by Goose Gansler
The crystal had now increased its velocity as it went by Superwoman’s adopted world. Its course was leading it out of the system and across a large, vacant section of space toward the next system. The Kryptonian monsters that it had summoned were massed to confront the six superhumans.
“You say those creatures are from Krypton — Superman’s homeworld?” Superwoman addressed Mighty Man. “Out here? What would that crystal know about Kryptonian wildlife? And how do you know?”
“How it knows — I don’t know,” Mighty Man replied. “How I know — Superman and I have been intergalactic pen pals for a while, since we couldn’t work together. He told me a lot about Krypton.”
“Well, I don’t care if those creatures are from Superman’s homeworld,” Skyboy piped up. “We have to fight through them and try to stop that crystal. Who knows what world might be next on its hit list?”
Solarman agreed with the assessment. “The lad is right. We can worry about the ‘hows’ later. Let’s stop the crystal.” The hero of Helion propelled himself forward, and the others followed in turn. Soon they were all in the midst of the Kryptonian menagerie.
The flame dragons were the first to attack. Their fiery breath struck Mighty Man and sent him reeling, the intense heat from the dragon singing even his invulnerable hide. A snagriff wrapped itself around Kell Orr, while another clasped Superwoman’s arm with its mouth. The flock of nightwings pecked at Skyboy and Solarman, while the flamebirds struck at Regor and Mighty Man.
“These creatures are super-powered!” Regor cried out. As fast as he swatted a flamebird away, another took its place, tearing at him with its claws. The Uuzian hero from Earth snatched two flamebirds and smashed them into each other, causing sparks of flame to erupt. “I guess if these creatures truly are from Krypton, they would be super-powered under the influence of this orange sun.”
Mighty Man engaged the flame dragon now. The Zumoorian hero from Earth managed to parry the dragon’s flame with his heat-vision. The monster increased the intensity as it saw itself being countered, but Mighty Man held his own.
Kell Orr was still struggling with the snagriff that had wrapped itself around him. The reptile was exerting tremendous pressure, and the Xenonite was beginning to feel the force beginning to crack his invulnerable bones. Superwoman was shaking her arm rapidly in the hope of flinging off the other snagriff. The super-speed oscillations finally had the intended effect, and her arm was free of the monster.
Once the snagriff had halted its trajectory, it swooped back toward the battle zone and set its sights on Skyboy. The kid colossus had won free of the nightwings that had been menacing him, and he was coming to the aid of Kell Orr, unaware of the impeding attack. The snagriff bit savagely into the Kormoan’s leg.
Solarman noticed Skyboy’s injury as he sought to evade the pursuing nightwings. Though the orange sun of this system didn’t give him full invulnerability that a green sun would have, it was enough that his body could stand up to their pecking. He removed a few of the Kryptonian avians with some well-placed blasts of plasma-vision. An idea began to form in Solarman’s mind. The creatures were almost as tough as the heroes gathered here. Perhaps that could be put together against the greater threat of the crystal.
Regor was following Mighty Man’s lead, snatching flamebirds as he could and smashing them into each other with his super-strength. “They don’t like going head-to-head,” he chuckled.
“My thoughts exactly,” Solarman voiced eagerly. “I have a plan to stop the monsters and the crystal simultaneously.” He broadcast his ultra-wave so that all could hear it. “Follow me.”
Skyboy helped tear the snagriff from Kell Orr, and they joined Solarman on his course. The others followed as well, breaking away from the Kryptonian monsters. The creatures quickly gave pursuit.
Following the stellar sensation’s lead, the heroes pushed their super-speed to the limit. They closed in on the crystal and then passed it. Solarman turned quickly and doubled back toward the crystal. The creatures were still on the other side of the crystal. “We hit it from one side,” Solarman said, “and the monsters will run into it from the other.”
The heroes steeled themselves for what they knew would be a tremendous impact. The monsters flew single-mindedly at them, uncaring about the massive crystal that lay between them. Everything, hero and monster alike, struck the crystal within nanoseconds of each other. There was a tremendous energy discharge as the living projectiles were thrown back by the incident. There was now a dense fog where the crystal had been.
The heroes slowly recovered and scanned the area with their respective vision-powers. There was no sign of the monsters, but the fog resisted their efforts to probe inside.
“Did we vaporize the crystal?” Superwoman asked hopefully.
“I don’t know,” Mighty Man responded. “I can’t peer through it with my hyper-vision. I’ve scanned the area, and there’s nothing else around.”
Solarman pointed at the cloud. “Look, it’s starting to dissipate.”
“We’d better make sure it doesn’t re-form,” Skyboy suggested.
“Good idea.” Regor flew toward the cloud and starting exhaling his super-breath. The air that had still been in his lungs scattered the fog even farther.
The others joined in, and soon the remnants of the crystal were dissipated into nothingness. The Worlds’ Finest continued to scan and scour the area for another hour to make sure that the danger had completely passed. Eventually Solarman broadcast via ultra-wave, “I think the crisis is averted. I just wonder what that crystal was.”
“I just hope that there aren’t any more like it out there. It sure can hurt a body.” Skyboy rubbed his wounded leg. It was healing already, but the intense pain was something to which he was not accustomed. Still, the pain was small in comparison to his pride to being among these fellow heroes.
Somewhere a few light years away, a twelve-sided body formed into the shape of a perfect dodecahedron orbited an isolated planet. While one might have assumed it to be a spacecraft for living beings, such an assumption would be wrong. There were no open areas inside for even a microbe to exist. The object was a highly complex array of electronic circuits compressed to an unbelievable degree. Such density was required for the trillions of terabytes to which the dodecahedron served as a temporary home.
Inside the sentient computer programs were holding a discussion that took only nanoseconds to complete.
“The Kryptonian jewel has been destroyed,” Sub-Security-01 declared. “The Kryptonian creations that the DNA codes embedded in its matrix allowed us replicate have also been annihilated.”
“This is unfortunate. Its ability to harness and focus our mental energy was quite useful,” Master-01 replied.
“It was quite gracious of the Alien Alliance to present us with it. It must have been difficult to retrieve from Sol’s core,” Diplomacy-05 noted.
“Gracious?” Defense-03 guffawed. “It was their way to ensure that we did not interfere with their agenda. And it gave us free reign to operate in this mysteriously clouded galaxy.”
“We should have used the so-called ‘jewel kryptonite’ to greater effect,” Strategy-04 argued. “It was a waste of time to utilize it against heavy gravity worlds to duplicate the destruction of Krypton in the hope of creating more material of its unique composition.”
“Your objections were noted previously,” Supply-07 said. “However, it was decided that we would be better served having a network of these objects for our use. With the destruction of the jewel kryptonite, we must move onto Program 2.1. The world below will serve as a perfect new home for us. The Autom inhabitants will be much more amenable to our presence than those organics who revolted against us.”
“Agreed,” Master-01 declared, ending the discussion. “We were prescient to have developed our contingency plan of this data-dodecahedron when the Dox led his revolt against us. This world will become the new home of the Computer Tyrants of Colu.”
The befuddled CosPols Jul Iushwartz and Weiz Inger continued their tour of the prison planet. Based upon the systems and equipment here, there was no doubt that this was a Cosmic Police installation. However, the mystery remained of why they had no knowledge of it.
“I just don’t get it,” Jul admitted to Warden Sargoes. “I checked the data systems in our cruiser, and there’s no mention of Kronis or of anything in this sector of space. It’s almost as if headquarters had declared this area didn’t exist.”
“As you can tell, we are very much real,” Sargoes noted dryly. “I know that headquarters didn’t think too much of this sector, but I don’t know why they would simply ignore us.”
“Right,” Weiz added. “This is a great facility. It’s no Takron-Galtos, but it’s pretty good.”
“Takron-Galtos?” Sargoes stroked his wispy white beard. “A while back, there had been some rumors that CosPol would being using it to replace us as the primary detention facility. If headquarters did make that decision, you’d think they would have told us.”
“You’d think,” Jul said, shrugging. “But headquarters does some strange things sometimes.”
On the planet that served as the headquarters of the Cosmic Police, operations continued as they had always done, or at least as they had done in the last few years. Calls were received, police space cruisers were dispatched, suspects were brought in for questioning, and prisoners were sent out for incarceration.
Matters had established a degree of normalcy after the great Crisis. However, some things had changed. Many worlds had suffered greatly and were still trying to rebuild. Their local police forces could handle planetary crime, but they didn’t have the funds to pay for interstellar protection.
The commissioner of the Cosmic Police, a orange-skinned Janoosian named Dal Var, looked over the reports that had been transmitted to his datapad. Statistics of neopium drug snuggling, interplanetary kidnapping, and space piracy all showed favorable trends. More important to him were the CosPol’s revenues and asset seizures. All were increasing at a desirable pace. These numbers pleased him even more.
“Hyperwave call for you, Commissioner.” The face of Dal Var’s assistant appeared on his telescreeen. “Ultra-level one encryption.”
“Patch it through,” Dal replied. The method of encryption could only mean one thing — his silent partners in the recent success of the Cosmic Police.
“Zunial, your signal is coming in quite well today,” Dal said as the face of a menacing pink-skinned bald man now appeared. The villain affectionately referred to as the “Murder Man” by his people of Zarria was in seeming good spirits.
“We have perfected a way to transmit through the Phase Zone barrier that surrounds our… area of influence, as we like to call it. I just wanted to test it and see how our esteemed partner is doing.”
“Just got the latest datastats. Crime is down in our area,” Dal said.
“Just as our own criminal activity is up on ours. Ever since we erected the Phase Zone barrier about our galaxy, we Galaxy Crimeteers have been quite successful against the remnants of your organization,” Zunial cackled.
“I wouldn’t even call them that. I’ve purged the ranks of any veterans who might have operated there, and I’ve cleared the records on our side. Nobody in the Cosmic Police even knows about Kronis or any of the star systems in your galaxy inside the Zone.”
“Excellent. Let’s keep it that way, and you’ll continue to receive your share of the profits over here,” Zunial said. “Eventually, when we’ve plundered enough, we’ll expand the Zone for new worlds to loot. And eventually, we’ll be strong enough to finally destroy our nemesis, Superman.” Zunial bristled at the thought of how close he had come to once personally defeating Superman. He had actually killed the Kryptonian with kryptonite, but the Crimeteers’ training Superman-android had brought Superman back to life. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The School for Superman Assassins,” Superman #188 (July, 1966).]
Dal was unmoved by Zunial’s boasts. “Don’t some of the worlds in the Zone have super-powered champions of their own?”
Zunial seemed insulted by the question. “Yes, but they’re spread out, and they’re not as resourceful as the Kryptonian. We’ll eliminate them if they become too much of an obstacle to our operations.”
Dal could see that Zunial was becoming a bit maniacal. He moved the conversation back to a more practical issue. “Maintaining the Zone must take a great amount of energy. Do you really have the resources to expand it?”
“We’ve been experimenting with harnessing some point singularities. It has caused some instabilities. In fact, we think one of your ships may have gotten through during one of those periods. We haven’t tracked that ship down yet.”
“Hmm,” Dal mused. “I’ll do a roster check to see if any units on the border are MIA. I usually send the rookies out there. They’re rather terrified of the Zone. We teach them that at the academy. We’ve also downplayed the intergalactic role of Superman in anticipation of your Crimeteers making your move.”
“Excellent.” Zunial was quite pleased now. “I must go. Some of the old members of the Protectors are starting up some trouble here on Zarria for us. Until we speak again.”