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Annual #1

 

 


Issue #6

Apollyon City Chapter 4:"War Machine"
by David Marshall


Apollyon City, Por Vouz Restaurant, Corner of Iroquois Drive and 3rd.
      "This is really wonderful!" Molly wiped her mouth with an oversized cloth napkin. "I'm so glad you could join us, Jennie."
      Caught with her mouthful, Jennie smiled and chewed quickly. Finally, she managed to swallow. "Me too, Molly! Being able to see you and Daddy on a regular basis is the best benefits package a girl could ask for." She winked at Alan. "That Mr. Scott sure knows how to treat his employees!"
      Alan leaned back in his chair and smiled. He was truly content for the first time in a while. Sure, there was still that difference in his and Molly's ages, but they were learning to deal with that. If only Todd were here, the day would be perfect. He looked around. Someone at work had given Jennie the name of this French café. The tipster had excellent taste. "So Jen, what made you decide to get behind the camera?"
      Jennie sipped a glass of wine. She sat the glass back on the table and wiped her mouth. "I've always been interested. Back in my Infinity days, I would wander around Sylvester's studio, fascinated by the old props and cameras. I used to close my eyes and imagine the movies that were made there. I thought I wanted to act, but then I got into photography. The two interests merged. Not long after, I heard about WABS. I...I talked to Bob, and here I am. I wanted to surprise you!"
      Alan laughed. "Good ol' Bob. The one secret he manages to keep in all the years I've known him."
      Molly interrupted. "So what are your plans, Hon? You still going to do the tights and spandex?"
      The smile disappeared from Jennie's face. "I don't know. When Todd and I barged in on that JSA meeting a few years back, I couldn't imagine being anything but a super hero. Now I just don't know..."
      Alan took his daughter's hand. "Hey listen, for some of us, it's just for a season. For others, it's a lifetime commitment. Do what your heart tells you. Either way you won't disappoint me."
      The table fell silent, but it was a good silence. Molly finally broke the hush as she pointed to Alan. "Yeah, and for some of them the commitment is several lifetimes."
      The small family shared a well-deserved laugh.


Apollyon City, WABS Studios, Meeting RoomThree, The Same Day
      "Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to our Executive Producer and Senior Vice- President, Mr. Alan Scott, Jr." Bob McNamara was in his element. If Dr. Jekyll lacked in social skills, Mr. Hyde was masterful before a roomful of strangers dressed in Armani.

      Bob stepped away as all eyes turned to Alan. The small gathering of employees clapped politely as he stepped forward. He could sense their expectations. These were the people who would make or break him. In turn, he would care for them and their families.       "Thank you. Your generosity is greatly appreciated, but it is I who should applaud you. The task set before us will not be easy, the course uncharted. It is so difficult to compete in this business, especially with a new startup. However, I've been looking over the background information Bob has prepared on each of you, and I feel confident this team will take our newborn station to the top. WCLO has dominated the airwaves in Apollyon for too long. Let's see how she likes a little friendly competition."
      Another round of polite applause erupted from those sitting around the elegant table. Alan continued. "Now if you don't mind, let's go around the room and share a little about ourselves."
      Alan gestured to the man at his left. He was strikingly handsome, with dark, curly hair and a well-groomed mustache. A well-defined chest supported broad, muscular shoulders. He appeared to be in his early thirties.
      The man stood. "My name is Frank Decker. I'm a UCLA graduate who cut his teeth in the Chicago market. I appreciate the opportunity to co-anchor the news team." Decker sat and pulled his chair under the table once more. He and Jennie exchanged smiles.
      "Thanks, Frank." Alan hoped Decker would prove more talkative on the air than off. He also hoped Decker was prepared to deal with Todd if he planned on putting any moves on Jennie.
      Several others introduced themselves before the attractive woman with the wheat-blonde hair pushed her seat away from the table and stood. "Hi, I'm Felicity Barnes. I'll be co-anchoring the news with Frank..."
      Around the table the introductions went. The heads of the technical departments represented their crews. Of course, most of the people worked in the news division, since WABS couldn't afford to offer too much in the way of original programming yet.
      Finally, the introductions worked their way around to Jennie. "Hi, I"m Jennie-Lynne Hayden. I'll be Director of Film. I'm looking forward to working with all of you." Her eyes were locked on Frank Decker as she spoke.
      Jennie was about to add to her introduction when the door of the meeting room burst open. "Turn on the television, quick!"
      Alan recognized the compact intruder as one of the cameramen Bob had hired for the evening news team.
      Bob McNamara didn't appreciate interruptions. "What is the meaning of this, Samuels? Can't you see we're in the middle of a meeting?"
      Alan held up a hand. "Bob! It's okay! Mr. Samuels doesn't seem like the kind of man to barge into a meeting for nothing. Now if you'll..."
      Bob McNamara was already one step ahead of his boss. As soon as Alan okayed Samuel's presence, Bob found the remote control to the nineteen-inch colored television which was mounted high in the left-hand corner of the room by a large window overlooking the Apollyon skyline. He touched the power button and the set flickered to life.

      "The nightmare began eleven minutes ago when, according to eyewitness accounts, Dr. Mason Durant unleashed a weapon known as the Virtual War Wheel, or VW² on a gathering of his colleagues. The War Wheel legacy dates back to World War II when a Nazi defector invented the original for Hitler's war machine. The War Wheel first surfaced in May of 1940 in Belgium, where it was tested on a small Belgium village. The international peacekeeping force known as the Blackhawks managed to defeat the Wheel at that time. The Wheel has resurfaced several times throughout the years. This latest version of the wheel is rumored to be under control of the international terrorist group, KOBRA. For WCLO news, this is Tina Munroe reporting live from S.T.A.R. Labs Headquarters in Apollyon City."

      Alan nodded to Bob, and he turned the television off. "Well, ladies and gentlemen, it looks as if we have our first story. We may have been scooped while we were getting to know one another, but being first on the scene doesn't always assure quality of reporting. Jennie, get a team over there, pronto! Bob, call the FCC, and don't let them off the phone until you secure a temporary broadcast permit!"
      The news team rushed into action. As the others rushed out of the meeting room, Bob McNamara approached Alan like a salmon fighting upstream against angry waters. "We begin broadcasting tomorrow. Should we jeopardize it with a stunt like this? With all due respect sir, but does such a permit exist?"
      Alan smiled. "It had better. Excuse me, Bob. I have some work to do myself...."

Outskirts of Apollyon City, S.T.A.R Labs Headquarters

      The Sentinel surveyed the scene below him. Debris was scattered around the S.T.A.R Labs lot. Two of the large buildings were heavily damaged. Emergency crews were pulling people from the devastation, and despite the urgency, they seemed to have the immediate situation well in hand. The War Wheel, however, was nowhere in sight. The Sentinel's emerald flame appeared, taking the form of binoculars. He searched the area and found Chief Westingmore. He willed the binoculars to fade into nothingness and then landed.
Westingmore brushed aside the throng of reporters and their questions. He approached the Sentinel. "Sentinel! I wish you'd been here twenty minutes ago!"
      "So do I, but that hardly changes the fact that I wasn't. Where is the War Wheel now?"
Westingmore glared at Alan with his cold, grey eyes. "According to eyewitnesses and the torn-up ground, it's headed west into town."
      "What about Durant?"
      "He disappeared in the confusion. We assume he's with the Wheel." Westingmore lit a pipe. The sweet smell of pipe tobacco filled the air as the bowl's contents glowed red. "So, do you spandex types have any nasty little habits that help you to cope?"
      The Sentinel frowned. "For most of us, fighting crime is our nasty little habit." With men like the Batman around, that was certainly true. But what of himself? After all these years was that what fighting crime had become? A nasty little habit?
      "It's going to buckle!" A firefighter's anxious voice stirred the Sentinel from his moral dilemma. What remained of one of the damaged buildings was crumbling. There were still people trapped inside the rubble! Going after the Wheel would have to wait. Saving lives made the nasty little habit worth it all.
      An elaborate network of beams and girders emerged from the ring on Alan's finger. The verdant support system grew ever larger as it neared the buckling wall. His engineering background payed off as Alan quickly found the weakest points in the wall and supplied reinforcement to the crumbling structure. He turned to the retreating emergency personnel.       "We need to get the wounded out! Hurry! Even with my powers this wall won't hold long!"
      Despite the Sentinel's best efforts, there just wasn't enough wall left to support. Brick after brick fell away as the structure began to collapse. The place was caving in on the wounded people inside, and there was little he could do.
      Then "it" happened. Two blurs of motion swept onto the scene, blinking in and out of sight like ghosts vanishing in the wind. They moved with uncanny speed and agility, leaving behind faint, vaporous after-images. Jay and Wally? Sentinel breathed an overdue sigh of relief. If anyone could find and rescue all the victims before the building collapsed, it was the two speedsters known as the Flashes!


San Francisco, California, At The Same Moment
      Jeff Sloane was a persistent man. "Look, Zee, I just think it's a bad idea! You're a west coast girl!"
      "!lla dloh esactiuS" The exotic beauty known to the world as Zatanna, cradled the phone between her ear and left shoulder, as she stuffed outfit after outfit into her suitcase. She was dressed in a long, white terrycloth bathrobe. A matching towel was wrapped around her wet hair, turban-like. "Look Jeff, we've been over this before! Apollyon needs me."
      "You just gonna leave your heart in San Francisco?" Jeff asked.
      Zatanna smiled. "Depends."
      "On what?"
      "You still going to be here?" Zatanna asked.
      Jeff laughed. "Of course I am, Zee. But I was serious? What about San Fran?"
      Zatanna walked around her large bedroom, gathering up whatever things she felt she may need and stuffed them into the suitcase. Dinah Lance once asked her how she traveled so light. The old bottomless suitcase was a favorite road trick she mastered long ago. "I'll just be minutes away, Jeff. I'll erect a portal between Apollyon and San Francisco in the back of the store front I'm renting."
      "Please tell me it's not a magic supplies store!" Jeff begged.
      "Of course not, silly!"
      Jeff sighed. "Thank God! Oh, and not a bookstore either? You can't stand the phony clientele that frequent those places."
      Finished with her packing, Zatanna stretched across her bed, finally rolling onto her stomach after fighting with the tangled phone cord. "A bookstore? Surely, my business manager of many years knows me better than that!"
      Zatanna's bare feet dangled in the air behind her. Her tone became more subdued. She bit her lip, closed her eyes, then whispered. "It's a florist!"
      Jeff chuckled. "A florist? Really? I would have never dreamed...."
      "I know, Jeff....that's one reason I have to do this. Don't you see? My only identity is as a magician. People seek my advice on everything from children's birthday parties to occult slayings. I need a break"
      Jeff's tone grew brittle. "And you think Apollyon will offer you a break? You've already helped the Sentinel with that Beelzebub character you mentioned. What makes you think that'll change when you move there?"
      Zatanna paused. "I need a break from my life revolving around magic. I need a break from San Francisco. I need a break....from us."
      Jeff was silent on the other end of the phone.
      "Jeff?"
      Jeff's shaking voice betrayed his hurt. "I...see. Call me when you figure everything out, Zee."
      "Jeff? I'm sorry...."
      Click.
      The dial tone in Zatanna's ear reverberated ominously. Poor Jeff! He must be so confused! Why did she ever go along with that 'Heart in San Francisco" bit? She never meant to be so misleading, but she had to work up the nerve to make a clean break. How could a woman who could defy the laws of physics, logic, and reason with but a sentence spoken backward be so chicken when faced with breaking up with her boyfriend?
      For the first time in a while Zatanna was free. Free from relationships. Free from her road schedule. Free from the life of a super-heroine. More importantly, she was free to find herself after all these years. One question lingered though. Why did freedom have to hurt so damn bad?

Outskirts of Apollyon City, S.T.A.R. Labs Headquarters
      The last of the dead and wounded were pulled from the wreckage of the building that served as S.T.A.R's main lecture hall. The two Flashes finally slowed their pace enough for the Sentinel to recognize the bright orange of their....
      Wait a minute! There was no bright orange! Instead, a familiar red, white, and blue costume emerged from the Speed Force. The other blur continued from one pile of debris to another, apparently surveying the damage before rushing to the WCLO news team.
      The red, white, and blue blur came to rest. "Impulse! Get over here and leave the news hounds alone!" Max Mercury extended his hand. "Sentinel! It's good to see you again. I hate that it is under such...unfortunate circumstances."
      Sentinel smiled and shook the hand of the Speed Force's elder statesman. . "Max Mercury! It's good to see you! But... don't you think it's a little risky bringing Impulse along on such a sensitive mission?"
      Max shook his head. "Sensitive? Oh no! This was pretty routine stuff!"
      Sentinel nodded. "I know. As I was saying...."
      "I appreciate your concern, but Impulse has learned so much since....Impulse! Cut that out! Leave the lady alone!"
      Jennie and the rest of the WABS crew arrived just in time for Impulse to spot them setting up their equipment. He raced to their location, trying to help. Jennie clung tightly to the expensive camera her father had purchased days ago. It was a top of the line Japanese model, loaded with features, and very expensive.
      Impulse whirred around her in a flurry of activity and questions.       "AmIgoingtobeontv?WilltheyseemebackhomeinAlabama?OopsMaxtoldmenotsaythingslikethat!"
      "IMPULSE!"
      Max's exasperated tone finally brought the hyperactive speedster to a halt. He rushed to his mentor's side. A wide, nervous grin crossed his lips. "Heh. Sorry about blowing the secret identity thing there, Max."
      Max buried his face in his hands. He clasped his hands together, as if he were about to pray, in an effort to dam his ire. "Yes, I hate that too! Now, if Superman has any relatives in the local vicinity, I'm sure they were shocked to learn who you really are!"
      Impulse settled into his slowest gear, an on-the-edge mix of impatience and confusion.       Sentinel overheard the youngster mumbling. "Was I using Speedspeak? Is that what he meant? Does Superman know my secret identity? Of course he does. He knows everybody's...."
      The Sentinel sighed. "That's what I mean Max. You remember how dangerous the original War Wheel was! I was thinking of calling in the JSA."
      Max nodded. "I understand. Do what you must. We saw the building collapsing on tv and thought maybe you could use some help."
      Felicity Barnes approached the brightly garbed trio. "Excuse me gentlemen, but you had better call in your favors quickly! The War Wheel was just spotted outside the city!"
      Sentinel nodded to the attractive, young newswoman. "Thank you, Miss." He turned to Max and his young protege. "Looks like we're going to have to handle this one alone. Max, I'm counting on you."
      The speedster nodded. "You can count on us. Let's go, Impulse."
      The speedsters disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. Alan rose into the air. "I hope so, Max. I do hope so."



Next Issue: The Conclusion of the War Machine Saga.... "New Tricks!" Can Alan survive the experience that is Bart Allen? Can Bart survive the...Hey Bart! Cut it out! I'm trying to plug the next issue! Ahem...as I was saying.... Can Bart prove himself to the Big Gun? New challenges for Alan and Zee. Be here.
David


      Wow! I'm nearly halfway through my commitment to the Sentinel. It seems to have flown by! Be warned. I don't plan on going away any time soon. I really like writing this title. This story (and the conclusion next issue) were a blast to write. Bart is one of my favorite characters. Originally, I planned on a Punch and Jewelee story, but found out they had been dibbed. Max and Bart just kinda happened as replacements. Some of you have let me know at the FDC chats that you like what I've been doing. Thank you very much. A few have written. Thanks to everyone. I was beginning to wonder if ANYBODY was reading Sentinel. BTW, I will be scarce at the FDC chats for awhile. I've taken a second job and Wednesdays are one of the nights I usually work. I'll try to be around, though.
A sampling of the comments on the Beelzebub arc.

Sentinel: I'll admit it: I had a little trouble following this one, until I
caught on to the different points of view. Nice tight story, good use of the
supporting cast, and plenty of foreshadowing. Let's just play up the sheer
power that Alan has to work with, okay?
Chuck Burke

Thanks Chris! You can bet we'll be seeing Alan open up before too long! Don't miss #8!

Dave,
Hey, I just finished reading Sentinel 4&5 and I really, really enjoyed them.
I especially like the twist at the end where love took the place of faith in
exorcising the demon. Pretty cool.Dale Glaser

Thanks Dale. I hope you like "War Machine" as well. The War Wheel has always fascinated me. I remember seeing a reprint in one of those wonderful Giant-Sized titles DC used to put out. Now the big question is which poses the greater threat to Apollyon- VW² or Impulse?
That's all until next issue!
David

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