by Doc Quantum and Christine Nightstar
When the cleanup crew arrived, Darius Helstrom would be found in his office, completely catatonic. He was placed in a hospital for recovery, though the doctors were unable to bring him out of his coma. As Commander Steel had guessed, all the evidence they’d ever need to convict Helstrom of his international crimes and more were found in his office, including absolute proof that he had staged the 1985 coup in Juvara by arming gunmen posing as the Liberty Rebels. Helstrom was personally implicated in the assassination of Juvaran reformer Ricardo St. John. It would take a lot of diplomatic wrangling to unravel the problems he’d caused with that move, not to mention other wars he’d had his hand in over the years.
More importantly, Helstrom could also be convicted for crimes dating back to more than ten years earlier, and thus before Mindwarp had begun manipulating him and occasionally taking control of his body for his own purposes. Helstrom was as dirty as they came, and he’d hidden behind his vast wealth for far too long.
Helstrom Industries was slated to be broken up and sold off to various parties, while the ever-profitable Hel-Mart stores would remain in operation independent of its former parent company. Some thought it unfortunate that Helstrom’s arms manufacturing plants would resume operations as soon as possible. The board of directors’ declaration that a new era of corporate responsibility would fall on deaf ears as they went back to business as usual.
The three men who had watched Mindwarp die were not so sure that he was really gone. After all, the robotic Arnax had somehow disappeared before they destroyed the facility, and hadn’t been seen since. Could Joseph Goddard have somehow transferred his consciousness into the robot? Was such a thing even possible?
Lefty Burkowitz, the Deadshot impersonator, passed out on the way back to Belle Reve Penitentiary. By the time Steel was able to get him medical help, Lefty had died of heart failure, his age and poor health having finally caught up with him. Learning only the most basic details about his death sometime later, Floyd Lawton would have a drink or two in Lefty’s memory. The henchman who couldn’t shoot straight had managed to go out a hero.
The Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on the actions of Operation Liberty began in Washington, D.C., with Hank Heywood and Barton J. Reed bearing the full brunt of the abuse during the congressional hearings. Still, they managed to keep Arn Munro and the rest of the Suicide Squad out of it altogether. Instead, what was known of the entire incident was described as a super-villain attack by the Crime Champions, something that was given credence by the fact that the Archer, the Dart, Brainstorm, and Darkstar, along with the deceased Blockbuster, had actually been members of the most recent iteration of that team.
On the subject of the bio-weapon, the senators were divided. Some held that Commander Steel and the others should be commended for saving the lives of all the people who could have died because the agencies had ordered the VRX-64 to be contained instead of destroyed over twenty years ago.
Others considered the actions of Heywood and Reed as nothing less than treason. Hank Heywood and Barton J. Reed would thus be reprimanded for allowing the destruction of the bio-weapon created as a safeguard against superhuman threats. But more importantly, Operation Liberty and the Bureau of Special Projects would not be shut down.
As he’d expected when the news of the final deliberations reached him, Reed would hold primary responsibility for the loss of the VRX-64. Since Joseph Goddard, alias Mindwarp had also been revealed during the hearings to be his own son, Reed was made the scapegoat. Commander Steel was willing to throw him under the bus if it would protect his precious Operation Liberty.
Of course, that meant Hank Heywood owed a debt to the Bureau of Special Projects. And although Mister Marvel had proven to be of little use during this mission, Barton J. Reed already had plans in the works to put his new super-agent through his paces in the next Suicide Squad mission.