The sound of thunder
DISTRIBUTION: Twisting the Hellmouth, Lois and Clark Archive
SUMMARY: An alternate Clark Kent finds himself flying a planeload of passengers from 1993 Metropolis into real world post-9/11 2008 Washington DC. How will he deal with this new, darker world?
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Lois and Clark or any other recognizable characters.
Breathing heavily, Lois tried to ignore the pain in her side. If it hadn’t been for the heavy Kevlar vest, she’d be dead again. As it was, she knew from experience that it was going to leave an ugly bruise.
She winced as she heard the distinctive ping of a bullet and felt the sting of stone fragments against her cheek. They were pinned down, and from the frantic sounds of Captain Johnson shouting into his radio, help wouldn’t be coming for several minutes.
Maybe she shouldn’t have come to Iraq. More than forty reporters had been killed in the last year, and Lois had been throwing herself into the worst part of the fighting.
Lois Lane. How often had she despised her parents for giving her that name, no matter how into Superman they had been? It hadn’t been worth the years of teasing, the snickers, and the double takes when people saw her name on applications.
It hadn’t helped that she’d been drawn to journalism. The name had made her have to work three times as hard as her colleagues just to be taken seriously. She could have changed it, or chosen a pen name, but by the time it had occurred to her she’d been too stubborn.
Her parents had saddled her with the name and she would live up to it.
She just had to hope that it wouldn’t kill her.
Lana was going to kill him.
This was going to be the fourth time he was late for dinner in a row, but it was beginning to be hard for him to care.
Glancing around, Clark stepped into an alleyway. Lana would have an aneurysm if she knew he was still doing this, but flying was the one thing he refused to give up. It was too much a part of him, and even with all the risk, it was one of the only things he enjoyed any more.
He rose into the air quickly, but carefully staying slow enough not to create a sonic boom. Hiding what he was had become a part of him a long time ago. Lana’s countless diatribes had pushed the point home.
Yet the longer he went hiding what he was, the more distant he felt from Lana. All she saw was the image of normality that she wanted to see. He felt like he was drowning, and now that she was pushing for marriage, he sometimes found himself wishing he could fly away forever and never come back.
He’d been losing bits and pieces of himself for as long as he knew her, sacrificing the things that were important to him for her sake. It was almost as though she’d been intentionally isolating him from everyone else in order to have him to herself.
As he rose into the air, he felt the wind drop. The sky was dark, and he could see flashes of lighting overhead. A storm was coming, and with it, rain.
The first droplets of rain to hit Lois’s face felt like heaven. Her face was slick with sweat, and in the horrendous Iraqi heat, there was little she could do but swelter. Her equipment weighed forty pounds; most of the soldiers she was embedded with carried at least eighty pounds. It made keeping hydrated an utter necessity.
She heard another gunshot, this one coming from her left. The soldiers behind her laid down a barrage of answering fire. If the enemy got around behind them, it would be the end for them all.
Lois was the only one who could see the lone figure lying on the road behind them. Private Chalmers was just a boy, nineteen and barely able to shave. He’d had a crush on Lois, as had many of the other men, and he’d wondered why she hadn’t gone to Hollywood instead of writing about death and the dying.
Lois was shocked to find herself scrambling to her feet and lunging toward the injured man. The distance between them was only thirty feet, but it might as well have been a mile, given the volume of fire being directed all around them.
A moment later she was beside him, grabbing for his shoulder and pulling him up and away from the ground.
His pack fell, and Lois left it, staggering under the larger man’s weight for the safety of cover.
The soldiers had seen him now and they were providing cover while two more rushed out to take Chalmers from her.
It was only when she reached the relative safety of the wall that the shaking began.
In the distance she could hear lightning.
When he saw lightning strike the plane he was lost.
Always before he’d been able to help in small ways, staying out of the limelight, but this was different. Fire was coming from the wings and he could hear the terrified screams of the passengers inside.
The best he could do was come up from beneath the plane. A quick breath and the flames were gone, but the engines on one side were completely fried.
The engines on the other side were failing as well, and Clark could hear the plane beginning to stall.
It was finally time to test just how strong he really was.
Reaching up for the fuselage of the plane, he found a support strut, and a moment later he began struggling to level the plane.
To his surprise, it wasn’t the weight that was the problem. It was keeping the skin of the plane and the metal from ripping away in his hands like tissue paper.
Lightning struck again, and a moment later the world went white around him. He felt as though his insides were being torn apart, and from the screams of the passengers inside the plane, they felt the same way.
A moment later he blinked, his vision returning. He stared below him. Metropolis was gone.
In its place was clear land as far as the eye could see, with only isolated homes built against an ocean side highway.
He recognized the distinctive shape of Hobbs bay, and the contour of the land was mostly the same. It was as though the city itself had been erased, as though it had never been settled.
From the sounds above him, three different passengers were having cardiac problems. Whatever had happened to Metropolis, he had to find a place to land the plane.
Lois felt a chill as she watched Private Chalmers being carried away on a stretcher. Absently she lifted her arms as medics began to clean the blood off her with biohazard clean up wipes.
She’d see him again at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. This was the end of her fourth embedment, and she was heading home tomorrow.
When she saw the medics running in the direction of the tent they’d hauled Chalmers too, she felt a weight on her chest.
For all that she hated the name Lois Lane, this was a world that desperately needed a Superman.
The lights of the Washington airport were a welcome relief to Clark. The people inside the airplane were growing desperate.
Air traffic control was being strangely hostile, demanding that the plane turn around and leave Washington airspace. They seemed curiously unmoved about the medical emergencies the pilots were claiming, and kept demanding that the pilots identify themselves and the plane.
It was the sound of the jets that alerted Clark that something was really wrong.
Fighter planes were approaching from the distance. Clark had done articles on the military, and he had never seen planes like these. They were lethal looking and from the speed they were flying clearly more advanced than the planes he was used to.
The threats to shoot the plane down if it did not leave the airspace were a shock.
It wasn’t until a moment later, when fighter planes dropped from above to both sides of the commercial jet that Clark realized he was in trouble.
One of the pilots was looking him directly in the eye.
Scowling, Lois stared at the conveyor belt. Security was getting more and more onerous with the passing of every year, especially when someone was coming from someplace as contentious as Iraq.
She felt the buzzing of the satellite phone in her pocket.
“Jerry,” she said. “It’ll take a while to get my luggage, but I’ll be back in the office as soon as I can.”
She froze as she listened to the voice on the other end of the connection.
An unidentified airplane heading for Washington was ominous. There were no records of this commercial jetliner leaving from any airport in the world, and given what had happened six and a half year before, no one was willing to take any chances.
“Do you think they plan to shoot it down?”
An unidentified plane was a weapon in and of itself, but it could be carrying anything, from biological contaminants to dirty bombs to Russian nuclear weapons.
Grabbing her bag as it swung by, Lois’s mind raced as she began dialing numbers.
With the equipment in her luggage she could transmit a news story from almost anywhere in the world, with anything from pictures to video.
All she would have to do was somehow find her way back through security to the areas where all the action was happening.
It was a tall order.
To Clark’s shame, he let the plane drop almost a hundred feet in his shock and anxiety about what the fighter pilot had seen.
The screams of the passengers above him reminded him quickly that he needed to keep his mind on what he was doing or people were going to be hurt.
The sick passengers didn’t sound like they were doing well.
He began to head as quickly as he could for the runway. One of the fighter planes was threatening to shoot the commercial jet down if they didn’t land, which was what everyone needed anyhow.
The other plane was oddly quiet.
Scowling, Clark began to drop through the clouds. As soon as he got the plane on the ground, he planned to be gone. He’d have done it anyway before, but with the way things were happening now, it was twice as important.
The world had changed, and he was going to find out what had happened to it. It wasn’t just the disappearance of Metropolis. It was everything. The attitudes of the air traffic controllers, the threats of blowing an American plane out of the sky. This was a scary new world.
The sky was filled with the sound of thunder.