Disclaimer: The rights disclaimer is getting more complicated with each story in the series. Most of the characters were DCAU versions of DCU characters owned by DC Entertainment, a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner.
The Mighty Crusaders and associated characters are owned by Archie Comics. But in 1991-1993 they were licensed by DC Comics and published under the Impact Comics imprint. Later, in 2008, DC licensed the Archie properties again to publish the Red Circle series of titles incorporating the MLJ Universe with the DCU with mixed success and primarily with the Justice Society of America title. The Shield and the Fourth Reich anyone? Now Archie fully retains the rights and publishes the characters under their Dark Circle imprint.
Here's where it gets messy. The Fly and Lancelot Strong were MLJ/Mighty Crusaders characters who were created by Joe Simon. The Fly received his own title with Impact Comics when DC licensed the character between `91-`93. Lancelot Strong was included in the licensing deal but didn't appear in the Impact lineup. In 2008, the Simon estate won back the intellectual property rights of the characters and no one, not Archie nor DC, could use them again without paying a licensing fee to Simon's heirs. And no one has wanted to.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby also had a creator owned character called the Fighting American that DC licensed for a six issue run. The Kirby and Simon estates licensed Titan Comics to republish the original issues and produce new ones. The Fighting American makes his DCAU series debut in this story.
And in the Public Domain realm, Harvey Comics never renewed the copyright to the original Black Cat so I'm freely using her. I'm also using Yankee Girl (Lauren Mason), and the villains King of the Undead, Red Knight, Baroness Blood, Beauty, Veiled Lady, Mysta, Betty Bates, and Iron Mask.
And Open Source Characters have also been incorporated including April Amazing and the villains Professor Poison and Jenny Elsewhere.
Now for the legalities:
"The character of Jenny Elsewhere and associated characters is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Elsewhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed."
While most of her adventures, as well as her various artistic interpretations, are under copyright to their respective creators, the character and idea are free for anyone and everyone to use.
Now, for more legal stuff. I do not produce these fictional works to obtain profit or receive any monetary reimbursement or gain for writing them. No infringement of acknowledged or overlooked copyrights is intended. Legally speaking, the owners of the individual copyrights could rudely yank this from publication or take portions of it as they deem fit to rewrite and sell.
Having written for Valiant Entertainment's Kindle Worlds titles, I've signed contracts signing away rights to original characters I've written. Although no contracts were signed or dealt with here the same principle applies in spirit regarding derivative works and fan fiction. Valiant can publish any character I create in a comic or portray it in their new movie division with Sony without recompensing me. Unless I want to challenge the contractual terms in court. And the contract is designed to thwart any such effort before it begins.
Now that that's all out of the way, have fun as the DCAU gets broadened as never before.
Superman addressed the United Nations General Assembly in the main repurposed hall in the Dome located in central Paris, France. He was flanked by the freshly appointed Secretary-General and the Justice League's UN Ambassador, Maxwell Lord. The Secretary-General had the podium to introduce the guest speaker and Max would answer question inevitably raised by Superman's intended presentation.
Superman's remarks largely consisted of a report of the aftermath of the Kryptonian attacks and the relief efforts that had subsequently followed. And the destruction was catastrophic. Beijing was a radioactive pothole and China's population was being radically affected by the residual radiation. Metropolis, New York City, Gotham City, and Seattle had nearly been razed to the ground.
After the report was finished, Superman read from a speech Claire Montgomery had written for the presentation, "Now we come to a most important matter. In the wake of this devastation, Lex Luthor has utilized his Legion of Doom to rob national monetary reserves, steal convoys of needed medical supplies and extorted nation-states into paying unreasonable prices for them. Since the supplies are desperately required, hard currency reserves have been depleted not leaving anything to rebuild with."
Superman noted everyone was looking at the Chinese delegation, "It could be said that the Justice League has been negligent in catching Luthor. But we can't act with impunity. Except or cases of natural disasters, the Justice League requires an official invitation to enter a member nation. That was seen as a security precaution but in the wake of the Kryptonian attack, no one is allowing us to search within their borders. And we can't find the Legion of Doom unless we can actually search for them."
Many delegates came to their feet with protests and cries of outrage, in dozens of languages, of; "You're blaming us or your failures?"
Superman allowed them time to tire themselves out, "No one is blaming anyone else of anything. It's simply a fact that we haven't been allowed to conduct any searches in a majority of member states."
The Iranian ambassador spoke without being recognized, "Perhaps if you weren't personally involved in the searches they would be approved. After all, these invaders were your people."
North Korea was quick to spout off, "And you have been a threat to the world before."
Jean Loring coached Superman through the next several minutes over his ear piece from the Hall of Justice. The Secretary-General finally reestablished order and forced the various delegates to conduct themselves with decorum. Max took over the presentation using intelligence reports provided by the JLU's ARGUS liaison, Colonel Steve Trevor.
Outside the Dome, Superman reflected on his new sense of purpose. Jonathan Kent was slowly dying and Superman wanted to create a utopian future in honor of his adoptive father. And he was running out of time to do so before Pa Kent died. He flew on to Metropolis still bothered by humanity's reactions to the aftermath of the Kryptonian attacks.
Max called for a resolution for a united consensus to allow the JLU free access to every member state and consequently every nation would willingly cooperate with the JLers. The motion narrowly passed by the narrowest of margins. Four countries had counter-proposed stipulations for passage. Iran would endorse the motion if the Justice League were first employed to eradicate every Israeli and conquer Israel and revert it back to Palestinian control. Afterwards a worldwide extermination of the Jewish people would be required.
North Korea wanted the JLU to bulldoze an invasion of South Korea and a reunification made under the auspices of the "Glorious Leader". Sudan had a similar request regarding South Sudan. Venezuela appeared more reasonable in its request the JLU intervene in the United States embargo of its oil but the measure lost solvency when it stipulated that lethal force and toppling of the US government be the method. Max counseled Claire to deliver the news as a victory and marginalize the narrowness of that accomplishment.
"Grodd is away?" Ultra-Humanite asked Luthor.
"Grodd is serving his purpose. Saturn Queen's efforts have raised the world's ire against us," Luthor explained, "And the bulk of my financial assets are tied into rebuilding the ludicrously named Mercy Corp. But my revenue streams from Reno and Las Vegas as well as Atlantic City. They say Donald Trump owns Atlantic City but I own him."
"Grodd will not return with the funds he was sent to allocate," Ultra-Humanite predicted.
"Of course not," Luthor snorted, "He'll feeble excuses but he'll have delivered the monies to this so-called Secret Society of Super Villains that the simian is having a love affair with."
"Yet you're strangely unconcerned," Ultra-Humanite observed.
"Casinos are the legitimate way to launder counterfeited money. Grodd will receive millions in phony bills that he is too ignorant to recognize it as being fake," Luthor chuckled, "Gorilla City is a perfect communist society with no need for currency. Grodd has no interest in the trappings of capitalism and mercantile exchange. That is his greatest weakness."
"In further developments, Disco Mummy has taken Half-Ape, the Weed, and the Clam and usurped control of the Kings of Catastrophe. Having done so, Disco Mummy has convinced a cadre of Plastic Man's former foes to enlist as well," Ultra-Humanite reported.
"Perfect for my needs," Luthor gloated.
"May I point out that Disco Mummy has proven to be an effective leader, unlike Cluemaster, and she could galvanize them into an effective force?" Ultra-Humanite fretted.
"Her very ambitions make her the perfect distraction to lure the Justice League away from our operations," Luthor was still inordinately pleased.
"There are other teams out there," Ultra-Humanite reminded him, "The government is touting these 'Mighty Crusaders' as a replacement for the Justice League of America after their dismemberment."
"Another cadre of fools built on the legacy of their predecessors," Luthor dismissed them out of hand, "The American Crusaders were a worthy heir to the Justice Society and a bridge between the JSA and the All Star Squadron. Like these usurpers, the Kings of Catastrophe are second stringers whom are the very type Saturn Queen seems to recruit and inspire."
"A worthy Trojan Horse," Ultra-Humanite was finally willing to grasp the concept.
"Precisely," Luthor was pleased the Humanite had finally accepted the plan. Because the Ultra-Humanite had his part in it as well.
Disco Mummy had formulated a strike against a medical supply convoy as Saturn Queen had instructed. She felt the foolish Luthor had entrusted her only for her to betray him. She relished the thought of mummifying him and having him serve her for the rest of time.
Cluemaster led the team at the Gotham City docks to receive the stolen goods from Dr. Doom, Tiger Shark, and the Clam. Unknown to the three smuggler-pirates, Devil Ray and the crew of the renegade submarine, Nemo, monitored their progress and insured their success. Luthor wanted to instill a measure of success and thereby trust in Saturn Queen.
At the heights of the Ryder Corporation building, Ruby Ryder and Disco Queen received progress reports and statistical probability projections from Figure and Mighty Bruce. Ruby had joined Disco Queen's efforts at the behest of Saturn Queen. For Ryder it was a tool to enact revenge against Intergang in general and Julie Sazia in particular.
As Ruby had launched an effort to consolidate criminal activities in Boston, Sazia had launched a deadly turf war. But Sazia made it personal when the attacks began against Ruby's corporate employees. In doing so, Sazia had created an implacable foe.
Mighty Bruce was arguably the third best hacker in the world preceded only by Oracle and Hack. Figure was a mathematical genius who contended with Luthor for the honor of being deemed a human twelfth-level intelligence. The pair were handling logistics and operational oversight under Ruby's direction. Disco Mummy stood back and watched her plan unfold.
Of course, Cluemaster and the original Kings of Catastrophe resented the newcomers. While the night's operation would garner tens of thousands of dollars and create fear and resentment aimed at the Legion of Doom, at Saturn Queen's behest, the true purpose or it in Disco Mummy's estimation was the removal of her rivals.
"I've received a report from Knightfall. Disco Mummy's so-called 'King's of Catastrophe' are intercepting a medical convoy as you've instructed. But under Ruby Ryder's influence, Disco Mummy is using the opportunity to rid herself of Cluemaster and any potential rival," Libra reported to Eve Aries, "Intergang will lure the two smugglers and their protective escort to Metropolis where Intergang will employ overwhelming force to remove any resistance to offloading the cargo."
"Julie Sazia's petty revenge, no doubt," Saturn Queen assessed, "Do nothing about this. Do not warn any player and do not intervene in any way."
"But Intergang is stealing a potential million dollars from our coffers," Libra complained.
"What's a million compared to the trillions you'll earn once we're upon the world stage?" Saturn Queen scolded him, "You must broaden your horizons and think in terms of long range strategies."
"What do you intend to do after the GCPD has interfered?" Libra wondered.
"Send a team to liberate any of those that are captured," Saturn Queen ordered, "That will cement their loyalty to the Secret Society. Meanwhile, Ultraman and I will liberate the Crime Syndicate to quiet the Other's complaints."
"I'll prep the team now," Libra decided.
"See that you do," Saturn Queen replied. She dismissed herself to speak to the interstellar and interdimensional orphan that thought of himself as her "son".
Once the crisis had passed, the respective Lantern Corps leaders gathered to discuss the fate of the New Guardians. Carol Ferris was the first to suggest they remain as an experiment in long term cooperative efforts between Corps. Which was more than enough to send Larfleeze and Black Hand fleeing off of Oa. The remaining Corps heads stayed, which encouraged Carol.
"We've seen our respective Lanterns come together or immense crises. Black Lanterns, Volthoom, the Third Army, and even the Guardians of the Universe have required us to cooperate. Why not endorse what we've already created to see if they can sustain a working relationship?" Carol asked.
"You Star Sapphires are too obsessed with love and social harmony," Sinestro sneered.
"They don't have to love or even like one another," Carol corrected his assumption, "But can they work together on a long term basis?"
"I'm for it," Hal Jordan was the first to voice a positive opinion.
"Of course you do," Atrocitus snorted, "Having her on Oa is like having a conjugal visit from your favorite prostitute."
Hal bristled but Carol held a hand towards him, "I have this. Personal relationships, or lack thereof, are of no consequence in this venture. We need volunteers who represent the best we have to offer. None of us can participate, naturally, but think of it as choosing a champion or a disciple to demonstrate the best of what we are and can be."
"Well said, Carol," Saint Walker applauded her, "This is a grand and bold vision. I have hope for its success."
"Don't even get started on that mantra, Blue Lantern," Atrocitus snarled.
"Temper yourself," Indigo-1 advised.
"Bah! You and your worthless compassion," Atrocitus spat on the conference table.
"Hold on," Sinestro requested, "There is validity in what Ferris is suggesting. By agreeing to this our chosen champions to our causes can rise to the occasion and prove the superiority of one corps over all others."
"And the Red Lanterns will reign supreme," Atrocitus boldly asserted.
"We'll see, won't we?" Indigo-1 replied.
"Will a White Lantern participate?" Saint Walker asked.
"Both White Lanterns have agreed to be a part of our experiment," Carol answered.
"What?" Atrocitus roared, "Both?"
"Would you like to be the one to separate Kyle Rayner and Kara In-Ze?" Hal dryly asked.
"In-Ze was a Red Lantern before she received her white ring," Atrocitus convinced himself, "I approve of this."
"Are settled then?" Carol inquired. No one raised any further objections.
"Then we're in accord," she smiled brightly, "Now we'll choose our representatives and I'll deliver the news to our White Lanterns."
The entire Justice Society of America was gathered at the K-Star Ranch to address their students. Superboy, Wonder Girl, Miss Martian, and Jakeem Thunder were the only trainees. But the JSA expected the DEO and ARGUS to point them to other suitable candidates.
"We'll run the training program like an academy with hands on training here at the ranch coupled with supervised missions to deal with criminals and natural disasters. You'll be under the microscope at all times," Sentinel explained.
"The goal is to qualify to enlist in the Justice League," Flash added, "But, oddly coming from me, don't try and rush anything. Be alert, dedicated, and vigilant and you'll earn your chance."
"Jus' don't get cocky and get yerself killed," Wildcat interjected into the conversation.
"That's the pep talk," Mr. Terrific informed the teens, "Now the work begins."
"Unless you know where Red Hood and Red Robin disappeared to," Sand sprang on the audience, "They could use polishing up as well."
"We wish we knew," M'gann M'orzz admitted.
The people in question were in Los Angeles. Red Hood had organized a merry band of lethal heroes posing as super villains for hire. In addition to Ravager joining them, Red Robin had changed her alias to Knave to avoid confusion between her former identity and Red Hood. They were specifically in Los Angeles to speak with Green Arrow and Speedy.
Since Conner Hawke and Mia Deardon began dating she'd been using her private jet to fly from Seattle to spend time with Conner. And as Speedy she was firmly position at Green Arrow's side. But neither of them was interested in Red Hood's offer to join the Outlaws.
"Look, you two are already perceived as killers because of your use of lethal force," Knave argued, "A tactic the original Green Arrow never employed."
"But the first Speedy has," Ravager interrupted, "Arsenal doesn't take prisoners."
"Having an actual mercenary in your little troupe may give you street cred but it doesn't mean a thing here," Green Arrow advised the trio, "How the hell did you find us anyway?"
"Basic detective work," Knave explained, "When I was the Knight's Squire I did all the investigating."
"Besides, we're too good for you," Speedy stated.
Knave groaned as her girlfriend replied, "Care for a tryout then?"
"Sure," Speedy drew an arrow and nocked as she agreed. But she never had chance to draw the bowstring before Ravager crossed her twin swords around Speedy's neck. Red Hood had a pistol under Green Arrow's chin and another pressed against his balls.
"Ease off, Ravager," Red Hood instructed. Rose complied and nonchalantly returned to the wall she'd been leaning against.
"That was informative," Knave commented.
"So why else are you in my `hood?" Green Arrow inquired.
"This," Knave handed him a cargo manifest written in an obscure scrawl, "The cargo is semi-legit but the buyer isn't. He's a middleman that contracts select mercenaries to elite clients."
"You can read that?" Green Arrow was seriously impressed.
"My meta-human gift isn't flashy," Knave confessed, "But I can read and speak any language, human, machine, or alien."
"That's my girl. All brains with enough brawn to take out Batman," Ravager boasted.
"Who is the target?" Speedy asked.
"Calls himself the Monitor," Red Hood told them, "His sideline is recruiting a private army made up of his contractors."
"Why's he need an army?" Green Arrow asked.
"`Cause he's got a weenie dick," Ravager snorted.
"You're lucky you're catching me in a good mood, Wilson," Speedy snapped.
"Puh-lease," Ravager dismissed the idea.
"Look, I get it. You're not really interested in partnering up," Red Hood intervened, "Just stay out of our way and we'll reciprocate."
"Just don't launch a war in these streets," Green Arrow advised, "That wouldn't go well between us."
"Understood," Red Hood made ready to exit the lair.
"Pin cushion a few drug dealers for us," Ravager joked.
"She means well," Knave called back as she went out the door.
"For an insufferable smartass," Speedy complained.
Thomas Asquith, more commonly known as the White Magician, and Julie Sazia awaited Dr. Doom and Tiger Shark's arrival at a Metropolis pier. Both normally operated out of Boston but Intergang's interim Metropolis chief deferred to Sazia since the affair was her brainchild. Brains and the Gang had recruited Matrix One and the Council to head up Intergang in the city that spawned it right under Superman's nose.
The Metropolis Police Department had been paid off so there would be no interference from the police. But Mercy Graves had recreated Team Luthor as Team Mercy as the Everyman Project continued to perfect its gen activation techniques. Waller's reports of what had happened to Eliza Harmon reshaped Mercy's policies regarding human trials and the advancement of the procedures. Trajectory had embodied both the project's greatest success and its worst failure.
Team Mercy operated independently from the police so the bribes wouldn't dissuade them from interfering. And Mercy herself was notoriously above reproach since she'd taken over LexCorp. Mercy Corp. held itself to the highest legal standards so much so, law enforcement agencies and regulatory boards no longer scrutinized the company's every transaction with a microscope.
That was why Sazia had brought the White Magician along. His magic could counterbalance and potentially overwhelm the scientifically based Team Mercy. And if the rare convergence of Superman or Supergirl being in town should occur, Superman at least was vulnerable to magic. And Supergirl frequently worked with Team Mercy. Rumor had it she was romantically involved with Mercy herself but no one had ever been able to confirm those lurid stories.
"Stay sharp, Asquith," Sazia demanded, "You never know when a cape or an armored interference will drop out of the sky in this city."
"Informants have spotted General Glory setting up shop in Boston," White Magician reminded her, "So our days of complete liberty to do as we will are ending."
"Speak for yourself," Sazia snorted.
"And the Patriarch and the Syndicate Underground continue to usurp Intergang's control over local criminal operations," White Magician taunted her, "In fact, both the Patriarch and Pirate Blue are enlisting more criminal enterprises in their respective spheres of influence on an average week than Intergang can persuade them to join up in a month."
"I you still want to be paid, I suggest you shut up and stop provoking me," Sazia warned him.
White Magician silently gloated after that.
Dr. Doom and Tiger Shark were guided into the bay by hired tug boats. Both hijackers were surprised to find Sazia waiting to receive the cargo. Her thugs quickly quieted down their objections. After the respective cargoes were offloaded, they sailed back to where their own anchored ships awaited them. The crews quickly disembarked and returned to their own craft to make their getaway.
The Clam had monitored their trip into Metropolis and back again. So he sounded the alarm that two Coast Guard cutters were steaming towards the freighters to investigate their radio silence. Dr. Doom and Tiger Shark decided to leave the respective crews locked in the holds as they departed in their own high speed vessels.
Suddenly explosions lit up the night and Dr. Doom radioed the Clam, "What the hell?"
The Clam's burbling voice came back, "I didn't fire. My sonar operator claims he heard another submerged vessel. Do you understand? The Razorclam isn't the only submarine operating in these waters."
"We need to vacate the area. Now!" Dr. Doom decided, "Don't rig for silent running. Just get the hell away from here."
"I'm already underway at maximum speed," the Clam burbled.
Tiger Shark had been listening in and he knew none of their ships could outrun a torpedo. As did Devil Ray. The Nemo had sunk the two cutters and intercepted the communications between the Kings of Catastrophe. Now, as his own submarine casually vacated the area, he deployed his Extra Low Frequency antenna in order to update Luthor on how the plan went. Even as his towed array sonar listened beyond the baffles created by the Nemo's twin screws to register signs of pursuit. But Devil Ray's confidence that the Clam would flee rather than seek a fight was validated.
Cluemaster gathered the original Kings of Catastrophe present on the Gotham docks and separated them from the newcomers, "Tiger Shark just checked in. Someone using the right pass codes diverted them to Metropolis where Intergang seized the cargoes. To complicate matter further, someone sank two Coasties while our team was withdrawing."
"I told you this was a setup!" Multi-Man shrieked. They clamped his mouth shut. He was currently living through a paranoid phase. But as the old adage said, "Was it really paranoia when they were actually out to get you?"
"Disco Mummy would sacrifice everyone here to cement her position. And then she and Ruby Ryder will pick and choose who to bail out of jail," Cluemaster surmised.
"Why couldn't you be this smart before we traipsed down here?" Kite Man moaned, "Next, Batman will show up."
Every original King of Catastrophe had a bad history with Batman. Cluemaster didn't need Multi-Man's paranoia to spread like a cancer, "We can still walk away from this and then go challenge Disco Mummy directly."
"You can challenge her," Bird corrected him.
"Your loyalty warms my heart," Cluemaster retorted.
A falcon screeched and came to roost on Bird's arm, "Talon's spooked which means trouble just found us."
Sirens and flashing lights blanketed the docks as the GCPD swarmed into position. They could see Barbara Gordon and Harvey Bullock supervising as the SWAT team stood in reserve should the patrolmen and women meet resistance. For the slightest of moments it looked as though Half-Ape and his cronies would resist arrest. Then they collectively raised their hands.
"Exit stage left?" Mr. Polka Dot suggested.
"Best idea I've heard all day," Cluemaster agreed.
Ruby was on the phone in her penthouse atop the Ryder Corp. building. Lex Luthor had made executives living at their companies fashionable. And despite his fall from grace the trend continued. And she got dual usage from her security staff guarding her and the building together.
"Thank you, Julie. Enjoy the profits," Ruby disconnected from Sazia.
"Now you have a favorable connection within Intergang and all is forgiven from your incursion into Boston. Soon you can parlay that to an advantage should Brains and her Gang get out of control," Disco Mummy mused.
"I would have preferred dealing with the Patriarch rather than kissing that bitch's ass," Ruby snarled.
"The Syndicate Underground is in an inferior position next to Intergang. But that may be changing sooner rather than later," Disco Mummy shared, "The Patriarch and Pirate Blue have allied themselves with the Brain Emperor and his presumptuous Evil Brain Trust."
"Malik al Thaka is a thug," Ruby snorted.
"And the second most powerful telepath on this planet seconded only to Saturn Queen herself," Disco Mummy argued, "One may consider him a tribal barbarian but you have to acknowledge and respect his ability. After all, he outwitted the Crimson Queen and his so-called 'creator', Grodd."
"What are the chances the Kings of Catastrophe will be arrested?" Ruby had an army of lawyers standing by.
"There's an 87% chance they'll simply be let go," Figure ran the numbers, "From the remaining 13%, there's a 10% chance they'll be detained for questioning. And within that figure, there's a 100% chance of police brutality occurring to feed fodder to the legal defense team."
"And the outstanding 3%?" Ruby wondered.
"Fatalities during an arrest proceeding," Figure said dispassionately. Only math mattered to her and certainly not human collateral damage.
"Gordon has been surfing outstanding federal, state, and local warrants as well as laws and statutes. She knows she doesn't have dick," Mighty Bruce said between slurps of Red Bull. He'd poured half a dozen cans into a 44 oz Big Gulp cup.
"Elegantly put," Figure disdainfully sniffed.
"So you see, Commissioner, unless you're planning on charging for loitering or unlawful assembly, you don't have anything to book us under," Half-Ape gloated.
Barbara was half tempted to pistol whip the smug expression off of both sides of his distorted face, "Let them go, Harv."
"Ya sure, Commish?" Bullock wondered.
"Yes," Barbara stared Half-Ape down, "This is just the beginning."
"Maybe for you, Commissioner," Half-Ape signaled the other rogues and they left the docks.
"I got unmarked cars followin' them like ya asked," Bullock promised.
"Life was easier when I was Batgirl," Barbara groaned.
"Yeah, but even ya admit ya weren't much better than this scum," Bullock registered his own words, "Not that I'm callin' ya scum."
"No fears, Harv. I'm used to your poetry," Barbara assured him, "Who were these idiots anyway? I really didn't recognize any of them other than Half-Ape and the Weed from my Justice League connections."
"They're buncha kooks that used ta hassle Plastic Man. Most have been real quiet lately. But most of `em have been sighted in Bludhaven over the last coupla years. Maybe ya should talk ta yer ol' Bat buddy, Grayson," Bullock suggested.
"I will. And I'll check on when my wedding invitation is coming," Barbara brightened slightly.
"He really marryin' a fish?" Bullock blurted.
Barbara had to close her eyes for a second to maintain her composure, "Ulla Paske is a bright and wonderful young woman who just happens to be half-Atlantean."
"She's got a tail when she's swimmin'," Bullock threw back at her.
"Think of the movie Splash and maybe you'll finally get it," Barbara stalked over to her official car and left without Bullock.
"Nuts," he grumbled, "Hitchin' a ride, again."
Flatscreen and Lady Granite monitored the flight of the founding Kings of Catastrophe. When they stopped in an alleyway several block from the dockside, they called it in to the police. Cluemaster and his cronies were still wanted for heisting thirty billion in gold bars. Unexpectedly, the call was intercepted and Bluebird guided Spoiler in.
As Arthur Brown, he had undying pride in his daughter Stephanie. As Cluemaster he detested Spoiler with an unreasoning loathing. An act he made clear.
"Steph, you'd better back the hell down," Cluemaster warned his daughter, "I won't hold these guys back tonight. We've been through too much already."
"Sorry, Daddy. It's all in the name," Spoiler replied.
Bluebird deployed three `copter drones. One engaged Talon and kept the falcon from attacking Harper Row's roomie. The other two attacked the Kings of Catastrophe with taser darts. Mr. Polka Dot smashed the depleted drones alter everyone else but Cluemaster had gone down. Spoiler went after him.
Cluemaster fled down the alley and ran headlong into a squad car. The cops got out and drew their weapons.
"Lookee here, a masked vigilante," one said.
"More than that, partner," the second told him, "He's got outstanding federal warrants. Seems he robbed the Federal Reserve in Manhattan."
"So we got a celebrity," the first cop responded to her.
The cops noticed Spoiler's battle with Mr. Polka Dot, "That one is a vigilante."
"Spoiler! Run!" Cluemaster shouted.
Mr. Polka Dot looked wounded that Spoiler got the advisory and not him. Spoiler went up a fire escape and made her way across rooftops to reach Harper's van. Inside, Bluebird herself was monitoring police bands.
"That was close, Stephanie," Bluebird lectured her partner in the masked vigilante business.
"Yeah, I think we should bag it for tonight and check with Kathy," Spoiler suggested, "And my dad got my attention that I was about to be confronted by cops."
"Go figure," Harper said as she shrugged out of her gear.
"Bastard still wants to pretend he cares," Stephanie growled as she slipped out of her Spoiler costume.
Stephanie and Harper used the hidden elevator within Duquesne Security to arrive at the secret conference room Kathy's father had built to host his criminal clientele. With Kathy's resources, Harper had converted it into a command post replete with investigative tools. Rocki Ballantine had assisted Harper in the design and construction of everything.
Rocki was inside the lair with Harper and Stephanie when Barbara Gordon arrived to confront Kathy out in her official office. Barbara didn't waste time, "Where are Spoiler and Bluebird?"
"I could review my employee registry but I'm absolutely certain I don't have people with those names working for me," Kathy snarkily replied.
"You and Rocki Ballantine may have given up being Batwoman but from eyewitness reports those two are just teens," Barbara cajoled Kathy, "Do you really want to be responsible when they get permanently injured?"
"I'm a great proponent of personal choice," Kathy stated.
"So was your father," Barbara snorted as she stormed out of the office.
Kathy shut down the office before using the secret door to join her friends, "Ladies, we need to confab."
Intergang's 100 had gathered. When Bruno Mannheim had created Intergang with Darkseid's assistance, he never foresaw that eventually its leadership would expand to include one hundred individuals that served as the international leadership. One person served as the official head of the organization with the Director presiding over the 100. And in turn, the 100 supervised the 1000.
Senator Henry Ballard had been selected as the new overall chief of operations. With most of the membership appearing through Skype it was easy for the Director's identity to remain a secret. Even Ballard was clueless.
Sazia flanked Ballard. Knightfall was present as well. Having united Gotham's Five Families and other nefarious undertakings, Knightfall was the newest addition to the 100. The fate of the one who had held the seat she now occupied hung over the assemblage as a grim reminder of the price of failure.
Thanks to Knightfall's medievalesque trappings and mask, no one knew she was actually Charise Carnes. Charise had been locked away at Arkham at age seventeen convicted o the murders of her parents and siblings. Three years later, new evidence exonerated her and she was released to inherit her family's real estate and financial empire.
She owned nearly every building in Gotham's Downtown and Cherry Hill districts, and the plots she didn't own the buildings on, she owned the ground beneath. Only Wayne-Powers Enterprises, Innovative Concepts, and the Ryder Corporation actually owned the deed to their site locations. Some estimated Charise as the richest person in the world.
Knightfall had a vision of a Gotham freed from the cancer of crime. First she supported various criminal enterprises and pitted them against their competition. Then she regulated criminal activities all under her banner, with a few exceptions, in order to lull them into complacency before eliminating them as well.
Penguin and Two-Face were her only remaining rivals and only tolerated because they had ties to the Legion of Doom. Knightfall didn't need a cadre of super villains wrecking her plans before they were completed. And of course, there was always the Court of Owls to eventually deal with.
Knightfall and Sazia were the only members, other than Brains, to realize the "Director" was a hypnotic construct conjured by Ms. Mesmer. The Gang was appointed as "special operatives" of the 100 thereby granting Brains a seat on the council. Ms. Mesmer ensorcelled everyone except the triad in the know and entered the proceedings unseen and unrecognized.
Intergang had endured a rough patch of years. Boss Moxie had replaced his son as chieftain only to be killed by Gun Moll Flanders. Gun Moll was, in turn, executed by the Gang. Morgan Edge had died at the behest of Angelica Blaze who subsequently seized control of Edge's multimedia empire. Blaze had also refused to take Edge's place in the 100.
The actual session boiled to one directive: ramp up all activities to squeeze every drop out of the terrified populaces. And to intercept FEMA relief efforts before the Secret Society could and extort the intended recipients. It was all distasteful to Knightfall but she had to maintain appearances. After Charise cleansed Gotham, she'd export her operational method to other cities and concerned citizens. She relished that opportunity.
"This is a dangerous game, Nyssa," David Cain warned her.
Nyssa Raatko, the Demon's Hand and daughter of Ra's al Ghul, gave him a pained look, "Jason Todd has proven to be an invaluable asset. In his Red Hood persona he set up the Outsiders so we could decimate that threat. Then he reported from NOWHERE and finally he infiltrated the Teen Titans. If he wishes to portray himself as a killer for hire, why shouldn't I take advantage of that fact?"
"But even Ra's wouldn't pit forces against the Monitor," Cain reminded her.
"My father had lost his way. He wouldn't thwart an unstable element amassing a private army for an unknown agenda. But he would unleash the full might of the League of Assassins against a lumber company," Nyssa retorted, "Besides, I hired Red Hood and his Outlaws anonymously with my personal funds."
"But if it's discovered, there will be hell to pay with the League of Shadows hierarchy. They already despise you," Cain warned her.
"I'll manage Dinah," Nyssa replied. It was an advantage for her to be married to the Black Canary, the presiding Demon's Head.
"Black Canary has become a true believer in our holy cause. You can only manipulate her for so long," Cain advised.
"I don't require manipulation merely persuasion," Nyssa told him, "Dinah sees both sides of an issue and weighs them accordingly and dispassionately. She isn't blinded by a radical ideology like others before her."
Cain knew she referred not only to her father but Ra's al Ghuls from ancient days, "I hope so."
In order to distance the Mighty Crusaders from ARGUS, since they would be a publically acknowledged operation, a new agency had been created. The MLJ Initiative existed solely to support the team. And it drew resources from every branch of government service, from the Department of Defense to the FBI and a variety of agencies that even included the IRS.
General Jack Latham, the Shield's original military handler, served as MLJ Director. Currently, he was briefing the Mighty Crusaders regarding their new base of operations and their new political realities. Liberty Station had been built on Destruction Island in the Puget Sound offshore from Seattle.
"We have liaisons with every federal law enforcement agency who also serve as active MLJ agents," Latham explained after the tour concluded, "That includes ARGUS."
"Seeing as how ARGUS arrested three of my agents, I don't see the need to cooperate with them," Web grumbled.
"Your Web Hosts were witnessed executing suspects," Shield reminded him.
"So you're suggesting they do it in secret or would you prefer they murder the witnesses?" Web grated.
"Your Web Hosts are convicted killers," Fly interjected, "The idea behind all of this is to arrest criminals to face trial not deliver vigilante justice."
"We are masked vigilantes," Web barked at him.
"Not anymore," Special Agent Carol Anne Strander of the FBI, and the field administrator, added to the conversation, "You're all fully deputized federal agents and you'll be held to the same standards."
"There goes our effectiveness," Web complained, "I still won't work with ARGUS."
"Shouldn't we operate with every resource available?" Jaguar asked.
"She has a point," Fly chirped up.
"Of course you'd take her side," Web said disdainfully.
"What's that mean?" Fly wanted to know.
"We all know what it means," Fox told him.
Jaguar looked uncomfortable and Fly was flustered. Comet broke the tension, "Black Hood and Hangman both kill bad guys yet we're not prosecuting them. Why?"
"You useless duffers recruited me," Black Hood reminded everyone, "I didn't look to sign up. And Shield has built up his own body count tally as well."
"Both as a soldier and as a government agent," Shield admitted, "But it always weighs on me."
"So why prosecute my agents?" Web demanded to know.
"Your Web Hosts killed two men on their knees with their hands behind their heads. Where's the self defense argument in that?" War Eagle asked her own question in reply.
"Nothing ARGUS touches is free from their grip," Carol warned everyone.
"Which is why we don't have an ARGUS rep," Latham explained, "I'm not giving Amanda Waller a toehold."
Amanda Waller was single and childless but Task Force X was her baby. So when she had Gwen Cormaugh take over as program director, it was a sign of implicit and immense trust. Gwen oversaw the blackest elements of a black site prison. Belle Reeve was located in the swamps of Louisiana. It's very existence and structure was a marvel of engineering.
Most of its inmates were extremely dangerous meta-humans. The only effective measure of control was the fact an explosive had been implanted in each of their necks and could blow their head apart. Every incarcerated program participant had been injected. But some hadn't been because they weren't convicts and others had been, had their sentences commuted, and had the explosives surgically removed.
The surviving Freedom Fighters had been recruited to lend their greater experience to help guide squaders in completing their missions. Thereby joining several trustees that had stayed with the Suicide Squad after being freed from prison. Gwen's pet theory was they found redemptive action addictive.
Some of the "new" program participants had belonged to previous incarnations of the Suicide Squad. Punch and Jewelee had threatened to reveal the existence of Task Force X to the public if they weren't admitted. Calendar Man and Flex had been chosen by Waller.
Amos Fortune, Anarky, and White Canary existed simply for unleashing chaos and to bring ruination down upon others. Anarky wasn't choosy who was his current target. Fortune's ultimate goal was to destroy his great-great-aunt, Anna Fortune. White Canary's obsession was killing the former members of Team 7. Not that there were many left.
Others were believers in insane ideologies. Achilles Milo and Agent Axis were former terrorists forced into government service after being cleared by the Suicide Squad's Field Commander, Colonel Rick Flagg. Reb was a Confederate States of America adherent. Jester was simply a nut job that had been apprehended by the Mighty Crusaders when he threatened to blow up every reactor in a nuclear power plant.
The three Web Hosts were waiting their sentences out while seeking exoneration. Karen "Buster" Thomas still quietly functioned as the trio's leader. "Rowdy" Spates and "Rad" Stiles followed her every lead despite her relative inexperience as a Web Host. Buster was just that charismatic and that damn good at what she did.
The Doomslayers were just destructive opportunists en masse. They seemed under the impression that they'd be able to rape, loot, and pillage while deployed. Flagg was more than happy to detonate their bombs.
Deadshot and Captain Boomerang were facing death sentences outside of Belle Reeve. Afterthought and Zoom had significantly reduced their sentences through meritorious service. Light was still badly shaken by the death of her sister, Lime. Gwen had her on suicide watch.
Special Agent Karin Grace served as Gwen Deputy Director. And she was a veteran of the original, all-military Suicide Squad. And she was still barely on speaking terms with Flagg, her former commander.
Flagg and Karin did agree on one thing. Oracle and Hack had been brought into the program and both represented sever security risks. Oracle used her computing skills as a hacker par excellence to sell information to criminals. Hack was a meta that could communicate with nearby computers and even transform herself and others in digital signals to transmit to other locations.
The ARGUS Intelligence guru, King Faraday, understood the concern. He also recognized the operational realities. Those ran parallel to the bureaucratic ones in this rare instance.
Katana was one of the three survivors from the League of Assassins' massacre of the Outsiders. ARGUS had recruited her for the Justice League Unlimited and then she transferred to the Justice League of America when it was created. Mysteriously, Katana approached Waller and insisted upon being assigned to Task Force X to insure Flagg's continued survival. If the squad was divided up, Katana was a unit commander. She didn't rely upon a detonator to keep her inmates alive. She had her sword, the SoulTaker, and that was all she needed.
Nightshade was King Faraday's operations protégé. Eve Eden served as Task Force X's deputy field commander. And like Katana, there wasn't an ounce of squeamishness in her. She would do anything required to keep her inmates in line and on mission.
The Unknown Soldier was just too…unknown. No one trusted him and no one wanted to serve beside him. And the Unknown Soldier felt the same way about everyone else. That included Flagg, Katana, and Nightshade.
Gwen knew the days ahead would be difficult. She wondered if it was too early to retire to her native Welsh countryside. She'd left home to join the International Security Agency after working her way from Constable to Inspector in Cardiff. One of the perks of her ISA posting was that her job back home was waiting for her along with promotions deemed appropriate from her fitness reports. ARGUS had agreed to a similar arrangement.
Returning to a country posting seemed idyllic now. It was time to check with her superiors back home to see if Waller had honored their agreement. Somehow she knew she'd been lied to and manipulated.
The former Mossad agent now known as Shadow Thief what to do with the rest of her life. She'd left the spy agency to kill Daemonites. Now they were gone and she was left adrift by that fact.
She'd become a thief to finance her personal crusade. Even joining the Injustice Society had been a ploy to pit them against the enemy. Even the other Society members were adrift with their juvenile revenge fantasies shattered. Johnny Sorrow was thankfully MIA and the Wizard was too shortsighted to trust as a leader for the band of meta-human misfits.
Shadow Thief had found their plotting to destroy and humiliate the Justice Society was pathetic since the JSA hardly existed. Shadow Thief's suit gave her nearly unlimited access to anywhere. A fact that had caused the Mossad to brand her a traitor and subsequently issue an extermination order. So it seemed she'd stay a thief.
Cupid watched the scene unfold in downtown Seattle and had to admit it had all gone wrong. The post-resurrection Oliver Queen had taken on the name Everyman and his time with Cupid made every one of her fantasies a lurid reality. But when they went on patrol, it was a massacre.
Cupid was used to not taking prisoners. But Everyman enjoyed inflicting pain for pains sake. And he was executing the homeless simply because they were nearby. Provocation was hardly necessary to enter Everyman's crosshairs.
Now Seattle's Finest had a shoot on sight order regarding the happy couple. Which would only lead to a confrontation Cupid didn't want. But taming Ollie's bloodlust was getting harder every night. How long would it be before it turned on her?
Eve Aries reposed on a divan with her feet folded beneath while her mind wandered the world. The freshly arrived Brain Emperor was growing in strength and experience. She chuckled as she recalled Grodd's regrets at creating the human monster. Her "I told you so" had been scathing.
Her bright, emerald eyes sparkled when she opened them and she summoned Libra and Ultraman, "It's time."
"I'll gather the team leaders," Libra offered. He returned with Owlman, Gudra, and Lagomorph
"The time has come for the Secret Society of Super Villains to reveal its existence standing beside the Crime Syndicate, Axis America, and the Superior Five," Saturn Queen shared, "And in doing so we will crush the Legion of Doom and finally kill Lex Luthor."
"About damn time," Owlman grumbled.
"Quite," Saturn Queen agreed, "Now prepare yourselves for immediate departure."
"You know where the Legion is hiding?" Lagomorph asked.
"Of course," Saturn Queen assured her, "I've always known. Now go and strike a fatal blow."
That's all they needed to hear. Saturn Queen's thoughts turned towards the future and the Fatal Five.