Elsewhere, Nightwing climbed a snowy cliff in freezing temperatures outside a hidden structure beneath ice and snow. The Fortress was no problem to reach via a T-Jet, but leaving it hidden a few miles back in order to keep my identity a secret would have meant a long hike. Good thing Jim had loaned me his Flamebird flight belt. Still, getting inside was simple enough for someone whom Superman trusted with various access codes. It feels odd to deliberately set off his security alarms like this, he mused as he skillfully made his acrobatic way through the technological wonder that was the Fortress of Solitude, Superman’s secret headquarters.
Nightwing nodded in approval as he activated an alarm. That high-pitched signal will bring Superman here immediately, he thought. My lead-lined disguise should conceal my identity long enough for me to do what I need to do. If he knew who I was at first sight, Superman might speak out of turn. Or worse, the enemy watching him would wonder why I was fighting my friend. The creep who is monitoring him might be tipped off and activate the hidden bombs he boasted about. Thus, Jim and I had to don disguises and lure our pals into confrontations designed to achieve our goal without alerting anybody watching from afar. That mental message Jim overheard made it all too clear that these foes know the secret identities of Superman and Batman.
Superman had indeed detected the alarm, and he quickly departed from his Clinton Street apartment in Metropolis to learn who had invaded his hidden base.
Great Krypton! That intruder’s mask is lead-lined. That could mean he wants to keep his identity secret from me, or it could mean he is someone I already know, thought the Man of Steel as he confronted the agile figure in gold and black who flew across the Fortress and silently mocked the hero.
“So it’s a game of tag you’re seeking? Well, when it comes to speed, I’m in a class all my own — with apologies to my buddy, the Flash!” said Superman. He swooped down to grab the other flying masked man, only to receive a sudden blast from an activated device that his enemy had moved from its customary location.
“What? The super-blowtorch cleanser unit I use to kill germs when I return to Earth from space? Just what are you trying to tell me? I have super-bad breath?” he joked.
The masked man flipped through the air, dropped down, and pressed a button on his belt. Superman gasped as he was struck with a red light. “Red sun energy? But how?” he said as the disguised Nightwing knocked him backward.
He rolled out of range and used his super-breath to open a cage in his exotic animal zoo. A purple monkey-like creature gibbered and pounced on the surprised Nightwing, who pushed it aside even as Superman attacked.
Superman swiftly crushed the red sunlight projector before he could aim it again. “Now, you and I need to have a long talk. I recognize that acrobatic style of yours, and my super-hearing certainly detected the particular whirl of a Kandorian jet pack beneath that costume,” he said.
Before the cornered Nightwing could reply, a new figure appeared before them.
“You?” asked Superman.
The next day, a happy crowd gathered at the plaza in front of Metropolis Police Headquarters, where eager fans awaited the beginning of the Superman-Batman Charity Benefit. The elevated platform held several high-ranking police officers and a slightly smiling Batman. Seconds later, Batman and the officers were joined by the famous Man of Steel as he swooped out of the sky to cries of, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No! It’s Superman!”
The beaming Deputy Mayor Hamilton led the two friends forward to the podium as the crowd went wild. “It’s my honor to welcome two of the finest heroes I’ve ever known! Superman and Batman!” said the politician.
As the two old friends smiled and shook hands, Batman suddenly stiffened and fell to his knees. A concerned Superman caught him as he dropped to the platform.
Police Inspector Bill Henderson said, “Good night! Get some help up here! Batman’s burning up with fever.”
As the police rushed to help the stricken hero, two odd figures watched from afar. They laughed with pleasure, and their evil glee was evident within the hallowed-out caverns beneath Black Mountain.
“At last! Victory! They have ruined one another,” said a green-skinned being who wore a weird composite version of the costumes of Batman and Superman. “The toxic spray I secretly irradiated them both with yesterday catalyzed only upon contact between them. Before that moment, it was inert. It may be too weak to kill Superman, but it certainly will slay Batman! Superman will live with the guilt of slaying his closest friend, and I will be revenged upon them both for the death of my father!”
He spoke with delight to his exact double. He had the power to replicate himself, and thus it was merely one duplicate of himself to which he spoke.
“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, Amalgamax, or should I call you Composite Superman II?” said the determined Jimmy Olsen, flying in wearing his Flamebird costume.
Nightwing dropped down from the other side and said, “You may be able to split into multiple bodies through your use of stolen powers from the former Triplicate Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes, but her powers and all of the others you have won’t help you this time!”
The two bodies of the alien called Amalgamax frowned in surprise. “Bah! You two are nothing more than petty annoyances! You may have aided Batman and Superman in the ruin of my father, but still I have little reason to fear you or this stripling!” cried one of them to Nightwing.
The first Amalgamax grew to the size of a giant, shattering the roof of the cavern. “I can crush you like a gnat with Colossal Boy’s growth power!” he vowed.
“I can burn you to cinders with Sun Boy’s flaming power!” said the second one.
Nightwing flipped through the air in a rapid series of amazing acrobatic moves as Flamebird flew around the cavern and dodged the twin terrors. “Even without your gear I can dodge those two!” said Nightwing.
Flamebird smiled boyishly and said, “See, the beauty of this little scheme is that all we have to do is serve as the distractions!”
Amalgamax gasped in surprise as Superman, Batman, and a third Amalgamax entered the cavern. “My third duplicate with my hated foes? But how?” gasped the giant duplicate as energy from a machine in the back of the cavern struck his huge form, as well as that of the flame-generating body.
Slowly, all three of them merged into one being of alien appearance. Superman, Batman, Nightwing, and Flamebird surrounded the now-helpless alien.
Batman said, “Upon merging you learned all that your third duplicate had done. Thus you know that he used that machine to rob you of your powers.”
Superman smiled. “Exactly. You used the twelfth-level intelligence of Brainiac 5 to build that machine to give you the powers of those Legion members who had not joined when you originally gained your powers. That occurred shortly after you used Phantom Girl’s power to escape from the Phantom Zone in which we had trapped you after our last recent battle.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: World’s Fiercest.]
“Correct,” said Amalgamax. “The shock of trying to combat you all in three bodies was what defeated me last time and allowed you to trap me. It took me a while to find the proper means of exiting that dimension, but at last I found it via Phantom Girl’s powers. After building that machine to increase my powers in order to avenge my father’s loss at your hands, I split into three beings and used one body each to irradiate you with a toxic spray. It was inert while you were separate, but once you touched hands, the chemicals should have become deadly to Batman, if not to both of you. It was a perfect plan until my third body turned against me and helped you trick me via Princess Projectra’s powers. He made me see you two appear to fall victim to my plan at your benefit, when in truth he had led you here to our base to best me!”
Nightwing said, “It was your good duplicate who mentally tipped Flamebird off to the plan via Saturn Girl’s telepathy. He later influenced us to realize that it was a chemical method by which you hoped to get one hero to slay the other. That subtle mental clue led us to lure Batman and Superman into situations in which we could get rid of the toxic spray by Kandorian cleansing devices like the ray-gun Flamebird shot Batman with and the Fortress blowtorch I cleaned Superman with at his headquarters.”
Amalgamax frowned. “Why gloat? As you said, while I was unaware of the actions of my third duplicate self until we merged, upon merging, I learned all he did to ruin me.”
Batman nodded. “That good third self came to us and explained all that you had done. He shielded his actions from the other two doubles via Legion powers like those of Princess Projectra’s illusion-casting abilities and the magic of the White Witch.”
Flamebird said, “He also told us that he had secretly disarmed the bombs you had planted to use as a back-up plan to hurt our pals. I assumed that I heard his plans to begin with because I was near a certain meteor that had given me mental powers in the past. In truth, it was not working at all. It was the good part of Amalgamax that tipped me off through the use of Saturn Girl’s powers. ”
“Exactly,” said Nightwing. “It was also the third duplicate who told us that you were hiding out beneath Black Mountain, where the original Composite Superman once lured us.”
“Curse you all,” said Amalgamax. “Enough with the smug gloating. Having reemerged with my split selves, I even know now why my third duplicate acted so madly. When last I fought you, I used Triplicate Girl’s power for a prolonged time in order to masquerade as Superman, Batman, and Nightwing. When I used my machine to boost said power, it also made me vulnerable to a mental weakness that occasionally plagues the natives of Cargg. Namely, one duplicate develops an anathema for the others and acts to thwart them.”
“Correct,” said Superman. “Brainy theorized such was the case when we were in the Legion together years ago with Triplicate Girl or Duo Damsel.”
Flamebird said, “Sure was lucky that happened this time.”
Batman smiled. “It was ironic, too. Amalgamax wanted to make one friend slay another, while in truth he was beaten by two of our other friends and his own better self!”