Near what had once been called Bearhind Lane, Batman was engaged in a fierce battle with the Spring-Heeled Jack he had last encountered at the film studio. He wore a full-face modification of his normal cowl in order to protect his eyes and face from the creature’s fiery attack. He had spotted the wildly leaping, slightly twisted figure as it bounded from one roof to another with the reckless disregard of one who either had no fear of death or desired nothing else but the final sleep.
He certainly could give Clark a run for his money in the single bound department, thought Batman. At least he does not truly fly. He swung down to drop directly on the capering figure when he landed on the street below.
Batman broke open a knockout gas pellet and held it to his startled foe’s face, even as the manic stalker tried to claw his enemy off his back. His peculiar body allows him to turn his torso in such a way that he can reach me far easier than a normal man could! Luckily my reinforced cape will shield me for a time, he thought as he wrapped his legs around the struggling Jack.
Spring-Heeled Jack screamed and leaped across the street until his frantic motion enabled him to crash into a wall in such a manner that Batman took the full impact from the leap. Batman slowly slipped off the body of the agile maniac even as Jack spun around and laughed wildly.
Jack sprang at Batman and sailed over his head to land a few feet behind the masked manhunter. The gas did not slow him in the least, mused Batman. He watched the strange being vanish in the night as brimstone filled the air, and he smiled slightly.
“Got him,” he said.
Godiva and the second Spring-Heeled Jack had flown across the city via her remarkable hair after continuing their conversation. “You say that Jack really has been alive since the 1830s or earlier, and he’s your ancestor?” she asked. “Assuming for a minute that I buy that fairy tale, where has he been all these years? The legends say he vanished for long stretches over the last century. Why is he loose now, and what’s his interest in a pretty actress?“
The man in the frock coat said, “My name is Jon Waterford. I might as well tell you the whole story now. Jack has been imprisoned at our ancestral home since he first came into my family history. I’ve never understood what made the poor guy such a monster. Maybe he’s a mutant. I’ve read they can take many bizarre and terrible forms and possess inhuman powers. In any case, for generations, keeping the secret of Spring-Heeled Jack has been a solemn responsibility handed down from father to child. He’s one of us. He’s my great-great-great-uncle or something. In any case, after his initial rampages back in the Victorian era, my direct ancestor captured him and locked him up in the family home. All I can say is that Jack never seemed to age, and that jailer ancestor eventually died. His son took on the role of Jack’s keeper and so on, yet once in a while Jack would manage to escape and run wild over certain parts of London. One of my ancestors would hunt him down and lock him up again. My old man died two months ago, and Jack became my personal burden. I came home from studying in Ireland. We came from there originally.”
“When your father died, Jack managed to get away,” said Godiva. “He started following Lynette across London, right?”
“Right,” said Jon. “That’s my poor father’s fault. Seems he allowed Jack to watch the telly in his prison room, and the poor thing took a mad fancy to the actress. I didn’t have a clue about how to stop him. I figured my own scientific background could enable me to develop artificial ways to match his weird powers. That would give me a chance to subdue him before the authorities could learn his secret or kill him!”
“What is it about your home that allows it to keep him a prisoner?” asked Godiva. “He seems to possess teleportation of an arcane type!”
“Iron!” said Jon. “He can’t pass through iron. The whole room we keep him in is lined with iron! Now I’ve come clean. How about telling me where we’re heading?”
“My partner signaled me moments ago via my belt radio,” said Godiva. “He’s found Jack and planted a tracer on his coat. He’s following that signal, and I’m homing in on his own signal!”
“Partner? You mean the Knight or Lionheart?” asked Jon.
Godiva laughed and said, “No. Would you believe I’m paired up with the Batman?“
Jon remained silent as the blonde woman took him down to a warehouse near the waterfront. “This is the place? Jack had no past association with this area, unless that story has been lost to time!” he said.
“Well, your special contacts give you night-vision,” said Godiva. “What do you see?”
“I see him!” cried Jon. “We’ve found him! I don’t see your Batman, though. Are you pulling my leg?”
A voice from behind him startled the young man as Batman stepped out of the darkness and said, “I didn’t wish for you to see me yet.”
Godiva smiled and said, “You are the man of mystery, aren’t you, now?”
“The tracker I planted on Jack shows that he’s inside,” said Batman, moving toward the building. The other two followed the Caped Crusader’s lead and slipped into the old structure behind him.
The weird form of Spring-Heeled Jack was bending over a young woman who was dressed in a Regency-era gown. Her beautiful and piercing eyes revealed fear and concern. “Please! I’m cold! I’m hungry! Let me go! I won’t tell anyone where you took me!” she said in a coaxing manner.
Jack spoke in his usual wild gibberish, and Batman froze in place. He raised one hand to signal the others to remain still. “Incredible,” whispered Batman.
Spring-Heeled Jack whirled around and screamed as he saw the trio. He hesitated for a moment as he saw Jon’s artificial version of his own form.
Batman said, “Occupy him!”
Godiva nodded and raced forward as Jon followed via his own exo-skeletal system that gave him leaping ability and enhanced his strength to a degree. “Lynette, get out! You’re safe now!” said Godiva.
Lynette Anderson smiled joyfully as she saw Britain’s national heroine. As she ran away, Jack darted forward and was caught in a tendril of Godiva’s hair. Maybe I can blind him! she thought as she covered his head in her hair and tried to keep him in place. Lynette hurried out of the warehouse as Batman spoke in rapid tones into a device drawn from his belt.
“Katar? Excellent! I owe you a meal for this,” said Batman. He raised the radio device and raced forward even as Jack fought his way free of Godiva’s hair and shoved his relation to the floor.
Godiva kicked him with a spinning martial arts move and cried out, “Batman, I think the ball’s in your court!”
Batman stepped in front of Spring-Heeled Jack as a voice rang out of the radio device in a strange language that was a close approximation of Jack’s own incomprehensible cries. Spring-Heeled Jack crashed into Batman and then slowly stepped back and stared at him in wonder.
Batman spoke in a harsh guttural tone, and Jack began to reply in a similar manner. Batman continued to hold up the small broadcaster, and an alien voice echoed into the room.
“You’re talking to him!” said Jon. “We never could understand him!”
“I understand a bit of what you said,” cried Godiva. “Interlac! You’re using that universal language, but why is most of Jack’s speech so different?”
“Jack only knows a bit of Interlac,” explained Batman. “I recognized one such phrase when he screamed at Lynette. He was trying to declare his affection for her. I figured that little bit of knowledge means Jack is neither a mutant nor a supernatural being. He is an alien. I contacted a JLA friend, Hawkman, who used a device of his own called the Absorbascon, or the electronic brain, to access Jack’s own language and enable him to determine its nature. The Absorbascon draws upon all minds on Earth and feeds their knowledge into the user’s own mind, but logically the sheer volume of such data makes it necessary for the user to take the time to try to deliberately tap into the desired subject. Hawkman was able to learn Jack’s tongue quickly, because it was apparently not too different from some other alien tongue his Thanagarian race encountered in the past. That enabled him to talk to Jack as you heard.”
Over the JLA communicator, Hawkman said, “Batman, he’s almost in shock at hearing his native language after such a long time. He teleported here via a native power his people possess, and something in our atmosphere left him in what we’d think of as a hallucinogenic state. He has been a madman all this time due to the imbalance. I think I can help him get home. Superman or G.L. could certainly make it possible if we combine resources!”
“But he’s not a spaceman!” said Jon. “He’s my ancestor! That’s what the family legend has always said!”
“Look, Jon,” said Godiva, “I think that may be nothing more than a bit of fiction designed to make sure your line cared for him. I’ve been thinking about your name and the legend of Jack. You are a direct descendant of the Marquis of Waterford, right? Well, that Irish nobleman was once suspected of being Spring-Heeled Jack, because he lived in the area and had a reputation for cruel jokes. I read Jack’s coat even had a heraldic W on it, but that may be pure myth.”
“I’ve read the legend, too,” said Jon. “I always assumed it was true, and Jack was just some poor mutated relation of the Marquis. Now, I wonder if he was only a captive of the madman!”
“Henry, Marquis of Waterford died in a riding accident,” said Godiva. “Perhaps he had imprisoned Jack and died before he could use him in whatever scheme he had in mind. His family continued to keep him locked up, since he’s apparently immune to most earthly means of ending a life!”
“I can’t believe it!” said Jon. “Then the whole nightmare is over? I’m free of the burden!”
“You have courage and a keen mind,” said Batman. “Your inventions prove the latter, and your desire to take care of Jack shows the former. Perhaps you could use your gear for good causes in some manner. That’s just a possibility.”
Godiva smiled and said, “Jack seems almost docile, now. I think hearing his native tongue has managed to clear his head somewhat.”
“I’ll see that he gets home,” said Batman. “I have other allies who could take him.” He continued to use the radio device and his own Interlac to keep Jack calm as dawn signaled a new day, and Godiva moved closer to thank him.
“Interlac!” she said. “I’ve picked up a bit here and there from the invasion, but I have to admit that I’d never have thought of your solution. Of course, not every crime-fighter has your unique connections!”
Batman nodded and said, “You were the one who told me about Spring-Heeled Jack. I’d say you did more than your share! Now, why don’t we find Miss Anderson and give her the good news?”
Godiva agreed readily as Jon pondered his own future, and the being known as Spring-Heeled Jack thought at last of going home.