by Goose Gansler
It did not take much planning before the Futurian and Futuro headed out in search of Superman. Their first stop was naturally where Futuro had supposedly defeated the Man of Steel — at the bottom of Metropolis Harbor. However, no sign of the Man of Tomorrow was to be found there.
“I didn’t expect to find a lifeless body here,” Futuro commented, “but it pays to be thorough.”
“Agreed,” the Futurian replied. He activated the device strapped to his wrist, its yellow color a stark contrast to the rest of his armor. It was a portable version of the krypto-detector. “Perhaps the Nemesis will help us get on his trail.” Continuing to hover in place, the Futurian turned through a 360-degree sweep with his outstretched arm. There was no distinct signal being picked up, although there was a faint one coming from the northwest. “Strange. It seems as if he might be shielded. What do you think of it?”
“That’s entire possible. We should verify before we contact the Progenitor with our findings.” Futuro turned his rocket boots to full power and blasted northwest.
At the northwestern outskirts of town, Superboy — still dressed in his faux Superman outfit — paced within the walls of the Secret Citadel. As per the plan that Superman had worked out with him, the massive doors built into the carved-out mountainside were left unlocked. It would take considerable power to open them even then. He had to wait uncomfortably until the forces of Colonel Future came.
Pa figured that the Colonel had some way to track Kryptonians, Superboy mused. That was the only method he could think of to explain how Future was able to find Kil-Lor and know he was Kryptonian. He hoped that his Kryptonian makeup, though born of another universe entirely, was sufficiently similar to allow the enemy to find him here.
Just then, the super-radar signaled that objects were approaching on a direct line to the Citadel. “Looks similar enough.” He took a deep breath and readied himself.
The forms of Futuro and the Futurian streaked near on a rapid approach vector. Futuro’s futuristic telescopic contact lenses allowed him to spy the Citadel ahead, but no inkling of familiarity came to the hypnotically submerged consciousness of Superman.
“Ahead, built into the mountainside,” Futuro called out. “Do you see it?”
The optical powers in the Futurian’s visor focused in on the area in question. “Indeed. There can be no doubt. This must be Superman’s lair.” A quick cybernetic command opened a communications link back to Colonel Future’s underground base. “We believe we have located the Nemesis, sir. Zero in on our trajectory. The Kryptonian should be dead when you arrive.”
Lashing out with force beams, the Futurian battered the Citadel’s doors. They fell back open at the assault.
“Kryptonian!” Futuro called out as he sped inside. “Face your doom!” There was so sign of Superman upon their arrival. He scanned the area with his lenses but detected nothing. “I don’t see him,” he muttered angrily.
“He must be here.” The Futurian cut his rockets and landed on the floor. The krypto-detector indicated a presence very near. “Face us, coward!”
The door to a lead-lined compartment slid open, and a figure in the famous blue and red costume emerged. However, it was worn by the youthful Superboy, much to the Futurian’s surprise. “Hi. I heard you knock. You didn’t need to blast your way in — the doors were open.” Superboy smiled impishly.
“What trickery is this?” the Futurian raged. He instantly recognized the teenager as not being his intended quarry. “Even in that lead-lined container, you couldn’t hide from the krypto-detector.” He raised his arm and energy crackled about his gauntlets. “Tell us where your sire is, and we might be merciful.”
“Oh, he’s closer than you might think,” Superboy said slyly. He took to the air before the Futurian could connect with a plasma burst. Swooping around the charged particle beam, Superboy drove into the Futurian, sending him tumbling backward.
The Futurian sprang to his feet after somersaulting a few times. His near-instantaneous recovery took Superboy by surprise. A double-barreled blast smashed into Superboy’s chest, staggering him considerably.
Futuro joined in the action now, amping up his degravitator in reverse mode. He stretched out his hand and bathed Superboy in a high-gravity field. The Boy of Steel struggled to move against the massive force.
“What do you have to say now, boy?” Futuro mocked. “I’ve rooted you to the spot. Now the Futurian will be able to slay you at his leisure if you don’t reveal what we want to know.”
“I’ll… tell… you what… you want to know.” Even speaking under the effects of the gravity field was a struggle for the kid from Krypton.
These words were music to the Futurian’s ears. He smiled broadly — the Boy of Steel did not have much of a steeled resolve. “Hold for a moment. Colonel Future is nearly here. I would like to have him hear these words as well.”
Beads of sweat began forming on Superboy’s brow. The immense gravity was beginning to take its toll on him, but he knew he had to persevere. He knew he had to follow the plan.
Moments later, Colonel Future arrived on a futuristic flying platform. He had brought none of his retainers along. With the combined might of the Futurian and Futuro here, he felt no need to have any extra protection, even in the lair of his nemesis. As he brought the platform to a soft landing, he marveled at the technology that the Man of Steel had incorporated into the place. In some ways, it rivaled his own headquarters.
“Sir, the youth is prepared to tell us where Superman is,” the Futurian announced with military-like precision.
“Very good.” Colonel Future studied the boy closely. There definitely was a family resemblance between Superboy and the Metropolis Marvel. He wondered how Superman had kept him a secret all of these years. He noted that Superboy sported a costume identical to that of his sire. Colonel Future seemed to recall the Boy of Steel sporting a modified outfit in his adventures with the Junior JSA. However, that was of little importance. He would learn where his true nemesis hid, and then he would slay the youth.
“Where is Superman?” Colonel Future asked coldly.
Superboy looked him straight in the eye. “He’s… fighting a never-ending… battle… for truth, justice… and the American way.”
“Impudent child!” Colonel Future wanted to strike him, but he calculated that it would not be wise to cross the high-gravity field with which Futuro had surrounded Boy of Steel. Futuro, for his part, seemed strangely transfixed.
Futuro’s change, while unnoticed by Colonel Futurian, did not escape the Futurian’s attention. “Futuro, does something ail you?”
Suddenly, a broad smile came across Futuro’s face. “No, I’m fine. In fact, I feel super.” With a flick of a button, the gravity field was deactivated. Superboy’s words had triggered a posthypnotic suggestion, one that restored the memory of his true self — Superman.
“What are you doing?” the Futurian cried. His armor’s systems went into attack mode via cybernetic command. He leveled a wrist-blaster at Futuro.
“I’ve come to my senses.” Futuro shot a look over to Superboy. “Are you OK, son?”
“Son?!” Colonel Future drew his ray-gun from his holster belt. The truth, however inexplicable, was beginning to dawn upon him.
The Futurian fired the first blast, but it was blocked by Futuro’s force-screen. “You can’t be Superman. The krypto-detector — the kryptonite — you couldn’t fool us!”
“Oh, but we did.” Superboy darted into the air before Colonel Future could draw a bead on him. A well-placed blast of heat-vision turned the ray-gun into slag. The Boy of Steel was silently proud that he did it without burning Colonel Future’s hand, at least not seriously.
The Futurian continued to blast against the force-screen ineffectually. “Your technology cannot be better than mine!”
“It’s not mine,” Superman said as he adjusted his features back to his normal face. “It really is from the future. All of my powers as Futuro were.” He took to the air while continuing to fend off the Futurian’s blasts.
Colonel Future decided that there was no victory to be had here, not on the hero’s home ground. He unclipped a micro-bomb attached to his belt and hurled it at Superboy. Before the explosive could detonate against him, Superboy blew the bomb out of the Secret Citadel doors with a gust of super-breath.
“Can’t have you messing up the place,” Superboy joked. “I hate sweeping up.” Before Colonel Future could employ another weapon from his personal arsenal, he was held tight in the grip of Superboy.
The struggle between Superman and the Futurian continued. The force-screen kept Superman safe from the Futurian’s barrage, perhaps even better than his temporarily nullified powers would have. He knew that it was probably just a matter of minutes before the effect of the red kryptonite wore off and his powers returned. However, with Craig King’s thirtieth-century technology at his disposal, he was confident he could triumph without his natural powers.
“I don’t know why you’re depending on technology, Superman,” the Futurian said in-between salvos. “Perhaps your powers have disappeared with age. Whatever the reason, all that matters is your defeat.”
“Not today or any day in the future.” After minutes of defensive weaving, Superman took the offensive. Pushing the degravitator to the maximum at reverse flow, he induced another high-gravity field about the Futurian. Then, returning the device’s flow to normal, he completely canceled the gravity about the Futurian. The shock of the massive change in gravity was weathered by the Futurian’s armor. However, for the man inside, it was a different story. The Futurian’s senses blurred, and he slumped, unconscious.
“Well, that just about wraps everything up.” Superman turned to Colonel Future, still held fast by Superboy. “Now to deal with you, Colonel. You’ve killed one of the only Kryptonians left in the universe, and you’re going to answer for your crime.”
Colonel Future looked at Superman defiantly. “I don’t think so.” He gritted his teeth together, connecting a circuit between his upper and lower molars. With the homing signal thus activated, a teleportation beam arrived from Future’s lair. Superman reacted quickly, erecting a dense gravity field around Colonel Future. The beam was distorted by the localized warping of space and could not complete the transfer. However, the interrupted process took its toll on Colonel Future, the sudden cessation of dematerialization causing massive internal and external injuries.
Superboy gently laid down the injured Colonel Future on the ground. “What happened, Pa?”
Superman was already scanning Colonel Future with his x-ray vision, noting the damage that had been done. “Something unintended. I had thought the gravity field would stop the teleporting process completely, but that wasn’t the case. Colonel Future is seriously hurt.”
“You didn’t mean it, Pa. Though one could argue he deserved it.”
It was well-deserved, Superman thought. For all of the suffering and death that Colonel Future had caused, the villain certainly deserved it. When he had begun his career nearly fifty years earlier, Superman would have had no compunctions about letting a foe perish. The decades had mellowed that harshness. However, the care that Colonel Future needed was probably more than standard medicine could give.
“We’ll keep him here,” Superman announced. “The healing chamber might be able to mend his injuries.”
“I thought Colonel Future was immortal now,” Superboy said more as a question than an statement.
“No,” Superman said with a shrug. “The magic totem gave him vitality, not eternal youth nor immortality.” He gently lifted Colonel Future’s body and carried it toward one of the deeper compartments of the Citadel.
Not sure what to do, Superboy followed with the Futurian in tow. He was not quite as gentle with the unconscious foe.
“You do bring up a good point, though.” Superman laid Colonel Future on a cold white table in the medical bay. He manipulated the controls for a few seconds. A pale purple light began to wash over Colonel Future’s body. “With his vitality, he could outlive any sentence that the courts might pass on him. That’s assuming he could be held prisoner that long.”
Superboy was troubled by this line of thought. “Pa, you’re not thinking about exec–”
“No, but Colonel Future has committed a heinous crime. Society needs to be protected from him,” Superman replied. His hands were clasped behind his back as he paced around. “I’ll have to keep him here.”
“Pa, are you sure you want to do that?”
Superman took a deep sigh. “Not really, but it will take a long time for Colonel Future to heal. That could only be done here. Plus, I have an idea in mind to make it more humane.”
“What about the Futurian, here?” Superboy had placed the villain on another bed next to Colonel Future.
“He’s not a real human being,” Superman said grimly. “He was created by the power of the magic totem. You could say he’s not entitled to the protections of the law.”
“You’re not going to…?”
“I don’t know if I could, even if I wanted to, with him being a product of magic. Why we Kryptonians are so vulnerable to magic I’ve never figured out.” Superman went to the control board for the Futurian’s bed and activated a restraining force-field. “Assuming that his mind works like a human being’s, the Futurian fits in with my plan for what I have in store for Colonel Future.”
After a quick dash to the other end of the Secret Citadel, Superman returned with a pair of strange helmets. The devices had eye coverings and headphones. Superman placed the helmets on Colonel Future and the Futurian. Then he attached some cables from the helmets to the control boards. He pushed a sequence of buttons and stepped back. “That should do it.”
“So what did you do? What are those things?” Superboy wondered.
Superman put his arm around Superboy’s shoulder and led him out of the room. “They’re based on cousin Kara’s Symbioship. They can generate an entire world inside the mind…”
A few minutes later, Colonel Future suddenly became aware of his surroundings. He was in the middle of a public square of a vast technopolis. Atomic-powered cars raced through transparent tubes connecting various parts of the miles-high city. He turned to see the Futurian standing next to him, a similar look of confusion upon his face.
“Sir, where are we?” The Futurian could only guess at the technology employed here.
“Don’t you remember?” a third voice called out. The duo turned to see the figure of Futuro standing behind them. “Superman had impersonated me and had nearly defeated you. However, I escaped the prison in which the Nemesis had trapped me. I came to your rescue and brought you here.” He made a wide sweeping arc with his arm. “Welcome to the world of the thirtieth century!”
On their beds in Superman’s Secret Citadel, Colonel Future and the Futurian smiled as they continued to experience the computer-generated world of the future.