by Martin Maenza
The morning sun continued its journey across the clear blue tropical sky. The scene contrasted sharply with that of the great storm that had passed through the region a number of nights prior. Such was the essence of nature, beautiful and often unpredictable.
On one of the many small, uncharted islands in the South West Pacific, a group of individuals were just happy to be alive.
A large gorilla made his way through the jungle growth, carrying over his shoulder a net full of various fruits that had been gathered. Reaching the clearing, the ape set the spoils down upon the stump of a recently felled tree. “Delivery man,” the ape called out in a rough voice.
A woman with dark hair emerged from a lean-to shelter and smiled. “That is excellent, Luke,” she said to Power Fist, calling Lucas Case by his first name. “We shall see what meals we can come up with using what you have brought.” She approached the net and took out a round red fruit.
As she touched the tattoo of a knife on her left arm, the picture sprang to life, and the blade appeared in the air before her. She took it by the handle and sliced into the fruit. After placing a piece in her mouth, Lydia Anastasios let out a sound of pure delight. “Mmm-mmm,” she said, offering some to the man-ape. “It is so ripe.”
Power Fist took the offered fruit in his large hand and gulped it down. “Yep, nothin’ like fresh off the vine. Let me round up the others and see if they might be hungry.” The ape then bounded back off into the brush.
Another figure peered out from the shadows near the shelter. Watching as Lydia took another bite, his eyes traced down her bare, olive-skinned shoulders. Though she now dressed in the simplest sleeveless T-shirt and her bikini-bottom panties, the young Greek woman hardly seemed undressed. The tattoos that covered her body from neck to toe created their own special pattern; from a distance it would appear that she wore an intricately designed leotard of sorts.
She turned around, caught sight of the man who had been spying on her, and smiled. “There you are,” she said as she gestured with her hand. “Come, have a taste.”
The man in orange and green emerged from the shadows; Mirror Master made his way down to the young woman. He opened his mouth to speak, but she plopped a piece of the fruit in his mouth. “See, it is heavenly, don’t you think?” she asked.
He chewed a few times, swallowed what was in his mouth, then quickly went to wipe the juice from his lips with the orange sleeve of his costume. “Yes,” the Reflective Rogue agreed. “It is good.”
“It’s refreshing,” Lydia replied. “Feels good on a day like today.” She glanced up at the bright sun that shone above the island. “I think it will be another hot one.” She turned back at her teammate and frowned slightly. His costume had a few tears in places, and also appeared severely soiled from the last few days of activity. “Would you like me to wash and mend your costume for you?”
Mirror Master looked a bit startled. “What? This? I don’t…”
“I do not mind,” she said with a smile.
Mirror Master was hesitant. Ever since re-forming the Secret Society of Super-Villains, he had always appeared in his uniform and mask in part to maintain a professional appearance. It kept things on a business level. But now that they were stranded on a deserted island, he wondered if all that professionalism really mattered.
Lydia came over to him and began to pull on the material. “Please, it will not take long. You could use the time to take a relaxing swim or just a nap. You seem so tense.”
“I don’t know,” Mirror Master said, but he could see her expression turn to slight disappointment. He preferred to see her smile. “Oh, okay.” He reached to his head and pulled off the green mask, letting her see for the first time his brown hair and face.
Lydia began to smile again. He was a fairly good-looking man, about what she gathered he looked like. His cheekbones were angular, and his face was a bit rugged or worn, as if he’d seen some harder times. He had a few scars, including a prominent one on his forehead. But there was something in his brown eyes that she felt comfortable with. The eyes, it had been said, were a reflection of one’s soul. “I can wash this as well,” she said, taking the mask. “The shirt, please.”
Sam Scudder hesitated, took a deep breath, and pulled the material over his head. He handed the orange and green top to the woman. “That’s all you’re getting,” he said with a laugh, trying to use humor to hide his concern over her reaction to his uncovered body. While she looked at his scarred upper torso, her facial expression did not change. Scudder wondered if she was going to saying anything about it and worried about what kind of response he would have to give her.
Luckily, she said not a word about it. “I will get these back to you in a little while, Mirror Master,” Lydia said, then headed off down the path to the beach to soak the fabric in the ocean’s salty water.
After leaving Lydia and the clearing, Power Fist first headed down to the beach. His heavy simian form kicked up a lot of sand as he jogged on all fours. He found that mode of movement to be the fastest, given the circumstances of his situation. When one had the form of an ape, it was easiest to use the body in its more natural ways.
Arriving at the south point of the beach, he found Gizmo exactly where he expected the dwarf to be. Sitting on a large piece of driftwood, the diminutive man just stared out over the ocean water on the horizon in a forlorn manner.
Power Fist slowed his pace as he approached, not wanting to startle his friend. As he got close enough, he called out gently. “Hey, Mikron,” the man-ape said. “Got some fresh fruit back at the compound. Even located a good bunch of bananas. You like those, right?”
The brown-bearded dwarf named Mikron O’Jeneus just sighed, not moving much at all.
Power Fist approached the wooden seat, eyed it, then decided it best to plop down on the sand instead. This hairy form had its benefits; the hot sand didn’t hurt nearly as much as it would against bare skin. “Hey, why so glum, chum?” he asked.
Gizmo just continued to stare out over the water. “It’s gone,” he said.
“What’s gone?” the black ape asked.
The dwarf got slightly agitated by the question. “It! It! The flier! We couldn’t salvage it! We barely made it out with the stuff on our backs and what few items that could be grabbed.”
“But we got out,” Power Fist said flatly. “It was rough goin’, but we all made it to this island.” He didn’t mention Star Sapphire, though, because he didn’t know where she was or what had happened after she got sucked out of the vehicle after the explosion. “Least we’re alive.”
“Fat lot of good that does us,” Gizmo said, pouting. “We’re stuck here, God knows where, and God knows for how long! We have only the simplest of things for survival.” He turned to the ape. “Even the weapons from Rogues Gallery that we managed to retrieve when the ship went down are of little help to us. We might as well be dead, for all it matters.”
“I don’t know,” Power Fist said. “That heat-gun makes fire-startin’ a breeze. And maybe one o’ them boomerangs might come in handy at catchin’ a rabbit.” He laughed a bit.
Gizmo stood up quickly and stared at the ape. “You just don’t get it!” He then stomped off up the beach, his short legs moving him as fast as they could.
Power Fist sat there, watching Gizmo head off to find another spot of solitude. He knew that what his friend needed right now was a little space. After waiting a good while before rising to his feet, the man-ape then decided to see if he could locate Copperhead.
A while later, Lydia Anastasios walked up the path to the makeshift compound that the group had built. In her hands were various damp pieces of clothing that dripped water. She put the cleaned articles down carefully on one of the rocks, reached down to her left thigh, and touched one of the tattoos that was there.
Like the other pictures on her body, this tattoo was made with a special chemical formula. As she touched it and concentrated, the picture sprang to life and created the actual object. In this particular instance, Lydia had touched the picture of a rope. Gathering up the coil of rope, she brought it over to a nearby tree trunk and tied one end off. She then extended the rope across the clearing to another tree, tying the opposite end to its trunk after pulling the rope taut.
Lydia then returned to the rock, picked up the damp articles of clothing, and laid them out on the line. The afternoon sun and gentle tropical breeze would have them dry in no time. “There, that is done,” she said aloud.
The brown-haired man looked up from the small device he was fiddling with to observe how well the dirt had come off his shirt and mask, which were now drying in the sun. “You are quite handy to have around, my dear,” he said.
“Is that not a bit chauvinistic, Mirror Master?” Lydia asked.
The man laughed. “I wasn’t referring to your laundering skills, Lydia,” he said. “And, please, you don’t need to be so formal. Call me Sam.”
“Well, Sam,” she said, feeling rather good that he was letting her call him by his first name. “What exactly were you referring to, then?”
“I meant to say that it is handy to have you around,” Sam Scudder explained, “because of your unique talents. Those tattoos of yours have come in especially handy the last few days while we’ve been stranded here. You’re a regular walking Swiss army knife, but far more attractive.”
Lydia blushed a bit at the compliment. “Say, what are you working on there, anyway?”
“Oh, this?” Sam said, referring to the device in his hand. “I’m trying to see if I can make some kind of transponder, of sorts. Combine some of my mirror gimmicks with one of the Pied Piper’s horns. Maybe get a signal going that someone can pick up on, so we can be rescued.”
“Perhaps Gizmo can help you,” she suggested.
“No,” the man replied, shaking his head. “Mikron’s been acting a bit odd since we got stranded. Not sure what’s going on in that head of his, but he’s clearly more hindrance than help in a state like that. Also, we don’t have much to work with parts-wise, and I can’t risk the chance of him botching something up because of unclear thinking.”
“Oh,” Lydia said, though she wasn’t quite sure if she agreed with the assessment.
“What I really could use right now is a screwdriver and a soldering iron,” the Reflective Rogue said.
“Really?” Lydia said, perking up a bit. “I can certainly help with the first one.” She touched a tattoo on the back of her right leg, and the tool appeared in her hands. “Will this do?”
Sam Scudder took the screwdriver from her hand. “That’ll work,” he said. “Thanks.” Without thinking, he gave her a quick peck on the cheek and went back to his work.
Lydia stood still for a moment as she felt a warm rush inside. The gesture meant a great deal to her; she was actually starting to experience feelings again that she had not felt in a long time.