Colonel Rick Flag sat in his office at the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency in Washington, D.C., reviewing the reports on the latest adventures of Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad, which was the successor to his Suicide Squad team formed some twenty-five years ago. This new super-powered team was racking up an impressive record, particularly their recent victory against the new Secret Society of Super-Villains at Stonehenge. (*) Suddenly, he was interrupted by a ringing from the telephone on his desk. The light that indicated the incoming line was one rarely used — the direct line from the White House.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: A Cosmos Imperiled.]
“MHRA Director Rick Flag here, sir.” There was only one of two persons who could be calling on this line, both of whom were his superiors.
“Rick, we need to talk. Can you meet me at fifteen-hundred hours today?” The question, although polite, was totally unnecessary.
“Of course, sir. Is there anything or anybody you would like me to bring along?”
“Just yourself, Rick. I’ll see you then.”
“Yes, sir!” Even though the President couldn’t see him, force of habit caused the former U.S. Air Force pilot to salute as the line went dead.
Five hours later, Rick Flag was in the Oval Office sipping coffee with the former actor who now occupied the highest office in the land. The first, last, and only time he had ever been in this office before was when he received the go-ahead to start the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency, his pet project that took super-villains who desired a chance at a pardon and used them for operations that more heroic types might not undertake.
The niceties and courtesies taken care of, the President went directly to the reason for the meeting. “Rick, I’ve been following the exploits of your organization these last few months. In fact, I would wager than most of America has been watching them.”
“Yes, sir. They have gotten much more publicity than I had first intended. However, I don’t think that has interfered with the original plan for the group.”
“Son, I have to tell you that it shocked me the first time I saw Captain Comet’s team show up on the nightly news. My understanding was that the MHRA was going to be a covert operations group, to limit our exposure in using these criminals to do the government’s business.” The voice still sounded genial, almost grandfatherly. However, Flag could tell that his President was not pleased with the current situation.
The Commander-in-Chief sat back in his tall leather chair, steepling his fingers in front of his face. “That said, I will tell you that they have been a tremendous success. As you know, the Justice League was decimated by the Crisis and is only now recovering. This other group, the Conglomerate that sought to take their place, seems to me like a bunch of rookies who can’t tie their own shoes yet. They’ll shape up in time, I’m sure. But Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad has given the American people a group to look up to while we rebuild, and I want to keep it that way!”
“Thank you, Mr. President.”
“Still, we need that original team we talked about last summer. With your group in the public eye, we cannot use them for cases where more severe action is necessary. Therefore, effective immediately, I have arranged to create a secret second initiative within Task Force X that I call Extreme Justice.”
“A second group, sir? But my hands are full with the one group. I would need extra administrative help for a second one.”
“I anticipated that. You won’t be involved in the administration of the Extreme Justice team. I have lined up people for the administrative duties and recruited a field leader for the team.” The President paused as he noted a light blinking on one of the many consoles on his desk. He pressed a button below it. “Ah, one of them is here now.”
Flag turned as he heard the door behind him open. Through the door walked a tall man clad in white and red.
“Rick, allow me to introduce the field operations leader for Extreme Justice. This is Paul Kirk, better known as Manhunter.”
The President sat back as the director of the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency and the new field team leader of Extreme Justice sized each other up.
“Manhunter, eh? According to reports filed by Batman a few years ago, you died in the South Pacific.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Gotterdammerung,” Detective Comics #443 (October-November, 1974).]
“That’s true, Mr. Flag. The original Paul Kirk died destroying the island base of the Committee. I am his clone, one of many created by the Committee. Unlike most of the others, I had not received the indoctrination of my creators before the island was destroyed. I escaped and, after making my way to America, tried to live up to the ideals of my genetic father. I believe your team includes an old comrade of mine, Captain Comet. We worked together a few years ago bringing down the original Secret Society of Super-Villains. He is one of the few people alive who know I survived my attempt to destroy Darkseid, the Secret Society’s original founder.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: “Endgame,” The Secret Society of Super-Villains #5 (February, 1977).]
Rick Flag smiled and offered his hand. “Right answer, Paul. Adam has told me about you. I just wanted to be sure you were the same man rather than another evil clone. Glad to have you aboard.”
Taking their seats, the two Task Force X members and the President discussed the goals of the two separate teams. Shortly afterward, they were interrupted by the arrival of one more.
“Gentlemen, our Extreme Justice administrator is here.” The President rose from his seat and spoke to someone who had apparently entered quietly as they talked. “Madam, please come in and meet the men you’ll be working with.”
Rick Flag rose, wondering what sort of woman the President had found for this type of job. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised after the bevy of attractive young ladies Comet has attracted to his team. He turned and froze. This was surely no attractive young supermodel with aspirations of heroics. The African-American woman before him was short and very broad, and her face showed a grim determination that frankly frightened him. The image of an enraged bulldog surfaced in his mind, and he had to choke back a laugh as she stepped closer.
“Rick, Paul, this is Amanda Waller, the leader of MHRA’s Extreme Justice team.”
“Nice to meet you, boys. Since this one has the fancy pajamas,” the Extreme Justice administrator said, then turned toward Rick Flag, “you must be Flag. I’m hoping we can run these two teams without getting in each other’s hair too much.” After shaking Flag’s hand, she turned to Paul Kirk. “And you must be this Manhunter that I’ve heard about. Saw your file, Kirk. I like your style.”
“Umm, thank you, ma’am.” It was all the normally taciturn field leader could come up with.
The President spoke up to fill the silence that developed after Amanda’s arrival. “Excellent. Ms. Waller and I have already discussed my vision for the covert team, so I think it’s best if the three of you get acquainted over at the Treasury Building. Oh, did I mention that I’ve had space set aside there for the use of both teams? No, I guess I didn’t. Well, it’s already set up. Just go over and speak to the security desk. Tell them you’re with the MHRA, and he’ll know where to send you. Now, if you don’t mind, I have a meeting with the House Speaker in a few minutes.” So saying, he hustled the three of them out of the Oval Office.
Outside, the three of them looked at each other. Establishing what was soon to become a normal routine, Amanda spoke up first. “So, do either of you have a car?”
Thirty minutes later, she was the first to speak up again in a conference room at the Treasury Building.
“I took the liberty of researching some possible candidates for the team this morning. Flag, you’re keeping an eye on the prison population at the major meta-human lockups, right?”
“Yes. We tend to take most of our rehab participants from Belle Reve, since we have a secondary MHRA office there. However, I keep a running roster of inmates in other prisons as well.”
“Great. What can you tell me about these jokers?” Amanda pulled some photos from her briefcase and handed them over. Flag thumbed through them, Manhunter looking on, evaluating what he knew of each of them.
“This first one could be the toughest. Slade Wilson is a pretty independent cuss. Still, they got a conviction on that conspiracy case with the Titans a while back. (*) Standing bench warrants in several states, and I hear that Qurac would just love to get their hands on him.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Judas Contract,” Tales of the Teen Titans #42-44 (May-July, 1984), Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3 (1984).]
“He won’t be so tough. I’ve worked with him before, and I think I can convince him to cooperate.” Amanda smiled. Flag noted that it wasn’t a pleasant smile.
“Floyd Lawton, AKA Deadshot,” said Flag. “The Rehab Squad just rounded him up in England with the Secret Society of Super-Villains. Third time for him, so he’ll be anxious to cut a deal. Now here’s a real odd one — Bronze Tiger. He’s still in jail for killing Batwoman, I believe.”
“Batwoman?” asked Manhunter.
“A wealthy former circus acrobat who thought it would be fun to tag along with Batman. Didn’t last long, though. Four years ago, the League of Assassins killed her to get at Batman. Bronze Tiger was the weapon,” Amanda explained. (*) “I think he got a raw deal, myself. He was a pretty tough hero before the League brainwashed him.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Vengeance Vow,” Detective Comics #485 (August-September, 1979).]
Manhunter spoke up at the sight of the last picture. “I’ve had some dealings with this last one. George Harkness, AKA Digger Harkness, AKA Captain Boomerang. I don’t know, Amanda. He doesn’t look like your type.”
“Don’t you worry about my type, Flag. Harkness is good; he had military experience in the Royal Australian Armed Forces, and his talents should come in handy. These four, along with our steadfast field leader, should be just the thing for our first mission.”