by Goose Gansler
In a distant galaxy, circling a solitary star, was a lone planet. To say that this place was isolated from the rest of the universe would be an understatement. For the inhabitants, part of the isolation was intended, the other part was imposed upon them. Its vast distance from all other inhabited worlds was by choice of its rulers. The shroud of amnesium gas that permeated its atmosphere was the doing of their most hated enemy. The enemy was Superman. They were the Superman Revenge Squad.
On the planet’s surface, the three members of the Prime Council debated future action. There was the crimson-skinned Dramx. The red-bearded Boskonian had been the Prime-One, the nominal leader of the Squad for some time now. With him sat the yellow-hued Fwom. The paranoid Genodian had regained his position as Security Director. The last was the sultry Naryana. The blue-skinned beauty had risen through the ranks because of her cunning into a spot on the Council. She had done this despite her unwitting involvement in the situation in which the Squad found itself.
“As always,” Dramx sighed, “there is really only one topic for discussion — how do we penetrate the amnesium field with which the Kryptonian has cloaked our world?”
Fwom considered his words carefully. It had taken him some time to regain his position on the Council. When a disguised Superman had infiltrated the Squad as the reptilian Vlatuu of Pylox, it was he who had seen through the ruse. It had been his plan to plant the hypnotic command in the Kryptonian to kill himself. However, instead of destroying himself, Superman had detonated amnesium bombs in the atmosphere of this world called Maggon. The amnesium caused any Revenger who passed through it to lose all memory and hate of Superman. (*) Repeated attempts to destroy the barrier or protect against its effects had proven fruitless. “We are in contact with some of our outside agents. We have every hope that they will be able to obtain the necessary technology to eliminate the barrier.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “When Kryptonians Clash,” Superman #365 (November, 1981), “Revenge, Superman-Style,” Superman #366 (December, 1981), “The Revengers Strike Back,” Superman #367 (January, 1982), and “The Revenger of Steel,” Superman #368 (February, 1982).]
“I find that unlikely,” Dramx huffed. “We have the largest armory of destructive technology in the universe here. We have appropriated weapons from across the universe to destroy the Kryptonian. None of them have been effective.”
“That is why we must seek from other resources,” Naryana explained smoothly. She had to be careful with Dramx as well. When Superman masqueraded as Vlatuu, she had fallen for him. In part, it was her vouching for the “Pyloxian” that had gotten the Squad in this predicament. “The enemy thwarted us by being more clever, not more powerful. We need to find a scientific solution — a way to counteract the amnesium. Brute destructive force will not serve us in this crisis.”
“Much as I hate to admit it,” Dramx grumbled, “you are right. My frustration shows. And that frustration is shared by most Revengers. There have been calls for my ouster, though no one has had the bravery to challenge me directly.” Dramx had gained his position by triumphing in the challenge arena. “We will overcome this through ingenuity.”
In the days to come, Revengers from across the universe came surreptitiously to Maggon to try their discoveries on the amnesium field that surrounded the planet. None had any effect on the gas that cloaked the world’s atmosphere.
In the chambers of the Prime Council, Dramx, Fwom, and Naryana were despondent. Being trapped upon this world by their nemesis was intolerable. The ranks of the Superman Revenge Squad were rumbling with displeasure. Already there were ten candidates who had bested the Superman proto-droid and thus earned themselves the right to attempt to slay the Kryptonian. However, none could risk leaving Maggon for fear of losing that hatred.
Dramx was paging through a set of proposals submitted by other Revengers on how to break their prison. He pounded at his datapad and deleted them in disgust. “Attempted already and failed. Attempted and failed. Attempted and failed. Do our people no pay attention to our efforts?”
“We have tried so many things, it is difficult for even the Council to keep track,” Naryana sighed.
Fwom looked up from his pages with a start. “Great Galu! This one just might work!”
“Don’t give us any false hopes, Fwom,” Dramx said. “I’m just too tired of grand schemes that prove worthless.”
“I’m in dead earnest here.” Fwom punched a few buttons on his datapad and transmitted the proposal to Dramx’s and Naryana’s units.
“The concept is simple,” Fwom explained excitedly. “The amnesium permeates the atmosphere. We can’t eliminate it from the atmosphere, but we could remove the entire atmosphere.”
“The nuclear power required to do that would devastate the entire planet, no matter how deep we bunkered,” Dramx countered. His patience with Fwom’s optimistic support of ill-conceived proposals was wearing thin.
“Ah, but here’s the beauty of Zhon of Nodar’s proposal. We let the atmosphere leave. If we nullify Maggon’s gravity, there would be nothing to keep the atmosphere from dissipating into space.” As Fwom explained it, he felt even more confident.
In the days that followed, all of the Revengers upon Maggon worked incessantly toward implementing the plan. Massive antigravity generators were constructed all over the plant. Anything that could produce power was incorporated to provide an energy source to the generators. Rocket ship engines, defense-screen projectors, long-range beam emitters — all were harnessed in the effort. Even the extra power packs from sidearms were utilized. The entire undertaking was disarming the Revenger Squad to a massive degree. For them to have considered doing that of their own volition would have been laughable, except for the fact that it would result in freedom.
Finally the day came. Everything important was either tied, bolted, or magnetically clamped down. All Revengers donned astro-suits, except for those from races who didn’t need to breathe. From the chambers of the Prime Council, Dramax was poised over the master switch that would activate all of the antigravity generators across Maggon.
“Would anybody like to press the button?” He turned to Fwom and Naryana. Their nodes showed their choice to decline the honor. “If not, then let us see if we have freed the Squad or made it impotent.” He reached out and pushed the button down. All across the planet, the generators hummed to life. Terawatts of power were consumed as the generators erected the fields to counteract Maggon’s gravity. The heavy density of the world made that a prodigious task. For a few moments, it seemed unclear if there would be sufficient power to suffice. However, after a few more anxious moments, it was clear that the Revenge Squad had succeeded. The planet’s gravity had been completely counteracted.
Revenger ships from across the universe waited outside of Maggon’s former gravitational reach to observe the event. They reported back down to the surface that the yellow amnesium barrier was dissipating into space. The ships then headed farther away from Maggon to ensure that they were not affected by the amnesium as it dissolved into the vacuum of space. When it became apparent that the amnesium had dissipated into immeasurably infinitesimal concentration, they transmitted the success to the Prime Council.
All over Maggon, cries of triumph erupted. The cries could only be heard over the communication waves, since there was no longer any air to carry sound. The celebrations were received with glee by the Revenger ships who now descended to being the exodus to a new world.
The spectacle was also observed by a microscopic spy satellite that had been flung free of its orbit. It transmitted its findings via subspace across the light-years to Earth. The signal was received by the only antenna attuned for its reception — in the cold Arctic wastes where Superman’s Fortress of Solitude lay.
Inside the technological wonderland that was the Fortress of Solitude, Superman was busy doing some maintenance work on one of his hobbies. While some people collected toy cars, or even real cars, Superman collected alien spaceships. The collection had come in handy during the Invasion. It had helped the heroes take the fight to the Alien Alliance. As, in the course of all battles, things had become damaged. He worked to restore them to their pristine state, both for his own enjoyment as well as possible future use. “There’s a lot of threats out there in space,” he mused. “Who knows when they might be needed again?”
Just then, his super-hearing picked up an alarm coming from his universal monitoring system. The pitch and frequency were unfamiliar to him. He put down the Khundian fighter craft whose underside he had been welding with his heat-vision and headed for the control room. His hands danced across the keyboard of his Super-Univac computer to get all of the details about the alert.
He groaned as he saw the data readout displayed upon the video screen. “The Revengers are free. Just what I need.”
The Man of Steel walked away from the monitor board in disgust. He knew that it was just a matter of time before the Revengers enacted some scheme against him. Having trapped the core of the organization for all this time would undoubtedly make them more aggressive in the future. He would have to be prepared. “If only there was some way I could keep them occupied. I can’t spend all my time battling them. There’s too many responsibilities here on Earth.”
Superman began pacing the Fortress. “I can’t really concern myself with them now. The planet suffered greatly during the Invasion. My duty is here for now.” His walk took him to a massive storage room filled with weaponry. These were taken from captured or killed Alien Alliance troops. It was thought best for them to be stored here in the impregnable Fortress. The weapons represented the armaments of dozens of alien races, some of whom Superman had encountered before, some which were new to him. He began sorting them based upon his super-memory of the world of origin of the weapon.
After a few minutes of sorting and stocking, he came upon a small two-handed rifle. His super-recall told him that it was a stone-ray of the Meduzans, a race previously unknown to him. He scanned the weapon with his super-vision and deciphered its inner workings. He was that the weapon could transform living tissue into stone. Looking deeper, he saw that there was a way to make it produce the reverse effect.
He quickly set to work at doing that. If he could accomplish it, then perhaps the unfortunate victims of the Meduzans might not be dead after all. With a few super-precise adjustments, the change was made. However, he couldn’t be entirely certain that this modification would work. Did he dare test it on some unfortunate Earthman, when the result might be true death?
Superman wavered. He didn’t want to instill any false hope. The world was still reeling from the effects of the Invasion. Was there some other way for him to test it on human tissue? Was there something in the Fortress that he could use? Then the thought struck him — Ar-Val.
At the Ar-Val Memorial, to the uninformed, it might appear that it was a carved tribute to the Fortress’ owner. It seemed to be a lifelike statue of Superman cut from gray stone. The costume was the same, but closer inspection showed that the features were different. It was Superman, but not Kal-El. It was the Kandorian Ar-Val who had briefly been the New Superman when Kal-El had lost his powers. Haughty and arrogant at first, Ar-Val had learned the true meaning of being a hero; he sacrificed his own super-powers to restore them to Kal-El. The transference had turned Ar-Val to stone. (*) Superman still hoped to one day transform Ar-Val back to flesh and blood. He still clung to the hope that Ar-Val was still alive, trapped in a prison of stone as a living statue.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The New Superman,” Superman #172 (October, 1964).]
Carrying the modified weapon, Superman walked back to where the immobile Kandorian stood. He hoped that Ar-Val would forgive him if this attempt failed and resulted in true death. With the sacrifice that Ar-Val had made, he felt confident that the Kandorian would.
Superman pressed the trigger, and a violet beam emerged from the alien weapon. The energy bathed Ar-Val’s stone form, producing a transparent blue aura around the frozen figure. Superman wasn’t sure if this was a good sign. He continued to focus the beam on Ar-Val as he waited for some definite sign of success.
After a few more seconds, Superman’s supersensitive eyes noticed a minute change in Ar-Val’s hue. It was no longer the cold gray that it had been for so long. He could see some signs of blue and red in the super-suit that Ar-Val wore. Finally, he saw indications of coloration in Ar-Val’s flesh. It was working.
The next few seconds were arduous as Superman waited to see if the transformation would truly take hold. To his relief, it did. Ar-Val was flesh and blood once more.