by Doc Quantum, partially adapted from “Last Stand,” Superman v2 #14, by John Byrne
Hal Jordan and Valura Tur-Thol soared through what seemed like skies populated with ever-changing, vast geometric shapes on all sides of them. Their rings beckoned them forward. “Still with me, Valura?” asked the Green Lantern of Earth, who was currently dressed as a Darkstar, as one whose light had gone out. His power ring glowed dimly green.
“Just about,” replied his Rokynian fellow traveler, frowning and darting her eyes around at the lightning-like bolts shooting through the ether. “This dimension-hopping is a bit exhausting, especially since I never really had a chance to be recharged by Oa’s sun before we left. That kryptonite-tipped arrow I was exposed to back on Oa really did a number on me.”
“Yes, well, even the Green Lantern Corps doesn’t exactly run scheduled flights through places like this,” Hal joked. “At least our power rings seem to have gained some energy, though they’re not fully powered-up by any means. The last time I entered the Central Power Battery was when General Fabrikant and his Weaponers of Qward were attempting to use the power of the Guardians for their own benefit, though that time I hadn’t exactly entered it by choice. At that time, the Battery’s large field canceled out my power ring’s smaller one, leaving me without the power to escape it.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Battleground: Oa,” Green Lantern v2 #127 (April, 1980).]
“Speaking of our power rings, how are they working now without our having charged them up?” asked Valura.
“Once we passed into the Central Power Battery, thanks to this little device,” Hal said, holding up a small electronic device of alien origin the size of an electric shaver, “it wasn’t difficult to tap into the energy of the Battery itself. After all, the nullifying field preventing our power batteries from working outside it doesn’t apply inside it. Our power rings aren’t actually charged up, but they are able to ride along the energy current between the Central Power Battery and the Guardians of the Universe themselves. Consequently, we’re able to use a limited amount of that energy to travel through these dimensions towards the Guardians’ dimension.”
“I hope your power ring isn’t as screwed up by this inter-dimensional space as my own super-senses are,” Valura said, attempting to make sense of the geometrical fields around them, which were constantly changing.
“No,” Hal Jordan replied, “according to my ring, we’re going the right way, all right. Although, technically, the right way didn’t exist until we got here.”
“How’s that again?” asked the Rokynian Green Lantern.
“It’s kind of like some schools of quantum theory, Valura,” said Hal. “There, it’s maintained that, at least at the subatomic level, measurement defines the object measured.”
“Yes, yes, I’ve studied a similar theory on Rokyn,” said Valura. “It’s almost as if, say, a red crystal wasn’t red until we observed it for ourselves.”
“Right,” Hal Jordan said. “Well, this area around us is much the same. It’s the visual analog of the old Earth saw about a tree falling the forest. It only exists because we’re here to see it.”
“I’m just going to have to accept your word on that one, Darkstar,” Valura said after a moment. “Even trying to think it through makes my head hurt. And I come from New Vathlo Island, renowned for its science.”
“I don’t doubt. I’ve had to buy into a lot of things that it didn’t pay to think about in the years since Abin Sur gave me this ring and uniform. Now heads up, Green Lantern,” Hal said as the two approached what looked to their eyes like a sphere consisting of several smaller spheres, which each contained smaller spheres within spheres an infinite number of times. “That looks like the first barrier up ahead.”
“Darkstar, what are these things?” Valura asked, seeing only several strange-looking, multi-edged, sphere-like shapes of various colors and sizes hovering in the darkness.
“They look like anti-energy cells,” Hal replied. “One sure way to find out. If they are, they’ll be antagonistic to anything that touches ’em. Especially the green plasma from my power rin–“
A tremendous, though soundless, blast rocked them suddenly, though the two were protected by an energy bubble erected almost unconsciously. “Great Rao!” Valura shouted after the waves of force subsided. “That blast was–“
“About three hundred megatons, Green Lantern,” he replied. “If it had happened while we were closer, even our power rings’ automatic defense screens might have been hard pressed to stop it atomizing us.”
“And this is the first barrier, you think?”
“I think it’s a safe bet there’ll be others. C’mon, Valura. And be careful! Even your Kryptonian invulnerability won’t be much use until we’re on the other side!”
Valura Tur-Thol lagged behind the original Green Lantern of Earth for a while as she realized how much she had to learn about being a Green Lantern herself. Hal Jordan had so much experience and skill with his power ring, while she found herself relying more on her fledgling Kryptonian powers than her ring of late. The Green Lantern Corps had been battling evil all across the universe for millions of years, and this human being from Earth was one of the greatest of their number. It was all a bit unnerving. She knew that even Hal Jordan must have been a rookie like she was at one time, but it was hard to imagine that from what she’d seen of him so far. Even with a low amount of power available, he was able to implement it to its maximum potential. And now, with any luck, she would be meeting the Guardians of the Universe themselves face-to-face.
The Rokynian realized that Hal Jordan had pulled far ahead of her while she was lost in her thoughts and decided to catch up with him before she lost sight of him. Speaking of sight, that gave her an idea. She concentrated her x-ray vision on one of the globes and found it to be rather simplistic in nature. Thus, she decided to test her heat-vision on one, and as she did so, it split evenly in two pieces. She smiled and raced up to meet her Darkstar companion.
“Darkstar! Stick close by me — I’ll get us through this barrier, pronto!” Valura shouted, training her heat-vision on each of the globes in their path.
“Outstanding, Valura!” Hal exclaimed. “We’re almost through!”
“What next, Darkstar?” asked Valura.
“You can probably see it better than I can with your telescopic vision,” said Hal Jordan, “but that ahead looks like the platform the Guardians of the Universe built for themselves and the Zamarons. Sort of their… honeymoon hotel.” He chuckled to himself, realizing the young Rokynian probably wouldn’t get the joke.
“It’s absolutely huge!” she replied as the two soared over the large, scientifically advanced platform that seemed to sit in space in the middle of nowhere. Huge walls surrounded it, while a mild force-field seemed to support a biosphere with various forms of plant life. “And very impressive. Any sign of our erstwhile employers?“
“No,” Hal said after a moment. “Let’s set down and take a look around.” They landed upon the grass-like turf on the surface and walked amidst huge, mushroom-like plants for several moments.
“I think I see something,” Valura said after a while. “It’s over there.”
They arrived underneath a particularly large mushroom and bent over to see what looked like clothing. “Zamaron armor!” Hal said as he picked up a distinctively styled helmet. “And the robes of the Guardians!”
“This whole field is littered with pieces of Zamaron armor and Guardian robes,” said Valura as she looked around.
“But no sign of them,” Hal said, puzzled.
“What do you think happened to them?”
“I’m not sure. Their clothes are completely intact, but there’s no sign of their bodies anywhere. If they’d been attacked, we’d have seen signs of that.”
“Do you think… maybe they’re hiding?” asked Valura.
“Well, that doesn’t really make sense,” Hal replied. “They’re among the most powerful beings in the universe.”
“Yes… living power batteries,” Valura agreed.
“Hold it!” Hal said suddenly, stopping in his tracks. “That may be the solution to our problems!” He stood in the field and held his arms out, attempting to concentrate his thoughts to mentally project them outward. Guardians! This is Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Earth. I know you should be able to sense my thoughts. If you are near, please respond!
Valura watched him with puzzlement but waited for something to happen. She was startled when a voice sounded in her mind as in Hal’s, “We… hear you… Green Lantern of Earth.”
“Great… ah… Scott!” Hal exclaimed as he and the young Rokynian were startled to see a brilliant light suddenly began to emanate just above them. They could see twenty-two Guardians and twenty-two Zamarons hovering in circular formations, slowly spinning in circles. They were completely unclothed, but their skin seemed to be made of light itself.
“What… are you doing here?” the minds of the Guardians said slowly and evenly. “Why have you… disturbed us at this time? Even the effort of communicating with you now drains us… of precious energy…”
“They were here all along! Invisible and intangible!” exclaimed Valura.
Hal Jordan finally spoke. “Guardians… Guardians of the Universe, we need your help — now, more than ever before…”
In orbit around Oa, Kilowog watched the screen almost in disbelief as the Controller spoke. “Are you getting this?” the Green Lantern on the surface who was filming the Controller’s speech whispered through the communications system.
“Yep,” said Kilowog. “It’s comin’ through loud an’ clear. Sure wish I could see the looks on the Dominators’ or the Gordanians’ pug-ugly faces when they realize they’ve been duped.”
A beacon set on the communications channel of the Alliance, which they knew from the captured ships on the surface, broadcast the speech of the Controller to all Alien Alliance ships within range, with orders to relay that transmission further on.
Two Dominators viewed the speech of the Controller on the organic screens grown and encouraged into the shapes they were. What might have been an angry glance passed between the two medium-caste aliens as they understood fully the implications of what they were seeing. They began to resolve their next actions in light of this and the destruction of the Warworld.
The Khunds were angry. If it was one thing they hated most, it was being manipulated — especially by a group of Controllers who would have taken away everything they fought for once their empire had been enlarged. The speech was seen on every Alliance communication system from Earth to Angor and beyond and it was beginning to have its desired effect. The Alien Alliance was breaking up.
Back on Earth, GNN anchorwoman Miriam Hennessy spoke into the camera.
“All over the world, the Alien Alliance ships and bases, now cut off from their commanders who had been stationed at Warworld, are being attacked by both the heroes who had remained on Earth as well as every country’s military and populace. The Gordanians, Khunds, and other shock-troops stationed there are suffering from complete loss of morale due to the apparent destruction of the Warworld, while the human population of Earth seems to be united together in one cause for the very first time as they fight against the remaining alien invasion forces. The situation seems to be a shaky one, though, as the aliens still possess more firepower than Earth did. All that is certain is that things could go either way at this point.
“We’re also receiving reports that a transmission from the distant planet Oa has revealed the powers behind this invasion of Earth and apparently of several other planets in this galaxy as well. Captured Armada ships have been receiving a broadcast sent through unknown means to all Alliance ships. This broadcast seems to reveal that a group of allegedly near-omnipotent aliens calling themselves the Controllers are the ones who had manipulated the creation of the Alien Alliance in order to gain control over first this galaxy and then the entire universe itself. As many of our viewers may know, the Green Lantern Corps’ headquarters is on the planet Oa, and that galaxy-spanning police organization was until recent years run by the self-styled Guardians of the Universe, who also supplied the awesome power of the Green Lanterns’ rings. Apparently, the Controllers are a splinter group of Oans closely related to the Guardians but who separated from them millions, perhaps even billions of years ago. As soon as we find a way to do so, this transmission from Oa will be broadcast here on GNN. Stay tuned.”