Tuesday, March 25, 2014
[Still finding Earth-349 stories that I haven't posted to the blog] by Anton Psychopoulos, Ph.D. Disclaimer #1: This story is inspired by a story in Superman #349, but is not limited by that story or any other. Disclaimer #2: This story makes use of copyrighted characters owned by DC Comics, Inc., and other publishers. It is written for amusement only and is not intended to infringe or disparage those copyrights. Disclaimer #3: This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the easily offended, especially those who are disturbed by themes such as transgender and the end of the world. Prologue One: Earth-1 Katar Hol, son of Paran Katar, member of the Hawk Police of Thanagar, lifted the absorbascon from his head and looked around him, allowing his mind to return to being merely the consciousness of a single man, rather than a vast, almost impersonal awareness possessing all the knowledge of all people on Earth. Quickly sorting through what he had moments ago grasped in its entirety, plucking from the fading vision of Earth entire the things he actually needed to retain, he allowed himself to reflect for a moment on the shock he had felt the first time he had absorbed Terran knowledge, and begun the long transition from a visiting police officer hunting an escaped criminal, to an interested observer and ally of Terran humanity, and finally to something that was almost as much Terran as Thanagarian. The absorbascon had allowed him and his partner (and wife) to learn the languages and customs of their hosts, enough to allow them to pose in their off-duty hours as ordinary Terrans, but a true understanding had taken much longer. Now, though, after nearly a decade on Earth, he was more likely to think of himself as Carter Hall than as Katar Hol, as “the” Hawkman of the Justice League than as a Hawkman of the Thanagarian police. Yet this planet, not his birthplace, now seemed as though it had always been destined to be his home. Prologue Two: Earth-2 Carter Hall, son of Perry Hall, secretly the world-famous mystery man known as Hawkman, tied the leather thong that wrapped the handle of the mace and cut it short with a razor blade. He turned it, inspecting his work approvingly. The weapon, which had served a soldier in the armies of Philip of Macedon, would serve Hawkman for another day. Hall reflected on the confused time when he had first learned of his past life in ancient Egypt, the days when he had recreated his ancient feat of adding a “ninth metal” to Egyptian alchemy’s eight. Hall had become Hawkman, and made his girlfriend into Hawkgirl. Strange to think it had been nearly thirty years. It didn’t seem so long. Now they were an old married couple, with a fine son, Hector, who might just become a mystery man himself one day, taking his father’s place in the Justice Society. Hall twirled the mace in the air, tossing and catching the deadly implement with practiced ease. Reincarnation, antigravity, masked heroics. What a life. Yet it all felt exactly right. As though it had been meant to be from before Egypt had existed. Prologue Three: Earth-3 Hol Hektah, son of Peren Hektah, had risen through the ranks of the police agency which kept the rulers of imperial Thanagar in power, promoted from Wingman to Falcon and eventually to Eagle. He had done it by hard work, by careful politicking, and by knowing when to take chances. When the job of hunting down the anti-imperialist activist Bythor had come up, Hol had used every trick and favor he had to get the assignment. Hol had known that rooting Bythor out of the unknown planet “Earth” would be no simple find-him-and-kill-him mission, and that carrying it out successfully would be his route to the highest honors, his best chance of one day holding the title of Hawkman, supreme commander of the force that kept the flying cities of the Hawkworld in the air. His lover, Sondar, had stowed away. That made her a deserter from her demolitions unit, but she had figured that he would need the bombing skills that had earned her the nickname “Egglayer” to kill Bythor, and that returning as the partner of a hero would win her forgiveness. And if they failed, they would probably be dead anyway. They had arrived at Earth so full of confidence. How could they have guessed just how mad a planet Earth really was? The Crime Syndicate, the rulers of the planet, had already killed Bythor. They’d had no more use for his talk of human rights and justice than Hawkworld had. Hol and Sondar had been permitted to live, provided they helped the Crime Syndicate protect Earth from other invaders, but they would never be allowed to return to Thanagar and warn their superiors about the dangerous superhumans of Earth. Now the madman Johnny Quick had raped Sondar, and she was pregnant. Hol could not allow his beloved’s child to grow up on this mad planet; they would have to make a break for it. To live any longer on Earth? It was never meant to be. Prologue Four: Earth-24 Jerzy Holiuski threw himself against the hangar door. The corrugated sheet metal groaned loudly, but refused to yield. Chuck Rensie, the Texan Holiuski had met earlier that day, approached with a long metal rod which he levered into the door, trying to pry it open where Holiuski had failed. "What are you expecting to find in here, anyway, Polack?" Holiuski shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe parts for your plane, maybe petrol. Maybe a new plane for me. But if you are serious about this idea of becoming some kind of air pirates to fight the Nazis, we will need things we will only find at an air base like this one, no?" "Yeah," Rensie grunted, leaning on the bar. "And your Polacks bugged outta here so fast, they musta left plenty behind." Holiuski walked around behind Rensie, placing the bar between them. The American turned around to face him. "One more thing: don't call me 'Polack' again, Yankee." Rensie's fair, freckled face turned livid at the word "Yankee", and he lunged for the Pole. This had the desired effect, the bar levering the door open with a scream of rent metal before dumping Rensie on the ground. Rensie jumped up, already beginning to laugh, when he saw Holiuski's expression. He followed the Pole's eyes, looking into the hangar. At first he thought they were parachutes hung on a rack. But then he saw that the leather harnesses were connected to seven sets of black-feathered wings. Prologue Five: There Is No More Earth-168 Hank and Don Hall still felt as though they were standing on some kind of solid surface, even though they could see nothing more beneath them than they could in any other direction: only something like swirling, pearlescent fog. "God damn it," Hank snarled, the long red "feathers" of his cape rustling like palm fronds, "this didn't have to goddamn happen!" "It was bound to happen, thanks to barbarians like you," snapped Don, wagging a white-gloved finger under his brother's nose. "What, now you're gonna blame me for this? This is the goddamn end of the world, little brother!" "And in the face of your world's end, still you learn nothing," said the Voice which had given them the powers of the Hawk and the Dove. "Can you imagine how disappointed I am in you?" "I did what I could," Don raged, "but how much could I do, when you gave just as much power to the wrong side?" He stabbed a finger at Hank. "Still you think of sides. Still you think either you or your brother should have dominated the other. You have learned nothing, and your world is forfeit because of it." "I told you," Hank snarled. "I told you appeasement would only --" "Enough. Your world is destroyed because it failed to learn the lesson I created you to teach it. And you failed because you never learned it yourselves. But that world is done, and a new role awaits you, on a new world." "Then it's true," Don said softly, "there are other worlds, other Earths?" "There are. And on a thousand Earths I have placed my champions, my Hawks. Each has a different role to play, according to the nature of the Earth. On the world for which you are bound, after a transformation, you shall have a new destiny, as parents of a new generation of Hawks." "Parents?" Hank said, horrified. "No, you can't do that! Even if the little drip isn't much of a man, he's still my brother, and I'm not gonna marry him even if you do change him!" The Voice paused, and somehow the silence took the place of a chuckle. "Fear not, Henry Hall. Incest is not what I mean to be your fate.” Epilogue: Earth-349 The alarm clock woke Perry Carter at 6:00 AM exactly, just as it had the day before, back at MIT. He took pride in keeping to routine. Shutting off the clock, he looked around his bedroom, the same one he had lived in as a child. It was the largest private room in Carter Hall, as befitted the son of the head of the Carter family, but it was smaller than the bathroom of his apartment at school. The Carters were the wealthiest of the four Founding Families of Laputa, but space upon the flying island was scarce, and there were limits to how much space money could buy. Then again, Carter reflected as he pulled on his green hose and tied his sandals, nobody else at MIT had his own set of wings, or the antigravity belt that allowed them to carry him on the winds. These items, his most precious possessions, he removed carefully from their cabinet on the wall. His mother, Saundra Carter, had worn them during the Second World War as Lady Hawk, one of the world’s first superheroes. Now he wore them as Hawkman. Carter checked the wing-harness and flew neatly from his bedroom window, soaring into the dawn sky towards the edge of the sky-island. Below and to his right, he saw fat old Asa Whitney on his flying carpet, cruising slowly just above the ground. To his left, his uncle Einar soared on his green batwings. All the fliers, of course, were using small bits of Ixium, the same mysterious substance that kept the sky island in the air. Directly ahead, the lip of the island was ploughing through a cloud, spilling streamers of fog over the green lawns. There seemed to be someone standing there, dangerously close to the edge, especially in the fog. Carter flew down towards the edge, beginning to make out a pair of bodies, two women dressed in odd birdlike costumes that might have been meant to be tributes to his own. He flew down towards them.