As the boy fell, he wondered if Superman would be proud of him.
He fell through the clouds, lighting crashing all around him, the smell of electricity and ozone filling his nose. He tasted blood. His own.
He could see the lights of the city through a hole in the clouds below him, spread out across both banks of the river. Fawcett City, sprawling gently across his field of vision, rising up to welcome him. It didn’t seem to be getting any closer, but he knew that was an illusion. He knew he was falling.
Above him, he saw the giant robot, battered and smashed with the imprints of his fist in its body. No, not a robot–a mech. A giant warsuit, built to kill him. The chair was empty, the scientist having teleported away less than a minute ago.
The mech WAS going to kill him. Not in the expected way, though. With its massive metal body just above him, all the electricity was drawn to it, instead of his own body. He couldn’t call the lightning to himself. The power that made him the mightiest of mortals, that allowed him to stand amongst the gods, was beyond his reach.
All he could hear was the buffeting sound of winds crashing against his ears. Idly, he wondered if he would break the sound barrier. Would he hear the sonic boom, when it came? Would he feel it?
Batman could have done it better, he thought. Superman as well. He wished he could have gotten the mech suit clear of the city first; he hoped the space below them had been evacuated. He could have done this better. He could have saved more.
Eleven-year-old Billy Batson was going to die, and he felt he was ready for that. He closed his eyes, settling in to listen to the whistling of the wind past his ears, waiting for the impact of the ground.
The sonic boom was farther away than he had expected, and he hadn’t felt it. He opened his eyes to find the mech was gone–just clouds. Had he turned? Was he still looking at the same place? He turned, and there was the city. He looked up, and the mech was gone. Vanished.
The wind stopped. Suddenly, he was looking at a field of blue, a pair of strong limbs wrapped around his back.
“You okay there, Captain?” said the familiar voice of Superman.
Billy’s eyes traveled up to the face he knew so well, the face that adorned the posters across the walls of his room. And, suddenly, he realized that he was alive.
“I was going to die,” he sobbed. “I was so sure I was going to die.”
Superman hugged him close. “You’re okay, Billy,” he said. “You’re alive. We look after our own.”
Billy cried into Superman’s chest.
“You can call us if you need us, you know,” Superman murmured. “Justice League watches each other’s backs.”
“I didn’t want to be a bother…” Billy said.
“Don’t worry about me,” Superman said. “Superman is always on call. You need me, I’m there.” He looked down at the city below them. “You got the mech clear of urban areas before you started fighting? That’s good work.”
“Thanks,” Billy said. He pushed himself away from Superman’s chest. “SHAZAM!” he screamed, and in an instant, lightning enveloped his body, and eleven-year-old Billy Batson was replaced with the muscular, semi-adult form of Captain Marvel.
“You okay on your own?” Superman said.
“Yeah,” Marvel replied. “I can handle the cleanup.”
“Okay,” Superman said with a jaunty salute. “I’m proud of you.” He blurred, and then was gone.
Captain Marvel hung in the air above Fawcett City, grinning widely. He’d won, he’d survived. Superman was proud of him.
It had been a good day.