by Vendikarr DeWuff
“Matches” Malone sat quietly in his room, eating the dinner brought to him. He had spent his time here pacing, but hunger finally got the best of him. They had brought him a steak and mashed potatoes — not exactly a Thanksgiving dinner, but it was the best he would get. He then wished he had some company to share his meal.
His head bobbed as Malone felt himself getting tired. His mind wandered to a time in Chicago when he had visited the DeWulf house in Bridgeport. That was a great place with good meals, and the working girls were some of the most beautiful in the world. He had been told the place had been in business since the great fire, not that he cared.
As he chewed his steak, his mind wandered to a particular meeting he had with a young French girl there, Colette. As intimate details began to flood into his mind, the door opened.
“I trust you’re enjoying your meal, Mr. Malone,” said Mazursky.
“I was until you walked in. You just interrupted a rather nice fantasy. Wanna hear it?”
“No, thank you. You can keep your lewd fantasies to yourself; I am here on business.”
“Oh, what kind of business is that? I thought the tests and exams were over for the day.” His head bobbed again, feeling sleep coming on rapidly.
“Almost. I still need some tissue samples… samples you will be providing shortly.”
Matches yawned and said, “I don’t think so, Doc. I am done for the night.” Malone then stood, pushing his tray away from him. He then swayed on his feet and grabbed onto a wall for balance.
“Mr. Malone, we added some, ah… extra spices to your meal. You will be in a deep sleep soon, and I will have you prepped for surgery. I will have my pound of flesh from you. And it will be your appendix.”
Malone tried to say something, but wave after wave of dizziness overcame him, and he crashed to the floor.
Mazursky opened the door and called out. “He’s asleep. Get him ready for surgery — fast!”
In Colorado, Arn Munro arrived in time to see the winged white horse hovering over the two mystery-men. And then he recognized the rider.
“Gudra!” he called out to her. “Leave them alone!”
Gudra the Valkyrie turned toward the new arrival, and a look of recognition appeared in her eyes.
“You… Liberty,” she said. “My dearest would love to be here. But alas, I am not here in service to the king, but in service to my god, Odin.”
While she spoke, Arn closed the gap between them, standing between Gudra and her victims. Arn heard the young one call out, “We need help! TNT is hurt badly — he needs a doctor!”
Arn nodded to the boy, then turned toward Gudra. “What do you want with them? Did you sabotage the dam?”
“Young fool, of course not. The German agents did that. I am here to collect the souls of the worthy dead, or near-dead in his case,” she said, as she pointed her spear toward TNT. “I bring those worthy to Odin, those who died heroically in battle.”
“But he’s not dead yet. And besides, why didn’t you collect the worthy dead in the Philippines? Usil and Kamikaze?” asked Arn.
“Those fools were not worthy. But this one is, and I am here to collect him. All this countries’ mystery-men are judged worthy and will be collected in time. Axis Amerika will see to it I collect them soon.”
“Axis Amerika? Is that the name of your allies?”
“Yes, dubbed so because we must remain in America to redeem ourselves after you humiliated us in our own lands. Now stand aside, and let me collect his soul.”
“Over my dead body, Gudra.”
“A definite pleasure, Liberty. But it’s not your time. It is his,” she said as energy was discharged from her spear, headed for the prone figure of TNT. But instead it struck Arn Munro in the chest as he leaped into its path. He fell to the ground, then slowly got up.
“By Odin’s wrath!” she exclaimed. Munro then leaped at her, almost dislodging her form her horse. She knocked him to the ground, and he rose again. “Perhaps this is not his time. I was ill-prepared to deal with you. I will not make the same mistake again.” She then turned and flew off, leaving Arn and Dyna-Mite standing by the still man.
“Grab onto my back,” Arn said to Dyna-Mite as he picked up TNT in his arms. With the young boy secure, he began running back toward the dam to get medical assistance for TNT.
Dan Dunbar woke up startled and looked around. He was in a hospital. And he was alone — well, almost alone. He looked out the door of his room and saw the man who had saved him and Tex. Dan had never seen anyone move like he did.
The conversation outside the room ended, and the man walked back into the room. “You’re awake. Good. How are you feeling?” said the man.
“I hurt,” replied Dan. And then he said, “You were amazing. You should be part of the All-Star Squadron. Belle could really use someone like you.”
“Umm, about that, I am already in the Army, and what I can do is kind of a secret. You can’t tell anyone. Anyone else who saw me just saw that I could run fast.”
“But you could do so much more as part of the All-Stars. Tex would agree with that.” Dunbar paused, and then asked, “Where’s Tex… err, TNT?”
“Don’t worry. His secret is safe, as is yours. If you haven’t noticed, your mask is still on. His identity is safe, too. As to where he is… umm, he was hurt a lot worse than you were. He’s being readied for surgery.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“I’m not a doctor, kid. You’ll have to ask them.”
“I don’t know,” said Munro. “Now, you should probably get some rest. I have to go and check on a few things.”
“OK, I’ll try. Hey, what’s your name?” asked Dunbar.
Arn paused for moment before deciding, then said, “Name’s Munro, Arn Munro. Now get your rest.”
Dan put his head down on the pillow again, and Munro exited the room. He headed to the pay phones and dialed the number to his headquarters.
“The kid’s awake. The other one has massive internal injuries. The doctors aren’t sure.” He paused for a moment to listen. “Yes, I want the team gathered. Those Axis mystery-men are in the U.S. now, and we need to be ready for them. Yes, I know Project M won’t be happy. But toss them a bone. Tell them to get clearances to access TNT’s blood samples. Maybe they can figure out how his powers work. Yeah, I think that will appease Mazursky, too.” There was another pause. “Just get them all together. I’m coming back.”
Arn Munro hung up the phone, peeked in on the sleeping Dyna-Mite, then left the hospital for the airport.
Matches Malone was in the operating theater, with Mazursky preparing to begin. Then Mazursky’s lab assistant burst into the room.
“Doctor, Malone’s been recalled to Project Liberty.”
“No! I’m not done yet.”
“Sir, Munro reported those Axis villains he fought are in the U.S., and he recalled his team. A mystery-man named TNT was injured and is in surgery. If we move fast, we can get there and procure his medical test materials for further research.”
Mazursky stood there, barely containing his rage. Then he said, “We can do better than that. Let’s get him here, and we can test to our heart’s content. He may get better care here than he would in some hospital.”
“But, sir, that may be more difficult than we imagine.”
“Listen, you want to do your own research some day, don’t you? You want to be more than just a lab assistant cleaing my test tubes forever? I need someone who can take care of the thing I need done, no questions asked. Can you be that man?”
“Yes, sir. I can.”
“Fine. I’ll get ready to go and supervise the move myself. Take care of this, Degaton, and I’ll take care of you.”