Eyes Wide Open
Not a lot escapes my vision. But sometimes I can be so blind.
Now, that's a hard thing for a guy with ten different kinds of super-sight to admit, but it's the truth.
I can see everything except what goes on inside people's hearts.
This all started the day Lex Luthor returned to Smallville.
Coincidentally, that was also the same day I came home myself, having just completed my freshmen year at the University of Metropolis. Go Bulldogs!
Ma was really excited to see me since, even though it only takes a minute for me to travel between Smallville and Metropolis, I hadn't really been back to see her in a while. She understands, she always understands. Plus, she's busy running the Smallville General Store.
I just wanted to get a feel for living on my own, in the big city. Make some new friends, like Ducky Ginsberg and T.J. White. Meet some new girls, like Lori Lemaris.
I can't get started on that, or I'll be in an even worse mood.
The point is that I just wanted a chance to be normal. Or to pretend to be normal anyway. And coming back to Smallville, with all its memories, good and bad, would have undone a lot of that.
I miss Pa.
However, the big city does afford me many opportunities to shed my "geek chic" exterior and stretch my legs running around town, literally. It seems like someone is always robbing a bank in Metropolis. Or trying to blow one up.
I don't fly in the city. It's the one thing I miss. Whenever trouble pops up, I stick to running, occasionally I'll leap. I just feel like I'd be a bigger target if I spent all day in the sky. Especially after people started noticing, like they always do. They're calling me the mysterious "Red-Blue Blur." Luckily no one has made the connection between the Blur and the "Midwestern Superboy."
I've always been grateful that I was never too closely associated with Smallville in my other life. There towards the end of high school I made a conscious effort to move outside my comfort zone, helping people in other states and not just in my own backyard. Can you imagine if both Superboy and Clark Kent came from Smallville AND moved to Metropolis at the same time? That would be too much.
That said, however, both Pete and Lana know.
I know they know, but they don't know I know they know. Like I said, not a lot escapes my vision.
Pete figured it out way back, but never told me. He was actually pretty helpful, covering my backside when my disappearances got to be too conspicuous. Which was a huge help when Lana finally caught on. I guess I saved her life once too often. After a while I began to wonder if she wasn't deliberately throwing herself into danger just so she could catch me saving her. It was a little annoying, but I can't say I didn't enjoy the attention.
So Lana knew, but she could never prove it. And Pete knew, but he never told anyone, including me. So it seemed like everyone I cared about in Smallville knew what I could do.
Ironically, the only person to never figure it out was Lex Luthor, the smartest guy I've ever met and the only person who tried harder than Lana to uncover the mystery of Superboy. Fate's a funny thing, sometimes.
My friendship with Lex was a tragedy from the start.
Lex and I had initially bonded over our shared sense of isolation. Even though his mother was born in Smallville, he was from the big city, I was from another planet. He was smarter than everyone around him. I had powers and abilities far beyond those of other men. We both knew that there was a fine line between being special and being strange in the eyes of others. We accepted each other.
But even with that, there was a darkness to Lex that never sat right with me. The way he would talk about the people of Smallville sometimes, like they were ants compared to him, it disturbed me.
Even with all my powers, I never felt like I was better than anyone. I saw my abilities as belonging to the world, and I had a duty to share them with whoever needed help. I tried to convince Lex to see his intelligence in the same light. It never took.
So when Lana started spending a lot of time with him, joining his crusade in the hopes that it would lead her to Superboy, I was worried. Lex was a powder keg and I just prayed that Lana didn't get caught in the blast.
Poor Lex, I don't think anyone ever understood him. Not Lana. Not even me.
And I've been lucky. Since our time together, I've discovered all about my heritage and who I am. I've even met others with powers like mine. Mon-El and Krypto.
And then there's the Ring.
It sits on my finger, hard to see sometimes. Like it's behind some kind of perception filter, meant to keep it hidden me. But like I said, there's not a lot that escapes my eyes. A little golden ring, engraved with a single "L" and a star. Whenever I try to look at it too hard, something clicks in my brain, telling me to stop. I get this sense, like the kind you get when a pretty girl smiles at you, and I can almost hear her asking me to please keep my promise to not unlock the ring's secrets.
I trust her. But for some reason, the ring means something to me. A sense of companionship, like the kind I felt around Mon-El before he left, or around Krypto.
My point is that I don't think Lex has ever felt that way.
Which makes what I did to him all the more painful to bear.
When Lex left Smallville, it was amid scandal. The explosion at his house went unexplained, but many people thought Lex was trying to build a bomb. He seemed like the type. Isolated, brooding teenage loner. We've all seen how that story can end.
But apparently the military didn't care. They got wind of the caliber of Lex's inventions, and they wanted him on their payroll. So they moved Lex and his mother Lilian out and pretty much salted the earth where the old Luthor house had stood. Pete says that kids think the property is haunted.
I looked the place over with my x-ray vision after the event, and I never saw anything dangerous in the wreckage. Just some old pieces of machinery, some of the lead shielding blocking my sight.
So it was something of a surprise when Lex returned to that very spot, almost appearing out of nowhere all alone without his military escort, saying that he had come to claim something that belonged to him.
I was pretty worried what that something might be. But I had a pretty good guess what Lex was after. The device that had caused the explosion in the first place.
The Phantom Zone Projector.
A dangerous piece of technology that must have been sent with me in my rocket ship from Krypton. Somehow it got separated and lost. Lex told me that voices had led him out into the woods one night to find it. My guess is that the voices belonged to the inhabitants of the Phantom Zone. Krypton's worst and most violent criminals. According to my text book on Kryptonian history, the death penalty didn't exist on Krypton, so their criminals were exiled to a place that is untranslatable to me. Lex called it the Phantom Zone, and I can't argue that it's not a fitting name.
How Lex managed to deduce the device's purpose and actually reconstruct it I'll never know. The book says that sometimes people could hear the voices of the Zone's prisoners whispering to them in the night. But something bad happened that night, and afterward I took possession of the Projector and hid it on the farm. I've only used it once since then.
But before heading off the college, I took all the wild artifacts and weapons I had accumulated over the years off the farm and hid them away up north in the frozen Arctic, under a mountain I hollowed out.
So if that was what Lex was looking for, I knew he wouldn't find it.
But Lex was determined, like always. Although he had come alone, he brought with him all kinds of hi-tech devices. Some looked to be his own invention and others looked to be stolen from the military. He dug through the earth, uncovering item after item, tossing each aside disgusted.
Lana didn't want anything to do with Lex, and Pete didn't blame her. He never came out and said it, but several times he commented to me that "someone" should do something to stop Lex before he blew up half of Smallville again.
I tried talking with him, like always. But he just ignored me. I think everyone in Smallville was invisible to him by this point.
I began to get paranoid. Even though I had taken a thorough look before, now I couldn't help but think that perhaps something was hidden in one of the lead containers. Something dangerous, something powerful. I just prayed it wasn't more Kryptonite. Lex can trip and find pieces of that stuff in the dirt.
So I did something drastic. I know, whenever I do, something terrible happens. But I let Lex and his weird obsessions slide once before and regretted it. I didn't want to take the chance.
So one night, while Lex was asleep in his car, I hovered over the site and using my telescopic and x-ray visions, I blasted everything under the ground with heat vision. Turning it all to chunks of rock.
The next morning, I found Lex standing over one of the smoking craters. He almost chuckled when he saw me approach. Pointing to the holes in the ground, he smiled and said "Tell Lana. Superboy's been here."
Lex always believed that Superboy was real, and that he went out of his way to ruin Lex's inventions. While it was true this time, I've often wondered how many things have gone wrong in Lex's life since he left Smallville that he still blamed on Superboy.
It was a locket.
That's what Lex was looking for. It belonged to his mother, and she kept it in a small fire-proof security safe in the house that was lost in the explosion all those years ago. It was very precious to her. Lex told me that she had passed away the previous week, and he just wanted something to remember her by.
I looked so hard, but all I could find were the chunks of metal I had created with my damn eyes. Lex left Smallville empty handed.
Now, maybe to you that doesn't sound like that big a deal. But you have to understand, I've lost parents before. My Pa had died not too long before that, and of course, I had lost an entire planet along with my birth parents.
I was keenly aware of the pain I had caused Lex. I let my suspicion get the best of me. I went around in circles for days, feeling guilty, then being angry at Lex for being so secretive in the first place, but then remembering that I was so willing to believe the worst about him. It went on and on.
Eventually I realized that, even though I can see and hear everything, I don't always understand. I don't really know people. I'm too naive. And that naivety combined with my kind of power is dangerous.
I'm taking some time off from school. I know, it may sound drastic, but it's not. It's something I had considered for a while, take some time and travel. See more of the real world. Meet people. It was something that Pa always thought I should do. Ma wanted me to get my education first.
I have memorized every book I've ever read, but there are some things they just don't teach in schools. Besides, it'll still be there when I get back.
I told Lana and Pete my secret. The whole of it, Krypton and everything. I didn't want to keep secrets like Lex. I told them separately. Pete out in the barn and Lana up on a hill. Pete shook my hand, Lana kissed me.
Ma understood. She always understands.
Before I left, I searched every house in Smallville, and the public records at the Library. I found these old photos of Lex's mother, from when she was about our age. I tracked Lex to down to the hotel he was staying at between here and wherever he was heading. I left them in his car, inside an envelope that says "From Smallville." I certainly don't deserve any credit or kudos. I don't think it makes up for what I did. But hopefully it'll ease some of Lex's pain. I know how much good the pictures of my parents have done me.
I'm blind, and I can admit that. But my eyes see a little better now. I suppose that's a start.
I've spent the last 18 years learning how to use my powers, but now I think it'll take a few more for me to learn how I SHOULD use them.
Besides, traveling across America, maybe even outside of it, life on the road should be interesting. If nothing else, it should teach me a few things you can't learn in books. Like how to truly listen, and see into people's hearts.
Again, attempting to combine several different versions of history into one whole.
I chronicled Lex's time in Smallville in my short story, "Lex Luthor: Tall Tales." So it would probably help to read that as well. I tried to make it so that you could read this without having read that. I hope I succeeded.
I figured Clark needed a good reason for leaving Smallville to travel the world, but I didn't want it to be something mega drastic, like his dad dying, because it would seem like he was abandoning Martha.
I do like the idea of Pa dying while Clark is still a young man. I think that's an important step for him to realize that there are some things even his great power can't stop, and old age is one. I didn't want to rehash the story of Pa's death, since it's been done to perfection elsewhere, including Superman the Movie and All-Star Superman issue 6.
Also, the idea of combining both pre-crisis and post by having Lana AND Pete know Clark's secret came from All-Star 6.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it.