DCM Zone

Part IX: Revelation and Rescue
by Bob Young

Beta Ray Bill
Captain Marvel
Adam Strange
Wonder Woman

Thor had finally reached the mysterious world at the center of the Godwheel. The Godwheel itself circled the planet. It was some sort of asteroid field, giving off unlimited energy to this enigmatic world.

Thor had arrived in a city. By the look of the castles, it was a city of giants. Some of the castles actually moved, as if they were machines. One almost ran the Thunder God over. Undaunted, he strode on. Eventually, he found the beings he was looking for.

They were all in the vicinity of fifty feet tall. Some were humanoid, dressed as either kings, queens or bishops. Some had horse's heads. And every one of them was focused on what appeared to a chess game. They were in pairs, as far as the eye could see, each one standing one the opposite side of a chessboard from another. Thor noticed that every pair consisted of someone dressed in a bright motif with a white sash, while the other was in dark attire and had a black sash. It was apparently some sort or tournament. Two teams competing in a series of games.

The giants seemed oblivious to Thor's presence. He intended to remedy that.

"Ho! I would speak to thee!" he bellowed, in a commanding voice.

They ignored him. Thor sneered.

"The god of thunder will not be so dismissed!" he yelled. "You will speak to me!"

Still no response! Thor gritted his teeth. "Very well. The time for talk hath passed!"

Raising his hammer, Thor slammed it down solidly on the foot of one of the giant Kings. A black king.

"Arrgh!" the Black King shouted, kneeling over to rub his sore foot. "Who are you, little man? How dare you strike a Lord of Chequeria!"

"If thou had responded to my attempts at discourse, twould not have been necessary," the son of Odin said. "I am Thor, god of thunder, champion of Asgard, and Prince of the Eternal realm!"

"A god?" the Black King chuckled. "Well, well, well. They are making gods smaller these days, aren't they?"

Just then, the other heroes of Earth arrived to join Thor. Captain Marvel flew in, Orion followed on his Power Rods, while Hercules and Beta Ray Bill rode in on Thor's chariot.

"These are the men in charge, huh?" Captain Marvel asked.

"Aye," Thor said. "And they will speak to us, or they will learn that our power is greater than our size!"

"I have had enough of this!" the Black King said. "I will crush . . . !"

"Hold!" said the White Queen across the board. "There is no need for violence. We have enough of that, do we not? Let us speak with them."

"I have nothing to say to these disrespectful, little pests!" the Black King said. "They are interrupting our game!"

"I am taking a break," the Queen said.

"You can't take a break in the middle of a game!" the Black King said, infuriated.

"Queens have that right," the White Queen said. "I would speak with these visitors."

The King grumbled. "Very well. Get rid of them, and hurry back to the game. Otherwise, I'll stomp on them!"

The White Queen addressed the Earth heroes. "Come with me, little ones."

She led them to a private room in one of the large castles. She sat in a chair and the Earth heroes stood on a table. "We don't get many visitors here," she said. "There are not many who can survive here. The gravity is not very hospitable."

"We are here on a matter most urgent, Milady," Thor said. "We seek to save our world from yon Godwheel!"

"Another world," the Queen said, sadly. "Will there never be an end to it?"

"I do not understand all this," Beta Ray Bill said. "What is your purpose? What do you do here?"

"We are the cosmic balance," the Queen said. "There is black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, order and chaos, life and death. We are the balance. We call ourselves the Chequerians, the masters of the checks and balances of the universe. We are the Great Gamers, and we fight out war along the thin line between sun and shadow. I am Ariella, the Queen of the great Eastern Cavalry."

"Could you elaborate on this some more?" Captain Marvel said. "I'm still not clear."

The Queen continued. "When you look at the sky, you see black and white. The white spots are suns and planets . . . Life! The black is the dark, cold void of space . . . Non-life. Things grow in the light and they die in the darkness. We of the white cavalry want to spread the light, while those of the black want to see more darkness. The survival of planets and stars depends on the moves we make here. When the white is check mated planets die! When the black is check mated, new life is born."

"Thou canst create life?" Thor asked.

"We breathe upon a planet that has the potential for life but never reached that magic moment," she said. "And after that, a new race is born. We can also create suns with hydrogen explosions."

"As we understand it, you crush planets," Captain Marvel said. "This world of yours is hollow, and you can transport it, re-materialize around another world and condense it into a tiny ball."

"This is sadly true." the Queen said.

"Why do so?" Thor asked.

"When the black check-mates us, and a planet is doomed to destruction, it is put to good use, even after it's destroyed." she said. "It becomes part of the Godwheel."

"What is this Godwheel we doth keep hearing of?" Hercules asked.

"It is the axis of tiny heavenly bodies that surround our planet," she Queen said. "It gives us our power. By balancing the stellar bodies in the ring against each other, we have an unlimited source of energy . . . Gravity and the kinetic motion of planets! The greater the density of the object, the greater the increase in the Wheel's power. When the Black invented the Planet-Transporter, they came across the idea of using our hollow planet to condense other planets and then transport them into the Godwheel. Since the condensed planets still have the same density as a full-sized planet, its gravity supplies us with considerable power. The incredible energy is absorbed by our Cosmic Core, which utilizes it as power for our planet."

"Dead worlds!" Orion exclaimed. "Your planet is powered by dead worlds!"

"I don't like it any more than you do." the Queen said.

"What about those demonic hoards?" Beta Ray Bill asked. "What are they for?"

"They are the pawns in our game," she said. "They are our servants, guard dogs, hunters and first-strike weapons. They serve a multitude of uses."

"Why do they attack planets?" Bill asked.

"They need to eat," she said. "They are carrion eaters. When a planet is doomed to be destroyed in the game, rather than letting the population suffer condensation, we painlessly put them to sleep. They die peacefully. Then the carrion eaters come in and feed on them, until the planet is condensed for the Godwheel."

"They attacked my planet while the population still lived!" Bill said.

"Sometimes the sleep gas missile is intercepted accidentally by some creature or object," she explained. "When that happens, the Carrion eaters arrive, and must kill their victims before they can eat."

"Why do they pursue the escaped children?" Bill asked. "They chased my ship across the galaxy!"

"They are natural hunters," the Queen said. "They love to hunt. They get very little opportunity to do so. When someone escapes them, they'll hunt him to the ends of the Universe! Its fun for them."

"It's 'fun'?!" Bill hissed, hatefully.

"Be thou patient, friend Bill," Thor said. "We will set things to rights soon. I so swear!"

"You cannot," the White Queen said. "There is nothing you can do. Our power is beyond you. One of our knights can fight an entire hoard of Carrion Pawns, whereas all of you were barely able to do it together. Your best blow, thunder god, barely stung the King's foot. What would you do against hundreds of such beings?"

"We will fight until death!" Orion said.

"Aye, fight!" Hercules shouted, eager for some action.

"Nay," Thor said. "She is correct. Direct conflict with the enemy is futile. We must re-think our position."

"Think it over carefully," the Queen said. "And if your are smart, you will flee this place. You can do nothing here. Now, if you will excuse me, I must return to the game before the king comes looking for me."

The Queen left. The five heroes stood, debating their next actions.

"The Godwheel is their power source," Captain Marvel said. "That should be our target. It may be beyond our power to harm, but I don't see any other option."

"The Cosmic Core," Beta-Ray Bill said. "That is where we should focus! It absorbs the awesome energy of the Godwheel, and turns it into useful power for the Chequerians."

"Excellent, Bill!" Thor said. "I agree most strongly!"

"Where is this Cosmic Core?" Hercules asked.

"Mother Box can find it," Orion said.

"If we destroy the Cosmic Core, won't that just be a temporary solution?" Captain Marvel said. "Won't they just fix it?"

Orion studied his Mother Box, as if he were listening to it. "Mother Box says that if we destroy the Cosmic Core, the gravitational upheaval will destroy this planet and everyone upon it."

The five godlike heroes looked around at each other, smiling, like explorers who had just discovered something amazing.

"Jackpot!" Captain Marvel said.

Back on Earth, in the desert . . .

Wonder Woman and her powerful new ally, Thundra, reached the secret fortress of Sheik Farnoq Dahl and the Blood Spider Cult.

"You say that innocent women are being held prisoner by evil males?" Thundra said. "That is intolerable!"

"I agree," Diana said. "So let's not be too gentle, all right?"

"I whole-heartedly concur." Thundra said.

They walked brazenly up to the perimeter of the HQ. Some guards spotted them. The guards looked the two beautiful women up-and-down, lustfully, figuring that they were concubines. Big mistake!

The two mighty women made very short work of those, and every other guard they came across. They proceeded with ease . . . until the spider appeared.

The Blood Spider, namesake of the slave-trading group, rose up from the sand. It was 10 feet long, and venom dripped from its mandibles. It was a hideous sight, but the two women knew no fear. Wonder Woman stepped forward to engage it in battle. Thundra stopped her.

"No, leave this creature to me," Thundra said. "There are innocent women who need your help."

"Will you be all right?" Wonder Woman asked.

"I won't be long!" Thundra said.

Diana nodded and turned her attention to the HQ. The rescue was not as easy a matter as it seemed. If these villains were numerous, well armed, well trained, and had monsters at their disposal, it could take some considerable time to handle them all and then search the building for prisoners. That was not acceptable. During that time, the captive woman could be killed by the sheik, or he might use them as hostages. Either way, the scenario ended badly. Wonder Woman needed to find a covert ingress. Looking down at the sand, she started digging.

The Lady Sif was having the worst day of her long life. The effect of the alien Ultra-Diode ray made her pliable to commands, and therefore, she had just been forced to humiliate herself with an act of servitude to a mere mortal, a lowly guard! Trapped in a harem, she raged at her inability to free herself. The other slave girls in the seraglio didn't know about the Ultra-Diode gun or the effect it had on her. They thought that Sif was either too cowardly to stand up to their captors or just trying to curry favor.

After the guard left, the other women stared at Sif, disgusted by her show of obedience. Livia was the maddest. "I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but don't come in here talking about rebelling if you don't have the courage to disobey them yourself."

Sif wanted to protest, but the mere act of speaking was becoming too difficult. The Ultra-Diode ray had neutralized her will, and made almost any action without a direct command impossible.

"We don't trust you," Jekka said. "You haven't impressed us with your actions since you've arrived."

Fee agreed. "She wants to stay here and be the dutiful wife while we go out and take the risks. That way, she's in a no-lose situation. If we win, she goes free without getting hurt. And if we lose, she looks good because she's the only one who didn't revolt!"

Another woman concurred. "She probably wants us all to get killed so she can be the only one left!"

Sif tried to calm the angry woman, as they shouted accusations at her. She couldn't. The words wouldn't come out. And she couldn't blame them for doubting her. Realistically, the Lady Sif knew that there was nothing now that she could say to win them over. They hated her. Unless she could find a way to resist the power that controlled her, there was no way she could help these women escape their terrible lot. Sif moved off by herself and sat alone in a corner. The others avoided her, but kept their suspicious eyes on her.

Sif sat alone. She had never felt so humiliated. The goddess Sif was reduced to ridicule! Hated by the women she wanted to help, considered a coward or a quisling, powerless to fight, and fated to serve an evil, sexist fiend, until she ended up on the auction block! Things couldn't get any worse.

Just then, the floor shook. Everyone looked around. There was a strange sound, like digging. Part of the carpet rose, as if there were something underneath pushing it up. The slave girls circled around it, scared but curious. The carpet tore and Wonder Woman appeared.

"Hi," the Amazon said. "This is a rescue."

"Wow! You're Wonder Woman!" Jekka said.

"Yes I am," Diana said. "How is everyone here? Anyone hurt?"

"We're all fine!" Fee said. "How did you get here passed the guards and the Blood Spider."

"The guards aren't so tough," she said, tossing down the headdress of a defeated guard. "And as for the Spider, I have a friend watching my back."

The women were instantly impressed. Suddenly, they had found a real warrior. Not like this Sif, who they felt was a liar and a coward, but a real heroine who had fought her way in.

Sif had heard of the Wonder Woman and knew that she was an ally of Thor. She struggled to speak again, to tell Wonder Woman who she was, but speech was getting harder the longer she was under the ray's influence. She found that she was unable to identify herself to Amazon.

And even if she could speak, what would she say? It was embarrassing for a goddess to admit her helplessness. Try as she might, she couldn't resist the impulses that compelled toward obedience. Sif didn't know how to explain that a goddess couldn't leave this room because her body was being forced to obey her captors.

"Are you ready to break out?" Wonder Woman asked the group.

The women rallied around the Amazon. She was their new leader and possible savior. They believed that she could save them!

"All right!" Wonder Woman said. "Operation escape has begun."

As the woman listened, transfixed, to Wonder Woman, Sif moved away from the group, embarrassed at her weakness.

Wonder Woman continued talking, trying to motivate them. "After I bust down the door, follow me closely. I'll deal with the guards if necessary." she said.

The women were bursting with excitement at their impending freedom.

Across the room, Sif was hating herself for being so powerless. She was hating herself for not having the strength to resist. She summoned up all her will for a desperate effort to speak up. She failed.

"Let's go!" Wonder Woman said. "Its time for you to be free!"

Back at the Godwheel:

Thor, Orion, Beta Ray Bill, Hercules, and Captain Marvel tracked the location of the Cosmic Core. It was a giant furnace. It's glowing portal was pulsing with energy and fire. The heat radiated off of it like a sun.

"The heat is more than even Hercules can bear!" the Prince of power said.

"Thou art correct, friend Hercules," Thor said. "I never thought such power existed, yet here it stands, in all its fiery majesty!"

"Maybe there's another way," Captain Marvel said. "Even though we can't go in, maybe we can damage it from the outside."

"Aye!" Thor said. "There is merit to this idea. Look yonder."

On top of the Cosmic Core, there stood something that looked like a statue of a hand, reaching for the sky.

"Mother Box says that this is the antenna that absorbs the energy of the Godwheel," Orion said.

"Then that is what we must destroy!" Thor said.

Thor immediately threw his hammer. He bounced off the antenna without doing any serious damage. "Mjolnir has been turned aside!" Thor said. "But again and again will I try, until the antenna falls!"

"Let me try!" Orion said. "I now unleash the power of the Astro-Force!"

Using his power rods, Orion tapped into a deadly force. The beams of the Astro-Force blasted the Antenna, shaking and cracking it, but still it stood.

The giant moving castles, which also serve as security, lumber menacingly toward the Earth gods.

"Hercules, come with me!" Captain Marvel yelled. "I'm going to try to hold those things off!"

"Aye, Hercules is at thy elbow," the Olympian said. "At last, a fight!"

While Hercules and Captain Marvel bought them some time, Thor and Orion continued their assault, slowly weakening the antenna. Beta Ray Bill was about to join them, when suddenly a massive backlash of energy from the Cosmic Core spit out. The energy was more than even a God could stand up to. Thor and Orion fell, unconscious. Thor's hammer returned, but without Thor to catch it, it crashed to the ground, near Beta Ray Bill's feet.

Next issue: The adventure concludes, as Thor and his allies face the masters of the Godwheel. Wonder Woman and Thundra battle terrorists to rescue the Lady Sif, and the Ursool aliens get involved!