The Bubastis Theater had been built in the early 1920s when Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb had created a national interest in all things Egyptian. Thus the theater was built on an Egyptian theme, with architecture and decor intended to resemble a pharoah’s palace. It had been resplendent in its day; now, fifteen years after it closed its doors, it was in disrepair and decay.
The seats of the theater were filled with young hoodlums in gang colors. Rival gangs from all over the city had come together to hear the words of the man they all called leader.
Tempest stood in the shadows of a balcony seat, hiding behind a curtain, watching. He had never seen so many gang-bangers in one spot in his life. They were a small army and, he knew, only a small percentage of the gang members in the city. If Jamal the Arab could truly unite them all, he would be practically unstoppable.
“Tempest,” a whispered voice behind him. The hero whirled, fists up, ready to strike. “Whoa, easy,” the voice whispered.
“Arrow!” Tempest hissed, in surprise and relief. “You changed your mind, huh?”
“I got it back,” Green Arrow said. “It was weird! While that Sands guy was talking, everything he said made sense, and I wanted to go along with him. But when I left his office, my head started to clear, like shaking off a bad hangover.”
“Huh?” Tempest asked. “You figure he was doin’ the Jedi mind-trick on you, or something?”
“Something like that,” Green Arrow acknowledged. “I’ve been a member of the JLA so long, I’ve been mind-controlled enough times to know what it feels like.”
“Dang!” Tempest exclaimed. “Wonder why he didn’t try it on me, too?”
“I figure he did, but you were immune,” Green Arrow said. “Maybe I’ve been hanging around scientific types too long, but I figure your electrically based powers create some kind of static interference that keeps his hoodoo, whatever it is, from getting through.”
“But why?” Tempest asked. “Why is he doing it, I mean? If he used mind-control on you, odds are he’s using it on the cops, too.”
“And he could use it on City Hall to get the cops whatever they want,” Green Arrow said grimly. “And obviously he’s not. That means he wants the strike.”
“You think he’s in cahoots with Jamal?” Tempest asked.
“Could be,” Green Arrow said. “But what they could hope to gain, that his own mind-control technique couldn’t get for them, I don’t know.”
The voices down below grew louder; Tempest stole a look. “Looks like we’re about to find out.”
Movement behind the curtain in front of the theater seats indicated that Jamal the Arab was about to make an appearance. The gangster realized this, too, and began cheering for him.
“One thing I don’t get, Arrow,” Tempest whispered. “If you can shake off Sands’ hoodoo once you’re out of his sight, how come the cops don’t, too?”
Green Arrow shrugged. “Like I said before, I’ve been mind-controlled a lot. Maybe I’m building up a tolerance to it.”
Before Tempest could reply to that, the curtain parted, and a man who must have been Jamal the Arab walked out. The applause was thundering; the gang-bangers even gave him a standing ovation. He was an African-American man, wearing an Arabian burnoose and dark sunglasses. He had a thin, wispy mustache and goatee, and he smiled broadly at the gangsters who had turned out to see him.
“My brothers,” he said at last, when the applause died down, “I am very pleased to see you all here tonight. Look around the room, my brothers; what do you see? I see the Wrecking Crew sitting side-by-side with the Lethal Legion, the Masters of Evil next to the Green Goblins, and the Red Skulls sharing a row with the Mandarins! Gangs who swore to kill each other on sight, coming together as brothers. And why? Because we’ve finally realized that, by killing each other, we’re playing into the Establishment’s hands! They want us fighting among ourselves, brothers, because if we worked together, they could never stand against us! And now the Establishment is fighting among themselves; their paid attack dogs are rebelling against their masters! This gives us the perfect opportunity to rise up and take what is rightfully ours! I promise you, my brothers, the city shall be ours!”
Cheers filled the dilapidated theater like thunder. “Man, look at them all!” Tempest said. “He’s sure got them dancing to his tune, don’t he, Arrow? … Arrow?” Tempest looked at his new friend and saw a glazed look in the archer’s eyes. Quickly, he placed a hand on Green Arrow’s shoulder and delivered a small charge of his power. Green Arrow’s body convulsed once. “Wha–? Oh! Tempest! Was I going under?”
“Yeah,” Tempest said. “I figured a little jolt would bring you out of it. The Jedi mind-trick again?”
“Explains how Jamal got all the gangs to work together,” Green Arrow acknowledged.
“So Jamal and Sands both have the hoodoo,” Tempest said thoughtfully. “Must mean it’s something artificial, like a gas or a machine or something.”
“Maybe… and maybe not,” Green Arrow said, eyes narrowing.
“Huh? What do you mean maybe not, Arrow?” Tempest asked. “If it’s not artificial, how can two guys have the same power?”
“What if they’re not two guys?” Arrow asked. “We saw Sands over an hour and a half ago. Plenty of time to get over here and change clothes. They could be one and the same.”
Tempest’s eyes widened, and he stared at Jamal. “Dang, Arrow, I never thought of that — but it could be! Under that bargain-basement bedsheet, and the Ray-Bans — yeah, that could be Sands!”
“Controlling the cops, to get the strike he wants,” Green Arrow observed, “and the gangs, to attack when the strike happens.”
“But what’s his angle?” Tempest asked. “Like you said, what could he get with a gang takeover that he couldn’t get with his own mind-control hoodoo?”
“I don’t know,” Green Arrow said cautiously, “but I just had a disturbing thought.”
“What’s that?” Tempest asked.
“When you stormed out of Sands’ office, you said I’d know where to find you, if I came to my senses.”
“So, if Jamal is Sands, you may have tipped him off to the fact that we knew about this meeting,” Green Arrow said.
“Smart guy,” a voice from the shadows growled. “Too smart.”
Green Arrow and Tempest whirled at the voice and found themselves face-to-face with two gang members. One wore the purple jacket and green facepaint of the Green Goblins; another wore black leathers with chains and carried the telltale crowbar of the Wrecking Crew. Both grinned like vultures.
“We found ’em first,” the Wrecking Crew member sneered. “Jamal will reward us for this!”
“Don’t count on it, turkey!” Tempest snarled, throwing a punch. The gangster tried to block the blow with his crowbar, but at the last minute Tempest pulled back his punch and swept out with his leg, knocking both of the gangster’s feet out from under him. His chin hit the floor with a loud crack. Green Arrow drove the end of his bow into the Goblin’s stomach, and his knee came up to meet the gangster’s chin as he doubled over.
“They sure fold easy,” Tempest observed.
“Yeah, but there’s two of us and about a hundred of them,” Green Arrow reminded. “And the sound of the scuffle is sure to bring more!”
“So what’s your idea?”
“We bring the fight to the source!“
Down in the main theater area, Jamal still addressed his troops.
“The strike will happen in a matter of days, my brothers,” he said enthusiastically. “When it happens, we must be ready to strike! Our first targets will be to cut off means of entrance to the city, so that help may not be summoned by the Establishment! Then–“
Suddenly, two muffled explosions burst in the midst of the theater. In a twinkling, thick clouds of choking black smoke covered the entire seating area, hiding the gangsters from view.
“What?” Jamal demanded. “What’s happening? What’s going on?”
As if in answer, two emerald arrows struck the floor close by Jamal, one on either side of him. Strong, thin cables trailed behind the arrows leading up to the balcony. Green Arrow and Tempest slid down these cables, Green Arrow by his bow, Tempest by an arrow the archer had lent him. Simultaneously they landed on the stage, flanking Jamal.
“Hah!” the gang leader snorted. “The brother is immune to my power, but you, Green Arrow, aren’t! Kill Tempest, archer, now!“
Green Arrow smirked and held up a boxing-glove arrow for Jamal’s inspection. The cover had been torn, and some of the stuffing pulled out. “You’ll have to excuse me,” he said. “I have something in my ear.”
“Now let’s see if we were right on the money,” Tempest snarled, his hand whipping out to yank the headdress and sunglasses off Jamal’s head.
“Good Lord!” Green Arrow gasped. “You?“
“Yes, me,” the man who had been Jamal the Arab and Jerry Sands snarled as he picked the false beard and mustache from his face. “When you came into my office, Green Arrow, I was afraid you would recognize me. I guess the suit threw you off.”
“What’s this, Arrow?” Tempest asked, confused. “You got history with this dude?”
Green Arrow spoke as he removed the stuffing from his ears. “His name — his real name — is Johnny Dune. He has the mutant power to make people follow his orders, just by the sound of his voice. Or he had that power, anyway. Last time we met, I thought he’d lost the power — and I thought he’d seen the light about what he’d been doing. This isn’t the first time he’s tried to start his own riot.”
“I was misguided, then,” Dune spat. “I thought I could actually change the world for the better by toppling those in power who had messed it up. And yeah, I burned out my power by screaming to stop the riot I’d started, when people started getting hurt. And I did intend then to try to change the system from within, the legal way.”
“So what happened?” Green Arrow asked. “Why all this — and when did you get your power back?”
“Why all this?” Dune laughed, humorlessly. “When I tried to get into politics, enter the mayor’s race, the fatcats controlling the political machine saw how popular I was getting, what a shot I had at the title. So they framed me on drug possession, sent me to prison, ruined me politically. My power gradually returned to me in prison; but it never got as strong as it was. I can’t make people dance to my every word, now. I have to be convincing, have to tell them what they want to hear. Then they play right along.”
“So you’re doing this for revenge?” Tempest demanded.
“Why not?” Dune snarled. “This city is too corrupt to live! So why not destroy it, before it chews up any more innocent souls like it did me?”
“Brother,” Tempest said, shaking his head, “you are one messed-up dude.”
“Uh-oh, guys,” Green Arrow said, pointing at the audience. “I think my smoke-arrows are starting to clear.”
Members of various gangs were starting to stagger out of the smoke, heading toward Dune and the heroes.
“There they are — and they’ve got Jamal!“
“Kill the pigs!”
“Relax, Arrow,” Tempest said. “I think I can handle this.”
Tempest raised his hands toward the gangs, as if in blessing. Then he fired his energy-bolts in a wide-angle blast, not hard enough to knock anyone down but strong enough to deliver a shock. The gangsters jumped and convulsed with the shock, and when it was over, they shook their heads, as if clearing cobwebs.
“Wha — where are we?”
“Where you think, fool?”‘
“Who you callin’ fool?“
“Man, what you doin’ on Goblin’s turf?”
“The Masters go where they want, chulo!”
Soon fists were flying among the gangsters. Green Arrow watched in admiration.
“Nice,” he said.
Tempest shrugged. “I figured a little jolt would bring them out of Sands’ — er, Dune’s control, same as it did you. Without his driving force, they’d much rather fight each other than us.”
“Damn heroes,” Dune muttered in disgust. “Think you’ve done good here today, don’t you? Think you’ve won!“
“Dune,” Green Arrow sighed, “you lost years ago, when you first decided the world had it out for you.”
Long minutes later, Green Arrow and Tempest watched the gagged Johnny Dune loaded into a police car, while the riot squad massed around the theater.
“Think there’s any more for us to do here?” Green Arrow asked.
“Nah,” Tempest said. “Same old, same old for the gangs. They’ll spend a night in jail and come out none the wiser.”
“You sound like an authority on the subject,” Green Arrow remarked.
“I am,” Tempest confided. “I used to be one of ’em. Grew up in a street where you had to be tough to survive. I survived; I got out. But for every one like me, there’s a couple dozen like them.”
“I hear you,” Green Arrow said. “So, Tempest, what are you going to do now? Plan to take up super-heroing again?”
“Maybe,” Tempest said. “After what I’ve seen tonight, I think I can make a bigger difference doing that than doing what I was doing. I’ve laid low, licked my wounds ’til my tongue is raw. Enough’s enough of that.”
“Well said,” Green Arrow said. “If you ever want to try out for the Justice League, let me know, OK? The last two guys I sponsored for membership didn’t work out so well, but hey, three time’s the charm, eh?”
Tempest laughed and wrung the archer’s hand. “I just might do that, archer. I just might do that.”