Freedom Force: The Price of Freedom, Chapter 1: Call Me Old Glory

by Philip-Todd Franklin

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Continued from Feature: Hi-Jack: Saving Grace

Continued from Feature: Mary Merlin and the Isles of Avalon

Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, September 13, 1986:

The Imperial Japanese occupation fleet steamed into the naval yard at Pearl Harbor. In Admiral Oruko’s cabin aboard the aircraft carrier Yamato, a man dressed in the remains of a Japanese captain’s uniform hung from shackles on the walls, moaning in pain. The admiral was pacing as he spoke to the man. “How could you fail us, Captain?” he said, speaking in Japanese. “The very invasion plan was foolproof, as the emperor himself envisioned it. Are you so incompetent that you are unable to carry out a simple set of orders?”

Captain Juno Suto, who had been in charge of the Occupation’s ground forces in Southern California, had no idea what his superior had repeatedly asked him since the fleet’s retreat from the mainland. His ordinarily clean and pressed uniform now hung in tattered rags upon his badly bruised body, the many welts upon it showing where he had been tortured several times on the way to the nearest port. He still continued to stare at the admiral as if merely a look at the man was enough to kill him as he said, “I have done nothing wrong. The invasion and occupation was doomed from the beginning. How can I work with such worthless trash as these soldiers?”

The admiral walked up to Suto and quickly backhanded him, saying, “Are you questioning my decision and thinking, Captain?” He nearly spat out the last word, insinuating that the man was unworthy of the rank. “Do you question the demands of the emperor? I should have you executed right now for your failure. Yet that is not within my power; only the emperor or one he has chosen has that authority and may do so. So consider yourself blessed, Captain Suto. I myself shall see that you are either jailed as a failure, or, who knows…?” The admiral began to grin. “Accidents have been known to happen while at sea.” With those words, Admiral Oruko quickly walked from the room and headed toward the bridge.

Captain Suto tugged at his chains with a desperation born of confusion and rage. Damn that race traitor who turned against me, he thought. I knew we could not trust those impure half-bloods.

On his way to the bridge, Admiral Oruku stopped to speak to a man dressed in white, with long, wildly flowing white hair. “Doctor,” he said with a smile, “it would seem that Captain Suto is unworthy of either his rank or any praise the emperor has ever given him. If you can conclude your experiments before we set sail once again for home, the man is yours.”

The doctor nodded once. “Thank you, Admiral. They shall be completed.”

With those words, the two men went their separate ways, the admiral back toward the bridge, and the doctor toward the admiral’s office cabin.

***

Senate floor, Washington, D.C., three hours earlier:

Senator Jack Wellington stood on the floor of the Senate, addressing those present and pacing back and forth as he spoke. He had been there for nearly three days now, outlining to one and all the problems with the present security of the nation.

“Gentlemen, I understand that what I have been saying would bring fear and a near-chaotic paranoia to the nation if the regular population was to know. And yet I find that if the enemy could use sleeper agents to attack and take us at once, I’m sure they will try to do so again, ’cause it’s what I would do in their situation.”

As he stopped to take a breath, the whole of the Senate was once again thrown into a chaotic cacophony of voices as each and every senator there tried to shout over the others and make himself heard.

As the chairman continued to bang his gavel on top of his desk, trying to restore order, once again Jack thought, I really wish Macy could be doing this; she’s never been at a loss for words. But Jenkins reminded me that it would require telling her the truth. I just didn’t know how hard getting this truth across would be. And the man from Earth-One once known as the super-villain Hi-Jack continued to pace the floor as the real senators continued their shouting matches.

***

Unknown location, September 15, 1986:

Hiroshi Tain, a young American man who was half-Japanese and half-Scottish, awoke in a strange room. On the walls hung the remains of several different flags, many of which he could not identify. Looking around, he noticed that this place looked as if it had been in a battle; the signs were everywhere. Even the linen on the bed he laid on looked seemed to have seen better days. Where am I now, and how did I get here? Tain asked himself, when the remains of an American flag on the left wall began to flow as if in a gentle breeze.

After a few seconds, the flag began to swirl with color, and out walked an old woman around seventy-five years of age carrying a torch in one hand, while in the other holding a folded costume. Looking at Tain for a moment, a twinkle entered her eyes as she said, “Do not worry, young man. You can believe me when I say you are completely safe here. No one looking for you would know how to find you, and those who do know this place would not consider it a danger to them any longer.” Slowly she went over to the side of the bed and looked at Tain as if giving him all the time in the world.

“Where is here?” he asked her. “How did I get here? Who are you? What happened in California?”

The questions just poured out of him before he could even stop himself, but the old lady just chuckled as she smiled. “Ah, the impatience of youth. I remember it well.”

Tain slowly sat up as she spoke and took a second look at the person in front of him, seeing her as if for the first time. Noticing her cloak, which gently touched the ground, he couldn’t help but also notice that she looked as if she was draped in the American flag. “I… I know you. You were in the warehouse in California.”

Again she smiled gently at him as she replied, “Yes, I was there. I’ve always been there. Since the beginning of the nation, when the first flag was sewn, I was born.” Laying the costume upon the bed, she offered her hand to Tain.

As he graciously took her hand, he could feel the great strength within. “My grandfather used to tell me stories of you and Uncle Sam, along with others,” said Tain. “Lady, what shall I call you?”

“Call me Old Glory, son, as that’s what most around here call me. Now, if you will get dressed, we’ll go and join our host, then get something for you to eat.” She turned away to give Tain privacy while he quickly changed out of a medical gown and into the jet-black costume, noting that on its left shoulder was an insignia representing the earth, with the American flag atop it, and the words Freedom Force written below. “Oh, and by the way, child, I knew your grandparents very well,” Old Glory said without warning. “Nicest pair of people I’ve ever known.”

After a few moments she turned and said, “Now, shall we go and get all of your many questions answered, Hiroshi Tain?” She reached out her hand, as once again the colors on the flag began to swirl. Tain took her hand, and without another word they walked right into the vortex and were gone.

***

The office of Senator Jack Wellington, Washington, D.C., September 14, 5:45 PM:

Sitting at his large wooden desk, Jack looked at the picture that had recently been taken of himself, Macy, her kids, and Jenkins. Smiling for a moment, he began to let his mind wander as the telephone on his desk started ringing. He quickly picked up the receiver and spoke. “Wellington here. Yes, Stacy, please put Jenkins through. I’ve been expecting this call,” he told his secretary. Before he spoke again, he reached into the top drawer and flipped a small switch, then waited until the little green light came on. “Yes, Jenkins. No, it seems they won’t listen to reason. Told you we should have sent Macy here to speak and not me. Yeah, I know. Yeah, I am. She what? Told her not to go alone. Yes, I remember you told me she was like that. OK, need to go; they’re expecting us back on the floor in three hours. Yeah, wish me loads of luck. I’m going to need it.”

***

Grantsville, Utah, September 13, 9:18 AM:

Macy Johnson had just arrived at the law offices of Will, Cheatham and Howard. After making her inquiries into the many holdings of the deceased Amos Fortune, she had been directed by the man who had been running the auction that one Mr. Peter Cheatham in Grantsville, Utah, was holding some information. She had phoned ahead and set up an appointment with Cheatham, and it was this meeting that had brought her to Utah against Jack’s wishes and desires.

Taking a moment to look around the town, she thought she was being watched by someone standing near the corner drugstore, but could not be sure. Trying to make sure, she glanced back once more for the person in the long brown coat and matching fedora who had been holding up the newspaper, but they were gone. She opened the door to the lawyer’s office and entered, introducing herself to the receptionist, a very plump lady with fire-red hair wearing a knee-length dress much too short and revealing for her size.

“May I help you?” the receptionist asked.

“Yes, I’m Macy Johnson. I’ve got an appointment this morning with a Mr. Cheatham over some personal legal issues.”

The receptionist looked her over for a moment as she pressed a button on the phone on her desk. “Mr. Cheatham, there is a Miss Johnson here to see you. Yes, sir. I’ll send her right there.” Replacing the receiver, she looked at Macy and said, “Down the hall, second door on the left.”

Nodding gently, Macy opened the door at the side and started down the hall. After a moment she looked into the office of Peter Cheatham, who quickly noticed her and waved her into the room as he continued the conversation he was having on the phone. “Yes, just now. I know; not sure what to expect. Yes, I’ll find out all I can and inform you. I agree that’s for the good of the cause.” Hanging up the phone, he quickly stood up and walked around his desk, sticking his hand out before saying, “Ah, Miss Johnson.” Taking her hand in his, he began to pump it with force.

Macy offered him a small, reserved smile and, removing her hand from his, said, “Mr. Cheatham, I’m only here for the things that had belonged to Mr. Amos Fortune and nothing else. My time, sir, is very precious, and I’m on a tight schedule.”

Taking a moment to study her, he replied, “Yes, I can completely understand how big city life can make people run around, always busy. Can I at least offer you some coffee?” Walking over to the small counter on one wall, he refilled the cup that had been on his desk.

“No, thank you,” she replied, not taking a seat. “As I said, I’m in a rather big hurry. So, the information, sir, if you please.”

Sitting his cup back onto his desk, Peter Cheatham walked over to the large wall picture and gently swung it on its hidden hinges, revealing the safe behind it. Quickly thumbing the combination, he reached in and grabbed a large box and folder before slamming the safe shut. “I do believe, miss, that this is what you’re after, but if you will give me but one second, I will need you to sign a few papers, please.” Placing the items on his desk, he handed her what looked like a rather large release form.

Macy nodded and, taking a pen from her purse, began to quickly fill in the desired information, even as she thought to herself, This is an awful lot for what looks like an old shoebox and a folder of paper.

Finishing, she handed the papers back to Cheatham, who quickly glanced at them. “I believe all is in order, miss. Here is your property,” he said, handing her the box and folder.

Without making a response, Macy took the items, left the office, and returned to the rental wreck she had gotten at the airport. As she pulled away and headed back toward her hotel, a black sedan pulled slowly around the corner and began to trail her.

Upon her exit, Cheatham shut the door to his office, picked up the phone, dialed a number, and heard a voice on the other end of the line. “Yes, she has them,” he said. “No, I couldn’t get anything out of her. She wouldn’t stay long enough for even the coffee. Yes, I know for the cause we must have whatever it was that Amos Fortune has worked so hard to keep hidden. Yes, tell Agent One to keep out of her sights, but keep her under watch. Yes, I agree. Sieg heil.” The last two words he spoke softly before putting the receiver back down.

As he took a drink of his coffee, he began to forget the fact that he had made a phone call, merely thinking to himself, This is some great coffee. Going to have to remember to thank Greta for mentioning it to me. And he began to continue finishing some much-needed paperwork on his desk.

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