by Martin Maenza
In Gateway City, Nightwing was leading his group of New Titans against raiders from Thanagar and Khundish soldiers. He knew his team well, for he’d been working with Changeling, Cyborg, and Wonder Girl for a few years now. Heck, even newcomers like Kole and that new Robin kid were holding their own.
A number of us had been dispensed farther into the Northwest. Lilith Clay called Bat-Girl, Golden Eagle, the Bumblebee, and myself out of retirement. “According to my precognitive abilities,” said the red-haired Lilith, “some of the aliens will strike here.” She indicated the building before us.
“Like, what would aliens with all their hi-tech weapons and space ships need from a STAR Labs facility?” asked Golden Eagle.
“I think your future-sight is, like, totally out of whack, Lilith,” the blonde Bat-Girl added.
“Not really,” said the Bumblebee. “This out-of-the-way facility in the Midwest serves a critical purpose to the whole of STAR Labs operations. This happens to hold our central data processing and storage facilities. All the projects past and present have their data archived here.” The African-American heroine led them past the site security. “If the aliens were to capture the contents of these systems, they’d have access to some of our world’s greatest technological advancements.”
“Then we better get this place secured,” I said.
Suddenly, there was a loud explosion near the south wall. “Uh-oh,” Lilith cried. “We’re too late!”
“It’s never too late when the Titans West are on the scene!” the Golden Eagle said as he took to the air. Bumblebee flew off with him, while the rest of us followed on foot.
When we rounded the corner, our two teammates were exchanging blasts with a group of green-skinned aliens dressed in brown clothing. “Get the humansss!” one of the Psions hissed. “They ssshall not ssstop usss from obtaining the information!”
Some of the aliens charged us. They weren’t very strong nor good at combat, but there were enough to crowd us. “Eee-eww!” Bat-Girl shrieked. “Like, get your slimy mitts off of me!” Reaching into her utility bag, she grabbed some flash powder and tossed it to the ground in front of her. The bright burst caught the aliens in the eyes, causing them to recoil.
“Good idea, Betty!” I said. “Let’s hit him where we can!” I took out my specialized horn and began to blow into it. I modulated the frequency some to find just the right one to affect the Psions’ specialized hearing.
“Aaah!” a few screamed as they dropped over in pain.
A couple of them made a break for it, ducking into the building and heading toward the central systems storage of the facility. Golden Eagle and Bumblebee took after them. “They’re fast — I’ll give them that,” the armored hero commented.
“Maybe too fast,” Bumblebee said. Her stinger blasts weren’t causing them too much pain. “If they get to the central systems, who knows what kind of tricks they have to upload the data? They might not need much time for it.”
“So, like, how do we stop them?” Eagle asked.
The trio of Psions stopped at the end of the hall. One of the three began to put a device to the locked door, attempting to decipher and unlock the mechanisms.
“We’ve only got one chance,” Bumblebee said. “Follow my lead!” She aimed her stinger blasts at the large conduit that ran above the hall. The Golden Eagle focused his gauntlet blasters in the same spot. “Full power, now!”
The pipe exploded just as the locking mechanism was about to be bypassed. The three Psions looked up at the explosion just as a huge blast of coolant and air slammed into them. The intense cold was enough to play havoc with their reptilian physiology, causing them to become slow and sluggish.
The heroes were able to take them out with a few punches. “Wow, Karen,” the Eagle said. “How’d you, like, figure that out?”
“Easy,” the Bumblebee replied. “I knew those massive computer systems on the other side of the doors needed lots of air-conditioning to keep the temperature down to an optimal level. The conduit is part of that system to keep it cool. I figured its contents would have a negative effect on our alien thieves, here.”
“Cool!” the Eagle said.
The rest of us joined the two of them. “Looks like we’ve got this wrapped up,” I said.
“But, like, why did they send such a small covert group to retrieve information that’s so totally valuable?” Bat-Girl wondered.
“I can answer that,” said Lilith. “I was able to use my telepathic abilities to tap into one of the aliens’ minds. Seems they planned to steal our world’s technological secrets for themselves and not share with the rest of the invading alliance.”
“Talk about totally grody,” Bat-Girl said. “Not only are they, like, physically disgusting, they’re also, like, a bunch of two-timing scum.”
“For sure,” Golden Eagle agreed.
Arisia returned to the room just as the Herald was finishing his tale. She was now dressed in jeans and a oversized sweater that sat off the shoulder on one side. Also, she had used her power ring to disguise her alien features so that she’d appear like any other sixteen-year-old white Earth female. “I’m ready to go, Mr. Richards,” Cindy Simpson said.
“Good thing, luv,” Neil Richards said. “I’ll get me stuff.”
“Aw,” Kid Devil said. “I was hoping she’d tell us more about her adventures during the invasion.”
“Can’t do it now, Gopher,” Cindy said. “We’ll be cutting it close as it is. I’ll have to tell you another time about how two of the other Green Lanterns and I, along with a couple of villains, ended up locating the missing United Kingdom.” Cindy and Neil left the room.
“Yeah,” said Air Wave as he picked up the magazine that Neil Richards had been reading earlier. “Either that, or you can check out page twenty-six of this.” He rolled up the periodical and playfully swatted the shorter hero on the head.
“Ow,” Kid Devil said.
“Just kiddin’, Dee,” Air Wave laughed. “Though I don’t know how you would’a handled some aliens if a magazine gives you a headache.”
“Hey, I did my part!” Kid Devil exclaimed.
“Really?” asked the Herald. “Just what exactly were you doing during the invasion?”
“Well,” Kid Devil said. Both Air Wave and the Herald were staring at him intently. “Well, it was like this…” And he began to tell his story.
With all the hype on the news about the space invaders, things at Verner Brothers Studios ground to a halt. Jock Verner wasn’t too happy with it, and my aunt Marla was getting an earful. I decided it was time to find someplace a little quieter.
My buddy Blue Devil wasn’t around to hang out with. He was tapped to help out with the efforts, much to his usual dismay. I wanted to go, too, but he told me that was no place for a kid. So, back at the studios I sat.
Suddenly, I noticed some guys moving in the shadows between buildings. They looked a bit suspicious. As they cut across one of the openings on the lot, I saw their faces. They were a bunch of ugly aliens! And they seemed to be heading toward Jock Verner’s offices. I decided if I was going to try to stop them, I better get into costume.
It didn’t take long to fetch my red costume and trident weapon from where I’d stashed it. Once I got it on, I hightailed it over to the offices and got there just in time. These alien scum were cracking Verner’s safe and taking some cash.
I bust into the office, my weapon in hand. “Freeze, aliens!” I yelled.
“What the–?” one of them yelled, a bald, orange ugly with pointed ears and red, glowing eyes.
The other, a grayish, misshapen-headed thing with three eyes turned from the safe. “It’s a kid!” he exclaimed. “Get ’em before he rats us out!”
“Where?” the first one said. “I can’t see a damn thing!”
“Good!” I said as I lunged into action. “All the easier to do this!” I ducked by the one with the orange head, slamming him in the groin with the flat of my trident’s head. He doubled over in pain.
The one in gray reached into his clothing pocket to pull out a weapon. They figured they’d dress like normal folks to blend in. “You little–!”
Before he could open fire, I was diving into a roll just like I learned in gym class. The alien fired at me, but I was moving onto him too fast. Just before I got to his feet, I came out of the roll and jammed my trident staff upwards. I hit both his knees hard and fast with the metal weapon. He crumpled to the ground.
All the shooting brought the attention of the studio security along with Jock Verner and my aunt. By the time they showed up at the offices, I had the aliens subdued and bound up with duct tape.
“What’s going on here?” Jock Verner bellowed.
“Stopping these alien scum from stealing your money, sir!” I said proudly.
Aunt Marla pulled me aside. “Gopher, we’ve talked about this…” she started to lecture me quietly.
One of the security guys noticed something. “Hey, check it out!” he said, pulling on the orange alien’s head and yanking it clean off. “It’s a mask!” Sure enough, both guys were regular humans, disguised as aliens to take advantage of the crisis situation. Turned out they were disgruntled former employees that Verner had let go a few weeks prior.
Air Wave and the Herald both busted out laughing as Kid Devil finished his story. “Hey, it wasn’t that funny!” the boy said defensively. “They certainly looked like aliens when I was fighting them.”
A few hours later, back in San Francisco, Mal Duncan was still chuckling about the story as he relayed it to his wife Karen and their dinner guests. “Guys in costumes,” Mal said. “Can you believe that? Like something out of Scooby Doo.”
“Mal, be nice,” Karen scolded him. “Those kids look up to you as their instructor. You can’t expect them to respect you if you can’t respect them.”
“Oh, honey,” Mal said. “It was funny. Am I right, Hank? Dawn?”
“Well,” the blonde Dawn Granger said. Hank Hall continued to eat without commenting much.
“Humph,” Mal said. “If Charley weren’t off on a date, I know he’d agree with me.” He took another sip of his drink. “Still, it was kind of fun swapping stories with them.
“I certainly found your retellings interesting,” Dawn said. “I wasn’t privy to what was going on until after the fact.”
“Really?” Karen asked as she buttered some cornbread. “So, where exactly were you when all this was going down?”
Dawn smiled. “Well, I was still in the United Kingdom, in fact. My mother’s a diplomatic courier and was just finishing a stint working out of London. We were about ready to return to the States when the whole invasion began.”
“Really?” said Mal. “So what was it like there, given that the U.K. was shrunken by the invaders and all? Was it a madhouse?”
“Surprisingly not,” Dawn said. “Truth be told, we didn’t have much of an idea what was happening around us — except for one thing.” And Dawn began to tell her little story.