Green Arrow sat on a rooftop in Star City, eating his dinner from a white paper sack with a golden M on it. Not the haute cuisine he was once used to, but good enough while awaiting information from his valued source.
The ace archer was halfway through his Filet-O-Fish when his cellphone beeped. He swallowed quickly and answered the call. “Rick? That you? I didn’t expect you to call for another hour.”
“An hour? G.A., I thought you knew me better than that,” the young voice came through the phone.
“I do,” the archer grumbled. “That’s why I don’t bother routing your calls through a satellite maze, or something. If you wanted to, you could trace ’em, anyway.”
“I appreciate your trust, Green Arrow. I really do,” Rick said.
“You’ve earned it, kid. Now, what have you got for me?”
“I tapped some news databases,” the boy explained. “Searched for unsolved assassinations in recent months; cross-referenced with darts and with other weapons used by known super-criminals currently at large. Then I hacked a few Swiss bank files, searched for large deposits around the times of the killings. After that–“
“Kid,” Green Arrow said wearily, “when I want chapter and verse, I’ll ask for it. Right now, you got an address for me?”
Rick chuckled on the other end. “Won’t believe me when I tell you. Golden Pyramid Mall.”
“Huh?” Green Arrow said, confused. “Isn’t that the shopping mall they built outside Star City–?”
“And never opened,” Rick said. “Went bankrupt shortly after construction completed; couldn’t find any tenants. Been sitting there empty for four years.”
“Hmm. And the name would appeal to the man I’m looking for,” Green Arrow mused. “Thanks, Rick. Send me your bill.”
“Will do,” the teenage computer genius said before hanging up.
“Yes, this is Mr. Tradder. I want to confirm a deposit to my account, number 230695. Yes, I’ll hold.” The Red Dart hummed slightly to himself in the short silence. “I see. Thank you very much. You, too. Goodbye.” The masked villain hung up the phone and turned to his partners. “The balance for the Howard hit went through without a hitch.”
“I knew it would,” Fastball joked. “Texans place a high value on human life. In this case, ten million dollars.”
“Say, John, I’ve been thinking,” Dagger said. “What if we branched out our business a little? Say, blackmail? We’ve got quite a hold over the people who ordered these hits, especially this last one!”
“Hmm,” Red Dart said thoughtfully. “Ordinarily I’d veto that suggestion, on the grounds that we’d scare away potential clients by blackmailing our old customers. But this one… we could possibly gain far more by blackmailing him than we ever could doing contract hits!”
“Especially if this hit has the results he’s hoping for,” Fastball added, “namely his political aspirations.”
“True,” Red Dart acknowledged. “It could go either way in November, but if it goes that way… well, we’ll see, won’t we?”
“Wonder what’s keeping Al?” Dagger asked. “He’s been out a long time.”
“Don’t let him hear you call him Al,” Fastball warned.
“He’s probably just having fun,” Red Dart said. “Can’t say I blame him. Well, we won’t have to hole up in this deserted shopping mall much longer!”
As if on cue, the villains heard the door open, and loud laughter echoed down the hallways. Moments later, Javelin staggered into the room, arm-in-arm with Captain Boomerang. They were singing a bawdy song, and singing it far off-key.
“Krieger!” Red Dart snapped. “What do you mean, bringing an outsider in here?”
“He’s no outsider,” Javelin said defensively. “He is mein freund… I mean, my friend. Gentlemen, I present to you, Colonel Boomerang!”
“That’s Captain Boomerang,” the newcomer corrected. “But you can call me Digger. Evenin’, mates.”
“A pleasure!” Fastball said enthusastically, rising to shake Boomerang’s hand. “I’ve followed your career for years. I’m a big fan of your work!”
“Much obliged, sport,” Boomerang smiled affably.
“Boomerang, what are you doing here?” Red Dart demanded. “Shouldn’t you be building a giant rocket-powered boomerang, or something?”
“Now, Johnny, is that any way to talk to an old acquaintance?” Boomerang asked. “Me new mate here kipped me to your setup. I’d like in.”
“Of all the colossal — Krieger, how could you get drunk and babble our whole plan to this — this–?”
“Who says I am drunk?” Javelin demanded angrily. “I am in complete command of my cafulties! I am–” Javelin reeled slightly on his feet. “I am suddenly very tired. I believe I will sit down.” The costumed athlete gingerly lowered himself into a chair.
“John, why don’t we let Boomerang in?” Dagger asked. “He’s been doing this longer than any of us, except you. OK, his track record isn’t that impressive, but which of ours is, really?”
“That’s the spirit,” Boomerang added enthusiastically. “I’m tired of getting thumped by costumed cobbers. I like the idea of keeping a low profile, striking from the shadows! I’ve gotta compliment you on your idea, Dart, and I’d really like to be a part of it. What say?”
Red Dart frowned, considering it. Being turned down by the Secret Society still stung, but he couldn’t deny that Captain Boomerang would be an asset to the Over-Throws. “Well… what the hell? Welcome aboard, Digger!”
Captain Boomerang smirked to himself. He felt the wire of the radio transmitter against his chest. All he had to do was get the Dart and his clowns to convict themselves, and his deal with Flag was sealed.
“So, what’s our next job, Dart?” Boomerang asked. “I’m itchin’ to get my hands dirty!”
“We’re between clients right now,” Red Dart explained. “Won’t be long before another job comes in, though. The Howard hit went off so smoothly, that’s the best advertisement.”
“Oh, the Howard hit?” Boomerang asked. “That was you guys?”
“Of course,” Fastball said. “Why do you think we used a red dart? Advertising!”
“Yeah, when Darren or I do a hit, it’s not so obvious,” Dagger said, balancing a knife by its point on his index finger.
“Is that right?” Boomerang asked. “Have you guys done any hits I might have heard of?”
Fastball smiled. “Ever heard of…?”
The bragging villain was interrupted by the sound of breaking glass. Before anyone could react to the sound, an emerald arrow landed in the floor in the center of the room, shaft vibrating from the impact.
“Green Arrow!” Red Dart barked. “We’ve been found!”
Captain Boomerang glanced up to see Green Arrow perched in the broken window, aiming an arrow down into the room.
“You’ve found some interesting friends, Mallory,” the archer growled. “Too bad I’ve found you!”
Boomerang smiled as he fingered a boomerang in his bandolier. What a bonus! Green Arrow was the cobber who queered the last Society deal; it’d be sweet to pay him back for it!
But — Flag said his immunity didn’t extend to murder. If he killed the archer or helped kill him, the deal would be off. Captain Boomerang would have to sit this one out.
But the wire; Rick Flag was listening to every word, every sound. If Boomerang stood by and let the others kill Green Arrow, Flag’d consider it as bad as if he’d done it himself and toss him back in the clink.
But what could he do about it? He couldn’t protect the archer; the others would know he’d betrayed them, and he wouldn’t last longer than a dingo in hunting season.
Oh, bloody hell!
“Don’t just stand there!” Red Dart barked furiously. “Get him!”
“Get who?” Javelin asked drowsily.
“Green Arrow, you lush!” Dagger snapped. “We’ve been discovered!”
“Green Arrow!” Javelin cried, leaping to his feet. “Long have I wanted to match skills with him! I–” The blond athlete swayed woozily on his feet, color draining from his face. He dropped to his knees behind a crate and retched loudly.
“Nice gang you got together, Mallory,” Green Arrow laughed, firing an arrow. “Where’d you find ’em, Losers-R-Us?” The arrow exploded into a thick cloud of dark smoke, that quickly enveloped the room.
“Nice try, archer, but I’m prepared for that trick!” Red Dart snapped, hurling three darts at once. The darts had tiny internal vacuum motors that whined loudly as they flew, sucking in most of the darkening smoke. As the black cloud cleared to a grayish mist, a tall, muscular figure was seen in the center of the room — a figure holding a bow.
“I’ve got him!” Dagger called, hurling a knife. “Remington steel cuts deep, Arrow!”
But Captain Boomerang hurled a boomerang from the opposite side of the archer. The missile arced around Green Arrow, and the knife buried itself in the boomerang, sending both weapons clattering to the floor.
“Boomerang, you idiot!” Dagger roared. “I had him!”
“You had him, you overrated sushi chef?” Boomerang growled. “You loused my shot! Stay out of me way in future, eh?”
“Boys, boys!” Green Arrow chided, quickly drawing and firing two arrows, one in each villain’s direction. “Can’t we all just get along?”
Experienced at quick-moving opponents, Captain Boomerang was narrowly able to dodge his arrow. Dagger was not so lucky; the arrow struck him in the arm, delivering a non-lethal, but debilitating, electrical shock.
Captain Boomerang had to be very quick on his feet indeed. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Fastball going for one of his explosive spheres. He had to make this one look good, after last time; so he selected a boomerang that produced a sonic scream when thrown. Boomerang hurled it, and it whipped around Green Arrow’s head. The archer grimaced in pain and clapped his hands over his ears as the high-pitched whine assaulted his hearing. But just as Captain Boomerang planned, the boomerang collided with Fastball’s explosive sphere just as it left his glove. The resultant explosion hurled the ex-baseball pitcher clear across the room.
“Boomerang, you idiot!” Red Dart snarled. “Whose side are you on, anyway?”
“Nobody’s, anymore,” Green Arrow declared, firing an arrow at the costumed Australian. This time, Boomerang wasn’t quick enough and became ensnared in a rapidly unfurling net.
Suddenly, Green Arrow’s bowstring snapped with a loud twang. He stared down at the ruined bow in surprise.
“Ha!” Red Dart laughed. “Didn’t think I could hit your bowstring from here, did you?”
As he struggled in the net, Captain Boomerang chuckled at Green Arrow’s plight. This is perfect! he thought to himself. Mallory’ll kill the cobber for dead cert! And seein’ as how I’m stuck in this cockeyed croc-trap, I can’t be blamed for not stoppin’ it!”
But Boomerang was to be disappointed. Green Arrow stared at his ruined bow, then tossed it away with an expression of disgust. “The day I need a bow to take down the likes of you–!” He began striding purposefully toward Red Dart, fists clenched.
Red Dart started in fear, then recovered himself and hurled a dart at the approaching archer. He expected Green Arrow to dodge it, to one side or the other, or to duck; what the archer did was dive forward and tackle the Red Dart football-style. He drew his right fist back, preparing to strike the villain.
“Stop!” Dart cried, holding up his hands pleadingly. “I give up! I surrender!”
“You do?” Green Arrow asked, pausing. “I don’t accept it.”
Captain Boomerang winced as he heard the thud of Green Arrow’s fist smashing into the Red Dart’s face, and the crunch of the villain’s nose splintering. He looked and saw Green Arrow staring down at the unconscious villain, as if contemplating more violence.
Just then, half a dozen men in dark suits and sunglasses burst into the room. All carried pistols, which they aimed around the room at various incapacitated super-villains. The man in charge of the raid came up to Green Arrow.
“Nice work, Green Arrow,” he said, not amiably. “We’ll take it from here.”
“Will you, now?” Green Arrow asked. “And who is we?”
Rick Flag flashed his identity card. “Colonel Richard Flag, special agent. We’ve been on the trail of these guys for weeks now. Guess we caught up to them about the same time you did.”
“Looks like,” Green Arrow said, with undisguised contempt. “Government, huh? Well, make sure you melt down the key once you put this one away.”
Flag looked down at Red Dart’s bloody face. “Did you have to use such force, Arrow? I think you broke his nose!”
Green Arrow froze in mid-stride. He did not turn around to face Flag. “Must be something funny with the acoustics in this old building, Flag. I could have sworn I just heard a tax-fattened bureaucrat tell me how to do my job. But that just couldn’t be right, could it?”
Flag opened his mouth to reply, but something in Green Arrow’s icy tone made him think better of it.
“Thought not.” Green Arrow continued on his way. He picked up his bow and turned it over in his hands, as if examining the damage. As he did so, he whispered over his shoulder to Captain Boomerang. “Want to tell me what all that was about?”
Boomerang did a double-take. “Eh? Whadda yer mean?”
“Pretend for a moment I’m not as dumb as the costume makes me look,” Green Arrow whispered. “It was obvious you were trying to protect me back there. Why?”
Boomerang fumbled for a moment. He thought of denying it, but realized he was had. He had to come up with a lie. “Er — you were outnumbered, wasn’t yer? It dint seem fair.”
“Fair.” Green Arrow repeated. “Right, Boomer. I buy that one. Pardon me while I go put a downpayment on the Verrazano Bridge.”
Captain Boomerang watched Green Arrow stalk out of the room. Out of the corner of his eye, Rick Flag watched, too. This did not bode well for the Task Force X program, not one bit.