by Dan Swanson
“Through that door,” there was only one door in the room “and then through a giant electrickal station, and then we have to bash through another wall unless we can find a secret door — a secret door that has remained hidden for billions of years!” Thad reminded them. Americon extricated himself from the wounded wall, and within seconds, the tear had closed, and ‘healed’ and they could no longer see any evidence that there ever was a hole there! At least they were out of the barrel of that monstrously huge weapon, whatever it was!
So far, Americon had shown a fair approximation of Captain Marvel’s powers. That changed shortly, though. In the power station on the far side of that door, they confronted a giant, probably 60 feet tall, dressed in a silver and red space suit. This giant crossed his arms in front of his chest, and an energy beam flashed toward them. Americon jumped in front of his teammates, and the energy beam splashed off of him. He then leaped into the air, planning to pummel this monster around the head, but he fell back to the deck — he couldn’t fly! But he realized how high he had jumped without even trying, so he took careful aim and jumped again, and was gratified to find himself zooming toward the giant!
Meanwhile, Thad was hurrying the other heroes through the tremendous power switching station. There were transformers, high tension wires, insulators, and machinery all around, so it was fairly easy to stay hidden from the giant’s view. Most of this stuff looked as it was falling apart from age — there hadn’t been any maintenance done here in a long time. Captain Marvel was showing signs of coming around, which had to be a good thing.
Americon grabbed the collar of the giant’s suit with his left hand and struck under the chin of the finned helmet. The suit was made of incredibly tough material, because it didn’t even dent — but the force of the blow knocked the giant backward, with Americon still clutching his collar. The giant stumbled when he backed into some large piece of equipment, and he fell backward. This sudden fall took Americon by surprise, and he was thrown loose. He tumbled through the air and smashed into a large machine, shattering it, and he slid to the floor — unhurt! But angry!
He jumped up and without thinking, stretched his arms out in front, palms up — and to his surprise, twin lightning bolts flashed from his palms and struck the giant! The giant was struggling to rise, and was knocked down again. Americon ran toward him, hoping he might discover super-speed, but no — he was no faster than he had been in his prime (which was pretty fast by human standards, but not ‘super’). He leaped again, rolled into a ball, and smashed the giant on his cheek, which knocked him tumbling and rolling across the ground.
The giant seemed to be getting tired of taking this abuse, and he leaped into the air himself. Clearly he could fly, as opposed to the prodigious leaps Americon was able to make. He did a loop, and flashed toward American, once again his arms were crossed, and the energy beam flashed out. Americon countered with his lightning bolts, and the two energy blasts seemed to cancel each other out. But the giant pulled out of his dive just before floor level and he slapped Americon as he flashed by. Once again, Americon tumbled backward through the air, and this time smashed into the wall of the room. As he slid to floor, he felt incredible pain in his right heel. It seemed strange that his heel would hurt but no other part of him, but for the moment, he ignored it.
Neither of them had seriously damaged the other, and it seemed to Americon that this fight might go on for a long time. He tried to come up with a strategy to defeat the giant, and he was stunned at some of the knowledge he found in his mind!
Americon always followed politics closely, but he had never been interested in the behind-the-scenes manipulations that politics involved. But he realized that he was now a master of political intrigue! How to recognize a bureaucrat who could be bribed, how to get the maximum results for the minimum bribe, how to use intimidation and blackmail to achieve his goals, how to play his opponents off one against the other, getting them to worry about each other and ignore him.
“Stars and Stripes!” he thought to himself. “I hope this isn’t the Wisdom of Solomon! I hope I forget it when I change back!” He quickly pulled his thoughts away from the cesspool of slime he had just encountered. Only action could keep him from thinking, so he sprang back into the fight!
He was temporarily out of sight of his opponent, and he thought to himself that he needed to sneak up on the giant. And suddenly realized that he had just turned invisible! What a wild combination of powers! How were they related to the powers normally granted by the magic lightning? He’d try to figure it out later; meanwhile he should take advantage of being invisible.
The others had reached the far side of the room, and paused just outside the spot where their map said the hidden control room should be. The three wraiths passed through the wall, and Kid Eternity came back to confirm that the control room was on the other side. They searched for a few minutes, but even with ghostly help and magical spells, they weren’t able to find a secret door. Thad tried his power tools, without success. El Carim cast a spell to open a hole in the wall, again, no luck! Kid Eternity vanished El Carim, and called back Staquejaevo, who should be able to help them find the door.
This proved to be a mistake! Staquejaevo was in his Warrior form and he immediately attacked! He slashed at Thad with one of his powerful front claws, tearing Thad’s nearly indestructible space armor and slamming Thad against the wall. Minute Man jumped between Thad and Staquejaevo, while Kid Eternity frantically tried to vanish the Scort. Didn’t work, Staquejaevo wasn’t vanishing.
Even more frantic, Kit called El Carim back, but was stunned when the magician appeared. This couldn’t be happening — none of the ghosts he had called on in the past had ever failed to help him, much less attacked him and his friends. And he had never before been unable to vanish a ghost he had called, or had the ability to call two ghosts at once.
“Keep, what’s going on here? How can Staquejaevo come when I call him and then fight us? Won’t that end up with him getting sent to the bad place?”
“Dear me! Something isn’t right, here, Kit. I need to investigate. I’ll be back soon!” and Mr. Keeper vanished. Wizzar vanished along with him, leaving Minute Man, Thad, Kid Eternity and El Carim to fight a Scort warrior, once the most dangerous species in an entire Galaxy.
Minute Man had picked up a handful of rusty metal flakes, and he threw them at Staquejaevo’s eyes. Staquejaevo didn’t have a neck to turn, so he was forced to turn his entire body to keep the flying rust out of his eyes. Minute Man dodged between the Warrior’s legs and landed two solid blows to the body, but it was like punching a telephone pole! He spun away, and landed a karate chop on one of the joints of Staquejaevo’s right upper arm as he flashed by.
“Tcesni tnaig fo teef eht dnib dna parw. Raeppa klis fo sepor,” El Carim chanted, and silken ropes appeared from the air and began to wrap the lower pair of Staquejaevo’s legs. The insect slashed at the ropes with his open front claws, ignoring the fact that he was slashing his own legs as well. Perhaps because he knew his claws would rip the rope to shreds without penetrating his own exoskeleton. This gave Minute Man an instant, and he used it well, stepping in close and driving a powerful one-two combination to the same joint he had struck before. It was kind of like punching steel pipe, and he couldn’t tell if he was having any effect other than angering his enemy.
Captain Marvel was propped up against the side of a giant transformer when he opened his eyes and saw the battle in front of him. He was battered and bruised, and he still hurt everywhere, but the healing power of Zeus was working. He saw El Carim cast a spell of darkness on the Scort, and Minute Man zipped through the darkness before the creature could get its bearings. Cap heard a ‘whap, whap’ noise and then Minute Man was out of the zone of darkness, moving fast, being followed by the gigantic Scort warrior.
Thad needed to get through that wall! When he saw that Cap was awake, he called to him. “Hey, Captain Unconscious! Bust me a hole through this wall, will you, you Big Red Cheese?”
Cap didn’t know what to do. On one hand, Minute Man was certainly no match for the Scort, and El Carim was only managing to momentarily confuse their enemy. On the other hand, he figured the only chance they had against BattleWorld was for Thad to shut it down. On the third hand (he almost wished he had extra arms, like Shiva), having Thad in control of BattleWorld could be the most dangerous situation Earth had ever faced. On the fourth hand, Thad had done nothing to engender distrust, and he had surely had opportunities to betray them all — although he wasn’t the most endearing ally Cap had ever had, either.
‘Big Red Cheese indeed!’ Who did he think he was, his father? And then Cap reflected, in a totally irrelevant flash of thought. ‘Of course he thinks he’s his father — because he is! Is that a good thing or a bad thing?’ This question confused Cap even more, and he put it aside for later.
‘Well, Minute Man and El Carim will have to wait for a few seconds,’ he thought. Though he was still weak, Cap forced himself to move, accelerated with the Speed of Mercury and smashed the wall as hard as he could. For just an instant, that wall held up; then he was through. He was now in a room that even to a human looked like a control room, with banks of switches, monitors, dials, gages, and even what looked like keyboards. Pay dirt! He hoped it would be enough.
Thad rushed into the room, and Cap rushed out to engage the Scort. He intercepted a blow from a front claw that was meant for Minute Man, and it dashed him to the deck hard enough to leave a dent! It tried to push past him and get through the hole in the wall, but Cap flew up from the deck and wrapped both arms around the giant bug, and forced it backward. He yelled.
“Jack, you go make sure Thad is protected. El Carim and I can handle this monster!” Cap wasn’t as confident as he was pretending, but even though the monster had not yet managed to touch Minute Man, all it needed was one clear shot at him. Jack ducked through the hole in the wall, while the Scort grabbed Cap in one giant front claw, pulled him loose, and threw him high into the air, and turned back to the hole in the wall. El Carim stopped him — this time.
“Evom mih tel t’nod dna teef s’eof rou barg, sdnah worg kced latem.” Several large hands grew from the deck and grabbed Staquejaevo.
Meanwhile, back at the center of the power station, Americon and the giant spaceman were still engaged in their knock down drag out battle. They seemed to be roughly equal in power. They were both very strong, both very close to being invulnerable, and the giant’s energy blast and Americon’s lightning seemed to about cancel each other out. The giant could fly, so Americon couldn’t force him to engage, but the giant seemed intent on continuing the fight. Americon could become invisible and escape the giant, but then the spaceman would turn his attention toward the others. This looked like a confrontation that might go on for a while…
Although the giant did seem to be getting slower! Americon dodged a fist slamming down on him as if he were a fly, and sprang again toward the giant’s head. He knocked the giant’s head backward, and the spaceman caught him with a backhand slap, that dashed him against a giant transformer. Then, even though it had proved futile so far, the spaceman crossed his arms and shot another beam of energy. As he did so, the giant blue stone in his chest emblem started flashing, accompanied by a siren of some sort. Americon braced himself, and blasted back with twin torrents of lightning, but the spaceman immediately stopped blasting and let the lightning strike. It did no damage, but the blue stone stopped flashing.
It took Americon a second or so to understand what was happening, and he stopped blasting immediately, but it was already too late. Once again fully energized, the giant again pursued hostilities. With no choice, Americon re-engaged.
Staquejaevo had used his fore claws to cut the metal hands free of the deck. Captain Marvel, Kid Eternity and El Carim stood between the Scort and the control room. The giant insect seemed to be as strong and invulnerable as Captain Marvel. Plus it was an extremely skilled fighter, and deadly vicious. It was easy to see why his race had once dominated their entire home galaxy. And Cap was still recovering from the various indignities he had endured earlier.
The Scort could fly, and when on the ground it could rub its wings together to produce a wide variety of sounds. Its war claws, on the upper set of limbs, were powerful enough to cut steel beams in half, the middle limbs were very dexterous and very fast, and the powerful tail had ended in a solid bone ‘wrecking ball’ which could be used to batter the Scort’s opponents, as well as containing a stinger coated with deadly poison.
Kid Eternity floated up to the Scort, which lashed at him with one claw. The claw flashed through Kit’s ghostly form without doing any damage, and Staquejaevo decided to ignore the intangible hero. It cut down a metal pole, very like a telephone pole, with a single ‘snickety-snict’ of its claw, and began using the pole as a club, trying to smash El Carim. Kit drifted forward over the Scort’s head, temporarily blocking its vision. This gave El Carim the second he needed to cast a spell.
“Eof ruo hsurc dna ekans a emoceb latem fo elop!”
The pole turned into a snake, and it wound itself around Staquejaevo and started squeezing. ‘Snickety-snict, snickety-snict’ and pieces of the again inanimate snake fell to the deck. Cap used this momentary distraction to flash in and deliver a two-fisted blow to the Scort’s head. The blow actually picked the massive bug up and threw it backward. Staquejaevo rolled with the blow and quickly unfurled his wings, taking advantage of his momentum to momentarily fly out of range of the heroes.
Kit pursued closely, and kept distracting the Scort Warrior whenever he could, by flying through its head, disconcerting it and occasionally blocking its vision. For a few seconds, Staquejaevo seemed to lose its composure, and it frantically flailed at the ghostly form of Kid Eternity with its four forward limbs and its mighty tail. All to no effect. So once again, it decided it would have to fight on and ignore the minor distraction. After all, Kid Eternity didn’t seem to be able to hurt it. With single-minded determination, it turned and flew back toward the control room.
In the air, Cap was faster and more maneuverable, and he made good use of these advantages. He again smashed the Scort with a double-fisted blow, but the Warrior’s wings cushioned him. His tail whipped around faster than Cap could have believed possible. If Cap had not been invulnerable, he would have died instantly, skewered on the barbed tail. As it was, the impact threw him tumbling through the air, and before he could get back control, he had passed through Kit! Of course, the Scort was not used to whiplashing invulnerable opponents, and the stinger itself was broken off by the impact, and the wrecking ball on the end of the Scort’s tail shattered. Since it was all bone, and dead bone at that, it didn’t hurt. But the tail was no longer quite so deadly.