The Hood, under cover of darkness, slipped through the police tape into the abandoned house. No progress had been made in solving the murder, he knew, so it was time to interfere.
The house was small, and sparsely furnished. It hardly looked lived-in, aside from the disarray caused by the police investigation, although the victim was apparently quite elderly and had no other relatives.
The house showed no sign of forced entry. Gold bullion, perhaps, stashed beneath an upstairs mattress?
He scanned the walls with his flashlight, looking for something out of place, something that might have been missed.
There ... the grandfather clock. The rest of the house was so minimally furnished, why was there this antique grandfather clock in the living room? He pulled it to the side. Nothing hidden in the back. He scanned the wall ... there ... an almost invisible seam. And down at the floor, a small series of latches into which the base of the grandfather clock had been neatly set. It took him some time with the specialist tools he carried with him, but eventually he managed to trigger the opening mechanism and the hidden door slid open. Well, well, well, he thought to himself.
He stood at the top of a stairwell. Venturing silently down, he found himself at an underground dock which led into an immense canal which seemed to traverse the underside of the city. At the land end of the dock were a vast series of bookshelves, which had been emptied, and also what appeared to be a setup for a laboratory, which had been likewise stripped. On the floor he found a few magazines which appeared to have been inadvertently left behind. Scientific journals in English and some other language he couldn't place, and what appeared to be a communist tract in German. What were you up to and why did someone want to kill you, Carl Peterson? he thought to himself.
FDC presents "No Fortunate Son"
Scarlet Hawk pursed his lips. The scenario was all too familiar to him, the intermixed scents of dust and burnt wood and plaster and the sickly olfactory undertone of burnt human flesh.
Bowman examined the ruins of the mosque. "What kind of person would do something like this? It looks a bit out of order even for the National Front ... "
"That is why we sought your assistance. You are looking well-preserved, Mr. Baker."
Scarlet Hawk turned in surprise at the sound of the lightly accented English. An elderly man, dark-skinned, had waded through the crowds surrounding the wreckage and stood quietly on the roped-off sidewalk near the remains of the building. "I'm sorry sir," Scarlet Hawk said, "I don't think we ... my god ... Abdul?"
The older man smiled and bowed his head slightly. "I had heard about your little jaunt, and sought to see it for myself."
Bowman joined the pair. "I don't think we've met?"
Scarlet Hawk stepped back. "Abdul, this is my compatriot, the Bowman of Britain. Bowman, this is the man we used to call 'Abdul the Arab' back in the day ... are you still working for British Military Intelligence?"
"I am formally long retired, though they call in my expertise on rare occasions. And as I said, I was curious."
"So what does MI5 say about these attacks? The third mosque destroyed in a week?"
"These are not simple explosives," Abdul said quietly. "These are missiles, fired apparently from the direction of the Thames. Whatever is responsible for these atrocities is evading our regular forces, which is why we called in the Seven Soldiers. As you can imagine, this is a sensitive matter, and we need it resolved extremely quickly."
Scarlet Hawk nodded, "I've yet to see anything that could outpace the Aviosub. We'll find whomever is responsible."
Thus it was that the Aviosub coursed through the dark waters of the underside of the Thames. They knew not where the next blow would strike, though Scarlet Hawk had a map of the other London mosques which were equidistant from the river as the previous victims of the terrorist strikes.
"I just don't understand why this is happening," TNT Tina said. "So many innocent people killed ... we don't have anything like this on my ... alternate Earth."
Spider observed her curiously. He had spent a fair amount of time indoctrinating the cousins so they would not reveal anything about his own status as an elseworld emigree. He wondered at times whether his former teammate the Squire suspected, she of the information-reading talent, but fortunately she had not yet interacted with the newcomers. "Of course, we don't know why these attacks have occured, yet."
Frankenstein grunted. "Christians and Mohammedans have been killing each other for centuries. Only the technology has changed. Not even the number of fatalities, so much."
"I'm still trying to get used to the idea that you and Tom come from sort of different dimension, even one just like our own," Beefeater said. "So you don't have any terrorism at all? How about the I.R.A.?"
"Oh ... yeah ... I mean I knew what the word 'terrorism' meant," TNT Tina said. "But it was pretty rare for anyone to really get hurt, or killed, it was mainly just property damage they were after."
"I think I have something," Scarlet Hawk said quietly.
Bowman rose to his feet and walked over to the pilot's seat. "What is it?"
"It's ... big," Scarlet Hawk replied. The team stared at the immense, blood-red contraption resting in the water before them, its curving ornamented design somehow reminiscent of an enormous squid. Hatchways like eyes glared down at them. "God's balls," Frankenstein muttered, "it's the Nautilus."
The Spider looked bemused for once. "The Nautilus? as in ... 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Captain Nemo?"
Frankenstein nodded. "He was not the first man to be immortalised in fiction, even after his death."
Beefeater coughed politely.
Silt stirred in a plume from the base of the Nautilus, and from the sides of the craft began to extend squidlike tentacles attacking the Aviosub.
The Aviosub's speed and Scarlet Hawk's piloting expertise kept the vehicle from being so easily captured as he initiated evasive maneuvers, though underwater vehicles were not his area of expertise, and he found himself unable to approach the Nautilus. The larger craft fired a missile and Scarlet Hawk cursed as they were buffeted by the explosion.
"We're outclassed in firepower here," Bowman said. "Terri and Tina, get out there and run interference."
"Yessir," TNT Tina said, saluting, and she and Beefeater donned a pair of oxygen masks and ducked out the airlock, flying effortlessly through the water. They attacked the tentacles as they endangered the vehicle, blasts of energy from the Rod of the Stuarts destroying missiles from afar before they endangered the Aviosub.
The Aviosub's own missiles burst harmlessly against the Nautilus' armoured shell. "We're going to get slaughtered here," Scarlet Hawk said.
"Bugger them," Bowman said. He peered out at their opponent. "See what looks like a viewing port? Let's poke them in the eye."
Scarlet Hawk grimaced, and looped the Aviosub around, accelerating towards one of the eye-like hatchways. Beefeater and TNT Tina, startled, recovered quickly and coasted in on its wake. The crash echoed through the surrounding waters and once the backlash had subsided they re-entered the craft through its rear airlock.
"Baker? What the hell happened?" Beefeater demanded as she entered into the Aviosub's cockpit.
"We're launching an invasion," Bowman replied. "You two did right by reconnoitering with us immediately. Get into formation. Frankenstein, you seem familiar with the Nautilus ... what are we to expect?"
"I don't know," Frankenstein admitted. "Nemo captained a full crew, but the bridge was designed so that a single man could pilot if need be. And I would not be surprised if improvements had been made to the steering mechanisms over the course of the last century."
Bowman gave the nod, and Frankenstein led the way, steam-guns drawn, through empty hallways which almost seemed to have been carved out of red coral. Finally they arrived at the bridge, to see a single man standing at the ship's wheel. He had dark hair and a small trim mustache, wore a natty grey pinstriped suit, and had overall the appearance of an English gentleman: a man who fought hard, played hard and lived clean. His best friend would not have called him good-looking but he possessed that cheerful type of ugliness which inspired immediate confidence. Only his eyed redeemed his face. Deep-set and steady, with eyelashes that many women envied, they showed him to be a sportsman and an adventurer.
He turned, slowly, to face the gaudily clad Soldiers. His eyes passed over the Spider with a curious expression, and when they settled on Frankenstein his lips broadened into a slight smile, as if he had almost expected the appearence of a legendary monster in such an august and historical surrounding. "Can I help you?"
"You attacked our ship," Bowman said. "You're under arrest for a series of hate crimes, including multiple murders and the destruction of houses of worship."
The man smirked. "Is that what they're calling those terrorist training centers nowadays, 'houses of worship'? My grandfather knew better, and I bet yours did, too. They need to go back to their homelands and all I did was take it on myself to show them how little time a true Englishman has for their lot."
Frankenstein snarled, "Your campaign of hatred ends, now. Just tell me ... why the Nautilus? How did you even find it?"
"Ahh," the man looked pleased to have been asked. "My grandfather was sworn enemy of a man named Carl Peterson, who was one of the sons of the original Captain Nemo. When I discovered that Peterson still had Nemo's craft, I could not resist the irony of using it to defend our shores, as well as getting revenge for all the trouble he had caused my family in the past. And as for your other intentions, let me show you why folks call me Big Don Drummond."
As he said this, he inhaled deeply, and held it. TNT TIna blinked, perplexed. "They call you that because you throw temper tantrums? because you can hold your breath until you turn blue?"
"Uhhh ... Tina ... " Beefeater said, "... he actually is turning blue."
Before the team's eyes, the man's skin started to alter hue, becoming a bright flowery blue ... and when he bunched his arms, his chest and shoulders started to expand, blue skin bloating until he more than doubled in size. Silently, the mutated horror charged forward, scattering the Soldiers like tenpins.
A barrage of weaponry ... sonic arrows, steam-projected bullets, steel-strong webbing, blasts from the Rod of the Stuarts ... followed, each shrugged off as if they did not exist. He directed his attack on Frankenstein, perhaps out of some sense that the monster's size made him his most natural opponent. Frankenstein defended himself fiercely, but his strength was a fraction of Drummond's. Beefeater and TNT Tina waded in to defend him, their own diamond-hard fists bruising against his impenetrable skin. Bowman and Scarlet Hawk resumed their long-distance attacks, while the Spider drew forth his web gun, firing a nylon strand to the ceiling of the bridge. He drew himself up to the top, where he hung like his namesake waiting for its prey.
Drummond looked almost regretful as his massive fists struck out at the women, less so when he took out Scarlet Hawk. Bowman backed away, arrow ready. "Damnit Spider, don't just hang there. We're being slaughtered."
The Spider narrowed his eyes, assessing the battle carefully. "Have you noticed he hasn't said a word since he changed? In fact, he hasn't exhaled. I think he's a big blue balloon."
Drummond growled and leaped up, his hand snapping the Spider's strand. The Spider's exo-skeleton enhanced his natural abilities by monitoring position and balance, automatically stabilising him when fell. He fired another web at his opponent, who ignored it as he began to slowly wrap his fingers around his throat, smiling grimly. Four of the others struggled to defend him, attempting futilely to loosen the powerful grip, as TNT Tina fled from the room.
The Spider began to wonder whether he had overplayed his hand, when TNT Tina hovered before Drummond's face. "Big blue balloon," she said with laughing eyes, as she opened her hands to reveal a handful of ground pepper which she had retrieved from the Aviosub's mess kits. She blew it in his face.
Drummond sneezed, and as the air fled his lungs his reflection changed and he reduced in size. "Damnit ... ah-CHOO!" Beefeater and Frankenstein struck him full in the face. The others pressed their advantage, wearing him down while preventing him from concentrating enough to hold his breath again. TNT Tina was ready with another handful of pepper whenever he looked about to inhale. Finally, deflated down to normal size, Scarlet Hawk's throwball was sufficient to render him unconscious.
They stared down at the prone figure. "I look forward to finding a hole to bury this bastard in," Scarlet Hawk said.
"No kidding," Beefeater said. "But what do we do with ... " she waved her hands to take in the Nautilus, " ... this?"
"It doesn't seem right to use it for our own purposes," Bowman mused. "We will have to determine whether Carl Peterson has any heirs, I suppose. After that ... I suppose I ought to contact the Atlantean embassy."
Lord Marmaduke Ffogg looked through the viewscreen at the young man, IV drip connected to his forearm. He spoke through the voice transmitter. "Are you all right down there?"
The youth glanced upwards at the small speaker. "I've never felt better. Let's just get on with it."
Ffogg nodded, and pulled down the switch to close the blast doors. "Start the process, Dr. Lanta."
The scientist peered at Ffogg. "You're certain of this? He'll be resistant to ... "
Ffogg sighed, and nodded. "Of course. The thermo-clyodine-phostium compound will interact with his already affected physique. All we need is a catalyst." The ground rumbled as the atomic bomb exploded in the underground bunker. The viewscreen went dead.
"Now all we have to do is wait."
It was only seconds later that the ground burst open beneath them. The lithe young figure exploded into the sky. Laughing, he arced back down, scooping up a boulder from the disrupted underground and tossing it into the air. When it returned to earth many seconds later, it was met with a double blow from fists crackling with energy, which caused it to explode. "I thought I had had power before ... it was nothing!"
Ffogg exited the lab building, eyes on his geiger counter. "The radioactivity seems to have been completely absorbed. So it's to be a new TNT Tom, is it?"
He laughed in response. "That's a childish name. I'll need a new name and uniform for the new role I will be playing in Britain's history. Call me ... Thunderbolt ... Thunderbolt the Avenger!"
The physical description of Big Don Drummond is edited from an original description of Hugh 'Bulldog' Drummond.
I wanted to title this episode after the Justice League Unlimited episode in which an impromptu gathering of characters, who represented the original Seven Soldiers of Victory, battled a jingoistic, Hulkish opponent; but the name, "Patriot Act," would be meaningless applied to a British-based series.