Colonel Rick Flag was thrilled that Task Force X’s Rehab Squad had worked well in stopping Metallo. His happiness was tempered greatly, of course, because of the missing women. The science and weapons specialist he kept on retainer — Tom Tresser, alias Nemesis — had just assured him over the phone that the subdermal tracking devices he developed should have worked.
“Should we turn out the newer, untried members?” suggested Dr. Karin Grace.
Flag answered, “I suppose so — but after one more quick call.”
Cat Grant of WGBS News, a pretty blonde in a short red suit, smiled for her audience. “This is Cat Grant here at the special press conference for the U.S. Government’s new Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency, or MHRA. This section of the federal government will take established heroes and match them with former villains eager to pay their debt to society by fighting the very kinds of crime they once indulged in. MHRA’s leader is Rick Flag, and he is here to say a few words.”
“Thanks, Cat! I am pleased to announce that the MHRA’s field team, the Rehab Squad, is off to grand success under the able field leadership of Captain Comet, the longtime hero, space explorer, and trusted associate of the JLA. He recently saved the life of the Man of Steel himself with the assistance of the newly trained members of the Rehab Squad: Dolphin, Cheetah, Golden Glider, and a new hero called Starman. We have a statement from Superman himself.
“It reads: ‘I appreciate the service that Captain Comet and the Rehab Squad have rendered both to me and to justice itself. I have known and admired the heroism of Captain Comet for some time now. He inspires these former villains as he does us all.’
“I believe this support speaks volumes,” said Flag. “Thank you.”
“That was an endorsement of Captain Comet — and by extension his new Rehab Squad — from Superman himself,” said Cat in her closing remarks.
At the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency, Captain Comet slammed his fist on the desk in Rick Flag’s office.
“What kind of self-serving nonsense was that?” he yelled. “You don’t save a life, then call him up to brag! Superman, of all people, should not have been made to feel this statement was required. Flag, I don’t like this sensationalism at all!”
“That’s too bad,” said Colonel Flag. “Our press agent thought it would be useful.”
“Who’s your press agent — Funky Flashman?” said Comet sarcastically.
“Funny you should say that,” replied Flag with a slight grin.
Soon, the annoyed Captain Comet stared in dismay at Funky Flashman himself — the felon turned public relations agent for the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency. “Cappy, darling, that costume’s got to go!” said the garish conman. “No scintillatin’ super-dude should be so retro! Add some claws or an arm cannon! Yeah, that’s the ticket, true believer!”
“Fire him. Now!” Comet shouted as he left the office to gather his team. Colonel Flag shrugged, nodded, and did as he was asked.
“A visitor for you, Rick,” Dr. Karin Grace said cheerfully to the exhausted director several minutes later.
“I just tossed out that Flashman guy at Comet’s orders,” said the former adventurer. “Now what?” His frown quickly turned into a grin at the sight of his old friend in the Forgotten Heroes. “Rip Hunter!” he exclaimed. “Come on in, pal.”
“I am here on important business. I — my machine — I can save them! I-I can save them all!” the adventurer known as the Time Master muttered, seeming nervous, distracted, and not at all himself.
“What? Slow down there, friend,” said Flag, worried. “You look as if you haven’t slept in days. Just who are you talking about? Who needs saving?”
“The heroes! I mean, the heroes who died in the Crisis — the Flash, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Immortal Man, Dove… and all the others,” he said feverishly. “I can use my time machine and rescue all of them! Will you help me?”
Colonel Rick Flag leaned forward in his chair, now fascinated by the proposal. “I’ll do anything to help. Now, start over from the beginning. Tell me exactly what you plan to do.”
Constance d’Aramis perched with feline grace on a window ledge thirty stories above the city streets. Dressed in her Crimson Fox costume, she arched her lithe form through an air vent and crawled down silently into a plush office. Her pretty eyes had the vacant stare of the entranced, since she was now under the mental sway of the mysterious Achilles Dahmmon. She prowled the office like her namesake and curled up in a ball on the rug to wait. Her prey soon entered.
“What? Help!” the old man cried as she leaped through the air and brought him down almost effortlessly.
A brief costume change in the quiet office followed. Soon, the glamorously dressed Constance d’Aramis swayed down the halls pushing a wheeled cart from a mail room. Her costly clothes and sexy legs attracted stares, but she left the Stagg offices unchallenged — with her kidnap victim Simon Stagg hidden in the cart.
Sapphire Stagg Mason, the gorgeous daughter of the old tycoon, soon noticed the signs of his brief struggle and claw marks on the rug. She cried and called desperately over the phone, “Oh, Rex, it’s Daddy — someone has attacked or kidnapped him,” she cooed. “Can you and your team find him? Oh, please!”
“No sweat, doll. The Outsiders are on the case,” promised her husband, the famous Rex Mason, alias Metamorpho.
The Cheetah gasped as she recognized the hideous dwarf leering down at her and the other captured women. “Doctor Psycho? So you’re behind this,” she growled.
“I am behind this little arena as a hobby,” he said, sneering. “My associate Achilles Dahmmon is employing my talents in his own little project. This is pure pleasure, not business.”
“Oooh, who is that creep?” said Golden Glider.
“He’s our captor,” said a determined-looking auburn-haired beauty in a green, ragged bikini and thigh-boots. “I’m his first victim. You can call me the Thorn.”
“I guess that makes me number two,” said a famously costumed second woman with a smile.
“The Catwoman!” gasped Glider.
“Ah, my fame precedes me,” she quipped.
The other captive, Crimson Fox, muttered in French as the women exchanged glances in the arena.
Captain Comet looked over his newest team. Dolphin stood close to Will Payton, the new Starman. Near the wall leaned Killer Moth. Across from Comet sat Mayflower, the British recruit, and lastly paced the Hooded Hangman.
“I know you new recruits understand that a lot is riding on your performance,” he began. “If you can follow orders from me or Dolphin, then it all adds up to making your rehabilitation that much closer. We are in search of some missing team members — Cheetah and Golden Glider. Here’s what little we know: They were abducted by thugs working for some mysterious employer who spoke of self-actualization. That reference comes up after some computer work by Dolphin to a seminar around the city. Could be harmless, but we need to check it out.”
Killer Moth grinned beneath his green mask. “Sounds like some infomercial to me,” he joked. “Next you’ll be hawking those Ginsu knives.”
“It’s not funny,” said a worried Dolphin. “Debbi and Lisa could be in danger.”
“That’s all part of the game, in the ring or out,” grunted the former wrestler called the Hooded Hangman. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Hate of the Hooded Hangman,” Detective Comics #355 (September, 1966).]
“Spare us the Hulk Hoganisms, luv,” said Mayflower, tossing her long brown hair with one hand.
“Okay, let’s move out,” ordered a worried Captain Comet.
Metamorpho paced nervously around the office of the missing Simon Stagg. “He’s a rat. He’s a crook. He’s a heartless old money grubber. But he’s my angel’s dad, and I said we’d find his rotten hide.”
Halo giggled. “It sounds like you and he aren’t any closer than ever.”
Rex Mason relaxed his chalk-white features. “Kid, he’s not the warm and huggly feely type.”
Katana scowled. “His type of ruthlessly efficient businessman has ruined the traditions of the East.”
Looker posed on the desk and said, “I hate his decor. It clashes with every possible shade of eyeliner.”
Batman cleared his throat. “Regardless of his personality, ethics, or sense of style, he deserves to be found. Halo, what do you notice about the room?”
The pretty little blonde started up and looked around. “Uh… the rug is frayed — torn as if by sharp heels, or claws, maybe?”
“Exactly,” replied Batman, impressed. “Artificial claws tore the rug and scored the outer air vent. His abductor entered that way and obviously did not fly. They climbed with catlike agility and claws or talons. That suggests a few potential suspects, almost all of whom are unaccounted for, officially.”
“I’d say he’s at 1611 Bayside,” offered Black Lightning.
“What led ya to that, Holmes?” asked Rex.
“Oh, keen deduction — and this business card he dropped,” said Jefferson Pierce. Geo-Force laughed.
“Let’s go,” commanded Batman.
Cheetah and the four other imprisoned females were barely aware of each other’s presence when a new arrival tumbled into the pit. She had flowing blonde hair and cover girl looks on display in her skimpy white costume. “The Silver Swan!” said Cheetah. “I thought you worked for these creeps.”
“Yeah, I owe her for a few bruises,” snapped Golden Glider.
The Swan shook her curls and said, “I was under Psycho’s sway, as you all will be soon. He frees me — and all his women from time to time — to torment them. I am sorry for any pain I’ve caused you.”
“I’d say we should work together instead of playing cat fight — no offense to some of you,” said Thorn.
Catwoman nodded. “Nicely put. Now, how do we get out of this arena?”
“I have an idea,” offered Crimson Fox.
Soon, as Doctor Psycho returned to the pit, he smiled as he saw Cheetah fling herself on Crimson Fox.
“I’ll show you who is queen of the cats,” Cheetah snarled as she shook Fox by her straggling blonde locks. They rolled around frantically as the Golden Glider spun into the flying Silver Swan, and they wrestled in midair.
Catwoman pummeled the dodging Thorn, whose green bikini displayed her exquisite athletic form. The battles between the six women raged on, until suddenly and without warning they all attacked their netted prison cage roof. The sonic blasts, razor claws, and cutting blades tore it to shreds, and the agile women were on the startled Psycho before he could react.