: I do not own Smallville, Superman, or The Cave...would be damned rich if I did!
. As LexCorp's representative and Meteor Freak, Chloe is used to 'weird', but when she and the McAlister spelunking team, along with Dr. Nicolai, Dr. Kathryn Jennings, and Alex Kim get trapped in the cave, she'll experience 'weird' on a whole different level. And not only are they trying to find a way out of the underwater cave, and trying to survive the attacks from the monstrous creatures below...but she has a distracting attraction to both McAlister brothers...who return the attraction and are naturally competitive with each other...
“Really Lex, will you stop being so dramatic?” Lois Lane rolled her eyes by her desk at the Daily Planet, listening to her cousin’s boss and very close friend have a near nervous breakdown. “Honestly I knew from the moment Chloe said she was going to Romania for a couple of weeks that you wouldn’t be able to take it. ‘Two weeks’, I told Smallville, ‘two weeks is all Lex will be able to survive without Chloe to tell him how to live his life’. But Clark--the poor, naïve, trusting soul--he had more faith in you, he bet me three weeks before you broke down and went to get her with some lame excuse.”
There was an exasperated sigh on the other side of the phone. “Lois, I do not let Chloe ‘tell me how to live my life’. And that is not what I’m calling about anyway, I really think that something bad is happening to her.”
Lois shook her head, leaning back in her seat and ignoring Jimmy Olsen, the geeky photographer who’d been giving her the eye the last couple of months. She was so not going there! “And why do you think that something is wrong with Chloe’s expedition?” She suddenly frowned. “Did someone get into contact with you from Romania?”
There was a moment’s silence. “No, and Chloe said that the whole thing would last for about 12 days, but I know Chloe, Lois, and I know that something bad’s happening. I feel it in my bones, and I know that if what I’m feeling isn’t more than a ‘nervous break down’, as you so delicately put it, then you’d never forgive me for not warning you in case something happened.”
Lois sat up straight in her seat, realizing that Lex might be onto something. The billionaire had always been attuned with her cousin, both were freakily able to know what the other liked, how they were feeling, what they were feeling, and while Lois had always attested it to the fact that the two of them were deep in denial about the mutual attraction they’d had for years, Lois couldn’t help but wonder.
“I also called to ask if you knew where Clark was.” Lex sighed, his voice tired, as if he hadn’t been able to sleep. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of him to see if, to see if he could maybe take a quick trip to the Carpathians and, I don’t know, maybe scan the place just to make sure that this isn’t anything other than my ‘overactive imagination’.”
Lois made a face at the mention of Clark’s powers. When she’d found out while still living in Smallville over a year ago that the farmboy she liked to tease was a super-powered alien, well, it’d taken some time to get used to, but she hadn’t treated him any different, if anything she’d teased and taunted him even more, telling him he was made of steel and could take it.
“I think Smallville’s going through some weird phase from his, err, home town.” Lois frowned, remembering how odd Clark had been acting around her the last couple of months, and that behavior had just gotten odder ever since he began working at the Daily Planet in the desk right across from hers two months ago. “The guy’s been acting weird lately, and I think he had to go and get serviced--or whatever it is he does in that Fortress place I keep hearing about. Bottom line is that he’s incommunicado, took sick leave and everything, I don’t know when he’ll show his face again.”
“He doesn’t get serviced, Lois, he isn’t a car.” Lex’s voice was the perfect mixture of annoyance, tiredness, and amusement. “He goes to be instructed by his father.”
“Yes, well, I never understood that part very well, but that doesn’t matter, as long as he returns back to his normal self--or as normal as he can be given the circumstances--I’ll be happy.”
“I’m sure you will.”
She didn’t like the smug tone he was using. She was about to call him on it and dissuade any funny ideas he might have in his bald head about her and a certain farmboy, when she heard Lex sighed and mutter something about ‘doing it yourself’, which was when she suddenly realized what Lex was going to do.
“You’re going to go to Romania, aren’t you?” The star reporter of the Daily Planet announced, frowning darkly as she understood what that meant. “You’re really worried.”
“Of course I am.” Lex sounded stressed. “This is Chloe we’re talking about, she nearly died on almost every one of her adventures during her high school years--that was one of the reasons I wanted her to take the job at Lexcorp, to keep her safe! And now--now I know something’s wrong and I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to Chloe.”
Lois frowned, looking at Perry’s office and then at the picture of Chloe and her that she had on her desk. “Well, you’ve convinced me.” She sighed. “Order an extra bottle of champagne for your private jet, Luthor, I’m coming along with you.”
Chloe hadn’t known when she’d fallen asleep. It’d been bound to happen though; her body was exhausted from not only having healed her wounds earlier on, but from the ongoing battle raging within her. She’d been having a dream, a memory more than anything else, of the trip to the Caribbean that Lex and her had taken some summers back when he’d decided that they both needed a vacation. It’d been fun, they’d gone on the Cayman Islands, a small trio of islands, and spent a week in each. Lois and Clark had come along for the ride, and they’d had a great time together enjoying the unique beauty and differences of each island.
Chloe remembered lying down on the yacht Lex had rented, sunbathing, listening to Lois and Clark as they swam in the water and taunted each other--those two had to so stop denying the attraction they felt for one another!--and listening to Lex as he read to her from The Art of War, one of the only things his father had ingrained in him that he’d grown up to enjoy.
“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him,” Lex’s voice had drifted into her ear. “If he is superior in strength, evade him.”
“What if I can’t evade him?” Chloe’d asked with a chuckle, eyes closed, enjoying the heat of the sun on her skin. “What does the great Sun Tzu have to say about that?”
“Good question,” Lex announced, obviously pleased that she’d been actually listening and just zoning him out. “Sun Tzu says that when in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.”
“Are you sure he wasn’t your father in a past life?” Chloe deadpanned turning over so that she was lying on her back on the deck of the yacht.
Lex chuckled. “No, I’m pretty sure he was Hitler.”
“Yeah, that is probably the one.” She grinned, eyes closed. “Okay, continuing with the lesson, how would I know my enemy’s weakness to be able to strike it?”
“That’s easy, Chlo.” He announced, not even reading from the book anymore but quoting it by heart. “If you know the enemy and yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
“It’s disturbing that you can quote that book.”
He chuckled once more. “If there’s something good my father ever taught me, Chloe, it was to study my enemy’s weakness.” He paused.” Study its weakness, Chlo.”
Study it…study it…study it…
Chloe gasped as she awoke, leaning forwards and taking in a deep breath. She realized that she’d fallen asleep on the ground, using her backpack as a pillow, and Charlie was resting as well, but the others were huddled together, talking.
“There’s enough secured rope to make it to the opening.” Jack was saying, as the others stood around where he sat with his back to the wall.
“What’s happening to you?” Alex’s question caused Chloe get up, wincing at her sore muscles. “Your eyes…”
“As long as we stay together as a group, we can hold them back.” Jack trudged on, cutting into whatever it was that Alex had been about to say.
Kathryn frowned, going closer to Jack and pausing when he turned to look at her. “I think I know now.”
Chloe joined the group, wiping away the sleep from her eyes as she yawned. No one noticed her arrival as they kept their gaze on Jack, and now that she was closer, Chloe gasped when she saw how pale Jack had gotten during the time she’d slept. He was almost ridiculously so, like one of those horrible D-class movie vampires.
Jack turned his gaze to her immediately, and Chloe’s eyes widened when she saw his. The blue of his eyes had changed shade completely, and his pupils had morphed in shape, resembling a four-point star.
“Jack…” Chloe whispered as she suddenly understood what she was sure he’d known all along, suddenly understanding exactly what the parasite was doing to him.
“It’s a parasite.” Kathryn’s voice cut into the moment. “The reason you’re so sick, why you’re changing, it’s because you’re infected with the parasite we found in the mole and the salamander.”
“That’s from a parasite?” Tyler asked, worry darkening his voice as he looked from his brother to the scientist.
“It mutates the host,” Kathryn nodded. “So they can both survive down here in this environment.”
“Is that what’s going to happen to all of us?” Alex asked, horror written on his every feature.
“I don’t know, Alex.” Kathryn told the cameraman.
“Will you all stop talking as if Jack isn’t here?” Chloe snapped, glaring at them for being so insensitive.
“We’re not talking about him as if he’s not here, Chloe.” Kathryn announced tersely. “We’re discussing a very serious situation at hand.” Her gaze shot to Jack, who was looking up at the darkness of the ceiling as if watching something. “I’d say it entered your bloodstream through one of your cuts. Jack, it’s affecting you nervous system.”
Jack didn’t seem to be paying attention to Kathryn or the conversation at all, his narrowed gaze swung onto Chloe, looking her up and down as if confused about something.
“So the other cavers…” Tyler whispered. “This happened to them?”
“So, what, it just ate them?” Briggs asked, obviously not having heard the words passed between Kathryn and Tyler.
Jack then looked up at the darkness of the ceiling again, eyes narrowed, tracking something.
Chloe raised her gaze, unable to pierce the darkness above and not sure whether she was disappointed that she couldn’t see what Jack was watching--or relieved. And then…and then she heard it. It was the sound of small, minute pebbles falling from the cavern’s ceiling as something slowly crawled upside down in the darkness. The sound itself was faint, and it should be easily be drowned out by the other sounds of the caves--and it had been--until she’d concentrated as Jack had been doing.
It’s started. Chloe took in a deep breath, trying not to give away her sudden fear as she remembered that Jack’s first symptom had been enhanced hearing. I’m turning into one of those monsters, just like Jack is.
“No.” The scientist shook her head, folding her arms over her chest. “They weren’t eaten by the creatures. They are the creatures. Right, Jack?” She didn’t wait for him to answer, to even acknowledge that she was speaking. “And now they’re mutants and there’s nothing human left in them.”
Chloe flinched visibly. Is that what Kathryn thought of mutants? Even without the parasite within her, Chloe was a mutant, and it hurt to hear someone she’d considered a friend referring to her kind in that way.
Suddenly the room echoed with multiple sonar calls, more than they’d ever heard before at once, causing everyone to look up at the ceiling.
Jack, who’d been doing that from the star, just smirked darkly. “They’re enjoying this, Kathryn.”
“So now you understand them, Jack?” Briggs snapped, and then winced and looked away in fear when Jack turned and glared at him.
“Jack,” Tyler spoke, tearing his brother’s attention from Briggs to him. “Jack, you’re gonna be find. You’ve gotten us this far.”
“ ‘Got us this far’, Tyler?” Briggs snapped, twirling on the dark haired man. “What he got was Dr. Nicolai killed! And he nearly got Charlie dead as well!”
“Hey!” Charlie’s voice surprised everyone since they’d thought she’d been sleeping, but the blonde was behind them, glaring at them. “Jack told me not to climb and I went against orders--so don’t blame him for what happened!”
“It doesn’t matter, Charlie! It was his idea to climb in the first place!” Briggs turned to the only woman member of their spelunking team. “But I say no more, I’m done following his orders!”
“You ungrateful sonofabitch.” Top shook his head at the problematic white man.
“Look, let’s not fight about this.” Kathryn spoke up. “Let’s just follow what we know. The river’s the way out.”
“Kathryn’s right.” Briggs announced. “I’m with her.”
“You’re with yourself, Briggs.” Chloe snapped, sick of him and his attitude.
“Think whatever you want, Ms. Sullivan.” Briggs spat.
“Oh, you don’t want to know what I think about you.”
He ignored her, walking to Kathryn’s side. “Who else is coming?” The silence was deafening. “Charlie?”
“Fuck you, Briggs.” Charlie spat, brushing past him, slamming into his shoulder angrily as she made her way to Jack’s side and turned to look at the others defiantly. “I’m with Jack. He was the one trying to climb up to me when that thing came after me--not you.”
A muscle in Briggs’ cheek jumped as he turned to the man standing next to Kathryn. “Alex?”
The Asian paused, looking at his feet, looking torn.
“If you ever wanna see the sun again, you should follow me now.” Jack said, resting his arms on his knees, looking ahead of him at nothing in particular.
Alex paused, giving Jack a long look, his dark eyes scanning Jack’s pale skin, his eyes, and his bandages before Alex sighed and took another step towards Kathryn, silently making his choice.
Jack stood and walked away, Charlie and Top following faithfully behind him, going to the wall and preparing what they would need to make the climb.
“This is bullshit.” Tyler glared at Briggs, Kathryn and Alex. “We have to stay together.”
“Tyler, look at him.” Briggs motioned to where Jack, Charlie and Top were working together in silence. “He’s not human.”
“He’s my brother.” Tyler narrowed his eyes at the other man. “And he’s more human now than you ever were.”
The men tensed, ready to pounce if provoked further.
“You can’t possibly plan on staying with them, Chloe.” Kathryn spoke, looking at her intensely, misreading Chloe’s wince. “Jack is turning into a monster. Who knows? He might be the one leading us into a trap.”
“Yeah.” Briggs nodded, tearing his glare from Tyler’s and looking at the short blonde. “He already fucking let the secret out that he understands the monsters, who says that they haven’t been working together from the start?”
The sound of a slap echoed off of the walls of the cavern so loudly that Jack and the others turned at the sound. Even Chloe was surprised at the fact that she, a pacifist, had raised her hand against someone--but what shocked her further was the force behind the blow, the strength that’d snapped Briggs’ head in the opposite direction and left an angry red imprint of her hand on his cheek.
“Fuck JESUS!” Briggs yelled, cradling the side of his face tenderly, voice tinged in pain.
Chloe trembled slightly as something within her bubbled, something foreign, something powerful.
Tyler placed an arm around her shoulder, emotionless eyes on the three deserters. “Good luck.” And with that, he led Chloe away from them and towards where Jack and the others were waiting.
“Let’s get in the water.” Kathryn could be heard sighing. “And let’s go home.”
Silence descended on the camp until the three deserters had entered the water and disappeared into the tunnel. Chloe took in a deep breath, trying to calm down and stop the shaking in her hands.
“We’re ready to climb.” Top informed Jack. “We should get going, they’re going to know that we’re a smaller group and that we’re weaker.”
Suddenly Chloe remembered her dream and she turned, heading towards the dead body of the creature that’d attacked both Charlie and her. A shiver of disgust ran up her spine as she circled it, not even looking up as she heard Jack coming up behind her. Green eyes surveyed the creature before she stopped circling, eyeing the head, where the wound it’d received through its skull was open and still oozing blood.
“What are you doing?” Jack asked, standing a little behind her.
“I’m finally putting all those hours of listening to Lex read from The Art of War to practice.” Chloe murmured, reaching out and making a face of disgust as she pressed down against the dead creature’s skull, finding it tough as bones--like the rest of the body, until she reached the section right between the eyes and a little further up. The skull sunk in slightly at her touch and she gasped, pulling away and wiping her hands on her clothes. “If you can’t evade a stronger enemy, find it’s weakness.”
She turned and looked at Jack. “When I was attacked above the falls, I got the creature to let go by hitting it in the forehead with a rock--I think I got it in the eye too--and you brought this one down with a blow right to the forehead as well.”
“It’s their Achilles Heel.” Charlie whispered.
“Or Goliath’s Forehead.” Tyler grinned.
Top just looked relieved, yet still worried. “We should get going.”
Chloe nodded, sending one last look in the direction of the tunnel their friends had disappeared into. “Yes. Let’s.”
The ascent was a long, arduous one, and it took them much longer to get close to the top than it had Charlie on her first go. For security reasons Jack had gone first, with Chloe and Charlie following, Tyler and Top bringing up the back, and as they grew closer and closer to the edge, Chloe felt more and more uneasy. With the fact that her body no longer warned her when the creatures were near thanks to the infestation now occurring in her body, Chloe couldn’t help but fear that they had a legion of the creatures above, waiting for them patiently on the ledge.
“When I get back to civilization, I’m going to start going to the gym with Lois.” Chloe panted, pulling herself upwards on the steep wall, telling herself over and over again that they were almost to the top…and to not look down.
“Who’s Lois?” Tyler asked from below.
“She’s my cousin, she works at the Daily Planet.” Chloe groaned, her arms trembling with fatigue as she climbed. “Ever since her father and mine died we’re the only family each other has.”
“Shush.” Jack hissed, freezing.
“What--?” Charlie looked up at him.
“Listen!” Jack snapped.
The group remained silent, and then Chloe heard it. She turned around and shone the light of the flashlight strapped to her hand behind her time to scream as the large, bat-like creature swooped down on her, its claws boring into her shoulders as it took off with her after slicing the rope tied around her waist.
“CHLOE!” Tyler screamed as the creature flew upwards with her in its clutches.
“Dammit!” Top cursed. “It cut through the rope! ‘Goes on instinct’ my ass!”
“SOMEONE DO SOMETHING!” Charlie screamed.
“Let GO of me!” Chloe screamed, clawing at the hands that had her as the creature flew over the ledge. “LET GO!”
“HOLD ON!” Jack could be heard screaming from below. “I’M COMING!”
“HOLDING ON IS NOT THE ISSUE!” Chloe screamed back as the creature zoomed away with her, her scream echoing throughout the cavern, and suddenly there was a dash of movement and the creature shrieked in pain as another rammed into it, the blow like that of a Mack Truck as the jerk caused the creature to let go of her, and Chloe cried out as she was flung into a wall and slid down, skin scraping and body bruised.
The creatures landed on the ground with a loud thud, snapping their fangs at each other menacingly, throwing their heads back and roaring before circling each other.
Chloe slowly stood, wincing at the pain and burn in her ribs, pressing her back against the wall, watching as the creatures circled each other, fully focused on each other. The blonde took advantage of the distraction and inched away slowly, making sure that they didn’t notice her as she slowly made her escape. The creatures snarled at each other, and Chloe breathed out in relief when she backed around the corner, readying to run away.
Turning around slowly, thanking all holy for the way of escape, she froze when she came face to face with yet another of the creatures.
The monstrosity roared, saliva splattering her face, backing her up against the wall, baring its teeth.
And yet in seconds the two creatures from moments ago swooped in, barreling into the third, and a fight broke out between the three of them. Blood spurted and pained, inhumane screams echoed off of the cavern as the creatures seemed one body, moving with such rapidness, the sound of flesh tearing mixing with the howls of agony and anger.
Chloe, eyes wide in horror, jumped when something heavy came down on her shoulder, and she would have screamed if a hand hadn’t covered her mouth.
“Shh, don’t scream.” Jack whispered in her ear. “We’ll use this distraction to get passed them.
Chloe nodded silently, turning to look at him when he let go of her, seeing Tyler, Charlie and Top hurrying towards them, freezing when they saw the creatures tearing at each other viciously.
Jack motioned for them to follow him, and his eyes quickly searched the cavern before finding the tunnel he wanted, hurrying towards it and pulling Chloe behind him as he entered it. Thankfully, the tunnel was narrow enough that even if the creatures realized she was gone, they wouldn’t be able to fit in it, so the small group made their way through it in silence before coming out on the other side.
The moment he’d scanned the room, apparently satisfied that they were alone and safe at the moment, Jack turned on Chloe, pushing her angrily against the wall.
“Hey!” Tyler exclaimed.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were infected?” Jack hissed, his four-point star pupils contracting in anger as his hands roamed her body.
“Get your hands off of me!” Chloe growled, pushing against his chest futilely.
“Jack.” Top warned.
“Where are you injured?” Jack snapped, pulling away, eyes roaming her body. “How long have you been infected?”
“More than two hours! Almost three!” She snapped back, glaring at him, causing the others to gasp at her in surprise.
Jack stepped back as if he’d been slapped. “Three hours?”
“Oh my God.” Charlie gasped, turning to look at Chloe in understanding. “It happened above the falls, didn’t it?”
Chloe sighed and nodded. “One of the creatures bit into my thigh.”
“But I don’t understand.” Top frowned, looking her over. “I saw you in only shorts. You weren’t injured.”
“That’s right.” Tyler nodded. “I spoke personally to Kathryn while you were sleeping and she said that as soon as we were on dry land she checked you over to make sure that you didn’t need medical attention, and that while your wetsuit had bite marks in it, your thigh was untouched.”
“The wounds had already closed up and healed completely by that time.” Chloe sighed, resigned to the fact that she was going to have to tell them everything.
Jack stood apart from them, arms folded over his chest, eyes narrowed suspiciously at her. “Explain.”
There was silence as she took in a deep breath. “I lived in Smallville, Kansas, from the age of fourteen to seventeen. Smallville was hit by two different meteor showers, leaving behind green meteor rocks that altered the people in the town.” She pulled off her back pack and opened the side compartment, pulling out the Green K. “I found this while we were diving. This is what changed the people in my old hometown. It affected everyone differently, gave some the power to blow up things, cause fire, sense other infected, split into two--the list goes on and on.”
“I am one of those infected, and my power is the ability to heal.” Chloe kicked at a small stone by her feet. “We, the meteor freaks, don’t like to advertise our status because 99 of the mutated go power-crazy and have either been sent to Belle Reeve--a mental institution, have been killed, or have been kidnapped by Lionel Luthor and experimented on in the most inhumane of ways.”
Charlie gasped, hand flying to her mouth.
Tyler narrowed his eyes. “Wait--Lionel Luthor? As in Alexander Luthor’s FATHER?” When Chloe nodded he frowned deeper. “Does Luthor junior know what you can do?”
Chloe nodded again. “I discovered my power when I brought Lex back to life after his father shot him. Lex was the one who helped me gain control of my powers and learn to keep them hidden--although it can be hard because my hands glow when I heal others.”
Tyler blinked and looked up, eyes widening. “You healed my rib!”
“Every time you touched me,” Jack finally spoke, rubbing his fingers together. “The heat I felt--it was from your healing.”
“I had to heal you little by little.” Chloe explained. “I’d have lit up like a Roman Candle if I’d done a full healing, and would have probably ended up in a semi-coma for a couple of hours.”
“That explains it all. It explains everything.” Jack looked up at her. “You’re healing abilities are obviously stronger than the two different parasites inside of your body.”
“Two different--?” Charlie squeaked.
“Three hours--three hours into the infestation--you should look just as shitty as I am.” Jack laughed, but it wasn’t a nice sound. “You’re mutating--but you’re not at the same time. No wonder the fucking bastards out there are so confused!”
“What does this have to do with the creature’s sudden interest in Chloe?” Tyler asked.
“Don’t you get it?” Jack twirled on his brother. “These creatures were once men like us, probably somehow got trapped here when the church and half the mountainside collapsed. Remember the boots? Chloe said they were the style used by militants during the Cold War, which meant that these creatures were once men.”
Everyone looked at Jack expectantly.
“Don’t you see?” He growled at them. “Chloe’s the first female to be infected!”
“Oh shit!” The petite blonde cursed, taking a horrified step back.
“That’s why they’re acting the way they are!” Jack continued on. “They can sense that she’s infected! That’s why they keep trying to take her and fight each other, they’re trying to keep her with them until she mutates completely so they can mate!”
“Oh God, I’m gonna be sick.” Chloe groaned, hand going to her mouth as she doubled over, bile rising up her throat.
Charlie was by her side in a second; hand on her back as Chloe retched.
“The thing is--three hours have passed and Chloe hasn’t shown any signs of mutating. She looks just the same.” Jack continued. “I don’t think her healing faculties will let her mutate physically. Metabolically though? Yes, it’s already happening, and that’s what’s confusing them.”
“We need to get out of here.” Chloe groaned as she ran the back of her sleeve over her mouth, still bent over, feeling sick. “Lex will know what to do, he’ll help us--both of us.”
Charlie, Top and Tyler seemed to relax at the assurance in her voice.
Jack didn’t, but he didn’t say anything.
Chloe forced herself to straighten. “Let’s get the hell out of here before another one of those things find us and decides it wants me and him to elope to Vegas.”
They walked for what seemed like hours in complete silence, following Jack blindly, trusting him to lead the way and keep them safe. Chloe and Charlie still stuck together in the middle of the men as they seemed to go deeper into the cave system.
“It’s getting cold.” Tyler commented.
Charlie nodded her agreement, sparing him a quick look over her shoulder.
Chloe kept her eyes on Jack, worried as she noticed him continuing to transform little by little before her very eyes. His pupils had dilated to the point that he didn’t need the light, and walked ahead of the group in the dark, able to see perfectly, and his skin as slowly changing color as streaks of brown darkened his pigmentation.
They finally came to a stop in the middle of an ice cavern. There was no way up, and the descent was steep on sheer ice.
“Where to now?” Tyler asked.
Jack crouched by the edge, listening, looking, silent. “Down.”
Top and Tyler shared a look before shining their flashlights down the steep fall. “You sure?” The younger McAlister questioned.
Jack turned back to look at him and nodded. “Yeah. Down.”
Top and Tyler shared another look.
Suddenly the sound of a distant sonar cry caused everyone to turn jerk around.
“My lead!” Top announced quickly. “Let’s go!”
“Yeah!” Tyler nodded his agreement, both men working quickly, all questions about Jack’s decision gone.
They worked quickly and Top began to rappel downwards, securing a line for the others to join, as they stood up top, Charlie and Jack flashing their flashlights on the darkness above while Tyler eased down Top’s rope and Chloe blamed herself for their being found so quickly. Obviously she was a tracking beacon of sorts for these crazed creatures, and unless they didn’t get out of there quickly, she might be the death of her team.
“Safe! Off rope!” Top called. “Start climbing down!”
The rope wasn’t nearly long enough to reach the bottom, so Top had gone to the lowest ledge and once they were all on that, they’d start the process all over again until they’d reached the ground.
Chloe was strapped into the unit and she slowly went down first, making it down on the ledge next to Top without any problem and with his help she moved aside and out of the way, leaning into the cold ice wall, telling herself not to look down at the black nothingness below them.
Charlie came down a lot quicker than Chloe did, and she slowly shuffled herself on the narrow ledge until she was standing next to Chloe as Tyler began the descent, the diving equipment attached to a buckle at his hip.
“Isn’t this fun?” Charlie asked in a breathless voice, obviously trying to keep Chloe’s mind off of the fact that they were standing on a narrow ledge above an endless nothing.
“Yes, absolutely thrilling.” Chloe closed her eyes tightly. “We’ll have to do this again next summer.”
Charlie chuckled. “I don’t know, I was planning on visiting Hawaii for our next vacation.”
“Sounds peachy to me.” Chloe muttered, breathing in an out.
The next thing that happened, happened so fast that later on when Chloe tried to remember it she was left dizzy and confused.
Tyler cried out in pain as he slipped on the ice and twirled around, banging hard into the wall, the collision causing the buckle holding the diving equipment up to break, sending the bundled equipment flying down at them at break-neck speed.
“TAKE COVER!” Tyler screamed as the equipment smashed into Top, sending him flying off of the wall of ice, sliding down the slick formation at break-neck speed, screaming. “Shit!”
“TOP!” Charlie screamed, shuffling quickly towards the discarded rope on the ledge and quickly harnessed herself, shoving a hook in a crevice in the ice, and rappelling as quickly down the ice as she could.
Tyler’s feet landed on the ledge and he quickly transferred himself to the other rope. “I’m coming Top!”
Chloe watched with wide eyes, the sound of Top screaming echoing off the cavern’s wall. She barely noticed as Jack arrived on the ledge. Somehow they made it to the bottom in one piece and found Top surrounded by Charlie and Tyler, holding his leg and trying to keep back screams as his bone stuck out of the material of his pants.
“I’m so sorry man!” Tyler kept on repeating. “I’m so sorry!”
Charlie looked up at Chloe, her brown eyes pleading with her. “Can you help him?”
Chloe nodded and pulled off her backpack and helmet, kneeling next to the injured man holding his leg and gritting his teeth in pain. “I’m not going to lie to you.” She told him, eyeing the bone, which had broken clean from his flesh. “This is going to hurt, a lot.” Without allowing him to process what she was saying, Chloe reached and quickly pressed down on the bone as hard as she could, her hands lighting up immediately as she activated her healing power, trying to ignore the screams coming from Top, whom Tyler and Jack had to grab to keep still.
The glow continued its way up her arm as she pushed down further, feeling the heat, feeling the bone reconnect with its other half and begin to mold itself together once more, feeling something different in her body, feeling it surging inside of her, threatening to take control as she found herself unable to stop the power flowing out of her body.
The bone, now fully mended, began to become covered once more as Top’s skin regenerated before their very eyes, the sight of it drawing everyone’s attention, and they didn’t notice the way Chloe’s body shook, and if they did, they didn’t realize that the way she was jerking wasn’t normal.
Suddenly the thing within her snapped, and Chloe was able to stop the power flow with a gasp, pulling away from Top and collapsing on the cold floor, closing her eyes and taking in deep gulps of air, trying to stabilize the maddening rush of her heart.
“Amazing…” Charlie whispered.
Chloe forced her eyes open and turned to look at Top, who was lying down besides her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t have the energy for a full heal. You’ll still find it hard to walk on that leg.” She tried to slow down her breathing. “It’s fixed, but it’ll be sore as hell for days.”
Top turned his head to look at her and he suddenly closed his eyes and laughed.
Soon the rest of them followed in the laughter before the two on the ground were helped to their feet, Top wincing in pain when he tried to put his whole weight on his leg. “Well, it was worth a shot.”
Tyler grinned and Jack looked mildly amused as they both helped Top, as the girls followed behind as they made their way towards the large hole in the ice wall.
“Looks like the rebreather punched a hole through the ice.” Tyler announced as they paused next to the opening.
“Yeah.” Top agreed.
Making sure that Tyler had Top securely held, Jack let go and went to the hole cautiously, taking in a whiff of the steam coming from within. “Smells like methane.”
Charlie and Chloe exchanged looks before following the men inside, walking through the rising steam and discovering that not only was it very warm inside of this cavern, but that there wasn’t any ice, and actually, small methane fires lit small sections of the room, which was filled with gigantic stalagmites, stalactites, and in the middle, down below, there was a large body of water.
They made their way slowly down the treacherous path, nearly slipping once or twice on the humid rocks, before finding themselves facing a graveyard of skeletal remains of both human and un-human, spears and human skeletons still wearing their ancient armor greeted them the closer they got towards the water.
“This was some kind of killing ground.” Top announced as they stopped the procession to get a better look of the massacred remains.
“It’s just like the legend on the mosaics we found.” Chloe whispered, remembering the pictures of the mosaics in question she had in a water proof plastic container in her bag. “This is where the Templars met their end at the hands of the demons that forced the clergy to seal up the cave.”
“That means that there’s got to be an opening close by.” Jack announced, turning his back on the remains and heading towards the water.
Tyler helped Top down a slippery patch of stones, but when the two men slid, Charlie hurried up front with them to help them.
Chloe remained behind, shinning her light on the rocks around her, searching, looking. It had to be here! The scrolls had been true up till this point, they were in the mouth of hell, so the thing she was seeking--the thing that’d she’d braved her fears for--it had to be here!
Come on, come on! She shone her light around furiously, narrowing her eyes, trying to find the insignia.
And suddenly something hidden in a crevice behind the skeletal remains of a Templar shone when it caught the light of the flashlight, and Chloe gulped, going closer to inspect it, wincing when bones cracked loudly under her feet.
Don’t think about the fact that you’re stepping on dead people!
Chloe groaned slightly as she pushed the skeleton away from the crevice and shone her light inside of it, seeing the light being reflected brighter.
I’m going to stick my hand in a dark crevice in the middle of a demon-infested lair. This is SO horror-Hollywood!
Closing her eyes tightly, Chloe stuck her hands inside of the crevice and felt along the dampness until her fingers came into contact with something that sent a jolt of electricity through her body and down her spine. The blonde controlled the urge to pull away and instead wrapped her hand around the object, pulling it out and opening her eyes, a sudden smile lighting her face as she stared down at a Kryptonian crystal, baring the insignia of the House of EL, in her hands.
I can’t believe it. She stared down at the beautiful crystal, not realizing that she wasn’t tired anymore from having healed Top. It’s real--I found it!
“Coming!” She quickly pulled off her backpack and opened it, grabbing a cloth and wrapping it around the crystal protectively before putting it in her backpack and closing it before putting it on her shoulder and hurrying down the slippery path, sliding passed the large rock formation that’d hid her from the others’ view.
Jack, Tyler, Top and Charlie were standing knee-deep in the water, smiling at each other brightly as they looked at the water bubbling up in the middle of the cavern.
“We found our way out!” Charlie exclaimed in happiness.
“Where?” Chloe asked, entering the water rapidly.
“You see the light?” Jack shined his flashlight on the bubbling water.
“Yeah.” Chloe nodded.
“There’s cold water coming up, that is our way out.” He kept his gaze on the bubbling water. “It must have been a dry passage once.”
Suddenly Jack doubled over in mute pain.
“Jack?” Tyler asked with worry, this was the first time they’d seen one of his attacks.
“Help him to the shore!” Chloe ordered as Jack nearly collapsed into the water from the magnitude of the pain as his body jerked violently.
“What’s happening?” Tyler asked as he hurried Jack to the shore, helping him sit down. “Talk to me, Jack!”
Jack’s eyes were wide, his pupils barely visible as his body shook and he seemed on the verge of collapsing.
“Jack!” Charlie called from where she remained in the water, helping Top keep upright. “What’s going on?!”
Chloe knelt down next to Tyler and in a move that surprised everyone, she reached for the knife Jack kept attached to his belt and pulled it out, slicing her wrist and pressing the bleeding wound to his mouth.
“What the hell are you doing?” Tyler exclaimed, turning to look at her in horror.
“I’m saving your brother’s life!” She snapped, never taking her eyes off of Jack. “Come on Jack, come on!” She pressed the wound harder against his mouth, forcing her bleeding wrist slightly into his mouth, her blood falling within. “If Jack’s theory is correct, the antibodies for this mutation are in my body—in my blood.” She winced when instincts took over and Jack sucked hard on her wrist, drawing the blood from her already closing wound into his mouth like a starved creature.
Then again, if she didn’t find a way to slow and stop the mutation, that was exactly what he would become.
Jack’s shaking stopped, and he groaned, placing his hand over hers and sucking softer on the wound, a near purr echoing in the back of his throat.
Chloe gulped, looking away from his expression of ecstasy, feeling a lot embarrassed now that the danger apparently had passed. Her blood had seemed to stop any further mutation, and she didn’t think that it was wishful thinking on her part that Jack was looking better.
“He’s not so pale anymore.” Charlie observed as she and Top finally made it to their side.
The wound in her wrist closed up completely, and Jack’s tongue scraped across the soft skin before he pulled away, opening his eyes.
Charlie gasped. “His eyes!”
Chloe blinked. The pupils were slowly morphing from their four-point star shape to a feline-like oval, which was really quite an improvement considering that an oval was much closer to their original shape.
“You guys are getting out of here and I’m going back for the others.” Jack tried to stand, but he swayed on his feet and if it hadn’t been for Tyler’s quick reflexes, he would have fallen.
“What are you talking about, man?” Tyler exclaimed, easing his brother back down so that he was sitting. “You’re in no condition to be going back out there. Top can barely walk. I’m going back.”
“Put your gear on and get in the water.” Jack ordered.
“I’m not getting into the water.” Tyler narrowed his eyes. “And you’re not going back.” He moved to leave.
Jack tried to charge after him but he was too weak, and Chloe’s hand on his chest was enough to push him back down into a sitting position.
“Sit down, Jack!” She snapped, glaring at him. “Tyler’s right. You’re in no condition to go.”
“I’m not letting my little brother go there alone!” Jack growled at her.
“He’s not.” She gulped, standing. “I’m going with him.”
“Now wait here a second--!” Tyler and Jack both exclaimed at the same time.
“No.” She snapped, silencing them. “Tyler can’t go alone, and there’s no other option. Yes, I’m a beacon for the creatures right now, but you said so yourself, I’m developing the heightened senses, I can help Tyler. Charlie needs to stay here with you and Top, both of you are sore--and Jack, you’ll be weak from my blood fighting whatever is in yours, you two wouldn’t be any good to help me if something followed my signal into here.”
“It’s safer for all of us if Tyler and I go for Kathryn and the others.” Chloe pressed. “And if there’s anyone injured, I can heal them enough to get them here. It’s a win/win situation.”
“She’s right Jack.” Top said softly from where he was resting against a boulder.
“No, Jack.” Tyler cut into his brother, obviously having been won over by Chloe’s argument. “You led us here, you were right. Now let us do this. We can do it.”
Jack looked at them both, torn, before nodding.
Chloe and Tyler exchanged looks and turned to leave.
“Wait!” Charlie hurried forwards and hugged them both tightly. “Come back in one piece.”
Tyler smiled down at her. “Promise.” He then turned to Chloe. “You ready to do this?”
Taking in a deep breath, Chloe nodded.