by Starsky Hutch 76, CSyphrett and Doc Quantum
In 1972, after finding themselves in a new, unfamiliar time, the Seven Soldiers of Victory had gone their separate ways. They all had to commit to the business of rebuilding their lives. Things such as the camaraderie they had once shared became secondary. Slowly, they all lost contact with one another.
Even Sylvester Pemberton and Pat Dugan, who had once been very close, had lost contact with one another. The Star-Spangled Kid became a part of the Justice Society of America. Meanwhile, Stripesy retired, and Pat Dugan was leading a normal life, first as a husband and then as a single father.
This all changed when they learned of Lee Travis’ death. (*) The remaining Seven Soldiers were reunited for his funeral, two years later. (*) There was no villain to beat or disaster to avert. They were just men saying goodbye to an old and dear friend. They all confessed regret at the way they had lost track of one another and promised to do a better job of keeping in touch in the future.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Whatever Happened to the Crimson Avenger?” DC Comics Presents #38 (October, 1981) and “Aftermath and Prologue,” Infinity Inc. #11 (February, 1985).]
Syl and Pat, at least, kept this promise. They would get together every now and then to discuss old times. Syl showed Pat what it was he and the Infinitors were doing at Stellar Studios. Pat took on the role of mechanic for Infinity Inc., helping him to maintain the tools of the hero trade.
It was this role that led him to come to Stellar Studios the night Patriot and Red Arrow were confronted with the ghostly apparition of Wing How. They were still discussing it animatedly when he walked into the work area carrying his toolbox.
“What’s this about Wing?” he said, surprising them.
“He… he was here,” Syl said.
“That’s impossible!” Pat exclaimed.
“I thought so, too,” Roy Harper said. “I had my back turned when he saw him, so I didn’t believe it at first. But then we went back and looked at the security footage, and there he was.”
“Let me see it,” Pat said.
Patriot and Red Arrow took Pat to the security station and replayed the footage for him. On the monitor, Wing appeared before Syl as he worked on his cosmic converter belt while Roy practiced archery.
Pat sat in stunned silence for a second. “I don’t believe it…”
“Yeah, we didn’t, either,” Syl said.
“What do you think the story is?” Roy said. “Where is he, and why did he appear here now?”
Pat sat thoughtfully for a second. “I think I have an idea. Let’s go back to the work area.” Once they were back in the workshop, Pat turned to Syl and said, “Let me see your belt.”
“What?” Syl said.
“Let me see your belt.”
Syl unhooked his cosmic converter belt and handed it to Pat. The mechanic popped the front off and began working with the insides.
“What are you doing?!” Syl exclaimed. Without the belt, he’d go from being Patriot to an average guy. It had been a long time since he’d had to function as a hero without powers.
“Trust me. I know what I’m doing here,” Pat said. “I have a good idea why Wing appeared to ya.”
He sat the belt down on the workbench along with his toolbox. He opened the toolbox and pulled out a device with a frequency meter, along with a couple of other tools. After hooking the meter to to the belt, he walked over to the area where Wing had appeared.
When Pat approached the area, the needle began to dart back and forth wildly. Huge bursts of static erupted from its speaker.
“Just as I thought,” Pat said. “Wing was able to home in on your belt. Whatever work you were doing to it approached the right frequency, and he was able to use the brief opportunity to try and send us a message.”
“Now, the question is, what was he trying to tell us?” Syl said, scratching his head.
Billie Gunn watched the old men come on like a scene from a western movie. Gee whiz, she thought as Floyd Lawton and Cully Morrigan dropped anything that came into their sights.
“Pretty good,” said Greg Sanders, tugging at his bandanna. “I’d’ve hated to run into them when they were in their prime.”
“Who are they?” said Billie as Lawton put three cardboard villains down with a single bullet.
“Floyd Lawton used to go by the handle Deadshot a long time ago. He had a run-in or two with the Batman back in the ’50s. (*) Cully Morrigan used to work for a guy named Adam Blake. I heard Blake vanished when the JSA came out of retirement. No one knows for sure. He just closed up shop one day and never came back. Anyways, they still can shoot, can’t they?” Greg smiled at this. “Let’s go congratulate them on a good job. They’ve earned the cup.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Man Who Replaced Batman,” Batman #59 (June-July, 1950).]
Greg Sanders walked over to the two men, shook their hands, and said a few words as Danny Leong announced the winners of the Heroes Shootout to the contestants.
I wanted that cup, thought Billie as she turned to go and pack her bag. She could still catch her plane back to New York if she hurried and got a cab to pick her up. Deadshot? Well the name fits the old shooter, thought Billie as she walked to the main house. A former villain and a mercenary.
“Hey, kid,” said a gruff voice from behind her. Cully Morrigan walked quickly to catch up with her.
Billie Gunn turned to see who was calling her. Morrigan was grinning at her in that strange way of his. Floyd Lawton stood behind him, hands polishing one of his revolvers with a cloth.
“We were wondering if you were staying for the speeches later,” said Morrigan. He seemed uncomfortable.
“I was thinking about heading home, now that the contest is over,” admitted the policewoman.
“What Cully is trying to say is he was impressed by your skill and wanted to shoot the breeze with you before we head back to Gotham,” said Lawton, spinning the revolver back in its holster. “You’re the only one here that he feels comfortable talking with besides myself.”
Morrigan shot his companion a dirty look. “I’m having problems relating to the Green Arrows of the World,” the former adventurer admitted.
A connection zipped through Billie’s mind. “Deadshot!” she exclaimed. “Didn’t you shoot Power Girl four or five years back?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Times Past, 1981: Angel.]
“Is she still alive?” Lawton asked with a smile.
“Well, yes, she is,” said the policewoman.
“I think, if I’d have shot her, I wouldn’t have hit her in the shoulder unless I wanted to,” said Lawton. “I haven’t tangled with a mystery-man since ’55 or ’56, and I never worked for hire like that sap the Ultra-Humanite hired. I only wanted to be the top man in Gotham, and a jail sentence revealed to me how much a dream that was.”
“Then who was it in the mask?” asked Gunn, curious despite herself.
“Someone named Burkowitz.”
“Lefty Burkowitz?” asked Morrigan. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Adam Blake: Times Past, 1955: Blake’s Bullet, Chapter 1: A New Deadshot in Town.]
“That’s right,” said Lawton.
Morrigan laughed all the way back to the house, to the bewilderment of his companions.
Stellar Studios, Los Angeles:
Pat Dugan, Roy Harper, and Syl Pemberton stood in the workshop at Stellar Studios and pondered their situation. A previously thought dead teammate was alive and asking for their help.
“If this thing with Wing has anything to do with our last case together as the Seven Soldiers of Victory, then it’s too much for just the three of us,” Pat said. “And from the energy readings I got, I’d say it does. This reeks of the Nebula-Man. You’d better call in the rest of Infinity Inc.”
“Way ahead of you, Pat,” Syl sighed. “Roy and I already thought of that. No one’s available.”
“No one?!” Pat exclaimed. “Not even the reserves?”
“Most of them have their own crises they’re dealing with now.”
“So we’re on our own?” Pat grimaced.
“No, but it is time to unite the old team,” Syl said. He picked up the wall-mounted phone and began dialing.
The telephone rang suddenly at the Arthur Estates.
“Hello?” said Danette Reilly-Arthur as she answered the telephone. “Oh, hello, Sylvester. How are you? We’re doing fine, ourselves. Brandy and Justin are just out riding right now. I can get them for you. OK. I’ll call him in right away. Yes, you too. Talk to you soon!”
Dann placed the receiver next to the telephone and walked over to the rear balcony, where their housekeeper was tidying up the dishes from their midday brunch. She then called her husband in from the fields, where he and Brandy were just getting back from riding out in the rolling hills of the English countryside.
Sir Justin was pleased to hear the news from Syl and immediately suited up after he got off the telephone, all too ready for a new quest once more after being out of action for so long.
“I’m off,” said Sir Justin as he headed for the stables where Winged Victory awaited him.
Brandy cleared her throat and frowned at him. “Father,” she said in a decisive tone. “I am going with you.”
It was not a difficult decision to make for the Shining Knight. “Thou art strong-willed, my child. I cannot hold you back from your destiny any longer, I fear. You may join us in our quest.”
The young woman had already begun suiting up in her enchanted armor, which was made especially in mind of the mystical flame-powers she inherited from her mother.
Danette Reilly-Arthur smiled at this brief exchange between father and daughter.
“Wife? Wouldst thou care to join us?” said Sir Justin.
“Well, it sounds to me like this is more of a Seven Soldiers of Victory party. I think I’ll wait until the next All-Star Squadron reunion to get back into action. Uh… But you could give me a ride to Long Island? There are some matters of business at Reilly Steel that I need to take care of.”
“Of course, m’lady,” the Shining Knight responded, kissing his wife’s hand.
Greg Sanders watched the trio head toward the house, smiling in spite of himself. Old Billy Gunn would have been proud of his descendant today.
“Uncle Greg?” said Danny Leong, silently at his elbow. “Someone named Sylvester is on the phone for you. He said something about getting the team together.”
Greg frowned as he went to the announcement booth and picked up the phone. “Hello,” he said calmly. “Nice ta hear from you, Sylvester. Tell Roy he missed some serious shooting this weekend. Right. Wing? Are you sure? Pat’s there, too, huh? I’ll be out in a few hours. Private plane. Right. See you.” He hung up the phone slowly.
Lee Travis and Wing How — he hadn’t thought of them in a while. Inseparable companions, they were a force to be reckoned with in the old days. They had lost Wing to defeat the Nebula-Man and save the world. The combined Justice Society and Justice League had acted to rescue them and had pulled them forward in time. Then Lee had developed cancer and gave his life to save New York City. Both were true heroes. Now it looked like Wing may have been alive all these years instead of dead. Greg shook his head to clear the unruly thoughts away.
First he had to get to L.A. and hook up with Sylvester, Roy, and Pat as soon as possible. Then they would find out what was going on. “I have to go out of town, Danny,” said Greg to his adopted son as he headed up to the main house. “Something’s come up. Could you present the cup tonight?”
“Are you going to need help on this something? My equipment is in my room.”
Greg paused to think a moment. “You’re right,” he said. “Get everything and meet me at the hangar. I’ll get someone else to present the cup and explain everything. I’m sure everyone will understand the suddenness of things.” Danny nodded as he ran off.
Billie Gunn came out of her room with her packed bag. Floyd Lawton and Cully Morrigan were all right for old killers. She saw Danny Leong quickly come out of his room with a carryall in his hand, while a long baton was tucked into the handles. He hurried off without a word.
“What’s going on?” Billie asked as she hurried to follow the slim driver.
“Uncle Greg and I are leaving on some unexpected business. He’s going to get someone else to present the cup so we can go as soon as possible.”
“Need a hand?” Billie asked as she fell in beside the young man.
“I don’t know. Uncle Greg just said we’re taking his plane,” said Danny. He increased his pace to pull away from the cop.
Billie increased her own speed to keep up. You’re not brushing me off so easy, buddy, she thought.
“Ready to go, Danny?” Greg Sanders said as he fell in step with the hurrying couple.
“We sure are,” said Billie, in her best western drawl.
“I don’t remember inviting you,” said Danny with a frown. Greg frowned also.
“Wait a minute here,” said Billie. “My great-gran’pa rode with a Vigilante in the ’40s. So if anyone has the right to play vigilante, it’s me.” She indicated Greg’s clothes with a sweep of a hand.
“Excuse me, young lady,” said Greg with a huge grin. “I am the one, the only Vigilante. I think I have more right than anyone else to wear this getup.”
“You’re kidding me, right?” Billie said. “You’d have to be over eighty.”
Greg laughed at the hyperbole and explained, “I had a case of time-displacement.” A tense moment passed. “Well, if you want to ride with us,” Greg finally said, “you’re welcome. It’s going to be hard and dangerous, and you might get killed, but if it’s OK with you, it’s OK with me.”
Billie came to a dead stop, outrage written large on her expressive face. “Whose leg are you trying to pull, buddy? I work for the NYPD, and I don’t give out tickets for meter violations.”
Greg and Danny looked at each other. “OK, you’re in.”