The Alliance of Mystery Heroes in: Mayhem in Monument Park

October 17, 1942

Captured

The patriotic mystery hero known as the Volunteer and his young sidekick, Raptor, had been working the seedy bars of New York's Bowery district for hours, looking for clues to a recent crime wave. They were on the verge of giving up and moving on when they spotted a rowdy group of men gathered on a side street, cheering and hollering.

"Looks like a fight, Boss!" Raptor said eagerly. It had been a dull evening so far. "Let's check it out!"

"Good idea, son, but keep your eyes open," the red, white and blue clad hero reminded his partner. "Those guys won't be too happy when we bust up their entertainment for the evening."

Volunteer and Raptor made their way through the crowd, ignoring the swearing and shoves of the men they pushed aside. The mutters died out quickly as the displaced men recognized the heroes. As they got closer to the fight, Raptor was amazed to see that the fighters were both women. And both were absolute stunners! They were really going at each other, and their expensive evening gowns were already in tatters.

"Boy, oh boy, Boss, this is gonna be fun!" the 15-year-old said enthusiastically.

"Good to see you enjoying your work, Teen Wonder," Volunteer replied dryly. "Maneuver 17!"

"Gotcha!" With that, the two rushed forward, got between the battling women, and pushed them apart. The men in the crowd immediately started booing. The woman Raptor was facing stumbled, fell, and lay on the ground, moaning in pain. Concerned, he immediately raced forward and bent over her to see if he could help.

"Sleep tight, cutie," she purred, smiling at him seductively. He wasn't prepared when she reached up and tickled him under the chin. The touch of her fingers jolted him like a powerful electric current, knocking him senseless.

Meanwhile, the woman facing the Volunteer leaped forward with a joyous yell of, "My hero!" wrapped her arms around him, and gave him a big kiss. He too was caught totally off guard, and history repeated itself. The touch of her lips to his jolted the Volunteer into unconsciousness.

As he crumpled to the asphalt, a strong, self-assured voice with a strong British accent issued an imperious order from behind the crowd: "Stand aside, peons."

The mob turned as one to see a tall man, impeccably dressed in a perfectly tailored suit, point the gold-capped head of his cane in their direction. With an offhand flick of his wrist, an invisible force swept the crowd to one side, knocking them down in a struggling mass. Another casual twitch of the cane lifted the unconscious Volunteer into the air.

"Come, my dears. It's time to leave this distasteful place."

The nattily-dressed man turned and strode confidently away, followed dutifully by the two rag-clad beauties and the floating body of the unconscious Volunteer. Moments later, they stopped beside a very futuristic-looking vehicle parked on the main avenue. It had no wheels, instead floating about eight inches above the pavement. The trunk opened by itself, Volunteer floated inside, and the trunk snapped closed. The waiting chauffeur touched a button, and the rear door swung up and opened like a bird's wing. The absolutely stunning brunette slid in first, followed by the man with the cane, and then the equally stunning redhead. The chauffeur entered by a more standard door.

"Come on, let's get that pansy!" an angry man screamed to his fellows as he struggled to his feet. "No overdressed snob can do that to us!"

"Are you crazy? That's Dr. Disaster!" another man pointed out, and silence fell like a veil across the crowd.

Unimpeded, the streamlined vehicle lifted silently into the air, then whooshed away faster than any fighter plane.

***~~~***

The lithe, maroon-clad woman prowled the rooftops, absolutely furious. San Francisco is MY town! I don't care if this 'Chili' character does have ice powers, I'm stopping her tonight! Fueled by grim determination, Red Lynx judged the distance to the next rooftop and leaped. She was patrolling the Jewelry District tonight, as this new villainess had a distinct fondness for 'ice' — in this case, brilliant white diamonds. Lynx was guessing that Shreve & Company, San Francisco's oldest and largest jeweler, would be Chili's next target.

She looked over the edge of the roof, and her guess was verified. A crystalline figure stood in the street in front of the doors, arms outstretched, and an instant later a battering ram of solid ice slammed into the front door of the store, smashing it open and setting off the burglar alarm.

Red Lynx leaped from the roof and dropped three stories, landing lightly on the street below; then she instantly leaped again, barreling straight toward the ice maiden. Chili spun to face her, twin columns of ice flashing towards the Feline Fury from her fists. The heroine's claws snickered out and she slashed, left, right, and the ice shattered. Lynx slammed into the villainess, and they fell in a tangle, sliding across the icy pavement. Chili wrapped her arms around Lynx, and a sheath of ice started to form around the cat-costumed heroine.

By now the police were on the scene, guns drawn, but afraid to fire and endanger their hometown heroine. They were startled to hear a shrill whistle, something like the sound of incoming artillery fire.

"Cold doesn't bother a Lynx, dearie. We're mountain cats," Red Lynx growled as she shattered the sheath with her claws.

Chili changed her tactics, growing an ice pillar under the Lynx, lifting her into the air. "Then let's see how much you like flying, little kitty!" she snarled.

The whistling changed to a roar as a bulky figure hurtled through the air and smashed into the Red Lynx. Massive metal arms wrapped around her, and the human-shaped missile roared back into the night sky. Chili grew an ice wall between herself and the police and slipped off in the opposite direction, creating an ice slide that allowed her to move much faster than the police could follow.

"Saints preserve her soul," a police sergeant said in a hushed whisper, crossing himself. "That was the Iron Cross!”

Emergency Meeting

At their top-secret headquarters somewhere on the Delmarva Peninsula, the remaining members of the Alliance of Mystery Heroes were gathered to discuss the abduction of their two newest teammates by their two oldest foes. Though Raptor wasn't technically a member, Major Power had brought him to the meeting as well, since his partner was involved and he had actually witnessed Volunteer's capture. They had listened to the news reports and Raptor's personal account several times now.

"Does anyone believe that it's just a coincidence that the Volunteer and Red Lynx were captured on the same day?" Major Power asked. He was a tall, imposing African-American man, whose graying hair and Van Dyke beard gave him a very distinguished look. He wore a green-and-gray costume with a gray cape. The oldest and most powerful member of the AMH, he was also its nominal leader. When no one answered, he continued, "Which probably means our two most dangerous foes have joined forces."

"I thought Dr. Disaster wanted to rule the world," Raptor interrupted. "Why would he team up with a Nazi who's fighting so Hitler can rule the world?"

"We defeated each villain soundly, last year," Flux responded. She wore a domino mask and a skin-tight outfit of pale blue with yellow flames down one side. Her dark blue hair was cut short, with a curl hanging down in the middle of her forehead — a practical style for running at super speed. "Each probably figures he'll take care of the other after they finish us off!" She spoke rapidly, forcefully, tapping her fingers on the arms of the chair she sat in. It was obvious she could barely stand sitting still.

"Well, they won't get us with the same tricks now that we're on guard," Dr. Lambda stated flatly. "I wonder who the new ladies are?"

"You know Dr. Disaster. He always hangs around with the best-looking women money and power can buy," Flux sneered contemptuously.

"But they've never had super powers before," Major Power mused thoughtfully. "The women Volunteer and Raptor encountered seem to have the same power, some kind of knockout touch. And the third one can freeze the moisture in the air and use the resulting ice in various useful ways. We'll need new tactics against those three."

"Those powers seem awful familiar to me," Raptor noted. "I don't know everything about Dr. Disaster, but doesn't he have weapons like that built into his cane?"

"Good observation, Teen Marvel," Dr. Lambda praised the youngster. "He can shoot stunner blasts, a kind of a force beam, and heat and cold rays from the cane. He's also developed an anti-gravity engine." Dr. Lambda wasn't very happy saying this; the cane weapon and anti-gravity engine seemed to mimic the powers of his Stellar Scepter and gravity controller, and he suspected Disaster had somehow stolen the designs from him. "He used to have a gang of thugs, the most dangerous lowlifes imaginable, to do all the heavy lifting for him. The police never had a chance at him; it took three of us — me, the Major, and Flux — to bring him in last time." Lambda frowned. "I heard he was killed in some kind of an explosion at the prison shortly after we captured him. We should have suspected a ruse."

"What about the Iron Cross?" Raptor asked. "Don't tell Volunteer, but I sorta didn't study Iron Cross's dossier too closely; I figured he was way out of our league."

"All the more reason to study him thoroughly, youngster!" Major Power admonished the Terrific Teen. "He's the Nazis' not-so-secret weapon. He wears something called a hydraulic exoskeleton, which amplifies his strength to an incredible degree. It's covered with armor that makes him almost invulnerable, and it lets him carry a built-in rocket launcher, similar to a bazooka. And he has boot rockets that let him fly."

"Golly! Is he stronger than you?" Raptor wanted to know. He idolized Major Power as the strongest man on Earth.

"I don't really know," Major Power chuckled. "We've never arm-wrestled. But I'm the better flier, by far." He turned serious again. "In any case, our teammates are in grave danger as long as they're in the hands of these villains."

If they're still alive, everyone thought, but no one dared say.

They started in shock when a loud buzzer interrupted their discussion, Flux literally leaping five feet in the air. Apparently, someone on the headquarters staff had something very important to tell them. Dr. Lambda switched on the intercom. "Go ahead."

"This is Parker from the radio room," a young, earnest voice said nervously. "There's a broadcast on the restricted AMH frequency you guys oughta hear."

"Pipe it in here, Mr. Parker," Major Power ordered.

"Greetings, heroes. My name is Echo," a throaty, seductive voice came over the speaker. "If that handsome young Raptor is with you, he already knows me. For your information, your erstwhile teammates are imprisoned inside the Washington Monument, right next to a time bomb. You have one hour to save them, starting from… NOW!" She chuckled. "Of course, my partners and I will be there to stop you. Oh, and by the way, if the military or civilian authorities try to interfere, we'll set off the bomb by remote control."

She paused to let that sink in, then continued: "We've alerted all the news services, so there should be plenty of newsreel reporters there. See you on Monument Hill. We'll be waiting!"

"That's the one who knocked me out! I'll never forget her voice!" Raptor said angrily. "I want another shot at that dame."

"Sorry, son, but this is our job," Major Power stated flatly. "I'd like you to stay here and monitor communications, and get in contact with us immediately if you hear anything new from the villains."

"That's Lieutenant Parker's job!" Raptor complained. But Major Power, Dr. Lambda, and Flux were already discussing the upcoming battle.

"Tell you what, boys!" Flux proposed. "Since you both have beefs to settle with Iron Cross and Dr. Disaster, why don't I take care of the ice queen and the two knock-out artists?"

The three adult heroes hustled out of the meeting room, still talking as they headed for the exit. "Good Plan, Sapphire Speedster!" Dr. Lambda agreed. "I'll call the Pentagon en route and ask them to order an air raid alert for D.C. They can't possibly evacuate the whole city in an hour, but they can try to get everyone into shelters!"

The door shut behind them, and Raptor was alone. "Darned if I'm gonna hang around here when the Volunteer's in danger!" he snorted, racing from the meeting room by a different exit. He dashed to the hanger and climbed into one of the Alliance's four-seat jets. The Volunteer had been teaching him how to fly, but this would be his first solo.

As he strapped in, a member of the on-duty flight crew hurtled through the closing hatch, hollering "Hey, kid, you can't…"

Raptor ignored him and mashed the starter button, and the plane shuddered as the powerful engine roared to life. "Launch sequence is automatic, soldier, so you'd better sit down and strap in," he told his accidental passenger, who scrambled towards one of the rear seats.

The hanger door rumbled open and the catapult threw the plane powerfully forward. Raptor and the crewman were pinned back in their seats as the JATO rockets started firing. The Terrific Teen pulled back slightly on the stick and whooped as the powerful plane roared skyward. "Geronimo!"

Pick Your Poison

Flying behind a streamlined force field projected by the Stellar Scepter, Dr. Lambda and Major Power could barely match Flux's running speed of a bit less than the speed of sound. It took them a little over 10 minutes to get from their HQ to Washington. As they flew over the D.C. metropolitan area, they could hear the wailing of air raid sirens. In a few places, orderly streams of citizens were still moving rapidly towards the nearest Civil Defense shelters. The streets were littered with motionless cars, abandoned by their occupants at the first warning.

On the ground, Flux was impressed at the speed with which citizens had reached the shelters; all the air raid drills since the beginning of the war were paying off now. She hoped the shelters would provide enough protection to keep the people safe through the upcoming battle!

When the cleared green spaces of the National Mall Park came into view, they were stunned to see something glittering around the base of the Washington Monument. It looked like a huge birthday candle sprouting from an ice cube! As they got closer, they realized that the analogy was a good one. The cube was indeed made of ice, and the two glittering women who had presumably made it were using their freezing powers to coat the ground for a hundred yards around the Monument with a sheet of ice. From nearby, Iron Cross roared up from the ground like a bulky missile. As far as the heroes could see, there was no trace of Dr. Disaster.

"Good luck to you and Flux!" Major Power waved casually towards Dr. Lambda. "I owe this guy, and there's no time like the present to collect on the debt!"

Dr. Lambda swooped to a landing near Flux, while Major Power slowed and prepared for a dogfight. I need to take out the rocket launcher first, he decided, as he hung in the air, waiting for the Armored Aryan to make the first move. I don't want him firing wildly over the city!

As if Iron Cross had read Power's thoughts — and maybe the Kraut had somehow, who knew — a streamlined pod on the German's back split open, his rocket launcher unfolded, and he launched a missile. "Eat this, schwarzenhund!" the Nazi roared.

The last time Major Power had faced one of Cross's missiles, it had stunned him and knocked him from the sky, but he'd been caught by surprise then. This time he had an instant to prepare. Still, the explosion doubled him over, with that helpless gasping feeling of being punched in the solar plexus. Only his prior experience as a professional boxer allowed him to fight through it.

He forced himself into a power dive, using gravity to add to his speed, and closed with Iron Cross before the villain could cycle another rocket into the launcher. The exposed mechanism was much more vulnerable than the armor itself, and Major Power ripped it away with a grunt of satisfaction. Iron Cross roared his rage, but the sound was torn away from the combatants by their combined speed. Major Power pulled out of his dive and zoomed into an Immelman loop, ending up behind and slightly below the less-maneuverable German. Iron Cross tried a forward loop, turning up and rolling back over, hoping the faster Major Power would fly by underneath him so he could reverse their positions. Instead, when he was vertical, Major Power raced upwards and tackled Iron Cross around the legs from behind, holding on as he continued upward and dragging the German into an inverted position — so he was facing head down towards the ground, with his boot rockets still firing at maximum thrust!

Iron Cross panicked and shut his rockets down entirely, which was precisely what Major Power had hoped for. He released one arm and slammed his fist down hard twice in a row, once on the unprotected sole of each boot, wrecking the German's rockets completely. He then dropped his armored opponent, hoping the impact from the fall would stun him. The Killer Kraut twisted around as he fell and managed to land on his feet, smashing waist deep into the National Park lawn. He was tearing up the ground around him to get free as Major Power landed nearby.

"Verdammt schwarzen Schwein!" Iron Cross swore. "Efen wizout meine Raketen, I vill crush you!" He threw a powerful punch, which Major Power dodged easily.

"No need for the racial slurs," Major Power responded calmly, as he connected with a powerful combination. "Besides, it's the Aryan myth that's gonna get crushed today." Despite his bravado, Power was a little worried; his punches, which would have brought down a building, barely moved Iron Cross.

The two stood toe-to-toe, exchanging tremendous blows. Major Power fought with the scientific precision that had earned him a shot at the heavyweight title almost 25 years before, while Iron Cross's style was more that of a street brawler. He missed often, but when he connected, his massive armored fists took a toll on the Caped Colossus, hurting him and slowing him down — while the mystery hero's most powerful blows at best put minor dents in Cross's armor. They fought grimly, mostly silently, except for an occasional German exclamation of satisfaction or a grunt of pain from Major Power. The ground around them was soon torn and devastated, as if a flight of artillery had just exploded there; even nearby trees and utility buildings were shattered by the titanic impact of irresistible blows against immovable bodies.

Standing as close as they dared were half a dozen nervous newsreel cameramen, capturing this titanic battle on film. It appeared to be a war of attrition, with Iron Cross slowly gaining the upper hand.

Two on Two

"I guess we shouldn't have assumed there was only one ice queen," Dr. Lambda observed to Flux, as he lightly touched ground. As they watched, the two icy women shook hands — then one exploded into flames and shot up into the air!

"I guess we shouldn't have assumed anything about any of these villains," Flux yelped in surprise. "Unless they come out to meet us, I'm gonna have problems running on that sheet of ice. Maybe I should scout around for Dr. Disaster and the other woman? Don't want them popping up and surprising us."

"You won't have time to worry about those two, girl!" the icy woman, who they now recognized as Chili, retorted. Before the heroes could respond, both women attacked. Chili sprayed Dr. Lambda's torso with an icy coating, momentarily immobilizing him. The fiery woman flashed forward, and just before she reached Dr. Lambda, she doused her flame.

Her momentum allowed her to deliver a powerful blow to his exposed chin, staggering him backwards. Only his enhanced strength and endurance kept him from blacking out.

Like a gymnast, Flame Girl rolled expertly when she landed, once again flashed into flame, and rocketed into the air. "Hurts, don't it?" she sneered at Lambda. "And we're just getting started!" The heroes recognized her voice from the broadcast earlier; the flaming woman was Echo. She shot forward at Flux. "Chili can take care of your partner, witch, but you're mine!"

"Don't go anywhere, honey!" Chili sneered, as she continued to bury Dr. Lambda in ice. "I have big plans for you!"

Instead of replying, Lambda concentrated, and instantly the Stellar Scepter glowed with white heat. This melted his hand free, allowing him to cut his way out of the ice block. He blasted a heat ray at Chili; she slipped lithely out of the way on an ice slide. Dr. Lambda took to the air, rocketing toward her — and suddenly, Chili was surrounded by four icy duplicates of herself!

"Ever had five beautiful ladies chasing you at once, hero?" they asked in unison. Dr. Lambda found it a very eerie effect. "Enjoy it while you can!" They each blew him a kiss, and five separate sets of giant icy lips chased him into the sky. He waved the white-hot Scepter in their direction, and they flashed into wisps of steam.

"I'm not interested in frigid..." he started to say, but they interrupted him.

"Careful, don't say something you'll regret later!" They laughed wildly. The air was suddenly filled with hundreds of razor-sharp daggers of ice, flying at him from all directions. Instinctively, Dr. Lambda surrounded himself with a Scepter-generated force field, against which the daggers shattered with a musical tinkling.

"If this is what you call a good time, ladies, I'd rather have a broken tooth!" Without warning, he dove at full speed, managing to smash two of the duplicates, and then started to climb again — only to crash into a steel-hard wall of ice that the other three had manifested, somehow, while he concentrated on their sisters. His shield battered through it, but the feedback was painful.

"We can arrange that, if that's what you really want!" the remaining Chilis cried. He cursed his shortsightedness; he'd have to try to keep an eye on all the duplicates from now on! He grimaced as he realized that there was a circle of newsreel reporters filming all this. He hoped that they would stay out of danger, and more importantly, that the black hats wouldn't take it into their heads to threaten them. He couldn't take time to protect them; it was all he could do so far to protect himself!

As he hung in the sky, one of the Chili duplicates flash-grew an ice pillar under her feet, and launched herself towards him at rocket speed. He threw a force ball at her, hoping to knock her off the pedestal, and to his amazement, she shattered instead. Now there were only two ice queens left, and Chili didn't seem to be able to manifest more of them...at least, not yet. But these two were quite enough: they moved much more quickly than they had when there had been five of them, he noticed. They pointed upwards in unison and a mass of ice formed suddenly above Dr. Lambda, falling on him and forcing him down.

How are they doing that? he wondered. There can't be that much moisture in the air! Even as he thought this, he projected a heat beam upwards, melting a big enough hole for him to pass through safely. He remained safely aloft as tons of ice smashed to the Earth. When it did, the last icy duplicate vanished, and the entire scope of the battle changed instantly.

Chili burst into flames. She aimed a stream of hot flames at the mass of ice, vaporizing it. The exploding ball of superheated steam knocked Dr. Lambda off balance, and he tumbled through the sky, out of control. "What were you saying about me being frigid, sweetheart?" she roared, her voice like the crackle of a bonfire. "Remember, Chili can be fiery hot!"

"Chili can take care of your partner, witch, but you're mine!" With this challenge, Echo flung a handful of blazing fire darts at Flux, who didn't bother to move, and didn't even flinch as they spattered against her.

"You don't know much about me, do you?" Flux mocked her opponent. "My power makes me pretty much invulnerable to heat!" She started swinging her arms like someone swimming the crawl stroke, at super speed, producing a powerful wind. "And I have some nice tricks of my own!"

Echo was blown backwards, tumbling. Her flame was extinguished; she fell to earth and rolled several times before she finally came to a halt and struggled to her feet to look back at Flux — except Flux wasn't there. Someone tapped her on the shoulder, but before she could turn, Flux was in front of her, slapping her at super speed. "Two places at once, one of my favorites!" she crowed. "Just be glad it was only a slap, you bi…"

To Flux's utter astonishment, Echo wasn't knocked out or even spun around; instead, she instantly lashed out with a blow of her own that caught Flux in the stomach. Flux's reflexes enabled her to jump backwards, avoiding much of the power of that blow, but even so it was harder than she'd ever been hit by a normal human, and she herself bounced on the ground a couple of times before she rolled to a halt. Meanwhile, Echo vanished in a giant burst of flame, and five identical fiery figures leaped into the air.

"I've got my own surprises, hussy!" The band of human torches directed streams of plasma at the ground around Flux. The grass vanished in a puff of smoke, and the Earth actually began to burn and melt; the plasma was as hot as the surface of the Sun. Before Flux could get to her feet, she found herself sinking into a pit of molten earth, surrounded by flames. "Maybe heat doesn't bother you, but can you breath lava?" five crackling voices demanded from all sides.

Flux began kicking at super speed, sending a bright orange spume of superheated rock flying away behind her, and she zoomed to the edge of the molten pond. A group of newsreel reporters ran for their lives to escape the red-hot gobs flying towards them — oops! As she began climbing out of the pool, Echo flashed down, flickered out of the flaming state in some way that dispelled the duplicates, and slugged Flux in the chin. The Sapphire Speedster was knocked tumbling backwards and ended up face down in the lava, struggling weakly.

Bird of Prey

Once Raptor's "borrowed" Alliance jet reached altitude, the airman got out of the rear seat and moved forward. "I'm taking us back!" he insisted to the teen, as he strapped into the other pilot seat and threw the switch that transferred flight control to his station.

"I'm sorry, Corporal Grimes," the Boy Marvel apologized, quickly reading the other's insignia and name tag. "I really, really hate to do this, pal, but my partner's in trouble." Raptor took shameless advantage of Grime's concentration as he tried to get the jet under his control, slamming a short, vicious punch to the man's chin. Grimes spun away, already in la-la land, as Raptor switched control back to his seat. "Nobody's gonna keep me away from this fight."

As fast as it was, the jet wasn't as fast as the heroes; by the time the Washington Monument came into view, the battle royal between the Alliance of Mystery Heroes and Iron Cross, Chili and Echo was in full swing. And Grimes was beginning to stir.

"Gosh, that giant ice cube must be to keep people out of the tower while the battle's going on," Raptor mused aloud. "I'll bet the boss and Red Lynx are being held in the observation room at the top!" He slowed the jet to just above stall speed, set the autopilot to pass directly above the Monument, and unstrapped.

"Hey, Corp!" He started gently slapping the airman to bring him around. "Time to wake up. I'm bailing out, and somebody has to fly this rig!" That caught Grime's attention, and he shook his head violently. "I hope you're okay to fly, buddy boy, 'cause it's time for me to go!"

"What're you, crazy?" Grimes demanded. He looked around saw that the autopilot was on, and turned to argue with the Teen Marvel.

It was too late. Raptor had already pushed the heavy door open and jumped. His excited shout of "Geeeeronimooooooooooooo!!!" quickly faded into the distance as the jet roared on.

The slipstream slammed the door shut as soon as the Terrific Teen released it. There was nothing Corporal Grimes could do to stop him now, so once he again turned his attention to getting the jet under his control.

Raptor wasn't crazy. Not really. He couldn't fly per se, but he did have wings built into his costume that would allow him to glide for short distances. After all, I am named after a bird of prey! he thought exultantly as he flashed through the air like a missile, faster than he'd ever glided before.

Barely able to control his glee, he forced his arms into a wings-down position and slowed rapidly to a more manageable speed. Then he thumbed a button on his wrist that unlimbered his Raptor's Claw, a collapsed mini-grappling hook that normally lay along the back of his forearm. Slowing even more, he angled his flight to pass close to the tip of the Washington Monument, then triggered the compressed air mechanism that shot the Claw, trailing a slender nylon line. His aim was true: the Claw clanked into the ledge of one of the small windows just below the tower's tip. Now, if only it didn't bounce off before the tines grabbed onto something!

Raptor flashed past the window and held his breath as the line snapped taut — and the grapple held, as he knew it would. He was whipped around the corner of the tower, but he managed to grab and hang onto the edge of a similar window on the next side. He wedged himself into the opening and pulled a glass cutter from a secret pocket on his costume. In a few minutes, he was able to pop the window out and crawl awkwardly inside.

Waiting to meet him was the woman who'd knocked out the Volunteer the day before. "Welcome to your death, bird-boy," she crooned sweetly at him, as he tried to crawl across the windowsill, his torso inside and his legs still dangling outside. She reached towards his face. "I'm Stunner, and you're stunned. Don't expect to wake up this time, kiddo!"

New Foes for Old!

As he regained control of his tumble, Dr. Lambda was able to take in the whole battlefield. Nearby, Major Power was strictly on the defensive, giving ground slowly as Iron Cross pounded his way forward. Much further away, he saw Echo knock Flux back into the lava pool. It's time to try something different. He was closest to Major Power, so that's where he would start.

He swooped towards the battling titans and created a pair of force field pincers to lift Iron Cross off the ground. Cranking up the gain on his helmet amplifier, he yelled at his partner, "Major, Flux is in trouble! Let me deal with Iron Cross for a while!" A glowing white arrow in the air pointed the way. Iron Cross immediately began pounding on Dr. Lambda's force field. "Hurry, I can't hold him long!"

Major Power zoomed away at top speed in the indicated direction.

Rather than let Iron Cross shatter his force field, Dr. Lambda released it suddenly. The armored Nazi fell heavily, landing on a sidewalk and shattering it to rubble. When Lambda drifted to the ground about 20 feet away, Iron Cross already had large chunks of pavement in both hands. "You don't haf a chance in Hölle, Scheisskopf." Iron Cross whipped his left arm in a backhand motion, and Dr. Lambda staggered as the improvised projectile exploded against his force shield. "If der gewaltig Hauptfach Macht can't stand against me, vat hope do you haf?" Dr. Lambda's shield barely managed to deflect the second missile.

Iron Cross began to stalk forward, only to be speared by a glowing white beam from the Stellar Scepter.

"You might be surprised, Fritz! Sometimes the forces of nature overpower the inventions of man!"

Iron Cross slowed to a stop, overbalanced, and fell forward onto his face. He slowly, ever so slowly, struggled to rise, his every movement accompanied by strange tortured screeches, as of metal dragging agonizingly across metal, and by the haunting screams of steel tearing itself apart. He reached his knees, then silence fell and Iron Cross's motion ceased. Dr. Lambda strode forward, using the Stellar Scepter to scan the massive suit of armor.

"Not a trace of electrical activity — deader than a doornail! Wish I'd thought of this trick sooner. I could have saved Major Power a beating." He chuckled ruefully. "I suddenly realized that a man inside a machine built with a lot of iron, i.e., you, Fritz, is awfully vulnerable against an opponent who controls magnetism, i.e., me. With every bit of iron in your suit magnetized, all the pieces that are supposed to slide past each other stuck together instead. I'll bet you burned out every motor you have, just trying to move. And that suit's way too heavy for you to move it with just your own muscles."

He used the Stellar Scepter to give the armor a push, toppling it onto its side. "Don't go away, now. One of us will be back for you soon." He rose into the air to go to the aid of his teammates.

Major Power flew across the battlefield at top speed, dove into the pool of lava, and lifted Flux's head from the surface. He quickly used his hand to wipe the molten earth from her face, wincing a little at the sting of it as he cleared her nose and mouth. Flux coughed, spitting out a mouthful of pumice, then opened her eyes.

"Much better, thanks!" She recovered almost instantly, due to her super-speed metabolism. "I'll take one, you take the other!" she called as she raced off after one of the flaming figures. I underestimated her the first time, but it won't happen again, the Lady Speed Demon promised herself.

Quick Episodes

Raptor desperately lashed out at Stunner with the only weapon he had, and the diamond-edged blade of the glass cutter gashed her hand. She screamed and jumped backwards, even as he scrambled through the window. Now that he had a chance to look around, he saw Volunteer and Red Lynx, gagged and tied to a bomb — he knew it was a bomb because it looked like just the kind that was normally dropped from an airplane, fins and all! There were wires running from it to some kind of console mechanism nearby, complete with gauges, dials, switches and flashing lights. It all looked very Saturday afternoon Flash Gordon serialish.

Raptor pulled a small aerosol sprayer from his belt and jumped forward, squirting it at the mouth and nose of the loudly wailing Stunner. She looked startled for a split second, then collapsed to the floor, blessedly silent. With her out of the way, Raptor quickly freed the two adult heroes.

"Good work, Teen Marvel!" Volunteer praised his protégé, as soon as his gag was removed. "Dr. Disaster left Stunner here to prevent a rescue just like this, though the two of them thought somebody would sneak up the stairs, not come in through the window!"

"He told her that as soon as she saw this light go on," Red Lynx pointed at an ordinary incandescent bulb mounted on top of the cluttered console, "it meant she had five minutes to take the elevator down and join him in his secret bunker under the Monument. After that, this place would explode." She slashed out with her claws, severing the wires between the bomb and the console.

"Hey! You coulda set it off!" Volunteer shouted in anger.

"But I didn't," Red Lynx replied coolly. "Let's get out of here anyway, gents. I don't trust Dr. Disaster. I think he was going to blow us up no matter what happened in the fight, and Stunner along with us." She picked up Stunner easily and slung her over her shoulder, and they loaded into the elevator.

***~~~***

As Flux rushed to attack, Chili showed off yet another aspect of her powers: her left arm turned from flame to frost in an instant, and suddenly the ground in front of Flux was coated in a thick slab of ice. She couldn't swerve in time, so she bounced over it like a long jumper. She came down running and sped up until she was practically invisible to the human eye.

She circled around behind the floating villainess, straining for more speed. Just as she broke the sound barrier with a loud boom, she leaped into the air like a guided missile and slammed into Chili from behind.

"See how you like the 'thousands of punches before you can even blink' routine," she snarled at her opponent, wrapping one arm around her and slamming her with, quite literally, thousands of punches before she could even blink. The barrier of flames around Chili lessened the impact somewhat, but they flared out as the villainess was rendered unconscious by the rapid barrage. Flux ran on air as they fell, creating a cushion of high- pressure atmosphere that eased them gently to the ground.

***~~~***

Echo flashed forward faster than Major Power could react. "I've been waiting for this chance!" she cried triumphantly. "Once I absorb your invulnerability, I'll be invincible!" Her flame flickered off, and she hammered his chin with a punch driven by Dr. Lambda's superior strength and the speed of Flux. Fortunately for her, she only hit him a glancing blow — or she might have broken every bone in her fist, because Major Power's magically- granted invulnerability was proof against her own power of temporarily echoing a single natural ability of anyone she touched. As it was, she hurt her hand badly, and screamed in pain as she ran by. She seemed stunned when the pain lessened almost instantly, another aspect of the accelerated metabolism she'd adapted from Flux. She turned back, flamed on, and started throwing fireballs at super speed at Major Power.

They engaged in an almost surreal battle. Major Power wasn't quite fast enough to touch her, but Echo's acquired powers weren't enough to hurt him. Or were they? She was quickly becoming more accustomed to using her new powers, and realized that she was able to make her flame hotter than ever before. The Dark Defender started flinching away from her fireballs, tearing up chunks of pavement to block them or racing out of the way.

"Maybe you're not as invulnerable as everyone believes!" she shouted, as she blasted him yet again. "I'm going to finish what Iron Cross started — the absolute crushing defeat of Major Power!"

***~~~***

The battle was devastating the park, and Dr. Lambda was beginning to worry about bystanders getting hurt. The newsreel reporters were desperately running for their lives as debris flew around them and the temperature rose. With the Stellar Scepter to protect him, Lambda was relatively immune to the heat, so he and Flux turned their powers to saving lives, carrying the scorched reporters to safety. More than one mourned the loss of his precious newsreel camera, and the footage that would have made him rich.

***~~~***

Echo blasted a flare at Major Power, temporarily blinding him. When he could see again, five flaming figures were diving at him. They were no longer orange or red, but glowing white; she had learned to use Flux's borrowed metabolism to boost flames into overdrive.

She fired another flare of power at him, and the ground beneath him vaporized; Major Power now floated above a pit of glowing white. Irritated, he raised his hands and clapped them together with all the tremendous magical power at his command.

The concussion generated by those two invulnerable hands being slammed together with the power of an atomic bomb was almost solid; it smashed into the flaming fivesome and instantly snuffed out those flames. Four of the figures vanished completely; Major Power managed to catch the unconscious Echo, rather than letting her smash into his chest or fall into the white-hot mess below.

"Or maybe I AM as invulnerable as everyone believes," Major Power muttered, but Echo was no longer listening.

He lifted into the air, accelerating towards the Monument. Two of his teammates were still imprisoned somewhere in that famous tower. He spotted Dr. Lambda and Flux rushing that way as well. But before they could reach it, there was a tremendous explosion — and the top quarter of the Washington Monument simply vanished in a cloud of dust and smoke.

Warp it up with a Bow

Before anyone could react, a patch of ground in front of the Monument slid aside and a platform rose into view, carrying Red Lynx, the Volunteer, and Raptor. The Crimson Cat was still carrying the unconscious Stunner, and standing between the Volunteer and Raptor, cocooned from shoulders to knees in tightly wrapped nylon line, was a disheveled, distressed, and desolate Dr. Disaster. A relieved cheer went up from the other three heroes as they realized that not only were the other members of the Alliance of Mystery Heroes still alive, they'd completed the clean sweep and captured one of their most dangerous foes.

Volunteer quickly filled them in on what he'd learned in the past few minutes. "Dr. Disaster planned to betray all of them from the beginning! He was so obsessed with watching you on his hidden TV cameras that he never even knew we were there until we'd captured him. When Major Power defeated Echo, he started the timer on the bomb — and not the same bomb he'd told Stunner about, by the way! You should have heard him ranting at you guys on the screen!"

"Where'd the super bimbos come from?" Flux asked.

"Dr. Disaster gave them powers using one of his inventions; then he decided they were too powerful and might be a threat to him, so he betrayed them. You ask me, he's insane," Red Lynx spat.

Dr. Disaster burst out in maniacal laughter. "Nobody asked you!" he roared. "For that, you'll be the next one I kill!"

Raptor pulled a small cloth bag from somewhere on his costume and stuffed it into the villain's mouth. "We don't need to hear any more from you." Disaster glared at him, and he could almost feel the hatred in that heated stare. "Oops, I'll bet I just made your death list, too, didn't I? Oh dear."

"Don't ever mock your opponents, Boy Marvel," his mentor admonished him. "That touch of insanity, combined with his undeniable inventive genius, makes Dr. Disaster one of the most dangerous men in the world."

At that moment, a convoy of jeeps cautiously made their way through the battered landscape. A tough-looking Army Colonel climbed out of the lead jeep.

"Ah, Colonel O'Neill, I assume you're here to take custody of the prisoners?" Major Power greeted O'Neill warmly; they were old friends.

"Absolutely right, Major. As you know, the Special Powers Division," which O'Neill headed, "has a newly-completed maximum security prison facility, designed especially for super-powered captives. After a lot of consultation with the Volunteer." The patriotic hero inclined his head in acknowledgment of the recognition. "This crew will be our first prisoners."

"Then it's over, and we won! We can go home and celebrate a job well done!" Raptor exulted.

Major Power turned slowly, examining the devastation around them. The ground was bare of grass, pocked with craters and ridges, resembling a moonscape; there were two ragged, smoking pits filled with glowing orange magma; shattered trees and buildings were burning; and the jagged remains of the Washington Monument jabbed forlornly at the sky.

"If this is a win, Teen Marvel," he said very softly, "May the Good Lord have mercy on us all if we ever lose."