PART ONE | TWO
“You say you’ve known the Kents for years?” Lois inquired, following a quickly moving John down the tight corridor. “Well, I’ve never met you,” and her words were tinged in suspicion and curiosity.
“I didn’t realize there was a prerequisite,” he mumbled, his hand in his pocket, blindly and accurately texting Oliver that he now had an anchor. He hit ‘send’ and turned to ladle the files into her hands. “Thanks,” he said with a smile, turning and heading onto the staircase. Lois stood at the top of the stairs, a bitter smile on her lips and a fire in her eyes.
“Attaché doesn’t mean secretary!” She shouted.
“No, it means briefcase.”
About to toss the files after his head she calmed herself remembering it was a felony and rightly suspecting he was doing this to have her thrown off the case. With a sickly sweet smile she descended the stairs head high and shoulders back, like an Empress. She muttered, “And asshole only has one meaning.”
“If you think you can assist with this investigation,” John said, sitting on his desk amid the hubbub and chaos of the MPD Special Crimes Unit. “Then, by all means,” he shrugged. The SCU was a large open area with tall, arched windows and by-design exposed red brick walls. The cool, washed out early December light angled through the single-paned glass and seemed to chill the room. Desks were set up in a haphazard fashion that formed Ls and Is in a great game of Tetris. Faxes rolled and photocopiers hummed and photos were pinned and taped to green slate and cork boards set up everywhere.
Lois tossed the files on the desk next to him and reached into her black leather briefcase, pulling out a fingerprint card with black tape masking the entry boxes she handed it to him. “Run these.”
John looked to the card and up to the name entry: CJK. “Where did you—”
She grinned, pulling out a sooty and blackened baseball. “Clark’s never been printed so I lifted them off his baseball.” She floated it to him and he caught it in his free hand. “Not really sure how you got this comfy desk detective but maybe running his prints should have been the first thing you did since you’re so concerned about finding him.”
Resignedly he admitted she was right. He was still operating under the assumption that Kal-El was in the position to avoid things like being fingerprinted. That he was just somewhere in the world still looking for Chloe but the truth was clear: he never would have been gone this long without contacting someone if he could. If he did encounter the creature that kidnapped her, perhaps . . . He didn’t consider it. He couldn’t. He had to imagine a better outcome than the morbid scene flitting through his mind. Kal-El was alive. That was the first assumption he had to make. Second, if Kal-El was alive he would have contacted them if he could. Since he hadn’t, the only other option was he wasn’t in the position to. If he wasn’t in the position to . . .
She smirked, “Have I wowed you?”
He leapt off his desk and, with the same quick pace, he darted across the congested area, Lois on his heels. Going down another level they entered the offices of the Technical Assistance Response Unit. The room was filled with computers and people who had very little sun exposure.
“Hey, Jones,” one of the officers there said as John and Lois approached him. “What can I do you for?”
“Cortez,” John handed him the card. “I need these run.”
Officer Ricardo Cortez frowned, flipping the card over. “Did a two year old do this?”
Lois was about to show him an ass he could kiss when John put a hand on her shoulder and smiled to Cortez, “It was a rush job. Can you do it?”
He hummed, “Sure thing.” He scanned in the card and isolated the images. “Now, just so you know, it might take a while—” A bleep interrupted him. “Or, maybe not,” he frowned. An access screen popped up with an FBI logo watermarked and a password entry box blinking for an input. “Looks like this is the last stop on the train kids. Fed’s have this thing locked down.”
An immediate flare of terror passed through John and a set of fears he’d had in the back of his mind for the last 21 years jumped forward and nearly overwhelmed him. Was this the reason Kal-El had closed communication? Had he been discovered? Caught? Staring at that screen he knew he had to find out and fast. Hand in his pocket to connect to Oliver again, Lois pushed past him and leaned over Cortez.
“What the—” The tech began when Lois entered a password and the screen disappeared revealing a photo of Clark Kent.
“That,” she said, looking down to Cortez, “is what a two year old can do.” Straightening up she looked to John, “An attaché does more than hold paper.”
Leaning over and scanning the entry he muttered, “Apparently she also steals her father’s security codes.” His eyes ran over the file and immediately stopped at the name. “Callum Fine?”
“Who?” Lois asked, also leaning over.
“It can’t be . . .” he said, rereading the file. A million more questions were produced when he came to one essential and disturbing revelation. “Damn it,” John said, his hand in his pocket furiously typing an emergency alert to Oliver Queen.
She was in the hospital when the man from the consulate came to visit her. He knew her name and spoke to her in gentle tones. He had her photo and gave her a satellite phone to talk to her uncle. Everything moved in a sort of blur and she wanted to talk to her dad but her dad wasn’t . . . well. He wasn’t.
“Uncle Sam?” She said trying to eat the small meal of herring and potatoes the nurses had offered her.
“Hey, Chloe,” his gruff voice was softened. Everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells around her. “I’m so glad to hear your voice.”
“I don’t know what’s,” she pushed the plate of food away. “What’s going on?”
There was a pause on the line. “What do you remember?”
“Um,” she furrowed her brows. “I was . . . somewhere cold. And,” everything was like flashes of photography taken completely out of context. “Davis?” She mumbled, seeing his face flicker before her eyes.
“He was there. And then . . .” she sharply inhaled. Looking to her hands she could see the blood that was no longer staining them. “Clark.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Detective Shang Tao said, the telephone cradled on his shoulder. He’d been on his way to the hospital when he was told the case was being handed over to the U.S. Embassy. “What do you mean you know who he is? This is my case, I should have been—” He grit his teeth and hung up the phone. Picking up speed he tore through the narrow streets speeding to the Peking University International Hospital.
Parking on the street in the no standing zone, his credentials displayed in the window, Det. Shang ran to the entrance and into the expansive lobby area. Ahead of him were a group of foreigners, tall, broad chests and dark suits, loitering around in dark glasses. Pushing his badge under his shirt he walked by them with a careless swagger in his step and moved to the elevator bank. There was another set of foreigners there, both smaller than the others and more cerebral looking, one holding a manila file folder. Walking with them into the elevator they were boarding he stayed to the back and just observed them, trying to pick up on anything.
A few floors from San’s floor one of the men turned to him with a gentle and grateful smile. “I know who you are, Det. Shang.” He spoke Mandarin the same way San spoke it, completely clean, no hint of a local dialect and no evidence of a foreign undercurrent. The other man immediately turned and Shang noticed his credentials pinned to his jacket. An officer of the U.S. Embassy.
“Det. Shang? Your office should have contacted—” His accent was atrocious and it hurt his ears.
“Excuse me,” Shang said in English, preferring to destroy their language than suffer through their abuse of his. “Who are you?” He asked, feigning ignorance.
The elevator pinged on San’s floor. They all exited at the same time. Shang noticed the officers posted at San’s room had been switched out from Beijing Municipal to a U.S. guard.
The other man extended his hand, “Thank you for taking care of my boy.”
These words took Shang back a little. “Um . . .”
The officer gave appropriate introductions which were perhaps the primary part of his job description. “Detective Tao Shang,” he said, anglicizing the word order of his name. “This is the father of Callum,” he checked a few of the papers in the manila folder, “Or San, as you know him.” Closing the files he gestured to the man again, “Mr. Milton Fine.”
Shang and Fine shook hands.
The nurse, her face mostly obscured by her long hair, walked up the opposite end of the hallway and held a tray in her hands. Approaching the U.S. guard she smiled and they parted for her, allowing her into the room. Entering the hospital room she immediately put the tray down and withdrew a small mechanical device as long as a pencil and an inch in diameter. With a few presses against the lock she welded the door shut. Quickly pocketing the device she turned, withdrawing the long wig and dropping it to the ground.
Moving to the far side of the room she pulled back the curtain there and found herself looking down to the pale, sleeping face of Clark Kent. She was jarred by the sight of an IV exiting his arm. Moving to the head of his bed she pulled his charts. Flipping through, her eyes locked on words like MRI, acute retrograde amnesia and abnormal brain activity. She was most taken back to see his blood type listed as O negative.
“What happened to you?” She whispered.
Roused by her voice, San’s eyes blinked open and he looked quietly to her. “Hello,” he said in Mandarin.
Frowning she said, “Clark?” With a hopeful smile she said, “Don’t you remember me?”
The new words, the new language brought on flashes of pain and he sucked in his breath and closed his eyes as words and phrases ran through his mind.
“What’s happening?” She asked, moving to him but not knowing what to do for him.
“Nothing,” he stiffly said in a blank, monotone English. “It happens sometimes.” He opened his eyes on her again. “Am I supposed to remember you?”
About to say something she heard the handle move from the outside and some words of confusion on the other side of the door. Reaching into her pocket she withdrew a small communication device. “Ready for extraction,” she said. Putting away the communicator she began clamping off his IV’s.
“What’s going on?” He asked her, and for the first time he could remember, feeling actual fear.
“We’re taking you home,” she said when his window was pulled straight away from the casing and sent crashing to the ground several stories below. A masked man in green glided into the room, a bow and arrow ready in his hands.
“You’re lucky we were in Okinawa or we wouldn’t have gotten here in time,” he said, moving to San. “Come on, time to go.”
“He doesn’t remember.” She said to the masked man.
“Hello,” San said, looking between them both and rising up onto his elbows, his head momentarily swimming. “Who are you?”
“You look like hell,” the masked man said. “What’s wrong with him?” He turned to the nurse who San now suspected wasn’t a nurse at all. The door was starting to receive a few strong kicks.
“He’s human,” she said through tight teeth.
There was a pause. “Lana, how the hell is that even—”
Lana Lang only said, “It’s possible. It’s happened before.”
“You’re the resident expert I guess,” Backing to the window he pulled down a few wires and waved them over.
She turned to San, “You don’t remember us but you have to trust us. We have to go.”
He didn’t think anyone should be able to ask that of him. He felt strongly, in the core of his soul, he needed to stay. “No,” he said.
“We don’t have time for this,” the masked man said. “Sorry Clark, you’ll thank me later.” Raising his hand, some kind of gun in his hand, the masked man shot him and San looked to his shoulder where a small dart was lodged in the flesh. Turning to the nurse he gave her a look that defined betrayal. A moment later his eyes rolled and he collapsed.
The guards kicked in the door just in time to see a green shadow flit through the window. The room was empty. Detective Shang called out, “San?!” Turning to the man he’d met as San’s father, he saw he was no longer there.
On the roof of the Peking University International Hospital, at the helipad, Oliver Queen called in the helicopter that was situated in a holding pattern less than a quarter mile away. They could see it approach over the rooftops.
“How did John find him?” Lana finally allowed herself to ask.
“Not sure. Just sent the location and the emergency alert,” Oliver said, scanning the bolted roof access door. The steel door was secured with three tons of pressurized force but he felt something twinge within him that worried him towards the door. The helicopter began its decent when the door exploded out, sailing across the roof. Jarred, they looked to the entrance and Lana’s heart stopped in her chest when the face of the creature that held her months in silent captivity walked onto the concrete.
“You cannot take Kal-El with you. If you do he will die,” the machine said, his face placid, gentle.
“Shoot it, Oliver,” Lana said.
“Brainiac,” she spat.
Having heard of Brainiac from Clark and knowing what it was capable of, Oliver swiftly pulled an arrow, aimed and—the computer caught the arrow in his hand and released it a moment before the electromagnetic pulse surged through the magnetic casing. “I’m a friend.” The computer replied. “You must trust me.”
“Trust you?” Lana could barely say the words.
“You are wrong,” he said to her. “I’m the fifth generation of the Brain Interactive Construct. I was programmed a thousand years from now and I’ve been sent back because history is in the process of changing. Time is in terminal flux and on this tangent, within three days, the world as you know it will be annihilated.”
Oliver looked to Lana and to the unconscious Clark on the ground, the helicopter hovering over them whipping the air all around them. “What?”
“Don’t listen to him!” Lana shouted.
“If it was my mission to destroy you, I could have done it already,” he said, zipping to them, coming inches from Oliver’s face, disarming him, taking his quiver and bow in a flash then going to Lana and hovering next to her a breath away. “But it’s not. It’s to help Kal-El, as best I can. I tried to do it through the law but you took him,” it frowned. “You think you’re helping him but the path you’re on has a ninety-nine percent chance of resulting in his death,” he took a look at Clark and calculated, “within eighteen hours.”
“Why should we believe anything you say?” Lana asked.
“Because I know what it is that will eradicate humanity,” he said, rising from Lana and handing Oliver his bow and quiver. “My reformatted consciousness within the devastating shell of Doomsday.” He looked to Clark. “Only Kal-El can face something that powerful so if you take him and he dies, you’ve directly aided the end of your entire civilization,” turning to them the words were said matter-of-factly.
Oliver took a moment before he looked to the helicopter and called it down. Turning to Fine he said, “You’re coming with us!”
PART ONE | TWO