by HarveyKent, Immortalwildcat and Starsky Hutch 76
The evil wizard saw the fear in the eyes of Billy Batson and his friends, the horror at seeing Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman so transformed. He relished it.
“Now, my children,” he thundered again, “kill them! Kill them all!”
Mary Mayhem suddenly pulled her hand free of his. “Who do you think you’re ordering around, Uncle Creepy?”
“Yeah,” King Marvel snapped, jerking his own hand free. “Just because we’re not goody-goodies anymore, doesn’t mean we say ‘how high’ when you say ‘jump’!” The transformed Freddy looked at Mary, a leer in his eyes. “Hey, beautiful, what say we get out of here?”
“Mmm, you know it, big boy!” Mary chuckled. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to do for years, and now that I’m not a Pollyanna anymore, I mean to do it!”
“Me too, legs, me too! Let’s split this hamburger stand!” In an eye-blink, the transformed Marvels were gone, only scarlet and azure blurs marking their passing.
“Fah!” the evil wizard spat after a moment. “A minor setback only! We do not need those ungrateful children. To the attack, my Black Adam Family! Destroy those who wear the golden lightning, and all who would call them friend!”
Billy, Kid Eternity, Bulletman, and the rest steeled themselves for battle. They knew it was nearly hopeless, but they were determined to let the villains know they had been in a fight.
In an outdoor café in Fawcett City, a young man and woman, both tall, blond, and staggeringly attractive, sat at a table enjoying a cup of tea in the afternoon sunshine.
“Thank you for inviting me to tea, Tia,” Magnificus Sivana said to his sister. “I so rarely get a chance to get out these days.”
“Running your own health club is a big responsibility, Mag,” Beautia said, nodding. “But you need to get out and enjoy yourself. Go on some dates! Really, it’s time you settled down!”
Magnificus blushed visibly. “Aw, Tia! I just haven’t met the right–”
“Eek!” Beautia gasped as a blast of wind scattered the teapot, creamer, and cups from the table. She looked up and saw King Marvel leering down at her.
“Hey there, sexy,” the transformed Freddy leered. “Let’s you and me go make some beautiful music!” King Marvel reached out and clasped his hand around Beautia’s wrist.
“Let me go, you — you — Mag! Help!” Beautia cried.
“Who are–?” Magnificus started, rising from his chair.
“Don’t be a hero, chump,” King Marvel snapped, backhanding Magnificus with a left-handed slap that sent the giant bodybuilder hurtling across the café.
“Mag!” Beautia cried.
“Forget him, doll!” King Marvel said, scooping the lovely woman up into his arms. “You’ve got a date with greatness!” In a blue flash, King Marvel was gone with his victim.
Magnificus raised himself to a sitting position on the ground, staring up into the sky after King Marvel.
“He… he’s gorgeous!” Magnificus breathed.
“What’s the matter, handsome?” a sultry feminine voice behind him asked. “Got a boo-boo?”
Magnificus turned his head and found himself looking up into the face of Mary Mayhem, leering like a wolf at him. “Let mamma kiss it and make it better.”
Magnificus swallowed audibly.
On the Rock of Eternity, chaos swirled around the still form of the young man called Fat Billy Batson. Growing up in the streets of Brooklyn, he had always been the butt of his classmates’ jokes. Cursed by genetics with a short, heavy body and a bad ticker, he had been forced to give up his dreams of being a pro football player and had retreated to the comfort of his bedroom, his TV, and his food. None of them had criticized him for his ever-increasing size. Even the quirk of fate that allowed him to, on rare occasions, share in the power of Shazam as one of the three Lieutenant Marvels had not been enough to halt his plunge into self-destruction. Now, as battle raged around him, he lay on the floor, with unseen hands attempting to work a miracle.
“Come on, Billy, live! Live!” Caitlin O’Malley tried to focus the eldritch energies at her command into the barely breathing body before her. In her astral form, she was severely limited in the use of her magic. She spared a glance at her physical body, laying where she had left it, and closely guarded by the mysterious mystic called Ibis the Invincible. She sensed, rather than felt, Billy shudder beneath her, and she knew that her efforts would not be enough.
In her astral form, she could tell that the mystical darkness imprisoning Ibis, the Mighty Isis, and her physical form had weakened as Darkling concentrated on the ongoing battle. She and her mystical allies could make good use of this weakening.
“Prince Ibis!” she cried out with her mind. The swarthy man turned toward her, and she knew that he heard her. “I must rejoin my body, but I cannot leave Billy.” He nodded, and gestured with the Ibistick. Caitlin’s body floated to her and seemed to vanish, only to reappear next to her. Shouldn’t try to do this so quickly, but it’s the only chance he has, she thought, willing her consciousness back into her body.
Realizing that he was now free to act, Ibis glanced over to where Caitlin and Fat Billy Batson lay on the floor, even as he waved the Ibistick at Chain Lightning and sent her careening into the ceiling high above. Freed of the duty of guarding Caitlin’s body, he eagerly joined the battle. He saw the young witch open her eyes and sit up with a start, before turning to stop an attack on Billy Batson and Tawky Tawny.
“OK, let’s see what we can do now, Billy,” said Caitlin, reaching out to gather power from the ley-lines around her. Billy let out a cry of pain as she poured that power into his body in a jolt that lifted him up off the floor.
“Shazam!” cried the portly youth as his eyes flew open, and he sat up. There was a sharp crack, like that of static electricity, and he cried out again. Caitlin leaped back as magical energy crackled about him. “What happened?”
“I — I don’t know. I think that, when you said the magic word, my magical power shorted into your body rather than your own magic lightning! How do you feel?”
“Like I could take on Tojo and Adolf, both at the same time!” Fat Marvel cried, leaping up and flying into the evil doppelgänger of the wizard Shazam.
“Impudent fool!” cried the wizard as he picked himself up off the floor. “An earthly shell, possessed of magic, with no life of its own! Phaugh! See what is left of you when that magic is stripped away!”
With a casual wave of his hand, the still-crackling aura around the sometime-super-hero jumped from Billy to the wizard. As it did, Fat Billy Batson dropped to the floor and lay still. Of those battling around them, it was only Caitlin who saw the last breath of life leave the young man’s body.
“No!” she cried, rushing to Billy’s side.
D.J. Willie B was the hottest thing happening in the clubs of Fawcett City. Some thought he was too good to be where he was and he should try his luck in New York, Los Angeles, or some other happening city. Willie B was happy where he was, for the moment. In a big city, he’d just be another D.J. scratching and mixing. Here, he was treated like he was a star. Plus, this was his home, and the idea of picking up and moving wasn’t particularly appealing.
He was enjoying another night of stardom at a small local club when he felt the call of nature and had to leave the D.J. booth. He set up three disks to play and headed for the restroom.
When he got to the men’s room, there was a scrawny black youth standing by the door. “Yo, B, you wuz bringing down da house!”
“Thanks, dawg,” Willie B said, reaching for the handle. When he pulled on it, he found it was locked. “What the hell?”
“Big Dookey’s in there.”
“Why’d the fool lock the door?” Willie B said. “There’s a whole row of stalls in there!”
“‘Cause he got his woman in there. He don’t want nobody bustin’ in on ’em,” the youth told him.
“What?!” Willie B exclaimed. He pounded on the door. “Yo Doo-kay! You better get yo’ ass outta there if you ever wanna get back in here!”
Nothing happened. “Yo, Doo-kay!” He turned to the youth. “Why ain’t he coming out?”
“Sheee,” the boy laughed. “There a lot of clubs, homey. Ain’t a lot a girls gwan be in’rested in Big Dookey. Know what I’m sayin’?”
“Yeah, I know what you sayin’,” Willie B sighed. “You sayin’ I gotta use the alley out back ’cause Big Dookey’s gwan be a while.”
Willie B sighed and stepped onto the dance floor with plans of crossing it to get to the exit on the other side of the club. Suddenly, a pretty blonde stepped in front of him, grabbing hold of the straps of his tank top and singing sensuously as she swayed to the music. “Hey, Mr. D.J., put a record on. I wanna dance with my baby.”
“Hey, girl,” he said, grinning as he tried to stash his immediate need away in the back of his mind. “How’re you doing with your fine self?”
“My name’s Ashley,” she said over the music. “I like the way you play.”
“Well, I like the way you dance to what I play,” he said, smiling. “My name’s Willie B, but I guess you already knew that.” He started to sway with her to the music, when it became all too clear that the call of nature couldn’t be refused. “Hey, I’ve got something I’ve gotta take care of, but I’m gonna be right back. You just stay there and keep being fine.”
“OK,” she giggled.
Willie B walked through the exit and into the alley. He started to reach for the fly of his tattered acid-washed jeans when he heard a voice he could have sworn was Mr. Guffman, his ninth-grade history teacher. “William Batson?”
When he turned, he saw that it couldn’t have been Mr. Guffman. He looked far too young. Plus, he had a long beard and was wearing a robe. “Yeah, but no one ever calls me that.”
“A Lieutenant has fallen,” the robed old man said.
So that was what it was about. He didn’t think they made super-heroes so old. “Yo, I didn’t have anything to do with any cops getting killed,” Willie B said. “I’ve got people inside who can back me up on that.”
“I’m not referring to law officers,” the robed figure said. “I am the wizard Shazam. One of the Lieutenant Marvels has passed on. A replacement must be found. That replacement is you, William Batson.”
Willie B opened his mouth to tell the old man he must be senile. That’s not what came out, though. Only one word escaped his mouth. “Shazam!”
A bolt of lightning came down, and Willie B wanted to scream as it came toward him. Rather than incinerate him, though, it felt as if every cell of his body had been charged. When his vision cleared, he saw that he was wearing the uniform of Captain Marvel. That wasn’t all he noticed. “Damn! I look like I spent the last three years in the gym!”
“The Marvel Family and their allies are in trouble,” Shazam said. “As their newest member, you must go to their aid.”
“I’m part of the Marvel Family now?” Willie B said. “I guess that must make me the black sheep, huh?”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that,” Shazam said. “Now come with me.”
Near the Rock of Eternity, Fat Billy had found that the pain had finally left him. When he turned, he was confronted with discomfort of a different kind when he saw Caitlin O’Malley pressing down on the lifeless chest of his body, desperately crying, “Breathe!” as she performed CPR in a futile attempt to revive him.
“Oh, no!” he cried. “What am I gonna do?”