by Starsky Hutch 76 and JSAGL
Clark Kent, Lois Lane Kent, Jimmy Olsen, and young Clark Kent Junior sat around the dinner table. All eyes were on the boy who was the orphaned, youthful version of Clark Kent from the world known as Earth-Prime.
“Are you all right, Clark? You’ve hardly touched your food,” Lois said.
“I’m not very hungry,” the teenager muttered.
Lois eyed him with concern. Grasping his hand, she said, “I know this is tough for you. We’ll never be able to replace your parents, but we’ll do everything we can to get you through this.”
“By leaving your jobs, pulling up your whole lives — and moving because of me?” He dropped his fork and rested his head in his hand.
“It’s not as big a sacrifice as you might think,” the older Clark said. “I put in nearly fifty long years at that newspaper. I was due for a retirement and the opportunities that come with it to seek out new challenges.”
“I feel the same way,” Lois said. “I had a long career there, too. But I eventually retired. In a way, I always regretted it. I’ve wanted to go back, but people are a little hesitant to give a woman pushing seventy the chance to work as an investigative reporter.”
“Seventy?” the younger Clark said, startled.
“That’s right,” Lois said. “I was affected by the same energies that a lot of the heroes of this world were, so I don’t really look my age. I’ve had to hide my vitality, though, for the sake of my husband’s secret identity.”
“You won’t have to do that in Smallville,” Jimmy said. “When you start over at the newspaper you and Clark are looking into, they won’t really know you that well.”
“The Lois Lane from the ’40s and ’50s will just be a name in a journalism textbook,” Lois said, smiling. “The Lois Kent in front of them will be someone new.”
“I didn’t realize being married to me had caused you so many problems,” the older Clark teased.
“Oh, stop,” Lois said, tossing her napkin at his head, which caused laughter from around the table.
“Hey,” Jimmy said, “if you do end up taking over that paper, perhaps you could do me a favor.”
“Sure, Jimmy. Anything,” the older Clark said.
“I have a grand-nephew in Smallville who’s interested in journalism. Maybe you could give him a job. Make him a cub reporter, like George did for me way back when.”
“Of course, Jimmy. If he’s anything like his great-uncle, we’d be lucky to have him. What’s his name?”
“Jimmy, of course,” he said, smiling proudly.
Dick Grayson strolled around, looking at the dusty halls of the Batcave. Most of the equipment still lay under drop-cloths. A thick layer of dust and grime covered the classic 1950s model of the Batmobile.
“I’m terribly sorry for the way I’ve neglected this area,” he heard a shaky voice say from behind him.
He turned to see Alfred Beagle in his night shirt, holding himself up against the wall as he slowly paced down the stairs from the secret entrance in Wayne Manor above.
“Alfred!” Dick said, more harshly than he had meant to. “I told you I’d be all right by myself. You could have hurt yourself.”
“I’ve been going up and down those stairs for nearly fifty years, Master Dick. I suppose I should know them pretty well by now.”
“Whatever you say, Alfred,” Dick sighed, moving over to help him to a chair.
“This cavern was so magnificent in its day,” Alfred said forlornly. “Now look at it. I feel as though I have disgraced Master Bruce’s memory.”
“Of course you haven’t,” Dick said. “You had no reason to feel this area still needed your care. The rest of the estate is still immaculate. Frankly, I’d have trouble caring for it all myself.”
“So hard…” the old Englishman sighed.
“It’s late,” Dick said. “Would you like for me to help you back up to your room?”
“You always were a kind lad,” Alfred said, beaming at him. Dick put his arm around his shoulders for support and was amazed at how frail he felt.
When he returned, he began pulling off the drop-cloths so he could go about the business of restoring the Batcave. There would be much to do. The computer equipment was incredibly out of date, and a lot of the supplies had fallen into disrepair from their lack of use.
During his nightly rounds, he had seen the state that Bruce Wayne’s beloved city had been in since the Crisis. The JSA had the whole world to look after, but Gotham City would have its new defender.
He looked at his uniform in the reflective glass of the trophy case. Hardly the imposing image that the Batman’s had been. Not the sort of thing that struck fear and superstition and fear into the heart of the criminal. But as Robin he had been the light to Batman’s darkness. Now that Bruce was gone, though, someone had to fill the void. From what the Huntress had told him, that clown Blackwing certainly couldn’t do it. He would definitely have to have a talk with that guy someday soon.
Opening the trophy case, he lifted the cowl of Batman from the mannequin head it rested on. He took off his own mask and put it on in its place.
He had promised Helena at Bruce’s funeral back in 1979 that he would not become the Batman. (*) Her reasons for asking him not to were sound. No one could truly take his place. And he wouldn’t try. But there was no reason he couldn’t emulate him in spirit a little more closely than he had up until now. He lifted his hands up to the ears of the cowl, covering them, and an image began to form in his head.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Only Legends Live Forever,” Adventure Comics #462 (March-April, 1979).]
Gotham City, later that evening:
In the monitor room, the original Hourman sat with his legs on the console watching television. It had been strangely quiet since the Crisis. The villains had gone into hiding, it seemed. There were no would-be world conquerers, no Injustice Society attacking their headquarters. Granted, with all the natural disasters occurring as a result of the Crisis there was more than enough work to keep everyone busy, not to mention the shattered lives that had to be rebuilt. Cities had been demolished, time-lost creatures had roamed the streets of the Earth during the final days of the Crisis, and so many lives had been lost. Heroes crawled out of the woodwork to help, some not seen since the final days of World War Two. And here he was, Rex Tyler — president of Tyler Chemical, a multi-million-dollar corporation — stuck on monitor duty in JSA Headquarters. There were worse things, he supposed.
“A penny for your thoughts, Rex?”
The man of the hour turned around and smiled. “Hey Alan, come to relieve me?”
Alan Scott placed his hand on his old friend’s shoulder. “Yes, indeed, old friend. But I appreciate you pitching in, seeing as you’re not even on the active roster anymore.”
Hourman stood up and stretched. “That’s true enough, but being back in action again for the past few weeks has got me thinking — just who is on the active roster these days?”
Green Lantern punched up a program on the monitor screen. “Well, let’s see…”
- Doctor Fate
- Green Lantern
- Power Girl
“Hmmm. Guess we haven’t had time to update in a while.”
“I can see that. Four active members is hardly what I’d call a quorum for a group like the JSA.”
“Now wait a minute, Mr. Tyler,” Green Lantern said with a bemused look, “of the four active members, three are our most powerful — and Jay isn’t exactly a slouch, either.”
“So… you don’t want me to return to active duty, then?” Hourman said, looking a little miffed.
“Well, I’m fine with it. I just don’t want Wendi coming down here yelling at me. I know she wasn’t too happy with Rick being in Infinity Inc. I can’t imagine she’d be terribly pleased about you returning to the JSA full-time.”
“You let me worry about that, Mr. Chairman. Consider Hourman back on board full-time.”
Green Lantern looked around the room. “Speaking of which, I was going to talk to Diana and Ted about coming back, too. Where did they get off to?”
“Lyta called earlier today. Something about taking the Huntress to Paradise Island. Ted finally gave up on the transmatter device. He said something about heading out to California to talk to a friend of his who’s been working on inter-dimensional travel at some university out there.”
“Excuse me, Professor, I’m sorry to interrupt, but a Mr. Ted Knight is here to see you.”
The Professor looked up from his book and adjusted his glasses. “I see. Well, show him in, then.”
The secretary walked into the outer office and returned with Ted Knight. It had been ages since they had seen each other, but they had stayed in touch, each a student of the other’s work. The Professor was just as Ted remembered him — a tall man, rather portly, yet distinguished, with impeccably groomed dark hair and beard. His suits were of the finest English design, which matched both his accent and demeanor.
The Professor extended his hand. “Mr. Knight, how good to see you again. To what do I owe the honor of this visit?”
Ted took the Professor’s hand and shook it. “Well, I’m having a problem with breaching a dimensional barrier to another world, and I thought — who better to seek out than my dear old friend, Maximillian Arturo?”
Los Angeles, the Chambers residence:
“Jesse, honey, please come out. It’s kind of hard to discuss this behind a locked door, don’t you think?”
“I don’t care! You and Libby can both go straight to hell!”
Johnny Chambers took a deep breath and turned away from the door to his daughter’s room. When Jesse was like this, there was no point in talking to her until she calmed down. God, she is so much like her mother. And I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Maybe Libby can through to her where I…
He stopped as he entered the living room to see his ex-wife on the phone.
“Uh-huh. Yes. No, George, I want Lana Lang to get this interview instead of me,” she said sarcastically. “God, you are such an idiot. Book me a flight at LAX. I’ll be there within the hour. ‘Bye.”
Libby placed the phone down and put her earring back in. As she stood up, she saw Johnny staring at her, his expression a mix of disgust and anger.
“Goddamn you, Libby. You swoop in, turn Jesse into a basket-case, and then you swoop out just as fast, leaving me to put the pieces back together — again. Will you ever learn to put your daughter ahead of yourself?”
Libby crossed the room to stand in front of her ex-husband, her finger pointed at him. “Now just a damn minute, Mr. holier-than-thou. I am so tired of you painting me as the scapegoat every time you screw up with Jesse. If you were any kind of father–”
“Will you two just stop?!”
Johnny and Libby turned to see Jesse standing there, tears streaming down her face. “God, you just don’t get it, do you? Either of you!”
And with that, Jesse raced out the door and vanished, quick as a flash.
“Johnny, do something! Go after her!” Libby yelled.
He was about to reply in anger, when suddenly a light bulb went off in his head. “That’s a great idea, Libby. Have a safe flight.” Johnny kissed Libby on the cheek, and he too vanished quicker than thought, leaving a very confused Libby Lawrence wondering what just happened.
“Look who’s decided to wake up and join the world,” Lyta Trevor said.
“Uhhh, how long was I asleep?” Helena Wayne said, trying to raise herself up.
“Whoa!” Lyta said, gently pushing her back to the bed. “You weren’t asleep. Not exactly.”
“You were injured in the Crisis,” Jade explained. “For a while, we thought we had lost you.”
“The last thing I remember is Dick and I being attacked by the shadow demons. That girl from the Teen Titans of Earth-One tried to erect a crystal shield,” Helena said, a slight tremor in her voice, “but they just kept hammering at it. They brought it down on our heads. How’s Dick? They didn’t–?”
“He’s fine,” Jade said. “In fact, he’s the one who helped us sneak you out of the hospital.”
“And the girl? Kole?”
“We don’t know,” Lyta answered gravely. “But judging by the extent of your injuries, it doesn’t look good.”
“If this isn’t the hospital, where am I now?” Helena asked, looking around at her surroundings.
“Paradise Island,” Lyta said, “my mother’s homeland. The Amazons have used their purple healing ray to heal your injuries and bring you out of your coma. But now you have to rest and get your strength back.”
“Is your mother here?” Helena asked. “I’d like to thank her.”
“She’s with my grandmother, Hippolyta,” Lyta said with a touch of concern. “Grandmother said she needed to speak to her in private. It sounded very serious.”
“What is it, Mother?” Diana said. “I wanted to be there when Helena awoke.”
“Your presence alarms me,” Hippolyta said, touching her hair. “Every time I look at you, there is more gray hair. If not for the magic that allows you and your comrades to cheat Hades, you would be a crone by now. I cannot allow this to continue.”
“We’ve been through this, Mother. Years ago. I love Steve, and I will continue to stay with him in Man’s World,” Diana said forcefully. “I’ve born a child by him — your granddaughter!”
“To sacrifice immortality for the sake of love is admirable. Aphrodite would agree with you. But you went to Man’s World to carry out a mission, and you cannot do that withering away,” Hippolyta said.
“I’d hardly say I’m–”
“By our standards you are. I’ve been in conference with the gods. Their orders are clear. You are to take the sacred rites and return to your rightful status of champion, immortal and vital as you once were.”
“But Steve–” Diana said mournfully.
“Don’t worry, Diana,” Hippolyta said sympathetically. “Did I not say Aphrodite would agree with you? Arrangements have been made.”
Gotham City Memorial Hospital:
Steve Trevor awoke in his recliner, the Wall Street Journal lying across him like a blanket and the TV blaring. He chuckled to himself. The older he got, the less often he made it to the bedroom to sleep, failing to even make it through the evening news. He’d be glad when Diana was back. He could always count on his princess to make sure he got there. He knew his back was going to pay the price.
He stood to his feet, stretching and awaiting the familiar pops and crunches of his aging back. But they didn’t come. In fact, he felt great — better than he had in years.
Looking down at his hands, Steve noticed their smoothness and the absence of liver spots. His pants felt loose in the waste. Something strange was happening.
He ran to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. A good fifty years had dropped off of him in the night. His skin was smooth, and his teeth had returned. His posture was no longer stooped, and muscles no longer sagged but were actually chiseled. And his hair — his hair was full and golden. In fact, it hung down past his shoulders in flaxen curls, like something from a Roman statue.
Roman — no, Greek. A gasp escaped from his throat when he realized he almost seemed to be glowing.