When Clark entered Chloe’s room, she was staring off into space. Never a good thing. Plus he noticed several new additions to her bulletin board that she called “The Wall of Weird”.
“Not another mystery.” He groaned.
Chloe just grinned. “Five people Clark. Five people in less than month. Look.” She took the articles down from the board and showed them to him. “Mr. Wheeler’s just the most recent. See? Here’s a truck driver, the dentist, Mrs. Dursley-“
“Yup, and the first victim, a security guard for Luthor Corp. None of them have any history of instability. Not themselves, not their families.”
Clark nodded. “Okay, I guess I can see how that can be kind of weird. What are you thinking? That it’s some kind of virus?”
Chloe shook her head. “No, I’ve researched online and I can’t find any diseases that affect the mind like this. Not this quickly. I just saw Mr. Wheeler two days ago and he was fine. Then yesterday, looney as a toon.” She sat thoughtfully. Clark watched, worried. “There doesn’t seem to be any common factor,” she said. Then she frowned. “Unless….”
“Oh I don’t like the sound of that unless.” Clark said.
“Clark, care to come with me while I work my reporter magic on the doctors at Smallville General?”
Groaning, Clark agreed. “I know I’m going to regret this. I always do.”
“Hi I’d like to see Jack Wheeler please?” Chloe asked the desk clerk.
“Are you family?” came the response.
“No, I’m Chloe Sullivan, I’m helping out with the Torch, the High School paper. I interviewed him not too long ago and wanted to see how he’s doing.”
“I’ll take care of this.” A young doctor said, striding up. “Hi, I’m Dr. Benjamin Weber. I’m taking care of Mr. Wheeler.”
“And the other victims?” Chloe asked leadingly.
Ben looked at her sharply, surprised, then relaxed a bit. Right. High School paper. A budding reporter, especially an ambitious one would find out about that. He just hoped, for her sake that she didn’t find out any more.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss the other patients.” He said. “I’m only telling you about Mr. Wheeler because you know him.”
Ben glanced at Clark, who was looking embarrassed and distressed. He wondered if Ms. Sullivan did this sort of snooping often, and dragged her friends into it. They made TV shows like that didn’t they? “And we don’t know what caused Mr. Wheeler’s breakdown, but I am confident that there’s no need to be alarmed. I’m not a psychologist but I know that there are any number of reasons why someone could have a nervous breakdown.”
“But he was fine-“
“He may have seemed fine.” Ben interrupted. “People can be very good at hiding things they don’t want people to learn. Just because you didn’t see any signs of instability, or approaching instability doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. If you’re not looking for something, it could be plain as the glasses on someone’s face and you wouldn’t see it.” He looked down the hallway and his face went a bit pale. Oh god another one. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have patients to tend to.”
Ben hurried off to meet the nurse that was leading the lost looking woman down the hall. “Cops found her about a mile from the old factory.” She said.
Chloe smiled with sudden inspiration. Clark sighed. He hated that look too.
“What are you doing?” Clark asked, as Chloe typed madly upon the keyboard of her computer.
“It’s best that you not know that.” She said mysteriously.
“What? What do you mean-Chloe you’re not hacking into the police reports again are you?”
“Of course not.” She said absently. “That would be wrong.”
With a despairing groan, Clark flopped down onto his back on her bed, one hand covering his eyes. “Either you’re going to be a great reporter, or you’ll end up in jail before you graduate high school.”
“Ha!” Chloe leapt up from her seat, her arms raised in triumph. “that’s it! The old factory!”
“What about it?” Pete asked from the door.
Chloe shrieked in surprise and almost tripped over her chair as she spun around, her eyes wide.
“God Pete!” she gasped, grabbing her desk for support. “Stop doing that.” She glowered at the smirk on his face. Then she answered his smirk with her own. “C’mon, you’re just in time.”
Pete’s smile died quickly to be replaced with a wary, resigned look. “Just in time for what?”
“For another mystery.” Clark sighed, rising.
Pete groaned. “I’m never gonna make it to high school. She’s gonna get us all killed one day.”
Half an hour later, they stopped their bikes in front of the big high fence meant to keep anyone from going inside the closed down factory. For a while it succeeded, but there’s few things that attract trespassers like a closed down factory.
“I heard this place is haunted.” Pete muttered.
“You said that about the house on Mockingbird Lane.” Chloe pointed out.
Pete looked reluctant still. “Fence looks pretty sturdy.” He said hopefully. “And I don’t much like the look of that barbed wire.”
Clark glanced at his watch. “Look guys it’s almost dinner time. Maybe we should leave it for now.”
Chloe looked reluctant.
“Chloe come on.” Pete said. “The factory will still be here tomorrow. Clark’s right, and I don’t feel like getting in trouble just now.”
Chloe’s stomach rumbled and that made the decision for her. “Oh fine. But with you guys or not, I’m checking this place out tomorrow, first thing.”
Clark smiled with relief. They separated when the path to their homes branched off from his. As soon as his friends were out of sight, Clark hopped off his bike, hefted in with one hand, and ran the rest of the way home.
Dropping his bike off in the barn, he barely paused a moment before super speeding back to the factory. The hole in the fence was known to only a few. He wasn’t one, but it didn’t take long to find, and he slipped in silently. Or as silently as he could what with gravel, and broken glass littering the ground.
He found a door with the lock already broken, and his eyes narrowed. Nothing inherently suspicious about that, this place, according to the rumor mill had been a Mecca for parties. He pushed the door gently. Nothing. A glance at the hinges showed it was heavily rusted, so he pushed harder and the door opened easily, if noisily. He winced at the loud screech, and froze. He heard nothing from within, no sound that if anyone was in there that they had heard him.
Entering, he followed the corridor, and soon came upon fresh footprints in the heavy dust. Looked like Chloe was on the right track after all. He felt a bit guilty, sneaking back here without her and Pete. It was her mystery after all, and though he pretended otherwise, Clark knew that Pete quite enjoyed their adventures together. But if there was something in here that was making people crazy, he’d much rather risk himself than them. Besides with his speed he had an advantage no one else did. His strength might come in handy too.
It was with these thoughts in his head that he turned a corner and saw the man tied to the chair. He was dressed in a brown robe, and looked like someone had worked him over pretty good.
“Oh my God.” Clark gasped, hurrying to the man’s side. He began working on the man’s restraints, then saw his eyes widen. He rose quickly and whirled around. A rather good looking blonde in a red dress had crept up behind him.
“Aren’t you out past your bed time little boy?” she asked sweetly.
“What did you do?” Clark demanded.
She sighed dramatically. “Don’t take that tone with me kid. Didn’t your mommy and daddy teach you any manners? Like, respect your elders? He stole something from me and I want it back.” Suddenly a wicked smile crossed her face. “I know, how would you like to help me get our friend here to tell me where he put my key?”
She reached out and grabbed for Clark’s shoulder, but he backed away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said. “But I’m taking him out of here.” He turned back towards the prisoner, and the woman sighed again. One hand clamped down on his shoulder and suddenly he found himself hurtling through the air at great speed, slamming into the concrete wall with enough force to send cracks running all through it’s surface.
“Kids today.” She said. “They think they’re invincible.”
Clark didn’t know what surprised him more. Her strength, or the fact that his impact with the wall, which should have at least broken something, left him feeling little more than sore. What the hell was she? What the hell was HE?
He rose, a look of shock on his face as she looked at him. “Well Jr.?” she asked. “Feel like being a little more polite now?”
Clark stepped forward, his look of shock changing to one of determination. “We’re leaving.”
She groaned in exasperation. “Oh fine. Be that way.” She grabbed his wrist with one hand, and his throat in the other. He wrenched free, surprising her, and shoved her back. She stumbled back, a surprised grin crossing her face. “Woah boy, you have superpowers! That is so cool!” Quickly she grabbed him again, her hands seizing his upper arms. “Can you fly?”
Twisting, she hurled him across the room again, sending him smashing through a support column. The force of his body hitting the column completely shattered it and he landed on the other side. That time, though again, he knew he should be seriously injured, if not dead, he felt the pain of the impact through his entire body. But it didn’t stop him from rising.
“Fly? No. But I can do this.” He ran at her at full speed, his body little more than a blur, slamming into her with enough force to send her flying through another support column. He didn’t wait to see what became of her. And he could no longer worry that the monk would know about his powers. He sped to the monk’s side, freed him from the chair, and ran outside, stopping just outside the fence, ready to bolt at a moment’s notice.
Then the factory collapsed in on itself. He supposed the battle had destabilized the building. He was about to go back in to help the woman, when the Monk’s voice stopped him.
“Stop, please.” The man said in broken English. “The Key. You must protect…many more die if…if you don’t keep it safe.”
“What key?” Clark asked, casting worried glances to the factory. Sure she was strong, but was she okay? He wasn’t a killer, he hadn’t meant to hurt her, he just was trying to save the holy man.
“The Key is energy. It's a portal. It opens the door...”
“I don’t understand,” Clark said crouching by his side. Jesus, this guy was really hurt. “I have to get you to the hospital.”
“No, there is no time, you must hear. For centuries it had no form at all. My brethren, its only keepers. Then the abomination found us. We had to hide the Key, gave it form, molded it flesh... made it human and sent it to you."
Clark stared in confusion and shock. “What? Who?”
“Your sister. She is the key.”
“Dawn?” he gasped, shocked. “Dawn’s the key?”
“We built your memories…must not abandon…” he began coughing.
“Built my memories, you mean she’s only been my sister for…I don’t understand, please-“
“Two months.” Came the soft answer. “Please, she's an innocent in this. She needs you.” And with those words, the old man died. Leaving Clark with far too many unanswered questions.
To be continued…