“Blood and Betrayal”
- Writer: Cary Bates
- Pencils: Pat Broderick
- Inks: Bob Smith
- Colors: Carl Gafford
- Letters: Duncan Andrews
This opens on Nathaniel Adam writing a letter to his son Randy. Although he is only two years older than his son (which he mentions in the letter), Pat Broderick has somehow make him look his real age. It is kind of creepy. Must be the white hair.
Nate is writing to Randy because he missed seeing his son when he was in town for Eiling’s third star ceremony (in Captain Atom #8
). He tells Randy he is spending all of his free time working his case, trying to prove that he was set up, that the murder and charge of treason were part of a bigger conspiracy. He gives Randy details of his trial in the letter; his side of the story.
Earlier, in Westport, Connecticut, retired Major Alfred Gargan is killed by super-villain-killer-for-hire Bolt in such a way that it looks like an accident. Later, after the explosion, Captain Cameron Scott shows up at the Gargan home. Scott is working a 20-year-old Air Force case (the murder trial of Nathaniel Adam, of course), and Gargan figured prominently in that case. Gargan was Nate’s prosecutor. Nate recalls his trial. We finally get details of the crime he was accused of.
In 1968, Captain Nathaniel Christopher Adam was in command of Mayday Company, an “elite Air Force recon team well-trained for infantry action in the bush.” Their mission during the period leading up to Adam’s crime was to find the remains of a downed reconnaissance aircraft a few miles from the Laos border and retrieve the classified data on board before it could fall into the hands of the North Vietnamese Army (this must be the X-Ionizer). According to Nate’s account, once they sighted the the wreckage on a hillside, he radioed a request for a two-company perimeter that was denied by General Lemar. Nate argues that he needs those men but Lemar will not bend. The NVA can’t get that downed aircraft (seems it would in Lemar’s interest to send Adam the soldiers he needs). Nate goes to Sergeant Goslin to tell him they need to take the hill now without backup. Gargan points out this exchange happened while Nate’s RTO (radio telephone operator) was indisposed so they have only Captain Adam’s word that Lemar ordered Mayday Company to take the hill. Mayday Company found themselves in a three-way VC ambush with AK-47s opening fire on them from all sides. Goz is wounded but he and Nate manage to disperse the VC with frag grenades. There are only four survivors from Mayday Company (including Nate and Goz), not – Gargan posits – because of “non-existent” orders from Lemar, but because Captain Adam recklessly exceeded his authority.
Back at Winslow Air Force Base, General Eiling is walking across the tarmac with Allard and Hadley, discussing the death of Gargan. Hadley mentions it is suspicious that Gargan died the same day as Cameron Scott’s visit. After Eiling calls it bad timing, Allard agrees with Hadley that it is incredibly suspicious. Eiling says Nate has his own private agenda and that he’s surprised Adam hasn’t started this digging expedition some time ago (of course, he was busy saving Canada, a sunken nuclear submarine’s reactor bumped him further into the future, and he was lost in Cambodia with Plastique). Allard tells the General that he updated their files on the other two surviving key personnel from the 1968 court-martial, both of which returned to civilian life some time ago. They will know if Nate comes into contact with them. He says that most likely Adam will head out west next, in search of Colonel Yarrow in Las Vegas or Corporal Hart in Los Angeles. Adam is, in fact, on a boat speaking to Hart at that moment.
Hart says he can barely remember the trial and that Captain Scott’s best bet would be to just read the transcripts. Adam leaves his number with Hart, telling him to call if anything comes to mind. Nate’s departure is watched by two men in blue suits who notify Allard of the meeting. Nate flashes back to the trial, when Hart was on the stand. He was the radio operator for General Lemar at Dau Tieng. He testifies about a conversation he had with Lemar the day of Mayday Company’s failed assault on hill 409. Lemar was upset with Hart, because they had only one working radio (there had been a bombing raid the night before that took out the other radios). According to Hart’s testimony, it would have been impossible for Captain Adam to make radio contact with Lemar on the day in question. However, back in the 80s, Hart calls Cameron Scott after their meeting and says Lemar had a second radio in his quarters that no one else knew about. Hart says Lemar was heavily involved in some sort of drug trafficking operation. Hart’s call is cut short when a slim beam of energy cuts his phone line. He looks up to see Bolt standing over him. At the other end of the line, Nate suspects that Hart is about to face the same fate as Gargan. He transforms into Captain Atom and hightails it to the marina. But Cap gets there too late. Hart’s boat is on fire with Hart’s charred corpse on board. He swoops down and absorbs the flames before flying away.
Later, Bolt appears in an abandoned building outside Sparta, Illinois. Contacting his employer via video link, he demands more pay because his job has become more difficult with Captain Atom involved. Although he hasn’t had to deal with Cap himself, he knows they are on the same trail and it is a matter of time before their paths cross. His employer agrees that eventually the two will end up at odds, and asks Bolt to open the package on the table before him. It holds a large amount of cash; it is triple the amount Bolt was meant to be paid. His employer tells Bolt he’ll receive a comparable amount as final payment when the two remaining people on his list are terminated. Pleased, Bolt says that for this kind of cash, he’d take on the Justice League (and considering that the Justice League at this point doesn’t include Superman or even Captain Atom himself, Bolt could probably pull it off).
In his letter to Randy, Nate admits he did hate General Lemar. Almost his entire unit was wiped out and his best friend was put in the hospital. He held Lemar personally responsible. But Gargan posited that Adam saw Lemar as a potential threat because he knew Mayday Company was not ordered to take the hill or retrieve anything from the downed aircraft. He says Adam went into Lemar’s office to kill him in order to cover his own tracks.
In Las Vegas, Captain Scott meets with Henry Yarrow, now a private investigator. Henry was Nate’s defense attorney in 1968. Yarrow isn’t fooled by “Cameron Scott” and recognizes him as Nathaniel Adam. He also says that if Hart’s information is correct, they may have finally found the real reason Nate was framed. The two men drive away, unaware that Allard’s men are watching them. Adam reminds Yarrow that in 68 he had entered Lemar’s office to confront him. He wanted Lemar to confess. He remembers Lemar reaching for something in his desk but then Nate passed out. When he came to, sprawled over Lemar’s desk, he saw his own knife sticking out of Lemar’s dead body. That was when the MPs entered the office and arrested Nate. Nate then says he thinks Yarrow didn’t give him the best defense. If he had, the drug ring should have come up in his investigation. Hart confessed he kept quiet because he was afraid for his life and asks if Yarrow did the same. Yarrow, insulted, tells Nate he’s heard enough “garbage” and kicks Nate out of his car. He tells Adam not to look him up again. This is witnessed by Allard’s men.
As Yarrow drives away, he is zapped by Bolt, who is flying above him. Bolt ignites the gas tank, but the resulting explosion is absorbed by Captain Atom. Bolt punches Cap in the stomach before blasting him. But before Cap can retaliate, Bolt vanishes, teleporting out to fulfill the rest of his contract. Atom touches down to check on Yarrow, who is fine. Allard’s men radio their boss to let him know what’s going on. Yarrow confesses that someone did approach him before Adam’s trial, paying him $10,000 to keep the drug ring out of the trial. Yarrow accepted because it looked like Adam was guilty anyway. Captain Atom keeps his temper in check, knowing that Yarrow is confessing this to Atom because he is thankful for the rescue and feeling guilty. Yarrow says Nate was right, that there is a hit list and Yarrow was on it. Considering this, Captain Atom takes off. There was one more man involved in the court martial that must be on the hit list.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the last person on the hit list was Eiling. Allard has already warned Eiling that Bolt may be moving against him. Even as Captain Atom streaks towards the General’s house, Bolt appears in Eiling’s front lawn. The assassin enters the Eiling home, seeing the general sitting on the sofa in front of his wide-screen TV. Bolt shoots a fine beam through the General’s head. But it isn’t Eiling; it was a dummy. Eiling steps out of the shadows and draws a weapon. They both are about to fire at each other when Captain Atom bursts through the window between them. Atom punches Bolt out. Eiling tells Captain Atom he is willing to admit that maybe Nate was, indeed, set up. He says he won’t acknowledge Nate innocence until he has solid proof, but is willing to be more open-minded on the subject.
Back in his home, Nate crumples up the letter to Randy and throws it away. He can’t be completely honest with Randy without revealing he is Captain Atom and he can’t reveal he is Captain Atom, even to his family. He gets a call from Henry Yarrow. Yarrow tells him he is investigating his case again, and is doing so full time. He says he owes Nate as much. Nate thanks him, and says if Yarrow’s willing to talk, he is willing to listen.
This was another wordy issue, light on the action. But it was an important issue. We finally know exactly what Nate’s crime was. We know the major players in the case. We have people working to clear his name, and we have Eiling willing to admit perhaps Nate is innocent. Cary Bates has given us another A story and Broderick & Smith have given us A art. Although I know how this all turns out for Nate, I’m still eager to reread the series again. It should come as no surprise to anyone, but I really love Captain Atom.