by Starsky Hutch 76
In the satellite headquarters of the Justice League of America, Superman had just received a distress call from his fellow Kryptonians on Rokyn, where the invasion had apparently spread. Despite still recovering from the brutal beating he’d received at the hands of Lobo, Superman was the only one around who could help. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Solitude Interrupted.]
He hit the controls of the JLA transporter and disappeared. When he reappeared, he was in his Fortress of Solitude. From there, he headed to his trophy room. He would need an edge if he were to be of any help to his kinsmen. Not only would he be bereft of his powers on Rokyn, but also he was hardly in prime physical shape at the moment.
Most of his array of alien weapons had been picked over by Hal Jordan and the other ringless Green Lanterns, but he still found a few bits here and there. The one piece he was still looking for was parked in the corner — the Supermobile.
Unlike Batman’s Batmobile, the Supermobile looked more like a blue and red spaceship with an S insignia and two fists on either side of the nose. The Supermobile also lacked the Batmobile‘s fame, since Superman rarely had need of it except in emergencies such as this one.
After stashing a few pieces inside, he fired the engines to life and was on his way.
Many years had passed between the shrinking of Kandor and the destruction of Krypton. Many more passed from the shrinking of Kandor to its freedom from the bottle. And then a few more passed as Kandor’s citizens began to spread across the surface of Rokyn. As a result of the passage of time, there was a whole generation with no personal experience with the android known as Brainiac.
“Go to sleep, or Brainiac will come and shrink you and put you in a bottle on his shelf,” parents would tell their children. “Eat your vegetables, or Brainiac will get you.”
For these people, seeing the skull-ship of Brainiac now appear in the sky to announce his intentions, it was as if the stuff of nightmares had become real. Panic ensued in the streets, and the authorities were forced to deal not only with a threat from the skies but a populace that had become a danger to itself as they fought desperately to get out of the cities unless they found themselves bottled once more.
Still in the throes of their own growing pains, Rokyn was hardly prepared for an invasion. They had a security force, but not much of an army. This was made painfully apparent when the air patrol cars of the security forces moved in to intercept Brainiac’s ship. That was when they discovered Brainiac had not come alone.
Ominous armored figures appeared out of hidden escape hatches on the skull-ship began to fly toward the airships of the security force. That was when the cold, metallic voice of Brainiac boomed from hidden speakers. “Statement: this one does not need assistance in dealing with the insignificant authorities of this world. Go about your pre-ordained directives.”
The armored figures then streaked off in opposite directions as Brainiac’s skull-ship began to fire upon the airships of the security forces. The ships ignited in midair, falling to the surface of Rokyn as fiery metal debris. As one wave would fall, another would push forward to meet him.
The armored figures seemed determined to create as much chaos as possible. They flew into the tops of buildings, bringing debris down upon an increasingly panicked populace.
It was this scene in which Superman arrived on the planet. His jaw dropped at the horrifying scene being played out before him. “Great Scott!” he gasped.
Suddenly, a figure streaked past him. It was Lesla Nim-El, alias Valor, his cousin and one of Rokyn’s heroes. She waved to him in passing before slamming into one of the armored figures.
To his shock, the armored man was able to give just as well as he got. He delivered a blow that sent her flying. He then turned his attention on the Supermobile and streaked toward Superman.
As Superman jutted his fists out, the virtual reality controls duplicated the punch with the mechanical fists on the Supermobile. The figure was sent flying backward, growing smaller in the distance. The Supermobile was fueled by Superman’s metabolism and duplicated all of his powers. And since he’d added yellow solar cells for an additional boost, those powers were even good on Rokyn as long as he was inside.
Suddenly, there was a huge thud, and Superman’s head collided with the side of the Supermobile. There was another thud, and he was shaken again, though he barely felt it as spots began to form in front of his eyes. He had already had a concussion from his earlier beating at the hands of Lobo, and this blow to his head had already aggravated it. He knew he was in danger of blacking out.
When he looked to his side view-screens, he saw that two more armored figures had collided with the Supermobile and were still hanging on. The two of them had a hold on the Supermobile. What were they doing? With a quick thrust from both sets of arms, the Supermobile began hurtling toward the ground. It was fashioned of the strongest man-made substance in existence, Supermanium, so it would undoubtedly survive the impact if it struck the ground. He, however, would not. He quickly flipped a switch before blacking out.
The metallic, skull-faced android known as Brainiac shot forward from the command chair in the control room of his skull-ship. “Interrogative: Why was there no explosion?”
“Perhaps he entered the ground so deeply that any explosion was muffled?” the leather-clad man to his side said. A horned skull tattoo covered his left eye, and an intricate pattern played across his shaven scalp.
“Command: You will have your men investigate the crash site. This entity will not subtract Superman from the equation until it sees a body.”
“Command? This is supposed to be a partnership, Brainiac!”
“Interrogative: Would you like to see how well your invasion does on this world that orbits a red sun without the armor this entity has provided you, General Vrag? Where would your revenge upon Daxam be then?”
“You have your own revenge you’re getting out of this,” the grizzled-looking man said.
“Statement: This entity is beyond such concepts as revenge. This is merely a strategic exercise.”
“You just keep telling yourself that,” General Vrag said, walking out of the room. “But I’ve been watching you these past few weeks. Your motivations are no purer than ours.”
Brainiac sat staring at the latest scene of the carnage of General Vrag’s men on the viewing screen. “Contemplation:” he mused. “Could the Madaxite be right? Exclamation: Of course not! I — this entity — is not human!”
Superman awoke to a bright light. For a split second, he thought he was seeing the famous bright light that so many had claimed to see during afterlife encounters. “Ah, good. You’re awake,” a familiar voice said from nearby.
Arising from where he lay, Superman exclaimed, “Van!” upon seeing his cousin Van-Zee, clad in the black uniform of Nightwing. He was joined by Flamebird, Valor, Nam-Ek the Rondor, and a young girl of obvious Vathlo Island descent he did not recognize clad in the uniform of the Green Lantern Corps.
“That’s quite a machine you have, Kal,” Nightwing said. “You nearly gave us all a heart attack when we saw you hurtling toward the ground. Imagine our surprise when instead of crashing, you burrowed into the ground.”
“Heh. I got that idea from a fellow back on Earth by the name of Cave Carson,” Superman said. He eased himself off the examination table and was surprised to find himself standing without any pain.
“I took the liberty of healing your injuries,” Nightwing said. “I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“Not at all!” Superman exclaimed. He turned to Flamebird and said, “Flamebird, good to see you again.”
“Someone did a real number on you,” Flamebird commented. “How’d something like that happen?”
“I had a run-in with a bounty hunter by the name of Lobo,” Superman said.
Nightwing nodded knowingly. “We’ve received many criminal profiles such as his since coming to Rokyn and establishing intergalactic relations. He is a bad one.”
“That’s an understatement,” Superman said.
“I read that he even accepted a contract on his best friend, a fellow bounty hunter,” Flamebird said. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: “Partners,” Omega Men #37 (April, 1986).]
“I guess I shouldn’t take it personally, then,” Superman quipped. He turned to Nam-Ek, extended his hand, and said, “I hear you’re making quite a name for yourself as the Rondor.”
“It’s more than I ever dreamed possible,” said the large, gray-skinned man with the single horn protruding from his forehead as he shook Superman’s hand. “To think of all those years I wasted when life could have been like this.”
“Well, you’re certainly making up for lost time,” Superman said. He turned to the unfamiliar girl in the Green Lantern uniform and said, “I don’t believe we’ve met before. I’m Kal-El.”
“I know who you are,” she said, smiling shyly as a hand moved up to the loose curls hanging in front of one ear. She was a teenage girl with caramel-colored skin and a contagious smile. “I’m Valura Tur-Thol. It’s an honor to meet you.”
“If the ring chose you, then I’m equally honored,” Superman said. “But what happened to Todra Than-Ol?”
The smile fell from her face, and she looked both sad and embarrassed. “She was one of the first casualties,” Nam-Ek said in his rough, raspy voice.
“How did it happen?” Superman asked, shocked.
“From what I’ve learned,” the young Green Lantern began, “she was trying to protect the people of New Kryptonopolis from falling debris. One of the blasts struck a Temple of Rao, whose surface was heavily inlaid with gold. When it was struck, a pile of golden debris rained down on her. She tried to throw up a defensive shield, but because of the ring’s yellow weakness, they passed through it as if it wasn’t there.”
She wore a look of sadness as she continued her tale.