Meanwhile, Lew Parker was on a hill in Metropolis City Park. He glanced around but didn’t see anyone else in sight. It was late, and he had deliberately selected a more lonely part of the huge park for his task. The holo-projector may be crude, but my alteration to it should enable me to shine a rough Superman signal into the air. That should attract him here before the cops show up. I have to hope he’ll believe my story, or Lois Lane will be doomed!
Lew glanced down at his hand where his cut had been. It had healed, and he frowned as he also realized that he did not feel cold any longer, although he still wore the white shorts and top from his tennis game. I guess I’m adjusting to this era. I feel better than I did before. If only I could remember how I came here, he thought as he aimed the small projector into the night sky.
A bright red S appeared and illuminated the dark sky. It lacked the true stylization of the Superman emblem, but Lew could only do so much with what really was nothing more than a simple amusement device. He waited as he looked up at the S. He could not see anyone coming. He did not hear anyone.
Lew frowned and switched off his projector as an old man rode up to him on a Moped. “Excuse me, young man,” he said as he dismounted and ran a hand through his wild hair. “I hate to intrude, but I have to ask you a rather personal question. Are you a time traveler?”
“What?” said Lew. “Yes! How did you know? Who are you?”
The old man smiled and said, “My name is Horace Debord. I am a scientist, and I came here because a device in my lab detected an influx of chronal energy from your location. I suppose it comes from your body. I study time in all its nuances, and thus I have to say that I almost dropped my toast when the sensors started clanging!”
“I need Superman!” said Lew. “Can you help me get in touch with him?”
“No, I can’t,” said Debord. “I can tell you that he is in space at the moment. He is supposedly helping NASA with a project. It was in the news, but I guess you don’t watch a lot of TV, do you?”
“Look, I have an idea,” said Lew. “Could you take me to another source of chronal energy? Could you track down a group who came here from my time? If so, we may be able to save a life! I’ll be glad to tell you all I can about my era, if you’ll help me.”
Debord shook his head and blew on his glasses as he listened. “My, yes! Let’s go! I’ll be delighted to help! This is very exciting!”
Within the Batcave beneath Wayne Manor, Superman III stared around at the displays and equipment in amazement. This place is awesome! he thought. It is like something out of a dream. I’ve always wanted to see it, but of course in my era, it was destroyed long ago. I can’t tell him that, or I might change history.
Batman sat nearby with his cowl pulled back. He worked over a computer and gazed intently at his work for long moments before he looked up to announce his findings. “We lost valuable time, because the craft the Purists used is no longer giving off a trail you can detect. Too much time has passed since they first arrived here. At least we confirmed our fears by checking things out at the Daily Planet. Men who were dressed like our taciturn captives took Lois Lane away. I have to admit that it was disconcerting to find that even my best efforts at intimidating them into talking failed, since according to history itself, they know that Batman never killed!” He shrugged and said, “My own reputation worked against me for once. To them, my career is history. They know I bluff but don’t take life.”
“It’s one of the many things about this experience that has me rattled,” said Superman III. “I can’t feel too comfortable with any action, because I fear anything I do might wipe out my whole era.” He pointed to a glass-covered photo of a young man in shades of blue and a bat-like mask. “This alone makes me doubt if my era will ever exist from your timeline. Nightwing was a Kandorian hero, but that name was never taken up by Robin. He just moved from the role of Robin to that of Batman II!”
Batman nodded. “That was how I often thought it would be, but he and I have reunited again, and I cannot imagine anyone else ever following me as Batman, unless my younger aide the new Robin decides to do so someday, and he knows Nightwing would be my first choice.” He pulled the cowl over his face and said, “I’ve managed to cobble together a device to trace chronal energy. I’ve faced more than one foe that dealt with time travel. This should let us find the Purists, even though we can’t detect their ship’s ordinary energies.”
Superman III and Batman quickly reached Metropolis and closed in on a large warehouse near the docks. “They used kryptonite to knock me out,” said Superman III. “This time we’ll be sure to avoid that kind of trap.”
“Always use those super-senses of yours to gain the facts before you act,” said Batman. “Rashness is not something someone with your level of ability can afford.” He felt odd lecturing someone who so resembled his old friend. He also fought his instinctive desire to rely upon certain old shortcuts or habits of familiarity that had developed over years of close partnership with the original Superman.
Superman III, here, is well-meaning, but he is a rookie. I can’t make the mistake of assuming that he will know the things his grandfather knows. I also can’t help wondering if any wrong move on my part could alter history completely. We have to be careful, he thought.
“I’m sorry my grandfather is in space,” said Superman III. “I would have enjoyed seeing him as a young man before the accident with Luthor so aged him.”
“Luthor aged Superman prematurely? How did that happen?” Batman was torn between a desire to prevent any possible tragedy from occurring and the sense that this young man’s era could never come about to begin with.
Before they could continue their conversation, they reached the warehouse below. “The Purists are inside,” said Superman III. “I see their ship and Lois Lane.”
“Get her to safety,” said Batman. “I’ll handle the Purists!”
Superman III nodded and tried to calm his own nerves. He was a hero in every way, but he was intimidated by working beside a legendary hero like Batman. He followed Batman’s signal and burrowed through the ground to emerge within the warehouse.
The Purists jumped into action as the heroes entered. The bearded leader raced over to where Lois Lane was bound to a chair. “Stay back! She dies if you come closer!” he said.
“Do as I said. Remember what I told you before!” Batman hurled a batarang that disarmed the leader, who dropped a small pronged weapon.
Superman III nodded and swept the others aside with a gust of super-breath as he carried Lois out of the warehouse at super-speed.
“Superman, is that you?” Lois cried out. “I had already worked my hands free of the ropes, but I was biding my time before trying to escape. Those creeps are from the future. They think you and I are destined to marry!” She frowned as she gazed at the speeding figure. “You’re not Superman! You’re too young!” she said as he placed her down a block away.
“I’m not the Superman you know, but I love you as much as he does!” Superman III felt moved as he flew back to help Batman. That was my grandmother! I knew that from the start, but I never knew what it would feel like to see her so young and vibrant!
Batman had dodged three of the Purists, and he punched the leader flat as the others closed in on him. “You will no longer spawn alien-human hybrids! You’ll never soil our planet with your filthy alien offspring!” cried one of the radicals. He activated another glowing projectile like the one that they had attempted to use in Wayne Manor, but once again Superman III arrived in time to smother it with his own body.
Batman knocked two more Purists down and said, “Is Miss Lane safe?”
“She’s fine but confused,” Superman III replied.
“I can’t say that I blame her,” said Batman.
They started to tie up the beaten Purists when the bearded leader crawled to his feet and ripped out a glowing rock from within his weapon’s bag. “This should stop you! It knocked you cold before!” he cried. Superman III and Batman saw the brightly glowing red kryptonite as the sun streamed into the window.
Superman III moved forward and knocked the red rock into the air. “That won’t hurt me more than once!” he said as he gripped the startled Purist by his shirt.
Kryptonians are only vulnerable to any variety of red K one time, thought Batman. It doesn’t kill like the green kind can do. It produces weird alterations of body, mind, or spirit that last around twenty-four hours. I assumed all along that he meant they used the green kind to stun him. This makes me wonder if something more has been going on all along.
Superman III frowned as the building began to tremble. “Great Krypton! They’ve activated some kind of weapon by remote!” he said.
“Locate it quickly!” commanded Batman.
The leader of the Purists smiled and said, “I may die, but our lives will be worth more if we eliminate any chance of your foul corruption of the genetic lineage of the human race!”
“That kind of talk should have died with another fanatic decades ago!” said Batman.
“I see the weapon, but it is coated with a null energy field!” said Superman III. “I can’t touch it without becoming helpless!”
At that moment, two newcomers entered the warehouse as wood and metal began to fall around them. Lew Parker and Horace Debord rushed inside, and Superman III cried out in surprise. “What in the world? This is impossible!” he said as he stared at Lew.
“Where’s Lois Lane?” said Lew. “You’re not Superman! You’re Superman III from my era!”
“There is their time craft,” said Batman. “Use their time machine to send the weapon into the time stream.”
Superman III nodded and worked the controls at blinding speed. In moments, the entire weapon vanished. “Great thinking. We could not get close to it physically without losing all movement. This way we removed it safely from a distance.”
“This is wonderful!” said the elderly Debord, clapping his hands. “Such excitement!”
“I don’t understand,” said Lew. “Something about you makes me feel different!” He moved closer to Superman III and then vanished as well.
Superman III shook his head and said, “We can round up all the Purists, make sure Lois is fine, and then I’ll explain what happened here.”
Batman said, “I think I can guess, Lew.”
Later, the two heroes stood outside the closed time craft. Inside the ship were the bound Purists. “In my own era, I have two secret identities,” explained Superman III. “I’m Jon Hudson, aerocar traffic control man, and Lew Parker, tennis champ. I used super-mental conditioning to temporarily remove my super-powers when I’m Lew, so that I can compete fairly. When that Purist exposed me as Superman III to red kryptonite, it did more than knock me cold. It split me into two separate beings. I was in my Lew role last before the case started, and so it brought Lew to life as a separate and totally human being with no memory of what had occurred before. It was like that part of my life had been cut off from the super-part. Lew didn’t know he was me or anything an ordinary man of my time wouldn’t know. We merged back when the time period for the effects of the red K wore off.”
“Lew was a brave man,” said Batman. “He tried to save Lois on his own. That says a lot for you.”
“So that young man I helped was or is you?” said Debord.
“Right,” said Superman III. “Just don’t tell anyone! Perhaps I can take you to my era someday as a reward for your help.”
“That would be thrilling!” Debord shook hands with Superman III and then walked away muttering to himself.
“Lois is nearby,” said Batman. “I think she heard enough from the Purists when they held her captive to realize that you and I are connected.”
“Could you please explain things to my grandmother?” said Superman III. “I guess I know now why Lois and I were drawn to each other. In my era, we’re family. I don’t want to make things hard for her or my grandfather, here, by revealing too much more about the possible future.”
Batman nodded and said, “I don’t know if my timeline will ever become the one you know or not, but I do want you to know that I think you’d make Superman proud. You showed a real restraint in the use of your powers. That kind of need to be careful marks you as one who cares for people. That makes you a hero to me.”
Superman III smiled and shook hands with Batman before flying off in the time craft with the beaten Purists.
Batman stepped out of the shadows to approach Lois Lane as she waited on the docks.
“Batman, I know enough,” she said. “I can deduce from all I heard and saw that in a future Superman and I marry. I know we broke up in this era. I also know he seems happy with Superwoman. Oh, he told me about their relationship. He’s too good and kind to delude me. I think what I’ve seen only makes me more certain that I need to be apart from him. I don’t like to feel that my whole future has been predetermined. I still care for him, but I need to forge a new future for myself that doesn’t revolve around him.”
Batman nodded and said, “I can respect that. Just don’t be so quick to burn your bridges behind you. I have learned that we all need friends, and Superman will always need you — one of his oldest and closest friends — in his life in some capacity.”
She smiled and turned away for a moment, but the Caped Crusader had departed already as swiftly as he had arrived. Lois inhaled sharply and then walked off with a determined manner in her every movement.