High above the city of Metropolis, Genia sat within her own craft and exulted in her apparent victory. “Evaluation: my evolution has progressed rapidly. My internal diagnostic clearly indicates that I am becoming more human with each upgrade. I will soon speak like any sentient being. I already feel hatred for my beloved’s foes as well as a sense of triumph in how I will crush them. Query: do I also feel anticipation as to witnessing Superman’s death?”
She turned to where the captive Starman rested suspended within an artificial brace of metal and wire. His head sagged on his chest, and he stirred slightly as the star-shaped siphon drained his very essence.
That thing would have killed me if I had been plain old Will Payton instead of the living energy generator I became after being struck by the energy beam from beyond, he thought. Still, it’s doing a fine job of ending my life as it is. That thing in my chest is bleeding me dry, so to speak. I can only imagine what she is doing with the stolen energy.
He slowly breathed in and out, although he truly had no need to perform such an act of respiration. Starman continued to do the small actions that gave him a sense of humanity; he did so out of a necessity to retain a sense of being human.
She said my death would also result in Superman’s death. I heard that much before I passed out. I can only assume she is planning to use my stellar energy to fuel some weapon she wants to employ against Superman. When that star-seed possessed me, I was reasonably successful in fighting the Man of Steel. I suppose a warped computer mind like hers could make the energy of lethal effect against him.
Starman frowned in determination. Genia may kill me, but I won’t let her get away with her actions, he thought. One way or another, I’m going to stop her little scheme!
Superman had led his armored pursuer away from the teeming masses of Metropolis. Now, over the Atlantic Ocean, he stopped to face his enemy. I don’t know if this ploy will work, he thought, but if it fails, I do have a few other ideas to fall back on, and no one else will suffer for my failure if the first attempt doesn’t to the trick!
Flying forward at super-speed, the Man of Steel crashed into the armored being with devastating impact. No good! he realized. I hoped the sheer speed of my attack would allow me to damage him before he could weaken me with his red sun aura. That obviously failed.
Superman kicked away from the creature and plunged into the ocean below. He then gathered together a crude metal bludgeon from assorted wreckage found below the ocean. He brought it up like a massive fly swatter and slammed it into the armored creature as it moved down to locate him.
The red and gold armor cracked slightly under the impact, and he struck it again. As long as I stay out of proximity to his red sun aura, I retain my powers, and they should be sufficient to enable me to take down this relentless terror, he thought.
Indeed, the red-and-gold-clad being shuddered as Superman continued his assault. However, the odd being struggled forward slowly. It managed to shatter the weapon and reach the Man of Steel before he could draw back. Superman tried to dodge the bigger creature, but he was also slower than normal as the red sun aura sapped his fabled speed.
He felt the creature grip his arm, and he struggled to break free. The long-distance attack worked well, up to a point, he thought. I can beat this thing if I can stay out of range.
Battling onward, he managed to tear free from the creature for a brief moment. My super-vision returned long enough for me to scan that damaged part of the armor. There is no one in that suit. I’m fighting some type of energy golem! The armor contains pure energy, and some unseen mind guides the armor, but no one living is in there! That gives me a few more options than I possessed before.
Superman spun around until his super-swift vibrations literally carried his body out of one dimension and into another for a brief moment. He returned to his normal realm some distance from his foe. That bought me a bit of time and distance from which I can strike back with a degree more safety, he thought.
He gasped in pain as the odd golem suddenly closed in on him and began to choke him. The red-and-blue-clad champion choked as the alien gripped him tightly around the neck, and red energy surged around their linked forms. I’m just a normal man under this energy. I can’t overpower him. Can’t even break free! It moved even faster than it had before. It must improve its capabilities over time.
Meanwhile, within Genia’s red spacecraft, Starman was concentrating valiantly as he fought to reverse the flow of energy from out of his damaged body. I don’t like to dwell on the fact that my body is a living generator like some mobile star, but it is in fact just such an engine. I should be able to reclaim that stolen energy. It is all part of me, after all. Weird as it seems, it is an extension of my essence.
He drew in his breath and strained to make some connection with the glowing energy that poured out of his wound. It’s working! he thought. I’m starting to reverse the flow! Maybe I’ve got a fighting chance now.
Starman had been able to watch Superman’s plight on the monitor screens around the deck of the spaceship, and he had been pained by every blow the golem inflicted upon the hero, since he felt as if he was to blame. Now, he started to recover as the stolen energy returned to his body via the star-shaped device on his chest. He had managed to reverse the flow, and he hoped to regain his old power before Genia could notice.
Genia was enthralled as she watched her creation choke the Man of Steel. She sat with one leg curled under the other, and for all appearances she resembled nothing as much as a normal woman, albeit one with green skin. She was clearly human enough to relish the pain Superman was suffering. “Soon he will perish, and I will present his corpse as a token of affection to my beloved,” she said softly.
Starman screamed as the siphon fell off his chest, and his wound closed itself without leaving even a scar. I did it! I feel weak as a kitten, but I have regained my stolen energies, he thought as he staggered forward.
Genia jumped to her feet and ran across the deck as her high heels clattered. “This is impossible!” she cried. “You have rallied enough to reverse my process! I was certain your injury had robbed you of any fighting spirit.”
“That’s the problem with being a curvy computer,” said Starman. “You can simulate emotions, but you can’t truly understand the human spirit.”
Meanwhile, below them, Superman continued his own struggle with surprising results. I can’t quit! Jasma is counting on me! he thought as he pried the golem’s armored fingers off his throat. I’ve got too much to live for to give in, no matter what the odds.
He wrestled the creature back and realized that the red glow had faded away. “Great Krypton! It has lost its energy source,” he said. “It’s just an armored hull being powered by typical energy now. The red sun aura is gone!”
Superman smashed his fist through the domed helmet and smiled with satisfaction as his recovered super-strength enabled him to literally destroy the armored hull in minutes. “It’s just so much scrap metal now. However, I was able to trace the remote signal that guided it to a craft far above us. It is still cloaked, but I know very well that the signal that guided that thing didn’t come from empty space!”
Aboard the craft, Genia whirled to fire a small square device at Starman. He glowed brightly and shook his head. “Nice try, but after what I’ve been through, I’m not too worried about the rest of your toys.”
Before he could close in on her, both combatants were separated as Superman himself smashed through the hull. Superman took in the situation immediately and placed a steadying hand on Starman’s shoulder. “You look like you’ve been through the wringer, Starman. I think I can guess who is to blame for it, too. Genia, I see you survived our last battle. (*) Since Brainiac once survived the same thing, I figured that shrinking ray wouldn’t be the end of you.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Genia Returns.]
Starman smiled and said, “I think you’re in trouble now. It doesn’t matter if you’re a super-computer or a blender with a bad attitude, you can’t mess around with Superman!”
Genia stared at them with a look that combined malice with a clinical awareness of the situation. “Obviously, I underestimated you, Starman. Congratulations. You have succeeded in teaching your superior a lesson. Next time, I will make allowances for your strangely inspiring resilience.”
Superman said, “Genia, you’ve just displayed faulty reasoning. You assume there will be a next time. Hasn’t Brainiac ever told you what happens when you assume things?”
“Your inane prattle is a more potent weapon than your much-vaunted super-strength,” said Genia, who touched her belt, causing a pale light to surround her body. “You cannot penetrate my force-field. I had hoped to use your corpse as a courtship offering when I reunite with Brainiac. Perhaps I will just have to settle for a charred cityscape, instead!” She vanished as her ship exploded around them.
“She activated a self-destruct mechanism!” gasped Starman. “Thank goodness her ship was still over the ocean.”
Superman nodded as they flew to safety. “She is as ruthless as Brainiac, plus she combines an almost-feminine capriciousness. That makes her deadly, indeed.”
“I still can’t believe she tried to kill us both just to get a date!” said Starman.
Superman laughed and said, “I think her motivations go beyond the purely romantic. In any case, I know I owe you a debt. You had a lot to do with the way that energy golem suddenly lost its extra power.”
“Give me a ride home, and we’ll call it even,” said Starman. “I’m worn out!”