I have invited some of the more prominent villains in the world to join a little group. Meet with us at 12:00 GMT today on Tromelin Island. I trust you can make it there without tipping off the authorities, but if you cannot, I can provide transportation.I didn't need to check my watch, Neurotron always knew what time it was. I had a little over an hour to get to Mephistopheles' evil supervillain shindig. If I even wanted to go. No doubt, Mephistopheles was planning on being the leader of his 'little group.' I certainly didn't want to subjugate myself to him unnecessarily. Should I join and try to usurp him? Was I even interested in being a villain anymore?
"Alright," I said to myself. "This is not a time to have an existential crisis. I am interested in running a 'little group' of powerful villains. It could be an ambush, but I'm confident that unless Mephistopheles has the United Heroes on board, I can make it out of there. So I'll go, and see whether this newby is a pushover and if I can usurp him."
Tromelin was an uninhabited island off the coast of Madagascar. I had no idea why Mephistopheles expected me to know that. Did he assume that I spent several weeks of my life memorizing maps off every part of the planet (I had, but he couldn't possibly know that). It was less than a kilometer on a side. Mephistopheles had been checking his weather reports: the entire southwestern Indian Ocean had cloud cover. I hovered above the island, taking in the scenery, trying to figure out how I could use it to my advantage if a fight broke out. The trees could be used for cover. Or for whacking people. I could use a ranged attack.
I saw a few villains standing around a table, and landed near them. The table was made of black marble, with 'IO' inlaid in white. Or maybe it was 'OI'. Much more interesting than the table, though, were the people seated and standing around it.
There was Mephistopheles. Standing. He was garbed in ornate black armor, with a billowing cloak of darkness. A scan across all frequencies showed that he was emitting no radiation, not even a black-body spectrum.What is with this guy?
To his right, Jack Frost was seated at the table, suited up in his freeze-ray mounted exoskeleton. "Phoenix! How are things?"
"Going well. I loved your most recent work on cryogenic entanglement, and how you applied it to trying to bring about a new ice age."
To Jack's right was a new supervillain, Titan, the gigantic talking dinosaur. Titan was a fifty meter tall sentient T. Rex. One of Dr. Carnage's last creations. I think he was setting up shop as a warlord in Africa, the continent torn to shreds in the One Day War. I remembered reading that he had beaten Resonance in a fair fight. She was one of the mightiest heroes in the world in terms of raw power, and Titan had taken her down and torn through a rival warlord's stronghold in the same day. Of course, he stretched the laws of biology, I stretched the laws of physics. I could take him down pretty easily should the need ever arise.
Continuing around the table was Puzzle Master. As the name might suggest, he was a very confusing person. On one hand, he exhibited intelligence on par or even exceeding that of Professor Cognis and myself. He devised bombs and poisons which suggested vast technical sophistication, and concocted schemes of incredible complexity. On the other hand, he was a lunatic terrorist who spent his time giving the authorities hints of his next targets, usually in rhyming form.
After him was Ison. Ison had started his career as a hero, and then gone rogue, becoming a supervillain. He had then gone un-rogue, becoming a hero again. This was his fifth relapse. His main power was flight, with rockets embedded throughout his body accelerating him to thousands of miles an hour. He was also incredibly durable, so ramming his opponent was a viable tactic. I had seen him take down buildings.
Sitting next to Ison was General Electric. A supervillain who functioned as a living Van de Graaff generator, he could shoot lightning out of his hands. He was wanted for murder, bank robbery and because his name was a trademark violation. He was tough, but I didn't need to worry about him. Due to the nature of my upgrades, I was especially immune to electrical attacks. I was not, however, immune the General's superhuman strength and stamina.
That left Plague, another of Dr. Carnage's creations. She could synthesize viruses and bacteria on the spot, and pass them on through physical contact. Most of them were too unstable to be contagious, but the odd exception made her one of the most dangerous villains in the world. She also boasted enhanced strength and stamina, and she was the head of a small criminal empire.
I looked up in the sky to see a very well-camouflaged helicopter landing near us. I tensed, on the off chance that it was the authorities crashing this whole meeting. It wasn't.
The doors opened, and out walked Osirion. A rogue experiment by the Russian government. Strong. As shit. as concrete reinforced shit. He was probably packing enough of a punch to pose a serious threat to my health. Working together with Ison, Titan, and Mephistopheles, he posed a very serious threat. Then again, it seemed unlikely that someone would unite all the diverse members of the supervillain underworld just so that they could have maybe a forty percent chance of defeating me. I decided not to bolt.
"Greetings," said Mephistopheles said, in a voice that would make an inanimate object cringe. "I think it is time for us to begin."
Our self-appointed master of ceremonies continued. "As you all know, the past ten years have seen the rise of Professor Cognis and his United Heroes. Where our opposition once stood divided and weak, they now stand together, backed by unlimited funding, and under the leadership of one of the greatest minds in the history of the human race. I think it is time for us villains to take on a similar strategy." He paused to allow the translator in Osirion's ear to convert his speech to Russian.
"Now is an especially opportune time for us to act. In the wake of the One Day War, many of the world's governments are in disarray. The heroes are overstretched and overworked. I know that Titan for one has been using this as an opportunity to push his empire to its greatest extent yet. I have been using this time of unprecedented growth in criminal activity to unite much of the world's organized crime-"
"Excuse me," spat Plague. Let me remind you that when Plague spat, grown men ran to avoid the spittle. "How exactly did you create such a vast criminal empire without my noticing?"
"You'll find I am a very discrete person, Plague. As I was saying, we have all been capitalizing on the recent chaos on our own. But together, we could do far more. Imagine what Titan could accomplish with Phoenix's technology to back him up. Imagine what Plague could do with Puzzle Master deducing your opponents next moves. Imagine what Phoenix could accomplish with all of our abilities to study."
Interesting, he mentioned me twice, as both a giver and a taker. Did that imply something?
"I believe that the people at this table have the potential to take over the planet within a year. Welcome to the Illuminati Occultus."
Puzzle Master was the first to speak. "I'm not so sure we'll play your game. Your army has a childish name. After you prove your worth to us, please come again, we shall discuss." He was speaking for many of us. He was speaking like a leprechaun, but he was speaking for many of us.
Osirion took a moment to figure out what Puzzle Master was saying. "Yeah. Why do you get to be in charge?"
Mephistopheles was ready for this. "Puzzle Master raises an excellent point. And while I don't plan on the Illuminati Occultus to have a single leader, I do think I will be able to organize our schemes.
"Why," Jack demanded. "Because you beat the Titanium Warrior in one fight? I've beaten him in dozens."
"No. Because you all need to join. Alone, even the most powerful of you is nothing. You can't hope to stand against Vector's power, guided by Cognis' intelligence. The only way we villains can succeed is if we work together. And the only way we can work together is through the Illuminati Occultus."
In order to fully appreciate what Mephistopheles was trying to do, a bit of background is required. Heroes frequently work together. Why wouldn't they? Professor Cognis was fighting for a better world. Bios was fighting for a better world. Vector was fighting for a better world. They all had the same goal.
Villains have a much harder time working together. Titan fights for Titan to have absolute power. Plague fights for Plague to have absolute power. Those two goals are incompatible.
I prepared to leave Mephistopheles and his delusions behind.