Authors: Otto Binder
“Timber!” yelled Cap, and they all scurried back, as the towering machine began to sway and slowly topple. It crashed full length with a resounding thud that shook the whole mountain. Electric discharges flashed through the wreckage.
“I guess the stinging party is over,” sang out the Wasp, flitting down under the edge of Karzz’s force-shell and rejoining the Avengers. “Good work, boys. No more supermagnetic force is pulling that giant comet toward earth.”
“No, but it doesn’t matter…now,” snarled Karzz, approaching and rubbing the bumps the Wasp had raised on his face with her stinger. “I neglected to inform you that my ultramagnet needed only ten more minutes of operation since you arrived, to pull the comet into an
collision course with earth, at top speed.”
He grinned devilishly. “And our battle took
minutes before you wrecked it. In other words, Avengers, you failed to stop the approaching earth doom. To quote from earth’s French language…
c’est la guerre.”
The Avengers looked at each other, dismayed. Karzz had held the trump card after all.
are you here to destroy earth?” queried Captain America.
“Yes,” said Iron Man. “You boasted to me that you were Karzz the Conqueror, and spoke of the many galactic worlds that fell to you. Why are you switching from conquest to
“You may as well hear my story, since you can’t stop me anyway,” answered Karzz, his frosty eyes mocking them. “I am from your future, some five thousand years from now. Call it the seventieth century, by earth reckoning. My home world, in that future time, was in the solar system of the star you call Vega. First, as a mastermind of warfare, I conquered my own planet and people. Then, building a space war fleet, I swept out and took over all of our solar system. But even that did not satisfy me.”
He waved an arm dramatically, as if to include the universe.
“I organized an inter-galactic fleet of war rockets and drove out among the nearby stars. World after world fell before me and became part of my grand cosmic empire. At each planet it was
veni, vidi, vici.”
“I came, I saw, I conquered,” murmured Iron Man, as if he were in school.
“Alexander, Napoleon, and Hitler were pikers compared to you,” said Hawkeye. “Throw in Genghis Khan too.”
Ignoring him, the alien warlord went on. “In time, spreading out from my corner of the Milky Way, I ruled half the galaxy—a total of ten thousand inhabited worlds.”
“Ten thousand worlds?” murmured Cap in awe. It was on a scale so vast the human mind could hardly comprehend it.
“I was still young,” continued Karzz, “and my ambition was no less than conquest of the entire galaxy with its twenty thousand inhabited planets—but something blocked my plans.”
“Aha!” spoke up Hawkeye. “You ran into a world tougher than yours, with a war fleet you couldn’t lick, eh?”
spat out Karzz, his face darkening.
“This other world had a technology superior to my own. They had superscience weapons that decimated my fleet, crushed my power, and smashed my hard-won empire.”
“That world,” whispered Cap, suddenly drawing in his breath…“was it called—
The others started, in blinding insight.
Four Earth Dooms
said Karzz, like a Russian, in an intense voice. “It was your own earth of the seventieth century, five thousand years from now, that did—or will—smash my drive for galactic domination.” He glared at them with infinite hatred. “You are the ancestors of the future earthians who are destined to be my stumbling block. It is the human race alone that could stand in my way.”
“So you have come back in time merely for revenge against us?” said Cap, shaking his head. “Because our far-future descendants licked you, you’ve come to give us a bad time.”
Karzz came back sharply. “I would hardly be that trivial in my aims. Don’t you understand? If I destroy earth of the twentieth century, it will
in the seventieth century. Its powerful war fleet and titanic superweapons won’t be there to oppose me. So, when I return to the future, my conquest of the galaxy will
where it failed before.”
The Avengers stood stunned at the enormity of the concept.
protested Cap. “How can you tamper with inexorable fate that way? If earth did exist in the future and did defeat you, how can that event be wiped out? Once a thing has happened, it can’t…well, it can’t
Karzz sneered, as though he were talking to children. “Of course your primitive minds know nothing of science to come, and future discoveries about
Let me try to explain as I would to
He drew a breath and went on. “At any crossroads in history, such as the outcome of a war, two different acts of destiny can occur, naturally. If the war is won by one side, their “real’ world goes on. The other outcome, where the war is lost, is merely a branch of destiny that never really occurs.
“An ‘if’ world,” nodded Cap, “or a ‘parallel’ world.”
“But if you travel back in time,” pursued Karzz, “and
the outcome of that war, the so-called real world becomes the if world, while the if world then becomes the real one.”
“That’s double-talk, you time creep,” piped up Hawkeye. “You’re just juggling paradoxes around and coming up zero. How can something that is already real suddenly change and become unreal?”
“By the great chrono-conversion equation,” returned Karzz imperturbably, “which will be formulated—let’s see —in your earth year of 1975. It is similar to Einstein’s famous equation of converting matter into energy, and vice versa. And just as matter and energy are interchangeable, so are the ‘real’ and the ‘parallel’ worlds.”
Cap digested that staggering thought. “You mean that if you succeeded in destroying earth and wiping out the human race, here in the twentieth century, all the future events in which they took part will simply disappear out of history, as you knew it in the seventieth century?”
“Why not?” said Karzz blandly. “The
universe, in which earth is destroyed before its prime, then becomes the
Shrugging, he went on impatiently, “But
Whether you understand or care to believe is no concern of mine. The truth is that by wiping out earth today I will insure myself becoming the emperor of the Milky Way galaxy in the seventieth century.”
“Easier said than done, though,” retorted Cap. “A giant comet smashing into earth might wreck most of civilization and annihilate many millions of the human race, but there will be survivors to carry on—and to become strong again in the seventieth century.”
“The giant comet,” Karzz informed them in ominous tones, “is only the first of four world-doom catastrophes which I shall cause on earth. All four super disasters combined will make sure that not one human being remains alive on your world.
“Four dooms!” gasped the Wasp. “You heartless beast! Willing to kill—to
—three billion people! I should sting you until you cry for mercy!”
Karzz winced and stepped back a pace, but Cap said, “Forget it, Wasp. That wouldn’t stop him. The question is”—he turned to Karzz—“what are the other three dooms you plan?”
Karzz grinned maliciously, cunningly. “I would indeed be an idiot to tip my hand. And besides, it will be more agonizing for you Avengers to face unknown holocausts. However, I’ll tell you this much. The other three worldwrecking forces I’ve planned will involve fire, water, and air. Guess the rest if you can. Now I will leave Mount Everest and waft myself elsewhere on earth, to launch doom number two.
He pressed a stud on his belt and a plastic bubble materialized out of thin air and surrounded him. Lightly as a soap bubble, it then rose in the air and gathered speed.
“Follow him, Wasp,” whispered Cap. “Let us know where he goes next and what deviltry he cooks up.”
“Right, Cap,” piped Wasp, buzzing away after the receding plastic vehicle and the leering alien.
“Well, we’ve got our work cut out for us, Avengers,” said Cap, looking at his three male companions grimly.
“We save worlds every morning before breakfast,” said Hawkeye flippantly, to hide the gnawing horror within him.
“But this is even greater,” added Goliath thoughtfully. “Not only saving the world today but also saving the whole galaxy and twenty thousand other worlds in the future.”
They stared solemnly at each other, and even Hawkeye couldn’t think of a wisecrack for that.
Following the plastic bubble, the Wasp expected a long journey ahead but, surprisingly, Karzz turned downward and landed in a valley. Stepping out, he unhooked a small microphone from his belt and spoke into it.
“Calling the future,” he said casually, as if putting through a phone call. But the Wasp, overhearing, realized he was not merely calling someone thousands of miles away but thousands of
“Attention, my faithful aides,” continued Karzz. “You sent me the ultramagnet, which did its work nobly. Now I want you to send the three other machines to the twentieth century, launching three more earth dooms simultaneously.”
He paused to unroll a map that had been folded in his belt, then resumed. “Send the Infrared Beamer to the Antarctic, on your map of ancient earth, at the spot marked X. Have the Vulcan Machine materialize on that marked island in the South Pacific.”
Wasp wondered, suddenly, why an alien should be using an earthly language instead of his own native tongue. But then she realized, listening carefully, that there was no voice at all. He was in reality beaming telepathic waves into his future-phone. Thought-words, of course, were universal, understood by any intelligent mind. That was why the Wasp could eavesdrop on the alien.
“Last,” Karzz was saying, “transport the Storm Satellite Launcher to the Sahara Desert location marked on your map.”
Grim curiosity tantalized the listening insect-girl.
Infrared Beamer…Vulcan Machine…Storm Satellite!
How would those three superscience devices from the future create havoc on earth? Would it be something even more devastating than the ultramagnet pulling down a giant comet to strike earth?
Sitting inside a buttercup flower near Karzz, the Wasp waited to hear more. “As you know,” came from the alien, “the Infrared Beamer will be used to—’
But his words were drowned out by a large buzz and a huge bumblebee came soaring straight toward the flower, evidently seeking its sweet nectar. The Wasp didn’t want to tangle with an insect much bigger than she was, and she flew away to light on the next flower. But the angry bumblebee zoomed after her, obviously considering this patch of blossoms his private territory, from which to drive out all other poaching creatures.
As the buzzing bully put on speed in chasing her, the Wasp realized she couldn’t escape his enormous stinger, which would sooner or later jab her through and through like a spear.
“I’ll fix you,” she thought, willing herself to grow. Seconds later, back to normal size, she swung the fiat of her hand and knocked the surprised bumblebee back into some prickly weeds. “That for you, bumble-bug,” she thought triumphantly.
She had been intent on this insect-world skirmish, but suddenly she noticed two frosty blue eyes turning her way, startled at this abrupt appearance of a full-grown woman out of thin air. She was now exposed to Karzz!
“The Wasp girl of the Avengers,” he hissed. “How much have you heard? Well, you won’t hear any more….” He was already pressing his belt-stud to release a killing ray.
Desperately the Wasp threw herself full length among tall weeds. Karzz raked the green patch with his ray, converting it into blackened ashes. But no human body was there, only a tiny insect that had flitted away unnoticed.
“Whew,” thought the Wasp, “I shrank down again just in time. I’d better not hang around here any more. Karzz will be on the watch for any insect coming near him. I’ll make a bee line back to Avenger headquarters and report what I did hear.”
But it was a long way back to America for a pseudoinsect that could only fly at forty miles an hour, top speed. The Wasp darted high in the air and looked in all directions.
“Ah, an airport to the south, probably in northern India. I’ll hitch a ride there.”
And so it was that an Air India jetliner carried a tiny stowaway to Paris. From there, the Wasp transferred to an overseas plane bound for New York.
“Being an insect has its advantages,” she said to herself. “No fare to pay, and all kinds of seats—on the ceiling.”
At Avenger headquarters, to which the men had meanwhile returned via their rocketplane, they were waiting impatiently.
“If she doesn’t come back…” groaned Goliath for the tenth time, but they all forgave him. Suddenly, all of them turned in unison, as an insect buzzed through a window purposely left open, and began enlarging in mid-air, to land on her feet as a full-sized girl.
“Nice two-point landing, eh?” she said with a smile.
“Skip the p-l-a-n-e talk,” said Hawkeye, “and give us p-l-a-i-n talk. Did you overhear any plans of Karzz the Conqueror?”
“Yes, some,” the Wasp answered, and she recited her story. When she was through, Captain America banged his fist against the wall, cracking off plaster.
“Easy, Winghead,” admonished Iron Man. “Our good friend Anthony Stark donated this hangout to the Avengers, and it costs him for repairs. Go punch Hawkeye if you have to let off steam.”
“Oh, thanks,” grunted Hawkeye.
won’t cost Stark anything—it’ll probably just cost me a handful of loose teeth.” He glowered at Iron Man, then at Cap. “What’s eating you?”
“It’s just not knowing Karzz’s full plot,” explained Cap. “All we know is that earth disasters involving water, fire, and air will occur. But how will those three machines he’s…uh…importing from the future do it?”