The Human Cannonball fancied himself a master villain in the making. In truth, he was a rookie. He crashed through a jewelry store window and blasted back out again without gaining more than a few hastily grabbed rings.
“Next time, when I can steer this jet pack a bit better, I’ll hit them hard,” he vowed. He zoomed skyward with a purple jetpack blazing until a slow drawl caught his attention.
“I reckon that’s far enough, son. Higher you go, harder you’ll fall. My pa taught me that when I was a young ‘un,” said a man riding a winged stallion. He was portly and unshaven. His cowboy hat was white, and his boots and spurs gleamed with some alien metal.
“Huh? You some kind of space cowboy?” sneered a startled Cannonball.
“Nope. Ah’m called Terra-Man. Ah’m a bounty hunter by trade, but when ah kin do a mite of good fer free, I don’t worry none ’bout bein’ paid,” he said as he drew two antique-looking six shooters and fire precisely at the Cannonball.
The villain’s cocky grin turned to a gasp as his jet pack’s harness was severed by the energy beams, and he plunged downward as the now-unmanned pack shot into space. His screams echoed as he fell until Terra-Man swooped down to catch him.
The cowboy grinned as he turned him in to the police below. “Poor dude’s fainted laik a woman,” he laughed.
As the days passed, Terra-Man became a frequent topic of the news as reported by Daily Planet reporter Cat Grant and WGBS news anchor Lana Lang. He successfully captured new villains with colorful names like Ambush Bug, Onyx, and Ringmaster.
Owlman sneered as he watched one such report. “Bah! The vanity of the man appalls me. To think he could function in a modern society as some living anachronism,” he said.
Lady Shrike said, “Those weapons he uses are alien in nature, even if they look like Old West relics.”
Ultraman gazed at the redhead and said, “You should know. Perhaps you can offer us more than some much-needed sex appeal.”
Power Ring stepped forward and said, “Back off, Blue Boy. She’s mine.”
Lady Shrike laughed harshly. “I beg to differ. I’m my own woman.” She pointed at the owl that perched on Sundown’s shoulder. “Keep that filthy thing away from me. I tire of its unblinking stare — and yours too, Ultraman.”
“Hooty is my pet, like you’re Power Ring’s,” said the taciturn man.
“Now, look–!” began Lady Shrike when alarms sounded.
“We have a visitor. Something has triggered our security devices,” said Owlman.
“Good. I’m ready for a fight,” said Lady Shrike.
They rushed into battle formation but saw nothing.
“Odd. Nothing is there. Some electrical pulse activated our alarms,” said a scowling Owlman.
“Luthor — or that computer man of his,” suggested Power Ring.
“Brainiac — very likely,” agreed Owlman.
“I hate that six-inch robot,” said Ultraman.
Sundown said nothing as Hooty screeched softly.
Suddenly, Terra-Man appeared out of thin air. “You yahoos been breakin’ the law fer too long. Ah’ma gonna take you in,” he vowed.
Ultraman flew forward and said, “Try it, Billy the Kid!” He gasped as Terra-Man flickered from view.
“Where’d he go?” cried Power Ring.
“Terra-Man swallowed him up,” said Sundown. “I’ll put out his lights,” he vowed. He gestured to generate the blindness that was his major power.
However, Terra-Man remained unmoved, merely raising one hand to fire a six-shooter. The energy beam vanished without harming anything.
Lady Shrike darted forward and cried, “He isn’t real. He’s something like a hologram.”
Owlman nodded and said, “Brainiac is behind this. He concealed some type of weapon behind a facade of Terra-Man. Ultra’s been transported away to–!” He then vanished as well.
Power Ring gestured and contained the image of Terra-Man in a green sphere. “Look — that’s a dimensional projector like the kind Luthor used during the Hypernion case. Terra-Man was just a construct of light used to hide the projector as operated by Brainiac,” he said.
Indeed, the emerald energies of Power Ring’s gem revealed the six-inch artificial man Brainiac as he stood astride the Phantom Zone device that had been used to free Ultragirl.
“I’ll crush ya like a radio,” sneered Power Ring. He gasped as energy lanced into him from behind. He whirled to see Sundown laying stunned as Terra-Man stood with guns blazing. “You’re the real Terra-Man! But how’d you appear behind us?” he gasped as his concentration wavered and Brainiac struck him with the projector’s beam.
“You miscalculated. We made you think there was no Terra-Man with our hologram when in fact there certainly was,” said Brainiac.
Lady Shrike kicked out and slammed her photonic lance into the path of the space cowboy. “You won’t take me as easily,” she vowed. She dodged a beam fired by Brainiac but then hesitated. If she destroyed the projector, she might trap her new allies forever. That was not something she wanted, but to keep her freedom she would do it in a heartbeat.
Terra-Man fired his guns as the feathered femme fatale twisted and dodged his every shot. Her aerial agility was amazing. “Ah’m mighty impressed with your speed, little darlin’. Too bad for you, ah got tricks all my own,” he said with a roguish grin.
Lady Shrike frowned. “I’ll learn those tricks in seconds.” She flew upward into an upper chamber and locked the door behind her. She activated a weblike helmet and was soon cursing bitterly. “The electronic brain I brought from Thanagar should have revealed Terra-Man’s secrets, but I get nothing,” she muttered.
Terra-Man kicked open the door as Brainiac followed.
“Well, that means one thing,” Shrike hissed. She charged Terra-Man and kicked him backward. In close quarters, her speed could not help her, so she was desperate to gain room to move. She forced her way past him and scowled as he vanished again. “He’s also Thanagarian,” she mused as her keen eyes scanned the room.
Lady Shrike’s green eyes gleamed with reason as Hooty swooped low. “You’re a shape changer! You’re Thanagar’s most famous do-gooder,” she said, smiling coldly.
Hooty shifted from owl form to that of a bald humanoid. “Indeed, I am Myth. I was sent to bring you back to our world to stand trial. Luthor alerted me that it would take deception to beat your likely allies. Thus, first I took the place of Sundown’s pet owl with my shape-changing powers. Then I used the image and weapons of the famous space bounty hunter Terra-Man to add to your confusion. I knew if I came for you as myself, you would be ready.”
Lady Shrike said, “I would have been ready for you. All of the Wingmen knew of your story. You developed a formula that allowed you to take the form of any creature. I didn’t realize you could also look like humans.”
Myth said, “I can’t. Brainiac’s hologram gave me the Terra-Man appearance. My own powers allowed to me take the form of the owl. Now you may surrender and save us all strife.”
Lady Shrike said, “Not if I do this!” She hurled her photonic staff and shattered the Phantom Zone projector. “Sorry, Syndicators — but a girl has to look after her own interests,” she sighed.
She soared out of the base and smirked as Myth hesitated between chasing her and helping Brainiac, who had been caught in the energy blast. “Stupid vigilante!” she laughed.
Lady Shrike gasped as a newcomer swooped down from above. “Luthor!” she gasped. “I’ve been warned about you.”
He smiled and said, “And I was prepared for you, Lady Shrike.” He raised his hand to fire a weapon at her, frowning.
Just then, an energy beam shot down from the sky to envelop both Alexander Luthor and Lady Shrike in a fiery nimbus, which quickly disappeared.
Myth and Brainiac emerged in time to see the two engulfed in fire and vanish. “By Polaris! What could have struck them?” asked Myth.
Brainiac shook his head, wondering if he had witnessed his master’s death. “I am still damaged from the photonic energy. My sensors detect nothing.”
They gazed skyward for moments before returning to the Eyrie of Evil, the headquarters of the Crime Syndicate. They frowned as they looked at the shattered dimensional projector.
“We cannot free Ultraman or Owlman now,” said Brainiac.
“But I can!” yelled Power Ring as he rose up and blasted away with his emerald ring. Brainiac frowned as the ring repaired the projector and released the pair.
Myth said, “I think we should retreat.” He took the form of a purple roc and carried Brainiac to safety.
Owlman and Ultraman exchanged glances. “We saw it all,” said Owlman. “Lady Shrike broke the projector before being hit by that beam. She is not to be trusted.”
Power Ring shrugged. “And any of us are?”
Back at the Fortress of Science, Myth said, “My mission was to stop Shayera — Lady Shrike — and I fear instead I have merely witnessed either her death or her escape.”
Brainiac nodded. “Lena predicted Alexander’s death. I fear she was right.”
He watched the sobbing figures of Lena and Lois Luthor and wished again that he could have saved his friend and creator.