by Starsky Hutch 76
Will Magnus had seen many amazing things in his career with STAR Labs, but none of it compared to the glorious sights before him as he now ventured toward Atlantis. The farther down he went, the more exotic the ocean locale became.
“You should see this,” he told his passengers. “There is ocean life down here I didn’t even know existed. And the colors… simply amazing.”
“Well, don’t just tell us about it, Will,” Vixen said. “Let us see.”
“Oh, sorry,” the new Robotman said. He generated a screen for the passenger hull in the belly of the submarine form he now wore. “See what I mean?”
“Yes, the sights are breathtaking,” Steve Trevor said.
“Chu people are so reediculous,” Carcharo said. “I see thees sort of theeng all the time. Or I deed until chu took me away from my home.”
“You were taken away because you are a terrorist,” Arn Munro said, “and can’t be allowed to wander around freely.”
“Chu just wait,” Carcharo grumbled.
“What’s that?” Arn said menacingly.
“Nossing,” Carcharo said innocently.
The woman known as Indigo, who had formerly called herself Deep Blue, stared across the room at Carcharo. She wanted nothing to do with the shark-man. He made her very nervous, and she wished she hadn’t had to share her first mission with him. At least she would get to see her father, Senator Neptune Perkins. That would make things a little easier for her.
Carcharo saw her staring at him and said, “Ah, bonita, I see you looking at me. Carcharo is quite the ladies’ man, no? You have such pretty blue skin. Perhaps when this mission is over, you and I can get a little better acquainted, eh?”
Indigo quickly looked away, blushing a deeper shade of blue. This drew hearty laughter from the shark-man.
“I wouldn’t go there if I were you,” Baby Boom warned him. “The girl’s dad’s a senator. You’ll end up celebrating your hundredth birthday at Belle Reve if you don’t watch out.”
“Who chu theenk you’re kidding,” Carcharo said. “I probably will, anyway. I chust agreed to come along because eet’s $%#$# boring sitting in my tank all day!”
No one had an answer for that. They all knew there was no way Commander Steel would ever let him walk away from Belle Reve.
“Good to see you again, Senator,” Arn Munro said, clasping hands with Neptune Perkins.
“You, too, Arn. Thank you for taking such good care of my little girl,” Neptune Perkins said, shaking his hand and causing Indigo to cringe.
“Always a pleasure, Senator,” Steve Trevor said, also offering his hand.
“Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to his Majesty, King Arthur of Atlantis.”
“It’s an honor, your Majesty,” General Trevor said, shaking the former Aquaman’s hand.
Arn Munro followed suit, offering his hand as well. “I followed your exploits with the All-Star Squadron with great interest. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“Likewise,” the king said. “Senator Perkins has told me of the great work you men do. Too bad your team doesn’t get the credit it deserves.”
“If only,” Arn said. “But I’m afraid our top secret classification makes that impossible.”
“I understand,” the king said, nodding.
“Your Majesty, you remember my daughter,” the senator said.
“Of course,” King Arthur said, leaning gallantly to kiss her hand. “She looks so much like her mother, aside from her intriguing complexion. I’m surprised Tsunami didn’t join the mission.”
“She’s retired from the hero business, like I was,” Senator Perkins said. “And the life of a Senator’s wife keeps her busy. She’s involved with so many committees that I hardly ever see her anymore. Just between you and me, I think she gets more accomplished than I do!”
“From what I remember of her, I can believe it,” Arn Munro said. “Uh… no offense, Senator.”
“None taken,” Senator Perkins said grinning as the three men and one girl shared a laugh.
“I’m sure you’ll want your team well-rested and fed before you venture off to old Atlantis,” King Arthur said to Arn Munro and Steve Trevor.
“We appreciate your hospitality, your Highness,” Arn Munro said.
“Nonsense,” the king said. “You men are preventing a threat to my kingdom. “Let me show you to where you’ll be quartered.”
As they walked, Indigo’s eyes grew big as she looked around to the confines of the castle. “This place is incredible!”
“Yeah, it’s something, all right,” Senator Perkins said. “The architecture here is breathtaking.” He turned to his daughter and said proudly, “So, how does it feel to finally be in action?”
“OK, I guess,” Indigo said.
“Don’t you like being on a mission with your old man?” Senator Perkins asked.
“It’s not that,” Indigo said wistfully. “It’s just our orders. In case there should be any sort of attack on the city, you and I are to stay behind — within the walls of the royal palace.”
“Does Steel really think there’s any possibility of that?!” Senator Perkins exclaimed.
“I can’t stand this! Let’s just go in and bust the place up!” Karnage exclaimed as the stealth team hid outside the office building that served as the central hub of the Illuminati network.
“I know you’re anxious. We all are,” Commander Steel said. “But rushing in there would be the most stupid move we could make.”
“We wait,” Steel said. “That’s an order.”
Karnage fumed in silence. Normally, he was a good operative, if a little hotheaded. He had a brutal efficiency that worked on missions. Now, Steel worried he might prove a liability by behaving like a lovesick teenager rather than an accomplished field agent. He wished that he had thought to ask Munro what he did to keep him in line.
What he couldn’t tell him was that he was a nervous wreck, too. In the time he’d known Marcie Cooper, he’d come to view her in a fatherly way. She was a damn fine espionage agent, and he’d had high hopes of molding her career and watching her rise through the ranks. One of the reasons he’d chosen to actually venture out into the field again was to make sure that still happened.
At least the Tigress, as the super-villainess formerly known as the Huntress and more recently as Manhunter, was minding her manners. And she was the one he’d considered the biggest wildcard. She was waiting patiently, like her name and costume would suggest, for the opportunity to move in for the kill. Steel hoped that opportunity would be soon.
“Here we are,” Gypsy said. “Now where are the circuit breakers?” Accompanying her were Tao Jones and Penny Dreadful. Both were also hidden, thanks to the device Dr. Togg had created that amplified her camouflaging powers.
“Over here,” Penny Dreadful said. Tao Jones flashed her flashlight in the direction of her voice. “Dammit. It looks like it’s locked.”
“Can’t you just use your powers through it?” Gypsy asked.
“Wish I could,” Penny said. “What I’ve gotta do is going to be hard enough as it is.”
“Allow me,” Tao said. With a quick flex of her powers, the lock suddenly malfunctioned, and the door flew open. She repeated the process with the other circuit boxes.
“Awesome. Thanks,” Penny said. She placed her palms in front of the circuit breaker, reaching out to the current beneath, and sparks began flying out. Suddenly, they blew up like a fireworks display, and the building was bathed in darkness.
“There’s our signal,” Steel said. “Looks like you’re about to get some action,” Commander Steel said.
“About damn time,” Karnage grumbled.
Vandal Savage was sitting in his office feeding the infant Marcie Cooper a bottle when the power went out. “What in the hell?” he said, rising to his feet.
“Mr. Savage?” his secretary said, entering his office with a flashlight. “There seems to be a problem with the electrical system. The power has gone out, yet the emergency generator hasn’t come on.”
“I see that, Anna,” Vandal Savage said, stepping around the desk with the infant cradled in his arms. “I’m afraid it isn’t a mere power outage.”
“Sir?” the secretary said, blinking.
“Anna,” he said, placing a hand on her cheek. “Do you trust me?”
“Of course, sir,” she said with a voice choking with emotion. “With all my heart.”
“Oh, Anna,” he said with a wistful smile as his eyes seemed to crinkle at the corners in the way that always made her heart light up. “If only we had more time.”
“What do you mean, sir?” she asked, her voice rising in panic. “What’s happening?”
“There are people coming,” Savage said. “People who want to take this child for who knows what purpose. We have to protect her. It’s our duty to make sure she’s safe.” He handed the bundled blanket containing the blanket to his secretary and said, “I need you to help me.”
“Of… of course, Mr. Savage.”
He lifted an envelope off his desk and gave it to her. “In here are plane tickets that will take you to a secure location far from here. There is also a list of several accounts you will be able to draw on, so you and the child should want for nothing.”
“Can’t you come with us?” she said pleadingly.
“I — I have to be here to face them,” he said, like a man resigned to his fate.
The secretary quickly grabbed his head and kissed him on the lips, startling him, before she raced out of the office and to the stairwell with the child. He got the impression that she was crying.
As the door shut behind her, he went back to his desk and sat down, slightly overwhelmed. She thought so very highly of him. She believed him to be a good man. Her faith in him helped maintain his own conviction that he was thoroughly misunderstood. There had been times when he, too, had believed himself to be a good man. When he had lived as Pope Alexander VI and sought to reunite the Roman territories by any means necessary, had he not been doing God’s work?
He reflected back on this time as head of the Borgia clan. Family had been very important to him then. The Illuminati could also be said to be his child. Commander Steel sought to take it away from him. Having discovered his paternal feelings toward Marcie Cooper, he would be able to return the favor. “Take that, Steel,” Savage muttered under his breath. No matter what happened to him, no matter what happened to the Illuminati, Steel would not be getting through this unscathed. He would see to that.
The white-haired man who had until recently been known as Joh Fredersen appeared in the Illuminati pyramid. He was accompanied by several armored shock-troopers he had brought with him from his own time three centuries in the future.
“Wow!” one of the soldiers exclaimed under his breath to the one next to him. “Look at all this stuff! What do you think it all does?”
“Don’t touch anything!” the future Savage said over his shoulder. “We don’t need to find out by you accidentally setting anything off!”
“But we’ll eventually find out,” one of the others said eagerly.
“That we will,” Savage said patiently as he stroked his stubbly chin. “That we will. And when we do, those fools in the resistance will pay the price.”
“What does their security look like?” Commander Steel asked.
“There are guards on every floor in addition to the electronic security,” said Johnny Quick. “I would have already disabled them, but you said not to make a move without your OK.”
“That’s proper procedure,” Steel said, looking at the darkened building. “Though I hardly think we have to worry about the element of surprise. Let’s move in.”
“Thank you, Johnny,” Tigress purred.
“Thank you?” Johnny Quick asked. “For what?”
“For leaving me some prey to play with.”
Johnny Quick gave a shudder. What a psycho, he thought to himself as he wondered how he let himself be talked into this.
“So it’s a direct confrontation Steel wants,” Vandal Savage pondered grimly. “Then it’s a direct confrontation I’ll give him.”
He rose from behind his desk and stripped off his smart business suit, donning a black body-suit in its place. From his desk drawer, he removed a jar of black camouflaging makeup to apply to the parts of his face not covered by his thick black beard. As he prepared his skin to be concealed by the darkness, he was reminded of the many times throughout history he had applied war-paint of one form or another to his skin in the past as he prepared to go into battle. The colors and designs had been as different as the tribes he had been a part of, but the end results had always been the same. He had crushed those who sought to destroy him.
Savage turned the dial of his radio scanner to see if he could get a bead on the enemy. After a few seconds, he managed to pick up a signal the enemy had hoped to cloak.
“Tarantula, what’s your position?”
“On the roof. — scrrthch–“
“–screech — do you see?”
“A woman. She appears to be fleeing with a child. Should I — screech–“
“Negative. — screech — At least Savage has enough class to let the lady leave with her baby rather than hold them hostage.”
A broad smile crossed Vandal Savage’s face. “Oh, I have class,” Savage laughed. “Indeed, I do.”
The blackness of the interior of the office building was broken by the bright crackle of Karnage’s electric whip as he took out a security guard. “That’ll teach you to work for the wrong man,” Karnage guffawed.
“That man had a wife and three kids to support, to which end I paid him very well, which was why he was loyal,” a voice in the darkness said. “I’m sure you didn’t even consider that, though. Men who think small never consider the details.”
“Savage?!” Karnage exclaimed. “Where are you?” He looked around wildly, scanning the hallway with his infrared goggles, but he failed to make anything out.
“You’re the highly trained government operative,” Savage said with amusement. “You tell me.”
Karnage cracked his whip at a passing shadow and sent up a shower of plaster.
“No, I’m afraid that was the wrong guess, my friend,” the voice from the darkness said as an elbow connected with the base of his skull, knocking him unconscious.
“Pitiful,” Savage said. “Simply pitiful. I hope your comrades will prove more of a challenge. If this is the best that Steel can muster against me in the name of the U.S. government, then this will be over very soon.”