesn't or you will pay the price," Darkseid said to her, his voice cold and unforgiving.
"It is as you wish, Darkseid."
"The boy has a great future ahead of him in service to me. He was becoming too attached to his mother. That creates a divided loyalty as we just witnessed."
"What of Lashina, Master," Granny asked. She was bowing and genuflecting in front of him, but there was murder in her eyes.
"Let her run," Darkseid replied. "Let her have the illusion of freedom for now. When the time is right she will come back to us. Send the Parademons after her as a test. We will see if she deserves to live."
"I will make it so, Lord Darkseid. I am as always your humble servant," Granny said, bowing as she left the room. After she was gone, Darkseid sat back on his throne and a rare smile crossed his face. The boy was the key to the future. He would be Darkseid's greatest warrior and his herald of the new age.