by Martin Maenza
As the smoke began to dissipate, one figure stepped out toward the crowd. It was Sudden Death, his blond hair waving in the gentle breeze and his chiseled body unmarred by the explosion. The crowd began to murmur. “Am I the bomb, or what?” he joked. “Yeah, I guess I am.”
“Where’s Hawk?” a number of folks whispered.
Sudden Death overheard them. “Forget that loser. No one could survive that close to ground zero, except yours truly.” He eyed Renee Laisaille in the crowd. “OK, now where were we before that costumed bozo cut in?”
As the explosive youth stepped toward them, the crowd let out a collective gasp. Some began to point beyond Sudden Death. “What?” he asked as he spun around.
Stepping tall and proud from the smoke was Hawk. His costume was a bit torn in various spots, as if he had been shot at. His face was bruised, and blood dripped from his swollen nose. But for the most part, Hawk looked as though he couldn’t be counted out of this fight yet. “Again,” he stated with cocky grin, “first lesson: don’t mess with Hawk!”
“And that goes for his friends, too!” a voice from the sky stated.
Sudden Death looked up, but the bright sun was glinting off something in the sky. He squinted, not having his sunglasses on. “What the–?”
Two gauntleted fists slammed into the punk’s chest. “Hope you don’t mind my cutting in, Hawk!” Golden Eagle said as he landed next to his teammate. “So, like, what’s this guy’s story?”
“Reader’s Digest version? Hit him enough times, and he’ll blow up real good!” Hawk stated. “You up for getting out a little aggression, Eagle?”
“After you, dude!”
Hawk smiled and dived into the battle once more.
Hawk and Sudden Death exchanged a number of blows. Golden Eagle kept the crowd far enough back with his aerial sweeps, occasionally adding a flyby hit to the mix. With each blow, Sudden Death began to glow more brighter.
“Surprise, loudmouth!” Hawk said as he grabbed Dwayne by the arm and flipped him onto the ground. “I’ve been doing some wrestling on the side, so now I’ve got some new ways to pound jerks like you!”
Sudden Death recovered and slammed his fist into Hawk’s gut. “You think you’re the only one with moves? You think all I can is make like a ton of TNT?” The blond grabbed hold of the metal frame of the lifeguard stand and lifted it over his head, cement foundation and all. “I’ve got lots of fun ways we can play. Catch!”
The lifeguard stand soared unevenly through the air. Golden Eagle arched safely out if its path. “Hawk, look out!”
“Relax, Eagle,” Hawk said as he stood his ground, “I got this one covered!” As the heavy stand fell toward him, he grabbed it firmly with both hands and bent his knees to absorb the impact. “I can take what this guy dishes out! Can he say the same?”
Hawk pushed with his legs and lunged forward. Using the stand like an awkward swatter, he slammed it down hard on Sudden Death. Sand showered everywhere. “Let’s see how we did.”
“Big mistake, dude!” Sudden Death exclaimed as he rose to his feet. “You just gave me all the energy I needed to reach critical mass! That means you’re about to be in critical condition!”
Hawk slammed his foot down on a broken piece of the lifeguard stand, flipping the metal pole into his hand. “Then I guess you don’t mind if I hit you a bit more, eh?” He swung the large pipe once and nailed Sudden Death in the chest.
“Maybe I can break a few bones along the way as well!” Hawk swung the pipe again and knocked Sudden Death backward.
“Maybe I can pound you so much that you won’t be able to control your explosion! How’s that sound?” Hawk slammed his fists twice into Sudden Death’s back, knocking him into the ground once more.
“No response. Don’t like my idea?” He hoisted the blond punk off the ground by his hair. “Think Hawk’s being stupid, huh?” He lifted the glowing body high into the air. “Guess again, pretty boy!”
With all his might, Hawk hurled Sudden Death’s body out over the incoming surf. As the body impacted with the water’s surface, it exploded with an incredible force. Water showered up into the air thirty feet as Sudden Death discharged the built-up energy.
As the water settled with the tide rolling in once more, the worn-out body of Dwayne Wainright washed up on the beach. Hawk and Golden Eagle were there to fish him out of the sea. Dwayne started to come around from the big explosion when Hawk laid him out one last time with a punch. His body fell to the beach once more.
“Someone call the Bay Area SCU,” Hawk said as he began to walk away. “And when blondie there wakes up, tell him the teacher says he still has a lot to learn!” Golden Eagle offered Hawk a lift, and the two heroes took off as the crowd applauded their efforts.
A few minutes later, after stowing a certain golden armor in the Jeep‘s storage compartment, Hank Hall and Charley Parker returned to the beach.
“There you are, Hank!” Renee exclaimed. “I lost track of you when Hawk showed up and the big fight broke out!” She noticed his bruises but assumed it was from when Sudden Death had hit him earlier.
“Yeah, I found this big lug,” Hank said as he messed up Charley’s long blond hair. “Guess he missed all the excitement, too.” They returned to where their blanket had been spread to try to enjoy the rest of the afternoon peacefully.
Dawn Granger and a fellow classmate were about to leave the science building on the University of San Francisco campus. “That sure was some hard exam, Dawn,” the other girl with short brown hair commented.
“Definitely,” Dawn agreed. “I stayed to the very end just so I could triple-check my answers. Some of those formulas can be very tricky.” She then stopped for a second.
“Something wrong?” her friend asked.
Dawn looked around. “Oh, I just forgot my purse is all. I’ll catch up with you at the student union, Mary.” Her friend nodded and gave her a quick wave. Dawn Granger headed back inside the building. “I can’t believe I was so rattled to have forgotten my purse.”
As she was about to turn the corner to head toward the classroom, Dawn caught a very odd sight. A man with short, black hair passed through the intersection of the halls and headed in the direction she was about to go. What struck her as odd were the bizarre clothes he wore: a blue shirt with orange trim across the chest area, red pants, blue boots, and a flowing red cape. It looked like some kind of military uniform from a foreign land. Hmm, she mused to herself as she fell back some. Where have I seen that particular outfit before? It’s vaguely familiar to me.
Dawn fell back far enough to keep out of the man’s notice, but she was able to see him enter the lab next to her Physics classroom. “He must be visiting Professor Szackas. I wonder why.” The curious young woman slipped into the empty classroom and picked up her stray purse from under one of the desks. She heard the voices in the next room through the slightly cracked door and moved over closer to see what she could hear.
In the other room, the professor — who was in his early thirties and had short brown hair — was talking with the man Dawn had seen enter the lab. “It is a great honor to have you here,” Andrei Szackas gushed. “What brings Bito Wladon all the way from Modora to my little university lab?”
Bito Wladon? Modora? Dawn thought to herself. Of course! That’s why he looked so familiar! She almost got lost in her own thoughts before she focused again on the conversation.
As Dawn Granger listened from behind the cracked door in the classroom, she was able to clearly hear the conversation between Professor Szackas and Bito Wladon. The latter man was also known in the United States by the name of Sonar and had earned a reputation by battling Green Lantern on a number of occasions.
“It has been a while since I’ve been back in our beautiful homeland of Modora,” Sonar replied in a heavy Eastern European accent. “In truth, I long to see the hills once more and feast upon our native dishes. Recent events here in this country have me very frustrated, indeed. Allying myself with the likes of such fools as Throttle and Blindside distracted me from what is truly important.”
The Professor asked, “What is it that I can do for you, my Emperor?”
“As you know, Modora is a very small but proud country. Though our population numbers just more than four hundred, we are a nation that is destined for greatness.”
“Indeed I do!” the Professor agreed. “I came to this country for my studies in part to learn all I could in order to one day return home to benefit our people. My position as an educator at this university helps me continue my research.”
Sonar nodded in agreement. “Of that I am very aware. And that is why I am here today, because of your research.” He leaned in closer and dropped his voice slightly. “It is my understanding that you have developed an armor prototype that works on the principles of nucleo-sonics.” The Professor nodded. “I would very much like to see a demonstration of this armor. And, if it meets the expectations I have, it would greatly benefit Modora.”
“How so?” asked Szackas.
Sonar smiled, and his eyes grew wild. “Just imagine, a whole army outfitted with nucleo-sonic armor. Modora would have a military force to be reckoned with!” He had raised his voice on that last sentence.
From behind the classroom door, Dawn Granger let out a slight gasp. The two men looked up as if they had heard something. Quickly, the young woman departed the room for fear of being caught. This could be big, she thought to herself as she hurried down the hall. I’d better discuss it with Hank and the others. They’ll know how best to handle this situation.
It was late afternoon when Hank Hall’s Jeep pulled into the Duncans’ driveway. “Looks like the ‘rents are both out,” the brown-haired man joked. He referred to their friends with whom Charley had still been living.
“Yeah, Karen must be like working late at STAR,” Charley Parker replied. “I think Mal needed to be down at the club early. Today’s liquor delivery day, you know.” He opened the passenger door. “Say, you wanna come in for a brew?”
Hank turned off the motor. “Sure, why not? After all, I did have to cover for you with Renee earlier. That should warrant a free beverage.” They walked up to the front path. “How come you were so late, anyway?”
Charley fished a key out of his shorts’ pocket and unlocked the front door. “Dude, I totally forgot to tell you!” He opened the door and started inside. “I, like, met this woman who was totally–” He stopped in mid-sentence.
“Totally what?” Hank almost ran into Charley, who had paused in the living room archway. “Parker! What’s the deal?” He then caught a glimpse of what had silenced his friend. Sitting on the couch was a young woman around sixteen or so in appearance, dressed in a white tunic with a short green skirt and boots. Her skin was golden in color, and her short hair was blond. “What the–? It’s that Green Lantern girl!”
Finally Charley spoke. “Arisia!” he burst out joyfully as he rushed over to the couch. “You got my message already, and you came!”
The alien girl smiled. “Yes, I did. You’re the Golden Eagle, right?” Charley nodded dumbly.
“Hold it one second!” Hank announced. “What’s going on here, Parker? What message?”
Charley plopped down next to Arisia. “I rang up Gar last night, you know, and we were talking and such. Then I got this totally cool idea. Wally was there, too, so I had Gar ask him to do me a mega favor. I figured since he had like connections in the JLA and all, that Wally would know how to get in touch with the, like, Green Lanterns.” The excited young man paused to take a breath.
“And he did,” Arisia jumped right in. “The Flash dropped into our Citadel near Los Angeles this morning and gave me the message. Then he took off as fast as he arrived. Must’ve had somewhere else to be. I finished up the things on my schedule and popped up here.” She then looked at Charley. “When I found no one home, I used my ring to let myself in. I hope you don’t mind.” The blond surfer gave her a nod that showed it was OK.
“Fine, you’ve told me the how,” Hank said. “Now, what was this message that was so important, Parker?”
“Oh, yeah,” Charley said. “Like, I didn’t mention it to you earlier because of where we were and all. Like, it wouldn’t have been private to discuss, you know.” Hank gave Charley a hand gesture that indicated he should speed it along. The blond male got the hint. “Bottom line: I thought that Arisia would make a, like, perfect member of the Titans West!” He turned to the Green Lantern, who smiled and nodded. “She’s game. So what d’ya think, Hank?”
Hank shook his head. “I think I need that beer.”