Chapter 4: Thrown Out Stealing

  1. Chapter 3: Ducks and Delirium
  2. RAC Challenge!
  3. Chapter 5: Into the Swamp

The Story Thus Far:

Dirk Darringer, better known to the citizens of Dixon City as Paragon, the Ultimate Man!, barely escaped entombment by the evil Dr. Malevo. By negotiating with the arch-villain over the fate of Malevo’s beloved Jas Rswert, Paragon was able to secure his release from the deathtrap, swearing to make him pay in the meantime.

Discovering the fiend’s secret lair, Paragon charged in to make his arrest, only to find himself in yet another dastardly trap. Rendered apparently powerless by the presence of grapefruit, our hero proved no match for the deadly bullets unleashed his way. Only the timely interference of Tito and Tina, the Ultimate Twins! saved him from certain death.

The twins managed to carry the wounded Paragon to the Ultimate-Mobile, which suddenly sped off into the night. Dirk witnessed a nightmare collage of images, mostly from his past, then awoke healed and whole in front of the Morning Herald, where he works in his civilian identity as a mild mannered reporter. Now, after accompanying sportswriter Myrna Maple to an announcement of a new manager for the Dixon City Dodgers, Dirk finds himself in battle with Spurgo, the Conquestor in…

Thrown Out Stealing!

thwang! thwang!

It seemed no matter where Paragon pummeled the giant alien, all his blows simply bounced off the villain’s incredible armor. Even worse, the behemoth seemed to grow larger with each blow.

“This is not going well,” he thought to himself. “This guy’s just too tough. And I have to hold back or some of those people down there might be hurt seriously during the battle.”

Seven hundred feet below the fight, Myrna Maples was sticking a microrecorder in the face of a very incredulous and worried looking man.

“Jorge Steinhoofer, how does it feel to be responsible for the city’s imminent doom? Is Spurgo now on the managerial hotseat?”

“I just don’t understand,” replied the team owner. “He’s so big now, and what happened to his mustache…?”

thwang! Paragon was beginning to tire, and he hadn’t even made a dent in his opponent’s armor. He’d better find a way to end this soon, or he wouldn’t like the finale. As if reading his thoughts, the monster turned slightly and let loose a mighty backhand blow that sent Paragon crashing to the street.

Dirk tried to get up, but lacked the strength to do so. His chest was on fire. He looked down to find… blood? The world began to cloud over. “But I thought I’d healed…” he thought. His senses had narrowed to a single, distant dot of light when he heard a reassuring voice say “Don’t worry son, you’re with us now.” Then it was dark.

It was a cold October day. The leaves had mostly fallen from the trees, leaving them bare to the chilly touch of winter. These were the times Merton Flagler relished. He took a sip from his coffee mug, then slowly breathed out, watching the wisps of mist climb from his lips. “If only it could always be like this,” thought Merton, “all dead, calm, and quiet.”

“Dr. Flagler!”

He started at the sudden interruption. He glanced over his shoulder and immediately regretted it. “Damn!” he thought. “It’s those annoying Ultimate brats! I told Paragon to leave those two at home!” He paused, composed what he hoped was a sufficiently friendly expression, then turned back to face the interlopers. “What can I do for you kids?” he asked, in a hopefully satisfactory manner.

“It’s Paragon!” panted Tito as he came to an abrupt halt in front of the doctor. “He was shot by Dr. Malevo and we put him into the Ultimate-Mobile to take him to help but it suddenly took off without us and it shot straight up into the sky and…”

“Hold it kid!” Merton shook the Ultimate Kid. “You’ve got to get a grip on yourself. Sure, Paragon may have been shot, but with all his powers I can’t imagine what could be so seriou…”

“But Dr. Flagler!” interrupted Tina. “We found this on the floor while we were leaving!” She presented a small, multi-colored orb.

“So?” retorted Merton. “It’s a superball. I had one when I was a kid.”

“But it’s not a ball. Look.” She handed it to him. It was very warm, and felt like polished stone. “And we’ve never seen Paragon without it. It’s usually in the amulet attached to his cloak. We’re worried about him, and we thought that DIOS could help.”

“Well, if it involves mysterious forces, then you did the right thing coming here to the Dixon Institute of Orthogonal Studies. Hm. Come on inside. I’ll have one of the staff fix you some cocoa while I examine this thing.”


Dirk Darringer.

“Huh?” thought Dirk for the first time in hours. “Wha-?” Consciousness was slow in returning to him.

Dirk Darringer. You must awaken now.

The voices rattled in his head. It was so hard to concentrate. Some strong hands helped him up and smoothed down his clothes a bit. “You gonna be okay, kid?” The voice was familiar, but from where? He followed that thought back to full awareness.

He knew instantly where he was. This was The Chamber, domicile of the Ultimate Collective. And the hands that held him were attached to a body that wore almost the same stylized costume as Dirk did.

“Rex Reeves, the Pen-Ultimate Man?! What am I doing here?”

“Well, kid, I…”


When the masters speak, every sane man listens. The room was immediately quiet.

Dirk Darringer, you are a failure.

“If you’re talking about the gunshot, I can explain. You never told me I was vulnerable in the presence of grapefruit…”

That was a lie. We took your powers.

You did it?! But, why?”

You have failed your teaching. You ransomed your life using a man’s stolen possession. You bargained with evil. Your training and the sacrifices made for it have gone for naught.

“Now look, it was a desperate situation. I didn’t have a choice. I—”

That is no excuse. You also allowed your token of power to escape you.

Dirk looked down. They were right. The Ultimate Marble, from which he drew his power, was gone. “But I didn’t—”

Your excuses are irrelevant. You will be replaced.

A door to the left slid silently open, revealing a small, muscular woman. “I am here to serve the good of the universe, masters,” she stated in a calm voice.

Good. You shall journey to earth to become their new guardian.

No! You can’t do this! I’ll… I’ll…” Dirk stopped.

You’ll do what?

“I’ll…” he had a sudden inspiration. “I’ll join a higher power! I’ll remake the universe! I’ll hold my breath! I’ll… I’ll… I’ll bite off my hand! I’ll… do something…” Dirk knew a losing situation. He let this last sentence trail off into nothing.

The Collective ignored him. Go now, Mary Lu of earth. Go and become a Champion. White light bathed the area of The Chambers where the new Ultimate Woman stood, and soon she faded out of sight.

Dirk swallowed his anger. He had trusted the masters this far. He must wait and see where they were going with all this. Surely they must understand the stories behind his recent mishaps. They must understand, or he must make them understand before it became too late.

The Collective turned their attention to him. Dirk Darringer. You Have some old business to finish.

Suddenly light bathed his section of The Chambers. He felt a tingling sensation across his entire body, and a slight buzzing tickled his ears. The room faded, to be replaced by another, even more barren than The Chambers. He sensed a presence to his right, and turned to face this other.

He was not prepared for what he saw.


At almost the same moment, Merton Flagler was bent over a desk in the darkened stacks of the DIOS library, a lamp shining on a musty tome which lay open before him. He barely breathed as he hurriedly scribbled some notes. He glanced at the page, then glanced again. His breath caught.

“I’ve got it!” he exclaimed, jumping up from the table and grabbing the Marble of Power. “I know the secret!”

In all his excitement, he was quite unaware of the being behind him, fist upraised, holding a curved blade that gleamed slightly in the weak light. The hand reached its appropriate height, then danced forward and down in one smooth motion.

Next issue: Chapter 5: Into the Swamp, or How Can I Love You When You Killed Me Last Night? by Aaron Levitz

Some notes from the author: Thanks should go to Mike Kelly for giving us that really nifty dream sequence to play with. As indicated here, Spurgo was just a continuation of that dream, but the images presented before it are playing an important part in the story now. Daniel Warren said it was o.k. to retcon the grapefruit thang, so there you go, Dan. 8^) Good luck to Aaron Levitz, who inherits more than one hero in peril.

  1. Chapter 3: Ducks and Delirium
  2. RAC Challenge!
  3. Chapter 5: Into the Swamp