by Doc Quantum and Christine Nightstar
In a secluded room elsewhere in the sprawling Helstrom Industries Corporate Headquarters, Mister Marvel had managed to catch up to Indigo, but their tryst was interrupted when the klaxon sound of a security system alarm went off.
“What the hell–?!” Stanley Beamish yelped, panicking as he looked around him, expecting something to shoot at him at any moment. “What’s going on?”
“Come on, Stan!” shouted Indigo, suddenly all business. “Take your pill and follow me!”
While alarms were blaring around them, Stanley produced the power pill and popped it into his mouth. As the power pill did its work, Stan’s face began to grow flush with purplish hues, and he looked as if he was about to vomit for a few moments. His skin seemed to jump with energy like fizz from an open can of pop. Finally, it was over, and plain Stanley Beamish was transformed into the mighty Mister Marvel.
“You ready, Marvel?” asked Indigo impatiently.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” replied Mister Marvel.
From the underwater facility beneath the Missouri River in Kansas, Mindwarp watched the events unfold in Utah.
“All this trouble over a little stolen bio-weapon. Amazing.”
Concentrating, Mindwarp began to extend the influence of his mind until he was once more able to take control of Darius Helstrom two states away.
Darius Helstrom looked much like any other CEO or powerful businessmen. He was a white, middle-aged man with graying hair, a mustache, and glasses he’d originally begun wearing solely to instill an impression of intelligence in the board room, though he’d grown to need them to correct his farsightedness. For a decade he had been subject to blackouts, during which time his company had prospered, so he’d stopped questioning these episodes and had embraced them.
With Helstrom physically present and acting as a psychic conduit, Mindwarp was able to use his mind-controlling powers in the Utah facility, and he started with an invasive attack on the more powerful task force members.
“He is attempting to penetrate our minds!” cried Vengeance, immediately sensing the psychic attack. “Resist him!”
“Oh, your mental abilities are formidable, and your teammates’ powers even more so,” said Helstrom’s voice. “How wondrous! I really must procure genetic samples for Helstrom BioTech from your corpses after I kill you all.”
“You aren’t going to kill anyone,” said Barton J. Reed in Kansas, having finally broken the psychic bonds holding him in place. Calling upon his years of espionage work, he had escaped his cell within minutes and had reached his son’s chamber.
“Ah, but you cannot stop me, father,” said Mindwarp. “None of your people can stop me. I have been dead longer than you realize. I’m not even alive now.” Savoring the momentary shock on Reed’s face, he continued, “Do you really think I prefer sitting in this wretched chair when I have the ability to take your very soul away from you and rejuvenate my body?”
Reed began to panic as the resounding footsteps of Arnax could be heard returning to the chamber. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, he couldn’t figure out what to do. Even if he had the means to stop Mindwarp, could he let his son die a second time without setting things right?
“Deadshot, blast him! Now!” shouted Commander Steel. Instants later, Steel used a flamethrower, while Lefty Burkowitz unloaded blast upon blast of ammunition, only to hit a psychic shield. “Hit him with all you have!” The two men had likewise escaped their cells, now that Mindwarp’s psychic hold on them had been broken, and had retrieved weapons and ammunition from the submersible.
“Yes, yes,” shouted Mindwarp, “waste all your ammunition trying to penetrate my shield.”
Reed looked up and realized that was exactly what was happening — they were wasting energy and ammunition against that shield without any progress. With Mindwarp’s attention diverted in two places — the shield around his body, and the fortification of his troops in Utah — Reed slipped off and climbed up to the ceiling of the large chamber. Taking a knife out of its sheath, he began cutting wires of light fixtures to drop onto Mindwarp, and gathering other things he could throw at the wheelchair-bound figure, whose shield was too focused on the endless rounds of ammunition being fired directly before him to bother with fortifying against an attack from above.
Mindwarp’s focus was momentarily broken when the first object hit behind him, allowing the second fixture to hit his face, followed by a third, which collapsed the wheelchair. As he struggled to protect his broken, paralyzed body against the military attack, Mindwarp completely lost his connection with Helstrom in Utah.
At the Helstrom Industries facility in Utah, Darius Helstrom collapsed to the ground, completely exhausted by the psychic energies that Mindwarp had channeled through his body.
With Mindwarp no longer able to psychically attack his foes or bolster his forces, the Suicide Squad began to rally once more, and the tide of the battle turned in their favor, and none too soon. Several of them had already been injured, and the Grey Hats had already converged on the hulking Blockbuster, giving the huge, groaning man so many wounds that he’d begun to bleed out.
Despite their losses, the Suicide Squad fought on.
In the underwater facility in Kansas, Mindwarp’s concentration was dwindling as he tried to fight off the longest amount of concentrated fire on his shield that he’d ever experienced. How could it have all come to this? His plan had been flawless. There was only one thing he could possibly do now, and it was drastic.
The shield dropped at that instant, and Mindwarp was riddled with bullets that tore his body apart before Lefty Burkowitz stopped firing. With that, nothing remained of the lifeless corpse before them. Lefty realized that he’d now lived to see the same man die twice, even as he realized his heart was beating faster than it ever had before, and the pain in his chest was getting worse.
“We’re going to destroy this place,” said Steel. “Any objections?” Reed looked him and nodded his agreement.
“We also need to ensure that canister is destroyed utterly, and that none of the agent survives,” said Reed. Steel glared at him, since this decision went against their express orders, but after a moment he nodded and agreed to do what he knew they should’ve done with the VRX-64 back in 1964.
With the tools at their disposal, the three men destroyed the VRX-64 canister in a fiery blaze that consumed the secure holding cells. They waited for several long minutes to ensure that no living thing could survive the conflagration.
After fleeing in their submersible, the men also set off planted charges to destroy the entire underwater facility, which imploded under the pressure of the river above.
The only mystery that still remained was what had become of the robot, Arnax. Steel and Reed shuddered as they considered the most obvious possibility.
Lefty Burkowitz merely lay in the back seat, clutching his chest and breathing heavily as Steel and Reed drove off from the scene, unaware of their prisoner’s condition. Felt good… to do something good again, thought the imitation Deadshot. Wonder if this is why Lawton went straight? Maybe… maybe when I get out of jail, I’ll… look up that Power Girl chick, and… and tell her I’m… sorry. Ma would be so proud.
As the vehicle raced back to the nearest airfield on a bumpy road, Lefty closed his eyes and continued to smile at the thought that perhaps his life had finally turned around. But it was too late for Lefty Burkowitz. His eyes would never open again.
At Helstrom Industries Corporate Headquarters in Utah, the battle between the well-armed military forces of HelCorps and the Suicide Squad was finally over.
The various ranks of HelCorps had been armed to the teeth with all manner of high-powered assault weapons and had surrounded their enemies on all sides.
The Suicide Squad was a small, ragtag group of convicts and former or would-be super-heroes with mediocre powers.
If one had to place odds on who would come out of this conflict victorious, HelCorps had a ten-to-one advantage, and the Suicide Squad would live up to its name.
But things didn’t always work out according to the numbers, and miraculous things tended to happen when you were part of the Suicide Squad. One might even think that Lady Luck was a secret member of this team of underdogs.
All they knew for sure was that, although there were losses on both sides, one group finally won with an overwhelming victory despite all odds, and the HelCorps were forced to surrender and give up their arms before they lost any more men.
There was a lot of power in this task force, but not a lot of teamwork. When General Steve Trevor had seen the names on the current roster, he thought Steel was crazy and told him so. How was he going to keep such an eclectic bunch of mostly villains from turning this relatively simple operation into a cluster#<@%? Commander Steel hadn’t replied with anything more than a knowing grin.
The trick, Steel had known, was that he just needed a couple of key players with mind-control powers on his side, and the everything would fall into place. With Vengeance keeping the villainous Suicide Squad members in line using his powerful mind, and Psyche Hayden afflicting the enemy with thoughts of despair and suicide, the slim odds of victory would tip the scale to their side. It was a dangerous gambit that Steel had made, and it had paid off, at least for now.
By the time Agent Liberty, the Tigress, and the Trigger Twins rejoined the main team, the battle was over, and all that was left was a bloody mess. It had been a bloodbath.
“Ah cain’t believe we missed it!” Jake Lawton said. “The biggest gunfight in our lifetimes, and we weren’t nowhere around!”
“Zip it, Lawton,” said Agent Liberty. Arn Munro sighed as he saw the room. It was a charnel house full of corpses, and even though most of them were the enemy’s, it was still a sickly sight to behold.
Two of the members of this task force, Blockbuster and Heatmonger, had been killed in the battle as well, while Karnage and the Dart were both wounded.
Munro did a quick headcount and realized that two of them were still missing. “Where’s Indigo and Marvel?” he demanded. The various Suicide Squad members just shrugged their shoulders. “Well?! Someone speak up!”
“I haven’t seen them for a while,” said Gypsy, who by now looked positively shell-shocked. “I-I think they snuck off sometime before the battle.”
“Damn it,” breathed Munro. “They could be anywhere by now. Never should have brought them along.”
At that moment came flying in the silver-suited Mister Marvel and the blue-skinned Indigo on foot closely behind him. “What did we miss?”
Mitch Lawton reached one finger up to Marvel’s cheek and wiped it. “Well, that blue lipstick on your cheek for starters, pal,” he said, and chuckled. Given the dire circumstances, no one else laughed except for his brother Jake.