Martin Martine smiled as he looked in the mirror and straightened his tie. Everything was going his way for once. At only twenty years of age, and only a month out of college, the young man had already landed a fantastic accounting job at a well-respected company that would provide him with enough money for an eventual down-payment on a house. He was planning to marry his longtime girlfriend, Lily Lovelace, after dating steadily for the last five years. And, best of all, there had been no emergencies calling for his alter ego, Shiva. Things could not have been better. It was almost as if the magic of Shazam had finally paved a way for success, perhaps rewarding him for all the struggles he’d undergone as a student, when he’d often been in trouble for his many unexplained absences whenever Shiva had been needed. He would have asked Shazam about it, but Martin hadn’t even seen the old wizard since he’d first been granted his powers. He often wondered whether Captain Marvel ever met with the old wizard after he first gained his powers, and felt a twinge of jealousy at the thought.
He shook his head to clear his thoughts; he had to get a move on. He was supposed to meet Lily at the Kafka Theater in downtown Fawcett City for a performance, and he couldn’t be late. Too often he had missed several of her earlier performances because of emergencies requiring Shiva’s help, and he’d always had to cover his secret by some poor excuse or another. But this was an important one, and he’d promised her that he would be there no matter what.
Martin spoke the word, “BVSSGG!” At that, the familiar blue rain erupted up from the ground, changing him into his other self.
The blue-skinned, four-armed Shiva flew out of the window as graceful as a bird. It took no time at all for the hero to cross the city with the speed of Garuda. Landing in an alcove down the street, he said the word once more to change back into his ordinary form.
Martine adjusted the knot on his tie uncomfortably as he walked to the theater to buy a ticket, hoping Shazam would forgive him for using his powers in such a blatantly self-serving task.
Moments later, Martine was sitting in a seat at the back of the Kafka Theater. He enjoyed sitting in the dark, watching things unfurl at a sedate pace. It was a welcome change from the numerous times in the last five years he’d had to use his abilities as Shiva to save the day.
The old man had told him he would be as strong as the vanished Marvel Family, and he was, to his initial delight. He had been a mere fifteen-year-old boy, and now he was a grown man with hopes of a sharing his life with someone else, and he hadn’t even been able to tell her he was a superman straight from the comics. He had to do something about that. But what could I do? he asked himself as the play ended.
Martine waited for the audience to leave before getting out of his seat. The theater somehow looked different under the blaze of lights, with all the empty seats. Putting his troubling thoughts aside for the moment, he walked toward the stage. This was supposed to be a happy time for them. Somehow he would find a way to tell Lily the truth, just not right now. Shiva wasn’t as important to him, now that he had found someone he loved more than life itself.
Smiling at his fiancée, Martin watched with adoration as she walked from behind the curtain to look for him.
Martin Martine walked up the steps and onto the stage to see her. Lily was so beautiful that he could feel his heart leap in his chest at the sight of her. He could hardly have known at that moment that, years later, he would end up banishing her to another dimension because of the threat she would pose. But their doom was still years away, and as Martin stood there in the theater, he wondered how he had been so lucky to have a woman like her even look at him, let alone agree to marry him.
“Penny for your thoughts, Marty,” she said.
“Just thinking how lovely you look, hon,” he said.
Lily smiled. “Let me change, and we’ll have that dinner I promised,” she said. “Thanks for coming to the play, Marty.”
“It was my pleasure, Lil,” the hero said.
Lily Lovelace quickly changed out of the dress she had worn for her performance and into her street clothes. She had known Martin Martine for a long time, ever since they were teenagers at school. He was an odd boy who was often late, and he usually couldn’t explain where he was or what he was doing, but she also knew that, whatever it was he was doing, he didn’t make any money out of it. It was the only secret he had kept from her, and it constantly ate at their relationship, though she tried to keep quiet about it for fear of what she might learn. If only he would come out and finally give her an explanation.
“I have something to tell you, Lil, after dinner,” Martine said as they left the theater. “It’s something I can’t really keep to myself, now that we’re getting married.”
Lil smiled, thinking that he had guessed her thoughts. “I’m glad, Marty,” she said. “I have, at times, kind of thought there was someone else.”
Martine laughed slightly. “No, no, there’s not another woman. I have some volunteer work I do, and I feel that I have to tell you the scope of it, because it’s very important to me.”
“Volunteer work?” asked Lil, intrigued.
“I’ll explain after dinner,” Martine said.
At Lily’s apartment, she made the dinner herself as quickly as possible. Martine had offered to help her, but she ordered him out of the kitchen. He was a notorious klutz, and the meal she was cooking was simple enough to prepare on her own.
Soon, Lily served the meal on the dining room table. Martin had selected some slow orchestra music on the radio for them to listen to while they ate.
“This a newsflash,” interrupted a newscaster on the radio. “Haley Dam is under attack! Residents are asked to evacuate from the area. Repeat: Haley Dam is under attack. Residents must evacuate.”
Martin stood up in alertness at the first words. He listened keenly, slowly chewing a bite of his dinner as he did so. Pulling on his coat and opening the dining room window as wide as it would go, Martine said to Lily, “I didn’t want to tell you like this, but I don’t have any choice.”
“Tell me what?” said Lily, standing in amazement as a sinking feeling fell to her stomach. “Where in the world are you going?”
“Lily, this is the volunteer work I told you about,” said Martine. A moment later, he said a bit more loudly his magic word. “BVSSGG.” Blue rain erupted from the floor, transforming Martin Martine into Shiva.
“I will return so that we can talk about this as soon as I see what is going on at the dam,” Shiva said in a voice much deeper than Martin’s. Then he was gone through the open window so fast that Lily couldn’t follow his hurling form.
Lily Lovelace ran to the phone, tears flowing from her eyes as she picked up the receiver. Her fiancé had been the enigmatic Shiva over all these years, the whole time she had known him, and he hadn’t told her until now. She felt a strange mixture of terror, confusion, and humiliation as she called her mentor for advice on what to do.
Shiva approached Haley Dam in a blur of motion. The dam had already burst, loosing millions of gallons of water on the valley below. He had to prevent the destruction of the land first before he could fix the concrete barrier, but how would he stop the flow of water?
Then the hero saw an abandoned log truck. A full load rested between the steel holding rods. He scooped up six at a time and began planting them in front of the rushing water. His eagle eyes had already spotted a harmless path to divert the liquid doom, so he quickly formed a breakwater out of the logs to send it down that path, then reinforced it with the strength of Shiva and the power of Vishnu.
The water struck the wall. It creaked, but didn’t give as the water ran into the alternate channel. Shiva waited for several moments for the river to become a normal flow of water before he tried to think of how he would repair the dam.
Lily Lovelace left her apartment. Her mentor had asked her to come and visit with her. After her ruined dinner, she needed the comfort. She had known Martin for years, but why hadn’t he told her about his dual life before now? Did he mistrust her after all they’d shared together? There had been plenty of other times he could have said something, anything. As Shiva, he had even saved her life once and vanished before she could thank him.
Soon, she found the little shop her mentor used as a home and a source of income and went in, accompanied by the ringing of a bell. “Mrs. Fuego?” Lily asked the apparently empty shop.
“I’m right here, my dear,” said a crone of a woman easily three times Lily’s age. A colorful shawl was wrapped across her shoulders. “You said you had a shock on the phone?”
“I’ll say,” said Lily. “But I don’t know what to do.”
“Go ahead and tell me all, my dear,” Mrs. Fuego said with a gentle voice as she locked the door. “Perhaps I can give you some advice on the matter.”