by Starsky Hutch 76 and Vendikarr DeWuff
From the desk of Commander Steel:
Despite the fact that his face appears on billions of stamps and dollar bills, and his portrait hangs in every public building in the country, no one is quite sure what George Washington looks like. In a 1969 TV special, “Meet George Washington,” many portraits were shown, but as the special noted, no two agree on what he looked like. Indeed, judging any one portrait against another, they don’t even look like the same man. Some of the portraits can be found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the more-than-passing resemblance to Weishaupt is undeniable.
As Steve Trevor stared at the one dollar bill, for the first time he seemed to notice the strange half-smile on the portrait of George Washington. He shook his head and put the dollar bill back in his wallet. He shifted his weight in the passenger seat so he could put it back in his pocket. “I just don’t buy it.”
“Which part don’t you buy?” Arn Munro asked.
“The whole conspiracy thing. The idea that there’s a plot dating back centuries to control us all,” Steve Trevor said.
“Even after what Commander Steel showed you?” Arn Munro asked, watching the road.
“You and I both know how deceptive he can be,” Trevor said. “I wouldn’t put it past him to be able to convince me I was experiencing suppressed memories.”
The car pulled to a stop at a traffic light. “Perhaps what you need is a little more proof,” Munro said. “This is a demonstration of one of the more basic principles of the Illuminati. It’s known as the Bavarian fire drill, Bavarian for the country where it originated.” He put the car in park and said, “Follow me,” as he opened the door and got out.
Puzzled, Steve Trevor got out as Arn Munro marched authoritatively to the car behind them and beat on the hood. “Bavarian fire drill! Out!” He made vigorous but ambiguous motions with his hands and moved onto the next car back. Trevor saw the first subject look dubiously to his companion and get out, obediently trailing behind Munro’s urgent, authoritative, dark-suited figure.
“Bavarian fire drill!” Munro was already shouting to the third car back. “Fnord!”
As Trevor moved along, occasionally adding his own deep and authoritative voice to persuade the more dubious drivers, every car gradually emptied, and people began forming a neat line heading back toward Lexington Avenue. Munro then ducked between two cars and began jogging toward the front of the line at Third Avenue again, shouting to everyone, “Complete circle! Fnord! Stay in line!” Obediently, everyone followed in a great circle back to their own cars, re-entering from the side opposite from that which they had left. Munro and Trevor climbed back in Munro’s dark sedan, the light changed, and they sped ahead.
“You see?” Munro asked. “Use words and signals they’ve been conditioned with since childhood with enough authority and never look back to see if they’re obeying. They’ll follow. That’s the cornerstone of the Illuminati. Their motto, in fact. The individual act of obedience is the cornerstone, not only of the strength of authoritarian society, but also its weakness.”
Steve Trevor looked back at the line of cars belonging to the subjects in this experiment as they moved off in different directions. For one brief instance, they had moved as a well-synchronized machine. And it had been all too easy to make it happen.
Commander Steel stepped into the cell of Paula Crock, the former Huntress who now operated under the name Manhunter. “What does your husband think of you using the name of a former lover?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t know. I haven’t had a chance to see or even speak to him since taking the name!” Manhunter snapped.
“What a shame when families are torn apart like this,” Commander Steel said, folding his arms and smiling wryly at her.
“Oh, I can see you’re all broken up about it,” she smirked.
“If the idea of a long stay with us is really bothering you, you can do something about it,” Commander Steel said.
“You aren’t suggesting I escape, are you?” Paula Crock teased with a voice that seemed more like a purr.
“Hardly,” Commander Steel said. “And you wouldn’t get very far if you did, I assure you. I’m suggesting you earn your freedom.”
“Why, Commander, I’m a happily married woman!” she replied with mock indignation.
“Very funny,” Commander Steel said with a face conveying no emotion at all, let alone levity. “By now, I’m sure you’ve heard some rumors among the populace about what goes on here.”
“Yes, I have,” she said.
“Well, some of the rumors are true. There are missions for which you can earn your freedom. Would such a program have any interest for you?”
“Risk my life for the authorities?” Manhunter laughed. “Hardly.”
“Even if it meant your freedom?”
“What good is freedom if you’re dead?” she said. “If I were into self-sacrifice, I never would have given up the hero game.” Paula Crock forced herself to keep from thinking back to the time when she had been called the Tigress, sometime-partner to the original Manhunter. Memories from that time were still too painful to bear.
“Even for the sake of your daughter?” Commander Steel said, staring at her coldly.
Manhunter’s laughing, disrespectful demeanor immediately changed. “What does my daughter have to do with this?”
“A lot of things can happen while you’re in prison. Things that can make your stay a lot longer than your original sentence,” Commander Steel said nonchalantly.
“You bastard!” Paula Crock cried.
“Of course, if someone were watching out for her, making sure she stayed out of trouble, that’s something she need never worry about.” At those words, she calmed down. “Do I have your cooperation?” Steel asked.
“Yes,” she said with resignation.
“Yes, what?” Commander Steel said, folding his arms sternly.
“Yes… sir,” Paula growled.
“Good,” Steel said. “I’ll have someone come by later so you can sign the releases and be briefed. Then you’ll be transferred to new quarters.” He turned and exited the cell. As the cell door slammed shut with a heavy metallic clank, Paula Crock grabbed the bars and screamed in anger and frustration.
Arn Munro returned to his apartment after his visit with General Steve Trevor. Heywood told him he needed to contact Malone. Arn had to go home for that call; he would not make it from the base. Matches Malone’s privacy was important to him.
Munro had a secured phone line installed in his apartment and had Heywood swear it would not be tapped. Heywood gave his word, but Arn still did a sweep with the bug detector he had picked up.
He unlocked his study and entered. He paused a moment and looked at his mementos as he did every time he entered the room — the Sword of Khan, a razor-edged boomerang, and an old pair of rocket boots. Arn smiled, knowing Heywood would have a fit if he had known Arn still possessed these valuable treasures. But these things were not for Heywood. They were to remember comrades-in-arms. A wave of sadness washed across his face as he looked at the gold chain mail costume under a pane a glass. Shaking it off, he then walked over to a display case and looked at the small wooden match inside.
It amazed Arn that this former gangster had become his closest friend. But after all they had gone through against enemies foreign and domestic, they had bonded. Matches had walked away from the business after the Mazursky incident in the ’60s and would only help if Arn really needed him. He had refused to contact Matches more than once, but not this time. Arn believed Heywood was right, and only old timers would be of best use here.
Arn picked up the phone, and it rang two, then three times, until he heard a click.
“Malone, it’s me.” A pause. “Yeah, that’s right. I need you.” He knew Matches got a kick out of Arn needing him, and he played up to that.
“Something’s come up, and only us veterans can do the job. Yes, we’re still working out of the prison.” Pause. “I know you won’t go to the prison. Where are you now?” Another pause. “That’s great. I will arrange the meeting in New York at the DEO offices. You’ll like the head of that branch; he’s a kindred spirit of yours.
“I didn’t hire him, Steel did. Yes, he has a thing with criminals. He loves his control. No, he doesn’t control me like that. I’m my own man. OK, two days, meet me at the DEO offices in New York. Steel should have his team assembled by then.” A pause. “Yeah, I miss ya, too, old man. It’ll be good to see you again.”
Arn hung up the phone and exited his study, locking it behind him. He then left and returned to let Heywood know that Matches was in.
Senator Neptune Perkins sailed through the depths of the ocean in the strange submarine known to the ocean-dwelling Atlanteans as a Leviathan, designed as much for aesthetics as function. Next to him stood King Arthur the First of Atlantis, formerly known to the world as the original Aquaman. He hoped Commander Steel wasn’t sending him on a wild goose chase, but he knew why he had been chosen. Few men could have gotten this far. His job titles, both new and old, were what had gotten him an audience with the king and a trip to this part of old Atlantis.
“How much farther, your Highness?” he asked the king.
“We’ll be coming upon it shortly,” King Arthur said. “We’ll probably be the first visitors this area has seen in centuries.”
“Is that so?” Neptune Perkins said. “So the present-day Atlantis isn’t the original?”
“In a manner of speaking,” the monarch said. “All societies migrate at some point, moving from one area of prosperity to another. This, at one time, was probably a prosperous area before the continent sank.” He looked down at his guide book. “This particular area was once known as R’lyeh. Strangely, I haven’t heard a lot of Atlanteans talk about it. It appears to have suffered a lot in the cataclysm. Many structures were damaged, which would have forced an eventual migration.” King Arthur pointed to the large window. “Naturally, that one stood unharmed.”
Neptune let out a gasp as he followed the king’s finger to the structure in front of them, looming largely through the window of the Leviathan. It was far bigger than any of the pyramids of Egypt. It was easily as big as the tallest of skyscrapers. At the top of the pyramid, beneath where the three points came together, was an enormous eye. It was the symbol of the Illuminati brought to life. Commander Steel had been right.
Baby Boom bounced eagerly into Dr. Togg’s lab. “I’m ready for my next treatment,” she said enthusiastically.
“Ah, yes,” Dr. Togg said with a nervous flutter of his wings. “But you’re not due for another week.”
“I know,” Babe said. “I’m talking about my booster shot,” she said with a wink.
“Ah… yes,” Dr. Togg said nervously. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to continue those.”
“Wha–? Why not?” Baby Boom said with a high-pitched, horrified yelp.
“I’ve… found it’s not in the best interests of your health to continue these… pushes… in your aging,” Dr. Togg said, the talons of his back claws clicking on the linoleum as he paced about the lab. “In my enthusiasm, I failed to take possible adverse effects into consideration. For instance, the stress put on the body by sudden acceleration in aging could produce cancerous growths in previously non-cancerous regions. There’s also–”
“You’re saying I could have cancer?!” Baby Boom yelped.
“Oh, n-no! No!” Dr. Togg stammered, holding up his hands. “You’re in perfect health. But in good conscience, I can’t continue to take such risks with your health. Hippocratic Oath and all, you know.”
“But you’re not a physician. You’re a scientist!” Babe exclaimed.
“I still have a responsibility to those I treat,” Dr. Togg said, wagging his finger at her.
“Look, I may look like a kid, but I’m an adult,” Baby Boom said. “I can make my own decisions! I was stuck in the body of a baby for almost twenty years, and I’m just finally starting to get a taste of what it’s like to start growing up! Don’t take that away from me! Please!”
“I’m sorry,” Dr. Togg said.
Tears began to well up in her eyes, and Baby Boom turned and ran from the room. She knew he was lying, and she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing the tears running down her little girl’s face.
“You’ll still receive the treatments that allow you to age normally, though!” Dr. Togg called out to Baby Boom as the door slammed behind her. He let out a long sigh as he went back to his research. There were times he hated working for Commander Steel.