Liberty Belle was a superbly skilled athlete, and she had an enhanced adrenal rush at her command as she rubbed her belt buckle.
Doctor Mid-Nite says this is all in my head, and that a super-power allows me to boost my strength and speed, not the belt, but why mess with a winning game plan? mused Libby Lawrence as she tackled the glowing Heatmonger.
“I’ll flame off so I can kill you with my bare hands, Miss American beauty!” sneered Heatmonger.
That was what I was counting on, thought Libby. She ducked as the metal arm swung for her head and missed by inches. The fist shattered the wooden podium behind her as she tucked in and rolled between Heatmonger’s spread legs. She flipped backward to land a solid two-footed kick to her blonde foe’s bottom.
Heatmonger blazed anew. “This is for all your star-spangled fans out there in liberty land!” she laughed as fire shot out into the crowd.
“No!” cried Libby.
The flames never reached the crowd. They were stopped by two figures. One Libby knew intimately — her super-fast ex-husband, Johnny Quick. He had joined her at the rally in support in their oddly ill-defined reunion. (*) He whirled through the fields and carried some to safety while smothering the flames with his speedy winds.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Infinity Inc: Ancient Prophecies and Malcontents.]
The second man actually absorbed the flames into his body as he flew upward. He was masked and wore a gold and blue costume. His agile form was well-muscled, and he looked very much like another black hero Libby had once known — Amazing-Man.
“Don’t worry! I can absorb flames just like that terrorist witch up there, only better,” he assured a worried Quick.
“Are you–?” he began.
“I’m his grandson,” interrupted the young hero. “Call me Paragon.”
Liberty Belle took her moment to attack the angry Heatmonger.
“So, you Amerikaner dogs still travel in packs!” she fumed. Her metal arm caught Belle and slammed her through the stage.
“Don’t appreciate this stage-diving the kids all love,” she quipped through aching muscles.
She whirled and caught the Heatmonger in the face with her boot, then jumped up and dodged the metal arm to land a solid right hook. Heatmonger gasped and passed out.
“Good thing your jaw is made of glass, unlike your metal arm,” she joked.
Johnny Quick joined her on stage, along with Paragon. “Belle, I heard her say there were more of them,” said Johnny. “Some Aryan Nation with a hatred for the old Squadron?”
Liberty Belle rubbed her arm and said, “Yes. I feel as if this is the start of something very bad and very evil.”
Senator Pressman turned to his aide Aldrich and whispered, “She defeated Heatmonger! This is very bad for us. A killing of the leader of the accursed Squadron would have been better than murdering Libby Lawrence. Now we must be ready for the plan on unveiling day, if the Reich is to live anew!”
Aldrich nodded in agreement.
Liberty Belle and Johnny Quick held a hasty conference in her plush D.C. apartment. William Everett III, alias Paragon, sat waiting in her living room.
“Look, Lib, the kid may be good, and he is Will’s grandson — raised by Will, in fact, until Will died — but do we really want him along on a life-or-death case with Nazi thugs, no less?” said Johnny.
“Yes!” she replied. “You know that you used to drag poor Tubby into danger all the time! And remember your precious Team Justice from the 1950s? All kids!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Team Justice: Times Past, 1959: Justice in the Making.]
Johnny winced. That time had been the start of their painful spats that would eventually lead to their divorce. “OK, Libby, I agree — he does have the right stuff,” he said smoothly. “I mean, just by being near a super-powered person, he gains their powers at a higher level. I retract my objection. So what does that keen mind of yours suggest now?”
Libby smiled and said, “We let her go and track her to this Aryan Nation group.”
“Let her go? Are you sure?” began Johnny. “Oh, I get it. Let her go, with yours truly dogging her steps in his truly remarkable nigh-fastest man alive manner!” He grinned.
“No,” she said, crossing her arms. “We send in a ringer dressed like her with powers like hers and a tracing device.”
“Yeah, OK,” he said. “But wait — even if Paragon can duplicate her powers, I know he can’t pass for a blonde woman! And you sure can’t fly.”
Belle smiled. “Heatmonger is a cyborg flame generator who is part of an anti-American, anti-Squadron group. So we get a robotics expert, Bob Crane, and a female flamethrower, Danette Reilly Arthur!”
Johnny nodded. “I’d love to see the old gang.”
Libby smiled. “So let’s reunite the All-Star Squadron!”
Libby Lawrence wore a blue minidress and sandals as she approached the Long Island manor once owned by the late “Emerald Ed” Reilly. He had been Danette Reilly’s wealthy father, and she still owned his old estate, though she spent most her time with her British husband, Justin Arthur. Now, after a hasty call, Libby greeted her old wartime friend Danette Reilly Arthur, alias Firebrand, and her husband, Sir Justin the Shining Knight.
“Fair maiden!” said the chivalrous Sir Justin with a sweeping bow. “The years have had no effect upon thy glamor!”
“Justin, you flatter a girl, as always,” she said with pleasure. “You look like the young knight of old as well.”
“Aye. ‘Tis true that time has been the source of many a magical journey in my life,” he said. “Being cast upon time-tossed shores from the glory and grandeur of Camelot to the 1940s was miracle enow, but being also cast another forty years forward from that fateful era has kept me young.”
“I thought the love of a good woman kept you young,” said a lovely redhead.
“Dann!” said Libby. “You, too, look like the debutante of the 1940 social season.”
The former Firebrand laughed. “That magic of Wotan’s and the volcano gave me my powers and slowed my aging, I guess,” she said. All her friends had believed for years that Firebrand had died in an explosion in 1946, but it was only revealed later on that she was rescued a moment before the explosion by her own Shining Knight, who had time-traveled back from several years in the future. With the Merlin-given power to traverse the centuries at a whim, Sir Justin and Danette spent most of their time in ancient Camelot, where they were married and had a daughter of their own. It was only after the Crisis on Infinite Earths that the family had decided to return for good to the twentieth century. From her perspective, only about twenty years had passed since 1946, but she had not even aged more than ten years in that time.
“Want a job?” said Belle with a grin, and she told the couple her plan.
Dann smiled eagerly. Though she had not been a costumed heroine since 1946, she had displayed a remarkable heroic quality in the decades since. “Libby, I’ll be this Heatmonger if you think I can pull it off,” she said.
“Aye! I dedicated myself to serve the cause of justice as best I could while life and breath reside yet within me. My sword is yours, fair Belle,” said Justin. “Though I wouldst wish Milady to stay safely out of the fray, I know her noble spirit would soon bridle at such wishes,” he offered ruefully.
Dann kissed her husband, and they quickly worked with the material Belle had carried with her. Soon, a newly blonde Danette wore the costume of Heatmonger, with the exception of the cyborg arm. “So where do we get my hardware?” teased the former debutante.
“That’s something Johnny is working on even as we speak,” said Belle. She admired the love and loyalty this storybook couple shared for so long and still had with such passion and pleasure. As she watched, she wondered if perhaps she and Johnny could even rekindle their own old love. They had mutually agreed not to define what their relationship was any longer, but sooner or later they would have to decide whether they were truly back together or not. They owed it to themselves and to their daughter, Jesse.
Johnny Quick faced a hulking metal man in the STAR Labs of Gotham City. “Bob!” he cried happily as he greeted the metal shell that had housed the brain of his old friend, the heroic Robert Crane, AKA Paul Dennis, after an accident in the 1940s.
“Yes and no,” called a voice from behind him.
The metal man grinned. “I am Will Magnus; this is indeed part of Bob’s handiwork, though.”
An old fat man rushed up, out of breath due to his large size. “Chuck Grayson!” said Johnny Quick.
“Well, to be so exact is something I can only do with a buddy like you, John,” he said. “I am the brain of Bob in Chuck’s body, remember?”
“Yeah! Funny how seeing that Robotman there made me forget your story,” said Johnny.
The story was an amazing one. Scientist Bob Crane and his partner Chuck Grayson had perfected a robotic man. The mindless robot hull received a brilliant mind when Bob’s brain was placed within the shell by Chuck after a deadly accident befell Bob at the hands of gunmen.
Bob Crane had lived both as Robotman, a metallic hero, and as Paul Dennis, a new human identity he created using a lifelike mask for several years, until he was finally trapped in a cavern in 1953. Decades later he was freed, and he learned that Chuck had died leaving instructions for his human form to be preserved as a host for Bob’s brain if he should ever return. (*) Now, Bob was living within Chuck’s human body, and scientist Will Magnus was a new Robotman of a decidedly different kind, since his body had been transformed by microscopic robots called nanites. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Whatever Happened to Robotman?” DC Comics Presents #31 (March, 1981) and Red Robin: Auld Lang Syne.]
“Will is my heir to the artificial life, so to speak,” said Chuck, who had put on quite a few extra pounds through his indulgence of food after not being able to enjoy eating for so long. “How can we help? We heard of Liberty Belle’s battle in D.C.”
“You know, Bob-Chuck — sounds like I’m on Walton’s Mountain!” joked Johnny. “We wondered if you could fix up a fake cyborg arm for an old pal of ours, Dann Reilly Arthur.”
“Sure! How is she?” he said. “I haven’t seen her in years! In fact, I thought she died way back in the ’40s after the All-Star Squadron disbanded.”
“To make a long story short, rumors of her death were greatly exaggerated,” said Johnny with a wink. “Anyway, she’s fine, and hopefully she’s going to help us track a Nazi group down,” said Johnny.
“Well, I can help, and what’s more,” said Chuck with a glimmer in his eye, “based on the news and TV reports on Belle’s fight, I can even tell you where to find this Aryan Nation!”
Will Everett III had been busy, too. He had singlehandedly converted all of Liberty Belle’s files on the old All-Star Squadron to a newly sophisticated computer program with indexing and updates drawn from media sources and published accounts. Thus he could type in the name Sargon and receive a readout that indicated that the wizard of old had last been seen on Earth-Two in 1950, when he moved to an alternate Earth and was later encountered by Red Tornado and other then-current or former members of the Justice Society of America.
“Nice work, my man,” he said to himself, enjoying what he had accomplished, because he loved heroes and loved science. As a scientist himself, with research skills and even a bit of reference librarian experience, he knew how to find the answers.
“Gramps, you’d love to be in on this. I know you loved the time you spent with the Squadron,” he said with a sigh. “I’m going to make you proud,” he vowed anew. “I’m going to be a JSAer one day. I’ll keep your legacy alive.”
Paragon had met Wonder Woman, Hourman, and Red Robin during his first case and had absorbed intimate knowledge of Wonder Woman by kissing her during that crisis. (*) Any such personal contact, if willed to do so, gave him the powers and even memories of the subject. He had vowed never to use his gifts in such a personal way again — for days after that kiss, he had talked and lived like the Amazon heroine in that he knew all she knew, and he even shared her speech patterns briefly. Still, he had her respect, and Hourman’s, too. They said a full JSA roster could vote on his membership someday. He would hold them to that.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: A Fresh Start.]
Scanning his files, he read aloud, “Jonathan Law, author; never married, retired mysteriously in 1948, status unknown, last known address… Man! I read his books over and over as a kid. Nobody told the stories of the heroic age as well, except for that Thomas guy.”
He picked up the phone and made a call. “Mr. Law, please.”