by Martin Maenza
“What was so important that we had to be rousted out of bed?” Mirror Master looked very unhappy as he arrived at doorway to the laboratory. The tone of his voice further reflected his annoyance. “Care to explain this, Copperhead?”
Behind him, Lydia Anastasios closed the front of her satin bathrobe. As she brushed the sleep out of her eyes, she also did not appear to be amused at being summoned by Gizmo and Copperhead at this late hour.
“Oh, this is good, believe me!” Copperhead stated, almost seeming somewhat happy about what he was about to explain. “Gizmo and I were having a late chat after Letterman when we heard these terrible screams! We rushed down here just in time to see — well, let’s just let our simian friend inside explain it!” The serpentine villain opened the door and allowed the others to enter the lab.
Lydia gasped at what she saw. Gizmo remained quiet, simply shaking his head in disbelief. Mirror Master’s face reflected calm, as if nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
“Well, Grodd, care to explain what is going on here?” Copperhead asked pointedly. “I’m sure Mirror Master would love to hear all about it!”
Grodd stood in the center of the lab, appearing very relaxed. To each side of him stood a pair of large apes. Unlike the larger gorilla who wore no clothing, these four apes still had the remnants of torn costumes about their bodies. Smiling, Grodd said in his gruff voice, “I need not explain to Mirror Master. He has full disclosure of my experiments.”
The other three villains looked at their leader in shock; Mirror Master gave a simple nod, but said nothing.
“You knew about this?” Copperhead hissed in anger. “You knew Grodd was going to turn Kong, Bulldozer, Ace, and Power Fist into gorillas? You let him experiment on human beings?”
Before Mirror Master could say anything in his defense, Grodd jumped in. “Of course he did! He and I discussed in full detail what I required from the Secret Society in order to stage my takeover of Gorilla City. I needed a small, dedicated group to enact my plans, and these four were to be part of that force. That is why you were sent out to get recruits.”
“But how could you do that to them against their will?” Lydia asked.
“It was easy,” Grodd replied. “Years ago, I performed a similar transformation on the Thanagarian called Hawkman. In his transformed state, he was able to slip through Gorilla City’s protective force-field and free me from imprisonment. (*) Since then, I have devised a way to perfect the process and make the transformation a bit more permanent. These four will remain in this form until I reverse the process, which I will do once my goals are achieved.” Grodd finished his technical description, but that was not the answer Lydia had been looking for.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Gorilla My Dreams,” Super-Team Family #3 (February-March, 1976).]
“So, we convinced these guys to come with us here just so you could make monkeys out of them and drag them off to do your will?” Gizmo said.
“I knew your human mind would be able to grasp the concept,” Grodd said mockingly. He then turned to the machinery that he used earlier on the others. “Now, let us perform the change on you four as well.”
Outrage swept over the members of the Secret Society simultaneously.
“What?” Gizmo asked in shock.
“You want to…?” Lydia started to ask, but was too horrified to finish the sentence.
“No way, Grodd!” Copperhead protested. “You ain’t using that device on me!” He turned to the man in orange and green. “Scudder, say something!”
Mirror Master looked at those whose trust and loyalty he had worked so hard to earn. Anger, frustration, fear and confusion filled their eyes. Sam Scudder then turned to Grodd, who stared back at him impatiently. The leader stepped forward. “That wasn’t part of the deal, Grodd. I said the Society would help you, but I did not agree to your turning my core team into apes.”
Grodd looked at the man disappointedly. “I explained before why the transformation is critical,” the villain grunted. “The only way to covertly infiltrate Gorilla City is by being able to blend in with the inhabitants.”
“We can do that without transformation,” Gizmo said. “We have the image-maker devices that I built. They can make us appear to be apes while retaining our human forms.”
Grodd chuckled. “Do not be ridiculous, little man. While your toys might fool the eye, you cannot deceive the other senses.” He tapped his nostrils. “Gorillas have an excellent sense of smell. Your charade would be discovered the moment you set foot into the city.”
“Unlike those four,” Mirror Master said as he indicated the transformed quartet of villains, “the rest of us do not rely on mere strength. We can best serve your plan if we can do what we do best, and that requires our retaining human form.”
The large gorilla moved closer to Mirror Master and stared down at him. “But that was not in my plan, Mirror Master,” Grodd stated.
“Then change the plan, Grodd,” Mirror Master answered firmly. He stared into Grodd’s large dark eyes but did not back down. He knew that the gorilla could easily use his great strength to snap him in two, but the reflective rogue stood fast on his decision. He realized that was his only option, or else all his efforts up to this point would have been for naught.
For a moment, not another word was said. Then, finally, Grodd backed away. “Fine!” he conceded. “I will inform you of my alternate plan, but I expect your support of it, as we agreed!”
“I honor my word,” Mirror Master said. “I promised you our assistance, and you will have that.”
With his back turned to them, Grodd waved them off. “Go, then, while I do some rethinking! I will let you know when I will need for you to depart for Gorilla City.”
Four days later, Copperhead piloted the flier that contained his four teammates. Mirror Master sat next to him in the cockpit, while Star Sapphire, Gizmo, and Tattooed Lady sat in back. The tension in the vehicle was thick, like pea soup. Very little had changed since the standoff against Grodd a few nights prior.
Lydia leaned closer to her female teammate and spoke in a low voice. “I tell you, Camille, he was so cold. He didn’t even consider how he was using those poor men. I’ve never seen anyone care so little about others.”
“You told me you thought they were mostly creeps,” the woman in pink and purple pointed out. “They made you uncomfortable with their constant stares and catcalls. Why should you care what Grodd did to them?”
Lydia frowned. “Just because I don’t like someone does not mean I think that turning them into apes against their will is OK.”
“Let me tell you this,” Star Sapphire offered, “if you want to survive in this business, you have to develop a thicker skin. You can’t let things like this affect you so.” Lydia began to say something, but Sapphire put her hand to the young woman’s mouth. “Just think about it. You’ll see I’m right.”
Gizmo continued to silently tinker with a device in his lap. Yet, out of the corner of his eye, he watched the two women and took in their entire conversation.
In the cockpit, Copperhead broke his hour-long silence. “Are you sure the coordinates he gave us are right? That would be just like him to lead us on a wild goose chase.”
Mirror Master turned from the window where he was pondering. “Though I’ve never been to Gorilla City, I trust the coordinates Grodd provided us. I have no reason to doubt his word.”
“Sure, he’s so honorable,” the serpentine villain said sarcastically. “Then why’d he take off a few days back in advance? Why not all travel together?”
Mirror Master tried to remain calm, despite Copperhead’s prodding. “A single flier couldn’t accommodate all ten of us, especially given that five are large apes. I lent him one of our fliers so he could take his squad in first, to infiltrate the city and lay the groundwork for the operation. Grodd filled me in on his revised plan and detailed what our new role was to be.”
“And when do you plan to share that with us, Scudder?” the golden-costumed villain asked.
“You’ll find out as soon as we arrive at the landing location,” Mirror Master said as he rose from his seat. He started to step away, but turned at the last second. “And, Copperhead, when I offered you a position in the new Society, you agreed to follow my leadership. I don’t appreciate your questioning my decisions at every turn, and my tolerance of that is starting to grow thin. You need to stop, or else! Do you understand me?”
Copperhead said nothing as the reflective rogue stepped into the back. The other three villains quickly returned to their business; they did not want Mirror Master to know they overheard the loud discussion.
Meanwhile, deep in the jungles of equatorial Africa somewhere between the Congo and the Sudan, the new day dawned on Gorilla City. The population arose like any other morning, and the natives made their way from the Residential Zone to the Agriculture Zone and the Industrial Ring. While always in the back of their minds, the super-intelligent gorillas rarely spoke of the concerns they had regarding their king.
In the monarch’s chambers of the Royal Palace, the elder gray gorilla lay very still upon his bed. Solovar had suffered a great injury at the hands of shadow demons during the so-called Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the healing process for the simian leader continued to move at a snail’s pace. (*) The mightiest of gorilla minds in the city could not shake Solovar from the deep coma he had slipped into a few months after the incident. All they could do was keep constant vigil and tend to his needs as best they could.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Time and Time Again,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #2 (May, 1985) and “Oblivion Upon Us,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #3 (June, 1985).]
For the last twelve hours, Babu attended to the great monarch. And though it was often an uneventful task, he performed his duties with great care and attentiveness. Babu rung out the cloth and placed it on the king’s brow to help curb the most recent fever. His long watch of Solovar’s form ended when another gorilla entered the chambers. “Oh,” Babu said, slightly startled. “Is it time already?”
“Yes,” the other gorilla simply said.
Babu rose from his seat next to the bed and then bowed to the mighty king. Regardless of Solovar’s state, the ape held the king in highest esteem and continued to follow royal protocol. He then turned to the newcomer.
“He has had a fairly quiet night,” Babu reported. “Only occasionally did he make any sounds — a few groans of pain and that name again — ‘Kamandi.’ I often wonder what it means.”
“I have no clue,” the other gorilla said. He gestured to the door with his long fingers. “You should go now and get rest yourself.”
Babu nodded. “I shall. Take good care of the king.” Babu exited the chamber and closed the door solidly behind him.
“I shall,” the other responded. “I shall, indeed.” The gorilla went over to the windowsill and reached around the corner. From behind one of the loosened bricks, he produced a small vial.
Suddenly, a voice could be heard from the earpiece in the gorilla’s left ear. “Is all well, Ace?” a gruff voice said.
Ace of Spades put his left thumb to his mouth. Upon the nail was mounted the smallest of radio transmitters. “Piece of cake,” the transformed man said. “Just gonna administer the poison now.” He popped open the vial and drained the liquid into Solovar’s mouth. “This should guarantee you have no interruptions from this one.”
And from a hidden place in the city, Grodd replied, “Excellent! Now for stage two!”