The planet Rann loomed ahead as the Hawks drew closer to the adopted home of their friend Adam Strange. Their recently claimed Hawkship made a nice replacement for their original ship, which had been sacrificed in the fight against the Thanagarian invaders.
Hawkman had wondered how it was possible for a ray from Rann to reach Midway City, since that world orbited Alpha Centauri, known to be only visible in the southern hemisphere. No planets from that part of space had a direct line of sight to Midway City in the northern hemisphere. The only way Hawkwoman could identify it was to match the ray’s energy to that of Rann’s unique zeta beam technology. After a quick search with their ship, they had discovered that the ray had been relayed by an orbiting satellite to strike Midway City. But there were still questions that needed answering.
“Who would attack us from Rann? Kanjar Ro?” asked Shayera Hol.
“I’d say it may not have been meant as an attack,” suggested Katar Hol. “It could have been a distress cry from Adam. It did get our attention and bring us here, after all.”
“True! But circumstances would have to be pretty grim to place Adam in that situation,” said Hawkwoman.
They beamed down from orbit to the capital city of Ranagar, where they were greeted immediately by a lovely woman in a blue minidress and light blue hosiery.
“Alanna! We came in answer to a fear plague that originated here,” said Katar.
She greeted them warmly. “I know! And it is such a plague that has befallen our world that has led Adam to get you here by such drastic means. The fear and the death-visions have brought Rann to a state of crisis. Our communications and transport are shattered due to the riots and fearful destruction!”
“Where is Adam?” asked Shayera.
“He is driving himself sick with action and no rest,” she explained. “But he can only slow the panic by fighting the source directly. His courage is a pain to the creature who has blanketed our world with visions of death and clouded all minds with fear. See for yourself!” She pointed into the distant sky.
Hawkman and Hawkwoman, peering into the distance with their incredible vision, saw Adam Strange in his red uniform rocketing around a huge purple creature that looked all-too familiar.
“Nekron!” cried Katar. “That’s Nekron — the fear parasite! That explains why we all experienced death-visions that caused fear, and not the more specific phobias associated with villains like Scarecrow. That alien beast feeds on fear — specifically fear of death. Thus it creates such illusions of death in victims and lives on their raw terror. I assume he got to Rann somehow after the JLA Satellite was damaged.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Death-Visions of the Justice League,” Justice League of America #128 (March, 1976) and “The Earth Dies Screaming,” Justice League of America #129 (April, 1976).]
“So we can at least fight him by thinking of each other,” said Shayera. “We know that any death suffered by one of us would likely mean a deadly situation to be faced by the other alone. That love for each other should buffer us from incapacitation by his death-vision powers.”
“I hope you’re right,” said Katar. “Last time I fought him, it almost cost Red Tornado his life, as well as Green Lantern’s.”
Adam was darting in and out of the multi-limbed creature’s insect-like path. He fired his blaster and dodged the beast as his very presence pained Nekron.
“Adam’s courage is like a knife to Nekron’s soul,” said Alanna. “He has been fighting non-stop to hold Nekron at a standstill, except for the brief time he projected the generated fear at your home to get you here. With communications down, it was all we could do.”
The Hawks soared off and greeted Adam Strange as the brave spaceman slammed into the beast called Nekron. “Let us lend a hand!” cried Katar.
Hawkman slugged the monster, only to be hit with a wave of sheer terror in which he experienced his death at the hands of the Matter Master. Gritting his teeth, he thought of how Shayera would need him, and he slowly fought on.
Shayera conferred with Adam, whispering hurriedly as Hawkman charged the monster and connected, but its scaly hide deflected his best blows.
“Thanks for coming!” said Adam. “Rann is in need of its friends, and I can think of no better allies than you two.”
After a few moments of discussion, Hawkwoman joined her husband. “Adam and I have a plan. Can you buy us some time?” she asked.
Katar nodded. “Inform me.”
They talked at a distance as Nekron’s range of terror spread. “I can use the equipment aboard our ship, and the plans from our JLA device are easily duplicated, but that neighborhood worries me,” said Katar.
“Me, too,” added Shayera.
“I can’t ask you to risk so much, yet I think my plan would save Rann if you’re willing,” explained Adam.
“Consider us on your team,” offered Katar.
Alanna and her father Sardath used a wheeled vehicle that skimmed the air to buzz in and out at Nekron, while Adam worked furiously and brilliantly with the Hawks to bring his plan to life.
“The relativity-beam unit is ready on this end, but I hope Katar managed to rig the one in the area we need,” Adam said with concern.
Shayera smiled. “He’s like you, Adam. He never fails.”
Far away — or far if one did not count the Hawkship’s warp drive — Katar Hol hovered in space and struggled to align a electrical unit. He had glanced down to see furtive figures watching, yet none dared challenge him.
They survive in space as I can for a brief time, but they don’t dare attack without the leave of their dreaded master, he mused. That dread will save Rann, if Adam is right again.
Having hurried back to Rann, Hawkman rejoined Hawkwoman, and they teamed up with Adam Strange to lead a final assault on Nekron. As the Hawks flew rapidly toward the fear parasite, Adam kissed his beloved wife Alanna before heading for battle himself.
“Wish me luck!” said Adam. “I think I may just have him where we want him.”
Hawkman and Hawkwoman carried a remote device, and while Adam Strange dodged in and out of Nekron’s embrace, all the way battling fearful visions like the hero’s hero he was, the Hawks deftly approached the purple creature and positioned sensors above his head.
“Now!” they yelled as Adam charged close and lured the beast directly beneath the electric devices. A hum of energy then caused Nekron to vanish from Rann.
“We did the first part,” said Adam. “Using a Thanagarian relativity-beam unit, we transported Nekron from here to where we positioned the receiver — the grim place called Armagetto on Apokolips!“
“Now let’s check our ship’s viewer,” offered Shayera.
After they were joined by Alanna, the four boarded the Hawkship, where they watched Armagetto on a viewing screen as Nekron appeared in the midst of Darkseid’s dark domain. The oppressed residents lived in constant fear, and this emotion swelled the fear parasite to an enormous size. He took it all in at a constant level of increasing fear until his system could hold no more. The terror felt daily by these poor people saturated Nekron’s system until it collapsed, and he seemed to explode all at once.
“The collective fear was too much for him,” said Adam Strange. “Like an addict, he could not stop absorbing his drug until he overdosed! As a parasitic, disease-like life form, I’d say we don’t even have to consider his life lost. He never lived to begin with, except like a germ exists.”
“Once again, you’ve saved Rann!” congratulated Shayera.
“I could never have done it without your equipment and your help,” said Adam.
“I am just glad to see Thanagarian technology work for the good of a people for a change,” said a somber Hawkman.