The State Penitentiary outside Smallville, Earth-One, 12:44 P.M.:
For the last two years he had been sitting in this cell, ever since Superboy had taken him and his underlings into custody for his attempt to kill the Boy of Steel with an extremely lifelike android duplicate of Superboy, an android duplicate that had stolen half of the hero’s powers. (*) Sitting quietly on his bunk as he often did, hands folded in front of his face, he once again thought about how he had failed to destroy the teenager. The only conclusion he had ever come to regarding his failure was that the technology he used to steal the Kryptonian’s powers was not flawed, but too good, so good that it imprinted upon the android some of the hero’s own goodness and morality. But he would not let this one small setback deter him. “I shall have my revenge,” Dr. Dexter Diablo said out loud, “and that brat won’t know what hit him.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Duel of the Superboys,” Superboy #119 (March, 1965).]
“Oh, fer cryin’ out loud,” came a voice filled with frustration from the bunk above Dr. Diablo, “would you please just give it a rest already? I’m sick and tired of hearing this garbage outta you each and every single day. A good ten to twenty percent of the guys in dis joint are in here because of that kid. You don’t see the rest of us complaining, do you?”
“My dear Mr. Munster,” Diablo snidely answered back, “you are an idiot. This is how the scientific mind works out problems. We talk through issues until we come up with a solution.”
“Yeah,” Vic Munster said, jumping down off the top bunk, “but you do this every single day, and it ain’t given you a solution to the current predicament, now, has it?”
“No, it has not,” Diablo replied, flashing his cellmate a look of annoyance. “However, I may have a foolproof way out of this predicament. If you will allow my idiosyncrasies, I may allow you to tag along on my escape. But only, my dear boy, if you will cease your verbal assault and kindly shut the hell up!“
Vic Munster sighed. He hated who he was forced to bunk with, a disgraced scientist who, like himself, had also battled and been apprehended by Superboy. The two of them had not gotten along since the day Vic was assigned to this cell nearly four years ago after the whole Rainbow Raider fiasco. (*) Vic still remembered how Jim Jeffries tried to warn him that assuming the Rainbow Raider identity was a stupid idea and would more than likely backfire, but as usual, Vic being the boss, he dismissed the warnings, and that lead to him getting apprehended again by Superboy. He still couldn’t figure out how the kid had caught him; one minute he was at the Smallville Mystery-Costume Charity Ball, the next he was back with his gang in their hideout being unmasked by the police and Superboy. (*) Not to think like Dr. Diablo, but one day he, too, would have his revenge on Superboy.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Rainbow Raider,” Superboy #84 (October, 1960) and “Revolt of Ma Kent,” Superboy #164 (April, 1970).]
As Munster leaned over the small sink in the cell, splashing his face with cold water, he suddenly felt a chill go up his spine. Standing up straight, he felt their cell become cold as a freezer. Looking up over to his left, he saw the tiny cell begin to crackle and spark with energy as a yellowish doorway opened in front of the metal bars. He shot a glance toward Diablo, who rose rather quickly from his seated position on the lower bunk. The look that Diablo shot back was as confused as the one on Munster’s face. “What the hell?”
“Hell has nothing to do with it, Mr. Munster,” came the baritone voice of Hourglass as he stepped through the energy door into the cell, his Spartan-like black cape flowing behind him.
“Who in the hell are you?” Vic was trying to act tough, but in reality he was about ready to wet himself.
“I am Hourglass. And this is your lucky day, gentlemen. I am to be your ticket out of this institution of incarceration.”
“So you say,” Dr. Diablo began, his demeanor calm and collected as he placed his arms behind his back and began pacing in the tight space of the cell. “Opportunities such as the one you have presented to us do not, in fact, materialize themselves every day, my friend. Nor do they come cheap. What is it that you want from us as recompense?”
Hourglass chuckled beneath his full head mask. “Payment? I require no payment in the form of currency. What I require is the skills that both of you can provide me, as well as your demand for revenge against the Kryptonian brat.”
“You want us to help you destroy Superboy,” Vic said finally, the hint of a smirk crossing his thin lips. “That’s all fine and good, and I can see why you want the doc here, but I’m no super-powered thug. I’m just an ex-gang leader and a petty criminal. Seriously, what could I do for you against a teenager who can juggle planets?”
“You’re going to revive the costumed identity of the Rainbow Raider as a member of my Anti-Superboy army, Mr. Munster.”
“I didn’t have any real super-powers as the Rainbow Raider — it was all just an act. Not to mention the fact that I was easily apprehended by that super-powered brat.”
“You make some rather interesting and valid points,” Hourglass replied as he pressed a concealed switch on his left glove, yellowish energy swirling above his outstretched left palm as he did so. After a few seconds, a bucket-shaped pink helmet with a prism-like crystal sphere atop it materialized in the villain’s hand. “However, Mr. Munster, this will assist you in the task at hand.”
Vic took the proffered helmet from Hourglass and carefully examined it. “It looks just like the prop helmet I wore as the Rainbow Raider.”
“Yes, Mr. Munster, but unlike the one that you originally wore during your brief career as the Rainbow Raider, this one actually works.”
“You’re kiddin’, right?”
“Not at all, Mr. Munster. Not at all.”
“You are giving him trinkets and head gear? And what, pray tell, do I get out of this very interesting proposition?” Dr. Diablo was understandably envious of the treatment his cellmate was receiving, and it showed in his tone as he interrupted.
“Dr. Dexter Diablo,” Hourglass said, his eyes narrowing beneath his mask, “you will get access to technology the likes of which you can only dream of — enough highly advanced technology that will enable you to reconstruct your sophisticated android, but this time to build it properly. All of my laboratories are, of course, at your complete disposal… if you agree to join me, that is.”
“Well, I don’t know about you, Doc,” Vic said as he placed the bucket-shaped pink helmet under his arm, “but I’m in.”
“Very well,” Diablo said after a few very tense seconds, “I shall indeed agree to work with you, Hourglass.”
“Not with me, Dr. Diablo,” Hourglass corrected the scientist in a very stern tone as he ushered the two convicts toward the yellow energy doorway, “For me. And don’t either of the two of you ever forget that.”
Alex Luthor’s secret laboratory, Earth-33, 1:13 P.M.:
Superboy had been sitting hard at work at the small mahogany desk that also doubled as a workbench in Alex Luthor’s basement workshop for the last hour since returning from his quick sojourn to the Kent house. Using a combination of super-speed and heat, x-ray, and microscopic visions, he had quickly assembled a small, handheld device that looked very similar to a metallic baseball. This was going to be his ace in the hole, as it were. A few times during the construction process Alex had stopped by and asked Superboy what he was building, and each time Superboy had simply said, “Something to assist us against Ultraboy.”
Breathing out a sigh of relief, Superboy put the metal baseball down and began to put away the tools he had been using for the fine and delicate circuit work on the device. He had finally finished it and was ready to use it when the time came.
“Are you finished?” Alex was standing a few feet off to his left, his dark brown hair mussed and tangled, sweat trickling down his forehead, and large dirt streaks across his rumpled green shirt. He appeared to be, in the Boy of Steel’s estimation, a mess.
“Alex,” Superboy began as he swiveled the metal desk chair to face his friend, “you look terrible.”
Alex Luthor ran a hand through his tangled hair, chuckling. “I may indeed look terrible, but I have at least finished what I was doing.”
Superboy smirked. Alex had put enough emphasis on the last part of his statement to drive home the point that he didn’t like being ignored. So much like Lex… the way he used to be, Superboy thought.
Standing up, Superboy went over to where Krypto the Superdog lay curled up in a small blanket in the far corner of the basement. Crouching down on one knee, he gently began stroking the fur on his canine companion’s head. Krypto slowly opened his eyes and looked up at his master, a content look on his face. “Sorry, Alex,” Superboy finally replied as he looked back over his shoulder at his associate. “Yes, to answer your question, I have finished work on the device. How did things go with your red K tests?”
Alex was beaming as he smiled back at the hero. “Better than I expected. During my analysis of that strange radiation that K.K. and Dav-Im brought back, as well as scans of the red K itself, I found a way to infuse K.K. with both the energy and the red K without causing that adverse reaction you stated happened to your Kryptonite Kid. Not only was I able to do this without causing my friend to turn evil, but I was also able to render it a permanent change to him.”
“That might be a problem, Alex.”
“Well, now he can’t be within Dav-Im’s vicinity without possibly killing him.”
“Not likely, Superboy,” Alex replied in a very matter-of-fact tone. “I accounted for that possibility in my calculations. There was also an unforeseen effect that I had not planned on in my calculations. I could go into boring detail as to exactly what that means, but I think that my work should speak for itself.” Alex turned to his right and motioned with his hand for someone to come join them.
Superboy was genuinely surprised by what he saw standing in front of him. It was the Kryptonite Kid, now wearing an altered version of his standard costume. Instead of the red skullcap, boots, and wrestling singlet, and white belt and wristbands, he now wore a white wrestling singlet and skullcap, and black boots, belt, and wristbands. The costume was not the most drastic change in the Kryptonite Kid. His skin no longer glowed with green kryptonite energy. Now the skin of his body was instead bisected by an invisible line right down the center, rendering the right side of his body a light green hue and the left side red. There was no glow to it at all. It actually looked like the Kryptonite Kid had his body painted with movie makeup evenly on each side.
“Well,” the Kryptonite Kid said, smiling, “what do you think?”
“You look more alien now than you ever have before,” Superboy replied, a quizzical look on his face. “Is it safe to come near you?”
“That’s the best part,” the Kryptonite Kid answered back, still smiling, “only the color of my skin is changed. I’m not radiating any K-radiation at all normally, so you can come stand next to me if you want to. It’s absolutely safe.”
“So how do your powers work now?” Superboy was definitely intrigued by this stunning turn of events.
“From the right side of my body,” the Kryptonite Kid began, “I have standard green K powers like I did before. The left side of my body is now all red K. And the best part about it is that I can manipulate the red K just like I do the green K.”
“So, basically,” Superboy asked, “you can either project it as force-blasts, radiate it out like heat, or turn objects into it temporarily?”
“Gentleman,” Superboy said looking around the small room as Dav-Im finally joined them, “I think we are just about ready.”
“What else could we possibly have to do to prepare before confronting that thug and his cohorts?” Dav-Im’s question was tinged with his usual impatience.
“Well, Dav-Im,” Superboy said as he gave the crusader from Krypton a stern look, “we have to properly train you in hand-to-hand combat so that you don’t get knocked out with one punch… again.”
“How dare you, Superboy?” Dav-Im was visibly fuming at the Boy of Steel’s implied accusation. “What makes you think that I can’t fight?”
“Well,” Superboy began as he moved in a super-speeding blur of motion so he could come up behind the young hero and place him in a judo hold, “If you could fight properly, then I wouldn’t have been able to get the drop on you like this so easily. Lesson one: think before you act, and always stay at least three to four steps ahead of your opponent. In other words, anticipate before you act.”
Alex Luthor and the Kryptonite Kid started laughing as they watched their friend struggle in vain to free himself. Alex could feel the tide of battle starting to turn in their favor. Maybe this time they would actually have a chance.