Superman Through the Ages

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Chapter 26

"Listen," Luthor said.  "Listen, this is important."


"I found out the Master's racket.  I don't think even the Guardians know this plan, and it's reprehensible."

"Reprehensible?  For a guy who once posed as a Korean guru just to attract thirty three thousand impressionable teenage kids to a rally in Metro Stadium and hold them for ransom, he must be going some for you to call him reprehensible."

"I nearly went broke that year.  Besides, you'd be surprised at how many followers I still have.  What this clown's doing is worse.  Much worse."


"Tell me, Muscles, how far does the Guardians' jurisdiction extend?"

"To the Areas of Dominant Gravitation of all stars and black holes in the Milky Way Galaxy."

"And when's a star considered to be in the Milky Way Galaxy, according to that definition?"

"That's any star subject to the cohesive forces that make the Galaxy a definable physical unit.  Is this an astronomy test?  I thought you've got some kind of secret to tell me."

"I do.  What about wandering stars?  The rogue stars that are just passing through along the edges of the Galaxy.  What power do the Guardians have over them?"

"They have absolute power, physically, they're pretty much the most powerful creatures ever known.  But they're morally banned from extending their powers to certain areas, and they can only interfere with rogue stars if they somehow jeopardize the rest of the Galaxy—if they're about to incinerate an inhabited world or something.  It's one of the laws that goes back to the Guardians' founding, apparently to make sure they didn't become absolute rulers of the Galaxy."

"Okay, now tell me the verse that lunatic singer Towbee quoted from this Sonnabend's prophesies, the one about what would happen before this Czar of the Galactic Arm would emerge?  What was it?  You've got total recall."

"When the minions of immortals spread Galactic,
When a thousand cultures dwell in Vega's flow,
When a sailing ship for starflight is a tactic,
When these things all—"

"That's enough.  The immortals' minions, they're the Green Lanterns.  Are they all over the Galaxy?  Is there any place that isn't covered by them?"

"No.  They're in every sector, have been for about four thousand years."

"And the sailing ship for starflight.  I brought that here.  The Black Widow, right?"

"That would probably qualify."

"And a thousand cultures.  Could Sonnabend have been estimating?  Would he possibly have meant, say, nine hundred and ninety-seven races living here?"

"No.  I understand he is quite precise.  A thousand only turns out to be a round number in our decimal system."

"Whew, then we've got time.  According to the portable computer terminal the Master's stooges issued me there are nine hundred and ninety-seven distinct races as of the last census.  We've come here so that makes nine hundred and ninety-eight."

"I'm a Kryptonian, remember, not an Earthman."

"Oh, right.  Well that only makes nine hundred and ninety nine."

"The Old-Timer.  The defrocked Guardian," Superman said.  "He told me he was the first Guardian to leave Oa.  He was here.  He makes a thousand."

"Bingo, There isn't a moment to lose.  Listen, you know how the Master made his real-estate killing?"

"On an offhand guess I'd say he cheated."

"You bet your super-ass he cheated.  He ripped off this Delphinian scientist's prototype time-snatcher.  He's got this machine that can reach into the past or the future and pull inorganic matter into the present or place things in another time.  He built a time-snatcher powerful enough to manufacture duplicate planets."

"You're telling me he buys a planet—"

"Buying things is taboo here.  They exchange gifts."

"And he reaches, say, a hundred years or so into the future and brings back the planet from there so he's got two of them to sell?"

"Or three or a dozen or a hundred.  And he goes and sells them all as if they were real planets—completely lifeless and good for nothing but housing developments -when all but one is going to disappear a hundred or so years later, leaving the inhabitants floating in empty space."

"That'll upset the whole space-time continuum for light years around.  It'll kill billions.  He's mad."

"That makes him nothing worse than a dishonest businessman—like those guys that sell land in the Poconos, only on a bigger scale.  He had me in this back room here figuring out where all the black holes are on the border between the Galactic Arm and the main body of the Galaxy."

"What's that got to do with it?"

"He's got the capability to grab every black hole on that border and throw it a billion years into the future.  He's planning on dismembering the Arm from the rest of the Galaxy.  The Guardians will be powerless to stop him from taking a conquering horde across every star system that rejects his tyrannical rule.  The old guys will even be obligated to disarm the Green Lanterns already here.  The Arm won't go anywhere right away, but it'll no longer be physically a part of the Galaxy.  In a billion years it'll be spinning off, a mini-Galaxy of its own, but before that all Hell will break loose with the Master playing Satan."

"Oh, my God."



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