by CSyphrett and Martin Maenza
At the outskirts of the bustling Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge, a spellbound boy of twelve, with untamed dark hair and round wireframe glasses, found himself captivated by a peculiar scene. Standing resolutely at the metal fence that separated the Bestiary walkway from a secluded pasture, Timothy Hunter’s gaze was fixated upon an enigmatic creature. In that patch of vibrant green, nestled away from prying eyes, stood an elegant black horse, its glossy coat shimmering under the warm sun. With an aire of regality, the equine specimen met Timothy’s gaze, as if peering deep into his very soul.
“You’re a smart one, aren’t you?” Timothy murmured thoughtfully, hardly believing that the creature might comprehend his every word.
The horse responded, shaking its majestic head while emitting a gentle whinny. Timothy blinked rapidly, temporarily doubting his own senses. How could it be? This creature, so graceful and otherworldly, seemed to have understood him. However, dismissing the fantastical notion as mere wishful thinking, Timothy shrugged off the strangeness. No, it must have been a mere coincidence, he reasoned.
Yet, as Timothy lingered there, a foreboding shadow fell upon him, abruptly extinguishing his reverie. The dry voice of Adam Frankenstein, the perennial groundskeeper of Grimoire Academy, cut through the air like an icy breeze.
“Detention again today, Tim?” Adam queried, his voice tinged with a hint of grim amusement.
Raising his gaze toward the towering figure of the jaundice-faced groundskeeper, Timothy grinned, his eyes dancing with an undying mischief. There was something about Adam that brought to mind the monstrous characters from the classic creature features he had indulged in with his father last Halloween.
“No, not this time,” Timothy replied, his voice laced with a youthful charm. “Ever since my detention a week ago, I’ve been trying to stay out of trouble.”
His gaze shifted back to the fence, his thoughts consumed by the captivating presence of the enigmatic creature. “Though I do like walking through the Bestiary between classes,” Timothy continued, his voice filled with anticipation. “I can’t wait until I can sign up for Practical Cryptozoology next semester.”
With a nod of approval, Adam acknowledged Timothy’s enthusiasm. “Good class. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”
The boy’s curiosity piqued, he gestured toward the magnificent black horse that had entranced him earlier. “What do you know about this one, Adam?” he asked.
Adam, his face adorned with formidable scars, regarded the creature thoughtfully. “That’s no ordinary horse. I don’t know what to make of him. He seems to be waiting on something.”
Eyes wide with wonder, Timothy pondered the enigma before him. What could it be that this captivating creature anticipated with such intensity? His imagination bloomed with possibilities, stirring him to investigate further.
In a quaint little diner, nestled in the heart of Houma, Louisiana, a blond man with a jawline that could cut glass sat alone at a small table. His handsome features were framed by a mop of unruly hair, and his crystal blue eyes sparkled with both intelligence and adventure. The man savored the last dregs of his coffee, letting the warmth spread through his body before setting his empty cup aside.
As he reached into his pocket for some change to pay for his beverage, he couldn’t help but appreciate the old-world charm of the establishment. The elderly black woman behind the counter had a kind twinkle in her eyes as she observed him. “Thank you, kindly,” Maybelle Perkins said, her voice filled with warmth as she began clearing the tables.
With his large overcoat snugly wrapped around him, the man stepped out onto the rain-kissed streets. Dark clouds loomed overhead, casting an ominous shadow over the town. He took a deep breath, the crisp air carrying a familiar scent of petrichor. “Smells like rain,” he murmured, a wistful smile tugging at his lips. Earth had its own charm, and he couldn’t deny that he missed it.
This man, known as Adam Strange, was no ordinary traveler. He had embarked on a journey that spanned light-years, traversing the vastness of space to reach the quaint town of Houma. Once an explorer studying the lush rainforests of South America, his life had forever changed when fate intervened. On the precipice of certain death, a bolt from deep space, from the planet Rann to be precise, had struck him with remarkable precision.
Sardath, a brilliant scientist from Rann, had been searching for aid for his people when he chanced upon Adam. Utilizing a revolutionary device called the Zeta-Beam, Sardath had brought Adam to his technologically advanced world. Equipped with a jetpack and a laser pistol, Adam Strange had become Rann’s greatest champion.
Today, however, his mission differed in scale but not in importance. He had come to this bayou town to deliver a message to one Abigail Cable from someone who loved her dearly. But there was a slight problem.
Mrs. Cable is no longer living here, Adam Strange thought to himself. Found that out from one of her old neighbors. They said she went and took a teaching job out of town earlier in the month and wouldn’t be back until late Fall.
Adam sighed. Luckily, they had just received a postcard from her. Adam had been permitted to look at the picture on the card, since the postmark was very cryptic. The picture was of an island, though not one that he was readily familiar with. From a glance, Adam had concluded that the island was somewhere in the tropics, likely the South Pacific based upon the vegetation. In the text, Abby had mentioned the name Grimoire.
Perhaps I can still locate her, he thought optimistically, knowing he had a few tricks up his sleeve. Determined to complete his mission before the Zeta energy wore off, Adam scoured the area for a phone. Upon finding one, he dialed a special number. I hope I still have access. He had been given it by friends many years ago, before he married his lovely wife Alanna. It should still work.
With each click and ring, Adam’s anticipation grew. Finally, a familiar voice echoed through the receiver. “Yes?”
A wave of relief washed over Adam as he replied, “It’s me, J’onn — Adam Strange. I find myself in Louisiana, in need of a favor from the Justice League.”
J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, chuckled warmly, his voice carrying a hint of fondness. “Of course, Adam. You’re an honorary member of the JLA, after all. If you need to come up to the satellite, I can direct you to a transporter tube in New Orleans.”
Adam’s heart swelled with gratitude. “I do, actually. I’ll tell you everything when I get there,” he replied, hurriedly scribbling down the necessary information given to him by his green-skinned ally.
With purpose in his stride, Adam Strange embarked on his next step, confident in the knowledge that he was not alone in his quest. The fate of Abigail Cable depended on his resourcefulness, and he intended to deliver the message entrusted to him, no matter the cost.
On the enchanting Grimoire Island, Abby Cable sat at her desk, her platinum-blonde hair cascading around her as she diligently graded papers. But her thoughts were far from the students’ performance on their essay assignments. A wistful sigh escaped her lips.
Oh, Alec, she mourned silently. I miss you dearly. It troubled her deeply that the man she loved had seemingly vanished without a trace, and he hadn’t reached out to her. However, what angered her even more was the academy’s headmaster informing her that she couldn’t leave the island until May. While the former thought left her heartbroken, the latter thought ignited a fire of frustration within her. The red pencil she held snapped in her agitated grip, and with a glare of displeasure, she flung it onto the desk.
Abruptly, a voice cut through the room from the open doorway. “Hey, go easy on it,” a familiar voice called out. Abby lifted her gaze and discovered her roommate and fellow instructor, Rose Psychic, standing there. “What did that innocent pencil ever do to you?” Rose added, a hint of amusement glimmering in her eyes.
“Oh, nothing,” Abby replied, her pout morphing into a sigh of discontent.
With a sympathetic smile, Rose approached the desk. “You seem like you could use a break,” she suggested. “Why not come down to the faculty lounge? They say misery loves company.”
“I’m not sure if I could be good company right now,” Abby replied, her voice heavy with reluctance.
“Let us be the judge of that,” Rose insisted gently, reaching out to clasp Abby’s hand. Reluctantly, Abby relented, allowing herself to be pulled away from her desk and joining her understanding confidante.
As the two women made their way through the corridors, they passed by the stern figure of Headmaster Gareth Gallowglass. Abby instinctively averted her gaze, feeling a twinge of unease in his presence. The headmaster seemed oblivious to their presence, his attention solely focused on his solemn patrol around the school. He was meticulous in his approach, reprimanding students who dared to be tardy. His firm lectures often deterred repetition of such behavior.
Today, Mr. Gallowglass found himself navigating the graduation course settled away from the bustling heart of the school. A wave of melancholy washed over him, as it invariably did whenever he visited this particular location. In the past, he had sadly laid to rest those unfortunate souls who couldn’t overcome the challenges of the natural obstacle course. He prayed he wouldn’t have to repeat this ritual for any of the current students.
After a moment of reflection, Gallowglass turned away, retracing his steps back to the school. Twelve teachers and three-hundred students, he pondered. This is the largest number we’ve ever had in the school’s history. They all need vigilant supervision. His thoughts lingered on one particular student: Josh Cantrell, a third-year who had given him cause for concern in the past. At least he seems to have learned his lessons and is keeping out of trouble, Gallowglass thought, shaking his head. For now, at least.
“Hello, J’onn,” Adam Strange greeted as he gracefully stepped out of the transparent tube. Just moments earlier, he had been standing in a nearly identical tube, but in the vibrant city of New Orleans. In the blink of an eye, his very molecules had been disassembled, only to be reassembled again a staggering 22,300 miles above Earth within the celestial headquarters of the illustrious Justice League of America.
“What brings you to Earth, Adam?” inquired the Martian Manhunter, rising from his seat with a distinct air of curiosity.
“I’m doing a personal favor for someone,” Adam replied, his voice laced with a sense of urgency. “I’ve been searching for Abby Cable, but she’s managed to elude me completely so far. I need to deliver a message to her from her husband, the Swamp Thing.”
J’onn’s brow furrowed as he absorbed this information, his somber demeanor speaking volumes. “I understand,” he responded gravely.
Adam paused, concern etched on his face. “Is there something wrong?”
“About a year or so back, Swamp Thing overran parts of Gotham City and caused a great deal of property damage,” J’onn explained, considering his words carefully. “The truth is, Adam, Swamp Thing’s previous actions have caused extensive damage and chaos. The government has long believed him to be either defeated or destroyed. His return now would undoubtedly have consequences.”
Adam took a moment to absorb this, his mind racing with possibilities. “Putting aside the matter of Swamp Thing’s possible return, can you still help me find his wife?” he asked earnestly.
J’onn nodded, a glimmer of determination in his eyes. “What do you require, Adam?”
Producing a postcard borrowed from Abby’s acquaintances, Adam held it up for J’onn to see. “Can your computers perform a search using this image? I’m hoping to discover if there are any known tropical land masses resembling the one depicted here.”
J’onn carefully accepted the postcard, his gaze focused upon it momentarily. “I believe our computers can certainly assist in this endeavor,” he confirmed.
Crossing the room to a sophisticated scanner situated by the main console, J’onn delicately fed the postcard into the machine. Within seconds, the image had been digitally replicated and loaded onto the JLA’s vast network. “I cannot determine the how long the search might take,” J’onn warned, his voice tinged with uncertainty. “However, I will do my best to expedite the process. Please wait here while I gather the information.”
Adam Strange nodded, exuding unwavering confidence. “I have faith in your computers, my friend.”
As his eyes fixed on the Martian Manhunter while he worked, Adam recognized an air of intensity about J’onn, a certain gravitas that made him wonder what other burdens the Martian carried. He watched as J’onn’s fingers effortlessly danced across the console, his gaze never leaving the screen. It was as if he and the machine were one, working in perfect harmony.
Minutes ticked by, each one feeling like an eternity. Adam paced up and down the room, his mind swirling with thoughts. What if Abby was in danger? What if he was too late to deliver the message from her husband? The weight of his mission settled heavily on his shoulders, and he couldn’t help but feel a sense of urgency coursing through his veins.
Looking up from his console, J’onn gestured toward the adjacent galley. “Perhaps while we wait, I can offer you some refreshment.”
Adam shook his head, grinning appreciatively. “Thanks, but I just had a cup of coffee.”
“A cookie, then?” J’onn asked, offering a plate adorned with dark cookies, their creamy white filling tantalizingly peeking through.
Adam’s eyes lit up with delight. “Oreos!” he exclaimed with unadulterated excitement. “I haven’t had these in ages. I love these things!”
J’onn’s lips curled into a small smile. “As do I.”
Seated comfortably, both men savored the delectable treats as the computer tirelessly scoured its vast database. Images of tropical islands flickered across the screen, each one a potential match to the postcard’s exotic locale.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, J’onn returned to the console, then turned to face Adam, his expression a mix of determination and concern. “It appears we have found a possible match,” he said, his voice steady but tinged with caution. “There is a landmass in the South Pacific that bears a striking resemblance to the one in the photo.”
Indeed, one particular island appeared to closely resemble the one in the picture. “Let us investigate further,” J’onn declared, taking command of the keyboard with a precise touch. Through his maneuverings, the true identity of the enigmatic island was unveiled.
A spark of hope ignited within Adam’s chest. “That’s incredible!” he exclaimed, unable to contain his excitement. He leaned forward, his eagerness palpable. “Is that it?” he asked breathlessly. “Do you think Abby could be there?”
“There’s a strong possibility,” J’onn said with a nod, his eyes ablaze with determination. “However, by all appearances it’s a deserted island, untouched by civilization. No official name, no nearby transporter tube, and conspicuously absent from all recognized maps. Very strange.”
“Not a problem for Adam Strange,” said the space adventurer, discarding his overcoat to reveal a vibrant red uniform that clung impeccably to his form. Folding his Earthly clothes neatly into a duffel bag, he retrieved his trusty Rannian jetpack, a marvel of technology, ensuring it was securely fastened. Pulling his finned cowl over his head, Adam was now prepared for his imminent descent.
“I have identified the nearest transporter tube,” J’onn informed him, pointing toward a map on the screen. “But be warned, Adam, this island could be dangerous. Based on the limited information in our database, it may be home to any number of deadly creatures.”
Adam’s heart raced at the thought of the adventure that lay ahead. He had faced danger many times before, and he knew deep down that this was his chance to make a difference, to reunite a husband and wife torn apart by circumstance.
“I’ll take my chances,” he declared, his voice filled with determination. “I won’t let anything or anyone stand in my way.”
Adam examined the coordinates intently. “It’s a ways off, but getting there shouldn’t be too difficult,” he remarked, a hint of determination coloring his voice. “Once near the ground, I’ll have to navigate by dead reckoning. I hope I don’t miss it.”
J’onn J’onzz readied himself to beam his friend back to the planet’s surface, an atmosphere of unwavering friendship between them. The search for Abby Cable had begun in earnest.