Showcase: The Illuminati
Trouble at the Top
The Race crossover
by Dan Swanson
The Illuminati has secretly pulled the strings of world events on behalf of Vandal Savage for centuries. But now there is something going on inside the Illuminati that has the ruling Council of Seven worried. Someone is killing them off, one by one! But who? And why?
The members of the Illuminati Council of Seven saw no reason either to let their desires go unfulfilled or to avoid excess. Who would dare make an issue of anything one of these ultimately powerful people might do? Still, even in this group, the excesses of Number Five were exceptional. He was the youngest member of the group, though not the most recently elevated, and most of the others had noticed just how much he resembled Vandal Savage both in attitude and appearance. He was clearly one of many of Savage’s many sons, and he didn’t bother to conceal this fact. But he never used it to his advantage, either. Savage showed no favoritism toward his descendants; in fact, he was often more suspicious of them than normal humans, because he knew how they thought.
The Black Sheep, a house of entertainment on the outskirts of Las Vegas, had been closed to guests for several days — well, all but one guest who had chartered the entire club for his exclusive use for a week. Some of the entertainers, particularly the more popular ones, had originally protested to management over the potential loss of a week’s income, but the mystery guest had paid huge upfront bonuses to the entire staff. What they didn’t know up front was that whenever he had taken a similar holiday in the past, part of the money he paid management was already earmarked to squash police missing persons investigations.
So far this week, none of the entertainers had disappeared — or even been damaged. But the week was still young, and he was just getting warmed up. He was sleeping off his latest adventures and was awakened by a soft knock on the door. He normally rang for his morning service. Whoever this was would have to be very persuasive in order to remain alive long enough to have lunch.
There was not a hint of his evil intentions in his manner. Still, he was absolutely stunned when Number Three wheeled a cart into his room. Even more stunning than simply seeing her here now was her outfit — or almost total lack of one, to be exact.
“Why, James, how interesting to run into you here! After all our discussions at meetings, I had hoped we might spend some… time together away from the office!”
Even though she was twice his age, he had found her incredibly attractive and had made no secret of it. She had never seemed interested — quite the contrary, in fact. Still, he had always known she would eventually give in. They always did, and the ones that played hard to get were usually the most fun.
She certainly was magnificent — tall, stacked, black, stacked, lithe and graceful as a panther — and stacked. He knew that she must use magic to enhance her appeal, but it didn’t matter to him. What he saw was what he wanted.
Number Three looked at him again closely and smiled — it was really more of a purr. “I’m glad you’re so happy to see me!” She filled two champagne flutes on a tray, picked it up, stepped to his side, and offered him his choice. He chose and waited for her to sip — and then he raised his glass in a toast.
“To excess!” she laughed and joined him, draining her glass. It was excellent champagne.
The convulsant drug prevented him from screaming in agony as the poison slowly killed him. The two drugs quickly broke down in his system, and within seconds were undetectable. She wheeled the cart out with her.
“And then…” she said to herself with a sneer, “…there were five.”
The tapes from the two hidden video cameras showed the guest suffering from a heart attack and passing away peacefully in his sleep. The police investigation officially concluded that heart attack was cause of death. The coroner’s report agreed. And the entertainers at the Black Sheep got almost a whole week of an unexpected paid vacation.
The death of a member of the Illuminati Council of Seven was not normally a totally unexpected event. During Vandal Savage’s absences, no councilor had ever lived long enough to retire voluntarily, and unless Savage returned again soon, none of the current members expected to live that long, either. A councilor’s assassination always indicated that the councilor had become careless, and to put it bluntly, any Council member who became careless enough to get bumped off deserved it. But the deaths of two in such a short time could indicate that the entire Council was under attack, so the remaining members tightened their security.
An accidental explosion? Please. That was a standard technique for eliminating someone. A heart attack and a surveillance video that didn’t show anything? Any trained Illuminati agent knew a dozen ways to accomplish either of these things. Heck, even the Mafia was that good.
Only one of the bodies in the burned-out building had been positively identified. Number Three had been far enough from the explosion that her body had remained relatively intact, and dental records (and secret genetic matching by the Illuminati) confirmed that this body was in fact Number Three.
They had one clue to the killer. Illuminati agents had combed the wreckage with instruments and techniques that police forces could only imagine and confirmed eleven other bodies, no more and no less. To the other members of the Council, this guaranteed that someone had escaped. Number Three used to have a fascination for the number thirteen. In a setting that she controlled, she would never have been part of a group of twelve. She always traveled with twelve flunkies, usually her most trusted slaves, and every member of the Council knew with certainty that there had been thirteen people in that room when the explosion occurred. And it seemed very likely that the escapee was the killer.
So Number Two was both extremely interested and very cautious when her spy on Number Three’s staff sent her an urgent message indicating that she knew who the killer was. Number Two immediately realized that her spy must have been the assassin, and that Number Two herself must be the next target.
The assassin had made a serious mistake underestimating a Number Two. Two realized that she could exploit this error to her own benefit. Now that she knew she was under attack and who her attacker was, she had not the slightest worries for her own safety. When she had all the relevant information, there was no situation she couldn’t turn to her advantage. Why, if she could establish her control over this killer, she could easily become the single ruler of the Illuminati.
Until Savage returns, of course, she thought to herself. Then I’ll willingly become his second-in-command, which will allow me to retain great power and my life. Even the highest members of the Illuminati lied to themselves.
Still, even though she was sure of her secret deductions, recent events indicated that this killer was quite formidable. So she took all reasonable precautions and some that seemed quite unnecessary. No use taking chances.
The spy followed the usual precautions that always preceded a meeting between the two of them. She knew the routine, which was a good indication that she was who she claimed she was. Number Two was not surprised that she had betrayed and murdered her mistress — the step from traitor to assassin wasn’t that large. But she was incredibly naïve to think that she could kill Number Three and then walk in here and take a free shot at Number Two. That was never going to happen.
It wasn’t until after the spy had passed through all the normal security checkpoints and given all the code words that Number Two revealed her knowledge. The spy was stunned when a dozen of Number Two’s most trusted agents surrounded and then sedated her. While she was unconscious, Two’s forensic team ran a lot of tests on her.
Her genome matched perfectly with the map already on record. Voiceprints, fingerprints, footprints, dental records, retinal patterns, and even maps of hair follicles on random sections of her body all indicated that this person was indeed who she said she was, and not an imposter. Yes, even the microchip I.D. that Number Two’s team had secretly implanted in the spy’s body was there, with no evidence of tampering. Number Two was totally convinced of the spy’s identity.
Finally, the unconscious spy’s hair was shaved off, and she was stripped naked and thoroughly bathed. She was placed into a straitjacket, her legs were bound together, and she was then rolled tightly in a Kevlar sheet, which was then secured with rolls of ordinary duct tape. When Security was done with her, only her head was visible. The rest of her was wrapped up like a mummy, but more securely than any mummy in history. In fact, one of Two’s tame doctors predicted that she would die of heat build-up in an hour or so, but Two wasn’t sure she would live that long. If the spy answered some questions, Two would spare her some suffering.
Two’s most trusted agents carried the tightly trussed spy into her private interrogation room. She felt totally secure, so she sent the agents out and administered a stimulant. This room was totally soundproof, and Two constantly had it checked for bugs. If she had a spy in Number Three’s organization, she was sure the other Council members must have spies in hers as well. She didn’t intend to let anyone know what she learned during this interrogation.
When the assassin awakened, she quickly assessed the situation and turned her head to Number Two — who quickly received a shock along with the first indication that there was something going on that she had been unaware of.
“Why, Giselle! What could I possibly have done to deserve this?” Number Two’s real name was not Giselle. Only Vandal Savage knew her real name. Giselle was a lover’s pet name she had been given by Number Three when both were much younger and had no idea what heights they would each reach in the ranks of the Illuminati. The spy could only have learned of this from Number Three herself. Which meant that Number Three must have been aware of her spy. Which meant what?
She would figure it out later. She clicked the button that would cause the microchip to explode, instantly killing the spy. Nothing happened, and then she heard an incredible and impossible noise. The spy was easily tearing free of her bindings. Number Two started shooting. At this range she couldn’t miss, but impossibly the spy moved almost too fast to see. And then Number Two ceased to be surprised. In fact, Number Two simply ceased. No more details were necessary.
The interrogation room door exploded, knocking down the waiting guards. Before they could even react, they saw a blurred figure rush from the room, and then their worlds went black.
They were extremely surprised when they awoke several hours later. A superhuman hurricane had destroyed Number Two’s headquarters after Number Two had been killed — though none of those working for Number Two were killed. The secret assassin was secret no longer. And the Council of Seven had shrunk to the Council of Four.