by CSyphrett and Doc Quantum
After gathering a number of supplies from Professor Rodor’s private arsenal, the Question and Son of Vulcan had traveled from Crown City, USA, to a place just outside a hidden facility in Kenya using a Mount Olympus portal. The pair watched for a while as men and vehicles went back and forth under camouflage netting.
“Wouldn’t even know it was here, if not for the map from the files,” said Son of Vulcan.
“Let me guess — you create a distraction while I take a look around?” said the Question.
“You see, that’s why we make such good partners,” said Son of Vulcan with a broad smile. “We think alike.”
“Right,” drolled the Question. “Give me a chance to get next to the wall and then cause your ruckus.”
The Question stealthily crept closer to his goal, easily passing by the security arrays in place. He checked his watch. It was one more minute before his distraction would begin. He waited patiently on the plain, blending in with the grasses. Then there was a sonic boom at ground level.
The faceless crime-fighter ran forward as his comrade attacked with a mace and shield. The sounds of battle and the shearing of steel carried to the Question as he went for the nerve center of the place as surgically as a scalpel. He shoved open the door with a gloved hand as the men inside were trying to bring mechanical firepower to bear on the Son of Vulcan. One man tried to shout a warning, but the crime-fighter kicked, silencing him suddenly. The others recognized the threat but reacted too late as the masked man fell on them and disposed of them efficiently and quickly.
The Question loaded a floppy disk into the drive and waited patiently. A pirated signal sent everything he found to Sentinels of Justice Headquarters.
At Checkmate headquarters, Sarge Steel looked at the satellite pictures that were being loaded on his operation center’s monitors. A portable phone was at his ear.
“We’re getting it, too, Zastrow,” he said. “Kenya. Pictures show that Son of Vulcan is on the ground, ripping things up. The Question is the one who sent the transmission the Sentinels relayed to us. My team is ready to launch as soon as we get a clear target. I can arrange transport. Cost you? Nothing. It’s a favor. Don’t be paranoid. Right. No problem. See you in Geneva in a few days.” Steel hung up the phone. He smiled slightly.
Zastrow was no-nonsense and a pro. He would cooperate in the short term to advance the Soviet Union. The world was as far out of Zastrow’s view as Steel’s own. The CIA agent turned Checkmate director was only interested in helping the world as it applied to furthering America’s interest against its enemies. That was something he had learned at the cost of his hand and something he expected from his people.
Peter Cannon had contacted the Sentinels of Justice in New York and passed on the information on the disks he had taken from the Mars Council. He was now waiting with some impatience for Captain Atom to call back, almost regretting that he’d become involved at all. He had not been able to piece together what had been on the disks, but he knew something huge was going on.
“A call from New York,” said Tabu, handing Cannon the telephone.
“Hello?” he said.
“Hi Peter,” said Captain Atom. “Thanks for the information you sent us. Blue Beetle has been working with Sarge Steel to find a location for the Mars Council.”
“Good,” said Cannon. “Then you’ve got everything well in hand. Best of luck.”
“Wait,” Captain Atom said. “Peter, I know you’re a reservist, but we’d like you to help out on the case. An American jet will be arriving in Shanghai with two Russian action-heroes in twenty-four hours. Could you join them for their next destination?”
Peter Cannon inwardly groaned and tried to hide his displeasure. His action-hero friends were already too aware of his reluctance to play hero. “Very well, Captain,” said Cannon. “Now can you tell me where we’ll be going?”
“Hank Hennessy will explain everything when he arrives,” said Captain Atom.
Twenty-four hours later, Peter Cannon was wearing his Thunderbolt outfit and waiting impatiently at the Hong Kong International Airport for his guests. The black domino mask he wore did not cover his frown. The plane descended on time, and Thunderbolt went to meet his guests.
A one-armed, one-eyed man walked from the plane. “Name’s Hennessy,” said the veteran. “I’m your escort for the flight. And these are our Russian guests.” He gestured behind him at the two strange-looking individuals walking up to meet them.
The first was the world-famous Redstar, who smiled at Cannon. The second was a stranger. His metallic limbs gleamed like bronze in the tropical sun. Thunderbolt saw that a smile was impossible for that cast-iron face. He waved at the Tibetan-born American action-hero when he stepped off the plane. Redstar explained his name was Svarog.
Australia, a few hours later:
A Sgt. Benson from the Australian Special Branch met the Americans and the intrepid Communist heroes with a hearty “G’day, mates,” as they deplaned from the American jet. He wore a broad smile as he introduced the Creature Kid, who patiently waited for the four men.
“Hello,” said Redstar, smiling. “Where are we going next?”
“Don’t know, mate,” said the Creature Kid. “F.O. is supposed to send the details while we are in flight.”
“Shall we board?” said Hank Hennessy. “We have to make one more pick up before we get ready for the real thing.”
“Where is this pick up?” asked Thunderbolt, idly wondering what the Russians thought about traveling with so many capitalist agents.
“Kenya,” said Hennessy. “Shall we go, gentlemen?”
The Question stood with his hands on his hips, surveying the damage his partner had done. He had to admit that the Son of Vulcan had been effective. The place was leveled as far as he could see. Men were wrapped in pieces of metal and wire. Son of Vulcan dusted his hands as he walked away from his handiwork. He wore a smile.
The faceless crime-fighter’s eyes picked out an approaching jet. He dropped into the grass, becoming one with the landscape as much as possible. He saw U.S. markings on the plane as it flew over. The plane descended and dropped to a landing on vertical jets. A door opened on the side, and a folding ladder was kicked out.
A man with one arm stepped out of the plane first. He stepped out of the way to let Thunderbolt and then the familiar Soviet counterpart of Captain Atom to pass. Redstar? the Question thought to himself, wondering why a commie agent was traveling with a Sentinels reservist on a U.S. jet. He had always wondered where Peter Cannon’s sympathies lay. The Question stepped into the open as two strangers disembarked.
Son of Vulcan, recognizing all of them, walked up to the five men with a friendly smile. “I’m glad to see at least one Sentinel here as per our request for assistance,” he said. “But what brings the rest of you here?” He turned and smiled at the Soviet hero. “Pleasure to meet you, Redstar.”
“Pleasure is mine, I am sure,” said the nuclear man. “My government has simply requested that my comrade Svarog and I assist the Sentinels in this case. The Mars Council’s reach is wide.”
“Yes, it certainly is,” said Son of Vulcan, taken aback by the fact that things had progressed so far since he had last sat in his monitoring seat on Mount Olympus. In the short time since he had been the world’s overseer, he had become used to seeing events as they happen. Much had obviously happened over the last several hours that he was unaware of. He hated to admit it, but he would have to decide one day whether to continue as Earth-Four’s full-time Monitor or return to the life of an action-hero.
“Captain Atom sent us,” said the one-armed man. “Your efforts against the Mars Council have been paralleled in the Soviet Union, Hong Kong, and Australia by these three here. We thought we would help you with the final stage of the operation. We’ll explain everything in flight.”
Later, as the jet took off for a destination south, the assembled heroes waited patiently inside for things to begin. Hank Hennessy stood in front of a briefing screen. Final approach data had been deciphered and sent from Sarge Steel in Washington.
“We have a target location,” Hennessy said, lighting up the screen. “As you can see, the base is in Antarctica. We’ve positioned a satellite to give us some kind of reconnaissance before we land. Our L.Z., depending on weather conditions, is right here. We hope to land the jet and travel overland to the site. We then hope to arrest everyone we can grab.”
“And this joint mission with the Soviets has been approved by whom?” asked the Question, his blank mask of pseudoderm hiding his features, if not his suspicion.
“The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.N. Security Council,” said Hennessy. “A motion has already been put forth about a global action-hero coordination and response agency, and the member countries want to see what a prototype run will be like.”
“Interesting,” remarked the Question. “If I didn’t know better, it would seem that the Mars Council’s actions had been planned by the United Nations.”
“You’re in the same ballpark but totally off the mark,” the one-armed, one-eyed former leader of the Fightin’ Five said. “Plans for this global action-hero agency have been in the works since the Crisis. The U.N. simply acted quickly to seize on the Mars Council situation to test the waters. No conspiracy here.”
The Question made no response.