Superman: The Unkindest Cut, Prologue: Space Casket

by Starsky Hutch 76

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The skull ship of Brainiac rarely encountered any interstellar traffic. Its skull-shaped visage had become a terrifying legend among travelers. If their sensors ever happened to pick him up, they knew to give him a wide berth and alert anyone else in the area.

It was for that reason Brainiac was surprised when his own sensors picked up a small craft within the vicinity, approaching slowly. The green-skinned android leaned forward in his chair, stroking the artificial hairs of his Van Dyke beard. “Computer, display visual of the object.”

Brainiac’s eyes widened in surprise at the image upon his view screen. The object appeared to be a double glass-topped, rocket-powered space casket displaying two cryogenically preserved bodies: a man and a woman. Something was vaguely familiar about the couple.

“Computer, scan the bodies for DNA origins,” Brainiac ordered.

“DNA analysis shows the two bodies aboard the vessel to be Kryptonian in origin. Both subjects appear to be victims of intense anti-kryptonite poisoning.”

“Kryptonian!” Brainiac gasped. “Display results!”

As the data streamed past his screen at speeds only his positronic brain could match, a feral look crossed his face. “Not just any Kryptonians, either,” he rasped. He should have noticed the resemblance as they appeared on screen, especially the male Kryptonian. “Oh, this is good,” Brainiac said smugly. “Oh, this is so very, very good.”

***

Ever since the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Rokyn no longer existed in a phase dimension. The Science Council had theorized that this was because the other dimension Rokyn used to phase into had been wiped out. There was no way to be certain, so all they could do was be thankful that they hadn’t been in the other dimension during the Crisis, if that were the case. Another reason to be thankful was that Jasma could make more frequent visits to her grandparents.

Superman was returning from one such visit in the Supermobile after dropping off Jasma and Aunt Gerta. They would be visiting for an entire week, giving Jasma plenty of time with her grandparents and allowing Gerta to reconnect with old friends and family.

It would be strange not having Jasma in the house for an entire week, Superman realized. He and Kristin rarely had the house just to themselves. He already had Jasma when their feelings for each other had surfaced, so they were an instant family.

Reaching over to the radio, he turned the dial in the hopes of finding a good music station. Unfortunately, he seemed to be out of reach of any of the satellites broadcasting for interstellar travelers.

He dug through his CDs and cassettes, looking for something he hadn’t heard in a while and found a copy of a Great Frog tape Green Arrow had given him. He smiled when he thought of how proud Ollie Queen had been when he handed copies of his former ward’s album to everyone in the satellite like a proud papa. He inserted the cassette, and music filled the cabin. “Hmmm. Not bad. Too bad they broke up.”

The tape jammed as the Supermobile gave a sudden lurch. The craft began to change course on its own. He began pushing buttons on the console, trying to get the craft to return to its previous path, but it was no use. As long as he was in a red star system, all he could do was ride it out and see where it took him.

***

“Our signal has taken over autopilot of the Supermobile,” the skull ship’s synthesized voice said. “Estimated distance, four parsecs.”

“Excellent,” Brainiac said. “Prepare holding area gamma-beta for three Kryptonians. Have our cargo prepared for auto release once Superman is situated there.”

***

“Brainiac,” Superman said through gritted teeth as the skull ship came into view. He tried once more to work the controls to divert the Supermobile from its path, but it was no use. Brainiac had complete control of the smaller spacecraft. He was still in a solar system that held a red sun, so he couldn’t leave the craft. That meant all he could do was watch helplessly as the Supermobile was drawn toward and then into the skull ship.

Once the doors to the ship’s hull sealed behind him, a remote signal forced the hatch of the Supermobile open. The cargo bay was suddenly filled with gas, causing him to lose consciousness.

When he awoke, he found himself in a large room staring at a large, rectangular craft, one he quickly realized he hadn’t seen in at least twenty years. “Nooo…” he gasped in a quiet, choked voice.

“Hello again, old friend,” he heard Brainiac’s voice say over the ship’s sound system. “If I’m not mistaken, the figures in the craft before you should be familiar to you.”

“This… this is monstrous, even for you…” Superman said in an almost dazed voice.

“What? No joyful reunion? No race to embrace them?” Brainiac said jubilantly. “Oh, wait. How silly of me. My apologies. The glass is in the way. A situation remedied easily enough.”

A rushing noise filled the air as the vacuum seal was broken and cryogenic gas escaped, filling the room with icy smoke as the glass lid began to rise. “No, damn you!” Superman cried in an anguished voice. “The radiation!

“They were dead to you for most of your life anyway, Superman,” Brainiac said. “Think not of how soon the poison will take them, because it will be soon, I assure you,” he said mockingly. “Treasure the time with them you have, however short it may be.”

With one last evil laugh, Brainiac clicked off the overhead sound system as Superman stared into the gaunt face of his father. The skin held a sickly, greenish tint, and lids of his eyes were heavy and dark. With a sudden, pain-filled cough, Jor-El’s eyes slowly opened.

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