As firemen labored to control a blazing building, a large section of wall began to break away, looming menacingly above them. Screams echoed from the watching crowd as the wall crumbled down toward the brave men below. Seconds before they would be crushed by the impact, a flying figure swooped down and caught the wall in his bare hands, shoving it back away from the fleeing men below.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it!” said the young man with brown hair who had saved them. “I also made a sweep of the building. It’s empty now!”
“Thanks, Starman! You sure saved us a lot of time and danger!” said a fireman.
Starman smiled and replied, “My pleasure. You guys are the true heroes.”
Carefully moving the piles of brick aside, Starman used his energy-based powers to fuse the rubble in a tight mass. As he looked around, he saw more flames spring up above. He flew closer and smothered them with a hastily grabbed tarp. That takes care of this one, Starman thought. I’ve been on the go for hours. Good thing I don’t really need to eat. There are pluses to being a living star being!
Although he could joke about his altered condition now, there had been a time when Will Payton had been so upset by the changes to his metabolism that he had sought to remove himself from all contact with normal humans. (*) Now he was content to use his special powers for the common good. He had been very busy since the invasion of the Alien Alliance had begun.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Elongated Man: The Ghost of Piney Woods.]
The aliens have been driven away from here for now, but the damage they’ve done has been more than enough to keep me hopping, he thought as he flew off. I’ve put out more fires than I care to remember!
The firemen watched in appreciation. “There goes a real hero,” said one of them. “Good thing Justice Leaguers like him are around!”
Starman heard him and smiled. I’m just a standby with the League, but maybe that will change one of these days, he thought. I like working with them. They all treat me really nice and don’t look down on me any.
Zooming over the desert, he soon reached the small but comfortable Payton home where Will lived with his sister and their mother. “I should be getting a place of my own, but with all the running around I do as a hero, it seems pointless to settle down!”
Starman frowned as he landed and changed clothing quickly behind the house. Altering his features, he resumed the normal look of Will Payton as he ran up the steps and knocked on his sister’s door. She’s crying. I hope Mom’s OK! he thought as he waited for her to answer.
“Jayne, it’s Will. What’s wrong?” he asked.
Soon Jayne Payton opened the door. She was a pretty, energetic young woman who taught school nearby. She was at home, since schools had been closed for use as shelters and refugee stations. The invasion had brought aliens of different types to Earth for decidedly hostile purposes, and the common people were feeling the effects of the attacks. She looked weary, and her eyes were red as she wiped at them and fell into his arms. This was odd for the normally demonstrative girl.
“Will, I’ve been waiting for you,” said Jayne. “Mara said she would call you, but now that you’re here, there’s no need!”
“Right. Mara’s busy with Captain Comet’s team,” replied Will, referring to his girlfriend Mara, alias Dolphin of the Forgotten Heroes. “What’s wrong? Is Mom hurt? The aliens didn’t attack the factory, did they?”
Jayne shook her head. “Nope. Mom got called in. They’re really busy now that there’s a war on, but that’s not the problem. Will, you remember when you introduced me to Dr. Danvers at the lab in California? Well, I later met his assistant Lucas Carr. We hit it off. He and I just connected. He’s smart and funny and eager to please. We even have science in common.”
Will frowned. “Sure. Snapper’s a good guy. I love it when he falls into that weird, Beatnik slang of his and tells me about his JLA days. I didn’t know you even met him. I like working with them at STAR Labs. Is he OK? Clearly, you’re upset about something.”
Jayne sighed and said, “Will, he and I have become very close. You’ve been busy lately, so you didn’t know that he’s come here for a visit once or twice. And I’ve been out to see him, too. I wanted to tell you, but I wanted to wait and see how the relationship progressed first. He’s become very important to me, but now — he’s been missing for two weeks!”
Will hesitated a moment, then replied. “This is a lot to take in. I really have been letting my Starman duties take me away from my family too much. I do know that a lot of people have vanished. I’ll go talk to Dr. Danvers and see what I can learn. Don’t worry, I’ll find him. I promise!” He kissed her on the cheek and then rushed out once more.
I don’t know how I feel about Jayne seeing Snapper, he thought. I guess I’m fine with it. I like the guy. I know that she’s clearly worked up over him. I hope these powers of mine enable me to find him. It would be good to be of use to those I love, as well as to strangers!
Starman reached STAR Labs in Southern California in a short time and soon joined a weary Dr. Fred Danvers in his office. “You’re here about Lucas?” the worried scientist asked. “It’s the strangest thing, son. He vanished from his own apartment without a trace. (*) I mean, nothing was disturbed, and none of the neighbors saw or heard anything odd. Still, he’s proven to be a reliable man and a good friend to me. I can’t believe he would leave willingly without some word. Nobody’s seen him for over two weeks now!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Invasion, Book 1, Chapter 3: Disappearances.]
Starman nodded. “My sister Jayne is worried about him, too. I said I would find him, but I wonder if that was one promise I shouldn’t have made. I’m no detective. Still, I’ve had a bit of experience with alien science. With the invasion going on, I assume his disappearance is connected to the hostile aliens around us. Do you think you could rig any type of energy-detection device? If Lucas Carr was taken away via alien teleportation or some means like that used by the JLA for their own teleportation system, we could find a trace of the energy still lingering at his ‘pad,’ as he would call it.”
“Of course!” said Dr. Danvers. “I can do that. Come with me, and I’ll take you to his apartment. The superintendent knows me well from my past visits. Still, I have a better idea. I’ve been looking over the scans we performed on you a while back when you first came here. Starman, I think you could detect such a pattern yourself. We have yet to determine the exact limits or nature of your own powers. You can absorb energy and generate it. Why not attempt to detect it? Your eyes change when you assume the features of Starman. I wager they could also change in terms of what levels of energy they may perceive.”
Starman agreed readily and quickly flew the scientist to the Carr apartment, where the superintendent allowed the pair to enter the missing man’s home. Starman concentrated and briefly assumed his normal appearance before resuming the slightly alien look he normally wore while in costume. His eyes became white, and finally he stared directly at empty space until something began to pass before his line of vision.
“Weird! My mother has floaters. She has those little black dots that appear before the eye when certain functions begin to be limited by age or use. I almost get that same effect now. Still, I don’t see the pigmentation dots associated with floaters. I see energy! You were right on the money!
Turning to the scientist, Starman continued. “Dr. Danvers, I’m going to follow this trail. It appears to lead into space itself. Would you use the special number I gave you and report my actions to Dolphin or Captain Comet? It won’t hurt to have some back-up in case my trip leads me to trouble.”
Dr. Danvers agreed and clasped the young man on the arm. “Be careful, son. I know you’ve proven yourself again and again, but this could be something larger than you’ve encountered before. I know from contact with… Supergirl and Superman that space is a dangerous place, with perils little imagined by science fact or science fiction!” The doctor looked oddly pained, as if he was recalling some past memory with an unpleasant association. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Fred Danvers was the foster father of Linda Danvers, alias Supergirl, who died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths.]
Starman nodded. “Thanks for the concern. I’ll be fine. Wish me luck!” Flying into the upper atmosphere, Starman soon left Earth behind him.
It’s a beautiful sight, thought Starman. Still, it’s certainly not free of problems. Alien crafts are around here. Some are cloaked, but I can sense their own energies. Still, none of them are at the end of Snapper’s energy trail. I have to ignore them for now and concentrate on finding the end of the pattern. It should lead me to where he’s being held. I can well imagine that, as a former JLA associate, his memories and inside data would be a treasure trove for enemy aliens with advanced technology.
As Starman began to fly faster, his body started to glow with stellar fire. Couldn’t move like this back on Earth, but being in such proximity to the stars is really feeding me extra energy and power! he thought. It’s almost intoxicating!
Thinking of his sister and her anxious condition, he mused, Poor Jayne! I hate to think of her sitting back home, sick with worry. She has it bad for Carr. I wonder if Mom felt like this all those nights after Dad deserted us. She loved him in spite of his actions, and I’ve often wondered if she ever completely stopped caring for him. Beneath the bitterness, she may still have some more caring feelings for him. I wish that was a riddle I could solve with my own powers, but he sure didn’t leave any energy trail behind when he walked out on his wife and two little kids all those years ago!
Starman gasped as his flight was stopped short by a blinding burst of energy that enveloped him, leaving him stunned for a moment. “Can’t see! What was that? It hit me like a bolt from the blue.” Starman looked around. “I’m not in space anymore. That beam must have been a teleportation ray. I can’t detect the energy pattern that led out of Carr’s apartment.”
Seeing the world around him come back into focus, the young hero stared in amazement at a huge structure with ornate columns and a gleaming floor. “This is some kind of palace!” He saw a massive skylight that revealed the stars above and the multiple moons of a foreign cosmos. “Guess it would be too much of a cliché to say we’re not in Kansas anymore!”
A strange-looking man in a red and gold robe approached him and said, “You are most welcome here! I am Er’ija Rantas. I am the most loyal servant of High Queen Merria. She asked me to bring you into her divine presence!”
“Queen Merria?” asked Starman. “I don’t know her from Princess Di! Where am I? More to the point, why did you grab me out of space with that beam?”
The little man said, “Her divine majesty will explain all. She awaits you!”
Starman shrugged. No need to take out my frustrations on this poor guy, he thought. I guess this Queen Merria will give me the answers I need. I hope they’re good ones. Her little stunt made me lose all track of the energy pattern I had been following. Poor Snapper Carr could be toast by now!
Looking around, he noticed something that he had missed before. He had been captivated by the sheer size and splendor of the palace, but he had failed to see the signs of war and of loss. The huge complex was almost devoid of life. He saw guards and other courtly officials, but he heard no sounds of joy, and saw little sign of pleasure on the grim faces he passed.
He stopped when his guide ushered him through a set of large double doors. He looked up to see a petite blonde woman sitting demurely on an elevated throne.
“Well met! I am Merria, High Queen of Kranaltine, the Throneworld of the Empire!” she said. “You must forgive us for our drastic actions, but we are in need of the help only a hero such as you may give!”
Starman felt that she was sincere. Her beauty was distracting, but she also had a sense of gravitas that broke through her obvious physical charms to lend an air of dignity and need to her words. “I will help if I can,” he said. “Your world is under attack? I begin to see signs of battle.”
High Queen Merria said, “An invasion force has closed in on our world. If Throneworld falls, then so will perish the freedom of all the natives of every world in our empire. Once our world had a noble defender. He was my beloved Prince Gavyn. He died during the Crisis that swept across the universe like an unending plague. (*) Your heraldic symbol reminds me of that noble soul!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Monitor Tapes,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #10 (January, 1986).]
Starman glanced down to the star on his chest. She had gently caressed that emblem. “I am called Starman. It’s not really a title. I picked it to honor a hero from my childhood. Did Prince Gavyn also wear such a costume?”
She laughed and said, “He was known to many as Starman. His power defended us. Something in your manner reminds me of him. I suppose it is nothing more than a lover’s pale fancy.”
A deeper voice echoed from behind them as a tall figure came out of the shadows. “No! Majesty, it is more than your heart’s wish altering your perceptions. This Starman selected his name for reasons more subtle than even he knows! His name, his purpose, his powers, his destiny — all decree that he brings noble Prince Gavyn to mind. He is the late Prince Gavyn reborn!”
High Queen Merria inhaled sharply. “Rikane! You speak madness. Tis known that my beloved was meant to die four deaths, yet how can this heroic stranger be my hero?”
Starman frowned. “Hold it, pal. I’m an Earthling. I like hot dogs, baseball, and Rick Nelson’s music. I’m not the man you lost. I’ll try to do what he would have done — I’ll try to drive off the invaders — but that’s the extent of our connection!”
“I am Jediah Rikane,” said the man. “Starman was my ally. I speak the truth. The very stars that gave him power foretold that he would die four times. His death in the Crisis was nothing more than a second death following the first one in which he gained his stellar might. Prince Gavyn’s soul lives on in this man. He guides him even as I speak. That is why I urged you to bring him here with the energy trail. It was desired to lure him into the path of our tractor beam.”
“Rikane monitors other worlds regularly, and he saw how one of your powers could save the empire!” said Merria. “Forgive us for deceiving you by luring you within range of our teleportation beam.”
Starman shook his head. “OK, look here, Buck Rogers. I’m not Gavyn! I may have powers like his, but I can tell you for a fact that I was born on Earth. My memories are real and vivid. I know my folks weren’t aliens. I am likely not much younger than your late hero, if that painting depicts him correctly. I can’t be his reincarnation!”
High Queen Merria spoke softly as tears filled her luminous blue eyes, and she looked at a painting of a blond man in a colorful costume. “Yet how like him you seem!” she whispered.
“You are not his reincarnation,” said Rikane. “Such a concept is foreign to our culture. I say that, though your body is that of a man of Terra, your soul is imprinted with the essence of Prince Gavyn, the Starman! I will prove it through use of his royal staff of office!” He raised a curious staff and touched Starman’s face for a moment.
Starman grabbed it away and cried out in pain. “By the stars! I recall it all now! I truly am Prince Gavyn!” he said. “I was fighting the waves of antimatter during the Crisis. I came too close to one and knew no more until this moment. I feel as a dreamer who wakes to find a fresh new life, yet recalls still the pleasures of his past!”
Taking Merria in his arms, Starman kissed her as she clung to him. “Rikane, you have awakened me!” he said. “I live once more, and I thank you!”