by Libbylawrence, with Doc Quantum
Five months earlier, Drake and Della Gordon had accompanied Dash Gordon on a quick joyride in their stargate-powered family cruiser near the star known as Betelgeuse. Drake had enjoyed the exciting race through space, and even Della’s cheerful enthusiasm had only been tempered slightly by the threat of what would happen if their parents found out how far they had traveled.
However, Della’s good nature still had its limits when faced with opposing amounts of common sense. Thus, the pretty, reddish-blonde-haired girl became alarmed at the sight of a rocky planet near their speeding craft’s path. “Vulturia?” she squealed. “Do you realize that’s Vulturia below us?”
The three all knew about Vulturia. They had been told tales about it and its former master Volton since they were young. The planet had a strong electromagnetic field, and the local wildlife had evolved into electricity-discharging lightning-beasts. A colony of humanoids had settled on it over a millennium ago, and a group of self-styled Lightning-Men soon arose with powers over electricity. Their leader, a tyrant named Volton, soon used their unique abilities to gain control over other planets, including the world ruled by the good King Berin that orbited Betelgeuse. When Volton attacked the planet for control of the powerful chemical known as saliac, Berin sent a message into subspace for help. Shortly afterward, help came in a strange form when a legendary Earth hero of the early twentieth century named Jim Chambers, alias the original Dynamo, arrived with an offer to assist King Berin. It was Dynamo with his mighty electrical powers who liberated the planet and defeated Volton and his Lightning-Men, imprisoning Volton in Berin’s dungeons. (*) Within a few generations, the now-leaderless Lightning-Men of Vulturia had disappeared, leaving the nearly barren world populated only by the lightning-beasts that had lived there all along.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Dynamo, Science Comics #6 (July, 1940).]
Drake nodded and said, “She’s right, Dash. I think we better turn back. I mean, we could run out of fuel. You know how our uncle is. He never fills the tank completely, and he sure didn’t expect us to take the cruiser so far from home!”
At the mention of his hated uncle, Dash snapped back with an angry retort. “OK, OK — I don’t need a pair of backseat pilots! I’m already setting course for home. That’s what I get for bringing you whiny brats along with me.”
Della leaned forward and said, “Dash, why is the indicator flashing? Are we already out of fuel?”
Drake nodded, exclaiming, “Oh, man! We are out of fuel! You’ll have to land here!”
“I know, I know!” Dash said, cursing. ” Would you just shut up for a minute?” He piloted the craft to a safe landing, and the three siblings climbed out to examine their ship more closely.
“We have an atmosphere, so we can breathe, but we’re alone here,” said Della. “How can we get help? I don’t think the transmitter will work due to the amount of electrical energy in the air.”
“Don’t worry,” said Drake. “I won’t let anything happen to you. What’s the situation, Dash?”
“We’re stuck,” said Dash resentfully. “There’s no fuel, no transport, and no help. Now get out of my face!”
Della waited a moment and then said, “Not… not necessarily. We could try to use a lightning-beast to recharge the cruiser.”
Drake grinned. “Yeah! That’s a great idea! We could lure some of that herd down here.” He pointed to where a dozen silent animals grazed amidst rare patches of grainy weed and dirt.
The boys exchanged swift glances and then rushed down to try to scare the huge animals into moving toward the ship. The plan had been working when a few of the heavy creatures became startled by the discharges from their herd mates and released their own blasts of electrical current directly into the three Gordon siblings.
The three Gordon siblings were changed by the energy that surged into their bodies and altered their systems, so that they in turn eventually were able to generate their own blasts of bio-electrical power. They had become Lightning-Men.
Now, Drake recalled the aftermath of the astonishing accident. After returning home in the recharged craft, they were examined carefully by doctors and welcomed home by their worried parents, but nothing was ever the same again.
Drake saw Dash change from a merely wild youth into a violent one, and he worried at times that Dash might end up harming Della. Still, he hadn’t wanted his brother to run away from Mongo, and that’s exactly what happened. One evening, Dash had rushed out into a stormy night after a fight with his mother and uncle, and he had never returned. Drake remembered listening to his mother cry. He recalled how his usually stone-faced uncle had blamed himself for being too hard on Dash over the years he’d trained him. And he still could see Della’s tear-stained face. He also remembered his own response; he had vowed then and there to track down Dash and bring him home again.
Thus, Drake Gordon had made his own secretive departure from the kingdom of Alania and from Mongo itself. He had saved enough credits to get to Earth, and he hoped to find work there to fund his search for Dash, who had often talked about his own desire to see the busy homeworld of their ancestors. Now he wondered if he had made a mistake. Was he lost, too? Did his life have any real direction, or was this just another reckless stunt of his own?
He frowned as he saw an old newspaper. Some eccentrics still bought paper products, but since they bio-degraded in a matter of days, there was no real way to preserve them. That’s why most normal people got their news via holograms or computers. As the paper crumbled in his hands, Drake spotted his own photo. The story was celebrating the way he and “Magno” Jones and the Silver Lass from Venus had saved J.J. Kord upon their arrival on Earth.
Drake smiled again as he recalled how pretty she was. If only…! he thought. Still, he had business to attend to, and he couldn’t dwell on the brief excitement that using his powers had brought him. Nor could he dwell on the lingering pleasure that thinking about the lovely Arda Starr continued to bring him. What a dolt I am! he suddenly thought. J.J. Kord could help me find Dash. Maybe he’d be grateful enough to do it, too. I mean we did save his life.
He turned away from the hotel and reconsidered his plan. Maybe trying to find Dash in this neighborhood was a bad idea, he thought. I mean, just because a local hood said he spotted a guy using superhuman powers and energy-generating abilities doesn’t mean it was Dash.
Before he could take any action, he was suddenly surrounded by five menacing figures. Four of them were clearly Earthlings. One of them even sported a face tattoo of an ancient atomic emblem from an old Earth hero called the Champion. Drake knew some Earthlings used the symbols of old action-heroes as their gang colors.
The fifth figure was a cyborg from Gamorra, the colony of bionic men and women, and he grinned as he chilled the air around them using a detachable freezer unit on his robotic arm. “You’ve been sticking your nose into places it doesn’t belong,” he said in a challenging tone. “We’ve heard about your questions, and we don’t like your kind of interest at all.”
Drake glanced left and right and then said, “I’m looking for my brother — that’s all. I thought he might have come here. His name is Dash Gordon.”
The tattooed thug said, “Oh, we don’t rightly care why you were snooping around. We get paid the same no matter why we kill you!”
Drake frowned and said, “Say that again when you wake up in recovery!” He moved swiftly, shooting bolts of electricity into the thugs. Three of them were down before they could even react.
The cyborg tried to bury Drake in a barrage of icy shards created by his freezer unit, but the young man’s crackling power surrounded the cyborg and melted the ice into pools of water. He grinned as he noticed the trail of water stream toward the tattooed crook. As it touched the man’s foot, Drake dropped a spark that was carried through the water to the man, who froze in place as several volts of electricity shot through his body until he collapsed.
The bionic man from Gamorra fled wildly, and Drake had been prepared to hurl a bolt his way to fry his circuits when an idea came to him. I should just let him get away, he thought, and I can follow him back to his base. Maybe his boss can lead me to Dash. He waited a moment and then hurried off silently in pursuit of the thug.
Much later, Drake Gordon was perching precariously on a metal grate as he looked down at an assembly of thugs. They were working in an old warehouse around what appeared to be a crude brewery. Silverale? he thought. They’re making Silverale. But that’s not even illegal. Somehow I figured those killers were up to something big.
A fat man wearing a turban sat at a table and drummed his fingers on the edge. “You let a punk chase you away,” he said in a remarkably high-pitched voice. “You let a punk with high connections get away with snooping around our neighborhood. I am highly displeased!”
The Gamorran cyborg cowered in front of the table and said, “Please, Zoltar, I felt it was in your best interest to escape and provide you with warning. The Gordon boy is in the papers. He’s from an important family on some far-off planet named Mongo. He isn’t just a nameless punk to eliminate without a second thought.”
“The chemicals our supplier has sold us will make our product addictive,” explained Zoltar. “One sip will turn the drinker into a virtual slave. He will crave our product to the extent that only our brand will satisfy his need, and our price will be as high as we choose to make it. If the secret is discovered before we produce our first shipment, then our efforts will have been for naught.”
“We’ll have it ready soon,” said the cyborg. “Nothing can stop us now.”
Drake shattered the window with a bolt of lightning and jumped inside. The two criminals had been blinded by the blast, and he took advantage of the fact to duck under a frigid barrage from the cyborg’s freezing unit and to stop him before he could fight back. Drake shot the cyborg with electricity twice before his bionic systems were overloaded, and then he whirled to face the looming ganglord and a gang of five thugs.
“You may be superhuman, but you can’t handle all of us, brat!” hissed the fat man.
“Personally, I wouldn’t handle any of you with anything less than an inertron pole!” said a newcomer who suddenly charged into the room. He was young and wore a dark blue jacket over a silver shirt and had dark red pants and blue boots. His unruly mop of curly hair was so blonde it was nearly white.
Drake grinned with relief as the other boy deftly knocked three of the goons senseless with an impressive display of superhuman strength and speed. He then whirled and melted the gun of a fourth crook with a beam from his fingertips.
“Thanks! But how’d you do that?” Drake asked as he stunned the last crook.
Before the boy could reply, Zoltar himself had pulled out a blaster and fired directly at the boy’s chest. Drake tried to block it with a bolt of his own, but the lightning merely shattered the gun and left Zoltar nursing a damaged hand.
The boy with white hair said, “We New Terrans are tough. You’ll have to do better than that.” Drake blinked in amazement as the boy moved forward unharmed and lifted the hulking crook into the air. “Your drugs caused the death of a girl I loved. Her name was Nan Rand. I vowed on her grave that I’d find you and your gang and bring you in. I’m going to do that.”
“I have no idea who she was,” whined Zoltar. “One addict more or less means nothing to me!”
The New Terran drew back his fist as Drake stepped forward. “Hold it!” he said. “Don’t sink to his level. He’ll pay for his crime.”
The other boy dropped the relieved druglord. He turned and said, “I’m Ezekiel Adam of New Terra. Thanks for the assist.”
Drake introduced himself and said, “You’re a regular Captain Atom! How’d you do all that? You must be the superhuman type I heard the gang discussing earlier. I thought it might have been my brother Dash.”
“Would you believe I was born with these powers?” said Ezekiel. “It’s a family blessing… or a curse. Like I said, my girl back home got involved with drugs and died because of that piece of filth. I tracked Zoltar to Earth, and these powers have been pretty handy taking him down.”
After the Space Patrol answered Drake’s summons and Ezekiel departed, the boy from Mongo found himself facing a very pretty, slightly cocky girl with short brown hair and dancing brown eyes.
“You’re a real live wire, aren’t you?” she said with a grin.
He nodded and said, “Who are you? You aren’t with the Space Patrol — not in an outfit like that!” He nodded toward her striking outfit of thigh-high black boots and a gold minidress.
“Don’t let the dress fool you,” she said, smiling. “I have my shy side as well.” She offered her hand and said, “I’m Luna Kord. My father, J.J. Kord, would like to see you and your friends from the spaceport.”
“Sure,” said Drake, grinning from the pleasant surprise. “I was planning on going to see him, too. I thought he might be able to help me find my brother.”
“J.J. can find a space needle in a grain silo,” said Luna, walking toward a private spacecraft.
Drake followed her eagerly and said, “So you’re his daughter? I thought he was too old — uh, I mean…”
She giggled. “Don’t ever call him old. He can call himself old, but he won’t let anyone else do it. Actually, he isn’t my natural father. I’m a Coranian. He adopted me after my folks died.”
Drake’s eyes widened. “Coranian? So when you said you had a shy side, you were being literal?”
She winked and said, “Right! Almost all people of Corania can divide their bodies into separate moving parts, while a few special people like me can split into two or more identical bodies. My other two Lunas are locating your friends.”
The people of the planet Corania were descendants of a late twentieth-century man named Charles David Grant, who had the power to split any of his body parts off and on and control them remotely, and who used this power to become a weird action-hero named Mister Jigsaw. He had gained the power because his mother was exposed to a molecular disrupter invented by Professor Thaddeus Coran of the University of Maine. (*) All of Grant’s descendants had the same or similar powers as he, and eventually most of them chose to found a planet together. They named it after the eccentric scientist who had inadvertently given them their power. Over the centuries, that power had mutated into varying forms such as the one Luna possessed.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Mr. Jigsaw, Man of a Thousand Parts,” Scary Tales #38 (May, 1983).]
“I’d like to see Rokky again,” said Drake. “He was a nice guy. Arda was pretty hot as well, but she didn’t exactly warm up to me.”
Luna patted his arm and said, “Poor boy. Maybe I can raise your temperature a bit.”