by Dan Swanson
Chapter ten — The Rock of Chaos ####### CHAPTER 9
Sivana Jr. and Sandy were the last to arrive at the Rock of Eternity. There was already one flying vehicle landed on the small floating island. It looked familiar — sort of like Spy Smasher’s gyrosub, but more modern and much larger. He landed his rocket nearby and after he and Sandy climbed out, Thad was amazed at how comfortable he felt in the company of so many heroes. He did a quick count — 27, not including himself and Sandy!
They were all just hanging out, talking, laughing, comparing histories, heck, there was even an arm wrestling match going on! Thad didn’t recognize the scene but it resembled nothing so much as reunion of a large family. All that was missing was the barbecue and the croquet courts!
The man wearing Spy Smasher’s costume (who was much too young to be the original Spy Smasher) was giving a tour of the gyrosub. Sivana headed toward the group, anxious to compare his (and his father’s) inventive genius with the technology in the gyrosub. And he thought he might give his own tour next, so he could show off a little. You know, he might come to enjoy being on the other side! Even when he had been hanging out with the Rainbow Girls, trading genius for intimate favors, he had never really felt at ease. Both sides were always wondering what they could get out of the other, and even after their most enjoyable encounters, they could never relax. Even when these heroes had been his enemies, Thad had trusted them.
Sandy spotted Ibis in the crowd and headed his way. The only other powerful mage she knew was her father, who was ‘crazy as a loon’. She hoped she might learn a lot from Ibis.
As he joined the tour, Thad clicked a button on a small device, and a hatch on his rocket folded open and a ramp extended outward. Several cargo robots trundled out of the hold, a pair of them carrying a pile of metal and the others carrying a metallic box. They set their burdens down next to two piles of similar metal, and retreated to the ship. Thad followed the group into the gyrosub. He noticed that painted on the bow of the vessel was a very striking representation of a bird, seemingly composed of brightly colored flames, and the name of the ship — “Phoenix”.
Hill Marvel, Tall Marvel, Thunderman and the three Mary Marvels
Tall Marvel and Hill Marvel were among the first to arrive at the Rock of Eternity. They hadn’t seen each other since the funeral for Fat Marvel, and they had a lot to talk about. After the usual greetings, the talk turned serious.
Neither hero had ever really regretted the limitation on their powers before, that only allowed them to change to their heroic forms when they said their magic word along with one of the full time Marvels. When they considered it with the Wisdom of Solomon, it seemed a wise precaution on Shazam’s part. Too many full-time Marvels could easily cause the civilian population to become dependent on having all their problems solved by a super-hero. And it seemed like a good idea to keep some reserve forces secret, to only be called on in time of need.
But there had been times, for both of them, when it would have been really useful to be able to change on their own. They were both, in a way, a little jealous of Cool Marvel, and they decided that they would talk to Cap about it when they had a chance.
They moved on to other subjects, and of course they talked about sports and cars… and they were just about to turn to their favorite subject when Posh Mary popped into view. Their jaws dropped at the short skirt and belly-baring top of her costume! That had to be their all-time favorite version of the standard Marvel uniform! She was followed by Valley Marvel, a stunning blond with an awesome tan, whose costume sported an ankle-length skirt with slits up to her thighs, and then by Mary Belle, a very wholesome looking pretty brunette in a standard Mary Marvel outfit. With the Speed of Mercury, Tall and Hill managed to be nearby when the three girls landed without being obvious about it — at least they thought they had not been obvious.
The three Marys all possessed similar speed, and had seen the guys trying to secretly get closer. They giggled to each other about it. To each of them, even before they had become members of the Marvel family, having boys casually fall all over them was pretty much old hat. Yet even these three were flattered to have such awesome admirers as the two Lieutenant Marvels — how many ‘normal’ girls, regardless of their beauty, have super heroic suitors?
Tall Marvel was his usual charming debonair self. He made a courtly bow, and started the introductions, “Ladies! Welcome to the Rock of Eternity! I’m Tall Marvel, and this is my friend Hill Marvel. We’ve heard quite a lot about you!” which wasn’t strictly true — Cool Marvel had mentioned the three new Marvels, but he had never met them either.
“How are y’all doin’?” Hill Marvel sort of stuttered. He was a little shy, not having quite as much experience with beautiful women as his friend. Mary Belle thought he was cute, and she liked shy boys. She decided to help him off the hook.
“Why, y’all must bee fr-om the Sayouth too!” she answered cheerfully. “Ah’m Mary Belle. It’s so nahs to meet some’un from down home!” She shook his hand and squeezed it just a bit. His face lit up!
Valley Mary went more for the surfer-dude types. “Like, charmed fer shur!” she added. But she was already scanning the crowd.
Posh Mary was charmed by Tall Marvel’s manners, and she curtsied. Most of the ‘regular’ boys of her age she knew seemed to think that acting like soccer hooligans was cool. Posh Mary enjoyed a little rowdy behavior, but variety is the spice of life and she was currently bored with rowdy. She moved a little closer, smiled and winked at him. “So, Tall, strong and handsome, tell me more about you!”
Suddenly Mary Marvel and the heroes from Earth-Merokee popped into existence. Valley Mary spotted Thunderman and almost swooned. “Like, check out that totally tubular dude, girls! That stud is like, ohmygod, so rad!” The other girls must have felt similarly, as when Thunderman landed, he was quickly surrounded by three Lieutenant Mary Marvels!
Tall Marvel tended to be philosophical about this kind of situation. Either the chicks would be back or they wouldn’t. But Hill Marvel didn’t have the confidence with women that his friend did, and he was quite annoyed that having just met a girl that seemed to like him, suddenly she was drawn away by another guy! He walked over to Thunderman and his new admirers.
“From yo’ costume, y’all must be Captain Thunder Jr., all growed uhp. Nahs ta meet ya, Junior!” he emphasized ‘Junior’ and his tone was less friendly than his words. “Ah’m Hill Marvel. This here’s mah buddy Tall Marvel. Ah see y’all’ve met our fra-ends Mary, Mary and Mary. Sure got you a might pretty costume.”
Thunderman was annoyed. “Gentlemen, I’m Thunderman. These lovely ladies tell me you’re the Lieutenant Marvels? They didn’t know when you might come up for promotion, though…” No more back seats for this hero! The Marys all giggled.
Hill Marvel’s eyes narrowed. “Holy Moley! Thunderman? Tough-sounding name for such a pretty hero — can you back it up?”
Within minutes, the arm wrestling match had been arranged. The two heroes seemed to be evenly matched, and though they both strained as hard as they could, neither could budge the other. This raised their competitive spirits, and they both strained even harder. The Marys, bored by the inaction, went off in search of other fascinating men. Tall Marvel went with them, pleased that his competition had abandoned the field!
Cool Marvel and Captain Marvel
Cool Marvel waited until Captain Marvel was relatively free, and then approached him.
“Yo, Cap! Where’s the brothers and sisters? I feel like Jackie Robinson!”
Captain Marvel could have pointed out that there were a number of brothers and sisters present, but he knew what Cool was talking about and he felt it would be dishonest to pretend he didn’t.
“Most of us here, Willie, had our origins in a different era. Back then there weren’t as many opportunities for brothers and sisters, and no heroic role models. In a way, you are Jackie Robinson.”
“Hey, no fair layin that ‘role model’ trip on me! Ain’t what I signed up for!”
Cap’s tone was serious. “No, it’s not, my friend. None of those now trusted with the Powers of Shazam signed up for anything — the old Wizard chose us and there was darned little we had to say about it. But he wouldn’t have given you the power if you weren’t worthy of it. No, you didn’t choose to be a role model — but you will undoubtedly be a good one!” Cap smiled, sadly. “Assuming we can stop that thing out in space.”
The Bullets, Atomic Rocket and the Bolts
Jim and Sue Barr (Bulletman and Bulletwoman) were talking with Tomas Thomson (Atomic Rocket). The Barrs had been trapped in Suspendium for the whole of Tom Atomic’s super heroic career, and virtually the whole time since they had returned in 1973, he had been confined to a wheelchair.
Tomas had never given up hope of walking again. Along with many other projects, he had spent years building an exoskeleton into the lower half of his Tom Atomic costume, as well as adding many of the weapons and gadgets from Red Rocket’s old costume. Unknown to everyone but his two best friends, Todd Drake and Bonnie Marlowe, he had been using the exoskeleton to walk for the past three years. He was certain that it was the actual walking using the exoskeleton which had accelerated the healing process. So he was a lot steadier on his feet than anyone had expected for a guy who had been unable to walk for the past 18 years.
“Since my costume is now an amalgam of my original Tom Atomic costume and Red Rocket’s costume, I’ve decided to call myself ‘Atomic Rocket’,” he was telling them. He and Jim were discussing the engineering details. Sue was getting bored. With all these fascinating heroes around, including at least a half dozen who she didn’t recognize, the boys were talking about electronics?
A group of new heroes, led by Mary Marvel, popped into existence. “Why, those two are wearing costumes similar to ours!” she said, breaking into the boys’ conversation with a total non-sequitur. “Wow, that babe is built!” This got the attention of both guys, who took a look. “And look at that hair!”
The heroine Sue was talking about was wearing a costume very similar to those worn by the Bullets, except there was no symbol on the helmets, and a stylized lightning bolt, similar to the Marvels’, on the chest. Sue blinked — her hot pants were tinier even than Sue’s favorite bikini bottoms! Well, she had the legs for it! She had red hair that fell to her waist, which she currently had done into a long pony tail. Sue noticed just how much the chest insignia tended to draw the eye, especially the guys’ eyes, and decided that she was going to do a redesign on her own costume once this was over.
“And he’s pretty cute too!” The red-head’s partner was built like a sprinter, with powerful legs and chest. He wasn’t quite as muscular as Jim was, or quite as tall. But she thought that if they stood side-by-side they would look like twin brothers.
She hopped into the air and zoomed up to meet these two who so resembled her and her partner. She assumed that Bulletman and Atomic Rocket would be following her. The two saw them coming and wheeled to meet them.
Jamie Barr spoke first. “Mary Marvel told us you guys are Bulletman and Bulletwoman. I’m Jamie Barr, or Bolt, and this is my sister Suze Barr Beck, a.k.a. Lady Bolt.”
“Ah, that explains it.” Sue thought to herself. She had been wondering why Lady Bolt was so different from her while Bolt was almost identical to Jim. “I’m Susan Kent Barr, and this is my husband Jim,” she added. “And this is our friend Tomas Thomson, a.k.a. Atomic Rocket.”
“Why, you are Susie Kent, aren’t you? I haven’t seen you since college!” She shook her head, then, as she realized this wasn’t the Sue Kent she knew. “Oops! I mean, you look just like Susie Kent, who I met when I was a senior in college. I was giving some high school kids a tour, and I remember her because everyone thought we looked like sisters! But I never saw her again after that. So why did I give my anti-aging potion to you and not take it myself in your world? And where am I?”
“Oh my Good Lord!” Bulletman gasped. “You must be my older sister? You… you were never born on our world. Mom was injured when she was a bystander at a bank robbery and she lost the baby! That’s one of the reasons I went into law enforcement — when I was old enough to hear the story, I promised Mom I would find a way to fight bad guys.”
Suze looked stricken — a world where she was never even born! Jim continued “I created my anti-crime drug to try and fulfill that promise, and it gave me and Sue — and Tomas, later on — our super powers. Are you saying that in your world, you developed the anti-aging drug that gave you guys your powers?”
Jamie broke in. “I never went into law enforcement on my own. I wanted a gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon in 1940, and I probably would have gotten it if the Olympics hadn’t been canceled due to World War II! Of course, once Suze gave me a swig of that potion, it wouldn’t have been fair for me to compete any more. World’s Fastest Man and all…”
All four Barrs were looking a little stunned. Atomic Rocket was smiling. “Wow! I’m getting an idea for a new module that ought to make me a bundle!” While he was confined to his chair, Tomas had begun a second career as a game designer — he had become rich and famous for his super heroic role playing game ‘Alter Ego’, and he was constantly releasing new game modules. “A gateway to an alternate reality with alternate history… hmm, rules for generating analog characters but with random differences in history and powers… Don’t worry…” he looked at his companions “… I’ll cut you guys all in! This oughta net a couple million at least!”
He looked at the Bolts “Uhhh… you guys do use dollars, don’t you? Maybe I can pay you in merchandise, and you can go back to your Earth and sell stuff over there?” Everybody laughed, which is what Tomas had had in mind. This whole parallel universe idea was so awesome and incredible that they all needed to digest it. “Say, why don’t you guys tell me about your kid sidekick? I’ll bet Todd would love to hear the story. And you can tell me about my double, too!”
“We never had a kid sidekick — but Tomas Thomson is the US Ambassador to the League of Nations right now. ” Suze told him with a smile.
“Far out! My folks must be proud!” The five decided to find someplace quiet and compare notes. World’s Fastest Man? A phantom big sister who invented a super-power formula? Skinny little Jim Barr a contender for the Olympic Decathlon gold medal? There were sure to be some interesting stories coming out of this little conclave!