CHAPTER 0 Battery Park, New York, The Past New York is a city of contradiction. Uptown, the city thrives with activity, as tourists mix with residents under a Technicolor neon sky. They fill the streets in their mad rush to go nowhere fast. Uptown, the city is alive with energy. Downtown, however, is a very different place. At day’s end, the nine-to-five workers at the World Financial Center and neighboring Wall Street, rush home and the area becomes a veritable ghost town. This is especially true in Battery Park City. Half-completed construction and gothic architecture combine to create an atmosphere of evil, where misshapen dragons and gargoyles look down upon the skeletal frames of future high-rise apartments and office buildings.
However, on this clear, New York night, these gothic creatures had something else to observe as a quartet of garishly costumed villains called the Retallion Battalion gathered around the base of a large, blood-red colored radio antenna. The word “Zeeliminator” was etched in bold neon letters at the base of the antenna. The Zeeliminator stood fifteen stories high. Large red, purple, and green colored lights outlined the machine and lit up the night sky, making the device appear more grotesque. As the name implied, the Zeeliminator was the creation of the villainous Professor Z, the leader of the Retallion Battalion. Professor Z tried not to get too excited as he made his final adjustments to the Zeeliminator. He had been working for nearly an hour and was almost finished. The Professor wore his trademark bright yellow jumpsuit, which was adorned with a light blue exoskeleton. His sandy, blonde hair was buzz cut. His brown eyes were covered by blue goggles, which were the same shade as his exoskeleton. The twenty-five year old prodigy had the body of a young athlete. However, the flecks of gray in his goatee showed the man had aged beyond his years. Professor Z was a genius, and believed that the true purpose for his genius was to rid the world of the pretender. He had made it his life's goal to destroy the insolent child who had taken the adulation of the masses from him, the rightful recipient. Professor Z, with the assistance of his partner, Evil Brain, had attempted several times to prove his superiority to a misguided world. As a result, the villain had served several years in jail. In fact, his partner, the Evil Brain, still languished in a cell at the maximum security facility known as Alabaster Prison. Tonight, though, he would finally have his revenge against SkyBoy.
A short distance away, a trio of villains watched as Professor Z worked at the base of the macabre-looking device.
The first was the demonic creature known simply as Shadow. Shadow’s long, black cloak blended into the darkness around him and concealed the creature's frail body. The cloak was more than a simple black fabric; it was a life support system, which allowed the demon to exist in this reality - a world of light. By design, the cloak drew all the shadows towards the villain and absorbed all nearby light to ensure that the creature was constantly surrounded by darkness. Despite the blackness, the creature's pale face still glowed in the moonlight. Shadow's pallid skin, red eyes, and sharp fangs hinted at the creature's otherworldly origins. Shadow had been brought to our dimension by a misguided mystic, and bound himself to this mage, which allowed Shadow to permanently remain in this plane of existence. Shadow thought it would have been child's play for the demon to take over the planet. At least, it should have been - if not for the impetuous hero known as SkyBoy.
To the right of Shadow stood Donna Dominion, a Princess from the Planet Preeminence, who had come to Earth with the goal of finding a mate and conquering this would-be world. Her tight, purple spandex bikini left very little to the imagination. The woman's straight, black hair ran down to the middle of her back, which was covered by a purple cape. In her hand, she tightly clutched a dark-purple, electrified, neural whip. Donna impatiently tapped the neural whip against her thigh as she glared at Professor Z, watching his slow progress. She was not a patient woman. Moreover, because Donna Dominion’s propensity for senseless violence was well known across the galaxy, and was fueled by her legendary and uncontrollable temper, most people tried not to anger the villainess.
The Wag was not like most people. His macabre sense of humor made him the subject of several doctoral papers on the criminally insane. He was short, fat, and wore a jet-black jester costume. Red bells adorned the hat to the costume and made an annoying jingling sound whenever he moved. He always moved. Even now, the Wag fidgeted in anticipation. His unblinking eyes darted to each member of the Retallion Battalion as he circled them.
The Wag continued to pace circles around Donna Dominion and Shadow as his eyes darted in each direction. With each step, the bells from his jester's hat jingled louder. "Is he done yet?" The Wag asked, with a mad gleam in his eyes.
"No, Wag, he is not done yet." Donna Dominion replied in annoyance.
The Wag waited a second, and then asked again, "Is he done now?"
Donna Dominion did not even turn to look at him. "No."
"How about now?"
"Okay. How about now?"
"How about ... now?"
Donna Dominion took a deep breath. "No, Wag, now stop asking. You are annoying me."
The Wag's lips curved into an evil grin. "How about n..." He never finished the question as Donna Dominion’s hand snapped out and grabbed the Wag's neck.
The warrior woman then picked the maniacal maniac off the ground and pulled him close to her and spoke with a deep, sensuous accent. "If you say one more thing, I will tear out your tongue and strangle you with it." Her voice was nearly a whisper.
The Wag groaned and asked, "Isn't it a little early in our relationship for the tongue? I mean, at least meet my parents first?”
Donna Dominion threw the villain to the ground. "You disgust me."
The Wag laughed as the villainess turned away. "Don't go away mad, baby."
Donna Dominion walked over to the Shadow and the demon broke his silence, "WHY DO YOU PUT UP WITH THAT BUFFOON?” The voice sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard, and usually caused an immediate fight or flight instinct in anyone who heard it. It was a side effect of Shadow’s black magic powers, which is why the creature rarely spoke.
Donna Dominion was unfazed by the sound. She looked at The Wag over her shoulder before turning back to Shadow. She said, with a deadpan monotone, "I like him. He makes me laugh.”
"The machine is calibrated." Professor Z announced as he stood up. He took out a pocket watch and looked at it. "Just in time, I might add, for the astral convergence."
The Wag walked over to Donna Dominion and put his arm around her, "About time, Zee baby. I gots me a hot date. Gonna take Donna to meet the folks."
Apparently, Donna Dominion's glare was enough motivation for The Wag to remove his arm from the woman's shoulder and move away from the villainess.
"THEN, WE ARE READY?" Shadow asked, with bared fangs.
Professor Z smiled, "Not quite yet. Another player in our little drama is about to enter the stage. Isn't that right, Miss Dandrudge?" Professor Z exclaimed, as he pointed at the teenage girl hiding in the alleyway.
The girl gasped. "How did you . . ."
"Know you were there? Who do you think left you the clues to find your way here?" Professor Z asked with a maniacal laugh. “I knew you would find my Menlo Park laboratory. Did you really think I would leave that map of Battery Park out? It was a trap, you silly girl.”
The Wag cut off the girl's exit. "Welcome to the fly, my parlor said to the spider!"
Dianne began to run. Professor Z gestured, and Donna Dominion and the Wag rushed after the teen.
Minutes later, they were dragging the struggling girl behind them. The red-haired teen screamed, "Get your lousy hands off me!"
Professor Z looked at the prisoner. He knew this girl well. She was eighteen years old, and had long, flowing, red hair. Her tight, green dress matched her eyes and revealed that this girl had blossomed into womanhood in the years that he had known her. Her name was Dianne Dandrudge and she, along with her accursed boyfriend, SkyBoy, had been a thorn in his side for much too long. Tonight, she would finally be useful. She was instrumental to his plan. The villain realized that he had been staring at the Dandrudge girl and quickly turned to face the rest of the Battalion.
Professor Z smiled. "And now, Miss Dandrudge, I need something that only you can provide.” The villain stretched his right arm out and opened his hand. “Wag, your knife please?"
"Here comes the good part." The Wag moved around like a hyper child as he handed Professor Z a long, sharp hunting knife. The blade gleamed in the moonlight.
"Can we hurry this up?” Donna Dominion asked, impatiently. “Is this part really necessary?"
Professor Z moved the knife towards Dianne's face. "I told you, Donna, a sacrifice must be made."
Dianne winced as the blade nearly touched her cheek. "You fiend, he'll be here soon, to save me."
Professor Z's smile widened. "Oh, I'm counting on it. Right now, however, he is on the other side of the world dealing with the tidal wave that I created with my Zeenami device."
Professor Z inched the knife closer and closer to the girl. Then, with a flick of his wrist he cut a piece of Diane's red hair off with the knife. The villain held the strands in his hand. "I have what we need. We are ready."
The Wag looked disappointed, "Her hair? You only cut her hair?"
Professor Z gave Diane a warm smile, "Of course, we are not barbarians, after all."
The Wag pouted, "I guess. You can’t deny that it's kind of anti-climatic. I was hoping for a little more excitement. That was too easy."
Suddenly, a big wind picked up as a sonic boom echoed across downtown Manhattan.
"Well then, Wag, you are in luck." A voice boomed. "Because things are about to get a whole lot harder."
"SkyBoy!" Dianne sighed as she collapsed into Z's arm. The villain held her very close.
SkyBoy had arrived. The hero floated above, and between, them and the Zeeliminator. The muscular eighteen-year-old sported long, shoulder-length black hair. A chest symbol, in the shape of a purple atom, emblazoned the hero's skin-tight, black, body suit. SkyBoy's long, purple cape billowed in the wind. Matching purple boots and belt completed the hero's uniform.
SkyBoy delivered a cocky smile. "Sorry I took so long, apparently someone had created a tidal wave in Hong Kong. I used my SkyVision to make sure Dianne was safe while I lifted the island over the wave." He pointed to his light blue eyes and then his ears, "I also listened to your nefarious plans using my SkyHearing." SkyBoy landed in front of the Battalion and put his hands on his hips. "It's over, Z. We've been playing this game for too long. We’re not kids anymore."
Donna Dominion removed her neural whip and moved towards the teen. "Insolent whelp. I will teach you what it means to reject a Princess from Preeminence."
SkyBoy grabbed the whip and yanked. "What can I say, Donna? I like good girls, like Dianne."
Good girls like Dianne, Professor Z thought. She was special. Maybe that was what he was missing: someone like Dianne. Professor Z realized that he was losing focus and forced the girl out of his thoughts, as he pushed Dianne into the arms of Shadow. "You only have a few seconds to implement my plan."
"I AM NOT YOUR LACKY!" Shadow shot back. Dianne cringed at the sound of the creature’s voice. A second later, the pair disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Professor Z turned back to SkyBoy. The teen had taken Donna Dominion's whip and was using it to spin the warrior princess above his head. Donna Dominion appeared like a purple blur. Finally, SkyBoy let go of the whip and Donna Dominion flew into the Wag with such force that they were both knocked unconscious.
The teen landed near them. "See what you can do, when you guys put your heads together." With a burst of SkySpeed, the teen super-hero tied the villains up in Donna Dominion's whip. "That wraps you two up. Now, it’s time for your boss."
"You are too late, SkyBoy!" Professor Z announced as he activated his jet pack and flew towards the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. SkyBoy flew after the villain with ease. As he floated up the side of the building, he could see the few New Yorkers who were working late, and the patrons at Windows on the World. They pressed up against the windows to get a glimpse of the world’s greatest hero fighting the world’s worst villain. SkyBoy smiled and gave them a friendly wave as he soared by.
Professor Z landed in the center of the Tower near the large, radio antenna and held out a small controller. "Once I throw this switch, I will have achieved my greatest victory."
SkyBoy crossed his arms and smiled as Professor Z continued. "Know that you have brought about your own downfall. For you were the one who arrested Evil Brain and me and placed us in Alabaster Prison, where we met the other members of the Retallion Battalion and made this plan – this wonderful plan that requires each of us to play our own part. We are the perfect union: a blending of science, sorcery, and the extraterrestrial. I, Professor Z, was able to build the Zeeliminator. My absent partner, Evil Brain, found the perfect power source; Shadow knew the proper incantations; and Donna Dominion was able to determine the location and timing to allow for the perfect astrological alignment and convergences. My one regret is that my partner, Evil Brain, is not here to enjoy the fruits of our labor when I activate the Zeeliminator."
SkyBoy just laughed.
Professor Z scowled. “What is so blasted funny?”
“You.” SkyBoy rolled his eyes. "I knew all I had to do was wait, and you would tell me your entire plan. It's over Z. You know how easily I can destroy that machine.”
Just then, Shadow reappeared by Professor Z's side and nodded at the villain, "IT IS DONE!"
Professor Z laughed, "I'm afraid, SkyBoy, you will have other things on your mind, if you hope to save Miss Dandrudge.”
SkyBoy grabbed Shadow. "What have you done with Dianne, you monster?"
With the roar of a jet engine, a rocket took off from the nearby Woolworth's building. Using his SkyVision, the teen hero could see that Dianne was strapped to the missile. SkyBoy exclaimed, "Good golly! I have to save Dianne!" The hero then knocked Shadow off the roof and rushed after the missile.
Professor Z watched his demon partner float to the ground unharmed. "Typical do-gooder.”
SkyBoy caught up to the rocket. He easily tore Dianne's restraints with one hand and grabbed the girl with his other free hand. The teen hero smiled at his girlfriend. "You know, there are safer ways to travel. You should really leave the flying to me."
Dianne hugged the hero. "Took you long enough!"
SkyBoy pouted, "Uhm, what part of 'I had to lift Hong Kong over a gigantic tidal wave', wasn’t clear?"
Dianne kissed him on the cheek, “Make it up to me later. Right now, you have a missile to stop.”
The hero blushed, “First, Miss Dandrudge, we need to get you to safety.”
Across town, Professor Z held up a controller and watched, through his Zeenoculars as SkyBoy left Dianne on a rooftop and chased after the missile. He thought of Dianne and pressed the button.