The Suicide Squad: The Price of Redemption, Chapter 2: Reactivation

by Starsky Hutch 76, with JSAGL

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“Nice hair,” Cameron Chase said. “The Commander here’ll probably make you cut it. You should see what he did to Arak.”

“If he wants to cut my hair, he’s more than welcome to try,” Steve Trevor replied. “When I did, the scissors broke. Now why have you brought me here? I know it wasn’t because you don’t like my hairstyle.”

“True enough, General Trevor,” Commander Steel said. “I’m sure you didn’t choose to go around looking like a hippie. But you’ve gotten yourself into a fine mess, nonetheless.”

“Let’s just say my wife made some enemies in high places,” Steve Trevor said.

You didn’t win any friends, either. You put a lot of men in the hospital. Some in the morgue. Sure, they weren’t of the highest element, but this country likes its heroes with their hands clean.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me how I can clean them,” Steve Trevor said.

“That we are,” said Commander Steel. “Let me tell you about a little operation we’ve got under way. We call it the Suicide Squad.”

“Nice name,” Steve Trevor replied.

“I’m sure you recognize this man,” Commander Steel said.

“Sure,” Steve Trevor said. “Arn Munro, AKA Agent Liberty. Some people compared his strength to that of Superman. He was the military’s best-kept secret. Good thing. All of the publicly known mystery-men were kept off the front thanks to Hitler and his Spear of Destiny.”

“I don’t know if he was that strong,” Commander Steel said. “But the process that gave him that strength has kept him going all these years. He’s still an active agent in the field. You’ll be working with him.”

“He and I on the same team is kind of overkill, isn’t it?”

“Considering who else will be on the team, probably not,” Cameron Chase said. “Your job will be to watch his back as this venture gets off the ground.”

“Watch his back? Isn’t that what the rest of the team is for?” Trevor asked.

“It’s the rest of the team you’ll be watching,” Commander Steel said.

“Ah,” Trevor nodded. “I take it this will be a lot like his team back during the war.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Operation: Liberty: Times Past, 1942: Fall ’42.]

“That’s correct,” Steel said. “Only more so. The team will be composed mostly of criminals — those desperate for a pardon. Even those that don’t qualify as villains don’t really want to be here. Your job will be to make sure no one tries to sabotage the mission or take out the team leader. In exchange, your record will be expunged and your full military rank returned to you once your service to us is complete.”

“Mostly criminals. I take it you’re anticipating a high body count, hence the name Suicide Squad.”

Also correct. You don’t have a problem with that, do you, General?” Commander Steel said, sizing him up.

“I didn’t have a problem with a little danger before I had powers. I certainly don’t now.”

“One more thing,” Cameron Chase said, taking out another picture and handing it to him.

“Who’s this?” Trevor asked. “Is something wrong with this picture, or is this girl really blue?

Nothing’s wrong with it,” Steel said. “That’s Senator Perkins’ little girl. He’s used some pull to force her onto the team for experience. Apparently, he doesn’t realize the danger she’ll be in. Perkins has some very powerful friends. If anything were to happen, it could be bad for all of us. We don’t need that kind of heat.”

“I’ll look out for her,” Trevor said.

“See that you do.”

***

In his office, Commander Steel was pondering an overwhelming sense of déjà vu when a figure appeared in his midst.

“You wished to see me, sir?”

Startled, Steel looked up from his reverie to see the golden form of his secret weapon, the robot known as Mekanique. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“My apologies, Commander,” the feminine robot said in her artificial voice. “Agent Chase informed me that you wished to see me immediately.”

“That’s right. You’ve been inactive for the past few days. Are you functioning properly?”

“Yes. All my systems are functioning within normal parameters.”

“Have you determined the cause of your malfunction?”

“The results are inconclusive. It appears that even my dimension-spanning abilities are unable to pierce the veil between worlds.”

“I’m sorry, Mekanique. It must have been awful to have been deactivated for so long.”

“Yes. Yes, it was.”

And even though he knew better, Steel could have sworn he saw a brief smirk on Mekanique’s face.

***

Vibe walked into the recreation area of Belle Reve, where he saw a sullen young Native American man staring at a television that wasn’t even on. “That thing would work a lot better if you hit the power switch, amigo.”

Arak the Wind-Walker turned, gave him a stony gaze, and then turned back toward the TV. Obviously, he preferred to be left alone, but that wasn’t about to sway Vibe.

“What’s wrong with you, man?” Vibe asked.

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong,” Arak snarled, pointing to his close-cropped hair. “Look what that bastard Steel did to me! I told him that the hair was a part of the traditions of my people, but he scalped me, anyway! I would’ve fought him and his boys off, but they had those damn restraints on me that dampened my powers.”

“Jeez, I’m sorry, man,” Vibe said sympathetically.

“It was the white man who invented scalping, you know,” Arak said. “People think it was Native Americans, but it wasn’t. Bounty hunters were paid to kill Injuns, so they’d peel the scalps from their victims so they’d have proof of their kills.”

“You’d think he’d at least have a little respect for a guy’s culture,” Vibe said.

“They don’t have respect for any of us,” Arak said. “We’re just meat to them. Same goes for the rest here. I thought Penny, Tao, and Babe were my family — Bones, too — but they just laughed when they saw what they’d done to me.”

“Maybe they didn’t know,” Vibe said.

“They knew what my culture meant to me,” Arak said angrily, hurt rising in his voice. “It’s all I had left since Dr. Love took me away from my family. All I had left of my people.” He turned to the young Latino man.

“Our peoples were here before any of these others came here, Vibe,” Arak continued. “So you and me need to look after each other — watch each other’s backs. Because these white men sure ain’t gonna do it. I’ve seen some of the people they’re recruiting, and they’d just as soon take us out as the enemy.”

Vibe listened to the angry young man, weighing his words and wondering what sort of situation he had gotten into.

***

Commander Steel sat at his desk reviewing the files of the candidates for the Suicide Squad. As he reviewed, he made notes.

Gypsy, Vixen, and Vibe: So-called heroes on their own world. Common criminals on Earth-Two, or so the world thinks, since their doppelgängers are dead, and they now live here in their place. None can truly be trusted, since they’re here against their will. He made a note to have Waller fit them with explosive wrist-devices to ensure their cooperation.

Tao Jones, Arak, Babe Boom, and that ridiculous mutt, Kritter. They might cooperate, since Bones is now in a role of power, but they might not. Arak might be particularly troublesome since the hair incident. Better outfit them with the devices, too, he thought.

Doctor Trap. Outfit him as well. One with a hair trigger, preferably. Better he were dead before Chase found out he was included.

General Steve Trevor, AKA Odysseus. It was fortunate the man was as trustworthy as he was, because he seriously doubted one of the explosive wrist devices would leave so much as a scratch. Given his stellar military career, General Trevor was beyond reproach. The same, however could not be said for Odysseus. His special brand of justice had left a trail of broken, battered, or dead criminals across the West Coast. How he would react to being on a team of criminals was uncertain. Given his place in history, they could only hope Odysseus was soldier enough to follow orders without his ego getting in the way. For his old friend Munro’s sake, he hoped so.

***

Senator Neptune Perkins stood on the deck of the S.S. Excalibur watching the ocean. He missed the days when he could roam its depths freely without a care in the world. Those days were behind him, though. He had responsibilities, now, that he simply couldn’t escape, no matter how much he might like to. At least, not until the end of his term. He doubted he would seek re-election.

This duty was particularly irksome, so much that it was passed down the line until it reached his desk. That’s how he came to find himself on a boat headed toward a backwater nation so he could play mediator as it signed a treaty with another backwater nation.

It was during times like these that he considered retiring from politics and getting back into the hero business. The process that had given him his powers had also left him extraordinarily well-preserved now that he was approaching sixty. Most of the members of the JSA were even older than he was. It had to be more exciting than this. And if there was anything he needed in his life right now, it was excitement.

As if someone upstairs were telling him to be careful what you wish for, the ship suddenly lurched as if something enormous had smashed into the side. Neptune Perkins gripped the railing of the deck to keep from falling. Members of the deck crew screamed as they slid across the deck. A few unfortunate sailors fell over the edge and sank beneath the waves. A thick, red stain developed on the surface of the water where they’d disappeared.

Whatever it was that had hit the first time continued to strike the ship. The loud, booming sound of tearing metal and rushing water filled the air as the hull was pierced. The ship jerked violently in its death throes, hurling more men from the ship. He thought his arm would rip from its socket as he fought to hang on. The ship quickly took on water and sank beneath the waves, and he found himself in the familiar ocean once more.

All around him were wildly flailing sailors fighting to stay alive. I have to help them, Neptune Perkin thought, his mind racing. I have to help them. I’m the only one who can survive here. He gasped in horror as he saw gigantic circling shark fins rising out of the water to circle them.

The surviving crew were pulled under the water one by one. He tried to lash out at the giant beasts, but they were too powerful. He was like a flea to them. Soon, he was the only one left. They had spared him for some unknown reason. He swam back to the surface, hoping he might spot a survivor, even though he knew it was no use.

When he broke the surface, he was met by a futuristic submarine that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Perhaps it had been down there with him. It was hard to tell. The water seemed murky with the blood of his former crewmates.

From an unseen hydraulic platform rose a monstrosity — half-man and half-shark — to greet him. He was accompanied by two beautiful women in bizarre costumes similar to his own, one in a red costume and one in a yellow. “Greetings, mi amigo,” the shark-man said with a Spanish accent. “I trust my friends have brought you no harm. My employer would be most dissatisfied, and I hate to disappoint my clients. I am Carcharo.”

“Then I was spared for a reason,” Neptune Perkins sputtered angrily.

“But of course, my good Senator. Someone is paying me very well to bring you in alive,” Carcharo said.

“You murdered all these men just to get at me?” Neptune Perkins shouted in outrage.

“Of course!” Carcharo laughed. “My friends were hungry, and no one was paying me to bring those pendejos in alive!

Monster! You’ve wasted your time and the lives of good men! I have no intention of coming along peacefully. If you knew who I was, then you should know I can easily thwart your plans by swimming to the shore for reinforcements.”

“Oh, I know all about you. But senator or super-hero, I’m not impressed.”

A megalodon shark suddenly rose out of the water, its mouth open wide. Neptune Perkins could tell that it was taking special care not to touch him with its several rows of teeth as it became a prison he dared not struggle too hard against.

“You can swim all you want after I get paid,” Carcharo chuckled. The platform lowered back into the odd submarine, which then disappeared beneath the ocean surface.

***

“We have our first mission,” Commander Steel said, handing Amanda Waller and Agent Liberty each a file. “How ready is the team?”

“All of them are in pretty good shape,” Liberty said, “except for Deep Blue. She’s inexperienced. She could use more time.”

“Then you’d better hold her back,” Commander Steel said. “She could be a liability.”

“Easier said than done,” Amanda Waller said, reviewing the file, “considering the mission is to rescue her father.”

“Then we’ll have to make sure she doesn’t find out,” Commander Steel said.

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