From the Shade’s journal:
It has been said that life is replete with crossroads and choices. Some of us take the tried and true path, while others take the road less travelled (trite, I know, but such wonderful imagery is evoked by the simple phrase).
So it was with young Jack Knight, who had to decide whether to cast off his cloak of irresponsibility and assume a mantle he might not be ready for, or allow his father’s most hated foe to succeed where he never had before. Many were the demons that plagued the young man.
His first love had been found and then subsequently shattered his teenage heart. She, too, would make a discovery and a choice.
And all about, the other players upon the stage strutted and fretted, some with full knowledge of what they were doing, some treading into waters from which they might never emerge.
And my role in all this? As ever, I keep my friends close, and my enemies even closer.
Jack Knight staggered backward as his opponent’s fist connected with Jack’s face. He’d seen it coming. He tried his best to avoid it. His best simply wasn’t good enough.
The next blow landed in Jack’s midsection. He fell to the ground as his opponent smiled at him. Slowly, he regained his composure and stood up. Without warning, he lunged for his opponent. The next thing Jack knew, his feet were flying up, and he hit the ground with a tremendous thud.
The opponent walked up to where Jack was lying on the ground. He extended his hand to Jack. With fire in his eye, Jack glared at his opponent and hopped up without taking the hand of his adversary.
“#^@% you and #^@% all this training bull$#!^! If I had my cosmic rod, you’d be toast, old man,” Jack said as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
Ted Grant couldn’t help but chuckle. “Jack, the whole point of teaching you how to fight is for those situations when you don’t have your cosmic rod, or for some reason it’s not working right.”
“Oh, spare me the horse$#!^, Grant. You and Pemberton are just getting your jollies from kicking me around, and you know it. I don’t see Doctor Fate or Green Lantern duking it out with anyone.”
“You think so, kid? Ever wonder how a boxer like me got hooked up with the JSA? They already had a fighter on the team — the Atom. Why do you think they ever invited me to join?”
“I think you’ve mistaken me for someone who gives a crap,” Jack said as he stormed off.
Wildcat rubbed the back of his neck and shook his head. So much anger in that kid. As gentle as Ted and Doris always were, makes me wonder what’s got him so twisted up in knots. “I’m not gonna get anywhere with this kid.”
“That bad, ‘Cat?”
Wildcat turned to see Sylvester Pemberton standing in the doorway at the other end of the room. “I dunno, Syl. The kid’s just not buying in. Reminds me of Kara in a lot of ways.”
Syl had to laugh at that one. “Oh, man, she use to curse for hours after one of your training sessions back in the day. Couldn’t get it through that thick Kryptonian skull how you could get one up on her.”
“Hey, wasn’t like it was easy. A mad Kryptonian ain’t nothin’ ta laugh at. Still, she was a lot easier ta deal with than ol’ Jack here. Remind me why I agreed ta do this again?”
“C’mon, I’ll get you a cup of coffee. Jack just showed up at my office a couple of days ago.”
A few days prior:
“You want me to do what?”
Sylvester Pemberton stared incredulously at the young man before him. In all the years that he had known the Knight family, Jack had never spoken more than two words to him. In fact, Syl had gotten the distinct impression that Jack hated him.
“Are you deaf? I said I want you to teach me to be Starman. With Dad and David gone, you’re the only one who knows anything about the cosmic rod. If you don’t want to, say the word, an’ I’m outta here,” Jack said, not really looking at Patriot.
“Wait just a minute, Jack,” Sylvester said as he sat down at his desk. “You’ve never wanted anything to do with me in the past. You always disrespected your Dad. You couldn’t stand David. Now you want to follow in their footsteps. Why? If I’m going to do that, I need to know why.”
Jack stood up and leaned on Syl’s desk. “Because I need you to — that’s why. If you won’t do it for me, then do it for Dad. Can’t you just accept that I want to honor my Dad and brother, now that they’re dead? Or is that a threat to you as Starman’s only remaining super-heroic heir?”
Sylvester’s jaw dropped. “Oh, my God! Is that was this has been about all these years? You’ve been jealous of me because Ted chose me to use his cosmic rod before you? Jack, you were only a little kid!”
Jack put his shades back on. “I didn’t come here for a counseling session, Pemberton. Are you going to help me or not?”
Syl stood up and came around from behind the desk. “OK. I will, but before you learn how to use the cosmic rod, you have to learn how to defend yourself.”
Jack shook his head. “Dude, whatever. I can kick your butt anytime you want me to. I don’t need you to teach me how to fight; I just need–”
Jack’s words were interrupted by Sylvester’s fist as it landed squarely on Jack’s jaw. The cosmic rod went flying, and Jack landed on the couch.
“What the #^@% did you do that for? I wasn’t ready,” Jack said, trying to get his bearings.
“Jack, Solomon Grundy and the Sportsmaster aren’t going to ask you if you’re ready. This isn’t a game, and it certainly isn’t something an unprepared punk like you should be in.”
Jack lunged for Patriot, but Syl twisted out of the way and grabbed Jack in a headlock. “Jack, I’ll teach you what you wanted to know, but we do it my way! Do you get it?”
He tried to struggle, but Sylvester held Jack tight.
Patriot let Jack go and then picked up the phone on the desk to speak to his secretary. “Carole, get Wildcat on the phone for me. I’ve got a new recruit.”
Jack slumped back on the couch. This was going to be more trouble than he thought.
Opal City Memorial Hospital:
“Is that a threat, Shade?”
The Shade looked at the three Justice Society members for a moment. The Atom was tensed for battle. Hourman was also ready, but with more restraint. Doctor Mid-Nite was unreadable, but no doubt he, too, would be ready.
“Gentlemen, you truly do not understand me. I am not the enemy here. The individual who murdered David Knight is. I feel that I am close to finding the proof I need, and I do not need you here mucking about in things which are not your concern!”
“That’s not good enough, Shade,” Doctor Mid-Nite replied. “For all we know, Green Lantern was right. You had David murdered to set yourself up as the criminal kingpin of Opal. You may even have had something to do with the disappearance of Ted Knight.”
“Yes, and I was also the second gunman on the grassy knoll in Dallas in November of 1963,” Shade said with a hint of mirth in his tone.
The Atom was shocked. “What? I knew it! The Shade really is–”
Hourman shook his head. “Atom, the Shade was kidding. Uh, you were kidding, weren’t you?”
Raising his hands, the Shade shook them in exasperation. “Heaven help me! Gentlemen, I am the one who had David Knight’s body moved, and I am going to have to ask you to trust me on this. There is more at stake than you realize.”
Intrigued, Doctor Mid-Nite replied, “And that would be…?”
Before the Shade could reply, a violent knocking was heard at the door. “Who’s in there?! Open up! No one’s authorized to be in here!”
The three JSAers looked at each other with surprise. The Shade, meanwhile, had already vanished into the shadows.
“Open the door, Al.”
The Atom opened the door, and a doctor and a security guard entered the room. “What are you people doing here?”
“We’re conducting an official investigation into the death of our colleague, Starman,” Doctor Mid-Nite said to his fellow practitioner. “This has all been cleared through Commissioner O’Dare’s office.”
An imperious-looking man entered the room. He was one of the staff doctors at Opal Memorial. He looked at the three heroes with contempt. “Hmph. I’ve never cared for you super-types. Always caused more problems than you solve. But Starman was good for this city, so I’ll let it slide this time, but if I ever run into you three sneaking around in my hospital again, you will regret it.”
The Atom grabbed hold of the doctor’s shirt and lifted him off the ground. “Wow. You’ve got me shaking in my boots, pal.” He dropped the doctor, who fell to the ground with an unceremonious thud. The security guard struggled to stifle a hearty laugh.
As the JSAers disappeared down the hallway, the doctor gathered himself and straightened his clothes. “Of all the nerve. No one messes with Dr. Daniel Jurgens and gets away with it!”