by Martin Maenza, Immortalwildcat and Libbylawrence
Far from Earth on the planet Thanagar, two robed figures moved through the darkened night streets. The robes ran from head to toe with long sleeves and dark hoods that kept the two inside from being recognized. “We have to be careful,” one of the figures said as they kept to the shadows, moving quickly. “If we’re detected, we’ll have a much larger fight on our hands.”
“Agreed,” said the other, who motioned to a door in the alleyway that was unlocked. The two slipped inside and dropped their hoods. Beneath, the couple wore masks of the Thanagar hawk-police; one was male and the other female with red hair. “So, Katar, I take it contacting the JLA Satellite is now out of the question.”
“Yes, Shayera,” Hawkman said. “We’re on our own until we can safely return to our ship.”
“You sound worried,” Hawkwoman said, knowing her husband’s tone of voice.
“I am. Given the current political climate, finding allies to help the Earth’s cause might prove more difficult than we first thought.” Hawkman paused for a moment and gestured to his partner to keep quiet. Next, he pressed his ear to the door and then, after a moment, opened it a crack.
From the street, sounds came of a forced march and cries of anguish. Hawkman’s eyes grew wide as he saw civilians being herded like so much cattle by the hulking Citadellian soldiers. They used prodding staffs that emitted a slight shocking charge whenever folks began to straggle. The thing that concerned Hawkman more was the number of hawk-police in the air, overseeing the activity as if they endorsed it fully.
Hawkman closed the door quietly after letting his wife see as well.
“What’s going on?” Hawkwoman said.
“I don’t know, but it doesn’t look good. I recognized some of the people being ushered away. Some of them have been known supporters of our actions on Earth in the past. Something tells me the attack on the Earth was just part of some bigger galactic plot.”
“So, where do we start looking, Katar? At the top?”
“Just what I was thinking,” Hawkman said. They put up their hoods once more and waited for the streets and the air to be clear. Then they continued to move through the capital city.
“Excellency! Excellency! Somebody dares to breach our airspace!“
Qatar Hussein, premier of the Middle Eastern nation of Qurac, looked up from the intelligence file he was studying. His dark eyes pinned the quivering subordinate in place. “Shoot it down, fool! Has that not been my standing order for the past five years?”
“We have tried, Excellency. Three direct hits, and it does not appear to be damaged!”
Hussein stood up and came around his massive desk. “What sort of plane is this?” he asked as he led the way to the radar monitoring center. Outside of his office, beds full of injured and ill Quraci citizens filled the halls and rooms. They reached a stairway and went quickly down to the basement of the prominently marked hospital. There, the results of fifteen years of cooperation with oil-hungry western nations gleamed in the low light.
Banks of computers and power-supply cabinets filled half the room. Around the outer walls, radar and weapons-control consoles stood with their operators hunched over the screens. One console had several people studying it already, but when Hussein approached, they quickly made room for him. He bent to study the radar screen for moments, then straightened up.
“Video!” he snapped. Two screens came to life, showing the craft approaching at an altitude of a mere thirty feet above ground level. “Incredible. The west has nothing like this!”
“It approaches the capital city, Excellency. Shall we prepare the missiles?”
“No! Let them land. They devastate the American cities. Therefore, perhaps they seek to ally themselves with the great lion of the desert!“
The alien invasion’s effects were not limited to producing acts of violence or heroic deeds. The entire sequence of events also had economic consequences, as shown in an elevator on the allegedly nonexistent thirteenth floor of a skyscraper in Los Angeles. The uniformed elevator operator removed his cap and scratched his head in bewilderment. He looked over at a trim and stylish woman in a pink dress and said, “It’s all done. I’ve closed down every aspect of our operation here. I hated to do it, since our intergalactic tourism business had thrived following our relocation from that structure in Metropolis.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Don’t Get Off on the 13th Floor,” Action Comics #448 (June, 1975).]
The woman nodded in agreement. Beneath their human façades, the two natives of the planet Tybalt had green complexions, but their expressions were clearly sad with any skin color. “We have no choice,” she said with a sigh. “No one wants to pay us to arrange a vacation on Earth since this planet became the target of such a hostile force of invaders. The intergalactic transporter units we concealed on the thirteenth floor of this building via an inter-dimensional space doorway were already gathering dust from lack of use after the last alien invasion. Nobody wants to waste hard-earned credits to see a world in the middle of a war!” They activated one final switch and vanished. Their business had failed, and the effect on their lives was one not even imagined by those who played a larger role in the conflict.
Elsewhere, the invasion was a source of recreation as two purple-hued aliens recorded the entire series of Earthly battles for sale to their customers via a pay-per-view scheme that had brought great profit to the enterprising pair. “Captain Comet really gave us a brilliant idea when he suggested we stopped staging fake battles for the viewers and merely tape the many heroic battles Earth’s heroes engage in daily,” said the one named Albon. (*) “Little did he know a box-office bonanza like the Alien Invasion II would occur!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Maxima Impact, Chapter 2: Gladiator.]
The other one smiled in agreement. “I do hope Earth survives for a possible sequel,” said Nordon.
Finally, on the gambling world called Ventura, two beings known as Rokk and Sorban placed their own wagers on the outcome of the conflict. The two cosmic gamblers were addicted to any contest of chance, and the odds against Earth’s heroes were creating some very profitable stakes for risk-takers.
Hawkman and Hawkwoman made their way up to the home quarters of Rul Pintar, one of the men whom they knew was leading Thanagar to a more democratic society when they were last here. “Katar, is this a good idea?” Hawkwoman asked as they flew up to the balcony.
“If anyone would have an idea of what was going on, it would be him,” Hawkman said. They landed and carefully approached the door. They opened it and stepped inside to find Rul still awake reading.
“Katar?! Shayera?!” Rul exclaimed. “What in the name of Polaris brings you here?”
“Rul, we need to know what’s going on with Thanagar,” Hawkman said. “Why are the Okaarans here imprisoning citizens, and why are the Wingmen assisting them?”
Rul looked agitated. “This is not a safe time here,” the man said, sweat on his brow. “Especially for you two! You need to–!”
There were a number of clicking sounds from behind them. Hawkman and Hawkwoman turned around to see a dozen Wingmen standing on the balcony, weapons cocked. Hawkwoman turned to her husband. “It’s a trap!“
“Yes!” said a female voice. The couple knew it well even before its owner stepped from the shadows. An orange-skinned woman with purple hair that moved like serpents stepped from behind a curtained-off room. The Alstairian woman wore a purple, form-fitting outfit.
“Hyathis!” Hawkman exclaimed, recognizing their old foe. “You’re behind this? How?“
Hyathis smiled. “You’ll find out soon enough — at your execution!“
The Wingmen opened fire with their stun weapons, nailing the two famed heroes before they could make another move. Hawkman and Hawkwoman fell to the ground, unconscious.
Hyathis turned to Rul Pintar. “Tell me my ears misheard you trying to warn them!” she said.
Rul stammered. “Y-yes, my Queen.”
“Yes, you were warning them, or yes, I misheard?“
“Y-you misheard, ma’am,” Rul lied.
Hyathis approached him, running her long tapered hand against his cheek. “Thank you for clarifying that,” she cooed. Then, with her nails, she gouged his face with a heavy scratch. “Don’t ever cross me again, or you’ll get the same fate that’s about to befall these two!”
Rul grasped his face and found blood on his hand. “Y-yes, my Queen.” As the Wingmen picked up the two bodies to carry them off, Rul was truly regretting his part in all of this.
Hyathis was beside herself at the prisoners finally awoke. They stood atop one of the tallest buildings in the capital city of Thanagar. A number of the Wingmen stood ready as the prisoners stirred. “Get up, both of you!” the dictator commanded. “It is time for you to die!“
Both groaned. Hawkman rose to his feet first. They still wore their wings, but something was different about their antigravity belts.
“Don’t think about flying off on me!” Hyathis said. “Your belts have been fitted with a special device, one that counters the belts’ natural abilities. You won’t be going anywhere–” She glanced to the edge of the building. “–except down!“
“How are you back here and back in power?” Hawkman asked. “We drove you out years ago!” Hawkman referred to the rescue that he, his wife, Batman, and Superman performed a number of years back that exposed Hyathis and returned Thanagar to rule by its people. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Assault on Thanagar,” World’s Finest Comics #278 (April, 1982).]
“She’s the proverbial bad penny, Katar!” Hawkwoman said. “She just keeps turning up!”
“Bitter to the end, eh, Shayera?” Hyathis cooed. “And, Katar, inquisitive as always.” She started to pace. “All right, I’ll satisfy your curiosity, so you can suffer with that on your minds as you plummet to your doom. You are right! Despite the fact that I cured your world of the deadly equalizing plague that it had been suffering under and had been appointed queen for life, you and your accursed allies rousted me. I ended up in Takron-Galtos. But those walls could not hold me for long. I made new allies, ones who had as much hatred for your adopted homeworld as I did for you two! I agreed to help them, to get them Thanagarian resources in exchange for my freedom. And I did get them those assets for their attack on Earth.”
“You mean the attack from last year,” Hawkwoman said. “I still couldn’t believe our own people would ally with the Khund and the others to attack Earth.”
“And why wouldn’t they?” Hyathis said. “You already knew there was a Thanagarian contingency that hated you all. That whole Shadow War against you and the Earth should have told you that.”
“But that invasion of Earth failed!” Hawkman said. “So why are the Citadel forces still here?“
“Another deal,” Hyathis replied. “Thanagar is still recovering from previous raids. I could not promise further resources. When the Alien Alliance decided to attack the Earth again, to learn from past mistakes, they came to me once more. The only deal I could make to them this time, the only deal I could make to save Thanagar from being enslaved, was to promise not to aid Earth in the coming assaults. Further, if any Earth heroes came here seeking aid, I vowed to slay them for the Alliance. And that is one promise I thoroughly enjoy doing! I figured you two would be killed defending the Earth. I didn’t imagine I’d have the chance to kill you myself!“
“The people won’t stand for this, Hyathis!” Hawkman said.
“Oh, I think they will,” she replied. “If they have to choose between enslavement and freedom, they will choose freedom!” She turned to the Wingmen. “Alert your troops in the air to be ready to open fire, then throw them over!”
The squad leader nodded. Four more moved over to the heroes and pushed them toward the roof’s edge. “Farewell!” Hyathis said. And when the men shoved the couple over the edge, she began to laugh. “Bring me their corpses when you are through!” The Wingmen took to the air and dived after the falling heroes.
“Katar, I love you!” Hawkwoman shouted over the rushing wind as they free-fell.
“I know, Shayera! And I you!” In the face of impending death, Hawkman still met it with a grim and determined look. A number of Wingmen came into view. The only thing he hated about this was that he would die at the hands of men who at one time fought for the same ideals and principles as he and his wife did.
Suddenly, there was a loud roar. Hawkman and Hawkwoman tried to crane their necks to see where it came from. A large, winged green dragon roared through the skies, swiping at the Wingmen and snapping some of them in its jaws.
“A brontadon!” Hawkman exclaimed. “But how?“
“It’s coming this way!” Hawkwoman cried.
Indeed, the creature seemed to pick out the couple specifically in the air, catching them within its clawed feet. The blasts of the Wingmen’s weapons bounced off the creature’s thick hide. Once it claimed the two heroes, the creature roared up into the sky once more, taking off like a shot.
“This is madness!” Hawkwoman said.
“Indeed!” Hawkman said. But he wasn’t about to look a would-be rescue in the mouth. He just wondered why.
The creature eventually landed, releasing its grip on the couple. As they brushed themselves off, it changed. Gone was the brontadon, and in its place was a bald man with plain features.
“Great Polaris! Byth Rok!” Hawkwoman exclaimed.
“What’s going on here, Byth?” Hawkman asked the master thief who could change form thanks to a metamorphosis pill. “You hate us as much as Hyathis! So why rescue us?”
“Hurry!” he said. “I’ll explain along the way! We need to get you off-planet now!” They rushed to his hidden shuttle. “You have a ship hidden in orbit?”
“Of course,” Hawkman said. “What’s all this about?”
“Put two and two together, officer,” Byth said. “Why would Hyathis give in to someone else? Why is she so afraid of this Alliance?”
Hawkman pondered a second. Surely, if she had worked with them before, what had changed this time? “Someone else is calling the shots!”
“But who?” Hawkwoman asked. “Tell us if you know, Byth!”
“I wish I could,” the criminal said. “Fact is, whoever is behind this sprung a lot of folks from Takron-Galtos — Hyathis, myself, others — all for the agreement to help them attack the Earth and any of her allies. I hear rumor they even got Lobo to work for them.”
“Lobo!” Hawkman said. “That’s why he attacked Superman!”
“And they wanted to keep Earth from getting help from other places,” Hawkwoman said, “like Thanagar.”
“And Rann,” Byth added, “among others. Seen any Green Lanterns lately?”
“Great Polaris!” Hawkman said. “Of course! The G.L. Corps has been crippled, too! This is a threat on a universal scale!”
“Exactly,” Byth said.
“So, why are you so hot to help us?” Hawkwoman said as she removed the impeding device from her antigravity belt. She then started to work on her husband’s.
“Let’s just say I’d rather trust the devil I know than one I don’t,” Byth said. “I don’t know who is behind this great plot, and who knows what promises they’ll keep, if any. At least with you two, I know your word is good.”
“And just what did you want from us?” Hawkman asked.
“I help you escape, get back to your Earth allies to mount some kind of defense,” Byth said, “and you two agree to one future favor to me.”
“The nerve–” Hawkwoman said as she lunged forward.
“No, Shayera, wait,” Hawkman said, holding his wife back. “Byth did save our lives. If we can get away undetected, I think we can owe him a favor.” Hawkman then turned to the bald man. “But we won’t break any laws to do it, understand?”
“Agreed,” Byth said. He then concentrated on the shuttle’s controls. He punched in a code onto the console. “I’ll have you two back to your ship in no time.”