by Goose Gansler
Superman did not have much time, at least subjectively speaking, to think as he sped along the time stream. To his frame of reference, it was only a few seconds of flying as he traversed the centuries that separated 2972 from 1987. He knew that he would reappear moments after he had left, and he hoped Cal would be ready.
Reaching the desired time, Superman in his Futuro costume decelerated and re-entered normal space. Cal Kent was there, box and device in hand. Without saying a word, the youthful Superboy opened the lead-lined box, taking care not to expose himself. Crimson radiation emanated from the red kryptonite chunk contained within.
Superman instinctively put up his hands to his face, but there was no escape from the baleful rays. In the split-second after the radiation began to take effect, Superboy activated the device. The multicolored swirling disk spun at incredible speed, dazzling Superman’s eyes.
Superboy could tell that the plan was working. This particular sample of red kryptonite had the ability to strip away a Kryptonian’s power temporarily. It had been used before against the late Kil-Lor. Snapping the box shut once again, Superboy launched it and the hypnosis machine into orbit. He propelled himself at a low level of super-speed at Futuro.
With a twitch of the invisible hand controls, Superman/Futuro activated his jet units and reacted instinctively. His belt rockets flared, and he shot up above the lunge of Superboy. “Hah!” he cried out. “I guess the history records exaggerate your skill, Superman. That was a clumsy attack.” To Futuro’s hypnotized eyes, Superboy appeared to be Superman.
Superboy looped back and sought to tackle Futuro again, but the mesmerized Superman was apparently too quick. The Boy of Steel careened by him again. The spectacle was beginning to be noticed by the citizens of Metropolis below. The aerial dance continued, but Superboy was unable to lay a hand on Futuro.
“Now let me show you what I can do!” Futuro exclaimed. He activated his degravitator, rendering Superboy’s weight to virtually nothing. He shoved the Boy of Steel and sent him flying backward.
The Boy of Steel recovered and flew back at Futuro, who did not dodge but rather hovered in place. Superboy wound and swung his fist at Futuro, but his blow came up short. The force-screen projector had coated Futuro with a protective screen, absorbing the energy of the blow.
Inside their underground compound deep beneath Metropolis, members of Colonel Future’s gang were rushing to inform their leader of the developments outside.
One minion, dressed in the retro-futuristic military attire of the Future organization, came to the command center and brought his hand to his cap in salute. “Colonel Future, sir!”
The caped arch-criminal looked up from the maps and blueprints arrayed before him. His outfit was similar to that of the underling, although epaulets about his shoulders made it very clear who was in command. Next to him stood his armored son, a product of Indian magic who had named himself named the Futurian.
“Report,” Colonel Future commanded. Although he had gained vitality from that same Indian magic, it had not given him the patience to suffer the ever-present incompetence of his underlings. “And it had better be important.”
“Communications section reports that Superman has been sighted again in Metropolis battling another super-powered figure,” the minion announced.
“Interesting.” Colonel Future stood up and smoothed out his jacket. “The Man of Steel hasn’t shown his face around here much in recent days. Is there any television coverage?”
“Then have it patched into this room. Also have communications see if they can pick up the battle on any of our spy cameras.”
“Already done, sir,” came the prompt reply.
“My, my,” Colonel Future said smiling, “aren’t we efficient today?”
“Surprisingly so,” the Futurian added.
The minion went to the large flat screen at the far end of the room and activated it. The feed from UBS-TV appeared upon it, showing the high-speed battle between the familiar red-and-blue figure and the unknown combatant. Touching some other controls, the underling activated the screen-in-screen function. Four additional windows opened up, one in each of the large screen’s corners, showing the battle from the vantage points of the spy cameras. Their images of the high-speed battle were just as blurry, but the spy cameras afforded Colonel Future the added ability to hear the battle.
Superboy — assumed by all spectators to be Superman — continued to battle futilely against Futuro. His Kryptonian powers far exceeded the technological powers that Craig King’s equipment granted Futuro, but Superboy was the only one who knew that. The super-hypnosis program that Superman had made, combined with the amnesia-inducing effect of the red kryptonite, had turned Superman into an entirely different man. The imprinted identity emerged strongly forward.
“You’re lucky it wasn’t one of my descendants who came to the past, Superman,” Futuro boasted in a voice not his own. “My technology makes me more than a match for you.” He laid into Superboy with degravitation-assisted strength.
“I’m just disappointed to know that Colonel Future will have any descendants, Futuro,” Superboy replied, his voice mimicking Superman’s real voice correctly. He struck at Futuro again but was blocked once more by the force-screen.
“Interesting,” Colonel Future mused back in his lair.
“Could this Futuro really be a descendant of yours, or perhaps ours?” the Futurian wondered.
“It certainly seems possible,” Colonel Future noted. “He’s going toe-to-toe with Superman, using technology that even outshines your armor.” He tried to study Futuro, but the high speed of the struggle made that difficult to do. “Even if he can’t defeat Superman by himself, he could tip the overall balance in our favor.”
The two combatants continued to square off, exchanging blows and quips — both of which could be heard by the spectators below and afar. Just when it seemed that Superman would defeat this man from the future, Futuro focused the maximum output of the degravitator on his opponent. The personal gravitic field of Superboy grew to immeasurable magnitude, overtaxing the flying powers of the young survivor of both Krypton- and Earth-Prime. Superboy dropped like a lead weight into Metropolis Harbor.
Futuro exulted in his triumph. “Today I merely humiliate you. In the days to come, I will destroy you utterly. For the future belongs to Futuro!”
As the battle reached its conclusion, Colonel Future was already planning his next move. He had to have the power of this Futuro at his disposal. Turning from the view-screen toward his son, he said, “Futurian, invite this Futuro to our lair.”
The Futurian saluted and powered up his armor’s jet-pack. “As you command.” He took to the air en route to one of the access-ways that led to the surface.
In the meantime, Colonel Future knew that he had preparations to make for their visitor. The proceedings that he had witnessed on the screen seemed genuine enough, but precautions were essential. He paged the storage section. “I need a canister of green kryptonite immediately.” He didn’t wait for a reply; he knew his order would be obeyed as fast as humanly possible, if not sooner. Promptness was a hallmark of the Future organization. Then he paged the armory. “I need the Kryptonian detector.” That unit had been very effective in tracking down Kil-Lor. He would make sure that this Futuro was not a Kryptonian in disguise.
The apparent triumph of Futuro was only a few seconds old when the armored form of the Futurian arrived at the scene of the battle. The Futurian’s jet pack kept him aloft while he sized up the apparent vanquisher of the Man of Steel.
“Greetings, Futuro, if I may call you that,” the Futurian said without any malice. His weapon systems, however, were charged and ready if the situation warranted it.
“Greeting to you, Futurian,” Futuro replied. “Your name is much revered in my era.”
The Futurian was silently pleased with the compliment. He certainly hoped that his Futuro was indeed a traveler from the future. “I’m flattered. Then you undoubtedly know about my father.”
“Of course,” Futuro said, nodding. “The Progenitor, the Molder of the Future — Colonel Future!”
“Indeed?” The Futurian allowed himself a small smile. “It is he who offers you an invitation. It would be best if we departed. Who knows what heroes might respond to your besting of Superman? The Man of Steel is not dead, at least not yet, but perhaps with your power that might be changed.”
“It would be an honor to meet with Progenitor. It is the reason I came back to this time to ensure his ultimate triumph,” Futuro declared.
The Futurian turned and fired his rockets at maximum output. Futuro’s concealed jet units allowed him to follow with ease. In a matter of seconds they were gone from the scene.
However, their departure did not go unnoticed. From the bottom of Metropolis Harbor, Superboy had watched and listened with his super-senses. If he didn’t know better, he would believe that Futuro was from the future. He did know better, but that didn’t lessen his concern. He was only dressed as Superman. The real Man of Steel was undoubtedly going into the lair of the enemy. Good luck, Pa, he thought. I’ll be waiting.
After a circuitous high-speed route meant to throw off any possible pursuit, the Futurian and Futuro arrived at one of the entrances to Colonel Future’s underground lair. There were guards who approached them after they had only taken a few steps into the passageway.
“Futurian,” one of the guards declared as he eyed Futuro warily, “you’re to bring your guest to the central command immediately.”
The Futurian shot the guard an annoyed glare. “I know full well what I’m supposed to do.” With an indignant shove, he pushed the guard out of the way.
“Come, Futuro,” the Futurian said graciously. “Let’s leave this rabble behind. They may be necessary — although insignificant — cogs in Colonel Future’s machine, but that does not mean we need to suffer their impertinence or their presence for long.”
“Agreed,” Futuro said forcefully. “I am eager to meet the great Progenitor face to face.”
After winding through the lead-lined passageways, the duo finally reached the central command chamber. Standing amidst the plethora of futuristic electronic equipment was Colonel Future, decked out in all his pseudo-military glory.
“Welcome to our era, Futuro,” Colonel Future greeted warmly. “I am very pleased to meet you.”
“As I am pleased to meet you.” Futuro offered a small bow. “Your exploits are legendary in my time. Your technological mastery laid the groundwork of our entire society.”
“That is very kind of you to say.” Colonel Future was very interested in the implications of Futuro’s statements. Did they mean that his triumph was inevitable?
“However, I don’t recognize that apparatus from the historical records.” Futuro pointed at the tripod-mounted machine with an antenna disk facing him. He also wondered about the metal box that Colonel Future held on his left side.
“This, my friend, is a detector for a very specific type of energy — the energy given off by a superhuman Kryptonian. This krypto-detector was instrumental, if you’ll pardon the pun, in the death of one particular Kryptonian — Kil-Lor.”
“Are you expecting the Nemesis today?” Futuro asked.
“One must take precautions.” Colonel Future reached over and activated the detector. He checked the metered readout. There was no sign of any Kryptonian within a ten-mile radius.
“I am not a superhuman Kryptonian,” Futuro declared. He put his hands to his hips and effected a dramatic pose. “I am of your own lineage.”
“A fact I will most readily believe… after one more test.” He flipped open the lead-lined box to expose the chunk of green kryptonite within it.
“That must be kryptonite,” Futuro stated matter-of-factly. “Completely harmless to someone like me.”
Colonel Future and the Futurian exchanged knowing glances. Futuro was genuine. With his power at their disposal, they would at last be able to destroy Superman.
Convinced that Futuro was the genuine article, Colonel Future and the Futurian gave the supposed man from the future a tour of the base. They peppered Futuro with questions along the way, wanting to know about the era from which he came, an era in which Colonel Future had supposedly triumphed.
Futuro’s answers painted the picture of the 2972 A.D. world of Craig King, albeit with the added aspect that Colonel Future’s descendants ruled absolutely. That extra detail had not been too difficult to construct. Superman had simply substituted the Future dynasty for Metalo’s despotic reign there.
“So we are destined to succeed, Father,” the Futurian said gleefully, not that he ever had any doubt in his creator, but independent verification was important to the scientific mind.
“In a particular future.” Colonel Future’s reply was a bit more subdued in its enthusiasm. “You well know that the future can take numerous divergent paths. Still, it is reassuring to know that my power triumphs in that particular future.”
“And perhaps in the only potential futures,” Futuro added. “The chrono-spatial knowledge we have accumulated in my era has indicated that we can shape the timeline so that there is only one path from this time stretching out to infinity.”
“That would be glorious.” The magnitude of such an accomplishment dazzled Colonel Future’s mind. “We should begin working towards that immediately.”
“All in good time, Progenitor,” Futuro said. “However, the most important part in that overall scheme is the destruction of the Nemesis.”
Colonel Future put one hand each on both the Futurian’s and Futuro’s shoulders. “With your combined might, the Kryptonian does not stand a chance.”