In a remarkably short period of time, the heroes assembled a device that was regulated by Skeets’ and Captain Atom’s own personal energies. While Booster Gold and Broderick relied on their individual costumes for protection, the others wore protective suits modified from existing NASA jumpsuits that were made to service the satellite.
“Adam, you don’t have to join us, you know,” said Captain Atom. “I brought you here more to protect you than to place you at the heart of danger.”
“I know, but I may be of use to you,” replied Adam Thompson. “Remember, this Monarch wants me dead. Liberty Belle and I might just be the ones to bring about his defeat. After all, it was because of some fear of the Atomic Knights subjects and their descendants that he started hunting us down.”
Liberty Belle placed one hand on his shoulder and said, “Adam’s right. Monarch sees us as a threat. I’m guessing that, since he apparently came from the same experiments, he fears others might just duplicate his time jaunt and gain technology even more advanced than his own.”
Nightshade remained silent. As blonde and beautiful Eve Eden, she had earned a reputation among Washington, D.C., debutantes as a hedonistic party girl with no equal. However, that part of her personality had long since been replaced with a sincere desire to do good. She was smart, capable, and brave, and she was in no way the weakest link of the team in spite of the fact that she lacked the super-strength of Captain Atom, Son of Vulcan, or Guardian.
Beneath her consistent and professional manner, Eve had her own concerns that she had long kept from the team. Her late mother had been royalty from the Land of the Nightshades, a dimensional realm full of magical wonders. That realm was now in the hands of a tyrant, and Eve felt a responsibility to liberate the natives, but she lacked the resources to do so. A year ago she had made a desperate, ill-fated attempt to liberate it singlehandedly but almost died in the process. (*) Now she began to wonder. If her team was up to the challenge of freeing the future, then why couldn’t it do the same for another equally imperiled location?
[(*) Editor’s note: See Sentinels of Justice: The Calm Before the Storm, Chapter 2: Nightshade.]
The group acted in unison and with a swift skill and courage that enabled them to begin the process of energy manipulation. Captain Atom’s unique energies and resolve to safeguard his friends was combined with the robotic Skeets’ own technical precision to achieve a controlled release of quantum power. Moments later, the group stood before a massive fortress near one of the Great Lakes.
“Good thing you added enough teleportational thrust to carry us back down to this future city,” said the Question. “After all, our orbital headquarters might be so much rubble in the future, and we’d all be floating in space.”
“When you travel with Booster Gold, you travel in style!” said the corporate crusader.
“Broderick, you’ve been here before,” Captain Atom said, “is that his base? It looks like the kind of headquarters a man with his obvious passion for the romantic and Arthurian would establish.” Nightshade shivered, as she also found parallels to the buildings in her mother’s realm.
“The Monarch clearly fancies himself as an armored king ruling over his own loyal knights,” noted Liberty Belle.
Booster Gold adjusted his goggles and said, “Man, George Lucas would give his eyeteeth for this kind of set. I wonder who does Monarch’s decorating.”
“Sorry to interrupt,” said Thompson, “but it looks like the local Chamber of Commerce is here, and they aren’t carrying welcome baskets.” He pointed to where dozens of armored Atomic Knights were pouring out of the castle with glowing swords in hand.
The Question rolled up his sleeves and said, “This could get ugly, and I’m glad. I’m in the mood for ugly.”
Blue Beetle cast a wary eye at Booster Gold, who had opened his mouth. Beetle shook his head slightly, and his friend said nothing. This was not a good time for quips.
“That castle is a genuine replica of an early Norman tower,” said Liberty Belle. “They always came equipped with a scaffolding of timber called a hourde. The purpose was to provide defenders with an avenue through which flaming projectiles could be dropped on attackers below. Monarch’s passion for the past may get us inside. We could enter directly through the openings in the hourde. Although the attackers of the Norman era didn’t have ability to fly, of course.”
Booster smiled and said, “Great legs and a brain like a computer. Belle, you’re Boosterrific.”
She smiled and said, “High praise, indeed.”
“Good plan, Belle,” said Captain Atom. “While the Question, Beetle, Adam, and I occupy the Knights, perhaps the rest of you could try that.” He flew forward at superhuman speed and crashed into the Knights with stunning force.
Adam Thompson altered his own density and gained altitude before increasing his mass and dropping into the fray with impressive force all his own. I sure hope my grandparents are OK, he thought. Trying to be a hero doesn’t change the fact that I’m worried about the folks back home. He concentrated and became intangible as three Knights struck one another with gleaming swords meant for their young target.
The Question merely struggled to disarm one Knight while keeping his eyes on a second one as the armored figure closed in on him. He swung one of the discarded swords and smiled grimly beneath his expressionless mask. Vic Sage was more of a thinker than a fighter, but he could brawl with the best of them when necessary, and he showed his enemies no mercy.
Booster Gold and Broderick carried Liberty Belle and Nightshade skyward and, at Belle’s instruction, swooped down and through two narrow openings that allowed them to enter the castle with startling ease.
Nightshade yelled, “Look out!” No sooner had they landed than the darling of darkness had spotted tiny gleaming nodules on each wall. Brilliant energy beams ignited around them in an ever-tightening web of fire.
Booster shielded them all within his projected force-field and said, “Didn’t you say the original knights dropped fire on their foes out of these things? Looks like Brother Monarch added a futuristic spin on that tactic by installing energy beams.”
“Can you shatter them?” asked Liberty Belle. “Expand your field and deflect the beams back at their source.”
Booster nodded, and slowly the lethal beams retracted until their source nodules exploded. “Normally I’d frown on a woman driver, but you got all the right moves, Lib!” he said.
“He’s here!” shouted Broderick. “My quantum detector indicates Monarch is directly in front of us!”
“That makes sense,” said Belle. “Castles like this historically had a grand entrance hall where the ruler heard subjects on an annual day of requests.”
Booster said, “My only request is that he gives up so I can get back to business as usual.”
“Let me do a bit of solo exploring,” said Nightshade. “The shadows are an easy access way for a girl like me.” She smiled winningly and then stepped into the shadows, leaving the others to watch and then hurry forward.
“That gives me the crepes!” said Booster.
Liberty Belle said, “The correct expression is creeps, not crepes.”
Booster shrugged and said, “Sorry, I’m not down with all the slang of your era yet, but I’m working on it.”
The trio stepped into an open hall, which ended in a spacious chamber decorated with ornate banners with regal symbols and a stately if forbidding aura. Two lines of Atomic Knights stood at silent attention on each side of a massive throne. A large man in black and blue-gray armor sat on the throne and studied them with a fixed and unblinking gaze, or with as much of one as could be seen through his helmet’s visor.
“That’s him,” said Broderick. “That’s the fiend who’s hounded me across the eons.”
Booster Gold glanced over at Liberty Belle and then stepped forward heroically. “Your time in the spotlight ends here and now. We’re bringing the curtain down on you, you metal-faced goon!” he said.
The Monarch laughed and said, “This is not an unexpected meeting. I knew that a glory-grabbing egotist like you could not resist a chance to claim power in an era closer to your own.”
“Well, between us, I’m not really in it for glory,” said Booster. “I’m here for the babes!” He raised his hands and generated a tight pulse of energy that struck the Monarch but failed to even move his armored form.
“Your pretty little costume is a relic to me,” the Monarch sneered. “My armor comes from the science of centuries after your own.”
“We know all about you, Cameron,” said Liberty Belle.
The Monarch turned to gaze at the defiant blonde woman in the red, white, and blue mini-dress and heels. “You died,” he said. “History shows that. I killed you!”
“No, you failed. You can’t kill an ideal!” Liberty Belle said. “We know the Atomic Knights Project launched you from your time to the far future. We know you used the era’s science to journey back to an earlier era and dominate it. Why, we even know your social security number, Captain Scott.”
The Monarch seemed startled, either by her words or by her very existence.
“Cameron Scott, for crimes against chronology, I’m bringing you in,” said Broderick. The time cop ran forward and hurled two golden spheres at the Monarch. As they shattered against his force-field, Monarch gasped as crackling energy snaked around the field and wrapped in in a glowing cocoon. “My chrono-spheres will return the elements of your armor that rightly belong to other eras to their proper time,” said an exultant Broderick.
The Monarch’s dark armor began to crack into shards until he flexed one gloved hand, and the cracks vanished along with the energy. “Dolt!” he cried. “I have defenses against your toys. As I said before, you and Gold are primitives to me.” The Monarch raised his fist, and an orange trident materialized from thin air and impaled the time cop before he could move.
Broderick groaned, but his hands deftly raced across his belt’s controls, and he whispered, “I can’t move you through time, but I can shift myself. I’ll heal and return before you can even blink.” He vanished and then returned again a moment later, fully recovered. “Now, you were saying?” he yelled.
Booster Gold grinned and said, “Whew! You had me worried there, pal.”
Monarch said, “I don’t even need my Knights to triumph over you all. I’ll slay you right now!”