The three heroes made their way about the long corridors. Everything seemed painted gray and green.
“Some kind of ship,” said Adam Blake.
“True,” said Captain Comet. “A lot of advanced technology not to be allowed to fight.”
“Not Aryan enough,” added the laconic Blake, metallic green eyes seeming to glow under the light from the ceiling.
“I don’t understand,” said Atom Blake, following his older counterparts.
“Someone’s coming,” said Captain Comet.
“Our man will be at his lab,” said Blake.
“It’s that way,” said Comet, pointing.
Blake nodded as he stuck his arm out and grabbed the guard. He pressed the metal armor against the wall before the man could react. One solid slap welded the man’s helmet to the metal. He pulled the armor’s battery pack and crushed it.
“How do you do that?” asked Atom, walking around the trapped guard.
“Training,” said Blake, leading the way.
“You were trained to spot weld goons?” said Atom.
“No,” said Blake, almost but not quite smiling at the lad. “That is just a convenient way to hold them while we deal with the great man.”
“Let’s not keep him waiting,” said Captain Comet.
Two guards in bulky armor stood in front of the door Captain Comet led them to. The men were surprised to see the trio step around the corner and into the corridor leading to the laboratory. They went for their weapons, but the rifles flew into the air on invisible hands. Then Adam Blake straight-armed them into the wall next to the door. The guards stumbled forward, held up by the man of mystery’s hands. He dropped them to the floor.
Blake examined the door. “It is an internal lock that is controlled from inside,” he said finally. “He has to open it, or we do.”
“He is calling more of his underlings down here to handle us,” said Captain Comet. “He has maybe two squads left.”
“I got the door,” said Atom Blake. “Then we can have our little talk with our counterpart.” The boy magician gestured, and there was an audible clicking sound. Then the door slid open. “Presto!” said Atom enthusiastically.
The heroes stepped into the lab. Atom closed the door and sealed it with his magic. They started searching for their enemy in his lair.
“Over there,” said Captain Comet, pointing to a small cylinder rolling between two tables. Its rudimentary hands made adjustments on equipment on the sides of the table.
“Dr. Blake, I presume?” Atom said with a smile.
The human-like robot that possessed artificial intelligence turned with incredible speed. “My guinea pigs have escaped, I see,” said the smooth voice of a synthesizer.
“All we want is to go home,” said Captain Comet, holding up a hand. “Otherwise, we take you captive and try to find our own way out.”
“So you think you have the upper hand?” said the Adam Blake robot.
“I wouldn’t,” said Captain Comet. “You can’t stall us long enough for your troops to cut through the door.”
“We could perhaps help you, in a way, other than letting you slice us up,” said Blake the investigator.
“What would you want in return, other than your freedom, which seems an obvious thing?” said the artificial intelligence.
“You’d have to fight for the Allies where you come from,” said Atom. “None of this world-beater stuff.”
“You’re joking,” said the mechanical brain in a shell. “I’m going home to supplant Hitler and the Third Reich and seize the world like I want. I’m not going to be a hero simply because you want it.”
“Then you are staying here,” said Blake.
A collection of mechanical waldos sprang out of the back of the shell. Some were claws, but some had instruments attached. One, a blowtorch, sprang to life.
“Care to rephrase?”
Atom Blake waved his hand, and the mechanical man froze in place. “Why do all these villains have such big egos?” said the small boy. “Shiva and I just whipped this guy wanting to be a fire devil. What’s wrong with bettering yourself without trying to deep six someone else?”
“They want things right now and not later,” said Blake. “It is called self-gratification.”
“So what do we do about this guy?” Atom asked.
“We give him what he wants,” said the investigator. “How long can you hold him like that?”
“Forever,” said Atom.
“Right,” said the man of mystery, approaching the shell. “This will take a while, but you will be able to release him when I disconnect his brain from the machine. After that, if you could watch the door?”
“Sure,” said Atom. “What’s the plan, Stan?”
“Like I said, we give him what he wants,” said Blake, using a cutter to open the robot. “We just put our stamp on it first. Captain?”
Captain Comet nodded as he moved to help disconnect the brain from the machine.
The operation took hours before it was done. The troopers tried to interfere by cutting through the door and blasting the heroes, but they were met by something called Max, who made them dance with fiery blasts of energy as it chased them up and down the ship’s corridors. The eternal six-year-old Atom Blake laughed in delight, clapping his hands.
Captain Comet and Adam Blake examined their handiwork. “What do you think?” they asked their counterpart.
Atom looked at the thing on the table and laughed long and hard. “I can’t believe you guys!” Atom said, grinning.
“All we have to do is clear this ship, and then each of us can go home,” said Captain Comet. “I think destroying the ship with a self-destruct timer might be a good idea, too.”
“Right,” said Blake. “We don’t want our counterpart to remember and be able to reclaim it.”
“What next, fellas?” asked Atom. “How about you two come visit my world for a bit? I’d hate to say goodbye to my new pals so quickly!”
“I am afraid I have too much work to do at the moment,” said Blake. “But more importantly,” he quickly added, seeing Atom’s disappointment, “I think it best that we each return to our respective home universes. I know that a previous contact with Earth-X nearly caused untold havoc with my world a mere decade ago, and I do not want to take the chance of the cosmic balance being toppled again. (*) It is disturbing enough to think that the Nazis of Earth-X possess the technology to pass through the dimensional barriers at will.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis on Earth-X: The Prequel,” All-Star Squadron #32 (April, 1984), “The Battle of Santa Barbara, Times Two,” All-Star Squadron #33 (May, 1984), “The Wrath of Tsunami,” All-Star Squadron #34 (June, 1984), and “That Earths May Live,” All-Star Squadron #35 (July, 1984).]
“We don’t know that for sure,” said Captain Comet. “Let’s hope that the secret dies with our robotic counterpart.”
“How about you, Cap?” said Atom. “You’d fit in on my world like a glove!”
“Sorry, little buddy,” said Comet. “Our fellow Blake has it right; it’s best not to tamper with the cosmic balance. And… maybe it’s just not the right time for me to return to Earth — any Earth — at least for now. There are simply too many unforeseen consequences. As Wolfe put it, ‘You can’t go home again.’ Let’s wrap things up here and take the fourth Blake back home.”
The Roberta Yancy Home for Lost Boys received a new arrival. He seemed to be a normal six-year-old boy with brown hair and metallic green eyes. A note said that the boy had been recovered from the sea by folks who weren’t able to provide him proper care themselves.
The boy was named Joshua by the headmistress, because he didn’t remember his own name or the circumstances of his abandonment. He quickly made friends with the other orphans and the dispossessed. He also showed an amazing aptitude for science.