Minutes later in Hub City:
Firefist was an angry, embittered man who blamed all the pain and the disfigurement he had suffered on firemen who accidentally overlooked him when he was caught in an inferno years before. His real name was Lyle Byrnes, and in his misguided attempts to avenge himself on members of various fire departments, he had clashed more than once with the Blue Beetle.
Now the armored maniac was perched above the Hub City Fire Museum with heavy tanks of an explosive liquid he called Greek Fire positioned with a deliberate care.
“The city honors men who left me to die!” he said. “I’ll see their museum go up in smoke and leave their memories as nothing more than charred ashes!”
“Talking to yourself? How typical of your kind! I suppose you even have a chilling evil laugh that you practice on those lonely evenings by the fire!” said mocking masked figure in a costume of red and blue.
Firefist raised his head and tried to see more clearly. The helmet he wore protected him from impact and heat, but it made his vision limited at best. Still, he shifted his position and managed to see a hovering caped man with a blue hood that covered his entire head and face. His costume was white with red and blue trim, and he wore a long cape with red gloves and boots. A glowing emblem of a star or sun was on his chest.
“I don’t know your name, but I don’t need to in order to see you burn!” cried Firefist as he raised his metal gauntlets and released a spray of the liquid he carried in a tank on his back.
Flames engulfed the masked man, and where there had been that mocking voice, there was only the crackle of fire.
Seconds later, Firefist found himself being lifted skyward as the masked man miraculously appeared behind him. He couldn’t reach his attacker, who casually disconnected the wires that carried his Greek Fire from the tank on his back to his gloves, nor could he see the tanks he had placed below on the museum roof. They had vanished as well.
“Put me down!” he stammered as the rooftop below became smaller, and he soared higher.
The man chuckled and said, “Certainly! Only allow me to remove your rather cumbersome gear! It would only make your fall all the faster!”
Lyle screamed as his armor vanished and he plunged downward, only to be caught by the man’s firm grim.
“Don’t worry. I won’t really let you fall to a horrible death. I’m not that kind of guy!” said the masked man.
Lyle gasped for breath as the caped figure waved down at the waiting police.
“He’ll be OK. He just needs some time in a psych ward!” explained the man in white, red, and blue.
“You’re amazing! The whole city could have gone up if he had ignited those tanks!” said a police officer.
“No thanks are necessary, but your awe is appreciated! Oh, and the name is Supernova!” said the dashing figure as he soared away with the beaten villain in tow.
A rather successful start, if I do say so myself! he thought.
Lyle frowned in concern as he was carried ever higher by Supernova. “Why didn’t you leave me with the police? This sure isn’t the way to the cop shop!” he said.
“You thought I was going to take you to jail?” asked Supernova. “How old-fashioned an idea. You’d only pop up later and plague some other, less-capable action-hero. No, I have other, more final plans for you!”
Before Firefist could even gasp in surprise, the pair vanished into thin air.
In yet another hidden lab, a regal woman in a solid yellow leotard screamed in rage and pain. She had platinum blonde hair which was cut in a stark short style. Manacles covered her hands and feet, and a metallic collar rested across her shoulders and rose up to her chin. Small studs were clamped to her skull and painful energy bolts regularly flooded her captive form when she tried to move.
“It is futile to try to escape,” said a cold-looking man who watched her from across a room. “I know your metabolism better than you do now. I’m the smartest man on the planet. I’ve been testing your powers for days, and before that I had studied all known data on you for months. That was why I was able to capture you so easily. Don’t do any additional harm to yourself. Thanks to my special gasses, you are no stronger than a normal woman your age. The added pain caused by your attempts to free yourself only weakens you more. My dear Lady Tashana, submit to me and save yourself much agony!”
Lady Quark panted for breath and glared at her captor with a look of fiery scorn. “You shall never break me!” she said through clenched teeth.
Professor Danton Koste shrugged and said, “That point is moot. In any event, I don’t need to ‘break you,’ as you so delightfully put it. I could secure your daughter Princess Fern and bend her will to my own. While her powers differ from yours, they do stem from the same royal ancestry!”
Lady Quark struggled to free herself, only to fall back in pain as the energy cascaded over her body. “Leave my child alone!” she hissed. Fern, I will free myself for you! she thought. After believing you to be dead for so long, I can’t let this fiend keep me from you! We’ve been reunited for such a short time! (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Sentinels of Justice: Panic and the Pantheon, Chapter 4: Prodigal Son.]
Through her blinding pain, she recalled her tearful reunion with her long-lost child. It had occurred mere weeks before aboard Project X, the satellite headquarters of the Sentinels of Justice. After the shock of their reunion had faded, the two had talked together in Lady Quark’s private rooms aboard the satellite.
As Lady Quark opened the door, she smiled at the sight of Princess Fern sitting on a divan by a plush bed. Fern, whose birth-name was Liana, had platinum-blonde hair and wore a red and gold costume that left her legs bare except for sandals with laces that wrapped around her legs.
“Mother! I still feel as though this is all a dream!” cried the lovely teen girl. “For so long I was a prisoner in the Soviet Union. My friends in Soyuz helped me stand the pain of losing you and Father, but I never imagined I’d actually find you again here, in this world so different from our own!”
She embraced her mother and then stepped back. While the two had experienced a tearful and heartfelt reunion earlier, they now resumed their more typical stoic regal reserve.
“We have both been blessed with good friends,” said Lady Quark. “They have served us well since the Crisis that tore us apart and robbed us of so very much!”
Princess Fern nodded and said, “We lost a world! Our entire universe was destroyed, but even that loss feels less painful than our personal loss of Father!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “And Thus Shall the World Die,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 (July, 1985).]
“Lord Volt died fighting for us both,” said Lady Quark. “We will never forget him!”
Princess Fern nodded as she brushed away a tear. “I never imagined anything could stop him!” she said softly.
Lady Quark agreed readily and added, “He was truly invincible, or so we always thought.”
Now, in Danton Koste’s lab, Lady Quark shuddered as she recalled her long-lost daughter and her deceased husband Lord Volt.
If you were here, Volt, nothing would stop us! she thought.
Her pain caused her thoughts to become jumbled as she suddenly imagined Lord Volt’s features shifting until he became the noble Captain Atom, who indeed bore a resemblance to her late husband. She had developed a deep affection for the action-hero, and her feelings had become strong enough for the deeply private woman to consider the possibility that she might love him.
Professor Koste sighed heavily and leaned forward with his slender hands clasped together as if in prayer or meditation. “I can see you won’t listen to reason,” he said. “You leave me no choice but to turn up the juice, as the kids say!”
Lady Quark screamed again as energy surged through her body. For a moment she no longer resembled the proud and regal heroine she was, but appeared as a humanoid energy mass. Seconds later, this effect faded to reveal her normal, if anguished features.
Professor Koste raised one eyebrow as he watched the scene. “Fascinating, and yet oddly unexpected,” he muttered.
At that moment, alarms began to echo as the lab’s security system was shattered by a powerful flying figure in blue and red.
“Captain Atom!” cried Professor Koste as he recognized his old foe.
Shrugging slightly, Captain Atom pushed his way into the lab. “Koste! I should have known you’d turn up again. Your kind never truly die!” declared the action-hero as he moved closer to the scientist.
“And your kind never learns,” said Koste, smiling coldly as five large blue-black robots on heavy treads rolled into the lab and closed in on Captain Atom.
Captain Atom frowned as he saw Lady Quark’s glowing form. “Tashana, hold on! I’ll free you!” he vowed. Raising his arms, he generated energy-blasts that shattered two of the robots. “Shoddy workmanship, Koste! You’d never make it in the business world!”
Koste sneered as he replied, “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. After all, no one survives to give me bad word of mouth!”
Captain Atom dodged coiled tendrils that elongated in his direction and began to emit bursts of concussive force. He dropped down to crush one of them with his super-strength, even as he grabbed the coils of the nearest attacker and slammed it into the remaining one with devastating force. Luckily I was able to trace Lady Quark thanks to the metabolic detector Ted Kord whipped up for us after Vulcan vanished a while back, he thought. I’m just glad I got here in time.
Dropping down, he began to pry open the restraints that held his friend. I’m not used to seeing her so helpless and vulnerable, he thought. I don’t want to think about losing her now, especially after we’ve become so close since our unusual first meeting last year. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Sentinels of Justice: Superpowers, Chapter 6: Nuclear People.]
Lady Quark collapsed into his arms as she whispered her thanks. “Atom, by my crown, that was a close one!” she said.
Captain Atom patted her arm and said, “It’s OK. I’m here now. We’ll finish with Koste and get you back home!” He waited a moment as Lady Quark nodded to indicate that she could stand on her own.
As Captain Atom walked closer to Professor Koste, the cornered scientist waited with an oddly confident expression on his face. “Koste, I know you are the most egotistic man I’ve ever faced, but even you shouldn’t look so smug now that I’ve destroyed your robotic pals!” he said as he staggered forward.
But Atom frowned as he began to lose his balance completely. “What have you done?” he gasped as he dropped to the floor of the lab.
Professor Koste laughed as his old foe fought to regain his footing and a weakened Lady Quark moved slowly forward to help him. “Correction, old foe,” said a gloating Koste. “You didn’t destroy my robots. To be precise, you broke them open and released the special gas that I’d stored within their body cavities. It is an improved version of my old formula. It is the formula that chemically saps your unique body chemistry and, in short, leaves you helpless before my unsurpassed genius!”
Captain Atom shook his head and said, “I’m not done yet!”
Lady Quark bent over him as he placed both hands flat against the floor and suddenly altered his density, beginning to pass through the floor itself like a wraith.
However, before the heroes could manage to complete their escape, Koste fired a small gun at Captain Atom, who solidified at once and gasped in pain as he shuddered and fell back at Koste’s feet.
“A concentrated X-ionized blast can counter your abilities,” said Koste. “I learned that from a new ally. A most charming young woman named Layla alerted me to this helpful fact!”
Lady Quark kicked out at the scientist, but she was too slow, and he merely stepped aside and shot her in the chest with his gun. She began to pulse brightly before her energy dimmed, and she groaned in pain.
“I had not realized I could use this little gem on you, Your Highness!” he said. “Ah, the wonders of science!” Leveling the gun in her direction again, he said, “Perhaps I should just end this farce. Princess Fern does appeal to the naturalist in me!”
Before he could fire his gun or Atom or Quark could move, a beam of energy shattered the gun, leaving Koste bleeding from its broken fragments. He gasped and turned to see a powerful figure in red and gold crash through a window and knock him across the room with a slap. Koste fell hard and did not rise again.
“Be thankful that one such as I offers mercy even to a wretch like you!” declared a handsome man with long, silvery white hair as he swept back a long cape and moved forward to lift Lady Quark into an embrace. “I am here now, beloved,” he said as he kissed her.
She responded eagerly even as she stared at him in wonder. “Can it be?” she whispered.
Captain Atom watched in surprise and then slowly regained his composure. “Lord Volt?” he said.
“Indeed, sir,” said the newcomer. “I am Lord Volt, and I extend my hand to you as an apparent vassal of my royal bride!”