The office of Henry Gyrich, five minutes later:
“Yes, sir. I understand. We’ve got seven operatives in the field right now, and…” Gyrich suddenly felt the barrel of a gun at the back of his head. “I’ll call you back in five.” He put the phone down. “How long have you been here, Deadshot?”
“Not long. The Wall’s not too happy that you played her. You made us look stupid.”
“And why would I care?”
“Didn’t expect you to. Just came to deliver a message from her.”
Floyd Lawton left the way he came, as Gyrich’s secretary stepped on little pieces of bone and tissue that adorned the red-stained carpet as she ran into the room.
One week later, Ivy Town:
At the Atomic Cafe, Ray Palmer was getting reacquainted with old friends. Jean Loring, Ricki Negrini, Norman Brawler, and Adam Cray were all there, having a grand time.
“So, it’s official, then, Jean?” Ricki asked as she sipped from her drink.
“Yes. The divorce was finalized yesterday. Paul was… anxious to get it over with, and didn’t contest anything,” Jean said with a smile.
“So does this mean that you and Ray are back together?” Norm asked.
Ray sat back and chuckled, grabbing Jean’s hand and holding it. “Well, Jean and I still have a lot of talking to do, but we both have decided that we miss each other and want to be in each other’s lives. As for together, well, we’re going to take this one step at a time.”
“So, you’re staying, then? In Ivy Town?” Ricki asked.
“Yes. I’ve still got a ton of money squirreled away, thanks to my ex-wife, so I think I’m going to go back to the University part-time and get to know my work and Jean again. There’s still a lot I need to deal with about losing Laethwen and her people, but Jean has convinced me that this is the best place to do that.”
“And the Atom?”
Ray pointed to Adam Cray. “He’s sitting right over there.”
Adam’s face lit up. “Seriously? You want me to be the Atom?”
“Well, the question is, do you want to be the Atom? You handled yourself pretty well so far. Granted, you’re not ready for a big-league player like Chronos, but with my guidance and some training, I think you’ll do fine.” Ray handed a device over to Adam. “My friend J’onn has agreed to take you on as a member-in-training in the JLA. He’s going to call you tomorrow.”
“Yes! Yes! Yesss!”
“I remember when you had that same look, Ray.”
Ray leaned over and kissed Jean.
The JLA Satellite:
Batman tapped a few more keys on the monitor board, completing his entry regarding the Atom.
“That was a good thing you did, Batman, providing Ray with that new identity.”
Batman continued typing as the Martian Manhunter came up behind him. “Something on your mind, J’onn?”
“Yes. It’s not like you to let someone like Amanda Waller get away with what she did. Gyrich’s murder is a capital offense.”
“Yes, but Deadshot was never told to kill Gyrich. He took that upon himself,” the Dark Knight replied, turning to face J’onn J’onzz.
“I see. And what has happened to Mr. Lawton?”
“He was put into custody and just as quickly transferred back to Waller.”
“And the Ivy Town Project?” J’onn asked.
“The government disavows all knowledge of the project. According to the latest press release, Gyrich was acting without sanction. The project has been closed down.”
“But you’ll be keeping an eye on this Task Force X,” J’onn said.
“Of course. That’s why I arranged for you to take Adam Cray under your wing. We don’t need to lose anyone else, and I can’t think of anyone from whom he could learn to be a better hero.”
J’onn smiled. “And the press says you are grim and foreboding.”
“I am,” he replied without a beat.
Somewhere in the South American jungle, a small tribe of diminutive people were rebuilding their lost village. Not everyone had perished on the day of the Great Cataclysm. Some of the people had been out exploring, others hunting, and a small band had one in search of their great hero, Atom, who had disappeared. It was feared, though, that he had perished. All that mattered now was the rebuilding.
There was one, however, who held out hope for Atom’s return. She had been in that search party looking for Atom when her village had been destroyed. Curiously, someone had dressed a corpse in her royal garments. Why would anyone do that? It was sacrilege.
Laethwen sighed. She came back without Atom, and she had lost almost her whole tribe as well. She never gave up hope that Atom would return to her some day, and she never would.