Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Suicide Mission, Chapter 3: Saving Superman

by Libbylawrence

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On a street in downtown Metropolis, Clark Kent stiffened and almost collapsed to one knee as he felt waves of pain. “Can’t understand it. Feels like kryptonite,” murmured Superman in his secret identity.

It didn’t make any sense to him, since he was wearing a lead-lined protective suit that should have completely shielded him from any residual kryptonite radiation in Metropolis. This same suit also disguised his appearance with a hologram that made him look just like he did when he was playing the part of Clark Kent.

Moving out of the line of vision of any onlookers on the street, the walking Superman tried to catch his breath, hoping that a relapse of kryptonite poisoning had not afflicted him again as he struggled to make his way back to his apartment building. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman Family: Recovery.]

***

Captain Comet and his team burst into the old house to see a very modern laboratory, and within that a few strange figures. In addition to a worried-looking Dr. Alex Atley and his daughter Carol, the Vanquisher, Dynamic, and a strong black-haired woman in a red minidress stood around a medical table. On the table reclined an odd mixture of man and machine, a figure who now smiled sinisterly.

“Ah, the ‘good guys’ are here. Too bad you came too late.”

“I know this creep,” said Comet. “He’s called Metallo.”

“Yes, I am Metallo, also appropriately called the Man With the Kryptonite Heart,” laughed the villain.

“That’s the substance that hurts Superman,” noted Dolphin as she moved closer to the Atleys.

“Yes, that mischievous Mr. Mxyzptlk recently dumped the kryptonite asteroid of Argo City on Metropolis, and the place is flooded with the stuff,” sneered the villain as he jumped down from the table. (*) “They’re still trying to get rid of it all. What better time than now, when he must be at his weakest point, to make my own play at the Man of Steel?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Phantom Zone: The Final Chapter,” DC Comics Presents #97 (September, 1986).]

“That explains it. With your kryptonite heart, you’re trying to use the Cardialink to kill Superman. Not if I can stop you!” said a determined Comet. He slammed into the evil cyborg, and they struggled to the floor.

“Too late, do-gooder!” said Metallo. “The ‘Link ties a user’s heart to the Earth’s very core — the pulse of the Earth, if you will. In some cases, a damaged heart could cause earthquakes — in mine, it merely permeates the very atmosphere with kryptonite radiation. The very Earth is killing Superman as we speak.”

Metallo struck Captain Comet with a powerful left. The red-and-blue-clad hero, more stunned at the audacity of the plan than the villain’s attack, shrugged off the punch and tried a desperate tactic. Scooping up Metallo, Comet flew through the roof. “If I can get you off Earth, the damage may stop,” he vowed.

“Not likely, fool!” said Metallo, who struggled in vain as his found his mighty cyborg arms pinned back by the hero.

***

Dolphin danced nimbly between Vanquisher and Dynamic. Her lithe form easily avoided the clumsy charges of the villains whose hypnotically induced powers made them grow larger and more muscular than their ordinary selves. She spun and kicked the purple-costumed Dynamic with her leg. Thanks to much time spent in the crushing depths of the ocean floor, Dolphin was stronger than normal humans, and she used this strength to follow up with a second kick. Dynamic rolled forward into a machine that sparked, but he remained standing.

Starman faced the vain Vanquisher and said, “Surrender now. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I doubt you can, boy,” laughed the blond thug. “Errol Flynn!” he cried, and was slightly bigger than he’d been before.

Starman met his charge and remained unmoved. I guess I’m as strong as this guy, thought Will, generating a mighty energy blast that shook Vanquisher to the ground.

As Dolphin kicked at Dynamic, she also dived out of the path of Vanquisher’s patented biomedical blast. Then the red-dressed woman grabbed the struggling Dolphin in her strong arms. “I am gonna snap you like a twig,” she laughed.

“Now, Ultimate, be modest,” laughed Dynamic. “The Doc’s actualization plan doesn’t make you that strong.”

The dark-haired woman called Ultimate smiled and began roughly shaking Dolphin like a rag doll, an attack that would have caused any normal woman to pass out in moments. Instead, Dolphin braced her shapely legs and twisted them, causing Ultimate to trip and fall over the demure platinum blonde. “AAARRRGH!” the villainess yelled as she fell down hard.

Seeing the way that the battle was going, Dynamic spun around and made his way out through the back door, unseen during all the tumult. The battle had snapped him out of his trance, and Peter Barton knew he was in way over his head. All he wanted to do was return to Florida, where he knew his wife would be worried sick waiting for him. Valerie, I’m so sorry, he thought to himself as he used his powers to race off at a high rate of speed, while hoping those powers wouldn’t fade on him now.

***

Above the house, Captain Comet sent Metallo crashing down through the broken roof, slamming him down onto both Vanquisher and Ultimate, knocking all three out. “That should stop you and your goons for awhile,” he said, settling down near the trio of unconscious villains.

“Captain Comet, the only way to shut the two-part Cardialink mechanism down is to dig up the first part from the center of the Earth,” cried Dr. Atley. “As head of Project: Earth-Heart, I used laser technology to bore a hole all the way down to the earth’s inner core and fired the first part of the Cardialink down there, while the second part is currently in Metallo’s chest cavity, of course. This device traces the pulse of the first. Hurry!”

Comet nodded. He had realized his earlier plan was futile if Metallo still remained so confident. Taking the device, he waved to Will Payton and called, “Starman, I’d appreciate your help!”

“What’s up, Captain?” asked Will, thrilled at the use of his adopted heroic name.

“You and I are going to have to recreate one of Superman’s most incredible feats if we’re going to save the Man of Steel,” began Captain Comet. “And with your power added to mine, we might just make it in time!”

“Just show me what to do, and I’ll be glad to help,” replied the young hero, and immediately Adam Blake began mentally broadcasting exactly where they needed to go.

Within moments, the two were airborne, soaring at high speed to a certain point outside Metropolis, where they finally and decisively crashed straight into the earth itself using their combined power. Miles and miles downward they pushed with all their might, with Comet’s jets blazing and Starman’s bolts carving a path through solid rock as if it were butter.

Will traveled faster than he’d ever thought possible as he and Captain Comet passed through the crust into the mantle, and finally into the earth’s core itself. He couldn’t have accomplished a feat himself, but with Adam Blake guiding him and protecting both of them from the incredible forces of heat and pressure, they reached the inner core.

Amidst the molten magma, Captain Comet and Starman located the matching Cardialink using the tracking device. The moment that Will grabbed the Cardialink, which was enclosed in a clear globe made of some glasslike material, Comet brought them back up through the same way they’d come down.

Several moments later, the two heroes burst through the surface of the earth. Captain Comet and Starman continued their journey together as they soared upward at high speed. Got to pray we’re in time, Comet thought. Can’t let my friend Superman die! Reaching the upper atmosphere with Starman, he then tossed the Cardialink toward the sun, adding speed to the device via telekinesis.

Captain Comet and Starman returned to the surface soon after, each hoping that this great feat they’d accomplished together had done the trick.

***

At the old house, Metallo and his two remaining super-lackeys had just begun to recover. Upon seeing Captain Comet and Starman return, Metallo roared in frustrated rage as he realized what they had done. “Curse you! Without the ‘Link in the core, I’m back to where I started!” The villain ran toward Adam Blake, who brought his fists upward at top speed, catching the cyborg and sending him down hard.

“We could have just tossed you into the sun instead,” threatened Comet.

Once more, Starman traded blows with Vanquisher, whose blasts failed to do any harm to Will Payton’s altered metabolism. In fact, after his visit to the earth’s core, Will had begun to think that nothing was impossible. Maybe I could even join the JLA someday! he mused in wonder.

Nearby, Dolphin used her greater agility to toss the stronger Ultimate into Metallo’s metallic frame. She staggered up, then fell again.

Catching Vanquisher’s arm, Starman flew upward, dragging his foe along. After blasting the felon’s left boot jet with his stellar energy, disabling it, he then let go of the vain villain. Vanquisher yelled and flailed around desperately before dropping to earth with a crash. “Happy landings!” quipped Starman as he checked to be sure that the fall had only stunned the man.

Captain Comet hit Metallo again and again, but the cybernetic villain refused to stop fighting, despite growing weaker and weaker. “Where are Cheetah and Golden Glider?” Adam demanded. “I know Vanquisher and his allies took them.”

“I assure you they did so only for their master, who helped them get or regain their powers through what they call self-actualization,” said a now-sagging Metallo. “I don’t know who he is — he just loaned them to me to do menial tasks, since you decimated my original team back at STAR Labs.”

“I think the cyborg may be speaking the truth,” said Dolphin. “I can’t find anyone else here. And Dynamic is already gone.”

At that moment, Alex Atley cried out, “My baby — help her! Carol’s heart is as weak as mine was — she’s having a heart attack!”

Captain Comet glanced at the pretty blonde, who was pale and in obvious pain. “Can’t get her to the hospital in time with that bad a heart!” said the man of the future. “I wonder — could I save her with another Cardialink?”

With decisive action and Dr. Atley’s aid, Adam Blake operated on Carol using the lab’s state of the art equipment, employing all the skill and knowledge of a great doctor thanks to his amazing mental gifts and decades of specialized reading and study. With Atley’s expert aid, they implanted another Cardialink pacemaker device.

All that remained now was for Captain Comet and Starman to bury the other part of the new Cardialink once more in the earth’s core.

***

After an amazing second trip to the inner core, Captain Comet explained upon their return what he had done to save Carol Atley’s life. “By altering your basic valve-design to make it a one-way link, Dr. Atley, the new, improved Cardialink will give Carol the stamina and power of the Earth’s pulsing core — but won’t allow her illness to cause the quakes like your heart did or poison the earth with kryptonite radiation like Metallo’s did. She may be better than before — she may even have the potential to be hero herself.”

“Thank you, Captain, thank you!” said Alex Atley, overwhelmed with emotion. His daughter Carol, still recovering from the operation, smiled her own appreciation.

Dolphin had already turned over Metallo, Vanquisher, and Ultimate to the authorities during Comet’s absence. “You really came through today,” she said. “You and Will both, in fact.”

“I’d risk a lot for someone like you,” replied Will Payton, obviously smitten by her.

“Thank you for your help, Will,” said Captain Comet, and held his gaze as he regarded the young hero. “Starman, would you like a job with us? We’d be glad to have someone like you, not just because of how powerful you are, but also because you have a good heart. Dolphin and I can both vouch for that.”

“I accept,” Starman said, truly honored.

“Now all we need to do is find Debbi and Lisa,” said Comet.

***

Meanwhile, in Apartment 3-D at 344 Clinton Street in Metropolis, Clark Kent began to breathe easy once more as the strange pain he had felt that had been eerily like kryptonite radiation had now finally ended.

How odd! thought Superman as a sense of great relief washed over him. Thank Rao that pain finally went away.

***

Elsewhere, Debbi Domaine, Lisa Snart, and Vivian d’Aramis awoke to find themselves in an odd cell.

“Welcome to my arena, my pretties,” said a weird little man.

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