by Starsky Hutch 76, Doc Quantum and Immortalwildcat
Arsenal, Changeling, Raven, Plastic Man, and Elongated Man charged down the large corridors of Warworld. As they moved, they left chaos in their wake. Arsenal fired explosive arrows into doorways as he passed. Explosions detonated, sending the various alien species that made Warworld’s staff flying. Changeling changed into various large animals, destroying equipment. Plastic Man transformed into a circular saw blade, sawing his way along the floor as he moved along.
As they rounded the corner, they were confronted by the members of the Doom Patrol. “Hey, what are you folks doing?” Elongated Man said in greeting.
“Same as you guys are doing,” Cliff Steele said. “As much damage as humanly possible.”
“Apparently, we’ve been greatly outclassed in that area,” Mento said.
“Huh?” Arsenal exclaimed.
“The damage Superman’s battle with Mongul is doing makes anything we could do pale in comparison.” With those words, a device from Mento’s super-chair appeared and projected a transparent image of Warworld. A highlighted line traced the route of their epic battle. It was moving toward Warworld’s center.
Mongul leaped at Superman, and the two tumbled across the floor and through a doorway, locked in a tumult of violent fury and rage. Both were barely conscious that their brawling had led them onto scaffolding above a seemingly bottomless pit. The two rolled to the side and crashed through the railing, plummeting hundreds of stories downward.
Floor after floor rushed past them, becoming an increasingly unidentifiable blur as their descent picked up speed. Finally, they connected with something solid, crashing through the reinforced floor of the lowest level, first with a crash and then a splash. When Mongul and Superman rose to the surface, they found themselves floating in a tank full of a glowing, fluorescent liquid. Superman raised his hand above the surface and looked at it, amazed that the liquid actually caused him an unsettling tingling sensation.
“Ha! I see our battle has actually brought us to the core that fuels Warworld, Superman! Fitting! Not only shall you die by my hand, I shall leave your corpse here to be dissolved by the very substance that fuels the engine of your world’s destruction!”
“So this is fuel, is it?” Superman said, his eyes starting to glow red. “That’s good to know.”
A look of panic crossed Mongul’s face. “No, you fool — you’ll kill us both!”
“Then so be it,” Superman said.
Three ships with a skeleton crew had been left behind to orbit Oa and protect the planetary troops from possible outside force, although the bulk of the Green Lantern Corps and the Darkstars went to the surface. The ships began to land on the desert-like surface of Oa, which was still sheathed in darkness despite the ships’ lights and the beams generating from Lightray. On the surface they seemed little more than children’s flashlights shining feebly in the dark woods. Moreover, they seemed to be dimming at the source.
“There seems ta be an electromagnetic dampening field around the whole planet, Hal,” said Kilowog. “Looks like the ships’ batteries could die any second now. Best ta shut ’em down fer now.”
“Our phaser rifles will also be useless,” said John Stewart, glancing over to Hal and the others. “It’s a good thing we’re so well-equipped with non-energy-based weapons. Looks like it’ll be swords and guns for all of us non-powered beings.”
“Don’t forget the bow and arrow,” said Green Arrow, winking at John.
“You’ll come in handier than you thought you’d be, Ollie,” Hal laughed as Green Arrow grinned. He turned to the others in his ship and said, “Dress warmly. The temperature out there is well below freezing and getting colder. At least Oa’s air has an oxygen-nitrogen base to it, so each of us should do all right out there. Some of our fellow G.L.s aren’t so fortunate.” It was true — several of the thousand-man army were from planets that breathed air very different in composition from that of Earth or Oa. They would have to be protected not only from the cold but would also have to bring their own air supplies.
Their mood as they donned their winter gear was anything but jovial as one might suppose from their camaraderie. If anything, they put on a brave front in order to ease the tension of the unknown they were about to face. They were playing for huge stakes here — if they were unsuccessful, they would not only be trapped upon this planet for good with no way of leaving, but the entire universe may very well fall to the powers that wanted to dominate and control it. This was a one-way mission, and they had no choice but to succeed at all costs.
Valura Tur-Thol, the Kryptonian Green Lantern from Rokyn, led the way under her own power. From what she understood, she might very well be trapped here on Oa with everyone else if they did not find a way to get the Central Power Battery working again. Her powers were solar-based, but with no source of yellow solar energy here on the planet’s surface, her formidable powers would nevertheless eventually be drained, even though it would likely take a long while before that occurred. In the meantime, she would be the eyes and ears of the Green Lantern invasion force on Oa.
From ships scattered over a field outside of Oa’s lone city, teams emerged to begin the assault. Barely visible in the darkness, each group made their own way to the city.
“This is insane! Our energy-based weapons are useless, we can hardly see, and nobody knows what we’re going to face when we reach the Citadel!” The usually dour Salaak was more pessimistic than usual. His mood was not helped by his companion.
“Awww, cheer up, buddy. The light’s not so bad, and some of us aren’t allowed to carry phaser rifles, anyway. Sometimes you just gotta go with what you’ve got!” The numbingly cheerful voice of G’nort only served to make Salaak’s mood worse.
“Go with what you’ve got?! What are you planning to do when we find the persons behind this? Suck them into the vacuum between your ears?”
“Wow, can I do that?” G’nort paused to scratch behind his ear. “Actually, I was thinking of ripping them apart with my claws and fangs.”
Salaak turned and saw G’nort grinning with a muzzle full of gleaming, razor-like teeth. He made the decision, then, to stick close to this bizarre, yet possibly useful creature.
Closer to the Citadel, a lithe female form in the black and red of the Darkstars lifted into the air. “Misa! How the grossnick are you doing that?” asked a tall, reed-like figure near her.
She pointed at the jet-belt she now wore. “I, er, borrowed one at home after my ring died out. I thought it would come in useful. Now, I’m going to scout ahead and see what’s waiting for us.”
“Wait! You’ll be spotted!”
“No, I won’t.” As she spoke, Misa Pomus of Imsk quickly shrank in size until she could not be seen. “After all,” came her voice over the radio, “I didn’t always rely on the ring for everything!”
Noleon Fae was a humanoid of few words.
This was the characterization that struck most people who knew him. He simply did not talk unless he needed to, and like Mogo he didn’t socialize. As such, he had no true friends in the Green Lantern Corps, although he did have allies who respected him. That was why he had been asked to join the assault force that would storm Oa. He prepared himself in complete silence, assisting in the arsenal-building as much as anyone.
When the doors opened on the various Darkstar ships on the surface of Oa, Fae rushed out with the rest of them, armed with a primitive projectile weapon, his tail high in the air so no one would trample on it.
He had no special powers, as a few of the Green Lanterns had, though he was a skilled tracker. Still, the situation on the ground, now that the small army of ex-Green Lanterns began scouting around, was much too quiet for even his liking. And it was cold — much, much too cold. If there had been any condensation in the air, the ground would undoubtedly be slick with ice and snow. But Oa was a desert planet, and it was a dry cold that permeated everything here.
Some of his fellow Lanterns seemed satisfied that there was no opposition, and as such, the troops began occupying the city of the Guardians. Noleon Fae was not so sure. It was a cliché, he knew, but the planet was quiet — almost too quiet. Something was bound to happen soon.
Noleon Fae gripped his rifle more tightly and trailed behind the others, his eyes peering through the darkness broken up only by this New God who called himself Lightray. The others were fools if they believed it would be this easy.
In the darkness surrounding the Citadel on Oa, small clusters of beings moved toward the cluster of buildings that was once home to the Guardians of the Universe. One of them raised a primitive-seeming weapon and fired into the air. A slender shaft arced upward and ahead of him a short while before exploding in a short-lived burst of light.
“Damn! I thought a magnesium flare might be able to light things up a bit. This darkness just swallowed it up!” The Earth-man known as Green Arrow reached back into his quiver for a blunt-tipped shaft. As he did, the flare arrow suddenly dropped from above him, landing at his feet. “Uh-oh! Heads up, people!” He notched the arrow, looking around for who or what had retrieved the arrow and dropped it before him.
“Ollie?” The blue-clad blonde known as Black Canary took a half-step back, bringing the weapon she carried up into a ready position. “What is it?”
“Don’t know, pretty bird, but something just dropped my flare arrow back into my la — awp!” Something then grabbed the emerald archer’s bow, pulling quickly upward. “No, you don’t!”
Keeping a tight grip on the bow, Green Arrow brought his knees up tight against his chest, then kicked them upward. He struck something, though in the darkness he could not see what. It let go, and the archer fell ten feet to the ground. “Ooof!”
The Black Canary fired the mag-lev rifle, sending a four-ounce metal slug into the creature above. It let out a loud cry and dropped to the ground beside Green Arrow.
“What the devil is that, Dinah?” As Green Arrow rose to check it out, they were joined by a trio of Darkstars — Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Katma Tui.
“Looks like some sort of shadow creature,” replied Black Canary. As they knelt to examine the creature, they heard shouts from other groups as they came under attack.
“No eyes that I can see. Looks like these are ears, though, or some sort of air pressure-sensitive organ. Notice the opening inside the channels here. And some type of membrane here that I can’t identify.” Katma Tui looked up from the body. “I’ve seen a lot of races throughout the universe, but this one is totally unknown to me.”
“Identifying them will have to wait.” Hal Jordan hefted a larger version of the magnetically powered weapon that Black Canary had used. “This battle has started!”
“Rao’s spirit! They’re all over the place!” cried Valura as she soared into one of the shadow creatures attacking the Green Lantern Corps members on Oa.
“They must have been waiting in the air all along,” replied Misa Pomus of Imsk, flying with the aid of a jet-belt. She wielded a thin collapsing staff that suited her own swiftly shrinking and growing form. In the air, she turned and thrust with the staff, driving one of the shadow creatures directly into the path of another. The resulting collision knocked them both out, and they plummeted to the ground below.
Elsewhere, a group of five diverse humanoids approached the central building of the Citadel complex. They were led by a female clad in blue and black, who cleared a path with a high, piercing cry. “Whatever these things are, they can’t stand up to the Canary’s cry,” observed John Stewart as they made their way to the chamber that contained the Central Power Battery of the Green Lantern Corps. As they stepped through the door, the three Green Lanterns in the group paused in shock.
“It’s true, isn’t it? The power battery is dead,” whispered Katma Tui, holding tight to Stewart’s arm.
“It looks like it. However, there is more to the power battery than what we’ve all seen.” As the others turned to look at him, Hal Jordan continued. “Once, I entered the battery itself. It was almost like a living being, communicating with me, and yet it was almost like a sort of portal.”
“Aww, come on, Hal. Don’t tell me you’re–”
“I am, Ollie. I’m going in to see if I can discover what has happened to the Oa and the Corps.”
Noleon Fae took note of the group that penetrated to the main council chamber of the Guardians, the chamber that also housed the Central Power Battery of the Green Lantern Corps. He spied one of the shadow-like beings swooping down toward that group, raised his rifle, and fired. The primitive weapon emitted a loud noise, and the small projectile flew true, striking its target. The creature jerked upward, then dropped to the ground.
A noise from behind him had the solitary Green Lantern turning around before his target landed. Another of the shades was diving toward him. He raised the rifle again and pulled the trigger. This time, the weapon only clicked at him.
“Damn these useless relics,” he muttered as he reached for one of the boxes of ammunition on his belt. He tore the empty magazine from the rifle and slammed the full one home, firing just in time to drop the creature before it struck him. Glancing around to see if there were others in the vicinity and finding none, he lifted his tail and ran for the chamber entry.
“Milwid, I’m picking up some activity in one of the red sectors!” High above Oa, one of the ships left by the combined Green Lantern Corps and Darkstars was monitoring a select few areas of space around the planet. A smaller, furry being in the green and black of the Corps turned in his chair to face a spider-like creature who sat amidst several consoles on the bridge of the ship. “It’s the wormhole that leads to the Sol system.”
“Stewart’s guess was right, then. Whoever is responsible for the situation on Oa is calling in reinforcements from the invasion forces that were attacking Earth.” Impossibly thin arms moved quickly among the panels. “I’m sending word to the teams below, Ch’p. Bring the weapons online and start selecting targets.”
“I’m on it,” replied the diminutive Green Lantern.
In the council chamber of the Guardians, Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen were having one of their not-uncommon disagreements. “Are you nuts, Hal? With the power gone, what good is it going to do you getting into the power battery?”
“Ollie, the energy that fueled the battery — and the Corps itself — came from the Guardians’ physical beings. Unless something has destroyed the Guardians, there has to be something left in there. Not enough to power the rings, but maybe, just maybe, enough establish a link with the Guardians, or kickstart the power battery, or something.”
“You’re stretching, Hal.” Ollie allowed a smile to cross his features. “You don’t really know, do you?”
“No, but I know that I have to try.”
Before Green Arrow could respond, the chamber echoed with a coruscating sound, a rippling harmony of tones that ran up and down the scale. The five heroes looked around for the source and saw a shimmering glow just before the dais where the Guardians had previously held council.
“Try as you wish, it shall do you no good,” came a deep, thundering voice. “First, our erstwhile brethren made the mistake of trying to bring order to the universe without suppressing the will of those on whom they would impose such order. Then they allowed their android creations, the Manhunters, to run amok after their initial programming failed them, followed by selecting from among the various, non-conformed races of the universe to populate their Corps of agents. Then, their final failure, they left this universe to the chaos propagated by the Great Crisis.”
As the scintillating light coalesced into distinguishable forms, Hal Jordan, Katma Tui, and John Stewart recognized the beings who spoke with the single voice.
“Now, order shall prevail in the universe as the Controllers assume the upper hand!”
On Warworld, the Flash was disassembling a small tanker that was firing on J’onn J’onzz, Vartox, and Maxima when he saw the Martian Manhunter’s expression go from one of determination to shock. “What is it?” he asked the green-skinned hero.
“A warning from Superman!” he exclaimed. “We’ve got to get everyone out of here now!”
Mongul dived for Superman, grabbing for his neck in the hopes of slaying him before he could use his damnable heat-vision. A millisecond before his hands connected with the Kryptonian’s throat, the core of Warworld erupted, sending out a wave of destruction, destroying it from the inside out.
The heroes watched from the safety of the star ship, Thanagar One, as Warworld seemed to go nova. Superwoman’s hands pressed against the glass of the viewing port as she stared with wide, tear-filled eyes.
From the inferno, a fiery comet streaked toward Earth, containing the unconscious forms of Superman and Mongul, their hands still locked in deadly combat.