by Dan Swanson
Far from Earth, the Lord of Chaos known as Wotan watched another of his amusements play out. It suited his purpose to let all of his puppets think it had been the feeble magic of Bat-Mite that had guided events this night. It gave him added pleasure when he, the youngest of the Lords of Chaos, was able to induce chaos under the very nose of that insufferable Doctor Fate, on the planet that Fate’s former master Nabu had selected as his sanctum.
The scenario that was now developing had the potential to be quite chaotic, and perhaps he might even maneuver one of the players into destroying that last remaining Galactic Patrol weapon, the ancient glove worn by Jim Chisholm. This would complete the work begun by his predecessor Burr, now an Elder of Chaos.
Seacoast City, California:
Even though it was very early in the morning, hours before sunrise, Jim Chisholm was having a bad day. Actually, it seemed as if every day had been a bad day since he’d first received the glove and globe of the ancient and long-extinct Galactic Patrol last year. His parents had died in a plane crash, his fiancée had left him, his architectural business had gone bankrupt, and the county government had taken his house via eminent domain to build a shopping mall. He couldn’t even play a volleyball game; his partners always ended up injured, and he had become a pariah on the beach. Homeless and hopeless, he now lived in a shanty on the bank of the Muddy River just outside Seacoast City. Today, like most other days, he sat on the riverbank and contemplated the unthinkable.
His contemplation was interrupted by loud noises, noises he quickly recognized as the sounds of a battle between super-powered opponents. Even though he had only been in possession of the ancient super-powered glove of the Galactic Patrol for less than a year, those kinds of sounds you never forgot — trees being shattered, craters being blasted into the ground, and the shock waves that accompanied super-powered blows being exchanged. It sounded like the devastation wreaked by a hurricane, only without the shrieking background noises of the violent winds.
Jim hadn’t used the glove in almost six months, and for very good reason. Using his new-found powers seemed to have activated a curse on him, and his life had been completely devastated before he realized the cause. But even now, he couldn’t ignore these sounds. After all, what else did he have to lose?
Willing the glove and globe into visibility, and thankful that he still retained them, he then touched the face of his closed fist to the globe. His fist sunk partially into the surface, and softly glowing, pearly white energy leaked around the outline of his fist. This light passed through the trees around him and illuminated the other shanties along the nearby river. Within seconds his glove was fully charged, and Jim’s clothes changed to his uniform, the gray, black, and white of the Galactic Patrol. The glow washed away a lethargy and listlessness he hadn’t even noticed. However, now that it was gone, he knew it had been with him for months. Although he dreaded the consequences of using his power again, he couldn’t help but feel a thrill at once more wearing the costume and tasting the anticipation of going into action.
Jim launched himself from the bank of the river. Creating a set of glow-powered ultra-binoculars, he quickly searched the area for the battle he knew must be occurring. He discovered an unknown man — a very big man in a brown costume with a red cape — battling against Doctor Fate.
Fate was floating calmly in the air, his body vertical with his arms stretched out to his sides, surrounded by a glowing golden aura much larger than his body in the shape of an ankh. The big man was pounding on the aura around Fate’s head with tremendous blows, each of which sounded like a deafening thunderclap when it landed. Right now, the aura seemed to be easily protecting Fate, and his opponent’s attention was completely occupied with his attack.
Jim immediately recognized larger man as Vic Valor, since he had received a Vic Valor action figure for his sixth birthday. He didn’t remember much about him, though, just that he had been a hero, and had appeared and disappeared in 1949. So where had he been since then? Why was he fighting Doctor Fate? And why here near Seacoast City?
He adjusted the binoculars for x-ray vision, but something surrounding Valor blocked his examination. He commanded the glove to penetrate that blockage, and instants later, he was amazed to see that Vic Valor was a metal shell, surrounding some machinery and electronics, as well as an opening that was the right size for a man. Clearly the body was really an armored suit of some kind, but it seemed to be operating independently. Jim could see a computer in the helmet, so this thing must be either computer-controlled or remote-controlled.
As Jim approached the battle, Valor noticed him and attacked at super-speed. Faster than Jim could see, Valor raised a hand, and a ray flashed from his palm. Fortunately, the glove contained an artificial intelligence that had some built-in emergency protocols, and a shield of softly glowing pearly white energy wrapped itself around Jim just in time. Valor’s ray had no effect on Jim, but the ground behind him where the ray touched was instantly vaporized.
Doctor Fate cast a bolt of mystic energy that sent Valor tumbling backward. Jim took advantage of Valor’s confusion to grab him in a giant, glowing white fist and zoom toward orbit. It was a tactic that had worked for Jim before, allowing him to move a deadly combat away from innocent bystanders. Unfortunately, it didn’t work this time.
The giant glowing hand began melting, and Jim felt energy being sucked from the glove into Valor’s body. Worried that he might be providing his enemy with even more power, Jim immediately released him. Channeling the glow into a giant ice cream scoop, he scooped up two half-spheres of granite from the ground below to smash Valor between them, but Valor had stopped moving, leaving himself totally defenseless. Fighting against a foe who wasn’t fighting back was very much against Jim’s akido training.
Even though, he thought bitterly, they even found a reason to take away my black belt.
Doctor Fate, too, had paused. Vic Valor remained motionless for several seconds, then turned toward Jim. As he prepared to be attacked again, Jim noticed that the ankh aura surrounding Fate had dimmed and then vanished.
“Thank you, Patroller. Exposure to the glow has restored my memory. It is gratifying to know that the Galactic Patrol escaped the heinous trap of the Lords of Chaos!” About a hundred-thousand years ago, a Lord of Chaos had figured out a way to infect all of the Galactic Patrol’s special weapons, the globes and gloves, with what we might nowadays call a chaos virus. A valiant Patrol officer named Iredok had sacrificed his life to keep his own globe and glove pure, and one-hundred millennia later, these weapons had found their way into the hands of Jim Chisholm — though they had brought him nothing but heartbreak ever since.
The voice now addressing Jim was vastly different from that of Vic Valor. Valor was a big man, and he had a low, rumbling voice, but this new voice seemed to shake the earth, to come from all sides, and to drown out all other sounds. It was not just a voice, but the epitome of all voices. Jim was shaken and not a little awestruck. But his sports background had taught him how to handle awe — put it aside for later and finish the game now.
“Sorry, pal, but you got that wrong.” He was deliberately informal. “The Galactic Patrol got itself wiped out over a hundred-thousand years ago. The last Patroller, Iredok Jur Diah, sent a clone to give me the globe and glove, and then the clone died, too. Don’t know why the man picked me, but I’m not part of the Galactic Patrol.” He thought for a second, then added bitterly, “Not that being independent helped me any!” If this guy was a friend of the Patrol, Jim wasn’t interested.
Vic Valor turned to Doctor Fate. “Nabu, can this be true? The chaotic cataclysm that entrapped me managed to destroy the Galactic Patrol?”
“Indeed, Marnu,” said Fate. “Though I am not Nabu, but merely an agent of the Lords of Order, I possess his memories of you reaching back many thousands of years. Nabu is no more, so I speak in his stead as the newest Lord of Order.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Doctor Fate: Fate Revealed.]
Somehow the two had instantly recognized each other once Marnu’s memory had returned, and they were conversing as if they had seen each other only last week. Maybe to an immortal, one-hundred thousand years might seem as inconsequential as a week did to Jim. Marnu seemed somewhat shaken for a moment as he realized that his fellow Lord of Order had permanently passed on to another realm, sundering his physical connection to this one — it was the equivalent to death for such beings, and not something to be taken lightly. But there were other revelations even more shocking.
“Your creation, the Galactic Patrol, was destroyed, as was the civilization it protected, and you vanished at the same time,” continued Fate. “It was a disappointing setback for the forces of Order. Still, the cycles continue, and Order is again gaining ascendancy.”
Jim winced. If he’d heard that correctly, a civilization made up of hundreds of races and trillions of beings, spanning multiple star systems, had been destroyed, and Doctor Fate had shrugged it off as a disappointing setback? Just what kind of beings were these Lords of Order, anyway?
“And none thought it important to seek me out?” Marnu asked crossly. “Heir of Nabu, I would have thought that the protocols demanded a search for a missing Lord of Order!”
“Marnu, though you are far older than I, compared with most of the Lords of Order you are still young and impatient. You have been absent for less than a tiak, hardly long enough for Order to notice your absence. And your appearance is a confirmation that any discussion of a search would have been premature. As Nabu would have said, please try, for once, to see the long view!”
Jim could have sworn there was a note of exasperation in Fate’s voice, as if this was a longstanding disagreement. It seemed like a perfect time for him to speak up again.
“Excuse me, fellas, but I’m just a mortal, and a hundred-thousand years is a heck of a long time from my point of view. Don’t suppose you might tell me just what’s going on.”