#52: First Strike: Smallville Jun 28, 2019 15:04:27 GMT -5
Post by Admin on Jun 28, 2019 15:04:27 GMT -5
Issue Fifty-Two: “First Strike: Smallville”
Written by Eric Guptill
Cover by Ariel Duran (click the link for his DeviantArt)
Edited by Mark Bowers
Clark sat under a tree in the middle of a nearby cornfield. His parents had done well, growing both corn and wheat. It helped when one market was low to compensate for the other that usually ran the opposite trajectory. It was that bit of foresight that he admired about both of them. His parents knew how to play the long game while he was a little more short game and, some would even say, reactionary. It came with the territory of being Superman.
“Are we just gonna sit here in silence?” Karen asked from the other side of the tree.
“I was thinking about it.”
Karen got up and moved, staring down at Clark. “City runs through my blood, what can I say?”
Clark stood up. “I get that. I love Smallville, but can’t spend too much time here. The city calls to me too, just not as much as to you.”
Karen laughed. “True. So, why did you bring me out here?”
Clark paused for a moment before answering. “Karen, you’ve been… neglected…”
Karen interrupted him, “That’s not true.”
Clark held up his hands. “Yes it is. Lois told you I hold onto guilt, so let me have this. I want us to be more comfortable around each other. You are my cousin, like a sister to Kara. Conner is like a younger brother to me. We are family and we belong together. I will make that happen.”
“Hold your horses there, General Kent. You won’t make anything happen. I'm here because I want to be, let's be clear about that.”
Clark laughed. “You've always been stubborn, Karen. You want to be here and I want you to be here, let’s just leave it at that.”
Karen laughed slightly. “One night here and I’m already beginning to feel comfortable around you guys.”
“Now, why did you bring me out here, besides listening to the ants crawl through the ground?”
Clark smiled. “I just wanted to relax before we start repairs on the fence.”
“I knew I would get suckered…” Karen paused, a strange look on her face as she tilted her head to the right, better to listen.
Clark tilted his head as well, his hearing going in and out, but not enough so that he couldn’t hear the distress call from the fortress. He looked at Karen, shock written on her face just as a high-pitched drone erupted around them. They looked up as an object smashed into the tree, sending them both flying backwards.*
Lois sat on the porch with Martha, each of them holding a cup of coffee. Lois’s was full caffeine, while Martha’s second cup was always decaf. It was late already, nearly nine, and the kitchen was cleaned, everything put away and the dishwasher running. Clark and Karen were out, repairing a fence. Kara was opening their store in town and Conner, Conner still hadn’t done his chores.
Just then he burst from the house.
“Hmmpf,” Martha said.
He bounded down the steps. “I heard that, Ma.”
“I know. Bessie is gonna be dying in there. You didn’t milk her last night.”
Conner stopped and turned around, his head hanging down. “I know, Ma, it, it was just a rough day.”
Martha understood, they had all had a hard time listening to Clark’s story. It had been a whirlwind of emotions, though most of them held the same positive outlook that Clark and Lois had. Conner was not one of them. He couldn’t help but worry that his ‘brother’ would die. He looked up to Clark and though he wouldn’t admit it, wanted to grow up to be like him.
“Sweetie, I know. But everything is going to be fine, just you wait.”
“Sure,” said Conner without any real conviction.
“You’ll see, now get to work.”
He began walking towards the barn.
Lois sat and watched, sipping her coffee. She wanted to say something, but Kryptonians, even their clones, had excellent hearing. Privacy could be an issue.
Martha looked at her. “He’ll be fine.”
Lois smiled. “How did you know?”
“You don’t get this old without catching a few things.”
Lois took another sip, hesitating for a second. “I wish Jonathan was here.”
Martha looked at her. “Me too.” She turned to look back out over the fields. “I remember this time that Clark begged and begged us for a dog. Every morning he would ask before breakfast, then again before bed.”
“I never knew that.”
“Yes, and every time he asked, Jonathan would say, ‘You know a dog’s a big responsibility.’ It wasn’t that he didn’t want to get Clark a dog, but Clark wasn’t ready to take care of one. He was just too little, maybe six or seven, I’m not quite sure.”
Lois listened intently. She always loved stories about Clark, especially the few she had never heard.
“The funniest part is, Clark never argued with his dad. We expected that he would, that he’d say he was responsible, but nope, never happened. Me and Jonathan used to laugh about that, thinking how odd it was. Then, he just quit asking. We waited for a day or two, but nothing. That got us suspicious. We were lucky that at this age he didn’t have any powers or he might have caught Jonathan following him one morning after breakfast.”
They both took a sip of their coffee.
“Clark went out to that tree in the middle of the field. Jonathan hid in the corn and watched. There was a pile of hay on the ground and Clark moved it. Underneath was a baby bird. It must’ve fallen out of the tree and here was Clark, taking care of it. Jonathan watched as he found some worms and mashed them up to feed the bird before sneaking back to the house.”
“Now, neither one of us knew how to take care of a baby bird, but Clark seemed to have an idea, so we let it play out. It was a day later when Clark came into the house, the baby in his hands. It was dead.”
“Clark, he was, he was inconsolable for a while. Through the tears he told us that yesterday the mom had come back and gone to the baby, but then pecked at it and just left. The baby had tried to go to the mom, but she wanted nothing to do with it. It was the scent you see, it smelled like Clark. At least, that is what the vet told us.”
“Anyway, Clark had gone to feed it in the morning and the bird was dead. Again, the vet said that it could’ve starved to death. Something about baby birds needing their food to be digested first by the parent. It was all too much for Clark, he didn’t want a dog anymore.”
Lois looked out at the tree in the distance. Martha began smiling, “Dear, I don’t know why I told that story. It is so morbid, but through it all, Jonathan was a rock for Clark.”
“And now you have Krypto,” Lois said.
Martha laughed. “Don’t get me started on that dog. He is a handful, but Conner loves him.”
“Where is he now?”
“Honestly,” Martha said conspiratorially, “He takes off sometimes, for a day. We never know why, but I think he’s just exploring. You know, he’s smarter than dogs here and I think he needs a little more than we can give him on the farm. But, we never hear any reports on the tv, so that’s a bonus.”
“Thank goodness for that.”
Lois took the last sip of coffee, finishing it. She looked up and saw what looked like something, no a few somethings, falling from the sky. “Martha, is that Krypto grabbing something in the sky?”
Martha got up and shielded her eyes. “Oh dear.”
Their attention was pulled as they heard Conner yell for them from the barn. They both headed down the steps of the house just as an object hit the barn, causing it to explode, followed by the push of air as the house behind them erupted.
Clark coughed through the dust in the air. His vision was not working well, pushing through the particles, so he had to rely on his super-hearing. He could hear impacts in the distance, one in Smallville and one near the house. He didn’t know what was happening. Was it an attack? A random occurrence? He just couldn’t tell. Though, his history would suggest an attack more than anything.
He could hear Karen about twenty feet to his right. He was at her side in a second, the eddies forming behind his wake to create miniature tornadoes. They were not enough to clear any of the air.
Karen got off of the ground, coughing a few times. “Fine, just pissed.”
Clark smiled at that. “Can you see anything? My vision isn’t….isn’t where it needs to be.”
Karen looked around for a split second. “The tree is gone, a figure is coming out of the crater.”
Clark looked in the direction, eventually making out a humanoid outline. He turned to Karen just as a blaze of heat vision slammed into her from the creature.
“Karen!” Clark yelled.
She ignored his call, she was a bona fide superhero after all. As Karen fell to the ground, she grabbed a large rock and tossed it at the creature. “I got this, Clark.”
He didn’t pause. “I'm going to town to help Kara, more people are in danger.”
“I’ll take care of this creature, then get to the house and help Conner.”
Clark wasted no time and launched into the air. He ripped his glasses off. His costume was not on underneath his clothes. The white t-shirt and jeans would have to do. It wasn’t the first time he’d fought out of costume.
As he neared the small downtown, his vision kicked back in and he could see Kara pulling herself from the rubble of the Kents’ general store. Her clothes were shredded, but she had her costume on.
Fear shot through him as he pushed harder. Everything was happening within a split second. A gray humanoid figure pulled itself from the rubble, its shape the only distinctive feature. There were no eyes, no nose or even a mouth. He could do nothing as it grabbed her hair and smashed her into the ground. Then he was there, punching it so hard that it flew into the sky and out of the city limits.
Supergirl pulled herself up from the ground, brushing off the dirt that covered her costume. “What was that?”
“Don’t know, but there are others attacking the farm. Let’s take care of this and then help Conner and Karen.”
She heard the strain in his voice. Clark was a professional and his choice to come to her was to make sure that the people of Smallville were not hurt, but she knew he wanted nothing more than to rush off to Lois.
“I can handle th…..”
Superman looked at her. “No, c’mon.” He was in the air leaving Supergirl to follow after him, the calm command in his voice evident.
He didn’t slow his pace, but she was able to catch him. That shouldn’t have happened, she even had to slow just a bit to maintain his speed. They both knew it was the Kryptonite poisoning causing it, but they would say nothing about it.*
They floated down to where the creature had landed. There was a large furrow in the ground, gradually deepening as it went. At the end, there was nothing but mounds of earth. The scar had ripped across a soybean field, destroying a large mechanical sprinkler in the process, yet no creature.
“Do you see anything?” Superman asked.
Supergirl concentrated in the area around them. The fields were filled with soybeans, it wouldn’t be able to hide. There were no forests around. “Nothing, we should’ve seen it if it flew up.”
They both did a quick scan, but could not see it. Superman walked down to the end of the furrow, running his fingers through the ground. It crumbled in his fingers, looser than it should have been with this type of impact.
Supergirl walked up behind him just as Clark whipped his head around. She saw the alarm as he looked down and the ground underneath them churned. The creature ripped free from the bounds of Mother Earth. Its head erupted blasts of heat where no eyes existed. They slammed into Superman’s face, blinding him. In the same instance, it slammed Supergirl with a double-handed punch, sending her flying back towards downtown Smallville.
Conner crawled through the wreckage of the barn. Shock lit his face as blood covered his body. He knew it was from Bessie, shafts of wood had pierced multiple parts of her body. He had heard the distress call and called to Martha to warn her. He didn’t know if danger was imminent, but the fortress never sent distress calls like that. Then the explosion had collapsed the whole building on him and the cow.
The shock set in deeper as he saw the remains of the house. Ma, Ma. The mantra played over and over in his head. Where were Clark and Karen? They should have come running as soon as they heard the distress, but neither was here. It was just him, just him needing to pick up the pieces.
His ears buzzed with confusion, his thoughts slipping in and out before he could grasp one to hold onto. Then he saw Lois, one arm bent at an incredibly odd angle and slightly behind her, Martha.
Martha lifted her head up, seeing Lois at the same moment Conner did. She began pulling herself towards Lois, the muscles in her back screaming in agony as she felt blood seeping down her sides.
“Conner, behind you!” Martha yelled at her son as a humanoid shape came up behind him.
Conner turned around as Krypto soared through the air and bit down on the creature, tearing at its arm, growls erupting and heat-vision pouring from his eyes.
“Get in that house and grab my gun and some shells,” Martha ordered Conner. She could see the stunned look on his face. As Superboy, he had faced many dangers, but this was different. It was an attack on his family and Conner was having a hard time adjusting. It was more than saving people, it was saving people that he loved. Martha would direct that, taking charge until he got his head on straight. She was his mother after all.
As Conner ripped into the remains of the house, he glanced at Martha as she got close to Lois. He scanned through the wreckage, x-ray vision pouring through every plank of wood and piece of debris. It took him less time than he would’ve thought to find both the shotgun and ammunition. They had not moved much in the explosion. He grabbed them, rushing back to his mother’s side.
He looked around and saw another creature hovering over the house. The gun and ammunition slipped from his hand, but Martha caught both. She ignored the pain in her back and the moans that escaped Lois as she came to.
She saw Krypto continuing to keep one creature busy, but the other was floating lower and lower, toward her, Lois and Conner. She didn’t need to think, but loaded and aimed the weapon.
“Move.” That one word caused Conner to shuffle behind Martha as she pulled the trigger, hitting the creature in the face.
Martha gritted her teeth as another shot landed. “You better believe it.”
The two blasts were enough to get Conner back into the game. He was standing behind his mother, this woman with a shotgun who was defending him. Him, a hero with superpowers. Yes, he was still a kid, but he wouldn’t let anything happen to his family. Faster than could be seen, he kissed Martha on the cheek and took to the air.
All Martha felt was a brush against her cheek as a blur flung into the creature as it neared the ground. Both bodies slammed through the wreckage and into the old grain silo. She imagined that they passed completely through it. He was her boy and would do what he needed to, to keep them safe.
That didn’t mean that everything was fine for them. She looked down as Lois sat up, tears streaming down her face from the pain. Lois was a tough cookie. Nothing’s going to happen to her, Martha vowed as she re-loaded the shotgun.
Martha looked over to Krypto as he yelped. He had been flung away from the creature, but got up quickly. She could see a pronounced limp in his left leg. The creature was much worse for wear. Its body was riddled with puncture and claw marks. Flash burns surrounded its neck and a thick, white liquid was dripping from many of the wounds. Her eyes narrowed as she shot two rounds into its chest.
Power Girl and the creature traded blows back and forth. Full force hitting immovable object. Over and over. She forcing the creature up and it forcing her back down. Over and over again. This had been going on since Clark left and though she did not yet feel tired, she could tell that her opponent would never tire. Eventually, it would wear her down. She had to think, think about a way she could find a chink in its armor.
It had other things on its mind. It pulled away from Power Girl at super speed, only a foot, but it was enough to throw her off balance. Before she could react she was screaming in agony. Freeze breath, heat vision hit her at once, followed by a flurry of blows that she could not ward off. It was all she could do to stay conscious as waves of searing pain collided with the burn of endless cold, rotating in waves around and around her body. Each one punctuated by the blunt force of a fist hitting her again and again until she collided with the ground.
It was a jolt to her system and though the pain did not cease, her head cleared. She pushed each agony out of her mind, focusing on the being in front of her. Instead of unleashing a scream, she let loose with a wide arc of freeze-breath that covered her enemy. She took a quick, but deep, breath and continued, pushing past its heat vision and encasing it in a block of ice.
She knew that this would not be enough, so she began pummeling it, hoping that each blow would crack a section of its frozen body off. The ice flew off in chunks and then it faltered. Power Girl took advantage, knocking it back and forth, forcing it into the ground. You aren’t getting out of this, @#$%head. Her thoughts evident as a smile broke out on her face.
That is when she heard the two gunshot blasts. Martha and Lois! She needed to get to them, she had promised Clark. Yes, Conner was there, but if Martha was using a shotgun, then things were worse than she thought.
Power Girl pummeled the creature deeper into the ground. When she was satisfied, she flew into the air towards the farm. She could see the rubble of the barn and house. If both had been destroyed then Clark and herself had been wrong. There wasn’t just one creature attacking the farm, but more. Now she was more worried than ever. Conner was capable, but against two or more he wouldn’t last long.
She knew she could stop them, but before she could get any closer, a hand closed over her ankle. Her flight direction abruptly changed as her body was brought down into the ground.
Power Girl turned and saw another creature. She began burning it with heat-vision. Its hand still wrapped around her ankle, it swung her high over its head, again and again. She slammed into the earth and wheat over and over again. With each impact her heat vision lost its target and burned into the wheat, starting fires here and there, but she wouldn’t let up. The fires were the least of her concerns.
Pouring from her, she lets loose. Her teeth gritted, no attempt to free herself made. Instead her eyes only focused on it, burning deeper and brighter until she began to see scores of blackness across its limbs and body. She focused even more, giving everything into burning it as she was slammed over and over. It didn’t stop her. Fires ignited around her in ever increasing frequency, but she ignored them.
Finally, she began to see the grayish skin bubble and melt. It encouraged Power Girl, she pulled away with all her might, freeing herself from the creature and taking its hand with her. Her eyes glowed bluish red from the amount of heat pouring from them. More and more of it melted, forming rivulets of white goop, like pudding, until it collapsed in upon itself, a few limbs twitching, but nothing more.
Power Girl took a moment to catch her breath before digging a hole. She shoved the remains of the creature in it and then covered it back up with dirt. That should hold it, now to help Superboy.
She raced through the fields, her speed ripping out stalks of wheat. They’ve gotta be okay, they’ve gotta be.
Superman raced past Supergirl, halting her progress before she demolished the Smallville post office.
Superman’s words were cut off as the creature dropped down from above, slamming both of them into the cement. The breath ripped from him, Superman struggled to catch it as his enemy jumped up and down on him, cracking the asphalt underneath and forcing him to sink deeper and deeper. In any other situation, the sight of a gray humanoid jumping up and down on Superman would seem like it was part of a kid’s cartoon, but this was not funny in the least.
Supergirl recovered, hitting the creature over and over again to take its focus off of her cousin. She had noticed his powers were weaker than usual and she couldn’t help but worry. She knew he would find a cure, he was Superman. That didn’t mean that he couldn’t be killed by someone else in the process. She would not let that happen.
The creature stopped with Superman and turned its attention to her. Her blows pushed it off of her cousin, but causing her to step over him as well. That slight hesitation was all it needed, ducking under her latest blow and grabbing her cape. It jerked her down and planted her face into its knee, twice in rapid succession, before kicking her into the post office that Superman had tried to protect.
It was the break that he had needed as Supergirl hit the brick exterior, collapsing part of one wall, but leaving the majority of the structure intact. He kicked the creature in the stomach, sending it back and then stood up. He did a quick scan of the downtown. There were very few people here and those left were running away. He was glad that though there was property damage, people wouldn’t be hurt. Now all he and Supergirl had to do was defeat this thing and head back to the farm, to help Power Girl and Superboy.
Superman sped behind the creature, forcing it to turn towards him. That put its back to Supergirl, who he knew would take advantage of it. He began hitting the creature with super speed as it dodged at the same velocity. He was growing tired and knew he couldn’t keep this up for long, but the majority of his blows were hitting.
Then Supergirl joined the fight, her fists pounded the creature from behind. Its speed increased, creating an odd dance of give and take. To any onlooker, the only thing visible would be the blurred movement of three objects, stuck in a dance that looked as mesmerizing as it was deadly. Color trails flashed as the movement increased; whites, blues, grays, reds and yellows all swirled and stepped around one another. Each trail of color was punctuated with a small sonic boom from each impact. Glass cracked in one instance, then shattered in another. Car alarms went off, creating a cacophony of cries throughout Smallville.
Alas, the dance could not last. The creature moved in more random patterns, ignoring the blows that landed. Eventually, one of Superman’s fists landed a harrowing blow, but to his cousin instead of its intended target. Supergirl smashed through the post office, this time destroying it completely. It was enough to give Superman pause, the creature as well. They both stood there, looking at one another.
Superman could see darker blotches through the creature’s body, probably from the hits that had landed. In some places, the skin sagged slightly. He could see it weakening and knew he had to finish this.
The creature knew it as well. It moved as if to flee, but Superman was faster and grabbed one of its arms. The creature’s face turned up to him, its other hand slamming into the concrete and pulling. Then it turned away and shot a ray of heat vision, igniting the gas pipe that it had just ripped open.
The town erupted in a fireball, buildings exploded, the streets below shot geysers of flame, debris was flung miles away. It all joined into one large crescendo, a spout of heat and fire that covered the entirety of the downtown.
Superboy continued to hit the creature over and over, dipping around it and in front. Random blasts of heat vision punctuated every other blow. Their battle had taken them higher and higher. He had a plan, and it involved altitude. The creature didn’t seem to mind going higher, for every blow he landed, it landed one to two. It was tireless and endless, but it was almost where he wanted it.
They passed through the clouds, the concussive force pushing them out and creating a pathway for the two fighters. In any other circumstance, Superboy might enjoy the view, but he was trying to calculate his move.
He took time to glance below through the tête-à-tête. Lois was standing up behind Martha, her shot gun pointed at the creature. Krypto was growling, waiting for his chance to attack. The creature was damaged, much more so than the one that he was fighting. They were too close to it, they needed to get further away before he could make his move. He was beginning to think his plan would fail, then he saw it.
Power Girl ripped through the wheat field, that was his break.
“Coming in hot,” he whispered, knowing that she would hear him.
Superboy whipped around the creature twice, then dipped up and down, slamming his fists into its back and taking it down. Faster and faster they fell, his speed added to their descent. The beginnings of a sonic boom, the ripple of moisture, could be seen. He poured it on, not allowing the creature to break free.
Closer and closer they got to the other creature. Superboy was smiling. This plan is so awesome. He pushed harder, tracking Power Girl. She arrived a second before him, grabbing Martha and Lois before they even understood what had happened. Then he impacted, one creature slamming into another, his full force behind them. There was an eruption of a sonic boom a split second before the impact, ground erupting from the impact of three bodies and a cloud of dirt, dust and debris carried along the trail left by the breaking of the sound barrier.
Power Girl brought Lois and Martha back, pushing away the debris with a burst of super-breath. Lois and Martha were both shaky from the quick zip away and then back, but they all wanted to see if Superboy was okay.
There he was, covered in white-grayish goo. “I think one got away,” he said unsteadily.
Martha looked around, tears brimming her eyes as the destruction was evident. Around her was nothing but debris, nothing stood. She saw smoke from the wheat fields and an even larger cloud hanging over Smallville proper. Clark, where are you?
As if in answer to her prayers, Clark and Kara set down. He rushed to Lois, kissing her and pulling both her and Martha into a hug. “I knew they’d keep you safe.”
Lois kissed him back. “Your mother is such a badass.”
“Don’t I know it.”
Conner wobbled over to them, Kara going to help him. “What now?”
Clark looked at Martha and Lois. “Will you two be okay?”
“You know it, Smallville.”
Then he looked at Kara, Karen and Conner. Dirt mussed his face, his t-shirt was ripped in places and blood dripped down a cut on his forehead, but he had never looked more commanding. Determination etched itself on every feature. “We stop every single one of them!”
To be continued in Superman #8
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