Colonel Rick Flag, head of Task Force X and Director of the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency, whistled as he filed another folder.
“Captain Boomerang never makes life any easier for me, but at least that Over-Throws case concluded successfully,” he mused. “Green Arrow is a smart man. I didn’t like deceiving him.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Brave and the Bold: Green Arrow and Captain Boomerang: Thrown for a Loss.]
A pretty blonde adjusted his desk papers and added some flowers. “Rick, don’t brood so. You know without you this bureau could end up a tool for the ruthless and uncaring. You are the Suicide Squad’s heart and soul!” Karin Grace gave him a kiss.
“Miss Grace, you live up to your name very well,” said Flag.
At that moment, the office walls shattered as a blazing figure burst inside. He wore purple and red and scowled as he saw Karin.
“You!” he roared. “You are the one who used my star-band! You are the one who defiled my very essence! Now I have returned, and you shall pay!” He melted the desk, even as Flag tackled Karin and hurled her to safety.
“Anyone who wants her has to go through me first!” said Rick Flag, standing his ground.
“Fine, Earth-man,” said the man called Evil Star.
Floating closer to Flag, Evil Star casually slapped him across the room, then turned to Karin as she lay huddled on the carpet. With a smile, he spread his arms and drained energy from the woman as she gazed up at him with a look of shock.
“I have reclaimed all residual energy that was left within you from your abuse of my star-band,” he explained. “Now I shall reclaim the band itself. Consider yourself fortunate that my journey here to this benighted era without its vital energies has left me too weakened to punish you as I would wish!” He flew off toward the ocean where he sensed his lost power could be regained.
Flag moaned and rushed to Karin’s side. “Did that creep hurt you?”
She shook her head. “No! But why did he speak of this era, as if he was from the future? He fought Green Lantern before, right? I mean that’s what I learned from Captain Comet.”
Flag helped her to her feet. “True enough. I’d say that, since you found the star-band in the far future during our time-trip with Rip Hunter, this Evil Star is the future version. (*) The one from our time — from the here and now — must still be out there somewhere.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: The Return of Supergirl, Chapter 1: Crisis Revisited.]
He picked up the phone and made a quick call. “Green Lantern? This is Rick Flag. I need your help.”
On the other end of the line, Hal Jordan answered and listened, then raced out of the Green Lantern Citadel and flew toward the ocean.
Great Guardians! he mused. If Evil Star’s future self has absorbed so much energy that he can subsist without the star-band, then I’m in for a real fight once he gets it back!
He used his ring to trace the particular energy pattern of the star-band and soon arrived over the shores of a small isle. The trail leads here, he mused. Too bad I’m on business. It would be a nice spot for a vacation, he thought with a smile.
Then the Shark erupted out of the waters, smiling hungrily. “You are strong and brave! You resist my efforts to create panic within your mortal heart! I shall kill you slowly for that insult!”
Green Lantern frowned and created a protective barrier between them. Great! he thought. Another sequel to Jaws. Just what I needed.
He knew his old foe could read his mind and project fear, but he was surprised to see the Shark raise his arm and blast his shield to bits with concentrated stellar energy. “This is a new twist! He’s wearing the star-band!” gasped Green Lantern as he deflected an energy blast.
“Listen, jabber-jaws, I’m ending this now,” shouted Green Lantern. “You usually run me ragged with your hunter-and-prey game before I clock you. Well, this time I’m just going to cut off your power and devolve you back to a mindless shark!” He concentrated, and his mighty will empowered the ring, which bathed over the Shark in concentric circles.
“You are strong, but my star-spawned might is ageless!” chuckled the Shark.
Aquaman and Starman arrived, and Starman said, “G.L., be careful! He’s not alone!”
The Shark’s versions of the Starlings burst out of the waters to pummel Green Lantern and break his concentration. As he defended himself against the multitude of little scavengers, Green Lantern said, “Aquaman and Starman, I see Shark, here, has been up to his usual bad actions!”
“True enough,” said Aquaman, grinning. “He nearly ate a neighbor of mine, and the fellow blames me for it! Starman’s been helping me track him by that band he’s using.”
Aquaman concentrated, and the Sharklings, as he thought of the shark-like Starlings, dispersed. “I can hold them off, but he’s evolved beyond my control due to the band!” he said as he waved away the little creatures.
“I can cut off his connection to the band, if you can devolve him,” said Starman, straining to cut off Shark’s connection to the stellar energy. He did not try to absorb it, for that had proven to be futile; he merely linked his stellar energy to the star-band long enough to bar the Shark’s probing mind from contact with it.
“Nice work, Starman! Let me lend a helping hand!” said Green Lantern as he blasted the now-powerless Shark with his energy. “You are now a normal shark with no memory of this day,” he said, strain showing on his masked features. The shark, deprived of its power and its mind, returned to normal and swam off.
Aquaman held the star-band. “Thank goodness. Now to dispose of this thing. G.L., can you take it to space?”
Starman gasped as he relaxed. “Man, that creature was pure evil. I could barely stand to have even that slight contact with its mind!”
Aquaman nodded. “He is not so much an evil being as merely a ruthless and predatory creature.”
Green Lantern shook his head. “I’d say you’re being a bit charitable. The star-band corrupts all who use it. If he was merely following his nature before, he was truly evil this time!”
“Guys, I sense more energy!” cried Starman. “Not from the band, but–“
Evil Star then appeared and laughed coldly. “Young man, you have something that belongs to me!” he said. “I’ll take it now!”
Aquaman frowned and said, “I can’t let you have it. I think I’ll just keep it.” He disappeared in the waters as Evil Star floated closer.
“When I kill him and restore my power,” said the villain, glancing at Green Lantern, “I shall gladly return to end your life, old foe!” He started to part the waters when Starman slugged him with all his power.
“Hold it! I’m tired of you stellar tyrants jerking me around,” Starman said as he gripped Evil Star’s arm. “I’m not going to let you kill anybody!”
“Careful, Starman. He’s deadly,” said Green Lantern.
“Not to me,” said Will Payton. “I can just cut him off from the source of his power. He must be running low, anyway, without direct contact with the band.”
Evil Star forced him backward and said, “Foolish youth! I am now one with the star-band. I have no mortal form any longer. The star-band and I are one and the same. I lost all human awareness or material form ages ago! For all practical purposes, the star-band is my body.” He began to drain Starman’s own power as Green Lantern tried to part them.
Meanwhile, Aquaman was swimming at top speed. Got to get some distance between that alien and the band, he thought, frowning as his keen mind reached out to the aquatic life around him.
Suffering Shad! This star-band responds to me! mused the sea king. It’s alive. It’s sentient. Don’t know if it was always an alien life form mistaken for a weapon, or if it somehow gained awareness over the eons, but it has a mind and will of its own!
Above, Green Lantern created a smothering wrap around the Evil Star as Starman fell to the waters.
“Thanks, Green Lantern,” said Starman. “That will teach me to get cocky. He truly is one with the stellar energy.”
“I’m going to try to get him into space,” said Green Lantern. “Maybe if we create a huge distance between him and the band, he’ll weaken!”
A yellow blast then broke open the wrap, stunning Green Lantern.
“I can generate energy in any color,” laughed the Evil Star. “Yellow can rob you of all power!”
“I’ve no choice but to try again to absorb you,” said Starman, “even if you kill me with your poison!”
Below, Aquaman thought, I think Hal once said Evil Star was a man who made the band as a weapon before it more or less took him over. I wonder if it was a living thing that infused itself in his device all along or merely gained sentience as its host lost his own humanity over the eons?
No matter! If it has a mind, then I can fight it! he vowed, and he focused his strong willpower against the band itself. Waves of telepathic power, empathic energy, and emotion itself flooded the device.
Above the waves, Starman absorbed the stellar being’s energy as it burned even his inhuman body. Killing me, but can’t stop! thought Will Payton as he gritted his teeth with effort.
Green Lantern saw it all and struggled to his feet. “No one dies while I still breathe!” he vowed. The greatest of the Green Lanterns had forged a legend, not only for courage and will, but for resourcefulness as well. Thus when he saw Evil Star waver and weaken from the combined assault on its mind and body by Starman and Aquaman, he took action. His power ring flashed, and Evil Star was gone.
Starman gasped in pain. “What happened? I tried to hold him.”
Green Lantern put an arm around the young hero’s shoulders. “You did great! You bought me the time to try something different. I warped him through space to a site of failure — a site where an entire universe was drained of all life by a bizarre alien being. The very suns and stars had been devoured. Thus, there was or is no starlight there at all to sustain Evil Star. Cut off from his band, which may be all the material form he now can claim, he should be helpless!”
Aquaman emerged from below and told them, “I reached his mind even as you won. He was actually thankful. Some tiny part of the man he once was felt thanks at being freed at last from the enslavement of the band.”
“What of the star-band?” asked Will.
“I’m taking it to Maltus,” said Green Lantern. “It should be safe there. After all, the Evil Star of this era is a physical being and still possesses his own star-band somewhere. We sure don’t want him to gain two, if that’s even possible.” He turned to his Justice League ally. “Aquaman, good to see you again. Starman, thanks for the help. You’re OK in my book — G.L. material, in fact!” he said with a wink.
Starman beamed, naturally rather than from his powers.
“He’s right, son,” agreed Aquaman. “You make a worthy ally — smart, brave, powerful, and, perhaps most of all, caring.”
Starman smiled and said, “Thank you. Funny you should say caring. I have a sister who may have other ideas about me. I left her in a town that makes Mayberry look like Metropolis!”
Saying his goodbyes, he flew off to retrieve Jayne Payton, and Aquaman departed to try to settle the troubles with Iquila’s city of Tritonis.