by Dan Swanson
The attacking human group responded instantly to the threat of the large wolves.
“Manos, Moreau — stop them!” ordered the leader, a tall, thin woman.
One of the men stepped forward; he was of medium height and weight, and there was nothing distinctive about him other than his thick curly black hair and beard. That and the crackling noises that were coming from near his hands as they changed. He raised one into the path of the lead wolf, and it snapped its jaws shut — and instantly let out a wail of pain, as some of its teeth were broken off. Then the man swung his other hand, now a granite gray color, down on the back of the wolf’s head. Bones crunched, and the wolf collapsed to the ground, where it twitched feebly. The other man threw back his head and literally howled. The sounds were good enough to fool any human listener, and they seemed to be good enough for the remaining wolves, who came to a skidding halt, listened for a second, then turned and ran.
The leader pointed at another member of her group. “Sticky, go help Massy hold down the red one.” She pointed to where Red Rocket struggled to move, pinned to the ground by a small woman who had her arms and legs locked around the hero. Struggle though he did, she remained motionless and immovable. Sticky rushed up to the downed hero and started squirting some kind of gooey gunk all over him — stuff that seemingly oozed from his skin.
“RFI, you take a rest.” Deviser knew that using his radio and radar-jamming powers tired him tremendously, and if reinforcements showed up for the other side, they might need him again. “Fuse, keep that car offline; we don’t know what other kinds of weapons are in it.” Fuse could stop the flow of electricity in limited areas. “Legs, Kicker, Beach Ball, you take the guy in the trenchcoat!”
A large woman kicked a small, round man very hard, and he shot away like a cannonball, and bounced off of Oxide’s chest, almost before he could react. Each time the small man bounced, he seemed to gain energy. While Oxide was falling, another woman raised her leg from the ground, and as it rapidly stretched, her foot clipped him on the chin, causing him to spin as he fell. Meanwhile, moving like a world champion gymnast on a tumbling run, Don Chaun had launched himself at Deviser.
A portly elderly gentleman who looked like a college professor stepped between them, and just before Don could impact his new target, he struck some kind of powerful repulsive force that threw him strongly backward. “Like poles repel,” chuckled the older man, who called himself Chick Magnet.
Majique had given up trying to rise — every time she tried to move, the villain named Slick Rick turned one surface or another frictionless, and she would slip and fall again. She was frustrated, embarrassed, and extremely angry. She pointed her finger and repeated one of the two spells she actually knew — and he was battered by dozens of invisible fists. The spell drew power from her anger, and left her drained, but Slick Rick wouldn’t be bothering anyone for a while.
Lily Lovelace and the smaller woman had already raced past the battle to find cover behind the Jaguar. The smaller heroine — Miss Music, who was indeed still alive — then turned back to the battle and prepared to assist. Though she could only directly create audible sounds, she had a trick for creating ultra-high-frequency sounds. By simultaneously projecting several audible sounds with just the right difference in frequency, she was able to generate am ultrasonic beat frequency, and could achieve various effects with this ultrasonic frequency, such as shattering metal handcuffs. Properly tuned, she could even knock a person out, though the tuning was different for each person.
Meanwhile, Lily’s attention had been grabbed by something. She didn’t know why, but she felt compelled to look into the car — and, as had already been seen, her eye was immediately drawn to the reporter’s notebook on the driver’s side. After a moment of frustration, she had begun writing quickly in it using the pencil in the spring binding.
Now all she needed was to get Miss Music’s attention. Ducking out from the protection of the Jaguar, Lily ran over to the short heroine and grabbed her by the arm. The younger heroine shook her off, pointing at the fight. Lily looked up and saw one of the enemy humans fall over, thanks to the girl’s power. She shook Miss Music again, harder this time, and thrust the notebook in front of her face. On it was a short message:
I need to be able to say one word! Help me say “RAKASHA”!!!
Miss Music was busy, but Lily was practically frantic. Tammi Paige realized that it would be easier to do what Lily wanted, and then she could get back to the fight. She used her powers to talk. “OK, on three. One… two… three!” Lily mouthed her magic word, and Miss Music projected the word as if Lily had said it — and it worked.
To Miss Music’s great astonishment, a circle of greasy yellow flames burst from the ground beneath Lily’s feet, enveloping her. And then the flames faded, leaving a cylinder of thick, greasy black smoke — and Kali exploded out of the smoke as if someone had left a cannon-shell in a fire. She didn’t even glance at the battle; she already had a plan.
Flying to the nearest saucer, Kali started to rip it apart. She cut away part of the upper hull, then tore loose anything that had been attached, until she had a giant bowl. She then tossed it into the air and moved at super-speed throughout the battlefield, picking up the enemy combatants and piling them all in one place. She finished and moved out of the way, and the giant bowl came down over the piled-up enemy team. The edges dug deeply into the soil, and the bad guys were trapped.
Kali sat down heavily where she was and didn’t move. After she’d quickly recovered from the shock of Lily’s transformation, Miss Music had used the diversion to blast Red Rocket clear of the sticky stuff that had been holding him down, and he approached the motionless heroine.
“Kali, I presume?” he said ironically, for who else could it be? “Thanks for ending the fight!” She still didn’t move. “What’s the matter?”
She turned toward him. “I’m blind,” replied Kali in a small, toneless voice. He was stunned to see two small, absolutely black balls where her eyes should have been. “You should see about sealing the holes in the top of the cover I just made before they start getting out,” she said, then she ran down.
Red Rocket flew to the scrapped saucer and used his gravity-controller to pick up some scraps of sheet metal, flew them to the trap, and used his plasma-torch to weld shut some of the holes. Kali had made them so that the air trapped inside the shell when it had crashed down was able to escape to try to prevent injury to the enemy humans. Even with the holes, the instant increase in air pressure had knocked most of them out.
When he returned, Majique was inspecting Kali’s eyes. “No trace of magic,” she reported.
Rocket used the vision-magnification powers of his goggles, and his various sensors, to test for scientific causes. “It seems to be a local phenomenon, rather than a projection from somewhere else,” he reported. “As far as I can tell, your eyeballs have been turned black. There isn’t any detectable signal keeping them that way. I would say that the effect will wear off fairly soon — sooner, if we could get whoever did it to undo it.”
“But we don’t know who did it!” Majique protested.
“Someone in the trap!” Kali yelled, punching a hole in the shell, and then yelling through it. “Whoever did this to me had better undo it!” She banged on the shell with her fist, taking care not to break it. The noise outside was terrible; the heroes could hardly imagine what it was like inside the shell.
At that instant, a bullet glanced off the shell. Beam weapons started digging up the ground around the heroes, and falling shells began exploding nearby as well.
Don Chaun had climbed to the top of the shell to get a better idea of where they were. “Holy $#!*!” He yelled back to his companions. “We’re surrounded by robots! And they dinna look friendly!”
Somewhat surprisingly, the smallest hero present took charge. Don Chaun had already known quite a bit about Kali and Red Rocket, and he had been closely observing the other heroes during the current battle.
“What else can yon car do besides firing missiles?” he asked Oxide.
“All the standard spy stuff — smoke screen, oil slick, ejection seat, concealed machine guns — whatever my team could put in it, it’s got! One more missile, too,” Oxide boasted proudly.
Don turned to Majique. “Think ye kin handle it?”
“You bet!” she answered enthusiastically. She had secretly been longing to drive that powerful Jaguar since the moment she saw it. She wouldn’t trade her Corvette for anything, but this car was in a class by itself.
Before Oxide could object, the ‘chaun was giving orders. “Oxide, show her how ta release th’ oil slick. Majique, cut ’em off!” He swept his arm in a half-circle, indicating where she should drive. “Sorry, I dinna ken yer name!” he pointed at Miss Music. “Kali can’t see. We need you to guide ‘er. Kali, just go where yon bonnie lass tells ye to. Rocket and Oxide, wipe ’em out — and watch each other’s backs!”
“There’s far too many of them for us to fight ’em all off!” Red Rocket observed. “Maybe we should figure out some way to escape instead.”
“Gotcha covered, lad! Help be on th’ way!” He saw disbelieving faces around him. “Kinna explain right now. Trust me.” They didn’t have much choice, with what looked like thousands of robots swarming toward them.
“You’d better not wreck it!” Colt grumbled to Val as he pointed out the controls. “Mel and Bruno will kill me!”
Without a response, Val Coppersmith just hopped into the car and stomped on the gas. The black Jaguar tore out, tires smoking and squealing, and Oxide winced, even though that was his favorite method of departure as well. I’d almost rather face these robots than Bruno — and especially Mel! he thought ruefully.
Moving at high speed, Val swept along the face of the wave of attacking robots, and sprayed oil from the car into their path. She completed nearly a half-circle between the hordes and her allies before the oil ran out. Spinning the wheel and jamming on the brakes, she slid to a halt facing back the way she came. Oxide was alternately horrified and impressed with her skill. She had added her own twist to the plan. She grabbed the joystick, aimed, and fired the last remaining missile, and the oil slick flashed into flames as the missile exploded.
Protected from any attack in that direction by the roaring fire, the rest of the heroes turned their attention to the other robots. Miss Music watched the approaching hordes closely and projected words directly into Kali’s ears, and the big heroine smashed through the ranks of the enemy, blindly but not randomly, and to devastating effect. Red Rocket used his distance weapons, the plasma-torch and a powerful microwave beamer that caused robots to stumble and fall. And as Oxide swept the wave of oncoming robots with his oxidation gun, the front rank slowed and faltered as their joints stopped working, and the robots pressing forward behind them knocked their stationary allies to the ground, making further advances difficult. Still, the seemingly unlimited robot charge surged forward.
Oxide spared a look around, and realized that the Jaguar wasn’t nearby any longer. Majique was heading at high speed for the largest building in this vast cavern.
To speed up the flight from Chicago to New Mexico, Tom Atomic convinced Lady Victory to use a modified gravity controller built into a belt rather than a costume’s helmet. She normally got along fine without the ability to fly, but she wanted to reach her captured husband as quickly as possible. And besides, there was no dignified way for one of her two companions to carry her for thousands of miles.
During the flight, Tomas Thomas was quick to bring Master Man up to date on recent improvements he had made to the abilities built into his costume. For a short time after the Marvel Family had gone missing in 1953, Tomas had thought he was the strongest man on Earth, and had let it go to his head; ever since Master Man had revealed himself, though, Tomas kept making improvements to his powers that he could boast about whenever he encountered the older hero.
“Wrist-mounted TV transceiver I can use to communicate with my partners. Upgraded the communications gear in my helmet so I can tap into the phone system from wherever I happen to be, so people with my secret number can call me anytime, anywhere. Sometimes people in trouble can’t get to a radio.”
“Not bad,” admitted the marvel of the world. “There have been times when I–”
Tomas interrupted, too excited to realize what he had just done. “The latest is a position location device that will allow me to know exactly where I am, anywhere in the solar system by referencing the sun and some of the nearby stars! So I’ll be able to get home even if I get lost in space!”
“What about air and supplies?” Master Man asked dryly. Tomas reminded him of Shiva — both younger heroes were so competitive, boasting about their powers. “It could be a long trip home from ‘anywhere’!”
Tomas’ response was much quieter than his earlier boisterous tone. “Umm… I’m working on those now.”
Lady Victory winked at Master Man, though Tom Atomic couldn’t see it. Even his best friends were sometimes overwhelmed by his enthusiasm.