by Martin Maenza
A small private craft approached the outskirts of Metropolis. Inside the sleek flier, a half-dozen men in costumes were going over their plan for the final time. “Listen up, fellas,” the orange-and-green-costumed Mirror Master said from the cockpit. “Our strike on STAR Labs tonight is extremely important. Is everyone clear on the objectives?”
A blonde-haired man in purple spoke up. “You want me, Blindside, Shockwave, and our resident monkey man, here, to hit up the research facility near the harbor, right?” Throttle said.
“Correct,” Mirror Master said. “Power Fist is well aware of the desired items, samples of some new biological advances the scientists there have been working on. While they won’t do us much good directly, I have a buyer who is interested in paying us a hefty price to obtain them. That will bring the organization some good working capital.”
“And I’ll be accompanying you, boss,” the purple-and-yellow-costumed Trident said.
“Yes,” Mirror Master replied with a nod of his head. “My sources tell me that some new research has been filed at the administrative offices at the downtown location. This research is in the area of teleportation, which would greatly aid us in our mobility. The two of us should be able to locate that relatively easy.”
“What about the others?” asked the stocky Blindside, who was dressed in blue. “Since we’re hitting Metropolis, we could use all the help we can get if we run into Superman.”
“They’re involved back in California,” Mirror Master stated. “Besides, if we do what we need to do, we’ll get in and out of town before the Man of Steel even knows we’ve been here.”
Power Fist, who currently had the form of a large, hairy gorilla, remained silent. Having grown up in Metropolis, he knew all about Superman, even though he was lucky enough not to have ever run into him. He knew they’d be in for a fight if the hero’s path crossed with their own.
Back on the West Coast in San Francisco, Lydia Anastasios arranged the last of the pictures on the display wall of her new shop. She stepped back a moment and gazed at the varied designs that showed a small sample of what the shop’s artists could do.
When she decided to move the Body Canvas, her tattoo parlor, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Lydia wasn’t able to convince her friend Cherry to make the move as well. The young blonde, it seemed, decided to get involved with one of the hair-metal bands that made the circuits along Sunset Strip. The three-year friendship between the two women ended on good terms, though.
“Ah, well,” the dark-haired Greek woman with tattoos covering her arms and legs said aloud. “I’m sure my advertisement in the various alternative newspapers will yield some interesting employee candidates.” She chuckled to herself. Very few of them could be more interesting than Cherry had been.
Suddenly, the bell above the front door rang as someone entered the shop.
“Sorry, we are not open for business yet,” Lydia said as she turned around. She paused for a moment when she saw a woman with spiky black hair and large, stylized red glasses. She wore a short beige raincoat, but her pink fishnet stockings and red boots were visible underneath. “You’ll have to come back another time.”
Another female entered the place of business, a woman with wavy black hair also wearing a raincoat over her costume. “Relax, Lydia,” said this second woman, who was familiar to the shopkeeper. “Maggie’s with me.”
“Oh,” Lydia said to her friend and colleague, Star Sapphire. “I am sorry, Camille. I was not expecting to see you this evening.” She glanced at the first woman. “I am Lydia.” She offered her hand in greetings.
The woman known as Magpie did not reciprocate. Instead, she began to walk around the waiting area of the business, looking from one picture to the next with a disapproving face. “So, this is what you do when you’re not committing crimes?” Magpie said with a slight tone. “How quaint.”
Camille Fortier leaned closer to Lydia and whispered. “This is the one I was telling you about,” she said, “the one who calls herself Magpie. Her real name is Maggie Pye, if you can believe that.”
Magpie turned around and saw the two whispering. “Hey, now! What are you two going on about?” She got a wild look on her face. “I don’t like folks talking about me behind my back!”
Camille stopped and said, “Just telling Lydia, here, how much you like pretty things — jewels and such.”
“Yes,” the Tattooed Lady said. “I plan to do piercing here as well. Maybe you would be interested in a stud for your belly button or something.”
“Only if it’s a twenty-four-karat diamond!” Magpie laughed. “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
“Well,” Camille said, “we can discuss that another time. Meanwhile, Scudder has an assignment for the three of us. So, if you’ll grab your coat, Lydia, we can be off.” Star Sapphire would rather get this task over with as soon as possible. She had only known this Magpie character for a few days, but already she was forming a strong opinion about her.
Dr. Eli Walston was hardly the type of person to keep his emotions bottled up inside. Without much thought, he was willing share his frustrations with whoever would listen. At the STAR Labs administrative offices in Metropolis, the lucky listener this late night was the head of security, Richard.
“I just can’t believe it!” said Dr. Walston, a man in his early thirties with curly brown hair. “She knew I was arriving in town late this afternoon specifically to speak with her, and what does she do?”
The elder security man was about to open his mouth to answer, but Walston decided to answer his own question. “She’s gone off to the New York offices. Can you believe that?”
“Dr. Klyburn is a busy woman,” Richard said, beginning to defend the red-haired lead scientist. “When she took over from Dr. Albert Michaels as director, her workload increased tenfold.”
“Oh, please,” Walston said. “Don’t defend that woman to me! Jenet and I go way back, and believe me, she’s always been this way. When she doesn’t want to talk to someone, she avoids them!”
Richard didn’t want to get into a war of words, especially with someone so easily irate. Instead, he tried to steer the subject matter some. “So, what’d you want to talk to her about, anyway?”
While the security chief wasn’t the one he had rehearsed his pitch for, Walston figured it wouldn’t hurt to go over it once more, and this time aloud. “Well, you probably don’t know that much about the history of microwave research,” the scientist said. “Here’s some background. Back in 1946, a Dr. Percy Spencer from the Raytheon Corporation developed a device which would become the first commercial microwave oven. Back in those days, they were huge and bulky, measuring as large as five-and-a-half-feet tall and weighing over five-hundred pounds. And they were expensive, too.
“Since then, in just thirty years time, they had come down in size and cost without compromising in results. By 1976, over sixty percent of the homes in the United States had some kind of oven that utilized microwaves. It’s not unreasonable to assume that, very soon, nearly one-hundred percent of homes will have some form of microwave appliance. They have revolutionized the cooking experience.
“And I wanted to discuss my latest breakthrough with Dr. Klyburn!” He reached into the pocket of his sports coat and pulled out two small devices the size of large magic markers. “With these portable microwave generators, I can easily output as much energy as hundreds of kitchen ovens. It will revolutionize the industry, if I could just get the sign-off for STAR to fund the safety testing required.”
The security chief looked at the devices. “May I?” he asked as he reached out his hand for one.
“Are you crazy?” Walston asked, pulling it away and putting them into his pocket. “Why do you think I personally brought them to Metropolis? I can’t have anyone messing with my working models!”
Richard rolled his eyes. This guy was as eccentric as they came. “Well, maybe you should give her a call in New York, then.”
“I will!” Walston said. And the scientist stormed off for the nearest office to place a call.
Down near the waterfront, two of the security guards stood out back of the STAR facility, smoking. “Did you catch that ball game the other night?” one of the men asked.
“Yeah,” replied the other. “In fact, I lost twenty bucks from it.”
The first man laughed. “That’ll teach you to bet against the home team.”
From the shadows, two large, hairy arms thrust out and grabbed the two men by the head. Power Fist then slammed the two heads together hard, knocking both men out. The bodies slumped to the ground. The man in ape form then waved to the others, motioning for them to join him. He reached down and picked up the security card that fell from one of the guard’s necks.
“Good going, monkey man,” Throttle said. He grabbed the second security card, just in case. “This’ll make things a lot easier.” He swiped the card in the reader, unlocking the back door. “We better move.”
Blindside kept looking at the skies. “I wonder where Superman is.”
“Who cares?” grunted Shockwave. “If he does show up, we’ll take him out.” The big villain preferred fighting to moving about in the shadows. It had been weeks since his fight with Blue Devil, and he was itching for some more action.
The trio moved toward the door.
Power Fist glanced across the water toward Suicide Slum. Part of him felt a little homesick seeing the city skyline again. He wondered if he’d ever be able to go home again. As he entered the building, he caught his reflection in the shiny glass of the door. Not looking like this you won’t, he thought to himself. The Secret Society was his only option right now.
Three women enveloped in scarlet energy landed near the huge swimming pool on a large estate in California wine country.
The Tattooed Lady looked out on the landscape behind the home. The rows upon rows of tall bushes in the vineyard reminded her of the Greek countryside where she grew up. She recalled the smell of the grapes in the late spring as they ripened on the vine.
A purple-gloved hand tapped her on the shoulder, bringing her back to the moment. “Come, Lady,” said Star Sapphire. “We have work to do, remember?”
“Of course,” Tattooed Lady said, nodding. The two crossed the patio to where their third partner was busy with the door.
“I could take care of this with ease,” Star Sapphire said.
Magpie glanced back at the woman, her severe expression softening slightly as she caught sight of the gemstone on the brunette’s tiara. “Where’s the challenge in that, sweetie?” she asked. With a few small tools in her red-gloved hand, Magpie went back to working the lock. Then there was the sound of a click. The woman smiled. “See, all set.”
As Star Sapphire moved toward the door, Magpie stepped aside and said, “Age before beauty.”
Star Sapphire threw the bold woman a dirty look before entering the darkened study. Tattooed Lady moved to follow, but Magpie cut her off and entered second. The Greek woman followed and closed the door carefully with her foot to avoid leaving any fingerprints.
“Allow me,” Sapphire said. Her gemstone began to pulse slightly, bathing the room in a soft purple glow. “This should be sufficient in locating the safe.”
Tattooed Lady worked her way over to the fireplace on the far wall. “Mirror Master said it’s above the mantle,” she said, touching a tattoo on her exposed ankle and causing a pair of black gloves to materialize in the air. Grabbing them quickly, she donned them. She then reached up, sliding aside a large clock that sat on the black marble shelf. “Yes, here it is.”
“And there it will stay!” a male voice commanded as the lights suddenly came on. The three women turned to see a man with a gun standing at the doorway. “Step away from there now, missy!” Robert Dean, the wine mogul and owner of the estate, seemed ready to defend his home.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Magpie cooed as she took a step forward. “Perhaps the four of us could have some fun, eh, cutie?”
The brown-haired man trained his gun on the woman. “I said get back!” he ordered. “And put those hands in the air!”
Magpie smiled. “Of course.” She began to raise her hands slowly with palms up. As they reached about shoulder level, she flipped both wrists down fast and launched two spring-loaded needles into the man’s chest.
As Robert Dean fell to the ground, the gun went off. A scarlet energy burst caught the bullet midair, stopping it inches before hitting Magpie in the head.
Magpie merely turned, noticing some decorative baubles on one of the tables. “Oh, pretties!” She figured that they had a few extra moments now that Dean was taken care of, so grabbing things other than what was in the safe was fine.
Star Sapphire joined the Tattooed Lady at the safe after checking on Dean. “Is he dead?” the Greek woman asked.
“Instantly,” the alien woman replied. “Some kind of fast-acting poison on those needles.” Star Sapphire turned to Magpie, who was busy examining a Fabergé egg. This one would require a lot of watching. She was crazy, a wild card that could upset the game at any time.