by Amy Wolf
The doors opened with a suitably dramatic clang. Lex strolled past, ignoring them. After twenty-one years as a Luthor, he's grown immune to dramatic effect. The slamming doors, didn't impress him any more than five kinds of biometric scanners, or guards with automatic weapons.
What was in the room did.
The walls were lined with a luminescent green rock, casting an eerie light over the room. Inside the room was a lead box, about the size of a large walk-in closet. On the box was a door, with a small barred window. Peering through the window was what appeared to be a gaunt teenage boy, his skin looking green in the sickly light. The boy was what Lex had come to see.
"Taking an interest in the company, Lex? I suppose I should be pleased."
Lex turned and smiled as his father walked into the penthouse. "Good to see you, Dad. Would you like a drink?" He strolled over to the liquor cabinet, and poured a scotch for his father, and a cognac for himself.
"And it does show more intellectual capacity than your usual childish rebellions." Lionel accepted the drink without comment. "Even if it amounted to nothing more than childish rifling through a filing cabinet."
"I'm afraid I don't know what your talking about. Is Luthorcorps suffering from security problems?", Lex asked with mock sympathy.
"These childish computer intrusions of yours. With the trail you left, I can only hope you were trying to attract attention. That accomplished, they will stop. Game over, Lex" Lionel shot a warning glance over his drink.
Lex nodded. "Game over."
"That being settled, I have much to accomplish." Lionel set down his half finished scotch and made for the door.
"Dad, what's project Icarus?"
Lionel stopped in his tracks and turned around slowly. "I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about." His face carried the ghost of a smile.
"Project Icarus. A small, discreetly funded entity, with ties to some of Luthorcorps most cutting edge and important projects in the pharmaceuticals field, some of which edge on the impossible. It seemed to tie in heavily with something called Level Three in some crap factory. Either that's some spectacularly interesting manure, or..." Lex grinned, "You're sitting on a discovery that could shake the entire field of biology."
Lionel smirked. "That's quite an original hypothesis. What have you been taking?"
"In case you forgot, molecular biology is a bit of a hobby of mine. I did manage to pick up a degree in the subject. I found certain common threads in the projects, and I researched. At first guess I'd say you found a source of organic life that is radically genetically different than all known life on earth. Separate evolution, perhaps? A deep sea colony, like those volcanic bacteria?"
Lionel looked startled. Lex savored the moment.
"Supposing there was something to what you were saying. Why are you pursuing it? Blackmail to ensure I help you out of an embarrassing situation? Some new toy for you to play with like your endless stream of cars? Or do you simply intend to inconvenience me by going public with what you think you've found?" Lionel's voice was contemptuous but there was an appraising look in his eyes.
"I want in."
Lex sat down on the cheap folding chair they'd brought into the alien boy's cell. The boy sat on the folding cot that had obviously been functioning as a bed for a very long time. He was dressed in something that looked like sweatpants, but several stages older than any Lex has seen. Up close, the greenish tint to his skin was revealed to be more than a trick of the light, and occasionally imprints of dark green spider-veins would flicker across his skin. Aside from that he looked like a fourteen-year old; tall, with curly black hair, and a bony scrawniness that Lex would have a few people answer for.
"Who are you?" the boy asked warily, "A new doctor?" He sat with tension, like he was poised to bolt at the first wrong move.
"My name is Lex. Do you have a name?" The files said no name, no knowledge of the planet of origin, but Lex was uncertain how much of that was real and how much was a response to living conditions.
"A name? You mean like Dr. Miller and Dr. Loeb? No, everyone just says 'you'."
"We'll have to do something about that. Perhaps we can come up with something suitable. The reason I'm here is to evaluate how you've been kept, and to see if we can't take better care of you." The alien looked blank. "Tell me things you want to change and maybe I can."
"What kind of things?" The boy was confused and intrigued.
"I can't promise to fix everything, but tell me what you want and I will do what I can. For instance, do they give you enough food?" Lex asked, eyeing the boy's protruding ribs.
"They give me a lot of food, but I get sick now, and throw up most of it. The rocks make me sick, but I didn't used to throw up in here."
"Less rocks." Lex pulled out a notepad and pen and wrote it down. If the meteorites were proving toxic, there had to be a way to cut down on the exposure. He wouldn't be part of killing the first extraterrestrial that mankind ever found, an intelligent one at that.
"You can do that?" The boy's eyes went wide.
"I can do a lot of things. Anything else you'd like?"
"I hear you've stirred up quite a hornet's nest." Lionel smiled as Lex strode into the office.
"Some of the people there should be thrown in a hornet's nest. Having discovered an intelligent humanoid alien, they treat it like a bacteria colony. He was nearly poisoned from the meteors by the time I got there. What a ridiculous waste." Lex threw his notepad on the desk.
"You certainly seem passionate about this. So I take it you want to provide an exercise yard and the like?"
"Actually, I was planning on moving him outside the laboratory altogether. A residence could be made secure, perhaps the castle or something similar. You've pretty much exhausted the benefits of pure laboratory research, and I want to broaden the scope."
"Very ambitious. Inform me when you think you've devised suitable security." Lionel smiled smugly.
"One more thing." Lex tore off a page of the notepad. "The following individuals have molested the alien at some point since his discovery. I trust you will make appropriate arrangements." He picked up his notebook and strode away.
Lex left the facility with his head spinning. Between what he'd heard from the alien, and the files Dr. Miller showed him in an attempt to justify the current arrangements, the possibilities were almost overwhelming. Apparently, before they'd begin using the meteorites continuously, the alien had shown extremes of strength, speed, and resistance to injury far beyond human limits. And this was as a child. If the strength and speed grew at the same rate as humans, he would be unstoppable by now.
His whole life, Lex had been awaiting a battle with his father. It hovered like a storm cloud on the horizon, like the mounting tension that spread through Europe in 1914, waiting for a spark to set it off. He'd avoided it, faced with endless rigged power games, designed to highlight his weaknesses. Waiting for a move his father wouldn't anticipate.
He'd show the alien boy new possibilities. A degree of freedom, room to stretch his legs and see the sun. A chance to live as a person, and not a thing. The boy would become strong, and learn to use his strengths, and Lex would be there every step of the way. Kindness, every step of freedom, and limitless strength would all be brought by Lex. Pain, suffering and a locked cage would all be associated with Lionel. And when it was time to make his move, Lex would have an ally beyond the reckoning of mortal men.
Lex stepped outside, blinking into the blinding light of day.
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