by CSyphrett and Doc Quantum
And now that you know how the first two threads of this tale began, join your Mysterious Traveler as we travel back to the present of January, 1986. Now, two months after his first experiment, Dr. Tetsuo Moto met with a group of individuals he had selected in New York City and handed each of them plane tickets, as well as a vial of formula designed to alter the strands of DNA in each of them in a different way. He then gave them their mission and sent them on their way.
A man in blue stood outside the Sentinel Building in New York City, which acted as the Sentinels of Justice Headquarters. He didn’t think anyone was on the premises yet. Drinking his vial on the way there, he had felt the raw energy building in his system ever since. He had then gone into a nearby office building and changed into his blue costume in a public restroom.
Now he glared at the building in front of him, and the brick began to melt under some unseen heat. Time to earn the magic elixir he had been given and destroy the Sentinels. He walked forward, molten brick melting before him as an alarm sounded. Good. That meant that Captain Atom or Blue Beetle would soon be on their way to their deaths.
Only one member of the Sentinels answered the alarm as the man in blue melted his way into the building. The Blue Beetle held his BB gun in his right hand as he rushed from the Bug hangar on the roof to the ground floor. He narrowly avoided the heat beams emitted by the superhuman and took aim with the BB gun. He pulled the trigger using the contacts in his glove and the weapons grip, firing a flash of bright light.
The blue monster blinked for two seconds. That was enough time for the Blue Beetle to switch functions in the gun and blast him back through the fence with a compressed air charge.
Blue Beetle sized up his opponent as he launched himself through the melted hole, then flipped and landed on his feet. He had put out a distress call at the first alarm until help arrived. Things didn’t look good for the home team.
First, the guy had hardly been fazed by either the flash or the blast of air that blew him into the fence. And then, those eyebeams were hot enough to melt brick. Flight was evidently the thing to do. The Blue Beetle leaped over the other man in blue, shouting with a show of bravado, “Toro! Toro!” Behind him, the intruder smashed through the wall of Sentinels Headquarters as easily as ripping paper.
Blue Beetle wondered how he was going to deal with the juggernaut he had confronted. He didn’t have a lot of raw power at his disposal, and the Bug was the biggest distraction he had available. Still, he had to do something.
He worked the controls in his glove. The hangar at the top of the building opened, and the scarab-like vehicle he called the Bug took to the air in a whoosh of jets. It rotated as the invader stopped ripping the wall and looked up at it with a piece of concrete in his hands.
Blue Beetle pressed the gauntlet controls again. A swarm of man-sized scarabs flew out of the belly of the Bug, their pincers moving back and forth. Small lasers fired from their mouths as they knifed through the air. The blue powerhouse found the piece of concrete chopped apart as he was enveloped in the cascade of energy.
Several blocks away, Peter Cannon frowned when he received the signal at the midtown penthouse he stayed at whenever he had business in the city. It was a distress call from the Sentinels of Justice. Of all the team members, including the reservists, Cannon acted only when there was no one else to heed the call. An emergency was the only reason he was summoned by the Sentinels. Luckily for them, he had been in town this evening to meet with his book publisher. At any other time, he would have been relaxing at his mansion home in the hills outside city limits.
Tabu, his Tibetan friend and manservant who always pushed him to accept the role of hero, appeared with the red-and-blue training costume Cannon used as a heroic uniform before he had a chance to say a word. Tabu tried to hide a smile as he handed the costume over.
In moments, Cannon was Thunderbolt once more and made his way across the Manhattan rooftops. The skills he had learned in the Himalayan monastery he’d grown up in made it easy for him to leap across any gap, run at top speed, and balance on limb-like piping and brick facing. He paused when he drew near the Sentinel Building, seeing the Bug take to the air. He then saw the powerhouse in blue blasting laser beams against scarab-shaped robotic weapons. Cannon grimaced as the powerhouse easily shrugged off the bombardment.
The Blue Beetle wondered what his next trick was going to be. The invader glared at the offensive robots, and they exploded under some invisible heat. He wondered desperately where Captain Atom was when you needed him.
The azure avenger worked his remote. A stream of firefighting foam jumped from the Bug‘s forelegs. It blasted his enemy across the small yard. “Should have tried that first,” the Beetle muttered to himself as he triggered a net to fire on the powerhouse while the man was down. “What do you think about that, Mr. Happy?” he taunted.
“I think I should have killed you first,” said the powerhouse, ripping the net apart and striding toward the hero.
Suddenly, the powerhouse was holding Blue Beetle in the air by his throat. A crushing pressure pinched at the protective mesh of the hero’s azure costume. Everything started going black as he was slowly being strangled to death.
“That’s enough,” commanded a voice near the Beetle’s ear. The pressure on his neck suddenly vanished as he was dropped to the ground on his knees. He coughed as he looked up to see the newly arrived Thunderbolt standing between him and certain death.
“Another insect challenging me?” laughed the powerhouse. “Do you think you can beat me? Do you think you can beat the Ultra-Humanoid?”
“I can,” said Peter Cannon. “I will. I must!”
The two men came together so fast that the Blue Beetle didn’t see what happened. One second they were facing off, and in the next moment Peter Cannon stood alone, arm extended and taking a deep breath. The Ultra-Humanoid lay on the ground, knocked out cold.
“How did you do that?” asked the impressed Blue Beetle.
“You can do anything with the proper frame of mind and a small amount of education,” said Cannon, controlling his breathing.
“Um… I got a degree,” muttered Beetle as he tried to think of something to hold the sleeping Ultra-Humanoid.
“But do you know how many places you can grab a man and kill him with a simple pinch of two fingers?” said Thunderbolt, smiling a rare smile.
“OK,” said the Blue Beetle, grinning. “I concede the point.”
Peace reigned for the moment, at least where they were.
At Checkmate headquarters in Washington, D.C., Sarge Steel walked carefully, yet with an air of dominance in the dark monitor room lit only by the many screens and the dim pot-lights above, checking the monitors that his technicians were watching. Steel was a strongly built man in his fifties with graying hair that had once been pitch black. He knew he made his people nervous, but something was up. He felt it in the air. It felt like the calm before a sudden storm.
“A strong energy signature detected approaching Earth above the Pacific, sir,” said one of the men. “It’s not any natural phenomena, since it veered around the Moon.” The man frowned at the readings on his screen and quickly added, “Uh… it seems to be human-sized, sir. And… and it’s not one but two figures with the same energy signature.”
“Two?” said Steel, an eyebrow raising. “I think I have an idea who they might be, Dawson, but keep me updated. I want to know if they’re friendlies or not. Cornell, call Hennessy and place him on alert, just in case.” Steel thought for a second. This was something, but not what he had expected. That imminent feeling of danger was still there.
Outside on the street, a bald man in black stood in front of the travel agency above the base, which he knew was a cover the moment he saw it. The only entrance to his destination that he could determine was a secret elevator. The man had been given a bundle of equipment to use, since his power would not be in physical might like his colleagues. No, his power had been an increased capacity for mental processing that — combined with his bald head — gave him the unflattering nickname of Egghead. Now to put it to work.
Inside Checkmate headquarters, the smell was the first thing that Steel noticed. He had smelled it before. He couldn’t place it, but he knew it had something to do with a past case. He racked his brain for the answer but suddenly passed out at his desk. All Checkmate personnel succumbed to the gas being pumped through the air-conditioning system. A telephone began ringing, but no one was conscious to pick it up.
Egghead slipped the elevator open, pleased at his handiwork. Now all the genius entryman had to do was destroy the equipment and men, and the job would be done. He started planting the explosives he had in his bag.
The gadget man finished setting his explosives. He made sure the detonator was working before going upstairs in the elevator. All he had to do now was press a button, and Checkmate’s nerve center would be gone.
A strong hand knocked the detonator out of his own hand as soon as the elevator door opened. Egghead predicted the follow-up punch almost before it was thrown, simply moving his head to slip the punch to one side as he brought a knee up. That caused the man who delivered the punch — he wore an eye-patch and had only one arm, the gadget man noted — to stumble back. Egghead looked for the detonator. A one-eyed, one-armed man was not going to stop him from carrying out his task. He walked over to the stranger, preparing to kill him with his bare hands.
Despite his disabilities, Hank Hennessy was a force to be reckoned with, and he used all he had to grapple with his opponent. Egghead landed two blows along the man’s single arm. The one-eyed commando kicked as his foe tried to get to his feet. The remote control for the planted explosives slipped from the infiltrator’s hand and slid across the floor. Egghead kicked Hennessy in the head, growling with frustration. He went to get the remote and destroy the secret operation under the building.
Just then new figures arrived, forcing the gadget man known as Egghead to reconsider his plans. He changed course from the explosives detonator and found a hiding place behind the desk so he could watch the newcomers as they entered.
In Tokyo, Japan, the twelve-year-old boy genius named Akira Moto smiled at his handiwork. He had carved out and built a concealed workshop just underneath his yard. It had taken a bit of work, but the android he had found had been easily adapted to suit his needs. He had even designed a full-body costume for Volton and — using the android body — hired a tailor to create for him using durable fabrics. It had forced him to spend almost all his savings, but it was worth it. He was already in trouble for damaging his father’s clothes during a previous test run in the android’s body, and that had been difficult to explain.
As he watched the limp android body slumped over a chair in the corner of the small workshop, he tried to figure out what he wanted to do as Volton. He had taken the android body on several test runs, but he had only used it in a heroic fashion once when he captured a bank robber last month. There were still a few kinks to work out. Also, since he still had school to attend and parents to obey, Akira decided in the long run that he couldn’t be a full-time action-hero like the ones in the Sentinels of Justice. Instead, he must turn his talents to emergencies and rescues when possible. Akira finished hooking up a homemade radio frequency scanner. If an emergency was being broadcast in Japan, the scanner would pick it up. That way he could learn about things that he could help with as Volton.
He looked around his small work area, dusting his hands together. He had done a lot of work making it liveable so that he had a place that his father would not know about nor object to the undertaking he was engaging in. He wanted to make his father proud, but he did not want to defy his authority openly. Two identities seemed best for the time being.
Somewhere else, Akira’s villainous uncle — the Japanese mad scientist named Dr. Tetsuo Moto — smiled as he thought about the success of phase one. His agents had begun his plan by distracting the agencies who would respond to phase two. He sent coded messages to Japan and Cuba. Clones would activate the toxin he had released on the two island countries in preparation for the events he had planned to the last detail. Soon he would reap what he had sown.
Moto’s agents swung into action as soon as they got the signal. The first thing they did was to move the pods they guarded from their hiding places and plant them. Then a helicopter flight dropped chemicals on the pods. The crews cleared out of the respective countries as the chemicals took effect, knowing that those countries would soon become uninhabitable for human beings. One of the crew shuddered, glad he was not going to be around when the people started dying.
The ground pulsed as Moto’s invention began to operate.