Starman turned to the Enchantress as she lounged across a divan. “Is she… he… telling the truth?” he asked. “Getting home is important to you, too!”
The sultry sorceress threw back her head and laughed. “That’s putting it mildly. I’d say we have no choice!”
“Luthor lives in the White House?” said Artemis Crock. “How did he conquer it?”
The Ultra-Humanite glared at the blonde girl and said, “He did not conquer anything. He was elected by the idiots who fell under his spell. He exerts some inhuman charisma and controls all that come within range of his person. He merely controlled the D.C. media and Congress until they put him in office, and he has never left since! Even I am not immune to his power; thus I must turn to you, since as other-dimensional beings, you might resist his powerful dominance.”
“Hmmm!” said the Enchantress. “Must be more to Alexei than I ever knew! I found him cold as a wet fish!”
“Assuming we can break into his Fortress, why should we turn over his science to a fiend as bad as you are?” said Starman.
Ultra chuckled. “You know me, don’t you lad? I assume there is a counterpart or double to me in your dimension. What am I there? Dictator? Crime czar? Conqueror?”
Starman grinned. “Well, you’re a big white ape!”
Ultra glared at him. “Know that I would take your body and your rod of power if I wanted to do so!”
“No, you wouldn’t, you reprobate!” said Starman. “If you could put your mobile mind into any of us, you’d have done it by now! We must be immune.”
Ultra walked to a computer screen with a sultry stride all Yolanda’s.
“Tell us exactly what you want from us and how we may get home,” said Starman.
“Find out what means of persuasion Luthor uses to dominate all who come near him,” said Ultra. “Claim it for me or destroy it. Then I shall use one of his devices to send you home. I won’t want you here to interfere with my plans.”
“Do it!” said Artemis. “It’s our only chance!”
Starman nodded. “I’ll break into the Fortress and end Luthor’s hold on the people he meets.” He ran for the window and frowned as Artemis jumped into his arms.
“I’m coming along, too!” she said.
David smiled. First Blackout and now Artemis, he thought. A guy can’t fight crime without a beautiful woman throwing herself at him. Not that I’m complaining, mind you!
They soared skyward, and he said, “I want to try something. If the cosmic rod can use stellar energy to warp dimensional space, then it figures that it can also warp through ordinary distances.” He adjusted the rod, and a brilliant flash enveloped them. They emerged with eyes blinking to see the dome of the Capitol Building.
“My! From outside New York to D.C. in a second!” said Artemis. “You do know how to travel!”
“Hang on tightly, babe!” said David. “We’re going via the scenic route!”
Starman generated heat and parted the very pavement beneath them to tunnel underground and burn through the floors to emerge in a huge complex beneath the White House. “I figured his lab would be underground,” he said confidently as he led Artemis inside.
“Allow me,” said Artemis. “A girl needs her fun!” She fired three bolts at top speed and dropped three guards before they could alert their master. She spun to kick a fourth man across the room. Starman deflected bullet fire with his cosmic rod and connected with a right cross that knocked another guard cold.
Artemis pursed her lips approvingly. “You pack quite a punch! And I thought all you had going for you was a pretty face and that impressive rod!”
“Some of my heroes have magic or weapons, but they are still heroic even without them,” said Starman. “I wanted to be like the first Starman, Johnny Thunder, Patriot, and several others. I want to be capable without my rod as well!” He then said, “Look out! Here comes trouble!”
A green-and-purple-armored figure zoomed down to confront them. He fired energy bolts across the room and sent the agile Artemis rolling for cover, even as Starman stood his ground. He remained still and allowed the blasts to strike his energy-field. He walked calmly forward and said, “I’ll peel you out of that fancy tin suit, pal!”
Starman increased gravity around the figure and smiled as powerful servos burned out with strain. The armored man crashed at Starman’s feet, and he melted back the visor to reveal a bald man.
“You’re not Luthor!” he said as he gripped the frightened man by his collar.
“I am Leonel Novak, Luthor’s loyal second-in-command!” gasped the man, who had never encountered anyone like the sensational Starman.
“Tell me where Luthor is, and how he controls people!” he demanded.
“Here, ace,” said Artemis, leaning in low to whisper in Novak’s ear.
He gasped and said, “Up those stairs lies his secret. Please do not harm me!”
Artemis jabbed him with a toxic dart and swayed toward the stairs. “Coming?” she said with a wink.
Starman nodded. “Just what did you say to him, or do I want to drop it?”
She smirked. “Considering your Boy Scout ways, I’d say you’d rather drop it!”
Starman frowned as he melted his way past additional defensive shields and saw a man in a chair. He was bald, pale, gaunt, and in pain. Wires extended into his head, and he stared into space.
“Brain Wave!” gasped Starman. “That’s the Brain Wave! Luthor’s using him as his personal hypnotist!”
“Indeed I am, whelp! You’d do well to bow before me, before I end your miserable life!” said Alexei Luthor as he entered from the shadows and sneered coldly at the pair.
“Luthor, you red-headed rat!” said Starman. “I knew you were low, but this beats everything! You’ve made this man your slave, like some machine or device of metal and wire, when he’s a living being with feelings and pain and hopes and dreams!”
Luthor scowled. “My, an idealist. How noble! Perhaps you see yourself as being the first of a new breed — a group apart from humanity who might dare face me or Savage or our kind!”
Starman smiled. “It’s an honor!” He gestured, and Luthor laughed.
“That pretty stick of yours can’t affect me,” he said. “My personal distortion field prevents any energy from reaching me!”
“Not light! You couldn’t see, if that were the case! And if light can pierce that field, then so can starlight!” said David Knight as he flared the rod and repeated the pattern in rapid order.
Luthor remained immobile as Starman gently freed Brain Wave. “He’s under hypnosis,” said David, smiling. “Not mine alone. The rod could never dominate a genius like Luthor. I secretly began to exert gravity-inducing force on those wires holding Brain Wave as I baited Luthor. He helped me dominate his captor.”
Brain Wave moaned, “Thank you! I’ve been here for years!”
Artemis kissed Starman passionately and said, “You are quite a man! Now, we give the old creep to Ultra and blow this wasteland!”
Starman shook his head. “So sexy, and yet so sordid. I don’t do things that way. Mr. King, you’re free to go.”
Henry King nodded and rushed out.
Starman turned to tie Luthor up. “He’s stunned. He’ll be back to his vile self in minutes, though. We’re not going back to Ultra with anything of value to that body-swapping jerk. I promised to break in and get rid of Luthor’s charismatic power source, and I did it. I’m not giving Ultra anything else.”
Artemis pouted. “But Grandma is there with him!”
“I’m aware of that,” said Starman. “I’ll free her, too. You have my word. Just trust me.”
“That’s not something that comes easily to me,” said Artemis.
Starman cupped her chin in his hand. “I know. You’ve had a rough childhood.” She turned away and waited as he scanned the room. “I’m not going to leave with your grandmother or without her yet,” he said. “I’m going to do something else first.”
Artemis turned to face the young hero as his voice took on a determination that impressed even her. “What is it?” she asked softly.
“I’m going to save this whole dimension from itself or die trying!” Starman vowed. “Keep tabs on our bound pal Luthor, here. I’ll make a quick sweep and get rid of any lingering troops.”
“I’m no man’s gal Friday,” said Artemis. “I’ll be joining you on any quest.”
“Nope,” said Starman. “Sit tight!” He zoomed off, leaving her momentarily imprisoned by a gravity field. She cursed bitterly as he streaked out of sight.
I could not trust her with what I’m going to do, he mused. Secret identities would be all too precious to a girl like her. Bad enough that she and her magical elder seem to know I’m the son of the original Starman.
He entered an odd machine that had been stored in the Fortress of Science for a long time. Scanning the controls, he activated it.
My stellar energy is the power source it needs to get it going again, he mused. I guess Alexei planned on using it if he ever needed to but hadn’t done so yet.
Starman vanished to emerge to near a speeding train. He flew alongside at top speed and used his rod to buffer the engine as it wrecked suddenly. Can’t resist saving everyone, he mused.
Flying inside, he located a dazed blond man. “Mr. Scott, I come from your future,” he said. “Your life was endangered by Decker. I will give you the means to avenge his actions and be a true hero!”
A shocked Alan Scott listened and waited as David helped the other occupants and returned via his warping with a emerald lantern and hastily carved ring. As Scott accepted it, a voice boomed forth and began his new destiny.
Starman zoomed off toward the machine that had brought him there and reset the controls. He emerged in Kansas in 1937 and approached a farm where a young man labored in the field.
“Mr. Kent, I know of your gifts,” he said to the rugged youth. “For some reason, in this dimension, you chose to ignore them. Destiny calls to you to do otherwise. Let me explain!”
Starman repeated his efforts again in a Gotham City alley, over the waters of Paradise Island where a plane almost missed the hidden isle until David gently guided it to shore, and in a laboratory at Midwestern University, where a youth almost failed to take a fateful smoke. By flickering through time with the stolen device, David created the origins of dozens of heroes.
The moment that meant the most to him came when he entered the home of a bored playboy named Ted Knight and steered his latent interest in the stars toward an object his cousin Sandra had brought to his attention. The item, designed by Abraham Davis, would be modified by Ted to become the first gravity rod. The gravity rod would be a forerunner of the cosmic rod David held.
He returned to Per Degaton’s machine — for such it was — and felt satisfaction.
“For some weird reason, although all the JSAers existed, they failed to embark on heroic careers. It’s like this dimension was purposefully voiding the possibilities of the birth of the heroic age,” he said, brooding.
He scanned a paper as he returned to the present and smiled as evidence of the alteration of history with the presence of the JSA became known to him.
“FDR lived!” he said, smiling. “They even saved the men who were meant to be President. Luthor and Ultra and all the rest never came to power! Now, I know from my science that I may have merely created a divergent timeline in this dimension, but either way I feel like I saved this whole place from a tragedy!”
He met Artemis, who now waited outside the grounds of the traditional White House.
“My whole surroundings just changed!” she gasped. “It’s like we never fought Luthor! No one else noticed the change. It must be because we’re from another dimension.”
Starman nodded. “Let’s locate Enchantress and see if some pals of mine — whom I’ve hopefully brought to new roles in this place — can get us home!”
They located the Enchantress, who said, “You’ve been a bit of a wizard yourself, doll!”
Starman carried them to a brownstone that gave him a feeling of intense relief.
“Hold it!” said Artemis. “The JSA Headquarters? Not with this girl!”
“Look, you two are not outlaws here, as far as I know,” said Starman. “Just trust me!” He zoomed down and, after a quick exchange with Doctor Fate and the Spectre, they found themselves back on Earth-Two.
“I can only speculate on why that dimension came about during the Crisis or why it seemed resistent to heroes,” said Starman. “At least we’re all home.”
“And I have business,” said the Enchantress. “I won’t forget this. You picked a good mate!”
Artemis smiled. “Don’t rush things!”
“I have to turn you in for the Wellmont business,” Starman said with some reluctance.
“Granny can get me out any time,” said Artemis. “Plus, I did save a world.”
Starman shrugged. “I can’t just let you go free!”
She shrugged. “OK, well, how about a kiss for goodbye?”
David Knight drew her closer, and they kissed. The prick of a bolt across his neck alerted him to her sudden movement. She punched him across the chin, and he felt the drug take hold.
“See you around, Boy Scout!” smirked Artemis Crock.
David fell forward and realized that he had half-expected her to make a break for it. For a guy who had just saved a dimension and given birth to its generation of heroes, he was willing to take his victories as he could.
The new Starman did not realize that the pocket dimension he had just saved from much evil was governed by an almost-sentient malice that came from the fact that it once had been part of a tyrant called Maaldor the Darklord. He had thwarted the very destiny of that dimension and had made a very dangerous enemy.