Infinite blackness cloaked its ascension through the cosmos. It moved rapidly with devastating hunger. There was little sustenance to be found on other planets and they were not the proper combination to satiate it. Since its violent expulsion from the Andromeda Galaxy by the super human entity, it traveled the outer dimensions at the speed of light. It gorged and fed on whatever it could find. Finally, its acute sense of smell picked up nourishment in abundance. It was in direct passage to another green and blue planet – minuscule in every dimension it'd roamed, but entirely unique and beautiful compared to its neighbors. The planet was filled to the brim with the precise nutrients it needed before the hibernation period.
Capitol City: The Utopian dimension
Dr. Winger stooped over his microscopic lens engrossed in work. He didn't hear the alerts from the Inter-dimensional portal unit a few feet away. The activators turned red and the Universal GPS monitor zoomed upon planet earth in the Milky Way galaxy. Doctor Odessa Vexman ran to the controls and stared at the screen in a panic.
"Winger! We have an emergency! The Dark Matter is back! It has passed another threshold."
Winger raised his head and stared dully at his attractive, dark-eyed assistant through his round glasses. "What did you just say? Who's back? Did lunch come yet? I'm starving."
"Forget lunch! Didn't you hear the alarms? Stop fiddling with that algae and come and see this."
Winger bustled over and they peered through the swirling portal at an image of the Milky Way. A huge sinister mass, almost imperceptible through the blackness of space, floated toward planet earth.
Winger punched his palm. "I never thought I'd live to see the day when it awakened. We have been taught about this phenomena since grade-school!"
Dr. Vexman couldn't tear her gaze from the portal. "How long before it strikes the earth in that dimension?"
Dr. Winger tapped a few buttons on the console and shook his head grimly. "Two weeks, more or less, but it's definitely on a fast course. We have to get the big man involved."
Dr. Vexman shuddered. "Exactly. Call Lex and tell him that Superman must come to the facility as soon as possible."
Dr. Winger ran to the phone and groaned. "Oh no, no! We have a major problem."
"The Superboy from the Milky Way dimension is in the midst of his Kryptonian Rite of Passage. The brain-wave transference between him and Jor-El cannot be interrupted. Remember what Superman said about it!"
Dr. Vexman paced. "But Winger, there is no one else on earth who could possibly stop the Dark Matter, in any dimension! They will be bloody devastated! You saw what happened to the Sovereign world before Superman sent his counterpart in!" She nearly shrieked.
Winger held her shoulders. "Odesssa, calm down. Yes, I remember. He sent Superboy from the Andromeda Galaxy, from the world that Luthor had overrun into a corrupt cesspool, That Superboy had killed Luthor. He was the perfect choice to battle the Dark Matter. He defeated it in his own dimension."
"Even that tough Superboy couldn't annihilate it completely, we had to keep him here on bedrest for a week afterward. Is it really indestructible?"
"No one has figured out the primary weakness yet. Or exactly what forces are needed to destroy it. But we do know how it feeds and it is not on hamburgers and French fries that's for sure."
"This is no joking matter, Winger. People's lives are at stake!"
Dr. Winger sighed. "I make jokes to cover up, Odessa. I'm just as terrified as you, but remember our world motto, "We always have hope." Superman will figure out what to do."
Capitol City: The current Milky Way Galaxy
The rain poured in sheets with no sign of letting up, thunder roared and lightning crackled through ominous clouds. The late spring storm had reached its peak and came as a relief to the residents of Capitol City and the neighboring counties. They suffered a dry spell for nearly two months and it damaged tons of fruit crops in Florida.
Lana Lang stared pensively out her window, awakened at midnight by the noise. She put her hand to the glass; the cool moisture tingled her fingertips. Every time she thought she'd conquered them, her tears fell again. Clark Kent had been gone for over five months. Her waking thoughts lay solely on him and his unusual quest to find his true heritage and identity. When Clark disappeared…so did Superboy.
The world still pined the loss of their hero and opinions were divided. They feared him dead. Others resented his disappearance. The criminals and villains were ecstatic and crime shot up all over. Yet the good people were more united around the world to keep Superboy's maxim of "truth and justice" alive. They strove to make the world a safer place despite his absence. By and large, the boy of steel had touched the hearts of the entire world.
Criminal mastermind Lex Luthor had little to say, but when questioned by the media from his cell in the State Prison, the disappointment in his eyes was evident. He'd lost. He'd missed out on the thrill of victory in defeating Superboy. His vicious game of cat and mouse ended and trying to take over and destroy the world lost its charm.
The media speculated daily and reported outright lies. Every week a talking head spouted theories on what Superboy could be doing at this very moment, and then proceeded to skewer him for abandoning his principles and the people who needed him.
Only Lana, and Jonathan and Martha Kent knew the whole truth. The powers of the Kryptonian crystals drew Clark to the tip of the North, and there he had stayed. Lana feared that life would be different when he returned. Clark explained it as best he could. He called it a Rite of passage. Lana tried hard to be a supportive girlfriend, but inside her hopes and dreams for their future crumbled. She couldn't help but feel that Clark had grown tired of her and his current life. He'd always talked highly of Metropolis and desired a Journalism career. She had no doubts Clark would go on to fulfill those dreams. Lana secretly planned to follow him to Metropolis when he was ready.
Lana ran both hands through her red hair and shook out her curls. They landed in mussy, long layers around her attractive face. She went to her kitchen and put a pot of strong herbal tea to boil. Another sleepless night, but at least it was the weekend. She focused on her plans, but laughed at the futility. She never made plans anymore. Her parents traipsed other countries, furthering their careers in history and archeology. She could contact friends from Shuster University, but she felt so out of place. The only one she kept in frequent contact with was Andy McAllister – Clark's old roommate. He understood her deep pain over losing Superboy. But she didn't bother Andy too much these days. He finally had a serious girlfriend and kept busy in the PR business.
Lana had never admitted it to Clark, but while knowing his identity may have lifted his burden, it placed a momentous one on her. She held the secret from everyone and she resolved to guard it with her very life. Lana also felt troubled and always looked over her shoulder. Superboy's enemies poised to strike and many were well aware that she was "Superboy's girl."
The rain tapered. Lana stared around her apartment; she'd allowed it to get too untidy for her tastes.
"At least now I know what to do this weekend." She sighed. "Make a date with Mr. Clean."
Outside, the rain clouds swirled like a cyclone and a bright light flashed. Intermingled with the storm, it went unnoticed by late-night stragglers below who sprinted and hopped over puddles to get home and dry. A swathe of red and blue instantaneously appeared. A man, twirling and falling, attempted to fly before he crashed. He'd succeeded, but only for a moment, before he caught himself on a balcony ledge. Pain shot through him. Blood dripped from a gaping wound in his shoulder and marred his grimy suit. The wound glowed green. He managed to get one leg over the balcony before he collapsed. He rolled off his damaged shoulder and looked into the window. His blue eyes glazed over, but a spark of hope flickered. He reached out his hand, calling as loud as he could muster before his vision darkened.
"Help me! Lana! Help me!"