Feature: The Clock Strikes, Chapter 2: Prisoners of War

by Christine Nightstar and Doc Quantum

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“I can’t believe that they would be so stupid as to try another convoy so soon after the last one,” muttered the Clock to himself as he looked down through binoculars onto the procession of trucks and troops below him. A helicopter was scanning the buildings with a spotlight, watching for any signs of an attack from above. It’s along the same route and timetable, too, he thought. Looks like the Scarlet Seal was right, though. There are more of them from here, and air cover as well. And they’re also better armed than the last batch. Be a shame to disappoint them. After all, it looks like they went to so much trouble for this parade.

The Clock ducked into the roof access door as the helicopter shined its light on the building he was observing from.

“We have movement in a building in sector four,” the helicopter pilot said as the light was focused on the rooftop door. “Shall we attack, sir?”

“No, but deploy a small contingent from your unit to investigate,” Captain Shiro Nakayama said from the mobile command center overlooking the area. “And, Unit Beta, enter the building from the ground. If we have onlookers, bring them to me. Surely this will roust the Clock from his lair.”

It seems I have visitors, thought the Clock as he moved down the stairwell, jumping down through the middle to the bottom floor. “I wonder who it is tonight?” he muttered, bouncing from staircase to staircase on his way down. Too bad I don’t have time to play with them.

The shock troops entering from the ground floor caught him bouncing by as they broke into the stairwell access. “Team A, go up and see that he’s not alone,” said an officer. “Team B and I will follow him. Team C, stay here — if he gets by you, I’ll see you sent to the front.”

The Clock had shrunken to the size of a dust particle and now clung to the bottom of the boot as the Unit Beta commander stepped right over him off the last stairway.

This has all the earmarks of a fun evening, the Clock thought to himself as he climbed up the uniform of the commander, not even being heard by the person he was scaling.

Team B searched the whole basement, and the stairwell was searched twice by those deployed from the helicopter and Team A. Team C reported that they had seen neither him nor anyone else get by them. The helicopter contingent had grabbed several people who looked out the doors as they stormed through the building.

“Captain Nakayama won’t like this news,” the Unit Beta commander said as she unknowingly carried her prey right past her own people.

Nakayama? thought the Clock. If the Divine Wind’s commander is behind this, it’s just getting more and more interesting. Dropping from the commander’s belt, he allowed the soldiers to pass over him. By the time they were a fair distance away, he slowly resumed his full size before firing his stun-guns right at their unprotected necks.

The stun-guns hit with enough force to knock each one out. Six men were unconscious before they could realize what was happening. The commander looked to see the Clock for the first time.

“What does the Divine Wind want with me?” the Clock asked.

“He wants your reign of terror to stop, masked fool,” spat the female Japanese soldier.

“‘Fool’? I’m hurt, but not as hurt as the rest of your troops are going to be. If you really want my ‘reign of terror,’ as you put it, to end, all your leaders have to do is stop this senseless war.” She didn’t notice the green fumes emanating from the downed soldiers. “You have approximately thirty seconds until the rest of your men pass out. And thank you for the batteries from your communicator.” Bouncing a pair of batteries in his left hand, he kept his right hand on his remaining stun-gun, which was still pointed at her.

She growled at him without checking to see that her communicator was functioning. And one by one, the soldiers beside and in front of her dropped like flies because of the fumes.

He fired at her, hitting her square in the middle of her forehead and knocking her as unconscious as her fellow soldiers. Before exiting the building, he put the batteries back in his utility belt, gave the embattled tenants the antidote to his knockout drugs, told them to go hide someplace safe, and picked up the commander’s communicator headset.

“This is the Clock to Captain Nakayama,” he said into it. “Come in, Nakayama.”

“This is Captain Nakayama. Who are you? How did you get this frequency?”

“The Clock, and does it really matter how I got it?” said the Clock. “I just wanted to let you know that those teams you sent into the buildings are going to need help leaving. They’re quite unconscious.”

Nakayama replied, “So you are showing mercy, or are you merely playing with me?”

“That’s for you to find out. But I’m going to let this convoy go tonight. I have other peoples’ nights to ruin as well as yours. We will speak again.”

The Clock kept the headset and listened, hearing orders given to all vehicles to form up a mile south of their current location. He kept monitoring the convoy through the night. The helicopters landed every few hours to get enough fuel to keep monitoring the area.

Apparently, the few buildings near the convoy route didn’t seem to be a sufficient example to punish the Clock for his insolence in Nakayama’s eyes. He would get this Clock and see that he was punished for his crimes against the Imperial Army.

***

“Greeting, dahlings, this is San Fran Sue, the voice of the Resistance on Free California Radio,” a woman’s voice said over the radio at about eleven A.M.

“It seems that our favorite Imperial Army super-agents, the Divine Wind, are taking an interest in one of our Resistance heroes. Be careful, Clock — Captain Nakayama is mightily upset with how you made a joke of his trap. And, Captain, don’t feel too bad you didn’t catch him. He’s probably more of a man than you could handle, even if you did.

“Resistance and privateer forces made fools of Admiral Oruku’s forces just south of Baja. You won’t be able to keep the Pacific your own personal pool indefinitely. Japanese fighter planes and submarines alike have been on the hunt for the Blue Tracer, piloted by California’s own Captain Billy Dunn and Bomber Jones. (*) The new Blackhawks have been pounding Axis aerial forces across Europe in a series of daring raids, undoubtedly assisted by the Marksman and his merry band of small-time crooks-turned-European Resistance fighters. (*) And the Allied forces in both West Africa and East Africa have finally combined their forces and are slowly retaking Central Africa from the Italian occupation, despite reinforcements from Germany. Give ’em hell, boys.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Feature: The Blue Tracer: Blue Traces, Blackhawk: The Cry of the Hawk, and The Marksman: Unusual Suspects.]

“In free Los Angeles, Allied and Resistance forces have been rallying around that masked marvel known as Quicksilver, the speedster responsible not only for hospitalizing but also capturing the Manhunter for the army boys. (*) Keep it up, young Mr. Quick — we always knew you had it in you. More news tonight at the regular time. And as for you Japs and Krauts listening, give it up now. Save yourself more humiliation. This has been San Fran Sue, the voice of the Resistance on Free California Radio.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Quicksilver: The Fall of Los Angeles.]

A hand turned off the radio. “Why do we allow her to say those things, when all we have to do is march right down to her station and pull the plug?” the SS Ubermenschen cadet asked Captain Shiro Nakayama, who was sitting at his desk looking over all sightings of the Clock for the last week.

“It’s not as easy as all that,” replied Nakayama without looking up. “That fortress that the Resistance uses for her broadcast — Alcatraz — would cost us more manpower to take it than it’s worth. Besides, she provides us with better insight into the California Resistance than you may understand.”

“But she shows them where you’re weakest and gives them hope,” replied the cadet.

“A good warrior hides his weaknesses from his enemies,” said Nakayama. “A great warrior uses his weaknesses to lull his enemies into a greater trap.”

“I don’t understand, sir.”

“That is why I command the Divine Wind, and you are just a cadet.”

“Yes, Herr Captain.”

***

A P.O.W. camp in Occupied California:

Another person turned off the radio and spoke to a man lying on the floor, working on a vehicle.

“Sue’s right, Les. You’re going to have to be careful now that Nakayama and his Divine Wind unit are on your case.”

“Hand me the three-eighths head for my ratchet, will you, Jerry?”

“Are you even listening to me, Lester?” said Jerry Noble, an athletic young man with short brown hair. He had been an officer in the Marines until the invasion, when he went underground and began using his military skills to train people, and his charisma to draw new recruits into the California Resistance. Months ago, he had been caught and sent to this P.O.W. camp, but he merely turned it into a new home base for his Resistance group. The Japanese had no idea that they had the famed Yankee Eagle under their very noses.

“I hear you,” replied Lester Colt. “And I also remember you telling me to have these trucks ready for the raid Saturday night as well.”

“You cut it close returning last night — have a bit too much fun harassing Nakayama, did we?” Noble asked as he handed the ratchet head to the other man.

“Well, I can’t say it wasn’t a rush, because it was,” said Lester. “But it seemed sort of strange, like he was trying to lure me out for a confrontation. I’m not enough of a fool to take on an army company and however many of his super-flunkies Nakayama brought with him. Now we know he’s in our field and just need to divert his attention from you and the Resistance, so you can do your thing. That’s where I come in.” Lester pushed himself out from under the truck.

“What do you think you are?” asked Jerry Noble. “Some sort of Uncle Sam or Human Bomb?”

“Nah. I’m the Clock. And I can’t just sit on my butt with my finger in my nose and do nothing while the Nazis take over the world.”

“You are one strange man, Les,” Noble said.

“Thanks. And you are one strange jarhead.”

“Shinjiro was talking about another training session tomorrow,” said Noble.

“What the–?” replied Lester. “He must like proving that he can kick our butts whenever he wants. I’m still sore from the last session. Think I landed wrong.”

Jerry Noble shrugged. “He keeps telling you that you need to learn how to land properly, but you don’t seem to listen to him.”

“And you do? I saw you rubbing your backside after the last session, too.”

“Well, he caught me off-guard,” said Noble sheepishly. The two Resistance leaders laughed at the situation, but both were dreading the training session.

Shinjiro Hamato was an American-born Japanese citizen, a loyal American, and — unbeknownst to his captors — a Ninjitsu master. He had been a Marine reservist with the rank of sergeant before the invasion. Now in his fifties, he was one of the few Resistance members who had been alive during World War II, although he had just been a boy then. He was the Resistance’s silent weapons expert and training officer.

Colonel Kirisu was the camp commandant and was a very capable administrator. That being said, he wasn’t much of a military disciplinarian. He had been put in charge of a prison camp because he had accidentally enraged a German ambassador to Japan. He was seen flirting with the ambassador’s daughter, a college girl receptive to the amorous young officer. At the time, Occupied California was as far as he could be sent without directly handing him over to the Americans.

For discipline, Colonel Kirisu usually let his executive officer, Captain Oruku, run the camp. Oruku, a spoiled nephew of the admiral of the Imperial Navy, was quick to judge and punish but didn’t quite follow the rules or do the paperwork for his actions. So when reports were sent to command, Colonel Kirisu looked better than he actually was, and Oruku rarely had his name heard around command headquarters.

The senior sergeants at the camp had been career soldiers and were very efficient at their jobs. Most were willing to make up reasons to discipline prisoners and were very creative about their reasons, except for the most senior sergeant. There was Kaneda, Tanaka, and Osato. Kaneda liked to walk around the camp with a riding crop, his favorite way of disciplining the prisoners. Tanaka, who ran the solitary confinement area, preferred to torment the prisoners by keeping lights on in cells all night and playing military marches at obnoxious volumes during the day. Sleep deprivation made many despise their time in solitary. Osato, the most senior sergeant, did very little on a day-to-day basis, but when he did discipline the prisoners, he was the most twisted of them all. His methods defied explanation, but of all the camp’s staff, he was also the most respected by the prisoners as well as the most feared.

The man known to the California Resistance only as the Scarlet Seal was one of several unnamed German advisors sent to assist the Japanese Imperial Army. He was assigned to the P.O.W. camp staff, and how he acquired such a position was beyond understanding, but he was secretly sympathetic to the Resistance and was its information source in the High Command. The Scarlet Seal was a strategist, planner, and schemer, but he was also fairly disorganized and could be unreliable. He had an ego the size of his intellect and was positively manic at times, but he was also an unstoppable information-gatherer. Though a lot of the Scarlet Seal’s leads didn’t make sense until after the mission was over, they were always solid. Lester often speculated whether the Scarlet Seal was from an old German noble family that had always despised the Nazis. Given his personality quirks, it seemed likely to him.

The other members of this Resistance cell were also prisoners of war. Kerrigan, the communications person who kept them linked to other Resistance cells, was also the group’s scrounger. He was a likeable enough person, but he had a habit of taking things without asking, and when he was caught in the act, he laid it on thick. Kerrigan always did get what the group needed and wanted, but there were times when his methods were highly questionable. Partly because of him, Lester always kept his tools and gear locked up and shrunk to a minute size, just in case.

Red Rogers was the Resistance’s explosives person, though she had a habit of playing around with other things as well. One of her favorite toys was a sonic cannon. She made most of the ammunition that the group and the Clock used. Her favorite stun-guns were those filled with incendiaries and acid. Red never seemed to be listening to anyone, because she wore a Walkman all the time. She had been in Jerry Noble’s Resistance cell when they were captured.

Skye Satin was the group’s forger and counterfeiter. She had been a British Intelligence agent before allowing herself to get caught, and she was sent to Colonel Kirisu’s camp on the recommendation of the Scarlet Seal. Travel orders, uniforms, and identity papers were common everyday items for Skye. She and Kerrigan had worked together often, mostly to get supplies that the Resistance needed. Skye had made it known several times that she was interested in Jerry Noble, but Noble had always kept her at arm’s length. Everyone knew he was still carrying a torch for Sandra Knight, alias the Phantom Lady of the Freedom Fighters. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Freedom Fighters: The Fight Continues, Chapter 9: The Yankee Eagle.]

The California Resistance cell operating out of the camp had found ways to leave without being seen. This was quite a feat, since almost all the barracks were on stilts four feet above ground, and the only way out of the barracks without being seen was through the plumbing or cooling vents. In order to keep from getting caught, each one of them had memorized the daily schedule.

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