Friday, December 13, 2019

MY JSA - pt. 10

"`Yeah,' I added, `and we were awfully lucky to all get on board before we took off so fast.  Almost like some of us were meant to get left behind?  Trying to lighten the load, or keep from having to split the loot so many ways?'  Some of the crooks were starting to take off their Skyman helmets, so I didn't have much time to remain anonymous.

"`Someone said they heard sirens,' the lead crook explained.  `Don't go trying to pin anything on me.  I've been –`

"'Look out, he's going for his gun!' I shouted, as I lunged at the lead crook and slugged him hard in the jaw.  The blow sent him reeling, and when he hit his head on the cabin wall he went down.  Of 
course, he hadn't done anything like going for his gun, but no one had been watching him closely when I said that.

"`He took out Joe!' one of them exclaimed.  `What's the deal?'

"'Hey…who is he, anyway?'  One of them had finally pieced together that there was one too many crooks on the plane!  But it was too late.

"I'd narrowed the odds to three against one, and as my fists started flying I knew none of them had the martial training or stamina to stand against me.  I stunned the first one with a kidney punch, then 
leaned on him as he doubled over so I could do a high kick to the second one.  The third one went for his revolver, but I picked up the first one at the waist and threw him into the third one.  He had to 
drop his gun to catch his balance.  The second one came at me with a fire axe, but I ducked back as he swung it at me, caught his arm while he was on the back swing, and sucker punched him in the face.

He dropped the axe and nursed his broken nose in his hands.

"The boys in the cockpit shouted back, `What's going on out there?'

"'He must be the real Skyman!' the one I'd kidney punched shouted as he recovered.  `Take us down so we can scram out of here!'

"A one-two punch combination folded over the third one, and then I had only the first one to worry about again.  He charged me, trying to overbear me to the cabin floor.  But I raised my fists over his 
head and clubbed him on the back of the neck.  He went down too.

"There was some commotion going on in the cockpit, and the co-pilot emerged with a pistol in hand.  While he was drawing a bead on me, I dived onto the floor, scooped up one of the dropped weapons, and fired a shot into the co-pilot's hand.  He screamed and dropped his weapon so he could grab his bloody wound.  I had one crook left to deal with, and he was still in the pilot's seat.  As I approached the cockpit, I could feel the plane diving downwards.  I slid to the cockpit door and looked in.  The remaining crook had a wild look in his eyes, like he'd completely lost it.  `Don't come any closer,  Skyman!' he cried.  `I'll crash us and kill us all if you do!'

"Not wasting any time on conversation, I grabbed him, yanked him out of the pilot's seat, and cold-cocked him on the back of the head with the pistol I was still holding.  When he fell to the floor, I took  the controls, and fought to regain control of our descent.  It was a close call because our altitude had still been so low, but I pulled us out of the dive with only a second to spare.

"Coming around to the airport, I could see that, this time, the police really were there.  I decided we needed a detour first, and I took us out to where my own plane was stashed.  I called back to
Dawn, `Don't worry, miss!  I am the Skyman, and I'll have you back on the ground in no time.'  After landing, I bound up all the crooks and blindfolded them.  I went over to my plane and did a quick change into my real uniform.  Then I moved everyone over to my plane, and took off Dawn's blindfold and gag.  `There you go!' I said, as I undid the rope binding her wrists.  `You'll be good as new as soon as  the circulation comes back to your hands.'

"'Thank you, Skyman,' she said, `but how did you know about the robbery?'

"Luckily, I'd had awhile on the plane to think up a good story.  `I'd heard that Skyman was spotted at the airport,' I told her, `and I knew it wasn't me, so I naturally assumed that something suspicious was going on.'

"Dawn recovered quickly from her ordeal and told me about the costume party, and why she was in a Skyman costume.  I listened and tried not to smirk as we returned to where we had started.  I landed on a runway that was quickly surrounded by police cars.  I tossed the crooks outside, and lowered the ramp so Dawn could step down safely.  She would tell the police where I would deposit the crooks' plane for  them.  So, I had to switch planes again, and still had to get back to the party and explain where I'd gone off to!  And that, gentlemen, was one of the busiest days I've had yet as Skyman."

Captain Marvel tapped his gavel and said, "Before we end this meeting of the Justice Society of America, we need to settle on a time and place for our next meeting.  But before we do that, I'm afraid we need to ask our guest to leave."

Scotty Thunder knew who that was.  He stood up and faced the assembled heroes.  "Thank you, all, for letting me sit with you this afternoon.  I thought you men were role models for courage and valor
before based solely on what I'd read, but that was nothing compared to what I've learned from hearing your own stories from each of you.  I'll strive to follow your example, and do everything I can to be accepted amongst you again someday."

Scotty saw some of the assembled heroes smile or nod, but he was too embarrassed now to look any of them in the eye.  He walked out on the Justice Society of America, but vowed to himself, as he had done before them, that he would be back someday.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

MY JSA - pt. 9

With a word and a gesture he cast Stare of Icy Daggers - a simple spell, but deadly with the magical energy Oom could surge into his spells. I was all of a sudden on the defensive as he began a rapid barrage of spells against me.  The Ibis-stick could counter them all, but I could not renew my own attacks under this pressure.  I could see that the gestures Oom's spells required were causing his cracked fingers to break.  In his madness, Oom was destroying himself!

"At last my defenses faltered.  His Whirlwind of Blades had shredded my suit and cut into my flesh.  I offered him then a bargain. 'Oom, wait!  End this contest and spare me, and I shall give you the gem from my turban!'

"Oom laughed and said, 'So, you are not such a powerful wizard after all!  I should slaughter you for what you've done to me, but I will take your gemstone as compensation and allow you to live.'

"I pulled the turban from my head and tossed it into space.  It flew through the air until Oom snatched it with the remaining fingers on his right hand. 'Fool-' he said, just as he plucked the gemstone from the turban, but that was all he could say that I could hear.  In that moment, he vanished from the earthly plain."

As Ibis paused from his narrative, the center of the smoke ring grew dim.  Ibis turned to us and continued. "I could tell from his actions that Oom could no longer change from the enchanted stone form he must have long ago assumed.  Had he persisted in his actions, with his cracks spreading, it might have been the death of him.  In a way, I chose to be lenient.  The spell of protection I had placed on the magic stone I wear would transport anyone who touched it to the mystic plane of Yzgartyl.  This fate seemed particularly apropos for Oom because…well, I shall show you…"

Ibis gestured, and a new image appeared in the smoke ring.  It showed Oom appearing in a strange place, filled with ancient ruins and a star-filled sky.  Oom could not be heard, but was clearly cursing Ibis.  Suddenly, something huge lumbered into view.  Bronze scales covered its enormous serpentine body.  It was some monstrous dragon!  Everyone but Superman and Captain Marvel nearly jumped out of their chairs.  The Flash did jump out of his chair.  Scotty Thunder was afraid he might have wet himself.

The dragon picked up Oom in its scaly paw, turned him over to examine him, and then trod off through the ruins.  The magical viewing screen followed the dragon to an open court, where the dragon set down Oom in a collection of statues.  The dragon cast a spell of its own, and Oom moved no more.

When the image faded, and the smoke cleared, Ibis quietly sat down in his seat.  Everyone was silent for a moment.  Then Skyman spoke up. "Oh no," he said, "I have to follow THAT?"

There was chuckling in the room as the mood lightened.  Hawkman offered cigars around the room as a waiter entered to offer chasers of brandy to the distinguished diners.  "I think we have time for one more," Hawkman joked, "and you've had more time than anyone to remember a good story."

“I don't think mine can compete with half your stories," Skyman offered apologetically. "I'm just a pilot with some inventions.  But I do have a story that you might find amusing. It involved a Case of Too Many Skymen…"

Everyone got comfortable and listened as Skyman began his tale.  "My adventure as well happened in just the past few months, and it all started as an invitation to a costume party.

"The party was actually a reunion for my father's WWI squadron," Skyman continued, "but family or surviving family was invited to come.  Making it a costume party was just this year's theme. I'd started attending

these reunions alone since I became the oldest male in the family. This year, I had the pleasure of inviting my girlfriend, Fawn, to come too.  She was delighted with the idea. Wanted us to go as gypsies. I had a

better idea in mind, I told her.  There would be a lot of people wearing their old aviator uniforms, but we would do them one better and both go as that 'new hero' Skyman.

"I'd had the idea since I first saw a Skyman costume for sale in costume shop.  It looked so hokey and unlike my own that I figured if Fawn saw me in it, she would never be able to think of me as the real Skyman.  

It actually took some doing to talk her into it, but once she agreed I figured my plan couldn't fail.  I've seldom been more wrong.

"First of all, at a costume party for old pilots, nearly half of them wound up coming as either me or a Blackhawk.  Fawn was a hit, though.  No one else had brought their wives or girlfriends as Skywoman.  In fact, she looked so good in my helmet and cape that I started thinking maybe we could be true partners someday.

"Maybe I was admiring Fawn too much, because something had entirely escaped my attention until it was mentioned to me in conversation.  Ol' Douggie was re-telling an anecdote of my father and him from the old days

when his voice trailed away, and I noticed he was eyeing someone else at the party dressed as Skyman.

"'Allan,' he asked me, 'who was that? I don't recognize some of these people from last year.'

"Well, truer words were never spoken.  I excused myself and began circulating about the room more.  Sure enough, I spotted a good half-dozen people - all dressed as me! -- who I couldn't recognize by their build or chins.  

Not a one of them was old enough to have been from my father's generation.  I noticed that they were giving each other secret signs - nods and gestures --  which seemed to be indicating that they were ready.  I could have stopped things before they started if I'd been able to reach the exit and gone to my car.  The Disintegrator had been in the trunk long enough that it would be only half-charged by then, but it would still even the

odds against these apparent crooks.  I didn't get there.  Fawn was looking for me, and intercepted me just yards from the exit.  She wanted to talk to me about some of our mutual friends she'd run into.

"That's when the crooks made their move.  All six of them drew concealed handguns and they began announcing loudly that this was a stick-up.

"Once the six crooks started moving through the crowd, all dressed like me in their Skyman costumes, I decided it was safe to move. In such a crowded room, they couldn't possibly see all their comrades at once, and so I was banking on being mistaken for one of their own.  But first, I had to get Fawn safely out of the way.  I grabbed her by the arm and started to move her with me, hoping she would catch on and not make a scene.

"Instead, Fawn leaned over and whispered to me, 'Good idea.  Now we can find a phone and call the police.'

"And while that might have been a good idea, I had other intentions.  We moved to a back room that had a phone. Fawn rushed to it. I looked at the room.  It was storage area for the convention hall, with stacks of folded up tables and boxes stacked high all along the back half of the room. There was a high window that faced outdoors.

"'The phone's dead,' Fawn said, and I was not much surprised.  I had another idea, but I was again banking on the crooks not having guards posted out back.

"'I'll help you climb up to that window,' I told her.  She climbed up onto the boxes, and I helped hoist her up to the window.  The window was stuck, but it was openable, so with a few painful elbow bashes, Fawn had opened it.

"She started to climb out when she stopped and said, 'I'll help you up too.'

"'No, there's no time for that.  You run for help.  I'll be fine.' She seemed hardly convinced, but saw the logic in it and climbed out.  I heard no cries of alarm, and once I assumed she was out of sight, I lea

pt up, grabbed the windowsill, and pulled myself up for a quick look.  It looked like Fawn had made good her escape.  Finally, I could get to work.

"Moving back into the main room, I could see that the crooks had done a thorough job already of looting the guests.  I moved in closer to see if my ruse could continue to work.  It paid off, when

one of the crooks turned to me and asked, 'Did you find any loot in there?'

"'Naw, there's nothin' in there but junk,' I told him.

"'Then c'mon; we're done here!' he said.  And sure enough, his companions started running for the exit with sacks full of wallets, purses, and jewelry.  To complete my disguise, I grabbed a tablecloth, wrapped a bunch of snack trays into it, and ran after them.

"The convention center had been built near a small airport, and the crooks were running towards the nearest runway where a two-prop private plane was sitting.

"I followed the crooks as they got into their plane," Skyman continued, "eager to be in my element again.  But, as the first crook boarded the plane, he cried out in alarm.  Being last in line, tense moments passed before I got to see wh

at was going on.  The lead crook was holding Dawn with her arms pinned behind her, while the other crooks argued about what to do with her.  The poor girl must have spotted the plane when she went to look for help and found it suspicious, like a parked getaway car.

"'Let's ice her,' one of them said.

"'No!' I said, in a gruff voice.  I also had to make sure Dawn didn't see me, as she might recognize the costume shop version of my real Skyman uniform.  `I think I hear sirens.  We have to take off now, so there's no time to get rid of her!'

"The cowardly crooks panicked at the suggestion that the police were already coming, and herded into the plane despite not hearing anything themselves.  One of the crooks began tying her hands, and

another gagged her when she protested.  I continued my suggestions from within their ranks.  `Blindfold her too, so we can take off our helmets.'  I hoped that the crooks weren't enjoying the bondage at poor Dawn's expense.  I felt so sorry for her, but she was truly safest the way she was.

"Once they'd tossed her against the side of the cabin, two of the crooks took to the cockpit.  Even before we were off the ground, some of the crooks had started bickering.  `Easy loot, you said!' one of them accused another.  `We'll cross the country, robbing whatever's in reach of the airports, and be in Canada before anyone connects the robberies.  And we almost got caught on our first haul!'

MY JSA - pt. 8

"I still had a hold on one of his arms. I gave it a tug, sending his chin sprawling into the ground between us.  I pushed my other arm up through the topsoil and clutched for the headband.  I got a hold of his hair.  He grabbed me back, and tried to pin me underground.  The dirt and rock was caving in all around, and he might have had the leverage to hold me there until I drowned in dirt -- if the power of Zeus didn’t give me the ability to fly.  I took off like a rocket, holding Magnificus and about 100 pounds of packed earth with us into the air.

I flung Magnificus to the ground from about 40 feet up, counting on his great strength to protect
him.  He hit the ground hard at an angle and slid until he’d dug a ditch in the ground.  He looked bruised, but was already pulling himself up.  With the speed of Mercury I swooped down at him, caught his headband in my hands, yanked it off his head, and crushed it flat.  He suddenly looked like he was waking from a nap.

“’Capt. Marvel...?” he said, confused. ‘What’s going on?’

“’You were helping your father, and it...went to your head.’

Capt. Marvel’s smile beamed at the room like a Cheshire cat.  Batman and Hawkman groaned, while Ibis and Skyman just shook their heads.

“Cap,” the Flash said, “you’ve got the sense of humor of a little kid.”

Everyone smiled at that, though Scotty didn’t get the joke.

“Don’t you tell me you guys don’t joke and banter with your adversaries,” Capt Marvel said, still smiling.  “You have to.  It’s how you stay sane while you’re facing down so much evil in the world.”

“We know,” Superman agreed.  “But what did you do next with the Sivanas?”

“I was willing to bet that Beautia hadn’t got around to calling the police like I’d asked her to, so I wasn’t all that surprised when we went back to the secret basement and found both her and her father had flown the coop.  ‘That wasn’t very bright,’ I said outloud. ‘It shouldn’t take me long to track them down wherever they went.’  

“But Magnificus laid a hand on my shoulder. ‘Don’t make me fight you again,’ he said.’

“’You know you’d lose,’ I warned.

“’I know.  But you’d have to beat me to a pulp to stop me from stopping you.’

 “’Your father killed a man, and has killed before.’

“’And he’s still our father.  Give us some time to try and rehabilitate him, while he’s still recovering.  If his mind is still warped by the time his body heals, then my sister and I will turn him over to you.’

“I know it was wrong, and maybe I should have had my head examined, but I did let them go.  I haven’t heard from the Sivana family yet.  Of course...this was just a month ago..."

“If Captain Marvel is done with his tale,” Ibis the Invincible began, “then listen now to mine.  Or better yet, observe...” Ibis waved his hands over the table and a purple, sparkling mist sprang up from his plate.  The mist rose up, split in two, and then proceeded to float through the air in twin arcs until they had joined at the top of a large circle.  The air within the circle seemed hazy at first, but when it cleared, a scene other than the hotel room was visible through it.  It was a dark city street, and a lone man was walking past some manner of fancy municipal building with a row of statues.  When the man passed the last statue in the row, the statue’s head slowly turned to follow.  Then an evil leer crossed the statues face as it stepped off the platform and descended the wall.

The image in the circle of smoke faded, and Ibis spoke. “It was three months ago in the American city of Philadelphia that the scene you just witnessed took place.  I was there with my beloved, Talia, to see a dealer in Egyptian antiquities.  It did not take me long to sense the presence of a great evil steeped in powerful magic.  Excusing myself to Talia, I set out to search for the source of this evil.

Another image appeared in the circle of smoke.  This time, it showed Ibis levitating over the city, holding his Ibis-Stick aloft before him.  “There were concealing spells in place that would have caused the divinations of a lesser sorcerer to fail, but focusing upon the mighty powers of the
Ibis-Stick, I was able to track the source of the evil as if I were using a modern-day Geiger counter to track radiation.  Soon, I stood before the downtown art museum, bedecked in pillars and statuary like a Roman temple.  The concealing spells made pinpointing the problem difficult, so I decided to bide my time by taking a museum tour.

“My tour guide had curly blonde hair and an accent that was difficult for even me to place, though it sounded vaguely eastern European.  ‘The museum is 80 years old,’ he said, in answer to my question, ‘but many items in our exhibits are far older than that.’

“’Are any parts of the building older than the rest?’ I asked.  Though my questions taxed our guide’s memory, and the patience of my fellow tourists, I felt they were leading me in the right direction.

“’It’s true that the original building has been expanded, but the oldest parts of the museum would be the statues over the main entrance.  They came from a Sumerian temple excavated 25 years ago, but the statues date back nearly 3,000 years.’

“Having heard enough, I departed from the tour, stood outside the main entrance, and looked up at the statuary.  The old stone figures were vaguely abstract, lacking the knowledge of anatomy the Greek masters would later discern.  Still, one could tell that they were carved to appear to be holding up the roof above them, and their faces gave the impression of pain -- save one, which wore a maniacal grin.  I cast a simple levitation spell so that I might rise to the statues’ level. Once I was floating face-to-face with the grinning statue, I lifted the Ibis-Stick and intoned, ‘By the power of the Ibis-Stick I command this spirit of ancient Sumeria to reveal itself.’

“And so it did.  "The stone statue began to move, as fluidly as if it had been flesh and bone.  And then it spoke, saying, 'Ah, I began to fear there were no wizards left in this world, but at last one has been drawn to my power.  Serve me.  Serve me and live.  Serve me well, and be rewarded.'

"I was eager to put this being in its place immediately, but I needed to know more about its purposes.  So I said, 'How would I serve you?'

"'The world has changed much in the 600 years since I last awakened, and I even find myself with a different hemisphere to conquer this time.  I will need mortals to advise me in what best to ask for tribute from the kingdoms of this age.'

"'Then you will receive no help from me, beast. I am Ibis the Invincible, and there is no corner of this world where I would allow you to hold sway.'

"The statues' eyes grew wide as saucers and its mouth hung agape for a moment before its face recovered its menacing glare and wicked grin.  'I am OOM,' it said, 'and by the time I am through, you will find invincibility is an appellation best bestowed upon ME!'

“The beast gestured with a grasping hand as it whispered words both ancient and lyrical under its breath. I could then feel my own Ibis-Stick shuddering in my hand – Oom was trying to wrench it from my grip!  I countered with words of my own, and for Oom the roof beneath its feet seemed to shake and the world spun out from underneath it. Oom tumbled off the ledge and was falling towards the pavement below when it caught itself with a second spell and began floating back up towards me.

“’You play your hand too soon, mortal, for I see now that you are no novice to be bested with a single spell.  The Mind-Quake is an old-favorite of mine, which I often used to make whole towns flee from imagined earthquakes!’  Though the beast appeared to be speaking to me, I knew that this was but telepathic projection masked by a glamer to appear audible. All the while, the stone-like man-beast was speaking words of power to invoke new spells against me.

“To shake its confidence, I mimicked the same trick. ‘Are you to defeat me with smoke and mirrors?’  I appeared to say, while I weaved my own spells.

“’No – by fire and death!’  Oom raised its arms high, and giant fiery claws appeared in the air above it. As it swung its arms, so too did the flame-wreathed hands mimic the gesture, and came flying at me.  The fingers sought to snatch me between them.  As the fiery claws reached to envelop me, I countered with another spell.  From out of the bottomless well of power my Ibis-stick commands I summoned forth a sphere of breathable water that hung in the air around me. The fiery claws groped at me to no effect other than releasing a great cloud of steam and diminishing the size of the fire hands.

"With Oom invisible to me at the moment from all the steam, I took a moment to cast another spell to protect myself.  Just as I finished, I heard Oom hissing behind my ear.  I swung the Ibis-stick at him and spoke a word of power that charged my rod with the explosive power of dynamite. I smote the beast in the ribs just as it stood posed with its hands held over its head to deliver a crushing blow to me. The force of the blow sent us both hurtling away from each other. Oom was -- impressively -- nearly as quick to recover as I did.

"'I give you this one, final chance to surrender, Oom,' I told him.

"The stony man-beast glared at me hatefully and shouted, 'Now you think ME a novice, magician!  I can see the aura about you, and know it will deflect whatever spell I next cast.  But I also see your weakness, for I can read in you that you are moved by conscience to do good and protect others.'  Then it bellowed a horrible laugh as it began to grow in size.  As it continued to roar, it doubled in size and continued to grow.

"I knew the potency of the foe I faced, and I could spare no effort to remove us farther from the streets of Philadelphia, if I was to prevent destruction and loss of life as our battle continued.  As Oom drew magical energy into itself to increase its mass, I spoke words of enchantment into the air before me, and conjured a great, fiery meteor.  My meteor struck out at astonishing speed, approaching Oom from beneath him. Oom had tripled in size by the time my meteor struck, but it still had the strength to carry Oom farther up into the atmosphere before slowing.

"After quickly strengthening the wards and protections upon my person, mainly to allow me to breathe unaided in the thin upper atmosphere, the Ibis-stick whisked me skyward to re-join my death duel with Oom.  Oom had broken the meteor into fragments and was eating some of them when I arrived.

"'This body of enchanted stone can absorb any magical stone into it,' Oom proudly explained.  'I look forward to plucking the gem from your turban - which I can see is magical - upon the moment of your demise.'

"'That will not happen,' I said, as I waved the Ibis-stick, causing waves of ice to crash down on Oom.  Oom countered with a gesture that caused spears dripping with acid to appear above me and rain down.  I swung and scattered the spears heading straightest for me, but several spears tore and burned my cape and coat.  Oom followed up quickly by summoning a ball of magical energy that floated near me.  I knew the spell to be a trap, meant to explode if I cast a spell near it.  I flew straight over it, and it followed.  Oom was waiting with his fists clenched, waiting to pound me as I drew nearer.

"But just before I reached Oom, I cast a spell of intangibility over myself, and passed right through him.  The ball of energy that pursued me stayed on its course, and struck Oom's outstretched arms as he raised them to protect himself.  There was a terrible explosion that sent Oom flying.  As I pursued him, I could see him looking with shock at the long cracks in his stone arms and hands.

"Oom began to rage with horrible fury.