Liberty Belle felt a little odd paying a visit to the Knight home in costume; however, she enjoyed being back in her old outfit after so long. Plus, Knight’s private home attracted few passersby. Libby walked up to his door and knocked. She waited and waited. Was anyone home?
Her calls had reached no one, so she’d headed out in a hurry. Jonni Thunder still needed help. She barely knew her, but she had been too slow to stop her kidnapper from escaping. In Belle’s code, that meant she needed to rescue the woman. Didn’t Ted have a son or two? Belle knew his wife had died over a decade ago, but that’s all she had heard about Knight in years.
“Off to the JSA, I guess,” she mused.
“Off with your pretty head!” snarled a man in a weird costume who soared in on a floating disc. His glowing, tall helmet sparked with energy that looked decidedly dangerous. “Where’s Starman? Brainstorm has a need to see him — dead!” laughed the villain.
Libby touched her bell-shaped buckle and prepared for his assault as Liberty Belle. She nimbly dodged his energy bolt as it burned into the porch. She leaped across the lawn and narrowly avoided a second purple blast.
Liberty Belle aimed her sonic blast at Brainstorm, only to see it hit some force-shield in front of the villain and bounce off. He aimed his helmet’s ray at a swing, which suddenly wrapped around Libby in a crushing embrace. She kicked her way free and thought desperately. The wind blew her long, blonde hair in her face, so she pushed it back. She noticed the wind move the puffy sleeves of Brainstorm’s costume too.
“Give up, my darling! You can’t fight progress, and I, with my advanced mind, am the future of mankind. Just give me Ted Knight, and all shall be well,” said Brainstorm.
Libby feigned left and fired her blast high into a tree. The limbs shattered and dropped down onto the head of Brainstorm. He gasped as the helmet rolled off. “Guess your field only extends within your line of vision, Edison!” quipped Libby. The all-American girl moved in and dropped the struggling Alex Davis with one punch.
She gathered up the helmet and dragged Davis to await the authorities she called on her cell phone. “Ted’s missing. Must be with the JSA.”
A scruffy-looking youth ambled up the drive. “What the–?” said Jack Knight. “Who are you? Flag Girl? Princess Patriotism? No, I know, Liberty Belle! Are you here about Dad? Where is he? The last time anyone saw him, he was heading for San Francisco.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Starman: Stars and Sliders.]
Liberty Belle looked at the wild youth with dismay. He may have been Ted Knight’s son, but he was obviously in a rebellious phase of his youth. She suddenly felt very thankful that her daughter Jesse’s rebelliousness only extended to following in her parents’ footsteps as a super-hero.
“I’m Libby. Your dad isn’t here, and I’m afraid I don’t know where he is, either. This thug showed up gunning for him, and I stopped him. If you hear from him anytime soon, ask your dad to call me.”
She strolled off, leaving Jack Knight to rub his chin and watch with a mixture of admiration and scorn.
Young Amanda Martin had heard of the Penguin. He was some dead bad guy that Batman used to mix it up with regularly. This dapper young man did not look like the fat crook. He was smoother, almost handsome — in a sinister way. Amanda smoothed her school skirt and tried to concentrate.
The Penguin raised his top hat in a courtly bow. He then grinned and aimed a red umbrella at the pretty girl. “So fair, so unfair!” he mused. He pointed the lethal umbrella at her chest, prompting Amanda to remember what she had read of the felon’s father’s penchant for deadly parasols. She concentrated harder, and his hand in its costly glove suddenly flailed wildly, causing the umbrella to be dropped. He rubbed his limb as Amanda kicked him solidly below the belt. He doubled up in pain.
She ran back to the lawn, only to scream as he dropped down from the sky in front of her and grabbed her roughly. “Ah, yes. This Penguin flies, thanks to Pater’s inventions. Now, my dear, that last move was so gauche and unladylike! I must chastise you rather fatally.”
Amanda was too scared to use her power again. She struggled until the sapphire necklace her Uncle Rex had mailed her began to glow. The eerie, pinkish-blue light grew brighter, and a bolt of energy, like some kind of stellar fire, shot out from the gem. It knocked the Penguin across the campus. He groaned, but did not move. Cool! thought Amanda.
Then with utter amazement she flew away, marveling at this new power, this magical gemstone, only to her dismay she found herself being compelled to go to a certain location. She could not resist. She landed miles away at an old mansion near Washington, D.C., but on the other side of the city from Holliday Academy. Etta Darnell will really kill me this time! thought Amanda.
A beautiful woman in a stylized pink costume with a sapphire on her brow matching Amanda’s own stepped out on the porch. “Welcome,” said Candy Davis. “You have my star sapphire’s other half. I must have it, and I fear you can’t leave my home alive, either.”
Candy Davis, now known as Darkstar, had only learned of her magical stellar gem’s ability to summon any other part of it that day. Her agent the Penguin had been on a fool’s errand, but she looked on the little snob as a mere underling of no value to the granddaughter of the brilliant Abraham Davis.
Her brother had foolishly rushed out without telling her his plans. His proposed stellar helmet was missing from his lab. If that foolish Alex had perfected it and gone to kill Ted Knight without her, she would be furious. Still, she had had no choice but to wait on the retrieval of the rest of the magical star sapphire. She had discovered its legend while studying other stellar objects from her grandpa’s notes.
A powerful green-hued meteor had fallen to earth in China in ancient times, too. Maybe she could find it someday, as well. That rogue Rex Mason had betrayed her by splitting the sapphire secretly. He had paid for his mistake. Now this baby had taken the magic gem. She would surrender it all too easily, then die.
“Give me the necklace,” said Candy as her gem pulsed in some response to Amanda’s own flashing sapphire. Amanda was a teenage girl with little idea of who she was facing, but she had a sudden desire to keep her gem. Maybe she could even use it as a super-heroine like Wonder Woman. Mrs. Darnell would be so envious.
“Come and take it!” said a bravely bluffing Amanda Martin.
Candy flew over and, with a gesture, sent Amanda tumbling. A pink energy blast struck her as well, but it did not hurt. Oddly enough, it had stunned the bigger Penguin. I must be immune while I wear a copy of the gem. Amanda concentrated, and her own gem produced a ray that met the matching blast from the decidedly faster Candy.
The energy hovered, moving from one woman to another without ever touching either. The concentration on Candy’s pretty but evil face increased. Amanda fell back, unhurt but physically moved. She was not as strong as Candy. Her older, adult body could beat Amanda in terms of stamina.
Body! pondered Amanda. She dropped any effort to use the star sapphire. Instead, she concentrated on her own innate power. She visualized Candy’s nervous system and saw it pinkish-hued. She closed off her system from contact with the gem on her brow, and the pink hue faded, leaving a normal human system. All rays from Candy’s gem ended.
Candy stomped her booted foot in rage. She could not access the gem while Amanda held her nervous system cut off from the power gem. However, it took all her energy to do that, while Candy could move normally. She charged Amanda, who held her concentration until the last second, then kicked out at Candy. Her kicking — developed back at her old school as a pom-pom girl — was strong and accurate. Candy folded up like a lawn chair. Amanda sighed with relief and tried to take Candy’s gem. But it would not leave her brow.
Amanda called the police and her mom. Explaining it all was actually easier than she dreamed, since Myra knew her way around superhuman conflicts.
The teen later relaxed back home with Myra. As Doctor Mid-Nite, Dr. McNider had been called away on a JSA mission, so he could not be called. Only hours later, in the privacy of her bedroom, did Amanda produce her newest magical feat. With a thought, her school uniform vanished and left a pink top with a pink miniskirt over pink briefs. Her knee-high pink boots matched with a high heel.
“Look out, world! The newest crime-buster — Star Sapphire — is here!”
In his private hospital room, Professor Abraham Davis — whose health had improved somewhat — listened sadly as Liberty Belle explained his son’s actions. “I tracked you down after turning in Alex. His sister Candy is also in some legal trouble, apparently. Their motives were to make you famous and kill Ted Knight for stealing your work.”
The old man slowly replied, “Ted did not steal my work. It’s true that I had already invented the gravity engine — the much-larger prototype of the gravity rod — before I met Ted in 1939. But it was through our collaboration over the course of a year that we were able to develop the miniaturized gravity rod together. After he rescued me from the Brotherhood of the Electron, who had held me captive for six months, I gladly, if foolishly, gave him any claim I still had at that point over the gravity rod. (*) Anyway, it was useless without any power source until his special lens gave it that an energy source — stellar power. Ted had independently discovered this amazing source of power in 1936 when he was an astronomy student, but he had no way to channel it before we developed the rod. (*) Ted’s cousin Sandra was the one who introduced us, having been able to recognize with a woman’s perceptive insight that each of us had a solution for the other’s problem!
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Catch a Falling Starman,” All-Star Squadron #41 (January, 1985) and Showcase: Times Past, 1949: Lily DeLuna, Investigative Reporter, Chapter 3: The Search for Starman.]
“I wish I had made all of this clearer to the kids, rather than merely complaining about what could have been. It didn’t help that Ted and I haven’t really spoken much since our falling out in 1941. For some reason, whenever Ted told the story of how he became Starman, he completely downplayed his entire role in developing the gravity rod, preferring people to think of him as a mere playboy and amateur astronomer. So, in later years, since Ted wasn’t willing to take any credit for his role in creating the rod, I guess I bragged a little, and even grumbled some about his taking the rod away, but I never intended to plant the seeds of resentment in my grandchildren, and I didn’t want any of this for Ted or them. Those poor children.”
Libby patted his hand and sat silently, thinking about Jesse. She had things to clear up with her own child, too. She also hoped to save Jonni Thunder, but she knew she needed some help.