Outside the Smallville Savings and Loan building, Earth-33, 10:19 A.M.:
There was a flurry of activity around him; the Kryptonite Kid and the Kryptonite Dog were still engaged in maintaining their mental control over the Insect Empress and the Brute while standing atop their circular hover platform. Police Chief Jules Luthor and a few of his officers were tending to Officer Jim Jeffries and Dav-Im and helping them to get back on their feet; most, though, were looking skyward and watching the fight in the sky that was raging between Ultraboy and Superboy. He, however, was crouching over the mangled and deactivated form of Robotboy. As he picked up each section of the chrome-colored robot and placed it in the wagon attached to the rear of his bicycle, he carefully examined each piece for even the most minute of damages. “That cretin,” he said aloud as he gently placed Robotboy’s inert torso into the wagon. Alex Luthor was not happy.
This was the fifteenth version of Robotboy that Alex had built and sent against Ultraboy, which the Smallville scoundrel subsequently destroyed. Fifteen robots, all with enhanced physical capabilities and immense physical strength, and each one easily dismantled by that teenage thug. It was amazingly irritating that all of his work had seemingly been for naught. Each and every time he had come up with what he believed to be a perfectly foolproof anti-Ultraboy plan, it was easily overturned by Smallville’s resident thug. He needed to figure out what he was doing wrong.
“Young man,” came a deep and familiar baritone voice from behind Alex, “what did I say about building devices or sending robots against Ultraboy?”
“Well, Dad,” replied Alex as he nervously ran his hands through his short brown hair, “you told me to stay out of his way. Well, I decided not to do that… again. That little punk needs to be taken down, to be shown that there are people in Smallville who aren’t afraid of him and Boss Parker — unlike our police chief.” There was a slight edge to that last statement.
“You watch your tone, young man. I am not afraid of him or Parker, but as police chief, I have to look at the big picture. We go against them, and it will lead to a war. I don’t want more casualties… like your mother.”
Alex winced as his father mentioned his mother. Her death was still a fresh wound to Alex, despite the fact that it had been seven years since she was taken. It was shortly after the Luthors had moved to Smallville and Jules had taken the position as chief of police. Jules had believed that this was just what the family needed, time in a nice, quiet small town and away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. However, shortly after arriving there and settling into his new role as the chief, Parker and several of his boys came to Jules’ office to let him in on how things worked in Smallville.
“I own this town, you see,” Douglas Parker had said to him while slapping a blackjack into his hand, “I decide what happens around here. The police are just here to make the unwashed masses believe that there is still a such thing as justice in this piece-of-garbage town. You work for me now, Luthor. You don’t do anything in this town without my say-so… you don’t investigate any crime I tell you not to, you don’t arrest any of my boys… you’re just a figurehead around here. You understand, ‘Chief’?”
Jules had been disgusted by what Parker had been attempting to do, and forcibly threw him and his boys out of the office. Parker had only smirked that day, and said, “Have it your way, ‘Chief.’ Just remember, whatever comes next is not my responsibility — it’s yours.” Jules thought nothing of the incident, feeling that Parker was just some blowhard thug, until three weeks later when the brakes on his wife Arlene’s car gave out, and she crashed into a tree, killing her instantly. At Arlene’s funeral, Jules received a note from Parker that read, You were warned, Chief.
From then on, Jules had knuckled under to Parker’s demands and performed his job as chief exactly as he had been told to by Parker, for fear of his son’s safety… until six months later when Ultraboy first appeared. For the next year, the Smallville scoundrel had been a major thorn in the chief’s side, constantly robbing the Smallville Savings and Loan and then disappearing via his amazing super-powers. Over the course of that year, Chief Luthor had noted that Ultraboy was a most perplexing individual to deal with. He would steal something valuable, such as money or jewels, and then two or three days later, would return what was stolen. When Ultraboy stole money, he would return all of the money, minus $1,000. Most perplexing indeed.
After a year of this, Ultraboy crossed the wrong person in Smallville: he stole from Parker, which seemed to cause Chief Luthor nothing but delight — the boss of bosses ripped off by somebody he couldn’t intimidate, somebody who could push back if he were pushed. But soon after that, something unexpected happened that Chief Luthor had to this day still not been able to figure out; Ultraboy started working with Parker, and that was when Parker’s golden rule was established. If a criminal wanted to commit a crime of any kind in Smallville, then they would have to make arrangements with Boss Parker first, and then cut Parker and Ultraboy in for twenty percent of the take; if the golden rule was not followed, Ultraboy would rough up the rule-breaker, and they, in turn, would forfeit all claim to what was stolen.
Alex knew all this. This was the world in which he lived. Often, he had stated to his father that something needed to be done about the crime boss and the super-powered Kryptonian, and that he himself would be the perfect person to step up to the plate and challenge Ultraboy, because Alex Luthor was the greatest scientific mind on Earth. His intellect made him capable of doing virtually anything, and with it he should have been able to defeat Ultraboy long ago, but some unknown force had always made it so that the good guys lost here. It should not have been that way. And, of course, his father made him promise to never get involved; Jules Luthor had felt that if Alex had interfered, he might lose him just as he had lost Arlene, and he didn’t know if he could handle losing his son, too. So, at first, Alex had adhered to his father’s wishes, but as time went on, he began to secretly aid the various super-heroes who would appear on Earth to challenge Ultraboy, and then, finally, he constructed Robotboy, only to watch his creation be destroyed over and over again. It was frustrating, to say the least.
“Sorry, Dad,” Alex said after a few tense moments, “you know I didn’t mean it.”
“I know, Alex. I know. But, I also know that you’re right,” Chief Luthor said as he placed his hand on his son’s shoulder and looked up into the morning sky toward the battle that was still raging between Ultraboy and Superboy. He pursed his lips. “Well, what do you make of this Superboy, son? You think he’s one of the good guys?”
“I don’t know, Dad,” Alex replied as he joined his father in gazing skyward, “but I guess we’re about to find out.”
The skies above Smallville, Earth-33, 10:20 A.M.:
Superboy was beginning to black out, and it was getting harder and harder to remain both conscious and focused. Ultraboy had a tight grip on Superboy’s ankles and was spinning himself at super-speed. The combination of the kryptonite energy that Ultraboy exuded and the centrifugal forces leveled upon the Boy of Steel’s head were almost too much for him. At least now he knew what it felt like to be an astronaut at Cape Canaveral inside a centrifuge.
“Enjoying the ‘spin,’ Superboy?” Ultraboy was laughing the whole time.
I hate that kid, Superboy thought. Need to… distract him… to get him to stop. With each passing moment, it was getting harder and harder to think, to focus. Superboy needed to stay awake in order to figure out a way to defeat his evil doppelgänger. Brute strength was not working; they were too evenly matched. He couldn’t outthink Ultraboy, as again they were too evenly matched. He needed to catch him off guard like he had the night before. As he continued to spin, a plan started to form.
Struggling with all his might, Superboy forced his head up to look at Ultraboy, and, once his double was in his sights, he let loose an intense blast of heat-vision that hit the Smallville scoundrel in the hand. Ultraboy screamed in pain as the heat blast struck his hand, and he loosed his grip on the Boy of Steel.
Superboy, still spinning, fell away at tremendous speed. It took all that the Boy of Steel had to right himself. Floating in the skies above Smallville, Superboy paused to shake off the effects of Ultraboy’s human centrifuge trick. Holding his head for a moment, he was able to regain some semblance of his composure just as Ultraboy flew up to face him.
“I can keep this up all day, Superboy,” Ultraboy said, smirking back at the Boy of Steel. “Why don’t you just give up and let me kill you?”
“Because I know how you think, Ultraboy.”
Ultraboy cocked an eyebrow back at Superboy. “Oh, please,” he said, “do tell.”
“Last night,” Superboy began, his head continuing to clear, “you said that you know how I think. Which got me to thinking when I arrived here last night, how is it that you know how I think? Obviously, we had a similar — if not exactly the same — upbringing. Which means that on this Earth, you too were raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent. Isn’t that right… Clark?”
“Well played, Superboy. Well played. And how might I ask did you prove this?”
Superboy chuckled. “I did it the old-fashioned way. I snuck into this world’s version of the Kent house on 321 Maple Street this morning before I confronted you and your two accomplices. I found the secret laboratory in the basement, the tunnel that leads out to the concealed entrance in the woods outside of town, and your journal. I must have read that thing at least a hundred times at super-speed forwards and backwards to try and get inside your head. So I know that when you say you are going to kill me, you are doing that for show. Your Jonathan and Martha ingrained in you the idea that murder is wrong. You have a code, just like me.”
“That still doesn’t explain where you’ve been since I stranded you and Krypto here last night.”
“True. That’s for me to know, and you to find out.” Superboy was purposely trying to goad his counterpart. It had seemed to work pretty well the night before. And it wasn’t like he was trying to keep his and Krypto’s whereabouts a secret; he just wanted to keep his double off guard. After arriving here on Earth-33 less than twelve hours prior, Superboy had traveled to a glacier in the great polar regions of the north to see if, like himself, Ultraboy had indeed built himself a retreat in the north, one of a few temporary hideaways he’d constructed over the years. The Cave of Silence, as Superboy had dubbed his own scarcely used polar retreat, did indeed have its own double here on Ultraboy’s Earth. (*) Upon arriving at Ultraboy’s version of the Cave of Silence, Superboy used his double’s computers to perform reconnaissance work to get his bearings, as well as get a couple hours of sleep.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Day It Rained Superboys,” Superboy #159 (September, 1969).]
“You think that that’s going to work a second time?” said Ultraboy.
“I was hoping that it might.”
“Well,” Ultraboy replied, smirking, “you hoped wrong, Superboy.” Ultraboy was a blur of super-speeded motion as he punched the Boy of Steel with a super-strong right cross that, because of the green kryptonite that radiated from Ultraboy’s body, sent Superboy hurtling toward the ground. As he plummeted like a meteorite toward Oak Street, the Boy of Steel tried to angle his descent so as to not harm any of the innocent people lining the streets. It was only a few seconds later that the Smallville sensation crashed into the pavement merely five feet from where Alex Luthor and his father stood watching the battle in the skies.
Alex Luthor ran to Superboy’s side to check to see if the hero was all right. He still wasn’t sure if Superboy was one of the good guys yet, but he couldn’t stand idly by and let the Kryptonian thug turn this young man who appeared to be trying to help into hamburger meat. “Are you OK?” Alex asked Superboy as he kneeled down beside him and started to help him sit up.
“Oh, Superboy is just fine, Alex,” Ultraboy said as he descended to the pavement in front of the youth, “but in a few seconds, you won’t be!” As Ultraboy’s eyes began to glow red with his heat-vision, Alex got the feeling that he was up the proverbial creek without a paddle.