Chapter 19: Teamwork
Oliver was in the fight of his life.
They'd fell on him without warning, just as he'd reached the strong room at the heart of the building. With hindsight he should have known something was wrong. The empty corridors he'd passed through to reach his destination had been a little too empty; deliberately left clear, no doubt, to draw him in. The ambush had been prepared well, Luthor's men lying in wait until he'd reached the door to the strong room and had no means of escape. Then they had emerged from their hiding places, a dozen men pumped up on adrenalin and all pointing their semi-automatic weapons directly at his head. They could have killed him then, but once again Lex's desire to take him alive had given him the chance he'd needed. Their leader had ordered him to lay down his weapons, but barely had the words left the man's mouth when an arrow from Oliver's crossbow impaled itself in his chest. He'd managed to take down three or four of the others before they were on top of him, making use of his bow impossible. Now it was down to hand to hand combat, and with eight against one, the odds hadn't look good.
That was a minute ago, and in that time Oliver had already taken out five of his remaining attackers. Five months of hard training had not only made him stronger than he'd ever been before, but also faster on his feet. The guys he was up against were fit, but the speed with which he moved left them looking flat footed and clumsy. Well placed kicks to the head had sent three of them crashing to the floor unconscious, whilst the other two had been felled with a couple of devastating punches. So far they'd barely managed to land a blow on him, but that was about to change. Maybe he'd started to get over-confident, or maybe he was beginning to tire; whatever the reason, as he exchanged punches with two of the men he failed to notice the third getting round behind him. Suddenly he felt a sharp blow to the back of his head, probably from the butt of the man's gun. He fell forward, momentarily knocked off balance. It was all the opportunity Lex's men needed. Two of them grabbed him, each taking hold of one of his arms and holding him fast. Before Oliver had chance to react the third drove his fist hard into his gut. It was a crippling blow, so strong it caused the young hero to double up in agony. Seeing he had the upper hand, the man didn't hesitate. Again he punched Oliver in the stomach, this time causing him to gasp in pain.
"Do you like that, motherfucker? Do you? Do you like it?" he shouted, pumped up on the excitement of the moment. He then began to pound Oliver repeatedly in the stomach, smashing his fist time and time again into his abs. It was a brutal assault, but there was nothing Oliver could do to protect himself; held fast by the other two men, all he could do was absorb the blows as best he could, and hope that at some point he'd get an opportunity to turn the tables.
At last, after twenty or thirty blows to his gut, his attacker relented, his energy spent. Satisfied that their prey was subdued, the two men who had held Oliver let him go. Seemingly exhausted, Oliver slumped to his knees, his head resting on his heaving chest as he tried to force air into his battered body.
"Not so tough now, leather boy," sneered his attacker, himself breathless after the beating he'd just administered. "Nixon, call it in – tell them we've got the archer."
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," whispered Oliver, his words almost inaudible.
"What was that?" asked the man, glancing at his colleagues. "Did leather boy speak?"
"Maybe he wants some more," replied one of them. All three grinned; they felt in control, the men who had captured the Green Arrow.
"I said, I wouldn't do that if I were you," repeated Oliver, slowing lifting his head and fixing his captors with an ice cold stare.
"Yeah? Why's that?" said his attacker, squatting down in front of Oliver. Tilting his head slightly to one side, he peered at the young hero, obviously enjoying the moment; he appeared oblivious to the danger that was now just a second or two away….
"Well, come on then," he asked impatiently. "Why shouldn't I call it in, pretty boy?"
There was pause for a moment, the two men staring at each other.
"Because you haven't got me."
Before the other man could react, Oliver head butted him in the face. He cried out in pain, clasping his hands to his nose and falling backwards. The other two guards were taken by surprise, but soon recovered. They made to grab Oliver, but he was too quick for them. Leaping to his feet as though nothing had happened, he felled each of them with two kicks to the head. Barely had they hit the floor and Oliver was standing over their leader, staring down impassively at the man who moments earlier had held him captive.
"Fuck you!" gurgled the man, blood spurting from his mouth. "Lex is gonna kill you – you and your band of fucking….."
He didn't get chance to finish, a swift kick to the head knocking him unconscious.
Oliver made his way to the strong room door. His abdominal muscles felt as if they were on fire, but he blanked out the pain; all that mattered now was to get the kryptonite. The ambush had thrown him dangerously off schedule, and he knew that if he didn't work quickly both he and AC would be in a whole heap of trouble. The humming sound emanating from his earpiece told him that coms were down, presumably due to some jamming system activated by Lex's team; he'd heard nothing from either AC or Chloe for the best part of ten minutes. Things were starting to fall apart – he needed to get the rock and get out fast…..
Tense in expectation of the hidden dangers that might lurk beyond the door, Oliver reached for the handle. Much to his surprise, he found it wasn't locked. A stroke of luck, or another trap? He didn't have time to wonder, but instead flung open the door and hurled himself inside, crossbow at the ready.
He found himself in what seemed to be a small anteroom. Opposite the entrance he'd just come through stood a massive steel door, presumably the entrance to the vault. Relieved that there was no welcoming party to greet him, Oliver immediately made his way to it. Pulling a small black box from his tunic, he placed it next to the keypad adjacent to the door. He pressed a button on its side, and waited. Six seconds later a high pitched whine told him that the box had done its work – the vault's security system had been overridden.
Grabbing hold of the handle to the vault, he hauled the heavy steel door open and stepped inside. Immediately his heart sank. The place was empty – just highly polished steel walls and a solitary table that stood alone in the center of the room. There was no sign of any meteor rock.
"Is this what you're looking for?"
Oliver spun round. There, framed in the doorway, stood Clark, a small black box clasped in his right hand. Oliver recognised it immediately – it was a lead box, the one material that could protect Clark from the crippling effects of kryptonite…..
"We wondered how long it would take you to get here," continued Clark, grinning malevolently. "Good work with those guards, by the way – all that training really makes a difference, doesn't it?"
"Save it, Oliver – I've heard it all before, remember? Now put down that crossbow – you might hurt someone."
Slowly Oliver lowered his crossbow, before placing it carefully on the floor. It was all too obvious now that he'd walked into a trap; all he could do was hope that once again he'd get that one lucky break that he needed to escape.
"How's Chloe? I hope you've been looking after her, Oliver – you know how much she means to me."
Oliver's jaw tightened. He didn't know exactly what Clark had done to Chloe during their time together in captivity, but the terror in Chloe's eyes every time Clark's name was mentioned gave him a pretty good idea. Clark was baiting him, he knew that – he was damned if he was going to give him the satisfaction of a response.
Clark walked forward. Slowly he began to circle Oliver, savouring the power he now had over his former friend.
"Look at you – and to think we used to see you as our leader," he said mockingly. "No abilities, no powers – just a pretty face and a pair of leather pants. Well now it's over, Oliver – Luthor's going to kill you, and this time they'll be no miracle, no return from the dead."
He stopped immediately in front of Oliver. The two men stared at each other for a few moments, one defiant, the other triumphant.
"You're finished, Ollie," said Clark, his eyes sparkling with excitement. "I'm the future now - with Chloe at my side, there's nothing I can't do!"
"You can't make her love you."
Clark laughed. It was a strange, unsettling sound, and one which caused a shudder to run down Oliver's spine.
"Really? Oh, Oliver – if only you knew! Now turn around – time we got you ready to meet Lex."
Slowly, Oliver did as he was told. As he did so he just saw Clark placing the box on the table out of the corner of his eye. He knew instantly that this was his chance – it was a desperate longshot, but there was no alternative….
"Hands behind your back."
Oliver reached behind him, as if he were about to do as he'd been told. Then, without warning, he suddenly threw his entire body weight sideways and into the table. As he'd hoped, the force of the impact sent the lead box clattering to the floor. Oliver made a grab for it, but Clark was too quick for him; no sooner had Oliver's fingers made contact with the box and he found himself being grabbed by the scruff of the neck and hurled high into the air. He hit one of the walls with a sickening thud, coming to rest in a crumpled heap on the floor.
"Oliver, Oliver, please!" said Clark, grabbing him and flipping him over on to his stomach. "You know you can't escape – why make it difficult for yourself?"
Dazed, Oliver could offer no resistance as Clark knelt down and straddled him, his thighs pressing hard against his sides. He felt his hands being grabbed and forced roughly into the small of his back, before a pair of metal cuffs were secured around his wrists.
"Clark, don't do this," he gasped, still winded from his collision with the wall. "We can help you – Emil, he can….."
Oliver's words were cut off abruptly as Clark stuffed a balled up piece of rag into his mouth. He then fixed it in place with another piece of material, tied tightly around the back of his head.
"That's better!" said Clark, grabbing Oliver's hair and pulling his head from the floor as if it were some sort of trophy. "You always did talk too much, Oliver – way too much."
He then smashed Oliver's skull down hard onto the floor. Oliver cried out, the sound of his pain muffled by the gag.
"Aww, did that hurt?" sneered Clark. "Better get used to it, Oliver – something tells me you're gonna suffer a whole lot more than that before this thing is over."
"Guys, guys – is this a private party, or can anyone join in?"
Now it was Clark's turn to be taken by surprise. He turned, to find AC towering over him.
"Great game, Clark – but I don't think Ollie wants to play anymore."
Before Clark had time to react he grabbed him and flung him across the room. Clark landed heavily, but in an instant he was on his feet. He charged at AC, the two men barrelling into the wall with such force the steel buckled from the impact. Clark recovered first. He aimed a punch at AC's head, but AC saw it coming; he ducked out of the way, Clark's fist instead smashing a hole in the wall. AC then threw himself at Clark, forcing him to the floor. The two men began to wrestle with each other, rolling from one side to the other as each fought to gain the upper hand.
Oliver knew he didn't have much time; AC was strong, but he wouldn't be able to hold off Clark for long. His head still spinning from Clark's assault, he rolled himself onto his side. Pulling against the cuffs, he twisted his right wrist so that it was at right angles to his arm, his fingers straining for the tiny lock pick he kept hidden in his gauntlet. It was painful, but he found it. He began to work on the lock to the cuffs, glancing across at AC and Clark as he did so. He could see that AC was tiring; he needed to work quickly, before it was too late….
Clark knew he was winning. AC was weakening by the second, the relentless pounding he was receiving from Clark taking its toll. A well placed punch to the face brought an end to his resistance, Clark pinioning him to the floor as he had done to Oliver just moments earlier. The two men stared at each other, their chests heaving from exhaustion.
"You're good, AC," said Clark. "Shame you're on the wrong side – the two of us could have made a great team."
"Yeah? I thought we had a team already, Clark – we're called the good guys, remember?"
Clark grinned. "The good guys? I gotta tell you, AC – bad guys have a lot more fun!"
He then reached down and grabbed the knife that AC kept strapped to his lower leg, pulling it from its sheath. He held it up in front of AC, smiling as he saw the look of apprehension that flashed across his former friend's face.
"Lex wants you alive, but he never said what condition you had to be in," he said, looking down at the other man. "How about we see just how sharp this knife of yours is?"
AC's eyes widened, his nervousness turning to fear. He knew that Lex's drugs had messed with Clark's head – what demons had they unleashed?
"Fish don't see too good, do they?" continued Clark, a look of pure evil forming on his face. "Let's see how you get on with only one eye."
He then plunged the knife downwards towards AC's right eye. AC responded instinctively, lightning reflexes allowing him to reach up and grab Clark's arm with the tip of the blade just inches from his face. Mustering every last ounce of strength in his body he fought to hold Clark off, but almost immediately he felt himself giving way. Clark was just too powerful – and with every second that passed the knife inched closer to his eye…
"Thought you were stronger than this, AC!" gloated Clark, his eyes flashing with excitement as he edged the knife closer and closer to its target. Sweat poured down the young hero's face, every muscle, every fiber of his being straining to stave off what both men knew was the inevitable. Clark felt exultant, high on his own sense of invincibility. AC, the mighty Aquaman, was defeated, utterly at his mercy. Lex was right – there really was nothing he could not do, no one in the world who could stop him…..
Suddenly a wave of pain swept over him. It was a nauseating pain, a pain he knew only too well….
He turned, to find Oliver standing over him. In his hand he held the lump of kryptonite, its familiar green glow a visible explanation of the agony that now consumed him. He tried to speak, but no words would come. The knife dropped from his hand, before he rolled over onto the floor, gasping for breath.
Oliver offered his hand to AC.
"Thanks, bro," he said, grabbing it and hauling himself to his feet. "I owe you one."
"No, I owe you one," replied Oliver. The two men looked at each other for a moment. Both knew how close they'd come to disaster; both knew that without the other, the outcome of their encounter with Clark would have been very different.
"What now?" asked AC, glancing down at Clark. He was still conscious, but only just, the effects of the kryptonite poisoning robbing him of all his strength and leaving him crippled and helpless.
"Tie him up – we're taking him with us."
AC leaned down and flipped Clark over onto his stomach. "Sorry, dude, but it's for the best," he said, pulling Clark's hands into the small of his back and tying his wrists together with some plasticuffs.
Oliver heaved a sigh of relief. Somehow, despite everything, they'd succeeded – not only had they got the kryptonite, but they'd also got Clark. Once Emil had worked out how to reverse the effects of Lex's drugs then they really would be in the driving seat once more.
Their luck was holding – and he couldn't wait to share the news with Chloe.
At last, another update! Sorry for the delay, but life still seems to be crazy busy and I'm not getting much time for writing. I hope you enjoyed this one - lots of action, and perhaps not quite what you were expecting. What will happen when they get Clark back to base? More shocks and surprises to come, I promise...
Thanks for your continuing interest and support - your patience is amazing! Please do review if you can - feedback means a lot, and it will help to convince me you guys are still out there and still want more!