by Doc Quantum and Starsky Hutch 76
Earth-One, July, 1985:
It had all gone by so quickly. As a strapping young boy, he had been traveling the countryside on a flying craft of his father’s invention when the Crisis on Infinite Earths began, placing the world under a blood red sky. His father and he had both died, but he had been reborn. He no longer had a home, and although his fellow Forgotten Heroes quickly adapted to his new form, they did not see him as a child in need of protection but rather as the immortal soul he was. (*) And so he parted ways with his allies as they did the same.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Triad,” DC Comics Presents #78 (February, 1985).]
He then came across a family in Seattle who were trapped in a collapsing building due to earthquakes brought on by this latest rash of strange weather. Unfortunately, it had been too much for him, and the boy he was died the second and final time.
His gemstone was found by that family’s youngest son, who carried it with him when he went to the hospital after school. It was a gift for his best friend, a counselor at the local Boys Club that he went to regularly; he just knew that his sick friend should have it. He hoped this gemstone would make him better. The Boys Club counselor gratefully accepted the gift, and he said to the boy weakly, “I’ll wear it to my dying breath.” That would prove to be sooner than either of them thought, as the young man died that night in the hospital during a power outage. But nobody even knew that he had died.
The next morning, the young man woke up completely cured. He rose from his bed after the doctors had told him that he would never walk again, and he had himself checked out of the hospital. There were people to protect and a world to save. His doctor nicknamed the young man Lazarus.
He went back to work at the local Boys Club, still wearing the gemstone, and he watched over his city in its hour of need. Only days after he had arisen from certain death, though, the white walls of antimatter began to ravage parts of the world, and he evacuated several buildings in the city. The children in his beloved Boys Club, however, had been trapped within the building, and he rushed back to get them out even as the blinding white tendrils of antimatter began eating it up. He had managed to evacuate all of his kids, when the building — already weakened by the antimatter — collapsed in on itself. This death was all-too similar to his last recent death, with one exception: The antimatter swallowed him — and the gemstone — up into itself. Immortal Man was dead. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Monitor Tapes,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #10 (January, 1986).]
One year later — the present of Earth-Two:
Miles Ambrose stirred from his kitchen floor and attempted to rise, his coughing reflex causing him to cough out red spatters of blood onto the refrigerator. The floor was covered in it. His own blood. How was he even alive?
He realized why, now. He was no longer truly Miles Ambrose. That man had died, and he had been reborn in his place. But how long had it been? The last thing he remembered was that collapsing building, and then the whiteness surrounding him, seemingly preventing him from escaping or even being reborn ever again. And yet here he was.
Sensing the thing in the room, he walked over to it. It was not the same gemstone, no, but it was very similar. Where had it come from? He put it in his pocket as his mind reeled, two separate sets of memories competing for attention — one less than a half-century old, and the other many thousands of centuries, many thousands of lives in one.
Blood still dripping from his shirt, he walked over to the table and found a newspaper. He looked at the date.
“One year?!” he said aloud. “I’ve been gone a whole year this time?” He could feel only confusion as he searched for more news. Apparently, the Crisis had come and gone, and his adopted world was back to normal. Except where was the news about Superman, and Batman, and the Justice League of America? None of them could be found in the newspaper. His new memories could have told him everything, except for the fact that these first few moments of confusion as his old memories and new memories integrated themselves made it impossible to think and remember clearly. He finally came across a photograph. It was the Justice Society of America. He was on Earth-Two; he was back home.
Commander Steel was worried. His agent in the field hadn’t reported back to him in quite some time. Marcie Cooper was a vital part of any operation. As Spellbinder, the glasses that had once belonged to the Harlequin allowed her to cast illusions or even render herself invisible. Somehow, the glasses managed to even fool most security systems. Being able to cloak herself so thoroughly made her the perfect undercover agent to lay the groundwork for missions such as this one.
Marcie hadn’t reported back in days, though. He could only assume something had happened to her. If that was the case, he might be forced to send in Gypsy, and he wasn’t sure she was ready.
“You were spying on me. Yes, you were,” the bearded man cooed to the infant cradled in his arms. He picked the baby bottle full of formula off the desk and pushed it toward her tiny eager mouth.
“You and Steel thought you could poke around and ferret my weaknesses, and I wouldn’t notice you were here. Didn’t work that way, did it, now? No, it didn’t!”
Suddenly, his secretary poked her head in. “Anything I can get you, sir? Does the little one need another bottle heated up for her?”
“No, thank you, Anna. I think we have everything under control here,” he told her. He looked down at the infant and said, “Don’t we? Looks like the little angel’s fallen asleep. Could you take her for me and put her in her bassinet?”
“Certainly, sir.” Anna beamed as she lifted the baby out of his arms and carried her over to the bassinet. She had always thought her employer was the most wonderful, sensitive man in the world. He reminded her of Robin Williams. The way he was taking in the infant he had found on his doorstep just confirmed the feelings she was starting to develop for him.
Vandal Savage smiled to himself as he watched his secretary lay Marcie Cooper in the bassinet. He lifted up the Harlequin spectacles. What fascinating spectacles. He might let her wear them again someday.
“So, it’s settled,” Hank Heywood said to Arn Munro. “You’ll lead the power team that infiltrates the Atlantean pyramid, and I’ll handle the espionage team that takes out Illuminati’s current brain center.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Arn said. “You always were better at the sneaky, underhanded stuff.”
“Sounds like you’ve been spending too much time with your friend Matches,” Commander Steel snorted.
“So you deny it?” Arn smirked.
“Certainly not,” Steel said. “Tell the group to assemble in the main conference center for their marching orders. “I’ll see to it that Senator Perkins and King Arthur are notified to expect your team in Atlantis.”
Mekanique watched their conversation through the hidden camera in Commander Steel’s office, one undetectable by any twentieth century technology. She held her hand to the spot on her chest where her heart should have been and said, “It’s about to happen. Soon, my love. Soon we’ll be together forever, and this time no one will be able to tear us apart.”
A second shot rang out suddenly through the shattered window frame. This time, however, Miles Ambrose dodged instinctively away from it moments before it would have hit him.
“What the devil?” he muttered as another shot rang out. Whoever it was who had killed him was trying to make sure they completed the job. There was only one thing to do.
“%#!” Mason grumbled to himself as he fired off a second shot. He was sure that the first bullet had gone right through Ambrose’s heart. This one was sure to be the one, though. “%$#&!” he muttered after realizing the man was not only still alive, but that he had somehow missed him. He fired off another shot, but this time Ambrose was onto him, and he moved out of sight.
Mason shouted a string of epithets to himself as quietly as possible and collected his gear. He knew that he would have to track him down and complete his mission in person. This would be messy. Mason smiled in anticipation. Ambrose was giving him too much trouble already. From here on in, there would be no quick, painless end for Miles Ambrose.
The professional left his apartment and hesitated at the stairway door. It would only be quicker that way if there were no interruptions on the elevator. Plus, it would tire him out before he had a chance to begin his hunt. He made his decision and pressed the down button, watching as the light moved from the twenty-fifth floor ever closer to his floor, the fourteenth.
The expected ding of the elevator indicated the opening of the elevator doors. Cautiously, he stood along the edge of the wall as they opened. He looked in. A pretty young woman stood there. She smiled at him, and he stepped inside.
“Going down?” she said, her finger hovering over the button.
“Yes,” he replied, grinning salaciously. “Main floor.”
The woman pressed the M button, and the Door Close button, clutching her purse somewhat more tightly at his stare. The elevator began to move down.
“You live in this building?” the professional asked her.
“Uh… no. I’m visiting my father,” she replied, glancing at him quickly, then turning her attention back to the door.
“Lucky father,” Mason grunted, regretting that he did not have the time to pursue this. She pretended not to have heard him.
He chuckled to himself and watched the numbers go down. Nine, eight, seven, six, five… Finally, the elevator stopped at the main floor, and the doors opened with a ding.
The woman walked quickly out of the elevator, not looking back, and headed toward the front glass doors. The professional chuckled to himself again and fingered his Bowie knife in anticipation, taking a step through the doors into the now-empty lobby.
He suddenly found himself pulled back inside, however. “What the %^&*?!”
Mason felt a hand move quickly around his mouth a moment before the elevator doors shut and the lights flickered out. He felt the elevator begin to move slowly upward.
Mason futilely tried to squirm out of the strong grip he felt himself in; it was no use. He could not reach his knife, either.
“I assure you, sir. Resistance is futile.”
The hand removed itself from Mason’s mouth, and the professional took a moment to speak, “Who are y–?” The hand clamped over his mouth again.
“The question is not who am I? sir, but who are you? And for what reason did you murder me?”
Mason frowned in confusion as he tried to figure out who this was. He was a skilled assassin, a professional in every respect. That meant making sure all of his targets were dead. So who was this guy? He tried to play dumb. “Murder you? I don’t know what the hell you’re– ” The hand silenced him once more.
“I do not believe you are that stupid, my boy. We both know what you’ve just done. Now I want to know why. Who sent you? Who are you working for?”
Ambrose, Mason suddenly realized. But how? “N-nothing personal, Ambrose,” he said. “It was just a job. I don’t know who wants you d–” The hand again.
“That is not what I wish to hear right now, sir. You must understand that. The recently departed are not as patient as one might think. Now, a name.”
“We don’t use names,” Mason said quickly. “What do you expect from m– ?” The hand.
Mason was quiet. He had not expected that. “I can’t–”
The professional dimly heard a ding just before he passed out.
Mason’s head throbbed as he realized that he had been unconscious for several minutes at least. He was cold, and he had a terrible headache. He groaned as he tried to move but found himself unable to do much more than squirm. Then he opened his eyes fully and looked up — at the street.
The Immortal Man, reincarnated in the body of Miles Ambrose, waved at Mason — hanging strung upside-down off the building’s flagpole — with a smile as he walked down the sidewalk below. That trick wasn’t really his style. It was something he had learned from a certain young man named Wayne long ago in another lifetime, but he had always wanted to try it out.
Right now, though, he had his answer. The memories he retained from Ambrose had pointed to the right clues, but the would-be assassin’s answer was confirmation. Vandal Savage was back on Earth-Two, and the Immortal Man had somehow followed him back to their homeworld.