by Doc Quantum and Christine Nightstar
The blond SS Ubermenschen cadet on loan to the Divine Wind was standing over an ordinary-looking, bespectacled elderly man, who was struggling to rise while gasping for breath. The cadet had been toying with him, striking a casual blow each time the old man tried to rise and fight back. This old man was a lot tougher than he looked, but his age and poor health still worked against him.
“Feel honored, mein herr, that you will be killed by a member of Der Fuhrer’s elite,” said the cadet.
“Who are you?” Stormy Foster demanded, his voice weak. He looked at the cadet’s uniform, which was a corrupted version of that worn by one of the world’s greatest heroes. “You aren’t Doll Man.”
“I am the new, improved Dollman, mein herr,” said the cadet. “And you are but — what would you say? — road kill under the Fuhrer’s tire.” At that, he pulled out a Luger pistol and prepared to do away with the hero once known as the Great Defender. “Auf wiedersehen,” he muttered casually.
“Farewell, yourself,” said a voice from behind him.
“Vas?” muttered Dollman in surprise. He turned, only to receive a punch in the face. Another blow to his hand immediately disarmed him.
“This man is under my protection now,” said the voice.
Dollman looked up and saw a man wearing a tattered, threadbare brown business suit and an equally tattered brown fedora. He was pointing the Luger pistol at him. Although the man was silhouetted by the light behind him, the Nazi super-agent could see that this man was just as old as the one he was just about to finish off. He laughed.
“Have I stumbled upon an old volks’ home by accident?” he said, grinning.
“Never you mind, Ratzi,” spat the old man in the fedora. “I could sense your evil from a hundred miles away, and I’m here to stop you from killing this man.”
“Ach,” said Dollman. He raised his hands in the air in a mock gesture and said, “Well, it seems that you have me. You have successfully stopped me from killing the Great Defender. But I have one question to ask of you.”
The old man in the fedora said nothing, still holding the pistol at the Nazi super-agent.
“Who will stop me from killing you?” At that, the SS Ubermenschen cadet called Dollman disappeared from sight.
The old man looked around, then shot the gun at a scurrying figure on the floor. It was, of course, the Nazi Dollman, who had shrunk to a height of six inches and was running into another room. The elderly man in the brown suit and fedora ran after him.
With great difficulty, Stormy Foster brought himself to his feet. Walking to the basement door, he went downstairs as fast as he could, worry etched on his face as he heard a struggle on the main floor above him. There was nothing he could do. If he took a Super-Vitamin pill in his poor condition, he would likely have another heart attack and probably die instead of becoming the hero known as the Great Defender and helping the stranger who had saved his life. But his adoptive daughter was an active member of the Freedom Fighters known as Hourgirl, and she had prepared his house for this kind of possibility. All he needed to do was get into the cellar, and he was home free.
Reaching the cellar floor, he was alarmed to note that he could no longer hear any sounds from upstairs. Thankfully, his wife and teenage son were out of town at the moment, so he wouldn’t have to worry about them. But it seemed to be too late for his mysterious savior.
“Where are you going, old man?” called Dollman from upstairs in a sing-song voice.
Stormy’s breathing became labored as he fumbled in the darkness, finally locating the chamber he sought. He heard footsteps coming down the stairs into the basement as he punched in a code and a door swung silently open. Rushing inside the chamber, he closed the door just as the steps came closer.
Inside, a dim lighting revealed a secret chamber stocked with breathable air and enough food to last for days. It was a panic room. A monitor screen flickered to life, showing a camera angle from outside the house. Fumbling at the controls, Stormy ran through several other camera angles from around his large house and finally saw a view in the living room upstairs. His heart sank immediately. As he’d feared, the elderly man who had saved his life had fallen and was apparently now dead.
Stormy switched to the camera angle that revealed the basement and saw that the SS super-agent called Dollman was already there, standing at his full height as if waiting. He turned on the intercom and said, “You won’t get away with this.”
“So you are in there,” said the Nazi’s voice over the intercom. “I was wondering what would possess an old man to lock himself away in a chamber with no hope of rescue. Surely you do not think that this will stop me.”
“It doesn’t need to stop you for long,” said Stormy. “Just long enough for Hourgirl and several of her super-powered allies to arrive and place your unconscious body into custody.”
Dollman laughed again, somewhat nervously this time. “Unconscious body? You’re bluffing, old man.”
“Am I?” said Stormy. “You seem to think that I’m locked away from you. But you’re the one who’s locked in here with me. Good night, mein herr.”
At that, he pressed a button that firmly sealed the windows and doors. A moment later, Dollman realized that gas was being released into the basement from several sources. Covering his face, he shrunk to his six-inch height and began searching for an exit.
June 24, 1986, 17:00:
The World War II-era mystery-man and one-time member of the Freedom Fighters called the Great Defender was attacked last night by an unknown assailant. Although this former Freedom Fighter survived the attack, another individual did not. An elderly masked man who bought the Great Defender enough time to escape was brutally killed in Foster’s home. All that was left on the body, discovered by Hourgirl of the Freedom Fighters, was a bloody Nazi armband. The state of the body was found in has not been released at this time.
American Press Service
“Hello, dahlings, this is San Fran Sue, the voice of the Resistance on Free California Radio, with an update on the attack on the Great Defender and the death of a mystery-man. Unrevealed sources tell us that this mystery-man killed by the unknown assailant was, in fact, the obscure World War II-era hero known only as Destiny. His body was found with a set of dinner knives driven into it. Surprisingly, those injuries did not kill him, although they were a contributing factor. He was finally killed by a bullet shot from a Luger pistol into his head, execution-style.
“President Richards has declared that the death of this hero will not go unavenged. Sources close to the president say that he is re-forming the Freedom Fighters, which disbanded three months ago with the death of the Ray. More on the new Freedom Fighters as it develops.”
A hand turned off the radio.
“Although your target still remains alive, the message we meant to send has been received by the death of this Destiny,” said General Ernst Hofstadter. “Well done, cadet — or should I call you Agent Dollman now? An excellent flourish, leaving your armband as a calling card. We shall expect great things from you.”
“Thank you, Herr General,” said Dollman. “It was my pleasure to perform such a duty.”
“Killing an old man is one thing, General,” said Captain Shiro Nakayama, “but we are still having problems arresting the Clock.”
“Quite so, Herr Captain, quite so,” replied Hofstadter. “It seems this costumed interloper has gone to ground for a while. That is all right. I have every confidence that you will not fail me or the Axis in your task.”
“Yes, Herr General.”
“A very important guest will be arriving before daylight,” continued Hofstadter. “He must travel only by night, and his time is invaluable, so I expect you will make him feel welcome when he arrives. He has agreed to aid us in putting an end to this Clock once and for all. I wished that you could have accomplished this on your own, but neither the German High Command nor even your own leadership has much faith in the Divine Wind to carry out this task. It seems that they consider your special unit to be mere window-dressing, and until I see evidence otherwise, I’m afraid I have to agree. Our guest will be in touch with you shortly, Herr Captain. Next time I see you, I want to hear that the Clock is no more.”
Nakayama bowed slightly. “Yes, Herr General.”
“As for who is next on Agent Dollman’s list…” General Hofstadter began coldly, turning to the young SS Ubermenschen agent. “I want you to kill a retired FBI agent named O’Brian. Make sure Plastic Man dies — and stays dead this time.”
Over the next month, Captain Shiro Nakayama and the Divine Wind started hunting the Clock in earnest, as the captain was determined to capture or kill the Clock before the Germans’ special agent steal the glory from them. But even the combined efforts of Kite Man, Typhoon, Oni, and the Wind Serpent were unable to trap the masked hero of the Resistance.
During that time, the Clock saw the last three Resistance operations fail. The Scarlet Seal’s intel was good and solid, and the gear was in top shape, as were the Resistance members themselves. But the Japanese and their German advisors were always waiting for them. Somehow they were being alerted to the Resistance’s movements and cutting them off at the pass. Two of the botched missions had failed because the targets were on high alert when the Resistance was expecting them to be asleep or otherwise occupied.
The third botched mission involved getting an Axis defector out of Occupied California. The Clock wanted to do the job singlehandedly, but he was overruled by the Axis defector himself, who didn’t trust the Clock and barely trusted the Yankee Eagle and the others. The mission was slow and tedious, taking most of the night, though the Resistance didn’t run into many patrols on the way there. But all was for naught when it turned out that the supposed defector was none other than the Silver Ghost, the long-missing enemy of the Freedom Fighters. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Freedom Fighters: The Fight Continues, Chapter 18: Heir Apparent.]
It was still an hour or so before dawn when the group barely escaped without being captured themselves. Red Rogers and Kerrigan were seriously injured, while Lester barely had time to switch to his Clock identity.
The Clock and the Silver Ghost faced off for the first time; Lester knew what to expect, because Darrel Dane had told him how he and the Freedom Fighters had fought the Silver Ghost a decade ago during their stay on Earth-One. The Silver Ghost had the power to transform objects and people into silver and control them in that form. But the Silver Ghost was supposed to be dead; Raphael Van Zandt had died fighting Firebrand back in 1978. (*) Still, death hadn’t stopped Lester, so why should it have stopped the Silver Ghost?
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Death in Silver,” Cancelled Comic Cavalcade #2 (Fall, 1978).]
“Looking for me, Von Zell?” said the Clock, appearing from the mist on his bike. “Or should I call you Dick?”
“Intriguing,” said the Silver Ghost, his voice a dry whisper. “Very few individuals currently living know that I am Richard Von Zell.” It was true; Von Zell was the most notorious name in America as the man who had, back in 1963, betrayed his country to briefly serve as chief magistrate for the Nazi German government in the Occupied United States. “That narrows down your true identity to a very short list of possibilities. You played your hand too soon. But you are also a better prize than these California Resistance fools.”
“Sorry, I forgot you prefer to be called Raphael Van Zandt these days,” said the Clock. “Anyway, let’s play,” he added, racing off just in time to avoid a blast from the Silver Ghost that would have transmuted him into silver.
Impressively, the Silver Ghost managed to keep pace with the Clock on his custom motorcycle over all sorts of terrain, even cutting the Clock off a few times. Lester didn’t want to reveal his abilities to the Silver Ghost just yet, so he wouldn’t try shrinking without raising a dense smokescreen first.
“You do have powers after all, don’t you, Clock?” called Van Zandt. “The Japs doubted it, but I can see no other possibility for your impressive successes as of late.”
“If I was to tell you that, I’d only be taken to a laboratory rather than an SS-run prison camp,” said the Clock’s voice, coming from multiple directions at once, causing the Silver Ghost to stop in his tracks in an effort to figure out where he was.
“Shrewd, too, I see,” said Van Zandt, “using speakers and smokescreens as well as your natural abilities. What are those abilities, Clock? Danger-triggered teleportation? Density-control? You wouldn’t use that remarkable vehicle of yours if you had super-speed like that new Quicksilver.”
Suddenly, the Silver Ghost was rocked by the Clock’s telekinetic blast, causing him to convulse long enough for the Clock and the Resistance members to make their escape.
“Very interesting…” the Silver Ghost said, once he’d caught his breath.
“This is San Fran Sue, the voice of the Resistance, with the latest news of what’s happening. It seems our beloved Resistance hero the Clock has had a close call with none other than the Silver Ghost, who paid a visit to our fair state to set a trap for our brothers and sisters south of here. There was a short chase, but the Clock got away. It’s been one month since the Axis declared war on the Clock, Herr Silver Ghost — take the hint. You aren’t going to be the one to catch him. We in the Resistance are glad to have him on our side.” There was the sound of a kiss being blown.
“Billy Dunn and Bomber Jones have currently put the Nazi Red Torpedo into dry dock. After their first confrontation on the high Atlantic, it’s the Blue Tracer one, Red Torpedo zip. That serves you right for taking the name of a Freedom Fighter, R.T. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army under General Timmy Frink — with a little assistance from the new Quicksilver — are slowly clearing out Southern California. It’s only a matter of time before we can say sayonara to the Axis in the northern part of this state, too.
“In overseas news, that mad genius known only as the Jester — still evading the SS Ubermenschen at every turn –has struck again in Occupied England, hacking into the Nazi Internet to spread a computer virus that wiped out all digital files containing the names of suspected members of the English Resistance. (*) All that work down the drain! Better luck next time, Fritz! Meanwhile, the Blackhawks coordinated with the European Resistance to bomb a few Nazi bomb-making factories along the Rhine. Oh, the irony!
“With the help of Allied forces. Africa is slowly becoming unified in its own resistance efforts. But as we’ve discovered, a large part of the thanks goes to the efforts of two new figures working independently under the semi-legendary names of Abdul the Arab and Samar of the Jungle. (*) But pushing the Italian Occupation force back still looks to be a long and bloody process, especially now that thousands of fresh German troops are being shipped into North Africa.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Samar, Feature Comics #32 (May, 1940) and Abdul the Arab, Smash Comics #1 (August 1939).]
“Closer to home, another ally of the Freedom Fighters was apparently killed last night. The legendary Freedom Fighter called Plastic Man was alone in his New York City home late last night when the SS’s newest super-agent arrived and murdered him in his sleep, using a powerful chemical agent to dissolve his body. Those of you old enough to remember would know that this wasn’t the first time Plastic Man was thought dead, but sadly, this time it seems permanent.
“The assassin’s identity? None other than Dollman. No, not the retired member of the Freedom Fighters, but yet another Nazi super-agent taking the name of an American hero for his own. This Nazi Dollman also claims responsibility for the death of Destiny. Who’s next, Herr Dollman? Are you going to just kill old men who are past their prime, or are you going to actually get into this war and fight someone closer to your own age?
“Sources close to the Freedom Fighters say the team’s comeback is imminent, though with a larger membership than ever seen before. Potentially, every costumed hero — even those who are already members of other teams — could become a member of the new Freedom Fighters, according to President Richards’ plan. No word yet on whether Uncle Sam is ready to step back into the reins of leadership, or whether someone else will give it the old college try.”