Super-Stars of Space: The Universe and Mr. Leiber, Chapter 4: Secrets of the Star Sapphire

by Libbylawrence

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As he activated his remarkable Psi-Machine, Karb-Brak explained its uses to Stacy Macklin. “It will force her to reveal her past to us without ever truly realizing that she has done so!” he said. “However, it relates this information in a manner that places the viewer in the mind of the captive. You would be her, in a manner of speaking, and vicariously live her life in a matter of moments.”

Stacy hesitated for just a moment before she said, “Let’s do it.”

***

As the Psi-Machine began to work, Stacy Macklin found herself shrinking and changing until she was a small girl on a muddy backwater world with what seemed to be a culture no more advanced than Earth’s during the Dark Ages. Somehow she knew that the planet was called Pandina, and that she was living the past life of the Star Sapphire.

She felt warmth as hands callused and hardened by years of labor closed around her own, and she felt raw emotions surge through her as tears streamed down her small cheeks while she shuddered with grief. The hands tightened as solemn words were spoken over dark waters.

“We return the body of sister Selinda-Notra to Mother Ocean by means of the currents of infinity. We celebrate her reunion with the waters that gave birth to us all, even as we grieve that our time of reunion has not yet come!” said a bald man in white robes as he directed a few burly men to lower a shrouded form into the rapidly moving waters.

Feeling the grief as though it was happening to her, Stacy wanted to scream at the injustice of it all. She had lost her mother, and she was alone with only her father, a tired and broken farmer, to care for her.

Her name was Remoni-Notra. The loss of her mother was one of the defining moments in her life, and even as Stacy lived through the experience of her foe and felt her pain as if it was her own, she shuddered and felt herself change once more.

Now she was a teenage girl with a rare beauty, a quick mind, and an eye for detail. She read voraciously, and yet she felt a longing that threatened to turn her thirst for knowledge into bitter hatred. As she tried to move, she felt metal chains that held her motionless and cut into her wrists. She gasped as a metal collar tightened against her neck, and she screamed as burning energy stung her back.

She knew the name of the torture device — a syntho-whip — even as it bit into her back, as she had felt it all too often at the whim of her owner. She was a slave. Her father had lost his farm, and she had been sold into slavery.

“Remoni-Notra, I have told you before not to touch my books!” said an angry girl with fluffy golden locks and a proud and petty demeanor.

“I am sorry! I just wanted to learn! You never read them!” cried Stacy, speaking with Remoni’s voice.

Arica-Bane slapped Remoni and said, “You are a slave. You have no right to speak to me that way! Give her ten more lashes!”

The pain of the syntho-whip faded into a very different sensation as she felt warm lips against her own, and she pressed close against a strong, handsome man in elegant clothing. They were hidden from view in an ornate garden with huge, decorative flowers of red and gold that towered above them as they rested there.

“I love you, Remoni! I do not care if Arica knows it or not. She and I were promised to one another by our parents as children, but I did not choose her — I choose you!” said Ramon-Gurd, pledging his undying love to a now seductive and mature Remoni-Notra.

“Take me away from here! Your father has enough wealth to buy my freedom twice over. Buy my freedom, and I will give you my heart!” she said, watching him through her heavy lashes.

Fool! Seducing him with my charms was easy, she thought. He is but a means to my freedom. I have as much contempt for him as I do for his doll-like intended!

Stacy gasped as she felt it all, and with as much raw passion as if it were her own life. Remoni-Notra had suffered so much and had learned to hate so strongly.

As Remoni-Notra, she was being held tightly by other slaves as another passionate scene played out. She saw her same handsome lover pleading with a furious Arica-Bane as the now-adult owner confronted her intended and her slave.

“How could you betray me for a common slave girl?!” cried Arica-Bane. “I will sell her to the nomads of the Hitari Sands! She will pleasure them just as she did you!”

“Forgive me!” whined the once-strong Ramon-Gurd. “I care nothing for her! It was merely a fling!”

Stacy felt the hot flush of shame and anger rush over her as she realized that her seduction had failed when faced with a man too timid to truly defy his culture. She was too capable an enchantress to doubt that she had made him love her, but he was also too spineless to oppose his father and his society.

Remoni glared at the pair as rough hands shoved her forward, toward an uncertain future. “I will make you pay! You will be sorry you wronged me!” she screamed through clenched teeth.

Later, as she wiped away beads of sweat that dripped down her brow, she gazed defiantly up at two burning suns as stinging sands threatened to blind her.

“You will fetch a pretty price at the bazaar,” said the oily auctioneer as she was herded across the white sands by her newest captors.

She was angry, but her mind raced as she calculated her best plan. One of the other guards had been staring at her, so she smiled at him and returned his gaze for longer than normal. She could very well charm him into freeing her if she could just get him alone from his employer. She wasn’t beaten yet.

Fatefully, she never got the chance to work her feminine magic on him because of a new arrival. A spacecraft thundered into view over the horizon, threatening to scatter the animals as they tried to flee.

“The very gods have come for us!” shrieked one slaver.

Remoni knew better. She had read some of the forbidden books that told of advanced sciences and crafts that could sail the stars. She also recognized this arrival as her best chance to be free. Pulling forward, she managed to race away from the scattering animals and their frightened herdsmen.

As the spacecraft landed and a portal slid open, Remoni gasped in wonder as a tall, powerfully built woman in gleaming armor and a short red skirt stepped forward with the grace and confidence of a queen. Behind her was another woman with the bearing of a warrior.

“I am Zani Maul, first imperator of Zamaron!” the first woman said in an imperious tone. “You have been chosen to be our queen. Will you accept the honor of being the new Star Sapphire?

Smiling radiantly, Remoni-Notra stepped forward and said, “Yes! A thousand times, yes!” Following the two warrior women, she boarded the ship and never glanced back as she was taken into space.

“We are from Zamaron,” her rescuer said, explaining her role. “Our immortal sisterhood of warrior women has always dedicated ourselves to mastery of the martial disciplines. We scorn the weak, and we worship physical power. To prevent any one member of our sisterhood from becoming forever dominant, we select a queen from mortal races. We also make certain that each new queen who replaces the previous one after her eventual death is a virtual duplicate of the original. It is our custom. You have been chosen as the new ruler — the Star Sapphire, as we call her — because of your beauty!”

Remoni-Notra listened and accepted the new role with readiness, since, in her own arrogance, she had always felt that she had been born for greatness and not servitude. “I will be your ruler, but allow me to ask a question. Why do you call her Star Sapphire?”

“Because each ruler relies upon a gemstone of power like this one as her weapon of choice,” said Zani Maul, placing a tiara with a gleaming sapphire onto Remoni-Notra’s head.

The other Zamaron began to play a massive musical device that reminded Stacy of a piano or organ. “The harmonic converter will equip you in the traditional hunting costume of our Star Sapphire,” the Zamaron explained.

Stacy felt a thrill as she experienced Remoni-Notra’s training with various weapons, and she exulted as her clothes transformed into a variation of the bright magenta costume her foe now wore.

“The ascension ceremony will be held when the Zamaron moon is next full!” announced a Zamaron one bright, sunny morning.

Remoni-Notra nodded, only to retreat to solitude where she formed a daring plan. “There are five other sapphires of power scattered throughout the cosmos. I have been told this is the case due to the millennia-long succession of Star Sapphires and their travels through the universe. What if I found them all? What if I claimed not merely the power within one such gem, but mastered all the gemstones? I would be more powerful than any other Star Sapphire! I could use my power to avenge myself on the people who wronged me on Pandina. I could also become more than a mortal ruler — I could become an eternal queen!”

She thus left the luxury of her palace behind, along with the certainty of becoming ruler of the race of warrior women in order to risk all in a bid to claim even greater power.

Stacy felt the excitement as Remoni-Notra, now dressed as Star Sapphire, reached Earth. It was bizarre for Stacy, a Southern belle from Georgia, to look at her homeworld as if she was seeing an alien planet for the first time. As she experienced past memories of Star Sapphire, she thrilled to the strange and daring life her foe had led.

An Earthling was the previous candidate for my new role, she thought. I will find her and take her gemstone. To do so, I will need a base and information sources, as well as capable allies who know the terrain. I will create false roles for myself and use them to gather power and knowledge so I may strike at her with precision and skill!

***

Stacy Macklin gasped as her body shuddered once, and she returned to her old sense of self. “What happened?” she said. “I was experiencing her memories so vividly, as if I had been her, when they suddenly stopped!”

“Her willpower is amazing,” said Karb-Brak. “She is resisting the Psi-Machine! The best I can do is jump forward in her experiences to her most recent memories.”

Stacy nodded as the alien made adjustments to the device, and the captive Star Sapphire started to writhe.

***

She opened her eyes once again, this time to a scene that had happened only days before. As Star Sapphire, Stacy gazed around a French townhouse with the realization that Remoni-Notra had been living in Paris under the alias of Camille Fortier.

“My star sapphire is pulsing with power once more!” cried the dark-haired beauty. “After all these years, I may be able to claim my rightful position!”

***

The memories stopped transmitting as the Psi-Machine grew dim, and Star Sapphire abruptly regained her freedom.

“You have no right to hold me here or to probe my mind in such a way!” she shrieked.

“We merely wished to learn the truth of your reasons for coming to my home!” said Karb-Brak.

Star Sapphire fought to calm herself. Clearly, she was a lady accustomed to maintaining rigid self-control, and the fact that she had lost her temper was a sign that she had become desperate after her feelings and memories were so painfully exposed.

“You know my story. Upon allying myself with the Secret Society of Super-Villains, I sought to use their resources to locate the previous Star Sapphire and drain the energies from her gemstone, or otherwise claim her gem as my own. (*) Instead, our efforts distracted me from my original goal, and I eventually ended up nearly powerless when she reclaimed her power gem! (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Attend or Die,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #1 (June, 1976) and “The Fantastic Fall of Green Lantern,” DC Comics Presents #6 (February, 1979).]

“By that time I had already long been using the adopted identities of Camille Fortier and Debbie Darnell, and I acquired wealth through various channels, but I also found myself trapped on this world without any power for years. (*) When my sapphire began slowly regaining its energies, I was able to capitalize on my old partnerships by allying with no less than three super-villain teams before finally regaining my old power once more, this time by wresting a second gemstone from the previous Star Sapphire upon her return to Earth, to replace my own, which had been drained of power. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Heroes and Villains, The Forgotten Heroes: The New Guardians, and Secret Society of Super-Villains: Reclamation, Book 1: Honor Among Thieves.]

“After I ended my association with that last group, I fully intended to leave this planet with what I had, and continue my quest for power. (*) But before I could do so, I found myself powerless once more, when my second gem suddenly disappeared, leaving me only with my powerless original gem! Since it seemed that everything I’d worked for until then had gone up in smoke, I’d retreated to my home in Paris to assess my options when just yesterday my original sapphire was abruptly filled with energy again, though I know for a fact that Earth’s Star Sapphire still remains powerless. I used it to trail you so I could steal your power — your moonstone — then leave this godforsaken planet once and for all!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Society of Super-Villains: The Three Rs, Plus One.]

“As I explained, my powers came back to me in an altered form, and none of us here really know what caused the change,” said Stacy. “I really don’t have a moonstone. Years ago I became another person called Lady Lunar when I was exposed to some space radiation. There was never any moonstone involved, unless you’re referring to the meteor that first brought the radiation to our planet.”

“I think there was a sudden surge in cosmic energy that swept across the planet,” surmised Karb-Brak. “I can offer no other explanation.”

Star Sapphire nodded and said, “We both acquired new power at the same time. That cannot be a coincidence.”

Karb-Brak nodded and said, “It has to be related to the cosmic-energy surge that triggered my disease.” Turning to Stacy, he said, “If it was merely one such surge of many, then perhaps other waves of energy also gave you your new powers and restored the Star Sapphire’s gemstone!”

“I accept your story,” said Star Sapphire. “I also propose an alliance. We could work together to find out the source of the energy waves. Perhaps we could gain even greater powers!”

Stacy shook her head. “Whoa! I don’t want more power. I just want to know why I have the powers I have now!”

Star Sapphire hesitated for a moment, then looked over at Karb-Brak. “Could your machine determine the source of our restored powers?” Her pride clearly made it difficult for her to turn to anyone for help; she’d had enough of such allies to last a lifetime. But she also knew from her experiences that being cooperative would get her a lot further than being antagonistic.

Stacy added, “Could your machine determine where these cosmic energy waves came from, or why they affected us as they did?”

Karb-Brak smiled and said, “This intrigues me greatly. I do not know if the machine can help me answer your question, but I would like to try!”

As the alien worked swiftly, his machine glowed brightly, and an image was briefly displayed on the screen. It was an elaborate structure consisting of a heavily walled compound that rose up from a barren asteroid in the depths of space.

“What is that place?” asked Stacy.

Star Sapphire smiled. “My, you are the innocent one, honey!” she said, sounding for a moment like her old identity of Debbie Darnell. “That is Kronis, the prison planet. The worst criminals in the galaxy are imprisoned there. It is not a place one would wish to visit.”

“Well, that’s where I’m going,” said Stacy. “I’ve got no other choice.”

“Neither of us are equipped for a lengthy space journey,” said Star Sapphire. “Should our respective energies fade again, we would be in deadly peril!”

“We need a space ship,” Stacy said, “such as the one that first took you to Zamaron or brought you back here!”

Star Sapphire shook her head. “I lost my ship years ago.” She and Stacy looked over at Karb-Brak.

“I am an exile here,” said Karb-Brak. “I have no such craft. Perhaps Superman could help you.”

Star Sapphire shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’m definitely not the kind of woman he would look upon with favor! He’d just put me in jail without a second thought. I suggest we steal Captain Comet’s ship!”

“No way!” said Stacy. “I’m not going bad again! Besides, from what little your memories revealed about your past with him, he defeated you soundly the last time you met!”

Star Sapphire sighed in frustration and said, “Then we are finished before we even start.”

Stacy smiled and said, “Maybe not. I think I know someone who could help. You might call him… my father!”

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