by Martin Maenza
“Ugggh!” Val Armorr groaned as he shook his head. “It’s like a cloud has been lifted.” Karate Kid started to stand, only to see an equally shaky Superman starting to stand.
Then it all hit him.
Oh, no! I remember! I remember! he thought to himself. While Superman was off, I defeated that blob-like alien. But when I inspected it, I found something attached to it. It was a dark gray mass with small tendril-like appendages. I touched the mass, and it leaped to me. That was when my mind went into a fog!
Superman was started to appear more confident, standing more upright.
Whatever that was attached itself to me like some kind of parasite, Karate Kid concluded silently. It used me to attack Superman. I was a tool to it — a pawn. Its real target was Superman all along!
“Superman! Wait!” Karate Kid shouted.
The Kryptonian looked at the brown-haired hero quizzically, then smiled. “You have served your purpose,” he said in a menacing voice. “I no longer need you! I have the prize that I traveled across the expanses of the galaxy for! The power and might of Superman is known to many worlds. It is only fitting that I make him my own tool!”
Karate Kid was in a panic. It’s my fault Superman’s in this mess, he thought to himself. I have to get him out of this and stop that power-mad parasite. But how?
Suddenly, an idea flashed in his head like a light bulb. “Got it!” Karate Kid grabbed Superman’s arm and shouted, “Hey, wait!”
The Man of Steel glared at him. “You dare?”
“You want power, right?” Karate Kid said. “That’s why you came to Earth, right?”
“How would you like access to Superman’s great arsenal?” the brown-haired martial artist asked. “I can take you to it!”
Superman looked at him cautiously. The alien controlling him knew, of course, that it could easily tap into the Kryptonian’s physical abilities. But the same power that it used to suppress the mind of its victim also cut off said victim’s knowledge to the alien. “Why would you do that?”
“I–” Karate Kid stammered. “I — when you were controlling me, I could see the… potential in your plan. You want to conquer other worlds using Superman’s powers, right?”
“I can help!” Karate Kid lied. “I can serve as a warrior to your cause! Watch your back.”
The alien mind-controlling Superman considered. “Hmmm,” it pondered aloud. “I can see the potential in that. But how can I trust you?”
“You know me,” Karate Kid said. “From being attached to me, you know my moves. What I used to subdue Superman before for you won’t work again! You’ll be watching for something like that. I have no way to stop you. Nor do I want to.”
The alien considered. “Yes, that is true! Fine! You will take me to this arsenal.”
“Follow me, then,” Karate Kid said. He took to the air, thanks to the replacement Legion flight ring that he had gotten over the Christmas holidays from his visiting friends from the thirtieth century. (*) Superman lifted into the air and followed the brown-haired man up and out of the city.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Karate Kid: Times Past, 1981: An Old-Fashioned Christmas.]
Using the giant golden key that was disguised as an airline marker for jets flying over the region, Karate Kid instructed the possessed Man of Steel how to open up the giant door to give them access to the amazing Fortress of Solitude. As they walked through the main hall of the sanctuary, both men marveled silently at the huge statues and trophies that adorned the room.
Wow, Karate Kid thought to himself. I had heard of this place in holo-studies of ancient history, but it’s amazing to actually be standing here. It’s not like Kal had a place like this when I knew him as Superboy. He glanced around. Still, I hope I can find something here to deal with that little parasite and rescue Superman.
“Where is this arsenal?” the impatient Superman snapped. “You promised me great weapons to aid in my cause!” He lunged at the Kid, clamping his hand firmly about his throat. “If this is a trap–“
“No trap,” Karate Kid said, gasping for air. “I swear!”
Superman released his grip. “It better not be! For if you try to deceive me, I will destroy you in a most painful manner!”
Karate Kid rubbed his throat, which still had red imprints from the grab. “Of that,” he said softly, “I have no doubt.” He glanced about and saw one hallway leading off to the left. “This way.”
As they passed by the wing of the Fortress where the Interplanetary Zoo was, the sounds of the animals gave the possessed Superman some pause. “Ah, beasts I can harness,” he muttered softly.
Karate Kid, meanwhile, was still thinking his plan through. This creep knows of Superman’s power and reputation, he thought to himself. That means he’s probably aware of Superman’s weaknesses as well. Even if was considering exposing my friend to kryptonite, which I’m betting Superman must have samples of around here, I doubt the alien would let me. He’ll be watching for that. I’ll need something else!
They continued to walk about, arriving at a large vault. Val knew enough of the Kryptonian language to make out a word or two on it. There are weapons in there, he thought. I just hope there is something I can use.
“Well?” the alien controlling Superman asked impatiently.
“There are weapons in there,” Karate Kid gestured. He looked about the room and spied something on one of the recessed shelves along the wall. He tried not to smile.
“Then let us see what I can use!” Superman said as he grabbed the edges of the large vault door and pulled. His great strength easily tore the door off its hinges. Superman grinned widely as the alien relished in the display of power. “Yes!” He tossed the door to the side.
Karate Kid used that action to move to the side, pretending to avoid being hit by the discarded thick metal item.
Superman stepped into the vault, where various ray guns and other devices were stored upon shelves. “We will gather all of these up,” he said, “take them with us when we leave this planet. It will be entertaining to see what they can do as we prey about various planets, taking them over.”
“Before we do that,” Karate Kid called out, “perhaps you should check this out!”
Superman spun around. The brown-haired youth was holding a red device with a mounted disk. “What is that?” he asked with some concern.
“One of Superman’s greatest devices,” Karate Kid said. “One exposure to this, and you’ll have access to a most incredible realm!”
“Really?” the alien asked. “What realm?”
Karate Kid hit the switch, and a beam blasted out at Superman. “It’s called the Phantom Zone!”
“What–?” Superman gasped. Suddenly, he became intangible and started to fade out.
Karate Kid counted silently to himself for ten seconds. If what I remember Mon-El telling me about the Phantom Zone is true, I’m hoping this works, he thought. When he reached ten, he pressed the other button.
Superman appeared once more, a bit disoriented.
“Kal, are you okay?” Karate Kid asked cautiously.
“Val?” the Man of Steel blinked, shaking his head and getting a look at his surroundings. “We’re in my Fortress?”
Something gray fell to the ground behind Superman.
“Kal, move!” Karate Kid warned.
Superman reacted quickly and stepped to the side. His friend, meanwhile, trained the Phantom Zone projector back on the fallen mass and pressed the first button again. It faded from view once more. “What’s going on here? What was that?”
“Long story, my friend,” Karate Kid said. “I’ll fill you in over a quick bit if you’ve got the time.”