Hawkman and Hawkwoman: Liberty or Death, Chapter 2: A Debt Owed

by Libbylawrence

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The golem reached out one hand, and Hawkman crashed to the ground as the very air around him turned to a solid force that slammed into him.

Hawkman regained his feet immediately and began to warily circle the advancing golem. This monster has a greater control of his power than Mandrill ever did, he mused. The very pollutants in the city air would have prevented him from turning it into a weapon.

Hawkwoman launched herself at the creature, bringing both feet into its head with impressive force, but the feathered femme fatale couldn’t do more than distract the creature from her husband.

She kicked off of its body and avoided its touch until one arm extended itself wildly and wrapped around her legs like a serpent. Hawkwoman sliced through the monster’s limb with a hastily drawn dagger and shook herself free of the fallen matter. “Girls hate grabby dates,” she quipped. The arm oozed across the pavement and rejoined itself to the golem.

“Let’s see what a bit of altitude will do for our new friend’s perspective,” said Hawkman.

In perfect unison, the Hawks grabbed the beast by its arms and soared into the air until they were far above the city.

“He’s becoming sluggish! Distance from the wand, perhaps?” asked Hawkwoman.

Hawkman shook his head. “Possibly, but I suspect something a bit different. Remember, the original Mentachem responded to Mandrill’s thoughts. Distance from Matter Master may prove to be the creature’s Achilles’ heel.”

But before they could prove the theory, the Hawks were stunned by igniting air. They plunged downward with fiery sheaths threatening to engulf them.

They managed to land safely but with enough impact to leave them dazed. Thank goodness the chemical we treat our skin with prevents us from receiving immediate damage from brief contact with temperature extremes, thought Hawkwoman as she groaned and struggled to her feet.

Hawkman was already up, but he was also being charged by the golem. “That thing drifted down with ease,” he said. “I guess it used control of air to lessen its fall.”

Matter Master laughed and said, “It’s not so fun when the battle goes against you, is it?”

Hawkman punched the golem with enough strength to splatter its head, but he knew it would re-form in time. “That could have been you, Mandrill!” he yelled.

Hawkwoman took advantage of the moment to swoop down and grab Matter Master from the rear and hurl him into a nearby fountain.

The villain gasped for air and climbed out as Hawkman dived past the suddenly inactive golem and delivered a knockout punch to the villain. “As I figured, without Mandrill’s mind-controlling, the golem it becomes an inanimate object again,” he said.

“How did he ever come up with enough Mentachem to create that thing?” asked Hawkwoman.

“Good question,” said Hawkman. “We know previous efforts have led to wands that varied from one another in terms of power and effectiveness. Still, Mandrill is a chemist. He has had years to stockpile the stuff in between jail terms. I have to give him credit for an innovative use of the substance, though.”

Hawkwoman retrieved the stunned criminal’s soaking-wet hat and wrung it out in her hands before dropping on his head. “We’ll send him a Hallmark card with that very sentiment.”

As they prepared to take the villain and his inert creation into custody, the Hawks had no way of knowing that they were being watched by a ghostly figure in white.

Shayera never fails to impress me, he thought. Gal could have been queen of the demimonde in my day. Ol’ beak-face did his part, too. Man gets more somber every blessed year.

***

Meanwhile, in a laboratory at Ivy University, a brown-haired man paced restlessly as he pondered a series of equations. He could have been almost any man of science, as his movements showed all the signs of a man of intellect locked in deep thought with some weighty issue. However, one thing separated him from the typical scholar or lab technician. He paced a few inches above the floor.

Walking on air via his amazing aero-soles was but one of the remarkable feats Ira “I.Q.” Quimby could perfect due to his brilliant mind. He did not take such gifts for granted, since he knew that once he had been little more than a small-time thug with big ideas. However, exposure to a rare meteor had triggered something in his mind that allowed him to have flashes of inspiration whenever he was in direct sunlight. (*) That temporary mental enhancement eventually became permanent.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Amazing Thefts of the I.Q. Gang,” Mystery in Space #87 (November, 1963).]

With wisdom and the experience of a criminal career that consisted of multiple defeats at the hands of the Hawks, Batman, Superboy, and the Metal Men, among others, Ira Quimby had finally seen the error of his ways and had reformed.

Now he enjoyed life as a research assistant to Ray Palmer, who was both Ivy University’s best physicist and a former super-hero. He had given up the costumed life and his identity of the Atom and now mentored his younger successor to the heroic role, Adam Cray.

Ira liked Adam and appreciated the way the young man accepted him in spite of his criminal past. He also found that he enjoyed the affirmation he had started to receive from Palmer, Cray, and even Superman since he started working for the side of law and order.

Now he stopped his aerial pacing as a strange figure stepped into the room out of empty space. The old man had a regal manner, and his thick head of white hair gave him a theatrical appearance, as did his swirling, ornately detailed cape.

The figure, clutching a satchel in one hand, pointed at Quimby with the other. “I.Q.!” he said. “You have betrayed your fellow felons, and for that, you must die!”

Ira had no desire to fight the old man, so he fled into an adjoining room and locked the door behind him. He made a rapid phone call even as the intruder materialized inside the second room.

“Doors can’t hold one who can walk the paths between worlds via the power of the Cloak of Cagliostro!” declared the Fadeaway Man, for he was the intruder.

I.Q. ignored him and waited for the phone to be answered.

A young man answered and said, “Hello?”

“I need you here now!” shouted I.Q. “I’m under attack!” He dropped the phone on the table and turned to face the Fadeaway Man.

“Why are you threatening me? You and I have never met. I’ve never crossed you!” he said, stalling for time and mentally calculating the exact time down to the second, allowing a five-second margin of error, of how long it should take his friend to arrive.

The Fadeaway Man sighed and said, “I have come to believe that there must be unity among our kind. After all, our foes never fail to unite in even the most unlikely of combinations or under the most challenging of circumstances to oppose us. Thus, your betrayal of the class of adventurers who dare to live above the petty laws of society must be punished!”

He reached into his bag and removed a gleaming dagger. “The shiv of Khan will suffice,” he said. “Since it has the unique property of absorbing all blood from a victim, this will not even be messy.”

Ira backed away and prepared to walk through the air to dodge the old dolt. He smiled as he noted exactly what type of man he was facing. He is a failed academic who derives pleasure from assuming the role of a deadly criminal, he thought. In truth, he has little to offer except for the wonders he takes from that bag. Possibly, it is some alien device that contains warps into various dimensional storehouses. I doubt seriously it is real magic. He dashed up the wall and crossed the room before the Fadeaway Man could reach him.

“You merely prolong the inevitable!” cried Anton Lamont.

A tiny figure emerged from the phone receiver and drifted across the room through skilled alteration of his very mass. He wore a dark costume with a small vest that contained equally miniature tools. Quimby himself had designed the tools, and it was partially due to his genius that this new Atom, Adam Cray, could safely use shrunken devices without the same consequences shrinking inanimate objects had for the original Atom.

The Atom had responded to Ira’s plea for help without hesitation. He had changed into his costume and reduced his size until he was able to travel through the phone itself and reach the laboratory miles away from his own rented room in Pleasant Valley. He steered himself so well that he was able to deftly knock the dagger out of Lamont’s hand.

The old man reeled backward, regaining his composure long enough to whip the cloak around his own body and vanish.

“Ira, are you OK?” asked the Atom. “That was one of Hawkman’s old foes! I studied his file aboard the satellite. The Vanisher, wasnt it?”

Ira yelled, “Look out, behind you!”

The Atom shrank down again as a scalding flow of lava poured into the room, almost engulfing him.

The Fadeaway Man had reappeared on a table, and it was from the infinite folds of his cloak that the deadly lava now cascaded. “I’ll gladly finish off any friend of Hawkman’s!” he cried. “Your diminutive stature will not gain you mercy!”

“I wasn’t exactly crying uncle, you know!” said the Atom. He launched himself at the Fadeaway Man as the old man brought his cloak around and laughed madly.

The Atom vanished in the cloak and was seen no more.

The Fadeaway Man jumped off the table and stepped nimbly over the remnants of the lava to confront the cornered Ira Quimby. “Your protector is lost to you,” he declared. “He stupidly fell into my Cloak of Cagliostro and thus has been cast off into any one of an infinite array of dimensions!”

“I don’t believe it!” said Ira.

The Fadeaway Man grinned broadly and said, “Miracles are my stock in trade!” He reached down into his open satchel and said, “Now, with this next relic, I will end your life!”

He gasped as something struck his hand, and the Atom rocketed out of the bag to pummel him in the chin. Three swift punches from the Atom left the villain stunned on the floor.

Ira rushed forward and said, “Amazing! You never really entered the cloak, did you? You merely shrank down to microscopic size and hid in the fabric itself!”

The Atom smiled and said, “Correct. Then, I just moved down the rim of his bag and, at an increased mass, clocked him — if Chronos will excuse the expression!”

“Excellently done, lad,” said Ira. “Thank you, Atom.”

“Glad I could help,” said the Atom. “So what brings a Hawkman foe to our neck of the woods?”

“I was approached by a rather sensational woman,” explained I.Q. “She asked me to join her in a criminal gathering, saying no more about it than that, and I refused. I admit I rather regretted it, since I could have infiltrated her group and alerted you after the fact had I not been so abrupt with her. I didn’t want any part of that life, and so I was a bit emotional in my reaction to her offer.”

“This gathering could spell real trouble,” said the Atom. “I think you’d better tell me everything she said while I turn Fadeaway Man in to the police.”

Ira swallowed hard and then said, “I will — and, Atom, if I may, I’d like to assist you. I owe Hawkman a debt. The woman was from his world, and she clearly plans something dire for him. If it is not too late, I’d like to help you both.”

The Atom nodded and listened to Ira Quimby’s story.

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