This story is based in the 5 Earths Project continuity, and is built on what was written before by myself, Brad Cobb, and Martin Maenza. For those unfamiliar with the setting, it assumes that there were 5 earths left after the great Crisis on Infinite earths. Earth 4 is a combination of Charlton and MLJ/Red Circle characters.
They were a strange group that walked along the sidewalk at the Mall. None of them were natives to Washington, D.C. They weren't even friends for the most part.
"I can't believe this," said Tammy Townsend, walking in the lead. "Go take the tour until you're called. What is that all about?"
"Leave," said the man known as the Prankster by friends and foes alike. "Vacation. A weekend pass. A period of rest and recuperation."
Tammy glared at her comrade, who shrugged easily under her baleful gaze.
"Purse snatcher," said Specs, at the back of the group. "Twelve o'clock."
"I see him," said the current Judomaster.
The group walked forward. The thief was more worried about pursuit, so didn't notice the hand that grabbed his flailing wrist and sent him flying into the ground. His loot popped out of his hands and one of the group caught it easily.
"I wouldn't do that again," said the Prankster, dropping an egg onto the thief. The shell exploded, releasing a sticky mass of goo to hold the criminal in place.
"Good mind reading, Specs," Tammy said, as the group moved on.
"Mind reading, nothing," said Anders. "He stood out like a sore thumb."
"How did you get into the hero business, Specs," the Prankster asked. "You seem like too much of a fuddy duddy to risk your neck."
John Anders looked at his companions. He was older than them by twenty years. He thought about how he had started with the Tyro Team.
"You know how it goes," Specs said. "I just kinda fell into the business."
The others stared at him with frank disbelief.
"I guess it can't hurt to talk about some of it," Anders said. "One of my partners is retired, the other has been committed to Worlane Psychiatric for the rest of his life.
"Who committed him?" asked Tammy.
"I did," said Specs. "Excuse me, we did. My other partner and I did."
"You might want to start at the top, bud," said Frank Jesse, the unsurprised one for once.
"We found out about each other in school," began Specs.
"We were attending the same university and quickly realized we all had some telepathic ability. We decided to call ourselves something like the Crusaders, or the Sentinels.
"Since we were all new guys, we decided on calling ourselves Tyro Team. We kept the crime rate down at the school and in the city in general the best we could. Our constant partnership bolstered our abilities, allowing them to become more powerful than they would normally.
"Finally Creep couldn't take the constant chatter from the the telepathy, and snapped. He went around the bend. We caught up with him as he was throwing some kid out of an apartment building window. Luckily, there was a fire escape he overlooked, so the kid lived.
"We combined our power and just mentally blasted Creep into a vegetable."
"We committed Creep to the prison and left him there. My other partner retired, gave up his abilities as much as he could.
"I puttered around for a while. I was kind of lost without a purpose.
"Then Steel showed up on my doorstep with a job that I could handle.
"So here we are," Specs said. "What about the rest of you? What kind of stories do you guys have?"
The group looked at the silent Shape. He simply smiled and pointed an elongated finger at the pale Prankster.
He smiled slightly.
"So I have to expurgate my guts out now, huh?" he said.
Emil Forsa looked at himself in the bathroom mirror of the flea bag where he was staying. Emil picked up the box and wand on the sink next to his to his hand. He ran the wand over his body and it crackled at him menacingly.
Emil knew he was in trouble. His radioactivity was growing at a phenomenal rate. Still he had a job to do, and he was determined to do it. He still had a reputation to maintain.
Emil concentrated, calling on the energy within. His body lit up in the center of several energy rings. His clothes was replaced by a bronze and cadium costume with a metal mask to cover his face.
He hoped he had enough time to do the job and vanish for a while. A twitch had happened during charge-up and it triggered a nervous feeling.
He felt like a bomb with a sort fuse. He wondered how much time he had as he walked to the window and took flight in a glowing energy trail.
That doesn't matter he told himself as he flew over Washington.
"So you want to know how I got recruited on the team?" asked Frank Jesse.
"I fell into it," he said, with a broad smile.
"What?" said Tammy Townsend.
"It's the truth," said Jesse. "My brother and I worked in L.A. doing gags for the movie companies when Jimmy created this new foam. It would put out a fire as fast as anything. Plus it was absorbent beyond belief. Stop the mass of, say, a car at ninety with almost no energy transfer.
"Jimmy planned to use it for high falls because less time was needed for it and it was safer than a conventional bag."
"What happened?" asked Tammy. "How did you go from being a stuntman to a government agent?"
"A thing like Jimmy's foam was sure to attract attention," said Frank. "We had a couple of movies that had high falls in the middle of them. That was perfect for what we needed for a live test.
"Jimmy decided that he would do the live test with an air bag underneath as a safety net. So here we are shooting the scene and Jimmy does a perfectly executed swan dive into the foam and bag. And died because some guys had stolen the foam and deflated the air bag."
Emil Forsa flew over the city. His energy trail glittered behind him as he went.
Information had pinpointed a source of radiated rock that he could use. It rested in a vault underneath the city. All he had to do was secure what he needed and leave.
Minimum security, minimum trouble.
It should be a pie job.
Emil didn't believe it for a minute.
No job is a pie job.
"Your brother got killed doing a stunt?" asked Tammy.
"Yep," said Frank Jesse. "So I got a bunch of stuff that Jimmy was working on from his shop and hid out for a while. I knew the guys would have to come looking for me because what was stolen was non-duplicatible and broke down under usage.
"I was the next best thing to Jimmy.
"So I got the stuff together and practiced with it until I was ready. Then when I was good enough, I started showing up in places I used to go to before Jimmy's death.
"Before long, I got someone following me. I shook him and then started following him. Eventually he led me back to his boss."
"Imagine the scene," Frank Jesse said. "I had a makeshift costume and equipment. I was using my springs to get around. I followed him across the city to one of the stilt houses they build in the canyons.
"I wanted this guy to pay. Now how could I get a confession from him. It looked kind of tricky. I finally came up with a plan.
"I placed a timed explosive on a couple of the stilts and then went up to the front door. I broke the door in and commenced to lighting the place up.
"I was faced with overwhelming odds so was soon captured like I planned. The mastermind came out and I got him gloating into a hidden tape recorder.
"I had timed it just right. The explosive went off and the house went over the side into the canyon. My costume protected me from the worst of it, but everyone else went to the hospital. Then they went to jail."
"That's--" began Specs.
"Crazy," finished Tammy. "You could have been killed."
"Could have, would have, should have," said Frank Jesse, shaking off the dull grip of the past. "I wasn't. That's all that matters.
"Of course, the law frowns on dropping other people's houses into canyons, so I was charged and ordered to pay recompense and do community service.
"The house is almost paid for and the time on the team counts as service. I figure I will be free to go about 2001."
"What about you, Tammy?" asked Specs. "Why take over for your predecessor?"
"It runs in the family," said Tammy, brushing red hair back from her brow. "My grandfather was the first Captain Flag, then my dad, and now me."
Emil Forsa arrived on target. His legs were tingling as he hovered outside the building in question.
Curse Drako, he thought again as he had numerous times since he had found out he was dying.
Forsa raised his hands. He released a fireball that blew a hole in the wall. He flew through the hole and landed.
A guard arrived as Forsa was looking for the door to the vault. He went for his pistol as Emil threw another fireball as well as any pitcher for a major league team. The guard went down in a spray of blood.
Emil tried to catch his breath from the second fireball.
He wondered how much more he could take before he gave up the ghost.
"My grandfather started out, making a name fighting guys like the Black Hand in the forties. Pirates, nazis and other villains.
"My father joined the army and used the identity to catch agents for MI. He was detached to the Crusaders when the army absorbed them.
"He was among the casualties when the red sky event happened. A wall fell on him while he was trying to clear a building of people.
"I found his log book when we, my mother and I, put his things away.
"I decided to take up where he left off.
"Steel called and here we are."
Emil Forsa took a deep breath. The tingling in his legs had finally stopped as he considered his next difficulty.
He seized the exterior of the vault in both of his hands. He began to pull on the metal as energy traced into his hands heating the alloy.
Usually Emil would form a fireball with the energy. This time he directed it into a cloud of heat between his skin and the metal. The surface of the metal slowly split apart under the treatment and formed a strand that Emil pulled out of the way.
As soon as he had melted enough of a hole from the metal, he entered the vault. He began exploding the small metal cases in the walls as he looked for life saving miracle.
"What about you, Ken?" Tammy Townsend asked to push the spotlight away. "How did you start out?"
"My father was the Tiger, who had been the Judomaster's partner. He took over from the original Judomaster after the second World War, some time in the fifties.
"He met my mother while uncovering some nefarious plot. Her father had been Ty-Gor, so she had taken the name Tyger to emulate him. My father said they hit it off rather well and continued to work together until they were married and I was born.
"I began my training as soon as I could walk. Both of my parents were pleased at my advancement. When I became an older, I took on my father's old identity.
"It's all very simple and straightforward."
The group's pagers began to beep quietly.
"Phone's over there," Specs said, pointing to a public phone stand.
The team pushed over to the row of telephones. Tammy put in a quarter and dialed an anonymous number. An operator on the other end gave her an address, and then hung up.
"We have a mission," she said. "Too bad Hennessy is out of town."
"Where?" asked Judomaster.
Tammy gave them the address.
"Frank, you'll have to get there and hold the situation in place until the rest of us get there. Shape, you're going to have to carry Specs," said Judomaster.
The Prankster pressed a hidden button on his watch. A foam sprayed over his body as he ran forward. Garbed in fighting colors, he bounced away.
Shape snaked out of his clothes, dropping them on the ground. He pulled up his hood as he wrapped an arm around Specs and leaped away.
Emil Forsa bathed in the titanic glow that surrounded him. It was like sitting in a hot tub, except radiation was substituted for water.
Emil walked out of the now valueless vault, footsteps burning into the concrete floor. He hadn't felt this good in a long time.
He was unprepared for the pellet that impacted his chest armor. A cage of sticky foam surrounded him in an instant.
Emil directed some of his new energy outwards, burning his prison away in a cloud of smelly smoke.
Emil stepped forward to confront his opponent.
Emil Forsa and Frank Jesse glared at each other through their respective masks. It was a long, silent moment.
Then Emil released a pure bolt of energy at the blue, yellow, and green costumed Prankster. The Web agent bounced over the plasma stream. The wall melted from the impact as Frank tossed a grenade to the floor. Snake-like coils exploded from the grenade, wrapping around the villain.
"You are beginning to be an annoyance," said Forsa, melting out of the trap.
"I haven't even got started," said Jesse, crushing handfuls of pellets in both hands. He was hurled backward, as Major Force was slammed into a wall by the fire retardant. The former stuntman flipped in mid-air and landed on his feet.
The Shape and Specs arrived moments later. Specs held his hand up for his companion to halt. He wanted a second to look things over.
Besides it looked like the Prankster had everything in hand at the moment.
The retardant foam expanded outward around Major Force as he channeled his nuclear energy into it. Finally it gave up the ghost and exploded outward in thin ribbons.
"I don't have time for this," Forsa growled as he flew for the hole he had blown in the side of the building. He released a long stream of plasma at the bouncing agent as he went, and missed.
pecs pushed the Shape back to give the energy man room to fly. His talent had already picked out the man's destination. That would give the team time to regroup and strategize a better way to handle the menace.
A black van rolled to a stop beside the agents. Judomaster was at the wheel, Captain Flag rode shotgun. She waved impatiently for the rest of them to get in the back.
"Major Force," said Specs. "He's burning up with energy. He has a room across town. We might be able to catch up to him, but we will have a hard time stopping him if we can't touch him.
"I think he is a time bomb."
"How do we handle this then?" Captain Flag asked.
Judomaster drove through the city streets silently.
"I think I have a plan," he said. "It will be dangerous."
"Don't tell me about it then," said the Prankster.
"It's always 'Prankster, distract the bad guy,' " grumbled the ex-stuntman. "Never send Specs or Shape. Oh, no."
"Shut up," Tammy Townsend's voice hissed over his cowl radio. "We want the element of surprise, remember?"
"Easy for you to say," said Frank Jesse as he looked through the windows adjacent to the hotel's fire escape. He found the one he wanted and paused.
Emil Forsa had powered down for the moment as he gathered his belongings. He seemed unconcerned about pursuit.
Frank admitted to himself he wouldn't be concerned either if he could turn into a ball of fire.
"I'm ready," he said into his mike. "Let's get this over with."
"We're in position, Prankster," said Judomaster. "Go for it."
The Prankster burst through the window, hands taking aim at the surprised villain. It had taken a few minutes of work, but now Jesse could spray his special foam like a fire extinguisher.
Forsa registered surprise right before he was buried in a cocoon of gray material. He grimaced as he was bound for a second time.
Fury erupted inside the nuclear man and he triggered his change. The overcharge of energy ate away at the foam, even as he sensed his body in motion.
Impact in the dark.
He barely felt it as he burned the rest of the sticky substance away.
Forsa realized he was in some kind of enclosure with the heat resistant foam all around him to protect the surfaces of the cell.
Major Force grabbed hold of the foam to secure a stable grip. His cell was moving at a high rate of speed. Sudden turns threatened to spill him from one side to the other if he hadn't latched onto the soft substance.
Filled with the power of a sun, he decided it was time to escape his prison. He channeled all the energy he could stand in a massive stream of plasma. Foam and metal melted away from the super heated air.
"How much longer?" Specs asked as the sky lit up behind the agency van. A trace of anxiety was in his voice.
"Almost there," said Judomaster, as calm as if he were taking a drive in the country to admire the scenery.
"On the maximum range mark," Flag said.
The van slammed to a halt. The Shape jumped out of the back door and slid under the converted Dumpster as Major Force ripped through the top.
"You again," Forsa said when he saw the Prankster grinning at him. His energy aura distorted the nearby air. "I'm going to enjoy killing you."
"Hello," said Jesse, "and good-bye."
The Shape erupted like the coiled spring that he had become. Dumpster, villain and all, flew through the air. Forsa saw the waters of the Potomac River come up to meet him just before he hit.
"Oh #@&%*!" was all he had time to say.
Then everything went black.
They had fished Emil Forsa out of the river. Most of his energy had been depleted by the onslaught of the cold water.
They put the restraints on the nuclear man and turned him over to the federal prison authorities. Special materials were already in place to hold his nuclear powers in check.
"I'd say we did a good job here," Specs said, cleaning his glasses with a soft cloth.
"You know what Hennessy will say when he gets back," said Captain Flag.
"He'll say 'Could have been a lot better'," said Frank Jesse with a laugh.
"Exactly," said the captain, as the group walked back to their vehicle.
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