“Bonjour, mes amis, bonjour,” Eric Brown called out happily as he strolled through the city room of the Daily Star. “I’ll think of all of you as I sip champagne on the Rue de la Paix!” Brown was the Star’s science editor, and he was about to leave for Paris to cover the International Physics Conference.
“I don’t know what you’re so happy about, Brown,” Ollie Queen said, not looking up from the editorial he was typing.
“What’s not to be happy about?” Brown asked. “A week in Paris, all expenses paid? Fine food, beautiful sights…”
“French girls,” a copy boy called out.
“French girls,” Brown amended.
“Ah, I think France is vastly overrated,” Ollie said. “I’ve never been myself, but my grandfather spent two years there, and he never had anything good to say about it.”
“Wasn’t he there during World War One?” Brown asked.
“Yeah, I guess that would take the shine off it,” Ollie admitted.
Just then, the door to George Taylor’s office opened. Taylor, the editor of the Star, stuck his head out into the city room.
“Ollie, can I see you a moment?” he asked, then retreated into his office and closed the door.
“Uh-oh,” Brown said. “What’d you do now, Ollie?”
“What makes you think I did anything?” Ollie asked. “You’re so quick to jump to conclusions, Brown.”
“If you’d never done anything wrong, you’d never be accused,” Brown said. “Frankly, I’m surprised you’re still on the paper, after that editorial you did about Reagan’s AIDS policy.”
“I never did an editorial on Reagan’s AIDS policy,” Queen corrected, rising from his chair. “Reagan has no AIDS policy. That was the whole point. Looking the other way isn’t a policy.” Without another word, Ollie walked to Taylor’s office.
Ollie knocked on Taylor’s office door and was told to come in. He entered, closed the door behind him, clicked his heels together, and threw a sharp military salute.
“Reporting as ordered, herr commandant,” Ollie said.
“Oh, give it a rest, Queen,” Taylor sighed. “You’re not here for a dressing down this time.”
“I’m not?” Ollie asked, relaxing.
“No. Why? Should you be?” Taylor asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me,” Ollie said. “So what can I do for you, fearless leader?”
“You’re a boxing fan, aren’t you, Ollie?”
“You kidding?” Ollie asked. “Want me to quote you Al Davis’ TKO record?”
“Who’s Al Davis?” Taylor asked.
“My point exactly,” Ollie said, smiling. “Why ask?”
“Madison’s off on one of his benders again,” Taylor explained. “I swear, if he weren’t the best sportswriter in the business — but anyway, I need someone to cover the Aftman/Weaver fight. Want to handle it?”
Ollie’s eyes lit up. “The Malice in Dallas? You’re serious?”
“Afraid so,” Taylor said. “Got plane tickets, hotel reservations, seat in the press box. The whole shooting match. It’s yours if you think you can write a decent sports story without editorializing on the plight of the homeless or some such.”
“I can turn it off for one night,” Ollie said. “The Malice in Dallas! And here I thought I’d have to watch it on pay-per-view! Thanks, chief! I won’t let you down!”
“And don’t call me chief,” Taylor said.
Hal Jordan walked across the wide court of the student center, his eyes drinking in the sights as his ears listened to the sounds coming through the earphones of his Walkman. He gaped wide-eyed at the buildings, at the statuary, and mostly at the co-ed students. Dallas Institute of Technology, where young Hal was considering spending the next four years in the pursuit of higher learning. He wasn’t sure yet which field he wanted to major in, but he was reasonably sure he wanted to pursue the sciences. DIT had an impressive curriculum, and most of its professors were at the top of their fields.
The only thing holding Hal back at this point was adventure. If he went to college in Texas, it would put a crimp in his activities with Titans West. He had spoken to Nightwing and the Flash about it, and both emphasized the importance of education. Besides, with his Air Wave powers, he could usually answer the call wherever he was. But still, to be this far away from the action didn’t appeal to him. Perhaps he should consider USC more seriously.
Suddenly, a hand clamped down on Hal’s shoulder. Gasping in surprise, he spun on his heel. “You!” he cried.
“In your own little world, kid?” Ollie Queen grinned. “Not a good idea; anyone could sneak up on you.”
“Ollie!” Hal cried with joy. “Ollie, I haven’t seen you in ages! How’ve you been?”
“Oh, mostly OK,” Ollie said. “I heard about what happened to you. I’m glad to see you’re all right. The business would’ve lost a good one.”
Hal beamed at this praise. Green Arrow was his own personal idol, and his pride soared at these words from him. “Thanks, Ollie,” was all he could say as he turned off his Walkman and pulled the headphones down to hang around his neck.
“What’re you listening to?” Ollie asked.
“Billy Joel,” Hal said. “One of the advantages to being temporarily dead is that your favorite artists have a new album or two out when you come back.”
“That’s what the Red Tornado says,” Ollie acknowledged. “He’s a Paul McCartney fan.”
“So what brings you to Dallas, anyway?” Hal asked. “On the trail of the Red Dart, or maybe King Clock?”
“That’s Clock King,” Ollie corrected, rolling his eyes. “No, I’m covering the Malice in Dallas for the Star. Thought I’d look you up, long as I was here. Got an extra ticket, if you’d like to come along.”
“Well, frankly, Ollie, I’m not that much of a boxing fan,” Hal admitted.
“Aw, you’ve just never given it a chance,” Ollie said. “Join me, and we’ll–”
Ollie’s offer was interrupted by a high-pitched scream from across the court.
“–see what the heck that was!” Ollie finished, urgently.
Galvanized into action by the scream, the two men ran behind a convenient group of bushes and emerged seconds later as Green Arrow and Air Wave. They needn’t have been so cautious, however; no eyes were on them. All heads were turned to stare up at the student center, at the broad ledge above the wide doors, at the figure that stood there, gesturing down at them.
“Shades of the Gentleman Ghost!” Green Arrow exclaimed. “Do you see what I see?”
“I guess so,” Air Wave acknowledged. “I was afraid it was just me for a second!”
The figure that stood on the ledge was wearing the gray uniform of the Confederate Army. At least it seemed to be wearing such a uniform, for no flesh was visible anywhere. The cap floated above the empty collar, no visible head between them. As the arms moved with broad gestures, the ends of the sleeves hung empty.
“Students, hear me!” a voice boomed from the direction of the figure. “I am the spirit of the Confederate States of America! Call me Johnny Reb; the name fits me as well as any! I come today to speak to the youth of Texas, to urge you to action! The great cause your ancestors fought and died for has been shamed, forgotten! Did your grandfathers’ grandfathers die for nothing? Look around you! Yankees walk arm-in-arm with you! Colored boys, no better than animals, walk as your equals and leer at your women! Shall we allow this to continue? Shall we spit on our forefathers’ graves this way?”
“Bloody hell!” Green Arrow snarled through gritted teeth. “One thing that really ticks me off is hate-preaching, whether it comes from a white sheet or an empty Confederate uniform!”
Air Wave looked at the faces of the students watching Johnny Reb and listening to his rants. Every face was blazing with powerful emotion, but not all was unfavorable. The young hero could tell that some were finding that the mysterious figure’s words struck a chord in their own hearts.
“I’m putting a stop to this right now,” Green Arrow growled, and in one fluid motion he drew an arrow, notched it to his bowstring, pulled back, and fired. An arrow trailing a thin line behind it sank into the masonry between the bricks several feet above Johnny Reb’s floating cap. The line seemed impossibly thin, but it was a special silk, factory-tested at six hundred pounds. In a twinkling, the emerald archer had achieved the ledge and stood face-to-space with Johnny Reb.
“I’ve heard enough of your hate-spouting, no-face!” Green Arrow declared.
“Look, my brothers!” Johnny Red cried out, arms spread wide. “A famous masked vigilante from the North has come to silence me! The Yankees can’t stand to hear us speak our minds, can they? The truth stings their ears and burns their hearts!”
“Some truth,” Green Arrow countered. “Your kind always calls hatred the truth, right before they start burning crosses — or worse!”
“Bah! I have no time to waste trading words with an enforcer of the Yankee regime!” Johnny Reb declared. “I cast you out, as I would all Yankees in the South!” With that, Johnny Reb extended his right arm at Green Arrow, his empty sleeve pointing at the archer. Green Arrow suddenly clapped his hands over his ears and sank to his knees, his face a twisted grimace of pain.
“Arrow!” Air Wave cried. In a flash he changed to his energy form and rocketed into the sky, hovering in the air before the ledge. “Leave him alone, Reb, or so help me–”
“Air Wave? You side with this Yankee trash?” Johnny Reb demanded. “I expected better of Dallas’ super-guardian! Well, my power does not work on a Southerner-born! I depart, my brothers, but I shall return! Think on my words; the time is coming soon to act upon them!”
“You’re not going anywhere!” Air Wave began. Then a brilliant flash of light exploded from the spot where Johnny Reb stood, blinding the young hero. When the flash cleared, the mysterious figure was gone, and only Green Arrow remained on the ledge, slowly rising to his feet.
“Are you OK, Ollie?” Air Wave asked, landing on the ledge next to Green Arrow.
“I’m… fine,” Green Arrow said, forcing strength into his words. “I dunno what air-head hit me with, but it felt like a rusty file rasping across my brain!”
“Did you hear what he said?” Air Wave asked. “He said his power wouldn’t work on me because he thought I was born in the South, but I was actually born in Brooklyn.”
“Interesting,” Green Arrow said. “But we don’t have a lot of time to think on it now!” The archer pointed a green-gloved finger at the court below. “Look!”
Air Wave looked and saw several students arguing heatedly. Two young men, one black and one white, were on the verge of coming to blows. Air Wave knew, once the first blow was struck, no matter who struck it, a riot would ensue.
“We’ve got to–” But before the young Titan could finish, a firework arrow exploded in the air above the students’ heads. Air Wave turned to Green Arrow, but his idol was not there anymore; he was swinging down into the midst of the students.
“Settle down, people,” Green Arrow said. “Let’s not have any violence!”
“Who says so?” a young blonde girl demanded. “You, masked man? Who made you the boss of us?”
“Nobody,” Green Arrow said. “But I don’t think any of us want to see anybody get hurt over a few words. Take it from someone who’s been there; it’s a whole lot easier to start a fight than to stop one. If you want to show how tough you are, try showing it by not resorting to the caveman’s way of making a point. Dig?”
“Geez, man,” a boy of Hispanic descent said. “Who says dig anymore?”
“Well, what do you kids say these days?” Green Arrow asked.
“We say chill a lot,” a redheaded boy offered.
“If that means what I think it does,” Green Arrow said, “let’s all chill, OK? I’m not saying you shouldn’t have differences of opinion. I’m just suggesting there’s smarter ways to express them than with your fists.”
“And have people think I’m a coward?” a black youth demanded.
“My friend,” Green Arrow countered, “you’d have to be pretty dumb to think someone’s brave for taking the path of least resistance. So why do you care what someone that dumb thinks of you?”
The youth didn’t respond, but the look on his face showed that Green Arrow had gotten his point across.
From his perch on the ledge, Air Wave watched in awe and admiration. That, he knew, was what being a hero was all about. He may have had more power than Green Arrow, but he had a long way to go before he was in Ollie’s class as a hero.
The students dispersed, leaving singly or in groups of two or three. There were mumbled words and muttered curses, but no blows had been struck, and a riot had been avoided.
Air Wave landed on the pavement next to Green Arrow. “That’s how,” he said.
“What?” Green Arrow asked, uncomprehending.
“Somebody once asked me how a glorified Robin Hood — his term, not mine — rated a place on the Justice League with guys like Superman and Green Lantern. That’s how.”
Green Arrow smiled. “Ahh, nuts. I’m just a fancy talker, is all. Comes from all the hours I spent in a boardroom when I was rich. But that doesn’t solve the problem on hand; I.E., this Johnny Reb character.”
“What do you think is in back of it?” Air Wave asked. “I take it you don’t believe what he claims, that he’s the Spirit of the South or whatever.”
“Kid, I’ve seen some spooky stuff in my years as a glorified Robin Hood,” Green Arrow said. “I’ve met sorcerers, ghosts, and demons, and I’ve been on both sides of fights with them. But no, I don’t believe that headless hate-monger was what he claimed to be.”
“OK, assuming that he is human,” Air Wave said, “what could he hope to gain by stirring up racial unrest among DIT’s students?”
“I don’t know,” Green Arrow said, “but there has to be money involved somewhere. There always is; it always boils down to money. Or revenge, but most likely money.”
“So what do we do, snoop around and see if we can find a money trail?”
“If you don’t mind, kid, why don’t you take that job?” Green Arrow suggested. “I need to see someone about this headless uniform problem. I’ve got an idea I want to follow up.”
“OK by me,” Air Wave said, thrilled to be working with his idol again. “When do you want to rendezvous?”
“It’s three o’clock now,” Green Arrow said. “Meet me at six by that statue of John F. Kennedy over there in front of the library. And good hunting.”