Freedom Force: The Price of Freedom, Chapter 5: Diamonds in the Rough

by Philip-Todd Franklin

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Hi-Jack ran like a man possessed, his long coat flowing behind him as he moved. He had no idea what he was going to do, nor even how he was going to fight off four people at once. All he knew was that they could not be allowed to reach the house.

After a few moments he stopped beside a large oak tree to watch the four people clad in white costumes emblazoned with diamonds. Each had a unique letter or, in the case of one, the number ten, and also carried a long, mace-like object with a diamond-shaped head, while on their hips was a gun of some type. The four were trying to make their way stealthily across the lawn, not having noticed that more than one security camera had spotted them.

After trying to assess their abilities, Hi-Jack stepped out from behind the tree and blocked their way, startling them. “If I might ask, before we get down to hand-to-hand combat, what are you doing on this property?” he asked abruptly.

The one who wore a large K across the chest, standing for King, spoke up as the others tightly gripped their maces and stopped moving as if one mind. “Senator Wellington must die,” the deep-voiced King of Diamonds said. “All who know of the fortune of Amos must perish.”

Hi-Jack slowly nodded his head, then replied in an unemotional tone, “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t let that happen.”

“I don’t believe you have a choice,” said the woman who wore a large Q upon her costume, evidently the Queen of Diamonds. “The Ace has wished it, and so it shall be,” she said, and her hand inched slowly toward the gun at her hip.

Keeping his eyes on the others, Hi-Jack said, “Why? From what I’ve been told, there’s nothing worth fighting over — only plans of what might have been.” He tightened his grip on the handle of his mace, and with his thumb he flipped a switch to activate his weapon’s stunning electrical charge.

The man with the large J, the Jack of Diamonds, said as he slowly raised his mace, “It matters not one way or the other what you do or do not know. Too much is at stake. Wellington’s sister has already been disposed of as ordered.”

Whatever else the man was going to say was lost in the scream that issued from Hi-Jack as he quickly moved forward, his mace now high above his head.

The Queen quickly pulled out her gun, aimed it, and fired at Hi-Jack, only to miss the moving target. The bolt of red energy nearly grazed Hi-Jack, who dived to the left. As he did so, he swung his mace and managed to trip up the Jack of Diamonds, who fell onto the ground screaming as the stun-setting of Hi-Jack’s mace took effect, numbing the other man’s legs.

The Ten of Diamonds hadn’t thought she was needed, since the others were already doing well against their foe, but after Hi-Jack tripped the Jack of Diamonds, Ten removed the handheld radio from her belt pouch, raised it to her covered face, and said, “This is Ten. We’ve had complications attacking Wellington. Seems he’s got some type of costumed defender.”

The female voice that responded spoke harshly. “You fools are only fighting one man! Destroy him, and then all who know anything of Fortune’s plans shall be no more. I have spoken.” With that, the channel went dead.

As Hi-Jack came up, he tried to swing his mace at the Queen, but was instead nailed by the King, who struck his left arm.

Reacting quickly, Hi-Jack blocked the King’s next attack with his own mace, but that left him open to the Queen, and she nailed him with her gun across the left side, drawing blood.

With the two maces locked, Hi-Jack pulled as he spun on the ground, forcing the King off-balance.

And on and on the battle went, as the King and the Queen alternated between their attacks on Hi-Jack with the mace and the gun, while Hi-Jack managed to strike back only every second or third time.

The Jack of Diamonds, still on the ground with his mace beside him, tried to massage some feeling back into his numbed legs. Ten walked over to him and nearly laughed at him for being taken out so easily, but instead offered him her hand. “Let me help you, you dolt,” she said, and grasped his hand to start pulling him up.

Hi-Jack was bleeding from more than one spot on his body where he’d been struck by the gun and the mace, and was so bruised that he couldn’t feel his left arm at all. Yet, despite all his bruises, the King and Queen of Diamonds looked the worse for wear. Though he hadn’t been as lucky as he’d been with the Jack of Diamonds, Hi-Jack had managed to wear down his foes, who were also bruised and partially numbed from the fight.

Without warning, arrows suddenly began to rain into the area from the nearby forest. Just after she managed to haul up the limp Jack of Diamonds, an arrow passed just between them, causing her to drop him as she dived to the right behind a tree. As another arrow lodged itself between the firing mechanisms of the Queen’s gun, Hi-Jack was able to take advantage of their distraction. With a simple swing of his mace, he lightly tapped the King on the head, knocking him unconscious.

Seeing this, the Queen took off running, only to be struck in the back of her head by a large piece of wood. She crashed down to the ground.

Hi-Jack glanced at his fallen foes, then looked over to where the arrows had come from and called out, “It sure would be nice to know who helped me save the day!”

After a few moments, movement could be heard from the grove of trees, and then Macy Johnson stepped out, wearing a large smile on her face and holding a large branch in her hands. “I’m glad we were able to get here in time to help!” she said.

Disbelieving his eyes at first, Hi-Jack’s astonishment turned to joy as he looked at Macy, only to look shocked once more as the person with her also stepped out from the grove of trees. His voice nearly a whisper, Hi-Jack said, “You–!”


Aircraft carrier Yamato:

It wasn’t long before the interrogation room was spotless, and all three bodies had been removed and taken to the ship’s small sick bay.

The chief medical officer, a small man with flowing white hair, would spend much of the next twelve hours examining each of the bodies as the captain had requested. However, as soon as he had inspected Suto’s body, he called two security guards to take it and immediately dispose of it. As the guards left the sick bay carrying what looked like a lifeless body, the medical officer continued his examination of the two blasted bodies.

Beginning the long trek through the ship toward the incinerators on an upper deck, the two guards stopped on the third flight of steps to catch their breath. “I can’t believe this thing weighs so much!” the younger guard said in Japanese. “Do we have to take it all the way to the incinerators? We could always just dump it into the water and let them think we did what we were told.”

The other man regarded his companion with a mixture of disgust and shock. “You would dishonor the man whose body we carry?” he said, trying to keep his voice even.

“Well, from what I heard, he did not have much honor left after the evacuation of California,” the younger man said with a sneer.

The older man studied his companion’s face for a moment, then glanced at the body they’d been carrying. After a moment’s thought, he brightened and said, “Yes, I think it would a great idea if we just dumped the body of this worthless former officer through the porthole here, then forget about him.” A small smile played upon his lips as he opened the porthole just enough to allow them to dump the body through it and into the warm waters.

The two men lifted the body of Captain Suto and, with great pressure, pushed him through the window and into the waiting waters of Pearl Harbor below.

As Captain Suto’s body hit the water, it began to sink immediately. As it sank under the waves, something strange began to happen to the corpse’s skin, which went from a natural tan color to a mixture of blue and green. As the transformation finished, his eyes slowly opened. “Where am I?” he said, releasing what little air his body still had since the events of his supposed death.

Noticing the bubbles, he wasn’t at first sure what to make of them, so he began to slowly turn around to see if he could recognize where he was. As he turned, becoming more aware of his environment, a bright blue fish swam by, followed by two dozen more.

At that sight, he opened his mouth in shock and tried to take in a gasp of air to scream, only to gulp down more water, which terrified him even more. Now beginning to panic, Suto looked up and could see light streaming down, so he began trying to get to the light as quickly as possible. With very little effort, he broke the surface of the water and found himself looking up at the side of the great aircraft carrier Yamato.

The fact that he hadn’t drowned after taking in a mouthful of water still hadn’t struck him, but the first thing he did notice was how sharp things looked to his eyes. “Why am I in the water?” he asked aloud. As he continued floating beside the great ship, he found himself deep in thought about what had happened, having nearly no memory of his time in the interrogation room, except for flashes of intense pain.

The sounds of shouting came to his ears moments before the gunshots that followed. Without another thought, Suto dived like a dolphin back under the waves and began to swim away at surprising speed, realizing he needed to find a safe harbor to figure out what had happened to him and how he could regain his old position.

As he swam, he thought to himself over and over, I am Captain Juno Suto of the Japanese Navy. He really had no idea where to go, nor did he seem to care; he just wanted to find a place to think. Thus he left Pearl Harbor with no clear destination, leaving behind some very befuddled guards to figure out how to report to the chief of security about the blue-and-green-skinned man spotted in the waters beside the ship.


On the grounds of the Wellington Estate in Los Angeles, California, Hi-Jack slowly began to raise his hands, since he’d at first thought he saw someone he knew shouldn’t have been there. But then, as they began to come closer, Hi-Jack realized that this was clearly a woman with a long blond ponytail, and besides, he had never heard Green Arrow having a sister. I wonder — does she have those same gimmicked arrows G.A. had back home? Hi-Jack thought. Just as he started to lower his arms, Macy reached him and locked him in a tight hug. Wait! I think I know who this is, he thought, as the archer continued to approach with an arrow notched on her bow, its tip aimed at the ground.

“Is it that hard to say something to me, Jack?” said the woman dressed in the Robin Hood costume as she went to each of the downed costumed thugs and started binding their arms and legs.

Hi-Jack slowly released himself from his sister’s grip and took another look at the strangely dressed woman before he replied, “I know you! You’re–!” he started, but Macy quickly placed her hand upon his mouth before he could finish.

Tying up the last of their defeated foes, the archer said, “Ah, no names yet, Jack. Though I should hope you’d not have forgotten me that easily.” A playful grin crossed her lips as she spoke.

Hi-Jack nodded in reply as he thought, There’s only one person I should know that well. Lifting the radio transmitter from his belt, he spoke into it. “Jenkins, please contact the local law enforcement and tell them we have some passengers for them.”

The reply was crisp and quick. “Yes, sir.”


Less than an hour later, a couple of the local police arrived and were loading the still-masked figures onto what looked like a converted personnel carrier. “Senator, can you give any reason for the attack?” asked a tall officer with a notebook and pen.

Shaking his head, Jack Wellington replied, “You mean, besides the fact that I’m part of the government or that our country is at war, son?”

Quickly turning a shade of red as the meaning of Jack’s words sank in, the officer stammered, “I-I didn’t mean… I mean, I wasn’t… it’s always…”

“I wasn’t trying to upset you, Officer,” Jack said reassuringly. “I know how confusing and complicated things can get, what with the liberation not all that long ago.”

After watching and listening the whole time, Macy finally spoke, her voice sounding both soothing and almost musical to the rattled officer’s ears. “Yes, please tell us any news you have on the liberation efforts.”

With that, the officer looked over at his partners and slowly began to speak as he closed his notebook.

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