by Martin Maenza
“Why couldn’t we have just pulled up at the front door?” Copperhead asked for the second time. “This hiking’s for the birds.” The five members of the Secret Society of Super-Villains left their flier back a few miles and had continued their journey on foot.
“We don’t want to announce our arrival,” Mirror Master explained as he hacked through the jungle brush with a small, handheld mirror laser. “The element of surprise is best left on our side.”
The Tattooed Lady followed, her tall boots covered in mud. “Earlier this year, I never would have imagined I’d be rummaging through the African countryside in search of a city full of talking gorillas,” she mused aloud. “Of course, this isn’t my idea of a fun time.”
Thanks to his jetpack, Gizmo could hover easily so that they were face to face. “Yep,” the dwarf said, smiling. “Be a super-villain, see the world.”
Star Sapphire, too, floated in the air but was not pleased. “I could easily convey us all to the city with my gemstone power,” she stated.
“No can do, Sapphire,” Mirror Master said as he stopped at the top of a small hill. “I don’t know what kind of surveillance the apes have. It’s best we stick to the ground as much as possible.” Peering through the brush, he looked down the other slope. “Besides, we’re almost there.”
“How do you know?” Gizmo asked. “One tree looks like another to me.”
“Oh, we’re definitely lost,” Copperhead said.
Mirror Master pointed. “Wrong. Gorilla City is right down there.”
Copperhead squinted his eyes underneath the snake-head mask he wore. “Scudder, are you crazy? Is this heat getting to you? I don’t see nothing but more trees!”
Mirror Master chuckled. “That’s because there’s a protective field around the city which disguises it to the naked eye and most satellite tracking systems.”
“Yeah?” Gizmo asked, intrigued by the idea. “Kind of like the image-makers, huh?”
Mirror Master nodded. “Yes, but much more powerful.”
“So how come you see it, then?” Copperhead asked.
The reflective rogue smiled once more. “Easy. Grodd left me some gifts to help in our mission. One was these special lenses that I’m wearing. They allow me to see the barrier as plain as the nose on your face.”
“What else did Grodd leave you?” Star Sapphire asked.
Mirror Master started down the hill. “You’ll see soon enough. Come on.” And he led them down through the jungle brush once more.
In the Chamber of Advisors, a group of six apes sat around a large table. Their discussion, as it continued to be of late, centered around Solovar and his ailing health. “What are we going to do?” asked Gralven. “It has been months, and yet Solovar’s condition has not improved.”
“Agreed,” nodded Tredlar. “There are days when he seems even worse than when he returned to us. I looked in on him yesterday. He seems to continue to slip deeper into his coma. We cannot continue without proper leadership.”
“Bah!” protested Velstaf. “We seem to be just fine right now. The city functions as it should. We’ve had little reason to worry so far.”
“No point in jumping to any rash decisions,” Sapre agreed. “We should stand by Solovar, even in his time of need. He would do no less for any of us.”
The six apes continued to talk amongst themselves, until the chamber doors burst open unexpectedly. Two gorillas rushed into the room. “What is the meaning of this?” bellowed Velstaf. “Who dares interrupt the Advisors?”
“‘Scuse the interruption,” the shorter of the two gorillas at the door said. “But we have some urgent news!”
“Yes,” the taller of the two said. “Scouting parties outside of the city walls have just reported in. They have found a flying craft abandoned a few miles from the city, and there are signs that indicate humans might be approaching the city.”
“Ha!” scoffed Velstaf. “We have little to worry about there. Even if they somehow managed to stumble upon the invisible barrier, only gorillas such as ourselves can successfully pass through it.”
Suddenly, a klaxon sounded in the distance. The apes perked up their ears. “What is that?” asked Tredlar.
“How soon we forget!” a voice said from an opening above the chamber.
The advisors looked up in surprise. Most recognized the newcomer. “Grodd! What are you doing here? Is this your doing?” one of the six asked.
The large gorilla leaped down to the chamber floor, landing on three of his paws. “I’ve come to warn you, but it appears I have not arrived soon enough!” He gestured to the windows that opened to the city. “Already the alarm sounds.”
“Warn us?” Gralven asked. “Warn us of what?”
“Humans plan to lay siege on Gorilla City!” Grodd announced. “I have returned home to offer my assistance in battling back the tide.” The six advisors began to murmur amongst themselves as they considered the rogue gorilla’s offer. Grodd kept a serious appearance, yet managed to make eye contact with the two gorillas at the door. He gave them a quick nod, assuring Bulldozer and Kong that their performance was just as they had rehearsed it.
The group of villains stopped just at the edge of a clearing. Mirror Master dug into the pouch slung over his shoulder and produced a small device.
“What’s that?” Gizmo asked curiously.
“This is our key to Gorilla City,” Mirror Master said. “It will create a disruptive field around us, allowing the group to pass through the city’s force-field unharmed.” The man in orange and green activated the small device; the indicator light turned red. While the others saw nothing, the special lenses he wore allowed Mirror Master to see the force-field give way as he approached it. The device in effect nullified the force-field in an isolated radius. “Everyone gather in close. We need to move as a single unit through the field.”
The other four villains complied, and together they began to walk into the clearing.
“This is crazy,” Copperhead remarked. “I don’t see anything or feel anything. Grodd’s probably somewhere right now laughing at how gullible…” Suddenly, an open area appeared before the group. Copperhead finished his statement with some surprise. “…we are?”
Tattooed Lady let out a gasp of surprise. Star Sapphire remained her unshaken self. Gizmo exclaimed, “Wow, that’s amazing!”
Mirror Master nodded confidently. “Ladies and gentleman, we are now at Gorilla City.” Before them were some shorter buildings, composed of carved and smoothed slabs of white stone. Trees and other plant life, both those native to Africa and some a bit exotic, lined the perimeters and could be seen amidst the structures. Beyond the initial buildings were other structures, and the city seemed to extend a great distance.
“What’s our plan, Mirror Master?” Star Sapphire asked in a professional manner.
“The palace is in the center of the city,” he answered. “Our goal is to reach it.”
Suddenly, an alarm sounded, and rustling came from the trees. A few large apes burst through the brush, some yelling, “There they are!” and, “Get the intruders!”
Instinctively, Star Sapphire threw up a barrier of violet energy to keep the attacking gorillas at bay. “We have to leave!” she stated. The group turned, but the force-field blocked the path behind them.
Mirror Master looked down at the device; the indicator quickly flashed on and off a few times before growing dark. He tried to activate it again, but the gadget would not respond. “We can’t go back the way we came,” he announced somberly.
“I knew it!” Copperhead hissed. “He ssscrewed usss over!”
“Save it!” Mirror Master snapped. “There’s no time for complaining! We have to get to the Royal Palace! That’s our only chance.” Mirror Master grabbed Tattooed Lady’s hand. “C’mon, Lydia!” They darted off down the street to the right.
As Star Sapphire took to the air under the power of her gemstone, Gizmo’s jetpack kicked in; the dwarf knew his best bet would be to stick with someone with a lot of firepower. “See ya at the finish line,” he called back to Copperhead.
Copperhead stood alone as the trio of apes clawed against the violet barrier. “Great! Just great!” he cursed. “Nice friends I’ve got!” Suddenly, the violet barrier faded, and the gorillas charged forward.
“Get him!” the first one snarled.
Copperhead sprang into the air instinctively, his slippery costume allowing him to easily evade the apes’ large hands. “Not today, hairy!” The serpentine villain grabbed a low tree branch with both hands and swung from it. His feet hit the chest of one of the other apes, knocking him backward into the third. “I’ve been here a total of two minutes, and I’m already hating it!”
Letting go of the branch, Copperhead flipped through the air. He landed on the street and began to scurry toward the buildings. “Later, fellasss!”
As he ducked under an ancient stone archway that led into the Industrial Ring, two more gorillas sprang toward him. The first one missed the slippery target, but the second caught hold of his tail. “You are mine, intruder!” the ape growled.
Copperhead surprisingly spun back toward the simian who held his tale. “Awww, aren’t you sssweet? You want to get to know me better.” The snake lunged forward, sinking the fangs of his mask into the ape’s shoulder. “I ssshould warn you, though. Sssome folksss think I’m poissson!”
The gorilla screamed out in pain as Copperhead’s fangs injected a deadly toxin into its body. The ape released his grip on the tail as he slumped to the ground. The other ape ran to his fallen comrade. “Ronto!”
Copperhead took the opportunity to dive for the nearest exit he could find. The special properties of his costume made it exceedingly easy for the villain to fit through a small, rectangular opening at the street’s curb. In a few seconds, his tail was the last thing to vanish down the hole.
“Let’s try this way!” Mirror Master said as they turned another corner. The city streets twisted and turned like a maze. His sense of direction was leading them toward the center of the city, but the route wasn’t as direct as he would have preferred.
Mirror Master and the Tattooed Lady continued down the street. Any residents who lived in this area kept to the shadows or behind the doors of their homes. The two villains turned another corner, and Mirror Master cursed. “Damn it! Dead end!”
“Maybe we can double back,” Lydia Anastasios suggested.
As they turned to head back, a large gorilla landed in the street and blocked their path. “Surrender, humans!” the gorilla growled.
In a quick move, Lydia touched a picture below her left forearm, and the ink drawing sprang to life. She quickly grabbed the item as it expanded to full form. In a second, she held a flaming torch in her right hand. “Back off!” Tattooed Lady said, waving the flaming weapon back and forth in front of her. “You will let us go, or you will get burned!”
The gorilla recoiled at the first few passes of the flame, startled mostly by its sudden appearance. The creature could feel the heat from the fire, which gave him great pause. But he could smell more than the burning wooden handle; the gorilla could smell fear from the woman.
The gorilla waited for a precise moment and then lunged forward, his massive hand nailing the woman’s right wrist.
“Owww!” Lydia cried out in pain as the torch flew from her hand and slammed into one of the building’s stone walls.
“You left me no choice,” the gorilla said as he lunged for the Greek woman.
“I can say the same!” Mirror Master stated.
The gorilla turned toward the man, and a small mirror in the costumed man’s hand flashed brightly. “My eyes!” the gorilla exclaimed. “I am blinded!”
Mirror Master sprinted past and grabbed Lydia’s left hand. He pulled her away quickly as the gorilla staggered around the alleyway. “Are you all right?” he asked her as they moved swiftly.
“I think so,” Lydia replied. “I don’t think he broke my wrist, but I do think it will be swollen for a while.”
“We’ll tend to it as soon as we can,” Mirror Master promised.
Lydia smiled to herself. Despite his hard leadership shell, she thought she could see some admirable qualities shining through. While she didn’t enjoy the idea of this particular mission, she at least felt a little bit better about the whole thing. Besides Star Sapphire, Mirror Master was the only other villain she felt she could trust. And trust went a long way in Lydia’s book.
“Sapphire, wait up!” Gizmo called. While his jetpack sufficiently moved his diminutive form across the city, it simply couldn’t compare with the power from the alien gemstone. The violet energy that propelled Star Sapphire through the air had a direct correlation to the woman’s willpower, and when she set her mind to something, very little could sway it.
The pair quickly crossed over the Residential Zone, which housed the inhabitants of the great ape city. Ahead of them lay the Agricultural Zone, and after that, like the bullseye of a target, the Royal Palace.
In a smooth motion, the Zamaron-trained warrior swooped back. “I’m not your keeper, Gizmo!” she said firmly. “If you cannot keep up, that is not my problem!” Star Sapphire then swooped around again and continued on her way.
“Fine,” Gizmo said as he attempted to keep up. Glancing downward, he noticed the varying vegetation. His knowledge of the dietary habits of apes had a lot be desired, but the size and health of the plants he could make out seemed to imply that they knew a thing or two about horticulture. His stomach grumbled. “Hmm, a banana might be kind of good right about now.”
As he glanced forward to gauge the distance between himself and his ally, a glint of something along the ground caught Gizmo’s eye. At about the time the image registered in his brain, a flash burst from that spot with a loud, piercing sound.
“Sapphire, look out!” Gizmo yelled out a warning.
The woman spun around at his words. “What is it?” she began to ask, when a bolt of energy whizzed by her. The force-field generated by her gemstone protected her from the brunt of the blast, but Star Sapphire was surprised by the attack and faltered slightly in the air. She quickly regained her balance as the anger began to boil up in her.
Gizmo managed to get closer to her, but did so in an erratic path to avoid being targeted from below. “Are you OK?”
Star Sapphire scanned the ground with a furrowed brow. “I will be,” she said as she located the source of the attack on her, “as soon as I take care of them!”
Violet energy surged from the gemstone in her headpiece, sending a destructive blast downward. It exploded into the ground with great force, shattering the weapon that had hurled a blast at her seconds ago. The gorillas operating the device scattered into the vegetation.
“Good shot,” Gizmo said as a compliment.
“Come!” Star Sapphire ordered. “I am growing weary of this! We need to get to the palace and end this now!” She rocketed off, ever vigilant for another assault.
Note to self: don’t ever piss Sapphire off, thought Gizmo, rocketing along after her.