The heroes found themselves over Vietnam, but this time their pursuit of the craft that had taken the woman from Planetary Plaza had been far more effective. They spotted the ship itself as it began to release several odd beings.
“In addition to Yureyu and the Seventh Samurai,” said Hikari, “I see two other costumed beings!”
She indicated a tall and almost inhumanly gaunt being of silver and white, who seemed to possess the unchanging or carved features of a doll or puppet below his white-plumed head. Next to him stood a woman of Asian origin with a black silk costume that covered her from head to toe. Her hooded face revealed no expression, nor was any means of seeing visible in the solid silk mask.
The four villains were charging toward a building near a large coffee plantation. While the facilities of the actual plantation were modern and almost glistened in the light, the building on the same property was ancient and had clearly been allowed to retain its traditional character.
“That’s a temple of some type, although I’m hard-pressed to identify the exact nature of the place,” said Rising Sun. “I pride myself on being well-versed on world religions, and yet this one baffles me.”
“I am equally puzzled,” said Thunderlord. “While linguistics is my chosen field of study, I once worked with a leading scholar who had great knowledge of such matters. I cannot say I ever saw its like in any book he possessed, and I often browsed through his collection.”
“These terrible people have no shame!” cried Sora. “They plunder from religious sites as well as from more worldly ones!”
“I believe they are waiting on us,” said Hikari. “Clearly, they spotted our arrival. I suppose we should finish this quest once and for all.” The golden woman glowed brighter as she led the others downward toward the four villains.
The ever-boastful Seventh Samurai grinned and said, “Well, we were delayed long enough for our trail to be discovered. No matter. I relish ending the conflict by any means at hand!”
Yureyu nodded and said, “As the mistress wishes, so do we obey!” He raised his hands and released a vibratory force that tore into the heroes until Hikari’s light-based buffer offered them shielding, allowing them to regroup and prepare to descend again.
Before the villains could resume their attack, the golden beauty was in their midst, and her brilliant light bursts exploded with terrible effect. Doltish thugs! thought Hikari. They never bothered to do more than just lash out with furious force. They little suspected the Hikari in the sky was but a light-based hologram. I circled around to get behind them while they were so occupied. She spun around and struck the Samurai with a beam of solid light that carried him away from the others even as he replicated into multiple entities.
Sora dropped down to face the woman in black silk. “Surrender!” she cried. “We are unstoppable!”
The silent woman merely reached out one gloved hand and caressed the girl’s cheek. Instantly, waves of solid darkness gripped Sora’s body from all sides, and she found herself blinded by the other woman’s smothering shadows.
“Tsukiyomi has left the little one blind and helpless!” said the Seventh Samurai with a grating laugh.
Sora began to panic as she lashed out helplessly in the darkness. She could not see, and she felt her heart race as the thought of living in perpetual darkness occurred to her. Hikari’s own glow was of no help, since the darkness projected by Tsukiyomi, whose name meant Nightfall, seemed to defy outside light sources.
Meanwhile, Thunderlord and Rising Sun were facing the odd pair of the doll-like being and the brutish Yureyu.
Rising Sun frowned as the gaunt acrobatic villain flipped through the air, nimbly dodging his own solar blasts. He is a skilled and agile foe, he thought as he released heat bursts in a widening pattern. However, what precision cannot accomplish may yet be achieved by a wider display of power!
He then gasped in pain as the silent being marched directly through one sun burst to clutch his throat in a grip of steel. Super-strong! Resistant to heat! thought Rising Sun as he grappled helplessly with the bizarrely formed being.
Thunderlord faced down the much larger Yureyu as the very earth shook from the villain’s vibrations. Perhaps I may match his force with my own sonic power, he thought. Standing his ground, he screamed until the sonic force swept Yureyu off his own feet. However, the villain merely stood up again, and the battle resumed. Perhaps they were too evenly matched.
Hikari had been successful in her own efforts to pin down Samurai and his doubles. They lacked her superhuman speed, and she truly had little trouble in dispatching the villain with a series of light bursts. Before she could help her friends, she spotted an item that had fallen from Seventh Samurai’s costume.
A belt? she thought. This is not part of his costume, nor did it come from any lab. The delicacy of its design and the script on its interior mark it as being a relic from an earlier era. They took it from the temple!
She frowned as she spotted two still bodies within the doorway of the odd temple. Two young men were sprawled across the entrance. One wore orange, while the other, bigger youth wore a costume of blue and purple. Both of their costumes consisted of hoods and tunics over more standard leotards.
Hikari nodded in approval as they began to stir. They must have been guarding the temple, she thought. I suppose they are the ones who delayed the thieves enough for us to catch up with them!
Outside the temple, the battle raged on as Rising Sun drew upon his flight power to soar into the sky. The puppet-like attacker clung to him with an unemotional but relentless efficiency. “What are you?” gasped Rising Sun.
“I am designated Bunraku,” replied the white-faced being in a mechanical tone.
Rising Sun continued his climb into the sky as he realized his foe’s true nature. Bunraku — puppet? He is an automaton of some kind, he thought as he stopped his climb and hurled himself back down to the ground. That is why he can resist temperature extremes with ease. Still, even a foe who does not need to breathe may meet with discomfort under the right conditions. He managed to dislodge Bunraku long enough to regain his composure.
By that time, Thunderlord was avoiding the vibratory blasts of Yureyu by using his voice to propel himself across the terrain. He knew light and normal sound apparently could not penetrate the darkness that covered Sora, but he had a hunch his own super-amplified vocal chord might be successful in doing so. “Sora, swing in my direction!” he cried.
Within the terrible cloud of inky blackness, Sora did hear his voice, and she lunged in that direction with stunning impact as her super-strong body crashed directly into the silk-clad Tsukiyomi.
The woman in black collapsed and did not rise up again. The darkness faded away as Sora sighed with relief and then darted forward to tackle Yureyu before he could reach Thunderlord. She slammed his head against the ground and then hurled him into the air. He tried to cushion his descent, but her attack had been so fast and so powerful that his own recovery was too slow. He landed hard and groaned in pain.
“That was fun!” laughed Sora.
Thunderlord smiled benignly and said, “I am gratified that I was able to guide you through that field of night.”
Nearby, Rising Sun and Bunraku were still engaged in battle as the robotic acrobat continued to ignore the solar sentinel’s best attacks.
Hikari whirled around to see the battle and took immediate action. As a beam of light, she sailed inside the robot and then solidified enough to shatter his circuitry.
“You didn’t kill him, did you?” gasped Sora.
“No,” said Hikari. “He was never truly alive. He is a robot.”
As the men from the temple regained their own senses and drew closer, introductions were made. The bigger youth said, “I am Thunder. My brother is Lightning. We appreciate your timely assistance!” Lightning nodded and said nothing.
“I have heard of you two,” said Hikari. “You spent some time at the California branch of STAR Labs. Colleagues of mine referred to you once.”
“I take it you boys are Vietnam’s native heroes?” asked Rising Sun.
“Correct, although we have not been home for very long,” said Lightning. “Our travels took us across the globe. Our homecoming was rudely interrupted by these felons.”
“What is that temple?” asked Thunderlord.
“I do not know,” said Thunder. “It has been here for many centuries or longer. We only happened to be here when it was invaded because bandits have been extorting money from the plantation owners. We were protecting them when we saw the odd craft arrive. It startled us for a number of reasons.”
He did not explain that the flying ship had brought back painful memories of their own deceased alien father, who had found only pain and enslavement during his time as a castaway on Earth. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Thunder and Lightning,” The New Teen Titans #32 (June, 1983) and “Feedback,” The New Teen Titans #36 (November, 1983).]
“The temple is untouched by the locals out of respect,” added Lightning. “I don’t know if its original purpose is known, even to them. Much of Vietnam is not what it once was or was ever intended to be.”
“This belt was possibly their goal,” said Hikari. “I think one of them dropped it.”
As Rising Sun looked directly up at the ship, he cried out, “The ship is attacking!” But his words fell on deaf ears, as an energy blast left all of them stunned.
A tractor beam gathered the fallen heroes, villains, and the belt, and in seconds, the ship with its new prisoners and treasures had departed.
A weary pilot turned to his mistress and asked, “What are your orders?”
She smiled with pleasure and said, “It is time to achieve my ultimate goal. Take us to Agolea!”