Red Skies Crisis Submission by longlivethebat
A large, yellow bus bearing the words “School District of Philadelphia” pulled up to a stop. The air in the doorway decompressed and the doors opened. The students stepped off the bus and onto the sidewalk, including Billy Batson and his brother Freddy Freeman, who was standing on crutches.
“Freddy,” Billy said, nudging Freddy’s shoulder. Freddy looked where he was pointing: the United States Capitol Building.
“Oh my God,” Freddy said, exasperated. He reached for his inhaler and puffed air into his mouth. “Is this what meeting Beyonce feels like?”
“For a normal person? Yeah, it would be.” Billy smirked at Freddy. The two boys joined the rest of their class for a headcount, before being lead toward the building, a couple of blocks away.
There was a crackle, and a red cloud slowly spread across the sky. Everybody looked up. “That’s weird,” Billy said. “The weatherman didn’t say it was going to be cloudy with a chance of a food coloring accident.”
“This isn’t good,” Freddy said behind a pout. Amidst the confusion, he grabbed Billy by the arm and stepped out of the group. “I was really hoping there wouldn’t be any superhero hijinks today. I was looking forward to this field trip.”
“I know, and I’m sorry, Freddy.”
“Make it up to me later?”
“You bet.” Billy smiled. “Now go, do what you need to do. You’ve got a window.”
“Right.” Freddy stepped underneath the nearest bus stop and dropped his crutches. “Shazam!” he shouted, and lightning flashed around him. Freddy Freeman was no longer there. Now, where he was standing, stood the heroic Captain Marvel. He ran past his class, briefly making eye contact with Billy, who nodded back at him, and he bounded into the sky. Once he was high enough, Captain Marvel surveyed the area. There was nothing on the ground besides confused civilians, and in the sky was only clouds. He flew above them, into the red atmosphere, searching for a cause, but he found nothing.
“Worlds will live… worlds will die,” a voice said. He looked behind him and saw a man flying in place.
“Is this you?” Captain Marvel asked, gesturing to the clouds. The man shook his head.
“Earth-858 is dying. The skies are but a sign of the doom to come. Your world needs you, Freddy, as its champion to fight in the impending Crisis,” the man said.
Freddy Freeman… I choose you as champion. Captain Marvel heard the voice so vividly in his head, recalling a memory of a time since passed. He snaps out of it. “Who are you, and how do you know my name?” he asked the man in front of him.
“My name is Mar Novu, and I am a Monitor. The multiverse is threatened. I am looking for heroes to fight to protect life itself. I have been watching you for some time. Now, I am asking you to come with me.”
Captain Marvel looked down through a hole in the clouds, at the city. I just wanted a normal field trip, he thought. Then, he remembered Billy was down there. At the same time, Billy was looking up, hoping that Freddy was okay, and counting on him to make sure the world was safe. Captain Marvel looked at the Monitor and said, “What do you need me to do?”
“Follow me,” the Monitor said, opening a portal. Captain Marvel followed him into it.
The streets of Washington, D.C. were in chaos. Students were shouting things like “He ran past us and flew away!” “He’s gone!” “He abandoned us!”
“No, he hasn’t! He’ll be back.” Billy looked up at the sky. Of course he will. He’d never abandon us. Suddenly, a wall of antimatter approached, destroying cars and buildings. The streets were filled with screams. He panicked for a moment, then collected himself. What was his next move going to be? Whatever’s going on up there, we can’t wait on him. He broke away from his class and ran toward the wall to help guide people away.
Captain Marvel stood inside the Monitor’s lair. “Please, sit down, and feel free to rest your powers,” the Monitor said. Captain Marvel nodded and took a seat in front of a large display of numerous planet Earths.
“Shazam,” he muttered under his breath, and he turned back into Freddy Freeman.
“My brother is relentlessly seeking to bring about the end of all life,” the Monitor explained. “He has brought forth a storm of anti-matter, stretching across infinite earths until none remain. Many worlds have already fallen. If we hope for any chance of survival, we must fight back now. That’s why I called on you. If you fight with us, life just might prevail.”
Freddy noticed the storm on the display moving over a wave of Earths. He stood up, holding onto his armchairs for balance, and looked at the Earths, reading their labels. Freddy watched as the storm completely consumed the world listed as Earth-858. “That’s-”
“Yes. I’m afraid it is,” the Monitor said. Freddy bowed his head in mourning.
“Sir!” a woman called from a doorway into another room. “There’s something you need to look at.”
“I’ll be right there, Lyla,” the Monitor said. His face lightened, showing for once a trace of emotion as he walked past Freddy. He put his hand on Freddy’s shoulder and said, “I’m sorry." Then he left the room.
Freddy was alone with his thoughts, and for the first time in a long time, he felt helpless. He remembered what the Monitor said to him, Your world needs you… as its champion.
The voice he had heard earlier came back into his head, and this time he didn’t stop himself from getting pulled deep into the memory of a time he found himself wandering into the unknown, through a dark cave; of a time he felt alone. Freddy Freeman… Lay your hands on my staff and say my name, so my powers may flow through you. You are all the world has. I open my heart to you, and in so doing, I choose you as champion. Say my name…
Freddy looked at his homeworld on the display, now shaded out among the rest. It needed a hero, and that hero was just a word away.