by Dan Swanson, partially adapted from “The Menace of the Machine Men,” Superman #57, by Edmond Hamilton and Wayne Boring
Back in the rocket, Regor was trying to figure out a way to escape without setting off the explosive. With his human physique, he could easily shatter the glass hull, and if he wrapped his head and hands with his cape, his almost-indestructible costume would probably protect him enough that he would live through the explosion that would follow, although he would undoubtedly be injured. But there was no way he would put his wife’s life and the lives of her crew at risk. Unless he could think of some way to shut off the bomb’s power without shattering the hull, Bantor would get away with this crime and become the most powerful man in Aigan-Nica.
His flier was still circling the area, and he could control the autopilot by manipulating a concealed control on his signet ring, but he couldn’t think of anything the flier could do that would be safe. But then inspiration struck. Unfortunately, it was only half of a solution.
He quickly explained the situation to his companions. “The artificial gems on my signet ring are much harder than glass. I can use one of them to cut small holes in the hull without cutting any of the trip wires. But I don’t see how that will help us.”
Loria was closely examining the inside of the rocket. When she looked at the televisor, her eyes lit up, and she laughed gleefully. “I do!” she announced triumphantly. “It’s time to go fishing!” She explained her idea, and they got to work. Of course, Regor did much of the work.
First, he carefully broke the televisor set’s aluminum rabbit ear antennas off at the base and then used his strength to join them together, end to end. The resulting rod wasn’t quite long enough. Next, Regor carefully broke open the chassis of the televisor. Pulling out a transformer, he set some of the crew to unwinding the secondary wire while he used one of his artificial gems to cut the aluminum chassis into narrow strips, then cut a strip off the end of his cape. He used the aluminum strips to extend and reinforce the antenna rod, and then he finally used his strength and super-speed to tightly wrap the joints of the rod with the transformer wire. Now it was long enough to reach the knife switch, and Regor could safely cut a hole large enough to fit it through.
Meanwhile, Loria had teased loose some threads from the torn edge of the cloth strip, and she and the crew had been able to unravel it, giving them an extremely strong thread, easily long enough for their needs. Regor secretly winked at Loria. She had tailored Regor’s costume herself, using special equipment Regor had designed to work with the almost-invulnerable fabric he had developed, and she was making good use of that secret knowledge now.
After that, it was easy. Shortly, Regor dropped a loop of thread over the handle of the knife switch and pulled it taut. The crew stood behind him, partially shielded by his powerful body and wrapped as well as they could in the remains of his cape. If this didn’t work, that would give them some protection, but it proved unnecessary. Regor pulled, the thread held, the switch lifted, and power to the bomb was interrupted. Seconds later, Regor smashed through the wall, raced to his hyperflier, and rocketed off to Nurchil City.
Unfortunately, Loria and the crew couldn’t follow him, since Bantor’s thugs had taken the Flying Studio. And the televisor in the phony rocket didn’t work any longer. “Frozen hells of Uuz!” Loria vehemently voiced the feelings of the crew. “The biggest scoop of our careers, and we’re not even going to be able to watch it!”
Regor could run much faster than his compressed air jets could drive him through the air, so he landed secretly some distance away from the crowd at the edge of Nurchil City. Driving himself to his top speed, he raced to reach Jevvy before one of Bantor’s thugs could harm her. Rather than picking her up at high speed, he stopped momentarily and wrapped her in his cape, then carried her to safety among the massed troops. He then turned his attention to the giant robot.
“What chance does he have?” Jevvy heard one of the soldiers ask the man next to him, despair in his voice. “That thing almost killed him last time!”
“Boy, are you in for a surprise!” she laughed as she focused her camera on the fight.
Regor leaped forward and smashed into the robot like a runaway meteor, knocking it sprawling on the ground. He let it stand, then swung a mighty punch at its head. The monster blocked, and Regor caught its arm, spun, then threw it away. The machine dug a deep furrow in the ground as it slid to a halt, then slowly climbed to his feet. Regor charged again. They traded punches, but the giant mechanical alien was too slow and never landed a blow, while Regor’s slammed home strike after strike, continually rocking his opponent backward. Finally, the robot was staggering around in a daze and dropped its guard. Regor launched himself upward and landed an immensely powerful punch to the head that lifted the mechanical man high into the air. It smashed to the ground, motionless.
Bantor’s henchmen abandoned him like rats, and their hyperflier started to lift from concealment. Regor raced after it at top speed, got close, and leaped. He smashed into the cabin in a single blow. “I suggest you land, now!” he thundered. The terrified pilot had little choice.
Bantor and his henchmen were sent to prison, but Regor had little hope that Bantor would remain behind bars. In the past, he’d always proved that he could escape whenever he wanted to. Loria got the satisfaction of scooping her major rival newscaster, her husband Winki Lamm, and she and her crew all got big bonuses. Potophink Wilfur promised Jevvy Valas a roving newscaster job as soon as she graduated.
Winki and Loria were discussing the incident later. “It’s never struck me before just how dependent our society is on potassium,” Winki mused thoughtfully.
“See what you get for ignoring history?” Loria chided him. Winki was very smart, but he tended to ignore subjects that didn’t interest him, focusing instead on current events, science, and super-heroics. “Potassium is one of the major driving forces of government, you know.”
“Yeah, but I always assumed the modern system of processing and distribution had the problem under control. I never realized how vulnerable the system is. You know–” He paused for a second. “–I can do something about that! I’ve been planning to take the phony rocket and the giant robot to my fortress as trophies. While I’m there, I’ll use my detectors to see if I can find an asteroid somewhere that has a lot of potassium on it. Maybe Superman can help me.”
“That’s a great idea,” she agreed. “It’s been a while since you talked with him, anyway.”
In his fortress, a giant cavern he’d carved into the top of a mountain in an inhabitable region of Uuz, Regor’s solar system scanner showed him a devastating surprise.
Earth has vanished! Regor thought, stunned. Earth was not only the home of his friend Superman, but the home of billions of human beings, the only other place in the solar system where humans could live without life support. Regor was originally from Earth himself, his parents having accidentally rocketed him to Uuz to protect him from a calamity. Who knows what other disasters this could cause? he pondered. The gravitational changes alone could have a domino effect throughout the system. Regor’s planet was very sensitive to gravitational effects; the balance between Uuz and its tiny sun was delicate, and any disturbance to that sun’s orbit could plunge the tiny planet back into an endless ice age.
He played back the system recordings and found that Earth had vanished almost two Earth weeks ago. Maybe I ought to invent some kind of disaster signals for my scanners, he thought ruefully. There doesn’t seem to be anything I can do for them here. I’d better head in and see I can learn anything over there.
Turning away from the console of his monitoring computer, Regor looked over the souvenirs, machinery, instruments, trophies, and vehicles scattered throughout the vast cavern. “I’ll take the bigger rocket and the space uniform with the built-in breathing apparatus,” he decided. Compared to Superman, Regor’s powers were limited. Since he had met Superman, however, he’d created a couple of costumes that simulated some of the other hero’s powers, and one of those would be useful on this trip. He quickly decided what other equipment he should take and directed his robots to begin loading the rocket. He also called Loria and let her know he’d be gone. She promised to make some excuse for Winki. And then he was away.