by Goose Gansler
Rocketing through interstellar space, a solitary figure in a tattered blue-and-red-caped outfit hoped to leave his anguish in the void. He moved at near-light speed with no visible means of propulsion, his own power allowing him to hurtle through the cosmos. How long he had been flying, he could not tell. Time had no meaning for him, not anymore. He had considered himself timeless, and perhaps he still was. However, she was not, and that was the root of his agony.
He had passed countless worlds since he had launched himself in this flight from pain. His anguish was so intense that he had not bothered to peer in on the civilizations that had laid in his path. When she had been with him, they had reveled in experiencing new cultures. To physically interact with the varieties of life forms had been exhilarating for them even after millions of sun-cycles of doing so. It had been such a change from their contemplative disembodied life. In the physical forms that they had assumed, they had found much more pleasure than their formerly purely mental essences could ever have conceived.
Now that era was over. He could not conceive of finding any more pleasure in the universe. His soul mate was no more; Rija was dead, and he, Kond, was alone.
The universe, once a myriad of excitement to Kond’s eyes, now seemed desolate. How long had it truly been since he and his beloved Rija had assumed these physical forms? It had been eons since the Kryptonian Superman had come to their virtually uninhabited world to find the mental essences of Rija and himself encased in their protective pyramid receptacles. It was Rija’s idea to shed their mental forms and encase themselves in flesh and blood. Rija had plucked the notion of the tempting Starry-Eyed Siren of Space from the Kryptonian’s mind and become the epitome, as well as the basis, of that voluptuous ideal.
When the Kryptonian had begun to fall under her overpowering charms, Kond renounced his mental existence and took physical form himself. He did not take an idea from the Kryptonian’s mind; rather, he took the form of the Kryptonian himself. He fought with Superman until he realized that the visitor was a victim of Rija’s erotic spell. In gratitude for introducing them to a new and better life, Kond had used his nearly extinguished mental powers to create cures for maladies and pollution for the Kryptonian to administer to his adopted world. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Starry-Eyed Siren of Space,” Superman #243 (October, 1971).]
All that seemed so long ago. He often had wondered how successful the Kryptonian was in curing that world. In all their travels, Rija and he had never encountered this world called Earth. Now he cared for little else but to escape his pain.
However, as strong as his personal pain was, it paled in comparison to that which was being felt on the world that was on his path ahead.
On the water-filled world of Oceania, a tragedy of catastrophic proportions was brewing — one that would exact a toll far greater than Kond’s mind could conceive. On the shores of Oceania’s greatest city, Macropolis, the Oceania News Network relayed the latest developments of the crisis. The female figure upon whom the camera was trained was transmitted to millions of citizens of the 48-state Oceanic States of Ameryka as well as across the world. The dark-haired Lydia Long was the most famous and beloved newscaster on Oceania. Her words kept the attention of the worldwide audience.
“This is Lydia Long,” she began, “broadcasting from Macropolis. Behind me, you can see the first signs of the impending apocalypse. Officials report that the undersea seismic activity being generating by the alien ships surrounding our world is increasing. If this attack does not stop, all of Oceania will be submerged. Though the OSA and other governments are undertaking military planning to deal with the orbiting attack fleet, it is this reporter’s opinion that our world faces imminent doom. We will be reporting new developments as they become available.” As the red light on the camera blinked off, Lydia was left alone with her thoughts. If only Chester was still with us. If only Hyper-Man could be here to save the day.
Lydia’s thoughts of Hyper-Man were echoed by millions of souls across Oceania, but all knew that the hero would not arrive to save them. The Macropolis marvel had passed away several years ago, the unknowing victim of blue zoronite poisoning. While the hero had known that zoronite (the radioactive debris of his homeworld Zoron) was deadly to him, he had not known that the strange blue rock that he had kept in his undersea fortress was a cosmically altered variety of it. The blue zoronite effects were not temporary; it had poisoned him fatally — first taking his powers, and a year later taking his life.
That year had been the best in Lydia Long’s life. It had allowed her to finally marry the love of her life — Chester King, the man who was Hyper-Man. (*) Now Oceania’s greatest hero was only a memory, one that was remembered often whenever tragedy or catastrophe struck. The peril that Oceania faced today — extinction beneath the waves — generated panic and fear from coast to coast.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Superman from Outer Space” Action Comics #265 (June, 1960).]
As the distraught figure of Kond flew into Oceania’s star system, even his reduced mental powers could not fail to notice the waves of despair being generated by the populace below. It was an aggregated sensation that served to overwhelm his own grief.
He took control of his flight path for the first time in countless days. He wanted to know the source of this despair. His telescopic vision came into play as he surveyed the world below. He found it strikingly familiar to the world of the champion whose form he had assumed. He could see that the watery world was in danger of being completely overrun by the tidal menace being generated by the orbiting fleet.
Kond smiled weakly. This was the sort of crisis that the Kryptonian had made a life of averting. In this copied body, Kond had simply lived for the pleasure of living with Rija. As he drew closer to the aquatic surface, he noticed a woman standing along a dock in a large metropolis, talking into a communication device in her hand. She was unaware of the tremendous surge of water swelling behind her.
Almost without thinking, Kond sprang into action. He instinctively knew what to do. From a distance, his eyes blazed, and searing beams of heat-vision swept over the wave, boiling off thousands of gallons. It was not enough, however, to stop it. Kond, nonetheless, had the situation well in hand, or rather in his hands. He pulled up in front of the wave and clapped his hands together. The thunderous noise that he generated slammed into the wave and dissipated its energy.
He swooped down to the dock in order to check on the female’s condition. A great deal of water vapor had still managed to spray the area, and the impact of it had knocked her down. He reached down to take her hand and lift her to her feet. His telepathic powers reached out and learned her language instantly. “Are you all right?” Kond asked.
Lydia brushed her wet hair out of her eyes and looked up at him. She saw the tattered red-and-blue-caped outfit that he wore. It looked familiar. However, what was more shocking was his face. To her eyes, it was her husband’s. “Chester?” she sobbed. “It can’t be.”
“I am called Kond. Are you injured?”
Lydia blinked her eyes a few times, but her initial impression was correct. This was Chester standing before her. Her hand in his told her that he was flesh and blood. It had to be him. Besides, she thought, Chester never did get his robots to function properly in Oceania’s zillium-laden atmosphere. He couldn’t be a fake. “I — I’m all right, I think,” she stammered. Her newfound hope was momentarily dashed as she finally recognized the tattered outfit that Kond wore. Though the emblem on his chest was shredded, she could make out the remnants of the S-shield. This was the Terran double of Chester — Superman. “I’m sorry, Superman. I thought you were my husband. Please forgive me.”
Kond looked at her quizzically and then pried softly into her mind for an explanation. It then became clear to him that her late husband was once Hyper-Man, a man who had the exact likeness of Superman, the form of whom Kond had taken himself. “I am not Superman,” Kond replied. “But I am his friend. Your husband was, too. I can sense that. I can also sense the love that you still feel for him and the pain at his passing. I, too, know that pain.”
He did not know why he was opening up so much to this ephemeral. He had never been so with any other being during his travels. But something about her spoke to him; her emotions mirrored his own.
Scanning the skies with his telescopic vision, Kond noted the squadron of rocket-ships continuing to bomb Oceania from orbit. “Who are these beings that strike at your world?”
“I don’t know,” Lydia cried. “They came and began attacking. While we have spacecraft capable of reaching them, they’re all civilian passenger vehicles. Space above Oceania was declared a no-weapons zone. Any ships that we sent to communicate with them were destroyed. We can’t reach them.”
“You have me now,” Kond declared. “I’ve heard it said across the universe that the friend of my friend is my friend. I will stand against them. Though perhaps I should mend my attire. I’ve found symbolism to be important to many races.”
Lydia thought for a moment. She almost hated to suggest it, but the notion would be very symbolic for all of Oceania. “Perhaps I can suggest a change of attire. At Chester’s Undersea Fortress–“
Moments later, Kond had flown out to sea and descended to the sea bottom where Hyper-Man’s Undersea Fortress lay. His cellular structure, being a duplicate of Hyper-Man’s as well, activated the high-speed sliding doors on the domed structure. He flew through, and the door slid shut before any water could fall into the Fortress. He found one of the deactivated robots and appropriated the costume. He shed the remains of his red and blue Superman outfit and donned the purple and orange costume of Hyper-Man. Split seconds later, he was out of the dome and emerging from the surface of the water.
Back in Macropolis, Lydia had found her fear-rattled cameraman and had him focus the camera out to sea. She came back on the air. “This is Lydia Long, once again from Macropolis. I’d like to report that I have seen a sign of hope amidst our despair. You should be able to see that sign any moment now.” In the distance, a flying speck appeared on the horizon. The camera transmitted the image across the world. Soon, all could see that it was a caped figure. In another second, the purple body suit as orange tights, boots and cape became apparent. The famous orange H on a green trapezoidal field was clear to see. When the figure alighted next to Lydia, all knew who it was. It was Hyper-Man reborn.
Kond could sense the planet-wide feeling of despair begin to be emboldened with hope. He knew what the general conclusion was, but he did not want to lead them on that way. “People of Oceania,” he spoke into Lydia’s microphone. “Despite my appearance, I am not your beloved Chester King.” He paused, letting the truth sink in across the globe. “He was a kindred spirit, though. I can sense the love that he felt for this world reflected in the love that this world holds for him. In his honor, I have taken up his guise. In his honor, I will seek to protect this world. I will never be Chester King, but, if you will have me, I will be your Hyper-Man!”
A tremendous cheer went up around the world. Even if he had not possessed super-hearing, Kond knew that he had gained the world’s acceptance. He rocketed into the sky to confront the enemy fleet.
Established in low orbit, the Uqwarian battle group continued to pound Oceania’s waters with their space-bombs. Already the assault had caused many coastal areas to be ravaged by high tides. A few hours more, and the entire planet would be submerged forever.
“Commander,” the space-radar officer called out on the water-filled bridge of the flagship rocket. “We’re tracking that same high-speed object that flew past the group before going down to the surface.”
Vul-Kor sat up from his command chair. Like all of the other Uqwarians, his humanoid body was covered with an orange-scaled outfit that covered the fin upon his back. His green hair was pressed against his scalp by the pressurized environment. “Location and trajectory?” He was not happy at all with this development. Their mission had been going like clockwork up to this point. The shadowy figures behind the Alien Alliance had commissioned the Uqwarians to conquer a number of predominantly aquatic worlds. This had fit in well with Uqwaria’s plans for expansion. They could turn these worlds into complete water-worlds with their space-bombs. Now that seemingly simple task had become more complicated.
“Altitude five thousands meters. Trajectory puts it on a collision course with us!” the space-radar officer exclaimed. “Configuration appears humanoid.”
“A super-humanoid?” Vul-Kor cursed. The provided intelligence had indicated that Oceania’s champion was deceased. Vul-Kor had no desire to confront another super-humanoid, not after the ignominy that his previous encounter with one had caused. His operation on Sol-3, working with his daughter Lya-La, had been opposed by that world’s Superman. (*) Being outsmarted by the Terran into thinking that Sol-3’s oceans were too salty for Uqwarians had caused him much shame on the homeworld. This mission was his chance to prove himself to the Admiralty. He would not fail. “Lock quantum cannons. Continue space-bomb barrage.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Super-Merman of the Sea,” Action Comics #244 (September, 1958).]
Space-bombs continued to drop from the Uqwarian fleet, but the explosions never reached Oceania’s surface. Hyper-Man lashed out with heat-vision, detonating the space-bombs before they even reached the atmosphere. The Uqwarian quantum cannons locked on their target and commenced firing. The high-powered blasts did give Hyper-Man pause as they impacted upon his invulnerable form. Kond maneuvered among the beams as he continued to pick off the space-bombs.
“Quantum fire ineffective,” the weapons officer reported.
“Continue firing,” Vul-Kor barked. His commands were immediately relayed to the other ships. “Maximize intensity. Reroute all power to the cannons.” Nothing would be able to withstand the combined assault, he believed.
The weapons arrays across the fleet concentrated their fire and unleashed a simultaneous blast at Hyper-Man. The mega-ergs of energy smashed into him and drove him back. The barrage continued until the weapons arrays overheated. To Vul-Kor’s delight, the body of Hyper-Man lay floating in space.
“Resume bombardment,” Vul-Kor ordered. The power the bomb-delivery systems needed had been co-opted by the quantum cannons for the barrage. However, before the bomb bay doors could reopen, they were fused shut by some intense heat.
“Space-bomb delivery system failure,” the weapons officer reported.
Vul-Kor looked at the telescreen again. Hyper-Man was alive. He was welding each ship’s bomb bay doors shut.
“Get the quantum cannons on-line!” Vul-Kor was panic-stricken.
The weapons officer shrugged. “Cooling systems need another two minutes to recover from the overheating.”
Checking the screen, Vul-Kor could see Hyper-Man smashing into the now-helpless ships of the fleet. The super-humanoid smashed right through engine rooms, detonating them in successive spectacular fashion. Vul-Kor could see that the flagship was next.
Without another word, Vul-Kor slipped off the bridge and into an escape pod. While his crew remained onboard the flagship as Hyper-Man destroyed it, Vul-Kor rocketed away in his small craft.
Hyper-Man floated in midair, marveling at his handiwork. The area was strewn with the twisted metal of the Uqwarian fleet. There was also a great deal of fog; water from the Uqwarians’ artificial environment was vaporized in the heat of the destruction. The fog liquefied in the cold of space and then dissipated. In surveying his success, Kond failed to notice the fleeing escape pod. A feeling of pride swelled up within him. It was a new sensation — rightful pride in accomplishment rather than arrogant pride of supposed superiority.
This Oceania would be his home now. Perhaps he might not find a love to replace Rija — or perhaps with Lydia Long he might — but he had certainly found a purpose.