by CSyphrett and Doc Quantum
In a large facility in Geneva, Switzerland, Christopher Smith — a peace-loving scientist and diplomat who occasionally used the masked, uniformed identity of the Peacemaker — stood behind a plastic window looking over a large gymnasium. Several members of the new Europe-based team called the Paragons were training below. He expected a few more members to arrive for similar training from their native countries in the next few days, but he was happy with the turnout so far.
Besides his occasional work as a Sentinels of Justice reservist, Smith rarely committed much time to any team, but this one needed his help more than the veteran members of the Sentinels would. Most of them were rookie action-heroes-in-training right now, but they had worked together impressively well as a team when they saved Europe from a so-called mythological menace last month, something even more experienced heroes like himself had failed to accomplish. (*) Soon enough, he was sure, they would become action-heroes to rival any in the world.
The Peacemaker had sustained injuries during the Crisis on Infinite Earths when one of the Anti-Monitor’s shadow demons grabbed his gun, causing it to explode. (*) The painful injuries caused by the explosion and the shrapnel from the gun, along with his advanced age, had prevented him from going into action very much these days. Thus, ever since then Christopher Smith had helped establish the Dome and had been working behind the scenes by giving any support he could to worthy heroes who would help keep the peace around the world. (*) Since such heroes would, in a way, be carrying on the work he had begun as the Peacemaker, he made himself available to any newly established teams such as the Paragons. The composition of the Paragons came from several nations, so he liked to think of it as a modern-day Foreign Legion. Given that he was now in his mid-sixties, much older than any of the other active action-heroes, he wondered why he hadn’t tried to set up such a Foreign Legion-type team years ago.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Final Crisis,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (April, 1986) and Sentinels of Justice: Watching the World, Epilogue: The Dome.]
Since the Paragons had no official headquarters, assembling only when their help was needed, Smith had quickly reached out to them through the media, offering them full use of the Dome as their central base of operations. After all, the Dome not only had a fully-staffed communications room, but also impressive training facilities. And while it was out of the way, located on the outskirts of Geneva, it was still accessible to the general public. That was why he didn’t raise his eyebrows at the two men standing outside the Dome’s walls until they revealed colorful costumes under their coats.
One of the men, dressed in green with a white chevron across his shoulder, took to the air. He pointed at the building, and a giant fist formed and smashed through the outer wall. The other man, dressed in red, disappeared in a flash, apparently moving faster than the eye could see.
Throughout his long career, Smith had never allowed himself to be taken aback by any surprises. “Suit up!” Peacemaker ordered his trainees over the loudspeaker as he grabbed his helmet. He quickly added, “This is not a drill.” Without any further hesitation, the Paragons prepared themselves for the battle.
“Jock o’ Kent, stop that hand. Thor, back-up for Jock. Black Lion, Stardust, Panthera, Dart — grab the other man.” The Peacemaker headed for the door and the launchpad on the roof. His own jet-pack would take him into the fray as fast as he could fly up the emergency stairs.
Thor of Sweden paused in his flight to give the massive Welshman a lift, but Jock o’ Kent was already gone. The Swede shook his blond head and flew out of the room at his own spectacular speed, his hammer Mjölnir at the ready.
Jock o’ Kent and Stardust were the fastest members of the Paragons. Almost as soon as the attack started, they were in motion, having become two vibrating figures throwing slipstreams behind them at near-sonic speeds.
Stardust, the new hero of Spain, rocketed through the front doors, the man in red racing to meet him. The speedster on the ground began to swing at the action-hero from the air so fast he seemed to be a multiple image mixed with strong wind and flying dust and turf. “I’m Red Light!” the speedster shouted as he brought Stardust to a stop through the pummeling.
Jock o’ Kent flew to where the giant fist smashed at the building. “I’m Green Light!” cried the green-clad intruder controlling it as he brought the fist down again to shatter glass and concrete. The giant Welshman caught the glowing appendage in both of his own large hands, his muscles groaning at first as he held it back.
The Peacemaker and Thor flew from the roof of the building. Their target was Green Light, who was trying to hold the giant Jock o’ Kent in place. The Peacemaker aimed the automatic weapon he carried at Green Light and cut loose. Instantly, a green bubble cut off the flow of rubber bullets.
The glowing green hand made of energy plasma disappeared as Green Light turned his attention on the two action-heroes flying to intercept him. It was a mistake.
Jock o’ Kent bunched his tree-stump legs and leaped into the air in a blur of motion, his ham-sized fist swinging on an arm of steel to strike full-force on Green Light’s steely glowing arm. The green bubble buried itself in the ground like a baseball being hit for a home run. The bubble popped as the man tried and failed to regain his concentration.
Thor the God of Thunder then used Mjölnir to call down lightning into the crater, electrocuting the man known as Green Light for several seconds. Falling face down, smoke from the man’s unconscious body dispersed quickly on the slight mountain breeze.
Stardust and the speedster calling himself Red Light battled across the grass-covered campus. Neither saw the Dart use his own incredible speed to drop Black Lion and Panthera close at hand. The feline granddaughter of Margo the Panther Woman focused her concentration, waiting for the perfect moment until she could leap forward to swing her clawed right hand at the speedster. That moment came when the Dart rocketed by as a feint, distracting Red Light for just a moment as he maneuvered out of the Dart’s way. Panthera’s unexpected blow caught the invader in the side of his red cowl, and he skidded across the grass, claw marks across his scalp.
Without hesitation, Black Lion kicked, sending the man down for the count. Falling on Red Light’s back, the Scotsman cuffed the man’s hands to his ankles. He looked around, his lion’s-head mask covering a satisfied expression, and quipped, “Is that it?”
But peace reigned for the moment, at least where they were. Christopher Smith was impressed at how well this new team of former strangers had worked together. With any luck, the Paragons had a long future ahead of them.
In New York City, a pale-skinned woman stood outside what she knew to be the building that housed Project Dragon. She let her coat fall to the ground, revealing a one-piece black bathing suit and boots. She tossed back her mane of jet-black hair as she leaped over the security wall.
Alarms sounded as she smashed a hole in the ground floor face. It was time to destroy the Dragon Force before they could interfere with the plan, although she wished she knew more about said plan. Still, with a wicked grin on her face, she shouted loudly, “The Dark Angel has come. Your destruction will quickly follow!”
Within a few moments, an athletic man in his early forties with sandy brown hair and a mustache bounded down the stairs to confront the woman pounding her way through the building. His name was Robard Fiermont, and he was Mindfire, leader of the Dragon Force. Although only seconds ago he had been having a nice, quiet nap on the couch, Robard had managed to awake and slip on the white costume with a horned white helmet, a red cape, and blue gloves that enabled him to remain in contact with the advanced crime-fighting ship called the Dragon. It was the Dragon that gave him his amazing mental powers.
But he was only one-third of the trio; his son and daughter — both in their early twenties — filled out the team as the warrior known as Battleclaw and the speedster called Speedwing. Together they had been an athletic troupe called the Flying Fiermonts long before they became the Dragon Force. They had once worked as athletic thieves and had been imprisoned as criminals, but now they were action-heroes and had long ago been given a pardon from the governor.
What a time for his son Warren to be on a date somewhere across town! As Battleclaw, Warren was the powerhouse of the group and took the lead in every fight. Robard didn’t think he could match his own physical power against that of his female opponent. She seemed far stronger than he was. Still, he was not only Mindfire but also the head of the Flying Fiermonts, and a Fiermont never gave up the fight.
Mindfire reached the ground floor and headed right for the wall. He leaped forward, planting a boot in Dark Angel’s lovely face. She fell back from the unexpected assault. Robard pressed his momentary advantage with a flurry of telekinesis-enhanced blows that drove the woman back from her improvised entrance. “Is that all you got, witch?” he yelled hoarsely.
Robard Fiermont and Dark Angel squared off against each other in front of the Project Dragon building, the woman swinging at Mindfire with a fist that had already punched through brick. Robard slipped the punch over his shoulder, ramming her in the ribs and knocking her back several inches.
The brunette known as Dark Angel dug in her toes and punched Mindfire in the chest. He flew against the wall. His Dragon suit had taken the brunt of the blow, but he knew he would be carrying a large bruise in the morning.
Then a blur whizzed by the Project Dragon building, and Dark Angel suddenly fell under a volley of super-fast punches.
“Nobody! Hits! My! Dad!” said the blur, which quickly formed into the figure of the blonde Christine Fiermont, dressed in an almost identical white suit with a white helmet, a red cape, and blue gloves. Robard had contacted both his offspring through their Dragon suits, and his daughter was always the fastest and the first to arrive. It was time for Speedwing to take a hand.
Just as Dark Angel was about to react, Speedwing suddenly thrust Moto’s female agent into the ground, creating a crater there in the street.
Mindfire rushed forward. The powerful woman called Dark Angel was on her hands and knees, trying to stand. Another flurry of strikes from Speedwing drove her back into the ground like a giant wrecking ball.
“I think you got her, Christine,” Mindfire said.
“Good,” said Speedwing, standing with her hands on her hips. “Serves her right.”
In Tokyo, young Akira Moto half-listened to the radio as he worked on fine-tuning his remote control of the android body of Volton. So far he had only used its super-strength, invulnerability, flight, and the ability to shoot bolts of electricity, but Akira knew it had other powers he had not yet been able to tap. He would need to better define the android’s offensive capabilities. He couldn’t count on being underestimated when he met an enemy as he had been the last time.
After several hours, Akira finished his work for the time being. He hoped he had finally solved the problem of temporary loss of control that had plagued him a few times during his trial runs and when he had stopped the bank robber. He had also dressed the android in a specially designed red and yellow Volton costume that replaced the tattered original one. He told himself it looked amateur and barely serviceable for an action-hero, but he knew deep down he had done a good job.
Now he had to get some sleep before school in the morning. Tomorrow he would take it on another test run, but before then he had to rest and think about his other responsibilities. He didn’t realize that school would be the last thing on his mind as he turned in. His not-so-dear Uncle Tetsuo’s scheme would see to that.
As the sun rose the next morning, Akira readied himself for the day. The morning news was fixated on a strange growth exploding just outside Tokyo. He wondered if he should do something but decided to wait and see what the official forces could do about the problem. If they needed a hand, he would gladly see what he could do. Until then, school beckoned him on.
At Checkmate headquarters, Washington, D.C., Hank Hennessy blinked at the sudden change as he lay on his back. The intruder was still here in the building. The Living Assault Weapons (LAW) team leader forced himself to get up. He picked up the remote detonator, knowing the gadget man had planted explosives in the command center below.
Destiny Fox appeared in the doorway. She looked around the wrecked cover area, eyebrows raised, and asked, “What happened here?”
“Intruder,” said Hennessy quietly, placing a finger to his lips to indicate that the intruder was still close enough to hear them.
She nodded and, hovering in midair, looked around the room. She saw someone crouching behind the counter from her elevated point of view and flew silently over the wooden barrier. The genius intruder known as Egghead lashed out, but he was frozen in place with a mere gesture from Destiny Fox.
“The human body is ninety percent water,” the woman who had made herself a river goddess said, holding her hand out and turning it slightly one way, and then the other, Egghead’s body following every slight movement. “How interesting that we all walk around with these tiny rivers constantly flowing through our veins.”
Egghead squirmed ineffectually for a few moments.
“Oh, don’t struggle,” said Destiny. “Embrace the rivers inside you, the bringers of life, the…”
“You do like the sound of your own voice, don’t you?” said Egghead, suddenly thrusting his bald cranium forward, knocking her out and freeing himself.
The gadgetry genius known as Egghead was caught between two options, both of which looked poor to his accelerated thinking. He jumped the counter and headed for the door. Hennessy tried a simple kick to try to slow him down. Egghead swept him to the floor and continued. He heard the one-armed man in pursuit, but once outside he expected to escape.
Egghead opened the door, but a wave of foam swept over him before he could get out of the way. Instantly, the white stuff hardened in place, holding him in a grip of stone.
“Now ain’t that a bummer?” said the Puppeteer, grinning as widely as one-half of his mask.
Sometime later, in the main section of Checkmate operations, Sarge Steel sat in his chair rubbing his eyes with his normal hand. The gas had given him a migraine, but he was back on the job and mad as hell. Someone was going to pay dearly for this, he vowed to himself, almost shattering his coffee cup with his robotic steel hand.
“The team is interrogating that guy down in the brig,” said Tiffany Sinn from the door. She was in charge of the LAW program. “Also, we weren’t the only ones.”
“What do you mean?” asked Steel.
“The Sentinels of Justice, the Dragon Force, and Peacemaker and that new Paragons team were attacked, too,” said Tiffany. “The world’s most formidable action-hero teams.”
“Right,” muttered Steel. “My guess is that THUNDER and its super-agents would have been on the list as well, if they hadn’t closed up shop years ago. Any intel on the attackers?”
Tiffany Sinn shrugged. “All were new, unknown superhumans like our guy.”
“Where are the other attackers now?” said Steel.
“Dragon Force left theirs with the NYPD,” said Tiffany. “The Sentinels have theirs in custody, while Peacemaker is en route to New York with his two attackers to meet with the other Sentinels. They plan to interrogate all three.”
“Get him on the phone,” said Steel. “See if he’s found out anything about them yet.”
“Right,” said Tiffany, vanishing from the door.
Dr. Tetsuo Moto studied the information being fed to his control center. All of his secondary creations had been stopped by the world’s main action-heroes. They had wreaked havoc and caused destruction during their brief assignments, but the heroes in residence had finally stopped them.
He turned his attention to his twin seeds of destruction. They were growing without interference where they had been planted by his hirelings. Soon they would completely cover the island nations where they grew. All he needed was time, and his strange plants would be unstoppable by any conventional means.
Moto tapped his fingers against the arms of his captain’s chair. These heroes might be more of an obstruction that he had planned on. He didn’t want his pods to be destroyed like Fido had been.