The skies above Smallville, Earth-33, 10:50 A.M.:
Superboy floated above the quiet doppelgänger of his hometown in silence, readying himself for what he was about to do. As he hovered above the center of this darker reflection of his own Smallville, he slowly took several breaths, inhaling and exhaling, rapidly making a series of super-fast calculations with his super-brain as he did so. He had to time this just right, but also do it in such a way that he didn’t cause the complete destruction of the town below him. He closed his eyes, pulled both his arms back, and then, in one quick motion and with all his might, clapped his hands together. The sound generated by his super-strong invulnerable hands slamming together was akin to that of three sonic booms going off at the same time. Below the Boy of Steel, window pains cracked, glasses shattered, and everyone in the street looked up at the hero.
“Attention, people of Smallville,” Superboy said, using an omni-directional burst of super-ventriloquism, “this is Superboy. Please forgive my use of extremely loud and annoying theatrics. The last thing I wanted to do was to interrupt your quiet Tuesday morning, but I urgently needed to pass on a message to all of you, as well as the teen terror, Ultraboy.
“For the last few years, he has made the lives of each and every one of you an ongoing nightmare. He and his various unsavory associates steal from you, insult you, intimidate you, and repeatedly wreck your town. Where I come from, these behaviors are never tolerated. You people should not have to live your lives in fear of some super-powered juvenile delinquent. As one of the good guys, who stands for right and wrong, I am now serving notice that this ends today.
“I know you can hear me, Ultraboy. So listen very carefully. I am calling you out. You have approximately one hour and ten minutes to gather whatever associates you choose to aid you in defending yourselves from myself and my newfound allies. We’ll be waiting for you on the shore of Shuster Beach near Metropolis. I know you’ll be coming, as your ego won’t allow you not to come.
“Normally, acting like this would not be in my nature. I wouldn’t be this proactive where I come from, but in the last three days since we first met, you have pushed my buttons. I don’t want to be a part of your little game here, I just want to go home. So, unless you want the people of Smallville to start thinking you’re a coward, you’ll come to the beach with the dimensional teleportation unit and the satchel of money that you ‘appropriated’ from the Smallville Savings and Loan back on my Earth. Remember, you have until high noon, one hour and ten minutes.”
Superboy scanned the crowd below him with his telescopic vision and beheld a sight that brought tears to the teen hero’s eyes. All of the people below him were cheering. They obviously realized what was happening, that the dark clouds were being lifted from their town, and things were about to get better. With a determined look on his face, Superboy rose farther up into the sky and raced east toward Shuster Beach and a rendezvous with his newly acquired allies.
“As Pa would say,” he thought aloud, “this is the part where I put my money where my mouth is.”
Alex Luthor’s secret laboratory, Earth-33, 10:52 A.M.:
“I’m going, Dad,” Alex Luthor said as he pulled open a cabinet in the corner and pulled out a pair of black leather boots and a dark crimson bodysuit, “and you can’t stop me.”
“I know that, Alex; I just don’t want to lose you like I lost your mother and your sister,” Police Chief Jules Luthor replied as he placed his hand on his son’s shoulder and squeezed ever so gently.
“You won’t, Dad.”
“You sure you know what you are doing, young man?”
Alex smiled at his father as he stripped down to his underwear and pulled on the skintight dark crimson bodysuit and closed it by pulling up the zipper that went from the suit’s waist to the top of the turtleneck collar. Alex flexed a bit before pulling on his boots, allowing the suit to stretch and conform to his body a bit. Next, he pulled on a pair of black leather gloves that he attached to the dark crimson sleeves with a pair of snaps on each, and then slid a thick, silvery metallic gauntlet over each forearm that he then locked into place over the gloves and sleeves. Alex then, in turn, slid the fingers of each hand over the surface of the opposite gauntlet, depressing hidden buttons to test the power levels and readiness of the gauntlets. When satisfied with the results, he next turned his attention to the metallic belt.
The belt was of the same silvery color as the gauntlets, composed of a series of rounded metal discs over a flat metal band that encircled his waist. As he pulled the belt, snapping the hexagonal buckle closed, each of the discs in turn glowed with a momentary flash of bluish light. With the belt now fully powered, he then turned his attention to the chest guard.
The chest guard was a lightweight, armored carapace with a dull black sheen to it that came down from the shoulders at a slight angle on each side and attached into the metal belt in front and the back and was nearly skintight, but also very flexible. The edges on either side of the carapace were trimmed with a half-inch band of silvery metal. As Alex attached the front and back portions of the carapace into the belt with two audible clicks, the silver trim also glowed with a momentary flash of blue light like the series of belt discs. Lastly, Alex locked the thick collar in place, and attached a rounded disc, this one much larger and engraved with a shiny black atom symbol, to the carapace in the center of his chest. As he did this, the disc also glowed momentarily with blue light.
Alex Luthor was now ready for action. “To answer your question, Dad,” Alex finally said as he turned to face his surprised father, “I have absolutely no idea what in the heck I’m doing, but I am going to give it my best shot. And as far as Ultraboy is concerned, this suit has enough firepower to handle him.”
“You were working on that when I wasn’t looking, weren’t you, boy?” Chief Luthor could barely hide the swelling pride in his son beneath the smirk on his face.
“Yes, sir. Wish me luck, Dad, because I am going to need it.” With that, Alex began to levitate, and as he stood hovering in the middle of the basement, he depressed one of the hidden buttons on his left gauntlet with the index finger of his right hand, and in a flash of blinding blue light, Alex Luthor was gone, teleported from the basement of his family’s home and on toward destiny.
“Good luck, son. Come back to me in one piece.”
Smallville Police Headquarters, Smallville, Earth-One, 11:16 A.M.:
Police Chief Douglas Parker sat uneasily on the creaky wooden desk chair in his office, tapping the fingers of his right hand on the hard oak desktop. He was nervous and slightly agitated. Nearly three days had passed since Superboy’s battle with Ultraboy in the parking lot of the Smallville Medical Center, and while the damages caused in that encounter were being quickly taken care of by a crew from the Swan-Andersen Asphalt Company, no one had seen Superboy since Saturday night. Oh, sure, his visual presence had been seen throughout the town the last couple of days; obviously, his Superboy robots were on continuous patrol of the town to give criminals the impression that the Smallville sensation was still on the job. Parker, however, knew that they weren’t the real deal. Every morning, at approximately 8:45 A.M., Superboy flew past Parker’s office window and would look at the chief, wave, and give his customary greeting, “Morning, Chief. Looks like a great day for flying.” The robot who gave his office the flyby the last three mornings didn’t give the greeting, and it had the chief worried.
“What if he’s not coming back?” Parker thought aloud. Superboy was a part of life here in Smallville, and the thought that the town’s teenage guardian angel was gone wasn’t sitting well with the white-haired man. He didn’t want to think about it, mostly because he would just fall back on blaming himself. It was Parker who called Superboy in on the case Saturday night, Parker who suggested that Superboy head over to the medical center and question Jim Jeffries, and thus, if Superboy had been killed by his adversary that night, then the guilt, at least in the chief’s mind, ultimately fell on Parker’s shoulders. Right now, the chief needed a distraction, badly, to get his mind off it.
As if answering an unasked prayer, Chief Parker’s phone rang at just that moment, which reminded him that he was the town’s chief of police, and he was still on the job. “Hello,” he said into the receiver as he picked up the phone, silencing that annoying ring.
“Parker,” came the stern voice from the other end of the line, “it’s Warden Bascom from the State Pen. We had an escape sometime yesterday afternoon… well, actually two of them.”
“Warden, why am I just finding out about this now?”
“Parker, I only just found out about this ten minutes ago. Apparently, no one noticed that Vic Munster and his cellmate Dr. Dexter Diablo had flown the coop.”
Parker squinted his eyes as he listened to the warden’s bluster over the phone. This had to be some kind of joke. “OK, Warden, how is it that no one seemed to notice that those two were missing from their cell?”
“Well, Chief, there was no obvious signs of an escape. No tunnels, no holes in the wall, no guards unconscious.”
“Do you want me to put out an APB on those two?”
“Well, Douglas, that is part of the reason why I called. I could really use the assistance of Superboy here at the prison to try and figure out how those two got out.”
“I can’t exactly call him right now, Warden. He’s been missing since Saturday night.”
“That is not good, Douglas. If you get in touch with him, please let him know that I need his assistance. I’m sure he will have no qualms about giving us a hand in tracking down two escaped felons, especially two who are old adversaries of his.” There was a loud click on the other end of the phone as the warden ended the call.
“Damn. This is really turning into a lousy day. What else could possibly go wrong?”
“Chief, it’s Sergeant Kupperberg. Can I come in? It’s really important.” The voice was coming from just the other side of the closed door to Parker’s office.
“Yeah,” Parker shouted back, “come on in, Paul.”
As the door opened, Sergeant Kupperberg entered rather quickly, a look of mild panic on his face. He was a tall man in his late twenties with short, dark brown hair and a neatly trimmed brown beard and mustache, and deep-set hazel eyes. “Chief, I just got off the phone with Scientific Research Associates in Metropolis and the director of the Soames Reformatory…”
“Soames. Wait, let me guess. Lex Luthor broke out again.”
“Yeah, Chief. And that’s not the worst part. He’s been missing since sometime Saturday night, and no one noticed until just now.”
“Great. That’s just what we need. What’s going on at SRA?”
“You remember that costumed clown Superboy defeated about a year ago, Stasis?”
“I remember him.” Indeed, Parker remembered Stasis all right. He was a super-powered extortionist who came to Smallville to start up a protection racket in the quiet little town, but Superboy was able to defeat the criminal by turning his power to render living beings unable to move back on the thug, freezing him in place — a condition he had been trapped in ever since. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “This Town for Plunder,” Superman Family #192 (November-December, 1978).]
“He disappeared from their facility in Metropolis this morning. According to what they told me, one minute he was there, the next he was gone.”
“Great, just great. Paul, I want you to put out three APBs, one each on Lex Luthor, Dr. Dexter Diablo, and Vic Munster. Also, call Metropolis Police Headquarters and see what they’re doing about Stasis. And I want this done pronto.”
“You got it, Chief.” Kupperberg was out the door of the small office in a flash, running back to his desk to get started on the tasks ahead of him.
In the meantime, a very large and painful knot was forming in the pit of Chief Parker’s stomach. One escape was bad enough. Two, a nightmare. But four? Things were really starting to go from bad to worse. “Well,” Parker began, “as they say, ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire.'” The chief hoped that Superboy was all right and that he was on his way home to Smallville, because right now, it looked like they could really use the boy blockbuster.
Shuster Beach near Metropolis, Earth-33, 11:42 A.M.:
The hour was nearly up, and Superboy was not looking forward to this. He was anxious, a feeling that he never liked. He hovered in midair about eight feet up from the sandy surface of the beach, using a combination of his super-hearing and super-vision to keep a close watch out for Ultraboy and his cohorts. In the pit of his stomach, the Boy of Steel had a sneaking suspicion that the Smallville scoundrel was not going to use the full hour, but was going to show up ahead of time and take him and his newfound allies completely by surprise.
“A penny for your thoughts, young man,” came the deep baritone voice that echoed from beneath Professor Order’s gleaming golden helmet. The Professor was floating in the air behind and to Superboy’s left, his golden helmet, chest amulet, belt, gloves, boots, and collared flowing cape shining brightly in the late morning sun, accentuating the dark blue of his bodysuit.
“I’m concerned about what is going to happen in the next few minutes,” Superboy replied as he continued his watch, “and I don’t think that we’ve had enough preparation time to be able to do this.”
“We are aware of this, but know you this: the Master of Order contained within this mystic helmet named Banu, and the young man named Burt Belker who has willingly pledged his life and his existence to the cause of justice as the unified being known as Professor Order, will stand at your side this day.”
“Thank you, Professor Order, but I can’t shake the feeling that we will be outnumbered without…”
“…Alex.” Professor Order finished Superboy’s sentence so quickly that it almost seemed as though the two heroes’ minds were psychically linked. He reminded Superboy so much of his counterpart back on Earth-One, the villain known as Doctor Chaos — spooky. (*) The Boy of Steel so much wanted to ask his mystical ally all about him, where he came from, how he bonded with Burt Belker, but there was no time for that, and both knew it.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Kidnapped Nature,” The New Adventures of Superboy #25 (January, 1982).]
“Superboy!” Dav-Im was frantically screaming at them. Superboy turned to look in Dav-Im’s direction, and upon seeing what Dav-Im was looking at, exhaled a very audible gasp.
Rising from out of the water was a giant, monstrous octopus with a blond-haired teenager standing atop its head. This teenager was clad in a form-fitting, orange-hued chain-mail shirt, black trunks, a golden belt of flexible metal with a bronze colored spearhead for a buckle, dark green gloves and skintight leggings, and a pair of black high boots that curiously had a pair of fins protruding from the back. He had an eyepatch covering his right eye and a jagged scar going from the corner of his nose down the side of his face and across his cheek. He was armed with a dagger in his belt and a golden trident in his right hand. As Superboy stared at this new player, he appeared to be a pirate-themed counterpart of a friend from back home, Arthur Curry, alias Aquaboy. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Dark Strangler of the Seas,” Superboy #171 (January, 1971).]
“Barracuda.” One word, spoken with utter disdain by Professor Order with his deep baritone voice, but it spoke volumes about this new player.
“You were right, Kel-Ll,” Barracuda arrogantly called to someone behind Superboy and the Professor, “they are pathetic. This shouldn’t take too long.”
Superboy turned his head to look behind himself and came face to face with Ultraboy, Neutro the Ultradog, the Brute, and the Insect Empress, along with six colorfully clad teenagers. These others were Garok, Kid Quantum, Marsboy, Owl-Boy the Dominator, Trickshot, and Zenith. Each of these newcomers were floating in the air alongside the Smallville scoundrel thanks to Garok’s magic, and appeared to be counterparts of some of Superboy’s friends and allies from back home, namely Garok, Pulsar, Marsboy, Bat-Lad the Executioner, the young Oliver Queen, and Astralad. Every single one of them wore an arrogant smirk upon their face.
“You have an army, Superboy,” Ultraboy called back to Superboy, still smirking, “well, so do I. As I said to you once before, let’s rumble.”