The Paragons: Deus Ex Astra, Book 1, Prologue: The Super-Wizard

by Doc Quantum and CSyphrett

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August 6, 1985 — the day after the end of the Crisis on Infinite Earths:

A large figure of a man stood alone in his observatory on an asteroid that was shaped like a five-pointed star. He liked to think of it as his own private star. This man was blond, tall, extremely fit and muscular, with an unusually large frame, and he wore a form-fitting uniform made of blue star-metal as well as a golden thought-collar and a golden ray-belt. His true name remained unknown to history, but he was once called Stardust. These days he was simply known by his title, the Super-Wizard.

This legendary interstellar crime-fighter had saved the Earth from disaster several times in the early 1940s. (*) He had originally traveled there on a mission to rid the world of very dangerous alien technology that had been placed into the hands of criminals and threatened to destroy the planet or otherwise alter the course of history. His mission over, he turned to other matters that demanded his attention around the universe, including an interstellar war that had lasted for more than thirty years. It was not until just a few days ago that he again returned to Earth’s solar system on a critical mission.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Stardust the Super Wizard, Fantastic Comics #1 (December, 1939).]

The Super-Wizard stood sadly gazing at a dial indicating vast levels of energy. Next to the dial was a view screen that displayed the image of a costumed humanoid rabbit. In contrast to the Super-Wizard, this bizarre figure had pink fur and prominent teeth and wore a costume of red with a white cape, white gloves and boots, white shorts, and a white thunderbolt symbol running down his chest. He was the late hero known as Thunderbunny.

His death had occurred one week ago during the multiversal conflict known as the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but the Super-Wizard knew the hero had in fact died long before. In the last death-throes of an anthropomorphic alien civilization that existed long ago in a galaxy far away, its greatest hero Thunderbunny had volunteered to transmit his energy to a transferable form so that another great planet’s civilization could benefit. Dr. Bar-Ko, director of the Energy Institute, had personally overseen the project. And the plan had been a success.

In the summer of 1980, a good-hearted boy named Bobby Caswell had received the power to transform himself into Thunderbunny, possessing super-strength, flight, speed, and invulnerability. (*) He had used that power to protect his home city of Boston, Massachusetts, for five full years. By all appearances, the greatest hero of his anthropomorphic world would continue to protect Earth for many years to come, all according to the plan of Dr. Bar-Ko. But neither he nor any of his colleagues at the Energy Institute had foreseen that Thunderbunny would die a second time when he sacrificed his life to help save the universe.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Sound of Thunder,” Charlton Bullseye v2 #6 (December, 1982).]

Days ago, at the end of July, the Super-Wizard returned in his private star to the vicinity of Earth for the first time in nearly forty-five years. It was the midst of the Crisis, and he was needed now more than ever. Aware that the majority of the universe’s most powerful heroes resided on Earth, the Super-Wizard gathered his own army of interstellar heroes there for a mission of critical importance. At the same time as a number of powerful super-heroes traveled into the antimatter universe of Qward to battle the Anti-Monitor in his own stronghold, the Super-Wizard gathered and led a second group of powerful heroes from multiple universes into another dimension to rescue the Controllers, who were under attack from the same forces that had already attacked the Guardians of the Universe. The mission and the battle that ensued were known only to that small group, but Thunderbunny had died to save them all that day. The Super-Wizard had managed to save the life of the hero’s other self, the teenager Bobby Caswell, but this true hero’s second and final death was noted by very few. The five Earths were too busy mourning Earth-One’s Supergirl and the Flash to notice the absence of this very strange and obscure Boston-based hero. The fact that Bobby had survived and Thunderbunny had left behind no body had also meant that he was not among the heroes mourned in all the memorial services occurring down on Earth this day.

Thunderbunny’s species was now irretrievably gone, but the energy that the hero had contained could not be destroyed, and the Super-Wizard had managed to save some traces of it, which he now monitored with the use of a dial. He knew that the hero’s last wish had been to pass on his energy to a worthy individual. Bobby Caswell had been the first to be chosen as Thunderbunny’s vessel, but the Crisis had forever sundered him from the hero’s energies. The Super-Wizard thus had to personally choose another worthy individual to receive another form of the energies, and he began making a list of worthy candidates to receive the power, narrowing it down after a search to one young man named Rafael Guerra of Barcelona, Spain. Observing from his private star, he had seen that Rafael’s earnest desire to do good combined with super-powers would make him one of his world’s greatest champions.

But now the time had come for the transfer of power, and the Super-Wizard made his final preparations, pondering what would happen. What effect would the heroic alien energies, transmitted in an unstable form, have on the young man? How would it change him? What side effects would they have? Based on the data, the interstellar scientist had theorized that the energies would not turn Rafael into Thunderbunny but instead grant him incredible powers in his own form. But until he transferred the energy to him via one of his rays, he would not know the full effect of the shock to the young man’s system. He just hoped that the young Spaniard would be able to handle those powers in whatever form they manifested.

The Super-Wizard lifted one hand to the view screen displaying Thunderbunny’s image. “Your world is truly gone now, my friend,” he said. “Let us hope that we will not waste your power on the civilization of Earth.”

***

On Earth, somewhere in England, a Scottish commando arrived at a ministry building and went over the plan in his mind once again. The building had security systems, guards, special locks, and other things to stop people like himself from doing exactly what he was preparing to do. He had taken his old British Army fatigues with the regiment patch still on it and had sewn his old nickname on it. He put the army issue on over his body armor and loaded the twin barrels of the wrist launcher he had liberated with a hard rubber shell. It would hit as hard as a baton wielded by a strong man. Finally, he pulled a black metallic mask over his face. This mask was shaped like a lion’s head and had two holes for his eyes, with straps holding it in place.

The man had stolen a copy of the building’s defenses and knew it almost as well as he knew the rest of the city. It was a simple matter for him to disable the alarm on one of the doors and unlock it with a lock pick gun. He slipped inside and worked himself past the guards and cameras to the top floor.

Finding the office he wanted, he popped the lock with the lock pick gun, then entered and locked the door behind him. He used a small penlight to help him search the file cabinets one by one. The lion’s head mask almost seemed to frown as his search came up empty-handed.

The commando moved to the computer. He turned it on and waited quietly for it to boot up. When a prompt for a password appeared, he typed in one from his days in the service. A series of windows opened for him, and he searched for what he wanted. As he read the material, he memorized every pertinent detail before he finished and shut the computer off. He went to the door and slipped away quietly.

Outside, he reached his Land Rover and took off his mask as he went inside, tossing it on the passenger seat. He then drove away.

In just under an hour, the commando reached his next destination, the private residence of a man he was after. He slipped on the black lion’s head mask and observed the security measures there to keep someone like him out. He made sure that his Rover seemed natural where it was parked. He didn’t want it to stand out if someone happened to see it.

It was child’s play for someone like him to violate the manor’s security. The kitchen became his entry point. Two guards sat at the table there. He fell on them before they even had a chance to respond to his intrusion. Leaving the guards bound with their belts and ties, he proceeded up the back steps.

A long time ago, back in the service, he would simply have killed them. That was part of his training, too. Luckily for the guards, he had decided to give that up when he had deserted the service. After all, the disgust he felt from taking lives was the reason he had left it in the first place.

He silently made his way to the master bedroom, where he tried the door and found it unlocked. Slipping inside, a shadow among shadows, he walked over to the side of the huge master bed, where he clamped one hand down on the face of the person in the bed before turning on the bedside lamp.

The middle-aged man looked up at him with frightened eyes. The black-masked man raised one finger to show he wanted silence. The man in the bed made out the inscription on the name patch and blanched.

“That’s right,” the masked man said in a soft Scottish brogue. “It’s me, laddie. All I want is a name and place. Try to fox me, and I will hurt you. Understand?”

The man nodded.

“Pierce worked for someone in your department. Who did he work for, and how can I find them?”

“He worked for Schneider,” the man squeaked out. “They’re both supposed to be making a meeting somewhere in London tomorrow.”

“Who are they meeting?” the masked man asked.

“Someone from the Mars Council,” said the sudden informant. “Don’t know who.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know,” said the man. “I don’t know. They’re getting some type of weapon. That’s all I know. A special weapon.”

“Thanks,” said the masked man. He cut off the light, vanishing in the dark.

“Oh, God,” gasped the man in the bed. He reached for the light and turned it on, but he knew that the intruder had left as soon as the light had gone out.

He pulled the telephone to his chest and dialed the number in his head. He had to tell Pierce about the visit. Pierce would understand when he told him the name he saw written on the man’s jacket. He had to understand. Their whole operation was in jeopardy from a nut in a mask.

They had to secure the Weapon and kill Prime Minister Thatcher before the Black Lion caught up with Schneider and Pierce.

***

On his private star in outer space, the Super-Wizard switched the image on his view screen to a close-up of a precise spot on Earth. In the middle of the screen was a tall, dark young man wearing a T-shirt and jeans. Rafael Guerra was lying back on the grass in the middle of a park, staring up at the starry night sky. The Super-Wizard could see that the young man was content. He felt only a moment of hesitation, pitying the young man who could have no idea how much his life would change, before he finally pushed the button that shot a ray through space toward the Earth. At that same moment, the energy levels indicated by the dial swiftly dropped to zero.

Shortly after, the beam appeared on the screen as it struck young Rafael squarely in the chest, burning through his T-shirt. The young man convulsed violently as his skin suddenly became bright, shining beams of light through his pores in every direction. Several moments passed like this before the light finally dwindled and burned out like a dying ember. A five-pointed star symbol had been burnt onto his chest. Rafael was still alive, the Super-Wizard knew, but had fallen into a comatose state.

He watched for a few moments later. As expected, the young Spaniard was soon picked up by an ambulance that would bring him to a nearby hospital. According to the interstellar scientist’s calculations, Rafael Guerra would remain in a coma for at least four months as the alien energies transformed his body into a powerhouse. And then the young man would undoubtedly become the greatest of Europe’s few action-heroes. That subcontinent, which had been embroiled in war the last time he saw it, was now prospering and at peace, yet it was still divided by ideologies that separated families along political borders.

The Super-Wizard sighed as his private star traveled through the intergalactic night. The state of the world had changed so much over the last forty-five years, he knew, but the heart of man was still the same. The United States of America had been blessed with so much raw power to protect it from great evil — the Sentinels of Justice and its allies were proof of that — but what of the rest of the world? What of Europe, which had spawned the last world war? Europe had always been shortchanged. True, it had its heroes, but they were few in number and worked independently of one another. There was no equivalent of the Sentinels to protect old Europe from any threats.

In late 1940, shortly before his departure early the next year, he had recruited a small army of American boys to become his Sixth Column, even briefly granting them powers and uniforms like his own in order to battle two invasions of the Americas by Axis armies. (*) What if the time was ripe for a new, more permanent team of young heroes with the powers and names of the long-gone heroes Stardust had met during Earth’s world war?

[(*) Editor’s note: See Stardust the Super Wizard, Fantastic Comics #14 (January, 1941).]

The Super-Wizard began contemplating a plan. If the energies of Thunderbunny could be preserved to create a new hero on Earth, what other heroic energies might still exist to spawn a new generation of heroes in Europe — a generation that would stamp out organized crime and fascism before they developed into real problems?

The interstellar crime-fighter knew that he had found his next mission.

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