“Atom, what are we gonna do?” the Elongated Man asked. “Two of the most powerful villains in the universe — can we take them ourselves?”
“We have to, Ralph,” the Atom said. “If we don’t, Superman is finished! There’s no time to call in any of the other members; we have to do this!”
“Right,” Ralph Dibny said, swallowing his self-doubt. “First thing to do is get them away from Superman!”
“Roger that, Ralph,” Atom said. “You distract Ultraman, I’ll lead the Kryptonite Man away!”
Superman had nearly lost consciousness from the combined assault of green kryptonite radiation and Ultraman’s blows. The villain from Earth-Three held Superman’s limp body up by the front of his tunic, balled up in Ultraman’s fist, and gloated over him. Kryptonite Man moved in close to the fallen hero.
“I’ve always wanted to try this,” Kryptonite Man said. “I’m going to turn his costume into kryptonite!”
“Great idea!” Ultraman said. “In fact, why not turn this entire satellite into kryptonite? That’ll really frost him!”
“You got it, U-Man! I — uff!” Kryptonite Man reeled as something struck him on the jaw, something heavy. Before he could recover, another blow struck him, this time on the chin. “What the devil is hitting me?” Kryptonite Man asked.
“It’s that abbreviated annoyance, the Atom!” Ultraman snarled, having spotted the diminutive hero with his ultra-vision. “Are you still here, pipsqueak? Why haven’t you run away?”
“JLAers don’t run, Ulty, ol’ sock,” the Elongated Man declared. The ductile detective’s elongated hands wrapped themselves around Ultraman’s arms, pinning them to his torso. “And we take care of our own!”
“That’s right,” the Atom said, launching himself at Kryptonite Man again. “When you attack one Justice Leaguer, you attack us all!“
“Fair enough,” Ultraman said, flexing his muscles. The Elongated Man’s hands gave way under the pressure, but his elastic limbs were not harmed by it. “First we’ll smear the two of you all over the satellite, then we’ll finish off blue boy!“
“Sounds good to me,” Kryptonite Man declared, making a grab for the Atom. “It’ll be more fun to torture Superman by making him watch his friends die, before we kill him!”
“You have to catch me first,” the Atom declared, diving under a door into another part of the satellite. Enraged, Kryptonite Man gave chase, opening the door and racing through.
“Don’t think I don’t see what you two are up to,” Ultraman told the Elongated Man as he pulled the hero’s elastic fingers away from his body. “You’re trying to lead us away from Superman! Well, it’ll do you no good. We’ve got all the time in the world to kill him!”
“That so?” Elongated Man asked. “Then you won’t mind a merry chase!” And with that, the Elongated Man vanished into a ventilating shaft.
Ultraman sneered at this. It would be easy to pull the walls of the satellite apart and give chase. But with his ultra-senses he could follow Elongated Man and be in the very room he emerged in when he got there. The thought made the villain smile. He began flying down the corridors of the satellite, tracking the Elongated Man by his heartbeat.
The Atom raced down the hallways of the satellite with the Kryptonite Man fast in pursuit. The mighty mite had reduced his weight to a few ounces to increase his running speed. He had no idea where to run, however. Somehow he had to stop the Kryptonite Man, but how?
As he rounded a corner, the Atom saw a directional sign on a wall telling him where this corridor was leading. An idea suddenly sparked in the Atom’s mind, and he put on an extra burst of speed.
“Run all you want, little man,” Kryptonite Man snarled. “When I catch you, I’ll turn you into solid kryptonite! I’ll use you for a dashboard ornament!”
As he himself rounded a corner, Kryptonite Man saw this corridor dead-ended at a large vault-like door. He watched the Atom vanish under the door. “That won’t save you, little man! I can get through this door! It may take some time, but I’ll get through!”
The Elongated Man twisted and snaked through the ventilating system of the satellite. He had explored this ventilating system before, mapping it for just such an emergency. He knew exactly where he was headed: the Justice League trophy room. He was hoping some weapon the League had confiscated from a super-villain would be able to stop Ultraman. But what? Ultraman was an alternate Earth’s version of Superman, and none of those weapons had stopped Superman. What could he use? Kanjar Ro’s gamma gong? The Green Bell of Uthool?
A grin crossed Elongated Man’s face. Oh, yeah. The very thing.
It had taken several minutes, but Kryptonite Man had forced his way through the vault-like door. He had turned certain parts of the lock mechanism into kryptonite; as this material was stronger than steel, it had frozen the mechanisms and allowed the villain to force the door. He was surprised by what he saw on the other side, however. Looking around, he could tell at a glance that he was in the heart of the satellite in the room that housed the nuclear dynamo that powered the mighty space station. A tall, brown-haired man stood at the control board, manipulating dials and switches.
“You! Who are you?” Kryptonite Man demanded of the man. “Where’s the Atom? I saw him come in here! Talk!“
The man turned his head to look at the Kryptonite Man. There was no fear on his face, only a calm expression. “The Atom is over here, Kryptonite Man,” he said. “Come and get him.”
Confusion crossed the Kryptonite Man’s face, suddenly replaced by realization. “Oh, I get it! You’re the Atom! You just returned to normal size! Well, that won’t save you!” The glowing green villain lunged for Ray Palmer then. Palmer quickly stabbed a final button on the control panel, then vanished. Kryptonite Man stumbled as he tried to arrest his lunge. He corrected himself in time to see the Atom, tiny again, race out the door; he saw the door slam behind the Atom, trapping him inside.
“This is getting tiring, little man!” Kryptonite Man snarled. “Why don’t you–“
A humming sound behind him interrupted the Kryptonite Man. The humming grew louder, and the floor vibrated beneath his feet. He turned around in time to see a brilliant flash of light.
The Elongated Man shot out of the air vent in the trophy room. He looked around quickly and saw Ultraman standing next to a wax figure display of the Crime Syndicate of America. “I see you’ve included us in your trophies of past victories. Fitting, really.” With a burst of heat-vision, Ultraman melted the five wax figures into a puddle. “So you wanted to die amidst the memories of your triumphs? I like that; it’s poetic. Well, rubber-man? Are you ready to die?“
“Not today,” Elongated Man said as his hand snaked out across the room. His finger stabbed the control button of a queer-looking device. It was a metal globe studded with glass domes on a tripod. As the Elongated Man touched the device, it erupted with golden light. Yellow radiance poured from every glass dome on the globe; the room filled with it, coloring everything yellow. The radiance lasted for a few minutes, then faded. Ultraman looked around, confused.
“What… what was that? What did you do to me? What–?”
“What’s the matter, Ulty?” the Elongated Man asked, slowly walking toward the villain. “Feeling a little drained?“
“I-I feel–” Ultraman stammered. “So strange! Haven’t felt this way, haven’t–“
“Say goodnight, grossie,” Elongated Man said, as his rubberized fist shot out from an arm like an uncoiled spring. The punch struck Ultraman full in the jaw; the villain wore an expression of pure shock before he collapsed to the floor of the trophy room.
“Ohh, my head,” Superman complained as he lay back on the bed in the satellite sickbay. A beam of violet light shined down on him from above — a purple healing ray installed by Wonder Woman. “I haven’t had a kryptonite hangover this bad in years! Those two really got me good.”
“You’ll be OK in a couple hours, Supes,” the Elongated Man said as he stood over the bed, smiling. “You’ll be juggling planetoids again before you know it!”
“What about Kryptonite Man and Ultraman?” Superman asked. “What happened to them?”
“I’ve contacted the authorities on Takron-Galtos,” Atom said. “They’ll be here to pick up Kryptonite Man in a few days, or should I say Iron Man? He’ll be safe in our brig until then.”
Superman raised an eyebrow. “Iron Man? What do you mean?”
The Atom touched a control device on the arm of his floating chair. A view-screen across the room flickered into life, showing Kryptonite Man moping in his brig cell. His skin was no longer glowing green, but a dull and lifeless gray. “I lured him into the dynamo room and jury-rigged the nuclear engines of the satellite to recreate the atomic reaction that once turned all kryptonite on Earth into iron. (*) It didn’t hurt him, but he’s been effectively de-powered.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman Breaks Loose,” Superman #233 (January, 1971).]
“Wow!” Superman exclaimed. “I never would have thought of that! Good thing we have a physicist on the team, eh?” The Atom did not reply to that, but smiled. “And Ultraman? Where’s he?”
“He’s cooling his heels in the brig, too,” the Elongated Man said. “Green Lantern can drop him back in the bubble with the rest of the Crime Syndicate. I stopped him with Doctor Light’s light-wave weapon.”
“The light-wave weapon? I don’t get it. How did that stop Ultraman?”
“I used a little deductive reasoning,” the Elongated Man explained. “I figured that if kryptonite gave Ultraman super-powers, then something beneficial to you would be harmful to him. I used the light-wave weapon to hit him with a concentrated blast of yellow solar radiation. It drove the K-radiation out of his cells and left him powerless.”
“Good thinking, Ralph! You know, that never occurred to me. Simple deductive reasoning, and yet I never saw it.”
“Cool it, Supey, you’ve made your point,” Elongated Man joked.
“Yes, we see the light now,” the Atom said. “Every one of us does have unique contributions to make to the team. And we all do make a difference.”
“The once and former Kryptonite Man talked, by the way,” the Elongated Man said. “Brainiac was the one that sprung them and sicced them on us.”
“Brainiac.” Superman fairly spat the word. “I should have known. The idea of teaming up those two had his cold, logical touch all over it.”
“Yeah, but it fell flat on its interface with a little help from your friends,” the Atom said. The three old friends shared a laugh over that.
Somewhere in the cold vastness of space, a computerized criminal watched the scene unfold on his monitor screens.
“Statement: I underestimated the prowess of Superman’s Justice League friends,” the electronic voice spoke to itself. “Each is a force to be reckoned with, their powers notwithstanding. I shall not make that mistake again. Prediction: Next time, Superman shall die.”
And his internal computers hummed as he began to plan anew.