by Martin Maenza
The morning sun danced across the lands of the Central European countryside on this fall morning. The red-orange hues glided over great nations like East Germany, West Germany, Romania, Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. All these were nations known to most school children around the world. But the sun played no favorites. Even insignificant nations such as the postage stamp-sized Modora were kissed by the dawning of the new day.
Granted, Modora had grown in the past year. Through a marriage with the monarch of the small nation of Granaco, Modora quickly more than doubled its size and resources. And the actions of Modora’s monarch ensured that this was just the beginning. If Bito Wladon had his way, Modora would soon become the most feared nation on the planet.
A pair of figures flew over the small nation’s border. One wore a suit of golden armor with outstretched wings. To an unaided eye, he could have passed easily for a large bird flying east. The other was more of a hazy outline of sorts of charged radio-wave energy. Again, to the unaided eye, he hardly would have been noticed.
Then, surprisingly, the two figures swooped lower and slowed their speed. Their course went from straightforward to almost circular, as if the two were searching for something.
This did not go unnoticed.
A blast of energy discharged from hidden weapons on the ground, searing directly in the path of the two flying figures. Along with it came a shrill, high-pitched burst of sound. The figures clasped their hands to their ears to block the painful sound but were not swift enough.
The man in the armor started to drop. The other tried to keep him aloft. Both fell to the ground, hard.
In seconds, a group of nucleo-sonic-armored soldiers were about them, weapons armed and ready. Another figure strode forward confidently, dressed in a blue uniform with orange trim, red pants, blue boots, and a red cape. The squad leader turned to the black-haired man. “We have subdued the intruders, Your Highness!” the soldier announced.
“Excellent!” Sonar said with a smile. He watched the two fallen heroes, hardly stirring. The blue and gold costume he recognized instantly. “Well, well, well. It looks as though someone enjoyed his stay in the dungeon so much before that he’s back for more!“
Sonar began to laugh heartily as the red-and-gray-armored soldiers captured the two fallen heroes.
From a distance, others watched the scene with specialized binoculars created by an orange-skinned alien’s power ring. “They’ve been captured,” Arisia said plainly.
“Good!” the red-and-white-garbed Hawk said. “Now for phase two!”
Dressed in blue and white, the platinum blonde Dove shook her head. Like the dark blue-hooded Herald and the purple, green, and black-white-checkered Harlequin next to her, she silently hoped Hawk knew what he was doing.
When the Golden Eagle came around, he could hardly move a muscle. His arms were thrust out to the side, and his legs straight out in front of him. Above him was the sky of blue as he was carried about on a cross-shaped platform. He glanced to the side and saw his wrists were shackled, no doubt with some kind of devices to nullify his armor. He assumed his ankles were bound in similar fashion. He was almost tempted to test their capabilities but decided against it.
Turning his bird-motif-helmeted head slightly, he could see his fellow teammate Air Wave trussed up similarly, also being carried. So far, so good, the Eagle thought to himself. All according to plan.
What struck the Golden Eagle as odd, though, was the fact that cheers came from the people who lined the streets as they were brought into the Modoran village. He had been here before, when he and the other Titans West members had come to investigate Sonar and ended up rescuing Air Wave from the dungeon. (*) The people here were dirt poor, living out a simple existence in a small European nation that seemed for the most part to be decades behind its neighbors in technological and social advancements.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Titans West: Sound Decisions.]
I don’t, like, get them at all, the Eagle thought to himself.
Something pelted him on the side of the head. It was a ripe red tomato. Hey! He wanted to shout out in objection but held his tongue. These poor villagers didn’t know any better. They weren’t the criminals, here. They merely followed the leadership of their country and tried to keep some sort of national pride, albeit as small as it was. It was the leadership that was to blame, and it was the leadership that they were here to deal with.
The crosses carrying the fallen heroes were taken up to the castle and through the main archway. A metal portcullis was lowered after they passed through, in part to keep the villagers from following.
Air Wave recognized the castle area from his last stay here, when he found himself weakened after helping to fight off an alien invasion nearly two years ago. (*) Sonar had managed to restructure the young man who had been dispersed by sound wave, only to hold the hero captive in his dungeon. Air Wave was a prisoner there for many months until Arisia and Titans West had found him.
As they moved through the courtyard and out toward some structure in back, the hero thought, Hmm, no damp and dank dungeon for us this go-round. I wonder what Sonar has in mind.
Overlooking from the castle above, through partially drawn velvet curtains, a beautiful woman with long dark hair dressed in a gown of purple watched the procession. She could see her husband smiling a grin as wide as a cat who swallowed the canary. She watched as Sonar gestured to his armored troops who carried the cross bearing the two young heroes, no doubt commanding the underlings to take the heroes to the labs where Professor Andrei Szackas had manufactured the nucleo-sonic armor.
Cassandra De Granaco took the entire scene in with a very scrutinizing, cautious eye. A bold move, Bito, she thought silently to herself. One that could cost you, though.
She closed the curtain and gathered herself together. As a girl and a young woman, she had observed her father as he ruled their small nation. He was not a powerful man, but he was a wise and shrewd thinker. From him, she learned the importance of being prepared and ready to act given the way circumstances fell.
Cassandra De Granaco wanted power, and she could feel in her bones that it about to come to her. All of her secret planning and patient waiting was about to pay off. The charade of the loving, doting spouse was about to come to an end.
“Prop them up over there!” Sonar ordered the guards as they carried the captive heroes into the large working space of the lab.
A man with brown hair in his early thirties, dressed in a very wrinkled lab coat, turned from various suits of armor being assembled at the sound of the commotion. His face was full of stubble and his eyes heavy with dark circles due to lack of sleep. The man was a wreck.
Upon seeing the arrival of the guards, Sonar, and the restraining devices, Professor Andrei Szackas exclaimed, “What’s this?! What’s going on?!”
Once Sonar saw the soldiers had secured the crosses to power bases in the floor, he turned. “Ah, professor, I have a surprise for you.”
“I’m hardly surprised,” the scientist snapped.
Sonar frowned. “Where is the respect, Szackas?” he asked. “That is so unlike you.”
Andrei Szackas wanted to shout out and scream at the man. Here he was, slaving away for the better part of a year for Sonar, taking his invention of the nucleo-sonic armor that could increase the wearer’s strength via sonics and turning it into a military application for the little dictator. Though at first Szackas agreed to do it out of national pride, having been born in Modora before moving to the United States to study, it was now becoming more and more like a prison sentence without any chance of parole. Szackas felt trapped, and he wanted out.
Instead, he turned down his head and said, “Sorry. What have you brought me, Your Highness?”
“That’s better,” Sonar said, slapping the professor on the back. “Come and see!” He guided the man over to the captive heroes, who silently watched the two.
Sonar gestured to Air Wave. “Remember my telling you about this one?” he said. “He has some abilities to take radio waves and latch on to them. He uses them to convert his own body mass into them and can transport himself in that manner.” The villain sneered. “It will be a pleasure to finally dissect him to find out how, since my last opportunity to do so was ruined.”
Air Wave scowled but said nothing.
“And this one,” Sonar said, gesturing to Golden Eagle. “He appears to have some kind of impressive armor. I think you’ll enjoy studying it.”
“Over my dead body,” the Eagle retorted.
Sonar scowled. “Arrogant pup!” He turned to Szackas. “Once we pry it off of his dead corpse, you may be able to glean further advances from it that we can use in our own nucleo-sonic armor.”
“Like you had me do with that Rocket Red armor?” Szackas asked sarcastically. “Tell me, Your Highness, did these two happen to just fall from the sky, too, like the Russian did?”
Sonar heard the tone in Szackas’ voice, even though the words were different. He swung around and slapped the scientist hard in the face with his open hand, knocking the man to the floor. The sound of the slap echoed throughout the room.
Under their masks, a couple of the guards winced. Szackas was a friend to some of them, yet they kept in ranks.
“I have had it with your disrespect, Szackas!” Sonar yelled. “You would be best advised to curb your tongue before I have it extracted permanently!“
Szackas rubbed his cheek that was now crimson, staring up at the man with much contempt.
“You fail to realize that there are only two kinds of people in the world,” Sonar continued to rant. “There are those who recognize my true genius and military savvy who will bask in wealth as part of my new world-conquering regime. And there are my enemies, who will be crushed beneath my booted heel like insignificant insects.” He turned to the downed professor. “Now, it’s up to you to decide where you will be. I suggest you make the right decision.”
Suddenly, the wall at the far end of the laboratory crashed inward. From the rubble strolled a set of five costumed figures.
“How’s about us, Sonie?” Hawk said, punching his hand in his fist. “Got a place for some party-crashers?“
Sonar eyed the heroes and realized they were allies to those he had just captured. In particular he recognized Arisia, having tangled with her and a number of her fellow Green Lanterns two years ago back in California and then in Modora itself at Castle Wladon. (*) “You?! What are you doing here? You have no right!“
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Setting Up Shop,” Green Lantern v2 #201 (June, 1986), “Turf,” Green Lantern v2 #202 (July, 1986), and “The Diabolical Dr. Ub’x,” Green Lantern v2 #203 (August, 1986).]
“Ah-ah-ah,” Hawk said, wagging his finger in a mocking manner. “Given your little confession, which we now have on tape, you have no grounds of innocence left to stand on! You’re busted, fella, and the Titans are the ones who are taking you in!”
“Guards! Attack!” Sonar ordered. The nucleo-sonic armored troops snapped at the command and launched into battle.
Hawk lunged forward to meet the fight head on. He had a grin on his face, confident and assured. He was a man of action, and he had been waiting for this fight for some time. He was going to enjoy busting a few heads. He swung back his fist and let it fly as the first of the soldiers approached. There was a slight crunching sound as the armor dented slightly from his mighty punch.
“Hmmm,” Hawk muttered. “I didn’t expect that much resistance.” Still, he swung another punch. “Just means we’ll have to work harder, is all.”
“Allow me!” a voice chirped behind him.
Suddenly, a stream of small bubbles floated in the air past Hawk toward some of the other oncoming soldiers. When the bubbles bumped into the armored forms, they burst with explosive might. They made a sound like dozens of firecrackers exploding on the Fourth of July. While the individual charges were small, the sheer number of them was enough to make some damage on the armor surface.
The Harlequin took the special bubble pipe from her mouth and said with a laughing lilt, “See, boys, you should listen to the Surgeon General. Smoking can be bad for your health.”
Hawk chuckled and continued to punch. “Nice, Harlequin,” he commended. “See, this can be fun!”
As the room began to fill with the sounds of battle and sonic blasts, up on the mounted crosses Golden Eagle turned to Air Wave. “Like, I guess we don’t have to sit around up here anymore, eh?”
Air Wave nodded. “Definitely not.” He tugged at his manacles, realizing he couldn’t reach the controls on his belt. “Uh… I think we might be stuck, after all.”
“Allow me, guys,” a voice from above said. Both turned to see Arisia flying toward them as her emerald beam turned into a pair of buzz-saw blades. The beams quickly sliced through the metallic bonds that held their wrists and ankles in place, sending sparks flying.
The guys slid down the platforms’ flat surfaces to the floor, landing on their feet. Arisia landed next to them. “You guys all right?”
“Totally!” the Eagle said, his mechanized wings emerging from his armor. “Time to show these guys what we’re, like, made of.” He launched into the air and headed into the battle.
“And you?” Arisia asked her boyfriend.
Air Wave gave her a slight peck on the cheek. “Thanks, honey.” He glanced about the room taking in the fight scene. “Now, let me just find Sonar.”