+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Episode 11 - "Quake" (PG)

  1. #1
    NS Senior Member Senior Member sydsvaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    04 Mar 2003
    Posts
    1,313

    Episode 11 - "Quake" (PG)

    Title: Quake
    Written by: Becky

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Granicus, Asia Minor: 334 BC

    Black hooves cantered impatiently along the bleached white sands. The horse was hyper-alert, and its stark eyes watched the endless rows of infantrymen as they clashed their swords to their shields in time with their chant…

    Alexander!

    Alexander!

    Atop the horse sat a young man with curly blonde hair that framed his chiseled features like a lion's mane. Holding the horse on tight reins with his left hand, his right pointed his glistening sword to the skies as he rode by the endless lines of cavalry, his troops stretching far into the distance.

    The noise from the army was deafening: a threat that carried itself on the wind. A warning to all who heard it: Alexander is coming. The young man felt a smirk behind his lips at the scene before him, and drew a deep breath to roar his words above the chanting.

    "I am not a God among men. You are men who stand with a God! I fight, with my shoulder to yours… and we were all born to be legends!"

    The endless sea of faces bellowed back their approval.

    "Yet they would deny us our birthright!" Alexander pulled his gaze from his army and followed the point of his sword as he motioned to the Persian Army gathered in the distance. "Let today be known as the day we claimed our glory!"

    35,000 voices filled with passion and anger joined in the battle cry as Alexander lifted his sword to the skies once more. 35,000 faces, steely and determined moved forwards to claim their destiny. Their birthright.

    Alexander turned his horse to face the enemy lines and loosened the reins with a sharp kick to the horse's side. The beast reared on its hind legs before launching forward with breathtaking speed. Hundreds of cavalry joined behind it, forming a lethal arrow that sped across the parched desert sands to the Persian front line. Alexander rode at the head of the arrow, as always, with fire in his eyes and a need in his heart to claim what was his: greatness.

    The Persian cavalry watched in awe as death rode towards them on an ebony horse, the jewels on Alexander's breastplate dazzling them in the midday sun. Moments before that inevitable blow, a flash of gold scorched their eyes as the sun bounced from an embossed snake that slithered across the breastplate.

    It was the last thing they would remember, save for the dull sound of skulls splitting under Alexander's sword, and the smell of blood as they were shrouded in blackness.

    Blackness.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Luthor Mansion: Present Day

    "So Mr Luthor," began Chloe, "the publicity surrounding Alexander the Great's breastplate has been high on your agenda: are you hoping that it will negate the impact of last week's budget cuts to the LuthorCorp Art Program?"

    Lex sat perfectly poised behind his desk, fingers steepled as he looked at his keyboard.

    There was a moment of silence between the two, when all that could be heard was the crackle of the study fire and the gentle whir of the tape recorder pointing at him from his desk.

    His eyes raked their way over to her face as he gave his well-rehearsed reply. "I'm sure you are aware, Miss Sullivan," he began, mocking her own formality, "that the breastplate is of great social and historical interest. LuthorCorp is loaning the breastplate to the Louvre for their upcoming exhibition to promote knowledge of this rare artifact, with the hope of promoting the arts throughout the world." He rested his elbows on the chair arms before continuing, "you have also been misinformed of our budget cuts: funds were merely redistributed to other projects."

    Chloe's fingertips grew a little pale as she gripped her pencil tighter: she had interviewed Lex enough times to know that it was never easy. He'd described it himself as 'verbal judo' and that always made it an uphill struggle. It was like playing cat and mouse, and at this moment, Chloe didn't know which one she was.

    Of course, she would never turn down the opportunity to interview him, it was a rare opportunity for any reporter, particularly one as young as Chloe with a need to build her resume. When she had heard that Alexander the Great's breastplate was to be transferred from the Metropolis Museum of Arts, where it had been donated by Lex himself 3 years ago, she jumped at the chance to ask for an interview, and, ever in need of publicity after his father's fall from grace, Lex had reluctantly agreed. So here they were, in Lex's dimly lit study discussing 2300-year-old artifacts.

    "Projects that don't have anything to do with the Arts though; like the Menghini project at Modell?" She asked, in a thinly veiled defiant tone. For a number of months, Chloe had been reading through the files she retrieved from Parker Enterprises, and had been struck by how many times 'Menghini', 'Modell' and 'Dr Carlton' all featured in the same sentence. The opportunity to call Lex on some of the activities that she suspected were still ongoing at Modell was too good to miss.

    The muscle on Lex's jaw flexed slightly, betraying his unease, but he quickly masked it with a smirk. "Both you and I know that this interview is restricted to the Arts, if you wish to discuss LuthorCorp's commitment to the advancement of medical research, please feel free to contact my Secretary and arrange an interview."

    "Let me guess," quipped Chloe, "you'll be busy that day, right?"

    Lex smiled at her and opened his drawer, passing an envelope over to her. "For your article."

    Chloe opened the seal and pulled out four large photographs showing the breastplate in magnificent detail: hundreds of sapphires, rubies and diamonds encrusted along the collar… the golden feather-shaped metal protecting the upper arms… the 'S' shaped snake in the center. They would look perfect on the cover of the Torch's next edition, with the word 'exclusive' in bold running above them.

    "Well," she began, placing the photos back in the envelope and slipping them into her bag, "bribing the media and not giving a straight answer, ever thought of going into politics?"

    Lex relaxed his frame, reached over to her tape recorder and hit the 'stop' button. "Of course," he replied, "but it would mean taking a pay cut. That's off the record of course."

    Chloe grinned at him, "Oh of course… like you'd ever give me a sound byte like that." She snapped her notepad shut and got to her feet, "Thanks for the interview Lex."

    "You're welcome," he replied, moving over to his Scotch decanter as Chloe began to pack her things. "I thought you mentioned that Clark would be coming with you?"

    "He was going to come, but he had stuff to do," her depressed tone wasn't lost on Lex as he drew a mouthful of Scotch and felt the warmth creep down his throat. As she pulled her coat on, she continued, "I think he mentioned something about the caves."

    Lex gave her a knowing look. "Well, that would be new…" He moved over to one of the chairs in front of the fire and sat down, placing his glass on the edge of the seat. "He's been spending a lot of time down there lately, I wouldn't take it personally."

    Chloe smiled sadly at him in response. "One day," he continued lightly, "I'm going to figure out what's so fascinating about those caves."

    "Well," she replied, "be sure to send me that memo."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The sun had long since dropped below the horizon, but the sky was still tinted with a dark orange hue. It glared on the smooth surface of the road that stretched out in front of Chloe's car as she left the mansion behind her.

    She looked out among the cornfields: they were fluid-like in the evening breeze and stretched as far as the eye could see. Despite her Metropolis upbringing, Chloe could appreciate rural beauty. It sometimes gave her an odd sense of alienation, being born an urbanite yet now living the yokel life. She remembered her reaction when her father had told her that they were moving to Smallville: suffice it to say that it had not been good, and her father's crystal vase had never held water since, but as soon as she laid eyes on Clark Kent, she realized that maybe there could be life outside the city limits. It was perhaps ironic that she associated Clark so closely with all things Smallville: who was to know that he wasn't born in Metropolis? What if he was an outsider, just like her? Just like Lex?

    Chloe smiled to herself whenever she thought of Clark in Metropolis. He was a red plaid shirt in a sea of corporate suits, yet blissfully unaware of the fact. He fitted in among the mirrored sky scrapers as well as Indian Caves fitted in Smallville: they were like blue and green, water and wine - two things that never go together.

    Chloe often wondered what it was about the caves that fascinated Clark so much: for someone so homegrown, so very Smallville, how could he be so obsessed with something that clearly didn't fit in? It was almost as if that was his place to run to… when the barn wasn't enough and he needed to escape from the insanity that could sometimes invade his life… his parents' health problems. His complicated relationships with Lex and Lana. The endless monotony of farm chores… even Clark Kent needed somewhere to escape once in a while, right?

    Chloe sighed again, knowing it was just one facet in the mystery that was Clark Kent. She had promised him that he could remain her one unsolved mystery, but it took a conscious effort to honor her word: she lived in a world of constant reminders, of self-warnings that guilt that would inevitably follow an investigation. Not to mention their friendship was finally getting back on track and she really didn't want to do something to upset the balance again.

    She had always been so strong: managed to suppress her need to investigate Clark, but of course, there were lapses: those unforgivable moments of weakness. Lionel had been manipulative and had prayed on her insecurities… and then the day after the accident in the lab at LuthorCorp, when she discovered she could make people tell her the truth… she just couldn't resist confronting Clark…

    "My God Clark, this is amazing! Can you imagine the kinds of stories I could break? I mean I could crack the mystery that is Clark Kent!" Clark looked decidedly unimpressed and didn't share her enthusiasm. Chloe fixed her eyes on his and her excitement turned to a cold, serious glare.

    "What do you keep hiding from me?"

    Disappointment clouded across Clark's features. "I can't believe you just asked me that…"


    Chloe prided herself on being strong… on being a loyal friend, but her friendship with Clark wasn't impregnable. It was full of scars: nicks and bruises that had long since healed… but it was weaker and marred nonetheless. Chloe knew that she would never choose to investigate Clark again of her own volition. Something would have to make her do it.

    Chloe didn't know what that something was, but she knew that she was trapped in its solid grip once again. As she clutched her necklace she felt it now more than ever; that symbol of friendship that served to mask the holes in their relationship. It tried to blur the lines between truth and deceit, yet right at this moment, she saw everything in perfect clarity. All the unanswered questions, the half-truths, lay naked and exposed before her. As she felt the etched symbol on the crystal beneath her slender fingers, a floodgate seemed to open in her mind, she wanted to see it for herself: what Clark saw in these caves that caused him to abandon his friends. She needed to see; needed to know the truth about Clark Kent with a fierceness that scared her.

    Chloe pulled herself from her thoughts and realized that her car had steered itself off the main road, and was now heading down the single track that would take her to the Kawatche caves. Her hand left the steering wheel and grasped the necklace that Clark had given her. It was a symbol of his friendship, his faith in her, and she willed it to give her the strength to turn her car around and head home. She wanted so badly to do the right thing, to turn around and go home, but there was an inexplicable urge to go the caves and find out what was so fascinating to Clark… what was so fascinating about him.

    As she saw the cave entrance in the distance she knew it was wrong to be here, and once more she willed herself to be strong, to resist and hit the brake… but she realized too late that something had pushed her into another one of those inexcusable moments of weakness…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The air inside the cave was dusty and dry, and as Chloe breathed it in she detected the faint smell of rusting nails. The ground was soft and her shoes nudged rotting leaves as she made her way into the cavern. The beam of her flashlight cut through the thick blackness and illuminated the paintings in light blue. There was something childlike about the drawings: rustic. She searched the walls for a clue of what fascinated Clark so much and her torch came to rest on two serpents tangled together in battle: one red, the other blue. The reporter in her longed to know what their history was, why they were fighting, and it frustrated her that she couldn't read the story on the walls for herself.

    Her gaze moved on to the next drawing, and the next, barely stopping as though the
    answer would reach out and grab her when she saw it. She should have laughed at her haste, should have known that she would never find out what it was that fascinated Clark by simply glancing at the complex paintings. Perhaps she would have laughed if that one painting hadn't reached out and grabbed her, causing her breath to catch in her throat.
    Her mouth fell open as she gazed, transfixed at a tiny symbol on the wall in front of her. She could taste the air now, old and sour, but it barely registered: nothing was more important than closing the gap between her and the small white painting.

    Three lines in a curved triangle. An oval in the middle. It was the symbol on her necklace.

    Chloe's brow creased, and she wet her lips a little as her hand stretched out. She didn't know why she needed to touch it, would never know. It was probably the same compulsion that makes you idly run your finger along a new possession, just to make sure it's real. Her fingers rested gently against the sharp rock face, and she exhaled a breath she didn't know she was holding. She relaxed her frame ever so slightly, and that's when it happened.

    That's when it all began.

    It started with a low rumble coming from deep beneath her. She felt it vibrate up her body, pound in her chest, and explode with a roar in her ears. The earth shook violently beneath her feet, throwing her to the ground as small rocks rained down around her. She instantly drew herself into a tight ball and tried to protect her head from the falling debris, too panicked to get to her feet and run for her life. There was a crash, so loud it seemed to rip through her head, causing her to scream in pain as her hands flew to her ears to stop the attack: rock clashing with rock, grating, a high pitched hissing sound as coarse rubble was forced together and ground into dust.

    And then nothing.

    Chloe was still in a ball, hugging her head with her eyes squeezed shut. She was almost afraid to open them. Almost. She opened them a crack at first, and saw her flashlight lying a few feet away, thick dust covering the glass. She followed the beam and had to blink several times before she could believe what she saw before her.

    It was an opening: the solid wall had a large oval crack running down it, a little taller than her, and wide enough for her to fit through. She slowly got to her feet and picked up the flashlight, eyes not moving from her target. Once again she reached out to touch it, her fingers hesitating as they hovered over the rock surface. It was warm to the touch. She felt more of it, dared to push her hand further in and as she leaned closer, a chamber was illuminated in the glow of her flashlight … just beyond the opening. She looked up and saw no overhanging stones and with a breath for courage, stepped into the chamber.

    Chloe found herself standing in the middle of a tall, egg-shaped room that looked as though it had been purposely carved out of the rock. She moved her light over the surface, illuminating yet more paintings. She worked her way to the top and directly above her was a large representation of the symbol on her necklace, a crown at the top of the dome.
    She craned her neck back to look at it, trying to take it all in, but once again she was caught unawares. There was a blinding, piercing light that shot from the oval and ploughed through her body. Into her head, her back, up her arms and legs. The force of it was breathtaking yet Chloe heard herself scream as the light pounded into her. She felt weightless and her legs scrambled to reach the ground that was no longer below her: she
    was suspended in the air, quaking like a rag doll.

    The light stopped as quickly as it had come, leaving the chamber lit only by the flashlight once more.

    Chloe fell to the ground, already unconscious.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    "Talk to me, Jensen!" barked Lex as soon as his cell connected. His brow was creased, his lips slightly pursed as he watched the road speed away beneath him.

    "How long?" he asked, his tone still clipped and anxious. He had felt the quake at the mansion and instantly thought of the damage to the caves. "Then you'll be there just before me," he said, "Kent might be down there, do whatever it takes to get him out."

    Lex snapped his cell shut and tossed it on the passenger seat beside him. His foot pushed the accelerator pedal and he felt the familiar pressure of the seat against his back as he was pressed into it.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    When Lex pulled up at the cave entrance he saw two trucks parked outside: one belonged to Paul Jensen, the project manager who lived nearby and oversaw Lex's conservation work on the caves. The other bore the familiar LuthorCorp logo which meant that other cave workers had also come to check the damage.

    He found three of them gathered by one spot on the cave wall, digging through a pile of dirt that seemed to have fallen by a new crack in the wall.

    "Sir," said a tired-looking, dark haired man as he approached Lex. "The caves have survived structurally, there appears to be no inherent danger to the markings…"

    "I guessed that, otherwise you wouldn't still be in here," interrupted Lex with a poorly masked annoyance in his tone, "did you find Clark?"

    "No sir, he's not here."

    Lex's eyes closed and he exhaled with relief. He wouldn't want to be the one to tell Martha and Jonathan that Clark was… well, he didn't have to worry about that now. "What's going on over here?" he asked as he moved over to where the men were digging.

    "There's a new opening, Sir, but it's not like anything I've seen from a quake before," replied Jensen. "If I didn't know better, I'd say it had always been here: look at the smooth texture of the wall inside the rift, and there appears to be some sort of opening on the other side."

    "There's someone back there!" cried one of the diggers, causing Lex and Jensen to rush forward.

    "Clark?!" cried Lex, trying to see past the men. He started to drag the earth away with his own fingers.

    "No sir, it's not him," said one of the diggers. "I saw blonde hair."

    Oh no, thought Lex, she wouldn't.

    As soon as the clearing was big enough, he jumped through the opening and scrambled into the chamber. He saw blonde hair, a red top, dark jeans. "Chloe!"

    She was still unconscious, lying on her side, and Lex gently rolled her onto her back, noticing that she did not have any obvious signs of trauma. He took her by her shoulders and gently tried to shake her.

    "Chloe, wake up!"

    Her eyes flew open and the shock caused Lex to take a sharp intake of breath: her eyes were pure white. He had seen something like that before, exactly like that. When Dr Walden woke from his cave-induced coma, his eyes were covered with cataracts, just like those staring at him confusedly right now.

    Chloe's eyes seemed to be trying to adjust to the light, trying to focus on the face above her. "Chloe, are you all right?" asked Lex. He was almost afraid of the answer he was going to get.

    Chloe didn't speak, she continued to stare into his face with a blank expression, but then something sparked. Recognition washed over her face, quickly followed by mounting panic. Her breath grew rapid and shallow and she began clawing at the ground to pull herself away from Lex.

    "Chloe, it's Lex," he said trying calm her. He was crouching beside her and stood so that he could take a step closer as she moved back to the wall.

    Chloe screamed in pure terror, the sound of fear itself and even though she shielded her face, it seemed as though she didn't dare to let her eyes leave him.

    "Me'llo Speudê! Pansoudei!" she cried, tears streaming down her face. "Me'llo! Ô sunte'leia, ti Sageeth!! "

    It was the last word that cut through all the others. Sageeth. The cave paintings. The legend of Naman.

    Chloe let out a strangled cry and she pulled herself to her feet, almost falling into the opening where the three men were peering through, open-mouthed. "Pansoudei! Speu'dete," she pleaded, then pointing to Lex, "Pros Theôn, ti Sageeth!"

    Her breathing was rapid now, and she let out hysterical cries as she realized that the workers were just standing there, looking at her, their mouths slightly parted. They were blocking her exit, so she swung round to face Lex once again, and pressed her back to the chamber wall, feeling her way around as she tried to put herself as far away from Lex as the small enclosure would allow.

    Lex's face was filled with rare emotion: shock, intrigue and a hint of something much darker. His features hardened as he stalked towards Chloe. He didn't stop, even when she let out a piercing scream, spitting out words that dripped with fear and hatred: "Es Hai'dou bas'ke!"

    He still advanced on her as she pressed her back further into the chamber wall. He didn't back away, even as her white eyes rolled into the back of her head and she fell forwards. He caught her and stared down at her limp body draped over his arm, a look of intense confusion on his face.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The homely scent of apple pie drifted into the night sky as the stars looked down on the Kent Farm. A warm orange glow illuminated the porch as Martha and Jonathan sat cozily on the bench outside, talking quietly and sipping cocoa.

    Clark and Lana made their way up to the barn and Clark effortlessly moved his couch to face the open loft doors. The moon was full and dazzling, and it shown down on them as Lana sat beside Clark with her legs tucked under her, his arm draping around her shoulders.

    Lana gave a heavy, contented sigh and rested her hand on her stomach. "I really shouldn't have had all that apple pie… your mom is very persuasive, Clark."

    Clark laughed a little, "You'd better believe it, and trust me, it's worse when we have guests."

    Lana smiled, still looking into the sky, her head now resting on Clark's shoulder. "Your parents are great Clark, and they love you so much."

    "Well, what's not to love, right?" He replied as Lana raised her eyes to look at him. He met them with a beaming grin on his face as he added, "they love you too, you know…"

    Lana returned his smile before resting her head back on his shoulder. Several minutes passed as they both reveled in the feeling of each other's closeness. It had taken them so long to get here, so much angst, avoidance. It was perhaps too easy to list all the clichés: love will find a way; the course of true love ne'er did run smooth … but it wouldn't do justice to how they felt. Despite being friends for years, and having a myriad of feelings that were constantly repressed or denied; what they had now couldn't be pushed into a cheap cliché or an overused Shakespearean sonnet. For them at least, it felt like no-one had ever been in their position, they were the first ones in the world to feel so happy, so how could anyone have put it into words?

    "I remembered something about my Mom and Dad today," began Lana, still looking out of the loft doors and loving the feel of Clark's hand as he idly played with her hair. "I was helping your Mom put gingham lids on her preserves at the Talon, and suddenly, there it was…"

    She felt Clark shift a little, pointing his body towards hers as he looked down to her, allowing her to continue in her own time.

    "When I was little," she began with a smile in her voice, "they would take me to the top of the Southcoates hill every Sunday in the summer. My mom would make sandwiches, cut them into triangles and throw away the crusts while Dad packed my kite. We'd have a picnic on a red gingham blanket and look out on the valley. There was a cliff on one side, and my Dad would hold my hand, walk me to the edge, then he'd stand behind me and hold me while I held my arms out. It felt just like I was floating; like I was a bird that could fly through the valley and go wherever I wanted."

    Lana heard Clark drew a slow breath. "That's beautiful Lana; how could you forget something like that?"

    "For so long I was the little princess that everyone pitied, and for too long, I let them." The smile in her voice mellowed now, she looked back at all the times she had let herself be the victim, be pitied, and she felt a strange resentment towards herself, an embarrassment.

    "I love my parents, Clark, and it's all too easy to say that you'll never forget them, but you do. You forget the way your Mom's hair smelled, and the way your Dad looked in the mirror as he took a shave in the morning. The little things, you know? I always used to remember the meteor shower, and the hurt, and the loss: it became my definition, my label that told everyone who I was. It consumed every thought, and there just wasn't any room left to remember the good things. The little things that made them unique. Since Paris, I'm remembering more and more."

    "Sometimes," began Clark slowly, thinking through his words carefully, "it takes a long time to get over things, but then you'll realize that you've moved beyond it, and you can't put your finger on what changed, or when it happened, you just know that it did."

    "I think I realized that I couldn't bring them back, that they were gone and I couldn't do anything about it. Then I realized that I couldn't be bitter any more. I had to live my life because its what they would want." Lana brought her hand to Clark's and weaved her fingers into his. "I think fate has a plan for everyone," she said, thoughtfully, "we can't do anything about it, but I think the trick is to accept what we can't change."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe's hand was shaking a little as she accepted the hot mug from Lex. She was curled up in a small black leather armchair, a rich tartan blanket wrapped around her shoulders as she found herself once more in Lex's study. The fire had receded to a pile of embers, which apart from a few lamps was the main source of light in the room.

    Chloe looked at the mug and noticed it was chamomile tea. Despite her exhausted frame
    and tired eyes, she managed to quip her eyebrow and ask "what, nothing stronger?"

    Lex's face barely registered the remark. He wore his familiar mask that she had seen many times throughout his father's trial: it was one of intense concentration, almost like he was calculating, trying to figure out his next move in the chess game that was his life.

    "Don't worry, only joking," she smiled, trying to break through the wall that he had built around himself, sighing a little when she realized it hadn't worked.

    Lex only heard her voice in the background: his thoughts were consumed with that one word he had heard in the caves: Sageeth. The name that she had called him in her moment of delusion. Did it mean anything? Was it just a random word that had slipped into her vocabulary from Clark? Had he really heard it? Or did it mean exactly what he had feared, yet what he had dared to hope at the same time… that Chloe could read the cave symbols, and speak their forgotten language. It frustrated him that he couldn't comprehend how that could happen, why it would happen to Chloe.

    There, of course, was another dilemma. If Lex was right, he had been presented with the master key that could unlock all the secrets of the caves. All the strange occurrences that had happened there: Dr Walden, the Starblade, the Octagonal Disc. He could finally know why those events had happened, what caused them and perhaps wield that power for himself. Lex wondered if he was capable of using that key when it was hidden inside Chloe: did the end always justify the means? How far would he push the moral line, how much could he use a friend to get what he wanted?

    "Lex?" Chloe's voice cut through his thoughts and brought him back to the study. She was sitting across from him, her mug on the coffee table between them and an expectant look on her face. Lex looked piercingly into her eyes, remembering his shock at how quickly the cataracts had faded away. His head moved to the side slightly, signaling that she now had his attention.

    "Lex, what's wrong?"

    Lex thought carefully about his answer, his mind flashing over all the unanswered questions in his head. "Nothing, Chloe," he replied in a slow, deliberate tone.

    "So you found me in the caves after the quake," she began, waiting for some acknowledgement from him, though continuing when his mask stayed firmly in place, "and you brought me here… why didn't you take me to the hospital? I'm grateful and all, but I don't understand why I'm here."

    "You were delusional, Chloe, would you really like a one-way ticket to Belle Reve?"

    "Did I say something? I don't really remember," she asked, a look of confusion and apprehension on her face. She had never seen this side of Lex before and she found it unsettling. It was like being in a cage, being studied. Chloe felt as though someone was watching her from behind, but knew that it was her body's way of reminding her where the door was should she need to run. "What did I say, Lex?"

    "It's not important," he lied as he rose to his feet and crossed to his bookshelf. He pressed a button and the shelf slid back revealing a small safe: Lex keyed in the combination and retrieved a manila folder from inside, taking slow steps back over to where Chloe was sitting.

    "I'm going to show you something and I want you to read what it says, tell me the first thing that comes into your mind." Lex seemed to be rifling through photographs, but due to his elevated position Chloe couldn't see what they were.

    "Lex, what's this about?" she asked, trying to keep the fear and annoyance out of her voice.

    "Humor me," he said, a photograph selected and now laying face down on the folder in his hand. She looked up at him and took a deep breath, then met his eyes to signal her consent.

    Lex flipped the photograph and she spoke without realizing it.

    "Destiny."

    Lex's mask slipped, his eyes widened, his jaw dropped and he took a sharp, jagged breath as though he had been punched. But Chloe didn't notice: she was on her feet and backing away from the photo.

    "Oh my God," she said, "tell me how I know that."

    Lex looked at the photograph and cast his gaze over the cave symbol. "I don't know Chloe," he replied simply, "but I'm going to find out. I'll call your father and tell him you won't be home."

    Chloe was still shell-shocked as she saw Lex walk coolly over to his desk and pick up the receiver. He began to punch the buttons. Chloe found herself running to the desk and slamming her hand over the phone to disconnect the call.

    "Don't I get a say in this?"

    "Chloe you've been through a lot…"

    "Yeah, hello… I can read the cave symbols. You're pretty much preaching to the converted on that point."

    "Do you really want to tell your father right now? Wouldn't you like to figure out what's going on so that you can give him an explanation?"

    "Yes, but…"

    "…And we don't know what's going on, do we? At least here I know about your gifts and you won't be alone."

    Chloe thought back to the last time he had been concerned about her 'gifts'… the veritas serum that she had been infected with at LuthorCorp: Lex wanted her to use her gift for his own gain. She had refused, but ultimately couldn't help but adhere to his request and ask his father that fateful question…

    "Did you order Morgan Edge to kill your parents?"

    "Of course I did, for their life insurance. I needed that money to start my company." Chloe found herself smiling smugly at his uninhibited confession. "Oh…" he continued in a tone that seemed to make the room chill, "I'm sorry you asked me that question Miss Sullivan, that's very dangerous information for you to have…"


    Chloe knew that deep down, the same would happen here. She could protest and refuse to help Lex, but she knew that the inexplicable pull towards the caves wouldn't go away. She would happily translate the symbols of her own volition, but just didn't like doing it under orders. Besides, it wasn't like she was about to become involved in Luthor family politics again. At least Lionel was away in Metropolis so another face-off with the Luthor Patriarch was only a very slim possibility.

    "Just for tonight," she found herself saying. She looked at Lex who nodded and began punching the number again, but she stopped him, taking the receiver from his hand.
    "And I'll be the one calling my father."

    Lex began to walk out of his study as Chloe made the call. He still didn't know how much he could push her to get what he wanted, whether he could use her in spite of all she had done for him. One thing was for sure: the time had come to find out.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe had barely slept. Every time she'd closed her eyes, she'd had the same nightmare: being enveloped in light, smothered with cave symbols and then, a figure looming down on her. Faceless, just a shadow, but it was the most intense fear she had ever experienced, the type that sits on your spine and digs through to your stomach, that makes your heart pound and your legs ache to let you know their willingness to run.

    So, she remained in the Chippendale chair in the corner of the guest room, staring wide-eyed at the four-poster bed. Her knees hugged to her chest, a slight rock back and forth in time with her breathing. She couldn't be at home, couldn't keep this secret from her father with him right there in front of her, yet she wasn't sure she wanted Lex to have it either. Didn't even want it herself.

    Morning came and Chloe found herself once again stationed at Lex's desk in front of a large computer monitor. He stood behind her as the database loaded with a rotating CG model of the caves filling the screen… "My scientists have logged all the symbols on here," Lex explained; 10% loaded… "I need you to translate each one." 20%… Chloe didn't respond. Resisted the urge to wring her hands… 30%… it wasn't like Lex had asked her for her help. He assumed she would translate the symbols for him, but why? Why should she? 40%… Lex began pacing, methodical and wordless. Chloe felt overwhelmed, felt it all washing over her again: confusion, fear, and a new sense of guilt. 50%… What about Clark? Her best friend, the one who was seeking answers in the cave, answers that she could now give him… 60% Shouldn't I be sitting here with Clark? 70%…

    "Lex, could I have a few minutes alone before we start on this?" Chloe peered up at him from his desk chair, watching his response.

    "Of course," he said, eyeing her suspiciously. "Is everything alright?"

    "Headache. Didn't sleep much," she offered.

    "I'll have someone get you some water," he said, moving towards the door, "take your time Chloe."

    She waited until she heard his footsteps fade away as he moved further into the mansion, then flipped open her cell phone.

    "Clark? It's Chloe," she began when he picked up. "I need to talk to you…" Chloe took a deep breath, preparing herself for the conversation. "Look, last night… I went to the caves," she bit her lip as she thought about how to continue. The pause seemed to go on a little too long, and Clark prompted her to continue…

    "Why?"

    "What?" asked Chloe, snapping back into the conversation.

    "Why did you go to the caves?"

    If only I knew, she thought to herself. She still couldn't put her finger on what had pushed her there: all she knew was that she had something that she needed to tell him. "Well," she began, trying to think of an explanation, "I wanted to talk to you, I thought that's where you'd be…"

    "Oh, no…" replied Clark before she had the chance to continue further. "I was with Lana, we had a date."

    Chloe could hear the smile in his voice, but she didn't feel herself return it. "Oh," she said, simply. Of course he would be with Lana instead of you said that dark little voice inside her head… why would he remember a meeting with you when he had a date with Lana? Chloe shook her head to quieten her thoughts.

    "You know," began Chloe, "you kind of had a date with me too…"

    "I did?" asked Clark, more than a little confused. Chloe waited expectantly. "Oh God," he said, "the interview… I'm so sorry Chloe…"

    Chloe rolled her eyes at his apologetic speech, only taking in every other word. "Look Clark," her voice was impatient, as she wanted to tell him about her experience in the caves, "it's fine."

    "Hey, I know you're angry with me but…" began Clark.

    "No, that's not it!" Chloe shot back, wishing that he would stop side-tracking her.
    "I can hear it in your voice that something is wrong… if you're not mad at me, then are you angry with Lana?"

    "What?!" asked Chloe.

    "I said are you angry with Lana, because she was with me?"

    "I know what you said, Clark," replied Chloe, pausing. "I just can't quite believe that you said it."

    This conversation wasn't meant to be difficult. She was supposed to tell him about her 'gifts', as Lex had called them, he was supposed to be pleased for her, maybe a little concerned, and she was supposed to help him uncover the mysteries painted on the cave walls. A moment of silence descended on the pair, and nothing but the quiet hiss of the connection passed between them. The more she thought about it, the lower she became, she could almost feel herself shrinking in Clark's estimation, and was incredibly frustrated that she hadn't done anything wrong… I'm trying to do something right she told herself.

    She couldn't believe that he had brought Lana into the equation. Chloe had fought hard with herself to push past her problems with the two of them, yet he seemed determined to never let her forget. Her mind was bombarded with images from the last four years: of being left alone on the prom dance floor… of Clark and Lana making out in the barn… of trying to warn him about Lionel's warped interest, only to be manhandled back to her car.

    She remembered standing in the Talon, overhearing Clark's conversation with his mother. Chloe had learned an ugly secret that day: that Clark's perfect dream world didn't have her in it. Lana was there, of course... even Lex, after everything he had done. Clark had even told them his secrets.

    Oh, but not her. Never trust Chloe…

    Chloe's hand rubbed her forehead in an attempt to ease the headache that was brewing. What did it take to earn his respect? What did you have to do to keep it? What was she doing wrong?

    "...if you ever need to tell me anything," she remembered saying to him, "I'm here for you. I'm a good listener."

    "And good at reporting it.
    " Had been his hasty reply.

    Chloe remembered the look on Clark's face as he realized what he had said, but the regret, the shame in his eyes did nothing to make her feel better. She knew that people cast off their facades in moments of impulsion: it was the real Clark Kent talking in that moment.

    She felt anger rise within her again; anger that she had managed to swallow at the time. Despite what he had said to her, Chloe so desperately wanted to share this experience with him, but at this moment she was finding it difficult to remember why.

    "Chloe?" Clark's voice cut through her thoughts to bring her back to Lex's study, the picture of a cave symbol rotating on the computer screen.

    "You're unbelievable, Clark, and you know what? I'm not mad at Lana, but I am disappointed in you. It's like no matter what I do you're always going to put Lana and Lex in front of me."

    "Chloe, where did this come from? Why didn't you talk to me about this before?"

    "Oh, like you tell me things… because I'm so good at reporting them, right?"

    "I thought we'd got over that..." Clark's voice was impatient now, forceful. "Chloe, just tell me why you were at the caves…"

    "Why?" she said, sarcastically, "scared I'm doing an expose?"

    "Chloe..."

    "Well, you seem determined to mistrust me, and I seem determined to report everything... I guess it's fair to say that old habits die hard."

    Clark didn't respond, but she could picture the expression on his face... the intense glare of his eyes, the square set of his jaw... the anger just below the surface. Let him think that she was investigating him again. What did she care? She was evidently so low in his estimation that she didn't want to correct him… didn't want to share her own secret.

    "Goodbye Clark," said Chloe, curtly. She snapped her cell shut and she threw it onto Lex's desk. The metal clashed with the glass surface and she watched as it skidded to rest by the keyboard.

    "Everything OK?" asked Lex from the doorway, a glass of water in each hand. She wondered if he had overheard.

    Chloe took a breath. Took a moment.

    "Yes Lex, everything's OK. Let's get to work."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark stood in the kitchen staring into the receiver, listening to the droll dial tone blazing out of the earpiece.

    "Everything ok, son?" asked Jonathan, entering from the hallway wiping grease from his hands with an old rag.

    "Wrong number," Clark lied. He didn't want to deal with this right now. Had Chloe been investigating him? She said it herself… old habits die hard.

    Jonathan paused, considering whether to pry for more information, or whether to accept his son's unconvincing explanation. He smiled at Clark, throwing the oil-soaked rag onto the drainer and pouring himself a glass of orange juice.

    "Hey sweetie," greeted Martha as she approached her husband and planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth. "How's the hopper?"

    "Not good," he replied, watching Martha pick the rag up from the drainer with the tip of her finger and thumb, throwing it in the trashcan. "It needs a new drum and belt from Hardy's in Grandville, I'll swing by later and pick them up."

    "Well, I'll have to carry on by hand until you get back," said Martha with a roll of her eyes.

    The pair fell silent, and she glanced over at her son who was standing rigidly by the phone, seemingly finding one of the floor tiles very interesting…

    "Is everything ok, Clark?"

    "I'm just thinking," he began, "how it's hard to know what a person is really like."

    "What do you mean, son?" asked Jonathan, "has someone upset you?"

    Clark looked up at his parents, both wearing concerned looks on their faces. He knew he wasn't ready to talk about Chloe, he needed to decide how he truly felt about it himself first. As he mused on the subject though, he realized that it wasn't just about Chloe. "I was just thinking about how things that you've done in the past show what you will do in the future."

    "Clark, have you done something?" Martha closed the gap between them and placed a hand on his arm. "Are you in trouble?"

    "No, it's just… Lana told me something last night that she'd remembered about her parents. I realized that she had a life before the meteor shower. An upbringing. She can look back and know who she was, who she is. I don't think I'll ever have that and it scares me. I think about Jor-El and Lara, but how well do we really know them? We think that Jor-El is evil, but what if we only know the half of it? If I don't know where I came from, how do I know who I'll become? Are there any more powers I'll get that I don't know about, and what am I supposed to do with them? Things are finally starting to work with Lana, things are starting to be normal for me, but right now, I don't know what normal is, let alone whether I'm capable of it."

    Clark's gaze fell to the floor again and for a brief moment, he remembered the 'perfect life' he'd been given a few weeks ago. How wrong everything had seemed, yet how desperately he had wanted it to be right, for him and all those dear to him to have everything they wanted. He felt a slight shiver run down his spine as he remembered that he had chosen to accept this life… chosen to be standing in his kitchen with his concerned parents, thoughts of his uncertain future, his uncertain present burrowing away at his security. He could have easily slipped into reminiscent longing for a glimpse of that perfect world again… though whether it was to regret the choice he made, or to confirm he had made the right one he didn't know. Before he could muse on the subject any longer, his father's voice brought him back to the present.

    "Clark," began Jonathan, "you are not Jor-El and no matter what you know about him, you can choose to be a different person."

    "Your father's right, Clark," added Martha, "the road behind you doesn't shape the path in front of you. You decide that for yourself."

    "If that's true then why couldn't you say that about Lex?" Clark didn't like the words even as they fell from his mouth, but deep down, his father's double standards hurt him. Lex was his friend, he wanted so desperately to believe that he could change, could resist becoming Lionel. Sometimes his resolve slipped, Clark knew this all too well and his father seemed determined to lose all faith in Lex at the first hurdle. Clark saw a flicker of disappointment on his father's face before he continued in a softer voice. "So a person can choose their own path? If Lex can't do it, what makes you think I can?"

    "Because you are my son, and I have faith in you," said Jonathan with absolute resolve. "I know that Lex is your friend, but he has shown his true colors too many times. I respect the faith that you have in him, and I hope I'm wrong Clark. You and Lex are capable of great things, I hope you can both achieve them."

    Jonathan walked over to where Clark was standing and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You shape your own destiny, Clark. People who say otherwise just want something to blame when their own choices go wrong. Life is either about looking back and trying to explain why you do things, what that means for your future, or it's about forgetting the past, looking forward and deciding what to do for yourself and accepting the consequences. They are two different roads, Clark. At times you might not like the roads in front of you, the different directions that your life could go in, but you have to trust your instinct. Sometimes you have to make a choice, son."

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The mid-afternoon sunshine flooded through the red and white colored glass windows of Lex's study and painted a Picasso on the parquet floor. It warmed the back of Chloe's neck as she sat at the computer screen typing away. Every so often, there would be a computer beep as the next image popped up on screen for her to translate. The sound was beginning to grate on her nerves, and she yearned for a distraction.

    Lex was in the room, though he was still unusually quiet. Part of her guessed that he was giving her space so that she could concentrate, the other, more cynical voice inside her argued that something wasn't right. She knew he was hiding something from her, maybe it was for her own good, but it wasn't fair for her to be the only one doing the sharing. Quid pro quo…

    "So," she began, as though they were already in the middle of a conversation. "Are you going to start talking any time soon or do I need to give you a whiteboard and marker?" \

    The sudden sound made Lex look up at her; she didn't look at him, her eyes fixed on the screen as she continued to type.

    "I didn't want to distract you, Chloe," replied Lex, his tone betraying the fact that he knew it was the obvious answer but not the real reason for his silence.

    "Well," replied Chloe, "let's just say that me reading cave symbols is like you reading a book that starts 'the cat sat on the mat'," she glanced at him, noting he was sitting in the armchair by the fire, giving her his full attention. "Now that's pretty freakish even by Smallville standards, and much as I would love to forget about it, I can't. So…." Chloe trailed off, hoping that he would finish the sentence for her.

    "What would you like me to talk about, Chloe?" he asked. His tone was nonchalant, as though to suggest that he had been willing to talk all along if only she had suggested a topic.

    "Well why don't you start by telling me about your theory as to why I'm all Ms. Babel Fish over here," she replied, then with a touch more sarcasm, "preferably using 10 words or more."

    "What makes you think I have a theory?"

    "Well, if not, you can tell me what it is your brain has been chewing over for the past two hours because that would sure beat the hell out of listening to this damn incessant computer beeping."

    Lex suppressed a smirk as he saw Chloe's defeated face when, right on queue, another monotone beep emitted from the speakers. He rose to his feet and walked over to the desk, leaning over and pressing a combination of keys that caused a mute symbol to flash up on screen. He smirked at her indignant expression and walked over to the bar, looking very pleased with himself.

    Chloe followed him with her eyes, her mouth open a little. "And you didn't do that two hours ago because…"

    "Well," he began, selecting a blue bottle and unscrewing the lid, "you didn't ask."

    Chloe scowled a little as her eyes fixed on his, and she hit the enter button a little harder than was necessary. With another smirk, he drew a long mouthful of TyNant and walked over to stand in front of the floor length window, looking up at the colored glass. His face was tinted, half white and half red as the sunlight warmed his skin.

    "Just before my father's timely fall from grace, he discovered an artifact in the caves," began Lex, still studying the colored glass. "It was a knife: the Starblade. Legend said that it was crafted for Naman, and it would glow when Sageeth was near to alert him of his enemy."

    "Yeah," said Chloe when Lex paused. "I've been reading about Naman and Sageeth: there are references to them all over the caves. The prophecy says that Naman will fall from the skies, shoot fire from his eyes and have the strength of 10 men. Sageeth is his nemesis, right?"

    Lex looked over to her and nodded his acknowledgment before returning his gaze to the windowpane. He had forgotten that Chloe knew very little about the story told on the cave walls. Hardly surprising, he thought, given his discretion and Clark's secrecy. How could she know? How could she have known of Sageeth?

    "The Kawatche people put some sort of spell on the Starblade," he forced himself to continue to stop him from falling into this thoughts again, "whoever found the Starblade would be given the power to protect it."

    "Spells and potions Lex? Doesn't sound like your area of interest…"

    "No, but I like to keep an open mind," he replied, "especially when a Kawatche student called Jeremiah got hold of the knife and it gave him extraordinary abilities."

    "So you think something similar happened to me?"

    "I don't know Chloe, but strange things happen to people in those caves. Dr Walden mysteriously gained the ability to read the cave symbols after waking from his coma, then Jeremiah, now you."

    Chloe bit her lip. "So that's your theory? Oh, and as a side note, I bet they both lived happily ever after, right?"

    "Dr Walden died and Jeremiah is in a coma in Belle Reve. If you don't like my theory, feel free to jump in anytime you want with a better one," he quipped, looking over at her. She
    sighed and stood to her feet. Quid Pro Quo.

    "When it all started, I was touching a symbol just like this," she said, lifting the necklace from its hiding place beneath her shirt. "It was on the cave wall, and when I touched it, the quake happened. Then I saw it again in the chamber: I don't remember anything after that."

    Lex's eyes narrowed as he closed the gap between them. His fingers automatically reached out to hold the pendant, but Chloe hadn't removed it from her neck. He had seen the necklace before on a few occasions, but he now forced his hands to remain by his sides as he observed it sitting in the hollow of her neck. It was round, and made from beautifully clear crystal that shimmered in the sunlight: a symbol was etched on it, like a triangle with an oval inside.

    "The symbol means 'vision'," she explained, starting to feel a little uncomfortable under Lex's scrutiny, "but it's more than that, like vision into everything, insight, knowledge and the power that goes with it."

    "You've become the All Seeing I," he replied, now looking into her face, "the pyramid with the eye is a symbol of knowledge, power… some say omnipotence."

    "Ironic that it's on the dollar bill, right? Who'd have seen that coming," replied Chloe with a smile. "If I were writing this for the Wall of Weird, I'd say that the necklace acted like the Starblade, like a conduit for something in the caves."

    Lex didn't reply. He tensed his jaw a little as he was thinking. The Starblade was supposed to glow when Sageeth was near to alert Naman: it had glowed when he and his father were near it. What if Chloe's necklace yielded a similar power: did it give her the power to identify him as Sageeth? To 'see' the hidden enemy? She had called him Sageeth: did that mean he really was…

    "Oh, speak of the devil…" said Chloe as her eye moved past Lex to the computer screen. It displayed a high-resolution picture of Naman and Sageeth: two serpents battling.

    "What can you tell me about it?" asked Lex, looking at the symbol.

    "It shows the war between Naman and Sageeth, but I guess you knew that," she said, sitting down again and pulling the chair under the desk. Lex remained slightly behind her as she continued. "They're in perfect balance. Equals. Each is a worthy nemesis and for that, there will always be a respect between them. Hatred, but respect."

    She fell silent for a few moments as she gazed at the symbol and allowed her mind to tell her it's meaning. "They are bound together and can't escape their destinies: Naman must destroy Sageeth, Sageeth must destroy Naman. Neither will rest until that mission is complete."

    "Do you know who won?" asked Lex, hoping to hear her say Sageeth.

    "I don't know, but I get the feeling that's because the battle will never end. It's like night and day: the sun and the moon do battle, but you wouldn't say that the moon loses every morning at sunrise, because every night, a new one rises…"

    They were both distracted by the sound of the side door opening. A tall brunette stood in the doorway, wearing a black pinstripe skirt-suit with a crisp white shirt. Her glasses were stylish and perched low on her nose as she worked her fingers over the digital organizer in her hand. "The chopper is ready, Mr Luthor."

    Damn, thought Lex.

    "Chopper?" asked Chloe.

    "I have to be in Metropolis for a press conference: they are taking the breastplate off display today and I need to be there for 5.00pm"

    "Actually, Sir," the assistant began, "Mr. Teague has just informed me that the broadcasters need to pull the Press conference forward to 4.45. He has arranged for you to have a telephone meeting with Mr. Allen from the museum so that you have time to prepare. He will call you in the air in 23 minutes, Sir."

    Chloe's eyebrows raised slightly as she looked at Lex. "I didn't know Jason was in Metropolis."

    "Well," replied Lex, "he is my PA… I need him there."

    "Oh," said Chloe, eyebrows raising a little more, "he never mentioned what he did at LuthorCorp."

    "Well right now, he's heading up the transfer of the breastplate, probably trying to fend off eager reporters who want a sound byte before the press conference.

    Chloe watched as he pinched his nose, knowing that he didn't want to miss anything here. "Go," she said, smiling at him. "I'll be fine, and you'll be back in a few hours. I can fill you in on anything I find. Say 'hi' to Jason for me."

    Lex looked at her and then reluctantly looked at his PA who was standing there with his long charcoal coat. "Make sure Miss Sullivan has everything she needs," he said, and the woman gave a curt nod. "Chloe, are you sure you'll be ok…"

    "Honestly Lex, go," she said, motioning to the door and smiling when she saw him making his way towards it. "I'll be right here," she shouted after him, "certainly not snooping, definitely not hacking into your private files, and working hard on the next chapter of Kawatche for Dummies."

    She wasn't sure if the sound she heard echo back to her was a laugh or a groan.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lana's footing was a little hesitant as Clark led her by her hands, blindfolded, up a grassy incline. It was no surprise to her that he had a frustrating ability to keep secrets, but she had a feeling that today, at least, Clark Kent would tell her one.

    He had picked her up from the Talon for their date as arranged, but she had looked a little bewildered when he'd handed her a black scarf from the glove compartment in his truck insisting she put it on before they left. "It's a surprise," he'd said, accompanied by one of his wide-eyed, triumphant grins. Lana had smiled at him and complied, more than a little intrigued as to what he had planned.

    She had tried to guess of course, but found him very unyielding. She had lost count of the twists and turns on the road, and could tell only that they were now in a wide-open space. The autumn air was fresh, but still carried lingering summer warmth as it brushed over her cheeks. Her nostrils were filled with the smell of the dewy grass, her ears echoing with the crush of crisp autumn leaves under her feet.

    "Almost there," she heard Clark say, and she could hear the smile in his voice, pictured the childlike delight on his features with a broad grin and a raised eyebrow. He stopped and he let go of her hands as he moved behind her to untie the blindfold. As it dropped, Lana's eyes took a moment to adjust to the daylight.

    "Oh, Clark!" she said, her fingers covering her mouth as her eyes feasted on the view before her. They were standing at the top of Southcoates Hill, the valley stretching out beneath them, Grandville to the left, and a patchwork of fields stretching as far as the eye could see. To the side of them was a red gingham blanket with a hamper of food waiting on one corner. A yellow kite was propped against the basket, its tail fluttering impatiently in the breeze. It was just like she had remembered it, she could almost picture her parents sitting on the blanket and asking her to join them.

    "Oh, I can't believe you've done all this," she said, turning round to look at him and bring him into her arms. "Thank you, Clark."

    He leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on her lips and wiped a tear from her cheek. "Do you trust me?"

    Lana looked at him with a confused grin, wondering what he was planning, though she didn't have to think long over her answer. "Of course, Clark."

    He turned her on her feet once more and put his arm loosely around her waist as he walked them over to the steep cliff face. Lana's breath hitched in her throat as the drop revealed itself: she had forgotten how high it was. She felt Clark move behind her and place his hands on her waist as he led her to the edge. She sensed that his footing was a little more hesitant.

    "Clark, you don't need to do this, I know you don't like heights. We can…"

    "I want to do this Lana," he interrupted. "Besides, you'll be right here with me."

    She allowed him to lead her to the very edge: she could see the ground hundreds of feet below her, her toes slightly overhanging the edge. Clark squeezed his fingers slightly on her waist, and she felt solid in his strong grip. Safe. She closed her eyes and slowly lifted her arms up, even dared to lean slightly forward as she opened her eyes.

    It was just like flying.

    The breeze made her hair dance and she felt as if she was gliding over the valley, walking among clouds. She was free, a feeling that she hadn't felt since being here with her parents. So long ago; but here she was again, and it was all thanks to Clark.

    He gently pulled her back and they slowly stepped away from the edge. She pushed her back against him and pulled his arms around her, allowing her gaze to take the scenery in once more. He placed a kiss on the top of her head then gently rested his chin on the spot.

    In that moment, Lana realized that there was no one else on this earth that could make her feel like this. No one who made her feel so content, that she wanted so badly to make happy in return. Standing there in Clark's arms, thinking about gliding like an eagle over the valley, she realized that apart from her father, Clark was the only person she would ever trust to hold her, the only one that could make her feel so alive. The words she spoke were from her heart, and danced on the wind like a dainty dandelion seed.

    "I'm falling in love with you, Clark,"

    Lana paused as she turned in his arms, placing her hand on his chest and looking up into his eyes. "I'm not there yet," she continued as she leaned closer, lowering her voice to a whisper, "but I'm so close."

    Clark didn't know what to say. He had waited so long for Lana to say those words, had practiced a thousand different replies in his head, but none of them were there for him now. He was so overwhelmed, wanted so badly to tell her he loved her, but the words refused to come. So he tightened his arm around her waist and brought the other to the back of her neck as he took her lips in a demanding, passionate kiss. He poured his heart and soul into that kiss, reveled in her eager response and made sure to etch this feeling on his heart. He would never forget it, would remember this feeling of completeness forever.
    He would protect it; never let anything come between them again. Anything.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe had smiled inwardly when Lex had asked his secretary to cater to Chloe's needs. Such an opening for abuse, she had thought, picturing herself being fanned by three of his good-looking security team and fed grapes by the topless gardener…

    Yet Chloe found herself alone in the study, sans hunky fan-wielding guards and not a grape in sight. Just her, a large cappuccino that she had courage enough to ask for, a large plasma screen TV that the house staff had wheeled in of their own accord, and a rather frail looking manuscript on her knee.

    Chloe was slowly adjusting to her new gifts: it was still strange if she allowed herself to dwell on it, so she had learned to just accept that she could read the symbols as easy as she could recite the passwords to the school record database. Chloe had worked her way through the symbols on the cave walls, and was now working through Lex's collection of Kawatche writings, most of them authored by Smallville's own Joseph Willowbrook. She had never met the man, but had heard Clark talk about him on occasion: he was the foremost authority on Kawatche symbolism and mythology, and Lex had every published work… even a few non-published works in progress that she didn't know want to know how he had acquired.

    Chloe's attention was on the television as the CNN anchor passed over to Metropolis where Lex was sitting behind a desk beside the museum's curator, a large picture of the breastplate in the background. Lex wore his familiar business façade: projecting power, money, yet with a slight approachability she guessed was for the benefit of the reporters
    gathered there. That will be me, one day…

    She turned the sound up on the TV and heard the camera flashes, shuffling feet and the clicking of tape recorders. "Mr. Luthor… Rebecca Dee with the Gotham Globe…" Chloe saw Lex glance to his left, nodding his head once and putting on the charm to the reporter. "You are advocating that the LuthorCorp Arts program is at the top of your agenda in loaning the Breastplate to the Louvre, but is this just a smokescreen to hide your budget cuts that will mean the eventual closure of Community projects funded with LuthorCorp money?"

    Ouch, thought Chloe, good girl… she smiled to herself when she saw Lex's jaw tighten, and felt proud that she herself had asked a similar question in her own interview.

    "I'm sure you are aware, Miss Dee," began Lex, "that the breastplate is of great social and historical interest: we are promoting historical interest throughout the world, not creating a smokescreen. I can assure you that funds have been redistributed to other areas that will in no way affect the Community Arts projects that are at the heart of cities across America. LuthorCorp is entering a new dawn, and we are not the type of corporation who uses smoke and mirrors…"

    Bravo, Lex, thought Chloe, rolling her eyes, such a politician. She cast her gaze down to the book in front of her to translate the next illustration, and dropped her pencil with a gasp as she saw it. It was the symbol from her necklace, contained in a larger tableau with a spiral of symbols around it. Chloe's wide eyes quickly cast over the message and felt her heartbeat quicken:

    'A vision for Naman, for only his soul has the strength to feed it. The mortal soul shall be bound by it, and then shall be consumed.'

    Chloe swallowed hard, her eyes falling on the word consumed. It sounded so final. Standing, she placed the book on the coffee table and reached around her neck to release the clasp that held the necklace in place. She had not taken it off since Clark had given it to her and she wanted to look at it more closely.

    It was a mistake.

    A wave of dizziness overcame her and she fell backwards onto the sofa. She didn't lose consciousness, but desperately wished she could. Chloe was hit with a feeling of total emptiness, loneliness: it was as though every person in the world had turned their back on her in the same instant. As though all her ability to be happy had been snuffed out. Her hands flew to her head, as she clawed at her hair to make this feeling go away, to rid herself of the cocoon that had imprisoned her in despair and that kept everyone else out: she had an empty, needy ache in the pit of her stomach and a shiver in her spine.

    Please make it go away…

    She opened her eyes and saw the room through her own tears: the colors were no longer vibrant, the air was now stale and made her tongue feel old. Yet there was one object that caught her eye: the necklace, glistening like it had never done before, so appealing to her, like her salvation hanging on a silver chain. She scrambled over to it, and tied it around her neck: as soon as the clasp snapped shut it was like a wave of light that swept through the room… it sliced through the shroud that smothered her.

    It was like a drug that made the pain go away.

    Chloe's eyes darted around the room to check that no one had seen her. She took a deep breath and smoothed her hair behind her ears, standing a little taller than before. She made sure to tuck the necklace into her shirt. If people knew, they would make her take it off, and she would rather die than go through that again. So she made a decision: she wouldn't tell them…

    Her eyes fell once more to the book that she had placed on the table: in her haste to put on her necklace she must have turned over the pages, for she was now staring at a new symbol: one that she vaguely remembered from the computer database of images from the cave wall, but this one was slightly different. This one made her see it for what it was…

    Chloe ran to Lex's desk and grabbed her cell phone, looking around for her car keys. "Damn!" she said angrily, realizing that Lex probably brought her back from the caves in his own car. She bit her lip lightly, looking around the study, before running out of the double doors and down the hallway. As she passed the dresser in the hall, she scooped up the keys to Lex's Porsche that were sitting on a black display plate. Pulling out her cell phone as she headed to the garage, she punched the keys and waited for it to connect. "Lex, it's Chloe," she said as the voicemail began to record, "I need you to meet me in the caves NOW, come alone, and Lex," she paused, realizing the importance of her request: "bring the breastplate…"

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lex's footsteps were long and methodical as he walked across the dirt floor into the caves. His lips were pursed, and he wore a barely disguised look of annoyance. He wasn't used to getting orders via voicemail, and certainly wasn't used to foregoing the explanation. As he neared the central chamber, he could see the dim light from a flashlight. He followed it and found Chloe standing rigid, staring at an obscure section of wall.

    "This had better be good, Chloe, I just had to increase the LuthorCorp Arts Fund by $2M dollars in order to borrow the breastplate unguarded and without explanation." He stopped by her side, the heavy black leather briefcase still in his hand. He looked at her profile, and saw that she didn't even acknowledge his presence. She continued to stare transfixed at the wall. Lex cocked an eyebrow at the scene and followed the beam of her torch.

    Lex's breath caught in his throat a little as his eyes fell on the symbol, and like Chloe, he too was spellbound. The symbol was a figure of a man, a warrior in battle, wearing a breastplate with an 'S' shape on it.

    "What does it mean?" asked Lex, "the symbol on his chest."

    "We don't have a word for that," was Chloe's quiet response. "In one sense, it's the gray between black and white. Good and evil at the same time. If Naman and Sageeth are two sides of a coin, then this symbol would be the coin."

    "And in the other sense?" prompted Lex when she paused.

    "Well, it's the reason for their battle. It is the one thing that binds them, bringing good and evil together. It is the prize that they want for themselves, what they fear the other will get: a power that can be good or evil depending on who holds it. They feel that it's their mission to obtain it, their destiny and their birthright." Chloe tore her gaze away from the wall and turned to Lex. "The closest word we have to it?" Chloe said, pausing, "would be Greatness."

    Lex glared down at her before looking at the briefcase in his hand: it now seemed much heavier. "Would you like to tell me," asked Lex, "how that same symbol is on Alexander's breastplate? How a Kawatche drawing, a myth on a cave wall resembles a historical artefact that wasn't even known about during their time?"

    "I would like to tell you Lex, but I don't think I can," She replied, watching him place the briefcase on the floor and twisting the combination. "I wish I knew."

    Chloe knelt beside Lex as he opened the briefcase, and she moved her light over the jewel-encrusted breastplate. It was staggeringly beautiful when seen with the naked eye. The diamonds were fathomless, the gold reflected Chloe's face as she peered at the contours, the feather-like sections over the shoulders. Her fingers reached out to the embossed 'S' symbol on the front. As the tips of her fingers touched the gold, she jerked her hand back: it was as though it scorched her with a white hot heat that seared the backs of her eyes. She stood up too quickly, and began to stumble backwards. Lex was on his feet at once and pressed his hand against her back to steady her. Chloe felt his fingers, his palm brush against her, and a jolt passed through her body. She swung round to look at him, at the confused expression on his face. She was overwhelmed with an urge to do something, it was like there was a voice inside her screaming at her, telling her what to do. Perhaps against her better judgment, she listened… it was like opening the doors to an instinct, knowing the answer without understanding how the knowledge came to you. It was a reaction…

    "Lex, you know when something feels right but you just can't explain it?"

    Lex's brow creased momentarily as he shifted his head to the left, hoping the different angle would help him to see what was wrong with her. "Chloe?"

    "Lex," she said, shaking her head to clear it, knowing that she would never be able to explain it to him. She took a hesitant step towards him. "Do you trust me?"

    Lex knew that Chloe would never understand the magnitude of her question, let alone the significance of an affirmative answer. His impulsive reaction was to deny that he trusted her, but as he saw her eyes peering up at his expectantly, he remembered the day of his father's trial, remembered touching her hand in the Courtroom, the way she looked at him, fearing the verdict. Chloe had thrown herself into the lion's den by becoming entangled with his father, but she had willingly sacrificed everything to bring him down. He knew it was to escape his father, but he also knew that she had helped him, willingly put her life on the line for him. Lied to her friends and family for him.

    Lex didn't know if he was capable of trusting anyone, if it was an emotion, a sentiment that he had suppressed one time too many and now it refused to resurface, but standing here, Chloe's question hanging in the air, he realized that his trust might not be so deeply buried.

    "I trust you, Chloe," he said, realizing that the words didn't taste as sour as he had feared.

    Chloe gave a solemn smile at his response: she knew what it meant to be trusted by a man like Lex, knew what it meant for him to admit it. She lowered herself to her knees beside the breastplate and looked up at Lex, silently asking him to do the same.

    Chloe felt Lex lower himself on her left and he looked over at her expectantly. Chloe's breath began to quicken: she had a feeling that this was going to hurt, but something was telling her that she had to do it: you have to see. Chloe slowly reached her left hand over to Lex's right, and with a deep breath, entwined her fingers with his. She felt as though pure energy was rushing up her arm and coursing through her body, and she almost found it overwhelming. She stretched her right hand over to the breastplate, hovering it over the 'S' and looked at Lex waiting for him to do the same. He watched her face intently, wondered what it was that she was feeling that made her react so strangely to him, wondered why she was gripping his hand so tightly.

    He saw her squeeze her eyes shut just moments before she pushed his hand onto the breastplate: both of their fingers contacting with the embossed symbol. Chloe screamed as the searing pain returned to her eyes: her back arched, rigid as her body tried to fight the shock that was crashing through small frame. Lex's teeth clenched as he felt it too: then he let his pain out in a strangled cry. A flash of a memory: tied to a table in Belle Reve, electricity coursing through his body: that was nothing compared to this.

    They were enveloped in a blinding red and gold light that warmed their skin, and then, as quickly as it had begun, the pain vanished. Lex opened his eyes and looked across at Chloe who was still holding his hand, but they were no longer in the cave. Their dark surroundings had been replaced by stark sunlight, the dirt beneath them was now sand. The breastplate had now disappeared and they were alone on this new plane: Chloe looked up at him and squeezed his hand tighter in fear. He pulled her to her feet as he stood, though she was breathless, speechless, and continued to look around: they were surrounded by black streaks that blew past them on the wind like a freight train. Muffled voices were all around them, shouting, chanting, getting louder and clearer by the second. More black blurs, more noise, a building crescendo. Chloe pressed herself closer to Lex fearing what it was building to, tried not to squeeze her eyes shut but just couldn't help it.

    The black blurs carried voices now: deep, angry cries that came too close. Chloe looked up and could see them in more detail: there were thousands of people rushing past them, swords raised, blood and sweat on their faces. They were in the midst of a battle that stretched as far as the eye could see yet they seemed to be in their own little world. No one noticed them, no one touched them.

    Chloe turned around in Lex's arms her back pressed to his chest. He still held her close, protectively. The sun's heat scorched their skin as they watched the surreal events unfold before them… but then a shadow fell over them. They felt a death-like chill and both turned around. Chloe gasped as she looked up and saw a black horse's head looming above her the commanding silhouette of the rider that seemed to be looking right at them. She felt Lex's arm tighten around her shoulders as they stood, rooted to the spot.

    All of a sudden, the horse reared and the rider raised his sword. It caught the sun and caused a blinding light to illuminate the rider: a blonde man with fire in his eyes, and a glistening golden breastplate with the letter 'S' embossed on the front. Chloe and Lex both saw it, knew that it would haunt them, but they had no time to shout, to gasp, for Alexander's sword began to swing down to deliver a deadly blow.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark felt Lana's hand at the back of his neck as he kissed her goodnight. They were standing in the foyer of the Talon, the lingering smell of coffee still in the air.

    "I had such a wonderful time today, Clark," said Lana as she stepped over to the door ready to open it again for him.

    Clark smiled at her and cupped her face in his hand, leaving a kiss on the corner of her mouth. "Me too."

    Clark stepped outside and breathed in the cool night air. He listened as Lana bolted the door, and heard her footsteps cross slowly into the building and towards the stairs. He looked at his watch: it was almost 9pm. With a grin, and checking that the street was deserted, he sped down the high street and out into the night. He had so much energy, so much life in him that he couldn't help but run…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Martha sighed and looked at her watch. It was almost 9pm: Jonathan should have been back by now. He had gone to get the new hopper parts but, she had guessed with a roll of her eyes, had come back via the Wild Coyote. Her eyes flew to the hopper as, once again, it made a choking noise and began to shake. The barn was filled with strangled mechanical noises, so, looking around to make sure there were no witnesses, Martha gave it a ladylike kick. The machine settled down into a regular chugging pattern and Martha allowed a grin to lift her face.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Just as the sword was about to hit them, Chloe and Lex found themselves hurled back into the cave: Chloe stumbled as she fell from the vision, and Lex managed to steady her on her feet. She was so confused she could have stood there and cried, poured her heart out. Lex looked down at her not knowing what emotion to hide from his face. She could tell he was bewildered, intrigued, and no doubt wanted to know more…
    She tried to form words, but her voice wouldn't come. Sighing in frustration, her head fell.

    Where do I begin?

    Chloe felt the now-familiar jolt beneath her feet as the ground began to quake. The distant rumble built to an ear splitting roar, and she could see rocks beginning to fall from above them.

    "Chloe, get out of here!" cried Lex as his hands left her arms to try and save the breastplate. Chloe looked around the cave and saw the walls crumbling around them. So for once, she did as she was told… she ran for the exit as fast as her weak legs could take her…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    The steering wheel of Jonathan's truck seemed to have a life of its own. His knuckles were white as he tried to keep it under control, but it was no use. The truck swerved helplessly towards a large crack that was forming in the road, and Jonathan's eyes went wide with fear as he headed straight for it.

    The truck nose-dived into the hole and the windshield shattered upon impact. Jonathan was hurled forward and his head bounced off the steering wheel. He smelled blood and burned rubber as his head fell onto the horn. The ominous tone faded out as he drifted out of consciousness.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Chloe's legs felt heavy and clumsy beneath her, and she found herself slowing down. She could see the dim sunset shining through the cave's entrance, yet it seemed impossibly far away. She began to cough violently as dust invaded her lungs: larger rocks began to fall all around her, and the dust began to rain more heavily onto her head.

    "Chloe!" cried Lex as he saw her fall to the ground beneath a heavy mound of earth. He dropped the suitcase and ran over to where she was, trying to shield his eyes from the barrage of rocks that were falling around him. The cave was plunged into blackness as debris blocked off the entrance, yet Lex could still make out the dim light from Chloe's flashlight shining from beneath the mound of earth.

    Chloe was nowhere to be seen, completely buried. He fell to his knees and began clawing at the earth with his fingers. "Hang in there, Chloe, I'll get you out…"

    You can trust me. I'll get you out…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lana gripped the banister and looked around at the Talon in horror as everything shook. She could hear glass crashing to the floor behind the counter, chair falling from tables. A loud boom on the stairs beside her made her swivel around: a large chunk of plaster had fallen from the ceiling and crashed over the banister. Lana knew she shouldn't be out in the open: she needed to get under a door frame, but the ground was shaking violently and she didn't dare let go of the banister.

    As another, larger piece of the ceiling plaster fell, events seemed to pass by her in slow motion: the banister gave way and sent her toppling over the edge: her arms flailed out for something to grab onto. She fell onto a curved seat, bouncing at the impact and hitting her arm on the solid table. She cried out in pain, but quickly realized that the worst was yet to come…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Martha heard the wood of the barn walls creaking and cracking all around her: dust fell from the ceiling as it threatened to cave in on her. Metal clashing upon metal filled her ears as the farm tools were shaken on the mezzanine above her. The ground beneath her feet was shaking violently and she could no longer keep her balance. She fell heavily to the floor and tried to scramble outside, but yelped as a pain shot up her knee. She rolled onto her back, trying to sit up and it was then that she saw it… then that she knew it was too late…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lana stared up in horror as the large chandelier fell from the ceiling, heading straight for her. She was laid directly beneath it, but knew she didn't have time to move. Her arms flew to her face in a vein attempt to shield it from the impact, and she let out a piercing scream in preparation for what was to come…

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Martha saw the pitchfork topple from the mezzanine and head straight for her. She was directly in its path and didn't have time to move. She knew there was nothing she could do.
    So she screamed.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    On a deserted stretch of road far from Smallville, Clark's feet halted when he heard the noise: the piercing screams that echoed around him. In that instant, his world stood still: the ground no longer shook beneath his feet, leaves no longer quaked on their branches. He knew it was his mother and Lana, knew that they were in trouble. He ran forwards down the road, faster than he had ever run before, yet found himself halting once again when he reached a fork in the road.

    One path leads to Lana. The other leads home. Not enough time to get to both. I can hear it in their voices.

    Clark's feet were rooted to the ground. The screams ploughed through his mind and sliced his conscience… It was an impossible decision, but he knew he could only save one of them. He had to choose, or he wouldn't save anyone: for all his powers, he had never felt so helpless, so inadequate.

    The desperate, strangled cries stirred his mind and brought memories of both Lana and his mother to the surface: the way his mother used to kiss his forehead before bed, the way Lana's fingers looked entwined in his, "I'm falling in love with you Clark…", "You're my special boy…"

    His feet were no longer fixed to the asphalt… he moved across the fields with a speed that frightened even him.

    You might not like the roads in front of you, the different directions that your life could go in, but you have to trust your instinct.

    Clark let his father's words echo in his mind as he prayed he wasn't too late.

    Sometimes you have to make a choice, son.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT EPISODE

  2. #2
    An Accused Heretic Senior Member Kit Merlot's Avatar
    Join Date
    12 May 2003
    Location
    Penn's Woods
    Posts
    4,696

    Re: Episode 11 - "Quake"

    This was one hell of an exciting episode!

    Chlex vs. Clana? Please, there isn't even a competition Clark will rue the day he ever made enemies with Chloe and Lex. Now that Chloe and Lex are on the way to solving the cave wall pictures, how long do you think it will take them to uncover Clark's secret?

    And he is such a jackass to Chloe--I hope she kicks his ungrateful butt.

    But who will he save in the end? I can hardly wait to find out
    KATHY

    "Don't quote me to me!" Detective Danny "Danno" WIlliams, Hawaii Five-0, episode 1.8 Mana'o

    "This could barely fill up Thumbelina!" SALIGIA by westwingwolf

    My Fanfic Master List

    My livejournal: An Accused Heretic

  3. #3
    Members
    Join Date
    22 Sep 2007
    Posts
    29

    Re: Episode 11 - "Quake"

    wow.... really wanna know what's coming next. New episode coming soon? Please?

  4. #4
    Members Lynzie914's Avatar
    Join Date
    04 Jan 2009
    Location
    US
    Posts
    67

    Re: Episode 11 - "Quake"

    This is episode is just so amazing! I love Chloe and Lex's interaction with each other, so realistic and wonderful! Now I'm off to read the next one!

  5. #5
    NS Full Member TrinityR's Avatar
    Join Date
    23 Oct 2011
    Posts
    912

    Re: Episode 11 - "Quake"

    Really amazing! Love to see LEx and Chloe together like that.
    Although I thought that Clark didn't remember that he'd made a choice before... wasn't suppose to be only a dream?
    Never mind, small detail

+ Reply to Thread

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts