by Martin Maenza
The three headed up to the second floor of the Tower. As they stepped off the elevator, they were greeted by a dark-haired young woman in long white robes. “Welcome, my friends,” Raven said in a soothing voice. “It is so good to have you visiting. Nightwing told us that you would be arriving this morning.”
“Where is old Bat-boy anyway, Raven?” Hank asked.
The empath gestured up with her white-gloved hand. “He is upstairs in the lab. He should be down in a moment. In the meantime, please make yourselves at home. I believe Arsenal and Jericho are in the lounge area.”
“Thanks, Raven,” Mal said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve given Roy a hard time. Come on, Dawn. I’ll introduce you to the guys.” The two walked off toward the large room on the left.
Raven stood still, silently watching Hank.
After a few moments, he started to feel a bit uncomfortable. “What?” he asked abruptly. “Is something bothering you?”
Raven frowned slightly. “Actually, I was about to ask you the same thing, Hank.” As an empath, she could read a bit into people’s moods.
“Me? What would be bothering me?”
“I’d like to venture a guess,” said Nightwing as he descended the spiral stairs. “Might it have something to do with the recent situations in Modora-Granaco, and Sonar in particular?”
“Damn, Dick!” Hank exclaimed. “You’re getting more and more like your old mentor every day! How’d you figure all that out, boy detective?”
Nightwing laughed. “It’s not all that hard, Hank. The access logs from your computers to ours indicated a series of queries relating to those topics. Anything we can do to help you guys on this one?”
“No way, Bat-boy! This one started out in our own backyard, so that makes it Titans West business.”
“We are talking Sonar, here, as well as international politics. That almost puts it on the level of the Justice League or the Global Guardians.”
Hank got into Nightwing’s face. “You saying Titans West don’t got the resources to handle things? Maybe you forgot, but we’ve got a Green Lantern in our ranks now, one who has battled Sonar herself! Last time I checked, you guys didn’t have a Green Lantern on staff! So you still think we can’t handle this one?” Hank’s cheeks began to flush with color as he got angry.
“Not at all,” Nightwing said, stepping back. “Just offering to help is all. If you say you’ve got it covered, I am sure you’ve got it covered.” He turned to his comrade in the room. “Right, Raven?”
She nodded. “Of course, Richard.”
Hank Hall began to cool down. “Well, as long as we’re in agreement!” he said.
Meanwhile, just down the hall in the recreation room, friends old and new relaxed. “It is really good to see you again, Roy,” Mal said. “Every now and again, I think about the old days when we were hanging out at Gabriel’s Horn.”
“Yeah,” the red-haired man in the red costume replied. “Back then, we were two carefree guys just hanging out and jamming when we could. We figured we’d be the next Sammy Soul or Holley Hip, with throngs of fine ladies throwing themselves at us. Now look at us! You’re the first married Titan, and I’m the first to be a father.”
“You trying to say we’re getting old, pal?” Mal asked.
“Yep,” Arsenal replied. “Older but better.” He then glanced at the large screen television which he had been watching earlier. The Rock Television channel now served as background noise. A video by former BAM! front man Michael George just ended, and the latest one from Lori Lori and the Occult Groove began.
“Oooh!” Arsenal said. “Speaking of fine ladies…!”
Mal laughed. “Some things never change.”
Jericho signed, “Do not mind Roy.”
Dawn laughed and signed back, “I am used to it — between Charley and Hank.” She learned sign language while growing up; one of her oldest friends was hearing impaired.
Jericho smiled. The two continued to converse silently.
Just as the video ended, the cable channel cut back to one of its announcers. “Hey, listen up, guys and dolls,” the man said. “I’m V.J. VeeJay, and we’ve got to take a break from all the video hits so we can bring you this late-breaking story. Here’s Kent Loner from the RTV news department.”
The camera cut to the brown-haired Kent Loner, who wore a brown suit over a white T-shirt. “Thanks, V.J.,” he said. “This news report just came in over the wire. A press conference being held today at Record Tower right here in Manhattan has erupted into a full-scale riot. Many fans of the R&B group Another Version had gathered for the supposed announcement that Bobby Blue would be leaving the group for a solo career. But shortly after the singers arrived, all havoc broke loose. Detailed reports are sketchy at the moment, because the police are having great difficulty controlling the crowds. Unconfirmed rumor has it that the latest boy-band sensation New Boys Down the Street is also involved in the incident. RTV News will bring you more details as they come in.”
Dawn stepped in front of the television. “Guys, I think we’d better go down there and see if we can lend a hand,” she stated. Arsenal, Jericho, and Mal all nodded in agreement.
As Betty Gilson led the pack of various young, bright-faced extras through the section of the mall, the sound system blared the playback of the song. The young blonde singer, dressed in a white-and-black-striped sweater and a short white skirt, sang to the chorus on the playback.
“Energized youth, feel the power,
You see the electricity, coming on strong.
The future only belongs to the future itself,
In the hands of today’s energized youth!”
“Cut!” yelled the director. He looked up from the monitors to the music video’s star. “Betty, honey, the pacing was perfect. But we need a bit more energy from everyone. You’re vital, you’re the future. We need you to kick up the energy level to the max.”
“You want energy?” another young female voice bellowed from the overlook on the next level. “Try this on for size!” Suddenly, a crimson blast of energy sliced through the air, striking the ground between the director and the blonde singer.
Panic began to spread as many looked up to see who fired the shot.
“Say, isn’t that–?” some began to say.
Betty Gilson identified the female attacker. “Saks! What are you doing here?”
From the upper level stood a teenage girl, slightly younger than Betty. Dressed in a denim outfit, this girl with flowing brown hair normally wouldn’t look out of place in any mall across America. But what made her stand out today was the large blaster in her hand and the wild look in her eyes.
“Don’t look all surprised, Gilson!” Saks spat. “You know the mall girl image is mine! So when you decided to shoot your video here, it pissed me off!” She leveled the weapon at her perceived musical rival. “Fact is, sweetie, there’s only room for one teen queen on the charts today, and that spot ain’t gonna be filled by you!”
The brunette singer squeezed the trigger.
From the sidelines, Donna Troy Long and Charley Parker could do little as the next blaster round fired. “Kory, look out!” Donna called out to her friend. But even before the Tamaran princess could react, a shield of emerald energy materialized around Betty Gilson and the director. “What the–?”
Charley merely smiled knowingly. “See, it’s, like, totally handy to have a Green Lantern nearby,” he said to Donna. He gestured toward Arisia, whose ring had erected a protective shield without giving away her Cindy Simpson identity. Charley gave his friend a thumbs-up; she acknowledged it with a smile.
Meanwhile, the young singer known as Saks continued to fire the weapon at the shield in vain. “What sort of trick is this?” she cried out. “I have to succeed. I have to!”
From out of the crowd behind the shield, Kory Anders rose into the air. Although dressed in jeans and a yellow blouse, as opposed to her usual Starfire battle armor, Kory easily made the transition to her warrior attitude. “Drop the weapon now!” the alien beauty demanded.
“No way!” Saks replied. She aimed the weapon at the flying female and opened fire.
The flaming-haired woman easily dodged the shots but felt restricted to where she flew; the last thing Kory wanted was an innocent bystander being caught in the crossfire. X’Hal, this young girl is crazy, she thought. Best to keep her from hurting anyone. The bronze-skinned woman hurled a well-aimed starbolt at the attacker, knocking the blaster cleanly from Saks’ hands.
“No!” the brunette girl cried out. “You can’t do this to me!” As she scrambled for the weapon, which had skittered across the floor, something jumped toward her hand. “Eeek!” She recoiled quickly.
“Now, don’t go and be like that,” a male voice came from a large, green snake. “I just wanted to give you a little hug is all.” The serpent moved with blinding speed and soon bound her arms tightly to her chest. “I promise to be gentle.” As the snake, Garfield Logan held the singer/sniper at bay until the police arrived and took her into custody for questioning.
As the crowd swarmed like a hive of angry hornets outside the largest Record Tower store, a form of black energy materialized on one of the nearby rooftops. The energy altered its shape to one more like a bird whose wings were about to spread. Then, the energy cracked open like a shell, allowing six costumed champions to emerge from it. Finally, the energy faded, and the white-cloaked Raven joined the rest of her friends.
Dove helped the young woman steady herself. “Are you all right, Raven?” she asked.
“I’ll be fine,” Raven replied. “It always takes a bit out of me when teleporting a large number of people, even the relatively short distance from the Tower to here.”
“No time for you to rest, though,” Nightwing told her as he continued to survey the situation from the roof’s edge. He used a small pair of special binoculars to take in the situation.
A platform had been set up near the store’s entrance for the public announcement by Another Version. He could see members of the band struggling with other young men, very possibly the New Boys Down the Street members; a man in a suit cowered behind the podium to avoid being hurt. Despite the loud noises of the crowd, music could be heard blaring from one of the speakers mounted near the podium. No doubt the music of one of the two bands.
Nightwing shifted his view to the crowd itself. Most looked like young teens and adults, all dressed fairly normally except for the occasional T-shirt with their favorite band member on it. While most people were simply exchanging punches and kicks, some used other items as blunt weapons. The hero could see the occasional person fall to the ground as others fought over them.
“There are definitely people down there who will be able to benefit from your empathic skills,” he continued to say to Raven. “I’d like you to try to help people while the rest of us wade through that mess to find the source of the chaos.”
“Of course, Richard,” Raven said.
Nightwing nodded. “Great. The rest of you, let’s try to figure out what’s going on without hurting too many of those innocent people.” He leaped off the building and headlong into the fray. The others quickly followed his lead.
Arsenal strung up another arrow and let it fly over the crowd. As it reached a certain point, the arrowhead released a huge net that caught a large number of the rioting people like a fisherman would a school of fish. “You know, Herald, this reminds me a lot of the time we all visited Elford University,” the young archer remarked. “I thought our days of quelling riots were long over.”
“I hear that, brother,” the Herald replied. “In those days, all we had to fight with were our fists and a whole lot of attitude.”
“You got that right,” Arsenal said, smiling. “You always did prefer mixing it up hand-to-hand.”
“No denying it,” the black man said as he produced a device from the folds of his cloak. “But having this little baby sometimes comes in handy.” Putting the computerized instrument to his lips, the Herald began to blow into the horn while he entered in some sequences into the keypad on the side. The instrument created a sonic wave to assault the nervous system of some of the rioters; as the sound connected to their inner ears, they temporarily lost their balance and collapsed to the ground.
“Keep it up, hot lips,” Arsenal said. “You’re taking the fight right out of them.” The Herald simply nodded and continued to play.
Jericho signed to Dove, “I have an idea.” He then quickly located someone who appeared to be leading a small group of the rioters and caught the man’s glance. The curly haired blonde hero’s green eyes locked on the man’s, and in a flash, Jericho vanished.
Suddenly the man, now possessed by the power of Jericho, was shocked to find himself thrusting his fist into the air, rallying those around him and leading a group of twenty down the street. When he reached the edge of an alleyway, the man turned to Dove and signed, “Now!”
Dove jammed a bent street sign into one of the caps of the fire hydrant, causing hundreds of gallons of water to come exploding forth. Because of the precise angle that she had wedged the metal, the spray funneled into a single forceful blast — directly at the crowd of people the possessed man had herded over.
At the last second, Jericho released his hold on the man and leaped from the body. The bodies tumbled back into the alleyway due to the high pressure of the water.
Jericho reappeared next to Dove. “Not bad at all,” the heroine admitted. “That should keep some of them cooled off for a bit.” As the two continued to work the fringe area, Dove could see that Hawk and Nightwing were fighting their way toward the platform near the front of the store.