"Lo, There Shall Be a Beginning!"

Written by Rob Imes
(on December 9, 2000)

The first installment of a brand-new series featuring the world's most popular teen characters!

The night air was cool as the pair of dogs strolled through the field of the high school, their forms mere shadows in the darkness. But as the dogs went along, the forms began to slowly change and mutate, and when they reached the gate of the gym track, they had become fully human. The smaller one turned toward the larger one, and the light that illuminated the track finally shown on the face of the young boy, whose expression tried to mask his worry.

"Snoop," he said, "I don't know how long I can keep doing this."

"Keep doin' what," came the reply of the dreadlocked man. "You got it made."

The boy looked downward. Snoop Dogg always seemed to have the answers. But for the first time, Lil' Bow Wow was beginning to have his own ideas about how he wanted to live his life, and Snoop wasn't going to want to hear that.

"Snoop, man," the boy continued, "This girl..."

"Lots of girls out there, Shad," Snoop said, "And they all seemed to like you from where I was sittin'."

"Not all of them," the boy replied. "I thought we had something going. But then she learned about my powers!"

Snoop smiled. "Nothin' wrong with that, is there?"

Shad grew angry, his eyes burning with heartbreak. "Snoop man, she called me a freak! She said I was nothin' but a freak!" The boy stopped. There was silence in the night air, and then he started walking away from his mentor on the winding gray track. "And that's what I am now. A freak, like she said..."

Snoop Doggy Dogg laughed it off. "So what, don't she want to get freaky?" He laughed, but the boy didn't laugh. He was trying to hold back the pain.

"I never wanted this power," Lil' Bow Wow said softly. "I never wanted to be a freak..."

Snoop couldn't understand what the boy was going through. Snoop enjoyed his mutant ability to transform into a canine, and the ladies never complained around him. But it seemed like Lil' Bow Wow didn't share Snoop's enthusiasm. A bond that they had shared, by possessing this power, was breaking because of this difference in their responses to it. And now, as he walked down the track into the darkness, Lil' Bow Wow felt more alone than he had ever felt before.

Snoop Doggy Dogg returned to dog form and scampered off into the night, leaving his protege to pace nervously on the winding track, left to his own punishing thoughts.


Ordinarily, Nick Carter wouldn't be able to walk around undisturbed by curious passersby and hysterical fans, but here in the halls of AXE's secret Washington D.C. headquarters, everyone was professional and discrete. In addition, those who did speak with him were more likely to know him as the nephew of one of the finest AXEmen who ever lived, moreso than his celebrity status as a Backstreet Boy. It had been years since Nick had last walked these halls, as a guest of his uncle and namesake, who held the rank of Killmaster. The young Nick Carter had idolized his uncle, and was fascinated by his family's long history of adventure going back more than a hundred years when the first Nick Carter solved crimes during the Victorian age. But as the Backstreet Boy had grown, and seen the way in which the powerful and famous were no better (and often worse) than anybody else, his enthusiasm for his family heritage had faded. He had even begun to question the morality of his uncle's actions. So the halls of AXE would be the last place he had expected to find himself.

But recently his family had been told that his uncle was missing in action while on a mission for AXE in Borneo. It was inevitable that the Killmaster's adventures would have to come to an unhappy end sooner or later, given the dangerous life he led. And Nick was too busy promoting the Backstreet Boys' new album to give it too much thought. But two days ago, Nick received a phone call from head of AXE himself, David Hawk, who requested a meeting with Nick. And so here Nick was, on the fifth floor of AXE headquarters, awaiting an audience with Hawk outside his office. At long last, Hawk's secretary told Nick that the man was ready to meet with him, and Nick went inside the office.

David Hawk was seated at the desk. He was a short man with gray hair, and was smoking a cigar. "Come on in, Nick," Hawk said warmly. "Sorry to have kept you outside so long, but I had to make sure everything was all set."

"All set for what, sir?" Nick asked, as he sat down. "Anything to do with me?"

"Yes, very much so," Hawk replied. "As you know, Nick, AXE is involved with matters that ordinary government agencies like the CIA can't handle. But our existence is a closely guarded secret."

"I know," Nick said. "Amalgamated Press And Wire Services. I think that's what you guys call this place officially, right?"

"Correct," Hawk answered. "To the world, we're just another news-gathering service with offices in Washington. And a lot of what we do is gather information, it's true. But we use it to protect this country as well."

"So how does that relate to me?"

"Well," Hawk said, "to the world, you're just another pop star. They have no knowledge of your background, your family history, your ties to this organization. And considering your globe-trotting and influence, that makes you a valuable man to AXE."

Nick stood up from the chair and leaned over toward Hawk. "Look, Mr. Hawk," he said, "I'm not interested in being like my uncle. In fact, I don't even approve of the things he's done -- even what little I've heard about his exploits. I admire him for his ability to handle himself in dangerous situations, and I'm grateful that he passed on such training to me and my little brother, but I'm not the least bit interested in following in his footsteps. I'm not a Killmaster -- and I won't ever be one!"

"I'm not asking you to be one," the old man replied, calmly puffing on his cigar. "Not everyone who works here engages in the kind of operations your uncle did. AXE employs personnel handling a variety of jobs. And anyway, I'm not asking you to join AXE -- I know that you have enough on your plate as it is. No..." Hawk got up and walked over to Nick, and put his hand on Nick's shoulder. "No, my boy, I'm not asking you to be like your uncle was. I'm asking for your help."

"My help?" Nick asked.

"As you know, there have been a variety of negative influences and even criminal behavior in your field, much of which goes unchecked by law enforcement but which carries with it a wider influence than it would otherwise create. Drug use, for example. Some celebrities even have ties to terrorists and subversives. We need a man like you to expose these ties. And your role could be public, to provide a positive example to society, to counter the negative influences I spoke of."

"A public role?" Nick asked. "But the existence of AXE is unknown to the world."

"And so it shall hopefully remain, my boy," Hawk answered. "No, your ties to AXE would remain a secret. But this year AXE has placed room in its budget for a public relations organization which I think you would be perfect to lead. The coordinators have dubbed it 'The New Teen Sensations.'"

Nick's mouth hung open in surprise. "Say what??"

"Yes, the group would consist of other celebrity teens such as yourself. AXE has already done the background checks and paperwork about a prospective group, provisional upon your acceptance of the idea and approval of the teammates that we've selected. In fact, AXE has already had undercover men speak to a few of the potential members."

Nick Carter ran his hand nervously through his blond hair that was almost hanging over his eyes. He didn't want this. Leadership was something he'd prolonged accepting, and he had greatly welcomed the leaderless nature of The Backstreet Boys. Even in the most famous boy band in the world, he was able to avoid the burden of leadership and slip into the background if he wanted, letting the other four guys get some of the spotlight. Everything didn't have to be resting entirely on his shoulders there. But this was different.

"The New Teen Sensations??" Nick said to himself. "I don't know..."

David Hawk laughed and returned to his desk. "Well, think it over then, Nick. Believe it or not, we already have a building constructed in New York for the New Teen Sensations to use as their headquarters, should you decide to accept our offer. We can visit it this week if you are available."

Nick made plans to visit the building with Hawk for the following day. But he had some thinking to do on the matter until then.


Mandy Moore wasn't sure how long she had been standing there looking at the dilapidated house before she finally got up the courage to take a peek inside. It was perhaps dangerous to enter the half-demolished dwelling, but she had been hoping that something within might unlock a lost memory from her mind, which might finally answer the question that she had avoided for so long. But as she looked upon the broken pieces of wood and torn wallpaper, she remembered the previous times that she had visited this place hoping to find a clue to her past, only to walk away empty handed. She was so lost in thought that she didn't hear the person behind her until they spoke:


Mandy whirled at the shadowed figure, half-expecting an attacker, only for the moonlight to reveal the calm face of Justin Timberlake standing in the doorway.

"Oh! You gave me a scare, Justin!"

The curly-haired boy looked around the darkened room's squalor and asked, "What are you doing here?"

Mandy started to answer, when she suddenly thought (and asked aloud): "What am I doing here? The better question is, what are you doing here?"

Justin smiled, looking like a youthful Apollo in the moonlight. "I saw your car outside on the sidewalk. The license plate with the word 'Mandy' on it is a dead giveaway."

Mandy thought for a moment, and laughed with him. She slowly made her way to the door where he was standing, trying not to lose her footing on one of the twisted-up floorboards. When she reached him, they walked onto the shabby porch, as the night breeze blew around them, whipping at Mandy's long blonde hair. "I used to live here," she said finally. "Or, at least I'm told that I did. I was an infant at the time."

"Ah," Justin said. "That explains it. And how did the place get so messed up?"

"I don't know. I think there was a fire here at some time in the past, and they never rebuilt it. The city just left it standing instead of tearing the place down. I've heard that people have asked the city to tear it down because it's a blight, but the city never gets around to it for one reason or another. I come here sometimes..." She looked back at the house, as they reached the sidewalk. "To remember. But I guess there's nothing to remember, that far back." Mandy struggled to remember if there was a fire in her memory as a child. She remembers seeing flames, but was that an actual memory, or a memory of having later heard a story about the fire? "I'm glad to see you again, Justin, really I am."

"Great, same here," Justin said. "Anyway, this isn't just a casual meeting. I have an offer to make you."

"An offer?" Mandy asked. She had heard that Justin was currently dating Britney Spears, and wondered if this was some kind of romantic proposition. But her apprehensions were eased when he mentioned having heard from Nick Carter that night.

"I got a call from Nick, and he's told me that he's thinking of getting a team together. You were one of the people he told me that he was thinking of offering a spot to, in addition to myself. Sound interesting?"

"A team?" Mandy asked, eyebrow raised. "What kind of team?"

Justin smiled. "Nick said that we'd be calling ourselves 'The New Teen Sensations.' Kinda corny, I think, but hey..."

Mandy thought for a moment, and then said, "Yes, I think it does sound interesting! Quite interesting, as a matter of fact!" Mandy had always wanted to get to know Nick Carter better, and this little group idea might be the perfect opportunity. "Tell me more, Justin," she said with a smile while her mind began calculating possibilities. "And don't leave out a thing! I want to know everything Nick said..."

NEXT: "Sensations Assemble!"