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Uncle Sam, Doll Man, Phantom Lady, The Ray, The Black Condor, The Human Bomb, Firebrand, Plastic Man.  Heroes from the Golden Age, who fought for freedom, and justice during World War II and now carry that fight on into the modern day as The Freedom Fighters

Written by “Blustery” Bob Danner

Issue #7

“The Search for Uncle Sam, Finale!”


Prelude______________________________________________________

An Office Bldg., Los Angeles CA

“No, I’ve told you time and time again that I’m not interested in that type of information anymore,” the gaunt, balding, older man spoke on the phone, behind his desk, in the executive office.  The light of the setting sun shown through the large glass windows and ricocheted around the dimly lit room, occasionally falling on the man and the guest standing behind him.

“No…no…no!  I have what I want and I’ll deal with any of them in my own way.  You do realize that you are jeopardizing everything that I’ve worked for Raphael?  Jeopardizing it all for the mere satisfaction of revenge, that is all, revenge!  May I remind you that HIS ideas weren’t all that fantastic either?  Now that I look upon them with hindsight, I realize that he dared reach too far at once.  You would do well to follow my advice, as he would have.

Spinning around in his high-backed leather chair, the lithe figure reached across his desk, and grabbed the cigarette holder from his ashtray.  Striking his gold lighter, he brought the holder to his thin lips and began to puff away.  The tension in the room was so high that you could cut it with a knife!

“Listen, allow my plan to continue unabated, then you will get your chance to have revenge on all of those that have wronged you.  I promise you this Raphael!  Yes…yes…yes…of course.  Our influence continues to grow here and HIGHER positions are, at last, within our grasp.  Of course, I will continue to aid you in every way that I possibly can, although I don’t see that you need any more financial aid at this point.  You are, after all, the leader of a sovereign state, even as small as it is.  Yes, I will speak to you very soon.  What?  Oh, of course…Sieg Heil!”

Hanging up the phone, he continued to puff on his cigarette, clouding up the room.  Slowly he turned towards the large fellow, standing partially in shadow, behind him.  Gazing up at the man, he could see the fading light glinting off of his dark scale mail armor and spoke.

“Well, my rather dangerous friend, you see what I’m now faced with.  The fool has an incredible ego and NO respect or appreciation for what I’ve done for him.  I have spent untold amounts of money, time and effort into this plan, yet his buffoonery threatens to undo everything that I’ve worked so hard for.  Of course, you know I can’t allow that to happen,” he spoke.

The mysterious figure walked around the desk, hands behind his back, and turned towards the elder man and replied, “Oh yes, Mr. St. Germaine*, I see your dilemma.  You do realize my price is very steep, however?”

*Ex-Nazi and personal associate of Adolph Hitler, one time administrator of a utopian society on a Bahdnesian island, now director of St. Germaine Enterprises.  1st appearance in DC’s 1992 Justice Society of America-Ye Writer.

Smiling, Pol St. Germaine looked up at the powerful frame of the shadowed assassin and taking one more puff on his cigarette, snuffed it out, turned his chair around with his back to the “hired-gun” and gazing off into the setting sun spoke, “Money, my friend, is NO object.  But…ah…are you good enough to be part of my…shall I dare say…FINAL SOLUTION?”  

“Worth every penny!” bragged the killer, as the sunlight washed across the half-grin on his face.

Chapter 3____________________________________________________

“From The Redwood Forest…”

His laugh echoed over the hills and off the granite cliffs, carried on the cool mountain breeze of the Black Hills of South Dakota.  It ran chills straight through the officials, pondering their plight and peril, at the makeshift command post.  Yes, the laugh of the Mandragora crept across the sacred and inspiring grounds around the monument and sent a shiver of shock down the spines of our two supermen.

“Oh, that was just great!” cried out one of the park rangers gathered near the command post. *

*See last issue-Ye Writer.

“Well, I didn’t know it would have that kind of affect on him!” replied the Ray.

Stepping in between the two men, the Black Condor began talking, “That’s enough people.  We made a mistake, so we now have to keep him from capitalizing on it!  We don’t have time for an argument.”

Pounding his fist into the hood of one of the emergency vehicles, the older deputy spoke, “What do we do?  Does have anyone have an idea?  A plan?”

“Condor…I’m sure that when I cut through those vines, hanging over the presidential “faces”, he winced.  I’m sure of it!  At least for a moment there, ol’ Creeping Vine felt some pain.  After that…who knows, but for a few seconds at the beginning he flinched!” the Ray pled with his partner.

“I believe so too Ray, but then the whole plant structure shuddered and grew thicker and fuller, tightening its grip on the remaining “hostages”.  Sort of like a plant absorbing sunlight,” replied Black Condor to his comrade.

Pointing to his partner, the Ray continued on, “Yeah, like photosynthesis or something.  What say I fly over his head and then hit him with a blast of concentrated heat, holding back on the light I discharge?”

“Oh great…that’s your BIG idea?” cried out the park ranger as he shook his head in disbelief.  “Didn’t you guys learn your lesson the first time?  Man…you old timers are lost!”

“Son, I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever learn!” the Ray snapped back, stepping towards the ranger.

“Calm down Ray,” spoke Black Condor grabbing his friend’s arm and pulling him back.  “I’m going to try to attack “Mandy”, hand to hand, and peel him out of that underbrush.  Maybe, if I can get him out of there, the plants will release their hostages?”

“Yeah…maybe…but if not, I’m coming down “hot and heavy” on his head,” retorted the Ray, staring down the park ranger.

Launching himself straight up into the air, and quickly barrel rolling over top of the plant mass, Black Condor landed behind the man calling himself, Mandragora.  To his surprise, the Mandragora never even turned around to face him.  He simply spoke out into the calm air.

“So…you have come to meet me head on?  You have come to witness the wonder that is the Mandragora,” he said in a creepy, emotionless voice.

Grabbing the vagrant in a full nelson, Black Condor replied, “You’ve got that right Mister!  Now you’re coming with me and I’m putting an end to this!”

Jerking up on the captive, he held tight in his grasp, Black Condor started to rise off of the ground.  Suddenly, the foliage rose up from the ground below his levitating feet and seized him and started pulling him down.  Releasing his grip on the terrorist, he cried out as his arms and legs were bound tightly to his muscular frame, “Holy Hannah!”

With a wave of the villain’s hand, the underbrush rippled like a large ocean wave and he was swept up, face to face with the flora-speckled drifter.  “You see puny creature, the forces that you face are far more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” spoke the Mandragora as he held him firmly by the throat.  “You WILL BE acceptable nutrients for this hungry plant life.”

“I don’t think so, Oh Green, Grimy and Gruesome!  Not if the Ray has anything to say about it!” screamed the Ray as he gave the Mandragora a speedy right hand to the head, streaking past him near ground level.  Making an unbelievable turn, the Ray rose high into the air and readied himself to deliver a massive heat blast.

“Arrrrrrrrrrr!” the Mandragora roared as he watched the Ray floating overhead.  Looking down at the Black Condor he mumbled, “Your energy-controlling friend wouldn’t dare strike at me with you being held so close!”

“Close?” replied Black Condor.  “This isn’t close!  I’ve seen him take down better bad guys than you Mandy and from a lot farther away too.  You see, all I had to do was give him a signal and WHAM!

“Signal?  What signal?” he replied, looking back down into the face of his captive.

“Why this one of course…TAKE HIM!” cried out Black Condor as he lunged upward and struck the verdure villain square in the chin with a forceful head butt.

As his head snapped up and back, the Mandragora was caught flush in the face with an incredible discharge of pure heat energy.  ZWAP!  Instantly, the thicket of vegetation released its captives and began to wither and withdraw back towards the area around the feet of the fiend.

“ARRRRRRRRRRR!” screamed the Mandragora.  “No…you can’t do this to my brothers!  They’re…they’re…dying back! DYING…Dying…dyingdyingdyingdyingdyingdying,” he moaned, as he began to shrivel and shrink along with the plant growth.  Then, to everyone’s surprise, in a flash of light he was gone!

“Holy Cow!” yelled the park ranger.  “You’ve vaporized the guy!”

Interlude____________________________________________________

Midway City, Home of Martha and Darrell Dane

Pale yellow, deep burgundy and navy blue…at first they are in a well-organized pattern, marching forward.  Then they start to fade slightly and weakly pulsate, finally blurring before resuming their “march” on the wall again in their established formation.  Sitting in her high-backed chair, Martha Roberts Dane still suffered from the sensation of shock and surprise following her meeting with Claire Whitman Peeks, granddaughter of one-time villain, the Fool Killer.  She sat staring at the wallpaper on the walls of her lovely home in suburban Midway City, sat in awe of inheriting millions.  She simply couldn’t believe what had happened to Darrell and herself.  Suddenly, she was shaken back to reality by the ringing of the telephone.  Ring!  Ring!

“Hello…Mrs. Dane…Martha…is that you?” the friendly voice on the other end spoke, trying to get her attention.

“Yes…yes…this is Martha Dane…could I help you?” she mumbled into the phone.

“Yes, Martha.  This is John-Carl Cheetham from Quality’s legal staff.  How are you this afternoon?  I suppose congratulations are in order Martha?” replied the familiar voice.

“Thank…thank you, John-Carl.  I’m just fine…just still a little stunned is all.  How are you?” she asked.

“I’m fine Martha, but this isn’t a social call or a call about the inheritance.  I’m calling to get a message through to Darrell.  I need him to contact me at the office ASAP.  The stockholders want to meet and have a discussion with Darrell on the future of Quality Chemicals,” he responded.

Turning back towards the room and biting her lip, Martha concernedly replied, “Oh, dear.  I hope it’s not more bad news John-Carl.  Darrell has been pulling his hair out lately trying to save the company.  He’s spent so many restless nights, pacing back and forth, working and re-working the books, in his study.”

“Well, I can’t reveal too many details Martha, but perhaps things are on the upswing.  A wealthy organization has approached many of the stockholders and made a very large offer to buy out the company,” the attorney answered.

“I’ll…I’ll have him contact you as soon as I can John-Carl.  I don’t know whether that’s good news or bad new…goodbye,” Martha spoke as she gently laid down the receiver.

Interlude____________________________________________________

Back In New York City

“Get some sleep, for God’s sake, Darrell!” screamed Rod Reilly from his bed in the posh uptown hotel.  “We’ve got to get some sleep!”

“Sorry Rod, I guess I’ve got the TV up too loud.  I’m just having a very hard time resting, just too much going on in my life at once,” replied Darrell Dane to his teammate.

“I know Darrell, but you’ve got to really put this inheritance thing out of your mind and concentrate on the matter at hand.  Everything will turn out OK.  OK?” Rod yelled back.

Darrell knew his longtime friend and compatriot was right, but it would be a very long, restless night for him.  Very restless indeed!

The next morning arrived all to early and the pair was quickly up and out, beating the pavement, continuing their search for a likely candidate to house the spirit of freedom & liberty, the spirit of Uncle Sam.  After dodging in and out of traffic, changing untold numbers of taxicabs and searching some of the most well known tourist attractions in New York City, the anxiety was reaching high levels for our pair, and it was starting to take its toll.  Gazing and gawking at what seemed like millions of faces, our pair was getting to the virtual end of their rope.

“Well, we’ve checked the Guggenheim, Lincoln Center, the Great American Hall of Fame, the American Museum of Natural History, and Yankee Stadium,” mumbled Rod to Darrell in the back of their cab.

“Yep, also Central Park, Broadway, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.  Heck, we’ve even walked the Brooklyn Bridge and nothing…zip…nada!” replied Darrell, shaking his head.  “There is just so much in this city to check.  Such a rich and vibrant history!”

“You can say that again buddy, it’s one of the very reasons that I’ve lived here the majority of my life,” responded Rod.  “Truly the “City That Never Sleeps”!”

Laughingly Darrell replied, “I’ll stay in Midway City, if you don’t mind.  It’s large enough for Martha and me and besides, there isn’t a Tiffany’s for Martha to spend so much money at.”

Chuckling, Rod exclaimed, “There’s only one place that I can think of that we haven’t checked…and it’s the most obvious one!”

Tapping on the window separating the passengers from the driver, Darrell Dane spoke, “Cabby, get us to the docks near Battery Park ASAP!  We’ve got a ferry to catch and a “lady” to meet up with today!”

Interlude___________________________________________________

Rush hour, Downtown St. Augustine FL

The sun was already beating down on the streets of the oldest city in the United States and those same streets were bustling this midmorning.  Temperatures were on the rise here, and they were also on the rise for many of its’ citizens in this rush hour madness.

One such citizen was Mr. Sidney Aloysius Punet’, a bank employee making his way from the bus stop, across the busy streets, to the downtown bank where he had worked for so long.  The feeble, little, man in the gray suit and bright blue bowtie made his way towards the front door of the bank, punctual as usual.  So punctual in fact, that he had opened the bank for the last ten years like clockwork.  Marching in, in his usual routine, he made his way to the bank office, punched his timecard, and then placed his hat and coat onto the rack in the corner.  His shirt was a bright white and was meticulously pressed and his gray slacks were the same.  The blue suspenders that he wore matched his tie and looked spectacular on their white background.  Yes, Mr. Punet’ would have been considered somewhat of a clothes horse back in the 1940’s or 1950’s, but at the turn of the 21st century, he just looked outdated, out of place and awfully out of touch!  The bespectacled and mustached milquetoast sat down quietly at his usual post, behind the front desk in front of his boss’s office, and started his tedious work.

“Puny!” screamed a loud voice entering the office.  “There isn’t any cream for this coffee, you little slug!”

“Sorry Sir,” came a meek voice from the rear of the room.  “Mother ran out and we just haven’t had time to get to the grocery.”

“Hey, tell “Mom” to get the lead out will you!  And by the way, I need those weekly statements on my desk by say…noon, and Puny?” barked the big, hulking bully.

“Sir?” asked the timid accountant.

“You’ve been turned down…AGAIN…for that promotion.  They gave it to Sandoval over at the south side branch.  Ha, looks like your stuck with me again for a while Puny!” bellowed the loud mouth, Mr. Dalton.

“That’s Pu-nay,” replied the mild-mannered milksop.

“Don’t correct me!  Now get your rear in gear on those statements!” the boss screamed as he slammed his door shut.

Interlude____________________________________________________

Liberty Island, New York

After checking out the island and also the many crowds of tourists wandering all over the place, the two friends stood gazing up at the tremendous statue from below.  Darrell Dane and Rod Reilly could do nothing but stare at the lady in awe and wonderment.

“Freedom…a pretty nice idea!” spoke Rod out loud.

“You can say that again Pal!” replied Darrell.  “Mr. Bartholdi’s “Liberty Enlightening The World” looks pretty doggone good doesn’t she?”

“Absolutely,” his partner answered.

The warm breeze blew in off of the harbor and struck them in the face, and both men stood with patriotic pride swelling in their hearts.

Darrell, suddenly began to speak, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.  I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Looking over at his old friend, Rod mumbled, “I never get tired of seeing her.  As long as I have lived here, I find myself mesmerized by her.”

“Speaking of “find”, doesn’t look like we’re any closer to finding Sam here than anywhere else in this city,” Darrell spoke.

Shrugging his shoulders, Rod responded, “I suppose not, I was just hoping that THIS would be the spot.”

BUZZ!  BUZZ!  Darrell Dane’s pager sounds startling both our heroes.

“Well, the alarm is sounding Rod.  Time to join the real world again,” he said, with a grin on his face.

Making their way back toward the ferry landing, Darrell made a beeline for the nearest pay phone and called home to his wife, Martha.  Turning back towards Rod, he motioned to him asking for just a few minutes and after hanging up, he spoke.

“Well, things just got worse.  The stockholders have contacted the lawyers and they want me back in Midway City for a meeting by the end of the week.  Things are starting to get hairy now!” Darrell said as he shook his head, looking down at the ground.

“Well Darrell, I think that we’ve done all we can here anyway.  Time to head back to Philly.” Rod replied with an air of disappointment in his voice.

“Yes, perhaps the others have done a little better,” Darrell responded.

Touching his finger to the small transmitter/receiver device in his ear Rod spoke, “Plas, we’re on our way back to Philly…empty handed!”

“Righto, FB!  I copy loud and as clear as the Liberty Bell!” he responded in his familiar upbeat tone.  “I’ll let the others know!”

Chapter 4_________________________________________________

“To The Gulf Stream Waters…”

 

Amtrak Station, St. Augustine FL

“All right Sandra K., it looks like we’ve came to the final “fork in the road” and as Yogi Berra use to say, “take it!” spoke Roy Lincoln as he picked up the two small traveling bags.

“Where to now Roy, we’ve checked out Stone Mt. GA with its’ wonderful Civil War sculpture and also in and around Birmingham AL and nothing!?” Sandra Knight replied.

“It’s getting close to noon, I say we grab a quick bite downtown, and then check out the old Spanish district and pray that we get some kind of clue about Sam,” he spoke rolling his eyes at her.

“Sounds good to me Roy, I’m famished!” she replied loudly trying to be heard over the din of the crowd in the railway terminal.

“Sandy, I’ve always wondered something and it’s a little hard for me to say,” he said lowering his head.  “Why is it that you never found me…”  Suddenly he was cutoff by a conductor screaming out the destination and last call.

“All aboard…last call for Metropolis and Gotham City.  Last call, non-stop to Metropolis and Gotham.  All aboard the MetGo Express!” he yelled.

“What was it you were going to tell me Roy?” Sandy asked.

“Ah…ah…it was nothing Sandy.  It can wait, let’s go!” he replied sighing a deep breathe.

Interlude_________________________________________________

An Archaeological Dig Near Alexandria Egypt

“The mists were thick, billowing like smoke towards me, around me, even…behind me!  As they rolled by I felt strange, yet reinvigorated and refreshed, somehow younger.  I could see things mixed in with the clouds as they passed me, events and people, places and occurrences.  I walked further into the fog…I saw old friends, and family members strolling by, as if they had never left and I saw my grandfather too.  Although I had never met him in real life, since he was killed before I was born*, I had seen thousands of pictures, flyers, programs and even some rare film footage of him.  He looked at me and bowed, giving me one of his cape waves, like the showman he was.  He was dressed in his black, satiny magicians costume…the one he wore at the beginning of his super-hero career.  His hair was slicked back and he had that really cheesy, thin moustache that he use to wear in the early days.  I’ve seen pictures of Zatarra before, but my grandfather always seemed to take the whole magicians’ thing to the next level, added a little more color and flash to it.  A little more zip!  Anyway, I kept hearing a voice calling to me.”

*Killed by the Stalker in the now classic All-Star Comics #1, Vol. #2 from 1999-Ye Writer.

“Val, Val,” it cried out.  “I need you to go to Philadelphia, to Independence Hall!”

“I looked around but didn’t see anyone.  It was coming from somewhere up ahead of me.  It kept calling over and over, and I kept walking.  Just as I was approaching, out of the mists, stepped a tall, lanky figure dressed in, what appeared to be, the American flag.  I, of course, knew what Uncle Sam was but had never met him in real life and was startled and stunned to see him in my dream.  I knew about the connection that he had with my grandfather and the other members of the Freedom Fighters, but still…it unnerved me.  After that, I woke up with a start, sweating like a pig!  I really don’t know what happened.  It’s all a blur.”

The couple sat staring at each other across a small table in a tent in the desert wilderness.  The two lovers, Dr. James Valentino Slade, grandson of the late, great magician-superhero Tor and his fiancée, Dr. Gwendolyn Hacker, sat drinking very strong Arabian coffee at their archaeological dig near Alexandria, Egypt and pondered the meaning of the dream that Val had just had a few hours earlier.

“I’m sure it means nothing Sweetie!” exclaimed Gwen waving her arms about, finally placing them to rest on her shapely hips.

“Perhaps…but you know I’ve had these prophetic dreams since I was a teenager.  Perhaps it means more than we think it does?  Maybe I should get on the phone and try to place a call to Mom in Chicago, just to touch base?” he responded.

“Perhaps you should try to call some of your grandfather’s old friends?” Gwen mumbled as she sipped from her cup with a half-grin on her lovely face.

“Now look,” Val yelled as he threw down his napkin on the table, “I don’t see where I need to get them involved in this.  Not yet anyway.  Besides Uncle Darrell and Uncle Rod are the only two I know how to get in touch with.  Aunt Sandy is God-knows where working, and I hear that Uncle Roy just moved out to California!  Uncle Tom is dead*, and Uncle Hap is probably off on some type of expedition or something!”

*Being out of the country for some time, Val doesn’t realize that his Uncle Tom is alive and well and has taken on the identity of his “own” son and has replaced himself in the U.S. Senate-Ye Writer.

“Well, I’m going to get on to work.  You are the one that has to make your mind up!” she replied and headed off to the research tent.

Val sat seated at the table, contemplating his next action, and sipped his coffee and wondered…just what it was that he should do!

Interlude________________________________________________

Citizens State Bank & Trust, Downtown St. Augustine FL

After several hours of brain-numbing work, Sidney Aloysius Punet’ withdrew from his desk out to the hallway water fountain, to wet his dry throat.  Gathered around, in the break area, were several of his co-workers swapping the juicy gossip of the day.  Seeing him approaching many scurried away, all except a lovely blonde secretary named Connie.

“Good Morning Sidney,” she greeted the modest little man.

“Good Morning Connie,” he replied pushing his glasses back upon his nose.  “How…are you today?” he asked, blushing a bright red.

Sitting back down in one of the break room chairs, she sat down her cup, crossed her shapely legs, and said, “I’m fine Sidney, but I’m sorry to hear about you being turned down for that promotion again.  Five times is way too many.  I just don’t think that Mr. Dalton is trying to help you out!”

“May be Connie…he…he is a busy man after all,” he replied.

“Busy?!  You’ve got to be kidding me Sidney.  He HATES you!  Can’t you see that?!” she forcefully replied.  “He treats you like dirt, and you keep on letting him.  Sometimes I wonder if you aren’t really the little wimp that everyone claims you are.  Are you?”

Listening to her, his heart started to pound rapidly.  He could feel heat on his face and his brain felt like it was on fire.  Standing there, he began to shake and quiver and could fell a sudden rush of power flow through his body and the strength of what felt like a dozen men surged through him.  As a single tear ran down his cheek, all he could think of was how he had been ridiculed all of his life about his looks and his size.  The schoolmates’ laughter, the jokes and finger-pointing that he had suffered through, the terrible treatment from a tyrannical boss, all the harassment and haranguing rushed through his mind.  Reaching out to grab the door to the break room, Sidney’s strength coursed over him and with a snap of his wrist and a ripple of muscle the door came off its’ hinges and flew against the rear wall.

CRASH!

“Good Gosh!” cried Connie.

“Wha…wha…what…has come over me?” exclaimed Sidney looking down at his arms.

“You ripped the door off its’ frame like it was made of paper!  I never knew you had it in you Sidney?!” cried Connie.

Staring at the lovely girl, he replied with a leer on his face, “I didn’t either but if I do, maybe it’s time that I took care of some things.”

Meanwhile in an old-fashioned, downtown diner, Roy Lincoln and Sandra Knight sat at the counter, waiting to order their food.  The diner’s business was booming and a large crowd had gathered to get their midday meal.  The heat from the day was filling the dining room and the vintage ceiling fans tried their best to keep the room cool, but they were taking a beating.

Tugging at his short-sleeved shirt, Roy spoke in a decidedly uncomfortable tone, “Sandy, not…not wanting to beat around the bush anymore, there is something that I tried to tell you earlier in the train station.  I want to know why you never found me…”

“Howdy y’all.  What can I get for you today?” spoke the waitress, standing over the counter wearing her pale, orange-checkered dress.

“Well, I’ll be,” cried out Roy looking towards the ceiling, shaking his head.  “Will it never end?”

Their orders taken, the couple sat there drinking their Cokes awaiting their food.  With a deep breathe and sigh, Roy Lincoln started again to try to explain things to Sandy.

“Look, we’ve been around along time together.  We’ve been through many good times, and equally as many bad.  We’ve seen things that most people in the world would never, ever see.”

“Or believe!” she replied, smiling.

“Right…exactly!  Some really wild and strange things Sandy.  During all of this, all of this pulse-pounding, heart-wrenching, chair-breaking excitement, I’ve felt that we were really, really close to each other.  Really close!” Roy continued.

As our “explosive” hero carried on, trying desperately to talk to the “damsel of the dark”, neither realized the sheer havoc that was occurring across the street.  Neither could comprehend the chaos that was happening inside the bank, only a matter of a few feet away.  Neither could sense the imminent danger that was approaching them at that very instant!

CRASH!

Suddenly, bedlam burst through the window of the diner in the form of a huge wooden desk, smashing into the counter next to Roy, sending the café into utter turmoil.  The glass and debris rained down upon the patrons at the diner and upon our two heroes.  Luckily, no one was seriously injured.

“Oh, for the love of Pete!?” mumbled Roy Lincoln, lowering and shaking his head.

“Come on Roy, let’s check this out!” shouted Sandy with a smile on her face, as she sped off to find a place to don her “working” clothes.

Back inside the bank, things had quickly accelerated from bad to worse.  Utilizing his newfound strength and stamina, Sidney Aloysius Punet’ had started to take out a lifetime of ridicule and frustration on his co-workers…particularly, his boss Mr. Dalton. 

“Please Sidney, I’m sorry for the way that I’ve treated you all these years.  Real sorry!” Dalton cried, pleading to the diminutive, newly developed, powerhouse.

 “Yes, you’ll be very sorry after I’m finished with you Dalton.  All of you will be sorry!” he screamed into the lobby of the bank as he twirled the two hundred and seventy-five lbs. man above his head with ease.

“H…H…hold it right there Mister!” screamed the front lobby security guard, pointing his service pistol at the pair.  “Drop…drop that man or I’ll fire!”

“Never,” replied Punet’.

With that, the guard fired a shot at the bespectacled bantam, striking him in the side.  As the bullet came into contact with the small man, it glanced off and embedded itself in the far wall.

PTING!

“Ha, that only tickled!” he laughed out loud, dropping his stunned supervisor on the hard, cold marble floor.  “Perhaps someone should teach you some manners young fellow?” he spoke, pointing one finger at the guard and using the other to push his glasses back up on his nose.

All of a sudden, in through the front door of the bank, rushed our heroes dressed in their uniforms ready for action.  The Phantom Lady and the Human Bomb stopped next to the security guard and glanced around the room, taking in the situation as quickly as possible.

“What’s going on here?  What’s the problem officer?” asked Phantom Lady.

“Yeah, what’s all the commotion?” asked the Human Bomb through his hooded helmet as he deactivated the dampening device built into his suit, feeling the familiar rush of energy envelop his body.

Wiping the sweat from his forehead with his forearm, the guard spoke, “I…I…don’t know what happened.  Usually he’s the finest little guy you’d ever meet, but something has set him off bad today, and what’s with the super-strength?  I mean…I just shot the guy with my pistol and the bullet just ricocheted off him!”

“Usually?” replied the Bomb.  “You mean he comes in here all the time?”

“Yeah, he’s one of the main clerks here,” spoke the bank guard in complete surprise.  “He’s usually as gentle as a lamb!”

“Well,” spoke Phantom Lady, “your lamb has turned into a raging lion friend, and is getting ready to tear this place apart from the looks of it!”

Taking a quick glance over at the scantily clad, black-haired beauty, the guard spoke, “I’d never believe that Mr. Punet’ even had a bad thought in his head.  He’s usually the nicest guy, but jeez!”

“Puny?  His name is Puny?” spoke the Bomb in utter disbelief and bewilderment.

“Don’t…ever…call…me…that again!” screamed the small man in the center of the lobby.  “NEVER!”

The crowd outside the large metal doors of the bank had just started to gather and off in the distance could be heard the sirens of the local law enforcement officials speeding towards the trouble.  A news team had arrived and were frantically getting their equipment set up when, without any warning, the doors flung open and into the middle of the street two bodies flew as Mr. Punet’ lunged at the Human Bomb with a flying tackle.  Propelling them both backwards, they landed in the center of the busy intersection at the corner of Oak and W. 3rd Street.  Sliding on his back, with a dynamo riding his ribcage, all Roy Lincoln could think of was what kind of “vehicle” just plowed him under!

“Holy Hannah, this guy means business, and he’s a powerhouse too!  I’ve got to end this one quick or I’m a goner!” he thought as he tried to clear his head.

Super-strong, invulnerable and landing several blows with his small fists, Mr. Punet’ continued to lash out at the Bomb in an inexperienced, yet heated frenzy.  Landing some punches, some glancing off of him, and with others pounding potholes in the pavement, he continued to pummel at Roy.

“Only one thing to do,” thought the Bomb,“ apply a little leverage and…alley oop!”

With that, Mr. Punet’ was flipped, head over heels, off of Roy Lincoln and through the window of the very diner that our heroes had earlier prepared to consume their lunch in.

CRASH!

Getting back to his feet, the Human Bomb shed the glove on his right hand and prepared to utilize the power that gave him his name.  An eerie shimmer enveloped his hand, similar to the way that heat rises off of a hot summer road, as he sat up to deliver an “earth-shattering” blow.  Trying to clear the cobwebs from his head, he prepared for the return of his pint-sized adversary.

“Gotta finish this fast!  C’mon…c’mon…” he thought as he waited.       

Managing to evacuate the occupants of the financial institution out the rear entrance of the building, Phantom Lady sped towards the battle sight to assist her partner.  As she ran towards the front of the building, she thought to herself, “I’ve got to help Roy!  He has to be OK, but I’ve not heard one explosion.  Not ONE!”  Maneuvering through the debris and rubble like an Olympic hurdler, she moved like a graceful cat towards the double-doors, when she heard the sobs of a young blonde lady peering out of the front window towards the pandemonium on the street outside.

“Oh Sidney, puh…puh…please stop this!  You’re too nice to do this.  Why is this happening to you?  You’re not that kind!” she moaned loudly with tears streaming down her face.

“You know this guy?” inquired Phantom Lady.

Seconds later, as she bound onto the sidewalk, a large explosive force rocked the area, shattering some windows and putting many of the unprepared bystanders including our heroes, flat on their backsides.

 

BOOM!

“That haymaker ought to take care of “Mr. Puny”!”* God knows it took enough out of…mmm…me,” mumbled the Human Bomb under his breath, rising to one knee trying to regain his composure.

*Although this is a revamp of this character, the original villain appeared back in the pages of Quality’s Hit Comics #53, July 1948-Ye Writer.

Smacking forcefully into the side of a brick building, Mr. Punet’ slid to the ground, regained his senses and squinting, managed to locate his glasses.  Getting to his feet, the once mild-mannered man screamed, “So, you think that is the end of me, eh?  Not hardly!”  Moving with amazing speed, the bespectacled combatant charged towards the Human Bomb again.

“St…st…stand back PL, I…I…I’ve got him this time!” yelled the Bomb wincing in pain as he steadied himself for the oncoming impact.

Leaping forward and somersaulting in front of the Human Bomb, Phantom Lady spoke, “Not this time Roy!”

As the diminutive dynamo bore down on our pair, Phantom Lady staid her herself and prepared for the impact.  As he quickly approached, she timed herself and with the precision of a surgeon, struck him squarely in the side of the head with a mighty roundabout kick.

WHAM!

Backwards fell the uncontrollable man onto his posterior with a thud, his glasses spinning off and crashing down on the pavement.

SMASH!

“My…my…my…glasses!  I can’t see a thing without them!” he cried out loud, squinting and raking the ground around him desperately to find them.

“Sidney…that is ENOUGH!” screamed Phantom Lady.

Facing up at her, Sidney tried to look at the woman that had put him down.  Straining to see, he began to speak, “Wha…what…happened?   Last thing I remember I was standing with Connie at the water fountain upstairs!”  Stunned by a female attack, and shocked back to “reality”, he dusted himself off but couldn’t recall any of the actions he had taken while enraged.

“Don’t worry Mr. Punet’, everything will be fine now.  You’re all right!” replied Phantom Lady.

Turning to face her partner, our “lady of the night” smiled as Connie rushed past her to help Sidney Aloysius Punet’ to his feet. 

“Sandy, how…how did you know that he would stop?!” asked the Human Bomb, placing his arm around the shoulders of the heroine, leaning on her for support.

“Well, to be honest with you, I didn’t Roy.  As I spoke to the young lady in the bank, it dawned on me that this whole situation could be some type of extreme “split personality” circumstance.  Although I have had some rudimentary training in this field, I’m nowhere near an expert in psychology or the domain of the human mind.  After observing Mr. Punet’ briefly, the only thing that stuck in my mind was a comparison between him and a rhinoceros.  As you know, rhino’s have very, very bad eyesight.”

“You’ve…you’ve got to be kidding?” the Human Bomb moaned, as Phantom Lady checked his ribcage for broken bones.

“Actually, no.  I figured the only thing that would keep him from attacking was to remove his glasses.  I thought, “How could he attack, if he couldn’t see?”  Also it dawned on me that perhaps a shock from a “female” would jolt him back to reality and force him back into his dominate personality.  Luckily, the sudden shake up, the abrupt halt to the hostility, the instant calm and quiet shocked his system into shutting down to the basics.  Deep breathes, lowered blood pressure, increased oxygen to the brain and a steadier chemical balance in his blood stream, all contributed in calming our “Mr. Punet’” down, thus reverting him back to normal.”

“That’s some big chance…you…you took PL!” mumbled Roy Lincoln.

Without warning, a great gasp rose from the on-looking crowd and the bank secretary let out a blood-curdling scream!  Turning our dynamic duo could see that Sidney Punet’ was gone.  Vanished!

“He’s gone!” screamed Connie.  “With a flash of bright light, he’s disappeared!”

Epilogue_________________________________________________

Independence Hall, Philadelphia PA

Darkness had fallen over the “City of Brotherly Love” and all the tourists and employees of the national landmark had left for the evening.  Yes, everyone had left, everyone except a group of gathering heroes of yesteryear.  The Freedom Fighters had returned to the location given to them by the Phantom Stranger days ago, unfortunately they had all returned empty handed.  None had located a suitable replacement “body” to house the “spirit of Uncle Sam”.

After much talk and explanations were given Doll Man spoke, “It would seem that we all have had some strange encounters and much excitement over the last few days, but …NO Uncle Sam!  Also the disappearance of those villains is a puzzle that we must work on.  Unfortunately, it’ll have to wait.”

“That would be the case indeed Darrell,” replied Black Condor rubbing his injured shoulder.

“Yeah, a whole lot of excitement for sure, and just a few cracked ribs!” the Human Bomb said as he glanced at his friends.

“So, has this whole thing been for nothing?” Firebrand responded.

“Hopefully not for nothing gang!” yelled Plastic Man as he entered the room with two other men, one in a wheel chair.  “Look who I found walking in the place as I arrived.”

With smiles all around, the party was surprised and very happy to see Chuck Lane, known years ago as the happy-go-lucky Jester, had made it to the gathering.  Greetings and handshakes among the old friends abound.

Clearing his throat at the strong show of emotion, Chuck struggled to get out his words, “I’m…I’m…sorry that it took me so long to get here.  Something just told me I’d better get to Philly.  I guess…better late than never?!”

“You know that you’re always welcome with us Chuck!” spoke Phantom Lady.

“Yes, you’re still one of the team!” responded the Black Condor shaking Chuck Lane’s hand.

Patting his friend on the back Firebrand replied, “Absolutely!”

“But Plas, tell us who the other guy is that’s with you?  I don’t recognize him,” spoke the Human Bomb staring at the silver haired figure that had entered with Plas.

“What?  You don’t recognize a former member of the F.F. when you see one Bomb?  Is that bucket you’re wearing rusty?” replied Plastic Man as his jaw fell literally to the ground.

Stepping forward and taking a long gaze at the “visitor” the Ray spoke in a low tone, “I’m sorry Plas, but I don’t recognize him either.”

The unidentified man stood and smiled at the group of heroes as they gave him the once over. 

Wrapping himself around the body of the Ray, Plas raised and lowered his goggles over and over as if to inspect the man and then commented, “Hmmm…let me see…why I’d know him like I’d know my own brother!  That’s if I had a brother, of course!”

“PLAS?!” Doll Man screamed.

“All right, all right already!  That’s…” Plas spoke, but before he could get out the answer, he was cut off by a mysterious voice coming from a darkened side of the room.

“Buddy Smith!” spoke the Phantom Stranger stepping from the shadow in an, eerie and echoing voice.  “The one time sidekick of Uncle Sam and teenage member of your team back in the 1940’s.”

“Phantom Stranger!” Black Condor said with a start.

“Excuse me Freedom Fighters, I did not mean to startle you,” replied the mysterious figure covered half in shadow.

“I’m sorry Stranger, but it would appear that we were unsuccessful in finding a suitable replacement vessel to house the Spirit of Liberty,” Doll Man said as he hung his head low in front of the mystifying man.

“Really Darrell Dane?  Why don’t we allow our friend Mr. Smith to tell us what he’s done with his life since you last saw him?” he answered back to our group of gathered gladiators, placing his hand on Doll Man’s shoulder.

Buddy Smith began the story of his life, how he had left the superhero life behind, finished school, had gotten married and began his profession as a cattle farmer in the southwestern part of the United States.  He spoke of the happiness that he and his wife had enjoyed on their farm; of how his life had settled down and of how he had worked hard to make a living.  With great sadness in his voice he finished, “My wife passed away only a few years ago and seeing that we never had any children, it’s been a lonely existence for me.  For some reason, I’ve managed to stay pretty young and fit over the years, but I’d be lying to you if I said I was looking forward to spending my waning years there.  I guess, just too many memories there for me!”

“I can tell you why you stayed somewhat young feeling and looking Buddy.  At least, I think this has something to do with it.  It’s the affect that being with Uncle Sam back in the early days has had on your constitution.  If I remember correctly, you were about 10 years old when you became his partner.  Then when the war came to an end, you left Sam to go continue your education.  That would put you chronologically around 70 now, but still feeling approximately 65,” responded Doll Man.

“Keep the scientific analysis down to a bare minimum here “Brain”!” cried out the Human Bomb.  “I’d like to know where you’ve been ranching Buddy?  California?”

“No Bomb, down in the Four Corners area of Northern Arizona actually,” replied Buddy Smith.

Slapping his forehead, Firebrand yelled out “Four Corners!  Where Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico meet in one exact spot!  The only place in the United States where this occurs.”

“Well, I’ll be…” laughed the Black Condor.

“Just like the Phantom Stranger told us when we started the search!” chuckled the Ray.

“Yes, he told us the answer from the beginning but we were too blind to see the forest for the trees!” replied Phantom Lady.

“There was a motive for your “search” though Freedom Fighters.  It has shown you the loyalty and devotion that you all have for yourselves and your dedication to the heroic ideal.  It has also shown you that no matter how many heroes we have here to protect the world, there are always unexpected events, deadly dangerous situations that must be overcome, and new and powerful villains that must be defeated!  Surely, this has convinced you all that the Freedom Fighters are needed in the battle against evil,” spoke the Phantom Stranger gazing at the team.

“Trust me folks, being a member of the varsity team with the JLA, there is plenty of the “bad stuff” to go around!” Plastic Man spoke with a stern look on his face.

“Too true Plastic Man…too true!” replied the Phantom Stranger.

“What do we do about Uncle Sam though?” Firebrand asked.

Looking up at the Phantom Stranger, the Human Bomb snatched the amulet containing the spirit of Uncle Sam from Plastic Man’s hand and asked, “What do we do with this?”

Looking at him, the Phantom Stranger replied, “I think that’s entirely up to Mr. Smith my friends.  Don’t you?”

“Me!  What can I do?!” Buddy Smith shouted.

“You can be the vessel that houses the Spirit of Liberty, the physical manifestation of the pure force of freedom, justice and integrity, of honor and pride, that this country and has come to symbolize.  You can become the entity that first organized this group all those years ago.  You Buddy Smith…you can be Uncle Sam!” shouted the Phantom Stranger, pointing at the older man, cape entwined in his hand.

“But…but that’s a big order Sir?!” replied Buddy.

Turning to the Phantom Stranger, Doll Man responded, “That is a lot of pressure to put on one man Stranger!”

“Yes it surely is!” spoke Phantom Lady.

“I hate to admit it, but I agree with the shrimp on this one!” the Human Bomb replied.

“A heavy weight to put on any man,” the Black Condor said as he crossed his arms in the middle of the main meeting chamber of Independence Hall.

“Hold it…I didn’t say that I wouldn’t do it friends!” Buddy Smith answered looking around at his old comrades with a tear running down his face.  “It’s not like I have a lot to look forward to now that my wife has gone on.  I’m not in any hurry to return to my lonely ranch.  Besides, I feel as if I owe it to not only to you, my friends, but also to the country, if not the world.  Mostly though, I feel like I owe it to the memory of my childhood hero, Uncle Sam and to the memory of the love of my life, my sweet, dear wife.  But, do you think that I am worthy of such an honor and responsibility?”

Stepping forward and putting his hand on Buddy Smith’s shoulder, Firebrand replied, “I can’t think of anyone else that I would trust more with the task!”

Looking up from his wheel chair, Chuck Lane responded, “Me either!”

“It is agreed then,” the Phantom Stranger spoke as he raised his arms and spread open his cape revealing a swirling, starry void where his body once was.  “Gather around me Freedom Fighters, hold hands in a circle.  Buddy Smith, time to don the mystical amulet containing the raw force, the Spirit of Liberty!”

As Buddy Smith slowly reached for the amulet, and took if from the hands of the Human Bomb, he could feel a surge of energy engulf his frame and a feeling of reverence fill his body.  Putting the talisman around his neck, he stepped forward towards the Phantom Stranger and the star-spangled brilliance that was swirling under his cloak. 

“Are you ready?” asked the Stranger.

“Yes…yes…I am ready!” came the confident reply of Buddy Smith.

“Then step inside!” spoke the Phantom Stranger, as Buddy did just that and was engulfed in the magical, yet mystifying, maelstrom.

A warm breeze whipped up inside the chamber, circling around our reverent crew, deep in their own feelings, casting all of their most cherished thoughts and hopes towards the dark figure in the center of the swirling stars.  Seconds later, with a shudder of the ground that rocked the building so that the Liberty Bell itself tolled, bolts of light shot out of the intertwined figures, a brilliant white light that pierced the darkness in a myriad of directions.  As suddenly as it all occurred…it ceased!  All was silent, and then the Phantom Stranger lowered his arms and opened up his cape to reveal…

A gasp came over our heroes as they all strained to see through the darkness.  Strained to see what had happened, and what or who stood before them albeit on one knee in the center of the room.  Taking a step towards the center, the heroes dropped each other’s hands and watched to see any movement.  The shadowed figure stood up, tall and lithe, yet as solid as the “Rock of Gibraltar”.  A deep slow breathe filled his lungs, and his head raised to stare back into the faces of the friends and teammates that he hadn’t seen in over 25 years.  As he raised his hand towards his head, his clothes made a rustle and then he donned a familiar looking top hat.  Raising his hand and pointing into the air with his index finger, the Ray lit up the area in the middle of the circle and to everyone’s hardly containable joy and relief, their eyes fell upon a man dressed in red, white and blue.  Applying more power, the Ray lit the entire room revealing that the Freedom Fighter’s leader, the iconic emblem of the United States of America, nay of freedom and liberty itself, had indeed returned.  Yes, the search was finally over…and Uncle Sam was finally home!

“So came the Captain…

And when the judgment thunders split the house,

Wrenching the rafters from their ancient rest,

He held the ridgepole up…”

Edwin Markham


Freedom Fanmail

  “Around here it’s not quantity…It’s Quality!”

Hey all and thanks for reading!  It has been several months since my last issue of Freedom Fighters and I can’t begin to tell you all how thrilled I am to end a story arc that began along time ago (a little over a year ago).  As you, dear reader, can tell the whole gang has been reformed and the search for Uncle Sam is at an end.  This issue all so premieres the first appearance of yet another Quality Comics villain from the past…Mr. Puny!  This villain has been retread and reworked by me, but owes its dues to a villain created back in the golden age of comics. 

Thanks again for reading and supporting my efforts on the Freedom Fighters.  My email address has changed and I can now be reached at bgdanner@kih.net.  Please, your comments are very welcome.

Next Issue…

Something fishy is going on at Quality Chemical and Doll Man and the Human Bomb are smack-dab in the middle of it!  Come back and watch them try to save the company that they both started all those years ago.  Also some of the Freedom Fighters visit the Dane’s new estate in Philadelphia, and we take another trip to Egypt!  All of this plus a guest appearance from a member of the Justice Society.  Don’t miss it!

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