The Great Confrontation
and Dannell Lites
Alan Kent, the 21st Superman, had to fight back his fears as he speared
through Earth’s atmosphere. Three-fourths of Earth’s surface
could kill him. He’d have traded weaknesses with some of the
early Superman anytime.
But his father had defended Atlantis the same way, under the same
conditions. The phobia against the deadly sea had to be faced,
fought, and conquered. That, while all the time remembering that
exposure to seawater could mean his death.
Best to get it done quickly, then.
The Man of Steel checked his force-field belt for the umpteenth time to
make sure it was functional. Then, with a cry of fear and fury,
he increased his speed, plummeted through the last few thousand feet of
air before him, and plunged into the open sea. It boiled about
him from the heat of re-entry.
An instant later, he opened his eyes. He was already hundreds of
feet beneath the surface. Sound was distorted, light was
decreased. Neither of these things mattered much, with his
super-senses. What did matter was, thank Rao, the force-field of
Brainiac 5 was keeping him dry as the desert (save, perhaps, for his
underarms). It extended an inch or two in all directions,
following the contours of his body. He could take a hit from a
blue whale and it wouldn’t break the field.
Unfortunately, Muto was not a blue whale.
Superman XXI located Atlantis with his vision powers, scoped it out
with his inbuilt X-rays, said a prayer to Rao, and vectored in that
The city of Poseidonis was in its own way as advanced as modern-day
Metropolis, but kept more of its traditional architecture. That
appealed somewhat to Superman’s nostalgic side. Strange, the side
thoughts one had before battle. His speedy path was disturbing
the blazes out of the sealife around him, but that’d just have to
be. A few shook-up fish were a small price to pay.
Shortly before he would have entered the city, a huge mallet of
hardened water slammed down on him from above. It shattered, but
it knocked him downward somewhat and he scattered Atlanteans in his
path. Superman skidded to a halt on his chest, tearing up a large
section of well-paved sea bed street. It occurred to him that
he’d have to repair this later on, and that he really didn’t know how.
Some impressive entrance.
The undersea people were looking on him with awe, nonetheless.
They’d heard about the Superman, seen him in their holovids, but none
had ever expected to glimpse him on (or under) an Atlantean
street. Their telepathy was filled with images of him and a
thousand mental ways of describing the same thing.
It almost overloaded his mind. He sent out a thought, and hoped
they’d catch it: <Please! Stop the telepathy!>
There was a lull of surprise. Then one lone voice sent,
<Um...how do we do that?>
Right. How do you stop a person from thinking, Superman?
Abruptly, he felt the water beginning to heat up.
Superman’s eyes widened. True, he couldn’t be hurt by the
extremes of temperature, but the Atlanteans...that was another
story. It had been hard for him to learn the range of human
endurance to heat, cold, force, pressure, pain, airlessness, hunger,
and all the rest. But when he’d seen people dying from such
things, he didn’t forget it.
The Atlanteans were crying out in fear and pain. The sea about
them was almost hot enough to scald.
Nothing in his training had prepared him for this. Alan Kent had
He pushed off from the underwater street and speared his body towards
the surface. Along the way, he felt the water cooling to more
temperate levels. When he judged the level cold enough, the new
Man of Steel swam at super-speed in a motion calculated to bring the
cooler water down to the level of the rapidly heating water about
Atlantis. It was, in a way, like swirling the cold and hot water
together in a bathtub to make things the right temperature. Of
course, down here there was the danger of the temperature and motion
turning it into something of an undersea tornado, but he’d deal with
that if and when the time came. Saving the lives of the
Poseidonians was paramount.
As the cooler waters mixed with the hotter ones, Superman saw the
Atlanteans swimming upwards to the more temperate waters, gratitude in
their faces. Their bodies could adapt to extremes of temperature
and pressure change much better than surface people’s, but Muto had
been raising the kinetic energy of the waters to heat them beyond even
Atlantean capacities. Of course, he could raise the temperature
even further. Which meant that Superman had to close with his foe
in combat before very much longer.
Alan focused his eyes in just the manner to utilize his x-ray vision
and infra-red vision powers and swept his gaze over the sunken
city. Not surprisingly, he found Muto and two aides in the king’s
quarters of the palace of Poseidonis. Muto turned towards him,
The yellow-headed mutant didn’t seem to have telepathic powers, but he
could sense things. Muto smiled.
Superman accelerated to lightspeed and promised himself to wipe that
As he neared the palace, he rebounded from an unseen barrier with great
The force shook both himself and the foundations of Atlantis.
Even Alan Kent was hurt. There was no way you could achieve that
kind of speed and inertia counter and not feel it. But beyond the
force barrier, the palace of Poseidonis seemed intact.
A voice came thru the P.A. system, distorted by the water but still
clear enough to his ears: “A little obstacle, young Superman.
Wouldn’t want you getting too overconfident in your first battle.
Actually, I wouldn’t even want you to live through it, but we’ll get to
that when the time comes.”
Superman tried rubbing his head and felt only the force-field covering
it. He grimaced. “Why do you want to play this out,
Muto?” He was surprised by the way his voice sounded
underwater. “What’s the point?”
“The point is vengeance, young Superman,” came the voice. “The
point is showing your father, who simply must be watching this
somewhere, that his insipid son can’t take his post. The other
point is conquest. Given the world we live in, what respectable
super-powered being wouldn’t want to scrap it, start over from scratch,
and make it work? Also, make it pay great dividends to the
conqueror? Look at it this way, my friend. I’m a very
simple man. All I ask for is the chance to do things right.
And to kill you, of course.”
Superman spread his hands against the force-barrier, feeling of
it. “In case you haven’t figured it out, I’ve got a force-field
of my own. The seawater can’t touch me. Nothing can hurt
“True. But quite a lot can hurt King Armadon.”
There was a great pause while Superman considered that. “What’s
your plan, then?”
“Simple,” Muto said. “You let down your force-field, I’ll spare
the king’s life. If not, I’ll blow his brains out from the
inside. I’ll do his wife, too, just as an add-on. That’ll
just be the start, too, Superman. How many Atlanteans do you
think I can kill before you find a way of killing me? Oh, I
forgot. Silly me. You can’t kill.” Muto
laughed. “Another advantage of being a super-villain.”
“What happens,” said Alan, “if I let down the field and live?
Will you turn yourself over to my custody, then?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I want a win-win situation here.”
“All right, Muto,” said Superman. “Give me a few minutes to put
things to rights.”
The mutant’s voice held a touch of fury, then. “You fool!
Do you think I’d give you time enough to formulate one of your family’s
famous last-minute saves? Let your field down now, or he
dies! Do you understand me, Superman? He dies!”
“Oh...” said Superman.
An instant later, Muto turned his head at a sudden turbulence in the
water. He tried to keep his eyes from widening and his jaw from
dropping when he saw the blue, red, and yellow-clad form before
him. But he did it, nonetheless. Superman was
smiling. Muto’s two lieutenants didn’t even have time to cower.
“...I wouldn’t count on that,” Superman finished.
Then he hit Muto in the jaw.
The mutated villain was not physically what he should have been, and
Superman took that into account. Nonetheless, the blow robbed him
of his senses before he could manage to do much more than make a
half-formed thrusting pole of water which missed its mark by a
mile. No matter what, Muto could never match the Superman’s
hyper-light speed. He crashed against the wall of the palace and
lost consciousness. An instant later, his force-field faded
Superman went to his fallen foe, checked his vitals, and pressed a spot
that would keep him unconscious for as long as necessary. Then he
turned to Muto’s two aides. The king and queen of Atlantis were
nearby, astounded and speechless, but Superman’s words were addressed
to Muto’s helpers.
“You’re wondering how I breached Muto’s force-barrier,” said
Superman. “Let’s just say that the one I use is capable of a
little analysis. It told me how many pulses of energy the field
was sending out per nanosecond. Most things aren’t fast enough to
get between the pulses. Once I had it figured out...I was.”
With that, Adam Kent slugged both of Muto’s alien assistants lightly in
their jaws and watched them crumple in slow motion to the floor.
King Armadon, who wore a Neptunian beard and robes of office that
billowed behind him in the currents, half-walked, half-swam to
Superman’s side, followed by his wife, Amathea. He extended his
hand to the son of Krypton. “You have...performed well,” said the
king. “In the manner of your ancestors. After a thousand
years, the alliance still stands.”
Alan Kent smiled and clasped the monarch’s hand. “From my
ancestor to the descendant of Aquaman,” he said. “The alliance
stands, King Armadon.” Then he grasped the smaller hand of the
queen. “And for you, milady.”
She nodded, awed by the man’s power. Superman said, “I have to
get these idiots into custody before Muto awakens. Their personal
fields might not hold much longer, anyway. Farewell, King
Armadon, Queen Amathea.”
“Farewell, Superman,” said the King of Atlantis. “May the waves
of destiny carry you to your true path.”
Alan looked at him, tried to think of a suitable Kryptonian blessing,
and simply said, “Rao be with you.” Then he gathered the three
interlopers, tied them together with his cape, towed them through a
window, and propelled his body towards the surface. He could
sense the telepathy of over a million Atlanteans, thanking him and
wishing him well.
He decided that, just maybe, this might be a job he could grow to like.
All the same, he felt more secure when he reached the open air again.
The newscams were on Superman almost as soon as he reached the
skies. For security reasons, he had them leave as soon as they’d
gotten some good footage. For Klar Ken, one of the hardest tasks
he’d faced in his entire career was not to show his pride while he
watched the live feed. After all, he was still in the office.
Lyra Lennox Kent had no such problems. In the privacy of home,
she exulted with relief and triumph. On the spot, she composed a
poem of gratitude. Then she called up both her husband and Adam
and, in coded tones, let them know how she felt and asked them what
they felt about Alan’s deed. Klar said, “It’s a maxplus day for
the world at large. The new Superman has made a good showing, and
Metropolis should be proud.”
Adam said, “I’m glad he was successful. The world will always
need another Superman.”
For his part, the new Superman had to haul out a projector and send
Muto and his cronies to the Phantom Zone. In a way, that was a
touch of vigilante justice. But the Rokynian Science Council had
passed such legal power to the Superman of Earth, as the first one had
in centuries past, with the option of reviewing sentences. Most
doubted very much that Muto’s sentence would be reversed. The man
in the cape returned the projector and the force-field belt to their
hiding places in the asteroid Fortress. Then, somewhat tired, he
had just enough time to catch a meal at home, get dressed, and get to
the studio for another taping of “We’re All Martians”.
All of that, Alan reflected, and the only thanks he’d get for awhile
would be a yelling director.
But the taping came off okay and the crew called it a wrap shortly
after midnight. Alan handprinted his way into his
apartment. But as he lay his palm on the sensor plate, he knew
something was wrong.
The temperature inside was warmer than it would have been if it was
unoccupied. He trained his X-ray vision on the room an instant
before the door schussed open.
“You,” he said, stepping over the threshhold.
Katherine de Ka’an was sitting lotus-fashion in mid-air, dressed in a
unisuit and smiling at him. “And you,” she said.
He made sure nobody had seen her as he shut the door behind him.
“Never should have given you a pass. Doubledamn. Whyfor you
She descended lightly to the floor. “To congratulate you,
Alanian. None of the family could make it over, although they
left a lot of messages for you. Myself, I prefer the personal
Alan sighed, weary as Sheol. “The personal...touch?”
Kath looked at him, seriously. “Would you mind a touch,
“No,” he said. “That is...if you really mean it.”
She nodded. Neither of their eyes left the other’s for a very
Then they went to an inner chamber and soft rituals began.
“Why me? I thought Adam was the one you pinedup for.”
“Right. My brother. Big credit load, big power macher, not
a once-starving actor who had to brace pals for eating money.”
Katherine de Ka’an shifted in bed. “Are you fishing for a
comparison between you and your brother, Alan?”
He shrugged. “Couldn’t deny it.”
“What if I just said a man in uniform turns me on?”
“If that’s true, why’d you make me take it off?”
He grabbed her playfully. “And now to show you just how I took
“Oh, stopstop! What do you want me to say, Alan?”
“Just the truth.”
Katherine sighed, straightened her legs under the covers. “What
if...what if I said, Alan, that even though your exteriors are
comparable, your interiors are a lot different?”
“Adam’s got his charm. He’s used it on a lot of women, present
company included. But...I don’t know. There’s something
cold in him under the outercrust. Like cast venadium. I
don’t...I don’t trust him.”
Her fingers traced his bicep. “There’s something more in
you. I can’t deny you’re hesitant, maybe scared, about what you
have to do. But your core...it’s a lot warmer than Adam’s.
A lot warmer.”
He paused before saying, “Thank you.”
Katherine snuggled a bit closer. “I don’t think we should let on
about this just now.”
“Don’t see how we can keep it a secret, Kath.”
“Do you really want to give your brother another reason to hate you?”
He looked at her. “Adam doesn’t hate me!”
She gave him back the look, and remained silent. Finally he said,
“What makes you think Adam hates me?”
“Wouldn’t you? You have everything he wants.”
“He’s an uptimer! Money, fame, politics, women, all even
somebody in the Family would want.”
“Yes, Alan. But he doesn’t have the uniform. He can’t be
the Superman. You are.”
Alan considered it. “I can’t believe my brother would hate me.”
Kath shook her head. “I hope he keeps it a passive hate,
Alan. You are his brother. But...”
She drew up her knees under the covers and lay her head on them.
“But I don’t know about the family, Alan. They’re not together on
“Kath, they never have been.”
“No, they haven’t. But not as bad as they are now. There
could be a split, Alan. If that happens...Rao help the
Earth. Rao help us all.”
He had nothing to say to that. Instead, Alan Kent simply lay back
After awhile, they made love again and went to sleep, to have their
The world rolled on.
Adam Kent flew over the city of Metropolis, a cloaking device
concealing his form.
With his Kryptonian eyes, he could perceive every detail of the
panorama of humanity below him. Every good thing, every bad
thing, every indifferent thing. He could have stopped the bad
things. But what did he care? Was that not the Superman’s
job? And was he Superman now?
No. Not yet, at any rate.
His brother had done well. He had defeated Muto, saved Atlantis,
and remanded the menace to the Phantom Zone. The news organs were
already praising him as if he had won a war, and none praised him more
than the Daily Planet.
But there were more Kryptonians on Earth than just the Superman.
Adam shook his head, sadly. Would Rao that he did not have to do
what he must.
But power had to be in the hands of those who could use it most
efficiently, most wisely. Not expended on puny conventional
thugs, or even on superhuman menaces. It must be used to remake
society into a more efficient thing altogether.
“I pray you will forgive me, my brother,” said Adam, softly.
But in the end, he reflected, it wouldn’t matter whether Alan did or
Adam Kent flew on, the darkness concealing him within and without.