by Goose Gansler
The clock mounted on the schoolroom wall seemed to be moving at a snail-like pace. Mr. Jones continued to drone on about the American Civil War. As he peered out the window, Clark “C.J.” Kent, Junior couldn’t help but think about how boring this was. He had learned all about the Civil War in history class in his Smallville on the world of Earth-Prime. Now his awakened powers gave him the ability of super-recall. He could remember it all.
For him, the Civil War seemed as far off as his own destroyed world. Sometimes it seemed incredulous, even to him. Here he was on Earth-Two, in a universe parallel to his home of Earth-Prime. But even that wasn’t really his home. He came from the Krypton of that universe. I guess you’d call it Krypton-Prime, he thought, realizing once again that he was the orphan of two worlds and one universe. The thought of it was sometimes overwhelming.
At this point of the lecture, the only thing that was keeping C.J.’s interest was the task of noting any differences between the Civil War history that he knew and the Civil War history of this world. So far, no discrepancies had turned up. Yesterday, however, he had learned that the North had actually won the First Battle of Bull Run here. He’d have to make sure he remembered that for the test next week.
Mercifully, the clock hands finally reached ten minutes before the hour, and the bell rang. “Finally,” C.J. sighed as he rose from his seat along with the rest of the class. No one paid any attention to Mr. Jones’ attempted shouts above the commotion. They all knew that they needed to read the next chapter for tomorrow’s class.
C.J. got into the flow of students that were going in the direction of his next class. Chemistry tended to be the highlight of the day. Laurie Lemmon was in that class. In another time, another place, she was his girlfriend. In this reality she wasn’t, at least not yet. Sure, they had gone out on one date, but there wasn’t the spark yet. He still had hope that he’d get the princess someday, but there was the problem of the ogre.
He felt a sharp shove as he was about to enter the chemistry laboratory. Speak of the ogre, C.J. thought as he instinctively let himself be moved by the shove.
“Gonna blow something up today, four-eyes?” the ogre in question asked with a guffaw. He was Bartholomew Bashford, but everybody knew him as Bash. Nobody in his right mind called him Bartholomew or Bart. That wasn’t good for your health.
“As long as nobody switches chemicals on me, I won’t,” C.J. replied. He adjusted his glasses and straightened his shirt.
“Are you accusing me, squirt?” Bash barked forcefully.
“Well, considering that to know what the right chemicals to switch would require at least a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry, I guess you’re innocent.” C.J. said, smiling.
“OK, then, because you wouldn’t want to accuse me of something I didn’t do.” Bash turned around at hearing some of his toadies chuckling behind him. “What?”
C.J. walked inside as the toadies tried to explain over their own laughter that C.J. had just put down Bash. Pa had said it was not always about who was stronger but who was smarter.
Going toward his seat, C.J. could see Bash fuming as he came in. Once class ended, C.J. knew that he’d have to hurry out to avoid another confrontation. Sometimes he wished he could give Bash a Honeymooner punch — right to the moon, literally. Such was the burden of a teenage Superboy. Too many desires went unfulfilled out of super-powered self-restraint.
Laurie wasn’t in the classroom yet, much to C.J.’s dismay. He wouldn’t have a chance to talk to her before class began, and he already knew that he’d be speeding out when it was over. At least he’d get to see her in class. That would have to be enough for today.
Today’s class didn’t involve going to the lab stations. It was a lecture on electron orbitals. Once again, C.J. found it very boring and was gazing off into space — literally. While his gaze was pointed at Mr. Kuenn speaking at the podium, his super-vision was looking beyond the teacher, the wall, and even the horizon. He was watching a meteor swarm flying through Jupiter’s orbit.
What C.J. didn’t know was that he was under observation by super-vision as well. Thousands of miles above the Earth, a caped figure peered down with super-powered eyes.
“Such a mundane existence he lives most of the time,” the observer noted with disdainful amusement. “He hides his superiority. He does not relish it like I do.” With a thought, he became a green blur as he sped toward Earth. “I will defeat and humiliate him and prove my worth to the Triumvirate. I will show that I am ready to rule as well. Then, perhaps I will do what the Triumvirate could never do — I will vanquish Kal-L.”
After the final bell rang, C.J. made his way to the bus circle and found his bus. Boarding the vehicle, he could see, even without the benefit of his super-vision, that the football players were heading out to the practice field. Bash’s lumbering frame was unmistakable. He could also see someone wearing a red vest over his gray practice jersey. That would have to be Pete Ross, Smallville’s star of the gridiron and diamond.
C.J. mused somberly about how he wished he could be out there. Even just using a fraction of his power, he would be better than any of them. The type of glory he could never have imagined on Earth-Prime could be his here. But Pa wouldn’t allow it. It wouldn’t be fair, and C.J. knew that Pa was right. He had to content himself with the thought that, after chores and homework, he would be able to go out on patrol. He had to admit that life wasn’t too bad in being one of the mightiest people on the planet.
Superboy’s ranking in that regard would soon be in jeopardy of dropping. The green-caped figure dropped out of the sky and landed behind the Smallville Clothing Store. After removing his cape and compressing it to unbelievably small size, the youth darted into the store. A split-second later, he was outside again with some clothes in his arms. Nobody inside was the wiser for his presence. He quickly put on the blue and red rugby shirt, and blue jeans over his colorful costume. He kept on his black boots.
Content that he looked the part of an Earthman, he walked smugly toward Smallville High School. His reconnaissance had shown that Bash Bashford was rather antagonistic toward C.J. Kent. The lummox would be the key to his plan to humiliate, then defeat the Boy of Steel.
Soon, the sun was beginning to set on Smallville, and C.J. was busy finishing the last of his chores before supper. Meanwhile, the football team was leaving the locker room in a steady stream after having showered and changed. Bash Bashford was one of the last to leave as he continued to regale anyone who would listen about how well he played last year against this weekend’s opponent of Midvale.
Bash came out with a group of sycophants — younger players who rarely saw the field until the game was out of reach, one way or another. Bash and his entourage stopped suddenly when the rugby-shirted boy suddenly appeared directly in front of them.
“Bartholomew Bashford, I would like to speak with you,” the boy said solemnly with a strange accent.
“Oooh,” came the collective gasp from the entourage. Nobody called Bash by his given name.
Bash put on a sadistic smile. “You know, pal, I didn’t get to hit enough during practice today. So apologize for that, and then I’ll hit you. It’s not an either-or.” Bash rubbed his hands together deviously.
The boy did not make any type of response. Bach cocked a fist. “OK. You asked for it!” He aimed a punch right at the strange boy’s head, but it never reached its destination. The boy caught Bash’s hand and began to squeeze. Bash began to wilt from the pain, much to the astonishment of his groupies.
The boy released his grip, and Bash struggled to maintain his balance and regain his poise. “Get rid of these… punks,” the boy demanded.
“Get out of here already!” Bash gasped through gritted teeth. As the groupies ran away, Bash turned back to the boy. “What are you? Some kind of hit man from Midvale to keep me out of the game?”
The boy smirked. “Your petty little athletic contest is of little importance to me. It might prove to be a means to a much more important end. We have a mutual enemy.”
“Hey, pal,” Bash grimaced. “I ain’t that dumb. I wouldn’t mess with anybody that would mess with you.”
“But we do share an opponent,” the boy corrected, his steel eyes gleaming. “Somebody here in Smallville, who is from the… same old neighborhood as me.”
“One of the Swedish exchange students?” Bash shook his head. “I draw the line at hitting girls, especially girls as gorgeous as they are.”
The boy rolled his eyes. “Such a backward planet. Why give a misanthrope such as this anything beyond a rudimentary education? Any subsequent effort is wasted.” He hardly even registered Bash’s quizzical face in response. Things would change when Earth came under the rule of the Triumvirate. “No, I’m referring to someone who just this day… I believe the term is ‘burned you.'”
Bash’s eyes opened wide, and he forgot about the dull pain in his hand. “You’re talking about Kent? C.J. Kent?”
“Exactly,” the boy said, smiling. With your help, I think we can… put him out of his misery.” He extended his hand in friendship.
“Sounds good to me.” Bash took the stranger’s hand, wincing at the realization that the pain was still there. “Say, what’s your name?”
“Hmm… R… Ban. You can call me Robin Urban,” came the reply.
“OK, Robin.” Bash grinned mischievously. “Let’s make old C.J. Kent wish he had never been born.”