At their headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Freedom Fighters were waiting for the arrival of one of their own this day in February. Uncle Sam, the Ray, Doll Man, the Black Condor, and Hourgirl were seated. Most had a look of impatience on their faces.
“Where in tarnation is that woman? I think we’ve all got better things ta do than sit here twiddlin’ our thumbs!” Uncle Sam huffed.
“Just relax, Sam. I’m sure Sandra wouldn’t have called us here without good reason,” Black Condor said, trying to convince himself as much as the others.
The Ray chuckled. “Gents, I don’t know about you, but with that costume of hers, I’d sit here for a week just to watch her walk in.”
As if on cue, the Phantom Lady then entered the room with another woman in tow who was almost as tall as her and had short dark hair. In stark contrast to Phantom Lady, the other woman wore a conservative dark blue suit, complete with a knee-length skirt and a pillbox hat.
“Happy, you sure know how to make a woman feel good… when you leave a room,” said Sandra Knight, the Phantom Lady, giving the Ray one of those looks.
Uncle Sam stood up and extended his hand to the newcomer. “Welcome to our humble headquarters. I’m Uncle Sam.”
The woman smiled at him and returned the handshake. “Thank you. I’ve been a big fan of the Freedom Fighters for many years. My name is Lois Lane. I’m a reporter with the Washington Post.”
The Phantom Lady motioned for Lois to sit down. She was so excited she could barely contain herself. “Sam, I’ve got some extraordinary news, and something I think just might turn the tide of the war. That’s why I brought Miss Lane here.”
Lois opened her briefcase and began to pass some newspaper articles out to the Freedom Fighters. “This story kind of got lost because it appeared in print during the Crisis. We had dismissed it at first, thinking it to be supermarket tabloid fodder. A lot of crazy things happened during that time. The shadow demons appeared, the super-villains from other worlds appeared, time anomalies occurred, et cetera.”
Uncle Sam looked at the article:
GUARDIAN ANGEL IN KANSAS?
Smallville, KS – With all the strange happenings going on since the skies turned red, could this be a mass hallucination, or is there really someone watching out for the citizens of Smallville? In the past 48 hours, around the same time as the red skies appeared, citizens have reported several odd occurrences. A fire broke out at the Shuster Tire Company. Before the fire department could arrive, the fire had been put out. Several eyewitnesses reported mighty winds gusting and seeing a blurred figure putting the flames out in seconds. A bank robbery had been in progress at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Smallville, when all of a sudden the would-be robbers were sitting in the middle of the floor, their guns melted, and each of them securely bound and gagged.
Uncle Sam looked up at the others with a wide grin. “Sandra, you done good here. We’re headin ta Kansas!”
“Hold on just a second, Sam. There’s something else you need to know,” Phantom Lady said. “Miss Lane?”
“After the Crisis ended and you all disappeared, I went to Smallville to look for this Guardian Angel myself. I was met with a lot of stone faces. I spoke with a Police Chief Parker there. He told me I should go back to Washington and mind my own business. Whatever is going on there, they don’t want anyone to know.”
“Well, I reckon we’ll just be a little more careful then, but this is fantastic news, Phantom Lady. Fantastic news.”
As they exited the room, Hourgirl stopped the Black Condor. “Um, I don’t mean to be dense, but why is everyone so excited about this?”
Condor just smiled. “Because if this Guardian Angel is who we think it is, the Nazis won’t know what hit them.”
Outside, the Ray looked glum as he looked at a another article printed in one of the newspapers the reporter brought. It was about the man the Nazis had created as a duplicate of himself. The Ray of the SS Ubermenschen had been a thorn in his side ever since he first heard of him, but Uncle Sam had cautioned him to wait. He had a plan in place to use the Ray’s Nazi duplicate against the Nazis and help free England in the bargain — but only at the right time. Until then, all he could do was hide his anger and pretend to be his happy-go-lucky self.
But it was hard to sit back and do nothing when a madman out there with his face and powers was killing innocents in his name.
On the plane ride to Topeka (Smallville didn’t have its own airport), Lois Lane stared out the window watching a flock of birds in the distance. There was something about this story that excited her in a way she couldn’t describe. It was as though she was going to meet her destiny.
Her father, General Samuel Lane, had been a member of the American Nazi Army during the Occupation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He never particularly cared for the Nazi philosophy, but it paid well and kept his family out of harm’s way. When the Freedom Fighters had freed the Earth from Nazi domination, her father had convinced his command to take up their cause and helped to rout the real Nazis out of America for good. As Sam Lane explained to his daughter, that was why he had served the Nazis and did it well. It was so that, when the time was right, he would be in a position to restore America to its pre-1940s glory. He knew that to help free America would be his destiny.
Lois had gone to college and majored in journalism, securing a job at the Washington Post upon graduation. In her few short years there, she had helped to expose several Nazi organizations that were still lurking in the country. She became the youngest person ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. Her editor, Elizabeth Chambers, was doubly impressed. Liz had started her career during World War Two and, through the Nazi occupation and the subsequent recovery, she had been denied her shot. Through Lois, however, Liz felt that she could finally achieve the journalistic goals she herself had been denied.
When the Smallville lead came across her desk, Liz showed it to Lois and could see that spark in her eye. Both women felt they were on to something big, but then that damnable Crisis came, and they were forced once again to fight for their very lives against an implacable foe. When the Crisis ended, Lois told Liz she was going to finally get to Kansas. She just had a feeling that what she found there would decide her destiny.
Of course, she hadn’t counted on the resistance she got when she finally arrived. Police Chief Douglas Parker seemed almost angry. She’d talked to several other townspeople as well — Peter Ross, Lana Lang, Alex Luthor, and Jonathan Kent. She was dismissed by all of them. Whatever secret Smallville was hiding, they didn’t want the outside world to know about it.
Sandra Knight had answered Liz Chambers’ call for an interview. With the return of the Freedom Fighters, Liz wanted to showcase their one distaff member as a way of inspiring other women to pursue their dreams in this newly war-torn world. Liz was pleasantly surprised to hear about the addition of Hourgirl to the ranks of the Freedom Fighters. As the interview was wrapping up, Lois Lane popped her head in to Liz’s office.
“Hi, Liz, mind if I interrupt?”
Liz motioned for Lois to come in. “Lois Lane, I’d like you to meet Sandra Knight, AKA the Phantom Lady.”
The two women shook hands for a moment. “I’m glad to see that you and the other Fighters are back, but you can’t possibly be the original Phantom Lady, not with a body like that.”
Sandra laughed. “As hard as it is to believe, yes, I am the one and only Phantom Lady. I’ve often wondered, too, what keeps me so young and fit, but I’m betting Uncle Sam has something to do with that.”
“Well, I wanted to let you know that Jimmy’s out here standing in a puddle of drool waiting to take your picture. One thing I’ve always wanted to know. Why would an independent, strong woman like yourself wear a costume that was conjured out of a fourteen-year-old boy’s wet dream?”
“Lois!” Liz said, half-laughing.
Sandra shook her head. “No, that’s a fair question, Lois. My original costume wasn’t quite this revealing, but I discovered that the more revealing I made it, the more distracted the bad guys became. I always figured that I was using my enemies’ weakness against them.”
All three women laughed.
After the photo shoot, Lois showed Sandra the Smallville articles. And when she did, Sandra’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. That was when Sandra called a meeting of the Freedom Fighters.