by Brian K. Asbury, Blackwolf247 and Libbylawrence
Elsewhere, and elsewhen, night had fallen in Chicago, Illinois, where a black-tie gathering was in progress to present the annual Great Lakes Conservation Awards. As usual, the assembled guests — politicians, business people, scientists, major and minor celebrities, journalists, and more than a few shadier-looking hanger-on types whose presence was a mystery to just about everyone — had enjoyed a good dinner, and alcohol had flowed freely. A cynic might have suggested that was what they had really come along for — well, that and the chance of flashing their well-groomed mugs at the cameras — but if that was the case, they now had to pay the price for it. The speeches and giving out of awards had now commenced, and more than a few of the audience were starting to stifle yawns.
“And now, to present the Award for Best Contribution toward Animal Conservation, a guest who, you might say, knows only too well at first hand the importance of protecting the world’s endangered species. As the saying goes, he really needs no introduction, so give him a big hand, ladies and gentlemen, it’s…”
The master of ceremony’s final words were lost in the noise of applause as the guest stepped up to the rostrum. It might have been expected, perhaps, that some of the audience might have expressed fear at the sight of him standing there shaking hands — more or less — with the M.C. Or, at the very least, that they would have looked shocked. However, this individual had been around for so long now that he no longer surprised anyone. Indeed, anyone not recognizing him would have had to have been living on the moon for the previous umpteen years.
So the only strange thing was that there was nothing strange about the sight of a tiger, walking on hind legs and wearing an Armani dinner suit, clearing his throat and adjusting a modified pince-nez on his nose before addressing the assemblage.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “It gives me great pleasure to be asked once more to present one of these most worthy awards. As mine worthy host just said, since I am, in a sense, an endangered species myself — and associating with Captain Marvel over the years has made me even more endangered, believe me…” Laughter from the floor. “…I understand most intimately how vital it is that we make every effort to preserve the amazing diversity of life on this planet by protecting those species most at risk. So, it is without further ado that I read out the names of this year’s nominees and tell you a little about their work.”
He fumbled with an envelope with his clumsy paws. Before he could unfold the list of nominees and start to read, however, there was a blinding flash, and suddenly he was no longer alone on the podium. As the audience members’ vision cleared, however, more than a few rubbed their eyes, convinced that they were now hallucinating — and several of the more inebriated members poured out their drinks on the floor and declared they were swearing off the stuff from now on. A talking tiger they were used to, but this?
Mr. Talky Tawny was no longer alone on the podium. Beside him had appeared five strange figures. A young boy in white and a girl dressed in a costume similar to the renowned Mister Scarlet were the most normal-looking of the group, but the others were all dressed in facsimiles of Captain Marvel’s uniform. One was a pudgy, balding, middle-aged man, one a scrunched-up, warped, pointy-eared, yellow-clad version of the Captain himself, and the other… well, it was this final newcomer who was making the collective minds of the audience boggle. He was a four-foot-tall pink rabbit, who was wearing a costume almost identical to Captain Marvel’s.
The boy dashed up to the tiger. “Mr. Talky Tawny! Shazam sent us to find you! We need your help! Captain Marvel and the others are in grave danger!”
That’s a lot of exclamation marks, thought Talky Tawny. “Er… well,” he said, “I’d love to help, of course. But I’m kind of busy right now, Kid Eternity… and this ceremony is very important.”
“So is this, my furry friend,” said Uncle Marvel with some urgency. “Anybody can read out a list of names, but only you can help us free Cap and the others!”
“Indeed, indeed,” a cackling voice rang out. “Which is why I cannot permit it! Heh-heh-heh!”
Part of the back scenery suddenly split open, revealing a small, tank-like vehicle in which sat an ugly bald man wearing a white lab jacket and bottle-glass spectacles. Before anybody could react, he stabbed down on a control in front of him, and a baleful green ray emerged from the turret of his vehicle, striking the six figures on the rostrum and shrinking them down to the size of dolls.
The ugly man laughed evilly. “Delicious!” he said. “I was intending just to grab the tiger and use him as bait to lure the accursed Captain Marvel into my clutches. Heh-heh-heh! But now all of you shall learn what it means to be in the clutches of Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana!”
But Dr. Sivana was surprised at how quickly the micro-sized heroes, three of whom had the power of Shazam at their disposal, disabled his new weaponry and left him tied up on the floor. However, he refused to divulge how he had shrunken the heroes, who then looked in askance at his wrecked equipment.
“I think we should have thought of reversing ourselves back to normal before we smashed his toys,” Uncle Dudley said.
“I do have an idea,” Kid Eternity said, thinking about who he could summon for help.
Beneath the Chicago Convention Center, in one of Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana’s hidden labs, the evil genius was fit to be tied, since he had been tied by the shrunken team of Uncle Marvel, Mr. Tawny, Captain Marvel Bunny, Pinky the Whiz Kid, Kid Eternity, and Zazzo-Plus. They had managed to capture him in spite of their altered size, as he had not been prepared to capture three miniature heroes with the power of Shazam.
Kid Eternity turned to talk with the unseen but always present Mr. Keeper. The portly spirit was never far from the Kid’s side, since the lad had no powers without being in contact with the older guardian. Of course, the situation was decidedly odd to an observer, since no one else could see or hear Mr. Keeper.
Zazzo nudged Mr. Tawny and said, “Why does that kid keep talking to himself?”
“He sees dead people!” said Tawny. “He is communing with his guardian spirit. He… uh… talks to them.”
Zazzo shrugged and turned to the Marvel Bunny. “How odd,” he began. “That’s as strange as…”
“Talking to animals!” piped in Pinky with a wry smile.
Kid Eternity said, “I summon… Helga Sivana!”
A short but kindly looking woman with a small head and a sad smile appeared before them.
Dr. Sivana gasped in dismay and stared at the woman in disbelief. “Mother!” he sputtered as he did a double or triple take.
She moved closer to the bound scientist and said, “Thaddeus, darling! You know how much your poor papa and I admired your brilliant mind! We were so proud of the way you won scholarships to the Institute and how you cared so very much for helping others in need! You were going to conquer disease and improve life! Now look at you!”
Dr. Sivana lowered his head in shame and said, “Mother, I am not the man I once was. The world has changed me. The death of my beloved has changed me. I never wanted you to see me like this!”
She shook her head and said, “I love you, and I know you will do the right thing for me! Help your guests. Make me proud! Teach your kinder to honor the Sivana name!”
Helga Sivana vanished as silence filled the room. Dr. Sivana turned his head away from the others and sniffed slightly.
Kid Eternity whispered, “Keep suggested that I have Sivana’s mom come here to talk him into helping us! Even the world’s wickedest scientist has to care what his mom thinks!”
Dr. Sivana looked at them and said, “Bah! Untie me! I will restore you all and help you restore the cheeses and their sidekicks! I do this one good deed for the memory of my mother, but that is the last time I ever work for… good! Blech!” He wore a pained look on his face.
“You know, I trust him for some reason!” said Uncle Marvel.
“Me, too,” said Pinky. “That last scene with his ma made me feel all warm and fuzzy!”
“That was me! You accidentally brushed up against me!” said Mr. Tawny.
Soon, Dr. Sivana was chuckling and rubbing his hands together in glee as the fully restored heroes watched in concern.
“Heh-heh-heh! You know, I don’t know what disturbs me the most — the fact that the cheeses have been whipped by a vulgarian like Black Adam, or that apparently in your weird realm, my counterpart is probably some type of groundhog or badger!” he said as he glanced at the Marvel Bunny.
Hoppy’s heroic alter ego frowned and said, “Hey, wait a minute!”
Sivana pointed at Zazzo-Plus and said, “I’ve modified your other-dimensional friend’s helmet. Instead of merely absorbing the magic lightning when the brats shout their magic words, it will now allow the wearer to absorb the power from afar! Heh-heh-heh! It is merely a reversal of a lightning rod I invented years ago. Why, my boy even made one like it, and he’s something of a slacker!”
“Be that as it may, Sivana, we appreciate your help,” said Uncle Marvel. “I assumed you’d try to steal the power for yourself.”
Sivana shook his head. “Not this time, heh-heh-heh! I made a promise. Plus, I’ve experienced the life as a superhuman, and even with the Marvel power, I have no desire to engage in common fisticuffs. I have better ways to use my time than to punch someone through a brick wall with a single bound!”
Zazzo-Plus said, “So, you fixed it so my helmet will let us steal the power right away from the Black Adam Family and redirect it to the Marvels?”
“Exactly!” said Sivana. “Just get in proximity to them! You’ll be able to find them by the stench of sickeningly sweet, sugary goodness they all emit! Heh-heh-heh!”
“What do we do now?” asked Mr. Tawny. “Shouldn’t we take him in?”
“Take me in?” said Dr. Sivana. “Take me in! Heh-heh-heh! Do you confuse the rightful ruler of the universe with a rug or with one of those tacky sport coats you always wear? I’ve done my bit, and now I’m gone!” He stepped through the walls and vanished before they could react.
“Should I chase him down with the speed of Monkury?” asked Captain Marvel Bunny.
“No! I forgot about his potion that lets him walk through walls,” said Uncle Marvel. “He’ll turn up again, and when he does, we’ll get him. He earned his freedom this time. Kid, take us to the Rock of Eternity! We have to save the Marvel Family!” declared Uncle Marvel.
Elsewhere, Spy Smasher, Minute Man, and Billy Batson had managed to free themselves from their bonds and were quickly untying the others, when a sudden burst of electricity felled hero and villain alike. The evil wizard looked around disgustedly and sighed heavily. “These heroes are more problems than expected, and Black Adam’s family, bah!”
The wizard failed to see that Mister Scarlet had escaped the electrical blast and was even now in a prone position, aiming his pistol directly at the villainous wizard. Aiming carefully, the second-generation hero fired a bullet into the left leg of the evildoer, then aimed at his right shoulder. But instead of the expected staggering, something remarkable happened. The dark magician suddenly began to spout flame.
“Holy cow!” Mister Scarlet said as his wounded foe turned toward him. “Sure hope he’s gonna go down now.” He fired again and a third time, only to see the target erupt with more flame, then dissolve, completely gone. “Now, that was weird. Wonder if I can get the others awake now.”
While the Black Adam Family remained stunned by the massive energy discharge created by the evil wizard when he had attacked Billy Batson, Spy Smasher, and Minute Man, Mister Scarlet swiftly freed the Bullets, who in turn ripped the gags off of Freddy Freeman and Mary Batson. Tall Billy, Hill Billy, and Fat Billy, the three former Lieutenant Marvels, were still stunned, as was the original Billy Batson.
The evil wizard had faded into a fiery plume of shadowy energy before returning to normal. “Something temporarily disrupted my physical form! Was it that bratty girl making an astral of herself? I do see you, child! Or was it something more?” He whirled to see the group of heroes led by Uncle Marvel. They had arrived just in time to witness it all.
Captain Marvel Bunny said, “Unc, I think the reason you have power now is because the good wizard let you tap into the power of one of the Lieutenant Marvels. I think you’ve got Fat Billy’s powers.”
Freddy and Mary hesitated between checking on the fallen Billy and shouting their words.
“Shout! The dark cloud overhead will block your precious lightning!” screeched Darkling as she stood by Chain Lightning.
“Unc, we can’t draw on the lightning, so we’re glad to see you!” said Mary.
“Don’t worry!” said Zazzo-Plus. “I drew all the magic from the evil wizard’s lightning into my helmet just before we made ourselves known to you. That’s why the Black Adam Family was merely stunned by their master’s blast and didn’t change back to their normal forms! That’s also why he kind of flickered into flame for a moment!”
“So Mister Scarlet’s gun didn’t really do a thing,” whispered Bulletman as he moved forward with his wife.
Mister Scarlet hugged Pinky the Whiz Kid as she raced over to his side. Kid Eternity had also moved to greet his sibling Freddy.
“Quick, Zazzo-Plus!” said Tawky Tawny. “Project the stolen magic you took from the evil wizard’s blast and change the kids into their heroic forms!”
As the evil wizard scowled, and a tiny smile played over his face, Zazzo-Plus nodded and released the energy in a tremendous crash of thunder as Mary and Freddy said their respective words of power.
The heroic pair were transformed, but in a way far different from anything ever seen before. Now, Mary Marvel wore a tiny red bikini top that left her stomach bare above an extremely short skirt with torn fishnet hosiery and high heels. She had a hard and sultry look on her otherwise lovely face. Captain Marvel Junior sneered and wore a dark jacket over his customary costume of blue and gold. He and Mary each had a bright circle with a slash across the lightning where their normal emblems would have been.
“I’m Mary Mayhem now!” shrieked Mary.
“Call me King Marvel, ’cause I’m taking care of business!” cried Junior.
Uncle Marvel gasped as Mary crushed the Zazzo helmet to dust before the startled alien could react. “They’ve changed into evil versions of their old selves!” he said slowly. “The magic lightning came from their enemies, and that power is only evil!”
The crash of the magic lightning had awakened those heroes and villains who had earlier been rendered unconscious. Still stunned, they could only watch this scene play out.
“How could we ever have trusted Sivana?” said Mr. Tawny ruefully. “He kept his word and helped us restore the Marvels, but not like we expected!”
The evil wizard laughed and said, “It doesn’t take the wisdom of the elders to have realized that one who styles himself as the world’s wickedest scientist might not be trustworthy!” He took the hands of Mary Mayhem and King Marvel as his own Black Adam Family rose up to join them.
“Now, before the astral witch can meddle with us or the witless mortals can delay us, kill them all!” he roared.