Sometime earlier, inside the new Kord facility, Dr. Murray Takamoto found himself staring up at a huge humanoid with the savage features and flowing mane of a lion. He gulped as the creature gripped his coat and dragged him down the hallway, even as sirens rang out around them. The bodies of stunned security guards lined the halls.
Murray gasped as he struggled helplessly against the mutated wrestler. “W-what happened?” he stammered. “I just came out of the lab when the alarms starting going off!”
Leonine dragged him down the hallway even as in other parts of the building his co-workers were finding themselves equally helpless against the invading villains.
Dr. Jeremiah Duncan was trying to lead a group of employees to safety when their path was blocked by the sudden appearance of a gigantic Abby Ladd.
“You can’t escape,” she said in a rumbling tone. “I’m sorry, but I have no choice but to keep you all inside!”
“You crazy action-villains always think you can get away with your crimes, but you never do!” said Dr. Duncan. “Your fancy costumes and strange powers don’t change the fact that you’re no better than the thugs I used to see back in Mississippi when I was a kid!”
Abby, now known as Titania, bit her lip but said nothing. Is he right? she thought as she herded the captives back down the hallway. I don’t want to obey Kord, but if I don’t, I’ll never be normal again!
In a matter of minutes, the entire facility had been taken over by the group of Alistair Kord’s mutated pawns informally known as the Pseudo-Squad.
Not long after Ted Kord had departed as the Blue Beetle to respond to the emergency signal alongside his fellow Sentinels of Justice, another costumed figure entered his suburban home. Tracey Kord jumped up from the sofa and stepped into two pink bedroom slippers as the costumed man stepped out of the shadows.
“That was fast! Did the others not need you? she began, but she covered her mouth with one hand and gasped as she saw the black and red costume. “You’re not–! Who are you?” she said, backing away from the intruder.
“I’m called the Scarlet Scarab. Any resemblance to your loser of a husband is purely due to a cosmic joke!” He crossed the room before she could move, and grabbed her arm. “I’ll make this quick and painless. Give me the scarab. I know Ted Kord’s predecessor passed on a magical scarab to him. He doesn’t seem to use it as the Blue Beetle. That’s his choice, but I need it. The one I used on my world was destroyed in the Crisis. I’ve been going through withdrawal ever since then. I can’t control myself. I don’t even know what’s right or wrong any longer, but I need a scarab. Just give it to me, and I’ll leave you alone! His scarab will restore me to my old self!”
Tracey noticed that the man’s lower jaw was beaded with sweat, and his eyes were wild as he glared at her from behind stylized goggles like those worn by Ted. The eyes were like Ted’s, but they were full of pain and desperation.
“Ted doesn’t have it, either!” she explained. “He lost it during the Crisis! He didn’t trust it for some reason, anyway, and it never gave him any powers at all!” Tracey didn’t bother to explain that Ted’s scarab wasn’t exactly the same one that had empowered his predecessor, the second Blue Beetle; she thought that would have confused things even further. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: For the full story of the scarabs, see Sentinels of Justice: The Calm Before the Storm, Chapter 3: Blue Beetle.]
“Don’t lie to me!” yelled the Scarlet Scarab. “No man would refuse to use the power found in those scarabs! He must have it somewhere!”
Tracey cried out as the black-costumed man shook her, and before she could utter another sound, the world grew dark around her, and she fainted into the arms of her attacker.
“I’ll make Ted Kord a simple trade — he can have you back when he delivers the scarab to me!” shouted the Scarlet Scarab.
With those words, the Scarlet Scarab lifted Tracey Kord into his arms and made his exit.
As the pair departed within the Bug, which had been hovering above the house, they failed to see a slender figure staring up at them from the end of the drive.
Police Captain Max Fisher adjusted his beat-up fedora and frowned in thought as he realized what he thought he had witnessed. “That was the Blue Beetle’s ship, and that woman was Tracey Kord,” he said quietly to himself. “That must mean Ted Kord is the Blue Beetle! I always suspected there was something that tied them together, but this explains it all!”
Meanwhile, the Blue Beetle and several of his fellow Sentinels of Justice were rushing toward his own laboratory, where alarms had indicated a invasion of costumed action-villains.
I guess I should have known that any advanced lab is going to be a target for crooks in search of easier ways to make money, he thought as he piloted the Sentinel Skimmer, the team’s flying craft. Of course, I figured our security staff would be up to the job of handling an occasional threat, but the poor guys can’t deal with something like this!
Booster Gold, who was sitting in the seat next to his friend, frowned as his own advanced gear enabled him to see through the darkness to recognize the still forms of dozens of security guards. “I can detect pulses,” he said. “They aren’t dead — just stunned or drugged!”
Blue Beetle nodded grimly and said, “The air pressure has been altered. I mean, it’s like a storm is brewing, but only right over the complex! If we’re dealing with that kind of power, we may be in for a real fight!”
Booster nodded and turned to face the sultry woman who sat behind him. She was strikingly beautiful in a garish way. Her long red hair cascaded down on each side of her delicate but rather hungry features. She was deathly pale, and her ruby red lips contrasted greatly with her inhuman pallor. She wore a red gown whose high-laced bodice rather demurely contrasted with the slits at each leg that revealed well-formed limbs above high-heeled red boots with gold braid.
“Say, Countess, you have some weather-related powers — can you explain what Ted means?” he asked.
The Countess, alias Monica Lake, shook her head dismissively. “You know very well that, since my magical accident, I’ve been trapped looking like the vampiric Countess Von Bludd character I played on TV, but I don’t have any arcane knowledge. I may have the abilities associated with a vampire, and I may be stuck in this form, but I sure don’t know anything more than I did when I was a starlet on the rise in Hollywood!” She crossed her legs and turned her head as if to indicate she had better things to do than to waste words with her ex-boyfriend.
Booster shrugged and said, “Sorry, Monica. I know you’re sensitive about your transformation!”
The fur-covered female next to the Countess smiled winningly and tossed back her own tawny hair as she curled up on the deck chair. “Our Countess likes to sulk, you know,” said Felina, alias Matty Lopez. “It’s all part of her artistic temperament!”.
Felina, or Fifi as she called herself, was very different from the Countess in more ways than what was obvious. As a top supermodel, Matty had been known for her sensational face and form, but she had been the victim of the same magical energies that had altered actress Monica Lake. (*) Now the model was trapped in the form of a cat-woman with tawny fur and the lithe agility and feline traits of a human cat. She relished her new body, and she loved being an action-heroine. She also did all she could to cheer up her close friend Monica when her mood became too dark.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Sentinels of Justice: Invaded by Magic, Chapter 2: Felina and the Countess.]
The final two occupants of the skimmer were the brown-and-white-costumed Peacemaker and the all-American girl called Liberty Belle.
The Peacemaker felt slightly uncomfortable not being the pilot of the skimmer, since he had probably spent more hours in the air than any one of them, other than the child prodigy-turned-adult heroine Belle. Christopher Smith was a man of many talents as well, and he had turned all of them toward achieving the seemingly impossible goal of world peace. Of course, as he would readily admit, it was a work in progress, and he had seen the value in a team in recent years as age began to creep up on him. He was a man of few words and lacked the extroverted personality of Booster Gold or Felina, but he still continued to train a group of elite soldiers who he hoped would eventually take his place.
Liberty Belle, alias Candy Deane, was a woman of a thousand talents. In truth, her amazing ability to excel at almost every pursuit from martial arts and marksmanship to linguistics and detection led some to think that the Olympian-turned-astronaut-turned-businesswoman possessed some type of mutant gene that enabled her to master any skill she attempted to acquire. The brunette didn’t know the source of her talents herself, but she had used all her many talents to follow her late sister Carolyn in the role of platinum-wigged, mini-skirted crime-buster.
She looked to the back of the Skimmer, where she could observe her teammates interact with one another and offer her own suggestions as needed. This was second nature to her, since she had been appointed team leader when the more powerful Captain Atom had passed the role on to her due to her own knowledge of human nature and his own personal commitments to the military in his role of Colonel Nathaniel Christopher Adam.
Now, as Blue Beetle guided the Skimmer past the complex, Fifi said, “Ted, are you asleep at the wheel?”
“He’s taking us down through his own secret entrance!” explained Belle after a pause. Beetle had ignored Felina’s good-natured jibe since he was, in truth, very worried about his employees and his place of business.
As the Skimmer plunged into the waters of Gunmaster Lake, he guided it skillfully through a hidden tunnel that led under and into his new complex. He had used a similar entry and exit from his old headquarters that his father had taken over.
“Beetle, you obviously know the lay of the land better than any of us,” said Belle. “I defer to you on this one!”
Beetle nodded and said, “Thanks, Belle, although I’d guess you’ve already memorized the blueprints with your photographic memory!”
She smiled demurely and said, “As a matter of fact…!”
The frightened and indignant staffers at KORD had already been locked within one of the hangar wings where aircraft prototypes were designed.
The Orb, Titania, Menagerie, Borea, and Leonine had been joined by three other mutated beings, Shrike, Sandstorm, and Kinetik. All of the members of the Pseudo-Squad had been transformed and enslaved by the malice of Alistair Kord.
“It worked like a charm!” declared a smug man in black with long blond hair and the lithe body of a dancer. “Borea drained most of the oxygen out of the facility and knocked most staffers and the security team out cold. The rest of us easily rounded up those that had been outside or in other buildings!” Kinetik could absorb the kinetic energy of anyone he touched, but this left him unable to touch anyone in a normal manner. His willingness to obey Kord was evident, and he had been made field commander of the Pseudo-Squad.
Sandstorm was a tall woman in a yellow and brown dress that swirled around her as if it was comprised entirely of shifting sands. Her long hair was naturally enough also a sandy shade.
Shrike was an Asian man with a long black cape that extended to each wrist and a heavily tattooed neck and face. He hovered above the others and scanned the area with small beady birdlike eyes.
“We’ve got the employees under wraps,” said Kinetik. “Now start smashing things until the heroes show up for their own well-deserved beat-down!”
At that moment, Booster Gold flew into the room followed by the other Sentinels of Justice.
“The only beat you’ll experience is the one from the prison sound system on talent day!” quipped Booster as he glanced around, taking note of the placement of security cameras. Good footage for the newscasts — and free advertising, too! he thought.
With those words, the battle between the Sentinels of Justice and the Pseudo-Squad commenced.