by Martin Maenza
Dressed as always in his orange and green costume, including mask, Mirror Master rose from his desk and stretched. He had been working late into the night in his brown wood-paneled office, but he had a lot of things on his mind to sort out. The office was one place in the Sinister Citadel that he considered his sanctuary.
I couldn’t force Star Sapphire to stay, he thought to himself as he adjusted one of the ornate mirrors on the wall. (*) To do that would have been more trouble than it was worth. I knew when she showed up on our doorstep less than a year ago that she was here for a purpose. Her destiny, it would appear, lies elsewhere, and I couldn’t stand in the way of that.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Society of Super-Villains: The Three Rs, Plus One.]
Mirror Master started for the door. Besides, I doubt she would have fallen for Neron’s song and dance.
He shook his shoulders slightly. The reflective rogue felt a slight chill at the mere thought of that demon. That’s really what all this is all about, he had to admit to himself. Finding folks who are willing to do anything for some power, but who aren’t going to be a threat to me.
Mirror Master shook his head, having enough of those thoughts. Perhaps it was time for some sleep. He stepped out of his office into the carpeted foyer just as the elevator door dinged and opened. Out stepped a man in a yellow and purple costume. His mask was in his hand, along with his namesake weapon, and there was a smile on the young black man’s face.
“I take it you had success, Trident?” Mirror Master asked.
“Boss, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Trident beamed, and stepped aside.
Next off the elevator was a dark-haired woman with olive skin. The parts of her body that were not covered by a sleeveless black top and short skirt were decorated with ornate pictures made with special inks. Her face, however, had a more concerned look. The Tattooed Lady hurried over to the team leader and said softly, “Please do not be mad…”
Before Mirror Master could ask her about this odd statement, the last figure stepped off the elevator. The villain’s jaw dropped slightly at the sight; it was not at all who he had expected. Before him was a man in a long, flowing yellow cape. The man’s face was covered in a white mask with two arrows about the forehead. The mask was framed by a high-collared yellow cape that hung off his shoulders. The upper portion of his skintight costume was green, and the leggings were black-and-white-striped. An hourglass emblem sat upon his chest.
“Chronos?!” Mirror Master exclaimed in much surprise.
The time thief smiled wickedly. “Scudder, it is you!” Chronos replied. “I’d know that voice anywhere.” He moved over and thrust his hand out. “My, oh my, it has been a long time, hasn’t it? And here I heard a rumor that your clock had finally wound down. Instead, you’ve just gone underground.”
Mirror Master begrudgingly shook the villain’s offered hand, all the while sending glaring looks at both Tattooed Lady and Trident. “Why don’t you step into my office, Chronos?” Sam Scudder said, gesturing to the open door. “We can reflect on old times and such.”
“Of course,” Chronos said with a wily grin. He spun on his heel, his cape whirling about, and strode confidently into the office.
Mirror Master turned to the other two. “This is not the Floronic Man!” he said in a firm but angry whisper. “What the hell happened?”
“Well…” Lydia started to say.
“We had some trouble,” Trident said. “Turns out the plant guy was not into the offer. But Chronos there bailed us out. I figured we shouldn’t come home empty-handed, so…”
Mirror Master growled slightly, anger welling up in his face.
“Please do not be mad,” the woman said, stepping between the two men and putting her hands on Mirror Master’s shoulders. “He already knew too much, having overheard us talking with the Floronic Man. We could not just leave him be with that knowledge. I did not know what to do, but knew that you would.”
The leader looked at the woman’s eyes and saw sincerity in her words. There was something about her that seemed to melt through his cold heart at the simplest of glances. How could he be angry when she was clearly as upset about it as he was?
Mirror Master frowned slightly. “Fine, you’re right,” he said. “I’ll handle this. You two better get off to your quarters. It’s late.” Trident and Tattooed Lady nodded and headed off.
Shaking his head, Mirror Master gathered his composure and started for his office. This would take some good spin-doctoring. The reflective rogue stepped into the office and closed the door behind him.
His guest was looking around at things when he heard the door click. “Nice setup,” Chronos said in a slightly complimentary way. “Much better than working out of a warehouse or basement.” He tilted his head toward the window. “Good view of the Bay, too. Must be splendid at sunrise and sunset.”
“It serves its needs.” Mirror Master moved around the large oak desk and sat in his high-backed leather chair. He motioned for the other villain to sit as well.
“And just what might those needs be?” Chronos asked pointedly. “Your lackeys there mentioned recruiting for an opening in your organization, but they were very tightlipped about what exactly it was all about. You must really be trying to keep this Secret Society of yours a secret this time, eh?”
Mirror Master forced a smile. “Well, if you hadn’t caught rumors of us yet, then we must be doing something right.”
“But what, exactly, are you doing?” Chronos inquired. “Making the most of your time, I hope.”
“Covert operations. Acquisitions of property and capital to further fund the organization, but on a very low profile. To be honest, I was getting a bit tired of mixing it up with the costumed do-gooder crowd for the sake of revenge and whatnot. We’re criminals. It should be about the crimes and getting away with them to enjoy the rewards. Don’t you agree?”
“Of course. But there is a time and place for revenge, too.”
“This isn’t the time nor the place,” Mirror Master said firmly. “This isn’t like the Injustice Gang. I don’t tolerate those kinds of antics.”
Chronos nodded, recalling how they two, along with the Scarecrow, the Shadow Thief, Poison Ivy, and the Tattooed Man, had initially been recruited by Libra to attack the Justice League. Only, it turned out that Libra had used the six as pawns to attain his own power. (*) After that first formation, the Injustice Gang had regrouped a number of times, but inevitably they found themselves on the losing end of a battle with the Justice League of America or other heroes. “I see your point.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Balance of Power,” Justice League of America #111 (June, 1974).]
“Do you?” Mirror Master asked. “Do you really? I’ll be straight with you, Clinton. If — if — I decide to let you stay, you keep in line. I’m the man in charge here, and what I say goes. There is no place for two leaders, got it?”
Chronos considered. David Clinton knew all about biding his time, and that good things came to those who were patient. “All right, Scudder,” he said. “I’m in.” He offered his hand as a gesture to seal the deal. Mirror Master shook it.
Leaning back in his chair, Chronos said, “So, tell me, what’s the deal with the little lady? She Tarrant’s legacy, or what?” He was referring to the Tattooed Lady, who had followed in the footsteps of the late Abel Tarrant, known as the Tattooed Man. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: The Tattooed Man: Times Past, 1982: Love Inks.]
“In a way,” Mirror Master replied. He broke out a cigar from his humidor and offered one to Chronos as well. The two would sit up for a while chatting before Mirror Master would show him to one of the vacant quarters.
Lydia Anastasios lay naked underneath the bed sheet when light streamed through the opening of the bedroom door. She rolled over to face the wall, her eyes closed, but still very much awake. The room went dark again as the door shut. There were some sounds from the bathroom.
Eventually, the man who entered the room pulled back the covers carefully on one side and slipped into the bed. After a moment or two, he became comfortable lying on his back.
She waited for a few moments, then said softly, “Sam?”
“Mmm,” he said replied in a similar tone.
“Are you mad at me?”
“No, not mad.”
“Perhaps a little. But not necessarily in you. Just in the whole situation.”
Lydia rolled over, moving her body close to his. She put her left arm gently on his bare chest. “I just wanted to be sure,” she said. “I could not stand to have you angry with me. I do not know what I would do if you were.”
“It’s late,” he said groggily. “We’re both tired. We can talk more in the morning.”
“OK,” Lydia said. “Good night.” There was a pause, but no response. Then she heard the light snoring of the man who had become her lover and trusted friend. She closed her eyes and went to sleep.
Monday morning arrived on the West Coast. Chronos, having had a day or so to adjust to his new surroundings, realized that the breakfast spread set out by the staff in the main conference room was not to be missed. Dressed in his full costume sans mask, the dark-haired villain with the receding hairline entered the room.
Before him was a sprawling table with various items. Fresh fruit of all colors greeted the eyes, and the smell of freshly baked pastries welcomed the nose. He even thought he spotted scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage in the warming dishes at the far end of the room. “Got to hand it to Mirror Master,” he said aloud. “He’s doing this up big-time.”
A woman with dark curly hair had her back to the man when he entered, and she turned around when he spoke. “Are you talking to…?” Paula Brooks said. When the former Huntress got a glimpse at the speaker, she stopped mid-sentence, and her eyes grew wide.
“No,” Chronos replied. Then he actually took a second take and noticed the woman. From the protrusion of her belly and the type of dress she was wearing, he could easily tell the woman was pregnant. This took him aback. A pregnant woman? Here? He then looked at her again. “Say, do I know you?”
“No,” Paula shook her head hurriedly. She picked up her plate with fruit and two muffins and hurried from the room.
Chronos shook his head. “That was weird.”
“Indeed,” a smarmy voice came from the doorway. Chronos turned to see that the speaker was an impeccably well-dressed man in a designer suit with a silk tie. The man had dark brown hair and a finely groomed mustache and beard. “I concur that the caliber of company recently come to the Citadel is most curious.”
Chronos eyed the smooth-talking man. “And you are?”
“The world famous Funky Flashman, in the flesh,” the huckster said with an introductory flair. “No need to announce yourself.” He put his arm about the costumed villain’s shoulders. “We have all the time in the world to get to know one another, eh, Chronos?”
Chronos just raised an eyebrow.
Down the hallway and back toward the living quarters, a tall young woman in a tailored gray skirt-suit with blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun almost ran into the fleeing pregnant woman. “Paula, what’s the rush?” Dr. Harleen Quinzel asked.
“Inside, Harleen!” Paula Brooks instructed as she ducked into the quarters that had been set up for her. Once the psychiatrist joined her and closed the door, the panicked woman felt free to speak. “I don’t think this is going to work out!”
“Paula, why?” Harleen asked.
“At breakfast, I ran into someone who might know who I am.”
“Chronos, the time thief,” Paula said. “Remember when you visited Crusher and I a couple months back? We told you about that baseball game we staged.”
“Heroes against villains,” Harleen said, nodding. “I remember.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Origins: Huntress and Sportsmaster: The Games People Play, Chapter 2: The Strangest Sports Story.]
“Well, Chronos was on my husband’s team. If he puts two and two together, he might figure out who I am, and word could get back to Crusher!” Fear came to her eyes as she thought of that. “If he finds me, I don’t know what I’ll do.” She gently rubbed her stomach as if to protect the unborn child therein.
“Oh,” the doctor said. “Well, I suppose I can arrange for your meals to be brought to you in your room. Though keeping confined might grow tedious for you until you deliver your child.”
“It’s only three months. I’ll cope,” Paula said.
“But,” Harleen said, “I think you won’t need to put yourself through all that.”
“What?” Paula asked.
“I was actually looking for you, anyway.” Harleen handed the woman the folded piece of paper she had been holding in her hand.
“What is it?” Paula asked.
“Read it and see,” Harleen replied.
Paula took the paper, unfolded it, and read the type. “It’s a news bulletin.”
“Yup,” Harleen said. “Straight off the AP wire.”
Paula Brooks continued to read the words. Her tense body seemed to relax the further she got. When she got to the end, she looked up from the paper. “This is the real deal? No joke?”
“No joke,” Harleen said. “That deadbeat husband of yours was turned over to the Gotham City police very early this morning after he kidnapped some ballplayer yesterday. (*) Seems he was raving like a madman, too, when they booked him. Might end up in Arkham for a spell if he keeps that up.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Wildcat: Batter.]
“So he’s in jail,” Paula said, sitting. “Crusher is in jail.” She let the words sink in.
“I thought you could use the good news,” Harleen said. “Now, there’s no guarantee how long he’ll be in there. You know how much a revolving door some of those prisons can be.”
“True,” Paula said absently.
“But I wouldn’t worry about it,” Harleen continued. “If they lock him up in the Gotham pen or even the Asylum, he’ll be kept under a watchful eye. Any break, and he’ll have that whole Bat-family on his trail again.” She noticed Paula staring off. “Hey, earth to mom-to-be.” She snapped her fingers.
“What?” Paula snapped back into focus. “Sorry. What were you saying?”
“I was saying that, now you know where your hubby is, you don’t have to keep watching over your shoulder so much,” the doctor said. “Spend time focusing on you and the little one.”