Superman and Ray Palmer: Hardly a Small Problem, Chapter 1: The Super-Mite

by Martin Maenza

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Superman swooped effortlessly to his left and intercepted a large rock about twice his size. Extending his hands forward, he caught the mass and carefully redirected it about forty-five degrees to the side. The rock continued to spiral upon its way.

Good thing I was taking this route home after helping those colonists on Tiberius IV, the Man of Steel thought to himself. Otherwise, these poor folks might have been in some serious trouble. As he continued forward, Superman caught another large asteroid and redirected it as well. I should be able to guide them through this storm easy eno — well, now!

Approaching his path at a great speed was a much larger mass. Despite its rather large diameter and many sharp facets, Superman was not intimidated by it at all. Handling something like this was mere child’s play for the universally renowned super-hero.

Superman cocked back his fist and let it fly just as the asteroid reached striking distance. His mighty punch cleaved through the dense rock as anyone else would a paper bag. In a few seconds, the huge asteroid was now split into two with each piece veering off into a different direction. It would pose a threat to no one else today. That actually felt good, he thought to himself. Kind of therapeutic to let loose on that big boy.

Suddenly, a beam of energy whizzed past the hero’s right shoulder. Superman moved slightly to the left and spun his head around. Great Rao! he thought as he realized the source of the beam. It had been shot from the small spacecraft that he had been assisting. Their SOS signal said their weapons were not functioning properly. Could this have all been some kind of ruse to get me into a trap? Maybe they’re part of the Superman Revenge Squad or something! The hero had certainly made his share of enemies over the years, so he was hardly being unjustly paranoid.

The spaceship’s weapons system sparked to life once more and shot another beam in the hero’s direction. This time, however, it shot much wider from the mark, going past him. “That’s enough of that,” Superman said as he was about to use his heat-vision to disable the laser cannons.

Suddenly, there was a slight sensation on his back. As he started to turn, Superman realized that he was engulfed in a cloud of powdery white space-dust. Because he didn’t need to breathe in space, it didn’t affect him much. Still, quick movements of his arms cleared the cloud and allowed him to see again.

Then his super-hearing picked up a sub-frequency transmission from the ship he’d been helping. It was on the same level that he’d heard their distress signal before. “Are you well, Superman?” one of the aliens asked in his native tongue. “Another rock approached you. Our weapons functioned once more. We destroyed the rock.”

Superman nodded and approached the ship. The aliens in the craft used their airlock systems to allow the hero to come inside where the atmosphere was breathable. “I am fine,” the hero said. “And thank you. I guess I was too caught up with that big asteroid to see the other approaching.”

“You helped us,” said the olive-skinned aliens with large, disk-shaped violet eyes and rigged skulls. “We helped you. We owed you that.”

“You’re almost clear of the asteroid field,” Superman said. “With your weapons online once more, you should be able to handle any more trouble you encounter.”

“Yes, thank you,” the aliens said.

Superman nodded again, returned to the airlock, and was then back in space. He flew toward the front of the ship, gave them a little wave, and then rocketed off toward home.

One of the aliens turned to the other and said, “He truly is amazing. Just like everything we’ve heard.”

“Yes,” agreed the other. “Funny, though. I expected him to be larger.”

***

At the Daily Planet Building, Clark Kent straightened his red tie before stepping out of the small supply closet he often used to change back into his normal clothes. Good thing the janitorial crew works at night, he thought to himself as he stepped out into the hall. Otherwise, they’d get a good eyeful every time I’m late for work.

He glanced at his watch and realized the time. “The staff meeting,” Clark muttered. He quickened his pace and hurried into the busy newsroom of the Daily Planet. He rushed through the maze of cubicles toward the office at the end of the room. But he had to stop quickly when he nearly ran into the coffee cart. “Manny? I’m sorry.”

The short, dark-haired man wearing a white apron smiled. “No problem, Mr. Kent,” he said. “I’ve got to watch how I take these corners.” He moved the cart back a foot or so to allow the reporter to pass. “Say, you want your morning decaf and donut?”

“Not today, Manny, thank you,” Clark said with his hand up as he walked past. “I’m running a bit behind.” The bespectacled reporter made his way toward the office with the glass window on the door.

Manny watched him go. Hmm, he thought to himself. Mr. Kent looks like he might be losing a little weight. Good for him, but bad for business. The coffee man continued to make his mid-morning rounds.

Clark Kent hurried into the office and closed the door behind him. All heads turned as he arrived. “Perry, I’m sorry I’m late,” he apologized. “Traffic.” He quickly took a seat between Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

“Kent, I’m thinking for your next service anniversary, we should get you a watch,” said the burly editor with the graying temples. “One with an alarm on it so you can get going a little faster some mornings.” Perry White glanced at his own watch. It was ten minutes after ten. “Time is money, people.”

“Still having problems adjusting to the non-television schedule?” Lois said softly. The brunette gave him a wink to show she was kidding. Clark smiled and pretended to go along with it. Some days were harder than others to keep the double-life in balance.

For the next twenty minutes, the reporters pitched their latest stories to the editor so that he’d have a better idea of what to expect in the coming week. After they finished, Perry stood up. “All righty, kids,” he said. “Let’s get out there and make some headlines!”

The reporters started to file out. “Say, Clark, want to grab some lunch?” the red-haired Jimmy Olsen asked.

“Sounds like a plan, Jimmy,” Clark replied. “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” He pulled back a second and waited for the others to leave the room. He then turned to his boss. “Perry, again I’m really sorry about being late.”

Perry put his arm about the man’s shoulder. “Since you’re such a great reporter, I’ll forgive your lapses in punctuality,” he said to Clark in a fatherly sort of way. The dark-haired reporter nodded and started to leave the room. “Oh, and Clark, you need to not slouch so much, son.”

Clark stopped for a brief second, nodded, and straightened up ever so slightly. He purposely didn’t carry himself so tall to help keep the illusion of his secret identity. He started back toward his desk when Jimmy approached him quickly.

“Clark, we’ll have to reschedule lunch,” he said.

“Why, Jimmy?”

“Just caught word on the wire that a commercial airliner radioed the tower at Metropolis International. They’ve got engine trouble and might need to make an emergency landing. I’m off to cover the story.” The red-haired reporter, camera around his neck, took off for the elevator.

Clark, meanwhile, took off for the supply closet.

In seconds, the mild-mannered reporter had shed his suit to reveal his Superman costume once more. At super-speed, he rocketed out of the window of the building to keep from being seen. His eyes were piercing as he looked about the sky. “I should have asked Jimmy more about that plane,” he said to himself. “But I guess that’s just a little more work for my telescopic vision.”

There were a number of jet airliners in the skies over Metropolis. Superman would merely have to discover the right one. After another few seconds of scanning, the hero changed his course to the south. “Aha!” he said as he spied a plane with smoke coming from one of its engines. “There’s our little injured bird now.” He kicked in the speed on his flight and went in for the rescue.

***

In the cockpit of the plane, the two pilots worked in unison on the situation. “Any luck?” asked a brown-haired man as he tried his best to level off the plane with the flight stick.

A blond-haired man flicked a set of switches one more time. “No good!” he finally admitted. “We’ve lost her completely! I already radioed the tower to tell them we’re having engine trouble.”

“Radio them again,” the first one said. “Tell them to clear us one of the longer runways. We’ll see if we can make it there.” Suddenly, the plane began to jerk. “Whoa!”

“I’d better get on the intercom to tell the flight crew to prepare for emergency landing!” the blond said.

As quickly as the shaking started, it stopped. The first pilot checked the controls. “We’ve leveled off!” he said. “I’m not sure how, but we have.”

One of the flight attendants stepped into the cabin. “Its all right now, Janine,” the blond pilot said. “We were having engine trouble before, but we’re flying fine now.”

“I know,” said the brown-haired woman in a blue and white uniform. “We got some help!”

Sitting in a window seat near the left wing section of the plane, little Billy Walker grinned ear to ear. “Look, Granny,” the five-year-old said as he pressed his fingers to the glass. “We got saved by Superboy.”

The elderly black woman he had been traveling with from Raleigh peered out over her thick glasses, catching sight of a red-caped man in blue and red holding up the one wing of the plane. “Oh, hush, now, child,” Mildred Walker said. “That’s Superman. He was Superboy when he was a little fella.” She pushed her grandson’s hand down. “Stop gettin’ your prints all over that glass, hear?”

***

In no time at all, Metropolis International loomed ever closer. Superman easily helped the pilots bring the jet airliner in safely for a landing on runway three. As the ground crew moved closer to get the plane ready for arrival and then later repairs, the Man of Steel quickly flew off. “Whew,” he said to himself as he headed back toward downtown. “They’re making those planes bigger and bigger these days.”

Moving faster than the eye could follow, Superman returned to the Daily Planet Building where he could change back to his Clark Kent identity in privacy. It’s been one busy morning, he thought to himself as he removed his folded clothes from a special compartment in his cape. I hope things slow down a little.

He began putting on his dark blue suit pants over his costume, fastening the waist and pulling up the zipper. But when he reached for his white shirt, the pants immediately dropped down to his knees. What the–? he thought with surprise. When he looked down, he saw the pants bunched up at his ankles. He pulled them up again, only to realize that they were now too big.

Great Krypton! Superman exclaimed. He quickly examined his dress shirt, which also now seemed two sizes too large. He glanced around the room quickly, only to come to one conclusion. It’s not my regular clothes that got bigger. I’m getting smaller! I need to put these other clothes someplace safe and then get some help!

Superman rocketed off, heading first to his apartment and then out of town.

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