Issue #3: "Zaire. There is no other country on the continent that more typifies the deep, festering core of darkest Africa."

Chapter 5, Part 1.

written by Jess Nevins.

Rated R for disturbing and adult subject matter and language

March, Year Five

What Has Come Before: A new group of terrorists has appeared and begun striking at the governments of certain countries. Calling themselves the “Liberators” after the legendary group of World War Two superhumans, the terrorists have assassinated and overthrown the governments of China, Serbia, and Rwanda, and issued threats that more governments will fall. The international police force SHIELD has been ordered (by its alarmed Board of Directors) to stop the Liberators by any means possible.


One of the things that makes a Negro unpleasant to white folk is the fact that he suffers from their injustice. He is thus a standing rebuke to them. - H.L. Mencken

A soldier is not merely a man with a gun; he is a man who follows his commitments with that utter disregard for his personal safety which is the memory enshrined in Robert Thompson’s citation. If he is in a war, he is in the infantry; if he is against a war, he is in the resistance. His choices are never for comfort; to live is for him to be a target. - Murray Kempton

 “...gotta say I admire their choice of targets....”

 “...felt like I needed a shower after reading about who they were taking out....”

 “...I think Nick would’ve helped them. Okay, okay, maybe not helped them, but he would’ve thought they weren’t far off the beam....”

 “ hear about the Plantman’s attack on Kew Gardens? Last I heard the Crusaders were on their way there...”

 “...the Israelis finally caught Masterman! Damn, but I’m looking forward to seeing that putz fry!”

 “...gotta remind Bridge to have Dai Thomas update us on the Shadows’ operation I heard they’re getting involved with Fannin, and if that’s so we gotta offer them a few agents from the Occult Division...”

 “...Lieutenant, we just got a message from the Challenger of 414. Seems that Mys-Tech is making a move on this Earth. Dark Guard’s already gone up against the House of Marvel and the Knights of Seadragon, and now they’re fighting the Mys-Tech Board. Your orders?”
 “Nothing for now, Corporal; if the Guard aren’t up to it, we’ll send a team of our own. But Colonel Liger’s quite capable. He can handle it....”

 “...I hear Sherwood’s left the Crusaders and is hunting Cameo on her own.”
 “Oh, wonderful. Another firefight in Calcutta. Just what we need, the Ksatriya down on our asses. Bridge is gonna love that....”

 “...Sir, we have two situations running--Mabhdara and Red Cult going public in Georgia, and the Seekers in a firefight with Fannin in Citrusville, Florida.”
 “Keep me posted, Corporal. Warm up the Technomage programs and send spell-mail to Dr. Strange....”

 “...slow down, Corporal. Catch a breath and tell me about it.”
 “Sorry, sir. It’s just that...we’re monitoring the battle between Force Works and the Pacific Overlords, and we think the Hand are involved as well.”
 “Hmmm...that’s not good. Notify Kagé and Tokko; they’ll want to know about this....”

The entrance of Dum-Dum Dugan and Acting Director G.W. Bridge into Conference Room #3 cut the chatter of the SHIELD agents short, who like any group of students instantly shut up in the presence of their teacher. The agents folded their hands and composed their faces into respectful masks and waited for the debriefing to begin.

Dum-Dum Dugan, one of the oldest active agents, said, “Thanks fer comin’, everyone.” The fact that the agents had been ordered to appear at the 8 AM briefing went unremarked upon; everyone knew that Dugan was just being polite. That was his way; he was old school SHIELD, from the time when everyone knew that serving in SHIELD, the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division, the foremost crimefighting organisation in the world and the frontline soldiers in the war against terrorists, drug lords, supervillains, and malfeasors of all descriptions, was a signal honor. Dugan was from the first generation of SHIELD agents, who treated each other with respect, and so even when he was reaming you out for a blown assignment still said things in such a way that you didn’t feel humiliated. (Unless you were on the battlefield, when Dum-Dum fell back into his World War Two habits and swore like a longshoreman.)

Dugan said, “I know you’ve all been working hard on the Liberator case, and most of you haven’t been getting anywhere. Well, we think we’ve made some progress, so we might be able to start doing something about this, might start anticipating them. So there’s some good news to report. But we’ll get to that last. First the Acting Director wants to hear from the various departments--”

“Tell me what you’ve come up with so far, and then we’ll discuss what we found.” Bridge didn’t like interrupting Dugan, but sometimes when he was in bureaucrat mode Dum-Dum took a long time to get to the point.

Dugan, not minding, nodded. “Right. Niles?”

Niles Nordstrom, the head of SHIELD’s ESP Division, said, “Sorry, George. We have nothing.” Nordstrom’s face reflected a combination of resignation and sadness, a look that many of the SHIELD mentats often had.

“Nothing?” The only person in SHIELD who could call Bridge by his first name was Niles; once you’ve had your mind read by a telepath, you had no more secrets (from them, at least), and they naturally called you by your real name, the one you thought of yourself as. Bridge didn’t mind it from Niles. Anyone else would find themself leaving the Helicarrier the wrong way, through an airlock or via the waste-disposal system.

Nordstrom shrugged mildly. “You know how it is, George. Unless this `Liberators’ group has widespread contacts, the chances of us finding someone who actually knows something about them is slim. We’ve scanned the known terrorist groups and the Paranormals like Flagsmasher who might reasonably be thought to support these `Liberators,’ and we’ve come up dry. We’ve moved on to random scanning, but 275 million people is an awfully big haystack to go through. All anyone knows is what they’ve read or heard. We’ll keep going, and we can approach the civilian mentats like Xavier or The Reader, but--”

“He’s the one in St. Louis, right?”

“Yes. We’ve used him on a couple of occasions, and for a small fee he or Xavier would be willing to help us, but frankly I’m not hopeful.”

 Bridge nodded absently, his mind obviously elsewhere. “Okay. See me after the briefing, Niles. I’ll have some more specific targets for you to focus on. I’ll want full scans, back to Kindergarten or farther.”

Niles frowned, his unhappiness evident, and nodded. Even though entering people’s minds and searching for information was unpleasant, most people having tawdry and sometimes vile impulses and memories, the job had to be done, if only so that A.D. Bridge could tell SHIELD’s Board of Directors that everything possible was being done to stop the Liberator terrorists. Niles knew that and accepted it.

Bridge turned and looked at the figure opposite him at the end of the table. René Fournier was the head of SHIELD's Technical Division, the section responsible for keeping track of the most recent scientific innovations and using them to help SHIELD, whether by arming the agents with advanced weaponry and equipment or by using new technology to track their enemies. Unfortunately, Fournier was a cold, emotionless man who clearly preferred his laboratories and assistants to the frontline agents; Fournier did not hide his disdain for those he saw as less intelligent than himself, and he seemed to feel that those men and women who did SHIELD's dirty work were in fact dirty, distasteful, and even septic. Bridge contemplated Fournier for a moment, respecting his intelligence and capabilities but disliking his superior attitude; more than once he'd wondered how this man had ever been hired by Nick Fury, his seeming opposite in every way.

Bridge said, "Doctor, have you come to any conclusions about the matter found at the sites in China, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda?"

Three SHIELD Investigation And Analysis Squads had returned, several hours before the meeting, from the locations in Rwanda where the 'Liberators' had been active. They'd done thorough examinations of the sites and brought back what they kept referring to as "anomalous matter;" it was the only thing that the terrorists left behind. Besides corpses.

Fournier took off his glasses and pinched his nose before responding; like the rest of the Technical Division, he'd been up all night examining the evidence, and the lack of sleep was showing even on his normally austere face. He took a sip of his tea and said, "We're still processing and collating the data, Acting Director." Fournier's dislike for Bridge was widely known; Fournier had never liked Fury, either, but he'd at least respected Nick Fury. He obviously did not respect Bridge, which was why he referred to him as the "Acting Director;" Nick Fury had been dead and gone before and returned to lead SHIELD, and as far as Fournier was concerned Fury would be coming back again. Bridge privately agreed with Fournier about Fury's return, but would never give the Frenchman the satisfaction of knowing that.

Bridge said, "Any suppositions or partial conclusions, then? I'm videoconferencing with the Board of Directors today at 1530, and I'd like to be able to tell them that our Technical Division had found something."

Although the sharp, severe lines of Fournier's face did not move, those in the room knew that Bridge's words had struck home. Although the lower level agents were almost wholly ignorant of the jockeying and Byzantine politicking that went on between SHIELD Division Heads, those who followed it, whether because their jobs or funding depended on it or simply for amusement's sake, were aware of the precarious position that the Technical Division was in. Competition for funds was acute every year, the United Nations being perenially short of money, in large part due to the United States' recalcitrance in paying its share of annual dues. The Division heads were always concerned with getting as much money for possible for their sections, as the heads of departments are everywhere, and were known to engage in highly underhanded tactics to undermine their rivals' chances. Nick Fury rarely if ever fell for it, but that didn't stop the Division heads from trying.

Bridge and Fournier had formerly been rivals; when Bridge was head of the Combat Training Division he and Fournier had been in direct competition. Those involved with SHIELD inevitably fell into one of two schools of thought as to how best to approach their jobs. There were the hands-on fighters, men like G.W. Bridge and Nick Fury who believed that sending men into the field with the best training available would be enough to deal with whatever enemy or situation presented itself. And then there were the scientists, men like Fournier and the late, unlamented Mark Russett, technocrats who put their faith in advanced technology. The Technology and Combat Training Divisions were natural rivals, and in the hothouse atmosphere of SHIELD the heads of both Divisions would embody that rivalry. Bridge had thought the whole business beneath him and unworthy of a SHIELD agent, and those under him tried to adopt that philosophy, but Fournier quietly despised both Bridge and the Combat Training agents and always had, and the Tech Division agents had followed Fournier's lead. Relations between the two Divisions had been frigid for years, and some agents had almost died because of it.

When Bridge had been appointed to replace Nick Fury, following Fury's death, those who made it their business to follow the constantly changing currents of favor and disfavor within SHIELD thought that Bridge might, at long last, begin getting some payback. Those people had been mistaken. Bridge had if anything been more scrupulous in his dealings with Fournier and the Technical Division; Bridge never directly commented on his relationship with them, but had said, when asked about his approach to being the Director, that the only thing that mattered to him was making SHIELD the best it could be, and that he'd deal with men who hated him if that's what it took.

So any reference, no matter how oblique, by Bridge that could be construed as a threat to Fournier's funding would be taken that way, both by Fournier and by others. Fournier gave Bridge a cold stare, which Bridge blandly returned.

Fournier finally said, "This is what we've gathered so far, you understand; I will not be held responsible if our initial hypotheses turn out to be wrong."

Bridge nodded. "Understood."

"What hit the sites were meteors. The SHIELD and NATO satellites picked them up as they entered the troposphere. There are traces of cosmic radiation and scoring on the anomalous matter concurrent with what we've found on other meteors."

"Yes, Doctor. The fact that they were meteors was included in the daily briefing report that each of you were given. Do you have anything new to tell me?" Bridge let the barest inflection of scorn enter his voice; he'd always thought that the best way to goad intellectual types into overachieving was to let them think you doubted their abilities.

If Fournier took the bait he refused to show it. "Yes. We reverse-plotted their trajectories."

Bridge visibly perked up. "And?"

"Each took a sharp turn, almost 90o, once it passed the sun. What is more, each altered its course as it descended."

"Ah. So they were steered and targeted? I thought as much."

"Yes. Someone or something aimed them. We can't know exactly where they came from because they were controlled by an external force, but we've done molecular analyses of the matter."

Fournier paused and waited, making Bridge ask the question. "And what have you found?"

"Our tests are not complete, but besides the usual carbon we've also found gold, uranium, iron and silicon atoms and molecular chains."

Dugan broke in. "So they're from the inner part of the asteroid belt?"

Fournier blinked once, lizard-like, and grudgingly nodded.

Bridge let an amused expression cross his face. "How'd you know about that, `Dum-Dum'?"

Dugan smirked and smoothed his mustache. "Back in the Sixties me and Nick hadda take a team of agents into the asteroid belt. There was a Shi'ar ship hiding there and we had to smoke it out. I had to bone up on the asteroid belt for that job, and one of the things I've always remembered is that it's only the asteroids on the inside of the belt that have anything worth looking for. The asteroids on the outer part of the belt are mostly carbon."

"I'll have to read that file. In the meantime, Doctor Fournier, have you found anything else? The targeting systems, maybe, or whatever it was that propelled the asteroids?"

Fournier said, "Unfortunately not. We've found a few molecular chains of a peculiar metal; I would hazard a guess that it's a new element, but further tests await. Whatever it was that controlled the asteroids' speed and kept them on target must have self-destructed on impact."

Bridge nodded. "Thank you, Doctor. Good job. Get me anything else you can on the asteroids, especially where in the belt they might have come from." He scribbled a quick note on the pad of paper in front of him, and then said, "Gabe?"

Gabe Jones, Head of the Combat Training Division, stifled a yawn with one hand. "Sorry, G.W. I was up all night with those damn computers."

"How's training going?"

“I have three teams selected, but I haven’t been able to do more than drill them in close quarter team tactics. The computers just don’t have enough solid information to let us do any good simulations. Dr. Fournier, do you have any more information about the Liberators’ powers?”

Dr. Fournier, who didn’t like Jones any more than he had liked Jones’ predecessor, Bridge, said, “You have our report, Mr. Jones. We have nothing beyond that.”

Gabe Jones said, “Until we’ve got more information to give the simulation computers, G.W., we’re working blind.”

Bridge said, “I spoke with George Tenet at the CIA and Pat Hughes over at the DIA. They agreed to send us their files on the Liberators today--the original ones, I mean, the dirt the public didn’t know about. The files should arrive with the morning mail. There should be enough in there for you to mock up some trial combats.”

Jones frowned. “But that won’t be nearly enough to--”

Bridge raised his eyebrows and a hand, and Jones stopped. “Gabe, we can’t wait. We need an assault team as ready as possible as soon as possible. I’m sorry, it’ll have to do.”

Bridge looked at the faces around him, and then nodded at Dum-Dum. Dugan said, “Jasper Sitwell couldn’t be here, but he let us know what his computers came up with. The Stark-Fujiwaras have found probable matches for the Liberators. We know who they are.”

After the hubbub died down, Dugan continued. “Our first hit was the ‘Hurricane.’ He showed himself on film when he spoke to that SCN reporter, and we tracked him down. From there we got his friends.”

Dugan took a long computer printout from a briefcase by his chair and began reading from it. “The ‘Hurricane’ is actually Jim Evers. He’s from Rancho Palos Verdes--that’s just south of Los Angeles. He graduated last spring from U.S.C., and disappeared about a week after that. His parents filed a missing persons report three days after he disappeared; the file was put on Inactive about six months later for lack of progress. We’ll have a team down the interrogating the parents later this morning, just in case.

“The Stark-Fujiwaras were going through the Rancho Palos Verdes police files and the U.S.C. alumni files and hit matches, which is how we got Evers. Evers got his degree in speech therapy, but what he seems to have really majored in was surfing. Middle class background, no criminal record, no mentions in the U.S.C. paper or the Rancho Palos Verdes paper. Typical SoCal surfer dude, in other words. How he got involved with this group, we can only imagine...”

Life at superspeed, as someone once remarked, is like running through an everlasting crowd of statues, and Jim Evers, the Hurricane, was again experiencing that sensation. He was racing through the thickly forested Mulenge mountains of Congo’s southern Kivu province, near its Eastern border with Rwanda, running along the dirt paths as quickly as he could. The forests were overgrown and almost jungle-like, and Evers couldn’t go at top speed. And what he was doing was slowing him down further still, and so his average speed was much lower than normal. The problem for Evers was that when he turned on his powers and moved at superspeed, his perceptions speeded up to match. This meant that his days were so much longer than ordinary people’s; when you can count quanta-seconds, a day can seem like an eternity. Of course, Evers, like most speedsters, took numerous micronaps throughout each day, as a way to save his sanity (going too long without dreaming was a sure way to go crazy, for humans) as well as to flush the fatigue poisons from his body. Even so, if Evers lived his day entirely at superspeed twenty-four hour could take as long as three years would for an ordinary person.

Evers didn’t mind this, really; before he’d received his powers he’d been a patient person. Part of that came from his years as a surfer; when you floated in the water, board beneath you, waiting for the next good wave to come along, you had to learn pateince or you went insane. Jim had been patient before that, though; it had just been something he’d been born with, and his parents Saffron and Mandala, aging hippies that they were, recognised it in him from an early age. They’d both been slightly unnerved at how calm he’d been as a baby and child, waiting for food or a Solstice gift with an almost unnatural composure. And part of Evers’ patience, the largest part and the real reason he was able to get through each day at superspeed without cracking, was that he wasn’t very smart. Evers was of average intelligence, neither very smart nor exceptionally stupid, and to his credit he recognised this in himself and admitted it to himself. He wasn’t bright enough to be a leader, and by personality he was made to be a member of a team, someone in the middle of the pack, who could be relied upon to follow orders but not show too much initiative.

Being patient in this way, accepting and almost passive, helped him as a member of the Liberators, and being of only average intelligence helped him survive using his powers. The more intelligent you are, the easier it is to get bored. Evers, by comparison, didn’t really think about much most of the time he was running. He just hummed to himself, something by Dick Dale or the Angry Samoans, and didn’t think about anything. Had this not-thinking been pointed out to Evers, he’d have been surprised, as it had never occurred to him. But such is often the way with those of lesser intelligence and no introspection....

Now, though, he was focussing on what he was doing, and the seconds were stretching out in front of him like an endless succession of task-filled hours. There was so much to do, and even with his brother to the West helping him, and the rest of the team doing their jobs, he still had a lot to do, and he was concentrating on that.

Evers' job was to disarm the country. This was no small task, even for someone who could run seven miles a second and live almost a million times faster than ordinary humans. The Democratic Republic of Congo was approximately the size of Europe. It had a fraction of the roads and visible landmarks that most developed countries did, and even with the very detailed roadmaps that the Hurricane had access to, loaded on to the computerized biosoft chips that the Professor and Hercules had inserted into his contact lenses and which were accessible at the literal blink of an eye, it was still very easy to get lost. Worse still, everyone was armed, from the average peasant (and Evers hated thinking about ordinary people that way, but in the horrifically feudal atmosphere of DROC, as the others kept referring to the Congo as and which he still had difficulty remembering it as, there really was no other word to describe the average citizen) to the richest member of Kabila's bureaucracy; the sad land of the Democratic Republic of Congo was an armed camp. In fact, peace, real peace, was not something that had been known by the natives for a very long time. It was not a question of peace being a remote memory; no living human within the Congo remembered true peace. (Some of those with unnaturally elongated lifespans remembered it, but even for them it was a quite distant memory.)

From the 15th to the 17th century native tribes, including the Kongo, Lunda and Luba, began forming major state systems--kingdoms and empires. These systems all involved elaborate political and religious structures as well as leaders, whether Kings, Emperors or Priests, who were vested with symbolic religious power. Despite this, however, competition for leadership was severe and often led to civil strife. Worse still for the common people was the pressure of the slave trade, which led to raids from external groups intent on taking slaves and from above, where the kings and emperors were always driven forward to create more wars as a way to capture more slaves and gain more wealth. Because the slave trade was so prosperous for those who were good at trafficking in human flesh, the local chiefs who grew rich on it were not interested in changing the state of affairs, which lessened the power of the kings and emperors.

By the end of the 16th century the three kingdoms that occupied the land that would later be the Congo were almost at an end. The Kingdom of Kongo was on the verge of succumbing to the relentless and horrifying attacks of the Jaga, a warrior people who raided the Kongo from the high plateaus to the west. The Jaga, a group so horrible and ferocious that they would eat their own newborn if they did not seem to live up to the standards of the tribal elders, knew no mercy and showed none to the Kongo. The Empires of Luba and Lunda were collapsing from internal fragmentation and the attacks of Arabs and half-breeds intent on taking control of the slave trade.

For the next three centuries the vast area of the Congo was preyed upon by a motley and ruthless group of slavers, whose identities changed but whose goals--enriching themselves through the enslavement of others--did not. Then, in the 1880s, King Leopold II of Belgium, a man whose name would become literally infamous in later years, decided to join the European rush into Africa, the "Dark Continent," by taking over the Congo and plundering its natural wealth for his own glory.  The horrors that Leopold inflicted on the natives of the "Congo Free State" are not easily described, nor has their memory faded; not for nothing has the Belgian rule over the Congo been described as "one of the most coercive instruments of colonial hegemony ever." Leopold and the Belgians who ruled the Congo saw the Congolese as child-like creatures with little intelligence and moral sense, beings that only looked human but were much closer to animals than homo sapiens. Leopold and the Belgians felt no guilt at the forced labour camps, the complete disruption of traditional Congolese social systems, the hideous violence inflicted on the Congolese, and the routine atrocities committed by the Belgian Colonial authorities on the natives. It was only when the news of the unspeakable evils that the Belgians were committing became internationally known that the Belgian Parliament voted in favor of annexation and a barely more humane rule of the Congo, and that occurred only because of the universal international criticism that the Belgians received.

For decades the Belgians ruled over the Congolese in the most paternalistically insensitive way possible, showing no openness to political reform and giving the Congolese only a welfare state and imposed Western “moral principles,” rather than political education and the apprenticeship of social responsibility. There was peace in the Congo during these years, but it was the peace of colonialism, of racist tyranny, a damaging silence rather than a healing calm. Attempts at uprisings through the late 1940s and 1950s were met with increasing violence and brutality notable even by Belgian colonial standards. In 1957 the Belgians finally gave the Congolese the statut des villes, their first exposure to local government control and democracy. This only came about after a group of Westernized Congolese, the évolués, began demanding the political and legal rights that whites had in other countries.

Their demands went unmet, and the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), the foremost political party devoted to Congolese nationalism, made no progress until Patrice Lumumba arrived in Léopoldville, the capital of the “Belgian Congo,” in 1958. The MNC then entered its militant phase, organising protests and strikes. On January 4, 1959, anti-European rioting erupted in Léopoldville, bringing about an armed response by the Belgian colonial security forces that resulted in the deaths of many dozen Congolese. On January 13 the Belgian government finally acknowledged that independence would eventually be granted to the Congolese. The state of affairs in the Congo was such, however, that “eventually” became “instantly,” at least in geopolitical terms, and the Congo was granted its independence on June 30th.

Those who had hoped for true peace then were badly disappointed. On July 5 the Congolese army, the Force Publique, mutinied as part of the hatred between the Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasavubu, who had been rivals from the days before independence. The revolt of the Force Publique led to the arrival of a strong force of Belgian paratroopers in Léopoldville, ostensibly to protect the lives of the Belgian citizens still living in the Congo. Chaos swept through the Congo, made worse by the dismissal from the government of Lumumba by Kasavubu and of Kasavubu’s dismissal by Lumumba. On July 11 the Congo’s richest province, Katanga, declared its independence, aided in not-so-covert ways by Belgium. Lumumba charged that Belgium was trying to impose itself on the Congo through Katanga, and both Kasavubu and Lumumba appealed to the United Nations for help.

U.N. peacekeepers arrived in the Congo to impose order, but Lumumba insisted that they use force to bring Katanga back into the Congo. Kasavubu rejected this, so Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for help. Over the next two months public chaos reigned as the Kasai and Orientale Provinces broke away, leaving the Congo in four separate parts, all fought over, covertly, by the United States and the U.S.S.R. On September 14, 1960, Joseph Mobutu, the Chief of Staff of the Army, announced that the army would rule over the Congo with the “help” of a caretaker government. Patrice Lumumba and his supporters opposed Mobutu’s group, but after escaping from Léopoldville Lumumba was captured by the forces of the government of the Congo and executed. War followed, with the last secessionist forces being defeated in January 1963.

Life for the average citizen was very hard during these years, with the Congolese armed forces being given far more food and treated far better than most of the Congolese. Things should have gotten better after the secessionists were defeated, but the Cyrille Adoula, leader of the civilian government, dissolved the parliament in September 1963 in an attempt to be the government's sole power--Congo's dictator, in other words. This move brought his personal popularity to its lowest point and sparked a number of insurgencies in five of the Congo’s 21 provinces. The revolt, which started in the following January, achieved early military successes but had poor leadership and was finally defeated in August by the government forces, with the help of Western and African metahuman mercenaries.

A little over a year later, in November 1965, General Mobutu led a second coup, this time displacing the Prime Minister. Mobutu was backed by the CIA, who wanted to make sure that Communism did not rear its Red head in this part of Africa. Although he began as a member of a junta he quickly took sole control of the government and almost immediately revealed himself to be one of the worst examples of the African Big Man--autocratic, authoritarian, despotic, and willing to prostitute himself and his country for the money of the United States.

32 years later, after a rule notable even by African standards for its moral corruption, revolts, massacres and atrocities, Mobutu was finally deposed by a rebellion led by Laurent Kabila, a former guerrilla turned revolutionary. Kabila’s rule since then was been marked by violence, attempts at genocide, and little if any improvement over Mobutu’s rule.

With a history like this, it was little wonder that nearly every man, woman and child, no matter how poor, had some kind of weapon, even one as humble as the panga, the machete common to the natives of the jungles of western Africa. Many more had weapons scavenged from the corpses of the many soldiers, African and otherwise, who had used the Congo as their battleground over the past few decades. And everyone was willing to use them to protect themselves or, less commonly, to kill. Watchfulness and a willingness to do anything to survive were commonplace, and the habits and attitudes of those from peaceful nations were entirely absent. A therapist would say that the entire country was dysfunctional and suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. It was a racist idea that those not of the white West did not value the human life as much as white men did; in the Congo it was a simple truism.

These were the reasons that Evers’ job was so much more difficult than it could have been. Every person, every hut, every hamlet or village, no matter how small, had to be searched, every weapon removed and placed in a massive pit far inside the jungle, and every trap and mine disarmed and put in the pit, and then the pit covered up and buried. Evers’ job was to prepare the Congo for peace, and the only way he had to do that was by a complete disarmament. And that was a long and tedious process....

Author’s Notes

I’ve been criticized for making my stories too long; people have said that it’s tiring to read something this long. While I don’t quite understand that criticism, it has been said a few times, and so I’m acceding to my critics and imposing a limit length on these issues. It will mean that there are more issues--probably four to six times as many--but it will, I hope, make it easier on some of the readers and make the stories less daunting.

Zaire is, by the way, now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DROC for short.

The incident with Kew Gardens, the Crusaders, and Masterman is from Crusaders #27.

The Shadows’ involvement with Fannin can be found in Crusaders: Shadows #15.

The Dark Guard’s fight with Mys-Tech can be found in Dark Guard #4.

More on Sherwood can be found in Sherwood #1.

The Ksatriya are my own creation; they are the government metahumans of India.

More on Force Works, the Pacific Overlords, and the Hand can be found in Force Works #44.

Kagé and Tokko are my own creation; they are two vigilantes active in Japan.

The history of the “Democratic” Republic of Congo is, with the exception of obvious comic-related items, as given.

Next Issue: Chapter Five, Part Two: Breeze Barton and the Blue Blaze