Kyle Andrew Murphy stood in front of the mirror and admired himself. Even after all these years, the uniform fit perfectly. During the Great War, the Mist had been a captain in the Royal Canadian Army. Though a little worn and fraying here and there, the meaning this uniform had for him was beyond words.
He had been highly decorated during the war, winning this metal and that, but none meant so much to him as the Victoria Cross of Valor. The medal still shone brightly gold as the day he received it, the majestic lion on it protecting the crown of England and two simple words: for valour.
It had been cold and rainy that night. I was leading a contingent of soldiers at the German front. The fighting had become more intense. My men were being slaughtered. What could I do? They were counting on me. Thomas came running to me with a report. We were pinned down. The Germans were coming, and there was nothing we could do.
Thomas went silent, a look of surprise on his face. I will never forget that look. It is the look a man has on his face when he dies. Thomas fell into my arms. The back of his skull was missing. I screamed as I had never screamed before. Then all became calm inside me. I had a moment of clarity. It was like nothing I had ever known before. I would not die this day. I could not.
Dropping Thomas to the battlefield, I gathered my remaining troops to me and led a charge against the Germans like they had never seen before. All around me, bullets flew and bombs burst, but not a single one touched my skin. I slew the Germans at will, and this inspired my men. What had been a slaughter had been turned into a victory. As I waded through the German trenches, butchering the filth I found there, I knew God was on my side. I was chosen.
My superiors were impressed, to say the least. I was awarded the Victoria Cross for at the end of the Great War. The Germans never knew what hit them. My fellow officers became jealous and increasingly avoided me, no doubt because they knew that I was the chosen one. I decided then that I had outgrown the military. A greater destiny awaited me.
I enrolled in college, and from there made my greatest discovery — the invisibility solution. It would help me assume my rightful place as leader of the rich and powerful. I would have succeeded, too, if not for the Starman.
The Mist’s reflection smiled back at him in the mirror. “You took my dreams from me, Starman. Now everything you ever worked for is mine!”
In her room, Nash Murphy sat huddled on her bed. She was holding a picture of her mother. How she loved her, but fate had taken her mother away when Nash was just a little girl. She remembered that day well.
Her father had come home late. It was almost eight o’clock when Natasha ran to the door. Her father appeared to be out of breath. His clothes were dirty and were stained brown.
“Daddy, what happened? Where’s Mommy?”
Kyle looked down at his daughter, but it was almost as if he wasn’t really looking at her. He just stood there as the look on his eight-year-old daughter’s face turned from panic to fear.
He picked up Natasha in trembling arms. “Where is your brother?”
“In his room.”
Kyle carried his daughter to Kyle Jr.’s room. He sat Natasha down on her brother’s bed. Seeing the way his father looked, Kyle Jr. felt scared.
“Dad, what’s wrong? Is it Mommy?”
Kyle knelt down in front of his children. “There’s been an accident.”
Nash didn’t hear much after that. She remembered Kyle holding her tightly as she cried herself to sleep. Her father had gone to his room and locked the door.
She clutched her mother’s picture more tightly. Why did everything she loved go away? She put her mother’s picture away and stepped out the window of her room. As she pulled the curtain back, she stared down toward the gardener’s shack. Would Jack ever come back? Why did her father hurt everyone she loved — Kyle, Jack, Mommy?
She’d never wanted to believe it. It hardly seemed possible. And yet, how did someone like the Mist have a car accident? He could have saved her. But what if…? Nash’s mind began to race at the possibilities.
Jules Black sat working in his office. His workload had been considerably lighter since handing over the day-to-day affairs of the Knight household to Murph. God bless that man. The phone on Jules’s desk buzzed.
“Mr. Black, there’s a Mr. O’Dare here to see you.”
“By all means, send him in.”
It had been a while since Commissioner Clarence O’Dare had visited. He wondered what was bringing him by. The door opened, but it was not the older man Jules had expected.
He extended his hand and grasped the redheaded man’s hand. Looks like the commissioner. Must be one of his brothers.
“Matt O’Dare, Mr. Black,” said the man. “I need to ask you few questions about Andy Murphy.”
The JSA Brownstone:
“What’s up, Doc?”
Where there had been no one before, suddenly the Flash was standing there across from where Doctor Mid-Nite was seated.
“I’m hunting wabbits,” Doctor Mid-Nite said with a straight face.
Jay Garrick tilted his helmet and scratched his head. “Um, Doc, I hate to be rude, but I am in the middle of a presidential campaign. (*) If you need a speedster, why not ask Johnny Quick? That’s why he officially replaced me in the team, after all.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: The Race, Book 1: Candidacy and DC Universe: The Race, Book 2, Chapter 1: Big Shoes to Fill.]
“I didn’t need a speedster, and the election’s not until the end of next year,” said Doctor Mid-Nite. “It’ll wait.”
“Point taken,” said Jay with a grin.
“I’ve been investigating David Knight’s murder,” continued Mid-Nite. “As I was searching through the hospital records, we had a little run-in with the Shade. He told us to basically get out of town. Apparently, he was the one who spirited David’s body out of the hospital. He told us we didn’t know what we were getting into.”
“So why call me? I may have fought him a few times over the years, but I’m hardly an expert on the Shade.”
“But didn’t you stop Green Lantern and tell him in effect that you believed all that about him being a hero in Opal City?”
Jay grinned. “Nothing gets past you, does it, Doc? Well, I can’t really go into that right now, but trust me, there’s more to the Shade than meets the eye. If he says stay out, then stay out. And before you even ask, no, I don’t think for a minute that he had anything to do with David’s death. If Ted was here, he’d tell you the same thing.”
“I gotta run, Doc.” And quick as a flash, Jay Garrick was gone.
Doctor Mid-Nite headed to the computer room. He shut out the lights and activated the voice interface. “Computer, tell me everything you know about the Shade.”
Jack Knight sat back in the hot tub and closed his eyes. He had aches and pains in places he never even knew existed. Why was this so hard? All he wanted was to learn how to use his Dad’s cosmic rod. Instead, he was being treated like a dog’s chew toy by Wildcat.
Life wasn’t fair.
Why not just tell them about the Mist? Couldn’t the JSA or even the Infinitors deal with the Mist for Jack? Of course they could. It would be so easy. That’s why he couldn’t do it. The Mist was Starman’s foe, not the JSA’s. Dad had defeated him time and again. David probably could have, too. As much as Jack hated to admit it, David was becoming one hell of a Starman. But Dad was gone. David was dead. That meant that Jack was Starman now. The Mist had made this thing personal. He stole Dad’s money, his house, hell, he was living Dad’s life. And Nash…
How could she do that to him? Use him like that? God, he felt so violated, so used. Like father, like daughter.
So here he was, sitting in a tub in the headquarters of Infinity Inc., nursing his wounds and feeling sorry for himself. Some Starman he was turning out to be. He was a Starman who couldn’t master his rod. He was a Starman who couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag.
”No, I’m just kidding myself. I’m not Starman at all.”
At that moment, someone came into the room.
“I’m sorry, Jack. I didn’t think anyone was in here,” Todd Rice said as he entered the room wearing a towel wrapped around his waist.
Jack got out of the hot tub as Todd stood there. “No problem, dude. I was just leaving, anyway.”
“Jack, wait. Look, if you need someone to talk to, you know, I mean…”
Jack just stared at Todd, and then he laughed. “Right. Dude, you don’t even know me, and I sure as &%^$ don’t want to get all touchy-feely with a naked dude in a hot tub. What are you, some kind of queer?”
Todd’s jaw dropped, and his face turned four different shades of red.
“That’s what I thought. Like you’d even know what it’s like to live up to your father’s legacy or to live in the shadow of your perfect brother. You’re pathetic, Rice.”
Todd stood there, stunned. When he regained his senses, his first thought was to take refuge in the shadows and go after Jack. But what would that accomplish? Jack and Todd had more in common than Jack realized. Well, Todd had a perfect sister, and he felt like Alan favored Jen a little, and what was that comment that Jack made? How could anyone act like such a horse’s…?
“God, I hope I don’t ever act like that!”
The next morning, Jack tumbled out of bed, but something was wrong. He peered out the window. It was light out. Jack glanced at the alarm clock; it was 2:30 P.M. Where the hell was Wildcat? He never let Jack sleep this late. Every morning at 6:30 A.M., the ‘Cat pulled Jack out of bed for those insane training rituals.
Throwing his robe on, Jack stumbled into the hallway. Jesse Quick and Aquaman said hi as they walked past. Jack just grunted. He made his way to the kitchen and started rummaging around in the refrigerator.
Jack stood up with an apple in his mouth. “Wrdhllhyubn?”
“What?” Wildcat asked.
Taking the apple out, Jack said again, “Where the hell have you been?”
Wildcat grabbed a soda out of the refrigerator and headed to the table. “What do you care? You said you were done with this. I took you at your word.”
Jack sat down across from Ted Grant. “So you’re giving up on me? Figures. Damn, I wish Terry was still here. He’d never give up on me. He’d teach me what I want to know.”
Wildcat leaned over the table and got in Jack’s face. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do, ya ungrateful brat. If you weren’t so thick-headed, ya’d realize that and stop acting like a jackass.”
Jack started laughing. “Jackass. Jack. Ass. That’s pretty funny, Lardcat.”
Ted just shook his head, and then something occurred to him. “Hey, Jackass. You ever wonder how come the JSA took in two mugs like me and Terry? It’s not like we had super-powers or nothin’.”
“I always figured the JSA had to do some charity work every now and then.”
“Hardy-har. Let me just tell ya, it had nothing ta do with charity. See, there was this guy who called himself Mister Horrific…”