by Dan Swanson
Thaddeus Bodog Sivana, Jr. launched his space ship and quickly caught up with Captain Marvel Junior.
“What took you so long?” asked the young hero over the radio. “I’ve been loafing, waiting for you. I could’a been there minutes ago!”
“Heh-heh! Just wait, Little Boy Blue!” Sivana Junior chuckled back at him. Captain Marvel Junior reached out and touched the ship, then turned a magical corner in his mind, and he and the spaceship popped into the magical pocket dimension surrounding the Rock of Eternity. As he concentrated on the planet Pluto, once again he turned that same magical corner, and suddenly they were very far away.
Nearby was Pluto, a featureless gray ball about the size of a basketball from their point of view, barely visible in the dim starlight. Captain Marvel Junior spun in an arc and was able to locate the Sun, which from this distance appeared to be nothing more than the brightest star in the sky. He shivered; even for the world’s mightiest adolescent male — even with the shortcut through the Rock of Eternity — they were a long way from home. It would take him several days, at least, to return to Earth through regular space.
“Hey, Thaddy! I can see Pluto and the Sun, but where’s… Hey! I didn’t know Pluto had a moon!” Indeed, moving into his vision from behind Pluto was another celestial body, this one about the size of a volleyball, and the same dim gray as the planet.
“I don’t know how you so-called ‘Marvels’ find your way out of bed in the morning. It’s named Charon, and everyone knows it was discovered in 1978.”
“Hey, Sandy! Did you know that?” Captain Marvel Junior asked, miffed.
“Actually, Cappy, I did. I thought everybody did!” Sandy Wizzolinsk grinned and winked at Thad, which, of course, Captain Marvel Junior couldn’t see.
“Hmm… I know when I’m outgunned. So where’s this mysterious moving planet?”
“We are too far away to see it yet. In fact, with the stealth technology it has, even you would probably smash right into it before you saw it!” Thad replied.
“Well, if the stealth technology is that good, how come you know where it is?”
“Heh-heh! My pop’s technology is better! That was a dumb question!”
All Captain Marvel Junior could do was sigh. “So, let me ask you again, where is it?”
Thaddeus reached out to his view screen and touched a barely visible distortion. He would never let on just how close this object was to being undetectable, even by Sivana’s technology. The computer relayed the location information to the heads-up display in Captain Marvel Junior’s helmet, and the same spot was highlighted on the inside of his goggles.
“There it is. Now it’s your turn to eat my dust, you big blue beetle! Heh-heh-heh!” Pulling back the throttle, Sivana Junior was out of sight before Captain Marvel Junior could even react.
“It’s not that easy, red…” Marvel mumbled to himself, and he zoomed after the speeding ship, calling on every iota of the Speed of Mercury. A few seconds and about ten thousand miles later, he was able to make out the exhaust flame roaring from the rear of Sivana’s ship; it was clear that he was catching up. He noticed that the heads-up display now displayed the distance to the invisible planet. At this speed, they would reach it in under a half an hour.
Suddenly, Sandy’s voice came over the radio. “Uh, boys? You know, this race is fun and all, but we don’t know what that thing is capable of, or what the ‘drivers’ want. Maybe we shouldn’t rush in at full speed? I mean, we might look kind of like guided missiles?”
Neither of the guys was willing to be the first to call off the race. “We’re much too small to be dangerous to something that big. No way will it even notice us… probably.” Sivana sounded just a little unsure. “Marv, maybe we ought to slow down, just in case?” But he was still fiddling with the controls, trying to find a way to coax just a bit more speed from his extraordinary speedster.
“I’m invulnerable,” Captain Marvel Junior laughed. “Power of Zeus, you know!” He strained a little harder.
“Boys, sheer off! It just launched an attack!” Sandy had felt a great disturbance in the ambient magical force. But it was too late, as a massive energy bolt was bearing down on the craft bearing the two normal humans. Captain Marvel Junior strained even harder, and he raced ahead of the spaceship to intercept the bolt. It looked like electricity, and he knew it wouldn’t hurt him.
Even in the vacuum of space, Captain Marvel Junior could hear the bolt as it struck him. He hadn’t been worried, but he had also forgotten that Sandy had said this planet incorporated magic as well as science. Suddenly, he was freezing, and he felt as if something was trying to tear his body apart. “Oh, no!” he yelled. “I’m Freddy again!” He had unexpectedly turned back to Freddy Freeman in some very bad situations, but this was among the worst.
Thaddeus kept his wits, though. “Hey, big blue baboon! Change back! Say the magic words!”
The sneering tone cut through Freddy’s panic, and he realized that he was still wearing an airtight helmet on. Besides, ever since the movie Space Odyssey 1999, everybody knew that even an unprotected human could survive a few seconds in the vacuum of space.
“Captain Marvel!” A bolt of lightning appeared out of nowhere, and Captain Marvel Junior was back. “Thanks, Thad! You probably just saved my life!” Unlike his usual bantering with Sivana Junior, there was nothing but sincerity in his tone.
“And you probably saved ours, too, Blue!”
“Maybe next time you big uber-macho boys will listen? Not likely…” Sandy said quietly. “I hope you’re both ready for the follow-up missile attack, though.”
“What? I don’t see any missiles!”
It was hard to say which of the guys had said that. Sandy touched the monitor screen, and a dot appeared on Marvel’s display. There were half a dozen streaks of flame headed their way.
“Hey, these are all mine!” Captain Marvel Junior yelled, and took off at high speed toward the lead missile.
“I want to play, too!” Sivana Junior said. He pressed a button, and a laser beam blasted toward the second missile.
“Guys, I think I’m going to drown in all the excess testosterone being splashed around!” Sandy complained, but of course she was ignored. With a sigh she waved her hands, and a big fireball sprang into existence just outside the ship. She pantomimed a throwing motion, and the fireball streaked away toward the third missile.
Captain Marvel Junior plowed through the rocket motor of the first missile, and it stopped blasting and started tumbling wildly. Sivana’s laser exploded the second one, and a gigantic fireball blossomed. The third missile hit Sandy’s magical fireball and exploded as well. The blast wave caught both Captain Marvel Junior and the first missile, which also exploded, and then the three trailing missiles flew into the explosion, and they exploded as well.
Fortunately for Captain Marvel Junior, there was no magic in these warheads, because the titanic force of the explosion was enough to batter him into unconsciousness, while throwing him at high speed into deep space. His helmet was completely destroyed by the blast, too. It was a good thing he hadn’t changed back to Freddy Freeman this time.
Thaddeus and Sandy had used their technology and magic, respectively, to try to protect their spaceship and their lives. Sivana Junior had managed to flip the ship end for end, and engaged the inertial dampeners. Thus, when the shock wave struck them, even though it drove them outward at tremendous speed, the plucky little ship remained in one piece. Sandy had fashioned a cushioning spell, imagining the entire ship stuffed with magical feathers. The inertial dampeners weren’t perfect — Dr. Sivana had never imagined anything like this tremendous explosion and blast wave — but combined with the cushioning spell, the two lived through the catastrophic event.
Of course, they weren’t sure they were happy to still be alive, being so battered and bruised as they were, and when they recovered enough to check out the condition of the ship, they found that the engines had been damaged. They were headed out of the solar system at high speed, and they had no way to stop.
Fortunately for all three humans, they were no longer deemed worthy of notice by whatever had launched the attack, and the mysterious moving planet returned to its path toward Earth. Or maybe they weren’t so fortunate. Death in space could be a long, lingering, painful experience.
After some time Captain Marvel Junior finally returned to consciousness, and for a few moments he thought he must be in Freddy Freeman’s form. Had he been in a fight, or hit by a truck? He was in such pain that he decided to change into Captain Marvel Junior for relief, and tried to say his magic words. Fortunately for him, he made no noises in the vacuum of space.
His eyes flashed open, and he was astonished to realize that he was somewhere deep in space, already in his magical form. But how did he get here, and what could possibly have battered his invulnerable form and left him in this much pain? His memory slowly crept back to him. “Arrgh! A gigantic explosion! Must have been antimatter warheads to hurt me this bad!”
Already he was feeling better as the Power of Zeus started healing him. He looked around and realized that he could no longer see Pluto, he could no longer see Sivana Junior’s ship, and his helmet was missing. “Holy moley! Thad and Sandy must have been caught in that blast, too! They might need my help!” However, the blast had thrown him in a completely different direction than it had carried the little spaceship, and they could easily be millions of miles apart by now. Not for the first time, he envied some of the super-heroes of other universes who had enhanced senses.
Captain Marvel Junior tried to estimate which direction he was moving in, but it was impossible. There was nothing nearby to judge his speed against. He could have been stopped in space. Whatever that means, he thought wryly to himself. Or he could be moving at millions of miles an hour. Even the Wisdom of Solomon wasn’t of much use for solving this problem.
Settling himself in for the long haul, he turned to face the ultra-bright star that he knew to be the Sun. Exerting his will, he began the long trip back to the inner solar system. Suddenly, he realized how shaken up he must be. He had come out here quickly via the Rock of Eternity, and he could get back the same way and get help, and then return here right away and look for his missing friends.
Junior concentrated, turned the magical corner in his mind, and was back in the pocket universe of the Rock of Eternity. And, floating in front of him, in this small pocket of space, was a misshapen glob of melted metal, which had to be the remains of his rival’s spaceship.
Cautiously approaching it, he rapped on the surface. Instantly, he felt an answering vibration, as if someone inside was pounding to be let out. Once again cursing his lack of super-senses, he grabbed the blob and flew to the surface, where he carefully used the Strength of Hercules to tear open a hole in the side. When he stuck his head in, he was thrilled to see both Thaddeus Bodog Sivana Junior and Sandalyn Wizzolinsk. They looked as bad as he had felt just a short while ago.
“Heh-heh! What took you so long, big blue?”
“Good to see you too, Thad! How did you guys get here?”
Sandy weakly waved her hand. “My doing, Cappy. When you brought us here, I was magically observing what you did. It didn’t look too difficult, so when we had nothing to lose, I tried it myself. We didn’t have any way of knowing if it worked, though — we couldn’t see out.”
“All systems trashed, Blue! We had the air in the ship and nothing else — no motors, no radios, no heat, not even a bathroom!” Thaddeus smiled grimly. “Of course, if we can’t come up with some way to keep that mystery planet away from Earth, it might not matter that you saved us!”
“Oh, yeah — we oughtta do something about that, shouldn’t we?” Captain Marvel Junior picked up the melted ship, took off, and flipped them around the magic corner and back to Earth. He put Thaddeus and Sandy down at Sivana Junior’s workshop, and took off to find some help.
Sivana Junior quickly called Billy and Mary Batson at WHIZ-TV. “You know that week we had before? Well, that thing must have jumped through a wormhole or something, it’s just inside the orbit of Mars and will cross the Moon’s orbit in two days — or sooner if it does another wormhole jump.”
“Holy moley! Shazam!” Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel replaced their mortal forms. “No way any Earth nation can fight something like that in space! We’re going to need all the heroes we can get!” Marvel thought for a second. “Thad, can you reach your dad and sister? It’s their world in danger, too.”
“Um, err, well, not exactly, Captain Marvel.”
Marvel had a sudden suspicion. “This isn’t one of his tricks, is it?” His anger was growing; he should have known better than to trust that little sneak.
Sivana Junior spoke up before Marvel could explode. “No! He has nothing to do with this! I promise. He and Georgia realized they would have a tough time staying ‘clean’ between now and the wedding, so they… well, they sorta took a little trip… in time. They won’t be back until the day I’m supposed to get my pardon — if I get it — and there is no way to contact them before then.”
Captain Marvel’s anger vanished. He had more important things to worry about. “Thad, round up any super-weapons you Sivanas have cooked up. Freddy, can you round up the Squadron of Justice? I’ll get the Lieutenants — all of them! And Mary, do you think you can contact your new friends? Get going, good luck, and meet me at the Rock of Eternity in eight hours!”