by Martin Maenza
Gotham City was cloaked in darkness on this cold January night; heavy clouds about ready to burst forth with snow kept even the moonlight from filtering down. The winds outside blew softly, further adding to the chilly mood of the city.
Inside the Gotham City Museum of Antiquities, a number of large thugs were thankful to be away from the elements, at least for a little while. “Don’t know why we got to do this tonight?” one of the men asked. “It’s too damn cold to be runnin’ ’round the alleyways and stuff.”
“Shhh,” the other said in a whisper. “Don’t let her hear you.”
“Why?” asked the first. “I know she’s the boss and all…”
“That’s right! I am the boss!” said a female voice loudly. The group turned around to see their boss; she was a woman of reasonable height and build, dressed in a flowing white shirt that was belted at the waist by a big red belt. She also wore pink fishnets and red boots and gloves. Her long hair was black and spiky. Her clear red glasses revealed an unpleasant look. “I think someone needs a little reminder, eh, Vinny? You know, about the folly of shooting off one’s mouth!”
The first man raised his hands in defense. “No, I didn’t mean nothin’ by it! Please, Magpie, don’t hurt me!”
The costumed woman smiled as she moved closer. “I won’t hurt you, Vinny, baby,” she cooed like a pigeon as she reached forward slowly with her glove and gently ran it down the man’s cheek. At first he was tense at the touch, but then relaxed. That was his mistake. A small, thin needle sprang from one of her fingertips and pricked Vinny’s cheek. Her smile turned wicked. “See, that didn’t hurt a bit, did it, fool?”
The other men backed away. They had heard about Magpie’s reputation, even though she hadn’t been active in the Gotham crime scene for long. Talk was that she could be as crazy as the Joker sometimes, and her moods swung at the drop of a hat. But she paid very well, and sometimes the money was worth the risk.
Magpie rubbed up against the now-motionless Vinny. “Was that good for you, baby?” she asked seductively. “Don’t you wish you could enjoy it more? Too bad I had to paralyze you with my special formula.” She threw her head back and laughed. “But I had to make this easier for us both.”
She spun away from him and scooped up a large red satchel on the floor. “We’ve still got a job to do, but I think I can spare a little something for you, you loudmouthed lout! Maybe something to warm you up a little, eh?” Magpie rummaged through the bag before pulling out a small stick that looked like dynamite. “Time for your punishment, you bad boy!”
The other men recoiled in shock as Magpie spun back around and placed one end of the explosive in Vinny’s mouth. She then pulled out a lighter and began to flick it to produce a flame. The three men ducked back into the other room.
Magpie followed a few moments later, and there was a loud boom sound as the explosive went off. The villainess let out a giggle. “Anyone else have any stupid questions or comments?” The henchmen all shook their heads no. “Good! Then let’s get back to work. So many pretty things, so little time.” She half-skipped off as if she were having a day in the park. The henchmen quickly followed.
“Hurry, you loafers!” Magpie ordered. “We don’t have all night!” She scooped up some antique jewelry and shoved it into a bag. She already had two other bags full attached to her belt. “Between the persistent cops and the costumed do-gooders in this town, time is of the essence.”
One of the thugs finished loading another bag and turned around. He caught sight of a shadow casting on the far wall, one with pointy ears. “It’s the Bat!” Rico shouted as he spun around.
“Batman!” Magpie cried. “Time to fly, you big lugs!” She started to run.
From out of the shadows, a figure dressed in a dark costume sprang forward and tackled the first of the henchmen. They both fell behind one of the display counters. There were sounds of a struggle, punches being thrown, and then nothing.
“Run!” yelled Rico. He and the other man started to bolt down the room, passing various display cases. As they got to the end of the row, a figure sprang up from behind the last case. They got a good look at the figure being this close. It was a man of medium build and height dressed from head to toe in a blue-black formfitting costume. The cowl mask did indeed have pointed ears, and short ones at that. But the facial feature of the mask had touches of gray to them and were more in a cat-like style.
“End of the line, punks!” the cat man said, swinging his dark-gloved fist at the nearest henchman. The uppercut went straight to the big man’s jaw and sent him flying into one of the display cases. The glass shattered as his body slammed into it hard.
“Think again, kitty!” Rico said, pulling a shiny gun from the waist of his pants.
The man in the cat costume smiled. “I ain’t no pussycat, chump!” he said. Suddenly, some sharp claws sprang out from his fingertips, and the costumed man slashed at the gunman’s hand.
“Oooww!” Rico cried out in pain, dropping the gun. Blood ran from the three marks on the back of his hand.
The cat man kicked the gun away. “When you mess with a Wildcat, expect to get hurt!” the hero said. He then followed his warning with a solid left hook. Rico was knocked across the room and into a display of armor. “See, told ya!”
Wildcat paused for a second to get his bearings. All three of the men had been taken care of, in rather short order, no less. He was proud of himself. Then he frowned. Where’d the girl go? He ran down the hallway to where she’d last been seen heading. He thought he saw a flash of purple light near one of the alcoves. But when he arrived at it, Wildcat found it empty. Weird.
Suddenly, the sound of sirens could be heard outside. “Uh-oh, that’s my cue to exit,” he said. “I’m not ready yet for the Gotham P.D. to know about me.” Wildcat took off so that he could slip out of the museum undetected the same way he slipped in.
Meanwhile, up on a rooftop a few blocks away, but within viewing of the museum, Magpie watched as the police cars surrounded the place. “Such a shame,” she sighed. “So many pretties got left behind.”
“Referring to your gang?” a female voice said. It was a dark-haired woman dressed in pink and purple.
“No,” Magpie replied to her rescuer. “Men are a dime a dozen. Diamonds and jewels are forever.” She turned to the other woman. “Who do I have to thank for saving me from incarceration?”
“I’m the Star Sapphire. And I’d like to extend an invitation to you to join a special group.”
Magpie was captivated by the gemstone in Star Sapphire’s tiara. Many thoughts about that beautiful stone filled her head. She smiled. “Count me in!”
“Magpie?” asked Trident upon hearing the name from Mirror Master. “Isn’t she that honey that messed with Black Canary late last year?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Genia Returns and Super-Team Family: Starman and Black Canary: The Star Czar.]
“Same name, different girl,” Mirror Master replied. “This one doesn’t have sonic powers, but she’ll do just fine for our current needs. Any more questions about that, or can we move onto other business?” The rest of the villains sat silent around the table. “Good. On to new business, then.”
Mirror Master put down the gavel and began to pace a bit. “Gentlemen, it’s a new calendar year, and time for some new directions. That is why we’ve brought in some new members. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Blindside, Throttle, Trident, and Shockwave.
“Now, as for business, our primary focus for the time being is raising some capital. Last year, we had a few unfortunate circumstances that put a severe limit on our transportation. Upon reflection, some of those were not the best choices, but we learn from our mistakes and move on.” Mirror Master avoided making eye contact with Power Fist. He still felt bad about the situation the young man now faced, being an ape and all. He made a mental note to check with Gizmo to see if he could help reverse the situation.
“So that we can replace our lost fliers, I have a few heists in mind,” Mirror Master continued. “Some that should net us some big returns in a short period of time.”
“Sounds good to me,” Throttle said. “When do we get started?”
“I like the enthusiasm, Throttle,” Mirror Master said. “I’d say we’ll be ready to roll in the next few days. But first I have someone to introduce to you all.” He strode over to the closed conference room doors, opened one, stuck his head out, and motioned for an individual outside to join the meeting.
Mirror Master then stepped aside and allowed a woman with blonde hair tied back in a bun to enter the room. She was dressed in a dark business suit with a short skirt and a crisp white blouse. She wore a pair of wire-framed eyeglasses with circular lenses. “Friends, may I introduce Dr. Harleen Quinzel?”