Mighto stood in front of the holographic projector, watching the battle play out between Superboy and Ultraboy in almost complete blackness, smirking. He was a young man, no more than twenty-four or twenty-five years of age, with slicked-back light blond hair and dark blue eyes, wearing a bright yellow costume with green boots, trunks, and cape, and he was thoroughly enjoying himself. Three years had gone by since the Boy of Steel had locked him up on his home planet of Ulgar after the whole Experiment X debacle, and he really wished that he could be there in Smallville at that moment just to see his former adopted brother get the stuffing knocked out of him. (*) “C’mon, Ultraboy,” he said to the holographic projection, “punch that goodie-goodie right in the kisser.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Kents’ First Super-Son,” Superboy #108 (October, 1963).]
“Enjoying yourself?” The voice came from the blackness. “Computer, lights on.” At the command, the hi-tech room sprang to full illumination, revealing the being who called himself Hourglass. He wore a skintight purple and white costume, with black leather boots and gloves, a long, black Spartanesque cape with a metallic clasp above his right breast, a black belt with a metallic skull-shaped belt buckle, and metallic shoulder guards. His face was completely covered with a purple, white, and black full-head mask, and he wore a black and white hourglass emblem upon his chest. Despite his features being fully obscured by his mask, he exuded the bearing and demeanor of supreme confidence as he strode into the room and came to stand beside Mighto.
“This should prove interesting,” Mighto said to his mysterious benefactor. The two watched the battle between the two Kryptonians intently.
“Indeed,” replied Hourglass, “this should prove very interesting, though I doubt that this Ultraboy will prove much of a threat to your adopted brother.”
Mighto winced at that statement. He didn’t like being reminded that he had at one time been adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, adopted before they had taken in the infant Kal-El from Krypton. His true parents, Yorth and Reena, along with Mighto as a toddler, had been exiled from their home planet of Ulgar due to forbidden experiments that Yorth had been conducting to create the compound known as Experiment X, which would enable him to menace his homeworld. When exiled from Ulgar, the trio had made their way to Earth and adopted the identity of the Tates family, whom Jonathan and Martha hired as farmhands, and continued their work in secret until members of the Ulgarian authorities were on the verge of discovering them. Yorth and Reena, realizing that they were about to be discovered, gave the super-intelligent toddler explicit instructions to continue their work. After faking the deaths of the Tates and leaving young Tim Tate to be found by the Kents, the couple soared off into the sky to be apprehended. Adopting young Tim as their own, Jonathan and Martha soon found that he possessed a wide array of amazing powers and abilities, but after a series of mischievous incidents occurred and his secret was revealed to the kindly couple, he used his telepathic abilities to block their memories of him, then left Earth to continue his work. Reappearing years later with the completed Experiment X, Mighto battled Superboy nearly to a standstill, but was captured by the Boy of Steel with the help of his adoptive parents.
For the last three years, he’d sat in a holding cell back on Ulgar, mulling his situation, at least until the night three weeks ago when Hourglass materialized in his cell and offered him a chance for revenge against the Boy of Steel. “Join the team of super-criminals that I am organizing,” Hourglass had said to him that night, “and you can be an integral part in the utter destruction of the Boy of Steel.” Mighto wasn’t sure that he wanted to share the job of killing Superboy, but he agreed nevertheless, just to see his “brother” destroyed.
“Are you considering asking this Ultraboy to join us, Hourglass?”
“We shall see, Mighto. It all depends upon how he fares in battle with the boy.”
Outside Smallville Hospital, 11:16 P.M.:
The two combatants and their respective canine companions stood across from each other on opposite sides of the hole in the ground, each ready to do battle. Superboy’s face was grim; Ultraboy just smirked. Time seemed to just stand still as the two titanic teens stood opposite each other, neither wanting to make the first move against the other. Superboy’s mind raced as he planned out each possible move he might make, and he was fully aware that Ultraboy was probably doing the same thing, despite his over-confident smirk.
“Can’t decide what to do, can ya?” Ultraboy verbalized exactly what Superboy had been thinking. “You’re probably trying to figure out which option would be the best to take me down without harming the innocent bystanders.”
Superboy said nothing. Ultraboy truly did know how he thought, how he felt. This was so frustrating for him; he didn’t like feeling so ineffective, and he knew Ultraboy was relishing this. C’mon, Clark, he thought, think of something.
“Fine,” Ultraboy said, “I’ll make the first move.” As soon as the words had exited from Ultraboy’s lips, he and Neutro the Ultradog were flying through the air at full speed and into Superboy and Krypto the Superdog, knocking the teen hero and the canine into a nearby sedan as they arced up into the night sky. Turning around to face their heroic adversaries, the villainous pair each let loose with twin beams of heat-vision.
Superboy had been caught off guard by the pair’s sudden and swift attack, but as he and Krypto impacted into the parked sedan, his mind began racing. This was his element, the thick of battle. Moving at super-speed faster than the naked eye could see, the Boy of Steel ripped one of the car doors from the mangled sedan, a black Plymouth Belvedere, and using a swift combination of heat-vision and super-speed buffing of the metal with his hands, turned the car door into a highly reflective mirror, which he held up just in time to deflect the beams of heat-vision away from him and Krypto. This was a trick he had performed on more than one occasion, and it always seemed to be an effective defensive maneuver.
Ultraboy and Neutro shut off their heat-vision just as the beams were deflected away by the makeshift mirror. Ultraboy was impressed with his doppelgänger. He did exactly what Ultraboy himself might have done. This is indeed going to be a good fight, he thought just as Superboy flung the makeshift mirror into him and Neutro, knocking them down. As he and his dog plummeted to the ground, Ultraboy was smiling; he hadn’t had this much fun in ages.
“You really should give up and go home,” Superboy said as he and Krypto took to the skies to confront their adversaries.
“Why? I’m actually having fun for the first time in a long, long time,” Ultraboy replied, laughing.
Superboy gave a sideways glance at Krypto as the two of them flew toward Ultraboy and Neutro. Superboy gestured at Krypto, and the Superdog flew straight at his evil double, dutifully engaging Neutro in personal combat, leaving Superboy to tackle the evil Boy of Steel.
Flying straight into Ultraboy, Superboy struck his adversary directly in the chest with his outstretched fists. He wasn’t pulling his punches like he normally would have, hitting the evil youth with all his power, knowing full well that the alternate Earth teenager could take each and every hit. Superboy was calling upon every last one of the boxing lessons Jonathan Kent had imparted to him some months back when he had battled Pulsar. This, however, was different than that confrontation, since Pulsar was merely a misguided combatant, whereas Ultraboy instead was a vicious thug who could not be reasoned with. Ultraboy gave just as good as he got, and it occurred to Superboy that he, too, must have had some kind of combat training. This was definitely not going to be as easy as Superboy had first thought.
Soames Reformatory School outside Smallville, 11:19 P.M.:
Lex Luthor sat up in his bunk at Soames, his arms folded across his chest, as he listened intently to the small transistor radio on the night stand. Smallville’s local radio station, WSML, was airing a report on the fight between Superboy and an evil double that they had reported was called Ultraboy, outside of Smallville Hospital. Normally, Lex couldn’t care less about his arch-enemy’s exploits, but this story seemed to catch the attention of the teenage criminal genius.
“Amazing,” came the voice of the on-air reporter, Phil something or other; Lex couldn’t remember his name, nor did he care, “it appears that Superboy and Krypto really have their hands full now, ladies and gentleman, as this Ultraboy has now used some kind of metallic cylinder to teleport into the fight a super-powered dog who is a dead ringer for Krypto.”
“Interesting… an inter-dimensional teleportation unit,” Lex thought out loud to himself. “He is just as brilliant as the Boy of Steel, and counters every move that Superboy makes with an equal and opposite reaction. Very interesting.” Lex smirked. “I must have that technology.”
“Must you indeed, young Mr. Luthor?” The deep baritone voice came from the darkness of the far corner of Lex’s cell.
Cautiously, Lex turned his smooth, bald head toward the spot where the voice had emanated, and peering into the blackness, his eyes centered on a crackling, yellowish doorway of energy, through which stepped a strange man clad in a strange costume.
Lex was not impressed. “And who might you be?”
“I am Hourglass.”
“Indeed. I take it by your costume and technology, that you are a time traveler.”
“Indeed, young Mr. Luthor, I am. You definitely live up to your reputation in the history files of my era as the greatest criminal mind of your time… even now in your youth. I am quite impressed.”
“I’m not. What do you want, Hourglass, and what is in it for me?”
“What I want is for you to join my little group that is made up of several enemies of Superboy. What is in it for you is his destruction.”
Lex cocked one eyebrow curiously. “Interesting. And who else is in this group?”
“You will find out soon enough, if you join, that is.”
“And if I refuse?”
“Nothing,” Hourglass replied. “You will remain here in Soames.”
Lex stood up and smoothed out the wrinkles in his gray reform school jumpsuit. He certainly couldn’t argue with the logic presented by Hourglass as to why he should join the group; he hated his incarceration in Soames, a punishment continually heaped upon him by Superboy. “Lead on, Hourglass. I’m in.”
As Lex and Hourglass stepped through the doorway of energy, it closed behind them, leaving Lex’s cell empty and quiet, as if neither the two beings nor the doorway had ever been there.
Outside Smallville Hospital, 11:22 P.M.:
The battle between the two Boys of Steel and their respective super-dogs had been raging in the skies above Smallville Hospital for the last several minutes, with no apparent winner in sight. Every maneuver that Superboy attempted, Ultraboy countered with an equal and opposite counter move. They thought way too much alike. It was like a game of chess between two master players, only with super-powers. Superboy had first tried using his training in boxing to defeat his doppelgänger. That was no good, as Ultraboy had also been trained in boxing. Next, he tried using some super-karate moves that his friend from the Legion of Super-Heroes, the late Karate Kid, had shown him. That, too, was also of no use. Obviously, Ultraboy was also a member of a team like the Legion and had been likewise trained by a counterpart of Karate Kid.
“My late friend Combat Kid of the Cadre of Super-Criminals showed me those moves a while back,” Ultraboy said, laughing, as he used a few super-judo moves to get Superboy off-balance and flip him through the air at super-speed, “as well as a way to counter it.”
As Superboy’s body flipped repeatedly end over end through the air at super-speed, his mind raced at the speed of light, trying to figure out some way to take his opponent out.
He matches me power for power, training for training. He knows exactly how I’m going to react even before I… Wait a minute — that’s it! He knows exactly how I’m going to react even before I do. The only way to beat him is to do something completely unexpected! Finally righting himself, Superboy floated in the air and stared across the empty sky at his evil doppelgänger.
“Had enough, Superboy?”
Superboy said nothing. Glancing over toward Krypto, he gave his super-pet a stern look that the dog of steel understood to mean, “Follow me.” When the Boy of Steel was sure that Krypto had understood his message, he sped off at super-speed, heading northwest toward the famous Welcome to Smallville, Home of Superboy! sign.
“Come back here, you coward!” Ultraboy was screaming at the top of his lungs after the Boy of Steel. “How dare you run away?! I’m not done with you yet!” Ultraboy gave Neutro a stern glance, and the two villainous doppelgängers flew off after Superboy and Krypto. Ultraboy was irritated, now, raging at the current turn of events. The hero had incensed him with his cowardice, and what was more, he was starting to think that he had wasted his time building the device he had used to transport himself and Neutro here to this backwards Earth. “When I catch you, I’m gonna make you wish you never crossed me.”
It took Ultraboy and Neutro all of about 19.5 seconds to make the northwesterly flight from Smallville Hospital to the famous Smallville sign. When he arrived at the sign, however, he was taken aback by what he and his dog found there. Nothing. There was no sign of either Superboy or Krypto, and that made him madder. His face was bright red, flushed with anger. “Where are you, coward?”
“Right behind you,” Superboy replied as he and Krypto slammed into their adversaries from behind, knocking them down to the ground. Moving at super-speed, the heroic duo let loose a barrage of super-strong punches and kicks, blasts of super-breath and heat-vision, and all done in such a way as to keep the villainous duo completely off balance. Normally, Superboy didn’t like to be this aggressive in battle, but in this case it was necessary. Jonathan Kent had always told his son to work smarter, not harder and to always turn an adversary’s strengths into a weakness.
“If they know how you will react in a given situation,” Pa Kent had said, “then do the unexpected — do the opposite.”
That advice from his father had certainly served Superboy well in this case, as Ultraboy and Neutro didn’t seem to be able to respond quickly enough, or even as coherently as they might have if they hadn’t been distracted by their rage and anger. The Boy of Steel was finally gaining the upper hand in battle with the evil duo, even though he had to fight a bit dirty and underhanded to do it, which distressed him. “Say uncle, Ultraboy.”
Ultraboy was still on his feet, standing shakily, and though he looked a bit woozy, he was not yet ready to concede defeat to the Smallville sensation and the heroic hound. “Bravo, Superboy, bravo. This was by far the best fight that I have ever had… but say uncle to you? Never. You see,” he said, laughing, as he pulled the inter-dimensional teleporter out at super-speed and pressed the crimson button with his thumb, “you lose!”
Before Superboy and Krypto could react, the air around them filled with crackling white energy, and it seemed to be pulling them in every direction all at once, twisting the duo inside out. This weird sensation seemed to drag on for hours, but lasted only for a few seconds until the excruciating pain made the two heroes pass out. It was mere moments later when Superboy and Krypto regained consciousness.
Superboy sat up, groggy, holding his head. He felt like he had gone about twelve rounds with Muhammad Ali. He sat there for long moments, waiting for the throbbing pain and grogginess to finally pass, with Krypto leaning in close to his master. When the intense pain finally passed a few seconds later, the Boy of Steel reached down and patted his dog on the head. “Good boy,” he said, “you did very good today.”
After a moment or two, Superboy finally looked around to see where they were. The famous Smallville sign was still right in front of them. Superboy stood up and cracked his neck and back. They were in the same spot they were in when Ultraboy had pressed the button on his dimension-hopping device. Nothing appeared to be any different.
“Obviously,” he said out loud to Krypto as he walked around to the front of the Smallville sign, “his device didn’t work on us, since we are still…”
Superboy was left speechless by what he saw as he looked up at what he thought was the famous sign. Instead of the familiar Welcome to Smallville! Home of Superboy! and the giant picture of a friendly Superboy, the sign was instead emblazoned with a large picture of a menacing Ultraboy and the words Now Entering Smallville! Domain of Ultraboy! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
“Great Scott!” Superboy was staring at the sign, a hint of surprise and despair in his voice when he finally spoke. “Well, boy, to quote Dorothy, looks like we’re not in Kansas anymore.”