CLOUD SHADOWS OF MIDNIGHT
By Atonia and Jo
Jo writing: Maximus, Caroline, Bud, Marie, Lachlan, Cort, Daisy, Ben, Mae, Rusty, George, Lucilla, Robin,
Jack Knife (Col. John Wales), Jeffrey, Julie, Javert, East, Egan, Jack Corbett, Zack, Jim, Nash, Charles, Steve, Monroe,
Dolly, Ardith, Parcher, Merry Men, Hank, O'Hara, Eve'lyn, Kate, Randolph, Sid, Sidda, Liz, Georgie, Glen, Noah, Glinda,
Muriel, Randolph Martin, Tom Golightly, Joshua Connor
Atonia writing: Terry, Dee, Alex, Linda, Jack, Tarwyn, John Biebe, Bethany, Max, Sophia, Dino, Anne, Hando, John
Cristofuoro, Richie, Cal, John Brennan, Colin, Andy, Ed, Nicholas, Arthur, Johnny, Jeff, Kim, Sean, Dennis, Mel,
Sandra, Carol, Dylan, Pat, Brenda, Kristen, Darren Lincoln, Stephen Maturin, Killick, Ray, Jor-El, Nan, Klara, Dennis,
Carlos, Dug, Ronny, Penny, Jannie, Jordan, Pearly, Jay Wilson, T. R. Holden
Images were now coming across the phones at the hospital. Biebe was taking pictures and messaging them to his brothers with a note here and there.
“As you can see, it’s all here, everything and nobody has an explanation for it. Jor-El was here but not for long. He spoke with George and then lifted off again.”
“I’ll be damned,” Jack Aubrey exclaimed. “How is this possible?”
Terry shook his head gingerly. “No idea, Jack. I’m just glad to see familiar faces up and walking around.”
“So am I,” Jack agreed. “We haven’t lost anyone and for that I am thankful.”
"See," Ariel smiled, "she is well and in the arms of her father."
"And who is her father? Sid? John Nash?"
"Does it matter? There, now, she has a daddy. Is not a daddy better than a father or two?"
"She is happy. That is what matters."
"You are content? That is what matters to me."
"Content? Nothing is as I once thought it might be. I am not as I once thought I might be."
"Come. Let me love you."
"Yes," she said. "I will come." She was supposed to be beyond human feeling. She had no arms with which to hold her child. Why then did they ache to hold her?
Jor-El seemingly appeared in the emergency area. Of course he’d come in from outside moving so swiftly that nobody had seen him until he stopped outside of the bay where Richie sat on the side of his bed.
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m good, ready to get out of here. Just waiting on the doc to say go. How about you?”
“I am well.” He moved to the next one. Colin was surrounded by his girl and two of his young brothers. “Colin, how are you?”
“Feeling pretty good, Jor-El. I’m glad to see you.”
Jor-El nodded and then moved to Big Jack’s bay. Stephen was in there with him. “How is he?”
“He has regained consciousness only to fall back again. As you see they’re giving him oxygen and fluids.”
“He is a big man.”
“Ah, yes, he is. I suspect it takes more air for him than the others.”
Jor-El tilted his head for a moment, contemplating Stephen’s remark. “Well, I will go upstairs. Are the others up there?”
“Yes, some of them are.”
Glen pulled away from Jim, looking up at the sky. He sat back down on the grass, rubbing hard at his chest. Jim knelt in front of him. "Does it hurt there?"
Jim frowned and stood, calling George over. "Will you take a look at him. Says his chest hurts."
George set his medical bag on the grass and crouched down. He had to move Glen's hand away before he could place his stethoscope on the boy's chest. "Beating just fine," he smiled. "I'm going to pull your shirt up now, ok, to see if maybe you bruised yourself when you fell." The little chest was unmarked. George tried various other tests. "He seems fine," he told Jim.
"It's better now," Glen said, with a last glance toward the sky. "I need to see Glinda."
George followed Glen's skyward glance with his own eyes. "Something up there, Glen?"
"Not now." He scrambled to his feet and ran toward Glinda.
"What was that all about?" Jim asked.
"I have no idea. I think I'll mention it to Rusty, however."
Klara was alone in her hospital room. She’d moved to the window. She was perfectly healed. There was nothing the doctors here could do for her. Only time was her healer and she’d had that. The door to her room opened.
“Jor-El, you live!”
He went to her and took her in his arms. “You, you are well?”
“Yes. I thought you had disappeared, had been destroyed in the Black Zero. I could hear the others speaking.”
“No, Zod is destroyed. Our family is still intact.”
“It is ours, Klara, for I count you as my own. You saved my life today. Had you not arrived when you did…”
“What happened to the Superman?”
“He is downstairs being tended to by hospital staff. A brave young man but a foolish one.”
“He bought you some time.”
“Yes, yes he did. Come let us speak with the others and then we shall go home.”
George walked over to where Rusty was talking with Bud and John. "A word, ok?" He nodded toward the currently-unoccupied front porch of Cort's house.
"What's up, Doc?" Rusty smiled, following him up the steps.
"Bugs Bunny jokes will only get you so far," George smiled in return. "I do have something I want to speak to you about, though, Rusty."
"Ok. Something important?"
"I have no idea if it is or isn't," George sighed. "It's Glen."
"He's ok, isn't he?"
"He's fine. Well, physically he's fine. Something was going on with him a moment ago, however."
Jim called me over to check him because Glen was sitting on the ground rubbing his chest and said it hurt."
Rusty quickly looked back at the yard, searching out Glen's location. He was with Glinda, both of them sitting together in one lawn chair, obviously deep in conversation. "I thought you said he was fine. What was hurting?"
"I don't know. He was looking up at the sky, rubbing his chest, and saying it hurt. Then it just suddenly seemed to feel better. I asked him if something were up there he was looking at and he said 'not now'. I don't know what he meant by that but I thought you should be aware of what happened."
Rusty sat down on the porch swing, closing his eyes, letting out a long breath. George sat beside him. "You ok?"
"Thinking thoughts I don't want to think."
"Yeah, Doc. A big fat uh oh is about right."
"Where are you heading with this, Rusty?"
"I was at Cort's, right, and Cort's has always been two hours west of the city, right?"
"So now I'm told Cort's and the whole rest of the westlands is now north of the airport and a little east."
"I have no idea, none."
"What could do that, Doc?"
"I'd say maybe Sid but Sid doesn't exist anymore."
"Is there something else?"
"Doesn't there have to be, Doc? Doesn't there have to be some...some force or something that could do something that monumental?"
"Well, yes, there has to be something."
Rusty cocked his head, quietly staring at George with a most intense look. "What?" he asked again.
"You...you're suggesting that...that maybe...she...?"
Rusty's head dropped and he clamped a hand over his eyes.
"You...you think maybe she still, um, cares?"
"I have no fucking idea, Doc, what she still cares about or if she even cares about anything at all." He'd raised his head and was looking at George again. "But it's kinda funny, don't you think, that I happened to be out here when all this happened?"
"I, ah, hadn't considered that. You're right. That could definitely be a factor in all this. Does she have the power to do it?"
"Got me there, Doc. I don't know what the hell she's like anymore. Maybe she's joined forces with that damn Ariel bloke, or whatever the fuck he...it...is. I think he could do it."
"Why would he?"
"Maybe to please her? How the hell would I know?"
"So you think perhaps Glen was, ah, sensing her, ah, presence?"
"Yeah. I hate it, Doc, but I'm thinking it."
A car skidded into the hospital parking lot attracting the attention of security. Two young men hopped out and raced for the entrance. They were detained at the door by a security officer.
Andy was in the waiting area buying a bottle of water from a machine. It was Andy to rescue.
“It’s all right, officer. I know these two. They’re my brothers.”
The officer gave them a stern warning about speeding through the hospital parking lot then nodded at Andy.
“Well, well, late to the party as usual. What happened, all the snow melt…ski resort close up?”
“Tell us, Andy, what’s happened to our brothers?” Arthur wanted to know.
“Oh, not much. They’re all still alive, Arthur. It’s been quite a day.”
“Fill us in,” Johnny said. “We’ve been listening to reports on the radio and Arthur had his phone.”
Andy indicated a row of seats and began to give them the details as he knew them of the day’s events.
"You two doin' ok?" Cort came up the porch steps, concerned by the expression on Rusty's face.
Rusty closed his eyes and sighed. "I don't know how I'm doing."
Cort looked at George. "He didn't get hurt, did he?"
A snort of unpleasant laughter burst out of Rusty. "Hurt? Me? God no. I never get hurt."
Cort crouched in front of Rusty's knees. "What's goin' on?"
"Now isn't that the all-time fucking unanswerable question."
George licked his lip. "He thinks Ariel and...and Blue are behind the, um, move."
Cort's eyes widened a little. "Why?"
"Why the fucking hell not?" Rusty bit out.
Cort looked at George. "You think that's possible?"
"Don't you?" George said quietly. "What else could have done it?"
"I thought...I guess I thought...they weren't..."
"Around?" Rusty completed for him. "How would we know if they were or if they weren't?"
"Do you think they want somethin'?"
"God, I hope not!" Rusty stood up, brushed past Cort, and went down the steps.
"He's still hurtin' more'n I thought he was," Cort sighed.
Down the hall from Klara’s room someone was waking up. “It’s cold,” he said, shivering beneath the light blanket that covered him. The lights in his room had been dimmed and he was alone. “Where have they put me?” he wondered aloud. “I’m not dead…am I?”
Big Jack stirred on the bed, a hand coming up to brush at the oxygen mask. "No, no, Colonel," a female voice said. "You need to keep that in place."
Opening his eyes, he stared up at her. Not bad looking was his first thought. Didn't think he'd ever seen the gal before, though. "Wh...where?" he managed.
"You're in the hospital, Colonel."
"Hosp...hospital?" That made no sense to him at all. Had he been wounded in the final cavalry charge?
"Yes, Colonel. County General Hospital. Doctor Canfield's not here right now but I'm sure he'll be in to check on you as soon as he returns."
Canfield? He didn't recall the regimental surgeon's name being Canfield. "Win? Did...did we win?"
"Oh, yes," she smiled. "I understand you were very brave, Colonel."
Of course he was brave. Wasn't he always? "Wounded...where?"
"You're not wounded, Colonel. There just wasn't enough oxygen. You lie still and simply breathe for a while. I'm sure you'll be fine."
What in hell was the gal talking about? He felt tired, though, and closed his eyes, letting himself drift off into sleep.
John Brennan and Jack Aubrey decided to ride out to the new compound to see for themselves. As strange as it appeared, all was intact even down to the road that led up to the big Victorian house that was Cort’s.
“Everyone seems to be fine,” Lt. Cristofuoro said in greeting.
“There has to be an explanation for this,” Jack said.
“Ah, yes, but for now there doesn’t seem to be one. I’m glad to see all is well here. We’ll be heading back to the city. How are the hospitalized brothers doing?”
“Well enough, considering,” John answered.
Biebe saw Jack and Brennan and came over to them. “Did you get my pictures?”
“Yes, John, that’s what brought us out here,” Aubrey said. “I can’t believe what I’ve seen.”
“Believe it, it happened. Everybody’s realizing they’ve been moved now and nobody has an answer.”
Jack and Brennan moved through the crowd, speaking to Maximus and Lachlan.
"I am so sorry, Muriel, to have made you a part of this."
"Robin, I'm quite all right. I...you...it's worth it to me."
"But this...whatever happened to us could have been deadly. I don't..."
"I saw it coming, Robin, that huge wave thing blowing everything apart. I don't know how we avoided it, but we did. A little nap on the lawn with you, that's not a big price to pay for survival, is it?"
He folded his arms around her. "If anything had happened to you..."
"I'm fine. You're fine. Look around, darling. Everyone's fine."
"Would you like to go home now?"
"Will you come?"
"Yes, I need to be with you."
Muriel looked around. "I see the drive out but I don't know precisely where we are. How do we get back to the city?"
"I...I'm not sure." He went over to John Brennan and asked how they'd come then returned with a small smile to her. "It seems we are much, much closer than before."
"I don't understand this at all, Robin, but if that makes the westlands closer to where I live, then I'm grateful for it."
Jor-El and Klara joined the brothers in the waiting room.
“That was a fine show, Jor-El. We are indebted to you,” Nick said.
“Thank you, Mayor. The threat is gone and will not return.”
“How do you want to handle this with the press?” Cal asked.
“I do not want to handle it with the press,” Jor-El responded. “I intend to go home and continue my work.”
“That’s an admirable thing to aspire to, however the action at the airport went world-wide. I’m afraid your cover is blown, Jor-El. You’ll be hounded until you appear on camera to answer questions.”
Jor-El made a dismissive motion with his hand. “Not now, not today. I am going home.” He spotted Ed and his lady and moved away from Cal. “Ed, I think you have earned some time off. I appreciate your work today.”
“I’m ready for a little R&R. I don’t think we even got to drink that bottle of bubbly we bought for New Years.”
Jor-El smiled. “Take some time, as much as you need.” With that he took Klara’s hand and began working his way to the elevator. He decided to check once more on the brothers in emergency care before leaving.
Rusty walked up to Glen. "Come with me."
"But..." Glen protested.
With a sigh Glen let go of Glinda's hand. "I'll be right back."
Rusty walked around to the side of the house. "What did you see?"
"I...what do you mean?"
"In the sky, what did you see?"
"I didn't see anything but sky, Rusty."
"Then how come you were staring up?"
"I...it's hard to say. I guess I just...felt...something."
"It hurt to feel it?"
"Yes, right here." He put his hand on his chest.
"Like you were sick?"
"No, not like sick. Like...like..."
"Yes, missing something...someone."
"I miss Glinda when I'm not with her. Do you mean like that?"
"Yes, like that."
"That might be it," he nodded, "but I don't know what I could be missing."
"You really don't know?"
Glen's chin began to tremble. "I don't...Rusty, did I do something bad?"
"No, no, Glen, you didn't. I just need to know what you were feeling."
"If I wasn't with you, I'd miss you...and Jim and East and Egan. Can I go back to Glinda now?"
"Sure, kid. Go on."
Glen ran a few steps then turned. "Rusty, would you miss me?"
Rusty actually wasn't sure how to answer that. He sucked in a breath. "Yeah, I would."
Glen smiled. "Good!" Then he began running again.
Rusty walked to where the cars were parked, leaning against one of them. Was that the truth? Would he miss Glen? Was some part of him still uncertain about the boy? Resting his elbows atop the car, he buried his face in his hands. Was some part of him still uncertain about himself? What was he certain about? Was there anything?
DIRECTLY CONTINUED AS: CONSEQUENCES
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