Liberty Belle, disguised as her look-alike Priscilla Rich, alias the Cheetah, arrived at a warehouse in the seedy section of Metropolis on the date named on the mysterious invitation from Colonel Future. Why is it always a warehouse? thought Libby Lawrence. Just once I’d like to trace the masked menace of the month to a beauty parlor or health spa.
She knew enough about this Colonel Future from the files she had saved throughout a career as a costumed heroine to expect to find criminal intent and high-tech weaponry. However, now that Gudra’s magic had made her young again, she felt up to any threat. Still, she felt like playing it safe, so she wore the short, striped, and modified Cheetah costume and hoped to pass as the blonde psycho long enough to learn what Future was up to this time. She’d never met him before, but from what she had read, Superman had exclusively been the focus of his conquest schemes back in the 1950s.
Libby entered the old building and immediately noticed a scanning device. Shortly afterward, a gleaming holographic image of the balding and portly Colonel Future appeared. It flickered slightly and spoke. “Welcome, Cheetah! I am so pleased you could come and that you are still in such remarkable and attractive shape. That costume shows your legs off wonderfully. I have a job offer for you. Aid me, and I will remember you with approval when I achieve… shall we say, my rightful position in this city.”
Belle purred in her most sultry voice, “And how may I serve you?”
“I wish you to secure freedom for a possible associate of mine… of ours. He is a sad case in the Gotham State Prison. His name is Dr. Simon Ecks. Free him and bring him to me, and you may name your reward, my pretty kitty.”
Liberty Belle thought about this quickly. I can bring this guy to Future’s real base and hopeful subdue them both, but will my name still carry enough weight in law enforcement for them to give me this Ecks man? “I’ll leave at once. Where shall I bring him?”
“Oh, my associate Artemis Crock will be accompanying you, and she knows where to find me. I must play it rather delicately until you earn my trust, just as your beauty has earned my admiration.”
At that moment, a beautiful platinum blonde young woman stepped out of the shadows. She wore a pink-and-white bodysuit with thigh-high white boots, and she carried a wicked-looking crossbow. “I have heard that my mother — the true Huntress — respected you, Cheetah. But I think you’re a walking ad for hairspray.”
“And you are the peroxide poster girl,” snarled Libby in her best Priscilla Rich voice. “But if we are to work together, you’ll do well do respect your elders and betters.”
“We’ll see, honey. We’ll see,” said Artemis as she led Libby out of the warehouse.
Now what do I do? wondered Belle.
Charles Collins sighed as he looked out over the Metropolis skyline from his penthouse. He was a handsome young man who looked slightly old-fashioned and seemed to have the very weight of the world on his otherwise flawless features.
How I still marvel at the wonders of this era. How I still miss my sweet Deborah. It has been three years since she passed away, and yet I linger on. I’m still as healthy and youthful as I was when my I first took this mortal body upon the real Collins’ death back in 1941. My wandering spirit waited nearly three hundred years before my ancestors ordered me to leave Scotland and Castle Connaught to meet the reincarnation of my lost love, the bonny lass Deborah Wallace. (*) I found those years to be fleeting in comparison to the lonely time I’ve spent these few years without Deborah, since this time there is no promise that we’ll meet anew. Yet I remain here on this earthly coil and wait.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Gay Ghost, Sensation Comics #1 (January, 1942).]
Collins walked through the wall of his penthouse from the deck without opening the glass doors. These ghostly parlor tricks yielded some amusement to Keith Everet, the man once known as the Gay Ghost. He still he felt so alone and in need of some higher purpose, which was perhaps why he was now known as the Grim Ghost. Perhaps this day would bring him such a purpose once again.
Liberty Belle no longer had the option of using her connections to legally free Simon Ecks to trap Colonel Future, but she had another idea. She would need to get rid of the annoying blonde first. “So you are the little girl of the Huntress and the Sportsmaster, huh? With those boots, I’m surprised you’re not acquainted with the Thigh Master,” quipped Libby as they approached the prison.
Artemis bristled and snapped back, “You may look like a high school cheerleader for some reason, but I know you’re as old as my mom, so just watch your mouth, granny.”
“How do we get inside?” said Libby, stalling as she secretly rubbed the bell buckle hanging around her neck and inside Cheetah’s costume.
“Oh, they’ll be too busy to stop us after I do this!” said Artemis as she fired two oddly shaped bolts at the prison walls. When the bolts struck the walls, the bricks exploded in a massive eruption of flame.
Belle gasped as she realized the firepower in Artemis’ arsenal. “I’m not your daddy’s Green Arrow,” said the silky blonde archer.
As guards rushed out to see to the injured and alarms sounded through the east side of the prison, Artemis and the disguised Liberty Belle raced to the west end, and Artemis began to climb a rapidly fired rope. This is going too far. People could be hurt. It’s time for this Belle to ring Artemis’ chimes.
With the ease of her years of experience, Belle used her sonic blasts to shatter the place where the rope was anchored. Artemis plunged to the prison courtyard but managed to land on her high heels.
“What’s the big idea?” she snarled, instantly aiming a bolt at Belle.
Liberty Belle rolled across the yard and narrowly escaped the deadly arrows fired with amazing speed by the daughter of the Huntress.
Coming up out of her somersault, Belle crashed into Artemis, and with a swift kick she sent the lethal bow flying out of Artemis’ hand. She followed this move by spinning upward with the grace of a ballerina with attitude. Her head met Artemis in the chin, and down fell the junior Huntress. She tossed a dart from one sleeve at Belle’s face and crawled backward to aim another.
Guards hurried out as Belle fell to one side, while the dart skimmed by her blonde locks without touching her. She leaped up to the prison gate house and, with acrobatic skill, brought both legs down on Artemis’ skull. The blonde archer passed out and dropped a second hastily grabbed dagger to the ground as she fell. Belle turned to see the guards secure her and then fled. There was no way they would accept the idea that she was not the Cheetah but was really a rejuvenated heroine from the ’40s named Liberty Belle, who just happened to dress like a super-villainess. Maybe next time she would wear the Thorn’s costume. Then they would simply laugh in her face. She needed a new plan.
Liberty Belle raced back to Colonel Future’s warehouse, still in the Cheetah costume. When the hologram appeared, she posed seductively and cooed, “We failed. Artemis is too green. They caught her, and I had to leave Ecks behind.”
The Colonel smiled. “I had a backup plan, my dear. An hour after the fireworks at the prison, just when the guards thought all was well, I sent my backup player inside. Don’t feel badly, though. I must admit that fight she witnessed between you and Artemis did not bode well for your ability to play nice with others.”
“I’m not a team player, I admit it. The brat rubbed me the wrong way, but surely since you say you have Ecks anyway, you’ll give your kitten a second chance,” she purred.
The flickering image of Colonel Future replied, “For you, I’ll make an exception. Meet me at the Acme Computer Company. It’s a front for a base of mine. I may be acting recklessly, but even after your wonderfully entertaining fight with Artemis, I want you… I mean, I am willing to work closely with you. Just don’t turn on me as you did that spoiled child.”
“You can trust me,” said Belle with a smile.
“Good. We shall see you at Acme tonight.”
Belle hurried out of the warehouse and sighed. “I just hope I don’t run into the police or Superman while I’m in this outfit. All I need is another brawl.”
Liberty Belle pondered her next move. Colonel Future seemed to accept that her fight with Artemis Crock had just been a falling out between temperamental women. Her sonic powers made no visible display, only left a noticeable effect. Did he assume based on what he saw or what his third player saw that it was some new Cheetah trick, or had she blown her cover? If it was a trap, she decided that she would still pose as Cheetah, at least until they made her do otherwise. It gave her a slight advantage if they thought she was just a catlike fighter and had no sonic powers. She had played that role thus far.
She knew that Superman had not been sighted in Metropolis for several weeks, or maybe longer. Some rumors even claimed he had died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but she doubted them. She also had no desire to involve Johnny Quick, and she could not bring herself to draw her all-too-eager daughter Jesse Quick into the life yet. She would play this one solo. If she could hold her own with Baron Blitzkreig and Sumo, this Future gang posed no major threat to the all-American girl.
Liberty Belle arrived at the Acme Computer Center and found her way into the lighted complex. She saw scanners and assumed that they had been programmed to admit her. It was a good sign.
Entering, she saw an odd assortment of figures, some in costume and some merely strange-looking. Belle had accessed all the files on Artemis after leaving Future’s warehouse earlier that evening, and one young woman she recognized as an acquaintance and contemporary of Artemis Crock’s by the name of Hazard, who was a redhead in a costume that combined fishnets and a riverboat gambler motif. She was the granddaughter of a notorious foe called the Gambler, and she remembered that Johnny had once dealt him a bad hand.
She assumed correctly that Hazard was the watcher who had freed Simon Ecks. A haggard, elderly man stood close to her. He had to be Ecks, since he seemed pathetically appreciative to the attractive villainess. There was no sign of Colonel Future, but a strange figure shuffled out of the shadows. This dwarf had an evil sneer as he eyed Belle in the revealing Cheetah costume.
“You are changed from the time we teamed against the hated Amazon. In fact, my heightened mental senses tell me you are not Prissy Rich at all. You are a foolish pretender, and like all women, your pride has been your undoing. So says Doctor Psycho!”