The Stormbirds and Dr. Lambda in: The Bigger They Are...

(Creative Consultant: George Vincent)

May 23, 1944

Get Together with Good Friends 

"Krista, great to see you again!" Sandy Trask, a.k.a. Rain Bird, greeted her friend with a big hug. Sandy and her husband Ray Trask, a.k.a. Thunderbird, had joined the Alliance of Mystery Heroes shortly before Krista retired as Lady Lambda, and Ray, Sandy, Krista and Ned Quest, Krista's husband, had quickly become great friends. "I'll bet it was your idea to invite us over after the monthly meeting; it's not the kind of thing Ned would ever think of by himself."

"Don't be so sure! Ned's come up with some pretty nifty ideas since we've been married." Krista smiled impishly at her friend. "And we have plenty of room. I can't wait to show you our new place!" The Quests had just moved into the palatial mansion which Fanny Hough, the recently-deceased famous Shakespearean actress, had left them in her will, and didn't really know what to do with such a big house. So they entertained a lot.

Krista had offered to put the Trasks up for the night if they'd stop for dinner and some board games. The three mystery heroes had used an Alliance of Mystery Heroes four-seat jet to make the short hop from their Delmarva Peninsula HQ to Marble City, and they'd left the plane in a rented hanger at the Compass Cove Airport just outside of town. Rain Bird and Thunderbird would pick it up tomorrow morning and head back to their home city of Buffalo, New York.

Over a game of Tactics, the conversation turned to their secret identities as mystery heroes.

"How about Lady Lambda coming out of retirement, Kris?" Sandy asked eagerly. "It'd be great to see you at Alliance meetings again. Ky, Mina, and I could use a fourth for bridge when the boys start talking sports." KyLynn McKenna, the Red Lynx, and Mina Olin, Flux, were the other distaff members of the AMH.

"No, I'm perfectly happy just as Kris," she replied easily. "Sometimes I still like to get out and fly when nobody can see, of course! In fact, we've been thinking of taking a camping trip into the Rocky Mountains. Maybe you guys would be interested in joining us?"

"That should be fun!" Sandy replied enthusiastically. "If we flew in, I'll bet we could find places that no person has ever seen before."

"I've always wondered how you guys become mystery heroes in the first place?" Ray asked curiously. So Ned and Krista told the stories of their origins, which are recounted earlier in this book.

"A giant alien lizard-wolf?" Sandy was astonished. "That's pretty unbelievable!"

Origin of the Stormbirds

"I think a couple of human beings who can sprout wings and fly is pretty unbelievable myself," Krista responded. "How'd that come about?"

"You'd need to know the Onöndowága language for the whole story, but we'll do the best we can." Sandy replied earnestly. "Ray and I are members of the Onöndowága Indian tribe, better known as the Seneca. We grew up on a reservation in central New York. Both of our families are concerned about new generations forgetting our traditions, so we were brought up to be respectful and very curious about the past. Ray's a history professor and I'm an archeologist, and we're trying to write the definitive history of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, also known as the Confederacy of Five Nations."

"Isn't that Iroquois?" Ned wanted to know. "Your names don't sound Howdenoswanee — sorry if I didn't say that right!"

Ray winced at Ned's pronunciation. "Ray and Sandy Trask are our 'white man's society' names," he replied solemnly. "As fellow warriors, you may know our true names. I am 'Fighting Eagle' and Sandy is 'Dances on the Wind'."

Ned and Krista felt proud and honored; they knew enough about the Haudenosaunee to know that true names are not lightly revealed to outsiders.

"'Iroquois' is not our name for ourselves, incidentally; it was hung on us by the French, and we don't prefer it, but yes, that's another name for the Haudenosaunee," Fighting Eagle continued. "Dreams are a very important part of Haudenosaunee life and belief, and a few months ago, Dances on the Wind and I both had the same dream. In the dream, we were dancing together in a False Face ceremony, and Keneun, the Chief of the Thunderbirds, appeared to us and directed us to meet him at a secret place sacred to the Onöndowága. In our society, you never ignore your dreams; so when we woke up, we packed our False Face 'masks' and headed off into the woods."

"Hold on, what's a False Face mask?" Kris asked.

Dances on the Wind looked at Fighting Eagle, who nodded. "The False Face Society is a spiritual group which communes with the spirits," she explained, "usually to ask them to help heal someone, and sometimes to ask for other kinds of help. The 'mask' isn't really a mask, but English doesn't have a better term. In truth, it is a living representation of the powerful spirit best known as 'Grandfather'."

Fighting Eagle continued their story. "We reached the sacred place, and performed an ancient and sacred False Face ritual, and Keneun, the Chief of the Thunderbirds, made himself visible and flew down from the sky to greet us. He appeared as a giant golden eagle, as large as a house, lighting flashing from his eyes and thunder the sound of his beating wings! We prostrated ourselves before him, but he bade us to rise and speak with him as equals."

"Today, great evil walks the Earth, threatening not only the Haudenosaunee but all the children of the Great Spirit," Keneun said to his petitioners, gentling his giant voice so as not to deafen them. "The Great Spirit has asked me to grant the power of the Thunderbirds to two worthy members of the Haudenosaunee, to assist in the ongoing battle against evil: and I have chosen the two of you."

"But we are not worthy!" the two supplicants cried out, in awe and fear of the great power being offered them.

"It is precisely due to your doubts that are you to be entrusted with this power," Keneun replied, calming them, "as your humility will not allow you to forget the great responsibility you now bear."

Two leather vests, covered thickly with feathers of every size and color, appeared in his hands. "The time for the Thunderbird clan to walk the Earth has passed, yet their power is needed again. So they have offered these, children of the Haudenosaunee, made for you from two of their legendary Cloaks of Feathers. This power is yours, as long as it is not abused."

And so the mortals took the vests, and when they donned them, they were transformed, appearing as humans with great wings, endowed with great powers. They adopted masks to conceal their true identities, and joined the ranks of mystery heroes as Thunderbird and Rain Bird.

"Together, we call ourselves 'The Storm Birds'," Dances on the Wind proudly concluded.

"Wow! That's quite a story!" Ned commented enthusiastically. "Talking face-to-face with an actual god makes an alien wolf-lizard seem pretty tame by comparison!"

"I guess it depends on your beliefs," Dances on the Wind pointed out. "We grew up knowing that the Great Spirit, Grandfather, Keneun, and the Thunderbirds are all as real as we are. I have trouble believing in aliens, myself. So that's the story of Rain Bird and Thunderbird."

"You know, this game could go on all night!" Fighting Eagle sounded tired. "Let's call it a draw and hit the hay. I have to teach freshman history tomorrow afternoon, so we should get an early start in the morning."

Attacked in Flight

The next morning, as Dr. Lambda, Thunderbird, and Rain Bird flew back to the airport, they were attacked.

"Somebody's shooting at us!" Rain Bird warned suddenly, pointing at a trail of smoke that drew a thin, straight line across the sky directly toward them from somewhere in the State Forest north of Marble City. The missile that was drawing that line was closing rapidly.

"I got it!" Dr. Lambda called, like an outfielder calling a popup. He strengthened his flight windbreak into a glowing energy shield in front of the fliers, and the missile exploded harmlessly against it. "Now, let's go see who thinks it's a good idea to attack three mystery heroes!" he yelled indignantly over his helmet radio. He reshaped the shield into a streamlined nosecone, and they raced back along the finger of smoke.

"There's two more!" Thunderbird shouted. "One's gonna miss the shield; I'll take care of it."

As the second missile exploded against the shield, Thunderbird raced towards the third, which somehow sensed his approach and started to bend its flight in his direction. It couldn't change direction quickly enough, though, and the mystery hero was easily able to dodge. When he judged it close enough, twin bolts of lightning flashed from his eyes. The instant explosion was much more powerful than he had anticipated; he was buffeted uncontrollably and probably would have crashed to the ground if Rain Bird hadn't swooped down and caught him.

"I should've let you carry me across the threshold!" he quipped.

"Maybe next time, big boy!" she threw back with a chuckle, then more seriously: "You shouldn't be so reckless, dear. What if I'm not around to bail you out next time?"

"We can't let those things fall on the city," he responded as they rejoined the waiting Dr. Lambda. "Part of the job!"

"Say, Doc, there's someone in that clearing ahead," Rain Bird warned their hovering companion.

Dr. Lambda used his Zoom vision and confirmed this. "That's miles away still! How can you see so far?"

"Eyes like a hawk!" Thunderbird laughed. "Comes with the wings."

Painful Rebirth

The three accelerated towards the clearing; as they came closer, they could see a man wearing a black form-fitting costume sitting in the clearing, with a bazooka lying on the ground next to him. He was drinking something from a bottle. When he finished, he threw the bottle away, pulled on a helmet with goggles that totally covered his head, and stood straight and tall, as if waiting for something to happen. An instant later, he collapsed; and when they landed beside him, he was writhing and moaning in severe pain. Most of what he said was either curses or incomprehensible, but they were able to make out occasional words. "Goddamned bastard…said it wouldn't hurt…" He shrieked, then groaned, "…kill that four-eyed egghead…"

"Um, guys, maybe we ought to move back. This guy is growing!" Rain Bird said in alarm.

They stepped back and stared. He was growing! He was already a foot taller and much more massive than he was when they landed, and his costume was stretching to accommodate his growth. His writhing was tearing up the ground, and when a spasm slammed his arm down, his closed fist smashed the bazooka flat. When they saw that, the heroes took to the air so he wouldn't hit them accidentally.

As the mystery man continued to grow, his pain seemed to diminish. The agonized writhing stopped when the giant reached 25 feet, and he slowly sat up. "Spit, do I feel awful," he boomed, his voice as large as the rest of him and as low-pitched as a cannon firing; it set the trees around him quivering. He rubbed his forehead with the sound of a wire brush scrubbing a rusty iron pot. "I musta gone on a helluva bender last night. Sure hope I enjoyed it." As thunderously loud as he was, he wasn't shouting or even talking loudly, just muttering to himself.

He pressed his hands against the sides of his head to keep it from throbbing, then opened his eyes. He had trouble believing what he saw. "Where da hell am I?" he blurted, and this time he shouted. The noise was like standing near a Grand Slam bomb explosion, and it knocked the flying mystery heroes tumbling, breaking branches and stripping the leaves from nearby trees. The motion of the trees seemed to jog his memory. "Well, whaddaya know?" he said more quietly. "It worked just like da Doc said it would. I'm a giant!" He looked around and saw the flying heroes, who had just barely recovered from the concussion of his shout. "Nice a you'se guys ta stick around. I figger I owe youse a lickin' for da boatload of pain I just went t'rew, an' Big Ben's a guy what always pays 'is debts!"

"Big Ben? What, all the good names were already taken?" Rain Bird mocked.

Ever Heard of Mu Meta?”

He ignored her quip and ripped up two giant fistfuls of soil, which he flung at the heroes.

Dr. Lambda protected them with a projected force field, but he was battered backwards. Thunderbird flew high and Rain Bird dove, and then they came at Big Ben like twin thunderbolts. Thunderbolts in more than name, too: their eyes flashed lightning and their wings roared thunder. The lighting struck the giant but fizzled against his insulated costume and he ignored the booming rumblings of the thunder. The Storm Birds barely evaded his furious swats as they flashed past. They zoomed away in dismay.

"HAH! Da Doc told me I'd be immune ta your feeble attacks! What about youse, hotshot?" He turned to Dr. Lambda. "Whaddaya got?"

Dr. Lambda pointed with his Solar Scepter, and a blinding flash of light appeared directly in front of the giant's eyes. He didn't even wince. "Youse tink dese goggles're just for show, worm? My turn!"

Big Ben pulled a small tree from the ground and flung it at Dr. Lambda. Though the Scepter protected him from the direct impact, the force of it hitting his shield knocked him tumbling. Before the giant could follow up on his advantage, Thunderbird and Rain Bird simultaneously slammed into his chin at top speed — and bounced off.

Big Ben barely noticed. "Coupla horseflies, dats all youse is!" he sneered at them. He began ripping branches off a larger tree, throwing them at the retreating Storm Birds.

"OK, giant, let's see how well you fly!" Dr. Lambda lifted Big Ben with the most intense magnetic field he could produce...or tried to. Even if he wasn't carrying anything made of iron, the natural iron content in his body should have been affected. It wasn't; he remained solidly planted.

"Ever hearda mu-metal, little man?" Big Ben laughed at Dr. Lambda as well. "Wove inta da costume. Pertects 'gainst magnetism, Doc said! Looks like he was right again!"

The heroes moved together, out of easy range of attack. "This guy seems to have been designed specifically to be immune to our powers," Dr. Lambda told the others.

"Brilliant, Holmes!" Thunderbird responded, winking. "It seems to be his costume protecting him; suppose we could rip it? If there were some holes in it, our lightning might be able to knock him out."

"So, we attack from the back and shred it!" Rain Bird agreed.

"And I'll try intense heat. Make sure you don't let him hit you!" Dr. Lambda cautioned his allies.

"Ice to Eskimos, Doc. Storm Birds, Away!" Rain Bird yelled.

Dr. Lambda circled around in front of the giant. He focused a high intensity heat beam on the tree Big Ben was working on, instantly vaporizing the water in the wood, and the trunk exploded in the giant's face.

"Hey, t'anks for da help, little fella! Happy ta have youse on my side!" Big Ben laughed as he pulled what was left of the trunk from the earth, bashing it a couple of times on the ground to clear the soil from the ball around the roots. Now he had a club that was almost half as long as he was.

"I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this," Lambda said to himself grimly, as he swept the focused heat beam across the giant's chest. "At this intensity, it might kill him."

He was wrong again: the giant's costume acted like a giant reflector, and the foliage in front of him withered and vaporized from the incredible heat. At the same instant, the Storm Birds slammed into his back, jolting him forward; but their razor-sharp talons failed to even scratch that costume! They flashed back into the sky, and the three once again hovered out of range.

"Guess da Alliance o' Mystery Heroes ain't so tough after all! Say goodbye ta your city, hotshots!" Big Ben turned away from the heroes and started stomping towards Marble City, walking along the major road through the park, shattering the pavement each time a tremendous foot slammed down.

The Heroes Hit Back

"Anyone got any ideas?" Thunderbird asked grimly.

"We staggered him when we hit him from behind," Rain Bird observed thoughtfully. "I'll bet we could figure out a way to knock him down. But what would we do with him then?"

"That might help!" Dr. Lambda said animatedly. "That costume shields him against heat, electricity, sound, and magnetism, but gravity and the square-cube law might still give us the win! Here's what we do."

A few minutes later, as Big Ben was approaching the south end of the National Forest, Dr. Lambda zoomed up behind him and surrounded the giant's head with a swarm of glowing white bubbles the size of beach balls. They couldn't hurt him, but the lights interfered with his vision and infuriated him. While he was distracted with trying to swat the balls away, Dr. Lambda and the Storm Birds smashed into his back like cannonballs. Big Ben staggered forward, and his legs crashed against the taut cable the heroes had earlier strung across the road. They smashed into him again, and he tripped and fell, shattering the pavement. The Solar Scepter flared brightly, with an indescribable unearthly color, as Dr. Lambda commanded it to focus gravity beneath the fallen giant.

"The square cube law states, 'When an object undergoes a proportional increase in size, its new volume, and therefore its weight, is proportional to the cube of the multiplier; but strength, which depends on leverage, only goes up as the square'." Dr. Lambda's tone was dry and pedantic, like a lecturer teaching freshman physics. "Big Ben must weigh tons; if I can double the pull of gravity under him, I'm betting he won't be strong enough to stand up."

He won the bet. Big Ben rolled and thrashed, but all he managed to do was crush the ground and pavement around him, forming his own crater.

"Not so tough now, are you?" Dr. Lambda observed.

"Let me go!" the giant gasped. "I'll kill youse puny fleas!"

"A good reason not to let you go, I'd say." But Dr. Lambda was nervous; he was starting to realize that he was as trapped as Big Ben. Nobody can get near him without being caught in the enhanced gravity, but we can't just let him go. And the Scepter can't sustain this level of power draw for very long. Maybe he'll fall for a bluff?

"Hey, Big Ben! I'm gonna have to crank up your weight until you pass out, but that'll be painful as hell for you and it might break your ribs or your back. Still, I'm willing to do it...unless you surrender. Your choice." Smiling grimly, the Dynamic Doctor tightened the focus long enough for the giant to feel the increased weight of five full gravities, then returned gravity to two gees.

"AIEEEE!" the downed behemoth screamed. "That hurt! I give up! Don't do dat again!" He immediately started to shrink, so Dr. Lambda returned gravity to normal. Even so, Big Ben let out an agonized scream that tore at everyone's hearts for about two seconds; then, mercifully for everyone, he passed out. He continued shrinking, but stopped before he reached normal size, remaining at about nine feet tall.

Seconds later, a truck carrying a dozen heavily-armed police officers arrived, and they took it from there. A short time later, the AMH jet finally left the Marble City Airport, and the Storm Birds headed for home.

At the next Alliance meeting, Dr. Lambda filled in the details for his teammates. "Big Ben hasn't been able to change size since then; he seems to be stuck at a hair over nine feet. He's still as strong as Hercules, but without his costume, they can handle him at the new prison — the one the Volunteer helped design just for mystery villains."

"I've been talking to him a bit, trying to get him to go straight and join the Army. Can you imagine what a great soldier he'd make?" the Volunteer spoke up. He always saw the best in everyone.

"What he'd make is a better target," Thunderbird said flatly. "I wouldn't want him in my squad."

Dr. Lambda quickly jumped back into the conversation, in order to cut off any potential arguments. "Ben says he got his costume and the growing potion from some fellow named Dr. Daytona. The FBI already has a file on this Daytona character; he was involved with another mystery villain named the Oculist in Ohio last year. They say he's even crazier than Dr. Disaster! He promised both villains that his potions would be painless and work perfectly, but in both cases, these users went through terrible agony — and were left with devastating side effects. But the FBI hasn't had any luck finding him."

"And you and Kris want us to join you guys on vacation?" Thunderbird asked with a grin. "Whaddya you think, we're nuts? We'd probably get jumped by new mystery villains called Tiny Tim, Hot Stuff and Adam Baum."

"Honey, don't give Daytona any new ideas!" Sandy admonished her husband, and thus got in the last word... at least in this story.