Hours later, Booster Gold was rocketing beneath the waves in search of a lost city straight out of fairy tales. His colorful gold and blue costume now consisted of an additional breathing device around his normal helmet. He made his way down until the depth and pressure would have crushed any non-protected man.
Before beginning his quest, Booster had made contact with Navy Jones of the Undersea Kingdom, who had offered to provide him any assistance he needed to find Dr. Harvey. Although the former mystery-man was now in his late sixties and no longer fighting the Kingdom’s enemies personally, Jones had an army of gill-men at his command as the royal consort of Queen Coral. He also offered to contact his nephew David Jones, the hero known as the Undersea Agent, for help. (*) The corporate crusader had thanked him and simply asked him to keep an eye out for any suspicious characters in the Kingdom, since he still had no idea who was behind the kidnapping plot.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Sink the Carrier Gettysburg,” Undersea Agent #1 (January, 1966).]
Booster had also made a quick call to the satellite headquarters of the Sentinels of Justice for help. The new Liberty Belle had answered the call, and she vowed to protect Dr. Sharpe in Booster’s absence.
That platinum blonde is a real babe — too bad this is such a desperate situation, thought Booster as he torpedoed underwater. But as he headed for the coordinates of the capital city of the Undersea Kingdom, he realized that the tracker emitting its signal from another direction. He changed course, and in a while he reached what seemed to be an ancient city of the lost continent of Atlantis, which slowly emerged into view from layers of coral and murky haze. Although it was apparently a dead city, it was covered by a massive dome.
This is where the tracker’s signal is coming from, thought Booster. I suppose there could be many of these underground cities around, all part of the Undersea Kingdom. Dr. Harvey is inside. I can’t believe this place is even real. I mean, I’ve heard about such underwater cities from the adventures of guys like Captain Nemo, Undersea Agent, and Carter Primus, but somehow I never imagined that I’d be seeing a lost city of Atlantis in person.
Booster Gold noticed that the dome covered a series of ornately designed buildings. Just as he had suspected, none of them seemed to contain any sign of life. It was a rather ghostly scene, making him think of Poe’s poem, “The City in the Sea.” Creepy place, he mused. I guess I shouldn’t have expected a Disney theme park version.
He passed directly through one part of the dome in surprise. “This is weird,” he said in his helmet microphone. “I know the dome is solid, yet I was able to swim right through it.”
Skeets replied via his own connection to the helmet comm-link. “Booster, I can only surmise that we were allowed to enter because the master of this place wishes us to do so.”
Booster smiled ruefully. “Yeah, well, maybe our mystery enemy is a fan. My commercial spots have been big globally. Maybe he has cable.”
The corporate crusader finally reached what appeared to be the palace. This castle-like structure was older than the other buildings and had a central location, speaking of a regal power as well as a cruel desire to flaunt such power. He passed into the palace in the same manner that he had entered the domed city to begin with, and he came to a large chamber with a throne. There, a thin old man sat upon the throne, his evil eyes darting left and right as Booster Gold drew closer. The hero realized that the chamber was somehow filled with oxygen; the man obviously breathed air as well as water.
“Welcome, surface man. I am Dr. Anton Berchtoldt, the greatest scientific genius in the world. You have come to liberate the scientist Dr. Harvey. You shall not do so. All that occurs here in glorious Atlantis is determined purely by the will and the power that is Dr. Berchtoldt. I have suffered you to come this far in order that you may amuse me with the nature of your sudden and painful demise.”
Booster Gold studied the man with white hair, a white mustache and goatee, and heavily lidded, crazed-looking eyes. He wore a red cloak over his thin frame and seemed supremely self-satisfied. Booster saw no sign of any royal guards, nor did he see the three android shark-men that had kidnapped Dr. Harvey.
“You must be wondering where my minions are. I have none, and that is the root of why I had my android pawns abduct the surface scientist. You see, I was originally a surface man myself, and as an expert in robotics, I sought to create a robotic army to conquer the world, until my hated enemy Navy Jones defeated me. (*) That was over forty years ago now, and my home has been here in the deep for many, many years. Long ago I made this outpost of ancient Atlantis my home base, keeping it hidden from everyone except those whom I wish to find me. The great civilization of Atlantis, which you see in ruins around you, once ruled the surface world of primitives, but time has changed that just as it has changed me. I hate what the surface world has become and all that it has done to my beloved ocean. I especially hate mankind. And so I created my own race of shark-men to replace mankind.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Navy Jones, The Green Mask #6 (August, 1941).]
“Combining my brilliant scientific genius with the remnants of ancient Atlantean science, I created my android shark-men, modeled after the enemies of the Undersea Kingdom that were destroyed by Navy Jones. But the metabolisms of the android shark-men require the life-giving stimulus of solar fire in order to become virtually immortal. By transferring my mind into the greatest of my android creations, I will gain immortality myself. And I will create an entire race of shark-men using Dr. Harvey’s modern science. This will give me the power to topple the hated rulers of the Undersea Kingdom and enable me to expand it into my own Hidden Empire. (*) Harvey thinks to use his science to restore the damaged ozone layer, but I will force him to use his process to do the reverse.”
[(*) Editor’s note: In an alternate timeline, the Undersea Kingdom does become the insidious Hidden Empire, as seen in “Hidden Empire,” Doomsday + 1 #4 (January, 1976).]
“You mean you want to destroy the ozone layer completely?” Booster said. “But that would kill everyone!”
Dr. Berchtoldt chuckled loudly. “Exactly, but not entirely correct. While the fiery rain would destroy the surface human race and most lifeforms across the planet, leaving the surface world barren, it would also empower my shark-men, and the golden glory that was lost Atlantis shall live anew in the Hidden Empire!”
“Well, get ready for a new weather report, you old jerk, because Booster Gold’s going to see to it that the forecast calls for the end of reign — your reign, that is!”
He charged the amused criminal scientist but gasped as a clap of the old man’s hands produced a hum from beneath the floor. As the floor slid open to reveal a massive chamber below, two giant hands reached up to grab Booster in a crushing grip.
“A giant android,” Skeets chimed in to say. “It appears to be a larger form of the android shark-men we saw earlier. I assume this is the android body Dr. Berchtoldt plans to transfer his mind into if he destroys the ozone layer.” The small flying robot flew closer and fired an energy blast at the behemoth, only to have the energy harmlessly deflect from off the gleaming, scaly green chest of the massive android. It had huge arms and legs, and the sharklike head was capped by a fin.
“This Tinker Toy with delusions of grandeur can’t hold a super-star like me for long,” cried Booster Gold as he activated his force-field and forced the giant hands to release him. He scrambled to the top of the android’s head fin, dodging a swinging hand that nearly crushed him like a fly. “That was close. Still, I’ve had worse shaves than that. My fan club almost tore me apart while they were caught up in Boostermania!” He fired his own energy beams but frowned when he noticed they had no effect.
Dr. Berchtoldt laughed from below. “You are weak, surface man. You are helpless against my might!”
Booster Gold slammed into the back of the android’s head and bounced off. He’s right, thought the action-hero. I’ve got to beat this thing by using my brains. I sure can’t take him down by brute strength.
Flying down, he tried to angle his flight so that he passed between the android’s legs. He managed to do so, but he saw no greater means of attack from below than he had from above. He then grabbed Dr. Berchtoldt and shook him by his red cloak. “OK, creep — shut down that oversized Go-Bot, or I’ll clean the floor with you!”
Dr. Berchtoldt shook his head and grinned broadly. “Dolt! Cretin! You cannot dictate terms to me! Besides, my little toy was never meant to do anything more than occupy you. My pawns have forced Dr. Harvey to create the device that will destroy the ozone layer. Nothing you do can change that.”
Booster Gold eyed the android as he moved around to confront him once more. “Nobody is in the driver’s seat. That thing must be directed by some type of remote signal. Skeets, can you detect such a broadcast and take it over?” he asked.
Skeets buzzed low and replied, “Good thinking, Booster. I am picking up such a signal, and I am attempting to override it now.”
Dr. Berchtoldt scowled as his android suddenly stopped and smashed a wall lined with machinery. “Clever of you, but still a paltry effort,” cried the criminal scientist.
“Now, where have you hidden Dr. Harvey?” demanded Booster.
Dr. Berchtoldt dived across the room with surprising agility for an old man. He said, “Activate the ozone depletion ray now!”
At that moment, a wall slid aside to reveal a turret-styled device and the hapless Dr. Harvey, who was being held by three android shark-men. “Help me!” he shouted. “That device will bring ruin upon us all! They made me create it!”
Booster Gold saw the device begin to glow as a thin tube elevated above the rest. “Can’t use my force-field to shield the whole surface world, much less the ozone layer, but just maybe I can use it to contain the energy beam before it ever reaches the surface.” He kicked one shark-man aside and belted another as Skeets forced the third aside with a well-placed energy bolt.
The action-hero stood over the device and activated his force-field, his proximity to the device allowing him to contain it within the force-field. He frowned as the area grew hotter. “That thing is creating a thermal draft of some kind. It’s starting to get to me, but I can’t drop the field or the earth dies.”
Dr. Anton Berchtoldt rushed over and smiled evilly. “My pawns will break through your field soon enough, or the sheer heat will melt your flesh to pulp!”
“Booster, he is right,” said Skeets. “You must drop the field, or the emanations will kill you.”
Booster Gold gritted his teeth and held firm. “I can’t give up now! I may be a corporate crusader, but when the chips are down, I do what I do for the common good. My life is not much to lose if it will save the world.”
“You show resolve,” Dr. Berchtoldt said. “Still, I will slay Harvey if you do not yield. Can you watch one man die because you were trying to save faceless millions?”
“Skeets, can you calibrate with my field?” said Booster. “The second I drop it, I want you to have that big android smash the device to scrap metal.”
The small golden robot zoomed closer and said, “Right, Booster. I await your signal.”
“No!” Dr. Berchtoldt shouted. “I will not be defeated by a callow surface man!”
Booster tensed a moment, then yelled, “Now!”
He dropped his force-field as Skeets commanded the android to crash into the device. An explosion shook the room as Booster hurled himself at Dr. Harvey and carried him across the chamber. He saw the android shark-men melt into green ooze as he and Skeets escaped from the burning palace.
“Dr. Berchtoldt would not flee. He raced deeper within the palace,” said Skeets.
They broke out of the palace and the domed city, even as the ancient structure collapsed into rubble. “The dome didn’t stop us,” said Booster. “I guess his previous setting still held.”
Booster Gold reached the surface and carried a relieved Dr. Harvey to land. “You’ll be OK now, sir. Berchtoldt and his mad plans for a Hidden Empire are buried beneath his own palace, all thanks to yours truly and my buddy Skeets,” he said with a smile.
“Thank goodness for you, young man,” said Dr. Harvey. “I shudder to imagine how my creation could have ruined modern civilization as we know it.”
“Hey, that’s what the guy who came up with disco thought, too,” said Booster.
Beneath the rubble in the ruins of the ancient Atlantean outpost, the body of the criminal scientist moved slightly as he struggled to escape. He had not been fatally injured, and he vowed to get revenge on his enemies in time.
“Booster Gold — your name will be honored by my foes as the one who bested the mighty Dr. Anton Berchtoldt. Still, the people of my Hidden Empire shall also remember it someday. It shall be remembered when their rightful ruler makes you regret your actions. You shall pay for this indignity. So swears Dr. Berchtoldt, the greatest scientific genius in the world!”
The action-hero was far away by that time, and he tried to remain cheerful even as Dr. Harvey continued his customary lectures about science. It was dull, but Booster Gold figured that was why he was a hero. He put up with things like that.