Infinite Crisis E-4 P.O.V.

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C. Syphrett
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Infinite Crisis E-4 P.O.V.

Post by C. Syphrett » Mon Jan 24, 2005 1:37 am

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.

Sarge Steel walked through what would be his new place of business. Everything smelled new to him. His support staff were due in the next few days. Until then, he and his assistant were on their own.

He walked into the office he would soon make his own. He paused with the thought that he was stepping into the big time.

He pushed that thought away.

He had been a vet, then a private eye, then a special agent, then a control officer, then a department head.

Now he was in charge of putting together a team to deal with superhuman threats, and running the support staff.

His boss was the Director of the WEB, and only answered to the President and the Congressional Intelligence Committee that all American agencies report to for budgets and operational problems.

The WEB was buried in another agency known as FEMA. FEMA was concerned with disaster relief and the surviving of a nuclear war. The WEB was interested in stopping any problem that could cause one or the other.

Steel sat down at his desk

Steel's pager began to buzz insistently. He pulled it off of his waistband with his normal hand, and checked the number.

Steel frowned slightly.

The Director wanted to talk to him.

He picked up the phone on his desk and dialed a private number. He waited impatiently.

"Steel?," asked the Director.

"Yes, sir," said Steel. He tapped his steel fist against the top of his desk.

"Something is happening in Hub City with the Blue Beetle and some unknown meta. The networks are eating it up."

"I'll do what I can," said Steel. He picked up a remote control and dialed the satellite footage to his workstation as he hung the phone up.

The Blue Beetle was in conversation with a blond woman floating in the air. He marked the woman for research and a file for future use with a light pen.

He picked up his phone and called a satellite office in Hub City. He gave his i.d. number and ordered a man on the scene.

A new super was rare, but it did happen. He wondered what was it about this newcomer that made the chief take notice.

He watched the events of the meeting from the news view and from a D.O.D. satellite overhead.The woman and azure avenger vanished in a flash of light. Then the Beetle's Bug also vanished.

Booster Gold was home in Hub City at the time of the disappearance. He talked with the police on the scene and the leader of the gang that the Beetle had caught before he had splashed to the sidewalk.

He learned that the lady had wanted the Beetle's help in saving the world. He frowned as he took to the air.

If Skeets hadn't been monitoring the local news, he wouldn't have known about this until much later. This wasn't among the historical knowledge that Skeets had retained when he had been repaired after their encounter with Blackguard on the White House lawn.

Booster flew to the Hub City Airport. Maybe the Sentinels would know what was going on.

Booster landed at a private hangar. He filled out a flight plan after he had checked to make sure his plane was ready for the trip to New York. He got clearance and taxied down the runway and flew into the blue skies.

Blue Beetle had gone willingly with the woman, but the whole thing was too sudden for Booster's comfort. He had been in touch with Ted since the very start of his career in the past. Ted would have taken the time to leave a message, even if it was just something like "Cover for me. Have to go out of town on business."

Booster landed his plane at LaGuardia and rented a hangar for it. He took to the skies with Skeets, heading for the Sentinels headquarters.

He knew that none of the members except for Thunderbolt, the other reservist, even lived in New York.

Still he could launch a search from there and use the group's government connections to help narrow the field.

Hopefully the Blue Beetle would show up with an interesting tale to tell.

An apology for not inviting his buddies to the cook-out would also be nice.

Booster shut down the Sentinels HQ security system with a signal from his blue and gold costume as he flew down out of the sky.

He landed gently and went inside, followed by Skeets.

"Where should we start first, Skeets?," Booster asked his aide as he walked to the main computer.

"I suggest we gather as much data as we can from the news, Booster," said Skeets. "That might suggest a suitable course of action."

Booster turned on all the monitors and plugged in to every broadcast he could find on the air. He and Skeets watched for minutes, but no one had a clue what happened to the azure avenger

Joseph Higgins stood alone under a tree.

The others had attended the funeral and dispersed to hold a private wake and farewell party.

Higgins was the last man at the cemetery. This was the fifth one for him and his comrades in recent years.

First had been Lancelot Strong. He had dove into the earth and been killed by an explosion.

Matt Burland had been killed by the Eraser. Darkling and Malcolm Jarvis had fallen to the Brain Emperor. The last three had happened within days of each other.

Kip Burland had not seemed to have recovered from the crushing blow of his uncle's death.

Higgins wondered what was the point of all this as he watched the dirt being shoveled into the ground.

He did not know that the next few days would bring untold death and destruction on Earth Four as he turned and slowly began to walk away, head bowed against a sudden drizzle of rain.

Heaven's tears, he thought to himself as he moved away

Joe and the colonel had been friends for a long time. All the way back to the forties when the world struggled against the forces of Nazism and evil.

Then Joe had been turned into a statue by the Eraser. His colleagues and family had to struggle through the years without him.

Then he had returned as unexpectedly as he had left.

Higgins had returned to a different world than the one he had left. It had still needed him, or people like him.

Now one of his only links to the past had been severed just like that.

Joe rubbed his face slightly as the rain began to pour unnoticed from the sky. The black clouds and rolling thunder matched his mood perfectly.

Who's next?, he wondered morbidly as he walked down the driveway and through the metal gates of the cemetery.

Higgins walked aimlessly while he considered the future

The Sentinels began to arrive within an hour of Booster Gold.

Captain Atom arrived first in a flashing trail of particles. Then the blue and red garbed Thunderbolt. Peacemaker and Nightshade were neck and neck as one flew in from Switzerland and the other from Washington. The last was the Question of Center City.

"Hello, Booster," said Captain Atom as he spotted the famous reservist. "Do you have anything?"

"No," admitted the corporate crusader. "It's as if Beetle and that mystery woman had vanished off the face of the Earth. Skeets and I can't find anything in any of the camera shots at the scene."

"Eiling said the same thing at the Project," said Atom. "She wasn't in any of the files."

"The guy at the scene said it was about a world shaking disaster," said Booster. He relayed his interview to the rest of the Sentinels.

"Let's assume the woman took the Beetle," said the Question. "Do we have anything to locate him here?"

"Yes," said Skeets. "An emitter was built into the Bug so that it could be tracked. Master Beetle left a tracking device in his workshop as a precaution."

"Are you sure?," Booster asked. "Why didn't you say something before now?"

"You didn't ask," said Skeets, in his literal fashion.

Captain Atom flew to the shop area of the building. A spare hangar for the Bug was here at the top of the building. A hasty search revealed the desired piece of machinery. He took it back to the meeting room.

Booster, with some directions from his aide, hooked the device to the monitor board. A digital readout lit up on the face of tracker. Finally it settled to a small message.

"Target Not Found."

"What's the range?," asked Nightshade. "Maybe he's not close enough to the detector."

"The tracker is hooked to a satellite for the D.O.D.," said Skeets. "So far the Bug has not been found on any point on Earth. Half of the world is covered by the satellite in the first few minutes of its flight path."

Joe Higgins returned to the base after the wake. The guard at the checkpoint said the new base commander wanted to see him at his office.

Joe frowned.

A new base commander already. Boyle must have put in for a replacement before he died.

Joe knocked on the door before entering the commander's office. A tall man sat in Boyle's chair, reading reports, marking notes with Boyle's fountain pen. He looked up, a thin line creasing his brow.

"Higgins," said the new commander. "Your team is confined to base until an operational review is done."

"Excuse me?," said Joe, brow darkening.

"Your team is to stand down until a review of your performance is gone over and new operational guidelines are in place," said the new commander. "That will be all."

Higgins left the room, slamming the door hard enough to make the glass rattle.

The Colonel had already returned to his reports.

Dan Garrett sat in an easy chair. He held a notebook in his hands from a recent dig in Cambodia. He had waited five months to get clearance. Then the expedition had been expelled by the authorities without warning.

Still he had his notes to go over and pictures of the site. That would be a big help, if he ever got a chance to return and finish digging.

Dan turned the radio on to listen to some jazz while he copied his notes into a report for the university.

"It's four," said the broadcaster. "Top story is the Blue Beetle is missing."

Dan pushed his notes aside to listen to the news. He frowned as the recap was read out on the air.

Dan cut the radio off and reached into his pocket. He pulled out the azure scarab he had always carried since he had found it and awakened the evil mummy it guarded.

He had given Ted Kord a smaller version he had found on a later dig as a protective device. He wondered if the small scarab was enough to do the job.

Dan Garret said the magic word that activated his change to his long abandoned alter ego, The second Blue Beetle. He flew out of the window of his apartment with habitual ease.

It was hard to believe that he stopped doing this for so many years.

Ted had been doing a good job defending his city and the world from threats and menaces. Dan had met the Sentinels once. They were a good bunch of people, even Ted's friend, Booster Gold.

He wasn't near as mercenary as his image depicted.

Dan sailed across the skyline, descending to the plain brick building that housed one of the country's two protective groups. He landed on the roof, and paused in front of one of the cameras before letting himself inside the roof access.

He found the Sentinels in the command center on the second floor. They seemed surprised to see him again. That was fine. He was surprised to be using his old guise.

"Hello, Beetle," Captain Atom said. "No news yet on Ted."

"I didn't think so," said Dan. "He's not on Earth."

"How do you know that?," asked Booster Gold.

Dan explained about the protective scarab he had given his friend. That told him that Ted was not on Earth at all.

A klaxon began to ring. Gold turned to the monitor. A blue insect hovered in a picture from a roof camera.

"Ted's back," Gold and Dan said together with the same expression of relief.

The Sentinels took Ted to the medical bay they maintained in their building. Most of the members had some type of first aid training, and Skeets had a working knowledge of human anatomy.

“I thought you retired, Dan,” Ted said wearily. He undid the mechanical clasp in his cowl, and struggled with his mesh shirt, before Nightshade and Thunderbolt pulled it off for him.

“Third degree burns,” Thunderbolt said, as he began to pull out the things he needed to take care of the the wounds.

“I did,” said Dan Garrett, with a small smile. “I guess I was worried when I realized you weren’t on Earth any more.”

“Oh, thanks for that bug,” said Ted. “It saved my life.”

Kord reached into a pocket on his belt and pulled out a small blue beetle. He winced when he saw it.

The small carving had been a bright iridescent blue when Dan had given it to Ted years ago. Now it was black and pitted in several places. Half of the legs had broken off under the onslaught of the Shadow Demons.

“Where did you go, Ted?,” Booster Gold asked. “What happened?”

“Harbinger took me to a satellite and I met some weird people, then was dropped in the middle of World War Two to protect this gadget, and then was teleported back here,” said Ted, wincing from Thunderbolt’s treatment of his burns. “The world is ending soon too.”

“What are you talking about, Ted?,” asked Dan.

Ted didn’t hear him. He had passed out on the table.

“So now what?,” asked Booster.

“I asked Skeets to get the camera footage from the Bug so that we can review it to see what Ted was talking about,” said the Question. “Information will give us a way to deal with whatever is going on.”

It only took moments for Skeets to download the necessary information. The robotic aide brought the raw data to the command center. A cable connected it to the Sentinels’ mainframe. Moments later what the Bug had experienced played across the screen.

“I think we need to call in the Crusaders on this,” said Captain Atom. “We will need the back-up.”

“How much time do you think we have?,” Nightshade asked.

“Not much,” said the Question. “The elapsed time of this is just minutes apart. Depending on how fast the phenomena is spreading we could be looking at just days before it is threatening Earth.”

“I’ll need to upgrade my blasters if this is anything to go by,” said Booster Gold, pointing at footage of two colorful individuals pulling a demon apart with their powers.

“I’ll help you with that,” said Peacemaker. “I’m going to have switch to antipersonnel rounds myself to deal with one of those things.”

Colonel Clayton Abernathy toured the Crusader base meticulously. He noted things that needed to be corrected, slovenly practices, anything that would impede the effectiveness of his command.

He toured the facility set aside for the Crusaders. The building was shipshape, except for some minor water damage. This one building was in better shape than the rest of the base’s buildings.

He frowned at the thought that most of the budget was being diverted into a small group of individuals loosely tied to the Army because of Colonel Boyle. Something had to be done about that.

And Clayton Abernathy was the man to do it.

Abernathy returned to his office. He had a list of cuts and procedures he would need to implement to keep those adventurers in line. The United States Army was far more important than some costumed ‘super soldiers’.

“Sir?,” said Lt. Delaney, knocking on the door. “You ordered that all radio traffic to the Crusaders be redirected to you. Captain Atom would like to talk to the Shield, or the military liaison for the Crusaders.”

“I’ll be right there,” said Colonel Abernathy, placing his memo on Crusader uniforms in his out box to be typed up and sent to Joe Higgins by his secretary.

Fifteen leisurely minutes later, he walked into the radio room.

“Colonel Abernathy?,” said Captain Atom, “I have some vital information to be passed on to the Crusaders.”

“I am afraid that is impossible at the present time,” said Clayton Abernathy. “They are undergoing an operational review, and are currently suspended from operations.”

“Colonel, this is a global threat,” said Atom. “Can’t you stop your review?”

“I’m sure you Sentinels can handle it,” said Abernathy, cutting the connection.

Global threat indeed, thought Abernathy as he walked back to his office. Probably a tennis party.

Captain Atom frowned at the dark screen. Didn’t that popinjay understand how important this could be? What good is an operational review if the world was likely to be destroyed in the next few days? Time for a wake-up call.

Captain Atom flashed out of the building. The rest of the team were busy preparing for the coming danger. None noticed the atomic avenger heading away from New York City at top speed.

Captain Atom arrived at the base seconds later. He descended to the roof of the Crusaders HQ, hoping to see a familiar face. Unfortunately none came up to meet him. He descended to street level. The front door was locked.

Atom turned and flew to the base HQ. Maybe Abernathy would know what was going on. At least he could say where the Crusaders lived when they weren’t on duty.

Anything would be a help.

Captain Atom pushed past the reception desk, and headed for the commander’s office. He ignored the stares from the soldiers as he walked.

He pushed his way into Abernathy’s office. The officer looked shocked when he saw the Sentinel.

“What is the meaning of this?,” demanded Colonel Clayton Abernathy, standing up from his chair in a fury.

“Where is The Shield?,” said Captain Atom, coldly.

“Who do you think you are?,” said Abernathy. “I’ll have you court-martialed!”

“Standing order 452 states the Atom Project can requisition any military material in the performance of its duties,” said Captain Atom. “That means you have until I notify General Eiling your failure to comply to produce the Shield, or any other active member of the Crusaders that might be on base at this time.”

The two men stared at each other for a long moment.

“The Crusaders have returned to private quarters,” said Abernathy, finally.

“Get one of them on the phone now,” said Atom. “And get your team ready to move out, Abernathy. The next time I talk to you, you’d better have something done.”

Captain Atom turned and left the office. He shook his head slightly.

How did that idiot get promoted as a liaison to one of America’s two protective forces?

Captain Atom flew back to the Sentinels headquarters as fast as he could. He would deal with Abernathy later. The first thing he needed to do was make sure his own team was ready to face the threat ahead. Then he would try to bring the Crusaders into the picture as quickly as could be expected in an unknown time frame.

He hoped he was gearing up for something that wouldn’t touch his earth at all.

The Crusaders and the Sentinels had a conference via video phone an hour after Captain Atom’s talk with Colonel Abernathy. General Wade Eiling had been brought into the loop to coordinate disaster relief if necessary. A man named John Raymond represented an agency known as FEMA.

A sketchy plan had been drawn up to deal with the foreseen threat. The two hero teams would respond to trouble spots and do what they could while the armed forces and FEMA would try to help any of the populace that was caught in the trouble area.

Dan Garrett and Booster Gold would act as back-ups if the two teams couldn’t handle the developing emergency with the personnel they had.

Ted Kord listened as he was checked out by Thunderbolt. The mesh in his costume and the scarab had prevented serious damage and he was ready to get back into the fight.

Joe Higgins scanned the data sent over by the Sentinels. Beetle’s account looked bad even if only half of it turned out to be true. Higgins had gathered his main team at Crusaders headquarters. He had then contacted as many others as he could find and call.

Every independent hero he had a file on stood ready to help out.

The Sentinels were to meet out west with the Monitor’s representative. The Crusaders were to try to avert anyone trying to take advantage of the situation. New York was the main anchor since most of the active heroes used it as a base of operations. FEMA, the Armed Forces, and law enforcement personnel were planned backup.

Higgins cut the file off and joined his team.

His main force consisted of the Fly and Fly Girl, the Comet, the Black Hood, the Web, and the Jaguar. Tom and Kim were talking off to one side about something private. Higgins saw the actress/heroine nod with a smile. He wondered, but knew Tom would tell the rest of them when the time was right.

“Okay we are going to be handling things as best we can,” Joe said. “We don’t know exactly what we are up against but we are not alone in this. Every hero we could assemble in America has been notified and are moving to help us. The Russians and Chinese are assembling what forces they can to protect their side of the world.

“Hopefully that will be enough to turn the tide.”

Tracy Kord hung up the telephone. She turned to the window and looked out on the Hub River, brushing back her dark hair from her face. A small, single tear dropped from the corner of her eye.

Ted was going into danger with only a small chance of success. She might never see him again.

He had taken on Dan Garrett’s legacy and made her proud of his accomplishments both as a hero and as a scientist.

The sky had taken on a red tinge as she watched.

Ted had told her that would be one of the first things that would be noticeable. Next an antimatter wave would appear and begin destroying the world if they couldn’t find a cure for it. The Earth would shatter to pieces, even as the rest of the universe joined it.

Tracy was glad they didn’t have any children to worry about. She didn’t think she could bear the thought of losing a child in the coming fray.

Rog 2000 liked driving a hack through the streets of Manhattan. He had been at it for years, trying to stay away from the weird adventures that followed him around like he was a magnet. Still things happened and he got involved despite his better judgement.

Take that riot for instance. That’s was a weird event right there. A bunch of people suddenly in the street, throwing things and breaking whatever they could. Rog was content to let them do that, except they were working their way down to his cab. The shouts of “Kill the Robot!,” is what made him decide to take action.

Rog stepped out of his small cab. He looked around for a cop. Typically there was none in sight.

The rioters closed around Rog, trying to smash his metal body with whatever they had in hand before he could run. Bodies began to fly as metallic fists on Popeye arms punched with devastating force. In a matter of seconds, the robotic hack cleared a space around him.

Rog seized his advantage and dove into the crowd. His path was marked by flying bodies as he headed for freedom. The rioters flew after him in a mad rush to see who could batter him inoperative first.

Rog veered into an alley and ran to the end, exiting on the next street. The crowd boiled into the alley behind him. Worse, there was already a crowd ahead of him. When they saw Rog, they stopped what they were doing to focus on him.

“Oh, brother,” Rog said to himself.

He took off down the street, legs pumping like crazy.

He was known as the Mysterious Traveller. He stood at a corner, watching events unfold. He had adopted a policy of never interfering in the events he observed. He wondered if he should change that policy now that he could feel the world shudder under the twin attacks he felt.

One was the antimatter wave striking in the Western United States. The Sentinels were in conflict with heroes from some other place there.

The other was the unexpected emotional wave that had made every human being on Earth become terrified, paranoid, suicidal, and angry all at once.

The threat of extinction loomed in his mind as he made his decision to do something even as Jack Evriman worked to calm the crowds wherever he appeared and E-man and Nova battled with the Mighty Crusaders, who had lashed out in their emotional stew.

The Traveller stepped from the curb, and reappeared in front of a suburban house. He paused, before walking to the door and knocking. No one answered as he expected. He let himself inside and stood observing the interior. What he sought was upstairs.

He walked up to the second floor. He found the room he wanted and stepped inside. A little girl sat silently in front of a mirror. Her stare passed through the mirror to some other place.

The Mysterious Traveller frowned, weighing what he was going to do for the first time in a long time.

Then he proceeded.

The Mysterious Traveller touched the girl’s temples, turning her head to look him in the eye with her empty ones. He stepped inside of her fragile mind, a chill wind on a hot day.

The man in black frowned at the battlefield he found. This was not quite what he expected. He swivelled his cool gaze across the mental landscape, seeking the one he sought.

A tremendous thunderclap gave him a direction to travel. He shifted, faintly distorting reality. He paused at what he found.

Mr. Justice and his lost love Esmeralde dueled on a mental plain with weapons crafted from the air. The rotted witch seemed to be the stronger of the two. She slowly pressed the spectral crusader back with mighty strokes of a glowing sword on his rent and torn shield.

The Traveller stepped forward, hand raised. He knew things from his years of silent watching. He had thought he would never use that knowledge. Now he knew he should have used it sooner.

Esmeralde turned to face the new arrival. She was unprepared for the sudden, violent tearing of her soul by the man in black as he gestured with a gloved hand. She collapsed to the ground, armor and weapon boiling away.

“What have you done, meddler?,” Esmeralde shouted at the new arrival.

“Meddling,” said The Mysterious Traveller chillingly. “It’s something that should be familiar with since you have done the same on more than one occasion.”

“You’ll pay for this!,” Esmeralde shouted, summoning her sword again.

“This is my coin,” said the Traveller, raising his hands. Reality distorted at his command, sending the witch hurtling across the mental landscape. “Prince James, go forth. The world has need of you again.”

“I’m too weak,” Mr. Justice said. “Esmeralde has drained most of my strength trying to insure her immortality.”

“I know,” said the Traveller. “Still what little you possess may turn the tide. Go now.”

Mr. Justice began to expand, growing ever larger until he faded from sight.

“So you think you can stop me?,” said Esmeralde, hurling javelins like lightning through the air.

The Traveller distorted a shield out of the air, sending the imaginary weapons away with a thought.

Esmeralde thought she had seen an advantage, so pressed her attack with blinding throws. She loomed over the man in black who blocked her every cast with a minimum of movement. She transformed her javelin into a sword and brought it up to attack. A gloved hand slid into her body and twisted. Esmeralde screamed as the Traveller crushed her soul ruthlessly.

He bent his head, realizing he stepped on a path he had long avoided, and things would not be the same.

Mister Justice rose above the city. He found himself assaulted by a wave of artificial emotion beaming down on the planet. Feelings he had not felt in a long time tried to crowd out his reason. He fought it and found himself losing.

He fell on a roof top within viewing distance of E-man’s battle with the Mighty Crusaders, caught up in his own battle.

“Hello, son,” said a voice, not too loud, not too soft, without a trace of an accent. “You seem like you need some help.”

Mr. Justice looked up fearfully. He saw a man who was not too tall, not too short, not too thin, not too fat. He had brown, dark blond, or maybe a dark shade of red hair. His suit was blue, or black. Only his eyes seemed one shade of brown so dark that it was almost black.

Mr. Justice felt himself calming in the presence of this strange visitor, even though he couldn’t tell what the man really looked like.

“Feeling better?,” said that strange voice that could have belonged to anyone.

“Yes, thank you,” said the astral avenger, getting to his feet.

“Go ahead, and help calm the people,” the man said. “A few more minutes and the heroes from the other earths will be in position to move the Earth away from destruction. Then it will be up to you and the others to stop the threat from beyond. I am counting on you.”

“I won’t let you down,” Mr. Justice said, taking flight.

He headed down into the street, and let what little remained of his strength assure a victory for the embattled E-man.

Jack Evriman turned and headed for the street also. He felt the universe shift, and knew the world was about to be saved by the heroes of the other earths.

Jack Evriman felt the earth shift first. Everyone paused as the universe seemed to tremble. Then the emotional wave was cut off by the universe being moved into a pocket dimension to escape the antimatter. He smiled as he began to fade away.

With the peace restored for the moment, he could rest until Earth 4 needed the spirit of humanity to act again.

The Sentinels came to their senses with the rest of humanity. They stopped their battle as Pariah appeared in the rain that had preceded the crimson sky.

“Please I know until recently you people never suspected there were other universes...or other earths,” Pariah said, cowl drawn, cloak wrapped around him as he hovered over a precipice. “But there are and their fate and yours are connected by so many fragile threads.

“You have met some of the heroes from the other earths. Blue Beetle told you he was with us...and now that you are free of the Psycho Pirate’s influence, you must believe I am speaking the truth.”

“Can the telethon, pal,” Ted Kord said. “You got our donation. I’ll join your gabfest.”

“The final fate of five universes may rest with what we decide,” Pariah said, before he and the Blue Beetle vanished in a spark of light.

“I hope somebody has a plan,” said Peacemaker.

“Whatever happens, we have to let the Crusaders know we have a temporary reprieve until we have some more information,” said Captain Atom. “They got the hard work, dealing with New York, in all this craziness.”

Peacemaker stepped apart from the crowd of heroes, glancing at Judomaster and Katana talking as he walked. He activated the radio in his helmet and sent the message back to the Sentinels’ headquarters, where it would be redirected along to the miniature radios the Crusaders used.

The Blue Beetle returned to the spot where the Sentinels and their allies awaited. He composed his thoughts, concentrating on the plan itself rather than some of the things he had been told by the Monitor’s replacements.

He never wanted to be the last survivor of his world or universe, like Lady Quark or Pariah.

“The time effect is from the five remaining Earths slowly combining. When they finally come together, they will be destroyed. Something is causing this in the antimatter universe, and a team is being assembled to shut it down.

“They want Captain Atom and the Comet on the team. Pariah will be gathering the team and transporting them to the access point. You guys go in and blow whatever is responsible and the vibration rate will stabilize where they are when the job is done.”

“Excuse me,” said Peacemaker, “but why Cap and the Comet? I can do this just as well as anybody. I’d like to go.”

“The first team is going to be our heavy hitters,” said The Beetle. “If they get blasted and can’t do the job, we’re going to send in a second team. That’s all we have the time for.

“The Anti-Monitor knows as much about us as we do. This isn’t going to be a walk in the park.”

“I’m for it,” said Captain Atom.

“So am I,” said the Comet, standing at Crusaders HQ. “When is our pick-up?”

“Any minute now,” said the Beetle.

As if on cue, the mournful figure of Pariah appeared. He hovered in the air.

“Is everything in readiness?,” he asked.

“The Comet is in New York,” said the Beetle. “He’s waiting for you to pick him up.”

“Come, Captain,” said Pariah, holding out his hand. “I’ll take you to the transfer point, and then retrieve the Comet.”

Captain Atom grabbed the offered hand with his own, and they vanished in a flash of gold light.

“I hope this works,” Nightshade said.

“It will,” said Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. “It must, or we will be dead.”

“We’ll know they failed if the second team is assembled,” said the Question. “We just have to wait to see the results.”

“I have to call Tracy,” said the Beetle. He pressed the remote for the Bug in his glove to lower the descent cable. “I don’t want her to worry too much about what’s going on.”

He pressed the tab on the control stick and the cable lifted him into the jaw exit for the blue Bug.

The Mysterious Traveller and Mr. Justice waited on a rooftop in New York. They stood silently, watching the sky. Like other mystical heroes, they were forced to wait as their colleagues entered the antimatter universe.

There was a hush in the air as if the city waited for the outcome of the struggle with them. Even the birds seemed to wait expectantly. Then the wait was over as Captain Atom appeared with the body of the Comet in his arms. He descended towards the Crusaders Headquarters on a trail of sparkling energy.

“The contest is won,” said Mr. Justice.

“Only for the moment,” said the Traveller. “The Anti-Monitor still lives.”

Mr. Justice grimaced, taking flight. He didn’t wish for a temporary reprieve at the cost of one of his few friends.

He wanted to deal with the threat once and for all.

Mr. Justice descended towards the Army base where the Crusaders were housed. He frowned at what he saw.

An officer was trying to prevent an alien from leaving with the Comet’s body. He argued with Captain Atom and the Shield, trying to claim the body for the U.S. Army.

Colonel Clayton Abernathy glared at his inferiors. Higgins had the audacity to glare at him. And that popinjay Atom refused a direct order.

Didn’t they know who he was?

He would have them both up on charges.

Have them in front of a firing squad.

Yes, a firing squad.

“Abernathy, the Comet was doing us a favor,” said Higgins. “I am not about to let your lab boys cut his body up for your personal pleasure. Beat it.”

“You can’t talk to me like that,” shouted Abernathy. “I am your commanding officer.”

“No, you are not,” said Fly Girl. “We’re civilians with special clearance.”

“You are our liaison,” said The Fly, standing beside her, holding her hand. “You don’t give us orders. You are supposed to get us what we need to do what we do.”

“What did you say?,” barked Abernathy.

“They said,” said an inhuman voice from behind the colonel. He turned to find himself staring into eyes like death. “You’re overstepping your bounds.


Abernathy screamed. Then he fainted.

Captain Atom handed the Comet over to the Altroxian general. The man, alien, nodded at the two heroes. He knew their officer would look at this as a personal slight. There was nothing he could do about that. He would take the Comet back to Altrox, hopefully reviving him before they arrived home.

Kalathar must be dealt with, and the Comet was the only one who could.

Captain Atom and The Shield backed up to let the ship rise into the air.

“Thanks for the help, Shield,” Captain Atom said. He held out a metallic hand.

“Its not over yet,” said The Shield, shaking the captain’s hand. He looked up at the sky. “Not by a long shot.”

Atom nodded, then vanished into the red sky.

“Joe,” said Thomas Troy, The Fly. “Kim and I would like to talk to you.”

“Go ahead,” said Joe, frowning at his comrades.

“We’re getting married and leaving the team for a while,” said Kim.

“Excuse me,” said Higgins.

“We’re getting married,” said Tom. “We want you to be the best man.”

“Congratulations,” said Mr. Justice, stepping into the silence the announcement had caused.

“I’m sorry,” said Joe. “I guess I was amazed. I’ll be glad to do the job. When are you going to have the day?”

“We don’t know yet,” said Tom. “We’re going to go home and discuss it.”

“Right,” said Joe Higgins, feeling slightly shocked.

The worlds mourned the loss of the Comet and Supergirl, but rejoiced in the new lease on life their heroes had bought them. The flickering strips of the Warp Zone was the only fly in the ointment.

In Australia, Bruce Savage was hard at work for the Special Branch stationed in Melbourne. He was testing a substance for poison, and held the test tube in the light from a window watching the color change.

It tested positive.

Bruce smiled in satisfaction. The case was closed as far as he was concerned. He could move on to the next in his docket.

Something crashed through the window out of a clear red sky. It sent Bruce flying through a chemical shelf. He hit the floor, sliding amidst the broken glass. He heard the cries of his coworkers faintly as he tried to pick himself up and survey the damage. He found he couldn’t do anything but shake the first minute, or two. By the time he could move, people were dashing into the lab to see what had happened.

All of his work was ruined.

Bruce picked himself up with the help of another technician, gritting his teeth in frustration. All of the evidence he had gathered was gone with one flash of lightning.

He slammed his hand into the top of a nearby table. No one noticed, not even Bruce, that his hand had moved faster than the eye could follow.

The ministry building had security systems, guards, special locks, and other things to stop people from doing what he was going to do.

He had taken his old fatigues with the regiment patch still on it. He had sewn a different name over the one he had been given. He put the army issue on over the body armor and wrist launcher he had liberated. He loaded the twin barrels of the device with a hard rubber shell. It would hit as hard as a baton wielded by a strong man.

He pulled on the black metallic mask over his face. It was a smooth blank curve with two holes for his eyes. Straps held it in place.

He arrived at the ministry building. He had stolen a copy of the building’s defenses and knew it almost as well as he knew the rest of the city. It was a simple matter for him to slip the alarm on one of the doors and unlock it with a door gun. He slipped inside and worked himself passed the guards and cameras to the top floor.

He found the office he wanted and popped the lock with the door gun. He entered and locked the door behind him. A small penlight helped him search the file cabinets one by one.

The mask seemed to frown for him as his search came up emptied handed.

The commando moved to the computer. He turned it on and waited quietly for it to boot up. A prompt for a password opened. He typed in one from his days in the service.

A series of windows opened for him. He did a search for what he wanted. He memorized everything pertinent as he read the material. He finished, and then shut the computer off.

He went to the door and and slipped away quietly.

He slipped off the mask when he reached his Land Rover. He tossed it on the passenger seat, as he drove away.

He reached his next destination in under an hour. He slipped on the mask as he observed the security measures to keep someone like him out. He made sure that his Rover seemed natural where it was parked. He didn’t want it to stand out if someone happened to see it.

It was child’s play for someone like him to violate the manor’s security. The kitchen became his entry point. Two guards sat at the table there. He fell on them before they even got a chance to respond to his intrusion. He proceeded up the back steps, leaving the guards bound with their belts and ties.

A long time ago, he would have killed them.

That was part of his training too. Luckily for the guards, he had decided to give that up when he had deserted the service. After all killing was the reason he had left in the first place.

He made his way to the master bedroom silently. He tried the door and found it unlocked. He slipped inside, a shadow among shadows.

He walked over to the side of the huge master bed. He clamped one hand down on the person in the bed’s face before cutting on the bedside lamp.

The middle aged man looked up at him with frightened eyes. The masked man raised one finger to show he wanted silence. The man in the bed made out the inscription on the name patch and blanched.

“That’s right,” the masked man said in a soft burr. “It’s me, laddy. All I want is a name and place. Try to fox me, and I will hurt you.


The man nodded.

“Pierce worked for someone in your department. Who did he work for and how can I find them?”

“He worked for Schneider,” the man squeaked out. “They are both supposed to be making a meeting somewhere in London tomorrow.”

“Who are they meeting?,” the masked man asked.

“Someone from the Mars Council,” said the sudden informant. “Don’t know who.”


“I don’t know,” said the man. “I don’t know. They are getting some type of weapon, that’s all I know. A special weapon.”

“Thanks,” said the masked man. He cut off the light, vanishing in the dark.

“Oh God,” said the man in the bed. He reached for the light and turned it on. He knew the intruder was gone as soon as the light had gone out. He pulled the phone to his chest, and dialed the number in his head.

He had to tell Pierce about the visit. Pierce would understand when he told him the name he saw. He had to understand. Their whole operation was in jeopardy from a nut in a mask.

They had to secure the Weapon, and kill Prime Minister Thatcher before MacGraw caught up with Schneider and Pierce.

MacGraw drove to the train station. He got a ticket and stepped aboard, going to his compartment. He stared out the window in thought as he contemplated the events that had led up to this point. This thing was growing bigger than an urge for personal revenge. Things had been simpler when he had first thought of doing what he was going to do.

Now he had stumbled across an assassination in progress.

There was only one weapon the Mars Council sold that was simply called the Weapon. Everything else had a designation, but not the Weapon.

The man calling himself MacGraw knew he was pitting himself against the best killer in the world. He debated whether he should just give it up, or keep going.

The Americans had lost one of their teams also in the fiasco caused by Donald Pierce and Bernard Spielman. Nothing he could do about Spielman, but Pierce was within reach.

That would have to be enough.

If he took down the Weapon, that would just be something extra.

The train rolled into the station and MacGraw got his bag and headed for the door. Now all he had to do was find the trio in a city of millions.

Should be simple enough, he thought as he vanished in the crowd.

Bruce Savage drove through Melbourne at a sedate pace. He had sat through numerous tests and was on his way home. Apparently nothing was wrong with him.

He saw a diner throwing a neon glow on the street. His stomach growled at him furiously. He pulled into a parking spot and went inside. Maybe some food would settle his nerves a little.

The waitress, a pretty girl with blond hair, took his order and then moved to her next customer with a gentle approach. Bruce watched her working her booths for want of a better idea of something to do.

She came toward his booth a few minutes later with his food. Bruce saw one of her other customer’s feet slide into the aisle to trip her. The man had a smile on. The waitress started to fall, spilling Bruce’s food into the air.

He reacted without thinking. Suddenly the waitress was standing on her feet holding all of Bruce’s dinner, looking a little dumbstruck. Only the chemist realized that he had caught the waitress and the food and made things right in a blink of an eye.

The tripper, who had been laughing in reaction, froze when he saw that the waitress was still standing. He looked at his companions who shrugged at the strangeness of the event.

Bruce placed his food on the table and quietly began to eat. He smiled at the waitress, trying to be reassuring the way a stranger tries to be. She nodded and went back to work.

Bruce reexamined the event as much as he dared. He made sure to watch the bully as he thought about this new gift. He had gotten up from his booth, caught the waitress and put her back on her feet, placed the tray in her hands, caught the food in midair, and put the plates back on the tray in a tenth of a second.

It was a seemingly impossible feat.

The bullies got up and left in a body. Bruce relaxed after they left, still thinking about what he had done and experienced.

He had become a para like those fellows in the States. That was a given. There was no other explanation.

The question became how?

MacGraw wandered the East End for a few hours. He was dressed in his information gathering uniform, and black mask. He knew some people from his days in the field, so to speak. One of them would lead him to Pierce.

That occupied one part of his mind. The other part was on who the Weapon’s target could be. It would have to be someone important, someone high enough to cause chaos in Britain to add to the red sky that had wrapped the world.

The Weapon was the Rolls Royce of killers, and not cheap by any means.

MacGraw found a pub that was on his list and went inside. The patrons regarded him strangely because of the blank, black mask. One got up and tried to run away when he saw who was surveying the room.

The commando saw that he couldn’t push through the crowd between him and his prey. His eyes fell on the wooden barriers separating the room into smaller areas. He hopped on a table, then on a rail. He ran along the rail faster than his intended victim could knock people out of his way on the floor. He came to the end of the rail, leaped and grabbed a chandelier, swung just above some of the customers’ heads. He let go as the man tried to turn and draw a weapon. His foot slammed the man towards the bathrooms, and rear exit. MacGraw landed lightly, snatching the pistol from where it fell, before the man could try for it.

The man got up and started for the back door again. He was propelled towards the exit by a booted foot. He slammed against the door, and then a hand clamped around his neck, half-dragging, half carrying him out into the alley behind the tavern.

A blackbird for the United States Air Force took off from Andrews Air Force Base. It was to fly over Russia and China and ascertain damage caused by the recent wave of events. Numerous reports of Red Star being active in relief efforts had come in. The intelligence committee wanted a closer look.

So a pilot and a plane were assigned to go in and violate their air space and take pictures.

A thing that had been numerous times before with a high success record.

This time destiny took a hand.

As the plane went into a sub-orbit on the edge of space, the instruments became erratic. The narrow window fogged over, then cracked apart. The pilot felt his plane begin to shake under his hands. He decided to abort as he saw sparks, and then flames leap from the control panel.

He pulled the ejection lever to disengage the canopy and throw his seat into the clear. He was thrown into the air as the plane exploded. Fragments stabbed his body, as flames wrapped around him briefly. His suit had caught fire, and then went out from the lack of oxygen.

He fell into the atmosphere, barely alive. He impacted hard near Tunska.

The Russians found him forty minutes later.

Bruce Savage had finished his meal, paid, and left a tip. He walked outside deep in thought. He needed to experiment and see what he really could do.

Another question came to mind.

How long would this new speed last?

“If it isn’t the knight in shining armor,” said a voice.

The bullies were standing around Bruce’s car. They saw an easy mark in the slim chemist. A simple beating would be revenge for thwarting their prank.

“I wouldn’t do anything,” Bruce said. “I am not in a mood to be bothered right now.”

“Really, bloke,” said the leader of the rowdy bunch. “What are you going to do if we decide to cave your thick skull in?”

“I’ll have to arrest you, fill out the paperwork, and process you,” said Bruce. “Then I will have to escort you to Portsmouth.”

“Let’s see you do it,” said the chief bully, rushing the chemist, swinging his fist with all of his might. He seemed to pass through Bruce and fall on the ground in surprise. Bruce kicked him in the side of the head, which seemed to stun him.

“Anybody else want to go to jail with us?,” he asked the other bullies as he tied the chief with his own belt.

The others fled as if they had seen a ghost.

“We are going to have long talk at the station about manners,” Bruce promised his prisoner as he helped the man into his car.

Bruce started back to the station, then paused as white fire engines passed going the other way. He turned and followed the fire engines. Maybe there something he could do with his new ability. He could try.

“What’s going on?,” asked the bully.

“I don’t know yet,” said Bruce.

“Hello, Benny,” said MacGraw, holding the man by his throat. “Where’s Pierce?”

“I don’t know,” choked out Benny. “I haven’t seen him in a year or more.”

“Who else would he go to for weapons, or other contraband?,” MacGraw asked, squeezing a little.

“Fagin in the Square,” said Benny. “Fagin has started dealing to the I.R.A., and gets some type of discount from the Martians. He supposed to be doing drops all the time.”

“Where is he?,” asked the masked man.

“I don’t know,” said Benny.

MacGraw squeezed a little tighter a little longer.

“He has been living with some tramp named Victoria or something,” said the makeshift informant.

“Any other name?”

“Not that I know of,” said Benny. “She’s a redhead. Amazon. Can’t miss her.”

“Better not,” warned MacGraw. “If I come back, I’ll squeeze your neck until your eyeballs pop out.”

He released Benny into the rubbish bin. By the time the stool pigeon dug his way out, the mystery man had faded away like a bad dream.

Benny didn’t know what to do but had decided that he should leave London for a small amount of time. He could feel the the future bruise wrap around his neck in a painful way. This wasn’t the same man as John MacGraw, but the methods were comparably alike to urge Benny out of sight before he suffered more than a bruised neck and sore throat.

Benny headed for the mouth of the alley. He vanished into the streetwalkers as he went to get his things.

Zastrow regarded the survivor of the exploding plane after being called to Mission Control. Dr. Welinski and Dr. Gouldenman had waited in his office for his arrival. Now they stood at his side waiting for his decision.

Their idea was audacious, but simple enough.

They wanted to use this pilot to test a new technology that had been confiscated from an enemy of the people by Red Star. They felt they could rebuild the pilot in such a way as to make him an agent for U.S.S.R.

Zastrow weighed the options. It was a winning situation for him as far as he could see. He gave his approval for Project Svarog. Then he went back to his office to start the paperwork for the project, so that a staff and funds could be placed to fuel the operations to rebuild the unknown the Army had retrieved.

He was not optimistic about the success of the project but maybe later they could harness the technology to a soldier that was not already dying.

Bruce Savage and his prisoner arrived at a burning house surrounded by fire engines. Bruce got out of his car, waving a policeman over. He explained the situation to the patrolman who nodded.

“C’mon, my lovely,” the patrolman said, hoisting the bully out of the car. “We’re going to give you a nice set of clothes and free room and board.”

Bruce watched as the man was lead away. As soon as the two left the scene, Bruce wondered if he could put his new speed to use in this situation. Perhaps he could put the fire out somehow.

He rushed forward, water from the fire hoses freezing at the speed he was moving. He went into the house. Instantly his backdraft caught the flames and smoke and trailed them behind his path as the sudden wind snuffed some of the smaller flames.

He rushed from room to room, going faster and faster. A vacuum created by his movements put the fire out. Bruce went out the back door before anyone saw what he had did.

He paused in a nearby alley, taking a deep breath. He had actually put out a fire with the speed. It was almost beyond belief.

Then another question entered his mind.

How fast was he?

Mike Mauser struggled with his bow tie. Two hands grabbed the tie and tied it in neat perfection.

“How come you know how to tie a tie, and you usually whip your clothes up out of thin air?,” he said to his taller friend. “Better yet, why am I even wearing a tuxedo?”

“Because Nova said she’d kill you if you didn’t wear one,” said Alec Tronn, E-man, smiling at the detective. “And no tuna fish sandwiches either.”

“Right,” said Mauser, cigarette dangling from his lip.

The two stepped out of the men’s room and walked up to the stage area where the small ceremony was going to take place. The strip club had been decorated by the dancers and Mauser the night before.

Mostly by the dancers, Alec decided.

Groom and best man stepped up on the stage. Father Brown stood there already with a bible and a copy of the vows in his hands. He seemed at ease in the surroundings.

Finally the march began, with Teddy Q, the koala, coming down the makeshift aisle first as a ring bearer. Then Nova and Rosie walked down next. Rosie stood as the maid of honor on the other side of Nova. Teddy handed Mauser the wedding bands before he went to take a seat.

Alec’s breath was gone at the sight of his lovely bride to be.

The rest of the ceremony went by in a blur for the energy man. He spent the time staring at Nova, knowing he had loved her since they had first met.

You may now kiss the bride,” pronounced Father Brown.

Alec did amidst a shower of fireworks.

MacGraw went to Fagin first. He acquired the names of several Pierce’s business associates. He visited them in turn. Someone dropped the local Mars Councilmen name when his finger was broken. The commando saw that man next. He was told that Pierce had gone to a meeting and wasn’t expected to return.

MacGraw’s eyes fell on the newspaper on the man’s desk. He noticed the man flinch when he directed his attention to it.

Prime Minister Thatcher was giving a speech over the Red Sky event.

MacGraw left the man with broken hands as he hurried from the shop. He had a sudden idea of where Pierce or his Weapon would be.

All he wanted was Pierce, but the Weapon had to be stopped also.

MacGraw hurried along the busy streets of London he reached the Parliament building. He slipped pass their security with the ease of practice. Now all he had to was figure out where the Weapon would strike and stop him.

MacGraw surveyed the room quickly as M.P.s came in and went to their seats. No one seemed to notice the masked man as he slunk up to where a balcony for visitors ran around the room. This isn’t where he would do the job if he had a choice.

He would use a bomb and kill them all.

He went around the balcony area. Then he pulled on a beret and began inspecting the area where the M.P.s gathered.

Where would he do it?

“Sir,” said one of the M.P.s. “What are you doing?”

“Security check,” said MacGraw, showing the man the unit patch on his shoulder. “42nd infantry group.”

“What are you checking for?,” said the M.P., suspiciously.

“A bomb,” said MacGraw, continuing his inspection.

“What?,” said the man.

“You heard me,” said MacGraw, standing at the podium where Mrs. Thatcher would give her speech.

He knew that the Prime Minister was in the building. He knew the Weapon could attack from a roof outside at any point. Maybe at the residence on 10 Downing Street. Maybe in her office here in the building.

He could just be on a wild goose chase.

He went over the podium anyway. His hands came across a large package under the stand. He drew it out carefully, and opened the paper with a pen knife. The M..P. backed up suddenly.

MacGraw quickly disarmed the bomb by pulling the detonator out and cutting off the timer.

“Thank you, gentlemen,” MacGraw said as he quickly walked from the room. He skirted security and got outside without much of a problem.

He checked the area quietly and surely until he found a vantage point that would appeal to him. He went into the building and headed up the stairs. He pulled on his black mask as he went.

He stepped out into the hall near the elevator and began searching offices facing Parliament quietly. He heard voices in the last one in the hall. He smiled as he heard one mention the bomb was late.

He kicked open the door and rushed inside.

The Weapon and Donald Pierce stood by the window, turning to face MacGraw. The assassin drew a pistol while MacGraw was still crossing the room. The commando raised his hand and fired his wrist launcher at the man.

A flash of light surrounded the Weapon as he ducked the rubber bullet, firing with his pistol. MacGraw felt one of the slugs crease his arm while the other cut into his body armor and sliced his side.

Pierce threw up his hands in surrender but the Weapon was gone.

The blushing couple had changed out of their formal wear with a wave of their hands. They had taken a cab to placate their friend and partner. They encouraged him to go to a convention while they were gone.

After all six months was a long time and Mauser would need some company beside the irrepressible Teddy Q, no matter how intelligent a koala he was.

The streams of energy known as E-man and Nova left the Earth’s gravity well unaware that soon New York would be a center point for an invasion that would overtake the world as numerous villains banded together to destroy their enemies and conquer the world.

Nor could they foresee that Mike Mauser would become involved as he pitted himself against one of the Blue Beetle’s oldest foes, Todd Vann III and his gang, the Squids.

If they had, they might have been able to stop the battle before it began in earnest with their energy/matter warping abilities.

As it was, they flashed pass the moon, enjoying their first view of the solar system without an obscuring atmosphere.

They were going to stream out to the Oort Cloud and slowly work their way back into the inner planets. The only problem E-man saw in his future was avoiding the super women of Venus. Still he had five months to worry about that particular problem.

Now he wanted to enjoy his lovely wife’s company.

Booster Gold was the first victim of the Villain War.

He and Skeets were flying across New York meet a producer hoping to sign the corporate crusader for a new movie. Suddenly he had a severe case of vertigo. He crashed into a rooftop, skidding across the gravel. As he tried to get to his feet, a large green morning star crashed down on his back, sending him through the roof in a spray of debris.

“Hah!,” yelled the armored Blackguard, as he leaped down on the fallen hero before Booster could try to increase the power on his force field. They crashed through the next two floors with Gold taking the brunt of the impact.

Blackguard stepped back, mace whirling on its energy chain at the end of his arm. He grinned when Booster could not get up, could barely move.

“I have the robot,”said one of the two other villains present, a man known as Techmancer.

“Gold’s beaten,” said Blackguard, with a laugh.

“The Director wants him turned over to the others,” said the female telepath, Mindancer. “Then we can start trying to reap something from this confusion.”

“Let’s go, pretty boy,” said Blackguard, hoisting his enemy over his shoulder.

The first explosion wracked the city as the villains took to the air.

Sarge Steel cursed as the operations center was flooded by calls from around the world. The heroes in New York weren’t the only ones under attack as Red Star was taken in Moscow and the Hidden One seized Peking.


The Jackaroo and Southern Cross had just been captured by a group led by a villain calling himself Ned Kelly’s Ghost.

Where had all these villains come from?, Steel thought as he stared at the chaos that was midtown New York. On another screen, the Crusaders HQ was being attacked by the Brain Emperor and the Druid as well as numerous other enemies.

He checked his pistol as he decided to get back into the field again.

First he needed a team, which he didn’t have.

Matter of fact, his support staff had just arrived two weeks before. He had no way to accomplish anything but get himself killed trying.

“Hey, chief,” said Tiffany Sinn, standing in his door. “We want to crash the party.”

Steel looked up in surprise.

Behind Tiffany sto

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