Grayson looked at his instrument panels. "Two objects are coming in almost as fast as we are." Kenneth Hale looked at the glowing dots on the round monitor. "Jets! We're a UFO coming into Washington airspace, they're gonna fire on us!
"Wag your wings!"
"Here, you take the helm since you're the ace pilot." Marvel Boy unclipped his seat latch and started for the rear of the rocket. "I've got to go draw them away while you land. If they start firing we'll never have a chance to explain ourselves."
Ken Hale leapt into the pilot's seat and took the stick as the young man opened a small airlock in the hull and closed it behind him. The Air Force pilots broke off immediately as Marvel Boy shot out of the side of the rocket- resembling a missile himself. The red and blue missile then looped in the opposite direction that Hale now took the Silver Bullet.
"Ken! At least fly rightside up so my stomach will go down!"
"Ha! Sorry Jimbo." The ape pulled the stick and turned their world back on the axis they preferred. "You guys are used to Bob, drivin' like my dad. I'll show those flyboys a thing or two."
"Let Bob deal with them, we need to get down to the National Mall pronto."
The gorilla rolled his eyes. "All right. Lemme give those crewcuts a signal, maybe it'll help." He brought the rocket around before the jets, which had just returned to formation. Coming in at eleven o'clock, he rocked the ship a number of times and then blasted away, leaving only a contrail for the jets to see.
"Did that UFO just wag its wings at us?"
"Roger that. Eyes up at two o' clock-- the other one is up to something."
"Lordy. How does it turn that sharp? It looks like it's... skywriting."
Bob Grayson's wristbands glowed brightly as he raced several hundred yards and then took another abrupt turn. After two more such paths, the symbol he made was connected. He then flew back like a swimmer pushing himself away from a pool wall, and aimed his arms forward. The nearly solid beams of light he made filled the large shape to form an enormous white star. The jets radioed back to the tower.
"I think these guys are trying to tell us they're American," said the pilot. "Is this some new defense you didn't let us in on?"
"It's news to us too, Grigsby," called back the man at the tower. "But we just got a call from the Feds saying this is some of their people, believe it or not."
"They've got an air division now?"
"Appears so. Break off and resume a perimeter patrol so no more of those bogeys like before get through."
The National Guard had troops in place at each street before the Washington Mall Park. They had rolled out Howitzers, the quickest defense that could be assembled. As the creature advanced down 7th Street, the large guns fired on it, their report echoing through all of the District of Columbia. Jimmy Woo watched the shells impact the creature's skin, sending showers of sparks and flame off to each side. Four direct hits made no difference in the beast's approach. The soldiers manning one of the large guns scattered as the creature opened its cavernous mouth and bit down on the barrel, crumpling it like foil. It shook its head from side to side and the Howitzer flew into several sections, causing infantry to take cover behind their barricades. Jimmy Woo couldn't help but think of some of the movies he'd seen directed by George Pal in which he'd noticed the name of the special effects artist Ray Harryhausen. He thought that the films had been eerily accurate in depicting a large alien terror with the exception of always being shot from a level distance. From his own vantage point the beast towered six stories over his head. He looked over at Ken Hale who was uncharacteristically speechless.
"That's the little dog?" asked Venus.
"It grew," replied Jimmy.
A brave treasury agent on the way to work had pulled his Buick sedan to the side as a barricade for the juggernaut that made it's way through 7th Street. He emptied his revolver at the creature, and each bullet was rejected by the thick skin. Having no further defense to offer, the agent ran from the car just as an enormous foot crushed it.
FBI officer Jerry Wall saw Woo and his odd team and ran to them. "Boy, you guys showed up at the right time, we couldn't even get anybody in place to call you this thing hit so fast! When I saw the rocket I called the Defense Department to get you clearance. You know what this thing is?"
"Remember that dog the Russians sent up last year?" said Jimmy Woo, still absorbed by the sight before him.
"Yep. It's name was Laika, actually. It's been exposed to cosmic rays in a section of the Van Allen Belt, and this is what you get now."
"Holy... the Soviets are attacking us with monsters! I didn't see it happening that way."
"It's not them, they were manipulated. Whoever is behind this, I think wanted us to think this was a Communist attack. The creature was probably supposed to come down in the capsule so we'd see where it was from, but the radiation didn't work like they expected. This is Bob's notion- it took a lot longer to mutate than they thought, so they had to leave it in orbit several months. Then they had trouble controlling where the payload would come down, and that's why the plot with all the stolen boats. They had to cover the whole Pacific Ocean, more or less."
In front of Flynn's Irish Pub a group of leather-clad bikers made hoots and catcalls at the frenzied scene. They were too mesmerized to look back at the gruff voice speaking to them.
"Hey boys! Who's got the fastest bike of this bunch?"
The leader of the gang watched the giant beast shake a truck apart with it's jaws. "I'm the big deal- mine flies, hero. Who wants to know? The man felt his jacket tighten around the sewn emblem that said "SAINTS" inside a devil's head, and his body lifted from the motorcycle. He dropped into the sidecar and the large hand reached down to the linkage to separate it with one quick clench. The leader of Satan's Saints watched a gorilla kick-start his prized machine and turn to give him a thumbs up. "Your country thanks you," said the Gorilla Man, and the vehicle raced away toward the chaos.
Marvel Boy lowered to the creature's eye level.
"Don't hurt it, Bob!" yelled Venus.
"I don't think there's any danger of that!" Bob Grayson concentrated his light beams and sent a powerful flash at the creature's eyes. A piercing howl rang through the canyons of buildings as the beast squinted and shook its head. Its large eyes opened again, and a greenish membrane slid down over the obsidian pupils. Marvel Boy's bands pulsed again to make an even brighter flash that had no effect this time. The large lower jaw opened and a wave of flame erupted in the direction of Marvel Boy. The young hero propelled himself back at top speed, staying mere feet ahead of the pursuing flames. Several elm trees on the Mall caught the fire and began to burn.
Jimmy Woo ran to an overturned police car and picked up the megaphone he saw by the smashed window. "Venus! See if you can calm the creature down through this!" He threw the device to her and she fumbled with the switch. Clearing her throat, she aimed the cone up towards the beast. Venus thought for a moment, then made a brief whistle. The creature's scaly ears lifted.
"Laika! Here girl! Come on puppy... come on... who's a good doggie?
A soldier grabbed the hand of his crew member about to drop another shell into the mortar barrel. The enormous beast's head cocked at an angle and its multi-nostriled nose began sniffing towards the woman below.
"That's a good Laika! Yeah, come on girl. Calm down... calm down..."
The beast had a tail roughly twenty feet long with several spiky protrusions along the sides. A jeep was sticking out of a second story window where the tail had smacked it. Now it began to wag. The various soldiers and federal agents in the area kept their guns up but didn't move or advance.
"Well I'll be... it looks like your girl may just do it," said Wall as he pushed his hat back.
"Beauty always trumps Beast," said Jimmy Woo. The two watched the enormous creature shuffle its legs and lean back into a sitting position while Venus kept cooing through the megaphone. Then a quick burst of sound cut through the ears of everyone on the Mall, becoming inaudible though Jimmy could feel a ringing in his head. The beast rose again and now stood on its haunches, towering over the buildings around it. A roar echoed around the DC buildings and caused several men to turn and run. They had been at the back of the line of defense and hadn't a clear idea of the size of the brownish green animal until that moment. The creature's head thrashed and spit more fire, and as it came down its foot plunged to the part of the street where Venus stood.
The horn ridged foot stopped at nine feet above Venus' head, held by the metal hands of M-11. The robot's extended arms twisted and pushed to keep the leg from coming down, and a red-blue blur raced through to remove Venus from the area. M-11 released his grip and the massive paw slammed down, buckling the street. Though the beast hadn't been aware of the goddess under its feet, it was now very concerned with the shining metal figure there, and release another torrent of fire. Jimmy Woo's eyes followed where Marvel Boy put Venus down, by the gate of the Smithsonian. As he turned to look back at the threat, his peripheral vision caught site of two men atop the museum. They had been in the position of snipers, which were no doubt everywhere now, but something struck him as odd. Looking back he saw that the two were manning something like a large gun, but of gleaming chrome. One of the men had headphones on that were wired to the gun. One of the men was tall, the other shorter and balding.
Ken Hale raced up to Jimmy. "How we doing?"
"We're losing. M-11! Shock it!"
The robot extended both arms and its fingers, and large arcs of electricity worked their way through the alien creature, much more current than had been used on the Russian soldiers the day before. The beast howled loudly again and spun around. The spiky tail swung with terrific force, launching the robot from the street over the flaming trees along the Mall. Even through all the commotion Ken Hale could hear the bang M-11's body made when it hit the ground. "That dog oughta play for the Red Sox."
Jimmy jumped on the back of the motorcycle. "I think the animal is being controlled, like those gators at the Marshall Center. Take me over to that entrance of the Smithsonian, and cut around so those guys on top don't see us!"
"Aye, aye." The gorilla turned the throttle and the machine raced around a barricade and by the building. Jimmy hopped off and gave a final order. "I hate to ask you to do this, but the monster looks pretty agitated now. I think it's going to start eating those soldiers if it's not distracted."
"Hey, you're talking to a guy who knows how to make animals hunt him down. Watch my smoke." The front of the motorcycle lurched upwards and Gorilla Man raced towards the rampaging beast.
Jimmy Woo ran up the steps of the museum and found the roof access. He quietly opened the door and walked around the brick structure to see the men aiming the long device and turning knobs. Below the creature opened its mouth to fire upon a troop of National Guardsmen who now had no cover. Its attention was then captured by a buzzing motor. A gorilla driving a motorcycle went through the beast's legs.
"C'mon pup! I'm right under your nose" The ape raced between the front and hind legs, and turned sharply upon nearing the tail, remembering what that had done to M-11. The creature twisted and writhed as it looked under itself, and the bike jetted out from underneath. Ken Hale turned left and raced full speed down the Mall in the direction of the Washington Monument, the giant mutant in pursuit. The beast's gallop sounded like thunder and Hale tried to tune it out. Marvel Boy swooped down and matched speed alongside the motorcycle. "What's the plan, Ken?"
"I'm taking her for a walk! Who knows, maybe she's just got to go!"
"He's up on top of the Smithsonian checking out two guys who might be running this show. Why don't you go there, I got this under control!"
"Yes, you have her right where you want her," Marvel Boy smiled, and blasted off to find Jimmy. At this moment, Jimmy Woo had his FBI credentials and his gun out. "FBI! What are you men doing..." The men turned and Jimmy recognized them as the fake Federal agents who had visited his office that night a week ago. "Derskin! Oglethorpe!"
The one called Derskin lifted his own gun, only to feel a bullet pierce his upper arm. Oglethorpe now had his weapon up, a machine gun. Jimmy ducked back behind the roof access as a rain of bullets hit the bricks.
Ken and the creature were passing the Washington Monument now, which briefly caught the animal's attention, making it pause. "Hey! That ain't a fire hydrant! Down here- here!!!" Ken spun the back wheel of the bike to kick up a huge cloud of dust by the creature's snout, and it turned from the obelisk. The chase began again, with Ken Hale going downhill to the Reflecting Pool.
"You traitors! What were you trying to do, set off World War III?" Jimmy pulled his head back at the response, another hail of bullets. "We're not authorized with that kind of information- but we do have clearance to fire on you." More shots ate away at the brick. Oglethorpe hands suddenly felt warm, then in intense pain. He dropped the machine gun which was glowing red. He looked up to see Marvel Boy coming in too fast to avoid and his next sensation was rolling across the roof of the museum, his jaw feeling less attached than usual. As the young hero landed, Derskin turned back to the machine and flipped a red switch. Jimmy was back out in the open, his gun levelled at Derskin's head. "What was that? What did you just do?"
Ken Hale raced along the Reflecting Pool and could feel water hitting him in steady bursts. The giant creature was running through the landmark, kicking up tall waves that washed over a few drifters who had been sleeping on the park benches nearby. The shrill sound cut through the air again and the beast stopped instantly. It turned as it stepped out of the pool, and shook itself vigorously as if it still had fur. By the time Hale realized he wasn't being chased anymore, the mutant was halfway back to the museum.
Marvel Boy held Derskin in the air by his coat collar. "Who do you work for?"
"The Foundation. Just like you will one day, space man!"
Jimmy tightened handcuffs on Oglethorpe and stood back up. "We'll get it out of you, once we've taken care of-"
His sentence stopped when he realized the source of warm air that was flowing over him. Jimmy Woo looked up to see the creature that was once a small mongrel, it's dripping fangs a mere 15 feet away. Derskin reached towards the controlling device, but Marvel Boy still held him away even though he was captivated at the sight before him. The mutant's eyes were red orbs that reflected the four men. On its head were long antennae stalks that swayed constantly. It had been summoned, but now there were no more commands. No one moved.
Venus stepped out slowly from the roof access. She started to raise the megaphone she still held, then caught herself. Instead she whispered very calmly, "Bob."
Marvel Boy concentrated. It was difficult considering the looming threat, but he managed to put his response in Venus' mind.
"Don't speak, Venus. Just think what you have to say."
"Ooh, look who's in my head," thought Venus. "Don't go running around in here, now! I can't guarantee what you'll find."
"You were going to tell me something?" thought Bob, impatiently.
"Yes. Remember the Russian scientist who gave us Laika's collar? Can you project his image in light with your armbands? And make him stand by Jimmy."
"I can. It will take extreme concentration, so I'm ending this transmission." Marvel Boy broke off the communication and closed his eyes. His headband glowed white, and his armbands grew brighter. The effort caused him to loosen his grip on Derskin, who began to slide out of his coat. The beast began a low growl that shook the chests of everyone on the roof. The light of the sky appeared to fold and shift in the space next to Jimmy, whose forehead beaded with sweat as the air from the creatures' mouth grew still hotter. The animal's mouth popped open more and its ears raised as the light completed its structure. Next to Jimmy stood the thin engineer who seemed so distraught as the Soviet scientists explained the fate of Laika. The monster's head tilted to the side.
The hologram took so much attention from Bob Grayson he was unaware that Derskin was now free of his grasp. Derskin grabbed the controlling device and Jimmy started for him. Before Jimmy Woo could grab the machine, Oglethorpe slammed into his back, knocking him into Bob Grayson. The two men got in each other's way as Derskin desperately grabbed for the switches that would bring the mutant back under their influence. The device vibrated from a nearby rumbling, making their task even more difficult. It became clear that the rumbling was a low, deep growl. The false agents looked up from their machine to find a cavern of teeth inches away from their heads. Oglethorpe's last moment of self-awareness came as he looked to the shimmering light around his shoulder. The two had stepped into the hologram Marvel Boy projected, disrupting it so that the gentle scientist was gone. The movement of the mouth snapping around them was so fast Venus thought for a moment they had been holograms too. The lump moving down the creature's throat dispelled that notion immediately.
"Where's the machine that controls it?" shouted Marvel Boy, looking around the roof.
"It went down with them," answered Jimmy Woo. The beast looked back to the two men and drew in a long breath as it had done before when about to belch flames. Marvel Boy aimed his palms at the creature's head and cut loose with two intense blasts of his own energy before it could strike. Then arcs of electric current contacted the beast's skull again and it let out a multi-octave howl. Jimmy looked over the edge of the roof.
"M-11! Get up here now!"
The robot extended it's arms to clamp on the brickwork near Jimmy Woo and pulled itself up to their level. "The dog has swallowed a machine- a control device. Can you reach down its throat and retrieve that?"
The cyclopic eye of M-11 turned to the giant animal. It was shaking its head violently from the double sided attack and turned as if to move away. It continued to turn, again facing the group atop the museum, growling. Its mouth opened again and the robot's right arm fired into the maw. The beast made a gurgling sound as the extending arm kept feeding into it. The large teeth clamped down and the beast shook its head furiously, whipping the robot around the area and into the Smithsonian several times. The beast backed up several yards and lowered its body as it continued to thrash M-11 about. Grass, mud, and asphalt flew up depending on where the robot hit next. The beast rooted its muzzle into the ground in the attempt to tear the arm apart, and in doing so it laid its long tail down. Soldiers who had been standing by watching in amazement suddenly cleared a space as the gorilla on the motorcycle returned, yelling for them to scatter.
Ken Hale maneuvered the front wheel of the vehicle through an opening in the spikes and found the path up the center of the beast's tail clear. Pulling the throttle wide open, the ape drove straight up the tail and spine of the creature. The bike handled the scaly surface well until reaching a slimy frill around the beast's neck, and the ape pitched over the handle bars. Finding himself between the round red eyes, Ken Hale swung his long arm into the nearest one. "Let him GO!!!" The eye closed and the deadly mouth opened to howl again. M-11 retracted his arm at full speed, causing sheaths of yellowish-green mucus to fly from the animal's throat. The arm stopped before the hand could emerge. Marvel Boy flew fast at the robot, ramming into its side. The jolt caused the obstruction to break free, and the metal hand holding the control device emerged from the mouth before it could shut again. Grayson pulled away the muck covering the machine, wincing as he did so. "This is really nasty. Hope this still works."
He traced his finger around the controlboard, making quick judgments as to what the switches and knobs did. Warm air drifted over him, and the temperature rose dramatically. Bob Grayson looked up to find the cavern of teeth now poised over his own head. As the beast lurched, the young hero's finger turned a knob. The snout stopped as a shrill sound was emitted. Marvel Boy turned the knob back a few notches, and the creature rose up, sitting on its massive haunches. The long tongue poked from the mutant's mouth as it began to pant calmly. Grayson exhaled more air than he thought he had breathed all day. Lifting his head he saw Ken Hale on the ground giving him an upraised thumb.
Jimmy Woo and Venus were running at full speed across the museum lawn to the force that now advanced. Several tanks and trucks with rocket launchers had just arrived and were rolling into position. "Stop! Stop! The danger's over! We're in control!" If any of the military could hear Jimmy, they did not acknowledge him. Tank barrels raised and rocketmen cranked their missiles at the low angle trajectory of the mutated hound. Venus' hand grabbed Jimmy's shoulder as she pushed for him to step back. The silver haired beauty held the megaphone up to her mouth and began to sing the first thing that came to mind, Bali-Ha'i from South Pacific. The ethereal voice worked around the open area with a slightly different quality due to the megaphone, but within seconds the tanks came to a stop, their drivers and crew popping out of the hatches. The rocket crew on Truck 7 suddenly couldn't remember why they preparing to ignite their missile, or why they were there at all since they had girlfriends at home waiting to embrace them. A few men fell from vehicles as they began to wander aimlessly. Venus stopped singing and began to speak.
"Please cease all hostilities. We have the situation under control. If any of you have the rank of general and can help us arrange transportation of a very large dog, please come forward."
A two-star general did step forward to respond with his own megaphone.
"How did you stop that thing... who ARE you people?"
Jimmy Woo held out his badge and said simply, "FBI."
* * * * *
From the deck of the tanker, Marvel Boy turned a knob on the signal device and Laika erupted from the cargo hold. The towering beast sniffed at the salt air and next turned its nose to the volcanic island off starboard. Grayson flipped a toggle switch and the creature leapt into the ocean, causing the oceangoing ship to rock violently for a few seconds. Jimmy Woo, Gorilla Man and Venus shielded their faces from the spray that accompanied the magnificent splash. Only Laika's head could be seen as she paddled to the island, leaving a wake as wide as the freighter they came to this part of the Pacific on. As she neared the beach, Jimmy Woo looked through a pair of binoculars at the island to see a pterodactyl fly by. Below what appeared to be a walking oak tree shuffled through the jungle.
"Good call, Bob. After our close call on this island a few weeks ago, I was sure we wouldn't be coming back anytime soon. But I can't think of a better place for the pup to call home now that she's in this condition."
"I hope she'll be okay," said Venus. There's so many fierce monsters here."
"I don't think she's got much to worry about," added Ken Hale. "They're the ones that better stay clear of her." Marvel Boy walked over to the edge of the ship with the control device, stopped, and then looked at Hale.
"Ken, would you like to the honors?"
"Aw, thanks for thinkin' of me, kid." The caped hero handed the device to the gorilla, who bent it 90 degrees, sparks shooting from its console as he did. Hale then tossed the ruined machine into the ocean where it soon faded from sight.
Venus looked back at Jimmy, still studying the island through the binoculars. "I guess the fingerprints on the machine turned up nothing."
"Nope," replied Jimmy. "Whoever those fake agents really were, they're not in anyone's files. I may work on this in my spare time, but for now this trail has dried up completely. Everyone connected with this ‘Foundation’ is either dead or a skeleton. But, I guess we saved Washington, DC and the space race is back on. So that's something."
Venus smiled at his completely serious assessment. "How are they explaining to the public what happened in Washington?"
"The military told the press it was an elaborate defense simulation, like war games. And for any citizens who might have seen Laika, they explained that they let a Hollywood studio work in props with the exercise to use for a movie, in return for helping with the USO."
Hale snorted. "Are people really expected to buy that?"
"Well sure, Ken." answered Jimmy. "That's the story they're getting straight from the White House. Why wouldn't they believe it?"
The gorilla looked back at the island, where the giant mutant was running along the beach splashing in the surf and sampling the smells of its new home. Jimmy slapped Marvel Boy on the shoulder as he started across the deck.
"You can all start piling back in the Silver Bullet. I'm going to go thank the Captain for coming through this treacherous part of the Pacific."
"With my instructions," added Grayson, "he should still be able to safely navigate the strange currents that cut the island off from the sea lanes." Bob's headband flashed and the hatch of his spacecraft opened. As the odd team made their way to the rocket, Ken Hale looked around the deck of the freighter.
"I think I'm going to be paranoid for a while on ships. Keep expecting skeletons to jump out at me."
"We showed that mysterious Foundation what super-group they don't want to fool with!" Venus laughed, leaping up onto Ken's neck for a piggyback ride. "I doubt these bad guys have much interest in snooping on us anymore!"
The single eye of the Human Robot glowed briefly and M-11 turned to follow the team into the ship.
END MISSION G-4: "THE MENACE FROM SPACE"