Title: Produce (Nourishment: Second Helpings 11)
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
Feedback to: jfc@freeshell.org
Archive: Mailing list archives only--others please ask permission!
Category: Vignette, angst, Lex POV
Spoilers: Moving beyond season 3 as it should have been done
Rating: Y (for all audiences)
Pairing: Clark/Lex established relationship

Summary: The place where the secrets are kept

DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me. Smallville is the property of Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Tollin-Robbins Productions, and Warner Bros. Television, and based upon characters originally created by Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: All parts of "The Nourishment Series" and "Second Helpings", which precede this story, can be found elsewhere on this archive - Enjoy!

AUTHOR'S ADDENDUM: Taking a small notion from season 4...

DEDICATION: For Tiff, once again. Happy Birthday!

COPYRIGHT: (C) Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, November 17, 2005, jfc@freeshell.org

Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.



Clark cannot see this.

I'm deeply sorry that I had to see it, but it's done now, and I cannot change that. All I can do is try to do what I can to take care of it...

I had been working in my office in the city this morning when a pair of fellows in dark suits came in, escorting a woman in a lab coat.

"Mr. Luthor," she began, "I work on the 33rd floor, and hoped I could ask you for some help."

Glossing over her location for the moment, I snapped to attention at her request, as I always give preference to projects that benefit people. "I hope I can provide some help. What exactly did you need?"

She introduced herself as Dr. Wing, and the gentlemen accompanying her as the legal counsel and financial officer of her project. They started handing me reports and proposals and budgets as they spoke in turn without actually saying anything informative.

Eventually, I had to cut them off with a wave of my hand. "Excuse me. Just what are you asking me for, and for what division of LuthorCorp?"

The doctor paused, took a deep breath, and started over. "We need five million dollars to keep the 33rd floor up and running for the next three years."

"Five million? Precisely what is on the 33rd floor, and why does it cost so much to maintain?"

The lawyer spoke up again. "This was a special project of your father's, and given his current situation, we decided that we needed to approach you so we could continue our research."

He must have known that invoking the name of my father was sure to get my attention and sympathy. "Am I going to get some kind of prospectus or mission statement so I know just what your research entails?"

"If you would please come with us, I believe your questions will be answered." My curiosity was piqued. The finance officer led the way, and Dr. Wing waited until I rose from my chair and followed, trailing the lawyer behind us.

I was taken to the elevator and watched as they allowed the door to shut before Dr. Wing slipped her badge through a reader I hadn't previously noticed next to the button pad. A panel slid away, and she bent to let the machine scan her iris. Once she pushed a newly-visible button, the panel returned to its place, and the badge reader folded itself back into the wall.

Soon the elevator stopped, and we were deposited in a lobby I'd never seen before. I was issued a white Tyvek coverall with shoe coverings, gloves, and a hood with a clear face mask, and led into an airlock.

Inside the heavy door was a large chemistry lab. Tyvek-suited scientists measured samples with pipettes, operated autoclaves and centrifuges, and basically did all sorts of operations that looked immediately familiar to me. However, I could see that the material they were testing was that pure and clear green substance that I recognized as meteor rock.

Something about the place made me uneasy, and I couldn't pinpoint it at first. I was sure that I was not being exposed to unhealthy levels of the stuff, since I was wearing the same protective gear as the people who had their hands on it all day.

My hosts led me past the testing facility, near row upon row of filing cabinets. As I was hurried along, I could have sworn that more than three cabinets were labeled "K", where no other letter got more than a drawer or two. Did my eyes really rest for a split second on a tab reading "Kent"?

Then I was brought to this room. It is small, and dim, and filled with video monitors. On every screen, I see what I cannot believe and cannot deny...

Human subjects.

Each screen shows the interior of a cell, nicely decorated, comfortably-sized, but a cell nonetheless. Every cell appears to be the permanent residence of one of a laundry list of the criminals and unfortunates whose photos have appeared in the paper next to stories of superhuman feats and terrible powers. I have met a few of them, whether they were introduced to me as Clark's school friends or they threatened me without prior contact. On the monitors, they read books, sleep, type on computers, watch television, but do not interact with each other visibly, and I assume it is because they are considered dangerous, to themselves or the public.

Two larger monitors show rooms that could be physical therapy studios, but which are being used to test the skills of a couple of the facility's inmates. Fascinated and horrified, I watch one screen while a teenage girl shrinks and enlarges solid objects merely by touching them. The other screen might as well be showing a movie comedy where the researchers hustle to catch up with a man who is scampering across the ceiling.

"Are these people prisoners here?" I ask dumbly.

Dr. Wing is quick to explain. "We have a special agreement with the authorities at Belle Reve and the area police forces. Whenever someone has served his sentence but is unable to be rehabilitated into normal society, or is incapable of survival in the standard jail or outside world, he or she is brought here. We try to make it welcoming and provide for their every need, while studying what they can do and how certain factors have contributed to their conditions or can modify their skills."

We both understand the unspoken message that these people, possibly hand-selected by my father from the inmates at Belle Reve, have all been affected (or is it infected?) by meteor rocks, and that the scientists are not just measuring the quantity of poison they have received, but, in certain cases, administering more.

"Will they ever be released?"

She smiles condescendingly. "That is our ultimate goal, but right now we aren't sure what dangers that might present to them or to others. For the time being, security for the greatest number of people is our highest aim."

I think back on the damage that some of these people have done to me, my friends, and my hometown, and try to compare it to the horror of being unable to control one's situation and one's physical being. Have these people been sentenced to death, or is this laboratory the only thing keeping them alive and safe?

"We can count on your discretion, can't we?" the lawyer asks politely, requesting me to keep this whole travesty secret.

"Yes, yes--of course. My father had been financing this project before his arrest?" I inquire, trying to ignore the sharp pain growing behind my right eyebrow.

"Yes, sir," the financial officer answers humbly. "We estimate that the figure we showed you will keep us operating for the next three years."

"Five million, you said?" I pretend to struggle to recall. "Make it ten. I don't want these people to suffer any more than they have already."

Gloved hands grab onto mine and pump it in relief and gratitude. "Thank you, Mr. Luthor!" says the lawyer.

"We can't tell you how much this will mean to science!" exclaims Dr. Wing.

"If my father has started all of this, I can hardly leave these poor people with nothing, now, can I? I am more than happy to do what I can to help. I'll cut your department a check this afternoon."

I return to the airlock, the representatives bubbling with enthusiasm behind me. Stripping off the protective suit, I can think only of the stiff drink I intend to pour myself once I am back in my office. Perhaps I'll skip the ice... maybe even the glass...

With all of the meteor rocks in that place, Clark would be in grave danger were he ever to see an inch of the 33rd floor of LuthorCorp. If only I could assure myself that the rest of us weren't being endangered by its mere existence...



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