by Starsky Hutch 76
Rather than go through the front door, Will Twotrees and Kiku managed to gain access through one of the many secret entrances into the royal palace. “How did you know about this?” Will asked.
“One of our old monarchs was rumored to be quite the lady’s man,” Kiku said. “He had the secret passageways built so he could slip in and out without anyone seeing him.” An alarmed look suddenly came onto Kiku’s face.
“What is it?” Will said.
“It’s my dial,” Kiku said. “I have a bond with it, and I’m picking up some strange emanations from it telling me there are supernatural forces at work within the castle.”
“Oh, great,” Will said. “Just what I want to hear.”
They continued to walk through the dark passageway in silence until Will said, “Stuffy in here, isn’t it?”
“These passageways are rarely used anymore. That’s why the air is so moldy.”
“Seems like this would be a great part of a tour,” Will said.
“The current leaders aren’t in any hurry to air the dirty laundry of the past regime,” Kiku said. “There’s enough squabbling with supporters still in favor of the old monarchy as it is. Anything that might look like an attempt to discredit them would just make it worse.”
“How do you know all this?” Will asked.
“Since I’ve become Badhnisia’s champion, I hear things,” Kiku replied.
As they walked farther down the secret passageway, the mustiness began to turn into a stifling heat. An unease began to settle over them. Both even felt slightly nauseous, dehydrated and achy, almost as if suffering from a bad hangover.
“Man…” Will said, pausing. He stopped and leaned his hand against the wall as he brushed his forehead with the forearm of the other arm to wipe away the sweat. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My mouth tastes like I haven’t brushed my teeth in a week!”
“I do,” Kiku said. “The emanations from my dial are growing far stronger. There’s something here… on the other side of this wall. Something evil.”
“Say, did it just get a lot hotter in here?” Johnny Thunder asked. Daisy Thunder leaned against her new husband as the weariness began to take over her. She fanned herself with one of the gilded Badhnisian royal fans she had picked up as they walked through the castle.
“Yes, Master Johnny, I believe it has. And whatever is causing it is coming from the throne room.”
Johnny stared at his Thunderbolt in shock. Was the T-bolt actually sweating? But that was impossible.
As they approached the throne room, they could see a figure sitting upon the throne. His features were difficult to make out, though, because the air seemed to warp, as if it surrounded a fire rather than a human being. Throughout the throne room, flies buzzed loudly.
“Who the heck is that?” Johnny said. Daisy grew alert once more and clutched her husband’s arm tightly.
“Mala!” Kiku spat angrily. The eyes glowed like red coals under darkened lids, and the skin had turned a decidedly unhealthy greenish-gray color, but it was him.
“Who’s Mala?” William Twotrees asked, standing beside her as they peered through the peephole from the secret passageway.
“Mala the Younger,” Kiku said. “The Elder was a venerated wiseman. The son, however, is nothing but a troublemaker. He’s one of those monarchists I told you about. Only his group is willing to do whatever it takes to bring back the monarchy — regardless of who suffers.
“I take it this isn’t the first time he’s made trouble for you,” Will said.
“No, it’s not,” she said with annoyance. “Usually his own rashness ends up being his undoing. He taps into forces beyond his control and ends up bringing about his own defeat. This time, I fear he’s gone too far for any of us to undo his mistake.”
“Say, you have got a lot of explaining to do, pal,” Johnny Thunder said to the figure sitting on the throne of Badhnisia.
Johnny, Daisy, and the Thunderbolt stared at the dark figure upon the throne and then to one another.
“Well?” Johnny said.
“I tried,” Master Johnny,” the Thunderbolt said. “Nothing happened.”
Johnny gulped nervously as Mala burst into sinister laughter, which boomed through the halls of the palace with a resonance far too great for his mortal form.
“It’s him!” Will gasped, staring at Johnny Thunder.
“Yes — the great one!” Kiku said excitedly.
“No! I mean my father!”
“Your father?!” Kiku exclaimed.
“The great one?” Will said, confused.
“What’s your game, mister?” Johnny said angrily, clenching his hands into fists.
“Quite simply to to undo the ridiculous state of affairs you created in my homeland with your ‘historic’ campaign to ‘pitch a little liberty to the locals,'” Mala said snidely. “Democracy — bah! How dare you try to turn my island into another America, with your blue jeans and your rock and roll and your Coca-Cola. Do you realize the modest house I was born in was torn down to make room for a place selling something called Kentucky Fried Chicken?!” He banged on the armrest of the throne in anger.
“Sounds like an improvement,” Johnny said. “Too bad they didn’t get there a little sooner.”
“I will not have it!” Mala shouted in a voice that shook the rafters. “This all began when your actions led to the fall of the monarchy!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Rescue of His Majesty, Johnny Thunder,” The Superman Family #204 (November-December, 1980).]
“And I suppose you plan to reinstate the king,” Daisy said.
“Yes, dear lady,” Mala said, smiling evilly. “And that king is me.”
“Don’t get too comfortable on that throne, pal!” Johnny Thunder said threateningly.
“In case you haven’t figured it out by now,” Mala said with a yawn, “I am not your pal.” He waved his hand, and Johnny and his Thunderbolt suddenly disappeared. Seeing her new husband suddenly blink out of existence, Daisy fell into a swoon.
“Nooo!” William Twotrees called out in horror from the secret passageway behind the throne room wall. With a burst of lightning, the bricks of the wall exploded outward, and Will Power strode out menacingly, crackling with electricity. Kiku followed behind him.
“Ah, yes,” Mala mused. “You two.” With a wave of his hand, they suddenly found themselves ensnared in bonds of energy pulling them farther into the throne room until they stood helpless before him.
“It’s time you had that family reunion you’ve always wanted,” he said to Will. With a wave of his hand, they disappeared as well. Mala burst into another gale of sinister laughter.
His eyes drifted down to the unconscious form of Daisy Darling, which he levitated until she floated over to the throne next to his. He eyed her appraisingly and said, “Nice…”
Will Power and Kiku suddenly found themselves in a foggy realm surrounded by men, women, and children. The adults wandered about aimlessly. They seemed lost, as if the bleakness of their situation was too much for them. The children ran and played, as if protected by their own innocence.
“Where…?” Will Power started.
“I think we must be on the other side of the mirror,” Kiku said.
“Apparently so,” Will agreed. “Now we know where all the people are. But what’s wrong with them? They’re like zombies.”
“We’ve got to get them out of here soon, or they may never recover,” Kiku said with concern in her voice.
“Easier said than done,” Will said. “Now that we’re in here with them, how do we get us all out?”
“What the heck is going on here?” Johnny exclaimed, looking at the men and women of Badhnisia as they walked around.
“I don’t know, Master Johnny,” the Thunderbolt said.
“Look at these people!” Johnny said. “I haven’t seen expressions like this since Peachy Pet found out about Santa.”
“Maybe if you hadn’t gotten stuck in the chimney, she wouldn’t have,” the T-bolt said.
“Well, you’d think they’d make those things big enough for guys playing Santa for the kids!” Johnny said.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Johnny said to a passerby. He got no answer.
“Hey, what’s wrong?!” he said to another. Still no answer.
“They’re too far gone, Johnny,” the T-bolt said.
A child ran by. “What’s wrong?” Johnny asked.
“Nothing!” the little girl said. “We’re playing hide and seek in the fog! Wanna play?”
“I’m kind of busy right now,” Johnny said. “Maybe later.”
“Suit yourself,” the little girl said, running off.
“It doesn’t seem to be affecting the children,” the T-bolt said.
“Well, I’m gonna get some answers,” Johnny said. He suddenly spotted the familiar robe of a priest of Badhnisia and grabbed him. “What’s going on here?!” Johnny said. When he got no answer, he shook the mystic and yelled louder. “What’s going on here?”
“A-A-Abraxis…” the priest stammered absently.
As the dazed and forlorn Badhnisian adults walked about, their paths seemed to part to reveal one figure who seemed more vibrant and alive than the rest. Will and Kiku were startled to see an old man wearing the robes of a high priest of Badhnisia. He was sitting down, muttering to himself irately, his arms folded and his bearded chin resting on his chest.
“Who is that?” Will said to Kiku.
“Whatsituyah!” the old man snapped, turning in Will’s direction.
“Do you know what happened here?” Will asked the old man.
“Certainly,” the old man smiled. There was a pause.
“Well?” Will said.
“Well what?” the old man said, smiling.
“Aren’t you going to tell me?”
“You didn’t ask me to tell you. You just asked me if I knew,” the old man giggled.
“You won’t get any straight answers out of him,” Kiku said. “Whatsituyah was one of the crooked mystic priests who wanted to use Johnny Thunder to take over the world. He’s probably part of this.”
“If I were part of this, do you think I would be stuck here with you brats?”
“So you’re saying you’re not?” Kiku asked suspiciously.
“Oh, I was part of it, all right,” the old man said.
“I thought so,” Kiku said, folding her arms sternly.
“That hothead, Mala the Younger, came to me wanting my help in his latest plot to return the monarchy to Badhnisia,” Whatsituyah explained. “Knowing that was the only way to acheive my goal of Badhnisia conquering the world, I agreed. He told me he needed power capable of beating your infernal dial. So I gave it to him.”
“What did you do?” Kiku chastised.
“I also wanted him to be able to defeat Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt when the time came for Badhnisia to claim its destiny and conquer the world,” he continued. “So I sought out an entity who’s power would be even greater. I figured Mala would succeed for us where Johnny Thunder failed. Of course, that fool couldn’t handle it.”
“He seemed to be handling it pretty well from what I saw,” Will said.
“Oh, that wasn’t Mala,” Whatsituyah chuckled sardonically.
“Then who was it?” Will and Kiku asked simultaneously.
Daisy Darling awoke sitting on the throne next to Mala the Younger. “Wh-where…?”
Mala had been staring ahead absently at nothing in particular and seemed startled by her sudden speech. “Ah, you’re awake!” he said.
“What do you want with me?” Daisy said nervously.
“Today, the monarchy has been officially restored. All its enemies are vanquished. Tomorrow, Badhnisia will rule the world, and I shall be its king. I will, of course, need a queen.”
Daisy stared at Mala’s smiling face with its gray, unnaturally colored skin, his black-rimmed, glowing red eyes, and his blackened teeth as he stared back at her. She fainted dead away once more.
Mala looked at her curiously. “Hmm. I may eventually have to release the court physician, so he can have a look at her about these fainting spells.”
“Who the heck is Abraxis?” Johnny Thunder said, shaking the Badhnisian holy man. “I said, who the heck is Abraxis?”
“The man seems to be in shock, Master Johnny,” the Thunderbolt said. “I seriously doubt that he can hear you.”
Johnny scratched his head in frustration. “Say, you know, I sure wish we could find someone around here who could give us some answers.”
In a flash, they were suddenly transported to a different part of the realm within the mirror. As the zombie-like Badhnisian natives parted, Johnny and the Thunderbolt saw three more lively figures — one old, two young.
“Say, that nasty old codger in the robe looks familiar,” Johnny said. “Is that who I think it is?”
“Whatsituyah?!” the codger in question snapped.
“Yeah, I thought it was you,” Johnny said, folding his arms. “Still up to no good, I see.” He gestured to the foggy realm and the zombie-like citizens. “So what’s this all about? Some new scheme? You’ve got to get up pretty early to surprise Johnny Thunder, you know!”
Will Power, who had been standing quietly beside Kiku behind the Badhnisian mystic, could contain himself no longer and suddenly blurted, “Father!”
“Father?!” Johnny exclaimed.
The T-bolt mimicked looking at a watch and said, “You know, it really isn’t that early. It’s almost noon.”
“What do you mean, ‘father’?!” Johnny exclaimed.
“I’m the son you abandoned years ago!” William Twotrees said indignantly. “The son you had with Sarah Twotrees! Are you denying it?”
“Heck, yes, I’m denying it. I’m not the kind of guy to abandon a kid. Ask anybody! I even have an adopted daughter of my own!” Johnny said emphatically. “I don’t even know any Sarah Twotrees.”
“I believe I told you about her a long time ago,” the Thunderbolt said. “Of course, you probably forgot all about that, since it was something important to me.”
“Aw, come on, T-bolt…” Johnny moaned.
“What do you mean?” Will said. “Why would you have to tell him about her?”
“What I mean,” the Thunderbolt said sheepishly, “is that Mr. Sensitivity, here, isn’t your father. I am.”