by Dan Swanson
Suddenly, down from the sky flashed a brightly glowing, white figure, directly into the path of the bolts fired by the Flame and Electraking. This figure seemed to simply absorb the bolts. It then flashed toward the Aryan Flame, and from the Flame to Electraking. Both villains fell to the ground, apparently unconscious. The flashing figure stopped, and quickly changed from glowing white into the powerful form of Amazing-Man, to the great astonishment of his fellow All-Stars.
Several minutes earlier:
As Amazing-Man, Will Everett’s power was that he could adapt the characteristics of whatever he happened to be touching, when he willed it. His body had a built-in failsafe that normally prevented him from making dangerous changes, including changing into energy, but he had pushed his powers well beyond their safe limits in the last few hours, and that failsafe had shut down due to exhaustion. Will’s body adapted the characteristics of the energy beams that had been striking him simultaneously.
Will felt as if he had just received a massive electrical shock, and he immediately jumped up and back. It was a jump such as no other man had ever made before. Instantly, he lost sight of the landscape around him. He realized he was flying upward through a cloud, and then everything around him faded to black.
“Hey! Stop!” he yelled. Or he tried to yell, but he couldn’t hear anything. But he stopped moving. Will looked down and almost fainted; he was apparently standing on air, high above the Earth. Somehow he knew that he was 63.2 miles above the Maryland countryside. It had taken only a second for him to fly that far, and a quick mental calculation showed him that translated to a speed of about two hundred and seventy thousand miles per hour. He thought that must be faster than the Flash. He should be gasping for air and freezing to death, but he found that the cold didn’t affect him, and he didn’t seem to need to breathe.
Will almost panicked and changed back to his normal form. Fortunately, he realized just how deadly it would be to be a normal, unprotected human being, unable to fly, sixty-two miles above the earth. The fall wouldn’t kill him — he would be dead from exposure to vacuum long before he even fell into the atmosphere.
Amazing-Man had been extremely disoriented when he finally stopped moving. None of his earlier changes had ever allowed him to fly. And he had certainly never before changed to energy. But by now he was used to figuring out the capabilities of the new forms he assumed. He started to follow his normal, comfortable, standard routine of learning about a new form, and he started to regain his confidence.
Will looked at his body. He could see a humanoid outline, but it was blurred by the intense white glow he was emitting. He flexed his arms and legs, and they seemed to move normally. Suddenly, he realized that something was speeding through space at several thousand miles an hour, approaching him from behind.
As soon as he sensed this object, he realized that it wasn’t going to hit him. He wanted to see it, and somehow his wish was converted into action. He spun around in space, and even though the object was still over a hundred miles away from him, he was able to see it as if he were only a few feet away. It was a rocky meteor, falling toward the Earth, and he continued to watch it until it burned up in the atmosphere. It had never come within five miles of him, and it was only the size of a basketball, but he had been able to clearly see every feature on the surface of the meteor before it vaporized.
The sight of the earth below reminded the transformed Will Everett of his friends. Looking down, he was able to recognize the Chesapeake Bay, then followed the west shoreline northward toward Pennsylvania. As he examined that area, it appeared as if he was zooming toward it, and soon he was able to pick out the train wreck. He somehow knew that he wasn’t moving, but his vision continued to zoom in on the site, and he was able to watch the battle as if he were hovering low over the battlefield. In his new form, he had zoom-vision. Will knew it could also be called telescopic vision, but he thought that Superman might have trademarked that term.
Will really needed to get back to his friends. As he had that thought, he realized that he was moving earthward, much more slowly than his original ascent. He discovered that, by concentrating, he could speed up or slow down. He focused his zoom-vision on the fight, and notched up his speed.
Doctor Mid-Nite had just knocked out the Phantasm, Mister Terrific was holding his own with the Iron Fury, and Starman had trapped the Aryan Flame and Electraking. Since the All-Stars were doing so well in the fight, Amazing-Man held his speed down to about a mile per second. He wanted to know more about his powers before he flashed into the atmosphere at his top speed. But he didn’t want to dawdle, either; he didn’t know exactly how long it would be before he had to change back to his normal form. Will didn’t wonder how he knew exactly how fast he was moving and how far he had to go; it seemed to be part of his powers in this new form.
As he flew, Will continued to evaluate his new form. Somehow this change felt different than all the others. Will couldn’t quite pin it down, but he felt that this change might be more permanent than his other changes. The thought scared him. He wouldn’t want to be stuck as an energy being for the rest of his life. What would his girlfriend say? But he could worry about that after the fight with the atomic zombies was wrapped up.
Amazing-Man was still watching the fight closely with his zoom-vision. Mid-Nite had easily taken out the Phantasm, and Terrific was holding his own with the Iron Fury. But Starman was in trouble. He was running, rather than flying, and trying to dodge energy blasts from his two enemies. Something must have affected his gravity rod. Will didn’t waste any more time trying to figure out his own powers. He wanted to move at his top speed, and before he knew it, he was between Starman and the villains, and four beams of energy struck him.
Instead of hurting Amazing-Man, these energy beams were simply absorbed by his energy form. He flashed toward the villains, striking first the Aryan Flame and then Electraking. Although his body only weighed a few ounces in this form, he was moving so fast that his punches had incredible force. Will realized that he would certainly have killed normal men with similar punches. This new form could be dangerous.
But the final score in this battle was All-Stars four, atomic zombies zero.
Now that he was back on the ground, it was safe for Amazing-Man to change back to his normal form. With more than a little anxiety, he immediately did so. For a couple of seconds, his energy form resisted his efforts, but he concentrated harder, and poof — he was back to normal.
Doctor Mid-Nite and Mister Terrific ran up to him, frantically asking questions.
“Will! Boy, are we glad to see you! Are you all right?” Terrific said, expressing his obvious worries.
“I think so! Boy, was that ever weird…” Will shook his head. He had been exhausted before this last change, and he was just about out on his feet.
With all four villains defeated, Doctor Mid-Nite quickly checked him out and decided that he was all right. He then turned his attention to the unconscious Starman to see what he could do for him.
Meanwhile, Mister Terrific and Amazing-Man started binding the villains using wires pulled from the wreckage. But it turned out that they needn’t have bothered, for as they were binding the Aryan Flame and tying up Electraking, the bodies of all four zombies disintegrated into dust. It was certainly a mystery, but one that the All-Stars were in no position to solve at the moment.
And so, while Mid-Nite worked on Starman, Amazing-Man and Mister Terrific talked about Will’s latest experience. Will described everything that had happened to him from the time he changed into energy. Terry Sloane, who had made something of a hobby of studying super-powers, was really interested in Will’s story.
“From what you tell me, Will, it sounds as if you had some kind of built-in radar in that energy form. That’s how you knew about the meteor, and how you could immediately tell high you were. The zoom-vision implies that you had some kind of control over light. And you could certainly move at incredible speeds! I wonder what other powers you might have had.”
“You know, Terry, I really didn’t have time to experiment too much. Let me tell you, it was fantastic being able to fly! If we hadn’t been in the middle of a fight, I would have really enjoyed it!”
“You said this change felt different than your other changes, didn’t you?” asked Terry.
Will nodded. “More permanent, whatever that means.”
Terry looked thoughtful. “Will, I’d like you to try something for me. Can you still use your regular powers?”
In response, Will Everett reached out and touched the aluminum side of a passenger car, turning himself into aluminum, then turned back to his normal form. “I guess so.”
“Do you remember how you felt when you were energy?” asked Terry. Again, Will nodded. “If you wouldn’t mind, could you concentrate with all your might on how you felt in the energy form, and then see if you can change back into that form?”
“Terry, you know I have to be touching something in order to change!”
“Just humor me on this one, OK?”
Will closed his eyes. He concentrated on remembering how it had felt to have a body of energy. He mentally relived the memories of his recent experience, from the moment the energy beams had hit him until the moment he changed back. When he had a clear recall of what he felt like, he willed his body to change. He didn’t notice any difference, so he opened his eyes and gave up.
“You did it!” Terry yelled, shielding his eyes with an arm.
Will looked at himself, and yes, he was energy again. Will was stunned, and his concentration wavered, and he immediately changed back again. Terry was very excited, but Will was even more exhausted now than he had been before changing. It took a lot of effort for him to change into and out of his energy form. “Terry, I’m sure this is fascinating, but how about we continue this investigation later, when I’ve had a chance to sleep?”
Terry thought there was the possibility that whatever energy was allowing Will to change repeatedly into his energy form might somehow leak away, leaving Amazing-Man with only his original powers. Well, it might be dangerous for Will to keep experimenting with his powers when he was so exhausted, too. Either they could investigate later, or not. It wasn’t worth risking Will’s health to right now.