by CSyphrett, with Martin Maenza
The red-and-yellow-clad form of Captain Marvel flew over the Pacific Ocean, his struggling burden trailing behind him. His eyes narrowed. “Holy moley, what’s that?” He saw another winged monster approaching from an island ahead. “Great, just what I need!”
With a thought, he made his decision. The hero whirled about and then threw the monster that followed him at the other one that approached. Both monsters crashed into the water off-shore of the volcanic rock. “Strike!”
The lizard climbed out of the water as his new opponent flapped a tidal wave onto him with massive wings. A giant primate then appeared from a cleft in the rock face of the volcano. The creature seemed to be back among its own kind, and it focused its efforts now to battle the other larger creatures instead.
“Poor thing was just lost,” Captain Marvel concluded. Still, he took the time to make sure the place was a natural home for the beasts before flying back into the air. “I’ll have to alert the Navy to avoid this little monster island. Still, I wonder what would make the giant lizard leave the nest.”
Another island was a small dot on the horizon nearby. Only eyes as good as Captain Marvel’s could see the other place at that distance; an ordinary man would need a telescope at the top of the monster island’s smokey peak to catch sight of this other place.
Perhaps I’d better go check that place out, too, he thought, since I’m out here, anyway. Captain Marvel flew on, hoping the answers he sought were within reach.
A display of burning air greeted him as he flew toward the smaller landmass. Captain Marvel smashed through the specter, shattering it into fiery ribbons. “This just gets weirder and weirder! If someone doesn’t want me looking around here, then I’d better see what’s going on!” He landed on the island just as a man in a tan coat and white fedora stepped out of thin air.
Yarko the Great went down to a dock on the bay. Pulling a piece of paper out from under his coat, he traced the symbol for boat on the paper with his finger. Then he threw the paper on the water with a flick of his wrist.
Smoke erupted from the paper when it touched the sea, and a wooden sailboat formed from the smoke, its white sails unfurling from its multiple masts.
Yarko smiled as he jumped from the dock onto the sailboat. As soon as his feet touched the wood, the sails filled, and the boat began to drift from the shore. Yarko grabbed the rudder, steering the craft away from the city. As soon as he was clear of any busy shipping lanes, he gazed at the sails, and with a flash of his eyes, he caused it to soar into the sky and fly above the water with preternatural speed.
Soon, Yarko came across a piece of land on the horizon. I sense this is the place, he thought, recalling the sensations and images that had filled his head when communing with Prince Amentep. He dropped the anchor on the boat just offshore.
Yarko tossed a card onto the water, and a small gangplank formed. He stepped on the magical creation and walked over to the shore. I wonder what I will find at this strange journey’s end.
Just then, Yarko noticed a man in a red suit with a lightning bolt emblazoned on his shirt dropping from the sky. He landed near another who appeared as if from out of thin air. Very interesting, Yarko wondered. He did not sense any evil from the two, so he approached them. Perhaps they might know of those threats that attacked San Francisco’s Chinatown.
The water elemental, realizing that Doctor Mist’s magic had him sufficiently held captive, began to spill what he knew.
“You see, the one in charge has gotten a taste for this reality. When this Valdemir guy proposed his deal, the chief went for it. So he was going to push some of Hell over here to show he was carrying out his part of the deal, only… well, there was a problem.”
“Tell me the truth, imp,” commanded Mist.
“OK, OK… the chief couldn’t do it. Something blocked a piece of Hell from reaching your world, so the chief was forced to use a piece of land he found in a dimension of magic — the Darkworld — and sent that through, basically using it as a bridge from Hell to Earth. Hell, that turned out to be even better than the original plan, because this island opened up simultaneously in five different universes, including your own! Valdemir sent these heroes to seal everything up. Everything should have been downhill from there, but the guys Valdemir sent didn’t all get killed like they were supposed to. That atomic converter guy blew himself and his buddy up before we could do them in. The chief was hopping mad. Talk about losing your cool. Here he was, with a small piece of real estate in five worlds, but with no way to get to it, and no way to pull it back. What could he do?
“Then this kid comes into the picture,” continued the imp. “He’s made to order — bitter, angry, hates humanity. He’s also a natural psionic that’s growing in power day by day. All the chief needs to do is get a little assist, and not only this world, but four others besides, is our oyster.”
“The boy hates you, too,” noted Doctor Mist, not quite smiling.
“With a passion,” said the imp. “No one can get near him before their heads pop like a squished grape. Even top dogs like rhymers. I never seen anything like it.”
“If he is opposing you, why did you cause the waterspout out here?” asked Doctor Mist.
“First off, he’s not really against us, and no way am I giving him a chance to pop my head,” said the imp. “Second, the chief said we can still have fun as long as we stay clear of the kid. So we are. We’re heading for anyplace away from there we can.”
“I see,” said Doctor Mist.
Captain Toby Stewart interrupted the discussion between the man and the little creature. “Doctor Mist, there’s something going on over there!” the naval officer announced, pointing at a small group that had assembled seemingly from nowhere on the island.
Doctor Mist took the binoculars from him and put them to his own eyes. As he watched, a lady in a woman’s suit and top hat walked up. “Hmmm… I think I should attend the gathering,” said Doctor Mist. “And I’ll take my small impious friend with me.”
“What will you need from me?” asked Captain Stewart.
“Time,” said Doctor Mist. “Maybe a few prayers would help, too.”
The ancient mage stepped into the air and floated across the water to Grim Island. “Don’t get any funny ideas,” he warned the captive held in his hand. Doctor Mist sensed the potential in these newcomers as allies, having long been able to size up potential agents after several centuries of acting behind the scenes to protect the world. Hopefully, the task ahead will be easy enough to accomplish without my direct help. Perhaps as simple as asking the boy to leave the island for a time.
The imp shivered in his hand, as if sensing something that scared even it.
Or perhaps it won’t be so easy after all, Doctor Mist thought as he joined the three other mystics and the hero clad in red.
After the group exchanged introductions and began to compare notes with one another, the imp in Doctor Mist’s hand laughed at their descriptions of the various menaces. “See, I told you!” it cackled. “The creatures are reaching out to the various Earths. It’s the work of my brethren as they try to establish a better foothold.” None of the heroes were as amused as the wispy goblin.
“Let’s talk to this Gareth Gallowglass and see about unmaking this place,” said Margo the Magician, deciding that the men would merely keep analyzing the problem to death instead of taking action.
At this, the imp started rolling in Doctor Mist’s palm in a paroxysm of renewed laughter. “Talk… to Gallowglass? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”
“We will talk to him,” Doctor Occult said firmly. “Your little friend obviously doesn’t think that much of our chances of persuading him to leave, Doctor Mist.”
“I don’t, either,” Yarko the Great said solemnly.
“How can you say that?” Margo asked.
“From what Doctor Mist, here, has said, this boy has suffered a betrayal and will look upon us as a threat to his solitude,” Yarko explained, “especially in light of what this world’s government has done in effort to seize him and this island. He will attack us.”
“Let’s do what we can peacefully,” said Captain Marvel. “Maybe we’ll get lucky, and he’s not as bad off as we think.”
“Hold on!” balked the imp, suddenly serious. “I am not going anywhere near that monster!”
“Where I go, you go,” said Doctor Mist.
The five made their way through the brush. The mystical heroes took turns using their powers to remove obstacles from their way, while Captain Marvel guarded the flank. Eventually, they found a teenager sitting in a scorched area, a book about three times the size of a Gideon Bible cradled in his hands.
“Gareth Gallowglass, I presume,” said Doctor Occult.
The teenager looked up, his one blue right eye as fierce as a bird of prey in his thin, fifteen-year-old face. Where the other eye should have been was a festering hole leaking pus. His brown hair had grown long and tangled over the three years he had lived on the island.
“Do we really want to be here?” the imp whispered nervously.
“Gareth?” asked Margo the Magician softly. “We have to talk to you.”
“Go away,” the boy tiredly said. “Get off my island.”
“You can’t stay here alone, Gareth,” Margo said, gently hoping a woman’s touch would do the job. “You are causing things to happen, and not just on this world, but on four others. This place needs to be put back where it belongs.”
“This is my home,” said Gallowglass, getting to his feet. “I won’t leave it.”
“We’re not giving you a choice, son,” said Doctor Occult. “You are becoming a danger to our Earths and to yourself. We have to put an end to it!”
“Poor choice of words,” the imp commented. Doctor Mist could only agree as Gallowglass’ power angrily manifested across the visible and invisible spectrum.
Yarko the Great was prepared for this turn of events. With a flash of his eyes, he created a wall in the air as the world exploded around them. He felt a hand on his shoulder, another will joining his to form a shield from Gallowglass’ sudden fury.
“Holy moley!” Captain Marvel exclaimed, shielding his eyes from the glare.
Gallowglass advanced on the five, light spilling from his empty eye socket. His hair floated around him as pieces of the ground and small rocks began to levitate in the influence of his aura. “I warned you to leave! Now I will make you go!”
I’ve got to buy us some time, Doctor Mist thought. He hurled the imp at the psionic as a distraction.
“What are you doing?” the imp cried out as he flailed through the air.
As Doctor Mist tried a simple sleep spell to end the fight before someone was seriously hurt, the imp decided it had to help itself. It grabbed air in its vaporous hands, and suddenly a tornado roared down on Gallowglass, spitting dirt and debris as it moved forward. “Oh, the glory I will receive for destroying the likes of you!” the imp cried.
Gallowglass paused as Doctor Mist’s spell struck. “A sleep spell? Oh, please!” As he sliced his hand through the air, a wave of energy swept over the heroes and the tornado.
The funnel of air shattered as the imp was thrown against the ground. It impacted so hard that the imp became a puddle of white liquid. The magicians were thrown off their feet, Yarko’s shield coming apart under the strain. Only one stood firm against the assault, the strength of Hercules and the fortitude of Achilles at his command.
Captain Marvel lunged forward, trying a gentler punch at first. He hoped to knock the boy out without using too much force.
“Get away from me!” he heard.
With a wave of a hand, the costumed champion went flying backward. The Captain’s body dug a trench along the beach, his head hurting from the sudden force that had been used on him. Time to take off the kid gloves, Captain Marvel thought as he took flight again.