"In Dreams" was first published in Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol.1 No.1
The story begins with a man--Samaritan--flying naked and joyful among the clouds. The flight, a dream, is interrupted by the noise of Samaritan's emergency alert transmitter pointing him to a situation in the Philippines. As he dresses to fly toward the danger, Samaritan reflects on the fact that he simply has no time to enjoy the flight there (and a related theme runs throughout the story--namely that Samaritan's dedication to his work, to try and be on hand to help with as much as he physically can, to the point of exhaustion, prevents him from enjoying, or even having, a life beyond that work).
After stopping the massive tidal wave that threatens a city in the Philippines with his empyrean web (and, Samaritan notes, venting the volcano whose eruption cause it and dealing with the aftermath of his empyrean web's shock wave), Samaritan deals with other threats as he races to make it to work on time in his civilian identity, Asa Martin, fact-checker for Astro City's Current magazine. As he disappears into his office, Martin's coworkers reflect on his near-tardiness.
Samaritan prepares his zyxometer to complete Martin's work (allowing for an acceptable number of mistakes to resemble human performance) and to follow global news sources to learn of assorted threats (including a runaway bus in New York, Dr. Saturday in Denver, and a disaster at Fox-Broome University's bio labs). Then, Samaritan flies off to deal with them before making a quick lunchtime appearance at work as Martin, seemingly blowing off his coworkers for "appointments" that are, of course, more Samaritan duties--this time a meeting of Honor Guard. (Martin's coworkers, meanwhile, reflect on his standoffishness.)
After helping his teammates with a bank robbery attempt by the Menagerie Gang, Samaritan rushes back to Martin's office just in time to avoid being fired, handing a completed piece on the First Family to his boss, Ms. Cavendish. In exchange, she hands him a feature on the city's most beautiful women. Martin ruminates on the irony that, while such women would likely love to meet and pursue a relationship with Samaritan, he simply can't spare the time.
His emergency alert transmitter goes off, and Samaritan is back to work for the afternoon dealing with various situations, such as a jailbreak at Biro Island, raising the 17th c. wreck of the Sea Blaze off the Florida Coast, and retrieving a cat for a young girl. During this last event, he slows down so that the girl can see him clearly and be relieved, and that time spent with the girl almost causes Samaritan to miss saving a man in Boston from being crushed by a building.
In the evening, Samaritan makes an appearance at a dinner held by the Astro City Firefighter's Association, who honor him with an award. During dinner, Samaritan tries to stress to the firefighters that _they_ are the true heroes, and he excuses himself twice to deal with assorted crises.
After dinner, Samaritan takes a step "sideways" into a pocket dimension to store his award (with all the others he has received) before he is attacked by the Living Nightmare, which beats him up and down the street. Samaritan manages to maneuver the Nightmare above him, at which point he flies it into space and hurls it into the sun (although, he notes, it will cease existing once it is removed from the emotions powering it).
Samaritan returns home, utterly exhausted, and falls onto his bed, asleep before he reaches the pillow. As he sleeps, his dreams return him to the sunny skies, where he flies happily once more.
- This is the very first Astro City story published.
- The story takes place on August 8, 1995 and likely into the early morning of August 9, which is confirmed on the first page of the next issue, Kurt Busiek's Astro City Vol.1 #2. August 8, 1995 was likely the day that the issue shipped to comic stores.
- This story won the 1996 Harvey Award for Best Single Issue.