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Rise of the Warrior

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Carter Hall is a driven, dedicated young archaeologist who works from the Midway City Museum. His passion – his sole reason for living – is ancient Egyptian weaponry. While some scholars are focused on the old culture’s religion, writing, literature and technology, Carter has become the word’s foremost expert on the darker side of Egypt. Methods of torture, forms of execution, implements of death and destruction are his forte. Through his travels and expeditions, he has amassed the world’s foremost collection of ancient weaponry. His supervisor, a fastidious, manipulative curator named Edward Emmet, is happy to let his star protégé continue his “odd” pursuits – Carter’s notoriety draws hundreds of visitors to the museum each month.

After years of extensive research, Carter is finally ready to release his latest paper – a thorough examination of Egypt’s war with Rome. The controversial document concludes the Romans did not conquer the Egyptians, but rather won a war of attrition – both sides had been decimated before Caesar declared victory from atop the Pharaoh’s palace. Superior weaponry and tactics – such as the siege engine – were all that prevented the proud Egyptians from successfully repelling their foes.

The paper is released to massive hype and media attention… making it all the worse when its conclusions fall apart under close scrutiny. A glaring factual error is revealed. The major thrust of Carter’s conclusion is based on a tale historians agree is myth, not fact: the unveiling of an Egyptian “super weapon” said to have sent the Romans fleeing in terror. As the world’s pre-eminent historians and scholars denounce Carter’s lack of professionalism, the archaeologist’s life begins to fall apart.

He is ex-communicated by his friends and peers. He loses his position with the museum and, after causing a scene, Edward Emmet bans Carter from his beloved hall of weaponry. Carter’s parents – academics themselves – disown him, and he is left penniless and alone. Carter is forced to move out of his lush penthouse and into a one-bedroom “walk-in apartment”. For the first time in his life, he takes to drinking – and finds himself rather good at it.

One night, drunk on vodka at his favourite dive, Carter meets a gorgeous young woman named Shayera Thal. Through his stupor, and with drink sloshing in his ears, Carter thinks nothing of the strangeness of her name. He begins a conversation with Shayera, who is relatively tall, athletically built and has short fiery red hair. Shayera is also drowning her sorrows over life’s misfortunes. She tells Carter she was once a high-ranking officer in an elite police force “outside of Midway”, and lived for her job. But one day she bucked ranks and followed her conscience instead of her orders – in the process killing the man she and her fellow officers had been assigned to protect.

The situation only worsened during the official inquest, when Shayera admitted to her superiors she meant to kill the man, as she had discovered he was the true criminal. She tells Carter she was dishonourably discharged, “for want of a better term”, from the force. She decided to move to Midway and start again – but she still needs to find some direction.

Even through their inebriated states, Carter and Shayera recognise kindred spirits in one another – both are dedicated and ambitious; both made it to the top of their respective fields while still very young; and both suffered an unjust fall from grace for following their consciences. They decide to celebrate their newfound connection by locking themselves in Carter’s apartment and having loud, torrid, drunken sex for the next three days. Upon emerging from their lusty stupor, the couple are pleased to discover they still like one another. During their first sober conversation, they even realise they have fallen in love, and so begin to drift back to sleep in the warmth of each other’s embrace.

Then the apartment door gets kicked in, and their newly-formed perfect world is shattered.

Carter is stunned to see five huge men barge their way into his cramped apartment. Each of the men is dressed in a wicked-looking set of body armour, complete with a hawk-shaped helmet and visor. Most stunning of all, each man has a pair of enormous wings sprouting from their shoulders. But Carter has little time for further study, because all five of the men have aimed massive weapons at his head, and are about to pull the triggers.

What happens next is a blur to Carter, recalled in detail only later. Out of nowhere, a shoulder-mounted cannon materialises in Shayera’s bare hands and, with stunning accuracy, she shoots and kills all five intruders before they can even react. With the weapon still smoking and the corpses leaking orange blood onto the apartment floor, Shayera rises from the bed and relaxes her hand, the weapon fading into nothingness once more. She quickly dresses in pants and one of Carter’s shirts while urging her new lover to dress also. Though stunned, he does as she asks. Shayera takes him by the arm and the pair flee the scene.

Running through the streets, avoiding the early-morning traffic, Carter finally recovers his voice and demands an explanation. Shayera tells him he must wait, and she will explain everything back at her place. Stubborn, Carter tries to tear free of her grip and finds he cannot; he tries to stop and stand his ground and is merely dragged along like a rag doll. Noticing his reluctance, Shayera stops running for a moment. “Last night you claimed you loved me, and I said the same – because I do believe I can love you, Carter Hall,” she says. “Now I’m asking you to prove your love and trust me… please.” Her plea silences all his arguments, and they continue their flight.

Eventually, Shayera leads Carter into an abandoned warehouse in Midway’s rough east side. The derelict structure is deserted, save for a silver circle in the centre of the main room. Shayera tells a dumbfounded Carter to stand next to her on the disc… and a nauseating split-second later, the lovers are standing on the deck of a small spacecraft, thousands of miles above the earth’s surface.

Carter takes one look at his surroundings, vomits, and faints.

He regains consciousness several hours later. The first thing he sees is Shayera’s angelic features, her brow knitted in concern. Carter manages to flash her a weak smile, and she breathes a heavy sigh of relief. Shayera says she thought she’d killed him, that his “frail human body” might not have survived the teleportation cycle. “It’s not as painless as your Star Trek would have you believe,” she says with a laugh, but Carter doesn’t get the reference. His whole life has been consumed with study, fact and history – science fiction is a genre with which he has no experience.

Carter’s rational, historical mind has trouble interpreting his surroundings – gleaming metal walkways, exotic weaponry hanging from the rafters, immense control panels and an observation window showing the earth spinning gently below. He starts to think he has grasped the concepts around him when he looks up and sees Shayera’s full figure – now dressed in a feminine version of their attackers’ armour, complete with wings. Carter starts to panic, but the touch of Shayera’s hand and the gentle look in her green eyes calms him. She asked for his trust, and so he is prepared to give it – provided she tells him the truth.

Shayera tells him a story of the planet Thanagar, on the edge of what humans call the Milky Way galaxy. For many centuries, the war-like Thanagarians have travelled from solar-system to solar-system, forging alliances where necessary and ruling by force when possible. The Thanagarian Empire is administered by the 12-member Ogliarky and presided over by its supreme ruler Hyathis - “she who is called Hawkgod”. It is policed through the efforts of the High Elite. The Elite are men and women, outfitted in the image of the Hawkgod, who use their wings and their weapons to keep the peace throughout the occupied territories. They are also used, in extreme cases, for terrorist actions or assassinations. Shayera almost snarls as she admits she was once a member of this group.

Carter looks at his new love with disbelief, stunned at the thought of her as a killer. Shayera angrily defends herself, telling Carter he may be wise in the methods of war, but has no concept of war’s true nature. She was conditioned from the time she was born “to believe in the Hawkgod and her teachings, to use the rule of might, to look down on the lesser races and to recognise the total ideological and genetic superiority of the Thanagarian”. Carter is silenced by the sheer horror and self-loathing in her voice.

Shayera says she realised the folly of her ways while assigned to protect a member of the Ogliarky. She was acting as his personal bodyguard on a visit to a particularly bloody battlefield. Neither the Thanagarians nor the natives could gain the upper hand in the conflict – thousands were dying as the planet itself was laid waste.

The politician – Andar Pul – had been sent to the planet to decide whether or not to continue the conflict. While Shayera was horrified by the senseless carnage, Andar Pul ordered the slaughter continue “for the good of Thanagar”. Enraged by his callousness, Shayera took up arms and killed Pul. She saved the lives of millions that day, but was ex-communicated by the Elite and marked for death by the Ogliarky.

As the Elite closed in on her position, Shayera stole a small spacecraft, packed her equipment and fled to earth to start a new life. She managed to escape detection, and chose earth because it was the nearest planet without Thanagarian presence. Although Thanagarians had become involved in earth’s history in the past, no members of the Elite had visited the “backwoods planet” for centuries. The trip from Thanagar to earth took almost six months, and Shayera says she has been on earth for almost a year, trying to find her place in an alien culture.

She is about to continue her story when she looks down… and notices Carter has passed out once again. The stress of his ordeal – not to mention the shock of discovering his lover’s heritage – has taken its toll. Shayera smiles at Carter’s sleeping form, then peels off her armour and slips into the small bed next to him.

The next morning, Shayera wakes to find Carter gone. In a panic, she rushes from their bed – and finds him studying a second hawk-shaped helmet. Shayera tells Carter the helmet once belonged to her brother, also a member of the High Elite. He was killed in battle just weeks before her defection – it was his senseless death which opened her eyes to the injustice of Thanagarian politics.

Still holding the helmet, Carter asks Shayera why she started talking to him in the bar. With a wry smile, she admits she was present at the launch of his paper – the one which led to his eventual ruin. As a child on Thanagar, Shayera had learned the story of the battle – in which the Thanagarians offered their superior technology to the Egyptians in exchange for human slaves. But their aid was ultimately useless – human bodies were too weak to wield the dangerous Thanagarian weaponry. The Egyptians’ noble attempts to fire the guns and hurl the spears further depleted their already decimated ranks, and the Thanagarians left the battlefield as the remnants of the Roman army stumbled in.

Shayera says the Thanagarians then present on earth had laboured to make sure the tale of their involvement in the Egyptian/Roman conflict was lost in the realm of legend and, their task completed, abandoned the planet. That was the last contact Thanagar had with Earth… until her arrival.

Carter, meanwhile, is in shock – his theories were correct! The “super-weapon” of the legends had existed, and the Egyptians had only lost by attrition. Shayera tells him that was why she attended the launch of his findings – she was hoping to hear the truth exposed once and for all. To her mind, even a little victory against Thanagar was a moment worth celebrating.

His passion in delivering his findings had intrigued her, and the story of his resultant black-balling had saddened her... and reminded her of her own life. Shayera used the tracking skills she’d learnt in the High Elite to follow Carter, secretly, for weeks – trying to work up enough courage to talk to him. She was experiencing an emotion completely alien to her – love. She’d felt love for her brother and her family, of course, and love for her cause – but never for a member of the opposite sex. Especially not the primal, lustful urge which overtook her thoughts as she watched him. She had to know why she felt this way – what strange effect he had on her emotions.

She had been in the bar that night completely by accident, trying to muster up enough resolve (and drink enough alcohol) to go to his apartment. As she drank, he walked in… and the rest, as she decided, was fate.

“If there’s been no contact since the days of the Pharaohs, then how did the High Elite find you at my apartment?” Cater asks. Shayera says she does not know – there is no way they could have tracked her craft, which makes use of Thanagarian stealth technology to avoid human radar contact. Carter asks if the Elite could track the ship through some sort of homing device, and Shayera says this is unlikely – otherwise they would have attacked the ship first, not Carter’s apartment.

“Besides,” she adds, “Thanagarian ships have never had homing devices implanted. If you’re lost in battle, common wisdom says it’s your own stupid fault.” This strikes Carter as lacking in foresight – what if a warrior chose to go rogue, as Shayera did? “No one, in the history of Thanagar, has ever gone rogue,” Shayera replies with a hunter’s smile. “I’m the first.”

No matter how they found her, Shayera says the High Elite will continue sending forces after her until she is apprehended… or killed. But even if the Ogliarky received immediate word of the Elite squad’s failure, it would take a replacement crew six months to arrive – giving her time to prepare.

Shayera tells Carter he will now be a target as well – his life is in danger, and it is her fault. She says she has never felt this way about anyone in her life, and now she has condemned him. She turns from him in shame, but Carter cups her gently under the chin and kisses her slowly. He tells her he is still confused and in awe of the situation, and says he may never get used to it. The only thing he does know is that he loves her, and has never felt such a deep connection with anyone. He tells her he would gladly give his life for her. “If our fate is to die together, then my life has been far better spent than it would have been without you,” he says.

Ever the warrior, Shayera is honoured by his words. The lovers – human and alien, man and Thanagarian – kiss once again, then Carter pulls away. He takes the hawk-helmet and places it on his head – his gentle, scholarly features replaced by a warrior’s visage. “If, to secure our safety, I must become a warrior – a Hawkman – then so be it,” he says. “And I will fear nothing with my Hawkwoman by my side.”

Shayera begins to teach Carter the ways of the High Elite, making the best use of the six months leeway they have. As Carter trains, the couple live in the spacecraft, teleporting down to different locations across the globe each day. Carter learns hand-to-hand combat, and finds Shayera a difficult taskmaster – so much so he dubs her “Magpie” for her pecking and her nagging. Shayera demands no less than perfection, and leaves his battered and bruised at the end of most days. But she more than makes up for her brutality with the gentleness of her touch each night.

To both his and Shayera’s surprise, Carter proves to be a quick study in combat. Within weeks, he has become so proficient he can actually beat Shayera one fall out of three. With her superior strength and body density, this is the best Carter can hope for. As a result, he needs and edge over other Thanagarians – and that edge is weaponry.

Thanagarian arms are simple to use and easy to transport. All of Shayera’s weapons are stored aboard the spacecraft, and each has a miniature transporter chip attached. When Shayera requires a weapon, she simply clenches her hand in a different position – each grip acting as the request order for a particular device. An advanced, GPS-like device keeps track of Shayera’s needs.

But Carter runs into the same problem as the Egyptians did centuries before. The recoil of a Thanagarian pistol almost tears his arm from its socket. Shayera’s shoulder-mounted missile launcher is too heavy for him to lift, and her exo-skeleton “talons” almost crush him. Fortunately, a stripped-down version of her brother’s armour is light-weight enough for Carter to wear – but aside from that he is defenceless. Shayera is dismayed, but Carter has an idea.

In the dead of the night, the pair teleport into Midway City Museum. Clad in black from head to toe, the pair raid the Hall of Weaponry, taking every ancient piece from its display case. The former archaeologist finds poetic justice in this development – the ultimate “fuck you” to Emmet and all those who spurned him.

In training, Carter effectively combines his knowledge of Egyptian weapons with Thanagarian combat skills. Shayera is initially dubious, going so far as to call her lover “Peacock” – “all preening and looking good, while the female does the work” – for his choice of blades over projectiles. But after Carter swiftly takes her down and almost pierces her armour with an ancient dagger, she is convinced. Their strategy is therefore decided – while Shayera will take on any foes with superior technology, Carter resolves “to fight for our future with the tools of the past”.

The final skill for Carter to master is the wings. Thanagarian wings are made from a metal possessing anti-gravity properties – called Nth metal – and resemble sculpted birds’ wings. Their movement is controlled by mental impulses from the hawk-helmet, making their use an extension of their wearer’s will. Unlike the armour, the wings are light-weight and easily worn by Carter – almost as if he was born with them.

Shayera is about to explain the difficulties in getting aloft when Carter springs into the air, soaring and looping above her like a true hawk. She is stunned, but Carter has a theory – his lower density finally has some advantages. While Thanagarians are effective in the wings, possessing some speed and manoeuvrability, Carter’s lower density enables him to fly faster and more precisely than anyone else. Suddenly, the idea of using bladed weapons against guns seems less ludicrous – in less time than it takes to tell, Carter can fly inside any defence Shayera can mount and hack and slash away. He is truly a Hawkman – a winged warrior who swoops, dives and attacks with a flash of talons.

By their fifth month of training, Carter’s body has hardened and tanned. His black hair, now long and wavy, snakes from beneath his hawk-helmet. Slung on his belt are ancient weapons of many cultures – Carter has expanded his knowledge to the bladed weapons of Japanese, Chinese, Phillipino and Native American fighting styles, giving him all the talons he could need for the task at hand.

Shayera, meanwhile, continues her assimilation of earth’s culture. She shows Carter the device she used to learn English – the Absorbascon. The tiny silver sphere allows her to read the thoughts and knowledge of others, absorbing them into her own mind. The rest of her knowledge she picked while in orbit up from radio and television signals. Shayera has become somewhat of a pop-culture junkie, and has developed a fascination with modern music, film and television shows. She devours a string of sci-fi television shows, Japanese cartoons, action-adventure movies and comic books. She loves to laugh at American superhero comics – “like anyone would really do this stuff” – but has a single minded devotion to Preacher. Her musical tastes run from heavy metal to 1920s swing music – but her favourite song, perhaps unsurprisingly, is “Starting All Over” by Primary.

Her many references to pop-culture bemuse and confuse Carter, who was raised on a steady diet of education programs and “serious” literature. The only pieces of fiction he read were “the classics”, and his idea of a good story is an Egyptian myth or a recount of Howard Carter’s travels. But like any good life-partner, he does try to embrace the things which interest Shayera… even if they are more alien to him than her.

At the end of their fifth month together, Shayera declares Carter to be “as ready as you’ll ever be” to face the Elite. To celebrate their “anniversary”, she suggests going to a nightclub. Carter, made slightly paranoid by his months of training, is against the idea – but Shayera’s fun-loving nature wins him over. To calm his worries, the pair agree to teleport down to a location far from the nightclub, rent a car and drive there – “just like a normal couple”. They rent a battered old pickup truck from a dealer, secure their wings and helmets in the back canopy under a tarpaulin and head for the nightspot.

He may have learnt the ways of the warrior, but Carter is completely useless on the dance floor. After several noble attempts, he gives up on social interaction, buys a drink and retreats to a quiet table. Shayera, meanwhile, stuns all the men in the room with her amazing figure, great personality and sensuous dancing. Dancing with as many as eight men at a time, she becomes the centre of attention in the club – much to the amusement of Carter, who merely sits and watches. He feels no jealousy, for he knows his Magpie is singularly devoted to him.

Then things start to get ugly. One of the nightclub’s more inebriated patrons decides Shayera is coming home with him – an assumption the warrior woman disagrees with on many levels. But the burly drunk won’t take no for an answer and, as Carter fights his way across the crowded dance floor to intervene, a bottle is smashed and held to Shayera’s throat. Never the damsel in distress – but always the hot-head – Shayera favours her newfound prey with a glittering of teeth, then flexes her hand and “calls” down a large pistol. Seemingly unconcerned about the jagged glass jutting into her skin, Shayera rams the barrel of the gun into the ribs of her “suitor”… and he backs down. Carter reaches the duo, takes his lover by the arm and drags her from the club.

Back to the car and through the quiet streets, Shayera laughs exuberantly at the confrontation. She is flushed with adrenalin and power, still clutching the gun in a white-knuckled hand. For the first time, Carter sees the blood-thirsty warrior she was bred to be – a junkie, high off her fix of violence and eager for the next battle. The sight repels the academic in him, and he lashes out verbally – berating her for her attitude, stupidity and willingness to place them both in the firing line. Her hackles raised, Shayera bites back viciously, attacking Carter for his stuffy attitude and the stubborn ways he clings to “this so-called civilization of yours”.

It is the couple’s first fight, and with Shayera’s dangerous frame of mind it could be their last… until an explosion in the road before them flips the rented vehicle and silences all argument. Staying conscious through her training and greater physical stamina, Shayera pulls Carter from the damaged wreck then brandishes the Thanagarian gun. She already knows what they are about to face – their nightmares for the last six months are about to become disturbing reality. The High Elite has found them.

Barely pausing to note her airborne targets, Shayera snaps off several high-powered shots and drags a slowly waking Carter towards shelter. She feels the breeze from seven sets of Nth metal wings as the Elite wingmen soar out of range, preparing their next assault. Shayera watches their retreat – which she would have called graceful, had she not seen Carter’s skills in the harness – and then looks down at her hand. The weapon, she realizes, is the key… the wingmen may not be able to trace her ship directly, but they can search for, and follow, the transmission of weaponry.

In that case, there is little point in her holding back. In a furious barrage of hand signals, the Magpie turns herself into a walking arsenal of launchers and other weapons. Her onslaught gives her enough time to make it to the utility, turn it right side up with the power talons and retrieve her armour, helmet and wings. Years of practice see her slip into the familiar livery while still firing her weapons – even managing to clip a slow wingman while doing so – and the Hawkwoman takes to the skies in defence of her Peacock.

Carter, meanwhile, is in the midst of a strange dream. In his mind, he was dressed in robes and finery, wearing a head-dress of scarabs and cobras. As his dark-skinned armies rallied around him, hailing his as unto a god and swearing their allegiance, a woman with fiery locks – Shayera? – whispers her love and fealty into his ear. The time has come to rise up against the invading hordes and defend what is rightfully his – this land, these people, this love. He moves slowly across swept flagstones and hot sand, doffs his ceremonial dress and pulls on his holy armour. Carter fills his hands with weapons and raises them for the blessing of Ra as his people, with one voice, hail their Pharaoh – Khufu Kha-taar.

He snaps free of the dream and finds himself standing by the utility, armour and wings secured, weapons lashed to his sides and in his hands. Carter can feel the cool buzz of the hawk helmet as it links his will to the wings – his wings – and watches the metallic “feathers” flex and pulse with his thoughts. Once glance at the battle above proves the words of his dream – it is time to rise up and defend his way of life. The Hawkman clenches his jaw and spreads his wings, one short spring of his powerful legs launching him into the fight.

Hefting kama knife and a triangular blade, Hawkman swoops and dives around the outside of the battle. One wingman is taken down before he even notices the new player – Hawkman neatly severs the harness of his wings, and the Thanagarian assassin crashes to the street below while his wings still hover. A second invader turns in shock, and is met with the butt of the kama knife to his jaw. His power talons hang loose from his sides as he reaches for his injured face – using his foe’s body as a shield, Hawkman take up the talons’ controls. Protected by the Thanagarian’s higher body density, he uses the extendable hydraulic devices to grasp another flyer hovering close by.

With one enemy trapped and another injured, Hawkman goes to work at close range. Tangled as they are, the Thanagarians can do little to stop the raging earth warrior as his blade slice deep into their armour and – amazingly – pierce their bodies. While their alien forms may be more resistant to projectiles, they offer no added protection from edged weapons. All of Carter’s theories have meshed perfectly – they cannot keep up with him in flight, they cannot avoid him in a fight, and they “bleed well under the blade”. Wrecking their wings is Hawkman’s final act, and the hapless duo crash to the street alongside their compatriot.

Shayera, meanwhile, is engaged in a bloody one-on-one fight with the remaining wingman – their commander. The others were no match for her skills – one clipped before she was even in armour, the other two barely worth the blasts that claimed them – but the final invader might well prove her superior. It takes all of Shayera’s skills and tactics to even land a blow on her foe, and the most she can manage is to dislodge his helmet. The invader wipes a trace of orange blood from his forehead and grins maliciously, telling Shayera in a growling, guttural Thanagarian “how much” he missed their encounters. The warrior woman reels in horror at the voice, and at the face beneath the helmet – their attacker, the leader of the wingmen, is Byth Rok, one of Thanagar’s worst criminals and a man she helped apprehend.

This revelation, and the further sullying of the once-proud High Elite sickens Shayera, and her bloodlust rises to an even more dangerous level. A red film drops across her keen vision as she levels her guns at Rok, firing madly. Even in this state her skill remains, and a few shots hit their mark. Unfortunately, so do many of Rok’s, and white-hot bursts of light and energy drive into Shayera’s shoulder and leg. Coolly, Rok draws up close to his victim. “Always the way, isn’t it Shay?” he asks in Thanagarian, his voice full of contempt. “You hurt the ones you love, and you hurt them the most.” He draws a snub-nosed, very short-range blaster from the webbing of his armour. “I must admit, I find it deliciously amusing that the High Elite would recruit me to drop you after the years you spent hunting me down… was I really that bad to you, lover?”

A harrowing war cry splits the sky and stays Rok’s hand. Rage ripping from his lungs, Hawkman dives into Rok, plunging his kama knife deep into his foe’s side. Byth Rok howls in pain, losing his grip on both Shayera and the snub-nosed gun. He lashes out with his fist and catches Hawkman in the side of the head, the glancing blow giving him enough time to soar slightly away. Carter, meanwhile, shakes off the effects of the blow and tends to his injured lover, gliding her back down to street level and laying her across a nearby bench.

“Either your brother has learned to walk as a corpse, darling, or you’ve found yourself a local mammal that thinks it’s a bird,” Rok snaps, his hand covering his bleeding wound. “In any event, it’s something I didn’t plan for, and we both know how well things went the last time I wasn’t ready.” He sneers at the couple and spits down at them. “This is an open-ended deal anyway – there’s time for this yet.” With a mocking wave and a promise to see them soon, Byth Rok spreads his metal wings and flies away. Carter wants to follow, but Shayera begs him to stay, to get her home to the ship. Reluctantly, Hawkman does so – his newly-found warrior side submerging behind the cautious academic once again – and the two depart.

In his haste, Carter does not think to gather up the fallen wingmen not various pieces of discarded Thangarian weaponry strewn across the street. He also fails to notice a gaunt, shadowy form lurking nearby – a born thief who has seen the entire battle, and whose mouth almost waters at the sight of the deadly debris around him.

Hours later, Carter sits at the observation window of the small space-craft, watching the first rays of the sun worm their way over the planet below. Shayera is asleep. Thanagarian medical technology has healed her shoulder and leg wounds, but Carter suspects the emotional scars will linger. While he has no idea what was said between Byth Rok and Shayera Thal – for all his newfound knowledge, he still cannot speak their language – the harshness of the words and the look on his love’s face has left him disturbed. So too has his unexpected dream state. Not just its content, but the way he awoke – armoured, ready to fight. “Surely that’s not normal,” he murmurs.

Then he takes bemused stock of his surroundings. He lifts his hawk-helmet, the helm that once belonged to Shayera’s brother. “Then again, what exactly is normal for me anymore?” he asks the silent room. Something inside him is well aware that his new life – so full of love, passion and wonder – will also be full of mystery, danger and perhaps even unwanted knowledge.