Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

Sacrifices

by Michael Rees

Unearthly lights, alien sounds and smells filled the laboratory of Professor Dalton. The elaborate machinery worked hard to maintain the glowing portal that gave the Professor and Superboy a privileged view of an alien jungle on a far distant planet.

“ Gosh Professor Dalton, its working just as you said it would. Hard to believe that this planet is so far across the universe that even my super sight couldn't see it,” the teen of steel marvelled at the view.

Stroking his white moustache, Professor Dalton nodded in agreement “ Just think how this could advance America's progress in the Space Race. Why, those Russians will see that their Sputnik is nothing more than an over glamorised metal football.”

“ It's a good job you invited me along to see this Professor Dalton. If we're not careful this could fall into the hands of a Ruskie Spy,” Superboy scanned the area with his X-Ray vision to make sure that there were no hidden assailants in the area.

Chuckling, Professor shook his head “ That's not the reason I invited you here. After that unfortunate business with the Bizarro Superboy I felt the need to make it up to you.

Frowning, Superboy remembered the incident in question. Professor Dalton had invented a duplicating ray in the hopes of producing copies of rare objects but it had a fatal flaw, the duplicate would always be a poor copy and crumble apart shortly after duplication.

Through a series of events the ray had accidentally been turned on Superboy creating a strange double, hideous in appearance with pale skin and a scrambled thought process. Matching Superboy in strength it was lucky that it had fallen apart.

“ With this portal Superboy, I hope to find your home world,” Dalton's words caught the boy of tomorrow's attention “ for you see this portal not only allows travel to other worlds but travel through time.”

Stunned Superboy tried to wrestle with the concept, to deal with the thought of seeing his parents again. Although only an infant when he had left Krypton he remembered it well with his super memory but to actually be there for real. To hold and feel the warmth of people who had only lived in his mind, the idea was too thrilling to be real.

“ Then lets get started Professor Dalton, with my powers we should be able to view thousands of worlds within only a few hours,” in a blur of speed Superboy started to press buttons and pull levers, causing the portal to wink open and closed at an incredible pace.

Things were quiet in the Kent household and this only agitated Krypto further. Floating off the ground the white dog gazed out of the window, frustrated at the presence of houses blocking his view. The canine longed to be back on the farm, with acres of green grassland to roam in.

“ Land sakes dog! Do you want to give away Clark's identity?” Ma Kent came storming out of the kitchen “ get down.”

Whining Krypto dropped on to the wooden floorboards, head hung low. He fully expected the shouting to continue but instead he felt a soft hand run down from his head to his back. Looking up he saw that Martha was smiling at him with affection.

“ I know you didn't mean any harm. Its not right to keep an animal locked up all the time, especially one as filled with as much energy as you,” the grey haired lady looked towards the shop “ sometimes I think it isn't right to keep Jonathan cooped up in the store but we must move with the times. Things change.”

Cocking his head to the side Krypto watched Mrs Kent retrieve his special collar, the one with his cape hidden in the band. Wagging his tail in excitement, he caused the curtains to billow. Once Martha had fixed the collar into position he licked her hand to show his affection.

“ I'll let you out for a few hours, give you a chance to exercise. If you feel like flying don't forget to take out your cape and remove this,” Mrs Kent placed her hand on the wood stained patch affixed to Krypto's fur “ until then you're just Clark's dog, Chip. Understand?”

“ Yip” the white dog nodded his head.

The moment the front door was open Krypto dashed out running into the street barking excitedly.

Martha watched the family pet for as long as her tired old eyes could manage. Just as she was about to close the door a chill ran through her “ That's odd. Why do I get the feeling that I shouldn't have let him go?”

Feeling something resting on his chest Superboy brushed it aside and opened his eyes. He found he was lying on his back and that he had just removed a large portion of the collapsed ceiling from on top off him.

“ Professor Dalton!” leaping into the air the hero used his x-ray vision to look for the older man.

Events were becoming clearer to him as he searched. The machine had started to glow red, smoke rising from its components. Even at Super speed he had only just been able to throw himself in front of the resulting explosion to protect the Professor. The last thing he clearly remembered was the sound of animal entering the room the room.

“ Here I am,” Dalton crawled out from behind a lead shield “ my machines exploding is becoming something of a habit.”

“ Its my fault, Professor, if I hadn't pushed the machine so hard it would still be working,” Superboy helped the man up, using his x-ray vision to ensure that there were no broken bones.

“ Not to worry, I still have the blue prints so I can repair it,” Dalton looked up from brushing his white lab coat to see that Superboy was staring off into the distance “ what is it?”

“ I am afraid something came through the portal. My Super senses are detecting a variety of alien animals running amok in Smallville. A multi-headed tiger is chasing Mr Jones the Postman, a glue spitting snake is sticking all the library books together and a green racoon is heading to Farmer Campton's farm,” Superboy rose off the ground, flying through the hole in the ceiling “ while I round up these animals can you fix the portal so we can send them back where they belong?”

Dalton produced his wrench from his coat pocket “ I'll get right on it. Good luck.”

Superboy grinned, “ Thanks but I don't think I'll need it. After all, how difficult can it be to round up a few animals.”

Krypto ran through the streets, barking hello to everyone he saw, stopping only to be patted by the children playing in the schoolyard. It was not long before he had left the confines of the streets and was bounding through the long green grass of the countryside.

An unusual odour caught his attention, drifting in the Summer breeze. It was an animal but definitely not one from Earth. Concentrating, Krypto looked into the far distance and saw a large racoon approaching Farmer Campton's dog Bruno. Saliva spilling from it's maw, the racoon advanced screeching. The Alsatian backed away, growling a warning not to come any nearer to his Master's cattle.

Glancing around to make sure no humans were in sight Krypto removed his patch and tugged the cape loose from it's hiding place. It was time for the dog of tomorrow to fly into action.

The wind rushing around his form felt good and despite the urgency of his mission Krypto opened his mouth to take in large mouthfuls of air, his tongue hanging out. Fields of corn bowed to him as he flew over them at high speed.

Reaching the farm Krypto's eyes grew wide in horror as the racoon leapt on Bruno, biting a chunk out of the dog's leg. The dog's pained yelp and the sight of spilling blood enraged Krypto and he dove straight into the alien animal.

The two creatures tumbled away from Bruno who had collapsed on to his side, eyes rolled back as blood continued to pour from his wound. The racoon fought back slashing at Krypto's face, it's large striped tail thrashing about. Krypto was surprised to find that the racoons claws were actually managing to puncture his skin. Like his owner Krypto was nearly invulnerable and so the pain he was suffering was both alien and frightening.

“ What's all this noise? We'll have no trouble here,” Farmer Campton came rushing out of his house, dressed in his well worn brown trousers and faded blue shirt, a shotgun clutched in his hand.” Bruno! What has happened to you?”

Making sure that the human was in no danger Krypto turned his head to ascertain his location. This was all the distraction the green racoon needed and it twisted free from Kryptos grip, flinging the white dog into the middle of the herd of cows.

Seeing the blood stained teeth of the racoon, Farmer Campton quickly drew his conclusions and his weapon“ You hurt my animal you vermin.”

The gun shot rung out and the bullet struck the racoon in the face only to bounce off. Hissing the racoon bounded towards the terrified man and leapt forward, claws pointed at his neck. Just as the claws were about to make contact Krypto bit into the scruff of the racoons neck and pulled the animal away, far from the farm.

Collapsing to the ground Campton struggled to get his breath but then noticed his hand was in a puddle of red blood. Scrambling to his feet Campton picked up his injured dog and started carrying him to the red truck, parked nearby.

“ Don't worry Bruno, I'll get you to the vet. Everything's alright now, Krypto will deal with that monster. You'll see, everything will be fine,” Campton was attempting to reassure not only his dog but also himself.

Superboy waved to the astonished towns people as he flew through the air, rolled the snake along, stuck as it was, in the form of a circle. The snake continued to try and free its mouth from the end of its tail but its own glue was holding the tip in place.

“ I had a 'wheelie' good time capturing you,” Superboy chuckled “ but I think you need to go back to your own planet.”

Pushing the snake into its metal cell that Superboy had earlier constructed on the outskirts of Smallville, the hero swung the door shut. In the next cell the two-headed tiger swished its tail as it continued to eat its way through the pile of fish Superboy had given it.

“ That should hold you until the portal is fixed. Now for the final pest,” Superboy turned and started to scan the horizon, looking for his target “ there he is. Looks like Krypto is already on the case. I sure am lucky to have such a good pet.”

Launching into the air Superboy headed towards the valley where Krypto was digging a pit to trap the racoon in. Clark remembered the first time he had found Krypto, encapsulated in a early rocket his Father had created in order to perfect the craft he had sent his son to Earth in. It was then that Superboy no longer felt alone, set apart from others by his powers. He now had someone he could share the skies with. It was a joyful feeling that he hoped he would never lose.

With the pit dug Krypto only need to get the racoon inside it. While it was strong the animal had shown no ability to fly, something Krypto planned to use to his advantage. Taking careful aim the dog unleashed his heat vision, sending a volley of blasts toward the racoon. As planned it leapt out of the way and while it was still in mid air Krypto gripped the vermin in his paws and flew him into the pit.

Arriving at the scene Superboy smiled as he saw Krypto raising out of the deep pit, a look of triumph on his face. A shadow of movement caught the young mans attention and he saw that the racoon was scrambling out, climbing the rough walls of the pit.

“ Look out Krypto!” Superboy yelled but it was to late.

Yelping Krypto tumbled to the edge of the pit as the racoon bit deep into his leg. Thinking quickly Superboy slapped his hands together creating a gust of wind that knocked the racoon away. The animal twisted and began to run through the grass, its green fur making good camouflage.

“ Are you alright boy? Let's bandage that wound” Superboy landed next to Krypto and tore a stripe from the end of his cape, using it to wrap around the wounded leg “ I am very proud of you. You stay here and I'll go and make sure that nasty racoon can't hurt anyone else.”

Lying on his back, Krypto licked his Master's hand and closed his eyes as he received a stomach rub from Clark. He opened his eyes again just in time to see Superboy streak away.

Growling, Krypto rocked from side to side as a strange burning sensation filled his body. A terrible ache that gnawed at his every limb. Something was wrong with him, it felt like he was dying.

It didn't take long for Superboy to catch up with the racoon as it neared Smallville River. Approaching the water the racoon suddenly reared up on to its back legs and stumbled back. Thrashing around on the ground it started to screech in terror, saliva dampening its green fur.

Scratching his head Superboy couldn't help but feel that he recognised the animal's strange behaviour “ aggressive, foaming mouth and a fear of water. Why it's just like that bear that I had to fight when I went to Summer Camp. Great Scott, didn't the camp governor say it had rabies?”

Concentrating on the panicked racoon Superboy could see a virus coursing through the animals body, its anti-bodies fighting a loosing battle. The increased heart rate, muscle inflammation and the creature's difficulty breathing confirmed that it was indeed a form of rabies.

“ Can't let this racoon run loose spreading the virus. Best contain it,” Superboy nose-dived into the ground, burying deep into the earth.

Finding a large stone Superboy cracked it in two and used his heat vision to hollow out the inside. Satisfied with a job well done he returned to the surface and saw the green racoon nearby.

“ This should keep even a strong critter like you from escaping,” flying above the racoon Superboy scooped up the animal within the two halves of rock and fused them together “ the microscopic holes I cut with my heat vision should allow you to breath.”

Setting the rock down on the ground Superboy watched it roll in a circle as the racoon tried to escape. The two sections held together, a dark line showing where the teen of steel had melted them together.

“ Sorry little fella but I couldn't take the chance of you biting me. After all, if you could hurt Krypto you might have injured me as well,” Superboys eyes grew wide as realisation dawned on him “ oh no, Krypto!”

In a second the hero had flown away leaving a sonic boom in his wake.

Mrs Randel the librarian sobbed as her work place went up in flames “ but I only just unglued the books.”

Red beams swept along the streets setting light to anything and anyone they touch. Krypto growled as his heat vision caused the air to fill with smoke. A ringing bell signalled the approach of the Smallville Firemen, the red vehicle whizzing along the emptying street.

Before they could come to a stop the white dog rammed it, punching straight through the bonnet and out the back, an engine block gripped in his teeth. Stunned the uniformed men only had moments to leap for safety before the truck slammed into a burning tree.

“ What in blazes has got into that dog?” Jonathan Kent stood outside the shop front, untying his apron “ I hope the Beast Men of Jupiter aren't controlling him again.”

With extreme bravery Jonathan marched across the street toward Krypto. The canine watched him carefully, his claws digging into the surface of the road.

“ Listen here Krypto, do you think Superboy will be happy when he finds out what you're doing? After all he has done for you I would think you'd be more grateful. Why it was only last week he rescued you from the Prehistoric Era and this is how you repay him,” Jonathan glared at the dog.

His stern tone seemed to have done the trick as Krypto lowered his head and started to whine. Satisfied Jonathan put his hands on his hips and turned to the other towns people to indicate it was safe to come out of hiding. It was when his back was turned to Krypto that he heard the dog bark with fury and the road buckle as it launched forward.

The next thing Jonathan knew his adopted son was carrying him through the air towards his house “ thank goodness its you Clark. Have you any idea the trouble your pet has been causing?”

Superboy nodded “ He's sick Pa. A space alien racoon with rabies bit him. I am not sure what to do.”

Jonathan held on tightly to his adopted son as they started to descend towards the house “ If he has rabies Clark, there isn't much you can do. He's in pain and it'll only get worse. Best for everyone if you put him out of his misery.”

Gently Superboy lowered his Father on to the doorstep “ No Pa, I can't kill Krypto. He's not just my pet he's my friend. If there is another way I'll find it.”

With that the young hero soared into the darkening evening sky, towards the sounds of destruction.

Jonathan and Martha sat at the dinner table, hands interlocked. Through the window they could still see flames dancing brightly against the night sky. The occasional explosion and howl broke the silence in the room.

“ I've tried everything,” Superboy stumbled into the room, his cape hanging tattered over his ripped and torn costume “ he's so ill but still strong.”

“ Son,” Martha leapt up and guided the teenager to a chair at the table “ has he bitten you?”

Staring at the table, Clark shook his head “ its been difficult but I've managed to stop him from getting a grip on me. What can I do Ma and Pa? I tried to put him in a lead box but he just melted his way through. I activated all of my robot doubles and Krypto just turned them to scrap metal. I even tried to send him to the Phantom Zone but I can't make him stand still long enough for me to use the Projector.”

“ How about your friends son?” Martha placed her hand on Clarks hand “ The ones that come from the future.”

“ The Legion of Superheroes? I can't summon them Ma. All this is history to them, they won't interfere and I won't ask them. I have to do this on my own,” sitting up Superboy took a deep breath of air “ You were right Pa, I'll have to put Krypto out of his misery.”

Jonathan nodded solemnly and left the kitchen. He returned shortly with his old shotgun but he had recently covered both barrels and the handle with a lead making it very difficult for him to carry.

“ What is it Jonathan?” Martha asked.

With a great amount of effort Pa Kent hoisted the weapon on to the table “ I went into the shed and collected some sections of green kryptonite. Loaded them into the gun to act as bullets. Of course I needed to put the lead on it so Clark can use it.”

Superboy gazed at the gun shocked by what it represented. Before shotguns, pistols and cannons had only been empty threats, unable to hurt him. Now he saw it as other people saw it, he saw it as death.

Krypto howled in agony, his blood boiling. The pain was intense and he couldn't fight his institutive desire to lash out. He tossed parked automobiles into the air, knocked down buildings and set fire to anything he saw. Still the pain remained and so he continued his rampage.

Locating his pet Superboy braced himself, his grip tightening on the shotgun. Krypto saw him approaching and flung a pick up truck into the air towards his former master. The young hero caught the green vehicle and flipped it around, using it as a shovel to scoop up the canine.

“ We've got to get you away from the town,” Superboy said increasing his speed.

Kryptos cape blew into his face as his claws scraped the surface of the back of the pick up truck. Growling and barking Krypto was desperate to regain control. Finally he managed to pull the cape out of his face with his teeth and unleash his heat vision, causing the truck to explode.

Falling away from the blast the two Kryptonians both tried to recover faster than the other. Superboy brought up the shotgun, his finger on the trigger but a white blur struck him in the stomach and knocked him to the ground.

Standing over Clark, the dog bared his teeth, his eyes wide with madness. With his free hand Superboy tried to push the animal back but the dog hardly moved an inch. Trying an alternative method the teen of steel grabbed Kryptos collar and pulled him down on to the ground.

Leaping up, Clark put his red boot on his pets chest, holding him in place. Hands shaking he aimed the shotgun as Pa had taught him, positioning his shot at the animals head.

” I am sorry boy, I don't want to do this but I haven't got any other choice,” tears flowed down Superboy's cheeks, blurring his sight.

Sensing the finality of the situation Krypto stopped growling and instead started to whine. His pink tongue flicking out to lick away the saliva around its muzzle. Squirming under Superboys boot he tried to pull his head away from the barrel of the gun.

Seeking an escape from the situation Superboy closed his eyes and concentrated on Smallville. He heard the bell ringing on the fire engine as it raced to put out the fires, he heard people calling for help as they struggled to escape the ruins of their homes, he heard Bruno the dog yelping as it tried to walk on its injured leg.

“ Oh Krypto, you've been such a good pet. A boy couldn't ask for a better friend. I hope you can forgive me for what I am about to do,” Superboy said returning his attention to the rabid animal.

Miles away the towns people heard the gunshot and a howl of pain. They hung their heads; all knowing an era had come to an end.

Depressed, Clark walked home from school. Most of the building had been pulled down but the children had all pitched in to help the process of rebuilding, the boys helping the workmen and girls making the refreshments. Clark had helped as much as he could while still maintaining his puny identity.

Complaining of cramp he had even managed to leave briefly so that Superboy could help Professor Dalton shepherd the alien creatures through the repaired portal back to their home world.

Now the school day was over and he was returning home, his Super chores still ahead of him. From now on he would fly alone, lacking the companionship Krypto had given him.

Approaching the Kent household he looked up to see the door open. A white dog came rushing out, tongue hanging out, and eyes bright with joy. Surprised by the animal's energy Clark nearly didn't have time to brace himself. Holding the canine he let his face be licked while he ran his hand over the brown patch that marred the otherwise snow-white fur.

“ I am glad to back as well Chip,” Clark said happily as the animal started to circle his legs.

Entering the house with Chip in tow he found his parents relaxing in the living room. They smiled at the sight of their son and his dog.

“ I see he found you,” Martha said putting her cup down on a coaster on the table “ none the worse for ordeal.”

“ Yes, I managed to only graze him with the bullets but I am surprised that he healed so quickly. His fur completely covers the wounds,” gently Clark brushed the thin layer of fur aside to reveal the twin red scars on Chip's side.

“ I must say you had us worried when we heard the gun go off last night,” Pa chuckled as he polished his glasses with a cloth “ what made you come up with your new plan?”

Scratching his head Clark took a deep breath “ it was when I heard Bruno. I realised he hadn't contracted rabies from the racoon. The only difference between them was that one dog was from Earth and the other from Krypton. It was then I realised there was a cure from Krypto.”

“ Gold Kryptonite, the kind that turns a Kryptonian into a regular person,” Martha patted Chip as he padded over to her “ or dog in this case.”

Nodding Clark continued his story “ as soon as I realised that I flew home fast as I could, donned some lead armour and swapped the green kryptonite bullets for gold ones.”

“ I am proud of you son,” Jonathan replaced his glasses “ you faced a situation where death seemed the only option and still chose life.”

“ I know Pa, I know. Superboy might not have Krypto but Clark Kent with always have Chip,” Clark kneeled down and clapped his hands.

Chip bounded over and into the arms of his owner, where he belonged.

 
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