Mrs. Fuego led the way to her rooms above the little shop, indicating a chair at the small kitchenette counter as she put a pot of water on to boil. “Now tell me all about this terrible shock,” she said in her cracked voice.
After a moment of hesitation, Lily Lovelace decided to tell her mentor everything, since she knew the older woman was trustworthy and could keep her secret. Mrs. Fuego wore a look of shock when Lily’s finally divulged the news that her fiancé and the heroic Shiva were one and the same, and the old woman had to make encouraging noises for the girl to continue until she had heard the whole story.
“My dear,” she said. “It seems that your young man has decided to settle with you and give up his alter ego, or at least explain the way of things. I’m sure if you ask, now that you are going to be married, he will let Shiva fade into nonexistence.”
“I don’t want that!” said Lily.
“You don’t?” said Mrs. Fuego in real bafflement.
“No. I want to be part of that world,” Lily said. “I want to be able to fly and help people like he does. I don’t want to hold him back, because then I would feel selfish and guilty. The world needs him.”
“I see…” said Mrs. Fuego thoughtfully. “Well, maybe I can help you with that. If you can find out how he gained his powers, perhaps you can repeat the process. After all, if it worked once, why not again?”
“Can you really do that?” Lily asked, a twinge of hope in her voice once more.
“Not personally,” said the old woman with a wink, “but surely one of my colleagues can assist us.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Fuego,” said Lily, hugging her mentor tightly, then running from the little shop to return to her apartment.
Shiva flew over to inspect the remains of Haley Dam, having found some boulders to put in place to pen the channel of water until he could repair it permanently. The wisdom of Brahma had helped him discover that the destruction of the dam was no accident; it had been destroyed intentionally.
Flying higher in the air, he could see that the saboteurs were already long gone, but he guessed they would strike again at some other target soon. Hopefully the next attack would leave a clue as to the villain’s identity. For now he had to speak with Lily, especially since he’d left her after dropping such a bombshell.
Shiva flew back to Lily’s apartment and entered through the window. He had to explain things to her somehow.
“Hello, Martin,” Lily said sadly, trying to smile but failing.
Shiva said the word and returned to his normal appearance. “Hello, Lily,” Martin Martine said awkwardly. “So, that’s what I wanted to talk about over dinner. I’m sorry I couldn’t do it another way.”
“Tell me all about it,” said Lily calmly. “I would like to hear about it. It sounds like it’s something I should know before I say something rash.”
Martin was amazed at Lily’s calm reaction, having expected her to be upset. He began wondering if he should have simply told her the truth years ago. “When we were still in school, a stranger led me into a tunnel under the school,” he explained. “There, an old man sat on a really huge chair of rock. He said that he needed to trust someone to help out until he was no longer needed. I agreed, and he showed me how to change my appearance, along with granting me some of the power of the deities that I could call upon. So I became the heroic Shiva and tried to help the world whenever I could since then.”
“You could have told me sooner, Marty,” Lily said, with just a hint of reproach, before she finally wrapped her arms around him. The next few hours were bliss for this engaged couple.
The next day, Lily Lovelace went back to her mentor, Mrs. Fuego, and calmly told the older woman everything that Martin had told her, including how he’d met the wizard Shazam.
Mrs. Fuego nodded sagely. “I know the man,” she said with a crooked smile. “Would you like to see if he will grant you abilities like your fiancé?”
“Do you think he would?” asked Lily.
“He might,” said Mrs. Fuego. “We have nothing to lose by asking for his aid.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Fuego,” said Lily. “Can we go right now?”
“Surely,” said the old woman, pulling her shawl tight.
Within moments, Mrs. Fuego was leading the way to the school building, which was completely empty over the weekend. With the merest touch of her hand, the doors swung open to allow them passage.
“You said the basement?” Mrs. Fuego asked quietly as she drew a flashlight from her purse and let the light shine among the gloom of the closed institution.
“Yes,” Lily said. “I seem to remember it was that way.” She indicated a corridor that led toward the cafeteria with an index finger.
The older woman nodded her cloth-wrapped head as she led the way with silent steps, the cloth giving her shadow the appearance of horns.
Mrs. Fuego pushed open the door that led down to the basement, then led the way down the steps. The room was as empty as the rest of the building. A door with a rusted padlock holding it closed stood on the other side of the room. The old woman went to it as quickly as her arthritic legs could carry her.
“Could this be it?” Lily asked. “It certainly looks the same as what Martin described.”
“We will soon see, my dear,” Mrs. Fuego replied as she pulled a miniature bolt cutter from her purse and snapped the lock off.
The old woman then gently pushed open the now-unlocked door and led the way inside. A set of steps led into the bowels of the earth. The two women picked their way carefully until they came to a train station of some kind.
“It looks like a subway station,” Lily said.
“It is lit, also,” said Mrs. Fuego. “All we need now is a train.”
As if on cue, a black train rolled to a stop in front of the two women, and the doors opened. Mrs. Fuego led the way, boarding the conveyance before it could start moving again. Lily walked on just before the doors slid shut.
“I wonder where this goes,” Lily said quietly.
“The end of the line, my dear,” said Mrs. Fuego. “The end of the line.”
The train moved along for a short amount of time before sliding to a halt. The doors opened automatically to allow the ladies to disembark.
Mrs. Fuego led the way out of the station, and the two women walked down a huge tunnel. On Lily’s left were seven statues, which were unmarked. She couldn’t remember if Marty had said if they were labeled in any way.
Finally, the old woman led her straight to a room with a huge stone throne and a brazier. Taking a torch down from the wall, she lit the brazier. An image of a man then appeared by the throne. He had a long beard and mustache the color of snow, with a light gray robe. A crack of thunder accompanied his appearance in the room.
“Who bothers the great Shazam?” asked the bearded man, the thunder rumbling as if from a distance once more.
“I am so sorry, mighty one,” said Mrs. Fuego, genuflecting as easily as she could with her arthritis. “We crave a boon from you, if we could do so.”
“What is it, woman?” said the wizard.
“My friend has heard how you granted the essence of the gods to her fiancé, and she wants to help him in his battles,” explained the old woman. “We were wondering if you could grant her the same abilities.”
Shazam looked Lily Lovelace up and down, regarding her as one would inspect fruit for imperfections. “Hmm… perhaps,” he said finally. Turning to Lily, he said to her, “There is a great responsibility inherent in the power I am going to give you. You must always use them for good without the expectation of reward or gratification.”
“I can do that, sir,” said Lily earnestly. “What do I have to do?”
“Just say this word — Rakasha,” said the old man.
“Rakasha!” shouted Lily.
Black smoke poured up from the floor of the cave with a blast of flame. By the time the flame had vanished back into the ground, Lily Lovelace was gone. In her place was a tall female with four arms, a mane of blood red hair, and coal-black skin. Her friendly brown eyes had been replaced by yellow flames. She wore a dress of fine golden links belted at her waist, with a belt that was silver with a diamond placed in the front. Sandals adorned her feet, while a circlet made of gold kept her long hair out of her eyes.
“Welcome to the world, Kali,” said Shazam. “Remember to use your powers only for good.”
“I will,” said the new heroine, smiling. “Thank you for this. I can hardly believe how good I feel.”
Kali flew down the tunnel back toward the subway. She would never forget that first flight, even years later in her career. It was like being a bird in its natural element. Flying down the tunnel, she flew back out through the school, then burst out into the open air and headed straight up. This was something she loved, even though the rest of what she wanted to do wasn’t quite as clear.
“Are you happy?” asked the impostor, letting the disguise of Shazam slip away.
“Oh, yes, brother,” said Mrs. Fuego, yellow flames lighting in her eyes as she discarded her frail human disguise for her true appearance, that of a dark-skinned, horned female demon named Blaze. “You have no idea what we have done.”
“Enlighten me, please,” said the male demon known as Satanus; he wasn’t yet convinced. “Why the charade?”
“We have created our own agent to match the one created by our ‘father’ to replace his beloved Billy Batson,” explained Blaze. “Soon she will do our bidding, because each time she uses our spell, she will fall more and more under our control.”
Blaze smiled, teeth pointed and sharp. “Kali is our own Captain Marvel,” she said. “All we have to do is wait, and the fall of this Shiva is assured.”
“What makes you think the old wizard won’t notice what we’ve done?” challenged Satanus.
Blaze laughed. “That’s what’s so brilliant about it! Dear ‘father’ is quite hands-off with the new boy, unlike the Marvels. Why, Shiva hasn’t even seen the old wizard since he was first granted his powers!”
“I still think this attempt will fail, like most of the rest have,” said Satanus dismissively.
“We will see, won’t we, brother dear?” said Blaze with a laugh as she vanished in a cloud of smoke.
“I guess we will,” said Satanus, wiping away the illusion of a cavern around him with a wave of his hand and vanishing also.
As Kali, the world’s most majestic woman, Lily Lovelace would indeed become a super-heroine, and she and Martin Martine would marry after she shared her own secret with him. For many years, the couple would be as much in love as two people could be.
As the demoness Blaze had planned, the more Lily would use her alter ego, the more she would fall under the demoness’ sway, until the final conflict would come, when Kali would battle her husband in his guise as Shiva. At that time, Shiva would place her in exile and remove her memory from the world to turn the key in the lock. The demoness would thus succeed where others had failed in removing an agent of Shazam from existence.
But that was still a more than a decade away.