by Doc Quantum and Rubberman41
Sandra Knight slowly opened her eyes as she returned to consciousness. “Where am I?” she muttered to herself. She looked down and realized that she was lying in a rickety old bed under well-used sheets. She lifted the sheets to find herself without her Phantom Lady costume and wearing laced underwear, like that of an old woman’s. It definitely wasn’t anything she was used to. She pulled the sheet completely off of her and sat up.
“Oooh…” she moaned as blood rushed to her head. She had a splitting headache, and as she touched her head, she felt a bandage wrapped around it. Confusion assaulted her. She could not remember where she’d been or what she’d been doing before now. And this scared her. “Where the hell am I?” she said out loud.
Looking around, she noticed the room had a small window near the top of the wall, which appeared to be level with the ground. This had to be a room in a basement, she realized. Gaining some limited motor control in her weakened state, she picked herself up and looked through the window, only to see a simple backyard and a pine forest behind that. Wherever she was, this wasn’t Los Angeles. And that’s where she had last been, she now remembered. She and the other Freedom Fighters were trying to find a way back home to Earth-X. They’d succeeded, hadn’t they? But where was she now? And where were the others?
Sandy hobbled over to the door in the small room and tried to open it up. It was locked. This was not good. She was at a loss as to what to do until she remembered about her phantom powers, which she’d gained ten years earlier during another trip between the parallel Earths. She concentrated (a hard thing to do in her present condition) and made herself intangible enough to walk through the hollow wooden door. She was now in what looked like the recreation room part of the basement. Hearing voices just up the stairs, she listened carefully and gauged whether or not she was in any condition to take on any potential foes. She had no idea whether she’d been kidnapped or merely rescued by someone after her mysterious injury.
It was a woman’s voice, and that of an elderly woman’s, she guessed. She was speaking to someone else — a man with a low voice. Was that — Roy? Sandy turned to the stairs and began to walk up. At the top stair she stopped and listened, after her intuition told her to. She could now hear what they were saying. It was in German, and it definitely wasn’t Roy. She was back on Earth-X, after all.
Roy Lincoln, known as the Human Bomb, awoke face up in what appeared to be a swamp. He was glad he was wearing his containment suit because of all the muck and mire he was going to have to traverse through.
He wiped some mud from the visor of his suit and looked around. The sunlight was having trouble breaking through the thick canopy. He saw many small creatures slithering about and literally a cloud of mosquitoes that seemed to just envelop him. Again, he was glad he had his containment suit on.
“Where the hell am I?” Roy asked himself as he looked around. “Well, let’s see if I can find my way out,” he said to himself as he picked a direction and started trudging that way.
After hours of walking, Roy came to dry land and shortly after that a road. He followed the road for a while until he came to a sign. It said, Now entering Everglades National Park.
“Well, at least I’m in the U.S.,” Roy said, smiling, and sat down next to the sign to rest. Thinking to himself, he went over the events of the past few months, including the Crisis and all the heroes that had died so heroically during it. He wished that the dampening device he and Darrell (Doll Man) had created to dampen his powers hadn’t been destroyed during a battle with some shadow demons.
Since it seemed that he was getting near civilization, and that the plan was not to gain too much attention until the Freedom Fighters could regroup and get some information on the current situation, Roy decided to ditch the suit and just keep the gloves, since they were all he needed. The effect of crossing over to Earth-One that ten years ago had made his whole body explosive had disappeared years ago, and only things that he touched with or were touched by his hands exploded.
Just as Roy was bundling up his containment suit, a pickup truck appeared over the horizon. Roy put out his thumb and hitched a ride.
The driver stopped and opened the door. “Where you goin’, mister?” he asked.
“North,” Roy said as he put his containment suit in the bed of the truck and climbed in the cab.
“OK, man,” the driver said. “Hey, what’s those funny gloves you’re wearing, mister?” he asked.
Thinking quickly, Roy told him, “I’m a fireman and recently my hands got burned real bad. These gloves let air get to the burns without letting infection in.”
“Dang, mister,” the driver said, “they sure are comin’ up with some mighty newfangled stuff since the Nazis came back.”
“They sure have, son,” Roy sighed. “They sure have.”
He had been traveling north for a day when he began reflecting back on his life. He considered himself a loner, although his career as the Human Bomb had hardly been accomplished alone. Besides being a member of the Freedom Fighters since the 1940s, Roy had also had a strange little sidekick by the name of Hustace Throckmorton, who had gained the power of explosive feet after a blood transfusion with Roy. Throckmorton was one of the allies of the Freedom Fighters he had met shortly after arriving on Earth-X during the early days of the war.
Roy hadn’t seen Throckmorton for over thirty years, now. He supposed he was dead, but there was no way to be sure. So many people had died in the thirty-odd years the War raged on. And several had remained out of touch ever since the mind-control days of the Nazi Occupation of America.
He wished that Hustace was here, now — he and the Bombardiers. At least Throckmorton’s presence had always been able to keep Roy from going into the deep depressions he was known for. That goofy smile and happy-go-lucky attitude — not to mention his explosive kick — had made Throckmorton one hell of a sidekick. And the two men and a woman — Curly, Swordo, and Red — who called themselves the Bombardiers had always brought a smile to his face.
Depression was a very hard thing to stave off these days, however, at least for Roy. His abilities had always kept his love-interests at bay, and his personality, which was naturally easygoing, had become more and more negative as his abilities had made him a target of fear, even to the people he’d saved. A human bomb wasn’t exactly the kind of person one wanted standing next to them in peace-time. And so Roy had maintained very few friendships, and most of those were in the Freedom Fighters.
He was pulled out of his musing when the pick-up truck he was riding in started to exit the Interstate, pulling off at a truck stop. The young man who had been nice enough to give him a ride said, “This is as far as I go, mister.”
Roy grinned at the young man. “Thanks for the ride, son.” Roy shook his hand and climbed out of the cab.
He entered the truck stop, ordered lunch, and sat in thought. Guess I’ll have to find another ride now, won’t I? he thought to himself.
Sandra Knight, against her better judgment, creaked open the door and took a peek around the corner, where she saw a woman in her mid-sixties talking with a tall, young, brown-haired man dressed in a camouflage uniform. Sandy knew that, if it came to it, she wasn’t in any condition to take him on. She also knew that she was entirely at their mercy right now, so she figured she had nothing to lose by making her presence known.
“Who are you, and where am I?” she demanded in a forceful tone she knew she couldn’t back up.
The elderly lady smiled at her. It was evident she had been a beauty in her youth. “Good afternoon, Miss Knight. I trust you’ve slept well? Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Joanne Noble, and this is my son, Jerry.” The young man smiled at her and nodded. “You’re in Northern California.”
Sandra studied the two. “Well, you obviously recognize me for who I am, but how in the world did I get here?”
“Won’t you sit down and have a bite to eat? You must be starving,” Joanne said as she walked into the open kitchen and took some containers out of the refrigerator. “Do you drink coffee? I was just about to make up a pot of coffee for my son and myself.”
Sandy frowned and began to feel angry at her question being unanswered. Her head was still swimming, evidently from the blow to her head she’d gotten at some point she couldn’t remember. She opened her mouth to speak.
Jerry Noble saw this and said, “Miss Knight, I’d just like to say I’ve been an admirer of yours for years.”
She thought, Yeah, you and a million other American men.
“The Phantom Lady and the other members of the Freedom Fighters were the inspiration of our world, especially in America.” Jerry Noble gestured to her to sit down, and as she did so reluctantly, he joined her at the table and continued. “You should know, however, that your Freedom Fighter team was not the only one banded against the Nazis. You know of the Blackhawks, who died during the war, and of several other heroes who came from Earth-Two as well. Yes, I know all about Earth-Two, but I’ll be getting to that in a moment.”
Joanne Noble joined the two at the table with a pot of coffee and served them both. Jerry continued, “While much, but not all of your activity was public, there have always been underground freedom fighters, in the truest sense of the word. Most of these freedom fighters were ordinary folks who refused to stand by and let the Nazi horde overcome us. During the Nazi occupation of America, these freedom fighters were very active against them. Sabotage, limited battles, and even assassination by sniper rifle were not uncommon in those days. Of course, when the Nazis unrolled the mind-control rays in 1968, it dealt a big blow against our movement. Most of the American Resistance were executed when they were hypnotically compelled to turn themselves in, and we lost a lot of good men and women, as you must remember. Only a small handful of us were unaffected by the rays, thanks to Uncle Sam. And now the California Resistance is fighting the Axis again after a decade of preparation for such an event. Most of us have no powers like you Freedom Fighters, but the ordinary men and women of this country and of this state are willing to sacrifice all for freedom.”
Joanne interjected, “Jerry’s right. Most of the freedom fighters were just ordinary people who stood up for their country. There were, however, a few of us who came from different backgrounds. While my husband, God rest his soul, was born here on this world, a few of us were originally from Earth-Two, as Jerry alluded to earlier.”
Sandy’s curiosity was piqued. “Excuse me?”
“My name is Joanne Noble now, but before I was married, I was named Joan Dale. My husband’s name was Larry Noble. We were also known by other names — Miss America and the Yankee Eagle, and I was a charter member of Uncle Sam’s original Freedom Fighters.”