Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jemm, Son of Saturn #2 (10/1984)

"Home, my son, is not a place. It is a feeling. It is a gathering of hearts that give comfort. It is heaven on earth." --from the teachings of Rahani

The snow fell heavy in Harlem that night, as derelicts sat around a drum fire to keep warm. Bertie was their coarse leader, and when Luther tried to take in some of the heat, Bertie pushed the boy to the ground. Bertie claimed "...there's only fire enough for four," and his fellows began to wonder if the boy had some money they could poach. Jemm slapped his large hand over Bertie's shoulder, then tossed the brute so far into the sky he would certainly never return intact. The derelicts drew weapons on Jemm, who screamed in his alien tongue and launched himself at the crowd. Jemm's body contorted and extended in an eerie manner as he stalked the men, but one turned over the drum, igniting Jemm's cape.

A fifth wino was Crazy Freddie, who had stolen a bottle of bourbon from Bertie just as Luther had arrived at the fire. Now, Freddie threw his coat over Jemm, smothering the flames and earning Luther's affectionate thanks.

Elsewhere, a beaten and bloodied Bouncer had made his way to his ma's apartment. "Bruno? Oh, God!" Ma tended to Bouncer, and on learning the injuries were from a job for Mr. Tull, explained, "you should be proud of your wounds, Bruno!" Bouncer explained what happened at the Mannkin apartment, and how it was perhaps only right he'd been hurt, since Mr. Tull only ever sent him to hurt others. When Bouncer said he wanted to quit and stop hurting people, Ma began to repeatedly slap and enjoin Bruno not to speak ill of Mr. Tull. As Bruno began to cry, he promised his mother to keep working and bringing home Mr. Tull's fine money.

Crazy Freddie noticed there wasn't a mark on Jemm. "The fire didn't burn him-- just sort of tried to smother him! Like his body reacts differently to fire than yours or mine would." Jemm went to fetch Gramps' broken body, and Freddie claimed to know just the right place in the sewer to lay the old man down. After the group descended, a Saturnian robot requested back up from outside the manhole. "Repeat: I am ready to meet Saturnian life-form in battle!"

Dade showed up at a senator's house in the middle of the night, with photographs of the U.F.O. and information on the massacre of "forty U.S. special troops and two NASA scientists..." The senator had a house guest present, who was declared a trustworthy patriot. Though the senator thought Dade delirious, the guest saw the value in exploring the unusual "opportunities" should Dade's account prove true. Dade was less generous toward the guest, but the senator demanded, "Hold your tongue, Dade! This gentleman pays more to Uncle Sam in taxes each year that you'll ever make in a lifetime! No one I have ever known has been a better adviser to me, nor a more staunch supporter of this country's government... than Mr. Claudius Tull!"

Crazy Freddie had stolen some hothouse flowers to lay on Gramps' chest, and Jemm allowed the old man's body to drift off into waist deep water. Jemm's thoughts turned reflective, to a ghostly pale figure in a hooded purple robe that sat in a garden with the young Jemm. This was the priest, tutor and friend Jemm knew as Rahani...

"But teacher, are not Red Saturnians fighting White Saturnians just outside the walls of this palace? And if we were outside rather than in, would we not be mortal enemies?"

"Aye. All of Saturn is one great battlefield, and the generals on either side are bigots who cannot see beyond the color of their brothers' flesh! But you are different. You must not hate either the Reds or the Whites."

"And if a white were to breach our walls and kill my father simply because he is Red, would I not then hate all Whites forever?"

"No! You must be above all that! You must swallow all hatred that wells up within you! For you were born to be different, young one! You carry the birthstone upon your forehead-- an omen not seen on Saturn in over twenty eons! It is the sign that you are the special one sent from the creator of all things to be a protector and savior of all Saturnians, White or Red! Remember this always. You must never turn hatred upon any form of life from your homeworld. For you are unique among all Saturnians. You are Jemm, Prince of Saturn!"

Jemm's revere was broken when he was attacked by the towering robot. Jemm briefly sank underwater, then emerged with a stunning intensity, ripping the robot's head off in one swift motion. "Unit RT-36Z58 reports mission failure... Request back-up force commence attack." So it went, as the very water formed into a pummeling fist against the Son of Saturn. Pipes pulled free from the sewer walls to entangle and choke Jemm. A disembodied voice spoke in a tongue only our hero could understand:

"Greetings, Prince of Saturn! My name is Kamah! I am a warrior of the Whites. A Koolar-- shape-taker! And I am ruled by her supreme commandership, Synn! Surprised? Did you really believe you were the last living Saturnian in the entire universe? How vain you are! But how like your father, and your father's father, and every member of every generation of the pompous, strutting Saturnian royal family! For eons, you ruled our planet with an iron hand... but now, every last relative in your pious gene pool has been exterminated-- except for you! And soon, even you shall die!"

Concrete dislodged from the walls to assail Jemm's body. "It is then that Jemm decides to ignore the pain, and he concentrates. From the sparkling jewel on his forehead, a yellow beam shoots upward, probing for Kamah's heart-- searching for a black concentration of pure hatred!" Jemm felt a sick feeling in his gut, and knew he'd located the agent. Jemm withdrew briefly, them released an energy blast that revealed Kamah's true form. The White girl landed in the water, floating upright but lifeless.

Jemm took comfort in Luther's embrace as he slumped wearily. At first he hoped this White, who threatened to kill him and his friends, was dead. Then he shed a tear over the continuing violence between the few surviving Saturnians, and his role in this play.

Bouncer awoke to the sight of Ma standing next to Claudius Tull, a man who pressed Bruno to remain prone with the butt of his cane. Tull wanted to know about the Red Man, as he slowly invaded Bouncer's personal space, forcing the side of Bruno's sweaty face into a pillow with his palm. "You're afraid I won't believe you-- that I'll think your story too fantastic-- and that I'll have Earl and Sid beat you for lying to me. But believe me, Bouncer... I've listened to a number of fantastic stories tonight, and I have every reason to believe they're true..."

"The Tunnel" by Greg Potter, Gene Colan and Klaus Janson.

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