Blue Beetle and Booster Gold: Tomorrow Never Knows, Chapter 1: Project Auto

by Libbylawrence

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At the offices of Kord Omniversal Research & Development Inc., Ted Kord whistled as he carried a bowl of soup in one hand, balancing it while opening his office door. He almost dropped the bowl but caught it and then glanced left and right sheepishly as if to see how many people saw his near-disaster.

He grinned as he noticed his secretary glance studiously down at a memo and purse her lips in concentration. He rather liked that little quirk of hers. Not that he would tell his wife Tracey about it, but he got a real kick out of Miss Medley’s superb use of makeup. Poor Trace was just not the glamor-girl type, and he wouldn’t trade her for anyone, but he still had an appreciative eye for beauty, and Alice Medley was gorgeous in an appealing and approachable way. Memo to self, he thought. Give Alice another raise.

As he entered his office, he spotted a cocky-looking man in a blue and gold costume who was sitting in his chair with his boots propped up on his desk. He closed the door and said, “Booster, what are you doing? I have a secret identity — hence the mask! Why don’t you just paint a sign on my wall that says ‘action-hero inside’?”

Booster Gold grinned and said, “Easy, pal. I told Alice I was here to consult with you on a top-secret project. You know — as Ted Kord, boy genius. Nobody’s going to be the wiser. It’s not like you have the Squids on your payroll or anything. She let me in, because no one could doubt my credentials. I’d say she’s a fan, too.”

“She let you in because no one could doubt your ego,” said Ted. “Who else could pose as Booster Gold as well as you? You’re the only guy I know who needs a separate zip code for your ego.”

“I was surprised when Tracey told me you weren’t at the lab today,” said Booster. “I thought you practically lived there.”

“Most of the time, yes,” agreed Ted, who was still standing there holding his soup in his hands. “But KORD Inc. would still be a tiny research firm if I hadn’t spent at least some time at the head offices. Umm… Would you mind?”

Booster blinked for a moment, then suddenly stood up. “Oh, sorry, pal. Here, have a seat. What’s that stuff? Soup?”

Ted nodded. “Yeah, I’m eating in today. Not all of us can jet off to Paris for lunch with starlets. I’ve got bills to pay.”

“You wound me,” said Booster. “And I happen to spend some of my time in the boardroom, too. Booster Gold International doesn’t run itself, you know.”

“No, it doesn’t,” agreed Ted. “Dirk Davis runs BGI.”

“Touché,” said Booster. “Actually, I came by to ask you if you’d like to get a bite to eat. My treat.”

“Sorry, I’m eating in,” said Ted. “Thanks, though. As long as you’re here, why don’t I order something for you?”

“No, thanks — I’m not the fast-food type,” said Booster. “By the way, your secretary is a real babe. You know, I bet she’d look great in a costume.”

Ted smiled and said, “You know, you really need to get out more. I think you’re starting to become a bit action-hero-centric.”

“You made that word up,” said Booster. “Still, you know what I mean. Alice is a looker.”

Ted took a sip of his hot soup and frowned. “Shouldn’t you be getting back to your own company soon, Booster? Flirt all you want with your own secretary, why don’t you? Or has Trixie Collins finally took you to court on a sexual harassment suit?”

“Oh, har-de-har-har,” drolled Booster. “You know Trixie and I are strictly business, though she’s secretly crazy about me. But getting back to Alice — is she seeing anyone?”

“Yes,” said Ted. “In addition to being beautiful, smart, and almost supernaturally efficient, Alice is going steady with a co-worker — Eric Yamaguchi.”

Booster sighed in mock dismay. “It figures. Too bad — she sure is a sweetheart. Dresses great, too.”

Ted nodded in agreement. “Yes, I’m glad she’s so nice. Otherwise, even a wife as understanding as Tracey might become a bit jealous. Actually, Tracey and Alice are real pals. They jog together some mornings.”

Booster nodded, then changed the topic, asking, “Hey, have you heard anything from Son of Vulcan lately? None of the other Sentinels can find him. Skeets did a computer-search thingie, and Nightshade got Phantom Lady to work some magic, but they came up bling.”

“That’s blank,” corrected Ted. “You really need to work on your twentieth-century slang.” As he quickly consumed his soup, he added, “Oh, and I’ve had no luck with Vulcan, either. He’s been AWOL from work as the Monitor for weeks. His alter ego Johnny Mann has been missing, too.”

“I suppose we’d better get the team together and try to pin him down,” said Booster.

“Yes, we’ve neglected that for too long,” agreed Ted. Before they could continue their conversation, a loud crash echoed from outside. Ted jumped up. “Oh, great — we’re under attack.”

Booster grinned and said, “You should thank the attacker. He may save you from a case of terminal indigestion.

***

From the personal diary of Alice Medley, entry from 1966, twenty years earlier:

I know what my sister would say if she saw this diary. She would roll her eyes and make some cutting remark about how I’m setting the women’s lib movement back ten years by conforming to yet another female stereotype by using a diary complete with a floral-patterned cover and pink paper. I would reply lightning-quick with the question: “Since when have you been dairy-intolerant? Don’t you drink milk?”

She would then shake her head and say something like my sense of humor was weird. Still, I like the look and feel of this diary, and I’m not too proud to say that I like pink. (Kelly refuses to wear pink. She would probably find a Betty Friedan quote about it being the perpetuation of a harmful stereotype about women.)

In any event, I like pink. I like the idea of putting my private thoughts down on paper. I suppose it would be more professional to write on a word processor or use some oh-so-sterile black notebook, but I’m not that kind of girl. I like little feminine touches of color, and I truly don’t think that you have to strictly avoid that kind of decorative style to be an independent working woman.

I get a new boss today. Mr. Kord, the very solemn founder of Kord Inc., is leaving for an extended trip abroad, and his son Ted is supposed to take over. It is so strange that Mr. Kord has no personal pictures in his office or on his desk. I don’t even know what his son looks like, but I’ve heard that he is nice. I just hope he isn’t a wolf. While I laughed at Kelly for always going on about stereotypes, I do not want to end up being one myself! I don’t want to spend my days being pinched on the rear or chased around my desk by an amorous executive!

Entry from the next day:

The younger Kord is a delightful man! Ted insists on being called Ted. He is pleasant and has a good sense of humor. He combines the inventive mind of a genius with the good-natured humanity of a regular guy. He brings in doughnuts and stops to chat. He even likes the same kind of humor that I do; Bob Newhart appeals to him, too! I’m going to like working for him!

***

Ted Kord quickly changed into the colorful costume of his heroic alter ego of the Blue Beetle and followed Booster Gold as he headed for the office window.

“Man, something is really going wild down there!” said Booster. “It’s like a human earthquake!”

Blue Beetle nodded and grabbed his friend’s arm as the hero from the future flew out of the window. “You sure called this one correctly. Look at the cracks in the pavement,” said the Beetle.

Booster swooped down, and the friends landed next to a shattered space on the company’s paved compound. “Well, our visitor’s not being too careful about hiding a trail,” said Booster.

Blue Beetle nodded and said, “No, we can’t file this one under subtle or stealthy.” They hurried forward and came to a hole in one wall. “There are offices right beyond that wall! People could be hurt!” cried the Blue Beetle. Gone was his customary banter as he worried about the safety of the men and women in his employ.

They ran inside, and the Beetle drew in his breath with relief as he noticed the office had been evacuated. “Thank goodness!” he whispered.

“My infrared sensor is picking up a heat pattern ahead and to the right!” said Booster. “Looks like our invader has stopped smashing through walls and is using doors like normal folks now.”

“Humanoid?” said Blue Beetle. “Tell me he’s not the size of Paul Bunyan!”

Booster frowned and said, “Who?”

“A big guy!” said the Beetle. “Is the attacker a giant?”

“Oh, like the guy who sells corn on the cartoon ads!” said Booster. “No. She’s shorter than you and decidedly curvy.”

They caught up with the intruder as she shattered the elevator doors with a dramatic gesture.

“Magnetism!” said Blue Beetle.

“Yeah, she’s hot, all right,” said Booster Gold. He grabbed the girl, but she slammed him across the room with surprising strength and speed.

As she emerged from the shadows and Booster cushioned his impact with a hastily projected force-field, the girl’s remarkable nature became more apparent.

She stood about five feet, two inches tall, and her skin was a brilliant shade of indigo. Her hair was bright pink and was styled in a pixie-cut with bangs. She wore a two-piece costume that consisted of a gray halter top and matching miniskirt with boots.

Blue Beetle knew his friend’s abilities well enough not to need to check on his status as he dived forward and said, “Stop, lady! What do you want here?”

The girl, for she had a decidedly youthful appearance in spite of her odd coloration, opened her pink lips and said, “I am Indigo. I seek Project Auto.”

“You’re a robot!” said Blue Beetle. “Your voice is like something inhumanly cold and emotionless.”

“I seek Project Auto,” she repeated.

“Project Auto?” said Blue Beetle. “There’s nothing like that here. We don’t manufacture cars.”

The robotic girl frowned with strikingly human realism and raised her palms.

“Get down, Beetle!” yelled Booster.

But Blue Beetle was already in motion, and he flipped nimbly backward and avoided the energy-blast that erupted from her hands and narrowly failed to strike him. The beams instead struck an alcove and shattered the façade to rubble.

Booster Gold rushed forward and aimed an energy bolt of his own. It struck the girl, and she whirled to press both hands into a conference table and then hurl it at the hero. Booster caught it and lowered it to the ground as the girl vanished. “She’s gone!” he said. “My sensors pick up zero.”

“Maybe she’s upstairs,” said Blue Beetle. “She seemed to be heading that way when we caught up with her.”

“Teleportation?” suggested Booster. “What else can she do? She’s super-strong, generates energy and magnetism, and now she teleports.”

“I know,” said Blue Beetle. “I bet she does a mean lambada, too, but we still have to stop her. There’s no automotive project in this complex.”

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