DCM Zone

Part V: Strange Bedfellows
by Bob Young

Beta Ray Bill
Adam Strange
Captain Marvel

The Asgardian thunder god Thor and his companion Balder took a brief pause in their quest for the Godwheel. Currently, they were guests aboard the ship Scuttlebutt, and its master Beta-Ray Bill. The horse headed alien offered them food as they spoke.

"I cannot stress this enough, Thor," Beta-Ray Bill said. "There are demons of damnation behind me. If you continue on your path, you will surely run into them, and whatever heinous power gave birth to them."

"Mayhap, we have the same enemy," Balder said.

"This Godwheel you spoke of?" Bill asked.

"Aye," Thor said. "We have been sent by my lord and father Odin, lord of Asgard, to find this Godwheel and, if necessary, destroy it!"

"And your source tells you that it can be found in my home galaxy?" Bill asked.

"At the moment," Thor said. "But it twill soon pass your system and arrive at our own if not halted."

"You actually intend to confront this great power?" Bill asked.

"Someone must," Balder said, with a touch of accusation.

"Don't judge me until you know all the facts," Beta-Ray Bill said. "I carry a precious cargo."

"What could be worth the dishonor of running away from your home when an enemy threatens?" Balder asked.

"The future of my race depends upon me," he said. "I am their protector."

"What means thou?" Thor asked.

"They are all here, in Scuttlebutt," he said. "All the children of my world. Miniaturized and encoded into data crystals. Millions of them. I am charged with protecting them until I can find a safe place to deposit them."

"Od's blood!" Thor said, amazed.

"Once they are safe, it will be time to fight," Bill said. "I will chance my fate on the cast of the die, and go to confront this 'Godwheel', even if it means my death!"

"I have misjudged thee," Balder said. "I beg thy good will."

"I hold no malice, Balder," Bill said. "You are both brave men and you have my respect. Let me tell you both the whole story of my world and how we came to this."

Centuries ago, on Bill's homeworld, Beta Centuri Three, the people had achieved a utopian society. The many races there, indigenous and otherwise, had learned to put aside their differences and chosen to live together in peace. They worked and built together, in a manner unknown on Earth. It was the ideal world.

And then, one day, a day that would be cursed by history, everything changed. One of the Great Gamers, a horse-headed giant, arrived on Beta Centuri Three. He warned that they were to be the next move in the universal game between light and dark. And that they were to be "jumped". This was a death sentence to any world.

Soon, the creatures came. The demonic beasts known as the Carrion Pawns appeared. They were endless. The Great Gamer defended the planet, and managed to drive off the Pawns, but received a fatal wound. He warned that more Carrion Pawns would be coming. After he died, the inhabitants of the planet used their long-range sensors to detect if more were truly on the way. They were! Thousands of them!

It was reluctantly decided that the evacuation of the planet's children was necessary. They did not want their children on the front lines of a war. So they planned their exodus. They were amazingly encoded into data crystals as microscopic bytes. Scuttlebutt, an old but reliable vessel was the planet's largest and one of the few built for multi-year voyages. It had an artificial intelligence guiding it. It was refitted with weapons and the children were placed within. Only a captain and protector remained to be assigned.

A contest was announced, to find the planets greatest warrior. Bill won it hands down. He was given captaincy of the Scuttlebutt. Still, even his warrior skill wasn't good enough. He need to me more than he was.

The scientists of his world sliced the genes of the Great Gamer, and combine them with an artificially grown synthezoid body. The combination bred the most powerful being to ever set foot on the planet. One of the most powerful in their galaxy! When all was made ready, Bill's mind was transferred into this new, ultimate body. Now a horse headed super being, he became protector of the children of his race.

Scuttlebutt was launched, and Bill sought a safe refuge for the children. Scarcely had he left, and then the Carrion Pawns attacked Beta Centuri Three. The war was fierce, and ultimately, futile. Bill received a message from the last few survivors that their world was lost. Bill vowed to return one day and avenge his race.

Soon, he found that the Carrion Pawns were, for unknown reasons, pursuing the Scuttlebutt. A handful of them cut the ship off, but Bill and Scuttlebutt were able to drive them away. Still many more were closing in. Bill raced through space, searching for sanctuary and finding none.

"And that's my story," Bill said. "The children aboard this ship are all that remains of my race. I must protect them."

"Tis a tale of great woe," Thor said. "Thou hath my sympathy and my respect. I swear to thee, I will do all I can to end the threat to thy people. Come, Balder, we must waste no more time. We must hie us to the galaxy of the Godwheel."

"I wish I could accompany you," Beta Ray Bill said. "But my duty holds me here."

"Perhaps thou shouldst go in my stead," Balder said. "It is my place in our quest to watch and not participate. The likes of that are not for Balder. I wouldst prefer to stay here and guard your people and battle any demons that come our way. Go, Bill. Have your rightful vengeance. You have earned it."

"I cannot thank you enough, Balder," Bill said. "I trust the future of my race to you. I will be a valuable ally to you, Thor."

"I have complete faith that thou will be so, friend Bill," Thor said. "Come, then! The Godwheel awaits our righteous fury!"

Soon, the two noble heroes were riding in Thor's chariot. "Up Tooth'nasher! Up, Tooth'grinder! Pull for the stars! Our greatest battle awaits us!"

Balder watched them go, wishing them success, but fearing that they're efforts were doomed.

Hercules and Orion battled it out on the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. Orion received a left hook from the Olympian and landed across the street, on the steps of the famous Plaza Hotel. He sat up, shaking the cobwebs out of his head, just in time to see Hercules baring down on him. He kicked out, and knocked Hercules across the street, into a fountain.

"Hah!" Hercules said, climbing out of the water. "Well struck, knave. You are a fierce little wolf's head. But you are doomed to defeat. No one can withstand the peerless might of the Prince of Power!"

"No one but the dark master of the Astro Force!" Orion yelled. "No one but me!"

They locked up again, going toe-to-toe. Hercules was the stronger of the two, but Orion was the more skillful fighter. They both had a rare lust for battle and loved a good fight. Neither one had an advantage. The battle could have on either way. It could have lasted indefinitely.

Captain Marvel arrived to break the stalemate. "Hold it!" he yelled at the two gods. "Stop fighting!"

They were surprised at his arrival, and paused in their skirmish. Adam Strange arrived, as well.

"Ho, Captain Marvel!" Hercules said. "How fares he who has the honor of sharing mine own strength? Hath thou come to watch me thrash yon varlet?"

Orion crouched defensively, thinking that he was now outnumbered three to one.

"I don't know what's going on or who you're fighting," Captain Marvel said. "But this has to stop. You're tearing up the city. Innocent people are being hurt."

Orion was surprised. This show of concern for the innocent was unlike the agents of evil. Mother Box confirmed his sincerity. The 'Captain Marvel' truly cared about the lives of these mortal bystanders.

"Something is amiss here?" Orion said. "There are things I do not understand."

"We're both a bit confused," Marvel said. "Is it possible that we could discuss this without further violence."

Orion nodded. "I will agree to a truce, for the moment."

Soon, in a secluded area of the park, Captain Marvel, Orion and Hercules talked. Adam Strange listened but didn't participate, feeling out of place in this pow-wow of gods.

"So this 'Source' sent you to Earth on an unspecified mission?" Marvel asked.

"The Source is all-wise," Orion said. "We follow its guidance at all times. It advised that I was needed on Earth and so I came. I was immediately attacked by this 'Black Pharaoh' swine. On the heels of that battle, Hercules threw a tree in my direction and so I . . . overreacted."

"Quite understandable," Hercules said. "I myself twould most certainly have done the same. I like thee, Orion. Thou art a rare warrior."

"I wonder what this mysterious danger is," Captain Marvel wondered aloud. "Who was the Black Pharaoh? Does it have anything to do with all those natural disasters we had recently?"

"I guessing it's all connected somehow," Adam Strange said.

"I wish I could be sure," Marvel said. "Hmm, you know something? I think I know who to ask. I need to go to the Rock of Eternity. I'll be back soon."

"I will accompany you," Orion said.

"We shall all go," Hercules said. "If adventure beacons, then Hercules will answer the call."

"I can't get you there," Captain Marvel said. "I can only get myself there."

"I need no help," Orion said. "I know of the Rock of Eternity. Mother Box can get us there."

Activating his Mother Box, a 'Boom-Tube' opened. On the other side of the tube/vortex, was the Rock of Eternity.

"Amazing!" Adam Strange said.

"Shall we go?" Orion said.

Captain Marvel nodded, and led the foursome into the Boom Tube.

Next issue: Wonder Woman duels with the mysterious Thundra, and Lady Sif finds herself in a dire predicament. Meanwhile, the Godwheel is drawing nearer.