by Dan Swanson
An armored door swung open and the two stepped onto an escalator, which took them down a floor and into a lobby/reception area. There was a line of elevator doors on the far wall. The room was elegantly and expensively furnished, with beautiful paintings and marble statuary, sybaritic furniture and lush potted plants.
“It must have cost two fortunes just to furnish this room!” Mary exclaimed. In her civilian identity, Mary Bromfield knew something about fortunes and furnishings. “Couldn’t you have found a better use for the money?”
Thunderman shook his head and smiled. “Doc Damage left it this way. Besides, this isn’t just the Society of Justice HQ, it is also the diplomatic embassy of one of the most powerful groups on the planet. We have met with heads of state, leaders of world religion, the President of the League of Nations, actors, union presidents, rich and famous, poor and unknown and everyone in between. This is our public face.”
They walked through another room, this one filled with glass cases. “This is our public trophy room. We keep souvenirs of our most memorable cases here. Well, some of them. The dangerous ones we keep at our secret retreat, in the western mountains.” She saw, among other things, a very small loudspeaker, a green ring, a war hammer, a pair of feathered wings large enough for a human with a harness of crossed straps and some kind of hand-held rod. “These are all replicas; the real weapons are stored safely away. I’d tell you the histories of each, but I know you are in a hurry.” Mary thought she would have to come back here some day; some of these things looked familiar to her and she wondered if their stories would be as well?
The next room was an executive conference room, with dark wood paneling which shone as if it were polished hourly, and the largest circular table Mary had ever seen, also of dark well-polished wood, surrounded by about 20 of the most luxurious office chairs imaginable. There were five other people in the room, seated at the table. She recognized Captain Thunder immediately, and surely the one in the red dress with the yellow sunburst must be Mary Thunder — although she had changed in the last 30+ years. Seated next to her was a man who must be the Jim Barr/Bulletman analog in this world. Further around the table she saw another woman in a similar costume, she must be Bulletwoman. And the remaining hero could only be Minute Man! Well, his analog, she reminded herself.
“Ladies and Gents, some of you will remember Mary Marvel — she pulled our bacon out of the fire back in early 54. Mary, you remember Captain Thunder.”
Cap rose and shook her hand. “It’s very nice to see you again, Mary, but I surmise it must be bad news that brings you here!” Once again, Mary was awed by how much Captain Thunder resembled her brother. Not just physically; there was an aura of nobility around him that almost glowed.
Mary Thunder stood up and Mary was stunned once again. She actually whistled, Mary T looked so good! Taller, still slender, with a great figure and fantastic legs — which she showed off with a skirt shorter than Mary M would dare to wear! “Hi, Mary!” They hugged. “If I grow up to look like you, I can hardly wait!”
Mary T laughed. “I’m sure you will, dear! And you look really great yourself!”
Thunderman turned to ‘Bulletwoman’. “Mary Marvel, I’m pleased to introduce you to my wife, Lady Bolt, also known as Suzan Barr Beck. But if you call her anything but Suze, you’re in for a fight!”
Mary M decided she had to stop being stunned at the various surprises this world threw at her. She shut her mouth and stuck out her hand. “Hiya, Suze! Sorry for the jaw-drop act, but on my world, you are married to Bulletman — Jim Barr!”
“I’m married to my brother?! What kind of world do you come from?” Suze now looked as shocked as Mary felt.
“No! No, I’m sorry! I have to stop thinking everything is the same here as back home. I’m sorry I got off on the wrong foot, please forgive me. I’m really not an airhead when you get to know me!”
Suze smiled. Mary M had thought her alter-ego Mary T was beautiful, but Lady Bolt had such a powerful aura of sensuality that even Mary felt it. She had a magnificent figure, a bosom even Marilyn Monroe would have envied, and a brilliant smile, with teeth so white they sparkled. She could now recognize that this woman was not an analog of the Sue Barr who was her best friend — although their looks were similar.
‘This one has to fight off men with all her powers, almost all the time,’ she thought. Mary liked being extremely attractive, but she thought she would be very uncomfortable if she exuded pure sex the way Suze did. But of course, Suze had lived with it all her life and must be used to it. No wonder Thunderman had been attracted to her. But she was still puzzled…
“Isn’t he much…” and then she shut up, embarrassed.
“Younger than I?” Suze finished her question, easily. “We’re both in our sixties, look like late twenties, and expect to live at least another hundred years! What’s six or seven years between friends — or lovers?” She smiled at Thunderman, and everyone in the room knew what these two shared in private!
Bolt quickly stood up and extended his hand. “You seem to know my name already, Mary, I’m James Barr, a.k.a. Bolt. But people usually call me Jamie.” Mary shook his hand. “Very pleased to meet you.”
“Jamie is my husband, Mary,” said Mary Thunder. Well, what was one more shock after all the others?
Mary turned to the last figure, a very fit looking man in a red, white and blue costume, with a mask that covered his eyes and nose, but not his hair. Which was gray! He stood up, bowed and kissed her hand. “Mary Marvel, I’m Jay Easton, also known as Americon. Charmed, I’m sure!” She blushed as he held her hand for just a second longer. She’d always had a ‘thing’ for charming older men, and he fit the bill exactly!
Americon continued… “I’m also the nominal chairman of the Society of Justice at the moment. We are almost through with our informal meeting; it’s more of a ‘show the flag’ meeting than a business meeting. We should be through in a few minutes. Would you mind waiting outside? Our Butler, Alexis, could get you some tea?”
Mary didn’t want to wait longer than she had to. “Is it possible to discuss business at this meeting? I need to ask you for your help!”
Americon looked around; everyone nodded. “Unanimous approval to hear you speak, Mary. Please continue. “The rest of the SoJ returned to their seats, and Americon seated Mary next to himself.
She talked, they listened. She told them everything Cap Jr., Sivana Jr. and Sandalyn had told her about the menace approaching her Earth — Sivana Jr. had named it BattleWorld. When she ran out of things to say, they asked her questions.
“How do you know it is going to attack Earth?” Americon asked.
“Why, it attacked Cap Jr. and Sivana’s spaceship!” Even as she said it, the Wisdom of Minerva told her she could easily be wrong, and Americon confirmed it.
“They could have been mistaken for missiles or even meteors. The ‘attack’ might have been an automated defense system.”
Mary shuddered. For some reason, she knew that BattleWorld would attack Earth. She didn’t know how, but the Wisdom of Minerva told her not to question her intuition. She was surprised when the assembled heroes accepted this as proof, but then she realized they had known Mary Thunder for a long time.
Finally, the questions ran out as well. Americon stood up. “Any more questions?” None were raised. “OK, then. Mary Marvel, can you please wait in the lobby while we discuss this?”
Once again Mary was stunned. They wanted to discuss it? What was there to discuss? And why couldn’t she remain? She was about to respond heatedly when she once again realized she was on a different world, in a different universe, and these people, though the resembled people she knew, were in fact NOT those people. “Don’t take too long!” she said calmly. “I’ve got to get back, with or without you, in only four hours!”
“Understood!” said Americon. “Under our bylaws, Section 4, Paragraph 3, this discussion will be limited to no more than two hours. Each member may have the floor for ten minutes, no more, after which we will discuss for 30 minutes, each member will have five more minutes, and then we will vote.”
Sounded too formal for Mary’s tastes. Yet she understood the importance of rules of order, and the desirability of discussion when there was time available. In the lobby, Alexis (a robot butler!) brought her tea, and she passed the time by watching television. She found it not much different from on her own Earth — although the cartoon about the stripper who was a secret hero in her spare time seemed… unusual, was putting it mildly. The heroine was so totally over endowed and overexposed, every other line was a not-so-veiled reference to sex, and the (lack of) plot seemed to consist of ways the heroine could show off her boobs. There was no way she would ever let her own kids watch a cartoon like that!
Which got her thinking about the relationships in the Society of Justice. She had married Bulletman? Freddy had married Bulletwoman? Wonder who Cap married? Is there even a Cissie in this world? She wondered if either couple had kids. When she married (Freddy, she hoped!) she was planning to semi-retire to raise their kids. And the Bullets she knew had long ago realized they weren’t able to have kids — a side effect of the anti-crime drug which gave them their powers and extended their lives — and planned to adopt some day. Suddenly all the differences, big and small, between this world and her own, combined to make her realize just how far away from her own home she really was. She missed her own friends and family, and they were in danger. Well, with or without the help of the Society of Justice, she would be back there soon, and she would fight to the death to protect her world!
Mary Thunder startled her out of her reverie by rushing through the door and grabbing her in a big hug! “The answer is yes, Mary! The six of us will accompany you back to your Earth to fight the BattleWorld! Sorry, but nobody else is available right now. We’ll leave as soon as we make some preparations!”
Mary M was a little skeptical. “Why is Americon coming with us? We’re going into outer space and fighting an enemy as big as a planet. He doesn’t have any powers, does he? What can he do?”
Mary T grinned at her. “Well, besides the fact that he’s currently the chairman, don’t write him off because he doesn’t have any powers! He’s got one of the best strategic and tactical minds on the planet and almost 50 years of battle experience! He’s probably the best fighter on the planet, too, even as old as he is. Don’t worry, he’ll hold his own — and then some — regardless of the opposition!”
In spite of her anxiety to get back to her world in time, Mary M soon learned to appreciate Americon. The other heroes besides Americon quickly began to take the walls of the conference room apart, uncovering a shiny metal layer that coated the entire room, even lining the doors. Mary asked Americon what was going on?
“I don’t know if you have this stuff on your planet or not, so we’re bringing ours along. We call it Thundranium, and it blocks the magic star burst that changes the Thunders. We sometimes have guests in conference, and it would be… inconvenient if somehow, one of the Thunders happened to change forms accidentally where, say, the Prime Minister of Saudistan might see. So we wrapped the conference room in Thundranium. Unlikely, since they have to rub their belts at the same time, but it has happened once or twice.”
“Do you have any weapons?” Mary asked hopefully.
“We don’t keep any here. They’re all out in Idaho. Can’t possibly get them here in time. So you get us and the Thundranium — and it’s time to go!”
With three Thunders, two Bolts and a Marvel, it was a simple matter to transport all the Thundranium and Americon to the mystical cave. She had everyone cluster close and they joined hands. This time, both Marys rubbed the belt, and spoke the Earth-S magic word – “Shazam!” The seven heroes and the load of Thundranium, disappeared…
Chapter nine — Gathering the Forces, Part 3
Cap Jr. wasn’t sure how many members of the Squadron of Justice he could find in eight hours. But he would give it his best effort. Hopefully he could find a bunch of them here in New York City and save having to fly cross-country.
He happened to know that Jim and Sue Barr (the Bullets) were having a backyard barbecue today. He and Mary had been invited and had planned to attend, but it looked like those plans would be changed! But he should be able to find at least two heroes in a hurry! Almost as fast as thought itself, Cap Jr. was landing behind a garage near the Barr’s house. Shortly afterward, Freddy Freeman walked across the street and into the yard of his good friends.
The weather was threatening and only a few people had shown up – most of them from Chicago! Freddy recognized Todd Drake (a.k.a. Bulletboy, a.k.a. Red Rocket), his wife Bonnie Marlowe (Lady Victory), their son Jack and his wife Lynn, and their son Tim. He was very surprised to see Tomas Thomson standing behind the grill flipping burgers. Tomas had been in a wheelchair the last time Freddy had seen him, and in fact, since 1969. From 1953 to 1969, Tomas had been the costumed super hero called Tom Atomic. He had broken his back on his last heroic mission.
Tom Atomic had received super powers from a dose of Jim Barr’s anti-crime drug, and he had always been confident that the drug would one day help him heal enough to allow him to walk again. And he had been right! Freddy greeted him with a handshake and a hug — if anyone could understand just what Tomas felt now that he could walk again, it was Freddy!
Freddy addressed the Barrs, but he made no attempt to keep secrets. The only person here who didn’t know about the various secret identities represented here was young Tim Drake, and he would certainly find out sooner or later. Lucky there were no other guests!
“There’s some kind of giant spaceship, bigger than the Moon, headed toward Earth. It might be here in only a few days. Cap is putting together a Squadron of Heroes ™ to try to stop it, and we’d like you to join us!”
Jim looked at Sue, who nodded. “Todd and Bonnie, can you play host for us in case anyone else shows up?”
“Sure. Wish we could come with you, but we both retired due to age 18 years ago…” Bonnie spoke up “… and we aren’t any younger now!” Todd had a wistful look on his face, though, so Bonnie kept talking. “Todd Drake, don’t you even dare think about it. If you try to go along on this, I’ll kick your butt!”
Todd smiled sheepishly. She couldn’t and they both knew it, but she rarely put her foot down like this — and when she did, it was tough to get her to change her mind. Besides, he knew she was right — he would be a liability, as the other heroes might need to protect him, or he might make a bad decision at a critical point.
Tomas, however, was a different story! “I’d like to come along, Cap, if I could. Ever since I’ve been able to walk again, I’ve been thinking of getting back into the biz. Now seems like a perfect opportunity!” He was grinning, clearly very excited. Cap hated to put a damper on his enthusiasm, but he was very cautious about this.
“Tomas, it’s been what, 18 years you’ve been in that chair. Don’t you think you had better take it easy?”
“Hey, I’m better!” To prove it, he took a couple of steps out from behind the grill, and did a couple of standing flips. Cap Jr. was stunned to see how skinny his legs were compared to the rest of him, but Tomas had received super strength from the anti-crime drug. “Look, Cap, my legs aren’t back to full strength yet, but you’re going into space! Heck, I’ve heard that sometimes your legs just get in the way out there. Besides, I got so tired of just sitting all the time that I built an exoskeleton into the legs of my costume. So once the costume is on, I’m as good as new. And I’ve incorporated all the weapons and gadgets from Todd’s old Red Rocket costume into mine, so I’m not dependent on my physical abilities. In fact, I’m thinking of changing my name. What do you think of Atomic Rocket?”
Cap Jr. had his doubts, both about Tomas’s physical condition and the new name, but he could tell that the only way to keep Tomas away was to use force, which he wouldn’t do. And Freddy did understand the frustration of not being able to join in. “OK, meet me back at the old subway tunnel at 7:30 sharp and I’ll ask Shazam to send us to the Rock of Eternity to join up with the others.” And with that, he was away!
“Say, he didn’t tell us before, but we’ve got time to finish the barbecue. Who wants a burger?” This was Jim.
“Sorry, all, I have to go get my uniform,” Tomas responded cheerfully as he headed toward his car. “Back in a flash!”