by Martin Maenza
Roy Harper was a bit surprised when they entered the main parlor. When he heard the word casino, he first thought of the glitzy, showy places of the Las Vegas Strip — all the lights, the neon, the extravagance. He should have figured that this wouldn’t be at all like that.
Yes, there were the typical sights and sounds one would see in Vegas: the colorful and themed slot machines, the sounds of the falling coins, and the occasional buzzers for big jackpot wins. Besides a number of rows of slot machines, there were tables in the far end set up for black jack and craps. There was also a large color wheel along the back wall that patrons would bet upon to see where it landed.
These were things that Roy expected to see, just on a smaller scale. And it seemed fairly crowded, especially given the time of day. “They’re busy,” he said. “Every slot seems to be in use.”
“One-armed bandits robbing people of their life savings,” Wenonah said, despair in her voice.
“The reservation easily profits thousands of dollars each month,” Tom Jungbaer explained, quoting from the material they were given earlier. “That money gets folded back into education of the children, medicine, and renovations of older buildings.”
“All tax-free?” Roy asked.
“Yes,” Tom said, “because it’s done on the land owned by the Indians, they are not regulated by the U.S. government.”
“And not accountable,” Wenonah added. “Who ensures all the money goes to helping the tribe?”
“Now, just a–” Tom started to protest.
He was interrupted by the sounds coming from across the way, a rather loud voice.
“I was cheated!” a rather large white man exclaimed. His hair was brown and scraggily, his clothes a bit unkempt. “I want my money back!” The Pueblo card dealer at the table was talking more softly, trying to calm the man, but the gambler was not hearing it. He started to raise his fist back.
Roy instinctively sprang into action, darting across the way and grabbing the man’s fist before it could fly forward. “Easy there, cowboy!” Roy said. “Violence doesn’t solve anything!”
“Why, you!” the angry man grumbled. He tried to tug his fist free, but Roy held fast. He then decided to use his other; Roy threw his hand up and caught that, too. The man’s reactions were slowed and predictable. There was a smell of alcohol on his breath.
“That’s enough,” Roy said, holding him fast. “I think you need some fresh air to cool off.” He gave the man a slight shove toward the door. Two other Indian men were on the scene, ready to escort the unruly patron out of the casino.
“Indian lover!” the man spat. “You side with them? The cheats!” The two men escorted him out of the place while he continued to rant and rave.
Wenonah and Tom joined Roy. “See?” she said. “Trouble. Just like I said.”
Roy brushed himself off and looked toward the door. The woman did have a point.
The heated debate continued on through dinner and into the evening. Finally, Roy retired to a room that Tom had arranged for him. It was just down one door from Tom and the other visiting delegates. But try as he might, Roy could not get comfortable.
I’m so used to sleeping with the sounds from the baby monitor, he thought to himself. It’s kind of funny. There was something soothing about hearing the gentle snores of his daughter, even in the next room. The lack of that made him uncomfortable, uneasy.
He sat up on the edge of the bed. Maybe a little walk might do me good, he thought to himself. Roy stood in his darkened room, moved over to the window, and drew the curtain aside. A full moonlit night cast shadows about the area. It reminded him a bit of his childhood and how he and Tom would sometimes sneak out at night to join their friends in midnight activities.
Roy’s good thoughts of the past were broken when he heard some sounds across the grounds. What’s that? he thought to himself. Then he saw four figures moving through the shadows, four rather large and imposing ones. They seemed to be moving in an unusual way, as if trying to not be seen.
Roy frowned. This bears investigation. He went to his bag and dug down deep beneath the rest of the clothes. He then pulled out a familiar red costume with yellow boots and gloves. He started to change.
A short while later, as the masked hero Arsenal, Roy moved about the grounds, his bow held firmly in one hand. Those figures seemed to be moving towards the casino buildings, he thought to himself. I wonder if some of the folks in opposition plan to do a little vandalizing.
“Hold it right there,” a female voice called out firmly behind him.
Instinctively, Arsenal spun around and let fly the net arrow he had handily notched. The shaft flew above its intended target, with the special arrowhead releasing a silken web down upon the person.
The female in shadows raised her arms, grabbing the ends of the netting. “Not very wise,” she said with a pull of her arms. The netting ripped. “Do you always shoot first and ask questions later?” The female let the materials fall to the floor and stepped forward. She had flowing black hair with a brown mask to hide the rest of her facial features. She was dressed in a low-cut, long-sleeved brown top with fringe all about the underside of her arms. Her legs were bare save for a pair of brown boots.
Arsenal eyed her curiously. “You — you look familiar. I think I know you.”
“I certainly know you, Arsenal of the New Titans,” she said. “Formerly Speedy and sidekick of Green Arrow.”
Arsenal smiled. “I guess my fame precedes me.”
“Some of us are not as well known as others,” she said.
“Then maybe we should get to know each other better,” the hero said, lunging forward.
The woman grabbed his arm as he moved forward and with ease flipped him over her. Arsenal landed on the ground, not firmly, but enough to get his attention. “Whoa,” he said with some surprise.
The woman glared down at him then offered him a hand. He cautiously took it, and she pulled him up. “I am Owlwoman,” she stated, “of the Global Guardians.”
“Global Guardians — right,” Arsenal said, now putting it all together. “That’s why you looked familiar.” He brushed himself off. “Sorry about that. I guess I deserved that throw.”
“So what brings you out here on a night like this?” Arsenal asked.
“No doubt the same as you,” the Indian heroine replied. “My night-vision allowed me to see some mysterious figures skulking about the grounds. I was about to investigate when I saw you were on a similar hunt.”
“Then it sounds like maybe we should investigate together,” Arsenal suggested. “Especially since there are four of them.”
“I suppose,” Owlwoman said. And with that, the two continued to follow in the direction the men went. There was a rumbling sound. The heroine looked up curiously at the sky but saw no clouds. She glanced at Arsenal. “Did you hear that?”
The yellow-capped man nodded. “Yeah, odd.” There was another rumble. “And it’s coming from our destination.” The two quickened their pace.
“Shall I hit the lights?” one of four men in the darkened casino asked.
“No!” said one of the others firmly. He had a larger, more feathered headdress than the others. “Just trash the place!” He tapped the one man next to him. “Let’s go find the safe!”
“Right, Chief,” the big man nodded. The two moved off.
The last man turned to the first who had spoken. “You heard him! Time to trash this joint! Make it look like Mother Nature is mad at them!” He thrust out his hands, releasing a deluge of water at the row of slot machines.
His partner grinned. “Now let me help!” His eyes began to spark, and then bolts of electric energy shot from them. The blasts combined with the stream of water, which conducted the energy all about the machines. In a second, there were loud pops and cracks as the mechanical devices short-circuited. The air started to fill with the smell of smoldering metal.
“Nice!” the water projector agreed.
“No, it is not!” a firm female voice said.
The lights to the main casino hall suddenly cut on. The two men, both dark-haired American Indians dressed in dark pants, white T-shirts, and purple masks, spun around. Standing before them were the two costumed heroes Arsenal and Owlwoman.
“Vandalism is no way to solve a problem,” Owlwoman stated.
Arsenal notched an arrow in his bow and moved it back and forth between the two men. “OK, boys, we gonna do this the easy way or the hard way?”
Arsenal got his answer when a bolt of lightning shot in his direction. Owlwoman took to the air to avoid it, while the archer ducked and rolled. “Hard way it is!” He let the shaft fly.
The arrow released a net down upon the one who shot the lightning bolts. “Argh!” he cried out as he wrestled with the trap. The more he tried, the worse he got tangled up. “Rain-in-the-Face, help me!”
“You’re on your own, Thundercloud,” the water-projecting Indian replied. “I’m busy at the moment!” Indeed, he had both arms thrust out before him, creating a heavy stream of water targeted for the flying heroine.
Despite the confined space of the room and the onslaught attack, she darted back and forth in the air to avoid the high-pressured water blast. “You may be swift,” she said as her circle got tighter around the man. He kept having to move and turn to adjust his aim. He wasn’t very successful. “But when on the hunt, the owl is much swifter!” She made a swooping pass, kicking her right foot out at the last instant.
The side of her foot connected to the back of the man’s skull. Rain-in-the-Face went down, his head slamming into the soaked, gray-carpeted floor.
“What a shock!” Arsenal said as he dodged another bolt. He got close enough to the second Indian and landed a solid punch to Thundercloud’s jaw. “Your pal’s all washed up, and so are you!” The Indian crumpled to the floor.
Arsenal rubbed his fist to give it some relief as Owlwoman landed beside him. “Do you always make jokes when you fight?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” Arsenal said, smiling. “I guess it comes from all those years working alongside the Boy Wonder.” He looked at the two downed foes. “Say, I wonder where…?”
“What’s all the ruckus out here?” a voice called from the doorway. The two heroes turned to see the third man, dressed similarly to the other two save his more ornate headdress. He spied the two heroes in amazement. “What the–?”
“There’s your third,” Owlwoman said.
“But where’s the fourth?” Arsenal asked.
Suddenly, the wall behind the Chief shattered as a much larger, more imposing man crashed through to this side.
“There’s your answer!” Owlwoman stated. “I’ll take the giant!” She launched into the air.
“Fine by me,” Arsenal said. He started to notch an arrow to take aim, but the Chief was no longer there. “Huh?”
Suddenly, Arsenal was blindsided by a punch as the Chief burst past him with great speed. “You won’t interfere with us!” Chief Crazy Horse vowed as he sprinted around for another pass. “As much as I hate to raise a hand against my Indian brothers, this casino will be destroyed!” He moved about the room, toppling tables and trashing the games of chance in his wake.
Arsenal shook his head firmly as he recovered from the punch. Damn! he thought. I didn’t expect super-speed! He reached in the back of his quiver. Good thing I came prepared!
The giant Indian swatted his hand toward the flying woman. She twisted in the air to avoid the brunt of the blast but felt the rush of air as the palm passed. “Your size does not intimidate me,” Owlwoman said.
“Oh, I think it will!” Tall Tree replied. He concentrated, and his size increased once more. His shoulders and back broke through the roof of the ceiling, sending down large chunks to the floor. In a moment, he towered eighteen feet into the night air. “Ha-ha-ha! I’ll crush you!” He raised his foot and then stomped down hard.
The heroine dodged the attack. This reminds me of that tale from the Bible that Seraph often likes to tell, she thought, about David and Goliath. She flew up and away, then turned back on her arc. Her speed increased as she soared back toward the huge man. I can only hope I have what it takes to take down this giant! Her fist slammed into the mighty Tall Tree.
“Idiot!” cursed Chief Crazy Horse as he dodged the falling debris. “He’ll have the whole reservation onto us!”
“I wouldn’t worry about that!” Arsenal said. “By the time the authorities get here, you’ll be all wrapped up!”
“You’re a fool, archer, if you think you can catch me!” the villain sneered. “I am way too fast for your arrows to touch!” To emphasize his point, the villain darted back and forth as the hero shot a barrage of arrows toward him. “See? They fall to the ground, short of their mark!”
“Yeah,” Arsenal said. “I guess you’re too smart for me.” He tried not to smile.
“I’m out of here!” Chief Crazy Horse said as he grabbed one of the bags of discarded cash from the safe. “I can’t believe I agreed to doing this job!” He started to move across the floor, only to find his feet sticking fast. “Whaaa–?” With his momentum, he fell off balance and toppled forward. His face hit the floor, landing in some form of sticky, clear solution. “What is this?”
Arsenal stood over him confidently. “Just some special super-adhesive,” he pointed out. “Those handy-dandy glue arrows were meant to cover the floor.” The Indian struggled in vain trying to free himself. Arsenal laughed. “Just like a fly in amber.”
He then noticed Owlwoman and Tall Tree going at it beyond the damaged building. “Stick around, Chief! I’ve got to see if I can be of assistance!” Arsenal worked his way through the rubble and outside the building just as some of the local authorities were arriving on the scene.
“What’s going on here?” the Pueblo officer asked.
“You’ll find three of the thieves inside,” Arsenal stated. “I’ve got help my friend, there!”
“No need!” Owlwoman replied as she slammed into Tall Tree with yet another powerful punch. Using her super-strength, she had been hammering into the man for the last minute or so. Her last blow was enough to topple the giant. He went crashing to the ground, hard. His body was still, and he quickly reverted back to his normal size.
Owlwoman landed next to Arsenal. “I believe the saying goes, ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall,'” she said.
Arsenal smiled. “Now you’re loosening up and having fun.” He went over to retrieve the fallen Indian. “Any clue who these guys are?”
“From their appearance and abilities, I believe they are a group of criminals who call themselves the Renegades,” the heroine said. “They appeared once about five years ago down in Texas. (*) Set a very bad example for the rest of us Native Americans.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Divided We…Die?” Freedom Fighters #11 (December, 1977).]
“Obviously not big fans of casinos on reservations,” the archer said as he surveyed the damage. “They sure did a number on this one.”
“Some people choose to use violence over peaceful discussion,” Owlwoman said sadly. “While it might lead to the same conclusion, who ends up paying the price for it in the end?”
Arsenal listened intently to the woman’s words and her voice. There was passion and sorrow — and something else. “Maybe,” he said, “or maybe there was another reason. Maybe they’ll sing to the police.”