by Goose Gansler
“Superman — the Terran hero?!” Jul Iushwartz exclaimed.
“Why, yes. I see you’ve heard of him,” Mighty Man replied. “His intergalactic fame has reached your world, then.”
“Heard of him, yes,” Weiz Inger responded. “Intergalactic fame, I don’t think so. According to the chief’s report, the CosPol has been to his world a few times, but that Terran must keep to his home planet.”
“Perhaps these days,” Mighty Man said. “However, Superman’s name has crisscrossed the galaxy, though he hasn’t been in this sector of space for a while. I can’t believe that he never performed super-feats in the vicinity of your home planet. What planet are you from, anyway?”
“Gomal,” Weiz replied.
“I don’t recall seeing that on the star charts, but you’re probably a long way from home,” Mighty Man remarked. “Superman has not been here in some time. He updated the defense systems a few years ago when he brought that fiend Brainiac here.”
Now here was a name that the CosPols recognized. “Brainiac we know of,” Jul proclaimed. “He’s a living metallic organism. Horrible mockery of the humanoid form.”
“And that skull-shaped ship of his,” Weiz added. “Just seeing the vid of it scared me.”
Mighty Man put his hand to chin and chuckled. “You must be kidding me.”
“Excuse me?” Jul said.
“That’s not Brainiac at all,” Mighty Man laughed. “He’s an android. Quite humanoid in appearance.”
Now it was the CosPols turn to laugh. “An android?” Weiz said, grinning. “Rumor is that he was a tool of the Computer Tyrants for a while, but he is no android.”
“Well, at least we agree he was from Colu, but I’m certain that he was an android.” Mighty Man waved at them. “Come on, let’s check a data station.”
Standing in front of a computer terminal, Mighty Man said, “Activate Kronis-net. Login Mighty Man, confirm identity.” He placed his palm on the screen.
“Mighty Man, identity confirmed,” the computer replied.
“Access historical data on prisoner — name designate Brainiac.”
The computer hummed for a split-second and then brought up a picture of the green-skinned computer. Jul and Weiz could see no resemblance to the Brainiac that they knew. This Brainiac was bald, had a network of synapses atop his head, and sported a short-sleeved pink and white outfit.
“Brainiac,” the computer intoned. “Humanoid computer agent of the Computer Tyrants of the planet Colu. Nemesis of the Terran hero Superman. Most notable crime — the shrinking and abduction of cities of numerous worlds. Imprisoned multiple times on Kronis.”
“See?” Mighty Man said, smiling.
“I don’t understand,” Jul said, frowning. “That doesn’t agree with the data that we have.”
“I’m beginning to doubt the quality of your information,” Mighty Man commented. “Not recognizing the fame of Superman was not a good start.”
“Somebody not knowing the fame of Superman?” a voice called out. “That’s insulting, and that’s not just because I share the some of the looks of the greatest hero in the universe.”
Mighty Man turned to see two men approaching. He recognized the sound of the younger man’s voice.
“Kell Orr! Zoll Orr!” Mighty Man called out. “It’s a pleasure to see you again. Though you do yourself a disservice, Kell. You don’t just look similar, you’re as good as a double for Superman, as you told me yourself when you stood in for him on Earth.”
Kell Orr shrugged. “I know, it’s just a little difficult being compared to him. Kell was wearing a loose-fitting blue bodysuit marked with a red triangle on his chest. The yellow headband made him look a little different, but Jul and Weiz had to agree that he looked very similar to the holo-files that they had seen of the Terran hero.
“What brings you to the prison planet?” Mighty Man asked.
“My father insisted that we come to help upgrade the defense systems. He has some new designs that he claims will improve upon the measures that Superman devised,” Kell Orr explained.
Zoll Orr frowned. “Superman has not been around to update the systems lately. Technology becomes outdated very quickly.” There was a strong family resemblance between Zoll and his son. He had the same short dark hair and strong jaw, although his skin was marked with age. Though he was broader in body than Kell, he somehow did not look as strong.
“But why are you here, Kell?” Mighty Man asked as he poked the young man in the shoulder. He had used his hyper-strength. Had Kell Orr been normal, the contact would have shattered his shoulder.
“I’m not too bad as a scientist myself. But really, I’m here for protection,” Kell explained as he flexed his muscles. “Ever since I visited Superman in the Sol system, I’ve had super-powers. (*) Even my father can’t explain it, but the people of our world of Xenon aren’t complaining.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Second Superman,” Superman #119 (February, 1958).]
“I would think not,” Mighty Man agreed. “You’ve become quite the hero for them.”
“Are these police officials from Oceania with you?” Kell asked.
“No,” Mighty Man smiled weakly. “I’m sorry. These are CosPol officers Jul and Weiz. They were in pursuit of some drug smugglers I brought here.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Jul said.
Zoll Orr studied the two Corpsmen carefully, noting their physical features, their mannerisms, and the sound of Jul’s voice. Shaking his head, he said, “I have to admit, I can’t place your world of origin.”
“Gomal,” Weiz answered.
“Strange. I don’t know that world,” Zoll sighed. “Ah, well, there’s plenty of work to do here. I’m hoping to finalize the improvements in the Superman Revenge Squad section in a day or two.”
“Superman Revenge Squad?” Jul said with incredulity.
“Of course! A hero like Superman has garnered many enemies across the universe. Some have banded together to destroy him. They never have succeeded, and they end up here.”
“Something is really strange here,” Jul said. “How could all this stuff being going on that we’re not aware of?” Weiz could do nothing but shake his head in agreement.
The planet Vax:
Light-years away from Kronis, the world of Vax basked in the light of its orange sun. On the surface, the civilization of Vax resembled that of twentieth-century Earth. Many technological advances had been made, but not enough progress had been made to make Vax an important player in interplanetary affairs. While it had a space program, its exploration had been confined to the other uninhabited worlds in its system. They could only dream about what might lay beyond their star system.
One Vaxian knew what lay beyond, and it saddened her to think of it. She tried to avoid those depressing thoughts as she went about her duties. She was Luma Lynai, though she was better known to the inhabitants of her world as the super-powered heroine Superwoman. As she flew through the air, her green cape fluttered behind her. Its color matched those of her gloves and boots, as well as the stylized S on her white uniform.
Superwoman’s body was busy rescuing a stricken aeroflyer with its one hundred-some passengers, but her mind was elsewhere. Her astro-vision was peering through the sky, well outside of the bounds of the Vaxian system. She knew her power wasn’t strong enough to see what she desired to see, but she tried nonetheless. She cast her vision in the direction of the Sol system, toward its third planet, in the hope of seeing the only man who could make her happy.
As always, the distance proved too much even for her power. She slowly brought the aeroflyer to the skyport. A quick blast of her plasma-vision had fused the dangling engine back onto the wing. She couldn’t imagine how the wing had come loose, but she was glad that she had been in the area when the mishap had occurred.
On the ground, numerous emergency personnel were on hand to deal with the damaged aeroflyer. Superwoman silently accepted their praise and thanks, and returned to the sky. Once again, her astro-vision ranged forth, but there was no hope to catch sight of her beloved.
Sometimes she cursed the fates that had brought him into her life. Back when she was the champion of the planet Staryl, she had fallen in love with him at first sight. She knew that he felt the same about her. They were so similar, giants among their fellow beings. At his invitation, she had been willing to forsake her world and return with him to his. It was only at this moment that she learned the extent of her superhuman powers. She had been blessed with super-strength, invulnerability, flight, astro-vision, and plasma-vision. She did not know that it was as a result of Staryl’s orange sun. When they had left its embrace and journeyed toward Earth with its yellow sun, she was beset by extreme pain.
The yellow sun did not only weaken her — she could have accepted that, if only to be with him — it was deadly to her. They returned to Staryl, and that was the end of their love. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman’s Super-Courtship,” Action Comics #289 (June, 1962).]
“I could have given up Staryl for you. Why couldn’t you give up Earth for me, Superman?” she cried. Now she didn’t even have Staryl. Her world had been destroyed by the rampage of Starbreaker. (*) She had found a new home on Vax, but memories of all she had lost plagued her.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: To Conquer the Stars.]
It was during her thoughts of self-pity that her astro-vision came upon a curious sight. There was a strange object nearing the system’s outermost planet, the uninhabited world of Etheron. It approached in a controlled manner. There seemed to be an intelligence guiding its course. However, to Superwoman’s astro-vision, it seemed to be an enormous crystal. As she wondered about this strange phenomenon, she saw a barrage of energy burst from the crystal. It burrowed down through Etheron’s surface and began boring for the core. Superwoman focused her vision on the core and saw that its elemental structure was being transmuted.
She was astonished by what she saw. Etheron’s core was being changed into pure uranium, and of a decidedly unstable variety. The planet would not be long for the universe if the transmutation were allowed to continue. Superwoman streaked out toward Etheron.