As the Pratts enjoyed a blissful honeymoon, the three other JSAers stayed on in Las Vegas to see the sights.
“Lysette doesn’t mind you going on this mini-vacation solo?” asked Ted Grant.
“I owe her a trip of our own as soon as I get back!” said Terry Sloane.
“Shiera’s still blissfully shopping, so I’m a ‘free agent’ for a while,” mused Carter Hall.
It was one of those odd flukes of timing that placed four JSAers in Nevada at that time. They were soon eagerly listening to radio reports of danger close at hand.
“Hey, the Raymond-Stein Atomic Plant is in some trouble!” yelled Ted Grant around a week later.
“That’s a leading place for government atomic research,” said Al Pratt, who knew of it well, being a physics professor. Although widely available nuclear power would still be a few years away, the Raymond-Stein Atomic Plant was a prototype for just such a concept, and people everywhere were hoping that it could help to one day fulfill all of America’s power needs.
“I heard the radio blare out that the place has been seized by some radical group,” said Ted.
The blonde and beautiful Mary Pratt leaned against the door and said, “Don’t ask. Just do what you need to, honey.”
“Thanks, love,” said Al as he kissed his pretty bride.
Now dressed in their costumes again, the four JSAers ran out to see just what was happening at the plant.
“The place has been taken over!” yelled a nervous guard outside the plant. “The staff was forced out!”
“How’d it happen?” asked Hawkman.
“We were giving a tour to some local big shots, and they just took over with sudden brute force.”
“‘Big shots’?” asked the Atom.
“Super-powered big shots, I’m afraid,” offered Mister Terrific as he held up a sign-in sheet. “The tour group consisted of the Weaver family — or the Mystery Squad, as their press prefers.”
The JSAers exchanged concerned glances as they entered the Raymond-Stein Nuclear Power Plant.
“What can they be thinking?” asked Wildcat.
“I noticed something weird about them before,” said Mister Terrific. “They never blinked — not from sun or the gas that came out of Delta Queen’s parasol when Mystery Lady blew it out of her hand. They didn’t cough or clear their throats or blush, or even show any visible sign of normal autonomic reactions. I attributed it to their altered metabolisms, but it still made me wonder if they concealed some secret.”
“Plus, there is no record of any government test near the area they named,” said the Atom. “Sure, it could have been hushed up, but it made me curious.”
“The Mystery Squad’s very open ID as a perfectly ordinary family made them seem so above board, and their crime-fighting sure gave them credibility,” said Hawkman. “I assume that’s why they were allowed inside the plant so easily. Could still be OK. Maybe they have been taken over by some thug like Brain Wave.”
“That’s a dirty, rotten lie!” yelled an irate Mystery Boy as he and his costumed family appeared to block the heroes’ path.
“Mary, what’s going on here?” asked Mister Terrific. “Explain your actions.”
“We have to do this,” said the attractive blonde. “Bill insists it’s right, and a family trusts their leader.”
“He’s tampering with the reactor!” said Terrific. “It looks like he’s trying to activate the atomic pile!”
Indeed, Mystery Man was working desperately at the controls.
“Are you mad? You’ll blow this place sky high!” yelled Wildcat.
“You can trust Bill, and we’ll fight to protect him!” voiced Mary Weaver.
“Then it’s a fight you’ll get!” said the Atom.
Wildcat charged forward, only to be blocked by the huge youth called Fred “Buzz” Weaver. “Look, kid, I don’t want to rough you up. So move out of the way,” he said.
Buzz laughed. “Sorry, Pops, but I’m just too shocking to handle!” He shocked Wildcat with his flat palms.
“There’s only one problem, sparky! I don’t need to touch you but one… ugh! … time!” he replied as his swift right caught the large teenager and dropped him flat. Burned my knuckles, but it did the job! mused Ted Grant.
The Atom let Mister Terrific and Hawkman handle the others, while he ran past them to face Mystery Man. “Bill, stop it! I’ll fix things up, but you have to stop!” he said.
Mystery Man moved from the altered controls and punched the Atom into the nearest wall. He groaned and powered up to deliver an atomic punch. “If you insist, then I’ll shut you down and the reactor!” said the determined Al Pratt. He sent the green-costumed man spinning across the room. He then saw with a grimace that his foe had instantly gotten back up.
Meanwhile, a solid burst of rock-hard wind from Mary Weaver, alias Mystery Lady, slammed into Hawkman and drove him down to the floor. Ice spread across his muscled form as Mystery Girl, the youngest Mystery Squader named Patty, generated her cold.
Mister Terrific tried to reason with the fighting females. “Ladies, this is senseless. People may die! Stop now!”
“If he’s right, then we should stop and talk,” said a hesitant Mystery Girl.
“Patty Weaver! You’ll do as your father and I tell you to do, or you’ll be grounded!” ordered her mother.
Mister Terrific swung reluctantly, and as he planned, his fist went through the now-intangible mist form of Mystery Lady. He rolled aside and let the daughter’s freezing spray solidify her shocked mother’s air form into frozen crystal. “Now see to your mother. She’ll need you to protect her until she thaws out.”
As Mister Terrific and Wildcat freed Hawkman, the battle between the Atom and Mystery Man raged on. This guy is as strong as I am! thought the Atom as he landed another punch.
As he struggled against the green-suited foe, Mystery Girl tried to free her frozen mother with the aid of the now-awake Mystery Boy.
After trading a few more blows, Mystery Man suddenly summoned his now-recovered family to his side. “It is time for the final programming to kick in!” he said.
The others stiffened and began to close in on their leader. Slowly, laboriously, they merged, one by one. Mystery Man combined with his son and wife until their forms blurred into a massive figure that resembled nothing human.
“Join us, daughter!” it intoned metallically.
“They’re robots!” answered Hawkman.
“That explains the lack of autonomic reflex!” said Terry Sloane.
Mystery Girl stood silent and stunned. She was a robot, but her humanity seemed stronger. “Mommy! Pop! What… is this?!” she moaned.
“Join us as the master programmed,” replied the now-single robotic giant in their midst.
“Fight it, Patty!” called out Mister Terrific.
“They were masterful creations — programmed with humanlike feelings and real familial dialogue!” said the Atom. “No wonder Patty feels real!”
The confused girl robot merely shuddered and ran out of the room.
“You violate our directive!” intoned the shining giant robot, staring coldly at the heroes. “It was ever our plan to trick your Justice Society into trusting us, then giving us access to this power source.”
“But with your power, you could have just forced your way inside!” answered Wildcat.
“Ah, but that would have deprived me of the fun of play-acting, like the radio dramas I so loved,” said the now-altered voice from within the robot.
A panel slid open to reveal of a green worm with an oddly bright face. “I am Mister Mind, and my larvae was left here in 1942 when my pod brother fled to a new Earth,” he said in their minds. (*) “I gestated for nearly ten years before hatching. I’ll use the atomic might of this Mystery Squad robot to drain your atomic resources dry… even without that oddly flawed girl!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Monster Society of Evil,” All-Star Squadron #51 (November, 1985), “From Fear To Eternity,” All-Star Squadron #52 (December, 1985), and “Worlds In Turmoil,” All-Star Squadron #53 (January, 1986).]
The heroes charged forward to stop the robot from draining the now-active reactor.
“I’ll shut it down!” vowed Mister Terrific, working feverishly at the controls as the other three faced the looming metal giant.
Hawkman slammed a mace into its head, while Wildcat leaped onto its back. The Atom pulled a hunch and ran out to find Patty Weaver.
“Listen, honey, whether you were made or born is not what proves you to be human,” he pleaded after finding her. “Showing courage and mercy for others is the mark of a real hero — of a true person. Help us stop that thing in the memory of the family you knew — the memories you have!” Though I guess even the memories are all implants, he added inwardly.
The girl listened to him and slowly seemed to agree. “I’ll try to stop it for you,” she whispered.
Mister Terrific knew he could shut down the reactor; he knew it as well as he knew most things. Still, he wondered how this strange monster could be stopped without pain for some, like Patty.
Hawkman was knocked out of the room by a massive metal fist. Wildcat scrambled to hold on to the slick finish of the beast.
Wildcat found himself slipping, so he made a last-ditch lunge. He caught the worm in his hand and received a shock.
“Protection is essential around big, clumsy simpletons like you humans!” said the worm. He saw the creature crawl back inside the metal head. He rolled out of the path of its huge feet. Mister Mind marched forward and prepared to enter the reactor itself. He stopped when Mystery Girl entered the outer chamber again with Atom. “You return — good! Now join me.”
The robot, who looked exactly like a pretty teenager, merged with the machine as well. Only, instead of making it stronger, she fought to resist Mister Mind’s commands. He seemed to be in a struggle internally.
Mister Terrific shut down the reactor as the JSAers tried to stop the now-almost-inactive robot. The machine shuddered to a halt and suddenly split apart into its component sections. The Mystery Squad was visible again, but no life was present in the four now-human-looking creations.
“She did it! Somehow, that brave girl shut down the programming,” said the Atom.
Mister Mind flew out in a small transport vehicle. “I’ll be back! I’ll pay you all back for this!” he screeched.
Hawkman made a sudden lunge and caught the device. He slammed it down against the floor, and it shattered to reveal a dazed worm.
“I think we can contain him in this!” said Mister Terrific as he scooped the alien genius up in a containment suit glove from the storage center.
“All’s well here again!” said the Atom as he checked over the controls.
“Good work, Mister Terrific!” said Wildcat.
“Thanks, but the Atom’s the one who persuaded Patty to assert herself. I guess she proved her humanity in the end,” Terrific offered as they walked off.
“Good work, team!” said Hawkman. “The Justice Society may be officially disbanded, but there’s no reason we can’t still have an occasional JSA reunion like this.” As the others heartily agreed, Carter Hall thought to himself, The Mystery Squad robots may as well be stored in JSA Headquarters, or perhaps Bob Crane could restore them to some level. They certainly could be useful crime-fighting tools in the future, if we ever get the JSA back up and running.
“That was weird. It was like beating up Ozzie and Harriet!” said Wildcat.
“Hey, what’s his job, anyhow?” asked the Atom. “They never do tell you on the radio what he does for a living!”
“I bet he’s a mystery-man himself!” joked Wildcat as they exited.