by Goose Gansler
The battle continued to rage miles above the surface of the planet Zarria. The Galaxy Crimeteers had numbers on their side, but any sense of organization was nonexistent. Marvel Maid and Marvel Man, however, had precise tactics at their disposal. Although their home planet of Terra had never faced an alien fleet like this, they had trained to deal with such a threat. Alien invasion was the biggest fear of all Terrans.
While Marvel Man traded heat-vision for plasma burst, Marvel Maid sped into the ranks of the Crimeteer fleet. She stopped suddenly, making herself an inviting target. A number of the Crimeteers wheeled around in hopes of destroying her. As they fired, Marvel Maid sped away. The ships that had encircled her were now wrecking each other with their errant blasts.
Oldest trick in the book, Marvel Maid thought wryly. She poured on the speed and drove through the engine room of a battle cruiser, eliminating it from the conflict.
Marvel Man was taking great pleasure in fending off plasma-bursts with his bare hands. Punching energy beams was an effective if somewhat showy method of responding to the Crimeteer attack. When the Crimeteers’ plasma generators needed to momentarily recharge, Marvel Maid pressed forward and pushed ships into each other.
In a matter of minutes, Marvel Maid and Marvel Man had disabled nearly the entire Crimeteer fleet. While some injuries on the part of the villains were unavoidable, the marvel duo had not caused any deaths. Life-support systems would keep the brigands alive until they could be rounded up. However, more important matters awaited on the surface.
“Come on, Kol,” Marvel Maid said she began her descent. “Let’s finish them off and then link up with Thorz planetside and find the Crimeteer leadership.”
“Runaway comets couldn’t keep me from that action,” Marvel Man said gleefully. He was eager for some more confrontation. For an outfit that dreamed of taking on the Earther Superman, the Crimeteers didn’t amount to much in his opinion.
Thorz hadn’t dared to land his ship back at the spaceport. Nor did he wish to land too near where he hoped to find what might be left of the Peace Vigilantes. He steered clear of the spaceport and the defenses he assumed would have been installed there, and set down at the outskirts of the capital city. He was certain that his approach had been detected by space-radar, but no response had come as of yet.
He abandoned the ship and headed out for the planned rallying point. He hoped that Marvel Maid and Marvel Man would forgive him if any harm came to the borrowed ship. However, with his world’s liberation at stake, its loss would be a small price to pay. He needed to link up with whatever remained of the Peace Vigilantes in order to have the latest intelligence on the Crimeteers’ disposition. With that information and the aid of the Marvel Duo (assuming that they could overcome the orbital fleet), Zarria could be freed.
As Thorz made his way through the residential area, he could tell that the situation on the planet was panic-filled. The grip of fear that the Crimeteers had upon the population seemed to be unraveling, although not in the most productive way. Looting was occurring every step of the way between the landing site and the safe house. Thorz hoped it was just low-level Crimeteers and not the population in general who were stooping so low.
Despite his armored appearance, Thorz didn’t even merit a second look by any whom he encountered along the way. Soon he was at the doorstep of the safe house. He entered the security code on the door’s lock pad, and it then swung quickly open. Thorz stepped through, and the door closed behind him.
Inside were gathered about two dozen Peace Vigilantes. From the outside with all of the house’s shading screens activated, no one would have known of the gathering here.
“Thorz!” one of the Peace Vigilantes called out. “You’ve returned already?!” Despite his armored form, this shape was recognizable to those who knew him well.
“I have, and with aid as well,” Thorz replied. “We must move quickly.”
“The Earthling Superman is here?” another asked. “The Crimeteers have been putting everything they have onto the air.”
“No, not Superman. I have brought two super-beings, each almost his equal. They will join us down here once they finish with the fleet. We must strike at the head, at Zunial himself, now. What intelligence do we have on his whereabouts?”
The Crimeteer fleet was effectively neutralized. There were only a handful of ships remaining that were able to mount any type of attack. The rest had been rendered weaponless or non-maneuverable. Marvel Maid was impressed by Marvel Man’s skill in dealing with the warcraft. His typical impetuousness had been kept in check. He had disabled, but not destroyed. The Crimeteers would live to face justice.
Two ships were veering off to outflank the marvel duo, while the rest of the functional ships were engaging them head-on. Concentrated firepower could hurt a super-powered Terran, but the beams had to strike their target to do that.
Marvel Maid sized up the situation and devised a counterattack. “Up and down,” she called out via ultra-wave. Her cousin complied immediately, shooting directly upward while she descended. They then veered off in opposite directions, causing the Crimeteers to break formation in their confusion. Separated like this now, the villains would not be able to concentrate their fire.
A few well-placed blasts of heat-vision, and the remaining ships were incapacitated.
“Now let’s get planetside,” Marvel Maid declared, ” and find Thorz.”
“Sounds good to me,” Marvel Man said eagerly.
The contingent of Peace Vigilantes made their way through the streets of the Zarrian capital. They were not heading for the capitol building itself. Rather, their intelligence indicated that the despot Zunial was holed up in a newly constructed fortress — one where the despot was rumored to hoard his ill-gotten wealth.
Thorz, along with the other few armored Metalmen, took up the forward positions on the hill overlooking the circular fortress. The other Peace Vigilantes were a bit farther behind.
“There’s usually Crimeteers on patrol outside of the walls,” one of the Metalmen noted to Thorz.
“My guess is that they’ve run off to protect their own hoards. No honor among thieves, after all,” Thorz replied.
The night sky had ceased to be filled with the fantastic light display that had accompanied the battle between the Crimeteer fleet and the marvel duo. Thorz figured that the battle was over, hopefully with the Terrans claiming victory. He looked at the electronic wrist band he wore. It was transmitting a predetermined signal to which Marvel Maid and Marvel Man could home in.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” someone asked Thorz.
“We’re waiting for…” Thorz pointed upward at two descending specks growing larger each second. “Look, up in the sky.”
The Peace Vigilantes returned their attention skyward and saw the approaching caped figures.
“Indeed,” Thorz said gladly. “It’s Marvel Maid and Marvel Man of Terra.”
“Your signal was a cinch to find,” Marvel Man announced. “So where is the big bad guy?”
Thorz pointed at the tall metallic walls of the fortress. “Zunial, leader of the Crimeteers, is in there.”
“We’ll take point and breach the walls there.” Marvel Maid pointed to a spot most distant from the array of mounted weapons atop the fortress’ walls.
As soon as the marvel duo emerged, the automated defenses activated against them. However, the weaponry here was much weaker than that carried by the warships, so it presented no problem. Soon, the multi-barreled cannons were only so much twisted metal slag, courtesy of Marvel Maid and Marvel Man’s strength and heat-vision.
With a pair of punches, the walls of the fortress were breached, and the Peace Vigilantes came rushing inside. “Find Zunial! Find Zunial!” came the cry from the Peace Vigilantes as they poured into the fortress.
Blasts were soon exchanged within the walls of the fortress between the Peace Vigilantes and the Crimeteers who had holed up here. Marvel Maid and Marvel Man flew ahead, scanning with their super-vision to find the leader of the Crimeteers.
Their visual sweep of the facility had not detected the sight of Zunial. They had been briefed on his facial features, since all bald Zarrians looked very similar to off-worlders.
“I’ve got nothing,” Marvel Man said sullenly.
“I haven’t found anything, either,” Marvel Maid replied. “However…” She pointed below and toward the center of the facility. “I see a lead-lined area down there. Any bets on that?”
“That sounds like easy money for you.” Marvel Man started spinning at super-speed, drilling down through the floor toward the subterranean vault. Marvel Maid followed closely behind.
The Marvel Duo stopped drilling when they emerged into the passageway connected to the closed vault. Undoubtedly, it was some secret tunnel that had led here. Their drilling approach had saved them the trouble of trying to find the more conventional way into the passage.
Marvel Man knocked on the sealed door of the vault. “Zunial of Zarria, you’re under arrest.” There was no response.
Stepping back, Marvel Man wound up. “Shall we?”
“Let’s.” Timing her blow with that of her cousin, Marvel Maid smashed through the reinforced door.
Marvel Man was the first to step through, and he was greeted by an emerald blast. Its intensity caught him off-guard.
“Hah!” a voice from inside the vault called out. “This hyperatomic kryptonite beam will destroy you permanently this time.” He reveled at the sight of the downed blue-and-red-caped figure.
Marvel Maid stepped through the remains of the door. “Kryptonite, did you say?”
Zunial gasped. Who was this? By her colors, she must be some associate of Superman. Then the weapon would be effective against her as well. “Die, woman!” He fired again from the long rifle attached to a tripod mount.
The bream crackled against her invulnerable skin, and Marvel Maid remained standing. “I was ready for the impact,” she said, smiling.
“But it downed Superman!” Zunial cried.
A quick super-scan of Marvel Man told Marvel Maid that her cousin was not seriously hurt. “He’s not Superman. He’s my cousin, Marvel Man, and you are under arrest.”
“Never! I am the Murder Man! I killed Superman!” Zunial raged. “I’ll kill you, too!” He darted over to the wall, where all sorts of exotic weapons were hanging. He pulled down a laser sword and an antigravity projector. He fired both at Marvel Maid, to no effect.
Marvel Maid stood defiantly as the strange energies washed over her. Beams of heat-vision darted out and overheated the weapons. “It’s over, Zunial.”
Zunial, however, was not ready to surrender. He tossed a pulsar bomb at the maid of might as he turned to retreat. The bomb emitted an enormous flash of light, stunning even Marvel Maid’s eyes.
When her vision cleared, Zunial was gone. However, her super-hearing had let her know where Zunial had gone. Walking up to what appeared to be another panel in the wall, she exhaled a blast of super-breath. The panel went crashing down, revealing Zunial digging through his treasury. There were bars of gold, platinum, and zalium, coins of numerous planets, gems of all shapes, sizes, and colors, but most importantly, there were diamonds.
Marvel Maid’s breath was cut short when she saw the crystallized carbon. Immediately, she backed away, but it was too late. The baleful effects of the diamonds had already overcome her. Despite her best efforts, she collapsed.
“Well, what do you know?” Zunial stopped digging through the bed of coins, halting his search for the secret escape door. “Something in here is poisonous to her. I wonder what.” He grabbed her by the cape and dragged her inside. “Whatever it is, bringing her closer should make it worse for her.”
Resuming his digging, he was momentarily disturbed by the recovered Marvel Man barging in. Before he realized what was going on, he was downed by the diamonds as well.
“Outstanding!” Zunial gloated. “Both of them out of commission. Now if I can only find the escape hatch and get into my underground mole machine.”
“Your time is up, Zunial,” a voice proclaimed.
Zunial looked up to see Thorz, flanked on either side by a pair of other Metalmen. “Your forces are routed.” They pointed their force-guns at Zunial. “You’re going to be locked up for the rest of your life.”
“Thorz,” one of the Metalmen called out. “The Terrans — they’re hurt.”
“Get them to the surface and summon some medical aid.” Thorz never moved his gaze off of Zunial.
The Metalmen carried the marvel duo back to the surface, through the same tunnel the Terrans had cut through the ground to the vault — the one that the Metalmen had come down. Once exposed to the full power of the ambient cosmic rays, the recovery of Marvel Maid and Marvel Man was swift. Because of their birth in the high-pressure, underground world of Ytterbium, they were somehow affected by the presence of the product of high pressure upon carbon — in other words, diamonds.
“Well, that certainly feels better,” Marvel Maid declared. She should have known that an interstellar criminal would have diamonds. She vowed to remember her mistake the next time she had to admonish her cousin. “What did we miss?”
“The Crimeteers’ hold on Zarria is broken.” Thorz marched a bound Zunial the Murder Man out of the tunnel. “We are free once again. If any off-world Crimeteers dare to come back, they will be apprehended.”
“Sounds great. Anything more we can do to help?” Marvel Man asked. “And hey, thanks for the save from the diamonds.”
“Rather, it is Zarria that is in your debt, Marvel Maid and Marvel Man,” Thorz replied. “It is our responsibility to take things from here.”
Farewells were exchanged, and soon the marvel duo were streaking through space back to Terra. After the first lightyear, Marvel Man said via ultra-wave, “Sorry about getting K.O.’ed by the kryptonite and then the diamonds.” The silence had been getting to him. He figured that Kora was upset with him.
Marvel Maid smiled. “Don’t worry about it.”
Don’t worry about it? Marvel Man thought. Well, that’s a change of pace. Though, come to think about it, she got taken out by the diamonds, too. Guess she’s not perfect, after all. His glee lasted the entire journey home.