Back on Rann, Alexander Luthor, Lady Shrike, and Ranjar Ro labored endlessly to finish a weird device of Luthor’s creation.
“This atmospheric manipulator will allow us to turn the tide and free Rann from the tyrant, if my calculations are correct,” Luthor said.
Ranjar Ro chattered joyfully and said, “You are wonderful! My own efforts were far from such a marvel. I could never have envisioned such a machine.”
Lady Shrike shook her head wearily. She had been working as hard as the others, but she had little confidence in Luthor’s mysterious claims. He is mad, she thought. He may have been able to match the Syndicate on Earth, but I fear the old man has snapped since our imprisonment here. Aloud she said, “I need a break. I want to get a bit of air.”
“Don’t go far,” warned Luthor. “We can’t risk being seen by Strange’s agents.”
She rolled her eyes and said, “Yes, master,” then slammed the door as she left.
Ranjar Ro whispered to Luthor, “Can we trust her? She’s evil, and she is passionate.”
Luthor stared at the door and said, “I think I can count on her.”
As he continued to labor in the hidden lab, Luthor failed to see the shapely Thangarian raise a weapon from her hip and fire it into the air before returning to the lab below.
That flare I cobbled together was crude, but it should attract Strange and his troops, she thought. I’ll turn Luthor and the bug-man over to them, and perhaps Strange will at least allow me to use his own teleportation ray to get home. I can’t play rebel with Luthor any longer. He can’t defeat a man who took over an entire world on his own. “Alec Strange is more than a match for Alex Luthor, and Shayera plays to win,” she vowed.
She entered the lab and returned to work as Ranjar Ro and Luthor nodded in greeting while they continued to adjust the weird machine. But before too long, the sound of footsteps alerted them to the approach of newcomers.
“By Rann’s twin moons — the guards are here!” cried Ranjar Ro.
Luthor said, “We’ve been discovered — no, we’ve been betrayed!”
As the door shattered and four guards entered along with the red-and-white-clad form of Alec Strange, the tyrant of Rann, Luthor flipped a switch.
“That curious signal brought us here in time to prevent you from plotting against me,” said Strange. “I don’t really care about why you turned on each other, but I welcome the chance to punish you for your temerity in trying to oppose my will.”
Lady Shrike said, “I alerted you. I want to help you in exchange for my freedom.”
“I’ll make a deal with you later,” said Strange. “Now, at last I have found Sardarth’s little friend — Ranjar Ro. You’ve been a thorn in my side for too long. You brought these aliens here in an effort to duplicate your old master’s ray.”
“No!” cried Ranjar Ro. “Sardarth sought to kill and destroy but brought about a worse fate for Rann when his ray brought you here instead. I only sought to free Rann by using a ray to bring us a hero.”
Strange was handsome and confident as he paced over to Luthor and said, “This old relic? I think you made a bad choice. Are you a hero, old man? Are you a champion?” he said in a mocking tone.
Luthor calmly replied, “That device I activated moments ago is designed to absorb a precise type of energy. The energy it is set to absorb is called zeta energy. That is the type that your cells have been saturated with since you first came here. I knew Lady Shrike would betray us, and I even baited her into doing so by playing on her fierce pride. She lured you here just as I wanted her to do all along. I would say you’ve been in proximity to the absorbing device long enough for it to rob you of the energy that allowed you to stay here. You’re heading for Earth, ex-tyrant of Rann!”
Alec Strange gasped in amazement as he quickly faded from view. “I’ll see you pay for this!” he cried as he was torn from Rann and taken back to Earth.
“You?” shouted Lady Shrike. “You set me up! I can’t believe it!”
“Look at the bright side,” said Luthor, “we’ve liberated Rann.”
One of the guards said, “Alec Strange is gone, but we’ll still kill you all!”
“That is unlikely,” said Luthor. “My machine was designed to do far more than drain zeta beams. As I told Lady Shrike all along, it was also made to manipulate the powerful storms of this world in such a way as to allow me to control the weather. Your fellow troopers just lost their base to a potent lightning discharge of my creation.”
He gestured to Ranjar Ro, who said, “It is so! Put down your weapons, or he will use the power of Rann’s violent atmosphere storms to destroy your whole squadron and this lab!”
Luthor said, “I will do so if I must. A world’s freedom means more than a few lives.”
Lady Shrike said in astonishment, “You have more backbone than I ever knew!”
The guards dropped their weapons as thunder boomed directly overhead. “We cannot fight our world’s very weather,” said one trooper.
“Ranjar Ro, you can handle the rest of the liberation,” said Luthor. “Your allies in the rebellion should be in place to capture the rest of the guards. I’d say you can soon turn Rann back into the paradise it was before a misguided scientist and a clever rogue from my world turned it into such a land of violence and death.”
The little insect man said, “Indeed! As long as we may control the weather, no one can oppose us. We will hold elections once more, and my allies in hiding may re-form our old science council. You have saved a world, my friend!”
“You can’t leave me here!” cried Lady Shrike. “Luthor, please — take me with you!”
“You assumed correctly that Ranjar Ro was going to send me home,” said Luthor. “He and I are certain it can be done. We merely bluffed before in order to force you to help us. You deserve nothing from me, but in your way you helped us, so I will send you home as well.”
Ranjar Ro activated the transportation ray, and energy crackled around them. The little alien man failed to noticed how the mixture of the potent teleportation energies and the weather manipulation rays had created a slight surge in power. As Luthor and Lady Shrike vanished from Rann and Ranjar Ro shouted his appreciation and his pleasure in what they had done, a vaguely humanoid nimbus of energy followed them.
Luthor and Lady Shrike found themselves back on Earth, and the scientist said, “We are home! Now, I suggest you leave this world. You may be wanted on Thanagar for your past crimes, but I’m willing to allow you to leave here.”
“I will leave, but I will not forget how you used me,” said Lady Shrike. “You have earned my hatred.”
Luthor shrugged. “It isn’t a burden that I’m unwilling to carry. No doubt Alec Strange hates me, too. He is somewhere on Earth now as well. I adjusted the precise controls enough to have him arrive far from here. I hope his ruthless ambition won’t lead him to seek to gain revenge upon me or to return to Rann, but I fear anything is possible with such a man.” Lady Shrike flew off, leaving Luthor to walk alone across a large field.
“I can see a town below us,” he said happily. “It will be good to be home again. Lois and Lena will be happy to see me alive and well.”
As Luthor crossed the field, he was followed by the nimbus of faintly flickering energies that had followed him from Rann. This odd being would pose a new challenge to him in days to come, but that would be another tale.
Back in the Salem tower, Doctor Chaos and the Dark Stranger decided to act swiftly.
“We can best Illumino by turning your friends back to the evil rogues they were before his power made them good,” explained the Dark Stranger. “He dwells upon the sunny side of the moon, and his white diamonds can make any being turn to the light. He found Owlman and the rest there when they were left on the moon by this Dr. Atlanta. He used his transforming power to illuminate their dark souls and force them to serve the cause of law and order. A concentrated burst of darkness will make them evil again. That is why Sundown was able to momentarily stun them with his own darkness-casting gifts.”
Doctor Chaos said, “And what of him? Can we defeat Illumino himself?”
The Dark Stranger shook his head. “No, curse him! He is a force of nature. I cannot rid the world of his power, nor can he destroy my own might. We must just balance one another. He will not leave his moon home. He acts only through pawns. If we free the Crime Syndicate, then he will merely wait in his base above and act again in some more subtle manner in a future time. Still, having regained such agents of evil will be a victory for us.”
They used their dark magics to take them across the country to where the Crime Syndicate members had assembled at STAR Labs. The beaten villains had been bound by the illuminated members and were all in a tight circle.
“Look!” said Owlman. “Doctor Chaos is here, and he’s brought a friend.”
The man in black said, “I am not a friend. Say rather that I am a Stranger.”
Power Ring flew closer as the two wizards chanted, and energy surged out of their hands directly into Sundown’s bound form. Darkness exploded across the room, and in seconds it was over.
“The Dark Stranger is gone,” said Doctor Chaos. “The sheer energy required to best Illimino robbed him of all material form. He will re-form eventually. What of all of you?”
“I’m myself again,” said Ultraman. “You’ve freed us! Now let’s go pound that do-gooder on the moon!”
Doctor Chaos warned, “No! He is no threat to us if we avoid his base. Rather, let us regroup and prepare for the next time we face the Monster Society of Good or Luthor’s Secret Society of Super-Heroes, for he is alive and has already returned to Earth.”
“I suggest we depart,” said Owlman. “We’ll need time to adjust, and we have much to do.”
Power Ring shook his head. “If he’s alive, then I bet that witch Lady Shrike is, too. I’ll wring her neck when next we meet.”
They departed the ruins of STAR Labs, and the world was darker was more.