by Cynthia Finnegan
Why’s Adam so focused on Cap? Mary Marvel thought, seeing Black Adam fly directly into her big brother’s back, fists first. Ever since I was in my teens, he’s been obsessing on me like a bad case of fatal attraction. Ugh, now there’s a creepy thought.
“Hey! A sucker-punch in the kidneys is strictly against the Marquis of Queensbury rules, you creep!” Mary shouted as she gave the Egyptian villain a wicked kick in the jaw. In retaliation, Black Adam grabbed the girl by her ankle, spun her around several hundred times at super-speed, and flung her directly at Captain Marvel Junior, sending the youthful pair crashing into each other.
“Hey!” went Mary as her shoulders hit Junior’s stomach.
“Whooulff!” went Junior as Mary’s shoulders hit him in the stomach.
“Are you OK?” Mary asked, sounding more concerned about him than she was letting on.
“Yeah, just took me by surprise,” Junior replied, noting the tone in her voice. He then looked around and yelped, “Holy moley! Where’d they go?! We lost them!”
“We’ll split up and search for them. I’ll head toward the river, and you look downtown, OK?”
“OK. Holler if you spot them.”
“Don’t worry, I will.” With that, the mighty teens separated to find their friend and partner.
Nice going! I let Adam lead me right to the river! How long have I been at this, anyway? Captain Marvel thought as the minutes that felt like hours of fighting Black Adam began to blur together. Thanks to the stamina of Atlas, he was far from tired, but the nonstop battle was getting tiresome, and they had somehow managed to lose Mary and Junior a while ago. To top things off, Adam seemed to be herding the Captain toward the Hudson River, not to mention keeping him on the defensive. But why?
“All right, Adam. I have definitely had enough of this malarkey. Why don’t you just say the magic word, change back to Teth-Adam, let the police take you back to jail, and make our lives all a whole lot easier?” he said, swinging a haymaker at Adam’s pointed chin.
“And why don’t you be silent!” the villain retorted as he did the impossible; he dodged the oncoming blow with unnerving ease. Before the Captain could regain his bearings, Adam snaked his hand out and grabbed the lower half of the hero’s face in a vise-like grip.
Black Adam’s fingers dug into his foe’s cheekbones and lower jaw, while the palm of his hand was pressed tightly over the Captain’s mouth to keep him quiet. Captain Marvel even tried opening his mouth to bite him, but Adam positioned his hand in such a way as to prevent the hero from moving his jaw at all. As the world’s mightiest villain held his struggling enemy, he shot the world’s mightiest mortal a look of venomous triumph. Adam knew he had the younger man at a disadvantage as he uttered a single word.
At super-speed, Black Adam watched as the magic lightning arced toward them. At the last possible instant, he twisted them both around so that the mystic bolt struck Captain Marvel, changing him back into his mortal form of Billy Batson.
Realizing that he was only an inch or two above the bay, the look of shock on Billy’s face was quickly replaced by terror as the black-clad villain plunged the teenager into the icy waters of the bay in an attempt to drown him.
“When you meet them, boy, give whatever gods you worship my regards,” Adam said with a malicious grin as he pushed Billy’s head under. After a few minutes of panicked fighting, he felt the boy broadcaster go limp in his iron grasp as the last of his air left him.
“Billy!” the young, feminine voice screamed in fury, causing the windows of several buildings to vibrate dangerously.
Mary Marvel had found them just in time to witness her twin’s plight. She rocketed up, and then, tucking herself into a cannonball position, she came right back down, striking Black Adam in the small of his back, then vaulted into the frigid water after her brother. Her swift actions forced Adam to lose his grip on Billy, even as he himself wound up submerged. The world’s mightiest villain rose to the surface, spitting out a mouthful of polluted water.
Hearing her cry from across town, Captain Marvel Junior arrived on the scene as Mary dived in to find Billy. The slim, blue-garbed teenager snarled as his fists struck the villain full force, the strength of Hercules and the power of Zeus backed by all-too-human rage. The world’s mightiest boy was determined to beat old Shazam’s name out of Black Adam, until, unbidden, something that the Captain had said to him not long after giving a portion of his powers to a dying Freddy Freeman came back to haunt the young hero.
“Feeling angry about what Nazi did is healthy, Junior, but rage is something you can’t reason with. (*) The only thing rage will get you, or anyone else, is killed, so put a lid on it!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Marvel, Whiz Comics #25 (December 26, 1941).]
With an effort, Captain Marvel Junior did just that. The next set of blows that the boy in blue delivered were more controlled. He pummeled Black Adam relentlessly until the villain said the word that the young man had been waiting for.
“Shazam,” Adam finally said, defeated. In response to the key word, another bolt of magic lightning struck, changing the former champion of Egypt back into ordinary Teth-Adam. Junior punched him one more time, a love-pat compared to the others, which knocked him out, and he carried him off to jail.
Strange, the world’s mightiest boy thought as he headed for the new super-maximum security prison with his unconscious burden, that was almost too easy. Something about this stinks to high heaven… but what?
Meanwhile, using the fleetness of Zephyrus, Mary Marvel swam after Billy, who was trapped by the deadly, fast-moving current. She caught up to him, hooking the collar of his overcoat in two fingers, but the garment was slippery, and she lost her tentative hold on him. She found him again a few seconds later, this time wrapping one of her slender, strong arms around his waist, and shot out of the water like a missile.
Mary flew Billy to a nearby dock, where she set him down and checked for any vital signs. There was no pulse, no respiration — nothing. Fighting the urge to panic, the world’s mightiest girl tore her brother’s red sweater, white shirt, and the skinny black silk tie someone had given him for Christmas to shreds. She then tilted his head back, pinched his nose closed, and began performing CPR, praying that the water had been cold enough to keep his brain alive.
“Come on, Billy, please breathe,” Mary said to her lifeless brother as she started chest compressions. “Don’t you dare leave us like this!”
“How is he?” Junior asked as he landed near his friends.
“He’s not breathing, and I can’t find a pulse. Oh, God, Junior…”
“Then we’re going to have to attempt something radical.”
The pair looked at each other; the secret knowledge the Marvels possessed gave both of them the same idea at the same time. It was dicey, but anything that could save Billy’s life would be worth the risk. But before Mary could say “Shazam!” Junior said, “Captain Marvel!” changing back into Freddy Freeman.
“Here’s the thing,” Mary said, “doctors use electricity to shock a heart back to beating…”
“So we do the same thing,” Freddy finished. “When I change back to Junior, I’ll carry both of you to St. Joe’s.”
The two teens placed their hands on Billy’s chest, then called out their magic words almost simultaneously. The lightning that followed lanced into Mary Marvel, changing her back into Mary Batson, through Billy’s chest and then into Freddy, triggering his transformation back to Captain Marvel Junior. The lightning’s power not only revived the boy broadcaster’s heart, but it also warmed his body the few critical degrees he needed to start breathing on his own.
Billy Batson took a rasping gasp of air and began to cough, and not only water, but a brackish, almost black discharge came out of his mouth as well. Billy’s face was now red from coughing and the effort of getting air into his oxygen-starved lungs, and his breath sounds were ragged intakes of air.
Junior held Billy in one arm, wrapped the other around Mary, and the trio took to the sky, heading for the hospital.
An hour later, Mary and Freddy were still waiting for any news on Billy’s condition. Uncle Dudley soon joined them, after Freddy had given him a call. Mary had been on the verge of tears since they arrived, and the longer they waited, the closer she got to a full-blown crying fit. Freddy sat next to her, feeling just as helpless as she did, and put his arm around her. Mary took that as her cue to break down, and somehow, Freddy didn’t seem to mind being her shoulder to cry on.
They were interrupted when a bespectacled, sandy-haired man in scrubs and a lab jacket cleared his throat.
“Excuse me, Ms. Batson?” the emergency room doctor called to Mary. “I’m Sean O’Malley, Billy’s primary care physician.”
“Yes?” Mary asked, wiping her eyes dry with her fingertips. “Is he all right?”
“I’m sorry, but your brother is a very sick young man.”
“How bad is he?” Freddy asked, his voice heavy with skepticism. Something was wrong, but he didn’t want to voice his suspicions just yet.
“Are you a member of the family, young man?”
“Yes,” Dudley answered for him, placing his hand on Freddy’s shoulder. “We all are. What’s wrong with him?”
“I’m afraid Ms. Batson was right about the pneumonia, sir. It might well have been a minor case this afternoon, but his falling in the bay has greatly exacerbated matters. But the good news is that, given time, rest, and full-spectrum antibiotics, he’ll be well enough to go home in a couple of weeks. Then he’ll need outpatient care for a couple more weeks.”
Relieved, Mary then asked, “Can we see him?”
“Yes, you can, but only one at a time, and you’ll have to wear masks, gloves, scrubs, and gowns. Billy is very contagious, and we don’t want an epidemic on our hands.” She motioned them to follow her.
As Mary and Dudley started to follow the doctor, Freddy excused himself by saying that he needed to get back to work, but he promised that he would visit later.
“I’ll be here, keeping an eye on him,” Mary replied with a tired smile.