Ned and Krista Quest in: Dr. Lambda No More

December 7, 1947

Late Night, Early Morning

Ned Quest, better known to the rest of the world as Dr. Lambda, was pretty worn out. He and the Volunteer had had a busy few hours last night, and both of them had been away from crime-fighting for a few years now. Maybe he was just a little out of shape. He hadn't told Krista yet that he'd gone out as Dr. Lambda; he was sort of hoping that maybe she wouldn't find out, and he wouldn't have to explain.

No such luck.

Krista always read the morning paper, and there on the front page was a picture of Dr. Lambda and the Volunteer, fighting the Cobalt Warlord! The big, bold headline read "Dr. Lambda and Volunteer clean up Baltimore!" Ned was rudely roused from his dozing state when Krista slammed open the bedroom door, rushed in, and thrashed him with the newspaper! She was yelling at the top of her lungs, and crying at the same time.

"Ned, you promised me you'd give up being Dr. Lambda! You could have been killed! How can I ever trust you again?"

Ned didn't quite get it. "Honey, one of my best friends was in danger! How could I possibly not help him?"

"So the big, strong Dr. Lambda had to rush out in his shining armor and help his pal? Nobody else in the world could do what you did, right? One of your other buddies from the Alliance of Mystery Heroes, one who hasn't retired yet, couldn't have helped Duke just as well as you did? Ned, you promised!"

Ned was stunned. "Geez, Krista, I never even considered that! I've always believed that a man should solve his own problems, so when I found out somebody planned an ambush against Duke, it never even occurred to me to tell anyone else." He blinked. "You know, now that I think of it, it's kind of weird how I found out. Why should that guy Donovan have known anything about…?"

"Damn you, Ned Quest! Don't you dare change the subject! You made a promise to me and you didn't even think about that promise when you went charging off to the rescue! I know you — you're so cocky that you knew you couldn't get hurt, and you just assumed that your demure little submissive wifey would passively accept you breaking your word to her. Well, you were wrong, Dr. Quest! What do you think of that?"

Ned was thinking fast; he'd really stepped in it this time. She was 100% right — he hadn't thought about his promise to her at all. He'd never really understood why she'd asked him to stop being Dr. Lambda in the first place, and he had certainly never dreamed that she would be so upset if he donned the red and gray again. He quickly decided that only total honesty had any chance of getting him through this.

"Krista, honey, I really don't understand. Yes, you did ask me not to become Dr. Lambda again after the end of the war, but you never really explained why you felt that way. You didn't make a big deal out of it, and, well, I didn't realize it was this important to you until now." He paused, held both hands out, palms up. "I know that my being Dr. Lambda is one of the things that attracted you to me — you told me so yourself. Ned Quest was too timid. And once you knew, the danger never seemed to scare you off before we were engaged. You even helped me out for a while as Lady Lambda. I understood why you retired, but I honestly never did understand why you wanted me to retire. I'm really sorry I upset you, and I'm sorry I broke that promise. Please explain to me why this is so important to you?"

Krista looked like she wanted to yell some more, but Ned's obvious sincerity reached her. She made a clear effort to calm down, and finally took a deep breath, then began again, quietly — but with obvious emotion. Most of the time, tears were running down her face, but she ignored them. "I'm sorry, Ned. I know how much being Dr. Lambda means to you, and I know your friends are very important to you. I never told you this whole story before, because it's so unbelievable!"

Ned realized that with Krista calming down, there was a good chance that they might work this out without more fighting. "Krista, honey, what can be more unbelievable than being Dr. Lambda? I can fly! I have a Solar Scepter that's like a magic wand to most people. And I've seen some pretty unbelievable things with the Alliance. I've been to the future and the past; I've met people who breathe water and communicate by telepathy. I've even fought against the Greek and Roman gods, for heaven's sake!"

Krista perked up a little. "Funny you should mention time travel and telepathy, Ned. When I get to the unbelievable parts of my story, remember what you said just now!" She looked at Ned sharply, and he nodded, but had sense enough to remain silent.

Message from the Future

"Even though I retired as Lady Lambda," Krista began, "I love flying so much that sometimes, before you retired, I'd go out where nobody could see me and flitter around for a while. This one time, just before we were married, you were off with the AMH saving the universe; I don't remember all the details, but you won, as usual. You'd been away for a couple of days, and I was feeling lonely and bored, and sort of sorry for myself, so I put on my costume and went out for a fly. The sun had just gone down, the moon was new, and it was a beautiful evening." She paused, remembering the evening with a sad smile.

"I took a snack, and after an hour or so of soaring, I landed in the hills and had a picnic. It was so nice out that I decided to sleep outside. After all, I had the Solar Scepter to protect me! As I lay there, watching the stars and waiting for sleep to catch up to me, I thought I heard a voice. I looked around, but there wasn't anyone nearby. I stopped breathing and listened as hard as I could, and I realized that I was hearing the words in my mind!"

She looked at Ned to see if he believed her story. He knew better than to interrupt or show any signs of disbelief.

"Someone was in my head, trying to talk to me! I concentrated on listening, and the voice got the slightest bit clearer. I still missed a lot, but heard enough to get the message. It was me, Ned, from sometime in the future! She was frantic to talk to me — I mean, I was frantic to talk to me. I mean… well, you know what I mean! Future Krista was trying to use the Solar Scepter to send a signal from the future to my mind in the past. She remembered going flying that evening, and she thought that maybe my Solar Scepter would help me hear her. I tried telling the Scepter to do just that, and you know, it did work. I heard more of what she had to say, and sometimes I could even remember her memories." She took a deep breath. "Ned, she told me that if you kept working as Dr. Lambda, sometime after the war ended you'd be killed!"

Ned took his life in his hands and interrupted. "Honey, are you sure you weren't dreaming this?" As a scientist, he had to rule out all the impossibilities.

"Ned Quest, I know dreams from reality, and this was NOT a dream!" Her voice was strong and sharp. "This was really the Krista Quest of the future. And you were really dead in her world!"

"Well...how do you know it was really her? I mean, you?" Ned asked hesitantly. "It might have been one of my enemies, trying to get me out of the way."

"Ned, I asked her the same thing! Do you remember what happened the night you proposed to me?" Krista blushed. "Ned, I've never told a soul about that, but she knew every detail! And her mind — I was in her mind, and we both remembered that night in perfect detail! It just couldn't have been faked!"

Ned was stunned; and he blushed a little, too. He'd never told anyone, even his best friends, about that special evening. Krista's story had the ring of truth to it...and he had encountered both time travel and telepathy before, so he couldn't just ignore this.

"She told me about our wedding, Ned, and as it turned out, everything she told me was accurate, down to the person who caught my bouquet. I remembered her wedding with her memories — before it happened to me." Krista was twisting her hands together so tightly that Ned thought she might hurt herself. He gently pulled her hands apart, but she didn't even notice. "But what she told me next was about your death, Ned. And she didn't just tell me about it; I shared her memories, and actually watched you get killed! Ned, I couldn't stand to see that again!"

She sobbed and dabbed her eyes. Telling this story was the toughest thing she'd ever had to do.

"In her world," she continued, "sometime after the end of the war, Dr. Lambda defeated and captured one of the mystery villains, an evil scientist who ranted about getting his revenge the whole time he was in jail. He escaped and built a device that caused your Solar Scepter to explode, killing you!" She looked up to make sure he was listening. "Ned, you were on a live TV broadcast when it happened, and she was watching. I mean, I was watching! You were there on the TV screen, flying through the night sky above Marble City, and then suddenly it looked like somebody was shining a spotlight on you. And your Solar Scepter started to glow brighter and brighter. You must have realized that the explosion was coming, because you… I'm sorry, I mean he, suddenly flew high into the sky, as fast as he could go, and then there was an explosion, and then the TV camera got wrecked, and I saw it all. You can't imagine how horrid it was! She was never able to give me the dates, though, or I just was never able to hear them. She had just come from the memorial service, and she was still crying...I mean, I was. They never found his body, Ned! They couldn't even have a funeral, just a memorial service."

Krista stopped and wiped her eyes, then continued. "We felt so terrible! She was so proud of you, too, Ned. Some of the most important people in the world were at your memorial service. Two of them who were especially nice to her were Albert Einstein and Ted Williams…"

A thought struck Ned, and he interrupted. "Is that why you never go to Red Sox games with me?"

"Every time I see Teddy, or dear Albert, I remember your memorial service. I won't ever do that voluntarily!" she said flatly. "Anyway, Ned, as soon as the service was over, she went home and took out the spare Solar Scepter and tried to talk to me. And it worked! That's why I waited until after the war to ask you to stop being Dr. Lambda. I knew you'd live that long, but I didn't know what would come next."

Krista finally ran down. She stopped talking, but kept weeping.

Ned wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to him. She buried her head against his shoulder. "That's a heck of a story! I can see why you don't want me being Dr. Lambda. But why do you think we can change the future?"

She spoke quickly and earnestly. "Oh, Ned, the future has already been changed. Well, actually, it's the past now, but it was the future when it changed. Well, actually, it was the present when it changed, it was the future when I first heard of it, and it's the past now." Krista was starting to get a little confused; the English language wasn't designed to explain the events she was talking about. She slowed down and tried again.

"Future Krista never got a message from her future, so her Ned never stopped being Dr. Lambda, almost every night. But you haven't been Dr. Lambda for almost two years, except for yesterday. And do you remember that witchy little waitress at our wedding reception who insulted Sandy, and Ray got loud until Duke made him cool off?"

Ned looked puzzled. He didn't remember anything of the sort.

"Oh! This is so weird, Ned! It never happened at our reception, because I had Sandy and Ray sit at another table, and kept an eye on that waitress all night! So I've already changed the future that much. That's why I knew that if you never acted as Dr. Lambda again, you'd be safe from that awful villain!"

Krista had become much calmer than when she had slammed open the door. But she stopped weeping now, and Ned could hear anger creeping into her voice again.

"As long as you kept your promise, Ned, I was sure you were safe — but how can I be sure any longer? I can't stop you from becoming Dr. Lambda again, but before you do, you'd better be sure you have a really good reason! You might not lose your life, but don't be surprised if you lose your wife the next time! I will NOT watch you die again, especially knowing that I warned you and you went out and did it anyway! Please, Ned, don't put me into that position again!"

"Well, honey, now that I know the whole story, I promise that unless you say it's okay, I'll never change to Dr. Lambda again. Since the bad guy killed me when I was Dr. Lambda, as long as I don't change again, I should be safe. So thank you for finally sharing the story with me. It must have weighed on you the whole time."

"Oh, Ned, I feel so much better!" She smiled and gave him a tremendous hug.

In his inner thoughts, Ned smiled too. He hadn't quite promised to never become Dr. Lambda again. He knew, with great sadness, that his friend Albert Einstein hadn't much longer to live. Once Albert had passed away, he would try to convince Krista that it was safe again; well, as safe as being a mystery hero could ever be. He was sure he could keep his promise that long.