Opal City Memorial Hospital, after midnight:
In the records office, Doctor Mid-Nite sat at the computer terminal reviewing records. There was something not quite right.
According to these records, David was brought in at 6:57 P.M. and was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. J. Burnley. He concluded that death had been caused by a bullet piercing David’s aorta and trauma from the subsequent fall from the top of Opal City Hall. Yet the autopsy records seem to be missing, and I can’t find any mention of a doctor named Burnley on staff here.
Mid-Nite continued to pour over the records. On a hunch, the dark avenger checked the listings of John Does that had been brought in that evening.
Hmmm. There’s a John Doe who was transferred to a private medical facility at 9:35 P.M. He was signed out by a Mr. E. Mann. Mystery man. Someone has a sense of humor, at least, but why would the hospital let someone leave under the cover of anonymity?
As he continued to search, Mid-Nite failed to notice the shadow growing behind him into a very familiar figure.
The next day:
A moving van was being unloaded at the Knight estate. The workers labored feverishly to get the contents unloaded. Andy Murphy was supervising, moving the things onto the second floor of the Knight home. He’d let the first floor be for a little while. Kyle Murphy was busy helping his father separate to get back into his good graces.
Nash Murphy, meanwhile, decided to explore the grounds, content to be by herself and out of sight. She wandered aimlessly, enjoying the flora and the well-kept grounds. She shortly found herself at Ted Knight’s private observatory. Quietly, she let herself in. Nash was astonished at what she saw. The telescope was magnificent, like none she’d ever seen before. As she approached it, she saw someone stumble out from underneath.
“What are you doing here?”
Nash jumped back as a very stoned Jack Knight made his presence known. He was wearing a bandana on his head and a pair of jeans. His shirt was off, tied around his waist, and he wasn’t wearing any shoes.
“H-h-h-h… hi… J-J-Jack.”
Nash couldn’t help but stare. It didn’t take Jack long to notice. He held up his pipe.
“Care to join me?”
Jack and Nash lay on his bed, holding each other closely. She gently stroked his hair and said, “I never imagined anything could be this wonderful.”
Jack propped himself up on his elbow and looked deeply into her eyes. “What? The sex or the pot?”
Nash laughed. “Well, the pot, of course. You suck in bed.”
Jack wasn’t quite sure what to say, a confused look crossing his face.
Nash poked him the ribs. “Of course you, silly boy. I didn’t smoke any of the pot.”
“Oh, OK. You had me worried there for a minute.”
“Jack, all my life, my father’s controlled everything I’ve ever seen and done, and I’ve always accepted it, but tonight was different. He hit my brother. I’ve never been so scared in all my life. That’s why I went wandering tonight. It’s why I found you.”
“I’m glad you did.”
“I am, too. I’ve given you something tonight no other boy can ever have,” Nash said as she ran her hand down Jack’s chest.
“Oh, my God. You’re a virgin?!” Jack’s mind started to race with the implications of that.
“Not anymore; of course, if you weren’t a virgin yourself, you would have known that,” she said with a wicked grin. In one graceful motion, she jumped atop Jack. “This is the first choice I’ve made on my own that my father doesn’t know about. I think I like that.”
Jack was about to protest, when Nash bent down and kissed him. He tried to fight it, he really did, but in the end, he was just a man.
Outside, a fog rolled past Jack’s window.
And back in the Knight mansion proper, Kyle Murphy sat on his bed, using the remote to flick through the channels on his television, but he wasn’t really watching.
He rubbed his jaw where his father had slapped him. There was no damage physically, but emotionally Kyle was torn.
I can’t believe he hit me in front of Nash. She even stuttered after he was gone, and she never stutters with me — never! I hope father knows what he’s doing, because I’m beginning to think he doesn’t.
“Well, well, what have we here?”
Doctor Mid-Nite jumped up when he heard the voice of someone he more than recognized. “Shade! Why did I know you’d be involved with this somehow?”
The master of shadows seemed to flow out of the darkness as he walked toward the blind avenger. “Because you, Doctor, are a very intelligent man. As one intellectual to another, I must ask you to leave. You do not understand what you are getting involved in.”
“Oh, but I do, Shade. The sons of Ted Knight are very much my business, and I have a feeling that you know more about David Knight’s death than you are willing to admit to.”
The room suddenly became a little colder, and the Shade’s look a little more menacing. “Whether I do or not is not any of your concern, Dr. McNider. Leave now while you are still able.”
Doctor Mid-Nite touched his JSA signal device. “I had a feeling you’d say that. I didn’t come alone.”
The ceiling suddenly gave way, and the Atom and Hourman landed behind the Shade. He didn’t even look at the two heroes, but he knew exactly who they were. “Tyler and Pratt.” The two JSAers stiffened as they realized that the Shade was aware of their identities as he had been of Green Lantern’s. “Oh, don’t worry; I don’t share secrets lightly. Anyway, I daresay I’m disappointed. I would have expected you to bring the real powerhouses, the Lantern and Fate. I suppose, though, had you truly wished to insult me, you would have brought that bumbling Thunder instead of Hourman.”
“Why, you…!” the Atom said as he was about to spring at the villain, held back only through Hourman’s Miraclo-induced strength.
“Atom, control yourself.”
The Shade turned to face the two newcomers. “Very well, gentlemen, since you insist on staying, you leave me no choice. The hour of destiny is at hand. Your zero hour, if you will.”
Jack Knight woke up and found himself alone. He felt the other side of the bed. It was still warm. She must have left only a little while ago, he thought. Jack looked out his window. It was still dark, and he was hungry. He tromped off to the kitchen, only to find his refrigerator empty. Throwing a T-shirt and jeans on, Jack made a dash for the main house. Maybe he could sneak in and out without Andy Murphy seeing him.
As he approached his father’s home, he could hear yelling come from the study. Jack crept closer to the house, avoiding the prickly bushes, and peered in the window, just in time to see Andy put his son Kyle up against the wall.
“Don’t you dare question me — ever!”
Nash Murphy reached out to her father. “F-F-F-F-F-Father, p-p-please, d-d-don’t hurt him!”
Andy Murphy turned his gaze to his daughter, murder in his eye, but something clicked in his head, and he dropped his son to the ground. “You remind me so much of your mother.”
“Th… thank you, Father.”
Andy caressed his daughter’s face. “You understand why I have to be firm with Kyle, don’t you, my love?”
“What have I always told you?”
Nash looked in his eyes. “I-if someone is n-n-not your f-f-f-f-friend, then he is y-y-your enemy.”
Murph looked pleased. “Excellent. Jack Knight is your friend now, isn’t he?”
She looked frightened now. “W-w-w-w-w-what do y-y-y-you m-m-mean?”
“It’s all right, Natasha. I know you slept with young Jack tonight. I’m glad. It makes things that much easier. With him on our side, everything finally comes together. You did good work tonight, daughter. I’m proud of you,” Murph said as he cast a look of contempt at his son. “Wish I could say the same for you, Nimbus.”
Kyle Murphy stood up, a pleading tone in his voice as he said, “Father, I’ve done everything you asked of me. I worked with that disgusting woman. I killed David Knight for you. Just let me take care of Jack, too.”
That was the last straw for Murph. He let out a primal scream, and where there was once Andy Murphy, there was now only the Mist.
With a gesture, the Mist flung his son against the wall again. “You idiot! You embarrassed me by becoming a lackey for that Alexis Luthor. You should have been their leader, not a follower. (*) And I’ll tell you again, you will not touch a hair on Jack Knight’s head. Shame that you’re immune to my hypnotic stare like your sister, but no matter. Don’t you understand? I finally have my revenge on Ted Knight. I killed his eldest son. I stole his house, his fortune, and now, thanks to my darling daughter, Jack Knight is almost one of the family. How utterly perfect. And I will not have you screw this up! Do I make myself clear?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two.]
Kyle simply nodded. They were both too busy to notice Jack Knight in the window, but Nash did. She remained silent as Jack stared through the glass at her with disgust, and then he was gone. She had much to think about this night.
Jack raced back to his father’s observatory. “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God–”
He slammed the door behind him and ran smack into the star chart on the wall.
The Mist. Oh, my God. He’s the one who killed David, and probably Dad, too. Oh, God, oh, God. What am I gonna do? And that bitch! She #%$^in’ used me. All that talk about being a virgin. It was all part of her father’s plan. No one’s ever gonna believe me. What am I gonna do?
Raising his fists in frustration, Jack banged on the chart. His fists hit a certain panel, and the chart pulled back, revealing an empty space — well, not quite empty. Behind the chart was something that looked like a spear, but it wasn’t a spear; the end was too oddly shaped.
Jack grabbed the object and held it in his hands. It seemed familiar, as though Jack had seen it somewhere before. It was nearly as tall as he was. He touched the oddly shaped top and heard something click. The staff began to glow.
Oh, wow. This is one of Dad’s old cosmic rods. I remember seeing a picture with him holding this. I’ll bet I could just wish it, and I’d start flying.
Suddenly, Jack was doing just that. The cosmic rod dragged him up through the open top of the observatory into the night sky, with Jack holding on for dear life.
Oh, damn — now what? Dad can’t show me how to use this. David can’t. Maybe… And Jack Knight suddenly took off, leaving the Knight estate far behind.
Stellar Studios, the next day:
Sylvester Pemberton strode down the hallway to his office but found the door already open. He cautiously peered in and saw someone sitting at his desk.
“All right, how did you… Jack?! Jack Knight? What in the world are you doing here?”
Jack was still holding his father’s cosmic rod. He looked Sylvester dead in the eye.
“I want you to teach me how to be Starman.”