by Goose Gansler
The next morning, Clark Kent was up before the crack of dawn, and he quickly went outside to work the land. He left a bottle ready for Mary when she woke up and a stack of pancakes for Cal Kent in the oven. He grabbed his scythe and started walking the crop rows. Though he had not slept much the night before, he was not unhappy about the lack of sleep. Those waking moments had helped him formulate the plan that Cal’s suggestion had inspired. It was time to put an end to Colonel Future.
By eight o’clock, Lois Kent had packed up her things and headed off for the Smallville Gazette offices. Cal had to hurry in order to catch the schoolbus to Smallville High in order to keep up appearances as a normal teenager. The babysitter had arrived in order to watch over Mary for the day, though Clark kept tabs on his daughter via super-hearing and super-vision. Once he had finished his threshing chores, he slipped into costume and headed east for Metropolis.
Familiar sights greeted him along the way. The towering buildings of Metropolis loomed in the distance. However, he was not heading for the city proper. Rather, his destination was his mountain retreat outside the city, his Secret Citadel. It was here that he would continue the work on his campaign against Colonel Future.
Even moving at super-speed, it took the better part of the morning for him to make all of the preparations. Colonel Future was a clever foe; Superman had to make sure that his plan was as bulletproof as his invulnerable skin.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
Cal’s words had reverberated in Clark’s mind the entire day. He had made the necessary preparations at his Secret Citadel on the outskirts of Metropolis. Now he needed to act. It would be a dangerous ploy, but he felt that it would prove successful in drawing Colonel Future out and subsequently defeating the arch-criminal.
Clark discussed the plan with his family over dinner. Lois expressed her reservations over it, but she knew that he was determined to smash Colonel Future’s criminal enterprises. The murder of Kil-Lor had been too much for him. Cal was overjoyed that his foster-father was allowing him to play a part in this dangerous gambit. He hoped that he would be able to pull off the role.
“I could be gone for some time,” Clark noted.
Lois chuckled. “No pun intended, I’m sure.”
Clark had to smile, even though he had not attempted to be jovial. He knew that this operation could pose deadly risks to him, but he was determined to see it through.
The dinner conversation returned to more mundane matters until all were finished eating. After clearing the table, Clark embraced his wife. “You know I have to do this.”
“I know,” Lois said nodding. “Be careful — for your sake and for Cal’s.”
Clark looked her in the eyes, his own gaze showing his confidence. “I’ll be careful, and Cal will be able to handle his part.”
He kissed her and then called out to Cal, “All right, son. Let’s get to work.”
Cal came out of his room wearing a version of his original costume — cape, tights, and all — rather than the modified version he had been wearing in his days as a Junior JSAer. “You know, wearing a cape is kinda cool. Maybe I’ll go back to wearing this kind of get-up.”
“That’s your choice. Don’t feel that you need to ape me. But as you know, for this mission I need you in that outfit.”
“Check,” Cal replied. “Let’s get that stuff out of the barn and get the flight plan from Alex.”
Clark took Mary in his arms one last time and kissed her. “Be a good girl while Daddy’s away, OK, pumpkin?”
Mary gurgled and smiled in reply.
In a flash, Clark donned his Superman costume and headed outside. Superboy followed closely behind. Once inside the barn, they opened the secret vault that lay underneath the floorboards. They took out the two items that Clark had brought back from the Fortress. One was an electronic device with a rotating disc of swirling colors mounted atop it. The other was a lead-lined box.
With the items in tow, the super-duo knocked on the door of the bunkhouse, the building that served as the headquarters of this universe’s Monitor, Alexander Lane (as the son of Earth-Three’s Lois Lane Luthor, he posed as Lois’ nephew).
The door opened automatically, and the pair slipped inside. Alex was seated in his command chair overseeing a wide array of display screens and computer terminals. He was staring intensely at a screen depicting some chrono-spatial simulations. With a wave of his hand, he beckoned them to come in. “I’ve almost got it plotted.”
“You know, you should join us for meals more often,” Clark said. “Lois worries about you. You’re carrying a lot of weight on your shoulders for a young man.”
“I know, but there’s just so much to do.” Alex shrugged as his hands typed furious commands into his chair’s built-in keyboard. “It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.”
“Maybe you ought to lighten up a little bit, Alex,” Cal suggested. “You know, maybe drop the home-schooling pretense and join me at Smallville High. Sorta like getting to know the common people.”
Alex pondered Cal’s words for a moment. “I suppose there’s merit in that.” He looked at his screens. “OK, I’ve plotted it now.” He pointed at the screen in question. “Take a look at this trajectory, Uncle Clark. It should get you when and where you want to go.”
Clark looked at the screen closely with full comprehension. To Cal it was just a bunch of mathematical gibberish, but he knew that cousin Alex knew his stuff. “So… you gotta do something while you’re in the time-stream, Pa?”
“Exactly,” the Man of Steel replied. “There’s a number of possible futures out there in the time-stream. I’ve visited a few and been visited by a few others. What I want to do is arrive in one particular possible future, which is why I needed to get Alex’s help here. Time travel’s a little bit trickier these days. That’s why it took so long for Karen and me to find you when you were lost in time.”
Cal grimaced. He didn’t care to recall the long period he spent trapped in other eras as a result of the trick that Bluestreak of the Junior Injustice Society had sprung on him. (*) “So which future are you headed to?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See See Junior JSA: The Junior Injustice Society, Chapter 5: Perpetual Motion and Junior JSA: The Junior Injustice Society, Chapter 9: Finding Hope.]
“The one that Moth… that Aunt Lois visited last year — the year 2972, in which Craig King will pose as Superman once more,” Alex answered. (*) He switched the video display to a new data channel, certain that Superman had absorbed the necessary information.
[(*) Editor’s note: See World’s Best: Time Bomb, Chapter 3: The Tyrant Who Ruled America.]
Superman headed outside. “Thank you for your help, Alex.”
The Monitor of Earth-Two nodded and waved goodbye as the super-duo exited. He returned in earnest to his work, but the words of Superman and Superboy percolated in his mind. Perhaps he really did need to more fully experience the world at large.
Once outside, the Man and Boy of Steel took to the air and zoomed toward Metropolis. As they flew, they went over the details of the plans.
“All right, it looks like you’re clear on everything,” Superman said confidently. “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone in the thirtieth century, but I should arrive back in a matter of seconds from your point of view. Be ready with the box and the device.”
“Gotcha, Pa,” Superboy replied. “Good luck.”
“To both of us.” Superman headed upward and quickly accelerated to super-light-speed, vanishing into the time stream.
Superboy, for his part, waited within a cloud bank and steeled himself for what was to come. “This’ll show if I’m really up to wearing the costume,” he joked halfheartedly.
Once Superman entered the time stream, he began heading for the future. The swirling colors that defined this non-place were as beautiful as always. He made the appropriate changes in his trajectory, as Alex had indicated, so that he would arrive in the correct future.
Not that I wouldn’t mind visiting the Lora’s 2957, he reflected, though I wouldn’t want to deal with Rohtul again. He hoped that the Luthor descendant had been returned to prison after the “Family Legacy” case. (*) But only Craig King has what I need. The decades sped by with increasing rapidity until he had reached the right era. Decelerating, he dropped out of the time stream and back into three-dimensional space.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman Family: Family Legacy.]
The Metropolis of 2972 certainly was not how he remembered it when he visited a few years earlier, in 2956. (*) The gleaming spires of the super-skyscrapers were no longer gleaming, if they stood at all. The world had suffered a heavy toll under the despotic regime of Metalo. Lois had told him what had happened here when she had been catapulted to this era during the “Time Bomb” case.
[(*) Editor’s note: Although a version of this character exists on Earth-Two, the original character appears on Earth-One, as seen in “The Superman of Tomorrow,” Action Comics #215 (April, 1956).]
He found it a little unsettling that Metalo would be able to survive the ages, if only in this future. He found even more unsettling the havoc that Metalo had been able to wreak here. He was glad that Lois had been able to help put an end to Metalo’s reign, but it would take some time before the world regained its previous techno-utopian nature.
Accessing his super-memory, Superman tried to identify the building where Craig King’s home was. It took a few moments to locate the place amidst the changed landscape.
After a short flight, Superman landed on the balcony of King’s 240th-floor apartment and knocked on the feroglas window. The portal’s shading disappeared for a moment, and Superman could see King on the other side. The portal shaded once again and then slid open, allowing him to step inside.
“Superman!” Craig King extended his hands to grasp those of his idol. “It’s great to see you again.”
“The pleasure’s mine, Superman,” the original Man of Steel replied. He paused and looked directly at this era’s Superman, saying earnestly, “Craig, I need your help.”
“It would be an honor,” King answered enthusiastically. “I owe you for the assistance that you and your wife have given me. Is there some crisis in the past?” He started taking off his sleek silver outer garments to reveal his red-and-blue-caped costume underneath.
“There’s a situation that I need to resolve with Colonel Future back in my time. I can’t find him, so I’m hoping to draw him out. That’s where you come in.”
“How can I help?”
“I’d like to borrow your equipment — your degravitator, your rocket belt, and your force-field generator,” Superman said.
“Certainly,” Craig replied. “But I don’t see how these things are going to help you. They’re just pale imitations of your powers.”
“True,” Superman said, nodding. “But it’s highly developed futuristic technology. And that’s what I’ll need if I hope to convince Colonel Future.”
“Convince him of what?”
“That I’m one of his followers from the future.”
Craig chuckled. “Looking like that, and wearing that costume, you won’t be fooling anybody.”
Superman smiled devilishly. “True, but I’ve planned for that.” He handed Craig a piece of paper. “Do you think your electro-tailor could put something like this together? And would you have something to dye my hair?”
Craig looked at the drawing. It was of a caped costume considerably different than Superman’s red and blue. “The electro-tailor will have no problem with this.” He darted into the washroom and came out with a silver spray bottle with the name Chameleoncolor on its label. “This should take care of your hair color. Just punch in the color you want.” He tried envisioning Superman in the outfit and different-colored hair but could still recognize him as Superman. “You know, I don’t think the disguise is sufficient. That face of yours is legendary.”
Superman had been looking out the window, gazing at the rebuilding efforts outside. When he turned to face Craig, his visage was completely different.
“Great planets!” Craig exclaimed. “How did you do that? A holo-mask?”
“No,” Superman chuckled. “Just one of my lesser-known powers.” He started pushing on his cheekbones. “With super-muscular control, I can change my facial features and appearance. Now let’s see that Chameleoncolor.”
Craig handed him the bottle and opened up the electro-tailor panel in the wall. He placed Superman’s drawing in the input slot and waited a few moments. A bell rang, a green light flashed, and the costume came rolling out of the electronic device.
Bringing the costume to Superman, Craig could see that the Man of Steel had used the Chameleoncolor to change his dark locks to sandy brown. Superman had also shaped his hair to have more of a brush-cut appearance.
Superman took the outfit that Craig had handed him. With super-speed he slipped it on, compressing his traditional uniform into a pouch in its cape. As he stood before Craig, Superman appeared to be a completely different man. The outfit was a purple shirt emblazoned with an F within a white shield. The white cape matched the white trunks over his bare legs. The white boots completed the outfit.
“Well, you certainly are something else now,” Craig had to admit. “But where did you come up with the idea?”
“The look is from a dream that I had once. It was a dream of growing up on Krypton. In the dream, there was a super-powered Kryptonian who wore this outfit. My sleeping mind called him Futuro. (*) So that’s who I’ll be for purposes of this ruse.”
[(*) Editor’s note: Although a version of this story takes place on Earth-Two, the original story takes place on Earth-One, as seen in “Superman’s Other Life,” Superman #132 (October, 1959).]
“Well, you’ve got me fooled. Even your voice is different,” Craig said.
“Then I’m ready to go. Thanks for all your help, Craig. I’ll return the equipment once I’m done with the mission.” He shook Craig’s hand gratefully.
“It’s my pleasure to help out a legend,” Craig said beaming. “Good luck!”
Superman opened the feroglas window and darted into the air. Soon he was up to super-light-speed and vanished into the time stream. He knew what awaited him back in his proper era.