By Joel Schuldt <email@example.com>
Submitted March 2001
Summary: Though loosely set in the author's "Saga" universe, this stand-alone story pits Superman and Ultrawoman against a magical ancient villain. Luckily for our super-heros, Captain Marvel returns to Metropolis just in time.
All standard disclaimers apply. All characters in this story (except those of my own creation) are the properties of Mrs. Siegel, DC Comics, Warner Bros. and December 3rd Productions Ltd; no infringements of any property rights are intended by their use.
As always, I welcome any comments or questions.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Craig Byrne for lending me the use of the characters he established in the fanfic "The Power of Shazam." I greatly appreciate it, Mr. Byrne. I recommend reading his fanfic before reading mine in order to get an idea of the background of the main characters (And be nice! It was his first fanfic!).
NOTE 2- Though technically part of the 'alternate dimensions' saga I'm writing, this story can stand alone without really having to read any of the other episodes in my 'Lois and Clark: The Saga Continues' storyline (though I hope you will anyway!) <g> Continuity wise, this episode takes place during the two month break in 'Resolutions' (Part 4 in my Saga). I hope you enjoy!
For this story, I have taken the liberty to re-write certain historical events in Egypt's past. If I have inadvertently offended anyone by doing this, I most sincerely apologize. It was not my intention to do so- I merely needed to alter certain events in order for the story to progress more smoothly.
Another special thanks to C. C. Beck for creating Captain Marvel and all the other myriad characters that populate the Marvel Family universe, and to Jerry Ordway who updated the legend for another generation to appreciate.
> < Indicates thoughts
ALL CAPITALS- indicates stronger emphasis on word
Blazing overhead, the sun shone down mercilessly on the small caravan slowly making its way across the desert dunes. Sweating profusely, Professor Vladimir Akron's eyes gleamed feverishly as he read over the documents again.
"Professor? Can you explain to me once more what we're doing here?"
Turning in his saddle to face the speaker, Vladimir's face split into a grin.
"I'm telling you, Anna, it's there! I know it is!" Waving the handful of hand-written pages at her, Vladimir chortled with glee. "These translations of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts PROVE that there is a secret tomb within the temple at Abu Simbel!"
"But Professor," the blond woman objected. "In all the texts worldwide, those translations are the ONLY place this hidden tomb is mentioned. Why do THOSE reveal this hidden tomb, and no others do?"
"Because these are the translations of Rameses II's own PERSONAL diaries," the Professor patiently explained.
Anna gasped. "Professor! You told the Metropolis University Committee that they'd been stolen!"
"They HAD been," he replied smugly. "By ME."
Anna's eyes bulged. "YOU stole them? Why?"
"Those fools in the Institute of Antiquities were going to lock them away! Possibly the biggest archeological find in the century, and they were going to IGNORE it as the rantings of an old man! I'm telling you, Anna," Vladimir said, excitement in his voice. Turning back to the endless sand dunes before them, the Professor shook his hands in the air with anticipation. "This will be the BIGGEST find since King Tutankhamen!"
"Well, are you SURE you translated them properly?" Motioning into the distance, Anna shook her head. "I mean, didn't they have to move the temple when they finished the Aswan Dam? Wouldn't they have found that secret tomb if it was there?"
"Yes they did move the temple," Vladimir confirmed. Turning back to face her once more, he scowled fiercely. "And no, they did NOT find the tomb. Why they did not is of NO concern to me, however. I have devoted my entire LIFE to the study of ancient Egypt, Ms. Becker, and I'll not have some assistant questioning me. If I say it's there, then it IS!" With a snort, Vladimir returned to his reading.
Falling silent, Anna looked away, shame reddening her already sunburned face.
Following behind the two Americans, their Egyptian guides exchanged expectant glances.
Hours later, the group stood before the entrance to the temple. Anna gazed up in wonder at the four towering figures that guarded the entrance.
"It's… beautiful," she whispered. "Who are they?"
"King Rameses II," Vladimir said abstractedly, still reading his notes. "He had this temple built in celebration of himself. He built another temple back there, to celebrate Nefertari, his favorite wife," he added, waving a hand to the rear. "The temple of Hathor."
"Professor," Anna said, glancing around uneasily. "Why aren't there any people here? This must be a popular tourist site, yet we're the only ones here."
Lifting his head up from his studies, Vladimir glanced around briefly. "I have no idea. It might be because it takes DAYS to reach this site, but I don't know. Abula?"
"Yes, Sir?" Jogging up beside the archeologist, the leader of the Egyptian workers sketched a brief bow.
"Do you know why there aren't any people around? Granted, I'm not arguing; it'll make our job that much easier. I'm just curious."
"My apologies, Sir. I have no idea," Abu admitted reluctantly. "Would you like me to make some inquiries?"
"No, that'd only delay us." Vladimir shrugged. "No matter. Come, we go inside."
Dismounting, the burly Egyptian guides began unloading the burdened camels of their load. Anna, standing off to one side, glanced frequently at the workers as they meticulously arranged the growing pile of crates.
As the group entered the temple, Anna nudged Vladimir. "Professor? Why do the workers have so much equipment? For such a small dig, they look to be carrying enough supplies to excavate the entire Valley of the Kings."
Vladimir waved her concern off, his mind clearly on what lay within the temple. "They're professionals. I'm certain they know what they're doing."
Unseen by the two Americans, Abula shared a triumphant smile with his companions.
Entering the main hall, Vladimir quickly paced to the far end of the room where another door awaited.
"Here!" he cried. "Right in here! According to the notes, the tomb was concealed right in here!"
Glancing to the massive statues that lined each side of the central room, Anna shuddered. "It's like the statues are standing guard," she breathed. "Keeping whatever's in there from escaping."
"Bah," Vladimir snorted. "Mere nonsense." Hurrying into the next chamber, the anxious archeologist didn't bother to wait for a reply. Following close behind, Anna and the workers also entered the room, though Anna continued to cast nervous glances behind her.
"Here!" Motioning the workers over, Vladimir laughed triumphantly. "It's HERE!" Pointing to the base of what looked to be a sacrificial altar, Vladimir's voice trembled. "Beneath the altar, we'll find a stairwell that leads into the depths of the temple. There," he whispered. "We will find the secret tomb."
At a nod from Abula, two burly Egyptians stepped forward, leaned their shoulders against the stone altar and strained to their utmost. The altar moved slowly, almost grudgingly, grinding across the floor with enough noise to have woken the dead. As the altar moved aside, a breeze blew out of the hidden chamber below with an almost human moan.
"Professor?" Anna's plaintive squeak was quickly waved away by the impatient man.
"Down there," Vladimir chortled. "Down there is the answer to all my prayers."
Without waiting, the rotund Professor rapidly descended the stairs. Anna, following the workers, clutched her arms to her chest, trying to stifle her trembling.
"Anna," a voice from below hissed. "Quit your stalling, light a torch, and get the crowbar. I found the sarcophagus."
Before Anna could comply, Abula held out the torch and crowbar to her, a look of profound compassion in his eyes. Gratefully taking the items from him, Anna paused as he lit the torch.
"Not to worry, my child," Abula whispered, his accent nearly masking his words. "All will be right. We are in the presence of the Gods."
Smiling uneasily, Anna descended the stairs and walked up beside the Professor.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Running his hands over the lid's lavish raised relief image of the sarcophagus's occupant, the Professor fairly quivered with anticipation. "The workmanship is flawless. Look at this," he breathed. Leaning closer, Anna saw that the figure's hands grasped a bejeweled necklace between them.
"Ewww!" Anna whined. "What is THAT?"
"That, my dear, is a scarab," Vladimir breathed. "In ancient times, Egyptians viewed them to be sacred." Reaching out to the figure's hands, he gently pried the jeweled, palm-sized scarab from their grasp. As he detached the ornament, Anna thought she heard the faint sound of thunder far off.
"It's absolutely magnificent," Vladimir ecstatically moaned, holding up the necklace into the torch's light. The scarab ornament softly reflected the light from its jeweled surface, casting rainbows of color around the room. "Exquisite craftsmanship!"
Tearing her gaze away from the Professor, Anna gazed in awe at the sarcophagus. Despite her misgivings, a part of her DID indeed look forward to revealing this find to the world and being able to finally validate herself in the eyes of the archeological community. Running her eyes over the lid, her gaze fixed on a strange symbol.
"Professor," she said, drawing his attention away from the scarab. Pointing at the sarcophagus, she shook her head in puzzlement. "I'm well versed in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, but I have no idea what THAT one means. Do you?"
Frowning, Vladimir shook his head. "No. I've never seen a hieroglyph such as that one. It almost looks like…"
"A lightning bolt," Anna finished. "What could it mean?"
For a few seconds more, the Professor stared at the strange symbol before finally shaking his head. "It doesn't matter," he said decisively.
"I don't know about this, Vladimir," the woman said, a faint quiver to her voice. Her obvious discomfort was evident in the way the torchlight danced on the walls from her shaking hands, illuminating the many paintings adorning the walls: images of a great warrior battling the arrayed enemies of the Pharaoh. Clad in black, with a golden lightning bolt on his chest, he stood victorious atop a titanic pyramid, vast seas of what appeared to be his followers kneeling before him.
Vladimir snorted in derision. "Don't tell me you actually buy into the curse myth? Bah, it's just superstitious nonsense and not even worthy of consideration. Here," he said, handing her the scarab. "Put this in your satchel. Now, hold that light still."
Using the crowbar, the archeologist began working at the seal on the sarcophagus.
"Professor?" Anna asked. "Whom exactly does this tomb belong to? And why is he depicted as ruling the Egyptian people?"
"His name, my dear, is Teth-Adam. He was one of Rameses' sons. He also went by another name later in his life, according to Rameses' diaries." Sparing a quick glance at her, Vladimir smiled. "Black Adam."
Barely repressing another shudder, Anna's eyes returned to the painting.
"Those fools at the Institute rejected me, saying that my methods were 'crude.' As if anything but the result even matters! I'll show them," the Professor vowed. Nodding towards the sarcophagus, a smile that was none to pleasant creased his face as he strained at the tomb's seal. "This will be my ticket back into their graces. This tomb has remained untouched for over three thousand years!"
"Maybe it's been untouched for that long because of the curse?"
"ANNA!" The archeologist's shout echoed through the room. "I am a man of SCIENCE! I refuse to believe in the superstitious nonsense of a bygone era! Talk of curses all you like, but do NOT bother me with that mumbo-jumbo until there is quantifiable PROOF!"
With a low groan, the lid of the tomb slowly opened under Vladimir's insistent prying. A burst of stale air, moaning like a banshee, rushed out of the coffin, filling the room with a cloud of dust. Coughing, Vladimir peered through the obstructing cloud.
"Professor Akron?" Trying to wave away the dust cloud, Anna approached the coffin. She could dimly see the Professor's back, and she heard the man making choking sounds.
"Professor? Are you all right? Try not to breathe the dust."
As she neared, she caught sight of fingers on either side of the Professors neck.
>He's choking on the dust, < she thought, panic seizing her.
As Anna rounded the Professor's considerable girth, she then noticed that the hand around the Professor's neck did NOT belong to him; the Professor had both of his hands busy trying to pry that hand from around his neck. With the moldering bandages falling off, the well-muscled, ebon clad arm easily resisted Vladimir Akron's attempts at gaining freedom. The torchlight gleamed off of a segmented, golden bracelet extending from wrist to mid-forearm, and before her disbelieving eyes, Professor Akron was effortlessly lifted off the ground. Frantically turning to their Egyptian guides, Anna was startled to witness the entire group kneeling reverently on the floor of the chamber, their eyes lowered.
"Don't just sit there," she screamed. "It's killing Professor Akron! Help him!"
Wordlessly, two of the burly men stood and, walking towards her, grasped her by either arm.
"What are you doing?" Anna's shrill cry cut through the chamber as her captors turned her once more to face the crypt.
"They are helping their Lord and Master," a deep voice rumbled from in front of her. "Like any true believer would."
Standing beside the sarcophagus was an impressive figure of a man, holding Professor Akron's limp body at arms length while he nonchalantly removed the last of the bandages. Coal black hair swept straight back framed a stern face. Deeply set gray eyes looked on the world with a hawk-like stare. A black, skintight uniform emblazoned on the chest with a diagonal yellow-gold lightning bolt clung to his thick muscles. With a likewise yellow-gold sash circling the man's waist and identically colored boots, he formed an intimidating figure.
"Finally," he growled. "After an eternity, Black Adam is free!"
With a small cry, Anna fainted.
Stepping into the farmhouse kitchen, Clark smiled at his father as he dusted off his clothes.
"I got that back acreage plowed, Dad, and Lois is planting as we speak. You know," Clark said, lifting an eyebrow playfully. "I know you're happy that Lois and I are home and all, but if we do TOO much more work for you out there in the fields, it's going to be a little hard for you to explain how it got done so fast."
"Whatever do you mean, son?" Jonathan asked innocently with a twinkle in his eye.
As he was about to answer, Clark's expression turned distant. Recognizing the sign, Jonathan stood up from the table.
"What is it, Clark?"
"Terrorists," Clark murmured. "They're fighting Egyptian soldiers near Abu Simbel." Giving his father an apologetic smile, Clark spun into his uniform. "The rest of the field's going to have to wait, Dad. Sorry."
Jonathan chuckled. "Don't let it bother you, son. As it stands, I'm WEEKS ahead of schedule. Go do what you have to."
Briefly hugging his father, Superman rocketed out the door, calling to Lois as he went.
Standing on the crest of the temple, Black Adam breathed deeply as he watched the setting sun. >So much time wasted, < he thought.
"Yes, Abula?" Black Adam asked without turning.
"Master, we must get you away from here. The diversion we created to keep outsiders at bay is falling apart. Our soldiers cannot last much longer." Gesturing at the horizon, Abula's eyes widened in agitation. "Even now, unbelievers are approaching."
Nodding slightly, Black Adam turned to face Abula. "You and your ancestors have served me well over the centuries, Abula." His eyebrows dipped slightly. "Though I might ask why it took so long to revive me."
Abula blanched. Falling to his knees, the shaking man abased himself. "Oh Mighty One, the fault lies with me. Do not vent your wrath on the others, for they followed my wishes."
For long moments, only the sound of the wind was heard. Then, gradually, a new sound was heard: Black Adam's soft laughter.
"Rise, my loyal servant," the ancient Egyptian said. "There shall be no punishment for one who is willing to take all the blame upon himself."
Lifting his head, Abula's eyes widened. "My Lord?"
"Had you attempted to shift the blame upon one of your underlings, the vultures would be feasting upon your entrails tonight," Black Adam said. "You, however, were willing to accept the blame yourself. You honor your ancestors' name." Placing a hand on Abula's shoulder, Black Adam's eyes grew cold. "But an example MUST be made for the others."
Abula's eyes widened as Black Adam, grabbing him by the shirt, lifted him off the ground.
"M-Master! I have been faithful!"
Black Adam's cruel laughter floated across the sky once more. "Abula, I languished in that tomb for three THOUSAND years! I am not punishing you for accepting the blame upon yourself. I am punishing your ancestors for leaving me imprisoned for so long."
With a casual, almost contemptuous flick of his wrist, the ancient Egyptian sent the screaming form of Abula across the heavens to disappear beyond the edge of the temple's roof. Moments later, a sickening thud drifted up to Black Adam's ears.
"Farewell, Abula." Black Adam's eyes glittered in the night. Dropping his gaze, the ancient Egyptian contemplated the approaching forces.
Stepping into the bus depot, the young man casually strolled towards the counter with a duffel bag slung over one shoulder and an easy smile on his face. Several women glanced his way admiringly as he ran a hand through his coal black hair. Muscles rippled beneath the flannel shirt he wore as he effortlessly wove his six-foot plus frame through the commuters. Reaching into the pocket of his jeans, he fished out a handful of wrinkled bills and placed them on the counter.
"Excuse me," he asked, smiling at the woman behind the ticket counter. "I'd like a ticket to Metropolis, please."
"One way or round trip?" the heavy-set woman droned, clearly bored. As she looked up from her computer, the woman's eyes widened in pleasant surprise as she gazed at the handsome man. "Oh! Ah, what I meant to say was, will you be returning?"
Chuckling slightly, his deep voice rumbling from within his chest, the young man nodded. "Yes, please. I like to keep my options open."
"Name?" she sighed, a slight flush coloring her cheeks as her fingers danced over the computer's keys.
"Batson," he replied. "Denny Batson."
"I ask you once more: who is this world's champion?"
Standing before her like a towering obsidian monolith, Black Adam's frown deepened at Anna's continued silence. Beside her, the two massive Egyptian guides glowered in disapproval.
"When you are asked a question, you WILL answer!" the guide to her left snarled, sharply cuffing her across the jaw.
Rubbing her bruised chin, Anna merely glared.
As the guide swung once more, Black Adam, his eyes never leaving Anna, darted his own hand out, catching the man's fist neatly in his palm.
"Though I abhor striking women, if you wish to live I would suggest that you answer my questions," Black Adam said easily. Looking down at Anna, his expression reminded the woman of a cobra examining its next victim. Stepping closer to Anna, he smiled humorlessly down at her. "In this day and age, who would be the greatest threat to my conquest of the world?"
Forcing herself to remain where she stood, Anna returned Adam's dark smile with a defiant scowl. "That's EASY," she sneered. "Superman!"
"And, who is this Superman?"
"The guy who's going to kick your butt!" Anna shot back. "He's got powers the likes of which you'll NEVER be able to stand against."
"Child," Black Adam chuckled. "You are addressing a being who possesses the powers of GODS. What mere mortal can stand against the divine?"
"Superman can," Anna declared. "As a matter of fact, he's probably on his way here now! Those two," she said, nodding towards the other Egyptians. "I've been listening to those two jabber for a while now. They've been talking about the rest of your followers fighting the Egyptian Army as a diversion. Well, that's the kind of thing that's SURE to bring Superman here."
Anna's brow knit in confusion. "What? You WANT him to come here?"
Black Adam nodded. "What better way to demonstrate my superiority than to crush this 'Superman' beneath my boot? Now, silence." Turning his back to her, Black Adam clasped his hands behind him, his eyes growing distant. "I must think."
For nearly fifteen minutes Anna watched as this ancient Egyptian methodically paced back and forth across the room, contemplating only who-knows-what, his brow furrowing sporadically with the intensity of his concentration. Finally, her nervousness getting the better of her, the woman cleared her throat.
"So, how is it that a three thousand year old Egyptian man can speak English, anyway?" Anna inquired.
"My power stems from several Egyptian deities, woman. One of these aspects, the God of Wisdom Zehuti, allowed me to acquire your language in mere moments," Black Adam stated absently, his mind still elsewhere. "And, despite my first inclination, it also advises me to spare your life so that you may teach me the ways of this New World."
"Way to go, Zehuti," Anna murmured under her breath.
Facing his uneasy guest, Black Adam smiled cruelly. "Now, tell me more about this Superman," he added, gazing at her expectantly.
"I've never been to Abu Simbel before," Lois said as the two costumed heroes sped across the Atlantic Ocean. "Have you?"
Clark nodded. "A long time ago. It was when I was traveling the world."
"Any more princesses teach you how to dance?" Lois playfully jabbed.
Matching her smile, Clark decided to rise to the bait. "Well, now that you mention it, there WAS this one…"
"Oh you," Lois snarled, playfully swiping at her husband. As Clark's laughter rang across the sky, Ultrawoman's expression became artfully hurt- an expression that Lois had found that Clark had absolutely NO resistance to. "I see," Lois sniffed. "I'm just another in a long line of women you've wooed, Mr. Kent. Just another notch in your belt of machismo that you can brag about to all the other heroes."
Superman's eyes widened. "Lois?" As she looked at him, Clark slowly shook his head with a smile. "I have absolutely NO idea what you're talking about."
Lois gasped. "You're serious, aren't you? You have NO idea what today is, do you?"
Once more, Clark shook his head, mentally running through all the various birthdays, anniversaries and holidays he could think of.
Lois's eyes danced with mirth as she watched Clark squirm uncomfortably. "Today is the anniversary of the first time we kissed," Lois sniffed, working all the hurt she could into her voice.
"And… that's important, right?"
Lois's eyes bulged at her husband's words. As she was about to launch into her verbal assault, she caught the flicker of amusement in his eyes at her obvious shock.
"Oh, you are SO dead!" she vowed.
Wrapping his arm around her waist, Clark nuzzled her ear playfully. "And just HOW were you planning on killing me? If you'd like, I could give you some ideas."
"Oh no you don't, Mr. Kent," Lois chided. "You don't get off THAT easy! Not this time!" Making a show of injured feelings, Lois shook her head. "This is going to take some SERIOUS groveling on your part."
"Oh, but Lois," he whined with an easy smile. "Making up is the FUN part! Besides," he added, reaching around behind his belt and pulling out a small box. "What made you think I'd forgotten?"
With a small squeal of delight, her eyes alight with surprise Lois flipped over onto her back as she flew, carefully opening the lid of the box. Inside, nestled in black velvet, was a silvery ring with a shiny gray stone set into the mounting. As she placed it on her finger, Lois peered at the stone. "What is it? I don't think I've ever seen a stone like this."
"It's a piece of polished moon rock," Clark answered. Shrugging nonchalantly, Superman artfully turned his attention back to the sky before them. "I figured that, for such a unique person, an equally unique gift was called for." Glancing over at his wife, Clark's jaw dropped at the expression of disappointment on her face. "Honey?"
"I can't believe it," Lois sniffed. "You went to the moon, and you didn't even THINK of asking if I wanted to go along."
As Clark was about to frantically apologize, Lois's mournful demeanor crumbled under her laughter.
"I couldn't resist, Clark," she sputtered between laughs. "It was too perfect of an opening!"
Rolling his eyes in a 'why me' expression, Clark's demeanor suddenly sobered as he looked ahead. "There it is," he said.
In the distance, they could make out the obvious signs of fighting on the ground- gouts of sand and rock were thrown into the air by explosions, gunfire cracked through the air and shouts of both pain and encouragement were also heard.
"Lois," Clark called. "Can you handle the terrorists? I hear screaming coming from over there, by the temple."
Following Clark's pointing finger, Lois's eyes took in the massive temple in the distance.
"No problem," Lois assured. "This won't take more than a minute! I'll meet you there."
Nodding his thanks, Clark shot across the desert sky towards the Temple of Rameses II.
Turning her attention towards the armed men on the ground, Ultrawoman's eyes danced.
As he neared the temple, Clark's x-ray vision revealed two massively muscled men holding a screaming blond woman between them, and the still form of a heavy set man lying prone on the floor. Angling his body towards the temple doorway, the hurtling figure of Superman was stopped short as a black clad figure interposed itself between Clark and his target.
Facing the colorfully garbed hero hovering across from him, Black Adam smiled wickedly. "And who might you be?"
"I'm Superman," Clark stated, eyeing the flying man cautiously. "And who might YOU be?"
Rather than answering, Black Adam chuckled. "Ah! So THIS is the much vaunted 'Man of Steel,' eh?" Nodding appreciatively, Black Adam's eyes narrowed. "Good."
Clark barely saw the punch that knocked him across the heavens.
Dusting her hands, Lois smiled at her handiwork. Twelve men, the muzzles of their weapons twisted into makeshift shackles, glared back in undisguised hatred at her.
"Not too bad," she self-congratulated. "Not bad at ALL. Now, what-"
Lois's words were cut off as a tremendous impact shook the ground beneath her feet. Spinning to meet the new threat, Ultrawoman's eyes widened in shock as she witnessed Superman painfully start to climb out of the crater his body had made.
"Whoa," Lois whispered. "What happened?"
Landing once more in the tomb, Black Adam's gaze met those of his helpers. "Go and hide. When I need you, I will call."
Bowing deeply to their master, the two burly men swiftly disappeared out the entrance as the ancient Egyptian returned his attention to Anna.
"Come," Black Adam beckoned. "We go."
"Thanks, but no," Anna replied, taking a cautious step backwards. "While I appreciate the offer, I'm afraid I must-"
Sighing in exasperation, Black Adam swept the woman up in his arms and rocketed out of the tomb, leaving behind only her screams of surprise.
"What happened?" Lois asked, solicitously helping her husband out of the crater. "What hit you?"
Shaking his head to clear it, Clark rubbed his jaw. "A fist. A very LARGE fist."
"You mean that guy that just left?" Lois asked, pointing into the distance.
Snapping his head around to follow her finger, a sharp throbbing speared through Clark's temple. Clutching his head with both hands as he moaned, Superman sank to one knee. "Oh, my HEAD."
"What is it?" Lois asked, dropping to one knee beside him. Scanning over him briefly, Lois snarled in frustration. "Even if you've been hurt, I have no idea what to look for!"
Clark waved his hand. "No, it's okay. My head's ringing from that punch, that's all."
"ONE punch did that to you?" Lois whistled softly. "Lord Kal-El didn't even hit you that hard."
"I know," Clark agreed. "That means there's something else at work here."
"Kryptonite?" Lois suggested.
"No," Clark replied carefully. "I don't think so. It feels different."
Clark's eyebrows raised in thought. "Might be," he admitted. Facing her, Clark leaned closer. "Did you get a good look at him?"
Lois nodded. "Yeah: black uniform, gold lightning bolt, yellow boots, and a screaming woman under his arm."
"That's him. So, Lois," Clark said, pitching his voice low so the prisoners wouldn't hear. "Whose uniform did it remind you of?"
Lois's brow knit in thought. Finally, her eyes widened as the connection was made.
"Captain Marvel," she whispered.
"Do you think he might have an idea of who that was?" Lois asked.
"I have NO idea," Clark admitted. "But I aim to find out."
Stepping off the bus, Denny Batson glanced at his surroundings. Scanning the buildings of Metropolis, his eyes rested on the towering spire of the Daily Planet building in the distance. As he was about to set off for it, a strange tugging sensation drew him instead off to his left. With a faint shrug, hitching his bag across his shoulder, he set off at a brisk pace.
>Been a while since I've been here, < he thought to himself. >But it's starting to come back to me now. I think that entrance to the old wizard's chamber should be right around here. <
Almost as if he had caused it himself, a section of the nearby building's wall obligingly dissolved into a set of stairs leading downwards. Passing pedestrians, while they maneuvered around Denny himself, paid the newly formed entrance no attention whatsoever. With a low sigh, Denny paused to insure no one was watching before descended into the shadows. Awaiting him at the foot of the stairs was the same strange subway car he had originally taken to meet Shazam years before. The lights in the tunnel reflected off the mad swirls of color adorning its side.
>That thing might look like a Japanese bullet train, but someone on a bad acid trip must have painted it, < Denny thought wryly as he boarded the vehicle.
After what felt like a brief journey, the car came to a stop. Stepping off the train into a massive cavern lit by torches, Denny's eyes were drawn to the large statues depicting the seven deadly sins of man. Lining the opposite wall of the huge chamber like so many hideous gargoyles, the statues seemed to leer at him. Repressing a shudder, Denny straightened and walked to the stone chair at the end of the room.
"Wizard!" Though the room was vast, Denny's shout did not echo back, as it should have.
Slowly, an ethereal fog took shape on the throne, taking the form of an elderly man. Peering out from beneath a set of bushy white eyebrows, the ancient man's blue eyes held strength and intelligence. Covering his slight frame, his white robes shone eerily in the torchlight, as did his likewise white beard.
"Welcome, Denny Batson," the elderly man said. Though his body appeared frail, his voice was rich and strong.
"Wizard," Denny returned, nodding slightly in greeting.
"You are looking… well," Shazam continued. "I have watched with much pride at your accomplishments. You bring honor to the name of Shazam."
"I'm trying, Sir," Denny replied. "Sir? Might I ask why you've compelled me to return here?"
Shazam smiled faintly. "Ah, the impatience of youth. How well I remember it. It seems as though it were only yesterday that you stood before me and spoke my name for the first time."
"It's been nine years, Wizard," Denny said, his impatience growing. "Why did you bring me here?"
"I am Shazam, child," the old man rumbled, his eyes flashing. "The knowledge of the ages rests within me. My experiences span millennia. I am no stranger to the passage of time!" Leaning forward slightly, tendrils of lightning arced around his body. "I would think that these facts would grant me a modicum of respect!"
Lowering his head, Denny tiredly rubbed at his eyes. "My apologies, Sir. I've been traveling a long time, and my journey hasn't always been pleasant. I'm truly sorry if I've offended you." Kneeling before his mentor, Denny lowered his head and spread his hands in respect. "Master, might I inquire why you've sent for me?"
Sighing deeply, Shazam waved away Denny's concerns. "Rise, my champion. The fault does not rest entirely with you, my child. Dismiss my words as simply the rantings of an old man whose ancient sins have come back to haunt him."
"Sir?" Denny's head jerked up at Shazam's words. Climbing to his feet once more, Denny waited patiently for the explanation.
"A great evil has been loosed upon the world. Behold!" Shazam thundered. Raising his hand towards his champion, Shazam's eyes flashed briefly. Slowly, an image of a powerfully built man garbed in black took shape in front of Denny, the yellow lightning bolt on the figure's chest glowing eerily in the faint light.
"His name is Black Adam," the old wizard intoned. "As you do in THIS day and age, he acted as my champion in ancient times."
"Exactly HOW ancient are we talking?" Denny asked.
"Nigh on three thousand years," Shazam replied.
Denny whistled appreciatively. "So, what happened?"
"He began life as Teth-Adam, one of the sons of Rameses II. He, above all others, impressed me with not only his intelligence and fairness, but also with his battle prowess." Shaking his head, Shazam's eyes lowered in shame. "Alas, would that I had been a better judge of character in those days."
"What happened?" Denny repeated.
"At the time, I had been subtly guiding the progress of Egypt for a substantial length of time and was growing weary. Desiring a respite, I reached an agreement with the Egyptian pantheon of Gods to grant the champion of my choice a portion of their power to safeguard the realm while I was away. I thought it unwise to unite physical power with kingship therefore I called upon Teth-Adam and bestowed the abilities of six of the Egyptian deities upon the youth, transforming him into Mighty Adam. I charged him with the task of guarding the land from all threats and insure that the Pharaoh's wishes were followed, but to NEVER seek personal power. Thusly transformed, Mighty Adam assisted the Pharaoh Rameses II in the governing of the kingdom. As the years passed and Rameses himself concentrated on… other matters, Mighty Adam was forced to take on more responsibilities."
"And that's exactly what Adam was waiting for," Denny finished.
Shazam shook his head. "No. Mighty Adam was a GOOD soul. It wasn't until near the death of Rameses that Adam began to change. He began to feel that with these powers he possessed, he should be master over all men. Seizing power from his father, he ruled Egypt with an iron fist for nearly a century, until word reached me of his betrayal. Unwilling to believe that I had erred so grievously, I decided to return. I confronted Mighty Adam in the great throne room of the palace, demanding to know why my champion had disobeyed me and sought lordship over the kingdom." Shazam lowered his head slightly. "Without my guidance, Teth-Adam had gradually become corrupted by the power I had so foolishly granted him. Realizing that the power made him immortal, Adam began believing that he was the very embodiment of the deities, rather than merely possessing their powers. He believed it was his destiny to guide Egypt through the ages as its undying Pharaoh. After darkening his name to suit his demeanor, I dethroned and imprisoned him in the temple at Abu Simbel that his father had built and erased his name from history."
"So, that's how Mighty Adam became Black Adam," Denny said.
"So, if you erased his name from history, how is it that someone knew he was there, much less be able to release him?"
"I do not know," Shazam admitted. "During his reign, Black Adam acquired numerous followers. These followers remained faithful to him even upon his imprisonment. It is entirely possible that they might have passed down the information from generation to generation and made preparations for his release."
"So now it's up to me to beat him?" Denny asked.
Shazam shook his head. "No, my champion. It is merely up to you to face him." The spirit of the ancient wizard seemed to smile. "Whether or not you defeat him is entirely up to you."
Coming to rest on the rooftop of the Daily Planet, Black Adam gazed in wonder at the city below as his captive fought to regain her breath. Leaning heavily against the parapet, Anna drew in deep breaths.
>Hard to breathe at Mach-whatever, < she thought.
"By the Gods," Adam gasped. "This is AMAZING! Towers that dwarf even the tallest temple, bridges that span a waterway greater than the Nile itself! Perhaps this world of wonders is deserving of being ruled by Black Adam!"
At that moment, the rooftop door banged open and Jimmy Olsen stepped out into the sunshine. As he caught sight of the dark garbed man, the tune Jimmy was whistling died on his lips.
"Oh, ah, HI," Jimmy stuttered, taken aback by the imposing sight of the man. "I didn't realize…" His words drifting away, Jimmy's eyes registered the lightning bolt adorning the man's chest. A distant memory clicked in his head. "Hey! That lightning bolt… Are you related to Captain Marvel, by chance? Your costume looks just like his, aside from not having a cape and being black."
Black Adam's eyes briefly widened in surprise before returning to their normal impassive stare. Seeing this, Anna slowly backed away, trying to catch Jimmy's eye to warn him. Moving in front of her, blocking her from view, Black Adam folded his arms. "You say this Captain Marvel's costume looks EXACTLY like mine?" At Jimmy's nod, Black Adam's eyes narrowed in anger. "Where is this man, this Captain Marvel?"
Warning bells began ringing in Jimmy's head. "Look, man, I don't know who you are, but…"
In a flash, Black Adam closed the distance between them, seizing Jimmy by the shirtfront and lifting him off the roof. "WHERE IS CAPTAIN MARVEL?"
"For pity's sake, TELL HIM!" Anna screamed. "He'll kill you if you don't!"
"B-But, I don't know where he is!" Jimmy stammered as he vainly tried to backpedal for the door.
"Then I suggest you tell me where I might find someone who DOES know," Black Adam growled. "I have traveled far and I shall not be stopped so close to my goal."
"The Metropolis Public Library!" Jimmy screeched as Adam's hand closed around his neck.
"What was that?" Adam asked, withdrawing his hand fractionally.
>What did I say? < Jimmy thought to himself. Then, his words came back to him. "Yeah," he nodded vigorously. "The library! They've got access to newspapers from across the country! If Captain Marvel's been seen ANYWHERE, they'll be able to find the articles telling you where!"
Looking back over his shoulder, Black Adam's eyes met Anna's. "Does he speak truly?"
Seizing the moment, Anna stepped closer. "He does, Black Adam. The library WOULD have the information you seek." Glancing over to Jimmy, though she said nothing aloud, her eyes congratulated him on his quick thinking.
Unceremoniously dropping the young man to the rooftop, Adam turned to Anna. "Direct me to this 'library' he speaks of," he commanded, sweeping her into his arms once more.
As they lifted into the sky, Jimmy watched in shock as the pair vanished into the distance. Only later, once it was over, did it occur to him that the photo opportunity of a lifetime had happened and he hadn't shot a single picture.
Beneath the city, Denny slowly paced before the specter of his mentor. "So, where does Black Adam get his power from?"
"As you derive your powers from the Greco-Roman pantheon, so to does Black Adam derive his from the Egyptian pantheon," Shazam explained. "The stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aton, and the courage of Mehen."
"Sir," Denny piped in. "It never occurred to me to ask what pantheon gives you YOUR power?"
Shazam smiled faintly. "One much older. A pantheon whose deities are long since forgotten by all but myself."
"How much older?" Denny pressed.
"Suffice to say," Shazam sighed. "When I granted Black Adam his power, I was already ancient."
"Wizard," Denny said, carefully avoiding the name of his mentor. Shifting from one foot to the other, Shazam's champion nervously shrugged. "Forgive me but, why don't you just remove the powers from him?" Denny asked.
"Alas, I cannot," Shazam sighed. "Once the powers have been given to a mortal by me, they can only be lost through death. Now, Denny Batson," Shazam rumbled. "Might I ask YOU a question?"
Caught off guard, the shocked man nodded.
"As I told you, I have watched your progress through the years with some measure of pride. I would, however, question your choice to remain in the form of Captain Marvel on a continuous basis."
Denny's eyes widened. "S-Sir?"
Raising a hand to forestall further objections, Shazam shook his head sadly. "You are my chosen champion, Denny Batson. Did you think that I would not keep an eye on you? Now, I ask you once more," Shazam said, his voice thundering in Denny's ears. "Why have you chosen to remain in the form of Captain Marvel since your departure from this city nine years ago?"
Straightening to his full height, Denny took a deep breath. "Because, wizard, Denny Batson was only thirteen years old."
Shazam's brow furrowed. "Why should that matter?"
"No-one takes a child seriously, Wizard," Denny growled. "Whenever someone under the age of eighteen tries to say anything, adults ALWAYS get that humoring look on their face. Since I had these powers, I thought it best to remain in the form that I'd be taken serious in." Glancing down at his feet, Denny's voice dropped. "Besides, when you've got powers like these and you help people, you… SEE things that a thirteen-year-old shouldn't have to see. It kind of makes people grow up FAST."
"Alas," Shazam sighed. "I feared as much." Straightening in the throne, the ancient wizard stared evenly at Denny. "Speak my name," Shazam commanded.
Denny stiffened. "Why?"
"Question me NOT, Denny Batson!" Shazam thundered. "SPEAK MY NAME!"
Dropping his head, Denny sighed. "Shazam."
With a roar of thunder, the magical lightning struck Denny, surrounding him in a nimbus of smoke. When it had cleared, Denny Batson lifted his head to look at his mentor, shock and horror filling his eyes.
"I-I'm still thirteen?"
His own eyes mirroring Denny's sadness, Shazam nodded.
"But… But how?" Denny stammered.
"While in your enchanted form, time has no hold over your mortal form." Gesturing to the boy, Shazam's eyes softened. "You could remain as Captain Marvel for centuries, and still Denny Batson would remain only thirteen."
Denny, his mouth agape, stood staring in silence at his body.
Striding into his office, Perry White's grin threatened to swallow his entire face as he saw the two costumed visitors who waited for him. Shutting the door behind him, he chuckled warmly.
"Great Shades of Elvis!" the Editor rumbled. "It's good to see the two of you!"
"It's good to see you, too, Perry," Clark replied, shaking Perry's hand.
Lois, stepping forward, suddenly found herself engulfed in the beefy arms of her former boss. Giggling, she effortlessly lifted Perry into the air and did a quick pirouette.
"Whoa, girl!" Perry said in surprise. "Back on Terra Firma, if you please!"
Setting the flustered newspaperman back onto the floor, Lois playfully batted her eyes at him. "Something wrong, Perry?"
Straightening his rumpled clothes back down, Perry began to fix Ultrawoman with a semi-fierce scowl but was unable to hold it before breaking out in laughter. "Kids, much as I'd love to stay here and shoot the breeze with you the rest of the day, I've unfortunately got a meeting with Mr. Stern in about ten minutes. What can I do for you?"
"We need access to the Planet's archives again," Clark said in a low voice. Glancing around, he leaned in closer to Perry. "We'd use the passwords you gave us, but we don't have the time to fly all the way back to… home."
"No problem," Perry said, suddenly all business. Walking around his desk to his computer, Perry swiftly tapped in a series of commands. Stepping back with a satisfied grunt, he motioned to Clark. "It's all yours, son."
Smiling, Clark gently squeezed Perry's shoulder. "Thanks, Perry."
"Oh, and by the way," Perry added as he walked to the door. "Next time, why don't you come visit when it ISN'T an emergency? Alice and I would love to have you over for dinner."
Lois's smile widened. "You and Alice are back together? That's great!"
Perry's bewildered smile answered Lois's. "Yeah. When she answered that personal ad I placed, we decided to take things slow- you know, kind of see how things played out. Now, we're back to how it used to be, before the problems." Shaking his head, Perry chuckled again. "She always used to hate how much time I spent here at the paper. Now, she has a column in the city section, writing recipes and such. Who knew that the way to get her to accept my life at the paper was to include her in it?" With a final wave, Perry was gone, disappearing into the chaos of the newsroom.
As he scanned through the archives, Clark marveled at the number of stories it contained concerning Captain Marvel. Beside him, Lois whistled in surprise.
"Wow," she said. "He's certainly been busy!"
Clark nodded. "It seems so. Stopping everything from robberies, organized crime, evil scientists, you name it. From the looks of things, he seems to have adopted Coast City as his home." Calling up a map of the United States, Clark nodded to himself as he examined it. "Coast City's only a couple hundred miles south of Metropolis. We can be there in no time." Shutting down the computer, the two heroes turned to leave when they nearly ran into the madly running form of Jimmy Olsen.
"Superman! Ultrawoman! Boy, am I glad I caught you two!" Gasping for air, Jimmy's hands flailed in the air as he tried to compose himself. "You are NEVER going to believe what just happened to me a little bit ago!"
As Black Adam and his captive came to rest on the sidewalk, the crowd parted hastily, making room for the imposing figure. One man, reading a newspaper, failed to look where he was going and collided with the ancient Egyptian. With a snarled curse, figuring the obstruction was a tourist staring skyward in the hopes of seeing Superman, the pedestrian was about to launch into a spiel on the merits of politeness in the big city when it registered on his consciousness exactly how large the man was that stood before him.
"Sweet Mother of-" the man gasped.
With a contemptuous flick of his finger, Black Adam struck the man in the forehead, rendering him unconscious.
Staring at the comatose body, Anna felt her captor's expectant gaze on her. Tearing her vision away from the innocent man, she pointed a shaking finger at a massive structure across the street. "There," Anna said. "The Metropolis Public Library. You said that you wanted knowledge of today's world? Well, like the man told you, that's about as good as any you'll find."
"And you say that this ENTIRE place is filled with scrolls of knowledge?" Black Adam asked.
"Not scrolls- books," Anna corrected. "And yes, the entire place is pretty well filled with them." Glancing at him from the corner of her eye, Anna gave Adam a half-smile. "I want to thank you again for not killing that young man on the roof of the Daily Planet." Gazing in undisguised admiration at the structure, the ancient warrior nodded absently. "His death would have served no purpose. You have truly served me well, woman, in bringing me to this place." Nudging her towards the library, Black Adam smiled without humor. "Lead on."
Sighing in exasperation as she turned to the building, Anna shook her head. "This 'woman' thing is getting pretty tiresome, Adam. You'd think, with the wisdom of Zehuti, that you could remember my name."
Bursting into laughter, Black Adam slapped his thigh. "Ah, Anna, THAT is the true reason why I've not killed you yet- you make me laugh!"
Turning back as she walked, Anna's breath caught in her throat as she saw Black Adam's face. Though he laughed, there was no answering mirth reflected in his eyes. Rather, they stared back impassively, like a predator. Repressing a shiver, Anna firmly reminded herself to keep her humor to herself in the future.
Nearly two hours later, sitting in the library, Anna once more marveled at the speed with which Black Adam seemed to be absorbing what he read. Already, the tables immediately surrounding them groaned under the weight of the massive amount of books they supported, and the library assistants were bringing even more.
>He read the entire Encyclopedia Britannia inside fifteen minutes, < she thought to herself in awe. Scattered around them were books on history, literature, mythology, politics, science, philosophy- the topics ranged across the entire spectrum. With a faint puzzled look, Anna glanced over the titles once more.
>He's not concentrating on any one subject, < she realized. >He's trying to absorb a little of everything. < One subject seemed to pop up more often than others but before she could speculate on it, the slamming of a book cover drew her attention back to her companion.
Black Adam, his face beet red, stared in undisguised hostility at the book before him, his fists clenching and unclenching. Craning her neck, Anna tried to see the title but, before she could, Black Adam hurled the book across the library, narrowly missing a library assistant.
"NOTHING!" he roared. "Nothing at all!" His gaze roving across the assembled books, Black Adam's fury mounted. Striding to each table, he contemptuously overturned each, scattering their contents across the floor. What few bystanders remained in the library, braving Adam's initial boisterous entry, scattered at the sound.
"Adam?" Anna hesitantly asked.
Whirling to face her, Black Adam's face twisted in rage. "I ruled Egypt for nigh on two generations, and yet there is NOTHING mentioned of me in the histories! It is as though I never existed!" Snatching up a book of ancient Egypt, Black Adam's fingers sank into the tome as he clenched his fist. "I ruled Egypt in my father's name for the last twenty years of his reign. After my father died, I formally assumed the throne of Egypt and ruled for nearly one hundred years." Shaking the book at Anna, Black Adam's eyes blazed in fury. "Why is there no mention of me in these books? Why is their no mention of Rameses even having a son named Teth-Adam? You are a student in Egyptian history! Tell me why!"
"I-I don't know," Anna stammered. Though panic flooded her being, as if from a great distance, a memory of something the Professor had said slowly bubbled to the surface of her mind.
Seeing the change in her facial expression, Black Adam relented slightly, dropping the mangled book to the floor. "Please," he asked in a softer voice. "Tell me, why has my life been erased?"
"The Professor made mention that he'd found reference to you in your father's diaries," Anna murmured, her brow knit in concentration. "He also mentioned that it was the ONLY place he'd found it. It's as though history had been rewritten." Meeting Black Adam's eyes, Anna tilted her head. "Who was alive back then and important enough that they could have ordered the scholars to rewrite history?"
Instantly, a deathly calm expression fell across the towering Egyptian. "The old Wizard," he breathed. Shaking his head from side to side, a low rumble began to build deep within Black Adam's chest. Gradually, it grew until, throwing his head back, the black clad man screamed his frustrations to the heavens.
As Shazam continued talking to Denny, a shiver seemed to pass through his spectral form. Stopping in mid-sentence, the old wizard's eyes grew wide as he looked to the ceiling. "He is here."
Following his mentor's gaze, Denny's eyes hardened. "Black Adam? He's here in Metropolis?"
"Yes, my champion. Now, it is time for you to meet your destiny."
Before Denny's eyes, the ancient wizard's form began fading, like a distant dream.
"Wizard?" Denny asked. "What's happening?"
"For the moment, my time here is done. The scarab," Shazam intoned, fading from view. "The scarab is the key! You must…" Before he could finish, Shazam was gone.
For a moment, Denny stood in the chamber, his mind awhirl with everything he'd learned. Then, with a deep breath, the youth spoke:
And the sky roared its anger.
Standing atop the building across the street, Superman and Ultrawoman observed Black Adam with their x-ray vision as he ravenously devoured the books.
"He's been in their two hours," Lois murmured. "How much longer are we supposed to wait?"
"As long as the hostage is all right and he's just reading, he can stay in there all night as far as I'm concerned," Clark answered. "When he comes out, THEN we'll stop him. The last thing we need right now is to be tearing up the city library."
As the two watched, Black Adam discovered his omission from history. Flinching back slightly, Lois shook her head.
"Whoa! He sure can yell loud." Tilting her head to the side, Lois quirked her lips up into a half smile. "Now can we go get him?"
Clark, flinching back as well, nodded in agreement. "Yeah. There go the tables."
"Wait, Clark," Lois urged. Pointing into the distance, Lois's eyes widened. "Isn't that Captain Marvel?"
Following her finger, Clark nodded, a twinge of relief racing through him. "Yes it is. Captain Marvel!" Clark shouted. Across the skyline, the crimson clad figure stopped in mid flight, his head turning towards the voice calling his name. In moments, the red and gold figure alighted onto the roof next to Clark.
"Superman," Captain Marvel returned, a smile lighting his face. "Boy am I glad to see you."
"Not half as glad as we are to see you," Clark returned. "You wouldn't by chance know of someone else with a uniform like yours? A black uniform?"
"His name is Black Adam," Captain Marvel said. "Why? You've seen him?"
"Um, you could say that," Lois admitted.
Inside the library, Anna watched as her captor finished reading yet another book.
>He read 'War and Peace' in just under two minutes, < she marveled. >This man is AMAZING! < Mentally shaking herself out of her fascination, she forcibly reminded herself that this man had also killed several people with no more thought than someone would spare killing an insect.
Stifling a yawn, Black Adam absently tossed the book onto the floor, where it lay with a number of others he'd discarded. Lifting his face to the heavens, he gusted a heavy sigh. "Where are the rest of the books I requested?" he bellowed. When no one answered him, he turned in his chair to look around the room. "I asked a question: where are the rest of…"
"They've all gone," Anna said.
Slowly, Black Adam turned to her, raw fury washing across his face. "What was that?" he asked quietly.
"The library employees," Anna elaborated. "They all left."
Casting a final, murderous look around the empty room, Adam waved to his companion. "Then YOU will have to get them."
"Now," Black Adam added, his eyes narrowing.
As she disappeared into the depths of the library, Black Adam reached over to a magazine rack and snatched up a copy of 'Newstime.'
>Interesting, < he mused. >These books are much thinner than the others. < Flipping a page, it tore with a harsh sound. >More fragile as well. < Turning the magazine pages with more care, Black Adam's breath caught in his throat. There, on the page before him, the red uniformed figure of Captain Marvel smiled back at the world, his gold-trimmed cape flapping in the breeze. Sunlight glinted off the gold sash at his waist, as well as the segmented bracelet covering most of his lower arms and the golden lightning bolt emblazoned on his massive chest.
A low rumble issued from Black Adam's chest as his face twisted in a snarl.
"The child was correct. There IS another!"
Anna, approaching the table with an armload of books, caught the tail end of his comment. Slowing her advance, she eyed her captor warily. "Adam? Is something wrong?"
"I've found the man they call Captain Marvel," Black Adam explained, his eyes never leaving the page.
"Does it say where he is?"
"No," Adam growled. "It merely covers his exploits of late."
Seeing that his mood was rapidly declining, and painfully aware that her continued survival might likewise hinge on that mood, Anna set the books down with a loud thump onto the chair beside Adam, distracting him from his musings.
"Look what I found," Anna announced. Holding aloft the small, hand-held device, she smiled disarmingly. "Mind if I turn on the television?"
As he stared at the device she held, Black Adam's own eyes lit up in cautious excitement as he set the magazine down. "What is this television you speak of?"
"Let me show you." Switching the set on, a blast of noise erupted from the set, sending Black Adam stumbling backwards in alarm.
"By Apophis, what is that infernal noise?" he cried.
Glancing at the screen, Anna fought to hold back a chuckle. "Oh, that's a music video. It's by a group called Marilyn Manson."
Watching the screen, Black Adam slowly shook his head. "And THIS is what passes for music in this age?"
Anna shrugged. "For some, yes."
Black Adam's lips curled up in disgust. "And this… man," he said, pointing to the singer cavorting on the screen. "He looks to be a creature of the netherworld."
"Some people would tend to agree with you," Anna chuckled. Twisting the small dial, she rapidly progressed through the channels. "But what I wanted to see was if there was anything good on the news."
Across the street, the three heroes observed the building. Leaning against the low wall, Captain Marvel stared down at the library below, a look of intense concentration on his face.
"This is MY fight, Superman," Captain Marvel stated. "Please, let me handle it myself."
Glancing at Denny from out of the corner of his eye, Clark raised an eyebrow. "You sure about this?"
Slowly, the crimson-garbed man nodded.
Returning Marvel's nod with his own, Clark shrugged. "All right. Ultrawoman and I will hang back and make sure things don't get out of hand."
Smiling faintly, Denny nodded once more. "Thanks. What're they doing now?" Captain Marvel asked.
"They look like they're watching the news," Lois murmured.
Hearing a strange noise, Clark glanced up to see a helicopter hovering nearby, a man with a camera on his shoulder leaning out the door observing them. Beneath the craft, a local news channel's name was stenciled across it, though the angle prevented Clark from identifying which one.
"Superman," Lois moaned, grabbing his arm. Pointing towards the library, her eyes widened in mounting dread as she tried to form words. "H-He knows."
"Knows what?" Captain Marvel asked.
As Clark watched, a black and gold figure erupted through the wall of the library in a shower of rubble. Immediately, the figure gazed towards the roof's occupants.
"He knows we're here," Lois finished.
"They were watching the news." Clark's eyes shot to the helicopter. "That's a live feed to the station," Clark groaned.
"And we've been made," Denny added, briefly following Clark's gaze. Returning his attention to the library below, Denny's breath froze in his throat. "He's gone."
Pointing towards the street below, Denny's eyes narrowed in anger. "He's gone. While we've been up here wasting time, he left. I'm going after him." Launching himself into the air, Captain Marvel raced high above the city before Clark could object. Hovering in the air, Captain Marvel scanned the surrounding city, desperately searching for some sign of Black Adam.
>He's got to be around here somewhere, < Denny thought to himself. >I just know it! <
Rocketing down from above, the ebon figure of Black Adam slammed into Denny, driving him towards the pavement far below.
"Allow me to introduce myself," Adam snarled. "My name is Black Adam! I believe we have something- or someone- in common!"
Tumbling down through the air Denny fought to separate himself from his attacker. For every blow he managed to land on Black Adam, the Egyptian warrior landed two in return. As they traded blows, Denny managed to wedge his knee between them and, kicking out savagely, knocked his opponent away to buy himself a breather.
Righting himself almost instantly, Black Adam slowly circled Marvel, watching for an opening. "So YOU are the new champion?" he mocked, a cruel tone in his voice. "It seems that music isn't the ONLY thing that has vastly declined since I've slept."
Captain Marvel gritted his teeth, saying nothing. >There's got to be a way to beat him, < he thought.
"When I knew the wizard, he was already a senile old doddering fool," Black Adam snarled. "And you? You are nothing more than his pathetic last gasp!" Laughing cruelly, the ancient Egyptian shook his head. "In your mortal life, what are you? A court jester, perhaps? I was the Pharaoh's mightiest warrior, child! Entire NATIONS trembled at my name! Now?" Sweeping his hand across the sky, his eyes flashed with anticipation. "Now, the entire WORLD will tremble."
For a moment, Marvel stared wide-eyed at Adam as a thought occurred to him. Finally, with a long exhale, the hero's shoulders slumped. "You're right," he sighed. "I'm in over my head." Pivoting in the air, Captain Marvel blurred into the distance, a sonic boom echoing across the sky.
Black Adam shook his head in disgust. "Pathetic." Turning his attention back to the city below, his gaze heated in anger. "I can feel you down there, Wizard. Even hiding among the multitudes like the craven dog you are, I will find you." Clenching his fists before him, Adam's voice dropped to a sibilant hiss. "Judgment comes for you, old man."
As she stepped out of the library, casting one final glance behind her at the two costumed heroes within, Anna shook her head in wonder as she shifted her satchel to a more comfortable position. >Thank goodness THAT'S over, < she mentally sighed. As she took her first step into the open street, she felt a light bump against her hip.
"Ma'am?" a soft voice asked.
Looking down to see whom she'd accidentally run into, Anna's gaze met a young boy's. "I'm sorry, kid- my fault for not looking where I'm going. Can I help you?"
Though the youth grimaced slightly at the 'kid' reference, he smiled up at her with a nod. "I certainly hope so."
Beneath the city a few blocks away, a confrontation was building.
Gazing at the spectre of his ancient mentor, Black Adam's fury built to new heights. "You imprisoned me for three millennia, old man," Black Adam growled. "Now, at long last I shall have my revenge. After I obliterate your new champion, I shall-"
Shazam shook his head sadly. "Ah, Teth-Adam. How could I have been so wrong about you?"
"Bah," Black Adam snorted. "You are a weak old fool who has no concept of the TRUE use of power. I, on the other hand, have a SOLID grasp of the nature of power. Power like YOURS, for example." Glancing around, he smirked wickedly. "Unless I am mistaken I believe your hold on this plane is focused here, in this chamber. Now, should it be destroyed…?" Chuckling faintly, Black Adam cracked his knuckles. "Your champion would be without his mentor's guidance, and be even easier to kill." As Adam prepared to destroy the chamber, a soft scratching sound from behind him came to his ears. Whirling around, his fist cocked back to strike, Black Adam came face to face with a young boy. With a high-pitched scream, the youth shrank back from the hostility radiating off the Egyptian.
"Don't hurt me!" the young boy wailed. "PLEASE! Don't hurt me!"
Black Adam, lowering his fist, snorted derisively. "As if I would waste my power on such a pitiful whelp. Run home to your mother, child."
As the Egyptian man scornfully turned his back, Denny Batson's terror filled expression melted away, replaced by one of determination. Mentally crossing his fingers, Denny coiled his legs beneath him and launched himself at Black Adam's broad shoulders, his hands clutching the scarab necklace stretched out in front of his flying body.
Sensing movement behind him, Black Adam whirled, his shocked eyes meeting Denny's triumphant ones for a scant second as the boy slapped the necklace around Adam's neck.
Black Adam's primal scream of rage was cut short as the necklace bearing the scarab amulet dropped over his head, coming to rest against his chest. His body going rigid, the ancient Egyptian fought desperately against the power that held him immobile as darkness closed in on him once more.
Staring down at the prone man, Denny smiled. "Gotcha!"
"…and once I remembered that his hostage had been there when his tomb was opened, I gambled that she'd know where the scarab was. As luck would have had it, she had it with her all the time." Sitting back in his chair in Perry White's office, Denny Batson sipped contentedly on the double-thick chocolate milkshake as Jimmy scribbled furiously on a notepad. Leaning against the far wall, his arm wrapped around Ultrawoman's waist, Clark shook his head in wonder as Perry slapped his hand on the desk with a boisterous laugh.
"THAT'S what I'm talking about, people- the hero in us all! How even the little guy can be extraordinary!" Glancing at Denny, Perry nodded his head. "No offense."
"None taken," Denny replied with a smile of his own. Holding up his empty glass, the youth chuckled. "Especially if you get me another one of these."
Laughing again, Perry nodded. "Consider it done! This is going to make a GREAT story!"
"Any idea what you're going to do now?" Clark asked.
Knitting his brow in thought, Denny finally shrugged. "Actually, I thought I might stay here in Metropolis for awhile, if that's all right with you? With Jack married now, I guess I'm… feeling a little out of sorts, so to speak."
Glancing up from his writing, Jimmy smiled. "Hey, if it's a place you need to stay, look no further. I just happen to have a two-bedroom apartment if you're interested. I will warn you, though," Jimmy cautioned with mock seriousness. "Pizza is more than just mere food to me. It's nearly an art form. Anyone who rooms with me has to take it JUST as serious."
His laughter filling the room, Denny nodded in gratitude. "You're on!"