Sinestro was startled. “You have? You know who has framed Esmagon, just from watching that holovid?” A smile spread across his crimson face. “My one-time colleagues in the Secret Society of Super-Villains spoke truly of you, Batman! I join them in my respect for your deductive abilities! Who was it? How was it done?“
“Sinestro,” Batman said slowly, “did you notice that Mykarlen was wearing head-to-toe yellow?“
“Of course,” Sinestro said. “He usually did in case Esmagon showed up. But that never stopped Esmagon, any more than it did Jordan. Even with yellow, there is always a way.”
“So how did Esmagon’s ring vaporize him?” Batman asked.
“A check of the area showed that it was a very low-level, contained nuclear explosion,” Sinestro explained. “The Honor Guard’s theory is that Esmagon used his ring not on Mykarlen himself, but on the dust molecules in the air around him, splitting their atoms and causing a nuclear blast which he contained with his ring so that only Mykarlen was harmed by it.” Sinestro paused. “Clever, that. Just the kind of thing Esmagon would come up with, to get around the yellow defense.”
“But not very obvious,” Batman pointed out. “If Mykarlen were trying to fake his own death, and frame Esmagon for the crime, why would he wear yellow and make it look impossible for Esmagon’s ring to have done it?”
Sinestro was silent a moment, his scarlet brow furrowed with thought. “I never thought of that. Yes, that’s an excellent question. What is your answer?”
“I don’t have one yet,” Batman said. “I need to speak to Esmagon.”
Sinestro gaped in shock. “Speak to Esmagon? Have you taken leave of your wits? He is a prisoner on Oa! We cannot get anywhere near him!”
“There is a way,” Batman said calmly. “If you surrender to the Green Lanterns, they’ll take you to the same place they are holding Esmagon, won’t they?”
“What? Surrender? Never!” Sinestro declared. “There has to be another way! We could–“
“Didn’t you promise to surrender if I accomplished what you asked of me?” Batman reminded.
“I — well, that is true — but you have not–“
“If I can speak to Esmagon, I can complete my investigation,” Batman said. “We can go wake up L’nw’n, tell him he was right, that you were mind-controlling me. But I snapped out of it and captured you. He’ll take us to Oa, to the sciencells. There we can ask to speak to Esmagon.”
Sinestro struggled for a few moments, trying to think of a logical argument against this, of another way they could speak to the prisoner. But nothing came to him. Finally, he relented.
“Here,” he said, taking the golden power ring from his finger. “Take my ring. We will tell L’nw’n you got it away from me and captured me.” With a resigned look on his face, he handed the ring to Batman.
“My thanks again for capturing the renegade, Batman,” L’nw’n said as the three arced into the atmosphere of Oa, enveloped in the Green Lantern’s power ring energy. Sinestro was bound hand and foot by green energy-chains, a look of disgust on his face. “And my apologies for his having enslaved your mind. We’ll make sure he doesn’t escape again.”
“A favor, L’nw’n,” Sinestro said as the trio approached the sciencells. “Please, may I speak to Esmagon before you lock me away?”
L’nw’n’s eyebrows raised. “Why would you want to speak to him, renegade? You are not fit to lick his boots!“
“Well, what harm could it do?” Batman asked. “We’re both guarding him. Besides, I’m curious to meet the man who trained Sinestro, myself.”
L’nw’n considered a moment, then relented. “Very well. I’ll take you to see him. But I warn you, renegade, no false moves. The Honor Guard will not mind overmuch if I turn you over to them minus an arm.”
Sinestro stared at L’nw’n in cold rage but said nothing. The purple-skinned Green Lantern led Batman and Sinestro down the hallways. Batman recognized the sciencells for what they were: a jailhouse. They were cleaner, more sophisticated, brighter; but the unmistakable signs were all there — desperation, hopelessness, and seething hatred. They passed by a couple of cells occupied by criminals whom Batman recognized from Green Lantern’s reports in the JLA casebook, like Goldface. But most were unfamiliar to him.
Finally, they arrived at a cell wherein sat a Sikazorian man in Green Lantern uniform. The man had a downtrodden, defeated look on his face. Batman sighed inaudibly; that look confirmed his suspicions.
“Esmagon!” Sinestro gasped, and rushed to the invisible force-field door of the cell before being restrained by L’nw’n’s chains.
“Sinestro!” Esmagon exclaimed in obvious surprise. “What are you doing here? Why have you come?“
“I-I came to see you, old friend,” Sinestro said, his voice faltering. Batman was surprised; he wouldn’t have thought Sinestro capable of the emotions obviously present in his voice. “I heard about — what they said you did. I knew it was impossible. I knew you had to be innocent!”
Esmagon sighed. “Sinestro, my old pupil, my greatest failure, I thank you for your faith in me. It comforts me in my last hour; it makes me feel that, on some level, I may have succeeded with you after all. But I’m afraid it is misplaced. I am guilty. I did murder Mykarlen in cold blood.”
“What?!” Sinestro shouted. “Impossible! Y-you couldn’t have! Not you!“
“No, it’s true,” Esmagon insisted. “For over thirty sun-cycles I battled the killer Mykarlen. He would kill, I would capture him and imprison him, he would escape and kill again. The dance went on again and again, and always more people would die, because I never exacted the ultimate penalty on him.”
Sinestro listened in gape-jawed amazement. L’nw’n, too, seemed astonished. Only Batman was grimly unsurprised.
“I learned last week that I am dying,” Esmagon went on. “I have the blue sleep, a disease similar to the Korugarian ph’thalo or the Earther cancer. I will not see another sun-cycle. I am not afraid to die, for I have fought the good fight for many years. But who will protect Sikazor after I am gone? Who will stop Mykarlen from killing at his leisure? I decided that, before I joined my ancestors in the land beyond the moon, I had to end the threat of Mykarlen once and for all. There were moments when I faltered in my decision, but what he did in that park ended those.”
Sinestro watched, blinking, as if unable to believe what he heard.
“Now I must face the Honor Guard’s justice,” Esmagon said. “I would demand the same of any Green Lantern who killed. I deserve whatever they do to me. And yet I am not sorry, for in destroying Mykarlen I have saved hundreds of lives.”
“Esmagon… Esmagon, my teacher…” Sinestro said, his voice breaking. “I-I don’t know what to say.”
“Say nothing, Sinestro. You believed in me. That is enough.”
Silence hung in the air for long moments. Then L’nw’n broke it. “Come on, Sinestro. It’s time to go.”
Silently, head hung low, Sinestro allowed himself to be led away.
“You knew, didn’t you?” Sinestro asked Batman as they walked down the halls. “You knew Esmagon was guilty.”
Batman nodded. “I could see it on his face, even as he gunned Mykarlen down,” he explained. “Even as he was committing the act, it went against everything he believed in. He was a man choosing between his principles and the greater good, knowing either choice would damn him. I wasn’t blinded by love for him, so I could interpret it for what it was.”
Sinestro sighed loudly. “Thank you, Batman. You worked hard to solve this mystery, and I appreciate your efforts.” The villain stopped walking. Batman and L’nw’n stopped suddenly, too. “But now I must go.”
The green chains holding Sinestro vanished in a brilliant blaze of golden light. Before L’nw’n could react, a golden beam struck him in the face, rendering him unconscious.
Batman gaped at Sinestro, at the power ring on his finger. “But — but you gave me your power ring! And I gave it to L’nw’n! How–?”
“Come, now, Batman,” Sinestro sneered, all his old villainous hubris restored. “You did not think I would hand over my power ring to a comrade of my greatest foe? I rendered the ring invisible and handed you a phony created by it. Sinestro is no fool to be captured so easily.”
“We had a bargain,” Batman reminded him. “You swore to surrender if I solved the case.”
“No,” Sinestro commented. “I swore to surrender if you proved Esmagon innocent. You did not do so.”
“But he isn’t innocent!” Batman snapped. “He admitted it himself! There was no way I could prove otherwise.”
“True,” Sinestro admitted. “And yet we had a bargain.” The villain bowed slightly. “I still appreciate your efforts, Batman. I wouldn’t want you to think me ungrateful. Thus I will leave you with your life. Don’t worry, one of the Green Lanterns will gladly give you a lift back to Earth. Farewell, and once again my thanks.”
In a nimbus of golden light, Sinestro faded away. Batman watched grimly as the light dimmed and winked out.
The Darknight Detective stood there in silence for a long time. If he had been able to prove Esmagon innocent, would it have meant a change in Sinestro? And what effect, if any, would this revelation of his mentor’s guilt have on the renegade Green Lantern?
Batman stalked off to find a Green Lantern to report Sinestro’s escape. He was anxious to get back to Gotham’s concrete; space did not agree with him.