by Dan Swanson
Shiva called the Super Squad meeting to order. All members except Kali were present: Shiva, Master Man, Tom Atomic, Lady Victory, Red Rocket, Quadrechaun, Majique, Palette, Miss Music, and Oxide.
“OK, let’s do the final debrief on the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly. Tomas, why don’t you run down what you know about them?”
Tom Atomic, alias Tomas Thomas, stood up and addressed the rest of the team. “There is a copy of my report for each of you, but here’s a summary.” He turned down the lights and turned on the slide projector, moving to each relevant slide as he spoke.
“Our resident mage, Majique, was unfortunately unavailable during this case, as she was involved in an extra-dimensional Halloween meditation ritual at Stonehenge.” A new slide. “However, she has since investigated the likely cause of all this mess. The golden goblets–” A new slide. “–used in the toast at the Justine Literary Association Halloween bash–” A new slide. “–are indeed Atlantean relics.” A new slide. “They still retain traces of hostile magic. It seems that they were booby-trapped, and what set off the trap was the combination of filling them with wine and then raising them in a toast. Pretty subtle trap, and apparently the intended targets escaped. We’ll probably never know who set it or who was supposed to be caught.
“The released magic gave the people caught in the trap tremendous powers and warped their personalities.” A new slide. “I don’t know exactly why it chose the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly characters–” A new slide. “–from my SuperYou game–” A new slide. “–but I do know that the entire Justine Literary Association were avid players; perhaps the trap spell pulled the images from their minds.” He turned on the lights.
Majique spoke up. “That certainly seems like the most likely explanation. I’ve been trying to reconstruct the spell, but there is so little of it left, I haven’t had any luck so far. It is very complex and powerful magick. The affected individuals all returned to normal when their costumes were removed, or, more specifically, particular items that were parts of their costumes. For example, the Ghast’s cape and cowl, Adamant’s belt, et cetera. Each of these items retains an aura of powerful magic.” She then paused, as if reluctant to continue.
Shiva spoke up before she could. “I’ve ordered Majique not to investigate further. I don’t believe it is safe; she feels that not investigating could be even more dangerous. We have tried to destroy these now-magical items and failed, so I’ve come up with another plan to dispose of them. We need to be sure they never again fall into human hands!”
Majique tried to argue her case one more time. “We need to know more. Why is the aura around the cape and cowl so different from the rest? Will the magic decay over time? Can it be released again? Could we harness that power for our own use?”
That was the root of it. Majique was the most powerful good mage in the world today, but she was woefully weak in comparison to some of her vanished counterparts such as Ibis the Invincible, and she was always searching for new sources of power. She was always looking for the easy answer, some of her colleagues felt, rather than improving her abilities through study, practice, and hard work. If Ibis had been around, she’d be back on the second team, and everyone knew it.
Shiva had already dealt with Majique on this issue several times, and didn’t care for further discussion, especially in public. He turned to the Super Squad physician. “Dr. Donovan, the medical update please.”
The bald doctor was not a normal attendee to these meetings, but the Super Squad didn’t normally get this beaten out of shape, either. He stood and addressed the team.
“Tomas is still on medical reserve for another week, regardless of how fast he heals and how well he insists he is. Kali must have withstood a pretty powerful mental attack, and I’ve forbidden her to use her magic word for a while. Everyone else gets a clean bill of health.” He changed the subject to the Jailbirds and Legbreakers Assembly.
“When we removed their costumes, the JLA reverted to normal, all injuries completely healed, and no memories at all of the events they participated in while they were transformed. They were a little bewildered to find themselves in Super Squad custody. I think they’ll all be OK, but some of them seem a little hesitant about going back to their lives. They want some assurance it won’t happen again, which we can’t give them, unfortunately. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them develop stress-related trauma somewhere down the line.”
Dr. Donovan sat down again, looking dissatisfied. When super-villains were involved, civilians always ended up with the short end of the stick, and he didn’t like not being able to help. The rest of the team knew he would keep trying to help these people.
“Any other old business?” Shiva said, looking around and receiving no answers. “OK, then, new business. Due to Doc’s medical instructions not to use her powers, Kali has asked for a leave of absence.”
In reality, Kali was fearful of saying her magic word right now. She couldn’t remember the end of her fight, but she did remember the dreadful pain she had experienced during the transformation. This was not normal; usually the change was quick and painless.
Shiva had been too far away to see how horrible Kali’s change had been, after F’ant O’mah’s mental blast had accidentally freed Dalissa, queen of the Rakasha, and the demon, not knowing Kali’s magic word, had announced herself, accidentally triggering the change from Kali back to Lily Martine. From a distance, all he had been able to observe was the magical fire and smoke that always accompanied the transformation. It was even more mysterious, because Shiva had drilled Lily for many hours against saying the magic word by accident. And “Rakasha” was not the kind of word that came up often in conversation, either. Yet, as far as he knew, Kali had indeed used the word. Of course, neither Shiva nor Kali suspected that she in fact she had received her powers from Blaze and Satanus, who had secretly bound her to an enslaved demon, and not the wizard Shazam as they had believed. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Shiva: Times Past, 1958: The Birth of Kali.]
“Since Kali’s absence leaves us shorthanded, Lady Victory has suggested we consider Elastique for membership,” continued Shiva. “Discussion?”
“I don’t see how being a human rubber band qualifies her to be a super-hero,” said Ms. Music. “How can that help her in a fight?”
“Agreed,” said Quadrechaun. “It seems like a pretty useless power!”
“Yeah, and she didn’t do much during the recent fights,” chimed in Oxide.
Lady Victory looked around her. With the Marvel Family and their allies missing for over a decade now, in her opinion the Super Squad had been forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with these three. She tried not to let her anger at their words affect her voice. “She was able to hold the super-speedster Breakneck, which none of the rest of us, save perhaps the ‘Big Three’ could have done,” she said, referring to the nickname the press had given to Shiva, Kali, and Master Man. “She can disguise herself as anyone. Why, she might even be disguised as me right now!”
Ms. Music, Quadrechaun, and Oxide all started to look uncomfortable. They certainly wouldn’t want to offend Elastique with their views, which Lady Victory knew likely came from an inferiority complex they each shared.
“She’s damn near invulnerable, and she has lots of experience working undercover. You know that modeling agency that was recently busted? That was her work! In one of her identities, she worked with that agency and gathered evidence of the abuse of minors, prostitution, and drug use to close it down — even with all its customers fighting to hide or discredit her evidence.”
It had been a big story in the New York tabloids, and one of the worst scandals in recent history. They all knew from the news stories that one of the most famous modeling agencies in Manhattan had been taking in underage runaways off the streets of New York, getting them addicted, and then pimping them out to major clients to gain and keep very lucrative modeling contracts. A lot of powerful people, from organized crime to industry to politics to non-profits, from everywhere across the country and many places around the world, had all exerted their tremendous influences to squash this case. To hear that one person had been able to stand against this array of power was quite impressive.
“I nominate Elastique for provisional membership in the Super Squad!” Tom Atomic rarely wasted time arguing.
“Second the nomination!” this from Palette. Lady Victory didn’t think much of her powers, such as they were, but she was courageous and skilled, and a valued member of the team.
“Call the question!” Lady Victory knew Robert’s Rules of Order by heart. Shiva took a vote, and the result was in favor of offering Elastique provisional membership, six to three, with Shiva abstaining.
Lady Victory opened the door to the waiting room and called her in. The Super Squad gathered around to welcome their newest member.