From the Shade’s journal:
For the next several weeks, young Jack Knight trained with the aged prizefighter. Where at first the heir apparent was reluctant, he seemed now more than ever to have developed a determination to learn from Wildcat. What had started out as awkwardness soon turned into grace, and the student even managed to outwit the teacher once or twice. Finally, graduation day came.
Wildcat and Jack were sparring in the gym at Stellar Studios. Wildcat had become very impressed with how much Jack had picked up over the past month or so. Jack had even managed to catch Wildcat off-balance once and sweep his legs out from underneath him. That did not happen very often. He noticed, too, how the young man’s disposition had changed. Where once Jack was very scattered, he was now focused and resolute. He even apologized to the Infinitors for his rudeness, all without Wildcat’s prompting.
Even more impressive, though, was the way Jack had managed to break his old habits. A group of Infinitors — Red Arrow, Midnight, Surge, Aquaman, and Jesse Quick — had taken Jack out with them to an all-ages club. At one point, Jack was approached by a young vagabond who offered him some marijuana.
Jack froze in place for a moment and stared at the small package. Surely all the old temptations came rushing back within him. Jack, however, regained his composure and told the vagabond, “No.”
The young rapscallion smiled at him and said, “C’mon, man, you know you want it. It’s just pot. It’s harmless.”
Then Jack did something that floored everyone. He called over the on-duty security and turned the vagabond in.
“Had enough, punk?”
“In your dreams, old man. Is that all you got? I mean, where’s the challenge in beating the hell out of some eighty-year-old geezer?”
Sylvester Pemberton walked in the room, carrying Jack’s cosmic rod, and said to the duo, “I used to say the same thing to Ted back in the day. I used to be worried I’d get arrested for senior abuse or something; the people in Ted’s rest home get very testy when he comes in all bruised up.”
“Hardy-har-har, Pemberton. I seem to remember you soaking in the hot tub at JSA Headquarters complaining about how much you ached after we had one of our workouts. I seem to remember me going out with a few babes while you were recuperating.”
Jack walked over to Syl and asked, “What’s with the cosmic rod?”
“I made a few modifcations to it, using some of the technology in my cosmic converter belt. That, of course, was also invented by your father. I think you’ll find it useful for your last test.”
Wildcat looked confused. “Whatcha mean last test? The kid’s learned all I can teach him!”
Syl threw the cosmic rod to Jack and just smiled. “You remember when you first came here, Jack, and we told you that just the cosmic rod alone wouldn’t do you any good against a super-powered opponent? That you had to learn how to defend yourself?”
“Jeez, Pemberton, get to the friggin’ point already!” Jack exclaimed with a little irritation.
“OK, then, Jack, here’s your test.”
The door opened to the gym, and a voice said, “Hiya, kitty-cat. Miss me?”
Wildcat rolled his eyes. “Oh, geez. Not this chick. Not Power Girl!”
“Time to stand aside, Obi-Wan,” Power Girl said as she eyed Jack up and down. Turning to Sylvester, she asked, “You’re kidding me, right? This scrawny kid is going to try and take me down?”
“Yup. Kara, meet Jack Knight, the new Starman. Jack, meet Kara Zor-L, my old friend, Power Girl.”
Jack just stood there staring.
“Jack, my face is up here. Shame on you, Ted. You’ve turned this kid into as big a lech as you are.”
Jack looked up at Kara and then to Syl. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Simple, Jack. Your last test is to best Power Girl in combat. Sounds simple, huh? Don’t hurt the kid too bad, Kara,” Syl said as he and Ted exited the gym.
Wildcat was laughing. “That was so cruel, Syl. She’s gonna turn the kid into a pretzel.”
Sylvester sighed, “I know. I miss that.”
The residence of Crusher and Paula Crock:
Nash Murphy looked at herself in the mirror. More than a month ago, she had been a soft little girl. Now she was a woman. Her soft, girly hair was replaced by the short spiked look she wore now. The half-shirt she had on showed her bare midriff, once supple to the touch. Now it was hard and muscular, like the rest of her body. The workout and training had paid off. No longer would her father continue to abuse his family. He didn’t deserve a family.
“You’re looking pretty hot, girl.”
Nash turned to see Artemis Crock standing in the doorway.
“Thanks. I wanted to get a good mental picture of what this looks like before, well… I can’t thank you and your mother enough for what you’ve done for me. For the first time in my life, I actually feel powerful.”
Artemis nodded her head in agreement. “I know what you mean. When I was growing up, all the girls I went to school with were such weak little sisters. They just giggled and cooed at the boys and thought being a woman meant being servile and docile to men. It made me sick.”
“You were lucky, Artemis,” said Nash. “You got to grow up with such a strong woman for a mother. The Huntress has always been one of my idols. Not that other Huntress, but your mother, I mean. I can’t imagine her ever taking anything from anyone.”
Artemis laughed. “Yeah, that’s true. She and Dad used to get into it a lot, but she always won.”
Nash gave Artemis a big hug and said, “I guess it’s time.”
“Are you sure you don’t want help with this? Mother and I would be more than happy to assist. My parents never exactly liked the Mist, and the only reason I even briefly worked with him a couple of months back was because our goals happened to line up at the time.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Starman: The Amity Games.]
“I appreciate that, but this is something I have to do for myself, and after I do, there’ll only be one Mist.”
Back at Stellar Studios:
Jack Knight sat back in the recliner in his room. He was too sore to move, but somehow he didn’t mind. Power Girl had given him the workout of his life. He managed to hold his own for a while, but in the end, her experience won out. Sure, he got a few hits with the cosmic rod. Hell, he even managed to flip her once, but she was too much for him. The fact that he had lasted as long as he did was testimony to Wildcat’s training and reinforced the idea that the cosmic rod wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all of fighting. He never imagined that being pinned by an opponent could be so… interesting.
He started to doze off, but as he did, Jack noticed that the color seemed to flicker out of the room. He opened his eyes again, and everything was in black and white.
“What the #^@% is going on here?”
Jack opened the door and looked down the hallway. It was black and white out here, too.
Jack saw a figure moving in the distance, and he cried out, “Who’s there?”
Grabbing the cosmic rod, Jack dashed down the hall to the closed door of the meeting room. He gently opened it and saw a woman seated there, her back turned to him.
“Who are you?”
The woman dressed in white stood up and turned to face him. She spoke, and her voice was like gossamer and rose petals. “Hello, Jack.”
Jack approached the woman, his jaw slack, his voice quivering. “Mom?!”
Doris Lee Knight smiled at her son, the shimmering of her white gown dazzling his eyes. “Yes, Jack, my precious boy. It’s me.”
“No. You’re dead. It can’t be you. This is a trick,” Jack said as his body began to tremble. His fist tightened around the cosmic rod.
“Oh, Jack. What happened to the sweet little boy that I used to take shopping for hours on end? Do you remember that time your father and I took you and your brother to England? David and your father went off to Oxford, while you and I went to explore the shops. Do you remember what we found in the old book shop?”
“Yes…” Jack said weakly as a tear began to slide down his cheek.
“You were so excited. It was an old issue of Adventure Comics from the 1940s — issue number sixty-one, as I recall. It was the first appearance of the Starman. I remember you tugging my skirt and asking me if the comic was about your father. Do you remember what I told you?”
Jack was trying to hold back the tears.
“Yes, Jack. That is about your father — my hero and yours. Now come here and give your mother a hug.”
Jack flung his arms around his mother, the tears flowing freely now.
“Oh, God. Mommy… Mommy…”
“Hush, Jack, it’s OK. I’m here. Mommy’s here. It’s OK…”