Hours later, Carter Hall stirred and sat up with the name Shiera on his lips. His beloved wife was by his side, and she held him with a sudden passion that startled him into full awareness. She wore a filmy teddy that revealed her own injuries.
“Shiera, you’ve been hurt! Did that vermin Set do this to you?” he demanded.
“No!” said Shiera Hall. “It was a cat creature named Bast! I think we were both attacked by some maniacs with an Egyptian obsession. No offense!”
Carter grinned slightly and said, “None taken. They are more than earthly crooks. The science or magic Set used on me was pretty potent stuff. Did this Bast hurt you? Did she speak of Horus and of the brethren?”
“Yes!” said Shiera. “She displayed amazing powers. She said I was linked to her culture and that Horus had broken some rule. She said that, as his handmaiden, I had to die.”
“Set was the one who fought me here,” said Carter. “He said some of the same things. He and his brethren seem to model themselves after the Egyptian gods of myth. I even wonder if it was such beings that long ago inspired the ancient Egyptians in their depictions of their animal-headed gods. We had assumed as much when we met the Feitherans. This new group makes me feel that was the case.”
“You don’t think they are related to Norda’s people?” asked Shiera.
Carter shook his head. “No. They are different. I feel that with the same certainty that my dreams once led me to you and Hastor.”
“They want us dead,” said Shiera. “They see it as part of some unholy game.”
Carter nodded grimly and stood up. His body was scarred, but he was much better than he had been after Set’s attack. “My injuries are fading. Perhaps no damage sustained in this game is lasting. I barely see your own bruises.”
“My cut was a deep one, but it healed almost instantly,” said Shiera. “Oh, Carter! Do you think Hector and Lyta and the baby are in peril?”
“No,” said Carter. “They have no direct ties to ancient Egypt. We do, since we lived past lives in that era. I’m guessing those aliens came to Earth in that era, too. They departed, and something has brought them back now. They see us as being pawns or champions of Horus. I assume they have a counterpart to the mythic hawk god, too, since we know of Set and Bast from legend. They see us as being living violations of some pact they all made long ago. They will keep their violence directed at us and those around us. That’s why we need to get away from our friends. We can’t involve them. The Atom was here, and Set sent him away without any memory of being here. The next time one of our pals encounters Set or his brethren, they might be killed! I can’t carry that kind of burden. This fight is a private one!”
Carter Hall stood before a wall of weapons and a case full of helmets. He gripped a mace and smashed the glass case. He retrieved an ornate and elaborate Hawk-shaped helmet.
“Carter? You haven’t worn that one since the early ’40s!” said Shiera.
Placing it over his head, Carter said, “If they want to fight a Hawkman, then I’ll give them one!”
Dr. Charles McNider, alias Doctor Mid-Nite of the Justice Society of America, frowned as he placed the phone back on the desk in his study. He turned to his pretty blonde wife Myra, who was sitting across from him with a look of concern on her face.
“Charles? What’s wrong?” she asked. “That was Carter, wasn’t it?”
Dr. McNider nodded and said, “Myra, Carter just called to say that an archaeological project will require him to take leave from the team. He and Shiera will be out of the country for a while. He asked me to tell the others.”
Myra sat on her husband’s lap and said, “What’s so disturbing about that? Carter has spent much of his free time on such expeditions.”
Dr. McNider held Myra’s hand and said, “Call it doctor’s insight, but I think he was not telling the truth. Something is wrong with the Halls, but I can’t break their trust by looking into it… yet. I owe them time to settle whatever it is before I take action.”
Myra kissed him, and the couple sat in silence and thought about their friends.
The splendor of the ancient land still moved Carter Hall as he gazed across the expanse of desert that bordered his property. “Coming here was a natural idea!” he announced. “If those things are drawn to Egypt, then they’ll come here. If they want us, then they’ll come here. We can face them without the risk of involving Hector or the other JSAers.”
Shiera nodded and adjusted her own boots as she stood by his side. She wore her customary hawk helmet with its more feminine styling, which lacked the bizarre but striking appearance of her husband’s helmet. She wore a brief red bra with her winged harness, and her tights of green and red ended in boots with high heels and a talon-styled decoration that made the back of the boots sharp. “I feel like we’re facing a war,” she said. “I’m frightened, to be honest!”
Carter placed his arms around her and said, “We’ll face it together,” he said. “We can triumph over anything, as long as we are together! Hastor couldn’t separate us. Death and time could not divide us. We’ll emerge from this battle as victors, as we always have! I feel that to be true!”
As he stared across the sands, he fought against the doubts that ran through his own mind. “We died here once. Perhaps it’s time for our fates to come full circle. If we are to die, then this is the place for it.”
The winged wonders spent a tense day as they waited for an attack to take place. They knew it would not be long before their alien foes sought to continue their mad game. While they waited, Carter Hall scoured a series of reports he had received from various associations in the antiquities field.
Frowning, he said, “An artifact called the Orb of Ptah was uncovered recently at a dig partially financed by our pal, Rex Tyler. While he was not personally involved in the project, his company paid for the actual work. He passed on the data to me, since he knew of our special connection to all things of ancient Egypt.”
“I know you too well to assume you’re making idle chatter,” said Shiera. “Do you think the Orb is connected to our alien enemies?”
“I know that the Orb was stolen from the museum in which Tyler’s people were displaying it,” said Carter. “I know that that disappearance happened very shortly before Set and Bast came after us. It’s stretching a point to form a connection, but something lured them here after eons in space. Call it some instinct or maybe even a hidden memory from our past lives, but I feel we need to follow up on the Orb.”
Before he could finish his conversation, the windows of the house were broken as a massive swarm of insects crashed through the glass. There were hundreds of them, and they came from all sides with an almost-human intellect or purpose.
Shiera screamed and soared into the air as the insects covered her and Carter. “Weighing us down or blinding us!” she gasped as she fell beneath the swarm.
Hawkman yelled out to her, even as he tried to fight his way free of the tiny insects. “Hold on! I’m coming!” he said.
“As am I, human! As am I!” said a weird figure in a red robe. This creature was humanoid, but his head looked like a locust.
“Apshai! I hadn’t expected the insect god, but then again, anything is possible!” said Hawkman. He pulled Hawkgirl into his arms, and together their Nth-metal belts enabled them to break free of the insects and escape outside.
Hawkgirl cried out, “Hawk! We can’t hit them! They are everywhere at once! Our best blows just scatter them for a moment!”
“Hold on to me!” he said.
She gripped his chest as they plunged into a nearby swimming pool. Carter never did like swimming, but now he was glad that he had added the luxurious pool to their Egyptian property. The waters swept the insects away from the submerged heroes.
Hawkman continued to hold Hawkgirl as they resurfaced, and he directed their flight toward the house. “I have a plan!” he said in his usual confident manner. Shiera nodded and tried to relax and trust in her husband’s prowess.
He grabbed a fire extinguisher and blasted away at the insects. The foam smothers them! he thought. Problem is, Apshai seems to have an endless supply of them!
Apshai drew closer and said, “You harm my children, and that angers me. Still, I admire your wit! Many warriors panic when they see and feel my tiny but deadly children out in force!”
Hawkgirl swooped directly at him. She was trying hard to conceal her fear and to make up for her inactivity when he first attacked. She slammed into him but yelped as his very body altered and began a swarm of insects that coated her own body and brought her crashing to the ground.
Hawkman turned and hurled the extinguisher at Apshai, and as the foam broke up and covered the seemingly insubstantial insect god, he summoned his insects again, and they left a battered and frightened Shiera below.
“Your triumph shall be short,” said Apshai. “I praise the day the Orb brought us here once more. We had slumbered in our stellar chariots for far too long. Horus may have violated our old pact to leave this world alone, but by doing so, he has given us our first true entertainment in eons!”
As the insect god vanished, Hawkman helped Hawkgirl to her feet. “Our stings will heal. All wounds inflicted during their game seem to heal quickly!” he said as he gently carried her inside.
“I’m sorry, Carter!” she said. “I just froze up! I’m so sorry!”
Carter hushed her with a kiss and said, “They gave me a bad moment or two as well. Still, it may have been worth it. Apshai mentioned an Orb that brought them here. I think that confirms our suspicion that the theft of the Orb of Ptah was linked to them.”
“We know they came from space,” said Shiera. “They must have been in some type of suspended animation until the Orb was stolen, and in some manner the thief used it to wake them up and lure them here. It might have been an accident, for all we know!”
“True enough,” said Hawkman. “I want that Orb. If it brought them here, then perhaps it can also return them all to their sleep! We both know the most likely suspect in any theft of such an item.”
Shiera rolled her eyes and said, “Devon Sinclair! That arrogant twit has always been a collector of such treasures, and he has never been concerned with how he acquires his prizes, either. He must have hired a thief to get the Orb for his private museum. ”
“I think so, too,” said Hawkman. “Sinclair has been my main rival in such matters all these years. He has a passion for antiquities that knows no limits. He may be in his seventies, but he has not slowed down in terms of his greedy lust for the ancient world’s relics!”
“I suppose we need to pay him a visit!” said Hawkgirl.
Hawkman replied, “With no delay!”