: 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...
Jack and Top had been gone for a while, and just to keep themselves from going insane, those left behind finished putting up camp. Tyler was bringing the last of the oxygen tanks to where the others were resting when it happened.
Briggs turned to Tyler’s back and sneered at him. “Narcosis, my ass.” He’d been bitchy and in a mood ever since Top had left with Jack, and Chloe tensed, looking up from the mole-creature Kathryn had been examining. “That’s bullshit and you know it.”
Charlie closed her eyes tightly in annoyance, as if she’d known that Briggs would do something like this and the fact that she was being proven right pissed her off no small amount.
“I’m not getting into this.” Tyler sighed, putting the oxygen tanks down next to the others.
“Why is that, Tyler?” Briggs growled, coming up behind him menacingly. “Because you forgot to stick with your dive buddy?”
Tyler tensed and then twirled around, his fist making such a strong impact with Top’s face that the taller, beefier man fell from the blow. “You asshole!” Tyler pointed his finger angrily at the fallen man. “I had no idea--!”
Briggs turned and kicked Tyler’s feet out from under him, causing the dark haired man to fall down as well. The bigger man jumped on Tyler, grabbing him by his throat.
“You guys!” Charlie shot up as Tyler grabbed Briggs by his arm, twisted it and got loose, kicking him away. “Hey! Stop it!” She got in the middle of them as both men shot up, ready to go at it again. “Hey! We just lost a friend and this is how you deal with it?” She snarled at them, causing the two larger men to wince and look away, unable to look at her. She turned to Briggs and grabbed his arm. “Come on.”
Chloe noticed the torn and hurt look on Tyler’s face as he walked away from them, and knew that he needed some time alone, so she turned her attention back on Kathryn, who hadn’t let the fight bother her and was busy examining extracts from the dead mole and a dead salamander they’d found in the cave.
“Jack and Top have been gone for a while.” The blonde rubbed her arms as a shiver ran down her spine.
“Chloe, Jack and Top are both veterans of this sort of thing, stop worrying about them.” The pretty scientist announced, eye to the microscope lens. “Can you pass me the glass with the salamander extract please?”
“Sure.” Chloe sighed, passing it to Kathryn and taking back the one from the mole.
“Chloe—I--I think I got something.” She looked up and turned to Dr. Nicolai, who was sitting in the dark, looking up at the ceiling. “Nicolai, look at this.”
Looking at them in curiosity, Nicolai stood and came towards them, giving Kathryn a look before doing as she asked and looking into the microscope. He adjusted the lens and then looked at Kathryn. “It’s a parasite.”
Chloe tensed, remembering all too well of the last time she’d been in a situation with parasites and caves.
Just like the Kawatche Caves…she looked around her, hope beginning to live within her once more. The legend might actually be telling the truth! It could actually be here!
“Yep. That’s from the salamander.” Kathryn nodded, reaching for the glass in Chloe’s hand and replacing the one under the microscope with it. “And this is from the mole.”
Nicolai looked through the lens once more and tensed, pulling away and looking at the two women in surprise. “It’s the same parasite!”
Chloe dragged her gaze from the walls of the cave around them and frowned at the scientists. She didn’t know much about parasites or anything like that, but she could hear the disbelief in the man’s voice and knew that there was something wrong. “What does that mean?”
She doubted that this parasite was anything like the one in the Kawatche Caves, or all of the animals would have killed themselves seeking an adrenaline rush, but this was similar, too similar, and it didn’t bode well with her.
Suddenly vibrations pierced through her, and Chloe gasped, voice caught in her throat, collapsing to her knees on the harsh, rocky floor, unable to breathe as an odd sound echoed throughout her ears and the whole cave seemed to spin frantically before her eyes.
“Chloe!” She could hear Kathryn’s distorted voice calling out, the first to notice what was happening.
“What’s going on?” Charlie’s voice was a horribly distorted bass someone to her left.
“Did something attack?” Briggs asked.
“What happened to her?” Tyler’s voice was in her ear and suddenly she was being picked off the ground and held close to a warm chest as she placed her hands to her ears, trying to block out the millions of sounds of clicking and echoes.
“She’s in shock.” Dr. Nicolai’s voice was ridiculously high to her ears, as if he’d sucked on helium.
“Tyler, bring her over here.” Alex’s voice was slurred, as if he was drunk. “Lay her down on this.”
“No, all she needs is to calm down.” Kathryn announced to her left. “She’s been terrified ever since she realized that she was going to have to come down here, but she’s tried to keep it hidden from all of us.” Her hand touched Chloe’s arm, rubbing it in a soothing manner. “The shock is getting to her with everything that’s happening. She just needs to calm down.”
Chloe closed her eyes tightly, not understanding how they didn’t hear those piercing sounds--it was like the sound a bat made to know where it was going in the dark. It was so loud and it was being aimed at her, and something in her body, right at the back of her neck where the parasite in the Kawatche Caves had entered her, was burning, as if in recognition.
The invisible shockwaves intensified and then disappeared, and Chloe shot up in Tyler’s arms, taking in a deep gulp of air, her hearing returning to normal as she greedily gulped in air and slowly relaxed to the sound of Tyler whispering in her ear and Kathryn rubbing her arm soothingly.
“That’s it, you’re okay.” Kathryn smiled at her. “How are you feeling?”
Chloe looked around her, feeling mortified that everyone was looking at her with worry, and yet she just nodded. How had they not heard that? Was it her? Was the fear getting to her? Was she going insane? “I--I’m okay.”
“You can put her down now, McAlister.” Kathryn smiled gratefully at Tyler as he did so, keeping an arm around Chloe when she swayed on her feet. “Chlo, I think you should sit down for a little bit.”
“No, that was more than just a panic attack.” Briggs stepped forwards as Tyler helped Chloe to sit down. “Something happened to her.” He ignored the harsh look Kathryn sent his way. “What happened to you?”
“Back off Briggs.” Tyler growled at the man, the air still tense around them.
“No, I won’t!” Briggs growled back. “Am I the only one who realizes that Strode didn’t get fucked up because of his own stupidity? Am I the only one who has some brain-sense to know that there are weird things going on here and that in horror movies things like what just happened to her don’t happen for nothing? That it’s all linked together somehow?”
“We are not in a movie, Briggs!” Charlie rounded on him, exasperated. “We’re in real life and Ms. Sullivan had a panic attack! And YOU are about to have one as well so you’re coming up with all of these weird theories! Now leave her alone! All of you!” The petite blonde glared at all of the men. “She needs her air and some space!”
Briggs opened his mouth, as if to challenge her authority, before he shook his head, cursed, and stomped away.
Charlie and Alex walked away together, talking to each other in hushed tones, while Tyler and Kathryn plunked down on each side of Chloe and Nicolai stood in front of her.
“You okay, Ms. Sullivan?” The Russian asked. “Would you like for me to get you some water?”
She smiled weakly up at him. “No, that’s okay Doc, I’m just overreacting, that’s all.”
“No, you’ve been very brave considering that you’re terrified of being not only underwater but trapped and in a very bad situation.” Kathryn continued to rub her arm. “But we’ll make it out of here, remember, Mr. Luthor only wanted the best on this expedition, so if anyone can get us out, it’s Jack and his gang.”
Tyler smiled at Kathryn, obviously thankful for her trust in them.
Chloe nodded, telling herself that Kathryn was right. “I--I just can’t help but feel that there’s something wrong.” She paused, hearing an odd sound in the water. “What was that?”
“What was what?” Tyler asked, looking in the direction she was.
“GET THE MEDICAL KIT!” Top’s voice was heard before he turned the corner, running through the water, helping an obviously injured Jack.
“My God…” Chloe whispered, standing up.
“JACK!” Tyler cried, getting up and racing towards Top while Kathryn and Dr. Nicolai scrambled to get the medical kit.
Briggs, Charlie and Alex turned at the screams and hurried back.
“I got him Top!” Tyler helped the dark man carrying his brother to the land. “Set him down.”
“What happened?” Briggs was by Top’s side in a second.
“Oh shit!” Tyler cursed when he saw the torn flesh. “Look at me. You all right?”
Chloe and Alex were the only ones who remained back and apart from the happenings. They stood close to each other, as if trying to draw some comfort in the other’s presence.
“Top, what do you need?” Briggs asked, somewhat frantically. “Tell me.”
Jack sat down with a cry of pain and threw away a large, alien looking appendix to the ground next to him.
“Jesus!” Charlie cried out when she saw the bloody thing.
“What happened, Top?” Tyler asked in agitation.
“Found that hooked in his sling.” Was Top’s only answer as he cast a look at the strange thing.
“Get out of my way people!” Kathryn ordered in frustration, pushing the men out of her way and kneeling down beside Jack as Dr. Nicolai appeared beside her and opened the medical kit. “Jesus Jack, what the hell happened to you?”
“What the hell is that?” Briggs spat, looking at the severed thing next to Jack.
“I cut it off,” the man’s voice was hoarse with pain.
“Okay, okay, everyone give him room!” Kathryn snapped, and those around reluctantly stepped back and gave her the space to work on Jack.
“Did you get a look at whatever that was attached to?” Tyler asked his brother, shinning his light on the wounds so Kathryn could see them better.
“No.” Jack winced as Kathryn cleaned the wounds. “It jumped me too fast.”
“Hold still.” Dr. Nicolai admonished.
“Jesus, how big was it?” Charlie asked, shining her light on the thing.
“It’s big.” Jack answered, flinching in pain.
“Well,” Alex turned to Chloe, admiringly calm given the circumstances. “At least we now know at what end of the food chain the moles are in.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.” She whispered back to him, wincing when she realized as Dr. Nicolai began to cleanse Jack’s back, that he’d been sliced there as well.
“How’s it looking, Doc?” Jack asked the Russian.
“Whatever it was that you encountered, Jack, it ripped you up pretty badly.” Dr. Nicolai sighed. “You need an antibiotic. Kathryn, hand me a syringe.”
“A little busy here…” Kathryn announced, wrapping up Jack’s cleansed leg.
“Here you go, doc.” Charlie passed Dr. Nicolai the syringe after going through the kit.
Chloe looked away when Jack cried out as Dr. Nicolai injected him in the torn flesh of his back. She wished that she could just go there and heal him herself, but it was too risky, she couldn’t expose herself and her powers, not in this situation--not with these jumpy people. With Tyler it’d been easy because it was a minor injury and no one had been paying attention at the time, but everyone’s attention was on Jack. She couldn’t heal him of his wounds without glowing, and even if his wounds suddenly disappearing wouldn’t have caught anyone’s attention, her lighting up like the fourth of July would, and that would lead to too many questions--and from healing those injuries she’d probably need a couple hours of sleep to recuperate.
They didn’t have time for that. They were now at the bottom of the food chain and needed to find a way out.
Maybe, maybe she could subtly heal Jack little by little? All it would take would be several discreet touches whenever others weren’t watching. It would take longer, but he’d still be getting healed…
“Let’s go look at this Motha.” Briggs announced when Jack was fully bandaged and taken care of, picking up what Chloe knew to be a finger fully equipped with a large claw.
“I’ll go get the camera.” Alex told Chloe. “We’ll need to have this documented.”
Chloe looked back at Jack, who sat apart from the others, they crowded the table where Kathryn was examining the severed finger/claw. While he didn’t seem to be in much pain, Jack was pale, and it worried Chloe, but she was more worried about what this finger could be attached to, so she turned her attention to Kathryn when she finally spoke.
“There’s a resemblance to amphibian tissue.” She looked up from the severed remain with a frown. “But these hair follicles would seem to rule that out.”
Dr. Nicolai nodded his agreement.
“The only thing I do know is that this is definitely a predator.” She looked at them all in silence.
“Great.” Briggs sneered. “So now we’re part of the food chain.”
“We always have been.” Kathryn shot back, returning her attention to the thing on the table. “We’ve just forgotten that, living in cities.” She pressed down on a specific part of the thing with her tool and it twitched violently, as if trying to dig its claw into her.
Kathryn pulled back and gasped, as did most of those around the table.
“Just reflexes.” Dr. Nicolai reassured everyone. “Don’t worry.”
Charlie pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes, obviously trying to calm herself.
“So,” Alex continued filming the remains. “What is it?”
“Well, without DNA testing it would be impossible to tell.” Kathryn looked up into the camera.
Dr. Nicolai once more nodded his agreement as the camera lens shot to him. “This may be something we’ve never seen before.”
“Every cave organism we’ve discovered so far originated on the surface.” Kathryn continued, ignoring the camera to concentrate on her dissection of the thing. “Over time, they’ve adapted, lost pigmentation and sight, and developed a heightened sense of hearing and smell.” She paused, standing straight and staring down at her dissection. “If this is a totally self-contained ecosystem--.”
“Yes,” Dr. Nicolai interrupted. “We may have discovered the primeval creature that has evolved in total isolation.”
“Well, it looks like a piece from those things on the pictures Ms. Sullivan showed me of the mosaics found in the early part of the dig.”
Tyler frowned. “What mosaics?”
“The ones with the demons.” Jack announced darkly from behind them.
“Demons?” Charlie squeaked.
“There are no such things as demons.” Dr. Nicolai was quick to assure her. “The old friars probably knew of these creatures, that’d evolved unlike anything they’d seen before, and immediately their superstitious minds thought up demons from hell, which would be fitting considering that this is a cave. They probably thought this was a portal from hell, which would explain why they’d seal it off and build a church over it.”
“What would keep them from just destroying the seal and coming up through the church?” Tyler asked.
“In legend nothing demonic can touch holy ground.” Chloe whispered, not really listening to what she was saying. She was thinking about something Kathryn had said, something that just wouldn’t leave her alone. “Kathryn, you said that these things most probably lost their ability to see, and because of that they developed other heightened senses.”
“Yes, I did.” Kathryn nodded with a curious frown. “Why?”
Chloe finally met her gaze. “Do you think--could they use echo-location to find prey--like bats do?”
Kathryn blinked and shared a look with Dr. Nicolai. “Yes, they—they could very well have developed that sort of ability, now that you say it, it would make the most sense, these creatures probably do use echo-location.”
“Dear God.” Dr. Nicolai gasped, bringing his hand to his heart.
“They’re friggin’ mutant bats!” Briggs snapped.
Chloe didn’t hear any of this, her eyes widened as she remembered feeling the vibrations, hearing the clicking sounds…what if she hadn’t been crazy? What if it hadn’t been a panic attack? What if what she’d heard, what she’d felt, had been one of these creatures scanning them and their camp?
But why would only I be able to hear and feel it?
“Look.” Kathryn’s voice brought Chloe out of her troubling thoughts.
“What?” Dr. Nicolai asked, bending down to be able to see better what she was pointing at.
Charlie bent as well and pulled some hair from her gaze, eyes widening. “It’s still alive?”
“Those tendrils look familiar?” Kathryn asked, ignoring Charlie’s question.
“Yeah.” Dr. Nicolai nodded. “The parasite.”
Chloe took a step backwards as it smashed into her. Those creatures were infected with the parasite--and if that parasite was anyhow related to the one she’d been infected with once years ago, maybe that was why she’d sensed what the others hadn’t! Maybe, despite the fact that the parasite had been taken out of her, something had remained, maybe that was why the back of her neck had throbbed so violently hot when she’d felt it, and that was why the sound waves had intensified on her.
She’d been living all these years with a trace of the parasite still inside of her!
No one seemed to notice her silent meltdown, only having eyes for Kathryn and the thing.
She nearly screamed when something came down hard on her shoulder, and she turned to see Jack standing next to her, eyeing the remains with distaste. “All right, let’s pack it up.” Everyone turned to look at him in surprise. “It’s time to go.” He squeezed her shoulder and then walked away towards the equipment. “We take only what we need, but we’re taking our dive gear.”
Tyler nodded and headed after Jack, Top following slowly behind.
Charlie and Briggs remained behind, watching as Kathryn grabbed the remains carefully and put them into a Ziploc bag.
A muscle in Dr. Nicolai’s cheek jerked as he looked at the table. “We should wait here.”
“Wow, that’s just brilliant, doc.” Briggs snorted in disgust, arms folded over his chest. “You really want to be sitting here on your ass when the lights go out?” Shaking his head in disgust, he and Charlie followed after their leader.
They began their trek through the cave system, Jack this time assuming his position in the front with Top following behind and making sure that nothing crept up on them. Chloe found herself right behind Jack, feeling safer with him than with the other men despite the fact that Jack was injured. She tensed when she felt the vibrations race through her again, yet this time it didn’t send her into an attack, but it caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand. And from the way Jack tensed at the same time she did, the blonde couldn’t help but wonder if he could feel it too.
Alex, god bless his soul, was keeping himself occupied and calm in the only way he knew--he was busying himself by filming the expedition.
“Hey,” Charlie finally broke the silence sometime later into the long, grueling walk. “Maybe there’s a way to climb out.”
“Yeah,” Briggs agreed from where he and Tyler were carrying a stretched with the important things they hadn’t been able to leave behind at advance camp. “Better up than down.”
The clicking sound seemed to echo all around them in the cavern. Something was trailing them.
“What’s that?” Charlie’s voice pierced the silence as her beam of light rested over something to the side. “Are those more bones?”
Dr. Nicolai went to the remains and picked it up, the light of his flashlight showing the cuts sliced the bones. “Looks like we found the owner of those boots everyone’s been talking about.” He turned his head to look at Kathryn as everyone gathered around him. “Teeth marks.”
The silence that followed was deafening.
Jack broke it, shinning his light in the direction they’d been heading. “Let’s go.”
No one argued with him, glad to be moving away from the reminder that there was something dangerous in the caves with them--although Alex made sure to film the bones quickly before catching up with the rest of them, unwilling to remain behind alone.
They continued walking in silence, eyes vigilant on the caverns around them, as they followed Jack without question. Chloe’d stopped feeling the vibrations or hearing the sonar clicks a while back, and didn’t know whether to be thankful that the creature had decided that they weren’t interesting enough to follow, or afraid that it’d been a scout and gone back to tell the rest of its species that there was fresh meat.
Stop thinking like that, stop thinking like that!
“We have to go through here.” Jack’s voice brought her out of her thoughts, and she gasped when she realized what he was talking about. Their path was blocked by a large wall and the only way to get to the other side for them to be able to continue on their expedition to find a way out was by crawling through a tight, narrow, and apparently long hole through the wall.
“No. No way!” Chloe shook her head. They’d be sitting ducks if they went through that! What was to say that they wouldn’t get trapped in there or that the creatures weren’t waiting on the other side to kill them off one by one as they came out?
She’d faced enough fears as it was, and she wasn’t up to facing yet another closed dark space. She was staying right--hey, wait, what was Jack doing? “Let go of me!” She struggled to free her arm from his grip as he pulled her after him towards the dark crevice. “I’m not doing it! Let go!”
“Chloe, look at me, look at me!”
She pushed down the hysteria and looked him deep in his eyes.
“Remember what I told you to do if you panicked while we were diving?” Jack asked, his hands on her shoulders. “I need you to apply that to this situation. I need you to trust me.”
“But--but--.” Her gaze left his and went to the dark crevice.
“No, look at me.” Jack shook her hard enough to cause her to look at him once more. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Chloe, to any of you. But I need you to trust me.”
She hated it, hated the fact that she was breaking down in front of everyone, but she couldn’t keep the tears back as they fell silently down her cheeks.
“Maybe we should take 5 and give her a moment to calm down.” Tyler spoke.
“No.” Jack didn’t take his eyes from Chloe’s, his fingers on her shoulders caressing her softly in a soothing manner. “She’s strong. She can do this.”
And those words were what did it. Chloe closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down before shaking her head. “I’m fine.” She knew they all knew it was a lie, but it was a lie she needed to believe. “I’m fine.”
“Good girl.” Jack smiled slightly at her before letting go of his hold on her shoulders and turning to everyone. “We go through now. I’ll lead, Top will follow, then Chloe, Kathryn, Charlie, Dr. Nicolai and Alex will go through, and Tyler and Briggs will come last.”
Everyone nodded, although Briggs looked around him in the dark and gulped.
Chloe took in another deep breath as Jack and Top took off their backpacks, Jack pushing his in the crevice in front of him before climbing in, crawling on his belly and disappearing into the darkness. Top waited a minute before doing the same.
“Come on, Chlo.” Kathryn smiled weakly at her side. “It’s our turn.”
Chloe had never been more relieved than when she finally made it out of the crevice and Jack pulled her out. She was about to thank him when he turned and walked away, heading turning the corner and disappearing from sight. The blonde frowned and looked at Top for an answer, as he helped Kathryn out of the crevice and onto her feet, but the handsome dark man only shook his head to signal that he didn’t understand what Jack was up to.
“Where did Jack go?” Kathryn asked, pulling back on her backpack and following Top and Chloe as they hurried in the direction Jack had gone, leaving the rest to do the same once they made it out of the crevice.
Turning the corner they came upon a fork in the road, two different tunnels leading in two different directions, and Jack was no where to be seen.
“What do we do?” Chloe whispered, desperately reminding herself that Jack had asked her to trust him.
“We wait.” Top sighed, pulling off his backpack and sitting on a rock. “He’s scouting the tunnels, we wait here until he returns.”
“Don’t you have sonar guns for this kind of situation?” Kathryn asked, worry etched in her features. “He shouldn’t have gone ahead alone, not injured, not with whatever is out there.”
“I’ve learnt to always trust Jack’s instincts without a question.” Top announced slowly. “He has never failed us once, and I doubt he’ll start to now.”
“Why are you sitting down, Top?” Briggs asked as he, Tyler, and the others finally appeared, flashing their flashlights around. “Why are we taking a break?”
Top remained silent.
“Talk about a fork in the road.” Tyler announced, shinning his light into the darkness of both tunnel, the darkness so black it swallowed the bright light whole.
“A fork or a dead end?” Charlie whispered, joining her light with Tyler’s and still they were unable to see anything except the darkness within.
Briggs sat down, his gaze going from Top to Tyler and back. “Where’s Jack?”
“Scouting the tunnel.” Top finally spoke.
“So why aren’t we helping him?” Briggs wanted to know.
“You know the drill, Briggs.” Top sounded tired and annoyed. “Give him a chance to read the sediment.”
“Yeah, I know the drill, Top.” Briggs replied, reaching into his discarded backpack and pulling out something that resembled a gun as he stood. “You don’t have to tell me about drills. Sonar gun’s right here.” He went to aim it at one of the tunnels when Top’s hand reached out and quickly pushed it down, stopping him.
“Relax.” Top ordered, hand still on Briggs’, keeping the sonar gun pointed to the ground.
Sensing motion, Chloe looked up and noticed Jack as he emerged from the darkness of one of the caves. She frowned, looking at him, sensing something different yet not understanding what it was. There was something different in the way he walked, something--something was different.
“What the hell’s going on?” Jack asked, going towards Briggs and Top.
“Come on, Jack.” Briggs spoke, as if knowing that pissing Jack off wasn’t the best thing to do right now. “I just wanna get the hell out of here.”
Jack gave him a smile that was chilling. “Well maybe you out to follow me, Briggs.”
Kathryn and Dr. Nicolai shared concerned looks.
Tyler frowned slightly.
Jack’s smile disappeared and he grabbed his discarded backpack, going towards the tunnel he’d just emerged from, the darkness swallowing him whole.
Chloe went to follow him but stopped when Tyler’s hand came down on her shoulder. “What?” She asked, as everyone marched in after Jack, everyone, that is, except Dr. Nicolai, Briggs, Tyler and herself. The young woman frowned, not liking the fact that they were suddenly two groups.
Tyler’s eyes were narrowed on Briggs, who still held the sonar gun in his hand rebelliously.
“This is bullshit.” Briggs announced, aiming the gun at the tunnel Jack and the others had just disappeared into--watching the readings--and then aimed the gun at the other tunnel, doing the same thing. “Jack didn’t pick the dominant artery.”
“Are you sure?” Dr. Nicolai asked, going behind the other man to be able to read the reading.
“Yeah,” Briggs nodded. “I’m sure. This is the one right here. Take a look at it.” He stepped forwards and activated the sonar gun once again into the tunnel he said Jack should have taken them in, looking down at the reading and suddenly going pale. “There’s something in there that wasn’t there before.”
Chloe took a step back.
Tyler left her and went to Briggs, looking over his shoulder at the reading before looking at the darkness of what would be the dominant artery, as if trying to see what the sonar gun had picked up. “Well, why don’t you go scout it out for us, Briggs?”
Chloe narrowed her eyes at Tyler for that comment. This was not the time for those two to be getting at it!
But Briggs didn’t rise to the bait, for once, his trembling gaze focused on the darkness of the tunnel in question. “Forget about it.” He quickly turned around and put the sonar gun away, heading rapidly towards the tunnel that Jack and the others had disappeared into minutes ago.
Dr. Nicolai followed.
“Tyler?” Chloe asked in a soft voice when only the two of them were left at the fork in the road, Tyler still looking into the darkness of the other cave. “We should get going.” She hugged herself and looked around her nervously. “It’s not safe to be so far away from the group like this. We could get targeted.”
He turned at her voice and nodded, motioning for her to follow him as he entered the tunnel everyone else had, and Chloe followed quickly behind, afraid and knowing it showed. They quickly found the others after the tunnel opened up, proving that there was yet another wall blocking their way. Charlie, Jack and Top were working rapidly to get the climbing equipment so they could climb up.
Charlie was higher up above Jack and Top installing the equipment, which didn’t surprise Chloe because she’d been told that Charlie was the best climber of the team, so it would make sense that she was in charge of this. “On belay.” The young woman called down to Top and Jack. “You’re safe to climb.”
Alex was busy filming, while Dr. Nicolai, Kathryn and Briggs spoke in hushed tones. Tyler went to join them, but Chloe didn’t follow, she circled closer to where Jack and Top were, catching the later part of their conversation.
“You gonna let me change that bandage when we get to the top?” Top asked, watching as Jack wiggled his injured hand as if to try and wiggle the pain away, the bandage red with his blood.
Chloe frowned. She was going to have to start with the mini healing sessions soon.
“I’m all right.” Jack shook his head.
“Looks like it’s getting infected.” Top insisted. “You sure?”
“I’m so tired.” Dr. Nicolai could be heard complaining as he sat down. “We need a break.”
“Not with that thing out there!” Briggs scoffed.
“We gotta let them rest, Jack.” Top sighed.
Jack was silent for a moment, looking up the expanse of what they had to climb and then at his right hand man. “Once we hit the water.”
“Water?” Top asked, frowning. “I don’t hear any water.”
“Yeah.” Jack agreed. “I smell it.”
Top was silent, yet the look he sent his leader was a worried one.
Jack looked past Top at Chloe, as if he’d known she was there listening to them all along. “Come on, we need to strap you up.”
“I’ve never done this before.” She didn’t pretend to be ashamed for having listened to his conversation.
“Life is full of firsts.” Was Jack’s answer. He didn’t say anything else as he helped her get strapped up and it was a surprisingly easy climb. Chloe had to admit that if this hadn’t been a life-threatening experience she might have actually learned to enjoy rock-climbing, though Dr. Nicolai didn’t seem to share that sentiment, he huffed and complained and took the longest to make the climb.
Soon they were walking once more, and Chloe didn’t know why she wasn’t surprised to find that the dry land gave way to a cavern of water only a couple of hundred feet away. She sent a look in Jack’s direction, noticing that Top was doing the same.
Jack, however, ignored the others as he knelt by the edge, lit a flare, and threw it into the water, the flare lighting the way down and giving them an idea of the terrain below water.
Alex appeared next to Jack, filming everything.
The light shone on Jack’s face as he tried to watch the trajectory of the flare, and he winced, a muscle in his cheek jumping as he turned to Alex in annoyance. “Not now.” He softly but determinedly pushed the camera and it’s light off of his face.
“We’re gonna need footage like this.” Alex answered, continuing to film.
Chloe felt the electric charge in the air before something seemed to snap in Jack and he shot to his feet, grabbed the camera and threw it viciously into the water.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Alex growled, pushing Jack. “That camera was paying for this expedition!”
Jack’s eyes seemed to darken and he charged forth at Alex, but Chloe got in the middle of them and did the only thing she could think about to try and calm him, she hugged him, using the distraction to also insert some of her healing powers into him. Jack froze beneath her touch as something electric jolted through them, much like her reaction to the feel of the creature’s sonar calls bouncing off of her, and yet somewhat different.
The old scar at the back of her neck throbbed once more and she realized that as she was hugging him her hand was unfortunately on the bandaged wounds on his back--and they were throbbing to the same beat as the tiny scar on the back of her neck.
Chloe’s eyes widened from where she was pressing her face into his wetsuit, suddenly realizing what was different about Jack.
Jack finally pulled away and looked intensely in her eyes, as if trying to find something, before he shook his head and turned to look at Alex. “I’m sorry, man.” He sighed, looking truly contrite. “I was out of line.”
The Asian sighed as well, all anger gone from his face. “That’s okay man. We’re all edgy, it’s understandable.”
Jack nodded and turned to look at the water, as if trying to avoid Chloe, and suddenly he paused, watching the light of the camera as it continued to sink into the depth of the water. “There’s a current.” He turned to look at Top and Tyler. “Grab some food. You two keep an eye out. We’ll rest for 20.” Jack turned and began walking away from the group before pausing and turning to Chloe expectantly.
Realizing that he wanted her to follow, Chloe shared a look with a worried Top before hurrying and falling into step with Jack, not questioning why he was separating them from the others, going to the farthest corner of the cavern, making sure that no one could hear what they had to say, and in the darkness, it would be hard for the others to see them as well.
She knew what he was going to say, knew because he’d sensed it in her like she’d sensed it in him.
Jack paused, sitting down on a rock, looking down at his feet. “When were you infected?”
Chloe didn’t answer him at once, she kept her eyes on the open crevice above her, not liking the fact that something could be hiding up there in the darkness and they would never even know it unless it tried to scan them. “When I was fourteen.”
“Huh?” Jack jerked his gaze up from the floor to her. “What are you talking about?”
“I don’t think it’s the same parasite, but I’m almost completely sure that it’s from the same family.” She finally turned to look at him. “It made me do some stupid things, but didn’t give me any enhanced senses.” She smiled tiredly at the confused look he gave her. “You smell water frequently then?”
He frowned, as if suddenly realizing what he’d said to Top, and what it’d meant.
She knelt down in front of him, hands on his thighs, looking in his eyes. “I didn’t know the ‘demons’ were actually a super evolved species of animal. I didn’t know anything of this would happen.”
“I know.” His smile was chilly. “You were terrified at just the thought of swimming in the water, you wouldn’t have come down here if you’d known the truth.” Jack suddenly groaned in pain and closed his eyes tightly, his whole body shaking.
“Jack?” She whispered.
“Don’t…draw…attention…” His voice was a hiss of pain as he hunched over and brought his bandaged hands closed in fists to his face. His whole body shook violently and Chloe slipped between his thighs, hugging him once again, closing her eyes tightly as he hugged her back so strongly it hurt.
His skin seemed to ripple under his shirt, and he muted the cry of pain by burying his face in her hair, pressing his closed mouth painfully against her head.
Chloe didn’t understand what was happening, but she dug her fingers into his back and activated her healing powers, and while the wounds beneath her hands began to heal, it opened up another channel that caused her to bite down on her lip to keep from screaming out in pain as what he was experiencing transitioned into her.
The world seemed to be shaking, inside her body burnt, and colors blurred before her eyes as sounds distorted.
Then, as suddenly as it’d started, it’d stopped, and Chloe threw herself away from Jack, the glow in her hands fading immediately. They stared at each other with wide eyes, both frightened, both breathing in deeply.
“What the hell was that?” She hissed from where she was sprawled on the ground, her hip paining her from where she’d fallen on some rocks when she’d pushed away. “What happened?”
“I—I don’t--.” Jack suddenly paused, eyes widening, tilting his head slightly to the right. His eyes narrowed suddenly as he tilted his head to the left, as if he was listening to something, something Chloe just couldn’t hear. “I can hear them talking.”
“Who?” Chloe asked, eyeing the two groups sitting way on the other side of the cavern.
Jack forced his gaze to meet hers. “Everyone.”
The next minutes passed rapidly as Chloe and Jack sat with their backs against the wall as the blonde told him about Smallville, about the Kawatche Caves, and about her own parasite. She’d told him how the one she’d been infected with had fed off of the adrenaline gland, and that even though she couldn’t remember what she’d done while under the control of the parasite, she’d been told that she’d done some pretty crazy and dangerous things. Then, she’d confessed her worry that maybe a piece of the parasite had been left within her, and told him why.
Jack sat in silence, elbows resting on his knees, looking at his hands. “It’s definitely not the same parasite, but I think you might be right--it might be a part of the same family.” He paused. “I can sense you, Chloe. I don’t know how, maybe it’s the parasites within us recognizing each other, I don’t know, but I can sense you.” He turned to look at her, expression bleak. “And I’m wondering if I’m not the only one who can.”
Chloe went pale at the insinuation, and would have said something but she noticed Jack tense up, and that was when she noticed Tyler making his way towards them.
“Hey bro,” the dark haired McAlister bent facing them, looking honestly worried about his brother. “How you doing?”
Jack turned to look at Tyler in silence.
“Jack,” Tyler began, eyes searching his brother’s face. “I’m worried about you.”
“I’m going to leave you two alone so you can--.” Chloe started to get up but stopped when Jack’s hand came down on her arm. What was it with these brothers and telling her when she could move?
“Stay.” Jack told her, pushing down slightly on her arm.
Tyler frowned as he looked from Jack to Chloe.
She sighed and sat back down, looking at her feet.
“Jack,” Tyler tried again. “Is there something wro--?”
“Briggs is gonna be a problem.” Jack interrupted, eyes on the darkness surrounding his feet. “You know that, don’t you?”
Tyler tensed, but that was because he didn’t know what Chloe did, didn’t knew what Jack’s newly sensitive hearing had let him overhear. His dark gaze went where Briggs was before he returned it to Jack and nodded, obviously knowing Briggs enough to know that no matter what the situation, Briggs would be a problem.
“I can’t save them, Tyler, not if no one trusts me.”
Chloe winced, wondering what other conversations he’d over heard. “That’s not true Jack,” she placed her hand on his arm. “I trust you.” He didn’t look up from the floor of the cavern, but his arm tensed under her touch. “You’ve been asking me to do that since before we started out on this expedition.” She squeezed his arm slightly. “You’ve kept me safe this far, and I trust you completely, I know you’ll get us out of here safely.”
He snorted softly, finally turning to look at her. “At the moment, you’re the only one who does.”
Chloe frowned in worry and looked up at Tyler.
“No she isn’t.” Tyler said, causing Jack to turn to look at him. “Top and I have never doubted you, and we’re not about to do so now.” He paused. “Although Top is worried about your injuries. You should let him look at them and cleanse them, he’s worried about gangrene setting in.”
“I’m fine.” Jack looked away, but the relief was obvious in his expression. “Chloe’s been checking on them for me.”
Chloe’s eyes widened. Had he realized that she was healing him? But how? She hadn’t told him about her being a meteor freak or about her healing abilities!
“Tell them that it’s time to get into the water.” Jack said softly. “They’ll listen to you.”
Tyler seemed sad and torn, but he shook it off and stood. “Yes sir.” Giving Chloe a look that promised that he was going to talk to her alone later to figure out what was going on with his brother, Tyler marched off.
Chloe watched him leave but turned back to Jack when she saw him close his eyes tightly and reach for her hand, squeezing it tightly as his body shook once more, yet not as violently as it had the last time. She didn’t dare open up the channel between them again by trying to heal him while he was going through these weird and unexplainable attacks.
And just like last time, as suddenly as the attack began it ended, and Jack relaxed, opening his eyes and taking in a deep breath. “Let’s do this.”