August, 1986, two months ago:
A brightly colored cityscape began to lose its shine as a moving wave of ice slowly coated the buildings and, with a gradual-but-powerful force, shattered the windows of an elegant jewelry store. Alarms never sounded, because the ice had destroyed their delicate wiring. A regal woman entered and smiled in approval. She wore her hair in an upswept hairdo, and her silvery costume brought to mind a showgirl from the Arctic. She smashed open a now-brittle vault door and held up gleaming diamonds.
“The world may reject my cold caresses, but my icy touch will allow me to take all I want!” she said.
Suddenly, a blue and gold figure swooped into the store and posed defiantly. “Not so fast, Chill Blaine! Forget the ice and let Booster Gold warm your cold, cold heart with these!” he said.
The hero tossed a package of yellow and white at the frigid thief, who gazed at it with wide eyes before opening the paper and munching on the tasty treat. “The golden cake and yummy white filling makes me melt with delight!” she said.
Booster Gold guided her forward and smiled broadly at the camera. “Winkies have a golden goodness that’ll warm any heart!” he said. “Right, Chill Blaine?”
She continued eating and nodded eagerly as the ice melted around them, and a sun in the form of a smiling Winkie Cake rose behind them.
“And… cut!” cried the director as the commercial ended. “That’s a wrap! Great job, Booster,” said the fat man in a loud suit.
“No prob. After doing features, doing commercials is as easy as pie… or, should I say, easy as Winkie Cakes?” he said with a grin. Laughter filled the set as the corporate crusader entered his luxurious private trailer.
“Trixie! Hiya, kid,” he said as he passed a pretty redhead who was thumbing through stacks of mail. “Did we hear anything from the shoe people? I’d like to get the Air-Golds on the market ASAP!”
Trixie Collins glanced up with an adoring smile as her boss entered. “Nothing yet, Booster,” she said. “NBC wants you to host a new quiz show, though.”
Booster shook his head. “Their loss. Oh, and Trix? About the game show. — it’s a no-go. Reality TV is old hat. People want escapism. I’ll do that Manimal thing, though.”
At that moment, a small, oblong-shaped robot zoomed into view. “Booster, my sensors are detecting an unusual amount of chronal energy,” it said with a hum. “You requested me to alert you to any such pattern. Perhaps they have finally come for you.”
Booster Gold frowned. He knew that ever since he first journeyed to the twentieth century from the future era of the thirtieth century, the authorities of his own era might decide to hunt him down and force him to return the technology he had acquired under questionable circumstances in order to equip himself to become one of the famous heroes of the past era. “Thanks, Skeets. I need this like a one-on-one with an angry Diane Sawyer,” he said, sighing.
Trixie stood up. “Booster, do you think it really is the police from your era?”
He smiled reassuringly at the young woman and said, “Maybe, but with a little luck, it’ll be a cute female time cop, and I can work the old Boosteriffic charm on her.” He flew off, leaving the woman staring wistfully at his departure.
Meanwhile, another man in a black and gold costume glanced left and right as he adjusted a device on his wrist. Standing in an alley behind a seedy café, he seemed amazed by the environment around him.
Fascinating! he thought. My travels have been too long, but at last I have reached my goal of twentieth-century Earth. This truly is the era of the action-heroes. How little I knew when I was first ordered to track down the thief Michael Carter. I still can’t quite imagine that one small act of theft born out of egoism and cheap greed would fuel such an inferno.
He looked around and thought, The dirt and pollution of this era is staggering. Even though I know that the environment will be redeemed before my own era, I still shudder in horror and disgust at what I see. Still, even this nightmare era pales in consideration when I envision what may await the generations following my own if what I experienced can be accepted as more than a weird distortion due to some malfunction or a side-effect of time travel on the mind. He continued aloud, “Still, I’ve never been one to blindly resign myself to a cruel fate. I will save the future, even if it costs me my very life. I will certainly kill Gold without hesitation.” He pressed a switch, and hidden jets rocketed him skyward. The hunt was on.
Nearby, Booster Gold wasn’t feeling anywhere near as confident as his words to Trixie had indicated. He also glanced at the world around him and, instead of feeling horror or shock at what he saw, he experienced only a deep reluctance to leave the commercial era behind. “I love it here, Skeets!” he said to his companion. “Oh, I miss Mom and my sister, but I like to think every good deed I do here works to restore the tarnished name of Carter. I can’t let the time cops drag me back to my proper era. I’ve made friends here. I’ve accomplished more than just making myself the adored idol of millions. Booster Gold stands for something beyond materialism… I think! I have to convince the agent they sent that I could do more good here with the gear than it would ever produce rotting away at a museum. Besides, how do I truly know that I wasn’t destined to do exactly what I did all along? Maybe I wasn’t changing time but just helping history along.”
He waved to a crowd of cheering fans as he flew overhead. He said, “Skeets, how close are we to this time traveler?”
“The chronal signal is nearly directly ahead,” Skeets replied. “Visual contact should be established momentarily.”
Booster tried to summon up his customary banter as he saw a man in black and gold. “Figures they would send a guy,” he muttered wryly. Booster then frowned and turned to Skeets. “This is the guy? He doesn’t look anything like the normal cops of my era,” he said.
“Nonetheless, my sensors indicate that he did in fact arrive here from the future. It was his arrival and residual chronal energies that alerted me.”
The man was tall, grim, and wore black and gold armor. He carried a baton-like weapon, which he raised slightly as his boot jets carried him closer to Booster’s flight path. “Michael Carter, AKA Booster Gold, I am Agent Broderick of the Transdimensional Police, Time Division, of the year 2986,” he announced in a tone Booster did not like. “I am here to return you and the property you appropriated to our proper era for trial.”
“Wait! Can we talk about this?” pleaded Booster. “I readily admit that I stole the stuff, but it was just rotting away in the museum, and it was inactive. I’ve used it here to do a lot of good, and I became a real hero. Surely the greater good dictates that it’s better for me to use the gear for a positive purpose here than to just leave it in a dusty display in our time.”
Without response, Broderick pressed a switch on the baton, and red energy blazed out to engulf Booster.
The action-hero grunted as his force-field took the impact and absorbed the heat. This guy sure isn’t armed like the usual patrolmen I grew up with, he thought. “Hold it, pal,” he said. “You know, if I wasn’t the skilled and daring champion you see before you, that blast could have killed me.”
Broderick scowled and said, “I am willing to use lethal force to avert a disaster. That is why I wear this special armor. I knew I would need something like this to bring you down before you ruin the future with your selfish ways.”
Booster Gold ducked as a second blast erupted and went over his shoulder. “How could my taking this suit and becoming a hero here ruin the future? What kind of nut are you?” He gripped the bigger man and wrestled him around as their midair struggle attracted a crowd of observers. “Skeets — drive the fans away! Can’t risk letting my public end up broiled!”
Skeets chirped, “Aye-aye, Booster.” He swooped low and slowly edged the crowd backward by his spectacular flight.
“Your concern for the public is not enough to fool me,” said Broderick. “You merely want to escape the sight of witnesses to your downfall. You want to avoid being exposed as nothing more than a common thief.” He struck Booster with a punch that drove the hero backward and threatened to overcome his force-field.
“Broderick, I may be a thief, but nothing about me is common!” said Booster. “I know I messed up my life in our time. I lost all I had and disgraced the family name. I was as low as a guy could be. That job at the Museum of Space Adventures was a far cry from the career I had envisioned for myself as a star athlete. Still, one thing sustained me during all those hours doing the dull and mundane tasks that formed my job — heroes! I read about all the famous action-heroes of this era. And I positively thrilled to what I read.”
He landed a swift punch of his own, calculating how much time he had before his force-field would lose power. He decided to shut it down and try to outfight his foe while talking. His gift for banter and his acting experience all came into play as he faced down the one foe who could take away all that his time as a hero had gained for him. The time cop brought his energy baton down, sending Booster crashing through the walls of a brownstone.
Booster Gold groaned as he smashed through the wall and struggled to lift the mounds of rubble off his body. “Thank goodness this place was due to be torn down,” he mused. “Hate to think I had just demolished somebody’s living room.”
Broderick closed in on him. “So you read of the heroes of this era? What did that inspire you to do? Emulate them? No. It inspired you to pose as a hero with the stolen technology of our time. It inspired you to reap huge financial benefits as a media star. Is that not true? Did Captain Atom, the Natural, or the Blue Beetles ever do such a thing?” sneered the time cop.
Booster strained to shove off the brick and rubble and did so as Broderick connected with another energy blast. “You’re wrong!” said Booster as he tackled his foe. “It’s true I have become wealthy through my company, Goldstar, but that doesn’t change the fact that I saved the life of the U.S. President or that I’ve been fighting super-villains ever since. I’ve made a friend of an action-hero — the Blue Beetle. Would he befriend me if I were nothing more than a glory hound? I risk my life for others. I don’t do what I do for applause. At least not all of the time.” He forced him down and said, “You must know that, since the Crisis disrupted time, no future is certain, and the past is not what we read it to be in our era. I am a hero here, and I won’t use my stolen technology to harm anyone or ruin the future.”
Broderick shouted in fury as he rammed the baton into Booster’s ribs, “You don’t know what I’ve seen! My trip to catch you went wrong. It came right before the Crisis. The chronal storms sent me not to this era as I desired but into a future era after the thirtieth century. I saw a world crushed beneath the armored heel of a tyrant known only as the Monarch. He rules the world of that era with no mercy. There are no heroes. There is only his cold, clinical rule. He suppresses all study of the past, and time travel is outlawed. I suffered in his prison for so very long. Then, by chance, I escaped. By pure luck I was found by rebels who sheltered me and gave me the armor you see before you. I thought they wanted me to fight this Monarch, but they assured me that I could not win. His power is that great.
“They said they had traced his mysterious rise back to this era. You see, in some manner, Monarch — the tyrant of the far future — originated in this time! Can’t you see what that means? You must be the Monarch! You used futuristic technology to pave the way to mastering first this era and then the future. You could be moving from hero and public figure to secret usurper. Your influence could spread over time until you become the monster who ruined the future. As you said, nothing about history is certain any longer.” He battered Booster again and again until Booster spun around and caught the baton. He shattered it over Broderick’s head and drove him backward in a sudden rage.
“No, I would never do that!” shouted Booster. “My suit and the gear I brought here are advanced, but I won’t let them fall into the wrong hands, nor would I ever turn into such a monster. If you believe I could ever become such a tyrant, then you just don’t know me at all. I work with other heroes, too! The Sentinels of Justice would certainly stop me here and now before I could ever become such a powerful figure. I think your reasoning is gone. Your imprisonment, or what you saw in that terrible possible future, has driven you mad!” He pummeled Broderick until the bigger man fell, and then Booster stood over him with both fists clenched.
At that moment, a child’s cry rang out. Booster turned to see a little girl who had been playing near the old building. Their energy blasts and struggles had damaged the old structure until a part of the wall had become too weak to stand. Now it loomed over the frightened child, and its shadow engulfed her small form as its mass threatened to do seconds later.
“Hold on!” cried Booster. He flew over through the dust and smoke to grasp her into his arms, even as the wall buried them with a resounding crash.
Broderick struggled to his feet and staggered out to the scene. “He could have killed me,” he muttered to himself, “but he gave up his advantage to try to save that child! He did it without any reward or the cheers of a crowd. He is actually a hero. How wrong was I?” He clawed at the rubble even as a human figure slowly erupted out of the burial pile. It was Booster, and the child in his arms was safe. He had drawn on the remaining energies of his force-field to shield them both.
“Go home, honey. Tell your friends Booster Gold is your pal!” the action-hero said with a smile. She beamed back at him and rushed off in silent gratitude. Booster turned to the time cop. “OK, Broderick. You got me. I don’t have the energy to fight anymore. Plus, I can’t see other folks who live around here get hurt by our battle.”
Broderick raised his empty hands. “No. I was wrong. I can’t believe any man who would do what you just did would ever become such a monster as the Monarch was. Oh, I knew you had performed other heroic deeds, but I discounted them as mere publicity stunts. I was wrong. I’m sorry. You can keep your gear; I’ll see to it. I’ll report it as destroyed, or I’ll make up something else. My new priority is to see that my era doesn’t turn into the dark future I saw before. I guess I was acting crazy. I confused my objective in getting you with stopping the Monarch. I guess I was a bit mad.”
“Thanks, pal,” said Booster Gold. “I won’t let you down. I will be a hero and not just a pin-up. Now, about this Monarch. Couldn’t that future just be one possible future out of millions? How could such a fiend come about from our era with so many heroes around? You keep the thirtieth century safe, and I’ll do my part here. Say, could you take a message to my mother and sister for me?”
Broderick nodded. “Yes. Make it quick. I have work to do.”