Superman: Dawnbreaker (DC Icons #4)(3)

Clark would never forget helping the driver from the wreckage. The man’s face had been as white as a sheet, his leg twisted grotesquely. Would he have even been hurt if Clark hadn’t stuck his nose in things? The question haunted Clark, and he’d promised himself to stop and think before physically intervening like that again.

But he could use his voice.

“Let him go, guys!” he shouted at his ex-teammates. “It’s not worth it!”

The man in brown backed right into an old truck before slipping between parked cars and running away.

Tommy turned to Kyle, grabbing his bloody arm and studying the cut. Paul huffed into the middle of the street to retrieve his backpack.

Clark cautiously followed the man in brown down the next block. He had to make sure he was really leaving, so no one got hurt. He stopped in his tracks when the guy began pounding his bare fists against the side of a beat-up white pickup truck while the driver cowered at the wheel. Clark stood there watching, absolutely baffled. What was wrong with this guy? And why was he beating on this one particular truck? It had just been innocently idling there at the side of the road. And the man was attacking it with a shocking ferocity, bloodying his fists in the process.

He turned suddenly and stalked back the other way, in the direction of Clark and the football players. Clark made a move to cut him off, but the man lunged toward the silver SUV instead, the one where the gray-haired businessman was waiting out the storm. The man in brown flung open the driver’s-side door, threw the businessman onto the street, and climbed in to start the engine.

Clark’s eyes widened with panic when the SUV lurched out of its parking spot and then sped forward, heading directly toward Paul, who was still kneeling in the street, zipping up his backpack.

“Look out!” Clark shouted.

Paul froze when he heard the screaming engine.

He was just kneeling there, a sitting duck.

Clark felt the familiar weightlessness of reaching warp speed.

His skin tingling and raw.

His throat closing as he bolted soundlessly into the street, eyes fixed on the SUV barreling down on Paul.

Clark instinctively calculated his angle, the speed of the SUV, and the potential for destruction. He dove at the last possible second. And as he tore through the air, he peered up into the crazed eyes of the man gripping the steering wheel, and he saw how lost the man was, how bewildered. In that instant, Clark understood this was an act that ran far deeper than he or anyone else could know.

Then came the bone-crushing impact.

As Mrs. Sovak droned on about the history of American labor at the front of the classroom, Clark watched Paul’s futile attempt to take notes left-handed. The poor guy’s entire right side was out of commission. His right arm was in an elaborate sling designed to help heal his dislocated shoulder and partially torn labrum.

Clark replayed the scene in his head for the hundredth time. How he’d collided with Paul at full speed. How they’d skidded across the wet pavement and into the tire of a parked van. For the past week he’d been trying to decide if there was a way he could’ve saved his ex-teammate without injury. But each time he thought about it, he came to the same conclusion: the violent tackle was unavoidable.

Wasn’t it?

The football team didn’t see it that way. Kyle and Tommy hadn’t spotted the SUV until it crashed into a retaining wall built to protect the new Mankins headquarters construction zone. And Clark hit Paul with such force that they had ended up clear on the other side of the street. So the other players didn’t understand how Paul could have been in any real danger in the first place. Especially when the police believed the Mankins construction site had been the man in brown’s intended target. Not that they could have asked the man himself. He was in a coma. And doctors didn’t expect him to survive.

Now some guys on the football team thought Clark had blasted Paul on purpose, out of jealousy. And maybe they were right. Not about the jealousy part, but it was possible the SUV wasn’t going to run over Paul.

Maybe Clark had miscalculated.

It felt like every time he tried to help, someone got hurt. And he came out looking like the bad guy.

As if the universe were trying to mock him, Clark now heard the faint crying sound of someone else who might need help. It was coming from a girl, he was pretty sure. But none of the female faces around him seemed the least bit upset.

Bored to tears, maybe, but not upset.

Mary Baker was smacking gum and covertly texting beneath her desk.

Olivia Goodman was biting her fingernails while staring longingly out the classroom window.

Sherry Miller was sketching some kind of dark unicorn scene in the margins of her poli sci textbook.

“Clark,” Lana Lang whispered beside him.

The crying sound reminded Clark of Paul’s quiet whimpering as the four of them watched a rescue crew use the Jaws of Life to free the man from the mangled SUV. Not only was Paul’s shoulder in bad shape, but the skin on his arm and the side of his face had been badly scraped up when he and Clark slid across the wet pavement.

Clark, of course, didn’t have a scratch.

Even his glasses, which had fallen off in the collision, had come out unscathed.

“Earth to Clark Kent,” Lana whispered more forcefully. “Dude, what’s your deal?”

This time he turned to look at his best friend. She was wearing the oval moonstone necklace her mom had given her on her sixteenth birthday and a T-shirt that read THE FUTURE IS FEMALE. Her red hair was pulled back into a ponytail, like it always was at school, and the closest thing to makeup she had on was lip balm.

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