by Goose Gansler
The spaceflyer had emerged on the outskirts of a small town. The din that had accompanied its arrival had not gone unnoticed by the inhabitants. The radio bands were alive with talk about the strange rumbling and explosion-like sound. The electromagnetic chatter was picked up by all sorts of people, but they had equipment to do so. The first people to arrive on the scene did not need any electronics to receive the message. Emerging from the sky were two caped figures in red and blue. They were the foremost champions of this world, Marvel Maid and Marvel Man.
As the duo approached, they scanned the area with their super-vision. They quickly identified what had been the cause of the disturbance here on the outskirts of Littletown.
“Kora, it’s a ship!” Marvel Man exclaimed enthusiastically. “A spaceship!”
“I’m not sure about that, cousin,” Marvel Maid replied. “Look closer at the scene.” She had been trying to penetrate the hull with her x-ray vision, but the ship was apparently constructed with some lead alloy.
“What do you…?” Then the meaning of Marvel Maid’s words struck him. There was no crater formed by something falling from above. Rather, the ground had been thrown to the side by something emerging from below. “It came from beneath. Do you think it could be another survivor from our world?”
“Let’s find out,” Marvel Maid said as they landed amidst the torn-up terrain. She and her cousin had been survivors of an underground civilization that had existed beneath the surface of Terra. When subterranean quakes brought about the destruction of the underground world of Ytterbium, two brothers had sought to save their children. The elder, Jaal-Kor, sent his infant daughter in a drilling craft to the surface. Kora had arrived on the surface scant hours after Ytterbium was crushed. The younger brother, Zaal-Kor, had sent his young son in a machine that didn’t arrive on the surface until nearly two decades later. Kol’s craft had been struck in transit, and some strange gases had kept him in a type of suspended animation, causing him to grow to physical maturity but retaining the emotional maturity of the child he still was at heart. Ironically, although Marvel Man was chronologically and physically older than Marvel Maid, he was her junior in every other respect.
Marvel Maid reached the craft first and began tearing away at the access port. The cosmic rays streaming through the atmosphere, which had never reached the underground world of Ytterbium, had given her and Kol fantastic powers. They had put these powers to use for the protection of Terra.
“I think I hear something inside,” Marvel Man noted as the hatch came free in Marvel Maid’s hands. “Something’s alive!”
Marvel Man, with his youthful impetuousness, sped by his cousin and into the ship. He saw the armored form of Thorz slumped over the pilot’s chair. Thorz stirred momentarily and looked up. With dazed eyes he squinted at the shape before him. “Superman?” he managed to say before passing out again.
“Superman?” Marvel Man moved quickly to remove Thorz from the straps and belts that had fastened the Zarrian to the chair. Once he had Thorz free, he carried him outside.
“No need to be rough,” Marvel Maid said as her protégé emerged from the battered craft. “The ship took a beating, but it’s in no danger of exploding.”
“That’s good to know.” Marvel Man laid the unconscious Thorz on the ground. “He called me ‘Superman’ in there. Wasn’t that my duplicate on the planet Earth?”
Marvel Maid nodded. “Yes, he is. But there, he’s the senior hero, and my counterpart Supergirl is the protégé.” She wondered how the lives of their counterparts had unfolded since their only meeting. (*) She had no idea that her doppelgänger had sacrificed her life in the Crisis.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Second Supergirl,” Action Comics #272 (January, 1961) and “The Supergirl of Two Worlds,” Action Comics #273 (February, 1961).]
While she could not feel Thorz’s pulse in his armored form, her x-ray vision and super-hearing had told her that his vital signs seemed to be fine, assuming that he was a standard humanoid type. “I think he’s fit for travel. Let’s get him and the ship to the Fortress. The local authorities are bound to show up any time now. And you know how they treat undocumenteds.”
“Do I ever,” Marvel Man sighed. He lifted Thorz into his arms again. He had to shudder at the thought of all the years that he had spent in prison after his arrival on the surface. Although he had been sent away in a rock penetrator as a boy, he had arrived as a full-grown but emotionally immature man, thanks to the effects of the suspended animation gas that had affected him. Because he had arrived without any proper identification, he had been jailed as a suspected alien spy. He had operated in secret as Marvel Man, learning under the tutelage of his cousin, until he had matured somewhat, and she was convinced that he would not be a menace to the world. Only then did Marvel Maid help secure for him proper identification for his alter ego.
With some super-speed digging, Marvel Maid cleared out the area around the ship so she could safely remove it from the ground. Dragging it behind her, she headed straight up. Marvel Man followed closely behind her with his unconscious passenger.
In a matter of a few seconds, the Marvels were beyond the confines of Terra’s atmosphere and into the vacuum of space. Their course had taken them exactly where they had expected their destination to be — the orbiting satellite that was their Fortress of Marvels.
Marvel Maid dropped the spaceflyer into the same orbit as the Fortress while she dashed over to a nearby asteroid. She took the massive key hidden inside of the space debris and flew it to the gigantic door on the face of the spherical Fortress. Once she had turned the lock and opened the door, she flew back to return the key. When she returned, Marvel Man had already taken Thorz inside. Marvel Maid then carried the damaged craft inside and closed the golden door behind her. She gently laid the ship down in the hangar bay, now that she was under the influence of the satellite’s artificial gravity.
Marvel Man had already taken Thorz to the medical section and was using some revivification technology on the unconscious armored man. “Maybe this Zommian magenta ray might work.” He arranged the purple-colored lamp over the prone form lying on the hovering bed. The rays bathed Thorz’s body for a few moments and then stopped.
“I think he’s coming around,” Marvel Man announced. Marvel Maid had watched with admiration. Her cousin was becoming more skilled and confident every passing day. Perhaps she had overextended his years of training. When he was a secret to the world, he had been so unsure of himself. Now that he didn’t feel he was constantly being evaluated, he was much more confident.
Coming over to the hoverbed, Marvel Maid looked at Thorz. The armor was exquisitely made, but it was not of Terran design, nor of any of the alien races she knew of. “Sir?” she said in Interlac as she noticed Thorz beginning to stir. “Can you hear me?”
“Y-yes,” Thorz stuttered. His head was still ringing, but he felt considerably better than in his last moments of consciousness.
“Who are you?” His head turned to the side, and he looked upon what he considered to be a friendly face. “A friend of Superman here?”
Marvel Maid chuckled. “I am a friend of Superman, although I’ve only met him once.” She pointed toward her cousin. “However, that is not Superman. He’s my cousin, Marvel Man.”
“But his appearance…” Thorz argued. Then understanding came to him. “Ah, I see. Your emblem. That is not the Superman shield.”
“True,” Marvel Man traced his finger over the emblem. “It’s M.M. for Marvel Man, or Marvel Maid, as the case may be.”
Thorz sat up as his senses cleared. “Then I thank you for your help. You retrieved me from my craft, I take it?” Seeing the nods of Marvel Man and Marvel Maid, he continued. “I also assume that you have powers like Superman?”
“Perhaps not to his level, but we’re not too shabby,” Marvel Maid said, smiling.
“Then perhaps it was fortunate that I stumbled upon your world. Time is of the essence for me. If you could help me…” Thorz said hopefully.
“Help you with what?” Marvel Man asked.
“My world of Zarria is under the heel of the Galaxy Crimeteers. My Peace Vigilantes, the last resistance against Zunial and his crew, cannot hope to succeed without outside help. That’s why we launched this desperate gambit to find aid.”
“Galaxy Crimeteers. That doesn’t sound too nice,” Marvel Man noted.
“Of course we’ll help. Between my cousin and me, we should be an acceptable substitute for Superman,” Marvel Maid declared.
Back on Zarria, Zunial was enraged by the reports of the Peace Vigilantes’ operation. His fellow Crimeteers had become too lax in the rule of this planet and their virtual free rein of all space within their constructed Phase Zone. While as leader it was naturally his responsibility, he would accept none of it. The failures were due to the ineptitude of his minions, and there was no one who could argue differently — not if they valued their lives.
“So one of them got away,” Zunial cursed.
“Even that’s unlikely,” one of the pirateship captains said. His face was plastered on one of the viewscreens arrayed around Zunial. “They tried to go to hyperspeed while still in the system. I’d bet my bucket of spacegems that they were vaporized.”
“You don’t have that bucket anymore,” Zunial countered fiercely. “I’ve had it confiscated for your incompetence. You have no proof that the ship was destroyed.”
“Even if it wasn’t, it just means one Peace Vigilante is somewhere out there in space.” A snide smile formed on his face. “What’s he going to do, get help from the CosPol?”
Zunial had to stifle a laugh. The Cosmic Police, at least in this sector of space, had been bought and paid for by the Galaxy Crimeteers. “True, but he may find aid nonetheless. I don’t think they were simply running away to get away from my benevolent rule. Ha-ha!” Zunial chuckled at his own sarcasm.
The spaceflyer had proven to be too damaged to be quickly repaired, so the marvelous duo loaned Thorz one of the ships from the Fortress’ collection. Not that its engines were really needed for the journey, since Marvel Maid and Marvel Man pushed it to supralight speed from Terra. It was only a short while before they were in sight, astronomically speaking, of Zarria.
Scanning ahead with his telescopic vision, Marvel Maid noted the array of ships orbiting the planet. She relayed her finding via ultrawave ventriloquism to Thorz inside of his shop. “Are there usually that many warships circling the planet?”
“No,” Thorz responded, knowing that the Crimeteers must have realized that the Peace Vigilantes’ plan would likely include bringing help. He hoped that his comrades had reached the Cosmic Police as well. He wasn’t sure if these two Terrans would be able to overcome the massed Crimeteer forces. The marvelous duo had tried to contact Superman via cosmic radio, but they had received no reply. Thorz decided that it was better to strike now, even if it were only these two unheralded Terrans.
“Let’s get going,” Marvel Man proclaimed. “We’ll be able to really cut loose on the warships. That doesn’t happen too often on Terra.”
Marvel Maid’s hand darted out and grabbed her cousin by the cape before he could zoom off. “A little patience, please. Let’s see what we’re up against.”
The offensive and defensive systems that the Crimeteer ships were packing were unfamiliar to Marvel Man. However, his more experienced cousin had seen similar technology on the occasional alien visitor to Terra. “I don’t think they’re armed with anything that could hurt us much,” she noted. “Typical high-energy plasma cannons by the looks of it. Is that right, Thorz?”
“That’s the weapon of choice,” Thorz replied. He hoped that the ship’s shielding would be able to let him run through the orbiting gauntlet to rally the Peace Vigilantes below. “However, the Crimeteers spent years developing deadly weapons with which to kill Superman. They might be carrying those as well.”
“Well, there’s two of us instead of one Superman,” Marvel Man said, smiling. “The odds are in our favor.” He looked at Marvel Maid. “Now can we go?”
Marvel Maid nodded. “Let’s do it. Thorz, hang back a little behind us so we can clear a path for you. Once we’ve disabled the fleet, we’ll join you on the surface.”
“Agreed.” Thorz powered up the cylindrical ship’s shields and watched Marvel Maid and Marvel Man zoom ahead.
The Crimeteers had detected the duo’s approach and were redeploying around Zarria to face them. Once the battle was engaged, Thorz began to activate his propulsion system. The Crimeteers let loose with all the firepower at their disposal. The darkness of orbital space was illuminated with streaks of plasma fire. The few blasts that did manage to strike the hard-to-target marvel duo were shrugged off. Amidst all of the chaos, Thorz was able to slip through.