by Martin Maenza
Mikron O’Jeneus whistled as he strolled down the halls of the Sinister Citadel, which consisted of the top floors of the Loman Building in downtown San Francisco. Once again, he was in a great mood. He’d been having a lot of them lately since he joined this Secret Society of Super-Villains.
I have to admit, the diminutive man thought to himself, this is starting to beat out my gig in the Fearsome Five. Mirror Master isn’t nearly as demanding as Psimon was, and I don’t have anyone annoying me like Doctor Light used to. He stopped for a second at the corner to watch as Lydia Anastasios waited for the elevator; the young Greek woman wore a short brown miniskirt, a sheer creme blouse, and matching creme high heels. The dwarf watched her silently from hiding until she stepped into the elevator and its doors closed. With a big smile on his face, the man continued on his way. Plus, the women around here are way hotter and way friendlier than Shimmer.
Eventually, he made his way to the laboratory that had been set up for him. Mirror Master guaranteed that the latest equipment would be at his disposal, allowing him to tinker with gadgets and inventions all day and night. “Nothing like being appreciated,” the dwarf said as he reached for the knob. “Home sweet home.”
When the villain known as Gizmo opened the door and stepped inside, however, his jaw dropped in shock by what he saw. Tools were strewn all over the place; his neat and orderly lab was in complete disarray. And the party responsible remained present at the scene of the disruption. With a stern look on his face, the dwarf approached the large, hairy figure. “Grodd! What is the meaning of all this?” he shouted.
The super-gorilla furrowed his brow and stared intently at the one who addressed him. “Don’t use that tone of voice with me, little man,” Grodd said in his gruff voice. “Now, why are you bothering me?”
Gizmo hopped up on the table in order to reach eye level with the gorilla. “What are you doing here in my lab?” he asked insistently.
The gorilla waved him off like one would swat in the air at a fly. “I’m too busy for idle chitchat.” Grodd returned his concentration to the device he was working on. “If you have a problem with something, take it up with Mirror Master.”
Gizmo didn’t know how to respond to Grodd’s brushoff. When he realized that the gorilla was indeed serious about the conversation being over, he hopped off the table and stomped toward the door. Oh, I will take it up with him! he thought as he stormed off.
Grodd waited for the lab door to slam shut before chuckling quietly to himself.
The oak door to the lavish office burst open. “OK, Mirror Master, what’s the deal?” Gizmo shouted.
The villain in orange and green coolly turned away from his computer screen and focused on the man who had just barged into his office. “To what do I owe this emotional outburst, Gizmo?” he asked.
“What’s that talking monkey doing in my lab?” the dwarf in the green uniform asked.
Mirror Master thought for a moment on how to best handle the situation. After a pause, he said, “Gizmo, you’ve always struck me as a logical individual, one with a great respect for those of like scientific minds. I didn’t realize that you were unaware of Grodd’s incredible intellect and knack for creating wondrous devices. Why, he and I have had long discussions on various principles of physics and the like. Did you know that Grodd once created a vehicle that worked on and below the ground, underwater, and in the air?”
Gizmo was not in the mood for a list of Grodd’s accomplishments. “Be that as it may, I want him out of my lab now!” he said insistently.
Mirror Master stood up so that he could tower over the dwarf. Staring down straight into his eyes, he said, “I’d suggest you stop acting like a child who won’t share his toys. Remember, that lab belongs to the organization. While Grodd is working with us, he will have unlimited access to it. Do I make myself crystal clear?”
Gizmo muttered something under his breath.
Mirror Master raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, did you have a comment?”
“I said, ‘Yes, sir,'” the dwarf admitted.
Mirror Master sat back down in his leather chair. “Excellent! I’m glad we’re both viewing things from the same angle.”
The dwarf started to leave the office when the reflective rogue called out to him. “Hold on a second, Gizmo. I did have something else I wanted to discuss with you.”
Gizmo let out a deep sigh and turned back around. “Yes?” he said, trying to summon a pleasant tone, but failing miserably.
Mirror Master gestured to one of the chairs. “Sit, please,” he said. Gizmo hopped up in the wooden seat that matched the rest of the room’s decor. Mirror Master then glanced toward the doorway and called out, “You might as well come in and join us, Copperhead.”
The gold serpentine head of the villain’s costume peered around the doorframe. “Did you call me, Scudder?” Copperhead asked, trying to sound innocent.
“Stop listening at doorways and get in here,” Mirror Master demanded.
Gizmo stared at the man in amazement. “How did you–?”
Mirror Master smiled. “Can’t hide anything from a mirror,” he stated. “Remember that.”
Copperhead, meanwhile, slithered into the room and took a chair next to Gizmo. “Did you need me for something?” he asked.
Mirror Master reached for his humidor and pulled out one of his cigars. Using the shiny silver lighter on his desk, he lit the end and inhaled deeply. “Gentlemen, I think you have both been cooped up in the Citadel for too long. Neither of you has been outside in over a week.”
The two villains fidgeted in their seats. “I’ve been busy in the lab,” Gizmo said.
Copperhead made his own excuse. “I prefer going out when it’s cooler.”
Mirror Master leaned back in his leather chair and eyed them both. “Well, despite all that, I think you two could use some fresh air. And I’ve got a little assignment for you two to do together.” He inhaled once more on his cigar, blew out the smoke, and began to outline what he wanted the pair to do.
At a small bistro in the city, Lydia conversed with a waiter until she noticed the arrival of a dark-haired woman in a pastel blue business suit. She gestured to the woman, getting her attention, and smiled as she approached the table. The waiter dismissed himself. “Camille, so good of you to agree to meet me for lunch.”
Camille Fortier placed her handbag under the table and sat down. She glanced around the room, taking in the Mediterranean decorations. “I haven’t eaten here before,” she said. “How’s the food?”
Lydia smiled. “I am partial to the gharithes me feta,” she said. “That is baked shrimp with feta cheese. My mother made that for me quite a bit growing up.” She gestured toward the menu. “The souvlakia is good, as is the kottopoulo pilafi.”
Camille looked over the menu. “I might stick to one of the vegetable dishes, perhaps the briami. Besides, I want to have room for baklava.”
Lydia nodded in agreement. She delighted in the fact that they had something else in common. After Lydia ordered for them both in Greek, the two women participated in casual conversation over some wine.
“So,” Camille said, “I believe you mentioned something about business when you called.”
“Yes, I did.” Lydia put down her glass. “As you know, I had my own shop, the Body Canvas, in Los Angeles. The lease for rent is coming up for renewal, and I was considering closing down that location and reopening it up here. With everything that has been going on, commuting back and forth did not seem like an option. I did not know if you handled commercial real estate as well as residential.”
“I usually don’t do commercial, but I may be able to recommend someone for you. In either case, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something that suits your needs.” Camille reached for a piece of bread that the waiter had just brought. “Lydia, I can usually read people quite well. Tell me, is there something else you wanted to discuss?”
The young woman shifted a bit in her chair. “Actually, Camille, there is.”
“Well, out with it, then,” Camille said.
Lydia leaned forward a bit so she could speak in a lower voice, yet allow the other woman to hear her. “I will be honest with you,” she started to say. “It’s been a couple weeks now since, well, the group’s little trip out to the forest.” The Greek woman vaguely referred to the Secret Society’s activities where they lured the original Star Sapphire into a trap. (*) “After you recovered what had been, uh, taken from you, I began to wonder what would happen next. I have not seen you around as much as before, and that concerned me, too.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Society of Super-Villains: Reclamation, Book 3: A Clash of Queens.]
Camille put down her wine glass. Her expression was like that of a statue, fixed and showing little emotion. “I will admit, there were some immediate concerns I needed to address afterwards,” the woman said. “One of which was validating a few things that witch had said, about the Zamarons having abandoned their home. I had to see for myself that this was indeed true.”
“So you left, but then came back here? Can I ask why?”
Camille laughed. “You are inquisitive, Lydia,” she said. “Yes, I came back immediately. I saw no reason to hang around in an abandoned place, waiting alone. I knew that when the time was right, I would know of their return. Then I would be able to continue with my rightful position. In the meantime, there were other things I could do. This place sort of grows on one. Furthermore, I needed to repay my debt to our friend, Mr. Scudder.”
Lydia nodded and smiled. “I am glad to hear that you will be around, for a while, at least.” The waiter served their entrees and left them to dine.
Camille gave the young Greek woman a piercing look. “I detect some enthusiasm in your voice. You wouldn’t be hoping we could become close friends, were you? Start to hang around together or go shopping and such?” She took a bite of her vegetables.
Lydia frowned slightly. “Well, no, nothing like that,” she said with some dejection in her voice. “It is just that, well, it would be nice to have a confidant in the group — one whose motives I could trust a bit, is all.”
Camille swallowed. “Well, you did pull a knife on me the first day we met,” she reminded the other woman. Lydia blushed a bit in embarrassment. “So, I guess that anyone who would respond like that is certainly someone I’d be willing to give a second chance to.” The woman with tattoos all over her body began to perk up. Camille looked her straight in the eye. “Here’s the rule, though: we keep it on a strictly professional level. No intimate, personal stuff. Got it?”
Lydia nodded. “Got it.”