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Superboy 2099 #1

Writer: Tony Thornley

EIC: Lierson Morais

AEIC: Ryan May

My name is Jake Collins. I was a prisoner of the Cadmus Project. To really understand my story, I guess you'll have to hear it from the begining. It's the best place to start.

I've been with the Project since I was six. It's grown from a government project to a corporation. It's horrible. I was taken from my parents because my genestock was excellent for the Project's gene splicing experiments. When my parents resisted, Guardian, the head of the Project's security, killed them. I've hated Guardian ever since.

There's only been two children I've ever seen in the Project that's survived every day of their torture. One is a girl named Kara. She's had the genetic structure of a being called Matrix inserted into her. They say she only has a fraction of Matrix's real power. The other, I see him in the mirror each day.

Every other poor child has died in the Project's splicing tubes. The treatments are horrible. They throw me into this tube. Then I feel myself literally shredded while the doctors insert DNA into my own. So far I've recieved the DNA of three beings to my knowledge, Kon-El, Bart Allen, and Dubbilex. It's granted me superpowers. I can run really fast. I can fly. I'm strong. And I can read people's minds. I can use that same mind-reading power to create blasts of energy. It's pretty cool, at least, it would be if the Project wasn't constantly prodding me. I'm always performing tests for them. It sucks.

Then one day, I broke free...

It was an ordinary day. The docs were giving Kara and me lessons. Worse than any powers tests, but I'd take the lessons over tests any day. For one thing, it was the only time I ever saw Kara. For the past nine years, she's been the light of my life. Then my psi powers kicked in.

'Two of the cryo tubes are being removed tonight,' thought one of the docs. 'Thank goodness. Those stupid cryo tubes have been cluttering space forever.'

'Finally they're being taken to the dumps.' My heart leaped. If Kara and I could replace the failed clones in the cryo tubes, then we'd be home free!

<Kara!> I flashed. We talked telepathicly often. <I just heard one of the docs say they're getting rid of two of the cryo tubes. We can escape!> Kara smiled.

<Jake!> she projected back, ecstatic. <That's fantastic!> We sat the rest of the day planning our
escape that night.

That night came and our plan went into action. I removed the clones and put them into our respective beds. The docs would really jump when they find a naked male clone in Kara's bed and naked female clone in mine.

We undressed and I climbed into my cryo tube. Kara set it. The idea was for her to set mine, and then put a time delay on hers. As she was finishing, Guardian and a squad of security men burst into the room. There was enough of a delay set on my cryo tube for me to see Guardian knock her to the ground and the security force to beat her naked body horribly. Just before I was flash frozen, I saw them back away from her, and I could see every detail of her horribly beaten body. I swore I would return for her. Then, it's black.

The next thing I knew I heard a voice say, "Good riddance, you lousy mistake." and I fell into the gene dump outside Mount Kurtiss. I was surrounded by rotting experiments and dead clones. I threw up and then flew into the air. I was free! I knew it was too soon to go back to Kara, so I headed for Metropolis. Halfway there, I realized I was stark naked. I landed outside the city.I found a camp there. Fortunately for me, there was a clothesline with drying clothes hanging on it. I used my speed powers to run into the camp, snatch up an outfit, and get out. About half a kilometer from the camp I took my new clothes, and seperated the moisture from the material with my tactile telekinesis. It's a thrill to do something like that, on such a small scale, almost molecular level.

Wearing these new clothes, I flew into Metropolis.

I'd hate to see what a resident of the twencen Suicide Slum would think of today's Hob's Bay. The slum is the dregs of humanity, a strange mixture of junkies, criminals, genetags, or slobs enhanced by equipment decades behind the Project, cyborgs, and plain old humans, dirt poor, trying to make a living. There's nothing here for me, but the place cries out for a hero. I guess I fit the grade as a superhuman and all. Whispers are spoken about a Superman, a hero reminiscent of the twencen's supreme hero. I didn't believe them.

I arrived in Suicide Slum at daybreak. The sun hadn't quite risen over the horizon, but it was trying. The Lexcorp building loomed in the distance. I landed and the scum scattered in front of me. Not one of them had seen a superhuman with powers like mine before, except in ancient vids. I walked through the streets, and I could hear their minds reach out to me.

'Superman' was the common thought. I shook my head and started to mask myself with my telepathic powers. Then, there was a cry directed at me. I spun, and saw the street gang headed in my direction.

"Hey meta," the group's leader barked. "You're in our turf. And we don't like do-gooders around here."

I slowly began to prime myself for what I knew would be a fistfight. The leader approached me, and drew himself to his full height. I noticed his legs had been fitted with hydraulics to make himself taller.

<I have no fight with you,> I projected, trying to scare him with my telepathy. It didn't work. He punched me, hard. I realized that his entire body had been fitted with hyrdaulics, and cybernetics.

"Oh, Metaboy thinks he's all bad because he got telepathy," the young man said to me. "And you're bad because you're 'borg?" I quipped.

"Yep," the leader said, and tore off his shirt. Underneath was a gleaming skin of steel and flesh.

"The other street gangs call me the Technician, but you can call me Tech. I'm the baddest muddah to grace Metropolis since Mettallo." He spoke Mettallo's name with almost reverence.

Then Tech rushed me. I ran behind him and kidney punched him. He laughed, and I saw that his kidneys were shielded by steel. He spun and ran faster on his hydraulic legs, but he was no match for my speed. As we ran for each other, a plasma blast split the ground in front of us.

A cloaked man lept off the building he had fired from. He landed in the midst of the gang, and hit several with his energized staff. Then he flew for Tech and whacked him solidly in the gut. I could see a torn symbol on his chest underneath his cloak. It was the legendary "S"-shield. Was this man Superman?

"Don't mess with the boy," he said, "He's with me."

"Yessir, Cadmus," quivered Tech. I looked critically at the cloaked man. He didn't look like anything that would come from the Project, but he had taken the Project's name. Tech stood and ran, and his gang followed, calling back threats, and curses.

"Follow me Jake," Cadmus said, taking his hood off. He looked no older than twenty, but his face showed much more experience than that.

"How do you know my name?" I asked.

"Later," Cadmus replied, and strode away. I ran to follow.

Cadmus had a small apartment in Suicide Slum. It was the top floor of an old building. The one room was crowded with equipment, but only one part of the large room seemed inhabited. There was two cots, and a kitchen there. A full bath was right next to it.

"As Tech said, my name is Cadmus," he said. I listened closely. There was something about this man that spoke volumes, but every volume was unreadable, so to speak. Cadmus removed his cloak, hung it on a small hook, and leaned his staff against the wall near the hook.

"I'm sure you have many questions, but first you need sleep," Cadmus continued, "There's your cot." He point to the cot against the far wall.

"Sleep well."

He went to his own cot and removed the tunic adorned with the shield. I reached out to Cadmus with my telepathic powers, but something blocked me.

<No Jake. Sleep first, questions later.> He put on a tunic that was less worn.

"I'll be back later," he said, putting the cloak back on, "Get some sleep. You'll need it." I slept well, surprisingly. By the time I woke up, it was late afternoon. Cadmus was in the kitchen,fixing dinner. He gave me a short glnce and turned back to the frying pan.

"I saved your butt today kid," he said. "I don't even know if I like you yet."

"Who are you, and how did you know my name?" I asked.

"I'm Cadmus," he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "And you can't hide your identity from the most powerful psychic mind on the planet." He drained the grease from the meat he was cooking and continued.

"I'm one of those reminants from the Age of Heroes," he said. "One of the few that survived the Dawn. I was a general in those wars. It was brutal. In the end, few major heroes survived, except myself. Then the Enforcers came. They were hunted down, but I escpaed." I sat and listened. I very much doubted that the story he was telling me was truthful, but it would explain the demise of heroes in the early twenty-first. Cadmus took two plates from his exposed shelf. He set one in front of me, and one for himself.

"You don't believe me?"

"Nope," I said, "Sorta hard to, Cadmus. After all, you're named after my most hated enemy, the Project."  Then I thought of the Project and one person there in particular. Kara. Guardian had probably locked her up in the max sec part of the project without giving her the dignity of clothing, or any food. I could just imagine her broken naked body cowering in the cell, hungry and bruised. She was scared, and she wanted me to save her. I knew it. I was her hero.

"If the Guardian of today was anything like the Guardian I knew," Cadmus said, breaking into my thoughts, "he wouldn't treat a lady anything close to what you're thinking of, especially a girl Kara's age."

"Stop that please," I grunted. Cadmus laughed.

"Sorry. The past comes back to me at the worst times. Tell you what. I'll scan the Project and find Kara, see how she's doing."

"But the Project has the best psi deflecting equipment on the planet," I argued, "They've used it on me before."

"Like I said, I'm the most powerful psychic mind on the planet," Cadmus said, dismissing my pessimism, "You think a computer generated electric thingy can stop me?" He slapped a piece of meat on my plate, followed by a green vegetable.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Wild pork," Cadmus explained. "They're abundant in the sewers. Best flavor on the planet." I passed over the meat.

"And the greens?" I said, poking them with my fork.

"A hybrid of cabbage, lettuce, broccoli and spinach," Cadmus said around his food, "I breed it myself. Tastes good if you put enough salt on it."

"I see." It couldn't be that bad, I thought. I added salt to the greens and to the meat for good measure. Then I dug in. I must admit, Cadmus is a good cook. We ate in silence for several minutes until Cadmus cleared his throat.

"Jake," he said, "You're going to be Superboy." I nearly choked on my second helping of the pork.

"What do you mean 'Superboy'?" I gagged.

"Just what I said," Cadmus replied, "Your speed alone could make you a Flash or at least an Impluse. But I know you can fly, and I felt your psi powers. All you need is m- I mean- a tactile telekinetic power, or some enhanced strength. And I have the feeling you have both of those powers." I nodded.

"Good. Your training begins in the morning. Get a good night's sleep Jake, you'll need it tomorrow."

"But I just woke up!" I protested. Cadmus just raised his eyebrow.

I spent about half the night awake, staring at the ceiling. Kara was on my mind, as was the Project and Cadmus. I'd been away from the Project for twenty-four hours now. I was liking freedom, but Cadmus was crazy. He seemed to speak like an old man, but he was no more than a few years older that himself. My mind started to wander. I could feel myself start to reach out of my own head. I reached out to Mount Kurtis. I found the max sec. I found Kara. I was right about what Guardian had done. I stood watching her, huddling in the corner, scared, cold and alone. Then the door whoosed open. I saw Guardian enter the room. He had a strange look on his face.

"Kara, you have been a bad girl," he said, "I'll have to do something about it." He walked over to her and picked her up. He held her close to him. She screamed. I found myself screaming as well. Guardian was taking advantage of my Kara. I watched, completely unable to tear myself away. My rage boiled. When I freed Kara, I would kill Guardian. It was that simple. The Guardian wrote his own death sentence when he decided to take advantage of Kara. I found myself back in my cot, Cadmus over me.

"I saw it too Jake." There was a determined look in his eyes, "People like him are the reason you must become Superboy, why you must don the shield, why you must become part of the legacy!" The knowledge of the evil that Guardian truly was passed unspoken between us.

"I will become Superboy," I said to Cadmus, "I will save Kara. And I will kill Guardian."

"Not if I get to him first."

To be continued...

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