William Calhoun sat in the jail cell, staring blankly at the wall. Ten years ago, or even five, he might have been trying to plot his escape. Now he was simply old, fat, and broke. What was left of his money was going to pay for the lawyers for this current case, but even if he won, there would be nothing to go home to. His empire had crumbled, and the last crime boss of Metropolis was soon going to be finished. It had taken Superman a year.
“I did it,” said Willie softly. “I told those men to kidnap the children, gave them instructions on how to get away without you finding out, and found a place for them to lay low.” Superman could hear everything. Willie found himself talking to Superman often, sometimes just trying to goad him, but other times confessing his sins. The Whitman thing turned out worse than he’d thought. He’d picked ruthless, violent men, and though he hadn’t told them what to do, he’d had a vague idea of what would happen. It didn’t sit right with him, now that it was over. Willie had been responsible for a number of kidnappings, and had never had any real problems with coercing a man by using his family against him. This was different. The children were picked because they would make the news, not because of anything that their father had done beyond the usual political dickery about being tough on crime.
Willie didn’t exactly live by a code, but he had a notion that people were responsible for their own actions. If a shopkeeper didn’t pay protection money, he got a brick through his window. If a boxer didn’t take the fall when he was supposed to, he got his legs broken. If people made him angry, they got hurt. Maybe he would have felt differently if Superman had actually done as he was supposed to and shown his true colors by killing the kidnappers. As Willie sat in his cell and stared at the wall, he couldn’t help but think that he’d simply done an evil for no purpose at all. He’d never really thought of himself as a monster before.
“I did it,” Willie repeated. “I ordered those men to do what they did. People say that you weren’t fast enough, but we both know that’s not true. The reason the whole thing happened was that you didn’t kill me when you should have. You’re a chicken-shit, and people are dying because of it.”
There was no response, but Willie hadn’t expected any. If Superman was listening, he didn’t show it.
The atomic research facility in Hub City had been built shortly after Lex had discovered that Superman’s x-ray vision couldn’t penetrate lead. Lead was heavily used for radioactive shielding, and so it made sense for thick plates of the stuff to be nearly everywhere in the facility. Of late, Lex had put together a team of scientists to work on creating an atomic super weapon, though the room in the basement was off-limits even to them. The culture of paranoia, suspicion, and obedience to the rules had been deliberately cultivated.
Lex often considered what it would have been like if Superman had shown up twenty or thirty years later. This entire operation would have been done through television, ideally with robotic arms of some kind. It would have allowed for a degree of anonymity that strongly appealed to Lex. Unfortunately, the technologies had not progressed to such an extent that it was feasible, and so Lex was left with two choices; he could hire a scientist or group of scientists to conduct research which would be overseen by Lex at a great distance through the usual means, or he could investigate in person. Given the baffling death of Martha Kent, the choice was clear. Lex had lost much of his confidence in the ability of outside parties to carry out their assigned tasks.
He locked the door behind him after he entered the secret room, and looked carefully at the large crate in front of him. It sat at the bottom of the lead mine for nearly two days, and spent another two on the road. If Superman had a way to track it beyond his usual methods, he had made no effort to steal it back. Lex half suspected that Superman would come crashing down through the roof to kill him at any moment, but he was nearly certain that he was just being overly paranoid. He steeled his resolve and took a crowbar to the crate, opening it up and revealing what looked to be thick sheets of lead. A small catch at the bottom was enough to start unfolding the leaden container and reveal the spaceship inside..
Lex deliberately avoided looking at the spaceship, and instead grabbed the notes that were strapped to the interior of one of the lead walls. The agents posing as John and Loretta Greene had been instructed to leave a more detailed report, one not constrained by the need for codes and limited in length. He read through it carefully, frowning as he went. Floyd Lawton was clearly the problem, but it still wasn’t clear what specifically had gone wrong. Floyd had seemingly disobeyed his orders for some reason that would likely remain unknown. Four days had passed, and there had still been no word from Floyd, though if he was using the system Lex had set up the expected time for a message to reach Metropolis would be nearly that long. Floyd was immaterial either way. The only thing that a letter might do was illuminate the root of the problem, but Lex had half a dozen ideas about what he might have done differently already. He’d picked agents with reputations for being cold, calm, and meticulous, but apparently that hadn’t been enough.
Lex turned his attention to the spaceship. It still wasn’t entirely clear that the term “spaceship” accurately described it, given that it was missing the vents and exhaust ports that Lex would expect to see, but it certainly made some pretensions towards being aerodynamic, and it very clearly had stubby wings. The ship was curiously aesthetic in design, and hewed to the golden ratio wherever possible, which surely said something profound about the people who had made it. He was eager to open the ship up, but it would be at least a few days before he felt satisfied that it was safe to touch, no matter that it had been physically carried by three people with no special equipment.
The ship emitted nothing that Lex could detect. There was no radiation, no radio waves, no light, no sound, and nothing else that Lex was capable of sensing with his various tools. He took a large number of photographs of the spaceship, and thanks to equipment that had been ordered long ago, more than half of them were x-ray photographs that would allow him to look inside the ship before he did anything all that dangerous with it. Lex had learned much when drawing up the plans for Harry Kramer, and the safest way to approach the ship was no doubt to treat it as a live bomb, despite the fact that it had probably been sitting in a Kansas storm cellar for twenty years.
The x-rays weren’t powerful enough to pierce through the ship entirely, but they gave some idea of how its internals were arranged. The skin of the craft looked utterly seamless, but there were latches and hatches that had been crafted with ridiculously advanced engineering that left them invisible from the surface and completely flush with the rest of the ship. In the center, where the spaceship had a bulge, was a pocket of complicated engineering surrounding empty space. Presumably this was where the baby had been pulled from, though it wasn’t obvious how the Kents would have known what they were looking at. Towards the back of the ship, where an engine would traditionally sit, the x-ray came back completely white, blocked by what had to be some absorptive material.
It was only after two full days of looking at it from every angle that Lex Luthor decided he could get no further without actually touching the thing. He put on some gloves and began opening up the machine.
The hole was easily three hundred feet deep, and even if he could escape, he’d be hundreds of miles away from civilization. It widened out at the bottom, which made getting a handhold difficult, but it could be accomplished by standing on top of the tin cans that held his food and jumping up to scramble at the rock. Worse, even if he got out, Superman would simply find him again. He’d get dumped right back in the hole, with the walls smoothed down more than they already were. Superman had dug the hole in a handful of minutes, and it would be little trouble for him to change it.
Floyd opened a can of baked beans and settled in for what he assumed was either breakfast or lunch. They were far enough north that the small amount of light coming in through the top of the hole was a constant twilight, making it nearly impossible to track the time. He was halfway through his meal when the light dimmed briefly. Superman stood in front of Floyd, as though he’d been there all along.
“You can’t keep me here forever,” said Floyd.
“Why?” asked Superman.
Floyd had spent the long hours with nothing to do trying to calculate the best thing to say. So far as he could figure, Superman really could keep him there forever. Still, it was worth a shot. “It’s illegal,” said Floyd. “You care about laws, right?”
“Less and less every day,” said Superman. “I went to visit your sister in Florida.”
“Look, I told you everything I know,” said Floyd.
“I’d thought that I’d done my due diligence when you first came to the farm,” said Superman. “There’s a real woman living at the address you sent your letters to, living a mundane life. When she got your most recent letter, she read it carefully and put it in a pile with other papers. And that’s as far as I watched when you first came to the farm, because I wasn’t paranoid enough.”
“I didn’t set any of that up,” said Floyd, “I was just given instructions.”
“My mother was trusting,” said Superman. “She had a kind heart. I told her that I could help her with anything that needed doing on the farm, but she always liked taking in strays. I watched you, Floyd. In the first week you were on the farm, I read every letter you sent or recieved. I watched all of your movements. And you didn’t act like anything other than a drifter. I thought I’d been sufficiently careful, and eventually you just became a fixture of the farm. I turned my eyes back towards the city, and very nearly forgot about you.”
Floyd was silent.
“Your sister dropped the letter off at the law office she works for,” said Superman. “From there it was translated into a code of random letters and numbers through the use of a one-time pad behind lead walls. Even if I’d been watching closely before I might not have caught it. They copied it and sent it out to the seven largest cities in the United States, and from there was transmitted out into the open by radio.” Superman stared off into the distance past Floyd, but it wasn’t clear whether he was looking through the rocks or just thinking about something.
“Are you gonna keep me here forever?” asked Floyd.
“Maybe,” said Superman.
“You can’t be my jailer,” said Floyd. “I need food, water, showers, some actual damned light, and something other than a bucket to relieve myself in. I swear to god, hand me over to the police and I won’t say a single thing about the other guy.” Superman had nearly throttled Floyd the last time the name of Clark Kent came up, but it was difficult to talk around. Floyd had information that Superman didn’t want made public, and it didn’t seem to matter to Superman that Floyd’s employer already knew.
“Do you know why I came here?” asked Superman.
Floyd shook his head.
“I want to kill you,” said Superman. “I want it with every fiber of my being. I came here because I thought it was important to test myself, to prove to myself that I wouldn’t ever do it because I let my emotions overwhelm me. And if I slipped up here, no one would have to know. You’d just be a red smear across the wall in an anonymous hole in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. To take a life is evil, but maybe, if it’s necessary, I think it might also be good.”
Floyd watched him closely. “Are you going to kill me then?”
“I’m still not sure,” replied Superman. “I’ll let you know when I figure it out.”
There was a blast of air as Superman launched himself up and away. Floyd looked up at the rough rock walls that Superman had carved out by hand, and decided that even if escape was useless, it was better than waiting for death.
The city was unexpectedly quiet, but for once that suited Lois. She sat on her balcony in one of the wooden chairs, sipping at a glass of wine and waiting. She was wearing her most alluring dress, a blue one that clung to her hips. Hopefully it would draw his attention away from how nervous she was, if he even showed up.
Clark Kent had gotten word that his mother died on Monday, and broke down crying at his desk. He’d be gone for five days as he went to Kansas to settle his parents affairs and go to the funeral. At the same time, Lex Luthor was off at some scientific conference in Hub City. A year ago, she would have thrown herself into her work, but she was a changed woman now, and being the star reporter of the world’s largest newspaper just wasn’t enough. So she’d done her best to arrange a date with Superman, because at least that was something.
I’ve been wondering whether you would like to join me for dinner on Thursday. I live in an apartment building on the corner of 13th St. and 33nd Ave. E. You should be able to land on my balcony, where I’ll have everything set up. I’ll be eating at seven whether you’re there or not, but I’d be pleased if you would join me.
She’d gone over the letter a half dozen times trying to get the wording right, and was never quite happy with it. She wasn’t terribly good at turning on the charm, at least not with someone she wasn’t actually attracted to. She’d had any number of brief relationships over the years, but she didn’t fully understand what it was that attracted men to her. She knew those qualities that she found attractive in herself, but had no real idea which of them were cause for attraction in others. She’d tried her best to play up what she thought that Superman would like. If he didn’t show up, at least she would have made an effort.
He made a deft landing on her balcony ten minutes before seven.
“Miss Lane,” he said with a gentle smile.
“Please, call me Lois,” she said with what she hoped was a flirtatious smile. “I hope you don’t think I was too forward inviting you over, but you don’t exactly have a mailing address.”
“I’ve been meaning to set something up with the post office,” said Superman. “Though of course I think there’s some benefit in keeping out of reach, and I don’t think I’d have the patience to keep up with the flood of mail. You’re only lucky that I’ve been keeping a special watch over people close to me.”
Lois couldn’t help but feel a pang of discomfort at that. She and Superman were far from close. “I’m making spaghetti for dinner,” said Lois. “I have no idea whether you eat or not, but I can make enough for two.”
“I eat,” said Superman with a smile.
Lois walked into her apartment. It was small, which was the price she’d paid for having a balcony on the top floor. The place was littered with souvenirs and photographs, along with a number of framed headlines that she was particularly proud of. She’d been a reporter for eight years, and that was enough time to do a great many things and see a great many places. She had cleaned the night before, for the first time in a very long time, and was almost proud of how neat the apartment looked. If Superman had been spying on her he would know how she lived from day-to-day, but she hoped he would take the effort as a compliment all the same.
She didn’t mention the fact that Superman was taking time off from saving the world to spend time with her, and he didn’t bring it up. She desperately hoped that he had some way to turn his super hearing off, because the thought of him listening to every single death in the world with a grin on his face was almost enough to make her physically ill. Shutting off his hearing wasn’t really a solution either though. On days when she was in a particularly bad mood, she could imagine that she could hear all of the pain and suffering happening at any given time. Superman had opened her mind to it, and now it was hard to ignore, even if she’d never actually heard what it was like firsthand.
“Spaghetti is the only thing I know how to cook,” said Lois. She had a pot of sauce and noodles in boiling water, all ready to go. She’d had more than one man tease her about her lack of domestic skill, and she’d let them think that she was simply an independent woman of the new mold rather than let them know she had an actual, unintentional deficit of skill.
“That’s fine,” said Superman.
Lois served up two plates, and took them back out to the balcony, where they sat down together. She didn’t think she was in any actual danger, but felt an uneasy tension all the same.
“So when you say that you eat,” said Lois. “It’s voluntary for you?”
“No,” said Superman. “I get hungry, just the same as anyone else. I can just go longer.” He dug into his spaghetti and Lois couldn’t help but think that he looked ridiculous in that costume. It was all well and good to wear a skintight red and blue outfit with a long flowing cape while you were saving lives, but it just looked silly while he was doing something so mundane. He looked too human.
“Where do you eat?” asked Lois. “You could eat for free at any restaurant in the city, but so far as I know you never have. And you disdain money.”
“Just to be clear, this isn’t an interview?” asked Superman with a raised eyebrow.
“No, just – just a date,” said Lois. She could hear how strained her voice sounded, but either Superman didn’t notice, or he didn’t care. Maybe he just thought she was nervous, which was at least true. At the same time, she was worried that he would contradict her and gently tell her that he had no interest in her, which would have been humiliating given that she was actually trying to use her femininity for once in her life.
“Distance isn’t really a factor for me,” said Superman. “I’ve shared stew with Mongolian nomads and African tribesmen, and I can hunt and forage with ease. But I don’t really get any weaker from not having food, it’s just a nagging irritation. I once went three weeks without food just to see if I could, and it didn’t seem to make any difference in terms of strength. The same goes with sleep. I sleep for two hours most nights, but I could stay up for a month without any real trouble if I had to.”
Lois took a small bite of her spaghetti, but wasn’t really hungry. “Tell me about your life.”
“My life?” asked Superman. “What about it?”
“You’re a mystery,” said Lois. “Deliberately so, it seems. I just want to know what it’s like to be you.”
“I’m surprisingly boring,” said Superman with a laugh. “I wake up at five in the morning, circle the planet once to make sure that there’s not anything major happening that needs my attention, and then patrol Metropolis looking for places that I can do good.”
“The city’s gotten a lot better with you patrolling,” said Lois.
“For the most part,” replied Superman. His face darkened slightly.
“How’s the spaghetti?” asked Lois.
“Good,” replied Superman. A smile returned to his face. “It’s very good. Thank you for making it.”
“If you eat … I can understand why you have a non-interventionist policy, but I don’t really understand why you wouldn’t take in a free meal at a nice restaurant,” said Lois. “You’re basically the patron saint of the city, but you’ve never eaten at all of the best places. I could show you around.” This was one of Lex’s ideas, a way to get Superman more invested in the city.
“I look ridiculous in the costume,” said Superman. He laughed as he watched her expression. “Come on, you know you were thinking it.”
“A little bit,” admitted Lois. “And that’s the only reason?”
“I can’t go anywhere without people looking at me,” said Superman. “I wouldn’t be able to eat in peace. People would come up to me and thank me for what I’ve done, or tell me what I should be doing differently, or try to touch me just so they could tell their friends that they had. And I’d have to grin and bear it, or calmly explain how I just want to be left alone. That’s not all. It would drive business to the restaurant, and might have an impact on the other restaurants across the street, so I’d have to figure out some way of dividing up my meals between the restaurants that’s equitable. And if there was a scandal of some sort, like the owner of Paulucci’s getting arrested for dealing drugs, it might tarnish my public image and stir up all sorts of controversy that detracts from the message I’m trying to send. On top of all that, not everyone would be as understanding as you’ve been about the fact that I need some time to myself. They’d draw up charts to show that while I was eating hundreds of people were dying. You can imagine the headlines.”
Lois nodded, though of course she didn’t really understand. She would have run herself ragged trying to improve the world if she had Superman’s powers. Hell, she had no special powers at all and still spent nearly all her time working, or thinking about work. But of course this whole exercise wasn’t about what Lois thought, it was about keeping Superman happy.
“I could arrange something discreet for you,” said Lois. “We could take lunch together on top of the Daily Planet Building. I eat at my desk or out in the street anyway.”
“I’d like that,” smiled Superman. He moved his hand across the table to cup hers, and it was only because she’d been expecting it that she was able to smile back at him.
The trial went quickly.
The last crime boss of Metropolis took on a serious, concerned look in the courtroom. Of course it was a terrible thing that happened to June Whitman and her tragically deceased brother, but she was a confused young girl coerced into testimony by Superman, the alien god who had a personal vendetta against Calhoun. On the third day of the trial, June took the stand. She broke down under cross-examination, and was ushered out of the courthouse by her father, who shot a withering look at both Calhoun and Superman himself. Willie didn’t figure that he had much of a shot of winning the trial, but hell if he wasn’t going to go down fighting. If he lost, he had a revolver ready to shove into his mouth. At his age, with all the enemies he’d made over the years and hardly a dime to his name, it seemed like a better option than ten years in Sing Sing.
At night, he said his prayers to Superman. Willie confessed to every single crime he’d ever committed, and a number of them he hadn’t. He described in vivid detail the things he’d do to Superman if only he could, and when that got old he moved on to anything else he could think of. There had to be some way of provoking the alien, something that Willie could say that would get some reaction. There had to be something, some set of words that would get the alien’s calm stoicism to crack. His prayers were greeted only by silence.
Someone knocked on the window when Clarence had just gotten himself ready for bed. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he turned to the side and saw Superman standing on the fire escape. He slowly padded over and opened the window. He’d seen Superman in court, but up close he was much more impressive, and more threatening.
“Two days ago you received three hundred dollars to help sway your position,” said Superman.
Clarence didn’t trust himself to speak. The woman had walked beside him, and told him to help deliver a guilty verdict. The money had been in his hands shortly afterwards, without him even agreeing to anything. It was more than he made in a month.
“I was going to tell the judge,” said Clarence. “I was going to explain to him.”
“No, you weren’t,” said Superman. “I don’t care. You need the money, I can accept that. But when you go into deliberation, don’t let it sway you. Think about what you’ve heard in court, and make up your own mind. Decide the case on its merits.”
“You … you’re helping Calhoun?” asked Clarence. “You hate him.”
“I do,” said Superman, not even trying to deny it. “But when he’s convicted, it needs to be by the books. I promised him that. There are forces working against him, powerful people with their own agendas, and if he goes to jail because people with money and influence wanted him there, that’s just as bad as if he stayed out of jail because he intimidated witnesses and tampered with the jury.”
Clarence nodded along. He would have nodded along to anything that Superman said at that moment.
“I’m not saying whether you should find him guilty or not guilty,” repeated Superman. “I’m saying that your verdict needs to be true to the laws as they stand.”
Clarence nodded once more, and Superman stepped back from the window.
“Clarence?” asked Superman.
Clarence choked on his words, and simply nodded once.
“I was never here,” said Superman. He flew away, a quiet as a whisper.
It was clear now that Clarence should have ducked out on jury duty. Tomorrow he’d have to go into a room with all the other jurors and deliberate, knowing full well that Superman was listening to every word they said. He wondered how many of them were getting visits from Superman in the middle of the night. It was a long time before he got to sleep.
“The standard of proof that we’re hewing to is ‘reasonable doubt’,” said Clarence.
“If it’s reasonable doubt, then we have to return a verdict of not guilty, simple as that,” said Louis.
“He’s gotta be guilty of something ,” said Frank with a drawn out sigh. “I feel like before today, we were in agreement here. Calhoun is guilty as sin, it’s written on his face. Superman’s been cleaning up town, and Calhoun just wanted to hurt him however he could.”
“It didn’t come up in the courtroom,” said Clarence. “And we’re not supposed to be reading the papers.”
“Sure,” said Frank. “But I don’t understand why we have to throw out things that we know. Sure as shit Superman knows things that he’s not allowed to say, but you can’t look at him sitting opposite Calhoun and possibly think that Superman is making a mistake.”
“We have to do this by the books,” said Stewart. “Could a reasonable person doubt that Willie Calhoun was guilty of these specific crimes relating to what happened to June and Robert Whitman? Seems to me that the answer is yes. The whole case rests on June, and I think it’s damned reasonable to question her testimony.”
“She’s eleven,” said Frank in disgust. “You’re calling her a liar after what she’s been through?”
Arlo coughed into his fist. “Not a liar,” he said. “We’re spinning in circles here. The question isn’t about the crime, it’s about who ordered the crime, and the evidence doesn’t seem to go past the point of reasonable doubt. I’m not saying the girl is a liar, I’m saying that maybe she misheard something, or maybe she got confused, both well possible.”
Frank sat back in his seat and sighed. “Alright, you fellas want to take another vote and see whether we’re coming to an agreement?”
He descended from the heavens like a golden god. There were no strings or wires to hold him aloft, no jets or boosters, only a simple power of flight that seemed to defy the laws of physics. The reporters cleared a space around him as he touched down with perfect grace. His brown hair was perfectly styled with a curl at the front, as always. Instead of the trademark half-grin, Superman wore a scowl.
“Not guilty,” he murmured only seconds before the doors to the courthouse opened wide and people began to spill out. The crowd of reporters around him shoved their bulky microphones in his face as they heard the news. Lois stood towards the back, not bothering to hide the worry she felt on hearing the news. Luthor was supposed to take care of this kind of thing, dammit.
“Superman! How do you feel about Calhoun getting off again?”
“Are you going to catch him again, Superman?”
“What’s the point in putting bad guys away if you can’t make it stick?”
William Calhoun strolled out of the courthouse, surrounded by a flock of reporters all of his own. He wore a brown suit with a bright red tie, and smiled for the cameras as the flashbulbs went off around him. It would be headline news. Calhoun spotted Superman only moments after he stepped outside, and casually walked over.
“Pleasure to be out for a stroll on this fine day, ain’t it Supes?” said Calhoun with a grin. He was only a handful of feet away from the alien, and the reporters had backed off enough to get a good photo of the two standing together. The wind picked up, causing Superman’s cape to billow out behind him, and the flashbulbs started going off in earnest.
“You’ll pay for your crimes,” said Superman. If you ignored the cape, the skintight suit, and the oversized muscles, you could almost imagine him as a teacher ready to haul a student out of the classroom by his ear.
“I’m sure you’ve heard with those marvelous ears of yours,” said Calhoun, his shit-eating grin never leaving his face. “I’m innocent.”
“The justice system isn’t perfect,” said Superman. “I think that’s been made clear today.”
“I bet it just eats you up,” said Calhoun. “To know that you got it wrong, once again. Three times you hauled me in, and three times I walked free. What is it you got against me? Is it ’cause I’m Irish?” He was posing for the cameras in subtle ways. Calhoun, with a smile and a strut, and Superman, with his hands folded across his chest.
“You’re a murderer,” said Superman. “A rapist, a pimp, a liar, and a crook. You are everything wrong with humanity, and they let you go.”
Calhoun put on his widest smile and leaned in close, close enough that Superman surely could have smelled the man’s breath. “I’m not guilty in the eyes of the law,” he declared. “Chalk one up for truth, justice, and the American way.”
It happened faster than anyone could see. They said that Superman could react to lightning before seeing the flash. They said that he could catch the bullets from a dozen guns at once. He was, by any fair accounting, the single fastest thing to have ever been on Earth. The time between when he decided to do it and the time it was already done could have been measured in milliseconds. Later in the day, one lucky photographer would develop a picture of the exact moment that Superman landed his punch, so fast that it was a blur.
One moment Calhoun was taunting Superman, and the next Superman stood with a single fist held straight out in front of him. It was covered in blood. Calhoun’s head was spread out over the crowd, covering the reporters with bone and gore, and Calhoun’s body fell to the ground with a soft thud. Superman lowered his fist and then rose up into the sky, flying away from the shouted questions and the flashes of cameras.
Lex worked carefully to pull the large tube from inside the spaceship. He’d first thought that it must be some special alloy, like the skin of the ship seemed to be, but the reason that it so effectively blocked the x-rays was that it was nothing more than simple lead.
When he was finished, a tube of lead sat on the floor of the workshop. So far as he could guess, this was a power source of some sort. He’d already identified the engine analog, though he had no idea how it worked. The thick cables internal to the ship all seemed to terminate at the leaden tube, and in another portion of the ship that Lex had only vaguely guessed the purpose of. The tube of lead was attractive though, above and beyond anything else. There were few reasons to use a material like lead, and one of them was shielding.
Lex set up a containment area for the tube, which consisted of little more than layers of lead to surround it and a Geiger counter that was wired through to where Lex could read it. The mechanical apparatus took some time to make, but eventually he was able to rig the whole thing up so that he would be able to see whether there was any lethal radiation once the tube had been opened without having to expose himself to it. Lex worked slowly and carefully, and was eventually satisfied that he wouldn’t get a lethal dose of radiation poisoning. He took away the layers of lead, and peered closely at what he had uncovered.
The immense promise of this particular part of the ship was that whoever had built the thing saw fit to include shielding in the first place. If it was a threat to the infant alien, then perhaps it would be a threat to the adult alien as well. When Lex looked down at the green glow of the central core, he could only smile. There was an immense amount of work still left to do in order to determine the precise nature of the threat it might pose to Superman and how best to capitalize on that, but it held definite hope for the future.
It would need a name, of course. Kryptonite had a nice ring to it.