Hawkman shuddered as he felt his awareness return to his body. He noticed Hawkwoman and Willow experience a similar sensation.
Willow raced over to Captain Comet’s body and gently carried it aside. “I will safeguard Adam while you deal with the Queen Bee,” she said.
“Adam’s own power must have prevented her from using his body as a drone,” said Hawkman. “I hate to imagine what use she would have put our own bodies to had he not restored us.”
He shifted his wing harness across his shoulders and added, “Well, at least she restored our belts and wings. I guess she wanted us to perform at peak efficiency as her drones.”
Hawkwoman nodded and said, “I’m glad to be wearing my original gear. The substitute helmet was giving me a headache. And speaking of royal pains…” She pointed to where new figures were rapidly approaching.
“Look!” said Hawkman. “She’s back with more of the Wingors!”
Indeed, Queen Bee now led seven of the flying gorillas into the cavern. “We don’t approve of people flaunting our royal command!” she said with a haughty toss of her head. “You will be executed, since you have failed to make proper drones!”
She raised her magno-nucleo wand and then yelped in pain as Hawkwoman knocked it out of her hand with a precisely aimed crossbow arrow.
Queen Bee cried out with displeasure but did not rush to retrieve the fallen wand. “Did you think we had to have that?” she said with a sly smile. “We have many resources!” She ordered the pseudo-Wingors into battle and watched with an expectant gaze.
Hawkman shifted a mace from one hand to another and then brought it down with stunning force. He fought with renewed vigor, since he now felt more confidently than before that he could reclaim Thanagar. “I hate to batter these men so ruthlessly, but any officer that would serve Hyathis — even to regain humanity — deserves my contempt!” he said.
Hawkwoman danced out of the way of two charging gorillas and lashed out with kicks to their heads. “I almost got through to one of them! She must have used the mutagen machine to transform them, but its effects also could account for why Shrike acted like a raving beast. No doubt that was a lesser use of the same machine.”
Willow merely stood guard over Captain Comet while occasionally striking at one of the gorillas when he came too close.
Queen Bee laughed as she picked up the wand. “You thought we would fall into immobility at the loss of contact with our wand! You have so very much to learn.”
Hawkwoman dived at her, but the smaller woman shrieked and fled with surprising speed of her own.
“We abhor physical contact with lesser beings, but in this case even a queen may improvise!” she said as she fired the wand at Hawkwoman. The blast missed, and Hawkwoman punched Zazzala in the nose. The alien queen fell to the ground and raised both hands in a placating gesture. “Enough! Do not strike us again!” she cried.
“Obviously, you agreed to help Hyathis by giving her use of your hive computer in exchange for her own help in somehow granting you mobility,” said Hawkwoman. “How did she do it?”
“Thanagar’s magnetic field is uniquely powerful due to its being part of the Polaris system,” said Queen Bee. “It was simple for Hyathis to provide me with enough raw magnetic force to enable me to move.” She had lapsed into normal speech without any use of her assumed royal we.
“Of course!” said Hawkwoman. “The particular nature of the Polaris system as a system of three stars, one of which is a Cepheid variable, would be perfect as a remedy for your condition. Helping her gain rule of the planet was a small price for you to pay to gain freedom of movement again.”
Queen Bee nodded and said, “I can help you! Grant me freedom, and I will order my drones to alter the effects of her mutagen machine!”
Hawkwoman helped Zazzala to her feet. “Do it,” she said. “But I won’t promise anything at this point!”
Hawkman had wrestled his way free of the crushing grip of one of the transformed policemen, and now he rammed his mace into its stomach. “Great Scott!” he said. “They’re changing back!”
Queen Bee smiled like a beauty pageant winner and said, “Of course! Is that not our will?”
“Zazzy, here, mentally ordered some of her drones at the tower to use the mutagen machine to restore them all,” said Hawkwoman. “Hyathis must be furious!”
“They still seem oddly inert,” said Hawkman. “Must be a side-effect of the change.” He nodded toward the now-human men and woman of the police force who were standing in amazement as they rubbed their now-human arms and legs.
At that moment, Captain Comet sat up and said, “I’m back, Willow! I was able to redirect all the captive minds back to their proper bodies! Plus, I think a rather pleasant surprise may await them as well.”
Willow caressed his cheek and said, “I knew you would triumph!”
“I’m glad to see you pulled it off, Comet,” said Hawkman.
“Yes, and I see you’ve captured Queen Bee as well,” said Comet.
“Captain Comet’s done it!” said Hawkwoman. “Listen — I hear shouting from outside! It is even louder than the rush of the waterfall!”
“The sound of a liberated people would be that loud,” said Hawkman. “Now let’s see if we can bring down Hyathis before her former subjects rip her apart.” They hurried out, and Comet ushered Queen Bee along in the midst.
They piloted Captain Comet’s small shuttle to the heart of the city, and as they passed, they saw some encouraging sights. A group of men and woman carried the bound Manhawks through the streets.
“The Manhawks have been brought down!” said Hawkman with a rare display of pure joy. “I’d hoped that, once our people regained their will, they would be so enraged at how Hyathis enslaved them — body and mind — that they would rebel! The obvious first targets were the hated Manhawks!”
He saw a crowd waving the torn red and white rubber masks the foul birds normally wore. They were helpless, if overly large hawks without the masks to empower them.
“Queen Bee’s restoration of the pseudo-Wingors has left Hyathis with only a handful of loyalist goons,” said Captain Comet. “Believe me, after making contact with all those captive minds, I can vouch for how much they hate her!”
“Adam, you mentioned a benefit of some sort from what happened to the people,” said Hawkman.
“Yes, as you recall, most of the Thanagarians were suffering from some remaining effects of the equalization plague,” said Captain Comet. “Your people had lost their drive, so to speak. They had become easily manipulated by any strong authority. I think the hive-computer’s unique energy may have actually stimulated their minds. Your people may be back on the road to restoring the Thanagar of old, at least as far as regaining some sense of self-will goes.”
They landed on a hangar deck and hurried into the tower. There they were greeted by cheers as many of the former drones attributed their new freedom of mind to the celebrated Hols.
“From exiles to champions!” said Hawkman. “This is more than I’d hoped for! No doubt we’ll find Hyathis in her reception room.”
“The woman had the worst taste!” said Queen Bee. “The entire palace is so utterly tacky!”
“No doubt you’d have preferred a yellow-and-black-striped pattern!” quipped Hawkwoman.
Hawkman smiled grimly as he spotted Hyathis. “There she is — the woman who almost ruined Thanagar! This is going to be a pleasure.”
A muscular man in black and gold flew into view and blocked his path. “Katar Hol, you were never my equal,” cried Deron Ved. “I will choke the thrill of victory from you along with your very life!”
Hawkman began to wrestle with his former commander and said, “You betrayed the ideals upon which the police force was formed! You are right. I’m not your equal. I’m your superior!” He belted the bigger man with a stinging right hook and circled warily.
Hyathis hissed as she saw Queen Bee. “You betrayed me!” she cried. “Well, I’ll reward you for such treachery!” She shattered a small sphere, and Queen Been collapsed to the ground.
“The projector will no longer focus localized magnetic force into your body. You defied me, so now you may crawl like an insect!” laughed Hyathis.
Captain Comet caught Queen Bee up in his arms and said, “You won’t laugh for long, Hyathis!”
Hyathis started to move out of the room, but Hawkwoman caught her arm and pulled her back. They struggled for a moment and then moved onto the balcony. Crowds cried out as they spotted the tyrant and her foe high above them.
Hawkwoman took a deep breath and then spoke in a commanding tone that carried down to the crowds below. “Hyathis, you were queen of Alstair. Well, I’ve read a bit about your world, and I know you are bound by a rather barbaric custom. I challenge you here and now to rite of combat! You either fight me for your stolen throne, or you will be shamed in the eyes of your blood ancestors!”
Hyathis smiled cruelly and said, “I little expected a Thanagarian to know of the ways of my people. You will have your battle!” Hyathis leaped at Hawkwoman and clawed at her with both hands.
As the two women wrestled wildly on the balcony, inside the tower Hawkman fought his own battle against Commander Deron Ved. He grunted in pain as Ved rammed a knee into his stomach. He dropped down as Ved hammered his back with thunderous blows.
“Surrender, Hol!” said Ved. “Your father was nothing but a scholar. He had no idea what form the law-enforcement branch of this world should take! He was weak, and you are clearly his son — equally pathetic!”
Hawkman blocked a blow and connected with one of his own. He followed that up by bringing his helmeted head into Ved’s face. “My father was not weak. He was evolved. Unlike you, he knew there is a need for mercy and wisdom as well as for brute force! You tainted his creations every time you used those wings for your own self-aggrandizement!” He punched away at the larger man and noted that his attack was beginning to have an effect on him.
“I’m glad you served Hyathis, Ved,” said Katar Hol. “I’m more than happy to use you as my personal punching bag. You represent everything that went wrong with Thanagar! I’m going to use you as an example of how all those wrongheaded ideas cannot stand up to the real Thanagar — the Thanagar of science and enlightenment!”
He caught Ved in an armlock and brought the man crashing down. “Surrender, Ved. You’re a beaten man!” he said.
Deron Ved gritted his teeth and tried to use his own wings to alleviate the advantage Hawkman had, but Katar was skilled in using his own belt and wings, and he moved in order to keep his hold in place. Finally, as beads of sweat broke out on Ved’s face, he cried out a surrender.
Outside, Hawkwoman had fallen beneath the furious Hyathis, but she flipped the warrior woman over her head and spun around to tackle her anew.
“Would you be a queen, Shayera Hol? Would you take my throne?” laughed Hyathis.
Hawkwoman elbowed her in the face and rolled her onto her back. “No. I’m happy just to whip the tar out of you, as they say on Earth!” she said, moving swiftly and using her legs to push Hyathis flat. She crawled across her and brought her head down against the ground. Standing up, she said, “It’s over, Hyathis. You lost!”
Hyathis wiped blood away from her mouth and said, “You bested me in combat, but you will never make me your prisoner!” She shoved Shayera aside and leaped off the balcony.
Hawkwoman heard the roar of the crowd below as she flung herself after Hyathis. She dived down at top speed and used her belt and wings to gain on the other woman until she snagged her at the last minute.
“Shayera! Shayera!” chanted the crowd as Hawkwoman brought the defeated Hyathis back to the balcony.
Hawkman was waiting for her, and as they embraced, he noticed the approach of some familiar figures. “Andar Pul! Rul Pintar!” he cried as he greeted his old friends.
“I owe you an apology, Katar!” said Rul Pintar. “When last we met, I was little more than a slave to Hyathis. I am not proud of what I did, but I did it to try to protect our people from needless warfare!”
Andar Pul nodded as he and a group of men led Hyathis to a cell. “We rounded up her supporters. Many were all-too willing to give up. Thanagar is a world exhausted by war and civil unrest.”
“That will change!” said an old man who came in and was greeted with reverence. “We’ve regained more than our freedom. We have regained that something extra that has been missing since the equalization plague!”
“Krandor Vat!” gasped Hawkman as the man who had been High Mor for most of Katar Hol’s life entered the room.
“I will return to lead our people as High Mor. I know I still have much to offer, and I will not rest before death itself claims me. To build a better Thanagar is my goal!”
“Katar, Shayera, will you rejoin the force?” said Andar Pul. “We can go forward with a reform policy, basing it on higher principles than ever before!”
“No,” said Hawkman. “Thanagar needs to assume its own destiny. We’ll stay long enough to help clear up some of the immediate chaos, and we will visit often, but we want to return to Earth. That’s our home now.”
Hawkwoman nodded in agreement. “What about Byth?” she said. “In a way, he was responsible for our coming here.”
“Byth was with us in captivity,” said Rul Pintar. “Hyathis removed all traces of the formula that gave him his shape-shifting powers, and she delighted in tormenting him, since she blamed him for your previous escape. He is a better man than he was before, although he still has a debt to pay for his past crimes.”
Hawkman nodded as the bald criminal was ushered forward by two of Pintar’s men. “Byth, I’ve paid my debt to you,” he said. “Lahr Nair is on Earth and can rejoin you soon enough… in a cell.”
Byth Rok spat at the floor and said, “Fine! You have given me back my life, if not my freedom, but I warn you — next time we meet, I’ll be ready to kill you.”
“And I’ll be ready to put you back in prison!” said Hawkman.
The officers led Byth away, and then the door opened again. At that moment, Captain Comet, Willow, and Queen Bee entered the room.
“Zazzala is walking again!” gasped Hawkwoman.
“She can serve her time without being helpless,” said Captain Comet. “I modified one of the Dimensiometers taken from the Shadow-Thief during his own time here during Hyathis’ last attempted takeover. As you know, it interacts with magnetic force and can potentially prove deadly to a planet. I have removed the dangerous effects as well as its shadow power, so all it does is generate a mild magnetic field that enables Zazzala to at least be mobile.”
Queen Bee smiled coldly. “We thank you for restoring our mobility. You would make a fine drone!”
Captain Comet laughed and said, “What an honor. I’ll pass, thank you.”
Andar Pul said, “Queen Bee, Hyathis, Kasta, Byth, and Zed, among many others, may serve their time here helping us restore our world.”
“Willow and I would like to stay awhile as well,” said Captain Comet. “Little Jacques might thrive on Thanagar, and I’d like to be involved in rebuilding the society.”
Hawkman nodded and said, “We could use your help. Who is Jacques?”
“He is Willow’s baby,” said Captain Comet. “I’m helping her raise him. He has great potential, and I don’t want him to grow up feeling like a freak or outcast, as I did.”
Willow smiled and said, “It is his destiny to help my child achieve his own.”
Later, a proud Hawkman watched as Andar Pul presented Shayera with a modified helmet, complete with her own set of honor wings.
“Shayera Hol, you have earned the highest honor any police officer of Thanagar may claim. You have saved this planet, and your courage will be honored by the wearing of the honor wings. Katar Hol is the only other officer currently held in an honored state of active duty to earn such a rank before you.” Shayera beamed happily as Katar joined the others in cheering for her.
Then High Mor Krandor Vat stepped forward to give both Hawks medals for their achievement. “You two have saved this society,” he said. “You have done more to bring us back to our senses than we deserve. We thank you on behalf of a free populace!”
Hawkman took Hawkwoman’s hand as they received cheers and applause. “We may not be staying here long,” he said, “but I think for the first time in years, we can truly say we call Thanagar home again!”
Hawkwoman leaned over to kiss him. “As long as we’re together, I’m home,” she said.