Kid Lambda in: The Short, Sour Career of Kid Lambda

November 1, 1943

One Smart Kid!

"Earnshaw's Theorem shows that magnetic levitation is inherently unstable," 12-year-old Cody Mason explained earnestly to the judges at the 1943 Lamont Gordon Elementary School Science Fair. He'd spent all summer working on his project, "Magnetic Levitation with Permanent Magnets," and knew that it was the best project there. "So we need a track with rails on the sides, to keep the flying boat from tipping over. See?"

He stood in front of a wooden trough. The bottom was lined with magnets, and there were rails on either side. The 'flying boat' was a wooden box with magnets glued to the bottom, and runners on both sides. Cody slipped the boat into one end of the trough with the runners under the rails. The magnets pushed up on the boat, and the rails kept it from overturning. A gentle push, and the boat floated all the way to the other end of the trough.

One of the judges was Dr. Ned Quest, who was secretly the mystery hero Dr. Lambda. His powers allowed him to manipulate electromagnetism and gravity, so he was something of an expert on magnetism himself, and he was very impressed with the thoroughness of Cody's research. He asked his fiancée Krista Tracy, who was Cody's teacher and also secretly his partner Lady Lambda, to introduce him to the lad and his parents. "Very nice work, Cody!" he said, as they shook hands. "If you're as thorough in your education as you were on this project, you should be a great scientist when you grow up."

"Gosh, thanks, Dr. Quest. Are you a scientist?" Cody wanted to know.

"I've got a degree in astrophysics, but I'm building electronic devices for the government right now. Don't ask about my current project — it's classified."

Cody was still young enough to be impressed by someone who worked for the government. "Gee, Dr. Quest, the books say that if I want true magnetic levitation, I'm going to need electromagnets and some kind of negative feedback electronic circuits. Can you teach me electronics?"

"I'd be happy to, Cody," Ned said, "if your parents don't mind!"

Cody's parents approved, so three times a week, Cody headed to Dr. Quest's house after school. His parents were pleased as punch, and Ned and Krista soon became good friends with the whole Mason family.

Cody Learns a Secret

"So it's the electrons that make up the 'space charge,' which give the diode its one-way property." Ned was explaining the operation of a vacuum tube diode when the telephone rang. "Excuse me, Cody, I need to get that."

Ned came back from the phone call five minutes later visibly agitated. "I'm sorry, Cody, I've got to cut the lesson short — there's an emergency over at the lab and I need to go put out the fire! I don't know when I'll be back. We'll finish up tomorrow, okay?"

"Sure, Dr. Q, no problem. See you then!" Cody gathered up his things and headed out, whistling. Too bad things had gotten cut short today, but he sure liked working with Dr. Quest. He was learning a lot!

He was halfway down the block when he realized that he'd left one of his textbooks behind. He wouldn't be able to complete his homework without it, so he went back for it. Ned had entrusted him with the location of the extra key, so he went in through the back door.

As he entered the dining room, he was stunned to see that the massive china cabinet had been swung away from the wall, revealing a door concealed behind it! The door was ajar, revealing a flight of stairs. Wondering if he'd discovered that his trusted friend and mentor was actually an Axis spy, he quietly snuck down the stairs. What he discovered stunned him.

Stars and Stripes! he thought excitedly. Ned Quest is really Dr. Lambda!

By then, Ned had his costume on, and he was sitting in front of a fancy television of some kind, talking to the screen — and on the screen was...Major Power! Shaken by what he'd discovered, Cody slowly backed up the stairs, grabbed his book, and headed for home. He had a lot to think about!

***~~~***

"Uh, Dr. Quest?" Cody said hesitantly the next night. "I learned something about you last night that I'm not really supposed to know..."

Ned frowned, figuring that there was only one thing Cody could be talking about. The lad continued, "I had to come back for my English book...and I saw the secret door behind the china hutch. I'm really sorry, I didn't do it on purpose! But you know, it's really neat having Dr. Lambda as one of my best friends... and Lady Lambda for my teacher!"

So he figured that out, too, Ned thought ruefully. I'm going to catch hell for this when Krista finds out how careless I've been! He could hardly deny it now, given what Cody had seen. "I'm glad you feel that way, Cody," he said quietly. "You know, son, that it's very important to us to keep all this a secret, don't you?"

"Of course, Doc, I get it! I promise I won't tell anyone, ever!" Cody replied with all the earnestness a sixth-grader can muster. "But I've been wonderin' — could I maybe be you guys' sidekick? Volunteer has Raptor, so why couldn't you guys have Kid Lambda?"

When Kris found out, there was quite the private scene — just as Ned had expected. Afterward, both Kris and Ned argued with Cody until they were blue in their faces, but Cody had the trump card. Finally they came to an agreement. Cody would train for six months, taking lessons in martial arts from the Volunteer and training on the Lambda gear with Ned and Krista. Plus, he had to maintain his straight A average at school, and never give anyone a hint of what he knew. And once he won his wings, until he was 16, Kid Lambda would never adventure solo.

Cody agreed eagerly and went to work. The Volunteer and his mentors planned to work him until he quit, but much to their surprise, Cody cheerfully took everything they threw at him and was eager for more.

After his first training session with the Lambda gear (helmet, belt and Stellar Scepter) Cody was puzzled. "Why doesn't this stuff give me super-strength like you have?" he asked his mentor.

"It's not the gear that gives me my strength, Cody." Ned told him the story about the alien who'd given him some kind of injection, leaving out the two unused alien hypodermic devices he still had. Kris had refused to use an unknown alien drug; as she pointed out, "Just because it was in the same box doesn't mean it's the same thing he used on you. When you're sure what it will do, maybe then I'll try it." So far, Ned hadn't been able to successfully analyze the contents of the alien serum, so he didn't mention it to Cody.

After six months of intensive training, Cody had fulfilled his end of the bargain, and Ned and Kris had to live up to theirs. Cody donned his costume and gear and, with his mentors, went on patrol — his first official appearance as Kid Lambda! After a couple of routine cases, he started feeling his oats…

Cody Flies Alone!

One evening, Cody told his parents he was going over to study with Dr. Quest, but that was a falsehood. In truth, Ned and Krista were attending a teachers' awards ceremony — and Kid Lambda was about to fly solo. In half an hour, he was alone in the secret cellar at Ned's house, putting on his Kid Lambda uniform. To calm himself down, he started talking to his image in the mirror. "Yeah, Cody boy, tonight's the night! Kid Lambda on solo patrol!" The boy in the mirror looked a little dubious.

"Okay, I know I told Dr. Quest and Miss Tracy that I'd wait until I was 16, but grownups just don't know how long that is! And I'm not a little kid anymore, I'm a teenager now!" he insisted.

Mirror Cody knew he'd actually promised his mentors he'd wait until age 16 to go solo, not just told them, but Cody was trying (not quite successfully), not to remember that.

"Look, the Volunteer lets Raptor go out on his own, and he's the guy who trained me to fight! Raptor's only a few years older than I am, and he doesn't even have any gadgets to help him!"

Mirror Cody knew that wasn't strictly true: Raptor carried an amazing assortment of crime-fighting gadgets in secret pockets on his uniform, but they were trinkets compared to the Stellar Scepter.

Cody was pleased as his mirror image began to look a little more confident. "Heck! I even helped the Alliance of Mystery Heroes on a mission, and Major Power himself told me what a good job I did! I sure saved the Red Lynx when that gangster got the drop on her! Yes, sir, I'm ready and the time has come!" He pulled on his helmet and examined himself critically in the mirror. "Tonight, Kid Lambda flies alone!"

***~~~***

Cody hadn't realized how lonely and downright spooky it was to fly through the night sky by yourself. There'd been no action to distract him, and second thoughts kept creeping into his mind. He'd been hoping to easily resolve some serious situation that would impress his mentors so much they'd forgive him for going solo. But after a few hours on his own, he was just about ready to give up and go home, and try this again some other night.

Then he saw something suspicious: a crowd of kids in a vacant lot, yelling and cheering.

As he swooped closer, he realized that it was a bunch of boys watching and cheering as five other guys beat up on one kid. He was relieved that his first solo action was something he should be able to handle easily! But how was he going to save that kid? If he blasted the fighters with the Stellar Scepter, he might hurt the kid. What would Dr. Lambda do?

Nodding to himself, Kid Lambda fired a blindingly bright burst of light and swooped to a landing in the cleared area around the five thugs and their victim. Using the PA amplifier built into his helmet, he issued a booming warning. "You guys had better clear out and go home now, or I'll have to take you all in!" As their vision started to clear, the kids were alarmed to see Dr. Lambda...or so they thought.

But then one of them realized, "Look how small he is! That's not Dr. Lambda, it's the punk! Get him, X!"

Crap! thought Kid Lambda. It's the X-gang!

Named for the "X" made by the crossbones on a pirate flag, the X-gang had a vicious reputation. As a dozen gang members armed with knives and tire irons swarmed towards him, he wondered just what kind of a fix he'd gotten himself into. He thought his magnetic force field on, and ordered the Scepter to form a big, glowing white bulldozer blade to push the gang away from him. But just then, someone behind him slammed him in the helmet with a baseball bat, stunning him. The blade vanished as he fell to the ground, and the gang swarmed him. The Stellar Scepter was wrenched from his hand in seconds, and the mob started pounding on him mercilessly. In panic, he triggered the emergency radio signal built into his helmet. He needed his partners!

He tried to fly away, but his flying belt couldn't lift all the kids piled on top of him. His magnetic force field protected him from knife blades and the jagged edges of broken pipes, but didn't block bats, sticks or fists. Kid Lambda was quickly battered into unconsciousness.

Lucky Shortcut

Mark Murphy and Melvin Carter were taking the shortcut through the alley on their way home from the talkies, excitedly discussing this week's episode of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, when they heard the commotion in the vacant lot. Peering around the corner of a fence, they spotted the beating going on. Neither Mark nor Melvin had ever thought of himself as particularly courageous. Perhaps they were inspired by the heroic example of Flash Gordon, though, for this night they decided to help. From the trash in the alley, Mark picked up a broken 2 x 4 and Melvin a broken pipe, and they waded into the gang, shouting at the top of their lungs and swinging their impromptu weapons like baseball bats. It wasn't a very wise move; with Kid Lambda unconscious, the whole gang turned their attention to Mark and Melvin.

The two kids backed up against the fence, and the gang approached them slowly. Somebody threw a knife, poorly, and it bounced off Mark's chest. At that instant, an amplified voice boomed "STAND DOWN!" and a human missile battered through the crowd of thugs, knocking them aside as he zoomed to the side of his downed sidekick.

"Crap! It's the real Dr. Lambda! Scatter!" screamed one of the thugs, and the gang started running away in all directions.

"Don't forget Lady Lambda!" she admonished, as she bowled over several thugs and came in for a landing, ready to continue the fight.

"Forget these cheap thugs, partner! We've got to get Kid Lambda and this other injured boy to the hospital right away!" Dr. Lambda urged his partner. He turned up his amplifier again. "WE'LL TRACK THEM DOWN LATER, I PROMISE!" He turned to Mark and Melvin. "We'll drop you guys at the Police Station. Thanks for trying to rescue these two!" They used their Stellar Scepters to gently lift the four boys, and soon the lot was vacant once again.

Angry Parents

The Lambdas did what they could to conceal Cody's identity. Dr. Lambda took off the boy's helmet and wrapped him in a blanket to hide his costume, but didn't dare remove it. When they reached the hospital, he asked if he could deliver Cody directly to a private room, so only the doctor and nurse who looked at him initially realized that their new patient was secretly Kid Lambda. When they did, they were extremely angry that two supposedly responsible adults, mystery heroes yet, people who were supposed to protect the public, had showed such terrible judgment as to allow a kid to take such risks. They only reluctantly took an oath to protect Cody's secret when Dr. Lambda pointed out that revealing his identity to the public would only put the boy in more danger.

There was no way to hide the secret from Cody's parents.

The anger of the doctor and nurse was nothing compared to the fury of the Masons! Their trusted friends, people who were supposed to educate and protect their son, had instead betrayed them by putting Cody in deadly danger. If Dr. Lambda hadn't used his Stellar Scepter to temporarily soundproof the room, the whole hospital would have heard the commotion. Only the fact that he was confronting two superheroes kept Mr. Mason from being violent, while Mrs. Mason rocked Dr. Lambda with a powerful slap to his exposed cheek.

"Tell me why I shouldn't expose your identities and sue you for everything you have? Get you blacklisted everywhere, so neither of you will ever get a job again?" Mr. Mason spoke with deadly intensity, now that the screaming and crying was done.

Neither hero had an answer. What could they say? They realized they'd displayed extremely faulty judgment, and any justification they tried to use would only be rationalization and excuses. Finally, seeing their abject surrender and the misery their idiocy had caused them, the Masons calmed down. A little.

"If you ever come near my son again, Mr. Hero, I know a guy who breaks bones cheap," Mr. Mason threatened. He couldn't keep Krista away from Cody without withdrawing him from school, but he and his wife already had a plan to deal with that. "We'll keep your secret, but if you ever endanger another kid by adopting him as a sidekick, I'll shout it to the world." It was a threat and a promise that they knew he would keep.

Shortly after the boy was released from the hospital, Dr. Lambda met him in secret and promised that if Cody contacted him on his 18th birthday, Ned would return his Lambda gear and Cody could make up his own mind about being a mystery hero. A couple of days after this secret meeting, without any prior notice, the Masons moved out of state, telling no one where they were going.

Devastated at the loss of such good friends in such a painful manner, and no longer sure she trusted her own judgment, Krista confronted her fiancée.

"I don't think I'm cut out to be a mystery hero, Ned," she said sadly. "I'm going to retire as Lady Lambda. I know you'll keep on being Dr. Lambda, and that's fine. And if you desperately need me, I'll be there to help. But I think I'd rather stick to being a teacher from now on."

There was nothing Ned could do but agree.