DC Universe: 1943: The Space-Time Gambit, Book 1, Chapter 5: Three Artifacts

by Libbylawrence

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Haldane the Sorcerer watched Alexei Luthor work. “Luthor, what is this new game of yours? You’ve taken no interest in our triumphs since we brought in Superman.”

Luthor considered this man. “Ah, why not? I know now how I may cheat death and prevent the future doom foretold for me by Doome. I used the time device and my probability scanner after every captured hero was brought in from all those worlds. Using their combined knowledge, I have learned of three artifacts of great chronal power that may allow me to prevent the future fate from occurring in my case.”

Haldane smiled. “Really? What are they?”

“I’m keeping that secret to myself for now,” said Luthor. “You just watch that snake Doome and his madman, the Psycho-Pirate, as I ordered.”

Luthor was then alone again, and he laughed. “What are the three items, indeed!” he said coldly. “Merely a trio of creations from three different Earths. The first is a piece of a cosmic landmark called the Rock of Eternity. But how do I get it? I suppose I need a gang — an Injustice Gang!

***

Wes Dodds, Rex Tyler, and Dr. Charles McNider sat around the booth of a small diner.

“I eat here all the time,” said Rex. “When I first moved here, this place was my hangout when I wasn’t in the lab. The prices are low, and the food isn’t bad.”

Charles grinned. “Wes may never have actually been inside a common diner before, so you’ll have to give him time to adjust to going without a waiter in a tux!”

The wealthy Wes Dodds smiled. “I’ve seen the inside of many a seedier place, I assure you.”

“Yeah, but you weren’t wearing a designer suit then,” added Rex. “Wait, come to think of it, you probably were.”

The three friends tried to keep up an easy banter, since two of them had a more serious intent. Charles McNider was a doctor, and he wanted to urge chemist Rex Tyler to finally stop using the dangerous Miraclo drug that he had invented. While it was true that Miracle empowered him as the costumed Hourman, giving him strength and speed, it had also caused the man of the hour to suffer a cardiac arrest a few years ago. (*) Since Wes was Rex’s best friend, he was along to add support.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Justice Society Adventure the World’s Not Ready to Learn About Yet,” All-Star Squadron Annual #3 (1984).]

“Seriously, though, I may have to adjust to a quieter life, whether I like it or not,” continued Rex.

“The black-light idea is still a possibility,” whispered Wes. “Don’t rule that out.”

“Yes,” said Charles. “I am intrigued by the theory. I still wonder about that other idea I proposed.”

“Not that old inner potential or meta-gene idea,” said Rex, smiling. “Sell that one from the back of a wagon with a banjo!

The roar of a strong wind outside and the flapping of passing women’s skirts attracted their notice. “Strong weather, huh?” said Wes.

They looked out to see a humanoid figure land in the square. He was blonde and was dressed in a green and yellow costume, but his features were totally immobile, with no trace of expression or emotion. Despite his ability to move, his appearance was slightly off, giving him more of the appearance of a mannequin than a living man.

“What is that?” said Rex. “A robot?

Charles said, “I think we’d better get out there.”

They slipped into the men’s room. Moments later, the three had gathered at the front in their heroic costumes.

“Rex, why’d you suit up?” whispered Doctor Mid-Nite, alias Dr. Charles McNider. “This isn’t going to be a situation in which you can take that pill.”

“OK, mother,” said Hourman, alias Rex Tyler. “Just let me be here if needed. It gives me something to do.”

The Sandman, alias Wes Dodds, approached Dynamic Man, an android from a parallel Earth. (*) “What do you want here?” he said slowly. “You’re scaring people.”

[(*) Editor’s note: Dynamic Man first appeared in Dynamic Man, Mystic Comics #1 (March, 1940).]

“That is my intent, for by doing so, I attracted the targets,” he said coldly. As the Sandman reached for his wirepoon, Dynamic Man turned to face Mid-Nite. “My electro-sensors allow me to see even in absence of all light. It is futile for you to employ your blackout bombs.”

Doctor Mid-Nite did not doubt the truth of the artificial man’s words. “Then I guess I can just do this!” he said as he threw a punch at the menacing figure. However, Dynamic Man caught his arm in a vise-like grip and lifted him bodily in the air.

“Put him down!” cried Hourman.

“Like so?” said the android as he tossed Mid-Nite toward the oncoming traffic.

The Sandman fired his wirepoon and snared his buddy just inches away from a speeding truck, yanking him to safety even as Dynamic Man slammed into him with his own fist. The Sandman fell hard, and as he rose again, the android extended a cold arm and fired a ray beam that knocked his weapon from his numb hand.

Doctor Mid-Nite rose to drop a blackout bomb down the slight opening at the creature’s back. The foom of eruption sent black trails coming out of the android but did not noticeably slow his speed down. He spun a full one-hundred and eighty degrees on his waist and slapped Mid-Nite cold.

The Sandman kicked out at him, all the while watching for signs of life in the fallen Mid-Nite. He was met by two extended fists that froze his system with frigid air. But the Hourman knew what he had to do.

Rex Tyler could not stand by and let his buddies fall to the deadly android, nor could he risk taking the adrenal-boosting drug that empowered him. I’m not just Hourman, I’m also a good chemist. I know science. That can help, too. He looked around and spotted a telephone call box. He strained to open the rusty box and, with effort, did what he might once have done without a second thought. He wrapped his long sleeves around his hands and carefully extended the wiring within the box until it dangled loosely. This had better work, he thought.

He reached out to pull the Sandman to him. The android had already picked up the stunned Mid-Nite. He said, “Release him and surrender.” Hourman then rubbed the sparking ends of the wires counter-clockwise across his metallic foe’s chest. The resulting discharge repelled the android through the dinner wall. He did not rise, but sparked slowly.

Rex smiled. “I guess I just saved the day without that drug!”

Hourman turned to look at his friends, but in doing so he neglected to see Dynamic Man rise after a rapid self-repair function activated. “Too late!” he groaned as he, too, fell to the crushing metal fists.

Dynamic Man gathered up the three JSAers and carried them back to Luthor’s lair.

***

The bespectacled, mousey-looking Diana Prince slipped inside the old barn that housed her invisible plane, and she changed into her more flamboyant Wonder Woman costume. “Praise Hera! After hours of typing military dispatches, it feels good to unwind at bit,” she said.

“You’re a bit premature in that sentiment,” said a pretty girl in red and gold who flew out of the shadows to wrap Diana up in a tight metal coil.

Wonder Woman strained to get free and was about to burst the metal to shreds when a boy wrapped the wire tighter around her wrists.

“Being bound by a male robs you of your power,” said Captain Marvel Junior.

Mary Marvel smiled. “Doesn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to see that.” She backhanded Wonder Woman to the ground, and the amazing Amazon did not move again.

***

Wildcat, the Atom, Mister Terrific, and the Guardian knew that they had plenty to talk about. They had heard reports of other heroes being attacked without rhyme or reason. They had intended to meet anyway to discuss a project to help inner-city kids escape the streets through boxing and other sporting events to be held at the Fair Play Boys Club in Gateway City.

Mister Terrific, who owned the club in his identity of Terry Sloane, spoke first. “As important as it is to fight crime, I place a higher priority on helping our youth. We need to remember that every criminal was a child in need at one time.”

The Atom grinned. “True! But I can’t see some of the clowns we’ve tangled with as kids. Take that Baron Blitzkrieg or Kung, for example. Those two were probably seig heiling in their cribs!

The Guardian frowned. “Well, I agree with Terry. As you know, I’ve taken in a group of lads myself. The Newsboy Legion are a real handful.”

Wildcat grinned. “When I was a kid, I spent more time studying or working out. Never had time to just goof off. My old man was pretty keen on higher education. He wanted me to become a doctor. I’d like to see a way to help other kids live his dream, since I failed to do so.”

Their conversation ended abruptly as several costumed figures attacked them from four sides. Wildcat was tackled by Marla Drake, the leopard skin-clad beauty called Miss Fury. They fell to the floor as she clawed at his mask.

The Guardian felt his shield being ripped from his arm as he turned to see a red, white, and blue-costumed man with a round shield of his own. The Masked American slugged the Guardian with a strong left, while his girl sidekick Miss Victory stole the golden shield.

The Atom leaped up, only to encounter the hero called Neon the Unknown. His stout body was rocked down by neonic energy blasts from the other hero’s hands. The Atom reeled back, then kicked Neon in the face. A second punch finally dropped the energized hero flat. “I guess Neon was full of hot air,” he said, smiling.

Mister Terrific dodged a magnetic pulse from Magno, only to be struck by an invisible foe known as the Invisible Hood. Terry Sloane rolled aside from a second blow from the Invisible Hood and thought quickly, grabbing a fire extinguisher from the club wall and spraying the air all around him. The foamy outline of a man appeared from thin air, and the man of a thousand talents dropped him with three rapid, expert blows.

Unfortunately, while Mister Terrific was distracted, Magno used his power to bring a group of metal chairs hurling at the heads of the heroes, and soon the sheer weight brought down both the Atom and Mister Terrific.

Wildcat shook free of Miss Fury while admiring her jungle cat lithe form. Man, that babe is tough. I hope I don’t have to ever fight another dish like her with the huntress motif! He ducked her sharp nails and reluctantly connected with a punch that knocked her cold.

Meanwhile, the Guardian was caught between two patriotic foes. Both were agile and tough, so he used these traits to his own advantage by feigning being stunned, then jumped aside to let the duo crash into each other. He smiled over their fallen forms until Magno’s final pulse brought the roof down on all the heroes. He lifted it back up to reveal a magnetic shield that had protected his allies while leaving the four All-Star Squadron members stunned.

***

Alexei Luthor grinned as his team brought in the last of the beaten heroes: Johnny Thunder, the Flash, Starman, and Captain Triumph.

“It is done!” said Haldane smugly. “We have captured every known All-Star Squadron member except for worthless children like Sandy and Little Boy Blue, or nobodies like the Red Tornado and that aviator hero from a couple of years ago, Guardian Angel.”

“Good,” said Luthor. “Now, Doome, send the heroes of Earth-X and Earth-S back to their own proper worlds and times without any memory of what has occurred. I have no need of them, and we need not tax our resources so greatly. I have a more pressing project in mind.”

Dr. Doome obeyed, and the Freedom Fighters from three different times — Uncle Sam’s group from 1947, a handful of unaffiliated Earth-X mystery-men from the present year of 1943, and some of the original Freedom Fighters from 1941 — returned to their respective eras. Neon the Unknown, Magno, and the Invisible Hood had been plucked from mere minutes before their deaths, and they now returned to that moment without ever knowing they had left. (*) And, sadly, all who died on the war-torn world of Earth-X still died there.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis on Earth-X: The Prequel,” All-Star Squadron #32 (April, 1984).]

Unknown to anyone else for now, three figures from present-day Earth-X — Joe Hercules, the Jester, and the Spider — now remained on Earth-Two, thanks to some quirk of fate. The strongman Joe Hercules was mistakenly left behind with the mind-controlled heroes from the unnamed Earth nicknamed Earth-Et Cetera, and he would remain for the final battle, though he would later return to Earth-X under unknown circumstances.

While officer Chuck Lane was soon able to resume his old life on Earth-Two after one year’s absence, Earth-X was not left without a Jester of its own. Three months before Chuck Lane first donned his Jester costume, a man named Robert Mason had become the original Jester and operated briefly as a vigilante on that world before retiring. (*) After the disappearance of the Jester from Earth-X, Robert Mason would don the identity of the original Jester once more, though he would operate in costume a bit differently from Chuck Lane.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Madam Fatal Meets the Jester,” Crack Comics #10 (February, 1941).]

Meanwhile, the wealthy playboy and former big-game hunter Thomas Ludlow Hallaway, alias the Spider, would not resume his career as a mystery-man on Earth-Two except for a handful of appearances in costume. Unknown to his fellow Freedom Fighters, the Spider had begun establishing a criminal empire of his own, operating it right under the noses of Earth-X’s mystery-men. After his crimes had been discovered by a Nazi agent, the Spider was blackmailed into becoming a Nazi collaborator and acting as a mole within the Freedom Fighters, reporting the team’s locations and activities to the Axis over the last few months. Now that he had been inadvertently freed from Nazi control, Hallaway would resume his secret double life but with a bit more secrecy. He would also continue the Ludlow family’s vendetta against the Shade, and eventually meet his end at the hands of that villain. And the Freedom Fighters would be better off for his absence.

Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Junior, Ibis the Invincible, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, and others returned to Earth-S without any memory that they had ever been plucked from their home. That left only the heroes from the unnumbered Earths — such as Blue Blaze, Miss Masque, and the Ferret — to wait in a trancelike state on further orders.

The entire heroic membership of the All-Star Squadron, minus the Green Lantern, all hung suspended in null-time fields outside of normal time or their world.

“So shall we kill them now?” asked Psycho-Pirate eagerly.

“Not as yet,” explained Luthor. “Let Doome toy with his Seven Soldiers for a while later. I will amuse myself tormenting Superman. For now, I seek a team composed of villains plucked from time and space to run an errand for me.”

What errand?” asked Dr. Doome.

“I need three items from three worlds, with which I believe I can alter the fate you saw befall me decades from now in the Crisis,” he said. “To get these items will require sending someone to the Earths called One and S, as well as to a location here on our world.”

“Why did you not send the Earth-S heroes on quest for it?” asked Doome.

“Frankly, I wanted to use villains who could act freely and with no taint of mind-control, for this errand is vital to me,” explained Luthor.

“Ah, money is the great motivator for most of our ilk,” said Haldane the Sorcerer.

“True enough. Now assemble such a team.”

Doome glared at his back as he thought to himself, Soon I shall rebel and repay him for every rude comment, but for now, as a student of time, I am eager to witness what his genius has produced.

***

Earth-S in the year 1984:

Billy Batson smiled eagerly at the assembled Billy Batson Fan Club. This group was new, since the original had been formed back in the 1940s before he fell into the Sivana-created Suspendium trap that left him and many others in a trance for twenty years. However, since he had become a TV reporter on station WHIZ, young Billy had gained many more fans.

Holy moley! he thought nervously as he gazed out at the audience. TV really draws a big crowd. I thought radio couldn’t be beat, but I guess for this generation, pictures mean everything!

A pretty girl in a pink dress and high heels waited by the podium, shooting him looks of frustration. Her name was Cissie Sommerly, and she was Billy’s girlfriend. She was acting as mistress of ceremonies tonight and was irriated that Billy had just missed his cue.

He finally rushed out and said, “Hi, folks!”

Soon, his nervousness fled as he related a Captain Marvel adventure to the thrilled members. A lovely young woman named Mary Bromfield nudged a young man and whispered to him, “Billy’s a real ham when he gets started. Just watch my brother work the crowd.”

Freddy Freeman grinned. “Yes, Billy is surely not tongue-tied, which is good considering the nature of our powers.”

All three of the ever-youthful adults received magical power due to a transformation triggered by the shouting of various magic words. The being who had bestowed — or enabled Captain Marvel himself to bestow the powers — was called Shazam. Presently, this old wizard saw much that disturbed him as a strange craft from another Earth warped into view.

“They are coming, and they seek to meddle with forces no mortal should ever dare to touch. I must summon my family!”

Mary, Freddy, and Billy all stiffened as the mental voice echoed in their minds. “You are needed at the Rock of Eternity! Come forth, my Marvel Family!” Mary smoothed down her short blue skirt and led Freddy outside, while Billy rushed things to a quick close on stage.

“I guess that’s all we have time for tonight,” he said. “Thanks for coming, folks!” He rushed by a startled and still-staring Cissie, who found herself alone on stage in front of the still-present crowd.

“Uh, I could sing for you?” she said frantically.

Continued in Shazam’s Squadron of Justice: Times Past, 1984: Assault on Eternity

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