The Kent house, 5:30 P.M.:
The smell of Martha Kent’s world-famous pork-chops permeated the Kent house as the family sat down to dinner. The family was once again whole, with Jonathan at the head of the table, and Clark and Martha taking seats opposite each other, Clark on Jonathan’s right side, Martha his left. The family was sitting down, enjoying a leisurely Tuesday night dinner, with Clark catching his parents up on the events of the past three and a half days that he was absent. As the family sat together, Clark ate like a maniac, super-speed-eating each and every savory morsel of food on his plate.
“Land sakes, Clark,” Martha scolded, “eat slowly. You act like you haven’t eaten in a month.”
“Sorry, Ma,” Clark Kent replied, a bit embarrassed as he slowed down and swallowed. “I just thought that I’d never taste your home-cooking ever again. I lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, three meals a day, at Alex Luthor’s house. I never want to go through that experience again. I seriously think that I will never eat another peanut butter and jelly sandwich for as long as I live.”
Jonathan Kent chuckled. “Well, son, you know how… addictive your mother’s cooking can be. But I seriously doubt you will never eat another P. B. and J. sandwich again. You are a teenager — eating those things is in your blood.”
“Very true, Pa. But maybe I’ll swear off them for a while.” Clark cut another small piece of meat from his pork-chop and placed it in his mouth. The taste of that succulent meat was beyond comparison, and the pork, with Martha’s mushroom gravy on it, just seemed to melt in his mouth. “So, what’s been going on around here while I was gone?”
Jonathan and Martha began relating the events of the past few days to their son, of how they activated the Superboy robots to patrol the town so that none of the townsfolk would start a panic believing that Smallville was unguarded in case of a super-villain or an alien invasion, and how they used the Clark Kent robot to temporarily take their son’s place. The Clark robot had assisted Jonathan in the store on Sunday and then part of Monday, until he could, in front of Lana Lang and Lisa Davis, pretend to be sick and then go home. And that’s when Jonathan came to the part about the signal lamp in the living room.
“It’s been periodically flashing on and off since a little after eleven this morning,” the elder Kent said, a serious tone in his voice. “I think Chief Parker is a bit worried, you know, the way your Ma and I were. You might want to take a trip down to the police station and reassure him that things are OK, son.”
“I will, Pa,” Clark replied as he placed another mound of mashed potatoes in his mouth, “but after dinner.”
“All right, son, but finish up soon, because the chief is not a very patient man, as you well know. And when you’re finished with Chief Parker, come right home — unless there is an emergency requiring Superboy’s assistance — so that we can finish our father/son chat from Saturday night.”
For the next few minutes, the three Kents sat quietly as they finished their meal, and as soon as Clark had swallowed the last savory mouthful from his plate, he politely excused himself from the dinner table, kissed his mother on the cheek, and super-sped to the basement, changing into his Superboy costume in a blur of motion. As Superboy exited from the basement through the trapdoor into the secret tunnel, he whistled for Krypto to join him, and soon the two champions were on their way into the early evening sky over Smallville to their meeting with Chief Parker.
It was a quick flight from the woods behind the Kent home toward Police Headquarters over on Oak Street. When Superboy arrived outside the window to Chief Parker’s office, he saw Parker sitting at his desk, his uniform a bit rumpled. He looked very tired, and more than a bit disheveled, as he held the remote-control device to the signal lamp and pressed the button to activate it. Superboy smiled. It certainly was good to see things back to normal, with Parker where he belonged, at his desk. The last few days in that other Smallville, with Parker as a villainous mayor and Jules Luthor as chief of police, had truly made Superboy appreciative of everything that he had here. It may not always be the most perfect of places, but it certainly was home.
“Chief,” Superboy said as he gently rapped his knuckles on the glass, “can we come in?”
Police Chief Douglas Parker spun around suddenly as he heard Superboy’s voice, and just as quickly, his sullen depressed look turned immediately to a jubilant smile. He nearly jumped out of his chair as he ran to the window and slid it open to allow the Boy of Steel and Krypto entry into his cramped office. “Come on in Superboy, Krypto,” he said, the excitement almost alive as he spoke.
“Sorry that we’ve been gone, Chief,” Superboy said as he and Krypto landed inside the small office. “I hope that things haven’t been too bad while we were away.”
“Well,” Chief Parker began, “I was starting to think that I’d never get the customary 8:45 A.M. wave and ‘Morning, Chief. Looks like a great day for flying,’ but I’m glad you’re back. We’ve had a few issues since Saturday night.”
“Oh? Like what?” Superboy was definitely intrigued.
“Lex Luthor, Dr. Dexter Diablo, Vic Munster, and Stasis have all vanished from their respective confinements. If I believed in coincidence, I’d say that that was all this is, but this is Smallville, and around here there is no such thing as coincidence.”
“Indeed, Chief.” Superboy was worried. One of his arch-enemies escaping certainly was bad, but four and around the same time? Something was definitely going on, and this was definitely going to need his attention. “I’ll get right on it, Chief. Can you call ahead to Soames, the State Penitentiary, and SRA in Metropolis and let them know that I’m on my way?”
Chief Parker nodded in response as Superboy and Krypto flew out the window in a blur of motion and winged their way on to whatever lay in store for them. Parker smiled as he watched the duo flying away through the sky. “It’s good to have you back, Superboy,” he said, beaming, “it’s good to have you back.”
The Justice League of America’s Secret Sanctuary, Saturday, September 18, 1976, 7:42 P.M. — nine years later:
“That’s a very interesting story, Superman,” Batman said as he slowly took a sip from his steaming cup of coffee. “It certainly explains a couple of things from earlier.”
“What do you mean, Batman?” Superman replied, a quizzical look on his face as he took a bite from his peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“You were very gung-ho when the Crime Syndicate attacked yesterday. You insisted upon going up against Ultraman yourself when we were deciding on who should battle whom between the two teams. I was very curious as to why you were so forceful when you said ‘I’ll take Ultraman.’ (*) Now I have my answer.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis on Earth-Three,” Justice League of America #29 (August, 1964) and “The Most Dangerous Earth of All,” Justice League of America #30 (September, 1964).]
“Well, truly you are the world’s greatest detective, Batman.” There was a sly, sarcastic jab at Batman’s reputation in Superman’s comment.
“Oh, very funny.”
“The funny thing, Batman,” Superman continued, “is that it turns out that Ultraman isn’t my old enemy. This was just an alternate version of him and his reality.”
“Indeed. If you don’t mind my asking, what brought you to that conclusion?”
“When the Crime Syndicate first defeated the League and transported us to Earth-Three, I did some super-speed scans of the planet with my super-vision. I found evidence in a library nearby where they were holding us that Ultraman only first appeared a few years earlier as an adult. This led me to the truth, that he was not, in fact, my old enemy.”
“Intuitive as usual, Clark. Why didn’t you think to use the red kryptonite trick?”
“My x-ray scans also showed that there was none available on Earth-Three, nor anywhere in the immediate vicinity of the planet. I settled instead on convincing Starman to try and get Ultraman overexposed to green kryptonite. That seemed to work during the second time I battled Ultraboy.”
Batman’s eyes narrowed under his cowl. This was definitely starting to become a very interesting story. “How many times did you battle Ultraboy?”
“Twice more. The first of those occurred shortly before…” Superman trailed off for a moment. It was obvious to Batman that what his old friend was about to say was very painful. “…before Ma and Pa passed. The second of those was during my Sophomore year at Metropolis University. Each time, he told me that I would see him again, and very, very soon.”
Batman placed his cup of coffee down on the table in the Secret Sanctuary’s small kitchen area and stood up. He quietly walked over to the small refrigerator, removed a Granny Smith apple, and, after polishing it with a towel from the nearby countertop, took a loud bite from it. Batman stood there chewing very slowly, each tick of the clock moving ever so slowly as his amazing deductive mind processed every bit of information that his old friend had just related to him. Finally, after taking yet another bite, and again chewing it very slowly, he spoke, his words measured and precise.
“You do realize exactly what this means, don’t you, Superman? There could very well be another Crime Syndicate out there, waiting for the perfect opportunity to challenge the Justice League.”
“I know, Batman. I know.”
“Should we tell the others, Superman?”
“No, not just yet, Batman, but maybe at the next team meeting. We’ve been through the proverbial ringer these past couple of days, and I think that it would be in all of our best interests to take some time to rest and recuperate. There is plenty of time to worry about this tomorrow.”
The two just stood there in silence, both men mulling over what this really meant and just how long they had before the other shoe finally dropped.