Titans West: Sound Decisions, Chapter 2: Liberation

by Martin Maenza

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After a quick detour to recharge Arisia’s power ring, the four heroes were soon rocketing across the globe via the Green Lantern’s emerald power. Charley Parker finished adjusting the clothes they had to change into. “I still can’t see why I couldn’t, like, keep my armor on,” he said, referring to his Golden Eagle costume.

“Couldn’t be helped, Charley,” Dawn Granger explained. “We need to look the part while in Modora. Thus the need for all of us to wear these peasant-like outfits.” The girls wore simple dresses with their hair tied up in scarves, while the guys wore simple work shirts, pants, and boots.

“Besides,” Arisia added, “my power ring is useless against anything the color yellow. There’s no way it could disguise your golden armor, much less carry it.”

“Whoa, really?” Charley said. “I thought that ring of yours could do, like, totally everything.” He tried to keep a positive expression, but inside he felt concerned that he was the only one who could not switch into his heroic identity should the need arise. He hoped this little reconnaissance mission would be just that.

In no time at all, the rolling hills of the Modoran countryside were in sight. Arisia used her ring to mask their approach, landing them well outside the main village. Soon, they were walking the cobblestone path that led into town. “Everyone, remember — just try to act normal, but keep your eyes and ears open,” Hank Hall said. The others nodded.

A cart being pulled by two horses soon approached them, heading away from the village. The two men seated on the cart were talking to one another. “Gorig gamudo igorn?” one man asked.

Igron manug gir,” replied the other. Soon, the cart and the men were far down the path.

Charley turned to Dawn. “So, were my ears still messed up from our quick trip or were those dudes, like, totally impossible to comprehend?” he said to her in a low voice.

“They’re no doubt speaking the native language,” Dawn replied. “Not everyone in the world speaks English, you know.”

“I can correct that,” Arisia said. With a flash of her ring to each of their foreheads, she quickly rectified the situation. “My ring can make it so that we can temporarily understand what the locals are saying, as well as translate our words into Modoran. This will allow us to fit right in.”

Hank smiled. “That ring of yours sure comes in handy. Good to have you on the team.” The four walked through an archway that led to the village. With all the simple homes and shops, it was like stepping back into a village from fairy tales. And in the center of the main square stood the castle, home of the Modoran royal family.

As the four disguised American heroes approached the castle, one of the guards waved them off. “The castle is currently off-limits by order of the royal family,” the Modoran man said in a rather gruff voice.

Dawn nodded in acknowledgment, and the quartet veered left down another street. “Well, isn’t that suspicious?” she whispered to the others. “Looks like someone has something to hide, and that bears investigation.”

“So, like, how do we go looking around unnoticed?” Charley asked.

“That’s easy,” Arisia said. “I can use my ring to make us invisible. We’ll be able to walk right past the guards undetected.”

“Sounds good, but we better not all go,” Hank suggested. “I’ll go with Arisia, while the others are the eyes and ears out on the street.” The three agreed with him, and they split off into two couples.

Soon, Hank and Arisia were able to slip into the shadows and literally vanish into thin air. In no time, the two were walking the castle halls as undetected as ghosts. Arisia used her power ring to keep them in mental contact. “So what are we looking for exactly, Hank?” she projected her thoughts to him.

“I’m not quite sure yet,” Hank replied to her mentally. The palace seemed simple enough with its stone walls, family portraits, and large tapestries. He pointed at a huge portrait of Bito Wladon in his military uniform, one of several throughout the palace. “Well, that confirms it — Sonar is the ruler of Modora. Guess old Fando the Mad must’ve made him his successor or something.” But nothing else jumped out at him to indicate any sinister connections. Still, he knew that there had to be something here. They reached a stairwell that went both up and down. “Let’s check down first.”

The stone stairs opened to a darkened catacombs, lit only by the periodic hanging lanterns. The two paused for a moment and listened. Faintly, up ahead of them, they heard a low humming sound. “This way,” Hank projected. They headed down the hall and came to a large, locked metal door. “Can you open it, Arisia?”

“No problem,” the Green Lantern replied. Emerald energy slipped into the locking mechanism, taking the shape of a key. With a simple twist the lock was undone, and the door swung open. Inside, the two invisible heroes realized what was making the humming sound.

In the center of the room was a circular platform with a similar circular piece suspended above it on the ceiling. Between the two circles appeared to be some form of energy field. To their complete and utter astonishment, within that energy field was chained a brown-haired young man in a torn blue top, tight-fitting blue leggings, and yellow boots. He could barely lift his head, and he looked as though he were at the point of near-exhaustion. “Help me… please…” he wearily groaned in English.

Instinctively, Hank Hall said the name Hawk aloud, transforming himself into his stronger other form. He charged for the energy field but was bounced backward. The humming had come from the field itself. “Probably some kind of sonic field. Gotta be controlled by something around here.”

The young man in chains heard the voice but did not see anyone. “Who… who…?” he asked.

Arisia dropped the invisibility so that the young man could see them. She was also now in her costume. “We’re here to help you,” she said with a comforting voice. The young man appeared to be around her own apparent age, or slightly older, perhaps seventeen or eighteen years old.

Hawk had found the power source, a large metal box that was out of place in the medieval-like setting, and smashed it with a few solid punches. The energy field flickered, then fell. “Get those chains, Lantern, and then we’ll scoot.”

Lantern?” the young man asked wearily. Arisia’s emerald beam sawed through the heavy metal chains that kept him bound to the floor. “You — you’re a Green Lantern?

Hawk helped him to his feet and supported his weight with his arms. “She sure is, kid,” the red-and-white-costumed man said. “And in a few seconds, she’ll slip us out of here undetected, we’ll rejoin our friends, and then you can fill us in on who you are and why you were being held a prisoner.” The trio then vanished into thin air.

***

The other two disguised heroes stood out in the streets of Modora, blending in with the locals. Dawn Granger looked into the window of a small clock shop, watching the gray-haired clock-maker working on one of many hand-carved timepieces. He adjusted the square-framed glasses on his nose. “This place, it’s like out of another time,” she said. “So hard to believe that a threat could come from here.”

“I know what you mean,” Charley Parker replied. “There’s no lights, no phones, no motor cars. Not even, like, one single luxury. It doesn’t make much sense, you know?” Dawn nodded in agreement as she looked at their reflections in the window.

The next moment, the reflections were gone. “What the–?!” Charley exclaimed. He and Dawn felt themselves lifting off into the air. “What’s going on?”

“Keep it down until we’re clear of the village,” Hawk whispered loudly. Charley and Dawn then realized it was Arisia’s emerald energy that had rendered them invisible and plucked them from the street. They flew across the countryside under its power and then landed in a secluded wooded area.

“I take it by our speedy retreat that you found something,” Dawn said.

“Someone, actually,” Hawk replied as he changed forms back to Hank Hall. He presented to the other two the young man they had freed from the Modoran dungeon. “You recovered enough to tell us who you are, kid?”

The brown-haired young man took a deep breath. “Yeah, I guess I am. You probably can’t tell from what’s left of my costume, but I’m in the hero business, too. My name’s Air Wave, and I’ve been a prisoner here for the last few months.”

“So, dude, how’d you end up here?” Charley asked.

“Long story short,” Air Wave began to explain. “I was helping out during that alien invasion in January when something went wrong. (*) My helmet worked off of radio waves, allowing me to fly and to disperse via air waves, or electromagnetic transmissions. I’m not sure exactly what happened that day in Australia, but I must have got caught up within the air waves with no way to escape. We really didn’t have a solid handle on what the alien field was made of when we attacked it.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Strange Visitors, Chapter 3: Battleground Australia.]

“After some time, I was finally able to latch onto something that pulled me back. Turns out it was that sonic creep Sonar, who was then in charge of the Modoran military. In my weakened state, he managed to overpower me and took me prisoner. Shortly after he became the new ruler of Modora and kept me locked up in that dungeon of his via some sonic-based energy field. Without my helmet, I was powerless to escape. Lucky for me, you all happened along.”

“But why would Sonar want you?” Dawn asked.

“Not sure,” Air Wave replied. “I fought against him once before, alongside my cousin, who is a Green Lantern. Maybe Sonar did it for revenge or something. He did take off with my helmet, though.”

“Well, we got him now!” Hank exclaimed. “We can at least nail Sonar with false imprisonment!”

“Perhaps,” cautioned Dawn. “But that doesn’t tell us what he plans to do with the nucleo-sonic armor. Besides, I’m not all that certain we could make those charges stick. Remember, from the Modoran perspective, Air Wave here might have been deemed a threat, and the Modoran government might have had grounds for holding him prisoner.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Hank protested.

“I’m not,” Dawn said. “I say we head back to the States for now. We’ve rescued Air Wave here, so we can chalk up one for our side. But we can continue to keep an eye on Sonar as well. When he makes a move, we’ll be there to stop him.” Hank looked at her for a good while, then silently nodded. Arisia used her power ring to fly them all back home again.

***

The next evening, after arriving in Modora and setting up Professor Szackas with accommodations, Sonar decided to pay a visit to Modora’s neighboring country, Granaco. While quite a bit larger than Modora, Granaco was also not very well-known on the international news. He planned on using that to his advantage.

Years ago, I made an offer to his highness, Casino De Granaco, Sonar thought as he approached that nation’s palace. My plan then was to consolidate our two tiny countries into one small country, unifying our resources and playing off one another’s strengths. Casino, the fool, had me thrown out of the palace by his guards. Green Lantern then prevented me from taking that country by force.

One of the Granacan guards showed Sonar to the office of the ruler to await an audience. But times change, Sonar thought to himself. I heard the news recently that Casino had died tragically. He stared at a portrait of the dark-haired ruler. Oh, Casino, if you had only taken me up on my offer then. Now I must resort to other tactics.

“Admiring the portrait?” a sultry female voice asked. Sonar turned on his heel and saw a beautiful woman with long dark hair. She wore a modest gown of purple with yellow trim, the Granacan colors. “I painted it of father myself a few years back.” A gentle tear formed in the corner of her eye when she thought of how her father was no longer alive.

Sonar smiled. “And it is beautiful,” he said as he approached her and took her hand. “Much like the artist herself.” He kissed the woman’s hand gently. She blushed slightly at the gesture.

Cassandra De Granaco then made her way over to the desk and sat down in her chair. She gestured for her guest to sit as well. “So, tell me. For what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from Modora’s famous Bito Wladon?”

Sonar took a seat on the edge of the desk and gazed deeply into the young woman’s blue eyes. One could easily get lost in them, but he knew he had to focus on the task at hand.

“Cassandra, I will come straight to the point,” Sonar said. “Times are changing, and the European community is not what it was when our parents ruled. We must adapt quickly or be swallowed up by nations with greater power, nations armed with weapons like nuclear missiles.”

“Yes,” Cassandra nodded. “Your words are true. Go on.”

Sonar hopped off the desk and came around to the side. He took Cassandra’s left hand and dropped down on one knee. “Cassandra De Granaco, I propose that we two wed and merge our nations into one.”

A short time later, Sonar departed the Granacan palace with a wild grin upon his face. He still couldn’t believe that went as well as he’d hoped.

Cassandra actually agreed to it, the Modoran monarch thought. He shook his head. Of course she did! And why not? It was a truly irresistable offer. He then chuckled. What woman could resist the charms of a man with great vision such as I? It is time to move onto the next step in my complex plan. Once the wedding has occurred and our nations are joined, I will have access to the Granacan treasury. Then production will begin on the nucleo-sonic armor to outfit our army! And after that, Modora shall rise as a world power! He laughed sinisterly.

***

From the window in her office, Cassandra watched as the man passed through the gates to return home. Still in her hand was the glass of wine she had poured to seal their agreement, only a sip taken. She smiled wickedly as her fiancé disappeared out of sight.

Ah, the foolish Bito, Cassandra thought to herself. I’ve known of him for years, ever since the day he first came to talk to my father about joining the two nations. I followed his pathetic attempts to put Modora on the map but admired his determination and pride. It just needed proper focus.

The woman turned back to her desk, where Sonar’s emptied glass sat. She gathered it in her other hand and walked over to the hearth where a fire had been lit earlier to warm the room. “They say that behind every great man there is a great woman.” She drained her glass in one long drink.

“Bito will make the perfect puppet leader, and I shall reap all the treasures and power!” She tossed both glasses into the fire, and it surged briefly. The glow of the swelled flames reflected in her blue eyes, mirroring the burning desire for power that grew deep within her soul.

The End

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