Starman: Stars Be My Destiny, Book 4, Chapter 1: Graduation


Return to chapter list

Continued from Stars Be My Destiny, Book 3: Talking With Doris

From the Shade’s journal:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object. The direction of the force on the first object is opposite to the direction of the force on the second object. Forces always come in pairs — equal and opposite action-reaction force pairs.

A variety of action-reaction force pairs are evident in nature. Consider the propulsion of a fish through the water. A fish uses its fins to push water backwards. But a push on the water will only serve to accelerate the water. In turn, the water reacts by pushing the fish forwards, propelling the fish through the water. The size of the force on the water equals the size of the force on the fish; the direction of the force on the water (backwards) is opposite the direction of the force on the fish (forwards). For every action, there is an equal (in size) and opposite (in direction) reaction force. Action-reaction force pairs make it possible for fish to swim. At least that’s how I explained it to Sir Isaac. But did I receive even a single mention in any of his works? Of course not. I wonder what would have happened had I beaned him with a brick instead of an apple?

So what, if anything, does this have to do with the story of young Jack Knight? Consider the long history of the Mist and the Starman. The Mist commits a crime. The Starman put him in jail. Equal, yet opposite reactions. Now along comes the Mist without Ted Knight to oppose him. Foolishly, old Murphy thinks this action would breed no reaction, much as he thought the death of his wife would go unquestioned. The universe simply does not work that way. It requires — no, it demands — that no deed, good or evil, goes unpunished.

Harsh lessons will be learned this day by the Murphy clan and the heirs of Theodore Knight alike. Today young Jack Knight will be surprised by the return of someone he thought long lost, as well as the loss of someone he had only just found.


Natasha Murphy stood in her father’s old laboratory. God, how this place reeked of must and mold and death. She searched high and low for the object of her desire, finding only cobwebs and spiders. Knocking over an old bookcase, she saw the notch in the wood on the baseboard. She pried it open, revealing at last her prize: the formula that had turned her father into the Mist.

Nash held the jar up to the light, wiping the grime and dust away. How long had this been sitting here — twenty years? What if it had gone bad? What if it killed her? What if it will not work? No, she reasoned, if the revised formula worked for Kyle, then the original should work on her. She had always suspected that the formula Kyle used was inferior to the original. Her father couldn’t stand the idea of anyone being more powerful than him, even his own son. Kyle always had to rejuvenate his powers to become Nimbus. Father never did. Now neither would she.

Reaching into her pocket, Nash pulled out a picture of her mother. In her name, Nash would become the Mist and avenge the evil that her father had done. Popping open the top of the jar, she winced as the putrid odor wafted forth. Nash put the bottle to her lips and tilted her head back. The liquid burned her throat as she drank, but that would not stop her. She held the empty bottle up. Nothing happened.

Damn you, Father! Damn you!” Nash screamed as she threw the bottle against the farthest wall, shattering it into a billion different pieces. He must have known she was coming here and left that swill in place of his formula.

Suddenly, Nash felt a searing pain in her stomach, as though her whole body had caught fire. She fell to the floor, doubled over in pain. He did it. Whatever was in the jar, he left it to kill whoever found it, she thought as she writhed on the floor.

Then, just as quickly as it began, the pain stopped. Nash sat upright. A strange tingling sensation coursed through her left arm. She grabbed it with her right hand, but her hand went through it like so much mist. Holding her left arm up, Nash saw it vaporize. She began to laugh, and then slowly, her whole body turned into mist. Nash Murphy was gone.


The home of the Shade, Opal City:

“I think I might have found something,” Matt O’Dare said as he walked into the Shade’s living room.

The Shade put down his pen and closed his journal. He had to smile at the number of times he had heard Matt say that over the past century. Of course, he wasn’t always Matt, but that was a tale for another time. “Something incriminating, I trust?”

Matt smiled as he tossed a few old manila folders on the Shade’s turn-of-the-century antique desk. “It took a little bit of digging, but a friend of mine in Canada actually stumbled across this.”

The Shade opened the files. He saw dusty old police reports and a few yellowed photographs. One picture, though, was unmistakable. He was younger, to be sure, but it was Andy Murphy, the Mist. He read the files. It had been a rainy evening. Murphy and his wife, Aleksandra, had been out, presumably to dinner. On the way home, Murphy claimed that something jumped out into the road. He tried to avoid it, but ended up wrapping the car around a telephone pole. Murphy had walked away from the crash with minor abrasions, but Aleksandra was killed on impact. The police found no evidence of anything that might have jumped onto the road. There were no farms or farm animals for miles around.

The investigating officer, Lieutenant Martin “Mac” Maenza, had his doubts about the case. In his notes, Maenza described Murphy as on edge and nervous. There was something about the accident that just didn’t seem right. Murphy had walked away from the scene virtually unharmed. His wife suffered severe trauma throughout her body. From the force of the impact, Murphy should have been in almost the same condition. He had watched while his partner interrogated Murphy. Something strange seemed to be going on in the interrogation room.

“That’s it?” the Shade said as he looked through the rest of the folder.

“Yep,” Matt said as he lit up a cigarette. “Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened from that point on.”

“Indeed, nor what really happened to poor Aleksandra Murphy. I wonder why the Mist would…”

Before the Shade could finish his thought, he saw a woman flit past the door, her white dress flowing behind her.

“Matthew, did someone come here with you?”

“No, why?”

“We have an intruder.”

The Shade bolted from behind the desk with Matt not far behind. The Shade saw a wisp of the dress at the end of the hallway. As they turned the corner, they saw it again entering the room housing the comatose David Knight. The duo entered the room, but the woman was nowhere to be seen. Instead, they saw something that shocked them more. David was sitting up. He was awake.

“Where am I?”

“Welcome back, David. We were afraid that you were lost to us,” the Shade said, sitting down on the side of David’s bed.

“Why am I here? The last thing I remember is being on a rooftop, and then waking up just now.”

“The why is to keep you out of harm’s way. You have been in a coma for several weeks. You don’t remember anything else?”

“Well, it’s funny. While I was on that rooftop, I could have sworn I smelled my mother’s perfume. I’d swear I can smell it now, too.”

Matt looked at the both of them. “He’s right. I can smell it, too.”

The Shade sniffed at the air for a moment. “Madame Rochas.”

David smiled at that. “That’s right. How did you know that? God, one time when Jack was little… Oh, my God! Jack!

David tried to bolt up, but Matt and the Shade were ready for him. He struggled for a bit, but eventually he realized he was too weak.

“Jack is fine, David. In fact, he is with Sylvester Pemberton and the rest of Infinity Inc. He’s learning how to become Starman.”

David put his head back down. “I must still be in a coma. There’s no way Jack could have done that.”

Matt and the Shade started laughing.


Stellar Studios:

Jack Knight stretched and yawned as the morning light broke through his window. He glanced at the alarm clock. It was 10:08 A.M. Wow. It wasn’t like Wildcat to let Jack sleep in this late. Jack quickly picked up his jeans from where they were crumpled on the floor, grabbed a shirt out of the closet, and headed to the kitchen. Once there, he saw Wildcat, Patriot, and Power Girl sitting at the table, playing cards.

“Isn’t it a little early to be playing cards?”

“Morning, Jackass,” Wildcat said as he put his cards down. “Read ’em and weep, girlie. Full house, jacks over tens.”

Wildcat was about to grab the pot when Power Girl pushed his hands back. “Hold on a minute, old timer,” she said as she laid her cards on the table — four twos and a seven.

“I swear, you must be using your x-ray vision ta peek at my cards!”

“Aww, poor kitty-cat lost another hand,” Power Girl said as she scooped up the chips. “Believe me, Ted, as bad as you play, I don’t have to waste my time using any of my powers.”

“Hardy-har-har, Power Chick.”

Jack came over to the table with a glass of juice. “So this is why you didn’t wake me up this morning to train?”

Wildcat looked up at the boy. “Kid, there is no more training. You’re graduated.”

“What?” Jack responded in amazement.

Without another word, Wildcat jumped up at Jack and attacked. Jack deftly countered each blow, never letting Ted Grant get the upper hand.

“Believe me now?”

“I-I…” Jack sputtered. For the first time in his life, Jack did not know what to say.


The Knight estate the following evening:

Kyle Murphy was standing on the balcony off his room. He looked out into the night sky over the estate. Kyle knew he should have been happy to have all this. He knew that a lot of people would kill for this kind of wealth. Then he was reminded that he did just that. Kyle Murphy was the one who had shot David Knight all those months ago.

“Beautiful evening, isn’t it, son?”

Kyle turned to see his father standing behind him. It startled him, because there hadn’t been a sound.

“Yes, Father, it is.”

“Where did your sister get off to, Kyle? Surely as close as the two of you are, she’d have told you.”

Kyle locked eyes with his father. The tone of voice might have been even, but there was barely contained rage behind the Mist’s eyes. Kyle tried not to show his fear.

“No, I’m sorry, Father. She didn’t tell me anything.”

Kyle felt his father’s hand on his shoulder. It was not reassuring.

“Kyle, dearest boy, there are many things I will tolerate, but failure and lying are not among them. Tell me where Natasha is,” the Mist said as his grip on Kyle tightened.

“Father, you’re hurting me!”

The Mist put both hands on his son’s neck as his body dissolved into the mist that gave Andy Murphy his nom du guerre.

“I’ll hurt you even more if you don’t… tell… me… where… your… sister… is… now!

Kyle was gasping for air, desperately trying to remove his father’s hands. ” I… don’t… know…”

Screaming at the top of his lungs, the Mist raised his son up and then violently threw him off the balcony. Kyle screamed as well. A sickening thud was heard. The Mist looked down to see his son’s body on the concrete below in a most unnatural position.

Return to chapter list