by Immortalwildcat, HarveyKent and Cynthia Finnegan
A taxicab screeched to a halt in front of the WHIZ Broadcasting building. Tossing a five-dollar bill into the front seat, a fat, gray-haired man got out of the cab and rushed through the building’s door to the elevator.
“Tenth — gasp — floor — wheeze — please. Quickly!” he croaked out to a questioning woman in a dark business suit. She pressed the button for him as he stood, hands on knees, catching his breath.
In an Egyptian cafe, Black Adam and his mysterious benefactor sat. As Adam finished his meal, two others arrived. Black Sheba and Black Dionysius, both clad in black, came to stand on either side of the robed and cloaked wizard.
“Your children, Teth-Adam. Of your own bloodline, and now blessed with powers like your own. They have already accomplished part of the task; do you accept the rest?”
“To kill the Marvel family, and that accursed wizard?” He stood, letting the coat and hat fall to the ground. “Agreed!”
“Then go. Only Captain Marvel the elder remains. Capture him, then go after the wizard!” As his words faded from the night air, so too did the wizard. Like a trio of ebony comets, the family of Black Adam took to the air.
“When asked for a comment on the recent sightings of giant monsters in the South Pacific, the president replied that someone was obviously watching too many old movies. With that, folks, I’m going to turn things over to Nick Fuller and the Daily Top Ten. Until the evening news on WHIZ-TV, this is Billy Batson wishing you a good day, and good news!”
“And we’re clear!” came the voice of the radio station’s engineer, indicating that they were no longer broadcasting.
“Billy! Oh, good gosh, good golly, we’ve got ourselves a real pickle here, m’boy!”
“Holy moley, Uncle Dudley, what’s the matter?” asked the teenage newscaster.
“Umm, private business. Can we talk in your office?”
Moments later, in the small office that Billy used for composing his news stories, he sat in shocked silence as Dudley explained what he had seen.
“Freddy was being carried off by some kid dressed in a biker version of Black Adam’s costume!”
Billy reached for the phone. “Call it a hunch, but if Freddy’s been taken, Mary might have been, too.”
Quickly punching a long-distance number, Billy listened waited for someone to pick up on the other end.
“Hi, is Mary there? No? This is her, um, brother. Do you know when she’ll be in? No, I — What? Kidnapped? How did it happen?” There was a long pause, during which time Billy’s face set in an expression of fear. “OK, I’ll call back later to see if there’s news. Yes, I’ll have her parents call the school. Thank you.”
“It looks like it. Apparently, she was on her way to class when someone grabbed her and flew off — a girl, dressed in black and gold.”
“Holy moley! It sounds like Black Adam has grown himself his own version of the Marvel Family!”
At that moment, the wall shattered. As the dust cleared, Billy and Dudley saw three figures standing amidst the wreckage.
“So true, old fool! No more shall I fight alone. Today shall see the ascension of the House of Adam, and the fall of the House of Marvel!” Striding through the swirling plaster dust, Billy saw the tall, lean figure of Black Adam.
“Shaz — urk!” cried Billy as a slender hand wrapped around his throat.
“Shall I kill him now?” asked Black Sheba, lifting Billy off the ground.
“No. Gag him, and we’ll leave him with the others. Better to kill them all together, along with the wizard. Killing them beforehand might alert him to our actions.”
Black Adam turned to Dudley. “As for you, you fat, useless jackass, you can let the world know that, with the capture of Captain Marvel, we have concluded the first stage of the end of the world as you know it. Very soon now, the world shall be ours!” His loud, braying laughter ringing out over the ruins of Billy’s office, Black Adam and his family departed, taking Billy Batson with them.
“Now, what was that? The end of the beginning? The beginning of the end? The beginning of the end of the beginning?” Inspiration struck, and he began rummaging through the ruins of Billy’s desk, at last finding a battered rolodex. “I hope those numbers are in here. I gotta let them know, the end is the beginning is the end!”
“The number you have dialed has been disconnected,” the nasal voice droned into the earpiece a moment later.
“Disconnected?!” Dudley exclaimed in astonishment. “That can’t be! He has to be there! This is a matter of life and death!”
“No further information is available about this number.”
“Operator, you have to connect me!” Dudley roared. “I demand to speak to your supervisor! I–”
“This is a recording.”
“Set a spell. Take y’shoes off. Y’all come back now, y’hear?”
In a trailer park in rural Tennessee, a muscular man sat slumped on the floor, back against a threadbare couch, watching the closing credits of The Beverly Hillbillies scroll past on the television screen.
“Heh,” he said, his eyes half-closed. “Hillbillies. That’s me. Hill Billy. Yup.”
He slowly raised a trembling hand to scratch his stubbly cheek. The sleeve of his bathrobe dislodged several empty beer cans from their pile on the floor next to him. Hill Billy Batson had not gone to work in three months, ever since his wife left him. He had stayed at home, drinking beer and watching television, waiting for her to call him to say she was sorry, and would he please take her back. It hadn’t occurred to him that the phone had been turned off weeks ago, for non-payment of the bill.
“Up next on the Super Station,” the announcer’s voice said, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”
“Heh. Gomer Pyle,” Billy said, smiling weakly. “Gol-lee, Sgt. Carter! Shuh–”
“Sweet Jay-zus!” one of Batson’s trailer park neighbors cried out. “Whut the hayell was thayatt?”
“Sounds lahk a propane tank exploded!” the man’s wife declared. “Over to Batson’s place!”
“The line is busy,” the nasal voice droned. “For an extra surcharge of seventy-five cents, you may be called back when the line is available.”
“Operator, I don’t have time for that!” Dudley screamed. “The world is–”
“This is a recording.”
“Dad blast it!”
“I’m tellin’ ya, kid, I got nothin’!” the weaselly voice said into the phone.
“Come on, Sid,” the tall man whined. “Isn’t there something for me? A supermarket opening? A kid’s birthday party, for God’s sake? I thought you were the best in the business!”
“I am, Batson,” Sid shot back. “I run the best celebrity impersonator agency in the business! There just ain’t a call for Captain Marvel impersonators these days! Now, if you could do Cher–“
“Cher?!” Tall Billy Batson roared. “Cher? Sid, you’re killing me!” Batson looked around his dingy apartment, the peeling wallpaper, and the creaky furniture. “Sid, you’ve got to get me something! I’m desperate!”
“Sorry, Batson,” Sid said. “If anything comes up, I’ll call you.” There was a click and a dial tone.
“Sid! Sid? Sid! Ah, rats.” Billy hung up the phone. He stood there, hands shoved into his pockets, for a long moment. Then he picked up the phone and started dialing.
“There is no answer,” the nasal voice intoned. “Please try your call again later.”
“Operator, there may not be a later!” Dudley screamed. “Black Adam– ”
“I know, I know, a recording!”
The fat man lay in the hospital bed, tubes in his arm and his nose leading to complex machinery behind him. His eyes were closed, a peaceful look on his face. Only the slow, steady beep of the EKC proved he was even alive.
“Textbook case,” one of the doctors in the room said.
“It is,” the other doctor agreed. “Massive coronary episode, brought on by strain on the heart caused by obesity. I mean, look at him. The man practically has his own zip code.”
“It’s a pity,” the doctor said. “We live in a culture of fast food, instant gratification. It’s an addiction, like alcohol. And this is what it does to you.”
“Really. Funny thing, too; his name, I mean.”
The doctor looked at the chart. “William Batson?”
“Isn’t that the name of that kid newscaster over in Fawcett?”
“Is it? Yeah, I guess it is. Oh, well, it’s a common enough name. Come on, we’ve got other patients to check on.”
The two doctors left Fat Billy Batson’s room, not noticing the slight fluttering of his eyelids.
At an undisclosed location, Black Adam, Black Sheba, and Black Dionysius returned with their last captive, Billy Batson, bound wrist and ankle, gagged and slung over Adam’s broad shoulder. As soon as the villainous trio touched down, the world’s mightiest villain unceremoniously dumped his teenage captive on his rump in front of his twin sister and best friend with a solid, and very painful, “Mmmph!”
Owwch! Billy thought, wincing as he hit the ground. Great. Now I’ve got a set of bruises on my behind to match the ones on my neck! What the heck is going on here, anyway?
Black Adam grinned wolfishly at Billy and said, “Since the three of you have the annoying habit of freeing yourselves and changing into the Marvel Family, your two companions were chained to yonder wall, as you shall be in a moment, just to make certain you do not try to escape.”
Before Billy could catch his breath, Adam broke the cords that bound him, forced the boy reporter’s arms over his head, and snapped a pair of rusty-looking manacles around his wrists. Billy turned his head and was relieved to see both Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman, similarly bound and about an arms’ length away. The fact that they were still alive was a small comfort to him, but how much longer would they remain that way?
We are in deep trouble this time, Mary thought, and what’s worse is, we might not be able get out of it!
It was true. Not only was their most powerful foe gloating over the three helpless kids, but somehow he now seemed to have a family of his own. And the price for Adam’s newfound relations was going to be paid in their blood.
What I wouldn’t give for one of Uncle Dudley’s lock-picks now, Freddy thought, testing the strength of his manacles. In spite of the rust, they were quite sturdy. Or even a paperclip! If Adam thought the pummelling I gave him before was bad…!
Black Dionysius stared at Mary for the longest time. To him, the slim, petite girl with the lightning-blue eyes and chin-length auburn curls was the loveliest creature he had ever seen. The young villain sidled up to her and, holding her chin between his thumb and forefinger, forced her to look at him.
“Y’know, baby,” he said in his smoothest tone of voice, “it’s kind of a shame something as pretty as you has to die. Could’ve been something spec — whoullf!”
Mary’s response to Dionysius’ free hands was unexpected, but painfully gratifying for her. She drove her knee where it would do the most good, unhampered by the ankle-length skirt she wore. Her quick action caused Dean to double over on reflex. though he quickly realized that he had not been hurt. He recovered quickly and slapped Mary across the face, stunning her. Dean’s treatment of his twin sister made Billy angry, but Freddy was enraged. Nobody treated the girl he loved like that.
That was the moment the villains’ patron chose to show himself.
“Hear me, all of you,” the evil wizard intoned. “There is a complication I had not counted on…”
“Now what, old man?” Black Sheba growled, rolling her eyes.
“Just when this was getting to be fun, the old man shows up,” Dean mumbled, his pride still smarting. “Ain’t it the way…”
“There is still one more of Shazam’s heirs running loose. We must capture her, and then Shazam himself, before we can…”
“Wait one damned minute…” Adam roared angrily, “there is yet another Marvel, and it is another female?! Who and where is she?”
“Do not worry about that one, for I have found another in your bloodline that will bring her to us. In the meantime, we will pay a visit to my old friend.”
Holy moley, Billy thought again, his terror once again turning into anger. So much for our secret weapon! If Adam or his cronies harm one hair on her, I’ll–!
“You’ll do nothing, boy,” Adam’s mysterious benefactor snapped, as if he were reading Billy’s thoughts, “but worry not. Your lovely young friend will soon be joining the three of you — and your patron — in death.”