When Hawkman opened his eyes, he found himself bound tightly on the highly polished floor of a room he knew rather well. This is the reception room of the Tower of Rhon Du, he thought. It figures that Hyathis would claim the residence of the High Mor for her base.
Katar Hol noticed the dignity of the ceremonial room had been replaced by a rather gaudy barbaric splendor. Hyathis fancies herself a warrior queen, he thought. I suppose we’re fortunate that she hasn’t lined the walls with the skulls of her enemies.
He had already detected Shayera Hol’s perfume, and he sighed with relief as he saw that his wife was unhurt but similarly bound.
“Katar!” she cried as he sat up, and she hurried to his side.
“I’m fine, if a bit embarrassed that they caught us so easily,” he said. “Are you OK?”
“Yes,” said Hawkwoman. “Katar, it’s worse than we thought! She’s somehow devolved the other police officers into Thanagarian versions of the Wingors. They patrol the city for her!”
A shrill laugh echoed through the room as Hyathis herself entered, flanked by two burly gorillas with wing harnesses on their backs. She was tall, with golden skin and long, flowing purple locks of hair that moved with serpentine motions as she walked. She wore a robe of pale pink with matching boots, and sparkling jewels glittered from her arms, ears, and throat.
“She’s plundered the Gem Tree itself!” gasped Hawkwoman.
“They merely carry on their former duties, but with a bit less restraint than before,” said Hyathis. “They rather like indulging their more savage impulses!”
“They serve you out of fear,” insisted Hawkman. “No doubt you figured animal-men would be easier to control.”
“Katar Hol, you are no animal, and yet you’ve proven all too easy to manipulate,” crowed Hyathis. “Leading you here for a proper elimination in front of the masses was child’s play! Or should I consider my current domain’s markedly avian predilections and call it the work of a hatchling?“
“It was bad enough when you lulled the governing class into accepting your rule in exchange for being excluded from the last invasion, but this is beyond anything you’ve pulled before,” said Hawkwoman. “You’ve turned a proud and free society into emotionless slaves!”
Hyathis smiled wickedly and said, “No need to thank me! It was my pleasure.”
“If I wasn’t bound like this, I’d get some pleasure of my own!” said Hawkwoman fiercely.
Hyathis slapped her face and said, “But you are bound. In fact, you’re trussed up like a — what is the quaint Terran phrase — a Thanksgiving turkey?” She gestured, and the two guards grabbed the Hawks and shoved them out onto a balcony. “Look! Feast your well-trained detective eyes on the city below. Order — perfect order. Can you claim that your precious High Mor ever maintained this kind of precision?”
Hawkman saw the flying gorillas, and he gasped as he spotted six Manhawks in their red and white rubber masks sailing through the skies as well. “Manhawks? You invited the worst criminal race to ever plague this world to serve you! (*) You’ve clearly robbed my people of all free will if they’re willing to accept those foul birds!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Masked Marauders of Earth,” The Brave and the Bold #43 (August-September, 1962).]
Hyathis laughed as she strolled closer to the hero. She caressed his cheek and said, “Such righteous indignation! You are ever the champion, are you not? Well, you see, I have a merciful side. You will be given freedom to vent your emotions in a proper avenue. I’m going to feature you in the gladiatorial games. You will truly entertain my loyalists, and as for the rest of the now-mindless masses, what will they care?”
“Gladiatorial games?” said Hawkman indignantly. “You’ve reduced Thanagar to the level of a barbarian nation!”
The alien dictator said, “Your race had already lost all sense of self-motivation due to the equalization plague. (*) Even when I cured them of that affliction, many never regained their former level of intellect or purpose. Your race has been left without any true leadership. Any dominant will may usurp the government. It may as well be my own will that leads this planet to achieve at least some amount of glory!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “I Have No Wings and I Must Fly,” Justice League of America #117 (April, 1975).]
“Glory?” said Hawkwoman. “You call this inhumane slavery glory?”
“Slaves?” said Hyathis. “They are more than slaves. They have will, but as I said, it is my will. Call them drones, if you prefer.” Hawkman and Hawkwoman exchanged knowing glances as her words sank in. “Take them to the arena!” screeched Hyathis.
They were hustled inside and down to the heart of the city until they reached a massive structure that was full of silent observers.
They’ve turned the Citadel of Science into a combat arena! thought Hawkwoman with horror. She saw Katar’s pale face grow grimmer as he saw the scene awaiting them. Katar’s father Paran Katar built the original Citadel. His statue was placed by the door by citizens who wished to honor his memory. How it must pain Katar to see what it has become.
Hawkman was separated from Hawkwoman as the altered police shoved her down a passageway that led underneath the arena. “Don’t give up!” he shouted to her. “We’ll win this yet!” She nodded and smiled bravely as she was pushed into the darkness of a tunnel.
“You’ll get a rest while your man fights above,” said the winged gorilla. “The women don’t go out until after the male fighters have finished.”
“Who are you?” asked Hawkwoman. “Are you one of our old friends?”
He barked out a response, revealing large, white teeth. “I only know I live to serve Hyathis! If I am ever to know my true name and nature again, then I will have to obey her to the letter of her every command.”
“No!” insisted Hawkwoman. “You’ve been changed by something I’ve had direct contact with before! The change was caused from a process using an other-dimensional device called a mutagen machine! It was created in a land called Illoral.” She placed her bound hands on the gorilla’s broad chest and said, “Please! What can be caused by a machine can be reversed by one as well! Free me and help me rescue Katar. We can change you back! For that matter, we can liberate the city and the whole planet!”
He hesitated just enough for her to see some slight remnant of his former humanity in his eyes before she was knocked sprawling to the floor of an suddenly opened cell. “Wait and rest,” he said. “You’ll need your energy.”
Hawkwoman crawled across the floor and regained her feet as the cell door slammed behind her. “I can slip out of these bonds in time if I begin to work on them.” As she rubbed the ropes against the rough edge of a chair, she blinked as her eyes became used to the darkness, and she realized that she was not alone.
A lithe female walked closer to her and deftly snapped the ropes with one fluid motion. She wore a brief purple costume that left her legs bare above matching boots. Her skin and long hair were a vivid green. “Do not fear,” she said in a lilting, almost poetic manner. “I am an ally. We have a mutual friend. Let me explain, and then we will begin to win this world back for its people.”
Hawkwoman listened eagerly as her new companion continued her story.
Meanwhile, Hawkman had been freed and shoved into the open arena. Some of the crowd roared, but most of the observers maintained a silence that seemed eerily out of place in such an environment.
Hawkman flexed his arms and regained the feeling as he stared around the arena. They really aren’t just afraid, he thought. They’re nearly mindless!
He frowned as a powerful figure in black and gold appeared on a platform high above the arena, wearing an ornately winged cowl, while his muscular arms were bare. Hyathis sat nearby on a raised dais.
“Ved? How far he’s fallen!” he said as he recognized Commander Deron Ved.
“Welcome to the daily games!” cried Hyathis. “Today, we have a rare treat for you! Katar Hol himself will fight for his life for your amusement!”
Hawkman shook his head. Ved disappointed him. He had been the most decorated and one of highest-ranking officials in the history of the police before being removed from the force for brutality and corruption. At one point, a young Katar Hol had looked up to Ved. Before his life turned so ugly, Ved had been the first officer to earn the coveted honor wings that adorned his cowl. Katar had been the second officer to gain the honor. No other officer had attained such distinction since that time. Ved must be the commander of the altered Wingmen, he thought. He regained his old post but at what cost?
“Commander Ved, please do the honors!” said Hyathis.
Deron Ved nodded and spoke in a stentorian tone of voice. “People of Thanagar, loyal subjects of Her Majesty, Hyathis the First, I bid you welcome. For your entertainment, I offer you the spectacle of Katar Hol in battle with the undefeated Thrill-Killer, Kasta!“
A man with wild eyes entered the arena. He wore the gleaming purple skin of the predatory bird known as the kasta. The bird’s mantle draped over his head like a crude hood, and he smiled coldly as he raised his fists.
Hawkman nodded in recognition. Kasta is a maniac, he thought. He is the worst killer in our planet’s history. For that matter, he was the first Thanagarian to murder another in eons. After the Manhawks invasion led others to imitate their thrill thefts, it was only a matter of time before other criminal acts like murder returned to our previously utopian society. Kasta was the first, and he still relishes taking lives!
Kasta the Thrill-Killer walked toward Hawkman as the winged wonder wished he still had his wings. “We meet again, Katar Hol,” he said, referring to their first meeting during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, when Hawkman and Superman defeated him. (*) “I’ve longed for the chance to drain your very blood from your veins!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Big Kill,” DC Comics Presents #95 (July, 1986).]
“Now that’s a greeting I don’t hear every day,” said Hawkman. “Kasta, you must love these sick blood sports, but then you always were a throwback to the nearly forgotten Thanagar of prehistoric days.”
The two men closed in a wrestling hold, and Hawkman managed to pull free before the huntsman could initiate his preferred means of slaughter. Kasta is an energy vampire! thought Hawkman. He feeds on other people’s vital essences. He won’t be able to drain my life if he can’t touch me. He ducked under the bigger man’s grasping arms and kicked him in the stomach.
Kasta grinned and said, “I felt that! Most of the fools brought in to die here offer me little sport at all!”
“Well, I’ll do my best to keep you entertained!” said Hawkman, jabbing out with a punch that drew blood. He managed to deliver a second blow that drove Kasta back for a moment. Kasta dived at Hawkman and brought him crashing to the ground.
Hawkman felt the other man’s fingers raking at his eyes, and as he blocked a chokehold, he shuddered as he felt the energy-drain begin. He’s feeding! he thought. I have to break the connection!
He raised his legs and brought them up, then straightened them suddenly so that Kasta was knocked off of his body. Hawkman rolled aside and tackled the killer. Got to knock him cold before he can start that energy-leeching trick again, he thought, linking his fists and bringing them down on Kasta again and again.
Kasta grunted in pain but continued to fight. “You fight well!” he said. “Rumor had it that you had become soft on Earth. I am pleased that the lies were nothing more than the false claims of jealous tongues.”
“I recall hearing about an Earthman named Captain Comet who beat you soundly during the invasion!” said Hawkman. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Strange Visitors, Chapter 4: World at War.]
Kasta scowled and said, “He will pay! I rotted in a cell on the prison planet because of him. I only escaped a short time ago. When I find him, he’ll suffer, but you get to die first!“
Hawkman rammed his knee into Kasta’s stomach, and as the killer bent forward, Hawkman removed his own helmet and brought it around over one fist to smash Kasta’s face and leave him dazed. “I have to finish this before they send in more fighters,” he said, watching warily and then diving forward to knock Kasta flat.
A few cheers rang out, but they were more in appreciation of a good fight than in any expression of sympathy for the hero.
Hyathis stood up abruptly in anger and cried, “Kill him!”