by Starsky Hutch 76, JSAGL and Vendikarr DeWuff
Steve Trevor had wanted to accompany his wife Diana as she left on yet another world-threatening mission, but the general consensus had been that it was a matter for the Justice Society of America. (*) Even though he now had the power to do more than sit on the sidelines, he had to accept that. He and Wonder Woman had been handling this sort of thing for nearly fifty years. And frankly, he could understand why the JSA might not want him at their side. After everything they had been through, it had torn him apart to see her leave him yet again. He had so much he wanted to say to her.
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crawling from the Wreckage, Book 4, Chapter 3: Ragnarok Now.]
He had a lot he needed to say to his daughter Lyta, too, but since they had returned from the JSA Brownstone, they had worked in silence straightening the house. It kept them from having to deal with the many feelings that were there.
Never in his life had he felt so ashamed. He couldn’t believe he could ever have treated his wife with such disrespect, as if she were property, or that he could ever have raised a hand to his own child. The fact that it was a personality from another lifetime didn’t help. It was still him.
Luckily, there was a great deal of cleaning to do, so he could try to tuck it into the back of his mind. Apparently, in his former life he didn’t like to pick up after himself, not even when there weren’t slaves to do it for him anymore.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. He was glad for the distraction. That was, until he opened the door. The two men standing on his front porch were obviously government agents. After years of service, he could spot them from a mile away with their standard dark suits and matter-of-fact posture.
The two men were visibly startled by his appearance as he opened the door, despite efforts to keep a firm demeanor. He had traded the tunic and armor of Odysseus for a flannel shirt and jeans and had pulled his long hair back into a ponytail, but he was still an enormous, musclebound man larger than anyone most people would normally come across.
“Who is it?” Lyta Trevor asked, placing a hand on his shoulder as she joined him at the door.
“Feds,” Steve said.
“General Steve Trevor?” one of the agents asked, flashing his credentials.
“Yes,” Steve replied.
“We have a warrant for your arrest.” The other agent held up the piece of paper in question. “You’re to come with us.”
“I thought something like this might happen,” Steve Trevor sighed. “Very well. I’ll come along peacefully. No need for handcuffs.”
“I doubt we could find any to fit you, sir,” the first agent replied.
“Daddy, no!” Lyta cried.
“It’s all right, honey,” he said. “Better to get this over with now than be hunted and hounded for the rest of my life, which could be forever, now. I’ve done some bad things, and I have to answer for them.”
“This way, sir,” one of the agents said, gesturing to the waiting car.
Lyta watched as her father was led to the large, black sedan waiting in front of their house with the engine still running. Their family had been through so much. She had hoped it was over, but it looked now as if it would never end.
As she watched the black sedan drive off, Lyta wondered what else could possibly go wrong. Her father had been arrested by federal agents. Her mother had gone off with the JSA doing Hera knows what. And here she was all by herself doing nothing.
“Hector!” she gasped.
Lyta quickly ran into her father’s study. In all the confusion of the past weeks, she had forgotten to call her fiancé, Hector Hall. As she picked up the phone, she noticed that the answering machine had fifteen messages. As she played them back, Lyta discovered that they were almost all from Hector. Now she felt even worse.
With the speed of Hermes, Lyta dialed Hector’s number at Stellar Studios.
“Hector, is that you? It’s me, Lyta!”
“No, I’m sorry, this isn’t Hector — this is Johnny Quick. Can I help you?”
“Johnny?! This is Lyta Trevor, Wonder Woman’s daughter. What are you doing at Stellar Studios? And why are you answering Hector’s line?”
“Well, Sylvester left me in charge here temporarily while he went off on a mission with the JSA. As for Hector, well, he’s gone.”
“Gone? What do you mean, gone?”
“Well, he packed a few things yesterday and left suddenly. Sylvester got a call from him this morning, but I had to take it. Hector just said to tell Syl that he quit, effective immediately. And he hung up… Hello? Lyta…?”
But the Trevor residence was suddenly empty as the phone dangled off the desk.
Elsewhere in Washington, D.C.:
Steve Trevor sat in a small, very dark room with only two chairs and a table. On one wall there was a door. The other was a mirror, but Steve already knew that there was someone behind it watching him.
Looking directly at the mirror, Steve spoke up, “How much longer are you going to sit there staring at me?”
A few moments passed, and the door opened, admitting a man and a woman. The man was obviously older, perhaps in his fifties, with steel-gray hair and an attitude to match. He wore a black suit with a white turtleneck. The woman was much younger, in her twenties, Steve guessed, with shoulder-length brown hair and glasses.
“Well, General Trevor, it has been a long, long time.”
Steve looked at the man, puzzled. “I am afraid you have me at a loss.”
“I’m not surprised. We saw each other briefly back in 1942. I was a member of the All-Star Squadron at the time. Allow me to introduce my associate, Cameron Chase.”
“General,” the woman said with a nod of her head.
“And you are…? And you brought me here for…?” Steve prompted him.
“I have a proposition for you, General, one you can scarcely afford to turn down. As for who I am, well, the name’s Hank Heywood, but you can call me Commander Steel.”
Washington, D.C., one week earlier:
“I don’t like it,” said an African-American woman with a very unusual hairstyle. “Since we were all hurt that big fight in the Crisis five months ago, we’ve been shuffled from one hospital to another. No one will give us a straight answer, damn it!”
“They’re doctors, Vixen,” said a brown-haired teenage girl. “I’m sure they know what they’re doing.”
“Really,” Vixen said. “Well, I feel fine now, don’t you, Gypsy? In fact, I don’t really see any reason for us to be here at all, especially in this room. Do you, Vibe?”
“Hey, mamacita, I’m just as confused as chu,” said the young Latino man known as Vibe.
“This last place they’ve brought us doesn’t look like any hospital I’ve ever seen,” said Vixen. “There were soldiers out there.”
“Maybe it’s a military hospital,” suggested Gypsy. “Someone did tell us the government was footing our bills.”
“This door’s locked!” Vixen said, trying to turn the doorknob. “How many hospitals you know lock their patients in?” She walked over to the large mirror and yelled, “We know you’re watching us, so come in here and give us some damn answers!”
The door opened, and a middle-aged man in a black suit with a steel-gray flat top haircut walked in. “I believe I can provide some answers.”
“I know you,” Gypsy said. “You’re Hank’s grandfather!”
“That’s right — Hank Heywood, Senior. But for our purposes, you can call me Commander Steel.”
“Well, what are we doing here?” Vixen demanded.
“To make you understand fully, I’ll need to tell you a little bit of my history,” began Steel. “Years ago, I was one of the many costumed mystery-men who fought in the ’30s and ’40s. I was even part of Roosevelt’s All-Star Squadron, composed of virtually all the mystery-men that existed at the time, including the JSA.”
“JSA?” Gypsy gasped. “You’re talking about Earth-Two!”
“That’s right,” Commander Steel said. “I see you’ve read up on the JLA’s history. Good. It’ll make this easier. On April 1st, 1942 — April Fool’s Day, appropriately enough — I encountered a group of Nazis in Washington who had their hands on alien technology that had allowed them to send the JSA in rocket-ships through hyperspace, only to land on other-dimensional versions of all the other planets in the solar system. The machine inadvertently exploded, sending me to a parallel world, which I later discovered was Earth-One. (*) I began a new life for myself there and helped the Allies of that world defeat the Axis. Eventually, I discovered the secret to inter-dimensional travel that had sent me there, and I became the point man between the U.S. Governments of both worlds, as well as chief of operations concerning meta-human affairs.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Crisis Point,” All-Star Squadron #50 (October, 1985).]
“Whatchu mean by meta-human?” Vibe asked.
“Drop the Charo routine, Vibe. I already know you just do it to annoy people,” Commander Steel said.
“Whatchu mean I joosy do eet to–? Aw, hell, you got me,” Vibe said, throwing his hands up. Vixen and Gypsy turned, glaring at him with outraged expressions.
“What a band of misfits,” Commander Steel said. “Makes this all the more satisfying.”
“What are you talking about?” Vixen said.
“When the Crisis came, our tech boys realized that soon it might become impossible to cross over between the five remaining worlds.”
“You mean you can no longer cross over to Earth-Two?” Gypsy asked.
“No,” Commander Steel said, a cruel grin forming, “I mean we can no longer cross over to Earth-One.”
“What the hell? Do you mean we’re on Earth-Two?!” Vibe said.
“You kidnapped us?” Vixen yelled in outrage.
“No,” Commander Steel replied. “When the worlds were temporarily merged for one day, I simply made sure I was on a point that would return to Earth-Two. And that you were with me.”
“But why?” Gypsy said.
“Because you were turning the JLA into a joke! I didn’t put the time and energy into my grandson, making him the next Steel, so that he could be part of a joke. Now that you’re gone, the slots will be open for real heroes, and the team will have a chance to return to greatness.”
“How could you do this? I thought you were supposed to be a hero,” Gypsy said reproachfully.
“Well, I saved your lives, didn’t I? If I hadn’t gotten you medical attention, you would all be as dead as your Earth-Two counterparts — who were all criminals, by the way. So don’t even think about running off, or you will be hunted down by the law.”
“Criminals?” Vibe gulped.
“That’s right,” Steel said. “Just as Johnny Thunder is a criminal on Earth-One, all of your doppelgängers were criminals here. So the only way to clear your names on this world, your new home, is to play ball with me.”
“She’s on the plane,” said Amanda Waller, head of the Suicide Squad, a branch of the Department of Extranormal Operations. “We should have her and the glasses in a matter of hours now.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Lantern: Emerald Renaissance, Epilogue: Enter the Harlequin.]
“Are you sure you want her to handle the glasses?” replied a tall, musclebound man with black hair, with a white streak running through the middle. “I’m sure we can find a trained operative to use the equipment.”
“You know I don’t trust government types. My operatives will be freelance. They have to have something to gain. That I understand.”
“So you don’t like me much, do you?”
“Munro, you know you’re not my choice for field commander, but Steel thinks you’re the man.”
“Don’t call me Munro. My name is Liberty,” replied the longtime government operative called Agent Liberty.
“Oh, OK… Munro,” said Waller with a grin. The two then entered a meeting room filled with prison officials and her support crew. “Status?” called out Waller.
“On the L.A. front, Mister Bones took the deal. He’ll become the Northeast Regional Director, and in exchange we get Helix,” said a young computer communications expert named Tony Gordon Jr., a handsome man with an athletic physique.
“I don’t trust him,” said Liberty. “I mean, naming a super-villain to such an important government position? Utterly ridiculous!”
“Oh, calm down, Libby.” Waller smiled to herself again. “His psyche profile shows he’s a decent man, only somewhat maladjusted. He wants to do the right thing. And given his background, he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his people.”
“He just needs watching,” said Agent Liberty. “That’s all I have to say.”
“That’s why Steel’s pet agent Chase will be assigned to the Northeast region to keep an eye on him as well as the JSA.”
“Speaking of Chase,” said John Economos, warden of Belle Reve Prison. “Doctor Trap arrived today. Blackgate couldn’t wait to get rid of him. They said he scares the crap out of the super-villains incarcerated there.”
“Well, given Dr. Emil Trapp’s history, I don’t blame them,” said Liberty. “Does Chase know he’s eligible for the program?”
“No. And she won’t. If we need to use him, it doesn’t become public.”
“I have an item,” said Liberty. “My former teammate, Senator Perkins, wants his daughter to get some experience. Can we make room for her? Goes by the name of Deep Blue and has underwater abilities.”
“I don’t think we can use her,” replied Waller. “Powers are too limited.”
“Well I told him she could join. She’s in. Or do I have to call Steel?”
“All right, Munro, I’ll give you this one. But remember, I’m the one in charge, here.”
“Like you’d ever let me forget.”
Economos continued, “We have villains coming in from all around the country. Our opening the first federal prison devoted exclusively to super-villains is a big success.”
“No big surprise there, John,” replied Waller.
Gordon then spoke up. “We have news from the tap into the JSA system. Seems the JSA is away on a mission through time. They fear it may be a one-way trip.”
“Tap into the JSA system?” asked Munro.
“Yeah,” replied Gordon. “During the Crisis, their headquarters took damage. We had one of our cover companies do the repair work for free, and we put in our own monitoring devices at the same time. Works great.”
“I don’t like that idea.”
“Well, tough, ’cause it was Steel’s to begin with,” said Waller. “The JSA can be the largest source of superhuman trouble on the planet. They’re trouble magnets. And we need to know what’s going on.”
“Sometimes I wonder if I’m on the right side,” said Munro.
And quietly to herself, Waller said, “Me, too.”