Back on Earth, Aqualad showed Mermaid around the impressive structure called Titans Tower. Garth had completed the work for King Vulko and was eager to show the place off to his new ladylove.
Ulla Påske smiled with appreciation as he gave her a tour. Her long blonde hair gleamed in the bright light streaming in the windows, until suddenly things became pitch black.
Garth frowned. “This is no power failure. The sky outside is clear, too. We’re under attack!”
He could see faintly, and he realized the darkness was specifically aimed at them. A woman loomed behind the black cloud as it enveloped them. “Just once I wish I could have a normal date,” he sighed.
Ulla said, “Let me take a look from above.” She flew skyward as her legs beneath her short pink costume turned to a mermaid tail. She cleared the cloud and saw the woman in question.
She had pale skin and voluminous black hair that billowed out far around her lithe form. “I am Nox! You are not one of the unholy ones we seek to punish. Flee and be glad for our tolerance, little fish!”
Ulla smiled. “Thanks for the offer, but we’re a package deal, as the Americans say.” The Danish heroine slammed into Nox and drove her across the room. The odd inky cloud faded with her concentration.
Aqualad charged them and met a leering man with metallic white skin and a smoking armored form.
He struck with a fiery hammer and laughed as he did so. “Vulcanus is my name. My hammer shall make pounded fish-man of you!”
He swung again, and Garth reeled. He was not hurt so much by the hammer but was weakened by the palpable heat coming from the villain. He punched him back and ran to gain a better perspective. He frowned in concern as he saw Ulla fall suddenly with a crossbow bolt in her arm.
The archer was a pretty woman with long brown hair and a green and white jumpsuit. “Diana the Huntress never misses,” she said coldly.
Garth hurried to Ulla’s side even as Diana fired again. He rolled out of the path of the bolt and said, “You just missed.”
He lifted the stunned Ulla and tried to keep his eyes on the two foes. Nox had not moved since Mermaid’s attack.
A huge figure loomed above him and brought massive fists down against his head. He fell forward and knew no more. “Well struck, mighty Antaeus! The New Olympians will soon teach these so-called Titans to presume to use the names of their betters!” said the bearded Maxie Zeus.
The mad gangster leaned heavily upon a taller redhead in a low-cut tunic and sandals. She smiled and said, “My Zeus pleases his Hera greatly.”
After their return to Earth, Jericho and Kole decided to visit with his mother. Adeline Wilson ran a company of her own called Searchers Inc. She had been worried about a missing employee, and Joe Wilson felt he and Kole could lend a hand. Changeling was back at the Dayton Estate tending to his parent, Steve Dayton. Starfire had felt better since she and Raven worked out their conflict over Dick Grayson. She also had modeling duties that required her attention across the city.
Raven was trying to determine her class schedule at Manhattan University and was busy on campus. Academics also occupied Wally West as the Flash sped back to Central City. He had been impressed by the changes in Raven. She had changed from the aloof girl who once made him love her to a vibrant if hesitant young woman who now felt things readily and deeply. Still, he had no romantic feelings for her. His heart belonged to Frances Kane.
That left Lilith, Azrael, Arsenal, Artemis, and Cyborg to check on things at Titans Tower.
Lilith Clay instantly stopped in her tracks. She whirled to face her friends. “I sense evil above us. Our Tower has been invaded by one of the Children of the Sun,” she said.
Azrael said, “One of Thia’s spawn seeks revenge upon you, no doubt.”
Arsenal nodded. “Face it, legs, you’ve got enemies.”
Artemis wished she could just go home to Terry Long and let him ease her anxieties with his usual warm and placid manner. Still, he had his own problems as an out-of-work professor. She had barely had time to drop Diana off with a relieved Hippolyta.
Cyborg also figured that he could just forget about any time with Dr. Charles for the next few hours. “OK, let’s give them the bum’s rush,” he said.
Lilith brought them all to the top floor in an instant. Arsenal had his bow ready, and he was ready to fire at will. He stopped as the friendly face of Aqualad peered at them from the main meeting room.
“Man, gills, you almost got ventilated!” he said, lowering the bow.
Garth smiled. “I know your aim is too good for me to have any fear.”
Artemis said, “Good to see you, Garth. We have a situation here. The Children of the Sun are here somewhere.”
Cyborg yelled, “I got several goons on my audio! They’re hiding in the waiting room!” He charged forward, only to be grabbed by Garth, who suddenly elongated and snaked around Vic Stone as a huge python.
“Shape-changers! Ain’t we already had our fair share of them?” he muttered as he fought the coiling serpent.
Artemis jumped across the room and kicked at the towering Antaeus, who wore a black and gold sleeveless outfit with an ornate feathered hood. “You can’t move me, little girl!” he bellowed.
Donna Troy Long slammed into him and said, “That’s girl as in Wonder Girl, not little!”
Arsenal grinned. “Get your name right, doll. It’s Arty now!” He fired a shaft toward the hulking brute, only to have another bolt deflect it.
He saw the sultry brunette called Diana the Huntress. “I’ve been called Artemis as well,” said the deadly markswoman.
Roy Harper said, “Put away the bow, and I’ll call you anytime.”
Lilith gasped as Vulcanus grabbed her and swept her off her feet. He crushed her arms to her sides in a mighty bear hug. Heat from his nearly flaming form had no effect on Thia’s daughter, but neither did her empathic flames affect him.
She struggled futilely until Azrael pried her foe’s arms from around her hips and punched him in the chin. “You will not harm my Lilith!” he cried. She fell to the floor and rolled out of his path.
Nox entered, and darkness filled the room. Lilith kicked out at the dark woman and heard her grunt as she made contact.
Maxie Zeus watched as Hera held his arm and encouraged his New Olympians. “Kill them! They defile the name Titans!” he roared.
She smiled next to the mad gangster and watched Lilith, who resembled her greatly. “You are one of Thia’s children!” said Lilith. “You carry her ambition and malice!”
Hera grinned. “We are children of the true Titans. Thus we smite thee!” She obviously played the role of Hera, queen of Olympus, to the hilt for the sake of the mad Maxie Zeus. He believed himself to be Zeus of myth, and he was a pawn to the sultry redhead in this evil game.
Cyborg wrestled free of the serpentine Proteus even as he changed to a bird and flew up out of the reach of Cyborg’s extending arm. “This creep’s got all Gar’s moves, but thankfully none of his personality,” he mused.
Arsenal frowned. “What happened to the real Gar? Was he ever here?” He ducked as Diana sent shaft after lethal shaft toward his agile form.
Artemis kicked at Antaeus, but she could not move the giant. She tried to rope him, but he merely flipped her across the room and slammed his bulk into her. She did not rise after that.
Arsenal saw how hard Artemis fell, and he raced to assist her. As he did so, he was clipped by one of Diana’s bolts. It merely grazed him, but the poison still cut into his system. He staggered and fired one final shot that slammed Nox into the wall as its blunt head caught her chin.
Proteus turned to a large ogre and growled menacingly as he charged toward Cyborg.
Vic Stone frowned and thought, This dude needs to stay around here, if only to make me look like one of the Jacksons. He did not try to fight the shape-shifter with physical strength. He merely fired his white sound blaster and smiled as Proteus fell stunned. “Got to hear, no matter what form you take,” he said.
Antaeus turned from Artemis’ slumped form. “Antaeus is stronger than any of you!” he laughed.
“That remains to be seen,” said Lilith. She touched his side and teleported them both up into the air. As she fell into Azrael’s reaching arms, she yelled to Cyborg, “Vic, use the sound blaster now!”
Cyborg did so, and to his satisfaction, the stunning noise dropped Antaeus cold.
“He is weakest while not touching the Earth like his mythical namesake. Any contact with ground empowers him,” she explained as Azrael carried her down.
“Good call, legs,” said Vic.
Artemis rose shakily and saw Diana the Huntress drawing a bead on Lilith’s back. She flung out her lasso and knocked the crossbow from the woman’s hands.
Azrael followed Lilith’s lead and caught the Huntress by her long hair. He dragged her into the air and bound her with the end of Artemis’ lasso.
Vulcanus slammed down his hammer as they all turned to see him standing over the fallen Arsenal. “Surrender, or I’ll burn him!” he cried.
Zeus and Hera smiled approvingly. “Well done, good Vulcanus!” called Maxie Zeus. “You earned your spot in the Elysian Fields this day!”
Azrael hesitated and projected his own anxiety to Zeus.
“I feel odd. I wonder if I should not have stayed in Gotham City to duel with the Batman. He still fears not the wrath of Zeus,” babbled the gangster.
Hera hushed him, and as she did so, Artemis crossed the room in an instant to grab the fiery hammer and twist it from Vulcanus’ arm.
Arsenal fell forward, and Cyborg snaked one arm over to pull his friend to safety.
Lilith touched Zeus and said, “You are not immune to my empathic flames. Let me clear the madness from your poor, troubled mind. You are not Zeus. She is not Hera. You are a father whose child needs him whole. Be still and let me take you to her.”
Zeus gasped, “Yes, my child! I forgot my own child.”
Hera spat toward her half-sister. “Curse you! You destroyed our mother, and you thwart our every effort to restore her!”
She reached for Lilith, only to be tackled by Azrael, who knocked her roughly to the floor. “Be thankful I do not punish you more fully for trying to harm Lilith!” he said.
They treated Roy Harper and freed Garth and Ulla Påske, who had been locked away in an upper room.
“Garth, I gotta give you credit. That Mermaid doll makes Darryl Hannah look like a guy,” said a woozy Roy.
Garth grinned and said, “She’s all mine. Don’t even think of fishing for her.”
Their laughter warmed Titans Tower as things finally settled down to normal.