by Martin Maenza
“Okay, Dawn, let’s take this all from the top,” Hank Hall suggested. Seated around the shiny metallic conference table were five individuals dressed in their everyday clothes.
Next to the well-built young man with brown hair who ran the meeting sat the petite blonde, Dawn Granger. In just a few months, Dawn — in her new heroic role as Dove — had become the yin to Hank’s heroic yang as Hawk. It was at her request that this emergency meeting of Titans West was called.
Across from her sat Charley Parker, a California surfer dude with long blond hair. His floral shirt worn open over a light green T-shirt was as far as one could get from the metallic winged armor he wore as the heroic Golden Eagle. His attention seemed focused on the young woman sitting next to him.
Arisia was the newest member at the table. The golden-skinned alien with short blonde hair and elfin ears was fairly comfortable in her role as a hero. Despite appearing to be only sixteen by Earth standards, she had served a number of years as a member of the Green Lantern Corps and still remained active with that group. She had worked with these Titans briefly before and had been excited to get an invitation from Charley to join their ranks. It felt good to be around those closer to her own age, others who wouldn’t consider her still a kid.
At the far end of the table sat a black woman in her early twenties. Karen Beecher Duncan was the oldest at the table, slightly older than Hank. Still, having a full-time position as a researcher at San Francisco’s STAR Labs, she came across to the group as the voice of experience and reason. The guys often jokingly referred to her as mom. As the Bumblebee, Karen worked with the others as a part-time heroine.
Her husband Mal Duncan was — in the identity of the Herald — the other full-time member of the Titans West. Mal had to excuse himself from the impromptu meeting to tend to business upstairs. The team’s headquarters was, in fact, located in the hidden subbasement under the Gabriel’s Horn nightclub. This being one of the nights that the club was open for business, the owner needed to be upstairs tending to his usual duties.
“Okay,” Dawn began. “Let me give you what I know.” And she began to unfold the events from earlier in the day.
“As you guys know, I had a physics exam this afternoon.” Both Dawn and Hank were currently enrolled as underclassmen at the University of San Francisco. “When I finished, I had forgotten my purse underneath one of the tables. As I was about to return to the room to retrieve it, I saw a rather unusually dressed man heading toward the lab next to the classroom.
“It wasn’t until I overheard him speaking with my professor, Andrei Szackas, that I realized why the man looked so familiar. My mother’s a diplomatic courier, and she once had the opportunity to meet this man briefly. I recalled her description of his dress uniform — blue shirt with orange trim, blue boots, red pants, and a flowing cape. This is the exact outfit he wore today when I saw him.
“I slipped back into the classroom and listened from the lab adjacent to it. From the ajar door, I could distinctly hear that the man was indeed Bito Wladon, a patriotic citizen of Modora.” Dawn noticed that the name didn’t stir too much reaction from her friends. “But I think you all might know him better as Sonar, the sonic-weaponed criminal.”
“Sonar!” Arisia exclaimed. “I’ve battled him before! Not long after a group of us Green Lanterns settled into our base in Encino, a group of super-villains attacked us. Included in the ranks were both Doctor Polaris and Sonar. He sort of disappeared after that, and we hadn’t heard anything more of him these last few months. He must have gone into hiding until the heat was off.”
“Hmm… sounds like he’s ready to surface again,” Hank added.
“No doubt,” Dawn continued. “He specifically had come to USF to talk with Professor Szackas, who is also of Modoran descent. As it turns out, Szackas has been doing some research in the area of nucleo-sonics and has developed some kind of armor prototype that works on those very principles. Sonar sounded very interested in the armor for possible military use for the country of Modora.”
“Like, where is Modora, anyway?” Charley asked. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before today.”
“Odds are you haven’t,” Karen explained. “I pulled up some info on a computer database regarding Modora, and there really wasn’t a lot there. It’s a small, postage-stamp country with a population of slightly more than four hundred people, located in Eastern Europe just north of Czechoslovakia. No real major exports of any kind. The country sustains itself on farming and other simpler industries. From an advancement perspective, one could easily consider it a Third World country. Barely a blip on the international radar. It was cut off decades ago by its ruler, Fando the Mad.”
Arisia chimed in. “Green Lantern once told me that most of the press coverage pertaining to Modora over the years has been due to Sonar’s actions. He seems very full of national pride, and his criminal actions are usually linked to that.”
“Not only that,” added Dawn, “but Professor Szackas referred to Sonar as his Emperor. From what I’ve been able to find of Green Lantern’s past cases against Sonar, he had only ever been a citizen of Modora, which as Karen pointed out was led by Fando. In fact, he’s been jailed in that country several times over the years. So I think there’s a possibility that Sonar might be planning to take over Modora or maybe has already taken over recently. Of course, it’s hard to know anything of what goes on in that country, since the news is so tightly controlled.”
“What we do know is that Sonar hasn’t been seen here in the U.S. since last year,” said Karen. “But he was spotted leading the Modoran troops against the alien invaders during the alien invasion back in January and the Martian/Atlantean invasion in February. It’s possible that he’s no longer considered a disgraced criminal but now a hero or Modora’s new ruler, since Fando the Mad died around the same time.”
“So we’ve got us a little mouse who wants to roar,” Hank concluded. “I’m guessing he wants this new sonic armor to do more than defend his little nation. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he plans to go on the offensive and starts to stage his own attacks on his neighbors.” Hank slammed his fist down on the table. “I say we round him up before he can even leave the U.S.!”
“Sounds good to me,” Charley said. “He totally won’t know what hit him. Right, Arisia?”
“Makes sense,” the young girl said.
“So let’s suit up and kick some Euro-trash butt!” Hank announced as he rose from his seat.
Karen stood up quickly, too. “Not so fast there, cowboy!”
“What’s the problem, Karen?” Hank asked. “Did I forget something?”
Karen smiled at him. “Yes, you forgot your common sense. You’re always ready to plunge fist-first into a situation without having all the facts.”
The young man looked at her with confusion. “What facts am I missing? He’s a known super-villain who wants to build up his army with a bunch of hi-tech armor. What else is there to know?”
Karen just shook her head. “For starters, do you know if there are any outstanding warrants against Sonar?”
Hank slightly licked his upper lip. He turned to Arisia, who merely shrugged her shoulders at him. “Uh…” was all he could manage to say.
Karen continued. “Has Professor Szackas performed any illegal acts with the prototype armor? Does a leading member of a nation have the right to approach another party regarding the defense of his country? What kind of agreement occurred between the two men? Has Sonar used coercion to obtain the armor from Szackas? Are you aware of any malicious intent that Sonar has for that armor?” She was sounding less and less like a scientist. Hank just kind of stared at her blankly.
Dawn chimed in. “We can’t go starting an international incident until we’re sure of these things. We have to handle this situation as diplomatically as possible.”
Charley couldn’t contain his laughter and blurted out, “Looks like they totally got you there, dude.”
“Quiet, Parker!” Hank snapped. He looked first at Dawn and then at Karen. “Okay, okay, you’re probably right. What do you ladies suggest we do?”
“Perhaps a little old-fashioned detective work?” Karen suggested.
The next morning and a good hour-and-a-half outside the city, a gray sedan made its way toward a recently abandoned limestone quarry. A nervous Andrei Szackas drove, and sweat beads formed on his brow despite the air-conditioning being on high. In the passenger seat sat Bito Wladon, dressed as always in his Sonar uniform. “When will we arrive?” Sonar asked impatiently.
“In just a few moments, sire,” Szackas answered as he turned off the main highway. “I assumed that you wanted a demonstration someplace more secluded, where we would not be observed or interrupted.” The driver warily glanced at the other man, trying to gauge his reaction.
Sonar nodded slightly as he took in the surrounding scenery. “Yes, yes,” said the patriotic Modoran ruler. “That was a good assumption on your part. I am just anxious to see the nucleo-sonic armor in action.”
Szackas let out the breath he had been holding. “As am I,” he said, “uh… anxious to show you it, that is.” He pulled the car off the dirt road, parking it behind some brush. He then got out of the car to retrieve the armor from the trunk. “It will only take me a few moments to put it on. Then we can continue.”
Unknown to the two men, they were not alone at the quarry. Hidden in one of the recessed outcrops of the quarry walls, four individuals waited. One wore a golden armor with wings and had just joined the others. “I, like, made sure they didn’t see me land,” Golden Eagle said to the others. “There’s no way that they could, like, have known I was tailing them from the moment they left the city.”
“Get back to the shadows,” Hank Hall suggested. “We don’t want your armor glinting in the sun to draw their attention to us.” The armored hero complied and stepped back to join Dawn Granger and Arisia.
“Based on the direction they were traveling, it was pretty easy for us to deduce they’d end up here,” Dawn stated. “Arisia’s ring was able to get the three of us here quickly so we could observe their actions.” The ring-wielding teen nodded, glad that she was able to assist the others so easily.
“You’re a regular Sherlock Holmes,” Hank said. “Now we need to shush. I think I see them approaching the quarry.” The four carefully watched from their hidden spot.
Andrei Szackas now wore a gray plastic and metal uniform with red boots and gloves. Its shoulders had a similar red chest and back plate with a red helmet attached to it. His facial features were slightly distorted by the tinted gray face-plate of the helmet. Szackas turned to Sonar. “Shall we proceed to the quarry floor?” he asked, his voice slightly distorted. There was a very low hum sound as the armor lifted Szackas off the ground.
Sonar smiled as he saw the suit had flight capabilities. “Of course — proceed.” He took out a small weapon from the satchel attached to his belt, a pistol with a tuning-fork-like end. Using his traditional weapon, Sonar himself was able to take flight. The two descended to the floor below, Szackas landing with a slight jar. The Modoran ruler looked concerned as he touched down upon the limestone dust. “Is there a problem here?”
Szackas stammered a bit. “Uh, no, sir. The suit is operating just fine. I–” He paused for a moment. “I… am just not that accustomed to the flying, is all.” The professor was still a bit nervous. “Shall we proceed with the demonstration?”
Sonar nodded. “By all means, continue.”
Andrei Szackas continued by showing first the offensive capabilities. The armor was able to generate beams of pure sound waves, both with sweeping force and pinpoint accuracy. The professor showed these by first shearing a large portion of the quarry wall and then taking one of the fallen chucks to carefully carve a detailed pattern. He then demonstrated that the armor also amplified the wearer’s strength as he lifted a boulder that weighed over a thousand pounds via telekinesis. With the armor, he was not only able to lift heavy objects but also throw them a great distance.
Sonar smiled throughout the entire presentation. The nucleo-sonic armor was capable of all that he had hoped for. Visions of conquest filled his thoughts. Finally, he clapped his hands together. “Most excellent! This will do nicely. Come, we must hurry back to your lab and gather your things. We will leave as soon as possible for Modora!” The two men flew back to the quarry edge to return to their car.
From their hiding spot, Golden Eagle switched off the long-range sensors in his helmet. “Did you guys, like, catch all that?”
Arisia used her power ring to remove the special headsets she had created for herself, Hank, and Dawn. “Every word of it,” she said.
“Okay,” Hank said. “They won’t be getting to Modora until at least tomorrow. That gives us plenty of time for phase two of our investigation.”