by Kirby Ray
A sample of a new project I am working on, for any fans of superheroes and history.
A sea of fans cheered on John Smith as he swiftly dodged player after player. He ran with such speed, the opponent had almost no time at all to react; they would lunge at him, only to grasp an after-shadow. Smith continued sprinting down the field, even after he had passed the entire defense. He decided to end the game with a bang, giving the fans one last show before the end. The handsome running back put every ounce of energy he had into his legs, and pushed himself down the field to the 30...the 20...the 10 and...
"TOUCHDOWN! SMITH WINS THE GAME FOR PRINCETON, AND THE CROWD IS GOING WILD!" The announcer in the press box was joining in the excitement of the fans, his voice carrying across the field to reach the ears of John Smith. He shouted, hollered, and pumped his fists towards the crowd as his teammates lifted him onto their shoulders. They shook hands with the other team and marched proudly to their locker room.
It was the December of 1937, and the All-American athlete had just won the state tournament for his football team.
Everybody knew that Johnny Smith was the best football player in the country, and they knew that he was also one of the strongest and fastest guys in the entire state. What they didn't know was that John was also a mystery man in his spare time, fighting crime and injustice as ALL-STAR, THE GREAT AMERICAN HERO!
All-star was incredible at what he did; he had never once come across an enemy he could not defeat. He was always on the radio, often sponsored new products for big companies, and even had his own charity foundation, where he often volunteered. Yes, the 21-year-old hero really was all he said he was: an all-star human.
John stepped out of the locker room, waving good-bye to his teammates, congratulating them all on a job well done and promising to stop by the bar later for a drink. As he walked down the sidewalk, John heard a familiar sound: "Help! Somebody help!"
Ah, music to my ears, thought John as he quickly dashed into the nearby admissions building. He ran towards the men's bathroom and ducked into the stall closest to the wall. John locked the door to make sure no one saw what was about to happen: he reached for an oddly colored spot on the wall and pushed it open. Inside, hanging as if it had just been cleaned and pressed, was his costume, the piece de resistance to any crime fighter.
With nearly inhuman speed, he threw off his street clothes and pulled on a pair of golden-brown pants. John then removed a jersey from the hole; he swiftly pulled it over his head and stuck his arms through the sleeves. Next, he took a pair of tanned cleats from his hiding spot and stuck them on his feet. Finally, he crowned his head with a nearly golden football helmet and pulled one last item from the hole: a pair of tinted pilot goggles.
The hero placed the goggles over his eyes, laced up his cleats, and snapped his helmet into place. He shoved his civilian clothes into the hole and ran out of the building; he ran so fast that he seemed like a blur to the few people in the lobby. All-star hurried in the direction of the scream he had heard and in an instant, he saw a large crowd gathered outside of the local church.
"Looks like I got here just in time!" He rushed over to a nearby police officer and asked, "Officer, what seems to be the problem?"
Luther Sullivan, the officer that All-star was questioning, turned to his friend and said, "All-star, good timing! We have a hostage situation right now. Seems our old friend Blackjack has decided to go to church."
"And it doesn't look like he's here for Confession," the hero quipped.
"Exactly. Now, we know that he has at least ten people in there, as well as Father O'Malley. He is armed, and he is dangerous." The policeman turned to All-star and asked him, "Think you can ge-", but he never finished the sentence, as the hero had already run into the church.
Meanwhile, in the steeple...
A somewhat-tall man stood at the altar, one hand in his coat pocket, the other holding a gun, which Father O' Malley was currently staring down. The man carrying the firearm was Tom 'Blackjack' Swift, a 'supercriminal', a title that he bore proudly. He wore a long, white trenchcoat, decorated with a black club and ace on the bottom, and a red diamond and heart on his chest; the rest of his outfit was black and white, and merely resembled a regular suit. Blackjack, while not the smartest man in the world, was one of the craftiest, and made this known with his gambling-theme weapons, all of which were lethal.
"So preacher," the villain Blackjack grinned toothily, "are you a gamblin' man?"
"W-we-well, gambling is a sin. God f-frowns on all who are corrupted by that hideous sin!"
"HAHAHA! Oh, that's a laugh, preacher!" Blackjack was bent over laughing, his voice echoing all throughout the building. "God condemns all gamblers! Hah! What a joke!"
He turned towards the old man and sneered, saying "If God really does hate me so much, then let me see a sign!" He turned his head toward the crucifix on the wall and shouted, "Hey, Jesus! Tell the big guy that I'm a horrible man, and that if he wants me to stop, he should send a sign from above!"
"I guess that's my cue!"
Blackjack spun around in time for a fist to hit him square in the face. His enemy taunted, "Here, Jackie, hold this for me!"
The villain flew back 10 feet and crashed right into the altar. He gazed at the figure that was untying the hostages: it was none other than that goody-two-shoes All-star. Blackjack quickly leapt to his feet and withdrew a handkerchief, a cigar, and a lighter from his jacket; he cleaned away the blood that was streaming from his nose, and popped the cigar in his mouth and lit it. "Well, well...if it isn't the white bread 'mystery man' All-star! To what do I owe the misfortune?"
All-star turned from the old man he had been helping up, and said, "Blackjack, I knew you were a bad guy, but I never figured you would stoop so low as to rob a church!"
"Eh, what can I say? It's the biggest church in the area, so naturally it should have the most funds stored away." Blackjack stopped and took the cigar out of his mouth, blowing thick smoke into the air. "I just wanted to see if the father would be up for a little game of Blackjack 21; nothing too big."
He paused once again to puff even more smoke from his mouth. "Guess he just blind to the advantages of gambling."
Another pause, another thicker, bilious cloud of smoke filled the room. "Almost like there was smoke in his eyes!" At this he blew one great, big cloud of smoke past his lips, and the whole room seemed full of the foul-smelling gas.
Darn! thought All-star, I can't see anything in this smoke, but I have to find him...before he finds me! Suddenly, the sound of rolling dice reached All-star's ears, and he heard the sound stop right below him. Oh no! Got to move before-
He jumped to the left just before the dice blew up; unfortunately, he caught a glancing blow from the explosion, and felt a wave of pain through his body. The hero grasped his right arm in pain, feeling the singed flesh and the torn jersey.
The sound of laughter echoed throughout the smoke-filled building. "Hahaha! How are you gonna stop me this time, quarter-back?"
"Oh, don't worry," the bold hero said, "I always find a way!"
"Well, we'll see about that! Now, how 'bout a little game, hmm?"
All-star paid close attention: Blackjack was a skilled gambler, but he wasn't very bright. Thinking quickly, the hero backed up until he hit a wall. He gave his reply, "All right, Blackjack, I'll play your game!"
"Okay sucker, it's your life! AHAHAHAHA!"
All-star just had to keep him talking for a little while longer, long enough for him to find a window. Blackjack continued laughing sadistically as he began to throw his whole arsenal at his opponent: exploding dice, razor cards, and giant poker chips. The hero simply dodged the projectiles, and continued to inch along the wall, until he thought, Aha! I found one!
He called out to the crook, "Hey Jackie! I'll give you one last shot at me! If you hit me, I'll surrender; if I win, however, you must go to jail!"
"We-e-ell, if that's the way you want to die, that's fine by me!" Blackjack removed a massive contraption from his jacket: it was similar to a tommy gun in design, only the round magazine had been altered so that it was red and black like a roulette wheel. "I'll put it all on 13 black!" With that, he pulled the trigger, and the gun started firing. All-star fell to the floor in order to dodge the bullets, and thought, "Just have to wait until-"
The glass window behind him shattered completely, and the cloud of smoke immediately began to flow out of the building.
"Hey, hold on! What gives?!" Blackjack was panicking. All of his protective smoke was going away. And that meant...
"Sorry, Blackjack, looks like it's snake-eyes for you!"
All-star walked triumphantly out of the church, aiding the wounded priest to the medics that had arrived. The gathered crowd cheered and All-star smiled and waved to the crowd. Another victory. That day just kept getting better and better for the hero. "Thank you, thank you. Thank you!" Soon, reporters were swarming the hero, buzzing around like flies to sugar.
"All-star, what happened?"
"How did you take him down?"
"What will happen to Blackjack?"
"Will this be on your talk-show?"
Police officers began to back the crowd away, insisting on giving the hero some breathing room. All-star walked over to Sergeant Price, who greeted him with his arms crossed and a smirk on his face. "Job well done, All-star. You did good."
"Thanks, Sergeant; glad I could be of assistance!" replied the tired hero.
"'Assistance'? All-star, you did the whole job for us!" The officer chuckled and patted the hero on his shoulder. "With you mystery men on the job, we policemen hardly have to do anything!" He walked back to his police and gave All-star a mock salute. "Take care, All-star! Oh, and watch that shoulder!"
All-star smiled, nodded, and returned the salute. "See ya, Sergeant!"
With that, the vigilante sprinted away to return to his civilian identity; he needed to go clean up at his apartment before he could meet the boys for a drink. "I should bring Mary along," thought the hero, "She has been wanting to meet the team for some time now."
He made it to the building, but before he could enter the restroom stall that held his costume, he noticed something was out of place. Is someone actually using the stall?! thought the crimson-clad hero. I could've sworn I left an 'Out of Order' sign on there!
He tapped his foot impatiently against the ground. Time slowed down to a crawl for those three minutes. He let his mind wander, thinking about how he had been able to help the team win the state game, how he had stopped another robbery, and how he was going to have a nice evening out with the boys tonight. And Mary. Sweet, beautiful, and patient Mary.
Oh yes, thank heaven that Mary Duncan was patient. Patience was something that she possessed in abundance, which really helped All-star and John whenever there was an emergency. If he needed to arrive at a restaurant later than he planned, she would pout, but say "Oh that's fine. It gives me more time to get ready!"
If he couldn't make a date because he was injured from a fight with Blackjack or The Gladiator, she would pout, but reply "Well, okay, if you need to rest." Mary never tried to pry into his personal life, and she had not been caught in any crossfire. Yes, things were great between him and Mary.
"Hope they stay that way for a long time," the collegiate crusader murmured.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity to the hero, he heard the toilet flushing. He stepped aside as the door swung open and the Dean of Students walked out. The Dean saw who was waiting by the door, and gasped. "O-oh! All-star, it's you! What are you doing here?"
All-star simply gave a chuckle and replied, "Even heroes have to use the bathroom sometimes, dean."
The hero entered the stall and locked the door. He waited until he heard the dean leaving and then let out a deep sigh. How does that man always find me whenever I'm about to change back into my civilian identity? thought the masked defender as he pulled his ruined uniform off his body.
"Guess I'll be making a stop at the tailors!" he groused while he examined the shredded costume.
Meanwhile, outside the admissions building...
A long, black car pulled up to the curb of the admissions office, and two men stepped out of the vehicle. They were dressed neatly, both wearing business suits, and one of the men wore a pair of sunglasses; the other carried around a briefcase. They entered the building, and walked to the desk, where an argument was in full commencement.
"I'm telling you, Miss Taylor, he was in there!"
"Mr. Wright, I'm sorry, but I know that you are lying."
"Lying?! What do you mean by 'lying'?"
"All I'm saying is that whenever you claim you saw All-star, we check, but he's never there! It's probably just a figment of your imagination."
"Miss Taylor, I'm--" *a-hem*
Mr. Wright and Miss Taylor stopped their argument and turned to the men that were waiting behind the desk. The one without sunglasses spoke first: "Good evening, sir. Ma'am. I'm Richard Carpenter, and this is my partner Howard Tassel." The one with the suitcase extended his hand to the dean and secretary. "We're here on an errand for the President of the United States."
Dean Wright was flabbergasted to say the least. The President?! Sending agents here?! "Wha-whatever for, gentlemen?!" he asked in a controlled voice.
Carpenter spoke while his partner waited on the side; "We're here to meet with the boy who won the game this afternoon", he said. He smiled at the dean and secretary's shocked faces. "Yes, we're here to see Mr. John Smith, the next All-star American!"
At that exact moment, John Smith stepped out of the men's bathroom, carrying a duffel bag across his shoulders. He waved to the dean, and said, "Afternoon, Dean! Miss Taylor, how're you?"
She became entranced in his appearance, and replied, in a seduced voice, "Oh, hello John! Congratulations on today's game." She was about to get more flirtatious, but a cough from Agent Tassel reminded her that they were, in fact, still in the room. "Oh, Mr. Smith, these two gentlemen are here to see you."
John shook hands with the two agents, and asked them, "Well, fellas, what can I do for you?"
Mr. Carpenter answered, "Mr. Smith, President Roosevelt would like to invite you to a formal gathering at the White House. Would you care to discuss the details outside?"
John was not surprised; in fact, he was a little proud. He thought, So, the president finally wants to meet me, eh? Well, it's about time!
He told Mr. Carpenter, "Sure! Let's talk about the details outside." And he followed the two men out of the building.
Mr. Wright and Miss Taylor simply stared in silence at the figures that were piling into the limousine. Miss Taylor finally broke the silence by turning to the dean and asking: "Say, Mr. Wright, how come you never see All-star and John Smith in the same place at the same time?"
Mr. Wright simply shook his head and replied, "I don't know, Miss Taylor. I just don't know."
John sat across from Mr. Tassel and Mr. Carpenter, and asked, "So, what does the president want to see me for?" John was guessing the answer in his head, and it all pointed to All-star.
"Well, John," said Mr. Carpenter, "We've done some gathering for the past few weeks, and we've reason to believe that you are partner to the mystery man All-star!"
The athlete felt let down and disappointed. The story of my life, he thought, I do all of the work, and All-star gets all the credit.
"I suppose you could say that we're acquainted."
"Well, acquainted or otherwise, we have some documents we would like you to give to him. Howard, do you have the documents?" Tassel removed several papers from his briefcase, and handed them to John. John glanced through the papers, though there wasn't much to see: documents written in German, pictures taken in what looked to be Russia and Japanese newspaper clippings, with translations. Nothing particularly caught the eye of the young ace.
"With all due respect sir, what are these?" he asked, although he guessed that he wouldn't get a clear answer.
Agent Carpenter chuckled and said, "Oh-ho-ho, John, we can't tell you that! It's top secret information, for All-star's eyes only! Now, here," he withdrew a letter from his jacket, "I have some papers regarding the information in those papers, and a letter from the president himself. Would you kindly deliver these to All-star, John?"
"Why can't you deliver them yourself, sirs?"
"Because All-star is always so busy; between his charity work and fighting crime, it's impossible to get a hold of him! That's why we need you, John. You can get in connection with All-star and deliver our information."
John thought to himself sarcastically, Can I get it to All-star? Gee, I dunno! However, he told the two agents before him, "I'd be honored to!"
The rest of the trip to John's apartment was filled with boring talk about the state game, and how well John played. The chatter couldn't take the papers off of John's mind, though. As soon as I get home, he thought, I'll rip this letter open and find out what the president wants!
The limousine arrived at John's apartment building, where John got out of the car and thanked the two men. "Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Tassel, it was nice meeting you both."
"A pleasure to meet you too, John! We hope you will deliver those papers safely, now!" Carpenter shook his hand, as did Tassel, and the limousine drove off back to Washington. John began to make his way up the stairs, skipping two or three steps at a time, until he finally got to his room. He pulled a key from his pocket, unlocked the door, entered his apartment and shut the door, locking it once again.
John's apartment was a nice little home away from home: he had a kitchen, a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a nice living room with a trophy case back against the wall, across from the sofa, and next to a comfy-looking chair. A medium-size radio was sitting on the floor, along with a stack of newspapers and a carton of cigarettes. The young man placed the papers on his coffee table and wandered over to the bedroom.
The bedroom was very well kept and organized; it was a habit of John's to clean the whole apartment every few days. It had one large bed and a nightstand next to it, with an alarm clock on top, and a closet, which housed a secret storage area for All-star's costumes. John dropped his duffel bag on the floor and removed the ruined costume from the bag.
Hmm, thought John, I wonder when Laurie can have this thing ready by...hope it won't take too long. With the way I run through costumes, I'll be guaranteeing her a trip to the Rivera by March!
He disposed of the costume in a hamper, along with his football uniform and the clothes he had on. "After that fight with Blackjack, I need to take a shower, especially if I'm going to meet with the boys tonight!"
John walked into the bathroom with a robe in hand and pulled a towel out from the closet. He stopped to examine himself in the mirror: partly to check his arm, but mostly to get a look at himself. John was a handsome man, and he knew it: he had rusty brown hair that was always combed to the right; green eyes that seemed to smile in the light; and a face that had remained perfect, despite the years of football. His arm was slightly singed, and probably needed a good rinsing off under some cold water. "Not bad John," he said out loud, "Not bad at all!"
He turned the shower on, and stepped into the cool, refreshing water. "Gosh, what a big day! Winning the game for the boys, handing out some well-deserved justice, and meeting with members of the president's secret service!" John's mind was buzzing with anticipation: the president wanted something to do with All-star, he was supposed to meet the boys in a little while for a drink, and he would probably have to bring Mary along. "Could my life get any better?" the young athlete asked himself.
Meanwhile, in the streets of London...
It was a bustling day in London, as people were running from place to place, shop to shop. It was a dreary day, and there was a cloud of fog looming in the air. Through the din of the city, these sounds were heard coming from a nearby bank:
These cries filled the streets as civilians left and right dodged out of the way to avoid being hit by a car that came careening down the street. Two ugly men were in the car, and in the backseat lay the money they had just stolen. "Droive fastah, ya idjut!" screamed one to the other.
"Ahm goin' as fast as ah can! Juss shoot aht the blokes behoind us!" shouted the angry driver.
The one who was not driving pulled a pistol out of his jacket, stuck his hand and his head out the window, and opened fire on the police officers that were in pursuit. The officers returned fire but met with little luck in stopping the duo. The chase carried on for a short while until the thug that was driving pulled into a nearby alleyway; the police cars failed to see this in time, and so they sped off down the road. The two men waited until they heard the sirens in the distance before they removed themselves from the vehicle, laughing their heads off at their conquest.
"HAHA! Di' ya see the look on 'at constable's face?! Proiceless!"
"Yeh! Awright, mate, awright. Lehs get 'is back to our 'ideout!"
"YOU'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE..."
The two men stopped in their tracks and started trembling. They had heard rumors of a demon that lurked these streets. Never went after good people, no; it only took the criminals. Only the scum of the earth. In fact, there was a saying going around the underbelly of London: 'If the police are after you, pray they find you first.' Heaven knows what happened to the villains that dared to face...THE ENIGMA!
"I WILL ONLY SAY THIS ONCE...RETURN THAT WHICH YOU HAVE STOLEN...OR SUFFER THE FATE OF YOUR FELLOW ROGUES!" To dare to go up against the Enigma was foolish enough. But to make a run for it...all the angels in Heaven couldn't help you.
"Lehs ge' out of 'ere!" The two men ran for their lives, keeping their eyes dead ahead, hoping to escape the Enigma...but to no avail. The shadows of the buildings that formed the alley took the shape of a robed figure, tall and ominous. The being floated three feet above the ground, with ink-black smoke floating from the openings of its robe.
It immediately gave chase, a wall of blackness following behind it. The two men ran, ran as fast as they could, but didn't get far until one tripped on a piece of wood left on the ground; with a thud and a scream of terror, he was swallowed up by the shadows. This only made his partner run faster.
The second criminal tried a last-ditch effort to stop the monster long enough to give him time to escape; reaching into his jacket, he retrieved his pistol, and fired three shots at the Enigma. The bullets hit right where its heart would be...and were seized by the darkness. There was no escape. Soon, the last crook fell, landing on his face. He twisted around and saw the mysterious figure approaching him; he crawled backwards, still trying to escape. "JUSTICE SHALL BE DONE...AND VENGEANCE...SHALL BE MINE!" Those were the final words the bank robber would ever hear.
Ten minutes later, the police had gone out to Fleet Street, hearing of a disturbance in an alleyway. When they arrived, they found two dead men, plastered against a wall. Above, burned into the brick, were the words: JUSTICE HAS BEEN SERVED.
A thick cloud of smoke drifted through the London air, over the people going about their daily lives, ignoring the fact that somehow a trail of ink-black smoke was floating along on its own accord. It made its way to the bank a pair of criminals had just robbed, and it was surrounded by the press, who were asking officers what had happened to the thieves. The smoke flew past the people, who all stopped and stared at the sight before them. That cloud filled them with dread; it was something everyone feared. It entered the bank, then stopped, transforming into the shrouded form that had stopped the bank robbers. It was the Enigma, and it carried three large sacks of money along with it.
It floated quietly over towards the nearest police officer and dropped the sacks at the man's feet. The officer merely stuttered, "Th-thank you." and stared in awe at the figure before him.
People everywhere heard about the success of The Mid-Knight and his sons, or the rogue brothers Spring-Heeled Jack and The Dodger, but few people dared to mention the Enigma. It was a being that knew no limitations and could never be caught; it only appeared in times of emergency or danger. Others would say that it spent its time at the children's orphanage, where it always seemed to head to after stopping any villains from getting away. No one was brave enough to follow it. Nobody dared to follow it as it floated out the door, returning to heaven knows where.
If they did follow the Enigma, they would find it flying through the air towards an orphanage on the far side of town. They would see it drift through an open window, and they could have seen it return to the attic of a tall building. It lived there; it only left to destroy crime in London. There were only a few people brave enough to visit it, and that would be:
"Enigma! Yo're 'ome!"
"Did ja stop any bad guys, Enigma?"
"Wat'd ja do wiff 'em, Enigma?"
Only the children who had lived with the spirit for their whole lives saw it as a friend and guardian. They had taken to the Enigma after it had saved them all when the building caught on fire. They would regale each other with fantasies of the Enigma going out and stopping the "bad guys". They would sometimes bother the smoky spirit during the wee hours of the morning, but it never seemed to mind. It would always listen intently to what it would tell them.
"Gather round children," it said in a low voice, "And I shall tell you of my latest venture into the dark streets of London..."
One older boy, Charlie, walked up to the Enigma, and said to it, "Enigma, sorry tah in'errupt, but some men in noice suits came tuh-day. 'Ey told us to give you 'ese." He passed it an envelope and a folder. "Don' worry," he said as he chuckled, "We 'aven't gotten into them. No' yet, anyways!"
"Thank you, Charlie." It reached its smoky, black hand out for the items in the boy's hand, and picked them up; an instant later, they were gone in the confines of its cloak.
However, before it hid the folder and envelope away from the children, it had spotted a message on both things, stamped in ink: FROM THE DESK OF WINSTON CHURCHILL
"Odd," thought the spectral being, "What could Parliament want with me?"
"Boy! That shower was just what I needed!" John Smith stepped out of his shower and grabbed a towel from a nearby rack. As he dried himself off, he noted that his burn, while looking better, still stung to the touch and needed dressing. "Think I have some ointment in here somewhere..." he said aloud, "I know I restocked after my fight with Blackjack a few weeks ago...Aha! Here it is!"
He pulled a small bottle of cream from the cabinet, as well a roll of gauze and a roll of medical tape. John opened the bottle and smeared some ointment on his wound, then wrapped the gauze around it, and taped the gauze tight against his arm. Seeing that he had covered it nicely, John put away his supplies and grabbed a robe from the bathroom door; he walked into his kitchen, prepared a cup of coffee, and plopped down in his armchair. Picking up the papers and the envelope, John began to sift through the information in front of him.
"First things first," John said, "I should read this letter from the president." He grabbed a letter opener that been laying on the table, and swiftly tore open the envelope. His hand reached inside and withdrew a letter that had the official seal of the president on it. The letter was obviously done on a typewriter; the only handwritten part was the signature at the bottom of the third page. It read as follows:
First and foremost, let me thank you for all the work you've done in protecting the city of Princeton and the surrounding area. Your valiant and noble efforts have won you a spot in not only the hearts of the people of your town, but the people of America as well; your countless hours of charity work have not gone unnoticed either. You have proven to be a kind soul, as well as a champion fighter. I cannot thank you enough.
That said, I must go into the reason for writing to you now, instead of sooner or later. You may or may not know this, but right now, Europe is in the middle of a conflict. Adolph Hitler and the Nazi forces are moving throughout the countryside, reclaiming lost German territory and taking control of countless cities and nations. Great Britain and France are desperately trying to maintain a level of peace, keeping conflict from breaking out, but their efforts are only angering people, and the leaders may have to march into war soon. I fear that, should this escalate into something greater, we will soon face a second Great War.
To make the situation worse, Josef Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, has begun to meet with Hitler privately, and is possibly forming an alliance between their nations. Stalin, already an enemy of the United States, is only making the strain between the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. greater. Further compounding matters, our relations with the nation of Japan have been straining as well, due to their horrific attacks on China and their potential involvement with Nazi Germany. The worst part, I'm afraid, is this: each of the aforementioned nations has been training and/or actively using mystery men of their own.
Our secret agents in Germany, the Soviet Union, and Japan, have provided valuable information to us, risking their lives to make sure we remain aware of our enemies' activities. From our German source, we have discovered that Hitler has been recruiting several men and women with super power and using them to further his conquest of Europe. So far, they have only acted as agents of persuasion, not attacking anyone, and only appear when the time comes for negotiations; should any nation defy Hitler's demand, they would be crippled in less than a week. The papers written in German that we have provided are the names of a few known Nazi super soldiers.
John switched over from the letter to take a look at the German files, and scanned them briefly; he took note of the names that stood out to him.
"Hmm...these folks could be trouble. Wonder if I'll ever have to fight 'em?" He said aloud. He put the paper down and resumed reading the letter.
Over in the Soviet Union, we have not had as much luck in coming up with information. All we could acquire were pictures gathered from newspapers. Stalin has refused to tell his people what he has planned but judging by the pictures of metal men printed in his papers and on books, he is planning something big.
The correspondent in Japan has met with little success as well, only able to gather newspapers and the occasional note taken from a conversation. He translated all the information that he gained and noted the important information we needed. We are unsure what is meant by the title "mystical warrior", but taken from context, it probably means that the government is training its own super soldiers.
We want to be ready for anything, should one or more of these nations declare war on our nation. Thus, Winston Churchill, a stout believer in the evil of Hitler, and I have decided to form a coalition between our two nations. We have agreed that in order to protect ourselves, we shall need the aid of the mystery men of our two nations, so we have called the coalition The Society of Mystery Men, and it will feature any masked crime fighter who decides to join. Our scouts have nominated you, All-star, as a member, and would like for you to be a part of this team.
If you decide to join, send a reply letter back, and we shall make arrangements for the first meeting of the mystery men.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I wish you the best of luck in all your daily endeavors.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
John did not read the last part of the letter, as it had fallen from his hands. He couldn't believe it! He was going to be a member of an army of mystery men! He'd fight against enemies overseas! He would save the world! It was almost unreal. John would finally have a chance to work alongside people that he could relate to, could have discussions about work with, and even gain experience from. He knew he had to be a part of this moment in history, and so he re-read the letter and got to the ending. John would have to write up a letter soon, but that could wait.
"Now," said John, "I've got to get ready for my evening out!"
A short while later, John Smith was down in the lobby of his apartment building, all dressed up and ready for that evening's events to unfold. He picked up the phone and dialed the number for Mary's apartment building, where he was told to wait a moment for Mary to pick up the phone. John was looking forward to tonight: he had had one of the greatest days of his life and wanted to make this an even greater night. Mary was always up for a little fun, so bringing her to the local bar with the boys was sure to put her in good spirits. Finally, a light voice answered from the other line, and said, "Hello?"
"Mary, it's John! How are you doing?"
"John, hi! Oh, congratulations! I was up in the stands watching you the whole time! Oh, you were incredible! Absolutely incredible!"
The young man smiled. Mary loved to watch the games, and she was always so excited and anxious to talk about them afterwards. "Thanks. Listen, I'm sorry I didn't meet up with you after the game; Coach had a little meeting afterwards, and I had to sit through the whole thing. I bet it lasted more than two hours!" That was not entirely a lie: Coach did have a meeting with the players after the game, but it had only lasted half an hour; the rest of that time was spent fighting Blackjack.
"That's fine, I completely understand."
Good ol' Mary; she was so understanding. "I know, but I still feel guilty about it. I'll tell you what: some of the guys on the team are heading down to Joe's for a drink later on. You up for a night on the town?"
"Boy am I! I'd love to go out tonight! That'd be swell, John!"
"Alright, Mary, I'll come by and pick you up in a few minutes, okay?"
"Sure thing! Just give me a little bit to do up my hair and put on my make-up!"
"Great, I'll be by at about..." John looked at his watch, "Seven o' clock. I'll see ya then!"
He hung up the phone, and walked out of the building toward the street, where he hailed a taxi. "Hey, taxi!" Ordinarily, he would run to her school, but it was far away, and running in his nice clothes was not something he wanted to do before a date.
John got into the cab that pulled up, and after telling the driver where to go, sat back and enjoyed the ride. He was interrupted from his tranquility when the driver, speaking in a thick Jersey accent, said, "Say...ain't you dat kid dat won da ball game t'day?"
"Yes, yessir I am!"
"Well, dat's great! Good fuh youze!" The cabby and John had a nice conversation on the way to the all-girls school, where John got out and asked the driver to wait.
The all-star looked at his watch and said, "Seven o' clock right now...I wonder if Mary's done yet?" His question was answered by the arrival of Miss Duncan, appearing heavenly as always.
Mary had straight blonde hair, which she always kept in a ponytail or just let flow. Tonight, she had put her hair up in curls, making her absolutely adorable in John's eyes; her golden locks swayed to and fro, going halfway down her back. She was not overly endowed, like the women John's brother preferred, but was a slim and pretty thing, of only nineteen. Mary always wore outfits that flattered her lovely body, and she always appeared a kind woman with maturity above and beyond her years.
She almost skipped over to John, where the two met in a loving embrace, hugging and kissing as any ordinary couple does. John took her by the arm end escorted her to the car, saying, "You're in for quite an evening, you know?"
She giggled and replied, "Oh, how's that?"
"Let's just say that the boys really know how to throw a shindig!"
"Oh! Am I going to meet the rest of the team now?"
"Absolutely!" They got into the car, and John told the driver, "2nd and Main. It's a small place called Charlie's." He turned back to Mary, and said, "The guys have been looking forward to meeting you. You'll knock their socks off, I'm sure!"
"Golly, you think so?"
"I know so, Mary!"
They drove the rest of the way to the bar talking about how their day was, and what they were going to do, but John was only partly paying attention. He was keeping an eye and ear out for anything out of the normal. He cleared his head, and thought to himself, Easy, John, easy! You're here for Mary tonight, not for business!
Then why did you bring the costume, wise guy?
It's only in case something does happen! You always have to be ready in this business!
This inner dialogue continued for a while, until they finally pulled up to the bar. John paid the driver, making sure to tip the nice man. In return, the driver told him, "Take it easy dere, kid! Youze have a good night, all right?"
"Will do, Benny! 'Night!"
The bar was filled with patrons of all kind, from those men who came every night, to those men who came every Friday with their paycheck ready. The boys of Princeton were frequent patrons of Charlie's, and could be seen there almost every Friday night, some looking for action, some looking to forget classes. In the case of the football players, they were there simply to have a good time, and celebrate a marvelous game. The bar was filled with rabble-rousing players, most of whom were a little tipsy at the time.
When John and Mary walked into the bar, they were greeted by John's teammate Sam "Slam" Baker, a tall, muscular boy who stood at an imposing 6 feet, 8 inches. He greeted the couple with a rowdy "'Ey, it's Johnny! Who's the doll ya got dere, John?"
John, being used to the antics of his teammates, told Sam calmly, "Slam, this is Mary, the girl I've been seeing."
Sam turned to Mary and said to her, "You're a very lucky lady, miss. Dis 'ere's da best football player in da nation! He's unbeatable, I tell ya!"
Mary blushed, and replied, "Oh, thank you very much! I suppose I am pretty lucky, now that you mention it!"
"Hey, what do you say I order us some drinks, gang? Hey, Morty, three martinis, please!" John could tell Mary was going to like the rest of the team, seeing how well she got along with Sam.
The night went on like this for quite a while, with John introducing Mary to all of his rowdy, and as time went on, inebriated, friends, and then ordering more drinks. Tonight was going to be a celebration: this was the last time some of the boys on the team would play at Princeton, John being one of them. Every player had given it their all out on the field, but the seniors put out more strength than they had; they wanted to go out with a bang, win or lose.
"These are your golden days, boys", their coach had told them, "Whatever the future holds in store for you, it will never be better than the present." So, drinks were passed all around while everybody was having a grand old time and the night of their lives.
This went on until John saw a certain enemy of his careening through the streets at breakneck speeds. It was the Running Man, and he was out for his usual night of vandalism and larceny, clad in a pair of jodhpurs and a long-sleeved shirt with a wing on it. He was an annoying character, given that he was as fast as All-star but had no other powers beyond that.
John cursed in his mind, and told Mary, "Excuse me darling, but I'm afraid I've got to go now. I'm feeling pretty tired, think I'll go back to my apartment and sleep for a month!"
At this, Mary was disappointed, but she simply said, "Okay, John. I'll just take a cab back to my school."
He escorted her to a nearby cab, helped her get in, saw her off, then ducked into the closest alleyway and changed into his costume. He sped off into the night, thinking to himself, Good thing I've got something to vent my frustration on!
December 22, 1937:
All-star unlocked the door to his apartment, and trudged in, dragging his feet behind him; tonight's ride around the city had taken a lot out of him. He shut the door behind him, and threw his key onto the kitchen counter, not exactly caring where it landed. The tired hero doggedly made his way to his bedroom, and he plopped down on his bed, ready to fall asleep.
Why, in the name of all that is holy, did I decide to go on patrol until four in the morning?! he thought to himself as he turned off the alarm on his clock.
He forced himself to rise and remove his utterly destroyed uniform, ripping off his torn helmet and broken goggles and throwing them into a corner. Next, he slowly removed his jersey, since he had possibly broken a rib fighting Gladiator that evening; off came the shoes, muddy and coated with grit and grime. Finally, he pulled off his pants and his jockstrap, and he stood in his room completely naked. John Smith held his hands up in front of his face and looked at the bruises and gashes he had made in them that evening.
Was it worth it? All the pain and frustration; was it worth it? he thought as he plodded over to his bathroom.
John turned the shower on and felt the cold water run over his body; instantly, he felt a small amount of strength return to him as he stood under the cold spray. He put his face into the water and let it cascade down, washing away the sweat and dirt from the evening in one fell swoop. Gingerly, the young man scrubbed away the caked blood on his body and the open wounds he had had no time to cover. The water calmed him and told him to relax and forget the evening. Instead, focus on why he had chosen to work a double shift that evening...
December 21st, 1937:
It was a chilly day in December, and new snow had fallen the night before, transforming the landscape around Princeton into one big winter wonderland. Today, however, two young people were having a disagreement.
"John, sometimes I just don't understand you!" Mary said to her boyfriend as they stood in his apartment, "Whenever we go out, you always have to leave in the middle of the evening; to do what, I don't know, but it bothers me to no end!"
The ace football player, John Smith, had wished they never decided to talk about their relationship that morning. Mary had come over, and soon after, they got into a heated argument over John's nightly activities, and why he couldn't spend more time with her.
"Look, Mary," the young man said as he ran his fingers through his hair, "There are just some things that I can't tell you for reasons that, well, I can't discuss with you. But you have to trust me when I say that every time I leave, I am leaving for good reasons!"
"And what could be more important than your girlfriend of a year-and-a-half?!" Mary asked as she put her hands on her hips.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," was what John wanted to say, but he couldn't; all he could tell her was, "It's nothing you need to be concerned about."
He hadn't meant for it to come out the way it had, but what was said was said, and there was nothing John could do to take it back.
Mary felt like John had just cut her with a knife, so she said to him, "Fine, I see how it is. If that's the way you feel, John, I guess I'll just be going now. Goodbye, John." She turned her back to him with tears streaming down her cheeks.
No! I can't let her leave like this! John thought to himself as he reached out a hand to stop her. He said, "Mary, wait," and he gently grabbed her shoulder and spun her around to face him, "I can't let you do this. I love you too much, and I know that I might keep secrets from you, but you must know this: I do it to keep you protected. Safe from harm."
He pulled her close to him, and the two of them locked their lips in a passionate kiss, as they both held tightly to the other, not wanting to let go. At last, they broke apart, and John said to her, "Let me make up for all those missed dates tonight. We'll go get dinner, we'll see that new Disney movie; the whole evening will be me by your side, okay?"
Mary wiped away her tears, and she smiled as she told him, "I'd love that. I'd love that so much."
So, they went out to dine at one of the finest restaurants in town and the two of them had a wonderful time, exchanging funny stories about this one kid in John's math class or that one girl in Mary's nursing class.
The movie they went to see, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, was beautiful, with fantastic animation and a touching story. Mary began to cry during the part where Snow White kisses Prince Charming and the two of them lived happily ever after; John wrapped his arm around her and held her close, letting her know that he was her Prince Charming.
And later that evening, when they went back to John's apartment, they retreated to his bedroom, where they looked into each other's eyes and realized what was going to happen. The two began to violently kiss each other, as John unbuttoned Mary's blouse and she undid his tie and shirt; he removed her skirt, and she took his belt and pants off. The two of them stood there, half-naked and filled with lust, and Mary asked, "Do you want to do this?"
"Do you think we're ready?"
John took one hand and began to run his fingers through her hair, while the other hand began to caress her body; he leaned his lips close to his ear, and whispered, "I'm ready for this if you are."
Mary responded by locking lips with her lover and the two of them filled the bedroom with passion and romance that evening. They fell asleep in each other's' arms, with Mary holding John close to her; he, still awake, looked at the beautiful girl that lay in bed next to him, and he kissed her on the forehead.
He whispered, "I love you, Mary." Then, he fell asleep, her head against his muscular chest.
Thinking back to last night, John smiled, and knew that all the injuries, all the grime, and all the fatigue he had endured tonight was worth it. Mary's happiness meant the world to him, and if that meant having to perform a double shift to cover for the missed evening, then so be it. John stepped out of the shower, feeling a thousand times better than he had when he went in.
Meanwhile, all across America and Britain...
Ever since December 1st, dozens of hands, gloved or otherwise, were reaching into envelopes that contained special letters. These hands belonged to heroes of all kinds, each of them approached by agents of the President or the Prime Minister. And after reading these letters, each hand dropped said letter, and reacted to the news they had received.
"Wall, ain't that dandy? A So-si-et-ee of Mistree Men!"
"...<What's a Nazi?>"
"LADS! Get down 'ere and read this 'ere letter!" "Right dad!" "Right dad!" "Right dad!"
"Interesting. Very interesting indeed!"
"Odd...what is this uneasiness I am feeling?"
To be continued...
Who are the rest of the Mystery Men? What sort of characters are they, exactly? Will they get along? Will there be any rivalries that form amongst the heroes? These questions and more will be answered, in the next installment of Whatever Happened to the Mystery Men?!
"Hoo-WEE! That wuz a dern good pic-sure show, dincha think?"
"Well, Johnny, it was very entertaining, but I must say: I have been on this planet for almost a year now, and I have never heard of or seen a talking duck before!"
"Yew ain't seen a Daffy Duck cartoon buh-fore?! SHEE-OOT, Lag, we gotta gitcha to the pic-sures more often!"
"If you think it's necessary..."
January 1st. New Year's Day. Many people were celebrating the coming of a new year, with new promises, having parties or enjoying themselves now that the Depression was coming to a close. Two men were walking down the streets of New York, laughing and reminding each other about the zany antics of their favorite cartoon character.
The younger of the men was Johnny O' Daniel, a fine boy from the lovely state of Mississippi; he wore his Sunday's best, which consisted of a fine pressed suit, and a fancy bow tie to boot. His friend, Lag'nal Ror'mek, was bundled up, due to his race's intolerance toward cold weather. He had on at least three trench coats, four pairs of cheap slacks, two gloves on each hand, and a fedora atop his head. A thick scarf was wrapped about his neck, and he had his hands wedged firmly in his pockets.
Johnny turned to his friend and said, "Say, Lag, yew got th' time?"
Lag looked curiously at his friend and said nothing. Confused, Johnny repeated his question, "Lag, do yew have th' time?" Still no response. "Do yew have th' time or not, Lag?!"
"The time for what, Johnny?"
"Whadda ya mean, "Th' time fer wut?"?! Ahm askin' if yew know wut time it is!"
Lag chuckled and said, "I am only kidding, Johnny. Of course I know the time; I am not that out of touch with Earth phrases!"
The Southern boy squinted at his pal and asked, "Yew sure?"
Lag, with a straight face, replied, "Absotivelutely, John."
"Wut's that mean?"
"Trust me: in about fifty years that will be what everybody says. I can guarantee it!"
"If'n you ain't the granddaddy of all liars..." Johnny then turned to his right and spoke to the empty spot that was next to him. "Swamp Daddy, yew got th' time?" No one could tell that Johnny was actually talking to a giant alligator, which stood on its hind legs and wore only a pair of slacks and cuffs around its hands.
The giant reptile smirked, and said, "Time for you to get a new watch, master!" It snapped its fingers, and a new watch appeared around the wrist of O' Daniel.
"Thanks, pal!" He checked the time on the watch, and cried out in exasperation, "Holy smokes, Lag! We're gonna be late!"
"Late for what?"
"Late fer church! Yew don't walk in behind the preacher! C'mon, we gotta go!" Before the pair could go, however, they heard shrieks for help and explosions in the air.
Lag turned to Johnny and told him, "Looks like church will have to start without us, Johnny!"
The boy nodded to his friend and ducked into an alleyway with his invisible alligator, while Lag ran into the nearest phone booth. Johnny conjured up a pair of over-alls, a white dress shirt, and a straw hat on his head, and lost the shoes on his feet. Lag slowly changed shape, his clothes sinking into his skin as a vaguely human shape took their place; his skin turned milk white, and a pair of antennae grew out of his head. The two flew out of their respective hideaways and charged toward the scene of the crime.
"Aw'rat, Oddball! Let's show these city slickers how we do it down south!"
"REMEMBER THE ALAMO! Did I say that right, Johnny?"
"Ha-hah! You said it just fan, Lag!"
The men flew head on into the battle and proved their worth to the people of New York, easily toppling the criminals who dared to rob a bank while Johnny Tiger and the Oddball were in town!
Johnny O' Daniel was once a poor boy from Mississippi who suffered through the Depression with his family, barely able to scrape by. One day while at the Mississippi River, hopelessly panning for gold, he stumbled upon a shining green gem; thinking it to be high in value, Johnny cleaned it off and rubbed it dry. This awoke the spirit of the ancient Egyptian spirit H'tot Xela, a genie that took the form of a crocodile. Seeing Johnny as his new master, H'tot became Johnny's partner; together, the two of them fought crime throughout Mississippi, taking down robbers with what they referred to as "Mississippi Style". So, Johnny O' Daniel grew to become the great crime fighter Johnny Gator!
One day, while out fishing, Billy O' Daniel saw a shooting star fall from the sky, right into the river he was fishing from! When he checked the meteor, he saw that it was actually a UFO; when he touched it, it opened with a hiss, and a strange white man crawled out of the ship. In an effort to keep the child calm, he began to perform various feats of wonder, like stretching himself into several shapes and changing his body into other objects. The boy laughed and cried out, "Golly, wut a Oddball!" After that, Lag'nal Ror'mek lived in the shack behind the O' Daniel house, where he formed a team with the eldest boy of the house, Johnny. Now, Lag'nal protects the countryside as THE ODDBALL!
As they flew away, Johnny spoke to his friends, and said, "Just think boys: soon, we'll be fightin' bad guys with other miss-tree men!"
Oddball replied to his friend, "Yes, I am greatly looking forward to this meeting of heroes!" In his head, he thought to himself, Maybe this will be the chance for me to meet some people of a finer class! No offense to Johnny, but I was a court jester on Saturn; I ought to be trading jokes with kings! Making the queen laugh as I sing a song!
He looked back over at his best friend on this planet, who was conversing with his genie. But...
"So, H't, wut's next on th' agender?"
"Master, there is nothing left on the agenda for today. Might I suggest that you and Lag'nal return to your accommodations for now?"
"All righty, sounds fan tuh me! Ah cud yewze uh little shut-ah after that all that fightin'!"
"Well, Master, you probably wore yourself out uttering commands...again."
"Ah suppose you're rat, bu-HEY!"
...but I feel right at home, Lag finished with a chuckle and a smile.
As the trio flew to their hotel, the arguing between Johnny and Swamp Daddy only increased. It ended with an elaborate, "I know thou art, but pray tell, what be I?"
January 3rd, 1938:
"And here to support President Roosevelt's "March of Dimes" is none other than New Jersey's finest: ALL-STAR!"
All-star, standing with Scot Allan, the MC of the radio event, smiled and waved to the crowd before going up to the microphone for the audience and America to hear him.
"My fellow Americans," he began, "I have come before you today to speak to you about polio, and what the March of Dimes will do for others. In my lifetime, I have seen children hobbling about, unable to play baseball at all because they cannot run. I have seen children who were made pariahs in their community all because they used four legs to walk instead of two. I have seen the horrors of this disease first-hand, as my own cousin was diagnosed with the disease ten years ago. He died naught but four years ago. I still miss him dearly.
"But I have not come to you to talk about the disease, but how we can find a way to be rid of it! With the March for Dimes, all you have to do is donate a dime. One dime, two dimes, as many as you can find. And if every American man and woman, boy and girl, can find it in them to donate to this noble cause, then I am sure that we will find a cure before 1950! Be the hero you were meant to be and donate to the March of Dimes!"
With that, he took a dime out of his pocket, showed it to the crowd who raved and cheered at the sight before them, and placed it in a jar that was next to the podium. Cameras were going off, reporters were writing every word down on their paper; the very air was alive with fever. All-star stood before the crowd and waved before returning to throng of speakers on the stage. He smiled and beamed, taking in the spotlight and adoration.
"Thank you, All-star, thank you! Now, we will have a brief message from our sponsors."
All-star took this time to go get some coffee that was provided for the sponsors of the charity. He made his way to the coffee table, shaking hands with other patrons, and stopping to give a short interview to a reporter. Once he reached the table, he saw that he was not alone: standing in front of him was none other than Lindy the Golden Girl!
The young hero remembered hearing about her over the radio. Apparently, she was something of a hit in Chicago; she fought the organized crime in the city and helped to put the insidious Dr. Kain behind bars. Lindy was a very beautiful woman, and she used this to her advantage, since her appearance would cause often cause her enemies to lose focus during a battle. Her outfit consisted of a pair of blue gloves, blue boots, a blue cape and a yellow bathing suit. She had platinum blonde hair, which was done up in a bob-cut. All-star stood in awe at seeing this heroine in front of him; to be meeting with another mystery man was tricky, since there usually wasn't more than one per city.
Well, All-star thought, I might as well take advantage of this commercial break!
He cleared his throat with an er-hrrm, at which the woman in front of him turned to look at him. Wow! She's better looking than I imagined! he thought. The superhero greeted Lindy, "Hi there. I'm All-star, and you?"
She just flashed him a smile and replied, "I'm The Golden Girl, but everyone calls me by my nickname Lindy." In her head, Lindy mused, Well isn't he a good-looking devil?
"Are you here to speak for the charity?"
"Yes, I do. I had a friend from back in the day who had polio." At this point, she started to tear up. "I-I'm sorry. It's just, it's a very difficult thing for me to talk about."
All-star instinctively took her hand and started to pat it. "It's all right, Lindy, it's all right."
"Thank you, All-star; you're a very kind man," Lindy tearfully replied. In her head, she smirked and thought, I can't believe he bought it!
He blushed, let go of her hand, and replied, "Oh, why thank you, Golden Girl."
"You're welcome. That was a very nice speech you gave up there."
"You thought it was good?"
"Oh, yes, it was good; I thought it was very touching and energized. Why, I'll bet you get every family in America to donate!" The glimmering gal laid a gentle hand on his shoulder for added measure.
Beet red, All-star replied, "Well, we'll see, Lindy; we're just going to have to wait and see."
They continued talking for a few more minutes, until...
The room shook violently, and All-star and Lindy grabbed at the table for support, steadying themselves as the vibrations continued to rattle the building. The two ran towards the window, where they saw what caused the explosion: another group of robbers, out for a little heist. They were robbing the nearby bank, and it seemed like no one could stop them; no one that is, except for a certain golden-haired woman and a muscular young man.
All-star and Lindy both looked at each other, almost asking the other, "Do you want it, or should I go?" Finally, All-star told Lindy, "Good luck with the speech!" and sped off down the stairs and out the building.
The Golden Girl saw that everyone in the room was now focused on the event outside, so she walked over to the stage, and clapped her hands. The clapping produced such sound waves that it got the attention of the people immediately. Lindy spoke into the microphones and asked the crowd, "Folks, we're having a crisis right now, but I want you to know that the situation is in good hands." The entire crow breathed a sigh of relief. Lindy looked over to Scot Allan, who was nearby in the crowd; once she found him, she called him back up to the stage, where he said, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, Chicago's own Lindy the Golden Girl!"
She smiled and waved to the crowd before beginning her speech. "Thank you," she said, "Thank you! Folks, I am here today to tell you a tragic story: one that involves the loved ones of a young girl falling to the deadly grasp of polio. When I was very young, I had a cousin that I did everything with..."