by CSyphrett and Doc Quantum
The first thread in this tale closed for now, join your Mysterious Traveler as the scene switches to Tokyo, Japan, where the second thread began to weave itself into this tale. Witness a twelve-year-old Japanese boy named Moto Akira. The surname comes first in Japanese custom, so he would be known as Akira Moto in the West. And for your sake, that is what I shall call him.
Akira Moto was a very special boy, for he was gifted with a brilliant mind and a genius for solving problems, much like his brilliant but evil uncle, Tetsuo. His genius also set him apart from others his own age, and he felt very lonely this day as he walked home from school lost in thought. He did not have many friends, so he spent a lot of his time tinkering with things, as he put it. He loved robotics and had built a number of his own toy robots. He had also developed grand designs for a robotic suit with a jetpack that he could wear, but he had always lacked the resources and materials to build them. But wouldn’t the other fellows at school who always picked on him be envious if they saw him flying down from the sky in a robotic suit like his comic-book hero Iron Man? He had large dreams, but the problem always remained: How could he build anything really useful with his limited resources?
As the boy wandered down the street lugging books in his backpack, he looked up and stopped as he noticed that someone had left a door open in a small storage building. He wandered over to the fence and looked through the links. Debris was scattered inside the little room. He looked around and saw no one was in sight, so young Akira clambered over the fence with the agility of a monkey. The excitement of discovering the forbidden driving him on, Akira ran over to the open room before anyone saw him. He was amazed at what lay inside the room, for it was all the resources and materials he could ever need to build twenty robotic suits. It prompted him to laugh. All he had to do was move it to his own home. How hard could that be?
Akira’s eyes feasted hungrily on all the equipment he saw there. He picked up one of the things on the floor, excitedly recognizing it as nothing more than an anti-gravity unit that was decades ahead of its time. Laughing again, he gingerly set it down and looked around at the rest of the equipment with the excitement of a child opening presents on Christmas Day.
After a few moments of searching, he soon uncovered something even more amazing. He was merely startled as he spotted a dusty figure sitting upright on a chair, but he was completely astonished as he soon recognized it to be a very lifelike robot or android. Curious, he grabbed a nearby rag and began dusting it off. Beneath the dust was a very strange-looking android that resembled nothing less than a comic-book super-hero, albeit one wearing a costume that was faded, torn, and almost turned into dust on its form. The android had a purple cowl on its head that displayed a yellow arrow pointing to its nose. It wore a form-fitting red T-shirt emblazoned with the Western letter V in purple, a lightning bolt symbol going through it. Its arms and legs were bare save for two purple wristbands, and it wore purple shorts and purple-and-blue swashbuckler-style boots. A fully formed plan suddenly came to the young genius.
Looking around, Akira found a tool kit among the remaining equipment in the storage room and used it to quickly disassemble the anti-gravity unit he’d found. He reassembled the core around a battery pack and used the gravity generator to lift the android and the supplies into the air. He spread the field around his body and lifted gently off the ground, using the generator to push himself over the fence. He ran home, pushing his salvage in front of him. Amazingly, the street in the overpopulated city was completely empty, and no one saw him. His parents were also away when he reached home.
The boy genius realized he could set up a lab somewhere behind his small house, where he could peer into the secrets of the android and figure out how it worked. He would have to use his father’s garden for camouflage. To begin with, Akira decided to dig up part of the ground to bury his new materials. He could add a work area later when he had time away from his other responsibilities. Now he had to do homework and practice his violin.
After a few minutes of labor, made easier by the use of the antigravity generator, he sighed as he replaced the plug of earth over his new equipment, which he had protected with a huge tarp. He smoothed the dirt over as best as he could. He placed a circle of rocks around his site to show his father this was a work that was just beginning. Now he had to take care of his responsibilities so that he could work on the android, which he had already stashed in his closet along with some equipment he would use to analyze it.
Akira hurried through his house work and school work as his parents returned home. He practiced his violin the best he ever had, and his father seemed amazed by his industriousness. Soon enough, the boy genius retired to his room after dinner. He had work to do before he went to bed.
Closing his door, Akira spread a work cloth out on his floor and placed on it the equipment he had recognized was meant for analyzing the android. He began to play with the equipment, figuring out what it did and analyzing how it worked for several hours. Finally, the young prodigy put everything back together and wrapped it in his cloth before putting it away next to the android in his closet. He waved good night to his robotic dog and went to bed.
Our scene now shifts to England, where an old man peered around as he opened the door of the small antique shop he maintained. It wasn’t much, but it covered his expenses. It also let things find him when they needed to. His name was Edward Constant, and he was a man in touch with the hidden things in the world.
“Hello, Edward,” your Mysterious Traveler said. Constant was startled by my chilly voice from within the shop as he saw me — wearing my usual long coat, scarf, and hat — step into the dim light cast through the shop’s windows.
“Don’t do that,” Constant said. “The last thing I need is a heart attack.”
“I find that hard to believe. How did everything go?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“The kid found the stuff,” said Constant. “But do you think it’s wise arming Dr. Moto’s own nephew?”
“We need heroes now,” I replied. “I foresee an upsurge of darkness that has the potential to plunge the world into another Crisis-level event. Even the nature of reality itself is threatened. This time our Earth might not survive. I sense that young Akira Moto is a hero through and through. He will be needed to counter what I hope to prevent.”
“Still, he could crack and snap like his uncle,” suggested Constant.
“And you could stop making bad deals,” I said, smiling at him.
“The point is yours,” he said after a moment’s consideration.
And now that you know that the hand of the Mysterious Traveler was directly behind the second thread, let us revisit young Akira Moto several days after he literally stumbled upon a colorfully attired, humanlike android that had apparently been gathering dust for some forty years in an abandoned warehouse nearby. Along with the android was newer, highly advanced equipment that he guessed had been used to try to figure out the android’s secrets. It had only taken him a couple of hours later that night to figure out how to use the equipment, and within a few days he had used it to begin analyzing the android body.
It took him only a few more days to figure out what was wrong with it and fix the problems. If he’d wanted to, he could have reactivated the android and let it walk away on its own. But he realized after some investigation that the android’s programming — all except the basic motor functions — had been wiped clean. The android was a body without a mind to direct it.
At that point, Akira found himself at a loss as to what to do, so he decided to find out all he could about the android. It took him a long time, and he had to go back years, but he figured out that the android was once called Volton, the “Human Generator,” and it had been an American mystery-man during World War II. In fact, it had gone to war in the Pacific Theater and disappeared during a one-man raid on a Japanese military installation. Curious about why anyone would call an android a human anything, Akira kept searching for an answer. And then he found it.
The answer came when he learned that there was a gap of a year and a half between the first few public appearances of Volton in mid-1940 and the next appearances of Volton in early 1942. There were actually two Voltons, and the android was the second. The original had been a scientist named Guy Newton, who invented a device that granted him electrically based super-powers. (*) Unfortunately, the device had also shortened Newton’s lifespan drastically, and within a few months of his debut as Volton, he became very ill and died of what appeared to be advanced old age, even though the man was twenty-five. It was as if his life had been a short fuse that burned very brightly and very hotly but didn’t last long.
[(*) Editor’s note: Volton, the Human Generator (Guy Newton) appeared in Cyclone Comics #1-5 (1940). The second version of Volton appeared in Cat-Man Comics #8-12 (1942).]
Guy Newton died at the end of 1941, but during the last few months of his life he had constructed an android far more advanced than seemed possible at the time, receiving the help of a distinguished fellow scientist named Anthony Dunn. The android had all the super-powers Newton had and more. Akira realized that Newton had foreseen his death and wanted to live beyond his shortened life-expectancy. Somehow, he discovered a way to imprint his mind into the android, controlling it remotely as if it was his own body. And when Guy Newton finally died, his essence — his personality, memories, and knowledge — lived on in the body of the android. Reading contemporary reports, Akira guessed that the android believed it was fully human, unaware it was an android. Or perhaps it had some kind of psychological block against that truth.
Whatever the case, the answer to the identity of the android also provided Akira with a way to control it. If Guy Newton could control the android body remotely, then Akira could, too. It proved easier than expected. Within a few more days, Akira made himself able to transfer his consciousness into and out of the android as if flipping a switch. He idly wondered if anyone else had done anything like this. After all, even after Newton’s death, Professor Dunn still possessed the secret of mind transference from a human brain into an android’s artificial brain. But surely Dunn was long dead by now. (*) Akira put this train of thought out of his mind, reasoning that anyone attempting to do what Guy Newton had done would have to be desperate to cheat death. Akira, on the other hand, just wanted to borrow the android body once in a while. He just had to ensure that his own body was in a safe place when he did so.
[(*) Editor’s note: See the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series to find out what happened to Professor Anthony Dunn.]
In the month of December, 1985, Akira Moto decided to go on a test run, putting his mind into the android body of Volton. Dressed in his father’s clothing, he walked along a Tokyo street and was amazed at how easily he blended into the crowd. As Volton, he appeared as nothing more or less than an American or European tourist.
A loud bang made him look up at his surroundings, and he quickly spotted smoke spewing from the doors of a nearby bank. Volton stepped back, startled, and wondered what he should do. He watched and saw a man in a black suit and coat walking out of the bank. The afternoon sun glinted from his dark glasses. Smoke rolled from the bottom of his coat as he walked to his car. The boy genius in the android body waited for the man to get into the car, a plan already forming in his mind.
As soon as the man seated himself in the vehicle, Volton rose into the air, electricity crackling in his wake. He grabbed the rear bumper of the automobile with one hand, holding it in place with tires spinning as the bank robber tried to drive away. Volton then easily lifted the rear end of the vehicle some feet into the air, then suddenly let go. The back of the car slammed into the ground with the crash of bending metal. Akira hoped he hadn’t made a mistake as he hovered a few feet away.
The door flew off its hinges with a bang. The man stepped out, obviously angry. His sunglasses zeroed in on Volton. Despite the fact that his own body was safe elsewhere, the boy genius felt the fear of a schoolboy in serious trouble with his teachers, and he decided to run. The thief went after him, smoke trailing behind like the wake of a ship at sea.
Akira Moto used the android’s electrical powers to propel it to the top of an apartment building, but he suddenly felt a loss of control and blacked out for a split second, his mind returning to his own body. He quickly resumed control of the android and rose into the air before hitting the sidewalk, but after another steep climb, he lost control for a split second once more. Now he feared that the next loss of control would not only cause him to lose the android forever, but into the hands of a criminal that would use it for evil.
Volton flew on, a single glance telling him that the man was coming after him in a cold fury. The young prodigy was unused to fighting and had always run from a fight when he was picked on at school, but now he had to think of a way to resolve this situation. Volton flew like the wind in a crackle of electricity, a solution eluding him for the moment. Luckily, he was able to remain in control for several more moments.
The boy genius glanced over his shoulder, but the man was still coming and gaining ground. Experiencing another brief loss of control and seeing as the man quickly closed the gap, Akira regretted taking action now. He should have just let the thief drive away. Then he wouldn’t be fleeing as he was over the rooftops to save the android body, and he would have been able to resolve his control problems in peace.
Akira made one more leap before he had a sudden idea. He flew halfway across the roof before stumbling and falling, seemingly from another loss of control. The thief smiled as he leaped into the air. He was halfway across when Volton turned and struck the man with a bolt of electricity that could have killed the thief had he been grounded by touching the roof. It was like handing him an anvil in midair. The thief crashed into the ground below in a cloud of smoke. Volton smiled in relief, his sudden idea having paid off.
The boy genius peered over the edge of the roof at his opponent below with his android eyes. The man was not moving. Akira briefly wondered what he should do, thinking he might have killed him after all. He decided to check to see if the thief was alive. He hadn’t wanted to hurt the man, but at least he had stopped him from hurting anyone else. Volton dropped into the alley gently and walked over to the thief, placing a hand on the man’s neck.
A strong hand wrapped around Volton’s neck in an attempt to choke him. Panicked by the sudden attack, despite the fact that his android body did not breathe, Akira used Volton’s body to send several volts of electricity into his attacker, just enough to stun him and not enough to kill. The man froze in place as the electricity passed through him and then slumped to the ground, unmoving.
Several minutes later, Volton stood at a distance from where the police had gathered to arrest the bank robber. He was glad the man was led away in manacles that looked strong enough for ten men.
Two feelings warred in Akira Moto’s mind. The first was relief that he had taken a challenge and survived beyond expectation. It was something he would never forget. It was a feeling of invincibility. The other was amazement.
Standing on that corner, he asked himself two questions.
The first question was: “Did I really do that?”
The second was: “Am I crazy enough to do it again?”