The rosy fingers of dawn were just creeping over the towering skyline of Gotham City. The Batman, Gotham’s sworn protector, had finished another night’s patrol. As nights went, this one had been relatively quiet, with three burglaries and one attempted mugging, all by ordinary street criminals. All of Batman’s outré foes slept soundly in their cells at the state pen or gibbered in their straitjackets in Arkham, and Gotham was the quieter for their absence.
As Batman prepared to pilot the Batmobile back to Wayne Manor for the day, he caught sight of something in the sky. The Bat-Signal. Well, it was too good to last. But something was wrong. From the angle of the signal beam, it could not possibly be coming from the roof of Police Headquarters. Batman did a few quick calculations in his head and determined the beam’s origin point to be Gotham Central Park. His mouth hardened into a grim line. It wouldn’t be the first time an enemy had tried to lure him into a trap using a false Bat-Signal. As he drove to the park, Batman entered a quick search into the Batmobile‘s mobile computer. A quick link to the mainframe in the Batcave came back with the answer Batman had expected. The most likely candidate for such a trick, the Signalman, was still in prison. Well, he’d soon see who it was.
Batman left the Batmobile parked a block away from the park and went the rest of the way on foot, hoping to surprise whoever it was. He was totally unprepared for the sight he found at the edge of the park’s lake. The golden beam piercing the pre-dawn sky came not from any portable electric projector, but from a golden ring worn on a scarlet finger. A red-faced man in black and blue stood with his fist to the sky, projecting the beam into the air.
As Batman approached, the beam clicked off and a pair of cold, calculating eyes locked on him instantly. There was no sneaking up on this man.
“Greetings, Batman,” Sinestro said in an even voice. “I hope I haven’t disturbed your morning.”
Batman stood his ground, fists clenched at his sides, mouth a grim line. One would not be able to tell at a casual glance, but his entire body was a coiled spring, ready to leap into action at the slightest provocation from Sinestro.
“I admit you took me by surprise,” Batman said. “I never expected Green Lantern’s arch-enemy in Gotham. So what’s the deal? Come to try and kill me to get revenge on G.L.? I know you tried that with Green Arrow once.”
Sinestro spread his hands, palms up. “You have me wrong, Batman,” he began. “Not that I blame you for jumping to conclusions. In your position, I’d do the same. But no. I come here under a flag of truce.” To punctuate his remark, Sinestro produced a glowing yellow flag with his power ring. The banner of the flag was very light yellow, almost white.
Batman did not relax. “Really. And I should take that at face value, should I?”
“Once again, I find your doubts understandable,” Sinestro said. “But I beg you to hear me out. Surely that can do you no harm. I offer you this: I know you have your Justice League signal device on your person. My ring detects its presence, and should I will it, I can destroy it or render it inoperative. You see I have not done so, nor shall I. Any time you feel like calling in your friends, you may do so.”
Beneath his mask, Batman’s eyebrow raised slightly. “Go on.”
“I have need of your help, Batman,” Sinestro said. “A friend of mine is faced with a problem requiring the assistance of a great detective, a master of clue and deduction. The few times I have chosen to ally myself with the so-called super-villains of this world, invariably they spoke of your skills with awe and respect. The respect a cobra has for the speed of the mongoose, but respect nevertheless.”
“A friend of yours?” Batman asked. “Another villain, I take it?”
“No,” Sinestro said coldly. “A hero. A hero charged with a crime he has not committed.”
Batman relaxed just the slightest. “I’m not saying I believe any of this, Sinestro,” Batman said. “But continue.”
“Thank you,” Sinestro began. “As I’m sure Jordan has told you, I was not always what you call a villain. I began my career as a member of the Green Lantern Corps — a respected member, praised for my actions in the cause of good.”
“Until you let the power corrupt you, and you turned to evil,” Batman said.
“Until I realized the error of my ways, wasting my power on others and taking none for myself,” Sinestro corrected. “But let’s not quibble over details. When I was a raw recruit in the Corps, an older Green Lantern by the name of Esmagon was assigned to my training. He was wise, had seen many years of service in the Corps. He knew the ins and outs of the power ring, how to use it, how to avoid falling into the trap of thinking it made you indestructible. Jordan is referred to as the greatest of the Corps, but I swear to you I saw Esmagon do things with that ring that would make Jordan seem like a rookie.”
“Go on,” Batman urged.
“Esmagon was more than my teacher. We became friends. I was orphaned at an early age, Batman, and Esmagon became a father figure to me. All during my years in the Corps, he was my closest friend and confidant. Indeed, I think he saw the gradual change in my outlook and subtly tried to bring me back around to his way of thinking — so subtly that I did not realize it until much later.”
“It must have broken his heart when you went bad once and for all,” Batman opined.
“Yes,” Sinestro sighed. “I’m certain it did. I have not spoken to him since. But last week I heard word through the grapevine of the great trial on Oa. Esmagon stands accused of murder.”
“And you don’t think he did it,” Batman said.
“I know he did not!” Sinestro roared. “He could not have! Anyone who ever met Esmagon would know that in his heart! He is as incapable of murder as — as your Superman!”
“Why did you not go to the Guardians with this? Or G.L.?” Batman asked.
“The Guardians of the Universe have left left this universe in order to mate!” Sinestro spat. “Oa is now in the hands of their lackeys, the Green Lantern Honor Guard, who pass all judgments. And besides, even if they were here, the Guardians know nothing of emotion. Blue-skinned computers, that’s all they are! And they’ve taught their proteges in the Honor Guard to think the same way they do. The evidence against Esmagon is overwhelming, and that’s all they see. As for Jordan, he is the Guardians’ lapdog; he would never go against the judgment of the Honor Guard. Besides, he has never met Esmagon and thus does not know he is incapable of what they accuse him of. And, I must admit, I am too proud to go to Jordan.”
Batman nodded. He had always prided himself on being an excellent judge of character, of knowing when a person was lying and when he was telling the truth. Perhaps Sinestro’s alien physiognomy made him more difficult to read, and yet…
“Let’s say I believe your story,” Batman began. “You’ve come to me, hoping I’ll use my detective skills to clear Esmagon’s name, correct?”
“Correct,” Sinestro said. “Those who speak the name of Batman speak of one who hates injustice with a passion. Surely you would not want to see an innocent man punished for a crime he did not commit.”
“True,” Batman said. “Still, I’m hesitant. How do I know you won’t turn on me once I’ve done as you ask?”
“You would have my word,” Sinestro said coolly. “The word of Sinestro is not lightly given. Whatever else is true of me, I am still a man of my word.”
Batman nodded again. Hal Jordan had told him as much, though not in the same words. Hal had said Sinestro had promised to kill him, and Sinestro always kept his promises.
Batman considered for a moment, then spoke. “Suppose we make a deal, Sinestro. I’ll undertake your case and do everything in my power to clear your friend’s name. In return, I want you to surrender yourself to the Green Lantern Corps’ justice.”
Sinestro visibly started, then composed himself. “A fair offer,” he declared. “Allow me to amend the conditions. I will surrender to the Green Lanterns, if you successfully prove Esmagon’s innocence. If you fail, I will remain free.”
“Agreed,” Batman said, extending his hand. Sinestro looked at the hand and raised an eyebrow.
“On Earth, it is customary to shake hands to seal a bargain,” Batman explained.
“Ah,” Sinestro commented and grasped Batman’s hand. Batman wrung the Korugarian’s hand firmly and released it. “Interesting custom.”
Stars and comets hurtled past Batman’s field of vision. He was safely enveloped in a field of yellow energy, not at all unlike Green Lantern’s emerald ring force, as Sinestro bore him through the heavens.
“For an Earth-man, you seem particularly unimpressed by space,” Sinestro commented.
“I’ve been in space before,” Batman said. “Years ago, a lot of my cases took me off-planet, especially with Superman. Not so much anymore, though.”
“I see. Hang on, we’re about to make the jump into hyperspace.” Batman felt a great lurch, as if on a roller-coaster ride, as the space around him suddenly shifted into rapidly moving streaks of brilliant color. The sensation ended quickly, and the view changed back to normal space, though a part of space Batman had never seen before.
“Where are we?” Batman asked.
“Sector 471,” Sinestro commented. “As you Earthmen measure space, approximately 76 trillion light years from your own solar system. That world is our destination down there.” Sinestro pointed to a large planet turning beneath them. Like Earth, it seemed to be mostly oceans, and these were blue. The continents, however, were a bright orange.
“The closest approximation to the planet’s name, in your tongue, would be Sikazor,” Sinestro said. “It is the largest populated planet in this solar system and Esmagon’s homeworld.”
“And this is where the alleged murder took place?” Batman asked.
“Yes, in Sikazor’s capital city of Trebor,” Sinestro said. “That is where we are headed now.”