Super-Stars of Space: The Universe and Mr. Leiber, Chapter 6: Enter Skyman

by Libbylawrence, with Doc Quantum

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“I’m going to find out about those gunshots!” said Pulsar, racing out of the old house toward the road that led toward Smallville’s Main Street.

Watching him, Brice Rogers realized that he could fly by repelling himself magnetically from the ground. While he was shocked to have regained his own former powers, he was equally exhilarated by them. While I was under the influence of the space radiation from the comet my spacecraft encountered, I became another person completely, he recalled. I had no memory of what I had done as Moonman by the time daylight came, and I resumed my normal Brice Rogers persona. I’ve never really experienced anything like this before while in my right mind! I feel like I’m dreaming!

Stacy Macklin had soared ahead of the man she had figuratively referred to as her father. I figured Brice might be willing to help us, since he suffered from the exact same kind of transformation as I did, she thought. In fact, it was the radiation saturated within his original orbital craft that triggered my own change from Stacy to Lady Lunar! In a sense, Moonman gave birth to Lady Lunar! Now he’s clearly regained his old powers, too! That can’t be a coincidence.

Bob Altus’ costumed alter ego had been Pulsar, and the colorful name came back to mind as he realized he had been given another chance to be the hero he’d always wanted to be. Robbers in the general store! he noted, seeing masked men through a window.

Smashing through the display window, Pulsar confronted the startled gunmen as they whirled to face the loud noise of his entrance. “Stop where you are!” he shouted.

They fired their weapons at the colorfully costumed newcomer, even as he marched toward them and slammed them into each another with ease. “Bullets can’t hurt me!” he said. “I’m Pulsar, and I’m indestructible!”

Behind him, Lady Lunar had quietly phased through the wall and stood protectively in front of the frightened shoppers. My energy-field should be able to shield them from any flying bullets! she thought, savoring the feeling of doing something good for others. It was thrilling, and she had to admit that she hoped her powers would not fade away as suddenly and mysteriously as they had reappeared.

Following, Brice caught sight of another robber trying to slip out the side door that led by the outdoor garden and produce items. Never one to shrink away from a challenge, the ex-astronaut brought one hand up and drew the thief closer by magnetically attracting the metal on his belt. When the struggling thief came within reach, Brice knocked him cold with one punch. I wonder if this is how Batman feels? he thought.

A heavyset woman with bright red hair came forward as Pulsar tied up the fallen thieves by twisting a metal shopping cart around them. “They aren’t alone!” she cried. “I saw at least three more heading up to the office up those stairs!”

“Allow me!” said Lady Lunar. Flying toward the closed door, she phased through it to see an odd scene. Three masked men held weapons on a young clerk who stood near a wall safe.

“Open the safe, pal!” shouted one gunman. “Don’t try to tell us that you don’t have the combination!”

The blond clerk wore a blue dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, as well as an apron that marked him as an employee. “I’ll open the safe,” he replied. “Just don’t let your men hurt anyone! Those gunshots you fired in the ceiling when you came in already caught my attention the first time! I won’t do anything to stop you!”

He appeared to be in his late twenties, and had an open and earnest look that made him seem younger than his age. His only concern was for his customers and staff, and he had no intention of trying anything foolish.

When the green glow of Lady Lunar’s energy-field filled the office upon her entrance, the first gunman fired his gun directly at the store clerk. Stacy gasped as she knocked the trio of felons flat, but she realized with shock and revulsion that her little stunt had backfired, and she had been too late to save the man, who was surely dead. Or was he?

“I’ll get a doctor! Don’t worry!” she cried, rushing toward the blond clerk who had fallen backward. Although his shirt and apron looked the worse for wear, however, there were absolutely no signs of blood.

“I… I don’t need a doctor,” said the man in a puzzled but relieved tone of voice. “I’m not hurt! He missed. He must have missed!”

Lady Lunar smiled warmly and helped him regain his footing. “I’m so glad!” she said, relieved at first, but she frowned as she noticed bullet holes in the wall nearby. “Those bullets in the wall must have been the ones just fired, but I know I didn’t hit them in time to deflect the shots!”

The blond store clerk stared at the wall, and then a look of amazement came over his face. “The rest of the gang has been stopped, too,” he said. “The police are taking them away! Your friends must have caught them!”

Lady Lunar nodded as she opened the door and ushered in policemen, who began to take the remaining crooks into custody. “How’d you know?” she asked him in a confidential tone. “This office has no windows!”

“I… saw it,” explained the store clerk, giddiness in his voice. “I looked through the wall and saw it with my own eyes. I think the bullets bounced off my chest as well. That hasn’t happened since I was a kid!”

“What’s your name?” she asked him.

“John James Kirk, but everyone calls me Johnny,” the store clerk replied, shaking her hand. “Pleased to meet you!”

Moments later, after Stacy, Brice, and Bob had given statements to the police, a smiling Johnny Kirk stepped behind the store and took a deep breath. Jumping upward, he sailed high above the alleyway behind the store, where he hovered for a moment and then dropped down to the ground, unhurt.

“I can’t believe it!” he said softly. “My super-powers are back — all of them, not just flight! It’s been so long, that I never imagined they could all be restored!”

“That was quite impressive!” said Star Sapphire as she appeared.

“Who are you?” he gasped.

“I am Star Sapphire, but you may call me Camille,” she said with a smile. “I followed the others and watched as they rescued your customers. I think you had best come with us. You may be of use!”

Lady Lunar appeared at that moment, and the entire group moved swiftly toward the Altus estate.

“Who are you guys?” Johnny asked, glancing from the beautiful blonde Stacy Macklin to the rugged Brice Rogers to the redheaded Bob Altus to the sultry Camille Fortier.

“We can explain, but first, Mr. Kirk, can you tell us how you flew back there?” asked Brice.

Johnny Kirk shrugged and said, “It’s a long, long story, but I’ll give you the short version. I was born in rural Alberta in Canada. My father, who ran a remote observatory in the mountains, feared Earth would be destroyed by an asteroid, so he sent me into space in a rocketship when I was a baby. I grew up on another planet and only returned to Earth when I was a teenager in 1974. Something about my weird childhood gave me powers just like Superman’s. He became a second father to me and even gave me a costume similar to his. He called me Superman Junior, and I thought he was going to adopt me, since my own father had died long ago.

“Well, it all started to fall apart after Superman began losing his powers. At first, Superman intended to train me to replace him by the time he’d lost all of his super-abilities, but then we discovered that my powers were somehow draining his own. I found a way to transfer my powers back into him, and since I was just a normal boy again, I retired as a hero. (*) By that time, Superman had located a surviving aunt of mine, and I went to live with her family in Manitoba. Most people had never even heard of Superman Junior, of course, since we didn’t exactly wait around for photos and TV coverage in those days.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Story of Superman, Junior,” Action Comics #232 (September, 1957).]

“The rest of my teenage years were fairly normal,” Johnny continued. “At my aunt’s suggestion, I told people I’d lived overseas with missionaries as a child, since that was an easier explanation than the truth — that I’d grown up as a super-kid on another planet! I made some good friends, even dated a couple of girls here and there, and went to my high school prom. I lived a completely ordinary existence surrounded by a loving family and good friends, until I finished high school in 1978. Without getting into specifics, that was when I encountered the first ‘super-being’ I’d seen since I was fourteen, and I discovered that I had super-powers again! They weren’t the same powers I’d had when I was a kid, though; somehow, I’d duplicated the abilities of a super-villain who’d come to Canada for his own nefarious purposes. I just barely managed to fight off that super-villain with a fairly good simulation of his own powers, and even saved a buddy of mine while the villain fled. Hours later, that power faded, but I still had one power all my own: I could fly!

“After that, I used my ability to fly and occasionally pick up new super-powers to help people whenever I could. Though I’m still not sure how I got those temporary powers, since I hardly ever met any other super-powered people, so I don’t think I had any kind of power-duplication ability as I’d first thought. My powers just came to me as I needed them. Someone gave me a nickname that eventually stuck: Skyman. A couple of years ago, I even started meeting other Canadian super-heroes. Eventually, the Canadian government got involved and invited us to form a super-team of our own — sort of a ‘Justice League of Canada,’ but it never worked out for one reason or another, mostly because we’re spread all across the country with no quick way to mobilize in emergencies. Then the Alien Armada invaded Earth, and while fighting them off, I was struck by a ray-blast that caused me to lose not only my ability to duplicate powers, but also to fly. Since I was normal again, I quit being Skyman, and decided to take a break from it all. I came back here, since Smallville was the first place I’d lived in after returning to Earth. I got a job here at the old Kent General Store, and the rest is history. I sure never expected anything like this to happen to me today!”

“And now you inexplicably have your old powers back!” said Stacy. “The very same thing happened to Camille, Brice, and me. We each regained variations of old powers we had lost long before!”

“And what of the man called Pulsar?” asked Star Sapphire.

“I may be in the same boat,” said Pulsar. “I emerged from the energy-chamber with super-powers, but I’m not so sure the chamber was responsible for restoring them to me, since it normally took multiple exposures over a long time to grant super-powers. Perhaps my powers are a result of the same cosmic energy waves you spoke of before, on our way back here from the store!”

“I’ve always wanted to be a hero again, and continue helping others as Skyman,” said Johnny. “My time as the ‘son of Superman’ was brief, but he made a major impression on me!”

“We need a spacecraft,” said Star Sapphire. “That’s all that concerns us now.”

“I wish I could help you there,” said Johnny, “but my old rocketship was destroyed long ago.”

“We were actually hoping Brice could help us, with his old connections to NASA,” continued Star Sapphire.

“Possibly, but not likely,” said Brice. “I’d try Superman himself!”

“That’s out of the question,” replied Star Sapphire. “I fear we’ve attracted too much attention as it is.”

“I figured that was why you stayed outside the store,” Stacy said disdainfully, and Star Sapphire flashed her a warning look.

“Well, actually, I have a spaceship,” said Bob. “My father built it years ago, so we could work on the satellite that broadcasts power into the energy-chamber. The satellite still functions, so I don’t see why the spaceship wouldn’t also work.”

“So that’s how you powered up the energy-chamber,” said Brice. “But I find all this hard to believe. I knew Professor Altus was both wealthy and brilliant, but I had no idea he’d not only mastered space travel years before my own NASA mission, but also had his own satellite!”

Bob nodded and said, “He did, indeed. Though, now that I think of it, I wonder if the satellite had somehow picked up that burst of concentrated cosmic energy and sent it down to various places on Earth. Perhaps some damage to it affected the way the energy-chamber worked. Anyway, I can show you the spacecraft. It’s next door in our barn.”

Pulsar led the group toward an old barn that rested a few yards behind the house. It was heavily locked, and it took a few moments for him to open the doors.

A golden saucer-like craft rested within the old barn, and the entire group examined it with interest and pleasure.

“Had I but known such a craft was here all the time, I might have returned to Zamaron years ago!” said Star Sapphire.

“If it checks out, I’d be happy to take you into space,” said Pulsar. “I long for action and adventure! I want to make the name Pulsar famous!”

Star Sapphire smiled as she watched them. Pulsar is clearly driven to the point of mania when it comes to being a super-hero, she thought, assessing her companions one by one. Johnny Kirk is callow, and Brice lacks my sheer power. I can manipulate them all, and Stacy is hardly a threat to me! “And what of Karb-Brak?” she asked aloud.

“He won’t change his mind,” explained Stacy. “He helped us as much as he could, but he wants nothing more to do with super-powered types.”

“I would dearly love to go into space again,” said Brice. “I’d like to join you! Perhaps my dreams of Professor Altus led me here for that very purpose!”

It does seem a bit unlikely that we would be brought together by chance, mused Star Sapphire. What cosmic game is being played here? I will be no man’s pawn!

***

Elsewhere, back in his apartment, Karb-Brak, alias Andrew Meda, adjusted his Psi-Machine once more in an effort to learn the secret of the cosmic waves.

Suddenly, he cried out in pain as the amazing device displayed one odd image before igniting. Smothering the flames, he surveyed the ruined device sadly.

Why did that happen? What did that image mean? he wondered. Was that a clock? I thought I saw an Earthly timepiece before the machine broke down!

***

Mr. Julius Leiber leaned back in a very worn but comfortable old chair and sighed with content as he glanced around his small bookstore and saw some familiar customers browsing happily through the stacks of new and used books.

Having always loved books, he enjoyed helping his customers find exactly the kind of books they wanted. It was more than mere good business for him, too; it was a matter of pride to the kindly man. He had spent some of his happiest moments interacting with his various customers; he knew them well, and he knew their interests. He also knew that you could not judge a book shopper by his or her “cover.”

There was a petite, lovely young beauty queen who relished books about mechanical engineering. He smiled as he imagined her sliding under a car with a wrench in one hand and a tiara perched on her head. Then there was the burly teamster who secretly enjoyed reading romances. Mr. Leiber even knew a kindly old granny who loved gritty true crime novels.

Mr. Leiber had his own passion: he loved super-heroes. He could spend hours reading old issues of the Daily Planet that contained stories about Superboy, Superman, Supergirl, and all the other super-heroes. He even liked reading about lesser-known mystery men such as the Vigilante, or TNT and Dyna-Mite! It didn’t matter to him if the stories were true or fictional. He just had a soft spot for heroic adventurers of every possible type.

Superman sure is amazing! he thought as he read. What if there were other versions of him out there on other planets or in other universes? They might look just like him, but act differently. Maybe one of them even started his career much later than our Superman did, and was never a Superboy! What would a Superman like that be like? That would be something! Or what if there’s a Superboy who is just starting his career now? The possibilities are endless!

As a customer brought her purchases up to the counter, Mr. Leiber stopped his daydreaming for a few moments as he rang up her items. It was a typical day for a rather unusual man.

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