by Dan Swanson
“OK, then,” Master Man began, summing up the plan. “I, Red Rocket, and Lady Victory will join the group fighting the robots, while Shiva, Palette, and Donal will join Majique and Don Chaun and search for the aliens — and attempt to cut off the head of this invasion!”
The two teams had joined up in the sky over Roswell, New Mexico, the Shiva team guided by Donal Regan’s mental link with his disparate self, Don Chaun, and Master Man’s team by Tom Atomic’s magnetic tracker, which had locked onto Red Rocket.
“Good luck, all! Let’s go — now!” Lady Victory said, anxious to get to her husband’s side.
The two groups split up and dived toward the ground at different points. Master Man and Shiva weren’t even slowed down by the thirty-foot-thick rock ceilings over the giant, robot-excavated cavern below.
“There!” Donal pointed to the speeding black car, which was headed toward a building and standing out from anything else in this vast cavern. The closer he came to Don Chaun, the better he felt — though having one ‘chaun separated and the rest merged still felt weird. Before the three heroes could reach the car, it screeched to a halt at the door of the building, and Majique and Don Chaun hopped out. When Shiva landed, Donal and Palette hopped from the carrier.
“Reinforcements, just like I promised!” Don Chaun announced with the arrival of the heroes, glancing sideways to see if Majique was impressed. Instead, she seemed somewhat overawed to be in the presence of Shiva. Don didn’t realize it, but Majique was sensing the powerful magical aura that surrounded the Shazam-powered hero.
“OK, let’s check the place out!” Donal said, annoyed. He had summonsed Don Chaun to rejoin, but the ‘chaun had resisted — and then he had tried to split, but was unable to. It seemed that there were going to be two of him involved in this expedition, and he wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.
They smashed through a big double door, charging into the building.
Immediately behind them, a massive panel slid down over the door they had just burst through, and they were blocked from the outside. The door, and the walls of the room they were in, were made of some kind of dull black metal, with no walls. There was a corridor, walled in the same material, extending farther into the building. And charging down that corridor toward them was… Captain Marvel?
None of these heroes had ever personally met Captain Marvel, but there was no mistaking the brilliant red skintight costume trimmed in gold, or the short white cape. Before the stunned heroes could move, Marvel altered course slightly and smashed into Shiva. The titanic collision produced a burst of noise that knocked the other heroes off their feet. By the time they had recovered, Marvel was pummeling Shiva — and Shiva was recovered enough to begin fighting back. The tremendous force of the blows of these two giants was producing stunning results in the small chamber — Majique, Palette, Donal, and Don Chaun scrambled to get out of the room in the corridor, battered as they were by the pressure waves that followed each super-powered punch.
“They must have brainwashed him!” Shiva yelled after his companions. “You go on — I can keep him busy!”
“er’uoY on hctam rof em!” the Big Red Cheese shouted — and Shiva understood. This wasn’t the real Captain Marvel, but a mirror duplicate who spoke everything backwards. Still, the duplicate had all the powers of the original — the same powers that Shiva possessed. He was in for the fight of his life.
As the other four heroes finally made it out of the entrance hall, another panel slammed down. They could still hear the fighting behind them, but the air itself was no longer battering them.
“We’d be better off if we were a little less conspicuous,” Palette whispered. “I can make us match the walls so we’ll be harder to see.”
“I can do better,” Majique sniffed. She finally had a chance to use her own powers, and she wasn’t going to let someone else show her up. She chanted and waved her hands. “Now we’re invisible.”
“I can still see you,” Donal pointed out.
“It would be a pretty poor spell if we couldn’t even see each other, wouldn’t it?” she sniffed again.
How do we know it worked, then? Palette thought, but said nothing as they continued on down the corridor.
Don Chaun ran ahead of the others, giving Donal an advance view of what they were approaching. Don came to a big room filled with equipment, where three of the alien beings sat in front of control panels. At least one was looking right in his direction as he slipped into the room, and there was no reaction that he could see, so the spell was evidently working. He quietly slipped across the room so he could see the controls in front of the aliens. One was watching a view-screen that showed the battle between the robots and the heroes. The second’s screen showed the human slaves, trying to get out of the dome in which Kali had trapped them, and the third showed the fight between Shiva and Niatpac Levram.
Shiva wasn’t faring well in his battle with Niatpac Levram. Growing up as Martin Martine, he had idolized Captain Marvel. So had every kid, of course (except his buddy Carter, who had always wanted to be Bulletman), but for Martin it had been more than just youthful hero worship. Every square inch of his bedroom had been plastered with posters of his hero. He wore a Captain Marvel watch, was never without his Captain Marvel decoder ring, and his most prized possession was a Captain Marvel giant kite, which the Captain himself had autographed. He had often wondered if it had been his childhood devotion to Captain Marvel and his ideas that had convinced Shazam to select him as the Captain’s replacement. And now here he was, going toe-to-toe with the world’s mightiest mortal, his ultimate hero. He was so overawed that he was unable to put up a good fight.
And so the mirror version of Captain Marvel battered him almost unopposed. A left to the stomach doubled him forward to impact an invulnerable knee, driven upward with super-strength, which straightened him up again, and a roundhouse right drove him backward, until he smashed partway the wall. As the mirror-image of his hero stalked toward him, an unstoppable behemoth, Shiva struggled to bring the wisdom of Brahma to bear on this situation.
This wasn’t the Captain Marvel he knew. Wizzo the Wizard had originally conjured this being from the Captain’s mirror-image in a glass window using powerful magic, apparently bringing Niatpac Levram, as he was called, out of a mirror-world and retaining full control over him. Since they had been equally matched, Captain Marvel had been unable to overcome Niatpac Levram with sheer power, so he had only been able to send him back to the world in the mirror by commanding him to leave with Wizzo’s own wand after using a ploy to get it from the wizard. (*) And now, somehow these aliens had found a way to bring him here again. This wasn’t Levram’s world, and presumably the red-clad being knew this.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Captain Marvel Fights Captain Marvel,” Captain Marvel Adventures #139 (December, 1952).]
Shiva quickly turned his attention to himself. Despite the terrific battering he was taking, so far he hadn’t actually been hurt. His own strength and invulnerability were serving him well. He was much bigger than Levram and, he judged, somewhat stronger. And with four arms, he knew some hand-to-hand tricks he doubted Levram would anticipate. He just had to overcome his own reluctance to battle his hero.
Tearing free of the wall with the strength of Shiva, he dodged Levram’s next punch, slipping past him with the speed of Garuda. For the next couple of minutes, Shiva fought mostly defensively and conventionally, blocking Levram’s attacks and convincing himself that yes, he was at least a match for the other-dimensional counterpart of Captain Marvel. He used all four arms, as he didn’t want Levram to become suspicious that he was holding back, but beyond blocking most of Levram’s blows, and throwing some unusual combinations (such as a double-left uppercut aimed at the solar plexus and the chin simultaneously) he didn’t use some of the more esoteric techniques he’d developed in years of sparring with Tom Atomic, Kali, and others.
With his confidence restored, Shiva decided to take control of the fight. He backed away and lowered his guard for an instant. Levram turned, and with the deeps fo Yrucrem, launched another devastating right-handed haymaker at his chin. With his lower left arm, Shiva pushed the punch inward, and grabbed Levram’s wrist with his lower right arm and pulled, then stepped past him and grabbed Levram’s left shoulder with his upper left — and quickly spun the older hero around so Shiva was behind him. This allowed him to step in behind the surprised Niatpac Levram, and he quickly used all four arms to grab the smaller man in a choke-hold.
“niatpaC levraM, siht si ton ruoy emoh, dna I ma ton ruoy ymene!” The wisdom of Brahma made it easy for Shiva to speak the other man’s backwards mode of speaking. “uoY era rednu a lleps — esu eht modsiw fo Nomolos ot eerf flesrouy!” He had hoped this would end the fight quickly, but it didn’t appear to work
“uoY t’nac loof em, nomed!” Levram replied, and tried to stomp down hard on Shiva’s foot, but at that same instant Shiva arched his back, lifting Levram off the ground. What he was going to try now might be dangerous.
“GGSSVB!” he shouted, and a mist of gentle blue rain started to fall into the room, seemingly from the ceiling. With desperate speed, Shiva waved Niatpac Levram through the air, catching every drop of the mystical blue mist on the red-clad being’s body. He had no idea if this would work — after all, the magical effects of his transformation had no effect on Kali, or vice versa — but the blue rain had affected Master Man. If Levram weren’t changed, the fight would go on, and Shiva had a few other tricks, but if Shiva was changed back to Martin Martine, it could be the end of him.
Fortunately, there wasn’t long to wait. Niatpac Levram shuddered in his grasp and started to shrink, and Shiva quickly slapped a hand over his foe’s mouth. It was just in time, as the youngster he was now holding tried to say something.
Shiva used his lower left arm to bar the boy’s arms, and the upper right as a gag, and, working with the other two, was able to tear off some of the metal from the wall. He gently wrapped this around the lower face of his now-powerless captive, and sealed it. Sure now that Niatpac Levram wouldn’t be back quickly, he tore up some more of the wall and bound the youngster’s hands.
“ll’I eb kcab rof uoy yltrohs, dna ll’ew dnif emos yaw ot dnes uoy kcab hguorht a rorrim ot ruoy emoh,” he promised, and battered his way through the door that had sealed him off from the rest of his new team.