by Dan Swanson
The day after the attack on the DuPaul plant, Bonnie Drake showed her husband Todd the front page story of the Tribune. The story noted that a fledgling super-hero named Captain Democracy had aided the police and then vanished. Captain Tony Spinelli of the Homicide Squad was quoted on Captain Democracy. “He’s young, and he made a couple rookie mistakes, but he’s brave, and he came through when the chips were down. I don’t know when we’ll see him again, but he has my gratitude.”
After reading the story, Red Rocket placed a call to Spinelli for an update on Captain Democracy. As he had met the Captain during his first case, Rocket felt a sort of proprietary interest in the young man.
Spinelli had arranged for Captain Democracy to disappear from the plant, and instead, a civilian would be admitted to the hospital — an employee of DuPaul who had been held hostage by the first madman. No, he wouldn’t tell Red Rocket the Captain’s secret identity. Yes, the Captain was expected to live, but at least one of the doctors expected that he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Privately, Spinelli was willing to bet that the pessimistic doctor was wrong.
Oh, and Spinelli himself was fine, with just a few flesh wounds. A couple of stitches, a couple pints of blood, and he was good as new. Well, actually, he would be on desk duty for a couple of weeks, even though it hurt to sit down. The detective told him to stop by for coffee when he was downtown again, before breaking off the call because he was being paged.
As for Tomas Thomas, he finally finished up his out-of-town case, and he and Todd Drake spent some time refining some new gadgets for incorporation into Red Rocket’s battle-suits. Rather than trying to incorporate several bulky untested prototypes into his existing system, they selected three of the devices and completely rebuilt them into a handheld weapon, rather than as part of Rocket’s costume. If the weapon worked, they could always incorporate it later, but if it failed, it couldn’t cause damage to his existing weapons and defenses.
So, for two weeks, life for Todd, Bonnie, and Tomas returned to normal, whatever that meant for a detective agency and a super-hero team.
“Wizzo the Magnificent? Bah!” he muttered to himself. “More like Wizzo the Mediocre! Foiled again by yet another super-hero. Must I be cursed by them forever? Even with the power of Volthoom at my command, my wishes are still denied! This is unbearable! This cannot be endured! Red Rocket beware — when next our paths do cross, you will have cause for great regret!”
And yet, he thought, and yet unless I recover other sources of magic, my sojourn in Greenland has achieved but naught. Perhaps my next attempt should be somewhat less… public. Yes, perhaps it was a mistake to attempt to obtain what I need from a public museum during the hours of display. Well, never let it be said that Wizzo the Wizard fails to learn from his mistakes — rare though they may be!
The magically charged artifacts in the museum exhibit were still the best, closest source of the stored power he needed. And they still remained in the museum building, which had been reopened to the public, albeit with a significantly different format.
The directors of the Field Museum of Natural History had a major problem, so they’d come up with an unusual solution. They had quickly hired an architectural firm to restore the doors and windows to the building, but they soon found out that there must be additional magic involved, because no one could stand to remain in the building for more than a few minutes. The building was spooky, and the longer you stayed inside, the scarier it became. Even the bravest men and women couldn’t force themselves to overcome this fear; they became terrified and ran screaming out of the building.
When he heard about this, Red Rocket wondered why this same magical terror hadn’t affected him during his battle with Wizzo the Wizard. Upon reflection, he realized that it might have, after all. He had made some bad choices during his battle with Wizzo, perhaps influenced by a fear that he had been too busy to notice at the time.
It seemed likely to Rocket that Wizzo would make another attempt to steal these artifacts, so he made some preparations of his own. Some of these had required him to spend some time inside the museum, and this time, without a life-and-death battle to distract him, he was certainly aware of the terror growing in him. He had to leave and return several times in order to complete his own preparations.
Just as a test, he forced himself to remain inside the museum as long as possible. He was in costume, with his full array of weapons and powers, and he remained where he could see the exit door. He hoped these things would reassure him and allow him to ward off the effects of the magic. Maybe they helped, and maybe they didn’t, but after twenty minutes, he was so terrified he was drooling, and he burst through the door at top speed after twenty-six and a half minutes.
His body was shaking with the aftereffects of his attempt to ignore his building panic. He had never felt that much adrenaline before, and he was as limp as a dishrag once he escaped. If he hadn’t been able to fly, he would have died — his body was out of control and had jumped off the roof of the museum before he had overcome his panic. It took him over a day to fully recover. He vowed never to experiment with dangerous magical effects again.
The museum itself made more money in the next two weeks than it had in any two years prior. One of the directors was an entrepreneurial sort, and he realized that people would pay — and pay well — for the privilege of being scared. Well, the Chicago Museum of Fright, as it temporarily billed itself, was the single scariest place imaginable. To limit their liability, the museum corporation insisted that those entering the building signed a waiver and took a physical first, and even so, several people had heart attacks from the fear. This only made it more popular than ever, and every hour of the day and night, there were long lines of paying customers looking forward to being scared almost to death.
The next time he raided the museum, rather than have his magically created henchmen cart away the entire exhibit, Wizzo the Wizard decided to try being a bit more subtle. If he could use magic to transport the most powerful artifact away from the museum, and replace it with a magically created replica, then yes, that would provide him with a reservoir of power that would last him for a couple of months, at least, allowing him leisure to make further plans.
He was pleased to see that his avoidance spell was still working so well — it gave him time to prepare in leisure, knowing that nobody would be able to stay in the museum long enough to remove those artifacts he wanted to recover. Once again, he owed thanks to the wisdom of Volthoom.
It was a risk; he would severely deplete the power remaining in his staff if he failed and would be forced to rely on his own not inconsiderable innate control of magical forces. He didn’t plan to fail, and yet a backup plan wouldn’t be a bad idea. Until he achieved his dream of omnipotence, it was better to be safe than sorry.
“Ghzkuo huomaz ruhvyp ulgyal ozzugg yxnual nixida nghoww, ghemaz ruhvyp ulgyal kupoyl onfoig ohokpg nulsht wkappu xuvalu!”
Nothing seemed to happen, but he smiled, satisfied with his first step.
“Gdangh owwzku ohuove mnyzoh uolvyp xeuyhf yhtiae kmafuk xuvalu!”
This time, a duplicate of the staff appeared. Again Wizzo was pleased. Although the duplicate could not be anywhere near as powerful as the original staff of Volthoom, as it did not have within it the life force and spirit of Volthoom himself, it would serve him well in emergencies.
“Ghdang howwgh akuhtu zamiyl pimazr uhvypu lgyalo soylgh piluuv xuvalu!”
The fully charged duplicate staff vanished into the small pocket dimension that Wizzo had just created. If the real staff ever became seriously power-depleted, he had merely to switch it with the duplicate, which would give him the necessary additional power to escape from a dangerous situation. An additional precaution occurred to him, so he made a final chant.
“Gdangh owwftu liaekm afukyg volsuk aegniv umnuhu vgfyhz tmnozu gfyhth tuvemn yzohuy lpimyz ruhvyp ulgyal xuvalu!”
If the original staff became low on power, it would automatically switch places with the duplicate. No wonder I’m destined to rule the world! he thought smugly to himself.
These spells had seriously depleted the stored power in the staff. When required, Wizzo could use his own magical powers to charge the staff, although it would take a couple of weeks. Well, he had the time.
Wizzo chafed at his forced inaction, but it was necessary. Finally, he finished recharging the original staff, and the magical $#!* hit the technological fan.