Red Tornado: More Human Than Human, Chapter 1: The Human Touch

by JSAGL

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The JLA Satellite:

As the Martian Manhunter sat back in his chair before the monitor console, he heard the teleporter tube hum to life. He flicked a control and was surprised to see the Red Tornado exit the tube. The elemental creature that the Tornado had become during the Crisis had left rather abruptly after he helped defeat Despero at Batman’s request. (*) Lyla at the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency had already informed him that Captain Comet’s team had managed to restore the Red Tornado to his android body with the help of Dr. Will Magnus and a meta-human named Blossom, so he had expected Reddy’s arrival sometime soon. (*) But J’onn J’onzz couldn’t help but wonder if the android hero was indeed back to normal.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Pyre, Chapter 6: The Conquest of Earth and Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Heroes and Villains, Epilogue: Red Tornado Reborn.]

“Hello, J’onn.”

The Martian Manhunter stood as the Red Tornado entered the monitor room. He could see that Reddy was uncomfortable but was unsure as to why. J’onn reached out his hand.

“It’s good to see you, my friend. Your reappearance could not have been timelier.”

The Tornado shook J’onn’s hand, clearly relieved. “I could see that. Despero had never been as dangerous as I observed during our most recent altercation. I am glad that the satellite is back in good operating condition. I-I have to apologize for the damage I caused during the Crisis.”

“Accepted. We realized that the Crisis had loosed the Tornado Tyrant, and that it was he who was at fault, not you. Firestorm filled us in on the details.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Worlds in Limbo,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #5 (August, 1985) and “A Flash of the Lightning,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (November, 1985).]

Reddy nodded. “I suppose that was it.”

“But I am curious, though. After you confronted us in Detroit, I was certain that we would never see you again. You had stated that you were now an air elemental of sorts. (*) Can you account for what happened between then and now?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Force of Nature,” Justice League of America Annual #3 (1985).]

The Tornado was silent for a moment. “No; unfortunately, I cannot. I remember being here on the satellite during the Crisis, and then the next thing I remember, I was in the laboratory of Dr. Will Magnus, the creator of the Metal Men. He and a colleague succeeded in restoring me.”

“Hmm. Interesting. I will have to call Dr. Magnus personally to find out more about the circumstances.”

“J’onn, I know what you are thinking. Each time I have died and returned, it had been some sort of subterfuge, whether on the part of my creator, T.O. Morrow, or the Construct. If you do not want me back in the Justice League, I will understand.”

J’onn smiled. “No, my friend, had you wanted to destroy us, you would have joined with Despero rather than helping us against him. I did notice that you have retained some of the weather-control powers that you had. Is this something permanent?”

“I am unsure. I have tried since then to access those powers, but have had no success in doing so.”

“Excellent. Red Tornado, consider yourself back to active status. We are glad to have you home.”

***

Kathy Sutton sat in front of her television and replayed the tape again. A GNN camera team had caught the JLA’s battle against Despero on tape. Kathy watched as Batman confronted the large alien, and her beloved John descended from the sky. She played the tape over and over again. He was alive. Kathy had thought that John was lost to her during that terrible business called the Crisis. Ralph Dibny had called her to break the news: John wouldn’t be coming home. He had been transformed into some sort of air elemental. The man she loved was no more. She had cried for three days.

“Mommy, can I get some cookies?”

Kathy looked up from her melancholy to see the face of her foster daughter, Traya. Technically John was her foster parent, but Kathy had signed up as well shortly after John had, so that when John disappeared there was no uprooting of Traya by the NYC Child Welfare Department.

“Yes, sweetheart.”

Absently, Kathy picked up the letter from the coffee table. It had just arrived today. Shortly before the Crisis, John and Kathy had petitioned the court to formally adopt Traya. The hearing was scheduled for one month from today. The court system was notoriously slow. Kathy had informed the judge that John was missing as a result of the Crisis and explained that he was the hero known as the Red Tornado. The judge simply said yes, and that if she still wanted to adopt Traya the hearing would go on as scheduled. She did.

What she wouldn’t give to once more see John’s smiling face, the face of the man she loved. The man Traya called…

“DADDY!”

Kathy jumped up and ran to where Traya was standing at her bedroom window. Could it be? Kathy opened the window, and they both stood back as the Red Tornado entered the apartment. He just stood there for a moment. Kathy reached out her hand and touched his face.

“John? Is it really you?”

The man called John Smith embraced his family. It was good to be home.

***

“I must say, this Dr. Pulaski is a far cry from the character of Dr. Crusher.”

Kathy looked up from her book at John. “What was that, dear?”

“I was commenting on the new character on Star Trek: The Next Generation — Katherine Pulaski. She replaced the previous physician. I am not sure why this done, but apparently the creators were looking for a person more like Dr. McCoy from the original series.”

Kathy shook her head. “John, no offense, but I just don’t get what you see in this show. I mean, it is enjoyable, but you are almost a fanatic when it comes to Star Track.”

“That’s Trek, Kathy.”

“Whatever. The commercial’s over.”

As John turned back to the television, he overheard someone screaming just outside his window. Running over to it, John and Kathy looked down to see a man clutching his arm with something wrapped over it.

Turning to Kathy, John said, “I’m going to investigate. Make sure everything is locked, and let no one in until I return.”

Kathy went to check on Traya as John dissolved in a blur of wind. When it cleared, he stood revealed as the Red Tornado. Swiftly opening the window, Reddy flew out in a blur and circled around to give the appearance of coming from another direction. He approached the man who had collapsed against the wall.

“What happened to you?” Reddy asked, kneeling down next to the injured person.

The man was crying, clearly frightened. “It… it was… horrible… some kind of… monster.”

“I need you to be calm. What did it do to you? Did it injure you?”

The man ripped the towel off his arm to reveal a horrible burn mark, but not just that. It appeared that his flesh was melting away. “We need to get you to medical attention.” Reddy scanned the area quickly and saw Mrs. Murdock spying out her window. Using his powers, the Tornado raised her window open.

“Call an ambulance for this man,” he said to her. She quickly nodded and grabbed her phone.

Wrapping his arm again, Reddy asked the man, “Where is this monster?”

“Down by McLaughlin’s Market, in the alley. They’ve got him cornered, but he’s dangerous.”

“Stay here. An ambulance is coming. I am going to deal with the monster.”

***

As he flew toward McLaughlin’s Market, Red Tornado noticed a crowd of about thirty people crowing the alley. Some had baseball bats, others were carrying assorted objects to be used as weapons. He landed in front of two men who were trying to get a door opened.

“Gentlemen, can I be of assistance?”

The two men looked up and stopped what they were doing. “Who the hell are you?

“Wait a minute, Gabe,” the second man said rubbing his arm, “I recognize that fella. He’s one’a them super-heroes. Lesse, umm, the Sight or the Look or sumthin’. He goes with that Zatanna chick, I think.

Ignoring their comments, Reddy replied, “I am the Red Tornado, gentlemen. What has transpired here?”

“Well, we gotta little monster locked up in here. He’s already put one boy in the hospital, and he hurt our friend Mick pretty bad. Now, we’re tryin’ ta get him out and teach him a lesson.”

“I see. Just how were these persons injured?”

“He just touched ’em! It was like their flesh just melted away.”

“I see. Did you call the police department?”

The man sneered, “Police? We don’t need no stinkin’ police. In this here neighborhood we take care of our own.”

“Then I suggest you disperse. I have alerted the authorities to this location via my Justice League signal device. I will deal with this creature from here.”

The two men barred Red Tornado’s way. “No way, pal. This is our business, and we’ll take care of it.”

Red Tornado stared at the two men, and they suddenly felt pressure pushing them backward. They tried to resist, but the wind grew stronger. The crowd started yelling expletives at the android hero and began to advance upon him. Reddy increased the strength of the wind until the entire crowd was slowly pushed back to the street, just in time to see the arrival of several police cars. Reddy held them back long enough for the police to gain control of the crowd. The lead officer nodded at the Tornado to signal that he should proceed.

Reddy then focused his attention on the doorway. Using the enhanced strength his android body provided, he punched his fist through the door and easily opened it. The room was dark inside. As the Tornado entered, he heard a voice.

“Don’t come any closer! Don’t make me hurt you!”

Reddy flipped on the light switch and was stunned by what he saw.

The Red Tornado had been prepared for just about anything — a villain, an alien, some sort of man-made monster — but what he saw before him was nothing of the sort. It was a thirteen-year-old boy.

“Don’t come near me! Please!

The boy looked like a typical teenager with shoulder-length brown hair, brown eyes, and a pale complexion. He wore jeans and a black T-shirt. He was obviously scared out of his mind.

“Son, it’s all right. I’m the Red Tornado. I’m here to help,” Reddy said as he moved cautiously toward the boy.

The boy scooted backward, seemingly afraid of his would-be rescuer.

“Please! No!

Reddy stopped in his tracks. “It’s OK. Just tell me what happened.”

“You’ll hate me, like they do. I didn’t mean for it to happen; I didn’t, I swear!”

Sitting down on the ground just feet away from the boy, Reddy looked into his eyes. “I know you didn’t, but I need to know what happened in order to help you.”

Sniffling and feeling less threatened, the boy replied, “I was playing with my best friend, R-R-Robby. We had just started wrestlin’ when he just started screaming…” The boy choked and began to sob again. “I jus’ touched him, and his arm just started to melt off. My mom, she came running and saw it, and she started screaming. I ran out of the building and smack into some guy. He helped me up, and when he did, the same thing happened to him, too… Please, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”

Reddy contemplated this for a moment. A normal child one minute and walking death the next, and instead of compassion or understanding, the villagers hunted him down like Frankenstein’s monster, as though he were less than human.

“What’s your name, son?”

“Scott.”

Taking off his glove, Reddy extended his hand. “I’m John. I’d like to help you, if you’ll let me.”

“I can’t touch you! You’ll melt, too!” Scott said, starting to panic again.

“No, I won’t. Take my hand. Trust me.”

Hesitantly, Scott took the Tornado’s hand. He gasped when he realized that nothing was happening. Quickly he flung his arms around Reddy in a desperate hug and began to sob, this time in relief, not fear. Reddy held the boy tight, wondering once again how people could be so cruel. Had he the capability, Reddy would be shedding tears, too.

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