Wing How and I, dressed as Franciscan monks, were comfortably set up in a small room, the sort used for storage. We were placed there with much apologies about the lack of rooms available.
Our hostess, the aforementioned Silver Fox, spoke Italian as well as English, I discovered. Believing me to be Italian, she was eager to demonstrate her command of the language. Thanks to her desire to practice Italian, she may have let slip information she shouldn’t have. That, or she deliberately acted in a manner designated to discover if we might by our actions be spies for either the Allies or the Third Reich. We weren’t sure.
However, speaking softly in Latin — which we had both learned in our high-school years — Wing and I discussed whether or not we should do anything.
It seemed that we had stopped at the very same place where King Cobra — the Nazi version of our own Blackhawk — had been planning a get-together to recruit a few potential members of his own team. That news shook us up a bit.
You see, King Cobra was the alias of Baron Vyberg, who had been shot dead in 1943 by a German whose wife he killed, and his death had been witnessed and verified by the original Blackhawks. (*) Yet we both saw him there with our own eyes. It wasn’t until we saw him turn, revealing a strange but decidedly Oriental profile, that we realized it was not the same man. This new King Cobra was not a German at all but a pale-haired Japanese warlord now using the name, whose bizarre appearance actually resembled that of a human snake.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “King Cobra,” Military Comics #19 (May, 1943).]
Our target himself was also there with Cobra. Dr. Samuel Lewis, renowned biochemist and alleged traitor, was part of the Jap’s retinue. I told Wing that during the time frame when everyone should be asleep and what few guards were posted would themselves be sleepy, I planned to pay a visit to the good doctor. If necessary, I would kill him. If not, I’d bring him with us. I told Wing to get some rest, because three A.M. would come early.
What I didn’t know at the time was that King Cobra had someone outside our room. It was something I should have counted on but didn’t.
Late that night, I was skulking about in the shadows when familiar voices coming out of an office caught my attention.
“My man is very good at the western languages, and he could not understand what they were saying.” King Cobra was the one speaking.
Silver Fox responded, “Maybe it’s that church language, Latin.”
There was silence, then King Cobra spoke again. “In the morning, I’ll have our special guest listen to this tape. He understands that tongue. It’s used in western science a lot.” He snorted derisively. “Oh, for the day we can smash these barbarians of the west as he has helped us crush the gutter races of Asia.”
Just like the Chinese, Koreans, Indonesians, and others were forced against their will to join the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, I thought to myself.
“Oh, well,” Cobra declared at last. “I have guards posted, my dear lady. Those two won’t be going anywhere, I can assure you of that.”
If all the guards were sleeping like the ones I saw, then I had nothing to worry about. Of course, the guards not far from our door had been drinking saké against orders, but I suppose they figured two monks wouldn’t be a problem for them.
My mission now was to find the doctor and discover if he was committed to the Axis or wanted to get out. Then I had to see if we could get him out or kill him, which was my inclination. I knew how the Nazis had discovered ways to turn people in such a way that they would be willing to kill their own mothers for the good of the Führer. The brains back in D.C. believed they had shared that secret with the Japs. I was about to leave where I was and go look for him, when the new King Cobra spoke again.
“Tomorrow, several new people will be arriving — potential members of my squadron. If they are half as good as I have been told they are — and I know Captain Thor is — then thanks to the doctor, we can begin our infiltration of Alaska.”
I pondered that, then heard Silver Fox speak again. “What about the monks?”
“Oh, tomorrow they’ll be target practice for my new recruits, and their church masters will be told these two ran afoul of bandits or something.”
Both laughed, then Silver Fox added, “Terrible thing, this mountain bandit problem, isn’t it?”
King Cobra snorted. “Yes, these Koreans are good for something besides cannon fodder and slave labor.” He laughed uproariously. “They also make good excuses for the reasons people who come to this lousy country sometimes disappear.”
As they laughed, I moved on to kill the doctor, now convinced he had indeed betrayed the Allies. Then I would warn Wing. I was almost to the doctor’s quarters, when there he was as big as life.
“Oh, Father, thank God!” Dr. Samuel Lewis told me even as I reached for my knife. “Please, I need your help. I need to get out of here. In the name of God, please help me!”
I admit he looked convincingly frightened. Even moreso when we both heard the click of rifles being readied to shoot coming from behind me. King Cobra and the Silver Fox were both laughing again, only this time at me.
Quickly slipping a smoke bomb down my sleeve, I dropped it and grabbed the doctor as it hit the floor, and we crashed through the rice paper they use for windows around here, hitting the ground in a roll.
I landed on a guard, slugged him, grabbed his rifle, and urged the doctor to run for the trees while I fired off several rounds, hoping to slow our pursuers.
We hurried as best we could through the snow until we came to a guard post. They hadn’t yet received word of our escape, so we easily overpowered them and tied them up. Thus we had two machine guns and a Jeep to go with the now-empty rifle, which I abandoned.
I drove into a cave, a location Wing and I had found earlier. Within seconds I had covered our tracks, hoping that the rising snowstorm would further hamper attempts to follow us. I hoped Wing was OK, but he was on his own from here on out.
If necessary, I would take the doctor back to where Wing and I were supposed to meet our ride out of here — that is, if the doctor passed my test. Hypnotizing him was almost too easy, and when something is that easy, I become suspicious.
On the other hand, what poured out of him convinced me to trust him. Because of his unique psychological capabilities, he had been subject to no brainwashing. Primarily because the Axis agents thought he was already converted.
Then I pried deeper and discovered something that chilled me to the bone. The information I got out of him had been programmed into him. He was as clean an individual as the driven slush.
I was prepared to end his existence then, when a voice spoke commandingly, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
Looking toward the voice, I nearly did a double take at what I saw. This newcomer was tall, nearly seven feet easily, and had muscles on his muscles, with long, thick, braided red hair, and an equally long and braided red beard with a handlebar mustache. His clothing was reminiscent of something out of a Viking movie, and his right hand was encased in a metal glove. Around his waist was a belt made of the same dull gray metal, and in his ham-sized right hand was a nasty-looking stone mallet.
“Captain Thor, I presume?”
He nodded, bowing slightly, and said in perfect American English, “I see that my reputation has preceded me. I am most pleased. You must be the renegade monk I have been sent to look for.”
“Obviously the winter storm didn’t slow you down,” I growled.
Grinning, he said, “To one who was born the son of Wotan and a storm giant, no storm can slow me down. Now drop your weapon, priest, and we shall return to see King Cobra.”
“Storm giant?” I scoffed. “I thought that was Loki, not Thor.”
He shrugged. “Loki and I are both the sons of storm giants now.” His voice turned cold. “Drop the weapon, or I shall have to use Mjollnir on you.”
I laughed, and he looked puzzled even as he raised his hammer. Then I let him have several rounds of hot lead. His face registered surprise as blood spurted out of his body. He started to say something but instead decided just to hit the floor, face down.
“Never was one to believe in the old gods,” I said to the doctor, who was still sitting and quietly minding his own business, which I assumed was due to the hypnotic state I had him in.
Deciding then and there to save my ammo, I used the butt of my machine gun to finish off the traitor. One thing I had always hated was a traitor. A man who turns on his own country, not because he believes the leadership is insane or evil, but solely to be allowed to pursue experiments on human minds — well, that just pissed me off.
I sat there, lit a cigarette, and reflected on the two dead bodies. One was a man who had been convinced he was a legendary god come down to save Germany, while the other was nothing more than a filthy traitor. Captain Thor I had to respect. He, at least, had been raised to believe he was who he said he was. But no way was I going to mourn either of them.
In 1942, I faced a choice of which branch of the military to join when my country was attacked at Santa Barbara. I debated between the Marines and the Navy, flipped a coin, and became a swabbie instead of a gyrene. My younger brother joined the Army, and my older brother — well, he became one of Bart Hawk’s Black Hawks, but only for a time. We all made our mark in our own ways, but I eventually became a special operative under the name of the Unknown Soldier. It’s a name I inherited from the last guy after he died, and I suppose someday someone else will be given the name after I kick the bucket.
Times like this I wished we had put the Axis into a deep grave, then paved over the cemetery plot. One thing was for sure — with or without Wing, I was leaving this Godforsaken land and heading home.
So as I sit here at my desk typing up this rough draft of my official report, I have a few things left to summarize.
Wing How — I never connected with him, but Captain Weng Chan told me not to worry about him, as Wing was known for his daring escapes and has connections with the Korean underground.
Captain Thor, whose fingerprints are included with report, sounded to me like he was American-born. He could have been a pro-wrestler, circus strongman, body builder, or even one of those costumed jackasses that were fashionable ten years ago. It was something to ask Uncle Sam about. If anyone knew what had happened to former masked mystery-men, he’s the one to ask. Fortunately, that’s not my department.
The new King Cobra and Silver Fox — their conversation leads me to suspect that they’re going to cause major headaches for the Allies in years to come.
Brainwashing — obviously, the Ratzis have new techniques so good someone won’t even know they been changed over. This is going to be a serious problem for our side. That’s something for the brains in D.C. to worry about, though. I’m just a Navy man with a funny nickname and a job to do.
Lastly, I’m going to recommend a medal for the stew crew here on the U.S.S. Idaho. I haven’t eaten this good in months.