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Old 01-01-2008, 01:49 AM   #251
ChasNicollette
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Chloe (and Earl and Gabe)

Dawn was breaking, but it seemed like only minutes ago that Chloe Sullivan had extinguished the midnight oil.

She stood in the driveway to the school, and waved to her father as he trundled off in his car, off to work at the Luthorcorp plant.

They'd always been hard workers, Sullivans had. Often to the detriment of their good sense. That made Chloe smile a little.

She smiled as she waved to her dad with the hand that held the monster grande latte with the espresso shot, not to mention the half-gnawed Power Bar.

Her other arm was heavy-laden with books and binders and issues of The Smallville Ledger and other periodicals from the last twenty years. (To say nothing of her backpack, which was filled to bursting.)

She turned, then, and trudged up the front steps of the high school.

Earl was standing just inside the door already, mop in one hand, keys in the other. "Could set a watch by you, young lady," he remarked, shaking his head and smiling as he swung the door wide for her.

"Help you with your things?"

Chloe beamed at the janitor, and toasted him as best as she could with that latte. "Much as I appreciate the attempt to kick-start chivalry, I think I'm okay from here."

Chloe walked on, her bootheels cludding with startling volume in the relative quiet of the nearly-empty halls of academia. Her green skirt swished around her legs.

Clud swish, clud swish. Funny sounds, alone in the early of the morn.

She shook her head a bit, ruefully.

People were kind to her. But she always felt chagrined at such kindness, like she'd done them a disservice by having them switch to Good Samaritan mode on her behalf. She'd often wondered if everyone felt this way, or if it was an idiosyncrasy purely Chloe.

She hated that her dad had to drive her places. He was always so tired.

She couldn't wait 'till she was old enough to drive, old enough to own her own car. (She'd even narrowed it down to a few select models. She wanted something quirky but nostalgic, reddish in colour, though not the same red as her father's four-door sedan. Chloe's ride would probably be a convertible.) That way, Gabe Sullivan could maybe get a little more shut-eye before rolling in to work for The Luthors.

Earl was such a decent guy, too, always letting her in ages before the other students began arriving in buses. And all she could do to reward him was give him good press.

And speaking of press?

She managed to fiddle with her respective armloads (the Power Bar wound up momentarily clenched in her teeth so as to free up a few fingers) sufficiently that she could extract the key to The Torch "office" from the side pocket of her backpack.

(Ah, The Torch. Her home away from home. Her Fortress of Solitude, so to speak-- a term she'd gotten from old Doc Savage stories, fan as she had ever been of The Man of Bronze. It had solitude, at least, until Pete Ross would show up just after the first bell, full of vigour and bombast and sports-fan incorrigibility. But that was nice, too.)

After that, it was short work to get in, short work to set things down and take a breather. Take stock.

She sipped her latte and nibbled her bar and stood gazing at The Wall of Weird.

There was so much mystery to The Universe. And here she was, right smack dab in one of the biggest, most convoluted mysteries of the lot. (She wondered, often, if anyone alive knew the meaning of it all.)

Crater Lake. Shuster's Gorge. Main Street itself, with the old water tower.

The creamed corn plant.

Nothing was the same after The Meteor Shower.

People had died, people had fled, people had changed. (She still didn't know for sure in which of those three categories her mother fit.)

She set down her coffee and paged through a small stack of those newspapers she'd brought in. A couple of Daily Planets flickered by: "Themysciran Queen Visits Pope," and "Queen Industries CEO Missing, Presumed Dead," but these didn't grab her attention, really. Not local enough.

But there was something in an old issue of The Ledger. An adoption notice.

There was a subcategory to The Wall of Weird, a subset to the conundrum that had become her borderline obsession: children displaced by The Meteor Shower.

Lana was there, that iconic cover of Time. Erin Hughes, also, though she'd probably beat the caffeine out of Chloe for including her in such a list.

And next to them, she tacked up an adoption notice. An adoption notice that came within a noticeable interval of a certain October 16th. Kara Kent, adopted by Jonathan and Martha Clark Kent.

Chloe shook her head at the newly positioned scrap of paper, and wondered if this wasn't another one of those innumerable red herrings. At the same time, she wondered how someone like that could have stayed off of her "weirdar" for so long.

Home schooling, go figure. But now this Kara was on the rosters of the Smallville School District, and thus she was fair game.

She sat herself down in front of a computer, and jacked in a jump-drive containing pdfs she'd made of the cafeteria lunch menu.

Page one material,
she lamented with no small irony. But you've got to slog through the crap to get to the good stuff.

Still, though, she couldn't help but glance down at one of the drawers of her desk. She couldn't help but neglect the endless bubbly-lettered fonts telling of mystery meat and, huzzah, creamed corn.

Because in that drawer was a little lead box. And in that box was a stone that had fallen from The Heavens.

And that stone, that rock, that crystal, was the mystery to end all mysteries. Mystery meat included.

She tugged open the drawer, and gazed down at the little lead box.

"Where are we going?"
she asked the box's contents with a tiny whisper. "Where are you taking us?"

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Old 01-01-2008, 10:58 PM   #252
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John Smith parked his SUV in one of the spaces marked "Visitor" in the parking lot of Smallville High School.

The title of that parking space had never been more true. He was no visitor to this world now, he was as much a part of it as any of the native-born humans. He had assumed their identity, their speech, and their customs. But, as much as he was a part of this world, he was not a part of it. A simple analysis of a drop of his blood would prove that. He was not meant to be here, and yet here he was.

The title of the parking space where sat the black SUV could just as well have read "Alien".

It was yet to be the morning hour where the halls of Smallville High fill with the cacaphony of students rushing to class before the inevitable late bell. There were a few milling about here and there. One he recognized from the lecture he had given a few days ago. When the student greeted, John Smith politely returned the salutation then inquired as to the location of the office of "The Torch".

He stood before the door now, and considered knocking. Would someone be there? He caught himself squinting, focusing his eyes beyond the door, then remembered that he couldn't do that anymore. He mentally slapped himself. He had to stop outwardly thinking like Var-Sen. Doing so could render clues a wise person may perceive. If they found him out, they would take him. He had no powers to protect himself. He had no one that would be able to save him.

He opened the door and looked in. He saw a blonde-haired girl jerk her head up from behind a computer monitor. She was young, but betrayed a sense of maturity that placed her personality beyond high school. She was quite pretty by human standards, and he realized after reading the name plate on the desk behind which she sat that she was the one he was seeking.

He stepped through the door and gave her a curt nod. "My name is John Smith," he began, "I'm the library curator at CKU." He stepped a bit closer to her desk, his face a smile and his eyes intense. "I'm very interested in your meteor rock stories," he told her.

He then let his eyes raise to take in the bulletin board on the wall behind her. There were hundreds of photos. But one stuck out and nearly slapped him in the face. It was grainy and dark. It appeared to be of a rock or cave wall or something. And carved into this, centered in the photo, very faintly in white was a glyph. It was a symbol. It was from a language he had not spoken, written, or heard in nearly 50 years. The symbol was Kryptonian.

Var-Sen read it instantly.

Hope.
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Old 01-02-2008, 12:05 AM   #253
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Kara smiled warmly as Rose seemed to be breaking out of her protective shell. Her voice was absolutely beautiful, almost breath-taking for those within listening distance. Up on the rooftop these two girls suddenly found themselves in a world where they ruled supreme. Nothing could harm them!

"We don't need to whisper." Kara said with a smile on her face.

Why should they? Why should they hide and cower in fear as the world around them encroached on their potential to succeed. Rules and limitations were for mere mortals. In those brief few moments... Kara and Rose were immortal.

===

Martha and her husband Jonathan smiled as proudly as any parents could have done so when they were praised for raising Kara so masterfully. It was a tough job... but they were more than willing to take on the task. In their hearts and minds they saw Kara as their chance at having a family of their own.

Martha, being unable to bear children of her own, saw Kara as a gift from the heavens.

Jonathan loved his wife dearly, and he would do anything to protect his family... and their secret.

"Well thank you for your kind words." Martha said, flattered by her friends comments. She looked over and smiled at her husband.

"Kara does have her moments, but we've been so blessed to have her in our lives." she added.

Upon hearing the name Hiram, however, all talk of Kara seemed to vanish.

"That was my father." Jonathan said, a rather inquisitive but wondrous look spreading across his face. Many have said that Jonathan was a mirror image of his father, adopting not only his looks but his honest and caring attitude. He passed away, however, in 1980; nearly a decade before the meteor shower.
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Old 01-02-2008, 01:57 PM   #254
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Rose

"We don't need to whisper." Kara said with a smile on her face.

Rose's reaction was, at first, utter confusion.

Not only did she wonder, for a moment, what Kara was talking about, but she also wondered at the sounds that had come from her throat.

She stood there for a moment, eyes wide and red hair tossed about by breezes, one hand on her mouth and her gaze locked on Kara's face.

As much as she loved music, worshiped chords and flats and sharps and arias and symphonies and anthems and soul-stirring heart-pumping exultant song, she had never once had a lick of talent for it. All she could do was memorise lyrics and close her eyes and lip-synch along with the woofs and the tweets of her bedroom stereo.

She'd tried as a child, as a very little girl, to enter into lessons, but not a single teacher could do a thing with her. Before long, they each would throw up their hands in despair at this girl, this girl with a voice like cat-claws on blackboard, with embouchure like a giraffe chewing bubblegum, with fingering like a harp seal.

Eventually, knackered of snapping woodwind reeds and straining her larynx, Rose would wearily relegate herself to being ever a member of the congregation and never a member of the choir, ever in the front row of the audience but never in the first chair of the orchestra.

She was a music-lover, but she was not a musician. She didn't even try anymore. She hadn't tried for ages.

Not since long before the accident.

Until now, until this moment, when Kara had shown her something transcendent and inspiring on the roof of a farmhouse, Rose had never since allowed song to escape her lips.

But now she had been remade, hadn't she? At the beginning of the summer when she had suffered that accident, when she had been thrust into a crucible of otherworldly powers and been reborn. She was stronger now, quicker.

Not, like, Hercules or Hermes or any of that. But like... Captain America.

Nerves and muscles that had been below-average before were now slightly above the very top notch. Movements that had been clumsy before were now instinctive, fluid.

(Her eyes had even changed colour.)

Evidently, her vocal cords had been strengthened also, and this coupled with more efficient lungs... not to mention having crammed her brain full of the notes and lyrics every day her whole life long...

She could sing now. She didn't need to whisper. She could sing.

Rose blinked, and looked down at herself. A little tear tickled the corner of her eye.

She looked up at Kara, and she beamed, and it dawned on her that Kara had just referenced the title of the very album she'd from which she'd just been singing.

And Kara Kent could not have said truer words if she'd wanted to.

They didn't need to whisper.

She bunched her hands into fists down by her stomach, and she pushed the music up from her gut like a dozen of Keystone-Central's finest instructors had tried to show her much younger self.

She unleashed a bit of wonder, from that selfsame album.

"'I've got a lotta oh hell of a lot to say,'"
she poured out,
"'Even if it hurts sometimes
And if you will come and hear the message
And everyone everyone will hope and pray
That the best will sure survive
And if it's true then you'll feel the message
A perfect life for a perfect brand new day
And we're the next in line...'"


She trailed off, and that lingering tickling tear trailed down her face.

"How can you stand living in this place?"
she grinned, shaking her head, and lifting those fists to press them into her forehead. "This little real world within the great wide one? It's too wonderful. I can't stand it. It's too wonderful."

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Old 01-02-2008, 04:14 PM   #255
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Ceri and Jamie

"Dai McCrimmon fought in World War II," Ceri explained further. "Behind enemy lines in The North African Campaign? After the Americans joined the effort in 1942, a young man from The Heartland saved his life, dragged him to safety when he was badly injured. After that, he felt something of a connection to this part of the country. After The War ended, and the dust settled and the medals were handed out, Uncle Dai decided to leave Wales for The States.

"He floundered at finding his way over here,"
Ceri winced, "for the first little while, and instead found disillusionment. All the valour and self-sacrifice he'd seen Americans exhibit on the war-front seemed to have drained away, or seemed to have been expended in the great conflagration overseas. Seemed to have, at least until he came to Smallville, and got himself into a bit of a scrap at a run-down bar on the edge of town.

"Me Uncle Dai later admitted he was in over his head, and more than a little in his cups,"
Ceri smiled sheepishly, "when he challenged a number of those youths there at the, uh, Wild Coyote, youths who he thought hardly lived up to the example of staunch values he'd witnessed in combat. There were six of them, or so he said in his journal, and every one of them younger and less scarred and more sober than he.

"They might have destroyed him, out there in the car park,"
and at this the smile became far less sheepish, and far more grateful, "had a certain farmer not driven past on his way back from Granville, seen him in trouble, and stopped to help.

"Again, Uncle Dai found himself fighting alongside a young man from Kansas. Bleeding and winning alongside a young man from Kansas. And it was that that prompted him to again set down his roots, coincidentally not altogether far from the man who had fought and bled and won with him. He never made himself a recognisable presence here, I've since gathered, kept to himself, but he never forgot that fistfight.

"He would later write,"
Ceri buckled down, eyes aglow, "that Hiram Kent embodied 'a spirit that has lingered in this Earth since Man first became fruitful and multiplied, a spirit that gives rise to the best of Man's accomplishments, a spirit that lives on in good hearts, those who would risk and perhaps even give their lives not only for friends but for complete strangers.' He worried that that spirit 'would not long endure on The Earth given the changing of times and the shifting of priorities, the compromises that men had made with evil to vanquish greater evil still.' But 'so long as men like Hiram Kent stay stalwart, that spirit will never utterly perish. As in Scripture of old, there will be a Remnant.'"

Jamie could only look on, during this, could only watch his erstwhile wife and hear her words, as he'd known 'Uncle Dai' only from legends, and he'd only half paid attention to those.

But it seemed to him that Ceri knew far more about things of honour than ever he'd given her credit for, and another thing besides...

Jamie was very good at quoting dead men to his purposes.

But here Ceri was, quoting a man less than ten years deceased, and she was quoting him with more spirit and reverence than Jamie himself had managed to muster even for Chesterton.

He grinned. He grinned from ear to ear, grinned That Grin that so often labeled him a troublemaker. Because it only made sense that Ceri would be just that good. It made perfect sense.

"I think that Uncle Dai would be proud to know that that spirit still lives on," Ceri finished, her voice going a little quiet, "in Hiram's son, and his son's wife, and their daughter."

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Old 01-02-2008, 07:34 PM   #256
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Chloe

Chloe made to stand, then sat down again, as if unable to decide whether to rise in the presence of an elder or sit in the presence of a fellow treasurer of knowledge. Momentarily, her eyes were as wide as those of a small animal caught in headlights.

"I'm Sullivan," she declared, eyes wide, eyes wide. "Chloe. Pleased to-- hi there."

But then she shoved the desk-drawer shut with the heel of her boot, hiding the little lead box therein, and instantly found composure.

There were legends, after all, urban legends of men who wore black and interfered with matters of an extraterrestrial origin. Sometimes the legends were positive, portraying the men as being secret soldiers holding the line against destruction. But many of the legends hinted, instead, that these Men in Black were themselves extraterrestrial, and that their motives were not only ulterior but insidious.

And John Smith wore black.

Still, though. Chloe Sullivan did not judge books by covers. (And she certainly did not rush to assumptions about people based on the colour of their clothes.)

Chloe Sullivan also did not look gift horses in mouths. (At least, not often. Well. Not always.) It was hard enough finding people who didn't openly mock her theories, much less people who actually showed an interest.

Chloe stood, and stepped out from behind the desk, though she stayed standing beside it.

"I've actually," she realised as she smoothed out her skirt and her red top and smiled her beatific, nigh-angelic smile, "heard of your exploits. You guest-hosted a history lesson in which your apparently deep and abiding love for Mike Judge animation raised the proverbial roof? I was actually going to call your office today about that, see if I couldn't get an interview.

"Of course,"
Chloe pondered with a tiny sardonic smirk, "I was going to wait until regular business hours to pepper you with questions. I guess it was silly of me to hesitate like that."

One hand, on automatic pilot, quested about on the desk for her digital voice recorder and caught it up easily.

She glanced down at the thing and checked its SD card, making sure she had enough space on it for at least another half-hour or so of good recording time.

"Never was a 'Beavis' fan, myself," she chattered as she squinted down at the gadget, "but 'Daria,' on the other hand--"

She looked up, and she realised he wasn't even looking at her. Those intense eyes seemed to be looking through her.

He was looking past her, at The Wall.

Her eyes narrowed briefly, and she bit her lip, and with a quick glance over her shoulder and a calculation of eyeline-- she was a trained observer, after all, having done much of the photography for The Torch ever since she'd joined the staff in eighth grade --she realised exactly which picture Professor Smith had zeroed in on.

She brightened considerably.

"Oh, right,"
she bubbled, "of course! Yeah, that's one of yours, I think. Or one of your colleagues'? CKU did a survey of the old Kawatche Caves about, what, nine years ago? I don't know if it relates to the meteor rocks exactly, but it sure is mysterious. Untranslatable. Maybe they should have Nicolas Cage's mom take a look at it.

"But that's not even the weirdest part,"
she continued, visibly excited, as she tucked the digital recorder into the waistband of her skirt and flitted across to a filing cabinet labeled, cheerfully enough, 'The World of Weird,' the place where she kept related materials that weren't local enough to merit a spot on The Wall proper.

"The weirdest part," she expounded, yanking the top drawer open and flipping through the folders therein-- past the ever-so-nice lesbian couple from New York, Beatriz and Tora; past the interview with the adorable old astronomer from Opal City, Ted, who had discovered a Smallville meteor practically in his own backyard; past the Xeroxed encyclopedia article about Addis Ababa --before pulling out another, very similar picture to the one that had caught Smith's eye, "is this other picture, taken thirty years ago in a small cave not far from Castelnau-de-Montmiral in France."

She held up the picture from the filing cabinet next to the picture from The Kawatche Caves.

It showed, in black and white, the exact same symbol. The very, very same symbol. Except this one? Was upside-down.

Inverted.

She didn't look around at Smith, didn't glance at his reaction. Instead she scrutinised the pictures side-by-side, as she'd done a dozen times before, squinting her eyes and scouring the images, searching for clues.

"I'm told that the French artwork dates from, uh, the very early seventeenth century A.D.," she murmured, "but I've never heard a clear date on the Kawatche glyph. Obviously they're related, right? I mean, yeah, it could totally be a false cognate or some other coincidence, but that's about as unlikely as Barry Bonds breaking a home-run record without chemical enhancement.

"What gets me,"
she continued, only then returning her gaze to Smith, that smile returning in full force, "what really gets me, is if the symbols are related, then are they opposites? If so, which one's the evil twin? Maybe the inversion instead indicates emphasis, or a related but distinct definition? Untranslatable! Doesn't that totally give you spine-shivers, like, all the way up and down?"

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Old 01-02-2008, 09:03 PM   #257
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Two things were learned by Var-Sen about Chloe Sullivan immediately:

One - she was very scrupulous and attentive. A keen intellect. She would be a formidable enemy, or a powerful ally.

Two - she was very succeptible to the effects of caffiene, as evidenced by her incessant talking. The large cup of coffee (espresso? latte?) she held on her desk was obviously doing its job.

He found her very intriguing.

And dangerous. It was almost as if she knew.

He watched her turn the pages....interesting that these meteors had fell in different parts around the world. Addis Ababa, even.

Until she showed him the photo of another Kryptonian symbol. He looked at it and listened to her story about its origin. He was not familiar with an expedition to France during Earth's 17th Century. However, this world had been surveyed many times by his people. The symbol could have been copied from someone, given to another, and inscribed in this cave in France. And it very well could have been written inverted mistakenly by the writer.

Or it could have been purposely written as resurrection.

Which meant it had to do with The Artifact. Lost by Kryptonians on Earth many centuries ago. Rendered into pieces, and sent asunder into the corners of the world, lest humans gained it in its wholeness. There was a reason for this seperation, though. Even Kryptonians had their prophecies. And this one foretold that when The Protector came, The Artifact would be re-united by The Protector, and it would serve them in their ultimate destiny.

Why was it written on a cave in France???

She would not see Var-Sen's reaction to seeing the symbols. He hid it well. His language was alive on Earth. The one in the cave in France didn't trouble him as much as the one written on the wall of the Kawatche Cave that Chloe spoke about. It was purposely drawn. And the handwriting almost looked familiar to him.

Who wrote hope on the wall of that cave? And why?

Wait. Var-Sen let out a sigh, and surely it was noticed by the ever-attentive Chloe Sullivan. The House of El adopted the symbol for hope as their family crest. In the beginning, Sor-El had taken the symbol when Krypton had at last made peace. The three great houses placed their symbols in the valley for all to see as a reminder of the planet's barbaric past. Var-Sen had last seen this symbol on a ring worn by Zor-El.

Var-Sen let an eyebrow raise slightly, a tell-tale sign that he was deep in thought. Why did Zor-El draw the crest of the House of El on this cave?

A double-meaning, perhaps?

Had he intended to come here and stay during Krypton's final days? Or, did he plan to send someone of his family here as a place of refuge?

Hope. Resurrection. Var-Sen suddenly felt as if he needed to sit down. The symbols, when put together as Chloe had them now, side-by-side, spelled out a prophecy Var-Sen had heard since almost his childhood in Kryptonopolis. He had heard his beloved mentor, Zor-El, speak of it himself. Var-Sen knew that this was not written for him or about him. But, he also knew, somehow, that he would play a part in this history yet to come. But, if it wasn't about him, then who??

Var-Sen settled his intense eyes on the human girl in front of him. He then smiled ever-so-slightly. "Yes, it is indeed very intriguing," he stated, answering her question, "although I'm not too sure about the origins of this symbol. It could mean anything," he finished, intentionally steering the conversation away from Kryptonian writings.

"You wouldn't happen to know where I could see one of these rocks, would you?"
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Old 01-03-2008, 01:54 AM   #258
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Kara felt her smiled awkwardly disappear as Rose gave her a look of hopeless confusion. She hoped that the reference would catch on... eventually. Many times Kara had found herself listening to Angels & Airwaves; their wonderful rhythmic style and profound lyrics often caused her to daydream while she was either alone in her room or out working in the fields.

The sun seemed to be drifting down below the horizon, and it would be night soon. Kara loved to come out and watch the sunset, and at night, when she was lone, she would go up into the barn and look at the stars through her telescope.

She looked over at Rose and saw some a single tear streaking down her face. In that moment Kara felt her heart move for Rose. The only comfort she felt was that she knew they weren't tears of pain. At least she hoped they weren't...

Kara sat down on the edge of the roof just as the sun became lost behind the trees; far off into the distance.

"How can you stand living in this place?"

"This place is my home." she said, bringing her legs up and she tucked her feet in, wrapping her arms around them, the soft glow of the fiery yellow sun reflected in her blue eyes. The sky was turning a variety of colors: pink, red, orange, yellow, gold... It was all so beautiful.

"I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be." she said with a warm smile.

Though Kara had been blessed with such loving parents, she did wonder about her biological parents. Were they still alive? What would they think of her now that she was growing up to be a young adult? What did they look like? All of these thoughts had once filled her mind.
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:36 AM   #259
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Chloe

Smith sighed, and raised an eyebrow, and changed the subject.

Chloe couldn't keep the wince from her face, and she felt a little bit of red, a little bit of blush, crawl up the back of her neck.

"Right, right, duh," she smiled, recovering fairly quickly, though the wince never quite left her eyes, "you came here for a reason, and here I am, jabbering about some graffiti they found underground by Miller's Bend. I'm sorry, I guess I'm not a very good host."

She secreted the Montmiral photo back in its place in the filing cabinet, and returned to sit behind her desk, though she turned the chair so she was sitting facing the man. She hesitated for a moment, wondering for a moment at the intangible, inexplicable air of portentousness the man had about him. It was like he'd seen a ghost, a ghost of a person he hadn't realised was dead.

Or maybe a Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

It wasn't on his face, really. There really wasn't anything on his face except mild contemplation.

It was more in his aura, if that made any sense. (It didn't. Very unscientific. But a journalist couldn't ignore her hunches.) The invisible weight on his shoulders. The way he looked like he could use a stiff drink, or at least a place to sit.

Or maybe she was just really, really boring him. He was a librarian, after all. He'd probably heard every conspiracy theory under The Sun, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Working at a school, he'd probably encountered countless crackpot college students, each working on the thesis that would crack open The Truth and change The World forever.

This was probably just old hat for him.

But maybe not. Maybe he really had seen a ghost.

"I forget that, for the most part, the only place you can see these things is Smallville," Chloe reflected quietly, keeping her own counsel, keeping her own thoughts to herself. "I mean, they dredged the rivers when they first came down, I know Met U has samples in their geology lab, but still. I forget that not everyone's actually seen a meteor rock."

She reached down, and pulled open the drawer, and reached down to gently, reverently remove the little lead box.

"Some people," Chloe murmured, holding up the box before her, "not naming any names, seem to think that these rocks give off energies, energies that do to people what comic-book writers used to think regular radiation would do. So I keep it boxed up, you know, just in case. I'm not in any hurry to turn into Lou Ferrigno or crawl up walls, as I'm sure you can imagine."

She held up the box, turned it to face him, and opened the lid.

Within, two halves of a small geode sat side by side, the emerald crystal gleaming at the core of the blue-grey rock.

"Spine-shivers, right? Spine-shivers and goosebumps."

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Old 01-03-2008, 06:27 PM   #260
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Var-Sen, John Smith to Chloe Sullivan, raised an eyebrow and stared casually at the rock in the box.

He fought the bile rising in his throat. The color, the texture.

The blue-grey tint of the surrounding stone told him of the igneous core of his homeworld. The color the nuclear mining machines had spat forth as they dug to find a suitable chamber where they could place the crystals.

The same green and faceted shape that lay at the center of the rock.

It had fused. The pressure of the explosion must have been like that of a thousand suns the size of Rao. They fused with Krypton. They became Krypton as Krypton itself died.

Without a word, Var-Sen reached towards the box. He grasped both halves of the meteor rock, holding them in his hand. He turned around, away from Chloe, as if holding the rock to the light for inspection.

He felt it. It was power contained from over a thousand years ago. It had been enough power to fuel a world. Now, it was enough to kill someone from that world. He knew that for sure now. The only thing that kept him safe was that his powers had been stripped from him, and although he was Kryptonian, he was not.

But now he knew for sure. Krypton had died. His homeworld, his family, all that he knew and loved were no more.

And this meant the rock, the pieces of a once shining jewel in the blackest of space, that he held in his hand had taken a thousand years to reach this Earth.

Unless....

Unless the wormhole had been opened. The hyperspace vortex used to travel between Krypton and Earth could have been opened if someone had come through. That journey would have taken about three years. And that would have been about twelve years ago.....

Var-Sen fought back a tear of sadness and despair. And then he remembered the photo on the wall behind Chloe's desk.

Hope.

He heard her say something about Miller's Bend. That's where the Kawatche Caves must be. And that is where he would go next.

Seemingly without interest, he casually placed the rock back into the box in front of Chloe. He didn't look at her when he spoke, instead he gazed at the photo on the Wall of Weird.

"I'm sorry, Miss Sullivan," he said to her, "but I'm afraid that's nothing more than just another rock from outer space."

And then Var-Sen turned on his heel and left.
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:28 PM   #261
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Jonathan Kent listened to Ceri as she began explaining the connection between his father and the McCrimmon's. The United States, for all its promises and dreams, was often a place of ridicule and oppression. But there were still some in the States that were idealistic and just; and they carried with them a sense of respect and loyalty. That was how Jonathan had been taught to live his life: be friendly to those you meet and greet them with open arms, rather than with suspicion.

Hiram might have been a little rough around the edges (most notably in appearances), but he always cared for those around him, even if they were strangers...

Finding it hard to interject his own opinions, Jonathan felt content just sit there and listen to Ceri speak about her great-uncle. He felt speechless, at the end. Proud... but speechless.

Martha, on the other hand, found it easier to formulate an actual sentence.

"Thank you for your kind words. It really... it means a lot to us." she said, her thoughts immediately going to her husband and Kara.

Jonathan, instead of strutting his stuff and flexing his arms, simply smiled out of humble pride. What else was there for a man to say?

"I've never really been as good with words as my wife is." Jonathan admitted with a bit of humour. He smiled at Jamie and Ceri as he rose to his feet.

"But she's right." he said, smiling down at Martha before returning his attention. "It means a lot, thank you." he added.
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Old 01-03-2008, 11:55 PM   #262
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Rose

Oh, right. The edge.

Apparently the bravery (or at least, the tactically conflicting fear) that had gotten Rose out onto the rooftop was reaching the end of its usefulness, or perhaps it had not penetrated her defences as deeply as she'd hoped.

Kara planted herself there on the edge and huddled, gazing out, meditative and appreciably serene, and Rose again found herself unable to move, keenly aware of gravity's relentlessness.

That imagination of hers went spinning off in a mixture of directions simultaneously, charting out the possibilities...

She still had her fists on her forehead, and she clenched them tighter.

Find another fear. Find another fear.

She took a step back. She took a step forward.

And before she let herself think anything else, she sat herself firmly down beside Kara and, with a extra dash of defiance, she let her legs dangle where they bent at the knees. Her hands gripped the edge on each side of her knees so tightly her knuckles turned white, and her teeth ground against each other in her mouth, but here she was, sitting out on the edge.

She took a deep breath, and she laughed softly, a throaty, shaky laugh. But a laugh nonetheless.

But she glanced across at the thoughtful expression on Kara's face, and realised that she should probably be quiet. It wouldn't be right to disrupt pensiveness like that.

So she fell silent, and she gazed at the ground below with a kind of detached wonder. She wondered where Kara had gone, despite her protestations that she'd rather be no other place than this. She wondered where she herself would rather be, if not here, if not now.

The Real World had ever been a place of mixed emotions for her. Fiction had ever been her refuge. The real world's highs were much too high, the real world's lows were much too low.

Joy made her heart fill to bursting. Despair made her heart want to shatter. The effect was, ultimately, the same: her heart was the worse for wear.

Where would she rather be, if not here, if not now?

Florin. Númenor. Sihnon.

But then again? Her parents weren't bellowing at each other, and the sunset was painting prismatic arrays of colour in the sky, and she was in the process of making a friend (remaking, maybe?) whose heart was as golden as her hair.

She could be in worse places. Even her idealised memories of five-year-old life in Keystone City couldn't compare to this. (Before "Uncle Dai" passed, and before her parents divorced. Before she and her mum had moved to Smallville, leaving her dad to his alembics and his particle accelerators.)

It had kind of come full circle, hadn't it? And things were hardly perfect. There was still animosity in the world, there was still danger. There were still things to feel guilty about and feel afraid of.

But there were possibilities. There were always possibilities.

She glanced back across at Kara, and then back down at the ground, past her dangling sneaker-clad toes. She smiled to herself.

Being able to fly wasn't any kind of guarantee that you would never, ever fall. But at least being high up would give you more time to save yourself before you hit.

And that was something, wasn't it? It was enough. It was everything.

"'Everything's Magic,'" she murmured with a tiny smile, her voice washed away by the breeze.

She straightened a bit, craned her head up towards the sky, and dared to lift a hand from its grip on the edge to shield her eyes against the bright of the runaway spires of The Sun.

"I missed my first day of high school,"
she shook her head, disbelieving, hoping that she'd given Kara enough time for her moment of silence but unable to keep her trap shut any longer, "because of a little tummy pain and a fit of hysterics. (I'm afraid of being left behind.) Did I miss anything good?"

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Old 01-04-2008, 11:03 AM   #263
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Chloe and Pete

If Chloe hadn't already been sitting down, she would have slumped down into her chair with shock and horror. As it was, she only crumpled a bit, snapping the lead box shut and dropping it despondently into the still-open desk drawer.

Despite herself, despite her cynical facade and her overall dim experiences with meteor-rock aficionados, she blinked back tears, tears that were warm and burned a little like acid. She scowled. She was tired of it. She was tired of getting talked down to by people who thought they knew better.

Why didn't they ever listen?

This time when she kicked the drawer shut, she did so with fury, making the desk shake and causing her little silver Gateway laptop to wobble dangerously.

"That son of a bitch!"

Pete Ross froze in the doorway, his eyes as wide as Chloe's had been when Smith had first entered that way. To say that this sort of language was uncharacteristic for Chloe would be the understatement of the era, and despite his own tendencies to cuss like a sailor when his mom and dad weren't around, to hear this made his jaw drop a little.

"Whoa, Blonde Avenger!"
he frowned, walking closer, head tilted. "What's with the TV-MA rating?"

Chloe shot to her feet, and whipped around to look at that photo again, the Kawatche Cave icon. She bit the inside of her cheek, positronics humming in her brainpan.

"That-that-that Joaquin Phoenix wishes-he-was thinks just because he's got a third-degree black-belt in The Dewey Decimal system," Chloe muttered, "he can talk to me like that? Like he's a god of xeno-mineralogy, sees all and knows all?"

He doesn't see all and know all, Chloe realised inwardly, suddenly, eyes narrowing at the cave wall icon. But he saw that. And he knew something. The Cave.

Pete made to open his mouth again, but Chloe whipped her head back around to look at him, her eyes ablaze, and the sight of her caused Pete to fall silent.

"Pete!" she demanded. "What class do you have next?"

Man,
Pete blinked. An' I thought she was sexy when she wasn't angry.

Chloe did not brook his hesitation. "Pete?"

Pete shook his head sharply, broke the mini-reverie, and replied bitterly: "Metal shop. I just saw the list of partners up on the bulletin board, an' I got stuck with 'Iron Arm' Gradlow. God hates me."

"We'll discuss God later,"
Chloe remarked, and tossed Pete the digital camcorder. "Right now, you're skipping class with me. We've got a Man in Black to chase."

"Girl," Pete shook his head, "you are making even less sense than usual. And with you? That's sayin' somethin'."

Chloe blew past him, shoving her laptop into a black satchel as she ran, and she turned to face Pete as she paused in the doorway to shoulder that satchel.

"C'mon!" she reminded him. "What's the Pete Ross Code of The Road?"

Pete sighed, and rolled his eyes, and knew he'd regret this: "'Even when I think you're whacked, I show up ready to rumble.'"

"Good," Chloe said, whirling in a rush of skirt and darting down the hall, "because you're driving. Just let me ask Earl if we can borrow his truck."

Pete hesitated once more.

"Mr. Jenkins?" he sputtered, following her at a rapid pace. "The janitor? His truck always smells like fertiliser. You know how I feel about fertiliser."

"You're the one with the learner's permit!" Chloe fired back, relentless. She had a story here, she had a mystery to solve, and she wouldn't let go of either if she had anything to say about it.

Chloe Sullivan, Pete mused as he ran, you have no idea how lucky you are that I love you.

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Old 01-04-2008, 08:29 PM   #264
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The Kawatche Cave

He found it. Quite easily, in fact.

And now he stood before the rock wall and stared at the symbol inscribed into it. He reached up and traced his finger against it.

Hope.

The red dust from the clay and sandstone walls and floor of the cave had settled on his black coat, but he paid it no mind. He turned around a full three-hundred-sixty degrees while shining the beam of a flashlight on the walls.

The Kryptonian language was written everywhere!

Some of it, though, appeared rough and incohesive, as if it were static photocopies that had been stenciled here and there, some large, some small. There was a story here, pictograms and renderings, much like history had written on the many walls of the many caves throughout the world. He was sure the artists here knew its meaning, and perhaps even passed down a legend from centuries ago. After all, Earth had been visited by his people for nearly a thousand years.

Var-Sen did not find any meteor rock. He did not expect to find any here in the cave. No, the cave had turned out as he expected. It was a sanctuary of sorts, a place where scientists and surveyors from Krypton could safely await contact and transport when the time came.

Var-Sen had no doubts this place had been used for that many times. And that meant that somewhere within this cave there was a portal, a temporary interface with a transdimensional corridor that could, in times of emergency, be used as a hiding place. Most worlds had these, as the Kryptonian scientists would set them up when they made their covert visits. This portal could transport someone to another area of the planet, or even hold them safely in a temporary physical plane, somewhat similar to the Phantom Zone.

Var-Sen began to move his flashlight beam across the walls of the cave, feeling as he went, looking as best as he could in the dim light.

He felt it, roughly at first, but once he brushed some dust and sand that had accumulated out of it, he knew he had found it. It was cut into the wall of the cave, about shoulder height. It was an octagonal shaped cut out, just a fraction of an inch deep into the cave wall. Var-Sen smiled when he found it.

It was a key hole.

Now, all he had to do was find a key.
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Old 01-04-2008, 10:53 PM   #265
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Ceri and Jamie

Ceri turned a funny colour of red, and she smiled a smile that was very like her daughter at her most abashed. She'd... what would Rose have called it? She'd "bogarted the mic," and to do this while guests in another's home... Well, it wasn't good form, now, was it?

"You're most welcome," she replied, despite her own abashedness. "I've long been of the opinion that the wrong in this world doesn't receive nearly enough discouragement, and that the right in this world doesn't receive nearly enough encouragement. That's really all I was hoping to do. Offer some encouragement."

Jamie, in response to Jonathan's rising, popped to his feet like someone had struck up a rendition of "God Save The Queen" or even The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah." A Pavlovian response, so to speak.

Jonathan Kent took to his feet, and thus, Jamie Hamilton did also.

He was still grinning.

"Just like ladies, ennit?" he chortled, hands in his pockets and eyes dancing with glee. "We lads can spend all night hemming and hawing over topics of a delicate nature, but to come right out and say a thing, it takes a woman. I tell you, if Englishmen hadn't lost the capacity for genuine emotion in late August 1305, I'd be a bit teary-eyed right at the moment."

Ceri's blush lingered, but only because she was embarrassed now at Jamie's Puckishness. Embarrassed, but glad for it all the same. Nothing like a bit of tomfoolery to take the edge off of a situation, after all, for good or ill.

"Ah," she smirked, shaking her head at his back, an essentially good-natured jibe, powered though it might have been by conflict that had not yet been resolved. "1305, isn't it? That would explain why you never got teary-eyed about blowing up our daughter with your fiendish Science."

Jamie didn't even miss a beat, didn't even turn around and look at her, and though his big ol' grin faded by a degree or two, it was only for the purpose of returning fire with a bit of knowing-- if somewhat lovingly biting --wit:

"Can't've blown up our daughter, dearie-o,"
Jamie retorted easily, "she's upstairs with the neighbour girl nattering. (About Zac Efron or one of his ilk, likely as not.)"

He turned and looked at her, expression blithe, one eye winking in a decidedly debonair fashion. "Must've been someone else."

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Old 01-05-2008, 12:31 AM   #266
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Chloe and Pete

"...I'm just saying," Chloe suggested, her voice a whisper, as they picked their way down to the cave entrance, "it's good karma, right? If you spend all of Metal Shop bearing the brunt of Gradlow the Jockstrap, that's a whole period where Gradlow's not shoving around Kyle Matthews, and it's not like Kyle couldn't use the break."

Pete seemed dubious. "I guess so," he replied bittersweetly, his own voice kept low as he squinted into the dark of the cave. "But why does good karma always gotta be such a pain in my ass?"

Pete held the camcorder's scope to his eye, cuing up the lowlight function as a sort of makeshift nightvision monocular. "You sure The Absent-Hearted Professor's even in there?"

"Mmhmm," Chloe nodded, her eyes gleaming like a bloodhound on the scent. "That was his sport-utility parked up by the roadside; I ran the plates on my laptop."

"All right then," Pete nodded gamely. "What're we waitin' for? I got some more good karma to score."

Chloe held up her keys, wrapped in a sock and muffled tightly, and the LED penlight attached to that selfsame key-ring. She grinned at him in a mixture of gratitude and life-on-the-edge anticipation.

"Let's roll," she nodded, and kept the LED's beam low, practically at her feet, so as not to interfere with the camcorder and to not give them away to the man they were pursuing.

Pete led the way, one hand on the 'corder and one hand in Chloe's. Chloe knew these caves better than he did, since she'd studied the maps made by the Central Kansas University survey, and her memory was damn near eidetic.

Rather than give themselves away by whispering, they signaled each other with the squeezing of hands.

Pete tried not to let the fact that he was holding hands with Chloe distract him.

Strictly professional, m'man, he chided himself. Like a bodyguard. 'Cept not in the Kevin Costner sorta way.

Chloe, meanwhile, saw their prey first. She killed her penlight, and gripped Pete's hand so tightly it almost cracked his knuckles and-- though he'd never admit it --he had to bite his tongue to keep from bellowing aloud.

He shot her a furious look, and she smiled wincingly at him.

Only for a moment, though. Once the moment passed, she jutted her head in the direction of the cavern's main chamber, on whose threshold they stood, and the Man in Black for whom they sought.

John Smith himself was almost invisible in the darkness, given the black of his clothes and the fact that he'd gotten enough cave dust on him to clog a large air-vent, but the flashlight he wielded cut through the shadow like a razor.

They saw that flashlight beam, Pete keeping a careful watch with the camcorder, and thus they saw what he saw.

Two-headed monsters, and glyphs of all shapes and sizes.

But then... but then... exploring the walls of the cave like a blind man would read Braille, John Smith zeroed in on a particular spot.

He stopped, and he ferreted around in the dust and the dirt.

Chloe's breath caught in her throat, and she pulled her hand from Pete's to cover her mouth.

What have you found? she wondered in silence. And how, pray tell, did you know where to look?

Pete frowned, and zoomed in closer, and the grainy green of the camcorder's lowlight showed the shape of a stop sign, chiseled into the rock.

It's like there's a piece missing, he decided, with dawning realisation and a sick sense of omen in his gut. Some kinda Kawatche version of The Da Vinci Code? John Smith here don't think he's Joaquin Phoenix, he thinks he's Tom Hanks!

Chloe leaned forward, trying desperately to get a better look. As she moved, she put an upraised palm against the wall of the cave...

...and inadvertently dislodged a fistful of pebbles and dust, set them to scattering down her arm and into her face and while she managed in her intrepidity to suppress the yelp that thrummed in her voicebox, she couldn't help drawing in breath sharply...

...she inhaled dust...

She coughed. Once, very loudly.

She coughed.

The cough echoed in the main chamber of the cavern, and Chloe stared at Pete Ross with horror. It wasn't like they could run. If they ran, they'd only get lost in the dark, break their legs, and die. They could only stand their ground, and let themselves be discovered.

Oh, God, Pete, she shuddered, what have I gotten you into?

Pete kind of shrugged helplessly, and grinned at her, in that lopsided way that meant, yeah, he was pretty pissed, but what'reyagonnado?

Least it's good karma, right? he reminded himself, silently reminded her, as he found Chloe's hand once more and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

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Old 01-05-2008, 12:32 AM   #267
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Theatrics can work to your advantage. Psychological warfare is the most effective. The man had said.

You want me to use smoke and mirrors? Bruce asked, as he grabbed two kindo sticks from the wall, and handed one to the stranger.

No, not quite. But smoke can cause you a perfect distraction. The man answered.

For a get-away? Bruce asked.

Now you are starting to get it. The man said as he charged Bruce with the stick. The clashed in the middle of the room. The man towering over him. Always mind your surroundings. You never know what lies behind you and in front of you that may be helpful. The man said as he pushed Bruce backwards, knocking him over a bin.

This is going to be a very interesting morning. Bruce said, as he stood up.


After a while of training, the man yelling at him, reminding him of things, and smacking his arms with the kindo sticks, the man stopped.

Good, good for now. The man said. Come now, there is something I would like to show you.


The walked outside of the room, where Alfred stood, holding his cup of coffee. Everything allright sir? He asked.

Yes Alfred. Everything is fine. I'll explain when I get home. Bruce said as he walked upstairs to get dressed.

****

Bruce sat in the seat of the Dodge Viper. They flew down the road out of town. The sun was up now, and he knew he wasn't going to school right away. The slowed and pulled over next to to vehicles in front of a cave entrance.

This Bruce, is one of the reasons why I have come to you. Inside lies some of the greatest secrets of all time. The man said.

Bruce got out of the car, and walked inside, alone. The man waiting in the car. Fear hit him in the stomach. Not much, but enough to make him pause for a moment.

Inside, it was dark. But Bruce's vision could see pretty well. The sun shone through the cracks on the cave ceiling enough for him to see.

He stopped around a corner. He saw two kids, one of them he remembered was Pete Ross, from Gym the day before, and the other was Chloe something-or-rather. He remembered seeing her yesterday in the newspaper office.

They were standing, holding hands, looking at a man in black, touching the wall. The man's face was unforgettable. John Smith, the "Johnny Cash" man from History class. Bruce did not move, but knew that he made to much noise coming in for them not to notice.
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Old 01-05-2008, 10:50 PM   #268
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Var-Sen heard someone cough. It was a feminine cough. It startled him at first, and he turned off his flashlight and stepped nearer to the cave wall, blending with the darkness.

Then he heard footsteps, the crunching of shoe soles on the smaller rocks and pebbles on the floor of the cave.

Someone had followed him. Anger filled him, for he knew the one it could only be. And this fact was confirmed as he flicked on the flashlight and shined the beam into the face of Chloe Sullivan and Pete Ross.

She, he had seen just a few minutes ago. He, he had had in the history lecture, during the afternoon session.

If Var-Sen still had retained his Kryptonian powers, the entire cave would now be awash in a bath of heat from his eyes. Humans were duplicitous and could not be trusted. They had their own motivations and agendas, and they seldom saw past themselves into the larger picture of other's well-being, or the nurturing of the planet as a whole.

"Miss Sullivan. Mr. Ross," John Smith said to them in a matter-of-fact tone, "Shouldn't you be in school?"

Poking their noses into things which they had no comprehension. The mystery of the cave, the "ooohh let's find out the secret" of it. In fact, the secret of this cave dealt with a destiny of someone far greater than anyone who inhabited it now. The children had no idea how small, how frail, how insignificant their existence was compared to the power that would be wielded if the prophecy was fulfilled by the Chosen One.

Var-Sen moved his flashlight beam across the cave corridor where Chloe and Pete stood. He saw another back there, leaning close to the wall. The bearer of the footsteps no doubt and someone whom he also recognized.

"And Mr. Wayne," he said, "please, come forward and join us. I think there are enough of us here now to have a small class. Perhaps we should talk about history". Smith sat his flashlight on a small ledge, sitting it on end so the beam shone upwards and illuminated the cavern like a lamp. Smith then sat on an eroded stalagmite, crossed his leg over his knee, and propped his chin in his hand. "So let's talk about history. As a matter of fact, let's talk specifically about the history of the Kawatche Cave."

They are a great people. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way.

Zor-El had said those words long ago, during the first research mission to Earth that Var-Sen was a part of. Var-Sen believed it, partly because Zor-El had said it, and partly because he knew it to be true himself. If he had not believed it, he would not have willingly given up his Kryptonian birthright to stay behind so a human could live. A human female he cared for. Like these young ones before him, part of a family, and friends with one another.

Friendship. Family. Love.

Alien words to him, an alien himself.

He looked from Chloe to Pete to Bruce with his dark, intense eyes. He knew why they had followed him. He just wanted them to be honest, to be truthful. And he needed to know how much of his secret the keen mind of Chloe Sullivan had deciphered. He wondered how much they had seen of his explorations of the glyphs and ancient Kawatche drawings. He wondered what their versions of the story told in this cave were. He wondered if they, too, could read the writing on the wall.

"So," he said at last, "does anyone care to begin?"
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Old 01-06-2008, 02:24 AM   #269
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John Smith called him to join the rest of them. Chloe and Ross did not move much.

Bruce walked in front of the two, to look at what they were admiring. He saw cave drawings. All over the walls. He could not make out anything. But then something caught his eye.

Something he had seen before.

It was a person, with two heads coming from the body. One strong looking, the other wicked looking.

But from where?

Then it hit him. His dream. The nightmare that had haunted him just a few hours earlier. I've seen this one before. Bruce said, pointing to the picture. And he happened to remember a conversation about it.

Alfred had been talking to an old witch doctor or something. A Kawatchi medicine man. He had indulged Alfred on some of the beliefs of the Kawachi.

Sageeth and Na-Maad. The Yin and Yang of the Kawachi. The balace between good and evil. Begining from the same place, they split to battle themselves. Bruce said. He could be wrong with a couple details, but he knew the basic jist of the story.

He just looked at the drawing, then down at Mr. Smith.
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Old 01-06-2008, 10:38 PM   #270
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Chloe and Pete

"I'm a journalist," Chloe squeaked softly, at Smith's lambasting, his calling them out. "I had a follow-up question. So I. Followed you. Up."

It would be hard to blame Chloe and Pete for standing stock-still, at first, unmoving. There was lead weight in their shoes, anchoring their feet to the rock.

Bruce brushed past them, and Chloe flinched a bit. For all the noise Bruce had apparently made during his rearward approach, she'd been so focused on the older man ahead that she hadn't registered the younger man behind.

But now that she saw him, Pete's soothing hand now on her shoulder, a kind of awed recognition dawned on her.

Recognition dawned on Pete, too, but of an entirely different kind.

"Know that guy,"
he frowned. "Saw him in P.E. yesterday. Got punked by that new girl in dodgeball. (What the Hell's his name? He had two first names but no last name.)"

Chloe turned her head slightly to speak in his direction, but didn't take her eyes off of the new guy. Didn't take her eyes off of him.

"That's a bit rich," she murmured, "coming from a guy named Pete Ross. Don't worry, I'm sure somewhere in the multiverse there's a guy with two last names but no first name, just to balance you two out."

Pete shook his head and snorted softly, a half-hearted smile on his face. "'Benton Fraser.'"

Chloe gestured in Bruce's direction. "That?" she grinned lopsidedly, trying not to act, well, like a schoolgirl with an allasudden crush, "is Bruce Wayne. Heir apparent to the old-money Wayne real-estate empire in Gotham City, and ward of The Waynes' butler, Alfred Pennyworth."

Pete arched an eyebrow, highly dubious. "Man," he muttered. "Inheriting half of Gotham City's real estate? That's a screwed-up kinda backhanded. That's like winning the lottery, and finding out the annuity payments are a million dead fish."

"Could've been worse,"
Chloe chuckled, adjusting her laptop-bag's shoulder-strap as she wandered closer to Bruce and Smith. "He could have inherited half of Blüdhaven."

Pete couldn't really argue with that.

Weird kid, tho',
he frowned, and tried not to blame it on the way Chloe was looking at Wayne. Only had eyes for him. How'd he see in the cave without a flippin' flashlight? I mean, it's not like it was pitch dark, but he must've been bitten by a radioactive nocturnal mammal or something. Weird kid.

But Bruce was talking, and Chloe was listening, listening with that ravenous rapt attention that only filled her eyes and her face when a cute boy and a fantastic news article coincided.

Pete smiled resignedly, and shook his head, and wandered closer. For Chloe's sake, though, he kept the camera running. Even though he figured the way he was holding the camera would make the cinematography very "Blair Witch Project," at least Chloe would have the mini DV of Bruce Wayne to drool over later. Which, hey, was apparently inevitable.

"Actually," Chloe was saying, insinuating herself beside Bruce and squinting at the image, "I think it's pronounced 'Naman,' but your attempt was close enough for government work. Naman and Sageeth begin 'as brothers,' but become bitter enemies. Not unlike, in Western myth, the falling-out between Arthur and Lancelot over their mutual love for Guinevere. There's an Excalibur analogue, too, called 'Palak,' but the Arthurian parallels are flimsy... except for The Second Coming. Naman is, as far as The Kawatche are concerned, a Once and Future King. (Or Queen. For some reason, the gender pronouns got a little confused in the CKU report, and in Professor Willowbrook's attached comments.)"

Chloe spun, though, facing Smith with her eyes still gleaming.

"We're on a field trip, Professor Smith,"
she gazed at him with narrowed, defiant eyes, having regained her thunder, her righteous indignation. "Like you said, to learn about history. We've got a passing familiarity, it seems, with what The Kawatche see when they look at these walls. But I'd be much more interested, right at present, to hear about what you see when you look at them."

Last edited by Chasnicollette : 06-12-2008 at 04:36 PM.
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Old 01-07-2008, 12:17 AM   #271
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Chloe corrected Bruce. She corrected him to the point that he felt he didn't even say one word right. But he never actually paid attention to the old man talking, just caught a bit of it by mistake.

Bruce turned to see Pete holding a recorder, pointed at him. He turned to see Chloe, still standing behind him, looking at him.

He thought he saw her glance at his butt, but quickly abandoned the thought. He turned to Mr. Smith.

So what do you see when you look at these paintings, Mr. Smith?
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Old 01-07-2008, 01:14 AM   #272
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Lex pushed a button under his desk and a monitor screen and console rose up before him. He took another sip of wine as he keyed in a code on the console before him. In a moment, a video recording began to play.

Randel Graves stood arguing with one of the men involved with the experiment that had taken place the night before. It became apparent that though the man said he could not allow Randel through, into the chamber behind him, he was not about to actually stop the man from proceeding. Finally, Randel stepped past him, leaving him standing there, as he strode into a glass incased room.

The room sealed behind him and a green light began to flash over head as a fan began to blow up from under Randel's feet. Randel turned and began pounding on the glass barrier that held him in as the man he had left standing only shook his head, turning away. Plumes of green gass began to fill the glass encasement that held Randel captive. He struck at the glass harder, but to no avail, gasping and wheesing as the gas began to fill his lungs, began to blot him from sight.

Only his hands, open palmed, could be seen, slapping at the glass, desperately, before slipping away, one last time. "We all must make sacrifices for science sometimes, even you Randel..." Lex said as he stopped the video.
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Old 01-07-2008, 05:41 AM   #273
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Var-Sen listened first to the story told by Bruce Wayne, and then to Chloe.

Chloe's statements did not surprise him. As he thought about it, he actually expected her to follow him to the cave at some point or other. He knew she would be trouble, he thought, and he had to stop himself from smiling.

The tales relayed by both youths were correct. He did not know he particulars of the names given, such as "Segeeth" or "Naman", but he knew the tale well enough.

The Kawatche were a proud, righteous people. They were some of the first actually encountered by Krypton's first survey and research missions to Earth. The Kawatche considered the Kryptonians gods among men. The early Kryptonians saw the Kawatche as an honorable people, and believed they would make their imprint on Earth's future. Because of this, the Kryptonians taught them some of their knowledge, history, and technology. Hundreds of years later, when a survey mission returned, it saddened Var-Sen's people to learn that the Kawatche had all but been wiped out, and Earth's future was destined to be one of war and destruction.

Some of the Kawatche, however, were able to keep the old legends. And Var-Sen guessed there were probably some around who could tell the story written on the cave walls.

He looked at Chloe, Pete, and Bruce. "To me," he said, "it's just writing on a wall." He gave a half smile. "But I have seen these symbols before, in my travels, and when I saw the one in the photo on your wall, Chloe, I had to come and see it for myself."

He looked around the cavern, softly illuminated by the flashlight. "I believe these symbols are extraterrestial in origin," he admitted. No harm in telling the truth, he figured. After all, that was the logical conclusion they all no doubt had drawn anyway. "As to what they mean, or where they are from, that's another story. It's all Greek, or in this case, alien, to me."

He had said the word alien. Well, it was true. The word just sounded...felt...wrong.

Var-Sen had come to the cave seeking an answer. He had gotten it. Whether or not he was interrupted by the intrepid reporter, her staff, and Wayne mattered little. He had indeed seen the writing on the wall. He had read Kryptonian words like hope, chosen, redeemer, and crusade. And he knew why it was this cave. Somewhere close, perhaps even in Smallville, there was someone else of Kryptonian heritage.

And a destiny awaited them.
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:34 PM   #274
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As Mr. Smith finished talking, he looked back up at the wall. A look of disgust came upon him, and then, Bruce thought, a look of hope made an appearance.

As they stood there, they heard more footsteps coming from behind them. Bruce turned to see the man that had driven him to the caves. He had almost forgotten why he was here.

Why was he here???

Mr. Wayne, I had wondered if you had gotten lost. But I see that you are having a small class reunion of some sort. Interesting place to choose for the rendevous. The man said.

I never told you who was in my classes. How did you know? And who are you anyways? Bruce demanded.

I suppose that you have the right to know who I am. My name is Henri Ducard. I work for the one Ra's Al Guhl. The man said. One thing that I'm trying to teach you Bruce, is never enter a conflict without knowing the other contestants. I know who you go to school with, who your teachers are. As I have said before, a man like yourself can not hide from the world. Ducard finished.

Bruce stood there for a moment. He wondered what Mr. Smith was thinking, and what Chloe and Pete were making of this. So why am I here? Bruce asked.

I shall explain that to you on our way to your school. That my friend is information that is best kept in private ears. Ducan stated.
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:42 PM   #275
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Emil

Emil Hamilton crouched in the centre of the glass-encased room, examining the floor and the dispersal fan set therein. His metal fingers trailed thoughtfully, contemplatively, his blue eyes narrowing a bit as he pondered.

He had his glasses off in his right hand, and he occasionally nibbled at the arm of his spectacles as he got deeper and deeper into thought.

There was a smile on his face. It was not entirely a pleasant smile.

Meyer and Boyajian stood just outside the glass door, well away from the controls.

"Honestly," Meyer remarked to his counterpart, half-watching the scientist, "I never thought I'd be working this end of things. My momma always wanted me to be an accountant. It just turned out that the numbers I was best at crunching were a fella's five fingers in my hand. To this day, I'm fairly skilled with a calculator, but that's just not where I ended up."

"Life can be funny," Boyajian agreed.

Meyer arched an eyebrow. "Yeah, it can. How 'bout you? What did you want to be when you grew up?"

"Gardener," Boyajian shrugged.

The smaller man's face would have fetched quite a sum at Sotheby's: it was priceless. "Seriously?"

"Green thumb,"
Boyajian nodded. "Like to make things grow." The big bald man's hands closed into fists. "I was always good at weeding."

Emil had straightened, and was gazing up at the light source. The bulbs were green. He snorted softly, and walked closer to the door.

For a moment, he considered the smeared handprints on the inside of the glass, considered the primal shuddery horror that must have gripped the man inside. Perhaps the chemicals had had a fear-inducing effect, perhaps hallucinogenic?

Or perhaps it had all been in his head.

Perhaps he had simply... panicked. Whether from claustrophobia or from terror at the encroaching emerald clouds, or a combination of the two, perhaps the smoke itself had not caused the coughing and the wheezing present in the witness reports?

Maybe the coughing fit had been entirely psychosomatic. And, therefore, the oxygen deprivation that had resulted from the coughing and the hyperventilating had been what had caused Graves to lose initial consciousness, rather than a somnolence brought on by the chemical mist?

Emil stood at the threshold of the doorway and he eyed Boyajian.

"A gardener, were you?"
he pondered, popping his glasses back on, that not-entirely-pleasant smile still in force. "Perhaps you could tell me, then, how this relates to farming? The dossier mentioned that this was a fertiliser experiment, but I've not yet determined the connection. Fast and loose with the details, the dossier was. At least in that respect."

"Smallville," Boyajian rumbled, "used to produce 20% of the corn grown in the state of Kansas. Mister Luthor has a vested interest in restoring its former glories. The mist is an experimental nutrient bath. The light bulbs' filaments are also made from a meteor-based compound, attempting to see what effect the meteor light has on photosynthetic reactions."

Meyer blinked. He'd known Boyajian for some time, but they'd never talked about botany. He hadn't realised the big guy had such polysyllabic verbiage in him.

"Damn," he breathed.

Boyajian blushed a little, stared at his toes, fidgeted, abashed at Meyer's expressing himself thusly.

Emil arched an eyebrow, but shook his head after a moment and laughed softly. He walked out of the glass chamber and stood, for a moment, by the controls, idly nudging switches and gazing at dials and readouts.

"While I am impressed at your"-- and his darksome smile grew wider at this --"recitation of the company line, Boyajian, I think perhaps you've been misinformed."

Boyajian straightened sharply, went a little pale. The idea that he'd been lied to about something as clear and pure and unsullied as the growing of food obviously disturbed him deeply.

Meyer, on the other hand, looked rather intrigued. "Misinformed?" he wondered. "In what way?"

"During the First of the World Wars,"
Emil began, leaning with a metal elbow on the control panel, "a weapon was used which still lives in a kind of infamy, and as recently at the late nineties was still employed in warfare to fairly devastating effect. It's still a useful substance, even today. Well, more accurately it's a family of substances, but the tendency is to lump them together under a central, specific term."

Meyer blinked, glanced at Boyajian. Boyajian shrugged.

"Sulphur mustard," Emil murmured. "Mustard gas."

Both of Luthor's men turned sharply to look at Hamilton. That term they recognised.

"Carcinogenic, mutagenic, blistering," Emil continued, counting off on his right hand's fingers. "It's one of the more fearful concoctions in man's wartime repertoire. Even men on the field of battle who wore gas masks would succumb to its grasp, because they would absorb it right through the skin. Typically, they suffered no ill effects at first. But in the next four to twenty-four hours... disfigurement, terrible irritation in the skin and eyes, possible blindness. Cancers, damaged DNA..."

He trailed off, and began to tap his chin with a metal index finger.

"How long did you say it was," he mused, eyes half-lidded, that smile wandering back and forth across his lips, "between Randal's little imbroglio with the inhalant, and his... transfiguration?"

Meyer and Boyajian didn't move, didn't blink.

"Four hours," Boyajian eventually volunteered, sounding very much sickened.

"Interesting," Emil chuckled, as if he had known that all along. "What an interesting coincidence. And the gas? Certainly had mutagenic properties, didn't it? I'd say that gas was the most mutagenic substance I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a few mutagenic substances. Accelerated, perhaps, by the addition of the overhead meteor-based incandescence?"

Emil shook his head, marveling quietly at the temerity of it all.

"Mustard gas has been regulated by international agreement,"
Emil pointed out. "But something tells me your project was an attempt to disguise and enhance it with the meteoric catalyst, repackage it for the highest bidder. Luthorcorp lost out on Stronghold, after all, I received the e-newsletter. Maybe the thought was to sell something to the other side of the Homeland Security fence, to make up for the loss of grant money?"

Now both Meyer and Boyajian looked disturbed. Not that Luthorcorp would do such a thing, of course, but that Emil would speak of it so freely.

Emil looked at them blandly. "Oh, please," he grunted, "don't treat me like a naive waif. My brother and I both did our share of shady work for The Crown before we moved to The States and joined the semi-private sector. I understand the old adage about loose lips and sunken ships. I did not, however, want us to be on uncertain ground. I wanted you to know exactly where we stood."

He plucked the little phial out of his pocket and examined the sample of Randal Graves therein.

"I think I know how to save you, Randal,"
he murmured softly. "But I need more samples of you to be sure. And I still need to examine samples of you from before the change."

Meyer couldn't help but smile at this, couldn't help but shake his head and laugh softly. "That's not possible. Already? You couldn't possibly have figured it out already."

Emil looked at Meyer like he was a hedgehog struck by a Mini Clubman and left by the side of the road: a mixture of sadness and revulsion.

"I am a very smart man,"
Emil instructed Meyer, as he put the bit of Randal away again. "And if this was, in fact, meteor-accelerated mustard gas-- which I expect to confirm shortly --there are ways of treating victims of mustard gas, particularly the vesicant aspect. I just need to adapt traditional methods of treatment in the same way that Luthorcorp has adapted mustard gas itself: by using local elements."

Meyer took a step back, startled. Very little startled Meyer, but Hamilton had succeeded.

Emil shook his head, and left the room, muttering to himself: "I need more samples."

Meyer and Boyajian stood there for a moment, watching him go.

Meyer fumed to himself, but it was Boyajian's turn to pat him reassuringly on the arm.

"It's not polite to question a man when he's doing his natural-born thing," Boyajian reminded him.

"I suppose not,"
Meyer admitted grudgingly, as he made to follow.

"S'weird, though,"
Boyajian pondered as he, in turn, followed Meyer.

"What's that?"
Meyer glanced back at him as he walked.

"He said 'First of the World Wars,'" Boyajian mumbled. "Not 'First of the two World Wars.' S'weird. S'probably nothing."

Meyer frowned thoughtfully. "What does he know that we don't?"

Boyajian's reply was simple: "Lots of things."
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