Genia gasped as she felt herself stiffen. “Mind-control! He is too powerful, even for me!” As she felt her throat tighten when the alien tyrant’s incredibly powerful mind instantly dominated the entire group, she managed to stammer, “B-blue!”
Glancing around, Lady Lunar saw each of her friends and new allies freeze as the mocking alien calmly took control. He’s the one behind it all, thought the former astronaut. Starro was just another tool, after all. But why am I still free?
It took a moment’s thought before Stacy Macklin realized that, while she was in her intangible state, she was apparently safe from his mind-control. She had also heard Genia’s desperate cry, and tried to figure out what it meant. Blue? Did she say the word blue? she thought.
Lady Lunar extended her glowing green aura as Despero’s guards grabbed her friends. I can’t alter the color of my energy-field, or can I? she thought.
As she concentrated, her green hue slowly began to turn into a blue tint. Lady Lunar then extended the field across the room and smiled with satisfaction as she saw her friends begin to blink and move ever so slowly.
With a scowl, Despero said, “You seem to be immune to my mental powers. Remarkable! Still, I don’t need to enslave you in order to stop you!” Motioning to his guards, he shouted, “Take them!”
Lady Lunar made a sudden decision at that moment, and dropped through the floor while still in her intangible state. She let herself fall until she was several floors below the heavily guarded bedroom. I hated to leave the others, but I had no choice! she thought, and flew rapidly through the old building until she came face to face with a pair of newcomers.
Ron-Avon and a reluctant Queen Zazzala had returned to the planet as well, and the blond hero had used his strangely sentient gauntlet to guide them to a certain room in the huge building.
Lady Lunar watched them warily, until Ron-Avon smiled a winning smile and said, “You must be another candidate for the harem! Don’t worry, I’ll free you, too!”
Placing both hands on her hips, Stacy said, “Thanks. I’m not exactly helpless, but I could use an ally about now!”
Queen Bee sniffed dismissively. “You’re an Earthling, aren’t you?” she said. “How mundane.”
“We tracked a powerful atomic energy source to that room,” explained Ron-Avon. “I figured I could shut down the power and more easily defeat the tyrant above!”
“Allow me, hero!” said Stacy, kicking down the door and stepping into the room to see a weird sight. A gigantic starfish-like creature was mounted between multiple glowing bulbs that seemed to simultaneously hold him in place and tap his energy.
“Starro the Conqueror!” she cried. “Genia had said that all the Starro-possessed warriors we had encountered came from the original, and now I see that the original has been a prisoner of Despero all this time!”
“I can reverse the polarity of the energy-dampeners,” said Ron-Avon. “He’ll be freed in minutes!” The hero aimed his wrist weapon at the huge starfish, and within moments the monster pulled itself free from the trap.
“I am free! I am free, and Despero will feel my rage!”
The words seemed to echo from Starro’s core as it crushed through the roof and flew upward.
Stacy, Ron-Avon, and Queen Zazzala deflected the falling rubble as they followed the monster directly up to the bedroom where Blackstarr still rested with her husband and child. Stacy sighed with relief as she noticed that her friends had not been hurt, either.
Despero shuddered at the sight of the freed Starro, but to his credit he showed no fear. “I enslaved you once,” he said. “I can do so again. It will merely require me to focus some of my mental might away from the other slaves and take your mind once more!”
“Extend the blue energy over Starro!” shouted Genia.
Stacy obeyed the alien genius, and soon a blue light flickered across the room to shroud the starfish conqueror, who emitted waves of energy at Despero, even as he found himself unable to control Starro’s mind.
The blue energy is akin to that used by Jasonar years ago to thwart me, Despero realized. (*) Though how that infernal Coluan woman knew about my weakness is beyond me!
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The World of No Return,” Justice League of America #1 (November, 1960).]
Blackstarr and Gwythion were trying to get away from the scene of battle with their child, and Moonman and Star Sapphire were assisting them, but Remoni-Notra clearly had plans of her own.
The power that baby possesses might enable me to rule the universe! she thought.
Genia smiled coldly as she watched Starro the Conqueror wrap itself around a struggling Despero and radiate a nimbus of atomic energy. The two soared off the planet into space before a final brilliant glow irradiated the skies.
“Did they just blow up?” asked Gwythion.
Blackstarr shook her head. “My powers are not fully returned yet, but I can sense they are still above us! It may take my very life, but I will free us from them now!” she vowed.
As she stared wildly into the sky above, Blackstarr’s eyes changed from green to an inhuman celestial pattern of pulsing tiny points of light. Seconds later, she collapsed to her knees and said, “It is done! I created a localized black hole that swallowed them both before collapsing in upon itself!”
“The others will be free soon, since the original Starro has been shunted so far across the galaxy from the duplicates!” said Genia.
Queen Bee yawned and said, “Can we not return to my own world? I tire of these petty struggles between lesser beings!”
Ron-Avon grinned and said, “I’m not leaving until the planet is restored to some order.”
“We appreciate your help,” said Gwythion. “Once my rightful rule is restored, our child will be safe once more!”
Star Sapphire stepped forward and said, “Will he? How can he be safe? Don’t you realize that once word of his potential universe-altering powers leaks out, a host of would-be rulers will descend upon this world to claim him?”
“And I suppose you have the very solution to this problem?” said Genia.
“I do,” said Star Sapphire. “I can protect him on Zamaron!”
“You would merely use his powers for your own gain!” Genia said accusingly.
Star Sapphire glowed brightly and said, “I think it is time for me to prove my superiority to you once and for all!”
Before either woman could come to blows, a holographic display of a huge hourglass filled the room. As it faded away, a gaunt being with long, white hair and orange skin stood before them. The figure spoke softly, but the words seemed to touch each mind.
“I am Nestro,” he said, “one of the Guardians of the Clockwork Universe. It has ever been our duty to maintain order within the known cosmos, but we have never been men of action. The magnitude of the child’s power has forced us to take exceptional steps to safeguard the very workings of the universe!”
“What are you talking about?” asked Blackstarr.
“I have heard of you Clockworkers,” said Gwythion, “during my travels through the universe as Cobol the Starknight. But with all your power, why did you not intervene earlier?”
“Yes,” demanded Blackstarr. “Where were you when my labor and the birth of my son were being threatened by Despero?”
“We allowed the cosmic energy waves caused by your contractions to freely flow across the cosmos,” explained Nestro, “but we directed their path and ensured that these champions, among others, were empowered before we subtly guided them here to free you!”
“You stated that our child is of great importance,” Gwythion said. “His importance has nothing to do with you. Rachael and I will raise him, even as our world is protected by the Starknights.”
Nestro shook his head sadly and said, “He will never be safe if he remains in your care, even if your world was surrounded by many legions of Starknights. His life will be one of flight and fear, and he will never know peace. As long as his great powers over reality are desired by evil beings, the universe and its precious order will also be in jeopardy!”
“He is right, Gwythion,” sighed Blackstarr, alias Rachael Berkowitz. “I hate him for saying it, but he speaks the truth. For every Despero we escape or defeat, there will be another Brainiac, Luthor, or Kanjar Ro to face. You saw how easily the Starknights were defeated.”
“What alternative is there?” said Gwythion. Turning to Nestro, he said, “I won’t let you or anyone else kill my son!”
“You misunderstand my words,” said Nestro. “We hold all life as sacred. If you will entrust him to us, my brethren and I will make certain that he lives a happy, normal life, and remains free from any peril. In doing so, we will not only protect him, but also keep the cosmos intact!”
Tears streamed down Blackstarr’s face as she kissed her baby before slowly holding the child out to Nestro. “I sense you do speak the truth,” she said, “but I don’t understand how anyone can promise his safety!”
Nestro smiled benignly and said, “You may rely on my word! You have saved your son, guaranteed his happiness, and safeguarded the order of the universe!”
After giving Blackstarr and Gwythion time to say goodbye to their newborn son, Nestro vanished with the baby. With his departure the others suddenly seemed to revive from lethargy. Lady Lunar, Genia, Alyssa, Moonman, Ron-Avon, Queen Bee, and Star Sapphire had all stood transfixed by the power of the strange Clockworker.
“We’ve lost!” cried Genia. “We’ve lost a source of power that would have given us a cosmos to shape!”
The silence that followed her words was broken when Ron-Avon said, “When order is restored here, I’ll be glad to drop off you lovely ladies — and gentleman — back on Earth! I’ve been meaning to look up a certain friend there for some time now!”
Although Star Sapphire said nothing, she was angry at herself for losing the chance to become even more powerful than she had ever imagined herself being. “I have no intention of returning to that mudball,” said Remoni-Notra. “All I need is a spaceship, and I will be on my way.”
“And I have plans of my own,” said Genia.
“So be it,” said Ron-Avon. “I’m dropping off Queen Zazzala on her world, anyway. I don’t mind making another couple of stops along the way.”