by Goose Gansler
The spaceport on Kronis was teeming with more activity than was typical for the prison planet. While prisoners would be transported here from time to time, there had not been a day like this before. The presence of Kell and Zoll Orr was the first thing out of the ordinary. The arrival of Mighty Man and the CosPol officers made the day even more interesting. Now, to make the day even more special, a number of heroes were arriving, their prisoners in tow.
Skyboy had Rawl in hand. Solarman had pushed the Drahlian slaver ship halfway across the sector. Regor was melting the glass bubble that encased Bantor.
A whole regiment of guards had scrambled to the surface in order to take the new arrivals into custody. Along with them came Sargoes, the warden of Kronis. He was a tall, if a bit lanky, man with a long white beard and even longer white hair. His loose-fitting yellow robe twirled as he gave orders to the guards.
“I must say,” Sargoes began, “that this is certainly a momentous day. We haven’t had a day like this since Superman captured an entire battalion of Revenge Squad members. We certainly haven’t seen an assemblage of heroes like this before.”
“Neither have I,” Solarman added. “At least, not since Jemphis captured a number of us to battle for his enjoyment.” He remembered the heroes who had been gathered there for the supposed annual super-heroes convention — Superman and Batman of Earth, Doctor Chill of Klon Kado, Aeroman and Windlass of the planet Marr, and so many others. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Duel of the Super-Duo,” World’s Finest Comics #163 (December, 1966).]
“Forgive me,” Sargoes announced. “It would seem that introductions are in order. I don’t think many, if any of you, have met before. I’ve met most of you, or heard of you before. I’m Sargoes, and I’m the warden of Kronis.” He turned to Solarman and indicated that the Helionite should go next.
“Solarman of Helion.”
“Skyboy of Kormo.”
“Regor of Uuz.”
“I’m Kell Orr, from Xenon. This is my father, Xenon’s greatest scientist.”
Zoll Orr sighed at his son’s praise.
Mighty Man finished the introductions. “Mighty Man of Zumoor.” He pointed toward the two CosPol officers. “Now these two are CosPol Officers Jul and Weiz. They don’t know the legend of Superman.”
Everyone gave a quizzical look at the duo.
“Well, it’s not like he’s as famous as the Green Lantern Corps,” Jul said with a pleading tone.
“Green Lanterns we have heard of,” Solarman spoke up. “Though we haven’t heard from our sector’s power ring wielder in a while.”
“You know of the Green Lanterns?” Jul asked.
“Of course,” Zoll Orr answered matter-of-factly. “Their organization encompasses the known universe. All of the planets mentioned by those here fall within what the Green Lantern Corps designates Sector 1031.”
“Well, back when we still saw our Green Lantern,” Sargoes said, “he was a rather regular customer here. It was too long to take his prisoners all the way back to a sciencell on Oa, so he brought them here.”
Regor rubbed his chin as he thought. “I haven’t heard of our Green Lantern being around since the Great Disturbances a few years ago.” At the mention of the term, all nodded their agreement and understanding.
“Great Disturbances?” Jul finally broke the silence.
“Yes,” Zoll Orr said. “Great Disturbances. It was as if the entire fabric of reality was coming apart. The atmospheres of all known worlds became filled with red-colored storms. Then waves of antimatter began consuming everything in their path. It defied explanation, it defied analysis. It seemed that the antimatter had annihilated everything, but somehow we survived. (*) Don’t tell me you missed that?”
[(*) Editor’s note: The Crisis on Infinite Earths is evidently known by different names around the universe.]
“Saving everything was probably Superman’s doing,” Skyboy whispered.
“Then the universe seemed to undergo another upheaval. From my own laboratory, time itself seemed to change, then all reality appeared to blink out of existence. Then everything was normal again. I’ve spent countless days studying the meager data that my instruments were able to collect, but I can’t even begin to form a hypothesis of what happened.”
“Since then, we’ve been without a Green Lantern,” Kell Orr added.
“Or any sign of this Terran Superman?” Jul asked.
“Superman wasn’t born there,” Regor pointed to his chest. “I’m a Terran, though I prefer the term Earthman.”
“I’m an Earthman as well, or at least I was born there,” said Mighty Man with a smile. “I suspect we have much in common.”
“And I suppose you all have heard of Superman and known him as a great intergalactic hero?” Jul asked.
The heroes looked around and noted that all were nodding their agreement.
Weiz sighed. “I remember reading the dossier on Superman, and he was the only survivor of his race.”
“The only Kryptonian left?” Sargoes said, and shook his head. “What are they teaching recruits these days at CosPol Academy? Krypton may be destroyed, but there are a number of survivors,” Sargoes explained. “There’s even one here on Kronis.” He pressed his hand against a computer screen. “Activate Kronis-net. Login Sargoes, confirm identity.”
“Sargoes, identity confirmed,” the computer replied.
“Access prisoner KR20459,” Kell requested.
The screen now displayed one of the prisoner cells deep beneath the planet. The occupant was a dark-haired, fierce-looking man.
“Prisoner KR20459, please state your name and planet of origin,” Sargoes asked. His voice was transmitted to the prisoner’s cell.
“I’m Klax-Ar from the planet Krypton.”
“How were you brought to Kronis?” Sargoes inquired.
“By one of my… fellow Kryptonians — Kara Zor-El, Supergirl.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Birthright of Power,” Superman Family #187 (January-February, 1978).]
“Supergirl?” Jul wondered aloud.
“Superman’s cousin,” Solarman answered.
“From what I’ve heard, she is beauty unparalleled in the universe,” Kell Orr said wistfully. He had the computer bring up a three-dimensional projection of Supergirl. None here knew that the heroine had perished during the Crisis.
Kell Orr’s words to the contrary, the heroine called Superwoman bore an uncanny likeness to the image of Supergirl, at least as the Starylian might have when she was younger. She had closed in on the strange crystal entity that was besieging Etheron.
The crystal was continuing to bombard the uninhabited world with a massive energy flux. Superwoman had hoped that her astro-vision might have been misled by the tremendous electromagnetic activity. However, her earlier analysis had proven true. The crystal was transforming the core of Etheron into unstable uranium.
She focused her astro-vision on the crystal now. She could not penetrate it. The failure surprised her. She squinted and concentrated on producing a fine beam. Still, she could not delve within the crystal. Its atomic structure was too dense for even a tightly focused beam to probe it successfully.
Fine, she thought. I don’t really need to know exactly what it is to stop it. I’ll simply push it back into space.
Superwoman flew toward the crystal, intent on exerting her super-strength against it. Even with its apparent super-density, she felt that its mass would not prove too much for her power. However, she was not able to test her beliefs. A beam of pure force erupted from one of the crystal’s facets and struck her in the abdomen. The sheer power of the beam drove her back half a million kilometers.
What on Staryl? Superwoman thought as she collected her senses. That thing packs quite a wallop. A quick check showed that no permanent damage had been done.
I don’t know why you want to detonate Etheron, she thought as she approached again, but it can’t be for any good reason. She kept her super-senses fully aware as she closed in. The crystal would not surprise her again.
Another beam of force streaked toward her, but this time Superwoman was prepared. She dodged the blast as well as the subsequent ones that the crystal unleashed. She parried the last blast with her plasma-vision and finally put her hands on the crystal, intent on shoving it as hard as she could.
Her hands touched the cool mineral surface. However, in the microsecond between contact and her brain’s signal to her muscles, her mind was flooded with a maddening wave of incomprehensible thoughts. It felt like there were a thousands voices screaming within her skull. She could not begin to push the crystal, much less perform any physical attack. Another force-beam leaped from the shiny crystalline surface and drove her back once again.
In the meantime, the crystal had completed the transformation. The entire core of Etheron was now unstable uranium. As Superwoman gathered her senses, she could see the world below begin to pulse. Landquakes shook every square kilometer of its surface. The chain reaction had begun, and it soon reached its completion. In a tremendous explosion, Etheron was no more.
The shockwaves buffeted Superwoman’s floating body. Her invulnerability protected her from harm, but she had not recovered enough to marshal her strength against its force. She was driven even farther back from her position.
As the debris that was once Etheron flew past her, Superwoman began to assess the situation.
Vax’s astronomers say that Etheron was captured by our sun a few billion years ago, she thought. Its destruction shouldn’t destabilize the whole system, so Vax isn’t in immediate danger. She swept the area with her astro-vision, looking for the crystal entity. She saw that it, too, had survived the explosion, and it had begun to move toward the core of the system, toward Vax.
Superwoman knew that she was outmatched. She would need assistance, and she would need it quickly. She took her intergalactic communicator from her belt, activated the device, and began to speak. “This is Superwoman of Staryl… I mean, Vax. A mysterious crystal construct has destroyed the planet Etheron. Requesting any assistance that can be provided. The crystal seems to be heading for Vax now.”
The heroes of the various worlds were still in conversation with the two CosPols. In the course of the discussion, the heroes recounted their own personal experiences with the legendary Superman. This served to confuse the two CosPols even more. How could Superman have operated over what seemed to be the entire universe without the CosPol — or at least the CosPols on the other side of the Phase Zone — knowing about it?
Warden Sargoes added to the conversation by bringing up a list on the data screen of all the intergalactic criminals that Superman had brought to Kronis for imprisonment. As the list scrolled by on the screen, the computer voice interrupted.
“Incoming intergalactic distress call rerouted from Callbox Delta 23 B. Receive — yes/no?”
“Of course,” Sargoes replied. “Put it through.”
The data screen shifted from the prisoner list to the image of Superwoman. Her words came through crystal-clear despite the distance.
“This is Superwoman of Staryl… I mean, Vax. A mysterious crystal construct has destroyed the planet Etheron. Requesting any assistance that can be provided. The crystal seems to be heading for Vax now.”
The image of the crystal entity then appeared on the screen before fading back to the prisoner list.
“Great Zumoor!” Mighty Man exclaimed. “She looks almost exactly like Supergirl!”
“One of the great mysteries of the universe,” Zoll Orr commented. “Similarly, you, my son, and even Solarman bear a striking resemblance to Superman.”
Warden Sargoes was busy sifting through data on the computer terminal. “Our resources are stretched rather thin right now, what with no support from headquarters in ages. Plus, this sort of thing really isn’t within our jurisdiction.”
“If only the Green Lantern were still around,” Regor sighed. “It would certainly be in his jurisdiction.”
The noise level in the spaceport grew considerably louder as each of the heroes offered their own opinion on the situation at hand. Everyone wanted to talk, but no one wanted to listen.
Finally, Kell Orr raised his hands and quieted down the commotion. “We’ve all been busy protecting our own worlds. Somebody has to deal with the greater menaces. There are threats that go beyond what the Cosmic Police can handle. We can’t expect the Green Lantern to save us. We can’t expect Superman to do it. We’ll have to do it ourselves.”
“Yes, we,” Mighty Man replied. “We’re the greatest heroes from each of our worlds. Think of the good we could do together.”
There was a general sense of agreement among the heroes.
“All right, but what will we call ourselves?” Skyboy wondered.
“Like Mighty Man said before, we’re the best our worlds have to offer, we’re our worlds’ finest. That’s what we’ll be — the Worlds’ Finest,” Kell Orr declared.
“Worlds’ Finest it is,” Mighty Man proclaimed. “Now, let’s get to the Vax system and stop this crystalline destroyer.”