Dick Grayson ushered a demurely dressed Karen Starr up a long flight of stairs that led to a stately manor outside Gotham City. He brought her to an extremely elderly, frail bald man who sat in a lush study. The old man was sickly, yet his eyes danced eagerly behind his spectacles, and he clearly missed nothing. This was Dr. Carter Nichols, a renowned scientist who was the world’s foremost expert on time travel.
“Young Dick, Miss, please be seated.” He turned to Karen and said, “I knew your esteemed cousin years ago, and I hope he is well.”
“My cousin? What do you mean?” she sputtered.
“Now, my dear,” he said. “I don’t have time to play polite games anymore. I long ago learned the secret identities of Superman, Batman, and this fine young man here.”
“Kara, he is trustworthy,” said Dick. “Remember the diary?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “I Accuse,” America Vs. the Justice Society #1 (January, 1985).]
“OK, Professor Nichols, how can you help me, then?” she asked.
“I can send you and Dick back through time via hypnosis to the Krypton of long ago before your birth,” he said. “You can know your heritage directly, and then I’ll bring you back again. I sent Clark — if I may call him that — and Bruce Wayne to the France of the Musketeers, to ancient England, and many other places. Why, the adventures we had in those splendid days!” He smiled happily.
Karen nodded. “So that’s what you meant, Dick. We’re going to go back to Krypton through this gimmick?” she scoffed.
“It works!” insisted Dick. “Trust me, and trust Professor Nichols.”
“Yes, Miss,” said Dr. Nichols. “I can even allow for the alien nature there, so Mr. Grayson will be able to move, despite the gravity difference.”
Shortly afterward, Dick and Karen were reclining next to each other on a sofa, holding hands and listening as the elderly scientist worked the hypnotic spell so familiar to Dick from his glorious boyhood. Man, do I miss Bruce at times like these, he mused. Maybe I can have the Prof give me some of those old days back again after this trip.
The two listened intently to the suggestions of the hushed-voiced Carter Nichols. And when they opened their eyes, they found themselves in a wondrous place: Krypton.
Kara Zor-L, now clad in her Power Girl costume, marveled at the splendor of the reality of Krypton. Even in its human imperfection, the real location seemed superior to the computer-generated virtual version in which she grew up during her slow, suspended animation journey from the doomed world. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Power Girl, Showcase #97 (February, 1978).]
“I see people and places I know from the false memories created by the Symbioship!” she gushed. “That old man in the wheelchair is Dev-R!”
Dick Grayson, now wearing his Red Robin costume, smiled. It was nice to see the ever-defensive Power Girl let herself relate to people without her usual protective layer of scorn or sarcasm. He wondered when in Krypton’s history they had arrived. Although he lacked the leaping ability and extra strength that the natives and Kara possessed, he still moved freely despite the heavy gravity. It seemed Professor Nichol’s method of time travel had indeed taken care of his limitations. Air-cars zoomed by on the high-towered streets, and the red sun beat down on them.
“Look! That man is my father, Zor-L, when he was barely out of his teens!” she gasped.
“Well, that dates us pretty well,” said Dick. “I see he looks upset, too.” Funny how that young man was eventually capable of inventing a complex system of suspended animation that allowed him to send his baby off the doomed world on a journey to Earth that took several decades, during which she aged very little in comparison to the years that passed, mused Dick. He even programmed the Symbioship to stimulate her mind with images and false memories of a normal life on this world, so she recognizes her Dad, even though she left him as a baby.
“That criminal brigand took Allura!” said a distraught Zor-L.
His old mentor Dev-R said, “Who took her? You mean that scourge of outlaws from the Crystal Mountains?”
“Exactly! My bride-to-be is in the hands of the worst criminal to plague us in years — Nightwing!” cried the father of Power Girl as she and Dick listened.
“My mother is the one who this Nightwing has abducted!” whispered Kara insistently.
“We’ll get her back — I promise you,” vowed a determined Dick Grayson.
“You there!” said a newcomer, pointing at Dick’s costume. “What mean you by wearing that costume here in these times of fear? Do you want to get yourself imprisoned or sent into the rehab satellites?”
“You resemble one of the very outlaws we speak of!” cried an alarmed man named Rok-N.
“We are just visitors from the… city of Kandor,” said Kara. “Forget our odd costumes. We meant no harm. Tell us, please, of this danger. Who is Nightwing? My lessons told me he lived eons ago in Krypton’s primitive past and was a hero of the people during the oppression caused by the descendants of old Jef-L.”
“True. That real Nightwing was a noble fighter for freedom,” explained Dev-R. “This new pretender to the old name and legend is an outlaw who defied the Science Council and leads a band of robbers who hide deep with the high Crystal Mountains.”
“His origin matters little,” insisted Zor-L. “He took my intended bride Allura, and I must get her back.”
“We are involved in… Imperator assistance,” said Dick stumblingly as he drew on what little he knew of this world’s legal system.
“We can find him and rescue her!” added Kara.
“You would aid us?” said Zor-L. “You even resemble my poor love. Do you mean to appeal to the Council for use of the mentaprobe?”
“We won’t wait on that,” said Kara. “We can go directly to the source while you stand here and talk!”
Power Girl and Red Robin wore the jet-belts that allowed rapid travel via anti-gravity, soaring high over the glorious setting of the Jewel Mountains of Krypton.
“Are those crystalline formations of any material value, or are they merely decorative?” asked Red Robin.
“They are valued highly by a race called the Vrangs,” she replied. “They raided Krypton years ago for the mining rights.”
“Kara, listen!” said Dick. “I think I can hear something below on the radio device Dev-R gave us when he showed us the belts.”
They swooped down low and emerged in a rocky cavern. “Look — this old place must be an abandoned mine shaft from the days of the Vrangs!” said Power Girl.
“Kara, if this type of technology is available, why have they not rounded up this Nightwing long ago?” asked Red Robin.
“They have the technology, but little real drive to employ it,” she explained. “Being a technocracy, Kryton is full of brilliant men with lofty ideas but little experience in the practical applications of what they invent.”
“They must have some drive. I mean, look at their rehab satellites,” added Red Robin.
“They were merely a labor- or space-saving implementation,” she said.
They landed and searched through the old mine until they came around a corner to see a beautiful blonde young woman wearing a short blue dress. She was surrounded by two costumed figures.
A dark-haired man in a black costume that vaguely resembled Red Robin’s black and red costume in color and shape of the hood addressed her. “Allura, it is futile to resist my charms,” he urged. “I shall rule this land eventually, as I gather more and more disaffected men and women to join my band of rebels.”
Allura In-Z looked strikingly similar to Kara, who felt her heart swell as she gazed at the girl who would be her mother one day.
“I love Zor-L,” she pleaded. “The matrimonitron even agrees that we are the best match for each other.”
“Bah! What use are machines? We govern not metal toys!” declared Flamebird, the red-costumed man who served as Nightwing’s second-in-command. “Zod, I say we take what we want and forget the masquerade!”
“J-Xur! This game gives us power!” said the former General D-Zod. “The images of Nightwing and Flamebird still have power to stir men’s hearts and inspire loyalty. Thus, by adopting the identities of our ancient heroes, I have changed from a military man who led by fear to a crusader who leads his people by the adoration they have for him.”
“OK, let’s take them down,” said Red Robin. “I’ll handle them, while you free Allura.”
“No! You lack the power we native Krytonians have, even if Nichols allowed for the gravitational problem,” whispered Kara. “You free mother while I take down the pair of smug thugs.”
“How about we take you both prisoner!” declared a smirking Nightwing. He fired a ray that disrupted Red Robin’s nervous system for a moment, causing him to fall to the cavern floor.
Power Girl slugged Flamebird with her determined style, but while he reeled back on his feet, he soon fought back with a brutal blow that left the blonde woman stunned. “Can’t get used to everyone having my strength,” she moaned.
They awoke in a deeper cavern that had once been a mine and now served as some type of headquarters for Nightwing’s band.
“Kara, are you OK?” asked a concerned Dick Grayson.
“Sure, if having my hair styled by a blunt instrument is OK,” snapped Kara Zor-L.
“Welcome back to awareness!” announced the cocky Nightwing. “You delayed our amusement too long. Now, my loyal soldiers, witness for your entertainment a battle between these two and a snagriff!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Beast from Krypton,” Superman #78 (September-October, 1952).]
“Great Krypton — a snagriff!” cried Kara in alarm. “I read of them but never saw one, even at the zoo from the Symbioship tapes!”
The green-scaled, purple-winged dragon-like creature swooped around them with a hungry eye.
Dick hurled himself forward and shoved Kara down just before the beast snapped at her last position with huge jaws. “Keep down! It is too huge to turn or bank quickly!” shouted the keen-eyed Red Robin.
“You said these things are rare? So they’re not from around here?” asked Red Robin as he whipped out a rope and began to whirl it by his side.
“No. They originate on the planet’s other continent. They are nocturnal,” she said as they watched the green monster fly perilously closer.
“Then let’s see what happens if I take him for a tour!” called Red Robin as he flung his rope around the beast’s neck and pulled himself to land on its back.
Red Robin had nowhere near the strength required to force the snagriff to move in one direction or another, but he studied the physiology of the flying beast’s narrow wing supports, and hoped the snagriff could be guided by the spiny ridge that held its fibrous wings. He found this was true as he pulled up and felt the creature rise above the narrow canyon that surrounded the cave headquarters. The Jewel Mountains rose majestically around them, refracting red sunlight all around in the shining crystalline formations. If this thing is both nocturnal and non-native to the mountains, maybe I can use those factors to help me tame it, mused Red Robin.
He pulled out a pellet and dropped it against the mountainside below. The flare went off and reflected the glare infinitely greater than normally would occur due to the mirror-like reflective nature of the huge Jewel Mountains.
The nocturnal snagriff was blinded temporarily and flew directly into a mountain. Stunned, it crashed to the ground just after Red Robin had flung himself off and swung to safety below. The group of robbers cheered wildly as Red Robin landed in their midst.
Power Girl used the confusion to grab a blaster from a gang member. She fired at the roof of the cavern and led a scared Allura In-Z to freedom as the jeweled shards rained down from above.
“Kara, what now?” asked Dick. “We have Allura, but the gang is also still loose!”
“I don’t know! One problem at a time!” she yelled.
“Thank you so much!” said Allura. “Kara, is it? I’ll remember your kindness.”
Kara smiled at her future mother. “I hope so. I will remember yours as well!”
Red Robin gave Allura the anti-gravity belt he had grabbed from the pack he had brought on the mission, and he watched as Allura ran down the slopes, then soared homeward through the sky.
“We could stop that gang for good, you know,” said Red Robin. “See how they respond to Zod and Jax because of the image? Batman taught me how to project an image long ago. He ruled Gotham, in a way, by the image of a capable fatherly figure to the law-abiding and a skilled, fearsome crusader for justice to those who broke the law.”
“So you mean we can outdo them at their own game?” she said. “You won some over with that fight against the snagriff already. That’s why they didn’t make much effort to recapture us. These outlaws admire daring acts and heroics, since most Kryptonians are so tame and cerebral in comparison.”
Red Robin nodded and said, “Let’s get back to Dev-R’s home.”
Kara Zor-L and Dick Grayson returned to the caverns that night in style. With Dev-R’s help and Dick’s strategies, they put together two rather different and striking costumes. Dick wore all black this time and displayed an emblem with the predatory nightwing bird on his chest.
As for Kara, she looked skeptical as she looked at her short red minidress with gold gloves and boots. “OK, I admit you make a better Nightwing than Zod did, but with legs like these, how do I pass for Flamebird?” she asked.
“You don’t pass for J-Xul,” he said. “You serve as the new, improved female Flamebird who shows up the flabby, fat old one they’ve got now!”
“OK, you’re the showman,” she said to the one-time circus acrobat.
“Trust me,” he urged.
They crept closer to the caverns and spotted a guard. “I’ll take him,” vowed Kara. She tossed a jeweled fragment over the slope, and as he turned to listen at the sound, she tackled him and slammed his head into the ground.
“Now I feel better,” she said. “Zor-L’s rings work, too.” They had been given miniature exoskeletons in the suits that, along with a strength-boosting ring worn by each, allowed them to perform at superhuman level.
“You sure proved your point about technology,” said Dick. “Imagine, Zor-L had these rings in the lab and had failed to put them to real use.”
“Well, to defend father a bit, they are unproven and could fail us at any moment,” she insisted.
“We’d better move fast, then,” ordered the new Nightwing.
They flew into the cavern as Dick tossed down a pellet that exploded into lurid light. “I am the true heir to Nightwing’s legacy, and I shall punish you for soiling my name!” he vowed menacingly. He swooped down from out of the shadows into the flickering light of the flare.
Bruce could not have done that any better! mused Kara. She swooped down, too, and kicked a thug in the face. Spinning, she sunk her fingers into solid crystal and hurled a chunk of the shiny stuff into the glow-bulb that illuminated the cavern. Just as with Dick’s flare earlier that day, the light blasted out reflections through the myriad of crystals lining the walls. The pair wore special lenses to guard the eyes and give them enhanced vision.
Nightwing hit Zod with a sharp right and ducked a return blow. He tripped his foe and flipped him over his shoulder with ease. The ring lets me handle this punk like any of the Joker’s men back home in Gotham, he mused. He kneed the black-clad leader and left him flat after a final punch.
Kara had flown across the cavern to bring down the slower J-Xul in his Flamebird costume. She felt his plump form hit hard, and he wheezed as she kicked him in the stomach. “Not much of a flyer compared to me,” she taunted. He grabbed her, but her ring-boosted power was greater, and she decked him easily.
“See how your leaders have fallen?” shouted Dick. “Don’t allow yourselves to be deluded any longer, people of Krypton! We are the true heirs to the Nightwing/Flamebird legacy! Now, do you surrender or fight anew?”
They murmured amongst themselves before slowly walking out of the caverns to where the authorities waited below.
“You did it!” shouted a happy Rok-N. “You defeated them. You even redeemed the legend of Nightwing and Flamebird!”
“Where did they go?” cried another man named H-Mel. “They’ve vanished!”
Back at Zor-L’s home, Kara and Dick shed their costumes and gave the happy scientist his rings back.
“Wait!” he urged. “You could continue on as Nightwing and Flamebird.”
“No. I’m afraid we have pressing business elsewhere,” said Dick.
Kara hugged her father, and he smiled in surprise. “What is that for?”
“For your daughter,” she said as she tearfully followed Dick away into the night.
“Honey, I’m sorry,” said Dick. “I guess it is time to go. I should have told you Nichols usually brought us back right when an adventure seemed to conclude. I guess our real bodies back in the future have been describing it all to him as we lived it.”
Kara embraced him as they saw Krypton fade away, to be replaced by the large study of Dr. Carter Nichols.
“Welcome back!” cried the old man. “What a marvelous adventure!”
“Yes, sir,” said Dick. “It made me remember our old trips with you.”
Kara kissed the frail scientist. “Thank you, sir. Forgive me for doubting you before. You helped me find my past anew.”
He smiled as the young couple exited his quiet home.