Thanks everyone for the faves and comments
As usual, I owe Hellacre more than I can say for her efforts. Thanks to her you can read and understand this.
Chapter 22 – What is a guy like you doing in a place like this?
Day 26 (cont.)
Planet Fred – Fortress of Solely Two – 01:30hs PM
"This isn't me!" Diana stood up, wiping her eyes. "Desperation is not an option if I want to find him! Come on, Princess, you are the best tracker in all Themyscira, the one who always gets her catch, this should not be any different."
Clark's mp3 player was tossed ten yards from where she was. Her hunter's eyes scanned the area again until she saw an iridescent scale almost hidden under the landing gear of the Javelin. "One of those bird-like beasts. It must have took Kal!" Instead of feathers, the bodies of the creatures were covered with flexible scales. "Filthy monsters! They're not even good enough to eat, with their sour, rubbery meat and acrid aftertaste." In fact, that much could've been said about most of the animal life on this planet. They tried to consume the remains of the first creature killed by Clark, with a disastrous outcome. Diana being an accomplished hunter and Clark raised in a farm were both familiar with the use of animals for their meat, but the available game wasn't appropriate for their tastes or their stomachs, which was the reason why Diana and Clark's diet was restricted to vegetables.
"It must've taken off immediately with the acquired prey. It would have been better to look for a trail to follow on the ground, but I'll work with what I have. First of all, let's talk with some of my animal friends to see what they know about them." She flew to the pond, looking for Argos, who was nibbling some leaves of the trees by the shore. Diana descended softly on his back.
"Hello, friend. How are you today?" Turning his head to look at her, he seemed surprised by her white and red garments; nonetheless, the giant closed his eyes when she rubbed his pate.
"Black Flower sad. Why?" he asked.
"You are very perceptive. Our friend, Burnt Log, is missing. It seems one of those giant flying beasts took him. I wonder if you could help me find him by telling me where they usually come from," she said.
"Shiny Wings. Bad, bad thing. They capture milkers (cubs)." After a moment of silence. "They come same like light in the morning…"
The East, thought Diana.
"They come from Big Shadows too, sometimes." said Argos.
The mountains on the South. The Amazon turned her head, looking in that direction.
Lowering his head, Argos face seemed suddenly very sad. "Milkers never come back…"
"I'm sorry, Big Guy." Her heart shrunk, specially thinking about Clark. She shook her head to clear her mind of negative thoughts. "I have to go and see if I can find my friend."
"Rgs go too, find Black Flower mate. Rgs help Black Flower not sad," the beast offered.
"Aaw! Thank you. You're very sweet, but I'll move faster on my own. After I find him, we will come to play with you, I promise," she said.
"Shiny Wings bad. Black Flower not like milkers. She come back?" In Argos' eyes there was a plea.
"I'll be fine, I swear. You look after our lair while we're gone, please?" She hugged his large neck before parting. Argos let go a loud howling as she was lifting from his back.
Two different directions. Time was essential. To the East there was the sea. In one of her exploring trips, Diana saw a group of islands on the horizon, but they were further away than the mountains, so Diana decided go South to look for Clark on them first. She wanted to rush at full speed, but she needed to see if the creature didn't drop its prey somewhere along the road. There could also be new clues on her way to the elevations she couldn't afford to miss, so, as much as she wanted to hurry, she also wanted to be as thorough as possible.
"I'll find you, Kal. As Diana is the name my mother gave me, I'll find you alive and you'll come back to me." Her left hand moved instinctively to the pommel of her sword for reassurance, it always instilled confidence in her mood. It wasn't there. She remembered she gave it to Clark during her space flight. In fact, she was still wearing his Kryptonian suit. It was so light and the situation at hand so pressing, she completely forgot she had it on.
"I hope Eunice is serving you as well as she did me, Agapitos. Come back to claim your suit, I'm just guarding it for you." She added, "Gaea help me."
Planet Fred – Location unknown – 10:30hs AM
As he was slowly regaining consciousness, the first thing Clark noticed was the breeze. Before he even opened his eyes, he could feel it on his skin and hear it making that particular whispering sound moving the leaves of the trees nearby.
"Smallville. I'm back in Smallville" then, suddenly, the pain. It forced him to open his eyes.
"Pain? Why am I in pain?" He was Superman. Pain was usually something strange to him. Only being hit by Omega beams or being punched by Doomsday…, or Diana, and a very few things more could ever make him feel pain. Looking down his chest, he could see his T shirt torn in several places and covered in blood. HIS blood.
"How…? Aah! What the hell is happening?" He couldn't pinpoint the origin of his pain. It was massive. It came from all over his body. Using his arms, Clark tried to sit up. That's how he noticed his hands were almost skinned and his shoulders were wounded, with one of them dislocated on top of all that.
"Crap-crap-crap! I really hope the other guy is in worse shape than me. I bet it was a lot of fun…if only I could remember." Suddenly he realized his last memory was of the Watchtower's Conference Room. The Justice League senior members were discussing the incorporation of Fire, Beatriz DaCosta, to the team. He thought her 'Paulista' accent sounded cute, but she seemed fierce and determined, a good acquisition for the League. Evidently, some interesting things had happened between 'then' and what seemed to be 'now'. It also was the day he knew about Diana's break up with Steve Trevor. Her face was sad and her gaze pointed to the floor. She only intervened in the discussion when strictly necessary. Every time she rose her eyes was to look in his direction on the other side of the room. Making sure no one was staring, he began to make funny faces, trying to pull a smile out of her, but she stayed serious. She eventually broke and trying to conceal her smile, lipped the words, 'I'll kill you'. He fell for her right there and then. In that moment, he knew he would ask her out, a promise to himself he never fulfilled. So far.
The pain brought him back to reality. He ripped the lower part of his shirt to wrap his hands in an improvised bandage. Making an incredible effort, the Kryptonian got to his feet. When he finally restored his balance, he tried to lift from the ground, only to make a small, painful, jump. Looking to the sky he discovered the reason of his lack of powers.
"Red sun. Now I understand. Magenta vegetation, red sun, purple skies…I wonder where I am. What planet is this and why am I not in my nanosuit?" Looking down, he realized his shadow had a subtle double edge. " Twins. Binaries. I wish your sister is yellow and we are in the right rotation direction." He knew it was almost impossible to find a binary system with one yellow component.
"Oh well. A man can hope. White will do, as well... I think." Before doing anything, he had to relocate his shoulder, to lessen the pain even if it was just a little. Taking a heavy rock in his hand and extending his arm in front of him, he bended the elbow up by 90 degrees. Then, he rotated the arm out like this by the dislocated joint, till it was in line with both his shoulders.
"No pain. No pain. Aaaah!" Lastly, he raised his arm straight up. He repeated this unpleasant exercise, grinding his teeth and swearing and sweating copiously, until the shoulder fell back into place by itself. "Aaaaw, aw, aw, aw! Shit!" he shouted.
It still hurt, but considerably less. Heavily breathing, it took him long minutes to finally get over it. "Ma, you were an incredible first-aid nurse!" He saw her perform this maneuver with Lana, when she fell from a tree when they were kids, and now it came in handy for him. The bone was back in place, but the effort made the wounds start bleeding again. Ripping off the rest of his shirt (another painful activity) he made more bandages to contain the blood. It didn't stop. He didn't know how much he'd lost already, but he felt weak. Looking around, searching for a water source to wash the injuries, he saw several dozen yards from were he was, at the base of an elevated peak, two dead creatures resembling huge birds. He moved towards them. At least, they would make a fine meal.
"I hope they taste like chicken. Big chicken." One of them, the biggest, was missing one of its extremities. It seemed to trigger something in his memory "Did I do this?" He saw the sword still attached to his thigh "Yes. I think I did." They smelled awful, so the idea of eating them was discarded.
Watching their claws, he understood the reason behind his wounded shoulders: they brought him there. Forcefully.
The stump where the arm of the bird used to be was covered with some green slime. Could this be the form in which these creatures attend their wounds? he thought.
The slime was still fresh, so he took some from the dead bird and applied it on his hands and shoulders. It smelled terribly bad, also, but provided a refreshing sensation, like a balsam. He covered them with the improvised bandages again. In a matter of minutes, the bleeding stopped.
"Clever beasts." Now that part of the pain has subsided, he tried to accommodate his thoughts."This is Diana's sword, therefore she's somewhere here with me. If I have her weapon that means she's aware of my lack of powers and we have been stranded here for a while. I wish I knew where she was." The thought of her brought a smile on his face. "I wonder under what circumstances we came to be here? I doubt they were good ones. Could there be someone else with us? Hell, I hope it's not Bruce! It's hard as enough to make my move on her without him constantly brooding and judging everyone all the time! Mood killer! I know he sees Diana and me as a bad idea. I think Selina is taking too long in teaching him that life can be a joyous experience and not only a 'mission'!"
Taking a more thorough look at himself, Clark noticed a significant loss of muscular mass. His body was more sleek, less bulky. Still, the muscles were there. Athletic but with a rather acrobatic look, not much a body builder like before. It reminded him a little of Nightwing, Dick Grayson.
"These changes don't happen overnight. We must have been here for a while now." Only then he took notice of his beard of several weeks. "Now this is new. I must have lost Pa's razor…oh, no! I hope I didn't lose Ma's engagement ring either! I was saving it for D…" His stomach began to make grunting noises. "Uuuh. The monster's alive. I need sustenance." The sounds repeated "Okay. I get it. You're hungry. Me too, buddy. Let me see what I can find." Looking in the trees he found nothing worth eating. There was a plant which looked like the ones people extract Aloe Vera from back on Earth, which moved slightly whenever he approached. Moving plants was something he rather stay away of. The bushes, on the other hand, offered him a delicious variety of fruits.
There was one, specially, with green fruits, the size and shape of kiwis, which tasted delicious."I'm too hungry to think if these are poisonous, but if we stayed alive this far, it was because we took some risks. Here goes nothing!" Clark ate until his belly was noticeable. One of the perks of being alone, he thought, was the chance to act like the pig you really are, in opposition to the civil person everyone expects you to be. Due to his feeble state and his Pantagruelian ingestion, the Kryptonian fell asleep against a tree right after he finished his meal. Two hours later he woke feeling much better. The green slime did miracles to his wounds and his Kryptonian physiology, even under a red sun, helped him recover a little strength.
Water. Clark was thirsty. Very thirsty. The fruits were juicy enough to quench him for a while, but now he felt bone dry. His body took every drop left in his system to heal itself. He picked a small supply of fruits in his Bermuda short pockets for the road, and, with nothing else to do, embarked himself in a quest of fresh water.
"Once I find fresh water I'll set a fire. If there's any chance someone is looking for me (and if I know my Amazonian girl, she'll be leading the search), it will be easier for them to find a smoke column from a distance." And, then, added, "If I keep talking to myself, whoever finds me will think me crazy."
Sustained by the fruits and some berries he picked along his way, the Kryptonian reached the shore of a green water sea. He was eager to bath, clean and refresh his body, but it would mean to wash away the remains of the green substance that was helping him to heal. Not knowing if he would be able to get some more, he took off his shoes and entered the water till he was to his thighs, and just splashed some salty water on his head and chest. Looking across the water he saw a land mass on the horizon. "Judging for my wounds, I must have been carried by those giant birds to the spot where I woke up. Somehow I killed them and fainted several dozens of yards from there. There's no way they could have carried me over the water from the other side." He looked to the land on the horizon. "It seems too big a distance to carry a dead weight. Therefore, I must be on the wrong direction, I should go back." Before turning around, however, Clark decided to explore the beach a little.
Seven hundred yards from his original position, after a curve, he found a small cascade falling from a cliff no more than sixty feet high. His heart tumbled. It was fresh. After desperately drinking enough he decided to take a look at his wounds. Carefully removing the improvised bandages he discovered the green slime was turning brown "Mmmm. That can't be good." The smell was diminishing as well. "This thing is losing its potency. I'll wash it away, before it turns dangerous or even poisonous." He placed himself down the cascade and thoroughly washed his body. His wounds looked a lot better, though they still hurt considerably. "This pain is something I'll never get used to."
The remains of his shirt were carefully cleaned as well. His shoulders could stay uncovered for a while, to see if the salty air might produce a benevolent effect on them, but he needed his hands protected in order to be able to grab things. By the suns' position he calculated the time by 02:30-ish hours PM. Iodine smelled all around as the water was rich in it, so he sunk his body into the sea. The salt stung his injuries, so he grit his teeth. The pain was strong. He needed a few moments sitting on the beach to close his eyes and catch his breath. Due to his exhaustion, he fell asleep again.
Planet Fred - Fortress of Solely Two – 05:30hs AM
Diana wasn't able to close her eyes all night worried sick for Clark's fate.
The day before she had explored every square inch of the Southern mountains with no results. She discovered the clay-made, cup-shaped nests of the flying beast and their crude method to incubate their eggs. She tried to communicate with them, but the monsters' only concern was to get her or throw her out of there. She had to fight a dozen of them; they were attempting to capture her if possible or kill her if necessary. She didn't want to cause too much damage, even though similar creatures had taken 'her Kal' away, so she pulled her punches. After all, in spite her anger against them, she knew they were acting on pure instinct.
She spent seven hours searching until there was no nest or place uncovered. Even the afterglow was fading into the night. There was no Moon, so the nights were pitch black. The Amazon was back in the Fortress to grab a bite and plan her movements when the light returned. No point in attempting a search in the dark. She removed the nanosuit and washed. She kept the small guitar close to her to feel his presence. From time to time she stroke pensively its cords. Tried to read and/or listen to some music, but her mind was fixed on her lover.
With the first lights, she washed and donned her own armor and took off towards the sea. On her way, she thoroughly scanned for any sign of Clark. Nothing. She sped up when she was above the water, but the islands were many and she had to slow down in order to avoid missing any detail. The clusters of nests offered her a similar sight that she had already seen over the mountains the day before. She also had to fight some of them.
"These beasts are making me waste precious time!" She resorted to a very loud scream, very potent, which managed to scare the monsters away. "Not the Canary Cry, but useful anyway."
By noon she had 80% of the flying beasts' settlements throughout the four first islands covered.
"Kal, oh Kal, where are you?!" She begged her two patron goddesses, Athena and Aphrodite, to help her find him. "If you somehow can hear me, my Ladies, and it is within your powers to assist me, I beg thee"
Two islands left. Her faith and will never faltered, but she was running out of options. It was 02:30 PM according to her watch. Plenty of light still. The first isle was a smaller one, no more than three square miles and only two significant elevations. Diana swept it quickly. One down, one to go.
"Gaea, please!" she pleaded. The last one was large, the largest of the entire archipelago. The Amazon went straight to the center, where there were several peaks a few hundred yards in height. There she found groups of nests and a lot of angry birds. Her patience towards them diminished with every second. Clapping her hands with violence she created shockwaves that threw them back and managed to keep the creatures away. A look at the interior of the nests revealed no sign of Clark.
The Princess decided to take the search to ground level. At the base of the highest peak, she saw the bodies of two dead beasts, one of them with one severed limb. Between the claws of its nether legs she saw a shred of Clark's T-shirt.
"KAL!" Her heart was going to explode out of her chest. She took the little piece of fabric as if it was her most precious possession. She squatted looking for more clues. Near one of the trees she saw a few drops of blood which her keen nose recognized as his by its scent. As she didn't know the extension of his injuries, she worked on the assumption that the more time passed, the more blood he could lose.
"Got to find you before it's too late, Agapitos!" After a quick search she found his trail and started following it until she reached the sea. On the beach Diana could clearly see his tracks in the sand, which the wind had not dissipated yet. The Amazon rushed along the coastline after his footsteps. Turning a curve, she could see his body lying on the sand.
"Kal! Oh, Goddesses, thank you, thank you, thank you." She took off for the last hundreds of yards to land by his side. "Be alive. Please, be alive, Kal!" Taking him amorously in her arms, she checked his breath and heartbeat. Clark opened his eyes to her lovely face.
"I'm seeing an angel. Is this Heaven?" he asked. She crushed him against her chest. "Aw! Easy, easy!"
"Beloved!" Her eyes were wet and happy tears began their way down her cheeks. "I'm here! I've found you!" She pressed her lips against his, which took him by surprise. When they parted he looked at her with curiosity. "What's wrong, Love? Did I hurt you?"
"No, no! Nothing's wrong!" he said. "It's just that I…Are we together or something?"