It was a chilly late-February afternoon as Billy Batson walked from WHIZ-TV to meet his twin sister, Mary,
and their friend Freddy Freeman at a small neighborhood diner for lunch. And after a week of battling a bad case of the flu,
it did the teen good just to get out. Though Spring was rapidly approaching, the air was still cold enough for Billy to see
his breath as he exhaled, and irritate his lungs enough to make him cough when he breathed in.
It had been a busy few months for the boy broadcaster. First the "Crisis". Then that battle with Captain Marvel's
old comrade, Master Man, and meeting that fellow, Shiva, both of whom had filled in for the Marvel Family while they were
in suspended animation for all those years. Finally, the flu bugs which struck Freddy first, Mary a few days later, and then
Billy himself a couple of days after that. Mary and Freddy gotten better quickly, but this microbe seemed to be holding
on to Billy's system with all the tenacity of a pit bull.
The trio all had the same symptoms: nausea, headaches, joint pain (which was especially hard on poor Freddy),
chills and a fever. Freddy's recovery had been the quickest because he let his temperature rise until he nearly collapsed;
basically letting the virus burn itself out. It worked, but hed worried his landlady, Mrs. Wagner, greatly. And Mary had her
foster-parents to cosset her until she hadn't so much as a shiver. But Billy, being a bit of a workaholic, went back to work
before he could make a full recovery, and now his body appeared to be getting even with him for it, because he had started
shivering by the time he reached the diner.
Billy noticed Mary and Freddy waving to him from the booth as he removed his overcoat and scarf, hung them
on the rack, then stuffed his gloves into one of the pockets. The pair had already ordered their lunches, and Mary scooted
herself and her soup over so she could make room for her brother and sit closer to Freddy. The sight and smell of food
was causing Billy to feel queasy, so by the time he got to the table, he looked a bit green.
Anyone looking at the trio would see three sixteen-year-olds, but in reality, they were much older.
Unless the casual observer was over the age of fifty, no one would believe that the teens had actually been born in the early
1930s, or that the reason they were still so young was that they had spent many years trapped in suspended animation.
"Billy, are you all right?" Freddy asked, concerned. "You look awful."
"Guess its still the flu," Billy replied, rubbing his temples, "can't seem to shake it."
"Here, allow me," Mary said as she put her hand on Billys cheek. "Hmm you do feel a little warm, bro.
I think youre right; you could be having a relapse."
Before Billy could comment, the waitress that served their table came over with a glass of ginger ale that
had a yellowish powder floating in it.
"I saw you come in," she remarked as she set the glass down. "Extra ginger. Its an old home remedy for sick
stomachs. Had the same bug two weeks ago and the only things I could keep down were that and applesauce. You wouldnt want
some applesauce with that, would you?"
"No, this is fine. Thank you," Billy said, then took a sip of the soda. She was right; it did settle
his stomach. Not enough to eat something, but it was sufficient to watch his twin sister and best friend eat without feeling
"Okay. If you kids need anything else, my names Diana."
"Thanks, Diana," Mary replied. She then thought, I'm going to give that lady a big tip.
Meanwhile, two miles above and several hundred miles away from New York City, a black and gold clad figure
returned to the Earth he had been born on five millennia ago. He cursed the little crystal-spinner for keeping him trapped
for so many months, and he burned for revenge against not only her, but his three foes, as well.
Neither knowing nor caring which Earth he was on, he flew eastward. He calculated that, with the swiftness
of Shu, hed arrive at his destination in ten, fifteen minutes at the most. And then, he would deal with any "heroes" as he
saw fit. He grinned savagely at that thought.
Black Adam was back.
As he watched the duo eat, Billy noticed a thick envelope in front of Freddy. The letterhead on it was from
Columbia Universitys School of Journalism. "You got accepted?" he asked.
"Not yet," Freddy replied nonchalantly between bites of his sandwich. "Thats just more paperwork to fill out.
Scheduling and financial aid stuff, really."
"Rat!" Mary teased, playfully slapping Freddys arm. "Why didn't you tell me youre going to Columbia?"
"Because its not final yet. Anyway, even if I do get accepted, I won't be starting til August. Shoot,
were not graduating til June, so I'm in no big hurry."
"At least you'll be earning a degree," Billy said sourly, then took another sip of his soda.
"Billy, you have a degree in Journalism," Freddy retorted sagely.
"An honorary one, Freddy. I didnt go to school and earn it; they just gave it to me,
and it still feels like a cheat."
"Brother-mine, what are you babbling about?" Mary chimed in, growing impatient with her twin. "Of course you
earned your degree! You earned it by by busting your hump for how many years?!"
"Busting my hump? Sis, where on Earth did you hear that one?"
She wasn't about to tell her brother that she first heard that term when, during the Crisis, the Titan called
Changeling asked her out on a date. After politely refusing his offer, he stated jokingly, "if Id've known I'd be busting
my hump up here just for a rejection, I wouldn't've bothered!".
Instead, Mary simply smiled sweetly and said, "I get around."
"I'll just bet," Freddy commented with a grin, to which Mary stuck her tongue out at him. He knew how
she came by that comment (he had been there when it was made), but he wasn't going to snitch on her.
Mary and Freddy finished their meals in fairly short order, then Mary pulled a twenty out of her wallet and
slipped it under the plate her soup bowl sat on, wishing that she could see the blonde waitress expression when she saw her
tip. She then took the receipt to the front counter and paid the bill while the boys got their coats. After Mary put her own
coat on, the trio walked out of the diner and headed towards WHIZ-TV.
At that moment, Black Adam appeared, hovering over the city. When he sighted one familiar landmark, the WHIZ-TV
building, he knew that he was on his Earth. The World's Mightiest Villain swooped down for a closer look, and as the
approached a diner near the station, he recognized the three teenagers exiting the restaurant and streaked towards them as
they crossed the street.
Billy saw the black and gold streak above them out of the corner of his eye. In an instant, he grabbed both
Freddy and Marys arms and pulled them both out of danger, back-pedaling as fast as he could. The black streak smashed into
the tarmac where the trio stood mere moments ago, leaving a smoking, six-foot wide crater in the middle of the street. The
tremor caused by the collision was powerful enough to knock the teens off their feet.
"Billy, how did you?" Freddy asked.
"Saw him coming," Billy gasped in response, which elicited a worried look from Mary.
Billy wasn't just out of breath; he was wheezing like an old bellows, causing her to think that he
was a lot sicker than she first thought; that this wasnt just a relapse of his flu, but the onset of pneumonia. She looked
around to make sure there was no one nearby. Conveniently, at that moment, no one was looking at them.
"Okay, guys," Mary said, gathering her wits, "let's say our words before whoever it is reaches street
"SHAZAM!" She and Billy shouted in unison.
"CAPTAIN MARVEL!" Freddy yelled a split-second later. In response,
a bolt of magic lightning struck each of the three teens, transforming them into their other forms of Captain Marvel, Mary
Marvel and Captain Marvel Junior as the black and gold clad form flew back up to the street.
"Black Adam!" Captain Marvel exclaimed in shock. The last the Marvels had heard of him, he was trapped on
another Earth, encased in a crystalline cocoon.
"Pity," Adam said, a look of maniacal glee on his harsh, hawkish face. "I had hoped you would not have the
chance to say the old fools name, and you disappointed me. I had so wished to kill your mortal forms with my bare hands,
but this will be much more satisfying."
"Oh, as if, you fiend," Mary rejoined.
"What happened on Earth-4?" Junior asked mockingly. "Did the Chamber of Commerce there decide that you were
too ugly to be stuck as a statue?"
"You will pay for that insult, boy!" Adam growled as he tackled the World's Mightiest Boy, trying to wrap
his fingers around the young mans throat in an attempt to throttle him, but the Captain stopped the villain by spinning him
around and belting him skyward.
"What do you say we take this fight where civilians won't get hurt?" the World's Mightiest Mortal shot back
as he followed the black-clad villain.
"I say how typically noble of you to take our battle away from those innocent sheep you protect, and I
Adam used his momentum to twist around and fly into Captain Marvels back, punching him in the kidneys.
Why's Adam so focused on Cap? Mary thought, seeing Adam fly directly into her big brothers back,
fists first. Since I turned sixteen, he's been obsessing on me like a bad case of Fatal Attraction. Ugh, now there's
a creepy thought.
"Hey! A sucker-punch in the kidneys is strictly against the Marquis of Queensbury rules, you creep!"
Mary shouted as she gave the Egyptian villain a wicked kick in the jaw. In retaliation, Black Adam grabbed the girl by her
ankle, spun her around several hundred times at super-speed, and flung her directly at Captain Marvel Junior, sending the
youthful pair crashing into each other.
"HEY!!" went Mary as her shoulders hit Juniors stomach.
"WHOOULLFF!!" went Junior as Marys shoulders hit him in the stomach.
"Are you okay?" Mary asked, sounding more concerned about him than she was letting on.
"Yeah, just took me by surprise," Junior replied, noting the tone in her voice. He then looked around and
yelped, "Holy Moley! Whered they go?! We lost them!"
"We'll split up and search for them. I'll head towards the river, and you look Downtown, okay?"
"Okay. Holler if you spot them."
"Don't worry, I will." With that, the mighty teens separated to find their friend and partner.
Nice going! I let Adam lead me right to the river! How long have I been at this, anyway? Captain
Marvel thought as the hours (or was it only a few minutes?) of fighting Black Adam began to blur together. Thanks to Atlas'
Stamina, he was far from tired, but the nonstop battle was getting tiresome, and they somehow managed to lose Mary and Junior
a while ago. To top things off, Adam seemed to be herding the Captain towards the Hudson River, not to mention keeping him
on the defensive.
"All right, Adam. I have definitely had enough of this malarkey. Why don't you just say the
magic word, change back to Teth-Adam, let the police take you back to jail and make our lives a whole lot easier?" he said,
swinging a haymaker at Adams pointed chin.
"And why don't you be silent!" The villain retorted as he did the impossible; he dodged the
oncoming blow with unnerving ease. Before Cap could regain his bearings, Adam snaked his hand out and grabbed the lower half
of the heros face in a vise-like grip.
Adams fingers dug into his foes cheekbones and lower jaw, while the palm of his hand was pressed tightly over
Caps mouth to keep him quiet. Captain Marvel even tried opening his mouth to bite him, but Adam positioned his hand in such
a way as to prevent the hero from moving his jaw at all. As the World's Mightiest Villain held his struggling enemy, he shot
the World's Mightiest Mortal a look of venomous triumph. Adam knew he had the younger man at a disadvantage as he uttered
a single word:
Adam watched as the magic lightning arced towards them. At the last possible instant, he twisted them both
around so that the mystic bolt struck Captain Marvel, changing him back into his mortal form of Billy Batson.
Realizing that he was only an inch or two above the bay, the look of shock on Billy's face was quickly replaced
by terror as the black-clad villain plunged the teenager into the icy waters of the bay in an attempt to drown him.
"When you meet them, boy, give whatever gods you worship my regards," Adam said with a malicious grin as he
pushed Billy's head under. After a few minutes of panicked fighting, he felt the boy broadcaster go limp in his iron grasp
as the last of his air left him.
"BILLY!" The young, feminine voice screamed in fury, causing the windows of several buildings to vibrate
Mary had found them just in time to witness her twin's plight. She rocketed up, and then, tucking herself
into a cannonball position, came right back down, striking Adam in the small of his back, then vaulted into the frigid water
after her brother. Her swift actions forced Adam to lose his grip on Billy even as he himself wound up submerged. The World's
Mightiest Villain rose to the surface, spitting out a mouthful of polluted water.
Hearing her cry from across town, Captain Marvel Junior arrived on the scene as Mary dove in to find Billy.
The slim, blue-garbed teenager snarled as his fists struck the villain full force, the strength of Hercules and the Power
of Zeus backed by all-too-human rage. The World's Mightiest Boy was determined to beat old Shazams name out of Black Adam,
until, unbidden, something that Cap said to him shortly after giving a portion of his powers to a dying Freddy Freeman came
back to haunt the young hero.
"Feeling angry about what Nazi did is healthy, Junior, but rage is something you can't reason
with. The only thing rage will get you, or anyone else, is killed, so put a lid on it!"
With an effort, Captain Marvel Junior did just that. The next set of blows that the boy in blue delivered
was more controlled. He pummeled Adam relentlessly until the villain said the word that the young man had been waiting for.
"shazam," Adam finally said, defeated. In response to the key word, another bolt of magic lightning struck,
changing the former Champion of Egypt back into ordinary Teth-Adam. Junior punched him one more time, a love-pat compared
to the others, knocked him out and carried him off to jail.
Strange, The World's Mightiest Boy thought as he headed for the new Super-maximum security prison with
his unconscious burden, that was almost too easy. Something about this stinks to high heaven but what?
Meanwhile, using the fleetness of Zephyrus, Mary swam after Billy, who was trapped by the deadly, fast-moving
current. She caught up to him, hooking the collar of his overcoat in two fingers, but the garment was slippery and she lost
her tentative hold on him. She found him again a few seconds later, this time wrapping one of her slender, strong arms around
his waist and shot out of the water like a missile.
Mary flew Billy to a nearby dock, where she set him down and checked for any vital signs. No pulse, no respiration.
Nothing. Fighting the urge to panic, the World's Mightiest Girl tore her brothers sweater, white shirt and the skinny black
silk tie someone gave him for Christmas to shreds. She then tilted his head back, pinched his nose closed and began performing
CPR, praying that the water had been cold enough to keep his brain alive.
"Come on, Billy, please breathe," Mary said to her lifeless brother as she started chest compressions. "Don't
you dare leave us like this!"
"How is he?" Junior asked as he landed near his friends.
"He's not breathing and I can't find a pulse. Oh god, Junior..."
"Then were going to have to attempt something radical."
The pair looked at each other; the secret knowledge the Marvels possessed gave both of them the same idea
at the same time. It was dicey, but anything that could save Billys life would be worth the risk. But before Mary could say
"Shazam!", Junior said "Captain Marvel!", changing back into Freddy Freeman.
"Heres the bit," Mary said, "doctors use electricity to shock a heart back to beating"
"So we do the same thing," Freddy finished. "When I change back to Junior, I'll carry both of you to St. Joes."
The two teens placed their hands on Billys chest, then called out their magic words almost simultaneously.
The lightning that followed lanced into Mary Marvel, changing her back into Mary Batson, through Billys chest and then into
Freddy, triggering his transformation back to Captain Marvel Jr. The lightning's power not only revived the boy broadcasters
heart, but it also warmed his body the few critical degrees he needed to start breathing on his own.
He took a rasping gasp of air and began to cough, and not only water, but a brackish, almost black discharge
came out of his mouth, as well. Billy's face was now red from coughing and the effort of getting air into his oxygen-starved
lungs, and his breath sounds were ragged intakes of air.
Junior held Billy in one arm, wrapped the other around Mary and the trio took to the sky, heading for the
An hour later, Mary and Freddy were still waiting for any news on Billys condition. Uncle Dudley, whom Freddy
had called, soon joined them. Mary had been on the verge of tears since they arrived, and the longer they waited, the closer
she got to a full-blown crying jag. Freddy sat next to her, feeling just as helpless as she did, and put his arm around her.
Mary took that as her cue to break down, and somehow, Freddy didn't seem to mind being her shoulder to cry on.
They were interrupted when a bespectacled, sandy-haired man in scrubs and a lab jacket cleared his throat.
"Excuse me, Ms. Batson?" the emergency room doctor called to Mary. "I'm Sean O'Malley, Billy's primary care
"Yes?" Mary asked, wiping her eyes dry with her fingertips. "Is he all right?"
"I'm sorry, but your brother is a very sick young man."
"How bad is he?" Freddy asked, his voice heavy with skepticism. Something was wrong, but he didn't
want to voice his suspicions just yet.
"Are you a member of the family, young man?"
"Yes," Dudley placed his hand on Freddy's shoulder and answered for him. "We all are. What's wrong with him?"
"I'm afraid Ms. Batson was right about the pneumonia, sir. It might well have been a minor case this
afternoon, but his falling in the bay has greatly exacerbated matters. But the good news is that, given time, rest and full-spectrum
antibiotics, he'll be well enough to go home in a couple of weeks. Then he'll need outpatient care for a couple more weeks."
Relieved, Mary then asked, "Can we see him?"
"Yes, you can, but only one at a time, and you'll have to wear masks, gloves, scrubs and gowns. Billy is very
contagious and we don't want an epidemic on our hands." She motioned them to follow her.
As Mary and Dudley started to follow the doctor, Freddy excused himself by saying that he needed to get back
to work, but he promised that he would visit later.
"I'll be here, keeping an eye on him," Mary replied with a tired smile.
Something's wide of the mark about this, Freddy thought as he headed back to his newsstand. We all
said our magic words and changed into the Marvel Family, so Billy shouldve been cured of that slight case of pneumonia,
but he wasnt. In fact, he's worse than he was at the diner.
And there is no way we shouldve beaten Black Adam that easily, not without tricking him
into saying old Shazam's name. Everything that's happened today's gone down twisted, and I'm going to find out how
On the Abyssal Plain, a demoness peers into the flames before her, watching her enemies. The corners of her
thin lips curved into a malicious sneer as she spied on them. It was just too bad that her couldn't read their thoughts, as
well. No matter; the pawn was in play, and no one was any the wiser. The spell was already working, and the souls of her father's
favorites would soon be hers for the taking.
"Perfect, simply perfect," she said, her voice thick with derision. "It all happened right under their noses
and the fools never even noticed. Did they, precious?"
And, bound to a stone framework, a familiar black-haired, blue-eyed young man struggled against leathern bonds.
He endured the first of what would become many beatings, magically rendered unable to say the one word that would save his
family and win him his freedom...