April 1943 - Lady Lambda in Dr. Boom, You Fiend!

April 1943

Chapter 1

"Golly gee whiz, Miss Tracy!" young Danny Seeger whined to his 6th grade teacher from behind his scarred desk, no doubt echoing the other hundreds of boys who had used this desk before him. It was a beautiful spring day, too beautiful to be in this old, stuffy classroom when he wanted to be outdoors playing baseball. "My dad says that poetry is for sissies! Why do we have to learn this girly stuff, anyway?"

The rest of the class laughed nervously, and from the desk behind him, Ricky Karnly, Danny's best friend, loudly whispered of approaching doom. "NOW you're gonna get it!" he predicted. Much to everyone's surprise, though, their attractive, statuesque, red-headed teacher took the question seriously.

"Some of the most famous men in history were poets, Danny. Surely you've heard of William Shakespeare and Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allen Poe and Robert Frost?" She knew he had – they had studied all of them during the fall last year. "So, being a poet is one way to be famous and remembered long after you die. It's not girly to want to be famous, is it?" Danny reluctantly shook his head, no.

"But even more important, girls really like poetry. I know I really like it when someone writes a poem for me!" She knew he had a crush on her; most of her male students did. "Say you wanted to impress some girl and try to get her to be your girlfriend..."

Every boy in the room shook his head and made some kind of denial; Bobby Jones in the back of the room snickered: "Yucch! Girls are icky!" But those same boys were all listening intently, too, as they were at that stage where they wanted to impress those icky girls, but were afraid to try– and wouldn't know what to do anyway.

"Like, for example, Cindy. Cindy, would you like it if some boy like Danny wrote you a poem?" Kris also knew that Danny was sweet on Cindy, but afraid to show it.

"Oh, that'd be boss, Miss Tracy! I'd like it even better than flowers!" the cute, curly haired brunette responded brightly. Then she giggled, "If it was a good poem, I might even kiss him!" Now it was the girls' turn to laugh, and the boys made faces again. But Krista noticed a thoughtful look in young Danny's eyes.

Before Krista could delve deeper into her subject, or embarrass Danny any more, there was an urgent knock on the classroom door and then it swung open even before the pretty teacher could respond. Mr. Harding and Miss Finch, the short stout Principal and short stout Assistant Principal, rushed in, followed by someone else Krista recognized – Mrs. Cutting, a retired teacher who often filled in when one of the regular teachers at Lamont Gordon Elementary was sick or couldn't make it to school. Her heart fell into her feet at Harding’s words.

"Please come with me, Miss Tracy," Principal Harding requested brusquely. "Miss Finch and Mrs. Cutting will take care of your students." When she hesitated for a second, he barked gruffly: "Quickly now! We can't keep HIM waiting!"

He grabbed Kris’s arm and started pulled her brusquely into the hallway, which suddenly seemed cold and foreboding despite being decorated with the bright and happy springtime decorations students made in art classes this time every year.

"Oh my God! Ned, Is Ned OK?" She was almost instantly frantic with worry. After 15 months of World War II, everyone knew someone who had been pulled aside at school or work, or heard that dreaded knock on the door, to receive the bad news when a husband or relative had been killed in action. Her fiancé, Ned Quest, wasn’t in the military, though. He was also the mystery hero known as Dr. Lambda, master of gravity and electromagnetism, and he was currently on a secret government mission with the rest of the Alliance of Mystery Heroes. Harding didn’t know that Ned was also Dr. Lambda, but he did know that Ned was involved in Top Secret research projects for the War Department.

"I don't know, Kris. The caller didn't say anything about Ned. I'm sorry," Harding replied sympathetically. He’d had to break the bad news to several teachers and students, and he knew just how anxious she must be feeling. "Just to get you on the phone as quickly as possible."

She didn't have time to ask any more questions as he hustled her into the schools’ reception area. “Please use the phone in my office.” Harding opened the door and aimed her at his desk. “We’ll wait outside.”

As she picked up the phone, she could see Harding and the school secretary hurrying out into the hall.

"Hello, this is Krista Tracy," she said in a quivering voice, still fearful that the call must mean something terrible had happened to her fiancé.

"Thank you, Miss Tracy." The voice was soft but firm. Her stomach lurched again at the operator’s next words. "Please hold for President Roosevelt."

She immediately recognized the next voice from years of radio Fireside Chats over the last 11 years, calm and friendly yet concise and commanding. “Miss Tracy, I’m sorry if this call alarmed you, but it is of utmost importance that I talk with you – not as Krista Tracy, but as Lady Lambda.” As Lady Lambda, Kris wielded the same amazing powers as her partner and fiancé.

Years later, Kris would still be amazed and dismayed that she had actually interrupted the President of the United States. “Is Ned all right?!” she demanded harshly.

Your fiancé is fine, Miss Tracy,” FDR replied reassuringly. “But Washington, DC, is in grave danger from Dr. Boom. She is demanding that Lady Lambda – you! face her immediately or she will kill hostages. She gave a 45 minute deadline. There’s no time to waste; it took 10 minutes to get you on the phone.”

I… I can’t!” Kris gasped fearfully. “I can’t get there in time,” she sobbed, “and even if I could, Dr. Boom almost beat Ned and Flux at the same time last month.”

Flux was one of the other members of the Alliance of Mystery Heroes, a woman who could run at almost the speed of sound. But even with the combined powers of Dr. Lambda’s control of natural forces and Flux’s speed, the pair had been unable to capture Dr. Boom after she had rampaged through Hollywood, destroying several of the most prominent movie studios. No one knew why she had gone on her binge of destruction or even where she had come from. But now she was back, trashing Washington, a continent away from the scene of her earlier wrecking spree.

There’s no way I can beat her alone. Surely the Army or the Marines…”

Her voice trailed off as she heard Roosevelt clear his throat with a loud “Harumph!” Then: “Dr. Lambda boasted to me just last week that your Stellar Scepters will allow the two of you to achieve 600 miles an hour. It’s only 80 miles from Marble City to DC. You can easily get here before Boom’s deadline,” Roosevelt insisted.

But I just can’t!” Kris wailed, almost in tears. She continued, almost babbling. “Ned only gave me the battle suit and Stellar Scepter 3 months ago, and he’s still training me to use them. He won’t even allow me to go out on a patrol unless he’s with me! I’ve never faced anyone other than a couple of bank robbers. If Ned couldn’t beat her, I sure won’t be able to! She’ll kill me.”

Roosevelt put on his best “command” voice and cut her off. “Lady Lambda, Dr. Boom has over a hundred hostages trapped in Griffith Stadium, and she will blow it, and them, to smithereens if you don’t show up to battle her in just… 27 minutes. She’s already put over a dozen people into hospitals, and it’s a miracle no one has died yet. She’s promised to release her hostages as soon as she can see you coming. You are the only one who can stop her – and the deadline is now only 26 minutes away!”

She almost recoiled from the snap in FDR’s voice. He WAS the Commander in Chief, the most powerful man in the world, and his orders, given in that same tone of voice, were to be carried out!

There is a government staff car out front that can get you home in 4 minutes or less. After that you are on your own! So get a move on, young lady, and STOP DR. BOOM!” He paused, then gave her one more piece of information. “You’ll have no trouble finding her – she’s on the infield in Griffith Stadium, and you’ll be able to spot it from miles away!” Then he upped the emotional ante: “Stop her for your country, Kris!” and then raised the pot again. Gently: “Stop her for me.”

Chapter 2

Look! Up in the sky!” Rookie waterman “Buckethead' Colliere watched in fascination as a thin white streak lengthened across the cloudless sky, moving southwest at a speed no airplane could match. “What the heck is that?!”

His more experienced crewmates glanced up, shrugged, and went back to their work. After all, they'd seen trails like this before in the last couple of years, and they had families to feed. However, “Saltnose” Salter, the captain and owner, figured Colliere wouldn't be able to keep his mind on work until he had an explanation.

It's one of them 'mystery heroes' off ta see the President,' he drawled. “Ast me, they oughta all be on the fronts, helpin our Joes, but of course, n’body asts me. Now, git t’work – them crabs ain't gonna jump inta the boat by their ownselves!”

High above the bay, a frightened mystery heroine named Lady Lambda tore through the air, surrounded by an almost invisible streamlined shell of pure force. The rear of the shell was surrounded by a shallow cone which resembled a hoop skirt, seemingly made out of clouds, that trailed off into a long finger of vapor trail. Her battle outfit was a skin-tight, brick red body suit trimmed with gray and topped with a copper-colored half helm. She gripped her energy-controlling Stellar Scepter in her left hand like a baton topped with a glowing orange softball, pointed in the direction of her flight. Her bulky belt contained a gravity regulator, which allowed her to fly, and two saucer-sized disks sitting on her hips were energy absorbers, capturing and storing the energy her electronics needed to work.

A few changes to the shape of the force field, and I'm flying faster than Ned believed possible!’ In spite of her fear, Lady Lambda felt a tiny smile of triumph. ‘All I had to do was make it visible so I could make some adjustments. He never follows his own advice!” The smile quickly passed - “I do wish Ned were here right now, though. If he and Flux couldn't stop Dr. Boom, how am I going to do it by myself? I wish I had more practice, but he always says there's no need for me to worry with him around. Golly gosh darn him!”

This is Bolling Field flight control to Lady Lambda,” a military sounding voice from her helmet radio spoke into her ear. “We have you spotted. You should be able to see the cloud over the Griffith by now.”

Kris slowed and turned on the magnifier built into her helmet, and her vision zoomed in over the miles between her and Washington, DC. Over the middle of the city she could see a brown cloud, and rising up from the ground beneath were several columns of smoke. She increased the magnification and she could barely make out that the infield itself was pockmarked with craters, and the center field wall was in ruins. The streets around that end of the stadium were filled with burning wreckage and crowded by a ring of military might – soldiers, halftracks and tanks, all with their guns aimed at the breach. She could make out a small crowd in the left field bleachers.

Ah, Lambie, how nice of you to show up!” It was a gravelly female voice she’d never heard before. “I’m releasing the hostages now, but if you aren’t on the ground where I can see you before they get out of my range, BOOM!”

Kris was drifting forward slowly, and by now she could see a crowd of people swarming out of the stadium ramps and running wildly toward the nearest line of soldiers. She didn’t have much time! Despite her fear, she ordered the Scepter to resume her previous speed.

Don’t kill anyone, Dr. Boom!” she pleaded. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She hated that her voice was weak and wavered, but she couldn’t let people die because of her inaction – even though she knew she was going to die instead of them.

As the last of the hostages disappeared into the ring of soldiers, several commanders made bad decisions. “Fire!” The command was issued virtually simultaneously by half a dozen officers. And dozens of soldiers and gunners heard a deadly, frightening sound they had never heard before – the hammers of their guns slamming into the firing pins of their chambered ammunition – and then silence as none of the guns fired.

Idiots! I’m Dr. Boom and I control explosions!” the villain sneered through the PA system built into her own combat suit, loud enough to shake the nearby buildings. “I guess you need another lesson. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!”

As she spoke, she pointed and turned, and a weird beam sprang from her hand. It was a spiral of white light, and as she swept it across the now-empty outfield bleachers and then the field, raining debris on 5th Street before what was left of the carefully tended field erupted in a string of explosions. Soldiers near the walls hit the dirt or ran for cover behind the heavy armored vehicles. Not satisfied, the villain turned to the grandstands behind the plate.

BOOM!” She traced a path down the first base foul line, and the grandstand disintegrated with an explosion that was louder than anything yet. It was lucky for the people on the streets on that side of the stadium that the destruction was so complete – more granite dust was added to the growing cloud, but most of the flying fragments were so small that there were no fatal injuries. So far…

Hey, Lambie, did you enjoy that as much as I did?” Boom taunted Kris over the radio. “Next round of explosions, BOOM! I start blowing up people, not just the landscape. You gonna let that happen? I can’t believe your partner chose a coward – or maybe he did it on purpose to make himself look good in comparison?”

I’m here, Boom!” Kris stumbled when she landed and mentally unleashed a string of bad words she wasn’t even supposed to know. ‘I knew I’m not ready for this!’ Still, she tried to speak bravely. Ned had told her many times that some villains were cowed by tough talk from the heroes. “Prepare yourself to be thoroughly thrashed!” She silently swore again, more vehemently, when Boom laughed uproariously!

C’mon, Lambie, do you think real people talk that way? BOOM!” She pointed, her spiral lashed out, and the ground in front of Lady Lambda exploded.

The explosion threw her backward and high in the air, which was painful but not as nearly deadly for a Lambda as it would have been for someone who wasn’t protected by an armored costume and a powerful force field. She rocketed skyward, then stopped abruptly. She dove on Dr. Boom, preceded by a beam of ruddy red light that lanced from the Stellar Scepter and speared the costumed villain. Anything flammable within ten feet of her foe was vaporized almost instantly, but Boom remained unscathed.

C’mon, Lambie, you have to do better than that. Dr. Lame Duck isn’t the only one with a force field - or didn’t he tell you?”

In fact, he had, but Kris wasn’t thinking too well right now. Had Ned told her what kind of attack Boom would be vulnerable to? Before she could think of anything else, Boom was boasting again.

I worked this one out after your partner and that witch Flux cowardly ganged up on me. BOOM!”

An orange spiral flashed from her pointed arm, and actually wrapped around Kris’s shield, engulfing her in a bubble of orange energy, which then started exploding – not all at once, but like sticks of dynamite with different length fuses. She was battered one way, and then another, and another, shaken inside her shield like the ball in a rattle! It only took an instant or so to destroy her concentration, and without her mental control, her gravity regulator turned off and she plunged to earth. And Boom wasn’t done with her yet!

Boom!” The ground under Lady Lambda exploded, throwing her a dozen feet in the air. Once again she crashed down, limp as a dishrag, into the newly created crater. “Boom!” A large chunk of earth was thrown into the air by the controlled explosion and it crashed down directly on the center of that crater. Without another word, Boom spun in place and began stalking off south, through the streets in the direction of the White House, accompanied by repeated loud shouts of “Boom!” and a series of explosions wherever she pointed.

Chapter 3

Kris came to awareness in total darkness, except for some flashing red lights on the heads-up display inside her helmet. A shaken thought command, and the Stellar Scepter began to glow softly white, and she could see the dimensions of her tomb – a bullet-shaped open space barely larger than she, and she could see dirt and rock pressing against her force field. She was buried! And she suddenly realized something she had never before suspected – she was claustrophobic!

I have to get out of here!” she screamed raggedly to the darkness.

She triggered the heat beam and quickly realized her mistake. There was nowhere for the heat from the beam to go, and within an instant she realized that she was about to fry herself. Another frantic thought and the beam snapped off, but it was already almost unbearably hot, and of course, she hadn’t affected the ground around her in the least.

I’m NEVER going to get out of here,’ she realized in despair. ‘I can’t believe I lived through Dr. Boom’s attack, and now I’m going to smother to death. I wonder how long the air in here will last?’ She sobbed, then stopped abruptly as she suddenly realized what she had just said.

I lived through Boom’s attack! IT WORKED!” she shouted inside her seeming coffin. “The failsafe mechanism works! The failsafe inner force field shock absorber that I INSISTED Ned build into our gear, the failsafe that HE insisted over and over again would NEVER be needed. The arrogant fathead!” Given the circumstances, Kris could probably be forgiven for the other nasty thoughts about her fiancé that ran through her head. But she still had a problem. “How do I get out of here?”

She considered her options. ‘What would Ned do?’ Then she chuckled. “He’d try to blast his way out, and kill himself before he realized he was being stupid!” That chuckle somehow made her feel better. ‘So all I have to do is something Ned would never think of doing.’

She began reviewing what she knew as if she were giving a science lesson to her students. ‘The Scepter controls electromagnetic forces, and the belt regulates gravity.’ Something was tugging at the back of her mind. ‘Other than flying, Ned ignores the gravity regulator and depends on the Scepter. He never uses the gravity regulator for anything else…’ and then it dawned on her. ‘Ned would tell me not to be silly, and to listen to him – but it was my own earlier idea that just saved my life, not one of his! Time for me to start being Lady Lambda, not just a poor copy of Dr. Lambda!’

I can use our powers in ways he’s never thought of – and I WILL! The gravity regulator can make me lighter – why can’t it make something ELSE lighter?! And if lighter, why not…’

She set about putting her plan into action.

Chapter 4

Many of the soldiers around the field had witnessed the devastating defeat of Lady Lambda, and a few of them were already rushing toward the crater to try to help. They fell back in alarm when a brightly-glowing spike pushed up out of the pile of rubble. A plug of that rubble suddenly popped into the air like the cork from a champagne bottle, moved to the side, and crashed back down. A ragged cheer rose as a blurred red and gray missile rocketed from the hole, rising in volume when Lady Lambda abruptly came to an instant halt while she scanned the landscape, and then sped off at high speed after Dr. Boom.

Somehow Boom sensed her coming, again, spoiling the sneak attack she had planned. “Why, Lambie,” she drawled into her own radio, trying to conceal her shock that her foe still lived, “How nice to see you again. I guess Dr. Lame Duck’s toys are a little better made than I thought. Still, you should have run when you had a chance. By attacking me again, you’ve sealed your fate!”

Do your worst, Dr. Boom, you fiend! I’m ready for you now, and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” In the back of Kris’s mind, an incongruous thought popped up: ‘My goodness, I sound as corny as Ned, with dialog straight out of a Sturdyman comic book!’

Kris’s mocking tone angered the bad Doctor, and she once again lashed out with a new weapon. And once again caught Lady Lambda by surprise. “Your partner isn’t the only supergenius in town, you know. I built this one for Major Power – but you’ll do for a field test! Kaaa BOOOOOOOM!” She swung her arm like a tennis player hitting a forehand.

There was no explosion, but the sensors in the Scepter screamed in electronic alarm! Kris had no time to react before the invisible ‘tennis racquet’ force field that Boom was swinging slammed into her right at the sweet spot and she was swatted violently out over the Potomac where she tumbled into the river with barely a splash.

Well, that was pretty stupid,’ she admonished herself. ‘She’s sensed me coming twice - she must have built-in radar or something like it. I need to get closer to her for what I have in mind – guess I’d better try to sneak up on her.’

A thought command, and she floated slowly upwards, coming to a halt a few feet above the surface. It wasn’t very difficult to get a general idea of Boom’s present location, with new explosions every few seconds. She zoomed off in that direction, hugging the landscape, until she caught sight of her foe – who this time didn’t seem to realize she was back.

Dr. Boom’s limbs seemed to be growing heavier, as if she were rapidly getting more and more tired – and then, too late, she figured out what was happening to her. Somehow gravity was increasing, and it quickly pulled her to the ground, pinning her down and making it difficult for her to breath, much less talk – which stifled the stream of profanity she was trying to force into sound.

Before her bones started breaking under their own weight, gravity stopped rising. The pressure on her chest and head eased almost to normal, though her limbs remained firmly pinned. She turned her head and snarled at the sight of Lady Lambda, who was walking towards her, totally unaffected by the forces that had trapped her!

I just realized, Dr. Boom, that someone who controls gravity is pretty darn powerful. As you are no doubt aware by now, I’ve refocused gravity around you. You won’t be able to move until I let you go.” Kris couldn’t help boasting, just a little. “I think I’ll find the answer to a mystery which has been puzzling me for a while.”

She examined Dr. Boom’s helmet closely. “Hey, nice work, Doc, for one of the bad guys!” She touched the recessed quick-clasps that held Boom’s helmet on. “On and off in a hurry – but no worry about it getting popped off by accident. Nice!” Boom didn’t deign to answer.

Kris pulled off the helmet and straightened abruptly. “OH MY GOD! You’re Anne Cavanaugh! But, but...” she sputtered. “But why? You’re rich, beautiful, and one of the most famous actresses in the world! I’ve seen ALL your movies.”

Ain’t you a dumb Dora?” Chevalier snapped. “I WAS alla those things, you idiot. The talkies, they stole it all from me. Never had to learn to read a script, like all those Broadway witches getting parts now. Haven’t had a lead role since ‘35, and my last bit part was in ‘38. Top of the heap to trash. Well, everyone is going to pay for ignoring me!” She was practically screaming. “Your partner spoiled my revenge on Hollywood. I’m going to kill you as my revenge on him!”

Kris stood silent for a few seconds, and then a voice spoke in her helmet radio. “Hang on Kris! I’ll be there in 2 minutes, and I’ll take care of Dr. Boom for you! Just hold on!” It was Ned, of course.

Kris didn’t know whether to be furious because Ned was assuming she would need to be saved from Dr. Boom, or relieved that he was back safe from his secret mission, or touched by his obvious concern for her. So she decided to be amused instead.

Why, thank you, Dr. Lambda! I do need someone to turn her over to the authorities and take care of the paperwork, and you know how I hate it when you leave that stuff to me. So this time it’s your turn.” She chuckled, then continued. “And hurry it up, will you? My class is putting on a skit for the parents after school today, and if I hurry, I think I can just get there in time!”