Superfreaks/ACRA: Silver Age Superfreaks #6

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Wed Sep 24 09:36:53 PDT 2008

Michael King and Mary Jones: crime scene investigators.  John Phelps and Mark Johnston: police officers.  Jack Greenspan and Edward Bailey: medical examiners.  Alan Russell and and Cliff Murdock: lawyers.  These men and women are truly our last line of defense.  But what about the capes whose
cases they have to investigate?  Should they be considered a help or a hindrance? 

                        Silver Age Superfreaks #6


Iraq, 1992.

  A week ago, Captain Roger Stevens had successfully led his men into battle.  Battle?  It was more of a rout, really.  Now he and his immediate superior, Colonel Forrest Nicholas, were on their way to meet the generals in charge of Operation Desert Storm.  How were they to be rewarded, he wondered.
  "Your extreme devotion to military service and tactical ability have both been noticed by my superiors," Colonel Nicholas told him.
  "That's good to hear, Sir" Captain Stevens said.
  "So they want you for a special program they are developing."
  "What kind of program?"
  Colonel Nicholas sighed, nodded and then looked Stevens right in the eye.  "Have you heard of the Fantastic Fighter program?"
  "No, Sir?  Should I have?"
  "Not really.  It is top secret, after all.  But I thought you might have heard rumours."
  "What sort of rumours?"
  "Nothing for you to worry about," Nicholas said matter-of-factly.  "The science has improved after the first initial experiments."
  "What sort of experiments?"
  Nicholas sighed.  "We're trying to find ways to raise a man's speed, strength, stamina, flexibility and agility to peak human levels.  Now these techniques we're developing would not be legal if they were used on Olympic athletes but all's fair in war."
  "I see."
  "The fantastic fighter program is intended to develop just what you'd think it would develop, namely fantastic fighters.  Of course, as we discovered early on, it's not very effective if the subject lacks innate ability.  It's not possible to turn a weakling into a super soldier.  It doesn't matter what concoction of steroids you pump into him!"
  "I don't doubt that, Sir."
  "But you, Captain Stevens, you could become the most fantastic fighter of all.  Are you interested?"
  Captain Stevens nodded.  "Captain Roger Stevens: Super Soldier.  I like the sound of that."

Pepperton National Bank, many years later

  "Could you please tell us what you saw?" Pepperton Police Detective John Phelps asked a witness at the scene, a Mister Alex Smith.
  Smith nodded.  "This guy," he said, pointing to the decapitated body on the floor, "he came into the bank with a gun and told everybody to get down on the floor.  So we did.  Then he told the tellers to put all the money in bags.  He waited for them to do that, telling them that he'd shoot anyone who tried pulling the silent alarm."
  "Then what happened?"
  "Then the other guy," he said as he tilted his head in the general direction of the Super Soldier, "he busted straight through the glass window.  Good thing we were already on the floor because glass flew everywhere.  Anyway, the man with the gun started shooting at him but the bullets just bounced off of shield.  Then, just as the shooter tried to reload, he threw his shield at him!"
  "Is that how he was decapitated?"
  "No.  I know because I looked up to see what was going on.  The shooter dropped his gun and grabbed the shield!  Right out of the air!  But that put him off balance and so the other guy ran up to him was there in a flash!  Then the two of them fought!  The shooter tried attacking him with his own shield they soon were both grappling with it!  Then the shooter fell back and the other guy fell on top of him!  That's when the guy's head popped off."
  "Okay.  Thanks.  You may be called to testify at an inquest.  That's standard whenever anybody dies of unnatural causes.  So I'll need all your information."

  Meanwhile, Detective Michael King was questioning the Super Soldier himself.
  "I'm going to need to know your full name, address and telephone number."
  "I'm the Super Soldier."
  "Your _real_ name."
  "I can't tell you my real name."
  "Why not?"
  "I'm authorized by both the city and the nation to protect my identity."
  "I could charge you with obstruction of justice."
  "You can do that but the mask isn't coming off.  Not without a warrant."
  "Alright.  So the mayor knows where to reach you?"
  "I've been operating out of Extreme Force Headquarters."
  "The Extreme Force Six disbanded a few years ago."
  "We're recruiting new people.  Anyway, that's my name and address: The Super Soldier, Extreme Force Headquarters.  And the number is 555-6789."
  "Alright.  So how did you know the bank was going to be robbed?"
  "I didn't.  I was just passing by."
  "In a superhero costume?"
  "This is a kind of military uniform."
  "And so you're patrolling the streets of Pepperton to keep us safe from invaders and terrorists?  Is that it?"
  "Something like that."
  "Did you know the man who tried to rob the bank?"
  "You never saw him before?"
  "Alright," he said.  "I'm going to need to look at that shield."
  "I can't let you have it," he was told.
  Michael King smiled.  "You can't keep it.  You just used it to kill someone.  It's evidence."
  "I acted in self-defense.  And in defense of innocents."
  "I'm sure you did.  But I'm still going to have to see that shield."
  The Super Soldier sighed.  "Alright."
  "Wait."  Detective Michael King put on some rubber gloves.  "Okay, hand it over."
  The Super Soldier handed him his shield.
  Detective King examined the shield.  "It doesn't look very sharp.  How is it possible that you took a man's head off with it?"
  The Super Soldier nodded.  "We were both grappling with the shield," he said, using a word he had just overheard the witness say, "he fell back and momentum and gravity did the rest."
  "I see.  I'm going to have to take this with me."
  "You can't...!"
  "Look, look at this blood: this is the victim's blood!"
  "Victim?  He was trying to rob a bank!  He was threatening to kill people!"
  "And he's dead.  And you're not.  That makes him the victim.  Understand?"
  "But why do you need to keep it?"
  "I need to run a few tests.  There's going to be an inquest.  The victim's family will demand one."
  "He doesn't have a family."
  "Excuse me?"
  "I mean... he's the villain here.  There are witnesses who can testify to that."
  "Right.  And they'll have their chance.  At the inquest."

Later, at the Pepperton Crime Lab,

  "Yes, Boss?" Edward Bailey asked.
  Detective King handed him the Super Soldier's shield.  They were both wearing gloves.  "I want you to examine this evidence."
  "This is from the incident at the bank?"
  "So you want me to confirm that this is the victim's blood?"
  "I want you to confirm that all of it belongs to the victim, yes."
  "Alright.  Anything else?"
  King nodded.  "I need you to make up a dummy with ballistics gel covering a human skeleton, or at least from the waist up.  I want to know how much force is required to take a man's head off."
  "Alright.  That's going to take a while."
  "It wasn't a suggestion."
  "I know, Boss.  I'll get right on it."

Soon, at the morgue.

  "So, Jack, any idea who this is?"
  "Yep.  This is Private Walter Johns of the American Forces in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm," Pepperton City Coroner Jack Greenspan told Detective King.  "I was able to bring up his military record."
  "So what's he been doing since then?"
  "Nothing.  He died in the war."
  "Are you sure?"
  "So this is what?  His twin brother?"
  Jack shook his head.  "See these wounds here?  They're several years old.  I was able to bring up his military medical records.  These were wounds he sustained in combat."
  "My God.  So the government lied about him being dead?"
  Jack nodded.  "And look at this.  Look at the muscles on him.  Whatever he's been doing all this time, he's been keeping fit."
  "Okay.  Thanks."

Later, at the precinct,

  The Super Soldier did not like being interogated and he made no bones about that.
  "You wanted to ask me some more questions?"
  Detective King nodded.  "You lied to me," he said matter-of-factly.
  "How so?"
  "You said you didn't know the victim."
  The Super Soldier sighed.  "Could you please stop refering to him as the victim?"
  "Don't change the subject.  You said you didn't know the victim."
  "I didn't."
  "And yet you served together in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm."
  The Super Soldier hesitated.  "How could you possibly know that?"
  "I was guessing.  So you did know him."
  "Wait.  A lot of people served in Iraq back then.  I didn't know everybody."
  "But you knew Private Walter Johns, didn't you?"  King showed him his records.
  The Super Soldier looked at the picture and satisfied himself that it was indeed the man he killed at the bank.  He then read a few lines in before answering Detective King.
  "I only knew the men who served under me.  I didn't know about people from other units."  He handed the records back to Detective King.  "Now, I'm not going to answer any more questions because it seems to me that you are just fishing, trying to find out information about me that is restricted to those who need to know, and frankly that doesn't include you.  You want to charge me with obstruction of justice?  I could have you charged with treason.  How does that sound?"
  Detective King was unfazed.  "Maybe you didn't know him personally but you knew about him."
  "What's that supposed to mean?"
  Detective King smiled.  "According to his medical records, Private Walter Johns was just an ordinary man, nothing special.  And yet a witness claims he was able to grab your shield right out of the air and engage you in hand to hand combat.  And our medical examiner confirms that he was in peak physical condition."
  The Super Soldier shrugged his shoulders.  "He must have worked out."
  "His military records claim he died in the Gulf War."
  The Super Soldier sighed.  "Apparently he got better."
  Detective King nodded.  "Apparently."
  The Super Soldier smiled.  "Good.  Because I have some work to get back to."
  "Very busy, are you?"
  "Yes.  I'm trying to put a team together."
  "And yet you just happened to be passing by the bank while it was being robbed."
  The Super Soldier nodded.  "Just lucky I guess."  He sighed.  "Look, you've got me all figured out, don't you?  Do I look like the kind of guy who wants to spend all day sitting behind a desk."
  King laughed.  "No, you look like the kind of guy who wants a bit of action."
  The Super Soldier sighed.  "Yeah, well, I guess it was my lucky day then."
  King smirked.  "Maybe.  Maybe not."

Later, back at the Pepperton Crime Lab,

  "Yes, Boss?"
  "Did you examine the shield like I asked?"
  "It was all Johns' blood."
  "And how did the test go?"
  Edward nodded.  "As you might have expected.  The weight of the Super Soldier alone wasn't enough to account for the force necessary to cut off a man's head using the shield."
  "How much force are we talkimg about?"
  "About three hundred pounds of pressure."
  King nodded.  "Okay.  We'll need to compare that with the Super Soldier's upper body strength."
  "Do you think he's going to want to co-operate with you?  He heard he was pretty pissed when you brought him here last time."
  King nodded.  "You're right.  I'll get bring Mary in on this."

Later, at Gold's Gym, a health club in Pepperton City

  "What exactly do you want me to do, Miss Jones?" The Super Soldier asked.
  "Detective Jones," Mary Jones insisted.  "I want to lift some weights.  I want to get an idea of the limits of your upper body strength.  That will be an issue at the inquest."
  "Alright.  Where do you want me to start?"
  "You can start with these weights over here.  They've already been laid out for you."
  The Super Soldier smiled.  "They look heavy."
  "I heard you were strong."
  He laughed.  "I'll do my best."

Later, in the chambers of Judge Kevin Matthews

  "Your honour," Pepperton City District Attorney Alan Russell said.  "I have evidence that suggests that The Super Soldier knew Walter Johns."
  "What sort of evidence?"
  "They served together in Operation Desert Storm."
  "And you know this how?"
  "The Super Soldier admits to having served in Operation Desert Storm."
  Judge Matthews sighed.  "I'm not impressed.  Many people served in Operation Desert Storm."
  "Your honour, I want access to The Super Soldier's military records."
  "Absolutely not!  Such information could be used to determine The Super Soldier's identity."
  "Your honour, a man is dead.  How is it that The Super Soldier can hide behind a secret identity?"
  "May I remind you that we are not talking about a criminal trial.  If the inquest determines that The Super Soldier's actions were criminal then you would be free to ask him such questions in a criminal trial.  In this inquest you are to restrict your questions to matters pertaining only to the incident at the bank."
  "Your honour, I have reason to believe that The Super Soldier followed this man to the bank and attacked him there."
  "The Super Soldier has not explained why he was there in front of the bank at the exact moment it was being robbed.  I don't believe in co-incidences and I don't think the jury will either.  I think they will want to know what he was doing there."
  "He doesn't have to explain anything.  Even if The Super Soldier did follow the victim to the bank, the victim did, on his own accord, try to rob said bank.  The actions of The Super Soldier are analogous to that of a police officer taling a suspected criminal."
  "Except that police officers have accountability."
  "The Super Soldier also has accountability.  The purpose of this inquest will be to determine if The Super Soldier bears any criminal responsibility.  But until it is determined that his actions were criminal you are not to ask any questions pertaining to The Super Soldier's military record or personal life.  Have I made myself clear?"
  "Yes, your honour."

The inquest into the death of Walter Johns, a few weeks later
  "This is not a trial,"   Judge Kevin Matthews said.  "The Super Soldier is not to be found guilty or not guilty.  Our purpose here is to simply determine how Walter Johns died and what the circumstances were.  There is no question of Walter Johns not having died at the hands of the The Super Soldier.  That is not in dispute.  The verdict you will render today is whether the act commited by The Super Soldier was justifiable, excusable or criminal.
  "I remind you of the meaning of these three terms.  A justifiable act is one which is commited when no other option was available, say for example in order for the perpetrator to save his own life or the lives
of others: acts commited in self defense fall under this definition.  An excusable act is one which is commited under duress and under circumstances in which one can understand and excuse the resultant act: this includes any act commited when the perpetrator is in legitamate fear for his or her own safety or the safety of others.  Such a fear need not seem reasonable after the fact: this then includes cases of temporary insanity.  Finally, a criminal act is one which is, in fact, a crime.  It need not be a premeditated act.  If you find the death of Walter Johns to be a criminal act then this case will go onto trial at which point the question of whether or not it was premeditated would be considered.
  "As this is an inquest and not a trial, no witness is to be considered on trial and cannot be compelled to answer any questions that do not have any direct bearing on the case.  The witnesses are, nevertheless, to be considered under oath and can be charged with perjury should they be found to knowingly provide false testimony.  Pepperton District Attorney Alan
Russell and Pepperton Public Defender Leroy Laurel each have the right to call witnesses to this inquest."

  Alan Russell called Edward Bailey to testify.  "The weight of the Super Soldier alone wasn't enough to account for the force necessary to cut off a man's head using the shield," he said.
  "So The Super Soldier attacked in anger?"
  "Objection!" Leroy Laurel said.  "The witness is not qualified to comment about The Super Soldier's emotional state."
  "Sustained," Judge Matthews said.  "Please rephrase the question."
  "I withdraw my question your honour.  Mr. Bailey, how many pounds of force would have been required to sever a man's head using the shield that The Super Soldier used."
  "Three hundred pounds."
  "And you know this how?"
  "Because Detective King asked me to test it out on a dummy made of ballistics gel and human bone."
  "And ballistics gel behaves like human flesh?"
  Edward nodded.  "It's used to determine how flesh responds to weapons like bullets and knives."
  "Thank you, Mr. Bailey."  Alan Russell went to sit down.
  "Your witness, Mr. Laurel."
  Leroy Laurel had one question for cross examination: "Mr. Bailey, ballistics gel is used to test the reaction of human flesh to bullets and knives, correct?"
  "That's right."
  "But not blunt objects?"
  "No.  Ballistics gel doesn't bruise.  It's more elastic than human flesh."
  "So it's not valid in this case.  The weapon was a shield, not a knife or a gun."
  "But the shield did take off a man's head.  It wasn't a blunt object."
  "But it didn't have a sharp edge."
  "So the elasticity of ballistics gel will skew the results, wouldn't it?"
  "A little bit."
  "A little bit?  How much is a little bit?"
  "The error would be less than the error that would have been introduced had we not used ballistics gel and simply used a human skeleton.  Human flesh offers similar resistance.  That's why we use it."
  "But it isn't an exact analog, is it?"
  "No, but it's the best we could do.  We weren't going to use an actual person."
  Leroy Laurel nodded.  "No further questions."
  "Mr. Russell, do you have any other witnesses to call?"
  "No, your honour."
  "Very well.  Mr. Laurel, you may call your first witness."
  "Your honour, I call Mary Jones."
  Mary Jones stood up and went to testify.
  "Miss Jones, did you bring The Super Soldier to Gold's Gym, a health club here in Pepperton City?"
  "Yes, I did."
  "For what purpose?"
  "I needed to know how strong The Super Soldier was.  I needed to have an idea of how easily he could have hurled a shield at someone and took their head off."
  "And what did you find?"
  "That The Super Soldier was able to press over four hundred pounds."
  "Four hundred pounds?  That's near the world record for weightlifting?"
  "The current world record for a seventy kilogram man is about two hundred kilograms in the case of clean and jerk and a little bit less in the case of a snatch."
  "And how much is two hundred kilograms converted to pounds?"
  "About four hundred and forty pounds."
  "So The Super Soldier is a world class weightlifter?"
  "But this is how much he can lift?  How much can he press?"
  Mary nodded.  "Given the right sort of support, the ammount he would be able to press would be that plus his body weight."
  "And what does that come to?  In pounds?"
  "Close to six hundred pounds."
  "So there was no need for The Super Soldier to be angry at Walter Johns, was there?"
  "Objection, your honour!" Alan Russell said.  "If Edward Bailey cannot make any conclusions as to The Super Soldier's state of mind at the time than neither can Miss Jones."
  "Sustained.  Please rephrase the question, Mr. Laurel."
  "I withdraw my question and have no further questions, your honour."
  "Very well.  Mr. Russell?"
  Alan Russell just had one question for Mary: "Miss Jones, if The Super Soldier was strong enough to chop off a man's head then why wasn't he strong enough to subdue Walter Johns without killing him."
  "I don't know."
  "No more questions, your honour."
  "Mr. Laurel, your next witness."
  "Your honour, I call Jack Greenspan to the stand."

  Jack Greenspan, the coroner who examined Walter Johns's body, estimated based on his body mass how strong he would have been.  Alan Russell had no questions for cross.  Finally, Leroy Laurel called Alex Smith to testify as to ewhat he saw that day.
  "Walter Johns dropped his gun and grabbed the shield!  Right out of the air!  But that put him off balance and so The Super Soldier ran up to him was there in a flash!  Then the two of them fought!  Walter Johns tried attacking him with his own shield they soon were both grappling with it!  Then he fell back and The Super Soldier fell on top of him!  That's when Walter John's head popped off."
  "So would you describe Walter Johns's death as accidental?"
  "Based on what I saw, yeah."
  "No further questions, your honour."
  "Your witness, Mister Russell."
  Alan Russell had just one question: "Mr, Smith, have you ever before seen a man's chopped off using a blunt object?"
  "Objection, your honour," Leroy Laurel said.  "The shield wasn't sharp but it wasn't blunt either."
  "Objection overruled," Judge Matthews said.  "The witness will answer the question as stated."
  "No," he said.
  "That would because doing so amounts to an incredible feat of strength.  Agreed?"
  "Objection, your honour!" Leroy Laurel said.  "He's leading the witness."
  "Objection sustained," Judge Matthews said.  "You will have to restate the question."
  "Alright," Alan Russell said.  "Do you think that, given the same circumstances, you could accomplish what The Super Soldier accomplished, namely severing a man's head with the edge of the shield he used?"
  "What do you think it would take for someone to be able to accomplish the feat you witnessed?"
  "A great deal of strength."
  "So would you still describe what you saw as an accident?"
  "Maybe not.  But it was still self-defense.  Walter Johns tried to kill him."
  "Right.  And how would you feel if someone tried to shoot you."
  Alex Smith chuckled.  "Pretty angry."
  "No further questions, your honour."
  "Mr. Laurel, do you have any more witnesses?"
  "No, your honour."
  "Very well," the judge said.  "As I said from the outset, this is not a trial but an inquest.  The jury will decide based on the evidence that has just been presented whether The Super Soldier's killing of Walter Johns was justifiable, excusable or criminal.  Do the members of the jury understand these instructions?"
  The jury foreman stood up.  "Yes, your honour," he said.
  "Very well.  You may take however much time as necessary to deliberate."
  The jury filed out.

  The jury returned in less than an hour.
  "Has the jury reached a verdict?" the judge asked.
  "We have, your honour," the jury foreman said.
  "Please state the verdict so everyone can hear."
  "We find that the The Super Soldier's killing of Walter Johns was justifiable due to self defense."
  The judge nodded.  "I thank you all for taking the time to consider this case.  The court is now adjurned."  The judge struck with his gavel.  It was over.

A week later, in Alan Russell's office

  "Alan, did you hear the news about the new Extreme Force Six?" Cliff Murdock asked his boss.
  "No.  What have you heard?"
  "There's going to be a new Extreme Force Six with The Super Soldier as the leader."
  "A mere one week after he was cleared of any wrong doing in the death of Walter Johns?"
  Cliff shrugged his shoulders.  "Heroes make people feel safe.  The public believes that The Super Soldier might have actually saved lives that day."
  Alan sighed.  "Tell me, Cliff, if The Super Soldier were to have been found criminally responsible, would the government really have allowed everything to be disclosed or do you think they would have clamped down for the sake of national security?"
  "I guess we'll never know."
  "Right.  Which means we don't really know who's in charge.  And that scares me."

                                   THE END



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