SPOILER ALERT:This is the fifth story arc in the series of Suicide Squad . This is a two part story arc that is a sequel of sorts to the ‘All Consuming Fire’ storyline. But I want to clarify a few continuity issues that will clear up where this story fits in to the big picture.

The story begins eighteen months before the final arc in Suicide Squad VI. If you have read the series from the beginning you may notice that some scenes look familiar as the story progresses. You would be correct because the story weaves back and forth through previous events. Some of these events become clearer while others are from a different point of view revealing what the big picture was all along.

If you never read my Suicide Squad arcs before and this is your first, have no fears because you don’t need to have any previous knowledge of the series to read this story. But once it’s over you might want to go back and check out the other story arcs to see what happened on the other side. Nothing ever happened without a reason and certain clues were there from the beginning.

DC has all character rights.

 

“Watch out you might get what you’re after

Cool baby strange but not a stranger
I’m an ordinary guy
Burning down the house

All wet hey you might need a raincoat
Shakedown dreams walking in broad daylight
Three hundred sixty five degrees
Burning down the house.”

The Talking Heads- “Burning Down the House”

Prelude-

18 months ago:

Qurac-

The palace of Sayid Marlo

Sayid Marlo stood in the palace courtyard. As he glanced to his left he could see the Sarawat Mountains over the courtyard wall. Without turning around he spoke to the man seated behind him. “I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I am a man without a country.”

“The Saudis will continue to fight you until Qurac is dissolved back into Saudi Arabia and your declaration of freedom for Qurac will be a distant memory in the worlds eyes.” The man spoke.

“Yes I believe you are correct. It seems that the Saudi King and the President of South Africa are meeting later today to discuss plans to trade oil in exchange for financial support in the war against my people.” Marlo turned to face the man, “And here you are, an American right here in my home offering help to ensure that Qurac becomes an independent nation. But you do not seek oil in return. Are you sure that you are American?”

“The people I represent understand that an independent Qurac holds more value than just the oil under its land. We are looking for political allies in our war against America.”

Sayid Marlo laughed as he sat down across from the man. “You seek to make war against your own country and you turn to us?”

“Mr. Marlo, we recognize that it was a bold move, striking against your native country to return your land to greatness. Our goals are quiet similar in that regard. And with our assistance we can ensure that you achieve not only your independence but also a position of power recognized the world over.”

“And if I agree to this, what boon would your people require from myself and Qurac?”

“If you agree I can ensure you that Qurac will have it’s independence within five months and the world will embrace its newest member into the Unite Nations. Once those things take place, all that we would ask for in return, is support when we are ready to liberate America from the tyranny that has suppressed us for far too long.” The man said before holding out his hand to Marlo.

Marlo reached out and shook his hand. “We have a deal my crazy American friend.”

The man smiled, “And as head of the Council and the new American Revolution, let me be the first to shake hands with the new President of Qurac.”

17 months ago:

Gotham City-

Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes’ Oscar Wilde may have said it but Noah Kuttler has lived to understand its meaning. Enshrined in a glass case in the middle of the room was a constant reminder that you must learn from past mistakes if you want to embrace your true destiny.

He stepped away from the computer monitor and adjusted his wireless headset. He walked over and stood in front of the glass case. Inside was a purple costume with a giant keypad on the chest and an LCD visor on the helmet. The absurd looking outfit stood as a reminder that mistakes should be a positive thing, if used properly. As the Calculator he was nothing more than laughable when he went up against the likes of Batman or the Flash. But since those days are long past, he has found his true calling. He has gathered a virtual network of information to which he supplies to the criminal underworld for a fee.

Over the last several years he has provided his services to hundreds of various criminal elements from would be world conquerors, to petty costumed menaces whose only goals seem to be causing trouble to the superhero community. He has held true to a few basic rules, which has allowed him to be successful and maintain the respect he has earned over those years:

He would never sell information about a costumes hero’s family, friends, or anything that revealed a costumed heroes identity. It would be bad for business to have the heroes looking to extract revenge against those that went after the people they cared about.

He would never sell the same information to two different people. This meant that the various villains would not be able to use him if they choose to go up against each other in pursuit of the same goal.

If someone were caught they would never reveal that he had been the source of their information. This took longer to establish but if someone choose to disobey this rule they would face the consequences from the rest of the villain community that relied heavily on the information he supplied them. Fear of that has kept his identity virtually unknown and has allowed him to continue to operate freely without having to worry if Superman would fly through his window at any given moment.

He would never have dealings with someone again if they failed to make their payments. Some of his regular customers had automatic accounts set up in which he drew funds from regularly. Other chose to pay in advance for some of the more in-depth information that needed to be gathered. As long as they paid, his services would remain available.

On this particular day someone had decided to test rule number four.

“Calculator! Damn it man what are you waiting for!” The panicked man known as the Icicle screamed through Noah’s headset. “I am trapped in here and all turned around. I need to know how to get out of this building!”

Noah paused as he ran his fingers across the glass case before he turned around and walked over to the monitor at his desk. “The account number you provided appears to be overdrawn Cameron.”

“I told you I have money! I can get it to you if you get me out of here! I can’t go to jail again. It’s only a matter of time before they find me here.”

“I told you it wasn’t a good idea to rob a jewelry store in Central City in the first place. The rogues there don’t take kindly to young usurps moving in on their territory.”

“Screw them! I was the one that beat the Flash, which is more than I can say for that idiot Captain Cold.”

“Well the Flash should be there any second, so it doesn’t appear that you beat him this time.” Noah spoke as he heard a beep and noticed someone else was calling on the other line, “Oh and Cameron? My number has been removed from your cell. Don’t call when you get out of prison again because unlike you, that idiot Captain Cold pays his bills on time.”

“You son of a  ” Noah hit a button that disconnected Icicle and opened up the other line.

“You are calling on a secure line.” Kuttler looked down and saw that the caller’s number came up unavailable, “I don’t do business with people I am unfamiliar with.”

“I was given this number because I was told that you provide certain unique services for a price.” The woman’s voice softly floated into Noah’s ears.

“That is correct lady. That one was free so the next one is going to cost you. But first why don’t you tell me who you are.”

“My name is Scandal Savage. I am contacting you on behalf of my Father.” Noah quickly typed in her name. Her profile came up blank but he cross-referenced the name Savage and came up with something that made him shudder. Glancing at the profile he sat up in his chair. This wasn’t the type of people he was used to dealing with.

“Vandal Savage is your father?” He spoke slowly.

“Yes. If you know my father than you know to take this offer seriously. He is prepared to pay you handsomely for the information you provide for him.”

“And what type of information is he seeking?” Noah asked nervously.

“He wants ‘around the clock’ surveillance on a man name Rick Flagg. His home, any known associates, and a facility called Belle Reve prison.”

Noah sat there for a moment and pondered the full scope of what she was asking, “You want 24-7 audio and visual surveillance including a maximum security prison? Guy must be important. That is something beyond the type of services I usually provide.”

“It appears that I may have been misinformed that you were the right man for the job.” Scandal replied.

“Hold on a minute. I didn’t say I couldn’t do it. But a job like this is going to be costly.”

“As I said, my father is prepared to pay handsomely.”

“And what is handsomely?” Noah asked.

“Two million dollars up front. And an additional three million once he has the information from Flagg that he requires.”

Noah shuddered again but took a deep breath as he attempted to hide the excitement in his voice. “Lady, tell your father we have a deal. When I’m done, Rick Flagg, he won’t be able to take a crap without your father knowing what he had for lunch.”

Scandal gruffed at his last comment, “Very well. I will be in contact with you soon to arrange payment.”

Noah nervously waited for her to hang up before he jumped out of his chair and began pacing the room. With this job he would finally make the big time. Something he had only dreamed about when he first decided to put on that ridiculous Calculator costume.

Thoughts began to race through his head. He sat back down at opened a file on his computer. He scrolled down a list of contacts until he came across the name he was looking for. Lyle Bolton, otherwise known as Lock-up, would be perfect. He quickly dialed the number and loosened his tie.

“What do you want Noah?” The man on the other end of the line snapped.

“How would you like to be rich Lyle?” Noah beamed.

“Being rich means having friends and I don’t like people, so get to the point.”

“I got a job for you that should provide you with enough money to avoid as many people as you like for quiet sometime. I need you to tap into the security system of Belle Reve prison. It pays half a million upon completion. Are you in?”

Noah could almost hear Lock-up smile through the digital phone line, “Oh yeah. I’m in.”

17 months ago:

It was a place known by many names, some of which include Paradise Ranch, Neverland, and the Box. But to most it most commonly referred to as Area 51. None of these names held any meaning to the woman being held captive several thousand feet below the Nevada desert. All she knew was that she had spent her entire life waiting to escape one prison, only to find that when that moment arrived, she quickly was forced into another. She had fought hard before she was captured, but ultimately she found that the forces she encountered were more powerful than she had ever been lead to believe. She swore to herself that if she ever escaped, she would not be taken down so easily ever again.

She was bound in chains and the red lights that radiate her kept her weak and unable to break free. She had lost track of how long she had been there. Time had stood still. Only her rage and determination to escape kept her from giving in fully to her current situation.

There was a sound at her cell door. She refused to look up. From time to time someone would enter her cell and ask her questions, and in return they would leave her food and water to drink. If they thought they could break her in this way, they did not know where she came from. This wasn’t torture. One could not begin to understand torture until you looked in the eyes of Darkseid and laughed.

She heard the metal door finally swing open. She winced as the bright light from outside filled the room. She noticed there were two of them this time, as their footsteps came closer. She slowly looked up as one of them spoke while the other undid her restraints.

“Knockout? My name is Valentina Vostok and this is Lorraine Reilly. There is a woman named Amanda Waller who sent us here to rescue you.”

“You are not part of the group that imprisoned me here?” Knockout spoke as she looked down at the two smaller earth women in front of her.

“No. We are from a group called Task Force X. Amanda Waller discovered that they were holding you here against your will. She thought you might like to join us instead.”

“I am not one to be treated a fool and I will seek revenge against those that choose to bound me here.” Knockout rubbed her arms where the restrains had been moments ago. “But for now I am in your debt. Take me to this Amanda Waller.”

16 months ago

Qurac-

The palace of Sayid Marlo

Wade Eling sat nervously as he watched the armed guards that stood around him. He was uncomfortable with the fact that the Council felt the need for him to meet face-to-face with Sayid Marlo and that Marlo had refused to meet with him outside of Qurac. He was told to find a resolution to the Captain Atom problem once and for all, so being here was a small price to pay to finding a solution to a much bigger problem.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” Marlo announced as he entered the room, “I know you are scheduled to fly out to London, so I won’t hold you up any longer.”

“I take it that the package was received and is secured?” Eling asked as Marlo sat down across from him.

“Yes. Your American hero, Captain Atom is safely tucked away in a cell beneath what will soon be the capital building of Qurac.”

“I take it things are on schedule then?”

“Yes of course. It appears that the Saudis will back down soon, ensuring that Qurac will be an independent nation within the next several months. The head of your Council has held up his end of the bargain it seems.”

“Did you have your doubts?” Eling replied.

“Well before one crawls into bed with ones enemy it is always best to check under the sheets first, no?” Marlo laughed.

Eling forced a laugh as well. “And I take it you will be able to use Atom to end the war against the Saudis?”

“I think we can mange without using your ‘weapon’ for now. No, I prefer to keep him in my pocket, as you might say, to be used in case other forces choose to rise up against us; once we have fully separated from Saudi Arabia.” Marlo watched as Eling wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Don’t worry Eling you won’t have to be concerned about Captain Atom ever again, unless the snake under the sheets suddenly decides to show its fangs.”

End of Prelude

PART ONE:

13 months ago:

Gotham City-

Noah Kuttler looked out the window and smiled. He had finally hit the big time. From the top floor of the R.H. Kane Building he could see all of Gotham City, or as much as one could through the pollution that filled the air. Thanks to the money he made from his deal with Vandal Savage, he had the bankroll to secure the top two floors of the third tallest building in Gotham City.

Yes, the view from the top was spectacular, but it was expensive. Over the last several months he continued to dip into his liquid assets to maintain the dummy business that secured his real operations in this building would go unnoticed. He had already spent the two million he was advanced from Savage to acquire the property. And though he was a patient person he was anxious to close the deal with Savage and receive the final payment of the three million dollars.

After the surveillance equipment had been set up in his new office, the Calculator piggybacked the live feeds so that he would be able to see and hear everything that Savage saw. His hope was that he would uncover what was so important about Rick Flagg, that Savage was willing to pay five million dollars to find out. What the Calculator immediately discovered upon viewing the feeds from Belle Reve intrigued him even more. It seemed that the government had a new dirty little secret in the form of a covert strike team called the Suicide Squad that used prisoners on missions with full deniability from the government. Had Vandal Savage been aware that Rick Flagg was part of this or was he as surprised as he had been when he found out? Or had this been Savages plan all along to spy on them and he never intended to pay the additional three million?

He had gone back over the recordings and it did appear that Savage spent quiet a bit of time watching Flagg but he also spent an equal amount watching Waller and the other members of the Squad. Noah didn’t like the idea of being used nor was he willing to let someone back out of a deal. But the truth was that Vandal Savage scared him. He didn’t like to admit it but he often found he was unable to stand up for himself when he felt intimidated by someone stronger willed than he was. Maybe that’s why he often looked to acquire power in other forms. He found that information was much more powerful than brute strength.

In the months since the deal had been made, he had only been in contact with his daughter, Scandal, never dealing with Vandal Savage directly. He was told not to make contact with either of them but maybe it was time to let them know he was a serious business man and not one to be taken lightly.

He adjusted his headset and cleared his throat. “Dial Savage, Scandal.” Within seconds, the computer had made the call.

“Why are you calling Kuttler?” An obviously irate Scandal spoke.

“I thought I would check on our deal and see where things stood.” Noah said as he attempted to keep his voice strong.

“What would make you think that such a thing would be necessary? My father is a man of his word, and if he knew that you were questioning his integrity he would not be pleased.”

“I am not questioning his integrity but I hadn’t heard back from you in several months, and I was hoping for a status report.”

Scandal laughed. “Is that what you are asking? Or are you having doubts that my father has intentions on following through with his end of the bargain?”

“No! It is just hard for me to imagine that this Rick Flagg has anything of value beyond his involvement with the Suicide Squad.”

“So you’ve been watching as well it seems?”

Noah realized that comment might have been a mistake but he wasn’t about to let this woman intimidate him anymore. “Yes I’ve been watching, and I’ve seen enough to know that the information you and your father have access to is worth more than what was paid. The price has now doubled.”

Noah listened as he heard Scandal take a deep breath, “You are a brave man Noah Kuttler. A small and weak man, but brave none the less. For that I am willing to ignore that this conversation ever took place, and I won’t tell my father that you were rude to me. In return you will make no attempt to contact me or my father again until he wishes to do so. Understand?”

“Yeah.” Noah said reluctantly.

“Good. Then you are allowed to live.” Scandal said flippantly before hanging up.

Noah spun around in his chair and threw his headset across the room.

“I know there is more going on than that smug little bitch is letting on. Fine they want to play games than I will show them how to play!” Noah said turning all the monitors in his office to the Belle Reve feeds. He focused his attention on the monitor of Amanda Waller yelling at someone in a hallway, “Yes Mrs. Waller you are one bad ass aren’t you? I wonder what the U.S. government would be willing to pay to keep this little party of yours quiet.”

Noah suddenly felt rejuvenated and alive. It was time to get back to work. He had a new plan and would have to move quickly if he was going to pull it off.

The following day

SS 1-The Suicide Squad Transport Plane-

Somewhere across the Pacific Ocean

His given name was Kai. But several years ago he went through a rebirth of spirit while mastering the art of Judo and Jujutsu; soon after he adopted the name Hellhound. He was also a master thief but had been unable to best the Batman and found himself locked up in Belle Reve prison. Soon after he arrived he was given a chance to earn his freedom a little earlier than the courts had dictated by performing a dangerous mission with the Suicide Squad. He recognized the opportunity and quickly agreed. But he wasn’t a fool as he also recognized the potential danger of being involved with a group that proudly had suicide in its name. He would do as little as he had to and ensure he got out of the mission alive.

As he sat silently in his seat he glanced behind him and saw the man called Boomerang sharpening one of his weapons. The noise had begun to grate on his nerves. Boomerang recognized this and flashed him a smile as he continued. Hellhound said nothing as he slowly turned back around. He began to watch the other man seated next to him that he had the unfortunate pleasure to be paired up with, Signalman; another ridiculous costumed idiot. Hellhound couldn’t help but notice the man was fidgeting in his seat quiet a bit and had an equally ridiculous grin plastered across his face.

Hellhound finally couldn’t take it any longer. “Would you sit still?”

“Sorry.” Signalman responded, “I am just anxious is all.”

“What? Anxious to get yourself killed? You do realize you signed up for the Suicide Squad right? Not the freaking circus!”

“Oh I am fully aware of the situation we are facing dear sir. But I have something to look forward to once I am free again.” Signalman continued to grin.

“You’re telling me dressed like that, that you got a lady friend waiting for you?”

“Don’t be rude sir. No I have something worth much more. I have a secret. If you watch my back and we get out of here alive, I will cut you in for a share.”

“What makes you think I would be willing to watch out for you? Dressed like that you will be the first one they take out!”

Signalman leaned over closer to Hellhounds ear and whispered. “Once I get out of here I will be rich beyond my wildest dreams. I have one hundred million dollars in gold buried somewhere safe. See to it that I make it out unharmed and I will cut you in for half.”

“You don’t say?” Hellhound replied with a grin of his own, “Well than stick close, but not too close, and we’ll see what happens.”

Several hours later

Oran, Algeria-

An abandoned merchant marine base

“Everyone take cover!” Rick Flagg yelled. The Squad had been ambushed before they knew what had hit them and they now found themselves bottlenecked inside a warehouse as hidden shooters took pot shots at them from all directions. “Deadshot shot someone goddamn it!”

Hellhound stood back as bullets continued to fly in all directions. Resurrection Man quickly moved toward the front of the group. “Rick, get the squad out and I will provide a moving target for them to focus on.”

It was a solid plan, as it appeared that Mitch Shelly’s latest powers had made his skin tough enough to withstand bullets. He had already taken several shots and appeared unharmed. Flagg handed him a gun and Mitch quickly ran toward the center of the warehouse. Flagg than ordered the Squad out. Once they were out of the warehouse they still had to deal with the shooters positioned across the rooftops but the stood a better chance out in the open.

Deadshot took aim and shot one shooter who quickly fell off the roof and landed on the ground in front of them. “He isn’t dead Colonel. Do you want to question him?”

“There isn’t time. It’s obvious that the person we were sent after was tipped off to our presence and is long gone by now. The mission’s over.” Flagg said.

Deadshot looked down at the man bleeding at his feet and took aim, putting a bullet right between the eyes.

“Stick with me.” Hellhound motioned toward Signalman as Vixen and Manhunter moved past them. “This mission was doomed from the start I tell you. There’s no way they are gonna let us go after this. We need to get out of here while they are still distracted.”

“So what do we ” Signalman began to ask before the warehouse behind them blew up. The shockwave sent Signalman and Hellhound through the air. Hellhound landed about thirty feet away on the docks. He slowly rose to his feet. He quickly assessed that he had a broken arm, several cracked ribs, and his right ankle was severely sprained. After each assessment he mentally locked each injury away in his mind blocking the pain. He looked around and saw Signalman lying on his back ten feet away. No one else was around them as the warehouse fire began to spread to the nearby buildings.

He limped over toward Signalman. As he got closer, he noticed the awkward position his body was in and knew that the blast caused more severe damage than it had, to Hellhound.

“I can’t see!” Signalman gasped out. “Is anyone there?”

Hellhound leaned down next to him. “I am here.”

“Hellhound? Bless you kind sir! I can’t move my legs and I can’t see! Please get me out of here! I am so afraid.”

“Yes of course, but in case you don’t make it, you must tell me the location of the gold!”

“The gold? If I tell you, you must promise to take me away from here.”

“I promise you will go to a better place.” Hellhound replied as he leaned down closer toward Signalman. Barely able to speak Signalman spoke into his ear. Hellhound was confused and quickly grew angry at what he heard. “That doesn’t tell me anything you fool!”

“That is all I know.” Signalman choked on his own blood as he spoke. “The other half of the location is only known by one other.”

“Why didn’t you say that in the first place?” Hellhound yelled. “Where is this other person?”

“On the inside.” Signalman felt his chest begin to collapse. Hellhound put his head down closer to Signalman’s mouth as he uttered his last words. “Belle Reve.”

Hellhound shook him but it was already too late, he was dead. “Son of a bitch!” He yelled out as he slowly stood up. There is no way he was going back to that place only to get tossed out on another fool mission. But what choice did he have when had no idea who the other person was. There had to be another way. And he knew just the person that could help him. But first he had to get out of there.

“Hellhound!” He heard Deadshot shout from a distance. There’s no way he is going back with those psychos! He looked down at the edge of the dock and saw a small boat about thirty feet away, obviously belonging to the group that ambushed them. He pushed the pain back further into his mind and began to run. He knew that Deadshot had been assigned to shoot anyone who deserted a mission, but it was only thirty feet and I counted on the fact that Deadshot wouldn’t be able to get a clear aim through the smoke and flames.

Hellhound felt a single bullet hit his shoulder as he dove inside the boat. He pushed back the pain as he started the engine and pushed the throttle as far forward as it would go. He turned and saw Deadshot standing there on the docks. Hellhound flipped him off before he turned the boat north and headed down the coastline.

Two days later

Gotham City-

“That’s right sweetheart. I want to pay you twenty-five thousand dollars a week to attend Gotham University.” Noah said through his headset as he roamed through his office.

“You want me to pretend to be a college student and get close to a college professor who’s a cripple in a wheel chair?” Blythe Bonner, also known as the criminal Byte, replied. “Is this some friend of yours who is paying you to fulfill a sexual fantasy or something because I am not into role playing!”

Noah laughed. He was in the zone and his plan was coming together brilliantly. He was preparing for the time when Waller would push back after he threatened to expose the existence of the Suicide Squad to every major newspaper in the world. She would certainly come after him and when she did, she would only find an unsuspecting college professor with a shady background. But he had to ensure that the guy he planned to setup would look as suspicious as he had planned. That was where Byte came in.

“There is no hidden agenda or anything kinky involved. Get close to the man. Plant a few things in his apartment. Maybe even flirt a little. But make sure he is the right place at the right time.”

“Sounds weird to me,” She said hesitantly.

“Would it sweeten the deal if I told you that if you did this it would most certainly cause grief for your brother?”

“My brother huh? Well I am not sure how doing this would affect him, but that little bastard has it out for me as it is, so any chance to screw with him imore/i sounds like a plan to me.”

Noah knew their family background well. A few months back Byte had used her brother Bernard’s powers to swindle corporations out of millions, until they were caught. Blythe turned on her brother and cut a deal with the police. She escaped from a minimum-security prison and he was stuck in Belle Reve doing hard time. Blythe had no interest in seeing her brother get out of prison and come after her.

“You’re a doll Blythe. I’ll shoot you over the details later today.” Noah said as his other line buzzed. “Gotta go sweetheart. Bye-bye.”

“Calculator you gotta help me!” a voice yelled into his ear as he switched calls.

“Hellhound my dear boy! I wondered when you would turn up. Still stuck in Africa I take it?”

“Not sure how you knew that, but yeah, and I need to get back to America quick.”

“Last time we spoke I recall you saying that my services were overpriced and overrated.”

“Forget all that! If you get me home I am willing to cut you in on the biggest payday of a lifetime. I just need safe passage out of here first.”

“Not good enough Kai.” Noah smugly replied.

“Well, is one hundred million in gold good enough for you?”

“It’s a start. Where is this gold?”

“That’s part of the problem. I know half of the location but someone else knows the rest and I don’t know who. That’s where you come in with all your connections and all. Find the person and we get the gold.”

“And how do you propose I find this other person if you don’t know who it is?”

“I know where they are. They are locked up in a place I just got free from, Belle Reve prison.”

Noah stopped pacing as it took a moment for it to register what he just heard. “Did you say Belle Reve?” Noah glanced up at over a dozen monitors and smiled.

One week after the Squads disastrous mission in Algeria

Belle Reve-

Calculator watched the monitor as Bronze Tiger and Amanda Waller attempted to recruit Calendar Man. He had to laugh as he zoomed in on the blank look on Ben Turner’s face.

“Poor guy doesn’t know how to respond to that now does he? Good for you Julian. Keep those pompous jerks on their toes.”Noah spoke as he dialed a number.

Julian Day stood up as the guards came back into the room “You should have waited until tomorrow.” He called after Amanda and Ben as they turned to leave. “On May 28th, 1934, quintuplets were born in Callender, Ontario. They were the first quintuplets to survive infancy. Tomorrow would have been a much better day for me!”

Calendar Man turned and the guards escorted him out of the room. Once the door behind him was shut the guard spoke. “You have a phone call C Man.”

Julian looked curiously as the other guard handed him a cell phone. “Good show in there Julian.”

“Do my ears deceive me or is this the infamous Calculator? Are you still wearing that illogical costume with the giant numbers on it?”

“You’re one to talk about ones attire, but no the costume has seen its day come and pass.”

“Ahh, better days indeed old friend. So what do I owe the pleasure of your time?”

“I just wanted to say bravo to declining their offer in there and I want to offer you a job that might be more appealing to you.”

“I am intrigued my good man. I recall the good old days when we sat around trying to find ways to best the Batman with the Clock King. Now he has a costume that oozed style didn’t he? Good times indeed! What did you have in mind this time?”

“Well there are a couple of things, but first I want you to say hello to your personal assistances.” Noah said as Day looked up curiously at the two guards. “These two are going to be working for you from now on as you will need to be able to move freely throughout the prison.”

“You present an interesting deal, but I will only agree on two conditions. One, no more drugs. I am tired of the fog and having to act crazy all the time.”

“Done.” Noah replied.

“And secondly, I want a calendar. Something nice with pretty flowers and quotes from Jane Austen.” Calendar Man beamed.

“Sure thing Julian; anything to keep you from having to act crazy anymore.”

Later that same evening

Belle Reve-

Timing was everything. And calculating when to make a move was something Noah Kuttler excelled at. The revelation that someone inside Belle Reve knew the other half of the location to a hidden fortune in gold meant that a few adjustments had to be made to his overall plan. The idea of blackmailing Waller was out for now. But Noah was still irritated that Vandal Savage was using his surveillance of Belle Reve for more than just observing Rick Flagg.

He decided that the time was right to let Waller know that someone had tipped off Deadline in Algeria, allowing him to assemble an armed assault team to ambush the Squad. That same someone was tracking the team of Manhunter, Vixen, and Black Orchid as the pursued Deadline to France. It wasn’t that he truly wanted to help Waller in anyway. He had decided that if it wasn’t in his best interest to blackmail her, the least he could do was mess with her in the meantime. And making her think he was helping her would certainly do the trick.

Noah wasn’t certain if it was Savage who was using inside information to track the Squad, or if it was Eiling and the Council. If it was Savage, Noah could cause him a little hassle in the process. Of course he calculated the risk of exposing himself in the process and decided it would be worth it. He already had Jack Marshall setup to take the fall if it came down to it. Besides it would be only a matter of time before Julian Day was able to discover who inside Belle Reve knew the location of the gold. Once he had his hands on one hundred million, the three million that Savages was dangling on a string would seem petty by comparison.

After making contact with one of the staff at Belle Reve, Noah watched on the monitor as the John Economos nervously dialed Waller’s room. A few minutes later Waller was standing in the communications room at Belle Reve. It was show time!

Two minutes later

“The Squad is being set-up. You need to call them back from their mission.” Noah spoke through the digital converter that disguised his voice. He wanted to keep Amanda guessing. He wanted her to think long and hard if he was really trying to help or not? He knew from his observations that Waller wasn’t the type to sit still when others were in control. And he controlled this moment and took great delight in watching her squirm.

“I can’t do that.” Amanda sighed as Noah zoomed the camera in on her face.

“Well than you better start looking real hard for your leak. I will get back with you soon. If you need me before then, have Flo leave me a message on your main server. I will find it.” Let her know that he had some access inside Belle Reve without revealing that he had total access to the entire facility. That would be his secret for now.

“And if we do that who should we address you as?” Amanda said.

That was a question that Noah had asked himself when this scenario played through his mind earlier in the day. He needed something grand, something with flare. But also something that truly fit the role he was playing here. It was right then and there that the perfect name came to him in a flash of brilliance. “You can call me Oracle.” He replied.

Two day later

Belle Reve-

The Squad had returned the day before from its mission from Qurac. Their track record hadn’t been too good lately, with its second mission in a row that had ended in disaster. Noah found it comical that a group called the Suicide Squad often came back alive but the missions always seemed to die from failure. They should all be euthanized for performing so poorly out in the field. But damn it made good television when they came back! Noah watched closely on the monitor as Waller confronted Flagg in her office.

“There is something that’s still bothering me about that though. If Eiling was in bed with Marlo than it couldn’t have been him that sabotaged the missions in Algeria or in France.”

“Yeah, makes sense.” Flagg commented.

“Of course it does you big idiot.” Noah spoke to the image of Flagg in the monitor. “Eiling is locked up inside Belle Reve now. Noah sat back as a thought suddenly came to him. He wondered if he should contact Eiling. He would make in interesting ally down the road.

“So someone else wanted Marlo dead. Someone who was always one step ahead of the Squad in the field.” She paused as she leaned back in her chair.

“You are a smart woman Waller. If it wasn’t Eiling than who was it?” Noah again spoke to the monitor.

“You think it’s someone on the inside?” Flagg asked.

“Or someone who hacked in from the outside. Either way I will find out and I know exactly where to start looking.” Amanda pondered.

“You are still off the mark Amanda. But you start looking because I will be ready.” Noah waved his finger back and forth. He then watched as Flagg stood up and headed toward the door.

“One last bit of business Flagg.” Waller said as Flagg stopped.

He turned back around and faced her.

“After reading all the field reports. I have one question for you?” She said standing up. “Why did you kill Marlo?”

That got Kuttler’s attention. From what he had gathered, it wasn’t Flagg but Eve Eden who had killed Marlo, though he hadn’t been able to confirm that yet.

“I don’t have an answer for that.” Flagg said. “Is that all?”

“Yes. But as of right now you are removed as field leader effective immediately.”

Flagg didn’t say a word but turned back around and headed out the door.

Noah watched Flagg closely. It seemed that the tough guy was ready to crack. Noah flipped through the channels as he kept track of Flagg as he headed down the hallway and turned the corner. Waller would have to wait for now. Noah had a hunch that things with Flagg were about to get interesting as he headed toward the room where Dolphin was staying in.

He lost track of him for a moment but was finally able to pick him back up again to see Flagg lean down and kiss her on the forehead.

“Hi Dol. Are you doing better now?”

“That’s right Flagg you sure have a way with the ladies don’t you?” Noah said as he tapped his finger on the monitor.

“I am sorry for the way I acted.” She whispered as a tear ran down her cheek.

“Hey, it’s ok. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. What you said than about how you didn’t think it could be me, what made you think that?”

She hesitated at first, as she lay there looking up at him.

“Because ” She whispered, “I saw you die.”

“Well I didn’t see that one coming!” Noah immediately sat back in his chair. “Maybe that’s the reason Savage is so interested in Flagg. Makes me think that the three million bucks is back on the table!”

The next day

Belle Reve-

Noah watched Waller sit at her desk tapping her pencil against a pad of paper. She sat there like a fish in shallow water. Now would be a good time to throw some bait her way.

“Hello Amanda.” Noah’s digitally alerted voice spoke through the speakers on Waller’s desktop computer. He laughed at the sight of seeing such a large woman nearly fly out of her chair.

She ignored him until she was able to compose herself. “Oracle is it?”

“That is correct. I gather that you’ve been hard at work at trying to deduct who the leak in your organization is.”

“Amongst other things yes, but I am a busy woman and I don’t like how you can pop in here anytime you please.”

Noah clapped his hands and chuckled to himself. He did love having the ability to mess with her anytime he pleased. “Well I just wanted to let you know that I am only here to help you and in time you will come to see how useful I can be.”

“Really? Why don’t you begin with telling me who you are and why you have chosen to be so helpful?”

“Who I am isn’t as important as what I can do for you. I can tell you that you are looking in the wrong foxhole for your leak and there will most certainly be consequences if you, or anyone residing at Belle Reve, attempts to locate me.”

“You are one smug son of a bitch aren’t you?” Waller broke the pencil in her hand.

“Well I guess it is true that we can smell our own kind. Oracle out.”

Later that same day

Calendar Man waited as the guard opened the door to the cell. When the door had completely opened, Calendar Man entered the small 8×10 cell and immediately addressed the man lying in the bed. “Good evening kind sir.”

The man barely looked up as Julian sat down across from him. “That didn’t take long did it? Phil has been dead less than two weeks and here you are poking around looking for more volunteers to shove in a body bag. Well you can forget it! After seeing how Signalman exited this life I prefer to stay put. No crazy top secret missions for me.”

“Are you finished?” Calendar Man smiled, “Ok good. I believe that you are mistaken on whom I represent here this evening and why I am here. I am authorized to give you a deal. Anything you want in exchange for the other half of the location of the gold treasure.”

The man looked at him as he tried to hide his disbelief. “So Phil gave me up before he died it seems.”

“No. Finding you proved to be slightly more difficult than I had first imagined. But for being a prison where majority of the inmates are locked in solitary confinement you’d be surprised at how strong the grapevine is. That is how I found you, Kadaver.”

“Well if you know who I am than you most certainly know that I could kill you without exerting an ounce of effort.” Kadaver flashed a grin at Julian.

“Oh my dear man you must realize that if I had the ability to enter your cell so freely than the people on the other side of that door would quickly come to my aid if any harm were to be inflicted upon me. Now if you’re finished playing, Lestat, let’s get down to business shall we? What do you require for the location of the gold?”

Kadaver continued to stare at Calendar Man as he attempted to remain unfazed. “I want out of here. And I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the escape is fool proof. Then and only then will I lead your boss to the gold. From there he gets the same deal I had with Phil. Fifty-fifty, right down the middle.”

Calendar Man stood up and brushed his hands across the front of his pants. “Very well then. I will present your offer and you will be contacted once a suitable test can be arranged. Good evening sir.”

The door slide open and Calendar Man bowed before he exited the cell.

Several hours later

After Calendar Man relayed his findings to Calculator, Noah quickly got to work on a plan that would demonstrate to Kadaver that he would be able to escape Belle Reve without getting caught. The plan itself would be simple enough using the detailed layout out of the prison he had previously obtained from his fellow associate, Lockup. Getting into the prison would be easy. Next would be finding a straightforward escape route while avoiding the all but certain interference from the Suicide Squad. For that he needed to get in touch with a washed up has been of a villain who once called himself the Cosmic King. He had been a very book-smart man but never had a solid vision on how to achieve his goals. Noah knew that he was always desperate for some quick cash and he could buy his cosmic teleportation device off of him cheap.

The part of the plan that presented the biggest challenge would be finding a volunteer who would be dim-witted enough to break into a prison but still have the skill to pull it off.

He decided to put that decision off for the moment and concentrate on who would be a good candidate to breakout of Belle Reve since he needed a volunteer of sorts. He sat down and scrolled through the inmate records. It would have to be someone who would be the most grateful for their release, someone who would remain indebted to him for a long time. After a few minutes he stopped when he came across the perfect person, Natalia Knight, Nocturna.

Noah had long been secretly in love with her ever since he saw her and her brother tangle with Batman a few years back. Her elegance and grace captivated him instantly. Her brother, on the other hand, was a very unstable individual who was obsessive and became emotionally unhinged at the thought of another man near his sister. That became more than apparent when Nocturna expressed a romantic interest in the Dark Knight. That had sent the Night-thief over the edge leading to the formation of another costumed identity, the Nightslayer. Ultimately after a late night robbery Batman captured Nocturna while Nightslayer managed to escape.

Everything clicked into place in Noah’s mind. Not only had he found the perfect person who would break Nocturna out, but he also knew how to remove Nightslayer for the picture entirely, leaving her to focus her attention completely on him.

The following day

Calculator continued to observe as Waller went through the motions exactly like he thought she would. She pulled Bernard Bonner out of his cell and offered him a deal. He would use his abilities to trace Oracle to his source. In turn that would lead Bug directly to Jack Marshall where Bugs sister, Blythe had been playing the role of flirty college student to perfection, ensuring that Jack Marshall would be apprehended and taken to Belle Reve.

Noah watched closely as Bug returned eager to tell Waller ‘Oracles’ location. In return he expected Waller to use all her resources to track down Blythe Bonner and see to it that she was locked up in a cell next to his. Of course Waller had no intention of following through with her end of the bargain. Ironically Bug never considered that Waller lied, nor did he realize how close he had gotten to Blythe himself. The stupid idiot deserved to be locked back up in his cell.

Noah watched as a dumbfounded Bug was taken away and Waller picked up the phone. She called in a favor to the FBI to have Marshall brought in for questioning at Belle Reve.

That was his cue to prepare the next step in his plan. Noah turned and dialed a direct line at Belle Reve.

“Tell Julian to deliver the message to Boomerang. It’s time to infiltrate the Suicide Squad.”

Noah Kuttler stood up and looked out across the Gotham City skyline. The waiting had proven to be harder than juggling two schemes at the same time. But the waiting would soon be over. Once he had proven to Kadaver that he could successfully break him out of Belle Reve he would contact Hellhound and arrange for him to break Kadaver out and send them after the gold.

Once the gold was secured and Waller had seen how foolish she had been to go after him he decided he would blackmail her anyway. And just for the fun of it, he would reveal the existence of the Squad whether she chose to pay or not.

Two days later

At dawn Nightslayer broke into Belle Reve dressed as the Batman. It had been far too easy to manipulate him into rescuing his sister. Little did Anthon Knight know that the plan all along was for her to escape while he was left behind to take the fall. Noah had been pleasantly surprised that Nocturna was willing to go along with the plan when Noah had Calendar Man contact her the previous day.

By nightfall Nocturna was on her way to Gotham City and Nightslayer was in a holding cell. Noah wasn’t worried if he told anyone at Belle Reve the details of the plan or who arranged it, because he never had any direct contact with Nightslayer when he arranged for him to break his sister out. Even if he did he was too messed up in the head to give them any solid leads. Besides in the morning Waller will be too distracted to even care. Jack Marshall will be wheeled into Belle Reve leading Amanda Waller to believe she has captured the infamous Oracle.

As the Calculator was too busy basking in his imminent victory, the live feed on another monitor showed Rick Flagg in San Diego as he finally revealed the secret that Vandal Savage had been so desperate to discover.

The following morning

Noah ate breakfast as he watched Jack Marshall be interrogated by Waller. It was hard not to feel sorry for the guy. His only crime being that he fit the profile and had been in the wrong place at the right time. Noah raised his piece of toast as he saluted him.

After Waller sent Marshall to a holding cell Noah flipped over to another feed to see Calendar Man make his offer to Boomerang.

“You are the only one who can get close enough. Than perhaps we can work on taking care of some of the other menaces who roam the Belle’s halls, namely Floyd Lawton.” Calendar Man said to Boomerang.

“There you go, crazy man. Push the Deadshot button. Perfect.” Noah said as he again raised a piece of toast in salute.

“Forget it. If the Wall catches wind of this, we’re all dead.”

“Mrs. Waller will continue to be preoccupied with other matters. But if you need to be convinced of the seriousness of the offer ” Julian Day paused as he pulled out a folded piece of paper and set it in front of Boomerang. “Here are five hundred thousand reasons to reconsider. The money is already in an offshore account with your name on it.”

“I think you and I can have a go at this.” Boomerang said as he carefully studied the bank transfer notice. He began to smile as he slowly pulled himself to his feet. “Who do you want dead?”

Noah dropped his fork on his plate and pumped his fist in the air “Perfect. Marshall should be dead within the hour. We’ll see how Queen Waller likes them apples!”

After a long hot shower Noah sat back down to rewind what he may have missed on the live feeds. He stopped when he saw Waller rip into her head of security, Daniel Murphy.

“Poor guy. He shouldn’t have to put up with her abuse. But at least I pay him well.” Noah continued to fast forward until he came to Boomerang exiting Jack Marshall’s cell. “Good boy Boomerang. I might even consider paying you for real now.”

After catching up to real time events Noah sat back and watched Waller in her office. “Within the hour Murphy will inform that stupid twit of a warden, who will than call Waller to informer her that Marshall was found dead in his cell.”

“Do you get any satisfaction talking to the television like that?” A woman’s voice said from the doorway.

“Nocturna darling! You have arrived.” Noah stood up and walked toward her.

“Of course. It’s the least I could do considering the lengths you went through to see that I was released.” She embraced him. “Later I must show you how much I appreciate those lengths. But for now you have to fill me in on what is so fascinating on those video screens.”

“Sweetheart, it’s been one hell of a good season so far! And the season finale is coming up real soon!” Noah yelled out gleefully as he took hold of Natalia’s hand, “I hope they resolve everything by the end but you know those network bastards. They’ll find a way to throw in a cliffhanger to get you to come back next season!”

Like a small child at Christmas time showing off his presents, Noah explained his grand plan that had unfolded over the course of several months. Natalia nodded and rubbed his neck when he was able to sit still long enough. He stopped in mid-sentence when they heard the phone ring in Waller’s office.

He quickly sat down in front of the monitor as Natalia came up and stood behind him. “This is it! Just watch and listen.” He exclaimed.

“Waller its Economos! He’s dead Amanda. Jack Marshall is dead!”

“What? How?” She snapped into the receiver.

“So that’s the bitch that held me in her prison?” Nocturna asked as she gently tugged on Noah’s hair.

“Yes in her moment of glorious defeat!” Noah shouted as he reached over and grabbed his laptop.

“We aren’t able to pull up the video feed from his cell block but the guards found him with his throat slit during bed checks a few minutes ago.”

“Of course they don’t have that video.” Noah said looking up at Nocturna, “I deleted it from their system so I have the only copy.”

“I want this place lit up and locked down now! I will be down there in two minutes. Oh and John, make sure Murphy is somewhere I can’t find him or he’s a dead man as well!” Waller yelled before slamming the phone down.

“You really pissed her off haven’t you darling?” Nocturna whispered in his ear.

“Now I drive home the final nail.” Noah said as he began to type on the laptop.

They watched as Waller pushed her chair back and began to stand up when she heard her computer ding and a message box appeared on her monitor.

“You picked up the wrong guy Amanda.” The message blinked in front of her. “I told you there should be no attempts to try and find me. Now an innocent man is dead. This will be your one and only warning. Next time I won’t play so nice.”

Amanda reached out and knocked the computer monitor off her desk. Noah closed the laptop in victory. He stood up and wrapped his arms around Nocturna. Everything about her captivated him and she was all his. Everything he ever dreamed of was coming true. Everything! It was good to be the king!

The next afternoon

Noah slowly rose out of bed. He had spent the entire night celebrating his victory over Waller and had slept in later than he had planned. He walked over and put his headset on and sat down in front of the video feeds. He was quickly drawn to a panicky Calendar Man who nervously paced back in forth in his small cell.

“What the hell has him so riled up?” Noah uttered as he connected directly to Julian’s room. “Julian what’s the matter?”

“Everything is the matter! It’s like Friday the thirteenth and leap year all happening on the same day, which is impossible right?” Calendar Man began to yell as he looked up at the video camera in the corner of his cell.

“Slow down your not making any sense.”

“You know what doesn’t make sense? Kadaver is dead!”

“What? How?” Noah shot up out of his chair.

“I went to talk to him just like you asked, and when I got to his cell he was dead! And I found this!” Julian shoved a book up toward the camera shaking it back and forth, “You know what this is? It’s Kadavers journal with several pages torn out and a message in big bold letter across the front!”

Julian stopped moving the book long enough for Noah to make out the words:

KADAVER CASHED OUT. THERE’S A NEW PLAYER AT THE TABLE NOW. ANTE UP!

 

 

No visible means of support and you have not seen nuthin’ yet

Everything’s stuck together

I don’t know what you expect starring into the TV set

Fighting fire with fire

Hold tight wait till the party’s over

Hold tight We’re in for nasty weather

There has got to be a way

Burning down the house.”

The Talking Heads- “Burning Down the House”

Prelude-

There is an old Russian proverb that goes: ‘Once burned by milk you will blow on cold water’. It’s meant to be a reminder that after a painful experience you are more likely to be on your guard against similar sufferings.

Valentina Vostok stopped believing in the wisdom of proverbs a long time ago. Her father had always been quick to quote them to her when she was young. She blamed her mother for that. Anytime she got into trouble as a small girl, her mother sent her to her father for discipline. She was forced to sit in the corner of the kitchen for hours and wait until he returned from work. He would walk in and sit down on a stool next to her. He would then take a deep breath as he untied his boots. She would watch as he slowly pulled them off and then spent the next several minutes rubbing his feet until the circulation returned to them.

He would than stand up and without asking her what she had done he would recite works from the likes of Turgenev or Kheraskov from memory. She secretly looked forward to the several minutes he would often spend with her. He was well read and she would never forget the way his tired eyes would light up when he recited his favorite works to her. But more often than not, when he felt that what she had done deserved true punishment, he would simply stand and quote a proverb. He would than pat her on the head and then sit at the table and eat what was left over from supper before finally heading off to bed.

By the time she was twelve, she began to ignore her mother and refused to sit and wait for her father to ‘punish’ her. She felt that she was too old to be treated like a child and didn’t need silly stories or proverbs any longer. Her father died a year later. Her mother died of a broken heart six months after that. Val spent the next five years in foster care until joining the military on her eighteenth birthday. After four years, the Russian Air Force didn’t prove to be the escape she had hoped it would and looked for a way out. A way out soon found her.

During the unrest that continued after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Valentina Vostok was approached by an unnamed U.S. agency to steal an experimental Russian fighter jet. The plan was for her to steal the jet and defect to the United States. Something happened during the flight, forcing the plane to crash. The plane was lost in the ocean but Val emerged from the water possessing the ‘energy being’, which had previously inhabited the body of the missing Doom Patrols Larry Trainor. As a result, her body had to be wrapped entirely in chemically treated bandages to protect others from the harmful energy that possessed her.

Val found her way to the U.S. but was informed that since the plane was destroyed, the unnamed agency refused to honor their end of the bargain by offering her amnesty. In the end they claimed that no such deal ever existed. Val suddenly found herself homeless and without work. For a short time, she used her powers as ‘Negative Woman’ and fought alongside a new team that went by the name Doom Patrol. Val left the team one night without telling anyone.

Soon after, she encountered several agents from Russia who unsuccessfully attempted to extradite her back to her former country. Afterward, she stayed in hiding and found some success using her skills as a security advisor on a work for hire basis.

It was during that time that Amanda Waller came across a file detailing the deal the government supposedly never made with Vostok. She recruited Val to head up her newly assembled team, Task Force X. In exchange, Waller would use her connections to “smooth things over” with the Russian government.

Several months after becoming the field leader for Task Force X, the negative being abandoned Valentina and returned to Larry Trainor permanently. She than found that she no longer had the need to be wrapped in protective bandages. She continued to lead Task Force X until the aftermath of the Apokolips crisis forced the Presidents right-hand man, Sarge Steel, to disband the team.

The aftermath of the crisis had also left the Suicide Squad in shambles. Amanda Waller had taken a bullet to the brain and all but a few Squad members had flown the coupe. Sarge Steel saw that as an opportunity to rebuild the Squad more to his liking. Val was offered a new position replacing Waller as the head of the Suicide Squad. To ensure her cooperation, he threatened to send her back to Russia where she was still a wanted criminal. She found herself unable to refuse.

Two days after assuming her new position at Belle Reve, Val received news from her doctor. The years of being possessed by the negative energy being had wreaked havoc with her body and left her with terminal cancer. But after months of aggressive treatment showed little success, Val found herself desperate and without hope. She hadn’t confided in anyone at Belle Reve or the new Suicide Squad she had assembled. She wanted to stay strong but knew her body was slowly betraying her.

At night she would cry herself asleep as she tried to recall one of her fathers proverbs that would be the most relevent to what she was going through. She wished she had spent more time with her father

PART TWO:

6 months ago

Belle Reve-

Click-clack. Click-clack. The sound of Val’s boots echoed down the long corridor. She continued to walk down a section of the prison she hadn’t been to yet in the six months since assuming her new position. It was the section commonly referred to as ‘The Pit’ or ‘The Cage’ and housed the most dangerous and powerful metas incarcerated inside Belle Reve. It was an area that she quickly determined off limits even when recruiting members for the Squad. But when looking through Waller’s old ‘body-count’ list of prisoners she came across two names she hadn’t noticed before. One of those names belonged to someone she hadn’t seen or heard from in over a year.

Val stopped in front of the cell and nodded up toward one of the cameras positioned in the corridor. The cell door clicked and than slowly opened. She took a deep breath before entering the dimly lit cell.

“Hello Joshua.” She nervously spoke to the man lying in the cell. The door closed behind her and she soon felt extremely claustrophobic. Val hadn’t realized how small the seven by ten foot cell was. The man in the bunk sat up as the lights inside were turned on. Val waved her hand toward the camera in the corner of the cell. “We now have complete privacy.”

“Lady, what the hell are you doing in here? I told them nine months ago that I no longer wanted or needed legal representation.” The man spoke while shielding his eyes from the light.

Val sat down on the bolted chair next to the bed. “I am not a lawyer Joshua.”

“Than what the ” Joshua Clay stopped himself in mid-sentence. His eyes had only just begun to focus but when he looked into her eyes he knew, “Val?”

She laughed slightly as she shifted uneasily in the chair. “That didn’t take near as long as I thought it would.”

“It is you. The bandages?”

“Gone right along with Negative Woman. Now I am just me.”

He continued to stare at her. “How did it happen?”

“It’s a long story.”

“As you can see.” He said raising his arms up in front of him, “I have nothing but time. But what the hell are you doing? It’s dangerous here. You shouldn’t ”

“That’s the same question I asked when I came across your file, Josh.” Val said turning to face him.

“You know why I am here Val. I killed people. It was only a matter of time before my past caught up with me. After you left the Doom Patrol without saying a word to anyone, there was no reason to pretend any longer that I was a superhero.”

“So you turned yourself in and confessed to a crime that wasn’t your fault?”

“Fourteen people died when I couldn’t control my powers, Val. Six of them were members of my own unit for Gods sake!”

“It was war, Josh! You were being held prisoner and tortured! I know we never talked about this before but I read your file. It wasn’t your fault.”

“That wasn’t a war. That was a conflict with a collection of people that choose to believe in an ideology that Uncle Sam found threatening. We shouldn’t have even been there.”

“So you choose to punish yourself by being locked up in here? You don’t belong here, Joshua!”

“And where do I belong than, Val?” Josh put his head down, “You haven’t told me why you are here. Why now when you choose to skip out back than without even a goodbye? You were the only thing good about being in the Doom Patrol. I saw how beautiful you were even with the bandages. I thought there was a chance for us and you just ”

“I need your help.” Val began to cry, “I’m dying Joshua.”

Gotham City-

Six months had passed since Kadaver was killed inside Belle Reve and the Calculator had been given a message that someone else had taken his place. Someone who found out that there was one hundred million dollars in gold hidden out there and wanted a piece of the action. As furious as Noah was at first, he grew even more so when the mystery person refused to make any contact with him until a few days ago.

For months, Noah watched Belle Reve hoping to discover a clue as to who had been playing games with him. His first suspect had been Daniel Murphy, Belle Reves head of security. Murphy had been one of the first people Noah bought off when he secured the video and audio feeds inside the prison. He questioned Murphy as to why there wasn’t any video of Kadavers cell the day he was murdered. Murphy explained that there were glitches in the system and the feeds often went off line for several hours at a time. As much as he distrusted Murphy, he explanation was consistent with what Noah had observed in the past with the feeds. He still continued to monitor Murphy very closely and warned him what would happen if it were exposed that he was bribed into providing unauthorized access to a federal facility. That was certainly enough to keep him in line, at least for the time being.

His other suspect had been George ‘Digger’ Harkness. Noah had hired Boomerang to kill Jack Marshall inside his cell. Amanda Waller had held Marshall there because she suspected him to be Oracle. Of course it had all been part of his plan to set-up Marshall to take the fall if Waller went after him. Noah than turned around and threatened Waller after the murder took place. His Oracle identity had remained secure and he had once again put Waller in her place.

Noah quickly determined that Boomerang couldn’t have killed Kadaver either. He was too busy complaining and certainly wasn’t bright enough to do anything that bold even if he was aware of the gold, which Noah was certain that he wasn’t. He also had enough blackmail on Boomerang to shut him down if the need was ever to arise.

Several days after Noah had his showdown with Waller, the Apokolips crisis occurred and the world was quickly turned upside down. When the dust cleared, Waller was out and Vostok was in. The changing of the guard hadn’t concerned Noah in the least. He would find a way to mess with her just like he had with Waller. But his first priority was still discovering who killed Kadaver and how he would secure the gold.

In the meantime he continued to focus on his developing relationship with Natalia Knight. She had been the person he had chosen to break out of Belle Reve to prove to Kadaver that he could safely get him out and in turn lead him to the gold. If she suspected that he had used her, she certainly hadn’t let on to the fact. She stayed with him and continued to show how grateful she was that he broke her out of prison. In turn, he fed her designer drugs that keep her sensitivity to light in check. The drugs side effects were also beneficial as well, keeping her docile and content and out of the in the way when he needed to conduct business.

Of course business hadn’t been as good since the crisis ended. It was as if the war had driven the criminal element into hiding and the others that remained active for the past six months had lost their edge. And in turn, their need for his particular form of information was no longer relied upon as much. Add that to the fact that he never heard back from Scandal Savage meant that he was out the other three million he was still owed and was nearly broke. He should have known better than to trust her.

The stress of running out of money as well as his problems inside Bell Reve had slowly gotten to him. He had begun taking a combination of Lithium carbonate and Barbexaclone to counter his frequent mood swings. The drugs were a temporary solution and once he found the gold he wouldn’t have a worry in the world. He could stop taking them anytime he wanted to. He remined myself of that fact every time he popped another pill.

“Perhaps today is finally that day my friends.” Noah spoke as he anxiously sat in front of the Belle Reve monitors and waited. He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a small pill vial. His hand shook as he dropped two yellow pills into his palm and than quickly popped them into his mouth. He slipped the vial back into his pocket and leaned closer to the monitors.

A few hours ago, Calendar Man had been informed that the mystery person was ready to negotiate a deal. Calendar Man informed Noah that the new player wanted a face-to-face. Noah flipped over to a secure feed inside the mans cell and activated the two-way audio channel.

“So here we are.” Noah spoke into his headset, “Why don’t you start by telling me why you waited until now to do this?”

The man stood up in his cell and looked around. “So you can see and hear me in here and all I can do is hear you? This wasn’t the face-to-face I requested.”

“Well if you expected me to come visit you there you’re crazy. I don’t do prisons. This is the best you get, so talk.” Noah said tapping the monitor in front of him.

“Prisons of the mind are no less than steel bars now are they?” The man said as he began to pace back and forth inside his cell, “Regardless, the timing wasn’t right back than and I saw no need to move forward until now. The secret to luck is all in timing you know?”

“I believe in making my own luck so lets get on with it already.” Noah was getting irritated with this man. He wanted to reach out and squeeze his tiny head through the monitor until it popped. “You get the same deal Kadaver had. I organize a breakout and once you are out you meet with my man who has the other half of the location and the two of you secure the gold. Now I ”

The man raised his hand up toward the camera to interrupt Noah, “Yeah, I am well aware of how your previous demonstration worked. As impressive as that was it won’t work for me.”

“Won’t work for you?” Noah laughed, “This is not a negotiation. These are the terms of the deal.”

“I want something bigger or there is no deal.”

“Bigger?”

“I want my escape to go unnoticed. Scot-free in fact. If it appears that I died no one would have reason to come looking for me would they?”

“So what are you suggesting?” Noah said as he attempted to remain calm.

“I want you to blowup the prison.” He stated matter-of-factly.

Noah sat back and crossed his arms across his chest. “Interesting. A bit excessive don’t you think?

“You’re telling me that you don’t want to see this place burn?”

Noah thought about that for a moment. “With all that chaos, how can you be certain that you would survive?”

“It would be in your best interest to see that I do. Besides, I think that luck is on my side.” Amos Fortune looked directly into the camera and smiled.

Val had thought that meeting with Joshua Clay earlier that morning would be the hardest thing she had to do that day but she soon realized she had been wrong. She made her second trip to ‘The Pit’ a few hours later to meet with a dangerous Metahuman that she needed help from. The thought of being near this person frightened her beyond reason. When she came across his name on Waller’s old list there had been a note written off to the side: Reactron: a.k.a. Martin Krull-

Metahuman, possible mutation based. Linked to the Council and Eiling through the Atom Project phase II.

Ability to absorb energy and release in controlled powerful blasts through hands.

Maximum power level unknown due to immeasurable threshold to radiation consummation. Estimated power level at 10+

Extremely dangerous and unstable both physically and mentally.

Recommend mission status- extinction-level event only

Val sat across from Martin Krull’s cell separated by only a thick layer of tempered glass and imagined what Waller would think. This was certainly not the type of ‘extinction-level event’ mission she may have been referring to when evaluating Reactrons potential status for the Suicide Squad. But over the last six months, Val has done her fair share of recruiting from this prison but today was different. The only mission she was concerned with was a personal one. She was in the fight of her life and down to her last chance.

“So that’s the deal.” Val said trying to hide the trepidation in her voice.

Krull slowly began to pace back and forth. His cell illuminated red from the beams that penetrated his cell and absorbed excess energy before he could take it in and turn it into radiation. The beams current setting allowed him enough energy to slowly move around in his cell but nothing more.

“Lady do you know how many people I have killed?” Krull replied.

“I’ve read your file.”

“My file huh? I doubt they got the count right. Just add a zero to whatever number they have and you might be close.”

“At this point, your past crimes are irrelevant here.”

“Oh, I don’t think so because we both know that I ain’t ever walking out of here alive no matter what you say.”

“You do this and you’re a free man.”

“All those people dead and it won’t mean spit if I save just one life?” Krull began to laugh, “I ain’t never been to church but even God can’t offer a deal like that. What makes you think you can?”

“Because the life I want you to save is mine.” Val stood up. “Right now I am God.”

Krull turned and began to walk toward her. He stopped within inches of the glass wall and laughed again. “Sure lady. That’s why you can’t stop shaking, wondering if this glass would hold or if I could burst through it right now?”

Val reached behind and braced herself with the chair. “Of course the alternative is I walk out of here and you continue to rot away in this cell for the rest of your life. You may live longer than me but at least I might be able to salvage some of my dignity before I go out. You had yours taken away from you a long time ago.”

Val slowly turned and headed toward the door. “You know what’s funny?” Val turned back to face him, “The man who ruined your life is sitting in a cell of his own safe and secure, not too far from here.”

“What the hell you talking about?” Reactron quickly replied.

“Wade Eiling. The man who promised to turn you into a superhero by detonating a nuclear bomb under you ass and make you the next Captain Atom. He’s here serving time, just like you. Do exactly as I say and if things go well, I might be inclined to authorize a visit for you. Maybe let you two catch up a bit before you properly thank him for all he’s done for you?”

Krull tapped his finger on the glass and smirked. “Alright lady, you got yourself a deal. I ain’t guaranteeing it will work but I will give it a shot to get a piece of him before busting out of here.”

Gotham City-

“This is insane.” Noah muttered as he watched events unfold inside Belle Reve.

“Are you talking to the television again?” Nocturna spoke as she came up behind the Calculator and glanced over at the monitor he was focused on. “What is that, some kind of medical show? How drab.”

“Not exactly. This woman is planning to let Doctor Mc-creepy operate on her.”

“Oh my mistake then.” She said before bending down to kiss him on the neck. “I am going out for a while tonight since there is nothing fun to do here.”

“Help yourself.” He waved back at her without looking away from the monitors. “Don’t attract any rodents out there tonight.”

“Don’t be jealous my love. I only have eyes for you.” Nocturna moved toward the door and stopped when she saw Noah’s pill vial on desk. She looked before she reached down and opened it up, quickly replacing several pills with some that she pulled out from another bottle. She than placed the vial back where she found it and continued toward door. She blew him a kiss before heading off into the night.

Belle Reve medical wing-

“I still don’t see how this is going to work.” Josh leaned down toward Val as not to be heard by the various medical staff in the room.

“It’s the only chance I have. Conventional radiation treatment has had no effect due to my prolonged exposure to the negative energy being.”

“You should let me run more tests. This isn’t safe.”

“There isn’t time. I trust the medical staff here to monitor everything but I feel safe having you watch over me.”

“Val I haven’t been a doctor for a long time. If something goes wrong ”

“I love you Joshua Clay.” Val said interrupting him. Josh looked down at her lying on the table and smiled. “I just thought you should know that just in case this doesn’t work.”

“I am not sure what to say.”

“Then don’t say anything, not yet. Just know that this could turn out to be a new beginning for both of us.”

“Do you know how long I have waited to hear those words come out of your mouth? There is no way I am letting you off the hook now.”

She reached up and held her hand to his cheek. “Good. Than lets do this so we can make up for lost time ok?” Tears began to well up in her eyes as Josh leaned back down and gently kissed her on the forehead. Another assistant released a sedative into the IV drip and within seconds Val was unconscious.

“Get her prepped.” Joshua looked up at the medical assistant and then nodded to the guards at the doorway. “Alright bring him in.”

The door opened and Reactron was escorted by several armed guards followed by two men wheeling in a machine behind him.

“Joshua Clay.” Reactron announced as he entered, “Blondie here didn’t tell me you were gonna be part of the deal. How’s life as a coward and a traitor been treatin’ you?”

The sight of Martin Krull made Josh sick. The two of them started off together in the Army and were stationed together before being shipped out separately. He hated him than but the animosity only grew over the years. Josh and him tangled a few times since than during his brief stint in the Doom Patrol as Nemesis. The last time led to Krull’s capture and eventually sentence to Belle Reve.

“Can it Krull. Do what you came here to do.” Joshua snapped back at him.

“And what are you here for huh? Are you my dessert if I eat all my supper?”

“No. I am here to take you down if you try anything stupid.” Josh answered back as he tried to maintain his composure.

Krull just looked at him and smiled, “What can I do? This machine I’m hooked up to won’t allow me to do anything but what I am told. I just hope the pretty lady here makes it through ok when they start pumping fuel into me.”

“If she doesn’t make it through this I will kill you.” Josh countered.

The smile quickly faded from Reactrons face. “If either of you back out on the deal I will cripple you and force you to watch me kill her slowly and painfully. And you better believe that she will wish she had died of cancer before I am done with her.”

Joshua Clay stood ready as Reactrons hands began to glow and he reached out toward an unconscious Valentina Vostok

Two weeks later

Joshua Clay slowly opened the door and poked his head inside. “I saw the light on in here and figured you were up.”

“Sorry. I couldn’t sleep.” Val said looking up from her desk. “Who gave you authorization to roam freely around here?”

“You did right after I saved your life remember?” Josh smiled at her. “You should at least be resting and not working.”

“Well I have a lot to catching up on from the past couple of weeks. I won’t be long I promise.”

“Well come back to bed soon ok?” Josh said before slowly closing the door behind him.

After he left, Val sat there staring at the computer screen in front of her. Her life was her own again and she was happy. Even being the leader of the Suicide Squad held more meaning than it had before. Maybe that had to do with Josh being there with her. Maybe she was just a little more appreciative of life in general after nearly losing hers. She felt stronger than she had in years and was determined to make the most of every second she could get. She was perhaps feeling a bit guilty about sending Reactron back to his cell after he saved her life. But there was no way she was going to follow through on a deal with a maniac like Krull. But she was certain that she wouldn’t be making a trip over to ‘The Pit’ anytime soon.

Val’s focus was quickly drawn to her computer when she saw a message pop up on her monitor.

Hello Valentina. Nice to see you up and about so soon after your surgery.

Who is this? She immediately typed back.

I am an old friend of Waller’s. I think she might be a little disappointed at what you’ve been doing there recently inside her prison.

That made Val pause. Her one fear was that if it got back to Steel what she had been up to lately, there would be hell to pay. She had been confident that she had been able to keep her battle with cancer a secret from him the entire time. She had been careful not to involve anyone beyond those she absolutely had to. Had she been wrong to place her trust with certain people inside these walls?

What concern is it of yours what goes on here? She responded.

Lets just say I have an invested interest in what goes on there. And I am looking out for your best interests as well as my own. It would be a shame if it got out that you used a dangerous prisoner for such a self-serving endeavor and then backed out on your end of the deal and shipped him back to his cell. Not to mention sharing a bed with another prisoner. That’s a lot of dirty laundry don’t you think?

I will not cave to blackmail you son of a bitch! Val typed, as she quickly grew angry.

Blackmail is such a nasty word. Just know that I am more than content to look the other way and in return  Well, I will get back with you. For now just know that I am always watching you. Oracle out. The message box blinked once and then was gone.

Val sat there for a moment trying to think. Who would want to blackmail her? If it were someone inside the prison why would they say ‘there’ instead of ‘here’? She closed out the file she had been working on and opened another window. She typed in the name Oracle and hit search. It quickly came back with zero results found. She than shut down the computer and stood up. Why did that name ring a bell? The person mentioned Waller by name. If she had dealt with them in the past she would have a file on them. She had a file on everyone.

Val walked over to the locked cabinet next to her desk and pulled out a key. One of the first things she learned about Amanda Waller was her distrust in computers. She had several hundred files that were typed up or handwritten locked up in the cabinet. Val hadn’t found the time to go through all of them but recalled seeing a file with the name Oracle on it when she first got there. She opened the cabinet and thumbed through the files until she found what she was looking for. It had been one of the last things Waller had been working on before the crisis occurred and she never returned from Washington D.C. to follow up on it.

She began to read everything Waller had written down. She felt a twist in her stomach when she came to the end of the document and read:

Belle Reve security has been compromised- check into Daniel Murphy.

The following morning

“I know what you’re thinking mate.” Boomerang said as he put his feet up on Daniel Murphy’s desk, “Maybe I am in too deep? Maybe I shouldn’t have taken the money and compromised my principles along with my cushy government job so some dag can have his way with this facility? Maybe I should have asked for more money up front? Maybe I’ve been asking some of those same questions myself.”

“Maybe you tell me what you want Boomerbutt.” Murphy said back.

“What I want is for both of us to finally get some pay off at this guys expense.”

“I told you before that he has video of you killing Marshall and threatened to use it against you.”

“You think I care about that? You gonna let some guy you never met bully you forever?”

“So what are you proposing we do? Go after the guy? The only one that might know who he is is that whack job Calendar Man and we both know that guy won’t crack.”

“Forget about going after him. I don’t really care who he is. But I do care about what he knows.” Boomerang stood up, “Word is the gold is back in play and a deal is going down soon. That’s the kind of action I want in on.”

“The gold? That bedtime tale has been floating around these walls for well over a year now. You really don’t believe in that myth do you?”

“People around here yabber a lot but I know the truth.” Boomerang smiled, “Help me find the new guy making a play and I will cut you in on the action.”

Before Murphy could respond he glanced over at one of the security monitors and saw Vostok heading down the hallway toward his office. “The boss lady is moving in quick. Get out of here.”

“Think about what I said Murph. That is if you’re finally tired of getting scraps thrown to you under the table.” Boomerang said before slipping out the other door.

Murphy jumped when Val pushed the door wide open. “Is this office secure?” She demanded.

“What do you mean Val?” he responded.

“Can your friend Oracle see or hear us in here?” She said sliding Wallers file across his desk toward him.

“Ummmm no.” He said in shock as he sat up in his chair.

“I didn’t think so.” She said, “Now I am going to give you one chance to set this right before I lock your ass up and throw away the key. “I want this guys name and I want it now.”

“I I don’t know who he is. We’ve never met in person. He’s been blackmailing me from the start. He ”

“Can it!” Val yelled out, “The only reason you’ve gotten away with this for so long is because Waller was shot before she could bring you down. No wonder you were so willing to help out with my situation. What, were you planning to blackmail me as well?”

“Val I never expected things to get out of control like they have. I just ”

“Didn’t I tell you to stop sniveling already? This ends today. First I want you to block his access to everything. Shut the whole damn network down if you have to. Can you do that?” Murphy slowly nodded his head, “Good. I also want Anton Knight brought in to a holding cell within the hour. It’s time we had a little chat.”

“I am impressed.” Val said. “You’ve been locked up in here for over half a year while you’re sister has been enjoying her freedom.”

Anton Knight sat there staring at her through the other side of the security glass but remained silent.

“Give me a name. You don’t owe him anything after he set you up like this right? Maybe he and your sister set this up from the beginning huh? Get you out of the way so they can have some alone time together?

“Do not speak of her in that way.” Nightslayer finally spoke.

“So the thought of him and her together gets you all worked up now does it? So you still want to remain loyal to him even though he’s shacking up with dear old sis?” Val watched as the anger in his eyes grew.

Nightslayer put his head down and began to take slow, calculated breaths. “Crimesmith contacted me and told me that he could arrange for me to rescue Natalia from this place.”

“So this Crimesmith arranged everything? He gave you the specs on the prison, a transport device, and a bat suit and sent you on your merry way?”

“No. The suit was mine.”

“Really? You just happen to have a Batman costume lying around? I don’t even want to know why.” Val said shaking her head, “Where can we find this Crimesmith?”

“Gotham City. I can show you. Than I will find my Natalia.”

“Once Oracle or Crimesmith, whatever he wants to call himself, is taken down than you are free to go. So for now, welcome to the Suicide Squad.”

Val stood up and headed out the door. She stopped when she heard her cell phone ring. She reached down and saw the caller id was blocked. The flipped open the phone. “Hello?”

“Not cool.” The voice said. “Not coo at all!”

She smiled when she realized that Murphy must have shut down the outside access to the security feeds, “How does it feel to be blind and deaf huh? Not much of an oracle now are you?”

“This is the only warning I am giving you!” Calculator responded, “You do not know what I am capable of so don’t push me!”

“I read everything about you and I wasn’t impressed.”

“Well than maybe this will impress you. Unblock my access to the prison or Sarge Steel will receive a disc showing him that Belle Reve has been turned into Melrose Place since you’ve been there.”

“Sorry. Still not impressed.”

“Then I will just have to blow up the prison than won’t I?” Noah yelled though the phone.

“You want to blow up a prison full of psycho killers and villains?’ Val yelled back. “Be my guest you maniac! I won’t stop you!”

“Interesting. I am not sure that Waller would have played that card.”

“I am not Waller. So if you want to play cards, the bets back to you! Raise or call?” Val said before closing her phone.

“Stupid cow!” Noah mumbled as he downed several pills before frantically dialing another number. “I want everyone in place within the hour. This goes down today!”

“About damn time.” The voice of Hellhound responded.

Noah quickly hung up and dialed another number, “Eric Needham? Are you up to making a quick fifty grand? Get over to the R.H. Kane Building bring the rope and sword guy and I’ll throw out another fifty for them to split.”

“What’s the job” Needham asked. “It’s not the bat is it?”

“No, but I am expecting some company.” Noah said.

Gotham City-

“Val, it’s Ben.” Bronze Tiger spoke into his communicator, ” Nightslayer led us right to the Crimesmith. But there’s no way this guy is Oracle.”

“Well, there has to be a connection between him and Oracle. Push him and see what he knows.” Val responded.

“I’m pretty sure if he knows something he’ll tell us.” Bronze Tiger smiled “We’ll be in touch.”

Ben walked across the room toward the window and looked down at the man dangling twenty-five stories from the ground below.

“What the hell do you people want from me! I swear I don’t know anyone who goes by the name Oracle!” Crimesmith screamed as Vixen and Black Thorn, who each had a hold of one of his legs, pulled him back inside.

Nightslayer continued to look around the penthouse apartment. “My sister hasn’t been here.”

“Of course she hasn’t been here you freaks! She’s been with  ” He realized what he was saying and suddenly stopped himself.

“Been with whom? Who hired you to help Anton here break Nocturna out of prison?” Ben asked the suddenly silent Crimesmith. He then nodded to Vixen and Black Thorn who began to drag him back toward the open window.

“Calculator!” He screamed out, “They’ve been together ever since she got back to Gotham! Anton, I swear I didn’t know you would be stuck inside Belle Reve this entire time. That wasn’t part of the plan.”

“Who is the Calculator?” Ben said moving within inches of the terrified Crimesmith.

“Noah Kuttler. We used to work the Gotham syndicate together before he started cutting into my business by providing information to anyone willing to pay. They stopped coming to me and started going to him exclusively.”

“So why help him if you’re rivals? Have you been working with him the entire time?” Ben asked.

“No way! I’ve gone straight!”

“Sure you have.” Ben scoffed, “Where can we find this Calculator?”

“Out there.” He pointed out the window, “The Kane building across from Miller Harbor.”

“If my Natalia has been harmed in any way I am coming back for you.” Nightslayer growled.

Crimesmith fell to the floor and didn’t make a move until he was certain they were long gone.

Calculator walked over toward his computer, punched in a code, and then hit enter. He looked over at the blank monitors as one by one the live video feeds returned. “Sorry Murph but my Kung Foo is stronger than your block! Now lets see what’s been going on.”

He stood in front of the monitors and watched as Val Vostok and Joshua Clay sat in her office. “There’s the cozy couple now!” He flipped through the feeds until he was satisfied and than walked back over to his computer. He punched in another code. Thomas Hardy once said ‘There is a condition worse than blindness and that’s seeing something that isn’t there’.

“Now Belle Reve sees only what I want them to see.” He proudly proclaimed as he put on his headset and dialed a number, “The board is clear Plastique. Move quickly and tell Shadow Thief to be ready.”

35 minutes later

Outside the R.H. Kane building-

Bronze Tiger dodged the first strike and spun around to see Cavalier come at him again with his Musketeer type rapier. Ben ducked down and spun his leg out toward Cavalier but the nimble swordsmen easily jumped out of the way and struck the tiger in the shoulder with his sword.

“Split up!” Ben yelled as he stumbled back. “He knows we’re here!”

Vixen and Black Thorn swiftly entered the office building through the front door. It was well past business hours as they entered the dimly lit lobby. “Crime dude said top floor.” Black Thorn said looking over at Vixen. Stairs or elevator?”

“Stairs.” They both said in unison.

Vixen pulled Black Thorn to the floor when her heightened senses picked up the sound of a hammer being cocked. “What the hell?” Black Thorn shouted out.

“Be quiet Elizabeth. There are at least two males in here. One has a gun. Stay down.”

“Screw that.” Black Thorn pushed Vixen off of her and stood up. “Hey boys! You wanna play?”

Vixen watched as gunfire erupted from the other end of the lobby. Several bullets struck the glass window behind them so Black Thorns risky plan paid off for the moment. She drove through the dark toward the gun smoke.

Her would be attacker was caught off guard by the cheetahs speed she was channeling through the Tantu Totem. She dove at him knocking him off his feet and into the glass wall behind him.

“Well aren’t you a fiesty one?” Black Spider said as he struggled to pull her off of him. He quickly assed that she was much stronger than she looked so he gave up pushing her off and instead wrapped his legs tightly around her and flipped her up and into the glass wall that lined the entire lobby. The glass shattered around them as he released her in time to send her through the broken glass and back outside.

She slowly stood up and brushed the glass off. Black Spider looked stunned to see that it hadn’t left a scratch on her. He was unaware that she had quickly switched to the hide of an African elephant. In the brief moment it took for him to reach out for his gun she swiftly lunged at him while channeling a cobra and just before striking, she switched back to an elephant. The blow knocked Black Spider out cold.

Black Thorn watched Vixen take off in a blur toward the gunfire. “And she thinks I am crazy. Now where’s the other man she sniffed out?” She mumbled to herself before she felt a rope tighten around her neck.

“Guns are so uncivilized, don’t you think? Ropes are clean and personal” Slipknot gloated as he reached around her and tightened his grip.

Black Thorn struggled to break free of his grasp. She began to panic as the chemically treated rope began to burn through her skin. The pain was unbearable as she gasped for air. It would only be a matter of seconds before she would black out. She reached down to her side and with one swift motion pulled out a poison-tipped dart and flicked it behind her.

“What the hell?” Slipknot yelled out as the dart struck him in the neck. He then fell backward pulling Black Thorn behind him onto the floor.

She pulled the rope off of her and glanced down at him. She than stood up and kicked him in the side of the head. “A rope! I mean really?” Black Thorn said before kicking the unconcious Slipknot again.

Bronze Tiger couldn’t grab hold of Cavalier. He kept spinning and jumping around but stayed far enough away where he couldn’t strike Ben again with his sword.

“I feel that you are at a disadvantage sir.” Cavalier proclaimed just before falling face first onto the concrete.

“I had him.” Ben said to Vixen who stood over Cavalier smiling.

“Are you kidding me? He was going to poke you again! I saw the frustration on your face.” She smirked as they both began to laugh.

Ben stopped laughing and looked around. “Did you see where Nightslayer went?”

“Why are you pacing around so much?” Nocturna asked as she watched Noah move around the penthouse office in circles as she lay on a chaise lounge sipping a drink. “Why don’t you come into the bedroom soon?”

“Quiet! It’s almost time!” He yelled back at her. He wondered if those fools downstairs would buy him enough time. He glanced over at one his security monitors and saw a dark figure moving toward the entrance to the penthouse. “Plastique are you ready?”

“I’ve been ready.” Her voice echoed into his headset. ‘Now I am getting bored.”

The penthouse door flung open as Nightslayer burst in. “Where the hell is Natalia?”

Noah looked over as Nightslayer quickly approached him, “Do it Plastique! Do it now!”

Eve Eden was kneeling in prayer as one of the blasts ripped through the wall of the Chapel. She reached out for Father Cramer who was thrown backward as fire and falling debris quickly consumed the House of God. She searched franticly for him, calling upon her shadow form to protect and guide her. She saw his arm angled awkwardly stuck under a wooden pew. She quickly pulled the pew off of him and saw that he wasn’t breathing. She shouted at him but couldn’t hear anything because of the ringing in her own ears. Eve began CPR. Her entire body began to shake as tears rolled down her face. Everything was getting darker as she felt him slip away from her. She laid her head on his chest and began to cry.

Eve felt his hand reach out and gently touch her head. She sat up and saw that he was conscious. He was struggling to speak but Eve put her hand to his lips. She gently picked him up and carried him outside and set him down on the ground. That’s when she saw the full devastation of what had occurred.

Belle Reve. Until just moments ago, it had been the most secure prison ever built. Explosions ripped through every corridor of the facility like waves crashing against the shore. Each detonation lit up the dark sky and rattled the ground below. Entire sections collapsed leaving nothing but dust and rubble. The medical wing was completely destroyed. All six guard towers along the perimeter detonated. Forty-two seconds from the first explosion to the last. That’s all it had taken.

Despite the massive devastation everywhere, large sections of the cellblocks remained intact even though giant holes had been blasted open along the exterior walls. Eve suddenly realized what was going on. Someone had orchestrated a mass breakout.

Through the smoke she heard them. Hundreds of inmates running in all directions. A few gunshot blasts indicated that some of the guards had survived but it was only a matter of seconds before they were silenced.

Daniel Murphy had never been a greedy man. He had always taken pride in knowing that he had worked hard for everything and never had anything handed to him. But life had chipped away at him again and again until he gave in. Temptation had approached him in the form of the Calculator who offered him one hundred thousand dollars to tap into the security feeds at Belle Reve and turn a blind eye to certain activities that went on inside the facility.

The government used super villains to do their dirty work but he still had to pay taxes on his thirty eight thousand dollar a year job. It didn’t seem fair. It had finally been his time. His time to reap the reward for being a good civil servant. But a deal with the devil only lands you in hell.

Murphy watched as over fifty prisoners approached the gate. He stood in front of them rifle in hand. He fired the first warning shot at their feet but they kept moving closer. The ones shielded in the back began to push forward. Murph began picking them off one by one. He wanted to run but his feet wouldn’t move. Within seconds they were on him. Someone ripped the riffle out of his hands. They were kicking and punching him as they scaled over the gate. He fell to the ground and couldn’t get up. He felt bones break and the pain was unbearable. He looked up to see a hand reach down for him. It was one of the prisoners. He saw the man mouth something to him but he couldn’t make out the words. The man smiled as he pulled a shiv out from under his shirt.

“I am sorry.” Daniel Murphy cried out.

“I know you are.” The man said still smiling as he forced the point of the weapon into Daniels stomach.

Murphy fell back to the ground and with his dying breath watched as hell poured out on to the earth.

“Tell him Natalia. Make him understand.” Calculator yelled before Nightslayer reached out and threw him across the room.

“I can’t make him do anything.” Nocturna replied, ” Can I Anton?”

“Did he hurt you?” Anton said while watching Noah scamper across the floor.

“Yes my love. He kept me from you. That is more hurt than I was able to endure.”

“Natalia! I took care of you. Treated you like a queen!” Calculator pulled himself up off the floor.

“But what is a queen without her king?” She mused as she embraced Nightslayer. “Now my king is here and you must be dealt with.”

“Be reasonable here!” Noah took a step back. “Everything is going according to plan. Belle Reve is destroyed and the gold is within our grasp! Everything I did was for us!”

“Not for us. You used me.” Nocturna snarled pulling a gun out from behind her, “And now just the sight of you makes me sick.”

She fired the gun twice and Noah hit the floor.

Luck had certainly been on his side. Amos Fortune had always been lucky. He understood how to bend its will and make it work for him, not against him. It was luck that he was placed in a cell next to a man that talked in his sleep. His luck continued when every night the man talked about buried gold and his plans to retrieve it. Of course with good luck there is always bad. Amos killed Kadaver in his sleep, stealing his would be dreams of riches for his own.

That night, his luck was going to finally pay off. The explosion that took out half of his cellblock killed eleven of his fellow cellmates but left him without a scratch. Within minutes he was standing outside. He watched as the chaos continued all around and the prisoners scattered in all directions. He moved back toward one of the only walls left standing. He knew that luck needed to be nurtured and not provoked. He would stay out of harms way until his contact would come to take him to the rendezvous point.

In all his years of living by the rules of luck, one thing never factored into his thinking, and that was luck was always at the mercy of chance. And if you force chance into a corner enough times, it will come out attacking. Maybe if Amos Fortune had recognized he had already taken too many chances he would have seen the brick before it fell off the top of the wall and hit him on the head. He felt his neck snap back as he slumped to the ground unable to move. He watched as boots came toward him and stopped. The man bent down when he realized who it was.

“Amos my man!” He said looking down at him, “Crazy night huh?”

“Are you here to take me away?” He asked the man.

“No. I think you are on your own here.” He laughed back at him.

“But you have to take me to the gold.”

“Gold?”

“Yes the one hundred million in ancient gold. I know half of the location.”

“But I already know what you know so I don’t need you.” The man said standing back up.

“How?” Fortune struggled to move his head.

“You just told me!”

“That’s impossible. I would do not such thing without a guarantee that you would take me with you.”

“But I already have. We are here.”

“But this isn’t Arlington. Where are the grave markers?” Amos said slowly turning his head. “You tricked me.”

“It is what I do.” The Trickster patted him on the head and walked away. After a few steps a dark figure emerged out of the blowing smoke.

“I am here to take him to the rendezvous point.” Shadow Thief announced.

“Plans have changed. I am going with you now.” He said looking back as the wall next to Amos Fortune collapsed behind him. “He’s just lucky I came across him when I did.”

“I can’t get in touch with anyone at Belle Reve.” Bronze Tiger said as he, Vixen, and Black Thorn stood inside the Calculators penthouse.

“Well everything here leads me to believe that this was our guy.” Vixen said looking around, ” Plus it looks like Nightslayer got his revenge before taking off with Nocturna. So what do we do now?”

“Call in a cleaner and get this place stripped and sanitized. We’ll dump the body downstairs for the locals to pick up.” Bronze Tiger replied.

“Is that wise with everything he knows?” Vixen asked.

“Deadmen tell no tales.” Ben said as he walked over toward Black Thorn who had just rolled over Noah’s body.

“Well we have a problem than.” Black Thorn said wiping the blood off of her hands, “Cause this guys still breathing.”

Three hours later

Belle Reve-

“We have the crazy chick that set up all of the explosives. She got knocked out by the first wave of blasts.” Joshua Clay said.

“I didn’t really think he would do it Josh.” Val said shaking her head. “I lost my cool and pushed him too far.”

“This was too well organized. It was planned out from the beginning. It wasn’t for revenge.” Josh replied.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because we are still alive. Every part of this prison was hit except the offices and the Squads quarters. Why would he do that if he wanted revenge?”

“Because.” Val took a deep breath, “He wanted me alive to see that he had the better hand.”

In the end, it took the collective efforts of Nightshade, Knockout, Firehawk, and the rest of the Squad to contain the riot at Belle Reve. The death toll was still being calculated into the early morning hours but the current count stood at eighty-three prisoners, twenty-seven guards and other staff members. It was also estimated that three meta prisoners escaped including Killer Croc, Bloodsport, and Reactron. And three non-metas, Trickster, Calendar Man, and Wade Eiling. It certainly could have been a lot worse but the six of them could case enough trouble especially the few motivate by hate and revenge.

Valentina Vostok had just recently fought to get her life back. Now she was faced with picking up the pieces. She forced her herself to smile as she suddenly recalled one of her fathers favorite proverbs: ‘One would like to eat fish, but would not like to get into the water’. It is usually said about a person who is anxious to obtain something valuable but not willing to take the necessary risk. Val knew risk. She also knewit was going to be a very long day.

EPILOGUE:

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington, Virginia –

“Well this all makes sense now.” Hellhound said as he and Trickster stood across from Jefferson Davis Highway looking out over the cemetery.

“It’s a big place.” Trickster replied, “You want to tell me where inside there the gold is buried so we can find it and get out of here?”

“Funny guy. I have waited much longer than you for this day. I think I will hang on to that bit of information until I’m inside.”

“Until we’re inside. I am not letting you out of my site.” James Jesse stated.

Hellhound looked back at him. “We’ve got maybe two hours until sunrise. Lets move.”

Forty-five minutes later

“So we’re close than?” Trickster asked when Hellhound stopped and looked down. “There are way too people around here for my liking.”

“We’re nowhere near Kennedy’s plot or the unknown soldier. That’s where the bulk of the guards are located. We should be alright as long we get out of here before the sun comes up.”

“Well, we split the gold here and then go our own way.” Trickster replied.

“Since it comes to just you and me, half ain’t too bad.” Hellhound beamed.

“I wouldn’t go making only two piles just yet.” A voice yelled out forcing both Hellhound and Trickster to turn around.

“Boomerang!” Hellhound growled. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I’ve been flat out like a lizard drinking, keeping up with you chaps while dodging the bushrangers all night.”

“Digger, drop the fake Australian accent.” Trickster yelled out.

“I am not splitting the money three ways!” Hellhound announced.

“I never said we should. There is one of us here that isn’t needed anymore. Isn’t that right James? So lets nut this out here and now!”

Boomerang grinned as he reached back and threw a razor sharp boomerang at Trickster. The boomerang whistled through the air toward Tricksters neck. The flying weapon suddenly took a sharp turn toward Hellhound. It cut through his throat and lodged in the back of his neck. His bloody remains slumped to the ground.

“What in the hell were you thinking Digger?” Trickster yelled unable to stop himself from shaking. “He didn’t tell me where the gold was buried exactly. It could be anywhere still and we are running out time!”

“No worries mate. I’ve got that covered. You see my old mate Signalman talked way too loud in his cell. He would repeat the grave number out loud over a hundred times a night before he fell asleep.”

“So you killed Hellhound with only the possibility that the number Signal Man said before bedtime was accurate?” Trickster said.

“Hell-mute was from Gotham right? He deserved to die. Besides, he did say he wasn’t splitting the gold three ways.”

“Once a rogue ” Trickster smiled.

“Always a rogue.” Boomerang winked picking up a shovel.

After a half hour of digging, they pulled the lead case out of the ground.

“Damn, glad it wasn’t in some dead guys coffin.” Trickster said as they set the case on the ground. “Dead bodies give me the creeps.”

“It’s too damn small to have one hundred million in it.” Boomerang grunted.

“It’s gold. It doesn’t take much especially if its old gold.” Trickster said as he picked up the shovel and knocked the lock off.

Boomerang reached down and opened the case. “Bloody hell! It’s real! What’s the Flash gonna do without us now mate?”

“Did you hear that?” Trickster said looking around.

“It’s nothing. Lets cut bait and run before someone sees us out here.” Boomerang turned to see Trickster down on the ground. “What the ” Boomerang spun around and saw several figures in black quickly surround him. He was down before he knew what hit him.

“Step aside.” A dark-haired woman spoke as the figures in black made room for her.

“What do you want done with them?” One of the men asked the woman.

“Leave them. My father is only interested in his gold. I don’t think he even remembered it was buried out here until he heard others were close to retrieving it. Now we will use it to further his interests in Gotham.” Talia al Ghul sneered.

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To be Continued……

 

 

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