Once Cool Marvel took the Black Magician into custody, Captain Marvel and Lady Marvel said the wizard’s name and returned to their normal identities of Billy Batson and Caitlin O’Malley. In what was left of her living room after their battle with the villain, Billy handed Caitlin a glass of water as the two sat down on the couch.
“How are you feeling now, Cait?” asked Billy as she took a sip of water and then sighed deeply.
“Liam, you keep asking the same question, and I keep telling you I’m… all… right…” she said, using her pet name for Billy. After a short pause, she turned to him again. “You know me too well, Billy,” she said in a her usual soft voice. “I really haven’t been myself, not since that little business we had with Mazahs and the death of Fat Billy.” The mere mention of Fat Billy’s name brought back painful memories to the young Wiccan.
Billy put his arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry I wasn’t around to be of help. The Black Magician must’ve done a number on you.”
“That’s just it. Yes, he was able to control my mind, but under normal circumstances, that shouldn’t have been possible. Years of training, being the latest in a line of Wiccans in my family — this never should have happened to me. Maybe I’ve been fooling myself all along. I wasn’t cut out to be a hero.”
A look of surprise flashed upon Billy’s face. “Look, Cait, you’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Maybe with some time, you’ll be back to your normal self once more. I know it took me… heck, it took all of us time to fully heal from that battle, both physically and mentally, but in the end, everything was fine and dandy.”
Caitlin stood up from the couch and walked over to the window. “Billy, while you all recovered just fine and dandy, I was still dealing with it. After the funeral, I kept seeing the death of Fat Billy play over and over in my mind. No matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t go away, and it was that situation the Black Magician took advantage of, when he planted subconscious commands within my mind. And look what happened because of that. I — I came close to really hurting you and William. If that would’ve happened, I’d never forgive myself. It never should’ve came to that.”
Billy walked over to where Caitlin was standing. “But it didn’t happen. We got out of it and captured the Black Magician, to boot. I’ve learned a long time ago not to dwell on the ‘what ifs’ and concentrate on the positives. Dumb luck does play a part at times. Speaking of which, when you were about to use a knife on me, you stopped for a moment, and then there was a bright light. The knife went down, and only cut off my gag… well, part of my face, too, but thanks to the wizard’s magic, there’s no longer any trace of it.”
Cait seemed surprised at that comment about the light. “Does that mean she’s here?” she said, thinking aloud.
She was interrupted again by Billy. “Then, when I was Captain Marvel, that light appeared again, and for the shortest amount of time you looked happy, and then the spell the Black Magician held on you was gone. Curious, indeed.”
Caitlin answered back, “I really remember nothing of what went on during my captivity. Still, though everything seems to be OK, I think it’s time for me to call it quits.”
“Holy moley!” said Billy. “Reconsider, Caitlin — please!”
“My mind is made up,” she replied. “Tomorrow I’ll go and seek an audience with the old wizard… and have him take back his powers from me.”
Billy hugged Caitlin. “I’ll go with you. It’s the least I can do. Whatever you decide to do, you have my full support, and don’t you ever forget that, OK?” He gave her a big smile.
A tear formed in Caitlin’s eye. “Thank You, Liam. You’ve been a true friend to me and will always be in my heart, as long as I live.” And the two stood, hugging each other for a while. As Billy was about to leave, he asked her one last time if she was all right to be alone for the night.
“You’re such a mother hen, Billy. I’ll be fine. Just need to straighten up the place a bit after what happened to it. I’ll see you tomorrow.” As Billy let himself out and walked into the cool night’s sky, he looked back one last time, then heard a voice from above.
“Yo, Master B! Took Blackie to the slammer. Conehead has him on ice!” said Cool Marvel in his usual colorful speech, conehead being a reference to Jim Barr, AKA Bulletman, who worked as a scientist with the police department. “So, how’s the witch doing? I hope everything’s cool now,” said Cool Marvel. Then he said the wizard’s name and returned to the form of Willie B.
Billy quickly summarized the events, then said, “So, she’s calling it quits. She’s going to have the wizard take her powers away, and though she didn’t say it, I think Cait’s going back home — away from here. It has to do with Fat Marvel’s death and now this latest attack on her mind.”
“And as her best friend, of course you talked her out of it, right?” said Willie, only to see Billy shake his head. “That’s punk, man! I’ll talk to her. I know we didn’t get off on the right foot when we first met, but she can’t quit! I won’t let her quit!” But as Willie started to walk back to Caitlin’s with determination, Billy grabbed his arm.
“No, Willie,” said Billy. “This was Caitlin’s decision to make. I’ve known her since she arrived here in Fawcett City. All we can do is be supportive and be with her toward the end.”
Willie B looked shocked at first, then agreed with Billy. “If you’re going with her to see old man wizard, the least I can do is lend my support and come with you two.”
“Thanks, Willie, though I wish you didn’t change back from being Cool Marvel so soon. We could’ve gotten home a lot faster!” And the two young men laughed as they started their long walk home, not realizing that, if either one had simply looked back to Caitlin’s apartment, they would have seen a glowing light — the same one witnessed twice earlier that evening.
The following morning, Billy, Caitlin, and Willie B headed into the abandoned subway. After walking past the statues of the Seven Deadly Sins of Man, the trio came upon an empty throne. Lighting the brazier, a cloud of smoke shot up from the ground, and soon the ethereal form of the wizard Shazam appeared on the stone throne.
“Welcome, my children. What is the nature of my summoning?” asked the wizard.
Caitlin stepped forward toward him and spoke in her soft tone. “Grand sire, I requested the audience. I wish to give back your powers. I feel that perhaps I’m not ready to become the hero everyone expects me to be, though I will truly treasure the experience and the friendship given to me by one and all.” With that statement, Caitlin stepped back and was consoled by both Billy and Willie.
“If this is what you desire, so be it!” said Shazam as he raised both hands. “It is done, my child.”
“Thank you, Shazam,” said Caitlin, now being able to say the wizard’s name without changing into a Marvel, marking an end of an era. Then she walked up to the wizard and whispered something in his ear. Billy and Willie looked on, wondering what she was telling him.
“Excellent idea, Caitlin,” said Shazam. “William… come forth!”
Willie pointed at himself. “You mean me, old man wizard?” And Willie stepped toward him.
“William Batson, you have proven yourself, first in battle with my evil counterpart, then as a valuable member of the Marvel Family. As per Caitlin O’Malley’s suggestion, I have a gift to present to you. Speak my name!”
Willie shouted out, “Shazam!” With a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder, Willie changed into Cool Marvel — by himself, without the aid of the others.
“Since Caitlin had me take back the powers, I hereby transfer part of them to you. You now may change without the assistance of the other Marvel members, to act independently as… er… a…” There was a hesitation in Shazam’s voice.
“Come on, wiz!” the young man said with a grin. “I wanna hear you say it, just once!”
The wizard rolled his eyes and, with the quietest of voices, said “Cool… Marvel.”
“You heard da man! Cool Marvel! That’s me!” yelled Cool Marvel as both Billy and Caitlin laughed for a moment. Then things became serious once more.
“Caitlin O’Malley, though you may no longer have the power of Shazam, you will always be one with us — forever a Marvel!” said the old wizard. “If you ever change your mind in the future, you know how to contact us. For now, fare thee well, my child!” And the wizard faded away.
“Shazam!” Cool Marvel said, changing into Willie B once more.
As the three headed on back out of the tunnel to the outside world, there was a crowd waiting for them, but more specifically for Caitlin. Freddy Freeman, Mary Batson, Uncle Dudley, Sterling Morris, Joan Jameson, Jim and Susan Barr, Mr. Tawky Tawny — all were there to wish her the best of luck. Tears ran down Caitlin’s eyes as she smiled at the generosity of her friends.
“Thank you… for everything,” she said. “I’ll be boarding my plane and heading back to my native home of Ireland in a hour. Let me tell you, you’re not making this easy for me, not one bit.” She smiled widely, something she hadn’t done much as of late, as all of her friends hugged her and said their goodbyes to the young lady.
An hour later, at Fawcett International Airport, the clear morning gave way to a cloudy drizzle as Caitlin went to board her plane at the terminal. Billy, Freddy, Mary, and Willie B were there to say their final goodbyes.
“Don’t forget to call when you get there, Cait, and keep in touch,” said Billy as he once again hugged his friend, this time both of their eyes fresh with tears. The others waved farewell as Billy carried Cait’s bags up to the gate. Handing them to her, Cait gave Billy a peck on his cheek and then headed to the plane. Moments later, the plane lifted up from the runway and into the dark clouds, out of sight. The four youths headed on home in the rain, knowing they have most likely seen the last of their good friend Caitlin O’Malley.
As they filed into the car and drove toward home, in a nearby alley, a bright light shone, unnoticed by anyone. Once it disappeared, a young girl about fourteen years of age walked out of the alleyway and looked around as if it was her first time in Fawcett City.
“So this is the place where Caitlin O’Malley lived? Definitely different from where I come from. I think this will be an interesting place to explore.” With that, the girl walked out into the misty air, and if one looked closely, an outline of what appeared to be a pair of wings could be seen from her back as the moisture of the dew briefly made them shine, then disappear.
To Be Continued in Showcase: Flora: Fawcett City’s New Hero