*"I don't know who you think you are, but you're attacking a facility of the oligarchy. This is punishable by--"*
*Kal hears the sounds from his dorm--the lack of shielding is deliberate, to make it harder for the students to try to get out for the night. Not that there's anything in this fucking wasteland to *do*. You need the distraction, his father had said, looking at Kal over the edge of the monitor when he'd been called into his office. You need direction. Discipline.
Right. Choose your poison, son--science or the military. Our family is never less than the best.
Pushing back the covers, he gets to his feet, noticing others are doing the same, and pads through the open door, following the monotonous sound of the proctor's voice as he drones on about regulations, pulling at the sleep clothes that his mother, had she seen them, would have relegated to servant use. Hardship, adversity, training, whatever, Kal doesn't get a discipline that requires you to be uncomfortable even when you sleep. *
*Their proctor, an idiot if there ever was one, is in the main communication chamber, luckily not far away, and even more luckily, hasn't gotten around to closing the door. Instructors are rushing around them, barely noticing the contingent of third years who have escaped their rooms, and Kal makes a mental note to try sneaking away more often. These people just don't pay enough attention.
*Watching the exodus, Kal wonders why the proximity alarms haven't gone off.*
*"Where is it?" The panic in the man's voice is annoying. This is who his father handed him over to for training? Frowning, Kal stops as the viewscreen blinks out, revealing, Whoa. Humans. *
*The night's brilliant, all stars and naked moon, and it's always night when they crawl out of whatever sewer they hide in--maybe that primitive instinct toward perceived advantage, out of sunlight and bathed in cold moon. Wrapped up in ragged clothes and watching with wide, awed eyes. He doesn't mind the fear, but the fact that they don't run anymore is something that's begun to bother him.*
*He doesn't like that the fear isn't enough to stop them. And that--Kal does a quick count. There's a lot of them.*
*"What have you done?" The proctor is desperately running some kind of diagnostic, and Kal wonders what all they missed, but the wide eyes of the other instructors kill his questions before he can voice them. He's never seen them afraid before.*
*"That's a really stupid question." The speaker's this huge mountain of a man that Kal remembers from his father's reports at home, but the name eludes him. He's never been that interested before now. *
*Apparently, he's not the only one that recognizes him, as the students with him begin to murmur, and Kal wonders, a little surprised, if they're afraid. *
*"You have no business here," the proctor says, straightening aggressively, as if they can see him. The first strains of panic are breaking through the ranks, though, and he watches the proctor frowning, trying to work out what they've planned tonight. They don't come out in these numbers anymore--Kal didn't even know there *were* this many of them anymore. Eyes flicker over the groups, looking for a specific face he can recognize, the one that's made a thousand death lists, too-blue eyes and a smile that cuts like broken glass.*
*There in the back--he cranes his neck, ignoring the proctor, ignoring the voices of the students around him, catching a glimpse of worn jeans, such strange clothes these people have, some kind of animal skin coat thrown over it--leather--moving in the crowd like a fish in water, never disturbing it, and he knows, somehow, that this boy is the reason they're here.*
*They can't get any closer--too much green glowing over their bodies, and even from here, separated by a lead shield and a ship, he feels the beginnings of the twist inside, muscles moving involuntarily to twitch against it. Psychological, his mother might have told him in that pedantic tone that drives him crazy. Stop feeling and start thinking, Kal, she'd say.*
*"...isn't a weapon's facility. It's a school."* The proctors' voice is placating--Kal wonders what he knows that the rest of them don't, and he shifts uncomfortably. "Your own rules of engagement."*
*"We voted to overturn the Geneva Convention, if a military training installation could be called a civilian complex" comes that voice, and Kal can see the proctor edging backward from the screen. Even with all this distance and a building between them, and he's being intimidated by a bunch of badland refugees wearing green jewelry. Kal makes a note to tell his father about that, but his entire attention focuses on the boy that's now standing by the original speaker. A glance up, and Kal catches his breath, almost swearing that he's looking right at him, but it's an illusion. It has to be. "Want us? Come get us."*
*There's an indrawn breath, fast and sharp, and Kal sees the Proctor's eyes widen. The sounds of the computer break through the silence, and Kal watches in disbelief as the lights begin to go off, random alarms shaking the building, and he's already moving toward the door, watching it shut tight with disbelieving eyes. His fellow students don't seem to get it, but then again, they don't pay a lot of attention either.*
*That smile. That voice. Kal sees one of the other proctors trying to get the door open, God, so stupid, just kick the stupid thing in, and someone else seems to figure it out, a small girl who Kal remembers vaguely had been cut from exercises for being too short and too weak, but she knocks the proctor aside and kicks the steel away. The students hesitate, caught between the proctor who hasn't moved from the screen and the ragged doorway yawning open.*
*"Maybe you need some motivation," the boy says with another grin, and the explosion somewhere below them rocks the building. How had-- Kal pushes the thought aside, pushing people toward the door, instinct taking over at the trembling presence of unshielded kryptonite. They must have used dust, they wouldn't risk chunks for something like this, but it's just as deadly to breathe and it burns through invulnerability just as well. Survival. He's not bluffing. Others might, but he won't, Kal knows that much. That proctor, white faced, sweating, should never have been put in charge of them. Kal almost leaves him there, waiting for death like a mouse beneath a hawk's eyes, but at the last minute, grabs him by the shoulders, pushing him toward the door.*
*"We're not allowed--" the man says, stumbling out, and Kal pushes harder, electricity raising every hair on his body. "Regulations. We don't surrender--"*
*"We're not. We're surviving."*
*The man shakes his head dreamily. "They can't--"*
*Kal shoves him to the floor at the first blast of heat, regretting the necessity of keeping him alive at all. Invulnerability is great to have around, but Kal doesn't trust it against a kryptoplasma fire. "They are. We have to get out of here."*
*X-ray is useless until they get outside, so Kal cant' even tell where they should go, though he's guessing all exits are covered. There's enough green rock out there to kill them all on the bodies of those humans. While a part of his mind calculates out probabilities, the rest concentrates on the image in the viewscreen.*
*He's not new to the badlands, but he's new to speaking for the group. Kal files that away to report later. It's important to keep track of the changes in the rebellion, his dad always says, and why, why didn't the proctor get that?*
*Thick, green-tinged smoke surrounds them, almost enough to choke even their lungs, and Kal forces away a grimace as he pulls the proctor to his feet, shoving him toward the relief door, melting metal dripping sluggishly around them like some human vision of hell. Lightheaded and feels a little like laughing, because this is the third most secure military facility in the world and that kid had figured out how to blow it like a paper bag. *
*They're alone on wet grass outside, miles away from the dying building, no one and nothing in sight. Kal collapses beside another student, eyes closed. Every limb is tense and ready for the first rush of kryptonite poisoning, but there's--nothing. *
*Kal turns his head and looks into the girl's green eyes, sprawled out beside him. "They--they let us go?" She doesn't understand it. Kal wonders exactly how much time she's spent around humans that she doesn't get what happened tonight. "That's--stupid." *
*"They didn't want us dead yet," Kal answers breathlessly, sitting up. Around them, the proctors have already set up a defensive perimeter, like there's anything that will defend them in this open space against kryptonite death. A hand on his arm distracts him, and he looks back down, reading her confusion. *
*Kal laughs softly, eyes closing. "This was just to prove they could." *
*She's silent for a moment, then he feels her shift, and then a small hand touches his shoulder. "I thought the war was supposed to be over."*
*As if she never imagined resistance would even be likely. Metropolis-bred, he thinks, wondering how two people brought up in the same city can be so utterly different. This is his first time outside the city and even he knew better than to think quiet meant peace. *
*Of course, he knows things she doesn't. *
*Kal thinks of that smile on the screen. "I don't think it ever stopped."*
"Jesus." Clark sat up as soon as he was awake, fingers gripping at sheets so wet he must have sweated out half his weight in water. His clothes were soaked, clinging to his skin, and he rips them off, breathing through the images that were dying too slowly from his mind.
Jesus. Staring around the silent room--and he could pretend this was a room, he could, just for this moment, he could--he listened at to the sound of Lex's breathing change.
"Clark?" The low voice raised every hair on his body, and Clark fought the memory of that look away--
That was Lex. God, this place--does it have to get into his dreams, too? Closing his eyes, he drew his knees up to his chest, ignoring the way the bed dips, pressing his forehead into hard bone.
An eternal second where Lex didn't do anything, before an uncertain hand touched his shoulder. "Bad night?"
Clark nodded shortly, and the hand tentatively brushed the bare skin at the back of his neck. Impossibly soothing, all wrong, and Clark wanted to pull away. "What they told us about--" Clark choked it out over an uncomfortable laugh. "They tell great stories, did I mention that?"
When he looked up, Lex was all greys and blacks, eyes sunk in a pool of darkness, but Clark could see the twitch at the corner of his mouth. He supposed Lex hadn't been too hot to listen to how he was supposed to have died. "Yes. They do. Very--vivid."
Clark didn't think he'd ever forget how everyone looked at him when Lex led him out. It reminded him of every warning his father had ever given him and all the ones he hadn't. No one can know, his dad had said. They'll hurt you. He'd never said, no one can know, because they'll look at you like that. Like you're something that should be killed and the ground salted where you walked.
Mrs. Ross had almost been the hardest to stand, because he *knew* her. Knew that she liked classic jazz and swing dancing and made the best lemon meringue pie and also had graduated from Yale at the top of her class, went to Harvard law and became the youngest judge ever in Kansas. There was so much difference, it should have been enough--a whip-thin woman, underfed, professional dress discarded for refugee chic, but the dark eyes had held his and it was like coming home in the worst possible way.
This start of recognition, all wrong, when she'd stepped back, hand going to her throat instinctively, and he knew what her fingers groped for.
Shuddering, Clark pulled away from Lex's unsure hand, laying back down to stare into the ceiling. "I should have stayed in that cell."
"No." Lex's voice was very sure, but then again, he wasn't looked at like that, either. Clark had been watching, still trying to work out what these people saw when they looked at Lex. More than admiration, more than disbelief--Clark wasn't sure what it was, but it almost scared him.
They looked at him like he was more than a person, and Clark wasn't sure what that meant.
Clark almost laughed. No, he wanted to say, but what good would it do? "Sure." Kal, this creature that they talked about like some modern day demon or mass murderer, and hell, maybe he was. Clark hadn't gotten a look at the database yet--he got the feeling that it was deliberate on Lex's part, edging him away from information systems, never leaving him alone, though maybe that was partly the fact he couldn't be sure Clark would be alive when he got back. Clark didn't rate his chances too high either if he was left alone. The shudder was completely unexpected, rippling his skin like meteor rock poisoning, and Clark blinked at the dark hung ceiling.
They lived in a fucking *cave*. For some reason, that was kicking him the hardest. He'd slept outside, inside normal walls, with sunlight and moonlight filtering through all his life. Claustrophobia was creeping in a little more every minute.
"It's all leaded," Clark murmured, and he could feel Lex's attention snap back to him. "Every one of these caverns. I--God, they must have worked on this for years. Meteor rock soaked into everything around here. No wonder they haven't been found yet. Meteor dust and lead would block and deter really well." It'd only been a second--someone pushing open an outer door, and Clark had felt the shock of it through every nerve, too sensitive from exposure before. Lex had caught him and shouted something, but Clark hadn't missed the smug satisfaction on their faces when he'd been on his knees for them. He may not be able to blame them if he was fair, but right now? He wasn't feeling that fair.
And did Lex really think that he alone could protect Clark from them?
"You'd think they'd have found a way to get around that by now," Lex answered thoughtfully, and leave it to Lex to get all interested in something like that. Clark almost resented him, but he was--just too fucking tired right now.
"I'm sure they've tried." Clark sighed softly. "I--" Sucking in a breath, he let it out slowly. "You know, when Kal shows up on one of their information runs, they're really going to be curious as to exactly who I am."
He didn't need to see Lex's face to know the mobile mouth had tightened. "Kal's been oddly absent from the radar since the--event." Lex being tactful.