MacTavish and four agents moved toward the spot where they thought Dave was. Climbing two flights of stairs, the new mutant operative increased his pace, forcing the others to do the same.
Finally, in the midst of an empty, echoing hallway, he could have sworn he was right on top of him. "Where are you, Dubois?" he challenged.
"Sorry," Emma replied, stepping out of the shadows.
"Ms. DiLauro, I trust?" he retorted. "Too bad for you. Get her!"
The four agents rushed her only to find their way blocked by her allies.
"That's no way to treat a lady," Brennan admonished, blasting one into unconsciousness.
"I'll go with that," Jesse concurred, smacking another with a massed fist.
Nick silently took out another man with little trouble.
Finally, Shalimar backhanded the last one out cold, cracking, "I'm glad to see that chivalry ain't dead."
"The rest of Mutant X," the anger-seeking mutant realized. "I don't know who your friend is, but he'll join you soon enough in a stasis pod of his own. First, tell me where Dubois is."
"He's attending to other business at the moment," Adam noted.
Then an explosion echoed up the stairwell.
"I'd say that's him now," the feral mutant baited.
"This isn't finished," MacTavish growled.
"I think it is," Emma asserted, projecting soothing emotions into him and lulling him to sleep.
"Nice work," Adam complimented.
"Thanks. It won't last long though," the psionic replied, checking her mask. "Let's get those kids out."
The team made their way to the auditorium. Overpowering the six agents by the door, they entered the area to find the students crammed together and nervous.
"Who are you?" Principal Evans demanded.
"I'm a police officer," Nick assured her. "These are friends of mine. C'mon, let's go."
The official nodded and, with the help of the rescuers, guided the students out of the school to safety.
Once that had been accomplished, Adam asserted, "Now, for MacTavish."
"Wish we could," Jesse noted, phasing through the wall between hallways. "He's gone."
"It's up to Dave and the others now. I hope he can get the kids out of there before MacTavish gets down there," Nick hoped.
Lex's car screeched to a halt in front of the school just as the last kids poured out of the front doors, heading for safety.
"What the?" he wondered, jumping out of the Porsche. Catching a student, he pushed, "What happened?"
"We were in an assembly when these guys came in with weapons of some kind. We were stuck in the auditorium until this cop got us out," the student recounted nervously. "Can I go now?"
"Yeah. Thanks," Lex agreed, releasing the student. This situation was bordering on the ridiculous. Even Eckhart wasn't insane enough to want to hold an entire school class at gunpoint unless there was something to be gained from it. "What are you hiding, Clark?" he wondered again as he rushed into the building to see for himself.
Meantime, the four other GSA agents had cornered Clark and his friends.
"You really don't wanna make this any tougher on us, Kent," the head agent stated, knocking Clark with an electroprobe and sending a heavy jolt through the teenager's body.
Clark twitched a bit, but intercepted the second swipe from the agent. "Watch that thing!" he advised, bending the probe in his right hand and letting the voltage spark off of him as if it were so much water.
"Clark, get down!" Miranda yelled. As he did, she telepathically "shoved" another agent into the wall, knocking him out cold.
Chloe stared at her two friends anxiously. Until now, she thought they were all normal everyday, angst-driven teenagers. However, after seeing that sight, she was agape. A quick glance at Lana's calm fa┴ade told her volumes. "Lana, did you know?"
"Trust me. It's a long story," the former cheerleader replied.
"Arighatto's one too!" the remaining agent reported into his headset. "Reinforcements now!"
At the urging, six more agents rushed in to face Clark and Miranda.
However, at the far side of the room, something hit the wall hard, shaking the entire area, and cracking the reinforced concrete.
"You'd best back off," Miranda told the agents.
"Or what?" they taunted.
Then, another blast hit the wall, spider-webbing it this time.
"Miranda, what is it?" Chloe demanded, turning white.
"Damn it, it's Dubois! Get back!" the rear agent yelled as the concrete finally gave way.
As the dust settled, the professor stepped through the crater with a cross look on his face. "Well now, look what we got here. Those are my friends you're messing with, boys. I'd leave now if I were you."
Before they could even take another breath, a black blur whizzed out of the hole, gyrating, kicking, punching, and screaming her signature war cry. Landing beside the kids, Xena shrugged. "They were all talk, David."
"Whatever," he retorted, not caring about those creeps. "Miri, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Uncle Dave. Thank you."
"Good. Come on," he urged. "Back through the hole."
"Sure," she agreed, stepping into the muck. While she normally would have made a fuss, she went in without argument on this occasion.
"Thanks, Professor Dubois and Xena," Lana expressed, following her friend.
"No problem," the warrior told her.
"Come on, Chloe," Lana called. "Gabrielle's here to help you as well."
The reporter shook her head. Too many weird things had just happened to be easily explained away. "There had better be a good explanation," she groused, exiting the battle zone.
As Clark started through, he noticed an intruder. "MacTavish!"
"I know. Keep going. That's an order," Dave instructed firmly.
"That was a nice trick you pulled to get in here," the operative complimented.
"I have a few up my sleeve for lowlifes like you," the professor remarked, turning to face his opponent.
"So, the girl's your niece. Too bad I have to take her in," MacTavish crowed.
"No, I don't think so," Dave disagreed. "One more step and I'll nail you."
"You have to get angry first and then, I have you."
Dave shrugged. "Your loss." Firing a pulse, he knocked his opponent out cold. "Asshole," he hissed, lifting the new mutant telekinetically and floating him into the sewer passage.
At least the trouble was now over...or so he thought.
Back at the Kent farm, Karen and Deirdre kept a close eye on the road for any sign of trouble. For hours, all had been quiet.
Finally, Karen smiled. "Dave and the others just got the kids out."
"How do you know that?" Jonathan asked, sipping his coffee.
"Telepathy, sir," the nurse admitted. "Dave and I have had a link of sorts for years. He just sent me a message of sorts."
"She's right," Martha added. "The news just announced that the students were just released!"
"That's a relief!" her husband cheered, hugging her. They were glad that the mess seemed over finally.
Mutant X waited anxiously in the alley for their friends to emerge from the manhole. They knew that the area could be swarming with police, FBI, or GSA agents at any moment and wanted to get out of there.
"Thankfully, it's dark," Adam assessed, looking at Nick. "For more than one reason. Thank you, Nick."
"We all had a role to play," the immortal detective replied, downplaying his role.
"You can certainly kick your share of butt, guy," Brennan declared.
"I'll say. Nice work," Shalimar complimented.
At that moment, they heard a coughing sound coming from the hole.
The feral stuck her head down there. In the dim lighting, she spied the group making its way toward her. "Miranda?" she asked.
"Shalimar?" the tired woman responded. "Yes, it's me."
"Great. Hang on, we're gonna get out of there. Can you climb up?"
"Yes," the telepath agreed, scrambling for the outside and the clean fresh air. "Clark, Lana, and Chloe are still down there."
"They're right here," Gabrielle indicated from below, helping Lana up first.
"Where's Dave?" Emma worried, feeling some anxiety.
"Delaying MacTavish," Xena informed her as she guided Chloe and then, Clark up the ladder before making her own way up.
Steve scrambled up the ladder glad to be out of the muck.
Sitting on solid ground, Chloe scrutinized the group of odd folks in front of her. Who were they? Why were they in Smallville? And how did they know her friends so well?
Clark studied her face, knowing that expression well. They would all have some serious explaining to do when the situation was over.
"Coming up!" Dave's voice called from below.
MacTavish floated through the opening and came to rest on the ground. Then, the professor stepped out into the alley.
"Whew! That reeks!" he remarked, waving his hand in front of his face.
"You took care of him?" Adam wondered.
"He thought he could get us riled," the medievalist declared. "Too bad for him. Still, I have a ways to go."
"For once, we agree, Dr. Dubois," Eckhart announced, stepping into the light.
The heroes turned to see their nemesis flanked by forty agents, some normal, others, new mutants, but all were spoiling for a fight.
"Lana, Chloe, get behind me!" Clark urged, stepping in front of them protectively. Maybe he would go down, but the GSA wasn't going to get their hands on his friends again without a fight.
"Miri, get back!" her uncle ordered.
"No," she asserted, assuming a defensive karate posture. "I'll stand by you to the end."
He winced. He wasn't going to lose her again, not after taking so long to find her. Still, he felt proud of his niece for standing her ground to protect her friends and adopted home.
"Lana, what is this?" Chloe demanded.
"You wanted to know what happened to Clark and me in Tucson. Those are the creeps who kidnapped Dr. Dubois and me. The people standing between them and us are our friends, Chloe. You have to trust them," Lana reported.
"That's right," Clark affirmed, still facing the small army in front of them.
Meantime, the rest of the group was just as prepared to face the threat. Xena held her sword and chakram ready for action. Gabrielle spun her staff in hand. Jesse was massed out. Brennan's hands crackled with electrical energy. Both Nick's and Shalimar's eyes glinted yellow, indicating their preparedness.
In the center of the line, Dave's hands glowed brightly as he warned menacingly, "I'd back down now."
"I don't think so. You and your freakish friends are a menace!" the administrator countered.
A slight spasm went through the professor's body as the change took place.
"Ah think ya're the freaks!" the Child spat vehemently, recalling the last time somebody called him that here. "'Mon!"
Eckhart looked around. If it happened, this fight would attract too much attention, exposing them all. While the Duboises didn't care, for all the others concerned, it would be their ruin.
Noticing his longtime enemy's hesitation, Adam stated, "It's over, Mason."
"For now, Adam," the other admitted grudgingly.
"Naw. We're done period!" the Child asserted, glaring daggers into the administrator's eyes. "Take a look, Whitey! If ya come to Tucson again, Ah promise ya that ya'll will regret it."
"And we'll back him," Nick declared cryptically, meaning both the police and the Vampire Community.
"As will we," Adam chimed in on behalf of his group.
"Scram," Xena growled at the enemy, stepping forward.
Eckhart swore under his breath. The previous debacle had proven still more costly yet. "We're done," he told the others.
"Smart move, Whitey," the Dark One hissed. "Still, Ah was lookin' forward to a good brawl."
"Thankfully, you won't get it," Nick disagreed.
Looking toward the sky, the Child growled, "Hey, did ya feel that, Nick?"
The former Crusader realized what it was. "Not her!" he denied, rushing into the darkness.
Then, they could hear Eckhart's screaming.
"What is it?" Clark pressed.
"Keep back, Boy!" the Child snarled.
"Would someone please give me some answers?" Chloe insisted.
From the darkness, a familiar voice cackled. "Yes. Do tell."
"Divia," the Child challenged. "Ya looking for 'nother whuppin'?"
The blonde vampiress stepped into the light. She was fully vamped out and wiping the blood from the sides of her mouth. "No. For tonight, I'm thankful for the meal and our Community's secrecy," she declined.
"Meal? What is she getting at?" Miranda inquired.
"Adam," Shalimar informed the leader, wincing as her senses picked up on the blood.
Nick stepped into the alley carrying Eckhart's drained corpse. "Divia, you've started a war."
She snarled, "No, Nicholas, I've taught these insolent mortals a lesson. Your friend said it best!" She smiled wickedly at the Child. "They needed to pay."
At that moment, MacTavish rose to his feet and gaped in horror at his boss's corpse. "Mr. Eckhart! He's dead!"
"Yes, he is," Divia replied frankly. "I must say the taste of plastic covering is revolting. For your sake, Mortal, I would advise you to keep quiet about this situation if you know what's good for you."
"I'm not afraid of you," the red-haired operative countered, stepping toward her.
"Hey, Meathead! Ah'd keep 'way from her if Ah were ya'll," the Child advised. "Git lost."
"Bring it on, Dubois," MacTavish challenged.
Divia snorted incredulously at this display. "Nicholas, should we?"
"No, let them deal with this matter," the detective stated. "It won't take long."
"Right," the GSA agent agreed.
"Man, he's got a death wish," Brennan assessed, shaking his head.
Meanwhile, MacTavish reached out with his abilities, trying to feed off of the Child. Unfortunately, nothing came of it.
"Well?" the Dark One chuckled amusedly.
"Why isn't anything coming from you?" his opponent wondered.
"Maybe cuz Ah'm focused, Jerk!" the Child postulated, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and locking eyes with his enemy. "Ya think ya know anger? Take a good look!"
As if a switch had been thrown, MacTavish felt the emotions crash into him, strengthening him. After two minutes, he had taken his fill and tried to break the grip.
"Na yet!" the Other indicated, increasing the emotional flow.
After another minute, the agent started to shake and his eyes bulged. "No! That's sick!" Severing the connection with a pain burst, he roared, "What are you?"
As the Child got back on his feet, the others noted the right eye's yellow pallor and the grin on his face. "Anger, hurt, pain," he retorted, the hate seeping off of him.
"You're a menace!" MacTavish insisted, throwing an enhanced punch with little effect into the enraged man.
"Stop this!" Miranda screamed, afraid that both men would be hurt.
"Tell 'im, Leader Man," the Child stated to Adam.
"You heard him, MacTavish," Adam concurred. "Stop this now!"
"Not until he's taken care of!" the agent insisted, opening the link again. Unfortunately, the pain flowed freely, proving too much for even somebody like him to take.
"Wha's the matter? Too much juice?" the Child chortled darkly.
The other man shook violently. His mouth twitched constantly and his eyes crossed. "No...no...no..." he stammered as he collapsed.
"Couldn't take our last whuppin' here, could ya?" the Child guessed. "Welcome to mah world, Smart Ass. Guess ya'll weren't as tough as ya said."
"Well, now that's taken care of," Divia assessed. "I'm needed back in Toronto before dawn. Tell your friend to call off his associates."
"I'll do that," Steve agreed, getting on his phone, eager to get her as far away as possible.
"Dubois, Xena, Gabrielle, you have my thanks. Until we meet again," the female Elder concluded, disappearing into the night sky.
"Good riddance!" the Child roared. Looking at his shaking opponent, he asked, "How's the twit?"
Emma informed him, "He's completely lost his mind."
"His loss," he replied. "'Nuff of this!" Turning his focus inward, he changed back into Dave.
"What?" the professor inquired, staring at the others. "Where are the agents? What's he doing there?"
Chloe blurted out, "You mean you made him go nuts and you don't remember?"
"Hey, take it down a notch," the professor requested, wincing from the headache.
Xena stepped forward and offered him two pills. "Angela gave me these for you."
"Thanks," he agreed, gulping them down dry. Looking at the kids, he asked, "Are you all right?"
"We're fine," Clark agreed.
"I'm okay," Lana noted, albeit a bit nervously.
"Me too!" Miranda concurred, hugging him tightly. "Don't let me go!"
"Never, Miri-Ma. You're safe," Dave promised, kissing her on top of her head.
On the other side of the alley, Chloe tried to make sense out of what just happened. Bad enough that she was caught between two secret parties fighting their insane war, but how would she deal with Clark and Miranda being more than they seemed? Then, there was the matter of the vampire. Finally, her new friends' new professor was a total psycho. She was torn. On the one hand, there was the need for secrecy. On the other hand, her journalistic instincts screamed out that she needed to reveal these events.
Turning to Clark, she asked, "How could you keep this from me?"
He shook his head. "My parents always told me to keep what I am a secret. You can see why."
"But you told her!" the reporter ranted, the tears starting to streak down her face. "I...I"
Lana put her hand on Chloe's left shoulder and stated, "At least you didn't find out in the middle of a three story fall, Chloe. He saved my life. I think keeping his secret is worth it."
"I didn't want to end up on 'The Wall of Weird' or in 'The Torch,' Chloe," he added. "Sometimes, your drive to collect information overrides everything else."
"But you didn't trust me!" Chloe protested.
He slumped his shoulders and sighed, "I have enough problems with being me without added exposure. Now, there's the goon squad to deal with as well."
"And Norman over there?" she asked, motioning toward Dave.
"What about me?" Dave cut in, glaring at her.
"I'm afraid you're going to hurt them," she accused.
The professor fought back a wave of indignation and laughed derisively, "Look, I wouldn't hurt them."
Lana trembled at the harsh words being exchanged. Had they just dealt with a bad threat only to have arguments destroy everything? "No! Stop it, everyone!"
"But, he's a lunatic!" the reporter argued.
The professor glared at her and growled wordlessly. He had taken enough pain already for a lifetime. "I've had enough of this crap. You're welcome for the help," he snarled sarcastically and stalked out of the alley, the tears of rejection stinging his eyes.
Miranda stared at her friend incredulously. "How can you say those things, Chloe?" she demanded, her own tears running down her cheeks. "How?" With that, she ran after her uncle.
"He's not that bad," Steve countered, trying to get Chloe to stop. "I've known him since we were your age. It's sick what pain does to someone. Trust me, you don't have the right to call him a lunatic. Not when you haven't walked in his shoes."
"You can't talk about this to anyone," Lana told her.
"But...doesn't the public have a right to know about vampires and them?" she asked, motioning toward Mutant X.
Nick stepped forward and looked Chloe in the eye. "No," he responded, turning on the hypnosis. "Listen to me, Chloe. You were in the middle of a bad situation between a hostile militant group and the police. Agent Petersen saved you all. You will forget about any knowledge of vampires, new mutants, or the Genetic Security Agency."
"I will for...get," the entranced girl agreed robotically.
"Chloe, you will keep Clark and Miranda's secrets as there is nothing newsworthy about them. And you won't be afraid of David Dubois anymore and will keep his secret as well," the vampire concluded. "Now sleep."
The young girl collapsed to the ground in a dead slumber.
Clark picked her up with concern. She was out cold from whatever whammy Nick had just pulled. "What did you do to her?"
"I hypnotized her, Clark. I hated to do it, but she needs to forget about most of tonight. She'll be okay with a few altered memories to show for it," the detective told him.
"Well, I'll take her home," Clark indicated, rushing off at super speed, leaving a breeze in his wake.
Miranda marveled at her friend's abilities. "That's something else."
"Tell me about it. I'm still adjusting to it," Lana agreed, managing a smile.
"Hopefully, someday the world will too," Dave sighed, rejoining them.
"If it's okay, we're going to take off. Dave, we'll deal with MacTavish," Adam told him.
"Fine," the professor agreed, shaking his hand. "Thanks for the help."
"We'll talk when you get back to Tucson," the team leader replied. Speaking into his ring, he called for the Double Helix. Within seconds, the cloaked ship landed in the street. "Coming, Nick?"
"I'll have Natalie take care of Eckhart," Nick informed them, carrying the body and MacTavish on board. "Nice job, everyone. Clark, Lana, have a good trip. See you soon." With that, he walked into the ship.
After that, the door closed and the craft took off into the night.
"I think that's our cue," Xena told Gabrielle.
The Bard nodded, following her companion down the street. Once out of sight, they changed back into Angie and Francesca before the latter returned to the scene.
"Let me see about getting us a ride," Steve indicated, getting on the phone. It had already been a long enough night already and they needed rest.
Minutes after the group had departed from the scene, Lex made his way out of the damaged building. Strangely, there was no trace of the combatants--only the damage that they had caused to the lockers not to mention the gaping hole in the Torch's newsroom.
"What are you hiding, Clark?" he wondered not for the last time as he got into his car and drove away.
Lana watched as Steve's rental car drove off into the darkness. While the ordeal at the school had left her exhausted, she felt troubled. Would it always be like this for her and Clark? Would he make her a target? "C'mon, you can't think like that," she chided herself, walking up the stairs and sitting on the porch swing. "Clark's the best thing that's happened to you." Swinging on the chair, she mused over the events again and again. While the GSA threat was clearly shown in the standoff, her friends had stood by her.
However, Chloe's reaction to the whole thing troubled her. Granted, she remembered how she felt during the incident at the UMC and later at Genomex. She still could feel the shock at seeing Clark catching her in midair and shielding her from the bullet fire on the ground. During the months that followed, she had worked hard to gain the Kents' confidence that she could keep their son's secret safe. As they told her, his powers didn't make him any different; they just made him special. And with Professor Dubois, she felt that he was stronger than he seemed. How else could he deal with his abilities and his dark alter ego, especially in a place which held painful memories for him?
"Chloe, I hope you can understand one day," she said to nobody in particular as she stood up. While she knew that Nell would be home soon, she needed to clear her head. Walking over to the barn, she looked at the horses. While she usually rode Buttercup, she felt that the other mare, Willow, could use some exercise. However, when she had tried to take her out over the past year, the horse wouldn't let anyone ride her. Nell had admitted that she was thinking of selling the animal, but for some reason, hadn't done so yet.
Taking the saddle off of its hook, Lana walked up to Willow and soothed, "It's okay, Girl." With that, she put the saddle on the mount's back and got on.
Surprisingly, there was no reaction as in the past. Willow looked back at her as if to say 'Ready?'
Lana nodded and rode off into the night, heading for the woods and her familiar sanctuary.
Fifteen minutes later, she entered the Smallville cemetery and made her way for her parents' gravesite. For some reason, the buzzing in her head intensified with every step. Around her, she could hear the wind whispering to her, calling her name. "What's going on?" she wondered as she reached the stone.
"Hi, Mom and Dad," she greeted, kneeling before the stone and inspecting it. She kept good care of the site, making sure no weeds grew and that fresh flowers were always there. "It was an exciting day at school and at the Talon. Fortunately, everyone's okay. My...well...Clark and my new friends got us out of trouble. I wish you could meet my new professors. They're really great. Professor Dubois, well, he has his issues, but...I really admire how he stands up for his beliefs. His wife's a doctor who grew up on a farm, kind of like me." She sighed, the reactions of Chloe and Eckhart playing across her consciousness. "I wish I knew why people hate others so," she sniffled. "Chloe turned on Clark and Miranda because they have special gifts. They aren't any different, but why should they have to hide what they are?" Tears streaked her face as the images of the expressions on Clark's, Miranda's, and Dave's faces at her friend's outburst.
For a minute, the area seemed to hum a bit for some reason. Then, a flash of light appeared in front of her, congealing into the form of a slender woman dressed in white. The figure smiled warmly at the visitor.
"Mom?!" Lana asked incredulously, staring at the angel. Granted, she had always been able to speak with her parents, but this was taking things to a whole new level.
"That's right, Dear," the angel indicated with a warm sparkle in her eye. "You know that your father and I are always with you."
"How is he?" the daughter wondered.
"He's fine," the mother stated. "Lana, look around you and tell me what you see."
The former cheerleader glanced around her. Where there had been nobody a moment earlier, the images of friends and family who had since passed on stood before her. "Wha...What is this?" she gasped.
"You've done nothing wrong. Don't worry," an older man assured her.
"Grandpa?" she realized. "It's you!" Trying to embrace the old man, she found that she couldn't do so.
"Sorry," he apologized. "You can't touch me, but we can speak. I had to see you again, Sweetie."
"How?" she asked her mother.
"Clark and Miranda aren't the only ones in Smallville with unique talents," the angel pointed out. "It seems you have your own gift as well."
"What? I was always able to talk to you and Dad," she noted. "What does that have to do with a special gift?"
"The ability to communicate with those who have passed on," her mother agreed. "And not just with those people in your family. Look behind you."
The dark haired girl turned hesitantly to find Xena--or rather, her spectral image-standing there. "Xena?"
"That's right, Lana," the warrior confirmed, stepping forward. "It's okay, you really are seeing me. That's some gift you have there."
"But, where's Dr. Dubois? You know...I thought you were like her bodyguard," Lana wondered.
"In a way I am," Xena noted. "She and I are well...like roommates in her body. At least that's what David calls us. Can I trust you with that?"
"Of course," Lana promised. "So that was you that Dr. Dubois was talking to in the cell in Genomex?"
The Warrior arched her brow in curiosity. "What do you mean?"
"I couldn't quite make it out, but I knew she was having some sort of conversation in another place. At the time, I thought it was crazy, but then, you showed up, and well..."
"I rest my case," Laura declared to her daughter. Then she looked to the Warrior Princess. "Thank you for protecting her at that awful place."
"No problem," Xena replied, bowing slightly. "I'm looking forward to getting to know her better."
At that moment, Willow whinnied at the gate.
"What is it, Willow?" Lana inquired, rushing over and patting the mare's shoulder. "They won't hurt you."
The mare neighed and looked up...straight at Xena.
The warrior studied the horse for a while. For a minute, she was standing at the corral on Joxer's farm, saying goodbye to her trusted companion. Then her mind snapped back to the present. True, the mare was the same shade as Argo, but the way she was looking at her. So much like her old horse.... "No, it can't be!" She walked closer. "Argo?" she whispered, hoping she was right.
The horse stomped its right foot and snorted.
"Argo!" Xena exclaimed, hugging her old friend. "I can't believe it's you!"
"Argo?" Lana asked in surprise.
"Her horse, Dear," Laura indicated, smiling warmly. "Just the first of our reunions and discoveries, I'm afraid. That is your friend, Xena?"
"It is," the warrior agreed, embarrassed over the tears in her eyes. "There's one way to know for sure. Tomorrow, Lana, we need to let Dr. Dubois ride her. If that's okay with you, Argo?"
The mare nodded and stomped her hoof again.
"Thank you, Lana, for bringing her," Xena sighed, rubbing Argo's mane again.
"Yeah...you're welcome," the astonished teenager replied, managing a sheepish smile. "I'm glad that I could do something after your help and well, being my friend."
"And why wouldn't I be?" Xena inquired. "You're a quality person, Lana. Trust me, you're more than looks. Clark knows that and so do your professors. Have faith in yourself."
Lana blushed. "Thanks."
Laura admired the scene between her daughter and the Thracian spirit. Certainly, Lana had come a long way in her own right to secure the admiration of a shrewd assessor of character like Xena. She felt proud of the strong young woman in front of her. "May you do well with all of your friendships, Lana," she hoped silently. Then, she requested, "Xena, can you bring David and Karen here tomorrow? We have something to say to them as well."
The warrior studied the angel. "I don't wanna provoke him. He's been through enough here."
"I agree," Laura concurred, a warm smile spreading across her face. "My husband and I would like to thank him for helping Lana and Clark is all."
"Sure," Xena agreed. "Tomorrow after sunset? I think we can manage that."
"Absolutely," Lana added. "I'll be here. Should Clark come?"
"Yes, but just the two of them. Angela will be in Xena's form. Lana, you have seen what your friends have gone through with their talents. You are now like them: special yet apart from others," the angel stated. "Your aunt is worried about you. It's time for you to go. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Tell Dad I love him," her daughter requested.
"I will," she responded as she and Lana's grandfather vanished from view.
Turning to Xena, Lana asked, "This is real, isn't it? I'm a mutant too?"
"Seems that way, doesn't it? Looks like ya slipped under Eckhart's radar," Xena affirmed. "You'll do fine, Lana. Well, as your mother said, you need to be headin' back. I have to be getting' back to Dr. Dubois now. See ya. And Lana, thanks again." Slipping close to Argo, she added, "I'll be seeing ya tomorrow too." With that, she faded away as well.
For a minute, Lana glanced at her surroundings uncertain of what she had just experienced. Around her, she could still feel the vibrations and the voices of the deceased people around her. "This is going to be something else," she told herself and the mare, climbing back on the latter's back and riding back toward the farm.
When the group had returned to the Kent farm, they found Martha cutting a cherry pie and putting pieces on plates.
"Hi!" she greeted. "Is everyone okay?"
"We're all fine, Martha," Angie noted. "Has Clark come back yet?"
"He's in the loft," Jonathan replied from the table where he was sipping on a cup of coffee. "What happened out there tonight?"
"From what Clark said out there, your worst fear," Steve reported. "Some people are jealous of others with special gifts."
"Is that the government agency you were talking about before?" the nervous father wondered.
"It is," the agent agreed, taking a cup of his own. "The Bureau is investigating them. They just lost their leader tonight, so I expect they'll be out of commission for a while."
"Is our son going to be safe?" Martha probed, setting down pie portions on the table for everyone.
"There are no absolutes," Dave admitted. "Still, if we have anything to say about it, the kids will be fine."
The Kents exchanged glances. Wherever Clark would go in the world, there were risks such as the one he faced tonight. At least, he had someone to help him with his abilities...and someone they knew and trusted. "We know," Jonathan agreed. "Thanks for helping us out, Dave."
"You're my friends," the professor told them. "I owe this town quite a bit and I don't forget my debts. Now, if you'll excuse me, I want to check on Clark."
Walking out the door, he made his way for the barn and climbed the stairs. There, he found the younger man staring at the stars through his telescope.
"So, which one was yours?" Dave inquired.
"I don't know, to be honest," Clark commented. "So many of them out there. They're each unique."
"I agree," the professor concurred. "As you are, Clark. You did great tonight standing up to the GSA like that. You thought of Lana, Chloe and Miri first. That's the sign of a hero."
"I guess. I just wish that people wouldn't treat me like a monster when they find out about my abilities," Clark complained. "You saw how Eckhart looked at us and how even Chloe reacted."
Dave nodded, feeling the familiar pain running through himself. Sitting down next to Clark, he told the prospective student. "The Eckharts of the world are always going to be there, Clark. You can't change them. Their closed minded views make them a threat to everyone, not just people like us. You can't go into a shell because of them. You're here for a reason. So am I. So is Miranda. So are Lana and Chloe. We owe it to them to make this world a better place by example. You're a quality person, Clark. I just want you to know that."
"Thanks," he replied. "But how about Chloe?"
"What did you do with Lana? Remember?" Dave asked.
"I talked with her honestly," the teenager stated. "I'll do the same thing with Chloe."
"Smart man," the professor complimented. "Just give her time."
"How are you dealing with what she said?" Clark inquired.
"People have called me worse, Clark," Dave informed him. "Still, it did hurt."
"She didn't mean it like that," the young man tried to excuse.
"Oh, she did. The Child scares a lot of people. Remember though, he's just as scared as everyone else," Dave mentioned. "I'm willing to start fresh with her since she seems like such an enthusiastic person." He sighed and shook his head. "You know, when she asked if I'd ever hurt you and Lana, that hurt me."
"Yeah, I'm sure it did," Clark guessed. "I know you'll do your best by us, sir. It's going to be tough leaving home, though."
"Yeah, it always is," Dave concurred. "I was so lucky that Karen's family let me stay with them. We're both lucky, Clark. We have the best friends and parental figures. Your parents are the best people. That's why I owe it to them to see that you get the best education money can buy."
"I appreciate that," Clark expressed. "From what I saw of your Dad and watching how Lex's father treats him, I know I'm really blessed to have my folks. You know, you're a special person, Dr. Dubois. I know how it is to deal with special powers, but to carry them and the pain in addition to the knowledge of how to balance all of that stuff, that's something."
Dave smiled. "Believe me, it's not always like that. There are days when it doesn't work. I just manage everything is all. Hey, everyone's waiting for us. Let's get some of your Mom's cherry pie before it's gone. Okay?"
He nodded, leading the professor down the stairs and out of the barn. Granted, things were about to change for the kids. At least for now, everything was all right with the world.
Chloe walked anxiously into the Smallville Inn. Although she couldn't quite remember the events of the previous day, she knew that she needed to talk with the Duboises and apologize. Looking around the lobby, she wondered which room they were in and if they were even up yet.
Then she saw Dave walk into the lobby. "Excuse me, Dr. Dubois?"
"Hmmm?" he asked. "Oh, hi, Chloe. What's going on?"
"Nothing much. Actually, I was hoping to talk with you for a minute if that's okay," she requested sheepishly.
He smiled. "Have you eaten yet?"
"I was just about to grab some breakfast. Care to join me?" he invited.
She nodded. "Sure. That sounds great." She followed him into the small hotel restaurant and sat across from him at the table. Except for them, the place was eerily quiet. After placing their orders, they sat silently for a minute.
"I wanted to apologize...about what I said to you last night," she started. "I was thinking about what Agent Petersen said and he was right."
He shrugged. "Agent Petersen's been my friend for many years, Chloe, and is a very wise man. Still, I hope you learned something about judging people. One thing about journalism...or life is that you should always try to get all of the facts, but never try to hurt anyone in the process. At least, I always tried to keep that in mind when pursuing a story."
"You were a reporter?" she asked, surprised to find a common thread.
"I was the editor of the high school paper for two years," he revealed, sipping on his coffee. "I always gave that same maxim to my reporters. You're going to be a good reporter, Chloe. I can feel it. Just remember, a little more restraint can be helpful."
She remarked, "I would say the same of you. You went berserk last night. Why?"
"I have...well...you might say a medical condition. I'm doing a lot better these days dealing with myself on all levels," he explained. "Last night was also a very extreme case." He sighed and glanced out the window toward the Talon. "All of my life, I've been fighting one battle or another. After a while, you just fit yourself into a groove."
"I see," she said hesitantly, taking a sip from her juice. "Does this have anything to do with your father?"
"Some," he admitted. "We never did hit it off. Sometimes, I used to look at my friends and wonder how they got such great parents. Clark's folks are a case in point."
"The Kents are the best," she agreed. "At least, you got out."
"After an epic battle. I was such a pain they finally let me go live with Karen and her family," he continued. "Thank God for them."
"I'm glad you had somebody," she told him. "Well, I was going to write one last piece for the Talon before I left for school. Would you mind if I interviewed you?"
"That depends," he replied, "on the topic."
"It's about the Talon stuff," she clarified.
"Oh that. Sure, but let's do it after lunch, okay? Trust me on that one, okay? Well, I have to get moving," he replied, signaling for the check. When the waitress brought it, he handed her a ten-dollar bill. "Chloe, thank you for coming by to talk. I really appreciate it."
"No problem," she indicated. "I think I understand why Clark and Lana respect you now." A bright smile spread across her face.
He grinned back as he left the restaurant, leaving her to compose her thoughts. "There are definitely more layers in that man that meet the eye."
To Clark, it seemed that the night had passed all too quickly. Since he and Lana had made their decision to go away to school, the weeks had flown by. At last, the day arrived when they would leave the familiar grounds behind.
Slowing his pace down a bit, he did his chores much slower than normal, savoring the activity.
"You okay, son?" Jonathan wondered.
"I'm great," Clark assured him.
"Then, why are you taking so long to get your chores done?" the farmer inquired although he already knew the answer. "You and Lana have bigger things in store, Clark. The farm will always be here for you to come back to, as will your Mom and I. You will come back regularly, won't you?"
"You bet," the younger man affirmed, embracing his father.
"Never forget how proud your Mom and I are of you," Jonathan told him. "Well, shall we get some work done before lunch?"
The son nodded. Tomorrow, he would think about being a college student. For that day, he would still be a farm boy.
After returning from breakfast with Chloe, Dave sat on the balcony of his hotel room. It had taken a great deal to face MacTavish, especially so close to the site of his earlier nightmare. Fortunately, he had survived the experience. Not that the trip had been all bad. The Kents were still the quality people he remembered, and helping to save the students had given him an opportunity to repay the townspeople for their kindness so many years earlier.
Karen had mentioned that she had an envelope of some sort for Lana. While he was pretty sure of its contents, he wanted it to be a pleasant surprise.
"Hey," Angie greeted, kissing him. "Couldn't sleep, huh?"
"I still have a lot on my mind," he admitted grimly, sipping on his tea.
She hugged him trying to offer comfort. Would it always be like this for him? "I'm here, remember?"
"I know. Thanks, Princess," he replied, rubbing her shoulder.
"For what it's worth, I'm so proud of how you both handled MacTavish last night. It took a lot for you to restrain the Child, I'm sure," she declared.
"You don't know how tough it was, especially when he threatened Miri," he responded.
"I can imagine," she agreed.
"I can't wait until Randy gets here," he expressed. "His plane just took off."
"I know." She smiled. "We've waited so long for today."
"Thanks for being here to share it with me, Angie," he said appreciatively.
"No problem," she mentioned. "Now, let's get dressed."
He nodded and joined her inside.
Lana wiped the reserved booth down one more time. She wanted everything to be just right for her friends.
"It looks great, Lana. Such a worrywart!" Miranda teased.
"And you're not nervous?" her friend responded anxiously.
"Okay, I am," the older woman admitted, putting the table settings down. "We're going to have fun, you know."
"I know." Lana grinned. She was so glad that Miranda was there to keep her head straight.
At that moment, Dave, Angie, and Karen walked through the front door followed by Chloe.
"Hey, everyone," Miranda greeted the new arrivals. "Where's Agent Petersen?"
"Taking care of some last minute business," Karen noted. "He'll be joining us later. Where is everyone?"
"The Talon's closed for a couple of hours. I wanted us to have the place to ourselves," Lana indicated.
"For this occasion, I approve," Lex agreed, joining them along with Clark and his parents. "I'm glad that everyone's okay after yesterday."
"We are certainly better," Chloe agreed, smiling at Dave. "And wiser too."
"That's great," the bald entrepreneur replied. "Shall we start on that food that we have in the kitchen?"
"Not yet," Jonathan cut in. "I believe that David has something to say."
Dave shot Angie and Karen a nervous look before starting. "Who's in the mood for a Talon story?" he asked.
"Go on," Angie laughed, rolling her eyes.
"Well, there was a time when I was in this theater. I was in the middle of something magical...."
[Twenty-One Years Earlier]
Dave stepped out of the theater and stretched his arms. After being cooped up in that hospital room for a couple of weeks, it was great that the Kents had offered to take him and Karen there to see a film. However, he felt the need to go to the Men's room.
Finding the place, he walked in and found a man staring into the mirror over the sink. He looked nervous about something and kept staring at the door.
"Hey," Dave started. "How about that movie?"
"Huh?" the other wondered. "Oh, it's okay, I guess."
"What's going on? Why are you looking out the door like that? There's only the candy counter over there," Dave wondered.
"Yeah...and the girl behind it. We were in the same high school class, but never noticed each other. Now, for some reason, I have this urge to talk to her," the other told him, choosing to trust him.
"So, go talk to her," Dave remarked. "She won't bite. I bet you two will hit it off really quickly."
"You think so?" the other wondered.
"Hey, intuition's usually right on, Chief," the high school junior remarked, stepping into the stall. "Go on! Fortune favors the brave!"
"Thanks," the other man expressed, making his way out there.
Dave heard the door close as he finished in the stall. After washing up, he walked back into the lobby. There, he saw the man and the concession girl having a pleasant conversation. "Good for you, Bud," he thought, going back into the theater to rejoin his girlfriend and their hosts.
About an hour later, as the movie let out, Dave saw that the two were still talking up a storm and smiling at each other.
"What is it?" Karen asked.
"Hmmm...oh, just that guy over there. I had to nudge him to talk to the lady behind the counter. I'm glad that everything's working out."
"Hi, guys," Jonathan greeted, easing into the conversation. "Sorry to disturb you both. How's everything?"
"Oh, we're fine. How are you and Martha?" the woman asked. "I hear you've had a boarder at your place."
"We're fine and yes, here's our boarder. David Dubois, meet our friends, Lewis and Laura."
"Thanks, David," Lewis expressed, shaking the young man's hand. "How are you doing?"
"You're welcome and I'm doing better," Dave replied. "This is my friend, Karen Alvarez."
"Pleased to meet you both," Karen stated.
"I wanted to say thanks to you for standing up to Lionel Luthor and your father to save this theater. Calling the feds in took a lot of guts," Laura told Dave.
"It's a wonderful place," the student agreed. "It deserves to be here."
"Well, in honor of your visit, we can take a picture," Jonathan agreed, holding up an old portable camera. After his wife, the two guests, and his friends had crowded into the shot, he snapped the shutter.
"Darn it, I only had one picture left," the farmer complained.
"You can have it, David," Lewis offered.
"No, let's each keep half as a memento. That way, we'll have a reason to meet here again someday," Karen suggested.
The others agreed and so, the picture was cut in half. After that, the Kents and their guests left their acquaintances to continue their conversation into the night.
As the story ended, Jonathan got up from the table and took a walk around the area, remembering the events which Dave had just related. His eye scanned the pictures until it came to rest on one particular one.
Clark thought he had heard a version of that story before. "You remember the name of the movie?"
"Close Encounters," Dave indicated.
Lana gave the professor and nurse an incredulous look.
"Lana, do you mind if I look at the picture?" the farmer requested.
"Certainly," she agreed, walking over and taking it down. "Weird isn't it? Just like in Professor Dubois's story...No, it can't be!"
"Karen?" Dave asked.
"This, Lana, is for you," Karen revealed, handing the younger woman a manila envelope.
"What?" Lana wondered, opening the present. Inside, wrapped in tissue paper was a half of a picture. The matching half to the picture Jonathan was looking at. Slumping into a chair, her eyes started to water. "Oh wow..." There, in plain sight were Dave, Karen, Martha, and her parents.
"Dave wasn't sure at first," Angie noted, looking at the other half. "When we saw the picture during our visit here the other day, that cinched it."
"I...I...can't believe it!" Lana sobbed happily. "Clark, Chloe, there are my parents!"
"That's wonderful," he agreed, kissing her cheek.
The journalist rubbed her friend's arm enthusiastically. Now, she understood why Dave had asked her to wait on that interview until later on. "What a story this is going to make!" she thought.
"Do you remember the promise you made the next day to us?" Jonathan inquired.
Dave nodded. "If I became a professor, I would teach your child the right way. I keep my word."
"With a little help from fate," Clark added.
"Fate works in strange ways, Clark," Lex advised. "It sent you both to meet our professors here as well as bringing me and him into contact at last." Looking at the history professor, he added, "I admire the way you stood up to my father as well as yours. That's part of what convinced me to help Lana save this place."
"I figured that," Jonathan noted gruffly. "Still, we know you'll do well by the kids. That's why they're heading west.
At that point, a knocking came from the door.
Dave got up and answered it. There, he saw Steve and his brother, Randy, standing there. "Miri, can you let Agent Petersen in?"
"Sure," she agreed, taking the keys and letting the two men inside. "Agent Petersen, who's your friend? He looks so familiar."
"Do you remember me, Miri?" Randy inquired, his voice breaking.
She stared into his eyes and probed his mind with her abilities for a moment before it hit her. "I can't believe it! Daddy!" she exclaimed, hugging him tightly.
"Oh, Baby!" he told her. "You don't know how long I've dreamed of this!" He ran his fingers through her hair. "This is the answer to my prayers."
"Me too," she sobbed, burying her face in his chest. Looking at her uncle, she expressed, "Thank you, Uncle Dave!"
"Thank Lana," he advised. "She brought us all together."
"I played a hunch," Lana admitted. "I'm glad I did."
"I am too," Randy concurred, holding his long lost daughter close to his heart. It had been far too long for both of them.
"Well, I'm in the mood to celebrate," Lex indicated, motioning for the other help to bring out the food. "Let's dig in!"
"Before we do," Dave interrupted, raising his glass. "A toast." When the others had their glasses, he stated, "To old friendships and relationships, may they always be sweet. To current friendships, may they always be wonderful and inspiring. And to the future, may our opportunities always be positive!"
"Hear, hear," the others concurred, touching cups and glasses before starting the meal.
It had been a truly wonderful day after all.