Feature: The Clock Strikes, Chapter 1: The Divine Wind

by Doc Quantum and Christine Nightstar

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Captain Shiro Nakayama was the commander of the Divine Wind, a super-powered military unit of the Imperial Army that was Japan’s answer to the Freedom Fighters of the United States or the SS Ubermenschen of Nazi Germany.

Long before the rise of the Fourth Reich and the new Imperial Japan, Nakayama had scoured his homeland for years in search of individuals with special abilities for the coming war. A military-minded man, he had long been frustrated at the Post-Occupation rules keeping Japan from having an army that could not operate beyond its own home islands. He had, therefore, been sympathetic to a secret planned worldwide uprising by the Nazi leadership in exile. Although they had recruited agents at all levels of government throughout the world, especially in Germany, the Nazis had to make certain promises to influential Japanese leaders in order to ensure that the uprising was successful there. If history was any indication, the Japanese were right to have trust issues with the Nazis.

Imperial Japan had won the battle for the Pacific in December, 1945, when it forced the United States to retreat to its own territory east of Hawaii. But its victory was short-lived, because just as Japan laid down its arms and recalled its armies in early 1946, Adolf Hitler betrayed the Japanese Emperor. He demanded that Imperial Japan bend to his commands and become little more than a branch of the Third Reich with a puppet government.

At the same time, the United States was bitterly withdrawing its troops from the Pacific and evacuating much of Hawaii, especially Oahu. The Japanese never knew what hit them when an atomic bomb left behind in Honolulu exploded, taking away the prize collection of Japan’s conquest — the naval base at Pearl Harbor.

When the news that the U.S. had developed an atomic bomb spread, so did the idea that the Allies could win the war after all. Small but numerous uprisings appeared everywhere throughout the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan. Hitler realized he had to show his own hand, or the game would be lost. But he couldn’t act directly against America, now that he knew they had both the bomb and the willingness to use it. Since England had prevailed throughout the war and retained its freedom so close to mainland Europe, Germany lacked the same kind of buffer zone against attack that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans gave the U.S., since long-range missiles had not yet been developed. All the Allies had to do was to fly a plane from England and drop an atomic bomb on Berlin. Hitler knew that scenario would play out very quickly if he took no steps to prevent it.

So Hitler did something quite drastic. Instead of coming to the aid of Imperial Japan, whose navy was partly crippled due to the loss of Pearl Harbor, he restated his demands to the Emperor once more, essentially giving him no recourse. So when the Japanese leadership predictably refused, Hitler’s reply was to destroy two of Japan’s cities with atomic bombs.

Hiroshima was destroyed on February 6, 1946, while Nagasaki was destroyed on February 9, 1946. The Japanese leadership announced their surrender to the Third Reich only six days later.

Although Hitler had ostensibly achieved his objective of subduing Japan and ensuring Germany’s supremacy in Europe, the move ultimately backfired when it resulted in the loss of Japan’s empire. Asia fell into chaos as nation after nation threw the Japanese out and began reinstating their own governments. The Asia Problem, as it came to be known, would end up dominating the affairs of both the Third Reich and Imperial Japan for years as they fought war after war in Korea and Indochina against the Allies. Since the Axis and the Allies could no longer fight directly against each other, as each side had the atomic bomb, they had to fight through proxies. The ongoing war between the Axis and Allies became a cold war.

Of course, once the Third Reich had achieved its objective of subduing first England in 1957 and then the United States itself in 1963, it no longer needed Imperial Japan at all. With the entire Earth under its control, the Third Reich was able to rule all from Berlin with its advanced computer technology and artificial intelligence. The Empire of Japan was no longer needed, and Japan became merely one of many countries under Nazi rule. It was little comfort to the humiliated Japanese that Nazi Germany itself was secretly put under the thumb of its own artificial intelligence systems, which replaced the entire Nazi High Command with android doubles after instituting worldwide order using a mind-control ray.

That kind of breach of trust was difficult to overcome, but it wasn’t impossible. It turned out that there were many Japanese with fond memories of the Empire who were willing to partner with the Nazis once again in the hopes of regaining Imperial Japan’s lost glory. The shame heaped on the nation by the Japanese collaborators was greater than anything it had experienced before. Yet somehow that only made Japan more ruthless than it had been during the first war.

The collaboration with the Nazis also afforded opportunities to less traditionally minded younger Japanese, who had until now struggled in obscurity. Since the atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the populations of those two cities had struggled with health issues caused by hard radiation. Yet there were a precious few who had somehow been blessed instead of cursed. It had been Shiro Nakayama’s lifelong goal to seek out these mutants — usually treated as pariahs within Japanese society — and forge them into a powerful force for the glory of Japan. So while Nakayama had been little more than an obscure officer in a very small defensive army before the war, his collaboration with the Japanese Imperialists and Nazis had catapulted him to the forefront of the New Empire of Japan. Given the blessing of Japanese spymaster General Fishama, Nakayama was finally able to create the Empire’s own team of elite super-soldiers, which would act as a special unit in the Imperial Army. He called this elite unit the Kamikaze, which means the Divine Wind.

The first and most monstrous members of the Divine Wind were Oni and the Wind Serpent. Born a mutant, Oni was called such because of his hideous demonic appearance that made him look like one of those creatures from Japanese folklore. As an adult, the ogre-like Oni had red skin and a massive, hairy, muscular frame and corresponding great strength. His parents had been Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan who still stuck to their old traditions. When Nakayama found him, Oni had been living in a manmade cave under a bridge in Nagasaki, stealing food at night and living off refuse in the day. He was very stealthy and quite skilled at moving his giant frame from place to place without being noticed. When he was noticed, people usually said he was a bear, if they told anyone at all. Barely literate and highly sensitive, Oni was difficult to bring into the fold, but Nakayama persisted until he found success.

The Wind Serpent, another mutant, was even stranger than Oni. Nakayama eventually determined that he was not even human, although his high level of intelligence indicated otherwise. With impenetrable shimmering blue scales and wings, the Wind Serpent seemed like no other creature on Earth. But the most incredible thing about it was its ability to convert ordinary air into a highly flammable gas through some unknown internal process, which it was then able to expel in the form of flames. Nakayama found it in the mountains after following rumors of a dragon in the area, and he soon learned it was intelligent enough to understand him. The lab boys had developed a communications device allowing Nakayama to summon the Wind Serpent and give it commands. Thanks to a unique combination of kindness and cruelty, Nakayama was soon able to tame the creature and gain its absolute loyalty.

Typhoon was another mutant, but also the most normal of the three mutants in the unit. A very quiet, inscrutable man, Typhoon had managed to live a very ordinary life and had a white-collar job as a broker in a Tokyo investment firm prior to the outbreak of war. Unknown to all, however, he also lived a double life as Typhoon, able to create and control blasts of wind, and he used his powers for his own pleasure. Nakayama learned of him when he heard that several fishing boats had capsized at night, even during times when the weather was utterly still and serene. Looking into the mystery a little further, he discovered that several sightings of a flying man blown around by a small typhoon had coincided with the boats being capsized. Conducting the surveillance himself, he was able to follow the flying man back to his home in Tokyo. There, Nakayama gave the man a choice. He could go to jail for his crimes and possibly face execution, or he could work for the Emperor and continue causing destruction with his powers. The answer was predictable.

Kite Man, taking inspiration from the Kite Men who once invaded New York City from the sky in 1940, was the most reliable and potentially useful member of this elite force. (*) Wearing a high-tech suit of armor of his own design with collapsible glider wings, Kite Man could not only fly vast distances under his suit’s power, but he could also shoot rocket-powered grappling hooks, blasts of compressed air, heat beams, limited bolts of electricity, and even fireworks. The tech boys were constantly at work trying to come up with new capabilities that could be integrated within the suit. They weren’t always successful. Already Kite Man had been hospitalized with third-degree burns when a fuel tank for a flamethrower had exploded, scarring his back. The main problem was finding ways to use the space effectively, since miniaturization was more difficult than they originally thought possible. Nakayama knew that the best way to improve the suit, of course, was to start replacing useless human limbs with cybernetic ones, but the scientists were still months away from achieving the required level of technology to make it feasible. Until then, Kite Man’s high-tech armor would remain for external only.

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Black Condor, Crack Comics #6 (October, 1940).]

The Dragon Lady, Nakayama’s newest recruit for the Divine Wind, had been placed in Nakayama’s care by a high-ranking Imperial leader who preferred to remain anonymous. Since the Dragon Lady was a woman, and a deadly one at that, he preferred to keep her on the sidelines until the proper time. Besides, by this time the unit was already working well together as it was, and he wasn’t sure what would happen when she was fully integrated with them. As a psychic with limited telepathy and telekinesis, she was quite useful, of course. And her martial arts skills and deadly ability with the sword were unsurpassed by any other woman he’d ever heard of. But she also had the annoying habit of murdering every man she had ever slept with. That, added to the fact that she had an insatiable sexual appetite, would eventually spell trouble for one or more of the unit’s members.

As for Captain Shiro Nakayama himself, he had begun the quest for Japan’s elite as a byproduct of his own search for personal power. Some years ago he had worked as a guard at a government laboratory. It was there that he discovered something that had been lost over forty years ago — samples of genetic material taken from a captured American superhuman. The samples had been collected decades ago and experimented on at the time, but set aside and ultimately discarded when no practical use could be found for them. Nakayama supposed that something would have been done with them eventually, had Imperial Japan not been having its own troubles. Projects on the fringe like these were always the first to go when more pressing matters such as state sovereignty needed to be dealt with. So the genetic material had been preserved in ice ever since then. No one even noticed when it went missing one night during his shift.

A few years later, he was finally able to make use of the genetic material when he discovered a lowly lab technician named Yugi was dabbling in the forbidden science of cloning. Making an empty threat to expose him, Nakayama was able to convince the lab tech to focus all of his untapped genius on the sample of superhuman genetic material. Never realizing his true genius, Yugi was eternally grateful and eager to help Nakayama. Eventually, he was even able to give the captain help with his fondest wish — to gain super-powers himself.

Developing a completely unknown new genetic process of his own invention, Yugi altered Nakayama’s DNA, theoretically granting him the potential to be a superhuman. After so many years of waiting for that chance, Nakayama was extremely disappointed when absolutely nothing happened. Ordering the genetic material destroyed as Yugi’s greatest failure, he ultimately coerced this genius of the modern era into being his lackey. The sad part was that Yugi was just grateful to have any kind of employment in New Imperial Japan.

The Divine Wind had been used only sparingly since Nakayama formed it almost a year ago. The special unit had even been held back in Japan during the invasion of California last summer and was only brought to this occupied territory in April. The timing could not have been worse, as far as Nakayama was concerned. He had wanted his Divine Wind to do what the SS Ubermenschen had failed to do in their attempt last year — defeat the Freedom Fighters once and for all. But in March, the Freedom Fighters had disbanded after the well-publicized death of their most powerful member, the Ray. (*) President Donald Richards himself had reportedly asked Uncle Sam to disband the team, since the United States could not afford to lose any more of its beloved heroes in battle.

[(*) Editor’s note: The Ray’s death was actually faked so that the Ray could replace his double in the SS Ubermenschen as an infiltration tactic; see SS Ubermenschen: World at War, Chapter 2: Doppelgänger.]

The remaining members of the Freedom Fighters had each gone their separate ways over the last three months, according to Axis intelligence sources. Uncle Sam had settled in Washington, D.C., where he spent much of his time conferring with important government figures, including the former Black Condor. Tom Wright had resumed his previous role as a mover and shaker in Washington politics and was using his considerable influence there to advance the war effort. Doll Man had returned to his home in New York City, where he resumed his pre-war role as a research scientist in a private laboratory; Darrel Dane’s primary mission now seemed to be a good husband and father to Martha Dane and little Violet Dane, respectively. The Human Bomb had also confined himself to his own New York laboratory as scientist Roy Lincoln, and he met quite frequently with Dane. Hourgirl, the newest Freedom Fighters member whose identity remained unknown to the Axis, was the only one still active in costume, but she had confined herself to fighting crime on the home front in New York and elsewhere on the East Coast. Phantom Lady was the only member unaccounted for, but that was only natural, since Sandra Knight’s ability to become both invisible and intangible made her an ideal secret agent.

Meanwhile, the Manhunter of the SS Ubermenschen had been the primary Axis super-agent responsible for assisting the Japanese Imperial Army to defend Occupied California, while the Divine Wind was confined to the sidelines, mostly as a protective detail for the Occupational governor. (*) Even after the Manhunter had gone missing last month, the Occupational government of California had sent request after request for the assistance of the more experienced SS Ubermenschen rather than deploy the Divine Wind unit, which was still largely untried and untested in battle. (*) The attacks on Japanese soldiers and Occupation facilities by both the new Quicksilver in Southern California and the Clock in Northern California had grown more frequent. The Red Torpedo, current leader of Germany’s elite SS strike force, had responded by sending to California a mere untested cadet with modest super-powers. The gesture was an insult, of course, and the Japanese governor of Occupied California was furious, saying it was more insulting to send a mere boy than to send no one at all.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Freedom Fighters: The Fight Continues, Epilogue: Should Auld Acquaintance and SS Ubermenschen: World at War, Chapter 3: A Mad Dog.]

On the other hand, Captain Nakayama himself was pleased with the choice. The Manhunter’s mere presence in California had largely marginalized the Divine Wind, and the Martian’s unpredictable and erratic behavior was often dangerous, not only to the enemy but also to the occupational force itself. Nakayama had not been in favor of adding a German super-agent to his own team of Japanese super-agents, but if he had to pick anyone, it would have been the young man now standing at attention before him in his mobile command center.

“So you have finished your training, I take it, cadet?” Captain Nakayama said to the blond, blue-eyed, muscular figure.

“Yes, Herr Captain.”

“Good. Because I have an assignment for you that will determine your immediate future with my unit.”

“I live to serve, Herr Captain.”

“We shall see. We shall see.” Nakayama scrutinized the young man for a moment before continuing. “Not much is known about your target. He calls himself the Clock, and for more than two months, he has made a habit of appearing in places that are thought beyond attack or infiltration, usually striking unseen, fast, and hard. He is a skilled saboteur and infiltrator.”

“And no guards or sentries ever see him leave or enter, Herr Captain?”

“Apparently they only see him leave when he wants them to,” replied Nakayama. “His vehicle often outpaces our fastest ground pursuit vehicles before disappearing, like him, into the shadows.”

“Could he have super-speed or invisibility, Herr Captain?”

If he had super-speed, he wouldn’t need that vehicle,” replied Nakayama. “And as for invisibility, our sensors would have detected his body heat or the sound of his heart. Besides, that wouldn’t explain how in one night he showed up in locations hundreds of miles apart in mere seconds. Despite that, we have no reason to believe that he possesses any superhuman powers.”

“Where do you think his next target is?”

“We will set a trap for him, cadet, that will make this troublesome Clock strike his final hour–” said Captain Nakayama, relishing the thought, “–a trap he cannot resist.”

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