Shazam’s Squadron of Justice: Mystery of the Missing Day, Chapter 3: The Age of Zotan

by Libbylawrence

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Back on November 13th, 1953, Billy Batson, Mary Batson Bromfield, and Freddy Freeman were standing on the front porch of the palatial Bromfield home after a pleasant evening at the theater with Mary’s adoptive parents.

“It sure was swell of the Bromfields to invite us to join you!” said Freddy.

Billy nodded and said, “I knew the movie would be a good one, but the meal afterward was even better!”

Mary laughed merrily and said, “We were glad to have you both, but there’s no need for either of you to leave. Mother had Jives prepare the guest room. It is cool out, and she didn’t want you to have to walk home. After all, it is almost midnight!”

“She’s a great lady,” said Billy. “Of course, she doesn’t realize that we could just fly home with the speed of Mercury!”

As the rich chime of a grandfather clock began to sound within the house, the three teenagers were suddenly engulfed in a blinding white light. When it faded from view, they were nowhere to be found.

***

In a weird fortress constructed in the styles and with materials from many different eras, a fat man in a green and purple costume laughed harshly as he looked at the helpless trio. They were totally immobile within a sphere of flickering light.

“I’ve done it!” he bellowed. “The Marvels are trapped outside of time itself! This day will go down in history as the dawn of the Age of Zotan!

***

At roughly the same moment in time, Shazam’s Squadron of Justice arrived in 1953. They were standing in a beautiful meadow bordered by tall, lush trees and well-cared-for hedges.

“I call this the Time Field,” explained Steffi.

Alan Armstrong was now dressed as Spy Smasher, and Rob Butler wore the crimson costume he had made famous as Pinky the Whiz Kid. Ibis the Invincible, Princess Taia, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Minute Man, and Brian Butler, the original Mister Scarlet, were dressed as they had been in their past.

“I didn’t even have to change!” said Rob.

“It was easy enough for me to simply alter your garments into those you had once worn before. After all, nothing is truly lost to one who can sift through the sands of time at will!” explained Steffi Swift. “Zotan has already taken the Marvels, but before you may free them, you must stop five time bombs he has planted in this year from exploding. By placing these devices upon them, you’ll be able to shunt them into a timeless void where they will do no harm! You will be returned here to this small, safe portion of the time fields upon completion of your task.”

She handed the heroes five small rectangular objects. Each one had a side that appeared designed to adhere to some other machine.

“Time bombs?” said Minute Man. “I suppose they aren’t the kind of time bombs we’re used to from our more mundane cases, are they?”

Steffi shook her head and said, “No. These bombs are full of chronal energy. Each one has the potential to sever a segment of a timeline. If all his bombs explode, he will have effectively sealed this era from any future arrivals by other time travelers!”

“I wonder if the fiend’s technology could withstand my Ibistick,” said Ibis. “Surely it could undo any damage his machinations have wrought.”

Taia held his arm and said, “Beloved, no one could stand against your righteous power!”

“Why do you even need us?” asked Brian. “Why couldn’t you handle this rogue time traveler yourself?”

Steffi Swift frowned, and she flushed with either anger or shame. “I’m a scholar, not a combatant,” she said. “To be honest, this type of thing is all rather new and thrilling to me!”

“Don’t worry, Miss,” said Spy Smasher. “We’ll take care of him! We’ll stop his bombs. We’ll free the Marvels, and we’ll capture Zotan. You may rely on us!”

Bulletman grinned and said, “He’s right. You just take us to the bombs, and we’ll do the rest!”

Bulletgirl elbowed her husband playfully and said, “My hero!”

Steffi spread her arms again, and the heroes vanished. But as she turned, she saw the female Pinky the Whiz Kid suddenly spring into view. “What are you doing here?” gasped Steffi. “You could have been lost forever in this place!”

“I’m sorry,” said Pinky. “It’s not what you think! I want to help! I figured accomplishing something specific was worth any risk! You see, Brian’s like a second father to me. Let me explain.”

The pretty blonde teenager spoke rapidly, and the older time traveler listened intently.

***

Bulletgirl rubbed her eyes as she found herself hovering over a jungle. The air was hot, and she was glad that her costume consisted of her customary short-sleeved red top and yellow shorts. She knew that the anti-crime formula she had ingested long before had not only boosted her physical and mental attributes, but had given her limited resistance to temperature extremes. This was useful when she was employing the antigravity helmet she wore to fly at high speeds or to reach high altitudes, but as she rationalized on this odd day in 1953, sometimes a girl just felt hot.

Mama might have said I was glistening, but Dad would have just said I was sweating! she thought. I’d say, in jungle like this, his frank, down-to-earth view wins the prize!

Bulletman was feeling the heat as well, and he clutched the small device Steffi Swift had given them as his eyes scanned the thick foliage. “I don’t see any artificial devices,” he said. “If there’s a bomb here, it has escaped the keen observational powers of this police scientist!”

Bulletgirl started to reply when a massive shadow fell over the heroes, and a giant figure loomed into view. He was a Korean soldier in a typical uniform of the time, but he was also a giant, and his sinister smile was as large as a small car.

“Americans! I will crush you both and prove my superiority!” he said.

The Bullets scattered as his giant hand reached out for them. He was big and slow, and they easily dodged his clumsy attempt to grab them.

“Somehow, when Steffi said we were going back to 1953, I was thinking more of malt shops and Doris Day than the Cold War!” said Bulletgirl.

“Right!” said Bulletman. “Still, there’s something odd about that soldier, and I don’t just mean his size!” He scanned the giant closely, and his keen vision detected a faint shimmer when the light hit him just so. “He has an aura. I think he doesn’t really belong here. He’s been plucked from some other time, although it may have been within this year. I think Zotan’s using him as a superhuman guard.”

His uniform says Mong, he thought. I can’t say that I ever heard of a Kong-sized Korean, but why should I? (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Mightiest Mongol,” The Marvel Family #81 (March, 1953).]

Susan Barr yelped as the giant soldier suddenly buried her beneath a cascading rain of dirt and sand that he had scooped up from the ground. She sputtered indignantly as she kicked and fought her way to freedom. “OK, that tears it! He owes me a session with Mademoiselle Camille’s!” said Bulletgirl. “He’s ruined my hair!”

She flew closer to the giant, and as her husband followed, she said, “Look around his neck! That’s not tacky costume jewelry. I think he’s wearing the time bomb!”

Bulletman nodded eagerly and said, “Can you distract Mong?”

“You mean go into my patented Fay Wray, only prettier, act?” said Bulletgirl.

Bulletman agreed, and they separated by soaring away in a dazzling series of acrobatic moves. They really needed very little verbal communication, because they had worked so well together for so long that they knew each other as only a loving couple could.

Buletgirl slowed down enough for the angry giant to grab her in one massive hand. She braced herself with both high-heeled boots pressed against the curl of his fingers and prepared to break free should he try to crush her.

“Mong has the beautiful one!” he roared.

“Well, that’s true, but my partner has his good points, too,” said Bulletgirl. She batted her eyelashes at the giant just as Bulletman dived at his throat and made contact between the device that hung from his neck and carried the time bomb within it.

Instantly, Mong the Giant vanished to his proper place in time, and the Bullets found themselves back in the Time Field.

“We did it!” said Bulletman. “If we only had more time, I’d love to have examined the ramifications of one being existing twice in the same era, but the mission comes before my intellectual curiosity.”

Bulletgirl kissed him and said, “We’ll have time for that later — assuming there is a later!”

***

As the original Spy Smasher, Alan Armstrong had known his way around Nazi Germany. However, he certainly didn’t expect to find himself in the rubble and ruins of 1945 Berlin in 1953.

Incredible! he thought. Zotan’s recreated or perhaps even stolen a section of Hitler’s capital city from the end of the war and placed it here in the early 1950s! I can’t imagine all the possibilities of any science that could do that! It is the kind of science fiction my brother Jack and I used to speculate on when we were boys! Alan smiled as he inwardly added, It’s wonderful to see so much of Jack in his son! I think he’d be proud of him!

Spy Smasher started to climb over a pile of bricks from a burned façade when he saw the gleaming time bomb directly in front of him. It can’t be this easy! he thought.

As he stepped forward, carefully looking at the environment around him, he failed to see a remarkable sight. Some of the rubble beneath his feet shifted until it assumed a humanoid form and loomed up menacingly in front of him. The creature looked like a garish, grinning, red-eyed skeleton with a thin layer of bone-white flesh and sinews over its frame and standing at least eighteen feet tall.

“Spy Smasher! While you are not the insipid Minute Man, a victory over you will be of equal pleasure to my masters!” he said in a strange, high-pitched voice. He leaped at the hero, and his legs swung around in a full circle, as if his hips were constructed on a swivel.

Alan gasped as his insulated suit received a sharp impact from the weird figure’s legs. He’s like some freakish toy! thought Spy Smasher as he punched the skull-faced villain in the nose.

The creature’s head rocked backward and then returned to a normal position even as it clawed at Spy Smasher’s face with jagged fingers.

Spy Smasher ducked beneath the gangly attacker’s arms and kicked him three times in rapid succession. He just absorbed the shock! He can’t be human! That’s not a man in a costume! he thought as he narrowly avoided being grabbed by the creature.

“I am Mister Skeleton, as your Americans would say, but in the language of my masters, I am Herr Skelett, the Mord Maschine!” he cried. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Minute Man Meets Mr. Skeleton,” America’s Greatest Comics #1 (1941).]

Spy Smasher rolled forward and managed to pass between the gangly creatures’s spread legs. He jumped to his feet and fired at the huge, capering creature with his sidearm. The gun’s special setting came in handy once more as the skeleton was bathed in a burst of flames from the flare gun feature of the weapon.

Diving past him, Spy Smasher clamped the device he carried against the time bomb. As it shifted into limbo, he was returned to the Time Field.

Once I was certain that inhuman being was actually a Nazi robot of some kind, it made it much simpler for me, he thought. I wouldn’t ignite a normal human like that, but I have no qualms about roasting a mechanical man!

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