Title: Alternate Paths
Fandom: DCVerse, Smallville, Justice League (the Animated Series)
Categories: AU, gen, het, Crossover, xover, romance, adventure, drama
Summary: Clark gets tossed into a strange future world, a world without Chloe Sullivan. The locals don't really trust him but Clark doesn't care because the only ones who he really needs, depends on, and believes in are Chloe, Martha Kent, and his Justice League colleagues from back home. And as always they do not let him down.
Characters/Pairing: Smallville!Clark/Smallville!Chloe, Smallville!Oliver, JLverse!Justice League, JLverse!Martha
Warnings: death, violence, some intimate moments
Word Count: ~14600
AN: Smallville is AU. There was no see-saw and then break between Clark and Chloe. They trusted and got together when they were still in high school after Clark had a fallout with Lana. He did not let events and the AI control/dominate him. With Chloe's influence he negotiated to have a Terran life and studied to follow/honour his Kryptonian heritage instead of ignoring it. Having Chloe as a confident and an anchor kept him stable. This Clark Kent is a blend of Clark, Kal and Kal-El; instead of suppressing and ignoring other sides of him he accepts and integrates them. As a result he's more mature and curious.
Disclaimer: As always I do not own the characters or the 'verses - The CW, Warner Bros, DC Comics and a whole lot of other corporate names do. Me, I'm just playing with them.
For: LJ Community CWBigBang 2011.
Summary: Clark falls and finds himself in a different world.
AN: To make a distinction I'm referring Smallville!Clark as Kal and JusticeLeague!Clark as Clark after they meet.
~ooO Unplanned Journeys Ooo~
"He's not dead." The tiny smudged soot-stained blonde rubbed her eyes with the backs of her hands. She was clearly exhausted and just about ready to drop.
Her male companion eyed her warily. "Chloe…"
She turned on him with an irate expression. "He's not dead! Not until we have a body and maybe not even then!"
Oliver Queen's expression softened. He was well aware of the extent grief could drive a person. Chloe was usually so sensible and level-headed… but this was Clark.
Green eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare patronize me Ollie! I would do this for you, for any of the boys! As long as there's no body there's a damn good chance he's still alive."
The Star City billionaire hated to agree but she did have a point. Chloe was known for being relentless. The trait made her a damn good reporter and a formidable adversary and ally.
"Okay. What do you need?"
She eyed him suspiciously, distrusting his easy acquiesce. After reassuring herself he was on the level she began speaking, more calmly. "I want science teams investigating and examining whatever we can scavenge from Lex's labs. If we can figure out just what happened we might be able to duplicate the accident and determine just what happened to Clark." Her breath caught on tears and her voice held a tremor. "If he's really dead… or just trapped someplace we can't easily reach him."
"Like the Phantom Zone."
"Like the Phantom Zone," she confirmed.
Oliver nodded. "Okay, I'll get Emil on it right away. But Chloe, there's no guarantee they will succeed, or even if they can safely duplicate the event."
Chloe refused to meet his gaze. "If we don't try we'll never know for sure; and I'll never forgive myself."
"All right, but Chloe if Emil says it's too dangerous I'm pulling the plug. I won't risk setting off a cataclysmic disaster. Clark would agree with me."
Chloe was silent. Oliver wondered if it indicated disagreement. He was surprised to hear her response.
He would not have been too reassured if he could read her thoughts.
But only if Jor-El and the Fortress AI agree it is too dangerous.
Clark Kent smiled politely at the barrista before paying for his biscotti and tall latte. Deftly he manoeuvred himself between the small tables until he reached the back of the café near the emergency exit and claimed one of the free tables. Between sips of his caffeine he scanned the cover page of the Daily Planet he picked up on the way in. Lips tightened as he read the front page piece with a particular by-line. Lois Lane and Clark Kent.
This was not his world, his time, his reality… this was some bizarre world where Lois Lane was the investigative reporter, Chloe Sullivan was nowhere to be found, the Justice League was a public and well-respected organization, and Clark Kent (a.k.a. Superman) went around saving people dressed in red and blue spandex! He shuddered slightly. The timelines seemed off as well; this reality was ten years ahead but way behind in enemies.
He quickly scanned the rest of the paper once at super-speed, before leisurely flipping through the pages at a much slower rate, pretending to be absorbed in every article. In reality his thoughts were drifting to just How he ended up in this time.
It had been a standard recon mission following up some Level 33 leads that had blown out of control. Bart and Clark had been assigned the job of surveying and observing, using their super-speed to cover ground faster than any camera could catch them. They had discovered the scientists were going to start dissecting a still living-healthy meteor-mutant; because it was nearly impossible to keep him imprisoned due to the nature of his talents for space-time manipulation. A quick consult with Chloe and Ollie back at base gave them more back-up in the form of information and diversions via other JL members. And it had worked. The guards had been diverted to shore up the defences. However just before Clark and Bart could make their move the victim regained consciousness and panicked, lashing out violently. The two guards present killed the victim just as Clark and Bart entered the scene. It had been a shock, seeing the blood pouring out the dying teenage boy.
~ooO Begin Flashback ~o~
Clark wasn't quite sure what happened next – if it was the externally terminated attempt to escape, or an interaction of all the blood with the machinery – but a portal formed under the examination table growing larger as more blood dripped onto the writhing mass of white energy and lightening. It sucked the table, the dying teenager, the closest scientist and guard all inside it. The vortex was strong enough to capture Bart. Clark managed to pull him free and toss him outside its range but lost control himself and was sucked inside it and completely helpless.
The following seconds reminded Clark of his trip into the Phantom Zone, first he was falling in a white void then into Something more and more real, and then he hit concrete hard. As he managed to push himself to his hands and knees he was very aware that if he had been a normal human he would have been killed, pan caked upon impact with the unforgiving surface. In fact the red blood stains around him strongly suggested the boy and Luthor's employees had suffered just that fate.
A quick recon of the area informed him he was in the same warehouse-industrial district, but it was deserted, defunct, derelict… There was no sign of the state-of-the-art Level 33 facility he had been in only minutes before. In fact the building looked like it had not been used in years. A search of the managers office confirmed this was a LuthorCorp property last used in … Clark's blood ran cold as he checked more files to verify his suspicions. The property monthly electricity bill had been paid up-to a certain date. Given the derelict state of the building it was at least another five years since that date.
He used his hearing to track down the closest human beings – dock-side workers loading and unloading freight for the manufactories. A quick super-speed trip into the block netted him an old discarded copy of the Daily Planet. The date on the yellowed water stained page confirmed his suspicions: he was in the future.
He stared at the unfamiliar sharp skyline pierced with new glass and steel towers. This was Metropolis but not His Metropolis.
His mind spun in a thousand different directions before settling on one thought.
"Oh boy. I really hope the guys keep looking for me."
~o~ End Flashback Ooo~
Clark had not been very proud of his subsequent actions: he used his speed and strength to break into an ATM, and extract a thousand dollars before restoring it so it looked untouched. The money paid for a weeks stay in a cheap motel while he used the public libraries to familiarize himself with this world. And what he'd found had been a shock. His local counterpart was much older, and a reporter at the Daily Planet. He was a well-known hero under the name Superman and a member/founder of the Justice League. Superman was romantically linked to Lois Lane, Clark Kent's reporting partner. Ollie was still the Green Arrow in Star City but he joined the Justice League, he didn't help found it. Some of the names and players were familiar (J'onn, Diana, Batman, Zatanna) and some were not (Flash, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern) and others were the wrong ages (Victor Stone, Bart Allen) or they either didn't exist or were nowhere to be found (Chloe Sullivan, AC Curry).
It was odd, researching the people he called friends and allies… in this world they were so different and somehow still the same: good people fighting for a better future, saving the world from whatever the enemy may be – insane scientists, corrupt billionaires/politicians, mad metas, alien conquerors, natural disasters. Some had ended up in the hero business by different paths, others by the same way in his world. Clark did not want to say it was fated; that implied they had no control. Clark strongly believed in making his own destiny. He fought the AI, Luthor, Jor-El, the Fortress, Brainiac, Lex… he believed one shaped the future by personal choices and actions, that nothing was set in stone. Chloe had taught him that. He couldn't understand why she was not on the front page of the Daily Planet or some other newspaper. She didn't even have an on-line presence. Where was she?
For Clark it was natural to turn to Chloe in his time of need; she was his oldest and most trusted friend, his strongest defender and staunchest ally. Whenever he needed help she would be the one to provide it, or refer him to someone who could. But there was no Chloe Sullivan in this world and he still needed help. He debated the possibility of approaching his local counterpart for help but hesitated. There had been articles in the papers, clones of Superman and Supergirl (Bizarro and Powergirl) and a hybrid of him and Lex Luthor (Superboy, Kon-El). There had also been an article about an invasion by an alternate reality organization of the JL called the Justice Lords who had no problems using force and ruthless tactics to ensure peace. Clark doubted they'd trust him easily after that experience with alternate reality counterparts.
Then an idea hit him. The Fortress AI… if Clark convinced Jor-El that he was genuine – a dimensionally misplaced traveler – maybe the local Clark Kent would trust him long enough to help get Clark back home!
Clark quickly drained the last of his latte. The Fortress was in the Arctic and Clark wasn't too fond of running to the Arctic and back. Besides this Fortress probably had external defences that would not recognize him. Aquamarine eyes widened when he remembered an alternate way to get to the Fortress: the Kawatche caves. He deliberately forced himself to exit the café at human speeds and made his way to an alley before running towards Smallville.
Martha Kent frowned as she finished loading her groceries into her truck. There was a young man across the street, watching her. He looked so much like Clark when he started college! Hastily she got in her truck and began driving, not towards the farm but towards the home of one of her friends in town. If the not-Clark was a threat it was better to be around people so he couldn't kidnap her without others knowing. He was not following her but if he was anything like Clark he would be able to track her by sound. Once Martha pulled into Ellen's driveway she speed dialled a number on her cell.
"Ma? Is something wrong?"
"Hello Clark, I just wanted to call you about someone I saw in town."
"Who Ma? Elvis?" he asked teasingly.
"No, someone who looks just like a twenty-something-year-old you," Martha retorted.
"What? Ma, is he still close-by?"
"No, but you and I know it doesn't make a difference."
"Did he threaten you?"
"Not at all. He was just looking at me." Martha swallowed convulsively. "After Bizarro…"
"Just stay put Ma," her son ordered, "I'll be right there."
Martha ended the call and closed her phone. If Clark said he would be right there then he would. Three minutes later her faith was rewarded. He came to a sharp stop standing right next to her car. She was surprised he was in stone-washed black jeans and a blue t-shirt.
"Clark?" she asked hesitantly when he got into the truck with a stony expression.
"I lost track of him," he admitted grittily.
"What? How?" Martha was baffled. Clark could hear Anything. If he had spotted the young man and lost track of him…
"I'm not sure," Clark admitted. "It's like he went into a bunker protected by a white noise generator. Or some kind of dead zone. Usually such a set-up is very expensive and ordered by organizations and people with something to hide."
"Like criminals," Martha noted.
"Or the army," Clark added.
Martha's blood ran cold. Kara had been cloned by Cadmus, a military initiative. "Clone?"
Clark shrugged. "I don't know. I can ask the League to keep an eye out for him. And Batman and J'onn to investigate possible military projects."
Martha bit her lip then forced herself to change the topic. It was no use worrying about what she couldn't change. "Do you want to stay for dinner? I've got an apple pie ready for the oven," she cajoled her son.
Clark bit his lip and hesitated. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt. I've already sent my article in."
Less than a hundred miles away a young Clark Kent pushed himself through the narrow crevasse he had excavated and reinforced in the Kawatche caves. In this time-world the caves had never been excavated and studied. A cave-in had ended all further studies since there wasn't enough funds to finance an expedition to clear the rubble and reinforce the chambers. Without Lex Luthor moving to Smallville and funding scientists and research facilities there were no meteor mutants that plagued Clark's high school years. The Luthors were not interested in Smallville since this dimension only experienced a small meteor shower and no subsequent one. Clark was secretly glad that at least one version of him had a more normal teenage life.
Clark ended up clearing two smaller cave-ins to reach the chamber where he could access the AI and portal into the fortress. He looked around the rubble strewn empty room with rough stone walls and an unusually high ceiling.
"AI, this is Kal-El, son of Jor-El, son of Lara Lor-Van. I request portal access to the Fortress."
There was silence. Clark tensed wondering if time and the cave-ins had damaged the mechanism. Just when he was going to give up and leave, the stone wall before him glowed blue and white before resolving to display the emblem representing the House of El, the S-shield.
"Biometric records indicate you are not Kal-El." The AI spoke in cold clinical tones that reminded Clark of Brainiac.
"Complete a DNA scan and verify my identity," Clark challenged calmly.
A white light shot out from a high point in the wall before him and moved down over Clark, recording his physiology and analyzing it.
"Variance," the AI finally announce. "Your DNA confirms you are Kal-El. But your physique does not match the most recent records of Kal-El."
"AI, does my physique match that of Kal-El at a much younger age?"
"Yes," the AI admitted grudgingly.
"Do you have records confirming the possibility of time travel, alternate dimensions, and crossing realities?"
"I submit my claim: I am Kal-El from a different dimension and time. But I am still Kal-El, son of Jor-El and Lara. I request assistance from the Fortress to return to my own dimension."
"That is beyond the Fortress's capabilities."
Clark frowned. "But the AI in my world… he turned back time for one day."
"Turning back time is different from crossing realities. For you to return to your birth reality a bridge has to be created, to connect this one to your one. The Justice League has members and allies who will be able to identify your local reality and assist you in reaching your goal."
"The League will not believe me," Clark countered. "Or they will not for a long time. The more time that passes, the lower my chances of getting back to my own world."
The AI absorbed his argument. "True," it allowed. Then the wall before him glowed emitting a bright white light. "Step forward to enter the portal. You will be required to undergo a complete and thorough examination and debriefing," it warned.
Clark gritted his teeth. "Understood." He never liked the AI rummaging through his brain, but if that's what it took to get back home he'd grin and bear it.
It was several hours before the Fortress AI finally reached a conclusion and developed a list of recommendations. The splinter changes between his reality and this occurred almost after the spaceship carrying baby Clark landed on Earth. In his world the large meteor shower caused a great deal of damage and affected many players including Lex Luthor and Lana Lang. In this world it was small and almost negligible. Kryptonite was more difficult to find in this world, green most common and red more rarely. There were no variants on blue, gold, or black kryptonite. The local Clark Kent donned the suit and started saving people when he was an adult, a college graduate. He had made a few trips to the region of space where Krypton had once existed, searching for survivors, finding mostly trouble.
But the bottom line was there was no quick way to help Clark get back to his world. Even the Einstein bridge device into the Justice Lords world was not powerful enough to reach a reality where the changes began so far back. There was nothing in the Fortress records that could help him get home.
"I am sorry Kal-El." The Fortress AI sounded genuinely regretful.
Clark sighed. "I am too. But I'm not ready to give in just yet."
"The Justice League does have experience dealing with atypical situations," it pointed out helpfully. "You have reviewed their mission files concerning time and dimensional travellers."
Clark snorted. "Yeah, but I'm so not looking forward to this."
"I will confirm your claims."
"You'd better after all the tests you put me through."
Clark stood up and slipped into a brown leather jacket. "Well I'm off now to see my local counterpart. Hopefully he won't rip my head off," he grumbled before speeding off.
He knew his mother's habits. She would be in Smallville for her usual book club meeting.
The voice was unexpectedly familiar.
"Yes?" Martha asked turning. Then she started and backed away seeing who had spoken her name. It was the same young man who had been watching her. Up close he so much like Clark it was uncanny. It was like twins separated by ten-fifteen years.
He stood holding his hands clasped in front of him in a non-threatening manner. "I'm not going to hurt you Mrs Kent. I just want you to passage a message to Clark Kent."
Martha inhaled sharply. "And what message would that be Mr…?" she trailed off questioningly.
"Just call me Kal. Tell him I'd like to meet him in Smallville. I'll be in town, Beth's Dinner, for the next three days."
And then he turned and walked away. It wasn't until he was out of her sight that Martha's heart stopped racing and calmed enough for her brain to start working. Quickly she pulled her cell phone out and called her son. Clark needed to know what had just happened.
Diana waited for her companions to join her. A few seconds later the teleport beam flashed and faded leaving Kal-El and J'onn who immediately shifted into a forgettable human male with dark brown eyes and light brown hair. Diana touched her hair, reassuring herself it was restrained in a bun. The old-fashioned hair-do and the glasses would keep most from recognizing her.
"Where to… Clark?" She deliberately forced herself to use the civilian name. It would not do to slip-up in public. Small town residents had long memories.
Clark looked around and took the lead. "This way. Ma said he'd be in Beth's Diner."
As the small trio made their way across Main Street they were occasionally delayed by residents wanting to talk with the local boy who'd done good. Clark was practically vibrating with nerves when they approached Beth's Diner.
"He's in there," he hissed.
It took the combined efforts of both J'onn and Diana to keep Clark from charging in.
"Stop it Clark," J'onn ordered softly. "If he is Kryptonian it would be a very bad idea to antagonize him in public with so many witnesses around."
Clark glowered but accepted the logic. It was just that… He didn't like the idea of a complete stranger knowing his civilian identity. Martha Kent was very important to him, and Clark was not willing to risk her safety, at all.
When it looked like he had regained control J'onn took the lead into the diner, towards a particular table set in the back. J'onn stopped by the cashier and asked for coffee and croissants for four to be brought to the back table. They were joining a friend who was waiting for them, the young man sitting by himself.
The stranger smiled faintly at them, looking each of them in the face with piercing blue-green eyes. It was a shock to see those eyes in such a young face. J'onn tried to surface scan the young man and was taken aback by what he had found: telepathic blocks that could have only been set up by another Martian; in fact from the resonant 'feel' the Martian who had set them was himself!
No one said anything until the waitress arrived with a tray of mugs, a coffee pot, and dishes of sugar and milk, and a plate of croissants. Once the coffee was poured and prepared according to personal preferences she left.
"Who are you?" Clark demanded once the waitress was out of earshot.
The young male smiled faintly. "I'm Clark Kent. Not of this world, or even a similar reality like the Justice Lords. The splinter changes in my world began when I first arrived on earth."
"What do you mean?" Diana asked curious.
Young Clark shook his head. "It's a lot to explain. Just understand this is not my world and I want to get back home to my family and friends. They'll be worried sick."
Clark relaxed a bit though he was still wary. "And what should we call you? It would be awkward calling two people Clark Kent."
The younger Clark nodded slowly. "Call me Kal. I've been using the name Kal Jacobs since I arrived in this world and read your Daily Planet by-line."
"And how did you get here?" J'onn wanted to know.
Kal made a face. "A Lex Luthor special. His Level 33 scientists were dissecting a meteor-mutant with time-space manipulation abilities. The mutant panicked trying to get away and Lex's goons terminated the poor guy. There was a lot of spilled blood and exploding energy. Next thing I knew there was a portal sucking everything into it, including me. I landed hard on concrete in an abandoned warehouse, the same warehouse that was filled with state-of-the-art equipment and staff in my world."
That blunt outpouring of information rocked the three League members back on their heels.
Clark was confused. "Level 33? What are you talking about? I never met Lex Luthor before moving to Metropolis."
Kal smirked. "You didn't. I did. In my world Lionel Luthor exiled Lex to Smallville when I was in high school. We had an odd friendship that went sour very quickly. Lex wanted to know everything, including my secrets. When he found out kryptonite exposure had the odd effect of mutating living things, especially people he became quite fascinated. Level 33 is his personal project to catalogue kryptonite meteor mutants. And to control and duplicate their abilities…For his own benefits and paying clientele of course."
The three older individuals looked sick. They could very easily see Lex Luthor doing just that.
"So, Lex ordered experimentation on metas."
Kal shrugged. "It's his personal obsession: power, youth, immortality. He's been after a particular friend of mind because she has a healing factor and is potentially immortal."
"Haven't you informed the public? The legal authorities? The press?" Clark wanted to know.
Kal gave him an old-fashioned look. "Lex controls politicians and the police. The military is too interested in the weapons-potential of his research to be concerned about ethics. But you don't have to worry because I've been working with a few friends to take care of it."
"Legally?" Clark was sceptical.
"Does it really matter?" Kal asked curious. "It is my world and none of your concern. I just want your help to get back."
"We need to verify you are telling the truth," Diana interrupted feeling the conversation was going out of control.
Kal glared at her. "I'm not getting lassoed by you. The Fortress AI will confirm my story."
"The Fortress?" Clark was confused at this point.
Kal raised an eyebrow. "You didn't bother setting up the internal alarms?"
Clark glared. "The proximity alarms would alert me if anyone was approaching or breaching the Fortress."
Kal snorted softly. "That only works for someone trying to get in from the outside. I ported in directly from a local substation."
J'onn went stiff. "The Watchtower—"
"Is not the only teleporting device on Earth," Kal interrupted without a qualm. "There is a local portal in the Kawatche Caves that can take you directly to the Fortress."
J'onn and Diana looked at Clark who looked confused. "I don't know anything about that."
"I figured. Without Lex in Smallville there was no funding for the Kawatche cave excavations. If you want I can show it to you."
"Kawatche caves?" Diana pronounced the name carefully.
"A natural cave system on the local Indian reservation," Clark explained.
"I can meet you there," Kal offered.
Clark felt his world was spinning out of control. He wanted to know of his past, his people, but he had been burnt badly by those offering knowledge. "Not just yet," he spoke slowly but firmly. "First I want you to tell your story to a few other members of the Justice League." Kal opened his mouth but was cut off. "You might be genuine but if you have hacked into the League files you should understand our caution."
Reluctantly Kal nodded. "Okay. How do you want to do this?"
"Are you comfortable with going to the WatchTower right now?"
Kal shrugged and nodded. "Sure why not. It's not like I have anything better to do."
He grabbed two croissants and vanished at super speed leaving the three League members to pay the bill and follow the younger male to the outskirts of Smallville. Along the way the three League members had shed their disguises and civilian identities, and were dressed in the uniforms and accruements of their calling. Kal was the only one in civilian clothes. He said nothing but was clearly amused by something. Once Superman was certain there was no one watching he tapped his communicator and spoke clearly.
"Superman to WatchTower, four to transport."
And then the four vanished in a shimmer of fading energy.
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