by Martin Maenza, with Libbylawrence
I was busy in Dallas at the time. One of Batman’s old foes decided to try a different venue and had been spotted messing around near some oil fields. “Ha ha,” laughed the red-and-yellow-costumed Signalman. “With my devices, I can easily mess up the readings on these rigs. Those oil barons will have to pay through the nose if they want to harvest their black gold anytime soon.”
“That’s gotta be the lamest plan I’ve ever heard,” I said as I materialized on the scene. My special belt and helmet combination allowed me to travel anywhere via radio waves, and thus I was able to get the jump on the crook.
“Who are you?” Signalman asked.
“The name’s Air Wave — duh!” I said. “Boy, change your costume colors, and you have to send out a press release.”
“You can’t catch what you can’t see,” the villain said. Signalman pulled out a gun-like weapon and shot it into my face. There was a blinding flash of light, and I lost my vision for a moment.
Then my head began to buzz. “What the–?” I wondered. Could this guy be packing something to mess with all my senses?
Then the buzzing in my head focused. It was a female voice speaking to me over a special radio frequency my helmet was attuned to. “Harbinger to Air Wave, Harbinger to Air Wave,” the voice in my head said. “You are needed for a very important mission. The fate of the Earth is at stake.” Whoever this Harbinger woman was, she sure had a flare for the dramatic. I seemed to recall hearing her name before, so I figured I’d give her the benefit of the doubt.
“I’m a little busy at the moment,” I said as my eyes began to clear.
“What’s so urgent?” her voice asked in my head.
I ducked a punch from Signalman, who could obviously see I had regained my sight and was looking at me as if I was crazy for hearing voices. The last thing I needed was someone distracting me. “Just rounding up the Signalman,” I said. I faked left, then nailed the villain with a right hook. Green Arrow once taught me it was good to distract your enemies. I figured if Harbinger’s yammering was distracting me, I should even the battle up a little.
“Hold a moment,” Harbinger said.
“Fine,” I said. “Plenty of time to end this.” Another punch, and Signalman was out like a light.
As I picked the villain up off the ground, her voice popped back into my head. “If you can, bring him along. We can use the help.” And she directed me to where Captain Comet was gathering his forces.
Now, I hadn’t been able to make the few big hero gatherings during the Crisis. A number of the folks that were in the large room had, though, and they were starting to draw comparisons. Members of the New Titans team, the Outsiders, and the Metal Men were there, to name but a few. There was Harbinger and Pariah, standing before the group and telling them about a major threat. Some folks were doubtful until Captain Comet started to speak.
“The alien fleet Pariah warned you all about is above us even as we speak,” the hero said. “We know there are several zones that require your attention, but three immediate trouble spots are our problem today. The entire continent of Australia has been ensnared in some type of energy cage. No transmissions in or out are possible. The worst event may only be summed up with a statement that sounds seemingly absurd — the United Kingdom has vanished! The entire land mass is gone.” He wanted to disperse two teams to check into those situations, while the others were to handle the alien troops that were landing throughout the globe.
Before I had time to socialize with anyone else, Captain Comet had assigned me to a team of folks I barely knew. Heck, a majority of them were known criminals, but Comet assured me that they’d give us little trouble. See, they’d been fitted with special subdermal tracking devices that would help keep them from escaping. And if the villains helped out, they’d get a reduction on their prison sentences. That appealed to them, so they figured they’d play nice. Even then, I still didn’t trust them.
A short while later, we were down under in Australia, hovering in the Rehab Squad’s Sky Skimmer just outside the energy cage that surrounded the whole country. I was given the job to try and figure out what the energy cage was made of.
“Stand back,” I told the others. “I’ll see if I can phase into the field to understand it.” Using my powers, I converted myself into radio waves and dived into the field. But even though I was intangible, I could still hear their conversation.
“The kid’s a wimp,” the purple-and-black-costumed Multiplex declared. “He’ll faint in a minute.”
“Give him a chance,” the Golden Glider replied. Mayflower, Silent Majority, Plastique and the Pied Piper all watched and talked amongst themselves.
I re-formed to give them my findings. “I have good news and bad news,” I said. “I can read the radio-waves — or whatever this alien frequency of energy is — and I can almost match it with my transformation, but it may drain me of all power for a while.”
The gold-costumed blonde at the controls of the Skimmer put her hand on my shoulder. “Look, Air Wave,” Golden Glider said, “if you can breach the field, we’ll do the rest. Don’t worry about the strain.” It was rather odd to get a pep talk from one of the Flash’s rogues. But she seemed rather sincere in her words. I wouldn’t say that about many of the others.
Then an idea hit me. “I’m guessing that the field alternates between radio waves and pure sound,” I said. I turned to the man in green. “That where you come in, Piper.”
“Have horn, will blow,” the Pied Piper said, smiling. He had withdrawn one of his trademark weapons as I discussed my idea. “Good luck, kid.” He then played his pipe, while I transformed once more.
Unlike the last time, I felt myself blending with the cage. The Piper’s modulating frequency helped me keep up with the changes in the field. As the sound pulsed visibly, the cage began to shudder. I could tell it was working, but I couldn’t cheer.
And that’s when everything phased out for me.
“The next thing I knew,” explained Air Wave to his friends, “I was being pulled out of my energy-like entrapment by another sound wave. Now, at the time, I had no idea how long I’d been in energy form. I figured it was maybe the Piper or something. You know, perhaps minutes had passed.
“I was pretty worn out, so I just let myself go. I allowed the sound wave to wash over me and pull me free. But when the world came into focus once more, I wasn’t in Australia. Gone was the team I barely knew. Instead, I was in some small mountainous countryside and facing a villain I knew all too well — Sonar!”
“Blimey!” exclaimed Neil Richards. He had been listening to the tale as intensely as the others. “That guy’s one fashion disaster. Like he stepped out of a marchin’ band or somethin’. Dreadful color combination.”
“Yeah, really,” Air Wave said. “But I was in no condition to put up a fight; taking down that energy cage had done a serious number on my powers. Sonar easily defeated me and made me his prisoner. And there I sat for months in the dungeons of the Modoran castle. That is, until the Titans came and rescued me last fall.”
“Bummer,” said Kid Devil.
“Definitely,” said the Herald. “But from what I heard later, Air Wave’s sacrifice helped turn the tide in Australia. The team he was with was able to break into the Khund stronghold there and shut them down. That victory helped turn the tide in the war we were facing.”
“Were you active during the invasion, Herald?” Kid Devil asked.
“In fact, I was,” the Herald said. “Though it’s not nearly as exciting as Hal’s adventure.” And he began to tell his story.