On Liquel II, Captain Comet entered the arena and gazed upward at the huge death-ship hovering ominously in orbit. If I don’t win this fight, then Glynix’s world dies, he mused. I’d rather attack the ship itself, but I don’t dare do so yet. I’ll scope out the place first.
“In this corner, Captain Comet of Earth, representing the world below us,” intoned a computer voice. “His foe, representing the peoples of Tynola — Vartox!”
Captain Comet saw a hairy-chested man with a brown vest and shorts. He was balding but had a moustache. “I know Earth,” said Vartox. “I have friends there. I only fight now to save my adopted home.”
Nodding his acknowledgement, Captain Comet tackled him to the ground. The two struggled in combat on the floor until Vartox slammed him with a strong right hand. Comet belted him back, then flipped him over his shoulder. Vartox used his hyper-force to blast Comet backward, but the Earth hero shook it off and mentally blasted Vartox until he dropped to his knees.
Or so it seemed. Actually, Captain Comet had telepathically transmitted a plan to the noble Vartox — fake a fight until they could get access to the alien ship. They struggled futilely for several more moments until a voice echoed out.
“I sense your ploy,” said the computer. “Now fight for real, or both worlds die. Kill or be killed.”
“Sorry, but they’re on to us,” said Vartox as he generated raw hyper-force that made Comet fall. “You were a worthy foe.”
Captain Comet knew the aliens were more crafty than he had figured. “I assumed that barbaric entertainments meant simple minds. Wrong.” He felt Vartox pummeling him with the hyper-force he used so well. I can’t let this guy win, even if he is a hero himself. I must triumph to save us all, thought Comet. He charged forward and sent Vartox crashing to the floor, then dropped him with a second punch and tried a new trick: mentally blasting Vartox into a coma-like state.
“Sensors indicate no life,” echoed the machines after a moment. “Captain Comet of Earth triumphs.”
Captain Comet, a powerful mentalist, shielded his thoughts from them along with Vartox’s still vital signs. They think I killed him. If they leave him alone, then I can revive him, and he can assist me in getting to Darkseid.
Maxima led the team downward to Karin Grace’s palace. They found Goldstar there in her new regal costume with a cape and tiara.
“Welcome to the star-band’s domain!” she said.
Colonel Rick Flag walked up to her and pleaded, “Karin, honey, take off that band for a minute. It’s evil. It’s taking you over. This palace and dominatrix gear is not the true you.”
“You, of all people, dare to talk of the true me!” she ranted as energy crackled around her. “You never saw the real me. You saw your pretty little pet. Your girl Friday. Good ol’ Karin. Oh, you had your excuses. Duty came first, you told me, back when we first formed Task Force X. You asked me, “Have you forgotten the promises we made to those who gave their lives for us? How can we keep them if we think of ourselves?'” (*) Karin laughed bitterly as she remembered all those years ago.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Three Waves of Doom,” The Brave and the Bold #25 (August-September, 1959).]
“You were always full of excuses, full of reasons you couldn’t return my love!” continued Karin. “If it wasn’t duty, then it was the fact that Jess and Hugh both loved me as well, and we couldn’t hurt their feelings. What about my feelings, Rick? What about me? I am a woman with passions and feelings and needs. You never saw how I loved you for years — for decades! Now I have the power to make you and this world mine — on my terms.”
“I shall end this charade now,” said Maxima, calmly walking up to Karin and gripping the star-band. Purple energy radiated through her body as the star-band pulsed, turning Maxima into a human conductor.
“Get her free!” cried Flag. “It’s killing her!”
Melisande leaped forward and touched Maxima’s throbbing form, immediately draining away the energy, and she pulled the towering amazon free.
Groaning, Maxima vowed, “I shall flay her alive for this indiginity!”
“Purple really is your color,” remarked Melisande.
Gilotina jumped over them and chopped at Karin with skill and precision, shattering the energy force-field that protected her. “I hate to do this, Karin, but it is for your own good,” she said sorrowfully.
“She can cut through anything,” explained Melisande.
Maxima saw the blonde in pink disappear under thirty Starlings. The little creatures were totally loyal to the user of the star-band. They swamped their foes with sheer numbers and resisted pain effortlessly. Gilotina kicked free and spun around in a rapid dance of agility and passion. Her lightning-fast moves held them at bay, at least for now. Charging Karin herself, Maxima tackled her, slamming her superhuman fists into her and showing no mercy.
Rick hesitated in indecision. That thing is robbing me of my will — can’t act rationally, he thought.
“Now who is the conqueror?” said Maxima. Then a purple energy cocoon suddenly smothered her shapely form, and she choked in pain.
Karin laughed. “That is obvious, space princess!”
Melisande saw Gilotina fall beneath the little creatures, and she made her move.
Captain Comet saw Vartox being teleported away to the hovering ship. “Blast! I assumed they would leave him alone. Well, I just woke him up, so I hope he’ll know what to do.”
“Next, Captain Comet of Earth versus Draaga,” said the computer.
A stocky green monster shambled out, then straight at Captain Comet, who flew up and let his foe hit the arena wall. Draaga turned and ran for the hero once more, and Comet met him with a hard left hand. Draaga fell but refused to stay down, instead tackling Comet and pounding on him.
Captain Comet played still and tried a new ploy. He masked his own life signs with his mental tricks, and within moments the machine declared that Draaga was champion. Comet was then beamed away to the ship as he had hoped he would be.
Below, Glynix cried sorrowfully over the loss of her champion.
Melisande touched Karin Grace and called to Rick Flag, “I can only absorb the star-band’s energy for a very short time,” called the pretty blonde. “Get through to her while I block its evil influence.”
Rick jumped over the struggling Maxima and grabbed Karin’s shoulders. “Karin, resist that evil device,” he urged. “You know I have always loved you. I am sorry for letting so much come between us and keeping my feelings bottled up for so many years. Let me prove it. Just take off the band.”
Karin’s eyes teared up, and with a sudden motion, she ripped the band off of her. She sank into Flag’s arms, and they kissed tenderly.
Maxima exploded free of the cocoon, and Gilotina found herself alone as the Starlings vanished. Melisande picked up the star-band and made a rapid flight west to the Pacific Ocean a few miles off Coast City, California. There, she hurled the star-band into a deep fault-line in the ocean. Watching for a few moments as it sank to an unreachable depth, she then turned and headed back to the Rocky Mountains.
Melisande returned to the now-crumbling palace of Goldstar to hear Rick Flag comforting a sorrowful Karin Grace, and Gilotina singing the praises of true love like a blissful schoolgirl, which — thanks to Maxima — she now was.
“This did not end as I hoped it would,” Maxima grumbled. “I was… humbled. I must lead this team to greater victories achieved by my warrior prowess. Only then may I win the heart of Adam Blake.”
Melisande smiled as the warrior princess continued her soliloquy all the way home.
Captain Comet found himself on the alien death-ship, where he was startled to see Vartox strapped to a table with Darkseid looming over him. Quickly scanning the ship with his mental powers, he was soon smiling. “You rock-faced, cowardly worm,” he said. “I defy you to fight me right here and now.”
Darkseid was visibly startled upon hearing Comet’s voice. “He’s not dead. He tricked us.”
“Drop the special effects,” said Comet. “Now that I am in range of you two, I see through the whole act.”
Vartox gasped as he came to. “What is it, Comet?”
“There is no death-ship and no Darkseid here,” explained Captain Comet. “It is merely a tiny spacecraft manned by two aliens who have been using special effects to bully worlds into sending their heroes to these death-matches out of fear of a destructive weapon that does not exist. They’re nothing but scavengers who film the fights and sell them around the universe.”
The figure that was Darkseid now became two thin, purple-skinned aliens named Albon and Nordon, the last survivors of the the Krill, an alien race. “You have outsmarted us. No one has ever seen through our effects before. We do trick worlds into sending out fighters, and we tape the battles and sell the video rights. We even replicate the finest or most popular heroes for rematches, since no world is ever tricked by us twice. We were going to send the winners home.”
“I refuse to let you terrify another world,” said Captain Comet. “Don’t you see how people live in fear while awaiting the outcome of your fights? Merely record Earth’s heroes and villains in their regular battles. You won’t be hurting anyone that way.”
Albon and Nordon smiled. “What an advanced mind you have. We’ll do it — or will we? Why should we listen to you?“
“I’ll shut you down and turn you over to the planets you’ve bullied,” declared Captain Comet, freeing a grateful Vartox. “Or I’ll hand you two over to the real Darkseid!”
“OK!” they agreed. “We will never do this again. We once staged a battle between the Justice League of Earth and Despero, and we so enjoyed it ourselves that we assumed rightly that other worlds would also buy such exciting struggles between good and evil. (*) We will merely tape Earth battles from now on. Do these fights happen often?“
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Missing: One Man of Steel,” Justice League of America #133 (August, 1976) and “The Battle at the Edge of Forever,” Justice League of America #134 (September, 1976).]
“Nearly every day, in my experience,” said a grinning Captain Comet.
“You said you made genetic copies of the most popular fighters after you returned the originals to their worlds?” said Vartox. “I insist you free these poor prisoners.”
The aliens hesitated until Captain Comet took a step toward them and said, “I can get Darkseid here in a moment.”
“Free them and get out!” they cried in unison.
Captain Comet and Vartox did so, and soon they were making their way back to the surface of the planet.
“You are a true hero, Comet,” said Vartox.
“You are a good man as well,” said Comet. “I know you’ve got friends on Earth, and now you have one more. Come visit us again soon.”
On Liquel II, Captain Comet reassured Glynix of her world’s safety and summarily destroyed the alien’s death-ship effect just to be safe.
Sometime later, Zogg asked him, “So, Comet, you return to Earth now? No fanfare, no victory celebration?”
“Sure,” said Captain Comet, shrugging. “That’s show biz.”