by Martin Maenza
A stunning woman with shoulder-length black hair, dressed in a matching red business suit and heels, crossed the expansive atrium of the Loman Building. With its thirty-five-story open center lobby and many of the lower floors facing into it, the Loman Building was still one of the more impressive buildings in downtown San Francisco. The woman crossed to the central elevator, her heels clicking on the marble floor, and pushed the call button.
Over the last few years, this particular woman had gone by a number of names. Doing so suited her needs for the mission she was on. Today it was her guise of Camille Fortier, the prominent real-estate agent, that served those needs the most. The elevator door opened, and she stepped inside the empty car.
The elevator itself only allowed public access to the first eighty-five floors. In order to reach her destination, she would require a special pass card. She reached into her purse and nervously pulled out a plastic card. “I hope this still works,” she said. Inserting the card into the slot, she pressed the button for the uppermost floor and held her breath. A light above the card slot turned green, and the car began its long journey upward.
Camille breathed a sigh of relief. “One hurdle cleared,” she said to herself. Turning to the mirrored back wall of the car, she checked her appearance, nervous about what she was up to, though she didn’t want to appear so. “If I am lucky, I can get in and out without encountering anyone. Assuming what I seek is even still there.”
The woman turned back and watched the digital display count the floors — eighty-two, eighty-three, eighty-four. Once it passed eighty-five, the number display went blank. The car, however, continued to climb on. When it finally came to a stop, there was a brief pause before the doors slowly opened. No turning back now, she thought to herself as she stepped out into the plush carpeted foyer of the ninetieth floor.
The main entryway was just as she had recalled it from years ago. Done up in a style reminiscent of a men’s social club, with dark wood paneling and expensive furniture, it certainly appeared that no one had taken up residency since those days.
Of course, Camille had already believed that to be the case, since she had used her connections in the business to determine if the property had changed hands recently. As far back as the records went, the office space on these top floors had remained with the initial owner, who had purchased them outright instead of leasing. If the place was still as well kept as it appeared to be, it meant that someone had to be using the facilities fairly recently.
There didn’t appear to be any sign of activity. No lights were on, but the place was well-illuminated, thanks to the one-way glass windows, which allowed the daily sunshine to pass in, but prevented anyone outside from spying on the activities within the structure. A necessity when trying to keep things a secret, she thought as she made her way to the open staircase. If memory served her correctly, what she needed access to was up on the second floor of the suite within the building.
Camille’s heels clicked gently on the stairs as she ascended them. Every five steps or so, she would stop to listen. Did she hear another sound, or was it just her imagination? It had to be nothing, she thought to herself. Being paranoid is not like you. She shook her head. No, she really hadn’t been herself for quite a while now. That was what she planned on rectifying. You are a warrior, so act like one!
She crossed over to a room on the next level and opened the door slowly. Peering inside, she could see that it did house computer systems that appeared to be up and in working order. Someone must have been here in recent years, she thought. The whole reason for the initial move to the Cortney building was to avoid being discovered. (*) But since I checked there first and found vacant office space, it only makes sense that everything was back where it had all began.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Let the Villain Fit the Crime,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #8 (July-August, 1977).]
Either way, she didn’t want to waste any time; she was in no position to face whoever was currently occupying the facility. Just retrieve what information I require and get out. Camille went right to work at the keyboard; the sound of clicking keys was loud enough for her not to notice a vent grate in the ceiling slowly moving up and away.
On the screen before her, the indicator said SEARCHING… as it attempted to locate the information she sought. Camille drummed her nails gently on the console. “C’mon, hurry up,” she said under her breath. “I have got to get out of here before I am discovered.”
“Too late for that, misssy!” a voice hissed as her arms were unexpectedly pinned back to her side in the chair.
She cursed when she looked down and realized that she was being held by a thick, golden-colored appendage. The chair whipped around suddenly, and the captive woman immediately knew who she was facing. “You!” Camille exclaimed. “Copperhead!”
“The one and only,” the villain hissed. Dressed in a full bodysuit covered with golden scales and topped with a snake effigy helmet with two long fangs, the man within the costume grinned at her. The suit’s prehensile tail held the woman firmly in the chair. “But you have me at a bit of a disssadvantage, misssy. Sssurely, if we’d have met, I’d remember a woman asss fine asss you.” The tail began to squeeze her ever so slightly; he could easily snap her in two if he desired to do so. His tail had been know to shatter concrete. He could see she tried to hide the discomfort on her face.
“Now, sssweetie, would you care to explain how you got in here, and what you’re looking for?” Copperhead asked. “Or do I need to put the sssqueeze on you a bit?” His tail tensed a bit harder, and the woman let out an agonizing groan through gritted teeth.
“Enough, Copperhead,” another voice said from the doorway. Into the room stepped a man dressed in an orange costume with green boots and trim. His head was covered in a green cowl.
“Mirror Master!” Camille exclaimed. Her outburst caused Copperhead to tighten his tail even more, and she screamed.
Mirror Master put his hand firmly on the other villain’s shoulder. “I said back off, Copperhead,” he said firmly. “I expect you to do as I say without having to repeat myself.”
Copperhead released his tail, bringing it back to his side. “OK, Ssscudder,” the snake-dressed villain replied reluctantly. “It’sss your show. You call the shots.”
Mirror Master removed his hand and smiled. “And you’ll do best to remember that, my friend.” He turned back to the woman, who was taking a deep breath. “I apologize for the rough treatment, but we have every reason to be cautious. Especially with uninvited guests like yourself.”
Camille straightened herself and looked him up and down. “Scudder? As in Sam Scudder?” she asked. “I heard a rumor that you were dead, and that someone else had taken up your gimmicks.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: The Beginning of the End, Chapter 2: Done With Mirrors.]
He smiled. “That’s what I hear as well. But it suits my needs at this point in time to let an impostor run around. It allows me the luxury to conduct my business unnoticed.”
Copperhead crossed his arms in disgust. “Why all the small talk? She waltzes in here, tries to tap into our computers, and you act like you’re having morning coffee with her. What gives?” He now spoke normally, foregoing the hissing sounds he made while speaking in character.
Mirror Master put one finger to the side of his chin. “Coffee. An excellent idea.” He turned to the woman. “Is coffee all right with you, my dear?”
“Only if you have those nice European blends,” Camille stated.
“Of course.” Mirror Master smiled and pointed to his partner. “Copperhead, go fetch us some and bring it to my office.”
“But…” the serpentine man sputtered.
“Do it!” Mirror Master barked. The other villain slithered off, making sure to keep any grumbling muffled by his mask.
The office with an incredible view of the bay was spacious and well-decorated. The desk was a large oak piece that matched the bookcases and complemented the paneling. Along the walls were mirrors of various sizes and decoration. The man in orange and green sat behind the desk in an oversized leather chair. The woman sat before him on a comfortable leather couch, slowly sipping her coffee.
The man in the golden snake costume stood impatiently in the doorway. “I ask again, just who is this woman?” Copperhead spat. “She certainly don’t look like much to me.”
“Patience, my friend,” Mirror Master said. “There is more to her than meets your untrained eye. After all, mirrors don’t lie.” He placed his elbows on the table and leaned forward over the desk. “If she had the means to take what she wanted, she wouldn’t be sitting here drinking coffee with us, would she?” He turned to address the woman. “So, my dear, let’s hear who you are, how you managed to get in here, and what you were expecting to find. Otherwise, I just might have to let Copperhead have his way with you.”
The snake villain grinned. Perhaps he shouldn’t have questioned Mirror Master’s judgment after all.
Camille drank a bit more of her coffee, considering her options carefully. Realizing that she had little bargaining power at this juncture, the truth was pretty much her only option. “All right,” she began, “I will tell you my tale. But you both do know me, as we have worked together in the past. Out of this particular location, in fact. I appear before you right now as any woman might, but I also go by the nom de plume of the Star Sapphire.”
“Ah-ha!” Copperhead exclaimed. He looked at Mirror Master, but didn’t see a surprised expression; Sam Scudder’s face reflected more of a smug confidence.
“Forgive his outburst, my dear,” Mirror Master apologized. “Please do go on.”
“You both had received initial invitations to join the first incarnation of the Secret Society of Super-Villains, as did I,” Camille explained. “Along with the likes of Sinestro, Captains Cold and Boomerang, and Gorilla Grodd. All brought together by the Manhunter, a clone of Paul Kirk. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Attend or Die,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #1 (June, 1976).]
“While some folks were confused into thinking I was the original Star Sapphire who had fought Green Lantern, a few in the organization knew that was not the case. At that time, it was my hope to associate with the right parties so that I could get a lead on the other woman who shared the same name and power.
“Unfortunately, there seemed to be little time for me to accomplish that. The Society first opposed the plans of Darkseid and his minions like Mantis and Kalibak. (*) After that, the organization turned its attention to challenging heroes like the Justice League, pursuing personal agendas like those of the Wizard from Earth-Two, or acting as a work-for-hire outfit thanks to Funky Flashman’s actions.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “War for Earthdeath,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #3 (October, 1976), “When Thieves Fall Out,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #4 (December, 1976), “Endgame,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #5 (February, 1977), “Death Times Five,” DC Special Series #6 (1977), and “A Changing of the Guard,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #11 (December, 1977).]
“I share your reflection on things, my dear,” Mirror Master said. “After the Wizard took a number of you off to Earth-Two, Copperhead and I attempted to revitalize the organization ourselves. Unfortunately, we fell into that similar pattern, acting as a servicing organization for the Silver Ghost in his vendetta against the so-called Freedom Fighters. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Wizard’s War of the Worlds,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #15 (June-July, 1978), “Murder Times Seven,” Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2 (Fall, 1978), and “Death in Silver,” Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2 (Fall, 1978).]
“Since that time, there have been many gatherings of super-villains who have taken on the Secret Society name. Again, most of those have fallen into the practice of blatantly striking at the super-heroes, ending up in huge brawls and ultimate defeats.”
Camille put down her cup. “Yes, very true. That is what had happened to me most recently. I was involved in yet another Society incarnation, and I happened to run afoul Captain Comet and his allies twice. (*) In the end, almost all of what remained of my sapphire power had been siphoned off.” (*) She took another sip of her coffee. “That is part of the reason I came back here.”
“So what exactly do you need from us?” Copperhead asked.
“I need you to help me find the first Star Sapphire.”