by CSyphrett, with Martin Maenza
An African man with a close-cropped beard and mustache who was dressed in an expensive-looking suit stood on the deck of a Navy battleship. The sailors thought this black man with his strange accent was an odd passenger, but they kept their distance. He looked like African royalty to them, and besides, this man named Doctor Mist was rumored to be a man of magic, though most wondered if such a thing were true or not.
Doctor Mist held onto the rail and stared out across the water through a pair of binoculars, frowning slightly as he spied his goal. Grim Island, he thought, then turned to the uniformed man standing next to him. “What do you expect me to do, Captain Stewart?” Doctor Mist asked.
Toby Stewart, a high-ranking naval official, puffed on his cigar. “Gareth Gallowglass has gone nuts, and we want you to go in and pull him off of that rock,” explained the captain. “He’s been there for the last three years, and we’re stumped on what else we can do.”
“I don’t understand,” said Mist, perplexed. “You say a twelve-year-old boy has prevented the U.S. Armed Forces from pulling him off an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific for three years? What about his mentors, the Sentinels of Magic? Surely they could reason with the boy.”
“The Sentinels were killed when the island appeared,” said Stewart, “though the brass decided to keep all reports of their deaths quiet. As far as the general public is concerned, it’s classified. Let’s go down to the briefing room, and I’ll lay the whole thing out for you.”
“Let’s do that,” agreed Mist. The two men crossed the deck and descended to the level below.
Shortly, they sat at the small briefing table. Captain Stewart placed a file on the table in front of him, and Doctor Mist opened it, scanning the contents quickly. There were some photos and a few typed reports marked official and confidential. He shut the folder again when he was done.
Doctor Mist began speaking, summarizing the information he had just read. “The Sentinels of Magic were killed by a rogue U.S. Army major, who then had every bone in his body broken by the Sentinels’ mascot, a so-called psychic known as ‘Gary the Miracle Boy.’ The mascot took over the ground where his friends died. When the Navy was called into deal with the problem, the use of force was out of the question, because you can’t get close enough before the mascot does something with the expanding mental abilities he possesses.”
“That’s it in a nutshell,” agreed Stewart, “except the problem has gone beyond pulling the boy off the island. He was powerful enough at the age of twelve, but now that he’s fifteen, he’s grown powerful enough to start affecting shipping routes all over this part of the ocean! The president wants it stopped any way we can.”
“What if we can’t?” asked Doctor Mist.
“An above-ground nuclear test will be conducted over the island that will kill him, high enough that he won’t be able to stop the bombing,” said Stewart solemnly. That was an extreme measure, and one he was not particularly fond of.
“Are you so sure about that?” asked Doctor Mist.
Stewart was silent.
“Captain?” said the executive officer, Bridges. “We have an anomaly coming at us from the target!”
“Anomaly?” asked Stewart.
“A waterspout that sprang up from nowhere!” reported Bridges.
A few moments later, Doctor Mist stood on the battleship’s top deck. He shifted uncomfortably in the expensive, Italian-made suit he wore as he regarded the approaching menace on the water. In this type of situation, mixing with prejudiced white soldiers, it was best if he was thought to be a wealthy man or a king of some African kingdom, and that was not far from the truth. He was shown much more respect when dressed this way than when wearing his traditional outfit as emperor of Kor. There’s no doubt of the unnaturalness of the waterspout! he concluded. In fact, he thought he heard some type of laughter in the spout’s roar and saw eyes glaring at him in anger on its spinning surface.
A lightning bolt ripped from the top of the spout and crashed against the ship. It has to be the boy’s doing. With a measure of regret, Doctor Mist held one hand up and recited an ancient incantation, using the smallest fraction of his power. But using magic himself was distasteful to him, since he’d always feared becoming the tyrant that he once was many centuries ago. If it was any other case, he would send the agents he had around the world to work on his behalf rather than intervene directly. But his little spell had worked. The rough sea around the boat calmed, and the wind redirected away from them. Protecting the ship is easy. But stopping that will be the challenge! He frowned at the task before him, knowing that he wouldn’t have enough time to find the right agents for this type of job, anyway.
The ancient mystic brought his hands together in a loud clap. A silent wave of energy leaped from his hands and projected out to the waterspout, and the water sprayed away from the impact.
What’s this? Doctor Mist thought as he saw a tiny humanoid fly from the other side of the halting funnel. As the figure did so, the phenomenon collapsed in a swift rain on the ocean.
Doctor Mist glared at the small spirit floating above the Pacific. There’s the culprit! He ignored his wet clothing and discomfort in order to bring a portion of his considerable mental prowess to bear upon the elemental.
The creature waved its arms in the air as if summoning a person to its side. It seemed surprised when nothing happened. It glanced at Doctor Mist, then shook its tiny fist in anger at the sorcerer.
Doctor Mist smiled thinly as he held out his hand. “Come to me!” he commanded.
The spirit floated to a landing in the palm of his hand. The two regarded each other silently.
“Release me, mortal scum!” the spirit finally shrieked in outrage, its voice like nails on a blackboard.
“Answer my questions, and I will think about it,” said Doctor Mist coolly. He wiped the water from his face with a handkerchief as he waited for the spirit to make its decision.
“What do you want to know?” the pale thing finally said sullenly.
“Let’s start with the obvious things, like who you are and why you tried to sink this ship, the Defiant,” said Doctor Mist. “Then we can talk about who summoned you and what is really going on here, beyond a strange island and a mad boy. How does that sound?”
“Do I get a choice?” asked the spirit.
Margo the Magician raised her hands to defend herself. Before her, out of the fog came skeletal figures in tattered clothing, each brandishing rusted weapons as they advanced up the darkened street. They sliced their blades at mailboxes and lampposts as they passed, the weapons easily tearing through the metal.
“You boys mean some serious business,” Margo said, backing up to keep a distance from them. “But then again, I’m not some innocent flower you can just mow over!” The magician gestured with a slashing motion of her hand before her.
The leading pirate fell apart as if taken out by some kind of invisible blow; its cracking bones clattered against the asphalt. The other revenants saw their comrade fall, then focused their eyeless sockets back on the maiden. She felt their rage, the fog swelling up behind them. The cloud reached for her to obscure her movement.
I hadn’t counted on that! she thought. Margo knew she could not let them surround her. That would stretch my ability to defend myself! Even though they might not be able to see me, I couldn’t see them to attack, either!
Margo the Magician raised one hand, one finger snapping a flame to life. “How’s about we play some ball, boys!” She hurled the sphere of flame into the spectral fog, igniting it with her magic. It became a cloud of fire all the way back to the Pacific. The skeletons thrashed about in it, igniting as well. “Back to Davey Jones’ locker for you knaves!”
She waited for the fog to burn away before walking down to the waterfront. Those skeletal sailors could have easily been an Axis plot, she thought, though where Hitler and his cronies get such mystical power, I don’t know! The Thule Society has been rather quiet lately. But these ghouls reeked of something more ominous than the German forces. She looked out in the bay, feeling with her mind the direction she needed to travel.
The young woman, when she felt she had a good lock on what she sought, reached down into the ocean and scooped out a handful of water. Pouring the water slowly at her feet, she formed a nearly round puddle, then etched a line around its edge with her finger. The water stayed within that circle. Good, she thought, the spell having taken hold.
Margo the Magician stepped into the puddle calmly. She sank out of sight in an instant, disappearing into its sudden depth. When her top hat vanished completely, the puddle contracted until only a drop remained. Then that, too, faded.
A moment later, Margo stepped out of the ocean and onto a large rock, completely unaffected by her sudden trip through the watery realm. Where am I now? she wondered. The rest of an island loomed above her. She scooped up some more water and threw it into the air. A misty staircase formed from the falling droplets, leading upward away from the small waves that beat angrily against the rocky shore.
“Up I go!” Margo began to climb.
After taking a few minutes to make sure that all of the shadow ninjas were gone, Yarko the Great arrived at his destination, descending into a dimly lit cellar in a small building, one of many such properties he kept around the world. He needed to meditate in order to discover what was responsible for these creatures. Over the last decade and more, he had made many enemies for himself, including not only the Devil but Death itself. Now he needed to discern where those things had come from in order to strike back at the source.
Kneeling on a mat in the cellar, Yarko placed his hands on his brow and silently began to focus on the shadow ninjas he had battled. That was when he made contact with the spirit of an ancient Egyptian prince.
“Hello, my son,” the spirit said, echoing from a distance beyond. “What problem has attracted your attention this time?”
Yarko elaborated. “O Prince Amentep, a type of shadow demon has struck tonight, trying to burn down parts of Chinatown. I wish to know the source of the problem so that it may be dealt with immediately.”
“What you seek lies in the west, in the Pacific Ocean,” said the spirit. “Something is growing there.”
“I will leave right away,” said the mystic with a bow. “Thank you for your assistance, invincible one.” The spirit fell silent.
Yarko the Great stood unsteadily, then walked to the steps and ascended to the main part of the building again. After he made a few preparations, he would then travel directly to the source, letting his instincts guide him. He didn’t expect the problem to be resolved without his intervention.
Doctor Occult held up the symbol of the Seven in his hand. A small wave swept out from the disc. There is the presence of others in the park, he thought. They fled from him in panic.
I should hunt them down, he thought, but I wonder where they’re coming from. Occult decided to search for the point of origin first. If I stop them at the place of origination, then I can come back and chase the small rodents down. Maybe get Rose to help with that. Two heads are better than one.
Concentrating on the red talisman of power, Occult felt it tug farther to the west. Something out in the ocean, and it’s building in strength! He gathered that soon it would be reaching for the world.
Doctor Occult frowned. Now that Doctor Fate had retired, the Spectre had disappeared years earlier, and the Justice Society of America had recently disbanded, he knew it was up to him.
I pray this is the right way to go, Occult thought. I hope I’m not jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. He stepped into the astral plane and traveled instantly across the weird dimension to Hawaii.
Occult took another bearing with the symbol and stepped again. He didn’t look around at Sydney, Australia, before stepping again to arrive at his goal. “Ah, the joys of magical triangulation.”