Biological Families

Author: duane at duaneaakre dot com

Disclaimer: As always I own nothing. Well I own a house, two cars, a pair of jetskis, and a lot of other junk, but none of these characters.

Story Rating: R [The story may drift into the HBO range rather than stay in the WB range, so to be on the safe side, I am rating this R.]

Author's Notes: Hi! This story is a sequel to 'The Portal', although I have tried to make it a stand-alone story by covering the key points from the earlier story, which might be needed by new readers, in the first couple of chapters. It is challenging to compress a long convoluted story which built up slowly over 150,000 words into a few paragraphs without it immediately seeming too outrageous. Hopefully, people who have read the previous story won't be bored by the opening sections, I have tried to twist things around and add some new things to get this story going.

This story starts the day after the end of 'The Portal' which is about one week before the Spring Formal Dance at the end of season 1. The first couple of chapters will cover some of the events that occur during the season 1 finale, but if you have read my earlier story, you know I like to do original stories, not just regurgitate things already seen with only a slight twist. So, the first couple chapters may seem familiar, but they will set things in motion that will head the story off in an entirely different direction than the show went in season 2. (Someone in an earlier review said they wanted to see what happened when my story got to the Indian Cave portion of season 2. Sorry, but I never cared for that storyline and I don't think it will be in my story. I have some different ideas for achieving similar things.)

I want to thank the people who included some suggestions in their reviews at the end of the other story as to what they would like to see in a sequel. I think with the story I have in mind, I will be able to work a number of them in. About the title, 'Biological Families'; most stories about time travel, including my first one, focus on dumping the main characters into some epic time, like ancient Rome or the Middle Ages, and then have them endure some desperate struggles before finding their way home. It makes for an exciting story, but if you really had a time machine, is that how you would use it? For me, I think I would use it to go back and spend time with family and friends who are no longer with us. [Everyone when they want to discuss a time paradox, talk about going back and killing your own grandfather. Who are these people? I would like to go back and talk to my grandfather, not kill him!] Anyway, that's why at the end of the last story I had Chloe use the time machine to retrieve Lana's parents and Lex's Mom. So this story is part a story about them getting reacquainted with their families and part a story about Chloe and Clark's quest to find their own 'biological' families. Hopefully, that doesn't sound too boring, as the focus of the story will be on the four main characters and their relationships. I do have a few big action sequences dancing around in the back of my head that I think will ramp things up to a level beyond what was seen in the previous story, however you will have to be patient for a few chapters :)

Anyway, enough of my rambling, I am sure it is the story you are here for. I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1

Martha Kent knelt in the small family garden beside the cozy yellow farmhouse. It was late on a beautiful spring afternoon and she wanted to get the tomato plants in before starting dinner. Although, if she was really truthful with herself, she had to admit the tomato plants were not the true reason she was out here. No, the reason was Clark. From here she could watch the road for almost a mile as it led up to their drive.

Yesterday, Clark and a group of his sophomore classmates had gone to Metropolis for a tour and orientation session at Metropolis University. The bus had left Smallville High at six thirty in the morning and was due back at seven in the evening. However at three in the afternoon she had received a call from Clark at the University. An unexpected call about his running into Lex on campus and Lex offering Clark, Chloe, and Lana tickets to a concert that evening and then a late night ride home in his limo. Even though Clark kept his voice light and easy, Martha knew her son well; something was going on that might need his 'special' gifts. She acquiesced to his request knowing she had to learn to trust his judgment in these matters, but still she was a Mom and had a normal Mother's fears.

Fears that were not eased by a call they had received from Chloe at one thirty in the morning. She had explained the concert was running later than they expected and Lex had volunteered to let them spend the night at his penthouse apartment in the city. On the surface it sounded innocent enough and under other circumstances it would have been almost funny. Clark had been mooning over Lana for years, but had seen the light and finally asked Chloe to the spring dance only three days earlier. Now he was spending the night with the pair of them in what the Metropolis Inquisitor had once called 'The Ultimate Bachelor Pad'.

However Chloe's explanation of why she was calling instead of Clark didn't ring true. Martha had been on edge ever since Clark's call ten hours earlier and now this strange call from Chloe did nothing to sooth her fears. It wasn't until after four a.m. that Clark called to let them know everything was fine. From his voice she could tell whatever crisis had been going on in Metropolis was over, but there was also an undertone of excitement she had never heard in Clark's voice before.

At last, a little over twenty four hours after the first call from Clark, she saw the black stretch limo gliding down the road towards their farm. Gathering up her gardening tools, Martha rose and headed towards the driveway to meet him.

The limo rolled to a stop about fifteen feet from where Martha stood. After Clark exited the car, he paused and reached back in to assist Chloe. Then clasping her hand, he headed over to his Mom.

Martha watched the pair approach, taking in the hands and the goofy expression on Clark's face. Obviously, their relationship had progressed a lot since they had left for Metropolis yesterday. Suddenly, Martha had to ask herself, 'How far?' And from the expression on Clark's face it was more than just holding hands.

So, Martha was a little surprised when Chloe ran up and hugged her.

"Mrs. Kent, it is so good to see you."

Between the hug and words, Chloe was acting as though it was a lot longer than a couple of days since she had seen her. "It's good to see you, too, Chloe."

As she stepped away, Chloe's eyes were almost shining.

"Mom, where's Dad? There are some things we need to talk about."

For some reason, just for a moment, Martha had this mental image of Clark telling her he and Chloe had eloped while they had been in Metropolis, the marriage ceremony a simple spur of the moment civil service with Clark dressed in a nice suit and Chloe in a simple white dress. She shook her head, Clark was too sensible to do something like that. Then she realized part of what had triggered this response; Clark was wearing a pair of dark slacks, a white dress shirt open at the collar, and dark brown dress shoes. He definitely had been wearing his usual blue jeans, checkered shirt, red sweatshirt, and work boots when he had left for Metropolis yesterday.

"Clark, what happened to the clothes you were wearing when you left yesterday?"

Clark looked down as if noticing for the first time something was amiss with his attire. Shrugging, he said, "That's one of the things we need to talk about. Where's Dad?"

It wasn't like Clark to put her off like that. Usually it only happened when the explanation involved his special 'gifts' and they needed to wait until they were alone. But it was apparent Clark was not stalling until Chloe was gone. Martha felt her tension level rise. Something life- changing was about to happen, she could feel it in her bones. It seemed best to get things out into the open as quickly as possible.

"Your father is out in the barn. Why don't you fetch him while Chloe and I head up to the house? I need to get dinner started."

Clark nodded and headed towards the barn.

"So Chloe, how was your visit to the University?"

"Hmm, I guess if I had to pick one word: eventful."

'Eventful,' thought Martha. 'That clarifies everything.' What did Martha say now, when what she wanted to ask was, 'Did you sleep with my little boy?'

"Eventful?" she finally echoed.

"Yeah, although that hardly covers things. Let's wait for Mr. Kent so we can go over things just once."

Since Chloe wasn't going to give her any hints about what had happened at the University, Martha tried another tack. "So, what is the 'Ultimate Bachelor Pad' like?"

For just an instant, Chloe stared at her blankly like she had no idea what Martha was talking about. Then she answered, "Oh, we never quite made it there. At the concert we ran into my cousin, Lois, and we ended up spending the night at her apartment."

Chloe hated to lie, but decided this was more in the range of a fib. She and Clark did technically end up at Lois' apartment. Not that she was quite ready to explain how she had been living two lives and for the past few years had also been Lois, part-time college journalist and part-time physics doctoral candidate.

Then it struck her. One look at Clark, and Martha had known something was going on between them. This was definitely going to complicate things.

"I don't believe you have mentioned having a cousin in Metropolis before."

"Well, since my Dad and I moved to Smallville three years ago, I haven't gotten to see her too often. She is a student at the University working on her PhD in physics."

"Physics? Clark has always had an interest in science."

"Yeah, I know. That's why we decided to hang out with her, so Clark could get some first hand information on the science programs at Metropolis U. instead of just the 'canned' material they provided during our orientation session."

Martha started to relax a little, if they had been with Chloe's older cousin, things couldn't have gone too far. Lex seemed like a nice young man and tried hard to make a positive impression on her and Jonathan, but she still wasn't certain she trusted Clark and Chloe alone with him overnight in Metropolis.

"Where's Lana? I didn't notice the limo stop over at Nell's place."

"Ahh, she stayed in Metropolis. She and Lex ran into some very dear old friends and they needed some time to get reacquainted," answered Chloe realizing how suspicious that sounded, even to her. Come on, Clark, get in here and let's get things out in the open, I hate having to do this double- talk with your Mom.

Just then the screen door in the hallway banged shut and they could hear the men come in laughing about something.

As they walked into the kitchen, Martha couldn't hold her patience any longer.

"Clark, what has been going on? I can see something has changed in your face and Chloe's."

A serious expression came over his face, but Clark didn't immediately speak. He walked over to the table and pulled out the chair next to Chloe. As he sat down, he intertwined his fingers with hers on top of the table. Taking a deep breathe, Clark decided to get past one of the hardest parts first. This wasn't what they had agreed during the drive down from Metropolis, but suddenly it felt about the right way to start a long, difficult, almost impossible to believe conversation.

"Chloe, Lana, and Lex know my secret."

Martha and Jonathan stared at him in shock for a moment. They had put a lot of hard work into protecting his secret all of these years and now, with one simple sentence, it might all have been for naught.

As one, they turned to look at Chloe. She nodded.

Knowing their concerns, her first reaction was to try and reassure them. "Clark's secret is safe with us. We all feel a special bond with Clark and will do anything we can to protect him."

It was Jonathan who recovered first. "How? Why?"

Clark looked down at the table for a minute while rubbing his thumb along the top of Chloe's hand. "It's a long, complicated story. Even after seeing the things I can do and after all of the encounters with the meteor freaks, you are still going to find this hard to believe. I lived through these events and I have moments where it doesn't seem real to me either."

"Clark, just start at the beginning," his Mom said.

Clark almost wasn't certain himself where the beginning of the story was. "You last saw me about six yesterday morning?" Clark began in a tone that was as much question as statement. When his parents nodded uncertainly, he continued, "For me, that was three weeks ago."

"Wait a minute, son. How could yesterday be three weeks ago?" asked Jonathan.

Seeing how Clark was struggling to get the words out, Chloe stepped in. "We ran into Lex at the Student Union during lunch. Lex was on campus to do a semi-annual review of a physics project LuthorCorp was funding. Since we had an extra hour to kill before our afternoon session, Lex invited Clark, Lana, and me on a tour of the physics building while he had his meeting.

"After our tour, we returned to the lab where Lex was having his meeting to find the Professor in charge ranting and raving about Lex's interference. Lex in turn was making serious noises about removing the Professor from the project and seeing about getting his tenure revoked.

"The professor started powering up his test equipment and then at the tenure comment by Lex, the Professor took a wild swing at Lex. After a little pushing and shoving, the Professor grabbed Lana and pulled her through his device."

"What do you mean, 'through the device'?" asked Martha.

At this point Clark took up the story again. "It turns out Lionel Luthor has been funding meteor rock studies at the U. from almost the day of the meteor shower."

Jonathan broke in with a quick, "That son of a bitch," before Martha put a restraining hand on his forearm to prevent the inevitable rant and let Clark and Chloe continue with their story.

Clark merely shook his head in agreement before continuing. "Eventually they found some useful properties in the rocks and built the machine to harness them."

"What kind of properties?" asked his Mom.

"To get Lex to continue the funding, the Professor had been telling him that a device channeling its power through the meteor rocks could open a doorway to any other point on the planet and all you would have to do is walk through to be there."

"That sounds pretty hard to believe, son."

"Well, we watched the Professor pull Lana through a doorway in what had been a blank wall and several seconds later it was again a blank wall. No secret passageways or other sleight of hand tricks that we could find. Even using my x-ray vision I couldn't find a trace of them."

Martha was watching Chloe as Clark said this last part and she didn't show any signs of surprise at the mention of the x-ray vision. If the others knew about Clark's secret, Martha figured it would be the obvious parts like his incredible strength and speed. But apparently, at least Chloe knew everything.

"We had no idea where they had gone, but couldn't just leave Lana with the Professor. If he was willing to grab her, who knew what else he might do. So, after letting the power recycle for an hour, which is when I called you with the story about the concert, Lex, Chloe, and I followed them through the doorway."

"God, Clark," said his father shaking his head. "That sounds like an incredibly stupid thing to do."

Clark shrugged. "We couldn't just leave Lana there. I didn't see any other viable course of action."

"You still haven't explained your comment about how it has been three weeks since you have seen us," stated his Mom trying to get the conversation back on course.

"It turns out the device was a lot more capable than the Professor had ever admitted to Lex. Oh, it can instantly open a doorway to any spot on earth. What the Professor neglected to explain was that it could also open the doorway to any other time. That's right; the Professor's device is a fully functional time machine."

"Time machine?" echoed Martha feeling like she had just stepped straight into a 'Twilight Zone' episode, not that life in Smallville during the past year hadn't come close a few times without even anything as outrageous as a time machine.

"Yeah, a time machine. When we passed through the device, we discovered Lana tied up on the other side. However the Professor had removed the meteor rocks from the equipment on that side and until we found him, we had no way of using the device to get back to the school. Only after we started our search for the Professor did we discover we were in the ancient Roman Empire in the year 37 A.D. just outside the town which would one day become Toulouse, France."

"You, you . . . you were in the year 37 A.D.?" sputtered Martha trying to comprehend the impossible.

Clark nodded and squeezed Chloe's hand. "If Chloe and Lex hadn't known a little Latin, I don't know how we all would have survived."

"And this is when you revealed your 'secret'?" asked Jonathan.

Clark shook his head. "I thought about it a lot, but as usual I tried to do what needed to be done without giving myself away. It wasn't until we got to Rome when the situation spiraled out of control."

"You went to Rome?"

"The Professor managed to set up the time machine to give himself a day's head start. It also turned out he had allies back there from previous trips and his plan was to use Lana as bait to draw Lex through the machine to have him killed on the other side. The Professor had been acquiring antiquities directly from the source and bringing them forward in time to sell on the black market. He had decided he no longer needed Lex's financial support and if Lex was killed back in time, there wouldn't be a body to cause him trouble here.

"However the professor didn't like to get his own hands dirty, so he headed for Rome while leaving a group of mercenary guards to take care of Lex and anyone with him. I managed to slow them down long enough to allow us to get clear of Toulouse and on the Professor's trail.

"It took us a week to reach Rome. Unfortunately, the head of the Praetorian Guard in Rome was an accomplice of the Professor's from our time, whom they had set up in that position of power ten years earlier. That commander of the guard kidnapped Chloe and Lana with the intention of executing them at the gladiatorial games like something out of an old 'Christians versus the Lions' movie from the fifties. That's when I couldn't come up with any way of saving the girls without revealing my secret."

Martha's memory flashed back to watching the movie, 'The Robe', with the Christians led out into the stadium to meet their fate at the hands of the ravenous lions as the crowds in the stadium cheered. "Oh, my god, lions," she whispered.

"Actually, that day it was about one hundred and fifty bears from the Black Forest in Germany. Unfortunately, Lex and I didn't discover where the girls were until it was almost too late. We only made it in time because I carried Lex in 'speed mode' and then I defeated the bears by discovering a new ability the hard way."

Clark hated to tell his parents this abbreviated version of the facts. But this version was hard enough to believe and the truth that he had arrived too late and the girls were already dead was beyond his ability to tell at the moment without breaking down. Plus the secrets involved in that part of the story were not his alone to divulge.

"What new ability?" asked his Father.

Clark glanced around the room until he spotted a group of candles arranged among some fresh cut flowers on the sideboard. Focusing his vision, in a fraction of a second all six candles were burning brightly.

His parents had followed his gaze and looked at the candles in astonishment.

"That first day at the stadium when this new 'heat vision' kicked in, it was so scary and I felt totally out of control."

Martha was wondering how starting small fires with his eyes could leave him feeling so out of control.

Chloe could see the Kents didn't understand the magnitude of Clark's heat vision abilities and jumped in to explain. "Lighting those candles is just a small parlor trick. At the arena with the heat vision at full power, it was unbelievable. Large swathes of the sandy arena floor were turned into rivers of molten glass. Two inch thick iron bars were instantly vaporized under his gaze. Large portions of the wooden seating were soon engulfed in flames. It was almost like the arena had descended into hell itself."

Martha shuddered, as once more it was driven home how unusual her son was. How would he ever have a normal life? How was it Chloe could sit there calmly holding his hand and not run from him in terror?

"Oh, Clark," was all Martha was able to get out.

Clark shrugged. "At least we all survived the events in the arena and we managed to retrieve the meteor rocks from the Professor. During the week and a half it took us to get back to the device hidden outside Toulouse, I did manage to learn to control the heat vision."

"So you had to lug the meteor rocks around for ten days before you got back to Toulouse?" asked Jonathan of his son with a quick meaningful flicker of his eyes towards Chloe.

Clark understood the hidden question about whether the others knew about his weakness in addition to his strengths. "Chloe knows the effect meteor rocks have on me. I needed her help to locate a lead box to carry the rocks. Lana also may know about the rocks, but I don't think Lex does."

Jonathan released a quiet sigh of relief; it was bad enough that Lex knew about Clark's 'gifts'.

Martha also released a sigh, but it was more one of exasperation. "I hate these stories where there isn't a shred of proof they ever occurred. Are you sure it wasn't just a dream?"

"Yeah, right, Mom. All four of us sharing exactly the same dream," Clark paused for a moment for another deep breathe before dropping the other bombshell. "Besides, we do have proof time-travel is possible."

"What kind of proof?" asked Martha and Jonathan almost simultaneously.

"Well, time travel can result in strange things, like how your yesterday is three weeks ago for me. Anyway, Chloe arrived back before the rest of us and she used the extra time to rescue Lana's parents before they were killed in the meteor shower. Right this minute they are at Lex's apartment in Metropolis, perfectly healthy and not a day older than when the meteor shower hit. Oh, and she brought back Lex's Mom, Lillian, too."

Martha looked at Chloe for confirmation. "All three of them are really alive?"

"Yeah, it is strange how time-loops work sometimes. I arrived back a couple of years before the others and since an earlier me already existed in Smallville, I couldn't come back here. So I ended up wangling a research assistant position with the Professor, helping develop his device just to keep an eye on things. Ultimately, I had a part in sending myself and the others back in time to close the loop. While I had several years to kill, I came up with the idea to pull Lana's parents out just before the meteor hit and then to retrieve Lex's Mom, too. After the things we went through in ancient Rome, well, after Clark; Lex and Lana are my best friends and I had to do what I could to make their lives happier. However, I am not sure how Lex and Lana are going to deal publicly with their parents appearing to have returned from the dead, so for the moment, treat this like you would Clark's secret."

Martha's mind boggled at the concept that three people everyone had thought were dead for years and years were suddenly back. Finally, she focused on the part of the story she could almost understand. "Oh, Chloe, I wondered why you reacted so strongly when you arrived. So for Clark it has been three weeks since he left on the field trip to Metropolis U., but for you it has been several years? It must have been so hard to be all alone for all that time."

Chloe's eyes teared up a little. If only Martha knew the true magnitude of what she had been through. "Yeah, it was hard. But I kept myself busy working on the device and, you know me, I also talked my way into a part- time position on the university paper."

All of a sudden, things clicked in Martha's head. "Chloe, this mysterious cousin Lois at the university, she is really you, right?"

Chloe started to nod and then her eyes widened as she realized the cat was out of the bag. She had told Martha she and Clark had spent the night at Lois' apartment. Shit.

Jonathan looked from Martha with the intense expression on her face to Chloe with the look of a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Something more important and more personal was going on than stories about time-travel and long dead parents returning.

"Martha?"

Martha looked at the pleading expression in Chloe's face as she watched her eyes tear up. Then Martha looked at Clark who was still casually holding Chloe's hand and didn't realize what was going on between the two women. Finally, she looked at Jonathan. After twenty years together they knew each other so well it was almost like they could read the other's mind. Jonathan hadn't yet put two and two together and come up with five, but it wouldn't take him long if she didn't change the course of the conversation.

The question was how did she want to handle this? Even though it hadn't been said directly; it was now apparent Clark and Chloe had been sleeping together back in ancient Rome. Certainly the life and death struggle in that barbaric arena, when they didn't know if they would ever get home, would have been enough to push any man and woman into each other's arms. And then the several year separation after Chloe somehow returned so much earlier than Clark. If they were just reunited last night, she could again understand the emotions and actions getting out of control.

If she brought things to a head now, what would be the consequences? Would Jonathan try to force Clark and Chloe back to some lesser level of involvement? Would it force Clark and Chloe to take some step that they would all come to regret?

No, it was better if the subject was dropped for the moment until she could think things through and maybe talk to Clark and Chloe one-on-one.

"Later, dear. I think it is time you all get washed up for dinner; I will have something ready in a few minutes. After all of the excitement, I am afraid it is only going to be a salad and cold cuts."

"Ah, thanks, Mrs. Kent," said Chloe, letting Martha know it was meant on several different levels. "But I really need to be getting home."

Clark turned to her. "I thought you would want to see the spaceship."

Chloe smiled at him. She dearly wanted to stay with Clark at this moment, but knew it would be best to give Clark's Mom some time to deal with the things she knew and with her husband. "Clark, I really do, but it has been a long time since I have seen my Dad. The spaceship has been waiting for many years; it will still be there tomorrow."

Clark nodded. He could understand her wanting to see Gabe again after all of this time. Standing up from the table, Clark walked over to the peg board by the door where the various keys were hung. Selecting the keys to the truck, he said. "Mom, Dad, I am going to run Chloe home. I'll be back in an hour."

Martha and Jonathan followed them out onto the porch and stood watching as they walked hand-in-hand over to where the old battered red pickup was parked about thirty feet short of the barn. Watching them, Martha was struck by how they seemed the perfect couple. Even with all of Clark's unique 'gifts', Chloe strangely seemed his match. Was it the last couple of years, where she had been forced to live on her own in Metropolis, which had given her the sudden extra maturity?

As they got out of earshot of their parents, Clark said. "That went easier than I was expecting, although I can't believe it will take them long after the shock wears off to notice all of the glaring holes in that version of story. I have never told them anything but the complete truth before."

"Clark, your mom knows."

"Knows what?"

"Knows about us. I think as soon as she saw you she knew on some instinctive level we were sleeping together. But stupid me, I told her on the walk up to the house we spent the night at Lois' apartment."

Clark was silent for a moment, then he shrugged. "I agree with the need to keep your secret and now Lex and Lana's, too, from them, but our relationship does effect them. I don't know how we will handle it yet, but I don't want to go sneaking around behind their backs. If it comes to it, I would rather share your secret with them than lie about our relationship."

"Clark, I don't want to lie to your parents either, but I don't know that telling them about my past is going to make it any easier for them to handle things between us. I mean, if they are bothered because they think we are too young, how are they going to handle my age and the knowledge I have been married hundreds of times and have had hundreds of children? I am afraid they will freak, which is the usual response of the majority of people who don't think I am just plain crazy."

They had just climbed into the truck and Clark reached over and clasped her hand. "I don't think you're crazy and I won't freak out."

Clark let go of her hand and was moving to insert the key in the ignition when some sixth sense or subtle clue below his level of consciousness kicked his x-ray vision into gear. Looking down, he saw the incendiary device attached to the bottom of the fuel tank go off. While his body was accelerating up into speed mode he helplessly watched the gasoline ignite, increasing the magnitude of the explosion. Clark knew in a matter of milliseconds the whole truck, and the girl he loved, would be consumed in flames.

-

Lana snuggled closer into Lex's arms enjoying the sense of security they provided. As she lay there, she tried to understand why everything felt so strange since awakening back in the physics lab at Metropolis University. And it wasn't just suddenly finding the parents she had never known, alive and well. No, everything felt different: her body, her senses, even her head. Was it some weird after-effect of having been dead? Her body continuously felt abuzz with . . . oh, what was the best word . . . ahh, yes, vitality. Everything, all the colors and sounds and odors, seemed so vibrant. And, as they lay on the couch in the living room of Lex's apartment, how was it she simply knew the large stain glass window on the other side of the room was exactly twenty seven feet, eight inches away and was composed of 1,264 chips of green glass, 753 chips of yellow, 312 chips of blue, 78 chips of orange, and 2,491 chips of clear glass?

Feeling Lex start to stir, she slowly rotated her body around until she was facing him rather than the window. Looking at his face, she had to reach up and stroke his rich auburn hair. It took some getting used to, but she was finding she liked the new look.

Slowly Lex's eyes opened. The first thing he saw was Lana's face, up so close it seemed like all he could see were eyes. Eyes almost closed down to slits which meant if he looked down he would see a big smile across the lower portion of her face.

"Morning."

"I think good afternoon would be more accurate."

Lex looked around. They were on the couch in the living room of his apartment in Metropolis, not on some divan in ancient Rome. Then Lex came fully awake as he remembered the events of the previous evening: the return to the present via the Professor's device, the self-sacrifice of Laura to allow Lana a chance to regain access to her own body, the reawakening of Lana for the first time since her 'death' in the Roman arena, the revelation of Laura's continued quasi-existence in a virtual reality region of Chloe's nanobot enhanced mind, Chloe's destruction of the Professor's time machine, the discovery of Chloe's role as the guiding force behind the development of the time machine, and, finally, Chloe's miraculous retrieval of his Mom and Lana's parents from their original deaths. The number of revelations he had experienced the previous night had been overwhelming. Perhaps that is why he had slept so long, to give his subconscious time to process all of the new data.

Lex reached up to caress Lana's hair. She had experienced all of the same revelations, but didn't have the advantage of the two previous week's experiences to help mentally prepare her. In fact, from her perspective she had just 'died' in that ancient Roman arena one instant, and found herself alive in the Professor's lab the next. If everything had almost overwhelmed him, what about her?

"Lana, how are you?"

Lana looked into his eyes for a moment and could tell he wanted the truth. "I feel so. . . so . . . ahh, strange."

Lex couldn't help but tense a little. "Strange good or strange bad?"

Lana's face acquired a thoughtful look for a minute before she shook her head. "Just strange. Oh, not like I am about to die again or anything. In fact, my body feels incredible good like I have never been sick a day in my life, if you know what I mean."

Lex nodded. He did know exactly what she meant. He had experienced the same feeling on numerous occasions over the past couple of weeks when Chloe or Laura had touched his body and activated his nanobots to heal his injuries or remove his fatigue. However, for him, the feeling started to fade as soon as the girls removed their touch, but for Lana the feeling would probably always exist except for a few seconds when she was seriously hurt.

"Things were happening so fast and furious from the moment you awoke in the lab until we got here, we never had a chance to explain how Chloe saved you in the arena and which may also explain a lot about how you are feeling."

Lana realized she had forgotten Lex had mentioned Chloe was the one who saved her after she 'died'. How did she bring people back from the dead? "I remember from last night Chloe also saying she waited until your Mom died before 'healing' her and sending her forward through the portal device to the present. How does Chloe bring people back from the dead?"

Lex settled more comfortably back against the couch; this wasn't going to be a simple one minute explanation. "Chloe can't really bring people back from the dead. She can just 'heal' people up to a point in time after apparent death but before true death, which is the cessation of brain activity and shutdown of certain other bodily functions. In many cases, true death occurs about five minutes after apparent death. It is this extra five minute window that she used to save you and my Mom."

"Okay, so I wasn't quite truly dead, it still doesn't explain how she saved me."

"Remember Chloe explaining how her body is filled with nanobots to heal any injuries and how they keep her from getting old?"

"Yeah, Lex, I remember all of that. I may have been dead, but it's not the same as amnesia. Chloe had the nanobots injected into her body by her biological father just before her original civilization collapsed seventeen thousand years ago. And her body has remained sixteen ever since."

Lex was glad to hear it seemed like all of her memories were intact. During the two weeks Laura had inhabited her body, he had worried some of her memories would be lost or destroyed in the process, but apparently Laura had existed entirely within the 'bot system and hadn't significantly altered Lana's mind.

"Okay, this ability of Chloe's to heal others was not part of the original design of her 'bot system, but when she was about seven thousand years old, she almost by accident figured out how to force her 'bots into other people's bodies and then use her internal healing abilities to heal the other person, too."

Lana considered this for a moment. "You said last night Chloe had also healed injuries of yours, too. So are you feeling the same things I am?"

Lex shook his head. "No. The nanobots are keyed to Chloe's genetic code. The 'bots in my body are inert except when she touches me."

"Then why do they seem to be active in my body? I mean, if I go cut myself with a knife, I have this strong feeling the wound would instantly heal."

"Yeah, Chloe says it has never happened before, but the 'bots are active in your body. Laura thinks it is due to your having worn that piece of meteor rock all those years. The meteor rocks seem to effect everything they come into contact with and apparently Chloe's 'bots are no exception."

"You and Chloe have both mentioned this Laura several times. Who is she? Why don't I remember her?"

Lex found talking about Laura hard. Knowing a virtual version of her still existed in Chloe's nanobot memory system made it a little easier, but he had grown to have feelings for her during the two weeks she had inhabited Lana's body. And now she was effectively gone.

"When Chloe's 'bots first infiltrate the synapse of your brain, they try to download a backup copy of her memories into your mind. For me, it felt like I was experiencing an almost endless stream of moments from her long life. And all of those moments felt real rather than just a faded memory. I only experienced her memories for about five seconds before my body was healed and Chloe broke physical contact, and all of the 'bots in my body went inert. But by the end of those five seconds I almost felt like I had forgotten who I was.

"Since the 'bots in your body remained active after Chloe stopped touching you, her memories never turned off. With all of her computer enhanced memories present, well, for all practical purposes, it was Chloe's mind in your body after your body was healed back in the arena."

Lana just stared at Lex for several long moments. "So, for several weeks, I was alive and well, running around ancient Rome, but thought I was Chloe?"

"You had all of her seventeen thousand years worth of memories and none of your own. You had all of her nanobot derived abilities like the healing, the enhanced reflexes, and the mind-link," Lex shrugged. "Except for the outward appearance of your body, you were, for all practical purposes, Chloe. However, we couldn't refer to both of you as Chloe and calling you Lana didn't seem right either. So we called the version of Chloe in your body Laura."

Lana nodded. Calling the other version of her Laura did make a convoluted sort of sense. Then she thought about some of the other things Lex had said. She knew about Chloe's healing abilities and the enhanced reflexes, but didn't recall any discussions about a mind-link. "What mind-link?"

"Oh, that's right, since Chloe never mentioned her ability to heal others before the events in the arena; she never mentioned the related mind-link thing either. Chloe and Laura could activate the passive 'bots in anyone like me, who they have healed, by just touching the person. Beyond just healing the person, they can also use the 'bots in the other person's brain to communicate directly mind-to-mind. But it is more than that, they can project an image into your brain and it feels absolutely real; I mean, many times over the past two weeks, Laura created a virtual version of my office back in the mansion and it was perfectly real. You could walk around, have a drink, play pool, anything and it felt completely real."

Lana's eyes widened has what Lex was implying sank home. "Ahh, so I can do those things, too?"

"You could do it when Chloe's mind was in control of your body, so you should be able to. I don't know if it takes practice or what." Since Lana didn't seem uncomfortable with the topic, Lex decided to try a small experiment and spoke to her with just his mind. 'Lana, can you hear me?'

He thought she was going to launch off of the couch, she started so violently. Once she got over the surprise, she responded in kind. 'Lex, this is so cool.'

'Yes, and it can be so much more.' Then Lex opened up his mind and in a few seconds passed along all of the events during Lana's missing two weeks including his relationship with Laura and how Laura had sacrificed herself to let Lana have her body back.

Lana was a little bothered by his feelings for Laura at first, since there was a definite sense of more than just 'friends' involved. But Lex had never behaved in an inappropriate way with Laura and more importantly, he thought of Laura as a unique individual or more a variation of Lana than a variation of Chloe. Even though it was Chloe's memories and mind that was involved, Lana didn't get any impression Lex had developed romantic feelings for Chloe during the two weeks she had been 'gone'.

Deciding they had done enough talking for the moment, Lana proceeded to do what she had been contemplating the whole time she had been lying there waiting for Lex to awake; she leaned forward and kissed him. When she had returned to her body back at the lab, she had been too disoriented to express her feelings to Lex. Then once the staggering discovery of the return of her parents had occurred, she had been too overwhelmed. And perhaps, she had to admit, too shy, for with the return of her parents she had felt almost like a little girl again. By the time they had made it from the university to Lex's apartment and everyone was temporarily talked out, she and Lex had fallen asleep on the couch only moments after showing their parents to guest bedrooms.

But now while they had a few moments of privacy, Lana wanted to reestablish the connection she had felt for the past week with Lex, well, the last three weeks from Lex's perspective. It wasn't until the whole time-travel adventure to ancient Rome and a late night couch ride that they had realized the strong feelings they had for each other. Then it had been a single short week before her 'death' in the arena. And Lex hadn't even been there at the end. No, the last time she saw Lex before her death had been at Emperor Caligula's banquet at the Imperial Palace a few minutes before she and Chloe had been kidnapped and then forced to endure a long, painful night of torture at the hands of Venta, the Professor's ally in the Praetorian Guard, before ultimately being executed in the Roman arena. Vainly she had waited for Lex and Clark to rescue her as she was forced to watch Chloe's death by javelin and then watch the guards turn their attention to her.

Lana shuddered in the middle of the kiss as the nightmare of her death once more played out in her mind. Lex could sense her emotions through the mind- link and tried to ease her through the experience. 'Lana, it is going to be okay. All of that is in the past, the very distant past. I am sure, if there is a next time, it will be easier with the 'bots now in your body. Hell, just imagine how much easier the past year with all of its meteor freaks would have been with a nanobot enhanced body.'

Lana was amazed. With the mind-link they could even carry on a conversation in the middle of a passionate kiss. 'Shh, Lex. Just kiss me.' And then Lana discovered a kiss could be more than she ever imagined when emotions could be exchanged through the mind-link at the same time.

-

Roger Nixon stared down into the Kent homestead from his prone position on the small hillock in the woods at the east edge of their property. His location was almost three blocks from the house and the barn, but the powerful zoom lens on the high-end camcorder he had 'borrowed' from the photo department at The Inquisitor clearly showed any activity on the small LCD screen.

At three that morning Nixon had snuck onto their property and attached the device to the fuel tank on the bottom of the pickup. Then he had quickly retreated to his prepared position back here in the trees. As he sat there in the chilly pre-dawn night, he pondered once again why anyone would want to be a farmer with its need for such an early start to the day. By the time he detected movement down by the house, he was already on his third cup of coffee.

Fortunately, he had been a reporter for a long time and knew from experience sometimes the best stories only came to light after a long, dreary stakeout. And this stakeout was turning out to be one of those kinds, although he fully expected it was going to have a more explosive finish then most since, for once, he was in control of the situation.

All morning he had watched the barnyard for a sign of the Kent kid, but all he saw was the father making trips between the barn and an old tractor he was obviously repairing. Nixon's nerves were steadily getting worse the more time passed and they really started to jangle when just before lunch Jonathan Kent climbed into the old truck and drove off. Most likely Kent was just off on some errand, perhaps even to pick up his son. The device was well hidden; it was unlikely it would be found without putting the truck up on a hoist. And even if it was found, there was nothing about the device which could be traced back to him. Still, he had one of the longest, scariest forty-five minutes in his life until Kent drove back onto the farm and lifted a box out of the bed of the truck with the large red and white label from the local farm machinery dealer.

After that bit of excitement the day again turned dull and tedious. The elder Kents came and went around the barnyard and by mid-afternoon the old tractor was chugging across the yard under its own power. Nixon was almost getting ready to concede the younger Kent was unfortunately gone for the weekend when the long black limo passed under the wooden 'Kent Farms' sign at the entrance to the drive.

The limo ground to a halt halfway between the barn and the house. Without waiting for the chauffer to get out, the door at the back swung open and the long-awaited Clark Kent climbed out. Pausing, the younger Kent reached out his hand and helped a blonde girl out of the dark interior.

Nixon zoomed the camcorder up to its maximum setting and recognized the girl as Chloe Sullivan, editor for Smallville High's student newspaper, 'The Torch'. Nixon had had several conversations with her about her meteor rock theories after he had come across her personal 'Wall of the Weird' addendum to the official school paper website. One of these conversations had even led to his discovery of the crop duster, Eddie Cole, and his story of the unexplained, mysterious object that had fallen to earth during the infamous meteor shower.

Nixon watched as the girl ran up and hugged Mrs. Kent. He knew Clark did occasional articles for 'The Torch', but hadn't realized Chloe Sullivan and the boy were this close. A slight twist on his original idea started to germinate in the back of his head as he watched the two women head for the house while Clark turned to the barn. After only a couple of minutes the father and son exited the barn with the older man's arm draped parentally across the younger one's shoulder.

As the two men disappeared into the house and the barnyard once more was silent, Nixon's eyes were again drawn to the small box resting in the grass beside him, a deceptively simple looking gray box with a cheap telescoping silver antenna and a solitary black button. But with one push of the button a massive explosion would result from the actions of its counterpart attached to the fuel tank of the pickup.

Waiting for Clark to reappear from within the house, Nixon once more ran through the unlikely chain of events that had led him to this position. It had all started six months earlier when the Lex Luthor look-a-like had robbed the Smallville bank. He himself had only returned to Metropolis six weeks earlier after working on the Edge City Herald for five years. Six weeks at the Inquisitor and it had seemed like a 'Luthor' story would be the perfect way to cement his job or perhaps start a nest egg on the side instead. Either way it was a win-win situation, at least until he discovered the Luthors' version of hardball made everything he had come up against in Edge City seem like Little League. No, that wasn't really fair. The Luthors made Edge City seem not like Little League but more like Tee- ball.

He hated the way he found himself groveling before Lex and begging Lex to take his money back and then letting Lex define the terms of their relationship, but eventually he found it was far more lucrative working for Lex then the mere $100,000 he had tried to extort. And agreeing to work for Lex had led to the Porsche and the unexplainable story of the bridge and Clark Kent.

He spent much of his free time away from the Inquisitor over the next several months pursuing the investigation of the accident at the bridge. He had interviewed seemingly countless automotive, forensic, and computer simulation experts. Not that it was all hard work, as he had even managed ten days in Germany at Lex's expense to get Porsche's own structural engineers' stamp of approval on the simulation developed to explain the damage to the car.

When he had presented the results of the simulation, everything had seemed so conclusive: the car had definitely hit the Kent boy mere inches before penetrating the guardrail and plunging into the river. However the scenario couldn't explain how the boy not only survived, but managed to pull Lex from the wreckage. At first, Lex had been enthused and had ordered him to do more digging into the Kents' background. But then only a couple of days later Lex did a 180 degree turn and ordered him to drop all investigations into the Kents, and it was not worded as a mere suggestion.

For the next couple of months he had had almost no communications with Lex and the bright future of fame and easy money seemed to be fading. He had tried to patiently wait for the next opportunity when Lex would need a journalistic resource when one, Karen Castle, decided to play in his personal sandbox. Karen Castle, a rookie reporter barely out of college, made a casual remark about going to Smallville for a few days and then returned to fill a suddenly vacant corner office, the office he had secretly yearned for from his first day at the Inquisitor. The incident had been driven home two facts. First, Lex was one of the powers at The Inquisitor. Second, to get Lex's attention, you needed to be in his face in Smallville, not working in Metropolis regardless how much more important the stories seemed to be.

Since the Kents were off-limits, and he knew better than to cross Lex in this regard without a really strong case, he needed to find some other reason to be hanging around Smallville. Googling 'Smallville' for ideas had led him to meteor rocks and then to Chloe Sullivan and finally to crop duster Eddie Cole before he had finally found something interesting enough to bring directly to Lex's attention. Unfortunately, on the surface Lex appeared to discount the entire 'crashed spaceship' story. This had really pissed him off when he discovered Lex had followed up the lead, but had turned the whole effort over to a Doctor Hamilton. It was really annoying the way Lex could just walk away with all of your hard work without even a thank you.

He had almost been ready to give up and return to Metropolis when he had picked up rumors of Chloe Sullivan's apparent kidnapping. Like so many other things he had encountered here in Smallville, there had been no public announcements, no state-wide manhunts, just a few clues here and there. Ultimately, it came down to another stakeout and a well-placed bug at The Talon, where both Kent and Sullivan always seemed to hang out, that led to his following the kidnapper and the Lang girl to the shuttered carnival site. And that was when he had made his crowning discovery, the final showdown between Clark Kent and the kidnapper. Unfortunately, he had only been armed with his binoculars as he witnessed the kidnapper, who was later identified as one of Smallville's own deputies, fire three shots into Kent at point-blank range. Three shots that couldn't possibly have missed. Three shots that should have instantly dropped Kent to the ground. But Kent didn't go down, didn't even seem to flinch. No, he just calmly grabbed the kidnapper with one hand and tossed him twenty yards through the air.

So, there he sat, knowing Clark Kent had been hit by a speeding car without being hurt, shot three times without being hurt, could throw a full grown man around like a rag doll, and he didn't have a shred of hard proof.

After the events at the carnival, he had returned to researching Clark Kent, Lex's wishes be damned. If Lex was going to cut him out of the investigations into the crop duster's claims of seeing a ship crash during the meteor shower, he felt no longer constrained by Lex's request to leave the Kents alone.

It hadn't taken much effort to discover the younger Kent had been adopted as a child mere weeks after the meteor shower, but then the trail had gone cold. The adoption agency involved no longer existed and from what he could find, only one adoption had ever even occurred through its auspices.

He had tried going back to Chloe Sullivan to enlist her aid, but when she discovered his interest had changed from meteor rocks to Clark Kent, he had witnessed an instantaneous mood change. In fact, she had set a new record as the youngest female to ever tell him to 'Fuck off' as she threw him out of The Torch's office.

Finally, he came back to the crux of the matter; if he was going to ever have a story to sell, he needed hard proof of Kent's unique abilities. He could hang around Smallville waiting for the right opportunity, but it might be months or years before he was at the right time and place. No, he was going to have to create the incident himself.

Ten years earlier, during the Gulf War, his army reserve unit had been called up and spent the six months after the fighting was over, removing mine fields left behind by the Iraqis in Kuwait. He had learned a lot about explosives and remote triggering devices during that chaotic period of his life. And not all of the knowledge had faded away over the intervening years. No, between his memories and a little research on the Internet, the device had been surprisingly easy to put together.

So, here he sat; his musings over the path leading to this juncture having conveniently filled the time until the door to the house once more swung open. Firing up the camcorder, he watched has Kent and Sullivan walked over to the pickup. Based on their arrival by limo, it was clear Kent was about to drive the girl home. He could wait for the boy's return before setting off the device, but he decided doing it now would result in more dramatic and conclusive footage. Perhaps if the girl hadn't told him to 'fuck off', he might have waited. But he had come to realize while he was planning the test, he would never be able to risk going public with this video as he couldn't explain how he had just happened to be present with a camcorder at the time of the explosion. No, the only recipient of this tape would have to be someone like a Luthor who wouldn't ask any indiscrete questions. Therefore the death of the girl would only reinforce the miraculous nature of Kent's survival.

Reaching over, he picked up the triggering device. Once the kids were in the truck and he had the shot framed optimally in the viewfinder, he didn't hesitate in firmly pressing the button.

-

It took two milliseconds for Clark's body to ramp all of the way up to its maximum 'speed' mode. If this explosion had happened before the events back in ancient Rome, he might not have been fast enough to do anything but ride out the explosion even with Chloe trapped in the cab with him. However events there required him to push his abilities up to a whole new level and now he took advantage of the order of magnitude increase in his 'speed' mode.

As time seemed to grind to a halt, Clark opened the door, stepped out, crouched down, and lifted the side of the pickup to get at the fuel tank on the bottom. The exposed explosion had only reached one tenth of the way through the fuel tank and it was strange seeing flames frozen in place as though they were a mere painting rather than the real thing.

Holding the truck aloft with one hand, Clark slid under and tore loose the four brackets holding the tank in place. Carefully keeping the flame and fuel contained within the burning tank, he shifted it until it was clear of the side of the truck. Then with a hard toss he hurled the tank away from the buildings in the direction of the pasture. Not wanting to start any fires on their property, Clark cranked up his heat vision to a higher level than he had attempted on any occasion since that out of control day in the Roman arena. At this extreme power level his heat vision didn't merely burn the fuel in the tank, but actually broke down the chemical bonds in the gasoline molecules converting it instantly back into its inert component atoms. Even the atomic structure of the tank itself was destroyed leaving just a cloud of atoms that dispersed in the gentle late afternoon breeze.

Lowering the truck back to the ground, Clark stood and scanned the area with his x-ray vision. Since he hadn't even gotten the key into the ignition, it didn't seem like any action on his part had triggered the device. If it was triggered remotely, then someone was probably close by to know when to set it off. He had only completed one quarter of a rotation in his search when he spotted the human-shaped skeleton stretched out on the ground on a low rise in nearest corner of the woods beyond the house. Just to be sure there weren't more people involved, as he didn't want to leave Chloe or his parents at risk, Clark completed his 360 degree sweep before heading off towards the woods.

Still in 'speed' mode, Clark raced out to the lone individual he had spotted in the woods. He found a man he didn't recognize laying prone on the ground with a camcorder in one hand and what was obviously the triggering device in the other. Such a small fraction of a second had passed since the start of the events; the man's thumb was still pressed against the button on top of the box.

Clark quickly patted the man down until he located his wallet in his back pants pocket. Removing it, he rapidly scanned through the contents. The two most interesting items were the Kansas driver's license stating he was a 'Roger Nixon', age 38 of Metropolis; and the Metropolis Inquisitor press card. Great. All he needed was a reporter on his tail. And based on the prominent camcorder, a reporter who must have seen him use his abilities somewhere before and was now trying to collect some 'hard' evidence. Well, not today, thought Clark as he studied the camcorder with his x-ray vision. Locating the miniature cassette within the device, he burned two needle- fine holes through the plastic side of the case in a location well clear of the camera's electronics and then melted a significant portion of the tape on each of the reels. Mr. Roger Nixon was going to get an unhappy surprise when he tried to play back the tape.

Deciding Nixon needed to have a little fear of god put into him before he was chased away; Clark sprawled on the ground next to him before dropping out of 'speed' mode.

-

Nixon pressed the button on the box and thought he saw a brief flash of light, then nothing. No explosion, no ball of flame, no thunder-like roar. Nothing.

He had just released his thumb to try stabbing the button again when he sensed the presence of someone next to him. He got the shock of his life when he realized the Kent kid, who had just a second before entered the truck, was stretched out on the ground next to him.

"You know," said Clark in a calm conversational tone with a nod of his head towards the camcorder. "Now that the weather has turned warm, I think you would find Crater Lake a better location for voyeuristic activity. Several of the girls who like to go skinny-dipping there are pretty hot."

Nixon's eyes swept back and forth between the vacant driver's seat of the pickup and the boy beside him. Finally, all he got out was a strangled, "How?"

Clark reached over and clapped his hand down on Nixon's shoulder. Not hard enough to break anything, but with sufficient force to knock the camcorder and the detonating device out of his hands.

"Roger, you owe me two hundred bucks."

"How do you know my name?"

Clark waved his free hand in front of him much like a magician does to show he has nothing up his sleeve. Then abruptly, Nixon's driver's license appeared as if by magic.

"Roger Nixon, 13053 Devonshire Blvd, Apartment 6B, Metropolis. Roger, you seem to be a long way out of your territory." Then as magically as it had appeared, the driver's license disappeared from Clark's hand.

As Nixon continued to stare at him in shock, Clark reached over and picked up the remote control device by the end of its antenna. "Now, I figure it is going to cost me two hundred to get a replacement fuel tank for the truck from Carney's Auto Salvage and then get it installed. So, you can either pay up, or we can take a stroll down the hill and show this little toy to my Dad. He isn't as calm about attempted murder as I am, so I expect he will fuck you up pretty bad before turning you over to the sheriff. And just for your information, the sheriff and my Dad go way back to when my Dad was a quarterback in high school and the sheriff was his favorite running back. I am sure you can imagine how 'good ole boys' here in the sticks look after their own."

Nixon couldn't believe how badly his hand was shaking as he reached back to pull out his wallet. How had the kid stopped the explosion and then gotten up here in the blink of an eye? What has he?

Carefully, Nixon opened his wallet, not at all surprised to find his driver's license in its accustomed spot. Generally, he paid his expenses by credit cards for the receipts, but he did typically carry a couple of hundred for those unexpected 'cash under the table' situations. Quietly, he pulled a hundred and five twenties out and handed them over.

"Good man, I think you made the smart decision. Now let's gather up your possessions and I will escort you to your car. I would recommend you drive straight back to Metropolis, because if I ever see you in Smallville again after the next five minutes, well, remember the line from the 'Terminator' movie about the time machine and a retro-active abortion? I think that might be the most pleasant option for what could happen to you. Oh, by the way, I think I will hang on to the triggering device for the time being."

Nixon stood there not moving, hardly breathing, as Clark handed him the camcorder, the blanket, and the igloo ice chest, which was now mostly empty.

Clark started towards Nixon's car, but Nixon didn't move. After a couple of steps, Clark turned back and tugged on Nixon's arm to get him moving.

"Come on, man. You need to focus and get going. You don't want to be here when my Dad comes looking."

And to himself Clark added, the one Nixon really needed to be worried about was Chloe. She hated people messing with her. Truth be told if it came to it, Nixon would be better off running afoul of his father; he would merely bust up Nixon's body. But Chloe, whoa, she would mess with Nixon's head and he would probably end up in a straightjacket at some mental institute slowly banging his head against a padded wall.

Clark shook his head. The scary part was his thoughts about Chloe were not that much of an exaggeration. From some of the stories she had told of her long existence, there were times when she had had little regard for human life. When you spent lifetime after lifetime outliving your friends and family, it eventually became difficult to care whether someone lived twenty years or seventy; either way they seemed to be gone in the blink of an eye. And it was even harder to care if they were a potential enemy, which you had to consider someone who tried to kill you.

Of course, Clark chided himself; he was hardly one to talk. During the events at the Praetorian Camp and again in the Roman arena, he had let his fears for the girls' safety get control of him and how many unintended deaths had resulted from his actions? Ten? A hundred? A thousand?

But his thoughts drifted back to Chloe and some of the abilities she had acquired through her nanobot enhancements. Messing up Nixon's mind would definitely be child's play to her. From what she had said, she could make anyone she had 'saved' . . . oh, be truthful with yourself, Clark, the Borg term 'assimilated' was really more accurate . . . she could make anyone she had 'assimilated' see, hear, even believe anything she wanted them to. If she decided Nixon needed to spend some time in Hell for what he had attempted, she could truly make him believe he was in Hell.

Roger was just beginning to comprehend the consequences of what he had done or tried to do. If word of it got out, he would surely end up in jail. What had he been thinking to try a stunt that would look like attempted murder to anyone who didn't believe in Kent's secret abilities? And throwing in the girl, it really had been attempted murder. Why had he done it? And the bigger question, why was the kid letting him walk away? For all of his bravado, did the kid have just as much to lose if the cops got involved?

Nixon's car was in sight when his pace began to falter. Finally, twenty feet short of the car he ground to a halt. As Clark turned to grab his arm to get him moving again, Nixon spoke up sounding more forceful and in control of himself than at any time since Clark had appeared beside him on the small rise in the woods.

"Why are you letting me go?"

Clark looked at him for a minute. Then in a tone that said it was the truth, "I have better things to do with my time then spend it in courtrooms. You got lucky this time and no one was hurt. But you are not going to get a second chance with me. If I ever see you in Smallville, well," and Clark snapped his fingers and instantly disappeared and reappeared on Nixon's far side. "I will put you down so hard and so fast you will never know what happened."

Clark paused a moment to let what Nixon had just experienced sink in. "Now, get out of here."

Nixon's throat had gone so dry it felt impossible to swallow and his heart was once more pounding so hard he thought he was going to have a heart attack. Whatever Clark Kent was, his abilities went way beyond anything Nixon had been expecting. At the moment, he was just glad to be getting out of there in one piece and he thought, perhaps I will still have something useful on the videotape which Kent seemed to have overlooked.

Getting in his car, it took several tries before he got the key in the ignition. Once the engine roared to life, Nixon headed down the small country lane where he had stashed his car and then he turned right onto the paved county road and headed in the direction of Metropolis.

-

After Nixon had rounded the first bend in the road, Clark turned and dashed back to the farmyard where he had left Chloe and his parents. By the time he got there he found Chloe out of the truck talking with his parents.

"Clark, what happened? One second you were there and the next you were gone."

"Someone rigged a bomb on the fuel tank of the pickup. It had started to explode before I saw it. After I neutralized it, I spotted the guy who set it off hiding in the woods. So I went and had a little chat with him. Have you ever heard of a Roger Nixon with the Metropolis Inquisitor? Oh, Dad, here is some money for a new gas tank for the truck."

Chloe nodded. "Yeah, Clark, he talked to me about the meteor rocks and my wall, umm, when was it? I guess it would have been several of weeks ago. Boy, when you have spent a lot of time around time machines, exactly how to describe when things happened in a consistent frame of reference gets crazy. Anyway, right after Deputy Watt kidnapped and buried me, Nixon showed up. Only this time he was asking about you instead of the meteor rocks. This was before I knew your secret, but still I told him none too politely to fuck off."

"Hmmm, he must have seen me do something while rescuing you or Lana from the deputy. But he must not have gotten any proof which is why he was out here today with a camcorder. Perhaps you shouldn't have spoken to him in that manner or he might have waited until I was alone before setting off his bomb."

"Ahh, son," began Jonathan. "Where exactly did this money come from?"

Clark grinned. "Since this Nixon guy caused the damage to the truck, it seemed only fair for him to pay for the repairs."

"So you stole this money from him?" asked his father with an expression saying he didn't, under any circumstances, abide by dishonest behavior.

"No, in the middle of putting the fear of god into him, I gave him the simple choice of handing over the money or else I would bring him down here to feel the wrath of my father for trying to kill his only son and the son's girlfriend."

"Clark," asked Martha. "Exactly how did you put the fear of god into this man?"

"Oh, I just used a little magic on him."

"What kind of magic?"

"A little sleight of hand," Clark responded. Then going into the same routine of displaying his hands to show they were empty, abruptly his Dad's driver's license was in his grasp. In a couple of seconds, it disappeared as magically as it had appeared.

"Clark," started his Mom with a slight edge to her voice. "You know better than to use your gifts in front of strangers; even if it only looks like magic."

Clark's face was turning the slightest shade more pink as he contemplated what her response would be if she knew about his final act of intimidation, instantly moving from one side of Nixon to the other.

Suddenly Chloe chimed in. "Your Mom's right. This isn't ancient Rome. Don't let your time there as a God go to your head."

"God?" asked Martha and Jonathan with one voice.

After a glance at each other, Martha continued. "Maybe you better go into a little more detail about what happened during your little adventure."

End of Chapter 1