by Martin Maenza
Dove executed a perfect triple somersault to avoid the blasts of an attacking soldier. She then paused for a moment as she saw something move out of the corner of her eye. Someone was making an exit out one of the doors of the lab.
She failed, however, to see one of the armored men focusing his power gauntlet at her.
Before he could fire, a sonic blast from across the way smashed into him and knocked him to the ground. Dove turned to see the man fall before her. “Oh!” she said with some surprise.
“Got to be more alert, Dove!” instructed the Herald as he took his sonic horn from his lips.
“Thanks, Herald!” she said with a slight salute. “I have someone to catch.” And with that, she darted toward the exit.
The Herald started to shake his head. These kids today. He put his horn to his lips and pointed the end at another warrior flying past. Activating the device, he sent a wave of sonic energy at the man. Then, with the man caught in his sound shot, he punched the buttons on top of the horn, alternating his frequency.
The maneuver was enough to disrupt the nucleo-sonic armor, causing the flight systems to short out. The second man fell to the ground.
“I don’t like when someone uses my own tricks against me!” snapped Sonar as he blasted the Herald from behind with his sonic gun. The hooded hero was caught by surprise from the blast and fell to the floor, stunned.
“You like surprises, Sonar?” Arisia said as she flew up upon him.
He spun about quickly, firing his sonic weapon at the girl. “Stay back, Green Lantern!” Sonar warned as the shot scattered off the emerald energy surrounding her. “I know how to get past your little energy shield. Your power ring doesn’t frighten me.”
There was a shimmer near Sonar’s left side. Before he could realize it, the blue and gold form of Air Wave materialized there. “Yeah?” the hero said as he let his fist fly. “How’s about a good solid punch to the jaw, then?” Sonar crumpled. “Does that scare you?”
Sonar was silent as he nursed the blow to his chin. In his eyes came a look of desperation.
Professor Andrei Szackas ran across the courtyard and then out into a clearing. This was it. He’d had enough. It was only a matter of time before the whole lab came crashing down upon the fight between the armored warriors and the heroes. He wanted no part of being caught in that crossfire. “I just want to be left alone!” he cried.
There was a rustling in the branches above, and a figure dropped down in the center of his path. It was the platinum blonde, Dove. She looked like an angel. “Stop, Professor Szackas,” she said softly but firmly.
“Oh, God, no!” the man cried, falling to his knees in exhaustion. He couldn’t take any more. He threw his hands to his face and began to sob. He waited for a strike to come.
“Professor,” Dove said softly.
He looked up amidst his tears to see an open, white-gloved hand extended to help him up. He reached forward with some trepidation, his own hands trembling.
“Professor, it is OK,” the heroine said. “I know you were just a pawn here, used by Sonar. If you will help us, I promise we will try to help you, too.”
Professor Szackas was confused by this show of compassion. It was so unexpected but welcome. After all these months, he needed that.
He took her hand.
The Golden Eagle burst through the damaged roof of the lab, followed by a trio of armored soldiers. They fired their blasts at him, but the agile aerial avenger managed to dodge each one.
“How did he get so fast?” one of the soldiers asked.
“Keep firing!” another said. “We took him down before!”
“Look!” the third shouted.
Golden Eagle had soared high up and then did a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn. He rocketed down toward the three at top speed, his gauntlet fists together. “Cowabunga!” he shouted as he soared right through them, managing to punch through one directly while catching the others in the backdraft.
As they started to drop to the ground, the Eagle laughed. “Dudes, when you tagged me before, I wasn’t, like, even trying to avoid your blasts! I totally had you snowed with my acting skills.” He glanced back toward the lab and, with the enhanced lens in his helmet, could see what was happening. “Sorry, guys. I gotta go!” He rocketed downward.
The Harlequin reached into her bag of tricks and tossed a jumble of what looked like string at another approaching soldier. Immediately, the knotty mess expanded upon contact, entangling the attacker.
“What — what is this?” he grunted as he struggled to break free. The more he tried, though, the more the string became tighter about him.
The comedic champion turned to her teammate. “Well, Hawk, looks like we’ve got this group wrapped up!”
The red and white blur smashed his fist into the visor of another attacker, cracking the face-plate and the nose of the man. Hawk then spun around, swept his left foot out, and tripped up another who was trying to get the drop on him. “I would say you’re right, Harl!” He glanced about. “But we’re still missing the head honcho!”
“No, we’re not,” announced Air Wave has he approached the others with a beaten Sonar in tow. “The weasel is right here!”
Arisia followed behind, her power ring presenting a barrier to push back those few soldiers who still remained standing after the fight. The Herald followed behind with a small, gun-like weapon in his hands. “He won’t be trying anything funny without this,” the black hero said.
The Golden Eagle landed as the heroes gathered about the beaten villain. “So, we totally shut the guy down, right? Why was the Bee so worried?”
Sonar grinned wildly. “Smug American heroes! You couldn’t be more wrong.”
Hawk shook his head. “Funny, that’s not how it looks from where we’re sitting. You’re finished, Sonar!”
“If I go, I’m taking you all with me,” Sonar said, reaching into his pocket, “thanks to this!” He pulled forth a small device that resembled a pen.
“Dude! Like, what are you going to do with that? Write us off?” the Eagle quipped.
“This is a detonator!” Sonar announced. “One push, and a sonic bomb so powerful will blow up everything in a thirty-mile radius! Now, you leave here, or I’ll set it off!”
“You’ve got to be joking,” the Harlequin said.
“He’s bluffing!” Air Wave said.
Some of the soldiers started to turn to run. Sonar saw them and shouted, “Stand where you are! As your general and ruler, I order you to do so!” They hesitated, looking to one another for guidance. The men were confused.
“Hawk, what do we do?” Arisia asked. “My power ring could contain an explosion…”
“Your ring is useless against my power!” Sonar boasted. “Remember what I said.”
Arisia considered. She remembered what the elder Hal Jordan told her about Sonar. He did have the capabilities.
“We can’t risk this,” the Herald told the others. “If he has a bomb, there is no guarantee we could stop it in time.”
Hawk glared at the man. His eyes met Sonar’s. For a long moment, they remained locked, unblinking.
“He’s lying,” the red-and-white-garbed hero said. “I know it.” Hawk started to move forward.
“Not one step!” Sonar warned. His finger danced over the detonator button.
“He is lying!” a woman’s voice said. All turned to see Cassandra De Granaco step into the remains of the lab.
“Keep out of this, woman!” Sonar snapped. “This does not concern you!”
“Wrong!” she replied. “I am your wife and queen of this nation. The welfare of my country and her people is my primary concern.”
“You know nothing!” Sonar countered. “I was in charge of the formation of the army and the projects here in Szackas’ lab. You know nothing!”
She stepped forward confidently. “I know this,” Cassandra said. “The man I married, the man who stands before me, has an incredible love for the country of Modora. He is her biggest and most vocal advocate. He would do anything to see her advance.”
All assembled knew this. There was no disputing those facts.
“So,” Cassandra said, “for someone who worked so hard to put this nation on the map, would you truly believe that he would so quickly act to wipe it off the map?” This gave all pause, including Sonar.
Hawk darted forward and knocked Sonar to the ground with a one-two punch. The item in his hand dropped to the ground. “The game is over, Sonar! You’re going to jail for a long time!”
“No, no!” the dictator said, throwing his hands up in defense. “I am still the ruler here. You have no authority.”
“Wrong, Bito!” Cassandra said firmly. “I, too, am ruler here, and my authority matches yours. You have risked the lives our countrymen, engaging them in battle outside of the defense of our nation. You have committed acts of atrocities against neighbors and attacked those who did not attack us first, all in the name of our country. And, lastly, you threatened to extinguish the very lives of our people, all for your own benefit.”
Cassandra turned to the soldiers assembled and the heroes. “No, Sonar’s acts deserve punishment. He can no longer claim immunity under the flag of our nation. As monarch, I now decree that he is banished from our soil, never to return again or risk immediate imprisonment.”
“Wha — what?!” Sonar spat.
Hawk smiled broadly as he reached down, grabbed the man by his blue tunic, and hoisted him into the air. “Looks to me like your wife just sold you out, Sonie!”
“What about the soldiers?” Arisia asked.
“They’re just pawns here,” the Herald said. “Sonar said it himself: he formed the army, outfitted them with the weapons, and commanded them. They acted only on his orders. They are not to blame here.”
“But what of Szackas?” the Harlequin asked. “He was involved in the armor production.”
“He is right here,” Dove announced. She approached with the professor. “I don’t think you’ll get an argument from him. He is ready to return to the United States and face whatever consequences are meant for him.”
The man nodded silently as he kept his eyes to the floor.
Cassandra De Granaco approached the man. “Professor Szackas,” she said, “Andrei…” The man looked up sadly. “Know this: this land is your homeland. You are always welcome to return here.”
Szackas nodded. “Yes, my queen,” he said. “Thank you.”
Cassandra De Granaco turned to the soldiers. “Power down your weapons,” she said. “Go and take off the armor. Our nation will not take up arms again unless we need to defend ourselves.” The men nodded, turned, and prepared to follow her instruction.
“You can’t do this to me!” Sonar cried. “I am Sonar! I am Modora! I–”
An emerald cork appeared and popped into his mouth, stopping his incessant ranting. “I think we should, like, get going,” Arisia said as she created a sphere of emerald energy to transport her friends.
“Agreed,” said the Herald. “Our work is done here.”
Hawk grabbed Sonar and dragged him to the bubble. Dove escorted Szackas. The other heroes followed suit, and soon Arisia lifted them all high into the morning sky.
Cassandra De Granaco watched them go. The farther they went, the wider her smile became.
A few weeks later, Hank Hall sat at the kitchen table in his San Francisco apartment, polishing off a can of beanie weenies. Across the way, he had the television on.
A reporter for the cable television news channel related a story that the young man was quite interested in. “Bito Wladon, the international criminal also known as Sonar, was indicted today on three counts in the U.N.’s International Court of Law. If convicted, he will face up to thirty years of imprisonment.”
The brown-haired young man smiled. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer creep,” Hank Hall said with a smile.