Power Girl found herself shrinking at the estimated exact spot her cousin had been seated at earlier. Good thing he was at a table where we can easily replace the chair in alignment, she mused. Otherwise, I might miss his destination altogether.
Al Pratt had activated the modification of Palmer’s principle as best he could, and Kara Zor-L had to admit that it certainly worked.
“I never dreamed that this microscopic world had such depth — so many nuances… It’s like a new universe all to itself down here!” she said, marveling at the sights, colors, and diversity.
“What the–?!” she said. “I thought I saw a scene like in Ancient Rome!”
She saw towers looming high around a courtyard and, worst of all, a dark, nightmarish symbol of her adopted world’s tragic past. “The swastika!” she said. “The Nazi flag here? No wonder Clark is in trouble if he’s here!”
Power Girl leaped upward, then tumbled back down to the ground. “I’ve lost my powers!” she cried.
“Of course you have. This world is one with a red sun, you shameless hussy!” said an old woman. “It is our protection against the likes of you and that demon seed you call a cousin!” she said bitterly.
Power Girl went up to the withered old crone. “What do you mean this world is protected against Superman and me?” she asked. “Why would we pose some special threat to your world?”
“Because you are the sworn enemies of the high king!” cackled the old woman. “But he has your evil cousin, yes, he does. He will soon slay him, and we shall hold a celebration!”
Power Girl headed off for the main castle. “We’ll see about that,” she declared.
At the castle, she shoved her way past jeering stormtroopers who gave way before her as if in answer to some previously given order. She then gasped in horror as she saw her cousin chained to a hulking, revolving platform.
He was bound so that the sheer mass of the chains and the motion of his prison would constrict his chains ever tighter. He was pale and looked haggard.
“Superman! What have they done to you?” she cried.
“Kara?! No! Get away!” shouted Superman in alarm. “He’ll capture you, too!”
“Who? Who is this high king who hates us so?” she asked.
“Does the name Luthor ring a bell?” said an evil voice. A bald man with a malevolent look appeared with armed guards of honor around him.
Kara saw the evil bald man in his regal robes. “You’re not Alexei Luthor! He has — or had, rather — red hair. He’s dead, anyway,” she said as guards grabbed her and twisted her arms behind her back.
“Allow an old man a little joke,” he said. “No, I am not Alexei Luthor, but I have done more than he could do. I have made this world over in my image!” He began laughing.
“Luthor was no Nazi!” said a weak Superman.
“No, he was not,” said the high king. “He served himself alone. But I served him well for long years, and I was a Nazi! Thus, I have made this micro-world over in my image, not Luthor’s, although he would be pleased to see his hated foes bound and ready for slaughter.”
“Just who are you, anyway?” demanded Kara.
“My name is Leonel Josef Novak,” said the bald man. “For some reason, most people who know of me seem to think my name is Martinson, though that was just the name of a scientist I impersonated once or twice, even though he looked nothing like me. Astonishingly enough, others have mistaken me for Luthor himself, though I am bald and he always had a shock of red hair! I am glad to finally reveal my real name to you both, since I was rarely able to step out of Luthor’s shadow while he was still alive. Not that knowing this will do you much good.” He turned to a guard and ordered, “Tie the little blonde to her cousin’s chains, that they may die together in time.”
Power Girl found herself tied to Superman’s bonds, and the two were left alone. It was the first time they’d been alone since before the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Kara Zor-L had avoided Kal-L for months now over, only to find herself in a situation in which they could very well die together.
“Kara, how could you come here alone?” asked Superman, despair in his voice from the long time he’d been there already, from his perspective, since time flowed faster in the microverse. “We are powerless here. What’s happened to Lois and our baby? Is she well? Has she given birth yet?”
“They’re fine,” she started. “I mean, Lois is still pregnant and has been worried sick for the last day or so, but that’s normal.”
“Kara, I think time passes differently here,” he said. “I have been a prisoner here for weeks, even months, as far as I can determine. That’s why I am so weak.”
“Do you know that Novak guy?” she asked.
“I never knew his real name until now, but he was Luthor’s first and most loyal aide,” explained Superman. “I first met him when he was impersonating Professor Martinson, and he tried to kill Clark Kent. (*) He is as deadly as his late master. Can you summon help? Does anyone know we are here?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See First story, Superman #4 (Spring, 1940).]
“Al Pratt and Lois know what I have done in coming here,” she said. “They may get the JSA to help, too.”
“I hope so, because Novak plans my execution tomorrow,” said a dejected Superman.
Kara turned to Superman in their cell. “I thought I saw a Roman-style section when I first arrived here. I know Novak mixed Nazi emblems with castles.”
“You’re right,” said Superman. “I don’t know the true origin of this world, but before Novak conquered it with Luthor’s technology, I believe someone used it to steal or shrink sections of Earth throughout history. I know that I spotted a caveman-type location, too.”
“That could explain things like the lost colony of Roanoke,” suggested Kara.
“True. But now let me think of how we can get free. With you here to help, I feel renewed. I know nothing stops Power Girl!” he said, smiling.
“I do have an idea,” she said. “The belt I’m wearing is the device Al and I used to get me here. I can slip it on you and activate the controls like so…” She matched her actions to her words. “And you’re free!”
Using the belt, Superman shrank small enough to free himself from the chains, and then he regrew to his former size. “Great plan, Kara! Now, stopping Novak once and for all… well, that looks like a job for… Power Girl and her cousin!” he said meaningfully.
Kara smiled. He was giving her the lead and letting her step out from his shadow.
They raced through the castle to see a squad of guards. The now-human Superman crashed through them like a Titan of old myth. He fought with skill and courage and a selfless nobility that once again proved that, with or without powers, he was the world’s greatest hero. Power Girl did well herself, and soon they had reached Novak’s personal throne room.
“You — free? Well, that is no problem. I will merely slay you here and now myself!” he chuckled.
His loyal aide, the old crone, fled in fear. She entered a chamber where a pod hovered in the air. “My Master’s seed must not be ruined in this death struggle with the upper-world demons,” she said. “No, no, my pretty. Your old nanny shall keep you safe until you can be born. Your gest… gest… your pre-birth pod will be your fortress!”
In the throne room, Power Girl said, “You don’t know how angry I am! I’ll tear this matchbook world down around your ears, you skinhead tyrant.”
“Brave words, you dizzy harlet,” said Novak. “I’ll see your corpse displayed for my masses.” He hit a computer control, and a weird gun swiveled toward the heroes. “My geo-cyclotron will use the power of our world’s very thermal core to eliminate you both! Even Luthor never beat you!” he said, laughing madly.
“OK, baldy is Fruit Loops,” whispered Kara.
The weapon pulsed, and Superman charged forward. He spun Novak around and belted him with a strong right hook. The scientist fell but hit his machine on the way down.
“Great Scott!” he cried. “This thing’s drawing on the micro-world’s very core as a power source. It could go the way of Krypton if we don’t stop him!”
Kara saw a computer and recognized it as some type of sighting device. “Superman, this must be what brought each section of the Earth above down throughout the centuries to this place. Can I reverse it and let them go back to where and when they were stolen?”
Superman frowned and said, “Kara, I know this much: if you don’t try something, this world is doomed by that madman’s death-ray.”
Power Girl did as she suggested. The microverse shuddered as areas as diverse as a street from ancient Rome and a mountain peak from prehistory or a town from the 1960s all faded away, hopefully returning from whence they were first stolen.
Superman turned to Novak and said, “This world of yours will die due to that weapon you activated, unless you help me stop it. Think of your loyal subjects.”
Novak scoffed, “I think I’d rather see it die than see the mighty Superman triumph once more!”
Superman shoved him down and watched him flee into the castle’s next hallway. “Let him go,” he said to Kara. “We’ve got to save this world.”
“Kal-L, with the stolen times returned — or so I hope — why not just leave with the belt?” she said. “There are no other people left here.”
Superman frowned. “OK, I suppose you’re right. A empty world is no loss, but from one who lost his birth planet, I just hate to see such a world die. But I won’t leave without Novak. He can’t die here.” Superman ran down the hall bravely, as Power Girl followed.
Meanwhile, Novak saw his loyal old aide and the gestation pod of his descendant. “Woman, this world is dying!” he roared. “Let me save my descendant!”
He switched on the computer and activated a weird glowing energy-field that hovered over the gestation pod. It blinked out of sight.
“Master, what did you do to yon seedling?” she asked.
Novak scowled. “I could not let the baby die here. It would end my legacy. I sent his gestation chamber through my computer and hopefully transmitted my descendant’s essence, or future brain pattern, away to live — and to conquer all who destroyed my micro-world!”
“But, master, won’t the baby be damaged by the electronic impulses?” she said tearfully.
“No! He may be more computer than man, but all the better to kill Superman and avenge the loss of my dominion! My descendant… my brain-child shall survive!” laughed the insane Novak.
Superman hurried in, only to see an energy-field block his path. “Come with us — we’re leaving!” he urged. “Don’t be a fool!”
Novak and the cowering old woman stayed in place as their world fell around them. “Never!” he said. “I die, but I shall see you and yours exterminated! For Luthor and for me!”
Superman watched as the building crumbled, and he let Power Girl hit the belt that popped them into the real world back in his kitchen.
Lois Kent flung herself into her husband’s arms. His friends Green Lantern, Wildcat, Red Robin, and Jimmy Olsen were all now gathered there as well.
“Thanks to Kara, I’m home!” announced a joyful Man of Steel.
“Thank you, Kara!” said Lois.
Kara smiled. “We’re family! I’d do anything for Kal — even apologize for being a stubborn, hateful brat over the years.”
Superman hugged her. “I am very proud of you. I’m proud to be your cousin.”
Elsewhere, in the space that led off from the shattered micro-world, time moved at a different rate than it did on Earth-Two. Thus, while only minutes had passed to those now reunited in the Kent farmhouse, years had progressed for the computerized pod’s occupant.
Now, a computer/humanoid hybrid, the heir of the micro-world had grown to maturity already and had been educated by his father’s computers. He had one goal: to kill Superman for stealing the shrunken world he saw as his birthright. He had a name: Brainiac.