Seven Soldiers of Victory: 1943: Return of the Dark Cross, Chapter 4: Nine Soldiers of Victory

by Libbylawrence

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Lee Travis, pacing a private room in the island complex, looked up at his worried aide. “Wing, I had to play along with him to get him to bring us to his playmates,” he said. “I little expected to be taken to this island base, nor did I mean to drag you into this family mess!”

“I am with you as always,” said Wing How. “I never doubted your motives, but even I am a bit concerned about the odds! Two of us against an entire base!”

Lee shrugged. “The others must have failed or been captured, yet I didn’t see Cartwright. Perhaps Sir Justin defeated him. I wish I knew what happened to them. I hate to risk their lives by a grandstand play!”

Wing smiled and said, “You, make a sensational move against all odds? Never!”

Lee laughed and placed his mask back on his face. “We’ll see.”

***

Aquaman charged Black Jack and shrugged off various Sargasso troopers who tried to stop him. Ignoring them, he shoved them left and right as he focused all his attention on reaching his enemy. Gripping Jack’s elaborate lace shirt, he said, “I’ll not rest until you are behind bars or under the ground!”

Jack laughed and brought around his cutlass. “I feel the same about you!”

Aquaman batted it out of his hand. “I know about your stupid gimmicks!”

“Stupid gimmicks? Stupid gimmicks? Did someone say stupid gimmicks?” cried Mister Laff as he ran forward. Aquaman whirled and punched the wild redhead across the room.

Black Jack tore free and stabbed out with a dagger. Aquaman winced as the blade trailed across his shirt. “Almost got me! Not quite,” he grunted as he punched out at Jack.

The chairman directed the others into action. Big Fist brought both of his hands down on Aquaman’s head as Master Sargasso fired his gas-gun. The hero connected with a smashing right to Big Fist’s chin before falling to their sheer numbers and weaponry.

Black Jack rubbed a sore neck. “That watery punk almost killed me!”

Master Sargasso nodded. “He is a most fatal man.”

“Put him with the others,” said the chairman. “We’ll soon tame him!”

Aquaman was rudely tossed into a separate chamber where the captive Law’s Legionnaires were already being held.

The Vigilante frowned and bent over the stunned hero. “Say, I think I’ve seen this fella before!” he said.

“His costume is somewhat familiar,” agreed Green Arrow, “and since he’s here, I’d wager he is on our side.”

“He’s a big guy, too,” said the Star-Spangled Kid. “Still, no sign of the Crimson Avenger and Wing or Sir Justin.”

“I hope they’re OK,” said Stripesy.

“I wish they hadn’t taken away our quivers,” said Speedy. “I’m itching for some action!”

Aquaman groaned and sat up suddenly.

“Easy, pard. we’re friends,” said the Vigilante. “Folks call us the Seven Soldiers of Victory, though I reckon we’re a mite short on numbers right now.”

“Aquaman is what I’m called,” said the aquatic hero.

Green Arrow helped Aquaman up and extended a hand. “Yes, I believe we met briefly last year, I believe, at the All-Star Squadron headquarters. (*) I’m the Green Arrow. Did Black Jack get you, too?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Out of the Ashes, Mekanique,” All-Star Squadron #59 (July, 1986), which takes place in April, 1942.]

Aquaman shook hands with the bowman and said, “In a manner of speaking, he did, but when I’m through with him, he’ll be one sorry water rat!”

“We have some pals still free, so maybe you’ll get your chance at him soon!” said Speedy.

The Star-Spangled Kid frowned as the door swung open to reveal the Crimson Avenger and Wing. “They got you, too?” asked Stripesy.

“I’ve been talking with the chairman,” said the Crimson Avenger. “He wants me to join him.”

Join ‘im?” yelled Stripesy. “What kind of nut is this guy?”

“I’ve told him I will accept if he frees you,” said the Avenger.

“We don’t make deals with creeps like the Dark Cross!” said Speedy. “Forget it!”

Green Arrow placed one hand on the youth’s shoulder and said, “We know you better than that. You’re stalling for time.”

The Crimson Avenger gave a barely perceptible smile. “Come with me,” he said. “He wants to see you all.”

They followed their friends to a large hall. Aquaman remained silent. He wasn’t sure what to make of these Soldiers of Victory. Besides that brief meeting at the All-Star Squadron headquarters in 1942, he had heard of none of them before.

The Vigilante watched the troops around them. I hope Crimson Avenger knows what he’s doin’, he thought. He’s clever, but snakes like these folks can’t be trusted, even for a second.

The chairman sat on a raised platform while his peers and their hired enforcers stood around him. “Gentlemen, I offer you membership in our elite little group,” he said. “You could enrich yourselves and serve as double agents. You could warn us against plots from your mystery-man peers.”

“I would not join Black Jack unless it was on the bottom of the sea,” said Aquaman.

Black Jack sneered. “I told you there could be no truce with that one. He’s loaded with principles. Sickening.”

Master Sargasso laughed. “Indeed! I say slay Aquaman for us, and you Soldiers are in!”

“That is out of the question!” said the Crimson Avenger.

The chairman stood up and said, “Son, that is the wrong attitude. I agree with Sargasso. Kill Aquaman and prove yourself to my peers.”

Aquaman tensed and glanced from the steely gaze of the Vigilante to the keen eye of Green Arrow. “You won’t find me an easy fish to fry!” he declared.

At that moment, the windows shattered as the Shining Knight crashed into the room, sitting on his flying steed, Winged Victory. “Onward!” he cried. “Well met, my friends!”

The Star-Spangled Kid grinned. “Now you’ll see that action you craved, Speedy!”

Sir Justin swept down into the midst of the troops and scattered them effortlessly. He had learned of the hidden base from the captive Stanley Cartwright.

The Star-Spangled Kid flipped through the air to crash into John Pulaski. “For a steel man, you’ve got a glass jaw!” he joked as he punched the man flat.

Stripesy charged Big Fist and said, “I want a rematch!” He ducked the gleaming knuckles and connected with three rapid jabs to his foe’s midsection. Big Fist roared and tried to bring both hands down on the redheaded fighter, but the Kid grabbed one arm even as Stripesy slammed into him again. He took a swift left but fought on, and finally closed both arms around Big Fist in a massive bear-hug. He held the trapped bruiser and squeezed until his foe passed out. “See? That’s how ya deflate a windbag!” he said, grinning.

Meanwhile, Green Arrow punched a trooper and caught the man’s gas-gun, then hurled it expertly to crash against Mister Laff’s head.

The grinning man in the loud suit turned to make a weird face and screeched, “Robin Hood? You’re not in like Flynn!” He squeezed a lapel flower, and acid gushed out as the bowman rolled aside, while Speedy tackled Mister Laff from the other side.

“You’re no Lou Costello!” Speedy said as he clubbed the villain with a hastily grabbed piece of wood.

Mister Laff grimaced and bounced away saying, “Speedy? Sounds like you should be the Flash’s brat!”

Green Arrow dived forward and brought down the bouncing man. He braced himself and delivered a right hook that staggered Mister Laff. “Joke’s on you, fella!” he said.

Mister Laff smirked and said, “You shock me, sir!”

At that moment Green Arrow smiled as Speedy fired an extinguisher at the villain, who moaned and fell beneath the smothering foam as he activated his electrical current. “He’s behind on current events!” punned the boy bowman.

The Vigilante had climbed high above them on a ladder, and after clearing the platform of troops, he jumped off to tackle Master Sargasso. “You aren’t so tough without your fancy gun,” he said as he tied the plotter up with his lasso. Sargasso cursed him and cried for help, but his guards were busy fighting the Shining Knight and a furious Aquaman.

Slim Chance sneaked up on the Vigilante, only to face an angry cowboy as the lawman whirled to confront him. “You’re rusty. This ain’t no soundstage, and I sure ain’t Gene Autry!” he drawled as he slugged Slim to the ground.

Black Jack drew his cutless and gasped as Wing whirled to kick it out of his hand. He cursed and turned for an exit, only to face Aquaman, who broke free of guards to reach his arch foe. “Going somewhere? Not without me!” the hero said grimly.

“Victory is nigh, my friends!” cried Sir Justin as his gleaming blade sliced through a generator. “‘Tis the power source for this foul base!” he explained as lights flashed and machines shut down.

Meanwhile, Wing How quietly grabbed Wu Fang. “For Su Ling, I stop you now!” he said.

Wu Fang sneered in contempt. “Were you one of her men?” he said, speaking of his trusting niece. “She had poor taste!” Wing wrestled the older man down and said nothing.

Black Jack returned every blow as Aquaman pounded at him while they fought across the base. “This was not my wisest plan. Allies are a liability!” said Black Jack. “I was born to command, not serve as a swabby!”

Aquaman frowned and crashed into him. “I’ll swab this deck with your face!” They fought near the door and crashed onto the sands outside.

“I’ve got an ace up my sleeve!” said Black Jack, pressing a button on his belt. An explosion shook the base. “Help your friends or take me in!” he said, grinning.

Aquaman hesitated as he glanced from his mocking foe to the flaming base. A moment later he whirled and raced back inside to help the Seven Soldiers of Victory carry out the stunned villains as Black Jack made good his escape. He knew they would meet again. As he fought his way through the smoke, he met all the assembled Law’s Legionnaires except for the Crimson Avenger.

“I will not leave without the Avenger!” said Wing.

Green Arrow held him back. “We’ve got the Cross and Sargasso’s men out — the Avenger vanished while facing the chairman. You can’t go back in. It’s an inferno!”

“Wing, your valor and loyalty would make proud Lancelot himself!” said the Shining Knight from the air above. “Hold yet while I ride above to search for your brave partner!”

Riding Winged Victory skyward, he headed into the smoke that was quickly filling the air. Several tense moments passed as the heroes waited. And then, finally, Sir Justin returned upon Winged Victory. A cheer arose as the Law’s Legionnaires saw that he was carrying the Crimson Avenger. “Success is ours!” announced Sir Justin.

Wing rushed up to a coughing Avenger. “Are you hurt? When I faced Wu, I lost track of you!”

Lee Travis shook his head. “Bit of smoke is all. I tried to persuade Winston Smythe to surrender. He refused and hurled himself into the heart of the blaze. Said he was dying from cancer and would not live long, anyway. He still wanted to make me his heir. Poor, mad old man.”

“Thank you all for your help,” said Aquaman. “My life is a solitary one, but I’m glad to have made friends like you.”

“I may be acting a bit prematurely,” said Green Arrow, “but I’d like to make you an invitation! Aquaman, how about joining our group?”

The Vigilante nodded. “Sure, he’d do us right proud.”

Sir Justin nodded. “Aye! So say we all.”

Aquaman smiled and said, “I am moved, but I work best alone. If you need me, though, send word to this address, and I’ll be there!” Leaving them a card, he disappeared into the sea as they watched.

“Strange fellow. Seems like an OK Joe, though!” said Stripesy.

The Star-Spangled Kid nodded. “Yes. Too bad he didn’t join us. He would have made a swell Legionnaire.”

The Crimson Avenger added, “We’ll never know.”

The End

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