Lionel brought in Garner when he learned about his experimental memory therapy. Lex tried to appear at least interested, if not eager while Garner explained the meteor-enhanced sensory deprivation tank designed to send people into deeper hypnotic trances faster to retrieve degraded or repressed memories. The equipment had already been transferred. After he'd seen it – and the diluted-meteor plasma they wanted to submerge Clark in – Lex politely excused himself and asked to speak to Lionel.
"Exciting, isn't it?" Lionel grinned as he shut the door to his private office behind them. "Kal-el was likely too young to consciously remember much of his home planet. Even if he did, he probably wouldn't tell us, I suppose. But with Dr. Garner's help, the memories will flow for him and for us. Maybe he'll even remember why he was originally sent here."
"Exciting," Lex repeated. "Have you lost your mind? That plasma is made of meteor rock! You put Clark in that, it could kill him. And what were you thinking bringing Garner into this? He knows who Clark is. More than that, he has a personal vendetta against him for springing his last experiment." Lex realized he was getting too emotional, and tried to pull himself together. Lionel had already gone far too quiet for comfort. "I thought we were agreed that endangering Clark was against our interests in him. Garner is too much of a risk."
"His personal agenda will make Garner less likely to succumb to a fit of conscience and tell the police where the Kent boy is," Lionel argued. "Besides, even if he knows who Clark is, he doesn't know what he is."
"Well, he's going to catch on pretty quick when Clark starts spouting off about his first ride in a spaceship," Lex bit back. "That's assuming, of course, that he isn't irreparably harmed on contact with that slime."
"Lex, relax," Lionel stood in front of him and squeezed his shoulders. "The solution is diluted down to 15 or less. His sessions won't last for more than thirty minutes at a time. We'll be monitoring him very closely the entire time. And just imagine all the new ground we'll be breaking."
"It is tempting," Lex admitted. "Okay, but put it off for a few days. I want to be here to observe when it happens, and Mr. Kent's surgery is tomorrow. I'll be expected to help Mrs. Kent."
"Of course, you have to keep up appearances," Lionel agreed. He checked the day-planner on his desk. "Especially with the Ross debacle. What about Sunday? Will that be too soon?"
"Monday would be better," Lex suggested. "Around 3:00? That way I'll be free for any evening invitations, but can plead business complications if something comes up during the afternoon. I'll work it in over the weekend that I'm easing back into work at LuthorCorp."
"Perfect," Lionel grinned. "But you should probably make yourself available until then. Maybe pay Judge Ross a visit. And…stay close to Martha. Make sure she's taken care of."
It was sickening. Only a man like Lionel was vulgar enough to move in on a grieving mother even as he was planning to torture her son. But Lex was also concerned for Martha. With her husband in the hospital and her son out of reach, he wouldn't add to her burden by telling her what was going to happen.
Jonathan's surgery went off without a hitch. He was safely in recovery after just a few hours. He'd have to stay in the hospital for a few days. Lex stayed with Martha at the hospital until Jonathan woke up and told them both to go home. Then he drove her back to the farm and stayed a while longer. He stopped by intermittently all weekend to keep her company and reassure her. He promised that Clark was still safe, he and Jonathan would both be home soon, and everything was going to be okay. He never once mentioned Dr. Garner or the upcoming experiment.
Sunday evening, Lex was worried sick. He was on his third glass of brandy – he'd lost his taste for scotch – imagining all the secrets that Clark might lose tomorrow under Dr. Garner's less than tender care. He'd been so sure he would be able to protect Clark's secrets, at least from everyone but Lionel. His setup with Virgil Swann was working perfectly. None of the local doctors or techs knew what was really going on with their patient. But tomorrow Clark was going to be shouting out his secrets for all to hear. Even if Lionel's arrest went off without a hitch, how could Lex protect Clark from Dr. Garner?
Fortunately, luck was finally back on Clark's side. Lex's drink was interrupted by a phone call from the FBI. They were just about ready to move on Lionel. The agent said they were going to set the sting up for later in the week, but Lex bullied and bribed until he got them to push it up to the next day.
"Trust me," Lex said. "If you can make it in tomorrow, you'll catch Lionel in the middle of some pretty incriminating stuff. You'll have so many charges to throw at him, even he won't be able to duck them all."
The next morning, Lex was there to oversee every single detail of the experiment. He watched while they set up the machines and demanded explanations for every switch, cathode, and gear. Dr. Garner's dislike of Lex was increasing exponentially, but Lex was far from concerned. Nothing Dr. Garner felt could come close the Lex's own loathing. He just prayed the feds would show up and interrupt this freak show before Clark revealed something too dangerous.
Clark was already drugged when the orderlies half-carried him in. The exposure to the liquid-meteor, no matter how diluted, was clearly causing him pain. Lex watched as they stripped his friend down to a pair of shorts, laid out on a cold metal grate, and lowered into the tub of green glowing water.
"Let's begin," Dr. Garner smirked and pressed the set sequence of buttons. "This will begin stimulating Clark's neural synapses. Forgotten or repressed memories should rise to the surface. I'm going to take him back as far as I can go and then we'll work our way forward from there. The memories will most likely be spontaneous, at least at first, but I'll be asking him questions to try and guide them along. The medication should make him very talkative, so cooperation won't be a problem."
"Just hurry it along, all right?" Lex said uneasily. Clark was still obviously in a great deal of discomfort. "I want him to be looked over as soon as we get him out of that goo, make sure there aren't any negative side-effects."
"We have to wait for the first memory to surface," Dr. Garner scowled. "Patience."
In the tank, Clark's internal conversation wasn't nearly as calm or civil as the strained dialogue going on above him. His mind was swirling with thoughts, feelings, and images that danced before his eyes and then vanished before he could get a grip on them. He was getting sicker by the moment and his body was starting to jerk and twitch, like each passing memory was a physical blow. Finally, the whirlpool slowed and Clark was dropped into the memory Dr. Garner had dug up.
He was very small, wrapped in a blanket, and tucked into a cozy sort of pod. He was in the ship! And two people were standing over him. Part of his mind recognized one of the faces as Jor-el's and recoiled, but most of him was completely unconcerned. He was far more interested in the lady stroking his wispy hair. She was beautiful. Her hair was a purple-black color Clark had never seen before, not naturally anyway, but it was clearly her own. Her eyes were like amethysts. Everything about her was wonderful and warm and Clark was overwhelmed with love, both from her and for her. This was his mother.
His birth parents were talking to each other in a language Clark couldn't understand word for word, but at the same time he knew what they were saying. His mother…Lara; that was her name, Lara. She didn't want to send him away. She was afraid for him. She was afraid nobody would be there to love him the way she did. Jor-el was insisting that there was no other way. The baby would die if he stayed there with them. Lara knew this and accepted it, but she could not accept that he would be alone. It was hard enough knowing that he would be different from all around him, an outcast in the only home he'd ever know. Jor-el put his hands around her waist and whispered words of comfort. They wouldn't allow that to happen, he told her. Kal-el would never be alone.
Then, suddenly, the memory began to fade. Maybe it was the way the machine worked. Maybe baby Kal-el had fallen asleep. Clark didn't know and he didn't care. He wanted the memory back. He wanted to see his mother. His eyes shot open and he started to scream with all his might.
"Lara!" Clark cried desperately. It was so sudden and so heartbroken it jarred everyone in the room. But Clark wasn't aware of the room around him. He didn't hear Dr. Garner calling down to him from the platform. He reached out his arms as if he could pull the images back to him. "Lara! Lara!"
"Who's Lara, Clark?" Dr. Garner repeated louder. Clark ignored him and kept on screaming.
"Get him out of there," Lex ordered. Nobody moved. They were too busy staring at Clark. "Get him out!" Lex shouted. "Now!" He turned and glared at his father. "I told you this was a bad idea. Stop this, now."
Lionel was about to argue, but the sound of splashing drew their attention quickly back to the tank. Clark was going into convulsions. Lionel started barking orders and Dr. Garner was hurrying to lift Clark out of the tank again, but they were both too slow for Lex. He leapt down to the main level, grabbed a metal chair out from under one of the technicians, and smashed one of the glass walls of the tank. The green liquid rushed out around his feet, soaking his shoes and pants. Clark was strapped down to the metal grate, so the current didn't pull him out.
"It's all right, Clark," Lex murmured. He reached into the tank and started to release the restraints. "I'll get you out of there. This is all over now. I promise."
But Clark wasn't comforted by Lex's words. The memories were gone. His mother was gone and so was the warmth and safety she'd provided. Clark was shivering and afraid again, and it was because of Lex.
Lex promised to protect him. Instead, he'd brought him to this horrible place. Lex promised Clark could trust him, but then he helped Lionel experiment on him. And now he had the gall to stand there and make more promises, more of the same lies. It made Clark angry, even angrier than he'd ever been wearing the red meteor ring. And without the meteor solution swirling around his body and the poison waning in his veins, Clark was finally in a position to do something about it.
As soon as his last leg was free, Clark kicked Lex right in the stomach and sent him hurtling across the lab. Before anyone could stop him Clark crawled out of the tank, cutting his hands on the broken glass, and bolted for the door. One of the techs tried to stop him. Clark's strength wasn't fully back yet – he was still dripping from the meteor solution – but he was strong enough to knock the man down and out of the way.
"Clark!" Somebody was screaming after him. "Clark!"
Clark barreled through the corridors, trying to work up to his usual speed but unable to get above a fast-albeit-human run. An alarm started to blare. Clark he didn't know where to turn next. Everything looked the same: grayish walls, locked doors, and no windows. He gave himself a migraine forcing his eyes to focus so he could see through the walls and nearly wept with relief when he was able to do so; he'd been afraid the whole building might be reinforced with lead, but apparently it was just Clark's cells. Unfortunately, nothing Clark was seeing indicated a way out, only a mass of people coming from multiple directions to recapture him.
He ran down the only clear hall, but he could hear footsteps coming from all directions. There were doors, and he tried each one until he found an open one and ducked inside. He quickly locked it behind him and fell to the floor, leaning against a filing cabinet on the far wall. But before he could even catch his breath, people started banging on the door.
"Mr. Kent?" a man's voice called. "Clark? We know you're in there, son. Come on and open the door now." When Clark didn't answer, the banging started again, like they were trying to break the door down with their shoulders.
Clark shakily got to his feet and prepared for a struggle. He was already starting to feel a bit stronger now, and to hell with hiding his powers! What did it matter anymore? Whoever came through that door wasn't going to get the benefit of Clark's restraint; he wasn't going back without a fight.
The door fell off its hinges with a loud crack and three men with dark suits and drawn guns climbed in over it. However, they lowered their weapons when they saw Clark. When they approached, Clark flinched back and raised his fists.
"It's okay, kid," one of them said. "You're safe now. We're here to help you." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a badge. "We're FBI, Clark. We're here to bring you home. Lionel Luther is already in custody, as is a Dr. Garner. We're rounding up the staff to be sorted out later, but you don't have to worry about any of that. Just come with us, and we'll get you out of here and back home to your family. It's all over now."
Suddenly, Clark's limbs felt very heavy. He slumped forward, and the other two agents hurried to catch him. With soothing voices and careful movements, they half-carried him out of the room and through the halls. Occasionally they passed other agents or police officers and detained Luthorcorp personnel. When they finally reached the outer lobbies of the facility and Clark felt the sun through the windows, he began to grasp what was happening.
"It's really over?" Clark asked, standing a little straighter and walking a bit more easily on his own. "I'm going home?"
"That's right," the agent on his left said. They opened the doors and Clark pulled out of their hands in his hurry to get outside. He looked straight at the sun, the way kid's were told never to do, and breathed in deep. He instantly felt 100 better and couldn't stop smiling, even though he felt like he was going to cry. But the agents were pulling on his arms and leading him to the side of the building.
"Come on, kid," one said. "The press will be here soon to see Luthor get taken in. We don't want them getting a crack at you just yet."
Clark looked around sharply, but Lionel was still inside the facility locked in an office and being guarded by other agents. They could have left with him for the Metropolis offices already, where a team of lawyers was undoubtedly waiting, but they wanted to give the press a nice picture for the evening news.
"Here, kid," one of the agents sat him down on a set of concrete steps leading away from a fire exit. It was out of the way, but close enough to the officers for him to get help if he needed it. "You just take a minute to relax. Stay here. We'll come get you when it's time to go. As soon as the ambulance gets here, we'll take you in and make sure you're okay."
He left to go help his colleagues. Clark sat with his head in his hands and tried to slow his own thoughts down to something manageable. He didn't notice the door open behind him or the footsteps on the stairs until someone grasped his shoulder. When he recognized the pale, hairless hand he leapt to his feet and slammed Lex into a wall with his forearm against his throat.
"Clark!" Lex choked and clawed at the arm restraining him. "Clark, stop it! Let me explain!"
"Explain?" Clark barked. "You think I care about your explanations, you sonofabitch?"
"Clark," Lex pleaded. He held onto Clark's hand as tight as he could, trying to pry him off and hold him there at the same time. "Please, listen to me. Your parents…"
"Don't you talk about them!" Clark snapped. "I trusted you! With my life, with my family's lives! How could you do this to me? How could you let him get me?"
Clark shoved Lex back against the wall again, but it wasn't hard. Lex knew if Clark really wanted to, he could put him through the concrete. In spite of everything, Clark still didn't want to hurt him.
"You let him get me," Clark murmured. "You were supposed to be my friend."
"I am your friend, Clark," Lex insisted. "I'll always be your friend."
"You are not my friend!" Clark shouted. He was starting to draw the attention of the police, but Lex waved them off. Clark was too upset to notice and realize that the police saw Lex and still weren't arresting him along with the others.
He was going to be alone. It was already starting. He had no friends left. Chloe conned him. Lex betrayed him. And Pete…Oh no, Pete! How could he have forgotten? Before Lex could get another excuse out, Clark bolted around the corner out of sight and took off at full speed, heading for the hospital.
"Clark!" Lex screamed after him, but it was too late. He was gone.