Super-Stars of Space: The Universe and Mr. Leiber, Chapter 14: Cobol the Starknight

by Libbylawrence, with Doc Quantum

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Lady Lunar, alias Stacy Macklin, glanced around the red spaceship and watched as Star Sapphire, alias Camille Fortier, silently glowered at Genia. Camille clearly dislikes the way Genia has assumed leadership of this group, thought the lovely blonde. I’d wager the two of them may come to blows before this trip is over!

Alyssa the Golden Blade was polishing her late husband’s sword as she sat apart from the others, occasionally glaring at Camille. Star Sapphire held back from the fight against the creatures on Kronis, though I know she was unafraid, she thought. She was merely waiting for some means of taking advantage of the situation for her own benefit. I do not trust her.

Sensing the tension in the air, Moonman, alias Brice Rogers, sought to immediately defuse it. “Genia, can you tell us where we’re headed?” he asked. “Exactly where is your device leading us? Where will we find Starro the Conqueror?”

“All indications suggest that Starro is on a planet called Dryanna,” replied Genia. “It was once ruled by a dictator called Xandor before he was overthrown by Warlord Carthan with help from the Earth heroes called the Justice League.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Doom of the Star Diamond,” Justice League of America #4 (May, 1961).]

“Perhaps Xandor has allied himself with Starro in order to regain his throne,” suggested Lady Lunar.

Genia crossed her legs and tossed back her head as she laughed a harsh laugh. “How na├»ve of you! Starro has no allies,” she replied. “My guess is that he has enslaved the current ruler, Warlord Gwydion, but we shall see. The strange pattern of the energy wave suggests a female presence as well. I think the noble Gwydion is more likely to have a romantic attachment than Starro!”

“I don’t understand,” said Star Sapphire. “Are you saying the cosmic energy-waves have some uniquely feminine energy signature, as if a matriarchal society like the Zamarons created the wave?”

Genia shook her head. “You Zamaron playthings always see ‘space Amazons’ where there are none! I hate to speculate without facts. Besides, we are about to find out. Dryanna is directly below us.”

The group barely had time to react before they found their ship under attack by several armored figures that flew upward from the planet below, firing energy-beams at them.

“The welcoming committee isn’t very welcoming!” remarked Moonman.

“The Starknights are primitive enough, employing cyborg technology two centuries out of date,” said Genia. “I suggest you generate a concentrated electromagnetic pulse!”

“How?” said Moonman. “I have no weapon like that!”

Genia sighed heavily and said, “You are the weapon! Your magnetic powers can create a pulse that will temporarily shut down any remote signal that controls the Starknights! Can it be that you truly do not know the capabilities of your own powers?”

“I’ll try, but the fact is, I never did anything like this before,” said Brice. “I just attracted or repelled items!”

In a patronizing tone of voice, Genia said, “Focus your power in a tight beam, and then slowly expand it. Do not attempt to physically manipulate them. Do you understand?”

Moonman concentrated as the Starknights drew closer, and slowly under Genia’s tutelage he managed to halt the wave of attackers, who halted in their tracks. The few who still moved now focused only on rescuing their fellow Starknights, and were evidently no longer controlled by Starro. With a grin, Brice said, “Amazing! I never even realized that was possible!”

“That is the sad truth about your limited imagination,” said Genia.

The group landed the ship below on a flat aero-port, and stared around them at a silent city.

“A city this big has to have a large population, but I hear no noise!” said Stacy.

“That’s because I’d wager Starro has enslaved everyone!” said Star Sapphire.

Genia nodded in approval. “Very good!” she said condescendingly. “It seems you are capable of reasoning, after all!”

I’ll teach you a thing or two about reasoning!” growled Remoni-Notra.

“Enough!” shouted Alyssa. “We must work together if we are to survive!”

“Yes, we have to find and defeat Starro!” said Stacy. “He is behind everything that has happened to us!”

Alyssa scowled as she raised her golden sword and adjusted her armor. “Everything Starro has done was to increase the number of his enslaved legions! He must crave universal conquest!”

“True, and yet I think there is more to this than mere conquest,” said Genia. “Remember, the cosmic energy that empowered you was not a weapon. It was as if its effect on you was incidental. I recognized the frequency of the energy-bursts from nature itself. That pattern tells me that this is not a mere program of conquest, regardless of the fact that Starro has done so much to increase his enslaved legions.”

“The mindless hordes are here now!” shouted Star Sapphire, and she pointed to where hundreds of humanoids were slowly marching forward from out of the towers and bunkers that surrounded them.

“The more military-like structures date back to when Carthan fought Xandor for control of the planet,” explained Genia. “All of the people below have starfish membranes attached to their skulls. Starro has indeed enslaved the whole planet. Logic suggests we allow ourselves to be taken captive, since we will be brought into Starro’s presence and then learn everything we desire to know.”

“I will die before I lay down this sword!” vowed Alyssa.

Star Sapphire casually blasted the blonde warrior with a violet energy-beam, allowing her to collapse to the floor. “That won’t be necessary,” she said.

“How could you?” cried Stacy. “What are you trying to do?”

Remoni-Notra shrugged and said, “This barbarian was going to hinder Genia’s entirely logical plan to get us inside. I couldn’t allow that.”

Genia smiled slightly and thought, She barely conceals her malice toward me, but she still knows I am right.

Soon enough the group had surrendered, allowing several silent, mind-controlled Starknights to usher them inside the largest building in sight.

“This was the royal palace,” said Genia. “I know Carthan took it over when he overthrew Xandor, and it has served the same role for his successors after Carthan himself was overthrown.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Green Arrow and Martian Manhunter: Times Past, 1976: The Devil You Know.]

Stacy shivered as she realized that an entire world full of living beings, each with dreams and passions all their own, had been reduced to mindless pawns of an inhuman, alien monster. I must stop Starro at all costs! she thought. I’ll even lay my life down if I have to!

The group found themselves within a huge chamber where a sallow-looking man with a black goatee sat on a throne.

“I am Xandor, and you are welcome here,” he said in an odd whisper. “You have been granted a rare privilege. The females will be allowed to join the harem of my master, while you, sir, will become one of the cybernetic Starknights!”

Brice Rogers clenched his fists and prepared to fight back. Alyssa, having regained consciousness, now rubbed her head as she tried to figure out what to do next. She missed her husband and her teammates terribly.

Genia smiled coldly as she whispered to Stacy, “It is now up to you. Phase yourself into intangibility and pass your hand across his lower skull!”

Lady Lunar shook her head and said, “What? I don’t want to kill him!”

“Do as I say!” replied Genia. “He will not die!”

Stacy flew at the man on the throne and obeyed the alien genius. As she passed by the guards, they were unable to touch her intangible form. When she reached Xandor, she followed Genia’s bizarre instructions, only to yield an odd result.

Xandor shuddered as a starfish fell from his lower skull, and he blinked rapidly before crying out, “Thank the gods! I have been enslaved for so very long!”

“The guards will be on us in seconds,” said Genia. “They will not obey your orders, since you are no longer part of the Starro collective. Take us to his resting place!”

Xandor nodded and led them through a hidden panel behind the throne as the guards closed in on them. “They will follow!” cried Xandor. “He knows all I know!”

“I’ll slow them down!” said Stacy, and she blasted at the panel, melting it into sludge and thus blocking the opening. “That should buy us some time!”

“Take us to Gwythion’s wife,” said Genia. “She is the real problem.”

Xandor nodded and said, “Little did I know when I told him about her that I was dooming myself and my world to mindless slavery!”

Star Sapphire snapped, “Don’t whine! There’s no time!”

“What does the wife of this Gwythion have to do with it?” asked Brice.

“Everything!” replied Genia.

They made their way down the passage, then emerged in a bedroom where attendants encircled a large bed upon which a woman with pale skin and fiery red hair lay holding a tiny infant.

A gaunt man with long brown hair standing nearby raised his hands to defend her as they entered. “I won’t let you harm them!” he shouted.

“Calm yourself, Warlord Gwythion… or should I call you Cobol?” said Genia. “We are here to help you and your wife — and newborn child!”

Star Sapphire scowled as she looked at the family. “What is this madness?” she said.

“The energy-waves were timed in a pattern that was familiar to me,” explained Genia. “They were not attacks. They were side-effects from this woman’s labor pains. She was having contractions, and each one released a cosmic wave of incredible power, since she was linked to the universe itself by her awesome powers.”

Stacy gasped as she exchanged glances with the others. “You’re saying her birth pangs caused all the cosmic waves?”

Genia nodded and said, “You’re Blackstarr, are you not? You were born on Earth under the name of Rachael Berkowitz, and your mutant powers made you one with the natural laws of the cosmos! You fought Supergirl more than once, as well as Superman. (*) Shortly after the Crisis you were captured by Brainiac, who sought to use your reality-altering abilities in his war against the Master Programmer. After Superman and Batman freed you from his control, you tried to destroy Brainiac, only to be hurled into another dimension, nearly powerless.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Echoes of Times Gone By,” Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #13 (November, 1983), “Star Light, Star Bright, Blackstarr Rises Tonight,” Supergirl v2 #14 (December, 1983), “Starrfall,” Supergirl v2 #15 (January, 1984), “Into the Valley of the Shadow,” DC Comics Presents #86 (October, 1985), and Superman and Batman: Of Mainframes and Timeframes, Chapter 3: Reality Manipulations.]

The woman in the bed nodded and said, “I was found by Gwythion, though at that time he was known by another name: Cobol the Starknight.”

“Yes,” said Gwythion. “My consciousness, or soul, had been placed in the cybernetic, plandanium-armored body of a Starknight over two-hundred years ago as you reckon time, when Dryanna was invaded by a race of fearsome creatures known as the Dread Serpents, who hail from the Dragonworld at the heart of a dark nebula. I gladly sacrificed my humanity in order to become the first of the Starknights, and I spent the next two centuries waging war on the Dread Serpents as they invaded world after world with their ability to impersonate anyone.

“I spent some time battling Dread Serpents on the planet Angor — a world much like the Earth my wife hails from — where I met such stalwart allies as the Triumphant Four and Gene Factor. After banishing not only every last Dread Serpent, but the Dragonworld itself, into the realm of Limbo, I finally left that world. For now that my war was over, and the purpose for which the Starknights had been created was accomplished, I desired nothing more than to return to my homeworld, despite the fact that it would be much changed in the two centuries since I and my fellow Starknights first left it.

“However, when the Triumpant Four’s leader, Richard Reid, made it possible for me to view the realm of Limbo to confirm that the Dread Serpents were truly gone for good, I also discovered there a damsel in distress.”

“Rachael,” guessed Stacy.

“Yes,” said Blackstarr. “He found me there surrounded by Dread Serpents, and saved me, since I was completely powerless. As he brought me with him to this world, he and I began to fall in love. Soon Cobol’s humanity was restored to him, along with his birth name of Gwythion, and he was elected the new leader of this world, with his fellow Starknights protecting us from all enemies. We were married, and ruled here in peace, until…”

Xandor bowed his head and said, “Until I contacted the one who I thought would return me to my throne. I told him about your power and the powers your child would likely have. He came here and enslaved us all, including the remaining Starknights, and built an army to ensure that you and your child could never be taken from his control!”

“A baby?” said Star Sapphire. “This whole campaign of cosmic crisis was because of the birth of a baby?

“My powers returned when I went into labor,” explained Blackstarr. “They always had the potential to shake the universe in cosmic emissions. He wants my child! He wants to use my child’s latent powers to rule the universe.”

“Rachael and I aren’t under his control,” explained Gwythion, “because he couldn’t risk that the enslavement might hurt the birth process.”

“We will help you,” vowed Alyssa. “Starro won’t take your child!”

“Can you still not see the truth?” said Genia. “Starro is not the enslaver. Starro is merely the tool of enslavement!”

At that moment, the door slammed open as guards rushed in, and a tall, magenta-hued being with a finned head stepped forward, staring at them with two normal eyes and a large third eye that rested above his brow.

“You are referring to me, I believe,” he said. “I am Despero, and as you deduced, I am the true ruler of this world!”

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