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In moments of crisis, Clark became very goal oriented. Panic was not an option. Lack of forward momentum even less so.
Lex swayed. He didn't make a sound, but his skin went the sort of pale you might expect on a corpse and his lips thinned out, tight with the effort not to betray weakness. Fool. Screaming might have helped. Clark would have screamed. He rather wanted to in that gibbering place at the back of his mind that he refused to allow access to the functioning part of his brain.
The stump wasn't bleeding, flesh and vessels neatly cauterized by Clark's heat vision. The hand itself lay warm and limp in Clark's palm. The bracelet still circled the unmarred skin above Lex's wrist. Clark fought back threatening nausea - - had to fight it back- - and snatched it and with the severed hand, super sped out of the chamber, down the tunnel to the little spring. He ripped off his shirt, and plunged it into the cold water, then wrapped the hand in the cloth. A burst of cooling breath and he chilled the bundle even more. If he could get them back home in time, there might be a chance the hand could be reattached. There had to be a chance.
He was back before Lex had opened his eyes, and pulling the threadbare blanket around Lex's shoulders. Amputation via heat vision aside, shock was a real possibility. A probability, most likely and there was only so much Clark could do to prevent it.
"Don't try and get up. Hear me, Lex?" he caught Lex by the shoulders, fingers biting down until Lex opened his eyes to look at him. Dilated pupils; pain clouding the edges of normal sharpness.
Clark didn't wait for an answer, he couldn't afford it. He left the bundle with the hand on the floor by Lex and sped out the door. Paused long enough to barricade it, taking the chance that nothing would happen to prevent him from returning over the one of someone deciding to slink back here to finish the job with Lex.
He started using serious speed then, flying through the tunnels to his familiar chimney shaft. He didn't stop this time, hundreds of yards from the surface, but sped up, the sonic boom of his passage dislodging rock as he did. He burst out into open air and kept going, piercing the layer of cloud cover before the bracelets could register that they'd gone beyond the perimeters of the prison mine.
The explosion rocked him, weakened as he was. It hurt and for a few precious seconds he welcomed the pain, a connection, sparse as it was, to what Lex had endured.
He had no time to wallow in it, though, barely pausing in his forward momentum and rocketing towards the thinner air of the outer atmosphere where the sunlight hit him undiluted. Strength flooded through him, washing away weakness and pain, the only reminder that he'd felt it at all, the black smudges on his skin from the exploding bracelets.
The planet below was dull brown, continents larger by far than the pale blue patches of ocean. Cloud cover obscured much of the surface, but it was no deterrent to x-ray vision. He took a moment to orient himself, to scan the surface for the outpost common sense told him had to be there. He found the skeletal remains of what might have been cities, long decimated and devoid of life. The planet itself seemed devoid of life as if some cataclysm had wiped out everything but the bare bones of what had been. The only thing living here was what had been implanted, deep underground in the mines. And sure enough, above those mines lay a cluster of stark structures surrounding the smoking hole where the main mining column lay. A few squat ships perched around what must have been loading ports, taking on refined ore.
Good enough. He had a target, once he'd secured his own weak spot.
Back down through the chimney then, dislodging more rock from his passage. He had one goal in this venture, and that was getting Lex to safety, getting Lex to the people that might be able to help him in time to save that hand. Dispensing justice was a far second on the agenda and a task better suited to the Lantern's anyway. But to get them back home, he needed leverage, and to get leverage he needed to seriously upset the powers that be and he couldn't risk Lex in the mine while he did it. Those other trapped souls within the tunnels were beyond his ability to evacuate, unless he went about a mass amputation spree.
He pushed that thought aside - - had to push it aside if he were to succeed in the things he was capable of - - and burst back into the machine room where he'd left Lex.
Lex leaned against the side of the dead flywheel, blanket clutched around him with his remaining hand, the other one held close under it, the damage concealed. He was pale still, strained around the eyes, the faint sheen of sweat making the ashen skin on his head shine.
"We're going," Clark said, and scooped him up, scooped up the wrapped bundle on the floor by Lex's side.
Lex made no comment, though Clark gave him a breath to do it in. Silence was no comfortable thing from Lex and it worried Clark. Made his gut churn with butterflies. There was no help for it. No help for anything but forward momentum.
Back out, slower this time in regards to fragile human bones and flesh. He found a place, a good solid jumble of rocks a hundred miles from the land where mines honeycombed the earth beneath. Sat Lex down and crouched down before him. Time was his enemy here more than the Magistrates.
"I'm going to get us home."
Lex blinked at him, the paleness tinged with a little green. Lex never had taken well to being flown about at teeth rattling speeds. And though Clark had been particularly gentle this time, compared to the other occasions he'd had to haul Lex Luthor bodily from one place to the next, Lex still looked a little nauseous. Or maybe that was more symptoms of shock setting in.
"How?" Lex ground it out, jaw ticking.
Clark shrugged. "I dunno. I thought I'd smash some things up and work it out as I went."
"God," Lex rolled his eyes and the look of disgust made Clark feel better.
Clark leaned in and kissed him. Soft lips that tasted a little of coppery blood. That tasted of Lex and he didn't think he could ever get enough of the flavor now he'd had it.
God help him.
He pulled back, still cradling Lex's skull in his big hands. "Trust me."
He had to leave. Absolutely had to or he might not have been able to leave at all.
He removed his hands gently, tore his eyes off Lex and took off. He was traveling five times the speed of sound before the rocky outcrops where he'd left Lex were out of sight. He made a beeline for the outpost, his sense of direction flawless, even at the speeds he traveled.
They had no warning; no hope of putting up defenses, even if they'd had any that could have repelled Superman in the midst of a seething rage. He tore through the hull of the closest ship - - in one side out the other - - on his way to the hub of the aboveground complex. The great cylindrical mechanism that bore deep into the earth, taking raw ore from the layers of mines and chewing it up, refining it as it traveled to the surface, was his target. He sliced through it, like a garrote through butter with a sweep of heat vision. Slammed into it, shoulder first and the severed cap of the thing toppled with a screech of protesting metal. Flames geysered up, explosions from the core of it.
He didn't hesitate to watch, heading for the other ship, zeroing in on the engines, digging fingers into the main structure and ripping the back portion of the vessel off in chunks and pieces.
Something hit his back. A pulse of energy that shivered over his skin and made his hair stand a little on end. They'd gotten their act together enough to try and fight back. There were people on the ground, guards in those faceless uniforms firing up at him. He ignored them. Finishing up the dismantling of the one ship, then hovering in the air above the outpost, scanning the buildings and ships. Seeking that center of activity that would by necessity be revolving around the Magistrate.
And he found him, the flat faced, grey skinned Magistrate that had passed sentence on them, in a chamber near the helm of the first ship Clark had gutted. He didn't bother with hallways, just took the direct route, tearing holes through bulwarks and pressure plating to reach his goal.
There were guards aplenty, minions running to and fro, and none of them expected Clark tearing into their midst. The Magistrate sat in a high backed chair elevated like a judge above a semi-circle of techs at their panels. There was a heartbeat or two of shocked silence at his arrival, before weapons were fumbled after and the Magistrate himself started reaching for what might have been a control to trigger a teleportational escape. Clark was on him before the first weapon fired, crushing a boney grey wrist in his hand, yanking the Magistrate out of his throne and out into the center of the floor.
"Go ahead," Clark said to the guards surrounding them. "Shoot. It won't bother me. He might have a problem with it."
A half dozen fingers froze on triggers. The sounds of boots shuffling towards them echoed up the passage. More of them rushing to the aid of their leader. A lot more.
"What are you?" the Magistrate gasped past Clark's fingers around his throat. The skin felt cool and leathery under Clark's hand.
"Justice," Clark growled in his ear, parroting the Magistrate's reply to Lex's demand for answers all those weeks ago when they'd first been brought here.
The com-units chattered with the frantic reports of the complex in disarray, of the refinery cylinder collapsing in upon itself one section at a time. The sister ship was lisping, burning in its berth across from this one. It had taken Clark less than a handful of minutes.
"You will," Clark said. "Return myself and Lex Luthor to earth by the same means that you brought us here. You will forget you ever heard his name and you will never lay foot on earth again, because if you do, I will make it my business to hunt you down and destroy you and there is no deep enough hole you can hide in or shield you can devise that will stop me. Do you understand, Magistrate?"
"Who are you to make such demands?" The old Magistrate had a certain degree of balls to ask the question, after seeing the wreckage Clark had made of his outpost. He had the loss of face to consider, being the center of attention for a good number of his subordinates.
Sometimes name dropping had its own dire effects. "I am Kal-el. The last son of Krypton." Which wasn't entirely true, but for all intents and purposes, it was a moniker that had served him well enough in the intergalactic community.
He felt the Magistrate tense under his hand. They might not recognize him on sight, but reputation was another matter altogether.
"Kryptonian." The Magistrate breathed, and the word whispered around the circle of onlookers. So they'd heard of the planet if not the man. Good enough.
"I'm about to loose my patience," Clark warned.
"Yes, " the Magistrate said. "You will be returned."
"Show me where from."
"The teleportation chamber is within the complex."
"The room where we arrived?"
Clark could find that. "Tell your men to expect us."
The Magistrate didn't hesitate to give that order. And as soon as the words had left his mouth, Clark tightened his grip and sped out of there, Magistrate clutched to his side. He had no intention of giving up his ace in the hole to a people that made a practice of perverting justice.
It took maybe a minute to return to where he'd left Lex. He let the old man stumble to his hands and knees on the rocky shelf and bent to his own next to Lex. Lex cracked his lids, lifting a brow at the Magistrate. Scowling.
"We're going home."
"Good." The word stuttered at the tail end and Lex clenched his jaw to stop the chattering of teeth.
Clark gathered him up as best he could with one hand, tucked the bundled severed hand under the blanket, then snared the back of the Magistrate's belt and took off back towards the mining outpost.
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