Part 5 of The Replacement
When the fearsome Kali emerges from other-dimensional exile once more, Martin Martine must become Shiva one last time to defeat her, but only if Captain Marvel can convince him that he used to be a hero! Witness the final fate of Shiva and Kali!
Martin Martine slept in his house in Fawcett City, where he worked at one of the other radio stations in town. There was something about Sterling Morris’ WHIZ that bothered him. He didn’t know the reason for the odd feeling; he just knew he was glad to avoid the building as much as he could. Now that feeling bothered him even in his sleep.
The house had been destroyed by a battle between Captain Marvel, his one-time replacement Shiva, and Shiva’s wife, Kali. It had been deserted long before, and after it had been destroyed, the wood and debris had been hauled away. The only thing left was the hole in the ground where the basement had been.
A small piece of light sparkled in the shallow pit. A clawed hand poked through the light. Three more joined the first, pulling the light into a gap from someplace black and lightless.
Kali pulled her coal-black body through before the gap closed, even against her phenomenal strength. Time to look up old acquaintances and kill them, she thought as she flew away from the scene.
Billy Batson read the news over the air. Station WHIZ was his second home. Uncle Dudley waited outside the broadcast booth for Billy’s shift to end so that they could enjoy dinner together.
Then Billy saw a newsflash that needed his immediate attention. He rushed from the broadcast booth and went down the hall. The station’s personnel was familiar with Billy’s disappearances at times. Billy stepped in the emergency stairwell, then said the magic word that called forth his other self.
Captain Marvel flew from the station in a red streak. The ticker had relayed some unexpected bad news — news that should have been impossible.
Martin Martine awoke from a bad dream, and he looked around his bedroom. Everything seemed in place, so why did the feeling persist?
Getting out of bed, Martin walked to the kitchen. He flipped on the radio on the top of the refrigerator, wanting to listen to some music while he raided his food supply for a snack.
“We interrupt this broadcast to warn citizens to stay away from downtown at this time,” said Ronnie Andrews, the female D.J. for WROC. “A new super-villainess is ripping up the buildings. I repeat: stay away from downtown.”
“I’ll be sure to do that,” Martin said as the music started again. He took the fixings he wanted on his sandwich to the kitchen table and began putting it together. “After all, what can I do against a super-villainess?” Martin said to himself.
Captain Marvel arrived on the scene of the rampage. He frowned as his enemy ripped through an empty office building. I’m glad it’s Sunday, he thought as he sped forward, then smashed against Kali, driving her into the ground. He moved to hammer her again, knowing she would try to seize an advantage, since they were almost equally matched in strength. One of the ebon amazon’s four arms seized his arm, while two of the others delivered thunderous blows. Marvel skidded across the ground.
“You again,” stated Kali, springing to her feet. “Where is Shiva?”
“He decided to forget you, rather than remember the pain,” said Captain Marvel. “Why don’t you give this up and retire yourself?”
“Why don’t I kill you?” stated Kali, wrenching a piece of the building’s wall through the air.
Captain Marvel blasted the wall apart with a punch, then launched himself at the forgotten villainess. He found that she flew away from him at a speed to match his own.
Suddenly, Kali turned, raising a bystander in two of her four arms. Captain Marvel jerked to a stop. “I thought that would make you pause,” Kali said. “Get Shiva here, or I will rip this poor idiot into quarters.”
“I told you,” Marvel said. “He made himself forget you, just like he made the world forget you. Even if I brought him, it would do you no good.”
“I am not asking you to question me,” Kali said. She gave one of her hostage’s arms a short yank, and the man ground his teeth in pain. “Get him here — now. I’ll wait two minutes. Then I make human salad.”
Captain Marvel flew away with gritted teeth, landing outside a quiet house seconds later. He wondered how Martin Martine would take the bad news he brought with him. Probably badly, he decided as he rang the doorbell.
The door cracked open a minute later. Martin peered out at the world’s mightiest mortal. He seemed perplexed, but opened the door wider. “Captain Marvel?” Martin said. “It’s an honor to meet you, but not this late at night.”
“I need to talk to you, Mr. Martine,” Captain Marvel said. “It’s about your wife.”
“I don’t have a wife,” Martin said. “I have never been married.”
“That’s not exactly true,” said the Captain. “Can I come in?”
“Certainly,” said Martin, stepping back from the door.
“What I am about to tell you is going to be hard to believe,” Captain Marvel said. “I need you to listen to me.”
“Go ahead,” said Martin, gesturing to a chair as he sat in the other.
“In the ’50s, you were a hero named Shiva. You were like my replacement while I was trapped in space. You married, and your wife became another hero, Kali. You were together for a while, and then Kali summoned this thing, and you sealed her and the thing in another dimension. You made everyone forget about your wife and you. Well, your wife wants to talk to you right now.”
“You have to be kidding,” said Martin. “If I made everyone forget, how do you know all this?”
“We met a few months ago,” Captain Marvel said. “That’s how I found out. The question is, how can we make you remember? The last time you were struck by lightning.”
“I’d rather not be struck by lightning,” said Martin calmly. “So my so-called wife wants to see me again. That doesn’t sound good.”
“You had a magic word,” said Captain Marvel, frowning at the man’s reaction. “It sounded something like beevisog.”
“Beevissog,” repeated the engineer. “BVSSGG!”
Suddenly, blue rain began to fall up from the floor. Every drop changed Martin Martine piece by piece into his blue-skinned, four-armed, three-eyed, red-haired alter ego. His pyjamas became a tunic of chained links.
“So, despite our efforts,” the transformed Shiva said, “Kali walks again on the earth.”
“Yes,” said Captain Marvel. “She wants to see you.”
“Let’s not keep the lady waiting,” Shiva said. “Who knows what she’ll do if she becomes impatient?”
The two went to the door and took flight like twin thunderbolts. They discussed plans as they flew downtown.
As Captain Marvel and Shiva landed in the middle of downtown, Kali smiled when she saw her long-lost husband again. It wasn’t a pleasant smile.
“I have been awakened,” Shiva said. “Let the man go.”
“Why not?” said Kali, throwing her hostage away. “Killing you and this pretender is all I want.”
Kali exploded at the heroes. Captain Marvel faded to the right, Shiva to the left. She veered to follow her husband. He flew a weaving pattern through the city, keeping ahead of her. The changed woman drilled through anything in her way as she followed. Shiva led her out of the city. He wanted to be clear of bystanders when he made his stand.
Shiva and Kali matched each other blow for blow as they battled over the house they had bought after they had gotten married. A lightning bolt arced down from the clear night sky. It struck Kali while she was busy trying to kill her former husband, and she crashed into the ground.
“Lightning won’t hurt me,” she declared angrily.
“It wasn’t meant to hurt you,” said Shiva. “It was meant to bring you to your senses.”
“My senses are fine,” said Kali, springing at her husband. “I will be the only heir of Shazam and rule these petty humans any way I see fit.”
Shiva caught her in his four arms and hugged her close.
“I don’t think so, lady,” said Captain Marvel. “Only Shiva and the other members of my family possess the power of the wizard. The only other one that comes close to that is Master Man. (*) You don’t look like any of those.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Marvel: Master Race.]
“Liar!” shouted Kali, struggling in her husband’s grip. “Shazam did give me my powers!”
“I don’t think so, lady,” said the world’s mightiest mortal. “If you want to ask him, I’m sure he will tell you the same thing.”
Shiva flew with two arms around his errant wife as they followed Captain Marvel into an abandoned subway station. The heir of Shazam whipped over the tracks and into the darkened tunnel. The couple followed, whether Kali wanted to or not.
They passed the Seven Deadly Sins imprisoned in statues lining a wall, and landed in the chamber Shazam called home. Captain Marvel lit the brazier to summon the old wizard, and the old wizard Shazam appeared in a cloud of smoke and rolling thunder. He raised an eyebrow when he saw who was present.
“Shiva, Captain Marvel,” he said in acknowledgment. “I do not believe I know the young lady.”
“Liar!” Kali shouted, breaking free from her husband’s grasp and swinging with all her might. Kali’s fist passed through Shazam’s phantom form, shattering the wall behind him. Lightning struck the ebon villainess, hurling her to the floor. She tried to get to her feet to continue her attack but found herself restrained by Shiva and Captain Marvel.
“He lies!” Kali screamed, struggling against the two men. “He did create me!”
“Shiva is the only one present to whom I have given powers of the gods besides the Marvel Family,” said Shazam. “I can show you your real creator.”
“I don’t believe you,” said the avatar of destruction.
Shiva had also believed that Shazam was responsible for creating Kali. He had not seen the old man since he first took on his mantle, and he had never thought to ask if Lily had been granted equal power to his. He had, in fact, been taken by surprise when Captain Marvel suggested this. He had not known that Master Man had also been endowed in some way to match Captain Marvel, even as the Captain had not known about Shiva’s role to stop the menaces that had sprouted up in the vacuum left by the missing Marvels and some of their foes.
“The Historama shows things that have happened or will happen,” said Shazam, indicating a large, television-like, mystical screen. “This is the truth of your origin.”
Restrained by the heirs of Shazam, Kali watched as history unfolded for her on the Historama. She, as the youthful, not-yet-married Lily Lovelace, had been led through a tunnel to a cave much like the one in which she stood in the present. She saw that what she experienced then was superficially the same place as now. The Shazam in the picture gave her powers. She flew off as Kali, but this Shazam suddenly became another person. Her mentor, whom she thought dead, also changed to become something horrible.
Kali collapsed at the truth. She had always thought she had been given her powers to do good, not to hurt people. She had never wanted to hurt anyone.
“Rakasha!” she cried. Howling black smoke covered her form. When it cleared, Lily Lovelace Martine rose from the floor.
Sometime later, Martin and Lily Martine looked around the dock where they had appeared. Billy Batson walked behind them quietly.
A one-eyed man in a brown suit approached from a set of bungalows on a cliff overlooking the beach. His hard face seemed closed as he regarded them with his blue eye.
“My name is Gallowglass,” the man said. “Welcome to the Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge. (*) Adam will get you settled in and show you around.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Books of Magic: Changeling Unmasked.]
Another man walked down to the pier. His skin was jaundiced and covered by heavy scars. Rheumy eyes tried to match the slow smile the groundskeeper had on his face.
Martin nodded and picked up their bags as Adam Frankenstein arrived.
“Good luck,” said Billy, waving.