On a humid summer night, the sleek Arrowcar drove through the steaming streets of Star City. It was past ten o’clock, and most businesses were closed, but the theater district hummed with activity. Green Arrow piloted the supercharged vehicle down the deserted streets of the financial district, which was often a key target for late-night crime. He was alone this night; his young partner Speedy was out of town giving an archery demonstration at the Olympics. (*) Green Arrow beamed with pride over that.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Secret Olympic Heroes,” Teen Titans #4 (July-August, 1966).]
“Attention, all cars in vicinity of Hydecker Museum,” the radio in the Arrowcar crackled to life. Green Arrow kept it constantly on the police band. “Proceed to museum to investigate silent alarm.”
“The Hydecker isn’t far from here,” Green Arrow said to himself, turning the wheel to execute a sharp left turn. As he did so, he caught sight of a traffic sign — turn left on green arrow — and allowed himself a smile. “We’ll just see who’s trying to help themselves to the museum’s treasures! Clock King? Red Dart? Or maybe just a gang of garden-variety burglars?”
Within minutes, the Arrowcar pulled to a silent stop one block over from the museum. Green Arrow parked the car there and finished the journey on foot so as not to alert the would-be thieves. He found the door forced and crept silently into the darkened halls of the museum. He stalked through the silent building, keeping his ears open for the sound of movement as he had done a few years before on Starfish Island while searching for game. His efforts were rewarded; he heard a sound like footsteps coming from the Greek wing. They sounded heavier than normal footsteps, but he didn’t take time to think about that. Keeping his bow at the ready, the Ace Archer proceeded to the wing.
What he saw made him stop in his tracks.
He quickly shook his head, blinking twice. Take it easy, Archer — don’t freak out, he thought to himself. It’s nothing strange. Just a mythical centaur stealing an ancient clay pot. Probably happens all the time in Gotham City. As his hand reached over his shoulder to draw an arrow, Green Arrow called out, “Hey, Mr. Ed! The pot isn’t for sale, but I think there’s a plastic reproduction in the gift shop!”
The centaur’s head turned to see who had spoken. Its face contorted into a grimace of rage, and it raised its fists. In one fluid motion Green Arrow drew a stunner arrow from his quiver, notched it to the bowstring, drew, and fired. The arrow flew true, striking the centaur directly in the chest and delivering an electric shock of sufficient voltage to render a man unconscious — a man, but not a centaur.
“Holy–!” Green Arrow didn’t have time to complete his expletive before the centaur galloped up to him, reared back on its hind legs, and drove its front hooves into the startled archer’s chest. Green Arrow was knocked back against the wall, striking his head on the hard surface of the wall. As he went down into darkness, the last thing he heard was the sound of glass shattering.
“Green Arrow!” a voice called urgently. “Green Arrow! Are you all right?”
“Gnhh, just five more minutes, Ma,” Green Arrow muttered, his mind swimming back up to consciousness. Suddenly he was fully alert, looking up at two worried-looking policemen staring down at him. His head throbbed, and his chest was sore. “Ouch! Anybody get the number of that centaur?”
“So you saw it, too?” the first policeman asked, helping Green Arrow to his feet. “We got here just as it was galloping away. We fired at it, but it didn’t stop.”
“You fired warning shots?” Green Arrow asked.
“At first,” the second officer said. “When it didn’t stop, we shot to wound. I know we hit it at least four times! But it just ignored the bullets and kept on going!”
“Yeah, it found my stunner arrow equally amusing,” Green Arrow said. “What’d he take?”
“It was holding something small under one arm,” the first officer said. “I couldn’t tell what.”
“When I got here, it was going for a clay pot over there,” Green Arrow said, indicating a shattered and empty glass case. “That’s all he took, huh? Seems like a lot of trouble for not much.”
“Yeah, lots of other, more valuable things in here,” the second officer agreed.
“Maybe centaurs think differently than we do,” the first officer suggested.
“Maybe,” Green Arrow concurred. “I sure as heck don’t know how centaurs think.” The Ace Archer thought for a second. “But I might know someone who does.”
“Good morning, Etta,” Lieutenant Diana Prince said sweetly as she passed by her friend’s desk. A recent Holliday College graduate, Etta Candy had begun an internship program at Military Intelligence, working under General Darnell. “How’s the coffee this — Etta? Is something wrong?” Diana noticed the dazed, somewhat frightened look on her friend’s face.
“Diana,” she said meekly, “there’s… someone in your office. To see you.”
“Someone?” Diana asked, preparing herself. The tremulous tones of her friend’s voice spoke of trouble. “Who?”
“I think… you’d better see for yourself,” Etta said nervously.
“All right,” Diana said, steeling herself. She strode purposefully to the closed door of her office, her dress uniform regulation heels clicking on the tiled floor. With a single motion, she threw open the door and gasped with surprise.
“Diana!” the beautiful blonde woman exclaimed, putting down the magazine she had been reading. “How wonderful to see you again!” The woman was wearing the snow-white toga of the ancient Greeks; golden bands adorned her upper arms, while golden sandals were on her tiny, delicate feet. She was, simply put, the most beautiful woman Diana had ever seen.
“Diana,” Etta whispered, “she said that she’s — she thinks she is–”
“Aphrodite, of course,” the goddess said with an air of impatience. “How many times do I have to tell you?”
“It’s all right, Etta,” Diana said to her friend. “I’ve… met her before — through Wonder Woman.”
Etta’s eyes grew as wide as saucers. “You mean she — she really is — her?”
“Etta, would you get me a cup of coffee, please?” Diana asked.
“Huh? What? Coffee? Oh! Oh, sure! Sure! Coming right up!” Grateful for an excuse to leave the room, Etta hurried out. Diana shut the door behind her and turned a baleful gaze at the Greek goddess perched on the corner of her desk.
“Aphrodite, praise Zeus that we are together again,” Diana began in ritualistic tones befitting the address to a goddess, “but what are you doing here?”
“I came to see you, of course, Diana,” Aphrodite said, as if the question had been stupid. “Why else? And what’s the matter? You seem so flustered.”
“Aphrodite,” Diana said patiently, “the mortals I work with here do not know that I am Wonder Woman! Your being here could jeopardize my secret identity!”
“Secret identity?” Aphrodite repeated, confused. “You mean you actually pose as one of these mortals? Walk amongst them, pretending to be one of them? Diana, why in Olympus would you do that?”
“It’s a long story,” Diana said, “but the short answer is to be close to the mortal man I have come to love, Steve Trevor.”
“Ah, yes, Steve Trevor,” Aphrodite said with a smile. “That is why I have come to see you, Diana.”
Diana did a double take. “It is? Why?”
“Well, of late I have become confused about the emotion of love,” Aphrodite explained. “I know, I know, it’s like Hephaestus becoming confused about fire, but there it is. I am its vessel, I bring it to mortal and god alike, and yet I don’t really understand how it works. So I came to you for advice. You, who forsook your immortal heritage and home on Paradise Island to live among the mortals — for love. If you cannot advise me, who can?”
Diana could scarcely believe what she was hearing. “Aphrodite, I’m not sure I can counsel you. Love isn’t something to be understood, to be classified and categorized. It simply — is. I don’t–” Diana paused suddenly, a pensive look on her face.
“Diana, what is it?” Aphrodite asked, sensing the tension in the Amazon’s face.
“My tiara is vibrating,” Diana explained. “I wear it under my hair in this guise. It means one of my friends in the Justice League is trying to contact me.”
“Justice League?” Aphrodite repeated, wrinkling her nose in non-comprehension. “Whatever is that?”
“A band of champions battling evil and having adventures together,” Diana explained, putting it in terms that Aphrodite would understand.
“Oh, like the Argonauts!” Aphrodite exclaimed, happy at understanding. “That Jason was a gorgeous one, was he not?” The blonde goddess sighed with the memory.
Diana touched a fingertip to her brow, touching the tiara beneath her hair. The vibrations were replaced by words. “Green Arrow calling Wonder Woman, 5-5-6-5! Come in, Wonder Woman! 5-5-6-5!”
“Wonder Woman here, 6-5-5-5, Green Arrow,” Diana responded. “What’s the problem?”
“Got a riddle for you, Wonder Woman,” Green Arrow said. “What has two arms, four legs, and runs around in Star City?”
“Green Arrow, I hope you didn’t call me on the emergency JLA frequency to tell me a riddle,” Diana said, a trifle impatiently.
“Not quite,” the archer’s voice came through. “The answer is a really lost centaur.”
“Great Hera!” Diana exclaimed. “Are you telling me there’s a centaur in Star City?”
“There was last night,” Green Arrow said. “I’ve got the hoof prints on my chest to prove it. I hate to admit it, but I’m a bit out of my depth here. I could use a hand, specifically one holding a golden lasso.”
“Of course, I understand,” Diana said. “I can be in Star City in half an hour.”
“Make it an hour,” Green Arrow said. “There’s a local authority I want to consult. I’ll meet you in an hour on the observation deck of Star Tower. You can’t miss it.”
“I’ll try not to,” Wonder Woman said. “In an hour, then!” Diana broke the connection and turned to her Olympian guest. “Aphrodite, I have to go. One of my colleagues in the Justice League needs my help.”
“One of the band of champions, like the Argonauts?” Aphrodite asked eagerly. “I shall accompany you!”
“Oh, I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Diana said nervously.
“Nonsense!” Aphrodite said. “I would like to see your champions in action. I have always enjoyed a good heroic exploit! Come, let us away to this City of the Stars. A fitting name for the home of a champion!”
Diana shrugged slightly. How could you say no to a goddess? That was something beyond even Wonder Woman’s capabilities.
“Oliver, old sport!” the middle-aged man with the spade beard exclaimed in delight, looking up from the copy of Homer he was reading. “So good to see you! You don’t get to the club as often as you used to these days!”
“Afraid I don’t have much time anymore, Roger,” Oliver Queen said, shaking the older man’s hand, “between the business and raising a teenager. In fact, I can’t stay long now — meeting a friend for lunch in half an hour.”
Roger Stonecutter cocked a roguish eyebrow. “Blonde or brunette?”
“Brunette, actually,” Oliver said, grinning. “But I’m glad I bumped into you, Roger. I wanted to pick your brain about the robbery at the Hydecker last night.”
“You heard about that, eh?” Stonecutter said with a grin. “Balderdash about a centaur and all that?”
“So you don’t believe it?” Oliver asked.
“No, I don’t,” Stonecutter said firmly. “True, the world is changing — so-called super-heroes and whatnot. But I still don’t believe an honest-to-Homer centaur robbed a Star City museum! Probably some clever disguise or mechanical contrivance like that giant octopus Green Arrow stopped last year.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Menace of the Mechanical Octopus,” World’s Finest Comics #97 (October, 1958).]
Oliver considered that. “Actually, Roger, I was hoping you could shed some light on what the… thief took. I find that interesting.”
“Eh? What he took?” Stonecutter asked.
“Sure,” Oliver said. “The police commissioner called this morning to break a golf date; the owners of the Hydecker are breathing down his neck about the robbery. He told me that all that was taken was a small clay pot, probably not worth very much. You’re the best expert I know on Greek things, Roger. I thought you could offer some insight.”
“Clay pot, eh?” Stonecutter said, stroking his beard. “Well, ancient Greek pots were very decorative, often used in religious rites and ceremonies. Perhaps the thief is a collector and found the pot particularly attractive.”
“So the pot has no hidden value that you’re aware of?”
“Well, I haven’t seen the pot we’re talking about,” Stonecutter reminded him. “There are dozens in the Hydecker, you know. Odds are the police will be asking my opinion; as you say, I’m Star City’s leading Greek expert. My home has as many Greek artifacts as the Hydecker. But until I see the pot or a picture of it, I can’t say for sure what value it had.”
“That makes sense,” Oliver said. “Well, I have to dash, Rog. Thanks for your thoughts!”
“Any time, Oliver,” Stonecutter said, picking up his book. “Give my regards to your… friend,” the old millionaire added with a wink. Oliver returned the wink with a grin.