Stranger Tales

For those who have a way with words.
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csyphrett
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:49 pm

Stranger Tales

Post by csyphrett »

100: The Temple
“Master Zator,” asked one of the orphans. He pointed at another boy across the
temple. “Who is that boy?”

Zator turned his head to look at the object of interest. He frowned. He knew all the
orphans in the citadel. He didn’t know this boy. How had he entered the guarded
complex without anyone seeing him?

He raised his third eye to examine the boy. There was potential in this child, like the
other orphans he had rescued over the years. He could be trained to harness his innate
ability for good.

The Council of the Seven might not wish to have another orphan outsider left with
them. He heard mutterings when Doc and Rose got into mischief with their abilities.

Something had to be done. He would find the boy a place if they would not allow him
to stay at the citadel and train with the others. It was the least he could do if he
couldn’t get permission for the powers that be.

He walked over to the strange boy, hands behind his back. His bald head gleamed
under the artificial sun overhead. He put on a pleasant expression so the boy would
not be afraid of him.

The boy wasn’t afraid of him. He saw that as soon as he looked into the boy’s eyes.
Shouldn’t he be afraid?

“I am Zator,” Zator said. “Who are you?”

“Fu Shang,” said the boy. He knuckled the side of his chin.

“How did you enter the citadel?,” asked Zator. The boy looked ill-treated, but had
eaten something recently. Dirt covered his clothes and skin. His hair stuck out in all
directions like a hay stack.

“There was a shadow that was a door that was a shadow,” said Fu Shang. He pointed
at a corner formed by the wall of the temple against the wall of the building next to
it.

“Can you show me?,” asked Zator.

Fu Shang led him to the corner. The temple rose on the right. The other building, the
orphanage, rose ahead of them. The shadow was there. The boy pressed on the wall.
He seemed surprised when it didn’t move.

“Why doesn’t the door open?,” he complained.

“Allow me,” said Zator. He raised a hand to frame the shadow for his mind. He
opened his third eye. A small trace of something was there, but not like the magic he
regularly used.

Zator put some effort into expanding the trace. A hidden path opened up in the
shadow. Fu Shang fell through in the shadow. The master followed.

The boy picked himself up. He looked around at the destruction. He started crying.

Zator joined him, touching his shoulder. He raised a hand and let his eye reach across
what was left of a village.

Something had erupted near what looked like the remains of a temple. It had reached
out in all directions. Everything it had touched had exploded. Burning wood and
people were everywhere.

“I want you to stay here,” said Zator. “I have to see if anyone is alive in all that. Do
you understand?”

“Yes,” said Fu Shang. “Please, don’t die.”

“I will do my best,” said Zator. “This shouldn’t take too long. I have very good
hearing. I will hear them calling for help, and answer them.”

Fu Shang nodded. He smudged his face wiping away his tears.

The master raised both hands. He called on his third eye to command the fire to blow
out so he could search. The flames dispersed as he advanced into the wreckage.

He decided the best place to start was the center of the explosion. He could look for
survivors by circling around whatever had caused the first wave to push against the
wooden and stone buildings.

Zator found traces of magic in the crater that had been ground zero. What had they
been doing? What kind of spell did this?

“The threat has not been abated, Zator of the Council,” said a quiet voice. “What was
summoned still remains in place.”

The master turned. A man stood in darkness. He blended in with it, wore it as a cloak.
A western style hat covered his white hair and shaded his eyes. The thin lower face
that stood out against the darkness wore grimness like a mask.

“Who are you?,” asked Zator. His third eye had not sensed this phantom, and could
barely see him after being hailed. He felt the tendrils of magic he controlled wrap
around the eye as he called on his power.

“I’m merely a bystander who happened on things afterwards,” said the shadow. “Heed
my advice if you would listen to the words of a stranger. Take the boy and go back
to your temple and forget this place once existed. It has gone beyond your help, but
he hasn’t.”

“Why should I do that?,” said Zator. “The Council will want to know why I didn’t
find out the cause of this.”

“Because the boy needs protection,” said the shadow.

Zator turned he saw Fu Shang at the edge of the shattered buildings, looking around
at his old home. He saw something made of fire and hate building behind the boy. He
knew what he had to do.

The master reached into the astral plane, the dimension of the mind and spirit next to
reality. He pulled himself across the space in a second. He raised his shield of light
as the spirit brought a burning fist down. He went down on one knee, but he had
protected the boy at the last second.

The spirit raised its arm once more. It would crack this shell in front of it. Then the
softness inside would burn. The fist came down.

Fu Shang stepped forward through the shield, screaming and swung his fist at the fist
coming down to kill him. Light blasted the boy off of his feet. The spirit reeled back
from the contact.

The stranger stepped out of the darkness. He stood between Zator, Fu Shang, and the
spirit. His dark cloak wafted in unfelt currents of air.

The stranger held something in his hands. His cloak prevented Zator from seeing
what it was. He waited for the spirit to make the first move.

The spirit reared up, cocking its other arm back. It might have missed killing the boy
and his guardian, but it wouldn’t miss killing this human shadow. It brought its fist
down on the man in black.

The stranger held up the object in his hands. Zator frowned at what looked like an
ordinary vase with the mouth pointed toward the fiery menace. The punch hit the
opening and kept going. The gangly body went into the container in a second. A lid
covered the opening to prevent the spirit from escaping.

Zator picked himself up. He turned his eye on the boy. Fu Shang had suffered some
injury but his arm appeared normal. The master frowned. He expected something else.

“I think you should take the boy with you when you go back to the Seven, Zator,”
said the stranger. “He might need some training to improve his technique.”

“Would you come with us?,” asked Zator.

“I cannot,” said the man in black. “I am afraid that my path has been declared
something only I can walk. Take this as well. It will need a guard who knows not to
open a poisoned treasure chest.”

He handed Zator the vase. He picked up Fu Shang in his arms.

“Shall we go, Master Zator,” said the stranger. He carried the boy into the shadows
cast by the dancing fire. The master followed, wondering how he would explain all
this to the Seven who were his masters.

He also needed to lock the vase away so no one could open it accidentally and let
loose what was inside on the world. Imprisoning a menace from beyond was
something the Seven approved of without having to ask permission.

Fu Shang rested against the inner wall of the temple. He snored slightly. Part of his
torn sleeve had been burned away from contacting the fire spirit.

Mastor Zator looked around. He saw the boy who had pointed out the new arrival
earlier. Doc came forward with concern on his round face.

“I need you to wait here until I return,” Mastor Zator said. “If the boy wakes up, tell
him not to move.”

“Yes sir,” said Doc. “Is he staying with us?”

“That will be up to the Council,” said Zator. “I have to inform them of what
happened. They may allow him to stay after my report. We will still need to make
sure he’s all right before we can put him out in the outside world.”

“I will look out for him until you get back, Master,” said Doc.

“Thank you,” said Master Zator.

Zator scanned the temple grounds as he walked to the vault under the compound. He
had to store his captured guest before he offered an explanation to the masters. He
doubted they would like the lid to come off the vase in a meeting.

They could handle it, but it would be inconvenient and any damage would have to be
repaired.

The man in black didn’t appear anywhere within his mental reach. How had he come
and gone like that? Maybe one of the Seven knew who the phantom stranger was.
They would tell him if he needed to know.

If he didn’t, they would tell him he didn’t need to know.

He didn’t know if he had to go back to that village. He should be ready to go in case
the Seven required the spirit explosion to be covered up. It would be up to him to
bury the dead and clean up the debris so that it would look like the village had never
existed.

And it would be up to him to make a case to train Fu Shang. He knew that would be
an uphill battle, but there was something about the boy. He might be another
champion they could use to improve the outside world.

And that might have been the goal of the stranger when he brought Fu Shang to the
citadel for protection.

Zator entered the vault near the Council chambers. He descended past rows of
drawers built into the walls of the column until he reached the bottom. He walked to
the main door and used his eye to activate the spells to let him enter. He carried the
vase to an empty safe built into the wall. He placed it inside. The safe closed and
became a block of steel that slid back into the wall to become part of the fortification.

He exited the vault, making sure to lock it up behind him before making the long
climb back up to the surface. He still needed to get help for Fu Shang, and inform the
Council. Hopefully, testing would allow the boy to stay with them. He had nothing
left in the outside world. He needed them for the moment.

The Seven would definitely want to see his talent in operation before they did
anything. They liked to know as much as they could about a situation before acting.

And Zator admitted a physical piece of magic like he saw made Fu Shang dangerous
to anyone who didn’t know what he could do. And he was doubly dangerous if he
didn’t know what he could do.

He might kill himself using the thing built into his hand without any training.
csyphrett
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:49 pm

Re: Stranger Tales

Post by csyphrett »

99: Chasseur
The boy clutched the box to his chest. It was battered, silver, and had a number of
unmoving parts. It was also dying and he didn’t know what to do about it.

It was a crime to even have one of the boxes. They were reserved for the Elite who
served Lord Darkseid. A hunger dog like him should have handed the box over as
soon as he had found it. Instead he had kept it, and did his best to keep it functioning.

He looked at the giant flame erupting from the pit dug deep into the surface of
Apokolips. That was where he would end up if it was discovered he had kept a
mother box.

If he was lucky, he would end up there. There was a good chance he would be handed
over and experimented on to make the master satisfied.

He didn’t know what he should do. He couldn’t just run away like Scott Free and Big
Barda.

He blinked as he edged along the alley. Other hunger dogs had gone about their
business and he thought he was alone. Instead, a power wrapped in a black cloak
stared at him from under the brim of a concealing hat.

“Are you going to turn me in?,” asked the boy.

“Why would I do that, Chasseur Delphinik?,” asked the power.

“Because I have a mother box,” said the boy. “And I know I am not supposed to have
one.”

“I doubt Darkseid would put much credit in what I have to say,” said the power.
“Your mother box looks hurt. May I?”

He held out a gloved hand. Chasseur knew he was a power then to have white gloves
in the ash that covered the planet. He wondered if he should run from the shadow in
front of him.

“I won’t hurt her,” said the power. “You have my word on that.”

What was the word of a stranger worth? Chasseur looked at the hand. Did he want to
extend a bit of trust in this monster? Did he have a choice?

The mother box told him that it would be all right. The stranger would never hurt her.

Chasseur handed over his friend, not trying to conceal the worry he felt. What could
he do if the power just left? He couldn’t track the cloak down and get the box back.
He didn’t have a talent like that.

The stranger frowned. He nodded. He held the mother box out for Chasseur to take
it back.

“Your mother box is going to die,” said the stranger. “You could use it to go to New
Genesis for help. Someone there should be able to fix it without too much trouble.”

“If I do that, I will be hunted like Scott Free,” said Chasseur. “I don’t want to run
from the forces of Apokolips for the rest of my life.”

“There’s another option, but it is not for the fearful,” said the stranger.

“What’s that?,” said Chasseur.

“You can use the mother box to go beyond the local time that Darkseid uses until you
are not in his sphere of influence,” said the stranger. “It would be dangerous and one
way. Once you go there, you would need some other way to get back. Your mother
box would not be able to take two such trips.”

“Would she live?,” asked Chasseur.

“If you found the right person to fix her,” said the stranger. “You would have to do
it soon after your arrival.”

“What if I can’t find someone to help her?,” asked Chasseur.

“You would be stuck in another place with no way home, and no way to navigate the
area to get you back home,” said the stranger. “If you take her to one of Darkseid’s
elites, you won’t get her back when they were done with her.”

“If I want to save her, I have to take that chance,” said Chasseur.

The stranger stood impassively. He offered options, not guaranteed solutions.

“I want to do it,” said Chasseur. “How does this work?”

“Open up a Boom Tube and be on your way,” said the stranger. “The rest will have
to happen when you arrive at your destination.”

The mother box reached out, opening up the space-time coordinates for her friend.
She would never be able to do this again without help. She was fine with that. It
would be good to get away from the hell that surrounded them.

“Look for Witchie Poo,” said the stranger. He stepped back to let Chasseur start his
journey.

“Witchie Poo?,” said Chasseur. He fell into the Boom Tube before he could get an
explanation.

The grim darkness of Apokolips gave way to bright lights surrounding Chasseur. He
looked around, pushing himself against a wall. Where was he?

The mother box pinged, pointing him at a trio standing on the roof of a nearby
building. They looked up at the stars that filled the sky above them. They didn’t care
about a hunger dog like him.

One of them had to be Witchie Poo. How did he get up there? He looked around.
There were a row of terraces that he could use to get to another roof. Then he could
jump across to the roof where the trio stood.

He could feel the mother box fading in his hand. He had to be brave just a little
longer.

Chasseur sprinted to the edge of the terraces. He yanked himself over the nearest rail
and flowed up the path on all fours like he would back home. He reached the edge of
the roof and jumped. He sailed through the air and landed crouched down. The trio
turned at his unexpected presence. One, a pale male with black hair, raised a hand.
Nuclear energy coalesced around it as he pointed his arm at the hunger dog.

“Hold on, Hikarimono,” said a machine girl with blond hair. She wore a bathing suit
with ackwatik girl on the top piece. “He looks harmless.”

“Witchie Poo?,” asked Chasseur. He knew he had made a mistake. The other girl
turned at the name. She must be Witchie Poo. “I was told you can help me.”

“I can’t right now,” said Witchie Poo. “Something bad is about to happen to punch
a hole through the city. We’re trying to figure out how to stop it.”

“If you help me save my friend, I will help you save your city,” said Chasseur. “I
swear on the Pit.”

“Jama?,” said the blond. She looked up at the sky. “Can you do it?”

“I don’t know,” said Witchie Poo. One of her eyes glittered too much, and Chasseur
knew it was just as false as the blond girl. “What friend?”

Chasseur held out the mother box. He felt the inner energy inside slowly fading. He
needed this girl to do something.

“I can fix this,” said Jama. “I can. Where did you get this?”

“It’s not a this,” said Chasseur. “It’s a her. You can fix her?”

“Don’t have a lot of time to stop the Czans,” said Hikarimono.

“Go ahead and stall them,” said Jama. She gathered power in her hands and real eye.
“As soon as I get done, I will be right there to help out.”

“All right,” said the pale man in the xeno dept shirt. He took to the air, blasting
upwards like a comet.

“There’s not much I can do from down here, Jama,” said the Akwatik Girl. “I’m going
to try to get something with a lift in it.”

“Go,” said Jama. She nodded as the mother box pinged in her hand. “I’ll be right
there.”

“I’m going to need something from you,” Jama said. She turned her glowing eye on
Chasseur. “Come here.”

The hunger dog stepped closer. He didn’t like the way the mother box had split in the
witch’s hands. This had been such a bad idea. He should have stayed on Apokolips.

“I need some of your blood,” said Jama. “Three drops.”

“You can have all of it,” said Chasseur.

“I just need three drops,” said Jama. “That will take care of your friend. Then I have
to do what I can to help the others.”

“All right,” said Chasseur. He bit his thumb hard enough to draw blood. He dripped
the drops on the glowing interior of the mother box. The light changed from white to
light violet.

“Good,” said Jama. The magician pressed on the box. The light faded away and she
was back to normal with a gleaming newer looking shell. “Here you go. She should
be good as new.”

“This is great,” said Chasseur. “Thank you so much.”

“I have to get to work,” said Jama. “Good luck with your living machine.”

“You helped us,” said Chasseur. “We can help you back for repayment.”

“We have some pirates coming into the system to attack the diaspora,” said Jama.
“What can you do about that?”

“By myself, I couldn’t do a lot,” said Chasseur. He sat down on the ground, folding
his legs in front of him. “I can do something with the help of my mother box.”

The mother box pinged in excitement as an aura of light surrounded her partner. A
duplicate of Chasseur grew into a giant. It laughed as it bounded into space.

“I couldn’t do much back home,” said Chasseur. “Lord Darkseid would have taken
Mother Box from me, and then turned my ability into serving whatever his needs
were at the moment like he has everyone else. I never wanted that for myself.”

Jama looked up at the sky. She raised a hand to watch the action from where she was.
The giant grabbed one of the pirate ships in both hands. It came apart in front of her.

“I just wanted to have a clear sky,” said Chasseur.
csyphrett
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:49 pm

Re: Stranger Tales

Post by csyphrett »

98: One Last Talk
Hosea felt too weak to get out of bed. He had walked the earth a long time, seen his
city partially destroyed, had to start over with his mother and brother in the desert.
Now he was the patriarch of the clan, with children and grandchildren of his own.

He didn’t understand why he felt so weak. This was just a day like any other day.

A man clad in black stepped into Hosea’s tent. He stood beside the old man’s pallet
with a dour expression on his face. He looked around for a moment, maybe checking
for others in the tent.

“Are you death?,” asked Hosea. “Have you finally come for me at last?”

“No, I am not death,” said the stranger. A grim smile crossed his face. “But it is
common to mistake a stranger for someone with enmity on his mind.”

“I’m afraid I feel too weak to stand to greet you properly,” said Hosea. He didn’t
flinch from this human shadow looming over him.

“There is no need, Hosea,” said the stranger. “You have come a long way from
stealing fruit from vendors in the market.”

“That was not finest example of my character,” said the old man. He gestured for his
visitor to sit. “But that was many decades ago. The city where I was born was
partially destroyed and deemed cursed.”

“I know,” said the stranger, sitting beside the pallet. “I was there when the wrath of
God descended on the plain. It does my heart proud that you have become a better
person after what happened.”

“You were there,” said Hosea. He reached out a hand. “You seem too young to have
been there at the end of the city.”

“Nevertheless, I began my long days of travel there at the destruction of the land of
your birth,” said the stranger. “Many died, but many were saved just like you and
your family.”

“I know you,” said Hosea. “My mother talked you before we left the city. You said
you had no name unless she gave you one.”

“That is true,” said the stranger. “Your memory is still sharper than a knife.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” said Hosea. “But I remember that moment more than most, and
I always wondered why you tried so hard to help when no one else did. You rallied
the people of the city to survive and do better.”

“Did I?,” asked the stranger.

“Everyone knows that you were there rescuing people from the lightning, and the
collapsing buildings,” said the old man. “But you are still so much younger than I
expected you to be.”

“I am going to tell you a story of a stupid man, Hosea,” said the stranger. “And maybe
you will see the explanation for your questions in it.”

“There was once a city in the desert,” said the stranger. The words drew Hosea back
to his youth, running wild with his brother and friends, disappointing his father and
mother. The underworld had a grip and things seemed tainted to the core. “It was the
center of civilization for miles, but it was judged as wicked and empty of good by the
powers on high.”

Hosea thought about the lightning and rocks falling out of the sky to wreck the
buildings. People were turned into columns of flame by the display. He had been
lucky that his mother had found a hiding place for them and protected them as much
as she could.

“Only one man was deemed worthy of survival,” said the stranger. “He was told to
leave his family and walk out of the city and let everything burn to the ground.”

“But he didn’t, did he?,” said Hosea.

“No.” said the stranger. “He spurned the mercy shown to him and killed himself.”

“What?,” said Hosea. “Why did he do that?”

“He loved his family, and thought the punishment was too harsh for the rest of the
city,” said the stranger. “He didn’t want to live without his wife and children. Look
at yourself, Hosea. You know this is true.”

Hosea nodded his head in agreement. He had struggled to provide for his family, but
they had rallied and helped him get over the rough patches in his life. He didn’t know
if he would kill himself, but he did know he would stand as their shield whenever he
could.

“He was punished for what he did,” said the stranger. “He was told he would have to
live away from his family and his city, he would have to protect everyone he could,
and he would have to show them a better way of doing things.”

“The angels brought him back to life as punishment,” said Hosea.

“They brought him back to life and made sure he could never see his beloved family
again,” said the stranger. “They would never know who he was.”

“That seems excessively petty,” said Hosea.

“Angels are not known for their kindness and mercy,” said the stranger with a smile
on his thin face.

Hosea nodded at that. As one of the few survivors of angelic wrath, it had just been
luck that his small family had been able to start over and make a new life for
themselves.

“So what happened to this man,” said Hosea. He had an inkling, but he wanted a
fuller of explanation of what was going on.

“He did what he could with what he had to save as many as he could,” said the
stranger. “He was able to block the angels with his body to let people survive, but not
many. The city was destroyed despite his best efforts as you know. Then he helped
everyone he could to start over wherever they settled.”

“I knew that was you my mother talked to in the city,” said the old man. “You looked
so sad then. Except for the dark cloth of your clothes, you have barely changed in the
years since.”

“That is my punishment for past actions,” said the stranger. “I chose my people over
myself. I could do no less.”

“I don’t understand why you have told me this, and why you are visiting me now after
all these years,” said Hosea.

“It is the end of your time, Hosea,” said the stranger. “You are the last of the
survivors of the city. I have done my best to protect you all, but you have all slipped
away one after the other, and you are the last living man that walked away from that
cataclysm.”

“I’m the last one left, and this is the end of me,” said Hosea.

“Yes,” said the stranger. “It would take a greater power than mine to grant you more
years to live.”

“It’s fine,” said Hosea. “I have had a long life thanks to you. My family has grown,
and they are better than I ever was. Things have worked out for me a lot better than
if you hadn’t done what you did. I miss not having a father, but my mother did her
best, and I did mine.”

“I missed not having a family,” said the stranger. “But I checked on them to make
sure they could get help when they needed it. It was the only thing I could do.”

“I’m sure they would understand if they knew,” said Hosea. “But they must have
passed long ago if I am the last one left.”

“Very few did as well as you,” said the stranger. “Some didn’t change their ways to
their detriment.”

“Some people never learn,” said Hosea. “How long do I have?”

“I don’t know,” said the stranger. “Your family will be arriving soon. They will
take care of your body. They will be amicable with the inheritance. They will be
worthy of you.”

“There is no doubt of that,” said Hosea. “They were better than I was at the same
age.”

The stranger smiled at that assertion.

“Your family is coming, Hosea,” said the stranger, looking up. “They will be able to
sit with you until you are dead.”

“I know you, don’t I?,” said Hosea. “It isn’t just that I saw you once a long time ago.”

“If you knew me once, it is up to you to name me,” said the stranger. “I have lost any
name I may have had when I did what I did.”

“I do know you,” said Hosea. “I have something for you. I couldn’t return it when
I was younger, but I can now.”

Hosea scrabbled for a small chest by his pallet. He pulled it close and opened the lid
with a shaking hand. He reached in and pulled out a necklace with a gold disc
hanging from it. He held it out.

The stranger took the necklace and looked at it. He frowned at the pendant.

“I took it from my mother’s belongings before the destruction of the city,” said
Hosea. “I held it afterwards because I was too ashamed to give it back.”

“It is too late to give it back to your mother,” said the stranger.

“I know,” said Hosea. “I wanted to give it back to the real owner for a long time. I
just never had a chance. Now I do.”

The stranger hung the necklace over his neck. The pendant dropped down to his
chest. The chain had always been too long since it was made for giants.

“I remember now where you got it,” said Hosea. “So many things are coming to me.
I remember everything now.”

“Everything?,” said the stranger.

“It’s so funny how I didn’t listen to you when you were there, then I tried to live up
to your example without knowing it after you were gone,” said Hosea.

“You have made me proud,” said the stranger.

“Goodbye, Father,” said Hosea. “I’m sorry we never talked sooner than this.”

A spasm went through Hosea’s body. He clutched the blanket over him. A wind filled
the tent for a second.

When his family entered the tent, they found him lying still with a smile on his face.
His hand was on the closed chest beside him.

No one saw the man in black who had visited the dead man before he died.
csyphrett
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:49 pm

Re: Stranger Tales

Post by csyphrett »

97 A Flash of Lightning
1
Captain Marvel flew over Fawcett City in a red blur. He had dealt with a giant fish
flying over the city, and was headed to the WHIZ television station to broadcast the
news as his alter ego, Billy Batson, boy news announcer.

He thought he saw a man in a cape standing on one of the roofs in the path of his
travel line. He almost paused to circle back to see if there was more trouble in the
offing. He decided that he should do his job first, and then circle back if there was a
problem.

Someone standing on a roof didn’t mean anything by itself.

Lightning ripped down out of the sky. It struck Captain Marvel, ripping through him.
He felt himself changing and falling out of the sky in the middle of a cloud.
Something snagged his shirt to keep him from hitting the ground.

“Whoa,” said a voice in Billy’s ear as the cloud cleared. “I got you.”

The familiar skyline of Fawcett City was gone. Billy frowned as he tried to place
where he was. What had happened because of the lightning strike?

A space ship with multiple arms floated over the strange city. It sent energy blasts at
the humanoid forms trying to deal with it. Damage done by the heroes healed over in
a matter of seconds while Billy watched.

The hand that had snagged Billy out of the air put him on the roof where his rescuer
stood. He looked up at a tall blond woman, wearing the flag and carrying a shield
embossed with an eagle. The half cowl she wore didn’t cover her smile.

“Are you okay, kid?,” asked the amazon. “It looked like you were headed for the
street.”

“I’m new here,” said Billy. “It looks like you have a big problem.”

“It’s not anything we won’t beat, but if we weren’t holding it here, the collateral
damage would be exponentially worse,” said the amazon. She raised her shield to
block a shot of purple energy. “I think you should get out of the way so we can
work.”

“Let me see if I can help you out,” said Billy. “SHAZAM!”

Lightning crashed out of the clear sky. It wrapped smoke around the boy. When it
cleared, a man in red and gold grinned at the world.

“Captain Thunder?,” asked the amazon.

“Captain Marvel,” said the world’s mightiest mortal as he launched himself into the
air. The only way to stop the battle was to get inside and shut off the ship. The others
had probably thought of the same thing, but couldn’t get inside to take care of the
next part with the purple beams blasting the area.

So how did he do what they hadn’t already done?

The limbs of the star ship reached for him. He dodged them at first, his lightning
speed working to his advantage. He saw they were trying to get him to enter a mouth
in the ship.

If it wanted him inside, and he wanted to be inside, maybe getting into the mouth
would take him where he wanted to go. It seemed like a good match to him.

Captain Marvel flew into the opening. It shut behind him to keep him pinned inside.
He wondered how long it would take before it tried to kill him somehow.

His strength started draining before he reached the end of the tunnel. He stumbled to
an access hatch keeping him from the rest of the ship. He pulled on it until it opened.
He staggered out into a hall and wondered what was going on.

Robots made of tentacles arrived to take him where they wanted him to go. He tried
to fight back, but his strength was failing fast. One wrapped him up and they escorted
him to a room toward the center of the ship where a bubble of energy kept a costumed
hero resembling the good Captain in place.

The tentacles threw the weakened Captain Marvel into the bubble. He felt even
weaker inside the bubble. Where was his strength going?

“Who are you?,” asked the man in white. The veins stood out in his face.

“I’m Captain Marvel,” said the Big Red Cheese. “I’m visiting for a little bit. Who are
you?”

“I’m Captain Thunder,” said the stranger. “This thing runs on magic somehow. It’s
draining our strength to keep the ship flying against the others. We need to get out of
here, but I don’t have a clue how to do that.”

Captain Marvel looked around in a daze. How could they escape? Was there anybody
else onboard other than the tentacle things he had already seen? Pain seeped in. How
much more could he take?

“Does it use magic?,” asked Captain Marvel. “I noticed that it didn’t try to capture
your friends.”

“I don’t know,” said Captain Thunder. “It appeared over the city and ripped up one
of the monuments. Then it started dropping drones on the ground. I got here before
everyone else, and got pulled in.”

“It must be using our strength to keep things running,” said Captain Marvel. “We
have to get out of here. Any ideas?”

“Not off the top of my head,” said Captain Thunder.

“I have one, but it’s so risky, that I don’t want to tell you in case it fails,” said the
hero of Fawcett City.

“What’s the plan?,” asked Captain Thunder. Smoke rolled off his white suit.

“I’m going to try to knock this thing out,” said Captain Marvel. “Then you have to
come up with a way to get us out of here.”

“How are you going to do that?,” asked Captain Thunder.

“SHAZAM!,” cried Captain Marvel. Lightning ran through the ship until it erupted
from the control panels of the bubble. It poured into the world’s mightiest mortal and
left a teen-aged boy behind.

The bubble popped. Captain Thunder and Billy dropped to the floor. Billy hopped to
his feet, looking around. Captain Thunder could barely stand.

“I can still barely stand,” said the Captain. “I thought the bubble bursting would stop
the drain.”

“It must run everywhere in the ship,” said Billy. He frowned as the controls started
repairing themselves. “It’s still feeding off your power.”

“ATEMA!,” shouted Captain Thunder. Rain rushed up from the floor of the control
room. It washed away the man in white to leave a girl in jeans and t-shirt. “Let’s see
what it does now.”

“It looks like we stopped it from healing,” said Billy. “We still have to get out of here
before the drones decide we’re no longer useful.”

“The others should be wrecking this thing now that it can’t use us as a battery,” said
the girl. “I’m Blake.”

“I’m Billy,” said Batson. He listened for a moment. “Let’s go this way. I think that’s
where I came in.”

“Where did you come from?,” asked Blake. “I thought I was the only who could
power up.”

“I think someone sent me here to help out with this,” said Billy. He crept along. He
didn’t know if the tentacle things could hear him. He motioned for his companion to
lean against the wall when a group dragged themselves by to get at the bubble
chamber.

Billy crept away from the confrontation. He kept one eye on their backtrail as they
went.

“Shouldn’t your friends be ripping this thing up?,” asked Billy in a whisper.

“They probably don’t know we got loose,” said Blake. She ran her hand through her
blond hair. “They might not want to punch holes in the thing if they don’t know
where we are.”

The bulkhead split in front of the two. A dark-haired man in blue frowned at them.
His shirt had scorch marks, but he seemed okay.

“This is Billy, Sentinel,” said Blake. “Can you get us out of here?”

“That’s why I’m here,” said Sentinel. He stared at the other end of the ship. “Let’s get
you two out of here.”

“That would be swell,” said Billy.

Seconds later, the kids were on the roof with the amazon. She kept her attention on
the destruction of the ship as Sentinel and his comrades harried it away from the city.
The man in blue ripped a stone sphinx out of the flying thing. The ship broke apart
into pieces that he had to help catch after he put the statue on the ground.

The group assembled around Billy as he stood there. He didn’t know what was going
on other than someone had tried to use Captain Thunder as a battery for their magical
flying squid. He had no idea who would do that. He wondered if it was enemy of the
Captain’s in particular, or the Legion itself.

He didn’t have any idea how he had got into the mix except he thought the man he
had seen on the roof had caused this somehow.

And he had no way to confirm the suspicion while he was on this Earth, and not at
home. He supposed he should hang around to make sure the Legion didn’t need him
anymore before he tried to reach the Rock of Eternity.

“What do we have?,” asked Lady Eagle, the amazon with the shield.

“The ship came from the ocean,” said the glowing light man Billy associated with
Green Lanterns. “I was able to track it that far before coming back for the meeting.”

“So it came from somewhere in Tritonis’s area of control,” said Lady Eagle. “He
won’t like hearing that.”

“Why did the flying squid go after the sphinx first?,” asked Billy.

“It’s supposed to be magical,” said Sentinel. “No one knows what it does because it
doesn’t move. If it’s casting spells, it’s not reaching beyond the point where it was
erected.”

“Do we go down there after it?,” asked Blake.

“Not you two,” said the Lady. “If it seized you again, it would make the rest of the job
that much tougher.”

“Did the ship try to talk to anybody before you guys started fighting?,” asked Billy.
“Maybe we can negotiate something.”

“It didn’t talk to us,” said the Green Man. Particles floated inside his humanoid shape
as a radio dish came and went. “I can’t see any blasts across the radio spectrum from
a local scan.”

“It didn’t talk to me when I got here to figure out what was going on,” asked Blake.
“Can it speak English?”

“The only thing I saw on the ship were robot crew that looked like squids with too
many arms,” said Billy. “I didn’t hear any type of chatter or computer confirmation.
It was dead silent except for the energy bubble crackling.”

“So we have an enemy based in the ocean who can’t, or won’t, talk to us that uses
magic to bolster itself,” said Lady Eagle.

“It drains magic to power its weapons and self-repair,” said Billy. “I didn’t see
anything that looked like magic spells to me. They might be built into the hull in
some way. I’m not a magician.”

“None of us are,” said Lady Eagle. “We have one that we can consult. Maybe he has
an answer to this.”

“We just can’t allow him over the site in the ocean,” said Sentinel. “Who knows what
that would spark?”

“I think there will eventually be another flying squid,” said Billy. “And it will try to
capture any magic it can to boost up its abilities.”

“And that’s why you two will have to stay away from things until we figure out
what’s going on,” said Lady Eagle.

“Actually,” said Billy. “There’s one sure way to find out what’s going on.”

“What’s that?,” asked the American Amazon.

“We ask,” said Billy. “SHAZAM!”

Lightning rolled down out of the clear sky. A red streak was in the air a second later.

“Stop him, Sentinel,” ordered Lady Eagle. “We don’t want him awakening any other
problems before we solve this one.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” said Sentinel. He vanished in a blue blur.

“Maybe Billy is right,” said Blake. “Maybe we should try to find out what’s going on
up close.”

“We can’t afford to lose one of our own finding that out,” said Lady Eagle.

“We can,” said Blake. “ATEMA!”

A white blur took to the air after the other two a moment later.

“Can you get us down to the bottom of the ocean to look at this thing, Iron Light?,”
asked Lady Eagle.

“Sure,” said the glowing guardian. “I can whip up individual breathing mechanisms
while we’re down there.”

“Let’s pull the others off clean up and get this done before we have some squid
monster coming out of the ocean to wreck things again,” said the leader of the
Legion.

“Sending out the call now,” said Iron Light. “Everyone should be assembling on the
docks.”

“All right,” said Iron Eagle. She pulled a phone from one of the pouches on her belt.
“Let’s call our expert and see what he can give us.”

Iron Light surrounded her in a bubble from a device floating in his shoulder and they
took to the air on a jet of green energy.
csyphrett
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:49 pm

Re: Stranger Tales

Post by csyphrett »

A flash of lightning 2
Captain Marvel blasted across the sky. It only took a second for him to fly out of the
city and over this version of the Atlantic. He headed down into the water, heading for
the bottom.

He sensed Sentinel behind him. He poured on the speed, trusting Mercury to lend him
as much as he needed to have to win the race. His own Superman was a match for
him, so he expected this version of the man of tomorrow to be equally as fast.

He spotted movement in the dark ocean ahead. He figured the absence of lights meant
the squid people didn’t need them to take care of things. Sparks said something was
being welded together.

He wondered at the number of sparks in front of him. How many workers were
working, and how many ships were they building?

He needed to get a better look at things before he decided on a course of action. It
would put him in danger, but that was acceptable. He imagined the bow wave he was
creating would complicate things for the defenders after he passed by.

He flew over what looked like a dock merged into the ocean floor. A number of the
squid workers floated around with parts in their hands. He saw at least three of the
squid ships being built by the drones. He frowned at that.

He thought that he and Captain Thunder and Sentinel could round the drones up to
keep them from working. He didn’t know where he could corral them in this world.

Purple beams reached for Captain Marvel. He steered clear of them as he thought
about how to handle the situation. Did he want to fight the squids?

He needed to at least disarm them before they actually hit him with one of the beams.
He didn’t know if they could cancel out his powers, but he didn’t want to find out.

Sentinel arrived on the scene and headed for one of the ships. Bigger guns tried to
keep him away. When that didn’t work, a net of glowing light filled the water and
stalled his progress.

Captain Thunder arrived seconds later and dodged purple fire to reach the other side
of the dock as Captain Marvel came to a stop. The power drain didn’t seem to be in
effect yet.

If she and Marvel lost power at the bottom of the ocean, Sentinel would have to pull
them out.

Captain Marvel made a spinning motion with his hand. He flew in a circle around the
dock, avoiding the purple beams as he went. His bow wave drew the ocean water with
him as he moved.

Captain Thunder smiled, realizing that he was clearing the area of water so they could
get a better look at what they were dealing with on the docks. She vectored in a flight
path right behind him, pulling more water into the artificial whirlpool.

Sentinel fell back, digging up the ocean floor to form a wall of stone around the dock
with his powers. He looked up and nodded at clear sky and the rest of the Legion
descending into the center of the spinning water. His wall wouldn’t keep the ocean
from falling on them without the two captains working, but it would give the others
dry land to do what they had to do.

The squids fired their beams at the descending heroes. Various powers answered back
as Iron Light created a shield to keep his people safe before they dropped in to do
what they had to do.

“Let’s round these workers up,” ordered Lady Eagle. “Ant, Laze. I need you to look
in these ships and see if you can’t shut things down.”

The Legion moved in, herding their opponents together while dealing with beams
from the partially constructed ships. Sentinel, Iron Light, and the shapeshifting
Titanium blocked the heavier lasers with their bodies as the drones were disarmed and
manacled with Tempest’s control of molecules.

Lady Eagle hurled her shield with abandon as she waded into the fight. It struck
multiple targets and returned to her hand as she dodged the purple lasers.

“We might have a problem,” said Laser. The radio did not drown the worry in his
voice. “The mechanisms are doing something in here. I can’t quite figure out what
they are doing, but things are moving.”

“Don’t get trapped in there,” said the amazon. She caught a tentacle and used the rest
of the creature as a bludgeon.

Nets deployed against the heroes as the skin of the three partial ships flexed and split.
Sentinel caught the wrappings in his hand. He jerked as the nets tried to fry him.

“Get out of there, Laser,” said Lady Eagle. “We might have a bigger problem than we
thought.”

The speed demon appeared at her side in a flash of green. He looked up as the ships
floated above the ocean bottom. The tentacles wrapped together as the three ships
combined into one.

“That can’t be good,” said Laser.

“Really?,” demanded Lady Eagle. She looked around. “Did you see any way to
disable the thing? Once it grabs either Marvel, or Thunder, it will be like fighting the
one over land but twice as bad.”

“Everything looked incomplete on the two I searched,” said Laser. “The droids were
still putting things in place when I took care of them.”

“Ant?,” asked Lady Eagle. “Can you hear me?”

“I’m having an issue,” said Atomic Ant.

“The three ships went active and are combining into one ship that looks like it’s
standing up like a man,” said Lady Eagle. “We need a solution.”

“I’m fresh out of those,” said Ant. “I did find what looks like a core engine room. I
would be surprised if this wasn’t what was powering up the thing.”

“Sentinel, Titanium, go,” said Lady Eagle.

The man of tomorrow and his comrade rushed the rising structure, aiming for their
colleague’s radio source. A tentacle swept around and knocked them through the wall
of water with one blow.

“Ouch,” said Laser.

“Provide a distraction, Laser,” said Lady Eagle. “Iron Light, flare it. See how much
of this you can convert into something harmless, Tempest.

Iron Light produced a grenade that flew right at the construct. Bright light reached
out, followed by a burst of radio and magnetic signals. He fell back and raised a
shield with another device that came to life inside his body as a tentacle came down.
The shield blasted apart as the device broke into pieces. He dropped to the ground as
his systems tried to come back to standard.

Tempest pointed a hand and grabbed the molecules of the nearest tentacle. He
frowned at the array of energy suddenly blocking his grip. A localized shield meant
he couldn’t transform anything without getting closer.

“It’s blocking my powers with a shield,” said Tempest. “It’s ready for me.”

“We have to get you inside where it can’t block anything,” said Lady Eagle. “That’s
the only way to take things apart without any more problems.”

“If we can get someone into the core, that might be the only thing we need,” said
Laser. “I think I can vibrate through the metal, but you guys will have to hold it until
I get done looking around.”

A streak of red flew out of the rushing water wall. It crashed into the tentacled
monster. The machine staggered before righting itself.

“It looks like things just got that much worse,” said Lady Eagle. “What does he think
he’s doing?”

“I don’t know, but we should grab Iron Light and get out of here,” said Laser. “What
happens if Cap takes a hit without anyone holding up the water?”

“Take Iron Light and see if you can get him boosted back,” said Lady Eagle. “I’m
going to try to follow Marvel and see if I can do something myself. Everyone else,
give me a distraction.”

She didn’t know what Sentinel and Titanium could do, but she hoped they could
punch a hole in the threat while she tried to get inside.

Laser vanished with Iron Light’s real body, a piece of hardware to house his brain and
make his creations while projecting a light body.

Tempest took to the air. He tried to disperse molecules. The tentacle monster shifted
its shield to keep him from harming it. He frowned as he tried to think of some other
tactic.

Sentinel came in from the right and rebounded off the same shield. He flew into the
water and then came back as fast as lightning. A tentacle knocked him straight up in
the air.

Titanium flew down while this was going on and grabbed Lady Eagle’s hand. He took
to the air, watery blue suit blending in with the whirlpool wall behind him. He gave
Lady Eagle a flick and she flew at the monster, using her own shield to block the
machine’s shield. She spotted a hole in a tentacle and twisted along the solid energy
to drop inside the menace.

Captain Marvel flew through the ship. He felt himself growing weaker. He needed to
change back so he could handle this. He had an idea where he needed to go.

He said the magic word, letting the lightning change him back while blowing several
of the nearby control panels. The drones would have to fix them when they got a
chance.

Hopefully, they wouldn’t get the chance if he was right.

Billy worked his way toward the center of the mass. He avoided the drones as much
as possible. He realized some of the smaller workers had been taken down by Laser
while he was going over the two ships he had searched.

That still left the third ship as the home of the ones he had seen. He slipped along,
glad they were content with making sure they could survive Sentinel and Titanium
smashing against the shield outside.

“Hey, kid,” said a tiny voice in Billy’s ear. “What are you doing? Lady Eagle is going
to be mad as fire over this.”

“Billy Batson,” said Billy. “Can you take me down to the engine room. I have a
solution for this.”

“I’m Atom Ant,” said the tiny hero. “What kind of solution are we talking about?”

“The kind where you might have to run away from when I use it,” said Billy. “Call
Lady Eagle and tell her I got this.”

“She’s in here with us,” said Ant. “We’ll be able to tell her in person if she catches
up with us.”

“That’s good I guess,” said Billy. His voice didn’t think it was good. “See if you can
get her to meet us at the control room. That way I can get both of you out if the
solution works.”

“What happens if it doesn’t work?,” asked Ant.

“This thing marches out of the water and takes on all comers,” said Billy.
“Directions?”

“This way,” said Ant.

The hero pointed out the correct path through the confusing halls which seemed to
be moving around them. A few drones that crossed their path learned what it meant
to have something inside ripping away at control mechanisms before they fell to the
ground.

Lady Eagle caught with them at the door to the control room.

“What are you two doing?,” she demanded.

“Saving the day,” said Billy.
csyphrett
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:49 pm

Re: Stranger Tales

Post by csyphrett »

A Flash of Lightning
3
“What does that mean?,” asked Lady Eagle. She looked around as drones started to
mass at the entrances to the engine room.

“Don’t touch anything until I’m done,” warned Billy. He began to chant his magic
word.

Lightning ripped through the room over and over with the boy at the end point.
Machinery caught fire or refused to work as the electricity burned out anything
vulnerable to its touch. Small explosions caused Lady Eagle to raise her shield to
protect herself.

“Billy!,” called Lady Eagle. “Stop!”

“I can’t,” said Captain Marvel. “This is the only way to deal with this. You two
should try to get out of here.”

“He might bring this thing down the way he’s going,” said Atom Ant. “But he’s right.
We can’t stay here.”

“Go ahead,” said Captain Marvel. “As soon as I’m sure, I’ll be right behind you.”

“Let’s go,” said Atom Ant. “There’s nothing more we can do here. He’s wrecking
things better than we could.”

“I don’t like this,” said Lady Eagle. “But there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Captain Marvel said his word again. One more lightning strike ripped through the
engine room. Lady Eagle jumped across the space separating them to punch Billy in
the face and knock him out. She slung him over her shoulder and made for the door.

“Go ahead and get out of here, Ant,” said Lady Eagle. “I got him.”

The shrinking man nodded and headed for a vent. His small size would allow him
to travel through places not accessible to normal sized people.

Lady Eagle regarded the mob of drones coming into the engine room. She wondered
if they could fix the combined ships. She couldn’t wreck them all without leaving
Billy defenseless. Her first priority had to be escape since she was sure an opening
had been opened for her team.

She flung her shield in front of her to distract the squid people she was charging.
The metal disk bounced among her enemies before returning to her hand as she
leaped into a kick to drive the animated army back, and out of her way.

She crashed through the grabby arms. Her shield protected the smaller Billy riding
on her shoulder as she moved through the obstructing enemy.

She reached the empty corridor and started running. The scent of something burning
warned her that Billy might have done more damage than was apparent. She had
to get out of the ship before it blew up.

How long did she have before the thing blew up?

She calculated routes as she ran. She couldn’t think of anything that would carry her
outside faster than punching through the armored walls. And she didn’t have enough
strength to do that.

Billy could as Captain Marvel, but she didn’t trust him not to try to finish the job
with himself at the center of the resulting explosion.

One of the other would have to save the day.

She reached a crossroads and groaned at the number of drones heading her way.
She crashed through their ranks before they could open fire on her. She knocked
one out of the way and then she was running in the clear.

The amazon smiled as she quickly outran any pursuit.

She thought that she could reach an opening to the outside from her position. The
map in her head said she was two decks too high. She needed to find a way down to
get to the deck she needed. Then she had to find the hall where the hole hovered in
the ceiling.

Once she was there, she would have to climb down the outside of the thing while
the crew tried to fix the sabotage Billy had committed. Her legionnaires could
pick her up and drop her to a safe place on the ground long enough for her
to do an assessment on the battle readiness of her enemy.

She suspected that whomever had built the combining ships had never expected
lightning to be used point blank on the control areas despite being ready for the rest
of them.

How many of their enemies were capable of what they were dealing with? Some
of them were still in jail, or dealing with problems caused by the Legion. She would
have to check on them.

She hoped this wasn’t the start of a new force trying to take over the world. That
was the last thing anybody needed.

“My face hurts,” complained Billy.

“That’s what you get for not listening to me,” said Lady Eagle. “We’re heading for
an exit. Once this is over, we’re going to talk about all this, and your standing.”

“What about my standing?,” asked Billy. He groaned slightly.

“About what you’re going to do with your powers,” said Lady Eagle.

“Why?,” said Billy. “I’m not staying here. I have to get home.”

“Do you really think you have a way to do that?,” asked Lady Eagle.

“If the Rock is there, I do,” said Billy. “You can put me down.”

“No tricks?,” said Lady Eagle.

“No tricks,” said Billy. “Captain Marvel is just faster than you.”

The Amazon paused to put Billy on his feet. She might have hit him too hard in the
face. Iron Light could fix that when they had cleared up the bigger mess.

“SHAZAM!,” called Billy. Lightning ripped through him to leave his alter ego behind
with a grin on his face. “Ready to go?”

“Yes,” said Lady Eagle. She grabbed a muscular arm.

“Then let’s make an exit,” said Captain Marvel. He took flight, crashing through the
roof of the corridor and any other thing blocking his path. They flew out of the mass
of metal seconds later.

“Looks like it’s dead in the water,” said Captain Marvel.

“Looks like,” agreed Lady Eagle. “We need to round up the drones to keep them from
trying the same scheme with what they have left on the ground.”

“That should be easy to do with what you have,” said Captain Marvel. “Do you want
any more help?”

“I think we can handle it,” said Lady Eagle. “You’re not staying?”

“No,” said Captain Marvel. “I have my own world, and friends that help me protect
it. You guys are welcome to visit, but I think you’ll find it boring compared to this.”

“Boring might be nice for a change,” said Lady Eagle. “Let’s get this thing out of the
ocean so we can examine it, and then I guess you can go home.”

“Glad to help you out,” said Captain Marvel. “I don’t know where you would put
a giant tentacled crippled monster spaceship, but I’m willing to help move it for you.”

“I’ll have to call to make arrangements,” said Lady Eagle. “I can do that while we’re
in flight.”

Captain Marvel nodded.

The group of legionnaires and the world’s mightiest mortal grabbed the tentacle beast
and lifted it up off the ocean bed. Drones protested the move, but Captain Thunder
easily took care of them without the strength drain hindering her.

They carried the metal monstrosity to a dry dock in what Captain Marvel thought
could have been somewhere in Virginia on his world. Navy personnel gathered at the
end of the dock to watch them drop their catch in the water.

Lady Eagle dropped off the thing and walked down the dock to talk to whomever was
in charge so they could figure out what was going on, and who was behind it.

Captain Marvel and Captain Thunder hovered to talk away from the others.

“I have to get going,” said Captain Marvel. “I don’t know what happened to bring me
here, but it was great meeting you. Any time you want to come by, it would be great.”

“I think I was about to die,” said Captain Thunder. “I had lost a lot of my power by
the time you came along. If you hadn’t shown up, I might have been killed by the
draining bubble I was in.”

“Are you going to stop being a hero?,” asked Captain Marvel.

“Should I?,” asked Captain Thunder.

“That’s up to you,” said Captain Marvel. “This world, like mine, needs heroes. It’s
a hard thing to try to help people, but you have been given something that makes
it a little easier. You shouldn’t give up a fight that’s worth fighting. And maybe
you’re why I’m here.”

“I don’t understand,” said Captain Thunder.

“I didn’t get here by accident just when you needed a hand,” said Captain Marvel.
“Someone sent me here to bail you out. Just like you helped people that needed
it, someone decided to help you.”

“Who would do that?,” said Captain Thunder.

“I don’t know,” said Captain Marvel. “And in the end, does it matter if someone you
knew, or a stranger, lent a hand when you needed it the most?”

“I guess you’re right,” said Captain Thunder. “Thanks, Billy.”

“You’re welcome,” said Captain Marvel. “Take care of yourself, Blake. It was nice
meeting you.”

The Big Red Cheese streaked into the sky, heading for where he felt the Rock of
Eternity hovered on the edge of everywhere. He flew around it until he felt the
universe with his Fawcett City in it, and dropped down into the sky there to head to
his real job.
csyphrett
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2020 4:49 pm

Re: Stranger Tales

Post by csyphrett »

96: Hilda's Handiwork
1
Hilda Spivey looked up at the bell ringing at the top of her shop door. She frowned
at the stranger standing just inside the threshold of her door. She thought she knew
everyone in town.

“How do you do?,” Hilda asked. She leaned on the counter, arms supporting the
weight of her upper body.

“Are you the proprietor?,” asked the stranger.

“That’s right,” said Hilda, with a smile. “I’m Hilda Spivey. I make custom jewelry for
people like the sign says.”

“I would like to commission a batch of jewelry to be made as pins,” said the stranger.

“How many pins?,” asked Hilda. She straightened and pulled a pad and pen over to
write down the order.

“I need about fifty to start,” said the stranger. “If they work out, I’ll need more.”

“Fifty pins,” said Hilda. “Uniform design?”

“Yes,” said the customer. “I have a drawing of what I need. They had to be made with
silver and a center stone of quartz.”

He pulled a sheet of paper from the inside of his suit jacket. He unfolded it and
handed it over for Hilda to examine. She frowned at the simple circle with an S in the
middle of it. Two places for the stones were marked on the drawing.

“Three inches across would match this drawing,” she said. She measured the gap with
her fingers and held them up for her customer. “Is that how big you need them?”

“That’s right, Mrs. Spivey,” said the customer. “How soon can you make them?”

“I’ll need to make molds to pour the silver, the silver itself, and the stones,” said
Hilda. “I should be able to make a prototype in a week, maybe. If you’re happy with
that, I could make the rest in a few days after that.”

“That sounds like what I need,” said the stranger. He smiled for the first time. It
changed his face briefly.

“Once I have the base, I’ll be able to give you a better estimate on how much the
whole batch will cost,” said Hilda. She looked down at the drawing. It seemed
different somehow.

“That will be fine,” said the stranger.

“I need your name, and phone number in case I have to call,” said Hilda.

“It’s Ostrander,” said the stranger. “I don’t have a phone yet. I’m staying at the old
place near the lighthouse.”

“The Keene place?,” said Hilda. “I thought it was condemned.”

“It was,” said Ostrander. “I hired some people to come in and clean the building out
for my own use.”

It must be more than some people. Hilda kept her thoughts to herself. Everyone in
town knew the Keene place had been gutted when she was a child. She searched her
memory but couldn’t remember what the cause had been.

“Is there a problem, Mrs. Spivey?,” asked Ostrander.

“Just thinking about this,” said Hilda. “Pure silver is going to cost a pretty penny.
Would you like some cheaper metal for these?”

“Cost is no object, Mrs. Spivey,” said Ostrander. He waved a hand in a dismissive
gesture. “It has to be silver, and it has to match the drawing as much as you can.”

“All right,” said Hilda. “I’ll get to work on the molds and try a match with something
cheap, and then switch to silver for the final product.”

“That will be fine,” said Ostrander. “I will come by in two weeks. If you need
anything before that, just send a note out to the Keene place. I’ll get in touch with
you as soon as I can after that.”

“Figuring the molds will be the hardest part of things,” said Hilda. “Once I have
those, the rest should be a matter of melting the metal down and pouring it in, setting
the stones and then cracking the mold to get the jewelry out for you.”

“I will leave you to it then,” said Ostrander. “Contact me if things don’t go as simply
as you plan.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” said Hilda. “If I can’t get the molds to work
right, I know a guy who can help me get them right. I’ll let you know when the first
one is ready, Mister Ostrander.”

“Thank you very much,” said Ostrander. “Until then.”

Hilda watched him go through her front windows. He had seemed bland and friendly
enough, but she didn’t like him. Something about his eyes didn’t match the rest of
his face.

She put the worry out of her mind. She had a new commission. This was the first one
in a while. She needed to use this to keep her shop afloat. She had foreseen not
being open in a few months. This order might be enough to get the bills paid so she
could last out the rest of the year.

She had used money from the selling of her house after her divorce to open the shop.
She had tried to build up a customer base, but things weren’t quite going well enough
for her to say she was successful.

Fifty silver pins might be enough to keep things going. If Ostrander was happy
enough to order another batch, she might be able to make enough to stay open for
another two years.

She briefly wondered what he needed with fifty pins, but put that aside. Her new
customer might be starting some kind of private club with the pins being the
identifying thing for them.

Despite what McCarthy said, she doubted the Reds were invading her coastal town.
That would be too much for reality to take.

More customers came in and browsed the rings and pendants on display. She waited
on them as she thought about how to cut the molds she would need. Once she had the
molds right, she could test them with some cheap metal like copper.

And once Ostrander was happy with the result, she could move to using silver itself
in the making.

She would have to dip into her capital to get enough silver to make the commissioned
jewelry. She didn’t like the risk, but weighed that against what she had seen of
Ostrander himself.

Anyone who could buy the Keene place to renovate had money. Anyone who talked
offhandedly about the commission must not see a problem paying the bill.

She hated thinking she might be the victim of a swindle.

She couldn’t see how a swindle would work. If she didn’t get the money, she wasn’t
going to turn the pins over. She would rather sell them out of her own shop to
strangers to recoup the loss.

She decided she should at least drive by the old broken down house and see if
someone’s there. If that much of the story was true, she could go ahead and start the
job with the promise of getting paid when it was done.

She wondered how Ostrander was dealing with the nearby lighthouse. The beam must
be passing across his property at night. Did it bother him to have the light moving
through his window like the ticking hands of a clock?

That wasn’t a problem for her. She lived on the other side of Centerville. The
lighthouse was blocked by some hills shielding the apartments and houses in that part
of town. She imagined that some of them still had to put heavy curtains up to keep
the light out.

Hilda dealt with her last customer of the day. She locked up, counted the money in
the till, filled out the paperwork in the back office. She locked the money up in a
small safe hidden in her workshop.

She supposed that a professional thief would be able to open the safe up in a matter
of seconds. It was better than nothing. If anything happened to her shop, the proceeds
would be safe until she could dig the safe out and open it.

Hilda used the back door and walked to where her car was parked behind the row
of stores that made up the town’s commercial district. It wasn’t much, but it was
the best the town could do.

Maybe someday the town would be a big city with stores as far as you could see,
but for the moment, there was only five places and a diner. The town hall and
jail sat at one end of the row. A church sat at the other. The rest of the town was
houses and docks for boats moving up and down the coast.

Hilda got in her car and decided to drive by the Keene place before going home. She
should at least make sure part of Ostrander’s story was true.
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