D.C. JONES is for the kid in all of us. You don’t have to be familiar with the 1970s action figures it honors and homages, but if you love the globe-trotting camaraderie of a team of adventurers ala Doc Savage and his Fabulous Five, D.C. JONES is the book for you. It’s the beginning of a series of adventures that will take you from one corner of the world to the next, and diving deep into mystery, thrills, chills, and plenty of action!
– Jim Beard, author
1. MISSILE RECOVERY
July 16, 1973
Mendocino County, California
The shark’s surprise manifested in a violent flinch of its entire length as the spear shot past it, grazing a fin along its path.
The diver grimaced behind his mask, biting down hard on his mouthpiece and jerking another spear into place. He risked only a split-second to glance at the spear gun, then wrenched his eyes back to the shark.
The animal shuddered again, but arrested its forward lunge at the diver to swerve away and downward. Its human prey watched warily as it swam off with great motions of its tail into the murky background.
Tiger shark, the man told himself, trying to regulate his breathing. But this far north? Why in blazes…
Tamping down on further questions, he brought his legs up and kicked, propelling himself backward so as to not lose sight of the shark. In the distance, he perceived its bulk, seemingly motionless, hanging there in the water, watching him.
He neared the spot where he’d dropped his equipment, but debated over retrieving it. His attention had already been divided once too often—never a good thing—and he loathed the thought of inviting the shark back for another go-round by opening up his defenses. Instead, he hovered over the detector unit and got the edge of one flipper underneath it. With a swift, strong flick of his foot, he flipped the detector up off the sea floor to where he could snatch at it with one hand.
All the while, the spear gun never wavered, its deadly barb pointed in the shark’s general direction.
The diver mentally calculated his remaining air supply. Enough, he reasoned. Enough to take a very quick look at the anomaly he’d spotted only minutes before. Before the tiger shark wandered onto the field, curious and, presumably, hungry.
He tore his eyes from the beast and scanned his immediate vicinity. The water around him was murky and visibility poor, but his vision was sharp and years of diving experience had honed skills that provided him with as accurate a picture of the situation as humanly possible to interpret. And what he saw—or believed he saw—astounded him.
In an area roughly fifty by seventy yards spread out before him, the sea floor tumbled this way and that, a jumble of odd shapes covered by lichen and coral and other oceanic opportunists. Stretching away from the area toward the shore, it appeared as if the area of interest had been sloughed off by the land long ago. The rocks and sand sat in overlapping shelves or bunches rising up to the shoreline, as if a giant had come along and pulled up an immense carpet that rested below it all, and the entire field slid out to sea in one great jumbled, tumbled mess.
The really astounding thing was what looked like gigantic segments of cut stone bunched together at one corner of the field.
Structure, the diver discerned in a flash of insight. It has structure. I’m not imagining it. It’s man-made.
The water surrounding him grew suddenly dark. Glancing upward, the diver guessed a storm cloud had rolled over the spot.
He was taking too long—the realization burned through him, quickening his pulse. But what lay before him was something completely unexpected, not something he could ignore, not even in the midst of another task. Not even playing babysitter to a…
Another shadow blanketed him, but not cast by a cloud.
He’d been focused on the task at hand: the search for a missing missile.
Contacts in the government had reached out to him with a report of a test firing from a nearby Air Force base of a new three-stage missile. The problem seemed to be everyone seeing it go up, but no one seeing it come down; more specifically, no one seeing where it came down. And what it was carrying was of great interest: a telemetry package of a sophisticated-yet-experimental nature, a “black box” of a sort, which needed to be found, and quickly, lest its data be corrupted or lost forever somewhere in the Pacific.
Eager to try out a new detector, he began by poring over maps and charts, gauging wind patterns and water currents, and finally arriving upon a search area which, while admittedly large, was in fact something he could handle solo.
Which brought him to the lonely spot off the Californian coast after days of searching for the missile’s payload. He found it, but he also found out what it looked like to stare directly into the jaws of a wayward tiger shark…
A pale grey form with teeth flashed before his eyes, inches from his mask.
The shark turned on a dime with one mighty swipe of its tail, intent on snuggling up closer to him. It lunged through the water, aiming for his chest. Its long snout bumped up against his sternum, pushing him backward, threatening to flip him end over end.
With a quick glance at his sled, now separated from him by the living, swimming knife, he kicked his legs to remain upright and twisted to face the beast, mindful of protecting his tanks and air hoses.
There was precious little room to maneuver the spear gun; the creature’s mastery of its environment and quick, lightning-like jabs saw to that. Though there was nothing but ocean behind him, the diver felt immediately cornered, his back against a wall.
Then, with another flash of grey and a raking blow from a fin, he felt his grip on the spear gun evaporate and saw the weapon floating away.
Fighting panic, he brought his knee up and snatched at the knife strapped to his lower leg.
The tiger shark, perhaps sensing the dynamic of the struggle had changed, redoubled its efforts. Its deadly jaws working furiously, it inserted its face in the diver’s, inching dangerously close to his mask and hoses.
The man grabbed at the shark with one hand, not in an attempt to push it away, but to hold it in place—the better to catch at it with the knife.
The shark resisted the hold on its fin, violently. It thrashed about, battering the diver with its body, trying to loosen his grip. Suddenly, it relaxed its efforts.
Through his askew mask and a furious cloud of bubbles, the man watched his primeval opponent drift away from him, deathly still and wreathed in a thick cloud of crimson flowing from its belly. Drifting several feet away from him, the grey body tipped slightly, revealing a jagged rent along its underside, blood and innards slipping from the unhealthy gash.
Blood in the water, he reminded himself. No time to observe.
Retrieving a small, waterproof camera from his sled, he snapped a few shots of the strange phenomenon of the undersea structure. Though visibility remained poor, he felt he’d recorded the site as well he could. Then, with his gear secured, he sped away from the spot, whisking past the dead shark, still oozing a trail of blood and guts.
He knew it was sure to attract even more unwelcome company.
As he pulled the sea sled from the water and up onto the beach, he removed his mask and spat out his mouthpiece.
Water beaded off his dark, close-cropped hair and neatly trimmed beard. An old scar showed red over and above his left eye. His eyes were slitted, but opened wider to observe his surroundings, revealing icy, blue orbs that seemed to take in everything.
Around his neck, a small chain sporting a gun-metal medallion, roughly the size of a fifty-cent piece, could be seen.
Settling the sled on a spot where it would be safe from being pulled back out by the tide, the man hefted the detector and the spear gun over his well-muscled shoulder and unzipped his red scuba top to mid-chest. Barely breaking his stride, he scooped off his flippers and headed further inland. The missile’s black box remained in the sled—it could wait.
A unique vehicle awaited him on shore, one resembling nothing ever produced in Detroit. The man passed by the front half of it, a futuristic cockpit topped by an immense glass bubble canopy, and strode to the rear of the vehicle. The entire second half was made up of a big, boxy arrangement with a collection of devices fastened to its topside.
The man undid a latch at the back of the vehicle and opened large panels there, one up and one down, and rolled out another panel from the vehicle’s interior. Inside lay a command center of a kind, a large map of the United States dominating the entire arrangement. He secured his spear gun and detector, then brought out and assembled a stool on which he finally sat.
Glancing up, the man observed the darkening skies around him, particularly to the southwest. He’d waited on storms for two days before making his dive, but it seemed as if Mother Nature would only provide him less than a day of respite; more storms looked to be on the horizon.
It occurred to him that perhaps the strange structure he’d discovered beneath the waves had been exposed by the recent bad weather.
Still thoughtful, the man flipped several switches and watched as a communications array came to life. He reached out for a dial, but paused for a moment before turning it.
Something played about his eyes and behind them. His expression was one of great seriousness and of great portent. Finally, he twisted the dial and heard the hum of the great antenna on the roof of the vehicle align itself to his specifications.
Static filled his ears for a moment, issuing from a nearby speaker. Satisfied that he’d made the intended connection, he opened his mouth to speak.
Bengal Region, India
Marcus pushed his hat back from his dark-skinned, bearded face. Stepping closer to the cage and staring into it, he made out the luminescent shape within through the cloak of night.
The tiger stared back at him, baring its fangs, but making no accompanying sound. Its glistening cat’s eyes tracked him as he neared the cage, an enigmatic expression for its jailer on its beautiful but deadly countenance.
He set the butt of his rifle on the ground as he stopped and dropped to one knee, his distance from the animal respectful of both its ability as a jungle killer and the allure of its rarity. The tiger sported a pristine ivory coat from head to tail, one of the finest examples ever seen by human eyes, and its demeanor one of the oddest he’d ever come across. The animal appeared calm, or at least as calm as such a wild beast could be in a cage, and Marcus was at a loss to explain it.
Whispering to it in Hindi, the man lay his rifle down beside him and smoothed out his dark green hunter’s coat. His eyes met those of the cat and he hoped he was imparting his regrets over its capture, but truth be told, it had terrorized the nearby village for too long and needed to be stopped one way or another.
He smiled; better it be in this fashion than at the hands of poachers. The drug in the tranquilizer dart still sticking in the fleshy part of the beast’s hindquarters would soon put it to sleep. He would radio the local authorities in the morning to take it further into the jungle, to an area where it would find prey more suited to its nature than human flesh.
As if prompted by his very thoughts, Marcus’ radio array crackled, requesting his attention. Observing the relaxed posture and drooping eyes of his guest, he rose up from his white tiger hunt and stepped over to the receiver, snatching it up and boosting its gain.
Listening intently on earphones, he absorbed the incoming message from the other side of the world…
Mediterranean Sea, near Crete
Red slipped silently over the tarmacadam of the runway to pause beneath the big cargo plane sitting at its far end and snap the last few photos. Peering all about himself in the darkness, he counted to ten in his head and tore off again, heading for the sound of nearby waves.
The underbrush at the edge of the runway snapped and popped as he cut through it, far too much noise for such a clandestine operation, but he was sure he’d been spotted and though dressed in black from his boots to his knit cap, he didn’t want to spend one more second on the island than he had to.
Reaching his raft after what seemed like an eternity, Red grabbed it up and hauled it into the water. Once floating, he scrambled into it and, plunging an oar into the water, he began to paddle with sure strokes. Eager to put distance between himself and the land, he set the raft into forward motion.
A bullet whizzed past his ear. He turned his head to look back at the shore. There, half a dozen dark figures stood with rifles raised and shooting at him.
He grinned despite the situation, digging into the water with his oar like a machine and propelling himself farther and farther away from the shooters, his secret mission to Spy Island a success.
A blinking light caught his eye. Red pulled off his sweat-soaked cap, revealing short-cropped red hair and beard, and flung it down at the bottom of the raft. Someone was trying to call him on his radio.
He increased the speed of his paddling and when he also increased the distance between him and the danger on the island, he let go of the oar and swept the cover off the transmitter. Placing one cup of the earphones against his ear, he toggled a switch and acknowledged the call. A voice on the other end began to speak as the grin ebbed away from his face…
Kent wagged his chin from side to side as he caught the small cloth bag of coins thrown by his dark companion. Greg frowned as he looked ahead of them, searching for another prospect.
The outdoor market’s din enveloped them in a cocoon of sounds both human and animal, a cacophony that might drive the uninitiated insane. The two men, though, walked with the gait of those familiar with exotic markets around the globe, their eyes taking it all in and missing nothing, their hands always close to their pockets and packs.
Rounding a corner, they stepped through a low doorway into the relatively quiet lobby of an ancient hotel, their ongoing search for the stolen idol done for another day. Greg stamped up the narrow stairway that led to their rooms while Kent checked in at the hotel’s desk for any missives from their Argentinean connections. Finding none, he sullenly followed his friend up the stairs.
Entering the room, the dark-haired, clean-shaven man found his equally clean-shaven companion hovering over their radio, twisting dials and reaching for the set’s earphones.
Kent raised an eyebrow and Greg silently motioned at him to step over and listen. Together, they heard the words that would send them packing their gear and heading for the nearest airport…
Mont Blanc, the Alps, France
Sarge gritted his teeth against the whipping wind, the only outward sign that the jump was anything but a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon.
Below him, stranded on a mountain top, a young girl and her even younger brother awaited his arrival. The two children had gotten lost while hunting for a naughty goat, trapped on a precipice with no hope of extricating themselves from the scene. When a rancher spotted them from a lower altitude, calls were made and a rescue plane put in the air.
The plane was now above him, above his open parachute, beyond assisting him. Sarge pushed the eye-protecting shield of his helmet back into its slot, the better to see his target. He’d been chided by so-called expert jumpers about such a risky move while still in mid-jump, but he told them he damn well better be able to see where his boots needed to touch down or it was all for nothing.
Suddenly, the children came into view on their small patch of mountain. The girl stood up, waving her arms at him, but the boy lay at her feet, unmoving.
He calculated his range and surmised his landing area; tight, but he’d had tighter spots to hit. He waved back at the girl, motioning for her to get her and brother as far back against the upright rock near them as possible. She gazed up at his orange jumpsuit and bright yellow Mae West vest, comprehension dawning on her pale, pretty face.
As he neared impact, something in his backpack buzzed and squawked. Ignoring it, he hit the rock dead on target and went to his knees. Swiftly gathering up the chute’s lines, he cut the silk loose and let the wind take it. His fantastic freefall finished, he turned to the children and moved closer to them, wary of frightening them further.
His pack squawked again and seeing as how the two young ones looked unhurt—the boy was pretending to sleep so as to quell his own fear—he opened it up and pulled out the radio within.
Sarge listened a moment at the earphones, shrugged his big shoulders resignedly, then swung his attention back to the children…
Painted Desert, Arizona
The sun caught the edge of the giant red training tower, making it appear to blaze as if on fire. The young recruit maintained his forward gaze, looking off into the distance at a small patch of ground many yards from the base of the tower.
A screech from a bird of prey overhead caught Mike’s interest, but he refused to track the bird’s flight with his eyes, instead holding the visual lock on the far-away target. Breathing in, he held the breath, then let it go in one great, steady stream. He was ready.
Jumping off into space, he flew.
The escape slide held his weight perfectly as its chair coasted down the taut line that stretched between the tower and the landing area, picking up speed as he raced to his target. He wanted to whoop and yell, but though he was the only one at the training center, he knew it would sound terribly unprofessional.
Mike hit the target spot within seconds, sending up a fine spray of sand. Unhooking himself from the slide, he sauntered over to a small canopy off to one side and, picking up a towel there, ran it over his smooth young face and tousled brown hair, grinning all the while.
He’d make it; he knew that for a certainty. He’d make it where everyone else hadn’t. It was only a matter of time now.
A large radio receiver on a table under the canopy came to life with lights and sounds. Intrigued, the recruit tossed the towel onto a folding chair and kneeled down by the apparatus. Studying it for a moment, he picked up a set of earphones, placed them on his head and opened the correct channel.
It was his commander, the man himself.
“Listen closely,” said the voice of D.C. Jones in his ears. “I’ve got a tough assignment for you…”
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D.C. Jones and Adventure Command International © Jim Beard 2020
Jim Beard became a published writer when he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. Since that time he’s written official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comic book stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes the novella KOLCHAK: THE LAST TEMPTATION; co-editing and contributing to PLANET OF THE APES: TALES FROM THE FORBIDDEN ZONE; a story for X-FILES: SECRET AGENDAS; three books of essays on the 1966 Batman TV series; the SGT. JANUS occult detective series of novels; MONSTER EARTH, a shared-world giant monster anthology series; and CAPTAIN ACTION: RIDDLE OF THE GLOWING MEN, the first pulp prose novel based on the classic 1960s action figure. Jim also currently provides regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website.
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