by Martin Maenza
A woman with olive skin and long, dark hair walked around the halls of the Loman Building’s upper floors with little sense of ease. For Lydia Anastasios, this entire experience was both a bit exciting and intimidating, with a dash of recklessness thrown in for good measure. Within the last few weeks, she found herself associating with a bunch of infamous costumed rogues; she had accepted an invitation of the new Secret Society of Super-Villains, and, for better or for worse, her life was changing once more.
It wasn’t the first time she had associated with a criminal, but in her own defense, she really hadn’t known that when she met and fell in love with Abel Tarrant, the Tattooed Man. That was back in Greece while she was still a student. The day Abel was carried off to prison by the Green Lantern was the day Lydia’s life took a new turn. She had vowed to herself that they would be together again someday. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Tattooed Man: Times Past, 1982: Love Inks.]
After a few years and a change in her field of study, Lydia graduated university with a degree in chemistry. All the while, she kept track of Abel’s exploits in the press and kept the vial of his special tattoo ink safe and secure. After hours, she had used the university’s lab to analyze a sample of the ink, over time documenting the unique formula and finding ways to improve upon it. This would be her gift to Abel when they were reunited.
But by the time Lydia was finally able to travel to the United States, it was too late; Abel had been murdered by the hired thugs of a crime boss named Goldface. (*) At his graveside she made her second vow that she would honor his memory by covering her own body in special tattoos made with the improved ink. It took a good part of a year to create the mosaic that adorned her flesh.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Last Picture Show,” Green Lantern v2 #144 (September, 1981).]
Lydia encountered some problems settling into her life in a new country. Her expenses got out of control; she sought relief through less than standard means, and soon was under constant harassment by a loan shark operation run by Rocco Marchetti. In desperation, she invoked the powers of the special tattoos and ended up taking a number of lives, including Marchetti’s. She decided to lay low and opened a tattoo parlor in Los Angeles. She remained in a quiet and safe existence until the day a few weeks back when Camille Fortier darkened her shop door.
She shook her head firmly. “Enough thoughts of the past,” Lydia said to herself. “It won’t help me with what I have to deal with now.” She found herself at the end of a long hall in front of a closed metal door. She waved her hand in front of the sensor, and the door whooshed open. “Hello, anyone here?”
Electronic components and tools were spread out upon the various work surfaces of the lab, but in an organized, methodic way. At the far end of the room, a small form in a green outfit stood atop a tall stool with his back to the door. His head was down, and sparks were coming from the tool he was using. Lydia waited for him to take a pause from his task before calling out again. “Hello? Gizmo?”
The brown-haired dwarf turned his head and saw the unexpected visitor. He flipped up the special goggles he wore and smiled. “Well, well, well,” the man called Gizmo said as his eyes traveled up her long legs, past her black miniskirt and red blouse with plunging cleavage. “What brings the fair lady to my humble workshop?”
Lydia shifted on her heel, a little bit uncomfortable with the inflections of his tone. “I was hoping maybe we could talk for a minute. I really don’t want interrupt your work. I’m sure it’s very important.”
“Oh, it is, it is! Come see.” He motioned her over and held out a small object. “Can you guess what this is?”
Lydia took the small circular item. “It looks like a bracelet to me.” It was metallic in nature with a thin panel that opened to reveal some controls inside. “But I’m sure it’s much more than that.”
“Oh, indeed, much more.” He slipped it onto the young woman’s wrist. “Now watch!” He used a thin metal stylus and entered a sequence into the tiny controls.
Lydia was unsure of what would happen next and braced for anything. Unexpectedly, she felt no different than before. “Did I miss something?” she asked. The diminutive man just chuckled and held up a small mirror. Lydia glanced into the oval reflective surface, and her jaw dropped in astonishment.
“What did you do to me?” Lydia exclaimed. Looking down at her own arms to confirm what the mirror revealed, she saw that her skin was now very fair in color and completely unmarked by tattoos. She ran a hand through her hair, which now appeared to be bleach-blond in color. “How… how is this possible?”
“Relax,” Gizmo said. He grabbed her arm and removed the bracelet-like item. In an instant, she was back to her normal self. “That little makeover was all courtesy of the device.” He switched it off and placed it back on the work table. “Not too shabby, eh? With that little baby, you can change your appearance at the drop of the hat. Hair, eyes, clothes, whatever. Good enough to fool the naked eye, as well as a majority of standard surveillance and recording devices.”
“That’s amazing! And you created that?”
“Well, sort of. See its principle foundation comes from a device that Mirror Master utilizes, one that refracts light and renders the holder virtually invisible. One of the reasons he brought me onboard was to see if I could expand upon that design, allowing for the device to not only refract the light but to change how the light played off the subject as well.
“See, I had worked with Doctor Light, another costumed criminal who utilized light-based weapons, back when I was with the Fearsome Five. During that time, I had many opportunities to analyze and tinker with many of his devices. This new device is kind of a conglomeration of the various technologies.”
“I see. What do you call this?”
“I kind of like the name image-maker. Would you like to see how it works on me?” He started to reach for another device, one shaped like a wristwatch.
“No, that’s all right. I actually came here to talk to you about something else.” Lydia’s words caught him off-guard, but caught his interest.
“Something else?” Gizmo sounded a bit anxious and more excited. “With me?”
Lydia moved in a bit closer and dropped her voice. “Do you have any idea what’s going on between the other three?” Gizmo’s expression lost some of its exuberance. That wasn’t the type of question he had hoped she would ask.
“I demand to know what is going on!” the lovely Camille Fortier barked as she pounded her fist on the large oak desk. The exquisite piece of furniture matched the dark-paneled walls of the office that overlooked the San Francisco downtown area. “You promised me results, but so far have produced nothing!”
Behind the desk was a man in an orange and green costume; he leaned back in his chair and took another long puff on his cigar. Mirror Master predicted that the woman would start to get impatient, and secretly enjoyed watching her tantrum build. “My dear Camille, you really need to be patient. Things like this take time, for hidden truths to reveal themselves.” He turned to the other in the room, a man in a golden serpentine costume. “Don’t you agree, Copperhead?”
The snake’s grin grew wider. “Absssolutely, Ssscudder,” he hissed. Unlike the man running the show, Copperhead telegraphed his amusement of the situation. “Patienccce isss a virtue.”
The dark-haired woman shot right out of her chair, knocking it backward to the floor. “Virtue, my ass! You two would not know the first thing about being virtuous. You are glorified thieves and little else. I do not know what I was thinking when I accepted your offer of help.” She spun around on her heel and started for the door.
Copperhead sprung across the room. “Hey, lady, where do you get off talking to us like that?” His tail whipped around and stretched forward, catching her about the elbow. With a mere thought, the tail began to contract quickly, and Camille was jerked back toward the desk.
She let out a low grunt as her left hip and thigh slammed into the desk. “Why, you slippery…” she started to mutter under her breath.
“Let her free, Copperhead,” Mirror Master said in an even tone. “Her sharp words do not warrant sharp actions from us.” The snake villain released his tail’s grip. Sam Scudder puffed once more on his cigar. “Now, my dear, perhaps we can talk about this like the civilized individuals that we are.”
Camille put both hands firmly on her hips. “It appears that all you do is talk, Scudder! It’s been over three weeks since I came back here to the Sinister Citadel looking for information on the first Star Sapphire. You made a promise to me that you would get that information for me in exchange for my serving this new Secret Society. So far, I have held up my end of the bargain. I traveled to Los Angeles and risked my life in order to deliver your invitation to that Tattooed Lady. I have even taken time away from my cover identity in order to perform menial tasks around here. But have you provided me with even one shred of useful information? No! I have not even seen you leave the building in days. You are either on the phone, on the computers, or in the lab helping that small, perverted man with his toys. Do you know what I think? I think I am being played for the fool.”
Mirror Master put down his cigar and rose from his leather seat. “Do you honestly think I’d do something like that to you, my dear?”
Camille exploded. “Do not patronize me, Scudder! Either you start producing some results, or I will start to cut back on my involvement here!” She paused for a moment, hoping she had called his bluff. Camille looked at one man, then the other. Both of them stood silently. “Argh! You two men infuriate me so!” She grabbed her purse and stormed for the door. “Until you have something for me, I am out of here! You know how to reach me, Scudder!”
Just as Copperhead was about to stop her departure again, Mirror Master held him off with a simple head shake no. Camille exited the office door and slammed it behind her.
Copperhead spun around. “What’s the deal, Scudder? How could you just let her go like that?”
Calmly returning to his desk, Mirror Master picked up his cigar from the silver ashtray. “Our dear Star Sapphire may be lacking her powers, but she makes up for it with her strong will.” He took a long puff and thought for a second. “If I sent you after her and forced her to return, she’d only pull this stunt again. No, she needs some time to reflect upon how much she needs us. Only then will she return on her own and be willing to stay.”
Mirror Master stared out the window for a moment, then turned back to his ally. “I need to make a personal call, Copperhead. Please close the door on your way out.”
Copperhead left, slightly puzzled. “And here I thought I was the cold-blooded one,” he said to himself.