Neon the Unknown landed at the address he had been given. Everything looked ordinary to him. A dilapidated house didn’t look like anything to worry about to him.
He walked up the sidewalk leading to the house’s front steps. The wood vibrated under his weight as stepped on the porch. I wonder if the door will fall in when I knock on it, Neon thought.
He knocked on the heavy wood, already sure the place was abandoned. The door swung open at his touch. He stepped inside, confident he was alone.
A catapult fired as Neon stepped across the threshold. He raised his hand, summoning an energy bolt. But the bolt would not fire, and a metal globe smashed into Neon’s chest. He flew into the wood yard, ribs smashed to a pulp.
A figure walked up to the panting Neon. He stood over the fallen ubermensch, looking into his fluttering eyes.
“You’re me,” said Neon.
“Yes, I am,” said the second Neon, dropping a small packet on his fallen twin. The small square exploded, burning up Neon’s body.
The impostor walked away from the cremation. He shut the door to the house and took to the air in a sparkling trail of light.
Neon landed on the roof of the Parliament Building. He nodded to the roof guard before walking down to the briefing room.
“It was a false alarm,” Neon said before the Red Torpedo could ask. “Nothing there but a broken-down house.” He sat down at a table, sipping water from a paper cup.
The Ray leaned against the wall, eyebrow raised under his cowl.
“What are you gawking at?” Neon asked testily.
“Nothing,” said the Ray, remaining in character; his Nazi double was notoriously hotheaded. “Do you want to make something of it?”
“Let’s go, tough guy,” said Neon.
The two faced off, flaming auras erupting around them.
“Stow it, you two,” said Torpedo, fielding another call.
New York City:
Margo the Magician frowned in her mirror. She had three days before a disaster took place. She had to prevent that at all costs. Who could she call on to help her?
The Freedom Fighters seemed the best choice for the job; they had disbanded a few months ago, but she didn’t believe those valiant fighters would really remain disbanded while their country needed them. She had met both Uncle Sam and Midnight once. The leader of the Freedom Fighters would help her out if he knew. A flight to Washington seemed in order.
She left her hotel room. She had a plane at LaGuardia she could fly to D.C. Locating Uncle Sam would be easy once she was there.
Margo took a cab to the airport. She filed a plan before she checked her plane over. Refueling took precious time, but it had to be done. When everything was ready, she taxied down the runway and headed south.
An hour later, Margo circled over the capitol city. She followed the rest of the traffic to a landing at Dulles International Airport in Washington. She parked the plane in a public space and walked through the terminal to get a cab. The taxi took her to the Washington mall so that she could start her search.
Margo looked at the series of close monuments. She felt that Uncle Sam would be close by if he wasn’t busy looking out for Americans in need.
She focused her inner eye on the area, playing her light out. She saw a tall figure walking across the memorial pool. She smiled at her success.
Margo walked to catch up with the tall man as he headed down the sidewalk away from her. She caught up with a rapid echoing step. “Sam?” Margo called. “Uncle Sam?”
The tall man turned, white hair catching the light from a street lamp. A smile crossed the lined face when he saw his accoster walking toward him. He was dressed in a brown overcoat, with a brown suit and shoes.
“I hardly recognized you,” Margo said, gesturing at the plain garb.
“I’m incognito,” said Uncle Sam, a twinkle in his eye as he spoke. “I’m helping Hoover’s boys with some local problems.”
“I need a big favor,” said Margo. “I need help from your Freedom Fighters, and there’s only three days left.”
San Francisco, California:
Roy Miller took aim without a scope. His rifle was not exactly designed for what he was about to do. He just wanted it to hit in the general area he was aiming at. He pulled the trigger, trying to remember his basic training. The bullet punched the man in the blue dress and sent him to the ground. Roy smiled slightly.
Stefan Queen rolled his soft body across the field. When he thought he was close enough, the blob exploded in a long leap that brought him down on the Wind Dragon. The two rolled to the ground, intertwined around each other.
“Incoming,” warned Lieutenant Matthew Shrieve, pointing at the diving Kite Man.
“Got him,” said Martin Cove, hefting the squad assault weapon in his scaly arms. The creature from the black lagoon pulled the trigger to run a belt of ammo through the breach of his machine gun. The armored flyer suffered holes punching through his shell. Kite Man sailed over the Creature Commandos before he crashed into the ground and exploded.
“Looks like we need a way to deal with that thing rolling around with Queen,” said Shrieve. “Any ideas?”
“Hold that thought,” said Miller, taking aim. “Got two runners and something else to deal with first.”
“I’ll help Steve,” said Cove. “You guys take the rest.”
“Let’s sweep these guys up,” said Shrieve, heading to the airport fence.
He felt Cove’s bulk fall in behind him as he ran forward. A grenade blew a section out of the fence. He stepped through the smoking hole, submachine gun ready. Cove kicked the fence out of his way.
A rifle bullet exploded against something in front of Shrieve. He didn’t stop to think about it being impossible. He just pulled the trigger on his submachine gun until the clip ran dry. Purple blood flew as the invisible whatever was chewed up by his firepower.
Project M, New Mexico:
David Vincent stood in Colonel Sanchez’ office. Purple tendrils whipped around him as he waited for the officer to say something.
If Sanchez agreed with Oak about subjecting him to tests, he would burst the office wall and fight his way off the base. He thought the energy he exuded would physically boost him through the facility’s defenders.
“Corroborating information has been passed to the OSS,” Sanchez said. “They want us to stay out of it while they let some other agency handle this.”
Vincent stared at the man for a long second. “I can’t do that,” he said. “We’re talking about New York being totally destroyed. I can’t let anything even get that close.”
“Why do you think the threat is that big?” asked James Oak.
“Close your eyes, Professor,” said Vincent, raising his hand. “I’ll show you.”
“Can you do that?” asked Oak, interested despite himself.
“Close your eyes,” said Vincent.
Professor Oak closed his eyes. Purple energy whipped around his head. Memories flooded across his mind’s eye. He felt the association of each, even though they weren’t his memories. Suddenly, his mind became a jumble as the initial effects of the DNA serum took over. Then the dream started. Oak fought for his objectivity as he knew he was seeing someone else’s dream, and saw it was something that was going to happen even if it didn’t happen as he saw it.
Oak blinked back to reality. He shook his head, trying to clear his mind of the effects of Vincent’s abilities.
“Oak?” said Sanchez, reaching across his desk to steady the other man. “Are you all right?”
“I’ll be fine in a second,” Oak said. “Let me catch my breath.”
Minutes passed as Oak got ahold of himself.
“I think Private Vincent’s right,” said Oak. “Project M needs to be on the scene.”
The duplicate of Neon the Unknown wandered across England. He was sent to check out tips from the hotline. Sometimes the tips were valid. Most times they weren’t. Sometimes he went on raids with the other SS Ubermenschen. He hung back, rarely using his powers as the others arrested whoever they caught in the act.
A small transmitter rested against the artificial plate of his skull. It was hooked to his eyes and ears so that he could pass information. Small cells allowed him to duplicate the real Neon’s powers when he needed to.
Every once in a while, he burned an Occupation operation to the ground to sow further chaos in the ranks.
Neon arrived back at the briefing room. The whole team was assembled with Count Helmet von Stauffen present. Known as the Black Knight, he was the Red Torpedo’s superior in the SS, although he had been preoccupied with capturing the Marksman and his European Resistance movement after they slipped from his grasp in March. (*) The synthetic man knew whatever was coming was bad news.
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Marksman: Unusual Suspects.]
“Please be seated,” said von Stauffen, gesturing to the briefing desks. “One of our most important resources has fallen silent. Your team is to penetrate enemy territory, find out what is going on, and clear the site.”
“Where is this site?” asked the Invisible Hood.
“New York State,” said the Black Knight. “The Red Torpedo has exact coordinates. If you can’t extract the target, he is to be terminated.”
“Who are we going after?” the Ray asked.
“Dr. Josef Mengele,” said Count von Stauffen, holding a photograph up in one hand. “Any other personnel is to be questioned or terminated as circumstances warrant.”
“What happens if we can’t get him or kill him?” asked Magno.
“You stay in America until you do one or the other,” said von Stauffen. “Any other questions?”
“What’s the purpose of the site?” asked the Ray.
“That’s classified,” said the officer. “Any other questions?”
The room was silent.
“False identities are in briefing packages,” said the Black Knight, “as well as American clothes and money, in case you have to stay in America for more than the brief time we think the mission will take. If you are captured, you are expected to escape or kill yourself at the earliest opportunity.”
The team filed out of the room on that sobering note.
San Francisco, California:
Captain Shiro Nakayama looked around. The Divine Wind had been decimated by these newcomers. The only member of the team who was still active was Wind Serpent. He had to get away from the scene and get out of California so he could avenge this insult.
He saw where Quicksilver had landed as he ran. He took aim with his pistol and fired at the blue and white figure. He emptied the clip to make sure he had killed the meddler.
He reloaded as he ran. If Wind Serpent escaped, he would try to reach the docks to escape on a boat. That was where he was going.
Yugi ran behind the captain. He was trying to use cover to escape the sniper the enemy had brought with him.
Typhoon stood up, blood leaking from his shoulder. He raised his hand to blow the yellow blob and the fish man away. He didn’t see the irate Lieutenant Shrieve running right at him until it was too late to block the butt stroke aimed at his face. He went down and stayed there, because Shrieve kicked him in the head to make sure he would.
Martin Cove reached down and grabbed the jaws of the Wind Serpent as it tried to get away from the clinging Stefan Queen. It tried to force its mouth open to breathe fire on the commandoes. Queen and Cove held the mouth closed with their powerful muscles as the dragon tried to squirm to get away from them.
Roy Miller jogged down to catch up with the rest. He took a path to keep the two runners in range of his rifle so he could shoot them in the back as they ran.
New York City:
Margo the Magician and Uncle Sam stood in Central Park. A man from the OSS was supposed to meet them to discuss Margo’s information. An army of Martians was a host of bad news for the Allies.
A graying man in a suit and red bow tie approached them quietly.
“Billy Yank,” said Uncle Sam.
“Johnny Reb,” said the man in the bow tie.
“Now that we have that out of the way,” said Uncle Sam, “I reckon it’s time for us to get down to business.”
“What is the problem, Sam?” said the man in the bow tie, who was known only as Control.
“This is Margo the Magician,” said Uncle Sam. “She’s recently found a nest of Bundist agents on American soil. We decided that we needed the full weight of the armed forces to help us clear it out.”
“What makes you think I can help you?” asked Control.
“This involves an army of Manhunters,” said Margo.
Control froze in place. “What did you say?”
“An army of Manhunters,” said Margo.
“Is this for real?” said Control.
“Yes,” said the magician.
“Let’s talk about this at my office,” said Control.
“Right behind you, sonny,” said Uncle Sam.
Control led the way to his car. He waved the two into the backseat before getting behind the wheel. He slowly drove away from the park.
He pulled into a garage under a hotel. He led the way to the elevator, punching the button to call it down, then the floor button. The three rode up to his room in silence.
“My room is 1408,” said Control. “It’s down there.”
He let them in, pulling out a table and folding chairs for them to sit. He sat down in the room’s single recliner.
“Start at the beginning,” said Control.
Margo told him of her search and overhearing the head clone addressing his army.
San Francisco, California:
Quicksilver dropped the bullets he had caught. That had made it easy to play dead. He got to his feet slowly. Monsters were dealing with the rest of the Japanese team. He thought they were Americans from the green fatigues they were.
He watched Shiro Nakayama and his aide Yugi run away calmly. Then he sprinted after the Eurasian. He enveloped the captain in a flurry of blows that sent him flying into the fence surrounding the airport. A spinning kick knocked Nakayama out.
Yugi paused, leveling his weapon. He fired as fast as he could pull the trigger. The blue and white speedster still stood in front of him. He looked down at his empty hands. Then he looked backed at the smiling American. The man was spinning a pistol on his index finger.
Yugi raised his hands, opting to try to kill the man when he could act with surprise on his side.
Handcuffs went on the man’s wrists as he was led back to his destroyed escape plane. Captain Nakayama rode on the man’s shoulder, then landed on the hard asphalt a few feet away from the struggle the monster soldiers were having while subduing the Wind Serpent.
“Stay,” Quicksilver told Yugi, as he picked up a metal support rod torn off by the crash.
Suddenly, the rod began to beat on the dragon’s head like a jackhammer. The beast tried to throw off its tormentors with a shrug of its wings.
“Freeze or fry,” said Roy Miller, hand on the grenade launcher mounted on the barrel of his rifle.
The Wind Dragon subsided.