: 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 a cave with Kryptonian connections, they must find a way out and avoid the creatures within, but will getting out of The Cave truly solve their troubles?
The climb back up the ice wall was hard, but Chloe felt that strange heat warming her muscles, and slowly she began to find that she was getting stronger. Still, it was a long way up to the top, but when they finally made it Chloe and Tyler smiled at each other in pride, taking in deep breaths before hurrying back the way they’d come, mindful of their surroundings as to not get lost or get snuck upon.
Tyler carried his backpack and diving equipment but Chloe had left her equipment and everything in the cavern with Jack and the others, not needing it to hold her back. She’d felt a little worried about separating herself from the Kryptonian crystal now that she’d found it, but she knew that the weight of the backpack would only slow her down.
Running through a dark passage, following Tyler as he tried to backtrack where Jack had brought them through, Chloe froze when she felt something behind her. Turning, Chloe narrowed her eyes when she saw nothing in the darkness surrounding her, she’d been so sure…
The sound of a growl somewhere in the cavern that interconnected with the one they were now in caused Tyler to turn as well. “Shit! Chloe!”
Turning back to the other man, Chloe took off as fast as her feet could take her, with his running by her side, grabbing onto her hand and pulling her behind him as his longer feet took him faster. She bit back a scream when suddenly the tunnel opened up to nothing, and they were falling…falling…into the water far below.
With a kick of their feet they’d surfaced, and Chloe gulped in air as both she and Tyler pulled on the goggles they’d been wearing around their necks, took in a deep breath, and dove right under the water once more, knowing that the creature could have picked up on Chloe and be behind them.
The dive took them under, and Chloe tried holding her breath for as long as she could in between ‘buddy breaths’, as both she and Tyler shared the oxygen in the oxygen tank between them. Chloe didn’t know how Tyler could be so sure of where they were going, but she trusted him, and when the light of his flashlight shone on a discarded piece of equipment in the underwater tunnel that they were swimming in, she turned to him and smiled, realizing that they really were going in the right direction.
They finally squeezed out of the narrowing tunnel and surfaced, taking in deep breaths of air and swimming to the shore, eyes narrowing as the beam from Tyler’s light landed upon all of the equipment Kathryn, Briggs and Alex had taken with them. The backpacks and diving gear had been discarded rapidly, and Chloe sniffed, wondering what the metallic scent in the air was.
“What--what’s that scent?”
“What scent?” Tyler turned to her, frowning.
“I--I don’t know.” Chloe sniffed the air, stepping onto the shore and following the scent until she was standing amongst the discarded equipment. She turned right, inhaled, shook her head and then turned to the left and did the same, pausing, walking towards the left, following the pungent scent, and gasping in horror as she stood in front of one of the backpacks, but the difference with this one was that it was splattered with blood.
“KATHRYN!” She screamed, looking around. “ALEX?!”
Tyler was by her side in a second, light shinning down on the blood-stained backpack, going pale. “That blood’s fresh.”
They looked up, gasping as they heard Briggs’ voice screaming somewhere in the tunnel system in front of them.
“Briggs.” Tyler whispered before taking off rapidly in the direction of the screams, and Chloe followed him because while she’d never liked Briggs, she didn’t want him dead, and he sounded like he was in a lot of trouble. The blonde tripped and went down, the distance expanding between her and Tyler, and as she tried to get up she bit back a cry at the pain in her ankle.
Of all the times to sprain it!
“Briggs! Briggs!” Tyler’s voice resounded long after he’d disappeared from her view.
“HELP!” Briggs’ voice screamed.
Come on, come on, come on! Chloe knew that she couldn’t accelerate the healing process more than it already was--her foot seemed almost on fire from the strength of the healing--but she felt so useless lying on the floor when she should be helping Tyler.
“HELP ME TYLER!” The terror in Briggs’ voice, mounted with the sound of something growling and bones cracking, echoed off the walls of the tunnel. “HELP ME!”
“Hold onto me Briggs!”
“Don’t let go!” Briggs begged. “Please—oh--God! TYLER! NOO!”
“Shit!” Tyler cursed. “Hold on Briggs! I’m coming!”
Come on—come on—come—yes! The heat in her foot suddenly vanished and Chloe got to her feet and hurried down the tunnel, shining her light around her desperately, trying to find Tyler. “Tyler?” She continued to run, knowing there was a creature in here that had Briggs and that Tyler was after it, knowing that there were probably more creatures lurking around in the dark and she had no weapon.
Tyler, where ARE you?
She halted when that same metallic scent, the one she now knew was blood, hit her so strongly she threw her head back and groaned, for the first time sensing the aroma beneath the metallic one, the hidden aroma that enticed her to follow its scent until she came across a dark crevice in the cavern’s wall, a dark crevice that reeked of blood. That ambrosia rose into her nostrils, causing Chloe to tremble as her hand slowly trailed through the pool of thick red liquid.
The blonde pulled back her hand, examining her blood-coated fingers before bringing them to her nose and inhaling, eyelids falling shut, a moan of pleasure gurgling in her throat, feeling something shift inside of her, something feral, something primeval, something predatory.
Chloe’s eyes flew open and she blinked, suddenly seeing the dark tunnel as easily as if a million torches had been lit. She narrowed her eyes in confusion and slight suspicion, killing the beam of her flashlight and blinking as the tunnel seemed to lit up even brighter, and she could see every little crevice, every nook and cranny.
The smell of the blood must have triggered something inside of me.
She wiped the blood off of her fingers and looked down at her arms in near panic. Seeing them normal she brought her hands to her face, feeling no mutation, her body was warm to the touch and her skin was still pink with health.
But something felt different.
So, what exactly happened to me?
Seeing something moving in the darkness of the cave before her, Chloe acted on instinct and swung behind a ledge, peeking out from behind it and bringing a hand to her mouth to silence her gasp as she saw the large creature walking down the tunnel-system in her direction.
It paused, tilted its blind head to the side, and opened its mouth.
Guessing it’s intent, Chloe swung back behind the protective barrier of the ledge in time to escape the sonar call, which bounced off of the ledge and returned the image of an empty tunnel to the creature. It seemed satisfied and walked right passed Chloe, pausing and raising its nose to the air, sniffing.
For a moment she was horrified that it’d caught a whiff of her scent, and terror kept her frozen when it turned around and headed back in her direction, but right before it could touch her, the creature turned and stuck it’s head into the crevice filled with blood and took in a deep whiff. It made a gurgling sound in the back of it’s throat before surging forwards, squeezing its massive girth and length into the narrow opening and disappearing into the darkness within.
It didn’t sense me. Chloe’s mind worked a million miles a second. I’m not a beacon anymore. A small smile lit up her face. Whatever just happened to me, whatever it is, it’s turned off their homing ability--or I’ve just stopped transmitting the signal--or--or--who really GIVES a damn HOW it happened? THEY CAN’T SENSE ME ANYMORE!
Long after the sound of shuffling and sniffing had died away into nothingness, Chloe breathed a sigh of relief and hurried back on her journey, trying to find Tyler and the others. She knew that time was of the essence, and the fact that she and the dark-haired McAlister had been separated this long didn’t bode well with her. Together they were stronger, alone they were easy targets--Tyler the easiest thanks to the fact that he didn’t have the increasingly useful abilities being infected gave Chloe.
The blonde paused when she reached a fork in the road, looking from one tunnel to the other, wondering which she should take.
A scream echoed throughout the cavern followed by the sound of a thundering roar.
Chloe strained her hearing to figure out from which tunnel the scientist’s screams were echoing from, and making a decision she darted into the right sub-division, praying she’d made the right choice, praying that the reason that there were no more screams was because Kathryn had somehow gotten away and not because she was being eaten.
Taking the corner rapidly, Chloe cried out and dodged the rock flying at her, looking up in surprise to see Kathryn kneeling on the ground, sonar gun in hand, looking up at her with wide, unbelieving eyes.
“Chloe?” Her voice was small and broken. “Is that really you?”
“Kathryn!” Chloe hurried towards her and dropped to her knees, hugging the trembling older woman. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Where are the others?”
“Chloe!” Kathryn hugged her back fiercely, crying desperate tears. “I can’t believe it’s you--I thought it was that monster coming to get me again!”
Chloe pulled away slightly and looked around her at that, satisfied when she didn’t see a sign of the creature. “How did you get it to leave in the first place?”
“Sound waves.” Kathryn replied, wiping furiously at her tears as she raised the sonar gun. “They retreat from the pulse--I think it disorients them, leaves them momentarily blind or something, I’m not sure, but whatever it is it isn’t permanent. They keep coming back.”
“Which means that we’ve got to get out of here.” Chloe stood and pulled her along with her. “Jack found a way out.” She began to drag Kathryn back in the direction that she’d come from. “Where’s Alex?”
“I—I don’t know.” Kathryn admitted, still shaky. “We’d just gotten out of the water when one of them attacked. We all ran and got separated I—Chloe--.”
She turned to look at the scientist and frowned when Kathryn gasped, eyes widening. “What?”
“Your eyes, Chloe! They’re gold!” Kathryn slowly removed her hand from her mouth and hesitantly pressed her fingers to the skin close to Chloe’s eyes. “You’re infected.”
Chloe tensed, unsure of how Kathryn would react to this news.
“It happened above the falls, didn’t?” Seeing Chloe nod, Kathryn took in a deep breath and closed her eyes for a second. “No wonder you went with Jack. Chloe—about what I said--I--.”
She was apologizing.
Chloe smiled slightly at her. “Kathryn, we’re stuck underground with some really ugly things wanting to eat us, I think we can wait for this until we’re above ground, right?”
Kathryn’s face lit with a grin. “Right.”
“Good.” Chloe gave her hand a tug. “Come on, the water’s this way.”
They ran down the tunnel in silence until they reached the water. Chloe and Kathryn hurriedly put on the diving equipment and hurried into the water, diving under right before a creature burst from the tunnel behind them. With each kick of their fins, the two women dove deeper into the underwater passage, and it took all of Chloe’s concentration to remember which of the various tunnels she’d gone through with Tyler.
Once or twice she nearly went down the wrong one, but Kathryn, who’d also taken the dive anyway, pointed out the right path, and they seemed like they were going to make it when Chloe froze in mid-stroke, outstretching her arm and causing Kathryn to collide with it.
“What--?” Kathryn spoke into the mic.
Before she could tell Kathryn to hide behind something it was too late, the vibrations of the sonar call ripped through her like miniature waves, and the creature that was still too far away to be able to seen with a flashlight’s beam was heading towards them.
“Turn back now!”
But just as Kathryn was doing as told sonar waves blasted Chloe from behind, and her heart nearly stopped beating in terror as she realized that they were trapped in that passageway with two monsters on each side, zooming in on them.
“Look for another way out!”
Kathryn couldn’t see the danger, but she obviously trusted Chloe because she looked around frantically, shinning the beam of her flashlight all around her. “There!”
“Get in!” Chloe swam behind the dark haired woman, pushing her up the tiny, extremely narrow crevice, wincing when she heard the sound of Kathryn’s oxygen tank scraping against the walls of the crevice. The blonde kept looking back, tracking the rapidly approaching predators. “Hurry!”
Kathryn finally slipped inside completely and Chloe dashed in as well, turning her body slightly so her oxygen tank wouldn’t scrape against the wall of the crevice, and she grabbed onto the rocks, pulling her body through, like Kathryn was doing a little above her.
They screamed as the crevice shook, and Chloe looked down to see the creatures ramming into the opening, unable to squeeze through because of their large bulk. They extended their claw-filled hands inside and took swings at her fin, but thank god she was out of their reach.
“There’s an opening ahead.” Kathryn’s voice drifted to her.
“Let’s hope we don’t have any neighbors.” Chloe whispered as Kathryn’s body emerged from the crevice and she followed, motioning with her thumbs to surface when she realized that there was shore.
Halfway to the surface Chloe’s oxygen gave out, and she quickly pulled off the straps and let the empty container sink to the bottom of the water-filled cavern before kicking as fast as she could and quickly surfaced, gasping for breath as she tugged the goggles off and began swimming towards the shore, Kathryn behind her.
They made it to the shore and took off their fins, their bare feet touching the floor, which was unusually cold.
Chloe frowned as she looked up and around, realizing that the walls were covered in ice.
We must have swam a route closer to where Jack and the others are!
“Why’d you get rid of your oxygen tank?” Kathryn asked, shaking slightly with cold.
“Ran out of air.” Chloe looked around her, trying to figure out where to go from here and not coming up with a solution. They might have escaped the creatures that’s been trailing them, but they were now completely lost.
Suddenly the sound of rocks tumbling caused them to jerk around and Kathryn went to her knees immediately, fumbling in her backpack and pulling out the sonar gun she’d packed there before entering the water. The scientist aimed it with shaking hands at the iceberg that divided the next cavern into to two separate units.
The sound of something hurrying in their direction caused Kathryn to back up, and she whimpered when a distorted shadow could be seen coming towards them.
Suddenly something shot out from behind the iceberg and Kathryn pulled the trigger on the sonar gun, eyes wide when she realized what, or who it was she was aiming it at.
“Tyler!” Chloe cried, hurrying towards the man and hugging him tightly, giving him a quick kiss on his cheek with utter relief before doing the same to the shaky oriental next to him. “Alex!”
“Your eyes…” Tyler whispered, looking at her in shock when she pulled away.
Oh, yeah, she’d forgotten about that.
“Where’s Briggs?” Kathryn asked in a shaky voice, sonar gun still aimed at them.
Tyler tore his gaze from Chloe’s face and turned to look at Kathryn, his grim expression saying it all.
“We gotta go,” Alex cut in, looking behind him in fear. “They’re coming this way.”
“Look, we can’t go back in the water, there’s only one way out and it’s guarded by two of those things.” Chloe stated.
Alex froze, he’d been about to go in.
Tyler walked passed Chloe and went to the other side of the iceberg, shinning his light above them at the ice. “The way out’s next to an ice vein.” He continued to examine it. “This has to connect.”
Chloe breathed out a sigh of relief now that she wasn’t the one in charge anymore.
The sound of sonar calls echoed from the passage that Tyler and Alex had just come from.
Everyone shared frightened looks.
“Come on,” Tyler ordered. “Let’s go.”
Lex Luthor continued to look out of the window on his private jet and tap his foot incessantly against the floor. He knew that there was no logical reason for him to feel like this, but he was, and he knew that there was something wrong with Chloe. During their many years of friendship he’d acquired a certain second sense when it came to the trouble-finding blonde, and that ability had only heightened after she’d discovered her meteor powers by bringing him back to life after his father had killed him.
Lex hadn’t understood his ability to feel Chloe in until a couple of months ago when he’d realized that it was because he was Chloe’s first--not, well, not intimately, but he was the first person she’d used her powers on, and he’d gotten hit with a whole lot of pent up, pure power. That, also coupled with the fact that he was quite positive the meteor rocks had had some other passive affect on him other than the loss of his hair--well--it’d created a connection between him and the blonde, and he knew, he knew she was in trouble.
That was why he’d left a very important meeting just to call Lois and see if she could locate the suddenly absent Clark. If there was anyone who would know where Clark was, it was Chloe’s somewhat annoying cousin. How the woman could bring down entire corporations by her sleuthing abilities and yet not realize that the guy she spent most of her time with was pathetically in love with her was a mystery to the billionaire.
“I hate flying.” Lois Lane muttered drunkenly as she clutched the whole bottle of wine to her heart as if she could somehow use it as a floating device in case they crashed. “I just hate it! At least when flying with Smallville I know he’s not going to crash and kill me, and he’s damned more comfortable than these seats.” She shifted in said seats. “Damned expensive and yet it still hurts my back!”
Lex raised an eyebrow as the ridiculously drunk woman spilled that little secret. So Clark had taken her out flying? The poor boy, he was using all of his aces and yet still Lois was completely oblivious. No wonder the boy had taken sick leave and gone to the Fortress! He was probably frustrated as hell!
Pressing a button, Lex motioned the stewardess over when she appeared. “How much longer till we land?”
“Around an hour, sir.” The stewardess bent over, her cleavage suddenly leveled with his face. “Is there anything you would like me to do for you in the meanwhile?” She batted her eyelashes at him, and while she was admittedly very attractive, Lex waved her away, looking back out of the window, praying that an hour wouldn’t be an hour too late.
“Skank.” Lois muttered from where she sat as the stewardess huffed and stormed away.
Lex couldn’t help it, despite everything, despite his worry, a corner of his lips curled in a smirk.
The trek back was arduous and grueling, and Chloe couldn’t remember half of it. All she remembered was the smell of ice and fear, and the feeling of cold, and the pain in her feet as both she and Kathryn were continuing the rest of the journey without any shoes on, as they’d accidentally left them behind.
Somehow they found themselves in the cavern, the sounds of sonar cries betraying the fact that while they’d been gone, the creatures had infiltrated the room. The humans kept silent, making their down slowly down, hoping not to catch the attention of the creatures who hung upside-down from the cave’s roof.
“Where are the others?” Alex asked in a hiss.
“They got to be here somewhere.” Tyler answered, trying to find his brother, Top and Charlie.
“But where?” Kathryn asked, bending to her knees and shinning her flashlight down below.
The sound of sonar calls echoed throughout the cavern.
Chloe turned when she heard movement behind her, and her defensive stance relaxed immediately as she saw Jack heading towards them, carrying the equipment, with Charlie helping Top along behind.
“Guys!” Tyler exclaimed in relief.
“Quiet.” Jack intoned, reaching the group. “Kill your light.”
The group did as told, and the cavern lit up brighter for Chloe.
“What happened to you?” Kathryn asked Top when she saw him leaning so heavily on Charlie.
“An accident.” Was the only thing the dark man answered as they all huddled in a circled together, Top sitting down and resting his back against a rock, obviously relieved to be off his feet.
“Where’s Briggs?” Jack asked, bent to his knees like the rest of them.
Tyler looked down at his feet. “He didn’t make it.”
Jack looked down with pain and sighed, shaking his head, before looking up when the next sonar cry was much closer than the last had been. “They’re watching us. They see with sound, and the steam? It’s confusing them.” His gaze remained on the creatures. “They took one of our rebreathers, but they’ve left us alone since.”
“Jack says that they’re playing with us.” Charlie intoned, speaking for the first time since they’d all joined up once more.
“They’re waiting on something.” Jack was worried.
“There were more of them behind us.” Tyler remembered, looking back at the way they’d come.
“We should get in the water, now.” Jack announced just as the sound of roaring came from the tunnel above.
“Look,” Kathryn pulled out the sonar gun and placed it in the middle of the group. “This works for a while. The sonars clash and confuses them, it’ll buy us time.”
“Which is something we could do with.” Charlie whispered.
“We have to split out those tanks, the air and the oxygen.” Tyler turned to Top, who nodded and began doing so. “It’s not going to last long, but it’s our only choice.”
“We need the other rebreather, Tyler.” Jack announced, standing and peeking out from behind a pillar of stone, Chloe and Tyler behind him in a second, looking in the direction he was pointing in at the rebreather, which had been seemingly discarded above on one of the pillars. “You see it there?”
“Yeah.” Tyler nodded.
“I’m going to go for it.” Jack told him, not taking his eyes from the rebreather. “You get the rest of them into the water.”
Tyler turned and looked at his brother in silence for a moment before nodding. “Okay.”
Chloe glared at Tyler’s back as he left to do as commanded, before turning to Jack. “You can’t be serious Jack! We both know it’s a trap!”
He turned to look at her, mouth open to speak, when he suddenly noticed her eyes for the first time and his mouth shut firmly as his eyes darkened and his pupils immediately morphed from their oval shape to that of the four-point star.
Chloe’s eyes widened as she took a cautious step back.
Jack closed his eyes tightly, a muscle in his cheek throbbing as he looked away quickly. “Just--just go--now!”
She turned and rushed back to where the others were, Tyler issuing commands.
“All right, Top, start breaking down that unit.”
“Already on it, Tyler.”
“Good.” Tyler nodded. “Kathryn, you, Alex and Chloe will have to buddy-breathe from the same air tank. Top, Charlie, that’ll leave you two with the oxygen...no regulator.”
“Cool.” Top nodded that he could take it.
“What’s life without risk?” Charlie shrugged her consent.
Chloe felt Jack’s gaze on her back but she didn’t dare look at him, frightened at how she’d been able to undo the progress she’d made in him so far. Just one look at her predator’s eyes and he’d lost it, morphing, and she’d recognized the look in those four-point star eyes.
The blonde hugged her backpack to her, knowing that the crystal was safe…and that was the reason of this particular parasite, wasn’t it? To safeguard the crystal? Anyone who’d come here would either be killed by the guardians of the crystal--or they’d turned into them, assuring the fact that no one would be able to leave here alive, and with the crystal in their possession.
She heard the sound of footsteps going away from the group and closed her eyes, knowing that Jack was setting off for what could only be called a suicide mission.
“Jack!” Kathryn’s voice stopped him. “I’m sorry.”
There was a moment’s pause before the footsteps were heard again, and Chloe took in a deep, calming breath, preparing herself mentally for what she knew was going to happen. They were going to have the last confrontation, like the Templar’s, and she hoped to God that their story ended differently.
“You know,” Kathryn whispered to Chloe. “When I said I’d give my life for science--I didn’t mean it like this.”
She turned to look at the older woman. “I know.”
“I’ll cover you with the mapping gun.” Alex told Tyler, reaching for the sonar gun.
“All right.” Tyler nodded, passing everyone their things. “Let’s go. Let’s get out of here.”
Kathryn and Tyler led the way down towards the water, with Chloe and Charlie helping Top, and Alex in the back, eyes above on the creatures, their sonar cries echoing off of the cavern, trying to find the humans below. The small group kept low, using the steam as coverage, inching closer and closer to the water, praying that they would be able to make it.
Chloe wished that she could say that she put her whole attention on the task at hand but it would have been a lie, because her gaze kept shooting to where Jack made his slow advance on the other side of the cavern, eyes on the creatures above, making his way to the pillar in which the rebreather was caught.
Charlie and Chloe slowly helped Top down a slippery boulder and felt hope rising in at them as they neared the water, when Alex slid on the boulder behind them and fell, the sound attracting the attention of the creatures and giving away their location.
The creatures all turned towards them, swinging viciously from stalactite to stalactite, roaring as they advanced.
Alex raised the sonar gun at them and fired, the creatures shrieked in pain and backed up.
“Into the water! Now!” Tyler yelled as they broke out into a desperate run towards the edge of the water, which was only a couple of feet away, Alex trailing behind as he continued to blast the sonar waves at the creatures as they continued to press on.
“ALEX!” Charlie screamed. “HURRY UP!”
The Asian let off another round of rapid, consecutive blasts before turning and running after them.
Suddenly there was a swooping sound and Alex was lifted up from the ground, screaming as the claws of the creature dug into his shoulders, drawing blood.
“ALEX!” Tyler screamed, running back onto the land as Chloe urged the rest of them deeper into the water before trying to hurry out of the water to try and help.
“You. Son. Of. A. Bitch!” Alex screamed, aiming the sonar gun at the creature that had him before activating it, the sonar causing the creature to shriek and throw him away violently, he fell the long distance to the ground and…impaled himself on a stalagmite below.
Chloe froze, still in the water, mouth open in a mute scream as Alex’s blood spurted everywhere. She collapsed to her knees, the water reaching her to her upper chest.
Tyler tripped and fell to the ground, looking up in horror at the body of Alex before one of the creatures swooped down again and grabbed it, pulling it from the stalagmite and carrying it off into the distance to feast, a couple of the beasts hurrying after it for its kill.
“NO!” Charlie screamed.
A growl from the water caused Chloe to turn, seeing a large creature threading the water, going towards Top, Charlie and Kathryn, who’d seen it as well and submerged themselves under until their heads were the only thing left above water. They hid behind the stalagmites sticking out from the water, but the creature had gotten a lock on them and was heading in their direction.
As it neared them the three adults submerged themselves completely under the water, and Chloe looked around her desperately, trying to find something to use as a weapon, and coming up with nothing.
The creature was now standing amongst them, still, silent, not even blinking, sending sonar cries into the water and growling with slow impatience as it rebounding back to him as nothing. And yet still it stayed there, not moving an inch, its chest moving in and out as it breathed, as it listened, and suddenly Chloe realized what it was doing.
It knew that the humans were below the water somewhere around it and despite the fact that it could easily submerge itself and find them it wasn’t going to do that, it was playing a deadly game of cat and mouse--waiting for the first one who ran out of oxygen and needed to surface for air.
Chloe opened her mouth to scream, to attract its attention, when Kathryn shot out of the water, gasping for air, and the creature roared, opening its mouth and biting down on her head, its teeth piercing her forehead, the sound of her skull breaking echoing off the walls of the cavern as the creature took to the air with its prey, and Kathryn’s dead eyes haunted Chloe as she tried to scream, but no sound would come out of her mouth.
Charlie and Top surfaced with greedy gasps of air, looking around them and then up at the ceiling of the cave, watching as the creature flew away with Kathryn’s limp body.
Chloe jumped when she heard water splashing in front of her, and she looked up, feeling numb as she saw a grief-stricken Tyler trudging through the water towards her.
“Kathryn--.” Chloe managed to croak out the name.
Tyler closed his eyes for a second in pain. “I know.”
“Jacks right—they’re all playing games with us.” Charlie whimpered, tears causing her eyes to become shiny. “It could have been any of us—it was almost me--I--.”
A roar echoed throughout the cavern and they all turned to see Jack climbing up the pillar, a creature hot on his trail.
“JACK!” Tyler yelled as Jack finally made it to the ledge on the pillar that the rebreather was stationed on.
The elder McAlister ignored the sound of his brother screaming his name and reached for the knife he had strapped to his belt. Pulling it out of the buckle he twirled around just as the creature made it to the ledge and pounced--stabbing it right between its eyes.
The creature screamed as Jack pulled the knife out and quickly repeated the gesture. It went limp and fell back, down, down, down into the deep water beneath, its body surfacing and floating motionlessly, bleeding.
Chloe let out a breath of relief.
A roar resounded throughout the cavern as the largest of the creatures Chloe had ever seen went charging towards the man.
“JACK!” Tyler screamed. “THERE’S ANOTHER ONE!”
Jack dropped the rebreather unit into the water. “GET OUT OF HERE!” Before he stood and tightened his grip on his knife, waiting for the creature.
And suddenly Chloe knew what he was doing.
Jack had led them all the way to safety--despite their murmurs and distrust--and yet he’d never planed on leaving himself. He’d planned on staying behind, on dying here if need be.
She narrowed her eyes as the creature charged towards the lone man, she’d lost too many friends on this expedition and she wasn’t going to lose another! Not like this! “Start diving.”
“Huh?” Top turned to her in confusion.
She ignored the question and screamed, she screamed as loud as she could, and like every other time she’d screamed, the creature responded. It froze, skidding to a halt before it could reach Jack, turning, scanning the cave nearly frantically.
“CHLOE!” Jack yelled. “DON’T DO IT!”
She looked into his eyes before letting out yet another scream, the sound of sonar echoes from the tunnel where the others had disappeared to feast announcing that they’d heard it too and were coming--the sounds of fighting and the tearing of flesh proving that they were fighting each other in the dark to get to the cavern first.
Tyler, realizing what was happening, turned to Charlie and Top. “Into the water! Now! Start diving!”
They obeyed him and the three dove under the surface of the water, heading towards the exit as the creature above took off, swinging from stalactite to stalactite, raising towards her at break-neck speed.
Jack cursed and dove off the pillar and into the deep water below.
Chloe tore her gaze from where he’d disappeared under the water and up at the creature coming at her, pushing away from the ceiling and pressing its wings to its side as it sky-dived towards her. At the last second Chloe gasped as something grabbed her from under the water and pulled her under.
She kicked as it dragged her further and further into the deeper water.
She felt the annoyed tug and stopped struggling, looking down and realizing that her captor was Jack.
Both surfaced when he let go of her.
“We’re going to have a serious talk about that shit you just pulled.” Jack glared at her, pulling out a small container from his belt and tossing it into a methane fire on the shore, causing it to explode. “Later.” As the flame of the humongous explosion expanded, Jack grabbed Chloe’s hand as they took in a deep breath and dove under.
Above them they could see explosions wrecking the places as the methane gas continued to explode, causing the pillars of rock to crumble and collapse into the water all around them. They held in their breaths as they dove through the underground passageway, just ahead of them they could see the their friends, backlit by the lit at the end of the tunnel, emerging from it.
The tunnel shook viciously, and began to give way, collapsing all around them.
Chloe felt dizzy from lack of oxygen, but she held on tightly to Jack as he swam with her, dodging falling rocks and heading towards the light of the opening, which grew larger and larger with each kick of their feet.
The second they emerged from the tunnel it collapsed completely, and yet Chloe didn’t notice because the world was spinning all around her from lack of oxygen. She felt herself slipping, slipping from reality, and then suddenly they’d broken through the surface and she could breathe again.
Not only could she breathe, but she felt the cold air against her face and opened her eyes to see that they were in a large lake, in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains.
“We--we did it.” Top whispered in awe. “We made it.”
“HELL YES!” Charlie slapped the surface of the water with laughter and excitement.
“Chloe, Jack!” Tyler swam towards them, relief etched in his every feature. “You’re okay!” He hugged them before pulling away and smiling, swimming back to the others. “We’re alive! We’re safe!”
“We’re lost in the Carpathian Mountains.” Charlie announce dryly, though there was a small smile on her face because of his enthusiasm. “And Top is still injured, so I say we get the hell outta the water and try find our way back to the dig-site.”
“I say we listen to her.” Top smiled.
Tyler nodded, smile growing. “Yeah, I’m sick of the water anyway.”
Despite everything, Jack smiled softly as he watched his brother. “We’re still gonna have that talk.” He told Chloe. “Later.”
She grinned at him, glad to see that his eyes had returned to their oval shape. “Yeah, sure, later.”
Apparently now that she didn’t need the ability to see in the dark, her eyes had turned back to normal. She couldn’t say the same about Jack though, he was still horribly pale, and though the pupils of his eyes had returned to oval, she’d noticed them flickering once in a while as they walked through the immense woods of the Carpathian Mountains, following Jack’s lead, trusting him and his senses to take them back to the campsite.
Now that adrenaline and excitement of having escaped, survived, wore off they were tired and melancholic as they thought of those they’d lost in the cave, wondering, torturing themselves with the thought that maybe they could have done things different--torturing themselves with the thought that there were four people who should have been there with them.
Survivor’s Guilt ate at them, and dampened their mood as they made the long trek through the mountains, shivering as the sun began to set and the chill of the night air surrounded them. They knew that nights in the Carpathian Mountains could get to temperatures of below zero, so despite their tiredness they walked on, not daring to stop to rest—they needed to keep their bodies warm, so they trudged on.
They kept close together, traveling under the light of the moon, keeping their ears open for danger. The Carpathian Mountains provided the habitat for the largest population of brown bears and wolves in Europe, so despite the fact that they’d made it out of the cave, they were still very much in danger--but at least they knew these predators.
As the night dragged on, and Chloe stumbled for what seemed to be the hundredth time, she growled in frustration, trying to activate her night-vision and unable to. She wondered briefly if she needed to smell blood for her other senses to be activated--or if they were like her healing powers, and needed to be cultivated.
She desperately hoped it was the latter, otherwise she was just anther animal.
Lex will know what to do, she told herself over and over again, believing it completely and it was one of the only things that gave her comfort and strength as they continued on in the exhausting walk, each taking turns to help Top. Lex always knew what to do, he was her stronghold, and he wouldn’t let her down now, he wouldn’t.
“Jack?” Charlie called from the back, it was her and Tyler’s turn to help Top along. “How much longer until we reach the camp? I don’t think I can continue walking.”
“Not that much further.” He promised, eyes on the darkness ahead of them. “It’s just a little further ahead, I can see it.”
The bushes to their right rustled, and the sound of a growl met their ears, causing everyone to turn towards it and freeze as a large brown bear emerged from bushes, the sounds of cubs yelping somewhere in the foliage behind her proving that they’d wandered into the path of a mama bear and she wasn’t happy about it. Bears were known to be more aggressive when there were cubs involved.
“Nobody move.” Jack hissed, eyes darkening and his pupils morphing to their four-point star shape once more…and Chloe suddenly realized that she could see in the dark again.
Danger… Chloe blinked. It activates when I’m in danger!
Jack moved slowly, surely, walking towards the bear, his eyes narrowed, something electric and predatory about his stance, a growl gurgling up in his throat.
The brown bear watched his advance before a whimper escaped her lips and she surprised everyone by taking rapid steps backwards, as if sensing a superior predator and terrified at the confrontation. The mother bear turned around and ran away, disappearing into the foliage.
The group stood in silent awe, watching their leader.
Chloe smiled at him in pride even though she was worried about him. “Good job boss-man.”
Jack turned and looked at her incredulously.
The others burst out in laughter, the tension in the group disappearing immediately as they shook their heads and began their journey, their spirits lighter.
“What do you mean you’ve lost communication with them?” Lex Luthor was in a horrible mood as he glared at the men at the campsite. Their landing had been delayed at the airport, and then they’d had to transfer to the helicopter to be able to get to the remote campsite, and now that he’d finally arrived that and demanded that they get him communicated with Chloe and the rest of the team underground the people had the galls to tell him point-blank that they’d lost communication with the team hours ago, after an unexplained earthquake?
What type of fools did he have on his team? Why hadn’t they contacted him with this information immediately?
“WHY HAVEN’T YOU TRIED OPENING THE COLLAPSED CHAMBER?!” Lois was now sober and not at all shy at letting the people around her know of her displeasure. “THERE COULD BE INJURED PEOPLE DOWN THERE!”
“Dr. Nicolai explicitly told us to leave them alone--.” One technician feebly began.
“Screw Dr. Nicolai!” Lois snapped, rounding up to the man and grabbing him by the front of his shirt, jerking the tiny man around viciously. “He is not the one who’s signing your checks!”
They all stood outside the tents, Lois still shaking the small man so violently he was visibly shaking, and probably about to piss himself.
Lex wished he could lose control like Lois and display how enraged he was, but he couldn’t. He just wished that Chloe was here and that she was fine. He just wanted to hear her voice again.
Great, now he was hallucinating about the sound of her voice.
God, he was just as pathetic as Clark!
“Chloe?” Lois whispered.
Lex’s eyes flew open as he realized that he wasn’t the only one who’d heard the blonde’s voice, and he turned in time to catch Chloe as she came flying into his arms, crying desperately, hugging him tightly, dressed in a wetsuit, feet bare and bleeding slightly, hair a mess.
She’d never been more beautiful to him.
He hugged her back, unable to believe that she was there, he didn’t notice the others arriving behind her as he took in a whiff of the scent of sulfur in her hair, not caring at how horrible it was. She was here, she was in his arms, and everything would be fine.
A low, threatening growl resounded through the camp, and Lex looked up, looking at the lone figure that’d remained in the shadows, staying apart from the others.
Chloe tensed in his arms and pulled away, looking up into Lex’s face, and his eyes widened when he saw her eyes. They were feline-like and molten gold.
“Lex, Jack and I--we need your help.”
She didn’t get a chance to continue because Lois had suddenly gotten over her shock and rushed towards her, hugging her tightly, crying. “I thought you were dead! Don’t you ever do something like that again!”
Chloe seemed surprised Lois was there, but she comforted her cousin anyway.
Lex tore his gaze form Chloe’s face, unable to help but find that despite how unnatural her eyes were, she was still so goddamned beautiful. His gaze went to the other survivors, as they were talking rapidly to the people at the campsite, and then he turned to the lone figure still covered by the shadows, watching him, stance tense.
So this was the infamous Jack.
He narrowed his eyes as another warning growl reached him from the shadowy figure.
What the hell had happened down below in that cave?