ALL THE LOVE! OH MY! *HUGS YOU ALL* THANK YOU ALL FOR SHOWERING THIS STORY WITH SUCH INCREDIBLE GOOD-WILL! Here's a chapter ahead of schedule because I was just so happy!
Chloe stared in horror as Adam stepped away from Pete, his eyes pained as he turned towards her. "I'm so sorry."
She shook her head, disbelieving. "No." Her eyes widened in horror at the way Pete's expression crumbled. "No."
"I'm so sorry," Pete whispered as he turned towards her, still shackled, tears in his eyes. "We were in pain - we were starving - I just wanted him to stop hurting Lana and Clark."
Tears filled Chloe's eyes as she moved towards him. She wanted to wrap him in her arms and tell him she didn't care - that she didn't blame him. She understood. She'd never hate him for what he'd done, not when it had saved their friends.
AC stood, blocking her path with his hand. "Peter Balcoin, you have been found guilty of treason. There is only one punishment for this."
Victor stood as well, face stoic, voice ever-emotionless. "Death."
"No." Chloe turned to them, her voice choked and terrified. "Please. Please don't—!"
Lex's hand on her arm stopped her as he stood and gazed down at her. "I'm sorry, Chloe, but this has to be done."
"Please, Lex!" Chloe was begging and didn't care. This was Pete! Her friend - her brother! She couldn't just stand there and let him be killed! She couldn't!
And yet, as she opened her mouth to beg, to plead, to go on her knees if she had to - the sound of Pete's screams filled the air and drew her horrified attention. He was on fire. It was as if magic had pierced up through the ground and incinerated him. He collapsed to his knees, his shackled hands outstretched pleadingly towards her.
"No." Chloe tried to reach him but Lex grabbed her from behind, pulling her back into his chest and keeping her immobile. "NO!"
Suddenly, the world shimmered, and with a blink Chloe found herself in her bedroom. The lights weren't on but that wasn't necessary, the small fires that erupted all over her room lit up the place nicely. Apparently Whitney's peaceful-dream potion was a bust. Or maybe it didn't work on half-breed Dragons.
Zatanna tended to the fires, putting them out quickly.
It was a testament to how tired Adam was from today's trial that he hadn't felt it this time. Because while there were strong arms holding her back, like Lex in her dream, she knew without a doubt that the one holding her wasn't Adam.
"Shhhhhh." Zod's voice was soft in her ear, one arm around her waist, securing her back against his chest, and the other clasped around her neck. The motion should've felt menacing, and yet Zod's hand didn't tighten, his thumb merely tapped her rapidly beating pulse. "Relax. Concentrate on the sound of my voice."
Chloe stared ahead of her trying to breathe, and it took her a couple of minutes to realize that Zod was tapping her pulse to the beat of her heart, and as her heart beat slower, so did the taps. The realization was somehow soothing, and lulled her down from her terror.
"You truly are a Hatchling," he whispered into her hair.
He was calling her a baby. She was insulted, yet tiredness won out. Every single night a new nightmare terrorized her, and more continued to bombard her during the nights. She was slowly yet surely going insane and didn't know how much longer she could take this.
"How is it that no one else heard this?" Zod seemed to be talking to Zatanna. "If I had not been standing at attention, I too would have not noticed."
"I erected a sound barrier in her room," Zatanna responded. "She didn't want to bother the others."
"Something's not right." That was Whitney's voice, behind them.
Chloe felt her eyes closing, and immediately she wasn't in her room anymore. Instead she was on a throne, staring down at Nell Potter, who wore a jester's outfit and performed for everyone's amusement. The blonde sneered as she watched the woman degraded. This was what she deserved, to forever have to wear the robes of a Court Fool and show her true self. The Mayor joined her, as did all the members of the Town Council - a court of fools.
"My Queen." A voice to her right drew her attention from the revelry, and she smiled at Van, who stood in the attire of a guard. "Your guest awaits."
"Guest?" She was curious as to who he could be referring to. Shouldn't all the guests be here at the banquet? She rose and took the arm he offered, letting him lead her to the adjoining room. Only as the doors closed behind her did the lights come on, bathing the horror in the room.
Her father lay in pieces on the ground. His arms, legs, his head and neck, his torso… They were scattered all across the floor. His eyes stared up at her, all-seeing and all-knowing. Chloe stared down at him in horror as his hands began to crawl towards her with a life of their own, and his lips moved, words somehow managed to slip passed them. "Everyone around you dies."
Chloe stared at him, heart racing, breath caught in her throat, frozen in terror.
"I died because of you. Your mother died because of you. So many people died because of you!" One of his hands clamped around her ankle painfully. "So many more are going to die because of you." Those eyes stared up at her in condemnation. "I should've let your mother kill you."
With a scream Chloe reared backward, only to find herself in her bedroom once more. Whitney and Zod both stood on her bed, backs to her, gazes on the dark floor.
She wanted to ask them what they were doing, but like always, sleep took over and she drifted into darkness.
"What is in that darkness of hers and why did it bite us?" Whitney gazed down at the shadows as they continued to pour out of Chloe's solar plexus, which seemed like an endless black chasm, and pooled around the floor. The Sanguine hadn't known whether to be surprised or not that Zod had had the same idea to stake out Chloe's room to see one of these nightmares in action, but he had to admit that he was relieved the Dragon was there. He was also relieved that the Dragon was just as freaked out as he was at what was happening.
After Chloe had fallen back asleep after nearly setting the house on fire, Zod had sat on the edge of the bed while Whitney curled up on the bay window. They hadn't talked, had merely watched Chloe. It hadn't been noticeable at first, her darkness blending in with that of the night, but hers was so much darker, and when something brushed against Zod's leg they'd both realized that the ground seemed like a pool of living shadows, with creatures once more swimming within. This time though? Whatever was inside the darkness had drawn their blood, and they'd been forced to take refuge on top of Chloe's bed, staring down in confusion.
"Air around us, grant us light," Whitney whispered, light springing up in a ball in his hand, revealing the churning sea of living shadows, as well as the dark masses moving within the darkness.
Zod's eyes narrowed as he took a step towards the edge. "This is similar to when she claimed the Genesis Caves."
Sensing light at his back, Whitney turned to see a heptagon made purely of light, upon which a winged serpent made purely of darkness rested upon, rise from the dark chasm in Chloe's solar plexus from which the darkness spewed outwards. Blood flashed with what seemed like electric currents around the winged serpent and heptagon, forming an orb around it. Like the first time he'd seen it, the symbol was not only 3D but alive. The winged serpent hissed at them, its forked tongue slipping passed its mouth as it outstretched its wings as if about to take flight and yet didn't.
Whitney turned his back on the shadows and bent to his knees on the bed, looming over Chloe as he gazed at the living orb that had once been the Orb and Stones of Power. He ignored the darkness as it continued to pool out of Chloe and slither off of the bed onto the floor, where it gathered more and more, the darkness rising.
"Do no touch it."
"I wasn't planning on," Whitney muttered as he leaned in closer. "Do you really not know what this is?"
Zod huffed as he bent to his knees as well. "Despite the fact that I have fathered a child, I do not pretend to understand the mechanics of this. As I said, much of what she is doing should only be possible if she were carrying life within her."
Whitney eyed the Major for a moment. "What if she is carrying life inside of her?"
Zod looked up immediately and narrowed his eyes. "Sanguine, I will not happy if you have fathered a child with her before I have."
Whitney's eyes widened and a hard blush tinted his cheeks. "No!" His voice was a high-toned squeak, and he hated it, clearing his throat rapidly. "We haven't—a kiss is about as far as—you know what? That isn't important." He took in a deep breath. "I meant. Well. The shrubbery."
Zod blinked and tilted his head, before his eyes widened and he turned to look at Chloe. "For a human, you are unnaturally sharp."
Whitney let that slide. "So you think it's a possibility?"
"The Councilman will be quite sore he didn't think of it." Major Zod eyed Chloe. "But it does make sense. We know that the hybrid plants have a connection with her. And the Stones and Orb were to be used when Apokalips was in danger of being destroyed."
"So, she's carrying life, but not a child." Whitney couldn't believe what he was saying. "She's like a Noah's Ark."
"A what?" Zod looked up at that, confused.
"Uh, it's this old story about a guy who finds out that the world is going to be destroyed in a flood, so he builds a boat. He, his wife, his sons, and their wives take two of every animal and later on repopulate the earth."
"It's highly improbable that only two of each species would be enough to properly repopulate the whole earth," Zod informed him. "And human genes are unable to properly handle interbreeding, imagine the children of the further generations. They'd only have their cousins or uncles to breed with." He shook his head.
Whitney, once more, ignored him. "More and more Apokalips/Earth hybrid plants are appearing around here. What if that's influencing this?"
"You mean she goes into these states as new hybrids come to life and take form in this realm?" Zod asked, curiously. "That is a curious possibility."
"If that's so, we've got to find a way to stop it. The process is draining her." Whitney turned his worried gaze on Chloe's pale face, which, even in sleep, was scrunched up. "We've got to stop whatever process has started."
"I doubt it'll be as easy as that. The Elders used the Stones and Orb as a last chance—." Zod shifted. "The darkness. It's beginning to creep up onto the bed."
He was right.
Whitney watched in wariness as the darkness began to overflow and creep up onto the bed, covering it, Chloe, and them in seconds. He kept his breath for as long as he could, but finally let it out and was shocked to find that he could still breathe. His light was almost dead in the darkness as the shadows rose to the ceiling, blocking out the windows and door completely from view. All around them something slithered in the darkness, alive and active. And yet, unlike before, the things in the darkness stayed away from them.
The ball of light in Whitney's palm gave a valiant fight, but eventually was extinguished.
The only light left was that of the orb levitating over Chloe's chest. Those dark, formless things brushed up against it every once in a while, much like a cat would a leg. They slithered around Whitney and Zod, brushing up against them, not solid yet tangible. They didn't try to bite anymore, merely continued to grow in quantity, seeming to split apart and form more and more wriggling masses.
Suddenly Zod shot up to his feet, his eyes glowing unnaturally in the darkness as he turned in the general direction of the window. "We need to wake her up."
Whitney quickly pushed up to his feet as well, wariness in every bone in his body. "Why?"
Zod turned towards him, features shifting slightly, but before he could answer, the shadows quickly vacuumed their way back into Chloe, quick like the blinking on an eye.
The blonde gasped as she awoke, her eyes reptilian as scales appeared on her cheekbones. "Something's coming."
Zod turned to her and nodded. "Dragons."
Jordan ran through the halls, his eyes wide and body covered in sweat, which caused his sleeping clothes to stick to him. The things he'd seen played in his head, over and over again, and the blood - he couldn't get the blood out of his mind! He used his years of living on the run, of hiding, to sprint passed the Lost Boys on patrol in the mansion he now lived in, making his way closer and closer to Chloe's room. He needed to tell her what he'd seen. She needed to be warned that—.
The door to her bedroom opened and Chloe stepped out, wearing the clothes she'd been sleeping in. Behind her, Major Zod and Whitney Fordman could be seen.
Jordan skidded to a halt, eyes wide and face crimson. He'd figured something weird was going on between the three of them, but he hadn't realized that they were, uh, well—!
"Jordan?" Chloe's gaze found him in the darkness, and for a moment he was surprised she had, but then he saw her eyes and his own widened. They weren't human eyes. Those eyes—they were like those of reptiles.
"Cool," he whispered, for a moment forgetting why was he was there.
"What are you doing heading towards these quarters at this time of night?" Zod wanted to know as he stepped out of the room, his presence imposing.
Suddenly reminded, Jordan moved closer. "I saw a vision. There were men at the boarders and they were waiting for you. They want to talk. But there's something wrong with these men. They don't have Rao's sign on them but there's—I don't know." He hated not being able to say more. This was why Harriet always hit him. He should be so much more useful given his power - and yet he never saw enough. It was frustrating! He didn't want Chloe to feel like Harriet did - that he was a waste of space. Jordan liked it here. Alicia liked it here. He didn't want to be Circle, he knew there were others who were closer and deserved it more, but he didn't want to leave. They'd only been here for a little time but he never wanted to leave. "Oh!" His eyes widened, unable to believe he'd almost forgotten this part. "Don't let him touch you."
Chloe tilted her head to the side. "Why not?"
Alarms blared in the night, sounding all around. They were the protections on the southern of Smallville.
Whitney turned to Chloe. "I'll get the Suicide Squad and the VI ready. Don't go by yourself, wait for backup." He raced away, already on his phone, calling Greg Arkin.
Jordan watched him go.
"I will tell Councilman Jor. We will need him at the borders. You will wait for us," Zod declared before he stormed away.
Chloe eyed him before she turned to Jordan. "I'm not planning on it, but why shouldn't I let this guy touch me?"
Jordan took in a deep breath. "Because it's all a part of his plan. I—I don't remember what happened, but I know that you can't let him touch you."
Chloe stared at him in silence.
He flinched and looked down, cringing, waiting for her to tell him he was the most useless person ever given the gift of sight to. It wouldn't be the first time he'd heard that.
Chloe rested her hand on his shoulder. "Thank you. I'll be careful."
He looked up at her in shock. "Y-you're welcome."
She smiled at him and gave his shoulder a squeeze. "Go stay with Alicia, okay? She doesn't know what's happening and will be scared."
"Y-yes!" Jordan turned to do as told, before he turned back around. "Be careful."
Chloe smiled and nodded.
Smiling softly to himself, Jordan hurried down the hallway towards Alicia's room.