by CSyphrett, with Doc Quantum
The next day, Marlon Wells found himself glued to his television set at home, even as he huddled under his blankets for warmth. The world had gone to hell in a hand-basket since he’d been struck by that lightning bolt, though he was sure that Hell was never this cold.
An army of super-villains led by the infamous Dr. Sivana, including several villains never before seen on this Earth, had taken over New York City and had caused much of the world’s temperature to drop by several degrees. (*) Even New Mexico in August was experiencing this deep freeze, and the roads were covered with snow, shutting down schools and businesses alike. Even the State Forensic Laboratory was closed this day. Worst of all, the Marvel Family was nowhere to be found.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “War Zone,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #9 (December, 1985).]
Just as everyone was wondering where America’s other heroes were, a group of super-villains appeared on television threatening to kill their hostages: Minute Man, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Ibis the Invincible and Taia, Mister Scarlet and Pinky the Crimson Kid, and Spy Smasher. Together they were known as Shazam’s Squadron of Justice, and in the absence of the Marvel Family they were the world’s greatest heroes.
The Weeper, the only recognizable villain in the group, had cried crocodile tears while vowing that, with great regret, he’d rather kill his hostages and let the world go to ruin than give in to the authorities. A lot of his new comrades agreed with the sentiment. Besides, the civilian authorities had already proven to be completely helpless to stop the powerful super-villains.
Marlon paced his living room floor for several minutes, torn as to what he should do. He was just a scientist, a chemist, not a super-hero. And the real super-heroes were either captured or nowhere to be found. What could he possibly do that they couldn’t?
With a deep sigh, he finally decided that something needed to be done, and he might be the only one left who could do it. And if the world really was ending, at least he’d go out in a blaze of glory.
First, of course, he needed a disguise so that he could operate freely. The last thing he wanted to do was to let anyone know that he had these super-powers.
Marlon flipped through the phone book, looking for an address. He vanished in a split second from his apartment when he had found the place. A costume shop was the perfect place to get a makeshift disguise. Grabbing what he needed off the shelves, he left a handful of dollars next to the till as he changed clothes in a blur of motion.
Before the shopkeeper had even realized that there was money in front of him, Marlon was already on his way to New York City, clad in a practical gray outfit that would win him no awards for design but would disguise his identity while also keeping him warm.
The journey there was easier than he had anticipated. Instead of being bogged down by snow or slipping on ice as he’d expected, Marlon simply skirted over it just as he skirted over bodies of water.
Before too long Marlon reached New York City, which had been the hardest hit by the deep freeze. He took a moment to get the lay of the land and look around the city before making a move, since it had been years since he’d visited Manhattan. His incredible speed, of course, made it simple for him to look around without being noticed by civilians or super-villains alike. He didn’t like what he found.
There were at least fifty or sixty villains holding the city, and the members of the Squadron of Justice were being held captive at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Marlon frowned. Even if he did manage to free the heroes, nine heroes against fifty or sixty super-powered criminals was still terrible odds.
Rocketing faster than the eye could see, Marlon pierced the Weeper’s stronghold at the opera house, grabbing Bulletgirl and Taia and throwing the semiconscious heroines over his shoulder, since they were lighter than their male counterparts and nearly as powerful. He was gone before anyone could react to his intrusion. He dropped the two women next to a snowdrift three blocks away and revived them as quickly as he could. They still looked groggy, but they would be useful allies for freeing the other heroes.
“We don’t have long before they start looking for us,” Marlon warned them.
“Oh, I don’t think we’ll need all that much time,” said Bulletgirl, holding up her empty cuffs.
“Let me guess,” said the smiling beauty Princess Taia, speaking with a slight accent that Marlon couldn’t place, though he guessed it must be ancient Egyptian. “Picking locks is a hobby of yours.”
“You do learn a few things growing up in a police family,” Bulletgirl said, opening her reinforced cuff-links with a simple twist of a wire in the locks.
“I am kind of new at this,” said Marlon, trying to sound calm and not as shaky as he felt, being this close to two powerful and stunningly beautiful super-women he’d only ever seen on TV before. “So how would you suggest we handle it?”
“We take them one at a time, and free the boys when we have a chance,” said Bulletgirl. “There’s only a handful of super-villains left at the Met, but they’re still pretty powerful. Obviously, a frontal assault is out of the question. That won’t get us anything but chained again.”
“Who wants to be the mouse?” asked Princess Taia, magically causing shimmering heat to wrap around her hands, providing some much needed warmth for herself and the other two.
“Mouse?” asked Marlon.
“The lure for our trap,” explained Bulletgirl. “I’ll do it.”
“No, I’ll do it,” said Marlon. “I’m way faster than you are. Being unknown will give me a slight advantage, also. Besides, I’m the only one who looks the part.” He gestured to his gray costume, eliciting a chuckle from the ladies.
“Stay away from Metallo and Blackrock,” warned Taia. “They’re more powerful than they look. They’ve taken on Superman himself.”
“The comic-book hero?” Marlon said, genuinely astonished. “You mean he’s real? Is the Flash real, too?”
“Leave the Weeper to me,” said Bulletgirl, ignoring his questions. “I owe him one for ruining a dinner date with my husband.”
“Right,” said Marlon. “I’ll be off, then.”
“Wait!” said Bulletgirl. “What should we call you?”
“Call me… Speed Demon, I guess,” said Marlon, coming up with the nickname on the spot. A split-second later, he vanished in a blur of gray.
“So, what do you think?” asked Taia.
“He’ll do fine,” said Bulletgirl, rubbing her hands together in anticipation of the upcoming fight. “Remember when we were just starting out. We were the same way.”
The next few hours seemed to pass in a blur as Marlon Wells found himself fighting alongside Shazam’s Squadron of Justice against a handful of super-villains from other times and worlds, with strange names such as Chameleon Chief, Esper Lass, Tyr, Kong, Ms. Mesmer, Bulldozer, and Brains, as well as the aforementioned Blackrock.
At one point Marlon even led the cybernetic villain known as Metallo into an ambush, where he was punched through a wall by Minute Man and then wrapped in melted debris by Ibis the Invincible. Still, even with these victories, things still looked dire for the heroes.
Thankfully, an army of super-heroes from those same parallel worlds arrived riding in like the cavalry in an old western to defeat the super-villains once and for all. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War.]
Later he’d even learn that his old childhood hero the Flash was indeed real, after all, and hailed from the same world as some of those heroes. Strangely enough, according to a raving lunatic called the Psycho-Pirate, the day that Marlon Wells received his super-speed was the very same day that the Flash died saving the multiverse from the Anti-Monitor. (*) This, of course, left Marlon with many more questions that he’d likely never be able to answer.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Flash of the Lightning,” Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (November, 1985).]
At any rate, with both the Squadron of Justice and the Marvel Family now free as well, there wasn’t much left for a rookie super-speedster to do, so Marlon Wells returned to Albuquerque. There he would continue to test the scope of his powers, even as he wondered why an accident straight out of the pages of an old comic-book had given him powers instead of getting him put into intensive care.
Whether or not he would ever call himself Speed Demon again or don his gray costume once more was anyone’s guess.