by Doc Quantum
August, 1985, on Earth-Two, not long after the Crisis on Infinite Earths:
Uncle Sam returned to the hotel room where the others were staying, a look of dismay on his face. Waiting for him were Sandra Knight — the sultry heroine known as the Phantom Lady, Darrel Dane — who had the power to shrink himself to six inches tall as Doll Man, and Tom Wright — who had the power of flight and called himself the Black Condor. Together they were the Freedom Fighters of Earth-X.
Although each of them had originally come from Earth-Two, the team had made Earth-X its permanent home since 1942, with the exception of the two years from 1976 to 1978 when they lived on Earth-One. Then the Crisis on Infinite Earths changed everything. The Freedom Fighters joined the heroes of four other Earths to battle the Anti-Monitor, and the universes of five Earths were briefly merged together into one in order to save them all. When the five Earths were separated once more, the heroes of each respective Earth were returned to their world — all except the Freedom Fighters, probably because they were not native to Earth-X. But who knew the reasons of fate? It had only been a few days since the end of the Crisis, but the team was anxious to find a way back home.
“So what’s the verdict, chief?” Tom Wright asked, knowing Darrel was too fearful of the answer to ask the question. “Are we going home, or what?”
Uncle Sam wore a hangdog look on his face as he replied, “I’m sorry, son. It looks like the barrier between this world and ours is impassable. Even th’ old Spectre himself couldn’t bust through it, and he had Doc Fate and Johnny Thunder’s T-bolt workin’ with him, too. But I know that our world still exists… I c’n feel it.”
The Spectre and much of Earth-Two’s superhuman population believed that most, if not all of the alternate Earths had been destroyed during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which had drawn the Freedom Fighters away from their adopted homeworld for what seemed like the final time. Uncle Sam, however, had not been willing to accept that. He had sworn that somehow, in some way, Earth-X had survived and that he could bring them all back there. When he’d first approached the other Freedom Fighters about his plan to attempt a return, he had been met with skepticism. Happy Terrill — the light-based hero called the Ray — had even outright refused to join them on their journey, claiming he had responsibilities on Earth-Two now. As for their final member, Rod Reilly — the two-fisted hero known as Firebrand — he had been missing since the Earths were un-merged, and Uncle Sam believed he had been left on Earth-X just as the team had been mistakenly left on Earth-Two.
Darrel closed his eyes in pain at the thought. “Martha,” he said. “Martha and Violet need me. I have to get back home, Sam!”
“I know, son, I know.”
“We all want to get back home, Darrel,” Sandy said as she held onto Darrel. “Some of us have families over there, too. Happy’s the only one who happened to have brought his son here to Earth-Two during the Crisis. None of the rest of us were so lucky.”
“I’m worried about the people there who depend on us,” said Tom. “I still keep up with my political connections, and before the Crisis I began hearing rumors of Neo-Nazi groups springing up all over the place. These rumors wouldn’t be so frightening if not for the fact that we never found out what happened to all the members of the upper echelon of the Nazi party after artificial intelligence took over. Some people say Hitler still lives.”
“Now, Tom,” Sam said, “you know that when we ended the war with the help of the JLA and the JSA, we found out that ol’ Adolf had been replaced by a robot. He can’t still be alive — he’d have to be in his nineties by now!”
“If we’ve stayed young due to your presence,” Tom suggested hesitantly, “who’s to say that Hitler hasn’t stayed young as well?” The room grew quiet.
“There’s got to be a way,” Darrel said darkly. A few moments passed before he looked up, a frown on his scholarly face. “Wait a second…”
“What is it, son?”
“Sam, you said you could feel it, didn’t you?”
“I remember you mentioning that the reason you could travel from Earth-Two to Earth-X and Earth-One was because in the Americas of each of these Earths, the ‘Spirit of Freedom’ — which you as Uncle Sam personify — exists, and that you jump from one Earth to another because, in a sense, you exist on many Earths.”
“What are you driving at, Darrel?” asked Tom, curiously.
“If there was some way you could establish a link with the Uncle Sam — or Spirit of Freedom — on Earth-X, we might be able to bypass this barrier separating the worlds and finally get back home!”
“Uncle Sam tried earlier to return to Earth-X under his own power and failed,” Sandy pointed out. “And not even the combined mystical powers of the Spectre, Doctor Fate, and the Thunderbolt could pierce the barrier. How are we going to be able to?”
“I — I’m not sure, Sandy.”
Roy Lincoln, the Human Bomb, had reentered the hotel room, fully clad in his protective suit, and Darrel’s idea had quickly been related to him. “A theory’s forming in my mind,” the scientist finally said, pacing back and forth on the carpet as he was lost in thought. “Maybe those three couldn’t pierce the barrier separating the Earths… because they weren’t meant to.”
“You’re gonna have to explain what you mean, Roy,” said Uncle Sam.
“What I mean is this: Knowing what I’ve heard about the Monitor, it appears that he had foreknowledge of his death. He had raised Alexander Luthor from an infant to a young man to take his place, in a way — to play a leadership role in the Crisis. Perhaps he had also planned the entire outcome of the Crisis, including the impassable barrier that exists now.
“Just think about it: Over the past forty years, travel between the universes has increased steadily, until in recent years it happened so often that it was almost commonplace. But do you remember what lengths we had to go through when we made those first few trips from Earth-Two to Earth-X back in the 1940s? It was so dangerous that the Spectre himself had to keep the vibrational barriers from collapsing and destroying both Earths — and this from merely traveling from one Earth to another! Yet travel between the universes hasn’t seemed to have many repercussions in recent years, unless you count the Crisis, which I definitely would.
“My theory is that the Monitor may have held back the natural repercussions of travel between the Earths in recent years until the Crisis hit, when it could be held back no longer. Kind of like opening the floodgates. In a way, he allowed our Earths to gain the extra power it needed — in the form of all the super-powered heroes who have cropped up in recent years, especially on Earth-One. We simply wouldn’t have been prepared for the Crisis only a couple of decades ago. The Monitor must have planned it this way.
“And just what if the Monitor, knowing he would soon die, thought to appoint successors in his absence? Alexander Luthor may be one. I think it’s likely he’s survived. Harbinger would definitely be another, probably for Earth-One.”
“The wizard Shazam would be the most logical candidate for the role of monitor on Earth-S,” Tom added.
“Yes!” said Roy excitedly. “Earth-Four I’m not sure about, as I’m not at all familiar with it, but I’m pretty sure who would fill the role of monitor on Earth-X.” He turned to face Uncle Sam. “None other than you, Sam.”
“That may be, son, but what are ya drivin’ at?”
“Perhaps the Monitor’s last wish was to erect an impassable barrier between the universes in order to stave off further destruction. One of his successors would have had to have done it. I’d guess the wizard Shazam, due to his sheer power level as well as location, being on the Rock of Eternity, after all, and outside of the actual universe of Earth-S.”
“Your theory is sound, Roy, but how will this help us?” asked Tom.
“Uncle Sam has got to be the one chosen as Earth-X’s monitor, at least according to my theory,” Roy continued. “The Monitor would have to have left a way for him to return to Earth-X. We’ve just got to find it.”
Darrel Dane jumped up excitedly. “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed. “Science hasn’t been able to pierce the barrier, and magic hasn’t been able to pierce the barrier, but what if — what if science and magic could somehow combine together to do what each could not do on its own?”
“What are you talking about, Darrel?” asked the skeptical Roy.
“It sounds crazy, I know, but it deserves a try. We’d need to rely upon Sam’s mystical ability to travel between Earths and combine that with the only scientific methods we know of to travel the multiverse.”
Uncle Sam stood before his teammates. “Our world needs us. Let’s give ‘er a try.”