Shazam’s Squadron of Justice: Voyagers, Chapter 4: A New Dark Era

by Libbylawrence

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Lance O’Casey was hot and tired as he led Linda Lansing and Carol Clews across the desert sands toward the temple of Set. He had left the Brian Boru in port and had led the women across the sands for several days. All were tired and hoped for a final, successful end to their quest. The voyage had gone quietly after the fight with the skeletons; Linda was almost desperate to leave the magic ring in the place it had originated.

“Linda, how do you know the ring came from this dark place?” asked O’Casey. “You told us an old magician gave your husband the ring, and also mentioned it came from the idol of Khor in the Far East.”

Linda frowned. “For years, all Jack knew was that an old magician gave him the ring and told him to use its magic as he pleased, and he had thought its point of origin was that idol. But none of that mattered, because he used it for justice and for good. Then, as he began to grow more moody and angry, I looked deeper into the gem’s design, and that led me to Set’s worshippers of old. The pattern was one used in their ancient artifacts, and I was able to trace the gem’s path from the temple of Set to the idol of Khor to the old magician.”

Carol looked adorable in her golden miniskirt, and she seemed immune to the desert sun. “Look!” she called out. “That must be the temple. See the patterns?” They approached and nodded in agreement. The designs within the broken façade matched the ring’s as well.

“Why is it so alone?” asked Carol. “Why not under government protection or research?”

“It does not exist on this plane of existence, except to one who carries the ring,” said Linda, her voice chilling as she spoke.

“So you had no true expectations of even finding the place?” said O’Casey. “That kind of journey took a lot of bravery and faith. Jack is a lucky man.”

Linda turned to the leaping Mr. Hogan. “He seems nervous.”

O’Casey took up the little monkey. “Mr. Hogan is no coward for such an idle fellow. He’ll be right as rain when a fight breaks out.”

Chee-chee!” cried Mr. Hogan.

They entered the weird structure and saw rows of guards that were stiff and metallic as ebony. “Statues, or worse?” puzzled O’Casey.

When they attacked, he knew his fears were confirmed. The belt gave him super-strength, and he smashed some of the creatures in half with every punch.

Carol flew upward and blasted them back with her light-beams. She cried out as a dark figure appeared from the side. He was all too human.

“Jack!” cried Linda.

“You traitor!” said “Diamond” Jack Lansing, shaking his wife. “I have come to reclaim my ring and to aid the Black Pharaoh in bringing Set to earth!”

O’Casey bolted forward, only to be shocked from a black ray-beam that came from the woman in gauzy wraps on the throne.

“Osira serves me well!” intoned a deep voice as the black-eyed and regally handsome but evil Black Pharaoh stepped forth from the shadows, along with Ibac and Sabbac.

As O’Casey fell at the feet of a blonde woman in gauzy clothes, he saw Carol dueling with Diamond Jack.

Light bursts exploded against clouds of shadow, and Linda cried desperately to her mad husband, “Please, Jack! You are a hero! I love you! Don’t help these dead things!”

Jack frowned as if touched by her words, but he merely snatched the ring from her numb hand and said, “At last, my beauty is back with me again!”

Black Pharaoh nodded regally. “‘Tis so! It will stay with you as a reward for your service to me, and through me to Set!”

O’Casey saw Mr. Hogan dart away across the floor and out of the ruins.

“Ha! The beast is smarter than you all!” said a smirking Osira, who was really Eve Armstrong.

O’Casey tried to fight his way to Carol’s side, but he could not resist the coldness that filled his very limbs as he saw the beautiful blonde disappear in shadowy chains formed by Diamond Jack. The sailor was tossed deeper within the temple, where he gasped at what he saw.

Mary Marvel hung by her wrists above an inky pool, while Spy Smasher strained against heavy black chains that bound him to the floor by his ankles. O’Casey was soon chained up as well, and Carol was left bound by what appeared to be solid shadows.

“Mary Marvel, you poor child!” he called. “How did these fiends ever get a hold of you?”

Looking down through a lock of disheveled hair, Mary said, “I was attacked by magic. It’s a weakness of mine, too!”

O’Casey thought for a moment, then said, “Not to fear, Mr. Hogan will get help!”

The Black Pharaoh caressed Eve Armstrong’s face as her husband tried futilely to break free. It was torment for Alan Armstrong to see his bride fondled by the evil Egyptian.

On a slab of smooth ebony lay Bulletgirl and Bulletman. They did not move, nor did they appear to breathe very deeply, due to the sleep in which they were trapped.

The lovely and brave Susan Kent Barr had tried to free her drugged husband from the insane Diamond Jack, only to fall as his shadowy energy materialized within her nose and mouth. He had brought the pair of his former allies to the temple.

The Black Pharaoh looked every inch the ruler as he petted Eve’s golden hair. “What do you desire, master?” she cooed.

“Much! We shall assemble the Spear of Darkness from the recovered relics, and with it bring Set to Earth to reign over us and usher in an era of power and darkness.” He laughed and said, “And as the darkness spreads, who remains to dare challenge us?”

One stentorian voice echoed through the shadowy room. “I do, sirrah!”

The Black Pharaoh grinned in evil delight. He faced a handsome man in an expensive suit and a red turban, who held a wand or rod in his hand. He looked far more regal in his nobility and valor and intellect than did the scheming, corrupt, and evil pharaoh. His eyes blazed defiance, and his every move spoke of truth, mercy, and heroism.

“Ibis! Ibis the Invincible!” cried Sabbac.

Spy Smasher began to hope as he saw his old friend.

“My ancient foe!” said the Black Pharaoh. “Welcome! I could not rule without your corpse spread like carrion before me!”

Diamond Jack spoke to his magic ring and said, “We can kill the invincible one!”

Ibac merely watched, uncertain as to what to do. The guards hovered in fear of Ibis.

“I stand as always to end the reign of terror your kind ushered forth eons ago!” cried Ibis the Invincible. “Ibistick, defend me!”

A light brighter than any Carol Clews could form appeared from the wand and drove the scattering guards to their corners.

“Alone? You cannot triumph,” crowed Sabbac. “Even you cannot win alone!”

“Those who walk in light and fight for truth are never alone, craven one!” said Ibis with utter calm.

Behind Ibis stood Minute Man, Captain Marvel Junior, and the new Mister Scarlet and Pinky the Whiz Kid.

“Then, by all means, let battle and blood decide the day!” said the Black Pharoah.

Ibis the Invincible had brought his allies in Shazam’s Squadron of Justice, and this proved to be a wise thing to do. Captain Marvel Junior resisted his impulse to belt Ibac across the desert and rushed to free the chained Mary Marvel. “Are you hurt?” he asked with concern.

She smiled. “Just a bit drained! That black ooze must sap our powers. Feel it?”

Captain Marvel Junior did feel the lethargic power sweep over him, so he carried Mary to safety at top speed.

Meanwhile, Ibis gestured over the chains holding the others and the cloud over poor Carol Clews. “Heroes be free!” he said, and it was so. He faced them all and said, “My friends, assist me in subduing these foul execrations.”

“I thought you’d never ask!” shouted Spy Smasher, who raced toward his brainwashed wife and shook her shoulders. “You are not Osira! You are Eve Armstrong!” he insisted.

Osira smiled coldly and blew him across the room with one blast of power.

Minute Man had wasted no time, swinging across the room and landing in the midst of the inhuman guards. “You guys need to loosen up a bit!” he jeered. He was joined by Lance O’Casey as they fought past the guards to lift the still and silent Barrs.

“Are they alive?” asked Carol as she blasted a solid light slide that carried them to a safe spot.

“The lovely Bulletgirl still lives, as does her faithful man!” said O’Casey as he caught a spear and hurled it back at the caster.

The two Marvels used their strength to topple the enormous statue of Set that towered over the weird pool. When they covered the black liquid with the crumbling monument, they both noticed that renewed vigor seemed to fill them all. The Bullets stirred slowly.

Ibis the Invincible gestured at his raging foe. “You shall not move!” he commanded.

“The power of Set gives me immunity to your toy!” said the sneering Black Pharaoh.

Spy Smasher was sore from the fall, but he was determined, too. He tried to think of how he could get through to the mesmerized Eve. Then one idea came to him.

Meanwhile, Diamond Jack summoned the dark energies of his ring. “I could slay them all for you, my darling!” he said.

Then the pink, costumed form of the new Pinky darted forward. The lithe girl flipped across the room and landed a kick to Diamond Jack’s back. He fell forward and turned in anger.

“I don’t war against little girls!” said Jack.

“Don’t hurt the girl!” cried Linda.

Mister Scarlet fired his red mist, and the sticky narcotic film covered Diamond Jack. He shrugged it off, only to fall flat seconds later. Mister Scarlet smiled and said, “I see that your magic ring doesn’t allow you to avoid breathing!” He removed the ring and hurled it to his ally. “Ibis, destroy it!” he suggested.

Ibis allowed the super-powered Lance O’Casey to wrestle the Black Pharaoh aside, and he waved the magical Ibistick. “Ring, return to the Stygian wastes from whence you sprang!” he ordered.

As the talisman vanished, the body of Jack Lansing convulsed, and then a peaceful look covered his face. Linda bent over him and cried, “Oh, Jack! Please be healed.”

Suddenly, Bulletgirl streaked into the hunched-over Ibac as he tried to remove the statue from the energy-sapping pool.

“You need to shave your back! That is such a turnoff!” she bantered as she and Bulletman crashed directly into Ibac in unison. He grunted and whirled to chase after them.

“You can’t catch us, Sabbac!” teased Bulletgirl.

“Perhaps that pathetic Sabbac cannot catch you, but Ibac can!” the brute bragged as he grabbed her leg. Then, to his horror, he transformed back into weak little Stanley Printwhistle after being tricked into saying his own name. Bulletgirl kicked him with her free leg and carried his stunned form to the ground.

Captain Marvel Junior yelped as Sabbac drove him down. “I always wanted to kill you, punk!” roared Sabbac.

“Yeah? Well, get in line behind Sivana, his son, his daughter, and around a hundred others!” replied Junior as he slugged the bruiser in the face.

Ibis saw O’Casey turn as the dark malice of the Black Pharoah radiated over him. “My power overwhelms you, eh, whelp?” said the evil Egyptian.

“No more than your breath!” replied a grinning O’Casey as he slugged the dark figure backward.

“Ibistick, I command you to return all dark energy generated by the Black Pharoah into his own form!” whispered Ibis.

As the Black Pharoah fought off O’Casey, he screamed. Ibis had turned his own powers against him. He fought to overcome the pain, and with every effort, he hurt himself even more.

“Great Set, aid me!” he cried.

“Stop fighting, or you shall surely perish!” warned Ibis.

Black Pharoah ignored his foe’s warning. “Only by power can one triumph!” he cried, even as he burned in a raging black flame of his own creation.

“Be at peace!” spoke Ibis.

At that, Black Pharaoh fell into a trance, and the fires flickered away from his damaged body.

“It is ever so with evil,” commented Ibis. “The refusal to yield destroys the evildoer from within.”

Minute Man thought to himself, Y’know, my destruction of that staff back at the cliff may just have been the thing that prevented him from summoning this Set. For an acrobat in stripes, not a bad day’s work!

Spy Smasher allowed Mary Marvel to restrain a screaming Osira as they stood to the sides. “Eve, I love you! You trust me. I know it,” he pleaded as he removed his mask.

Eve’s face grew white as she struggled for words. Then, all at once, she was herself again, and she fell tearfully in her husband’s arms. They would talk long into the night and speak of many long-hidden secrets to each other.

Jack Lansing shuddered and reached for Linda as she bent over him. “Linda, I feel like I’m coming out of a long nightmare. I think that ring was actually turning me mad! Can you ever forgive me?” he begged.

Linda Lansing smiled. “There’s nothing to forgive! I am just so happy to have the man I married back at last!”

Lance O’Casey grinned as he dropped Sabbac with a right cross. “You won’t be looking for a fight anytime soon, lad!” he crowed.

Mr. Hogan jumped in and seemed to cheer his partner onward.

“Welcome back, Mr. Hogan! Did you enjoy a tour o’ the burning sands?” teased O’Casey as he caught the monkey.

Mister Scarlet kicked a guard in the face as the blonde Pinky ducked between two thugs and drop-kicked them both. “So mad Egyptian gods and shadow demons make for a rude first outing, huh?” he said.

The new Pinky spun around in her pink minidress and grinned. “Wait ’til I tell Wainwright!”

Carol solidified her light into a sphere that imprisoned the remaining guards as the heroes congratulated each other.

“Set shall not rise anew,” said Ibis the Invincible in valediction.

Lance O’Casey helped Jack Lansing up and said, “True enough, my friend, but better still, this voyager is heading home at last!”

The sun bathed the crumbling rocks as they all journeyed homeward.

Continued in Mary Marvel: The Deadliest Place on Earth

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