SPOILER ALERT: This is the sixth (and final) story arc in the series of Suicide Squad. You do not need to have read any of the previous story arcs to enjoy this tale but it get in on the grand conspiracy and bigger picture, check out the first five story arcs of this series to catch up on the Suicide Squad arc.

DC has all character rights.


 

I’ve this creep suspicion that things are not as they seem. Reassure me.
Why do I feel as if I’m in too deep?
I’ve been praying
for some way to show them
I’m not what they see.
Yes I have done wrong
But what I did I thought
needed be done
I swear
unholy day,
if I leave now I might get away.
This weighs on me
as heavy as stone

Dave Matthews Band “The Stone”

Part One: The Fall Of Shawn Marcus-

Then:

James R. Browning United States Courthouse, San Francisco, California-

We’re live outside the courthouse and have just gotten word that the jury has delivered a verdict to the bailiff and the judge has ordered everyone to return to the courtroom. It finally appears that after two years, one mistrial and three rejected plea bargains later, the trial that has exposed the true nature of Asian gang actives in the San Francisco bay area will finally be over.

Ren Sai Yu, the man on trial for executing the bold slaying of a rival gang boss two years ago outside a local bar filled with patrons, lived like an underworld czar, holding court at San Francisco’s Club La Ducio and plotting to gain control over extortion in the bay district. According to grand jury testimony Yu’s minions hung out by day in local coffee houses, hashing over criminal schemes. By night, they shook down massage parlors for protection money or gathered at local dance clubs and nightspots to fight with rival gang members and pay obeisance to the man they considered their Dai Lo,” or Big Brother, their criminal boss.

But the plotting came to an end two years ago this past November, when an angry confrontation with former gang leader Cuong Tern, resulted in Tern’s execution-style slaying outside the Morrison Street bar. Only minutes earlier, Greg Waid, a well- known San Francisco lawyer who was allegedly working as a bag man” for Tern, was shot to death less than a mile away. Since then no one has been arrested in connection with Waid’s death. But today we expect a verdict in the Tern murder case ”

Public defense attorney Shawn Marcus watched as the judge instructed the jury foreperson to stand and read the verdict on the first count against his client Ren Sai Yu. Marcus felt his stomach tighten. He had known for some time now how this would end, but he continued to hope right up until that moment, that something would happen to renew his faith in everything he once believed in.

When Marcus joined the Office of the Public Defender and lost his first five cases, he took his drubbing and carried on. Finally, he celebrated a victory with number six, a misdemeanour case. He went home to celebrate with his family but soon discovered that not all of them were as enthused as he was. Shawn was raised in an upper-middle-class Republican family in Sacramento. The last thing his parents imagined was that he would choose to become a public defender. They would often ask, “How can you defend those guilty people?” He rarely replied to them but knew that his own comfortable circumstances growing up actually fuelled his conviction to defend the less fortunate, and was proud to fight for their constitutional rights.

Six years after he received his degree from the University of San Francisco Law School Shawn Marcus found himself in what had quickly became a high profile murder case. His client was charged with murder and was looking at thirty-five years to life in prison. The evidence was overwhelming and as anticipated, the District Attorney’s office sent over its first deal: 17 years maximum if his client turned over names and locations of gang related operations in the bay area. Ren Sai Yu laughed at the offer. He said he would be dead within the week if he talked.

As the second and third deal came and went, Yu continued to insist on taking his chances in court. Despite the evidence and eyewitness accounts, Yu felt confident, almost to the point that it made Shawn feel uneasy around him. This wasn’t the type of person he ever anticipated he would have to defend.

The uneasy feeling began to turn into something worse as the trial progressed. Witnesses were quickly discredited and their testimony was tossed out. Evidence that once linked his client to the crime scene was no longer available. The entire time Ren Sai Yu sat back and smiled, claiming that justice would be served. Shawn Marcus continued to defend a man he knew was guilty, right up until the jury came back with their verdict. He closed his eyes and prayed as the jury foreperson spoke; he knew that today was not the day for answered prayers.

On the charge of first-degree murder,

not guilty.

On the charge of conspiracy to commit murder,

not guilty.

On the charge of exhortation,

not guilty.”

Shawn Marcus felt the room close in around him as Ren Sai Yu shook his hand as whispered to him, “Justice was served.” As the courtroom adjourned, all he could think about was getting out of there as quickly as possible.

Later that evening at a local bar-

“Unbelievable!” Shawn muttered as he set down his shot glass.

“This is supposed to be a celebration and here you are sulking.” The man next to him at the bar responded.

“How can I celebrate when I know that he was guilty, David? I mean, this isn’t what I went to law school for. We are supposed to uphold the law of the land. Today I watched it all get flushed down the toilet!”

“You are being a bit melodramatic, don’t you think?”

“We worked on this case for what, two years? You helped me gather the evidence. It was plain as day that Yu was guilty and we worked our ass to cut a deal with the DA’s office for a plea bargain. It should never have gone to trial! But it did and that smug son-of-a-bitch got off.”

“You need to keep your voice down.” David motioned with his hand.

“That’s why we were really put on this case. Two rookies who could be manipulated and used and no one would be the wiser.”

“Hey, you think I like this? I don’t” David said as he leaned in toward Shawn, “But what can we do?”

“I know what we should do.” Shawn spoke before slamming another shot of whiskey, “We take everything we have on this guy and hand it over to the District Attorney’s office. I am sure they would love to know who killed Greg Waid the same night Tern was murdered.”

David laughed as he looked up and saw Shawn’s face, “You’re serious? You want to send a dangerous gang leader you helped get off, right back to jail for another crime with evidence you uncovered while building a defense for him? That’s ridiculous and unethical to say the least.”

“Is it? A high profile DA gets gunned down by our client just minutes before he goes and kills a rival gang leader and we are suppose to do nothing? We both know he did it. Hell he practically told me he did it. And I am sure the DA’s office would just love to vindicate the slap on the face they received a few hours ago by Shawn Marcus, the most powerful Public Defender in all the bay area!” Shawn quipped.

I repeat, its UN-ETH-I-CAL.”

“There are ways around that.”

“My advice, let it go. Go home to Emily and relax for a change. It’s over Shawn.” David said as he raised his glass mockingly toward Shawn, “The good guys won today.”

“Yeah.” Shawn lifted his glass and returned the gesture.

A few days later-

Shawn felt his entire body tense up when her arms wrapped around him from the back. He relaxed slightly and forced a smile as he slowly turned around to face her.

“Emily.” He said kissing her forehead and embracing her.

“I was talking to you and then you just walked away. Sweetie you promised that we would sit down and work on an invitation list for the wedding today.”

“Did I? But we don’t even have a I just have over things on my mind today.”

“Today?” She said pulling away from him, “You say that like last week you weren’t promising that when this case was over you’d make time for us.”

Come on Em! At any given time I am juggling two-dozen cases at once so when I come home I expect you ” He began to raise his voice before she cut him off.

“Do not start with me! Damn it Shawn you promised!”

“I just need some time ok? You know what this Yu case was doing to me!?”

“No Shawn I don’t know. I never know anything. You never want to talk about it. But to keep me from getting upset you always promise that it will just be a few more years before things will change! Well guess what? It has been a few years already. And where are you now? Where are we? I want to get married to you Shawn!”

“So do I!” He yelled back at her.

“Do you Shawn? Do you really? Because let’s do it ok? Let’s just drop everything and get married.”

“You are just saying that. I want you to have the wedding you’ve always dreamed about and have a home to come back to, not this dump of an apartment.”

“I told you my parents would ”

“We don’t need your parents money. Once I get past the plea and free public defense law I’ll. We’ll be able to have everything you want.”

“I want you. I want us. Nothing else is worth it unless we are together.” Emily said as tears began to well up in her eyes.

Shawn took a deep breath. He was taking his frustrations out on the one person who mattered most in his life. He smiled and took her in his arms. “Pack your bags. We are leaving tonight.”

“Tonight? For where?” She said wiping her eyes on his shoulder.

“If I tell you it won’t be a surprise now will it?”

“Don’t play coy with me. If you don’t tell me, how will I know what to pack and for how long?” She said playfully hitting him on the back with her fists.

“Pack for a long weekend and dress for warm days and cool nights. We are driving up the coast.” He said pulling away from her. “Now get ready. We leave in two hours.” He kissed her on the forehead and turned around.

“But what about you’re other cases?” She asked.

“There will always be other cases.”

“So where are you going?” She asked as he walked toward to door grabbing his car keys and his brief case off the counter. “I thought you were on a break after the big case?”

“I am but there’s something I need to take care of first. Something I should have done a long time ago.” He said as he opened his brief case to reveal a sealed envelope addressed to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. I’ll show you real justice, you smug bastard! Shawn thought as he closed the case and headed out the door.

Three days later- Olympia, Washington-

Shawn Marcus stepped out of his motel room and quietly closed the door behind him as not to wake Emily. He looked up and saw that Mount Rainer was visible in the skyline to the south. He smiled and continued to walk toward the motel lobby. It was early morning and he was in search of coffee. They had been on the road for over three days and it was like his batteries had completely recharged. He felt alive for the first time in as long as he could remember. There had been nothing but the two of them since their road trip began. He had been entertaining the thought of driving down to Las Vegas tomorrow and seeing if he could get Emily to make an honest man out of him. Maybe a themed wedding at one of the hotels?

He reached the lobby and walked over to a small breakfast nook that served pastries and hot coffee. He was stopped cold when he casually looked over at the local paper sitting on the table next to the beverages.

Botched Arrest of recently acquitted ‘Gang Boss’

Leaves 8 police officers dead in San Francisco.

His cell phone buzzed in his jacket pocket, nearly making him drop the empty Styrofoam cup in his hand. He sat the cup down and opened up his phone to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Good god almighty!! Marcus. Where have you been? Did you know about this?” The voice of Shawn’s boss Geoff, from the public defender’s office, yelled through the phone.

“I went out of town. I left word with Cynthia that ”

“I don’t care. You get the hell back here now!”

Still staring down at the paper Shawn was slow to respond. “I I can’t sir I am out of town and I ”

“Can’t? You sure as hell better find a way and fast! You have one hell over a mess to clean up after what went down here yesterday.”

“I have a mess?” Shawn began to squeeze his phone tightly while trying to keep his voice down. “Sir, I have been at your office for over four years now! I think I am done cleaning up your messes.”

“Marcus I think you better stop and think about what ”

“Oh I have done plenty of that sir! I think that I am tired of working for an office that would bend over so far that every gang-banger and thug could screw it sideways!” Shawn yelled, no longer concerned at the volume of his voice. “Eight officers are dead because no one was willing to do the job that needed done in the first place!”

“You son-of-a-bitch! You’re the reason the San Fran PD went in there to arrest Yu! I will not only fire you but I will see to personally it that you are disbarred for this! So help me ”

Shawn Marcus slammed the phone shut. He was out of breath and sat down in the nearest seat he could find. He half waited for someone to come in the small room to see what the outburst was about but no one came. After a few minutes he stood up and walked over to the cart and poured himself a cup of coffee. He took a sip and headed toward the door.

Once outside he felt like screaming but found he no longer had the nerve to. He was scared. He thought that he had done the right thing. How could everything go so wrong? Why was Geoff so quick to link him to the arrest warrant for Ren Sai Yu? If he knew, then did someone tip-off Yu? How did it turn into such a massacre?

Shawn turned back around and headed inside the motel lobby again. He had to find out what else they had reported in the newspaper. He was startled again when his phone buzzed for a second time. This time he hesitated as he pulled it out of his pocket. There wasn’t a number listed on the caller ID. He slowly opened the phone.

“Mr. Marcus.” The voice instantly froze Shawn where he stood just in front of the lobby exit. It was Ren Sai Yu. “I feel like I owe you an apology.”

“Yu, before you go any farther, let me explain ”

“You have nothing to explain. It is I who must explain how wrong I was about you. I am usually a better judge of character then I was with you. I was certain that you were a man of great strength and honor. But you are weak.”

“Yu, please listen to me ”

“Do not say another word or the man across the street will pull the trigger and blow your head clean off.”

Shawn panicked, as he barely was able to make out the snipers laser that danced across his chest and then disappeared.

“Good. Now that I have your attention, let me continue. I am going to give you one chance and one chance only to redeem your honor in my eyes. Slowly step outside and move along the outside wall about ten feet and then stop.”

Unable to speak Shawn did what he was told. As he walked he looked around him but saw no one. It was a weekday and too early in the morning for anyone else to be up and about. Even if there were, what would it matter? No one could help him now.

“Stop.” Yu said through the phone, “Now stand against the wall and face the street. Now I have instructed the sniper to fire one shot and one shot only ”

“Please you have to understand I ”

“Do not interrupt me again or you will be shot through the throat and left to die a slow painful death.” Yu paused before continuing, “One shot. One chance at redeeming your honor. If you stand still the sniper will take you out quickly and it will be painless. If you choose to flee you will live, but there will be consequences. You have but a few seconds to decided. Will you die better then you lived your life?”

The phone went silent in Shawn’s hand. He frantically looked around him for the snipers laser. He couldn’t see it. Was it pointed at his head? Was he really willing to die because of a scum like Ren Sai Yu? He decided the answer was no and he fall face first onto the sidewalk.

He lay there shaking unable to move until a single thought entered his mind, Emily! He jumped up and ran around the side of the motel and didn’t stop until he reached the door to his room. He began to fumble in his pocket for the room key and then began to bang on the door. She wasn’t answering. He finally found the card and slid it across the lock.

The door swung open as dust and daylight entered the dark room. He glanced over at the bed. It was empty. He ran toward the bathroom and stopped at the doorway when he saw her naked, lifeless body hanging in the shower. He fell to knees and cried. Shawn felt the cell phone buzz again. He opened it up and held it to his ear.

“You bastard!” He yelled into the mouthpiece. “I will see to it you rot in hell for this. I will take you down so hard and destroy ” Shawn began to sob uncontrollably.

“You are a man without honor Mr. Marcus. Always remember that you choose her death over yours.”

The phone went silent.

Part Two: The rise of the Manhunter-

Six days later-

Shawn Marcus went into hiding after the death of his fiancé. He had lost everything in his life that mattered to him in a blink of an eye the morning that Emily died. Unable to go back to his old life he took what cash he had and left everything else behind

For weeks he took to the streets. Never staying in one place too long. He was certain that the police would be looking for him since fleeing the “scene of the crime”. He knew the drill. They would build a case against him and arrest him for Emily’s death. It would be an open and shut case with all of the pieces connected in front of them. He had to keep running. He couldn’t go home ever again.

He hitched a ride south, being careful to stay off any of the major roads, and after several days he stopped in Reno, Nevada. His plan was to wait it out there and see if he could get an idea of what the media was saying about what had happened, before he made his next move.

His worst fears were realized when he finally was able to catch a national news cast on the television. They pinned Emily’s ‘murder’ on him. They reported that after sabotaging his career in San Francisco he took Emily and fled the state. They speculated that he must have finally snapped under pressure, which resulted in her death by his hands. Not a single mention of Ren Sai Yu or his whereabouts after the botched arrest attempt.

Shawn had been running low on cash and decided that he would need more money before he’d move on. Over several days he stuck to the busiest casinos and played small stakes blackjack. Once he was up a couple a hundred dollars he would move on to the next casino. He did this for several days, always keeping a close eye on whether he was drawing attention to himself. He was content with the fact that this was the failing city of Reno, and unlike Las Vegas they were thankful for any and all patronage they received. He estimated that it would take him two more days before he had enough money to move on again.

Night Three-Reno, Nevada-

Shawn causally looked up as a man sat down next to him at the card table. He motioned for another card. The man pulled out a small stack of chips and sat them in front of him. He sat there silently until Shawn was finished playing his hand. Shawn gathered up what chips he had left and began to stand.

“This table all played out I take it?” The man spoke.

“It is for me.” Shawn said keeping his head down as to avoid eye contact with the man.

“Well, why don’t you stick around? Maybe we can tag-team ’em?”

“No thanks. I am done for the evening.”

“Are you sure? You’re not up by much and you usually don’t turn in until you have at least a couple a hundred in your pocket.” The man said grabbing hold of Shawn’s arm. “Lets walk over to the bar shall we?”

Shawn quickly looked up at the man. He didn’t look like a cop. He looked to be in his mid-fifties maybe older by the marks around his eyes. How long had this guy been following him? If he was a cop why wasn’t he being handcuffed and escorted out of here? Shawn took a deep breath and smiled at the man. “Sure why not?”

The man stood up and Shawn motioned for him to lead the way. The man turned and walked toward the bar and Shawn followed him. Shawn smiled when he came to the conclusion that this guy couldn’t be a cop. Why would he be so willing to turn his back to him when it would be so easy for Shawn to ditch him. No, this had to be a local who had spotted Shawn playing the last few nights. Either he thought Shawn looked like an easy mark for a scam or maybe he wanted to get him to partner up with him to scam someone else. Either way, he appeared harmless and Shawn needed some information about the local scene. He had just about played out all of the casinos and needed some tips on which ones he could possible push his luck at before heading out of town.

He sat down next to the man at the bar and slowly looked around, scanning the other people in the casino.

“Don’t worry. I am alone.” He said casually as he ordered two whiskey shots and a chaser. Shawn just smiled as he ordered the same. “I wasn’t going to approach you here but you are running out of time.”

“How’s that?” Shawn asked anticipating this con man to begin his spiel.

“The only reason they haven’t discovered you is because they haven’t looked here yet, but they will.” He said as the bartender sat their drinks down in front of them.

Shawn nervously picked up his shot glass and quickly downed the whiskey. If this was just a run of the mill conman then he had no idea how close of nerve he just struck.

“Not sure I follow you Mr ”

“Name’s not important right now. What is important is that we get you out of here as soon as possible. You stick out like a sore thumb. Even in a place like this. I see that you altered your appearance some, blond hair, goatee. That might work in Vegas but not here.” He looked up and smiled at Shawn as he drank his other whiskey shot. “The most desperate of men are always the ones trying the hardest not to appear desperate. Isn’t that right Shawn Marcus?”

Shawn jumped up out of his seat “Ok, I am not sure what the hell it is your game is but if you plan on arresting me just do it!”

“Lower your voice and sit back down alright? I am not a cop. How many cops you know buy someone a drink before they arrest them?” He said as Shawn slowly sat down again. “Yes, I do know who you are and I am well aware of what your current situation is. I am here to offer you an alternative to living on the run until you get caught. And you will get caught. You have to realize that don’t you?”

“How do you know so much about me? Why offer to help me?” Shawn asked.

“I never said I was here to help. I did say that I could offer you an alternative to your current situation. There is a difference.”

“So what is this offer then?”

“First thing is we need to get you out of the country, tonight. Like I said, it is only a matter of time until they find you and your time is nearly up.”

“Out of the country? How do you propose to do that?”

“I used to work for MI-5. I have contacts.”

“That still doesn’t answer the question. Why me?”

The man sat there silent for a moment. “You are a man who has become lost. A man who has the potential to become a great force for good but the path you have chosen has become murky.”

“What the hell are you saying? I lost the woman I loved because I choose to believe in a legal system that I gave my entire life to, only to have my heart ripped out and stomped on! Here you are babbling about forces of good and how murky my path has become? I sure as hell don’t need you to tell me that!”

“What I have to say may be hard to hear and possibly harder to even comprehend but there are bigger things going on than even you realize.”

“Bigger things? Bigger than the life that I know pulled out from under me?”

“I understand you are emotional right now given what you have gone through and you will have to work through those emotions in time. But I am here to tell you that there is a war coming which will affect every single life on the planet.”

Shawn put his head down on the bar and muttered, “I think I am gonna need another drink.

“You better order a couple.” The man smirked, “Do you believe in aliens, Mr. Marcus?”

“Aliens?” Shawn mumbled.

“There is a war being fought across every corner of the galaxy between those that thrive on chaos and those that battle to maintain order. Those that thrive on chaos have plans to unseat the power base here on earth and take this planet for their own. Up until now they have chosen to wage a silent war striking at individuals in key positions of power all across the globe. Slowly gaining a strangle hold on this planet.

But there are others that believe that only true power comes from the balance of good and order, and will stop at nothing to ensure that earth remains free from the ravage of this evil. At the center of the galaxy there are a group of highly intelligent beings that created the perfect protectors against this evil. In their eyes, these ‘Manhunters’ were created to bring peace to the galaxy.

One day, the Manhunters will come to earth and wipe out the corruption that has inflicted our home. We choose to live by the laws and doctrine of the Manhunters until that day comes, when they will cleanse this planet, leaving only the righteous behind to rebuild it.”

The man stopped and Shawn sat there for a moment silence. “Manhunters whose goals are to fight evil and maintain order?” He picked up the glass in front of him raising it half way; he looked over at the man and forced a smile. “Where do I sign up?”

Shawn Marcus spent the next several months training in Europe and Asia. He learned several forms of martial arts. He found that he could channel his anger and grief into something more powerful. He began with nothing but a broken spirit but slowly emerged a man who longer feared the world around him. He became a man who was confident that he could make a difference in a way that he never could as a lawyer.

He spent most of his time traveling alone. Someone always made contact with him when it was time to move on and it was never the same person twice. He would often ask about the others committed to the cause, he was told that they rarely gathered in large numbers as not to alert the other side of their presence. Their strength lied in their numbers, and they always operated alone. He would be guided to where he was needed most when he was ready.

He grew to understand and embrace the ways and beliefs of the Manhunter cult. For the first time in his life he finally felt awake and aware of the world around him. The battle they fought was a righteous one and he would prove his allegiance to the cause.

After three weeks of meditating in a Buddhist monetary in Japan, he was contacted and informed that he was ready. He opened a package to find a red and blue outfit and a silver mask along with a slender power baton. Shawn put on the suit and soon discovered that the suit was keyed to his unique bioelectrical signature, granting him increased strength, agility and endurance.

He was instructed to return to the United States for he was now a true Manhunter.

NOW:

Mark Shaw hid in the darkness of the shadows as he crouched on the rooftop. He activated the telescopic vision in his mask. Thirty yards in front of him stood a small warehouse. He had waited until he was certain that the last of them had arrived and were inside before he activated the handheld device in his hand. He allowed himself to smile. There was enough C-4 in there to ensure that the Manhunter cult would end here today. With a of flick of the switch

Shaw was unaware of the figure that crept up behind him before it was too late. He quickly turned around to see a blur of motion as a sharp blast to his temple ripped his mask off of his face. He fell to the ground as he blacked out.

The man looked down at the slumped Shaw. He reached down and picked up the device next to him flicking the switch back that deactivated the remote explosives in the warehouse.

“The target has been neutralized.” The man announced.

“Good. Bring Shaw in.” The voice on the other end of his earpiece replied.

“We are going to have to deal with the Manhunter cult soon.” The man said looking across the rooftop at the warehouse below, “They are gathering in larger numbers now. Something is definitely up.”

“Yes but there is a bigger picture to consider here. Let our man on the inside deal with them for now.” The man voiced through the earpiece, “You will get your chance soon but for now the world at large believes that Paul Kirk is dead. Lets keep it that way.”

Suicide Notes:

Previously in Suicide Squad 

Public defense attorney, Shawn Marcus, quickly found his life turned upside down when he turned over evidence on a former client. He was disgusted that the system allowed for the guilty to go without due punishment. The former client, a Chinese gang leader, had Shawn’s fianc murdered and left him to take the fall for her death.

He went on the run where he met a man who convinced him to become part of an organization called the Manhunters, who battle to maintain order in a world full of chaos. After several months of training, Shawn Marcus took to the streets for the first time as a Manhunter.

Back in the present, Mark Shaw’s plans to blow up a warehouse with over a dozen members of the Manhunters cult were thwarted when another man struck him from behind, knocking him out. The man was revealed to be the infamous Paul Kirk, Manhunter.

How did Shawn Marcus become Mark Shaw? The tale that exposed the truth about the Manhunters continues

Belle Reve, Super Maximum Security Prison:

The office of Valentina Vostok-

Val sat and stared at the computer screen in front her. She rubbed her eyes and tried to focus but found her mind wandering. She had come in early to fill out yet another report on the squad’s latest mission. There had been an international group that had decided to sell a new form of drugs to the highest bidder. The drugs turned ordinary people into super soldiers and the highest bidder ended up being a small South American country with a mad on for the United States. The Squad had been ordered to go in a secure the remaining drugs and take out anyone who had already consumed them. They faced down a virtual army of super freaks.

The Squad was successful on all counts but the entire incident had left a bad taste in Val’s mouth. Had it really come to this? Was the Squad nothing more then a watchdog that was let off its lease when a potential threat to American interests poked its head out of the sand? Or had it always been like this but it’s taken almost a year for her to realize it? She wondered if Waller ever had felt this way. Knowing Waller, she had counted on it, and found a way to use it to her advantage.

She looked down at her hands resting on the keyboard in front of her. They were shaking uncontrollably. The shakes usually didn’t start this early in the day. She reached over and opened the desk drawer. She pulled out a bottle and took two small pills from it and then put the bottle back in the drawer. She put the pills in her mouth and forced them down. The pills were becoming less effective but were necessary to counter her somewhat ‘unorthodox’ treatment she received to battle her cancer. Had the cure been worse then the disease? Only time would tell if the sacrifice she made had been worth it. And with each passing day it seemed as though that time was coming sooner then she had hoped. Just another thing she would have to deal with eventually but would have to wait for now. She had more immediate issues that were brought to her attention after the Squad returned home.

It seemed that Knockout disobeyed orders once again in the field and nearly blew the Squads cover before they could get back to the U.S. Knockout was growing restless and Val would have to find a way to calm her down somehow. That woman scared Val to death but she had been an important part of the Squads recent success of late. And they needed as many successful missions they could muster to keep the President from breathing down their necks. Christopher Smith was another unstable member of the missions team but as long as Lorraine Reilly stuck around to keep him calm, he would be fine. This was her Squad and she would find a way to keep it together.

Val had stopped worrying about being blackmailed into becoming the head of the Squad a while back. She grew to understand the necessity of the group but still found it hard from time to time with the sacrifices made to defend her adopted home here in America. She also wasn’t willing to allow Sarge Steel to bully her into risking her Squad anymore just because the President didn’t like to play nice with the kids down the street.

Her phone buzzed and she glanced up at the clock on the wall. “Speak of the devil.” She muttered as she picked up the phone.

A few minutes later the door to her office opened up and Sarge Steel walked in with a woman following closely behind him.

“Nice place you have here Val.” He spoke as Val stood up. “Nice to see what a billion dollars from Uncle Sam can get you these days. I take it the security is a little better this time around?”

“I’m sure you didn’t fly all this way just to discuss  home improvement and architecture I believe it was?”

Steel quickly looked at her and forced a smile as he sat down across from her. “No, but it’s nice to see that you picked out a nice shade blue for Waller’s  I mean your office. Matches your eyes.”

Val ignored Steel and glanced over at the woman who was staring at her. She looked familiar but she couldn’t quiet place from where. The pills she took had slowed the tremors a bit but not enough yet. She slowly crossed her arms before addressing Steel again. “Most of the more dangerous criminals were transferred back here a few months ago and they started bringing in some of the newer incarcerated prisoners over the last several weeks. We are nearly 100 operational again for the first time in six months since the incident.”

Good. I thought I smelled fresh meat when we were walking in. You’re going to need ’em. I’ve have an agent out in the field who has been monitoring a situation out in California which appears to be a bigger problem than we had originally expected.”

Val shot a glance back over at the woman again, “And you are?”

“My name is Christine St. Clair and Steel here informs me you will provide a solution to our problem.”

Val was finally able to remember where she recognized the woman from. She was an ex-Interpol agent from a long time ago. What reason would Steel have for bringing her here? “And what would that problem be Miss St. Clair?”

“Manhunters.”

The pounding in the back of his skull made it difficult for Mark Shaw to open his eyes. It made it even harder to focus once he did open them. After a few minutes he began to assess his current situation. He was seated upright in a chair with his feet and hands bound. It appeared that he was in a small motel room by his surroundings and his costume along with his mask and power baton were nowhere to be seen.

“You’re awake.” A voice spoke from behind him.

Mark instinctly attempted to pull his hands out from behind him but felt the rope tighten around his wrists and ankles. “Who the hell are you?” He growled.

The man walked around and crouched down in front of him. “Who I am isn’t important right now.”

“The hell it isn’t!” Mark shot back, “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

The man stood back up, “What I did, Mark Shaw, was stop you from making a big mistake.” The man said before turning a chair around and sitting in front of Shaw.

“Now what I need you to do is relax because we need to come to an understanding before I can untie you.”

Mark shot the man a stare and slowly began to recognize the man who sat in front of him. “You’re him, aren’t you? Paul Kirk? I thought you were dead?”

“I get that a lot.”

“Then what possible reason would you have to stop me from the once chance I had from destroying those bastards once and for all?”

“Because it isn’t that simple. If I would have known what you were attempting to do, I would have stopped you sooner and we could have avoided all of this.” Kirk said as he motioned his arms around him.

“Isn’t simple? I had them all in one place. The entire cult would have been blown to hell with one flick of the switch!” Mark gritted his teeth as the pain continued to throb in the back of his head.

“Like I said, it isn’t that simple. Do you think killing a few dozen agents would do anything? All that would do is drive the rest of them further underground, when we are so close to discovering what they are planning and who is truly behind them.”

“If you are who you claim to be then you already know what they are capable of and who’s behind them!”

“The so-called, Grand Master? He was nothing more than a puppet just like you and I were at one point.”

“Well you better start explaining things here real quick. If that wasn’t all of them in that warehouse, who many more are there and where are they at?”

“How many? Somewhere in the thousands. Where are they? Everywhere from here in California all the way to Washington D.C.” Paul Kirk said shifting in his chair, ” This is much bigger then you know. So much more is at stake than just the two of us. They stole my life from me. You seem to be motivated by revenge because you were deceived into believing in the wrong thing.”

“Don’t you attempt to categorize my motivations! You don’t know a damn thing about me!”

“I know a lot more then you think Shawn Marcus.”

“Do not speak that name.” Shaw growled as he again tugged at his restraints, “Shawn Marcus is dead.”

Then:

It had been over five months since Shawn Marcus took to the streets as a Manhunter. His previous life was nothing more than a distant memory now. It was though the fog that had covered his eyes his entire life was lifted the first time he put on the uniform and the mask. He was focused and driven by justice. No longer shackled by a legal system that catered to the rich and powerful.

Now, he hunted down those who thought they had escaped paying the price for their crimes. The Manhunters provided him with every resource he needed. Sometimes he would be contacted to perform specific tasks, the rest of the time he found his own prey to hunt, usually drug dealers, murderers, street scum that slipped under the radar. Other times he would hunt higher profile individuals who appeared untouchable.

That particular night he was after a costumed assassin who had killed a young woman and her daughter because a man with an upstanding reputation wanted to avoid a messy divorce when his wife discovered he was having an affair. The man had confessed to hiring the killer and was sentenced to life in prison, but the killer was never identified or apprehended.

Shawn had finally found the spineless coward who would take money to kill a woman and small child. He would not rest until he took the bastard down, for no man escapes the Manhunters!

He crouched on the rooftop and waited for the man to come out of the building across the street. The hired killer known only as the Stinger would usually only appear when he was on the job. Shawn had gotten word of a hit and the details of when and where it would happen. He would strike before Stinger was able to even reach the location of the hit.

It was when he heard footsteps behind him on the roof that he realized that he had been discovered. Without turning around, he lunged off the rooftop and landed hard on the pavement, two stories below.

He looked up to see Stinger land on top of him before he had time to react. Shawn rolled Stinger off of him and leapt to his feet.

“I considered offering you the professional courtesy of asking why you are stalking me before I killed you.” Stinger said as he quickly jumped to his feet. “But after seeing you up close I decided that you are not even in my league and deserve no such courtesy!”

“I am bringing you in tonight.” Manhunter spoke as he flicked the switch on his power baton.

Stinger stood about six feet in front of him and laughed. “Bringing me in? What are you, some kinda amateur vigilante? Give me a freakin’ break!”

Mark began to move toward Stinger when he heard a voice from across the street yell, “Hey you two! Hands where I can see them!” Shawn looked over to see a female police officer moving toward them with her gun raised.

“Think fast hero. You only have time to choose one of us.” Stinger said as he flicked his wrist out and fired his weapon toward the officer.

Shawn jumped toward Stinger but it was too late. The woman went down fast and hard in the middle of the abandoned street. Stinger took off on foot around the corner of the building. Marcus looked over at the officer, as she lay flat on her back moaning. That meant that she was still alive and Stinger was getting away. He would tend to her after he took down Stinger. He ran down the side of the building and rounded the corner. He saw Stinger standing there waiting for him.

“Wrong choice hero!” Stinger yelled out as he flicked a small metallic ball the whizzed toward Manhunter. He went to dive out of the way but the ball exploded. He was propelled hard against the side of the building before he fell to the ground blacking out.

Shawn came to as the sounds of sirens were heard off in the distance. He had no way of knowing how long he had been out for. He slowly rose to his feet and stumbled around the side of the building.

He began to move quicker when he saw the police officer still lying in the middle of the street. When he got closer he noticed she was no longer moving. He pulled his mask off and knelt down beside her. She was already dead. He estimated that he must been out a good ten minutes and in that time she had choked to death on her own blood. He had been so obsessed with going after Stinger he let this woman die. It was a senseless death and yet another death caused by a bad decision on his part.

The sirens were moving closer. He took his hand and gently closed the young woman’s eyes. He said a small prayer and then stood up. He headed back down the street toward the direction where Stinger went. He knew that it was too late. Too late to save Stingers next victim. Too late to save that poor woman’s life. It was too late for everything but he couldn’t stop. He had to keep moving but it wouldn’t be enough to escape what he had become. He had been fooling himself for a while now. It wasn’t justice he was after. He had become more obsessed with hunting then seeking justice. And it was going to stop tonight.

Three days later Mark left a message to meet with his contact inside the Manhunters organization. His message was simple; he was out, no questions asked. It was less than twenty-fours before he got a response from them. It was not the answer he was looking for. He turned on the television to find his picture plastered all over the news:

The man who had started a killing spree from Washington State through Texas has killed again. This time, a twenty-four year old police officer was murdered in cold blood when she attempted to apprehend the fugitive. His whereabouts are unknown but police officers around the state of Texas are banding together to bring this cop killer to justice.

He didn’t have time to think about what was going on. It was pretty clear what their answer had been and what their response was to him wanting out. His instincts quickly kicked in. If he were being accused of killing that police officer it would only be a matter of time before he was found. The system moved quicker when it was one of their own that had been killed.

He began to gather his stuff quickly when he noticed the air in the room began to shift. The temperature had dropped rather quickly. He looked up and saw a black spot appear on the wall. It quickly grew until there was a large swirling void of darkness. Shawn was shocked to see two women walk out of it.

“Shawn Marcus? My name is Nightshade and my associate here is Vixen. We’re here to take you in.”

“Like hell you are!” Shawn yelled as he drove across the room toward his power baton.
He was tackled to the floor and spun around to find himself underneath the one called Vixen.

“I don’t think you fully understand what’s going on here mister.” Vixen growled as she held his wrists. “We are taking you in. You will only be contacted again once it’s over.”

“Once what’s ” He began to ask before Vixen head butted him and everything went black.

When he came to he found himself in a holding cell at the county jail with no sign of the two women who found him in his apartment. Things continued to spiral out of control rather quickly. He was appointed a public defender that laid out the evidence that had mounted against him. He knew a set-up when he saw one but could do nothing to stop it.

At the trial he attempted to dismiss his lawyer and defend himself. The judge denied his request. When the trial had concluded the jury only took three hours to come back with a verdict, guilty. The sentencing came even quicker. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection, eight months to the day after the female police officer was killed in the line of duty.

In the six weeks before his sentence was to be carried out, Shawn Marcus was placed in solitary confinement with minimal contact with anyone. For six weeks leading up to the moment they would execute him, one thought kept running through his mind. The woman’s words echoed in his head over and over again:

“You will only be contacted again once it’s over.”

Once what was over? He concluded that he would never find out. Chalk it up as one of many bizarre turn events that led him to where he was now, strapped to a chair in Texas with an a lethal dose of poison coursing through his veins that within seconds, would end his life.

Another senseless death

The darkness slowly faded and the light above him made him lift his hand to shield his eyes. He used his other hand to help push himself up. He sat there on the edge of the bed when his eyes began to adjust he noticed a man sitting in a chair a few feet away. The man had a metal hand and was chomping on a cigar.

“I I .” He tried to speak as he stared at the man.

“Not quiet what you were expecting was it?” The man said grinning.

“I died.”

“That is correct, more or less. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Shawn Marcus is dead. You on the other hand, are very much alive.”

“You did this to me?”

The man laughed, “Not quiet. You did this all to yourself Mr. Marcus. I am just giving you a chance to do something right for a change.”

“I’ve heard that rhetoric before.”

“The Manhunters? Being a force of good against evildoers protecting the planet until some aliens come from outer space to save the planet. Would that be the particular rhetoric you were referring to? Sorry to tell you kid but they lied to you. The Manhunters don’t exist.”

Shawn sat there for a moment letting it all sink in, “Who are you?”

“My name is Sarge Steel. I believe you met a few agents of mine awhile back.”

You will be contacted once it’s over. Yeah I remember!” Shawn stood up a little too fast and stumbled a bit, “I am tired of being messed with.”

“Are you sure about that there killer? You did just come back from the dead. Sit back down before you fall down.” Steel ordered “Now I’ve got an offer for you. Do a little work for Uncle Sam, take down some bad guys, and walk away with a brand new life?”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Well I was thinking of sending you back to prison.”

Star City, three months later-

“Put your guns down! Put the damn guns down now!” The woman yelled walking over to the man strapped in chair. “He dies when I say he dies!”

The woman’s name was Lucia, a drug smuggler and mercenary who came across a little black stone awhile back that gave her immeasurable powers. She insisted on being called Blackrock now.

“What you don’t realize menino, is the incredible amount of suffering you will have to face before I let you die!” She said leaning down to whisper in the man’s ear.

“I already proved where my loyalties lie. They are with you.” He said trembling, “Only you”

“I want to believe you I really do. But I find it hard to believe that the mighty Star-Tsar, who has faced down the likes of the Batman and Green Arrow, would sit here ready to cry like a baby with the threat of a little torture.” The woman turned back around toward the two men behind her and yelled, “So help me god if you two don’t put down your guns right now I will feed you to each other while you both barely kept alive long enough to watch!”

The two men both looked at each other and without saying a word and lowered their weapons.

The assassin’s names were Cannon and Sable. They usually worked freelance but recently began to work exclusively with Blackrock. They were both very trigger happy and were certainly more than just partners in crime but no one dared question them about it otherwise you may go to sleep one night and not wake up the next day.

“Why are you wasting time Lucia when it’s obvious that our friend here has poses no real threat!” Another man spoke as he walked up behind Star-Tsar. “If you really want answers leave me alone with him for five minutes. When I am done he will tell you everything including the time he fantasized about his sister. No secrets are safe from me.”

The grinning man behind Star-Tsar was Bradford Thorne, the Crime Doctor. He claimed to have been a surgeon who performed works of art on the human body but the truth was he was nothing more than a washed up med student who committed crimes and tortured people for the sheer thrill of it.

“You would like that wouldn’t you, you sick freak!” Blackrock said turning back around to face the restrained Star-Tsar. “No I think I would enjoy something a little more  sadistic. Bring her in!” She yelled.

He sat there and watched as another professional criminal, known as Overthrow, brought a woman into the room kicking and screaming. He tried to hide his reaction when he recognized the woman and kept quiet.

“Now it seems here that someone thought it was wise to not only sleep with a female reporter, but to engage in pillow talk that included telling her secrets about what we were up to here. Now I know it sure wasn’t those two cowboys.” Blackrock said pointing toward Cannon and Sable, “So I wonder who it could be?”

“Now wait just one damn minute!” Star-Tsar finally spoke, “That isn’t exactly the way it went down!”

That was the truth. None of it had gone exactly as planned

“Alright here’s the deal.” Sarge Steel spoke to Shawn Marcus a few days after his resurrection, “I am sending you to be incarcerated at Iron Heights which is a maximum security prison outside of Keystone City. We’ve set you up with a new identity, the ‘super villain’ known as Star-Tsar.”

“Never heard of him.”

“No one has because we made him up just for a special occasion like this. Once inside you will make contact with a man named Arnold Beck, another costumed freak who likes to be called Overthrow. Once you gain his confidence he should be more than willing to tell you about a group called the Society that he was part of before he got captured. He’s a big talker if he finds someone to listen to him brag. Once he does I will arrange for you two to escape. From there he should take you to their headquarters. The background file we provided you should give you enough street creed for them to believe you are one of them. Once you have gained their confidence you should be introduced to their leader, Blackrock. She is a tough little bitch who has eluded us for years because of a little black stone in her possession. Uncle Sam wants the society shut down before they cause any more trouble. I want that black stone at any cost.”

Shawn Marcus listened as he flipped through his prepped file, “Star-Tsar? Nowhere do I see what my name is other than that.”

“Well I came up with something you might like. Mark Shaw.”

“Mark Shaw? That’s a little ridiculous don’t you think considering?”

“Well I could send you back in there with your old name. I wonder what they would do if they found out a cop killer wasn’t really executed. Put all that plastic surgery we have planned over the next couple a days to waste.”

Over the next several weeks and months events began to fall into place exactly how Steel laid it out. The meeting with Overthrow, the prison break, and Mark was brought into the society and even had his first face-to-face with Blackrock. He could see why Steel was worried about her. The black stone she wore around her neck gave her enough power to lead an army if she so chose. It would some time before he would even be able to get close enough to have a chance of getting it from her.

In his down time, Mark Shaw kept residence at a hotel suite in downtown Star City. He freely spent money that the government provided him for his cover. It was one night four weeks after throwing in with the society that he met a young woman named Lesley Haney who served drinks at the hotel lounge. After months of pretending to be someone he wasn’t, he found that he could be himself around her. As the evening went on, he found himself drinking a lot and letting his guard down. Once the bar closed the headed up to his room where they spent the next three days only opening the door to receive room service.

After a few weeks of seeing each other off and on, Mark discovered the truth, she was a reporter for the Star City Globe. When the story broke on the front page Mark realized he had been used.

How Star City’s Costumed Criminal Elite Really Live

He didn’t have time to count how many mistakes he had made with her. He was at least thankful for the fact that he never revealed that he was secretly working for the U.S. government. But that fact wasn’t going to save him from the wrath he would encounter from Blackrock and the Society.

“Now it seems here chatty Cathy told this little candela, a story worthy of front page news in this morning’s edition.”

“Let go of me you freak!” Lesley yelled as she attempted to free herself from Overthrow’s grasp.

“You think bringing her is gonna make me squirm!” Mark laughed, “That woman used me. Lets dump her and get out of here.”

Shaw realized that he didn’t have much time but wasn’t about to let Lesley pay for his mistakes even if she did use him. He was hoping to find a way out of this without anyone dying but he was running out of options.

Blackrock continued to stare at Shaw. “Nice try but I think there’s more to it than that. This little bitch will be taken care before we take off but you won’t be coming with us and neither will you!” She turned toward Overthrow and shot a black energy beam from her hand that cut clear through Overthrows chest. Lesley screamed, breaking free from his grasp before his dead body slumped to the floor.

“He had to pay the price for making such a poor judgment call bringing you here in the first place.” She smiled as she looked back at Shaw.

“Really?” Mark said, “I thought maybe the plans have changed and you wanted a few less people to share in the next big score you are planning.”

“You really are an idiot aren’t you?” she said as she raised her hand toward and pressed her index finger against Shaw’s chest.

“I’m the idiot? It’s those two over there who are the idiots.” Shaw motioned his head toward Sable and Cannon, “Weren’t you the one who said last night that those two were redundant and we could get rid of one of them?”

“What the hell is talking about Lucia? Is that true? Cause we are both ” Sable said nervously as he eyed his partner.

“Shut the hell up the both of you!” Blackrock turned her head to yell back at them. Mark watched as the Black stone dangled just inches from his face. He leaned his head forward and grabbed hold of the necklace with his teeth and lunged backward in the chair knocking the Crime Doctor over. As he went down he easily ripping through his restraints.

They had made a mistake when they tied him up. They had removed his mask but chose not to take the rest of the costume off of him. He had enough power in the suit to break free at anytime but he had waited for the best time to make a move. He was still looking for a way to complete his assignment. Seeing Lesley there and watching Overthrow cut down, seemed to be the best time he would get.

Blackrock screamed as she lunged after Shaw. He rolled out of the way and leapt to his feet. He felt a sharp blow to the side of his head as the stone was knocked out of his mouth. He turned and saw the Crime Doctor swing at him again. He ducked and using his momentum against him, picked him off the floor and threw him across the room.

In that moment he had lost sight of Blackrock, who had reached across the floor and picked up the black stone.

“How dare you! She screamed as she clutched the stone in her hand and raised her fist toward Shaw.

“How dare you, bitch.” Sable and Cannon said in unison as they fired their guns toward her. Shaw watched as Blackrock stumbled back before finally falling forward. He reached down and took the black stone from her dead hand. Shaw found it odd that color slowly returned to her pale white skin. He checked to make sure she was truly dead before standing back up. He then looked back over at the two assassins.

“We good here, guys?” He asked nervously.

“Yeah. We’re good.” They said as they lowered their weapons.

Shaw walked over to where Lesley had taken cover and leaned down to see here trembling behind a table. “Not what you were expecting when today started huh?” He said reaching out for her hand.

Mark saw to it that he got her home before the police arrived on the scene, “I wouldn’t recommend sleeping with someone to get a story again.”

Still in shock, she didn’t responded as he turned and headed out the door.

Gotham City, several weeks later-

Mark Shaw had only been in Gotham City a few nights. He had fulfilled his obligation to the U.S. government and was ready to start his life over. He wasn’t sure how long he would stay but decided to check it out since he had been passing through. He needed a place to clear his head after what happened in Star City and Gotham seemed primed to provide him with what he was looking for.

He waited and watched as a young woman walked down the street alone. It wasn’t all that late at night but it always seemed darker in Gotham. From out of the shadows two men grabbed the woman and pulled her into the alley. Mark could hear her muffled screams as he turned the corner and entered the alleyway himself.

“Let the young lady go!” He announced from behind them.

The two men turned around and stared at Mark. One of them began to giggle as the other spoke up, “Who in the hell are you suppose to be in that get-up?”

Mark stood there in his new modified costume. Using the familiar red and blue from his Manhunter costume he had added boots, an eye patch, and a sword.

“I am the Privateer and I will not ask you again to release the lady!” He said as he drew out his sword.

“Give me a break! This is freakin’ Gotham City for ” One of the assailants began to say before a dark shadow swooped down from above them. The woman quickly stood up and ran past Shaw back out onto the street. Shaw stood and watched as the shadowy figure quickly took out the two men within seconds. As both men lay there unconscious, Batman turned and walked toward Shaw who slowly put his sword down. He was ready to turn and run the other direction when Batman stopped a few feet in front of him and stared at him.

“Not like this. Not in my city. Not ever.” Batman growled before he exited the same way he came.

Shaw stood there for another full minute before he turned around and walked away.

Two nights later Mark picked up a phone and dialed a number. He told Sarge Steel how he didn’t believe he was cut out for this kind of life and he may have been a bit hasty in leaving. The next morning there was a limo waiting for him out front of his hotel. He opened the door and stepped inside.

“Hey there sugar pie. Remember us?” Mark looked up and saw Nightshade and Vixen as he entered the back of the limo. “I thought that Steel would be here?” Mark said as he sat down across from them.

“No. He had other pressing matters to attend to.” Nightshade responded.

“Well as long as neither of you headbutt me again, we should be fine.”

Nightshade shot a look over at Vixen who made a purring sound under her breath. Nightshade turned back and pretended not to notice, “So Mark, have you settled on a costume choice yet? Are you going with the pirate?”

Mark shook his head, “Privateer. Not a no I decided to retire that one and go back to Manhunter. Make it count for something this time.”

“Steel thought you would go in that direction. He said your new costume should be ready and waiting for you when we get there. Said he had the tech people modify it a bit to include some of the traits that were in the Star-Tsar costume.”

“Should be interesting.” Mark said looking directly at Vixen.

Vixen sat across from him and smiled, “Yes it should. Welcome to the Suicide Squad Mark Shaw.”

Suicide Notes:

Previously in Suicide Squad …

Public defense attorney, Shawn Marcus, was suddenly faced with tragedy forcing him to give up his old life.

He became involved in an organization called the Manhunters, whose goal was to maintain order in a world full of chaos. As a Manhunter he pursued justice in a way he never could in his old life.

One night on patrol a young police officer died when Shawn attempted to stop a costumed assassin. Shawn was captured and after standing trial was found guilty and executed for his crimes.

Instead on dying he went to work for the government. He was given a new name (Mark Shaw) while posing as the super villain, Star Tsar. Upon completion of his assignment he was free to start his life over. He briefly took up residence in Gotham City and adopted a new hero identity, the Privateer. He quickly realized that it wasn’t the life for him and accepted an offer from Sarge Steel to join the newly formed Suicide Squad.

Back in the present

Mark Shaw rigged a warehouse to exploded ensuring that he would destroy the Manhunters Cult once and for all. Before he could accomplish his task he was taken down by Paul Kirk, who had also been part of the Manhunters. Kirk disabled the explosives before leaving with Mark Shaw in tow.

Mark awakened some time later and questioned Paul Kirk about why he stopped him. Kirk revealed that the Manhunter threat was bigger than Shaw ever imagined it to be. Much bigger.

Sarge Steel ordered the Squad on a mission to take out the Manhunters cult.

The final pieces begin to come together as the tale that exposes the truth about the Manhunters continues

Suicide Squad Roll Call:

Valentina Vostok- Former head of Waller’s covert team, Task Force X. Was made head of the Suicide Squad over a year ago when Amanda Waller suffered severe injuries that put her in a coma during the Apokolips crisis.

Manhunter/ Mark Shaw- Trained by the Manhunters cult but has since vowed to destroy them. Bounty Hunter with enhanced strength, speed, stamina, agility, and limited healing powers.

Manhunter/ Paul Kirk-Formerly of the Manhunters cult. Presumed dead and has spent the last several years tracking down his various clones with the ultimate goal of permanently shutting down the Manhunter cult.

Bronze Tiger/Ben Turner- Second in command, martial arts expert trained by the League of Assassins. Everything else on him is classified and rarely offers details concerning his past.

Vixen/ Mari Jiwe McCabe- Tatu Totem grants her the ability to mimic the powers of any animal.

Tempest/ Joshua Clay- Powers include kinetic energy blasts and limited flight. Former member of the Doom Patrol. Turned himself in once his stint was over with them due to supposed crimes he committed when his powers developed. Recruited to the Squad by former DP member, Valentina Vostok.

Firehawk/ Lorraine Reilly- Daughter of a U.S. Senator. Once a member of Wallers Task Force X. She can create bird-like wings of atomic flame and fly at high speeds. She can fire blasts of fiery thermal energy or bursts of searing radiation.

Peacemaker/ Christopher Smith- Once a member of Amanda Wallers Task Force X. A master combatant, a sure-shot with firearms, and an expert pilot who often fly’s the Squad in and out of missions.

Knockout/ Unknown- Once a member of Wallers Task Force X. Former member of the Female Furies of Apokolips. Possesses super-strength, regeneration, and limited invulnerability.

Catman/ Thomas Blake-Full extent of powers unknown. Has displayed excellent fighting skills in hand-to-hand combat as well as excellent marksmanship with firearms and knives. Also has been known to tell of a legend regarding the cloth that makes up his costume. He claims it possesses mystic powers that would protect its wearer from harm, granting him the nine lives of a cat. None of which have been proven.

When he was a boy, he dreamed of being a rock star. He picked up his first guitar when he was eight years old. He started playing in a garage band when he was twelve. By seventeen he had dropped out of school and formed his own band. By twenty-three he was playing in nightclubs, waiting for the right record producer to walk in and offer him a deal that would change his life forever. Instead, one late night after a show, a man walked up to him and handed him a pamphlet and asked him if he was ready to change his life forever.

Soon after, he gave up on his dreams of fame and fortune and became involved in a group that promised to change the world. His name was Chase Lawler and he was a Manhunter. They saw a lot of potential in him and quickly promoted him to the position once held by Paul Kirk, that was once supposed to be filled by Mark Shaw, as head of the enforcer branch.

Chase was never told much about those that came before him, but he knew that there had been others. He even encountered the man he replaced, one night shortly after he became a Manhunter. He was told by the Manhunters that the man he replaced had lost his way and no longer believed in the cause. At first, Chase found it hard to believe that anyone who knew the evil that they fought against could ever just walk away without a fight. Of course, that was before he learned the truth; Before he encountered another Manhunter that had also ‘walked away’ from the cause, Paul Kirk.

After Kirk filled him in on everything about the real Manhunters Cult, Chase decided that he would help bring them down from the inside. They didn’t suspect him, so it was easy to leak information about their plans to Kirk and the U.S. government, in hopes that they could eventually get enough ammunition to bring them down for good.

Chase knew that they were close now. He had finally been brought to the California base and was planning to meet with the leader. He had never met with him before and had always been given his orders by a third party. He already knew what they were planning, but if he could discover the leader’s identity then perhaps they would be able to end this once and for all.

Chase moved swiftly and silently through the dark hall. He turned the corner and, when he knew he was alone, he opened his communicator and spoke softly into the small device:

“Kirk, it’s Lawler. I am suppose to meet with the head guy soon, but I wanted to let you know what the plans are. The orders were given for a strike against the Vice President, tomorrow during his speech here in California.”

“Good. I will let Steel know and they can assemble a team to be there. When they strike, we will take them down,” Kirk responded on the other end.

“I better go before someone sees me. We are so close now I can feel it! I can’t wait to finally look this bastard in the eye and know that he’s going down!”

“Well, be patient! A lot of people have worked long and hard to make this happen. Just don’t put yourself in harm’s way. Your job right now is to establish a positive ID on who this guy is, then we will organize a strike team to go in there and take him and the cult down. So just be careful!”

“Hey, I’ve made it this far.” Lawler smirked. “I plan on seeing this through to the end. Lawler out.”

Chase closed the communicator and slid it back inside his pocket. Chase then felt a sharp blade pierce him from behind and then nothing. His dead body slid off of the blade and fell to the ground. Two men stepped out from behind him.

“He is dead,” one of the men, said as he wiped the blood off the blade of his sword. “But are you not concerned that he was able to reveal tomorrow’s agenda before he died?”

“Things are proceeding as planned.” The other man smiled as he walked up and stood next to the Manhunter agent who had just killed Chase. “Their attention will now be diverted elsewhere, leaving us to take care of more serious issues. They will focus on the VP and won’t realize what’s really going on until it’s too late.”

Elsewhere

“Was that your ‘inside man’ you were referring to earlier?” Mark Shaw asked.

“Yes it was.” Paul Kirk responded. “We’ve pinpointed the Manhunters’ location here in California and I am just waiting for confirmation on the leader’s identity.”

“Why wait?” Shaw said, as he stood up and walked across the motel room toward Kirk. “If we know where they are located let’s just go in there and take them out. We can ID the bodies later.”

“We’ve already gone over this. We follow the plan that’s in place.” Paul Kirk took a deep breath as he looked over at Shaw. “Look, I know you want this as badly as I do, but the Cult are like cockroaches. If we run in there, flicking on the lights, they will scatter in all directions. I want to take down the head guy. After that, the rest should be easy.”

“So we sit here and wait?” a frustrated Shaw replied.

“It won’t be much longer. I will contact Steel and let him know what Lawler reported so he can assemble a team to protect the Vice President.”

“Team, huh?” Shaw sighed. “I think I know already who he’ll call. Not sure I am ready to go back.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that just yet. We won’t be joining them. We will sit here and wait for word from Lawler and then go after the Manhunters’ base.”

“Good,” Shaw replied. “So this Lawler kid, he was my replacement in the Manhunters, wasn’t he?”

“Yes. He’s a good man who, like both of us, just needed to be shown the light.”

“I ran into to him once.” Shaw said, as he sat back down. “It was a while back. I had just left the Squad when I discovered that my fiancé’s killer was out of jail. I headed to San Francisco to kill him. I hadn’t been back there since Emily died. I was waiting for the little bastard to leave the club one night. I waited patiently as Cuong Tern enjoyed the last night of his life.”

Back in SS II: All Consuming Fire- Chapter 3

“Your fiancé’s killer was the man you turned state’s evidence on?” Kirk asked, sitting down across from Shaw.

“Yeah. I defended the little punk and he got off. He was guilty as sin and it made me sick to think he was gonna just walk. I gave him up to the DA and they had enough to put him away for a long time on other crimes, but here he was out of jail anyway.”

” I know the type. Their power always lies in who they know and who they are willing to sell their soul to.”

“I planned on sending him, and what was left to his soul, straight to hell, but then he showed up.”

“Chase?”

Shaw nodded. “I knew right away who he was, even if I didn’t know his name at the time. He was the Cult’s latest lapdog. We tussled for a bit as I tried to explain to him what I was planning to do. He ended up talking me out of it and we parted ways.”

“He talked you out of killing the man who ruined your life?” Paul asked.

“Well, no. I killed Cuong three nights later. But the kid made me realize something.”

“What’s that?”

Mark Shaw sat there with his head in his hands. “Emily was still dead and nothing I did could bring her back. And that there would always be scum bags like Cuong Tern left in the world no matter what anyone did to try and stop them. But they never try to hide who they are, unlike the Cult with their fancy talk about saving the world and protecting mankind. The Cult are the bigger threat and I vowed to take down every last one of them if it took my final breath to do so.”

Belle Reve, Super Maximum Security Prison:

Missions Room-

Val Vostok looked out at the small group seated in front of her. The current squad team included Bronze Tiger, Vixen, Tempest, Peacemaker, Firehawk, Knockout, and Catman.

She stood up to address them. “Alright, kiddies, the mission has been confirmed. You head out to California within the hour. Bronze Tiger is in charge so you follow his orders once you are in the field.”

Catman looked around the room and slowly raised his hand. “Since it appears that I am the new guy here, you want to tell me what is being served on the menu?”

“If you are referring to the mission, Ben will give out the details en route,” Val replied. “But basically this is what is called a ‘National Security Event’. You are being ordered to protect the life of the Vice President of the United States.”

“My first time up to bat and I get the stinkin’ VP?” Catman chuckled. “I thought that the Vice President only attended weddings and funerals?”

“This guy does a little more than that,” Firehawk added. “He’s often a buffer against critics that attack the President. The VP speaks on topic matters that are somewhat controversial, while the President stays out of the line of fire.”

“Well that’s cute,” Tempest said under his breath. “Look at the flag-waving senator’s daughter.”

Firehawk shot over a look at Tempest and he just gave her a weak smile in return.

“But, that does beg the question though,” Vixen spoke up, “if he knows he’s a target at this speech, then why not just cancel it entirely?”

“He refused. Given his military background, it doesn’t surprise me.” Val continued, “The president plans to gear up for the upcoming re-election year and the VP is out there trying to bring attention to how the military has taken a larger role in defending this country despite the rise in “Super villain activity”. The President wants to emphasize that the role of defending our great nation belongs to the fine men and woman in the armed forces, not costumed freaks in their pj’s.”

Catman began to laugh. “So, we are being sent in to protect a man who wants nothing to do with us?”

“Don’t fool yourselves. We aren’t the good guys here,” Bronze Tiger finally spoke up.

Peacemaker smiled as he finally spoke up, “Today we are.”

The following morning

Tomorrow morning there would be a major vote in the Senate on whether or not to go forward with a major budget increase for military spending. This was the last big push to persuade those in the Senate, who may be on the fence, to approve the President’s proposal.

The Vice President of the United States, Jeb Stuart, stepped up to the podium. He looked down at his notes and then back up at the crowd of over one thousand people, mostly military personnel from various bases around the state. The crowd also included the Suicide Squad, who did their best to blend in as they waited for the imminent strike that they were ordered to stop.

Stuart adjusted the microphone and began:

“This country owes a great debt to the private citizens who rose to the occasion during last year’s crisis. We are thankful for the ‘Super Hero’ community for their efforts. But it wouldn’t be fair to not recognize that 365 days a year there are other people that stand ready to give their lives to this great nation. They do not hide in the shadows but stand on the front lines prepared to be our first and last line of defense against any threat, great or small, that this country may face. I look out onto this crowd and I see many of them right here. I stand before you in the great state of California and it makes this old war dog proud.”

The booming applause from the crowd made Stuart pause for a brief moment.

California has the largest number of military installations in the nation — 36 major and 25 minor facilities, including military installations, U.S. Department of Defense laboratories, and testing facilities. As we enter the 21st Century, and, particularly since the crisis last year that was felt around the world, California’s response to the ever-changing needs of the U.S. Department of Defense is critical to the health of our economy and our nation. This base, in particular, provides ongoing assistance and support to maintain active installations and mitigate the effects of base realignment “

A single shot was fired out from the crowd and Jeb Stuart was down.

“Damn it!” Bronze Tiger yelled out, as the crowd began to panic. “This wasn’t an attack! It was a damn assassination plot! I need everyone to scan the crowd! I want the shooter captured!”

“Ah  Ben,” Vixen hollered as she looked up. “We’ve got a problem”

Before anyone on the Squad could react, a horde of Manhunter clones fell from the sky.

Vixen leapt up and landed hard on a Manhunter, ripping at him like the panther she was calling upon. Blood spurted and he staggered back; but he lifted a pistol and fired point blank at her face. Her accelerated reflexes enabled her to duck just in time, but not entirely fast enough; the bullet grazed the side of her face.

She screamed in fury and kicked him in the gut. He stumbled back and brought up his gun again, but she flew forward and knocked it aside…and her still claw-like hands settled around his throat and began to squeeze.

Catman looked up and saw Firehawk blaze over the battlefield, unleash a torrent of flame and then descend in a graceful, lethal arc downwards into the chaos of battle. He had no more time to appreciate the view because a Manhunter was before him, wielding a katana.

That was just fine with Catman. He drew his own personal favorite blade. It was more than a Bowie knife, longer…almost a short sword in its own right, with that one serrated side. The superior manufacture of the enemy’s weapon bothered him not in the slightest.

He was in his element now. He did chide himself slightly for letting Firehawk’s pyrotechnics distract him; he knew better than that. But now, facing his seemingly mindless, drone-like opponent – a soulless fool like all these other wannabe ‘Manhunters’ – it was almost like killing just another animal.

Not that taking out real humans had ever been a problem for him, either.

He made a come-hither gesture with his free hand, and the Manhunter came in, sword raised high in both hands. Catman almost smirked; so typical.

The enemy’s rush was interrupted by a boot. That worked out fine. What wasn’t so fine was that the fool managed to slash down his blade and cut Catman’s leg.

“Okay, so you’re not a complete idiot,” Catman said through gritted teeth. “Let’s do this properly then, shall we?”

The Manhunter made no word in answer but swung his blade in a vicious diagonal swipe. Catman parried one-handed. His arm did jerk a little, tendons protesting, but he held the enemy weapon at bay. His foe responded by trying to shove the katana forward and through him; Catman turned the blade aside and turned his own body as well, giving himself some breathing room. Twisting awkwardly back around, he punched the Manhunter in the face.

To give the foe credit, he was tough. Bleeding a little from the nose and mouth, he nevertheless swung his own blade again, forcing Catman to step back. His next swing Catman parried easily… too easily; it was a feint. Blade knocked aside, Catman was the victim of a hard tackle, and they went down, rolling around on the ground.

But it was Catman that rose, his blade slick with blood. Grinning with satisfaction, he took the other man’s sword as prize of combat; then turned, seeking new enemies.

A Manhunter strode forward, wielding a staff.

Catman grinned and lunged to meet him.

As the battle continued, the VP was taken away by ambulance as they raced to the nearest hospital.

“I’ve stopped the bleeding,” the EMT said from the back of the ambulance. “The wound went clean through his shoulder. He should be stable until we get there.”

“That’s a good thing,” a man said, leaning out and over from the passenger seat.

“Who the hell are you?” the startled EMT said.

“No one important,” the man replied, before firing two bullets into the EMT’s chest. He fell over dead. The shooter looked over at the driver. “Radio in that the VP is stable and we should be arriving with him soon.”

The man pulled himself up and over into the back of the ambulance. He pushed the body out of the way and looked down at the barely-conscious Jeb Stuart and smiled. “Make yourself comfortable. I know someone who wants to have a word with you.”

Bronze Tiger used no weapons other than his hands and fists.

He needed no others.

A Manhunter shot at him; once, twice, three times. He ducked, and let his momentum carry him into a spinning roll along the ground. As the Manhunter tried to stomp on him, he uncoiled and lashed out with a foot, slamming it under the man’s chin. The gun went off again, and a bullet screeched away in ricochet mere inches from his head.

But, by then, the Manhunter was stumbling back, dazed, unable to aim. Bronze Tiger leapt up and kicked, planting his boot in the other man’s chest. Down the foe went, but Tiger followed him, leading with his fist. It connected with the man’s head on the ground with an audible crack.

Knockout strode through the battle with power and purpose, knocking enemies aside.

A shot ripped into her but she barely felt it. The Manhunter that fired that shot suddenly found himself lifted up, by the throat, by one hand, then unceremoniously slammed back onto the ground, breaking his back.

Bronze Tiger and Vixen found themselves fighting side by side; but the old chemistry was gone. It had been for quite some time now. He had to duck as she punched the Manhunter he was facing; she leaned back as he sent a looping kick into her opponent’s face.

They glared at each other without words for a long moment, and then strode into battle again.

Firehawk continued to fly overhead, blasting away with fire, urgency filling every fiber of her being.

The military police, regular cops, and Secret Service agents were doing their part against the Manhunters, but they were simply overwhelmed. An agent traded potshots with a Manhunter, and lost. Another agent took a clubbing blow to the face and fell, jaw broken.

After word had been given that the VP was safely transported away, the local cops and the soldiers opened fire with their own weapons. Three Manhunters dropped. But another returned fire with a machine gun, and two more charged with weapons drawn. Catman was there in time to parry one, but the other started wreaking havoc amongst the police and soldiers. It took a team of three soldiers and two police to finally bring him down to the ground.

Another soldier realized he was finished and pulled the pin on a grenade. Seconds later he and his Manhunter opponent exploded, blood spattering everything in the vicinity.

“Catman!” Bronze Tiger shouted. The villain blinked, then nodded. Bronze Tiger ran right at him; Catman caught him and threw him into the biggest pack of Manhunters, where he became a blur of violence.

“He’s insane,” Vixen cursed, then summoned the spirit of a rhino and charged after him.

Elsewhere

An armed man shoved Jeb Stuart forward as they entered a dark walkway. He wasn’t certain where they had taken him but it appeared to be an abandoned military installation of some kind. He tried to make note of everything around him. He continued to walk until he was ordered into a room and forced to sit in a small metal chair. He sat down and quickly began to apply pressure to the bullet wound in his shoulder. It offered him little relief but it slowed down the bleeding, if only slightly.

“I am sorry we had to meet under these circumstances, Mr. Vice President,” a man said, passing by the armed men who stood guard at the door. He walked over and looked down at Stuart. Stuart looked up at the man who was hiding his face with what appeared to be a variation of the masks that the Manhunters wore. “I am about to gain an audience with your boss so I thought you should be here,” he said, before a giant monitor lit up on the wall.

“Mr. President,” the masked man announced as Max Lord looked furious on the large screen.

“What the hell is the meaning of this?” Lord snarled. “Who are you?”

“Allow me to explain,” the masked man said, turning toward the looming face of Lord on the monitor. “While your precious Suicide Squad engages in battle with a small group of my Manhunter clones, I thought you and I should have a little chat.”

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Lord replied.

“If you insist, you can address me as The Head. I am in charge of the Manhunters and a little group you might be familiar with… the Council.”

Lord looked past the masked man and saw the injured Jeb Stuart behind him in the chair.

“As you can see,” the masked man continued. “I brought ol’ Jeb here to ensure that you would comply with my demands.”

“What demands?” Lord snapped.

“I want to do a little house cleaning in the U.S. government, starting with your removal as President.”

“That’s preposterous! What makes you think I would go along with that?”

“Well, if you refuse, I put a few more bullets into your boy here.” The Head paused. “And of course I will blow up the White House and everyone in it! I will give you a few minutes to think it over.”

The monitor then went blank.

After tossing Bronze Tiger, Catman knelt and recovered the blades: his own extra long Bowie knife, and the katana he had taken from the enemy. Charging forward, he met a Manhunter who had a power staff.

The Manhunter blasted at him once; he sidestepped. Grinning unpleasantly, he ran the foe through with both weapons.

As that one went down, Catman pulled the blades free and leapt, screaming, for three more Manhunters, swinging both blades as he went.

This was the life!

Peacemaker scrambled on top of a Humvee and raised his sniper rifle. Calmly and dispassionately, he peered through the scope. It was almost too easy; the Manhunters never had a chance to even realize they were being targeted.

Everything became very still and clear. He targeted one whose head was in profile. Breathing out softly, he pulled the trigger.

Crack.

The Manhunter dropped.

Calm, slow, still, focus. Peacemaker tuned out the noise and chaos of battle. This was his moment.

Another Manhunter’s broad chest came into view.

Crack.

A third one was raising his own handgun and pointing it at someone out of his view.

Crack.

“Nice shooting,” said a voice. “Need a spotter?”

He almost turned and fired. Instead he lowered the rifle and looked down; a young soldier stood with his own weapon at the ready, a machine gun.

“Not a spotter, but some covering fire would be nice. Try not to hit any of our team.”

“I think I can figure out the costume deal,” the kid nodded, amiably. He turned and started firing sporadic, calculated bursts.

Peacemaker thought the kid had potential. He raised his scope again. Another Manhunter came into his scope.

Crack.

One of them was busy with Bronze Tiger; they seemed to be grappling together. Peacemaker aimed carefully for the enemy’s jugular.

Crack.

“Boss,” said the soldier nervously. “I think we have a prob”

Peacemaker looked down in time to see the soldier get kicked into the side of the Humvee by a Manhunter. He fired off a shot, but without aiming; panicking and at such close range, he did no more than graze the man’s shoulder.

The Manhunter was on the roof of the vehicle in a moment. As Peacemaker fired another shot that totally missed, he thought maybe the man had enhanced reflexes, as well. He threw a punch, but totally missed. The Manhunter shoved him right off the top of the Humvee, to the ground below; landing hard on his back. The Manhunter leapt down after, kicking him. His wind was knocked out. The Manhunter sneered and grabbed him by the throat, lifting him up, making a fist with his other hand…

A fist that was caught by Knockout, who squeezed it until it broke. The Manhunter shrieked, and Knockout threw him into the Humvee.

Literally into it. There was a smash of glass and a groan of metal.

“Thanks,” Peacemaker choked out.

Knockout nodded once, and stormed off.

Tempest blasted the enemy with his power. Knocking foes aside easily, he felt they were doing well… it was simply that there were too many of the enemy.

His power blazed again, again, again. He felt he needed to do more damage, so he used a blast of his power to propel himself upwards. Rising higher and higher, he blasted down at the crowd, aiming carefully. The fighting was sprawling now, disorganized knots here and there. Chaos.

Each successive blast lifted him higher, so eventually he stopped, letting himself fall back down.

Firehawk caught him.

“I was controlling my fall,” he said.

She smirked. “Perhaps you were. And perhaps we need to coordinate our efforts.”

He nodded thoughtfully as she brought them down for a landing. “You know that crack I made about you being a Senators kid? I am sorry.”

“My Dad is so ready to stand against the ‘super hero’ community and he doesn’t even know what his daughter does! It’s just frustrating.”

“How bout we work out our frustrations together?” Tempest smiled at her.

As one, they turned to face the foe. Four of them came at the pair at once.

They lifted their hands and responded with all the power at their disposal.

Everything became very bright; brighter than the sun, too bright to bear.

Manhunters shrieked… but not for long.

“Why in the hell does every one want to destroy the White House?” Lord asked as he paced back and forth inside the Oval Office, ” Did a group of psychos gather in a room one day to watch Independence Day and afterward go ‘Gee that looks cool! Maybe we should try that?’ And just how much longer do I have to listen to this idiot?”

Several members of his staff sat there as he glared at them. “Well don’t everyone speak up at once!” Lord yelled out.

Lord’s Chief of Staff quickly responded, “Sarge Steel wants you to keep talking to him. Everyone else has been cleared out of the White House.”

“Well goodie for them,” he snapped back.

The image of the masked man on the monitor returned. “Times up, Max. Those who are loyal to the cause are already in place, ready to take over every position in government as soon as you and your people step down.”

“So you are saying that you want us to just go away so you and your Council buddies can come in here and play house?” Max was quick to reply.

“The Council will soon make it clear that it will take more than just a military to defend this country.” The masked man beamed. “And to show you how serious I am, I currently control several submarines positioned up and down the Atlantic with enough nuclear weapons to destroy D.C. Of course I would have to rebuild the capital elsewhere, maybe some place a little warmer.”

Max looked over at the montior and smiled. “Now I know you are bluffing. U.S. attack submarines no longer carry nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruise missles as a result of nuclear arms control agreements with the United Nations.”

“Now who’s bluffing, Max? You and I both know that you don’t want the rest of the world made aware that you still possess those missiles. But the fact still remains that they are pointed directly at your head as we speak.”

“Fine. You want to be President so badly, why don’t you show up here and take it from me in person then?” Max waved his fist at the monitor.

“I never said I wanted to be President, Max. But, your replacement should be walking through the door any second now.”

Max spun around as the door behind him opened up. “Hi Max,” Wade Eiling announced as he entered the room, “Long time no see, huh?”

Ben Turner surveyed the battlefield. When word reached him that the last Manhunter clone had fallen, he activated his earpiece communicator.

“Val, it’s Ben. The Manhunters are down. Any word on the VP’s condition?”

“Worse than you might think, Ben,” Val replied. “This mission was a failure before it even started. His ambulance was hijacked and soon after, his captors made contact with the White House. They have threatened to kill the VP and destroy D.C. if their demands aren’t met.”

“What do we do now?” Ben asked as Vixen walked up and stood beside him.

“Well, at least there is some good news,” Val replied. “We are using the tracking device we had placed on him to pinpoint his exact location. Eve and her shadow team are positioning themselves as we speak. Just be ready to move out on her word.”

“Will do,” Ben said as he disconnected the comm-link.

“The Vice President knew this would happen?” Vixen asked him.

” Kind of. We knew this might have been a distraction for something bigger and it looks like we were right,” Ben answered.

“And Jeb Stuart willingly went along with this?” Vixen said, with a surprised look on her face.

“I never said he was really Jeb Stuart, did I?” Ben smiled back at her.

The masked leader of the Manhunters and the Council switched off the monitor and turned around. He walked over to the ‘Vice President’ who was slumped back in his chair. “I hope you caught what I said to your buddy, Max.”

“I heard,” he slowly responded. “And you’re a fool if you think he is going to go along with that ridiculous plan you proposed. He is just biding his time.”

“You think I planned all this on a whim?” the man said, leaning down toward Stuart. “This has been coming for a long time now. And you will be witness to the new American Revolution as it unfolds right before your eyes. That is just before I kill you out of spite anyway.”

“You are nothing but a coward,” he growled.

“A coward? You want to see the face of your killer before I put a bullet in your brain?” he said, removing his mask. “Look into my eyes then if you think it will make it easier for you to accept your fate.”

He sat there silent for a moment as the man looked down at him. “What? Nothing to say now?”

The man in the chair was stunned. He couldn’t believe who he was looking up at. A sick twisted feeling entered his gut and he forced himself to laugh. “I thought you were dead. All this time I punished myself for it over and over again. Deep down inside the possibility was there and I ignored it. I always pushed it aside. But here you are.”

“What the hell are you going on about?” the man said with a puzzled look on his face as he continued to look down at ‘Stuart’.

“I came here today to bring my brother’s killer to justice,” the man in the chair said as he reached up and removed the prosthetic mask from his face. “But it turns out you weren’t dead at all, were you  Craig?”

The man began to laugh as well when he recognized the face behind the mask who had masqueraded as Jeb Stuart. He was known as Nemesis to some, but to him, he was his brother, Tom Tresser.

“Well, the Ides of March are come,” said Caesar.

The seer replied, “Ay, they are come, but they are not gone.”

-William Shakespeare- Julius Caesar (1599)

Suicide Notes:

Previously in Suicide Squad –

The Squad is sent out on a mission to protect the life of the Vice President, Jeb Stuart. But the VP is shot by a lone assassin as a horde of Manhunter clones fall from the sky.

The Squad battles the clones as the VP, is taken to meet the leader of the criminal organization, The Council who is also the man behind the Manhunters Cult.

The leader of the Council then contacts President Lord and informs him he will not only kill Stuart but also launch five nuclear warheads directly at the White House if his demands aren’t met. He orders Maxwell Lord to step down as the nation’s leader and be replaced with Wade Eiling ushering in a new American Revolution.

The Council leader is revealed to be Craig Tresser, the brother of Nemesis who was believed to have been killed by the very organization he was now in charge of.

In turn, Craig Tresser discovered that the man he captured was not the Vice President but the vigilante Nemesis and brother Tom Tresser

Suicide Squad Roll Call:

Shadow Team-

Nightshade/Eve Eden- Government agent who continues to secretly work for Sarge Steel reporting back to him the current details on the Squad. Can become a tangible shadow for short periods of time. She can create dimensional warps and teleport herself and others.

Plastique/ Bette Sans Souci-Known Terrorist and work for hire Power to project explosive force at will by touching an object with her fingertips. Captured over six months ago after she blew up Belle Reve prison. Continues to serve out her sentence as a member of the Squad indefinitely.

Deadeye/ Unknown- An excellent marksman with a bow and arrow. Recruited out of prison for crimes that have been classified at this time.

Tigress/ Artemis Crock- Exceptional at hand-to-hand combat as well as a skilled archer. Recruited out of prison for crimes that have been classified at this time.

Several months ago

Craig Tresser, Leader of the Council smiled unpleasantly at the face on the view-screen.

“Your cloning technology proved to be useful. We plan to implement some of the designs very soon,” he said to the view-screen. “I take it that you received the final payment?”

“Yes,” the man on the view-screen answered. “And you should be a worthwhile partner in the future, if you manage to handle your own…situation.”

The Council leader’s eyes glittered. “My brother? I can handle him. He’s been chasing a ghost for so long now he wouldn’t know the truth if it came up and bit him on the ass.”

The man on the view-screen opened his mouth to answer, then changed his mind and simply smirked. “I’m sure. Contact me…after it’s over.”

The screen blanked.

The Council leader sat back, smiling grimly to himself. Yes, that cloning technology had been most useful. If his allies decided to break their friendly truce…well then, it would be interesting to see one set of enhanced clones go up against another.

Now

“You are nothing but a terrorist,” Nemesis stated as he looked up at the man he thought had died years ago.

“Terrorist?” Craig laughed. “That is such a throwaway term people like you toss out when someone has a different belief than you. I have never used terror to spread my beliefs. I use truth.”

“The truth is that you allied yourself with Sayid Marlo, a known terrorist.”

“Marlo was a patriot and just one of many men brave enough to stand up to the American beast. And if I recall correctly, it was a member of your squad that killed him, not me. So tell me who’s the terrorist here?” Tom Tresser sat there nearly slumped over in the chair unable to look his brother in the eye. “That’s right Tom, or did you forget that I was the one who put Wade Eiling in charge of the Suicide Squad to begin with, just to keep an eye on you. I’ve been following your career all this time. This ridiculous crusade of yours to balance the scales of justice!”

Nemesis was growing weaker by the minute. He no longer had the strength to apply pressure to the bullet wound in his shoulder. He fought to stay coherent; the only thing that kept him from blacking out completely was the range of emotions he was feeling. Anger. Confusion. Betrayal. All of which revolved around one simple question:

“Why? Dear God, why Craig? Everything I did, I did for you!”

Craig rolled his eyes. “And everything I did, I did to get away from who I was. The weak person who was unable to deal with life.” He sighed and hung his head, and when he looked up again, Tom saw some of the brother he once knew in his gaze. Craig held out his hand. “You want to do something for me, Tom? You want to help me? Then open your eyes. Guys like you…capes, the cops…all of it…you never do any good. You just maintain the status quo. Cops on the take, Feds doing shakedowns. Hell, don’t tell me you think President Lord is on the up and up, do you? And look at you! You work with super-villains yourself! And for what? What are you defending? What are you fighting for? Nothing! The world is strength. The world is power and hate and blood. Sheep and wolves. Profit and loss. That’s reality, bro! You’re fighting to preserve it; I’m trying to profit by it! Which of us is worse? Not me.” He reached out a hand. “You wanna help me, Tom? Join the winning team.”

Tom sighed, tears building up in his eyes. “Then my brother is truly dead.”

“No, I’m alive like I never was before. But you’ll be down amongst the dead men soon enough. I’m sorry, brother.”

“So am I,” Nemesis whispered.

The White House:

“Don’t look so surprised, Max,” Wade Eiling said gleefully as he entered the Oval Office. “You really didn’t think you could lock me up and forget about me, did you?”

“No. But I should have put a bullet in your head when I had the chance,” President Lord said with disgust in his voice.

“Come on, Max. You and I both know you’d never get your hands dirty like that; you’re too much of a coward. That’s why you let Waller bully you around like she did. But I will give you credit; I was impressed when I discovered that you gave the order to have Waller shot. You and I both know that cow had it coming. I only hope when I take command of this country I too can find the strength to make those tough choices when the time comes.”

Max walked over to the unsuspecting Eiling and laid him out with a solid right hook. “You think this is a game, Wade? That I am just going to step down because your boss finally steps out of the shadows and whispers ‘boo’?”

Eiling rubbed his chin as he slowly stood up. “That took balls, Max. I will give you that. Perhaps if you would’ve grown a pair sooner things wouldn’t have come to this. For too long you and this government have been too preoccupied with aliens and super freaks to recognize that this great nation of ours is losing its rightful place as a global superpower and it’s high time we take it back!”

Max stood there for a moment and then began to smile. “So tell me something, Eiling. If you’re the man in charge now, what do you think is going to happen if I refuse to step down and those nukes take out the White House? Where will you be when things go boom?”

Wade Eiling smiled awkwardly at Lord but was unable to think of a response.

Belle Reve, Super Maximum Security Prison:

Missions Room-

“Are you kidding me?” Sarge Steel yelled into his cell phone. “I understand that, but you’re telling me we have no contact with five of OUR submarines that this maniac claims to have at his command?” He paused as the person on the other end tried to explain, “There are five nuclear warheads that do not officially exist pointed at the White House  at YOUR President. Find a way to override them NOW!”

Christine St. Clair watched as Sarge Steel stormed out of the room. Valentina Vostok was seated next to her. When she looked over at Val she saw her put her head down as she tried to hide the smile on her face. “You don’t like him much do you?” she asked Val.

“No. Not so much.” Val looked up at her.

“I understand how hard it is to be a woman in your position while the boys play war.”

“Well I am still not sure if I am in the right place here ” Val stood up and stared at the several large monitors positioned on the wall of the missions room. “But I had a good role model.” She laughed to herself when she wondered what Waller would say if she were here to hear that.

” I am thankful that you have allowed me to stay here and monitor the situation out in California,” Christine responded.

“Well, considering with what’s going on in D.C., Steel felt it best that you both wait things out here anyway.” Val turned around to face her. “But I have been wondering something, Miss St. Clair. Why would Steel bring in an ex-Interpol operative like you into this operation?”

Christine leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. She glanced up at the monitors again and decided that they had nothing else to do at the moment but wait. After so many years, Christine would’ve thought she’d be an expert at waiting by now. But she was extremely nervous. One way or another it was all going to end soon and the waiting would finally be over. Just a little bit longer

She began to tell Val how she was recruited into Interpol. They had recruited her at a young age. She was pretty and was able to play the ditzy blonde role perfectly. When they discovered that she could do more than just that, they began to train her for meatier missions. After a few years out in the field, Christine met Paul Kirk.

He had only recently been recruited into the Manhunters Cult and at the time neither of them suspected how dangerous they were or that they were being run by the same organization she had been ordered to investigate, the shadow group known only as The Council.

When Paul Kirk had discovered that there was more to the Manhunters Cult than met the eye, he met up with her and told her of his suspicions. She was able to use what he told her to confirm that the Manhunters were linked to the criminal underworld through the Council and had been using him, as well as many other ‘members’, across the globe. This infuriated Paul and she saw a side of him she never knew existed. He was angry and wanted revenge. But she was scared that his judgment had been clouded and she insisted that he wait for her to report to her superiors what they had uncovered. He told Christine that he had to take care of it himself. She begged him not to go without her but he didn’t want her any more involved than she already was. They stopped arguing and she reluctantly agreed. They spent one last night together before he headed out.

“He promised that once he took care of everything we would start a new life together and leave everything else behind us.” Christine wiped a single tear away that had fallen onto her cheek. “And of course I let myself fall back into the stupid girl role, and let him go. That was twenty-eight years ago.”

Val stood there. She felt slightly uncomfortable as this woman she hardly knew poured her heart out to her. But she also related to Christine St. Clair in ways she would never be willing to admit. She recognized that she must have been holding a lot of this inside of her for way too long and just needed someone to listen. She sat down next to her and put her arm around her. Christine showed no hesitation and laid her head on Val’s shoulder.

After a few minutes, Christine sat up and adjusted herself. “I am sorry. Here you are trying to run a mission and I break down like a girl who got stood up for prom.”

“Trust me; I’d rather be in here with you than with Mr. iron-fist out there.” Val forced herself to laugh. “Of course, if you’ve been waiting twenty-eight years for this, I can imagine it’s harder for you than it is for me.”

“Well I haven’t sat around like this the entire time.” Christine stood up. “I mean, until recently I thought that Paul died at the hands of the Manhunters. When I first received word that the Manhunter compound in Indonesia had been destroyed with no survivors I spent day and night trying to track down the Council and bring them to justice, but they covered their tracks well and had virtually disappeared. Maybe I wasn’t strong enough, but I knew, no matter what I did to them, I would never be able to bring Paul back. Soon after I retired from Interpol and well, I started a new life here in the U.S. but I guess I never really moved on. Too many ghosts to keep me up at night, you know?”

“And all this time you thought he was dead?” Val turned and asked her.

“Until about six weeks ago when an old contact of mine sent me a classified file. In the file were a list of dates and photos going back several years and all were related to a single ongoing operation involving the Manhunters Cult. I started digging into it and found out that the Manhunters were active again. It wasn’t too long after that that I got a visit from Sarge Steel. He informed me, in his oh-so-subtle way, that I was involving myself in business that no longer concerned me.”

“Sounds like him,” Val replied.

“But there was no way I was going to back down. Not when every picture in that file was like looking at a ghost of someone I had lost twenty-eight years previously. Finally, Steel gave in when he realized that I might be able to provide them with some background on the Council and the Manhunters. It was then that he reluctantly told me the truth about what had happened surrounding Paul’s ‘death’. In truth, when Paul went to destroy the Manhunters, they had captured him and held him in some type of suspended animation. They revived him just long enough to perform experiments on him, and used his DNA to create the perfect Manhunter clones to compile an army of subservient soldiers. Apparently Paul had only just escaped from where they were holding him two years ago.”

Val was stunned. “My god. I had no idea. What happened when you saw him again?”

Christine paused as she turned to face away from Val. “I haven’t yet.”

“What do you mean you haven’t yet? What the hell does Steel think ”

“It wasn’t Steel’s idea. It’s was Paul’s. He sent me a message telling me that he wished that I hadn’t gotten involved with this again and that things had changed. He had changed and he wouldn’t be able to face me until this was all over.”

Val wasn’t sure how to respond to that. A screen on one of the monitors began to buzz. “Well it looks like you won’t have to wait much longer,” she said, walking over as the image of Nightshade appeared on the screen.

“We’re in position, Val,” Eve Eden announced.

“Good. I will inform the others. On my command we take them down,” Val said, looking over at Christine. “Let’s get this over with.”

Monterey, California:

The Suicide Squad stood outside of what appeared to be an abandoned military installation. There were several miles of airstrips spread out between various structures that looked as though they hadn’t been occupied in years.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Vixen asked as she turned toward Bronze Tiger.

“We have confirmation that Tom Tresser’s signal is here somewhere,” he replied.

“It looks awfully small to be the Manhunters’ big bad secret hideout,” Catman mused.

“Underground,” Knockout announced.

Catman looked at her. “What?”

“She’s right,” Bronze Tiger said as he placed his hand onto the ground. “I can feel it. The tremors are growing stronger. Everyone stand ready; I suspect they know we’re here and we need to buy Eve and her team inside as much time as possible.”

“Well they better send more toy soldiers than last time or we’re gonna get bored pretty quick,” Catman said, nudging the silent Peacemaker who was staring over at a small hangar door less than a hundred yards away that slowly opened. One by one they flow out toward the Squad.

Catman counted as the Manhunter clones flew toward the group. “What the hell? I only see five of them. We just took out twenty without breaking a sweat. What are the rest of you guys gonna do?”

Tempest shot him a look. “They look bigger, hotshot.”

“Well the harder they fall and all that jazz. You girls better hurry cause someone’s getting left at the altar.” Catman laughed as he leapt toward the approaching clones.

Two Manhunter clones looked at each other curiously as a small dark spot appeared on the concrete wall in front of them. They both moved in closer, as the dark spot grew larger. Then one clone fall back with an arrow in his throat. The other turned his head as a hand reached out and twisted his neck until there was a soft audible SNAP.

“Oh, this is going to be fun.” Deadeye stepped through the dark dimensional rift.

“Definitely,” Tigress agreed as she admired her handy work and kicked the dead Manhunter out of the way.

“Just stay close,” Nightshade announced, as she stepped through behind them followed by Plastique, who looked over at Tigress with disgust. “We’re here to provide Plastique with back-up. There’s no going off on your own.”

“You’re the boss lady.” Tigress looked over at Plastique grinning. “Just show me who I get to kill next.”

This place looked a lot smaller from the outside, Eve pondered. They were going to have to move quickly and efficiently if they were to be successful.

The four of them turned as the sound of clicking boots rapidly moved toward them. Tigress again smiled as several more clones came into view down the long concrete corridor.

Tigress pointed to them and raised an eyebrow at Nightshade. “Go,” Eve said under her breath as Deadeye steadied his bow and ran behind the already-charging Tigress.

Plastique quickly got to work. She was there for one reason and one reason only, to rig this entire place to blow to kingdom come and back again. Timing. Timing and precision. That was what it took. What it always took.

She paid no attention to the chaos of the battle behind her. She only focused on the work.

Wires twisted, timers set. Four bombs…five…six…

Paul Kirk and Mark Shaw entered another part of the compound. They quickly dispatched the few Manhunters that had been posted at the entrance.

“No word from Lawler?” Shaw asked as he deactivated his power baton.

“No. I doubt he’s still alive,” Kirk responded with disdain in his voice. ” Let’s split up. I want to find the Council leader and drag his ass out of here.”

“Not if I find him first.” Shaw smirked.

They said nothing more as they headed in opposite directions.

“It’s been a while but I recognize that look in your eye, Tom,” Craig Tresser said as he paced back and forth in front of his brother who was doing everything he could to stay coherent. “You’re trying to put the pieces together. Trying to figure how it all happened. How did your saintly brother become the leader of the evil Council?”

Nemesis looked up at him. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You’re right of course but I’m sure you’ll be glad to know I killed the original leader with every intention of shutting the entire organization down. But maintaining the status quo just didn’t feel right, you know? That’s why I reestablished the Manhunter Cult and proceeded to gain allies here and abroad for the eventual revolution. Of course we had a major setback when the Paul Kirk clones began to die out faster than we could breed them. But last year, after the Apokolips invasion, we discovered a new power source and were able to create stronger, more potent soldiers.”

An armed guard ran into the room unannounced. “I told you to wait outside,” Craig yelled back at him.

“I know, sir, but ” He looked down nervously at Nemesis. “They’re here. We’ve detected several of them at various points inside and outside of the facility.”

Craig Tresser raised his hand up at the guard. “That’s fine. I half expected this to happen when the VP here turned out to be my brother. So, the Suicide Squad is here to rescue you, huh, little brother? Let’s see how they fare against a half dozen of my new and improved clone soldiers. The Squad may finally live up to its name today.” Craig laughed.

Tom watched as the guard was shifting back and forth nervously. Without warning he shot out of the chair at him. He had his arm wrapped around the guard’s neck before he knew what had happened. Tom twisted the man around and with his free hand pulled the guard’s gun from his holster.

“This ends now,” Nemesis yelled as the guard fell to the ground dead, his gun pointed at his brother.

“Oh, this is going to end soon enough brother.” He had his own gun out and pointed at Nemesis.

“Either shoot me or sit down and shut the hell up.” Nemesis cocked the hammer of the gun. “The choice is yours, brother.”

Bronze Tiger struck once, twice, three times. The Manhunter grinned at him but didn’t go down. Moreover, his hands hurt; when was the last time his hands had hurt from a strike? He had mastered the discipline of the Iron Hands a long time ago.

The realization hit him. They’re more powerful than the other clones were. More augmented.

Then the Manhunter’s foot was blurring towards his face at unnatural speed. He got his arm up in time to block… and winced as the kick bruised his arm badly, almost breaking it.

He threw a kick of his own and the Manhunter caught it, spun, and threw him into a wall. He groaned and sagged to the ground.

The Manhunter loomed over him and readied to strike again. Wearily, groggily, Bronze Tiger realized that this time his arm would be broken. If, that was, he got his arm up in time.

If he didn’t, his head would be broken. He slowly stood up and readied himself.

Bronze Tiger failed to see the second Manhunter that struck him from behind.

“Mari ” he cried out, choking on his own blood before blacking out and falling back down to the ground.

A Manhunter threw out a hand, and a bolt of lightning struck Firehawk. She screamed and fell, her power fading.

Knockout shook her head after seeing that Firehawk was down; clearly they had upgraded their troopers. Yet… she couldn’t help feeling this whole affair had the stink of Apokolips about it. Her stomach lurched at the thought of her hateful home.

Her next punch knocked a Manhunter back, but he got back up and came at her again, catching her in a flying tackle that brought her down. He stared into her eyes and she became dazed and confused… she tried to shake him off but knew she would fail. As everything began to fade to black, one final thought lingered in her mind:

What kind of powers did these maniacs have?

Vixen jumped out of the way as the arm of another Manhunter came crashing down where she had stood just a moment ago.

She was channeling back and forth between the fastest and strongest animals she could think of but to no avail. These Manhunter clones were clearly nothing like the ones they had faced earlier. It was only a matter of time before she would be taken down like the others.

“Vixen,” Catman screamed out as he swung off the back of one of the clones, “these bastards are a little tougher than the last batch!”

“You think?” she muttered under her breath. “Just find a weak ” she began to say as the body of Catman landed at her feet.

Vixen spun around and saw that Peacemaker was doing his best to hold off two clones with his rifle. But each shot was barely slowing them down as they continued to close in on him.

She gritted her teeth and shot between the legs of an approaching Manhunter. She rolled past another and leapt toward Tempest.

“This isn’t working,” he said, glancing over at her before blasting another approaching clone, the fiery blaze barely fazing him.

“I know. We just have to buy the team inside enough time.”

“Lady, we are out of time,” he shouted back. “It’s time for a new plan.”

Vixen didn’t say a word as she flew past the flailing arm of another clone and headed toward the not-so-abandoned military facility.

Peacemaker continued to fire each shot with precision and accuracy. He remained calm but he knew he was running out of time. The animal girl had already hightailed it. He was the last one. Whatever these guys were made of, they still had vulnerable spots. Vital spots. They had to.

He aimed very carefully, and shot one in the eye.

Crack.

He was pleased when the enemy went down.

He was not so pleased when another Manhunter smashed his weapon like kindling.

Peacemaker hated to run, but he doubted these guys were taking prisoners.

So he took to his heels.

Paul Kirk found himself in what appeared to be a lab of some sorts. Something had drawn him there. He knew by the sick feeling in his stomach that this was the place they had held him for years. He remembered the nightmares, the experiments, the pain.

“Ahhh, there you are, number 346,” a voice came from behind where Kirk stood.

He whirled. “What?!?”

“My name is Doctor Wilkerson. Not that it matters to you. You are number 346.” The Council scientist smiled affably. He was blond but balding, steel rimmed glasses on his face.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Council scum.”

Wilkerson’s expression softened. “Oh no…don’t tell me you think you’re the real Paul Kirk?”

“Of course I am.”

Wilkerson shook his head. “No, you are Kirk clone number 346. The original Paul Kirk died some time ago. He was an excellent template, I must say.”

“You’re lying. You’re just trying to stop me from destroying that…that horrible machine.”

“Am I?” Wilkerson shook his head. “There was an explosion the night you came out of the cloning tanks. Some military attack, I should think. Or maybe it was the HIVE; some of us–” he smiled unpleasantly– “used to be part of that organization. In any event, you and number 348 escaped. 348 was captured by the DEO; he wound up in that inter-dimensional base of theirs, I believe. Terrible place. Glad it’s gone. But you…you actually took over Paul’s life, didn’t you? Decided to become him. Natural of you to make such an attempt. But, it’s over now.”

“Why would I have all his memories then? No, don’t answer that.” Kirk waved him off before he could answer. “I’m sure you’ll come up with a lie to explain it. Never mind. I don’t believe you, but even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. I’m still bringing an end to this.”

“346, I admire your dedication but you simply don’t understan–”

“Understand this,” Paul cut him off, his voice ice cold. “You…” he took a step towards the scientist. “Can’t…” And another step. “Stop…” And another. “Me!”

Wilkerson turned and ran.

Paul Kirk turned back to face the machine that haunted him in his sleep.

“It has to be destroyed. All of it!” he yelled out.

Mark Shaw entered another room and shut the door behind him. He had traced the buzzing from all the way down the hall. He knew something important was here and he was right.

It looked in some ways like a miniature model city on top of an octagonal orange platform. Nasty arcs of purple energy flashed over the structure as it trembled and surged. The “cityscape” on top, whatever it really was, was clearly the true heart of it; it glowed now purple, now green, now silver-white. It hurt his eyes to look at it, and not because of the brightness; but because it was so alien.

As he had already noticed, it was shaking and trembling, but the longer he looked, the more it seemed that the very air around it was shimmering; not from heat, but from some strange distortion of the laws of physics themselves.

He was mesmerized, unable to look away until the door flew open. He turned around as half a dozen Manhunter clones poured in.

“This thing must be kind of important to you guys, huh?” he said, pointing back toward the machine. They said nothing as they charged at him.

Nightshade was growing tired. How many jumps had they made already? Fifteen? Twenty? She had lost count but she knew she was reaching her limit. They stepped through the portal again over a mile from where they had first started out.

“What the hell?” These were the first words Plastique had spoken since they arrived.

Nightshade looked out over the catwalk. They were standing high above a hangar bay that had been retrofitted into a large holding chamber that seemed to stretch out as far as they could see with rows and rows of

“Cloning pods,” Eve speculated out loud.

“How come those are so much bigger than the ones we’ve been kicking around here?” Tigress asked.

Eve took a deep breath. “I think those are the upgraded versions.”

Tigress appeared almost aroused. “Good. Let’s wake ’em up and let the ass-kicking begin!”

“Are you nuts?” Deadeye yelled out. “I didn’t sign on for that.”

“He’s right.” Nightshade looked over at Plastique. “Make sure nothing survives. Set a charge under each one of them if you have to.”

“I’m on it.” Plastique moved out.

A last Manhunter clone landed hard at Mark’s feet. He frowned; he hadn’t taken that one down, so who?

“Hey stranger,” a familiar voice said.

Mark looked up, and a smile slowly filled his face. There was Vixen, leaning against the doorway, smirking.

She reached out a hand and tousled his hair, then kissed him softly. “It’s good to see you.”

Mark gently pulled away from her. “Yeah. It’s been too long. I ”

“I know. We have a lot of catching up to do. I just ran into Nightshade and it looks like she’s been pretty busy.”

“Have you seen Paul Kirk?” Mark asked.

“No, but if he’s still around I’m sure he has an idea what’s going down and booked a ticket home already. So let’s get the hell out of here, before this whole place blows up.”

Mark smiled. He liked the sound of that. “Good idea.”

They ran for it.

Wilkerson ran skidding through the lab door. “Malthus! Malthus, damn you, stop playing with your robotic arms and get up here!”

“What?” a voice snapped irritably. A shaggy mane of brown hair poked up from a secluded workstation. Blue eyes gazed disdainfully at Wilkerson. “You know I don’t like being interrupted in my work.”

“The vigilantes are here, you idiot! And Kirk is with them. They’re going to shut the place down! And us too! We have to go!”

Malthus frowned slowly. “Oh dear… this isn’t working out as I thought. Perhaps we should have stayed with the HIVE, after all.”

“Yes, we should have. But it’s too late for that now. We have to get out of here!”

Malthus went with him, unresisting as Wilkerson pulled him along. They ran along the long escape corridor that led further underground. “What do you propose now, then?”

“I suggest it’s time we went freelance. Though we may want to talk to some of your old government contacts…”

Without saying another word, they both ran for the nearest exit.

Craig Tresser shifted uneasily in the chair as Nemesis continued to point his gun at him. “I should contact Lord. The thought of those nukes pointed at him probably has him pissing in his pants.”

“You’re not going anywhere.”

“If I don’t contact my man soon then half of D.C. is going to be blown sky high. You don’t want that on your conscience do you?”

“It’s over, Craig. Everything is over.”

“So, just like that, huh?” Tom slowly stood up, “Little brother is going to save the day yet again!”

“Stay put, goddamn you.” Nemesis shook the gun at his brother.

Craig slowly took his own gun and placed it on the floor in front of him. He then kicked it away and it slid across the floor past Nemesis.

Nemesis could barely stand. He had lost too much blood. Everything was blurring together, his vision, his emotions, everything.

“There’s still a chance to get away before it’s too late,” Craig said as he took a step backward while keeping an eye on Nemesis.

“Stop. You aren’t going anywhere,” Nemesis ordered.

The room suddenly shifted. The sounds of explosions could be heard off in the distance. There was another explosion, and then another, each getting closer and closer.

“I am leaving Tom. You won’t shoot your own brother in the back, will you?” He slowly turned his back to Nemesis and headed toward the door.

Nemesis took aim. His steadied his hand and pulled the trigger. Craig Tresser cried out as the bullet pierced his anklebone. Tom stumbled over and pulled his brother up and dragged him back over to the metal chair in the middle of the room.

Another explosion split the concrete wall forcing a portion of it to collapse. Nemesis fell to his knees and cried out, “My brother is already dead. Today is the day I finally get to give him a proper burial.” The ceiling began to fall in. Tom looked down at his bloodied hands and silently began to count down. 5 4 3 2 1

THE END.

Epilogue One:

“It’s over, sir.” the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Sam Lane, announced as he walked into the Oval office. He ignored Eiling and spoke directly to President Lord. “Steel has reported that the situation in California has been defused and we are in communication with our submarines again.”

“Thank you, Sam,” President Lord replied as Lane left. He passed by Eiling and stepped around toward his desk. He nodded to the secret service agents at the door. They nodded back as both exited the room; the last one pulled the door closed behind him. Lord and Eiling were finally alone.

“So, Wade, did you have a contingency plan or did you blow your wad on a pipe dream that you were part of a new American Revolution?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Max. This changes nothing,” Eiling said as he pointed his finger at him. “The Council won’t ”

“It’s over!” Lord shouted out. “The Council is finished. All that’s left is to squash the bugs that got stranded when the lights came back on.” Lord opened his top desk drawer and pulled out a small revolver.

Eiling stumbled backward but was unable to move fast enough. He stopped moving as Max pressed the barrel of the gun to his temple. “Now what was it you said earlier about growing a pair?”

“Don’t be rash, Max. I can be a valuable ally again. Together we can change this country a return to greatness,” Eiling said nervously.

“Sorry to break it to you, Wade, but this country will return to greatness very soon.” Lord slowly pulled back the hammer of the revolver. “But you won’t be part of it, you see, because I already have enough allies,” he proclaimed before firing the gun.

Epilogue Two:

Val walked into her office and shut the door. She took a deep breath and sat down at her desk. “I thought you would have flown out with Steel?”

“No,” Christine St. Clair replied. “There was no need.”

“Well I am still waiting to hear back from all of the agents involved before making my final report but there’s no word whether Paul made it out a .”

Christine quickly rose from her chair. “That’s okay. I have a feeling he’s still out there. He just wasn’t ready to ” She stopped herself.

“Well if I get word on anything I will let you know.”

She smiled back at Val. “Thank you. I appreciate that.” She nervously reached in her pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Val slid a lighter across her desk toward her. “I’m no fool, Val. Did you know that all those years when the Council held Paul captive and held him in suspended animation he never aged? Not a single day.” She laughed. “I am going to be fifty-two years old next month and I refuse to pine over a man that doesn’t look a day over twenty nine.” Christine took several puffs of the cigarette and slowly exhaled.

“So what are you planning on doing now?” Val asked. “Of course, if you’re interested, I sure could use a woman of your expertise here.”

“Again I appreciate it, but no. With the Council finally destroyed I can finally come out from the shadows and live my life again.” Christine sat back down across from Val.

“I’ve got to prep for a conference call with the President, and the Squad should be back within the hour. Feel free to hang out as long as you want.” Val stood up and reached out for Christine’s hand. She pulled her hand away and walked around the desk to embrace her instead.

“Thanks, Val. I need to make a phone call and then I am heading out to the airport.”

Christine watched as Val turned and smiled at her before heading out of the door. Christine sat and stared at the phone on the desk. She had appreciated the fact that Val had leant her a shoulder to cry on. She hadn’t opened up to someone like that in a long time. It felt good but the truth was that there were things that she hadn’t been willing to share with her.

Earlier when she told Val about why she retired from Interpol she left a few things out.

Eight weeks after spending that final night alone with Paul, Christine found out she was pregnant. She was determined not to bring a child into the world while her own life was still in danger. She cut a deal with the US government she turned over classified intel and in return they gave her a new name and identity. Seven months later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was fearful that if the Council ever discovered that Paul Kirk had produced an offspring they would stop at nothing to obtain the infant. She made a promise to her baby that she would always keep her safe and did the only thing she could – she put her up for adoption.

But now the Council was gone as well as the threat to her and her child. A child that grew up never knowing the truth about her birth parents. Christine had observed her daughter from a distance for years. Every time wanting to run up and tell her who she was. But every time knowing that the threat still existed. But now that excuse had finally been removed after twenty-seven long years.

Christine’s hand shook as she reached out for the phone. She was scared. Uncertain that it was the right thing to do. She knew that her daughter didn’t need her. She had grown up to be a powerful and successful woman who had a bright future ahead of her. But Christine knew, she wasn’t doing this for her daughter; she was doing it for herself. Maybe she was being selfish but she had nothing left.

She stopped stalling and picked up the phone, quickly dialing the number. The phone rang and it was all Christine could do not to slam the receiver back down on the cradle. It rang three more times before someone on the other end finally answered. “District Attorney’s office.”

Christine nervously spoke into the phone, “Yes I would like to speak to Assistant District Attorney Kate Spencer please.”

“She’s currently out of the office. Can I take a message?”

“No. No message.” Christine quickly hung up the phone. What was she thinking anyway? This wasn’t something she should do over the phone anyway. No, it was time to fly out to Las Vegas and finally introduce herself to her daughter.

xxxxxxx

 

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THE END TO THE SERIES………….

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