Superwoman was in a bad mood. That in and of itself was neither unusual nor surprising. Princess Diana had been infamous for her rages and violence, both on her Sanctuary Isle home and since she had departed from that domain of peace and love. Now, the Amazon Princess charged through the lush campus of Holliday College near Georgetown and tossed back her head in laughter. She was amused at the chaos her rampage had created. She gripped a statue honoring the founder — a fat woman with heavy curls — and shattered it to dust. Screams greeted her rampage, and she scornfully called after the fleeing women.
“Bah — you simpering maids are not worthy of my ire. You are as puny and powerless before me as your spineless males,” she said.
She lifted a car and spun it across the campus, only to curse herself as she realized again how unsatisfied she was. No matter how much power she had or how many times she exercised it for pure sport or malice, she gained little in the way of fulfillment. She recalled her childhood on Sanctuary Isle. Her sisters had urged her to embrace their path of love and truth, but she had looked down on such virtues as being beneath her. She was a royal, and she was born to command. She still felt a sense of loss and fury when she recalled how her title had been stripped from her by her disapproving mother.
Now she turned to see a man with blond hair and a blue uniform rushing toward her — a campus security guard. For the merest moment, he had reminded her of someone else from her past. She listened as he cried, “Stop — I’ll shoot if I have to!”
She smirked coldly and noticed his shaking hands. “Oh, you’ll have to — I can assure you of that, little man,” she purred.
Jumping forward, she crushed his gun around his hand. She slapped him down and then coldly crushed him beneath another hastily grabbed car. “You look like somebody I hate. Too bad for you,” she said bitterly.
“You look like a spoiled girl in need of a beatin’, sister!” said a black man as he flew toward her on a stream of energy blasts that lifted him aloft as he blasted away at the ground.
Superwoman smirked again. “Oh? And who are you to dare challenge me?”
“Storm is my name, Legs,” he said. “And if you weren’t such a witch, I’d be hearing you call it out again and again.”
She reached for a bench and bent it into a ball of metal, which she hurled forward with a grunt. The man concentrated, causing his energy blasts to melt it, and stepped forward. “C’mon, Mama, we can dance this dance all night, but I got things to do, and they surely don’t include you,” he said in a deliberately taunting manner.
She grew angry. “Insolent dog! Luthor himself never dared demean me with such brazen words!” she cried.
Storm laughed. “Luthor? Luthor? He wouldn’t last a day in my neighborhood.”
He gestured, and Superwoman gasped as his energies swept her off her feet and slammed her through a wall. She shook off brick and struggled upward, only to receive another blast. She disappeared beneath the rubble, and as she erupted skyward in fury, her foe darted aside and gripped her around the hips.
He planted his lips against hers, and she glowed briefly before passing out at his feet. “See, honey, my energy can be internalized, too — but you learned that the hard way,” he said.
“Ironic, my resorting to artificial street jive on a campus so like the ones I attended while studying to be a physician,” he laughed. “A brother does what the Brethren want, though,” he said as he dragged Superwoman away.
Ultraman’s encounter with the Brethren occurred outside the tiny community of Smallville, Kansas. He had formed an attraction to the rural town and the elderly Kent family during a period of amnesia. Even now, after regaining his sense of self, he felt something akin to affection for the farm family who dwelled there and had sheltered him. They had no idea Cal was Ultraman, nor did they know him as Clark Kent — the big city newscaster he had been for a time. They only thought of him as the strong, taciturn man who enjoyed their company and returned to visit them from time to time. Hours before, he had been sitting across from Jon Kent. The slight old man had watched him with an intent but warm scrutiny until he had said, “What’s wrong?”
Jonathan Kent had smiled gently and replied, “Something’s botherin’ you. I can tell you’re thinking about someone. Is it your old man? Or a woman?”
Cal had shrugged. “You got me figured out. I was recalling my own father. He was cold, critical, and so smug. He thought he was so big. No one could touch him… but he was wrong.”
Jonathan said, “Son, you have this bitterness toward him. He’s gone now. Let it go.”
Cal frowned. “He’s gone, but I still hear his big words and see his scowling face. Nothing I ever did was good enough for him.”
Jonathan knew Cal harbored some secret. He spoke of his late father as if he had somehow been responsible for his demise. The old farmer knew not to pry too much too soon. “I reckon not many of us ever get a father and son moment where the parent says he respects the son as a man in his own right. It’s what we all crave, but not what happens very often in life.”
Cal nodded. “Yeah. Maybe you’re right. I hate the old man, but it would have been different if he’d ever shown that he thought I was worth something.”
He departed and — as Ultraman — flew across the Kansas wheat fields. That simple farmer is more like the kind of father I should have had. Funny that some Earthling could be so wise, and my own brilliant crime lord father on Krypton never had a clue as to what I was feeling, he thought.
“How wise for a brutal barbarian in need of a sound thrashing,” said a taunting voice in his mind.
“Huh? J’onzz? You stay out of my head — I’ve warned ya,” he muttered as he thought of his Martian ally.
“I’m not the alien vermin, alien vermin! I’m a natural-born Earthling. And I’m going to demonstrate just how superior a man I am,” echoed the voice as a painful blast of mental force struck Ultraman’s brain.
He crashed, forming a huge trench in the earth before roaring in anger and rising up again. “Face me like a man — I dare you!” he shouted as he staggered with vertigo from the mental attack.
“Oh, I will — but not like a mere man. More like homo superior — mutant man,” said the man, who landed nearby. “I am one who was born with something more than the common lot of humanity. That gift enabled me to run this world in shadow and secret, but now something — call it boredom — leads me out to openly display my inherent greatness.”
He was handsome and imposing, but he wore no colorful costume. He was merely dressed in a costly designer suit like some governmental leader or head of a company. The brown-haired man smiled and sidestepped the attack while bringing both fists down on his charging foe’s broad back.
“So easy. Sad, really. How like a caveman to react with mindless violence when faced with a Man of the Future,” he said.
He gripped Ultraman’s chin, and his eyes flashed with power. “You will never lift your hands against me again. It is unthinkable. You simply cannot attack me. Does that little brain of yours understand my directive?” he commanded.
Ultraman stood dazed and nodded.
“Excellent. Join me and my Brethren of Mutants as we conquer your little band of renegades once and for all,” said the man.
He adjusted his suit and flecked away a bit of lint. “Note to self: I must see about inventing a fabric that resists dirt more effectively. Perhaps I’ll have a few extra minutes after ridding earth of both the Crime Syndicate and Luthor’s misfits,” he said.