by Doc Quantum and Starsky Hutch 76
Star Sapphire, alias Amanda Martin, flew over Washington, D.C., still thinking about the recent meeting of the Junior JSA, in which she’d been inducted as a member. It was an exciting time for her. She’d recently seen her mother marry the love of her life, Dr. Charles McNider (who, she was well aware, was actually the JSA member Doctor Mid-Nite), and had now herself become accepted by the younger version of that legendary super-group. (*) Could things be any better?
[(*) Editor’s note: See Doctor Mid-Nite: Nite Fall.]
Just minutes earlier, she’d slipped silently out of her dorm room at Holliday Academy for Young Ladies, run by Etta Darnell, who was rumored to be a close friend of Wonder Woman’s. Lately she’d been taking her super-heroics a step up and had begun patrolling the city each evening just after curfew, leaving behind only an image of herself as Amanda Martin asleep in her bed and hoping that none of the other girls or, God forbid, Mrs. Darnell herself discovered the star sapphire-created illusion.
Slipping into downtown Washington, she made herself invisible and flew through a few back alleys, patrolling for trouble. Trouble which she could stop with either her star sapphire powers or her powers over the human nervous system that she’d been born with due to an accident with a device called the cryotuber, which her mother had been exposed to several years before Amanda’s birth. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Doctor Mid-Nite and the Guardian: Times Past, 1947: Shedding Some Light.]
Amanda heard the angry shout and followed the sound into a nearby alleyway. She saw a single black teenage boy about her age, overdressed in formal wear, being confronted by three larger teenagers who looked to either rob him or beat him up. Well, she would put a stop to that now, wouldn’t she?
“Hey, boys,” she said, hovering just behind and above them in the air, and now glowing in a purplish hue, “three against one, huh? Why, that’s not fair at all, is it?” Hey, I think I’m getting the hang of this, she thought as she was saying these brave words.
The largest teenager, who appeared to be the leader of this little gang, quickly recovered and pulled out a large Bowie knife. “Well, lookie what we have here. It’s a flying girl. I ain’t scared of no flying girl.” And he made a lunge into the air at her, his knife and arm passing right through her.
“Missed me,” she said five feet away, as the image she’d left vanished, to the confusion of the teens.
The gang leader flew into a rage and ran after her again, lunging at her with the knife. His two cronies were hot on his heels this time.
“Ah-ah-ah,” Star Sapphire said again, as his knife failed to penetrate her force-field. “Didn’t your mom ever tell you it’s not fair play to hit a girl, let alone try to stab her? Well, enough of this playtime. You boys have an appointment with Washington’s Finest.” At that, she bound all three of the young hoodlums in a purple force-field bubble. Then she turned to the well-dressed teenager who was being robbed. “Hey, are you OK?”
“Yeah, ‘m all right,” he responded, sticking his hands in his pockets and unable to look at her in the eyes. She was a very pretty blonde.
“That’s a cool accent you have. Where are you from?”
“I’m from England,” the boy said. “My father’s the Ambassador.”
“You look a bit overdressed,” she said, noting the suit he was wearing. “Why were you walking through the alley dressed like that? It’s not safe around here at night.”
“So I’ve noticed,” he said, shyly looking at her. “Um… I just arrived in D.C., and I was bobbing around, looking for a nice spot. Er, you wouldn’t happen to know of any interesting places around here, would you?”
“Well, now that you mention it,” she said, then stopped as she heard a noise, deeper in the alley. “What was that?” she said, turning to look, but seeing only darkness in the shadows.
She turned back again and found she was alone. The boy she was talking with was gone. She looked down, and the gang members were gone as well — gone without a trace, as if they had never been there at all.
“What the heck is going on?” she said as she began to shiver from fear. Something’s just not right here.
“Hate Sapphire! Hate Sapphire! Hate Sapphire!”
Amanda heard the monstrous voice just in time to turn her head and see a large figure heading straight at her from the low roof overhead. She had no time to scream.
In Gotham City, Batwing quickly dodged out of the way as Dollface somersaulted toward him, bringing her legs down into a kick. Her feet connected with the spot on the brick wall behind where his head had been.
“You could love a guy to death,” he said, looking back.
“Ain’t that the truth?” she said, launching herself off the wall to do a backflip. Her body folded backward in an impossible position as she spun three times in the air before landing.
Batwing watched her, clearly impressed. “I don’t know what you’re doing wasting your time attacking me. You should be trying out for the Olympics.”
“So sweet of you to say,” she cooed. “Come here and let me give you a hug!”
“No, thanks,” Batwing said. “One from you is enough to last a lifetime.”
“There you go again. Hurting my feelings!” She leaped in the air, pirouetting, and flung a jawbreaker she had grabbed unseen from the pavement as she spun around.
Batwing’s eyes grew wide as he dived out of the way. He somersaulted through the air, moving head over heels down the road.
“We have sooo much in common,” Dollface said, watching him. She skipped after him in pursuit.
Suddenly, she kicked one heel against the other, and rollerskates popped out of the sole of a shoe. She repeated the action with the other foot.
Dollface swept forward, lifting Batwing off his feet. “Wheee!” she cried as they began to coast downhill. Batwing let out a cry of dismay, wrapping his arms around her neck, hanging on for dear life, as they sped out into traffic.
“What fun, huh?” Dollface squealed.
“You’re going to get us killed!” Batwing said as cars whizzed past them.
“Sure, maybe!” she said. “But we’ll die together, and isn’t that what really matters?”
Batwing turned his head at the sound of the blaring of a car horn. He leaped out of her arms and onto the hood of another car.
Dollface leaped and landed onto the hood of the Corvette that had been bearing down on them. Using its slanted hood and windshield as a ramp, she launched herself into the air. She laughed giddily as she landed on the hood of another car will a loud thud. After leaving an enormous dent, she proceeded to skate from car to car.
The highway quickly became a scene of chaos. Panicking drivers slammed on their brakes and skidded into one another. I’ve got to stop this lunatic before she kills somebody, Batwing thought.
Batwing leaped from the car he was perched on, then another. He leaped at Dollface, but rather than flee as she had expected, she flashed an even bigger smile and threw open her arms. “Lover-man!” she cried, locking him in an embrace. She planted a huge kiss on him as they tumbled from the car she had been standing on.
“Mmmwah!” she said with a loud smack.
“Knock it off!” Batwing snarled.
“You’re doing it again!” Dollface cried. “I just can’t handle this kind of rejection!” With a flip and a swing of her leg, Batwing suddenly found himself airborne.
He let out a cry of horror as he flew over the guard rail of the overpass and looked down at the waiting pavement below, knowing that in seconds he would be dead. As he plummeted, a truck carrying bales of hay suddenly pulled out from under the overpass. He landed on his back in the midst of the pile in the truckbed. Dust and bits of straw flew up as the hay broke his fall.
As he raised his head and looked up, Dollface grinned down at him and waved her fingers. “Catch you later, cutesy-wutesy. Buh-bye now!” She skated off happily singing to herself. “La la la…”
“Not if I catch you first,” Batwing groaned as his head slumped back into the hay as the truck rolled on.
In Washington, D.C., Star Sapphire felt huge fists pummeling at her, and she barely had time to raise the minimal protective field she’d need to keep from being killed. The creature was screaming hatred at her and pounding at her with an animal-like ferocity. Who? Why? None of this made sense, and she couldn’t stop to figure out what was going on. All she could think about was getting away.
The huge figure was on top of her and had her pinned to the ground as it tried to smash through the purple force-field that was protecting her from death. It kept shouting, “Hate Sapphire! Hate Sapphire! Hate Sapphire!” over and over and over and over and over, and she’d never seen the thing before in her life; she was certain of that. Could it be one of her stepfather’s enemies, like the Gorilla Boss? It could’ve been — he was just as large and strong, if not moreso — if not for the lack of hair all over the body. And in the dark alleyway she couldn’t make out much more than that.
She knew that she couldn’t hold up to much more of this. Sooner or later she would pass out, and then nothing in the world could save her from being smashed into a pulp on the concrete she now lay pinned on by the monster. She had to do something — anything.
Amanda attempted to use her power over the nervous system to affect the creature’s motor control. A difficult thing to do, considering she was already using her star sapphire’s power to keep the force-field up. She somehow concentrated on the creature’s nervous system, even as the huge fists kept on slamming down on her now-bloodied face. And her mother had said she was so pretty just this afternoon. Nothing. Either this creature had no real nervous system, or she had no power over it. It was almost as if it were dead already. And she’d be dead soon as well, if she didn’t get herself out of there.
She felt like crying, and stinging tears began to well up in her bruised eyes, even as blood-vessels began to burst around her eyes. She could barely see now. Only a few days ago, she’d joked with her stepfather about his giving her a nose job for her next birthday, in a playful attempt to shock him. Well, she’d need it now.
The pain was welling up so much now that she was starting to become numb. The force-field seemed to be doing no good. This creature had so much more willpower than she. In fact, it seemed to be pure force — pure will. She’d be dead in another few seconds if she didn’t do anything, she knew. Oh, God, she knew. But she was pinned under his weight, and she couldn’t get up, and she couldn’t fight back, and she just wanted this to end — why wouldn’t it end?
The creature kept on pounding away at her, as insanely angry at her as ever. For what reason she couldn’t possibly know. Why? Just because she was who she was? Was that all? How could anyone, even a creature like this, hate so much? What had she ever done to anybody to deserve something like this?
“No…” she moaned. She had tried to scream, but it had only come out in a moan. “No… no… no…” She needed to do something. Now. Right now. C’mon!
The purple gem she wore around her neck was becoming dimmer and dimmer. Any second now, she’d fall unconscious, and the force-field would collapse, followed by her skull and the rest of her body seconds afterward, under the fists of this pale-hued monster on top of her.
She frowned — and even frowning was difficult, as she felt the blood dripping down her cut-up forehead — and tried her best to concentrate. Get off! Get off! Get off of me!
The star sapphire glowed brightly like a nova and burst outward against the monster, pushing it away from her with pure force. A second afterward she collapsed, the star sapphire glowing dim.
The monster leaped back toward her, about to crush her into the pavement as he’d been trying, once again screaming, “Hate Sapphire! Hate Sapphire! Hate Sapphire!”
“Kid Grundy,” a male voice said. “Stop.”
Immediately, the beast calmed down. The clenched fists loosened, and the muscles flexed in tension suddenly relaxed, as the monster backed away and sat down passively on a garbage can.
A robed figure walked out of the darkness and knelt down next to the unconscious figure of Amanda Martin. “Oh, Grundy… you’ve broken another toy. How sad,” he said disingenuously. He bent over her and whispered in her ear, which had largely remained undamaged in the beating, “I hope you’ll have learned your lesson, little girl. Go back to playing with your Barbie dolls and trying on your mommy’s dresses. You’re in over your head here. Best to just… quit. This is your final warning.” He rose once more and brushed the dust off his robe.
“Come, you disobedient ogre,” said Faust as he turned back into the darkness of the alleyway, the monster known as Kid Grundy in tow. “You’re keeping me from a very important date.”
“I wan’ Etta.”
Faust sighed. “Yes, I know you do. Well, you’ll be reunited with your precious Henrietta soon enough. Now come on.” And walking into the shadows, the two figures disappeared, leaving the battered and bloody body of Amanda Martin laying there.
A few minutes later, a young black teenager, who was the son of the United Kingdom Ambassador and was dressed in a business suit, walked through the alleyway and saw Star Sapphire laying there. “Bollocks!”
Hours later, Dr. Charles McNider left Amanda Martin in the E.R. after the operation which had saved her life. They had airlifted her to New York City and placed her in a hospital there. She’d been declared clinically dead for nearly one minute, and the other doctor had said she’d been very lucky to have survived with her life. All he could do now was comfort his wife, Myra Mason McNider, her mother.
“Why, Charles?” Myra said, sobbing as she buried her face in his arms. “Why would anyone do this to my little girl?”
“I don’t know, Myra,” he said, barely keeping himself from crying himself. “I don’t know.”
Damage awoke in the hospital. For many hours, he had simply laid there feigning sleep so he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. He didn’t want to move, let alone have to deal with other people or their questions. Especially not those of the adult JSA members.
That changed when he heard that another of his teammates was in the same hospital. After hearing the room number, he waited until no one was around and then rose painfully out of his hospital bed, reached for the crutches left near his bed, and hobbled down the hallway.
Finally, he came to her room. What he saw made his breath catch in his chest. “Amanda,” he said hoarsely.
She had taken his breath away the first time he had seen her, too, but for much better reasons. She was one of those girls so beautiful that they actually seemed to glow. Whenever he was near her, he felt as awkward as Whiz Kid. If he ever ran into the person who did this, he might not be able to control himself. If it turned out to be the same guy who jumped him, all the better. He reached down and took her hand in his. “Get better,” he whispered.
He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. “You’re awake,” a voice said from behind him. He turned and saw the smiling, concerned face of Al Pratt, known to the world as the Atom. “You gave us quite a scare there, son.”
“Don’t call me son!” Damage snapped. “You haven’t earned the right!” He shoved his way past the man he’d recently learned was his father and hobbled down the hallway as fast as he could.
“Grant!” the Atom called out with hurt confusion.