Author: Note: This story takes place near the end of season one, after Clark invites Chloe to the dance, but before the season finale. At the moment, I find the Clark-Chloe pairing more interesting than Clark-Lana. While I haven't got the entire story finished, it looks to be headed Alternate Universe. Finally, this is my first attempt at a story, so hopefully it is readable and somewhat interesting to others besides me.
Disclaimer: The standard words that someone else owns all of the main characters in this story.
Rating: R (Where's the fun, if you can't push the boundaries a little further.)
Clark, Chloe, and Lex tumbled out onto a dust-covered stone floor.
"Well, that was different," remarked Lex climbing to his feet and brushing at the dirt covering the knees and left sleeve of his hand-tailored black Gianfranco Ferre suit.
"Clark!" cried Chloe, as she realized her best friend had not bounced immediately back to his feet like she and Lex. No, Clark was still sprawled out on the rough floor, his arms and legs were trembling out of control like someone in the terminal stages of Parkinson's, and his jaw was set in a hard grimace of pain.
Looking over, Lex saw Chloe kneel back down and brush her hand helplessly across Clark's forehead.
"Clark, what's wrong?" pleaded Chloe.
After about ten seconds a shuddered passed through Clark's body and abruptly the trembling ended. Taking a deep breath, Clark finally found his voice. "I'm okay, just give me a minute." Shaking his head, he used his arms to raise his torso and then slowly climbed to his feet. This had been one of the worst meteor rock episodes he had ever experienced. Normally, it started in a localized spot, wherever the rock had touched his body, and then slowly spread with prolonged exposure. But this had seemed to affect every molecule of his body simultaneously.
However with the exposure now passed, his body quickly recovered and within a couple of seconds of reaching his feet, Clark once more felt all of his incredible strength and vitality return. And just as quickly, he remembered where they were and why they were here.
Not wanting the others to focus on his reaction to his passage through the device or his equally sudden recovery, Clark made a show of looking back towards the portal they had just passed through, or more accurately, the now blank wall where the portal had been. "Lex, Professor Carey's device really does work."
"Yeah, even though we saw him drag Lana through the portal, it still isn't the same as going through it yourself." Lex responded with relief at Clark's apparent return to normal; he already felt responsible for Lana's abduction, he didn't want Clark's injury or death on his conscious, too. Turning away from the other pair, he forced himself to focus on the here and now while he got his thoughts back under control. The room he found, now that he truly looked at it, wasn't at all what he had been expecting.
The windowless room, lit by a couple of bare bulbs dangling from the low ceiling, was about 20 by 30 feet and appeared to have been rough-hewn with hand tools from living rock, but never completely finished. Under the incandescent lighting the walls threw back a muted beige glow. Along the left wall was arrayed a mish-mash of electronic equipment similar to the set-up in the professor's lab at Metropolis University, but obviously simplified. The equipment, filling three racks, was giving off the faint pops and clicks typical of electrical gear powering down after being pushed almost to its limits.
The right wall was bare except for a large electrical schematic held in place with several pieces of duct tape and liberally marked up with red and green ink. The far wall was also bare except for the door, which seemed to be the room's solitary 'normal' exit.
While Lex and Chloe were taking a closer look at the room's electronic equipment, Clark was using his x-ray vision to see what was beyond the walls. Above, below and on three sides the room was enclosed in solid rock. The fourth side, beyond the single door, had several additional rooms and then an exit to the outside. In one of the rooms Clark could see the skeletal outline of a body lying on the floor. Pushing his x-ray vision up near his current limits, he could just see the outlines of the softer tissues and organs including the heart beating and the chest raising and falling. Once more he briefly found himself wishing he could control the 'looking through a window' effect he had experienced intermittently when this special vision had first made its appearance. But so far he hadn't been able to reliably achieve that state and had had to settle for this 'Doctor's Office X-ray Machine' mode.
"Come on guys," said Clark, trying to remember to be thankful for even this limited visual gift as it had already gotten him out of countless difficult situations in the past six months. Starting for the door, he continued. "Lana's not here, let's get going."
"Clark, we don't know if Professor Carey has any others here. Please be careful," warned Lex.
"Okay, Lex," responded Clark being unable, as always, to explain how he knew only one other person was in this suite of rooms cut into the rock of whatever hill or mountain they were in. Nor could he explain how he knew that person was unconscious. And although he couldn't be certain, given the preceding events, it seemed very likely the person he could see was Lana and he didn't want to waste any more time than necessary getting to her.
He tried to convince himself he was just concerned whether she was hurt, but he knew it was more than that. He still had strong feelings for her, even though he had come to realize Chloe was the one he was meant to be with. His realization of his feelings for Chloe had come slowly, and finally, just three days earlier he had found the words to ask Chloe to the spring formal.
While Clark was heading toward the door still trying to sort out his feelings towards Lana, Lex surged forward, trying to take the lead.
"Clark, I feel like this whole situation is my responsibility. Let me go first, in case we run into any trouble."
Clark stepped aside knowing there was no trouble immediately ahead.
With Lex leading the way and Chloe trailing behind, they went through the door into the hallway beyond. The hall had several doors on the right and what looked to be the way out straight ahead.
The first door on the right led to a generator room with two small diesel engines, one of which was running and providing power to the facility. Other than small air inlets and exhaust holes for the generators, this room had no other exits and no occupants.
The second door on the right let into a storage room. Here is where they found Lana lying on her side, tied to a heavy crate.
As Chloe and Clark reached her, she started to stir.
"Where am I? What happened?"
"Just lie still a minute while I get these ropes undone," answered Clark.
"How do you feel?" asked Chloe squatting down next to Clark.
"Like a character on a TV detective show that was hit over head," Lana remarked as she slowly sat up rubbing the back of her head.
Gazing around the room as though she was seeing it for the first time, Lana continued. "So what happened? The last thing I remember is going to Metropolis U. on a class field trip."
"Are you going to be okay?" asked Lex. "If so, I would like to check outside while Clark and Chloe explain the situation."
"Sure, Lex, go ahead."
"Yeah, Lex, none of us are ready to sit through your techno-babble explanation about particle accelerators or vacuum energy fields and their interaction with meteor rocks again anytime soon," said Chloe with a hint of a grin. "We'll try and give her the high school version."
"Sorry about that Chloe. You all seem so mature; I keep forgetting you haven't even had high school physics yet, let alone several years of college level classes."
"Just give us another year. Both Clark and I passed the advanced placement test and will be taking Physics 101 at Smallville Community College in the fall," Chloe shot back at him.
"It is really cool," added Clark with a more earnest tone to his voice than Chloe had projected. "We get both high school and college credit for the class and the Smallville school system picks up all of the cost for tuition and books."
Lex knew Clark was already thinking about how he and his parents were going to pay for college. He wanted to help, but still hadn't figured out how to do it without further offending Clark's father.
"Just think of today as an extra-curricular physics assignment. Now, while you guys bring Ms. Lang up to date, I am going to take a look around."
"Clark, do you want to explain or shall I?" asked Chloe.
"Oh, why don't you go ahead; I want to check out a few of these crates. I'll listen and stick my two cents worth in when needed."
As she helped Lana into a more comfortable sitting position with her back against the crate, Chloe asked, "So what's the last thing you remember?"
"Let's see, oh Clark, if you see any water, I could really use a drink."
"No problem, Lana."
With a serious, thoughtful expression adorning her face, Lana began, "We had gone to Metropolis U. on a class field trip. We spent the morning touring the campus and then after lunch we were going to break up into smaller groups and visit the departments that interested us most.
"We were having lunch in the student union when who should we run into, but Lex Luthor.
"He said he was on campus to get a progress report and to do a budget review for a physics project that Luthor Corp. was sponsoring.
"He invited us to tag along and see some of the behind the scene activity since he knew of Clark's interest in science.
"You and I decided to go along since we had a couple of hours to kill before our appointments at the journalism and business departments." Lana thought but didn't say that both she and Chloe enjoyed hanging with Clark even if it meant sitting through some boring physics stuff.
"Pete begged off with some story about a girl, but we both know he would find any excuse not to spend time with Lex."
"I think this time there really was a girl," responded Chloe. "Although not as exciting as Pete let on. We talked on the bus ride and the girl is a cousin of his mom's who works in the law school. You know how Pete's mom wants him to follow her into the legal profession."
"Yeah, Pete has mentioned it several times at the Talon," answered Lana. "So anyway, the three of us went over to the Physics building with Lex. Once we got there and met Professor Carey they scrounged up a grad student to give us the fifty-cent tour while they had their meeting.
"After touring through several labs and letting Clark play in the virtual reality room for a while, we went back to Professor Carey's lab. When we got there Lex was yelling about some unauthorized tests. He seemed more upset then I ever remember."
"You know Lex is a control freak," said Chloe. "We found out later that Carey was months further along with the experiments then he had told Lex and Lex really wanted to be present for the first test."
"Here is where things start getting unclear for me," said Lana. "What were the experiments? All I know is the Professor and Lex were shouting at each other. Lex said he was going to remove the professor from the project and the professor responded by saying the work was his and so would be the rewards. Next the professor starting powering up the equipment and soon a scuffle broke out between them. Clark pulled Lex back and then the professor grabbed me, pulling me back through some kind of a doorway in the back wall of the lab. I don't really remember a doorway in that wall when we entered the lab, but as we passed through I must have blacked out or hit my head. The next thing I remember is waking up here. I woke up several times and finally the last time you and Clark were bending over me."
"Several times?" asked Chloe. "How long do you think you have been here?"
"I don't know; eight or ten hours, I guess, I was pretty groggy."
"That's strange. It hasn't been more than an hour since the professor pulled you through the portal."
"It definitely felt like more than an hour, must be the bump on the head," said Lana ruefully as she raised her hand and once more gingerly touched the lump on the back of her head. "So what is this portal you keep talking about?"
"Here's where Lex's techno-babble starts. The simple version is that after the original meteor shower, Lionel Luthor had some of the meteor rocks shipped to the University Physics department for study.
"After years of work they came up with some interesting properties. One of which was that they could somehow use them to open up wormholes large enough to travel through."
"Wormholes?" asked Lana.
"Think of it," said Chloe, "like the gates on 'Stargate' except it doesn't transport you between different worlds just between different places on this one. I haven't really thought out all of the implications, but if they can perfect it and get the cost down, LuthorCorp could replace the whole airline industry. Why spend hours sitting on an airplane, if you could get there instantly through a portal."
"Wow and all that power in Lionel Luthor's hands." remarked Lana.
"Actually, I get the impression Lex has managed to cut his father out of the loop on this one."
Just then Clark walked back up and said, "Lex was worried about you and didn't know where the Professor had taken you. He wanted to follow you through and get you back himself."
"Perhaps I am being cynical," interjected Chloe, "but I think Lex would do anything to keep from risking going public before he is ready."
"Whatever his motivation, it seemed to make sense to follow before the trail got cold." said Clark giving Lex the benefit of the doubt, as usual. "You could have been anywhere in the world. Lex knew enough to initiate the sequence after the system had an hour to recharge, but could not figure out how to read the destination without risking losing the settings."
"Of course, Clark was determined to go along and remembering how many times it seems like Clark has saved you, me, and Lex in the past year, it kind of made sense."
"Come on Chloe, don't make me into some kind of super-hero." said Clark.
"Clark," grinned Lana, "you do know Chloe has started a second Wall of the Weird focused just on the subject 'Clark saves the day'?"
"What!" exclaimed Clark and Chloe. Both quickly found themselves blushing, although for slightly different reasons.
Clark was wondering how long Chloe had been collecting information and when would she realize some of his secrets? Now that they were getting closer, he had been thinking about letting her in on his powers. But he had talked with his Mom and Dad and they both urged caution. Once she knew about his secret her life could be at more risk than from just your everyday Smallville meteor freak. 'Remember that corrupt Metropolis police officer and how he almost destroyed our family' had said his mom. But if Chloe was keeping score, a decision might be needed sooner rather than later.
Of course, Chloe knew nothing about Clark's powers. She was simply embarrassed it looked like she had been following Clark around like some grade school girl with a crush. And then to have the topic come up just days after Clark had finally asked her on 'real' date. God, she hoped this wasn't going to screw everything up between them after she had waited so very long.
After an awkward pause, Chloe said, "Well, Lana, if I knew you were going to tell my secrets, I might not have come along to save you."
"Save me or get the story, Miss Journalist?"
Fortunately for everyone, Lex walked back into the room just then.
"Did you get Lana brought up to date?" asked Lex.
"More or less," said Chloe with a glare towards Lana.
Lex immediately saw the tension in the room and while not certain what was the immediate cause, he was well aware the Lana, Chloe, Clark triangle was still finding a new shape after the Clark-o-meter's recent swing from Lana towards Chloe.
Time to get things focused back on their current situation, he thought.
"Very interesting facility the professor has created here. I don't quite see how he paid for it, as it wasn't in any of the past budgets."
"Interesting in what way?" asked Clark.
"All of these rooms are recessed back into a cliff face. You get outside via a secret panel. And from the outside it looks like, of all things, a small Greek or Roman temple."
"A Greek temple?" whispered Chloe as a chill ran down her spine.
She reached over and took Clark's hand. He looked over at her, a little surprised at this show of affection, until he saw how spooked she was.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I don't want to sound like a bad movie, but I have a bad feeling all of a sudden," she responded.
Lex said, "I agree. Something seems very strange. Remember near the end of the last Indiana Jones movie where they ride into this secret deep canyon and they find those old Roman buildings built into the side of the canyon?"
The others all nodded.
"The outside of this facility is very similar. Okay, the temple is not as large and the climate looks more alpine than desolate desert, but still it is a Roman temple in a deep canyon."
"What were you expecting, Lex?" asked Lana.
"Oh, for second stage testing they needed to set up the receiver site some distance from Metropolis University. I would have guessed a warehouse somewhere, perhaps Gotham City. I would never have guessed a site like this. And I am not even sure where we are. With the deep canyon I can't get a connection with my cell phone."
"Can't worrying about where this facility is wait for another day?" asked Clark. "We came to find Lana, so why can't we just take the portal back to the U?"
"Unfortunately, we can't. I realize my first responsibility is to get you guy's back home safely. However after taking a quick look around outside, I went back to the portal room. While I am not intimately familiar with the details of the system, I spent a few minutes looking over the equipment and reviewing the computer files. Apparently before he left, the professor removed the meteor rocks that allow the portal to be opened from this end. Therefore, boys and girls, it looks like we are going to be walking back to civilization."
"Walking?" said Lana as she glanced down at her feet. Everyone else followed her glance. It had been a cool spring day in Metropolis and Lana was appropriately dressed in gray tweed slacks, white blouse and a short black leather jacket. Appropriate except for the open-toe shoes with three-inch heels.
Everyone, of course, glanced at Chloe's feet next. Penny loafers. Not the ideal shoes for a hike, but better than high heels.
Clark in his usual work boots was the only one really ready for a long hike over rough terrain.
"Any idea how far?" asked Clark, finally.
"No, idea." responded Lex. "But we should assume the worst and inventory supplies before setting off. Water, food, etc."
"While you were out I looked in some of the crates. If I didn't know better, I would think the professor was involved in some kind of archaeological treasure hunt," said Clark.
"Several of the crates are full of old gold and silver coins, pottery, and tapestries."
"Well, everyone put a few gold coins in your pockets as souvenirs courtesy of Luthor Corp. and Professor Carey and then let's look for some food, water, canteens, bedrolls, rope, knives, and anything else that looks handy," directed Lex.
Clark realized he needed to get a few minutes alone to try and determine where they were and if the immediate area was safe. "Hey Lex, I didn't see any facilities around here and I . . . Ahh . . . need to take a leak. Can you show me how to work the secret front door before we start looking for supplies?"
"Yeah," amended Lana, "me, too. Why do you think the professor would build this place without a bathroom?"
Heading towards the front entrance Lex responded, "It does seem strange. Perhaps this place already existed and he just adapted it for his needs. Then again maybe he only spent a few hours at a time here setting up the equipment."
Clark stood up to head outside, pulling Chloe to her feet at the same time. "Come along outside, a few minutes in the fresh air will have you feeling better."
"I am feeling better already. When Lex mentioned the Greek temple facade, I had a brief premonition or a moment of deja vu or something. But it was only a moment and then gone." However that wasn't entirely true. No, it wasn't some vague feeling which had caused her reaction. She knew exactly what was the cause; it was the long ago day when she had first met Clark and Whitney. She had spent countless hours since then thinking about the tidbits of information she had learned. Would today be the day some of those events finally became clear?
As they exited the temple, everyone looked up at the steep canyon walls extending several hundred feet above their heads. The small portion of the sky visible was a pretty, deep blue without a cloud in sight. Here at the bottom of the canyon the temperature was near ninety degrees, a major change from the cool, windy sixty-five they had experienced in Metropolis a short hour ago.
Lex turned and looked at the others. "Okay, someone say it."
The others looked at each other, grinned, and shouted in unison: "I DON'T THINK WE ARE IN KANSAS ANYMORE, TOTO." and started laughing.
After the laughter died down, everyone turned to admire the front of the structure. The temple was not large compared to the towering cliffs above, only about fifteen feet wide and twenty feet high with the roof supported by four large Ionic columns. The only object inside the small building was an altar table set to one side. Behind the altar was the hidden entrance to the secret facility. Otherwise, the interior was bare except for a large fresco on the rear wall. It was a simple pastoral scene of a forest glade with a group of nymphs cavorting around a small pool. The fresco itself was in a poor, deteriorated condition; several large chunks had flaked away and a large water stain from a leak in the roof marred the left side.
As the others continued looking over the temple, Chloe pulled her digital camera out of her shoulder bag. "Come on everyone, group shot in front of the temple. This will be a great human-interest angle for my story. 'First Portal Travelers visit A Greek Temple' by Chloe Sullivan. Maybe I can even get it into The Daily Planet."
Lex frowned, "Ah, Chloe that sounds more like an Inquisitor story than one for the Planet. Anyway remember our deal. If you came along, you would hold the story until I was ready to go public with the technology."
"I remember, Lex. Still I would like the photo even if it is just for us."
After Chloe had taken a couple of shots, Clark said, "I am just going to go down around the next bend for a couple of minutes."
Walking a hundred feet down the canyon, Clark rounded the bend and shifted into speed-running mode. He had at least five minutes before the others would become concerned and start looking for him. Perhaps he should have commented about reading material to buy a few more minutes. No, five minutes should be enough time to check things well ahead and if he was lucky, catch up with the professor. He had a lot to answer for after dragging Lana through the portal and then stranding them all here.
Four miles down the canyon it merged with another canyon widening from twenty feet at the bottom to almost fifty feet and adding a small swift stream. The trail Clark was following stayed small and looked little used in recent months.
Two miles further and the canyon widen briefly into a small meadow. A tree lined pond looked like a perfect break spot for the hike out. Still no signs of people, so Clark pressed on.
After five or six miles of further twists and turns, the end of the canyon came into sight with a view of a large plain beyond. Clark could see a high stone wall had been built across the entrance to the canyon except for a ten-foot gap in the center through which the stream and path passed. He accelerated even faster as he shot through the gap so any one on the other side wouldn't see him. He didn't slow down until he was in a grove of trees several hundred yards past the wall.
When he looked back towards the wall he received a major shock.
"Shit," he whispered under his breath, glad his mother wasn't there to hear him.
Looking off to the right along the base of the hill he saw further proof that his first sight hadn't been just a dream. What did all this mean? What were they going to do now? At least he now had some understanding of the things they found in the crates.
Clark stood in the trees for a minute trying to come up with a plan. Finally, he knew he needed to get back before the others missed him. At least it was unlikely they would be disturbed until they reached the wall. With a full afternoon's hike to get there, hopefully he could come up with a solution on how to proceed by then.
So once more Clark accelerated to top speed, shot past the wall and started retracing his steps back to the temple. As he ran he wondered, for the first time, if letting his friends in on his secret might be necessary to get out of this situation.
End of Chapter One