by Goose Gansler
The Vax System:
The heroes, now dubbed the Worlds’ Finest, had streaked from Kronis to the Vax System. Now Solarman, Kell Orr, Mighty Man, Skyboy, and Regor were searching for Staryl’s greatest heroine, Superwoman, as well as the crystal entity that potentially threatened Vax.
Solarman spotted Superwoman first with his super-vision, while Mighty Man’s hyper-vision found the crystal entity.
“Hmm,” Mighty Man said, frowning. “I can’t seem to make out its composition.” He indicated to the others where the crystal might be found. It was still a long way off from Vax, but it continued to move slowly and inexorably toward the planet.
“I can’t make out anything, either,” Kell Orr said, and his frustration was echoed by the others.
“Let’s link up with Superwoman and find out what she can tell us,” Solarman suggested. It sounded reasonable, so they altered their course toward Superwoman’s position.
When they reached Superwoman, they all introduced themselves to her. She was quite surprised by the response that her call had garnered.
“Thank you all for coming,” she said gratefully. “I wasn’t expecting such a tremendous turnout. The most that I could have hoped for was some Cosmic Police vessels.”
“All right,” Mighty Man interjected. “What can you tell us about this thing? I’m assuming that it’s a tough customer, since it stood up to you.”
“Yes, it’s not going to be easy to defeat this thing,” Superwoman replied. She was grateful that Mighty Man did not say anything chauvinistic about her being female. She had half-expected him to say, “It can’t be too tough, it only defeated a girl,” or something along those lines. He had not, and it endeared him to her — that and the fact that he reminded her of her beloved Kal-El. “It can unleash powerful energy blasts and apparently transform things. Plus, when I touched it, it made some kind of chaotic mental assault on my mind.”
“I see.” Kell Orr rubbed his chin. He wished his father were here. Zoll Orr might be able to have a better understanding of the entity, if he were here. However, his father was still safe on Kronis. Zoll might be the genius of the Orr family, but Kell was the one with the super-powers.
“We don’t have time to dawdle,” Solarman announced. “We have to deal with the crystal entity. I think a frontal assault is our best bet. We’re all super-powered here. We should be able to overwhelm it and at least get it away from Vax. After that, we’ll make it up as we go along.”
“Let’s go,” Skyboy said enthusiastically. It felt great to him to be in the presence of others like him. Being a super-powered teenager on Kormo set him apart from just about everybody.
Solarman led the group toward the crystal entity. The menace was still heading directly toward Vax. “Keep scanning it. Maybe somebody’s vision can look inside of it, and we can know what we’re really dealing with.”
The phalanx of heroes was rapidly closing in on the crystal entity. Their speed was much greater than that of the jewel, so the confrontation would occur far from Vax itself. The nature of the object as well as its motivations remained a mystery to the heroes. No one had been able to ascertain its composition other that it was a super-dense crystalline lattice structure.
Superwoman was flying by Solarman’s side in the lead of the group. Since it was her world that was in immediate danger, the others had wordlessly allowed her to be at the point of their attack. She knew that she had been unable to stop the destroyer by herself, but she felt confident that this assemblage, a concentration of such superhuman power that she scarcely believed it, would be able to overwhelm it. If they could not, she knew that Vax was doomed.
The crystal apparently sensed the approaching attack force. A number of facets energized and unleashed a flurry of bolts at the heroes. Solarman called out a warning, and the champions scattered. They escaped unscathed except for Skyboy, whose leg was burned by a blast.
“Great Kormo,” Skyboy cried out. “That actually hurt!”
“Be careful, people,” Mighty Man warned. “Let’s circle around it and attack it from all sides.”
The heroes complied and began to speed to new positions. Soon they were all arrayed around the crystal. They continued to dodge the energy barrage that the crystal was firing. Staying far enough away from the crystal, they were able to easily avoid being struck.
“It’s pretty good at dishing it out!” Superwoman exclaimed. “Let’s see if it can take it!” She let loose with her quantum-vision, Regor joined with his atomic-vision, Superwoman added her plasma-vision, Mighty Man put in his flash-vision, Solarman and Mighty Man’s eyes blazed with heat-vision, Skyboy focused his electric-vision, and Kell Orr unleashed his laser-vision.
The massive energy barrage struck the crystal on all sides. Enormous sparks of multicolored light flared about the crystal. The heroes continued the shower of vision-powered, and the outer-space pyrotechnics continued. Finally, Solarman called for them to cease fire.
The crystal was surrounded by a pulsing nimbus of energy. The combination of the various vision-blasts, coupled with its own energy, formed the blazing aura about it. Slowly, the aura began to fade. The aura had been generating a high level of heat, but it began to dissipate into the coldness of space.
“Did we do anything to it?” Regor asked. “I don’t see any damage.”
Each of the heroes scanned the crystal, looking for even the smallest flaw created by their attack. However, no flaw was to be found. The crystal was unharmed.
“We’ll have to hit it head on,” Mighty Man opined. “Our vision-blasts didn’t even scratch it.”
“I wish we could find its weak point,” Kell Orr sighed. “It must have one somewhere.”
Skyboy began closing in on the crystal. “Let’s just keep on hitting everywhere. Eventually we’ll hit the right spot.”
“Just be careful,” Superwoman warned. “It has some kind of mental power as well.”
“Hit and move,” Regor suggested. “Don’t stay in contact too long.”
Superwoman was the first to reach the crystal. Despite the danger that faced her, she was exhilarated by the sensation of using her powers in outer space. She came to an abrupt halt inches from the crystal’s surface. She struck at a facet with her right fist. Seeing no damage caused, she drew back her left fist, but before she could complete the swing, the crystal drove her back with an energy-blast.
Solarman didn’t bother to stop as he smashed at the crystal. “Regor’s right. Don’t stay close to it.” He flew at high speed as his fists lashed out. However, it was to no effect.
Regor and Skyboy hit the crystal from opposite sides simultaneously. They bounced off from the impact, but the crystal was unaffected.
Steeling herself to face the crystal again, Superwoman swung harder than she had ever before. It was a blow that could have shaken an entire world, but it didn’t even scratch the crystal. Rather, the impact bruised her supposedly invulnerable hand.
Darting around the crystal, Mighty Man was striking quickly at various places along the crystal’s surface. He hit both facets and vertices, hoping that one would yield to his pressure. He sped away as he saw an energy blast coming toward his jewel-like emblem. Seeing the crystal up close triggered something within his memory; there was something familiar about the crystal, something that he had remembered hearing about once, but whatever it was, he couldn’t recall.
Kell Orr was circling around the crystal at super-speed, making sure to not impede his compatriots, while he peppered the crystal with close-range laser-vision. Even at this pointblank distance, his beams were having no effect. A facet suddenly erupted with blinding intensity. It caught Kell off-guard, and it allowed the crystal to buffet him with a number of energy blasts.
“This isn’t working,” Solarman announced. “Fall back, and let’s come up with something else.”
“It’s getting closer to Vax,” Superwoman bemoaned. “We have to stop it soon. We don’t have much time.”
“What do we do now?” Superwoman demanded. “The crystal is practically within striking distance of Vax! I’ve lost my homeworld. I won’t lose my new home as well.” She looked to Solarman, who had given most of the orders in this endeavor.
Solarman looked around uncomfortably. This situation was greater than anything he had ever faced on Helion. “I’m open to any suggestions.”
“We can’t crack it,” Skyboy said. “I say we try to push it away. Find the nearest black hole and dump it there. I’ll bet it can’t resist infinite gravity.”
“I tried to push it away,” Superwoman replied despondently. “It didn’t work.”
“Perhaps,” Kell Orr opined. “However, you’re just one superhuman, Superwoman.” His hand moved to indicate the whole group. “We’re six now. We should be able to do it.”
Sweeping through the starlit expanses, Mighty Man searched for a black hole. He felt that the young Skyboy’s idea had merit. His sight focused once again on his comrades. “I’ve located a singularity two-hundred parsecs from here, on a trajectory forty-seven degrees by one-hundred twenty-six.”
Regor took note of Mighty Man’s orientation and searched with his spectro-vision in the indicated direction. “He’s right, people. There’s a big black hole out there. If we hit the crystal all at once, we should be able to drive it right there.”
“Sounds as good as anything that we’ve tried already,” Mighty Man agreed.
“But what about the mental attacks?” Superwoman said.
“If it tries to hit us with that, it will split among the six of us. I don’t think it will be strong enough to repel all of us,” Solarman declared confidently. “Let’s go.”
The heroes rushed forward, staying in relatively close formation, but far enough spread apart to give each of them maneuvering room to avoid the blasts of the crystal. Running the gauntlet of energy beams, they made their way to the crystal’s surface. Despite moving at super-speed, their action was perfectly coordinated. They all touched the crystal at the same instant, and twelve arms filled with super-strength began exerting themselves.
To their surprise, they were unsuccessful. As they touched, the brain of each of them was overwhelmed by a mental attack of staggering proportions. While most of them had faced mental-based opponents in the past, none of them had faced mental might of this degree. It was as if dozens of powerful and angry minds were acting together, if not in perfect harmony, to strike at the heroes.
The crystal continued on its course, pushing past the reeling heroes. Its speed seemed to have been lessened by the effort, and it did not unleash a new wave of energy beams at the dazed champions.
The crystal passed into the gravitational field of Vax, but it did not assume an orbit. No beams from its underside streaked down toward the planet’s core. It simply continued on its way, ignoring the teeming world beneath it.
Superwoman was the first to regain her senses. This was the second time that she had faced the crystal’s mental might, so she was more prepared for it than the others. When she first saw the crystal so near to her beloved adopted world, she was ready to scream.
When she saw that the crystal was bypassing Vax entirely, she sighed in relief. “Thank the Creator for that, at least.” Though her world was not in danger from the destroyer, others might be. As these other heroes had come in the defense of her world, she would continue to battle against the menace as long as she could.
The others had also now recovered. They were glad to see that Vax had not been ravaged, but they knew that the crystal still had to be stopped.
“Vax is safe,” Solarman proclaimed, “but that thing is still a menace. Come on!”
The heroes followed his lead and took off in pursuit of the crystal. As they approached, the crystal did not fire any of its fearsome beams at its stalkers. Instead, thin green streaks emerged from a number of vertices. The streaks seemed to be fashioning the cosmic dust. The dust slowly took shape of monstrous beings.
There were gigantic, bat-winged, dragon-like creatures spewing flame from their jaws. There were other winged, dinosaur-like monsters that were just as fearsome. There were two other sets of creatures. One group was of Prussian-blue birds resembling a Terran magpie; the other was colorful avian that featured red, yellow, orange, and green plumage with a bright red crests. The beasts looked angry, and they headed toward the heroes.
“What in the name of Xenon are those creatures?!” Kell Orr exclaimed.
“I don’t how,” Mighty Man answered, as the obvious answer came to his brain, “but those creatures are from Krypton.”