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With Great Power... Part 2
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Chapter Two: Relative Safety

"You shut your mouth, how can you say I go about things the wrong way? I am human and I need to be loved, Just like everyone else does..."

"How Soon Is Now?" Morrissey & Johnny Marr

HALLIWELL MANOR

"Who are they?!" seemed to be the question of the day.

Four teens, two boys and two girls, were lying in the Halliwells attic, shivering from intense cold. They had entered through an interdimensional doorway created by an incantation gone awry. Other than the shivering, shallow breathing and blue-tinged, ice-rimed skin and hair, the youngsters seemed to be physically all right.

After a short while, steam began rising from the copper-haired girl's body as a shimmering, pale blue-green glow enveloped her; a glow that was none of Leos doing. Moments later, the girl's hazel eyes suddenly flew open and she took a long, jolting gasp of air. The Whitelighter knelt down beside her and took her hand. Her skin was warm now, where it was ice cold mere moments before. When Leo checked her eyes, he saw that the girl was shocky and disoriented, but recovering rapidly.

"Spontaneous self-healing," he said as he checked her pulse, his doctors' training taking over. "I've never seen that power in a Witch before. Never even met a Witch with that power."

"Wait a minute, she's a Witch and a healer?" Prue asked skeptically, after which Leo shook his head in the affirmative.

"You... sound surprised," the copper-haired girl gasped haltingly, with a faint Irish... or was it English?... accent. "It's... not really... a Talent... that's very common... in one of us. A Wiccan, I mean."

The Halliwell sisters looked at each other in astonishment. The word the girl uttered, "Wiccan", was used for a Witch concerned with the spiritual.

Piper finally asked her, "What's your name, honey?"

"Caitlin... O'Malley. I... I have to help my friends..." She had whispered something to the Whitelighter. In response, he orbed out of the attic. She then touched the reddish-brown haired girl's face and the same glow that had surrounded Caitlin moments ago now engulfed her friend.

"Oooohhhh," the auburn-haired girl whimpered as she awoke, holding her head in her hands. "This can't be a hangover... I'm too young to drink."

"Easy, Mary," Caitlin soothed as she crawled to the two boys and began to Heal them, as well. "It's a side-effect of... whatever we went through. You'll be fine in a few minutes."

Leo chose that instant to return, carrying four heavy blankets as he orbed in. He set them on the floor, then wrapped one around this "Mary's" shoulders. Since, in a roundabout way, magic had caused the girl's condition, the Whitelighter's hands lingered there for a few moments, sending more Healing energy through her.

As he watched the pain leave Mary's doll-pretty face, Leo Felt a power in her he had never been aware of before. Whatever she was, she was certainly more than an ordinary teenaged girl. Much more. The sheer might he sensed within the girl was unfamiliar, but unmistakable, and in many ways, it eclipsed the girl-Witch's to an infinite degree.

And he felt that same power within the two boys, as well.

"Mary? Sis, where are you?" the first boy called out, shaking his tousled black hair out of his eyes in an attempt to clear his head as he tried to sit up.

"Over here, Billy," she responded weakly, the pains in her head almost gone.

"Cait, are you...?"

"I'm sitting right here next to you, Liam," she replied as she helped the other boy. "All right, Freddy, wake up. There's a good man."

"Unnnnuhhh...," the boy holding the crutch moaned. As he sat up, he looked as though he was going to be sick for a moment, but quickly regained control of his stomach. Phoebe grabbed one of the blankets from the stack, and while she enfolded him in it, she not only noticed that he was almost as pretty as a girl, but the brace on his left leg, as well.

When Phoebe reached out to help him, her hand accidentally brushed Freddy's and he and Phoebe both gasped. In her mind, she saw a huge man with a blond crew-cut and wearing a dark green uniform strike an old man so hard that his neck snapped audibly even as he was sent flying out of their rowboat and into the waters of the lake.

Then she saw a pair of hands grab an oar to try and defend herself, only to have it snatched away. The blond giant, seeing a red, gold and white clad figure speeding towards him, hit her with the oar across the left leg and back, sending her flying into the lake as easily as someone would toss a Frisbee. As her body whipped through the air and into the icy cold water to distract the approaching hero, she could swear she heard more bones cracking.

In a flash, Phoebe came back to herself, the boy's heartbroken sob snapping her out of her trance.

"Why?" he asked bitterly, grief as deep as the blue of his eyes etched in his almost pretty face, "Why did you make me relive the worst day of my life?"

Phoebe instantly realized that her vision was not a future event, but a scene from the boy's past, and she had inadvertently forced him to recall every horrible second of it, and somehow managed to put herself in his place.

"Funny," she replied, regretting the raw pain she had accidentally caused. "I was wondering how someone could do something like that to you."

"No reason," the second boy answered crossly, checking the auburn-haired girl. "Except Captain Nazi's a psychopath, and Freddy was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Billy!" Caitlin exclaimed, taken aback at his tone towards three strangers. She only called him by that nickname when she was upset. "We don't know who...!"

"What are you kids talking about?" Prue inquired, clearly torn between anger and confusion. These kids might be more than they seem, she thought as she glared at Billy, but this one's really starting to get on my last nerve.

"Look, lady," Billy said as he got to his feet, still distressed. "I don't know who any of you are, but nobody hurts my friends or my family and gets away with it!"

From Prue's angle, it looked to her like the boy was about to tackle Phoebe. So, like any good sister with telekinetic ability, she swept her arm in front of her and sent Billy flying backwards toward the opposite side of the attic...

"PRUE! DON'T!" Piper and Phoebe shouted at her, watching the boy fly past them.

TEMPUS' "PENTHOUSE"

"CURSES!" Doctor Sivana shrieked at no one in particular, kicking a piece of scrap metal out of his way. "HOW DID THOSE STUPID, WRETCHED CHEESES MANAGE TO ESCAPE THIS TIME?!"

The Worlds Maddest Scientist was well and truly furious. There was no possible way the Marvels could have escaped his trap and yet, they did. They shouldn't have been able to say their words of power in that limbo, all the same, three bolts of magic lightning struck the teleporter through the wormhole, blowing the Sidestep Device to smithereens.

Comprehending that it would take hours to build another one, Sivana picked up a beaker of acid and smashed it against the wall, wishing it was the "Big Red Cheese", or better yet, Billy Batson, that he aimed it at.

"Satisfied now, Sivana?" Tempus asked. "Yes, I know that your 'Marvel Family' eluded your trap. I suspect that 'the Charmed Ones' might have had something to do with it."

"And WHAT, pray tell, is that tidbit of information supposed to do, make me feel BETTER?! It will take me HOURS to build another...!"

"You forget the room you built this teleporter in, and how slowly time passed in there. You could have another ready one in five minutes, if you wished."

Sivana pretended to consider this, but thought, I can use this fool to help me rid myself of the Marvel Family, then dispose of him after I declare myself Rightful Ruler of TWO universes! Thaddeus, old boy, you're brilliant!

When Tempus left, Sivana looked at the remains of the ruined Sidestep Device. Many of the surviving parts were crackling with the energy of the massive Shazam bolt that struck the teleporter. With great care, he picked up those pieces, put them in a box and took them back to the lab.

No loss without some gain...

THE ROCK OF ETERNITY

The ancient wizard called Shazam felt three distinct disturbances in the space-time continuum: the first occurred when Sivana activated his teleportation device. The second took place when he briefly lost his mental link with the Marvel Family after they fell into another spatial "wormhole". And the third came about when someone called on his power.

But it was the loss of contact with his 'children' that worried him greatly, so he decided to try locating them using the Historama.

"Historama, show me the location of the Marvel Family!" he intoned, clapping his hands once.

An image of four teenagers appeared on the super-television as it hummed to life. The old wizard noticed that they were in someone's attic, but they were not alone there. In the background were three Witches and a man that was something more than a mere mortal.

"So that is what happened," he said to himself aloud. "Somehow, one of these young women managed to return them to their mortal forms. But young Caitlin is with the children. She tried to warn them about Sivana's trap. Good. She is a worthy ally to the Marvel Family."

He then observed a very upset Billy approach the three women called 'the Charmed Ones' in an effort to aid his best friend, and the one called Prue use her abilities to fling the upset young man away from them...

HALLIWELL MANOR

Before Billy could strike the wall...

"No!" Caitlin cried out, reaching out for Billy. An instant later, his flight was cut short scant inches from the wall with him landing roughly on his hind end with a resounding thump.

"Ow!"

"Prue, what the Hell did you do that for?" Phoebe demanded, a wisp of blonde hair falling in her face.

"Because I thought that he was going to attack you," Prue countered as she crossed her arms angrily.

"He wasn't going to hurt me, he was going to help his friend off the floor. In case you haven't noticed, the kid can't exactly stand up without help." Phoebe waved to Freddy's left leg, the one with the brace on it.

Mary looked at the three sisters, completely mystified. She knew that they were Prue, Piper and Phoebe Halliwell, the main characters from one of her favorite television shows, but they were also very real and standing in front of her, arguing about the fact that Prue just tried to throw her twin brother into the wall.

She got to Freddy's side, then with Caitlin's and a somewhat sore and rather unhappy Billy's help, got the lame 14-year-old off the floor. The four teens then huddled together to talk.

"Where are we?" Freddy asked sotto voce, still shaken from his forced rapport with Phoebe.

"Unless I miss my guess," Mary replied, looking from her twin to their friends, "we're in Halliwell Manor in San Francisco, California. And no, I am not talking about a set on the TV show, either. Is everyone all right?"

"Yeah," Freddy replied, touching Mary's arm. "Guess I'm made of a lot sterner stuff than I thought I was. How about you?"

"I'm fine; just a little cold."

"Speak for yourselves, guys," Billy chimed in sourly. "My butt still hurts. You okay, Faerie-face?"

"I---I don't feel so..." she said as she started sinking to the floor. Her eyes went saucer-round and the color drained out of her face as she quickly slipped into shock.

"CAIT!" Billy shouted as he attempted to keep the slender form of the barely-conscious young Witch upright. The trio all realized that Caitlin had badly overtaxed herself, and a serious case of Reaction had started to set in. As Billy and Mary helped each other ease the copper-haired girl to the wooden flooring, Freddy removed the blanket that Phoebe put around his shoulders and covered Cait with it.

"What's wrong with her?" Prue queried, looking at the four.

"Cait's going through Reaction," Freddy snapped at the confused Prue. "She's used too much of her power in too short of a time and if we don't get her system back in balance, she'll die! Is that clear enough for you?"

"What does she need?" Piper asked, wanting to help.

"Something with lots of potassium in it," Mary answered, trying not to show any anxiety. "A banana, a ripe tomato, or even some sports drink or that electrolyte drink they give little kids when theyre sick, if you've got it. But we need it right now!"

"We've got some sports drink, and I just bought some bananas yesterday," Phoebe spoke up, aiming herself towards the door.

"We also need to get her somewhere a lot softer and warmer than this floor," Billy stated, holding the girl's head against his shoulder. "And where she goes, I go," the boy added with what he hoped was a threatening scowl as Leo came close.

"Living room couch?" the Whitelighter asked Piper, and she nodded in the affirmative.

Instead of orbing out of the attic, Leo lifted the fragile-looking girl and carried her down the three flights of stairs. As the seven of them descended, Phoebe met them in the living room, carrying two bananas in one hand and a small bottle of sports drink in the other.

Leo laid the girl down on the over-stuffed sofa and Billy sat with a pillow on his lap for her head. He took the bottle from Phoebe, opened it, lifted Cait's head and got her to swallow. She made a face as the unpleasantly salty, fruit-flavored liquid slid down her throat, reviving her.

"Ugh, get that vile stuff away from me," Cait mumbled.

"You need it," Billy replied mildly. At times like these, he took the mother hen approach; not just with Cait, but with his sister and best friend, as well. That they didn't resent him for it was a tribute to how strong the kids' friendship really was.

"I know, but it still tastes revolting, like sweat and fruit punch."

Phoebe laughed at Cait's remark; she couldn't help it. She had had the exact same thought about sports drinks herself. Piper and Leo suppressed grins, and even Prue was hard-put not to chuckle.

Out of the mouths of babes... she thought.

"Think you can manage another couple of swallows? You can always eat a banana to get the taste out of your mouth."

"Oh, all right." A little stronger now, she sat up, took the bottle from her friend's hand and gulped it down as quickly as she could, trying very hard not to taste it. Moments later, she had drained the bottle dry and reached for one of the bananas, which she peeled and stuffed a good quantity of in her mouth. Billy was right, as usual; the banana did take the nasty taste away.

"Who are you kids?" Phoebe asked.

"My name's Billy Batson," he said with a grin, holding out his hand to her. As she took the boy's hand, Phoebe couldn't help but think that it was a pity that he was just a kid, because when he wasn't angry, he was certainly charming. And cute, too. Kind of like the big guy in her vision.

"This lout has obviously forgotten every manner he's ever learned. Hello, I'm Mary Batson, his twin sister," the pretty girl with the wavy, reddish-brown hair introduced herself.

"Which 'manner' did I forget this time?"

"Ladies First."

"Sorry, Sis," Billy commented sheepishly. "You've already met Caitlin."

"Hullo again," the pretty, shy, burnished copper-haired young Witch said.

"And he's Freddy Freeman, the best friend a guy could ever have."

"Gee, thanks Billy," Freddy stated with a grin.

"Don't mention it."

"All right, I won't."

"Okay, I think it's time we started comparing notes," Piper said.

"Agreed," Prue added. "Phoebe, why don't you start."

"Okay, it all started in the attic, when the three of us..."

Mary, Billy and Freddy all froze when Phoebe described Doctor Sivana, the dwarfish, bald-headed man wearing a white lab smock, black pants and thick, horn-rimmed glasses. The kids knew Sivana from long and bitter experience. He'd hated each of them from the day Billy first met him four years ago. In fact, they almost captured him again before they wound up here.

But she had seen the Marvel Family being captured in her vision, NOT three ordinary teenagers.

The sisters felt the same concern as Cait related her vision, which, it turned out, was the reverse of Phoebe's. In her vision, Tempus had caught the three sisters. Tempus was after the hides of the Halliwell sisters, whom he called "the Charmed Ones", allegedly THE three most powerful White Witches on this world. He'd faced them on several occasions, both personally and through agents and always wound up defeating, but not totally vanquishing the sorcerer.

After Cait finished, Billy finally said, "I know this is gonna be hard for you folks to believe, but those three heroes Phoebe said she saw in her vision theyre us."

"You're kidding," Piper interjected, looking at the four skeptically.

"No, Piper, he's telling the truth," Leo retorted, confirming Billy's statement. "Your powers are Magick-based, aren't they?"

"Yes," Mary answered, wide-eyed with disbelief, "but how did you?"

"Because I could feel the power coming from you. It's not a type of Magick I'm familiar with, but it is White Magick. If it were Black Magick, you kids would be in a lot of trouble."

"Four kids with Magick-based superpowers. It figures," Prue grumbled.

"Oh no, not me!" Cait exclaimed, her accent getting thicker. "I'm just a common, ordinary, garden variety Witch! I've absolutely no bloody superpowers!"

"It's just me, Mary and Billy," Freddy piped in. "We get our powers from an ancient wizard named Shazam. Or rather, Billy and Mary get them directly from Shazam, and I get them from Shazam through Billy. Y'see, we're also the Marvel Family."

"Shazam? That's the word Leo tried to keep you from saying," Piper stated, looking at Phoebe.

"Yeah" Phoebe replied.

"So how does this "magic word" deal work?" Piper asked, her curiosity piqued.

"Well, either Billy or Mary say Shazam," Freddy started.

"Or Freddy says Captain Marvel," Mary added.

"And we get hit by a bolt of magic lightning, which changes the one who says their word into a Marvel," Billy finished, "and before you ask, no, we don't need to be together to change."

"Whoa, wait a minute, back up," Prue said, "why did this "Shazam" guy give you?"

Suddenly, there was an insistent knock on the door and Prue walked up to answer it. The caller was their friend, Detective Morris with the San Francisco Police.

"It's Darryl," she said, opening the door. Darryl was a tall, athletic African-American man, built like a quarterback. He looked anxiously at Prue as he walked into the manor.

"Prue, will you tell me just what the hell is going on?" Darryl demanded as he entered. "One of your neighbors called 911 and said that your attic window was struck by a bolt of lightning..."

"Three bolts," Phoebe remarked dryly, almost to herself. "It was three bolts of lightning. Magic lightning, in fact."

"Who've you ladies got for a neighbor? Mrs. Kravitz?" Billy interjected, turning his head to get a look at the visitor.

"Who's---?" the detective asked, looking at the boy askance.

"Detective Darryl Morris," Prue returned caustically, "this very annoying short person is... um... Billy Batson."

Billy knew a Darryl Morris back home, but the one he knew was the nephew of his boss, Sterling Morris, owner of WHIZ-TV and Amalgamated Broadcasting, Inc., the only major network based in the Midwest. He knew that the possibility was remote but, for some strange reason, he felt impelled to ask.

"You wouldn't happen to have an uncle in the Midwest named Sterling, would you?"

"No. Why?"

"Just asking."

The girls groaned in mock exasperation, and Freddy rolled his eyes heavenward and muttered, "Angels and ministers of Grace, defend us". The Halliwells looked at each other, baffled by Billy's question. An instant later, a raucous growl came from Mary's stomach, causing her to blush. It had been hours since the kids had eaten anything, and the noise reminded the girl of the fact.

Of course, she, Billy and Freddy HAD been the Marvel Family for those hours and hadn't needed to eat, but now...

"Sorry," Mary said contritely, placing her hand on her abdomen.

"Don't apologize, honey," Piper replied after giving Prue the stink-eye. "I can imagine you kids must be starving after everything you've been through."

"I think we're all a little hungry," Phoebe signaled, pointing towards the kitchen with her thumb, "so I suggest we table the note-comparing until we get some food in these kids. Now, does one of us cook, or do we order in?"

"Order in," Piper said, deciding for everyone. "There's a new pizza parlor I want to try, and they deliver. Tired as I am, all I want to do is make a salad. Someone else can do the cooking."

"Wish I could join you," Darryl declared, heading for the door, "but I have go back to the precinct and tell my Lieutenant that it was a false alarm. You owe me"

"Big time, I know," Prue voiced as Piper picked up the phone and made her call. "Thanks, Darryl."

The pizzas arrived fifteen minutes later, two deluxe pepperonis for everyone else and one veggie supreme for Cait. Not long after eating, Mary and Cait stretched out on the couch, Billy on the loveseat and Freddy in the wingback chair and, one by one, fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At seven-thirty the next morning, Prue awoke to the unmistakable smells of bacon, cinnamon and fresh coffee. This was odd in and of itself, since she knew for a fact that Piper and Leo were sleeping in this morning, Phoebe had an early class, and she had a photo shoot in two hours.

So, she thought, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, if Piper's not cooking, and Phoebe isnt either, who's making breakfast?

When she went downstairs, she found three of their young "guests" cooking what seemed to be a hearty meal of French toast, bacon, orange juice and coffee. There were two dirty plates in the sink that Prue guessed were Leo and Phoebe's, and since neither of them was in sight, Prue figured that Phoebe was already at class and Leo orbed off somewhere.

"Morning!" Billy sang out, entirely too cheerful for the early hour. "Two or three?"

"Morning yourself, shorty, and two or three what?" Prue replied grumpily, pouring herself a cup of coffee.

"He means two or three slices of French toast, Prue," Piper clarified Billy's question for him. The middle Halliwell sister was still eating her breakfast as Prue sat down next to her.

"Then I'll take three."

"Billy, where's your friend?" Piper asked, referring to Caitlin.

"Oh, Cait's already eaten. If you remember the pizza she asked for last night, youd also remember that she's a semi-vegetarian. All she had was the French toast, some fruit and a glass of milk. Right now, I think she's up in the attic checking your Book of Shadows and that other book. She's trying to dope out just how we got here..."

"Speaking of missing persons," Prue interrupted, "where's Leo?"

"Guess," Piper replied around a mouthful of egg-dipped bread.

"Oh."

"I can't figure out how we came to be..." the young Witch commented as she descended the stair, holding the book Phoebe brought home, then she felt something like a whisper of air on the surface of her mind that made her look up from the volume. "Someone's here."

"Good morning, my children. I trust you slept well?" a ghostly voice, familiar to the three youngsters, asked with a dose of good humor. With all the flourish of a stage magician, the ancient wizard appeared before the group, startling the two sisters.

"Who the hell is THAT?!? " Prue exclaimed wide-eyed, pointing at the apparition.

"Shazam?!" Freddy exclaimed, nearly dropping his forkful of French toast. "Man, are we ever glad to see you!"

"Wait a minute," Piper interrupted. "Isn't Shazam the one who gave you three your powers?"

"I'll say he is," Billy said. "How did you get here, Great Sir?"

"You forget, Billy. The Rock of Eternity is the center of all space and time. Once the Historama located the four of you, the rest was not difficult."

"Okay, my bad."

"Great Sir," Mary asked, "how did we get here? How do we get home? And will we be able to change into...?"

"Sivana hoped to trap you in another part of this city by using a cross-dimensional teleporter he calls the Sidestep Device, Mary, and you will need that device to return Sivana and yourselves to the Rock of Eternity.

"As for calling forth the powers I bestowed upon the three of you, simply say your magic words and I will hear your call."

Three of the four teenagers looked at each other, then Freddy asked, "Want to try it?"

"Not in here," Billy replied, shaking his head. "But where? We don't want the shockwave to wreck the place, but we don't need to be seen, either."

"Backyard, guys," Mary chimed in, stabbing her thumb towards the back door. "It's the only safe place."

"Race you!" The trio rose from the table and ran for the back door with Cait bringing up the rear. Prue motioned to Piper that they should follow the kids and Shazam simply teleported to the back porch.

When the three figured they were a safe enough distance away from the house, they stopped and turned around.

"Shazam!" Billy and Mary shouted in unison, and Freddy cried out "Captain Marvel!" a second later. In response, three bolts of lightning lanced down out of a clear blue sky, each striking one of the teens and blinding almost everyone but the old wizard. When the groups' collective eyesight cleared, the three youngsters were replaced by the figures in Phoebe's vision: a red suited man about six foot four, a slender, petite thirteen year old girl, also in red, and a slim fourteen year old boy in blue.

"Whew! What a relief," the tall man in red exclaimed.

"You said it, Cap," the blue-clad boy chimed in, his mind now at ease.

"I guess we're unanimous in that," the girl in the red dress said serenely.

Old Shazam knew what was about to transpire and felt impelled to give the Marvel Family at least some warning of Sivana's further treachery.

"My children, before I return to the Rock of Eternity, I must tell you this: Sivana is waiting to catch the three of you alone, so whatever you do today, whatever happens, do NOT separate."

"We'll try not to, Great Sir. Thank you," Captain Marvel said reassuringly, hoping that it would be enough as the wizard faded from view. Shortly after the old wizard departed, the heroic trio repeated their words of power, changed back into Billy, Mary and Freddy and returned to the house.

TEMPUS' PENTHOUSE

Sivana stood on the balcony of his host's home and watched as three bolts of lightning struck twice in the same San Francisco neighborhood.

Those thunderclaps mean one thing and one thing only, he thought. Somehow, the old fool who gave the Cheeses their powers has finally managed to find them. Well, that steps up my personal timetable a bit.

The Worlds Wickedest Scientist had already finished rebuilding the Sidestep Device, whipped up the Neuro-Synaptic Scrambler for his new 'partner', then created a few nasty little surprises and had a little redecorating done so his foes couldn't escape when he had them in his power.

Those new 'toys' might prove useful on his host, as well.

But right now, I need a few muscle-bound morons like Ibac to help me capture that trio of troublesome brats...

With another plot brewing in his brilliant, deranged mind, Sivana went back inside the lavish penthouse to bring his many plans to fruition, trailed by his usual, manic "heh, heh, hehhh" cackle.

HALLIWELL MANOR

After the breakfast mess in the Halliwell kitchen was cleaned up and the other two sisters went to work, the four teens slipped out to do a bit of sightseeing. On their way to Golden Gate Park, Billy stopped at a pharmacy and bought two disposable cameras.

It turned out that Billy had a Geography assignment on San Francisco due Friday, and since they were there, he could take photos instead of downloading them off the Internet. He liked computers, but some things, like sightseeing, were more fun when you did them in person.

When he came out of the store, Cait asked, "Why didn't you just ask Prudence if you could borrow one of her cameras?"

"Because, my adorable little Witch," he replied with a grin, "if I did and it wound up getting lost, stolen or broken, I'd be liable for it and Prue would really wanna put me through the wall."

"So we were just being considerate of Prue, right?" Freddy queried.

"Yep."

"That's my twin, considerate all the way!" Mary stated with a grin.

They arrived in Golden Gate Park a few minutes later, and from there, the four youngsters had planned to go on to Fisherman's Wharf, the Presidio, Chinatown and Knob Hill. When they got to the Tower of the Arts, Billy decided that it was THE perfect spot to start taking his pictures. He pulled Mary and Freddy in front of him and got his first shot.

"Okay, get closer," Billy directed as he aimed the camera at his sister and best friend again. "C'mon, you guys, smoosh together more!"

"Billy," Freddy retorted, rolling his eyes skyward as he held Mary nearer for the picture, "if Mary and I get any closer, I'll walk right through her!"

"I just want the shot to be perfect! Now, smile!"

As Billy snapped the picture, he had to admit to himself that his twin sister and best friend made an incredibly cute couple. They were both nearly angelic in appearance, but it wasn't just their looks; their personalities, interests and tastes were simpatico, as well. Freddy wrote, Mary liked to draw, they both enjoyed reading and their tastes in music were similar, as well. And if they ever decided to make a go at a serious relationship...

Well, he'd be the first to give them his blessing.

While he set up for the next shot, this time with Caitlin in it, a ratty-looking man ran up to the teens, shoved Mary to the ground and ripped the girl's purse off of her shoulder, then beat a hasty retreat.

"HEY!" Mary shouted, getting up to chase the purse-snatcher. "COME BACK HERE, YOU CROOK! THAT'S MY HANDBAG!"

"MARY, DON'T!" Billy called after his twin sister, but she was either too angry to listen to her twin brother or she was already out of earshot.

"I'll go find her," Freddy said to his best friend. He hobbled along after her, but quickly lost her in the crowd. He scanned the faces in front of him, hoping to catch a glimpse of his best friend's twin sister.

Dammit, Mary, Freddy thought, searching the crowd for his girlfriend. Old Shazam warned us about separating! Sivana's lurking around this city somewhere, just waiting to catch us alone, and you go and pull this boneheaded stunt!

He was about to give up and return to Billy and Cait when he heard a loud thunderclap and limped to it's end point.

As his best friend vanished into the crowd, Billy took Cait aside and said, "I'm going to follow Freddy, hon. If anything goes wrong, find a cop, head back to the manor and tell them what happened, okay?"

"All right, but be careful," she replied reluctantly.

"Usually am."

A brief moment later, Billy took off on the same general course that Mary and Freddy went.

Meanwhile, several long blocks away, Mary cornered the thief in an alley. Like any other trapped rat, he "bared his teeth" by pulling a very sharp knife on the teenager and gave her a shallow cut across the left arm with it, ruining her blouse and drawing blood. She covered the bleeding wound with her hand and glared at him.

"Oh, you are going to be so sorry you did that," the valiant young girl said, looking the felon right in the face. She then exclaimed, "SHAZAM!"

As the bolt of magic lightning struck Mary, the concussive force of the blast hurled the purse snatcher backward into some bags of trash. An instant later, the thief felt the front of his jacket being grabbed by a delicate but extremely powerful hand. When his eyes cleared, they rested on the girl he took the purse from, holding him up in the air by one slim, slightly muscled arm while the other hand was clenched into a fist and cocked back, ready to deliver a blow.

Or was she the same girl? Granted, she had the same slim dancer's build, the same reddish-brown curls, the same bright blue eyes and the same angelic, heart-shaped face of his victim, but there was no way a little girl like her should be able to hoist him around that way!

And that get-up! A short crimson dress trimmed with gold around the short sleeves and the bottom of the full skirt, wrapped belt and emblazoned with an equally gold lightning bolt that met up with the square neckline and a short, gold-trimmed white cape. As he looked down to get a look at her gold ballerina flats, he noticed that they were hovering about ten feet off the ground.

"Why did you steal my purse?" she asked angrily, regaining his attention from the pavement below.

"Because I PAID HIM TO, you little red cheesette!" the hateful voice behind the Worlds Mightiest Girl replied with a sneer, pointing a vaguely gun-shaped device at her. Behind the evil genius were seven tall, burly men, each of who easily surpassed her big brother's old enemy, Ibac, for sheer size.

"SIVANA! So this was a trap!" Mary exclaimed as she turned her head, dropping the thief back into the bags of garbage.

"Right as rain, little Mary sunshine! One that you're now the bait for!"

"Oh, please. You don't really think that little pop-gun is going to harm me --- EEYYAAAH!" Sivana fired the odd-looking weapon at the Worlds Mightiest Girl and a single bolt of Shazam lightning struck the young heroine, transforming her back to Mary Batson.

And it HURT!

The young girl dropped into the pile of trash bags like a stone and began rapidly losing consciousness after she landed. She soon felt herself being hoisted out of the rubbish pile and slung over one man-mountain's shoulder.

And then she felt nothing at all.

Amazingly, even though the sleeve of her blouse was ruined and stained with her blood, the wound was gone, as if she had never been cut.

When Freddy arrived on the scene moments later, he saw Mary's unconscious form slung over the shoulder of a walking mass of muscle and shouted "CAPTAIN MARVEL!" in a loud, clear voice. In response to his magic words, another bolt of lightning struck Freddy, changing him once again into his other form of the Worlds Mightiest Boy - Captain Marvel Junior!

The slim, blue-garbed teen didn't announce his presence, at least not in words. Instead, he flew into the nearest thug curled up like a cannonball, striking him in the back and knocking him flat on his face. Then, in a single, fluid motion, Trey somersaulted off him and went for his second target, the hulk who had the helpless Mary slung on his shoulder. A third tried seizing the boy in a bear hug and got a crescent kick in the jaw for his troubles.

Shortly after Captain Marvel gave Freddy a portion of his powers, he and Mary both taught him a no-holds-barred style of fighting that was equal parts gymnastics, martial arts and good old-fashioned fisticuffs to make up for the boy's lack of bulk. Put the speed of Mercury, the strength of Hercules and the power of Zeus into the mix, and that style looked like a Jackie Chan movie on extreme fast-forward and felt like being hit by a steel wall.

But somehow, Sivana's thugs were nearly as difficult to take down as he was.

Whatever these guys are, the boy in blue thought, theyre certainly hard to knock out. I must've punched or kicked these guys at least a dozen times each, but they just keep standing. It's as if they were tapping into Shazam's power, as well as

"STOP THAT LITTLE HORROR, YOU MORONS!" the diminutive madman screamed at his associates. "WHAT DO I PAY YOU WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION REJECTS FOR, YOUR LOOKS?!"

"These guys? Stop me?" Trey quipped, slugging another brute in the jaw. "In your dreams, creepazoid! Now tell the incredible bulk to put Mary down!"

"You'll be joining her in dreamland in a minute, you little blue brat!"

Sivana leveled his weapon at Captain Marvel Junior and fired. Junior bit back a scream of agony as the bolt struck him, changing him back to Freddy Freeman. A moment later, one of the brute squad hit the crippled boy hard across the face with an open-handed slap, knocking him to the pavement, out like a light.

"Now, where's the last one?" the Worlds Maddest Scientist muttered to himself, "Where's Billy Batson?"

Billy had caught up to Mary and Freddy in the alley, following the sounds of the two claps of thunder. He shouted "SHAZAM!", and a third bolt out of the blue heralded the appearance of Captain Marvel. The Worlds Mightiest Mortal rushed forward to stop the mad scientist and his men.

"Ah, I was beginning to wonder when you would show up," Sivana said as two of the brutes came up on either side of the Captain, trying to pinion his arms behind his back.

With a portion of Hercules' strength, Captain Marvel swung his thug-laden arms forward, knocking their heads together. While the pair collapsed, the Worlds Mightiest Man continued to advance on his worst enemy.

"Not exactly a meeting of the minds, was it," the crimson-clad hero said in a growl, ready for the rest of the cadre. "Let the kids go, Sivana! Now!"

"Now why would I want to do that, you big red cheese?" he asked his nemesis with a snaggle-toothed grin of triumph. "You and these two guttersnipes have foiled my schemes long enough! In fact, why don't I just change you back into Billy Batson and he can take a little nap WITH them!"

Once again, Sivana fired a Shazam bolt, and as the bolt changed him back, Billy dropped to his knees, then fell face-first to the street, as unconscious as his twin sister and his best friend.

Unbeknownst to Billy, Caitlin followed him, hoping her magick would be of some use. She ran up in time to see the Worlds Maddest Scientist taking her friends away. One of the men who wasn't burdened with one of the kids made a grab for the young Witch, but thanks to her dancer's training, she was fast enough to dodge him, then she used her own telekinetic ability to "push" the brute away from her.

"Leave the little Witch, you fool!" Sivana called as he and the others stepped into the glowing wormhole. "I have what I came here for! And this time, there'll be no last-minute saves for the brats!"

The last thing Cait heard was Sivana's mockingly sinister laughter as he and his brute squad stepped into the portal.

END CHAPTER TWO

 

Copyright 2002 By Cynthia Finnegan

reset May 1st 2002

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