By ParisPhoto

AlphaMan had turned 40 a few days ago, and ever since this birthday he had been thinking about the consequences of aging. Although he possessed superhuman strength, incredible reflexes and sensory abilities, not to mention the power of flight, and although he remained virtually invulnerable to attack, he could tell that his advancing years were taking their toll on his ability to fight crime and to defend the cause of truth.

He stood shaving himself and pondered his choices. Thus distracted, he held the beard trimmer a bit too close to his skin where the blades came in contact with the more recent, and still superhard growth. He swore and replaced the blades of the trimmer. At least the stubble look was more or less in fashion these days and he was no longer treated as the perpetually ill shaven guy.

He looked at himself in the mirror, observing the still modest ravages of time on his tan skin, the lines appearing around his ice-blue eyes, the salt now peppering his thick black hair, and recalled seeing a story on the local TV news about a sports medicine laboratory in a nearby city doing advanced research in rejuvenation and strength training. He recalled the head of the research program saying that although they were concentrating on athletes, their methods could certainly be applied to men, women and children of any age, and that people from the weakest to the strongest could benefit from the experimental treatments. The doctor, a certain Professor DeLeone, had actually said, seemingly as a joke, that even AlphaMan could probably become yet stronger with such a treatment.

In his secret identity as private investigator Ace Martin, AlphaMan carried out some discreet inquiries about SportsLab and Professor DeLeone. Everything seemed to check out. Work for noted athletes around the world, relations with Olympic teams, publications in the most reputable professional reviews, secret government contracts. In the guise of AlphaMan he made an appointment with DeLeone.

Little did AlphaMan know that DeLeone's apparently off-hand joking remark about AlphaMan as a candidate for treatment been carefully planted, and indeed had been the raison d'etre for the interview. DeLeone had been following the daring deeds of the world's leading superhero for years, and been analyzing all available footage of his performance. Although information about AlphaMan was surprisingly scant, DeLeone had gathered that the hero had many human characteristics, and was probably the result of an incredible genetic engineering project, or the product of relations between an Earthling and a humanoid extraterrestrial. In recent months DeLeone had observed a barely perceptible decrease in the hero's physical performance, and became concerned about the future of the hero, but at the same time realized that this could be his opening to have access to the muscular wonder. •

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