Meanwhile, on a Metropolis street, Clark Kent stiffened and almost collapsed to one knee as he felt waves of pain. “Can’t understand it. Feels like kryptonite,” murmured Superman in his secret identity. It didn’t make sense, since he was wearing a lead-lined protective suit that should have completely shielded him from any residual kryptonite radiation in Metropolis. This same suit also disguised his appearance with a hologram that made him look just like he did when he was playing the part of Clark Kent.
Moving out of the line of vision of any onlookers on the street, the walking Superman tried to catch his breath, hoping that kryptonite poisoning had not set in again. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman Family: Recovery.]
Captain Comet and his team burst into the old house to see a very modern laboratory and some odd figures. In addition to a worried-looking Dr. Alex Atley and his daughter Carol, the Vanquisher, Dynamic, and a strong black-haired woman in a red mini-dress stood around a medical table. On the table reclined an odd mixture of man and machine, a figure who now smiled sinisterly.
“Ah, the good guys are here. Too bad you came too late.”
“I know this creep. He’s called Metallo,” said Comet.
“Yes, I am Metallo, also appropriately called the man with the kryptonite heart,” he laughed.
“That’s the substance that hurts Superman,” noted Dolphin as she moved closer to the Atleys.
“Yes, Mr. Mxyzptlk recently dumped the kryptonite asteroid of Argo City on Metropolis, and the place is flooded with the stuff. They’re still trying to get rid of it all,” sneered the villain as he jumped down from the table.
“That explains it. With your kryptonite heart, you’re trying to use the Cardialink to kill Superman. Not if I can stop you,” said a determined Comet. He slammed into the evil cyborg, and they struggled to the floor.
“Too late, do-gooder! The ‘Link ties a user’s heart to the Earth’s very core — the pulse of the Earth, if you will. In some cases, a damaged heart could cause earthquakes — in mine, it merely permeates the very atmosphere with kryptonite radiation. The very Earth is killing Superman as we speak.”
He hit the amazed Comet with a powerful left. The red-and-blue-clad hero shrugged off the punch and tried a frantic attack. He scooped up Metallo and flew through the roof. “If I can get you off Earth, the damage may stop,” he vowed.
“Not likely, fool!” said Metallo as his found his mighty cyborg arms pinned.
Dolphin danced nimbly between Vanquisher and Dynamic. Her lithe form easily avoided their clumsy charges. She spun and kicked the purple-costumed Dynamic with her leg. She was stronger than normal humans due to her life amidst the ocean floor’s crushing depths, and she used this strength to follow up with a second kick. Dynamic rolled forward into a machine that sparked, but he remained standing.
Starman faced the vain Vanquisher and said, “Surrender now. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“I doubt you can, boy,” laughed the blond thug.
Starman met his charge and remained unmoved. I guess I’m as strong as this guy, thought Will, generating a mighty energy blast that shook Vanquisher to the ground.
As Dolphin kicked at Dynamic, she also dived out of the path of the bio-medical blast of Vanquisher. The red-dressed woman grabbed the struggling girl in her strong arms. “I am gonna snap you like a twig,” she laughed.
“Now, Ultimate, be modest. The Doc’s actualization plan does not make you that strong,” laughed Dynamic.
She smiled and shook Dolphin hard from side to side. Dolphin braced her shapely legs and twisted. Ultimate fell over the demure platinum blond and yelled her anger.
Dynamic spun around as Comet suddenly sent Metallo crashing through the broken roof directly into him. “That will stop one of your goons,” said Comet.
“Comet, the only way to shut the Cardialink down is to dig it up from the center of the Earth. This device traces the pulse. Hurry!” said Atley.
Comet nodded. He had realized his earlier plan was futile if Metallo was still so confident. Taking the device, he waved to Starman and called, “Will Payton! I need your help!”
“What’s up, Captain?” asked Starman.
“You and I are going to have to recreate one of Superman’s feats if we’re going to save the Man of Steel!” said Comet. “And with your power added to mine, we might just make it in time!”
“Just show me what to do,” replied the young hero, and immediately Adam Blake began mentally broadcasting exactly where they needed to go.
With that, the two crashed through the earth itself using their combined power. Miles and miles downward they pushed with all their might, with Comet’s jets blazing and Starman’s bolts carving a path through solid rock. They spotted the matching Cardialink, grabbed it, and then soared upward. Got to pray we’re in time. Can’t let my friend Superman die, Comet thought. Reaching the upper atmosphere with Starman, he then tossed the Cardialink toward the sun using telekinesis.
Metallo roared his rage upon their swift return. “Curse you! Without that link in the core, I’m back to where I started!” Metallo ran toward Adam Blake, who brought his fists upward at top speed. He caught the cyborg and sent him down hard.
“We could have just tossed you into the sun,” threatened Comet.
Starman once again traded blows with Vanquisher, whose blasts could not harm Payton’s altered metabolism. Dolphin used her agility to toss the stronger Ultimate into Metallo’s metallic parts. She staggered up and fell again.
Catching Vanquisher’s arm, Starman flew upward, dragging his foe along. He blasted the felon’s left boot jet with his stellar energy and then let go of the vain villain. Vanquisher yelled and flailed around desperately before dropping to earth with a crash. “Happy landings,” quipped Starman as he checked to be sure that the fall had only stunned the man.
Comet hit Metallo again and again. “Where are the Cheetah and the Golden Glider? I know Vanquisher and his allies took them,” he said.
“I assure you they did so only for their master, who helped them regain or realize their powers through what they call self-actualization. I don’t know who he is — he merely loaned them to me to do menial tasks, since you decimated my original team at STAR Labs,” said a now-sagging Metallo.
“I guess the cyborg’s speaking the truth. I can’t find anyone else here,” said Dolphin.
At that moment, Dr. Atley cried out, “My baby — help her! Carol’s heart is weak as mine was — she’s having an attack!”
Comet glanced at the pretty blond who was pale and in obvious pain. “Can’t get her to the hospital in time with that bad a heart! Could I save her with Atley’s Cardialink?” asked the man of the future.
Captain Comet acted quickly, and with Atley’s aid, he operated on Carol with the lab’s state of the art equipment. He had the skill and knowledge of a great doctor from his amazing mental gifts and decades of specialized reading and study. With Atley’s expert aid, they implanted another Cardialink device, and Comet and Payton buried it in the earth’s core.
“By altering your basic valve-design to make it a one-way link, the new, improved Cardialink will give Carol the stamina and power of the Earth’s pulsing core — but it won’t allow her illness to cause the quakes your heart did or the poisoning Metallo’s did. She may be better than before — potentially even a hero.”
“Thank you, Captain, thank you,” gushed Dr. Atley.
Dolphin and Starman turned the Metallo gang over to the authorities. “You really came through,” said Dolphin.
“I’d risk a lot for someone like you,” replied the smitten Will Payton.
“Thank you for your help, Will,” said Comet, and held his gaze as he regarded the young hero. “Starman, would you like a job with us? We’d be glad to get someone with your power and your sense of decency. Dolphin and I can both vouch for you.”
“I accept,” Starman said, truly honored.
“Now all we need to do is find Debbi and Lisa,” said Comet.
In Metropolis, Clark Kent began to breathe easy once again as the strange pain he felt that was akin to kryptonite radiation now ended. How odd! Thank Rao that pain went away, he thought.
Elsewhere, Debbi Domaine, Lisa Snart, and Vivian d’Aramis awoke to find themselves in an odd cell. “Welcome to my arena, my pretties,” said a weird little man.