by Martin Maenza
“Bleeeah!” Copperhead said to himself as he scampered along the top of the tunnel, carefully locating cracks and indentations to which he could cling. Below him flowed a darkened stream of water that rushed from the direction he was headed.
“Just my luck to end up in the monkeys’ sewer!” The serpentine villain tried his best to breathe through his mouth to avoid the strong odor. “But between the poo-gas here and the angry muscles up above, I’ll put up with the smell.”
Copperhead stopped at a juncture in the tunnels. His eyes had thoroughly adjusted to the darkness of the sewer, so he was able to determine by the flow below him which way the strongest current originated. “Gonna have to guess, here,” Copperhead said quietly to himself. “If the palace is in the center of the city, then most of the crap has to flow downstream.” He took the passageway to the left and continued his journey.
He continued on for a few more moments, but then heard a sound from behind him. Copperhead ducked for the shadows and remained perfectly still.
Voices could be heard near one of the sewer gratings, and then one of the manhole covers slid open. “Why do I have to look?” asked one gruff voice.
“It was your idea,” said the other.
A gorilla poked his head down the opening, glancing around in both directions. “Peee-yeww!” the ape exclaimed. He looked another moment more before pulling his head back up. “No sign of him. He probably got out first chance he could. We better scour the alleyways.”
“Agreed,” the other ape said. There was a sound as the manhole cover was dragged back into place.
Copperhead remained motionless in the shadows for a bit longer, but he smiled to himself. “Stupid apes!” he muttered under his breath.
The farther into the Inner City that they traveled, the more and more apes appeared to be on alert. It had been difficult for Mirror Master and Tattooed Lady to remain to the back alleyways; despite being safer, that course failed to deliver them to the palace in a timely manner.
At first, Mirror Master suggested that they use the image-makers to render themselves invisible. While the devices were excellent at refracting the light around them to allow them to blend into their surroundings, the pair was still forced to keep tight to the buildings. It became increasingly harder to avoid being run into by the scurrying ape residents.
The villains ducked into an alleyway so they could talk freely. “We need another plan,” Mirror Master said.
“How about making us appear as gorillas?” Tattooed Lady suggested. “I thought Gizmo programmed those images into the devices, despite what Grodd had told him.”
Mirror Master checked the display of the device on his wrist. Sure enough, the images had been programmed into them. “It’s worth a shot,” he said, punching in a code. “We’re kind of out of options at this point.” His appearance changed into that of a gorilla. “Allow me.”
A large ape hand reached for her right wrist, but it was Mirror Master’s nimble fingers that entered in the code. Lydia watched as her tattooed body suddenly appeared to sprout brown fur in a flash. Both villains’ appearances now matched those that were hunting for them.
“Let’s go,” Mirror Master stated. The two exited the alleyway and moved down the streets as if they been doing so their entire lives. They did their best to stick to the flow of movement, while still focusing their path toward the Royal Palace.
Surprisingly, they found the majority of the residents moving into the same direction they were headed. Within a few minutes, the duo, along with dozens upon dozens of other apes, arrived at the open square just outside the palace. Already assembled were another hundred apes or so.
Mirror Master leaned closer to Tattooed Lady’s ear and whispered, “I don’t like the looks of this.” She nodded silently in agreement.
Suddenly, they heard a familiar voice up beyond the crowd. “I demand to speak with whoever is in charge!” the female voice ordered. This outburst stirred a commotion in the apes assembled.
“Oh, no!” Mirror Master said softly. He grabbed Lydia’s hand and began to push their way through the crowd. It took a few moments to do so, but when they reached the front edge, his fears were confirmed.
There, standing in the center of the square defiantly with her hands on her hips, was Star Sapphire, with Gizmo at her side, looking very nervous as the crowd around them started to turn ugly.
The apes surrounding them began to move in, tightening the circle. This concerned Gizmo greatly. “Uh, Sapphire,” the dwarf said, “maybe this isn’t a good idea.”
“Quiet!” the Zamaron-trained woman snapped. The gemstone on her headpiece flashed, creating a barrier of violet energy around them. With a mere thought, the barrier pushed outward, stopping the advance of the apes and keeping them at bay. She turned back toward the palace and addressed again the apes at the entryway. “Again, I demand to speak with your leader — now!”
The six apes who made up the advisers to the king huddled together, discussing amongst themselves. The human woman’s boldness caught them totally off-guard, and they tried to formulate the best response to keep themselves in a good light.
“Forget it, human!” a gorilla voice came from the balcony above the square. “Gorilla City does not bow down to the demands of anyone from the outside world, especially your kind!” The apes in the square all looked up as a simian figure leaped down to the street below. Many pointed at him; his name crossed most of their lips.
“Grodd?” Gizmo asked quietly.
Star Sapphire merely stood silently behind the violet barrier, a smile slightly crossing her lips. She finally understood his game. It was one she herself might have used in order to win over the confidence of those she eventually planned to subjugate. “Are you in charge here?” she asked loudly, knowing perfectly well that she provided him an opening.
Grodd avoided answering the question boldly and instead launched into something he had rehearsed. “Long ago, a group of humans stumbled upon Gorilla City,” the super-gorilla villain stated. “At the time, we had nothing to fear from them. However, we soon learned the error of such blind trust.” He paced around the square as he spoke, allowing his words and natural charisma to wash over those who witnessed the exchange. “The men tried to flee in order to reveal their discovery to the world. They even took a few ape lives as they fled. We stopped the men from leaving the jungle alive. Ever since that day, our home has remained hidden to the world so that we could live in peace.
“But even that, it appears, is not enough! As you outsiders have proven once again today, the world beyond our jungle home will not allow us to live in peace. People such as you see us as a target, one which you believe will sit by idly while you invade our city and take what you want. I say ‘no more’!” The crowd came to life at Grodd’s words. “I say it is time for Gorilla City to show the outside world that it is a power to be reckoned with! We shall not sit by and allow the world to diminish us! We shall show them who they are dealing with!”
The crowd erupted and surged forward in a frenzy.
“This can’t be good,” Gizmo said. He quickly rummaged through his pack to arm himself, as it appeared they would soon be caught in the center of a full-scale riot.
Star Sapphire could feel the strain as her barrier began to buckle slightly under the pressing apes. Still, her will held it fast.
Within the crowds, the disguised Mirror Master and Tattooed Lady felt themselves being swept up in the masses as they moved forward to attack the humans.
Other arms brushed against the Tattooed Lady’s own. She yelped in pain as an ape brushed against her hurt wrist. As she jostled to the other direction, another ape’s arm slammed into her other wrist and knocked loose the image-maker device. “Oh, no!” she exclaimed as she scrambled for it. But as soon as it lost contact with her body, her appearance reverted back to its original state of a young Greek woman with tattoos covering her body.
“Look! Another human, in disguise!” The apes nearest to her began to swarm around the Tattooed Lady. With them pressing against her, she found it difficult to select any tattoo weapons to defend herself.
Acting only on instinct, the disguised Mirror Master exclaimed, “Lydia!” He snatched a mirror-gun from his belt and began to fire blasts at the apes in his path. His only thought was to get to the young woman to help her. He knew the apes were strong and could easily tear Lydia apart.
Star Sapphire heard him call out the name that distracted her attention ever so slightly. This caused her barrier to give way a bit, allowing the apes to press forward. Gizmo stood ready to defend himself should the barrier give way entirely.
Grodd smiled to himself confidently. All the pieces had fallen neatly into place. It was now time for him to topple them in his favor.
He turned first to Star Sapphire, hoping to catch her eye. He saw the sweat starting to bead upon her brow as she focused all her will into keeping the protective barrier up. Their eyes connected briefly, and the look in Grodd’s eye conveyed his intent. In a moment, a mental blast assaulted the woman’s brain. It wasn’t enough to cause any permanent damage, but the desired effect of shattering her will was achieved. The violet energy barrier that she had fought so hard to maintain fell, and dozens of apes were soon subduing both Star Sapphire and Gizmo.
Grodd could also see that the Tattooed Lady was held fast, despite her struggling. The disguised Mirror Master continued to fight on, his weapon making him stand out amidst the crowd. Grodd leaped through the air and pounced upon him, knocking the weapon out of his hand.
Many of the apes were shocked by Grodd’s assault on what appeared to be one of their own, but the simian villain paid their words no heed. He reached down to the man’s wrist and crushed the image-maker device. The form changed back to that of the man in green and orange. “This is over, human!” Grodd snarled.
With the ape’s hand a little too tight upon his neck, Mirror Master could say nothing. His only response was a stern look. Grodd seemed to be enjoying this a little too much.
Grodd held Mirror Master’s body up by the throat so that those around him could see. “It is over, my fellow apes! The invaders are our captives!”
There was a joyous rumbling among the crowd. Many murmured about what should be done to the humans, and one ape actually voiced the question aloud. “What shall be done with them, Grodd?”
“An example must be made!” Grodd announced.
It didn’t take long for the quartet of humans to be clapped in irons and taken to a large holding cell. A select few apes were chosen to escort the villains to a holding cell. While they had been stripped of their obvious weapons, the four were treated reasonably well by the apes. The four humans allowed themselves to be caged.
“Now what?” Gizmo asked.
“We wait,” Mirror Master said plainly. “I’m sure we’ll be visited by Grodd soon. Except for Copperhead being missing, we’re right where we should be.” He went over to Lydia, who was rubbing her hurt wrist.
Suddenly, there was a loud sound as a large ape entered the holding area. “In you go!” he announced as he shoved a familiar costumed figure forward. Copperhead was tossed into the holding cell with the others, obviously a little worn from a battle that he’d lost. The ape leaned forward so that the serpentine villain could hear him. “The excessive roughing was for that spilt beer, snake-breath.” The ape then laughed as he stepped away.
Just then, Grodd entered the prison area, indicating to most of the guard apes that they could leave while he addressed the prisoners. Only the last ape, Ace of Spades, was allowed to remain present. Grodd paced back and forth before the cage, strutting like a rooster. “Well, well, well,” he said. “I guess your little invasion failed, didn’t it?”
Copperhead sprang for the bars. “You bastard!” he exclaimed. “You set us up!”
Mirror Master clasped him on the shoulder and pulled him back. “Quiet, Copperhead!” he ordered. The reflective rogue had been privy to Grodd’s general plan, and while it had not played out exactly as they’d discussed, this was part of it. He needed to carry the charade through to the end. “OK, Grodd, you got us! Now what do you plan to do to us?”
Grodd smiled. “An example must be made,” the large gorilla said. “The world must learn that Gorilla City will not take to being invaded lightly.” He puffed out his chest and turned his head slightly so his voice could be heard loud and clear. “At sundown tomorrow, the five of you will be executed before the assembled mass of the population. Every adult and child of Gorilla City will watch as I execute swift and permanent justice against those who’d dare raise a hand against us!” Grodd made sure these words carried loud enough into the hall, so that the other gorillas would hear them.
The villains were shocked by these words, but Grodd quickly thrust his closed hand forward, covertly slipping Mirror Master a small object before exiting. The reflective rogue walked over to Star Sapphire and handed her the gemstone that had been taken from her at the time of capture. She slipped it into the folds of her costume and nodded silently. The two knew that this was a sign that Grodd had the entire situation under control.
The great arena filled to capacity as the sun approached the horizon line. Word had spread quickly since the capture of the human invaders; the simian residents were all abuzz.
The Council of Advisors, acting in the stead of the still-ailing Solovar, announced that Grodd had risen above his actions of the past. The once-shunned ape was now being hailed as a hero who had come to the city’s aid in its time of need.
When Grodd stepped out to the center of the arena, the crowd exploded in cheers and chants. He paused, appearing to take in the adulation humbly. Inside, he was about to explode with pride over a successfully executed plan. Gorilla City is mine! he thought as he looked out over the crowd. Through manipulation and deceit, I will rule the masses! And by the time Solovar recovers — if he recovers — I will be hailed as the new leader of the people!
He held his hands in the air, attempting to silence the crowd. “Fellow apes, please!” Grodd called out. “It is time!”
There were loud cheers as the five prisoners were brought forth, still chained. They walked with their heads down, appearing to be distraught over what was about to happen. The crowd pelted them with food, and booing sounds could be heard throughout the arena. The transformed Bulldozer and Kong felt bad for them, but led them to the spot in the center of the arena. The transformed Ace, however, smiled as he helped a few others wheel out a large device that looked like a giant ray of some sort.
Grodd addressed the crowd as he powered up the device. “Fellow simians, what you are about to see will go down in our history as the dawning of a new era! For what I do today, I do for all of you! Today, I will be an extension of you as together we show the world that Gorilla City will not stand for outside interference! We do this not only for our own safety, but for the safety of our future generations!” The crowd roared. “We also do this for Solovar, who was struck down many months ago while in the company of humans such as these! When Solovar regains his health, we want him to see that Gorilla City has grown strong in his absence! We want him to be proud of his people!” The crowd roared once more.
Grodd smiled to himself, knowing that they were like putty in his hands. He stepped behind the device and pointed the cannon at the five chained villains. “Let the execution commence!”
Gorilla Grodd squeezed the trigger of the device, sending forth a surging beam of energy toward the five villains. The air filled with the humming of the blast, some screams from the villains, and the roar of the crowd. Then there was a great flash, and the five villains were gone. The irons that had clasped around their ankles clattered to the floor. “Our enemies are no more!” The crowd roared at Grodd’s proclamation.