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by Gary Wilbur
Bizarre was the only word for it, this travesty of every kind of reality he had ever seen. Ignition was used to answering the call of his sovereign, a man who was Kryptonian and therefore so much more powerful than he was. He had enlisted in his service as soon as he realized that. He needed someone that powerful to kill the god-man, the object of his hatred. "First of all," Ignition had told Zed upon their first meeting, "Your name is Zod, and you are a general. Someday you will find a man with powers similar to yours, but with beliefs that are anathema to you. You must rid the world of him, and if possible, I claim the privilege of dealing the death blow. Until then I pledge you my support."

It was at a moment of contemplating the prospect of revenge that he felt reality slip away all around him, and he found himself among this bizarre population in this bizarre world. Ignition's cold intelligence, however, allowed for no seduction by this strangeness. There was always an opportunity for building a power base, even here.

Yes, he could see that this Joker character seemed to have all the power, but he could also see that he was unstable. Ignition knew that the unstable always eventually fail, so he began immediately to seek those he could manipulate, and Bizarro was perfect. Bizarro was seen as a hero here, so becoming his ally was an obvious move. But he was also naïve, simple. Ignition could lead him while appearing to follow him.

Then there was this "man who steals." This was the man! This was plainly a version of the man he hated in his own world, the man who killed his father, the man who came from another reality and murdered his father!

Ignition had the ability to size things up quickly. If he ever got out of this, and he would, then he'd find a way to bring his master here, and see what developed from that. He had long ago sworn to avenge his father if he could ever breach the reality barrier.

And now, miraculously, he had. Before the Joker's world finally dissolved, Ignition found himself able to extract a promise from the funny-looking dimensional wizard, Mxyzptlk. As he rebuilt reality, he kept Ignition here, and brought Zod in as well.

Bringing Bizarro was an inspired move. The dimwitted physical match for Superman proved to be the perfect training device for Zod.

A little research revealed that someone had already attempted to poison the god-man, but failed. So he resolved to find this perpetrator, and to enlist her aid in preparing his master for the task to come.

"Great Caesar's ghost!"

"Whoa, Perry, I haven't heard that one in a long time." Lois went over to view her boss's computer screen over his shoulder.

"You'd prefer great shades of Elvis? Look at this, Lois. Countries all around Pokolistan are suffering terrible disasters. Fires, floods, explosions . . . and it's all synthetic. Some radical group is claiming responsibility for it all."

"I'll write it up for the morning issue. What's this? They're making demands?"

"Call. Verify this, write it up, and get Olsen in here."

"You think he can get pictures?"

"No, I think he can contact Superman. We have a little more than just journalistic responsibility here. Maybe he can help those poor people."

"Look at this, Chief. Superman is who these guys want."


"Right here."

"Faora, spokesperson for the alleged perpetrators, was quoted as saying ‘These attacks will continue until the great coward Superman comes and faces us for the crimes he has committed' . . . Great Caesar's . . . "

"Yeah, I know. And I'm pretty sure Superman will respond, and soon."

"What could this be about?" the man of tomorrow wondered as he crossed the Atlantic at a speed unusual even for him. Although there was a little difference between the colors of his nation's flag and the colors of his uniform, there was almost no difference in the emotions they inspired in people when they appeared.

"Faora was the name of one of the Phantom Zone criminals. It couldn't be that she . . . No, that makes no sense. I guess I'll find out soon enough." Telescopic vision revealed to him just the person he was looking for, standing alone in a bleak and rocky area. He began his descent. Faora saw him, quickly muttered something into what looked like a cell phone, and turned to fire a flame-thrower at him.

"Die, alien scum!" she shouted.

The flame-thrower had no effect on Superman, but the cry did. "'Die, alien scum'?" He almost smiled. "What is going on, Faora?"

She was backing away from him, flinging hand grenades that she pulled from her belt. They exploded off Superman's chest as ineffectually as if they were water balloons. Faora kept looking over her shoulder as if she were expecting somebody.

"What's going on here?" Superman asked again as he grabbed her by the shoulders. It looked as if he were trying to gain the attention of an unruly child.

Her manner changed completely. She smiled up at him seductively. "What's going on? Why, Superman, can't you tell?"

"I can tell that you claim responsibility for these atrocities. I can tell you were firing flames and grenades at me. What do you call that?"

"It's all part of the dance, isn't it? I tease, you get all masterful . . . "

"Stop it. Tell me why I'm here. And who are you waiting for?"

"Him." Faora pointed to the horizon where Zod was speeding toward them. "We were stationed in various parts of the country so that whoever spotted you first could summon the others."

"Before he gets here, who are you working for?"

She smiled again. "General Zod."

"How did you . . . I mean, how could . . . "

"I was assigned to help him. Some time ago, by a group I work for, the Agenda. The assignment was to help prepare him to kill you. The person who tried to kill you with the nanobot was my boss, the Contessa del Portenza. When she sensed his power, and learned his mission was similar to hers, she sent me to work with him. I told Ignition that there was a tissue sample from her poisoning attempt that might prove useful to him. He immediately hired someone to get it for him. I worked with Zod to create Kancer from that sample. Ignition gave me my name. And as I worked with Zod I came to love him."

"Love him!? And you act this way toward me? You're a sick woman, Faora. You need help."

"Right now, Superman, it looks like you are the one who needs help." And she ran for cover as Zod roared into the battle arena.

Superman had suspected who the members of this group were when he first heard that their spokeswoman was named Faora, so he had come prepared. As Zod charged, the man of steel rose into the sky, reached back into a pouch in his cape and checked to make sure that a small lead box containing the kryptonite ring was still there.

"What works on me should work on another Kryptonian." And he flew straight at the lead-shielded supervillain who was charging him as well. "If the kryptonite is to work, I'll need to get some of that lead shielding off him."

The battle was on, and it really was a clash of titans. Superman was determined, but he knew that he was evenly matched. This was the man who had broken his jaw. It was a slugfest reminiscent of Doomsday.

"How did you get here, Zod? And why do you hate me so? Is it because of our encounter on Krypton?"

"Silence before me, you insolent peasant." And Zod dealt him a blow which knocked him several yards back. "We never met on Krypton."

Superman was instantly on his feet as Zod leaped at him and grabbed his throat. But a blow to Zod's midriff kept the grip from tightening, and Superman shook it off easily and threw Zod back. The next few minutes were crucial as Superman maneuvered to get a hold on part of the lead armor. But he was trying to do that with a man who was as powerful and fast as he was. It was no easy matter, especially since Zod seemed to catch on immediately what he was trying to do.

"It won't work, impostor," Zod taunted.

"Impostor? What are you talking about?"

"You claim to be the son of Jor-El. But . . . I . . . am the son of Jor-El." Zod dealt Superman a blow that should have knocked him across the field, but Superman got hold of the edge of Zod's helmet at the crucial moment and ripped a small crack in it.

Zod realized the importance of keeping the lead shielding, and he released his hold on Superman long enough to reseat his helmet. It was just long enough, though. Superman lunged at him, and gave the helmet a wrenching twist, ripping away a two-inch wide strip of it.

For the first time, Superman appeared to have the advantage, and he pressed it, crowding Zod as the megalomaniac desperately tried to recover the helmet piece.

"Who are you, Zod? Are we talking about a different Jor-El?" And before Zod could recover, Superman had torn away the helmet and found himself staring at a mirror image of himself.

The surprise was all Zod needed to regain the impetus of the battle, and he was instantly on top of Superman, weighing him down, his hands tightening on his throat. Superman could feel himself on the edge of blacking out, and he knew he had only one chance. He desperately fumbled for the cape pocket and drew out the lead box containing the kryptonite ring. And in one motion he flipped it open and clapped the open side firmly against Zod's neck.

Zod immediately lost his strength, and limply fell to the side, as Superman rolled to stay atop him. Keeping the box held to Zod's skin, Superman used his free hand to peel away portions of the armor. Then Superman leaped back and dropped the lead box, open side toward Zod, just out of the villain's reach, close enough to keep him weak, but not close enough to kill him. Staying on the lead-shielded side, Superman crawled, staggered, walked away, his powers returning the farther he got from the lethal glow.

"If you expect to stay alive," Superman bluffed, "Tell me who you are and how you got here." He was still astounded to see that Zod looked exactly like him. If Zod's experiences had been the same as Superman's he would recognize this as a bluff. But they had not.

"I am from a superior race, from the planet Krypton. I will recover from this, and I will defeat you and your country, eventually your planet. I came here when my own planet faced destruction. My parents, Jor-El and Lara, brought me to this planet which granted us these powers. A large chunk of kryptonite, a substance you obviously know is lethal to us, had lodged on our ship, and caused us to crash-land. My mother was killed in the landing, and my father, trying to pull her from the ship, slipped and fell on the kryptonite. I was a very small child and I was still in the ship. Some people from this planet found us and took my father away. He eventually died from prolonged kryptonite exposure, but I was taken and raised by Pokolistanians, people who despise the class structure of the western world. They recognized that I had the power to overcome that imperialistic society, and raised me that way.

"One day, this armor-clad fellow who called himself Ignition was introduced to me. He said he had lived in something called a pocket universe until the one who created it was done with it, and returned what was left of it to our reality. A person with powers like mine had come there and killed his father. He said that this person claimed he was the son of Jor-El, my father. He said that my real name was Zod and that I had every right to rule this planet. He said that together we would someday find you, although you lived in an alternate reality, and I would kill you and take my rightful place as ruler of this world. He has helped me in my rise to power in my country."

Superman hardly knew how to begin responding to this. But it didn't matter.

"Murderer!" Ignition hit Superman with a blast that sent him reeling. Superman had not even seen him coming. "Vile killer! Heinous scum of the multiverse!" Blast after blast kept knocking Superman farther and farther back. "Looking for a Kryptonian, are you? I may be only half Kryptonian, but I AM a match for you." Superman could barely get his footing as the missiles kept slamming into him. "I will bury you, butcher. In the name of my murdered father, I will bury you. I have adapted nuclear power to my use. It's kind of hard to stand up to, isn't it?"

"You . . . you're Kryptonian?" Superman had recovered from the surprise and was treading steadily closer toward Ignition, deflecting the blasts as he came.

"My father was Kryptonian, not my mother. So this does not harm me." Ignition snatched up the little lead box, snapping it shut. In that time, Superman was upon him. They grappled for control of the box.

"Tell me why you hate me, Ignition. What do you think I've done? You called me a murderer, but I don't kill."

"You did once. You murdered the greatest man of my world. He was the supreme ruler until some dissidents sent someone to another reality and brought you back to kill him."

"Ignition . . . "

"Shut up. You had no way of knowing he had a surviving son. I could not match his power, being half human, but I hid in a nuclear plant and learned to survive in an empty world. I learned to use nuclear power to enhance my life functions, and I even discovered this alien metal that makes me invulnerable. With that I became as powerful as he . . . or you."

"Ignition, you may not want to hear this about your father . . . "

"Quiet, murderer. I said I'd bury you, and I will. If it kills us both, I will bury you at the heart of the Earth that gave you such power." With that, Ignition slammed himself and Superman to the ground, and using a series of blasts from his shoulder engines began burrowing deep into the earth. Superman could tell immediately that he meant to drag them into the core of the earth.

"This won't do it, you know, Ignition. I have survived being at the heart of the sun. Do you think this will harm me?"

"With exposure to this it will." Their invulnerable bodies were shielding the lead box from the heat. They were nearly at the core of the earth when Ignition finally managed to open the box of kryptonite. But there was no kryptonite effect at all.

"Do not fear, Father," came a voice.


"No. Not Kancer. Don't fear. You saved me. I'll save you. I am absorbing the green radiation. And now . . . "

Ignition's grip on the box slipped, Superman slammed it shut, and Ignition was whisked away as if shot from a cannon.

"Nooo!" Ignition's voice trailed away to nothing.

"What did you do?" Superman asked of the voice. "You didn't kill him, did you?"

"Possibly. I don't know. Can he survive being part of a volcanic eruption? You should be safe to return to the surface now."

"Who are you?"

"I am Earth. You should know me . . . Father."

Upon his return to the surface, the man of steel found no trace of Faora, Zod or Ignition. What a mix, he thought. All these people had slightly different reasons to want to kill me. You can never know why someone becomes your enemy. He glanced down at the lead box in his hand, the box he needed to return to Bruce. And though you sometimes know who your allies are . . . He rose high into the blue sky, those inspiring primary colors gleaming in the sun, and he looked thoughtfully at the Earth. . . . there are some times when you just don't.