Thursday, May 10, 2007
The End of Dreams
2: The End of Love
3: The End of Innocence
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Freak Out, Part 1
"But when I see you? I see something no man can ever be. I see the end. The end of our potential. The end of our achievements. The end of our dreams."
- Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, Brian Azzarello
"Did it ever occur to you that maybe the hero of the story... is Segeeth?"
-Lex Luthor, "Talisman"
Lex Luthor hated freaks.
Before he came to Smallville, Kansas, the world had seemed much simpler. He'd been young then, and his plan had been simple: Get a degree, do the necessary grub work, move up in his father's company, LuthorCorp, and eventually wrest LuthorCorp from his father. Simple, straightforward, and old-fashioned.
He'd supposed that being the head of LuthorCorp would make him the most powerful man in Metropolis, and one of the most powerful men in the world.
But he hadn't counted on the freaks.
He stalked down the metal-walled corridor of one of his facilities, glancing at the imprisoned freaks as he passed. One woman huddled dismally in the corner of a tiny, drab cell, creating little fires and extinguishing them, over and over again. Another freak sat on the edge of his bunk, a forcefield of pure energy shimmering around him. Still another stood at the bars of his cell, vanishing as Lex passed, only to reappear again a second later.
Power wasn't what he'd imagined it was, when he was younger and more naive. He'd thought power meant money, control, influence over other people's lives. But the freaks possessed raw, pure power such as he could never dream of, power he could never possess. They could do impossible things, accomplish amazing, miraculous feats... and they didn't even have to work at it. Their power came naturally, without any effort whatsoever. Their power was an integral part of them.
No matter how hard he worked and struggled and dreamed, he would never have that sort of power. It was something a normal person could never, ever aspire to.
And as if that weren't bad enough, there were so damn many of them. When the freak phenomenon had first been brought to his attention-- ironically, due to the writings of one Chloe Sullivan-- he'd assumed there were only a few freaks out there. Isolated occurrences. But as he studied the problem further, he'd uncovered hundreds of them in Smallville. Hundreds of freaks with unimaginable power, hundreds of freaks who could hurt and kill innocent people without ever being caught at it. Hundreds of freaks who could accomplish miracles.
Hundreds of freaks who had to be stopped, at any cost.
As he spent a small portion of his vast fortune on this venture, he was appalled to discover it wasn't merely a local phenomenon. He'd originally assumed the problem was confined to Smallville, because the freaks in the area had almost all been caused by the two meteor showers, which had rained alien rocks onto the Earth and caused genetic mutations of varying types.
But his people had discovered other freaks elsewhere in the world. A kid who'd developed impossible speed as a result of a lightning strike. A young man who could swim incredibly fast and who needed exposure to water once an hour, for no reason that Lex's scientists had been able to discover. A shapeshifter disguising himself as an ordinary police detective, but whose real appearance was horrifyingly alien. A young woman with a host of abilities, impossibly strong and fast and able to fly, who claimed that her powers were gifts of the gods.
There were freaks everywhere, freaks whose powers made humans utterly obsolete. If humanity as a whole learned of these freaks, people would slowly begin to realize their inferiority and give up, surrendering power to the freaks. Lex could see it in his mind's eye in clear, horrifying detail, could see humans everywhere giving up their desire for accomplishment, their need to better themselves. Giving up the world.
Lex had no intention of letting that happen.
Thus he'd begun a program of capturing freaks, with the intention of studying them, learning how their powers worked, and reproducing those powers. And then, once his people had learned everything they could, each freak would be removed from society permanently. Or, to put it in blunter terms, killed.
His top scientist had objected to this policy, diffidently.
"Mr. Luthor," he'd said, his voice very polite and very soft. "Surely there is no need to kill these people."
"They aren't people, Dr. Raston. They're freaks."
"Yes. Well." Dr. Raston had cleared his throat. "It's true that their DNA has mutated, but they're nevertheless human."
"No." Lex had very strong feelings on this subject, and he let his voice rise, just a bit. "They're not human at all, not any more. They're creatures, Dr. Raston. Nothing more. They pose a serious danger to humanity, and they must be eradicated once we've learned everything we can from them."
"But if the mutations could simply be reversed somehow--"
"We can't take that risk." Lex took a step forward and glared into the other man's eyes, trying to convey how deeply he felt about this. "Humanity is depending on us, Dr. Raston. We can't waver in our resolve. We have to do whatever it takes to protect the world. Whatever it takes."
Whatever it takes. Those words echoed in his mind as he paused at the last cell and looked in. A small blonde woman sat on the bunk, her head in her hands. He'd known her since she was fourteen, and he still thought of her as a kid, even though she was twenty now. He hated seeing her confined this way, and a brief sensation of remorse brushed over his mind, because she looked very fragile and helpless.
He pushed the remorse away, because she was no more helpless than the rest of them. She was a freak, and that meant she was dangerous.
At any rate, she didn't deserve his compassion. No matter how much he admired Chloe Sullivan, no matter how much he'd always enjoyed sparring with her verbally, she was a freak. And that meant she was subhuman.
"Lex." She didn't bother to look up. Obviously she'd recognized his footsteps against the metal flooring. "Let me out of here. Please."
"I warned you what would happen if you tried to publish that article, Chloe." He hesitated, then added, "I'm sorry."
At that, she lifted her head and glared at him, her tangled golden hair falling lankly around her face. There were dark circles under her eyes, and several purple bruises on her cheek, marring her clear, pale complexion. "You are not," she snarled, her voice dripping venom. "You're not sorry at all."
"Let me rephrase, then," he said. "I'm sorry it has to be this way."
"It doesn't have to be this way." She stood up and stalked across her cell to the bars. He noticed she was walking with a slight limp. Obviously she'd been trying to escape again, and had run afoul of the guards. "You could just let me go, Lex."
"After that article you tried to print, about LuthorCorp and its so-called crimes against humanity? I don't think so."
"I didn't have a choice, Lex. What you're doing here-- it's horrifying."
"No." He sighed. "The problem is, Chloe, you're wrong. What I'm doing here is endeavoring to protect humanity, not to harm it."
"You're experimenting on human beings!"
"No." He shook his head firmly. "I'm experimenting on freaks. I have to discover what creatures like you are capable of, in order to protect Smallville, and Metropolis, and the world."
"Oh, so now I'm a creature. Nice."
"I understand you didn't want to become something less than human," Lex said. "But whether you want to admit it or not, you're not human any more. And you're a danger to society."
She looked up at him, her eyes pleading. "I don't want to hurt anyone, Lex. I've never tried to hurt anyone."
"It's not a matter of hurting anyone deliberately, Chloe. You hurt humanity just by existing. You freaks have powers beyond anything we're capable of. Christlike powers. Control over life and death, over matter and energy. And in the long run, that will destroy us. If humans as a whole were to learn of the existence of these freaks-- it would shatter our ambition, crush our aspirations." He stared at her intently. "That's why that article you wrote couldn't be printed. Not because it would hurt LuthorCorp, but because it would hurt the world. It would utterly destroy humanity to know for certain that there are creatures like you among us."
"I'm not a creature," she whispered. "And I didn't ask to be this way."
"I know you never asked for this, Chloe. But it's what you are. A danger to humanity." He looked at her, trapped behind iron bars, and his voice lowered. "A danger that has to be contained."
He turned his back on her and walked to the big metal door at the end of the corridor. He opened it and walked through it, and it clanged shut behind him with the finality of an exclamation point.
Seated at a desk behind a bank of monitors, Dr. Raston looked up and offered a hesitant half smile. He was a small, dark-haired man with glasses and crooked teeth, his nerdy appearance an honest reflection of the man within. He was also easily intimidated, a trait Lex valued in his employees. "We've completed the special cell," he said.
"Good," Lex said. "You're certain he won't be able to escape?"
"Not if you're right about the meteor rocks."
"I'm right." Lex thought about the day he and Clark Kent had been trapped together in a cave-in. He'd seen how Clark reacted, with pain and weakness, when meteor rocks rained down on his head. Since Lex had once slammed a sharp chisel into Clark's side and only succeeded in crumpling it, he'd had no trouble drawing the reasonable conclusion: Clark was usually invulnerable to injury, but meteor rocks weakened him somehow, making it possible for him to be hurt. After they'd escaped the cave-in, he'd watched Clark closely, and seen the way his bruises and cuts just faded away when he left the vicinity of the meteor rocks.
Lex blew out a long breath. Clark Kent had once been his best friend, the only person who'd truly believed in him, the person he'd loved and admired more than any other. But they'd drifted apart, due to philosophical differences as well as the fact that they'd both been in love with the same woman. Despite everything that had gone wrong between them, though, he still had residual affection for the kid, and he hated the necessity of what he was about to do.
But he had to. Because if meteor freaks were a danger to humanity, then Clark represented a much greater threat. Lex knew enough about Clark that he was now certain his former friend was a freak on a grand scale. He had to be captured, his abiities explored in a thorough, scientific manner, and finally he had to be dispensed with. Because Lex knew in his gut that Clark was a greater danger to humanity than any other freak on the planet.
And fortunately for humanity, he finally knew Clark's weaknesses. Meteor rocks... and Chloe Sullivan.
"Are the men in place?" he asked Dr. Raston.
Raston nodded. "They're ready, and they all have meteor rocks."
"Good." Lex hesitated, just a second longer, then pulled his cell phone from his pocket and pressed a button.
"Clark," he said tersely. "I know you've been freaking out, and looking everywhere for Chloe. I wanted to let you know I'm holding her prisoner at one of my facilities. We've been experimenting on her..."
He broke off with a wry twist of his mouth as the phone went dead in his ear. "He's on his way," he told Raston.
"Can he track a cell phone signal?"
"Yes. Our Miss Sullivan has taught him a thing or two. He'll figure out where I am pretty quickly, and come running."
"If he's that smart, he's not going to be stupid enough to walk right into a trap like this, is he?"
"To rescue Chloe Sullivan? Trust me, Raston. He'd jump right into hellfire to save her."
"Then I guess he's headed for the right place, all right."
Raston spoke under his breath, but Lex heard him anyway. He bristled, but decided it was best to just ignore the scientist's comment. He was aware Raston didn't always approve of his methods, but Lex really didn't care. He was doing his utmost to save humanity, and he damn well wasn't going to let anyone's bleeding heart stand in his way.
And today, he was finally going to capture the biggest threat humanity had ever known. He still wasn't quite sure what Clark Kent was, wasn't sure whether his powers were caused by meteor rocks or something else entirely, but he knew the kid was fast, powerful, and almost invulnerable.
Clark represented everything Lex feared, everything that would drain the hope and ambition from humanity if allowed to go unchecked. He had to be stopped.
And Lex was going to be the one to stop him.
Lex was going to save the world, because that was what Lex always did. He'd spent the last few years working quietly toward that end, not asking for glory or recognition, not asking for anything but the satisfaction of knowing he was helping his fellow man.
He'd given up his youthful ambitions of power, given up his dreams of ruling the world from the penthouse atop LuthorCorp Tower. Everything he did wasn't about business any more, or even about his power struggles with his father, because he knew now that there were more important things for him to accomplish. Because Lex Luthor was no longer just a billionaire and a businessman.
Lex Luthor was humanity's savior.
Read Part 2, The End of Love.
Posted by Meg at 6:51 AM