Titans West: Confidants and Robbers, Chapter 2: They Just Fade Away

by Martin Maenza

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Hawk and Dove exited the bank through the broken window. “These Untouchables are rather slippery folks,” Dove said as she saw the two men pass through the sides of an awaiting antique black vehicle. Bonnie was behind the wheel; she gunned the engine as soon as her two partners were inside.

They might be hard to touch,” Hawk said as he dived through the air, “but their car isn’t!” He landed solidly on the vehicle’s flat roof. “Knock-knock! Anyone home?” He slammed his two fists through the metal roof and began to peel it back.

“Fill ’em with holes, Clyde!” John Dillinger ordered. Both gangsters aimed their machine guns at the roof of the car and let a spray of bullets fly. With a loud series of ta-ta-chings, the metal began to shred.

“Look, we made us a sun roof,” Clyde joked. The hero was nowhere to be seen in the opening. “I think we got ’em.”

“Wrong again,” Hawk said as he pulled open the passenger door. The hero was hanging onto the edge of roof with one hand and had his left foot on the running board along the side.

John Dillinger went intangible before Hawk could grab hold of his arm. “Bonnie, I got us a bug that needs scrapin’ off now!

The woman cut the steering wheel sharp to the right. “You got it, boss!” she said as she directed the car down an alleyway. The vehicle swerved close to the brick walls on the right side. The running board scrapped the walls, sending sparks flying. Hawk was forced to swing back up onto the roof to avoid impact.

“Whoa,” Hawk said as the vehicle jumped. The front bumper had tagged an empty garbage can, crushing it flat when it barreled over it. The hero looked forward and noticed that the alleyway was closed at one end. “End of the line, boys and girls! Better stop the car, or you’re dead!”

John Dillinger laughed. “Think again, hero! The only one who’ll be dead is you!” As the car’s front bumper was about to touch the brick wall before it, the vehicle began to pass right through it. Hawk suddenly found he had nothing to hold onto, but his forward momentum was carrying him on a collision course with the wall.

“C’ya in the movin’ picture!” Clyde Barrow called out as the rest of the vehicle slipped safely away through the brick wall.

Just before Hawk could collide with the wall, Dove appeared out of nowhere and intercepted him. Her dive was enough to divert his movement, and together the two tumbled onto the ground. “Damn, they got away!” Hawk exclaimed. “What a lucky break for them!”

“I don’t think so,” Dove replied. She noticed the two were changing back to Hank and Dawn, indicating that the threat had truly passed. “Since they could make the car untouchable, too, they could have done so at any time. They were playing with us.” She looked at the wall for a second and thought. “But I think I know how we can track them down.”

***

“Glad you like it!” an excited female voice said. Mal turned to see Arisia had entered the room. “Sorry it didn’t turn out to be a surprise, though.” She gave a little pout toward Kilowog, who simply rolled his eyes back at her. The large alien then turned back to the equipment to check on its calibration.

“That’s OK,” Mal replied. “As it is, I think coming up on your friend, here, took a year or two off my life.” Then he laughed.

“You are looking quite well to me, son,” said a familiar male voice from the doorway. It was a man with short gray hair, dressed impeccably in a designer suit. “You have turned into a fine young man, Malcolm.”

Mal grinned and rushed to meet the man. “Loren Jupiter! Good to see you, sir.” He embraced his old benefactor. “What do you have to do with all this?”

Another man entered the room. This one had red hair and wore a bright yellow shirt and mauve trousers. “That’s easy, ducky,” the man replied. “Mr. Jupiter’s just looking for a way to spend his tax returns, he is.”

Neil Richards?” Mal said with a slight surprise. This man was, in fact, one of the Teen Titan’s old foes who went by the name of the Mad Mod. Richards gave up crime and reformed many years back, after the teens cleared his name in a murder case. (*) “Is this old home week, or what?

[(*) Editor’s note: See Teen Titans: Times Past, 1979: False Suit.]

Arisia gave the British man a little hug. “Mr. Richards does incredible fashions. I model a lot for his line, and it was he who introduced me to Mr. Jupiter.”

Loren Jupiter nodded. “Indeed, I have been an investor in Neil’s Mad Mod Fashions for a few years now. When I learned Miss Arisia had started to associate with you and Hawk up in San Francisco, an idea came to me. Why not set up a little facility here in Los Angeles for training today’s young heroes? It certainly worked for another group I know a few years ago.”

Mal nodded in agreement. “I can’t argue with you there, sir,” he said. “But besides Arisia, here, did you have any other students in mind?”

“Indeed,” Loren Jupiter said. “Miss Arisia suggested a local boy named Kid Devil might benefit from some training, as well as a recent acquaintance named Air Wave. I understand he needs to finish his schooling back in Dallas first, but he seemed interested in our proposal.”

Mal considered the prospect, then nodded in agreement. “That sounds like an excellent idea, sir. Of course, I’m sure the rest of Titans West would be glad to assist where we can.”

Loren Jupiter clapped his hand onto Mal’s shoulder. “I knew I could count on all of you, son.”

***

Charley Parker had parked the Duncans’ van on Haney Avenue, just short of the corner of Chua Place. Across the way was the fenced-in property that belonged to STAR Labs. STAR was short for Scientific and Technological Advanced Research. As he leaned up against the side of the vehicle waiting, thoughts ran through his head. So nice of Mal and Karen to let me borrow their wheels while my Chevette’s in the shop. I never could have gotten to work and would totally have no way to pay for the repairs.

Charley noticed two figures crossing the yard. One was his good friend and landlord, Karen Duncan. The black woman wore her white lab coat over a light blue dress. Accompanying Karen was a young woman with long blonde hair, dressed in white shorts and a pink blouse. The young man’s attention perked upon seeing the second woman. Say, she looks a bit familiar, he thought.

The security gate opened, and the two women exited the facility. As they got closer, their conversation became easier to overhear. “Now, you make sure to give me a call if that equipment gives you any problems,” Karen said.

The other woman smiled. “I definitely will. Thanks for giving me both your work and home numbers. I’m sure it will be fine.” The woman carried a large metal case by its handle with her left hand. As she approached her car, she struggled to get her keys from her purse.

Charley quickly rushed to her aid. “Here, like let me help you with that,” he said as he grabbed the case. He looked up and met the gaze of her blue eyes. Whoa, definitely familiar, he thought, and continued to stare at her as she unlocked her car door. She then paused for a second with her hand out. Charley blinked and realized she was waiting on him. “Oh, sorry.”

The young woman took the case from his hands and placed it on the floor before the passenger seat. “Thank you,” she said to him with a brief smile.

Karen stood behind the blonde young man and agreed. “Yes, Charley, thanks for helping Lisa with that,” she said.

“Lisa?” Charley said. Then he looked at her again and thought, Whoa, Lisa!

A wide grin crossed Charley’s face; he realized who the woman was and where he, as Golden Eagle, had met her before. “Lisa?” he repeated. “Nice to meet you, Lisa.” He offered his hand in greetings.

The young woman nodded and shook his hand awkwardly. “Yes, you too. Charley, wasn’t it?”

“For sure,” the young man said.

Karen decided to continue the introductions. “Charley is an old friend of my husband and I,” she explained. “He’s our house guest while he adjusts to the area.” The STAR researcher then gestured toward the young woman. “This is Lisa Morel, who is working on her doctorate in the area of oceanography. She came to us at STAR because we had some experimental equipment that might help her with her research. She has agreed to give it a field test for us.”

Charley seized the opportunity that had presented itself. “So, you spend a lot of time near the water?” he said. “Maybe we could, like, hang out together some time. I’m a totally gnarly surfer. Do you surf?”

Lisa Morel shifted uncomfortably on one foot. “No, actually, I don’t,” she said. “I tried it once. I more prefer to be under the waves than over them.”

Charley considered. “Well, maybe we could just hang out on the beach or go diving or something.”

Lisa said reluctantly, “Yes, maybe. I have Karen’s number, so I can call you.” She started to get into her car. “Thanks again, Karen. I’ll be in touch with you soon.” She then started her car and drove off.

Charley just kind of stood there, quietly watching her car head down the street. He wasn’t completely sure, but it seemed to him that Lisa had just kind of blown him off or something. It took a few seconds before he realized Karen was talking to him.

“Charley… Charley?” Karen called from the van. “We should probably get going.” He turned and nodded in her direction. He handed her the keys to the van and climbed into the passenger seat. Karen started the vehicle. “Thanks again for picking me up, Charley.”

The blonde young man said, “Oh, sure, no problemo.” He then slumped back in his seat and was quiet for most of the ride home.

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