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#5: "On the Trail of the Future Man"
By Mikel Midnight

Rakdur Zarrko read the news article again, grinding his teeth. His twin brother Jondur had just been elected Secretary of Science by the ruling Government Council at their headquarters in New Gotham City, for his work with an experimental time machine. Zarrko swore to himself that he was not going to let his sibling get all the attention again. 2099 was going to be different; it was going to be the year he was going to make a name for himself.

He returned to his lab. In their separate chambers lay the two substances he had been studying for years. A small stone, glowing green: Nornonite, a fragment of the lost planet Kryptgard. A small grey chip of metal: the remains of the hammer of the 20th century super-hero Thor-El. From behind his camera-eye, he manipulated the fragments into the field of a samarium-cobalt magnet to fuse the pair together.

Zarrko shielded his eyes from the resulting glare, visible even through the optic lenses. When the light subsided, he watched, amazed, at the recorders. The energy levels generated by the fusion were almost off the scale. He sighed. The new substance had fantastic powers which, accumulated in sufficient quantities, would enable him to establish himself as dictator of the entire planet Earth. If only he could obtain a greater quantity! If only ...

He looked at the newsreader again. And this time, he smiled.

It was simplicity's sake to walk into his brother's laboratory, convincing the guards that he was his twin. Despite his disgust, he had to admit that he was impressed with the usefulness of the portable time-travel device, and easily incorporated it into a planet-suit. He had done his research into the 20th century legends. Thor-El had been interviewed extensively over the course of his career by two reporters, Clark Blake and Jane Lane. Zarrko set the spatial index for the astronomical location of the planet Kryptgard, and the chronal index for 552 AD.

He arrived in the planetary orbit, and consulted his historical map. There ... the capital, nation-state of Asgard. He adjusted the controls on his planet-suit and slowly entered the atmosphere. He had to be careful; the suit was solar-powered, and the red sun of this system wasn't as efficient an energy source as Earth's own yellow sun. He landed quietly in an unpopulated area, and shed the suit to begin the long trek towards Asgard. His face lit with awe as he approached the gleaming, mile-high towers of the city, an immense red tower in the center, dwarfing them all. As he passed through the city gates, he began to contemplate the next step in his mission, the residence of the planet's leading scientist-king, Odin-El.

Suddenly, he found himself surrounded by flame. Zarrko screamed in dismay. A voice spoke to him from the fires. "An alien, eh? Didst thou think thine entrance into our planet's atmosphere would go unannounced? Reveal thyself to me, mortal". Terrified, Zarrko babbled out his mission,

"Ahh ... thou art from the future ... and Midgard." The flames disappeared, and Zarrko found himself confronted with a heavy-set bald man sporting a thin mustache and clad in green and yellow. "Well met, my name is Loki-Ur and it appears I am in thy debt."

Zarrko swallowed hard, "My debt?"

Loki-Ur nodded, "Thou hast brought me information, that Odin-El is not so foolish as we might have thought, and that our planet will explode, a fate I wish to escape. In return, thou art seeking a device of Odin-El's ... something only I can help you find."

Zarrko said, a bit shakily, "I agree with the exchange."

Loki-Ur said "Excellent," and grabbed Zarrko by his collar. Zarrko panicked as Loki-Ur leapt an eighth of a mile into the air, dragging him along. As they entered farther into the city, they passed other Kryptgardians traveling similarly under their own power. Gods, Zarrko thought, what sort of supertown have I entered into? How could I have thought I could accomplish anything here on my own?

Loki-Ur finally leapt onto an open porch. "Here, the laboratory of our enemy. Even as we speak he is facing the Supreme Council, practicing his pointless demagoguery, and his wife Freyja sleeps. We are quite safe."

The pair entered the lab which was more advanced than anything Zarrko had ever imagined. They soon located the hammer, and Loki-Ur hefted it easily, passing it to Zarrko, whose shoulders ached under the weight. "It appears Odin-El is still in the processing of fashioning this device, but it will have to do. So, my friend, all that is left is for me to transfer thee back to thy travel equipment, no? And then to begin my own plans for constructing a craft which will allow me to escape to Midgard, myself."

Zarrko barely had time to voice his agreement, when Loki-Ur grabbed him by the collar again. They leapt through the city and beyond, and Loki-Ur deposited the human next to his planet-suit. Zarrko slipped into it, eyeing the Kryptgardian warily. "Where to next, my friend?" asked the latter.

Zarrko set his controls. "Back to the Earth of my own time, and then to the past. To manufacture the quantities of the isotope that I need, I require the use of a large amount of cobalt, the supplies of which have been nearly exhausted by my own time. But the late 20th century saw the greatest quantity of refined cobalt available."

Loki-Ur watched Rakdur Zarrko disappear into his own time and place. Perhaps I will see thee there, he thought, and returned to his lair to begin his own travel plans.

Clark Blake sat at his desk at the Planetary Bugle in Metropolis, New York, typing up the details of Thor-El's recent capture of a pair of bank robbers. He smiled to himself, his fingers churning out the prose at a pace much slower than his alter-ego would manage. With crime down 59% due to his presence, an altercation like this wasn't even front-page news any more. Blake the reporter was unhappy about the lower frequency of scoops he was able to achieve, though he did enjoy the medical beat which allowed him to use some of the knowledge he had acquired in med school. He missed that life, and missed being able to help people without transforming to his alter ego ... and it was such a fine thing for a farmer's son to distinguish himself that way. But he knew he could save more lives as Thor-El, and a doctor's schedule didn't allow him the flexibility he needed.

J. Jonah White burst into the office. The tall white-haired man with a cigar always in his mouth, was the owner of the Planetary Bugle but liked to exert editorial control, which pleased the paper's titular editor George Taylor not at all.

"Jane Lane!" he called out. "Yes, Chief," said the attractive brunette who had dominated crime reportage on the Planetary Bugle for years.

"Lane, get out to the United States Army base on the edge of town, between here and Gotham City. Someone's broken into it, and stolen a cobalt bomb ... and he seems to be carrying the hammer of Thor-El!"

Jane grabbed her coat, "I'm on it!" Clark stood up, leaning heavily on the cane he used as part of his disguise. "Chief, let me come with her. You remember I did the first interview in Metropolis with Thor-El, I feel I have a vested interest in this story. Besides, it might be dangerous."

The woman smiled at him, "I'm sure I can handle myself." She removed her small pistol from its lockbox in her desk and placed it in her purse. "I've been covering these stories when you were still wet behind the ears, farmboy," she said affectionately.

Clark sighed as he watched her leave; it was probably just as well, he could get there faster under his own power. "Chief, I think I'll take advantage of not having to work full time today." White replied, "Okay Clark but remember ... this is Lane's story. No trying to scoop her."

"I wouldn't dream of not playing fair with Jane," Clark quipped, and limped out to the elevator ... his limp turning into a run when he was out of view. "I'll just change in this abandoned alley," he thought. In the dark alley Clark knelt down with his cane, striking it on the ground. As he stood straight up a small bolt of lightning hit him and he became Thor-El, and soared skywards towards his destination.

He was stunned by the wreckage surrounding the base. Slowly, he descended, looking for the man who appeared to be leading the attack force.

"Captain Jack Selegue," the man said, extending his hand. "I hope you're here to clean up this mess."

Thor-El took the man's hand and nodded. "What was the cause of all this, Captain Selegue? I understand there was some sort of villain using a hammer like mine?"

Captain Selegue nodded. "He was capable of weather control ... he created these green tornadoes and lightning storms which devastated my attack force. Right now we've got him under guard, he's holed up in the storage facility where we have several cobalt bombs."

Thor-El pondered. He had considered the possibility it might be some rogue clone of his, created by Two Face's Double Helix - DNA Project, but what explained the green energy? He had never come across its like before.

He entered the facility. Zarrko was directing what appeared to be a large humanoid robot which was stacking cobalt bombs into the corner of the room.

"Well, my friend, would you care to explain your actions?"

Zarrko peered at Thor-El. "I was almost hoping you'd show." He held up a hammer which resembled Thor-El's almost exactly, save for its strange, green aura. "I am Zarrko the Future Man, and I have a surprise for you." He started to twirl the hammer in his hand, generating a miniature green whirlwind headed directly towards his opponent.

Thor-El used his own hammer to block it, but as the green energy came close, he felt his super-strength start to fade. "By Rao," he cried out, instinctively calling on the mythological sun god said to be the father of all Kryptgardians, "What is happening?"

Zarrko laughed, "It's called Nornonite, the one substance which can bring low a Kryptgardian. I have fused it with your own hammer, stolen from your creator Odin-El before Kryptgard even exploded, with the use of my own portable time machine."

"That's impossible," Thor-El cried out, desperately using his heat vision to weaken part of the building's support beams, causing it to crash down on Zarrko. He soared upwards, trying to place distance between himself and the deadly hammer.

Zarrko ran out of the building to see Thor-El hovering above him. "This hammer may not turn me into a Kryptgardian, but by fusing it with Nornonite I can generate more than enough fantastic power to bring you down!"

The Army corpsmen retreated as the base became filled with warring electrical storms, black and white lightning from the skies, and a terrible green from the ground. Captain Selegue cursed to himself from afar, as he saw the green winning.

Zarrko laughed as Thor-El crashed to the ground. "Now," he raised the hammer above his head, "time's up." He brought it down in a crushing blow, and it landed twelve inches to the right of Thor-El's head. The future man blinked, confused, and raised the hammer again. It came down on the left side. "What's happening?"

A dark figure with a large 'X' over his torso swung down on a rope. "I'm happening. My name is Bat-X, and I'm afraid I can't let you kill that man."

Zarrko raged, attempting to resist Bat-X's telepathic attack. In desperation he shouted out a command, "Robot, set off the cobalt bombs!"

Bat-X blasted Zarrko with an intensified telepathic attack in an attempt to halt the command, but it was too late. Zarrko fell to the ground as his robot began manipulating the controls of one of the devices. Bat-X leapt over to the robot in an attempt to disable it. He succeeded, but was too slow to interrupt the setting of the first detonator. He cursed to himself silently, and opened up a belt-radio. "Captain Selegue, prepare to emergency evacuate the area!"

"I'm not sure that'll be necessary," said a voice behind him. Thor-El flew over and grabbed the cobalt bomb from the hands of the unmoving robot, and sped into the air. From a distance, Bat-X watched as Thor-El threw the bomb into the air then used his hammer to create a vortex around it. When the bomb exploded, the energy was channelled harmlessly into space. Thor-El returned, alighting next to the new ally and the fallen foe.

"We make a pretty good team," said Bat-X.

"You think so?" said Thor-El.

Zarrko stirred. "What ... who are you two? Who am I?"

Bat-X knelt down and peered into Zarrko's eyes. "Amnesia. It appears I did some slight damage attempting to cut off his attack. Wasted effort, and now he's suffered from it."

Thor-El said, "You saved my life ... that wasn't wasted." He picked up the hammer, now with its Nornonite energy spent the apparent twin to his own.

Bat-X examined the artefact. "I scanned his mind. It's fantastic, the same hammer you're holding but from a different temporal era. What are you going to do with it?"

Captain Jack Selegue approached the pair, "The only thing you can do." His features started to shift and change. "Never fear, Captain Selegue is quite safe. You may call me ... the Space Phantom Stranger."

Thor-El nodded, "I've heard of you."

The Stranger said, "Those I represent, The Quintessence of Realities, have become concerned over the recent disruptions of the time stream." He took Zarrko by the hand and gently lifted him up. "This one is no longer any threat. I shall return him to the authorities of his own century, who will find some harmless occupation for him."

Thor-El said, "Thank you. But there is still the question of the second hammer."

The Stranger looked skywards, then back to Thor-El. "You have to restore the timeline. You must travel back to the Kryptgard of the past, meet your creator, Odin-El, and return his stolen property."


Thor-El= Superman + Thor
Clark Blake= Clark Kent + Don Blake
Rakdur Zarrko the Future Man= Rak Durr the Future Man + Artur Zarrko the Tomorrow Man
Loki-Ur= Loki + Jax-Ur
Jane Lane= Lois Lane + Betty Brant
Planetary Bugle= Daily Planet + Daily Bugle
Odin-El= Jor-El + Odin
J. Jonah White= Perry White + J. Jonah Jameson
Bat-X= Batman + Professor X
Space Phantom Stranger= Phantom Stranger + Space Phantom

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