by Doc Quantum and Starsky Hutch 76
In a New York City hospital, Amanda Martin lay in her bed, listless and depressed, her face covered with bandages. She felt utterly helpless and powerless, and she could not see her future any longer. In one evening she had lost her beauty and had failed at being a super-heroine, despite all her precautions. Some thing — some monster — had attacked her and left her as close to death as possible, without actually killing her. And as she lay there, falling into unconsciousness, she could have sworn she heard a boy’s voice, warning her never to become Star Sapphire ever again.
She had no desire to do so, in any case. She had no desires to do anything at all right now. Everything seemed so hopeless. The thought of suicide had crossed her mind at one point, but that was something she would never even consider. She had a loving mother and stepfather, and many friends who would miss her if she were gone. However, in her depression, she wondered how long it would take everyone to forget her if she died. Probably not all that long, she said inwardly. She reveled in her self-pity and hated it at the same time.
Someone knocked at her hospital door. “Hello?” a boy’s voice could be heard. The voice was spoken in a British accent.
Amanda didn’t respond, but waited for the door to open.
“Um… excuse me, you’re Amanda Martin, right?” the young man said. It was the same black teenager who had found her in that Washington alleyway and had called an ambulance for her. When she didn’t reply, he continued, “Well, er — um — my name’s Jeffrey Pierce. My dad’s the British Ambassador to the United States. I’d heard that you had been moved here, and since I was in town while my dad’s visiting the U.N., I — uh — I thought you might like some company.”
She eyed Jeff over and replied, “I’m not really feeling all that sociable right now.”
“Understandable, understandable…” he said, nodding. “I guess I’m also here because I’m new to America and looking for a friend.”
“I don’t need your pity,” Amanda replied coldly.
“Pity? S’nothing to do with pity. I’m pretty lonely here in America, away from all my friends back home, and you’re the first girl my age I’ve met. And if you don’t mind my saying so, also the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.”
Amanda started to sob quietly after he said this.
“What’s wrong?” said Jeff. “I didn’t mean to say anything bad.”
“How could you say that?” she cried between her weeping. “I only used to be pretty. Now look at me! I’m hideous!”
“I don’t think so, miss,” said Jeff. “I still think you’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.”
“Are you blind? I have bandages all over my face! My nose is broken, and I have bruises everywhere! How can you say I’m pretty?!”
“Blind? No. No, I’m not blind. But I can see more than just your physical beauty. I’ve been talking with your parents and with the friends who have come to see you when you were unconscious, and from that and from my own observation, I can see the beauty within you.”
Amanda continued to sob, but listened.
“I know who you are, Amanda. I know you’re Star Sapphire. And I know that you have a desire to use your powers to help others. You were the one who saved me from being beaten up in that alleyway by a gang, although after that it seemed like I was somewhere else all of a sudden. I only wish I had been there to stop the bastard who did this to you shortly afterwards. I found you there in the alley a while later, though, and called the ambulance. They didn’t realize that you were also Star Sapphire, because your costume was so torn up, but I knew. Since then, I’ve been coming here every day, hoping and praying that you’ll recover.
“You’re my hero, Amanda. And it’s not because of the wondrous powers you have. It’s because by all accounts you have a loving heart, and you always go out of your way to help out a friend. I guess what I’m trying to get at, miss, is that — why do you use your powers only to help others, and not yourself?”
“Wh-what do you mean?” said Amanda. “I tried to use my powers, and that monster still did this to me. What more could I do?”
“I know… but you also have those other powers… I think it’s from something called a… Cryo-tuber? Don’t those powers give you some control over a human being’s nervous system?”
“Well, the doctor’s been saying that you should’ve started healing by now, and that something’s keeping you from healing from your wounds. Maybe you’re unconsciously using your Cryo-tuber powers to stop your healing.”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know… maybe because you feel helpless? Maybe it’s easier this way, to just crawl back into your comfort zone and become mommy’s little girl again?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Your mom and dad are already sheltering you as much as they can. Maybe you find it easier to be sheltered, instead of healing yourself and recovering.”
Amanda said nothing for a few moments. Then she said, “I think I need to be alone now.”
“All right,” said Jeff. “I hope you get better soon.”
As he reached for the door and started to open it, he heard Amanda say from behind him, “Jeff?”
Jeffrey Pierce just smiled, nodded, and left the room. Outside Amanda’s room was Charles McNider.
“Dr. McNider!” said Jeff, surprised to see him standing there. “I didn’t know you were there!”
“It’s all right, Jeff,” said Charles. “I didn’t want to interrupt anything. I heard every word, though. And I want to thank you for talking with Amanda. I think she really needed to hear from someone her own age.”
“I just hope that she lets herself get better, sir.”
“As do I.”
In the Batcave, Jason Todd was putting himself through a more tortuous workout routine than usual. He was still smarting over what had happened with Dollface. Considering what had happened recently with his teammates, he supposed he should have considered himself lucky.
With his hands resting firmly on the parallel bars, he swung his feet upward and went into a handstand. He began walking forward on his hands when he heard footsteps. He turned and saw the upside down form of John Garrick, AKA Whiz Kid. “I’d say I’m surprised to see you in here, but if anyone can figure out how to get past the Batcave’s defenses, it’s you.” He pushed upward and did a midair flip, landing onto the mat in front of the bars.
Jason noticed the look of concern on his friend’s face. “What’s wrong?”
“I think I may have done a really bad thing,” John said remorsefully.
“What do you mean?” Jason asked, almost laughing. If there was one person he couldn’t imagine doing anything bad, it was John. The kid didn’t have a malevolent bone in his body. That probably came from having Jay Garrick as a dad.
“This tape,” John said, holding up a VHS cassette. “I’ve been looking at the tape that news crew made of when Superboy saved that band just before he disappeared. There’s something you’ve gotta see.”
“OK, pal,” Jason said in a calming tone, pulling on the tunic of his costume. He’d never seen John so flustered.
John pushed the cassette into the video player built into the work station. The image of Superboy suddenly came onto the large screen, signing autographs and smiling to the throng of adoring girls.
“He tries to act like he finds that embarrassing, but you can tell he eats it up,” Batwing said.
“Um, yeah,” Whiz Kid said. “Let’s fast forward to when he takes off.” Superboy and the girls moved at fast motion until he quickly began to move through the crowd and then returned to normal speed. Superboy began to take off when suddenly, he shot off like a rocket.
“That’s faster than normal,” Batwing said.
“Here. Let’s slow it down a little more,” John said as his own hands moved across the keyboard.
“There’s clearly a blue and gray streak here,” Batwing said, pointing. “It collides with Superboy when he fires off.”
“On first look, but then we slow it down even more…” The picture slowed down, and the blue and gray streak started to appear humanoid.
“A speedster,” Batwing said. “And you think you had something to do with this? Just because of the powers?”
“No,” John groaned. “Look at his hand! What he’s holding! I made that!” John’s hands quickly danced across the keyboard again, and the screen moved in for a closeup of the speedster’s hand.
“What is it?” Batwing asked.
“It’s a perpetual motion machine.”
“There’s no such thing,” Batwing said immediately. “Perpetual motion is an impossibility.”
“I… I figured it out. I found a way to make it so force could be multiplied upon itself, using its own energy to increase itself.”
“How did the bad guy end up with it?!” Batwing exclaimed. “Jeez! Something like that should be under lock and key at the Pentagon!”
“I did it for my girlfr — my ex-girlfriend. She needed help with her science fair project. The original idea was hers. I just sort of improved it… made it work.”
“You gave your girlfriend one of the most revolutionary devices of this and probably the next century for a school science fair?!” Batwing exclaimed.
“I figured she was like me and just wanted something really big.”
“Oh, that’s big, all right,” Batwing said. “So what’s this mystery girl’s name, anyway?”
“Henrietta King,” Whiz Kid said miserably.
“Wh-what?!” Batwing exclaimed, rising to his feet. He began pacing for a few moments in thought, while Whiz Kid waited for him to finish his thoughts. Finally Jason turned back to him.
“After everything that’s happened, we all thought there must be someone gunning for the Junior JSA,” Batwing said. “It was too hard to believe that this could just be a string of coincidences. What you’ve shown me just confirms it.”
“How?” Whiz Kid said.
“Obviously, your girlfriend was working with the other people involved in these attacks. She tricked you into devising a weapon capable of taking Superboy out of the picture.”
“So she was just using me,” Whiz Kid sighed. “She never really liked me.”
“I’m sorry,” Batwing said. His heart went out to his teammate. John had a lot to learn about how cruel the world could be. Jay and Joan Garrick had done their best to shield him from it. Batwing, on the other hand, had gotten to learn it firsthand on the streets after his loser of a father had disappeared.
“Henry King was the real name of the villain called the Brain Wave, and he was one of the JSA’s most dangerous foes,” Batwing continued. “Unless there was a fad to name your baby after super-villains fifteen years ago, there’s probably a connection.”
A few minues later, Batwing and Whiz Kid were talking to Hank King, AKA Brainwave via a direct video connection from the Batcave to Infinity Inc.’s headquarters in Los Angeles. “Yes, I do have a sister,” he told them. “A half-sister, actually. I only found out about her recently. She’d the daughter of a model my father had a fling with — Zeta Harris. Or as she was known then, simply Zeta.”
“The supermodel from the ’60s?!” Batwing exclaimed. “No offense to your dad, but…”
“How’d he manage that?!” Whiz Kid said, finishing the sentence.
“My father could be… persuasive,” Brainwave said. “I tried to strike up a relationship with her, but so far she really hasn’t seemed that interested. She loved hearing stories about our father, but when I tried to tell her about me and what’s going on in my life, she became distant. Why the interest in my sibling?”
“Oh, nothing earth-shattering. John here just happened to come across the name. He ran into her while out with a bunch of friends.” He gave Brainwave a knowing wink. “And we wondered if there was a connection. Thanks for filling us in.”
“No problem,” Brainwave smiled. “If you kids happen to see her again, tell her I’ve been thinking about her and to let me know how she’s doing.”
“We will,” Batwing said, smiling.
After the screen went black, Whiz Kid turned to Batwing, flabbergasted, and said, “Why didn’t you tell him what happened?!”
“You heard what he called us,” Batwing said grimly. “You kids. And that’s all we’ll ever be to anyone if we don’t handle this ourselves.”
Superboy sat on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, his chin resting in his hands. The strong winds blew his long mane of hair to and fro, making his tattered costume flap wildly.
Much had happened to him since the strange youth had turned up at his side, pushing him into greater and greater rates of acceleration until he broke through the time barrier. Aiding him in that endeavor was a device he had claimed was devised by John Garrick, Superboy’s own teammate.
It had to be some sort of trick. The idea that a friend could have created the machine that had turned his life upside-down was unfathomable. Since that day, he had come to doubt himself and his powers as he fought to make his way home, never hitting the mark. It felt as though years had passed. Luckily, there was the added side effect that he didn’t appear to be aging as he leaped back and forth through time, though his grooming definitely seemed to be suffering. Unlike the Supermen of Earths One and Two, his costume was not indestructible, and his hair did grow.
The other two Supermen had also had the benefit of years of experience before being put in a situation like the one he was now in. He wasn’t ready for this. He was starting to wonder if he ever would be. After managing to figure out how to travel through time under his own power, he’d had many adventures now during his jaunts through time, both solo and with heroes of other eras, but still seemed no closer to finding his way home. Since the time-stream was unknown territory for him, he lacked all frame of reference, and he had to put up with wild leaps in the dark, hoping he would find a clue to eventually get home. Unfortunately, people he ran into were unwilling to help him on his way for fear of changing their own history. He was beginning to give up and accept that he had lost yet another home.
Suddenly, he saw two specks on the horizon. They were growing closer, moving through the air toward him. He let out a sigh. Would this be yet another adventure where he would get his hopes up, only to have them dashed again?
He used his telescopic vision, and his heart suddenly leaped up into his throat. Suddenly, everything he had been feeling through this whole ordeal came rushing over him: the frustration, the hopelessness, and mostly the shame — the humiliating shame of it all. He fought to choke back the tears that came with these feelings, and the ones of relief, as Superman and Power Girl flew toward him to bring him home.
“Do you love me?” the handsome boy asked in his strange, exotic accent as he leaned in to kiss the pretty redheaded girl.
“Uh-huh…” Mina Curry said, smiling and trying to supress a girlish giggle.
“Really love me?” he said softly, leaning in to kiss her again.
“Uh-huh…” she said breathlessly.
“And would you do anything for me?” he asked, running his hand across her cheek.
His fingers played before her eyes, and her expression went blank. “Then so you shall.”