by Doc Quantum
Happy Terrill picked up a newspaper and shouted, “What the hell is going on?!”
“What?” said Stormy Foster, seeing him react so. “What is it?”
“Look at this,” he responded, handing him the newspaper and pointing at the photograph.
“My… my God!” said Stormy. “It’s you!”
The photograph was of a man who looked exactly like the Ray, flying through the air over London. The photograph was somewhat fuzzy, but the face could be made out. And it was the face of Happy Terrill. The headline above the photo read:
THE RAY TURNED TRAITOR
Freedom Fighter turned Nazi Stooge
“It can’t be! You’re right here!”
“I know, Stormy, I know,” said Happy. “I’ve got to figure this out. And since they seem to think that that’s me in that photograph, there’s not much use in going around in costume.”
“Are we still going to go find our old allies?” asked Stormy. “We–” Suddenly, Stormy grasped his chest and gasped in pain.
“Stormy? What’s wrong?”
“It’s — it’s the pill. My body can’t… can’t handle the change,” he gasped. Stormy, who had briefly looked like an Olympic champion, roughly in his forties, now appeared to age rapidly, while his muscles began shrinking back to their original level. Stormy passed out right there on the corner in front of the newsstand, looking his full age once more and as old and scrawny as ever.
“Stormy!” Happy cried, catching his friend in mid-fall. “Stormy, are you still awake?”
“Ha-Happy… y-you’ve got to get me to — to a hospital.”
“Of course I will, Stormy.”
“And Hap… Happy… my — my foster d-daughter… she — she’ll be able t-to help you… her name’s Dee… Dee Tyler… my w-wife can tell you where she — where she’s living.” Stormy Foster finally passed out.
Happy Terrill grabbed his now-lightweight frame in his arms and took the risk of revealing himself by flying directly to the nearest hospital. It was midday, so there was enough light to power his flight, even while carrying another. As he checked Stormy into the hospital, he mentally kicked himself for encouraging the old man to come along with him on his mission. He himself had been spared the ravages of age, but Stormy had lived out each of his years naturally, and deserved this time to spend with his wife and kids. If he was going to find help, he’d have to find it in his allies, the Freedom Fighters. And if they were now on this world as they’d tried to accomplish, they’d be trying to rescue Uncle Sam right now. This Ray impostor would have to wait until Sam was returned, safe and sound. And perhaps even this Dee Tyler could help him, somehow.
“OK, folks, here’s your stop,” said the Native American pilot of the Stealth aircraft as it hovered low over the German countryside. “And make it quick. I’d hate to be picked up on radar this far inland.”
“Thanks, Johnny,” said the Phantom Lady as she jumped onto the field of wheat and ran toward the nearby forest for cover. She was followed by the Black Condor and Doll Man.
“I really wish Roy were here,” said Sandra Knight as the three dropped their packs and found a place to hide them for later. “He and Happy would give us a better chance of surviving this mission if we encounter much trouble.”
“Those two are good for taking on soldiers and armies,” said Tom Wright, “but the three of us are much better suited to this type of spy work.”
“All right, let’s get down to it,” said Darrel Dane. “I’ve got my Martha waiting for me to get back home, so let’s get this thing done.”
They were all dressed in civilian garb, which was specially treated to be adaptable to their powers. Phantom Lady’s clothes would turn invisible at the same time as she did, as well as intangible if that was needed. Doll Man’s outfit likewise was made to shrink along with him in the event he needed to suddenly shrink to his other height of six inches. And Black Condor’s German Army uniform was aerodynamic enough to create little friction when he used his flying powers.
Tom pulled out a map of the area and began going over the plan, as discussed with Army Intelligence several hours earlier. It was a relatively simple plan. Meet the U.S. agent who was supposed to have freed Sam by now at a farmhouse owned by an Allied sympathizer, then get back to the rendezvous point to get picked up by their pilot. They hoped that nothing would go wrong.
The Ray finally arrived at his destination in the south of France after a long flight over the Atlantic Ocean. He’d had to do it during the day so the sun would provide enough light to power him for the journey, and he’d had to fly low enough over the water to avoid being detected on enemy radar.
As he’d planned all along, he landed in secrecy at dusk on the shore and quickly changed into his everyday clothing, so as not to arouse any suspicion. The Nazis had taken Europe, it was true, but they were spread thin enough that it was not too difficult to avoid coming into contact with any soldiers. The problem would be with the French collaborators who were loyal to the Nazis. It was they who had been the key for the Nazi victory so recently, and it was possible that there were still many who were really collaborators, but in secret. He hoped he wouldn’t run into any of them now.
Happy Terrill strolled along the streets of the quiet town on the French Riviera. Normally, at this time of the day, the entire town would be actively entertaining itself, and the nightlife would just be opening up. Not now, though. The Nazis were too great a source of fear for life to simply go on as usual, and most people stayed home in the evening. There was also likely a curfew, he figured.
Just as the last rays of sunlight left the streets, Happy found the educational institution he was searching for — La Université Notre Dame des Ombres, or Our Lady of the Shadows University. It was here that Stormy Foster’s foster-daughter, Delilah Tyler, was enrolled as a student in her final year of studies. It was an all-girls school, he knew, but just looking at it from the outside he could tell it was unlike any girls school he had ever seen before. There was just something different about it, somehow.
Our Lady of the Shadows was founded almost two-hundred years earlier during the French Revolution amidst the dreams of equality between the sexes that many hoped for but were denied, as the Revolution turned into the Reign of Terror. Thus, a group of like-minded women founded the institution to train young ladies to literally become equals with all men. And beyond this they trained their students as soldiers and experts in all things military. Indeed, many graduates would go on to become top secret agents in many intelligence agencies in the western world, and though they were all women, they were still among the best-trained operatives in their field.
Happy knew none of this, however. All he knew was that Stormy had assured him that Dee Tyler could be very useful to him, and that she was a student at this school. And so he approached the building as one would approach any girls school.
He was in for a rude surprise.
Happy Terrill walked up to the seemingly desolate girls school and was about to knock at the door, but decided against it. He had no idea what he was walking into. Instead, he left the front steps and walked along the side wall to see if he could take a look into one of the windows and scope out the situation.
He had just made it to the first window he saw that was partially open, and was slowly turning toward it to see inside, when he felt the cold steel of a knife at his throat.
The Ray could do nothing but raise his hands in surrender. The voice was female and French, and he knew better than to protest.
“You are American,” the girl said.
“Yes, I’m an American reporter.”
“What are you doing here? And why in the hell should I believe one word you’re saying?”
“Um… I’m looking for the foster daughter of a close friend of mine. Uh, here…” He began to reach into his jacket for the note that Stormy Foster had given him, but stopped as the knife pressed suddenly much tighter against his neck.
“Stop that!” she said. “Keep your hands up where I can see them.”
“I’ve got a note in my left jacket pocket that explains everything. If you’ll just allow me to…”
“I don’t think so, friend. Just keep your hands up,” the girl said forcefully. “Who are you looking for, anyway?”
Happy didn’t know if he could trust this woman, but he had no choice at this point. He was at her mercy. “I’m looking for Delilah Tyler, the foster daughter of Stormy Foster, an old friend of mine.”
“Well, you’re too late. She left here months ago, when the Nazis invaded.”
“Uh… are you sure? Stormy said she would still–”
“She’s gone,” the girl said decisively, then looked at him from the side a bit more closely. “You look familiar. Why do you look familiar?”
“If you’ll just allow me to explain,” Happy said.
“Oh, you’ll explain, all right,” was the last thing he heard before everything went black.