by Dan Swanson
“You know, Doctor…” Captain Marvel was almost afraid to continue, but he did, after all, have the Courage of Achilles. “…you may be, as you claim, clinically insane, but you are certainly rational and acting sanely right now.”
“Heh-heh! I do have my moments, although they are admittedly quite rare,” replied Dr. Thaddeus Bodog Sivana. “Something on your mind?”
“With all the advances in psychology, it’s quite likely that a combination of treatment, therapy, and medication can permanently restore your sanity,” the Captain suggested.
Dr. Sivana’s expression grew stern. “You are dangerously close to violating our truce! It is none of your concern, but I consider my current state as the aberration, not the norm, and certainly nothing to aspire to! Certainly, if I so preferred, I could easily ‘cure’ myself — but why would I, the great Sivana, future ruler of the universe, wish to become ‘normal’?”
Seeing the look of concern in Marvel’s eye, Sivana sighed. “Yes, my esteemed foe, I, too, am close to pushing the envelope of the truce. As there remain mutual benefits that we may still reap, let us both please agree to refrain from discussing the topic of my sanity again.”
The Captain nodded. He had been worried about something like that. But he figured that he at least planted the idea, and could hope that Sivana would consider it in the future during his periods of rationality.
“Now that you’ve heard my story, let me tell you Junior’s story. It began several days ago…”
Dr. Sivana was working in his laboratory when his younger son walked in. “Hey, Pop! How’s life? Say, that looks like a tri-atomic modulo-inductive eleven-dimensional distillator! Wow! How neat!”
Sivana was impressed. Sivana Junior usually needed new inventions explained to him. Not that he wasn’t smart enough to understand them, but oftentimes he just lacked the initiative to figure them out himself. Well, I shouldn’t complain, Sivana thought to himself, since I designed him that way. Still, at times it is quite annoying!
“What are you going to use as a power supply? If you don’t have anything in mind yet, maybe this zero-point energy-transducer I whipped up could work.” Junior casually tossed a small device to his father, who snatched it out of the air.
It was, as Sivana expected, much heavier than it looked. If it really was what Junior had called it, then there must be a miniature black hole suspended somewhere inside the device. “You idiot! What if this thing broke open and released the black hole? It’s only a couple of pounds now, but how long would it take to consume the planet?”
Junior blanched. “Gee whiz, Pop, I didn’t even think of that. Hold on a sec!” He pulled a small device from his pocket.
Ever the dutiful father, Sivana stopped him. “No calculator, Junior. Do it in your head, and don’t forget the exponent!”
Junior pursed his lips and concentrated. He muttered to himself as he worked it out. “F=G(m1+m2)/r^2, t=(ln(N/No))/k, e=mc^2; d(n)=((3*2^(n-1))+4)/10…” He got an answer, looked stunned, and calculated again.
“Gee, Pop! I get less than a year! But you don’t have to worry, that gadget is made of sivanium. There’s no way it can break just ’cause you drop it!”
“Great, son. Good job on the math, too! How efficient is this thing?”
Junior figured his father was really asking how much power it could supply, so he answered that question instead of the one that had been asked. After all, his father would easily figure out the efficiency immediately when he heard how much power the device could produce. “You could run all the lights in the Empire State Building from that device for a year, and still have enough left over to power two tri-atomic modulo-inductive eleven-dimensional distillators!” he said proudly.
Sivana almost dropped the device; this thing had more power than an atomic bomb. If… he corrected himself, …it works at all! He set it down gingerly. “Thanks, Junior. I’m not ready to hook up the juice yet.”
“Sure, Pop, any time. Say, do you have a few minutes? I need to talk to you… but if you’re too busy…” He hesitated, then headed for the door. “…we can do it some other time.”
“Hold on, son! I’ve got time. What’s on your mind?” Sivana had a good idea that it might have something to do with women; Junior had been hanging out with the Rainbow Squad recently, apparently getting a little action in exchange for inventions to make them more powerful and assist them in their criminal careers. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Rainbow Squad,” Shazam! #31 (September-October, 1977).]
He was glad Junior had finally had a chance to sew his wild oats, although he wasn’t quite sure whether he approved of the Rainbow Squad or not. They were only using Junior, and would abandon or betray him without a second thought if it was in their own best interests. They had better realize that hurting him would definitely not be in their best interests, though. For all his intelligence, and a lifetime of experience in villainy, Sivana Junior was still frighteningly naive and vulnerable in some ways. Sivana wondered wistfully what Junior would be like if he had lived a normal life. For that matter, what would Sivana himself be like if his life had been anything like normal?
“Pop, I want to get married!” Junior pulled out a picture of a woman who was absolutely beautiful. For one of only a handful of times in his life, Sivana was speechless. He shook his head, seemingly unable to believe what he was seeing.
Junior’s feelings were hurt. “C’mon, Pop. Look, I know I’m not as smart as you, but I do have the family good looks! And you said you used to have to fight off the beautiful women. So why shouldn’t just one beautiful woman fall for me?”
“Son, let me tell you some of the facts of life…”
“No need, Pops! Me and Sibyl figured that out for ourselves,” Junior said, referring to the leader of the Rainbow Squad. “And then Dynamoll and Celeritas joined us for our grad work! Man, oh, man! Was that ever fun! You oughtta see what Celeritas can do with her gift of speed when she’s on t–”
Sivana hurriedly interrupted. “Yes, yes, that’s all well and good. Is your intended one of the Rainbow Squad? How do the others feel about this?” He was horrified at the thought.
“No way, Pops! Fact is, I’m through with them forever. They were just a little entertainment along the way, y’know? They thought they were using me, but I’m a Sivana. Nobody uses me! Wait till I tell you about Sandalyn!”
Sivana folded his arms and started tapping his toe. “Actually, I’ve been waiting since you busted in here, which is plenty long enough. Tell me about this… Sandalyn, is it?”
“Pop, she’s incredible. You remember that stretch back in ’77 when they put us in separate prisons to try to keep us from escaping? As if that would make a difference to a Sivana! Anyway, I was sharing my room with a crazy old coot, claimed to be a warlock or a wizard, or some foolish thing like that. Spent a lot of time talkin’ to himself. I never did learn his real name; sometimes he claimed to be named Wizzo, and sometimes he claimed to be Volthoom! (*) Weird! Sort of scary, actually. He really did seem to have some magic powers. But he was so whacked out all the time, he never even seemed to realize he was in prison.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Red Rocket & Tom Atomic: Times Past, 1956: Right and Magic.]
“Every visiting day he was led out, and when he came back, he was always smiling, but he’d never say why — or anything at all about his visitor. Then one day he was too sick, and he asked me to take a message to his daughter for him. And that’s when I met her!
“She was his daughter, of course. Pop, she’s beautiful! And she liked me! Her dad was sick for a couple of weeks, but she kept coming in just to see me! And then they took him away to a hospital, and she still came in to visit. We talked for hours. What an amazing woman! I was almost ready to serve out my sentence just so I could keep seeing her, but then you and Georgia busted me out.”
Sivana paged through his past memories. “Ah-ha! That’s when you were acting so dopey!”
“Yeah, Pop — it took me a while to get over her back then. But I did, and I’d totally forgotten about her… until I started hanging out with the Rainbow Squad! We don’t even like each other much, but we had so much fun, I started wondering what it would be like to be with someone you really love!
“It took a little research, and I had to break into a couple government buildings to get her address — remember when the DMV caught fire? That was me, covering my tracks. Pop, she was still single! Waiting for me, she said.
“You know, Pop, except for you and Georgia, I don’t really know a lot of people. You guys love me, I know, but I’m not sure you like me. Well, Pop — she likes me! You can’t know what it’s like to be in love with the most wonderful woman in the whole world!”
Noticing the look on his father’s face, Junior stopped abruptly. He had seen his father angry, frustrated, furious, satisfied, bursting with hatred, and brimming with pride, but he had never before seen sadness. And such sadness, Junior thought, a sadness whose depths he could only imagine. What could affect his father this way? And then he made the connection.
“Oh, Pop, I’m sorry. You do know just what it’s like, don’t you? You loved the most wonderful woman in the world, and somehow she was lost.” He thought desperately, trying to come up with something to say that would ease his father’s pain. “You’ve never said a word about her, Pop. Tell me about her — tell me about my mother!”
“The woman you’re talking about — the most wonderful woman in the world, who I lost — wasn’t actually your mother, son. You see, Junior, my mother was your mother. You’re a clone!”
“Really, Pop? Say, that’s great! No wonder I’m so handsome, eh? I figured that had to be it, but you never talked about it before.”
“And I never will again. Let’s get back to your story…”
Junior had never seen his pop looking so unsure of himself. Hoping to give him a few seconds to collect himself, Junior continued. “Just one big problem, Pop… you see, she’s an incredible straight arrow — a law-abiding citizen — and she won’t even consider marrying a villain. So can I borrow the time machine? I need to go back and keep me from committing any crimes…”
Sivana started cackling. “Heh-heh-heh! That’s a bad plan, son! No crimes, no prison, no weirdo cell mate with a beautiful daughter, no fiancée. Simple as that!”
“Gee, Pop, I sure am glad I decided to talk to you about it. You gotta help me come up with something!”
The two talked long into the night and decided on a plan that seemed to have some possibility of working. But they needed the help of one person, who just happened to be Dr. Sivana’s longtime enemy, Captain Marvel.