Showcase: 1949: Vic Valor, Invincible, Chapter 2: A Day in the Life of Ted Knight

by Dan Swanson

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The facing story in the Opal City Register provided the details of Vic Valor’s life as told to the crowd of reporters in the form of a profile:

Real Name: Ultimate Victorious Valor, Invincible.

Quote: “My friends call me Vic, bad guys call me ‘Bad News,’ and everyone else addresses me as ‘Ultimate Valor,’ or ‘Ultimate.'”

Occupation: Crime-fighter.

Base of operations: Currently, Opal City; previously, Ortle City on the planet Xadam.

Group affiliation: The Invincibles, the world government of Xadam’s most elite law enforcement agency.

Height: 6’4″.

Weight: 320 lbs.

Hair: Unknown (he wears a helmet).

Eyes: Unknown (his eyes are covered by brick-red goggles).

History: Vic Valor grew up on the planet Xadam, which is ruled by a planetary government. From the time he was little, he always knew he wanted to work in law enforcement. He was an excellent student and a superb athlete, and at 16 years of age (Earth equivalent), he was the youngest cadet ever accepted into the Law Enforcement Academy. He graduated in three years at the top of his class with the highest grades, marks, and scores in the history of the academy.

Vic worked his way up through the ranks, until he reached his present rank of Ultimate, and was assigned to the Invincibles, a squadron of elite law enforcement agents who work mostly independently, and mostly undercover. This rank of ultimate is similar to the rank we know as colonel.

Vic came to Earth on an assignment of his own devising. He wants to study the law enforcement techniques used on our planet, and he chose Opal City because of our prior history as America’s safest city. He reasoned that the safest city in the safest country must have the most efficient law enforcement capabilities.

Xadam is a very large planet, circling a very old, dim star — a brown star they call simply “the Sun” in their own language. Vic’s people have evolved so that they can see perfectly in the very faint light provided by this brown star. Daytime sunlight on Earth would blind him, and even at night he must wear special goggles to protect his eyes.

Vic learned English from radio and TV programs that he picked up using the advanced instrumentation on his space-ship. He claims to have left his space-ship parked on the moon, while he commutes between Earth and the moon using a much smaller vessel.

You will probably hear much more about Ultimate Valor in the future, but here’s how you can recognize him:

Vic is a big man. He wears a skintight light brown uniform with yellow bands on his arms, from his wrists to just below his shoulders. He has dark brown boots, gloves, helmet, and belt. He has a red cape and a yellow triangular symbol on his chest. This symbol is repeated on his belt, and Vic says it is a symbol of his rank of ultimate. Vic’s eyes are covered with brick-red lenses that protect them from too much light, and there are pods over his ears, also brick red, with antennae sticking up from the top of each pod. He has a square chin with a heroic cleft. His appearance is completely human — there is nothing about his visible appearance that indicates that he might be from another world.

Vic indicated last night that he is on a three-year (Earth equivalent) mission, so we should enjoy his presence while we can!

Powers: Vic has so far exhibited super-strength, super-speed, invulnerability, flight, and some kind of super-sensory capability that allowed him to determine that Opal City is not located on an earthquake fault. He can see in total darkness. He is still learning his powers and may discover other abilities in the future. Vic has access to technology and science well advanced beyond anything available on earth. The pods over his ears appear to be some kind of radio equipment.

***

Friday, March 25, 1949:

Opal City was buzzing with the news about Vic Valor. From front-page stories in both major newspapers, the opening story on the radio newscasts, and even a couple of minutes on the local TV news, everybody had something to say about him. Vic Valor fan clubs were already springing up, and kids were already arguing about which hero was the best — Vic Valor or Starman. Kids even began wearing imitation Vic Valor costumes, which must have been cobbled together from descriptions in news stories, because there were no color pictures of Valor available yet.

Ted Knight, who had retired as Starman in 1945, had thought he might be jealous of a new mystery-man in Opal City. (*) But instead he felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Opal had a new heroic protector, and the guilt he had felt about abandoning his city was assuaged. This day had definite potential. Unfortunately, the day also turned out somewhat less well than Ted had hoped.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Starman: Times Past, 1945: Nuclear Furnace.]

With the notable exception of Starman, Ted’s life had returned to normal over the last two years since he had made his breakthrough. (*) He would always bear his guilt over the atomic bomb and his painful memories, but Dr. Howard Sooter’s therapy at the Elmwood Sanitarium had helped Ted regain control over his life. Ted had stopped seeing Sooter professionally in January of this year. He had also long ago given up horses and poker, and, much to his own surprise, he had become a part-time design consultant to both Jason Heber and Dr. Sooter.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Stars and Sliders: Slide Heil, Chapter 2: Starman’s Darkest Days.]

Ted had also recently noticed two very unusual facts about his life.

First, neither he nor his wife Doris seemed to be getting older. They both appeared to be just about the same age as when they first became engaged, in early 1941. Ted was thirty-four years old, but he looked and felt like he was still in his mid-twenties. He had discussed this with some of his friends in the Justice Society of America, and they reported that they also seemed to be aging very slowly or not at all. Ted, Hourman, and Doctor Mid-Nite theorized that this retarded aging must have had something to do with the 1941 case when Ian Karkull had exploded, bathing the Justice Society and some associates in some kind of mystical energy. (*) Of course, this did not explain Doris’ continued youth, since she was not present during this JSA case, during which time Starman first met the team.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Justice Society Adventure the World’s Not Ready to Learn About Yet,” All-Star Squadron Annual #3 (1984).]

The other oddity was that Ted had found that he no longer needed as much sleep as he had in the past. He could easily get by on three hours of sleep a day. He figured that this was probably another side effect of the Ian Karkull energy. He put the extra waking hours to good use; he could spend several hours consulting, a lot of time with Doris, a few hours a night in his observatory, and still have time left over for sleeping and doing his own research.

This morning, Ted was scheduled to work with Jason on the commercialization of some of Ted’s ideas, as well as some of Jason’s. After lunch, he would drop in on Dr. Sooter and help him design some instrumentation for psychiatric research.

Usually, Ted and Jason spent a few hours in discussion, and then another couple of hours building or rebuilding things. However, as soon as he walked into Jason Heber’s lab, Ted realized something was wrong. All the file cabinet drawers were open and empty, there were papers all over the floor, and Jason was moving furniture to he could look behind it. Obviously, he was looking for something. When he saw Ted, he didn’t even say hello.

“Ted, the Supernova file is missing! I had some new ideas this morning, and I wanted to add them to the file, and it isn’t there! The last time I saw it was when we worked on it in December. I think it must have been stolen!”

Ted was startled. He quickly interrupted Jason. “Jason, hold on, it’s OK! Don’t you remember? I decided that the Supernova file was too dangerous, and I put it and a bunch of other papers into the trash?”

“Ted, you did what? You never told me about that!”

Again, Ted looked startled. “Are you sure? I’m sure I remember…”

Jason was more agitated now than earlier. He interrupted Ted, his voice rising, almost cracking, as he said, “Ted, you obviously don’t remember this, but last summer, the city stopped incinerating trash and started using it in that landfill out near the airport! We’ve been shredding all our paper trash since then. If you had told me you wanted to get rid of the Supernova file, I would have insisted you shred it as well.”

Ted probably had never known about the city’s use of trash as landfill. He never worried about trash or garbage at home; there was probably somebody on the staff that was paid to deal with things like that. But Ted was sure he had discussed destroying the Supernova file with someone. He lifted both hands, palms up to shoulder level, shrugging. Jason wasn’t appeased.

“Ted, by now, anybody in the world could have his hands on the Supernova file! We have to see if we can find it!”

“Jason, if they dumped it in a landfill, it’s probably buried under tons of trash now! There is no way we are going to go out there and dig through all that stuff! Anyway, if someone had found that file, don’t you think we would have heard about it by now?” Jason was clearly worried, but Ted was calm.

“Ted, I can’t believe you are so blasé about this! Your gravity rod is one of the most powerful artifacts in the world, and the Supernova file has schematics and plans to make another gravity rod, much more powerful that the original! If that technology gets into the wrong hands, the whole world could be in danger!”

Back in 1946, when Doris had first proposed starting the Knight Foundation, Ted had been in a kind of a mental funk, and his interest in science and technology had largely vanished, except for his interest in astronomy. He had gathered up a double armful of papers, schematics, plans, and documentation from his research lab and dropped them into Jason Heber’s hands. Unknown to him at the time, the documentation for the gravity rod was among those papers. When Jason found these plans, he had figured out that Ted was Starman. He had quickly revealed his knowledge to Ted and Doris, and promised not to reveal any of Ted’s secrets. He had kept his word.

Over the past couple of years, both Ted and Jason had thought of many improvements that could be made to the gravity rod as well as innovative ways to use its powers. They had worked together and developed plans and schematics for adding these new improvements to the gravity rod, and then put the documentation into the Supernova file.

Ted was privately amused with Jason’s enthusiasm. If they tried to incorporate just half of these ideas into the gravity rod, it would have to be rebuilt to be several feet in length. Many of the new powers were impractical for crime-fighting use, and the complex controls would be difficult to use, especially in a life-and-death battle. Jason was a genius when it came to practical devices for use in everyday life, but he didn’t appreciate the difficulties of using a complex tool correctly in the middle of a battle with a super-villain intent on killing you.

Ted had decided that, if he ever became Starman again, he would need to invent a new weapon, rather than using the innovations detailed in the Supernova file. It should be much more powerful than the gravity rod, but also very simple to operate. He had some ideas along these lines, but he hadn’t done any work yet.

Jason thought Ted might be rationalizing about the loss of the Supernova file. Even with the file in hand, it might take a year or more before someone could build a weapon making use of everything in the file.

“I’m sure it will work out OK, Jason,” Ted continued. “Don’t worry about it. It’s my responsibility.”

Jason Heber was stunned. Ted Knight had originally felt that the Supernova file was so dangerous that he wanted to destroy it. But now that he had found out that it hadn’t been destroyed, how could he be so casual?

Well, Ted was the boss, and Jason did have a boatload of other things that needed his attention. He and Ted set about cleaning up the lab and then spent a couple of hours improving some of Jason’s latest projects.

***

Ted Knight’s next appointment was with Dr. Sooter. Howard Sooter did a lot of research into the biological aspects of psychology, and there was no instrumentation currently available to measure many of the things he wanted to study. So Ted had to build the tools the doctor needed.

His current project was measuring the electrical activity in the human brain, and he needed to build some instruments that could detect and record the very small electromagnetic fields generated by nerve impulses. Ted had been working with him for several months, designing a sensitive apparatus for this research. As they worked, it continued to nag Ted that he couldn’t remember whom he had told about the Supernova file. Dr. Sooter had long ago figured out that Ted had been Starman, and probably knew more about him that just about anyone except Doris. So Ted asked him, “Howard, do you remember the Supernova file?”

“Of course, Ted. What about it?” Howard had always been extremely interested in Ted’s career as Starman, and particularly in the gravity rod. At one point, Ted had even showed Howard how to use the gravity rod. Ted wasn’t sure whose idea that had been. He did remember that, shortly after that, Dr. Sooter had started showing Ted some of his own inventions and suggested that he and Ted might collaborate on some of the research equipment Howard wanted to build.

“Did I ever tell you when I decided to destroy it? I thought I had told Jason, but he didn’t remember.”

“Yes, we discussed it, both before you made the decision and after you had thrown it away. Why? What happened?”

Ted was relieved. He knew he had told someone. Ted gave Howard the whole story. Sooter agreed with Ted that it seemed unlikely that anyone had recovered the papers. Ted was no longer worried, but Howard appeared to be distracted by the news.

Howard was building a new, ultra-regulated, super-stable, highly shielded power-supply for the brain electrical field monitor that he and Ted had designed. But he must not have wired it correctly, for when he turned it on, there was a loud bang, and flame burst out of the case. Ted quickly turned it off, and they put out the fire with the lab’s fire extinguishers. That was a good day’s work down the drain.

“Well, Ted, I think I’m through for the day,” said Dr. Sooter. “I have appointments all day tomorrow and the next day. I’ll clean up the mess here myself. Do you think you can drop by next Monday?”

“Sure, Howard. See you then!” And Ted was away. It hadn’t been a great day, with the news that the Supernova file hadn’t been shredded, and then the small fire in Dr. Sooter’s lab. Ted was looking forward to dinner with Doris and then some time at the observatory.

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