by Dan Swanson
Doris Knight had been doing some investigation of her own, attempting to confirm her suspicion that her husband Ted Knight was Vic Valor. She had a number of reasons for her suspicions.
First, Vic Valor had super-powers and only operated at night, while Starman had super-powers and only operated at night.
Second, Vic Valor could fly, had heat-beam vision, could lift heavy objects, and was invulnerable to some degree. Starman, with his gravity rod, could fly, project heat beams, lift heavy objects, and protect himself with a force-field that made him invulnerable to some degree.
Third, Vic Valor had a disintegration beam, while Starman had used the gravity rod to fire a disintegration beam in his adventure with the atomic zombies.
Fourth, Vic Valor had telescopic vision, but he also wore goggles. Ted certainly knew enough about telescopes to build goggles that could simulate telescopic vision. They had only Valor’s word that his powers were natural, and there had been a lot of speculation, in the Evening Gazette at least, that Valor didn’t always stick to the strict truth.
Fifth, Vic Valor could clearly move at super-speed, although his observed top speed was not nearly as fast as that of the Flash or Superman. Doris hadn’t quite figured that one out yet, but she knew that gravity could accelerate objects to high speed. If anyone could figure out how to use gravity to produce super-speed, it would be Ted Knight.
The biggest unknown for Doris was Vic Valor’s size. Valor was about four inches taller than Ted, and much bulkier. However, the idea of a man wearing bulky armor to give him super-powers was familiar to Doris. A super-villain called Metalo, for example, had fought Superman back in 1942 while wearing bulky armor that gave him super-powers, and there were other examples she could find if she looked into it a bit more. (*) She was sure Ted could easily have built such an armored disguise. In fact, she was sure he had done so. All she had to do was prove it.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Man of Steel Versus Man of Metal,” World’s Finest Comics #6 (Summer, 1942).]
Her first attempt at detection had failed. She had called Ted at his private observatory, and when she had been forced to leave him a message on his answering machine, she thought it proved her suspicions. But then Ted himself called her back during a time when she later found out that Vic Valor was busy fighting against the landfill saboteurs. This certainly seemed to clear Ted Knight. Still, Doris had planned to visit Ted at the observatory later tonight. But when she turned the television on at 6:30 to watch the local news, she discovered Xenon’s all-channel broadcast.
Xenon was using what looked like a modified gravity rod. She knew Ted had done some theoretical gravity rod redesigns, and it hadn’t bothered her as long as it was all theory. But now she wondered — could Xenon be Ted Knight? His wartime experiences with the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb really had affected him mentally and emotionally; she knew that better than anyone except for his psychiatrist. Could that stress have caused him to become a super-villain?
Suddenly, Vic Valor entered the picture, and Valor and Xenon battled. Doris was absolutely certain that one of them was her husband; she just didn’t know which one. All she could do was pray that neither man would be hurt. She was very relieved when Valor defeated Xenon without major injuries to either combatant. If one of them really was Ted, at least he was safe for now. She had to stifle her anger at Ted for lying to her, because she had no real proof yet. Now that this fight was over, though, she was going back to her detective work. Her next stop was Ted’s observatory.
Just as she got up to shut off the TV, she stiffened in shock. She had seen this scene before. The Doris Knight of the future had, back in mid-1945, showed a younger Doris Lee her memories of that other Starman’s death, caught on TV. Starman had been flying through the night sky, cape billowing out behind him, holding his gravity rod in his right hand. The details were slightly different in this picture — it was Vic Valor flying through the night sky, cape billowing out behind him, the scepter in his right hand. But the rest of the picture was exactly the same. At this instant, Doris became absolutely certain that Vic Valor was really Ted Knight, and that once again, she was about to watch his death. All her efforts to change the future had come to naught.
Doris knew in advance what was going to happen next. She screamed in terror as Vic Valor was speared by the super-bright beam of light. As she knew he would, he fought unsuccessfully to escape.
This scene played out differently than the one she remembered, though. The first time, when future Doris had witnessed this disaster, Starman flew higher and higher, and there was a tremendous explosion. The explosion had destroyed the camera and apparently Starman as well, as they never found any traces of his body.
This time, Vic Valor threw down the scepter and tried to break out of the beam, but without success. The drama had already continued past the point when Doris had expected the explosion. She had just begun to hope again, when Valor went limp as if he had been shot, started to fall, and then started to struggle again. Within a few seconds, the hero had overcome his fall, and was once again trying to break out of the beam, but still equally as unsuccessful as in his earlier attempts.
Then Vic Valor disappeared, and Doris could only assume that the beam must have disintegrated him. The details were changed, but the result was still the same — Ted Knight was dead. Doris screamed her anguish at the top of her lungs. “Ted! Oh, no, Ted! You can’t be gone. Damn you, Ted Knight!”
The emotional roller-coaster of the last hour had taken a tremendous toll on Doris Knight. She had been so sure that she had saved Ted’s life by asking him not to be Starman, and now, not only had he broken his promise to her, but he had gotten himself killed despite everything that she had done to change the future. None of it had mattered in the least, as history still played out with the same result. Her mind was drowning in anger at Ted for lying to her and grief at having had to watch him die a second time. Doris couldn’t stand it any longer, and she swooned, unconscious.
One of the staff members, having heard her scream, ran over to find her unconscious on the floor of the library. This staff member called over the butler, Percival Jeeves, who called over several other staff, and they carried her to her bed. She then called the number of Doris and Ted’s personal physician, Dr. Charles McNider. She didn’t know that this number secretly rang through to New York City, or that Dr. McNider could travel from New York City to Opal City in almost no time by contacting his fellow Justice Society member, the Flash. She just knew that she called Dr. McNider, and he was there in twenty minutes (the Flash had been delayed in Keystone City because the Fiddler had chosen that day to rob a bank).
Doris Knight was unconscious for several hours. During this time, she must have been having some horrible dreams, because as she lay there she twisted and turned, moaning and sweating the whole time. Several times she seemed to be talking — literally to herself. “Oh, Doris, you warned me, and I tried! He wasn’t Starman anymore, but he died anyway. How do you stand it? What can I do now?” And at intervals she continued to swear at Ted in whatever dreams she was having. Both Dr. McNider and Jeeves made sure none of the other Knight Manor staff heard her give away any of Ted’s secrets.
Saturday, April 2, 1949:
The next morning at eight A.M., Doris Knight was awakened when Ted Knight and Green Lantern walked through the door and greeted Dr. Charles McNider. Hearing Ted’s voice, she quickly sat up in her bed. She didn’t remember going to bed last night, but she did remember that she had seen Ted die.
“Ted, is it really you? Oh, Ted, I thought you had died! Oh, it’s so good to see you!” She leaped out of bed and embraced her husband. “Ted, I thought you were dead! I tried so hard to keep you safe, and I thought I’d failed!” She pulled away from him a little. “That was you pretending to be Vic Valor, wasn’t it?” she asked sharply.
Ted Knight realized that, behind her obvious relief for his safety, there lurked anger over his betrayal. He had promised Doris that Starman would retire. And while he had indeed remained retired as Starman, for the most part, he knew that he had violated the spirit of his promise. In her request, Doris had expected him to give up crime-fighting, and he had not only understood that at the time he made the promise, but he had planned to uphold both the spirit of his promise as well as the more literal meaning. Ted wasn’t the kind of guy to stand on technicalities. Thus Doris did have a right to be angry, especially after seeing him supposedly die, despite all she had done to try to prevent that very death.
But Ted was just as confused as his wife had been over the whole matter. Even now that he knew that he, Ted Knight, had been Vic Valor, he had no memories of it. He had reread all the stories from the papers, hoping they would jog his memory, but there was still nothing. And that hadn’t been the only shock he had received that night. He still couldn’t get over the revelation of Xenon’s identity and origin, and he wasn’t sure how he would explain that to Doris, if indeed that he should do that at all.
“Yes, dear, I was Vic Valor,” Ted confessed. “I really don’t know why. And I don’t remember how it happened, or indeed most of Valor’s actions since he appeared. But I can confirm that it was me.”
Green Lantern and Dr. Charles McNider left the room. The Knights had a lot of things to discuss, and they didn’t need anyone around, even close friends, to witness their discussion.
Their discussion became pretty loud for a few minutes, with Doris Knight doing most of the yelling. But after a while, it quieted down. As Ted Knight had known would happen, once Doris got past her anger and realized that Ted was as much in the dark about Vic Valor as she was, her anger turned to concern. They both realized that they needed to learn what had happened and why in order to make sure that the same thing couldn’t happen to him again in the future. Well, Ted knew just the people to help him investigate his own past and hidden subconscious motivations, starting with Doris Knight, Dr. Charles McNider, and Green Lantern.