Later, aboard the secret satellite known as Project X, a trio of colorful costumed champions occupied themselves in various ways. The satellite, orbiting the Earth, was the current headquarters of America’s greatest team of action-heroes, the famous Sentinels of Justice.
Booster Gold, the newest member of that fabled team, now stood in front of a mirror and wiped one gloved finger across his teeth before smiling broadly and approaching the grim form of a regal woman in a solid yellow leotard. She had platinum blonde hair cut in a stark short style. She was studying a computer screen and did not notice Booster until the hero had drawn near enough to gently nibble on one of her ears.
A nimbus of crackling energy erupted around her as her costume assumed the vivid hues of the radiant energy that enveloped her body. She jumped out of her chair and whirled around to see a startled Booster crash to the floor across the level.
“How dare you display such wanton familiarity with one of royal blood!” she shrieked. Her fists clenched in rage as she stood over the fallen hero in blue and gold.
“Sorry, Tasha — can I call you Tasha? I was just trying to be friendly! I mean, we are partners!” he said as he raised both hands to placate her.
She said, “You may address me as Lady Quark or Lady Tashana, but never again presume to touch my person in such a manner! We are allies in the battle for justice, but that is all!”
Booster Gold nodded abruptly and said, “Right, yes, right. Allies. Got it.” He turned and hurried down the hall and entered a lab, where the third occupant of the satellite was working on an experiment. Booster said, “Knock-knock!”
The man wore the famous azure costume of the Blue Beetle, and he looked up from his work as his friend entered. “Well, that was entertaining,” said Blue Beetle. “It’s not every day a guy gets to see the famous Booster Gold knocked on his ego by a lovely lady.”
Booster said, “That’s world-famous, and how’d you know about it?”
“Skeets recorded it and broadcast it through the system,” said Blue Beetle, grinning. “It was a pleasant diversion from my work.”
Booster glanced up to where Skeets, a golden, oval-shaped robot, hovered overhead. “Thanks a lot, Skeets. You’re a real Arnold Benedict.”
Skeets hummed mechanically and replied, “Booster, I believe the traitor in question was in fact named Benedict Arnold.”
“Right, whatever!” said Booster Gold. “Still, you get my point. It’s a low day when a man’s own robotic partner turns on him. I mean, here we are as two refugees from the far future lost in a time not our own.”
Blue Beetle said, “You got that from cable. I saw the movie. It was called Time Quest.”
“So where is a guy supposed to get his narration?” asked Booster. “Make it up?”
Blue Beetle grinned as he looked at his friend from the future. Booster had indeed come to the twentieth century from the thirtieth century via a stolen time machine, but his initial goal of using the science of the future — his costume and Skeets himself — to become a famous and wealthy hero had broadened to include genuine heroic impulses and a desire to do good.
As the third man to take the name of the Blue Beetle, Ted Kord knew all about heroism. He had inherited his own heroic role from the noble men who had used the name in the past. Now he wore a costume and used his scientific skills to fight for justice in between balancing a happy married life with his work as a scientist and businessman. He said, “Seriously, what were you thinking? You’ve got models and actresses drooling all over you, and you had to bite Lady Quark?”
Booster Gold said, “I guess it wasn’t my brightest move, but she’s as cold as ice. I hoped time would change her, but she’s still like some kind of unfeeling dominatrix.”
“She lost her world, her husband and daughter — her throne,” explained Blue Beetle. “You have to remember she comes from a now-destroyed parallel Earth in which her royal family served as the premiere heroes of that planet. She’s still hurting from losing so much. (*) Give her time.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “And Thus Shall the World Die,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 (July, 1985).]
Booster nodded and said, “I was a jerk. I see that now. I’m going to go back and apologize.”
Before he could make a move, an alarm sounded, and the Blue Beetle said, “It’s Sarge Steel at Checkmate. Something big must be going down.” He switched a dial, and the image of a rough-looking mature man of action appeared on the screen.
After serving his country in Vietnam, Sarge Steel had become first a private detective and then a government espionage agent in his day. Now he was the highly connected director of Checkmate, who used his skills and his knowledge to interact with any number of action-heroes in times of trouble. “Blue Beetle, I’m glad you’re there. Here’s the situation. Senator Wayne Eden was robbed of certain top secret papers related to national defense. His daughter Eve was also kidnapped, and the perp was identified as Nightshade.”
Blue Beetle frowned and said, “Sarge, you of all people know why that’s impossible.”
Sarge nodded and said, “Eve is Nightshade — I know that, you know that. Still, we can’t tell her old man, and in the meantime, we have to find the real Nightshade and recover those papers. Anyone who could take out Eve Eden with ease is a force to be reckoned with.”
“Exactly what did the papers refer to?” asked Booster Gold.
Sarge Steel said, “Booster, the documents taken from Eden’s safe contained missile launch codes. Eden is on a joint committee for the subject.”
“The thief could be working for the Soviet Union,” suggested Blue Beetle.
“Or she could just want to sell them to the highest bidder,” said Booster.
Lady Quark entered and said, “Leave it to one with your mercenary mind to consider such an option.”
Sarge said, “Eve’s not wearing her costume. I already ran a check via her communication signal device, and it reads as if it is in her house.”
“I have an idea,” said Blue Beetle. “Maybe we can trace her with help from a friend.”
“Captain Atom? He and Eve were close once. He should be in on this,” said Sarge.
Blue Beetle nodded and signed off, then turned to face Lady Quark and Booster Gold. “Actually, I was thinking of Eve’s cat.”
Meanwhile, in a spacious castle in England, any casual tourist would have been shocked to discover that the ancient exterior masked a high-tech interior straight out of a science fiction film. The renovated castle was the base in which the ever-crafty Duplicity made her plans.
The blonde in pale blue stood over a bound and gagged Eve Eden and prodded her gently with one foot. “Now, Eve dearest, you can’t pout like that — you’ll get wrinkles,” she said in a mocking tone. “Of course, I might be tempted to be a bit miffed myself if I had been knocked bonkers, stripped down to my knickers, and wrapped up like a Christmas goose, but then I haven’t and you have, so how upset can I get? I guess I don’t have a lot of empathy.”
Eve glowered at her tormenter through a haze of narcotics-induced malaise. I can’t use my ability to become semi-solid, since I can’t concentrate, she thought as her eyes drooped once more and she dozed again.
Duplicity patted her on the head and said, “Poor thing. Perhaps I’ll have her stuffed and keep her as a dressing dummy.” She walked away from the helpless Eve Eden, failing to see an odd sight.
A strange pale figure floated out of a painting on the wall and watched her with glowing eyes that revealed a tenderness that his grim visage belied. “I would help this maiden if I could,” he whispered. “Something in her nature awoke me from my long slumber, and even as this all-too-grim ghost walks anew, I ask myself to what purpose?”
Elsewhere, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Lady Quark, and Captain Atom waited as a black cat reclined on a table before them within the penthouse apartment occasionally used by Eve Eden.
“Memakata, we know you come from another Earth, and the body you wear belonged to a talking cat named Faustus,” began Captain Atom, recalling a recent case. “You said you took it over because there was no counterpart for yourself on this Earth, and the cat was the closest match.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Sentinels of Justice: Superpowers, Chapter 5: Steel Wolf.]
“Correct, although there is more to the story than that,” Memakata replied.
Lady Quark said, “I still do not understand why Nightshade has retained this familiar. Her powers come from being a princess of the extradimensional Land of the Nightshades, not from the practice of magic.”
“Tashana, Eve is not a witch, and this magical cat is neither pet nor familiar,” said Captain Atom. “I’d like to know his true nature, but he’s not talking. It’s enough for me that Eve trusts him, and his magic has helped us more than once.” He turned to the cat and asked, “Look, Memakata, can you use your magic to trace Eve?”
Blue Beetle added, “Yes, it was my theory that her other-dimensional origin might give off some kind of so-called mystical aura that you might be able to detect via your own supposed magical powers.” As a scientist, Ted Kord had always been skeptical about any instances of magic that he had come across, and he was determined that one day science would show all instances of supposed magic was just another type of energy.
Captain Atom nodded and said, “We need something like a magical radar.”
“Talking cats!” Booster Gold said. “You know, we ought to add a talking animal to the Booster Gold and Pals cartoon. The kids would love it. Make a note of that, Skeets. I’ll pass it on to my agent.” Skeets hummed in reply and then waited as the cat spoke once more.
“I can trace Nightshade, but I fear there is a complication,” said Memakata.
“What’s wrong?” Blue Beetle asked. “Is the signal too weak?”
The cat looked at him through green eyes and said, “No. Rather, it is too strong. As odd as it sounds, I detect her in seven different locations.”