The Deadliest Place on Earth
Part 5 of Revenge, Inc.
How in the world can Mary Marvel be in danger in Hoppy World, a place that is dedicated to Hoppy the Marvel Bunny and is considered to be the funnest place on Earth? Nevertheless, she finds herself targeted there by the infamous Black Rat, foe of Bulletman and Bulletgirl! But surely this ridiculous-looking foe isn’t powerful enough to match the strength of the world’s mightiest girl… or is he?
Mary Marvel smiled, waved, and blew kisses to a cheering crowd as she rode on the back of a convertible in a festive parade in the middle of Hoppy World. The family theme amusement park was full of tourists and cheering fans who thronged the quaint streets of Americana Village in the park to see the world’s mightiest girl. She thought to herself, My, it is exciting to be here anytime, but especially so on Mary Marvel Day! It sure was sweet of them to honor me this way! And since I’ve been working hard in my first semester at UCLA, I needed just this kind of a break!
Hoppy the Marvel Bunny and other cartoon stars, such as Billy the Kid (an anthropomorphic cowboy goat) and Willie the Worm, mingled with the crowds to the delight of children and parents alike. Hoppy’s sweetheart Millie posed for photos near Big Splash Canyon, one of the more popular rides in the park.
Mary looked lovely as usual in her traditional red minidress, yellow slippers, and cape. She smiled at the sight of the park employees in their oversized Hoppy, Millie, Billy, and Willie costumes. How funny it would be if these folks knew there really is a Hoppy in a dimension separate from ours! she thought. The cute creatures we enjoy as funny animals from comics and cartoons have their own lives in that dimension. Billy and I’ve visited it from time to time.
A handsome man with a spotless white suit and old-fashioned cane, spats, and bow-tie bowed deeply and helped Mary down as the car stopped in front of Town Hall. “Mary, my deah!” said Sam Demney. “I welcome you on behalf of my father, the late Mitch Demney. This park, celebrating the happy and good things in life, the power of imagination, and good ol’ American values, is thrilled to declare this to be Mary Marvel Day!”
Mary Marvel shook his hand and gave the old man a hug. “I thank you, Mr. Demney,” she said. “I’m the one who should be honored. You’ve given me and the rest of the world plenty of laughter and fun!”
Handing her a silver key, Demney said, “This is the key to Hoppy World, the funnest place on Earth, as we like to say.”
Mary accepted as the crowd cheered. What a perfect day! I wish Billy and Freddie could be here! she thought with a smile.
As Mary enjoyed the celebration, and her fans enjoyed seeing Mary, one dark figure watched with malice darting from his gleaming, beady eyes. He wore a black costume and a mask that gave him the features of a huge, humanoid rat. He was not one of the park’s regular characters. In fact, he was a deadly, if eccentric genius with a brilliant mind and superhuman strength.
Only the Black Rat could be daring enough to turn America’s favorite vacation spot into a death trap for Mary Marvel! he thought. Only my genius could come up with the means to do so, and only my visionary imagination could conceive the plot. He rubbed his gloved hands together in glee. “Now, if she’ll just put on the bunny ears!” he said in a whisper.
The park was full of tourists who sported the trademark Hoppy bunny ear hats on their heads. As the Black Rat watched, he activated a switch, and hundreds of tourists responded as one. Their eyes glazed over, and they spoke in unison. “We live to obey the Black Bat!” they chanted.
“Black Bat? Black Bat?! They’re supposed to say they live to obey me, the Black Rat!” he said, cursing. “Some glitch is the wiring has produced this error. Bah! I’ll never buy my parts from Radio Hut again!”
Mary Marvel frowned as she received a pair of tall, white bunny ears. She did not place them on her head, because her keen senses detected the change in the crowd. “They all seem to stiffen at once,” she said softly. “Kids, parents, couples, old people!”
She dropped the ears and looked out at the crowd, which suddenly surged forward as one in an angry mob bent on her destruction. “This looks like the answer to my question of what could spoil this wonderful day!” she said with a rueful grin.
Mary Marvel gasped as she was attacked by the crowd. Falling beneath the sheer onslaught, she glanced at her foes. A woman who looked like a perky, preppie suburban mom clawed at Mary’s arm as an old man in a suit kicked out at her. A small boy pulled her hair, while a mohawked punk rocker tackled her around the legs.
She spun around and sent the whole crowd scattering before she swooped around them all again with superhuman speed. The sheer wind generated by her flight path swept them around like rag dolls, yet so precise was her movement that none were truly harmed. These folks are from all walks of life, she thought. Nothing unites them except for the fact that, in seconds, they switched from cheering fans to angry villagers! Something is controlling them.
As she watched them rise, she realized that mere avoidance would not solve the problem. Got to free them, or someone will get hurt, she mused.
The world’s mightiest girl noticed all of them wore the trademark Hoppy bunny ears that were sold to tourists and had been offered to her just before the crowd went into its trance. “It’s the ears!” she shouted as she ripped apart one set and saw micro-circuitry.
Using the speed given her by old Shazam, she snatched away every pair of bunny ears before the startled group could act. She then smiled with satisfaction as the crowd returned to normal. Thank goodness! she thought. Now to get Mr. Demney to explain the meaning of this whole trap!
Mary gasped suddenly, though, as a huge pair of gloved three-fingered hands closed around her and tossed her headfirst into a spinning ride. She fell hard and tried to rise, but the metal safety rail oozed across her body as if it had a life all its own. The ride accelerated like a rocket ship, and she found herself spinning at superhuman velocity.
“Can’t be hurt, but also can’t break free of this ‘merry go wrong’!” she gasped.
As she kicked out, finally one daintily slippered foot reached the ground and braced itself. The sheer friction between the ride’s mad momentum and Mary’s power caused the ride to break apart.
She charged the giant Hoppy statue that had grabbed her and smashed through his bright golden button. “A hidden chamber. Well, well, well, no wonder I smelled a… nope, I can’t bring myself to say it!” she joked.
The Black Rat emerged and glared at her in disdain. “Mary Marvel! At last you face the sheer power of the Black Rat!” he roared. “At last, you realize the name of the mastermind behind your doom! It is I, the lethal Black Rat! Ha-ha-ha!”
Mary raised one hand and idly blew on her fingernails. “Oh, I’m sorry, were you speaking to me?” she said, smiling.
“Jest in the face of sudden, certain death,” said the Black Rat. “That’s the way of your ilk. Bulletman is my sworn foe, and as his ally, you’ve earned my undying hatred!”
“You forced Mr. Demney to hold Mary Marvel Day and used the mind-control ears to turn the crowd into killers,” said Mary. “Still, you don’t expect me to hop on a stool and squeal ‘eek! a mouse!’ do you?”
“No, I expect you to remain where you are, so I may do this!” cried the Black Rat, then clicked a control button. Mary frowned as the robotic bunny shook violently around them. “I’m going to launch us into orbit. From there, the whole world may see your bright and burning doom!” gloated the Black Rat.
Mary saw that the statue was, in fact, a rocket, and that her entry hole had closed behind her. “Sorry, but for the benefit of those without cable, I’m taking you down now!” she declared.
Ripping through the ship, she used her own might to carry it out of orbit and place it down on a sandy shore. “Now, if you’ve finished showing off, I’d like to resume my parade!” she said amidst the wreckage of the ship.
“You broke my Hoppy ship!” gasped the Black Rat. “I knew you were strong, but this… this–!”
“Now, shall we go to jail, or must I go through the motions of a battle?” said Mary.
“The Black Rat never gives up!” he shouted. “The Black Rat laughs last!”
Mary sighed. “You do like the sound of your name, don’t you?” She ran forward, and he closed with her in a wrestling hold. “You are strong! I took you to be another mad genius in a funny suit!” she said as he crushed her closer. She frowned as she fought for leverage.
She flew higher and twisted away from him, only to have him reach out and grab her again. “Boy, what I wouldn’t give for a big cat right now!” she sighed.
The Black Rat cried out as Mary Marvel delivered a series of swift blows. I feel like a real creep, beating up a guy dressed like an oversized rodent, she mused.
They crashed back down to the shore, and the Black Rat said, “One final tactic!” He clicked a device in his costume, and Mary staggered to her knees.
“What are you doing? Feels like my mind is on fire!” she gasped.
The Black Rat laughed and stood over her prone form. “I secretly absorbed psychic energy from the crowd via their Hoppy ears,” he said with a chuckle. “I am drawing upon it, even though you freed them. The amount I had already stored should turn you to a mindless puppet dancing to the tune piped by the Black Rat!”
Mary felt the pain and fought through it slowly. Got to stop him, she thought. I thought of him as a joke, and I may not live to regret it!
She crawled closer and burrowed through the earth to emerge beneath the Black Rat. She ripped apart his costume and fell flat. “The pain is gone! Without your suit’s controls, the psychic energy has dispersed!” she said as she gripped his arm.
“You can’t do this! Not while the Black Rat still has a trump card!” he said, trying to gloat while standing in nothing but a rat head and pale blue boxer shorts.
He flipped off the Black Rat mask to reveal vacant-eyed features under a small set of bunny ears. “My, you’re not the real Rat,” said Mary as she pried off the ears. “Those ears have been allowing him to control you from afar. I should have recalled from talking to Bulletgirl that the real Black Rat’s super-strength comes from his chemically altered metabolism, and not from a costume.”
The man before the heroine frowned. “I was just touring Reggae Rabbit Rave when I found myself here. Where are my clothes? Hey! You’re Mary Marvel! Can I have an autograph? It’s for my wife. Her name is… ehh, Ralph?” he said sheepishly.
Mary Marvel smiled. “Poor dear. I’ll get you to safety, then track down the real Black Rat, no matter what maze he hides within!” She flew the victim to safety with a kind and super-fast stop for some clothing, then zoomed back to Hoppy World to confront the Black Rat.
To her surprise, he waited calmly for her near the place where the Hoppy rocket had rested. “It certainly took you long enough,” he said. “What happened to the wisdom you Marvels are always crowing about?”
Landing, Mary said, “You used helpless visitors to attack me and had that poor tourist act your role in a senseless battle that you knew I’d win. Why?”
The Black Rat sneered. “To set you up for this!” He struck her swiftly and ruthlessly, and she fell beneath his assault.
Mary Marvel was literally taken aback by the Black Rat’s power and speed. She shoved him backward and rose slowly as he circled her. “You deliberately put me through my paces for a reason,” she said. “You never expected that poor tourist to defeat me! Your strength and speed are greater than ever they were when you battled the Bullets. You’ve been absorbing my kinetic energy from my struggles against the crowd, the traps, and your pawn!”
The Black Rat smiled coldly. “Exactly. Why, if I’d been able to prolong the fight, I could possibly have taken apart your entire Marvel Family by myself! As it is, though, I can slay you!”
Mary shook her head. “Not going to happen. Now that I know your secret, I’m going to take away your advantage, like so!”
With those words and a confident smile, the world’s mightiest girl streaked toward the Black Rat and, as expected, was grabbed in arms now driven by his enhanced strength and speed. She continued to spin him around until both figures became blurs.
“What are you doing? This pace is overpowering my energy containment device. Too much speed at once!” he gasped as her frantic motion overloaded his costume’s energy absorbing cells. He shrieked as the cells crackled and popped and finally fused into useless circuits and wires.
Mary Marvel delivered a swift right hook that stunned the Black Rat, who had returned to his normal levels of strength and speed. She hauled him to a cell with the local police and returned to put on a show of speed and strength for the cheering crowds at Hoppy World.
As Sam Demney waved his hand in salute, and people cheered, Mary Marvel, wearing a normal pair of Hoppy ears, smiled and enjoyed her time at the funnest place on Earth.