Showcase: 1949: Vic Valor, Invincible, Chapter 11: Xenon Unmasked

by Dan Swanson

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April 2, 1949:

In the wee hours of the morning, Ted Knight, still wearing the Vic Valor battle-suit, flew quickly to police headquarters, where he was met by Commissioner Red Bailey. Ted wasn’t quite sure how to address Bailey. He had read that Bailey wasn’t too thrilled to have Valor around, and he didn’t have Valor’s memories to guide him. And he wasn’t yet ready to let anyone know that Vic Valor was really Starman in a battle-suit.

Red Bailey made it easy on him, though. “Vic, my boy! Good work on capturing Doctor Doog and his minions! My men should be bringing him in for booking in a few minutes. I hope this time those bureaucrats at the state prison pay attention to our warnings! We’ve given Doog to them three or four times, and no matter how much we warn them, he still escapes every time. We’ve always had Starman to capture him before, but since Starman retired, we weren’t sure anybody else could catch him. Thanks again!

“My police scientists have discovered that Xenon’s armor has some kind of failsafe that locks it shut when it doesn’t have any power. They think a car battery will supply enough juice to open the lock, and they don’t think that will be enough power for Xenon to cause us any trouble. They seemed a little unsure, though, so we’re all glad you decided to come by for this!”

So the police commissioner and Vic Valor were buddies now, huh? Well, that would make this a lot easier. His reading about Valor suggested that the new hero was rather pompous. “I’m pleased that my presence will help them feel more comfortable. I am, in fact, very interested in learning Xenon’s identity. In the Earth idiom, ‘I wouldn’t miss this for the world’!”

The reached the laboratory, where Xenon was strapped to a table. There were some heavy wires taped to the palm of his right glove, and the other ends of those wires were clamped in the alligator jaws of a pair of ordinary car jumper cables. The other end of the black jumper cable was already clamped to the terminal of a car battery, and a man in a lab coat, wearing heavy rubber gloves, was holding the red clamp. He seemed impatient to go ahead, and Ted was surprised that he had waited for the commissioner before completing the connection. As soon as Ted and Bailey walked into the room, he attached the red cable to the plus terminal of the battery. Nothing seemed to happen.

After a few seconds, the observers noticed that Xenon’s armor was slowly turning from dull gray to a silvery mirror. The change started near his feet and slowly crept up toward his head. Ted moved closer to Xenon, while everyone else moved away.

Bailey turned to one of the scientists. “Are you sure this is safe?”

The scientist looked very nervous. “Well, actually, Commissioner, some of us don’t think this is safe at all.” He was clearly one of the unbelievers. “He shouldn’t be able to do much with only the power from a car battery, but we don’t know what that armor is capable of. Certainly we never expected this!” He pointed at the transformation from dull gray to shiny mirror that was still moving upward across Xenon’s body.

Ted reached out and disconnected the red jumper cable from the battery. There was a spark as he broke the connection and interrupted the current. “I think he’s absorbed enough power for now. Let’s see what happens before we give him any more.” Some of the scientists looked like they wanted to argue, but Vic Valor had a very imposing presence; Ted realized that this had probably been one of his design goals — the Valor armor could easily have been much less bulky than it was. Several others, and the commissioner, looked relieved that someone had decided to play it safe.

The armor continued to change from dull to shiny, but much more slowly. The area of the armor that had already changed seemed to dull slightly, as if some of the power that had been used to transform that part of the suit was being drawn away and used to transform the rest of the suit. This reassured Ted and some of the police scientists somewhat, because it suggested that Xenon just had barely enough power to mirror the armor and wouldn’t have any power left over to fight with.

While the transformation was being completed, Ted questioned the scientists. “He must be conscious by now. Have any of you tried to talk to him?”

“We don’t think he can hear us. We think that, without power, he can’t see or hear anything, or even move. That armor is pretty tough and thick.”

Xenon tapped his right thumb and middle finger together. Immediately, his horrible laugh assaulted the ears of everyone in the room. “Fools! You think I’m helpless, but you know nothing about Xenon! When I escape, there is nothing in the world that will protect you!” He twitched his fingers again and laughed.

Ted’s attention had been drawn to the visual display in his visor. Wow, that thing there is a sound analyzer! And it showed some interesting results. “So, that idiot laugh is a recording? Interesting. And it’s not even your own voice, is it? Hmm, looks like a mixture of laughing hyena, jackass, and, hmm… chimpanzee? Sounds about right…”

“You, alien, I will save for last! You will regret ever stepping foot on this planet!”

Commissioner Bailey broke in. “OK, both of you tough guys, that’s enough! Xenon, if you could get away, you would have already, so drop the intimidation routine — I don’t buy it. We want that helmet off, and we’re going to get it off one way or another. Either you can tell us how to open it, or we’ll cut it off.”

Red Bailey pointed at one of the scientists. “Ellison, get the acetylene torch.” He pointed to another. “Mendez, get a power saw! We’ll cut him open one way or another.” He looked at Ted. “Ultimate Valor, if our other efforts don’t work, perhaps your disintegration beam could help?”

Ted realized that Bailey was using the intimidation routine on Xenon, so he added his own twist. “Commissioner, as you are aware, I’m still learning the extent of my powers. I’m sure my disintegration beam could open his helmet, but it might also accidentally vaporize his head.”

“OK, we’ll save that as a last resort. Ellison, get started with that torch!” Ellison put on welding leathers and a helmet, and fired up the acetylene torch. He adjusted the flame to be long, blue, and very hot. He moved forward, and directed the flame at the neck of Xenon’s armor. At first, the flame was reflected off of the mirrored surface, but in a few seconds, the mirrored finish started to dull.

Xenon screamed. “Stop! You’ll kill me! Stop! I’ll open my helmet, only stop!

The leather-clad scientist turned a valve, and the flame died with a popping sound. Xenon tapped his left thumb and ring finger together. The mirrored surface of the armor immediately faded to dull gray. He then clicked the thumb and little finger on his right, and the helmet separated slightly from the collar of the suit. Ted gently removed the helmet, and Xenon’s face was revealed.

Ted had more than half-expected that Xenon would turn out to be one of his friends. He thought he had been prepared to deal with the shock and shame of discovering that one of his friends was a super-villain. But nothing could have prepared Ted for the truth.

Xenon was really Woodley Allen.

To Ted Knight, this revelation was completely unbelievable. Woodley Allen was Doris Knight’s uncle, and Ted had known him since before the war. Allen worked for the FBI and had been Starman’s FBI contact since his earliest case in 1941. Allen knew more about Starman than any man alive, and he and Starman had worked together many times. Ted had never seen any hints from Allen that he might be a power-mad super-villain, and he didn’t believe it now, not for an instant. There was more going on here than they knew, and Ted was determined that he would get the whole story.

Ted had to remember that he was pretending to be Vic Valor right now, and Valor almost certainly didn’t know Woodley Allen. So he had to hide his astonishment from everyone around him. Fortunately, Valor’s face, other than the mouth, was really a plastic mask, so Ted’s shock was not visible on Valor’s face. Ted tried to speak calmly. “I’d afraid I don’t recognize him. Commissioner?”

Red Bailey was stunned as well. He also had known Woodley Allen a long time, as Allen had often worked as a FBI liaison with the Opal City Police Department. Bailey had never had any reason to doubt Allen in any way before. He was almost speechless — almost. “He looks like a high-ranking FBI agent named Woodley Allen. But I won’t believe it’s him unless he tells me so, or we match his fingerprints!”

Woodley Allen heard this, and turned to glare at Red Bailey. “I am Xenon!” he shouted. “And you will all die!” He struggled, but was unable to break the bonds holding him to the examination table. His fingers twitched, but Ted had anticipated him, and quickly grabbed each of Allen’s hands in one of his own. There were controls built into the fingertips of Allen’s gauntlets, and Ted couldn’t be sure he didn’t have some kind of weapons built into the suit, or worse, a self-destruct device.

For the moment, it was a stalemate. The Valor armor gave Ted Knight super-strength, so he could easily keep Xenon from using his fingertip controls, but Ted would have to release him sometime. Using cloth tape, one of the scientists immobilized Xenon’s fingers. When he was certain Allen could no longer move his fingers, Ted released him.

The whole time they were immobilizing his hands, Woodley Allen said nothing. He was staring madly at the ceiling, and straining mightily to bring his thumbs and fingertips together. He was even drooling. Watching his face, Ted was sure this wasn’t Woodley Allen, and yet it clearly was. Ted still hadn’t fully recovered from the shock of finding out he had recently been living a secret double life — secret even from himself. It suddenly dawned on him that, if it could happen to him, maybe it could happen to Allen, too. Maybe this really was Allen, but he might have suffered some kind of mental breakdown, or perhaps he was possessed. Ted had seen stranger things as Starman.

Bailey and a plainclothes detective were trying to question Xenon/Allen, but he was ignoring their questions. He returned to threatening everyone, alternating with swearing, using some of the most colorful language Ted had ever heard. Woodley Allen had been involved in the capture and questioning of a lot of really bad people through the years, and obviously he had heard and remembered some unique language.

Ted excused himself for a few minutes. He knew this combat suit included a short-wave radio, and he needed to make a radio call. He stepped into the next room and tried to figure out how to activate the radio. It didn’t respond to his thoughts, as so many other functions of this suit had. The only place on the suit where there could possibly be manual controls was the belt buckle. He ran his fingers over the belt buckle and found a hidden button, which opened the front cover of the belt buckle when Ted pressed it. Inside was a control panel, and on the inside of the buckle there was a mirror that allowed him to see the various controls without having to take the belt off. Ah-ha, there’s the radio! He really did do good work.

Tuning the radio to the Justice Society’s emergency frequency, Ted called JSA Headquarters in Civic City. He reached the on-duty radio operator, who patched him through to Green Lantern. Ted Knight told Green Lantern what he knew about his own situation and asked him for help with the investigation. He would have asked for the help of Doctor Fate, but he knew Kent Nelson was long retired, and anyway he was less powerful ever since he’d lost the Helm of Nabu in battle with Kulak back in 1942. (*) When it came to something that seemed to be magic, Green Lantern was the next best thing.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Spectre is Haunting the Multiverse,” All-Star Squadron #27 (November, 1983) and “By Hatred Possessed,” All-Star Squadron #28 (December, 1983).]

Green Lantern entered the Opal City Police Headquarters a few minutes later. The tall blond man wearing a costume of red, green, and purple was quickly escorted to the laboratory by the desk sergeant on duty, and he introduced himself to Bailey and Vic Valor in his usual friendly manner. “Pleased to meet the latest visitor to our fair planet, Ultimate Valor! Commissioner, the JSA heard the news of your capture of Xenon, and I was asked to assist you in the investigation. With your permission, of course!”

Red Bailey had dealt with Starman in the past, as well as Vic Valor, so mystery-men didn’t overly impress him. In fact, he was getting a little bit tired of having super-heroes just pop up in Opal City. But Green Lantern was special.

Starman was just a man (an extraordinary man, yes, but still a man) with a costume and a super-weapon, who was renowned in Opal City but was just one mystery-man of many outside of his home town. Vic Valor claimed to be an alien, but he was as human as anyone Red Bailey had ever met, and flawed, besides, with his apparent ignorance of the nuances of human interaction, and an over-inflated sense of self-worth. Still, this wasn’t an uncommon combination of traits among human beings; Bailey could name three or four people just like Valor in the local government without even thinking hard.

Green Lantern was different. He was one of the most famous and powerful of mystery-Men, his mere presence filled the room, and it was evident why his exploits had inspired two JSAers alone to become heroes — not only Wildcat but also Starman himself. While the Green Lantern was in the room, Red Bailey had to constantly remind himself that he was an important man in his own right, just to raise his self-confidence to the level where he could even speak with this world-famous man.

“Pleased to have you, Green Lantern!” He wasn’t really that pleased, but how could you tell someone like the Green Lantern to mind his own business? “Do you know Mr. Woodley Allen, here?”

“Yes. Agent Allen has assisted the Justice Society several times in the past. But, at least at present, this man isn’t Woodley Allen!”

Ted wasn’t surprised to hear this, but Bailey wasn’t sure what Green Lantern meant. “I’m sorry, Green Lantern, but he sure looks like Woodley Allen.” At that point, Xenon started screaming again.

“I already told you, I am not Woodley Allen! I am Xenon, and I will destroy you!”

Green Lantern turned to Xenon as his ring flared green, and he said, “You will be still.” Xenon was immediately silent. Green Lantern turned back to Ted and Bailey. “The body may be Woodley Allen’s, but his mind is not. He’s under a spell of some sort, and his will is under someone else’s control.” He waved his magic ring casually at Allen, and a beam of green light shone upon him for a moment.

“His will was under someone else’s control,” continued the Lantern. “With my ring I’ve lifted the spell, and he is himself again.”

Woodley Allen was understandably confused. Unlike Ted Knight, who remembered nothing of his masquerade as Vic Valor, Allen remembered everything about his assumption of Xenon’s identity. He had been kidnapped by Doctor Doog to be used as a tool of vengeance against Starman. Allen had been unable to resist Doog’s hypnotic powers, and Doog had turned him into another lackey. Like many egomaniacal criminals, Doog needed to brag to someone. The hypnotized Allen made a perfect audience.

It took Ted, Bailey, the Lantern, and the other officers and scientists about a half an hour, a lot of talking, and several shots of whiskey before Woodley Allen had calmed down enough to talk sensibly. Even then, the story came out in pieces, and it took another couple of hours before they put it together in a coherent way.

“Surely you guys know who Doctor Doog is,” Allen said. They did. “Well, ever since Starman retired, Doog has apparently been a little crazy. He’s always wanted revenge against Starman — and me — for the many times we’ve ruined his plans.” Woodley wasn’t boasting. He had indeed been instrumental in many of Doog’s defeats. “He started working on a plan to bring Starman out of retirement, just to kill him.”

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