Chapter Three

"Come on, Billy, please breathe," Mary said to her lifeless brother as she started chest compressions. "Don't you dare leave us like this!"

"How is he?" Junior asked as he landed near his friends. The World's Mightiest Boy had seen many expressions cross his lovely partner's face, but never the look of utter, hopeless despair that it now held.

"He's not breathing and I can't get a pulse. Junior, he's …"

"No way! He's NOT dead yet! We're just gonna have to try something else! Remember Dr. Ralston...?"

The pair looked at each other; the secret knowledge each of the Marvels possessed gave both of them the same idea at the same time. It was dicey, but anything that could save Billy's life would be worth the risk.

"Of course!" Mary exclaimed, hope rekindling within her. "Pa Potter had contracted the Pinhead Plague, so we took him and Ma to Cambodia to see him ... Ralston was attacked by a water buffalo ... his heart had stopped, and the three of us used our magic lightning to restart it!"

Before Mary could say "Shazam!", Junior said "Captain Marvel!", changing himself back into Freddy Freeman.

"It's strange," Mary said, "doctors now use electricity to shock a heart back to beating …"

"And we're going to do the same thing to Billy with our lightning," Freddy finished. "After I say my words and change back into Junior, we'll both carry him to the nearest emergency room."

The two teens placed their hands on Billy's chest, on either side of his heart, then shouted their magic words almost simultaneously. The lightning that followed lanced into Mary Marvel, instantly changing her back into Mary Batson, through Billy's chest, and then into Freddy, triggering his transformation back to Captain Marvel Junior. The lightning's power not only revived the boy broadcaster's heart, but it also warmed his body the few critical degrees he needed to start breathing on his own again.

Rolling onto his side, Billy took a rasping gasp of air and began coughing weakly to expel the water and a brackish, almost black discharge from his lungs. Billy's face was now red from the efforts of coughing and getting air into his oxygen-starved lungs, and his breathing sounds were ragged intakes of air.

A moment later, a tearful Mary again cried out her magic word, changing back into the World's Mightiest Girl. Junior held Billy in one arm, wrapped the other around Mary's shoulders and the pair took to the sky with the boy reporter between them, heading for the hospital.

An hour later, Mary and Freddy were waiting for any news on Billy's condition. Uncle Dudley, whom Freddy had called, soon joined them. Mary had been on the verge of tears since they arrived, and the longer they waited, the closer she got to a full-blown crying jag. Freddy sat next to her, feeling just as helpless as she did, and put his arm around her. Mary took that as her cue to break down, and somehow, Freddy didn't seem to mind being her shoulder to cry on. They were interrupted when a bespectacled, sandy-haired man in scrubs and a lab jacket cleared his throat.

"Excuse me, Ms. Batson?" the emergency room doctor called to Mary. "I'm Sean O'Riordan, Billy's primary care physician."

"Yes?" Mary asked, wiping her eyes dry with her fingertips. "Is he all right?"

"I'm sorry, but no. Your brother is a very sick young man."

"How bad is his condition, Doc?" Freddy asked, his voice heavy with skepticism. Something was wrong, but he didn't want to voice his suspicions just yet.

"Are you a member of the family, young man?"

"Yes," Dudley placed his hand on Freddy's shoulder and answered for him. "We all are. What's wrong with him?"

"I'm afraid that Ms. Batson was right about the pneumonia, sir. It might well have been a minor case this afternoon, but his fall into the bay has greatly exacerbated matters. The good news is that, given time, rest and medication, he'll be well enough to go home in a couple of weeks. He'll need outpatient care for a couple of weeks after that, but he'll make a full recovery."

Relieved, Mary then asked, "Can we see him?"

"Yes, you can, but only one at a time, and you'll have to wear masks, gloves, scrubs and gowns. Billy is very contagious and we don't want an epidemic on our hands."

As the doctor motioned Mary and Dudley to follow him, Freddy excused himself by saying that he needed to get back to work, but as he hugged his favorite girl and dropped a kiss on her forehead, he promised them both that he would visit later.

"I'll be here, keeping an eye on him," Mary replied with a tired smile, returning the embrace. Freddy then left the Intensive Care Unit, but with a heart deeply troubled by the events of that afternoon.

Something's wide of the mark about this, Freddy thought as he headed back to his newsstand. We all said our magic words and changed into the Marvel Family. Billy should've been cured of that "slight case of pneumonia", but he wasn't. In fact, he's worse than he was at the diner. And there's no way we should've beaten Black Adam that easily, not without one of us tricking him into saying old Shazam's name. Everything that's happened today's gone down twisted, and I'm going to find out how… and why!

On the Abyssal Plain, a demon peers into the flames before him, watching his enemies, the corners of his thin lips curving into a malicious sneer as he spied on them. It was a pity that he couldn't read their thoughts, as well. No matter. The pawn was now in play, and no one was any the wiser. The spells the demon wove into his creation were already working, and the souls of the old wizard's "favorites" would soon be his for the taking.

"Perfect, simply perfect," he said, his voice thick with derision. "It all happened right under their noses and the fools never even noticed, did they?"

And bound spread-eagle to a stone framework, a familiar black-haired youth struggled against the cruel leathern bonds cruelly biting into the flesh of his wrists, the fire of anger burning in his bright blue eyes. He had already endured one brutal whipping from his captor with the promise of more to come, and was magically rendered unable to say the one word that would save his family and win him his freedom …

Finis ...?

Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic: this story is an out-of-continuity parody based on the SHAZAM! Comics written by E. Nelson Bridwell and illustrated by Don Newton. It is neither steeped in nor is it connected with the current continuity of DC Comics. DC's current continuity lacks imagination. And guts. Hey, I offered DC money for them, but they're damned and determined to turn a great blessing into a curse.

I do not claim any rights to the Marvel Family or the characters associated with them. Those rights belong to DC Comics (damn it all). I offer my thanks to C.C. Beck, Bill Parker, Otto Binder, Mac Raboy and Marc Swayze for creating such "marvelous" characters for me to terrorize.