by Brian K. Asbury, Starsky Hutch 76, HarveyKent and Libbylawrence
Magnificus Sivana edged back toward the other side of the bed. “No… listen… you don’t understand…” he protested.
Mary Mayhem grinned evilly. She had shed her familiar costume and was now clad in a diaphanous negligee stolen from the city’s most exclusive department store. “Don’t fight it, big boy. You know you’ve always had the hots for me. Well, now I want you, baby. I want you now. And whatever Mary Mayhem wants, Mary Mayhem gets.”
“Oh, man, d’you know how corny that jive is, sister?” said a voice behind her suddenly.
She whirled about in surprise to see a black man standing there dressed in a familiar Captain Marvel uniform, to which had been added a pair of Ray-Bans and a reversed red and white baseball cap.
“Who the hell are you?” she demanded. “And how dare you interfere with the will of Mary Mayhem?”
He grinned. “Jeez, babe, who writes your dialogue? Why don’t you an’ me chill and leave pretty-boy here in peace. I’m sure he’d rather be listenin’ to his Judy collection than playin’ tag with you on a king-size bed in a barricaded-up hotel room.”
“Hey, I resent that!” exclaimed Magnificus. “I’m not–”
Mary’s features hardened. “I asked you a question, interloper. Who are you?”
Willie B removed his shades and looked her in the eye. “Call me Cool Marvel, babe. I’m the latest addition ta the family. Ya see the resemblance?”
“Oh, you are so funny!” growled Mary.
She turned as if to attend to the whimpering Magnificus, then suddenly whirled about and swung a blockbusting haymaker at Willie, catching him squarely on the jaw with such an impact that he was sent crashing through the wall and straight through a window in the building opposite.
“Oh, man!” he exclaimed, as he started to pick himself up out of the rubble of what had been an open-plan accountancy office. “Anybody get the number o’ that Uru hammer?”
Before he could fully regain his feet, however, a whirling fury in sheer pink descended upon him, hitting him so hard that this time he plunged through the floor and down through three more stories before he could check his progress.
“You ruined my dream date!” snarled Mary. “I had the man, I had the luxury penthouse suite…”
“You mean ya hijacked the luxury penthouse suite, hon!” said Willie, this time managing to block her punch. “You got in through the window an’ blocked off the door with a solid oak wardrobe. Don’t think the manager’s gonna make with the complimentary champagne after that!”
“Shut up, you grinning buffoon!” she growled, ducking a blow from him, kicking his legs from under him and whacking him back through the window and out into the street. “Don’t you ever stop talking?”
Willie managed, just barely, to stop himself from plunging back through the wall of the hotel. “Hey, maybe you right, girl! I gotta make less with the rappin’ and more with the scrappin’ — like this!” He swung his fist at the lingerie-clad flying girl.
However, Mary’s greater experience enabled her to anticipate the blow once more and follow up with a punch of her own, which sent Willie crashing down to street level, where he demolished the cab of a parked truck.
Cool Marvel pushed out with a scream of tortured metal as he extricated himself from the mangled cab. “Talk about playin’ hard to get, babe. An’ it ain’t even like you’re my type. I usually go for chicks who are better stacked, if ya know what I mean.”
He lunged at her flying form, but suddenly she wasn’t there. “If you won’t shut up,” snarled Mary Mayhem from behind him, “it’s time you stopped breathing altogether.”
Willie felt steel-like hands squeezing his throat, tighter and tighter. He struggled frantically to free himself from their grip, but her strength equaled his own, and her position made it impossible to loosen her fingers.
This is crazy! he thought. I’m being killed by a skinny white chick! This ain’t the way I ever thought I’d go out! And what’s the city’s club scene gonna do without me? Can’t have no dead man workin’ the turntables!
There was only one person who could help him — the weird old guy who gifted him these powers. If he could only manage to call him…
“Sh…” he croaked.
“Be quiet!” Mary screamed.
“Sh…” Her hands were so tight now, but he had to try. “Sh…”
“I said, be…”
The magic lightning lanced down, striking them both. The grip around Willie’s throat loosened, and he thrust his head back, impacting on the forehead of the girl holding him. The grip ceased altogether, and he turned, clutching his throat, to see a stunned Mary Batson falling to the ground.
“Oh, man,” he breathed, massaging his bruised throat. “That was a close one. Now, girl, I better take you back ta see the old guy. Mebbe he can do somethin’ ’bout that bad attitude you got!”
Fazhoul hated visiting his Aunt Igrit, but he felt a sense of obligation. She was family, after all. And she did brag over him quite a bit, telling everyone who would listen about her “handsome and powerful” son who was on the pharaoh’s royal staff. With his hook nose, he didn’t think of himself as handsome or even particularly powerful. So her comments helped ingratiate her to him, despite her annoying mannerisms and absurd amount of cats.
He knocked on the door to her small hovel, and he could already hear the cats voicing their annoyance as she moved through them to answer.
“Coming!” she said in her cheerful voice.
She opened the door and said, “Fazhoul! My darling nephew! It is so good to see you!” He knew she meant it, too. And so few were genuinely glad to see him. How could he not help but like her?
“Careful, careful,” she said as he slid in past her in the narrow space the opened the door for him. “Don’t want any of my babies getting out.”
“I think there are a few more ‘babies’ here than last time,” the swarthy man said.
“Oh, you noticed,” she said, sitting down. A cat jumped out of the chair, narrowly missing being sat on.
In the next room, a set of cat eyes peered at them between two doorway tapestries. But they did not belong to one of Igrit’s babies. They belonged to Mr. Tawny.
Oh, goodness! Tawky Tawny thought to himself. That slimy Shazam-wannabe has sent me to ancient Egypt! What am I gonna do? If folks get a load of me in this time, they’re going to break out the pitchforks and torches!
“I’d say you have quite a few more,” Fazhoul said, looking at the two cats perched by either shoulder and the one who had leaped up into his lap.
“Oh, I don’t know about quite a few,” Igrit said.
“I would say you had a hundred,” he suggested.
“I don’t know… maybe not that many,” she answered.
“How do you feed them all?” he asked incredulously.
“The goddess Bastet provides for her children,” Igrit said. Mr. Tawny looked over at the shrine with the cat-headed goddess and nodded in understanding.
“In fact, one of my babies had babies,” Igrit said excitedly. “I’ve placed them at her feet so she can watch over them all. Would you like to see?”
“I suppose so,” Fazhoul said grudgingly.
Mr. Tawny leaped away from the doorway tapestries in a panic. He looked around for a place to hide, but cats seemed to be sleeping or hiding in every nook and cranny. As he looked at the Bastet shrine, an idea hit him. He yanked off his suit, undershirt, and socks, and tied a tablecloth around his waist. He tied a sash around his chest and shoved in a couple of pieces of fruit in it. He then ran to her makeup table and quickly made up his face. He turned to the doorway as they stepped through the tapestries.
Upon seeing him, Igrit gasped and quickly dropped to the ground, bowing. She yanked on the shocked Fazhoul’s robes for him to do the same.
“I…” Mr. Tawny stopped and cleared his throat to adopt a falsetto. “I am the great goddess Bastet! I am very happy with the love and attention to my many children which you have shown. To show my appreciation, I have decided to grace you with my divine presence.”
As he bowed, Fazhoul could not believe his ears. Who would have thought that her eccentric devotion to her cats would pay off? He would never be handsome like his aunt believed him to be, but with a goddess visiting his family, perhaps he just might become powerful. He couldn’t wait to tell the pharaoh.
As he looked up from the goddess to the shrine, he pondered that so many artists had always shown her as much more comely of form than she apparently was in real life.
Bulletman and Bulletgirl soared over the field. The British soldiers below raised their rifles and fired at the flying figures, but the electromagnetic fields generated by their gravity helmets, which allowed them to fly, also repelled the bullets.
“Where — or should I say when — the heck are we?” Bulletgirl asked. “Have we gone back in time to the Revolutionary War?”
“I would have thought so,” her husband said, “until I saw that! Look!”
Bulletgirl looked where the hero’s finger pointed, and she gasped to see a line of Egyptian charioteers charging across the plain. The British dragoons met them in battle, bullets and arrows flying over the verdant grass.
Before Bulletgirl could comment, she heard cries from the north, behind her. She turned her head to see a gray-coated regiment of the Confederate Army exchanging fire with a Luftwaffe Panzer division. “This is insane!” she cried out. “This looks like some bizarre amalgam of every war that has ever been fought!”
“Or ever will be,” Bulletman amended, noting the futuristic uniforms and energy-producing rifles being employed by soldiers struggling against a platoon of Americans in World War I-era uniforms.
“Just where are we, anyway?” Bulletgirl demanded, clutching for sanity in this insane setting.
“Look over there,” Bulletman said, pointing. The two heroes saw an enormous structure looming up over the horizon. “Perhaps we can find answers there. Come on!”
The flying heroes, pouring on the speed, soon saw the monolithic structure for what it was — a wall, carved of some sort of black stone, thousands of feet high and stretching so far in either direction that no end could be seen. There was writing on the wall, tiny characters in white script, chiseled into the black stone. As they neared the wall, Bulletman and Bulletgirl saw that the characters were names.
“This is creepy,” Bulletgirl said.
“No,” a thin, reedy old voice spoke from the base of the wall. “This is War.”
Bulletman and Bulletgirl flew down to the base of the wall and were met by an old man in coarse brown robes, with a thick gray beard. He clutched in his brown-spotted hands a hammer and chisel.
“Welcome to the Land of War,” he said. “I am the Archivist. How come you here?”
“Good question,” Bulletman said. “Just where is ‘here,’ anyway?”
“I told you,” the Archivist said. “The Land of War. This is the Wall, where the names of those fallen in battle are recorded for all eternity. All around us, those battles are played out, again and again and again.”
“Good Lord!” Bulletman cried, astonished.
His eyes had just been magically drawn to a name carved into the wall: Michael Barr, his father! It was the father he had never gotten a chance to know, for the man had been killed in World War I, when his son Jim was but an infant. Was he here, then, somewhere in this bizarre hodgepodge of hell? Bulletman had to know, had to find him. Without a word, Jim Barr took off into the sky.
“Jim!” Bulletgirl cried. “Jim, where are you going? Come back!”
“Su-Su?” a voice behind Bulletgirl said.
The heroine froze in horror. Only one person had ever called Susan Kent Barr that — her kid sister, Janice. Janice Kent had been only twenty-two years old when she was killed; an army nurse stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, she had been killed in a strafing run. Bulletgirl slowly turned and screamed in horror to see her sister standing there in her nurse’s uniform, covered with blood, one eye socket empty, and bloodied, ragged, bleeding holes riddling her blouse.
“It’s Jannie, Su-Su,” the apparition said sweetly. “Come and give me a big hug.”
Mister Scarlet and Pinky the Whiz Kid dashed through the cavern as the evil wizard loomed above them.
Pinky gasped as she noticed that the vast cavern seemed to expand into several side passages, and as the pair raced along, sounds decidedly different from the roar of the dinosaurs echoed. “Don’t tell me that we’re to blame for this whole mess!” she yelped.
“The evil wizard said that he was the essence of dark emotions which Shazam banished from his own soul after Black Adam first turned bad,” explained Mister Scarlet. “He claimed that Shazam just banished those sentient emotions into the universe, but clearly he covered up the fact that the old wizard trapped those negative vibes in a magic prison box first!”
Mister Scarlet carried the open box under one arm as they raced out another tunnel to see the pyramids and sands of ancient Egypt. “I guess this cavern is one aspect of the Rock of Eternity,” he said. “We can exit one passage in dinosaur times and emerge from another in the era of the pharaohs!”
Pinky rolled her eyes and said, “Don’t tell me you’re thinking what a swell book this would make! Writers, sheesh!” She looked behind them, then continued, “He’s not following us. Of course, as a mere spirit, he wouldn’t have been much of a threat, anyway!”
“It’s like he feared to follow us out into this Egyptian era,” said Mister Scarlet. “Maybe that means the real Shazam is still active here and can now send us home! That’s my hope, anyway! Let’s see if we can find some people who can help us!”