by Martin Maenza
Los Angeles, California, the latter part of July, 1987:
Lilith Clay had been in meditation most of the afternoon.
This latest crisis facing the Earth, with the ongoing attacks by a unified invading force from space, had encompassed all walks of life from around the globe. No one knew how it would all end or how big the ramifications would be afterward. It was hard to imagine any one person who was not affected in some way, no matter how big or how small.
Lilith was no exception. Normally, she would have sought the guidance and assurance of the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus from which she hailed. However, recent events in her own life made her feel uneasy to do so. Instead, she retreated to her quarters atop the skyscraper owned by Loren Jupiter so that she could soothe her troubled spirit with some meditation.
Dressed in a simple white dress, her feet bare and folded beneath her, Lilith sat on a small rug in the center of the room with her eyes closed. Candles that she had placed all around burned low and bathed the room in a faint glow. The scent of vanilla, which the candles gave off, had filled the room as well.
She had remained motionless for the better part of three hours until the ritual was complete.
Just as she opened her eyes, an urgent knocking came to the door. She rose from the floor. “Come in,” the red-haired beauty called as she turned on the lights and began to blow out the candles.
Carrie Levine, by all appearances a normal teenage girl except for a large pair of red wings sprouting from her back, opened the door suddenly. “Lilith! Lilith!” she exclaimed. “You’ve got to come with me quick!”
Lilith did not need her special mental abilities to recognize panic in the girl’s voice. “Carrie, what is it? What’s the big rush?” She blew out the last of the candles.
Carrie grabbed the woman’s hand, pulling her from the room. “In the medi-lab!” the winged girl exclaimed. “Hurry, they’re hurt!”
Those last two words registered in Lilith’s brain as they rushed down the hallway. Process of elimination indicated at least four possible victims, but she didn’t want to jump to any conclusions yet.
The pair then took the stairs down one level. Carrie let Lilith enter the lab facility first; the red-haired mentor had to steady herself when she saw the two injured figures being put onto the tables by two other teens.
San Francisco, California:
In the basement headquarters underneath the Gabriel’s Horn nightclub, a few of the members of Titans West remained around the meeting table.
“I feel bad for putting Fran in that awkward situation,” Karen Duncan said as she picked up some of the empty paper plates and other trash. “I didn’t realize that Wally was coming here, too. I just figured it would be Superwoman delivering the battle plans from the Justice League.” (*)
“Don’t beat yourself up over it, honey,” Mal Duncan replied, giving his wife a comforting squeeze. “Fran’s been here for almost two months but has been very withdrawn about what’s going on with her and Wally. It’s best that the two went off to talk. Maybe they’ll work things out so she can go back home to Central City with him.”
“You’re right,” Karen said. “Sarah Charles and I have talked some at work, and Sarah was very concerned about Fran’s mood. She was willing to put the poor girl up while we studied her condition. Fran seems fine now. The changes in her powers were plaguing her is all. But it appears they’ve stabilized, and she’s stronger than before.” The black woman tossed the garbage into a large plastic bag.
“They’ll work it out,” Mal replied. “Dating can be such a hard thing, especially when you think you’ve found that right person.”
Young Hal Jordan, dressed in his Air Wave costume and stuffing his face with the last of the shrimp lo mein, muttered something.
“What was that?” Mal asked.
He finished chewing and swallowing. “Sorry,” Hal said. “I was saying amen to that.”
Karen came over and took the empty container he just put down. “Oh, come now,” she said in a motherly way. “What could someone your age know about that?”
“You got me there,” Hal admitted. “But I tell you what, lately things with Arisia and I have been a little tense.”
“Problems?” Mal asked.
“Not between us per se,” Hal answered. “Mostly with her dealing with the loss of her power ring and all. I finished up with high school last month and was all set to move out here to start college in the Fall. It was supposed to be a happy time for us. A start of a new chapter.
“But the loss of her power ring, that sort of put a damper on it all. She’s been so determined that she can stand on her own without it. She’s been working out a ton, for example. But without her ring to help her disguise her alien appearance, Arisia can’t carry on her dual identity as model Cindy Simpson.”
“She could always just go natural like Starfire does,” Mal said. “That has worked in her favor, for the most part. Though given everything that’s been going on of late and the anti-alien backlash in a lot of places, who knows how that would pan out?”
“That’s certainly something to consider,” Hal agreed.
“Well,” said Karen, “since Hank and Dawn agreed to run food over to Charley and Lisa, I think this trash can go out.” She tied off the bag and handed it to her husband. “Mal, could you…?”
The black man nodded and stood up. “Don’t be in a rush to settle down, Hal,” he said jokingly, “otherwise, this is what you’ve got to look forward to.” He snatched the bag from his wife’s hand and gave her a peck on the cheek. He then started for the stairs.
“Keep it up, Mr. Duncan,” she replied in a not-so-serious manner, “and you’ll be sleeping on that couch tonight.”
“I don’t mind; it’s kind of comfy,” Mal called out with a laugh as he reached the top of the stairs that lead to his office in the bar. It would take him a couple minutes to go to the Dumpster and return.
Karen turned to the young man. “So, Hal, what are you thinking about studying in college?”
“Not sure yet,” he said, scratching his head and then patting down his wavy brown hair. “My mom would love for me to go into pre-Law and maybe follow in my father’s footsteps. Another option I’ve been toying with is something in the communications field. Or possibly some kind of engineering.”
Karen nodded and began to wipe down the table. “The important thing is to find something you enjoy and that challenges you,” she said. “The last thing you want to do is be stuck in a career you don’t–”
A beeping came from the communications board, and a light indicated an incoming call. It caught both people by surprise. Since Hal was closer, Karen said, “Hit the red button, second from the right.” The young man did as she advised, bringing up the visual screen. Karen knew the person on the other end. “Lilith? Is something wrong?”
“Karen, we’ve got a situation here!” the red-head said. “We’ve got a medical emergency! I’m not familiar with the equipment here at our end!”
“I’ll be right there,” Karen replied as she fired up the transporter that worked between the two bases. “What’s the problem?”
“It’s Prysm and Arisia! They’ve both been hurt pretty bad in battle!”
“Arisia!” Hal exclaimed. “I’ll be right there!” He flipped up his mask and was reaching for the controls on his belt.
“Hal, wait!” Karen said. “The transporter is faster! Come on!”
Mal came down the steps at that moment. “Honey, what’s going on?”
“Mal!” Karen exclaimed. “We’ve got to get to L.A. fast. Arisia and Prysm have been hurt!”
“We’ll find out after we get there! Right now, they need medical help. Call Sarah Charles and bring her to L.A. with you. Alert the others, too.”
Karen and Air Wave stepped into the transporter tube that Kilowog had set up for the team, and they vanished in an energized wave, only to be beamed down the California coast to the other tube on the other end.
Karen and Lilith worked hard on the patients, utilizing the equipment in the medi-lab as well as some first aid kits. “I think Arisia is stabilized,” the scientist said. “From her medical records we were able to get from the system at the Green Lantern Citadel, at least I have a little better understanding of Graxan anatomy.”
“She was beat up pretty bad,” Lilith said. She did her best to ignore the blood stains on her dress; before Karen arrived, she had to do her best to stop the profuse bleeding of the young alien girl. Lilith lowered her voice as she glanced across the way; Hal was by her side, holding her hand. “You think she’ll pull through?”
“She should,” Karen whispered. “I’m more worried about Prysm, here.” On the table before them, the young woman made of crystal lay in a coma-like state. “Her unique physical condition has got me all turned around. I don’t know where to begin.”
Hal leaned over the bed, his face close to Arisia’s. He gently stroked her hair and spoke in a hushed tone. “It’s OK, baby,” he said. “It’s going to be OK.” He said these words as much for his own peace of mind as he did for hers. Lilith and Karen had bandaged her up as best as they could, but Arisia looked pretty bad. A broken arm, a couple of broken ribs, a twisted ankle, bruises, and swelling. Hal’s emotions were a jumble with his concern for the girl and his anger for whomever did this to her.
“…wuz… zabo fel…” Arisia mumbled. Her eyes were still closed, and she moved her head about slightly.
Hal wasn’t sure if the girl was delirious or if the words were from her native tongue. “Shhh, baby, it’s OK. Just try to lie still, all right?”
The golden-skinned alien’s eyes fluttered open for a second. “Wuh… Hal?” she said groggily. “Is that… you?”
“Yes, baby, it’s me,” Hal said. “Don’t try to talk. Just rest, OK? I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.” He leaned forward and gently kissed her forehead, just above a bandage that covered a gash. “You’ll be fine, I promise.”
Hal felt her gently squeeze his hand.
Mal arrived a few moments later with Dr. Sarah Charles. “OK, what’s going on?” the black man asked.
Karen rushed over. “Sarah, thanks for coming. They’re both pretty bad. We’ve been able to treat Arisia, but Prysm has me stumped.”
“Let me have a look,” Sarah said, putting down her bag and heading over to the table where the girl of crystal lay.
“Karen, what happened to these two?” Mal asked, obviously concerned and growing a bit impatient.
“I blame myself, Mal,” Lilith said, joining the couple. “You entrusted me with these kids, to guide them and mentor them. I let them out of my sight.”
“Nonsense, Lilith,” Karen said. “You’re not their sitter. They got into something they couldn’t handle is all. You’re not to blame.” She turned to her husband. “Mal, why don’t you go out and talk to the others? We haven’t had the time to get the details from them. Now that you’re here, you can do that. That will allow us to further examine Prysm and keep an eye on Arisia.”
Mal nodded. “Fine!” As he walked out of the lab, he tried to gain some composure. He cared a lot for these kids. He felt, as Lilith did, that they were his responsibility. Loren Jupiter provided the backing support, and Nightwing had suggested they join the program here in Los Angeles, but Mal was the one ultimately responsible for their training and well-being.
He stepped back out into the hallway and walked down to the lounge at the far end of the hall. Carrie, the one known as Redwing, stood near one of the windows looking out. On the couch, Isaiah Crockett and Toni Monetti sat on the couch. The African-American boy known also as Joto was trying to comfort the snow-white-skinned girl known also as Argent.
“How’s it going in here?” Mal asked. All three turned at the sound of his voice.
“Mr. Duncan, sir,” Isaiah said. “How are they doing?”
“They’re in good hands,” Mal said. “All we can do is send out our prayers and positive vibes.” He went to the coffee maker, where a pot sat warming. He poured himself a cup and took a sip. “In the meantime, I need you guys to help me out, here.”
“How so?” asked Carrie.
Mal sat down on the couch next to Toni. “I need to know what happened today, from the beginning.”
The three teens, visibly concerned for their friends, started to tell the tale.