Journey Into Mystery 13

Lady Thor

A Mighty Tale, Told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

The Demon Duplicators!

August 19, 1963

Jane rubbed her eyes, forcing the words on the paper back into focus. Everything that had happened, including Don's return and the confrontation with Odin, had just left her drained. Don, oddly enough, had been the one to try and rekindle the romance, but she had turned him down. Thrud had recuperated from her injuries but her presence only served to increase the tension.

Getting up from her desk, she walked back into the main waiting room of the office. Don had thrown himself into his work and was out on a house call. She sat down by the phone. She cast her eyes on the gnarled walking stick sticking out of the umbrella stand. "Some help you are."

She drummed her fingers. The paperwork had been caught up and there hadn't been a single patient all day. "I wonder if Captain America ever got bored?"

~D

Don was puzzled. Granted, given his experiences over the past months, that had almost become his default manner, but what was before him presently was the strangest thing yet. "What is it?"

Before him on a slab was what could be best described as a disassembled green human. The reason for his being there clasped an arm around his shoulders and smiled. "Easy Don, my Green Machine. You like it?"

Professor Zachary Zaxton grinned like a shark as he stepped forward and pointed to the machine. "Now, I know you're probably wondering why I called you out here."

"The thought had crossed my mind." Don scratched his head. He had known Zaxton only briefly in medical school. Even then they weren't the best of friends, so why would he insist on showing him this?

"Don, it's simple. This android of mine is going to change the world. Stark, Williams, and the rest of those fat cats are going to be begging for change on the street corner once the press sees this!" Zaxton held up one of the arms proudly.

"I don't doubt it, but Zachary, what does it do?"

Zaxton raised his eyebrows. "Do? What do you think?" He carefully laid the arm down and pulled out a series of pictures. "Think of it, an entire army of unsleeping soldiers! Firefighters that can walk through the hottest infernos, policemen that work around the clock!"

"Robots? Zachary, this sounds like something out of Asimov." He tapped one of the legs with his fingers. The flesh felt cold and rubbery.

"Aren't all ideas just unrealized dreams?" Placing both hands on either side of the android's head, he gazed down at the green flesh with admiration. Looking up at Don, his tone changed. "Don, do you know why I asked you above every else?"

"No."

"Because I trust you. You're not the kind of person to talk to the press and I know you wouldn't mock my ideas." Zaxton's voice was so earnest Don was taken aback. "Don, I need you to give my creation an examination."

"What?" Don was shocked. "But Zachary, I'm a doctor, not an engineer! I wouldn't know the first thing about it!"

"That's the beauty of it!" Zaxton's mood improved. "I've copied everything, flesh, muscle, and nerves! Everything that makes a man a man is here, wrapped up in my synthetic flesh! The only problem is that I'm not sure how it will react. I want it to move just like a human being Don. Walking, running, everything that a man can do, this one should do it better."

"That's a tall order."

"It should a breeze. You can do the work right here. All I need you to do is go over it with a fine tooth comb and see if the parts connect."

Don looked at the disassembled thing. "This would be a challenge. I do need something to clear my head." Looking at Zaxton's eager face, he stuck out his hand. "Alright, it's a deal."

"Fantastic, you can start tomorrow!"

~A

Odin's grim visage filled the crystal ball before him. The great hall was empty save for himself and Loki. "And thou art positive?"

Loki bowed low. "Indeed noble sire. The land is blistered with heat and our fruits do wither on the vine."

"Blast!" Odin slammed his fist down, nearly cracking the arm of his throne. "What have Njorar to say?"

"He confesses, milord, that he is unable to command the crops."

"What have the Frost Giants to say?"

"They profess their innocence, o mighty father."

"If only Thor were here!"

Loki grinned inwardly. "This is tragic father, but thou knows where my brother lies. Why not bring him back?"

Odin's face darkened. "Nay son, we have gone about the mortal realm far too much." He clenched his fist in rage. "If only there were someway of bringing him back!"

"Never fear father, I shall see our land through this troubled spot!" Loki bowed low enough for his forehead to touch the floor. Humbly leaving the great hall, he straightened himself and walked down a narrow side street.

Oddly enough, the draught was not directly Loki's fault. A few stern words to an old witch who lived on the edge of the land some time ago must have brought up some unpleasant memories, but she was kind enough to accept his apologies and even grant him the spell needed to free the land from the blight.

He would use it, of course, but only when the timing was right. "What High Father Odin doesn't know will not hurt me." Loki strolled towards Bifrost. "I must handle myself with care. That interloper might still prove to be an irritant."

~D

The hours had turned to days. A few quick phone calls to Jane insured that the office was being run in his absence. Don leaned back in his chair as he gazed over the handiwork. "Not bad, even if I don't understand most of it."

The figure on the table was nearly six feet in length. Its pale green skin reflected the harsh overhead light. Its face was expressionless but Don tried to avoid looking at it. "Too human alright." Every part of the human body, from muscles to nerves, had a corresponding counterpart within the android.

"I wonder how this is going to work?"

"You just let me take care of that." Zaxton announced as he stepped into the room. Don nearly fell out of his chair from the shock.

"Zachary! I wish you won't do that!"

"Sorry old boy, but science waits for no man." He eyed the green machine. "So, is my boy ready for his big day?"

"I suppose." Don popped his back as he stood up. "Look, I understand secrecy, but this out of my field."

Zaxton's mood changed. "Look, I told you I'd handle that!" He shook his head. "Sorry Don, it's just been crazy." Picking up a large remote control, he uncoiled a long wire and plugged it into the back of the android's head. Seeing Don's confusion, his mood brightened. "This? Just a simple warm up, that's all."

As Don turned around, Zaxton quickly walked over and none too gently gripped his arm. "Don, there is something else I have to ask you."

Don was already past weary and moving into annoyed. Sighing, he looked Zaxton in the eye. "Yes, what is it now?"

"Don, I'm unveiling this before some investors later tomorrow." Seeing the look in Don's face, he held up his hands. "I know, I should have told you and I'm sorry, but I couldn't-"

"I know, privacy."

Zaxton continued. "Right, but I need something more. If I just go out there and have it do tricks, they may not believe me. I'd be a laughing stock if I couldn't convince the room."

"But, it works, or at least it should. What could go wrong?"

Zaxton looked grim. "I'm serious Don. This could end up like Horton's fiasco or worse. I need someone, something, that will attract the press but can help keep it in line in case something goes wrong."

"And you think I know someone?"

"Well don't you?" Zaxton looked genuinely crossed.

Don was silent. He had a nagging little voice that told him to walk away, but he pushed it aside. "I think I might know someone. Just set it up and give me a call when you're ready."

~J

"Absolutely not!"

"But Jane-"

"No 'buts'" Jane narrowed her eyes. "After all we've been through, you want me to use Lady Thor as a cheap sideshow?"

"It's not like that!" Don winced. "Look, it would just for an afternoon. You show up, bang your hammer against the android and that would be all."

Jane crossed her arms. "That would be all? Don, I stared down the king of the gods, risked my life for you, and now you want me abuse my power for someone you barely know?"

Don touched her shoulder. "I know, I know. Look, Zachary wasn't always a friend, but this show does have me worried. The real reason I want you there is in case something happens."

"Like what?" Jane softened her stance but only barely.

"Like the machine going out of control. Zachary, Zachary worries me. The way he preened over that hunk of plastic and the look in his eyes," His voice trailed off. "I think he might try something. I don't know what and I don't know how, but I need you to be there. Please?"

Jane uncrossed her arms. Sighing, she threw her hands up. "Alright, you convinced me. Just give me the time and day and I'll be there."

~Z

A few days later, Jane cursed her decision. In one of the slightly run down theaters that dotted the great city, Lady Thor emerged in a dramatic flash of lightning. "Give me strength." She thought for a second on just how would handle that request, but then thought better of it. Twirling her hammer, she took to the sky.

Inside the theater, Don nervously peered out from wings. "Zachary, are you sure about this?"

Zaxton adjusted his bow tie. "Look, I told you. I have this thing in the bag!" He took a crowbar and opened up the crate. "Just make sure your opening act is ready, ok?"

Don nervously stepped out into the spotlight. The crowd was decent. It wasn't standing room only, but the main floor was mostly packed with reporters and cameramen. A spattering of flashbulbs went off as Don approached the edge of the stage. "Ladies and gentlemen of the press," he read off the speech Zaxton made him memorize. "Before you today is a spectacle the likes have never been seen before!" His voice cracked at the wrong points and he realized he was talking into his chest. The audience's utter silence did little to ease his anxiety.

All at once a strong wind filled the theater. The back door blew open as Lady Thor strolled confidently down the aisle. The flash from the cameras was almost blinding as she made her way through the crowd and towards the stage. Don took the opportunity to slink off.

"Hear me mortals!" Lady Thor's voice boomed. "The mortal known as Zaxton claims to possess a machine capable of holding its own in battle against my might. I am here to see if such bragging is warranted!"

The curtains parted as Zaxton stepped into the spotlight. "And I assure you, madam and gentlemen of the press, this is no idle sport. What you are about to see will transport you from the realm of the impossible into the stark reality of the here and now."

Moving over to the control panel, Zaxton manned the diodes and switches. The entire theater fell silent as a strange clicking noise filled the air. From behind the faded curtain stepped a figure that sent up a collective gasp.

The android was six feet in height. Its skin was a bright green. Its face was bland, but there were features; i.e., a nose, eyes, ears, and a mouth. It stepped three paces to the front of the stage and bowed.

"Good afternoon." Its voice, while sounding remarkably like Zaxton, issued from the open mouth, "I would like to welcome you."

A particularly besotted man in a seersucker suit shouted. "C'mon, what's the gag? Got some dwarfs in there or something?" A ripple of laughter went up from the crowd.

"Not quite, gentlemen." Zaxton coolly spoke into a microphone. "Lady Thor, if you please attack my android."

She looked at the crowd. "Why the devil did I agree to this?" She twirled her hammer once and let it fly. The mystic might of the uru metal met the android's synthetic chest with a resounding thud. It staggered backwards but remained upright.

As the hammer returned to her outstretched hand, she had to raise an eyebrow. "Impressive mortal." She nodded to Zaxton.

"You haven't seen anything yet!" The man began to wildly twist knobs and flip switches. The android's chest began to glow in response. "Hit him with some juice!"

Nodding, she bent down and tapped her hammer twice on the stage floor. Clouds began to form in the upper rafters. A sudden bolt of lightening struck the android, causing its entire body to glow white.

The audience cheered. The android seemed to shake, but it regained its footing. Lady Thor had to give a low whistle. "Impressive. Even a god would be hard pressed to remain standing after such a blow."

Before anyone could react, smoke began to pout out of the android's chest. Flailing its arms, it began to twist and jerk. Lady Thor cast a worried eye to Zaxton, but saw the man had fled. "Coward!" She marched towards the malfunctioning machine and was promptly knocked down for her efforts.

The crowd began to panic when the android jumped off the stage and started to run amuck in the front row. Swatting the pressmen aside like fleas, it ripped one of the seats straight from the floor and used it as a club.

A crack of thunder gave pause to the mob. "Hold!" Lady Thor leapt from the stage and landed sharply, brining the full force of her hammer upon the green head. The cranium wrapped around the mystic mallet with a crunch. More smoke poured out as the android collapsed to the floor. It shook its limbs wildly and its inner gears ground together to produce a horrible metallic screech.

Reaching down, she thrust one hand into the green plastic torso. With her other free hand she twirled Mjolnir. Rising above the crowd, she flew straight up through the roof. Flying as fast as she dared she sailed through the atmosphere. "I can't let this machine explode near anyone, the results could be catastrophic!"

Reaching the outer edge of the stratosphere, she spun around and released her grip on the machine man's innards. It sailed away into the darkness before exploding. The force from the blast forced her back and the heat was intense even in the thin air. "Verily, that mortal Zaxton has much to answer for."

~L

Loki had been a silent observer throughout Lady Thor's ordeal. Hovering invisibly several miles above the ocean, he had watched her show intently. "Hmm, what an odd display. Yet so rich a misfortune I would be rude not to share it with my beloved kinsmen." Altering the details as needed, he flew leisurely back towards Asgard with a tale of horror that was sure to ignite Odin's blood.

"And when I use the spell that witch gave me" his laughter rang loudly enough to spook a flock of geese that flew below him, "then today shall be one remembered when Loki is hailed as the saving hero and Thor a fool!" He stopped suddenly. "Why must I rush to tell them now? Perhaps there is still more of the play to happen." Lowering himself to a rooftop, Loki smirked at his plan. "Yes, play on sister. Loki must see how this tale ends!"

~LT

Lady Thor landed inside the theater. Police and firemen had already arrived and were busy tending to the injured. Brushing past the reporters, she headed towards the back.

Don was sitting on a crate. He was wrapping gauze around his hand. He never bothered to look up. "Well, go on and say it."

"Don" she lowered her voice.

"I brought you into this, I know. Go ahead and tell me I'm a fool." He stopped when she put a hand to his mouth.

"Nay. Thou art a brave man, and we shall talk at length later." Looking around, she glanced at the control board. "Tell me, what of Zaxton?"

"No idea." Don grimaced as he secured the bandage. When that machine went nuts he split."

"He has much to pay for. Would you consider going to his workshop for me?"

Don grinned. "Not a problem."

~Z

It took several hours, but Don was allowed to leave the theater. The police had wanted to know his full involvement, and he answered as truthfully as he could. He also told them of Lady Thor's suggestion (while discretely leaving out how he managed to get her to appear in public) and where Zaxton's lab was located.

He nervously limped down the side streets. It had been a short car ride to the Bowery, but with Zaxton's paranoia the man might already know what he was doing. Finding the right alleyway, he let himself in and stopped.

"Zachary?"

The man was grinning like a Cheshire cat. In his hand was a small box no bigger than an average camera. "Hello Don! Didn't have too much trouble getting back I hope?"

"What's the meaning of this?"

Zaxton's grin never wavered. "Oh, that display with the green machine? Just a setup for this." He held the box up proudly. "My greatest invention, or at least my favorite."

Don was more confused than angered by Zaxton's attitude. "Your greatest-but what about the android?"

"What about it? I just needed something to get Lady Thor in public, thank you by the way, so I could use this on her."

Don's confusing gave way to anger. "What did you do?"

"Oh, calm down. It was nothing permanent, I assure you. But I can tell this device's purpose is going to drive you mad until I explain, so have a seat." Zaxton reached behind the table. Don tensed until he pulled out a small carrying case.

He relaxed somewhat when Zaxton opened it and a mangy looking black cat limped out. "What do you think? I found it prowling outside. It cost me some blood, but I finally got the little beast."

"What are you going to do?" Don began to inch towards the door.

"Demonstrate the machine, what else?" When a flick of a switch, Zaxton briefly bathed the cat in a white light. Ushering the cat back into the carrying case, Zaxton turned the machine again against a brick wall. Much to Don's utter amazement, another cat appeared.

He noted almost at once that it was not the exact same cat. Its fur was sleek and full. It walked proudly with its head held high and affectionately rubbed against Zaxton's leg. "See?"

He was unable to speak. When the words finally came, he could only utter a trite phrase. "Good Heavens!"

Zaxton's smile grew wider. "Yes, it is remarkable, is it not? The idea just came to me one night."

"But what are you planning to do with it and Lady Thor?"

"Don, I'm shocked. I thought you would have figured it out by now. This device, this Duplicating Machine, creates copies. The catch is they are opposite, imperfect to the original. And if the original was such a perfect person, then the duplicate will be evil."

"And willing to work for you, I take?"

"You always were a bright boy." Zaxton held the box up. "And you're probably wondering why I didn't focus on this, or why didn't I simply patent it and sell it?"

"The thought occurred to me."

Zaxton snarled at him. "Because I've been slaving away for years! Because I worked my fingers to the bone trying to break into a field that is so blasted insular and closed off they wouldn't know a genius idea if it walked up and disgraced their shoes!"

"So all of this is about revenge?"

"What? Of course not my boy; it is about money. When I unleash my Thor copy upon New York, I'll sell both device and double to the highest bidder. People will pay for respect Don."

Zaxton's next words were lost when Don's cane sailed through the air and struck his wrist. The device slipped out his fingers and struck the table. Don felt everything slow down as the device clicked on, bathing him in the weird light.

~Z

Zaxton snatched the device from the table and flicked it off. Carefully inspecting it for damage, he looked up and nearly the device again. "What on Earth?"

Before him was Don Blake. Blake was shakily standing without his cane, but the figure behind him made Zaxton put Blake's betrayal aside. A man dressed in Lady Thor's costume shoved Blake to the floor. "Where am I?"

Staring at the device, wheels began to turn in Zaxton's mind. "I had the stats of Lady Thor saved, so when Don caused me to drop it the images must have gotten blurred!" Zaxton laughed. "I'm a better genius than I thought!"

Kicking Don's cane aside, Zaxton merrily strolled over to the stranger. "Hello!" He struck out his hand jovially.

Thor, for he felt that was the best name, icily stared at the extended appendage. "Who are you to address me?"

Zaxton thought about telling the double the truth, but thought against it. "I am your friend!"

Thor snorted with contempt. "A weakling like you? I doubt it."

Zaxton withdrew his hand. "Very well, but I should warn you. He," he pointed to Don, "and his friends are coming here, and they might try to harm you. If you come with me, I can promise you safety."

"Safety? Bah, why should the wolf flee from the pup?" He unhooked the twin hammers at his side. "Nay, show me the enemies, and I hang their bones from my belt!"

Don, having born witness to the conversation, inched toward the door. "This is insane!" His thoughts were interrupted when Thor easily cleared the distance between them and picked him up with one hand.

"This is one you fear?" He tossed him aside like a doll. Don hit the table and collapsed into a heap. "I must have air, this is too confining!" He clenched his fist and smashed the brick wall before him.

"What a marvelous land!" Thor laughed heartily as he twirled both hammers. Unseen, two vastly different spectators watched in confusion as he took to the sky.

~LT

Lady Thor had been following Don ever since he left the theater. His signal for her to come in was his reappearing in the street. When Thor, for lack of a better word, suddenly smashed his way out of the building and flew away, she paled. "Did Odin do this?"

She saw the twin hammers in his hands as he sailed away. "Two? I thought Mjolnir was one of a kind. How could he have two?"

~L

Loki, were he visible, would have been red faced from his laughing fit. "Another? Another Thor? Od's blood, will these mortals never cease their silliness?" Wiping a tear from his eye, he slinked away towards Asgard. "This is too much!" Seeing Lady Thor standing on the rooftop, he slowed his ascent. "Hmm, methinks a trick might be warranted, but nay, Loki shall stay his hand today. Best I inform my dear father of this trickery and the upcoming battle. The look on his face alone shall be worth a hundred battles! I must see this to the end!"

~LT

Shaking off her confusion, Lady Thor swiftly took to the sky after Thor. "Has Don changed again? Is Odin back, or is this Loki's doing?"

Flying closer to the retreating figure, she was stunned to see his face. "If he's an imposter, he is a very good one."

"Hold!" Her voice was nearly lost above the raging din around them, but her godly strength was enough that even the faux thunder god gave pause. He stopped his flight and hovered with the twin hammers twirling on either side of him.

"What deviltry is this? Has my father sired another godling whilst I was away?" His voice was not quite the same. Staring into his face, Lady Thor noticed his overall features were similar, but many details were wrong. His eyes were too bright, his cheeks shallower, and his jaw much more like hers than Don's-

She never saw the feint. One second the imposter had two hammers and the next he had one. She whirled mid-air until she saw the errant tool speeding towards a truck. "No!"

She stopped spinning her hammer and redirected it towards the street. Streaking through the air, she tried to reach and grasp the hammer before it struck. Its leather throng was almost in her grasp when it harmlessly passed through the truck's bed and landed with a slight clatter on the street.

Gripping Mjolnir with both hands, she swerved to the right. She landed hard on the sidewalk, cracking the concrete and asphalt. Trying to ignore the ringing in her ears, she forced herself up. "What happened?"

Limping into the street, she picked up the faux hammer and examined it. She found it to be a near perfect replica of her own, save for one difference. "No inscription!" To her amazement, the phony hammer suddenly faded away. The duplicate landed on the opposite side of the street.

"What trickery it this?" He warily looked around. "What have thou done with my mighty hammer?"

Gears were turning in her mind. "That hammer of his lacked the words Odin put on it. It couldn't do any harm and I couldn't touch it. It wasn't worthy, and if it wasn't worthy then I bet the other one is too!"

Dusting herself off, she hooked Mjolnir on her belt. "I sayest thou art no god! Thy hammer was no more than a trick!"

Thor began to twirl his remaining hammer. "Fool! I'll show thee a god!" Charging, he let go and sent the deadly missile towards her. Undaunted, Lady Thor simply plucked the projectile with one hand. As it too faded away into nothing, she marched towards the confused pretender.

"Convinced?"

"Nay, thou art a trick and nothing more! Even without my weapons, I still possess more power in mine own two hands!" He tore a streetlight free for emphasis. "Have at thee!" He bellowed and charged. Unhooking her hammer, Lady Thor easily batted the light aside with one swing and clipped Thor on the return. He dropped the light and staggered.

"What did you do?" He looked down in horror as he began to fade away. "Stop, please! Let me die in combat, not-no!" He screamed suddenly as his entire body was reduced to nothingness. She stood in horror as the scene unfolded.

"Don?" A sudden coldness went through her. Unhooking Mjolnir, she took to the air back towards Zaxton's laboratory. Her thoughts were on one thing: revenge.

~Z

Zaxton was not a foolish man. Once his duplicate and Lady Thor took to the skies he hailed the first cab he could find. Diving into the back, he tossed a wad of tens into the front seat. "Airport, now!"

The driver, an older man with cauliflower ears and a nose almost to match, took the money and drove on with little comment. A lifetime of driving his hack in less than safe neighborhoods had given him a quirk of checking all his mirrors multiple times. Glancing in his side view mirror, he first thought a low bird was over him. When the object suddenly streaked down and landed in the street before him, he changed his mind.

"Mother of Mercy!" The driver went into a skid and stopped inches from Lady Thor. He opened his door and bolted, leaving the keys in the ignition.

"Get out!" Lady Thor tore the back door open. Zaxton tried to escape via the other door, but an iron grip on his ankle squashed those ideas. "What did you do to the mortal Blake?"

"Nothing, I swear!" Zaxton fumbled with the duplicator. "Wait, there is only one of her!" Turning the machine on himself, he pressed the button. "Well my dear, feel free to catch one of us. Maybe we know!"

~LT

She was blinded by the light of the machine. Shaking her head, she rubbed her eyes. Before her were seven Zaxtons. One climbed over into the front seat and drove off as the other six scattered. "Thou will not escape my judgment!"

The first two doubles were easy enough to find. They had both sprinted down the street back towards the original Zaxton's lab. She landed in front of them and brought her forearms up, knocking them both back. They both vanished without a trace.

Taking to the sky once more, she spied two more Zaxtons leaping across the rooftops. She landed on a nearby billboard. When the two doubles both leapt across to the next rooftop, she drew back her arm and hurled Mjolnir. The hammer struck the nearest one, causing him to disappear. Unstopped, the mystic hammer continued. The next Zaxton landed on the black tar paper roof seconds before the hammer struck him in the back. He didn't even budge as he faded away.

Snagging Mjolnir as it returned to her, Lady Thor sailed back into the sky as she tried to come up with another plan of action. "Were there two in that cab, or only one?" Flying higher, she spied a taxi bobbing and weaving across the Brooklyn Bridge. Increasing speed, she zoomed down over the bridgeworks as the taxi muscled its way past a sedan, scrapping paint and losing a mirror in the process. "That might be my man."

Dipping Mjolnir, she dropped down towards the cab. Angling herself properly, she tried to fly directly over the cab, but one of the Zaxons spotted her. The driving Zaxton slammed on the breaks and jerked the wheel.

The tires screamed in protest as smoke billowed from under the car. Slamming into the sidewall, it was battered around by the cars and trucks caught in its way. Thinking quickly, Lady Thor landed quickly and picked the cab up. One Zaxton fell on her right while another landed on her left.

The one on the right quickly scrambled to his feet and climbed over the wall. The one of the left curled up with his hands over his head. Flying to the top of the bridge, Lady Thor balanced the cab before swooping back towards the fleeing double.

~Z

The real Zaxton, not that Lady Thor would be aware of that, moved as fast he could manage. The crash hurt more than he thought. Each step sent a white-hot spike of pain through his knees. "Must have torn something, no time now!" He limped towards a section of the bridge near one of the supports. Climbing out, he inched his way towards a workman's ladder. "If I can just climb down, I might be able to sneak on board a ship!" He mentally laughed his scheme, unaware of the blood flowing freely down his pants leg. A sudden guest of wind and a loosened thread later and he felt something falling from his pocket. "My machine!"

Horrorstricken, he lurched about on the ladder, only calming down when he spotted the device resting precariously on a small outcropping of bricks. "Hold mortal!"

Looking up, he paled when he saw Lady Thor in all her glory hovering in the air above him. "Thou hath much to answer for."

"Stay away!" He lurched backwards. The supports, rusted in spots, suddenly gave way. The ladder jerked and Zaxton swung about wildly. "My device, if I can grab it I can use it!" He laughed manically as he let go of the ladder. His fingertips scrapped against the brick, bloodying them a bit as he snagged the duplicating machine. The only snag didn't hit him until a second later.

"No!" He fell like a stone. Lady Thor stood in her spot as the man plummeted. He hit the concrete anchor with a wet thud. The device lay shattered beyond repair underneath him. Dropping down to the body, she rolled him over and stomped the device into a fine powder.

~LT

Returning to the topside, she found the other Zaxton still standing there. "Hello." He smiled nervously. "I don't suppose you know what is going on here, do you?"

She was taken aback. "Hmm, that machine could only create doubles, but imperfect ones. If Zaxton was evil, then wouldn't his double be good?" Testing her theory out, she wrapped her arm around his waist and flew. "Do you know where the mortal Blake is?"

"Don? Of course, he should be in my laboratory." The Zaxton doubled looked puzzled. "I think so at any rate. Did something happen? I can't seem to recall."

One massive explanation later

"So this is just a copy?" Don winced as Jane checked the bandages on his head.

"Yes." Jane glanced at Zaxton. He had shown surprise at the state of his lab but even greater at the state of Don. The police had questions, naturally, and Lady Thor had answers. She knew they doubted her telling of the events, but Zaxton swore to it.

It would be a rather long legal battle, of course, but once Zaxton would be able to lay claim to the title and property, he swore to carry on his originals' work for the good of humanity. The exact fate of the original would never be questioned, except by Don several hours later. The cab ride back to Don's office was an awkward one.

"Did you try to save him?"

Jane swore. She wanted to lie, tell him Zaxton was too far away, that she was tired; however, she knew she couldn't do that. She had lied too much too often. "No." Holding up her hand, she continued. "Don, I thought he had turned you into Thor, and when that copy died-" She clenched her hand into a fist. "I've gone through too much to lose you. Especially to a man like Zaxton." Reflecting, she realized that the Thor she fought couldn't have been Don but at the moment, seeing the figure vanished, she had just lost control.

Don was silent. "I suppose I should be flattered." Rising, with some difficulty, he stepped over to her and took her hands into his own. "You did what you did in the heat of the moment." He let go of her hands. "But I'm not sure I forgive it, at least not just yet."

"What?" Jane didn't mean to shout but she did. "Don, I thought I killed you because of that man. What was I supposed to do?"

"I don't know." Don rubbed his temples. "Jane, I'm not sure how I can say this, but… I'm letting you go."

"What?" Jane stared slack-jawed. "You're firing me?"

Don looked away from her. "No! Just…giving you a break. I think things have been too complicated around here." He backed away. "Jane, I love you. I loved for as long as I've known you, but lately…"

"Things have gotten complicated." Jane knew his reasons. She cast an eye at the withered cane in the umbrella stand. She silently took the cane and walked out the door. She didn't even bother to take off her hat and change her coat.

She silently entered the nearest bus and sat down. "Is this it?" She knew she'd have to start searching for a job, among other things, but she just felt a great emptiness. "Everything I've done and this is it?" She considered breaking the stick but thought against it. "If this thing is going to cost me my happiness, then its too high. Next god who happens by, I'll give them this blasted thing."

~L

Unaware of Jane's thoughts, Loki watched the couple with glee. "A better situation I could not conceive! And when I 'find' the cure to the draught this will be the added bonus. I do hope my erstwhile sister is up for more games. I know I am." He laughed manically as he flew on towards Asgard.

The end.

Journey into a Mailbox

From Excel

Excellent

They Call Me Bruce

Good work here fella. Loved how Jane told Odin off.

Wolvmbm

This was a great chapter and a nice way of having Jane finally meet Odin at last.

But what about Thurd is she alright ? :(

Also it seems like Loki hasn't stop scheming against the New Thor. :)

Keep up the good work as I await the next installment of this story

Yes, Thrud is alright and will be back and kicking next issue.

And finally from Tiffani

Another great story Cambot. You did a wonderful job on the dialogue, as always. Thanks for sharing.

And thank you for reading

Based on "The Demon Duplicators" first published in Journey Into Mystery #95 (August 1963). Credits to Stan Lee (story), Joe Sinnott (art and inks), and Sam Rosen (letters).

All copyrights reserved and no profit is intended.

Next time, "Merlin the Mad!"

And be sure to stay tuned for these and other upcoming issues:

Amazing Fantasy#3-Trinity

Sensational Comics#13-Rumble in the Desert!

Tales to Adstonish#12-The Micro-World of DOOM