Hawkman and Hawkwoman: Liberty or Death, Chapter 4: Act of Redemption

by Libbylawrence

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The five allies arrived at the Midway City Museum in time to see the embattled police force waiting around the perimeter.

Officer Stacy Sheridan, a recent transfer from the Star City Police Department, explained the situation as Stewart Frazier and the heroes drew closer. “Shadow-Thief set off the alarms,” said the pretty blonde policewoman. “He’s inside, but we can’t touch him. We’ve even tried tear gas, but nothing seems to hurt him while he’s a shadow!”

“Well, you’ve done all you could do,” said Frazier. “Hawkman, I’ll turn things over to you.”

“Thanks,” said Hawkman. “We’re the ones he wants, anyway.” He led Hawkwoman, the Atom, and I.Q. inside, where they soon found the black-clad villain.

“Sands, your time is up!” cried Hawkman.

The Shadow-Thief cursed and said, “You again? Will nothing ever stop you?” He started to move closer and stood before them with his hands on his hips. “Do your worst,” he said. “I’m prepared for you.”

The Atom altered his size and weight via the special devices in his costume and wafted across the room toward the black figure. He frowned in consternation as his diminutive form passed through the thief without any physical contact. “Well, size doesn’t matter,” he said. “I can’t lay a glove on him!”

“Get back,” said Hawkwoman. “I’ve got something I’d like to try.” She waited for the others to step aside, then raised a crossbow and fired a strange bolt at the Shadow-Thief. As expected, it failed to harm him, but it shattered on the floor and began to emit a shrill ringing noise. “I borrowed that sonic ringer from one of Green Arrow’s trick arrows a while back,” she explained. “I figured we might get some use from it with our crossbows.”

The Shadow-Thief clutched his head and staggered forward, only to suddenly rise up and laugh loudly. “Your noise maker is nothing to me!” he gloated. “I’m not the same Shadow-Thief you fought before! My lovely ally has boosted my equipment. Sounds can’t hurt me. Gas can’t stop me!” He darted forward and said, “You once beat me by gravity. Care to try to lift this whole building?”

“You know, I could do that,” said Ira Quimby. “It would take a bit of work, but my antigravity devices could indeed suspend gravity in a localized area.”

“You always did bore me, Quimby,” said the Shadow-Thief. “Yammer on all you want. We’re going to get you for turning on your own class!”

“Shadow-Thief, it’s real simple,” stated Hawkman. “You can’t pick anything up without becoming solid enough for me to pound into the pavement!” He followed the crook around the museum, and then when the rogue lifted a small glass lid from a display, Hawkman grabbed him. But the Shadow-Thief resisted his grip and broke free by landing a punch that dropped Hawkman flat.

“By Polaris! He never had that kind of power before!” mused Hawkman as he stood up and rubbed his chin.

The Shadow-Thief hammered him again and said, “I can now make myself as dense as I wish! Feel that power and lump it!”

“A jolly poor show, old fellow! It wouldn’t play back in Merry Ol’, and it won’t work here, either!” The words came from the luminous form of the Gentleman Ghost as he materialized before them.

“Man, they’re all crawling out of the woodwork!” said the Atom.

“Jim, you aided us when last we met,” said Hawkwoman. (*) “Don’t tell me you’ve decided to join Sands and his group!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Last Rights,” Hawkman Special #1 (1986).]

The Gentleman Ghost, alias “Gentleman Jim” Craddock, bowed low in her direction and said, “You wound me! Zounds, if you don’t cut me to the bloody quick! I would never turn as much as my back on you, lovely one, so as not to lose sight of your gorgeous smile.”

“Craddock, I warn you, I’m not in the mood for your games!” said Hawkman,

The Ghost made a scolding sound with his unseen mouth and added, “I’m here to help. Remember what I told you before? I’m on the side of planet Earth. I’m going to stop the Shadow-Thief from betraying the whole human race.” He moved toward the Shadow-Thief, who watched him warily.

“You can’t scare me with your parlor tricks, Craddock,” he said. “There’s more of gravy than of grave to you!”

“Quoting one of my more distinguished countrymen, are you now?” said the Gentleman Ghost. He raised his immaculately white arm and grasped Carl Sands by the throat. “You’re too sorry a specimen to throttle, so I will content myself with thrashing you!” he said as he began to beat the Shadow-Thief with his elegantly decorated cane.

Hawkman rushed forward as the Gentleman Ghost left an all-too-solid Shadow-Thief, now bloodied on the floor. He ripped off the Dimensiometer from Sands’ costume and waved the Ghost back. “You’ve done enough!” he said. “He won’t recover for hours. How did you manage to touch him?”

“Trade secret,” said the Gentleman Ghost. “I might be willin’ to share some of the more savory bits with the missus, there, though.”

“Jim, do you know about this conspiracy against us?” asked Hawkwoman.

“‘Deed I do, ‘deed I do,” said the Ghost. “You see, I heard enough to know that one of your people — a female rebel from the last invasion — was stranded here. She was left here and forgotten about. She’s had no way of knowing that a worse pack of thugs is now in control of your old digs. See, she is desperate, and so she assembled a few of your old sparring partners and helped them improve their weapons. I told you I don’t cotton to alien invaders… except to you, Shayera.” He kissed her hand and then vanished.

“I can’t deny that he helped us, but I just don’t like that man,” said Hawkman.

“Ira, why so quiet?” asked Hawkwoman.

“I was simply attempting to formulate some rational explanation for his very existence and his powers, and I can’t do it!” said I.Q.

The Atom grinned and said, “Don’t feel bad. I know the first Atom couldn’t really solve that mystery, either.”

Hawkman ensured that the Shadow-Thief was safely in custody, and then after Frazier and the other police had departed, he turned to Ira Quimby and said, “The woman you described to me sounds like one of our employees here at the museum, but we’ve never had any idea that she was from our homeworld.”

“Coral certainly fits the description,” said Hawkwoman, referring to Coral Shilak, the artist employed by the Midway City Museum. “She is a lovely blonde with a rather severe manner. Is this the woman who tried to recruit you?” She held up a small clipping from the Midway City Globe.

Ira nodded and said, “Without a doubt that’s the woman, although as I said, she wore a rather dramatic costume and called herself Valkyrie.”

A blazing bolt of lightning rocked them as energy exploded in their midsts, and the golden-clad form of the Valkyrie flew into view.

“Coral? It is you!” gasped Hawkwoman as she saw the museum artist in full battle regalia.

“My secret is out, but it’s a release, not a defeat!” said Valkyrie. “I was sick of playing the role of your dutiful art director.” She laughed and said, “Now, for costing me my very home, die!” She raised her hands and generated another barrage of energy bolts that rained down on them.

Hawkman shoved Ira Quimby aside and said, “Get back! My wings can absorb a bit of that raw power, but the slightest touch would kill you!”

Hawkwoman swooped into the air and began to circle Valkyrie in ever-narrowing loops. “You don’t have to do this!” she said as she dodged the lethal energy bolts. “We would have helped you find a life here on Earth!”

Valkyrie tossed back her long blonde hair and laughed scornfully. “I’m not content to crawl among the worms that inhabit this backwater world!” she said.

Hawkman said, “Atom, be careful. The woman’s got incredible power in that costume!”

The Atom nodded and said, “Get me closer. Maybe I can rip out a wire or something.” He perched on Hawkman’s shoulder and waited as the winged wonder tried to draw her fire away from his wife.

Hawkwoman spun around long enough to kick Valkyrie in the face, but the current sparking around the golden-haired woman acted as a protective buffer that cushioned the kick.

“You can’t hurt me! My scientific genius has ensured that!” shrieked Valkyrie. She lunged forward and tried to grab Hawkwoman, but her attack drew up short as Hawkman gripped her around her hips and hurled her away from his wife.

He gritted his teeth as electrical energy surged through his body. Had to keep her from touching Shay! he thought.

The Atom had jumped into the air, and now as he reduced himself to microscopic size, he darted between electrical particles and began to use his miniature laser to slice away at the circuits within the golden armor worn by Valkyrie. If I hadn’t moved when I did, I would have been fried! he thought. Still, he worked quickly, and his efforts began to pay off as Valkyrie’s costume began to produce smaller amounts of energy. She noticed the loss of power and realized she had to act swiftly.

The Thanagarian villainess clenched her fists and created a massive surge of power that surrounded her body with a nimbus of energy threatening to blind those around her.

The Atom erupted out of her armor and managed to ride the air to a safe distance before he started to lose consciousness.

Hawkwoman caught him and said, “You’ll be OK, Atom!”

Hawkman had started to close in on Valkyrie when the burst filled the sky. He drew back out of necessity and looked down to see Ira Quimby walking on air and coming closer with each step.

“I’ve got a plan!” said the genius. “I had to do a bit of rapid tinkering, but this should create a desired result.”

Hawkman took the small device and nodded in understanding. He hid it within his closed hand and flew higher and higher until he had soared far above the battle. With a moment to prepare himself, he aimed his flight and dropped down like a human rocket until he was able to hurl the activated device at Valkyrie.

It struck her energy nimbus and abruptly ended her aerial attack by short-circuiting her battle armor. She screamed and plunged downward until Hawkman grabbed her stunned body and carried her to safety below.

“That was amazing!” said Hawkwoman. “You just shut her down like a bad light bulb!”

“Actually, the concept was not that far afield from your analogy,” said Ira.

The Atom groaned and sat up on Hawkwoman’s palm. “Don’t tell me, I missed the ending, right?” he said ruefully.

“You played an important part,” said Hawkwoman. “Hawkman and I owe you both a debt of thanks.”

“No,” said I.Q. “I owed myself an act of redemption and you an act of reparation for the senseless and unenlightened manner in which I tormented you both over the years when I was a criminal.”

Hawkman slowly extended his hand and shook Ira’s. “There is no need for further apologies or amends,” he said. “You’ve earned my respect… friend.”

Hawkwoman inhaled sharply as a newcomer approached the now-darkened ground of the Midway City Museum. “I don’t believe it — George Emmett!” she cried.

The white-haired old gentleman nodded as he made his way forward. He leaned on a cane but looked as dapper as ever in a blue suit and hat.

Hawkman smiled slightly as he saw their old mentor. “George, I heard you were coming in tonight,” he began.

Suddenly, before the old man could speak, a bolt of energy rocked into his body and sent him crashing to the ground.

Hawkwoman slapped Valkryie to the grass and said, “She managed to produce one final bolt!” They left the now-beaten villainess to bend over the injured frail old man.

Hawkman gently lifted the old man’s body and said, “I’m afraid he’s dead.”

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