by Dan Swanson and Drivtaan
Radar, Minute Man and Americon
Radar (Pep Pepper, PhD Criminology, Colonel in the UNIPF) was talking with Minute Man (Jack Weston). They had shared some adventures in the late 40s and early 50s, but they had never got back together after Minute Man had come out of the Suspendium. This was the first time they’d seen each other since 1953.
“Geez, Jack, how in hell did you stay so young? Same birthday, you and me, and back in the day I could always kick your butt, but you still look like you’re in your early 20s and me? 67, if I’m a day! Musta been that 20 year nap you took, huh?”
“You haven’t done so bad for yourself, Pep! You may be 67, but you don’t look a day over 45!” And he really didn’t, maybe even a year or two younger. “And you’ve still got your strength and you aren’t stuck being a Sergeant any longer. You know, most guys your age would be retired by now, not bucking for promotion to Chief of the UN International Police!”
“I guess I’ve lived a charmed life. Maybe some of the magic from some of those evil wizards rubbed off on me — or maybe it’s those exercises I learned from that Ernie Earnest kid back in ’62. Now there was a hero, let me tell you! Walked with a cane, you know, spent most of his life in pain ’cause the doctors never could straighten out his leg. Never once complained. Spent his whole life teaching science and sportsmanship to kids, and teaching immigrants all the things they needed to know to become citizens. They all called him ‘Captain Democracy’, you know. He always said that you were one of his heroes!”
Before Minute Man could answer, there was a commotion off to their left. Radar looked, and a funny expression came over his face, as if he couldn’t quite believe what he saw!
“Uh, Jack — if you’re you, then who’s that over there? You don’t have a twin brother, do you?” Minute Man looked, but he couldn’t quite see what Radar was referring to.
“You mean that guy in the mask? I don’t know who he is, but how do you know he looks like me?”
“It has been a long time, hasn’t it, kid?” jibed Pepper, with a laugh. “Radar vision, my boy!” Minute Man laughed too. “Let’s go meet your double!”
They made their way through the crowd and walked up to a man wearing red, white and blue, with a domino mask. His hair was slivery but his physique was that of a well-conditioned athlete in his early 20s. This man must do a tremendous amount of work to stay in that kind of shape at his age.
“Excuse me, sir? I’m Jack Weston, Minute Man — are you me?” He asked in such a tentative tone that Radar burst out laughing. He had never heard Jack Weston being tentative about anything before! But then, meeting ‘yourself’ must be a strange experience. He wondered if there was a Pep Pepper on that other Earth?
The other hero turned and looked at Jack, smiled and immediately held out his hand. “Jack Weston! I’ve been looking for you! I’m Jay Easton, Americon. Glad to meet you.” As they shook hands, he could see the question on Jack’s face. “No, I wasn’t really looking for Minute Man or Jack Weston — I was just hoping I had an analog here. Somebody’s going to have to take command here, son, and I suspect it’s going to end up being me.”
For just a second, Jack thought this guy was incredibly arrogant, thinking HE could come into this group and start giving orders. But as he thought it through, it really made sense. Of all the heroes from his own world in this crowd, only he and Radar had regularly led men and women in battle — all the rest usually operated alone or in very small teams. And if Americon had been active since the beginning of World War II, he had 20 years more experience than Jack himself. Yes, the man was not being arrogant — he was being sensible.
He smiled back. “That sounds like a good idea to me, Jay! And, I’d like you to meet Colonel Pep Pepper of the United Nations International Police Force, also known as Radar. I think he would be a good second-in-command.” He turned to his friend “Sorry, Pep…” but Radar interrupted him before he could finish.
“No offense, Jack! Heck, most of these heroes don’t know me from Atom Ant! I’d say you ought to be second-in-command and I should be on your staff.”
“Gentlemen, thanks for your confidence. There will probably be some… discussion… about leadership soon. Before it begins, suppose you tell me everything you know about the situation, and the various heroes around us? Never too soon to start working on a plan!”
As they had crossed the country and the world searching for the various Lieutenant Marvels, Captain Marvel had given Radar the whole story, as much as he knew. Americon suggested that they ought to talk to Sivana Jr., Sandy and Captain Marvel Jr., to see if they had any knowledge or theories that they hadn’t shared yet. As Minute Man went off to find that trio, Radar told the otherworldly patriot everything he knew about the gathered heroes from his own Earth.
Ibis and Sandy
“Mr. Ibis, sir?” Sandy approached the famous mage timidly. He turned, and as he saw her, a look of surprise quickly washed over her face. This one had a powerful aptitude indeed for magic, and it ‘tasted’ familiar. He surreptitiously twirled the Ibistick between his thumb and forefinger, which activated a very minor scrying spell he always had prepared.
“Approach, young lady, if you please. I sense strong magic in you, and indeed, I fully understand your trepidation. You are the daughter of the villainous sorcerer Wizzo, are you not?” He smiled sadly. “Fear me not, for I do not judge one based on her relatives. Indeed, there are evil branches on my own family tree, yet I ever strive in the cause of good. And it is clear to me, as well do you.”
She now sensed the scrying spell, and realized immediately that it was harmless. She held her right hand out, fingers pointing to the sky, and moved it slowly in a figure eight motion. Her own magic reached out like a mist, and surrounded the scrying spell, and then permeated it. Her spell then allowed her to analyze Ibis’s spell, and within short instants, she knew the spell as her own. She quickly created a similar spell, and though it told her nothing about Ibis that he had not already said, it confirmed his words. And quite impressed the master mage!
“That is an… interesting ability! It must be most useful, to be able to study a standing spell that way.” Interesting, hell, it was probably one of the single most frightening displays of benign magic he had ever seen. He had never seen that particular spell before. What might this young madwand be capable of, with the proper instruction? “Tell me, is that something your father taught you?”
“I didn’t meet my father until I was about eight years old. EIght years too late, eight years after he lost his sanity! I learned very little from him.”
Ibis nodded, gently. Wizzo’s encounter with the ancient warlock Volthoom had temporarily granted him powerful magick, and shortly afterward, driven him mad. To this day, more than 25 years later, Wizzo still battled for his own mind, and several times during that time, either he or the warlock had managed to gain temporary control.
During those periods of lucidity, Wizzo/Volthoom always proved to be a dangerous adversary. His weapon, the legendary Volstaff, was the equal of the Ibistick in power, as long as it retained a magical charge. Ibis had always managed to vanquish the mad mage, usually because Wizzo/Volthoom would either drain the Volstaff or lose his fragile hold on sanity. Ibis shuddered when he thought what might happen if ever the two overcame their mutual antagonism and found an alternative path to sanity through an alliance!
“And since you had no mentor, you developed your own techniques for learning magic? Yes, I can see — this spell you utilize is unlike anything I have ever encountered. It retains within it its own entire history. Yes, your intensity of will created it long ago, and there was nothing subtle about it. Yet over the years, repeated use has refined it, polished it, added sophistication. It is a thing of beauty, a work of art in a craft that requires the most talented of artists.”
Sandy blushed, hot and red, and was momentarily at a loss for words. To hear such praise from one of the most powerful wizards on Earth! It emboldened her to ask her next question. “Sir, I’ve never had the mentor you mentioned. I’m not really sure how to ask this — but would you be willing to take an apprentice? I may be somewhat old for apprenticeship,” and she was, being all of 29, “… but I’ve learned a lot on my own, and I’m really really interested in learning even more!”
Ibis wasn’t surprised; he’d figured it out as soon as he’d realized who she must be. “In fact, young seeker, I have no apprentice. Yet, consider this, you would be my own first apprentice, and I have little experience in the art of magical instruction. You may learn much by using your magical divination spell.”
So, that’s what you call it! she thought.
“Yet you learn only the shape of a spell, and nothing of the philosophy behind its shaping; the ‘appearance’ of the spell, but none of the magical components that go into its crafting. These things are what a good mentor must provide. I know them, assuredly, yet I know not if I can convey my knowing to you.”
Sandy considered this. She hadn’t done so badly without a mentor to this point, yet, surely Ibis knew more about magic than she could even imagine, and surely she would learn more from him in a week than she had learned yet in her life, even if he wasn’t the world’s best teacher. “You’re Ibis the Invincible! For years, you’ve overcome every obstacle and been a success at whatever you’ve attempted. I just know you’d be the greatest mystical mentor ever!”
Ibis smiled. He recognized flattery when he heard it. “There is much wisdom in your words, young seeker. At the moment, I cannot make the necessary commitment. Yet, as you are yet young in the Art, perhaps we should face our next battle together, so that we may together improve our chance of survival. After all, a future discussion between us requires attendance from both of us!”
Captain Marvel and Captain Thunder (co-authored with Drivtaan)
The Wisdom of Solomon told him it wasn’t logical to feel such trepidation, especially since he possessed Achilles’ Courage, but Captain Marvel couldn’t help it; he had never been so nervous in his life. Despite the gifts given to him by the ancient wizard, at the core of his being, he was still Billy Batson.
As he approached the Rock of Eternity, Marvel had intended to pause just long enough to get a good idea of the power assembled for the coming fight. He fully appreciated each and every one who had heeded the call.
Then his eyes fell upon Captain Thunder.
He had never fully understood why others looked at him with awe — until now. His other-dimensional counterpart seemed to dominate his surroundings by nothing more than his presence.
Marvel knew he couldn’t hover where he was forever. Deep down inside of him, Billy knew this as well. A sudden flash of insight told him that as anxious as he was about the impending meeting, those already assembled were equally anxious to witness this historic event. With a deep breath, Captain Marvel completed his journey to the Rock of Eternity.
When he landed, he quickly noted that nearly everyone but their newest ally, Sivana, was already present. Mary greeted her brother and led him by the arm to meet Captain Thunder.
As they drew closer, Captain Marvel was amazed to see himself standing beside Minute Man and his patriotic otherworld double. For just a moment, he felt he could imagine the awe, shock, and surprise that the Supermen of Earths One and Two experienced when they first met.
There were small differences between the two heroes. Thunder’s hair was curly while Marvel’s was wavy. Marvel maintained a permanent squint, while Thunder looked at the world with eyes wide open. There was a noticeable difference in their skin tones. There were small differences in their costumes as well. One wore a golden sash, while the other sported a golden belt. The most notable difference was their insignias, a stylized lightning bolt for Marvel, an equally stylized star burst for Thunder.
A hush fell across the assembly as the two paragons of heroism met face to face and shook hands. If anyone expected a grand display as the two men met, it didn’t happen. But the quiet dignity of their meeting was something they would all remember forever.
Thunder was the first to speak. “Marvel.”
“Thunder,” was the reply.
Suddenly, the two men began tossing comparisons back and forth.
“Yes. Spooky abandoned subway tunnel?”
“Spooky abandoned cave. Ancient wizard?”
“Check. Magic word?”
“Yes. Magic star burst?”
“Magic lightning. Twin sister?”
“Check. TV broadcaster?”
“Check. World’s Mightiest Mortal?”
“Earth’s Mightiest Man.”
The two men paused in their comparisons. In that instant, all apprehension fell away and Marvel felt like he had just found another long-lost sibling.
“You wouldn’t believe how nervous I was when I first saw you standing here,” Marvel confessed.
“You?” Thunder’s jaw dropped in surprise. “I thought I was going hyperventilate when you started toward me.”
Both legendary heroes began to laugh.
“So,” Marvel said, ” tell me how you guys managed to avoid the Crisis.”
Within seconds, they were so deeply involved in their conversation that they might as well have been alone, even surrounded as they were by a crowd of excited heroes!