Lana Lang-Kent writes.
It's hard to take. I mean, Christmas is supposed to be the most special time of the year, right? We were going to have all of these celebrations and stuff.
But who wants to celebrate now?
Yes, the Overmind is gone and we students survived our third round of exams.
Yet the Child sacrificed himself to rid us of the crisis.
The crew from the Andromeda left Earth a day later, expressing their regrets. As much as they feared the Child, they were affected as were we all. Trance, in particular, was having a tough time with it.
I'm having a hard time with this fact. For some reason, I can still feel him on the dreamscape. The others think I'm nuts but I know he's still alive.
Chapter 27 [Tucson„Kent Condo, Day after Christmas]
Snow fell in the Old Pueblo as an unusually powerful cold front zipped through the area. On the positive side, it did give the kids a rare treat to play with. For most, the weather matched every one's mood given the circumstances.
Lana cleaned around the condo, trying to keep her mind occupied. Seeing Miranda and the others' state amplified her own sorrow. I still can't believe he did that. I know it's the Child and he's like Super Protector but he knew the risk. And he still did it.
"Want a cup of coffee, Honey?" Clark asked.
"That'd be great," she agreed. "It's not your fault, you know."
"If only I could have stood up to that creep," he wished.
She set her rag down and went over to him. Hugging him, she stated, "None of us could have done anything, Clark. He knew the risk and he did it because he cares about us."
"You're still talking in the present tense. Come on, Lana, he's gone," he pointed out.
She stared at him. "I've felt him on the dreamscape. So has Sarah. He's alive."
"Come on, Lana. You both want to believe that," he disagreed.
"Clark! I know what I'm feeling!" she snapped, tears welling up in her eyes. "I don't want to say anything to Dr. Dubois until we can get Martin to double check." She heard a knock at the door.
He walked over and opened it to find Angie standing there. "Dr. Dubois?"
The oncologist sighed wearily. The past two days had dragged by. She was depressed to say the least. "Sorry to disturb you both. I'll come back."
"No. Please come in," he invited, opening the door all of the way. "Lana and I were about to stop over and see how you were doing."
His wife agreed, "You and the twins shouldn't be alone right now."
Angie smiled. "I appreciate this. The twins are with their sister right now. I needed some time to myself." She looked over at the coffee maker. "That does smell lovely."
"It's just finishing its cycle right now," Lana noted, taking out three cups and fixing the coffee. "How are you holding up?"
At that question, the guest broke down, crying her eyes out. "I can't believe he's gone! Even when it was just the Child there, I could make myself think we could get him back. But he's gone."
Clark shook his head, wondering why she had to say anything in the first place.
Lana frowned as she embraced the older woman. I can imagine what it would be like for me if Clark had to sacrifice himself. "You aren't alone, all right? We're all here for you."
"II know. Lexand Chloe want to go to England to seeGrandpa Alex. I figured it would be good toget the girls out of here for a week or so. Could you keep an eye on the condo while you're here? II figure that you have to be in Smallville at some point but I'd appreciate it," Angie sobbed.
"While we're here, we'll be happy to do it," Lana agreed.
Clark looked out the window and saw a taxi pull up in front of the Dubois residence. "Who's that?" Then he saw a man get out, pay the driver and walk up to the door. "Just a minute." Throwing on his coat, he jogged across the parking lot. "Can I help you?"
"Clark Kent?" the visitor asked, turning to face him.
"Brother Tony?" Clark queried. "Please come to our place. Dr. Dubois is over there."
"Thank you," the elderly minister agreed. "I heard from your parents about what happened and took the first available flight down here. Is it true?"
"Unfortunately. Come on," Clark replied, guiding him back across the lot. "Lana's got coffee ready."
"That would be a welcome sight indeed," Tony concurred, while following him into the other condo. After hurriedly hanging up his things, he rushed over to Angie. "Angela?"
The doctor sniffled and looked up at him. "Brother Tony? How?"
"I heard on Christmas Day from Jonathan and Martha Kent. Our neighbors in Wabash took up a collection and I came as soon as there was a flight available," he indicated.
"They don't have that kind of money! Oh why did they all put themselves in hock for us?" she protested.
Tony shook his head. "Angela, they're your friends. You've helped them all at one point or another. Now it's their turn. I'm here for you. Were you there when it happened?"
"Xena was," she continued sadly, collecting herself. "The last fight took place in the Pit. The Child told Xena and Ferali to leave. Deirdre created a mist area of some kind. After that, the Childand that alien hunter, the Overmind, hit each other with energy. They both vanished."
Then he really is gone. "Angela, I'm sorry. Even when the darkness took him, David was a hero," Brother Tony stated.
"He certainly was, Brother," Clark agreed.
I wish I could tell them about my theory but now's not the time. She looked out the window into the driving snow. Find your way back to us if you're there, Professor.
Chapter 28 [Parallel Universe]
The rain drummed down on an alleyway, soaking every inch of the place. The place was one big mud puddle, stinking of garbage and other noxious items.
Suddenly, a light flash lit up the site, casting a temporary glow upon the area before it burnt itself out.
In its wake, a lone figure lay semi-conscious in the filth; pain eating away at him. "Wha?" he muttered. Squinting up at the sky, he gurgled, "Where?" He climbed laboriously to his feet and staggered for a couple of steps. Then he saw three men approach. "Can youhelp me?"
The trio grinned savagely. They were dressed in blue rain slickers with gray slacks.
The leader was a lanky man with a crazed look, greasy blonde hair and a gap between his two front teeth. "Hey, Boys, look at what we got here! A worthless bum! Show him what it means to be worthless!"
The others rushed their victim, determining to do him bodily harm.
The stranger's eyes went wide, as he took in his two opponents. "Hey!" Then some sort of instinct kicked in. With one deft move, he avoided the two bullies, letting them hit the wall behind him and knock themselves out. "Why're you botherin' me?" he muttered.
"You think you're pretty smart, don't ya?" Greasy asked angrily, taking out a billy club. "I'll teach you!" He charged at the stranger.
The other man ducked out of the way before delivering an elbow to the side of the man's head and knocking him out. "Keep'way." He staggered out of the alley and onto the main sidewalk. There he found himself in a town of some sort. In fact, he could see that he was on the main street by the rows of shops on each side of it. "Where.?"
Glancing down into a puddle, he could see that he was bleeding from his arms and legs. "Feelbad."
At that moment, a woman's voice asked, "Excuse me?"
"Yyeah?" he rasped weakly.
The petite woman in front of him gasped at his condition. "You're hurt! Who did this to you? I knew those no-good bullies of Lionel Luthor's hurt people!"
Lionel Luthor. For some reason, that name penetrated the fog shrouding his brain. "Ican't 'member."
The woman looked him over. "Well, I can't take you to the hospital but my clinic's right around the corner. Can you come with me, please?"
"Wh..y ya wanna help?" he whispered.
"I'm a doctor. Now come on," she urged, helping him toward her office. Opening the door, she assisted him through the waiting area and into the back examination room. "Up you go!"
"Ththank you," he coughed and fell asleep.
She shook her head. He's so badly hurt that he'll need time. I wish I could take him to the med center but after his run in out there, The sheriff will be looking for him too. Best treat him and see what he says when he comes to. For the better part of two hours, she cleaned his wounds and bandaged them. Amazing. I would think the alcohol would have awakened him on its own. What hit him?
As he slept, images flashed through his mind, snapping on and off in a jumbled mess. First, he saw himself standing before a group speaking about something. Then he was with a woman and two kids but couldn't tell what they were doing.
Then the 'image show' turned dark. He saw himself in a series of fights„one after another. In each case, an enemy confronted him and his friends. In every case, he felt pain and saw a red cloak drop over his vision before he heard a loud piercing shriek. What is that? Who are they?
He sat up screaming on the examination table.
The doctor ran into the room, wanting to see what the matter was. "You're awake! Thank goodness!"
"How long?" he asked.
"You've been out for three days," she revealed. "Fortunately it was a weekend."
He looked at her again and did a double take. For some reason, her face and mannerisms jarred a hidden memory.
She asked him, "What is it?"
"You look like someone I think I know," he told her, getting off of the table. Inspecting himself, he saw her handiwork. "Thanks." He looked at her again. "What's your name?"
"Dr. Blackwell. Angela Blackwell," she revealed. "And you are?"
He scratched his head, trying to remember that very thing. "Idon't know. Why can't I remember?"
She soothed, "It's okay. You've obviously been through a lot. Look, why don't we get something to eat?"
"I don't want to be any trouble," he declared.
Angela shook her head. "I invited you so you're quite all right. The Coldstone Creamery's got great soup and full meals."
"Sounds good," he agreed. Looking at himself again, he saw that he was in a hospital type smock. "My clothes?"
"Oh, right!" she recalled, rushing into the back room and bringing out a new flannel shirt and a pair of blue jeans. "Sorry. The clothes you had on were a disaster. I tossed them. These are the same size. Lucky for us that the second hand store down the street had them. By the way, did you have a wallet or anything? I couldn't find it."
"Guess not," he muttered. "Excuse me for a second." He walked into the back and put the clothes on. When he came out, he told her, "Thank you, Angela. This is really kind of you." He smiled at her.
"It's no trouble really. I like to trust people. For some reason, I have this feeling about you," she replied pleasantly.
"Like what?" he asked.
"I don't know. For some reason, I feel as though I should be helping you," she continued. "Come on; I hear your stomach growling. Let's rip."
He nodded, opening the door for her first. Then, as they stood on the main street again, he asked, "Where am I?"
"You're in Smallville, Kansas," she noted, "meteor capital of the Midwest. I think they should call it 'Depression Capital of the Midwest' too. It's always miserable around here."
He nodded absently, taking in her words. The street did seem familiar to him though. Smallville? Why would that mean anything to me? As they walked, he saw an old boarded up building across the street. He stopped them and pointed to it. "What's that place?"
She followed his train of sight toward the building. "That? That's the old Talon Theater. It's been deserted and boarded up for years." Seeing his interest in it, she asked, "What is it?"
He looked long and hard at the old movie house, experiencing a rush of feelings and more images. A crowd. Snow. Pain. And then, the Scream again. "I've been there when it was open."
She glanced at him skeptically. "From what I hear, that place has been closed for almost thirty years. I know you're not from around here. So how could that be?"
He sighed, shaking his head. "I wish I knew that for sure."
"Well, I do know that you're going to get a good dinner," she told him, as they entered the Creamery, "anything from here?"
He scanned the area and did indeed see more images. He could almost see himself in the phone booth, making a call of some kind for a minute. "Nope," he fibbed.
She looked at him once again as they sat down. By rights, I should just turn him in. I don't know this guy and he may be whacked out in the head. Still, the gut's telling me to trust him. "That's good. Pork chops are good here."
"I'll go with that," he agreed, his face buried in the menu.
The waitress, a lanky red head came up and asked, "Can I take your order?"
"I'll have the pork chops with the veggie of the day and a vanilla malt," Angela ordered.
"I'll do the pork chops too," he agreed. Then he scrunched his brow and looked at the menu again. "This is going to be really weird."
Maybe he's remembering something. "Go ahead," his companion urged.
He nodded and turned to the waitress. "Do you make something called a Mabel Awful-Awful, per chance?"
The waitress looked at him with surprise. "We haven't made one of those in fifteen years, Chief." Seeing the insistent look on his face, she agreed, "Rich in the back remembers how to do it. You got it."
"Thank you, Ma' am. Ask him to put an extra shot of cherry syrup in it too," he expressed pleasantly, handing her back the menu.
She smiled as she scurried away.
"How did you do that?" Angela asked.
"Do what?" he wondered.
"You're not from around here. You don't even know as much as your name. Yet you remember an old dessert," she marveled. It has to be classic amnesia.
"Beats me," he replied, shrugging his shoulders. Then he saw a portly balding man setting his drink in front of him. "Thanks. Rich?"
The man nodded nervously and turned white. "Yyou're welcome." He hustled back to the grill.
"What was that about?" the stranger asked, putting the straw in the drink and sipping. "Mmm"
Meanwhile a trio of students entered the eatery. It had been quite the day at Smallville High. Being the end of the marking period, every teacher had tests. Needless to say, the kids were in the mood for a good snack before heading home.
An African-American male peeked around. "Man, I knew there wouldn't be a table open."
The auburn haired girl with him agreed, "Pete's right. We'll have to wait."
The tall kid with the black hair yawned, "I'm sure something will open, Miranda." He rubbed his head. "Meantime, I need to sit down."
She rolled her eyes at him. "What is it with you, Clark? Don't tell me you're sick again."
"I feel so weak all of the time," Clark complained.
"He just needs one of Rich's burgers," Pete suggested. "A table just opened."
As they headed across the restaurant, Miranda saw Angela and the stranger and stopped cold. No! How? She dropped her books.
"Miranda?" Clark asked.
"I know him!" she pointed out.
For his part, the stranger got up and helped her collect her books. As he handed them to her, his mind latched onto her face in several scenarios. "You seem familiar."
"How can that be?" Pete asked. "I've never seen you before."
"Miranda, who is he?" Angela asked.
Miranda looked around anxiously. Now's not the time for a scene especially if those bullies are watching. "It must be a mistake." With that, she scurried off to join her friends.
"You do cause a scene, don't you?" the doctor cracked as their dinners arrived.
"I had no idea I was so popular," the stranger commented, digging into the pork, peas and potatoes. "Let's finish up before I attract any more attention."
"If you want. Hey, I wanted to ask what you're doing for living arrangements. There's a farm out on the edge of town that's looking for an extra set of hands. You mind farm work?" she reported.
"Guess not, especially if it means a roof over my head and some food every day," he supposed.
"Great. It's too late to go there now. I'll let you sleep where you were last night and we'll go over in the morning. I feel really creepy about asking this but would you mind if I go out for a while?" she indicated.
"I'm fine with that," he concurred, starting on the next course. "This is really good. Thanks."
She grinned. "My boyfriend says it's the best in Smallville. He's been coming here since he was a kid."
Too bad. He mused, shaking his head. "He has good taste. Well, I don't want to keep you. I really would like some sleep so I can make a good impression in the morning. You've been a great tonight, Angela."
"My pleasure," she noted. Why can't there be more guys like this? "Let's pay the bill and then we can leave."
He nodded, following her lead. At least it's a good ending to a crappy day. Maybe I'll know more tomorrow. With that, he headed out to her office.
Outside of town, a white house sat on a particularly steep prairie rise at a good distance off of the road. This particular place didn't receive many visitors since the meteor shower many years before. The townspeople avoided it because the air was chilly and stagnant even in the height of the summer. Besides, they didn't want to deal with its mistress either.
A tall woman stared out the window toward Smallville with an interested look on her face. "Well what do we have here?" Her dark eyes scanned the horizon, as if picking up on some energy. "Him? Here?" She grinned. "The gambit comes around at last." Running her hands through her long brown hair, she chuckled, "I've had so much fun playing with these fools since my arrival." Alti remembered the last series of battles leading up to her exile here. I underestimated him again and his brat pack. It's taken me twelve years to get to this point here. Fortunately, I can take my old name up again. He's not ruining things this time. Hearing a knock at the door, she frowned. What does she want now? "Yes?"
"Momma Anne?" a teenage brunette asked. "Can I could go out on a study date?"
"Is it with Whitney?" Alti inquired testily.
"Yes. He'll have me back by 10:30," the girl promised.
"Yes! Just remember what I said." When Lana had left, she rolled her eyes. I need to keep her away from Clark Kent if it kills me. And having this little complication roll into town right now could screw everything up royally. I'll need to let Hansei know. He'll want to keep his stepdaughter away from our visitor as well.
She nodded. My dark child has returned to me. This may be my chance to claim him once and for all.
Miranda hurried into the house and shut the door quickly. Could it be? Remembering to take off her shoes in the entryway and place them neatly against the wall, she rushed up the stairs to her room. There she shut the door and sat on her bed. Everyone told me he was dead. Could it be him? Opening her dresser drawer, she moved her socks out of the way to see an old newspaper clipping.
Taking it out, she gazed at the photo and saw that it matched the stranger's face. "Uncle?"
At that moment, she heard the door downstairs open and close. "Miranda?" her stepfather called.
Oh great. He's home early. "Be there in a minute!" she called, dreading his arrival. She made sure not to keep him waiting too long. "How was your trip?"
"I managed," he told her. "This is a little better. Still you do have a ways to go."
She looked at him silently. The man wouldn't appreciate anything I do for him.
"I'll be leaving again in the morning. You know what to do?" Arighatto asked. Seeing her nod, he yawned. "Good. Stay out of my way." He trudged into his room and shut the door.
And good night to you too. Still, given that he could change into a demon, she was glad that he ignored her for the most part on that encounter. "I could use some sleep as well," she told herself, heading up the stairs to her room.
Chapter 31 [Kent Farm]
Clark stumbled into his parents' barn and sat down on a bale of hay. He still wondered about Miranda and the Stranger. Her reaction was so out of character. It was like she saw a ghost. Who is he?
At that moment, Jonathan walked in with a smile on his face. "Hey, Son, how was your day?"
"All right," he replied. "I had more dizzy spells though."
The farmer looked at him anxiously. Ever since he and Martha had pulled Clark from the Ship and brought both back there, the boy had chronic weakness. "Are you okay?"
"No, Dad, I'm not!" Clark blurted out, frustrated from this state of affairs. "Why can't I help you and Mom more?"
"Clark, you need to calm down before it starts again."
"Why? I" The teenager gasped and heaved deeply, desperately sucking air into his lungs.
"Clark! Calm down. It'll be okay. Really," the farmer soothed.
"Ssorry, Dad, it's been a really long day. And Miranda had that run in." Clark started to explain between breaths.
"What run in?" Jonathan asked. "What happened, Clark?"
Clark ran his hand through his hair as he tried to recall the events in the Creamery. "We were in the Creamery. Pete, her and me were looking for a table. Then she saw this guy sitting with Dr. Blackwell. Miranda went white and dropped her books. He helped her to collect them. After that, we had a soda and left."
"And that's all that happened? He didn't touch her, did he?" Jonathan asked.
"No. He was really polite. It was almost like she came into contact with something from her past. One of those deep secrets she's always hiding from us, you know?" Clark explained.
"And we don't? Give Miranda some slack, Clark. It doesn't take a genius to see that she's not happy here," the farmer told him. "Speaking of Dr. Blackwell, she just called. Apparently, there's someone who's interested in our farm hand job. Maybe it's that mystery guy."
"Maybe," Clark agreed. He coughed again. "I wish I could help out."
"We've been over this. Every time you try to do really heavy work, you fall apart," Jonathan pointed out. Seeing the other's argument forming in his eyes, he continued, "You don't need to prove yourself to us. Your mother and I know that you do what you can around here."
"Yeah. I guess," Clark relented. "I can give him a chance, right?"
"That's the ticket," Jonathan concurred, rubbing his son's arm. "Now come on. Your Mom's got her apple pie ready."
"Great," he replied, picking up his pace a bit at the sound of that enticement.
Chapter 32 [Early the next morning]
Jonathan and Martha watched Clark get on the bus and pull out, heading for school. The three spent three hours prepping the extra room for their helper. They put fresh sheets on the bed, dusted the furniture and even polished the mirror. Overall, it looked great.
She shook her head. "Clark feels like he's letting us down. We can't afford to take on anyone right now."
He grimaced. "Martha, with the spring planting around the corner, we need help. Clark can't handle it."
"And we're going to trust some stranger?" she asked. "Jonathan, we don't know this man."
He hugged her shoulders. "You know that Angela is a good trust of character. If she says go for it, we can at least talk with him."
She nodded, recalling the last time the room had been used. "Do you remember, Jonathan?" Tears came to her eyes. "I'm sorry That boy never had a chance."
He embraced her and fought back his own tears. "I know, Martha. He never asked for anything except to be brought back here. At least, he passed away happy."
"I know. He wanted to help out just like Clark," she sighed. "Too bad nobody wanted him back East."
"He'll always be wanted here," he vowed. "Let's get that coffee going. We have about an hour."
Angie stirred and glanced at the alarm clock by the bed. While she loved the feel of the satin sheets, she hated being there. Mama and Daddy would have a fit if they knew. She didn't love the man beside her. Granted, it had been fun at first to be with the richest man in Smallville. The trips and the opulence had swept her off of her feet.
Now she felt dirty and used.
She got up, trying not to disturb him. She hoped to slip away before he noticed she was gone.
Slipping into her clothes, she crept out of the room and started down the stairs.
But then, she heard, "Hey! You leave just like that?" She turned to see Lex Luthor storming toward her with fury in his glazed eyes.
"Lex, I have an appointment," she told him frankly.
"Yeah? I think you're LYING!" he snapped, slapping her across the face. "What's the matter? You don't like it anymore? Huh? You don't think my father's men didn't see you with your friend there? Who is he, Angela? Who's this stranger? Are you making time with him too?"
She gaped at him while rubbing her cheek. "I would never! He's a nice guy, all right? I found him beaten by your father's bullies. Leave him alone and while you're at it, leave me alone!" She bolted from the mansion, got into her car and sped away.
He bellowed after her. "Don't come back! You hear me?" He shook his head. "Figures that witch would do that to me." He seethed with rage as he stormed into his study. There he found his father already working. "Dad, I want privacy!"
Lionel Luthor looked up with a stern glare. "Lex, when you're finished playing the fool, we have work to do."
"Yeah, Dad, I hear that your boys have been busy in town," Lex sneered, picking up a cup of coffee. From his robe pocket, he pulled out a small metal flask and poured a healthy amount of something in the cup before drinking it. "Ahh!"
"When you're done ruining your liver, Lex, we need to talk," the elder man stated. "You're playmate upstairs? Her friend could be trouble for us!"
"Why, Dad? He's just some stupid drifter. You know how Angela is. She's always taking in strays," Lex assumed.
"Just the same, I want to make sure," Lionel declared. "I want you to keep an eye on him. I hear he's going to be up at the Kent Farm. Take a drive up there tonight."
"Okay," Lex agreed. "I need to take the Ferrari out for a test spin anyhow." With that, he sauntered from the room, enjoying his morning drink.
Lionel frowned, thinking how Lex had been such an energetic kid before the incident downtown. Between that situation and his mother's death, the boy's never amounted to anything. I will bring you back to me, Lex. That I will.
[Angela's Clinic„An hour earlier]
The stranger got up at sunrise and blinked himself awake. For some reason, he felt secure in Angela's clinic even if he was sleeping on a padded examination table. Time to get up. "Angela?" he called. Getting no answer, he dressed in the previous evening's clothes and looked around. "Where is she?" Then he saw a note on the table:
I went to see my boyfriend tonight. I'll be back in time for breakfast. Fix yourself some coffee if you'd like.
Thank you for being such a good dinner guest last night. It was fun.
He shook his head at the note, feeling a twinge of jealousy. What's eating you? You don't even know who you are but you're ticked that she's with this other guy? Get a grip. He saw a mug sitting on the counter beside a jar of instant coffee and smiled. At least she left you with a mug. After filling it from the faucet, he set it in the microwave and let it heat up.
As he stirred his drink, he saw her come in. "Morning."
"Hi. I'll be back in a minute," she told him.
He asked her, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Just give me a minute to straighten up before we leave," she declared.
"I was making coffee and there'll be a cup for you," he replied. "You seem like you need this more than I do."
She turned, allowing him to see her sad eyes and bruised right cheek. "I can't."
His eyes went wide. "Who did this to you? Was it that guy? I'd never let."
She looked at him strangely. "You'd never what? We only met three days ago and you've slept for most of them. Where did that come from?"
He shook his head. Where did that come from? For some reason, I feel as though I know her. He saw more flashes in his mind. First he was in a dark place of some kind with hairy things and a short bearded guy. Then he saw himself fighting a bigger man dressed in old styled clothes and pale skin in the middle of the night.
"Hey! Are you all right?" she asked.
He nodded, snapping back to reality. "Yeah, I am. Thanks. Looks like it's been a long night for both of us."
She apologized, "I'm sorry for snapping at you. Look, why don't we just go ahead and talk to the Kents? Come on. You can drink that on the way."
Fifteen minutes later, he got out of the car and stared at the Kent Farm. Again, he felt the strange buzzing in his head.
"What is it? What's going on?" she asked. "Are you all right?"
"I don't know," he replied unsurely. "I think I'm remembering something."
"That's great! Well maybe some first class breakfast will jar those memories," she urged, leading him up the stairs. There she knocked at the door. "Hi! It's Angela."
"Come on in," Martha called from the kitchen area.
The doctor grinned. "They're really great. Come on."
He followed silently, looking around as he walked and dealing with more images as they went. This deja-vu is going to kill me. He saw a red headed woman with her back turned to him as she fixed something and spoke with Angela. "Good morning."
Martha turned with a warm smile on her face. "Good morning. I" She stared at him, allowing the platter in her hands to drop and shatter on the floor. "My God. Hhow?"
The stranger shook his head. "This again? Hey, are you all right?"
"Martha?" Angela asked with concern.
The farm wife quivered for a minute before regaining her wits. "You're dead!"
"Huh?" he wondered, arching his brow in disbelief. "What are you talking about?"
Martha grabbed him in a giant hug. "Somehow you've come back! Hang on!" Sticking her head in the staircase, she called, "Jonathan! You aren't going to believe this! Get down here!"
"What is it?" her husband asked, rushing down the stairs. "I heard the plate crash. Are you all right?" Seeing her in tears with a smile on her face, he insisted, "What is it, Martha?"
"I upset her," the stranger pointed out. "Sorry."
The voice made Jonathan freeze for a minute. "How?" He looked at the other man with wonder. "David?"
"You know him?" the doctor inquired, looking at all three of her companions.
"I'd swear I've never been here before," the stranger insisted.
"I beg to differ," Jonathan disagreed, a grin spreading across his face. "It's a miracle."
"Miracle?" the guest asked. "Begging your pardon, Sir, your wife claims that I'm dead. That's impossible. I'm not who you think I am."
The farmer ran his hand along the amnesiac's forehead, raising the hair to check the scalp. He nodded. "You have the scar he had on his forehead. Come here." He pulled an old photo album off of the shelf and dusted it off.
"Jonathan, what are you doing?" Martha queried.
He opened it to the right page and held it out for their guests to see. "There! You see?"
Angela did a double take. "That's you!" She smiled at her mysterious companion. "You see? You do have a name!"
"A name," the stranger muttered, looking at the faded photographs. "When were these taken?"
"1981. Beforeyou wellyou know," the farmer tried to explain.
The other man nodded, seeing more images. He saw the three of them sitting at the table along with another brunette girl and an older man eating something. Then his mind flashed to another scene. He was in a darkened room with a lot of tables. In the corner, he could make out the couple with two kids. Then he saw a man in some crazy Japanese armor and a painted face challenging him.
Once again, he heard the Scream rising above everything else.
He clamped his hands down on his ears, wincing at the sound. "What is that sound? Make it stop!"
"What sound? Are you all right?" Angela asked, becoming more perplexed.
The man collected himself as the noise faded. "Now I am, I guess." Then he realized that he also recalled their names. "Martha? Jonathan?"
"That's right," Martha agreed. "It is you! Sit down, David."
"Who is he exactly?" Angela inquired curiously, feeling happy for her friend.
"His name is David Dubois. At least it was„before he died," Jonathan reported.
"Dave Dubois," the guest said, as if trying the name on for size. "You don't mind if I go by 'Dave', do you? For some reason, it seems to fit."
"That's fine," Jonathan agreed. "That's what you preferred to be called."
"I have a question though. How can I be dead if I'm here? That doesn't make sense," Dave asked.
"You passed away upstairs and wewellwe buried you." Seeing his astonishment, Martha continued, "We can prove it to you if you both want to come."
Angela looked at Dave. "Well?"
"Why not? I guess seeing is believing," he replied, feeling very uncomfortable at the moment. Still he wanted to get to the bottom of his situation. Accordingly, he took the bait.
"Follow us in her car," Martha told him, making sure that everything was turned off before they left.
Fifteen minutes later, the quartet entered the necropolis. The wind went icy cold and the skies darkened.
"This is officially creepy," Angela declared.
"You aren't the one who's dead," Dave deadpanned as they followed the couple. "This has got to be some sort of sick joke."
"Believe me; I wish it was, Dave," Jonathan disagreed while taking a left turn at a granite angel monument and continuing onward for five more steps before stopping. "Here it is. Brace yourself."
He followed the advice as he approached the plot. There in front of him, he saw the name they had given him engraved on a slightly raised marker: "David Dubois, Died December 25, 1981, Hero, You'll Be Loved and Remembered."
He shook his head. "This can't be! I can't be dead!"
But you did die, Dave, a voice inside of his head asserted.
He turned to see a ghost of a thin dark haired woman in white appear in front of him. "Now what?"
"What is it?" Angela wondered.
"You don't see it, do you? The ghost hovering right ththere!" Dave pointed out, raising his shaking hand to point at it.
"There's nothing there," Martha noted, thinking they had made a mistake in bringing him there.
Dave whispered, "Damn straight, there's something here."
They can't see me, Dave. Only you can. Do you remember me?
He shook fearfully, not sure what to make of this visitor. "You want to take me back, don't you?"
I mean you no harm. Look after Lana. She's in danger.
"Lana?" he asked with uncertainty.
My daughter. Her stepmother means to harm her. Only you can stop her. That's why you are here.
He shook his head. "And you are?"
The angelic figure bowed her head. Unfortunately, your mind has been wiped clean. My name is Laura Lang and I come to you now to remind you of your purpose.
The others looked at him strangely. "Dave?"
"Purpose?" Dave asked, shaking them off.
You are here to right a wrong. Soon the evil ones will seek you out. Be ready. They know you are here. With that, the angel disappeared.
"This is nuts," Dave muttered, looking at the spot where the speaker had been. "Wait a minute! Whose plot is this?"
"That's where the Langs are buried. You were friends with them," Martha pointed out. "Why?"
He scratched his head. And now this 'Laura' comes back to warn me about something. Well, Chief, you can either run for the hills or confront this garbage. As appealing as the former looks, my gut's telling me to do the latter. "You're right on one thing."
"And what's that?" Jonathan inquired.
Dave looked at them firmly. "I'm Dave Dubois all right."
"So you believe them?" Angela queried, not quite believing herself.
"On that front, yeah. Umm, can we get some chores done this morning so I can free up the afternoon? I want to find out more about myself," Dave requested.
"Don't worry about that for now, Dave," Martha agreed. "Put things together first. Then we'll get squared away."
"Let me call my nurse and cancel my appointments for today. I can help you too," Angela offered, taking out her cell phone. "Give me a minute."
As she did so, Dave stared back in the direction of town, pondering Laura's message. Whoever these 'evil ones' are, they're going to be a headache all right.
Interlude [Our Universe]
[Mountaintop in New Mexico]
Martin sat alone atop a mountain in the New Mexico Rockies, staring at a large bonfire. Since hearing of the Professor's demise, he retreated from everything and everyone, even from Kayla. He deserves the proper ritual. His soul needs to go to the next world.
"Martin? There you are!" Kayla huffed, pulling herself onto the summit.
"Kayla, with all due respect, I need privacy. I wish to mourn," he declared resolutely. "I am preparing for the ritual." He looked at her buckskin tunic, the paint on her face and the ceremonial deer headdress covering her hair. "What is this?"
"You aren't the only shaman among us, Martin. When my grandfather passed on, I became my tribe's shamaness," she pointed out. "The spirit dance is universal. Thus, I want to participate. It is my right."
He sighed, conceding the point, "Very well. And thank you, Kayla, for being here."
She rubbed his shoulder. "To do the dance, one must stare into the abyss. That shouldn't be done alone, Martin. You are not an island. No one is." She inspected the bonfire for a minute before opening her pouch and taking out a pinch of herbs. Throwing them onto the blaze, she watched it spark before chanting in her tribe's dialect. "It is done."
"It's time," he declared.
"Indeed," she concurred, taking his hand.
Together, they moved in tune with the cosmos, seeking their departed friend's spirit. Over and over, they searched, calling out to the Land of the Dead but coming up empty.
Then something hit them. A glimmer; a memory„a feeling.
The Professor was still alive. Granted, he was lost, but he was still alive.
"Did you feel that?" he asked when they regained consciousness.
"You bet I did! The others need to know!" she concurred.
Nai-Jin sat in her hut, immersed in a trance. As always, she sought the future on her sisters' behalf. In the days since David Dubois' death, the spirits have been restless. Nothing is what it seems.
Then it hit her„visions. They showed the medievalist falling and ending up in a familiar place. A visit to the Children of Destiny's house. A talk with Xena's future self. Taking on two mist shrouded evils.
What is it? I must know. She probed further.
The mists parted to show Dave facing the ancient enemy of the Amazons and a painted man. Alti!
The shamaness turned and waved her hand.
Nai-Jin screamed as her trance was broken. "The queen must know!" Quickly composing herself and ignoring her own pain and fatigue, she hustled across the square to Gabrielle's hut. Once there, she knocked on the door.
Eve opened it. "Nai-Jin, what is it? With all due respect, can't it wait?"
"No, Princess, it concerns our missing friend," the seeress reported, huffing for breath.
"You mean 'dead friend'," Xena corrected her.
"No, Xena, David is alive! Somehow, he survived! I saw him!" Nai-Jin continued.
"How?" Gabrielle wondered. "Xena?"
The Warrior Princess scanned her memories of the final face off. "Somethin' in the place didn't feel right. I was so out of it though, it slipped my mind."
"Not right?" the Bard-Queen asked.
"I can't explain it," the councilor said to them. "Just like somethin' doesn't feel right now." She drew her sword and challenged, "Ares, come out!"
In a flash of light, the former war god appeared wearing a sarcastic look on his face. "You rang?"
"Yeah I got a question for ya," Xena told him.
He smirked and glanced at the seeress. "Lemme guess, she just discovered the news."
"You knew?" Gabrielle inquired, feeling her blood pressure rising.
He shrugged. "Well, I had a good idea but gee there was a little matter of YOU ALL NOT WANTING TO LISTEN TO ME!"
"Cut the crap, Ares. Where is he? Where's David?" Xena demanded fiercely, pointing her sword at him.
"I don't know and that's the honest truth," he admitted. "I know he's alive and out there somewhere."
Angela needs to know. "All right, we'll find him."
"You'd better hurry, girls," he added.
"Meaning what, you bastard?" Eve hissed.
He snickered. "Ooh, I see the lovey dovey Eli stuff is wearing off. Seriously, he's about to run into not just one but two blasts from your past."
"Alti. I saw Alti and a man with a painted face," Nai-Jin indicated.
Xena winced. "Alti and Yodoshi together? But how? Martin banished her!"
"And Yodoshi's in jail, so this doesn't fit," Gabrielle pointed out. "How would he been able to do that?"
"Unless it was another universe's version of Yodoshi," Nai-Jin considered.
"What?" Eve asked.
"It could be like what happened to us when Caesar tampered with the Fates' loom. She was there too, remember?" Gabrielle recalled.
"Yeah. How could I forget that?" Xena growled. "Still, Alti can't affect David because of the Child."
"But if he doesn't have the dark brat?" he asked.
"I've only been getting broken glimpses, my sisters. It's like David's not David at the moment. I can only sense him sporadically. I can't feel the darkness at all." Nai-Jin paced. "Where is this?"
Ares shrugged. "I don't know where he went. Best of luck." With that, he vanished into thin air.
"What do we do now?" Eve asked.
"We get Cybelle and Deirdre. Come on!" Xena asserted, running out the door and leading the others toward the path to Althanor. As soon as they know, I'm telling Angela.
Chapter 34 [Parallel Universe, Smallville„That night]
Dave sat on the old couch in the Kents' loft, looking at old newspaper clippings. Angela and Martha had worked magic with the Ledger, getting the background materials for him both from there and Massachusetts. For the majority of the afternoon, he caught up on the events in his life. Most telling, the obituaries detailed an unhappy childhood full of abuse and pain. Unreal.
"How's it going?" Angela wondered, walking up the stairs.
"Hi. I feel like I'm cramming for a test. My Life 101: the Final," he greeted, managing a smile for her. "How's the bruise doing?"
She shrugged. "It doesn't hurt anymore. Hey, you don't mind if I call you Dave, right?"
"That's my name," he agreed.
"I'd like it if you'd call me, Angie," she requested. "I don't let many people do that." She looked at the clippings pile. "Let's get through the first midterm before we talk finals, all right?"
"Okay, Angie," he chuckled, letting his eyes sparkle into hers. This just feels so right.
"Good," she replied, giving him a warm smile. You are still going out with Lex, Angie. Why do I feel this way about Dave? I barely know him. She cleared her throat, breaking up the moment. "I think Martha's going to have dinner in a few minutes."
"Yes, I think so. I can't wait to meet Clark," he declared. "He sounds like a great kid."
"He is. I just wish he weren't sick all of the time," she sighed.
"You do your best, I'm sure, to keep him healthy," he assured her, rubbing her on the arm.
She nodded. "I do. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dave. I appreciate it."
He let her sit closer to him on the couch, enjoying her company. "My pleasure."
Meantime, Clark and Miranda walked into the house.
"Mom?" he called out.
"Hi, Clark, Miranda, how was your day, Kids?" she inquired.
"All right. Did that new hand stuff get worked out?" he asked.
His mother nodded. "Uh huh. He'll be here in a couple of minutes for dinner. Miranda, if you want to stay, there's plenty."
"Are you sure, Mrs. Kent?" Miranda wondered. "I don't want to be a bother."
"You aren't. Besides, I'm sure Dave'll want to meet as many of you as he can," the elder woman stated.
Dave? Could it be? She took a picture out of her backpack. "Mrs. Kent? Promise not to freak out on me if I show you something?"
"Miranda, are you all right?" Martha wondered.
The girl nodded. "Maybe for the first time, I am. You know how I've always wanted to find my real family?" Seeing both Kents nod, she exclaimed, "I think he's my uncle!" She showed them the picture. "That's a family picture from 1980. See?"
"That's the guy from last night, all right," Clark agreed.
Martha frowned. "And that's his father. Miranda, I think you have something there. Just take it easy on him. He's been catching up on so many things today."
At that moment, they heard a crash from the barn.
"What the?" Jonathan asked, rushing out the door.
The others followed closely behind, not knowing what to expect.
Lex pulled into the driveway abruptly. Having missed his girlfriend at her office, she decided to follow his father's directive from that morning. "How about that? Why am I not surprised?" he muttered. Seeing a light in the barn's loft, he charged into the structure. "Angela! Are you here?"
She stood up and looked down over the railing. "Lex? What are you doing here?"
"Looking for your friend. Imagine my surprise to find you here too," he retorted. "You really like him, don't you?"
"Lex, stop it!" she directed.
"I'd listen to her," Dave added, glaring down at him. "That your handiwork?"
The billionaire took a step back. "No! You're dead!"
"That's what they've told me. I'm here," Dave responded, coming down the stairs. "Why don't you just get in your car and leave, all right?"
"Dave, please," she interceded. "Let's not get into a fight or anything." She walked down to her boyfriend. "Lex, he does have a good idea."
"I'm sure you'd think that," the intruder hissed, slapping her again.
"All right! That's enough!" Dave bellowed, tackling the other man.
"Dave, no!" she protested.
Despite her wishes, both men crashed to the ground, landing punches and upsetting items everywhere.
Suddenly, two rifle shots echoed through the air.
"What's going on here?" Jonathan wondered, holding the shotgun at the ready.
"I found my girlfriend with him," Lex commented. "I slapped her."
"Dave?" the farmer inquired.
"Yeah, that's right. That's twice in one day too," Dave agreed, getting up. "I can't tell you two about your relationship but you don't touch her." With that, he stormed out of the barn.
"I think you'd better leave," the farmer advised pointedly.
"You can't make me leave without her!" Lex protested.
"I'll leave when I'm ready to leave," Angie countered. "I don't think we should see each other anymore, Lex. Please go."
He laughed, "What would you be without me? Nothing."
"I'm willing to try," she replied, dismissing his point. "Leave me alone." With that, she left, heading for the house.
Jonathan shook his head. "If I see you here again, I'll have Ethan out here so fast it'll make your head spin."
The billionaire glared at the remaining trio and hustled to his car. Once there, he took off into the night.
He groused while speeding toward the mansion, "She thinks she can leave me like that, does she? Sorry, Angela, I'm not that easy to leave. Not easy at all."
"Dave!" Angie called, walking into the house.
"In here," he replied from the living room.
She hurried in there to find him looking at the family picture that Miranda had just dropped. "That's my family, isn't it?"
"Maybe. Look, Dave, you really shouldn't have done that. I can take care of myself," she told him.
"Then why did you let him slap you again?" he asked. "Angie, I don't know why but I feel like I should be looking after you just like you are for me. Call it instinct or something. I don't know. I just can't stand to see you get hurt. All right?"
"And that's why you did it? It wasn't some male ego thing?" she inquired.
"You may have noticed that I tackled him into the hay. He threw the first punch, not me," Dave explained. "Angie, I'm sorry. I should trust you to look out for yourself."
She smiled. "It's okay. I know you meant well. I just don't want Lex coming after you and me. I broke up with him after you left."
He stared at her in surprise. "Really?"
"Really," she reiterated. "I have someone else I'm interested in."
"And would I know him?" he inquired.
"Maybe," she giggled, kissing him. "I'd say so." Hearing Jonathan clear his throat, she asked, "Is he gone?"
"Lex Luthor left. What's going on?" Martha responded.
"I broke up with him as you saw. I have somebody else," the doctor explained, giving a smile to Dave.
"That's nice, Dr. Blackwell," Miranda complimented, sitting down next to them. Then seeing Dave looking at the picture again, she continued, "You recognize any of them?"
"No. But that's me in the photo," Dave assessed. "I don't see you here."
"The guy to your left is my father. The girl on your right is Aunt Cybelle. Grandma and Grandpa Dubois are in the back," the teenager noted.
Father. His eyes went wide as he recalled several beatings. "Arrgh!"
"Sorry. I didn't mean." Miranda apologized.
Dave rubbed his head, feeling pain shoot through his temples.
"What's going on?" Clark wondered.
"It's okay, Dave. He's not here," Jonathan mentioned.
"I know. For some reason, when I think of him, I feel pain and rage," Dave commented. Looking at Miranda, he added, "You're my brother's daughter, then?"
"I would guess," she supposed.
"Then you should call me 'Uncle Dave', right? Did anyone ever call you Miri-Ma?" Dave told her.
"Daddy used to call me that! You know that too?" Miranda asked. "Oh who cares?" She threw her arms around the man next to her.
"Now that's better," Martha commented, allowing a smile back onto her face. "Come on; let's eat before this gets any colder."
Onto Part 7
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