by CSyphrett and Doc Quantum
In Cuba, a gigantic plant rising miles into the sky threatened to first destroy the island nation and then take over the rest of the hemisphere, while across the world in Japan, a similar giant plant grew menacingly over that island nation. The Sentinels of Justice and the new team known as LAW, or the Living Assault Weapons, raced to these respective nations to stop the fantastic giants. But were they powerful enough? Would the giant plants signal the end of the world? The Sentinels of Justice did not know how or why these giants began attacking at different points around the globe. But I know. Nothing is unknown to the Mysterious Traveler.
How did these strange events begin? Come with me as we travel back in time two months ago to witness the events of November, 1985. It was then that two separate threads began to weave themselves into our tale. The first thread began in an apartment building in Orlando, Florida, not far from Cape Canaveral.
Witness a very powerful man at rest, asleep in this small but well-furnished apartment. You may have heard of him. He is United States Air Force Colonel Nathaniel Adam, but you know him better as Captain Atom. At any other time he is the leader of the Sentinels of Justice and possibly the greatest of the world’s heroes. For now, though, he is merely a man who wants to sleep. As you will soon see, however, the demands of the world will not allow him more than a moment’s respite.
A vibrating pager began buzzing, at first in short bursts, then more insistently in longer bursts, until a now-awake Colonel Adam finally threw his pillow at it. He was off-duty and wanted to sleep late. It vibrated against the end table until he picked it up and checked the number. Frowning, Adam picked up the telephone and triggered the speed-dial. He wondered briefly what kind of threat had to be dealt with now.
“Command,” said the familiar voice of his friend, Senior Master Sergeant Jeffery “Gunner” Goslin, who was manning the post back at the Captain Atom Project. Almost ever since then-Captain Nathaniel Adam of the USAF became the United States’ atomic-powered protector back in 1960, a special operator in Washington had manned a certain frequency day and night to contact Captain Atom. That duty had been formalized in 1968 as the Captain Atom Project, a specially manned project that provided Captain Atom with all available resources, briefed him on all possible dangers, and acted as a clean-up crew when necessary. Normally, Captain Atom would receive contact on a special frequency through the radio in his belt buckle. But Gunner was an old friend, and he knew Adam would be at home.
“What’s going on, Gunner?” Colonel Adam asked.
“Something bad is brewing in the North Atlantic off the coast of France, Nate,” said Goslin.
“Right,” said Adam, sitting up on the edge of his bed. “How bad is it?”
“Bad enough. The Russkies are getting Redstar ready to launch,” said the senior master sergeant.
Colonel Adam was speechless for a moment as he wondered what could make Moscow nervous enough to pull something like this off without, apparently, consulting the Dome. It was the responsibility of that special United Nations organization to coordinate international action-heroes for a crisis such as this one. (*) Time must be a crucial factor, he thought. “I’m coming in,” he sighed, knowing his planned day off was now out of the question. “Get everything you can together for me.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Sentinels of Justice: Watching the World.]
“Will do,” said Goslin. “Sat intel is coming in right now. And… Nate? Sorry about your day off.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll be there in a minute,” said Adam, hanging up the phone.
Nathaniel Adam stood and, still only in his boxers, walked over to the window. There, he closed his eyes and concentrated to release the energy charge that activated his familiar red, blue, and silver protective costume, and he donned a familiar pair of boots and shorts with a belt. With very little effort he made his body immaterial and easily passed through his apartment’s closed window.
In the air, he headed for the Captain Atom Project. Although his speed let him soar to the base in a matter of seconds, he often wished he had more time to take in the scenery. The earth was so beautiful from above.
As he touched down at the U.S. Air Force base hangar that housed the Project, Captain Atom frowned as he thought of the Soviets letting Redstar operate outside of their borders. There must have been something really serious brewing to breach that kind of protocol.
Sgt. Jeff Goslin, a career Air Force man from Georgia whose gray hair was slowly turning white, waited for him on the tarmac clutching the developed pictures in one hand. He handed them to Captain Atom as soon as the hero landed. Standing next to each other, Gunner’s age was apparent. He looked old enough to be Captain Atom’s father, but in fact Gunner was the younger of the two. Something about being a nuclear man had completely halted Captain Atom’s aging.
“Any updates, Gunner?” Atom asked.
“Whatever is out there, it’s sinking anything getting in its way,” said Gunner with a Southern drawl. “The tech boys say it’ll make landfall in a couple of hours near Bordeaux, the way it’s going. It’s sure to tear up France and keep heading through to West Germany and the Eastern Bloc. That is, unless you stop it.”
Captain Atom began to flip through the pictures. Gunner hadn’t exagerrated. The wake was plainly visible in the photos. Atom took a moment to calculate. If his navigation wasn’t completely off, the thing was heading straight for Moscow and would cut a swath straight through central Europe to get there. No wonder Redstar had been activated. This thing had to be stopped, and Captain Atom was elected to do the job. Only Redstar was close to his power range. No one else had a chance.
“Call the Russians,” Captain Atom said. “Tell them I’m on the way.”
“Yes, sir,” said Goslin, saluting. He glanced off into the horizon, adding, “And good luck, Captain.” But Captain Atom was already gone.
It was an easy flight from the United States across the Atlantic Ocean for the atomic action-hero, who rose above the atmosphere to increase his speed by reducing air friction. He hovered over the map coordinates from the satellite pictures, considering his options. Something massive was down there, but Captain Atom couldn’t tell from his vantage point if the thing was growing larger or just surfacing.
An energy trail attracted his attention from his quarry. He smiled slightly when he saw the face of Igor Stefanovich Kriss, known as Redstar. Very shortly after he had first gained his abilities, Captain Atom had saved the life of Kriss, the first — although never officially acknowledged — Russian in space, and had crossed paths with the Russian a few times since he had gained his own Redstar abilities. They had formed a bond of professional respect, if not exactly friendship. Atom knew the Russian to be an honest, humble man thrust into the role of national protector against his will.
“Greetings, Comrade Atom,” said Kriss pleasantly. He was a thin-faced man with a long, prominent nose and a lithe frame. Like Captain Atom, Igor Kriss had ceased aging when he became a nuclear man.
“Hello, Redstar,” said Atom. “Any suggestions on how we should handle the problem before us?”
Redstar frowned and said, “It is bigger than reported. Maybe we could anger it so that it will rise to the surface, and then we can examine it for weak points.”
“Bigger than reported?” said Atom, summoning the energy for his nuclear blast.
“Yes,” said Redstar, generating energy for his own attack. “It sank one of our submarines, and its size was much smaller than this thing, according to the reports.”
“Great,” muttered Captain Atom, releasing his energy into the cold water below. Redstar followed suit with a barrage of small fireballs.
The water of the Atlantic separated as the creature’s monstrous head broke the surface. Part of a whale fell from its muzzle as it roared its rage and annoyance. Six cerulean-blue orbs regarded the heroes with hate. A fiery red crest ran from the back of its skull down its spine to the waterline below.
“Bozhe moi! It has wings,” observed Redstar as he rained energy balls down on the strange menace.
“A tail, too,” said Captain Atom. He hurled his own fire bolts at the giant creature. He frowned, watching as their attacks seemed to be sucked up by the thing’s jellylike skin, almost as if someone had prepared for energy-blasters like him and Redstar.
The massive wings on the back of the creature unfurled and beat the sea and air. A small tsunami slammed into the two men. Atom pinwheeled across the sky before correcting his flight. Redstar braked himself with an effort.
“Energy seems only to anger the beast,” the Russian hero stated grimly.
“We’ll have to take a more physical approach,” Captain Atom said. “Keep it busy until I get back.” The action-hero flew off.
Redstar shook his head slightly, thinking of the immensity of the problem. Keeping it busy was something easier said than done. Igor Kriss circled his foe methodically, slashing it with his energy blasts as he flew. He noted that the monster had even grown since he and Captain Atom had first engaged it just minutes ago. Thankfully, it had stopped its forward motion toward the Motherland.
Burning air and a shrill whistling told Kriss to move away from the creature at top speed. A bullet of blue, red, and silver impacted one of the creature’s eyes. The creature clawed at its face in obvious pain. It staggered backward and then fell on its back. Small tidal waves erupted from its body. It convulsed wildly before it finally grew still.
Redstar landed on the snout of the creature. A tunnel had been cut through the eye socket into the skull by Captain Atom’s flight. Kriss shook his head as he dropped down to the corpse’s face. He leaned down into the dark, dank, bloody tunnel of flesh and bone, casting light from one hand. A silver hand clawed its way into the light. The Russian smiled widely at the sight.
“I’m glad you are still alive, comrade,” Kriss said, still grinning as he seized the hand with both of his. He pulled with all of his strength until Captain Atom appeared. Redstar helped him onto the face of the creature to catch his breath.
“I hope I don’t have to do anything like that again in a long while,” Atom choked out. He summoned enough energy to burn away the creature’s internal fluid from his body.
“The creature is self-destructing,” said Kriss. “Look at the way the skin is coming off.”
Bones revealed themselves as the five remaining eyes boiled away. The atomic agents took to the air as the skeleton sank beneath the ocean. The last thing to go was a stretched collar that Captain Atom had not seen before. He read a name printed on it as it sank. He wondered who would name a beast like that Fido.
“Thank you, Comrade. I have to go and once again be reprimanded severely by my superiors now,” said Kriss, shrugging.
“Reprimanded?” asked Captain Atom, eyebrows raised.
“Yes,” said Redstar with a grin. “They wanted me to bring it back alive. Farewell, Atom.”
“See you around, ‘Star,” said Captain Atom. The two men flew their separate ways.
Your Mysterious Traveler has his own separate way to go to follow this first thread to its source, the man responsible for the behemoth. For elsewhere, in a very large, shadowed room, a theatre-sized screen showed the two nuclear men hovering in the air a moment before water engulfed the picture, and the screen steadily grew darker and darker. Watching as the waves of the Atlantic Ocean were swiftly covering the camera in his weapon’s control collar, a Japanese scientist named Dr. Moto Tetsuo — called Dr. Tetsuo Moto according to Western usage, which is what I shall call him from this point on — turned off the screen before him with a handheld remote control.
He turned and made notes on the creature’s performance on a keyboard built into his desk, considering that perhaps something smaller would be more of a match for those two. Moto leaned back in his swivel chair and thoughtfully wondered what he could use for his second monster.