Chapter Five: The Elephant in The Room
‘The Informant in The Teacher’
Chloe sat at the outdoor café legs and arms crossed, back to the corner as she peered through the crowd studying every face that passed by. When Rick Flag had first contacted her she’d gone into high alert. The last time they’d heard from the Suicide Squad was half a year ago while they were trying to put together the sting operation that had sent Lex to jail.
So the email that she received this morning had not only sent her into a fit of curiosity, but it made her question whether they knew more than she’d initially thought. A throat being cleared startled her out of her thoughts and when she glanced up her eyes meeting Rick’s blue ones.
He smiled, pulled out the chair in front of her and sat down. “Chloe Sullivan…what a pleasure to see you again.” She arched an eyebrow as she leaned back in her seat. “Really? And to think I thought you’d still be mad about the way I bulldozed your operation.”
He chuckled lightly, but she could see the spark of anger in his eyes. “Yes well…I try not to hold grudges too often, it limits the people I can go to when potential issues arise, which is precisely why I asked you to meet me.”
“You want my help?” He shook his head and pulled a folder out from the inside of his jacket before glancing around briefly and settling it on the table between them as he leaned in while speaking quietly. “No, I want your teams help, but there’s no way in hell they’d sign off on helping without you convincing them…”
His voice trailed off and he motioned to the folder. “So I’m coming to you first…since your boyfriend doesn’t like me much I figured you’d probably be the better person to reach out to.” Chloe glanced down at the folder and pulled it towards her opening it slowly as she snorted.
“Hmm I wonder why he doesn’t like you…it couldn’t possibly be because you tried to kidnap me when he refused to join your team could it?” Rick leaned back in his seat while letting out a bored noise. “Technicalities…besides it all worked out in the end. You’re fine, he’s fine…my team is finally getting back in business…win, win if you ask me.”
Her eyes scanned the papers as she spoke. “Well, no one asked you…” His lip turned up at the side at her comment and he watched as she absorbed the information he had given her. Chloe’s brows furrowed as she turned page after page reading the reports. She glanced up at him and pursed her lips.
“Is this true?” He arched an eyebrow a hint of humor on his face as he addressed her. “You think I’m lying? That what, I made up a whole entire mission just to grab you and your teammates?” It was his turn to snort as she glared at him. “Don’t flatter yourself. The way I see it, since you’re the one responsible for putting the Suicide Squad out of business you owe us.”
“Owe you?” He nodded and pointed to the folder as he spoke. “You and I might not see eye to eye, but we’re working towards the same goal…we need to get rid of the VRA…they are turning civilians against us. My ideas might seem more radical than yours, but in this instance I’m willing to play things your way.”
Chloe frowned in confusion as she closed the folder. “Why?” He pointed towards the information he’d given her. “Because of that…it needs to be handled differently…we need to infiltrate VRA premises…without getting caught. My team is more of the gung ho type. We jump in loud and forceful…your team however…you come in quietly and destroy from within…”
Chloe swallowed hard as she went over the information in her head. A school of teenagers with meteor and other abilities…being trained by the VRA…as much as she didn’t want to agree with Flag he was right. This couldn’t be good news…for either of them.
“What do you propose?” A grin slid onto his face as he leaned back in his seat arms crossing gently over his chest. “I’m suggesting our two teams, team up and run this mission together…you game?”
Rick sighed as he glanced over the paperwork at his desk. Things were unraveling quickly. Suki and Gabe were still rummaging through things that they didn’t belong in looking for Ian and Mia. The problem was without Mia reporting their movements to him, he couldn’t stop them from getting in trouble.
Trotter was on the grounds again since he’d caught ‘The Broken’, a group of rebel students trying to get off Tower Prep’s land, and she had forced his hand into sending them through West Campus effectively killing off any memories they had of Tower Prep that weren’t 100 percent positive.
Things were getting bad and sooner rather than later he knew they’d be looking into where his ‘daughter’ went and if she was as innocent as he proclaimed her to be. If they went digging around they’d find the records and then they’d find the hole where the missing Corvus H-40 would be.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and leaned back in his seat. If this plan was still going to work some things needed to be sacrificed for the greater good. He took a deep breath, lifted his phone off the receiver and dialed the all too familiar number.
He waited and when the voice on the other end picked up he steeled his face and spoke. “I’m ready to deal…I know how you can get Ian Archer back in the facility…”
Carter glanced around the class of students, heads down diligently working on the assignment he’d given them thirty minutes ago. After six months of teaching it was still slightly strange being in front of a class with all eyes on him. He was so used to blending into the background since his wife died, that he’d forgotten what it was like to be front and center.
His eyes strayed to the clock and he cleared his throat before speaking. “Times up, pencils and pens down. Please pass your tests up to the left of each row.” He stood moving out from behind the desk as the students shuffled papers to the end of the row.
Carter stopped at the end of each row and collected all of the papers. Once he was at the top of the auditorium like seats he walked back down to his desk through the middle isle. He placed the papers on his desk and turned facing the students while leaning against the desk arms resting lightly against his chest.
Looking out on all the young faces…he wondered what would become of these children when they were finally liberated from Tower Prep. Would they leave willingly or have some of them been there too long to realize that there’s anywhere else out there for them? Would they have families to go home to after this or would the same thing that happened to Ian’s parents happen to theirs?
He let out a small sigh as they stared at him waiting for him to say something. His heart clenched slightly and he gave them all a warm smile. “So…what did we think of the exam?” He noticed a hand go up and he nodded pointing at the young girl.
She smiled and spoke. “It was actually a lot more free form then I thought it would be.” Carter grinned. “You caught onto that did you?” She chuckled lightly and nodded. “Is there a reason why? Most tests here fit the same format and I was wondering why you decided to go with a different form, not that I’m questioning your methods…I quite enjoyed the exam…well as much as anyone enjoys tests.”
The class laughed and Carter nodded as he relaxed his hands and leaned them behind him against the desk. “It’s fine…I left the test more free form because we’re dealing with Literature and I didn’t want you regurgitating facts to me. I wanted your opinions…your thoughts. I wanted to see what you took from the stories we’ve read, the lessons you’ve learned and problems you’ve worked out within the progress of the book.”
She nodded, voice soft. “Well…that’s different…wanting to know what we think…I like it.” The class was eerily quiet after her statement and he gazed around at the down turned heads. He opened his mouth and before he could add to the conversation the tone sounded, Whisper’s voice coming through the intercom telling students they could move to their next classes.
He gave them a tight smile and nodded. “Have a good day…oh Mr. Forrest and Miss Sato please stay behind I have something I’d like to discuss with you about your homework assignments.” The students filed out of the room as Gabe and Suki exchanged a look before making their way to Carter’s desk.
He made a show of gathering up his things until he saw the last student exit the room. He glanced at Suki and nodded towards the door. “Please close the door.” She hesitated for a brief second before doing what he asked. Carter took out the device that Chloe had given him to scramble any listening devices or recording feeds.
He placed the device on the table causing Gabe and Suki to frown. He pushed the button and the device beeped, a green light flashing on the side as it emitted a soft buzzing sound. Carter opened one of the books he’d been carrying and pulled out a small envelope before looking up at the two teenagers.
“Listen closely, because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do this again and we only have a couple of minutes. I’m not who you think I am…My name is Carter Hall, I’m working with the Justice League of America. Do you know who they are?”
Suki scrunched her brows and turned to Gabe who’s mouth was hanging open. She nudged him lightly snapping him out of his stupor and he nodded excitedly. “Superheroes!” Carter and Suki both shushed him and he covered his mouth as she spoke.
“They’re a team of heroes who are based out of different cities throughout America.” Carter nodded while holding out the note, they looked down at it before Gabe pulled it into his hand. Carter spoke voice stern, but still calm. “Don’t read that until you’re alone in the observatory.”
Their eyes widened and before they could say anything he held up a hand. “I don’t have time to explain right now, but know your secret is safe with me. Ian and M—CJ are fine. They got out of Tower Prep and our team is working to infiltrate the new version of Whisper so we can come back in and get you out too. But you need to stop poking around places…people are starting to get suspicious and I can only help so much…”
Suki could see the pleading in the older man’s eyes and when she spoke her voice was soft. “Is this letter from Ian?” He nodded. “And CJ or rather Mia…I know that doesn’t make sense and I know there is a ton of stuff you don’t understand, but I’m asking for your trust…the truth is you haven’t got anything to lose…”
Gabe pursed his lips as he looked between the note in his hands and the older man. He sucked in a deep breath before holding out his hand. “For now…we’ll lay low.” Carter let out a sigh of relief and shook his hand. Before pulling back, digging out two books and handing one to each of them.
“I’ll give you more information as soon as I have it.” He pressed the button on the device again as he spoke. “I think these books will be just the challenge you’re looking for in this class. You seem to be skating through Greek literature and here at Tower Prep we like to make sure our students are being pushed to their limits educationally speaking. Well you two don’t want to be late for your next class…you should head out.”
Carter put a finger against his lips and motioned to the door Gabe nodded and gripped Suki’s arm. “Thanks again Professor English…we’ll start on these new books tonight.” He watched the two teenagers made their way stiffly out of the room and he just hoped whatever Ian wrote in his letter was enough to keep them from doing anything stupid.
Gabe sat in the observatory, envelope clasped tightly in his hand as he waited for Suki to finish her last class. He couldn’t believe Ian and CJ had gotten out…but more than that he couldn’t believe they had just left him and Suki. They’d made a pact…they were a team…and after everything he and Ian learned about CJ possibly being the leak in their group how could he just leave with her?
He let out a loud sigh, things were so confusing and he wasn’t sure who he could trust. Ever since he met Ian a little over five months ago, and they realized their common goal of trying to escape Tower Prep they had become best friends.
If there was one person in the world Gabe had come to count on it was Ian and deep down he knew that his friend wouldn’t betray them…he just wished he had proof. His eyes drifted down to the envelope and he pursed his lips. Maybe he did have proof…but he’d have to wait for Suki in order to find out.
He was just about to take out his phone and text her when he heard a scuffle by the loose board. He stood as the board was pushed aside and Suki’s head popped up. He let out a sigh of relief and moved to help her up the ladder and into the room.
He grinned at her and spoke. “Hey.” She smiled as he helped her up and then replaced the board in the floor. “Thanks…and hey. Did you read the letter?” He shook his head as they made their way back to the round table in the middle of the room.
“No, I was waiting for you. Were you able to find out any information on the Justice League.” She nodded as she sat down, dropped her bag onto the table and pulled it open. She took her phone and computer out, pushed the bag aside and pressed a few buttons linking the phone and computer up to each other.
“I wasn’t able to find out too much, but I did get some information. I was able to create a glitch in Whisper 120’s system so I could hack into the school’s internet provider and access the internet to search on an unrestricted network.”
Gabe grinned. Suki was a whiz with computers and technology of all kinds. It was awesome and if he was being honest kind of attractive. He shook his head realizing that she was saying something as she pointed at the screen.
“Okay…the Justice League has several members including Green Arrow, Superman, Cyborg, Aquaman, Black Canary…occasionally Batman, The Flash…a new hero named Speedy keeps popping up…and then there are other heroes that help out. Hawkman, Star Girl…Martian Manhunter?”
Suki shook her head as she laughed lightly. “They have the weirdest names…but anyway the team seems legit…and I’ve gone through some clippings of things they’ve been involved in and it seems like they are all about helping people who can’t help themselves.”
She glanced up at Gabe who was watching her with bated breath. A grin broke out on her face as she spoke in a soft, but excited voice. “They might actually be here to help us.” Her smile was infectious and Gabe couldn’t fight back the grin on his lips as he lifted the note in his hand.
“Then maybe we should read this and see what Ian and CJ have to say.” Suki nodded and shifted, moving her seat closer to her friend. She had been worried at first when CJ and Ian had disappeared and then once she realized the school was looking for them she’d been hurt. Finding out that CJ was the headmaster’s daughter…and that she’d been the one leaking information was rough.
They’d been friends since before Ian came to Tower Prep and after finding that out when CJ stood up to the headmaster or rather her father and left with her and Ian before they got separated while trying to save Gabe from West Campus she thought everything was okay.
That they’d find Gabe and get out of Tower Prep, but that wasn’t how it had gone down. She made it over to West Campus, but CJ and Ian never did. The alarms had gone off and the intruder alert had blared through the hallways.
While all the staff and even the gnomes had gone to see what was going on she was able to get Gabe out herself and get them both back into the tunnels to head towards the doors. That night had been the last time she saw Ian or CJ and that was close to two weeks ago.
Gabe’s voice shook her out of her thoughts. “You ready for this?” She took a deep breath and nodded. “As ready as I’ll ever be…” He nodded, slipped his finger under the edge of the paper and tore it open. He pulled out the sheets of paper inside and recognized their friends handwriting.
Gabe’s eyes widened as he read through the first few sentences, Suki’s following suit as she spoke in between a gasp. “Oh my God…”
Rick glanced up at the knock on his door and swallowed hard as he called out, “Come in.” The door was pushed open and he arched an eyebrow leaning back in his seat as Carter shut the door and made his way into the office. He nodded at the man behind the desk and sat down in the chair in front of it.
“What can I do for you Carter?” He studied the man in front of him and he could sense the anxiety surrounding him. He frowned and pursed his lips choosing his words carefully before speaking. “You seem…distracted. Is everything okay?”
Rick glared at Carter, irritation in his tone as he spoke. “It’s been a long day…is there a reason you stopped by? Because right now everything I do is under a microscope and I don’t really have time to shoot the breeze.”
Carter let out a sigh. Personally he didn’t like Flag and he’d told Chloe and Oliver as much when they decided to take him up on his offer to pool their forces together and get rid of the VRA. He didn’t trust the guy as far as he could throw him and he knew Oliver didn’t either which was part of the reason he’d sent him in with Mia.
Oliver had never trusted Flag to keep the youngest member of their team safe when push came to shove and Carter didn’t blame him. He cleared his throat before speaking. “I wanted to tell you I don’t think Forrest and Sato will be an issue anymore. I got word to them from Ian. So that will probably be one less thing you need to worry about as far as their snooping goes.”
He nodded and Carter could see a hint of relief on his face. “Good, Trotter has been more insistent then not lately…she’s on site. I’ve got a meeting with her in about a half hour. Were Chloe and her doctor friend able to re-create the Corvus H-40?”
Carter nodded pulling out the small tube from his inside pocket and reaching his arm out to hand it to the other man. Rick took it, spinning it around in his hands and examining it closely. “It looks practically identical…tell Chloe I said thank you. How’s Mia doing without the drug? Any side effects?”
Carter shrugged and shook his head. “Not that I know of. Apparently she told Oliver she’s fine, but her ability is completely gone. So that’s something we no longer have to worry about.” Rick nodded. He remembered training with her once a week so they could pass off her ‘ability’ as real.
She got the type of CIA training in two months that most people are given over a five month period. When he’d found out about the Corvus H-40 being able to enhance a person’s abilities they were able to tweak the drug enough to actually give Green Arrow’s protégé an ability of her very own.
While she was in Tower Prep he had needed to give her shots of the chemical every three weeks, but the last dose he gave her was a week before the team had infiltrated the facility and rescued them from the school, so if his calculations were correct and Carter was telling the truth then any and all powers she’d had were now gone.
He nodded and pocketed the chemical agent so he could replace it before his meeting. “Good, it seems things are back on schedule then. Trotter is locking down transport in the next few hours…so if you plan on leaving to check in with the home front I’d do it now.”
Carter frowned, brows furrowing. “She’s closing down transport? Why and how are we supposed to come and go?” Rick met his eyes and pursed his lips. “I don’t know why, but if the fact that you aren’t supposed to come and go isn’t obvious then you have bigger problems like basic observation skills.”
Carter glared at the man in front of him. “I didn’t realize employees were being locked down as well. If I leave am I going to have trouble getting back in?” Rick leaned back in the chair and gave him a bored look. “Probably. Look I need to head to the nurses office. Make your decision quickly…if you leave your mission’s over…if you stay it’s possible you might lose contact with your team.”
Carter clenched his jaw and stood slowly. He needed to go back to his room and use the phone Chloe and Victor had given him. It was untraceable and overrode the schools system that didn’t let anyone call out. He’d get in touch with Watchtower and see what they wanted him to do.
He nodded towards Rick before heading towards the door and speaking over his shoulder. “I’ll figure it out and I’ll find a way to let Oliver know about Trotter.” He watched Carter go and his eyes hardened as he glanced away from the door and towards his phone. The Suicide Squad had been benched long enough…It was time to make the call and bring his team back into play.
Chapter Seven: The Friend in the Confidant