by Martin Maenza
“You aren’t Dove!” Hawk snarled.
“Yes, I am, Hawk,” the costumed woman replied. “I am Dove now. If you give me a chance, I’ll explain everything.”
Hawk lunged for her. “Liar! No one can ever be Dove again!” He threw a punch at her. “Dove’s gone!”
The woman ducked out of the way, letting Hawk’s fist hit the wall behind her. “I know how you feel, Hawk, but you have to listen.” She rolled out to the left and somersaulted to a standing position.
“I’m not gonna listen!” Hawk looked around feverishly and then grabbed a nearby metal barrel. “You think you can just put on a costume and be Dove? Well, I won’t let you!” He hoisted the barrel over his head and tossed it toward her with all his might. It hurled through the air toward its intended target.
“I never asked you if I could.” She dodged the barrel as if it were barely moving. It clattered to the ground and bounced away harmlessly. “I didn’t ask anyone to be Dove, but I am. The decision was made for me, and we both have to accept that. It’s obvious someone wants us to be a team.”
“I already have a team if I want one! I don’t need or want your help!”
Suddenly, the two heard from the other side of the building a call to Hawk for help.
“Sounds like your team needs some help. Since we’re both still here in costume, the danger isn’t over.” Dove began to turn to head for the call.
Hawk caught up to her in a second, grabbed her by the shoulder, and spun her around. He thrust a pointed finger directly into her face. “Those are my friends, this is my business, and you stay out of it! In fact, why don’t you just get lost for good?” He stormed off toward the others.
“Who do you think you are?” There was no answer, and Dove just smiled. “Oh, Hawk, if only it were that simple.” She leaped off to follow him.
“Golden Eagle, what are you doing?” the Herald asked as he dived for cover once more. He barely dodged a dive-bomb attack from his teammate and friend. This is crazy, the black hero thought, Charley isn’t acting like himself.
The Herald had little time to figure things out as the Golden Eagle banked around for another attack. Hesitantly, he raised his horn to his lips, but wondered if there was a way to stop his friend without hurting him. The Golden Eagle darted by, snatched the horn, and tossed it aside. Silently, he turned once more.
Mal Duncan tried to run for cover to buy himself some time, but his path was blocked by the landing hero. A golden gauntlet lunged forward and grabbed the grayish-white tunic firmly. A simple smile crossed the armored young man’s face as he raised his other gauntlet to strike with its razor-sharp edge.
From across the way, Crazy-Quilt laughed sinisterly. “Finish him off now!”
“Charley!” the black hero said just loud enough for his captor to hear. “It’s me, Mal! Remember? What’s got into you?”
Golden Eagle drew back his arm and was about to strike down, when a fast-moving figure tackled him from the side. As the Eagle was carried along, the Herald tumbled to the ground.
“I don’t know what’s gotten into that bird-brain of yours,” Hawk said as he wrestled Golden Eagle to the ground, “but you better snap out it quick! I may want to hit something right now, but I don’t want it to be you!” The armored hero tried to rise up; Hawk merely slammed his fists down on the shoulder portions of the armor. “I said stay down!”
The Herald retrieved his horn and returned to his friends. “Hawk, let me see if I can shake him.” He put his lips to the horn and released a sonic blast directly at his friend.
Hawk clamped his hands to his ears. “Sheesh, Herald. Next time, give me some warning.”
The Herald blew for a few moments more, ensuring that his controlled teammate had gotten a good dose. Then he removed the horn from his lips. “Sorry about that, Hawk. I just figured this might shake off whatever got into him.”
Golden Eagle propped himself up on one elbow and shook his head a few times. “Dude, what’s up with the heavy horns? Was that totally necessary?”
The Herald chuckled a bit. “I’d say he’s back to normal. At least he’s talking to us again — always a good sign.”
Hawk offered the Golden Eagle a hand getting up. “Thanks, dude. But, like, where did mister psychedelic helmet go?”
The Herald and Hawk both looked at one another. “Crazy-Quilt!” they said in unison. The villain was nowhere in sight, so the heroes spread out. Golden Eagle took to the air while the other two searched in two different directions.
Hawk rounded the building corner and almost tripped over the villain’s unconscious body. Looking around quickly, he caught the glimpse of a shadowy figure disappearing over the lab’s security fence. “Dove,” he said disdainfully.
After dragging the villain back to the van, the sound of police sirens approaching could be heard. “Karen must have called the police,” the Herald suggested.
“Cool! Maybe there’ll be some camera crews, too!” Golden Eagle exclaimed.
Hawk wore an odd look on his face as a familiar feeling started to come over him. “Sorry, guys, no time for pictures,” he said. “The danger has passed, and I’m starting to revert back to Hank Hall. Time to airlift us out of here, Eagle, and make it fast!”
“Now let me see if I’ve got this all down,” the police officer said as he checked over the pad he had been writing upon. “Crazy-Quilt and his gang attempted to make off with STAR’s new experimental laser. Just as you were phoning the police, a trio of super-heroes arrived on the scene and prevented the thieves from escaping. Is that correct?”
“Yes, that is correct, officer,” the young black woman answered.
“And since we only caught a glimpse of them as they flew off into the night, could you tell who the heroes were?”
Karen Duncan fidgeted slightly, looking down to the ground. Then she looked up and saw the officer was still waiting.
“Ms. Duncan? Could you tell who the heroes were?”
Karen took a deep breath and realized that there was little she could do to hide the facts. “It was three heroes — Golden Eagle, Hawk, and the Herald.”
One of the officers standing nearby chimed in. “I’ve heard some of those names before. Weren’t they part of a team that once operated out of Southern California?”
Karen nodded. “Yes, the Tee — the Titans West.”
The other officer nodded back. “Yeah, that’s it. Titans West!”
Karen let her head drop forward and wondered to herself yet again — what were the guys thinking?
A short time later, at the Duncans’ home, the three heroes unwound from their evening’s activities. “Dudes, that was totally awesome!” Charley exclaimed as he put his golden helmet on the floor next to him. “We totally rocked!” He took a swig of the beer that sat before him.
“It certainly reminded me of the good old days,” Mal said as he took a sip of his own. “I had forgotten how much I missed that.”
A strange look passed over Charley’s face. “Whoa, you know what I was just thinking?” He didn’t give his friends a chance to respond before he continued. “I think we should put the group back together! You know — invite the others — Gar, Lilith, Betty!”
Mal pondered for a second. “Hmm, that is an idea. I do have all the old equipment from back when we closed up the Horn back east. Robin told me to keep an eye on it, but never asked for it back. It’s all stored under the club in a subbasement.”
“Awesome!” Charley exclaimed. “We could set it up and have our own hangout!”
Mal turned to his other friend. “Hank, you’ve been quiet since we left the fight. Kind of unusual for you. What do you think? Would you stick around if we re-formed the group?”
Hank stopped staring at his drink, which he’d been doing for the past few minutes, and looked up. “Yeah… yeah, I’m definitely considering the idea of sticking around here, at least for a while.” He raised his beer. “Count me in.” The three friends drank a toast to their new venture.
Across town the next morning in an exclusive office atop the Loman Building, one of the city’s most prominent skyscrapers, two men could be heard talking just inside the cracked office door. They talked rather loudly but with little fear of being heard, for the top few floors of this building housed a not-so-typical business organization, and currently the business had very few employees.
“Ssso Crazy-Quilt ssscrewed it up! I had a feeling he would.”
“Yes, so you did. But that is what initiation tests are for. To test the untested and see how well they perform.”
“Are you concccerned about him sssinging to the policcce?”
“Not at all. Let’s reflect on the facts, shall we? First of all, he responded to our rather unique advertisement. Second, we never met with him face-to-face — all communications were done without leaving a trace. Third, he has no idea why we asked him to pull that particular heist. That which is secret remains so.”
“True, but hisss ssscrew-up meansss we don’t have that exsssperimental lassser to play with!”
“The prize this time was incidental.”
“How about thossse heroesss ssshowing up? We gonna have to worry about them now, too?”
“I don’t think so.”
“But they’re Titansss!”
“No, they’re Titans West. Big difference! It’s not like they’re polished like Nightwing, Wonder Girl, or the Flash!” That last name was spat out like venom. “No, these are heroes who are strictly second-stringers — all image and nothing beneath the surface. They’ll pose no threat to us.” He paused for one moment. “And should by some strange chance they do, we’ll crush them!”