Greybird scrambled up a rocky slope with the careless ease of the small boy he was. He didn’t look back except to notice the loose gravel and small pebbles dislodged by his movements. He was a small boy even for his age, but he was smart and daring. His bright eyes darted back and forth, and while he truly had few reservations or inhibitions, he did take in his environment without thinking about what he saw.
In truth, the native of Starhaven didn’t need to be overly careful as he made his way up the steep slope, since like all of the genetically altered natives of the former colony world, he possessed working wings that would have allowed him to turn any fall from the slope into a graceful flight through the air. Flight was new to him, since he had only recently passed the age of passage in which the Amerind natives of Starhaven were first allowed to soar over their beautiful home.
“The Rite of First Flight is not to be taken lightly, nor is it to be forgotten, since, like the very breath we take, it is a gift from the Great Spirit!” Those words echoed in Greybird’s mind even as he tried to find his way up the almost overgrown paths up the mountain.
Greybird knew that he had a good reason not to fly to the summit in spite of the fact that he had earned the right of flight weeks before. If the daring child flew to the top, he might be seen by those he was planning to spy upon. He knew that a meeting of the Council of Elders was to be held on the top of the mountain that day, and he wanted to see and hear all that occurred. He was too young to witness such a momentous event, but he was curious, and he justified his deceitful practice with the sure and certain, if childish conclusion that he should see it because he wanted to see it.
The boy smiled as he thought of his little brother Greatfire back home with their mother Moonwalker. How jealous the child would be, and how much he would envy and admire his brave older brother when he heard of Greybird’s bold action. The two brothers were very close, but neither of them really knew their older sister Dawnstar very well, since she had been off-planet since the boys were little more than toddlers. She was a heroine and the pride of her family. As a Legionnaire she was famous, and they took a real pride in what their big sister had accomplished. However, she was still as distant and remote from their daily lives as the shining star that gave the young woman her birth name long ago.
Greybird heard the sound of drums, and he knew that meant the Council of Elders was convening. He had to hurry in order to get within sight of the leaders of Starhaven. He soon reached the nearly flat summit of the mountain, and he smiled as he saw the bright colors and decorative garments worn by these respected and often feared elders. They wore ceremonial finery, and they spoke only in the customary, if stilted words of ritual and tradition.
“We gather together in the sight of the Great Spirit, and we give thanks to him for his bounty. We ask his mercy and his guidance as we draw near to the sky that is his face in order to seek his wisdom in our time of strife and confusion!” The words came from a very tall man who stood proudly, although age and infirmity had robbed him of much of his former strength. He still possessed a nobility of manner that led the other elders to show him an obvious deference.
“I am known to you all. I am Windsinger and I open this council without fear that I have dishonored any among us. I am beyond any hurtful vice, and this purity gives me courage. It is more than courage that we need now. It is wisdom. It is faith. It is mercy. What gifts we have may not suffice when we are faced with such a terrible ordeal!” He passed a gnarled feathered staff to a younger man who stood before the old man and accepted the token with humility.
Greybird strained to hear the words this man said, since he was the boy’s father. This strong man with the quiet dignity of manner was called Mist-Rider. He had achieved a place of honor in the Council of Elders at a remarkably young age.
“Windsinger, we bow to your wisdom,” said Mist-Rider. “The ages have touched you with knowledge and discretion. Now, however, we are faced with a crisis beyond the experience of any who had soared the skies of Starhaven or walked its rich and wholesome soil. We are faced with a natural disaster that seems to strike without rhyme or reason!”
A slender man with long black hair that was braided with ceremonial beads stood up and spoke without being given the staff. This breach of etiquette was shocking, but no one challenged him, since it was well-known to all that, in spite of his youth and his abruptness, Nightwalker the shaman was held dear to the Great Spirit. The other young man faced Mist-Rider and waved the staff in his face.
“You mince words when you know the truth,” said Nightwalker. “The great quakes do not strike without rhyme or reason. They strike as the Great Spirit wills them to do. They punish us as signs of his thunderous wrath, since we have fallen short of his will. His word and his way are whispered in my ears as I sojourn through the dark hours. He has told me plainly that he will rip our world apart if we do not appease his anger by making a ritual passage beyond this planet!”
“Nightwalker, earthquakes or tremors are unknown here on Starhaven,” said Mist-Rider. “I admit this much. Still, I feel the answer lies in something less drastic than leaving the home our ancestors founded seven hundred years ago!”
Nightwalker shook his head and cried out in anger. “You defy me? You may do so. Still, I will not allow you to mock the Great Spirit, and he speaks through me. I tell you that if we do not make a passage from Starhaven and show our remorse for our sins, this planet will be torn asunder, and all of us will die!”
Greybird gasped as he listened in surprise. He was afraid now. He was sorry that he had dared to come where no child should have ventured. If the great quakes continue, then we’ll all die! If we do leave our world, then where we will go? These questions raced through the boy’s mind, and in spite of his youth, Greybird had summarized the exact fears and concerns that now plagued the Council of Elders.
As he listened, Greybird shuddered as he felt a vague tremor pass through the ground. He yelled in concern as the entire mountain suddenly shook with a force that brought down trees and sent boulders roaring down the slopes in an avalanche.
The Council of Elders felt the nightmarish quakes and reacted as one, abandoning their tribal meeting place and flying away from the avalanche of rock and dirt. The roar of the cascading rocks shook the ground below, and stones and dust filled the skies until young Greybird could barely find his way to safety. He was scared, and he wanted nothing more than to find safety with his father.
Mist-Rider saw the child and swiftly flew to his side. He would be punished later, but for now Mist-Rider only cared about getting his son away from the powerful quake and the terrible devastation made by a falling mountainside.
Finally, the dust cleared, and the Council of Elders looked down on a scene of loss and madness. “The mountain that once touched the very skies now is broken!” shrieked Nightwalker. “It was humbled by the Great Spirit. Let its loss be a warning to us all. We, too, must leave Starhaven! What greater proof may I offer?”
The wise old man named Windsinger said, “I suggest we follow Nightwalker’s lead in this matter! I mourn for the loss of the only home I have known for longer than any of you have lived, but I no longer doubt the truth of his words. Starhaven will die if we do not leave it and appease our maker!”
Mist-Rider scowled and remained silent as he placed one strong arm around his son’s shoulders. Perhaps he is right, but unlike the others, I have heard of miracles wrought by men and women that match this horror in scope. I have heard much from my daughter, and it is to Dawnstar that I will look for answers before I take my family away! These thoughts came to Mist-Rider, along with an unspoken determination that he would not leave his home until his heroic daughter Dawnstar had tried to end the deadly quakes.
Spee Han grinned as he piloted his small starship through a dazzling series of spins and dives and loops that left his pursuers far behind. The smuggler from Corellia smiled in a cocky manner as he thought about the credits he would make for completing this run. He would turn over guns taken from the United Planets armory, and he would be paid handsomely by his employer when he reached their hidden lair on Dagoba. He knew that the best efforts of the Science Police would not be enough to catch him. His ship was just too fast, and his piloting skills were almost legendary.
“No sentient can catch Spee Han!” he said with an easy familiarity, since he loved nothing more than to boast about his talent. He steered his ship toward a tightly congested area of space known colloquially as the Meteor Maze because of the hundreds of meteors that sailed madly through the region. The planet called Angtu once occupied that region before it was shattered by the lethal touch of one of its criminal natives. The rogue called Mano had given birth to the Meteor Maze when his destructive touch had sealed the death of his planet.
Now, no one lightly traveled in such a perilous region except for someone with Han’s bold and audacious ways. “That’s right, sci-coppers! Keep your nice little ships away from the bad old space rocks!” he said in a taunting tone that faded into an expletive of shock as he saw something beyond even his expectations.
A beautiful woman in a revealing yellow costume with a cross-laced bodice and fringed trim and boots soared alongside his ship. She had long, flowing black hair, dark eyes, and a nobility of manner. She smiled coldly as her broad wings carried her by his ship and allowed her to pace his craft effortlessly. She flew gracefully through space without any type of artificial protection.
“I know her kind!” said Han. “She’s one of those flying freaks from Starhaven, but why’s she chasing me?” He adjusted a few controls and plunged directly into the heart of the Meteor Maze. “I don’t care if she is able to track me like some kind of space-hound. She won’t be more than a once sexy smear when the rocks hit her!”
Dawnstar of the Legion of Super-Heroes saw his evasive action, and she rolled her eyes with contempt. The Amerind heroine from Starhaven had locked her mutant tracking powers on Spee Han, and she knew she would not lose him. He could pull off any number of daring moves, but she could follow him with her eyes closed.
In fact, she did exactly that. She closed her eyes and allowed her every movement to be guided by a more subtle sense beyond vision, hearing, or touch. She veered through the meteors with an unerring speed that enabled her to dodge every speeding object, no matter how abruptly her open path turned into a possible collision course. She knew that nothing would hit her, since she did not wish to be hit. She knew no one could escape from her once she had locked on to their trail. Dawnstar had no doubt that she would capture the elusive smuggler, and she even believed that few other beings could do so as well.
Many people considered her to be cold, arrogant, and distant, but in truth the young woman merely rested her actions on an unshaken certainty that her abilities and training would allow her to rise to any possible challenge. This belief rested on more than confidence in herself. She also possessed a strong faith in the Great Spirit, and that gave her added strength of will and purpose. Dawnstar decided to end the chase, so she swooped down in the path of the spaceship and posed defiantly in its wake.
Han hit a weapons consul and sent a blinding array of energy beams from his ship in her direction. “I’ll blast that cocky witch to ashes!” he cried. However, all he did was shatter a meteor, as Dawnstar dodged every beam with amazing agility and left his energy bolts to create a blinding cloud of dust and ash from the broken rocks.
Yelling in horror as he lost all vision, Han slammed into a meteor. His ship reeled madly, and he scrambled to fight his plunge as he veered from one impact to another.
Dawnstar flew through a narrow portal and reached his side in seconds. She snatched him up and carried him out of the ship as it whirled upside down and finally exploded seconds after the winged beauty cleared the maze with her captive in tow. The Science Police indicated that Han was wearing his customary spacesuit when they chased him away from the United Planets Fleet Armory, she thought. That’s why I knew I could just pull him into space without any problem.
She gave the beaten smuggler to the Science Police and started to depart from their cruiser when an officer in the black and gray uniform stopped her. “Dawnstar, we’re glad you brought Han in, since he has been a thorn in our side for years, but couldn’t you have recovered the stolen guns?” he said. “We’ve lost them all in the explosion!”
Dawnstar raised her arched eyebrow and said, “The U.P. will make more weapons. Be content that those guns won’t fall into enemy hands. I brought you your smuggler, but I won’t lose sleep over the loss of additional ways for petty men to take lives! Life is far too precious for that. I know better than most!” She left the bridge of the Science Police Fleet cruiser and soared into space.
The officer shrugged and said, “Did you see the way that stuck-up princess flounced out of here? She acted like some kind of higher being! I prefer Phantom Girl any day. She’s so friendly and down to earth!”
His aide nodded and said, “Yes, sir. Still, you have to admit Dawnstar made us all look pretty bad. She’s very, very good at what she does, and she knows it!”
“I know! I know!” said the officer. “You have to envy a woman who combines that face and figure with her skill and courage. She must not have a care in the universe!”