“Recall the subject,” said the Director. “I think he has stretched his personality enough for the time being.”
Battly nodded, gesturing to one of the technicians on duty. Long, spindly fingers flew across the holopads, and the signal went out across the subspace channels.
“Subject refuses the signal,” reported the aide quietly.
“He does, does he?” said the Director. “Dump his core system. We’ll see how much freedom he really has.”
“What about the ship?” asked Battly.
“Self-destruct,” said the Director, flicking imaginary lint off the sleeve of his immaculate jacket. “Mustn’t let the Terrans have any more advanced technology.”
“Yes, sir,” said Battly calmly, aware that the robotic body would destroy everything within miles of the epicenter of the blast. He watched as the ready lights snapped on.
Noleon Fae stood in one place, a conch shell of green placed firmly to one ear, listening intently to it. After another moment he dispersed the creation and placed a green visor over his eyes. He knew what was going on now. Could he beat it with his power ring?
A glittering effect lit up the forest around the Green Lantern, and energy beams cut the air a split second later just as Fae ducked forward, stepping away from the path of the blaster bolts. He ran from the trap, hiding behind a tree.
He paused, wondering how he was going to counter attack as yellow energy rained down on his position. A blaster bolt ripped the ground up in front of him, hurling Fae off of his feet, and he collided with a yellow tree in a bad slide.
Picking himself up on his knee, his saw his opponents among the yellow trees through his green visor, which pinpointed their positions.
Noleon Fae aimed his ring at the nearest mercenary as energy sliced through his temporary refuge. Generating a wave of gravity, he propelled the humanoid away in front of the wave. The mercenary hit a tree and fell to the ground.
Then a beam from the fighting force sliced into Fae.
Just outside Metropolis, the silver ship crashed to the ground beside the stunned Superman. He scanned it with his super-vision, realizing the robot had lost control for some reason. He could also see that the core of the thing was building up a charge.
Superman grabbed the starship by the edge of its saucer-like body, flying into the atmosphere with the robotic body over his head. His acute hearing was telling him he didn’t have long to act.
The Man of Steel hurled the flying saucer with wings with all of his titanic strength. The ship sailed beyond the Moon, accelerating without the friction of Earth’s air. He watched it until it flared into a momentary star bright enough to light up the sky in daylight.
Vril Dox had a series of revelations as he saw the energy pulses cut through the air, heading right at him. The first was he should have thought of making the building impenetrable to teleporters. The second was that at least the mastermind had finally tipped his hand enough to indicate that there was a mastermind. The third was, Did I wear my vest today?
The bolts hit his chest, shredding the jumpsuit’s top. Dox felt heat and pain as the vest he wore tried to convert the energy of the projectiles into harmless light. He fell to the floor as the vest worked to protect him with its limited capabilities.
The assassins approached him cautiously, weapons at the ready. One took the time to aim at his head to make sure that the next bolt would finish the job. Then they could collect their pay and move on to the next job.
Dox flinched at the whining charge as he prepared to move. He could hear Garryn Bek complain loudly at his performance so far in the back of his mind.
Noleon Fae lay still under the yellow branches of a nearby tree. His long coat and green shirt underneath were torn by the energy that had sliced into him. The hunters approached cautiously, weapons at the ready.
Everyone knew Green Lanterns were vulnerable to yellow. That’s why they had rigged the ambush on a predominately yellow planet, wore yellow armor, and used weapons that fired yellow energy or yellow projectiles. So no one thought twice about approaching the fallen Lantern to collect some kind of proof that he had been killed.
Green tentacles erupted from Fae’s power ring, plunging into the eye and mouth holes of the armor in a furious display of speed. The armor burst apart as the tentacles swelled in diameter. Suddenly naked and unarmed, the assassins were easily flung about in the grip of the prehensile limbs.
Noleon Fae got to his feet, feeling the fresh scar on his chest with a fingertip. “Anybody want to talk voluntarily?” he asked.
Vril Dox rolled to the left, watching the floor glow and throw fiery sparks in the air as his enemies’ weapons discharged where he should have been. He pulled a sonic driver from his belt, thumbing the beam wide open. The mercenaries began to shake, caught in the vibrating field extended by the tool.
The president of Colu got to his feet just as weapons fired wildly. He plunged into an empty office as scorched air drifted to his nostrils. Dox locked the door behind him to gain precious seconds. He examined the office closely, looking for a weapon.
Settling on the com screen, Dox went to work with the sonic driver. He only had to hold out until Garryn Bek noticed he was gone and investigated. An old smile broke across his face; he hadn’t had this much excitement since the Glorious Revolution years earlier when he and his resistance fighters had crushed the rule of the Computer Tyrants.
“Mongul, Mongul, Mongul,” said the Director, shaking his head as he spoke. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Let me out of this box, you popinjay!” said the angry mechanical reply. “I was winning for once.”
“Shut up,” said the xenomorph coldly. “I own you, pad, works, and cover. When I say kill, you kill. When I say heel, you heel. One push of the button, and you’re deleted forever, and I will get someone else to fill your shoes. You may have done some grandiose things in the past, but you’re my servant now. Get used to it. One more act of disobedience, and out you go.”
“You can’t talk to me like that,” said the disembodied conqueror. “I am the greatest ruler alive.”
“You’re nothing but a tin box that can be shut off at any time I wish.”
The Director made a gesture at Battly. The aide disabled the connections to the artificial brain’s senses with a button push. They waited five minutes before turning the robot back on.
“Next time,” said the Director. “It’s for good. Understood?”
“Understood,” said the machine sullenly. But I will pay you back for this indignity, it thought silently.
The pirates burst into the closed office, shattering the door with energy bolts. A com screen came to life in a show of static. They paused as the rapidly moving colors repeatedly played over their eyes hypnotically.
One of the armored men collapsed in a fit of despair. He dropped his rifle, sobbing at a wasted life. Those in front slowly followed, crying like children. Those who hadn’t seen the screen yet quickly backed away from the strange events. The telltale signs of a teleporter glittering in midair were the only signs that the men had been recalled.
Vril Dox slipped past his assailants as guards ran into view. Warning the security detail about the hypnotic screen, he went to survey the damage, waving off concerns for his safety. He realized absently that he had broken a sweat in the fight. Wiping the blood from his face, President Dox walked back to the congressional chambers. Questions had been raised that needed some kind of inquiry to answer.
Noleon Fae flew to Colu as fast as his power ring could carry him on the back of a winged, glowing green lizard. Slipping past the defensive screens without thought, he quietly passed through the silver-colored presidential building. There he saw that he was too late to help the Coluan president, but thankfully Vril Dox was unharmed, and his security forces had everything in hand.
The Green Lantern shared what information he had, and he helped plan a raid of the meeting place with Coluan troops. Both of the targeted men knew that their enemy had struck at them but had left himself impervious to detection. They could only wait for developments while the hidden mastermind conducted his operations seemingly with impunity.
The Director looked up as Battly entered the office. He waited patiently, already knowing what his aide would say. The look on the man’s face said it all.
“The assault squads failed,” said Battly. “The meeting place is being gone over by Coluan forensics teams. So far, they have found nothing to trace back to us.”
“Keep me informed, Battly,” said the Director. “A man as relentless as Vril Dox will not be put off by a simple assassination attempt. We may have to plan another attempt in the next few months. Until then we wait and watch until the investigation gets colder.”
“Yes, sir,” said the aide, turning and leaving.