by CSyphrett and Libbylawrence
A few days earlier, Michael “Booster” Carter had appeared out of nothingness in the time-yacht at the end of April, 1986. He quickly hid the old time machine, making sure no one would find it. The next four days he spent reprogramming the robotic Skeets before it was operating again. He decided to become famous, now that he had a chance at the brass ring. Carter wondered how to become a famous hero quickly with the likes of the Sentinels of Justice in existence. If he could get into that team, his fortune was guaranteed. For Booster, it was the beginning of a new career. For the century that awaited him, it would mean the birth of a new action-hero.
Now, Booster donned his altered uniform and took to the air, Skeets at his side. Somewhere a crime had to be happening that he could stop. He even had a name to go by as a hero: Gold Star. Now he had to find a way to publicize it somehow.
He recognized the landscape as he flew through the air. He was in Washington, D.C., some centuries before it became part of the Boslando Corridor. He was amazed that this part of the city he had grown up in suddenly had trees.
As he was flying over Pennsylvania Avenue, Skeets spoke. “There is a disturbance at the White House, sir,” said the robot.
“Let’s see what’s going on,” Carter said, placing a hand to his vision plate.
A long shot told him that a big bruiser had ripped through the protective wall around the White House and was heading for the United States President, who seemed to be making a speech. Booster assumed it was the U.S. President, since a lot of guys in suits were shooting at the intruder, to no avail.
Michael Carter hesitated for a brief moment. He wasn’t a hero. Why should he risk his life for a stranger? Then he got ahold of himself and said, more to himself than anyone else, “As they say, no guts, no glory.”
He pushed his force field to full power as he rammed into the big guy in a flying tackle. Both of them went down in a tangle, with Booster on top. He blasted the back of the guy’s helmeted head at full power, driving his face into the grassy lawn.
Carter got to his feet. He was amazed at his victory in a three-second fight. Maybe being a hero wouldn’t be as hard as he thought.
“Booster,” said the automated guard, interrupting Carter’s reverie. “I suggest evasive action.”
“I don’t know who you think you are, messing with me and getting in my way,” said the armored attacker, “but you are a dead man.”
A green energy mace slammed Carter into the ground. The would-be hero’s protective field almost collapsed under the sudden impact.
“Run interference, Skeets,” said Booster, as he tried to pick himself up. The automaton fired its small energy guns at the armored man. The villain brought his hand back and whipped the energy mace forward. The floating aide flew into a tree and lay still.
“Skeets!” shouted Carter in dismay. Booster turned the dial of his blasters all the way up and fired away at his new enemy. He could feel the barrels start to overheat as he poured energy out of his suit like water through a hose.
Michael Carter blasted his enemy until a warning light flashed in his goggles. He stopped his output immediately.
“Are y-you done?” the armored man weakly asked, the decorative hair on the top of his helmet burned away. The villain then fell flat on his face as he passed out.
Booster breathed a sigh of relief. His blasters smoked as they cooled down. He pulled the helmet off his foe and made sure the armor was disconnected as several Secret Service agents and reporters rushed onto the scene.
“A new hero has emerged to save the President,” he heard one of the reporters say as he went to pick up his aide’s fallen body from the makeshift battlefield. Carter picked up Skeets. I’ll never be able to fix this, he thought sadly, examining the huge, crumpling dent in the robot’s side.
“Sir, can you tell us who you are?” one of the reporters said. “Who was your enemy? Are you a government agent?”
“Name? My name is Booster–” He stopped himself, thinking, Don’t give them your football nickname, stupid. “Golds–”
“And your affiliation, Mr. Gold?” the reporter interrupted.
“Er, talk to my agent, boys,” Carter said. “I have to go.”
The new hero took to the sky. And as he did so, he heard the reporters talking excitedly about this new hero called Booster Gold.
“Booster Gold?!” Carter repeated to himself as he flew back over the wall. “I never wanted to be called Booster Gold!”
He placed Skeets in his carry bag and took to the air again. Repairs were beyond his limited abilities. He needed an expert, and in this whole time zone, he only knew of one who could help him. That is, if he could find him.
“HubCore, here I come,” he said as he flew up and away.
Below, a limousine pulled away quietly. Its single occupant surveyed the damage as he rode by. “Blackguard failed,” he said with a heavy Russian accent. “Make sure this pathetic show isn’t connected to us. The American mercenary can’t be linked to our nation. Zastrow will be furious. I dread giving him the news.”
Captain Atom found it equally difficult to feel at ease with both Nightshade and Lady Quark in the same office with him. He knew that his romance with Eve Eden’s costumed alter ego had ended years ago, and all he shared with the fiery royal was a desire for justice and their one kiss. Still, there was a subtle electricity in the air, and something in the chemistry left the hero feeling decidedly uneasy. Part of his uneasiness, he realized, was due to feeling guilt for quitting the Sentinels of Justice months ago after the disastrous mission in China with Major Force and the Dragon Force; the team had simply fallen apart after he left. (*) And he couldn’t see any way that it would start anew this time, like it had shortly after the Crisis.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Sentinels of Justice: The Dragon’s Den.]
He glanced at the black cat on Nightshade’s lap and said, “I know getting you caught up on this latest theft from the Reds took most of our first few moments together, but now I have to ask you something. Why are you with Faustus? Where is his master, 13?”
Nightshade frowned and said, “Faustus? This cat’s name is Memakata. Why’d you call him Faustus?”
Captain Atom said, “He’s a talking black cat. I once met such a cat when I fought the cat’s owner or partner, an apparent crook named 13, who turned out to be a federal agent. This has to be that cat.”
Memakata said, “Well, to be exact, I occupy the body of the cat you knew as Faustus, but I’m really Memakata. I suppose this Earth doesn’t have a Memakata, and this Faustus is the closest counterpart. That’s why I was drawn into Faustus when my spirit could not find a true Memakata here.”
Nightshade smiled playfully and said, “There, now — everything makes perfect sense. At least you managed to get him to open up a bit. This is the first I’ve heard about his being from another Earth.”
Lady Quark scowled and said, “You banter in such a manner while enemies plot against your nation? It is clear you are not royalty.”
Nightshade jumped off the desk on which she had been perched and said, “Look, Quark, I happen to be royalty, too. My mother ruled the Land of the Nightshades, but that blue blood doesn’t entitle me to act like a royal pain, if you get my drift.”
Lady Quark moved closer to the smaller woman and said, “I will not tolerate your rudeness. I have lost my husband, my daughter, and my world. I have little patience left.”
Captain Atom moved between the two heroines and said, “I think we can put our passions to better use. An alarm just sounded at Project X, and that means big trouble. That satellite has been empty since the last space flight, but the commies would love to steal it away from us.”
Nightshade said, “That satellite contains American technological secrets that must not fall into enemy hands. I’d say this can only be the scheme Lady Q heard about during her captivity.”
The group raced outside, and Captain Atom said, “Nightshade, we can’t wait for you to suit up for space travel. See if you can summon some of the other former Sentinels who could survive in space. We’ll meet in orbit.”
Nightshade nodded and jumped over a railing to grab a phone near the sentry post. “Operator, get me John Mann,” she said.
Soon, Booster Gold flew into Hub City, which was much smaller than HubCore of the thirtieth century, and he left Skeets in a safe place where no one would find the robot. The man he needed to talk to wasn’t the type of person he could just call. He needed to do something to attract the man’s attention. But what could he do?
As a guard at the Museum of Space Adventures, he had often read about the various heroes of the twentieth century, and he knew the names of most of them, including the Blue Beetle. A descendant of Ted Kord’s, in fact — Jupiter Jetson Kord, known as J.J. — was the wealthy inventor of the stargate technology that had assisted space travel in his time. But beyond his real name and a few other facts, Booster didn’t know much about this hero. Still, he did have one kernel of information that he could use to his advantage.
The display on the Blue Beetle at the museum had revealed he used a base that exited the river, since his flying craft — the Bug — was often spotted over the waterfront. A quick check through newspaper files on Ted Kord at the local library — despite the stares of onlookers — helped him find out where Kord’s residence was.
Outside the library, Booster Gold took to the air once more and flew over to the location of the Kord Lab. He floated around the building for several minutes and realized that no one was home. So he decided to try finding the Blue Beetle’s underwater base nearby, hoping his hero was there.
Booster Gold flew down over the Hub City River. His force field was supposed to adapt to any conditions, so he dived into the water, hoping it would hold a degree of breathable air. His engaged field did hold air for him to breathe, and his goggles lit up the dim underworld so that he could see reasonably well. He searched the river bottom near Kord’s residence for a few minutes before Booster finally found a likely exit for the Bug into the Hub River, something he could never have otherwise found without his future knowledge of this era. He examined it and found that a metal shutter prevented access. What do I do now? he wondered.
Exiting the river, the hero put his next plan into action, floating over the city and listening to the local radio stations. Soon enough, a news flash gave him the chance, just like he wanted. A gang called the Squids was robbing a penthouse of a building two blocks away from the river. Booster flew for the site, knowing the Blue Beetle would also be there soon.
Booster wasn’t wrong. Seconds after the radio report went out, a familiar craft was in the air over the city. The Bug had risen from the river and headed for the robbery, even as Booster Gold circled in from the other side.
Within, Blue Beetle slid his chair back to allow himself to drop down toward the building on a hand grip and cable. The hero swung in through a window to confront his foes.
Booster paused at the window. Inside the room, the Blue Beetle was attacking in the acrobatic style that had become his trademark. Orange-clad men were tossed about as the hero flipped and kicked and punched, all the while handing out insults. The Squids were obviously old enemies.
“Take this!” one of the Squids said as he leveled a weird pistol at the azure avenger.
“Not the smoke cloud again,” the Blue Beetle said as he leaped forward.
The Squids’ leader pulled the trigger. A beam of obsidian struck the Beetle on the chest and sent him flying through another window, seemingly to his death.
Booster Gold flew around the building and after the Blue Beetle. He could see the man was working the decoration on one arm with a hand. He poured on the speed as the ground came rushing upward. He grasped the Beetle and pulled out of the dive as he heard explosive roars above.
“Well that’s new,” the Blue Beetle said as the heroes watched the robbers fly away on jet packs.
The Bug dropped down to reach the heroes. The Beetle took the descending cable in his hand and waited to be released before letting the cable pull him up into the Bug‘s cockpit. Booster followed. He was impressed by the aircraft, which was almost as good as the craft back in his home time. He shook that thought away. This was his time now, and he had better get used to it.
“You’re Booster Gold,” said the Beetle. “Saw you on the news saving the President a few hours ago.”
“I looked great, didn’t I?” Booster said with a smile.
“You were OK,” said Beetle. “Maybe so-so.”
“So-so?” said Booster. “What do you mean so-so? I just saved your life.”
“What brings you to Hub City, Mr. Talk-to-My-Agent Man?”
“My robot was damaged in the fight, and I was wondering if you could help me,” said Booster.
The Blue Beetle looked at his new colleague with a small degree of skepticism. He finally decided a quick look at his robot wouldn’t hurt things. Maybe he would even be able to gain some new ideas to use with the Bug. “I’ll take a look at it,” the Beetle said. “Where is it? We’ll pick it up and take it back to my hangar.”
“Thank you,” said Booster. “I left it in a safe place. Follow me.”
After Booster Gold recovered the small robot, he brought it back to the Bug and said, “Got it.”
“Let’s take it back to base and see what we have,” said the Blue Beetle.
Booster Gold was made to suffer wearing a blindfold as the Bug passed through the secret lock, since he thought it best if he didn’t let on how much he knew. He waited impatiently for the giant aircraft to come to a stop.
“You can take it off now,” the Blue Beetle said. He took the injured robot and exited through a side door in the cockpit. A set of steps led down to the main hangar area.
Booster took the blindfold off and followed. He noticed that the Bug rested on the exit doors as he followed his ally. The Blue Beetle took the deactivated robot over to a work table. He pulled out a set of tools and quickly and efficiently cut the robotic aide open. Booster winced at the surgery.
The Beetle went to work for several minutes with a mounted magnifying glass and a small soldering iron.
After some time, the little robot said, “Ahhh.”
“You got him back on line!” said Booster excitedly.
“Just part of him,” said the Blue Beetle. “Some of this stuff is beyond what I have or know. I may have to custom fit some things with the technology you’ve got here.”
“How hard will that be to do?” asked Booster.
“I don’t know,” said the Beetle.
“I wish I knew more about it, but I didn’t think to grab a tutorial before I started out,” said Booster Gold.
“It’s a complicated piece of machinery,” said the Beetle. “I don’t know if I can save it. Maybe if I could jury-rig the CPU to get the files to reload, I might be able to get some type of diagnostic out of it.”
“How long will that take?” Booster asked.
“Don’t know,” said the azure avenger. “I have some other things to do first. Just wait down here, and I will be back as soon as possible.”
“OK,” said Booster. “Go ahead. I can wait.”
“Thanks,” said the Beetle. He cleaned up and left the secret lab, making sure that Booster didn’t get a look at his face before he left.
Booster Gold toured the secret lab three or four times before he placed his bag on the floor and tried to get a nap. He had an uneasy feeling he would need the rest before his robot was repaired. As he drifted off, he thought he heard the robot snoring on the table. He put it down to nerves and let Morpheus take him away.