Devon Sinclair greeted the Hawks warmly as his butler ushered them into his office. He was a feeble man, but his eyes were still bright, and he noticed every detail with a hungry avarice. “Carter Hall! How delightful to see you!” he said. “My, my, you even wore your fancy dress costumes! You know, those of us in the business were astounded when your lad exposed your little secret for all the world to see!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Press Conference,” Infinity Inc. #12 (March, 1985).]
“Sinclair, I have no time for your unctuous pleasantries,” said Hawkman. “I have reason to believe that you have recently acquired the Orb of Ptah. I have need of it. It is an emergency.”
Devon Sinclair sat back in his plush chair and shaded his eyes with one hand. “Isn’t every waking moment a potential emergency for your long underwear boys?” he said.
“Devon, this is urgent!” said Hawkgirl. “The Orb has certain powers. It is an unearthly relic. It came from an alien race. If we can’t examine it, lives may be lost!”
Sinclair clapped his hands together and said, “Shiera Sanders Hall! You were always such a drama queen.”
“You have never forgiven the fact that I refused to become one of your conquests back in my debutante days,” said Hawkgirl.
“Get down!” cried Hawkman, suddenly flying into the air and swinging his mace in a sweeping circle that connected with a robed figure with a serpentine head. “Apep, the serpent god!” he muttered as he fought with the creature’s elongating arms.
“Horusss knew that this planet had been declared a neutral ground,” hissed the alien. “He had no right to placcce a champion here!”
As Hawkman struggled within the thing’s embrace, Hawkgirl jumped over the desk to grip Sinclair’s shirt in her fists. “Devon! Bring me the Orb now!” she said. “That thing will destroy your home and your precious relics if you don’t help us stop it!”
Devon hesitated, then cried out for his butler. “Wilkins, bring me the Orb!” he shouted. “It is the item in my study safe!”
Hawkman kicked the serpentine creature backward and dodged a sudden rain of snakes that erupted out of the being’s long-sleeved robes. He whirled around as Set, Bast, Apshai, and other odd aliens who resembled the Egyptian mythical gods entered the room. “Hawkgirl, stay back!” he shouted. “You know the plan!”
Hawkgirl frowned and drew her crossbow as the creatures loomed over the heroic pair.
“Listen to me!” yelled Hawkman. “You are aliens who visited here in the days of ancient Egypt. Your images were copied by the natives of that time who worshipped you. At some point, you departed Earth and have been in suspended animation ever since. Am I right?”
“Indeed, scion of Horus!” said Bast. “We did rule this planet in an earlier era. We felt we had done enough to stimulate the development of the natives after what was a brief time to us. We vowed to leave and never tamper with the world again. That was an oath we all took.”
“After eons, the Opener of the Ways brought us all here again!” said Set. “We awoke to find you, and by your nature we sensed that you serve Horus. That violates our oath, and thus we must slay you. In ancient times we often pitted one champion against another for sport.”
“Where is Horus?” demanded Hawkman. “Why has he not appeared? He can tell you that I am not truly his champion! I merely wear garb that once honored him!”
Wilkins rushed inside, carrying the gleaming Orb of Ptah.
“That Orb is what brought us here across the endless sea of space!” said Anubis, the jackal-headed god. “If it had not done so, we would never have learned of the way Horus betrayed us!”
“Asss for Horusss, he ssseparated from the Brethren long ago,” said Apep. “He desssired to walk hisss own path!”
Hawkgirl grabbed the Orb and said, “The glyphs on the side speak of the Opener of the Ways as well!”
“Ptah was the god known by the title!” said Hawkman. “It is a fitting one for a tool that acts as a type of teleportation device!” He added, “We have said that we do not serve Horus. We now ask you to leave this world!”
“Such is not our way!” said Set. “We must end your existence!”
He and the other supposed gods raised their weapons. Staffs, scepters, claws, animals, insects, and other deadly forms of attack loomed in front of Hawkman.
But the longtime leader of the JSA stood defiantly before them and said, “If you crave battle, then step forward! You won’t find me lacking in any manner!” They moved closer, and at his signal Hawkgirl suddenly shattered the Orb of Ptah against the floor.
Energy enveloped the alien group as well as the Hawks, and in moments they were gone.
“Well played!” echoed from beyond as their final words lingered in the room.
“Carter, are they truly gone for good?” asked Hawkgirl.
“I think so,” said Hawkman. “I believe that the Orb was their only means of travel, and now it has stranded them back in what they called the endless sea of space!”
They gazed around them as the light faded, and they gasped as they saw a strange and wonderful city hovering in the void of space.
“This is amazing! We’ve been drawn along with them to their home!” whispered Shiera. “It looks like outer space, yet we can breathe!”
“The Orb of Ptah took our foes back to their home, as I’d hoped,” said Hawkman. “What I didn’t wager on was that our connection to ancient Egypt would be enough for it to take us as well!”
Placing both hands on his hips, Hawkman looked around the majestic cityscape. The gold and silver structures were like pyramids in appearance, yet he could tell that some alien science within each one empowered the whole domain. Stars and black space surrounded the entire area, and as Hawkman soared higher, he noticed that nothing but endless space stretched on in every direction.
Hawkgirl joined him and said, “It is beautiful! Are we trapped here? I shattered the Orb. That may have been our only way back!”
Hawkman shook his head. “No. We’ll find the way. One way or another, we’ll get back home!”
As the Hawks flew across the odd city, they saw no sign of life or of their foes.
“See those tombs?” said Hawkman, pointing at them. “I believe Set and company are within them in some suspended animation! The Orb truly lived up to its press releases! It opened the way, all right! The aliens were returned to their ancient resting-place again! They may not disturb us while we search for answers!”
Hawkgirl shivered and said, “The mystery of what happened to Horus keeps coming to my mind! Of course, I also keep thinking about Hector and the kids… and a pair of new Jimmy Choos!”
Hawkman smiled and said, “You can’t take the shallow heiress act this far on the road! Still, I appreciate the fact that you’re trying to keep our spirits up. You always have been a real source of inspiration for me!”
Turning, he pointed to their left. “That glyph is a symbol of Horus, the hawk god. I think we need to pay his place a visit. They wrongly thought he had broken their oath to leave Earth untouched after they departed for space, because we appeared to be his champions. They also claimed he had gone his own way from the rest of the brethren. Still, I feel drawn to that structure!”
Shiera nodded. She also felt a slight compulsion to enter the temple of the hawk god. She knew Carter so well that she could sense something deeper than curiosity beneath his even and commanding tones. Carter has always resisted the idea that his fate was predestined in any way, she mused. He has embraced the idea that we lived past lives, but he has fought fiercely to assert his own free will in how he has lived this life! Being viewed by those aliens as nothing more or less than the pawns of a space deity didn’t sit well with him at all!
As they passed through two ornate gates into the hushed silence and shining splendor of the pyramid-shaped shrine of Horus, Hawkman did tense up as he wondered once more just how much of his life was his own to shape, and just how many decisions had been made for him based on the whims of Horus.
I am Carter Hall by birth, he thought. I am Hawkman by choice. No matter what the aliens said, I am not some selected champion of the hawk god’s. I know that!
Shiera touched his brawny arm as a shadowy figure rose up from an altar. It was a vast hawk with brown and gold feathers and a massive wingspan. It gazed at the tiny figures of the couple with piercing and appraising eyes.
“I am the hawk god, whom you know as Horus!” he said. “Here in my domain, I appear as I am. There is no need for a humanoid façade in this sacred place. I have returned here recently, as you judge time, because I felt that you were coming!”
Hawkman slowly gripped his mace and said, “We’ve suffered a lot because of you. Your brethren almost killed us because of their game and their belief that we were your pawns!”
The hawk god screeched and said, “You are my pawns, and as such I have decided to draw you home to me! Your essence will commingle with mine own!”
“Hold it!” shouted Hawkman. “You’re as stubborn as the others were! You may have vast power, but you use it like spoiled children! You may not agree with me, but I tell you now that Hawkman is no one’s slave!”
“Carter, I feel as if that thing is sapping my free will!” cried Hawkgirl. “I’m being drawn closer to it!” She flew at the creature even as Hawkman wrapped his arms around her hips and held her firmly.
“Stay with me! We can’t let that thing take away our sense of self!” cried Hawkman. But he cursed inwardly as he felt his own will falter. He slowly began to move closer to the huge being as his muscles responded to some overwhelming compulsion.
“You may insist upon your freedom, but in the end you will come to me, and that is as it should be!” said the hawk god. “You wear my mantle, and you have lived more than one life. That is all the reward I will grant you. Return to me, that your essence may enrich me!”
Hawkman felt the proximity of the massive beast as the couple was drawn ever closer. Got to try one last thing! he thought, kissing his wife fiercely as they vanished into the creature in a flash of energy.
Moments passed. In that timeless realm, eons might have passed away. In any event, at some point after they vanished, the Hawks emerged from the fading light to see each other and feel one another in their still-maintained embrace.
“Carter, it released us!” cried Shiera.
“No! It just could not hold us!” declared a defiant Hawkman. “Our love was more powerful than the hawk god! Our love was what allowed us to return after our first lives ended! That love will always sustain us! Horus, whatever name you choose to use, you never had any power over us! Don’t let our costumes delude you, as they did your brethren! You can’t control us. We are larger than you because of the bond we share!”
The hawk god screeched and said, “It is a rare thing for a mortal to teach one such as I a lesson in humility! You bested my brethren. You defied me. I am known for championing the ideal of justice. I shall be just enough to admit that I have no claim on you, nor can I truly claim that I ever had anything to do with your destiny. You do me honor by wearing my mantle. Continue to do so, and know that you will have nothing to fear from me or my slumbering brethren again!”
The Hawks blinked as light washed over them, and they were back in the office of Devon Sinclair, as if no time had passed since Shiera had broken the Orb of Ptah.
“That relic was priceless!” shouted a haughty Sinclair. “I’ll see you in court, Hall!”
“You acquired the Orb from a thief,” Hawkman replied coolly. “I welcome any meeting we might have in court!”
“Bah! Get out!” said Sinclair. “Get out of my home, Hall!” As the Halls departed, the wealthy old man scowled in fury.
The Hawks soared across the Egyptian skies, and Hawkgirl said, “Darling, those aliens had such amazing power. They inspired the entire culture and mythology of ancient Egypt, and yet their goals were so petty and shallow! They saw life and death as part of a mere game for their amusement!”
Hawkman took her into his arms and said, “Are they so different in terms of their basic nature from any of the thugs we’ve fought over the years? They had raw power, but they were nothing more than spoiled, childish beings with small dreams and selfish goals. That was one of the reasons I knew we could defeat them. We have love, and our love is eternal. Next to that, what chance did they have?”
The two lovers kissed, and the sun bathed them in a red glow that matched their feelings of contentment.