Secret Society of Super-Villains: Reclamation, Book 1, Chapter 2: Queen’s Gambit

by Martin Maenza

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Mirror Master leaned back in his chair and stroked his chin with his right hand. The room was silent as he contemplated the woman’s request.

Finally, she could take his silence no longer. “Well, can you help me or not?” Camille Fortier asked insistently.

The villain folded his hands in front of him on the large desk. “I believe,” Mirror Master began, “that I just might know where to look to help you in your situation.” He watched as her eyes widened with anticipation. “But,” he continued, pausing for a moment, “if we were to help you in your time of need, what would you be willing to do for us in return?”

Copperhead enjoyed watching Mirror Master work. He slithered across the room from the doorway and closer to the couch where the woman was sitting. “Yesss,” he hissed wickedly. “Everything’sss got a price these days.” He looked as though he could strike at any time.

Camille looked at one, then the other. “I am very hesitant to say that I would do anything,” she said. With this pair, she could only imagine the twisted possibilities. “But I can vow to keep your activities in confidence. I would tell no one about your renewed operations here.”

Mirror Master chuckled at this. “Oh, I would expect at least that from someone working for my organization.”

Camille was caught off-guard by the word. “Working?” she repeated softly. “How can I work for you? I already told you my power has been severely depleted. Until I make contact with the first Star Sapphire, I cannot offer you much in the way of assistance.”

Mirror Master laughed again. “My dear Camille, I’m certain you aren’t seeing the big picture. While indeed having you back at full power will greatly benefit our new Society, there are other ways you can assist the organization as we rebuild.” He stood up from his chair and walked around to the front of the desk. “So, are you willing to swear your loyalty to our new Secret Society of Super-Villains in exchange for our helping you to get back your power?” He offered his bare hand as a gesture.

Camille hesitated for a moment, then shook his hand. “All right,” she agreed reluctantly.

***

Camille paced back and forth in the large office on the ninety-third floor of the Loman Building. The view from here was spectacular, providing an excellent outlook on San Francisco and the surrounding Seven Hills area. The woman, however, had very little interest in that.

She stopped pacing and stared intently at the closed office door. What could be taking them so long? she thought to herself. The woman went over to the wooden door and pressed her ear to it. It was too thick for her to pick up anything more than muffled sounds from the hallway outside. She could only guess what the two men were discussing out there.

Camille stood up upright again. I can’t believe I’ve sunk to this level! Me, a chosen successor to the Zamaron throne, forced to make a deal with this world’s common thieves. She stomped her heel into the plush carpeted floor. In frustration, she returned to the couch and tried her best to regain her composure.

Come on now, pull it together, Remoni, Camille continued to think to herself. You cannot act like the poor peasant girl from the world of Pandina. You have to remember that the Zamarons chose you for a reason, that you are a strong woman and worthy of the position of their queen. She took a deep, cleansing breath.

All I need to do is locate the woman of this world who was also given a gem by the Zamarons. With her gem and my own, I’ll have twice as much power as before. She smiled wickedly. Then I can finally take leave of this stupid planet, reclaim the remaining three gems, and assume my rightful place as the one true Zamaron queen!

***

Outside the closed office door, Copperhead had been pacing as well, in his own unique serpentine style. “Were you serious in there, Scudder?” he asked. “You think she can actually help us without her power?”

Mirror Master reviewed some data on a printout that he had retrieved from the computer. “When it comes to business, I am always serious,” he stated flatly. “And I do believe she can prove to be an asset to the organization, even without her powers intact. Remember, the plan is a long-reaching one, and sometimes out and out power is not going to be our best tool. She is a very resourceful woman with a cunning mind. And, best of all, I can see she is desperate. That desperation will ensure she is loyal to us, and over time she may come to embrace our goals on her own accord.”

Copperhead swished his tail back and forth, not totally convinced. “Yeah, maybe. But won’t she take off the moment she gets her power back?”

“Perhaps, but I did not commit to her a timetable of how long it might take for that goal to be reached,” Mirror Master cautioned. “The truth is, I don’t know exactly who the original Star Sapphire is.”

“But you have an idea?”

“Of course I do! I wouldn’t have bargained with something that was a complete unknown.” He leaned in closer to Copperhead, lowering his voice. “Years ago, when the Society first formed, we had the foresight to document information on potential members. Sinestro, being the untrusting soul that he is, did not feel comfortable around this new Star Sapphire. In fact, Sinestro had worked with the original and was kind enough to relate some information about that woman. Combining his information with some other data regarding her appearances, I believe we can begin to track down the original Star Sapphire.” He showed the piece of paper to his fellow costumed villain.

“Ah-ha,” Copperhead said. “We taking her with us to investigate?”

Mirror Master shook his head. “No! I’m certainly not going to share this lead with her. I want Camille to remain indebted to us as long as possible.” He folded the paper a couple of times and tucked the small sheet into his green belt. “No, while we take care of this matter, I have an errand that I’d like for her to do for us.”

***

A week later at the main gate of Ferris Aircraft in El Segundo, an older security guard leaned out of the main booth and addressed the gentlemen in the dark blue rental car. “I rechecked the list,” the man in the brown uniform said, “but I don’t see her name on it anywhere. I don’t believe she works here anymore. Her father might still be around, if you’d like me to ring him.”

“No, that’s fine,” the driver of the car said. He wore mirrored sunglasses. “Thank you for your help.” The car made a three-point turn in the drive and headed back toward the highway.

The next car pulled up to the gatehouse. The driver rolled down his window and smiled at the security guard. “Hello, Manny,” the man with a round face said. “How are you this afternoon?”

Manny Klein recognized the driver instantly. “Well, if it isn’t Tom Kalmaku!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing back here? I haven’t seen you in a while.” The guard offered him a clipboard to sign in.

Tom smiled. “I had left when Con-Trol took over the operations, but I’m back now working as a contractor. (*) I’m here to see Mr. Smith.” The mechanic returned the clipboard back to the guard. “Say, what was with that other car, if I can ask?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Lantern: The Play’s the Thing, Prologue: Con-Trolling Ferris.]

Manny flipped the switch that opened the main gate. “Funny thing about that. It was two men who were looking for Carl’s daughter. Said they were old friends of hers from school or something. They must have thought she still worked here. You’d think they would have tried calling for her first or something before driving out this way.”

“Yeah, that is kind of odd,” Tom replied. The gate opened, and Manny waved the vehicle through. Tom drove toward the familiar parking area. “Maybe I should mention this to Hal tonight when he’s here for the test flight. He should know about it if someone was asking for Carol Ferris.”

***

The woman named Camille held her handbag close to her body. She didn’t feel very comfortable in this part of Los Angeles a few blocks off of Sunset Strip in the late afternoon. Most of it was probably due to the fact that she missed having the security that her powered gemstone had provided. Without it, she almost felt naked. She didn’t like having that vulnerable feeling at all.

Camille stopped in front of a shop, looked at the address on the piece of paper, and compared it to the number on the building. “119 Conway,” she confirmed. “This is the right place.” There was a neon sign of red and green in the window. “The Body Canvas. How charming.” She reached for the doorknob when the door opened suddenly.

She barely had time to step aside before three burly biker types came out of the shop, laughing loudly at some private joke. One of the men caught sight of her and let out a whistle. “Allow me, madam,” he said sarcastically, holding the door open. The woman wasn’t quite sure what to make of the gesture, but she nodded as she went inside. The men laughed.

The little bell above the door jingled as the door closed behind Camille. The front area of the shop was open with lots of pictures along the wall, showcasing the potential designs for the customers. There were also some chairs for clients to sit in as they waited for their turn with the specialists. The three men must have been the last customers, as there appeared to be no one else waiting.

Behind the main counter was a young woman with spiky blond hair. She wore a gray half-T-shirt and had at least six piercings visible on her head alone, including multiples in each ear, one in her nose. “Can I help ya?” she said flatly, barely looking up from the heavy metal magazine she had been reading. Make that at least seven piercings, one for the tongue, too.

Oh, how far the mighty Star Sapphire had fallen. “Yes,” Camille said, “I’m looking for the owner. Would that happen to be you?”

“Nah,” the punk woman replied. “She just stepped in back.” Tossing her head back, she called rather loudly, “Yo, Lids! Someone to see ya!” She turned back to the customer, gave her a half-smirk, and said, “She’ll be with ya in a minute. Feel free to look around.”

The dark-haired woman had spent the last few minutes looking at the various designs the tattoo shop offered to its customers. Until today, the woman who called herself Camille could have gone the rest of her life without setting foot in an establishment such as this. What kind of woman would do something like this to her body? she wondered to herself.

“Excuse me,” a voice with a slight accent called to her. “You were wishing to speak with me?”

Camille turned around and received the answer to her own question. Before her was a stunning dark-haired woman dressed in a short-sleeved black blouse and short black skirt. From what she could see of the young woman’s exposed skin, most of it was covered with intricate tattoo patterns — arms, legs, even her neck and cleavage. “Yes,” Camille said as she regained her composure. “Are you Lydia Anastasios?”

The young woman nodded. “Do I know you?”

“No, we have never met,” Camille replied. She looked over and saw that the girl with the spiky hair had put down her magazine and was observing the exchange. “Is there someplace we can talk that is a little more private?”

Lydia took a moment to size Camille up, then turned to her employee. “Cherry, you OK handling things?” The blond nodded. “Come, we can talk in the back.” Lydia slipped through the curtain to the back, and Camille carefully followed. They went down the hall past a number of curtained-off rooms where the tattoo work occurred, until they reached an office. Lydia showed her inside. “Now, what is this all about, Miss…?”

“Camille. Camille Fortier.”

“What is it that I can do for you?”

“I represent a group of individuals who are interested in employing your special talents.”

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