Katar Hol pulled his lovely wife Shayera onto his lap in their comfortable office at Midway City Museum, where the Thanagarian-born heroes were known as Carter and Shiera Hall. The beautiful woman laughed and stroked her handsome husband’s rugged face.
“Well, what has put you in such a frisky mood this morning? A new crime wave?” she said teasingly as she smiled up at him.
“Very funny, Shayera. No, it’s just a sense of relief in that our lives have finally settled down after the Shadow War exploded into that joint invasion by our people of Thanagar, the Khunds, and others in the Alien Alliance. (*) We were finally able to share the burden after keeping the battle a lone effort on our parts for fear of the Absorbascon being used on our allies.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Shadow War of Hawkman,” Shadow War of Hawkman #1 (May, 1985), “Fallen Angels,” Shadow War of Hawkman #2 (June, 1985), “My Worlds Opposed,” Shadow War of Hawkman #3 (July, 1985), “No Sound of Clashing Wars,” Shadow War of Hawkman #4 (August, 1985), and Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Strange Visitors.]
Shayera, wearing a pink turtleneck and white miniskirt, nodded. “I know how very hard it was for you to accept that our homeworld had so rejected the ideals you strove to emulate as a wingman. I hope that someday we can see Thanagar restored to its old ways. I know Rul Pintar will do the right thing in that direction. He was your father’s best friend.”
“I am slowly adjusting to the changes, and I am sorry for the way I acted before — refusing to answer to Katar and insisting that I am Hawkman only. That was a bit extreme,” he said ruefully.
Shayera kissed him and said, “By any name, you know you’re the love of my life.”
Katar smiled. “Again I say, for a girl sidekick, you’re not half-bad.”
She swatted him playfully when a buzz from their door announced a visitor. “Stewart Frazier! What brings Midway’s finest acting commissioner to our door?” asked Shayera.
The handsome black man smiled. “Seeing you is reason enough, but I plead business, too. Weird things are going on around Midway, and I need your beaked selves to calm the storm.”
“What weird things?” asked Hawkman. “Remember, we’ve dealt with living shadows and headless ghosts, so weird is relative to us.”
Frazier said, “Would you call intense phobia attacks — even in trained police or otherwise fearless types — weird?”
Shayera slipped back into the office to pick up the phone. “Hello? Oh, hello, Whitney. How are you?” she said, pausing to listen for a moment. “What? Don’t worry, Frazier is here now, and we’re on our way!”
She rushed back, now dressed in her full Hawkwoman costume. “Katar, that was Whitney,” she said, referring to Whitney Nichols, a criminology student they had befriended. “She says Midway Bank is under siege, and the cops on duty are scared stiff!”
Hawkman grimly nodded. “Let’s fly!”
Hawkman and Hawkwoman soared toward the Midway City Bank, where several cops and crooks were in the midst of an uneasy standoff. Shayera and Katar knew each other well as partners, lovers, and friends. They needed little or no planning to act in a way that perfectly complimented one another.
Shayera swung her mace with skill and dropped a thug who had fired hopelessly too slow to hit the beautiful redhead. “All girls should carry mace!” she quipped as he fell, and she kicked a second one to the floor.
A third shivered in fear and cried out, “No! The cops got me!” He rolled to the smooth floor in abject terror, although no one had touched him as yet.
He was all of eighteen or so, and Shayera felt sorrow for the young thug. I’m barely past girlhood on our world, since we live so very long, but it’s rough to see a kid like this whose life is so short by our standards waste his time so completely, she mused as she bent to calm him. “Shhh! No one has hurt you,” she cooed. His eyes are wide and staring, but at some reality we can’t see. He’s not drugged, but he seems to be experiencing some nightmarish vision, she decided.
Katar slammed into the three remaining gunmen and dispatched them into a stunned surrender with rare speed. He darted through their gunfire and was never touched. He backhanded them to the ground with little of his impressive strength. He bent down over a raving policeman. “Pains me to see a fellow law enforcer in such a state. He’s almost mad with fear!” Indeed, the cop was screaming like the young thug about his own death.
As they turned the crooks in and watched the frightened cop be led to safety, Shayera asked her husband, “Katar, is this the work of some villain like the Scarecrow or Phobia, who use odd techniques to create such fear?”
“I rather doubt it, since I detect no lingering trace of a gas or toxin, and I know the officer affected was not near any such drug-dispensing crook before rushing into the bank,” said Hawkman.
The police car radio echoed another alert. “A riot on Gardner Avenue!” it announced between static bursts.
“Sounds like our work is just starting!” cried Hawkwoman.
The riot near the Midway City Museum had been caused by a group of tourists who were suddenly struck with the same mind-numbing terror as the crooks and cop earlier. Hawkman summed up the plight of the visitors quickly. Got to herd them into the grounds where they won’t risk getting into the traffic, he thought.
Years ago, on a routine mission to Earth to apprehend a felon called Byth Rok, Katar and Shayera had arrived on Earth as Thanagarian police officers. Following standard operating procedure, the newcomers had used a mind-reading device called the electric brain or the Absorbascon to learn much of Earthly knowledge, including the languages of various nations and birds. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Creature of a Thousand Shapes,” The Brave and the Bold #34 (February-March, 1961).]
Katar made such screeching cries, causing birds to respond by swooping down in a black mass and herding the panicky tourists into the open green lawns of the Midway City Museum. Shayera was among them, and she offered comfort as needed. Her skill and compassion made her extremely effective, yet she had no answers for the source of the fear.
“They all seemed to see death — their own death,” she began, until a cold chill hit her shapely form, and she fell forward as the evil faces of the Hyathis faction from her home grinned down at her. They laughed as she was stripped of her costume and was slowly choked to death by the alien tyrant Hyathis herself.
She fell in sight of her lover, who swooped down to carry her to a quieter spot. “Shay, love, what is it? I’m here. I’ll never leave you,” he urged, recalling his own sickness and grief when he had thought her lost to him during the initial raid by a gang hired by Thanagarians during the Shadow War, or when a magical dimension had swallowed her immediately afterward, leaving behind a scorched silhouette in her shape.
Shayera blinked and saw Katar himself panic-filled. “No! Father, the Man-Hawks have tore my belt! I’m falling!” he cried. She brought this brave man through his sudden fear as he had saved her. “What is it?” he asked. “I felt like I was dying. I really believed it for a minute, too,” he said angrily.
She rubbed his shoulders as they watched the now-calm crowd of tourists leave. “We’ll find the answers together,” she promised.
Later, in their office, the couple worked through the night.
“The terror plague only struck us when we were closest to the Museum,” declared Shayera. “In fact, the number of people afflicted has increased geometrically as we neared the location of the Museum. The reports I gathered from Whitney confirm that fact.”
Katar nodded. “I suspect that means this fear plague is being aimed at us. Why else would the panic grow as we approached the Museum? Whoever is behind it must be someone who knows our secret and wants us eliminated.”
Shayera, looking at a screen, cried, “Katar! I ran a scan on the computer, and the fear is being projected via a ray that reacts with the part of the adrenal system and other bodily systems or chemical reactions that stimulate fear or emotional panic. The ray isn’t creating the fear, but it is conveying the effects here from some other separate source.”
“Where is the source of the terror plague? Thanagar?” he asked worriedly. “Have our people resumed their madness?”
“No,” she said. “It comes from Rann.”