by Starsky Hutch 76, Doc Quantum and Frank G. Murdock
Lobo sat in his cell on the prison planet of Takron-Galtos, passing the time as he usually did these days, fuming over the situation — and the man — who had put him there. Thanks to his Velorpian physiology, it had taken months for his jaw to be properly set after the beating he had taken from the Superman and Supergirl robots, and he had lost a great deal of weight due to not being able to eat solid foods. (*) He was just now getting to look like his former self again.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Solitude Interrupted.]
There had been many prison yard fights to put to rest the running gag that his name, Lobo, now meant “he who devours your entrails only after they have been thoroughly pureed so they can be sipped through a straw.” Repairing his rep had been the worst part of all. As long as Superman lived, it might never be fully restored. It was his only known failure in his career as an assassin.
His fuming was interrupted as a high-pitched noise suddenly made him wince. In researching Superman before accepting the hit, he had familiarized himself with the Kryptonian alphabet in case he needed the knowledge to bypass the Fortress of Solitude’s security. Therefore, he recognized the tone for what is was — an S.O.S.
Somewhere, Superman was in trouble. His life might even be threatened. Lobo slammed his fists against the walls of his cell. He had to get out of there. Whatever was happening had to happen the way it was supposed to. Superman had to die. He had to die if Lobo was ever to be the main man again.
Superman’s mother Lara Jor-El, nee Lara Lor-Van, was equally known on Krypton for her great beauty as for her intellect. But as she passed in and out of consciousness, upon her beautiful, still-youthful face was etched great agony. The ever-stoic Jor-El had disguised the pain that he must surely have felt at this moment, being in the advanced stages of kryptonite poisoning. But Lara had not fully awoken and had been dreaming terrible nightmares until this moment.
“J-Jor?” she muttered.
Her husband, silent for the last few moments as he gathered his strength, snapped to attention and reached out to his wife lying next to him. “Yes, my dearest?”
“Where are we?” she said, opening her eyes. Her vision was blurred at first. It had been close to forty years since she and Jor-El had last seen consciousness. But the gravity was all wrong. Wherever she was, she was not on Krypton.
“We’re with a… friend,” said Jor-El.
Lara frowned, experiencing a rush of pain but doing her best to stifle it long enough to return to the present moment. She could not bear to lose herself in another deep sleep. At last, she opened her eyes. The man standing before her looked familiar, and she frowned for another moment before finally smiling. “Kal-El,” she said. “I am happy to see you.” It was true. She had always felt close to Jor-El’s assistant, almost as if he were family. Indeed, he bore a close resemblance to Jor himself. Before Superman, who was too choked up to speak, could say anything, she said, “You broke poor Lyla’s heart, you know.”
Lyla Lerrol, one of Kal-El’s greatest loves, was an emotion-movie star on Krypton before it exploded. It was during one of his time-travel trips to Krypton that Superman first met his parents as an adult, and they had, in turn, introduced him to the beautiful Lyla. The romance these two had was legendary, albeit doomed, and they were soon engaged to be married. Kal-El was not sure what would happen once his parents gave birth to his younger self, and he was not sure that history could be altered in any way, but he had fallen deeply in love, and nothing seemed impossible to him then. Lyla would complete her work as the star of her latest emotion-movie, and the two would become man and wife. But fate had something different in mind, and Superman was caught in a near-impossible accident that catapulted him off-planet within a prop rocket ship made for the movie. When the mock spacecraft rocketed beyond Krypton’s gravity and outside of Rao’s influence, Superman regained his powers and was forced to use them to return to the present, knowing he would never see her again.
“My heart was broken, too,” Superman said softly, his voice cracking with emotion as he smiled to see his mother’s face. “But…”
“But… eventually you found love again,” said Lara, guessing his words.
“Yes,” said Kal-El. “Her name is Kristin.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: All Mxyed Up.]
“That makes me very happy,” Lara told him, struggling to keep her eyes open. “I’m sorry, I — I can’t seem to stay awake,” she said. A moment later, she had passed out once more.
“It’s better for her this way,” said Jor-El. “She shouldn’t have to face this pain while conscious.”
Kal-El said, “I wanted to tell her how much I love her and missed her.”
“She knows, Kal-El,” his father said. “She’s always known.”
The best thing about being the last Velorpian was that most beings were unfamiliar with the full physiology of the nearly extinct race that had been wiped out by the Psions many years earlier. (*) For instance, few knew they had a defensive skill, left over from their primeval days, to slow their vital signs to such an extent that it was a near-perfect mimicry of death. This was the state Lobo was in when his guards found him and carried him to the infirmary, where he was pronounced dead.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Dead Psions,” The Omega Men #20 (November, 1984).]
Once there, an argument ensued, because the doctors were nearly rabid for the opportunity to dissect and study the last remaining Velorpian. Fortunately, in his successful career as a bounty-hunter and paid assassin, Lobo had amassed enough of a fortune to hire himself a team of lawyers nearly as bloodthirsty as himself, so in the end, he was given a proper sendoff.
Lobo’s corpse was given a proper sendoff in a missile-like coffin and fired into space. Once there, a team of his trained space dolphins escorted his coffin to one of his asteroid safe-houses. As soon as he was revived, he mounted his space-hog and immediately tried to pick up the trail of the S.O.S. he had heard before his escape.
In an outpost of the nearby Vega system, Shlagen leaned on one yellow hand and stared over his large, beak-like nose in boredom at the view-screen as he performed monitor duty. Suddenly, he clucked in alarm as an image tore across his screen. “P-P-P-Primus!”
“What is is, Shlagen?” Primus said calmly, bracing himself for another one of Shlagen’s overreactions to nothing.
“On my screen! It… it… Honest to X’hal, I’d swear it looked like Lobo!”
“Lobo?” Primus said with a startled expression. “Last I heard, Superman put that monster away for good! Half the worlds in the system have declared that day a national holiday.”
“We’d better keep an eye on that bastich,” Tigorr growled, his claws actually beginning to shred the upholstery in unrestrained hostility. “The rate he’s tearing out, he’s up to no good.”
“This is Jasma,” Superman said, showing his parents the photograph he carried with him. “I made a dying promise to her father, Salkor, to take care of her. (*) I think it might be a bit of a sore spot with Zor-El and Alura, but so far they have gone along with it.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Supergirl: Bride of X?” Superman #415 (January, 1986) and Superman Family: The Legacy.]
“It might be easier for them that way,” Jor-El said.
“Jor, what a terrible thing to say,” Lara said weakly. She had awoken again a few moments earlier and seemed a bit stronger for the moment.
“Think about it,” Jor-El said. “Zor always tried to go along with the family and be a scientist because he felt it was expected, but he really had more of a poet’s soul. Nim-El was the stoic one, not Zor-El. Seeing her every day, looking like the daughter he lost, that he’d tried to help cheat death… it would tear him up inside.”
“Maybe he’s not the only poet in the family,” Lara smiled wistfully, clasping her husband’s hand.
Their revelry was broken up as a sudden jolt passed through the skull ship. “What was that?!” Lara exclaimed.
“I… I think it might be our rescue party,” Superman said, startled. “But whoever it might be is going about it a lot more recklessly than I would prefer.”
“Are these JLA compatriots of yours you mentioned earlier always this… overeager?”
“No, they’re usually more discreet,” Superman said. “Well, maybe not Green Arrow, but I doubt one of his boxing glove arrows could’ve caused that sort of jolt. Everyone, quick! Into the Supermobile!”
“I thought you said Brainiac had full control over it!”
“I think he’s going to be a little preoccupied,” Superman said. He spent the next few frantic moments placing his weakened parents behind the front seat in the Supermobile. Since it was meant to be a one-man craft, there was precious little room, but Superman managed to fit himself and his parents in with a bit of adjustment, then closed the door and fired up the engine. He hoped they wouldn’t have to be in these cramped quarters for long.
Another blast suddenly pierced the hull of the cargo bay, and the Supermobile found itself sucked outward. Waiting for them was Lobo astride his space-hog. Superman gunned his engine and shot the fists of the Supermobile forward, sending the space-hog careening out of control.
“Who was that?!” Jor-El exclaimed.
“The most dangerous man you’ll ever want to meet in this or any lifetime,” Superman said. “We’d better set it for the highest setting. We don’t stand a chance under a red sun.”
“Why is it marked L?” Lara asked.
Superman gave a wry smirk. “Kristin and I did the latest tune-ups together. She named the newest setting after something she saw in a movie we watched together. The L is for ludicrous speed.”
The former astronaut in Lara smiled. “I think I’m going to like this Kristin of yours.”
“By all means,” Jor-El said, looking back at Lobo in hot pursuit, “set engines for ludicrous speed!”
“Feetal’s gizz!” Lobo exclaimed. “I can’t believe I just got punched out by his fraggin’ car! He ain’t getting’ away that easy!”
Rather than being infuriated by the sudden attack, Brainiac seemed almost giddy. “The last Velorpian, Koko! This is simply smashing! What great fortune! What fine sport awaits us!” he said jubilantly to the green-furred chimpanzee by his side with matching cybernetic head enhancements, who was only the latest of several primate companions to bear that name over the decades.
“I would almost be willing to forget about the Kryptonians to devote all my energy on him — almost but not quite,” he chuckled, ruffling the fur on his pet’s head. “We’ll have to prepare a most special jar for the Velorpian… after we dice his shrunken form into about a thousand pieces, of course. Can’t have a bottle city with just one person in it, you know.”
“I’m Supergirl! I’m Supergirl, and me an’ my Superdog, Sassy, are gonna get you, monster!” Jasma squealed, flying after the toy robot. Jasma wore her favorite playsuit, a near-perfect replica of the costume her mother had worn when she first began her career as Supergirl. Around her waist was a flight belt to help her fly under Rokyn’s red sun. Her puppy Sassy, who was named after the puppy’s mother, wore a cape much like her sire Krypto wore, along with a flight collar. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Krypto the Superdog: A Dog and His Boy.]
“Come down, li’l Supergirl,” Aunt Gerta called. It’s almost time for your nightly call home to your cousin Kal and Kristin.”
“Oh, boy! Daddy Kal!” Jasma said, floating to the ground, looking for all the world like a miniature version of her mother. Zor-El felt a brief pang of sadness as he watched her.
Zor-El, Alura In-Ze, Gerta Gim-Ze, and Jasma, with Sassy in her lap, sat before the vid-screen. Nothing but static filled the screen. “Why aren’t we getting a signal?” Gerta asked.
“I don’t know,” Zor said grimly.
“Don’t they want to talk to me?” Jasma asked with misty eyes.
“Of course he does, dear!” Gerta said. “He wouldn’t miss talking to you for all the world.”
“Well, he is Superman,” Alura said. “Maybe he’s on a case?”
“A wild pack of snagriffs couldn’t keep him from a vid-con with Jasma,” Zor said.
“Don’t scare her,” Alura said under her breath.
As soon as Jasma went back to playing with Sassy, Zor-El placed a call to the chief of police, his nephew Don-El.
“Well, he is Superman,” his nephew said.
“I’m well aware of that,” Zor-El said, annoyed. “I wish people wouldn’t keep throwing that out there like I’m just finding that out for the first time. He may be Superman under a yellow sun, but for the time being, he was a lone traveler in a red solar system in a remote sector. All I’m asking is, please look into it, OK?”
“Of course, Uncle Zor,” Don-El said.
“Thank you, Don. I apologize if I seem a little snappy, but we have a little girl here who has already seen too much loss in her short lifetime.”
“I understand, Uncle Zor,” Don-El said sincerely. “I’ll notify you as soon as we hear something.”
“Come on out here, ya fraggin’ Boy Scout!” came the loud, bellowing voice of the universe’s last Velorpian, a dark grin cutting across his face as his eyes grew wild with giddy excitement. “Now it can be just you and me out here as the creator intended — me, the baddest bad-ass… the main man… the only one who ever fragged in all his natural wonder!”
Pulling his mysterious alien alloy fashioned hook from his belt, Lobo spun it around and hooked the tail of the Supermobile. “Yeeeaaa-haw! Feetal’s gizz! This one’s a fighter!” he cried, leaping from his space-hog. Lobo pulled himself along the sixty-odd feet of elongated chain link, which miraculously seemed to stretch longer than it looked when it had previously hung at his side, until he reached the hull of the Supermobile. Pulling himself atop the small craft, Lobo turned and made an unheard whistle, seemingly able to be heard through the vacuum of outer space, alerting his bike to follow close behind. And it did.
Knowing his ride was available and reasonably safe from harm, Lobo turned his attention back to his original goal. Quickly scanning the hull, the mercenary and often assassin for hire soon located the ship’s hatch. The grin on his face started to show teeth, the smile on his face matching the look in his eyes, as Lobo crawled toward it and tapped lightly.
“Knock, knock, knock! Can Super-Wimp come out and play?” Lobo said, his translation circuits bypassing empty space and transmitting his voice directly into the ship’s atmosphere. “Don’t tell me such a big, bad Kryptonian like you is afraid of somethin’ so beautiful as a red sun!” The Velorpian allowed the sarcasm to linger for a few moments, then drew his face close to the hatch, and, in a lower voice said, “Are you?”
The Velorpian awaited a reply, but there was no answer.
Lobo’s wild eyes shifted to insanity. “Knock, knock, knock! Hey, Supes, just me, Li’l Lobo, here! And I brought you a treat.”
But again, no answer was forthcoming.
A frown moved over Lobo’s lips, followed by a look in his eyes that suggested, “Oh, don’t want to talk to me, do you?”
But that quickly changed, as wild and manic eyes filled with rage and insanity blanked out any sense of rational thought as Lobo began to hammer his fists upon the hull. The ship rocked to and fro as the homicidal madman sought his rematch with the Man of Steel within.
“C’mon, Super-Dweeb! It’s time you and me have it out on equal terms! This time I’m going to frag you right in yer spandex, and ain’t nothing you going to do but accept who — is — the — main — man!” Each pause was highlighted with a dent-forming fist struck upon the Supermobile’s hull.