No Holiday For Heroines

By Jeb

Chapter Four


"We're not your enemies," Rita took a step forward. She sought some sign in Liberty Lass' face that the powerful superheroine recognized her teammates, but the dullness in Joan Justice's eyes made her heart sink.

"Joan," she tried again. "We're your-whuff?" The dark-haired starlet never finished the sentence, as in a single bound, Liberty Lass had dashed forward, seized Rita in both hands, and sent her crashing against the empty Christmas boxes, tumbling them off the table, to the floor; Rita joined them, sprawled and unconscious.

"A pity." Dr. Sonderbar was standing in the doorway, her eyes gleaming. "Now you've spoiled Lady Luger's surprise." She smiled at the vacantly-staring Liberty Lass. "Finish them."

The fight would not have been a long one under the best of circumstances: the Blue Phantom's fighting skills, and Miss Mask's deductive genius, were of little use against a foe who at full power could level buildings. Added to that their natural reluctance to hurt their friend, even to save themselves, and the fact that Dr. Sonderbar and her armed female stooges were blocking the only exit, and the heroines went down in depressingly short order, the Blue Phantom absorbing a wicked haymaker that sent her head over heels across the room, while Miss Mask was grasped by her hair and slammed into the wall, knocking her out.

"What in Hades is going on here?" The sharp voice of Lady Luger filled the room. The blond spymistress stepped through the doorway, and cast an appalled glance at the tumble of battered boxes and tattered paper that was all that remained of the surprise she had concocted for the Fuhrer, and at the unconscious heroines who had somehow been allowed to escape.

"A fine mess. The Fuhrer and that damned movie-making trollop of his will be here in less than an hour, and his gifts are all over the place." She turned on Dr. Sonderbar, pointing toward the senseless heroines.

"How did they get out? And why isn't she restrained?"  This last was punctuated by a jerk of the head at Liberty Lass, who stood quiet and expressionless, awaiting her mistress' orders.

By way of answer, Dr Sonderbar walked over to where "Major Falschung" lay unconscious, and lifted Diana's head by the hair, pointing to the place on her cheek where the fake scar had been removed.

"You allowed a spy to come aboard that plane," Dr. Sonderbar sniffed. "You endangered everything I've been working for. You should be thankful I took action when I did." With a snarl of disgust, she released the heroine's head to fall back to the floor. "Liberty Lass is now serving the Reich under my personal direction."

Lady Luger fumed, not sure if she was angrier at her own failing, or at the fact that it was allowing this Doctor to get just a bit too big for her britches. And is it wise to allow her too much control over the super-powered American heroine?

She returned her scowl to the mess that had been made of her carefully-arranged "gifts."

"Well, these boxes are hardly in any shape to present to the Fuhrer." She paused, still frowning, then her wickedly lovely face lit up.

"I have just the thing, Doctor." She glanced around the huge hangar space to the filmmaking equipment that had been arranged for the use of the Fuhrer's guest, filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, and used the handle of her whip to point at a large crane used to move cameras up into the air. "Bring that truck over here."

Dr. Sonderbar was puzzled, but nodded to one of her flunkies to oblige.

"What do you plan doing with that?"

"Well, if we can't have some pretty packages waiting for the Fuhrer, we can at least allow him to enjoy a Christmas tree, decked with some very special ornaments."

The doctor looked up at the enormous tree, and shook her head in amusement.

"Truly devilish, Captain. I commend you."

"Now," Lady Luger beckoned another of the doctor's mind-controlled assistants. "Let's get them prepared."

The spellbound woman bent over the slumped form of the Blue Phantom. She pulled Laura's hands together in front of her, and crossed her wrists. Strips of leather were then used to bind the captive's wrists; coils of stout rope followed, joining both arms into what was practically a single limb. Tight cord abraded the skin of her ankles as her feet were tied together, as well.

The Blue Phantom stirred woozily, but was too weak to even think of resisting as her hands and feet were bound.

Instead of simply replacing the bow in her mouth, a large red rubber ball was forced between Laura's lips, the dazed girl wanting desperately to resist the invasion of her mouth, but still far too weak from her ordeal. The ball-gag was jammed deeper yet when its leather straps were fastened around the captive's head. The bow was then tied over it, once more giving her face a look of perverse jollity, and her shapely body was then festooned in bits of ribbon and tinsel.

By now, the camera dolly had been driven to a stop next to the bound and gagged Laura, and the driver watched impassively as the Blue Phantom was hoisted to her captor's shoulder, and borne, helpless, up into the cameraman's basket. The cherrypicker arm lifted, up and up, until it was a good twenty feet in the air, a bit more than halfway up the tree. There, the woman lifted Laura out of the basket, passing her arms over one of the thick pine branches. She reached over far enough to ensure that the bound wrists were anchored securely to the branch, then released her to dangle from the branch, and ordered the driver to bring the lift back down.

"Ugggh!" As the Blue Phantom came fully back to consciousness, she found herself hanging twenty feet above the floor, supported only by her bound wrists looped over the tree branch, her arm muscles already protesting furiously, her mouth painfully gagged.

Over the next few minutes, the process was repeated with Miss Mask and Rio Rita: the unconscious captives were securely trussed and gagged, decorated with ribbon and bows, and strung up, suspended by their arms among the thick green foliage.

By now, all three heroines had regained consciousness, and were beginning to wonder if there might, in fact, be a fate worse than being transported in a packing case: the strain of gravity's pull on their stretched bodies was sending pain blazing through their backs and shoulders, as they hung displayed for their captors' amusement from the enourmous Christmas tree.

Laura bit down hard on her gag against the throbbing in her arms, and tried to gauge her chances of surviving the fall if she somehow managed to work her way to the end of the branch and slip free. Unfortunately, not only did it seem physically impractical, given the way her weight was bearing down on the branch, but any escape attempt would have to take place in full view of their captors.

Lady Luger looked up, as if reading her mind, while she toyed with one of her namesake pistols.

"I shouldn't do too much wiggling up there," she said with dry humor. "If you don't fall and break your neck, you just might tempt me into trying a bit of target practice."

Laura growled behind her gag, but realized that, for the time being, any escape attempt would be futile: suspended high above the floor as they were, they'd be sitting ducks, who could be picked off long before they were even close to being free.

Lady Luger holstered her pistols, and got up from her chair, standing hands on hips, regarding the display with grim satisfaction: three helpless heroines, bound and gagged, a personal conquest that would soon restore her rightful position of superiority.

"So far so good," she smirked, looking up at the tied trio. "Three enemies of the Reich awaiting the Fuhrer's pleasure. How nice to finally make your acquaintance, Miss Mask," she jeered at the helpless Diana Dane. "It was good of you to join your friends in my little holiday celebration. And as for the great Blue Phantom," Laura Lane glared over her gag at the blonde's mocking tone, "your vaunted combat prowess doesn't seem to have kept you from becoming just an ornament for the Fuhrer's tree. And won't he be delighted to make the acquaintance of the famous Miss Rita Ribiera: perhaps he will even have you autograph a photograph for him before you are all executed as spies. And now, doctor, it's time to quit playing games and get Liberty Lass up on the tree as well."

There was no response, and she turned. "Doctor?"

Sadly for Lady Luger, she turned her head left; had she turned right, she might have seen Dr. Sonderbar's blackjack descending toward her head a fraction sooner. The shapely spymistress took the blow full on the back of her head, her cap flying off, and sank to the floor with a low moan, a heap of black leather and blond hair.

"Put her in that chair." The doctor instructed the mind-controlled Liberty Lass. "Tie her up."

With dull precision, the enthralled heroine obeyed, hauling the unresisting officer upright, tossing her guns aside, and seating her in a straight-backed chair opposite the tree. The unconscious blonde's arms were drawn back around the chair, and thin white cord encircled her crossed wrists, pulling her arms tightly around the back of the chair in a reverse hug that was sure to ache miserably once Lady Luger awoke. Rope fastened her torso to the chair back, running above and below the ample chest that stretched her grey uniform shirt; Lady Luger's head slumped forward, blond hair tumbling around her face as her eyes began blinking.

By the time she had regained consciousness, her ankles and calves had been fastened to the chair legs, her waist cinched and secured up against the back, and she was completely helpless as she roared, "Sonderbar, you stupid bitch, what do you think you're doing? Untie me at once!"

Dr. Sonderbar was busily going over a sheaf of notes, and without even glancing back over her shoulder, mutteredl, "Gag her."

Yet another ball-gag, of the sort that was currently filling the mouths of the captured heroines, was worked into Lady Luger's mouth--not without a great deal of flailing and cursing, but a super-powered fist in her hair, yanking her head back and forcing her mouth open, was enough to allow the slick rubber ball to pass her lips and rest against her back teeth. The villainess growled in impotent fury as the straps were tightened over her blond tresses in the back, and she could do nothing now but glare as Dr Sonderbar went about her plans.

While Liberty Lass had been binding and gagging Lady Luger, two of the mind-controlled women in the lab coats had been wheeling into the chamber a huge, bizarre-looking apparatus: all electrical cabling, colored lights, dials and gauges, and two large platforms, padded with leather, and fitted with leather restraining straps.

"Liberty Lass, come here."

Wordlessly, the mesmerized heroine obeyed, coming to take her place beside the grinning doctor, who stood in front of the bound and gagged Lady Luger, face aglow with triumph as the captive blonde raged behind the ball strapped in her mouth.

"And now, Lady Luger," she smirked. "You shall witness my triumph, as I reshape the Reich… the world!... to fulfill my destiny."

Liberty Lass remained motionless, awaiting her mistress' next command, as Dr. Sonderbar reached out slender fingers and trailed them through the girl's long blond tresses, then caressed Liberty Lass' cheeks.

"Soon it will all be mine… this pale flesh, the flawless teeth, sparkling eyes, flaxen hair… the perfect Aryan specimen, with powers and abilities that should be mine… that will be mine."

She paused, looking up the tree at the baffled ball-gagged and bow-decorated faces.

"Are you all to dull to see it?" She touched Liberty Lass' biceps. "Why should I waste this power on that ugly, crabbed little paperhanger? With my superior intellect placed into the body of Liberty Lass, I can deliver the fatherland victories and conquests that our so-called Fuhrer can only dream of. Why simply use her power… when I can live it?"

The thought of what she had planned was too impossible, and too appalling, to be believed, but in their present state, it was all too easy for the helpless heroines to consider the prospect: the ruthless, scheming genius of Dr. Sonderbar occupying the super-powered body of Liberty Lass? That might be enough to tip the balance back in favor of the Reich!

"Now, my pet," Doctor Sonderbar pointed to one of the padded tables. "Go lie down."

Four pairs of eyes were wide over gagged mouths, as the three heroines, and Lady Luger, watched Liberty Lass meekly lay herself back against the padded leather frame. On the other frame, Dr. Sonderbar was having one of her enslaved assistants fasten her in place with leather straps: her wrists, upper arms, waist, thighs, and ankles were all secured and buckled in place, while Liberty Lass remained unfettered. She smiled at her prisoners' confusion.

"It wouldn't do to have Liberty Lass making too free with my body once the exchange has taken place. This will keep her--or do I mean 'me'?--secure, until I decide just how to dispose of you all."

She gave a nod to one of her witless minions, who placed a metal cap on the doctor's head; a series of electrical wires joined the cap to the strange device. She repeated the process with the unresisting Liberty Lass, and then began to press a sequence of buttons on the bizarre machine, following that with a pull on a large black-handled lever.

Weird lights crackled, gauges spun, and the two bodies on the tables quivered madly. Whining sounds, increasing steadily in pitch, were accompanied by a faint burning smell.

Rita screamed into her gag at the sight of Liberty Lass' spasms, and both Miss Mask and the Blue Phantom twisted their bound bodies helplessly in the air, while Lady Luger just stared in disbelief at the display of human pyrotechnics.

Finally, the flashing and quaking ceased, and the two "subjects" of the experiment lay on the table, perspiring and gasping for breath.

After a few moments, Liberty Lass… or, rather, the body that wore Liberty Lass' costume… removed the metal cap, and got slowly to her feet. She looked around the room with eyes that had once been Joan Justice's, but were now the cold and cruel eyes of Dr. Sonderbar. She took a step towards the fettered form that her mind had just departed, and which now held the trapped mind and personality of Joan Justice…then stopped… raised her hands to her head… and let out a shriek of unholy pain.

"Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!" a voice that both was and was not Joan's, ripped its throat with inexpressible agony. The sound reverberated through the huge room, and the blonde put her hands to her head, moaning piteously… then sinking to her knees, whimpering.

"It's... it's the evil." A gasp came from the form of Dr Sonderbar, still strapped to the table, but the words were those of Joan Justice. "The formula that gives me my Liberty Lass powers is only to be used for good. It's rejecting the presence of Dr Sonderbar's evil in my body."

The blond head--her own head!--turned up to look at her. Tears streamed down the pale, stolen, cheeks.

"The pain… oh, god, the pain… I... I can't take this…"

For a moment, Joan was frozen in horror at the terrifying sight of her own body, her own agonized face, begging for relief. But strapped to the table and helpless as she was, there was no time to waste.

"Doctor, you have one chance." Her voice sounded strange with a German accent, and it was becoming hard to hang onto her true identity, but Joan knew she had to keep her head.  "Reverse the process."

"Noooo…" A despairing moan came from the blonde, writhing on the floor.

"Do it now, or it's going to kill you."

Dr. Sonderbar looked up, hearing the insane sound of her own voice telling her to surrender. She mustn't, she couldn't… But she knew she couldn't live with the pain, and that she didn't want to die. With an animal cry, she raced to the control panel, seized her flunky by the arm, and savagely forced her hands to manipulate the controls. She then threw herself back against the device and slammed the cap onto her head just as the explosion of light and sound resumed, and once more the two bodies shuddered and shook, followed once more by the deathly stillness.

This time, it was several minutes before the brightly-clad form of Liberty Lass staggered to its feet, her blond hair matted, her face streaked with sweat.

OK… so which one of them is that: Joan or Doctor Sonderbar? Diana asked herself, looking down from where she hung on the branch. We don't know anything about this contraption… how do we know whether--

"Verdammt American busybody!" came a hoarse shriek from the tightly-trussed form of Dr. Sonderbar. "This should have been my moment of ultimate triumph! When I get free, I will have you flayed alive!"

Well, that answers that question, Diana thought.

"You stupid sluts! Release me!" Dr. Sonderbar, now fully herself, and also fully helpless, screamed to her hypnotized minions, but something in the transferal process had broken her hold on them, and they simply stood, dazed, as though she was no longer there; then, as though a switch had been thrown, they sank quietly to the floor, and went to sleep!

Liberty Lass came to stand over the furiously cursing scientist.

"It was bad enough hearing my own thoughts coming out in your voice; I don't need to hear your gutter mouth, too." She reached down and with perhaps more effort than usual, ripped free a chunk of the leather padding, which she then proceeded to stuff into the doctor's furious open mouth.

"Uuukkk!" the thick leather was even better at muffling speech than the rubber balls, and when Liberty Lass followed it up by using a piece of one of the leather straps to bind it firmly into the woman's mouth, the doctor's tirade was reduced to little more than muffled squeals.

"Now, then," Joan sighed. She felt as weary and drained as she could ever remember being, but her friends, dangling helpless from the tree, were counting on her.

Trembling slightly, she leapt the twenty feet into the air to pluck Laura from her perch, and gently set her down on the floor, snapping the bonds at her wrists. The Blue Phantom ignored muscles protesting in pain as feeling began to return while she untied her ankles.

In moments, Liberty Lass had retrieved her other teammates from the tree, and once they had freed themselves of bonds, gags, and Christmas ribbon, decided they were aching and exhausted, but not significantly worse for the wear. The room was filled with quiet groans and sighs of relief, but Laura quickly focused the heroines' attentions on the next step.

"I don't know about you gals, but I'm ready to fight our way out of here-- I'm itching for a scrap with these Ratzis and their so-called Fuhrer. Joan, what kind of shape are you in?"

The blond heroine winced as she tried to smile gamely.

"Been better. That flying I just did might be about all I can manage for a while yet."

The Blue Phantom sighed in disappointment--without Liberty Lass at full strength, retreat was clearly going to be the better part of valor.

"OK, so much for our chance to stay and deal a deathblow to the Third Reich; at least we can take back a couple of valuable prisoners. Now, how do we get out of here and past the guards before Der Stinker and his lady friend arrive?"

Miss Mask thought for a moment. "I've got it. Get undressed."

For a moment, Laura just goggled at her. "What are you…?"

"Your costume. Take it off. Then have the doctor strip and swap clothes with you. You're both brunettes: once you're wearing her glasses, and she's got your mask on, plus that gag, the guards won't notice the difference--remember, they never saw you inside those boxes." She turned to the woozy Liberty Lass. "Joan, you do the same with 'Lady Leather' there," indicating Lady Luger, who raged curses around her gag.

Laura had picked up their foe's signature lugers, and was casually checking the action on the two pistols. She snapped them closed and looked significantly from the strapped-down Dr. Sonderbar to the chair- bound Lady Luger, addressing the two gagged prisoners.

"I'd rather take you two back alive, but I'm prepared to consider the alternative." The grim look in the Blue Phantom's eyes chilled even the icy soul of the beautiful blond spymistress, and the two captives subsided: as Laura had expected, both would much rather come out of this alive, even in captivity.

While Miss Mask set about freeing the still-gagged Doctor Sonderbar from the table, Laura stripped off her form-hugging blue tunic and dark red cape. She smiled wryly to herself at the thought of how many thugs and crime bosses had threatened to do exactly this to her, and the only beneficiaries of her finally stripping in action were a pair of angry women!

Once Laura was down to her skimpy bra and panties, she donned the frock and lab coat that the reluctanct Dr. Saberhorn had been persuaded to discard, under Liberty Lass' watchful eye. She took a pocketknife that she found in a pocket of the coat, and stepped behind Lady Luger's chair, nudging the nape of the captive's neck with a pistol barrel.

"Don't do anything stupid."  With that, she went to work cutting away the ropes that held the woman in place. In a few moments, Lady Luger was able to stand on shaky legs, rubbing circulation back into her arms.

"Leave the gag on… but everything else comes off."

Icy fury sparked in the woman's eyes, but Laura just laughed.

"Come on now, don't be shy," she said wryly. "It's all girls together here." And with her face flushing a livid crimson, Lady Luger stripped off the leather jodhpurs and grey uniform shirt, glaring furiously now as she stood, her stunning figure revealed in expensive black silk underwear.

"OK, blondie. Get dressed." Laura indicated the red and blue costume that Liberty Lass had discarded.

Trembling with rage, Lady Luger picked up Liberty Lass' skintight costume, and donned it. The costume had been designed to allow for a certain amount of fluctuation in Liberty Lass' muscle mass, and so fit the captive woman well enough. With the enormous gag distorting her mouth, only careful examination would reveal that the blonde in the costume wasn't actually Liberty Lass at all.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sonderbar was sullenly donning the costume of the Blue Phantom, under the watchful eye of Joan Justice, who was now attired in the grey shirt and black leather of Lady Luger. The doctor's figure didn't fill the Blue Phantom costume nearly as well as did Laura's, but with the mask in place, few would notice the difference. The doctor's signature bun had come undone in all the exertion, brown hair now framing her face in a manner more closely approximating the Blue Phantom's style, and Laura twisted her own thick dark hair into a quick version of the doctor's usual bun.

"All right, ladies," Miss Mask continued, "now turn around and place your hands behind your backs." With Laura keeping the captives covered, Diana, now back in her disguise as Major Falschung, gathered up the lengths of rope that had been used to bind Lady Luger, and proceeded to tie the two women's hands, wrists crossed over each other, with rope criss-crossing and isolating each hand, then cinching twice between them for good measure.

Diana's fingers were quick and deft as she trussed the two captives' upper arms, yanking them hard behind their backs, then yoking them to their torsos, using lengths of cord to encircle them above and below the breasts, further disguising the ill-fitting nature of the costumes they'd been forced to don. As Joan and Laura kept an eye on the prisoners, Diana went to a knee to hobble the two pairs of legs, binding the shapely ankles just loosely enough to permit them to walk.

As she stood up, Lady Luger and Doctor Sonderbar glared murder at her over their gags, and twisted angrily and uselessly at their secure bonds.

Diana just laughed, and snapped fingers in the Doctor's face. "I spent my time in the Girl Scouts learning to tie knots, instead of hatching evil plots to take over the world. I guess we can see which turned out to be more useful!"

She turned apologetically to Rita. "Sorry there's no change of clothes for you, chum. You're going to have to go as a prisoner."

"That's all right," the dark-haired beauty smiled. "Actually, I think we might need a bit of acting to pull this off, anyway." She picked up one of the ball-gags, and strapped it into her mouth, drawing it tightly enough to look convincing. She nodded to Diana, and turned her back, offering her crossed wrists to be bound. Miss Mask proceeded to encircle them with rope, looping it gently, only to have Rita shake her head vigorously as she began to fasten the knots.

"Do it properly," Laura admonished her. "This has to look real, and Rita's a tougher egg than she looks, right?"

Her teammate nodded, grinning as best she could around the thick ball of rubber lodged in her mouth. Diana shrugged and returned to her work, tightening the cord and making the knots even more secure.

Once Rita was bound and gagged, Laura took a long length of the cord and looped it in a loose noose-like arrangement around her throat. She repeated the process with the two "real" prisoners, an arrangement that would further discourage any attempts to bolt once they were outside.

Diana glanced at her reflection in the polished glass of a ball on the Christmas tree.

"Think anyone will notice that I don't have the scar anymore?"

Laura reached over and undid the top button of Diana's uniform blouse, then tugged at the shirt, pulling it even more tightly over "Major Falschung"'s  chest.

"Trust me, they won't even look at your face."


Outside the massive hangar building, the car which Diana had appropriated in her guise as Major Falschung stood parked by the guardhouse, near the gate. As they approached the car, a pair of armed soldiers goggled at the weird procession:  two uniformed blondes wearing officer's insignia, and a brunette in glasses and a white lab coat, leading three colorfully-clad women whose hands were tied behind their backs, torsos wrapped round with more rope, their gait hobbled by their loosely-tied ankle bonds, and their mouths forced wide by rubber balls held in place with straps that ran tightly across their cheeks and around their heads.

"Good day, Sergeant," Miss Mask took the lead in her guise as Major Falschung, addressing the guard in perfect German. "These meddlesome Americans are about to learn the fate of those who dare to oppose the Reich." She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "They can't even behave like civilized prisoners, hence our need to gag them. Typical, eh?"

Lady Luger and Dr. Sonderbar made frenzied attempts to scream through their gags, flailing their heads to attract attention. Rita, though, gauged her performance expertly, matching them gagged shout for gagged shout, pushing her way to the front.

Finally, his curiosity stirred, the sergeant stepped forward and undid Rita's gag.

"Pig!" she sneered at him, "You haven't seen the end of this! My friends and I," she nodded to the pair of gagged prisoners, "are going to bring down your stinking tinpot dictator and all his--uugghh!" Diana had plucked the ballgag back from the soldier and made a show of using it to once more silence the Brazilian beauty. She had to resist the urge to wink at the actress in appreciation of her performance.

"See what I mean?" she smiled to the guard.  "Incorrigible."

The soldier laughed, appeased, and more than a little flattered that the beautiful blond officer had taken him into her confidence. He waved them along, muttering lewd admiration of the parade of pulchritude.

When they reached the car, Laura undid the noose from around the captives' necks, Diana flipped open the trunk of the car, and it was Lady Luger who first realized the implication, her eyes widening in horror. She turned, as if to make one last desperate attempt to persuade the guards, but Liberty Lass lifted her bodily, and dumped her into the trunk like an old, not-terribly-valuable suitcase.

She landed on her side with a thud and a squall from behind her gag. Before she had a chance to resist, Laura had reached down and pushed her up against the side of the trunk, so that Liberty Lass could fit Doctor Sonderbar neatly up against her, face to face. The loop of cord was once more wound around their necks, more rope tied them together at the waist, and their ankles were knotted together, keeping them facing each other, dressed in their captors' gaudy costumes, each glaring daggers over her gag at the other, each blaming the other for their current predicament.

Liberty Lass gave Rita an apologetic look, and dumped her, too, into the trunk, trying to be as gentle as possible while still making it look convincing to the guards watching the performance. She surreptitiously reached down and loosened the wrist bonds, so that Rita could free herself from rope and gag once the trunk was closed. Hopefully, it wouldn't be long before they could let her out without being observed.

In her guise of Dr Sonderbar, Laura slipped into the back seat, closing her eyes and reclining wearily against the expensive black leather. Diana got behind the wheel, and Joan Justice, as the fake Lady Luger, occupied the passenger seat.

"How much time do you think we have?" Laura muttered from the back seat.

"Enough, I'd say," Diana responded. "After all, the rescue went pretty much on schedule--apart from the time I spent bound and gagged, hanging from a Christmas tree! We're only an hour from the coast, and I've got a captured U-boat waiting for us. Our two unwilling passengers back there in the trunk were playing things so close to the vest that no one but them even knew that you were in those boxes. By the time the Germans can even begin to figure it out, we'll be back on British soil, and ready to head home." Diana put the car in gear, and maneuvered smoothly out through the gate and onto the road north.

Joan Justice, in her guise as Lady Luger, gazed wearily out the passenger side window. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been so tired… nor could she shake the unclean feeling that some residue of Dr. Sonderbar's evil would haunt her body for a long time to come--to say nothing of the guilt she still felt at the treatment she had inflicted on her teammates while helpless under the Doctor's influence. Going in just hours from superheroine to mind-controlled slave to mad scientist (if only briefly) to Nazi officer (if only temporarily) was almost too much, even for Liberty Lass. All she wanted now was to get back stateside and sleep for a week.

Her daydreaming was interrupted, by  the sight of the large, dark sedan that approached their car from the other direction on the highway, swastika flags fluttering above its hood. Through the window, she could see, in the rear seat, a red-faced, dark-haired man, his head bent, his frame animated in furious conversation with a pale young woman with a thick, curling mane of fair hair. Liberty Lass held her breath, scarcely daring to blink, as the two cars passed within a few feet of each other.

Suddenly, the man looked up and saw her, and Joan found herself looking right into the piercing blue eyes of a monster, eyes filled with death and madness. Her own eyes widened as he regarded her in the stolen uniform through the window… raised one hand in her direction… and gave her a casually dismissive open-handed salute, before returning his attention to his companion.

As they passed, Joan froze, still holding her breath, watching until the car bearing the dictator and the glamorous movie director was out of sight.

Finally, she exhaled, and turned to the others, slowly shaking her head.

"Girls, you just ain't gonna believe this…"


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