A week after the first meeting of Amanda Waller, Rick Flag, and Paul Kirk (Manhunter), preparations were in full swing for the first mission of the new Extreme Justice team.
“Union City, Tennessee? Sounds like a real hotbed of trouble there, Chief.” Floyd Lawton, the criminal marksman known as Deadshot, looked at the map projected on the wall. “What the heck is in Union City?”
“A fellow calling himself Brother Andrew,” said Amanda Waller. “Him and a couple hundred followers who think the Commies and Jews are going to storm the borders of the U.S. of A. any day now.” Amanda clicked her remote control, bringing up a picture of a tall, haggard-looking man with haunted eyes. “Andrew Forsythe has been a small-time preacher for thirty years. Three months ago, he started hitting the big-time. Instead of just a traveling tent service, he started setting up churches all over the Southeastern United States and Midwest. One of the analysts over in the Department of Justice happened to spot a bunch of building permits issued in the name of his church, the Fellowship of the Determined Spirit, for a large piece of property outside Union City. He’s funneling money and material into this site, but nothing is showing up on the satellite photos, and in the last three weeks, bus-loads of his followers have been getting off at the local bus station and riding out of town in a couple of trucks he bought at a military surplus sale.”
Standing in a corner, a tall, silver-haired man with a patch over one eye spoke up. “Has Justice got anybody on the inside?” asked Slade Wilson, the paid assassin known as Deathstroke the Terminator.
“They tried, Wilson. This picture was taken by their field agent. He transferred the film via a blind drop, but they apparently spotted him. His body was found at the same place where he dropped the film, three days later, sans eyes.”
“Now that’s a blind drop. They like to play rough, do they?” asked the Aussie criminal called Captain Boomerang. “Maybe we should send Deathstroke in by himself, then.”
“I wouldn’t mind,” replied Wilson. “Wouldn’t have to worry about being slowed down that way.”
“Enough of that talk.” Paul Kirk’s voice dripped with authority. “We go in as a team. We work as a team. And, if at all possible, we come out as a team.”
“And when we get in there, what are we to do?” asked Lawton.
“Simple. We kill Brother Andrew.”
“Sure, that’s simple. In a compound swarming with guys who make the Klan look sane. I’ll just stroll in myself and finish him off.” The others looked up as their teammate, Ben Turner, entered the room. The martial artist known as the Bronze Tiger smiled, his even white teeth showing brightly against his dark skin. “What were you smoking when you picked me for this team, Amanda?”
“Don’t worry, Ben. You aren’t going in. The team needs someone outside to monitor the situation and pull their fat from the fire if necessary. The rest are going in as followers, so they can get close enough to do the job without too much fuss.” Amanda switched off the projector and sat down. “I hope.”
An unseasonably hot spring sun shone down through hazy skies as the truck pulled up before a battered Quonset hut. Inside the canvas-covered bed of the truck, twenty hot, sweating men sat with an assortment of duffel bags, knapsacks, suitcases, and cardboard boxes. None dared make a movement for the rear of the truck until the flaps were pulled back by the driver and his shotgun rider. In this case, he was aptly named.
“All right, folks, end of the line. Everybody out.”
As aching bodies rose from the metal decking, boxes and luggage were passed out to waiting hands. The Church of the Determined Spirit believed in, among other things, economy of effort. Therefore, the trucks that brought in new followers also transported supplies for the encampment. Once the truck was empty, it drove off toward another identical Quonset. The passengers were herded toward the doors, where each was made to identify himself to a seated guard.
“Sam Wilson,” said a tall, thin man with salt and pepper hair.
“What happened to the eye, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Damned Viet Cong prison guard smacked me with a rifle butt,” said Wilson as he stepped away from the table.
“Fred Dalton,” snapped a shorter man, sizing up the guard, the pistol holstered under his arm and the M-16 laid carefully across the man’s lap.
“Paul King,” mumbled a grizzled-looking man walking with a limp.
“You all right, boy? You look like you’re on your last legs.”
“I’ll be all right. Been on the road for a few years since the government threw me out of the V.A. hospital.”
“Been there myself, Paul. Look me up tonight. We can swap stories.”
“George Harper.” The last man through had an accent that caught the attention of the bored guard. “Where you from, mister? We only want good American brothers here.”
“I grew up in Virginia. My folks came over here after my old man was busted for protesting against Socialism back in London in the ’60s.”
The guard nodded, swallowing the story hook, line, and sinker. Stupid Yank — can’t tell an Aussie accent from a Brit, thought the criminal master of the boomerang.
So far, so good.
“The time is coming, my brothers! The time is soon upon us when we will strike back at those who have oppressed us for so long. At the Commies who have infiltrated our government, turning the hearts of the country against the true heroes. At the great Jewish conspiracy that seeks to take the fruits of our labors for the benefit of the Israeli power cartels.”
At each pause, cheers filled the great underground hall of the Church of the Determined Spirit. Over twelve hundred men, ranging from teenagers to grizzled seniors, filled the hall. Paul Kirk had already noted over twenty guards stationed around the perimeter, each armed with an automatic rifle, one or more pistols, and bandoliers laden with what he presumed were gas grenades. The last was hidden under their loose-fitting shirts, but he recognized them nonetheless.
Since their entry into the compound, the members of the Extreme Justice task force had not spoken with each other. Their suspicions were well-founded, for they had noted listening devices in every location where they had tried to meet. They instead relied on a combination of sign language and body language.
“Worth trying in here?” signed Slade Wilson, AKA Deathstroke. He had already calculated the odds of success. He figured he had a ninety-nine percent chance of killing off Brother Andrew, and a seventeen percent chance of escaping with his life. If they worked together, there was only a fifty/fifty chance that any of the team members would get out.
“Not this time,” came the reply from the Manhunter. He preferred better odds for his team. While he didn’t have the sheer mental capacity of Deathstroke’s chemically enhanced brain, his own estimation for success was about the same.
“Before this week is out, we will be ready to strike the crucial first blow in a war whose outcome is inevitable! We will take back this country for the working men whose blood, sweat, and tears made it strong! We will toss the weak-minded, weak-willed, weak-moraled politicians out of Washington, and sweep clean a government grown fat and corrupt! Come Saturday, we shall prove to the world that God is on our side, and we will be denied no longer!”
What a bunch of kooks, thought George Harkness, the flamboyant Captain Boomerang. Best thing we could do is bring the roof down on the lot of them. He glanced over at his teammate, Floyd Dalton, who seemed pretty caught up in the whole thing. Wonder if he’s a good actor, or if he might be throwing in with these blokes?
After the evening prayer service, Andrew Forsythe made his way down to the lowest sub-level of the Church’s underground compound. There, a seated figure waited for him.
“It went well tonight, Andrew. My help was hardly needed.”
“Thank you, Great One. It is good to be of service to one such as you.”
“There are those among your flock who may be trouble. As your numbers increase, it is harder for me to pick them out. However, I have definitely detected thoughts that may mean trouble for us.”
“I will have my inner circle make the rounds and try to ferret them out.”
“Good. They have a remarkable talent for spotting potential traitors. You have chosen them well.”
“Thank you again, O Enlightened One. Will you soon be strong enough to grace our meetings with your divine presence?”
“Soon, Andrew. Soon. For now, though, it is best that you not tell them of me. Should word of my presence get out while I am still recovering from my descent to the Earthly plane, those who would betray you might try to take action directly against me.”
“As always, you speak with wisdom. So shall it be.”
“Excellent. Go now. Lest suspicions be aroused.”
As Brother Andrew left the room, its sole remaining occupant allowed a smile to cross its usually mirthless face. It was an expression that seemed oddly out of place on the oversized head of the being in the life-support chair. Its last thought before shifting its consciousness to contemplation of the incomprehensible was, “Pathetic fool.”
“Whaddaya mean there’s no record of me serving in Vietnam? I was awarded the Purple Heart in ’73 after spending almost two years in their stinking prison.” Sam Wilson wasn’t just mad; he was outraged. Both as the character he was playing and as the Extreme Justice member who expected Amanda Waller to have that information in the government systems.
“We checked with the Veteran’s Administration, and they got no record of a Sam Wilson from Muncie, Indiana. I say you’re a fake!” shouted the church official who had come looking for him. “I checked it myself!”
“One moment. I know from experience they don’t publish all of the information for former POWs. If you would care to let me at a computer with a modem, I could probably access some of the information that isn’t released for public use.” Paul King had overheard the exchange and hoped that his ruse would keep the team from being exposed.
“And how is it that you could do all this?” asked Al Rufus, the church official.
“I used to work in the V.A. at the hospital in Philadelphia — in their computer department.” This settled the issue. Sam, Paul, and Al made their way to an office area on the top level of the compound.
“OK, smart ass. Do your stuff.”
Paul sat at the computer and started typing commands. The terminal program provided was enough to connect him to the computers at Task Force X headquarters in Washington, D.C. He had set up the database of background records himself with multiple menu systems so it would appear as if he were contacting different government agencies. He called up the one that mimicked the V.A. system and typed in his own special access codes. Within moments, Al was staring at a record that verified that Sam Wilson, born in 1940 in Muncie, Indiana, had served in the Army from 1959 until 1973, when he received an honorable discharge and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained while a prisoner in a North Vietnamese prison camp. It was followed by a list of payments to V.A. hospitals in Muncie, Chicago, Louisville, and Nashville over the intervening years. As Al studied the information, Sam looked over the top of him and winked at Paul King.
“OK, I guess you check out. But I’ll be watching you, Wilson.” Al gestured for them to get away from the computer. “You too, King. Something ain’t right about you.” The disguised Manhunter clone quickly got a message out to Amanda, telling her that something big was set to blow on Saturday. He was able to say no more without arousing the official’s suspicions further.
The following morning, the four undercover agents of Extreme Justice managed to get assigned to trash detail together. While the task of heaving large sacks of garbage into the back of a truck was none too pleasant, it did isolate them from others of the Church.
“Thanks for the save yesterday, Paul. Nice work slipping that message out.” Sam Wilson, AKA Slade Wilson, feigned the effort of lifting a pair of bags up to George Harkness. “Think it will do any good?”
“I don’t know. I’m hoping that Amanda realizes I left the line connected. Maybe they’ll have someone who can tap into Brother Andrew’s computers.”
“I doubt it. I don’t think that old Commodore is connected to any other computers. They might have some useful information on that one, though.”
“What do we do about Andrew? He’s nuttier than your average Christmas fruitcake, but he has enough people down here to cause a lot of trouble.” Floyd Dalton, the assassin known as Deadshot, was truly straining under the weight of the trash. “Anybody have any ideas on how we can take him out without getting ourselves killed?”
Harkness, the criminal known as Captain Boomerang, stopped for a moment. He ran his hands down the strut holding the tarp up over the truck bed. “I’ve got one. This here metal strapping, it’s pretty flexible. Could make a decent launcher with it.”
“What are you going to do, Boomer? Carve a giant boomerang out of the truck bed, strap him to it, and launch him into space? Didn’t work when you tried it with the speedster,” Wilson sneered.
“No boomerangs in this plan, mate. But I’ve been assigned to help build a platform for the assembly hall. He wants to make his grand announcement in style, I guess. How about if we help him, ahem, launch his big plan? Like, up into the ceiling?”
Realization lit the eyes of the Manhunter and Deathstroke. Deadshot, a little slower to catch on, suddenly realized what his teammate was suggesting and smiled.
That afternoon, two men known to the Church as George Harper and Fred Dalton assembled the metal support structure for the new podium. Nobody noticed that the arched steel bands making up the supports were fastened with an odd adhesive compound instead of being welded in place.