Showcase: The Bushrangers: Call the Dogs of War, Chapter 1: Time for Australia’s Heroes

by Addar Norton

Return to chapter list

Brisbane, one of the lesser-known cities in Australia, wasn’t usually compared with the bigger cities of Sydney or Melbourne. But with World Expo 88 coming to this city next year, it would change how both the world and other Australians would view this city.

Maddie Chambers was sitting in a board meeting with her father, David Chambers. He’d wanted her here, but for God knows what. She was bored as hell.

Bloody hell! she thought. Damn, I could be somewhere else but here! Looking out the window to the clear blue skies, Maddie wondered how it would be if she suddenly changed into Austar and jumped out the window to escape. She sighed deeply, as she knew that wouldn’t work, so she resigned herself to sit through the rest of this boring-as-hell meeting. Spying a newspaper on the table, she began to read it.

The front page was about her debut as Austar, stopping those crooks who’d fled by car. But there was also a story about another mystery-man stopping a crime in Sydney at a museum, and another story about yet another heroine in Melbourne breaking up a drug deal. The costumed hero in Sydney had called himself the Roo, and the Melbourne mystery-woman had introduced herself as Reef.

Interesting, she thought. About time, too. She’d never wanted to be the only active super-hero in Australia; it would be too much for her. That was why she had been so hesitant about making her debut. After all, it wasn’t like the Ranger was still making headlines any longer, and the Tasmanian Devil was always off in Europe or somewhere else with the Global Guardians.

Reading on, she noted that they also made reference to a story about the original Green Lantern stopping a lunatic mutant called Aurora in Western Australia a year ago; the reporter questioned why none of the new Australian heroes had intervened against that villain back then, preferring to let an American super-hero do all the heavy work. (*) Maybe it’s because we didn’t have our powers back then, you drongo, she thought hotly.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Lantern: Rumble Down Under.]

Suddenly, the building began to shake, and the people began to scream. Maddie’s father looked at her and ducked under the table. Typical, she thought. From the corner of her eye, she spotted something out the window. Making her way to the window, she looked up and saw a ship floating above the Brisbane central business district.

“Bloody hell! Now this is just wonderful,” Maddie whispered.

Running to the stairs, Maddie went up to the roof. Her father, she knew, wouldn’t waste a moment worrying about her; he was too worried about saving his own skin than how his daughter was faring in this emergency.

As she reached the roof, she looked up and saw the ship. “Mmmm… now that is one big ship!” she said. “If this wasn’t real, it would make one good story for a movie!”

Jumping off the roof, Maddie transmuted her clothing into the costume of Austar as she flew up to the ship. As she flew around the ship, which was very big, she was surprised that it wasn’t doing anything yet. “Why does this happen to Australia every bloody time?” she muttered. “Is it enough we’ve had problems a while ago being cut off from the outside world with that other alien crap?” (*) Austar was getting pissed off with how, too often, aliens thought that Australia was a soft target.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Strange Visitors.]

Austar flew to what she thought would be the front door or the front of the ship. Stopping before it, she knocked on it. “Knock, knock!” she said. “Avon calling! Can I speak to the woman of the house?”

The door opened, and something suddenly shot at her with an energy weapon. The blast sent her flying back to the ground, and she crashed into the pavement.

“Ouch! Now that’s going to leave a mark!” Austar got up from the hole she made in the middle of the street, but she was unharmed. Thank God for these powers of mine!

The local people were indoors where it was safe, but some were cheering her on to fly back up and kick those aliens back into space.

“Wish it was that easy,” she said, realizing that this might just be a touch out of her league. But that word gave her pause.

“Mmm… wonder if I can contact those other mystery-men in Sydney and Melbourne, and stop this ship like a Justice League of Australia,” she muttered to herself. “Come to think of it, I wonder if they’re grappling with ships just like this over there?”

The ship, meanwhile, continued to simply hang suspended over the city. Sure enough, as reported on the TV news, the same types of ship were hanging over Sydney and Melbourne, just as Austar had guessed.

Australia was once again being used as an alien foothold on Earth, and Austar and the people of Australia didn’t like it one little bit.

***

The Rocks, Sydney, Australia:

The historical site of the Rocks was where the first settlement had been founded for Australia. It was located not too far from the site where Captain Cook had first set foot on Australia and proclaimed this site for the English Empire. Little did he know how far this country would go in the world. In this district was a small house owned by a young man named Danny Call.

This young man was currently working on some equipment that he would need, for Danny was the hero called the Roo, one of Australia’s newest crime-fighters. His uniform hung behind him, a dark red suit with a hood and a black jacket. He was in his basement, if you wanted to call it that, which was actually an underground cavern he’d discovered a few years ago that spread under the district of the Rocks. He found some eighteenth-century items there, so he wasn’t the only one that knew about the cavern. Though, judging by the records he found in the city archives, the city didn’t seem to be aware of it. So he had taken full advantage of it for his own use.

A television behind him was playing an old episode of Space Trek 2022. The noise from the TV helped to generate some noise in this dead-quiet place while he worked on his equipment, and it also helped him to stave off boredom during the tedious work. Suddenly, the episode was interrupted by a news bulletin that at first he thought might be part of that sci-fi series, since it had to do with giant spaceships. But the names of Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne caught his ear, and he realized those ship were floating over three Australian cities.

Quickly donning his Roo uniform, Danny made his way out of the cavern to the street. Once above ground, he looked up and saw the ship silently hovering over Sydney. “Well, this is bloody wonderful!” said the Roo. “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another! Why do these aliens think Australia is a soft target?”

People were gathering on the street and looking up towards the ship. By their tone, he could tell they were thinking the same thing as he was. Like the Roo and Austar, the people of Australia were fed up with some two-bit hoods or aliens trying to take over Australia. They wouldn’t take this, and the government of Australia, surprisingly, agreed with the people. The problem was what could be done about it?

Thinking about this, the Roo decided he needed to contact that new Brisbane hero Austar to see what both of them could do. And they, in turn, should contact the Melbourne hero, Reef. Having made that decision, he made his way back towards his cavern and put his plan into action.

***

Melbourne, Australia:

The super-heroine known as Reef stood atop the tallest building in Melbourne. It was raining, as it often did in this city, but she knew it would stop soon and become hot as hell; it was just like Melbourne to have all four seasons in one day. She was watching as the ship floated towards Melbourne and settled over the city. Somehow she didn’t think they were here just to ask for a cup of sugar.

Judging the distance between her location and the ship, Reef leapt through the air and landed on the hull of the ship, then quickly made her way towards what looked like a air vent. Pulling it open, she skimmed her way through the ship. Reef didn’t know where she came from, who she really was, or if she was even human, since her first memory only took place the last time aliens came to Australia, back in February of 1986; that time it had been the Martians who had invaded. (*) She’d woken up just as she was now, with no memory of her past. Her skin, it seemed, was strong, she could jump huge distances, and her strength was greater than that of normal humans. And the name Reef, well, just sounded good at the time. But one thing she did know, after spending over a year living in Melbourne, was that she had a great feeling towards this country and its people. She had absorbed the culture and language like a sponge, so as far as anyone could tell, she was Australian through and through.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Between Sea and Sky, Chapter 2: War of the Worlds 1986.]

Traveling through the ship, Reef was surprised that nobody had discovered her yet. Or maybe they just thought no one would be dumb enough to try this stunt. Making her way to what she thought was the control room, she looked through the grate of the air vents.

She saw movement beneath her and voices. Funny enough, they weren’t speaking in some strange alien dialect as she’d expected, but in English, and with Australian accents.

“Well, is it all done?” the first voice asked.

“Yes, sir, all done,” the second voice answered. “The ships are in place, and it seems the local hero in Brisbane is trying to make her mark on the ship.”

“Well, if our plans go ahead, the people of Australia will think it’s another alien invasion,” replied the first voice. “They will be like sheep to us, and the government will do anything we ask! So say I, Captain Thunderbolt!”

Bloody hell, this bloke is a few stubbies short of a carton, Reef thought to herself, and followed them through the air vents.

Captain Thunderbolt and the other man entered another huge room. Right in the middle of the room was a figure of a man, but he looked odd to Reef, even in the shadows as he was. As the man walked into the visible light, Reef realized, Bloody hell, he’s decked in armour! But somehow that armour looked familiar to her, though she just couldn’t place where she had seen a suit of armour like that.

“Well?” the armoured man asked.

“Everything is in place,” Captain Thunderbolt answered.

“Good. It’s time for us to take our revenge on the people and the government!” the armoured man announced. “Over one hundred years ago, they called our ancestors criminals and strung them up. But now, we, the sons and daughters of those brave men, will have our revenge!”

“Call the dogs of war!” yelled Captain Thunderbolt. “We are ready for battle!”

Reef knew she had to get out and warn the government and the people. She remembered hearing about the other new heroes of Australia, Austar and the Roo, and she knew she had to get in contact with them.

“Kelly! Sir, we are ready!” a voice announced in the darkness of the room.

It suddenly hit Reef where she had seen a suit of armour like that. Over the last year Reef had spent a lot of time visiting museums and reading Australian history in order to pass as a citizen, and she had seen armour much like this on display at the State Library of Victoria. It was an updated version of Ned Kelly’s homemade suit of armour, which he had used in his last stand before being captured by the police and executed over a hundred years ago, making him a folk hero like Robin Hood. This idiot thought himself a modern-day Ned Kelly, she realized. But that led to another question: where the hell did they get these ships?

Reef made her way through the maze of the air vents and escaped outside. Leaping back down to the building she first started from, she hurried down the staircase and out to the streets to figure how to contact the other heroes of Australia.

Return to chapter list