by Dan Swanson
Still invisible, Don Chaun and his larger self Donal Regan, along with Palette and Majique, watched the alien beings viewing flickering scenes on their monitors. Some of them were amazed to see that the four of them could be seen on the monitor still standing outside the sealed room where Shiva was battling Niatpac Levram — until they realized that this was a projection created by Palette, who was starting to look a little strained, as the wall where she was projecting the illusion was so far away. Don Chaun got her attention with a hand signal, pointed at the screen showing the illusions. He held up three fingers for all to see, then made a cutting motion with the other hand. The heroes moved into position, and the three fingers counted down: three… two… one… go.
On the display, the four illusory heroes disappeared, and the three aliens became agitated. Don gave the signal, and the real heroes attacked, becoming visible as Majique lost her concentration on the invisibility spell. Even at only three-quarters of his original size, Donal was still much larger than the alien he attacked, and his charge knocked the alien from its chair. The small, scrawny being fell to the floor, and before it could move, Donal kicked at its head. However, an invisible force-field protected the alien, and Donal’s foot instead slammed into the field several inches from the gray body. The field stretched and spread out the force of impact; to Donal it felt as if he had just kicked a sixty-pound sofa cushion. The alien started rolling away, so Donal rushed forward, picked up the field-encased alien, and ran as hard as he could for a wall. With the field to cushion the impact, it felt to him like a rugby collision, something he was quite familiar with. The field protected the alien as well, but it was frail, and the sudden jarring stop bounced it around inside the force-field like a pinball. The little being slumped unconscious.
The second alien was horrified when the monitor screen exploded with light so bright that he was instantly blinded. He staggered to his feet, and Don Chaun rushed in to batter him with punches and kicks. The alien was only a little taller than the ‘chaun, and probably weighed a little less. It was a new experience for Don Chaun, fighting someone his own size, and he was quite enjoying it. Even though the force-field around the alien protected him, between his blindness and the constant battering against his shield, he was unable to find his balance, and he continued to stagger backward. Palette slipped behind him and got down on her hands and knees, and when he backed into her, he fell over.
Don Chaun and Palette managed to roll the alien up against his chair, and, using a coil of rope the ‘chaun had been carrying since this morning in Phoenix, they bound him, force-field and all, to the chair’s support pillar. If the gray humanoid dropped the field, it would be able to work itself free, but surely they would notice before that.
Majique saw just enough of her teammates’ battles to realize that this alien was protected by something invisible, but they seemed pretty helpless otherwise. She smile nastily to herself; this was going to be fun. She unwrapped her sash from her waist and held it in her left hand, then pulled her dagger from the leg sheath and attacked. The sash was weighted, and she used it like a lash, keeping the alien off-balance by cracking at its face and arms, and then slashing with the dagger when he was open. She knew she couldn’t hurt him, so she was using the opportunity for a little practice, though not much when she quickly realized that her teammates were watching her.
“So, I’ve kept him busy — why don’t you tie him up?” she snapped at Donal.
“Boy, I don’t ever want you mad at me!” he responded admiringly.
“I saw her first!” shouted Don Chaun, startling all of them. The two versions of Donal glared at each other for a moment, then broke out into laughter.
Val Coppersmith was privately a little stunned. She’d learned to fight to scare off the boys who thought that a Gypsy girl was automatically a tramp; she’d never figured being a knife-fighter would make her more attractive to anyone. She looked at the two, identical except for size, with a new interest.
There was a loud explosion — a sonic boom, Palette realized — as Shiva appeared in the room. He took in the scene instantly, applied the wisdom of Brahma, and instantly smashed the control panels into smithereens. The force-fields surrounding the three aliens blinked out of existence.
Master Man, Tom Atomic, and Lady Victory flashed down from the ceiling of the giant, alien-excavated cavern outside of Roswell, New Mexico, and landed in the midst of the heroes who were encircled by attacking alien robots.
“Good to see you guys!” Red Rocket said, greeting his partners and Master Man. “We don’t have time for introductions, but we could sure use your help!”
“Master Man, robot fighter — that’s me!” quipped the wonder of the world as he flashed into action. Even though they were engaged in battle, Tom Atomic made a mental note of the concept — he’d find some way to work it into his role-playing game rules.
With two of the three most powerful beings in the world in this fight (despite Kali’s blindness), along with Tom Atomic (who thought he was probably fourth on the list and well below the top three in power level), the tide of battle soon turned. And then the battle abruptly ended altogether when Shiva, in the control room, destroyed the communications devices that had been giving the robot army its orders.
The super-powered humans in the dome that Kali had created had lost both their powers and their compulsion to attack the heroes at the moment the machine that activated and controlled them stopped working. Kali’s vision was also restored.
The woman who had called herself Deviser began explaining things. “The aliens have a machine that they can use to give super-powers to some humans. It can either activate minor powers, when used alone, or duplicate powers, if it has a ‘template.’ And it allows them to control the person with the powers. They kept trying it out on people they’d captured, hoping that one of us would have a major power that they could then duplicate, but none of us did. Finally, they decided to capture one or more of you super-heroes and duplicate your powers.”
“So you’re not super any longer?” a skeptical Oxide asked the captured humans.
They laughed. “We were hardly ‘super’ to begin with,” she replied. “Making ice cubes, bouncing, causing radio static — hardly what you think of as super-powers.”
Thinking of the trouble they’d had, Red Rocket replied ruefully, “You used them pretty effectively. Grounded me pretty good!”
“That was my power — getting the most effective use of everyone else’s powers,” Deviser explained.
“So how many of there were you, anyway, and what were your powers? I only got here in time to fight the robots.” Lady Victory was curious. Maybe her crime-fighting partner, Tom Atomic, could use these powers as part of his new role-playing game, Super-You! As Bonnie Drake, she had been his secretary at the detective firm, and although she was now a partner and a detective in her own right, she had learned to memorize details in the course of an investigation.
As the various formerly super-powered beings introduced themselves and explained the abilities they’d had, Bonnie began mentally compiling the list so she could type it all out later.
- Deviser — a woman who was a tactical genius at coordinating a group of super-powered beings;
- Damien — a man able to prophesy the aliens’ future actions;
- Minimirage — a man able to create a single, very small illusion (about the size of a quarter) and then make many copies of that small illusion in a small volume of space about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle;
- RFI — a man able to project static that interferes with AM radio and radar;
- Legs — a woman whose legs could grow to incredible length (but only her legs);
- Kicker — a woman who had super-strength in one leg only;
- Beach Ball — a boy who could bounce off of things, picking up kinetic energy as he bounced;
- Massy — a girl who could control her own weight, from virtually zero up through about five tons;
- Fuse — a man who could stop electric current in a limited area;
- Slick Rick — a man who could create small, friction-less patches on flat surfaces;
- Strike — a woman who could roll herself into a ball shape, and then roll at high speeds;
- Jambalaya — a man who could jumble the words spoken by others;
- Tamarin — a very attractive girl with a prehensile tail;
- Ferrite — a man who could exert magnetic attraction on iron, steel, and nickel equivalent to his own strength;
- Cold Spot — a girl who could freeze small volumes of water almost instantly, about one ice cube’s worth at a time;
- Manos — a man who could convert his hands into stone;
- Moreau — a man who could speak to animals in their own tongues;
- Sticky — a man who could ooze glue from his pores;
- Chick Magnet — a handsome older man with graying temples and glasses, whose body could exert a force that pulled females toward him while pushing other males away;
- Black Ball — a woman who could create ping-pong-ball-sized spheres of total blackness.
The more powerful heroes, Kali, Master Man, Tom Atomic, and Red Rocket, were somewhat amused by this list, but Oxide (who carried a gun that could alter the oxidation process), Miss Music (who was able to project her voice and recreate any sound she had ever heard), and Lady Victory (who carried an invulnerable shield) were pretty quiet; their powers were more akin to those on the list than to the powers of their teammates.
In the control room, Shiva, Majique, Palette, and Donal Regan and Don Chaun were interrogating the aliens. It turned out that the aliens were clones with a shared consciousness, and they and their species had recently — in the cosmic scheme of things — had a run of terrible luck.
The radiation from their sun had slowly grown fatal to all life, as the x-ray portion of the spectrum had become gradually more intense.
Their first plan, to send a robotic spaceship to another planet carrying a star gate through which they could escape, had failed when the robot had landed near Atlantis, and the star gate had sunken beneath the ocean, where it would lay until Master Man later recovered it and stashed it in his trophy hall deep beneath Mount Everest.
Their second plan, reducing most of the population to memories in a super-computer, then sending it to another planet in a second robotic spaceship, had gone awry as the robots and other mechanisms on the ship had started to fail, forcing the computer to restore one alien that cloned itself and barely managed to keep the ship from being destroyed when it crashed on Earth. There had been four clones who shared a consciousness; one had been killed in St. Louis, leaving only the three alive.
The aliens had left robots on their homeworld, and those robots had been manufacturing ever since. The plan had been to find the star gate, which would give the aliens on Earth instant access to thousands of years of robotic output on the home planet, including an army of powerful robots specifically designed for battle. Unfortunately, all these robots had materialized in Master Man’s trophy hall.
The clones had used the damaged machinery on the ship after the crash to manufacture fighting robots to conqueror the Earth. But their machinery would only build robots based on preexisting templates. The only templates they had were for labor robots whose use was for working in factories, gardening, forestry, mining, and the like, so they had modified the templates. But the clones weren’t military scientists.
And, of course, their plan to capture super-heroes and replicate their powers in slaves had also failed.
The only good thing was that the memory bank containing all the other survivors of their species was still intact.
“Why didn’t you just ask for help?” Shiva asked one of the clones.
“As we approached your planet, we observed that your species is always at war. The multi-part conflict you call World War I and World War II — as if the two episodes were somehow part of separate conflicts — the Korean War, the Vietnam War. And you are a paranoid, militant species, as shown by the McCarthy era and the Cold War. We were sure you would have responded by destroying us — and as the last of our species, that was a risk we couldn’t take.”
“There’s more than a little truth in what they say,” said Oxide, sadly. “I’ve experienced some of that paranoid militancy myself.” He thought of bad experiences he’d had with blatant racial discrimination throughout his life. “But not all humans are like that!”
“With our diminished resources and damaged ship, we couldn’t take any chances,” the aliens insisted. Miss Music thought they might be a bit crazy, though she couldn’t blame them after their terrible experiences. “All we really want is an empty world where we can settle — and restore our people!”
“I think I can help with that,” said Master Man, who had been thinking quickly. “I can take your ship with me to my sanctum, where you can use my instruments or your own to find a suitable world. And then I’m sure Shazam can transport you there.”
That was an offer even a trio of insane aliens couldn’t refuse.
The entire group of heroes gathered together to decide how to clean up the loose ends. There were several joyous reunions — Shiva and Kali, Lady Victory and Red Rocket, and Palette and Miss Music. Even Donal and Don Chaun managed to reunite after some initial reluctance. And, after using a magic spell to send Niatpac Levram back to his mirror-world, Majique finally made the suggestion that the rest were thinking about.
“You know, we all of us work for the same thing on our own. But sometimes there are menaces that are too powerful for any one of us. None of us could have defeated this alien menace alone, but teamwork allowed us to prevail.”
“Are you suggesting that we should work together in the future?” Palette asked her.
“What a great idea!” Miss Music agreed enthusiastically. “Why don’t we band together — form a club or society of our own?”
“Hmm… a league o’ super-heroes…” Quadrechaun mused thoughtfully. “Stronger together’n we’d ever be apart.”
“Our purpose will be to uphold justice against whatever danger threatens it!” Oxide added enthusiastically.
“It sounds good to me,” said Master Man. “Plus, it will be great to have some friends — it gets awfully lonely sitting up on Mount Everest day and night!”
“I propose that we call ourselves…” Tom Atomic began, pausing to build up the suspense, “…the Super Squad!”
After that, it was all over but the cleanup.