Hawkman and Hawkwoman: Liberty or Death, Chapter 5: Return to Thanagar

by Libbylawrence

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Hawkwoman placed one hand on George Emmett’s chest and said, “No! He’s still breathing, but it’s very faint!”

“Is there anything I can do?” asked the Atom.

“Call an ambulance!” said Hawkman. “I… wait! Something’s very wrong here!”

He placed the old man on a small bench near the doorway and pointed as the body began to contort itself dramatically, until its total appearance changed to that of a younger-looking bald man.

“Gosh — a shape-changer!” said the Atom.

“Not just any shape-changer, either,” explained Hawkman. “This man is Lahr Nair. He was part of the Byth Rok gang on Thanagar. It was his partner Byth who first led us to Earth. Byth had stolen a chemical that enabled him to change shape at will. He mainly confined his changes to various animal forms, but the capability to assume any form was always present in the chemical’s effects.”

“His hardier Thanagarian constitution must have enabled him to withstand the bolt that would have killed an Earth man,” said Hawkwoman. “Did he come to attack us as well?”

“Lahr, can you speak?” said Hawkman. “Why are you here? Where is Byth?”

Lahr Nair groaned and stared up at them with wild eyes as he whispered, “Byth is prisoner. One of many. Hyathis torments her enemies. Rul Pintar, Andar Pul — all suffer at her hands! I managed to fool her and escape. Byth told me you’d promised to help him. He said we could get you to honor debt by freeing planet from her!”

After he collapsed once more, Hawkman checked for a pulse, then said, “He’s dead.”

“Katar, what can we do?” said Hawkwoman. “He said our old friends are in peril!”

“Yes, and he mentioned his old partner Byth was as well,” said Hawkman, alias Katar Hol. “I think we have no choice. I promised Byth when he enabled us to escape from Hyathis before that I would owe him a favor. (*) He never made it here himself to call in that debt, but we’ve certainly received the message in a dramatic manner. For his sake, and for the sake of the real Thanagar, we have to go back home and liberate the planet from Hyathis and her gang of thugs!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Victory?” World’s Finest Comics #273 (November, 1981).]

“I’ll help you if you like,” said Ira. “I’d love to see another world!”

“Count me in as well!” said the Atom. “The original Atom is on a lecture tour, but I’ll be happy to fill in as your partner!”

“We can’t thank you enough, but this is a very personal matter,” said Hawkwoman. “I think we’d better not involve you more than we have already.”

***

Later, Hawkman and Hawkwoman piloted their sleek spaceship through the cosmos with their destination their home system.

“I appreciate the way Atom and Ira Quimby agreed to work with Stewart Frazier to watch over Midway City while we are away,” said Hawkman. “I.Q. may be a changed man in truth!”

“I agree,” replied Hawkwoman. “I’m touched by how many friends we’ve made since our arrival on Earth.”

Hawkman nodded and said, “I know you think we should have involved Superman again, but he and our JLA friends have enough on their minds, what with Bruce Wayne’s death, among other things.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman: Bruce Wayne: Missing and Presumed Dead, Book 1: Snowbound.]

Hawkwoman nodded sadly. “We could have used Batman’s keen mind and many skills. After all, he and Superman helped us overthrow Hyathis the first time she took over Thanagar.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Assault on Thanagar,” World’s Finest Comics #278 (April, 1982).]

“He was a good man,” Hawkman agreed. “I hate to think how many other good men may have died because we allowed Hyathis to rule this long. The invasion over the summer may have occupied us all, but defense of Earth didn’t mean I had any right to neglect the plight of my own home.”

“Katar, you are too hard on yourself, my love,” said Hawkwoman. “Hyathis had the approval of our people. War had exhausted them. She seemed like a reasonable choice to many of our people. She did vow to keep them out of the last invasion. That was a blessing in many ways.”

“I know,” said Hawkman. “There are no absolutes. Still, I should never have left her in power. Anyone would have been better than the former tyrant of Alstair.”

He adjusted a control and said, “Hold it! Something is coming up fast on our star-puter! A small object is charging directly at the ship!”

Hawkwoman made her own adjustments to the star-puter and said, “By Polaris, you’re right! It’s too small to be a ship. It’s a flying humanoid!”

The ship rocked as a costumed being smashed into the side with superhuman power.

“I’ve activated deflector shields, but our visitor is pounding his way right through them!” said Hawkman.

“I’m trying to get his image on monitor,” said Hawkwoman. “I’ve almost got him! No! How can it be?” she cried.

Looking at the blue-and-gold-costumed man on the screen, Hawkman said, “It is! We’re under attack by the Shrike!

Hawkman shook his head in concern as he saw the attacker break through various airlocks and enter the main hold of the ship. He knew each airlock had sealed seconds after being opened, and he had no worries about the damage to the ship. It was remarkably well-made, and the Shrike had not truly damaged it, since the force of his blows had merely activated the openings.

However, the winged wonder was concerned about the identity of their attacker. “It was bad enough when we learned that Corla had been sending our old foes against us, but now we’re being attacked by an old friend!” he said.

“Katar, anyone could wear a Shrike costume, but I doubt anyone could match his superhuman strength so easily,” said Hawkwoman.

Hawkman nodded and said, “Well, if Toros Tos of Moronon has gone bad, then I’ll have to subdue him. Our former friendship will make it harder, but it won’t prevent me from doing the right thing.” He flew forward as Hawkwoman set the autopilot feature and hurried after him.

We first met the Shrike when he was fighting a misguided crusade for the Native American tribe that had raised him since infancy, when his alien ship crashed on Earth, she thought. We helped him learn his true origin and regain the throne of his home planet. He was appreciative and vowed to support us should we ever need his help. (*) What has changed those feelings to such vindictive and explosive rage?

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Shrike Strikes at Night,” Hawkman #11 (December, 1965-January, 1966).]

Hawkman had already closed with the Shrike and was rapidly losing his position to the other man’s greater size and strength. “Toros Tos, why are you trying to harm us? What madness has clouded your mind?” he asked as he was slowly pushed down and pinned against a wall. The Shrike made no reply. He merely exerted his super-strength and continued to crush the hero.

Hawkwoman removed a photon lance from a hull cabinet and swiftly aimed a blast at the rogue hero’s torso. The energy struck him with perfect accuracy, and he grunted in pain. He turned to face her, and Hawkman belted him with all of his own strength. The Shrike staggered backward, and Hawkwoman fired again. He reeled off his feet, and Hawkman spun him around to connect again with another punch.

The Shrike slapped Hawkman across the room and then shattered the lance into broken shards of metal before Hawkwoman could do more than whirl around and shield herself from the brunt of the blast with her wings. When the air cleared, the Shrike was down but not out. He was clawing the deck with super-strong hands and pulling himself back up again.

Hawkman raced forward and signaled Hawkwoman to join him. She danced by the Shrike and reached her husband’s side in time to help him lift and move an open cabinet forward until it swept the Shrike off his feet and into its confines.

Hawkwoman slammed the door, and as the stasis chamber put the alien into a state of suspended animation, the ravishing redhead sighed with relief. “By Polaris!” she said. “He almost had us both! I never knew he was that powerful!”

“It was a close call,” agreed Hawkman. “Still, for all his brute force, did you notice how sluggish he was? He was not using super-speed. He was almost like a man in a trance! I think he was unaware of what he was doing. He never spoke to us.”

“With his helmet on, I couldn’t tell if his eyes were glassy or not,” said Hawkwoman.

“This is getting stranger by the minute,” said Hawkman. “Corla was cut off from Thanagar by her own admission. She assembled those goons to attack us, because she thought killing us would help her curry favor with the current regime on Thanagar. When Lahr told us that our friends and Byth were in peril, we decided to try to liberate Thanagar. That decision was a sudden one. How could Hyathis have known we were coming in time to send a maddened Shrike to intercept us?”

“Simple,” said Hawkwoman. “She let Lahr escape. She knew of our debt of honor to Byth. She wants us to come and is laying a trap for us. Shrike was just one danger we’re going to have to face before reaching home. If he was under her control, then she might have instilled some command within his mind that would not have allowed him to kill us. She’s playing games with us!”

“I have news for her,” said Hawkman. “She can play all she wants, but she won’t win!”

***

Later, the winged wonders landed their ship on a small planetoid called Marrakor. It was the closest celestial body to Thanagar, and from this vantage point the heroes prepared to try a desperate ploy.

“The Absorbascon is ready,” said Hawkwoman. “Perhaps, by using it, we’ll be able to learn all that has happened to our home since we last left Thanagar.”

“Not we,” said Hawkman, “just me. I want you to stand by while I use it. I suspect Hyathis is cunning enough to prepare for such an eventuality. She may not be Thanagarian, but she is more than capable of adapting its technology for her own uses. She might be prepared to stop an electronic brain scanning.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t even try to use it,” said Hawkwoman. “Who knows what damage it could cause?”

Hawkman smiled at her and took her hand in his own. He drew her into his arms, where she kissed him tenderly and then rested her face against his chest. “I have to try. Don’t worry. After all, I’ve got the best partner a man could want watching out for me.”

“You know I’d die for you,” she said.

“That drastic measure won’t be necessary.” Hawkman slipped off his helmet and carefully wired himself to the incredible machine. He adjusted a few controls and then prepared to receive the collective data from the natives of the world below.

Instead, he received an agonizing pain in his head and began to suffer from convulsions until suddenly his body grew calm, and the pain faded to reveal the face of his wife bending over him.

“–tar… Katar!” he heard, and sat up slowly as Shayera Hol held him. “What happened?” she said. “I broke connection as soon as your facial expression registered such pain!”

Hawkman nodded and stood up. “I’m fine. But Hyathis did exactly what we feared she would do. She created some type of mental barrier that shields Thanagar from such a scan. We can’t learn what is happening below through use of the electronic brain.” He added, “If she knows we’re coming, then there’s not a lot we can do about it. Still, I have an idea that might give us a chance to catch her off-guard.”

***

Later, wearing the gold and blue costume of the Shrike, Hawkman swooped down into the heart of Thanaldar with Hawkwoman swung over one shoulder.

“This is so terrible,” she whispered. “The city is totally silent. People are going about their business, but without any noise, without any animation, emotion, or expressions.”

“I know,” said Hawkman. “This is a city that has lost its very soul. The people are crushed. They have no spirit. Hyathis has much to answer for.”

He looked around and noticed that the rather odd spectacle of a costumed alien carrying a supposedly unconscious formerly celebrated heroine like a sack of potatoes was not attracting any comment or any stares.

The Hawks had planned to get into Hyathis’ tower by the simple ruse of letting Katar Hol pretend to be the returning Shrike with Shayera Hol as his helpless captive. Apparently, the ruse was entirely unnecessary, since none of the natives gave the pair a second glance. He lowered his wife to the ground and said, “No need for pretense. They aren’t just oppressed. They’re like sleepwalkers.”

Hawkwoman nodded and said, “They’re like the Shrike. They lack any will of their own. How could she have taken control of a whole world? When we last left here, she had cowed the authorities into accepting her rule in order to avoid taking part in another invasion, but this kind of enslavement goes beyond anything seen before!”

Suddenly, the skies were full of flying figures as winged gorillas appeared overhead.

“The Wingors of Illoral?” gasped Hawkman as he spotted the unmistakable flying gorillas they’d once met before. (*) “She’s enslaved that other-dimensional race as well?”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “World Where Evolution Ran Wild,” Hawkman #6 (February-March, 1965).]

One of them growled a reply as he dropped down to confront the pair. “You’re under arrest, Katar and Shayera Hol. No matter what guise you assume, you can’t hide your very thoughts!”

The Wingors closed in on the pair as Hawkman slipped out of the Shrike’s costume to reveal his own costume. A ring on his finger opened to produce his wings, which expanded upon contact with the air. They had not bothered to use the super-compression feature for their wings for years, since on Earth, they’d seldom had to rely on such concealment. However, the feature had always been an option. Their friend the Flash had used a similar method of concealment for his own costume.

As the Wingors overwhelmed the Hawks with their sheer numbers and superior strength, Hawkwoman shivered and whispered, “Katar, look at the wings! They aren’t natural extensions of their bodies as is the case with the real Wingors. Those wings are like our own artificial ones. These men and women aren’t Illorians! These are our former partners in the police force — they’ve been turned into these monsters!”

Hawkman started to reply when he was struck from behind and knew no more.

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