ISSUE #21 (February 2020)
Written by Tobias Christopher
"STRANDED ON APOKALIPS"
Lois Lane stood in the centre of Supertown, the capital of New Genesis while wearing a strength-enhancing cyber suit. The inhabitants started to crowd around her to view the stranger who had landed in the middle of their town.
"I don't think I'm in Smallville, Kansas anymore,” Lois said as a shadow loomed over her.
"You are far from home, Lois Lane of Earth," Big Barda said. "Welcome to New Genesis. Perhaps you'd care to enlighten me on why you chose today to visit our planet."
Conner Kent screamed in pain as the electrodes attached to his head and chest sent pulses of electricity through his body.
"Such beautiful screams," Granny Goodness said with a sadness in her voice. "But we can do better, child. We can do much, better."
A loud gong echoed all around as Granny Goodness looked up.
"Oh, pooh," Granny Goodness sighed. "I am being summoned. Not to worry, dear boy, Granny will return for more playtime soon. Behave yourself in the meantime. Perhaps you can get to know your new friend, another earthling that's just recently joined our ranks."
As Granny walked away, Conner stared over to see something moving in the shadows, whimpering as it got closer.
"Who's there?" Conner asked. "Can you help me get out of here?"
Out of the shadows, a naked Jimmy Olsen crawled out, shaking with visible pain in his eyes.
Jimmy whimpered as he slowly backed away, too scared to get any closer.
"What the hell did they do to you?"
"Do you hate me?" Chris asked Kara as they flew low along the snow-covered ground of Apokalips.
"What? Why would I hate you?" Kara asked.
"It's just... ever you since you found out I was Zod's son... it just feels like you look at me like I'm below you."
"It's not because you're the son of Zod," Kara told him. "Well, not the entire reason. Look, I wasn't here during that whole period of Zod trying to kill my cousin and take over the world. On Krypton, the House of Zod used to stand for something. The name used to hold respect, which became tainted by General Zod trying to kill Jor-El and take over the planet.”
"And I want to change that," Chris told her. "I want the House of Zod to be respected, in a good way. I want people to look at me the same way they look at Superman. I don't want the name Zod to be feared. I want to help people."
"Then why are you using the House of El's symbol?"
"Excuse me?" Chris asked as he looked down at his bare chest with the 'S' symbol painted on it and realized what was happening. "You're offended by this."
Kara said nothing as Chris stared away.
"The Kents are my adopted parents," Chris told her. "I'm a part of their family. I'm a part of Superman's family. A part of your family. I'm sorry that you think I'm tainting your family's precious crest."
"Chris, it's not like that, I’m not offended by you or being adopted, I just want to—“ Kara said as Chris sped away in the opposite direction. "Chris, wait!"
"This is just so weird to take in," Jon said, having been dressed in a dark blue and grey suit with a long flowing blue cape. He walked Amazing Grace through the white landscape where the snow was starting to get deeper. "Those dreams just felt so real."
"I'm sure they did, my king," Amazing Grace told him. "But they were only dreams. This planet, these people? They're real. And you have an obligation to them."
"Then why can't I remember them?" Jon asked.
"The poison you ate affected more than just your body, it poisoned your mind as well," Amazing Grace lied as she put a hand on his shoulder. "Your memories may be gone forever, but believe me, you are the noblest king that Apokalips has ever had. You would give anything to ensure their safety. You would give the shirt off of your back to keep them warm. You would give the food from your own mouth so that they may eat. You would give your own life so that they may live."
"I sound pretty awesome," Jon said with a smile. "So, when does the snow stop?"
"That's the problem," Amazing Grace said. "It's not going to. At least not by normal means."
"Darkseid's going to kill my son?" Superman asked as he looked up into the sky at the distant planet of Apokalips. "I won't let that happen to him."
"Then both Apokalips and New Genesis are dead," the Highfather told him. "As the planets are connected, one cannot exist without the other. If one lives, both shall live. But if one planet were to perish..."
"You're asking me to let my son die so millions can live," Superman told him. "To make the ultimate sacrifice so Darkseid can have his damned equation?"
"No, Darkseid misinterprets the Source Wall's visions," Highfather told him. "The Anti-Life Equation won't come from your son's sacrifice, because the Equation died with the sacrifice of Bandit."
"The Anti-Life Equation was on New Genesis this whole time?"
"Darkseid has my boys," Lois told Barda. "Something happened on the way to Apokalips and we wound up here. I need to save my sons."
"To invade Apokalips is to invite war," Barda told her with a smirk. "I would relish the opportunity. Superman is an ally and a trusted friend. I will assist you. My mother box is at your disposal."
"Thank you," Lois told her. "But I need to find Superman. And anyone else who ended up here."
"Jimmy, buddy," Conner whispered as he tried to put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "I don't know what's going on, but I promise I'm going to get you home and we'll fix this. But first, we have to get out of this dump. If only I had a way of contacting Earth."
Jimmy stared up at him, realizing he could trust Conner. He pointed toward a control panel across the room.
"I'm still stuck in this cage," Conner told him. "Can you get me out?"
Jimmy nodded as he scampered toward the keys on the wall.
Kara, having found no sign of Chris, ended up spying a large crowd standing outside of a castle. She landed, hoping to blend in while searching for Chris.
"Citizens of Apokalips!" one of Darkseid's minions shouted as he stood on the balcony outside of Darkseid's palace. "It has been a long time coming, but the day of our salvation has finally arrived! This horrid cold temperature will soon be gone and the fires of Apokalips will rage once again!"
The crowd cheered as Kara looked around, barely paying attention to the balcony.
"And now, welcome the arrival of our saviour!" the minion shouted as Jon stepped out and waved. "Behold our planet's future!"
"Chris?" Kara asked as she looked through an alleyway. "Where are you?"
By the time Kara looked up, Jon had gone back inside. “I have to get in there.”
"If Apokalips is my planet, I have to find a way to stop this snow," Jon said as he continued to look outside. "I have to save my people."
"You can," Amazing Grace said as she continued to influence him. "But how far are you willing to go so save all you love? To ensure that life continues for the next few eons? To cement your legacy as the most beloved ruler Apokalips has ever known? Would you give your all, sire? Would you be willing to sacrifice your very life to save your world?"
"Sacrifice my life?" Jon asked as he looked out the window again. "Innocent lives are at risk. How can I call myself a leader if I can't save my people? I have to be willing to die to make sure they can live. I'll give my life to save this planet."
"No one knows how Bandit came to be," Highfather told Superman. "As far as we know, he didn't come from New Genesis or Apokalips. He just... arrived one day. And from the day the people of this world set eyes on him, Bandit was beloved. The day of his death caused much mourning. The entire planet stopped for three whole days to celebrate his life."
"How exactly did he die?" Superman asked.
"He was lured to Apokalips and fell into the firepits," Highfather told him. "But we couldn't prove that it was by Darkseid's hand. Not even when Kalibak delivered all that was left of his body.”
“So if Bandit was meant to give Darkseid the anti-life equation, then why didn’t he get it?” Superman asked.
“Bandit’s wings,” Highfather told him. “His wings were unsigned by the fire. They were the key, only by your son’s sacrifice would the key to the equation be truly unlocked.”
“Where are Bandit’s wings now?”
Chris stared down at his reflection in a nearly frozen lake, seeing the ’S’ shield painted on his chest.
“Is she right?” Chris asked himself. “Am I supposed to be a part of this? What about The House of Zod? What if I’m supposed to be restoring the family name to something with honour? I’m just so confused about everything lately, not just this. Nothing’s made sense since I escaped the Phantom Zone. Who am I?”
Having found a blanket to drape around Jimmy’s shoulders, Conner put an arm around his shoulder after being freed from his cell.
“It’s going to be okay, buddy,” Conner told him. “I don’t know how you ended up here, but we’ll get you back. You’re going to be alright. We just have to find Superman and we’ll get out of here.”
“Who said anything about leaving?” Granny Goodness said as walked through the door with several parademons. “There’s so much more fun to have.”
Kara snuck through the window, knowing that Jon was in there somewhere.
“Jon?” Kara whispered as she snuck down the hallway. “Come on, Jon, I know you’re here. If you’re in trouble, you don’t have to be afraid. I’ll save you, just tell me where you are.”
“I was told to protect the kid if trouble came calling,” Mad Harriet said as she appeared at the end of the hallway. “And look who’s on the other end of the line.”
“I can boom tube you to Apokalips,” Barda told Lois. “Unfortunately, our treaty with Apokalips will not allow me to join you, but we will assist you in any way that we can.”
“Right now, I need to find Superman and the kids,” Lois told her. “I appreciate any help you can give us.”
A small girl with super speed ran up to Barda and whispered in her ear.
“We have Superman,” Barda said. “Come with me.”
The Highfather brought Superman to a small monument, which was a grave with a marker of Bandit’s wings encased in stone.
“Those are his wings?” Superman asked.
“The grave is empty, but we had his wings entombed in stone as a reminder of him,” Highfather said.
“I need to get to Apokalips,” Superman said.
“And what of the pending destruction of both worlds?”
“I swear that I’ll find a way to save both worlds and my son,” Superman promised. “No one else dies because of Darkseid’s scheming.”
TO BE CONTINUED…
The Further Adventures of Sideways & Robin!
Sideways and Robin found themselves trapped in the Bleed, an inter-dimensional tear in reality that can take them anywhere except for where they want to go! Now they find themselves in the far off future where they cross paths with Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth! Before the duo can return to The Bleed to find another way home, they must first help Kamandi on a life-saving mission against The Tiger Empire!
Night had fallen as the trio of heroes arrived at the compound of The Tiger Empire, where captured humans were processed to work slaves. Robin looked through a pair of high-tech binoculars to check the place out.
“It’s heavily guarded, there aren’t a lot of ways in,” Robin told them. “Probably even fewer ways out.”
“I can get us in there, I think,” Sideways said. “I just have to really focus so we don’t end up back in The Bleed or worse.”
“I don’t know, we don’t know what’s waiting for us on the inside,” Kamandi said. “The guards will be on alert as well.”
“Which is why we need to hurry,” Robin told him. “I have an idea, but we really do need to get in there for it to work. And it all depends on how well Derek can control his powers.”
“I’ll try,” Derek told him as he focused and opened a portal.
“Are you alright?” Kamandi asked.
“It’s just hard focusing on a place where I don’t know what it looks like,” Derek said as he felt his nose bleeding. “We have to go now! I can’t hold it!”
The trio ran through as the portal closed. Derek collapsed as Robin caught him. “Talk to me, buddy. Are you okay?”
Derek pulled off his mask to breathe. His nose was bleeding heavily as Robin leaned him against the wall.
“I just need to rest for a minute,” Derek said.
“Then remain here, friend,” Kamandi told him. “We’ll free the prisoners and return.”
Derek tried to stand up by himself but found he was too weak. He leaned back against the wall and waited as he concentrated.
“The prisoners are just up ahead,” Kamandi told him. “There are only three guards.”
“Then I’ll distract them, you get the prisoners and head back toward Derek,” Robin said as he pulled out some smoke pellets, tossing them to the ground. As the area filled with smoke, Robin pulled out a bo-staff and jumped in, blindsiding the guards.
“Come, my people, you are free!” Kamandi said as he opened the containment cell. “Just up this hall to the left! A friend will be waiting.”
As the prisoners ran, Kamandi jumped onto the back of one of the guards, giving Robin a chance to knock him out. As the duo stood up, an alarm sounded.
“We must go!” Kamandi shouted as they ran up the hall to where Derek was recovering. “Can you open your portal?”
“Yeah, and I know exactly where it is,” Derek said as he made an ’S’ symbol in the air, opening a portal. The prisoners ran through as the trio of heroes followed, returning to the hidden dune by the lake.
“Thank you, my friends,” Kamandi told them later. “I do wish you’d consider staying and helping continue the fight.”
“I want to, but my brother thinks I’m dead,” Robin told him. “I have to get back to Gotham.”
“And I have a life to return to as well,” Derek said. “Good luck, Kamandi.”
Derek focused, making another portal. Kamandi and the prisoners waved goodbye as the portal closed after the two stepped through.
“Well, we’re back in The Bleed,” Robin said. “You really need to focus on getting us home.”
“Don’t you think I’m trying?” Derek asked. “I want to get home as bad as you! No matter how hard I focus, the portal just keeps sending us to a different location than what I think of.”
“You just have to relax,” Robin said as he rubbed Derek’s shoulder. “Take a deep breath and focus on where you want to go.”
Derek relaxed and made the ’S’ symbol one more time, focusing on home. A portal opened as the two stepped through, returning them to The Bleed.
“Home sweet home,” Robin sarcastically said. “Want to take a rest and try again?”
“I feel like I could sleep for weeks,” Derek told him as he sat down on the floating crater they were on. “We’ll get home, Matt.”
Robin took off his mask and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Even if we do, what do I go back to? I’ve been *dead* for so long that everyone’s probably already moved on. What if Batman already has a new Robin?”
“Well, that is pretty common where I come from,” Derek told him as Matt sat down next to him. “You’re his brother, there’s no way he’d ever forget or replace you. You’ll go home and it’ll all work out. Provided that we can get home,” Derek lay back and stared into the blood-red sky. “Look, we’ll get a few hours sleep and try this again.”
“Yeah,” Matt said as he continued to sit there. “I miss you, Terry. I’ll make it home, I swear.”
TO BE CONTINUED…