by Dan Swanson
As Shiva vanished from Shazam’s sanctum, he reappeared elsewhere, but where?
The first thing he noticed was that a tremendous battle was going on. There were literally hundreds of human-sized robots in a large group, like a swarm of bees, virtually crushing those in front of them in an attempt to reach the combat at the center of the mass. From the center, Shiva could see flashing rays, flames and smoke, and pieces of robots flying through the air, accompanied by explosions, shrieking, tearing noises, and other incredibly loud, chaotic sounds, so incredibly loud that it even hurt his invulnerable ears. He noticed that the robots nearest the center were actually climbing over piles of dismembered robot bodies, and a swarm of flying robots were circling, blasting rays, dropping bombs, and firing sonic attacks at whatever was at the center of the crater of destroyed robots. He had a good idea that he would find Master Man there.
At high speed Shiva flew to the center, smashing a few robots himself, and as he got closer, Master Man — the so-called wonder of the world — flew up out of the deep crater of destroyed robots to attack the fliers. As he flew, he was battered by all manner of beams — lasers and heat-rays, tractor beams, and things Shiva had no name for — and projectiles exploded as they struck him, while he could hear sonic weapons being fired as well. Several fliers attacked him physically, some with fists and kicks, and others with talons. How could any single being survive such a deadly bombardment of destruction as that which was being rained on Master Man? And yet battle-robots were being torn to shreds, some at the hands of Master Man, and some by the very weapons of their fellows. But even as Shiva watched, he could see that Master Man’s movements were slowing, and the battering was starting to take a toll.
Shiva tore apart several of the flying robots to reach the side of the struggling hero. He was struck by how small this man was, and how slender — barely bigger than Martin himself had been when he received his powers seven years ago, and much closer to the size of Captain Marvel Junior than Captain Marvel himself.
Bursting into Master Man’s range of vision, Shiva was stunned when the embattled wonder of the world wasn’t pleased to see him.
“Shiva?! Who invited you?” Master Man shifted his body angle slightly, and a laser reflected off his chest and blasted one of the robotic flock, causing it to explode, which knocked three other fliers from the air.
“Shazam sent me. He thought you might help me.” A very large projectile exploded against Shiva’s chest, which knocked him into a sonic beam, and the combination momentarily stunned him; he fell toward the swarming robots on the ground.
Master Man slapped aside the arm of the nearest robot, and the heat-ray it fired melted a sonic projector on its fellow, unbalancing it so that it wobbled into the path of the next projectile flying toward Shiva. Master Man flashed downward and caught Shiva by one arm, then whirled him around at high speed, smashing the nearby robots with his invulnerable body.
“In case it escaped your notice,” Master Man started sarcastically, “I’m kind of busy right now — and I don’t have time to be continually rescuing some novice!” He released Shiva, and as the four-armed hero flew through the air at super-speed, smashing battle-robots as he tumbled through the air, Master Man yelled after him, “Watch and learn, youngster!” He turned back to the fight.
Shiva quickly recovered, and he hovered in midair as he decided what to do. Master Man was clearly on the point of exhaustion, but Shiva had never been treated so rudely before except by villains, and he decided he’d let the other man stew in his own juices for a while, before coming to his rescue.
To his surprise, he actually did learn something. The total power of all the robots clearly greatly surpassed that of Master Man, and yet, even as nearly exhausted as the other hero seemed, he still managed to destroy hundreds of the robotic war machines. He rarely exerted his powers directly, only tearing the robots apart by hand and foot when they managed to close with him. Instead, he used their own powers against them, much as Shiva had already observed. He would draw the fire of several robots encircling him, and then flash away at super-speed, and they would blast each other. He often grabbed one robot and used it as a shield from the attacks of its fellows, destroying that robot in the process. Some attacks, such as lasers and other light-speed beams, rays, and bolts, he couldn’t dodge, so he contorted his body to cause them to bounce off and hit other robots. He would let a force-beam push him toward a group of his foes, adding his own power to the push, or add his speed to the pull of a tractor beam, smashing into a group of robots and scattering them with explosive force.
Still, no being, even with invulnerability granted by the power of Shazam, could exist in the middle of that incredible battle and remain uninjured. Even the glancing blows delivered a payload of agony, and as he tired and slowed, more and more often he was unable to avoid direct hits. One laser, one heat ray, one projectile, he barely noticed. A dozen he could shrug off like rain. But literally hundreds and hundreds of hits were taking their toll. His blue and red costume was torn and tattered, and there were bruises on his exposed skin; he was also moving as if he had at least one broken rib.
As far as Shiva could see, there were still as many active robots as there had been when he arrived, and the number of disabled robots was probably three or four times more than that. Where were they coming from? He looked around, really looking for the first time since he’d arrived, and was stunned at what he saw.
Shiva seemed to be on a flat, level surface that extended into gloominess in every direction around him, and he was sure he could see for at least a mile in any direction, including straight up, but he didn’t think he was outside. The surface itself was polished granite, as if carved from living rock and polished to the smoothness of a mirror. It was covered with objects, statues, vehicles, and animals, seemingly at random, and then suddenly the wisdom of Brahma found an analogy — he was in an immense museum.
Everywhere he looked there were hundreds of exhibits apparently grouped in loose collections. Far to his left, he could see a collection of ocean-going ships, including one he recognized as the Lusitania, plus sailing ships of several vintages, and in the area around him were statues and models of giant animals — at least, he thought they were models. The tyrannosaurus rex looked so real that Shiva almost prepared himself for a battle, but it wasn’t moving. There were other dinosaurs around, including several he didn’t recognize, as well as giant mammals like a woolly mammoth and a giant sloth, and giant sea creatures like a whale, a whale shark, and what appeared to be the Loch Ness Monster. Far to his right, he saw a whole fleet of airplanes, biplanes, a Ford Trimotor, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and many others, but only one of each model. As far as he could see, in every direction, were exhibits such as these.
It was what was nearby that was the most stunning, however. On a dais was a giant metal ring at least two stories tall. The open area in the center of the ring glowed a silvery blue and was covered with ripples. And out of the ring, stepping through the glittering blue glow in a steady stream, poured more battle-robots.
Well, that snooty Master Man was going to get some help, whether he wanted it or not. Shiva launched himself at the ring, diving down on top of it, and smashed it into many pieces. The blue glow vanished. Immediately, the last bunch of battle-robots that had just appeared out of the ring turned and began attacking Shiva.
Master Man had seen the destruction of the ring, and he was enraged. “That was the only one of its kind on the entire planet!” he screamed. Grabbing two robots, one in each hand, he started whirling around at super-speed, then released them one at a time, and they flew through the air and shattered on Shiva’s broad, invulnerable chest.
“I figured that Master Man was more valuable than whatever that was,” Shiva responded angrily. Extending all four arms, he flashed into super-speed, and weaved through the fliers, catching one, then another, until he was pushing several of them in front of him, pinned against him by his speed. He changed his direction slightly and yelled, “Heads up!”
Master Man barely had time to brace himself before a veritable freight train of robots smashed into his chest at high speed. But his invulnerability was up to the task, and the robots caught between the two titans were literally vaporized by the terrific heat of compression. Even with a second to brace himself, Master Man was knocked backward, and he destroyed several more robots as he slammed into the ones behind him. He grabbed the nearest robot by a leg and slashed forward, swinging it like an axe at Shiva, who slammed to the floor, destroying even more robots with his impact. Of course, the hapless robot that Master Man chose to use as an axe was shattered into molecular vapor on impact.
Shiva grabbed several robots and squished them with all four arms, using his super-strength to compress them, and adding several more to the ultra-dense cannonball he was creating. Finally, he threw it with all his strength at Master Man, and it completely destroyed the several battle-robots that were unfortunate enough to get in the way. The ball hit Master Man in the stomach, and he once again flew backward, destroying more robots. He reached out and grabbed a robot, then threw it as hard as he could, and Shiva dodged — then had to dodge again and again, but he failed to dodge the next robot, which shattered against him.
Turning around to look for more ammunition, Shiva was stunned to realize that there weren’t any more battle-robots left intact. Master Man was looking for more weapons as well, and he realized the same thing. The two heroes turned to each other, seemingly ready to continue their battle hand-to-hand — then burst out laughing.
Master Man laughed heartily for a second or two, and then the heat of battle and his adrenaline deserted him, and his laugh turned to a painful cough, and he slumped to the ground. Shiva immediately stopped laughing, and he tried to rush toward his erstwhile foe and ally, but as he stepped forward, he realized his ankle was severely damaged, and he screamed in agony as he collapsed to the floor. In the heat of his anger, he hadn’t realized the damage the robots’ weapons had been doing to him, but now he felt every ray, shell, beam, and bolt. Shiva had felt pain before, but never bruises or broken bones. He screamed again when he tried to get back to his feet, then summoned the courage of Svargapati, and crawled over to the unmoving form of Master Man.
He was relieved to realize that the wonder of the world was still breathing, and Master Man awakened as Shiva tried to draw him into a sitting position. The slight hero smiled wanly.
“Not bad for a… novice.”
Shiva had reached the end of his resources. He tried to smile back, ignoring the pain for the moment.
“You did pretty well, too… runt.”
His body twitched as tortured muscles spasmed, and he twisted from pain, then passed out, propped up back-to-back with the now-unconscious Master Man.
Sometime later, Shiva was awakened by the weak voice of Master Man calling to him.
“Shiva! Wake up!” Actually, it wasn’t the nearly inaudible voice that woke him, it was the painful, coughing spasm that followed, though he knew there wasn’t anything he could do to help.
“I’m here…” he barely whispered.
Master Man pulled all his courage and remaining willpower together and spoke. “There’s a trick… I saw… Marvels use. May work for… you.” He gasped as a new spasm struck him, then continued. “Say your word…”
Without knowing why, Shiva complied. It was all he could do to barely whisper, “BVSSGG.”
But as it was a magic word, just whispering it was enough to trigger the transformation.
A mist of gently glowing blue raindrops rose from the floor and washed over Shiva, and when the mist cleared, there sat the young man named Martin Martine, as healthy as he had ever been.
“That’s some trick!” he said, starting to thank the other hero, but Master Man wasn’t finished.
“Say it… again!”
“Hey, I’m healthy now. I’ll find some way to help you as Martin.”
“Say your word!” Master Man commanded, and this time his anger at Martin for not doing as he was told added strength to the command. Reasoning that he could always change back again, Martin once again said the word.
This time he said it with much more strength, and not a little fear that he would be returning to the agony he had just escaped.
Once again the gently glowing blue mist rained from the ground, and Martin was transformed back to Shiva — only now he was no longer injured. He turned to Master Man.
“Why don’t you say your word?” he demanded. “Shazam told me he gave you your powers.”
“Not… like you…” the wounded hero gasped. “No… magic word… maybe Shazam… can help if… I live long… enough.”
Shiva was thinking fast, pushing the wisdom of Brahma to its limits. The magic in the upfalling blue rain was a gift from Shazam, and it had cured him; since Master Man also got his powers from Shazam, perhaps the blue rain could help him, too. He hovered over the sorely wounded hero, making sure that, if this didn’t work, he would make sure to miss falling right onto him, and once again spoke his word.
Once more the blue mist rained upward from the ground, this time washing over Master Man while Shiva himself moved out of its way to avoid transforming back into Martin. Just as Shiva had hoped, it also magically curing Master Man.
Relieved to have escaped the terrible pain, the two mighty heroes stood face to face, and Master Man stuck out his hand. “Thanks for the help in vanquishing those aliens. I was wrong about you! You said you needed help, too — what can I do for you?”
After shaking hands, Shiva told him the whole story about the alien attack on New York, and the capture of Kali.