One hour later, Hal Jordan had resumed his civilian identity and was visiting the offices of Dallas Institute of Technology’s Afro-American Student Organization. Having tried to come up with a possible money angle and failed, he had thought to investigate a possible revenge angle. At the organization’s office, the appearance of Johnny Reb was the hot topic of conversation. Everyone was talking about it, some in very heated voices. As Hal walked into the offices, he found himself the subject of more than one cold stare. He felt vulnerable, unsure of himself, and he wondered if this was how minority students usually felt.
“Can I help you?” the man behind the desk said emotionlessly as Hal stepped up. This was a young man, but older than the students; Hal surmised that it was an associate professor, perhaps a recent alumnus of DIT, working at the Organization in his spare time. Hal opened his mouth to answer, but before he could speak, a scream cut through the air. Hal whirled on his heel to stare in the direction of the scream and found that another mysterious figure had appeared outside the organization’s office. Like Johnny Reb, this was apparently an invisible figure in a Civil War uniform, but this one wore the brilliant blue of the Union Army.
“Friends, hear me!” the spectral image spoke. “I am Billy Yank, Spirit of the North! Johnny Reb’s foul words have awakened me from my slumber. Do not take his threats lightly, my friends, for he means what he says! He would lead his cracker children in revolt against you, whose right to be here was won on the battlefields of Appomattox and Antietam! You must not let his inbred hillbillies cast you out; you must strike first, and strike hard!”
Oh, brother, Hal thought, slipping away in the excitement, here we go again!
“Welcome aboard, Oliver,” Katar Hol said warmly. He stood at the controls of the teleporter-tube of his Thanagarian spacecraft in full costume except for his mask, watching Green Arrow emerge from the tube. “I’m pleased to have you here. You’ve never been aboard our ship before.”
“Well, thanks for having me, Katar,” Green Arrow said. “On such short notice, I mean.” There had often been heated arguments between these two, the liberal and the conservative. But when all that was stripped away, they were both devoted fighters for freedom and justice, teammates, and, most of all, friends. So their past enmities were not spoken of.
“Not at all,” Katar said. “What can I do for you?”
“Well, you beamed me up from Dallas, so you know where I’ve been,” Green Arrow said. “I met a pretty weird character down there — calls himself Johnny Reb.”
“A Civil War reference,” Katar said. “I’ve studied that conflict.”
“So I don’t need to give you any background on it,” Green Arrow said. “Good. Anyway, this dude was wearing a Confederate Army uniform, but the uniform was all you could see. No face, no hands, nothing.”
“Sounds like my old enemy, the Gentleman Ghost,” Katar nodded.
“Exactly what I said, at first,” Green Arrow said. “I’m wondering if you have any ideas on how such an effect could be accomplished.”
“Well, you know I’ve never cracked the secret of the Ghost,” Hawkman said. “I’ve never even captured him. Neither has Batman.”
“I know that, Katar,” Green Arrow said, “but I also know you. I know how your mind works. The shortest distance between two points is science. I’ll bet you’ve lain awake nights, trying to puzzle out how the Ghost could have done what he’s done. And I’m betting you’ve got a few ideas on the subject.”
Katar chuckled a little. “You do know me, Ollie. Here, let me show you something.”
Katar walked out of the control room, beckoning for Green Arrow to follow. “Wait there a second,” Katar said as he entered another room. Green Arrow waited patiently for perhaps two minutes, until Katar said, “OK, come in now.” The archer entered the room, which seemed to be some kind of laboratory. “Blazes!” he exclaimed, when he saw his friend standing in the center of the lab. Katar’s head was missing.
“The Southerners’ hatred of you has never died, my friends,” the apparition calling itself Billy Yank went on. “Look at the campus about you! How many Confederate flag symbols do you see on license plates? The fighting flag of the army that fought to keep your ancestors in chains! The only answer is to rise up and strike them before they can strike at you!”
“The best defense is a strong offense, huh?” a voice called from above. The floating cap tilted upward, and Air Wave landed in a brilliant flash of energy.
“You see, my friends?” Billy Yank said. “Here is the costumed stooge of the good ol’ boys himself! Air Wave, defender of the rebels! Come to put you in your place like good little darkies!”
“What a load of horse hooey!” Air Wave spat. “I’m here because I don’t like hate speech, from either side! Listen to me, all of you,” Air Wave cried, addressing the students. “These faceless freaks are trying to start a race riot here! I don’t know why yet, but Green Arrow and I are working together to find out! Please remain calm, and — aargh!”
Air Wave’s plea turned into a scream of pain as Billy Yank pointed his right arm at the Titan. Air Wave recalled how Green Arrow had described the sensation and declared it much, much worse.
“So will fall all the Southern rebels before my power,” Billy Yank declared. “Hear me, my friends! Tonight the students of this university, the children of those who would return you to slavery, hold a pep rally for their football team! That is where we will strike! I will be there to lead you to victory! All who would remain free, be there, ready to fight for your freedom!”
And in a brilliant burst of light, Billy Yank was gone.
“What do you think, Ollie?” Katar asked. The voice came from the direction of his head, but his head was gone, completely invisible.
“I think you’re creeping me out,” Green Arrow said. “Lose the Jayne Mansfield impression, OK, Katar?”
“OK,” Katar said. His fingers lifted to the base of his neck and pulled up. Slowly, Katar’s head became visible again from the bottom up. Green Arrow gawked at the sight.
“All right, Doug Henning, how’d you do that?” he demanded.
“With this,” Katar said, holding out his left hand. There appeared to be nothing in the hand. But Katar’s right hand touched a stud on a tiny control unit he held, and something shimmered in his left hand. A second later, a small mass of shiny, silvery cloth became visible.
“Holy Moses!” Green Arrow exclaimed. “An invisible hood! Can I touch it?”
“Sure, go ahead,” Katar said.
Green Arrow lifted the hood and held it up. “How’s it work?”
“A simple photoelectric principle,” Katar explained. “The material of the hood is double-walled, with a tiny space in between. The space in the back of the hood is filled with miniature cameras, and the face of the hood is one big screen.”
“I dig,” Green Arrow said. “So the cameras project a picture of what’s behind the wearer’s head onto the screen in front of it, making the head seem invisible!”
“While tiny cameras on the top of the hood project an image of what’s in front of the wearer onto another screen,” Katar explained, “on the inside of the face. It’s awkward, but the wearer can see that way.”
“Impressive,” Green Arrow said. “But you made this with Thanagarian technology, didn’t you?”
“Not at all,” Katar said. “Everything in that invisible hood was made with technology available on Earth. Of course, immodest as this may sound, I did use Thanagarian know-how to put it together. Someone on Earth who could do this would qualify as a genius.”
“Like the man said,” Green Arrow said, holding up the hood, “verrry innnterestink.”
“So now we’ve got two faceless phonies to deal with, huh?” Green Arrow said. “Curiouser and curiouser.” Green Arrow and Air Wave had met by the statue in front of the library, as arranged.
“From what you tell me about the technology,” Air Wave said, “it looks like someone is trying to start a riot for their own ends!”
“Any idea what those ends could be?” Green Arrow asked.
“My guess is someone has it in for the university,” Air Wave said. “Some disgruntled former students or something.”
“Revenge angle, eh?” The archer asked. “Could be; but something still smells of money to me.”
“I don’t know,” Air Wave said. “I don’t mean to dispute, but it must have cost a fortune to create those invisible hoods you told me about. Why would someone spend all that money just to steal more?”
“One thing I did learn from all those board meetings,” Green Arrow said. “The more you have, generally, the more you want. We just have to ask ourselves, what’s to steal at the university?”
“Well, I spoke to the Dean,” Air Wave said. “I told him about Billy Yank’s threat, urged him to step up security at the pep rally.”
“What’d he say?” Green Arrow asked.
“Said he’d do as much as he could,” Air Wave replied, “but he had to maintain at least a few guards at the Kirby Research Center.”
Beneath his mask, Green Arrow’s eyebrows lifted. “And why is that?”
The crowd of students gathered at the football field for the pep rally was in higher emotion than usual. They looked at one another with anger and mistrust. Passions were at a boil, and not over the upcoming football game.
Green Arrow crouched behind one of the TV monitor screens, waiting for something to happen. He spoke into the walkie-talkie he held in his hand. “How you doing, kid?” he asked.
“Impatient,” Air Wave responded, using his own built-in radio equipment. “Waiting for something to happen!”
“Something will,” Green Arrow assured him. “Just have to give it time.”
From his perch atop the goal posts, Air Wave scanned the field. There was a definitely increased security presence, but certainly even they wouldn’t be enough to quell a riot of the proportions that could arise here.
Air Wave watched as the football team marched out onto the field. The Dallas Institute of Technology Kodiaks, or DITKo’s as they were popularly known, were about equally made up of black and white students. Air Wave noted with a slight smile that at least they weren’t glaring at each other.
Suddenly, a flash of brilliant white light burst on the opposite end of the field. All heads turned to see Billy Yank standing there, waving his empty coat-sleeves at the crowd.
“The time is now, my brothers!” he called out. “Rise up and strike down the white oppressors who would return you to bondage!”
Before anyone could react, there was another brilliant flash of light from high in the stands. Johnny Reb appeared there.
“Do not listen to him, my friends!” the faceless Confederate called. “The time has come to cast out the Yankee stain from the South! Take arms with me, and cast down the vile serpent of the North!”
“Your mother,” Green Arrow muttered, drawing an arrow.
Before the grumbling students could erupt into the actions ignited by Johnny Reb and Billy Yank’s words, a fireworks-arrow exploded in the sky above the stadium, drawing their attention away. Green Arrow ran out into the middle of the field, calling to the students. His image was broadcast onto the big TV screens ringing the field.
“Listen to me, all of you!” Green Arrow called. “You’re being duped by these con men! They don’t care about the whole North versus South thing; they’re just here to steal!”
“Lies!” Johnny Reb cried. “The lies of the puppet of the Yankee regime! This is how we respond to them!” The faceless villain extended his right arm toward Green Arrow. But the archer was quicker, letting an arrow fly at him. The arrow arced around Johnny Reb, ringing him in. The Southern spectre let out a cry of agony and dropped to his knees.
“That was a feedback-arrow,” Green Arrow explained to the students. “It turned his mystic whammy — which is really just a high-frequency sonic beam — back on him! And here’s another trick explained!”
Quick as lightning, Green Arrow drew, notched, and fired two arrows. They sped swift and accurate to their targets, each one striking one of the faceless phantoms square in the chest. As the blunt arrowheads struck, streams of thick black grease squirted from them directly into the empty space where the villains’ faces should be.
Air Wave watched tensely, waiting to get into the action. Then he heard a voice crackling over the short-wave frequency he and Green Arrow were using.
“Emergency! Need backup!” the voice cried. “Under attack at Kirby Research Center! Need backup! Repeat, need backup!”
With a grin, Air Wave vanished and rode the radio waves back to their source. At the other end of the transmission, he burst from the walkie-talkie full-formed, startling guards and gunmen alike. Two security guards were backed into a corner by four masked invaders carrying machine guns.
“Hi, guys,” Air Wave said. “Hold still. I want to try something. I got the idea from a comic-book.”
Air Wave changed his body to pure electrical energy, then zoomed forward. He passed through the bodies of the gunmen, shocking them as he passed. When he emerged from the fourth body, he turned solid again. He looked behind him at the four gunmen; two had been rendered unconscious, and the others had dropped their guns and were covered by the armed security guards.
“Thank you, Roy Thomas,” Air Wave said, smiling.
“Calling Research Center,” a voice crackled over a guard’s walkie-talkie. “Calling Simon Kirby Research Center. Unable to send backup. Do you read?”
“It’s all right,” the guard said into the walkie-talkie, grinning. “Everything’s OK here now.”
“Kid? You there?” Green Arrow’s voice came, over another guard’s walkie-talkie.
“There’s my ride,” Air Wave said. “You guys can handle it from here, right? See ya!” The young hero then turned to energy again and vanished into the walkie-talkie. Once again he rode the radio waves to the source and emerged at the other end. Green Arrow jumped back a foot.
“Don’t ever do that!” he yelled. “Scared me out of ten years’ growth–”
“How’re things here?” Air Wave asked.
“See for yourself,” Green Arrow said, jerking a thumb in the direction of a police van. Four officers were leading the handcuffed Johnny Reb and Billy Yank into the back of the van. The villains’ hands and faces were now visible. The rest of the officers were trying to keep the angry students back to protect the prisoners from their wrath. And it was no wonder.
“Johnny Reb — the one who tried to incite the Southerners against the blacks — he’s — black!”
“Uh-huh,” Green Arrow said. “I guess it appealed to his ironic sense of humor; that’s why he didn’t take the Billy Yank role. Never figured an oil-slick arrow would make him take his invisible mask off.”
“All this to steal a new computer microchip from the research center,” Air Wave said, shaking his head.
“Computers are the wave of the future, kid,” Green Arrow said. “That chip could be worth billions, if it does what they want it to do.”
“I guess so.” Air Wave turned to Green Arrow with a grin. “Thanks for letting me help you on this one, Ollie.”
“Letting you?” Ollie asked. “Hey, you’re a hero in your own right, son. Don’t ever let anybody tell you different.”
“I won’t,” Air Wave said, grinning.
“Great! Now, how about that boxing match?”