Superman is flying a submarine across the antarctic. As part of an experiment, he is exposed to gold kryptonite. One by one, each of Superman's powers begin to fail. Ultimately, once all of his powers cut out, Superman falls to Earth, crushed beneath the submarine. This "Superman", however, is merely a robot, programmed to behave as the real Superman, after having been exposed to Gold Kryptonite. Safe in his Fortress of Solitude, Superman collects the data from his experiment. Use of the Gold Kryptonite puts Superman in mind of his conflict with Quex-Ul, a Phantom Zone villain who had tried to use the element to permanently rob Superman of his powers. Superman can't let go of the notion that his encounter with Quex-Ul was actually the second time he was nearly exposed to Gold Kryptonite. Superman travels back in time, to his own past, to observe his younger self, Superboy, at the tail end of a case in Brooklyn. After delivering evidence to the District Attorney's office, Superboy catches sight of a costumed man, roller skating across phone lines. A man Superman recognizes as the masked vigilante, Air Wave. Superboy follows Air Wave to the Scientific Research Associates building. Leaping in through the window, Air Wave quickly engages a pair of thieves, armed with high tech weapons. Realizing Air Wave is another costumed hero like himself, Superboy offers his assistance, only to be rudely ordered away. Superboy leaves, as Air Wave finishes taking down the thieves. As Superman observes the fight, his eye is drawn to a sample of Gold Kryptonite resting on a counter. Had Air Wave not chased Superboy away, the Boy of Steel would have never gone on to become Superman.
Realizing he owes his entire career as Superman to Air Wave, the Man of Steel moves forward along Air Wave's timeline to learn more about the masked hero. He learns that Air Wave was, in actuality, District Attorney Larry Jordan, the same man Superboy came to see, that day in Brooklyn. Superman watches as Jordan marries, and fathers a son. Superman also bears witness to Jordan's murder, in his own home, at the hands of an escaped criminal Jordon put away for life. Superman sees the day that Jordan's wife, Helen, presents their son, Hal, with the Air-Wave costume, so that the son may follow in the father's footsteps. Finally, Superman views the new Air Wave's first meeting with the Green Lantern. Feeling he owes the original Air Wave a debt he can never repay, Superman decides to journey to Dallas to meet with the new Air Wave. Before he goes, he sinks the Gold Kryptonite sample deep in the antarctic ice. Superman uses his super-ventriloquism ability to contact young Jordan, unseen, then pulls him up into the clouds with an inhalation of his super-breath. Jordan's departure into the sky is witnessed by his young cousins, who report the incident to their unbelieving mother. Jordan confesses to Superman that he seems to have lost his abilities. Jordan puts on his helmet, so that Superman can analyze it with his super-vision powers. When Superman can find nothing wrong, Jordan finishes putting on his costume, and finds that his powers are, in fact, working just fine. Jordan recounts a recent encounter he had at the "American Train", a traveling museum, with his arch-nemesis Casey Jones. When Air Wave tried to prevent his old foe from stealing a solid gold replica of a famous locomotive, Casey Jones surprisingly steals Air Wave's abilities and escapes.
The power loss sensation, as Air Wave describes it, put's Superman in mind of his own arch-nemesis, the Parasite. Sure enough, at that moment, Casey Jones is holed up with the Parasite. Experimenting with Casey Jones, the Parasite has learned that he can control precisely how much power he can absorb and return, down to the Nth degree. Observing Casey Jones and the Parasite from afar, with a combination of his X-ray and telescopic visions, Superman works up a strategy for taking the villains down. Superman sends Air Wave on an errand to the Antarctic. Flying at super-speed, Superman hopes to take the Parasite by surprise, before he can steal Superman's powers away. The Parasite, however, steals Superman's super-speed from a distance. Superman's momentum carries him crashing into the Parasite's hideout. Superman moves quickly to engage the Parasite, but it is too late. The Parasite has already robbed Superman of his super-strength. With no further use for Casey Jones, the Parasite belts him into unconsciousness. Allowing Superman to keep just enough of his stamina and invulnerability to survive, the Parasite beats the living daylights out of Superman. Their fight carries them to a football stadium, where thousands of fans watch Superman suffer the most brutal beating of his life, at the hands of the Parasite. Having recovered the Gold Kryptonite from the Antarctic, Air Wave returns and surreptitiously exposes the Parasite to it's power stealing rays. Not realizing he's no longer in possession of Superman's powers, the Parasite goads Superman into hitting him. Superman delivers a powerful haymaker that lays the Parasite out. With the threat ended, Superman carries Air Wave back to the past, to that same fateful day in Brooklyn. Air Wave watches his father, after chasing away Superboy, take down the two thieves. Superman reveals how the actions of Air Wave's father, albeit unknowingly, saved the Man of Steel.