Earl was assigned to clean Level Three, a secret area used to do agricultural experiments utilizing meteor rock to speed up growth of corn crops. The fertilizer was applied to the crops as a green mist. Shortly before Lex Luthor was exiled to Smallville to learn the ropes of corporate management, there was an explosion at Level Three while Earl was cleaning. The experiment was shut down, sealed off, and Earl was transferred to Metropolis. The meteor rock penetrated Earl's skin during the accident. Four months later, he began having jitters as his body tried to push the meteor rock out of his body. As the condition worsened, Earl lost his job and had to leave his wife and family. Medication didn't work to control the problem and Earl, desperate to find a cure, sought out Lionel Luthor in Metropolis. Trying to get into the building to speak with Lionel Luthor in Metropolis, he accidentally killed a janitor and ran away to Smallville after overhearing Clark talk about his school field trip, where he took a group of students hostage at the LuthorCorp Plant. With the help of Clark Kent, he managed to find the former site Level 3, but it was empty. Upon leaving the plant, he was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Lex pledged to help him get the best possible health care.