by Martin Maenza
Superman lifted a giant golden key and flew it to the gargantuan lock of the monstrous golden door. The door was actually in the side of a great icy cliff in the Antarctic region of the world. Giving it a turn, a booming clang announced his arrival to his Fortress of Solitude. After placing the key back in the spot where passing planes would mistake it for a weather marker, he flew inside and shut the door behind him.
My computer systems here can run the diagnostics I need, he thought to himself as he flew down the cavernous halls, passing giant souvenirs and mementos of missions past. From the statue of his parents, Jor-El and Lara, to a huge ocean tanker, the collection of items were truly amazing to behold.
Superman turned down to the left and entered a room. There was a bank of computers. He sat down and began to work the keyboard that was coded with the Kryptonian alphabet. There sure has been a lot of meteor activity over the past few days — more than typical. If there is some problem, it’s best that I head it off as soon as possible.
The machine worked at high speed, processing the entered information. The Man of Steel was about to review the data output on the screen, when suddenly an indicator on the console came to light. “A deep space message,” he said. “I wonder who.” He flipped a switch, and the console before him shimmered, a picture starting to form.
“Superman — skkzzt — read me — skkzzt — over.”
The image and the audio quality were a bit fuzzy. The hero attempted to compensate for that as he acknowledged the message. “Superman here.”
The picture cleared up, and the Kryptonian could make out a pink-skinned humanoid with white hair. “Superman — skkzzt — den Hrdnox of Rega VI here. I — skkzzt — ome concerning news.”
“What is it, Warden?”
“–skkzzt — niac has escaped — skkzzt–“
“Say again, Warden,” Superman prompted. “Your signal is breaking up slightly.”
“–skkzzt — scaped. Brainiac has es — skkzzt — ped!”
Superman’s eyes grew wide as he put the pieces of the message together. “Brainiac has escaped?” he repeated the message.
“Yes — skkzzt.” The warden was nodding his head. “I am tr — skkzzt — orry we didn’t — skkzzzzt — ooner.”
Superman shook his head. “No worries, Warden,” he said. “I know how slippery that one can be. I’m on it. Superman out.”
The warden nodded, looking slightly relieved, and ended transmission.
“Brainiac,” Superman said. “He could be anywhere. I’ll need to see if I–“
His train of thought was interrupted by an audible alert from one of the monitor boards. Superman flipped another switch and intercepted a broadcast coming from the United States.
“–has just confirmed that meteors have been sighted in the upper atmosphere over California,” the broadcaster said.
Superman took off like a shot, having gotten all the information he needed to act. The disaster would have to be handled first. He knew for a fact, thanks to being a member of the Justice League, that California’s resident hero Green Lantern was currently elsewhere. So it would be up to him to pitch in during this crisis.
He rocketed out of the Fortress and headed for the location of the situation.
Linda Danvers had been alerted to the same crisis thanks to a sister station of KSFTV. Excusing herself, the young woman slipped away to someplace private where she could shed her brown wig and everyday clothes.
Now dressed as Supergirl, she soared through the air on a direct course with the threatening meteors. “Hmmph,” she said to herself. “This seems like a replay of last night. I’m sure it’s coincidental that these things are following me about.” She wound back her fist and let it fly, her punch shattering a good-sized space rock. “If it’s not, I probably have something to worry about.”
She looked skyward and realized another was on its way. “This might take a little time,” she said.
“Allow me to assist, cousin,” a booming male voice called.
Supergirl turned in time to see a flash of heat-vision streak by her on a course toward the next meteor. “Kal-El!” she exclaimed. “What brings you out this way?”
“No doubt the same thing as you, Kara,” the Man of Steel replied. “Between the two of us, we can make short work of this.”
“Agreed,” Supergirl said with a smile. She didn’t get to work with her heroic cousin that often these days, so she welcomed his aid. As they continued to bust up the shower of meteors in the middle to upper atmosphere, she couldn’t help wonder about the situation. “This isn’t the first meteor I’ve had to deal with this week.”
“Me neither,” Superman said. “I was trying to draw some connections when this recent group showed up. Perhaps a little look in orbit would help.”
“Sounds good,” she said with a nod. The two finished off the last of the rocks and headed toward space. However, what they found there was all the more shocking.
What appeared to be a rift in space was opened above the Earth, and suddenly more meteors appeared through it on a collision course with the heroes’ adopted home planet.
Superman motioned to Supergirl, using his hands to communicate to her via sign language in the soundless void of space.
The Girl of Steel understood and went to work on the meteors. Using her fists, she began to pound them like a double-headed pile-driver. Unlike those they had encountered in the Earth’s atmosphere, here the smaller portions would spin off in various directions. With nothing to prevent their flight, they would continue on harmlessly.
Supergirl expected her cousin to join in, but instead he flew off suddenly. What is Kal up to? she thought to herself.
The Man of Steel flew toward what appeared to be empty space. I didn’t have time to convey to Supergirl what I saw, he thought, or rather what I sensed. That wormhole in space is hardly natural. Someone has created it and is directing these constant meteor showers to Earth. And I believe I’ve figured that out.
Superman flew on.
Out of the corner of her eye, Supergirl saw her cousin one second, and in the next he was gone. Where did he go?
The cloaked spaceship pitched as something ran into it. Alarms sounded, and lights flashed on the main bridge.
“What was that?” Sinestro snapped.
Brainiac quickly worked his fingers over the controls. “We have breach in the lower hull. I am sealing it now.”
“One of the meteors?” Sinestro asked.
“Guess again!” boomed a voice.
The two villains turned around to see a dark-haired figure in blue and red.
“Superman!” Sinestro exclaimed. His power ring glowed a golden yellow, a burst of energy firing from it to attack the hero.
With one hand, Superman blocked the blast easily enough. “Whatever you two are up to, it ends now!”
Brainiac stood confidently. “And who is going to stop us? You?“
“You’d better believe it, Brainiac!” Superman replied as he flew at the villain.
“I think not,” Brainiac said. An energy field sprang up around him before the hero’s fist could connect to his jaw. Superman’s punch was stopped cold six inches from its intended target. “You forget about my force-field.”
“I’ll get through it eventually,” Superman said with determination as he began to pound on the energy barrier with both fists. “I always do.”
“Not if you’re distracted!” Sinestro sneered. His power ring sprang to life once more.
Suddenly, Superman found himself engaged on two fronts. While on the one hand he tried to break through Brainiac’s defense, on the other hand he was busy defending himself from Sinestro’s energy-construct attacks.
Got to hold them off long enough, Superman thought.
“Brainiac, don’t just stand there!” Sinestro barked. “Help me finish this fool off! Then we can go back to attacking the Earth!”
“I shall,” the super-computer said. He flipped a switch on the console and activated a system. Suddenly, small lasers popped out of the ceiling and began to fire scarlet blasts at the hero.
“Ugggh!” Superman groaned as the shots hit him from many angles. His body stung from the attack.
“Effective,” Sinestro noted.
“Indeed,” Brainiac said as Superman fell to his knees. “Cannons charged with red sun radiation. The perfect way to attack a Kryptonian by causing pain and sapping him of his strength at the same time.”
Sinestro watched Superman fall to the floor. “You had that handy? Convenient.”
Sinestro frowned. “Perhaps too convenient. You were expecting Superman to find us?”
“Of course,” Brainiac said. “Why else would I agree to blatantly attack the Earth in such a manner?”
If Sinestro’s skin weren’t already red, it would have been growing redder with anger. “I thought we were here to take care of my enemy — Green Lantern!”
“You did think that,” Brainiac said.
“Ugggh…” Superman groaned. “Looks like you’re… the fool here, Sinestro…” Despite the pain, he tried to keep a strong face. “But don’t feel so bad… you’re not the first Brainiac’s double-crossed…”
“Double-crossed!” Sinestro exploded. “Why, you–!” His power ring sprang to life, but this time the object of his attacks was the green-skinned super-machine. “I’ll turn you into scrap metal!” Sinestro kicked Superman aside as he lunged for Brainiac, a golden buzz-saw blade spinning into his target’s force-field.
“I agreed to help you attack the Earth,” Brainiac said, “and I did. If your enemy did not appear, then that is not my concern.”
“I’ll make it your concern!” Sinestro howled.
Superman dragged himself across the floor to one of the consoles. Both villains were too absorbed in combat to notice him. That’s right… ughh… keep feuding, he thought to himself. Just forget about me and… the meteors. From out the viewport, he could see his cousin dealing with the last of space rocks. With Sinestro distracted, the wormhole that his power ring had generated was neglected and closed up.
Superman felt his strength starting to return, but not nearly fast enough to deal with whoever won the duel between the two space criminals. Now, he thought as he scanned the console quickly, to even up the odds. Given Brainiac’s systematic nature and consistency, the Man of Steel could tell which buttons worked what systems. It only took him another moment to find and disable the cloaking shield.
Supergirl was relieved when the warp in space started to close. Whew, she thought. I haven’t had a workout like that in a while. Now that the threat is out of the way, maybe I can find out where Kal went.
Almost as if on cue, there was a shimmering in space nearby as a saucer-like craft suddenly came into view.
Ah-ha, Supergirl thought. Speak of the devil. Using her x-ray vision as she approached it, she was able to make out what was going on inside. Make that two devils, and they’re at each other’s throats!
The Girl of Steel swooped about and came charging back. Time to shake things up a bit!
The entire spaceship pitched; the sudden impact on the starboard hull was too much for the ship’s artificial gravity to compensate. All three men inside the craft were thrown, but only two were caught off-guard.
“What?!” Sinestro exclaimed as he was thrown into Brainiac’s force-field. “The meteors?“
The super-computer glared at Superman, who apparently had recovered and was rising to his feet. “This is your doing, Kryptonian!” Brainiac said.
“Would I do that?” Superman said with a wry smile.
“Yes!” both villains said in unison.
There was a twinkle in the Man of Steel’s eyes. “You’re right about that.” And, with one fluid motion, he drove his fist through the main console of the craft.
“Nooo!” Brainiac started to scream.
That’s when the whole saucer exploded.
Supergirl supported her cousin as they returned to the planet below. In her other hand was the unconscious form of Brainiac. Once through the upper atmosphere, the heroes were able to converse with one another again.
“Sorry I wasn’t able to snag Sinestro in time,” she apologized. “The explosion caught me off-guard.”
“Don’t worry about it, Kara,” Superman replied. “Sinestro’s like a bad penny; he’ll turn up again soon enough. With that power ring of his, who knows what little side-dimension he was able to slip into so quickly.”
“I suppose,” Supergirl said. “At least we stopped the threat and recaptured Brainiac.”
“Definitely,” Superman agreed. “And after this endeavor, it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever get help escaping again by the likes of Sinestro. Two someones made a new enemy today, and for once it wasn’t the good guys.”