by Goose Gansler
Now Grumm was ready to make the final adjustments on their signaling device. It would transmit in a manner that only Brainiac would detect, wherever in space he might be. It would also be undetectable by the Kryptonians, or at least that’s what the Coluans assumed.
Boz dutifully stoked the fire, while Grumm delicately adjusted a series of capacitors. Watching the construction more than the fire, Boz analyzed Grumm’s handiwork. “The task appears to be completed, assuming that you compensated for the phase-shift instability.”
“Of course I did,” Grumm answered sharply. He put down the electronic screwdriver and glowered at Boz. “What do you take me for? One of those simpletons back at the academy on Colu?”
“Those… simpletons… managed to maintain their enrollment,” Boz said snidely. “You, on the other hand…”
Rage at those painful memories swelled up within Grumm. “I, on the other hand, could not be bound by the incessant debate and theorizing. I had grander schemes — dreams of action and power. Dreams which will once again become reality, once the master arrives.” He pushed the large button atop the machine. It whirred to life and started emitting a trans-cosmic signal for one intended recipient.
That signal would go unheeded by its true intended recipient. Thousands of light-years away, the skull-shaped ship of Brainiac hovered near a collapsing dwarf-star. The master inside was busily gathering certain emitted particles from the cosmic event with the intent of using it in a future stratagem. His computer mind did not detect the hyperwave signal. Brainiac had changed much since Grumm and Boz had last served him. He had been disassembled to a subatomic level and reconstructed into a cold emotionless machine that could have never passed for humanoid as the Computer Tyrants had originally intended. He had since rebuilt himself again, taking a green-skinned humanoid form once again and even adopting blond facial hair. However, the changes were more drastic within than without. His electronic neural pathways were completely different than original Computer Tyrant design. As such, the signal went unnoticed by him.
Elsewhere, in the Alpha-Zed system, there was one being who could receive the signal. Sitting at the controls of his purple saucer-shaped craft, he could not help but acknowledge the annoying transmission. The electromagnetic wave bounced painfully about his circuitry to the extent that arcs formed between the synaptic nodes on his green-skinned head.
His hands quickly went to the controls as his saucer’s sensors locked on the vector of the signal. Estimating the distance to the source was impossible at this point, but as the ship began to speed along the beam, his computer mind was able to calculate the increase in signal strength as the light-years passed by. Cross-referencing the direction and distance with the holographic three-dimensional star chart that he brought up, he was able to locate the source.
“Rokyn?” he noted with a smile. “If that’s the case, then I’d best investigate carefully. One look at my face, and the local citizenry would likely respond in a hostile fashion.”
Back on the planet, Grumm and Boz waited for a response. “How much longer do you think it will be?” Boz asked.
“The master could be anywhere in space,” Grumm shot back. How many times would this simpleton ask? “He might be engaged in some scheme against the Kryptonian even now. He will come. This is the manner in which he told us to contact him, if our circumstances were brought to this. He will come.”
It was a few days of travel before the saucer had traversed the light-years to Rokyn. In the meantime, the master of the ship had used his Coluan technological skills to build a positronic neural shield. The device filtered out most the intensity of the signal before it could reach his neural circuitry. When he reached Rokyn’s red star system, he engaged the saucer’s cloaking shield. He calculated that it would prove effective against the Rokynians’ technology, although that was primarily based upon assumption. The Kryptonians in his collection did not have much in the way of technology.
After assuming an orbit around Rokyn, he pinpointed the exact location of the signal origin. It was just outside of an urban center. Intercepted electronic communication waves identified it as Kandor.
“So, this is what it looked like,” he mused. “Much more impressive than my Jerat.” He could see the allure of such a place, but his interests were not collecting for collecting’s sake.
He approached a multicolored control panel on a bulkhead. Punching in a hundred-digit access code, a door slid open. He took down a rifle from the wall and checked its power source.
“Illium-346 certainly isn’t easy to come by,” he noted. “But there should be enough to deal with this situation.”
After closing the hatch to the crimson saucer, he activated his personal force-field and descended down into the atmosphere of Rokyn. The lack of oxygen was completely irrelevant to him. The force-field would protect him from the friction of reentry. The addition of certain harmonic frequencies from his micro-stealth generator was intended to protect him from any type of electromagnetic detection. The only way for him to be noticed would be visually, and the information being relayed to him from his saucer indicated that there were no Rokynian air patrols near his descent vector.
Employing his rocket pack, he braked his descent gradually. He touched down on the ground as light as a feather, even with Rokyn’s prodigious gravity. His sensors relays told him that the origin of the signal of interest was less than one kilometer away. Visual inspection of the area suggested that the network of caves here at the outskirts of one of the Rokynian settlements was a likely candidate. Reorienting his sensors in that direction verified the assumption.
Quickly covering the distance, he arrived at the mouth of the cave. Flicking a safety, he energized his Illium-346-powered weapon. Two shapes emerged from inside at the sound.
“Master, you have finally come for us,” Grumm gushed as he indicated for all three to go into the cave. He looked around warily to make sure that there were no Kandorians in the area.
“We never gave up hope, Master,” Boz said once they were all inside of the cave. “It has been so long.”
“Has it now?” The jury-rigged equipment garnered a touch of respect for the work of Grumm and Boz.
“Many sun-cycles. But that is all immaterial now,” Grumm noted. “We can be at your side once again. We can forevermore be of assistance in the quest to destroy the Kryptonian and make the entire universe ours for the taking.”
“Obedient sentients, aren’t you?” The comment was marked with a almost imperceptible sarcasm.
“Master?” Boz was taken aback by the tone of the comment. “You are here to free us, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I will remove you from this planet of Kryptonian survivors.” He leveled the weapon at them. “I have a much better place for you: a city of ruthless and depraved Kryptonians — the city of Jerrat, the prize of my collection.”
“Master, isn’t that a shrinking-ray device?” Grumm finally recognized the design.
“Indeed.” The trigger was pulled, and the weapon fired. The ray bathed the two Coluans in yellow. They began to shrink almost immediately.
“Master Brainiac!” Boz shouted. The frequency of his voice changed as he shrank.
“That was the error in your calculations,” was the reply. “You assumed that only your master could detect your signal. Had he never told you of the prototype that the Computer Tyrants had built before him? The android whose mental patterns had been based on a kindhearted Coluan? The renegade who went good?”
Seeing a confused look on the shrinking faces, he deduced that they had not. “It is in keeping with his android pride that Brainiac never mentioned me. He would hate to admit that he was not the first. I was first. I, Brainiac A.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Invulnerable Super-Enemy,” World’s Finest Comics #158 (June, 1966).]
Once the Coluans had reached microscopic size while suspended in the beam, Brainiac A changed the setting on his weapon. Deactivating the Illium-346 power energy source, he engaged a tractor beam that drew the pair into a storage area inside the rifle.
Brainiac A took to the air once he was certain that the containment fields of the storage area were secure. It would be a long journey to his planetoid base where his collection of depraved cities was kept, and it wouldn’t be humane to keep his captives inside the weapon any longer than necessary. His lack of inhumanity certainly separated him from his namesake.
“Perhaps more than philosophy and principles should separate us,” he mused as he blasted through the atmosphere. “His actions have sullied the name ‘Brainiac.’ Even if I were to function for a thousand years, I might not redeem the name. Perhaps a new sobriquet would be appropriate.” His android mind churned through a few million possibilities in the space of a second. “Cerebrac. That has good tonal qualities to it.”