Titans West: Setting Up Shop, Chapter 1: Ghosts of the Past

by Martin Maenza

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Two young men crossed the parking lot at the University of San Francisco. One was well-built with wavy brown hair, dressed in a red polo shirt, jeans and sneakers. The other was tall and athletic with long, bleached-blonde hair, wearing a bright floral shirt, white shorts, and sandals. They were Hank Hall and Charley Parker, respectively.

“Dude, I am still so totally pumped about last night!” Charley exclaimed.

“I bet you are,” Hank said casually as he quickened his walking pace.

“Yeah, get this! Like, I was going to call Betty and Gar and Lilith this morning, you know? But when the alarm went off, and I heard the surf report, I just had to go catch a few waves first. By the time I got back, Mal and Karen were up too and talking and stuff, so I didn’t make the calls. Figured I could do it later, you know.”

Hank rolled his eyes slightly. “I know that, Charley,” he said. “Mal and Karen needed some time alone to talk privately; that’s why I invited you along.” Of course, Hank was starting to regret that decision.

“Dude, I know, and I am totally stoked you did!” He clasped his arm around Hank’s shoulders. “Nothing like hanging with my bud Hank.” The brown-haired guy let the arm sit for a second, then shrugged it off. “Just you, me…” The two walked through an archway and entered the academic quad. Charley stopped for a second as his eyes took in the scenery; lots of students on the grassy lawn were out enjoying the sunny morning. “…and a campus full of babes!

Hank continued to walk until he realized the ever-present sound of his companion talking was no longer there. He turned around and saw that Charley had stopped to talk to a couple of young ladies. His mouth was going, he was gesturing, and the girls were giggling. Hank was thankful for the relief.

“Parker!” he called to him. “Hey, Parker!” Charley turned and acknowledged Hank’s calls with a wave. “I’ll be over at the Registrar’s! Don’t get yourself lost, OK?” Charley nodded and turned back to his new acquaintances. Hank just shook his head and continued along his way.

***

Karen Duncan closed the door behind her and descended the stairs to the sub-basement underneath the Gabriel’s Horn night club. “Malcolm Duncan, what in the world do you think you are doing?” Her tone was less pleasant than usual.

At the bottom of the stairs, she found her husband raising up a tarp that covered a number of large crates. “I told you earlier, honey,” he said. “I wanted to make sure none of the old equipment was damaged.”

“Mal, why?” Karen asked. “Why after all these years are you checking on this stuff? You weren’t serious about…”

“Yeah, we are serious,” Mal explained. “I mean, with both Charley and Hank in town and planning to stick around long-term, it makes sense to put this stuff to use. The gym equipment would be great for working out and keeping in shape.” He placed his hand on the gut that had been forming over the years and patted it. “You always said I could stand to do more exercise.”

“True, but–” Karen responded.

“And it wouldn’t take much to get the computers and communications back online. Dick made sure these things were simple to set up and use.”

Karen crossed her arms. “Use them how, exactly?” She emphasized the last two words.

Mal smiled. “After last night, we all were talking and think it would be a great idea to put back together the Titans West.”

“Oh, you do, do you?” Karen scolded.

He looked at her for a second, noticing her expression and stance. He moved over and gave her a big hug. “I recognize that look, Mrs. Duncan. Trust me, it will all work out just fine.” He gave her a big squeeze. “Have I ever steered you wrong?”

Karen sort of smiled. “Well…”

Mal interrupted her before she can start listing places and dates. “Besides, you always did look sexy in that Bumblebee costume of yours.” He began to grin and dropped his right hand to give her butt a little squeeze. He leaned in to nibble on her ear.

“Mmm,” she cooed a bit. “Mal, Mal…” She wriggled free from his grasp just a bit. “Do you think you can sweet-talk me into agreeing to this?”

He smiled again. “If you think that will work, baby…”

***

Hank Hall stood near the end of a long line at the Registrar’s office. Bored and slightly impatient, he thumbed through the folder he had brought with him. Inside was his official transcript from Georgetown where he attended for a year and half, his completed admissions forms, letters of recommendation from his former football coach and from wealthy businessman Loren Jupiter, and a check from his parents to cover the first semester’s tuition.

As he looked at all these things, Hank’s mind began to think about the past.

Growing up, Hank and his brother Don were always as different as day and night. Don often lectured Hank about how he handled things. “That’s your answer to everything, isn’t it?” Don would say. “Punch ’em out, rip it out, tear it down. You don’t have to use force to be strong. There’s always another way! Better to build than destroy.”

Hank didn’t agree with his brother, and their father was always being the judge — both at home and by profession. “Don, Hank, I’ve told you a thousand times. Every time you make something, you destroy something else. You’re both right, but until you can see that, you’re both wrong.”

But Judge Irwin Hall had made enemies in his line of work, and a mob boss named Dargo had put a contract on the man. An attempt to kill Hall by bombing his chambers only managed to injure the judge. The two boys witnessed the event, and Hank persuaded Don to accompany him in tailing the would-be assassin back to his hideout in an abandoned warehouse.

The two boys overheard the gangsters’ plan to finish the job, but a jammed door prohibited them from leaving the building. Hank pounded on the door with rage, but his efforts yielded little result. “It’s hopeless!” Don sighed. “We can’t get either door open! If only there were another way out of here… or if we had some sort of super-strength… or power… or…”

Suddenly, the two boys heard a voice in their heads. “Power… you wish power? … Then so be it.” Two costumes appeared on the boys, one white with red trim and the other blue with white trim.

Hank seemed to welcome the power, while Don was reluctant, only wanting to save their father.

“We seem to have here a hawk and a dove! So be it!” the voice continued. “Whenever injustice strikes you need only speak your names — Hawk and Dove — and you shall be transformed into these high-powered identities!” The voice went on to explain, “Your powers are but extensions of those abilities you already possess! Whatever you could do moments ago, now in costume you can do infinitely better, with greater ease and consummate skill! But take heed! For whenever your powers are no longer needed, you will revert to your ordinary selves!”

The voice then disappeared as quickly as it came. Hawk now found that he could bust down the door with ease. He and Dove took on Dargo’s mob and easily defeated them. Saving their father was the first of their many acts of heroism. And while Hawk always used his fists first, Dove sought more peaceful resolutions. In the end, the two were like the tempered scales of justice, balancing strength with compassion.

They fought together as a team for a number of years. Their paths crossed often with other youthful heroes, first with Robin and the Teen Titans, and then later with their West Coast allies. All the time, the two brothers stood together whenever they were needed. Two opposites that countered one another. Ying and yang.

But all that came to an end when the red skies arrived, and the worlds faced a terrible crisis. Hawk wanted to fight the shadow demons directly, yet Dove chose to help in other ways by evacuating the city. “Hold it, Hawk. There’s a kid over there, trapped.” Hawk tried to convince him that they couldn’t save everyone while fighting the enemy, yet Dove replied, “But we’ve got to try.” Dove managed to rescue the child and return him to his mother, but he failed to be vigilant for his own well-being. A shadow demon caught him from behind and fried Dove with its antimatter energy. The pacifist hero was dead.

Hank had lost his partner, his brother. For the first time in his life, he started to realize how important Don had been to him. He would now never have the chance to tell him that — ever.

“Next! Young man…”

Hank snapped back to the present. He was now standing before the open window at the Registrar’s with a rather impatient woman waiting on him. “Oh, yeah. Sorry.” He handed the woman his folder.

After about ten minutes and half a dozen signatures, Hank Hall completed registration for the semester. Shuffling the paperwork back into his folder, he wasn’t paying full attention to where he was going and ran right into someone. “Hey, watch–” he started to growl but stopped short when he saw who he had run into.

Before him was a beautiful woman with short blonde hair, dressed in a black jumper with a blue T-shirt underneath. “Sorry, my fault,” she said with her head down as she picked up the first of her fallen books. When she looked up, Hank noticed her blue eyes. “I really should watch where I am going.”

Hank’s mood softened a bit. “No, I’m to blame, I guess.” He stooped down and picked up her other book. “Too busy thinking about stuff. I’m Hank, by the way.”

The young woman smiled and accepted the book. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Dawn. So are you new to USF as well?”

“Yeah. Just signed my life away a few moments ago.” The two started to engage in some small talk when Hank heard a familiar voice calling to him from down the corridor. He noticed that Charley was approaching with a brown-haired young lady by his side.

“Dude, looks like we’ve both made some new friends,” Charley said. “Renee, this is my numero uno buddy, Hank Hall.”

Hank nodded. “Hi.”

“And you are…?” Charley asked the other woman.

“Dawn,” she said. “Dawn Granger.”

“Pleased to meet you. Hank, what say we four, like, go have some lunch and get acquainted?”

“I’m game,” answered Renee Laisaille.

“Sure,” said Dawn. “It would be nice to meet some new friends at a new school.”

Hank didn’t respond, but Charley jumped in. “Then it’s settled. Hank’s Jeep isn’t far from here.” He gestured, and the two ladies began to walk ahead. Charley hung back a second, gave his friend a quick little elbow to the ribs, and said, “Dude, I’m totally loving this school.”

“You aren’t even going here,” Hank reminded him.

“Well, maybe I will after all. Who knows?” The two began to follow. “Oh, by the way, you got some cash on you, old buddy? I’m, like, a bit short until pay day.”

Hank just sighed.

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