by Starsky Hutch 76
Johnny Thunder and his new bride were sitting in first class on their way to Badhnisia. “Gee, I hope this flight goes smoother than my last one,” Johnny laughed. (*) “Not that I’m complaining! I’m sure glad I was home to be reunited with you!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: The Secret Origin of Kiku.]
“Me, too, Johnny!” gushed Daisy Thunder, the former Daisy Darling. The newlyweds were both like kids again, in more ways than one. The boons he and the rest of the JSA had been granted by Odin had restored Daisy to her youth. (*) He had thought that the extent of it, but shortly afterward he had found himself returned to youth as well. So once again he was the most youthful — in spirit, not in age — member of the JSA, even with the recent revitalization of so many of their number. What followed was an impromptu wedding ceremony Johnny had pulled off using his Thunderbolt’s magic immediately after the wedding of Charles and Myra McNider. (*) Now they flew to Badhnisia for their honeymoon, as young as the day they first discovered one another.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Ragnarok Aftermath, Chapter 4: Young Hearts and Doctor Mid-Nite: Nite Fall, Epilogue: Wedded Bliss.]
Unbeknownst to the two of them, a young man several rows behind them was staring intently at him. He pulled a picture of Johnny from his inside jacket pocket and looked at it. It was him. He was even younger than the face in the wrinkled, weathered picture, but the face was unmistakable. The plane would be landing in a few hours, so if he wanted to speak to him, he needed to do it now. He gathered his courage, stood up, and began to walk toward them.
“I can’t wait till we get there,” Johnny said excitedly. “There’s so much I want to show you!” He raised his arm, looked at his watch, and said, “Say, you’d think we’d already be there by now!”
“As you wish, Master Johnny,” a voice suddenly boomed.
With a flash, Johnny and Daisy suddenly disappeared.
The young man stopped dead in his tracks as the one he’d wanted so desperately to meet and the young woman with him disappeared. Will Twotrees turned and walked dejectedly back to his seat for the remainder of the flight.
Johnny and Daisy Thunder landed unceremoniously in the Badhnisia National Airport, several hours ahead of schedule — and their luggage. As she rose to her feet, Daisy looked at Johnny, stamped her foot, and growled, “Ooohhh, you!” and slapped him over the head with her hat.
“Thanks a lot, T-bolt,” Johnny groaned.
A million different thoughts, none of them pleasant, were running through William Twotrees’ mind as he sat in his seat in the plane flying toward Badhnisia. Why had the man he’d come so far to see used his mystical Thunderbolt to vanish from the plane? Was he aware of him, too? Had he known about him all this time and was avoiding him? The thought was painful, but what else was he supposed to think?
Simply sitting there doing nothing was doing nothing to improve his state of mind. He had to keep moving. He rose from his seat and walked down the aisle as if heading toward the restroom.
“Excuse me,” he said, moving around a stewardess on the way. He stopped at the emergency exit and turned to make sure he wasn’t being watched. The stewardess he’d passed was engrossed in conversation with a tanned, blond passenger, playing with her hair and rocking back and forth coquettishly as she spoke. She certainly wouldn’t be paying attention to what he was doing.
With a slight static hum, his body suddenly changed from that of matter to energy. In a split second, he lost human shape and fired his energy self through the space between the door and the plane that was invisible to the human eye. Once out, he resumed humanoid shape and flew toward Badhnisia at a rate much faster than the plane could achieve.
The stewardess looked over her shoulder toward the space in front of the emergency exit. “Wasn’t there someone standing there just now?”
“I don’t think so,” the tanned Adonis said.
“Oh, OK. Anyway… what I really wanna be is an actress, y’know?”
Johnny and Daisy walked through the airport, trying to find someone who might be able to tell them how to get their luggage when the plane finally arrived. “This is all your fault, Johnny Thunder!” Daisy said. “I can’t believe, after all this time, you don’t know how to use that genie of yours!”
“How many times to I have to say I’m sorry, Daisy?” Johnny said. “Say, you’d think we’d be able to find someone around here to help us out!”
“I’m sorry, Master Johnny,” the Thunderbolt said, appearing in front of him. “For me to grant that request, there would actually have to be someone else in the airport besides the two of you.”
“What?!” Johnny exclaimed. “What do you mean there’s no one else here? Did everyone get the day off or something?”
“Hardly,” the Thunderbolt said. “In fact, I’d say their sudden departure came as a surprise. They all seem to have stopped in the middle of whatever it is they were doing.”
Sure enough, the signs of abandoned jobs were evident throughout the airport. The luggage conveyor was still running circles in the lobby. Abandoned bags were scattered throughout the large area. Johnny and Daisy stepped outside to see a line of abandoned taxis and other automobiles, most of which still had their engines running.
“Where the heck is everybody?!” Johnny exclaimed.
Johnny and Daisy flew, carried by the Thunderbolt, toward the hotel where their reservations were. As they flew, they stared in dismay at the ground below them.
“Gee whiz!” Johnny said. “Whatever it was that made everyone in the airport vanish seems to have done the same to everyone on the island!”
“Whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t affect the plane, whenever it finally lands,” Daisy said. “Our bags are still on there.”
“I smell treachery, Master Johnny,” the Thunderbolt said, ignoring Daisy. “The people of Badhnisia had help disappearing.”
“Well, I say we get to the bottom of it, T-bolt!” Johnny said.
“I wanted to go to the Bahamas, but nooo-ooo,” Daisy pouted.
William Twotrees landed in the heart of Badhnisia and was stunned by what he saw: cars wrecked into trees or in ditches, as if abandoned by their drivers; toys scattered in yards or on sidewalks, as if the children playing with them had suddenly grown disinterested; dogs running wild with their leashes trailing behind them, their owners nowhere in sight.
“What’s going on here?” Will said, scratching his head.
Kiku watched the young man warily from a nearby window in one of the houses lining the street. Could he be the one responsible for the disappearances? It didn’t seem likely. He appeared to be just as confused by it all as she was.
Whatever it was, she was sure that it would have taken her, too, if not for her dial. When people began disappearing, she dialed H-E-R-O and transformed in the hopes that her new form would be able to deal with it.
The form the dial chose, a ghostly one, could not detect the force responsible. It simply turned her insubstantial and thus impervious to the unknown force.
Luckily, whatever it was did not come back for those it missed. Otherwise, it could have taken her when the dial’s effect wore off.
Could this young man help her to fight whatever this strange force was and rescue her people? Dare she approach him to find out?
“Hello?” Johnny called out, stepping into the lobby of the hotel, followed by Daisy. The T-bolt floated in the air beside them.
“There doesn’t seem to be anybody here,” Johnny said. “I’m sorry this had to happen on our honeymoon, Daisy.”
“You’re sorry?” Daisy said, walking to the front desk.
“You know, Master Johnny,” the T-bolt said, “It’s not too late to get an annulment.”
“I heard that,” Daisy said. Both Johnny and the T-bolt braced themselves for the coming storm.
“Relax,” Daisy said. “I’m not about to take your heads off. I suppose I have been a bit of a witch.”
“You’re off by one letter,” the T-bolt began.
“Shhh…” cautioned Johnny.
“It’s just something I do when I’m nervous,” Daisy said. “Ah, here’s what I was looking for,” she said, pulling out the hotel ledger. She pointed to a page and said, “We’re in the honeymoon suite on the fourth floor. Number 401.” She reached over to where the keys were hanging and took a key.
“I don’t think we’re supposed to do that,” Johnny said.
“Oh, please. There’s no one else here to tell us not to, and it’s not like we’re not planning on paying.”
“Say, you have a point there,” Johnny said. “I just wish we had our bags.”
“I was just waiting for you to ask,” the T-bolt said, disappearing and reappearing with their luggage.
“Great!” Daisy said. “Now I can go to our room and freshen up, and you boys can work on how you can solve this mystery, so this honeymoon isn’t a total bust!”
Will walked down the street, looking around in dismay at the scattered remnants of what had until recently been a thriving island community. When Johnny Thunder saw this, he was sure to leave to go get help from his JSA friends, and then he’d never get to talk to him.
“Hello,” a voice suddenly called out to him. He was startled to see that it was a girl. She was younger, even, than him.
“Hi,” she said nervously. “My name is Kiku.”
Will braced himself for whatever might happen. She looked innocent enough, but she could be the one responsible for whatever had happened there. “Hi,” he said guardedly. “My name is Will… uh, Will Power,” he said, using the heroic name he’d chosen for himself.
“I… I couldn’t help but notice that you seem surprised by what happened here.”
Here it comes, he thought to himself. She was going to admit her part. “Aren’t you?” Will said accusingly.
“Of course. But whatever it was could not take me with everyone else. My dial protected me by changing me to a form it could not touch. I… I am this land’s only super-hero,” she said modestly, as if embarrassed to apply the term to herself.
“Ah,” Will said, glad to be proven wrong. “Then it is up to the two of us to get to the bottom of this.” And if he and his new accomplice could solve the mystery in time, then perhaps his trip wouldn’t be a total bust.
William Twotrees walked next to Kiku, occasionally casting sideways glances at her. Don’t even think about it, Will, he told himself. That girl’s got to be high school age.
“So how long have you been alone out here?” he asked her.
“It’s been about a day,” she said.
“Any idea who could be responsible?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “Badhnisia’s enemies are few. We made peace with the neighboring Agolea many years ago.”
“Well, what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality,” Will said. His gaze drifted to their reflection in a storefront window. In the reflection, he suddenly saw a little girl run past. He quickly whirled around and saw there was no one there and then looked back at the reflection. “Did you see that?!” he exclaimed.
“See what?” Kiku said.
Normally, the royal palace of Badhnisia was well guarded. Today, though, the palace was wide open to whoever on the island wanted to walk in. In this case, the whoevers were Johnny Thunder, his new bride, and his enchanted Thunderbolt.
“I’ve never seen this place like this!” Johnny said. “Usually there are guards posted all over the place!”
“A beautiful place like this… unprotected,” Daisy said, looking up at the spires of the castle. “It doesn’t seem right.”
“It won’t stay that way,” the Thunderbolt said. “Right, Master Johnny?”
“It sure won’t,” Johnny Thunder said. “We’ll get to the bottom of it. I just hope there are some clues inside.”
“If Badhnisia has enemies, they likely struck here,” the Thunderbolt said.
The three of them walked through the opening to the palace and into the main hall. “Daisy, are you coming?” Johnny said, looking back toward his bride, who was checking her hair in the mirror.
“If there’s a chance I’m going to meet royalty, then I want to look my best.”
“Badhnisia’s a democracy now,” Johnny reminded her.
“Whatever,” Daisy said, continuing to primp. She stopped suddenly, as her reflection quickly faded away to be replaced by several people banging on the other side of the glass — screaming, crying, and pleading for help. Their eyes were locked in a glare of mind-numbing panic.
Daisy let out a horrified cry, and Johnny rushed to her side. “What is it? Are you all right?”
“The mirror!” Daisy cried.
“What?” Johnny said. “You look great as always.”
“It…” Her jaw dropped as she saw her own reflection staring back at her again, though with a much more frazzled expression than it had previously worn. “What’s happening here?” she gasped, clutching ahold of Johnny.