by Starsky Hutch 76
From the desk of Commander Steel:
The latest reference I have found is in Violence by Jacques Ellul (Seabury Press, New York, 1959). He says (pages 18-19) that the Illuminated ones were founded by Joachim of Floris in the 11th century and originally taught a primitive Christian doctrine of poverty and equality, but later under the leadership of Fra Dolcino in the 15th century became violent and plundered the rich and announced the imminent reign of the Spirit. “In 1507,” he concludes, “they were vanquished by the forces of order” — that is, an army commanded by the Bishop of Vercueil. He makes no mention of any Illuminati movements in earlier centuries or in more recent times. This is only the latest reference I’ve found of the Illuminati supposedly being squashed, only to turn up again.
Hank Heywood rounded the corner as he went into his tenth lap around the second floor walkway above the center courtyard of Belle Reve Prison. He was in phenomenal shape for a man his age. In fact, he had the strength and stamina of a man half his age. A good part of that he owed to the process that had changed him into Commander Steel over forty years ago; that, and making sure he stayed in tip-top physical condition.
His attention was drawn from his exercise to the courtyard as the two large doors opened and a prisoner transport vehicle entered. The vehicle stopped, and several armed guards walked to the back of it as the two armed security officers stepped out of the cab to meet them. They opened the back doors and signaled with their rifles as they ordered them to walk down the ramp single file.
As he ran, Commander Steel watched as the prisoners exited the back — female prisoners. He wasn’t fooled by the fact that they were members of the so-called fairer sex. They were some of the most cold-blooded killers found in the country.
One of the women spotted him running around the courtyard in only a pair of jogging pants and commented on it to the woman in front of her. “Hey, look at that. He looks good for an old guy.”
“Yeah, he looks like what’s-his-name — Clint Eastwood — from the Dirty Harry movies.”
“I’d like to get dirty with Harry,” another said.
This turned into a rhythmic chant of, “I wanna get dirty with Harry, woo-woo.” This made Steel smirk. A lesser man would be tempted to take advantage of such a thing. He was not a lesser man.
He stared down at the crowd of incoming prisoners, casting his gaze on the incoming new faces. He spotted six in particular — the super-villainesses known as Manhunter, Artemis, Killer Moth, Nightshade, Barracuda, and Lady Bane. He then reached for the communication device clipped to his waistband.
“Carl, this is Commander Steel. I want prisoners Paula Crock, Artemis Crock, Valerie Van Cleef, Pamela Isley, Nan Norton, and Sharon Strange restrained and held in Dr. Togg’s laboratory until further notice. They are to be allowed no more interaction with the general populace without my authorization.”
“Yes, sir,” the officer said.
“I want everyone they’ve been in contact with interrogated as well. Find out anything they may have told them.”
The prisoners in question had knowledge of the secret identity of the Huntress. (*) Her father the Batman had been a respected colleague of his. If they thought they would be able to keep that knowledge, they were fooling themselves. He would take it from them if he had to wipe their minds clean to do it.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Law’s Legionnaires: The Deadlier of the Species.]
Forty minutes later, Commander Steel stood freshly showered and dressed in one of his standard black suits in the laboratory of Dr. Rocco Togg, a scientist who had accidentally transformed his body into that of a gombezi, a canine with eagle’s wings. The only thing about him that remained human was his head and his arms. He now stared at the drugged prisoners, each of whom had a device placed on their head that resembled something not unlike a bicycle helmet with steel cables extruding from the top.
“So you can remove the information?” Steel asked.
“Of course I can,” Dr. Togg said. “A simple little thing like that is old hat in the field of mad science.” He chuckled to himself at his own joke.
“Good,” Steel said.
“While I’m at it, I’m sure I’ll stumble across all sorts of interesting information you’ll want in their files.”
Dr. Togg saw that Steel was still standing there, staring at him coldly rather than making his usual abrupt departure. His wings fluttered nervously. “Is there something else I can help you with?”
“You and I have a problem.”
“Whatever could it be?”
“Ah, yes. She is quickly turning into one of my many success stories,” Dr. Togg said proudly.
“Your success is the problem. You were only supposed to remove the blocks on her aging. She wasn’t supposed to age any faster than you or I.”
“But you and I are barely aging at all,” Dr. Togg said wryly. “And therein lay the problem.”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Togg,” Steel snapped. “She is now biologically twice the age she was when she came in here!”
“I don’t like to do things halfway, Commander,” Dr. Togg said indignantly. “I found a breakthrough to give her a little push on her way, and I took it. I thought the objective was to help her grow up.”
“The objective was to give her the potential to grow up, which is what we have done,” Steel growled. “Offering her that gave her and her Helix family another incentive to cooperate. I doubt that it will still be there once she has what she wants.”
“You don’t think the explosive bracelets are enough?” Dr. Togg asked.
“To someone who can create and master controlled explosions, how big a threat do you really think they are?” Steel said.
“Oh,” Dr. Togg said, grimacing.
“See that you don’t give her any more of your little pushes.” With that, Commander Steel turned on his heels and marched out of the room.
Agent Liberty walked into the room where the dark-haired young woman sat, lost in thought with a stern look on her face. “Helena Bertinelli?” he asked.
“You know good and well who I am,” she said, turning toward him. “Why are you asking my name when you already know who I am?”
Wonderful. Great attitude. This will be pleasant, he thought, gritting his teeth. “I’m Arn Munro, also known as Agent Liberty. I’m team leader of the Suicide Squad. I assume you’ve already been briefed on what it is we do here?” He pulled up a wooden chair identical to the one she sat in and took a seat in front of her.
“Yes,” she said. “And if I come along with you on a few missions, the authorities will be willing to lose my record.”
Agent Liberty looked through her file and whistled. “You’re lucky your grandfather is who he is. This is quite a nice little rap sheet you’ve built up for yourself. Hard to get out from under something like this, even if the men you killed were the scum of the earth.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Nemesis: Beyond Redemption.]
“I don’t want to hear about my grandfather.”
“I’ve heard about your animosity towards him,” Agent Liberty sighed. “I hope that’s something that you can get over in time. Ted Grant is one of the best.”
“If he’s so good, then why couldn’t he ever find my father or me?”
“I’m sure that’s something which will haunt him for the rest of his days,” Agent Liberty said. “I know it would’ve haunted me if I’d ever had children.”
“Then you probably wouldn’t have stopped looking until you found them, would you? Why did he?” she said angrily.
“I can’t speak for the man,” he said. “I can only tell you what I would do in his position. But I will say that the Ted Grant I know is no quitter. If he gave up the search, he had good reason.”
From the expression on her face, Munro could tell she looked unconvinced. He let out a sigh and said, “Anyway, now that we’ve shared this special moment, let me introduce you to the others.” They both stood, and he led her from the room.
From the desk of Commander Steel:
In A History of Secret Societies (Citadel Press, 1941), Akron Daraul also traces the Illuminati back to the 11th century, but not to Joachim Floris. He sees it as the origin of the Ishmaelian sect, also known as the Order of Assassins. They later adopted a less violent philosophy. However, in the 16th century in Afghanistan, the Illuminated ones picked up the original tactics of the Order of Assassins. They were wiped out by an alliance of the Mongols and Persians (pages 220-223). But the beginning of the seventeenth century saw the foundation of the Illuminated ones of Spain — the Allumbrados, condemned by an edict of the Grand Inquisition in 1623. In 1654, the “illuminated” Guerinets came into public notice in France.
And finally, the Bavarian Illuminati was founded on May Day, 1776, in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, by Adam Weishaupt, a former Jesuit. Documents still extant show several points of resemblance between the German and Central Asian Illuminatists, points that are hard to account for on the grounds of pure coincidence (page 255). Weishaupt’s Illuminati was suppressed by the Bavarian government in 1785; Daraul also mentions the Illuminati of Paris in the 1880s but suggests it was simply a passing fad. He does not accept the suggestion that the Illuminati still exists today.
For the first time since the miracle that had changed him into Odysseus, Steve Trevor felt weary and old. He had dreaded answering the phone. He knew it was the call he had been expecting, summoning him back into the field. He’d never forgotten the look on his pregnant wife’s face. It was one he had worn many times himself over the years when he knew Wonder Woman was running off into danger.
He knocked on the door and waited patiently as several deadbolts clicked as the person on the other side turned them. The door opened, and Steve Trevor gasped in shock. “Amanda! You’re so thin!”
True enough, Amanda Waller was only half the woman she had been before. She was far slimmer and more athletic than the husky figure she had been. “I’ve had a lot more time on my hands,” she said. “So I’ve been working out.” She turned around and walked back into her apartment. Steve Trevor followed.
He looked around at her small apartment. There were several boxes in various stages of packing scattered about the place.
“What do you want, Trevor?” Amanda Waller said.
“I want you to reconsider,” he said.
“Not a chance,” she replied, returning to her packing. She picked up a vase and began wrapping it in newspaper.
“We need you, Amanda.”
“Tell Steel. He doesn’t seem to think so.”
“It’s because of him that we need you there. Someone has to look after these kids.”
“These kids are all adults. They knew what they were getting into. I’m sure they look like kids to you, since you’re so damn old. Hell, you’ve lived two lifetimes.”
“If you want to hang around playing nursemaid, that’s your business. I’ve got better ways to spend my time. As long as Steel can’t let go of the reins, there’s no place for me there. I didn’t get where I am by sitting on my ass, and I’m not about to start now.” She then saw the hurt in his face and said, “You’re a good man, Steve. It makes me wonder what the hell you’re still doing there.”
“Isn’t there any way I can change your mind?” he pleaded.
“I’m sorry, Steve, but not everyone gets a second go-around like you did. The rest of us have to get it right the first time.”
As he left her apartment building, Steve Trevor felt even wearier than he had before his arrival. Whatever he faced in his future with the Suicide Squad, he knew he’d be facing it alone.
From the desk of Commander Steel:
The Encyclopedia has little to say on the subject of the Illuminati. The Illuminati, a short-lived movement of republican free thought founded on May Day, 1776, by Adam Weishaupt, professor of canon law at Ingolstadt and a former Jesuit. From 1778 onward they began to make contact with various Masonic lodges where, under the impulse of A. Knigge (q.v), one of their chief converts, they often managed to gain a commanding position.
The scheme itself had attractions for literary men like Goethe and Herder, and even for the reigning Dukes of Gotha and Weimar.
The movement suffered from internal dissension and was ultimately banned by an edict of the Bavarian government in 1785.
All eyes were on Baby Boom as she walked into the recreation room. She looked different each time anyone saw her, and each time it was somewhat unnerving. It was as if a child was aging rapidly from a toddler to a pre-teen right before their eyes.
“Hi, everybody!” she said with a happy wave as she walked across the room toward the pinball machine. She began stacking milk cartons in front of it to reach the playing surface out of habit and then stepped up. She let out a happy laugh as she realized that she needed to take a couple of them away, needing only one to play the game. It wouldn’t be long till she didn’t need to do it at all.
“Man, I just can’t get over the change,” Arak the Wind-Walker whispered to Tao Jones.
“I know,” she said. “I got so used to her looking like a baby all these years. I may never get used to this.”
Babe did indeed look very different from the appearance she had held upon first arriving at Belle Reve. The prison doctors who had examined her had calculated her biological age at somewhere between four and five, though small even for that age.
Now she appeared to be somewhat close to ten years of age, though she was trying to look even older by wearing punkish clothes and too much makeup. She had abandoned the mohawk she had worn in her Baby Boom phase as her hair began to grow quickly. And she began to take pride in her appearance. She was finally getting some idea of the pretty woman she would one day be.
“You look very… nice today,” Vixen said to her as she started to play the game.
“Thanks,” Baby Boom said, enthusiastically playing.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your makeup, though.”
“Hey, I’m not too young for makeup!” Baby Boom said defensively. She gestured to the rest of Helix and Gypsy. “I’m as old as anyone in here!”
“Oh, I know,” Vixen said, holding up her hands appeasingly. “In fact, you’re looking more and more like a young lady all the time.” This seemed to settle Baby Boom down a little. “That’s why you need to make sure the makeup you wear conveys the right image.”
“The right… image?” Babe said, sounding confused and slightly concerned.
“You know, before I got into adventuring, I was a fashion model,” the African-born heroine said. “Perhaps I could help you with your makeup.”
“Really?” Baby Boom said, her eyes brightening. “That would be great!”
Suddenly, Agent Liberty entered with a sullen, dark-haired young woman. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet the latest member of our team. She goes by the code-name Nemesis.”
“She looks like a barrel of laughs,” Tao muttered under her breath to Arak and Penny Dreadful.
“Shhh…” Penny cautioned.
Nemesis shot Tao a look that made her blood run cold. Could she possibly have heard her?