by Martin Maenza
“Ring, please replay the Modora report,” Arisia commanded the powerful piece of apparent jewelry on her finger.
The emerald ring, responding to her request, began to glow and surge. Then a beam shot up and forward, projecting upon the blank wall just beyond the head of the table. Images began to form as if the group were viewing a motion picture film in a movie theater.
“Like, anyone got some popcorn?” Golden Eagle quipped.
“Ssshhh,” Lisa Morel said to him with a slight nudge.
Arisia narrated as the moving pictures displayed for all to see. “This is that small country in Europe. It looks totally harmless with its rolling hills and pastures, you know. But there is something bogus going on just inside the walls of the royal palace.”
The image moved from the quaint countryside and village to just inside the castle walls. There, a half-dozen armored men were shown going through drills: flight training with the jets built into the boots and target practice with blasters built into the gloves. “That’s the nucleo-sonic armor we saw Professor Andrei Szackas demonstrating to Sonar last fall,” Dawn Granger said.
Hank Hall smiled smugly. “You’ll get to see your old professor soon enough, girl.”
The image cut to that of a man in a bizarre military uniform. The shirt of blue had orange piping trim across the chest area and a flowing red cape attached. His pants were red and his boots blue. The man was a bit stockily built, and his short black hair was combed over to one side. A broad smile crossed his face as he shouted out instructions to the men in the yard.
“That’s Sonar, all right,” Harlequin said, her hands crossed about her chest. “That guy’s made Mr. Blackwell’s list of the ten worst-dressed super-criminals a number of times.”
Air Wave grew a bit angered at the sight of the man. He recalled in the back of his mind the tortures that criminal put him through in a dungeon below that very castle, all in hopes of learning the secret of the young hero’s ways to become one with sound waves in the air. His yellow-gloved fist tightened as his eyes focused sharply on Sonar.
Into the shot came a beautiful woman with long dark hair. She was dressed in a gown of purple. The look on her face was that of concern mixed with some contempt. “Like, who’s the lady?” Golden Eagle asked with some interest.
“Cassandra De Granaco,” Harlequin replied. “Sonar’s wife.”
“No way!” the Eagle retorted. “How’d a zero like him land a babe like that?”
“Some women are just attracted to bad boys,” Lisa Morel suggested.
Mal Duncan let out a curious sound. “Hmmm, maybe there’s more to it than that.”
The image started to move away from the couple observing the training exercise. Hank stood up next to the projection area. “Guys, here comes the interesting part!” he said.
The image cut to a building just behind the castle. The emerald eye was able to slip inside the facility, which had both the attributes of a factory and a laboratory. There were a number of suits of armor in various stages of completion. There was a man with brown hair in his early thirties, dressed in a very wrinkled lab coat, helping various men into suits of armor.
“There’s your Professor, Dawn,” Hank said, “outfitting the troops.”
Dawn noticed how much the man had changed since he taught her physics class at the University of San Francisco a year ago. Then he was very young-looking and full of energy and enthusiasm. Now he appeared worn and tired. His face was full of stubble, and his eyes heavy with bags. It was now her turn to let out a curious, “Hmmm.”
“Now check this out!” Hank said as the image zoomed in closer. On the table behind Szackas was another armored figure lying prone and unmoving. Parts of the red and white armor had been removed from the body, or to be more exact, some of the man’s limbs along with the armor parts about them had been removed from the rest of the carcass. From the design and the unique markings about the helmet, the armor was very distinct.
“I’ve seen those designs before,” Karen Duncan said.
“Me, too, on the news,” Mal said. “Those belong to the Russian forces known as the Rocket Red Brigade.”
“Totally,” Arisia said. “Like, my good friend and fellow G.L. Kilowog was partly responsible for designing those in Russia a couple years ago just after we all, like, settled in here on Earth.”
There was some murmuring about the table after this.
Hank just smirked, letting it all sink in. “Well, still think Sonar is sitting there smelling like a daisy?” he said. “Why would he be dissecting a Russkie, a dead one at that, and stealing from their technology if he wasn’t up to something?”
Arisia’s images ended. Hank flicked on the light. He then took to the head of the table and leaned forward. “So, gang, what are we going to do about it?”
Debate ensued in the headquarters under Gabriel’s Horn for the next forty-five minutes. The group went back and forth on the issue, with some clearly opposing Hank Hall’s proposed plan of action.
“I still say this is wrong!” Karen Duncan said, her arms folded firmly across her chest.
“I have to agree with Karen,” Dawn Granger added. “I don’t think storming in there is the answer.”
“So we let the guy continue to go unchecked until when?” Hank argued. “When he trounces over another country with that army of his, killing hundreds of innocents? I don’t think so! If the Russians catch wind of what he’s up to, do you think they’ll stand for it without retaliation? Even with all this Glasnost and such between Reagan and Gorbachev, I don’t doubt for a minute that the Soviets would send their armored boys into there on attack! And who knows what other things Sonar might have up his sleeve? If that nut job has gotten his hands on nuclear weapons, he could end up starting World War III!”
“Surely in like the name of peacekeeping, we, like, have to go and do something,” Arisia suggested.
“Definitely!” Air Wave agreed. “I’m with Hawk in taking this guy out!”
“I’m in too, I guess,” Golden Eagle said. He turned to the blonde next to him. “Lisa?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so, Charley,” Lisa Morel replied. “As the one with the least experience of all of you at stuff like this, I don’t think I’m in a position to judge. Besides, my ocean-centric powers probably wouldn’t be of much help in landlocked Central Europe.”
“Fair enough,” Hank said. He then turned to the woman next to Lisa. “Well, Harlequin?” he said. “What’s your take on this?”
The woman paused for a second, then smiled. “Count me in, hot-shot,” she said. “I’m intrigued by all of this. Things just don’t seem to add up to me. Besides, someone has to be there to pull your butt out of the fire if you mess the mission up.” She gave Hank a little wink. “Just kidding, snookums.”
“Looks like I’m outnumbered here,” Karen said, a bit disappointed. She turned to her husband, who had been sitting relatively quiet for the last half-hour or so. “Mal, what’s your take on all this?”
Her husband leaned back and let out a deep sigh. “I know this might surprise you, honey,” he said, “but I’m thinking of joining Hank and the others on the mission.”
“What?” Karen was taken aback. “You can’t be serious!” She stormed out of the room.
Mal flew out of his seat after her. “Karen, wait! Hear me out!”
The others sort of averted their eyes, not wanting to see the couple fight. Harlequin, however, just glared at Hank intently. After a moment, he couldn’t take her silent stare boring through him. “Whaaat?” he balked.
Just around the corner near the stairs, Mal caught up to Karen. “Baby, wait,” he called to her.
She spun around, still very upset. “What?”
Mal put his hands gently about her shoulders. “Baby, you know I don’t believe this is the right thing to do,” he said, then looked Karen right in the eye. “But you know how headstrong Hank is. If someone doesn’t go along to keep him in check, the whole thing could blow up on them big time. As one of the elder members of the team, that duty falls on my shoulders.”
Karen frowned. “I suppose.”
“Trust me, babe, I’m not gonna let him take down the guy unless Sonar’s actually guilty of something,” Mal said.
Karen nodded. “I suppose you’re right,” she admitted. “Plus, I guess your knowledge about sonics and such might just come in handy there.”
Mal nodded and smiled. “That’s my girl,” he said, and he gently gave her a kiss on the forehead. “So, you cool with this?”
“I don’t agree with the mission,” she said, “but if you want to go, I understand why you should.”
Mal took her hand. “That’s all I can ask for.”
The couple returned to the meeting room; the others all turned their heads and stopped talking when they arrived. Mal saw their expectant looks. “OK, kids, it’s cool,” he said with a smile. “I’ll be going on the mission to make sure you guys do everything by the book.”
Lisa got up and came over to Karen. “If you want, I’ll help out with things here,” she offered. “You know, with the bar and all.”
“Thanks, Lisa,” Karen said. “I appreciate that.” She turned to the others. “Now, this better not turn into a huge thing, understood?”
“Yes, Mom,” Hank said with a smile, trying to ease the mood. It didn’t help much.
Dawn stepped up next to Hank. “And against my belief, I’m going, too,” she said. “I know how much of a handful you can be. Mal might need my help.” She gave the black man a knowing wink. He smiled and winked back.
Hank frowned. “What? Since when do I have a track record for being difficult?”
Everyone averted their eyes, glancing the other way. A couple whistled to themselves.
“Ha-ha, guys,” Hank said. “Very funny.”
A short time later, after some changes into costumes, a burst of emerald energy blasted off into the sky, carrying the seven heroes off toward Europe.
Out front, just across from the nightclub that was not yet open, a single figure stood in the shadows and frowned. She took a sniff to the air, and her mood darkened further.
Gone! she thought. They were here, but now they’re gone! But no matter!
Renee Lasaille turned to the shadows, her own form melting into them. As disappointing as that is, I shall not be deterred! For I have the means to pursue them wherever they go! Their trail is still fresh! She licked her lips and glared her teeth.
Hawk and Dove will not elude the revenge of Kestrel so easily!
And with that, she faded into the shadows and was gone.
Unaware of the threat that came and went, Lisa helped Karen clean up the drinks from the meeting table. “Where should I put the cans?” Lisa asked. “You have a recycle bin down here?”
“Take them upstairs, and we’ll put them out back behind the bar later,” Karen advised. “I’ll join you in a second.”
After Lisa started off, Karen stepped into the other room and picked up the receiver on the phone. She punched in eleven digits and waited for the person on the other end to pick up. “Come on, come on,” she said softly to herself.
There was a click.
“Hello…” she started to say, then frowned. It was a recording.
Halfway across the country, an answering machine had picked up. “Hello, you’ve reached Wally West. I’m not in right now, so if you’ll leave a message, I’ll get back to you as fast as I can. Quick, get ready! Here’s the beep.”
Sunrise was barely on the horizon over Central Europe when a pair of figures flew over the Modoran border. Golden Eagle and Air Wave did little to mask their approach.
“You think this plan of Hawk’s will work?” the blue-and-gold-garbed hero asked.
“Like, totally,” the golden-armored man with wings replied. “How can it mi–?” The Golden Eagle’s last words were interrupted as a blast of energy from below shot at the pair, disrupting their course and hitting them with a field of high-pitched energy.
“Aaah!” Eagle wailed as he clasped his hands to his helmet. “Those funky sounds — they’re messin’ with my systems!”
“Eagle!” Air Wave exclaimed as his friend started to drop out of the sky. He grabbed for Golden Eagle’s gauntleted hand, but the sheer weight of the armor was enough to pull him out of the sky as well. The two dropped to the ground, hard.
In seconds, a group of nucleo-sonic armored soldiers were about them, weapons armed and ready. Another figure strode forward confidently. The squad leader turned to this black-haired man. “We have subdued the intruders, Your Highness!” the soldier announced.
“Excellent!” Sonar said with a smile. He watched the two fallen heroes, hardly stirring. The blue and gold costume he recognized instantly. “Well, well, well. It looks as though someone enjoyed his stay in the dungeon so much before that he’s back for more!” Sonar began to laugh heartily as the soldiers captured the two fallen heroes.
From a distance, the others watched the scene with specialized binoculars created by Arisia’s power ring. “They’ve been captured,” she said plainly.
“Good!” the red-and-white-garbed Hawk said. “Now for phase two!”
Dressed in blue and white, the platinum blonde Dove shook her head. Like the Herald and Harlequin next to her, she silently hoped Hawk knew what he was doing.