by Martin Maenza
A dwarf with brown mustache and beard dressed in green hopped up on a stool next to a large ray-gun-like device. “We ready to give this another try?” Gizmo asked.
A man in a purple and yellow costume stepped back. “Fire when ready, Gizzy!” Trident said.
Gizmo nodded, made sure his goggles were in place, and looked across the room to where the weapon was pointed. “How about you, Fist?” he asked.
Standing on a platform before a curved barrier of metal, a large gorilla waited impatiently. “Let’s just git this over with!” grumbled Power Fist.
“Right!” Gizmo powered up the device and said a little prayer, hoping that this time they had finally got the settings right to reverse the process that Gorilla Grodd had used to turn the man into an ape last year. (*) “Here goes…”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Society of Super-Villains: Gorilla Warfare, Book 2, Chapter 1: Infiltration.]
The machine let out a large hum as it spewed forth a beam of energy.
Power Fist took the blast head on, and it bathed him in a crimson glow. “Aaa-aaa-aah!” the ape-man screamed out. The process seemed certainly as painful as the original. He gritted his teeth to endure it for as long as possible, knowing the momentary anguish would be worth the end result.
Trident stood by Gizmo, watching their colleague writhe in pain. “It ain’t working, Giz,” he said.
The dwarf dropped his head and shook it. “You’re right,” Gizmo admitted softly. “I just don’t get it.” He flipped the power switch to the off position, ending the beams that seemed to do so little.
Power Fist dropped to his knees, allowing himself a moment to catch his breath and to let his heart stop pounding so fast. “Sweet Arbor Day,” he said softly, and noticed his hands were still covered with fur. “Is this nightmare ever gonna end?” Inside, his heart sank as he started to consider the possibility that he’d never look like a normal man again. Perhaps it was time for him to see Dr. Quinzel after all.
By the time Power Fist had risen to his feet and joined the other two, Gizmo already had the back panel off of the device and was poking around at the insides. “It was a good try,” the ape-man said, putting his hand gently on the dwarf’s shoulder. He tried his best not to let his own disappointment show.
“I can get this,” Gizmo said with his head buried in the machine. He felt Power Fist’s hand pat him gently. “I know I can get this. I have to!” The dwarf was feeling more irritated by this conundrum. The machinery, while devised by the brilliant super-gorilla Grodd, was complex but not beyond his area of expertise. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t get the transformation process to reverse. It was almost as if there were outside factors involved.
“Gizmo, I know you’ve done your best,” Power Fist said. “Just don’t beat yourself up over it, ‘kay?”
The dwarf nodded but kept at his work. He couldn’t bear to look at the disappointment in the man’s eyes.
Power Fist realized his friend felt this way and chose to depart the lab at a quick pace. There was little more that could be done for him there today.
Star Sapphire was escorting Funky Flashman to his quarters when Power Fist bound by. The pair moved close against the wall to give him a wide berth.
The man had mastered moving on all fours and passed by them in a rush. “S’cuse me!” Power Fist said as he rushed on by. Tears had started to form in his big, dark eyes; he wanted to be alone.
“Was that grieving gorilla Grodd?” the con man asked as he moved back into the hallway. “If so, he’s misplaced some of his muscular mass.”
“That’s not Grodd,” Star Sapphire corrected him. “That’s Power Fist. He was one of the recruits Grodd transformed into an ape and used recently to infiltrate Gorilla City. Grodd’s plan to overthrow that government was successful, but Fist decided to return with us instead of having a life in that simian city.”
“That Grodd,” Flashman exclaimed. “Always one for the grand plans!”
Star Sapphire nodded but kept her thoughts to herself. She wondered just how things were going in Gorilla City and to what end the super-gorilla would use his fellow apes to his own advantage. “Grodd certainly isn’t the type to be satisfied with ruling a single city,” she caught herself saying out loud.
“Who is, my dear?” Flashman said with a smile. “Who is?”
Star Sapphire didn’t like the inflection in the man’s voice. “What’s that supposed to mean, little man?” she snapped.
Flashman’s smile widened to hide any discomfort he might be feeling. “Why, nothing, Star. Nothing at all! Historically speaking, the participants in this particular group have often shown a penchant for personal prominence.”
Star Sapphire rolled her eyes as they walked. This man’s arrogance and pompous attitude were enough to try even her patience. As they rounded the corner, they came upon two women conversing in the hallway. The alien warrior hoped, perhaps, she could unload the oaf on one of them. “Lydia, Dr. Quinzel, may I introduce to you Funky Flashman?”
The brown-haired man’s eyes grew wide as he took in the two beauties. “The pleasure is all mine, ladies,” he said as took each of their hands in turn and kissed them.
Lydia Anastasios took her hand back and smiled at him politely, then turned to Star Sapphire. “Are we still having lunch?” she asked.
“Definitely!” Star Sapphire said, realizing she could use this as an out. “I just need to get our guest settled in first.”
Flashman, meanwhile, was sidling up to the blonde woman. “A doctor, eh?” he asked. “Would that, perhaps, be in the practice of physical medicine?”
“No,” Harleen Quinzel said flatly. “And if you will excuse us, Lydia needed to speak with me for a moment.” She took the dark-haired Greek woman’s hand, ushered her into her nearby office, and closed the door firmly.
“I am glad you could fit me in, Dr. Quinzel,” Lydia said. The Greek woman wore a long-sleeved beige blouse and a short, brown suede skirt. The tattoos that covered her body were easily seen on her legs and plunging neckline.
“No problem,” the blonde psychiatrist replied as she sat in her chair. She motioned to the couch, offering Lydia a place to sit. “What can I help you with?”
Lydia took a seat. “Well,” she started to say, “it’s about Sam. I know he was a patient of yours and all before.”
Harleen Quinzel took off her wire-framed glasses and began to clean them with a handkerchief she’d taken from the breast pocket of her navy blazer. “You know, kiddo,” she said, “I really can’t discuss with you what went on in session between Mirror Master and I. Doctor-patient confidentiality, you understand.”
“Oh, I do understand,” Lydia said. “I certainly did not mean to ask you to break that professional confidence. It’s just that Sam seems a bit restless and irritable of late, as if he is having problems sleeping. I really do not know what I can do to help.”
“Hmm,” Dr. Quinzel said as she thought for a moment.
“What do you think?” Lydia asked.
“Well, I can’t really force him to talk to me about it,” the doctor said. “He has to want to of his own free volition. Though you might be able to encourage him to do so, given the close relationship between you two.”
“I might be able to do that,” Lydia said. “Will that help?”
“If he comes to me to talk about it, I could also prescribe some medication that will help him sleep better at night,” Harleen said. “But he’s got to take that first step if he wants the help.”
“I understand,” said Lydia, and rose to her feet. “Thank you so much, Doctor.”
“You can call me Harleen, if you’d like,” the blonde said. “I’d like you to feel comfortable talking to me any time about whatever is bothering you.”
The dark-haired Greek woman nodded. “Thank you,” she said, “Harleen.” Lydia then dismissed herself from the office and went about trying to locate Star Sapphire.
Dr. Quinzel unlocked her desk and opened the top right drawer. She reached into a pile of folders and removed one of them, the one labeled Mirror Master. Taking her pen, she scribbled some notes in her short hand onto one of the sheets inside. She then closed the folder, put it back in the drawer, and locked the desk again.
“Now,” she said to herself, “time to have a little talk with Copperhead.”