Beneath the Capitol Building in Arnoldtown, D.C., rested an enormous complex full of equipment. Uniformed staffers followed orders and performed their duties with the emotionless efficiency of a hive full of drones.
However, their master was most assuredly full of emotion and energy as he watched his slaves with a feeling of satisfaction. From his secret base, he could monitor the daily activities of dozens of world leaders; President Ferraro, Prime Minister McCartney, and many other notables were all under his close and keen scrutiny. He effortlessly took in all he saw and just as easily gave orders to his pawns to both anticipate and, in some cases, promote the agendas of these oblivious world leaders.
He also watched as Superwoman derailed a train out of spite. On another screen he saw Alexander Luthor, the heroic champion of justice, laboring within his supposedly secret Fortress of Science. A leer crossed the watcher’s handsome face as he watched Luthor’s sister change clothes. It was easy for a man of his talents to run the world; however, at times, wild cards like the Crime Syndicate or Luthor’s new Secret Society of Super-Heroes threatened his clockwork precision. It was also, in truth, a bit boring to have everything come so easily to him. Thus, after years of being a puppet master behind the scenes of world events, the brilliant mastermind was ready to engage in some more physical pursuits.
“Alert the Brethren. I believe it is time we made our first appearance on the public stage and brought the curtain down on both the Syndicate and Luthor’s little coterie posthaste,” he said.
Yes, it was time he stepped out of shadows and claimed his world.
In a desert compound in the Southwestern United States, a handsome man smiled as he looked over his property and saw his people at work. Since Jim Jones had founded his Mars Gate Commune, he had attracted dozens of confused wealthy people with his combination of mind-reading what they wanted to hear — which also allowed him to access their potential usefulness to him — and his alien philosophy. Oh, he didn’t believe a word of the religions of his planet, but he still used his persuasive rhetorical skills to lull the naive into his service.
As Jim Jones — a form of his Martian name, J’imm J’onzz — the former Martian warlord and terrorist had made himself wealthy and powerful, since he deemed it necessary for him to have a power base separate from his role as the Crime Syndicate’s Martian Murderer. His shape-changing skills had enabled him to become the seemingly benign Jim Jones and use his alien lore to attract followers.
He grinned coldly as a pretty young woman approached slowly. He scanned her mind as he had routinely scanned many others and saw a need for a father figure and the loss of an older man from her young life; he also saw hunger, and he was eager to take advantage of the beauty.
“My child, what is your name and your need?” he said suavely.
She stared intently up at him with piercing dark eyes. “I am Arani. I need a place where I can belong. All my life in India, and here as well, I have been alone and different. Help me belong!” she pleaded.
J’imm nodded. “Of course I shall. The ways of my mentors from the Red Planet are open to all!” he said — again routinely. As they strolled across his huge complex, Mars Gate, she began to smile.
“I would offer my all to you!” she said.
He reached out his hand. “And I am humbled.”
“Not yet, but you will be,” she said and smiled as a burst of flame shot from her hand and encircled him. He screamed and returned to his normal white Martian form — alien and powerful.
She laughed, “I know all about you, alien trash! I also have your worst fear at my very command!” He elongated to escape her ring of fire and reeled backward as her other hand blocked his path with jutting ice blasts. “Call me Centrigrade,” she cooed as she skillfully sent fire rolling into him.
He fell stunned and a victim to both psychic fear of flame and the real energy she had unleashed. “How? I read her mind!” he groaned.
“And as one of the Brethren, I am immune to your petty mental probes,” she laughed as she kicked his fallen form.
Owlman and Raven watched from atop a skyscraper in Gotham City as Big Jim Gordon’s mob rushed out of the museum with a glass case.
“Owlman, there they go,” said the young punk called Raven.
“Indeed, they do. Now, tell me — what is it that we shall do?” said the scowling man in gray.
Raven smiled coldly. The man who murdered his father, Boss Zucco, was his worst enemy. The boy secretly hated Owlman with a passion, yet he also knew that he could never kill the fatal man until he had learned all he had to teach. Thus, he acted the role of the dutiful pupil and sidekick. “We wait and follow them to their base, then we rob the robbers.”
Owlman smiled coldly. “Well said, lad. Now to do exactly that.”
He reached for the belt line that would enable him to swing off the towering structure but frowned as his keen eyes noticed the movement of someone in the shadows. He gestured furtively to his ward, who nodded.
At once, Raven ducked as Owlman hurled a razor-sharp projectile through the air to slice through the old, worn masonry above the shadowy form.
As bricks cascaded down to bury the groaning man in the one-piece red costume, Owlman laughed. “Ah, my old foe, the Bouncing Man, just learned the definition of a fitting term — rebound!” he sneered. He crossed the roof to lift the stunned hero’s arm. “Dead — good. Idiot!” he said.
He pondered the Bouncing Man’s very existence. It seemed that since Alex Luthor had gathered a few do-gooders together as the Secret Society of Super-Heroes, other weak-minded dolts had taken to costumes as well. All of them sought to bring in the dreaded Crime Syndicate, and none had ever come close. Bouncing Man had made three attempts to trap Owlman with his inane rubber-suited stunts. They would have amused him — Dr. Thomas Wayne — had he not been irritated by the foolish man’s presumption.
Raven cackled as he rolled the body off the roof after considerable effort in clearing away the rubble.
Owlman suppressed a grin. “What are you doing, lad?” he asked, though he already knew the likely reply.
“Just want to see if his body bounces when he hits the ground,” said a smiling Raven.
Before Owlman could reply, he saw a newcomer. “Not another one of these dolts,” he hissed.
The newcomer wore gold and black. He flipped agilely through the air and landed softly in front of Owlman. He thrust forward with a jabbing punch that connected even as Owlman used his cloak to deflect some of the force. Owlman twisted as the silent man kicked him in the head and elbowed Raven’s startled form aside with precise but violent force.
Owlman cursed. “You’re very good. You even copied a few moves I thought were known only to me and one woman I left for dead.”
The man in gold and black said nothing. He merely ducked Owlman’s attack and caught him in a crushing embrace. He was forced to release him only when Owlman opened a pellet of noxious gas, and he fell hard.
Owlman sneered, “Good — but not good enough.”
He turned to Raven but fell flat as his foe suddenly rose from the roof with a combination of nerve jabs. He was carried off as a battered Raven watched in dismay.
“Good but not good enough? That’s what I was thinking about you,” whispered the Brethren member called Excelsior.