by Cynthia Finnegan and Arcademan
Outside a Bronx storefront, an almost plain brunette girl was chasing the man who left her little fortune-telling parlor without paying. Athena looked like a gypsy, from her long, jet-black hair right down to the “bad eyes” (as one of her customers called them), but she was actually of Egyptian descent, and about as psychic as a brick wall. She had set up the parlor as a scam to con honest folks out of their hard-earned cash.
Although she was only sixteen, she was mature-looking for her age, and had already garnered a lengthy record for assault and as an unrepentant con-artist. This time, however, she was the one who had just been fleeced.
“Hey! Come back here, you cheap chiseler!” she screamed after the fleeing customer. “That’s my money!”
The cheat just laughed at her and kept on running. He had the advantage of being taller and having longer legs. Athena stopped for a moment, just long enough to whip off one of her sandals and throw it at the guy’s head, but it missed its target. She was beginning to think she’d never catch up to the guy, when she suddenly found herself blurting out one magic word. “Shazam!”
A blinding flash of lightning split the skies and struck Athena full on. When the glare cleared, she was dressed in a black jumpsuit with a low, scooped neckline and gold sleeve trim, sash, and lightning bolt emblazoned on it. She felt herself running faster, catching up to the man who stole her ill-gotten gains in literally the blink of an eye. She held him up by his collar, about ready to punch his lights out, when a voice in her head instructed her to go to Chinatown and find a young woman named Caitlin O’Malley. When she found her, she was to bind, gag, and blindfold her, then bring her to him.
Billy Batson had been kidnapped by Black Adam just a few minutes ago, and Uncle Dudley had been trying to call for help ever since that awful moment. As the plump, balding man ran back to the elevator, frustrated from his attempts to contact the Lieutenant Marvels, he remembered the one other person who could help Billy, Mary, and Freddy out of their plight. All he needed to do was to get to her before Black Adam or any of his family did.
Unfortunately, Caitlin O’Malley didn’t have a phone number yet, but her address was right there in Billy’s rolodex. And her cousin Robyn was a friend of Fat Billy’s as well. OK, she’s his girlfriend, Dudley reminded himself. So if anyone knew where he was, she would. When Dudley got back outside, he hailed another cab.
“Driver,” he said, almost frantically, “take me to Jet Li’s Martial Arts Supply, 413 Mays Street, Chinatown! And step on it!”
Meanwhile, in the apartment on the second floor of 413 Mays Street, Caitlin O’Malley practiced her katas with her landlord, Mr. Li, looking on with a hint of pride. She had come a long way in the past couple of months, both in the martial arts and in controlling her chi, or spirit energy, and it showed. Her kicks and punches flowed with almost impossible grace. How had Billy managed to find this place on such short notice?
When she finished, she’d planned to shoo the handsome Mr. Li out, then take a hot shower, fix herself a quick meal of salad, bread, and cheese, and watch a videotape Mary had sent her from Los Angeles, a public-access show called Adventures with the Poorman.
Mary couldn’t see Caitlin’s attraction to the show, but chalked it up to her weird sense of humor. She found the strangest things funny, and if anyone mentioned her first case as a Marvel, the one of a crook called George the Wipe, she could not stop laughing about it, even if it wasn’t that funny.
Just as she finished her exercise, there was a frantic pounding on the loft’s door. She ran to answer it, opened it, and saw Dudley on the other side.
“Uncle Dudley?” she asked, seeing the panicked man’s face. “What are you doing here?”
“Thank goodness I got here first. It’s Billy!” Dudley panted in reply.
Cait led him inside, sat him down, and poured him a cup of tea. “Now, what’s happened? Where is Billy?”
“It’s Black Adam, lass. He’s somehow come into a family of his own, and he’s kidnapped Mary, Freddy, and Billy! I fear they may have found out about you and will come for you next!”
“Knock, knock!” Suddenly, the door exploded in a shower of splinters, and a young, black-haired woman in a black and gold costume stepped into Cait’s apartment. “You forgot to say ‘who’s there?’ I would’ve said Black Athena!”
“Oh, no, not another one!” Dudley cried. “Black… Athena, eh? Sounds more like Black Adam in drag!”
A knife-shaped burst of light sprung from Caitlin’s fingertips and flew straight into Athena, but it had no effect on her.
“What was that supposed to do — tickle?”
Cait ducked behind a chair and continued to move, trying to remain hidden. She needed time to think.
From what Billy had told her of Black Adam, Cait knew that without her Marvel powers, anything physical she tried would wind up getting her a lovely set of broken bones. Magic or spirit weapons might slow down Black Athena, but she was nowhere near as powerful as old Shazam in the magic department, and her spirit knife hadn’t worked. Unless she could conjure up some kind of magic lightning, she was screwed. And if this Black Athena was every bit as powerful as Billy told her Black Adam was, well, Caitlin knew she wouldn’t just be screwed, she’d be in deep, deep, deep trouble.
“Look, girlie,” Black Athena quipped as she looked for her prey, casually tossing a sofa aside, “I don’t wanna pummel you, just kill you. Kinda have to so I can keep these powers. I can’t say I won’t enjoy it, too, but the old man says I have to bring you to him, first.”
“Well, ducks,” Cait replied, standing up, “you know the old Rolling Stones tune. If ‘you can’t always get what you want, you get what you need,’ and what I need right now is away from you!”
Suddenly, a blindingly bright light flashed, starting from heart level on Cait’s body and flaring outward, turning everything white, and Athena shrieked as the light burned through her eyelids. The star-child flare had done its work, but it had done it too well; she had accidentally knocked out Dudley and Mr. Li with it. Since Caitlin was the only one who could still see, she made a break for the open window in the hopes of calling out the old wizard’s name before her attacker could recover her sight.
“Shaz — ohhhh!” Athena’s fist lashed out blindly, clipping the young witch on the back of her head. Cait was knocked unconscious before she could finish saying the magic word. When the young villain’s eyes cleared, she ripped free the cord of a nearby lamp and bound Cait’s wrists together.
“You have her,” came the evil wizard’s voice in her mind. “Good. Now make sure her blindfold is tight. As you have seen, most of her other powers are limited by her line of sight.”
“What about the old man?” Athena asked.
“Bring him with you, child. Your sire may not see him as a credible threat, but he is, and we cannot afford any mistakes.”
A few moments later, Black Athena took to the sky with both of her unconscious captives in her arms.
Back at Columbia University, an attractive, dark-haired woman looked to the skies above her. For the second time today, she heard distant rumbles of thunder. As she adjusted her glasses, Professor Andrea Thomas wondered what in the world was going on. And why had Freddy Freeman, a journalism major, sneaked out of a music theory lecture? And later, why had she seen him being abducted by some teenage greaser in a Black Adam costume?
Just when I thought I was getting my life back together, she thought.
Andrea Thomas looked into the sky and thought to herself, There seems to be no way to escape your destiny.
Quickly ducking to the side of the college building, Andrea looked around to make sure no one was spying on her and spoke aloud.
A shining light arose around her, and where once stood Andrea Thomas now stood Isis, dressed in white and wearing the sacred ruby amulet, with a jeweled tiara on her head.
“Zephyr winds that blow on high, lift me up so I can fly!”
Once the powerful incantation was spoken, she levitated up into the cool morning sky and began to fly in the direction she had seen the Black Adam wannabe carry Freddy Freeman.
If this person is as strong as any of the Marvels, then I’ll be in for a real fight, thought Isis. Maybe it’s time to summon some help of my own. And after a moment’s thought she came to the conclusion. If there’s a family of Adams, then I will summon the family of Marvels — the Lieutenant Marvels.
First stop was Tennessee, where the Mighty Isis landed in front of a trailer. Within, one Billy Batson was sitting in front of the television, watching some old shows.
“Hill Billy Batson, you are needed!” said Isis.
Before Billy could utter a sound, they both disappeared.
Second stop was Texas. There, another Billy Batson was waiting for his next impersonation gig to cover the rent, when suddenly Isis appeared in front of him.
“Tall Billy Batson, you are needed!”
As Billy gasped, the both of them disappeared.
Third stop was Brooklyn Memorial Hospital, where a third Billy Batson was laying in bed, trying to recover from a coronary episode brought on by obesity. His eyes fluttered open to see the Mighty Isis. Standing on each side of her were the two other Billy Batsons.
“Fat Billy Batson, you are needed!” she said.
Fat Billy looked up at the three and said, “Sorry, guys. I’m not in the position ta help out this time.” His voice sounded weaker with each passing moment.
“Fear not, friend Billy,” said Isis in a calming tone, then uttered an incantation.
“Magic lightning from the sky, strike down to deliver their powers nigh!”
And at the same moment, all three Billy Batsons yelled out, “Shazam!” When the smoke cleared, there stood once again the three Lieutenant Marvels.
The Mighty Isis recapped what she had witnessed earlier over at Columbia University to the Marvels. Tall Marvel came up with the only possible solution.
“We’ll split up, and using our super-speed, we should be able to find them and bring our friends back home.”
All three then flew off in different directions. As they did, they all heard the voice of Isis within their minds.
“If you find out the location of our captured friends, let us all know. This has all the makings of a trap, and even our combined powers may pale in front compared to our unknown foes. Be careful.”
The newest member of the Black Adam Family, Black Athena, flew into the hidden cavern where Billy Batson, Mary Batson, and Freddy Freeman were bound and gagged. She deposited Caitlin O’Malley and Uncle Dudley, likewise bound and gagged, next to the first three captives. She made a sweeping bow toward Black Adam and the old wizard.
Black Adam looked at his captives and sneered. “Well, the mighty Marvel Family. So much for the mighty part. You now see who has the world’s mightiest family… nay, the mightiest family in the universe!”
All four members of the Black Adam Family laughed out loud.
The evil wizard put his hand on Black Adam’s shoulder. “We have some unfinished business to deal with, if you know what I mean.”
“Ah, yes,” said Black Adam, “the old wizard himself. I’ve been waiting for this day since he banished me from this world. Finally, my revenge will be complete!” Adam then turned to his family. “You three — keep an eye on these fools. If they so much as move, kill them!”
And upon his command, both the evil wizard and Black Adam disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
However, their exit from the cave produced a faint flash of magic light that was seen by Tall Marvel. He rushed to gather the other Lieutenant Marvels and Isis to tell them what he had just witnessed.
“Right here, guys — and you, too, ma’am — right above a cave on the outskirts of town here.”
Fat Marvel looked at the others. “Here we were flying all over the world looking for our buddies, and they were in Fawcett City all along.”
“Well, what are we all waiting for?” said Hill Marvel. “Let’s go get them out, already!”
As the four heroes arrived at the opening of the cave, the Mighty Isis spoke out once again.
“Powers of Ra, in great force, help us free our friends from their evil source!”
On cue, the entire side of the cave came crashing down, revealing the three members of the Black Adam Family, as well as their captives.
“Up and at ’em, Marvels!” yelled Hill Marvel as each Lieutenant Marvel took on an opposing member of the Adam Family.
Isis ran to the captives. “Ropes and cloths that bound my guess, fly off and rescue them from this mess.”
Almost instantly, the ropes and gags that held Billy, Mary, Freddy, Uncle Dudley, and Caitlin began to unravel themselves.
Billy was the first to talk. “Free at last! Thanks, Isis!”
The five stood up and yelled out all at the same time the name of the ancient wizard, “Shazam!” While Freddy shouted the name of his hero, “Captain Marvel!” But the magic lightning was intercepted by a flying figure.
“I don’t think so!” The magic lightning was absorbed before it reached the Marvel Family. The flying figure then unleashed bolts of her own, aimed at all the members of the Black Adam Family and the Lieutenant Marvels. They were instantly converted back to their mortal forms. Before they could react, they were rendered unconscious with a second blast of normal lightning. Before Isis could come up with a spell to shield her, she, too, was knocked out.
As Billy looked up, he saw floating above them the figure who had absorbed the magic lightning and then knocked out the combatants. “Hi, guys. Remember me?”
Mary spoke out. “Chain Lightning! What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been seeing all of these beautiful, powerful bolts of lightning striking all around here, and I figured, hey, I sure can use a pick-me-up, and I can get rid of you brats all at the same time.”
Freddy turned to Billy, Mary, Dudley, and Caitlin. “Quick! Say the words!”
“Shazam!” and “Captain Marvel!” yelled the group.
Chain Lightning pointed straight up into the sky outside of the cave, and it was pitch-black. There were no sun or stars, but eternal unending darkness in every direction.
“Did I mention the little friend I brought along — Darkling?”
Billy knew he escaped from one kind of danger right into another kind. Darkling’s powers came from Satan himself, a cloak of darkness so dense that even the magic lightning couldn’t penetrate it. With Mighty Isis and the Lieutenant Marvels unconscious, and the magic lightning blocked, they were surely in a pickle now.