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Titans West: Last Days of Disco (overview)

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  • mcmaenza
    Here is the 15th issue of Titans West, with present day portions set in late March of 1987. Enjoy. Martin
    Message 1 of 16 , Apr 1 9:12 AM
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      Here is the 15th issue of Titans West, with present day portions set
      in late March of 1987. Enjoy.

      Martin
    • mcmaenza
      Mal Duncan finished blowing trumpet to a round of applause. The African-American took a moment to catch his breath, took a little bow and leaned into the
      Message 2 of 16 , Apr 1 9:16 AM
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        Mal Duncan finished blowing trumpet to a round of applause. The
        African-American took a moment to catch his breath, took a little bow
        and leaned into the microphone. "Let's hear it for my good friend,
        guitarist Shaw McGraw," he said to the audience as he gestured to a
        dark haired young man sitting on the stool with his instrument. The
        patrons of Gabriel's Horn applauded once more.

        "Thank you," said Shaw. "And thank you too, Mal, for joining me on
        that last number."

        Mal gave his friend another bow, grabbed a towel from a nearby stool
        and stepped down from the stage. Shaw, meanwhile, began another song.
        Mal started towards the bar, briefly pausing a few times to accept
        some praise for folks.

        When he got to the bar, a young man with wavy dark hair handed the
        club owner a gin and tonic. "Thanks a lot, Bobby," Mal said as the
        drink refreshed his parched throat. "You happen to see where my
        lovely wife got off to?"

        Not looking up from the new drink he was mixing, the bartender said "I
        think I saw her heading towards your office in back."

        "Thanks, man," Mal replied. "I've got to go back there to put down my
        horn anyway. I'll see if I can scare her up." With drink in one hand
        and instrument in the other, he made his way towards the back of the
        club.

        "Karen?" Mal called out as he opened the door to the room in back.
        There was a desk, a couch, some file cabinets and such. Also a few
        cases of liquor that needed to go back in the store room. Everything
        he expected but no wife. Mal laid his trumpet back in its case.
        "Weird."

        He approached the bookcase to put the instrument case back on the
        shelf, and that's when he noticed something. The bookcase was
        slightly a jar and not fully back in its locked position. "Hmmm," he
        said. Mal went over to the office door and locked it. The last thing
        they needed was some of the staff or customers wandering in and then
        down the hidden stairway.

        He then returned to the bookcase and gave it a slide. The wall-unit
        moved along its hidden track enough to reveal the walkway to the
        hidden chamber below the club. "I wonder why Karen's down in the
        Titans Lair." Mal figured there was only one way to find out, so he
        stepped into the recessed passage way and went down.

        The lights from the lower room were enough to illuminate the metal
        stairs. He listened carefully and heard muffled voices coming from
        the computer room. One was that of his wife; the other was also
        rather familiar to him. Mal poked his head into the room to find
        Karen Duncan talking with a golden skinned alien girl with short
        blonde hair. "There you are, Karen," he said. "Weren't enjoying the
        set, or was it my horn playing in particular?"

        "Oh stop it, you," the African-American woman in red said as she gave
        him a little squeeze. "You know I love how you play. Best lips
        around." She turned to the alien girl who was dressed in a comfy pink
        sweater and a pair of jeans. "I was just getting Arisia here set up."
      • mcmaenza
        I didn t mean to bother anyone, the Green Lantern apologized. I was just like sitting around with nothing to do for once on a Saturday night, so I like
        Message 3 of 16 , Apr 1 5:37 PM
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          "I didn't mean to bother anyone," the Green Lantern apologized. "I
          was just like sitting around with nothing to do for once on a
          Saturday night, so I like figured maybe I could use the time to catch
          up on the team history. Its not like there was anything decent on
          TV."

          "Besides," Arisia continued, "since we're heading East next month as
          a group, I thought reading up on the older adventures would like be
          helpful. That way I'd like feel at least like I knew something more
          about the New Titans group, you know."

          "That's no problem at all," Mal smiled. "In fact, that sounds like a
          great idea for you. Karen can show you how to bring up the files in
          the archives. All the old adventures are documented there."

          "That I can," Karen said. She turned back to her husband. "Did you
          need me to do something, honey?"

          "After you get Arisia set up," Mal said, making his way back towards
          the steps, "we could use a hand getting ready for closing. I wanted
          to get Shaw his pay when he was finished with his last set."

          "I'll be up in a minute," Karen said. She reached over to the
          keyboard and punched up a program. "This is pretty easy to follow,
          Arisia. It'll step you through whichever files you want." The
          screen flashed a Titans logo followed by a menu system. "Happy
          reading."

          "Thanks, Karen," Arisia said. "Wow, like I didn't realize running
          your own club was a lot of work. Here I thought it'd be totally
          cool, you know."

          "It can be a lot of fun," Karen admitted. "But it is a lot of hard
          work too. You'd think I would have remembered that before I agreed
          with Mal to do it again."

          "You guys ran a club before?" Arisia asked.

          "Sure did," Karen nodded. "The first Gabriel's Horn back in New
          York. You'll read all about it in the files."

          "Awesome," Arisia said.

          "Tell you what," Karen said as she headed towards the stairs. "If
          you're still here when we finish with closing and such, maybe I can
          convince Mal to tell you the story of our last days at the old
          disco. I don't think that adventure ever made it into the archives."

          "For sure," Arisia said. And she set about the task to reading the
          older adventures of the Teen Titans.

          The teenage girl kept busy for the next couple hours, thrilling to
          the exploits of Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wonder Girl and Speedy.
          She found it interesting to learn about the Mad Mod's past and came
          to appreciate the man more once she realized how far he'd come in
          turning his life around. She also enjoyed reading about how Loren
          Jupiter had helped the teen heroes out after they felt responsible
          for the death of Dr. Arthur Swenson. That was when they met Mal and
          Lilith.

          By the time Arisia had gotten up to the point where the Bumblebee and
          the Joker's Daughter had joined the team, Mal and Karen appeared in
          the computer room once more.

          "A little bee buzzed in my ear and said you wanted to hear a story,"
          Mal said with a smile as he pulled up a chair.

          Arisia perked up her ears in anticipation. As riveting at the text
          on the computer had been, she was always partial to hearing stories
          told aloud.
        • mcmaenza
          The place was Farmingdale, one of many small communities situated on Long Island and about twenty five miles east of New York City. The time was October of
          Message 4 of 16 , Apr 2 3:52 AM
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            The place was Farmingdale, one of many small communities situated on
            Long Island and about twenty five miles east of New York City. The
            time was October of 1982, almost seven months after the Teen Titans
            had disbanded for the second time in their short career as a team.

            The others had gone off to pursue their interests. Dick Grayson was
            back at Hudson University in New Carthage, working on his college
            degree. Duela Dent was seen active around there as well. Donna Troy,
            with her roommate Sharon, had moved out to San Francisco for a time
            and was completing her studies in photography. Wally West, after his
            graduation from high school in Blue Valley, was giving college a try
            out in the Midwest. Garth had returned back to Atlantis, given his
            health problems earlier that year. Roy Harper hadn't dropped back in
            for awhile now. The last time was when Great Frog played a gig at the
            club earlier that year.

            That left Mal Duncan and Karen Beecher minding the business that the
            Titans had set up a year or so prior. While they had started out
            doing fine, things were getting a bit rougher to juggle with just the
            two of them. One afternoon, as they were stocking the bar, they
            discussed just that.

            "Mal, baby, did you get Kyle or Sally on the phone?" Karen asked.

            "Kyle's laid up from a motorcycle accident," Mal said. "I left a
            message with Sally's roommate. I'm hoping she'll call back any
            minute."

            "Me too," Karen said. "Ever since I went back to school, the
            workload's been a killer. I really need to study tonight for my
            physics mid-term."

            Mal leaned over and gave his girlfriend a kiss. "You leave whenever
            you have to, honey," he said. "Between the two of us, you're the one
            with big career aspirations. 'Sides, given the way the crowds have
            been of late, I think we can handle things on a skeleton staff."

            "Okay, baby," Karen said, reaching for her purse. "If you're sure its
            no problem..."

            Mal shooed her along. "No problem at all," he said with a smile.
            "Go, study, and ace that sucker tomorrow, hear?" Karen nodded and
            left out the front door.

            Mal's smile faded. "Don't know how long I can keep this front up," he
            said to himself. "With all her stuff at school, Karen don't need me
            bringing her down with bad news." Mal grabbed a small book from
            behind the bar and flipped it open. There, in black and white, the
            numbers showed the slowly increasing debt that the Gabriel's Horn club
            was incurring.

            Disgusted, Mal closed the book and slipped it back in its place. "I
            don't want to call Dick to see about getting a loan. I know he'd get
            me one faster than Wally could take out a whole army of villains.
            Truth is, I need to see this through on my own terms! For once, Mal's
            not gonna be the screw-up Titan."

            Mal was his own worst critic. For years, he always felt he had to try
            and prove himself, first to Mr. Jupiter and later to his own friends
            on the team. Unlike Donna, Wally and Garth, he didn't have any
            superpowers. Of course, that never stopped Dick and Roy, but they
            both were trained by two of the best in the business. How could the
            former partners of Batman and Green Arrow be anything less than
            fantastic? All Mal had was his fists and his determination. For
            awhile last year, he did have a magical ram's horn which, when he blew
            it, would allow him to even the odds in any fight. Sadly, that horn
            had turned up missing a few months after he acquired it, once more
            forcing Mal to rely on other means to being a super-hero. Even then,
            it was with borrowed equipment. He wasn't standing on his own.

            He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small box. Opening
            it, Mal stared at the small diamond ring inside. "No, if I'm gonna
            ask Karen to marry me, I have to be able to take care of her myself."

            He put the ring back in his pocket, then he grabbed a towel that hung
            at the one end of the bar. Mal started to wipe down the bar. It'd
            only be a few hours until opening time. He hoped that tonight would
            be different than things had been lately, that there would be a huge
            turn out to see the band. If not, there was no telling what might
            happen to the club and his dreams.
          • mcmaenza
            The band showed up to perform, but sadly the crowd was not as big as Mal would have liked. Sure, there were about fifty or so that came out to party that
            Message 5 of 16 , Apr 2 3:39 PM
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              The band showed up to perform, but sadly the crowd was not as big as
              Mal would have liked. Sure, there were about fifty or so that came
              out to party that night, most of whom were big fans of the Slyvers
              for a number of years. But it had been over five years since the
              band had hits with Disco Fever, Love Line, and Hot School Dance.
              They performed their sets, got paid, and hustled off quickly while
              the DJ played on until closing.

              As Mal watched the lights bounce off the disco ball, he looked at the
              lighted dance floor and sighed. About a half dozen regular remained
              to close the place. He even let most of the bar staff go early too.

              "I gotta admit," Mal thought to himself, "disco's on its way out, and
              with it this club. Kids today are into the new wave and punk
              sounds. They'd rather go into the city to places like Geebee
              Ceebee's and such." He turned his back to the dance floor and
              started to cap off the bottles of liquor behind the bar. "Maybe it's
              time to just give up this business."

              With his back still turned, the twenty year old young man noticed
              someone suddenly rush onto the dance floor. "What the...?" Mal said
              to himself. What struck him odd was that the man wore a dark leather
              jacket with a ski mask over his face.

              Mal whirled around quickly, planted his two hands on the surface of
              the bar and vaulted over it with ease. "Hey, man!" he
              shouted. "What you up to?"

              The man in the ski mask laughed as he thrust his hands straight into
              the air. "I'm here to burn down the house!" he snarled. And with
              that, twin jets of flame launched from his hands to set the ceiling
              ablaze.

              The few patrons and staff still there began to scream and make for
              the exits.

              The man in the mask laughed again and tossed flaming balls at their
              heels, setting more of the place afire. "Burn, baby, burn," he
              said. "I'm giving you a disco inferno, Duncan!"

              Mal darted for the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall. He hoped
              he'd be able to put out some of the flames with the chemicals, or at
              least enough so that he could get to the arsonist responsible.

              The man stood amidst the flames and laughed, the fire dancing about
              him. "You messed up my plans once before, boy," he said. "So it's
              only fitting I come 'round and mess with yours."

              "Yeah?" said Mal as he got closer, ignoring his own personal safety
              as he cut a path through the flames. "We'll just see about that!"
              When he got close enough to the center, Mal dropped the canister and
              dove for the man.

              The guy thrust out one arm to block the attack. "No way, Duncan!" he
              said. "This time, you're the one going down for good!" His free
              hand started to glow red. With an evil grin on his face, the man
              starting to bring his hand down towards Mal, palm opened. "Let me
              brand you with my mark before you die, hero!"
            • mcmaenza
              Mal lunged forward and tried to gouge at the man s face. Instead, all he got was a handful of fabric. At the same time, he swung up his right foot and
              Message 6 of 16 , Apr 3 2:04 AM
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                Mal lunged forward and tried to gouge at the man's face. Instead,
                all he got was a handful of fabric. At the same time, he swung up
                his right foot and slammed it in the man's unguarded chest.

                "Hey!" the man exclaimed, pulling back.

                The mask pulled off his head, and Mal stared at the face of the man
                with dark, wavy hair and thick eyebrows. It was a face Mal had seen
                before, not too long ago. "You!" the African-American male said with
                surprise.

                The guy tried to bring his flaming hand down, but Mal rolled
                backwards out of reach. The fist started the floor afire. "You'll
                never get out of here alive, Duncan!" he vowed. He shot a few more
                fireballs in random directions, having lost his target amidst the
                rising flames and gathering smoke.

                He coughed a few times, and then he made his way towards the exit
                he'd left clear for himself.

                Mal had rolled back towards the bar. "Man, I don't believe it!" he
                thought to himself. "Of all the people to attack the Horn, I never
                would have figured we'd see him again! But I can't go after him
                yet! Gotta take care of this fire first!"

                Once behind the bar, Mal pulled the phone down to the floor where he
                could breath easier. He quickly dialed the operator. "Yeah, this is
                an emergency!" he said into the handset. "Got us a major fire here
                at the Gabriel's Horn discotheque, number 47 Brown Street near
                Blaisdell! Send help fast!"

                Mal hung up the phone, took a cloth from behind the bar and wet it in
                the sink. He then placed the wet cloth over his mouth and crawled
                along the floor towards the front exit. He remained down low to
                avoid inhaling too much smoke.

                Just as he was about to reach the exit, he heard a loud crash. The
                center ceiling beam above the dance floor collapsed, sending a major
                portion of the roof crashing down into the fire. "Great," Mal
                thought as he rushed out the door. "This fire's gonna put us out of
                business permanently."

                It wasn't too long before the fire department arrived to handle the
                blaze.

                Mal had used the pay phone just down the block to call Karen as well,
                and she quickly came down to be with him. "Baby, are you hurt?" she
                asked.

                "Only my pride, Karen," he replied. He watched the fire as it slowly
                dwindled.

                "Well, the lair below should be fine," Karen said. "The others made
                sure it'd remain protected, if nothing else than to keep it a secret."

                "Yeah, true," Mal said. "Still, this ain't the first time we've been
                attacked here. Remember when the Flamespasher Twins attacked us back
                in the summer? This is the second time the Horn's been attacked by
                our foes, using it as a connection to me. Maybe it's better if the
                place is burned to the ground!"

                "Baby, don't say that," Karen said.

                "Why not?" Mal countered. "If we've lost everything - the bar, the
                sound systems, the dance floor - it'll be too costly to rebuild. We
                can't afford that!" She didn't know what to say to him. "Besides,
                we've got something else to do first! We've got to go after the man
                who did this!"
              • mcmaenza
                A day or so later, when the couple was allowed to return to the burned out shell of the building, Mal still had the same determined look in his eyes as he did
                Message 7 of 16 , Apr 3 12:36 PM
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                  A day or so later, when the couple was allowed to return to the
                  burned out shell of the building, Mal still had the same determined
                  look in his eyes as he did the night of the fire. Karen had not seen
                  him this intense in a long time.

                  They were able to access the secret entrance to the Titans Lair and
                  descended the stairs to the underground headquarters. The place ran
                  on its own separate generators, so they didn't have to fumble around
                  in the dark.

                  Mal went over to his locker, opened it and took out a blue uniform
                  with yellow reinforcements all over it. "We'll need to get this
                  stuff out of here soon," he said as he slipped on the exoskeleton
                  uniform that increased his strength, "but first things first!" He
                  then pulled out an all blue suit, yellow boots and gloves, a yellow
                  helmet and shield. He started to don them as well.

                  "What do you think you're doing?" Karen asked firmly.

                  "What does it look like?" Mal replied, placing the helmet over his
                  head. "I'm going after that guy who did this! He's obviously
                  escaped from jail and on some revenge kick to mess up my life! I'm
                  going to track him down and put him back in the slammer where he
                  belongs!"

                  "Hold on one second," Karen said. "First of all, you need to chill
                  out! You've been runnin' hot since the other night, and when you're
                  angry you don't see straight!

                  "Second, last time I checked, we were a team, remember? The Guardian
                  isn't going anywhere without the Bumblebee at his side, got it?" She
                  opened her locker to remove a black and yellow striped costume. "You
                  just give me a minute to slip into something practical."

                  "Fine," Mal said. "Of course you can come. They attacked our place
                  after all."

                  "Right," Karen said. "Think we should call in any of the others?
                  After all, the Horn was the Titans' business too."

                  "No way!" Mal said, gesturing his hands. "They left us in charge, so
                  we'll handle it! I don't need to go running to Robin or the others
                  every time something comes up! We can handle this by our selves."

                  "Fair enough," Karen said as she donned her bee-like goggles. "I
                  trust your call on this one."

                  "We can handle it!" Mal reiterated. "Besides, I did some checking.
                  This guy's running solo. All the rest of his former gang are still
                  in jail. He's the only one whose on the outside, broke out a couple
                  weeks ago."

                  "So, what's your plan?" she asked.

                  "First, the Guardian and the Bumblebee are gonna drop in on the
                  prison," he said. "I think maybe we can get one of those former gang
                  members to give us a clue where to find our little arsonist. Then,
                  we pay the guy a surprise visit to return the favor he did on us."

                  And with that, the two Titans took off for a correctional facility in
                  upstate New York.
                • mcmaenza
                  At the New Paltz Correctional Facility for Men, the two costumed heroes sat in a visitation room with one of the prisons. A guard stood by the door to monitor
                  Message 8 of 16 , Apr 4 1:53 AM
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                    At the New Paltz Correctional Facility for Men, the two costumed
                    heroes sat in a visitation room with one of the prisons. A guard
                    stood by the door to monitor the situation.

                    "Where's your leader?" the Guardian asked. "Where's Steve Macchione?"

                    Across the table from them sat a red haired man with glasses. He had
                    a scholarly look to him, which is why he earned the nickname of the
                    Professor growing up. "He broke out of here weeks ago," Gerry
                    Harrigan said. "Didn't bother to tell any of us he was planning it
                    nor where he was heading."

                    "I don't buy it!" The Guardian said, slamming his fists on the table.

                    "Ease up," the Bumblebee told her teammate. She then turned to the
                    prisoner. "Gerry, did Steve talk about any visitors he had prior to
                    his escape? Family, friends?"

                    The red head shook his head. "He met with some lawyer. A blonde
                    haired guy dressed in real fancy threads. Some guy I never heard
                    of. Beyond that, nothing. I don't recall him having any other
                    visitors in the past year or so. None he ever mentioned at least."

                    "That's certainly more than any of the other Wreckers would tell us,"
                    the Bumblebee said.

                    The Guardian spun back to the table. "Yeah? Well I think he knows
                    more!" He lunged across the table and grabbed the prisoner by the
                    front of his shirt. "Well, Professor, is that all you know?" The
                    intensity in the hero's voice and the look in his eyes had the
                    prisoner very concerned.

                    "Hey!" the guard said as he started to move from his position.

                    "All right," Gerry said. "All right! Maybe there is something more."

                    The Guardian released him, allowing the man to sit back in his
                    seat. "Yeah?" asked the hero. "And what might that be?"

                    "I doubt Steve'd go back to Gotham," Gerry said. "Too many folks on
                    Clemont Street know him. The police would have checked there any
                    way. But he had been talking while he was still in here. Talking
                    about how he missed the smell of fresh air, and going hunting and
                    fishing at this cabin his uncle owns. He used to go there a lot
                    during the summers growing up; he'd always come back and tell the
                    rest of us of his adventures there."

                    "Might you know where this cabin is?" the Bumblebee asked.

                    Gerry nodded.

                    "Smart man, Professor," said the Guardian.
                  • mcmaenza
                    A couple hours later as the sun was setting on the horizon, the two heroes approached a small cabin in a clearing of the woods. From the old chimney that
                    Message 9 of 16 , Apr 4 4:51 PM
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                      A couple hours later as the sun was setting on the horizon, the two
                      heroes approached a small cabin in a clearing of the woods. From the
                      old chimney that showed some signs of crumbling, they could see a
                      steady stream of dark, black smoke rising. "Well, someone is
                      certainly there," the Bumblebee said.

                      "It's got to be Macchione," the Guardian said. "He won't know what
                      hit 'em!" And with that, the young man charged from the brush
                      towards the front door.

                      "Wait...!" the young woman started to say. But already her boyfriend
                      was on the attack. "Mal, what am I going to do with you?"

                      Inside the cabin, a dark hair man heard a loud thumping on the front
                      porch. "What the...?" Steve Macchione wondered as he put down his
                      magazine and rose from the old sofa. Suddenly, there was a loud
                      pounding on the front door. In another few seconds, the wood
                      shattered into splinters as a golden shield burst through it. He
                      caught a glimpse of the man wielding the shield. "You!"

                      The Guardian burst through the rest of the damaged door. "That's
                      right, Macchione!" the hero said. "Time for a rematch, sucker!"

                      A broad smile crossed Macchione's lips. "You don't know when to lie
                      down and play dead, do you, Duncan? Fine by me!" His hands began to
                      glow slightly red as he summoned up his power. "You think you got
                      what it takes to play with me? I don't think so! See, while you
                      were just a kid playing with cars, I was mastering demolitions with
                      the military. So, I know how to play with fire!"

                      "Yeah?" said Guardian, taking a defensive stance. "What I heard was
                      that you was discharged for not followin' orders! Ain't no honor in
                      gettin' kicked out, is there?"

                      Macchione snarled at him. "Oh yeah? Well, that was the past, boy!
                      Now I've got power, real power!" With one hand out flat, he summoned
                      forth a flaming ball of fire that begin to burn hotter and hotter in
                      intensity. "I was rotting away in that prison until an opportunity
                      came to me. I'd have done anything to be out of there, even sell my
                      soul. A ghostly image came to me and offered me real power and a
                      chance to escape. All I had to do was destroy you!" He hurled the
                      flaming ball at the hero.

                      With amazing skill, the Guardian rolled out of the way as the fiery
                      attack shot out the open door. And in the back of his mind he
                      wondered, "A ghostly image gave him powers and told him to destroy
                      me? Could it have been...?"

                      "Come on, loser!" Macchione taunted. "I'll take you down like I did
                      your little disco! When I'm through with you, there won't even be
                      enough ashes to put in a vase for your friends to mourn! I beat you
                      before, and I'll beat you again!"

                      Macchione charged the hero.
                    • mcmaenza
                      As the hero threw up his shield to block the man s two fisted attack, his mind began to wonder as the man s words rang through his ears. He did beat me days
                      Message 10 of 16 , Apr 5 2:13 AM
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                        As the hero threw up his shield to block the man's two fisted attack,
                        his mind began to wonder as the man's words rang through his
                        ears. "He did beat me days ago back at the Horn! I lost that fight,
                        but I'm still here!"

                        He was referring, of course, to the words the angel of death Azrael
                        had said to him the first time he encountered the Wreckers over a
                        year ago. Mal had been on death's doorstep but was given a chance to
                        battle Azrael for his life. The young man managed to beat the angel
                        but was warned that if he ever lost another fight that he would die.
                        Another angel, Gabriel, who refereed the match had given Mal a
                        magical rams horn as well, to help him in his future fights.
                        Originally the young man thought it all a hallucination, but the
                        reward was real and lying next to him when he awoke. Often after
                        that, in times of battle, Mal would hear Azrael's words in his head
                        as clear as day.

                        Macchione stepped back and hurled a twin barreled barrage at the
                        hero. The Guardian dodged the first blasts then blocked the second
                        ones with his shield. The stray fire began to catch the various
                        sparse furnishings in the cabin as well as the walls.

                        "But," the Guardian continued to think to himself as he fought, "ever
                        since I discovered that the horn from Gabriel was missing, I haven't
                        heard Azrael's voice neither. It's almost as if the two were
                        connected somehow! Its like the curse went away when the horn did."

                        Finally, a back draft blast nailed the Guardian squarely, knocking
                        him clear out of the cabin. Macchione laughed. "Gotcha now,
                        loser!" He strode through the burning fire as if he were immune to
                        it. He appeared on the front porch of the burning building and eyed
                        his target on the ground before him. "Time for you to die, Duncan!"

                        "Hey, hot head!" a female voice called from the air. As Macchione
                        turned to it, the Bumblebee shot sticky, honey like goop into his
                        face. "That should hold you for a moment." She swooped down to
                        where her boyfriend was slowly coming around from the blast. "Hey,
                        Guardian, get your head in the game! My honey-mixture won't keep him
                        blinded for long."

                        The Guardian shook his head to clear it. "Love that honey, honey,"
                        he said. He then charged the man who was still trying to burn the
                        mixture off his face.

                        "Hey, Macchione!" he called. Still blinded, the man turned towards
                        the voice. "Lights out permanently, sucker!" The Guardian swung
                        back his fist and then let it go. He slammed Macchione hard into the
                        jaw, knocking him backwards to the ground. In another moment, the
                        man was down for the count.

                        "Yes!" the Guardian cheered, his shield held high in victory. The
                        flames of the burning cabin reflected of the shield's shiny surface.
                        For a moment, he reveled in the victory.
                      • libbylawrence
                        Nice regarding the old curse. I always wondered what became of it. I always like these tales that fill in unrevealed bits.
                        Message 11 of 16 , Apr 5 8:13 AM
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                          Nice regarding the old curse. I always wondered what became of it. I
                          always like these tales that fill in unrevealed bits.
                        • mcmaenza
                          Later, Karen and Mal returned to the small apartment they had been sharing. The woman could tell by the worn expression on his face that the events of the
                          Message 12 of 16 , Apr 5 9:22 AM
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                            Later, Karen and Mal returned to the small apartment they had been
                            sharing. The woman could tell by the worn expression on his face
                            that the events of the last few days wore heavy upon him.

                            Karen came over to the couch where Mal had plopped down. "Can I get
                            you something, baby?" She asked sweetly. "Something to drink or
                            maybe a back rub."

                            Mal looked up and caught sight of her beautiful brown eyes. They
                            seemed to melt away all the negative feelings that filled him, acting
                            as a beacon to what was truly important in his life. "No thanks,
                            baby," Mal said with a smile. "Just having you around is enough."
                            Then, suddenly, an impulsive thought came to him.

                            Mal bolted up from the couch. "Sit," he said. "I'll be right
                            back." He then darted off towards the back room.

                            "What are you up to, mister?" Karen asked as she sat down.

                            Mal appeared back in the archway. "Close your eyes," he said. "And
                            keep them closed until I tell you to open them, okay?"

                            Karen let out a deep sigh then did as he asked. "You're starting to
                            act weird, Mal." She felt him grab her hands gently, and then he
                            took her left hand into his. There was the sound of some scuffling.
                            She then felt an odd sensation as something cool slipped onto one of
                            her fingers. "Is that...?"

                            "Open them," Mal said cheerfully.

                            Karen did so, glanced at her hand and let out a squeal of delight.

                            "Karen Beecher, will you marry me?" Mal asked. She threw her arms
                            around him, giving him a great big hug that almost knocked him off
                            his one knee. "Is that a yes?"

                            "Of course that's a yes," Karen replied. The couple had been living
                            together for the past few months, so she had hoped it would lead to a
                            proposal. "Was there ever a doubt in your mind?"

                            "No," Mal admitted. "Not when it came to you. Despite all the stuff
                            that's been goin' down lately, there's always one thing I can count
                            on: your love. Somehow this just seemed like the right time to ask
                            you to be my wife."

                            Karen gave him another great big hug and a kiss. "No matter what
                            life throws at us, we'll be there facing it together."
                          • mcmaenza
                            And that s pretty much where that story ends, Mal said to Arisia. A short time later after we got the insurance money for the club, we moved out here to
                            Message 13 of 16 , Apr 6 4:43 AM
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                              "And that's pretty much where that story ends," Mal said to
                              Arisia. "A short time later after we got the insurance money for the
                              club, we moved out here to California. Karen finished her studies
                              and then, with a recommendation from one of her professors, got an
                              internship with S.T.A.R. Labs. I tried my hand at being a novelist,
                              writing about my experiences growing up in a fictional context. I
                              also took a job tending bar and occasionally did some musical gigs as
                              well."

                              Mal paused for a second, stretched and let out a big yawn. "Excuse
                              me," he said.

                              "No problem," Arisia said. She turned to Karen. "It's like getting
                              kind of late anyway. We can finish another time if you like."

                              "It's not a problem," Karen said as she finished the last of her cup
                              of coffee. "We get to sleep in tomorrow anyway. Besides, there's
                              not a lot more to tell, right Mal?"

                              "Right," her husband agreed. "Basically, Karen had been applying her
                              science background over the years to work on an electronic horn of
                              sorts for me. One that I could use as a weapon of my own should I
                              want to be a hero again. She even whipped up the Herald costume I
                              now use. Eventually, I got a yearnin' to run my own nightclub again,
                              so I convinced Karen to let me try."

                              "When he's being persistent, he doesn't take no for an answer," Karen
                              said.

                              Arisia giggled at that. "Totally. He's like that when he's training
                              me, Hal and Gopher too."

                              Mal continued. "Anyway, once we got this place in shape, I contacted
                              Nightwing about getting the old equipment moved from storage out on
                              the East coast so that I could keep it here. Since they had the
                              Titans Tower with all its fancy new equipment, they had no need for
                              the older stuff. Then last Fall, things just kind of fell into place
                              with Charley moving in with us and then Hank coming to town. It
                              seemed right to get the Titans West back together and to unpack the
                              old stuff."

                              "I've just one more question for tonight," Arisia said as she rose
                              from her chair. "Like whatever happened to that old horn that I read
                              about, the one you like got from the angel Gabriel?"

                              "Good question," Mal said solemnly. "To be honest, I wish I knew.
                              Right after Duela joined the Titans and we battled Two-Face, I
                              discovered that the horn was missing. I searched high and low. Tore
                              apart the Titans Lair and the old disco looking for it. I even
                              rechecked the stuff we got out of storage. No sign of it though.
                              Either someone stole it or it vanished as mysteriously as it showed
                              up. In either case, it seems to be gone for good."

                              "But the memory of it still lives on," Karen said, "in the name of
                              the nightclub. Mal had named the original disco, and we thought it
                              was fitting to name the new club the same thing."

                              "What can I say?" Mal said. "I'm a sucker for tradition."

                              Karen put her arm around her husband and gave him a big
                              squeeze. "That's one of the qualities I love about you, honey," she
                              said. "You have a heart of gold and are as sentimental as they come."

                              Arisia smiled as the happy couple made their way up the stairs. She
                              followed behind them, switching off the lights as she went.
                            • mcmaenza
                              Epilogue: A tall thin manservant, feather duster in hand, was tidying up in the large study. The walls were lined with bookshelves with many large, hard cover
                              Message 14 of 16 , Apr 6 4:50 AM
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                                Epilogue:

                                A tall thin manservant, feather duster in hand, was tidying up in the
                                large study. The walls were lined with bookshelves with many large,
                                hard cover tomes. The writing on the spines were in various
                                languages, some even long since forgotten by most of the world.
                                Through out the room were various items on display, many in
                                protective cases.

                                The manservant paused as he dusted the glass of one particular
                                display. He glanced down at the alabaster white item. It was long
                                and tapered at one end; the other end curved up slightly. Both ends
                                had openings correctly proportional to the size of the bone at those
                                points.

                                The man put down the duster and glanced around quickly. He was still
                                alone.

                                He turned back to the item on display, and his eyes grew wide with
                                anticipation. It was a glorious object, very beautiful and very
                                smooth. He wondered what it felt like.

                                Taking the glass knob of the lid of the custom made display case, he
                                carefully began to lift the lid. While holding the lid high with his
                                left hand, the man slowly inched his right hand towards the item.
                                Was it actually calling to him? He wasn't sure. All he knew is he
                                had to hold the item for a moment, to satisfy a curiosity if nothing
                                more. His fingers were mere inches from it.

                                "What are you doing?" a voice boomed from the doorway.

                                The man was startled by the loud sound, and he released the glass lid
                                from his left hand. It fell to the marble floor hard, shattering
                                upon impact. At the same moment, the servant's right hand dropped
                                forward, causing him to make contact with the ram's horn.

                                The moment he made contact with the item, the manservant felt an
                                incredible surge of pain through out his body. He threw his head
                                back, opened his throat wide and began to howl in agonizing pain.
                                The room was filled with the smell of burning flesh. He tried to
                                pull his hand away but could not. In mere moments, the man was
                                reduced to a pile of ash on the floor.

                                From the doorway, a well dressed man in a hand tailored suit of
                                forest green with long blonde hair shook his head in disgust. He
                                crossed the room quickly and stopped before the broken glass mixed
                                with ashes upon the floor.

                                "Stupid," the blonde man said. "They never listen about leaving the
                                artifacts be. Good help is so hard to find. Luckily, there's an
                                unending supply of replacements where he came from."

                                He glanced down upon the ram's horn which still sat in the bottom
                                portion of the display case. "Ah, my little beauty," he said. "You
                                have such great power, especially against certain types of
                                creatures. It is for that very reason that I acquired you all those
                                years ago. Can't have something like you in the wrong hands, can we?"

                                The man moved over to the desk, picked up the receiver of the antique
                                style phone and began to dial a number on the rotary. After a few
                                moments, some picked up on the other end. "Hello, Barter, old boy,"
                                the blonde said. "It's me, Nero. Sorry about calling so late."
                                Pause.

                                "Oh, that's right, I keep forgetting the time shift for Paris.
                                Listen, do you remember that horn I got from you a long while back?"
                                Another pause.

                                "Yes, yes, that's the one. Would you happen to have another of those
                                special display cases? I seem to have had a bit of an accident with
                                the one its currently in." Pause.

                                "Excellent, excellent. I'll come around and pick it up later in the
                                week. I'm certain I can schedule some business that will get me by
                                your part of the world easy enough. See you soon." And with that,
                                Nathan Nero hung up the phone.
                              • brian_k_asbury
                                Nicely tied up, Martin. I can t say I m familiar with the Nathan Nero character, though, and it would be interesting to find out just what else he s got in his
                                Message 15 of 16 , Apr 7 1:43 AM
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                                  Nicely tied up, Martin. I can't say I'm familiar with the Nathan Nero
                                  character, though, and it would be interesting to find out just what
                                  else he's got in his little collection. I sense a sequel here.

                                  However, you've also now got to explain what happened to the Guardian
                                  identity and outfit that Mal was using in this story...

                                  BKA
                                • mcmaenza
                                  Brian, Nathan Nero is a new creation of mine that I ve been sprinkling through a number of my tales over the last year or so. I have more planned for the guy
                                  Message 16 of 16 , Apr 7 4:35 AM
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                                    Brian,

                                    Nathan Nero is a new creation of mine that I've been sprinkling
                                    through a number of my tales over the last year or so. I have more
                                    planned for the guy that leads to a much larger crossover, possibly
                                    in the Fall (since we have plans already for a Summer round robin).
                                    I'm building on him slowly - much like how the Monitor made cameo
                                    appearances in many books before the Crisis.

                                    I don't want to reveal all on him yet, but I think folks will enjoy
                                    it when I do.

                                    As for the Guardian suit, you are right. I did leave that out,
                                    didn't I? Sorry. I would gather that Mal, wanting to be his own man
                                    again, returned the exo-skeleton to Robin and the Guardian suit to
                                    Speedy once they recovered all the stored items and moved the West.

                                    Martin
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