Dolphin and her newfound father Arion enjoyed time together on the small island of Vumania for a few days. She exulted in having a true family and a birth name.
“Mara was your mother’s name, and it is yours as well,” said Arion. “She had your hair.”
Dolphin smiled at him. “I want to hear everything about your time and the wonders of lost Atlantis.”
Arion smiled and spoke in his musical tone, “That tale would take many a day, but I would love to share the glories of that fabled realm anew.”
She kissed him on the cheek, and they watched Captain Comet depart. “I owe so much to him,” she said wistfully. “He’s wonderful — a hero’s hero.”
“He lives up to his name as a man of the future,” said Arion.
“I have a name to live up to as well,” said Richard Grey.
“The Black Condor is one that suits you, pal,” said the Vigilante.
“Maybe,” said the young man. “Still, while I was given that name by the mutated birds of the flock, it was first used by another who visited here before I left the East. He earned it. I feel like I’m unworthy.”
“So what should we call you when you’re suited up, pard?” said Greg Sanders.
“How about Raven?” said Richard Grey.
“Right nice choice,” said Greg.
That night, the Vigilante frowned as he saw Richard Grey carrying a suitcase and preparing to depart.
“Whoa! Where you headed?” he asked.
“Greg, my father’s lawyer located me this afternoon,” said Richard. “I have a rather large estate to manage, as his only heir. I also realize that while Father Pierre did a fine job of teaching me while we hidden in the caves from the wizard who sought my death, I have a lot to learn about just being a normal man and not a bird-man. So, I hate to say it, but I’m leaving for Massachusetts, where the land is, and I hope with the lawyer’s advice to continue a more formal education.”
“Nothin’ wrong with that,” said the Vigilante. “Don’t look so crestfallen. When you get settled and all, you can fly again, whether you call yourself Raven or the Black Condor.”
Richard shook his head. “Thanks. You and the rest have been great. I told Hawkman my plans as well, and he thinks it’s a good choice. Say goodbye to Adam for me when he gets back. I took my leave of Mara — seems odd to call Dolphin that.” He entered the transponder and vanished with a final smile.
“I hope he finds what he wants,” said Greg Sanders. “Lawyers can be as slick as snakes at times. Like when they’re awake.”
Elsewhere, the Golden Wasp hovered near a large estate outside Gotham City. I may get a rough reception, thought the former Killer Moth. Still, I need to make peace with him sooner or later.
He moved toward the large driveway with a sense of hope and a bit of his old cocky manner intact.
Meanwhile, Captain Comet reached a small town he knew so well. It had been decades since he was last there, but to his surprise and relief, little had changed in Midwest City.
“Odd. The new buildings are impressive in a military manner, but nothing has changed in terms of residential buildings, and my total recall makes that a certainty,” he mused as he walked the streets dressed in a blue suit. There’s my old workplace. Be good to see Lucy again, he thought as the man of the future approached Midwest City Public Library, where he’d worked in his Adam Blake identity in the early 1950s.
He stopped on the steps and remembered Lucy Torrence, his old flame. She had been blonde and dainty, yet full of fun. He had thought about her often since he left Earth and Midwest City so long before. She’d be in her fifties by now! he thought. So odd how my mutant metabolism sets me apart from others. I’m over fifty myself, yet I have not aged since my twenties or so. It makes me wonder if a thousand years from now, when all of mankind is like me, I’ll be around to see for myself.
Adam recalled Professor Emery Zackro — his old mentor, who had died in 1958 a few years after Comet’s departure from Earth — telling him that his powers might be incomplete and that he could develop new and amazing ones as he aged. He had gained some abilities over the years in space, and perhaps more would come. He did not like to feel different or apart from other people. Being a mutant was a difficult burden at times. Yet it was not his nature to be negative, so he tried to comfort himself by how many good things he could do for others because of his gifts.
He entered the library and frowned. Odd. No computers, he mused. I’d have wagered the library would have been updated since my time as reference librarian in the 1950s. He glanced at the old wooden-drawer card catalogue. Amazing! No new materials have been added since I left. I’d know if anything was new. I had the whole collection in my memory.
Adam saw Lucy, and he smiled. She was graying but still pretty. “Lucy! It’s so nice to see that you’re still here,” he began.
She turned and greeted him with the frozen smile of the good public servant, but nothing more. “Mr. Blake, how are you?” she said. “It’s been years since you were last in our community. I understand you have made quite a name for yourself as Captain Comet. You are in that Justice League, I believe.”
“I’m just an honorary member,” he said. “How are you?”
“Fine,” she said. “I’m still in circulation. Mr. Jenkins has your old job.”
Captain Comet blinked in surprise at more than just her cold manner. Jenkins had been sixty back in the 1950s when Comet last worked there. “He is still working?” said Adam.
Mr. Jenkins, old yet crisp in manner, appeared. “Indeed I am. May I help you?” he said.
“I see some military facilities are here now, yet little else has changed,” said Adam. “I find that strange.”
“Perhaps you should leave,” said Lucy.
Adam said, “No, I think I’d better stay awhile.”
In Washington, D.C., a distinguished, graying man ranted and raved in his empty office.
“My Forgotten Villains team did little more than allow his team to display their skills. Of course, he did rid me of that Wizard, or whoever it was posing as the Wizard. (*) Still, after all these years Blake returns to Midwest City! I should be calm. This is a good thing. Choosing Midwest City as our base was entirely due to the fact that he once lived there and had friends there. Hurting Captain Comet was my main goal. Now either he will figure out what we’ve done and be killed, or he will leave discouraged and alienated from those he once thought of as friends. Either way, I triumph and avenge myself upon him after so very long!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Forgotten Heroes: The New Guardians.]
Calming himself down, he added, “Yes, homecoming is a good thing after all.”
This feeling was not what Adam Blake was experiencing. He had not expected old friends to treat him the same after decades apart, but he did not expect the town to be full of so many odd elements, either. He walked out of the library toward the drug store on the corner.
After he left, Lucy turned to Jenkins, and as one they said, “Yes, homecoming is a good thing after all.”
Captain Comet knew that something was wrong in his old community. He had just left the old eatery after being turned away. The basic elements of comfort — books, clothing, means of cooking — are all unchanged since the 1950s, he thought. A glance around the drugstore proved that. The menus had the prices from back then still posted. No one entered to eat while I was there, and that tale about the kitchen being closed was a lie. I could tell.
I recall that the waitress was going to leave for college back then, but she’s still there — older, but still there. The old folks I knew are all alive. Except for Professor Zackro, no one died in all the time I left. It’s weird. The phone book is unaltered. No one moved. No new families came to live here. This is a mystery Ralph Dibny could get into.
I know the answers can be found at the new place, he vowed. Tonight I go to the new military complex as an uninvited visitor.
That night, Captain Comet approached the high fences of the new development in Midwest City. He noticed security alarms overhead and calmly, with a great deal of expertise, disabled them with telekinesis. He similarly manipulated the locks, and he soon found himself in a laboratory environment.
Clearly this is not so much an arsenal as a research and development lab, he thought. Still, biochemical weapons could be hidden within, or something worse. If this was on the level, the rest of Midwest City would have signs of normal progress. If nothing else, something as superficial as a portable stereo or a miniskirt would be in evidence. Yet, from all outward appearances, Eisenhower could still be in the Oval Office!
He glanced through some papers in a cabinet and realized what he had found. It only took his keen mind and photographic memory a quick glance to absorb, retain, and analyze all he read.
This is worse than I thought. The whole city has been virtually at a standstill since the 1950s. Culture has not developed here in any manner, from music, literature, and art, to the sciences and simple domestic comforts! The reason for this can only be that the inhabitants who are also bizarrely unaltered since the 1950s no longer have normal human interests in such matters. I’d wager the reason the drugstore didn’t serve me is that food has not been a concern of this city for decades!
He saw five men approach, and he knew them all from his time in the city. None had altered except for looking a bit older. “Alan, Wayne, Donald, Jay, James. You know me? What have they done to you all?” he asked, although he already had an idea and doubted he’d get a reply.
“You know what we are. Adam Blake, you defeated us before,” they said in unison. He saw them pull out odd stun-guns, as if all of them acted with one set of reflexes.
He concentrated, and the guns spun out of their hands even as he had them whirl around to aim at their surprised owners. “These guns won’t harm you any longer, will they?” he said sadly. “They only affect humans, not synthetic men.”
“As always you are clever, man of the future,” they said.
“Don’t you all ever get tired of this Greek chorus bit?” he said as he grimly prepared for what he anticipated would follow.
“Synthetic men, bio-bot, plasmen, or synthezoid. The terms are of no matter. We know what we are,” they said.
“Of course you do. Everything one of you artificial beings knows, sees, or does, is automatically perceived by all of your pod brothers. I recall that much,” he said. “Why did you replicate? I assumed you all had been destroyed by me back then when you tried to conquer Earth in the 1950s.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Beware the Synthetic Men,” Strange Adventures #17 (February, 1952).]
Others joined the five — Lucy, Jenkins, Betty Cooper, Debbi Jones — women and men he had know from his time in what had been a happy community.
“You know our tale. We were called Plasmen by the U.S. military labs that produced us. We were/are synthetic humanoids who could alter our shapes to mimic anyone. You deduced our secrets when we rebelled against our makers. Your keen brain destroyed us, except for one lone brother who went into deep hiding and learned your ways. He rose through the military — aging his human form — until he commanded the division that formed your Task Force X and Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency. Imagine how he/we hated your return and yet rejoiced at a chance to avenge our race upon you! He thrilled as we all did to send you into danger. Even now Logan commands and occupies your friend Flag and his allies through the unknowing Waller.”
Captain Comet frowned. “So one Plasman survived and… replicated until he had somehow replaced every citizen of Midwest City to spite me?”
“We did not replicate and slay your friends,” said all of them as one. “We bio-assimilated with all of the city’s dwellers. They were needed to provide us with memories and knowledge of human ways. Their minds have been dormant since we took control.”
“You fiends! No wonder you kept others out and never adopted new fashions, fads, or language! You don’t need to eat, sleep, or age except as you choose to keep up a disguise of normalcy. You ignored creature comforts that would otherwise have developed over time, because your artificial nature makes such things meaningless!” he said even as his mind raced at the possibilities. No one has really died yet, he realized. The folks I knew sleep or hibernate inside these things who have assimilated them all.
“We welcome you here. We picked your old home to inflict pain. That is what you humans feel, yes?” said the collective being.
“Correct. You succeeded in that,” he said. “The idea that these poor people have suffered through decades of domination because they were my friends does hurt me. However, you greatly fool yourselves if you think I can’t stop you!”
“To stop us, you must fight those you cherish — friends, loved ones… family,” they intoned as the crowd parted to allow one beautiful blonde woman to step to the front.
“Zinda!” said Adam.
“Yes! When I/we came here after your departure, I was rapidly allowed within and assimilated with great pleasure because of my relationship to you, cousin,” said the blonde Zinda Blake as her words echoed from all of the Plasmen.
“You forgot about this!” cried Captain Comet as he whipped out his blaster.
“You cannot harm us with that ray-gun,” they said.
“Don’t be so sure. Do you think I just carry it around for show? It contains a concentrated form of something you are vulnerable to… pure oxygen!” he said as his mind probed the closest Plasman. The gun fired, and they all screamed as one.
“What defeats one of you, defeats all of you! The pure oxygen will destroy you and free your altered human hosts!” he said. They all shrieked, and then silence reigned.
“Adam! What happened?” gasped Zinda Blake as she fell into her cousin’s arms.
“It’s a long story that I’ll share with all of you,” he said with a smile as Lucy, Jenkins, Betty, Veronica, and all the people of Midwest City awoke for the first time in decades.
In Washington, D.C., the graying General Tim Logan lay prone on the floor of his office. His aides tried to rouse him, but this original Plasman had no human host and thus was totally inert following the oxygen blast.
General Chuck Cable and General Ben Castle were found unconscious not long after. When they awoke, they could not remember anything that they had done over the past twenty-five years. After doctors confirmed that this memory loss was permanent, likely due to some brain injury, they surmised, they were each given an honorable discharge from the military. They both retired to their old home town, Midwest City.
But although Task Force X continued without any further interference by the Plasmen, Logan’s reign over the program had lasting repercussions, as proven by the ill-fated agenda of his fully human protégé, Henry Gyrich. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Atom: The Ivy Town Project.]