Showcase: Paladin of Light
Out of the Darkness
Part 2 of The Resurrection Man
For centuries, Paladin of Light — fabled lost hero of the Golden Age — has been in constant battle in an otherworldly realm of darkness. When he finally returns to Earth to find that a mere 40 years has passed since his disappearance, he wants nothing more than to settle into retirement as Mark Lake and put the hero business behind him. But when the Crisis on Infinite Earths comes, his plans change — and he becomes part of someone else’s plans.
In a place separate from the Earth, yet connected to it, a grand battle between an army of shadow beings and one mystery-man out of time and space was nearing its conclusion. The last and most powerful of the shadow beings was battling the mystery-man.
“So, noble hero, you have managed to release all the rest. Very impressive,” the ever-shifting shadow being spoke in a mocking tone as tendrils of darkness spread out to search for the mystery-man. “You have been here for centuries battling against us. All you knew is dust, and your very name is forgotten, but you still do not surrender. It will almost be a pity to rip you limb from limb before devouring your flesh and soul.” The being laughed as tentacles shot from his form to ensnare the mystery-man.
In a soft but commanding voice, the ensnared mystery-man spoke to the being. “I am not the one who is going to fall tonight. Your corruption ends here. May the Spirits of Light have mercy on your miserable soul.” With those words, the mystery-man broke the tentacles and flew directly at the shadowy mass.
A glowing sword pierced the darkness and began to drink in the magic that enabled the creature to survive. The creature screamed, “Oh, the pain!” The shadowy being’s form undulated wildly, trying to shake loose the sword and escape the dreadful blade, but the mystery-man held it in place. The creature smashed the mystery-man with his tentacles, causing blood to spurt out, but the mystery-man continued to hold the blade in place.
Finally, the blade absorbed all the magic from the being, which released the soul imprisoned within. A ball of darkness floated briefly in the air before sinking into the ground to wherever fate decreed lost souls went. The mystery-man collapsed to the ground as the blood lost caused a temporary lapse of consciousness. The ground and sky began to shimmer as the realm between light and darkness started to disintegrate.
The mystery-man awoke mere moments later, his wounds healed, and even the scarring had disappeared. He ran to where the sealed portal was and managed to jump through before the realm vanished completely. The modern skyline of Gotham City was the first thing he saw as he started to fly.
The mystery-man landed near a newsstand and looked at the newspapers as people stopped and stared at him for his bizarre appearance. He talked softly to himself as he absorbed the information on the paper. “I spent six-hundred and sixty-five years in that shadowy realm, but a mere forty years have passed here. I need to readjust to colors and people before trying to start a new life here.”
The mystery-man flew back into the skies, vanishing for a time.
The black-haired Sylvester Pemberton scanned the patrons of the coffee shop before sitting down next to the sandy-haired man in jeans and a white T-shirt. Pemberton ordered a coffee before speaking to the man. “I bet you’re wondering why I tracked you down. What’s the name you are using now, anyway?”
The man sipped his coffee before turning his weary eyes on the leader of Infinity Inc. “The same one I set up before disappearing in that dark void. Mark Lake at your service. I see that your group was time-tossed as well, but you seem to have adjusted.”
Pemberton nodded his head. “It was rough at first, but I am doing well now. We keep meaning to get together, but something always comes up. I’ll bet Sir Justin would be happy to hear from you, though. You two had so much in common, especially since the world you came from reminded him of Camelot in so many ways. He’s even got a family of his own now.” He paused in speech to accept his coffee from the attractive young waitress. “But enough about old times. I want to offer you a job as a member of Infinity Inc. Before you reject the offer out of hand, let me explain why I need you.”
Lake reluctantly nodded his head as he gazed down into the blackness of his half-empty coffee cup. “I will listen, but other than that, I make no promises.”
“I have a great group of people, but I see a lot of personality conflicts coming up as time goes by. You have experience in working with all sorts of people. In the short time you were around, you managed to work with almost all of the heroes of this world. I need someone like that to help the team come together.”
“Sylvester, I have no interest in playing public hero right now. I spent too much of my time fighting darkness and need to be away from the craziness of that life. I might spend my nights patrolling the poorer neighborhoods, but I don’t do it wearing a silly costume. During the day I act as translator for the local peoples, which provides me a room and the occasional meal.”
“If you don’t want to wear a gaudy costume you can work as a trainer instead. Think of all the good you could do in training the next generation of heroes.” Pemberton donned his most persuasive smile.
“You do not seem to understand what I am saying.” Lake slammed his hand on the table in emphasis, causing several other of the patrons of the cafe to look over. “I am weary in spirit, if not in body, of fighting. If I join your organization, that’s what will eventually happen. For now I want to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. A woman’s smile, a sunset, the sound of waves crashing, the smell of a rose, and the taste of well-ground coffee are the things I desire. You can try to convince me to change my mind, but it’s a futile effort.”
“I had to try, at least. I will leave you alone, then.” Pemberton started to rise, but Lake motioned him to sit back down.
“You can stay, and we’ll talk over old times. I don’t mind you dropping by occasionally just to chat. Plus, I think our waitress finds you attractive.” Lake smiled at Pemberton as he settled back in the chair.
The two spent an hour together talking about the old days before Pemberton left. A pensive Mark Lake looked at the departing Syl Pemberton before returning to his coffee and a witty exchange with the waitress.
Several months later, on a small island off the coast of California, Mark Lake looked at the sky as the voices in his head explained what needed to be done. His most dangerous enemy had detonated three bombs in three different universes that were slowly unraveling the fabric of reality. The most powerful of the scientists and mages had failed to stop the slow spread of the reality-destroyer. A desperate scheme to relocate the worlds was conceived, but no one could travel to another universe due to the sealing of the Hallway of Doors by Greel.
They searched for some focus in another realm and discovered that the legendary Dragon Spirit Runesword and its legendary wielder still existed, despite the boasts of the evil Magnus Greel. The process would concentrate the energy of the three worlds into the sword to transfer them to this universe. Lake agreed to act as the lens through which the worlds would be transferred into deep space, knowing that this could destroy even him.
The arcane act began, and the runes on the sword began to glow with energy. The air swirled wildly as the temperature rose around the blade. Lake could feel the beginnings of a link between him and the power that the worlds were transmitting. Soon the air was white hot as the runes emitted brighter and brighter light. Lake could feel the life force of the three worlds flow through the blade and him as the rite reached a crescendo.
Flesh and bone started to dissolve and then reknit as the output of power rose. Lake was unable to scream at the pain as he concentrated on keeping the flow of energy stable. The sound of billions of minds united as one entity reverberated through the corridors of his spirit, shouting, “Now!” Somehow, he managed to raise the sword above his head and unleash the pent-up fury of the magical rite into the heavens.
Lake trembled as the enchanted blade exploded in his hands, showering him with white-hot metal. The surface of the island melted away as the blade emitted one last burst of energy. Lake flew through the air to splash down into the water. The burst of light lit up the night sky, drawing the attention of a Coast Guard patrol.
The patrol found the floating form of Lake in the water. They took him to a hospital, where he laid in a deep coma. An agent of the mysterious Ryo-wo reported of the mysterious man fished from the water whose body rejected any of the IV tubes, healing instantly. The mysterious man seemed to need neither food nor water to survive as he laid in a coma. The agent prevented any of the reports from reaching the Department of Extranormal Operations and kept the mysterious man under observation. Meanwhile, the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths took place as Lake laid in a deep coma, motionless.
Finally, someone reported the mysterious man to the DEO, causing the agent of Ryo-wo to move him to one of his employer’s hidden bases. The man known variously as Paladin of Light and Mark Lake lay in a chamber of liquid as the chief scientist probed his memories.
Several days later, the chief scientist brought a full report on the circumstances leading up to the disappearance of Mark Lake forty years earlier, when he was called Paladin of Light.
In 1945, Paladin of Light and two other mystery-men — Doctor Occult and the King — had been brought in by the military to investigate a series of disappearances. The investigation had led to the discovery that Earth was being targeted by an extra-dimensional entity. Even though the entity bore a resemblance to another creature known as the Shadowfiend, it had nothing to do with it.
Paladin of Light, Doctor Occult, and King finally tracked down where the creatures were emerging from — a hole above a Gotham City shipping facility. The only way the rift could be sealed was if one of them went through into the shadowy realm and shut it from there. Lake slugged Doctor Occult and went into the rift, vanishing from sight for over forty years. Thereafter, the military quietly closed the investigation. Due to Lake’s outspokenness about the Japanese internment camps, no serious attempts were made to rescue the mystery-man.
A long series of battles took place in this other realm, with Paladin of Light coming out the winner. After spending six-hundred and sixty-five years in that realm, he reemerged on Earth but made a conscious decision not to be an active hero as he had been in the 1940s.
Resuming his identity of Mark Lake, he eventually settled in the Asian community, where he worked as a translator during the day and patroled the neighborhood at night. Despite several offers by the Star-Spangled Kid, Lake chose to stay where he was until he was contacted to save three worlds. The strain of the energy used to transfer the worlds to this reality shattered the enchanted blade and caused Lake’s mind to shut down.
The chief scientist, after conferring with Ryo-wo, put into play the plan to block the slowly awakening Lake’s memories.