by Doc Quantum
Sandra Knight and Jerry Noble came trotting down a mountain trail on horseback, Sandy’s mind still swimming with everything that had happened to her and that she had discovered in the last few days. She’d had a chance to talk with Joan for quite a while, and had caught up with everything by now. She’d known the plainclothes Yankee Eagle during the War, but nobody knew that Miss America still lived, let alone married him and had children. Jerry was the oldest, at twenty-four. Their other child was a girl named Courtney, who was only fifteen. Jerry was very protective of her, even though Courtney had inherited her mother’s matter-transmutation power, and hence was able to take care of herself.
Jerry Noble was no slouch, either. When she had first woken up, she’d heard him and his mother speaking German. After asking him about this later, he told her that he was practicing his Deutsche accent. All American kids Jerry’s age had grown up to know the German language, since the entire world had once been under German control (and indeed, the German language was still the standard for international communications, as English had been on Earth-One and Earth-Two), but few of them spoke it with a perfect accent. Jerry had been perfecting his accent to sound exactly German enough to fool a Nazi, and maybe even impersonate one, if need be. Since he’d been born, he’d been in training for just such an occurrence as this new World War. Before her return to Earth-X, Sandy would have dismissed this as paranoia on her parents’ part, but they’d been right in the end not to underestimate the Nazis.
This young man who now rode in front of her had captured Sandy’s eye somewhat. Oh, it wasn’t anything he had done. As far as Jerry was concerned, any kind of romance was out of the question as long as there was a War, and thus a mission to perform. He had a very business-like attitude that had been a key element to his lifelong training, and he had grown to be a very capable man. Against her better reason — after all, wasn’t she chronologically forty years his senior, even though physically they were the same age? — she found herself falling for him. Inwardly, though, she chided herself for this. She’d had too many romantic flings in her lifetime to believe that this one was any different. But part of her hoped she’d have a chance to see if the handsome but businesslike Mr. Noble had a romantic side to him.
“It’s just up ahead,” Jerry said behind him as they reined in their horses. “Stay here while I check for a friendly signal.” At that, he galloped off into the woods, leaving Sandy sitting there without protest. This was his game, she knew, not hers. A single bird-call a few moments later was her signal to follow him. She gave her horse a kick and galloped in the direction he’d gone.
Sandra Knight soon joined Jerry Noble in the makeshift camp hidden in the mountains of Northern California. She was eyed with both awe and suspicion. She was well-known over the world as a Freedom Fighter, but it was an easy enough task for the Nazis to create a double and use her to infiltrate this Resistance camp.
Jerry helped her off of her horse, taking her hand, and said, “Welcome to Sherwood Forest, m’lady.”
“Thank you, kind sir,” she responded, taking note of her surroundings. She was indeed in a forest, which for all intents and purposes was the modern equivalent of the Sherwood Forest of olden times. The Merry Men from the legends of Robin Hood had been freedom fighters as well. Only they had never faced an enemy quite like the Nazis.
The men and women who now began to surround and crowd her were both young and old. Many, she imagined, had been American soldiers who fought the Nazis in limited skirmishes during the early ’60s before the takeover. The rest were their children, who had been born before, during, and after the takeover and raised by the founders of the militia groups that had sprung up in secret all over the country, ready should the Nazis ever attack America again. There were militia groups on Earth-One as well, Sandy had noted, but they were held with little esteem on that comparatively free world. Earth-X, of course, was different. Here there was no doubt about how necessary they were.
Sandy was quickly introduced to the Resistance leaders and was informed of Uncle Sam’s situation in Germany. She was asked to join the meeting they held soon afterward and found she had a lot of input to give them, due to her years as a Freedom Fighter, but was nevertheless impressed with the professionalism she found there.
Later that evening:
“In all that time we never really got a chance to talk,” Jerry said to Sandy after finally breaking away from the other leaders. He’d been away a while, and everyone was in need of debriefing.
“No,” Sandy agreed, “I guess we never really did.”
Jerry smiled nervously at Sandy and quickly changed the subject. “Oh! I almost forgot. I wanted to introduce you to my little sister.”
“She’s here?” Sandy asked, surprised that a fifteen-year-old girl would be found in a place like this.
“Don’t underestimate her. She’s a very capable kid. Although I don’t want you to let her know I told you that.” Jerry left and came back with his sister. “This is Courtney Noble, my little sister.”
Sandra Knight rose and shook the hand of the girl standing before her. She was a somewhat short, pretty, young teenage girl with blond hair and a lithe frame. She looked out of place in the army reliefs she wore, and Sandy was sure she would prefer to be dressed in the fashion that was more popular with kids her age. She smiled. “I’m very pleased to meet you.”
Courtney smiled an I’m-bored-to-be-here smile and made no response to her. Turning to her brother, she said, “How’s Mom?”
“Fine. She told me to make sure you keep up with your homework. Just because there’s a war on doesn’t mean you can skip school.”
“Aw, maaann,” Courtney whined as she left the tent.
Jerry laughed lightly and said, “Don’t be offended by her manner. She’s just a teenager.”
“I understand,” Sandy said. “More than you may think.”
“She’s here because it’s actually safer for her here than at home,” said Jerry. “I’ve tried to get Mom to join her here, but she insists on staying at home. She’s been very useful to the Resistance, anyway, considering the sheer amount of contacts she still has from the War — World War II, I mean. I still forget that this is number three now.
“Both Courtney and Mom can take care of themselves if they should find trouble, anyway. As you know, Mom was Miss America in the 1940s and has a matter-transmutation power which has never faded over time. Courtney inherited it when she went through puberty. When she was a kid, she dressed up in Mom’s Miss America costume and always said she would be Miss America when she grew up. Funny, I’d read somewhere that before the War there was a beauty pageant called the Miss America Pageant or something like that.”
“Yes, I have friends who were a part of that beauty competition,” said Sandy.
“Mom’s not too keen on Courtney becoming the new Miss America, but I’m not so sure.”
“And what about you?” said Sandy. “Did you ever dress up in your dad’s navy uniform and run around calling yourself ‘Yankee Eagle’?”
Jerry laughed again. “Well, yeah, actually. I must confess I did.”
Sandy became very serious and said, “This world is in need of heroes like you, and even your sister. They need them more than ever, especially now.”
She turned away. “Jerry, I need to find my friends. I know they’re scattered across America, maybe even the world, and I need to rejoin them. The Freedom Fighters are desperately needed once again.”
“I know,” Jerry said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “And I know you’re worried about Uncle Sam. Don’t be. He’s been in worse situations before. Hell, you’ve been in worse situations before. And you’ve always won in the end.” He turned her around to look him in the eyes. “Trust me. We’ll find your friends and get him back. I’ve already set things in motion. Sam is in good hands.”