by Starsky Hutch 76
The enormous yellow metal door slid open, and two women stepped through the giant doorway into the Fortress of Solitude. A cold arctic wind wafted in behind them.
“Superman?” the slightly older of the two women called out. She was dressed in a red and blue costume patterned after the Man of Steel’s but distinctive in appearance, with a skintight red costume with blue gloves, shorts, boots, and a cape, as well as a blue mask that covered her head and face but left her long red hair draping over her shoulders.
“Are you certain he is here, Superwoman?” the younger one said in her usual formal tone. She was dressed in another costume patterned more closely after Superman’s, with a skintight blue outfit emblazoned with the S symbol with red gloves and boots and a cape. The overall costume was damaged in places, tattered as if after a fierce battle. Unlike her companion, her hair was short and blonde.
“No, but we’re running out of options, Supergirl,” Superwoman said, sighing. “We’ve checked everywhere else.”
“Where are you, my ancestor?” Supergirl called out.
“Looks like we’ve run into another dead end,” Superwoman said. “His senses would’ve already detected us. He’d answer if he were here.”
“If he is able,” Supergirl said, drawing an alarmed look from Superwoman. “I am surprised the Superman robots have not responded to our intrusion.”
“The last Superman robot was destroyed during the last attack by the Superman Revenge Squad,” Superwoman said. (*) “He must not have rebuilt them yet.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Revenge is Life; Death to Superman,” Superman #414 (December, 1985).]
As they walked through the halls of the Fortress, the two women gazed at the many trophies that filled it: mementos of a lifetime of adventure. Supergirl stopped and lifted the lid to a glass case holding a Kryptonian dagger.
“What are you doing?” Superwoman asked.
“This is the only thing I know of that can cut through the indestructible material of my costume,” she said, going to work on the tattered leggings of her costume. It had been badly damaged in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but there weren’t many tailors who could handle Kryptonian material.
“You’re not going to try and fix it?” Superwoman asked.
“There’s little left to fix,” she replied. “The same can be said for my gloves, she said, holding them up to reveal the missing palms before removing them. She also removed her tattered belt.
“Hmm. Now you’re looking more like the original,” Superwoman said.
“Not quite,” Supergirl said, bringing her hand up to her closely cropped hair. “Long hair is impractical for battle.”
“Well, I don’t think I’ll be cutting mine anytime soon,” Superwoman said.
“That is your decision to make,” Supergirl replied, replacing the dagger after cutting away the last bit of legging.
Superwoman and Supergirl finally found their way to the area of the Fortress of Solitude that contained the living quarters, which contained a huge kitchen, a recreation area, a den, a living room, and several bedrooms. They went through the rooms one by one until they came to one final bedroom, where they discovered a sleeping figure.
“Superman?” Superwoman called out.
“Ancestor?” Supergirl questioned.
Superman raised himself up weakly and stared in the directions that the voices had come from. His eyes locked on Supergirl.
“K-Kara?” he said, emotion choking his voice.
“No, I’m sorry, honored ancestor,” she replied.
“N-no… you’re not her,” he said, crushing disappointment evident in his voice as he slumped to the bed weakly. “You resemble her, but the hair and the costume are wrong. And your eyes don’t have her warmth.”
Supergirl’s eyes grew wide with shock at the harsh words.
“You’re that Supergirl from the future… Louise-L.” (*) After saying her name, he passed out, as if the effort to raise up and speak had been too much for him.
[(*) Editor’s note: The Supergirl from 500,000 years in the future first appeared in the Supergirl stories “Crisis at the Crossroads of Time,” Superman Family #215 (February, 1982) and “Victory is Only 5,000 Centuries Away,” Superman Family #216 (March, 1982).]
Both women moved to opposite sides of his bed. “Oh my God!” Superwoman called out as she placed a palm on his forehead. “He’s burning up!”
“His skin has a greenish hue,” Supergirl said. “Severe kryptonite poisoning. He has spent far too much time in Metropolis — even with his containment suit.”
The two had come here in search of Superman after learning of the recent events that had befallen Superman and his beloved city of Metropolis, as well as Washington, D.C. Just two days ago, the usually harmless Mr. Mxyzptlk returned to Earth as some kind of hybrid with a malicious crystalline entity called Aethyr and dropped Argo City itself onto Metropolis. Superman managed to destroy it, breaking it into billions of pieces and preventing it from crushing the city flat. Afterward, if it had been made of anything else, Superman could have cleaned it up himself with few problems. Unfortunately, Argo City was mostly composed of kryptonite. Thankfully, much of it was anti-kryptonite, which only affected non-powered Kryptonians, but far too much of it was made of green kryptonite, the deadly variety that could kill Superman. He had absorbed an intense amount of radiation from it, forcing him to flee to the Moon, where he briefly passed out.
If that had not been enough, the Phantom Zone itself was emptied of all its inhabitants, and an already weakened Superman had to return to Earth to defend Washington, D.C., alone against a horde of Kryptonian criminals led by General Dru-Zod. But it was not Superman who managed to defeat them at all. While battling them, Mxyzptlk’s personality managed to win out over Aethyr, and he began absorbing all the Phantom Zone villains into his crystalline structure. Then Mxyzptlk-Aethyr left, intending to take over the fifth dimensional world of Zrfff, Mxyzptlk’s home dimension. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter,” DC Comics Presents #97 (September, 1986).]
Superman was left with just enough strength to douse the fires in Washington and then return to the Fortress of Solitude to retrieve a lead-based containment suit, which he used to begin removing kryptonite from Metropolis. But even that lead suit had not proven to be strong enough to keep out all the radiation, and over several hours of exposure, Superman had become poisoned by green kryptonite radiation, while Metropolis remained a city of kryptonite.
“We should transport him to New Krypton,” said Supergirl. “They will know how to treat this.”
“There’s not enough time,” Superwoman said. “Rokyn is not in phase with our dimension right now, and he’d be gone by the time it was. We have to find a way to help him on our own.”
“Very well,” Supergirl said. “Are there any relatives we should notify?”
Superwoman thought for a moment, recalling all she had learned as a historian. “His blood relations are on Rokyn — a cousin and an aunt and uncle. He has several cousins as Clark Kent and even an older foster brother Jonathan and Martha Kent had taken in before him. But none of them know he’s Superman.”
“If we cannot take him to Rokyn,” Supergirl asked soberly, “then how do you propose we help him?”
Superwoman contemplated their dilemma. What could help Superman? What could drive out the radiation and give him the strength needed to pull him back from the brink of death? She drew on her great historical knowledge of the era she now lived in, and then it suddenly came to her. She snapped her fingers — a very twentieth century gesture — and said, “We have to find the fabled Sword of Superman!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Day the Cheering Stopped,” Superman Annual #10 (1984).]
In a few moments, the two women gathered what supplies they might need from the Fortress. Superwoman added the technological wonders there to the twenty-ninth century technology that gave her super-powers in order to move about in space. Once they were ready, she touched the device on her belt buckle to open a hole in time and space, leading them to the point where Superman had tossed the powerful object they sought.
“How will we ever find the Sword in all of this?” Supergirl said, gesturing to the cluster of asteroids, space dust, meteorites, and other debris floating around them and in the distance. “It is like trying to find a beetle in a haystack.”
“That’s a needle in a haystack,” Superwoman said. “But you’re right. Hopefully, the equipment we brought should be able to home in on its unique energy signature.”
The two flew through the debris, aiming their device at the clusters of rock formations around them, hoping to get a reading from it matching the signature of the Sword of Superman. “How can we hope to detect something the size of a sword in such a vast area?” Supergirl asked.
“A hilt, actually,” Superwoman said.
“Currently, it’s just a hilt. When Superman encountered it last, it attempted to embue him with god-like omnipotence — and even tried to make him one with creation. It was more than he could handle, and he rejected it. All that was left of it after the encounter was the hilt.”
“Will it be enough to help him?” Supergirl asked.
“We can only hope.”
The two women were shocked out of their contemplation by the wildly darting needle of the gauge on the device. “We’ve found it!” Superwoman cried. “Now all that’s left is to retrieve it!”
The two began to move toward the direction the device was getting its readings from when a blast fired, barely missing them and sending an asteroid into explosive flames. “Who dares?” Supergirl shouted angrily.
“I dare,” a gruff voice said in their minds. Space dust gathered, coalesced, and began to form a body where before there was empty space. “Long have I been drawn by the device of power since Superman once wielded but a small fraction of its power to defeat me. If anyone shall shall wield such a formidable weapon, it shall be King Kosmos.” He commanded, “Stand aside, females. I have business elsewhere. So stay out of my way, and I may forego slaying you.”
“Not a chance,” Superwoman said. “We have a much better use for that sword than you do.”
“How are we speaking in space?” Supergirl said under her breath. The two of them were using communication devices, but that didn’t explain how they were hearing Kosmos.
“Because I will that you hear me!” he shouted. “All bends to the will of Kosmos!” With that, he sent another blast in their direction.
The two women dived out of the way, narrowly missing being blasted to atoms. Another asteroid went up in a ball of flame.
“We’ve got to find that sword before he does,” Superwoman said. She pressed the buckle of her belt, and a portal appeared before them. “Come on,” she yelled to Supergirl. The two of them jumped through the portal toward the coordinates where the Sword of Superman supposedly lay.
“Nooo!” Kosmos screamed in rage.
“There it is,” Supergirl said as she stepped out the other side, followed by Superwoman.
Again, space dust and other matter coalesced into the form of King Kosmos. “I too have ways of transporting myself. When Superman drove my essence from the body of Oswald Mandias, I wandered along the path that the fabled sword took as it careened through space, hoping one day that I might possess it. To wield the power of the Sword of Superman against Superman himself — a suitably ironic form of revenge, don’t you think?”
“Not if we get to it first,” Supergirl said, gritting her jaw.
“Surely you don’t think this is going to be some sort of contest?” Kosmos laughed. “A grand race of sorts? I plan to slay you!”
“Only if we let you,” Superwoman said.
“I’m afraid you’ll have little say in the matter,” Kosmos said, firing another blast. This time, Superwoman threw up a force-field in an attempt to block it. But the force of the blast was still enough to send her colliding into Supergirl.
“Surrender now, and be spared,” Kosmos said. “When I rebuild my empire in your universe, I will need a harem. It would be a shame to destroy two such lovely creatures when they could bring my next body pleasure.”
“I think we would rather be destroyed,” Superwoman said, catching her breath. Smashing into Supergirl had knocked the wind out of her.
“That, too, can be arranged,” King Kosmos said, hammering at her shield with another blast.
“I can’t hold him off much longer,” Superwoman said. “We’ve got to find that sword and get out of here!”