by Dan Swanson, adapted from Superman #119 by Edmund Hamilton and Wayne Boring
One day in early 1952, Clark Kent rushed into the newsroom of the Daily Star, excitedly waving a teletype printout. “This news about a distant planet that an astronomer discovered — it’s amazing!”
Most of the other reporters in the newsroom ignored him, but Lois Lane responded wonderingly. “Oh, Clark, what’s exciting about a planet a zillion miles away? There’s no story in that.”
Clark left the room and made his way to the roof. After using his super-vision to ensure that no one was watching, he opened his jacket and shirt to reveal the famous blue, red, and yellow uniform of Superman. I couldn’t tell Lois, or she’d start suspecting again that I’m Superman, he thought as he changed. But that planet sounds like a duplicate of Krypton. I’m going to find out about this.
The Man of Steel flashed across the country to Mount Wilton Observatory in California and only seconds later was talking to famed astronomer Alvin Hubble. After Superman told the immensely interested astronomer all he knew about Krypton, Hubble explained the newly developed stellar occlusion technique that had allowed him to discover the new world. “From what you’ve told me,” Hubble commented in astonishment, “this new planet is almost its twin world, except that it’s smaller in size.”
“Another Krypton,” said the Man of Steel wistfully. “I’ve got to visit that world.”
After some further discussion with Hubble, the Man of Tomorrow rocketed into the sky. After a shortcut through a space warp, he closely observed the new planet as he approached. From space, the colors of water, land, vegetation, and the thin sheath of atmosphere around a world had a distinctive set of colors. No world’s spectrum exactly matched any other world’s — except this world’s colors matched those of Krypton as closely as Superman’s photographic memory and super-senses could determine.
Although he was only a months-old infant when he was sent away from the doomed planet by his parents, Jor-L and Lora, he had used his super-speed to break through the time barrier and visit it in 1949, two and a half years ago. Because his infant self already existed at that time, the time-traveling Superman became a phantom that no one could see or hear, but he was still able to learn almost all he had ever wanted to know about the mysterious planet he had come from, including its language and customs. My native world exploded long ago — but I have a strange feeling that I’m going home to it now. Home, to Krypton! he thought in eager anticipation.
Entering the atmosphere, Superman spotted a mountain range. Most of the peaks were normal, but several of them glittered like jewels in all the colors of the rainbow. Nearby, he floated over a forest of mostly red-colored vegetation with a considerable population of large animals. Many of the plants looked familiar, and at least one of the animals looked exactly like the thought beasts of Krypton. It is just like Krypton! he thought wistfully before spotting a super-emergency. But that volcano — it’s pouring out lava and has scared those beasts into stampede towards that man down there. Better stop them.
As he dived to the ground, he observed the strange behavior of the beasts attempting to escape. A golden-skinned giant, which looked much like a fat Chinese-style dragon with no wings, stuck its head into the ground. He also spotted a small green lizard that grew suddenly in size and a darker green beast like a hippo with a longer, thin neck. Meanwhile, a dark-haired man wearing a red and yellow costume with a green belt ran from the rumbling, spitting mountain. What strange animals, Superman thought. That one’s drilling into the ground to hide from the lava. That “balloon beast” is puffing up in fright — and that other one is broadcasting cold waves against the heat. That he found interesting. Hmm… Maybe I can use him.
As the lone man watched in astonishment, the mighty Man of Steel quickly picked up the big monster and flew back toward the erupting volcano. The cold he broadcasts will freeze the red hot lava and keep it from reaching that man, Superman thought as the red glow of the lava started to fade. I’ll round up the other panicky beasts and then take care of that volcano.
With the lava flow temporarily staunched in this direction, the Kryptonian-born hero turned his attention to a more permanent solution and flew to the volcano’s mouth. He bashed into the rim of the crater, creating a channel down the far side of the moutain to an area where the lava flow would be less damaging. Making an opening in this other side will let the lava flow down onto that stony area, instead of into the forest. Now I want to talk to that man. Suiting action to words, he landed near the surprised native — and when he landed, he received a stunning surprise of his own as the man addressed him in perfect Kryptonese.
“That was a mighty deed, stranger — to stop that eruption that frightened the animals in the preserve. Welcome to Xenon. My name is Zoll Orr. I’m a scientist.”
Most stunning of all was Zoll Orr’s appearance. Why, this man — he’s a double of my father, Jor-L of Krypton! Superman thought as he stammered a response. “And mine is Superman.”
At that moment, Zoll recognized a flying car approaching them. It landed, and an attractive young woman stepped out of the car and approached the two men. Before she reached them, Zoll gave a warning to his new friend. “Careful what you say, Superman. That young lady is an inquisitive reporter.”
Superman wasn’t quite as stunned by her appearance, as he was starting to expect duplicates by now. This lady would be a twin of Lois Lane if her hair had been black instead of brown. She quickly introduced herself.
“So your name’s Superman? I’m Vana Vair, of Telestereo News. Tell me, who are you and how did you get such super-powers?”
Oh, no! was Superman’s immediate thought. Not another pest like Lois Lane on this world. Instead of answering her questions, he swept up Zoll Orr and leaped into the sky. “I’ll — er — take you home fast, Zoll Orr,” he stammered.
She shouted after him, “Wait, Superman! I must get a story on how you took care of that eruption!” But it was too late; the two men were now out of hearing range.
Soon they were flying over Xenonopolis, the capital city of Xenon that was located on the coast of a great ocean. The city consisted of futuristic spires and mile-high buildings and reminded Superman of his world of origin. “That giant suspension bridge crosses the ocean. What a city — it’s like the great city of Krypton where I was born.”
Zoll Orr was stunned. “Did you say Krypton? Why, that’s amazing!” After they had landed and entered Zoll’s home, the scientist explained his amazement. “We have a legend that our world Xenon was once a moon of a greater world called Krypton, but that Xenon spun out of its orbit and left Krypton forever.”
He paused thoughtfully. “I’ve studied our ancient astronomical records closely and determined that there is indeed a core of truth to that legend. Long ago, a human civilization arose on a giant rocky planet called Krypton, which orbited a giant red star that the Kryptonians named Rao. Also circling Rao were two other giant rocky planets — Xenon, which was smaller than Krypton, and Thoron, which was somewhat smaller than Xenon. Kryptonian civilization achieved space travel and colonized both Thoron and Xenon. About a hundred thousand years ago, a great catastrophe in the galaxy tore a star loose from its orbit, launching it as a rogue that wandered randomly through space, causing disasters in whatever star system it passed through. Ten thousand years ago, this rogue wandered too close to Rao and upset the gravitational balance of the system. Xenon was dragged away by the rogue, and the people on Xenon lost contact with the rest of Kryptonian civilization.”
Superman was fascinated. “Then that’s why the two worlds were so alike.” Zoll nodded and continued the story of Xenon’s past.
“We lost our sister worlds and our original star, but we lived. Sometime later, the wandering rogue encountered another giant red star, the star Xenon now orbits, and for the second time in recorded history our planet again lost and gained a star. We named our new star Roatun, or ‘new Rao,’ and we have been here ever since. We still maintain the Kryptonian civilization, as our teaching machines help us preserve the language and culture. We’ve never forgotten our Kryptonian origins, but to most Xenonians, the memories of Krypton have faded and become nothing more than distant legends.”
Sometime later, Zoll’s wife Vara and his son Kell came home, and the two men stood for introductions. “This is my wife and my son, Kell Orr. Why, you two look a lot alike!”
Vara closely resembled Superman’s mother, Lora, so Superman wasn’t all that surprised by his own resemblance to Kell Orr. Yes, Kell Orr is just as I would be if I’d grown up on Krypton, he thought. The close resemblance of his new friends to his Kryptonian family helped him feel at home, and as he continued getting acquainted, Superman found himself recounting his own life’s story.
“Yes, I was born on Krypton, but before it perished from an atomic explosion in its core, my father sent me in a rocket to Earth where I was to grow up.”
“So that’s what happened to Krypton,” the scientist in Zoll was avidly interested in the story. “And because Krypton was so much larger than Xenon, you have super-powers on our world.”
“Yes,” responded the Man of Steel. “Just as you would have super-powers on Earth, which is much smaller than Xenon.”
“How I wish you could stay here and use your powers to guard us against these volcanic eruptions,” Zoll Orr said with a sigh as he tried to figure out what to do about the frequent natural disasters bothering Xenon.
“And how I wish I could be a Superman on Earth like you,” Kell Orr added with boyish enthusiasm.
“Hmm… maybe you can both get your wishes,” Superman mused. “I’ll stay awhile, if your son will take my place on Earth. He looks like me, and I can train him to fill my part.”
“Wonderful!” Kell was gleeful at the prospect of gaining super-powers. “I’ve always wanted adventure. Xenon is so dull.” So it was decided.
Superman quickly built Kell Orr a spacesuit, and they lifted into the sky. The suit allowed them to communicate in space, and they laid plans as they flashed through the space warp back to Earth.
“Playing your part on Earth will be a thrill!” Kell’s excitement was still growing. “We have no criminals on Xenon.”
“You’ll find it a tough job,” the more-experienced Man of Steel warned his double. “As soon as I’ve taken care of those volcanic eruptions on Xenon, I’ll be back for you.”
Not long afterward, in Clark Kent’s apartment, the replacement hero tested his powers for the first time. While dressed as Clark, he easily lifted a sofa above his head with only one hand. “Wow! I do have super-powers on your Earth — not as great as yours, but real.”
“Kell Orr, never do a super-stunt as Clark Kent unless it’s life or death!” Superman warned his enthusiastic friend. “I’m counting on you to keep the secret of my identity.” Finally, both men decided Kell was trained well enough, and Superman once again headed off to Xenon.
It’s a little risky, leaving Kell Orr to take my place, the Man of Steel thought to himself as he flashed once again through the space warp. But I have to protect these people against the volcanic eruptions. I feel as if they’re my people.
Back on Xenon, that feeling of belonging continued to grow as Superman spent more time with Zoll and Vara. After dinner the next night, the three new friends were watching stereovision in the Orr’s living room, and the Man of Steel’s thoughts strayed sadly to nostalgia. I would have had a home like this, and a father and mother like this, if Krypton hadn’t perished.
His musings were interrupted as Vara announced, “I’ll turn on the telestereo news.” She flicked to a different channel, and the scene changed to show a scene of Superman carrying the cold beam beast and a female announcer narrating the scene.
“And this film made by our star reporter Vana Vair shows this stranger who calls himself Superman gathering up the game-preserve animals panicked by the volcano. Who is this mighty Superman? All Xenon wants to know more about him.”
Zoll thought about this for a few seconds. Superman wouldn’t have much privacy if every journalist on the planet was trying to track him down for an interview. “Superman, you’ll be pestered by reporters and curiosity seekers. You’d better pose as my son to avoid that.”
A few minutes later, after Superman had donned the green open-necked shirt, red shorts, and green tights favored by Kell Orr, Zoll Orr looked him over. “Fine. You can be my ‘son’ when you’re not in action, and no one will bother you.” As they were talking, they overheard Vara in the other room, greeting a visitor.
“I’m not so sure,” Superman whispered cautiously. “There’s that curious girl telestereo reporter now.”
Sure enough, Vana Vair swept grandly in the room. She was surrounded by a natural aura of stage presence, dominating a room just by entering it. “I’m anxious to find out more about that Superman who did such a feat,” she greeted Zoll Orr as if they were simply continuing a prior conversation. Then she took a good look at Superman. “Hmm… is this your son? He looks rather like Superman.” She was very attractively dressed in a fashionable open-neck tan mini-dress over a red blouse, an outfit much more revealing than any Earth reporter would wear while she was on the job, and her outfit showed her spectacular legs to best advantage.
“No, my son is not Superman,” Zoll said, meanwhile thinking, And that’s the truth!
Vana airily discounted his denial. “Maybe he is without your knowing it. I–” She sighed longingly. “–certainly admired Superman.”
Superman kept his face blank, but his thoughts echoed his dismay. Uh-oh! Women are the same all over the universe. She definitely suspects my identity. But before the replacement Kell could make his own denials, the house began shaking. A chair moved across the floor, and a lamp fell over.
“An earthquake!” Zoll exclaimed. “Another of the small quakes and eruptions that have plagued us. It may shake down the Over-Ocean Bridge.”
Vana rushed toward the front door, exclaiming excitedly, “I’m going to cover the story!”
Meanwhile, the disguised Kell hurried deeper into the house for privacy, thinking, And I’m going to switch for action, fast!
Seconds later, Vana Orr’s flying car zoomed at top speed toward the mighty Over-Ocean Bridge. As she came into sight of it, she saw something suspicious in the sky ahead of her. There’s Superman again, and he came from the direction of Zoll Orr’s house.
Ignoring everything but the potential disaster at hand, Superman used his super-mentality to examine and discard approaches to saving the bridge at lightning speed, and he instantly settled on one. Only one way to stop this end of the bridge from shaking, he thought. Zooming up to the last suspension tower, he lifted the mighty span free of the supports that were swaying and moving violently in the quake. From one of the tall buildings in the city, his super-hearing picked up a random conversation.
“Look,” a sultry woman sighed in relief, “that Superman stranger is holding this end of the Over-Ocean Bridge to keep it from feeling the shocks!”
“And the quake’s quieting,” a man responded breathlessly. “He saved the bridge!”
A few minutes later, as Superman checked the city end of the bridge for hidden damage, he was surrounded by a crowd of cheering people. Vana, carrying a camera, managed to push her way to the center of the crowd and greeted the Man of Steel.
“I got telestereo pictures of your great deed, Superman. You’re everyone’s hero now and–” She sighed once more. “–you’re my hero!” she gushed. Quickly he took to the sky with a nerverous response.
“Er… Thanks, Vana. But I have to find out what’s causing all those disturbances. See you later.” And he was gone.
Vana filmed his departing flight as her suspicions of Kell Orr churned in her mind. She was determined to prove that Kell Orr and Superman were the same man.
Back in Zoll Orr’s laboratory, Zoll and Superman in disguise as his son Kell discussed the puzzling string of natural disasters. “Every scientist on this world is baffled!” Zoll exclaimed in frustration. “We can’t find the causes of these mysterious quakes and eruptions.”
“I’ll try to find out fast,” the Man of Steel reassured his new friend. “For I can’t stay away from Earth indefinitely.” Again wistful, he thought, Though I’d almost like to. It seems like my own family, my own world.
Before they could speak further, the lab stereophone announced a call, and the screen showed Kieran Ran, head of the Council of Science of Xenon. “Zoll Orr!” he barked urgently. “An undersea volcanic eruption is causing a great boiling geyser in the West Ocean!”
Out of sight of the screen, Superman was examining the grounds around the lab through the walls with his telescopic and x-ray vision. I’ll switch again and get to that new outbreak fast, he thought as he started doffing Kell Orr’s outfit. But there’s Vana out there, watching the house. She mustn’t see me leave. He bored through the floor and drilled out a tunnel heading to the west. She won’t see me leave this way, he thought in satisfaction as he passed secretly beneath her. Hmm… the high lead content in the soil of this world blocks my x-ray vision, but I can grope my way.
He chuckled as he heard her mutter to herself, “I know that Superman–” she began, sighing, “–must be Zoll Orr’s son! I’ll prove it by waiting till he comes out.” But it would not happen this time.
As he raced out over the ocean, the Man of Steel was greeted by an awesome sight, a virtual solid rainbow of thousands of giant living bodies arcing for almost a mile over the waves. Whew! These must be Xenonian flying fish, as big as whales. They’re undoubtedly fleeing from the geyser, so it must be ahead. Indeed, he couldn’t miss it — a giant column of water blasting skyward, surrounded by flames and clouds of superheated steam. Fiery gas bursting up from a crack in the ocean’s floor is causing this giant geyser of hot steam and water. I’d better work fast!
And fast for Superman was very fast, indeed. Within seconds, he was carving out a quarry of the bedrock under the ocean floor, cutting thousand of giant blocks of the super-hard granite. Moving faster than the eye could see, he created a circular foundation from the largest blocks, encircling the vent in the floor. An gigantic chimney grew quickly from the ocean floor, containing the roaring mixture of flaming gases and boiling water that rocketed skyward. A red-and-blue blur flashed continually around the incredible chimney, causing it to grow until the top was well into the stratosphere.
That does it, the Man of Steel thought in satisfaction. No fish or animal can blunder into the geyser, and the fiery gas from below will soon boil away all water from inside the wall. But he was very troubled, and once the water and steam were cleared from the chimney, he dived down through it toward the core of the planet. The hot gas from the crack is dissipating fast, but — but I glimpsed something down there, something unthinkable! He crashed into the sea bed and drove through, boring deeper and deeper into Xenon’s crust, dreading what he expected to find. I couldn’t see before because of the lead-bearing rock strata, but through the crack I glimpsed… It was too terrible, he couldn’t even think it. No, it CAN’T be!
But it was. He burst through into the molten core of the planet, and his super-senses confirmed the bad news. “It’s true!” he screamed to himself in anguish. “This explains why all the strange eruptions and quakes have started. Xenon, just like Krypton, has a core of uranium — and in this uranium core, just as it did in Krypton, a chain reaction has begun. Nothing can stop it now. Xenon is doomed!”