Feature: The Clock Strikes, Chapter 5: The Rock

by Christine Nightstar and Doc Quantum

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It was getting harder to harass General Hofstadter’s staff, but the Clock had convinced a number of them to take up residence offshore in Japanese warships instead of the comfy, unsecured four- and five-star hotel rooms that had been their homes away from home.

But Ernst Hofstadter was tired of the hassle of having to wait for his staff to return to shore from the secured warships and join him in his war room. The Clock had even visited him and threatened him once when he was alone, but he managed to make his escape before Hofstadter could summon his guards. Still, the German general could not see how such a tall person could get by all the guards surrounding his office. His guards were sent immediately to the front and replaced with better-trained guards, or so he thought.

Lester Colt had done his job well, but he knew he couldn’t remain with Jerry Noble and others in the P.O.W. camp indefinitely, now that he was the target of the Silver Ghost after their initial close call with the American Nazi. Lester decided he had to go.

“So where are you off to, Les?” asked Red Rogers, who was still recuperating from her injuries.

“Not far,” said Lester. “Just far away enough that the Silver Ghost and his flunkies aren’t beating at your door constantly.”

“It won’t be the same without you.”

“I won’t be forgetting you guys soon, either,” said Lester. “Took me two weeks of looking when Kerrigan borrowed my wire clippers to get them back. And you, Red — who else am I going to get to wake me up in the morning by scaring the crud out of me with loud music?”

“He does have to go, Red, but he doesn’t have to be forgotten by us,” said Skye Satin as she walked into the tunnel, followed by Jerry Noble.

“I know you’re still smitten with the Phantom Lady, Jerry, but if you don’t wake up and see this beautiful Englishwoman next to you, I may have to sweep her off her feet myself,” said Lester with a grin.

Jerry Noble pursed his lips rather than let himself be drawn into this old conversation once more. His devotion to Sandra Knight was known by all in this room.

“Don’t be a stranger, Lester,” said Skye.

“He couldn’t be any stranger than he already is,” joked Noble, “but do keep in touch, Les.”

“If I do, I’ll keep it short,” said Lester, his voice serious once more at the thought of leaving what had become his home for the past three months. “We can’t have the SS find you because of me.”

“Agreed,” said Jerry Noble with a nod of his head. “Better get going, Mr. Clock.”

***

July 28, 1986, 15:00:

The rebuilt U.S. Navy fleet has begun its campaign to take back the Pacific. Over sixty new prototype submarines and aircraft carriers with support craft have been reported in the South Pacific, joining the already-large task force assigned to take back the Pacific. Four thousand new fighters, bombers, and support aircraft are reported to have been built as well.

The Navy fleet in the North Atlantic is working hard to liberate former Allies such as United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Greenland. Pushing the German armada back to Nazi Germany will be a slow and long process, say sources within the Pentagon.

Wartime production is far outstripping that of previous wars. The number of ships being built and locations of shipyards are top secret, but we will have the power in numbers and firepower to do what we promised by the end of the year, added President Donald Richards.

When asked about his enlarged Freedom Fighters idea proposed last month, Richards replied, “Heroes everywhere are called to action to fight this menace. We propose to include every Allied super-hero and crime-fighter as members, not just those who were members of the Freedom Fighters in the past. With Uncle Sam playing an invaluable new role in Washington, plans are in motion to name a temporary new field commander for the Freedom Fighters by September at the latest.”

American Press Service

***

The new Dollman had proven himself a cunning and ruthless assassin, killing Destiny and Plastic Man without being caught, leaving Captain Shiro Nakayama and the super-agents of the Divine Wind to continue their pursuit of the Clock and the California Resistance. But now, since the arrival of the Silver Ghost, Captain Nakayama found his hands continually bound and the Divine Wind sidelined by what that silver-costumed fool had to say. It was difficult enough as it was to get a meeting with General Hofstadter, but now Nakayama found that the decisions he and the Nazi advisor had agreed upon during the day were routinely overturned by the Silver Ghost at night.

Nakayama found this American Nazi chilling, to say the least. Raphael Van Zandt remained within his private quarters at an undisclosed location during the day, only to emerge at night and continue work until an hour before dawn, like some kind of ghoul. Given the strangeness of his mutant recruits in the Divine Wind, Nakayama was used to strange men with strange powers, but the Silver Ghost was not just strange but threatening. Already he had used his power on three Japanese soldiers who had failed to show him proper respect. Now they were made of silver and were his personal slaves, mindlessly waiting hand and foot on their master. The Silver Ghost may not have been as bloodthirsty as the Manhunter from Mars before him, but he was much more evil.

General Hofstadter had evidently decided to capitulate with the Silver Ghost’s wishes rather than take the risk of being turned into silver himself, even if such a thing were unthinkable. So Captain Nakayama stood by and patiently waited. A madman such as Raphael Van Zandt was difficult to trust; why else had the Nazi High Command sent him to this far-off post, far away from anything that mattered? Eventually, Van Zandt would slip up once again and cross the wrong person, and Nakayama’s Divine Wind would be there to put down this mad dog if it came to that.

The Silver Ghost had recently changed Hofstadter’s agenda. The new Dollman’s next target would not be another retired mystery-man but the Clock himself.

Van Zandt knew that the Clock would not allow himself to get trapped in a situation where he’d have to face off willingly against superior numbers or a superior opponent. The blast that the Clock had struck the Silver Ghost with had felt like it would tear him apart. He couldn’t even concentrate long enough to use his transmutation power against the Clock, let alone figure out if it had been naturally generated or had come from some unknown weapon.

Dollman of the SS Ubermenschen had been waiting in anticipation for his chance at the hero of the Resistance since he had first heard of the Clock. Here was a prey worthy of his engineered powers and superior heritage. He had investigated the Clock since then, but nobody that he could make talk knew anything about where he had come from or who he was. Those that did know had died or escaped while he was interrogating others.

Loyalty was so inconvenient when interrogating prisoners, especially when they would rather die than reveal what they knew. Of course, loyalty was a part of a soldier’s life, as was duty and honor. But this Resistance hero called the Clock didn’t fight honorably, and he abused the loyalty of his comrades so that he could remain out of German hands — out of Dollman’s hands.

“I will get you, Clock, and I will see you punished for the crimes you have committed against the Fuhrer and the Aryan nation,” Dollman vowed in his quiet waiting room.

***

Meanwhile, Lester Colt was driving to San Francisco. He was feeling tired, but then he always felt tired after using his telekinetic blast. He had to pour so much energy into it to affect the Silver Ghost that he felt like it would kill him. Darrel Dane had wanted to see if they could find a way to enhance its strength without draining him so much. But the Crisis had occurred before they ever got around to it.

Lester knew Jerry Noble and his Resistance group had begun their next assignment by the time he was halfway to San Francisco. The Yankee Eagle was planning to train another would-be super-hero, a female this time, who was dropped into his lap by someone very highly placed in the U.S. government. She had already received a great deal of combat training, but she needed some field experience and training as well. What better place than working behind enemy lines with the California Resistance?

It was night by the time Lester reached San Francisco. Avoiding some Japanese patrols and getting lost for a while had taken its toll on his time of arrival. He hadn’t expected the San Francisco branch of the California Resistance to welcome him with arms open wide, but it would have been nice if they had given him a bed and a hot meal. He hid his Clock gear away in his utility belt.

Lester Colt was documented as being six feet, four inches tall, while the Clock was known to be about exactly six feet tall. Shrinking himself a few inches so that he could get around without the suspicion of being the Clock may have been a little overly cautious, but he hadn’t been caught yet.

The Scarlet Seal had informed him that the best way to find the local Resistance was to get to Alcatraz Island, where San Fran Sue was one of the main coordinators for the various cells in the California Resistance. Looking out at the famed prison surrounded by warships, Lester decided that there was no way that he was going to make it there without either losing all his gear, bike, and life in the attempt, or finding a secure communications link to the island. As he had no wish to lose his life or belongings in an attempt to get to Alcatraz, and there was no secured communications link there, he decided to sleep out in a tree that night. Shrinking down to the size of a mouse, he went to sleep in an abandoned nest, having spent the last of his money on gas getting there.

He’d worry about making contact with the Resistance later. Now, all he wanted to do was get the ache out of his back and sleep. Lester Colt would hit the streets tomorrow looking for work, and the Clock would contact the Resistance then, too.

***

Morning and hunger came early for Lester. Besides that, a squirrel running around had nearly knocked him out of the tree three times before he returned to normal size and jumped out safely. He wished that the Scarlet Seal or even Jerry Noble had given him the name of a local Resistance member besides San Fran Sue, but they didn’t, meaning he was now on his own.

Walking the streets was less obtrusive than riding his bike around town, which would accomplish nothing more than letting the Japs and the Germans know he was in San Francisco. The Silver Ghost would just jump at the chance to capture him in one of the largest ports on the West Coast.

Lester had been there several times before, mostly to harass Hofstadter’s officers, but he still didn’t know all of the back alleys and alternate routes. Lester kept to non-German areas, though it was hard to stay out of sight of any German or Japanese soldier or sailor. But as he travelled, Lester did come up with an idea. It would be risky and would take a little while, but it might work.

***

“This is San Fran Sue, voice of the Resistance, coming to you from you know where. It seems that a particularly famous — or should I say infamous — member of our Resistance wants a date with the hostess with the mostess and is in town as we speak.

“Don’t even try making it to the Rock, Clock. The Silver Ghost and his boys are going to be looking for you, but you know that already. Take in the sights. If you are with other Resistance members or are in need of help, just remember that, though diamonds are a girl’s best friend, the mall is her sanctuary.”

A hand turned off the radio after hearing the message.

“He is in San Francisco, Dollman,” said Captain Shiro Nakayama. “Why aren’t you already gone?”

“Just waiting to be dismissed, Herr Captain,” said the Dollman.

***

Lester Colt had heard the message and remembered the code. Though diamonds are a girl’s best friend, the mall is her sanctuary. Time and place were hidden in the phrases. He laughed when he deciphered it. He wouldn’t have guessed that they would pick him up there.

***

That night after curfew, Lester Colt was waiting at the preordained time and place, hiding in a place allowing him several escape routes in case there was a trap to be sprung. He was wearing his Clock gear just in case, with stun-guns drawn.

A lone walker stepped off a boat at the makeshift pier. It was a man dressed in a merchant marine’s outfit, with a wool coat, stocking hat, and jeans, as far as the Clock could see. The boat was a small fishing boat, one of a few that survived the Japanese taking control of the harbor.

The Clock dropped down from his hiding place behind the nervous sailor, putting his guns against the sailor’s neck and back. “At this close range, my guns won’t kill you, but they will leave you unable to walk ever again should you try anything stupid.”

“So you’re the Clock, eh?” said the sailor. “What’s the code for the leader of the group that you just left?”

“Unless he changed it since I left, it’s All-American.”

“Welcome, Clock,” said the sailor. “I’m Drake, the ferry-boat captain. Sue calls me Charon.”

“Pretty ballsy for a Resistance meeting, Drake,” said the Clock. “Right in the middle of a controlled pier. Now give me some proof that you are who you claim to be.”

“The Scarlet Seal said that you are a nervous one at times, especially when you’re in that suit.”

“Being nervous comes with the territory when a bunch of people are looking to kill you because you inconvenience them or, worse, humiliate them. It also keeps you alive.”

“Too true,” said Drake. “How many are with you, or are you alone as we suspected?”

“‘We’?” questioned the Clock.

“We, as in the others on the island,” said Drake. “My, you are skittish.”

“I’m still alive, aren’t I?”

After showing the Clock that the boat was not loaded with Axis troops, and going through other little formalities, the man nicknamed Charon shoved off, slowly poling the boat past the larger warships in the harbor.

“We’re getting a little close to those ships, aren’t we?” whispered the Clock.

“Have to somewhat so they can’t see us,” Drake whispered back.

“Where’s the motor? I heard it earlier before you arrived.”

“Perceptive, too. I’ll turn it on after we get past this last ship; then it’s on to the Rock.”

“How long will this take?”

“No longer than necessary,” said Drake. “They don’t bother wasting their big guns on me, and they don’t have enough smaller boats for harbor duty.”

“They use helicopters with air-to-sea missiles and torpedoes,” countered the Clock. “If they catch us, we’ll be blown out of the water from above.”

“Right you are,” said Drake, “but it takes them five minutes to scramble, and in a fog like this, an hour to find a boat as small as mine, by which time we’ll be under the protective range of the island.”

“Why don’t they just take the island?” asked the Clock. “They certainly have enough firepower to obliterate it.”

“The Japs had a bad run-in with the guardians of the island a while back,” said Drake. At the Clock’s questioning look, he added, “No, I’m not talking about the Resistance, like Sue and me, but guardian spirits that were summoned there during the invasion. Scared the color out of them. Now they say the spirit of Destiny, that mystery-man killed by the Nazi agent has become like one of the guardian spirits, but even more powerful, since he’s no longer bound by physical limits. Ironically, by murdering him they may have unleashed their worst nightmare.”

A chill passed through the Clock as they neared the island known as the Rock. “What was that?”

“Just one of the spirits checking to see that you are who you say you are.”

The Clock wondered what he was in for on Alcatraz.

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