“A startling development today in the presidential campaign of Jay Garrick. After the disruption of last week’s presidential debate, there has been much speculation about the source of the attack. Now, an anonymous source close to the Garrick campaign has confirmed that the burst of light, seen in this tape of the attack, matches the signature of the power referred to as heat-vision, possessed by JSA members Superman and Power Girl. As most of our viewers know, Superman and Power Girl are survivors of the dead planet Krypton, and it is their alien physiology that gives them their remarkable powers, powers not found in normal human beings. With more on what this might mean, we turn to noted author and mystery-man expert, Jonathan Law.”
“Amusing. I wonder if he set it up.” Alexis Luthor glanced up from a computer monitor to look at the television screen. “It would have made more sense to target Gunderson, or one of the main party candidates, though. I’m sure Ultra would have considered that.” The tape of the attack was shown again. As she watched it, her eyes widened in shock. “I don’t believe it! How could nobody have noticed?” She stepped closer to the screen, staring intently at the bald man who seemed to be leading Garrick’s security detail.
She then walked over to a bookcase and pulled three tattered notebooks down. She laid them on a table and started thumbing through one, then a second one. “There it is; I thought I remembered reading this. A bunker near Blue Valley, Nebraska, with a cloning experiment that was taking several years to finish. Tied in with an artificial intelligence system to program the clones at the time of their activation, based on a probability of current events. Alex Holton has to be a clone of my father!”
“So, what do you think?”
“Obviously, he’s not my cousin,” said Clark Kent with a sigh. “He seems to believe he’s a long-lost relation of the Kents, but doesn’t know that I was adopted. I examined his DNA, and he’s a near-perfect match for my own.”
“Near perfect?” asked Lois Lane Kent. “I assume we’re dealing with a clone, but wouldn’t a clone be a one-hundred-percent match?”
“Not if the person doing the cloning didn’t realize what he was dealing with.” Seeing his wife’s puzzled look, Clark sat down at the kitchen table and rolled up a sleeve. “I think I know where the DNA sample came from that would have been used. During the year before we got married, I got into some rough scrapes. And I got hurt.” He traced a thin, pale scar on his forearm. “I cut this arm up pretty bad during a raid on one of Luthor’s hideouts down in Hob’s Bay. He’s one of the few people I know who could develop the technology needed to produce a clone like this. He could have recovered skin cells from the truck windshield I crashed through that night.”
“I still can’t get over the fact that the Wizard’s spell not only took away your memory of being Superman, but actually stole away your powers.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Superman Takes a Wife,” Action Comics #484 (June, 1978).]
“Not quite stole them away. But in my mind, I was a normal person, and that seemed to allow me to be hurt, at least a little bit. I think it was related to the way I can mold my features, one of my lesser-known powers I used sometimes back in my early days. My body responded to the idea of being hurt by molding itself to the wounds I was experiencing. But back to this clone: if someone got a sample of my DNA during that period and tried to clone it as if I was a normal human, that might explain the differences.”
Lois raised a hand to her chin and brushed a finger over her lips as she thought about this. “I’m no scientist, but I understand what you’re saying. What about your powers?”
“Luthor was a genius. If he started growing a clone of Clark Kent, I’m pretty sure he would realize he had a clone of Superman on his hands. Which means that, at some point, he had to know who I am.” Clark sat back in his chair, took off his glasses, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Fortunately, we were able to confirm his death during the Crisis.”
“But that doesn’t mean there isn’t somebody, a henchman, or even that daughter of his, that knows your secret identity now.”
Clark stood up and walked around the table, placing his hands on his wife’s shoulders. “I know, darling. I know.”
On a hot, steamy night in Gotham City, two men sat huddled under the darkened marquee of a long-closed movie theater. One of them held a cracked and leaking disposable lighter in one hand and a sloppily rolled cigarette in the other.
“Be careful, Eddie. I don’t think that thing is safe to use,” said his companion.
“Nah, I do this all the time,” replied Eddie as his thumb ran across the roller of the lighter. As he did, there was a spark, and flames billowed out around his hand. “Yaaahh!”
“Easy there, Eddie,” came a voice from above as a stream of foam struck the lighter. The flames went out as he dropped the now-useless hunk of plastic and metal. Eddie looked up to see a caped figure in black and crimson dropping down from the marquee.
“Red Robin! Jeez, man, you saved my life!” said Eddie, wiping the fire-extinguishing foam from his hands.
“That’s right, Eddie — you owe me, and you can pay the debt now.” The costumed crime-fighter crossed his arms and looked down at the two homeless men. “I hear someone was in town, recruiting muscle. I know you’re out of the game now, both of you, but I’m looking for anyone that might have responded.”
Eddie looked at his companion. “Whaddaya say, Ron? I heard about someone putting out the call, but do you know anyone who went?”
Ron rubbed the stubble on his chin. “Lessee, lessee, yeah, I think Iron Block Gravis was going. I got doubts anyone would hire him. If it’s one of the costumed kooks, they want guys with a little bit of brains, at least.” Ron looked up. “Ah, no offense meant, sir.”
“None taken,” replied Red Robin with a smile. He reached into his utility belt and pulled out a lighter. “Here, try not to burn yourself, Eddie.” He tossed it to the one-time criminal. “And head on over to the Wayne Shelter on Brooklawn. I’ll make sure they’ve got a couple of spots saved for the two of you.” He tossed a batarang with a line attached up to a fire escape across the street, and swung up into the air.
“Forget it, Alex. They’re my friends, and they will have access to me at all times!” Jay Garrick stood leaning against the wall of the hotel room. “Until you have proof that Superman or Power Girl tried to kill me, they are welcome around this campaign.”
“It isn’t your decision to make, Mr. Garrick,” replied Alex Holton. “Your security and safety, and that of your family, is the responsibility of the Secret Service.” He sat in an overstuffed chair, a glass of wine in his hand. “Even the president is subject to the orders of the Service.”
Jay unfolded his arms and walked over to a table, where he picked up a glass of tomato juice that sat there. He stared at Alex as he took a drink. When he lowered the glass, he asked, “Since when is the Secret Service empowered to be judge and jury?”
“Since we’re tasked with keeping you alive,” replied Alex through gritted teeth. He felt the glass crack in his hands as he squeezed. “Presumed guilty until proven innocent doesn’t sound nice, but that’s how we keep people alive.” He rose to take the glass over to a table as a thin trickle of wine seeped through the cracked glass. As he did so, there was a knock at the door.
“Mr. Garrick? Mr. Holton?”
“Come in, Dugan,” said Jay, relaxing a little at the sound of the big Irishman.
The door opened, and Pat Dugan, one of the security detail’s agents, stepped in. “Sorry to interrupt you, but there’s someone here that I think you should talk to, Mr. Garrick.” He glanced at his boss. “He wants to talk to Mr. Garrick alone, sir.”
“Who is it?” asked both the candidate and the security team leader simultaneously.
“John Chambers, of Sees-All, Tells-All Productions.” Dugan brushed a lock of hair out of his eyes. “I know Mr. Chambers from way back, Alex. He’s all right.”
“Sure, everybody is all right. Nobody in the world we need to worry about; we might as well pack up the detail and go back to Washington!” exclaimed Alex, his hands up in the air as he walked from the room. “Unless, of course, you’d rather I stay, Mr. Garrick?”
“I’ll be fine here, though you can have Pat here stay by the door, if you like,” replied Jay. “And maybe you can find the time to do something about your attitude.”
“Whoa. Did I pick a bad time to stop by, Jay?” asked a tall, thin, blond man who walked in as soon as Alex walked out.
“Not at all, Johnny, not at all,” said Jay with a smile. “Gave me a good reason to get him out of the room, actually.”
“Well, I guess that’s a good thing, right?” asked Johnny Chambers, known to Jay as the fleet-footed Johnny Quick.
“Definitely,” said Jay, taking a seat. “So, what brings you here?”
“This tape.” Johnny reached into a leather portfolio and pulled out a videotape. “This is from the debate, and shows something that nobody caught before.” He put the tape into a VCR in the room and turned on the television. “3X2(9YZ)4A.” Johnny shuddered a bit as he felt the speed powers conferred by the formula come over him.
“I take it I should be watching for something happening pretty fast, eh?”
“Exactly.” For a little over three minutes, the tape played. “Coming up now. Watch the window.”
Jay did, and he saw the brief flash of light that signaled the attack. But he also saw something else. “Back it up, Johnny.”
Johnny rewound the tape and played it again. “I saw the flash, but there was something else out there,” said Jay. “Watch about point three seconds after the flash.” At the time specified, Johnny froze the frame and walked over to the television set.
“I’ll be damned. Something fell by the window. Odds are, it’s still in the river, which I’ll find out for sure in a few minutes.” He looked back at Jay. “I was just going to point out the flash of the heat-vision. But you did me one better.”
“You’d have noticed it on another check, I’m sure. The important thing is, we noticed it. And I’d wager you’re going to find some kind of double laser device at the bottom of the river.” Jay stood and walked to a window that looked down over the city. “I’m going to ask you a favor, Johnny, and if you say no, I’ll understand.”
“Not likely, but go ahead. What do you want?”
“Keep this quiet.” Jay turned back toward him. “I want to see how far certain people will push the accusations against Superman and Power Girl. And look at just who is doing the pushing.”