I spent the next day in the New York Public Library. I pored through books and microfilm and wore out my back and my eyes and my patience, though not in that order. Then, as I was ready to throw up my hands and give up, Devin Trevor appeared, looking dreamy.
“I tracked you down. It took all my considerable skills as a woman hunter to find you,” he said, smiling.
I smiled back. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. “The office told you that I was researching today,” I said.
He shrugged boyishly. “True, but I found the office phone number without operator assistance.”
We began to talk, and in a few minutes, I had poured out my whole story to him. To his credit, he didn’t call for the library police or any men with white coats and nets.
“I’ve heard of some weird heroes, like a chap in Maine called Mister Jigsaw, but this is highly curious to say the least. May I help you in any way? If you need protection, I could stay with you,” he offered.
Hesitatingly I turned him down. I was going to handle this on my own or die trying. This rejection was followed by a series of kisses as I let him know how much his gesture meant to me. We were in the park by this time, and even as joggers passed by I scanned the area for some maniac in a hood or cape. I literally did not know when or how I could be attacked at any moment. What could I do? I wondered if I could make contact with famous heroes for help. Still, that was a lame idea. It’s not like you can just turn to the V’s in the phone book and find a listing for “Vulcan, Son of.”
So I went home and tried to relax. I was soon soaking in a warm tub with pink bubbles. It was a small luxury, I grant you. The doorbell rang, and I groaned. I wrapped a towel around me and opened the door a crack. It was the man who helped me up when I fell during that terrible storm. I had forgotten about him until seeing those gray eyes again brought his memory back to me in a vivid manner.
“What can I do for you?” I asked suspiciously.
“My name is David, and I have a lot to tell you. I need to confess much to you,” he said with fervor in his voice.
I sighed. “Look, pal, I’m sure you can tell someone else, like the cops three blocks over or the priest two blocks west.”
The man gripped the door and said, “Please. I am to blame for your powers. I am to blame for all that has happened.” Needless to say, I let him inside.
He entered and sat down, and in the light of the apartment, I could see his features more clearly. His eyes were strikingly gray. His hair was also gray. He had a rugged, healthy demeanor, but he was tired. This much was evident.
“My name is David Crandall. When I was a toddler in 1943, my father was flying a small plane over with my mother and I, when we were caught in a storm and crashed into the sea. My parents lost track of me and thought I had died. But after they were rescued and returned home, they found me already there and in perfect health. They never learned how or why I had not died that day.
“It was not until 1956, on the thirteenth anniversary of that accident at sea when I was sixteen, that I learned the truth. I learned that I had control over the wind and fire, and then I learned why in a vision that at first appeared to be a hallucination. But the vision turned out to be all too real. Minor gods known as the Masters of the Elements told me that, as a toddler thirteen years earlier, I had been rescued by them and chosen to receive their powers to become the master of nature itself. They gave me a yellow and blue costume, and I called myself Nature Boy. For a year I acted alone as a hero, using my control over the power of nature to help people.
“In 1957, I met Grier Grant, a teenage girl living in Africa calling herself Nature Girl. She too had been blessed, or cursed, with power by the Masters as an infant. We used these gifts to fight for justice as a team together for two short years, our love for each other growing that whole time, until one day tragedy struck.” Pain filled his expressive eyes as he recalled the past, suffering the loss anew. “The girl I loved more than any other died of illness. All our powers failed to save her. I was so hurt that I turned my back on the Masters and defied them by refusing to use my powers for any cause. Nature Boy was as good as dead,” he said.
I listened and was moved by his obvious pain. I touched his hand and said, “I’m so sorry.”
He nodded. “My spite in refusing to use the powers they gave me angered them. But they couldn’t take my powers away once given. Thus they grew increasingly angry and decided to punish me and all of humanity.”
I said, “Wait a minute. You get them mad, and they decide to take it out on the whole world? They must be a petty bunch!”
He laughed harshly. “They are. With the exception of Neptune, the god who presides over them, the Masters of the Elements are all minor incarnations of the Olympian gods. They’re the minions of Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, and the rest. There are twelve of them in all: King Neptune, King Gusto, King Fura, Queen Eartha, Queen Allura, Queen Azura, King Electra, King Friga, King Blasto, Queen Vega, King Fridge, and King Sol. They acted on their own in empowering me and presented themselves to my young mind with names and guises a boy could more easily accept. Like their more potent sires, they’re known for petty spite and hurtful actions.
“They robbed me of my memory in 1959 and left me to wander the world alone and lost for years. When the world was shaken by a galaxy-altering crisis of red skies and time warps, my memory returned. I had lost decades because of my pride and their spite. They failed to attack the world, though, since their sires — the Olympian gods — had overpowered the Masters shortly after they robbed me of my memory. It seems the Olympians themselves gave powers to a new mortal champion of their own in 1965 called the Son of Vulcan. When they did so, this left the Masters weakened, causing me to regain my memory for short spurts. Over the next twenty years, I acted as the heroic Nature Man whenever the Masters were weakened, causing me to regain my memory. But I was constantly moving, never able to settle down for fear of the Masters tracking me down.
“Finally, the Crisis on Infinite Earths occupied the true Olympians to the extent that the Masters were able to exert some real influence upon the world of man for the first time in years. They decided to bestow their powers on new mortals who would punish the world that had rejected them. Again, this was mostly due to my rejection of them years ago. Last year during the Crisis they began empowering new mortals and ordered them to kill me. You see, rather than give all their power to one champion as they did with me, they feared doing so again, since he or she might rebel as I did. Thus they each gave their own power to one person.”
I said, “So those creeps like Blue Bolt, Ariel, and Pyra are the new power-holders. But why are they after me instead of you?”
He frowned. “Ever since the Crisis they have pursued me, and I have only been able to destroy a few of them alone. But I came up with a plan to thwart them. While they could not take my power from me, I could give it away. I gave my power to you during the recent storm. They follow it like hounds on the trail of a fugitive.”
I jumped up and shouted a few rather un-ladylike words. “Why in the world did you curse me with those powers?”
He took my hand and held it briefly. “Because I saw in you what drew them to me years ago. You have the heart and soul of a deserving champion. You are worthy. You must become Nature Woman.”
I shook my head. “Nuh-uh. Take the powers away. I’m a mom. I don’t wear costumes and tights.”
He said, “I cannot take them back. They are now yours alone.”
“Let me give them away, then!” said I.
“You may not,” he replied. “I imposed that restriction upon you when I transferred them to you. You will have them until you die.”
“That may be soon if more of those super-hitmen come for me,” I said.
He said, “Not if I make amends by training you in the full use of all your new powers.”
I almost dropped the towel at that point.