by CSyphrett and Doc Quantum
“Greetings, John Mann,” said a chilly voice.
The Son of Vulcan turned his head slightly from his scrying cauldrons to examine his visitor. He recognized him instantly as a watcher of humanity’s struggle who had not been known to interfere except in small cases before the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Those who knew of him called him the Mysterious Traveler.
“Hello, Traveler,” said the overseer of the world. “What can I do for you?”
“Reality as you know it is about to be disrupted,” said the man in the trench coat and fedora. “The world as it is now is merely the calm before the storm, and it will need the help of your former comrades to combat several impending threats.”
“Yes,” agreed the Son of Vulcan after a moment’s thought. “I’ve seen augurs of the future as well that point to such threats. The team will soon be needed in full force, but each of them seems too preoccupied with their own lives to realize how important the Sentinels of Justice is to the world.”
“Perhaps a slight push could lead them to make that conclusion themselves,” the Traveler wryly suggested. “A group of criminals from the future is about to cause damage to the time continuum, if they are not stopped. They have visited two other eras already in search of their quest, and they are about to arrive here searching for the last piece of the puzzle. They may yet succeed, unless the Sentinels of Justice intervene.”
John Mann was silent for a moment, frowning. He was not sure if he understood the Mysterious Traveler correctly. He seemed to be taking a more direct role in events than he was previously known to do, and Mann wondered if the Traveler had been changed somehow by the events of the Crisis. “Well, I can alert the team to meet you at its headquarters. I won’t be able to help you further than that.”
“No further help is necessary,” said the Mysterious Traveler placidly. With a slight smile and a tip of his hat, he turned and added, “The Sentinels won’t be able to stop the reality disruption, you know.” He then vanished into the dark shadows.
“I know,” said the Son of Vulcan.
The Sentinel Building was a historical brownstone located in the heart of Manhattan. It had sustained a great deal of damage by attacks from super-villains several days ago during the Crisis, and a crew of workers was currently aiding its reconstruction. (*) Despite the unfinished look of the building, it still acted as the current headquarters of the Sentinels of Justice.
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War, Chapter 4: Earth-Four Got.]
At the top floor of the building, the core membership of the Sentinels now gathered in the meeting room to listen to their guest. Some of them had met the Mysterious Traveler in the past, but he remained as mysterious as ever. Still, the Sentinels knew that he was a reliable source of information.
The Mysterious Traveler said, “I requested this gathering because I have learned that criminals from the future will soon arrive in search of an artifact. They must not achieve their ends.”
“Do you know what these criminals can do?” asked the Question, always the first to get down to the details.
“Yes,” said the Traveler, “and you will be well-matched against them. I cannot tell you much more about them.”
“You’ve told us nearly nothing,” said Captain Atom. “Can you shed any more light on them?”
The Mysterious Traveler said, “There are six of them in all. They are going after a piece of an ancient weapon recently unearthed in China by the Museum of Natural History and brought here for further study. If that weapon is assembled, this group will become a threat to the entire time continuum. This piece is called the Dragon’s Breath.”
“The museum has the piece now?” asked Nightshade.
“Yes,” said Captain Atom, turning to her with the same look of concern he’d had since her ordeal days earlier. “I was able to confirm that with my contacts this morning on the way here.”
Nightshade shrugged, doing her best to ignore his concern, which only irritated her at this point. “So why don’t we just substitute the real Dragon’s Breath with a look-alike?”
The Mysterious Traveler shook his head. “It has a signature,” he explained.
“So these future criminals can track it wherever we take it?” the Question clarified.
“That is correct,” said the Mysterious Traveler. “And that is all I can tell you.” At that, the Traveler turned and disappeared into the shadows.
After he left, Blue Beetle turned to the others, a huge grin on his face, and said, “I have a plan.”
“Do you?” said the Question, recognizing the mischief that lay behind his brilliant friend’s smile. “This I’ve got to hear.”
As the Blue Beetle laid his plan out for his fellow action-heroes and they discussed it, no one seemed to notice that two figures were listening in from the rooftop. The first was a woman of slight stature dressed all in blue chainmail and red boots. The second was a man dressed in black from head to toe with a skull and crossbones insignia on his chest. Since the building was still being repaired, the security systems were momentarily down, allowing these figures to overhear the plan as well. They silently nodded to each other in agreement as they overheard the details.
The Mysterious Traveler had approached Marian Garrett and the new Black Fury separately only a few hours before, requesting their appearance at the Sentinel Building. Only now did they realize the reason. The four Sentinels would be outnumbered by the six criminals from the future.
The new Blue Beetle and Black Fury would thus even the odds for the Sentinels, even if the team would never know it. The Traveler had requested that neither of them show themselves during the battle. It was the Sentinels’ time.
The Museum of Natural History closed on time that evening as usual. Inside, the team of Sentinels had taken guard positions around the last artifact from an ancient museum. The Black Fury stood watch unseen from a nearby rooftop, keeping an eye on the crowd walking by on the street below. As the sun went down, he spotted a group of five strange individuals approaching the building dressed in ragged clothes. One had blood on his coat. They walked up to the door of the closed building. One of them tried the door, but when it was discovered to be locked, the woman in the group simply made a gesture with her hands, and the door swung open on its own. The five criminals from the future went inside.
Taking aim with a line thrower, the Black Fury descended to the street in a controlled plummet. He landed lightly, pausing to let the burglars head for their goal. He would act when the Sentinels needed his aid — if they needed his aid. It was a shame that his new partner, Street Hawk, was still on the mend; he knew the kid would have loved to take part in this. He practically worshiped the Sentinels of Justice.
The new crime-fighter glided along behind the thieves with readiness, watching as the group went right for the Chinese exhibit. He had already considered means and ways, and he would take aim at the apparent leader if he had to take part in the fighting.
The group paused in the room with the gold piece sculpture. One of the men, who happened to be transparent, lifted the covering off the case and picked up the sculpture. He frowned in disappointment, explaining, “It’s not real.”
“No, it isn’t,” agreed Captain Atom. “And you fellows have kept me waiting for too long.”
“Don’t forget the rest of us,” said the Question in his trench coat, hat, and blank mask of pseudoderm. He forcefully slammed one of the newcomers in the head with the flat of his hand.
The transparent man who led the group looked at the Sentinels in dismay, commanding, “Take them.” His name was Ivan Kriss, and he was a direct descendant of the Soviet Union’s Redstar, whose bloodline would eventually produce wild mutations. The two teams picked their opponents and separated into single combat.
The Question pulled a blonde man with a gun closer to hit him in the head again before he could use his weapon. Although he didn’t know it, the mercenary from the future was named Day Cordell, and he was known in his time to be as resourceful a man as the faceless crime-fighter himself. Anyone battling him would have to be quick in order to best him.
Captain Atom faced a crazed opponent who leaped at him with his flaming hands burning for blood. This was the psychopathic killer called Elias Gore, and he laughed maniacally as he seized the opportunity to kill not only Nathaniel Adam himself but also all of his descendants in one fell swoop.
The slender Nightshade squared off with a slim martial artist away from their teammates. The man she fought called himself Thunderbolt, and for good reason. His name was Duncan Cannon, and he was a direct descendant of Peter Cannon. While Peter had been taught the ability to use the full force of his mind to accomplish amazing things, his descendants had managed to push their accomplishments much further. Duncan, the shame of his noble family, was able to project a beam of silver energy from his eyes.
“Why am I stuck fighting a woman — and a witch, at that?” said Blue Beetle, taking aim with his BB-gun as a brunette sorceress began to recite a spell at him. She was called the Black Queen, and unlike the Beetle, she took magic very seriously. It was her magical powers that had saved her little group of criminals several times already during their travels to two other eras.
Above, a disruption in the air marked the flight path of an unseen sixth figure. This was Jane Birde, and she was a powerful psionic able to become invisible and fly, as well as create blasts of energy and invisible force fields with her mind. She was also a mute and was forced to communicate through nonverbal means.
“Lady Bug,” whispered the Black Fury into his two-way radio. “See the disruption above the group? Keep it busy.”
“The name’s Blue Beetle,” replied Marian Garrett over the radio, “and I’m on it.” She soared into the air after the invisible flying woman.
The transparent time traveler named Ivan Kriss turned to survey the battle site and spotted the Black Fury standing in the hall leading to the door out of the building. The black-cowled figure pointed some kind of wrist-mounted weapon at him, and Kriss instantly decided to abandon his partners. He would try for the Dragon’s Breath after the fighting was over. He ran for the door, trusting in his invulnerability; after all, he was nothing but a shape without mass.
Without hesitation, the Black Fury fired his line gun at the charging Ivan Kriss. The metallic rope would have wrapped around anyone else, but it sailed through the transparent man, pinning him like a butterfly on a collector’s board.
The Question and Day Cordell had become enmeshed in a struggle for each other’s throat. Cordell punched his enemy in the jaw, pushing him away, and then the mercenary went for the pistol belted to his waist. He brought the heavy laser up to deal with the fallen Question, but the faceless crime-fighter reached out with nothing but his fists and viciously grasped Cordell by the eye sockets and nostrils and squeezed. The mercenary screamed before losing consciousness and falling back against the wall, eyes rolling up in his head. The Question took a moment to ensure he was out before selecting a new target.
Duncan Cannon summoned the power that was his birthright as a Thunderbolt. His slender female opponent wouldn’t stand in his way for long; he had to help Jane against the birdlike newcomer he spotted above. Cannon struck once, twice, three times, but since Nightshade had already turned into her intangible shadow form, the blows were ineffectual. She smiled at him a moment before she became solid once more, and she swung her hand faster than Cannon had believed her capable. He flew through the air before slamming against the display case the false piece had been resting in. Cannon slumped quietly amidst the debris.
Marian Garrett, the new Blue Beetle of Detroit, had managed to distract Jane Birde from the fight below. Energy poured from the future villainess in waves as she sought to entrap the new action-heroine, but Marian had managed to stymie the psionic’s efforts through the quick reflexes given to her by the scarab. The sound of breaking glass then distracted Jane, especially when she saw Duncan Cannon laying so still below, and she turned her back on her foe. Marian took that moment to use her super-strength to strike her from behind, knocking her out. She threw her hands out and gently lowered the invisible woman to the ground next to Cannon.
Halfway through her incantation, the Black Queen would free herself and her friends if she finished casting the spell. But the Blue Beetle didn’t plan on giving her the time for that and pulled the trigger on his BB-gun, causing a concentrated sonic boom to disrupt the spell even as it flung the witch up into a wall. She fell to the floor, dazed by the attack. The Beetle swooped down and gagged and bound her with strands he kept in his costume. “So much for magic,” he muttered to the unconscious witch.
Elias Gore swiped at Captain Atom’s face with his burning hands, but the hero knocked them away as he waited for an opening. The psychopathic killer had flown into a berserker rage and was swinging both arms with everything he had. Finally, one of Gore’s swings left a hole in his defenses for a split second. Captain Atom took that moment to direct the attacking arm to one side with a push from his hand, the other hand delivering a short atomic-powered punch to the berserker’s ribs.
The time traveler was thrown off his stride for a moment, which was all Captain Atom needed. He threw several more punches into Gore’s midsection and rib cage, bending the killer over. Atom then brought the edge of his hand down across the back of the other’s neck. The berserker crashed to the floor. He tried to get up, but another atomic-powered chop from Captain Atom stopped that and sent him into blackness. The action-hero looked around and smiled. His team held the field.
Suddenly, a golden figure flew into the room, landing beside the captive Ivan Kriss and plucking a half-completed statuette from the transparent man’s breast pocket. A bubble of energy surrounded the golden puzzle for several long seconds. When the bubble vanished, the statuette had gone with it.
“Who in the hell is this?” demanded the Question.
“Hold on,” said Captain Atom, with an expression of pleased surprise. “He’s… a friend. I met him once, back in the early ’60s.”
“Really? How fascinating,” said Ezekiel Adam with a smile. Addressing the team, he said, “I have been chasing this group. They have done some damage, but history is apparently intact.”
“That thing you melted,” asked Captain Atom, “what was that?”
“A chance at godhood for the wrong person,” said Adam. “Thanks to you, that’s over now.”
“Do you want these criminals?” asked the Question.
Ezekiel Adam said, “I’ll take them with me, if you don’t mind. They have much to answer for in my time.”
“They’re yours,” said Captain Atom. “We don’t need any more felons here.”
“Thank you,” said Adam. “And I look forward to meeting you in the early 1960s, Captain.” He extended his aura around the fallen villains and concentrated. The whole group vanished in a flash of light.
“Time travel,” said Blue Beetle. “Always gives me a headache to think about it.”
Nightshade nodded her head. “I wonder if we’ll ever hear the full story behind this attempted heist from the future. The Mysterious Traveler is usually more forthcoming about the full story, or so I’ve heard.”
“It could be that the details from the future have to be kept secret in the present,” suggested Blue Beetle.
“If, that is, they really were from the future,” said the Question. “How do we really know the Traveler was telling us the truth? We don’t know anything about him.”
“We’ll just have to take him at his word. He’s never lied to me before,” said Captain Atom. He turned to the others. “We worked really well together against these future criminals, despite not knowing anything about them. That brings up a question. Do the rest of you want to get back into the world-saving business as a team?” he asked.
“Let’s talk about it over some pizza,” said Blue Beetle, smiling.
The Sentinels of Justice departed in a group, eagerly brainstorming and making plans. They had all seen how relevant teamwork had been, and the lesson would not be lost on them in the future.
On the rooftop above, the Black Fury was joined by Marian Garrett, who had been flying overhead. “I wish we could talk to them,” the Blue Beetle of Detroit said. “Tell them how we helped them out.”
“I know what you mean,” said the Black Fury. “But this is their time to shine. Our moment will come soon enough.” He smiled beneath his cowl as he watched the Sentinels of Justice stroll down the street together, reunited as a team just as the Mysterious Traveler had planned.
On Mount Olympus, the Son of Vulcan watched the scene through one of many scrying cauldrons that the gods had created for him. Although he had only worked with the Sentinels of Justice once or twice since the initial case that banded the team together in 1968, he was glad that it was starting over and would persevere.
At that time, the team had gathered to stop a dangerous man from gaining absolute power in a situation not dissimilar from the case that had now reunited the Sentinels. One evil man had gathered a group of the most dangerous villains this world had ever known to retrieve several mystical objects for him from various museums, and it was up to Captain Atom, Nightshade, the Blue Beetle, the Question, Thunderbolt, the Peacemaker, and the Son of Vulcan to stop him. The seven action-heroes decided after the case was over that they had worked well as a team, and it was worth banding together on occasion in order to fight menaces that none of them could handle alone.
The name of the Sentinels of Justice was suggested, since it was a heroic name that was similar to one used by a trio of young heroes called the Sensational Sentinels, who had disbanded by that time. Captain Atom had been recognized by all as the natural leader of the team, and Nightshade, the Blue Beetle, and the Question became the core members, with Thunderbolt and the Peacemaker joining the team on cases only occasionally. As for himself, despite his best efforts to join the team on cases, the Son of Vulcan’s power to transform into the action-hero had been sporadic at best by then and became even worse in years to come, and he only worked with the team once more in a case in the 1970s. As he thought about it, it seemed to him that he worked with the team again sometime in the early 1980s, but for the life of him he couldn’t recall the circumstances. (*) The team’s list of reserve members grew as other action-heroes worked with them on occasion, including Judomaster II, E-Man, the Shape, and the members of Femme Force One, but the core team of four remained the same.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Times Past, 1982: Crisis on Earth-Four.]
And now the world needed them again, he knew, more than ever. Reality itself was threatened, and the team needed to be in top form to do whatever they could to weather the coming storm.
Sighing, John Mann couldn’t help but feel somewhat jealous. After all, he knew, in his role as Earth-Four’s Monitor, his days as an action-hero were behind him. He had barely had enough time after he first became the Son of Vulcan to even establish a reputation for himself.
Still, who was to say he couldn’t act more directly to combat unusual threats that only he could detect using his scrying pools? There were rules in place against his interference in the course of mankind’s destiny, but certainly as long as he stayed within the rules there would be no problem. The Son of Vulcan consoled himself with that idea and went back to studying the various heroes of this world.
Earth-Four was starting over, and he was just glad to be there to watch as it happened.