Later, a battered Spy Smasher felt a strange sensation against his face as he slowly sat up and realized that he had been pulled out of the shattered cavern and now rested on a grassy area back above the deeply recessed region.
“Eve!” he moaned softly as he adjusted his goggles and made the darkness a bit brighter. He realized that the cave-in had completely buried the old workshop. I suppose Robur’s heirs didn’t need it, anyway, not with a huge craft like the one that took Eve away! he thought.
“Odd. While those energy blasts brought down the cavern around me, someone or something pulled me to safety,” he said. “My mystery foe is toying with me. What he doesn’t understand is that Eve’s life is no game to me! He’ll pay when I find him!”
“He’s right here! And the reason I didn’t leave you to die below was that I wanted to let you see the face of the man who finally brought your crimes back to haunt you!”
The words came from above on a slight ridge where a muscular costumed man stood in a defiant position. He wore a brown costume that matched Alan Armstrong’s own green costume in every way but the color.
“You have your nerve wearing that outfit!” said a grim Alan. “You’ve made this entirely too personal!”
The other man said, “Why shouldn’t it be personal? After all, it is a family feud!”
“I know that!” said Spy Smasher. “You hate me for the way my late father took the remnants of your relation Robur’s plans. Robur wanted to use those ideas for personal gain. I used them for justice!”
The man in brown sneered with contempt. “Robur? Robur is nothing but a name from the past,” he cried. “He died, and he had no heirs. The family feud I mentioned is far more personal, brother!” He removed his mask to reveal handsome features that were identical to Alan’s own.
“Jack?” gasped Spy Smasher as he looked at the hate-filled features of his late brother.
Jack Armstrong dived at Alan, and they grappled furiously until Alan finally shook him off and backed away.
“I referred to J.A. Armstrong as ‘your father,’ because I’m nothing like either of you,” yelled the angry brown-clad man. “I reject all he stood for, and all you became! You left me to die and robbed me of my part of the family fortune! You seduced Eve and took her from me! Why, the very costume and name of Spy Smasher could rightfully be mine, in a matter of speaking!”
Alan removed his own helmet and said, “This ends here!”
At that moment, the Gyrosub sailed into view and emitted a vapor that clouded the land below and left Jack dazed. Alan knocked him cold and carried him into the waiting ship.
The remote-control gasser did the trick, he thought. This fraud lacks my immunity!
Later, as the Gyrosub raced across the sky on autopilot, Alan Armstrong looked down on the bound figure in brown. “I can tell you’re coming around,” he said. “You’ve got the constitution of a horse! You can’t fool me.”
Jack opened his eyes and said, “I don’t need to fool you. I’ll make you pay yet!”
“Seeing your face shocked me, but I’m a trained detective,” said Alan. “I know how to reason things out. You aren’t Jack Armstrong. You may say you are. You may even believe it, but you aren’t my twin. You’re too young. Even if he had been trapped in Suspendium like I was, he would look older than you do!”
“I am Jack Armstrong!” yelled the bound man. “You rigged my Gyrosub to blow up so you could steal Eve, but I survived to heal and to hate you more and more!”
Alan shook his head. “You’re mad! I never rigged the craft. I couldn’t do that to Jack! If you are Jack, why haven’t you aged a day since we last saw each other? Why didn’t you try to contact me or claim your share of our family wealth, if you are Jack and you lived after your accident?”
“You try to buy time for yourself,” said Jack. “You always were cunning. Well, I’ve got Eve, and you’ll never get her back.”
Alan raised his fist above the young man’s head but lowered it slowly soon after. I can’t do this alone, he thought. I realize it now. I’m man enough to admit it. For Eve’s sake, I have to ask my friends for help!
Walking over to the controls, he adjusted them rapidly. I was a stubborn fool to think that concern over keeping Father’s secrets was more important than using every resource I could to find Eve, he thought. Ibis offered to help. Well, I’ll gladly accept that offer now!
Later, as Spy Smasher watched from one side, Ibis the Invincible carefully studied the bound Jack Armstrong and fingered his mystical Ibistick.
“My own efforts to find Eve were thwarted,” said the ancient Egyptian prince. “The fact that black magic was stopping me led me to realize that supernatural forces were arrayed against us. I was able to discern the nature of the infernal powers working to stop us, and I found their mystical energy signatures to be all too familiar. The self-same forces that empowered the swine Ibac are preventing me from locating Eve. Those dark beings want you to fail in your quest for some reason. They do not play games of crime and punishment. They want something more from you than your money or petty revenge.”
“Ibac?” asked Spy Smasher. “We fought once or twice, but I thought he was nothing more than a meek man turned into an evil brute by wizardry. Why would he play mind-games with me?”
“Ibac is not involved,” said Ibis. “I spoke with Captain Marvel, and he assured me that Ibac was returned to his normal role of Stanley Printwhistle. In fact, a new Ibac named Slaughter Slade recently fought the good Captain and failed as well!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Marvel: The Infernal Return of Slaughter Slade.]
Spy Smasher nodded and said, “You may wonder why I didn’t fly off the handle just now when you mentioned your efforts to find Eve after I made you promise not to get involved. Well, I’ve sobered up, so to speak. I’m not ashamed to ask for help.”
Ibis smiled and said, “And help you shall have! The infernal powers that block me also seldom take personal action, so I wager that it is some pawn of theirs who took Eve and involved this misguided young man.” He gestured to where the brown-clad Jack sat bound to a chair. “Ibistick, liberate this man’s mind!” he cried.
As magic flashed over the struggling man, his expression changed, and he grew calmer.
“Where am I?” he said slowly.
“Father? It can’t be!” he said as he looked up at the unmasked Alan Armstrong.
“No, son, I’m not your father,” said Spy Smasher with newfound compassion in his voice. “Jack was your father, wasn’t he? I’m his brother. I’m your Uncle Alan!”
“It was not magic that made this young man so full of rage and madness,” said Ibis. “An artificial device clouded his mind and made him think he was his father!”
“The stick enabled you to clear his mind,” said Alan. “That told you it was not magic working in him, or it wouldn’t have worked. It would have been blocked, like your attempt to find Eve.”
“I’m Jack Smith,” explained the young man. “My late father was Jack. You look so much like him! He was always talking about you.”
Alan untied his nephew and said, “Jack survived the crash during our race. Obviously, he lived to father you. Why didn’t he try to contact me? I searched for him for months!”
“I only know this from what I’ve pieced together since my mother died a few months ago,” explained Jack. “Your brother was a pilot. Well, he tried something unexpected. He stayed on a planned course at first, and then he flew higher until he was in the upper atmosphere of the planet! Something went wrong, and the craft began to break up! He crashed far off course in the Pacific Ocean and was washed up on an island named Rygola. My mother, an Englishwoman, found him and nursed him to health. It took months for him to rally, and even then he had no memory of his name or background. The crash hurt his mind!”
Alan whistled softly. “Poor Jack. Reckless to the end.”
“My mother Emma and my father fell for one another and married,” continued Jack. “He never tried to return to the mainland or cure his memory loss. He was too happy with my mother. War broke out, and he vowed to stay on the isle and protect mother and her friends from Japanese invaders. He weathered the war safely, and they started a family. I have three older sisters. Finally, I was born twenty-five years ago. Dad was pretty active until the very end. He passed away when I was just a year old. I never knew him.”
Alan nodded slowly. “I would have been in Suspendium during many of those years. When Jack died, I was still trapped. I never knew he had lived. Amnesia explains why he never tried to return home.”
“Mother died last year, and I vowed to find out the truth about my Dad,” said Jack. “I came to America and started studying aviation. I came across photos of you. That is, I came across photos of you as Alan, and you looked so much like Dad with a bit of difference ’cause of the way you each aged in separate ways! I read up about the Armstrong family. I even found out that you had had a twin who was presumed dead decades ago. That and a bit of luck led me to figure out that Jack was my father. You see, since he didn’t know his real name, Dad had started using the name Smith. He did name me Jack, though, as if he still had some faint link to the name.”
“I don’t understand one thing,” said Alan. “Why didn’t anyone on your island have the resources to help Jack regain his memory?”
“Perhaps some did, but Rygola was and is a very small and primitive isolated isle,” said Jack. “The fact is, Mom had the impression that Dad was happy to hide away down there.”
“He may have been staying away because of Eve,” said Alan. “The poor noble fool! Some instinct may have motivated him even when he couldn’t recall the truth.”
“Mr. Smith, how did you come to impersonate your late father?” asked Ibis.
“I don’t know!” said Jack. “I recall my life until a few months ago. I had figured out Jack’s identity, and I’d decided to come visit you and learn more. That’s the last thing I recall before I found myself here!”
“Son, I can’t make up for the time I lost with your father, but I promise that I’ll use every resource I own to help you,” said Spy Smasher. “I’ll do that after I find my wife and the fiends who did this to you! Magic may be blocking Ibis, but a machine was used on you, and someone used a huge version of the Gyrosub to take Eve. That means he’s mortal enough for me to defeat — and I will or die trying!”
“I agree, but I must warn you that something made those infernal powers involve themselves with this mortal agent,” said Ibis. “That can only mean something is planned for you beyond the mundane scenario of a criminal wanting revenge.”
Spy Smasher nodded and said, “I know. I’ve been in the business too long to doubt that. Robur was a false lead. Regardless of Dad’s use of his plans, that evil genius died without issue. So who is it that posed first as Robur’s heir and then made Jack here pose as my brother returned from the grave? Who?”
“I think I can help you learn that,” said Ibis the Invincible.