Sentinels of Justice: Atomic Nightmare, Prologue: Target Eliminated

by Libbylawrence

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Bob Banner hated Fridays. He knew most people disliked Mondays, since that day traditionally ushered in the actual work week. However, Banner liked his job as a security guard and he hated his in-laws. Thus he dreaded the annual Friday night dinner with his wife’s parents. They were elderly, yet still active and energetic enough to find fault with the way he dressed, talked, acted, and how he treated their precious daughter Marge. For this reason, Banner hated Fridays. Luckily for Bob Banner it was Thursday, and he was about to die.

He scratched his bald head and yawned as he walked over to the window of the Banner house. The yard is getting a bit out of control. I’m going to have to mow this weekend, he thought wearily as he rubbed at his old army tattoo. He traced the pattern with his fingers as he thought. It was one of Banner’s odd habits, and it drove Marge crazy. That was, perhaps, why he did it.

Suddenly, a thin beam of glowing light sliced neatly through the wall of the house and traced the outline of a crude door. Bob gasped and had started to move backward when the broken wall shattered and an armored man shoved through the dust and brick to face him. He was dressed from head-to-toe in what looked to be an ancient suit of armor, complete with a visor that covered his face.

“What is this? You look like some kind of knight!” sputtered Banner.

The armored intruder nodded and raised one metal-covered hand, brandishing a gleaming sword that radiated with heat. In a matter of seconds, the knight had neatly cut Bob Banner’s throat and turned to depart.

Marge Banner shrieked as she rushed into the room, dropping a bag of groceries. “Nooo!” she cried as the grim knight returned and ended her life.

The knight raised his other hand and spoke calmly into a tiny recording device that was built into the highly advanced armor that looked like an ancient suit of warrior garb. “Atomic Knight 08 reporting. Target Banner eliminated along with spouse. No progeny.”

With those words, he turned and vanished into the fading sunlight.


Liberty Belle smiled to herself as she spotted the three punks in the Green Dragon jackets. She had been on their trail ever since she had noticed the shattered window in the Quick Stop and tended to the frightened old couple that ran the market earlier that night.

“The Green Dragon Gang trashed the place because Herb and I won’t pay extortion money!” Those words from the old woman in the market had been enough to send Liberty Belle into action.

I can’t stand seeing harmless people become victims, she thought. I’m going to enjoy teaching those creeps the error of their ways!

Checking out of habit to see that her platinum-blonde wig was in place, the agile young woman in the red, white, and blue minidress and high heels ran forward, making no effort to hide the click-clack noise of her approach.

“Whoa! It’s some kind of super-chick,” said the Latino youth who led the trio.

“Nah! She’s a real wonder woman,” said his sneering blond friend. The third youth remained silent as he watched the determined young woman race toward them.

“Actually, I’m called Liberty Belle, and after I ring your chimes, you’ll see how appropriate the name is!” she quipped. She leaped into the air and drop-kicked the blond man into his friend. Before they could regain their balance, she spun around and kicked the third gangster in the face. She drew back her leg and landed a second kick that left him stunned.

“You stupid witch!” cried the older leader of the trio as he pulled out a gun.

Belle dropped to the pavement and rolled into him before he could aim the weapon. It discharged, but no one was hit. She jumped up and delivered a stinging uppercut that knocked him cold.

“Well, now — that leaves you, blondie,” she said. The remaining Green Dragon dropped his own knife and started to run. She smiled in amusement and tackled him with one smooth motion. “Tell your pals in prison that we uptown girls like to play rough,” she said as she slammed his head against the ground.

She dusted off her costume and adjusted her domino mask. Maybe I was a bit rough on them, but every time I slip into this dress I think of poor Caroline and how she died, she thought. Liberty Belle sighed with regret as her blue eyes moistened at the memory of her late sister.

Caroline Dean had been a remarkable woman in and out of the patriotic costume. She was a pioneering astronaut who also managed to run a small modeling agency. The agency had been an inheritance, but Caroline had vowed to make it successful and succeeded beyond her own expectations. The former beauty queen turned scholar and pilot had also become bored. What good was financial success or even the challenges of working for NASA if all the success became dry and dull? The young beauty had sought a new challenge and found it by adopting the costumed role of America’s girl crime-buster — Liberty Belle.

Her career only lasted a few years. She never became as famous as more powerful action-heroes like Captain Atom or Son of Vulcan. Still, she had found fulfillment and had helped many people in need. She had even founded an all-female team of action-heroines called Femme Force One, which gathered together for special cases. Her action-heroine career had satisfied Caroline Dean. However, she could never rest on her laurels, and thus when the red skies and temporal disturbances of the Crisis on Infinite Earths lured many a hero and villain out into confrontations, she slipped back into her dress, mask, and heels and had resumed the good fight. That is, until several costumed villains from other Earths caught her and ended her life. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War, Chapter 11: Executions.]

Now Candy Dean wore her big sister’s old costume along with a wig and tried to keep the name of Liberty Belle alive. She had even joined the Sentinels of Justice and enjoyed every moment of action and peril. The other heroes and heroines, like Blue Beetle, the Question, and Nightshade, accepted her readily. However, she also had a secret that separated her from her late sister.

She turned to see a dark figure step out of the night to block her path. He wore gleaming armor and carried a lethal-looking sword. “A bit early for Halloween,” she said as she prepared to greet the newcomer with either a welcome for a new hero or a swift defeat if the knight was a crook.

Before she could act, she felt blazing heat from behind and gasped as a glowing sword came down at her as a second knight loomed over her. Liberty Belle screamed as the glow became blinding and filled the night.

Seconds later, the two knights nodded in approval as they stood over the woman’s dead body. “Atomic Knights 09 and 03 reporting. Target Candy Dean eliminated. No progeny,” they said in unison.

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