by Dan Swanson
“Magnet on!” a powerful voice rang out. A car that had been parked down the block shot toward Vic Valor at high speed, smashing him away from the Huntress. It carried him forward and crushed him against the side of an empty city bus, parked at the curb due to engine problems much earlier that day. A half-dozen other cars flew down the street and smashed into the growing pile of scrap metal. And then cars stopped flying, and for an instant there was silence.
A lean man in a silvery costume and red cape, his head covered in a silvery basketball, was dancing a happy jig and singing in a squeaky voice, “Boyoboyoboy! Hooray! I’m a hero, and I saved the day! I saved Hel’s life! I’m here to stay! Three cheers for me! Hip-hip-hooray!”
He floated over to the pile of scrap metal and spoke. This time his voice was much lower, a rumbling base that seemed to shake the very air. “Evil stands no chance against the mighty magnetic powers of Colonel Invincible, the dynamo in Danskin!”
Perhaps this was a mistake. Colonel Invincible noticed a low rumbling coming from the pile of scrap metal. He barely had time to speak. “Magnet on!”
Then the tons of scrap metal, which only minutes ago had been some very expensive cars and a stalled city bus, exploded into the sky.
Colonel Invincible was buffeted but protected by his magnetic powers. The surrounding buildings were not so lucky, and their outer walls were hit, damaged, and splintered, and every window on the block was shattered. Luckily, all civilians had evacuated the area. A clear, strong voice rang from the sky, commanding, imploring.
“Mother Earth which ‘neath us lies, protect all from the death that flies!”
The earth beneath the four stunned or unconscious heroes receded and then closed in over them, shielding them from the flying shrapnel. When the air had cleared, Vic Valor was striding toward Colonel Invincible, and he was speaking — the first words he had uttered since he had blasted out of the laboratory subbasement.
“Imposter! I am Ultimate Victorious Valor, Commander of the Invincibles, and you are unknown to me! Your costume betrays your association with Xenon and the evil Doctor Doog!” He slammed a tremendous punch toward Colonel Invincible’s chest. The Colonel, however, was made of stern stuff, and he deflected Valor’s punch. The big man had left himself open, and Colonel Invincible took advantage. His super-powered right uppercut struck Valor on the chin, and actually lifted him from his feet a few inches. A smile split the lower half of his face.
“At last, a foe worthy of my mettle! Defend yourself, imposter!” Vic Valor slipped into a classical boxing stance, left arm up to defend his head, right arm jabbing and probing the hero’s defenses. Colonel Invincible was in the same stance, and the two circled each other, jabbing, blocking, and occasionally throwing punches. They both seemed to have eschewed their powers and turned this fight into a man-to-man slugfest.
If any human fight fan could have seen the action, he would have marveled at the skill each fighter displayed, the precision of the punches, the superb display of boxing defense — yet no merely human observer could have seen the action live, as the two combatants moved so quickly that even an ultra-high-speed camera and slow-motion playback would have shown only a blur. That same fan might have quickly concluded that Colonel Invincible had no chance in this fight — Vic Valor was several inches the taller of the two, and weighed at least twice as much. But at least for now, the man of magnet was holding his own.
The super-heroine now called Zephyr, the former Mighty Isis, used the short respite to get the other heroes out of danger.
“Heroes four lift from the ground, hidden from view, without a sound… heroes four, float away, live to fight another day.”
The four heroes vanished. Zephyr knew they were floating toward Gotham’s Saint Elsewhen Hospital, where they would eventually be gently deposited on the front lawn, unless they awakened sooner. Assured that these other heroes would be as safe as she could make them, she turned back to the fight.
The fight between Vic Valor and Colonel Invincible had been a draw so far, but neither of them were the biggest losers in this battle.
The surrounding neighborhood was taking a real beating as the combatants bashed each other into the walls of buildings, knocked down streetlights and utility poles, battered holes in the streets, and tore up the sidewalks. Fires were burning where sparks had ignited flammable debris; geysers of water blasted from broken hydrants, and there wasn’t an unbroken window for blocks.
Zephyr was horrified by the wanton destruction. Her first priority was to prevent further damage, either to life or property.
“Power of storm, lightning and thunder, cloud and wind and rain… I call on all, aid me now, this horror to restrain!”
A magical whirlwind arose, centered around the two invincible combatants. The eye collapsed, forcing the battle into the middle of the street and away from the shattered buildings.
A heavy cloud cover appeared, and torrents of rain washed down on the scattered fires, quenching them. Thunder boomed, knocking dangerous rubble loose from walls high above the street, and brilliant flashes of lightning vaporized the falling debris before it could cause further damage.
Satisfied that the city was safer now than it had been, Zephyr turned her attention to the fight, and just in time. Vic Valor had used his greater size and weight to batter through Colonel Invincible’s defenses, and as Zephyr watched, Valor hit his slighter foe with an uppercut that lifted him off his feet and threw him backward into the wall of magic wind. He was instantly spun away, out of Valor’s reach, and the large angry man looked around him for another target.
Again the commanding voice of Zephyr rang out. “Hands of stone rise from below — aid me now and grasp my foe!”
Rough-hewn hands of rugged stone tore up through what remained of the street, grasping Valor’s arms and legs, with a larger pair grappling around his body. Vic Valor strained, but the hands gripped him tightly. Still, the strain was tremendous.
Every twitch he made battered Zephyr like a punch. Who was this masked man? He had taken the best shots the heroes could muster, and he had shrugged them all off. If reinforcements didn’t arrive soon, and he got loose, she knew Valor would shrug off her further efforts as less than inconveniences.
Vic Valor glared at the stone hand restraining his right arm, and it started to melt. Zephyr started a spell to counter the heat, but it was already too late. Valor’s right arm burst free of the restraint. His free hand pummeled the rocky construct gripping his left arm, and it shattered. With both arms free, he concentrated next on freeing his feet. Rays lanced out of the palms of both hands, and the rocky overshoes began to disintegrate.
Zephyr turned her attention away from the imprisoning spell, and the animating magic flowed out of the stones gripping Valor. She spoke another spell meant to slow him once he inevitably shattered the remaining stones holding him.
“Mother Gaia heed my cry — increase Earth’s pull, he may not fly!”
Even as Vic Valor shattered the remaining stone bonds, gravity was shifting under him, gaining strength, making him heavier and heavier. To his astonishment, he found that while his strength allowed him to resist the pull and remain standing, he was unable to fly. He was becoming so heavy, that he started sinking into the pavement below him. The concrete below him suddenly could no longer support his weight, and it shattered with a crack like thunder. As she watched the earth slowly swallow her opponent, Zephyr was astounded to see a smile on his face.
And then she was stunned when, light as a feather, he lifted from the hole.
“Yes, element witch, I, too, am a master of gravity. I hope you have other options in your elemental bag of tricks, or you will soon be vanquished as were your allies!”
Zephyr needed another second or two to prepare her next spell, and it sure didn’t look like she was going to get that time. However, she could cancel any current spell instantly, and she did so. Valor had been using his powers to resist a heavy gravitational pull. At the return of normal gravity, he bounced high into the air.
“It will take all of our efforts to drive him away!”
Zephyr jumped in surprise as the Huntress appeared next to her, stepping off a glowing golden platform that had been created by Corona. Insect Queen landed to her left, Corona to her right.
“If this really is Vic Valor, he should have vulnerability to bright light and intense electricity,” continued the Huntress. “And even Superman has been affected by ultrasound.” I hope I sound more confident that I am! Helena Wayne thought to herself. Valor somehow ignored my electrical blast, as if he had somehow overcome his weakness. Though my taser has nothing like the power of a single lightning bolt, and I plan to have this woman hit him with a lot more than one.
Zephyr began to speak. “I sense that he has flown out of my gravity trap. What we do, we must do now!”
With no hesitation, the Huntress outlined her plan. She finished with a wry smile. “Looks like all I’m good for is bait!”
“Imps of color and of light, change this woman to all sight!”
The Huntress disappeared, and in her place stood another Zephyr. “Scatter!” the disguised Huntress advised her allies. “OK, ladies, do your stuff!”
Corona enclosed the false Zephyr in an invisible energy-shield, and only just in time, as Vic Valor burst from the clouds like an avenging bolt of lightning. The faux Zephyr spoke.
“Spirits of nature around me gather! Make this hit feel like a feather!”
Hidden, the real Zephyr winced. Vic Valor smashed into the shield, and though it was driven into the pavement, Helena was unharmed.
“Furies of mature vanquish my foe!” the false Zephyr commanded.
Insect Queen’s wings were moving at ultrahigh velocities, and she focused an intense blast of ultrasound on Vic Valor’s head. He couldn’t hear it, but it was affecting his sense of balance, and the world seemed to be rolling slowly around him. Corona created a super-powered spotlight and blasted him directly in his eyes. Even the light-filtering goggles he had donned years ago were insufficient, and pain lanced through his visual system. Closing his eyes didn’t help. He had to escape, and the only way out was up. But before he could fly, the real Zephyr spoke her last spell.
“Gods of storm around the world, heed my call! Show us your power, blast our foe, one and all!”
Who really knew how many storm gods there were? Zephyr might, and we might have found out by counting the lightning bolts that struck Valor in the next few seconds. Or we might not, for how many of those gods, with a chance to show off to their peers, unleashed more than one powerful blast?
The resulting barrage of lightning was among the most impressive displays of nature’s power that had ever been witnessed by humankind, and it left the heroines temporarily blinded for long minutes. During those minutes, they prayed. If Valor had survived, and was able to recover his sight before they did, why, it would be just too bad for them. Yet, despite their fears, they remained alive.
Zephyr’s sight returned first, and she launched herself into the air to search for their foe. She discovered no traces of him. Could the lightning have destroyed him utterly, even disintegrating his entire body?
Of course it could have! You witnessed the power yourself! she thought angrily. I never expected to kill him! She could feel guilt, and knew this day would bother her for a long time. Even she, avatar of the goddess Isis, had underestimated the power that she could command, and unleashing that power without proper consideration had proved fatal.
Joanna Andre didn’t believe in killing, though the goddess of whom she was an avatar and the ancient queen who had given her the amulet of Isis were more practical.
“There are times when it is the only possible resolution.”
Joanna refused to believe this; she thought that gods and royalty, even including the goddess Isis, were just too aloof from the concerns of humans and did not really understand the value of life to mortals. Zephyr was not simply an avatar of Isis, however, but a blending, and Joanna vowed that her own sensibilities would forever rule Zephyr’s actions. Her convictions on this matter never wavered again, even when, a half-hour later, Doctor Fate assured everyone involved that Valor had not died, but instead had been driven off by their combined attack.
Vic Valor had supposedly been under control several times earlier during the fight, and managed to return for another round, so no one relaxed right away. But now that they knew he really was gone, they heaved a collective sigh of relief as other people began to filter into the area.
The mayor of Gotham City arrived a few seconds before Hawkman, the longtime chairman of the JSA. This was unfortunate, as the hero was unable to duck the mayor, and he had hoped to postpone this confrontation for later. He was relieved to see that at least the clean-up crew had arrived.
There was an army of uniformed men and women swarming through the streets and over the faces of the nearby buildings, with a variety of unusual high-tech machines, many invented by Ted Knight and Sylvester Pemberton. Hawkman knew that, before the sun came up, all the visible damage would be repaired, and the rubble and debris removed. Disaster Inc. reported that, incredibly, no one had been hurt in this fight other than the heroes and Vic Valor. So Hawkman was as prepared as possible for his confrontation with the mayor.
“This is the last straw, Hawkman! Your improved, highly advanced security was supposed to keep my city safe from this kind of damage! I want you out of town, and I want you out now!”
“Mr. Mayor, this block will be completely restored by the start of business tomorrow, and no one was hurt.”
“Mr. Hall, you know it’s only pure damn luck that nobody got killed. What about next time? Or the time after that?”
Hawkman was silent. Carter Hall couldn’t really argue; of course the mayor was right. Someday, some fanatic would attack during rush hour, and they wouldn’t be so lucky. Jay Garrick, the Flash, had a couple of ideas about this issue; if he was elected president this upcoming November, he planned to propose that the JSA set up a new headquarters on federal land a long way from any populated area. Meanwhile, the mayor had always been overridden by the City Council on the issue of pulling the JSA’s charter, and since no one had been hurt today, it was unlikely that the mayor would suddenly win their support tomorrow. But Hawkman realized that the JSA needed to come up with a better solution, and fast. There must be something the world’s greatest heroes, including the two most powerful magic users and a couple of the most brilliant inventive geniuses on the planet, could do to further protect the public.