In a shimmer of green light, the Crime Syndicate materialized inside their headquarters, the Eyrie of Evil.
“We came close that time,” Power Ring grumbled. “I could almost taste those emeralds!”
Owlman looked at his shredded cape. “The Lynx did a number on my cloak. It’s beyond repair — I’ll have to replace it.” Superwoman burst out in a fit of giggles. “What could possibly be funny?” Owlman demanded.
“I’m sorry,” Superwoman said through her laughter. “I guess I’m — hee-hee — still feeling the effects of the Clown’s gas!”
“Quiet, all of you!” Ultraman snapped. “Remember, the point of this exercise was not to grab the emeralds.”
“Although it would have been nice,” Johnny Quick commented.
“Agreed,” Ultraman said. “But we did manage to achieve our main goal — didn’t we, Owlman?”
“Definitely,” Owlman said. “Let me go tune in the scanner and get a fix on them.”
The Secret Society of Super-Heroes were heading triumphantly back to their secret headquarters in Metropolis. Alex Luthor flew alongside Yellow Flame, who transported the other three in a power-ring bubble.
“It’s a shame the Crime Syndicate got away again,” the Lynx reflected. “We’ve got to nail them before Power Ring can teleport them away!”
“True, but we did save those lovely emeralds from falling into the villains’ clutches,” Doctor Shadow pointed out. “That has to count for something.”
“Hey, cat-woman, nice brooch,” the Clown said, ogling the Lynx’s back. “Shouldn’t you be wearing it on the other side, though?”
“What are you talking about?” Lynx demanded. She craned her neck, trying to look at her own back.
“I believe our mirthful friend is referring to this,” Doctor Shadow said, plucking something off the Lynx’s back. He showed it to her — a small metallic pin in the shape of an owl’s head.
Lynx’s eyes grew wide. “Luthor! I think we’ve been bugged!”
“What?” Alex Luthor turned in midair. “Flame, let me inside the bubble, please.” Yellow Flame, the Korugarian member of the Secret Society, opened the bubble to let Luthor in. Lynx showed her leader the small device.
“Owlman must have slapped it on me during our fight,” Lynx concluded.
“Hmm… Yes, the sensors in my battle-suit confirm it does contain complex micro-circuitry,” Luthor said. “A tracking device. The Crime Syndicate must be trying to find our headquarters!”
“I shall vaporize the thing,” Yellow Flame offered. “Mind your hand, Alex.”
“No, wait,” Luthor said. “This could be the chance we’ve waited for. They think they can follow us to our headquarters with this. Why don’t we use it to lure them into a trap?”
The other members of the Secret Society of Super-Heroes grinned with delight.
“Are you sure that thing is working?” Ultraman demanded.
“I’m telling you for the tenth time, it’s working perfectly,” Owlman snarled. He looked down at a handheld device the size of a large calculator. The device’s case was molded in the shape of an owl’s head; the LCD screen was the owl’s eyes. “We’re almost on them.”
Superwoman looked down, peering through the power-ring bubble. “A ghost town in the middle of the Nevada desert? Doesn’t seem likely.”
“Likely or not, that’s where it is,” Owlman said as they banked down. “Inside that old saloon, to be exact.”
“It’s certainly the last place anyone would look,” Power Ring said. They touched down on the dusty street outside the saloon. They walked in. The place was dark and full of dust and cobwebs. It did not look like anyone had been there in decades.
“So where’s their headquarters?” Johnny Quick asked. “Do we pull the beer tap to activate a secret elevator or something?”
“Look!” Superwoman shouted, pointing. Something rested on the bar. Ultraman raced over for a closer look. It was Owlman’s transmitter pinned to a piece of paper. On the paper, the words HA HA were written in large crayon.
“Everybody out!” Ultraman shouted. The Crime Syndicate raced out of the saloon, only to be brought up short against a shimmering blue field of energy.
“Last roundup, pardners,” the Clown mocked as the Secret Society strolled out of the general store across the street from the saloon.
“I wouldn’t bother trying to teleport out of that bubble,” Luthor warned. “It’s a special energy field of my own devising. It disrupts any energy that tries to pass through it. I’m not saying you can’t discorporate and go through it — I’m just not guaranteeing you’ll be able to pull your atoms together again.”
“We found your little transmitter,” the Lynx sneered at Owlman. “And you walked right into our trap.”
“On the contrary,” Ultraman laughed. “This is a trap, all right — but you’re the ones who are in it!”
Just then, in a shimmer of green light, six more costumed figures appeared on the dusty street just a hundred yards down from the Secret Society of Super-Heroes. The heroes whirled, on their guard, and looked at the six newcomers. One wore a golden costume and a shiny helmet of brilliant blue. Another wore a dark costume and a mask with no eye holes. A third carried a bow and wore a quiver full of arrows on his back. A fourth writhed like a snake as he stood there, his limbs extending and retracting, his neck elongating and snapping back. The fifth and sixth were already familiar to Luthor — a man with chalk-white skin and huge cabled muscles, who stood nearly seven feet tall, and the barely perceptible six-inch-tall man in a black and red costume standing on the white giant’s shoulder.
“We knew you’d find the transmitter — we planned it that way,” Ultraman declared. “Meet the newest members of the Crime Syndicate: Doctor Chaos, Sundown, Deadeye, and Rubberneck. And of course you already know the Martian Murderer and Microbe. We’ve told the new members all about you, and they’re just itching to show you what they can do.”
Five of the six newcomers slowly advanced on the Secret Society, while Microbe disappeared from view. The heroes tensed, preparing themselves for battle. Not a word was spoken; none were needed. The heroes and villains chose their opponents and squared off in battle.
Luthor took to the skies above the ghost town, followed closely by the one called Doctor Chaos, who opened the battle with a bolt of purple energy launched from his azure glove. Luthor barely dodged this.
“Fascinating energy-blast,” Luthor commented. “My battlesuit sensors don’t recognize it as any part of the electromagnetic spectrum.”
“Your filthy scientific devices would not acknowledge my power,” Doctor Chaos said in a hollow voice. “For mine is the magical might of the Lords of Chaos.” The blue-helmeted man punctuated this remark with twin beams of sickly green light from his eyes. Luthor didn’t manage to evade these entirely — one grazed his leg, and he felt as though his entire body had been plunged into a vat of liquid nitrogen. He shivered in midair, mentally turning up the thermal conditioners in his battle-suit.
Yellow Flame ringed up a golden fist to enclose the mightily muscled one called the Martian Murderer. Luthor had told him and the other members of the Secret Society about him, but he had not been seen since shortly before the founding of the Society. “You surprise me,” the Korugarian said. “Are you truly from the planet the Earth-people call Mars?”
“I am,” the Murderer said, turning immaterial and walking through Yellow Flame’s fist. “I was brought to this world by Luthor, who sought to use me to fight the Lawless Legion for him. Doing so, he also broke me out of a Martian prison. But don’t call me ungrateful — I will ensure his death is quick and painless.” Faster than he could ring up a defense, Yellow Flame was rushed by the Murderer. Only his ring’s protective field saved him from being pulped by the mighty albino’s fists.
Doctor Shadow summoned a large field of darkness to enclose the one called Sundown. The villain only laughed at him.
“Did you not notice my mask?” Sundown asked. “I do not see as you do. My mind is my eye, and your blackness cannot blind it. But I have such power over you!”
Doctor Shadow felt a tingling behind his eyes. Suddenly, everything went dark. The villain was somehow interfering with his own brain, blocking his visual receptors. For a hundred and fifty years, Doctor Shadow had made others blind, but never had it been done to him. Fear clutched his heart like a hand of ice.
“Whoa — you must have been the tallest one in your class,” the Clown said, watching the new Crime Syndicate member stretch toward him. The villain’s legs remained a hundred yards away, but his upper body was lunging at the Clown like a snake. “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch your name. Rubberduck, wasn’t it?”
“Rubberneck,” the villain corrected as his oversized hands made a grab for the Clown.
“Sorry — I only hold hands on the first date,” the Clown said politely, pressing his palm into the villain’s. Rubberneck leaped back as he got a shock from the high-voltage joy buzzer concealed in the Clown’s glove. The Clown’s laugh was short-lived, though. He skipped away from the oversized hand right onto the villain’s other hand, which he had flattened out and laid on the ground like a carpet. Rubberneck quickly whipped it out from under the Clown, and the hero tumbled head over heels.
“Stand still and get shot, willya?” Deadeye grumbled. He had fired four exploding arrows at the Lynx. She had leaped and somersaulted out of the way of all of them.
“In your dreams, William Tell,” Lynx said as she landed on her feet. “God, why are the cute ones always so dumb?“
“Purr all you want, kitty, but sooner or later one of my arrows’ll catch ya!” Deadeye declared, launching another arrow. Lynx somersaulted out of this one’s way as well, but failed to noticed the arrow Deadeye fired at the street below her. She came down feet first in a puddle of super-strong adhesive.
“Now for the kill,” Deadeye grinned, notching another arrow to his bowstring.
In midair, Doctor Chaos had formed a pyramid of glowing blue light. Luthor was inside this, doubled up and lying on the floor of the pyramid.
“Man of science, your might was no match for that of Doctor Chaos,” the magician boasted. “Now prepare for oblivion!”
But Luthor was not doubled up in pain or in fear. He was hiding his movements from Chaos. He had long known of the existence of magic, but he considered it merely a science he didn’t understand. He figured if he adjusted and refined the controls of the energy collection systems in his battle-suit long enough, they could latch onto the particular frequency of Chaos’ magic energy.
And he was right. In a brilliant burst of blue light, the pyramid winked out.
“What — how did–?” Chaos stammered. He’d thought Luthor had made the pyramid vanish. Rather, its energies had been absorbed into his battlesuit.
“I think I have something of yours, Chaos,” Luthor said smugly. “Here, you can have it back.” Thrusting his right hand forward, Luthor released the magical energy in a single bolt. This struck Chaos full in the chest. Without uttering a sound, the evil wizard plummeted to the ground.
“Strike all you want,” the Martian Murderer snarled as Yellow Flame pummeled him with golden energy fists. “When you tire of it, let me know and I will end all your suffering.”
Yellow Flame believed it. The mighty giant was shrugging off all his attacks. In the back of his mind was the knowledge to defeat this foe. When he was in the Scavengers of Qward, one of his fellow Scavengers had told him about this race of beings from Mars. Of course, he didn’t refer to them as Martians — that was a Terran term for them, which made it all the harder for Yellow Flame to remember what Tomar-Re had told him their weakness was.
“Had enough, little man?” the Murderer asked.
Ah, of course — that was it! A thin golden beam stabbed forth from Yellow Flame’s ring, and the ground at the Murderer’s feet burst into flame in a ring around him.
“No!” the Murderer howled.
“Not used to the blindness, are you?” Sundown asked as he advanced toward Doctor Shadow. The hero was obviously shaken by his new handicap — he moved haltingly, unsurely. “I was unused to mine, too, when I was grazed by a cop’s bullet fired in a shootout with crooks. I was an innocent bystander, and the city gave me a huge check for my blindness. I used the money to fund the research that developed my mental method of sight. The power to mentally block others’ sight centers was an unexpected bonus. You know, Doctor Shadow, I think I shall rather enjoy killing you.”
Doctor Shadow was glad of the villain’s boasting. His sight was gone, but his hearing was still good. Sundown’s big mouth allowed Doctor Shadow to guide a solid shadow-hammer right toward him, and it struck the villain square in the chest. As the breath left Sundown’s body in a gasp, Doctor Shadow’s sight suddenly returned.
Rubberneck had wrapped his left arm around the Clown like a boa constrictor. The mirthful hero’s arms were pinned to his body; he could not move.
“Now, blank-face, I’m gonna pound you into white hamburger,” Rubberneck announced, forming his right fist into an anvil shape and raising it high above his head. The Clown was not looking at him, though — out of the corners of his eyes he was staring at his own jester’s scepter, lying on the street. Rubberneck noticed this and saw the Clown’s fingers hopelessly reaching for it.
“Oh, you want your stick, huh?” the ductile villain scoffed. “It must be a pretty bad weapon. Here, let me get it for you.” The villain’s right hand shot like a cobra and scooped up the scepter. It had a miniature version of the Clown’s face for a head. Rubberneck pointed the face at the Clown.
“Let’s see, I can feel a button… here!” Rubberneck pressed the control stud of the scepter. A jet of greenish-yellow vapor instantly shot out of the back of the scepter, right into the villain’s face. He was instantly overcome by a violent fit of sneezing. So intense were the sneezes that he released the Clown, who did a little dance of joy.
“Good thing I made old L-to-pay use my design idea for my scepter,” the Clown laughed to himself. “That backward-firing gag gets ’em every time!”
“Any last words, kitten?” Deadeye asked as he drew the bowstring and aimed the arrow at the trapped Lynx.
“Just three — eat my hairballs!” Lynx slung her arm forward. Her artificial claws detached from her glove and sailed through the air, neatly slicing through Deadeye’s bowstring. The arrow fell to the ground and exploded at the archer’s feet, sending him flying backward.
“Yep — the cute ones are always dumb,” Lynx said to herself, bending to remove her boots.
Luthor flew down to examine the fallen Doctor Chaos. He hadn’t intended to kill the wizard, but merely stun him. As he landed at Chaos’ side, he saw that the villain still lived. With a gasping breath, Chaos uttered a single word: “Microbe.” And with that, he vanished.
The same tableau played out all over the battlefield. The villains, knowing they were defeated, said the name Microbe and were instantly teleported away.
“The diminutive genius called Microbe undoubtedly had his teleportation ray at the ready,” said Alexander Luthor. “It explains why he took no part in the battle.”
“Hey, look!” the Clown said, pointing at the saloon. The blue force field was still there, but the Crime Syndicate was gone.
“They must have figured a way out while we were battling their new recruits,” Doctor Shadow mused.
“Yes, and now they have doubled their strength,” Yellow Flame said grimly.
“The fight will be harder than ever,” Luthor agreed. “But we will continue to fight them, and eventually we will imprison them.”
“Say, Flame,” the Lynx said, walking up to her teammate on bare feet, holding her ruined boots in one hand. “Could we ride home in separate bubbles? It’s not safe to go barefoot around the Clown.” From somewhere in his bag of tricks, the Clown had produced a white feather and was grinning wolfishly at the Lynx. The heroine shuddered.
“I don’t believe it!” Ultraman shouted, storming around the Eyrie of Evil, knocking things over. “More than twice as many members as before, and still they beat us! It’s inconceivable!”
“Is he always like this?” Deadeye whispered to Power Ring.
“Lately,” Power Ring whispered back.
“Look, U-man,” Owlman began, “they just had the edge, that’s all. Next time…”
“Yeah,” Ultraman said, eyes brightening. “The edge. That’s right. And next time, we’ll have the edge!”
Superwoman began, “What do you–?”
“I have something to do,” Ultraman said curtly as he stormed off to the room where he kept his supply of kryptonite. His teammates heard a door slam. They remained silent for a moment.
Then Johnny Quick broke the silence. “Anyone for Monopoly?”
“Mono-what?” the Martian Murderer asked.