by Martin Maenza
Dr. Harleen Quinzel made her way around to the laboratory and stood quietly in the doorway as she watched three of the villains working near one of the tables. She glanced at her watch and noted the time. Lydia and I have a session, she thought, but she appears to be engaged. Indeed, the Tattooed Lady was the focal point of the activity being done in the lab today.
“Boy, I’m sure glad t’ have you around, Lydia!” Gizmo said as he stood on one of the stools, his arm propped on the edge of the table. “I know how t’ take apart and put together that chemicular-analysis device…” He gestured to a large machine standing at the edge of the table, which various tubes and such were connected to. “…but bein’ able to actually decipher the data it outputs, well, that’s a whole ‘nother thing altogether!”
“Gizmo, my light!” the dark-haired Tattooed Lady said as she held a glass beaker filled with a liquid very cautiously in her hand. Her eyes were focused on the tube she was about to pour some of the mixture into.
“Right, right,” Gizmo said, hopping down quickly. “Sorry about that.” The dwarf looked up at the other man present. “Say, Chronos, I didn’t think chemistry was your specialty, either. Figured you for a quantum physics kind of sort.”
“I am,” the white-masked villain said. “However, I’ve dabbled a little in the chemical pursuits as well. Just thought I’d be on hand if I were needed. Timing is everything in this sort of business.”
“Would you two kindly be quiet?” Lydia Anastasios said firmly. “I do not know about the rest of you, but I certainly do not want to experience any of this stuff firsthand.” Her hands trembled a bit as she started to pour. She understood from the others how dangerous it was.
“She’s right,” Gizmo said, dropping his voice to a whisper. “I hear this Joker-toxin can be lethal just with a touch.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Society of Super-Villains: Jihad.]
“It needs to be ingested,” Chronos corrected him, “or at least it works its best that way.”
“How do you know so much about it?” Gizmo inquired.
“When you’ve been around the block as much as I, you pick up lots of useful information,” Chronos said, very focused on what Tattooed Lady was doing.
Finally, she finished pouring and put the beaker down on the table; it was still half-full of the lethal liquid. “There,” she said, some relief washing over her. “Now we just have to let the analyzer do its work.” Lydia started to remove the gloves from her hands.
Dr. Quinzel approached the work area. “Finished here?” she asked. “We have our session this morning.”
“Yes, right,” the Greek woman replied. “Sorry. Gizmo, if you will bring me the results later…”
“Sure thing, little lady,” the dwarf replied. “I’d…”
Just then, Chronos touched a small device attached to his belt.
“…be glad to. You go ahead,” Gizmo finished his sentence. He picked up the nearly empty beaker. “I’ll put this away with the rest of the stuff.”
“I’ll be going, too,” Chronos said with a smile. He started to walk away, beginning to whistle to himself.
The two women left the lab right after Chronos and started to walk the other way down the hall. “We’ll be done by noon, won’t we?” Lydia asked. “I am supposed to meet someone for lunch.”
“We should be,” Dr. Quinzel said. She glanced at a clock on the wall and paused for a moment. Then she checked the watch on her wrist. The latter was off, behind by a good five minutes. She frowned slightly. Something wasn’t right.
Dr. Quinzel’s personal files — 0026542:08-12-87:
At last! Mirror Master finally brings in a recruit with some notoriety. Granted, working with Scudder to begin with was a highlight, and Copperhead is presenting an interesting challenge. Yet, for the most part, this “opportunity” has only allowed me to analyze some third-rate (at best) criminals. I mean, really, the likes of Power Fist, Throttle, Blindside, and Trident are hardly going to help me move copies of my book someday.
But, with the arrival of Chronos, this opens up things nicely. David Clinton has battled not only the Atom numerous times over the years, but he has also engaged the likes of Superman, Batman, and various other members of the JLA. And, like Scudder, Clinton adheres to a very specific motif — time — when creating weapons and committing crimes.
Haven’t had much time yet to get him on a one-on-one situation. So far, he seems very interested in the group itself and with Scudder’s approach to leading it. Too interested, perhaps. Hard to get a good read on him with that full facial mask.
I need to get an opening with him, a connection. Something to leverage into a one-on-one conversation. He seems very reluctant, unlike some of the others, to seek me out for discussion. No doubt leery of psychologists.
I need to work other angles here.
In the office she had set up in the Sinister Citadel, Dr. Quinzel sat in a leather chair with her yellow notepad in her lap. She had just finished scribbling down some notes in the shorthand she had devised for herself. “Is there anything else you wanted to go over today, Lydia?” the blonde doctor asked.
“No, I think that covers it,” the tattoo-covered Greek woman said. “We can always talk another time. I really should be going, though.”
“Of course,” Harleen said with a wave of her hand. “My door is always open. You should get off to that lunch appointment. Is it with Sam?”
“Sam?” Lydia repeated as she stood. “No, not Sam. He said he would be busy all day crunching some numbers.”
“But you two are doing well, right?” Harleen inquired.
“Oh, yes,” Lydia said with a smile. “We’re fine.”
“Good, good,” Harleen said. “I’ve seen an improvement in him as well since you two began to get… intimate. He seems a bit less on edge, you know.”
Lydia nodded, though her smile faded a bit, an obvious concern for her man. “Anyway, I need to go,” she said.
“Right, of course,” Harleen remarked. “Meeting someone for lunch. Old friend?”
Lydia averted her eyes. “Yes, something like that.” She started for the door. “Thank you, Dr. Quinzel.”
Harleen stood and put the pad on her desk. “Anytime.” Right after Lydia left, she picked up her pad and began to write once more.
Dr. Quinzel’s personal files — 0007311:09-19-87:
It isn’t that hard to notice when Miss Lydia Anastasios is acting unusually.
When I first met her nine months ago, she seemed like a very sheltered person. I was rather surprised to see someone like her involved with a group such as this. She didn’t fit. Square peg in a round hole.
The only connection I could draw was her relationship with Sam Scudder, the Mirror Master. It was obvious her feelings for him; she wore them as plainly as the images on her bare skin. But she didn’t strike me as the type who was a villain groupie. She seemed a bit too smart, too reserved for that. Most women in the groupie role tend to be vapid and blindly devoted to the male, there to stroke his ego, among other things.
Lydia is different.
Still, it’s not like her relationship with Sam is unique. She revealed to me that she was involved with Abel Tarrant a number of years back. Abel went by the name of the Tattooed Man and employed special inks. Lydia seems to share his penchant for body-markings. From how she has spoken of Abel, she obviously loved the man. In truth, I doubt she’d be with Sam now if Abel hadn’t been killed a few years ago. He was her first love; women tend not to forget their first love. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Tattooed Man, 1982: Love Inks.]
Still, today she seemed anxious, jumpy. Maybe it was from working on the analysis of the Joker-toxin that the group acquired from that raid in Qurac.
Maybe, though, it’s something more.
Unlike the others who have made this business their lives, she’s tried to maintain a life for herself outside of the group. She runs that tattoo shop downtown, for example, and spends a lot of time there. An anchor, if you will, to keep herself grounded. Or perhaps a way out should she find herself not truly up to the life she’s been leading.
Ever since Star Sapphire departed, I’ve been trying to fill the role of her girl confidant. That works in my favor. Perhaps I can get more out of her by working the “best friend” angle.
Mirror Master and Chronos were seated at the large dining table, their plates filled with items the cook had placed out on the day’s lunch buffet. The latter had removed his mask, so it was easier for him to eat.
“I have to admit,” Chronos said after gnawing on a fried chicken drumstick, “your staff puts out a decent spread.”
“Contrary to the saying, good help isn’t so hard to find,” Mirror Master replied. “You just have to be looking in the right places.”
“So, where’s that little lady of yours, Scudder?”
“We’re not joined at the hip. She can come and go as she pleases.”
“Probably helps that her face isn’t on wanted posters, huh? The price we pay for the lives we lead, right?”
“I suppose,” Mirror Master said. He reached for the newspaper folded next to him and flipped it open, glancing at the headlines.
Just then, Dr. Quinzel entered the room, assisting the brown-haired and very pregnant Paula Brooks.
Chronos noticed them by the food fixing plates. “Say, Scudder, what’s with the waddling one? How come you’re letting a pregnant woman stay here?”
Mirror Master didn’t glance up from the paper to respond. “It’s a favor for Harleen. She said Paula needed some place secluded for a while. Besides, I’m hoping she’ll return a favor at a future time. Paula, I mean.”
“Yeah?” Chronos wondered. “And how’s that? I’m still trying to place the face after all these weeks.”
“You’ve met her before, haven’t you?” Mirror Master asked. “She’s the Huntress. Married to the Sportsmaster.”
Chronos’ eyes sparked. “Oh, yeah! Right, right. Got roped into a ballgame by them with some other guys. Gave the Justice League a run for their money until they beat us in the last inning.” (*) He glanced over at the women again. “Yeah, yeah, that’s her.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Great Super-Star Game,” DC Super Stars #10 (December, 1976).]
Mirror Master took a sip of his coffee and tried to continue reading.
“So,” Chronos interrupted again, “what’s the doc’s story? She’s kind of a looker. Is she anyone I should know?”
“No,” Mirror Master said, his voice starting to sound a bit annoyed. “Look, if you want to know more about Harleen, why don’t you just ask her yourself?”
Chronos nodded, glancing over again to check out the woman’s long, slender legs. “I just might.”
Mirror Master let out a smile. He wasn’t about to warn his old associate that the woman was more than capable of holding her own against the likes of him.
Paula was getting help from Dr. Quinzel with her plate. The pregnant woman turned and then turned back. In a whisper, she said, “He keeps looking over this way. I don’t like him watching me!”
“Relax, dear,” Harleen said. “If he makes you that uncomfortable, we’ll take our plates elsewhere.” She put a roll on each of the plates. “Though I wish you would have just let me get this for you. You didn’t have to come all the way down here.”
“No,” Paula said with a slight gasp in her voice. “The exercise is good for me.”
“True,” Harleen said. “You need to keep your strength up for…”
Paula suddenly felt a sharp pain and let out a loud yell. “Aaa-aaahhh!”
When Harleen turned, she saw the woman leaning against the table with her hands about her abdomen. “Paula! Are you…?” Then she glanced down at the floor. “Oh…”
Paula looked up. “I think my water just broke…”
Both of the costumed men had stood up. “Is everything OK?” Mirror Master asked.
Dr. Quinzel shook her head. “She’s just going into labor!”
“Labor?” Chronos asked. “Here?”
“I’ll need both of you to help me get her down to the medi-lab,” Dr. Quinzel commanded. “Now!”
“Shouldn’t we get her to a hospital?” Mirror Master asked.
“No time,” the doctor replied. “We should be able to handle things here.”
“Here?” Paula asked with some concern.
Harleen put her hand gently on the woman’s shoulder. “I’ve done this before,” she said in a soothing tone. “You trust me, right?”
“I… I suppose,” Paula said.
“Good,” Harleen said with a smile. She turned to the guys again. “Well, come on, fellas! Move it! We’ve got a baby to deliver!”