Libby Lawrence was not entirely satisfied that Amanda Martin — alias the new teenage heroine Star Sapphire — was up to the task of helping her rescue Jonni Thunder from Doctor Double X, but she had little choice in the matter.
“Please take me with you. I know my gemstone powers will be of use. I did beat Darkstar!” cooed the blonde sixteen-year-old daughter of Myra Mason and the late Bill Martin.
Libby had met the precocious girl at Etta Darnell’s office at the Holliday Academy for Girls. With the JSA away someplace, Libby had hoped Etta’s mental radio would allow her to contact her friend Wonder Woman or any JSAer.
“No luck!” said Etta Candy Darnell, who was a slim and elegant middle-aged woman, having formerly been obese as a girl. “Knowing Wonder Woman, she could be out of this dimension altogether.”
Libby nodded. It seemed odd to see the matronly, dignified headmistress of the costly school so casually mention travel to other realms.
Amanda had been leaving the school when she caught Libby’s trademark peek-a-boo hairstyle and red, blue, and gold costume. Her super-hero credentials were good, as she had proven by beating the powerful Candy Davis, AKA Darkstar.
Now, with Star Sapphire carrying her aloft in her arms and their other friend being towed along behind on a purple energy platform created by the gemstone, they were on their way to find the kidnapped woman called Jonni Thunder.
Belle and Amanda chatted as they approached a deserted alleyway. As they landed, Amanda secretly checked out Liberty Belle’s mysterious other ally. He was around sixty or sixty-five and had a bald head and a slight potbelly. He spoke little, even to the vivacious Libby Lawrence, and he seemed distracted.
“Lance, thanks for your help again,” said Libby. “I wish we had met more often back in the Squadron days. Are you sure you can track Double X? He’s a weird energy ghost that defies easy description, as I told you earlier.”
He ignored the pretty blonde at first, as if distracted by unseen voices. His lips moved in an inaudible mutter.
He gives me the creeps! thought Amanda as she retracted her energy constructions into the jewel on her necklace.
Lance looked up suddenly. “He says X is here. He’s never wrong, you know!”
Before Amanda could ask who he was, Belle walked through a brick wall. Amanda was pulled along, while Lance shuffled behind them. “How?” asked Amanda as they entered a huge house that had been unseen moments before.
“It was hidden behind a holographic projection of a dead end,” said Libby. “That matches the holograph Colonel Future used when he and X took Jonni.”
Inside the hidden lair, the red-and-gold-costumed Doctor Double X was working over an odd machine. Near the controls stood a huge, clear tube, and within the tube struggled a tired and bedraggled Jonni Thunder. Her white suit was torn and dirty. Her blonde locks were equally messed up. She was a private investigator with an energy double of her own, but there were things about her female thunderbolt that still eluded her understanding.
Double X had been on his own since he had flown off with the girl. His boss, Colonel Future, had been in touch with him only to instruct him to lay low and continue his efforts to control Jonni’s energy being. This base was one of dozens, perhaps hundreds, owned by the mysterious Colonel Future.
Jonni’s energy double manifested once more, and she slumped to the floor of the tube. Double X switched on his weird device. “Future bought this from the late Luthor himself. It may be all we need,” said the ghost of Simon Ecks.
Jonni’s Thunderbolt was female-formed and silent until the device altered her and split her in twain. She screamed a weird, crackling, electric sound, and suddenly there were two thunderbolts.
“Bless Luthor! It worked!” yelled Double X as the second Thunderbolt seemed all-too-willing to obey his gestured commands. She moved through the room as he raised the clear container that held her. She moved closer to his powerful form and kissed him.
“I have longed for the pleasures of the flesh!” she said. “How may I serve you?” she asked.
Double X smiled and wondered if his day could get any better.
At that moment, Liberty Belle and her allies entered the room. “Amanda, contain him! Lance, hold back for now!” commanded Belle.
Amanda was uncertain, at first, but she followed the blonde legend’s orders to the letter. She concentrated, and an energy cage formed from her sapphire around the figures of Double X and Jonni in his arms. They both were off-guard. The first energy being from Ms. Thunder’s stunned form hovered in the air and glanced between the figures.
Belle raced over to where the physical Jonni Thunder lay and checked her pulse. “Thank goodness — she seems unhurt!”
Double X and the evil Thunderbolt burst their purple prison and headed for Amanda with a grim certainty. Amanda mentally paused and drew her focus inward. Keep calm! Remember, you’ve been practicing. Make Belle proud. She twirled around, and her pink miniskirt swirled above her knees. She aimed her gem, and violet energy blasted out at the evil Thunderbolt and shattered her into pieces. “I didn’t mean to kill her!” wailed Amanda.
“I do mean to kill you!” shouted Doctor Double X. Belle spun and fired a sonic blast at the villain. He recoiled slightly and slammed into Amanda. She fell stunned and saw tiny energy motes floating above her as the dark Thunderbolt slowly re-formed and smiled evilly.
Double X turned away to see Liberty Belle lift Jonni over her shoulders and crash out a window. She raced across the pavement and thought quickly, I hate to leave them, but if I can’t get Jonni away this time, he’ll just fly off with her.
He did plan to do just that. However, the original Thunderbolt placed herself between the stunned Star Sapphire and her own evil twin.
As the female Thunderbolts wrestled above, Amanda tried her ability to briefly interact with the human nervous system. It was unrelated to her sapphire powers, since it originated in an accident her mother and Doctor Mid-Nite suffered years ago. But nothing happened to the ghostly Doctor Double X.
“I’ll soon have Ms. Thunder back and make an army of T-bolts!” he roared.
“Now?” asked Lance in the corner, seeming to wait a moment for a voice to respond to him. Upon apparently hearing that voice, he suddenly rubbed his arm, specifically a birthmark that glowed briefly. This caused him to change rapidly into a young, handsome, blond man with a powerful build and a colorful outfit. “Captain Triumph lives again!” he shouted in a deep, young voice that resonated through the room. He flew by the amazed young Star Sapphire and grabbed the glowing figure of Double X.
“What’s this? He can touch me no matter how I change!” mused the villain. The floating Double X still was superhumanly strong, and he lashed at Captain Triumph. The blow caught the mighty hero, and he flinched — for a second.
“Superman was not the only mystery-man who could bend steel in his bare hands!” crowed Triumph as he delivered a fierce left to Double X’s chin. The villain yelled in pain and came back for more. Triumph ducked his flying foe and came up under him with both fists raised. Double X doubled over in dismay.
Meanwhile, Liberty Belle leaped back inside and saw that Lance Gallant, alias Captain Triumph, had merged with his long-dead brother’s ghost to battle Double X. She had hoped correctly from reading his All-Star Squadron file — now dusty with age — that his unique powers would allow him to track the ghostlike Double X and stop him, too.
She saw the two Thunderbolts battling to no real outcome. Amanda tried to blast the evil one and only succeeded in somehow merging part of the two. They suddenly vanished, and Belle assumed the now-safely stowed Jonni had awakened outside.
Triumph slammed into Double X again and again, as if desperate to recapture long-lost glory days of old. Finally, though their muscles wrecked much of the room, Triumph did manage to triumph over his stunned enemy. Belle warmly congratulated him and checked on Amanda. All were well. Triumph rubbed his arm and returned to being the quiet old man, Lance Gallant.
“Thank you, Belle. I only helped the Squadron once, but you’ve given this old mystery-man a true second wind. Maybe I’ll come out of retirement!”
Liberty Belle smiled and wondered if she’d ever meet up with the mysterious Colonel Future in her own future.