by Dan Swanson
Billy Batson was sitting at his desk at Station WHIZ, reviewing the script for the filming of the next episode of his documentary program, Believe It Or Nuts! when his phone rang. He frowned; his executive assistant Joan Jameson was supposed to take all his calls and only ring him for the very important ones. But his digital display showed that this call hadn’t come from her extension. Nobody should have been able to reach him directly.
“Good morning, Billy Batson of WHIZ-TV,” he answered, and he was stunned at what he heard.
“Good morning, Billy. I trust you’re well today.” Billy almost dropped the phone when he recognized the voice at the other end. “It’s pleasant to speak with you.”
Billy pushed a button that summoned Joan into his office, and he wrote on a pad of paper “TRACE THIS CALL!” Almost as if he could see what Billy was doing, the voice continued.
“Now, Billy, you know it won’t do you any good to trace this call. It could be routed through fourteen different countries and bounced off a half-dozen satellites. But that wouldn’t show any trust, would it?”
Billy finally found his voice. “I can’t believe you’d ever have the nerve to call me on the phone and just chat pleasantly! What is it you want?” Billy was so stunned with disbelief that he hadn’t even started to become angry yet.
“Why, thank you for inquiring, Billy. In fact, I’d like to talk to Captain Marvel, if I may.” Billy could think of nothing he’d like better right now. Maybe the wisdom of Solomon would help the Captain figure this out. And Joan already knew his secret. He shrugged and spoke his magic word.
Magic lightning flashed, and there was a boom of thunder. Billy Batson vanished, to be replaced instantly by the majestic form of Captain Marvel, the world’s mightiest mortal.
“OK, Sivana, what’s on your mind?”
“It is wonderful to speak to you, too, my dear Captain. Thanks so much for asking! If you wouldn’t mind terribly, I need to ask you a favor!”
If that wasn’t the most astounding thing Captain Marvel had ever heard, it was surely in the top three.
“You’ll pardon me for asking, I’m sure, but… just why do you think I might ever do you a favor? We’re mortal enemies; you’ve fought me, captured me, tortured me, tried to kill me, not to mention all the innocent people you’ve hurt over the years! That’s hardly the basis for a friendly favor.”
Thaddeus Bodog Sivana chuckled. “And most of the time, you’ve come away the winner, haven’t you? Anyway, how’s this for a reason? This favor will help a criminal go straight!”
Captain Marvel thought over that idea for a second or two. In fact, if he was sure that was the only thing involved here, and no harm would come of it, it was one of the best reasons he had ever heard for doing anyone a favor, even Sivana. But it didn’t require the wisdom of Solomon to be wary of a trap. After all, this was Sivana, the world’s wickedest scientist, and his arch-enemy.
“Remember all the other times you’ve tried to fool me, and what happened? If this is a trick or a trap, I guarantee it will backfire.” The invulnerability of Achilles, combined with the power of Zeus, made that promise into a powerful oath. And yet Sivana wasn’t daunted in the slightest.
“You will just have to trust me, Captain!”
It was still jarring to hear Sivana speak in such a polite, almost courtly manner, as if he were trying to project an image that was as different as possible from the Captain’s deadliest enemy. Marvel was curious enough to hear him out.
“Here is my offer. In order to get your agreement to merely listen to my proposal, I offer a one-hour truce. During that hour, I, and all my current associates, will curtail any and all criminal activity. During that hour, neither you nor anyone may make any move to curtail my freedom nor that of my current associates, and, in fact, during that hour, you must protect us from capture. If, at the end of the hour, you have not been convinced, our truce is ended.”
With the speed of Mercury, Captain Marvel thought over the proposal for a long time, applying the wisdom of Solomon, but it was only a second for Sivana. “Here is my condition. I reserve the right to unilaterally cancel this truce if, at any time during that hour, in my judgment and no one else’s judgment but mine, you violate either the letter of the agreement or the spirit of the agreement. If you think this is unfair, then no deal.”
“Why, Captain, old boy, you should have been a lawyer!” Marvel was stunned again, this time at the honest admiration he heard in Sivana’s tone. “Of course, I have complete faith in your honor. I accept! As proof of my goodwill, please look out the window!”
A block away, a white-clad figure stepped out of a phone booth and waved. Less than a second later, Captain Marvel was at his side. “OK, Sivana, the clock’s running!”