by Goose Gansler
Superman was once again flying in the skies alone over the skies of Smallville. He flew at a leisurely pace; no super-speed was necessary, at least not yet. His eyes were open wide as he tried to exert every bit of his ocular powers. His quest was not so simple — where was the sunlight going?
Sweeping the skies with x-rays wasn’t picking up anything. Neither was infrared. He decided to go with microscopic. He went down the scale to the subatomic level. Now the question was if he could make any sense of the mess.
At this level of magnification, Superman could see the atoms of the atmosphere in the jumbled mix. The space between the individual nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other molecules seemed gigantic. Still, he wasn’t really interested in seeing these particles, but rather the photons flying by.
Obviously, the sunlight that was supposed to reach the ground in Smallville was going somewhere else. He rose a few hundred feet into the air and began tracking the paths of the photons, the particles of light. It wasn’t an easy task. The atmosphere scattered as well as absorbed significant levels of light. Trying to find out what was happening in general was daunting.
You know, Clark thought, I remember reading about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle — that you can’t know both the location and velocity of a particle. But I can see these photons just fine. I guess nobody told Mr. Heisenberg about Kryptonian eyesight.
It took a great deal of effort and readjustment to be able to make sense out of what was going on. Finally, the pattern became apparent. Superman could see that a disproportionate amount of light was heading toward the southern part of town. Superman followed the trail. It led him to some open, undeveloped land. There was a trailer home surrounded by a considerable number of sun-tracking solar panels.
Superman dropped to the ground and began surveying the area with his x-ray vision. The solar panels appeared to be genuine, although the heat being given off by them indicated that there was a great deal more power being generated than one would otherwise assume. The very thick conductor cables leading away from the panels and then into the ground supported the notion that massive amounts of power were being generated.
The polite thing to do would be to knock, Superman thought. This may be a completely innocent operation. He approached the door on the trailer home and knocked. There was no response. He tried again, but again no one came to the door.
Employing a bit of super-ventriloquism, he cast his voice inside. “Hello? Is anybody home?” It was then that his keen ears detected the sound of a motor running. He looked up and saw a video camera on the roof of the trailer above the door. The lens was now focusing on him.
Superman’s gaze went to the camera. “I see you’ve noticed me, and I assume you can hear me as well. I’m curious about your solar panels. Could we please talk?”
The camera began to him. Before Superman could figure out what it might be, the camera unleashed a staggering flash of light. The Man of Steel’s eyes almost instantly recovered, but then he was struck by twin beams from some turrets that emerged from the roof. The yellow beams of light splashed against his invulnerable hide.
“I guess I’m not welcome here.” Two quick blasts of heat-vision melted the bases of the turrets, making their targeting ineffective. He tore open the door and went inside.
Sweeping the trailer with his x-ray vision, Superman noted that a small closet disguised a ladder that descended into the ground. He opened the door and floated down. The small vertical tunnel led to a massive complex hallowed out of the earth. The cavern was illuminated by dozens of yellow-tinged sodium lamps. There were gigantic boxes that Superman figured were storage batteries, as indicated by the cables from outside leading into them. There were rows of weapons connected to the batteries by other sets of smaller cables. There were even small armored vehicles being powered by the batteries.
“Somebody’s putting together a little army,” Superman announced. “Somehow I don’t think this is to protect Smallville from the big cities.”
“Of course not.” A robed figure stepped out from behind the batteries. His face was masked as well, though a pair of thick, dark goggles covered his eyes. In his hands he carried one of the high-tech rifles. “And it’s not an army — it’s a brigade.”
Superman’s super-memory kicked in — now he recalled the costume and how it fit with the illuminated modus operandi. “A… Light Brigade, perhaps, as befits the Light?”
“Exactly,” the Light responded firmly. He pulled the trigger and blasted the Man of Tomorrow with photonic energy. The rays bounced off of Superman.
“Your zap-gun is as ineffective as the ones outside!” Superman shouted over the sound of the energy cascading over his costume.
“Maybe against one weapon, but can you stand against dozens?” The Light turned as a few dozen men came scrambling from the barracks area. They were outfitted in Flash Gordon-esque costumes emblazoned with a flash-of-light symbol. They each took a rifle from the charging racks and leveled the weapons at Superman.
“Not so sure now, are you?” the Light cackled. “I don’t know how you found me here in this little hick town. I figured my solar-charging operation for my weaponry would escape notice. This is a long way from Metropolis. But no matter. It just saves me the trouble of finding you. Once I take you out, even the Justice Society won’t be able to stop me.”
Superman had to smile at the villain’s vanity. After nearly a half-century of crime-fighting, some things never changed. Villains loved to prattle on about their plans. “I hope you don’t expect me to just roll over, not against some Johnny-come-lately. I know you’re not the original Light. That was Lex Luthor, and he’s dead.”
The Light kept his hand up, not yet signaling his minions to unleash a photonic volley. “I’m not some new punk. You and I go way back.” He undid his goggles and then pulled off his cowl, revealing a wrinkly, bald-headed man underneath.
“You’re…” Superman paused. “I know the face, but not the name. You were Luthor’s assistant back in the day — one of them, anyway.” He recalled meeting another of Luthor’s bald assistants a couple of years ago named Leonel Novak, who had once impersonated a scientist named Martinson and had often been known by that name ever since. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Power Girl: Kara’s Quest, Chapter 6: Heir of the Micro-World.]
“Knut Lexington, at your service,” the Light sneered. “Your funeral service, that is.” He dropped his hand, and the Light Brigade fired.
The face of the impact caused Superman to take a few steps back. The energy itself did little more than tickle, but the force it exerted was considerable.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” Superman laughed. The deep chortle allowed him to take in a great deal of air, which he then exhaled with tornado-like force. The high-velocity wind bowled over a number of the Brigade.
“Keep firing!” the Light bellowed. “We’ll put him down yet.” The Brigade complied, but with diminished numbers, the effect was lessened. In fact, their numbers continued to drop as Superman’s heat-vision began to reduce the high-tech rifles to slag.
“Uh, boss?” one of the Brigaders shouted above the din. “Doesn’t Superman get his power from sunlight, so ain’t we just making him stronger?”
The Light’s cursing was unintelligible. When he was finished, he bellowed out new orders. “Reverse polarity on the rifles. We’ll draw the sunlight out of him!”
The Light Brigade complied, and soon streams of yellow energy were streaking out of Superman and into the weapons’ muzzles. The streams began to peter out until there was no more flow.
“There. Now he’s powerless. Take him out hand-to-hand,” the Light shouted.
The members of the Light Brigade rushed forward, brandishing their rifles like clubs. Superman stood impassively as they descended on him. Soon there was a pile of Brigaders on top of him.
The Light’s face glowed with glee. Superman would fall at his hands. He would do what his late mentor had never done — defeat the Man of Steel. Already, his mind moved on to the next step of his plan. But before he could ponder much, he was astonished to see his men flying off of Superman. Soon all of them were sprawled unconscious on the floor all around Superman.
Superman leaped the twenty feet that separated him and the Light. He grabbed the Light’s collar and smiled. “Apparently, you didn’t pay attention to everything that your one-time boss knew. My powers aren’t totally dependent on yellow sunlight. My Kryptonian physiology is pretty hardy to begin with.”
The Light began to sputter incredulously, but Superman put an end to it with a soft tap to the villain’s head. The Light slumped unconscious.
“Light’s out,” Superman said, smiling.