Meanwhile, Hawkwoman had been surprised to find her fellow prisoner to be friendly. The beautiful green-skinned woman introduced herself in a rather strange way.
“This one is known as Willow. Pardon me. I mean, I am Willow. Adam has tried to break me of the speech patterns so comfortable to me from my time in the other place. I am Willow. I will help you.”
“Willow?” said Hawkwoman. “I think you once encountered some of my own JLA allies. The Atom spoke of you before in glowing terms. (*) Is he the Atom you spoke of?”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Return from Forever,” Justice League of America #142 (May, 1977).]
Willow shook her head and said, “No. I refer to Adam Blake. He is my chosen one. I came here with him.”
“Adam Blake?” said Hawkwoman, her eyes becoming wide. “Captain Comet! He is a friend of mine as well! You say he brought you here? Did you become separated from him in some way and were caught by the pseudo-Wingors?”
Willow sat down on a cot, crossed her legs, and laughed in a surprisingly girlish way. “No. I allowed myself to be captured, because I knew you would be brought to me, and I could help you escape. All destiny smiles upon me!”
Hawkwoman frowned as the woman’s enigmatic manner became all too clear to her. “I won’t question how you knew, but I appreciate the offer of help,” she said.
Willow nodded as if she was a bit bored by the whole thing. “Come. We shall summon a guard, and I will dispatch him, but not in a fatal manner.”
They began to pretend to fight, and when the guard drew closer and opened the door to separate them, Willow spun around and delivered a high kick that knocked the burly gorilla backward.
Hawkwoman jumped forward and ripped a lance out of his hand, stunning him with a low-energy blast. The two women raced out of the cell and swiftly made their way down the passageway.
“I need to find Hawkman. He was being herded to the arena,” said Hawkwoman as she slipped into the wing harness and belt she had removed from the guard. She deftly adjusted her own helmet so that the cybernetic controls would align with the gear she had taken from the guard.
“Adam will retrieve Hawkman,” said Willow. “Such is his intent, and I have never known him to fail!”
Hawkwoman smiled and said, “You’re pretty sold on him. I’m glad. He’s a good man.”
“He is more than that,” said Willow. “He will guide my child into his proper destiny.”
They hurried into the street after battling past more guards. The element of surprise, Hawkwoman’s greater agility than the burly guards, and Willow’s explosive martial arts skills made the escape easier than Shayera Hol had imagined it could be. She glanced skyward as Willow calmly activated a small device on her belt.
“This will alert Adam to our location,” she said.
Earlier, Hawkman had prepared for battle as all six of the Manhawks came shrieking into view and dived at him.
He grabbed a dagger from Kasta the Thrill-Killer’s prone body and hurled it at the nearest Manhawk. The knife struck the creature a glancing blow but failed to prevent it from firing its own beam of energy at Hawkman. He dodged the first blast and managed to avoid being hit by the other circling creatures, but he knew the odds were against him. Still, he was a hero, and he would never give up.
“You shamed our race long ago when first we came to Thanagar!” cried one of the Manhawks. “Your image resides in our collective memory, and every nestling is taught to hate you!”
Suddenly, a barrage of energy beams slammed into the birds and scattered them as a small flying craft zoomed down out of the sky, and a tractor beam raised Hawkman into the ship.
He smiled in recognition as he was greeted by its pilot, a handsome, brown-haired man in a red, white, and blue costume.
“Captain Comet! Your short time in space certainly hasn’t robbed you of your knack for last-minute rescues!” he said as he shook hands with his old friend. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet: A Higher Calling.]
The mutant man of destiny smiled and said, “Katar, I trailed Kasta here. The folks on the prison planet notified me of his escape, since I was the one who turned him in to them before. I was lucky enough to spot your plight as well.”
“The Manhawks are only a small part of the troubles facing my world,” said Hawkman grimly. “Hyathis rules here, and she’s robbed the populace of their very minds.”
“Don’t worry about Shayera,” said Captain Comet. “I’m not alone. A new friend of mine named Willow went down earlier to find her. She was not only certain that Shayera would be there, but she also knew exactly how to best locate her.”
“Willow?” said Hawkman. “The Atom met her years ago. She had some mysterious cosmic awareness, or at least claimed to be one with the cosmos.”
“Exactly,” said Captain Comet. “She is a delight, but she does enjoy keeping an air of mystery about herself. You can rely upon her, though. She is an amazing fighter. She may be as skilled as Batman himself when it comes purely to martial arts! She’ll get Hawkwoman to safety. In fact, there’s her signal now.” He pointed to a flashing light on a control panel and guided the ship toward the signal’s source. “We’ll be upon them any moment,” he said.
“That’s wonderful,” said Hawkman. “Adam, can you help me liberate Thanagar? I think a man of your particular talents might be perfect for something I have in mind. You see, I’ve got a theory as to how Hyathis and an as-yet-to-be-confirmed ally enslaved the planet. Can you turn your mental powers toward detection of a concentrated cluster of mental energy?”
“I’ve sensed a faint mental whisper like static of the mind since I arrived here,” said Captain Comet. “I think there’s just such a mental conglomeration due east of here.”
“There are the ladies,” said Hawkman. “Pick them up via the tractor beam.”
Captain Comet obeyed, and soon each man was greeted by the warm embrace of his own special partner.
Willow smiled and said, “This one freed Hawkwoman and enjoyed practicing my combative skills as well.”
Captain Comet hugged her and said, “I’ve seen those skills at work. I only hope you didn’t injure them too severely.”
“Adam, it is good to see you again, even if it hasn’t been all that long since you left Earth,” said Hawkwoman. “Katar, Willow freed me easily. We overpowered the guards. It seems Willow deliberately allowed herself to be taken to the arena so she could find me. Somehow she just knew I would be there.”
“Shay, Adam is guiding us toward the source of our peoples’ plight,” said Hawkman. “It is behind a rather familiar spot. Look!”
They peered through the ship’s viewfinder to see the thunderous, cascading waters of a massive waterfall known as the Veil of Valmoora.
“This was the scene of our first case together,” said Hawkman. “We captured the gang of thrill thieves known as the Rainbow Robbers. They hid behind that waterfall in a concealed cavern.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Menace of the Dragonfly Raiders,” The Brave and the Bold #42 (June-July, 1962).]
“The mental energy is within that cavern behind the falls,” said Captain Comet.
“I take this to be a good omen,” said Hawkwoman. “We first pledged our love to one another here!”
Willow said nothing. She sat away from the rest in a rather self-absorbed manner. Clearly, if she had no personal challenge in a situation, then she had little interest in it.
The ship pierced the falls, and Captain Comet led the foursome into the hidden cavern.
Hawkman pointed ahead and said, “That’s it! See it?” He gestured to where a massive computer lined the cavern, linked via dozens of cables and wires to an Absorbascon.
“She used an Absorbascon to enslave the people!” he said. “Instead of gaining data from their minds, she used the device to somehow transfer their minds into that computer. The collective mental energy of the people of Thanagar resides in that weird computer!”
“That’s why she called the slaves drones,” said Hawkwoman. “This computer was created by another old JLA foe. Hyathis is in league with–!”
Before she could finish her sentence, the feathered femme fatale and the other heroes were struck by purple energy that rocked them all to the ground.
Hawkman looked up to see a pair of stylishly decorated high-heeled boots below shapely legs and an ultra-feminine figure in a yellow-and-black-striped body-suit. The woman in the costume was petite, with long, magenta hair and a lovely, if delicate face. Wings sprouted from her back, and she held a glowing wand in one slender hand.
“Surely, you’ve not been unfortunate enough to forget Zazzala, the Queen Bee!” she said in a mocking manner.
She brought the wand around again, and Hawkman felt his mind or at least his individual awareness leave his body.
Hawkman didn’t feel any pain. In fact, he didn’t feel anything. It was like his body was numb, or he was floating in a way that differed from normal flight. He couldn’t really detect anything with his senses. Years on a polluted Earth had pretty much robbed him of much of the super-sensory powers common to Thanagarians, but even without them, the skilled detective had always managed to master his environment with one appraising glance. Now he saw nothing, and he felt nothing.
Then Captain Comet’s mind seemed to touch his own and anchor him, so that his sense of drifting abruptly stopped. “Katar, I can keep our minds linked along with Willow’s mind and Hawkwoman’s! We’re in that hive-like computer. Queen Bee’s wand transferred our minds into the machine. Had I not anchored us with my own power, we’d all have been assimilated into the hive mentality! That’s what I sensed before. The Queen Bee used her computer along with Hyathis’ Absorbascon to literally transfer not just data but entire minds into the machine! That’s how they turned all of Thanagar into mindless drones.”
Hawkwoman’s mind was there as well. Hawkman sensed her presence, and his own thoughts radiated a protective sense of security toward her own. Willow’s mind was there as well, but something unique kept her slightly detached from the other three. Captain Comet’s main power was an advanced brain. It was this mental acuity that enabled him to shield them from the hive-mind.
“Can you get us out?” asked Hawkwoman. “Can you return our minds to our bodies?”
“Yes, but I think I can accomplish more by trying something entirely different,” said Captain Comet. “I want to guide your minds back to your bodies, but I’m staying here. I think in time I can reach out to the collective and just possibly liberate them!”
“Sounds risky, Comet,” said Hawkman. “Perhaps you’d better just return with us.”
“No,” said Captain Comet. “I know the risks, but imagine the good that I could do if I could restore all of Thanagar’s citizens! You might gain an army of allies, since they’ve all experienced a worse enslavement that ever before under Hyathis and Queen Bee!”
“Adam knows best,” said Willow. “He will act accordingly.”
“Don’t worry, Katar,” assured Captain Comet. “I’ll manage. But when I restore you three, you’ll have a pretty big mission all your own to worry about!”
Hawkman agreed readily. “Just restore us, Adam. We’ll take down Hyathis and the Queen Bee once and for all.”