I do NOT write action. Gah.
*so. much. love*
The Plan, as stands, should be pretty simple in theory. One, shoot down the Kryptonians. This is one of those rare circumstances that Clark's going to say discussing the situation with them first just isn't going to cut it, and there's no foolproof way to contain them. There's a reason that Bruce has those weapons. With rogue superbeings, it's always going to be shoot to kill. Two, drag Lex out, somehow--Clark's not above knocking him in the head, and there's a nostalgic thought of Smallville. Find out what he's using, timer or remote. With Clark here, there's the possibility he can have the computer do it for them.
Or that stand-by, self-destruct, but that has a required twenty minute countdown and Clark doesn’t want to wait around watching injured Kryptonians get their energy back or throw a kink in his plans. And Clark's not even sure the computer will completely obey non-Kryptonian Clark. It's an AI but a program, too, and Clark's never bothered before to find out its real limits.
Better to depend on himself for this one. Clark grins. Lex would probably say the same thing.
Eight and a half minutes. Okay. Clark moves in range of the sensors and waits, hearing the low murmur of voices inside, too indistinct to make out words. Open. Open, dammit. If you let Lex in, you can damn well let me in, too. The sudden start of nausea makes him grab for the wall, and oh God, he should not have eaten those crackers. They seem to be headed north.
Oh damn, he's getting Lex for this one. No one should have to save the world while they're this sick.
The soft blip of the door makes Clark straighten, dragging himself upright, trying to remember how to breathe like it's something he does all the time. Right. Superman. Invincible. Do it.
"Welcome home, Kal-El. Kind of you to tell the computer you were arriving." Male voice, very smug, not at all Lex.
Like Clark told Lois, the AI is smart but also stupid. It's a computer. If you tell it something in the right way, it'll believe it. Clark gets a glimpse of a woman seated at one of the stations, fingers moving busily. She's telling it something it believes.
"You can toss your weapon away now, Kal-El."
Fuck twice. X-ray vision. Clark reaches behind him wordlessly, groping for the gun and tossing it on the floor, listening with a faint sense of doom as the doors close behind him, sealing him in, Lois out.
"I'm accessing the foreign computer," the woman says calmly, a clipped edge to her voice that reminds Clark of Alfred. The dark head turns, giving him a brief, expressionless stare. About how you'd look at a bug. "What are your orders, General?"
General? Clark slowly takes in the room an inch at a time, trying to hide the second spurt of nausea with action. Short man, brown hair, looks a little stoned and reminds Clark vaguely of his freshman roommate. Peter? James? Something like that. Way too close to Lex. Close to the console, a taller man, who Clark's going on a hunch is the general in question. The one that's looking at him like he's been waiting his entire life for just this moment.
Or maybe that's Clark projecting a little, because--some part of him has been waiting for this all of his life, too. These are his--species. Were. Something. There's a faint trace of Jor-El in the strong line of the man's jaw, the lines around very green eyes. Green eyes that Clark's seen in his own mirror, but they've never looked like that. Like the entire universe is a toy to be played with at his leisure.
This is the mirror he ran to the Fortress from, exposed himself to Kryptonite to escape.
All three of them are trying out some parody of the future-alien-invader thing in solid black, and Clark wonders if they've been watching earth movies for tips. Right, he's feverish. Keep up, Kent.
"What do you think, Kal-El? Your allies outside, crash them or keep them?"
Clark swallows hard. He told Bruce to keep the uplink active. Dammit. "Leave them alone. You have me."
"Ah yes." The man's eyes flicker down and Clark follows to see Lex, leaning against the far wall, looking spectacularly bored. Very Lex, who hosts parties with people who sent assassins after him, and is currently sleeping with the man who regularly tried to get him thrown in jail. Kryptonian invaders probably can't really get to him that much.
They can hurt him, though. Clark can see it in the tight line of Lex's mouth, the way he presses his body against the wall, like maybe that's the only thing holding him up.
"You said he was dead, Luthor." The general seems pleased that he's not, and Clark doesn't like that at all.
"I overestimated, apparently," Lex says in a low, easy voice that hurts to listen to, blue eyes fixed on Clark with actual betrayal, like *Clark's* the one who poisoned people at random and ran off to play martyr. Clark would give anything--anything at all--to have x-ray right now, see what they did to him. He skids down, pausing at the bright blue and cheery red of the suit. "Hello, Superman. I didn't expect you."
"I guess not." Clark watches the blue eyes flicker down, closing briefly. There should be some kind of code for this. Like, two blinks and that means it's a timer, one blink and it's me, doing it personally. A collapse means they've been torturing me for information or just for fun, but Clark shies away from that thought. They hadn't had Lex long enough to do much. But they did do something. "Any reason you're visiting earth?"
"Pretty planet," the general says, and Clark wishes they'd do like every other supervillian and start spurting out their names and plans. There's no good way to ask. Not that it's important, but-- "You seem to be enjoying yourself." The green eyes rake over Clark, taking in the uniform. "Interesting choice of attire."
Clark shrugs, edging slowly into the room, trying to look both threatening and not likely to make sudden moves. The shorter man almost immediately is at Lex's side, jerking him from the wall, one hand around his throat. Something about that bothers Clark, but his focus is fixed on the fingers pressing into the fragile throat, and he knows he's betrayed himself. "Not another move, Kal-El. Or he's dead."
"Do you think that would bother me?" His hands can't be shaking.
"I'm willing to test it." The fingers tighten and Clark doesn't move at all. "Good. We understand each other. Move a little farther from your weapon, Kal-El. I'd hate for any kind of misunderstandings of your intentions."
Clark steps away, pressing his hands into the wall, hoping they don't notice he's not exactly balancing all that great. He watches as the general picks up the gun, wincing when his fingers come in contact with the metal. The gun isn't pure lead, so the radiation from the Kryptonite bullets is leaking through. The hand closes tightly, then he tosses it to the side. Clark catches Lex watching the man with a curiously blank expression on his face, flicking down to the gun, then the blue eyes flicker to Clark, holding his gaze in some kind of unreadable message before the hard sound of the general's heels on the floor jerks Clark's gaze away.
"General?" The woman's voice is sharp. "Orders, sir?"
"Do they know we have access to their computer?" the general asks, keeping his eyes on Clark.
"Not yet, sir."
"How long have you had control of the computer?" Anything to keep them talking. Just keep them out of Bruce's computer until he can shoot that stupid ship.
"A few days." The General's smile is sharp. "Childishly easy to fool an AI. You should know that."
Well, that explains the wealth of non-information it had given. Just enough to get him in here. Just enough to get the uplink. Just enough to make it impossible for Bruce to take out that ship and--
"Let them go," Clark says. Lois is somewhere out there and they might not know about her. "They're not a threat to you."
He shrugs, shifting his stance to glance back at the woman. Names would *really* be good here. Lex keeps staring at the gun like it's some religious icon guaranteed for miracles, and there was a plan, right?
Right. His eyes flicker up to the door Lois would have come through. She's either trying to disable the panel or about to go about this the old fashioned way--just start shooting-- and Clark has no idea how many bullets it would take to get through that door.
"You followed me here."
The General turns around, looking at Clark from behind narrowed eyes. Does he guess Clark just wants to keep him talking?
"Surprisingly easy to follow your trail once we searched outside the system, yes. We suspected your father wouldn't have decided to send you randomly into space without finding a decent planet for you to arrive at, safe and sound."
Well, that's logical.
"You don't need Luthor anymore," Clark says, and the General tosses Lex a quick glance. "You don't need any of them. Let them go." Open the door. Just for a minute.
"He was willing to betray you and you want to protect him?"
"Sort of my raison d'etre." They look confused, and Clark almost sighs. Right, this is the AI's translation matrix at work, and he never did get around to making sure it really understood what it was translating. "This is what I do."
"So what we've seen has led us to believe." The General turns in a less than perfectly military-straight pose, and crosses to the woman, glancing down at whatever she's reading. "What would you trade for his life? Information, perhaps?"
"What kind?" Clark shifts just a little down the wall--not enough to draw attention, he hopes, just enough to ease the pressure of his belt against his stomach. If he leaves the wall, he's going to fall and God, he needs more aspirin and fuck Cassius for not giving him painkillers, because if anyone on this planet deserves them right now, it's Clark. He's negotiating with *idiots*. They're *superpowered*. What the fuck do they need information for?
"Where the largest stash of Kryptonite is currently located," the General answers, and right. That makes sense. Clark hopes Lois is losing her temper. Right now.
"Under your feet."
All three look down briefly, as if they expect the entire floor to be green and glowing within seconds, then back up at him. Clark notices that the fingers around Lex's throat are loosening. And no Lois banging in the door. Fuck.
Clark grins, forcing himself to look casual and not throw up. Maybe Cassius had a point about too much aspirin being bad for nausea. "You think I didn't plan for something like this?" Oh man, this is going to piss Lex off. Taking credit for his plan. "Would you like to hear a metric tonnage or just be aware how much longer you have before it blows? I'm all for it either way."
The blank shock's almost funny--Clark remembers that look on his own face every time Lex added some bizarre twist to his plans over the years. That look that means, I am dealing with a maniac.
"You wouldn't take that risk with yourself here."
Clark smiles sunnily. Will. Not. Get. Sick. "The only risk was making sure to get here before you left and keep you here."
The General's eyes narrow, and Clark can almost see him looking, and the Fortress isn't lead, he's going to see. Scanning the floor by inches, but--
"Where?" The General barks, turning to face him and taking a step toward him. Clark waits, expecting the superstrong hand at his throat--oh wow, he's going to be seriously connecting with the people's he's held like that--but.
But nothing. The General freezes only a few feet away, staring at him with a vague mixture of expectation and rising anger. Like he can't get any closer. Like he doesn’t *want* to get any closer.
Okay, what the *hell* is going on here?
Clark blinks, looking between the three. They're not even looking--like they don't expect to see anything if they looked through a perfectly normal floor, which means either Lex didn't plant bombs there--and Clark knows Lex, this is his *thing*, he's nothing if not efficient when he's out on destructive jaunts--or….
"You can't see for yourself?"
It's there--just a flicker, completely unreadable, and Clark sees Lex staring at the gun again, then up at Clark. Okay, what the *hell*--
"You can't see for yourself." Make that a statement. Clark looks at the gun on the floor, and yes, he has sucky eyesight, but it's not even *dented*.
"No sun." Lex says like it should be the most obvious thing in the world and Clark's just slow on the uptake, and the man's fingers are around Lex's throat like a vise, cutting off air and voice way too late.
No sun. No sunlight. No oh-so-useful-for-Kryptonians yellow-dwarf radiation. Oh fuck, it's midnight, this is the Arctic, they've just landed, and it's nowhere near morning. They've never seen the sun, never had time to absorb it. Not yet.
Pushing off the wall, Clark take a step toward the General, who actually *backs up*. Wow. It's kind of like being Superman again, but without the worry about the Kryptonite and a serious headache.
"You were bluffing." Oh and damn, he threw away his weapon. On a fucking *guess*. "But Kryptonite still hurts and you--what, expected to land and just start the conquest immediately?"
Clark shakes his head and takes another step. Even like this, he could get to the gun in time. Just five steps. Big steps, but steps. Don't fall. Don't throw up. Make them think you're just as cool as everything they've heard.
"One more step and he's dead, Kal-El."
This is why hostage situations suck. They get in the way. They're useful for threats. They keep former aliens away from really necessary guns, and they also are going to be the reason everyone dies right now.
"If you leave now, you just might survive."
The General stares at him like he's lost his mind. "What?"
Clark holds his ground. "Run. I'll let you. Get in your ship and get the hell out of this system. If you're fast enough, you just might get away." If the doors open, Lois will shoot them. This could work.
"General--" The woman's cut off by a swift wave of the man's hand, and he stares at Clark as if he's gone crazy.
"You'd just let us go?"
How much time is left? If Bruce sees them get on that ship…. "Yes."
"We could come back."
Clark shrugs. "I'd be waiting."
There's a moment where he really thinks they won't do it--that, in fact, they're going to stand here and debate the merits of leaving or not right up until Bruce blows that ship.
"General?" She sounds panicky. Like maybe, enough to make a run for it independently? *Please*?
"Get the doors open."
Clark knows he has to get it the first time--his legs are shaking and this guy's going to notice that any second, and that will be that. Let Lois be there. Let this work. Let it not have been ten minutes. And God, let him get some water and a long nap when this is all over.
Clark hears the soft sounds of the doors open, the woman sliding back from the computer, and--
--a low whistle, sharp, cutting through the air . Clark watches in utter relief as the woman hits the floor with a choked sound and thank God, Lois.
Clark catches the look of shock on the general's face and lunges for the gun.
It's--kind of disjointed after that. Clark knows he's okay, but he can't quite make his eyes focus, and someone's yelling, there's banging, and this has got to be the worst ambush in history except for the fact that he seems to be in one piece, though stretched on the floor and the gun is pressed against the tips of his fingers. Reaching awkwardly, he gets it into his hand, pulling himself up on one elbow to look around.
Fuck. He's got to--where--
"Clark?" Lois' hand is on his face, turning him to face her. "Clark, are you--"
"Not shot." At least, he doesn't think so. It takes everything to force the words out. "Where are they?"
Lois looks pale, dark hair tumbling around her face, eyes wide. "Running. Will Bruce get them?"
Clark nods. "Yeah. We--we have to get out of here. Where's--" Pushing himself up on both arms, Clark turns his head. The woman's body's stretched at an awkward angle by the overturned chair. No sign of the general. There--is no Lex, no roommate-resembling Kryptonian in sight. Anywhere. Oh damn. "They've got Lex."
"I couldn't get a clear shot," Lois says, putting an arm under his shoulder to help him up. "Guess they still want their hostage. Come on, Clark. We--"
"Have to get him. Has it been ten minutes?" Please God, no.
"Close. Close." Getting her feet under her, he watches her bite her lip and forces his legs to do something besides lay there. Reaching down, he grabs for the gun, balancing it in his hand. Vaguely, he remembers that he's never actually had to use one before today. "Which way did they go?"
"Can you do it?"
Clark takes a tentative step forward, eyes fixed on the doors. "I don't have a choice."
They're never going to make it.
Clark knows that, knows Lois knows that, knows that they're doing the stupidest thing ever, but she's not dragging him toward the outer door, even when she could. Right now, she's stronger than he is.
"Which way did they come down?" Lois asks as they make another turn.
"Only way is here." Stairs. The great, long, hellish path that he's not sure he can do right now. Looking down, Clark sees the dribble of blood that trickles upward like a path. "Are they--"
"I got the dark one," Lois says, and damned if she doesn't sound smug. "He's not moving very fast, I guarantee you that."
"It's been more than ten minutes," Clark whispers, setting his foot on the first step. Can be sick later. Just do it. "Lois--"
"He's waiting. Let's make sure that's not a mistake." Arm under his, she pushes forward, almost dragging him, and he can hear her catch her breath from the strain. Maybe it's male pride that makes him move, even with the cramp of his stomach, because this is just embarrassing. He could *fly* once, lift tractors, and possibly change the axis of the planet, but right now, he can't even move his own feet. "Clark. You can do this."
Yes, he can.
The stairs are a blur--Clark keeps his eyes fixed, trusting Lois to take what weight she can, avoiding the tiny drips and spills of blood that could catch their feet. One injured Kryptonian, one Kryptonian dragging an injured Lex. They can't go too fast.
"What if they did something to Bruce's computer?" Clark whispers, because really, he needs more incentive to panic.
"Then we have a problem. Move it, Smallville." Ten more steps, and Clark turns his full attention inward. "Just--a little more." Her breath is coming fast. "Where? Left or right?"
"Right." It's easier on level ground--comparatively, anyway--and Clark pulls away, grabbing the wall for balance, surprised to realize that he's still holding the gun. Point and shoot. Don't ask questions. Don't demand they let him go. Just point. And. Shoot. "Around that corner. Just--"
Lois sidesteps some blood, easily keeping almost ahead of him, and he notices that there's a slick of blood across the side of her parka. Can't worry about that now. Not yet. Just--
The slight slide brings him against the wall at the turn, and Clark looks up to see two figures upright, one spread across the floor only feet away. Clark sucks in a breath. The general's dead, or close to it. Two down.
The man holding Lex isn't.
"Don't move or I'll kill him."
It's really scary how much he resembles--Chris. Right. Chris, freshman roommate. Way beyond sanity, that guy.
"Let him go."
Lex looks--not so great. Broken ribs, maybe, and that arm around his waist can't be helping, and a hand twisted loosely around his neck. Using Lex like body armor. Clark sees blood at the corner of Lex's mouth, trickling in a thin line down his chin. It's going to stain his shirt.
It's-- Clark lifts the gun, trying to aim. His hands are shaking and his vision's bad, and right, he's never actually fired one of these before. He wonders if he looks even vaguely threatening "Let him go."
The man stares back at him, eyes wide. "You don't have any powers," he says, like it's a total shock, and Clark remembers suddenly that they think he's still Superman.
Lex's eyes slit open briefly, and Clark thinks the lips are moving--too far away to read them, no idea what Lex is trying to say, no idea what to *do*. The man's backing up and he'll be out the door any second, Lex in tow like the ultimate security blanket.
He--he has to--
"Clark," Lois whispers, and her voice is shaking. "Clark. He--he says he'll heal."
Think of it as--laser vision. Just point, aim, and….fire.
Someone screams--Clark's not sure who, because his legs give out, but Lois is moving, scooping the gun from his hand, and Clark forces himself on his knees, unable to control the violent heaving of his stomach. Looking up through blurred eyes, he can see the faint brown blur of her, moving, doing--something.
Another shot, and Clark blinks, vision clearing, and watches Lois drop the gun beside the man's head and lean over, hand on Lex's throat.
"Clark," she says, and her voice is very calm, very cool. "You're on your own now. I'll get Lex. Get up."
Right. Because he just shot Lex Luthor, and Clark hears himself start to laugh. It's--strangely freeing. Just--grabbing the wall, Clark grimaces a little, but the choked sounds coming from his throat sound so much like relief it's almost scary.
"He's alive?" He already knows he is, but he wants to hear it.
Lois makes a sound a lot like a person being pushed to their limits. "He's alive and conscious and actually helping me, so get. Moving. Now. Bruce isn't going to wait forever."
Clark nods and turns, listening to them behind him. He's--going to get out. The plan worked. Sort of.
"You know," Lois huffs of air, and she's moving fast. Threat of death does have an amazing effect on people's speed. Clark's noticed this before. "I just realized--"
"What?" Grabbing his stomach, Clark starts down the stairs, hoping to God he doesn't fall.
"I just got the exclusive on the biggest story ever." She sounds--cheerful.
"Oh, God, Lois--" Stopping at the base of the stairs, Clark turns, somehow finding the strength to reach out, catching Lex's other arm and sliding underneath, taking the weight with a grit of his teeth. Just a little more and he's going to lay down in Bruce's plane and never move again. "Where--"
"Right shoulder. Pretty shot, by the way." He's flashed a bright, strained grin, then the dark eyes fix straight ahead. She's picking up her pace. "Clark? Start running."