Computo led Urthlo 5 over to a display case that contained a red and blue suit of armor with a matching helmet.
“This armor was once used by your ancestor, Luthor,” he said as an electronic crackle led to the case sliding open. “It could be lined with fresh micro-circuitry, and began as durable as a standard radiation suit from the Atomic Wars!”
“Of course, you can open all the displays!” said Urthlo as he carefully lifted the armor down from the platform upon which it had rested. “You said you thought I could stop the Crime Syndicate from forming. No one remembers how they formed. Do they?”
“They first banded together as enemies to oppose a mutual foe known as the Sea Lord,” said Computo.
“So if I defeated this Sea Lord first, they would never have joined together!” concluded Urthlo.
“That is my assumption based on the pertinent facts,” said Computo. “In dealing with history, many details may have been recorded incorrectly. Much of what we know of that era is possibly based on faulty data.”
For the next few weeks, Urthlo 5 and Computo spent their nights mastering the weapons found within the museum. Computo’s knowledge of the collection made it simple to locate and determine exactly how to use each relic.
Finally, the night came when Computo declared that it was time to make the journey through history. As Urthlo donned the armor after helping Computo and a second servo-droid line it with proper circuits, he imagined himself shaping history. It was a thrilling prospect.
“All I have to do is change history without getting killed,” he whispered.
“The weaponry inside the suit came from several sources,” said Computo. “I have gathered the best items found in this collection. Some were used by allies of the great Luthor, while others came from notable villains who battled him.”
“I was surprised that so many of these beings are merely names from a dusty past now,” said Urthlo. “No data survives as to who they truly were or what their goals were. Yet each of them surely had hopes and dreams, victories and defeats all their own.”
“You are a sensitive and introspective man,” said Computo. “In another reality you might have been an artist or writer, but fate has cast your lot in with those who fight for freedom!”
Urthlo approached a gleaming sphere and said, “This time machine was used by the legendary time tyrant Rip Hunter, until he was thrown to his death in the time stream by a jealous former ally.” He looked up at the Time Sphere and said, “I sure hope I remember how to work this thing!”
“You have a keen mind,” said Computo. “You wrong yourself with your habit of self-doubt!”
As Urthlo opened the Time Sphere, a loud alarm began to sound, and he found that none of his museum codes would silence it. Moments later there was a brilliant flash of green, and several newcomers arrived outside the museum.
“There is one additional factor I neglected to mention to you,” said Computo. “You will not be going alone!”
Urthlo stared at the robotic being in dismay as he prepared to face the strange newcomers.
The first person to enter the museum was a stunningly beautiful woman with long green hair and brilliant green eyes. She wore a green cape and matching high-heeled boots, along with a green and white leotard. She was flying, and her body was surrounded by a green nimbus of energy. Urthlo knew the seductive woman was called the Green Guardian or the Green Goddess; he had heard both names used for the regal beauty.
Behind her came a weird-looking being with a body that was seemingly divided down the middle into two very distinctive halves. On one side he appeared to be a normal-looking bald man with a weary but intelligent expression. However, his other side was an inhuman, metallic shell with blinking lights and robotic sensors. As far as Urthlo knew, the Cyborg had no other name, or at least none known to the general public.
Closely following him was a man in yellow and red, whose head was hidden within a bubble-like helmet full of dark and noxious gasses that completely obscured his features. His gloved hands were raised as if in preparation for an attack. The helmeted man was simply called Mano.
The fourth humanoid figure was an armored man with a gleaming pole axe in one chain-mailed hand. The man with the glistening weapon was called the Persuader, but with a weapon as deadly as the atomic axe in his grasp, the armored man seldom had difficulty getting his own way.
The final figure loomed above the rest, and while he could be described as vaguely humanoid, his size and his bizarre transparent skull made him far from normal. The being’s nearly exposed brain crackled with bolts of explosive power, and his facial features were small and nondescript. His arms ended in three-fingered hands, and he moved with the lumbering awkwardness of a huge infant. The giant was called Validus in whispered tones, since he was feared almost as much as the killers in the Cabal. Urthlo frowned as he looked up at the creature. In spite of the crackling lightning that blazed around his huge skull, he really had a rather childlike manner in some ways.
“The Faultless Five,” whispered Urthlo under his breath, recalling the now-famous story of how these five heroes joined together. Each of them had suffered some loss at the hands of the lethal legion known as the Cabal of Super-Criminals, but they had put aside these hurts to work with the team to stop a destructive force known as a Sun Eater. In the end they had been successful, but the CSC had turned upon them and had attempted to gain control of the cosmic engine of destruction. The five heroes had remained together since then and had opposed the galactic villains on more than one occasion as the Faultless Five.
“What transpires here?” demanded the Green Guardian.
“Clearly some thief thought he could raid the place!” said Mano.
“I’m not a thief,” said Urthlo. “I want to use the items in this museum to do what you’ve always done. I’m here to fight the Cabal, like you. I figured I could travel back in time and do something to stop their group from ever being formed.”
“He’s crazy,” said the Persuader. “Time can’t be changed!”
The Cyborg raised one metal hand in a placating manner. “I am not so certain of that. While changing the events of history might merely create a divergent timeline while leaving the original unaltered, it is not entirely impossible that what he claims may be done! Rip Hunter certainly earned a reputation for being able to terrorize the helpless from multiple eras and in many different guises!”
“You are being overly metaphysical again,” complained Mano. “I believe only what I can put my hand on, and nothing I touches lasts very long!”
The Guardian smiled and said, “Once again you all cling to your own customs and refuse to compromise. Luckily, the Cabal exists to give us all a common enemy.” Turning to Urthlo she said, “What is your name? Perhaps, if you speak the truth, we may be able to assist you.”
“I am the Defender,” said Urthlo 5. “That’s the only name I care to say. If you’ll let me depart with the time bubble, I will try to bring down the Cabal by eliminating their inspiration, the Crime Syndicate of America!”
“I allowed the alarm to sound in order to summon you,” said Computo. “It is my belief that your assistance may prove to be vital to our cause!”
The Cyborg stared at the little droid and said, “You are no ordinary servo-droid!”
“I was made by the same being who grafted the robotic parts onto your nearly destroyed body years ago,” said Computo. “Brainiac made me, but like you I have chosen to rebel against his coldly calculating malice!”
“He didn’t make me,” said the Cyborg. “He unmade me. He melted half my body when I tried to arrest him. I was a Science Police officer back then. He didn’t leave me to die, though. That would have been too merciful for his twisted intellect. He took me with him and grafted a robotic shell onto what was left of my body. He gloated over me when I awakened to learn what a horror had been visited upon me! I’ve hated him ever since!”
“This is clearly a case of another being who hates the Cabal as much as we do,” said the Persuader. “I say we give him a chance! Could he do worse than we have?”
“I don’t like it, but I’ll trust Lady Zarya,” said Mano.
“Stranger, we will accompany you,” said the Green Guardian. “We have a common goal, and clearly this computerized being has sparked the Cyborg’s interest!”
“It knows me better than any of you, if it also was a work of Brainiac’s and now longs to destroy that green-skinned maniac!” said the Cyborg.
“Computo speaks the truth!” insisted the Defender.
The odd assembly entered the time bubble as its framework opened up to allow even the hulking Validus inside its chronal energies. The group soon vanished and found themselves tumbling through a sea of multi-colored lights that flickered around them in an eerie manner, obscuring everything.
Urthlo glanced over to Computo. I’m glad he — or it — is with me, he thought. I feel like I’ve become his friend, although I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t tell me that he wanted the Faultless Five to join us. I think he may be more manipulative than he seems to be!
Validus roared, as if the unsettling trip was frightening to his childlike mind. The Cyborg looked at him, and he calmed down. Clearly there was some unspoken bond between the two misfits.
Abruptly, the time bubble seemed to materialize in a vacant clearing near a forest.
“It is beautiful! It’s so unspoiled!” said the Guardian, smiling.
She’s beautiful! thought Urthlo as he looked at the regal woman.
“Sure, but just remember–” grumbled the Persuader, “–not many years from this moment the World Wars will begin, and they will usher in an atomic nightmare that will only produce weapons like my axe! Nothing of beauty will last!”
“And they call me the pessimist!” said Mano.
“Where or when are we?” asked Urthlo. “The controls aren’t displaying any readings!”
“Something is wrong,” said Computo. “Some time storm has interrupted our journey. We are not in the time before the formation of the Crime Syndicate. My sensors are advanced enough to detect the specialized energy sources that would be required for the operation of their fabled base!”
“So what?” said Mano. “We get back into the time bubble and go back in time until they first met and then eliminate them! With time travel, there must be plenty of room for second or third chances!”
“Not if the same time storm Computo detected has effectively sealed off the era we desire to reach!” said the Cyborg.
“My speculation is based purely on observed data,” said Computo, “but it is my assumption that the origin of the villainous team is protected from interference by some force that defies science!”
“Magic?” said Mano. “Too bad our old friend the High Mage, Merdru the Magnanimous, isn’t here. He may be sanctimonious to the extreme, but he knows how to cast a spell!”
“My powers have some magical elements within them,” said the Guardian. “I detect Power Ring within that cavern, and I also sense that something stronger than he has sealed certain points of time precisely to safeguard the careers of the Crime Syndicate!”
“Guardian, if you can detect Power Ring–!” began the Cyborg.
“Then he sure can detect a living doll like you!” said a sneering man with a widow’s peak and a green costume who flew into view from the cavern itself. He was followed by several other costumed figures.
“The Crime Syndicate!” gasped Urthlo as he recognized the colorful figures from holo tapes within the museum.
Meanwhile, within what appeared to be a warm and comfortably furnished home with décor from more than one era, two people sat across from one another and discussed a topic that came up far too often in their otherwise happy home. A paternal man with kind eyes and a slightly paunchy body looked with obvious affection at the lovely young woman who sat nearby. He put down a well-worn paperback of a novel by H.G. Wells and looked expectantly at the platinum blonde girl.
“Well? You might as well start now, my dear,” he began. “I know what you want to say. You’ve said it with all your natural compassion and spunk many, many times before! Your sentiments do you credit, but you know how firmly my own resolve is when it comes to this topic!”
“Father, if you approve of my feelings, then surely you can be swayed by them?” pleaded the spunky but alluring woman. “All I want to do is help those brave heroes make a positive change in history!”
“Gloriana, when our dear ally Jaxon — or Infinity, as he came to be known — gave his life to restore the parallel Earth called Earth-Three and its respective cosmology in the antimatter universe, I sacrificed much of my own power over time. I also made a solemn vow that, as the Time Keeper, I would preserve history as it stands and allow no one to alter it, for better or worse. I cannot break that vow!”
Gloriana flounced over to her father and knelt by his armchair. “Daddy, surely one time won’t matter,” she said. “I want to save Urthlo 5 from those brutes in the Crime Syndicate! I won’t let him remove them from history like he wants to do. I won’t help him break the spell Doctor Chaos and the Stranger placed around their era to preserve the history of their evil group. I just want to save him and his friends from those terrible villains!”
The Time Keeper sighed and said, “I can’t resist my little girl. As long as you do nothing more than pluck them back to the thirtieth century, I will give you my permission. I do think your pretty head has been turned by young Urthlo, though!”
Gloriana kissed her father and then ran out of the room. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I’ll just pull them to safety and not change one little second of history! What to wear? What to wear?” she said as her high heels clattered on the floor, and she exited the room.
The Time Keeper chuckled to himself and then eagerly returned to his favorite book.