by Martin Maenza
Kestrel didn’t look too surprised. “I knew you’d show up sooner or later. In fact, I was expecting you. Where there is one, there usually is the other.”
“Who are you?” Dove asked.
“My name is Kestrel,” the man in purple and black said. “I’m here for Hawk, to give him an offer that cannot be refused. I want him to embrace Chaos and be my partner.”
“Hawk already has partners, mister!” a voice from above said. Kestrel turned in time to be hit with dual bio-blast stings from the flying black-and-yellow-costumed Bumblebee.
Kestrel laughed off the blasts like they were from a small insect. “Well, well,” he said. “It must be ladies’ night.” The villain leaped up and grabbed the heroine by the leg, pulling her down to the ground with ease. “Don’t tell me, Hawk, that you have to have mere women fight your battles for you.”
“Nothing mere about me,” the Bumblebee said as she blasted Kestrel directly in the face at full power. While the villain screamed out in pain and surprise, the heroine had time to roll out and away.
“You’ll pay for that, witch!” Kestrel exclaimed. “But you’re not on the top of my list.” When his vision cleared, he turned back to his prey, who was no longer pinned under the car. Hawk was free, thanks to an assist by Dove. The duo stood, ready for action.
“It’s called having friends,” Hawk said as he leaped into the battle once more. “But I guess you wouldn’t be familiar with the concept!” This time the hero was able to lay a hand on the quick villain, and he pressed the attack by pounding on Kestrel as many times as possible. His hand, however, was still sore from before, and lifting the car hadn’t helped it any.
In a moment, Kestrel was able to take advantage of the situation once more. Getting a good grip, he pulled the hero off and hurled into the side of another vehicle. “Friends are overrated. Allow me to relieve you of these two. And I shall start with the one who poses the most threat,” Kestrel growled as he lunged toward Dove.
With a graceful spring, the young woman leaped high into the air and landed effortlessly atop a nearby light pole. “Not if that’s the best you can do.”
“Trust me, Dove,” Kestrel said as he slashed his clawed hand at the base of the pole, “I haven’t even begun to fight!” With a single sweep, his hand cut through the metal, and the pole began to fall.
Dove shifted her weight slightly, causing the far end of the pole to jump up as it fell. The end caught Kestrel squarely on its upswing. Meanwhile, Dove landed lightly on her feet. “You won’t catch me off-guard. I take in the whole situation wherever I go.” She began to move down the street, away from the crowds at Gabriel’s Horn and away from Hawk. Her plan to distract the villain appeared to be working.
“Not so fast, little chickie,” Kestrel said. “My masters have been fighting your masters for millennia, and we always win. In the end, everything gives way to Chaos.” While Dove gracefully hurtled objects like mailboxes and benches, Kestrel plowed through them like a raging bull. “And nothing like the Experiment will ever change that! Hawk and Dove — ha!”
Dove spun around unexpectedly and used Kestrel’s own momentum plus her martial skills to hurl him headlong into the street. “I have no idea what you are babbling about, Kestrel. Masters. Millennia. Chaos. None of that rings any bells with me. You’re just another costumed crazy who needs to be stopped.”
Kestrel rose from the ground. “You truly are clueless — more stupid than I thought. You have no idea about the nature of your powers or why a single word can change you into a superhuman.” Kestrel began to laugh. “Neither of you realize what is truly going on.”
“Enlighten me,” Dove said.
Kestrel began to speak but hesitated. “Oh, no. Nice try, lady.” He took a step back. “Knowledge, like names, is power. You may have distracted me this time, but I’m far from through with my business. We’ll all meet again very very soon, and then Hawk will join me!” Kestrel disappeared in a huge cloud of smoke, his laughter echoing off of the nearby buildings.
Just then, Hawk and the Bumblebee arrived from up the street. “Where is he, Dove?” Hawk demanded. “Where’s Kestrel?”
“Gone,” was Dove’s response.
“You let him get away? How could you?” Hawk asked.
“Give her a chance, Hawk,” the Bumblebee suggested.
“Why should I? She must be in league with him or something!” Hawk let his anger flow. “Why else would she keep showing up, especially tonight when he did?” He stood aggressively face-to-face with Dove, but she firmly stood her ground. “Give me one reason why I should even trust you, lady!”
Dove paused for a second and thought. “I know you’ll be changing back to your normal self any moment now, Hawk,” she said as she stepped back into a nearby alleyway. As the two heroes followed her, she glanced around to ensure the three were alone. “You want a reason to trust me? I’ll give you one.”
Dove concentrated, and her appearance began to change. Gone were the costume and the long platinum hair, and in their place were a flowered dress and short blond hair.
Hawk’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. “Dawn? What the–?” At the same instant, the change came over Hawk as well, since all danger had passed. His costume faded to be replaced by a white polo and brown pants. He was Hank Hall once more.
The Bumblebee looked around once more and heard the sound of approaching sirens. “I’ll handle the report with the police,” she offered. “I think what the two of you need to do right now is have a long talk. And I know just the place.”
Ten minutes later, Mal Duncan unlocked the back office door and turned on the lights. There were a number of empty boxes on the floor; the club owner pushed one out of the way. “Sorry about the mess,” he apologized as Hank Hall and Dawn Granger followed him inside, “but this should give you two a place to talk uninterrupted.” He then excused himself and closed the door behind him.
Dawn made her way over to a chair and sat down. Hank preferred to stand and paced for a few minutes. Neither said a word at first. Finally, Hank broke the silence. “You. Of all people, you! So our meeting today on campus and such was all part of an elaborate plan, wasn’t it?” He was starting to raise his voice.
“Hank, please,” Dawn said softly. “Yes, I have been trying to get close to you over the last few days. First as Dove and then as myself. But it wasn’t at all what you’re making it out to be.”
“Well, then,” Hank said as he sat down on the corner of the desk, “you obviously know more about me than I do about you. If I’m even going to consider trusting you, I think you better take me through this from the top.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest and waited to hear what she had to say.
Dawn began to tell her story. “My mother’s a diplomatic courier, so we’ve lived all over the world. She was on business in London at the time; I was attending Oxford.”
Hank interrupted. “When was this?”
“Not too long ago. It was last summer, when all the skies turned red. It was like a madhouse in London. Everyone thought the world was going to end. There was panic everywhere you looked. Terrorists took over the American embassy. One of the hostages was my mother. They threatened to blow up the embassy at precisely 9:11 that night. The police and special forces were too busy trying to keep the panic in the streets under control. I didn’t know where to turn. There was nothing I could do to help my mother.”
“Let me guess what happened next. You heard a mysterious voice,” Hank said.
Dawn smiled. “Yes, that’s right. A voice out of nowhere — perhaps more than one, but in harmony — offered me a chance to make order from this chaos. All I had to do was say the word Dove. And when I did, I suddenly found myself in this costume and mask, and my appearance was different.
“I’ve always been a good judge of people, but when I’m Dove, it’s like that ability is magnified. I can read people and things, anticipate actions in an instant before they happen. I can tell where to strike to be the most effective in whatever I am hoping to accomplish. Everything easily comes in sharp focus for me when I am Dove.
“I was able to sneak into the embassy and use the terrorists’ own actions against them. By neutralizing their strengths and exploiting their weaknesses, I was quickly able to allow them to defeat themselves.”
“And the bomb?” Hank asked.
Dawn answered his question. “As for the bomb, I recall I didn’t have much time, and my mother’s life was at stake. I’d never seen a bomb before in my life, so I just reached out, grabbed a few wires, and pulled. My guess was lucky, and it deactivated. I fled before I was discovered and changed back to Dawn Granger again.”
“That when you started following me?” Hank asked.
“No,” Dawn replied. “I had first heard on television that your partner Dove had been killed. It wasn’t until we returned to the States that I thought perhaps I should try to get in touch with you.”
Hank sat quietly for a moment, taking in everything she had revealed. When he finally spoke, he said, “Well, what’s your connection to this Kestrel creep?”
“I have no connection to him. Tonight was the first time I’ve ever encountered him. You?” Hank just nodded affirmatively. “It’s obvious to me that you are his target, and he certainly doesn’t want the two of us to come together.”
“So, what are we going to do about that?” Hank asked.
“I’m not sure.”
Suddenly there was knock on the office door, and Mal Duncan opened the door slowly. “Hope I’m not interrupting,” he apologized. “You two have been talking through closing time.”
“If you need us to leave…” Hank started to say.
“No, not at all,” Mal said. “But when Karen and I were cleaning up, I noticed something on the end of the bar. It hadn’t been there a moment before. I have no idea how it got there.” Mal held up a sealed white envelope and handed it to Hank. “Thought this should go to you.”
Hank turned the envelope over. On the front of the envelope was the silhouette of a bird in red. “Kestrel,” he grumbled.