by Doc Quantum
“Where are our damned reinforcements?” Meadlux shouted out loud once more, to no one in particular. His troops were taking heavy fire and would certainly be slaughtered if things continued on this way. The enemy seemed to have an endless supply of reinforcements and weapons, while Meadlux’s troops were being picked off one-by-one. Things may not have been so bad had Stel or Teacher been present, but as they were robotic life-forms, they would fare no better than their ships’ batteries had in the energy dampening field around this planet.
“You should know something, sir,” Hollika Rahn said to her superior, a worried frown on her dusty but otherwise beautiful face. “A few of the troops are suffering from hypothermia — or its biological equivalent — due to the cold. Many of our members are from desert or tropical planets and are unused to being in these kinds of temperatures without the protection of the ring. Some of them are just falling asleep.”
Meadlux sighed, long and deep. “Is there anything we can do?”
“Besides retreat, you mean?”
“That’s out of the question. I don’t care how cold it is, we’re going forward. One big push to victory!”
Hollika Rahn looked incredulously at the stern judge. “With all due respect, sir, that may be more difficult than you make it out to be. We haven’t changed our position for several hours. We’re fighting a war of attrition now.”
“There’s a reason we haven’t moved!” Meadlux said, holding one finger up and affixing his judge’s stare upon her as if he had found her guilty in his court. “Mark my words: These shadow creatures, or whatever their true name may be, are protecting something. We’ve faced mounting opposition at this point for the last several hours, and the enemy troops all seem to be retreating from other positions to defend this one. My question is: Why? The answer is what we need to find out, which is why we’ve got to rally ourselves for one big push before it becomes impossible to do so, and damn the consequences!”
Hollika was shocked at his stubbornness and was taken aback for a moment. Finally, she came back with, “All I’m saying, sir, is that I believe if we ever had a chance of storming the enemy’s stronghold — and I’m not certain that ever would have been any more possible than it is now — we’ve certainly missed our chance to do so. Our troops are dying, sir!”
“Nonsense! We’re Green Lanterns, child! Green Lanterns to the end! And I need not remind you who is in command here! We’re going to take action at this very moment, and that is an order!”
Hollika Rahn steamed in silence, but she had no choice other than to say, “Yes, sir, if that is your order, sir.” She stared him down.
Meadlux met her stare, and the two glared at each other for what seemed like an age. Finally, the older Green Lantern looked away and smiled halfheartedly as if she were his granddaughter. “No need to stand on such ceremony, child. However, we do need to take this stand, not only for ourselves or the Green Lantern Corps, but potentially for the universe itself. Whatever they’re protecting… well, it must be big.”
The Green Lantern from Rhoon finally nodded and reluctantly smiled herself. “Very well, sir. I’ll get the others ready to move forward on your order.”
“Thank you, Hollika,” Meadlux said, the smile on his face belying the dread fate he knew he would be sending most of his troops to. Yet he was a man of duty, and he knew what had to be done, with reinforcements or not.
Guy Gardner traveled through the Citadel, the City of the Guardians, which was for the most part still sheathed in darkness, since Lightray’s light was blocked by the buildings. Earlier, Guy had briefly met up with Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Katma Tui, Green Arrow, and Black Canary at the Central Power Battery just as the Controllers’ energy duplicates had shown up. With or without a ring, Guy was still just as brave — or crazy. Still, even though he, like all Green Lanterns, feared nothing, he knew he where to draw the line at his bravado, however, and decided to pick a less futile battle for his own. He and Noleon Fae had traveled together for a while until the ninja-like Green Lantern had taken off on him. He sure wasn’t a very talkative alien, that was for sure.
Gardner was armed to the teeth with machine guns, bullets, hand grenades, and as much ammunition as he could carry, yet battle had constantly eluded him since he had arrived on the planet. Now that the Controllers were here, the battle would probably be at an end soon. If he was to find some action, he’d have to find it quickly. He shuddered at the thought of leaving the fate of the planet — perhaps even the universe — in Jordan’s hands. Still, he had to admit to himself — and only to himself — that Jordan was probably the most qualified to pull off what he planned to pull off. It wouldn’t surprise him, though, if he got himself killed doing it.
The red-haired Darkstar crept down a corridor that seemed empty from what he could see. The light was so dim and shadowed, though, that it was almost impossible to tell except through listening very carefully. And so Guy Gardner, automatic machine guns in each hand, crept sideways along the wall on the balls of his feet, his ears perked up, ready to react to any sound.
He stopped suddenly and turned around, keeping his breathing as low as possible as he listened. He started walking again. A few moments later, he stopped again suddenly.
It was then that he knew someone was following him. Each time he stopped he heard someone else walk for a split second until they stopped as well. Guy Gardner grinned in anticipation as he waited for his stalker to show itself.
Guy picked a small stone off the ground and threw it in another direction, then waited. After a few moments, he heard footsteps moving in the direction he had thrown the stone. He grinned again.
Guy shot off several rounds before he could stop himself, his fingers trembling on the triggers. “Dammit all!” he breathed.
“Gardner, it’s me,” the voice of Noleon Fae came from a window above him.
“I know it was you!” Guy whispered loudly. “$#!^! You startled me!”
“Quickly. Come up here.”
Guy Gardner muttered a few more expletives and found a staircase leading up to the room where Noleon Fae was. The lizard-like Green Lantern merely pointed in the direction of one area of the Citadel that was virtually teeming with shadow creatures. “Whoa…”
Fae pointed his fingers to an area beyond that part of the Citadel that was being defended by Meadlux and his troops. It was obvious that they were under heavy attack. They needed help from the other side. “Your gunfire has already attracted too much attention. We’ve got to get moving again. Now be silent,” said Fae quietly, moving soundlessly away from the window. “Follow me.”
Gardner sighed and tried his best to keep up with the Green Lantern with a tail.
“Wait for the order,” Hollika Rahn shouted as the troops made themselves ready to push forward into no man’s land despite the rain of arrows and hail of bullets they were already encountering in their secured position.
A few of the Green Lanterns were shivering from the cold and were barely able to hold their weapons. A couple of them, on the other hand, were feverish and sweating profusely, the drops of sweat turning into ice almost as fast as they formed. The metallic smell of blood and ammunition permeated into everything, and the dead lay strewn up and down the trenches. Some of them had died due to their wounds, while others had merely had their atmospheric helmets punctured and suffocated due to the wrong combination of elements in this foreign air. They were all tired and suffered from lack of sleep due to the many hours of combat they had already seen without a break. Still, they were Green Lanterns, and their pride pushed them on.
“Wait for it,” Hollika said once more.
Meadlux had his eyes closed and seemed to be listening for a break in the onslaught, his back to the trench wall. He opened his eyes suddenly, and just as suddenly he smiled. “Give the order, child.”
“Move out!” Hollika Rahn shouted as the troops pushed themselves up and over the wall of the trench. And as they did so, it seemed as if a huge gust of wind from behind them flattened the enemy before them. The Green Lanterns moved forward, laughing as they did so. The reinforcements had arrived.
“Am I ever glad to see you!” Meadlux shouted at Valura Tur-Thol as she swooped overhead and continued to blast the enemy out of the way.
“A little bird told me you needed some help, old man,” the girl laughed between puffs of super-breath. “I think I’m getting the hang of these powers after all!”
The Green Lanterns under Meadlux’s command soon surrounded the area of the Citadel that had been so heavily defended, receiving none of the casualties they had expected from this one big push.
“Do you think you’ll be all right?” Valura said as she flew back overhead.
“We’ll be fine, thanks to you!” Hollika Rahn shouted. “Nothing like having your own Supergirl as backup, is there?” she remarked to Meadlux as they moved quickly into their new positions, pursuing the retreating enemy troops. He made no reply but silently breathed a sigh of relief.
Noleon Fae and Guy Gardner reached the area of the Citadel where most of the fighting was now taking place. Gardner threw himself into battle, firing his automatic machine guns like Rambo at the shadow creatures from one direction, while Meadlux and his crew were attacking (and being attacked) from the other direction. He scarcely noticed when the ninja-like Fae had once again disappeared without explanation.
The battle for this part of the Citadel became much easier now, as Meadlux and his troops had taken advantage of the opportunity Valura Tur-Thol had given them. They had moved quickly forward and were now right up against the Citadel, attempting to take out the gunners before they could recover. Guy Gardner’s attack from behind as well as two other platoons of Green Lanterns and Darkstars who had been sent in as reinforcements helped to make short work of the shadow creatures guarding this part of the Citadel. Several had been killed, and a few had been captured, but most had fled into the shadows.
“Take a look at this,” Meadlux said as he and Hollika Rahn finally made their way to the particular section of the Citadel the shadow creatures had defended at such cost. “See these wires running all through here and extending outwards in all directions?” he said, indicating this all along the ground. “These are recent additions. Not Oan technology at all.”
“What’s in there?” Hollika said, looking at the blood-spattered door.
“We’ll soon find out,” Meadlux replied. He fired at the panel with his gun, blasting it open. The two walked inside, where an electrical hum resonated, and the dim glow of LED lights was everywhere.
“This section doesn’t seem to be affected by the energy-dampening field at all!”
Meadlux smiled. “Of course not. The energy dampener itself needs energy in which to work.”
“Yes, my child, it seems that we’ve discovered the generator of the nullifying field around the planet which is keeping electromagnetic activity at a bare minimum,” the blue-skinned Green Lantern said. “Call Procanon Kaa and his engineers in here right away. We’ve got to disable this device as soon as possible.”
Noleon Fae watched in silence as several shadow creatures fled away from the battle. Had he been anyone else, he would have assumed they were merely fleeing for their lives. Fae, however, was a skilled tracker and realized that they were moving in too organized a way. It was more likely that they were mobilizing somewhere else entirely.
A counterattack? Probably. These creatures seemed relentless in their defense of Oa and the Citadel, though not malicious; perhaps they had something to fear if they failed in their endeavors. He filed all such idle thoughts for later and concentrated solely on the task at hand. As the last straggling shadow-creature passed by, he moved on foot after it without revealing himself, glad his coat and hat were made to be virtually soundless.
Guy Gardner had also seen several of the shadow creatures flee from the battle and ran after several of them, his guns blazing. “Come back here, you alien scum!” he shouted, though they were soon out of his reach. He slowed down, stopped, and sighed. “What would Sgt. Rock do in this situation?”