by Dan Swanson
Dr. Charles McNider had been compiling everything that was known about the effects of the Ian Karkull energy that Ted Knight and several other Justice Society of America members and associates had absorbed back in June of 1941. Besides its apparently life-extending effect, Ted had experienced another effect — he no longer needed more than two or three hours of sleep a day. Although Ted had not shown any physical ill effects of this lack of sleep, Dr. McNider theorized that it couldn’t be healthy; the human brain needed sleep as much or more than the body did.
However, Dr. McNider was somewhat out of his league here; he was a medical doctor, not a psychiatrist. Ted suggested adding Dr. Howard Sooter to their research team; after all, Dr. Sooter was an expert on the human mind, and he already knew that Ted had been Starman. Dr. McNider donned his Doctor Mid-Nite costume to protect his own identity. Then Green Lantern used his occult power ring to summon Dr. Sooter. Howard was temporarily stunned at being transported from his office and directly into Ted’s study by green magic, but after Ted explained, and introduced him to Doctor Mid-Nite and Green Lantern, the psychiatrist recovered his aplomb.
Magical investigation by Green Lantern, under the direction of Dr. Sooter and Doctor Mid-Nite, discovered several interesting things about Ted’s body and his brain. The Karkull energy had not only slowed down Ted’s aging process, but it had increased his body’s vitality to the point where he physically needed very little sleep. Unfortunately for Ted, the human mind required sleep even when the body didn’t.
Dr. Sooter reported that experiments in sleep deprivation had discovered that extended sleep deprivation had a profound effect on human mental stability, inducing hallucination and paranoia, among other things. While Ted’s body was getting enough sleep, his mind was not, and his mental functions had slowly deteriorated.
At some point, his abused mind had rebelled and started sleeping anyway. His body was still awake during those times when Ted’s mind slept, and an alternate personality started to evolve. This alternate personality eventually became Vic Valor.
Valor had access to all of Ted’s memories, knowledge and skills, but Ted had no knowledge of the times when Valor was in control; Ted was always asleep when Vic Valor took control of the body. The Valor personality was fed by Ted’s strong desire to continue to be a mystery-man, and didn’t feel bound by Ted’s promises. The Valor mind had built the Valor armor, adapting the capabilities in the Supernova file to simulate natural super-powers. Valor’s powers were clearly modeled on Superman, and the Valor mind had added elements drawn from current science fiction and the latest astronomical theories to create an origin story for himself. Ted thought that Valor probably had been a fan of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series.
Somehow, the Vic Valor mind had been linked to, or perhaps powered by, an infra-energy reservoir in Ted Knight’s body, a reservoir that had built up due to Ted’s repeated exposure to concentrated infra-energy during his Starman career. Wearing the Valor armor had increased Ted’s exposure to infra-energy, as the suit used the same power source that the gravity rod used. The more Ted wore the Valor armor, the stronger the Valor mind had become. When the Destructo-Ray had started draining infra-energy from Vic Valor, his mind had literally been sucked out of Ted Knight’s body. Valor was truly dead.
Since the Destructo-Ray had completely drained the infra-energy from Ted’s body, there was no possibility of another Valor mind growing within Ted’s mind. Green Lantern was able to slightly modify the effects of the Karkull energy. The youth-prolonging effect would remain, but the unnatural vitality was reversed. Ted’s life should start returning to normal.
At that point, Ted suggested that all the mysteries were cleared up, and they could all return to their normal lives. He and Doris still had a lot of talking to do, so they thanked their friends for their help, and Green Lantern used his magic ring to return Dr. Sooter, Doctor Mid-Nite, and himself to their respective homes in Opal City, New York City, and Gotham City.
Late last night after they had left Opal City Police Headquarters, Ted Knight and Green Lantern had searched for and found Xenon’s flying television camera. Ted had shut down the camera, and then had brought it back to Knight Manor with him. Even amidst all the other issues he was dealing with right now, Ted was intrigued by this invention and wanted to study it.
After Green Lantern had transported Dr. Howard Sooter, Doctor Mid-Nite and himself back to their respective homes, Ted continued to brood. He was unable to accept their original explanation of Vic Valor’s origin. Ted considered his mind to be his single most valuable asset and tool, and he refused to believe that it had betrayed him. After a great deal of thought, he ended up formulating an alternate theory that fit all the facts and felt more comfortable to him.
Suppose that, rather than being a creation of Ted Knight’s mind, the Vic Valor entity was a completely independent being spawned by the unique interaction between the Karkull energy and the infra-ray energy present in Ted’s body? And that as it had matured, this energy being had learned to possess Ted’s body when his mind was asleep? Ted didn’t know exactly why, but he found the idea of being possessed less distressing than the idea of having an alter ego that his conscious mind knew nothing about.
Ted moved on to the next issue that was bothering him. If Vic Valor disappeared without explanation, there would be some kind of investigation. Such an investigation might lead to Ted. How could he forestall this investigation?
Vic Valor’s death seemed to have validated the warning from the Doris Knight of an alternate timeline, and Ted’s Doris conceded that he could probably now safely return to his costumed identity of Starman, or even Vic Valor. Well, it would be at least as safe as any mystery-man’s life could ever be. But Ted realized that, at least for the moment, he no longer wanted to be a costumed hero. Perhaps there was some other way that he could continue his career as a crime-fighter without assuming a costumed identity.
Meanwhile, he needed to somehow inform Opal City of Vic Valor’s death without giving away his own relationship to either Valor or Starman. He discussed this with Doris, and they came up with a plan.
That night, wearing the Vic Valor suit and carrying his gravity rod, Ted Knight flew to an unpopulated area outside the city. He used his various powers to build an underground hideout for Valor. Over the next three days, he outfitted this hideout with used furniture, clothes, kitchen utensils, food, and everything else someone might need to live there.
After three days without Vic Valor, people in Opal City were starting to worry. The mayor and Police Commissioner Red Bailey were talking about starting a search for him. Bailey recalled that Valor had been uncharacteristically subdued that last night at police headquarters and wondered if there might have been something wrong even then.
But once again that afternoon, all the TV and radio channels in Opal City were overridden. This time, Vic Valor was responsible for the broadcast. The broadcast showed a comfortable room, with Valor sitting in a chair in front of a small control panel of some kind, facing the camera. He looked terrible. His skin was discolored, he was stooped over, and he moved as if he were very weak.
“Greetings, people of Opal City. In the past few days, many of you have come to know me as Ultimate Victorious Valor, of the Xadamite Invincibles. I apologize for interrupting your regular programs, but I don’t have much time remaining. I’m speaking to you today to tell you goodbye.
“As many of you know, four days ago, Doctor Doog and Xenon attacked our fair city. Doctor Doog used a weapon he called the Destructo-Ray. What Doog could not possibly have known is that exposure to the Destructo-Ray is invariably fatal for Xadamites. It doesn’t kill instantly, but the eventual mortality rate is one-hundred percent. The Destructo-Ray first drains the life energy of a Xadamite, and then, at the moment of death, he vanishes as if he had never existed.
“I am honored to have been the protector of Opal City, though my tenure was all too brief. You have my best wishes for your future success, and you will be in my heart and mind as long as I live. You will not see me again. Goodbye.” Vic Valor reached for a nearby switch, and the all-channel broadcast ended.
The transmission was easily traced. A search party discovered Vic Valor’s hideout, several hours later, but they were too late. Valor’s body had vanished, as he had said it would, and all they found of him was his uniform draped over the chair he had been sitting on during the broadcast. A close search of Valor’s hideout discovered nothing to confirm or contradict his claims of being an extraterrestrial.
The mayor and the city council of Opal City issued a proclamation that May 2nd of that year would be a day held in Vic Valor’s memory, and life in Opal pretty much returned to normal.
The Justice Society of America asked the Opal City Police Department for the Xenon armor for safekeeping, and the police department was happy to turn it over. The Justice Society then gave the armor to Ted Knight for study. Ted had discovered that Vic Valor had constructed a secret laboratory in the bedrock beneath Ted’s own private observatory. Ted allowed it to remain secret.
Setting up some display cases in this secret lab, Ted displayed the Vic Valor battle-suit and the Xnon/Xenon armor, much like displays of various Batman costumes he had seen during a wartime visit to the Batcave. He also stored his various gravity rods there. He would have liked to keep Xenon’s scepter (Xnon’s power rod) there, too, but when he went back to search for it, he had been unable to find it.
Over the next two decades, working on the Vic Valor battle-suit became something of a hobby for Ted Knight. When he was bored, he would tinker with it, improving existing features and adding new ones. When transistors became widely available, Ted was able to use the new technology to redesign the Valor suit’s circuits, making them smaller, more powerful, and more efficient. After he reverse-engineered the Xenon armor, Ted was able to add many of its features to the Valor battle-suit. Though he had no intentions of ever donning the Valor battle-suit again, he felt almost compelled to keep improving it.