by JSAGL and Starsky Hutch 76
Ever since she was a child, Jesse Chambers loved coming to the beach. She and her father would spend hours here almost every weekend. She built sand castles that reached to the sky. She collected shells — all colors, shapes, and sizes. The beach was a truly magical place for her. Her tenth birthday was the best of all.
As usual, it was a Saturday, and this time her father took her out sailing. He promised her the best birthday gift ever, but Jesse was somewhat disappointed that it seemed to be only a boat ride. Her father smiled at her. “Just wait,” he had said, “the best is yet to come!”
As they sat upon the water, a shape approached from the distance. It grew larger and larger, when Jesse suddenly realized what it was — a whale. She was scared at first, but her father held her tight and assured her that it would be all right. This was part of the surprise, he told her.
A voice called out, “Ahoy, Johnny!”
Jesse looked up to see a man atop the whale whose hair was as gold as the sun and whose clothes were orange and green. A pod of dolphins approached as well as two other people — a woman with flowing hair, wearing green and white, and a man with similar hair, wearing red and a big smile. Her father called out to them, “Arthur! Neptune! Tsunami! How good to see you.”
The woman smiled at Johnny. “We, too, have brought a surprise for you.” From behind her back, Tsunami pushed forward a young girl almost the same age as Jesse. Her skin was the color of the ocean. “This is Debbie, but likes to be called by her middle name, Blue. We thought that she and Jesse might become friends.”
Another voice called out, “Don’t forget me!” A boy appeared next to the boat. “I’m Arthur! My father is Aquaman, the guy on the whale.”
And so, fit with a rebreather and under the watchful eye of their parents, Jesse explored the ocean with her new friends, Debbie Blue Perkins and Arthur Curry II. They played with the dolphins and a group of sea lions that happened by. Using Atlantean technology, Jesse was able to explore the ocean floor and see things never seen by surface-dwellers before. It was a truly magical day, all made possible by her father — her hero.
She was so excited that, on her next visit to her mother, it was all she could talk about. Libby smiled and nodded politely at her as usual, but Jesse could tell that her mother did not approve. That was confirmed later that night when she overheard her mother yelling at her father over the phone. Libby always ruined everything.
Jesse’s reverie was interrupted by her father’s voice, “Why are you here?”
“I want to be alone.”
Johnny Chambers sat down next to Jesse on the sand. “Look, I know I could have handled it a little bit better, but I was just so shocked that you wanted to become a super-hero. It’s a hard life, sweetheart, filled with risks and danger. Parents spend a lifetime protecting their kids, and I guess I just overreacted. Friends?”
Jesse looked at her father for a moment. He reached over and brushed the hair out of her eyes. “How did you know I’d be here?”
Johnny laughed, staring out into the sunset. “Where else would you be? This was like a second home to us. I knew you’d be here. I am your father, after all.”
“And Libby? Is she ready to talk about this now?”
Johnny continued to stare out into the ocean. “Honey, I really wish you wouldn’t call her Libby. She’s your mother, and–”
“She left again, didn’t she?”
Johnny stood up and walked toward the water. “Yes,” he said, his voice a whisper.
Jesse stood as well. She took her father’s arm as they walked along the beach. “So, does this mean that you’ll help me get into the Justice Society?”
“No, Jesse. The JSA is the big-time. You’re not ready for that,” Johnny said as he stopped. He turned to face his daughter, his hands on her shoulders. “I’ve trained you in how to use your powers, but I think there’s a better place for you right now than the JSA.”
“And where is that?”
Johnny smiled. “Do you remember my old pal Sylvester Pemberton?”
Professor Maximillian Arturo read the notes and schematics of the transmatter device like a man possessed. “Absolutely astounding. This device can actually alter a person’s vibrational frequency to match that of a parallel Earth. My God, the implications of this are staggering!”
While continuing to pore over the papers, the professor addressed Ted Knight, alias Starman. “And you say that this device was at one time operational?”
Ted scratched his head and smiled. He had thought that Rex Tyler was the only person capable of such singleminded obsession, but obviously Max Arturo was more than a match for him.
“That’s correct, Professor. It only recently stopped working after this recent Crisis that occurred.”
“Yes, unpleasant business, that. Tell me, how did an astronomer such as yourself become involved in such an undertaking as developing this device?”
Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Ted thought for a moment. If he was ever going to get the transmatter device working again, he was going to have to tell the professor who he really was. Ted hadn’t given it much thought when the Infinity Inc. kids revealed their identities on national television. (*) His son David was still at home, practicing with a spare cosmic rod, so it didn’t affect him much. Truth to tell, after the initial publicity died down, Carter and the others whose identities had been revealed said that things hadn’t really changed all that much.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Press Conference,” Infinity Inc. #12 (March, 1985).]
“Well, actually, Max, the device was built on a parallel Earth we call Earth-One by Katar and Shayera Hol of the planet Thanagar.”
The silence in the room was deafening. Professor Arturo put the papers on the desk and slowly removed his glasses. Ted could see the professor’s ears turning red.
“Mr. Knight,” Arturo said in a voice so calm that it surprised even the professor himself, “I have been a devoted student of your work for many years now, and up to this point, I have had the utmost respect for you and your work.”
The professor now made eye contact with Ted, and the tenor of his voice increased. “But it would seem that I am either the victim of some sort sort of elaborate practical joke, or you yourself are laboring under the onslaught of senility and or dementia.”
Arturo now stood over his desk, his hands arms bracing himself on the desktop. “In either case, get the hell out of my office! I do not suffer fools lightly, Mr. Knight, so take your… notes… and leave!” the professor yelled as he threw the papers at Ted.
Smiling at Professor Arturo, Ted Knight reached inside his jacket and retrieved his cosmic rod. His eyes locked on the professor, Ted activated the rod, and his clothes instantly transformed into Starman’s costume.
Dropping back in his chair, his mouth agape, the professor was — for once in his life — without words, save for two.
It was now Ted’s turn to lean over the desk, his cosmic rod illuminating the room. “Now then, Max, can you help me or not?”
Quickly composing himself, the professor’s face ran through several emotions at once. “Yes. Yes, in fact, I have a graduate student I think you should meet.”
He tossed and turned as if possessed. In his dreams, he was young again. Purple and gold vestments adorned his body. Beside him, a blond-haired boy laughed and smiled. All the while, drearily garbed men holding guns attacked them but were easily dispatched.
He towered above them, their bodies strewn like so much confetti, and said:
“There is no land above the law,
Where tyrants rule with unshakeable power.
‘Tis but a dream from which the evil wake,
To face their fate, their terrifying hour.”
Suddenly, he turned to see his companion scream and collapse in a pile of golden dust. From the dust, a behemoth rose. Its body was made of sand, and its eyes glowed as red as the fires of hell.
“Beware the lady in red!”
As suddenly as it appeared, the creature collapsed, leaving only a pile of sand in its wake. He felt a hand touch his shoulder — it was as white as alabaster. He turned to see a man as thin as a rail, his eyes and hair as black as the depths of space. “Your time is not yet done…”
He awoke with a start. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw that he was in his room. Beside him, Dian Belmont slept peacefully. God, after all these years, she is still so beautiful, he thought to himself. But what did that dream mean? As Wesley Dodds pondered that, a raven stared at him with a watchful eye from the windowsill.
Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, Gotham City:
“Well, aren’t you a pathetic excuse for a super-villain?”
He raised himself up on his elbows, trying to make out the figure in the dark. “Who’s that? What are you doing in my cell in the middle of the night?”
The figure moved closer in the shadows. “What is this? No threats? No attempt on my life? I daresay I expected more from the likes of you.”
He collapsed back onto the bed. “And what would be the point? Without him, there is no reason for living anymore. Now go away.”
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Then I suppose you would not be interested in knowing that the Batman is poised to return?”
Suddenly, the lights came on in the room.
In one corner stood the Shade, decked out in his typical top hat and suit, balancing himself on his cane. In the other, the clown prince of crime — the Joker.
“So old Bats really isn’t dead? They tried this trick on me before, you know. That girl of his, she thought she was so clever. Tell me more, Shade.”
“My apologies if I’ve led you astray. I did not mean to imply that your beloved Batman has returned from beyond the grave. Rather, his Boy Wonder is finally going to assume the mantle, as it were. Whether he actually chooses to be called the Batman, I know not. I am in need of someone to keep him out of the picture, and who better to spoil his debut than you?”
The Joker looked back at the Shade, an evil sparkle returning to his eyes. “So, little Boy Blunder is finally going to put on his daddy’s shoes? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haa-ha! Won’t he be surprised to see me? Let’s go, then, Shade. I’m tired of this retirement home.”
The shadows enveloped the Shade and the Joker, and they disappeared, the Joker’s maniacal laugh still echoing in the room.
The teenage boy cast furtive glances as he walked around the store. When he was sure no one was looking, he dropped a can of this or a pack of that into his jacket. He was about to leave, when a hand landed on his shoulder.
“And just’a where do you think’a you are goin’, little man?”
The boy looked up at the shopkeeper. He was a big Italian man with big sweaty hands, wearing a white shirt and apron over dark pants and holding a broom. The boy swiftly grabbed the broom out of the shopkeeper’s hand and cracked him in the leg with it. The shopkeeper fell, cursing the boy as he ran out the door with his treasures. As he ran down the street and disappeared into the back alleys of Gotham City, young Jason Todd had no idea that he was running toward a date with destiny.
The Sky Rocket Racer tore through the sky toward Los Angeles at a pace that most radar equipment couldn’t read.
“I hope they’ll be able to help Helena,” said Albert Rothstein, alias Nuklon.
“Of course they will,” Hector Hall answered. “From what my parents have told me, the Amazons are capable of all sorts of miracles. The purple ray is up there towards the the top of that list.”
“You’re awfully quiet, Roy,” Sylvester said.
“Just catching up in my thoughts, Sly,” Roy Harper said, “wondering how Ollie would feel about me taking off to L.A.” While they sometimes fought crime as Green Arrow and Speedy in New York City, where Oliver Queen had an apartment, he and Oliver had made their permanent home in Star City. That was also where almost all of the Queen fortune was invested.
“He’d want you to make a life for yourself,” Sylvester said. “I’m sure you left his company in good hands.”
“Better hands than mine,” Roy laughed. “I never did have a head for business. It terrified me that it was left entirely to me. All I want to do is do right by his memory, and running his business into the ground wouldn’t exactly be a good way to honor his legacy.”
“You’ll do fine,” Sylvester said. “Speaking of which, I’ve got something for you along those lines.” He reached into a hidden compartment and pulled out a box, which he handed to Roy.
Roy opened the box and looked inside. “A new costume?” he said, pulling it out.
“What do you think?”
“It looks kind of like the one worn by the Green Arrow of Earth-One. Well, except that it’s red. And the hood, of course.”
“Your old one looked like it had gotten a little roughed up during all the ruckus during the Crisis, so I had my studio people whip it up for you. Hope you like it. There’s a new bow for you, too.”
“I like it,” Roy said. “Can’t wait to try it on when we get to L.A.”
“Great!” Sylvester said, clapping him on the arm. “Welcome to Infinity, Inc. — Red Arrow!”