Super-Stars of Space: The Universe and Mr. Leiber, Chapter 13: Damsel in Distress

by Libbylawrence

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Meanwhile, Queen Zazzala of the hive world of Korll had been imprisoned for far too long by her silent robotic captors. She had thrown more than one tantrum, but her outbursts had failed to produce any result in her emotionless captors. She could neither threat, plead, nor seduce the robots, and she was feeling more helpless than she had ever felt before.

“What do you want with me? Who created you?” she shrieked as a robot delivered her daily meal. The robot made no reply, but merely turned and walked out of the holding cell.

Zazzala hurled the tray against the wall in fury as the cell door slid shut behind the silent sentry. She still had her magno-rod, but other than enabling her to keep her mobility, it was of no use to her.

Mindless beings can’t be put in my hive-computer! she thought. I should have anticipated that weakness in my defenses long ago!

As her captivity passed slowly, she had begun to lose some of her royal mannerisms. She was beginning to actually feel responsibility for her plight, if not actual sympathy for her drones she’d sent out to be slaughtered. She was also longing for some type of human response from anyone, since the robots were infuriatingly silent.

That was why Queen Zazzala, the superior Queen Bee who had scorned all other life forms as inferior to her, actually threw herself into the arms of the handsome young man who miraculously materialized within her sealed cell.

The man had long blond hair and wore a costume of gold, indigo, and green, and smiled at her winningly before suddenly kissing her.

“How dare you? Who are you?” sputtered the Queen Bee.

With a smile he said, “I am Ron-Avon. I detected the odd magnetic pattern your rod emits, and thought I’d check it out. You see, it spoke to my own gauntlet!” He gestured to a strange device that he wore on his left forearm. It was a sophisticated alien device that resembled a gauntlet, but contained dozens of tiny gleaming facets.

“I am Queen Zazzala of Korll!” she said as she fought to regain her dignity.

“Pleased to meet you,” said Ron-Avon. “You’re the prettiest woman I’ve seen in days!”

Queen Zazzala drew herself up regally and said, “My beauty is superior to anything in the universe!”

“Like I said, you’re not a bad-looking babe!” replied Ron-Avon. “Of course, a roving space hero like me runs into some pretty far-out chicks!” Suddenly, he frowned and said, “My power gauntlet tells me we’d better get out of here. The magnetic resonance that your rod gave off led me here, but there’s a more powerful force nearby, and the gauntlet says it means business!”

“Take me with you!” cried Zazzala. “I am a captive here!”

“Don’t worry,” said Ron-Avon, “I’m a hero. I do the whole damsel-in-distress rescue bit all the time!”

One he had pulled her into his arms, they teleported away from the cell into an orbiting ship above a blue planet.

“That world is Dryanna,” said Queen Bee with a look of recognition. “I have had dealings with its former dictator, Xandor!”

Ron-Avon shrugged and said, “One cosmic bad guy is pretty much like every other would-be tyrant. I guess I’ve lost count of how many I’ve had to take down!” He paused, then added, “My gauntlet says we’re about to be boarded! I think our exit triggered some alarm! Well, not to fear. I’m more than a match for anything Dryanna can dish out!”

Zazzala’s eyes widened as a newcomer vibrated through the wall of the ship to stand before them. This figure was powerful and almost swaggered in his overwhelming confidence. He wore a very famous costume, and his handsome features were only slightly altered by a cruel look in his keen blue eyes.

“Superman!” gasped Queen Bee as she recognized their attacker.

“I’ve come to take you back to Dryanna,” he said, taking a step toward her. “After all, even a minor entity like you might prove useful in the harem someday!”

“Don’t be fooled by this super-wolf in sheep’s clothing,” warned Ron-Avon. “He can’t be the true blue Man of Steel!”

The intruder laughed and said, “I’ll prove it by breaking you in half, you young punk!”

Ron-Avon glanced down at his gauntlet and shook his head. “It can’t be!” he said disbelievingly. “The gauntlet is never wrong. She says he really is Superman!”

“You can just call me your executioner!” said the Man of Steel.

Ron-Avon jumped in front of Zazzala and said, “The force-field my gauntlet generates may shield us!”

Superman slammed one fist into the unseen field and nodded in approval. “Very nice. I won’t be able to break through your energy-field for at least two more minutes!” he said, then resumed pounding against the field with full force.

Do something!” shrieked Queen Zazzala. “He’s clearly gone mad!”

Ron-Avon nodded and said, “Don’t panic. I may not have kryptonite up my sleeve, but I’ve still got a trick or two!”

As he dropped the field, he punched Superman in the chin. The bigger man stepped backward a pace or two, but otherwise showed no other signs of injury. “I actually felt that, punk,” he said. “You might give me a workout, after all!”

Ron-Avon deftly deflected a blazing beam of heat-vision, but he was clearly struggling to find a way to combat the universe’s greatest hero. Quickly aiming the gauntlet at the menacing figure, he smiled with relief as the blue-and-red-clad man vanished.

“I teleported him across the universe,” he explained. “That may buy us some time. My gauntlet knows everything. She will find out the secret of his sudden turn to the dark side!”

“You speak as though that gauntlet you wear is alive!” replied Queen Zazzala.

Ron-Avon grinned and said, “Well, of course she is! I’d be a real stooge to talk to her if she was just an inanimate object!” After he stared at the gauntlet for a moment more, he shook his head. “New information. He isn’t Superman, he just looks like Superman!” he said. “Of course! That’s why he didn’t recognize me! It’s been a few years, but I can’t imagine anyone forgetting me, of all people!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “No Mercy for a Hero,” Superboy #141 (September, 1967).]

“Speak clearly!” cried Zazzala frantically. “He’ll catch us again! I know he can detect and follow any teleportation trail you use!”

“OK, OK, it’s like this,” began Ron-Avon. “That goon out there is actually named Cha-Mel. He was one of several Kryptonian criminals imprisoned in the Phantom Zone until recent years, when they were freed on New Krypton! (*) Besides having the same powers as any Kryptonian, including Superman, he also has the ability to alter his appearance. And since he once successfully impersonated Superboy, it wouldn’t take much more of an effort for him to impersonate the older Superman.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See World of New Krypton: Supergirl and Valor: Homecoming, Chapter 3: Heir to the House of El and “The Super-Phantom of Smallville,” Superboy #162 (January, 1970).]

Already quite jumpy from her ordeal, Queen Bee screamed as the ship shuddered with Cha-Mel’s return.

“Now that mad me mad,” said the Kryptonian criminal. “I’m going to kill you right now. In fact, I’m going to kill both of you. My master can find plenty of other women of power to breed with!”

Ron-Avon laughed and said, “So, you’re here merely to help your slave master get dates? Plenty lame!”

Cha-Mel hesitated, then retorted, “I’m no slave. I’m richly rewarded for defending the new ruler of Dryanna. He wants to sire a race of super-beings, and I find suitable mates for him. The robots I built for him are the true slaves.”

In the blink of an eye, he dived at Ron-Avon, who fell hard and struggled to stop the fake Superman from beating him to death. He tried to pry Cha-Mel’s fingers from around his throat as he listened to the mental voice of his gauntlet as she advised him what to do next.

Queen Bee hesitated as she tried to find some way to save herself. She grasped her magno-rod, even though she knew she could not transfer Cha-Mel’s mind into the hive-computer to join the thousands of other mental essences she had trapped within the remarkable device during her long reign. She had tried that tactic long before against the true Superman when she had faced him and his heroic allies, and it had failed.

“Use it, but reverse the flow!” gasped Ron-Avon, having already received the answer from his amazing gauntlet.

Queen Bee aimed the rod at Cha-Mel as he released Ron-Avon and stood up to face her.

“Your rod can’t harm me!” he said with a sneer.

Queen Bee opened the circuit to the hive computer back on Korll, and then obeyed Ron-Avon’s request. She reversed the flow, so that instead of robbing Cha-Mel of his mental essence and trapping it within the computer, she did the unthinkable. She released all the contained minds into his single brain.

The effect was nearly instantaneous, as Cha-Mel began to scream. Unable to process the psychic effect of containing so many minds, like angry bees trapped for too long, the shape-shifting Kryptonian staggered forward, only to fall at her feet, his eyes wide in madness, and his mouth open in a now-silent scream, having already reverted to his original form, that of a slender teenage Kryptonian with wavy brown hair.

“You did it!” shouted Ron-Avon. “You shut his mind down. Even a would-be Superman couldn’t function with thousands of other minds fighting for control of one brain!”

“I’d never even considered using the technology in such a way!” said Queen Zazzala.

“Of course not. Only my gauntlet could come up with the perfect solution!” said Ron-Avon. Looking down at the Kryptonian criminal, he added, “This bozo said he was collecting women of power for some breeding project. I’ll have to put a stop to that.”

“And what of me?” asked Queen Bee.

Ron-Avon smiled broadly, pulled her close, and said, “You can thank me in advance!”

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