by Doc Quantum
Hal Jordan was a man without fear, entirely without fear, the perfect heir of Abin Sur’s legacy. Yet, as the three figures took shape before them as if a shimmering veil had been lifted from amidst the darkness, he fully realized how nearly futile their efforts were against such powers.
The Controllers — the cousins of the Guardians of the Universe themselves, immortal beings who had never given up their power in order to lend mortals strength enough to fight evil in the universe. They had instead used their power carefully up until now like a razor-sharp knife, slicing the tumors of evil throughout the universe to prevent contamination. They had never attempted anything like this before. And the Guardians of the Universe would never have allowed it.
But the Guardians were gone.
The three shimmering beings towered many feet above them. Although they possessed physical forms, they also had complete control over their very souls, and although these Controllers were not actually present on Oa, their energy doubles served them just as well or better than their physical bodies.
“Step away from the Battery,” one of the Controllers said dispassionately, the jewel above its blank eyes flaring slightly. He spread out one arm and motioned it outward, causing the whole group around the Central Power Battery to be blown backward by an invisible force. A motioning of the other arm pushed them back still farther.
“What are these things, Hal?” asked Green Arrow.
“You don’t want to know, Ollie,” the Green Lantern of sector 2814 replied. “Imagine the worst threat we could face today, and then times that by a hundred, and you might have some idea of what we’re facing.”
“We’re in deep $#!^!” said Guy Gardner, his bravado cracking slightly.
The group awaited the Controllers’ next move, but none came. Instead, they heard a cacophony of shouts and cracks as the war for Oa began to rage. And it was moving ever closer.
The New God called Lightray after his wondrous powers soared in the skies over Oa. His mission was to illuminate the surface for the troops as they fought against these mysterious eyeless beings called shadow creatures, for want of a better term, though they were most definitely composed of physical matter. Lightray had himself almost been attacked a couple of times, as some of the beings were airborne via devices more akin to complicated clockwork than the common antigravity generators he was familiar with on New Genesis.
Below him, the scene was of all-out warfare, as small groups of Green Lanterns and Darkstars alike fought packs of the shadow creatures, all of them using non-electrical devices, some more primitive than others. It looked from his vantage point like a furious group of ants had been disturbed by someone’s footprint. It was utter chaos — guerrilla warfare at its worst. Already the slain from both sides littered the battlefield. Still, Lightray knew his current role was too important for him to stop and intervene, for by doing so he would leave the majority of troops in utter and complete darkness.
Still, he was able to make a difference every once in a while in a way more than just being a flare in the constant night.
Two spindly looking Darkstars directly below him had dug themselves into a trench and were surrounded on both sides. They had their backs to each other and were firing automatic-loading guns from both directions as the shadow creatures made futile attempts to get close enough to fire their own weapons at the two.
Lightray saw one shadow creature crawl along the ground as if in concert with the others who were attacking, carrying a canister of some kind. As he was about to toss it into the trench, unseen by the two Darkstars, Lightray directed a laser-intense beam of heat at the canister, causing it to burst open. A gas sprayed outward into what passed for the shadow creature’s face before it could get away, and it fled off in pain, only to be caught by another group of Darkstars who captured it.
“Well, that’s interesting,” he noted to himself as he observed the other shadow creatures as they stopped firing, shuddered, and attempted to cover what seemed to be their ears. Although neither Lightray nor the Darkstars below had heard anything, it was apparent that the gassed shadow creature had screamed in pain in a way only others of his kind could hear. He smiled as he thought it out for himself and wondered if Metron could have done any better. “No,” he chuckled to himself.
He peered his eyes back down toward the battlefield and shot down a few more laser-intense bursts of heat at various other targets. Perhaps he could play more of an active role without abandoning his first mission after all.
“You hear that?” G’nort said as he and Salaak stopped firing out of the trench they were in.
“Hear what? You mean the gunshots we were just firing?” Salaak replied, rolling his eyes in his own Slyggian way.
“Shh! Shh!” G’nort said, his furry ears perking up as he turned around. “Now! Can ya hear it?”
“I can’t hear anything except the sounds of battle, you nitwit,” said Salaak.
“I hear a bunch’a sounds, like whistling, only more… com-plu-cat-ed-like.”
Salaak frowned (his favorite expression) and paused to consider G’nort’s words. They had just seen a burst of light off to their side and a loud crack, followed by a distinct acrid smell at which G’nort rolled up his nose. Then the attacking shadow creatures had stopped firing upon them for a few moments. Now this. Perhaps there was more to his words than Salaak was prone to believe.
“G’nort — are you saying you can hear some kind of… ultrasonic frequency being broadcast?”
“I dunno about that, but it’s a real high-pitched-like whistling, like my Grandpappy used ta whistle when it was time for chow back home!” G’nort replied.
“That’s basically what I said,” Salaak mumbled, frustrated with this dog-man and glad to be by his side at the same time.
“Think it’s time ta take a peek over the edge?” G’nort asked a moment later.
“I suppose it couldn’t hurt.”
The two slowly looked up both sides of the trench at once, only to find that the shadow creatures that had been firing on them had already left. Salaak looked off to one side and saw the dark creatures running away from them. “Now where are they going like that?” he wondered to himself, not noticing as one of the shadow creatures ran up from behind him and knocked him on the head with a sword-like weapon, but barely missed hitting Salaak’s head with the sharp edge of the weapon, instead unintentionally hitting him with the flat of the blade. The tall Darkstar was knocked down, but he was able to pull himself back up on all six limbs and check his head. No apparent injury was sustained.
G’nort was already out of the trench and pursuing them on all fours, reverting to his primitive ancestry as anger finally got to him. “Come back here, ya furless flea-breeders!” he growled. “You can’t hurt my buddy like that!”
“G’nort! Where in the cosmos are you going?” Salaak shouted, running after him, “I’m all right!” At the same time he noticed that other shadow creatures seemed to be mobilizing in what seemed to be silence. They just seemed to know where to go and what to do. “They’ve got to be communicating through some kind of sonar,” the Slyggian reasoned to himself. “It’s the only explanation.”
G’nort Esplanade G’neeshmacher of the planet G’newt ran quickly up to a straggling shadow creature and tackled it by one of its legs with his teeth and proceeded to force it to the ground, injured. He then went on to the next one he found and proceeded to do the same, constantly growling obscure G’newtian swearwords as he did so. Salaak watched all this in amazement under the illumination provided by Lightray above and secured each shadow creature, allowing them to be captured as prisoners of war rather than rejoin their comrades-in-arms.
“Amazing,” he muttered to himself as G’nort did his work. From what he had seen of this most silliest of so-called Green Lanterns, he would never have expected such efficiency. It just went to show him that desperate situations often brought out unseen qualities in some.
The young Imskian Darkstar named Misa Pomus couldn’t see a thing from her vantage point near the Citadel, but she could tell that the group of shadow creatures that she was following suddenly swelled in numbers. In fact, as she had shrunken to a smaller size, she distinctly began to hear high-pitched sounds in the air she had no hope of hearing at normal size. The shadow creatures were communicating with each other — there was no doubt about that — and a large group of them was mobilizing here at this corner of the Citadel. But why?
Misa didn’t dare operate her chemically based jet-pack just yet. If anything, these shadow creatures had better hearing than she or most of the others did, and they would be able to hear all sounds of movement. Still, she needed to figure out some way in order to use the information she possessed to the troops’ advantage. What to do, what to do?
In an area not far outside the Citadel, the blue-skinned Meadlux and a small band of troops, who had proudly dressed in the uniforms of the Green Lantern Corps rather than the emergency uniforms of the Darkstars, were pinned down by enemy fire and were unable to advance farther.
“Where are those damned reinforcements?” Meadlux shouted to no one in particular. Turning to his side, he asked between bursts of fire, “How does he look, Hollika?”
Hollika Rahn, the Green Lantern from the world of Rhoon, held an injured Green Lantern in her arms, attempting to stop the bleeding and having no facilities with which to do so properly. “He’ll be all right,” she said in a sad voice cracking with emotion, shaking her head at the same time to indicate to Meadlux that Dalor’s injuries were too severe even for her to heal.
“D-do not… try to fool… me, s-sister,” said Dalor of Timron, the Green Lantern who had inherited Tomar-Re’s space sector 2813 — one that neighbored that of Hal Jordan’s — after Tomar-Re had been promoted as one of the Green Lantern Corps Honor Guard after his well-deserved retirement.
Unfortunately, Tomar-Re later died during the so-called Crisis on Infinite Earths, and sector 2813 was seemingly obliterated during that same conflict. It was believed that Dalor was dead for a while as well, but he later resurfaced after the Guardians of the Universe had left the universe with the Zamarons. Dalor had been grief-stricken over the loss of his family, his world, and many of the peoples of his sector, and he had wished to end it all. But instead he had found friendship with a group of Green Lanterns elsewhere in the galaxy and joined them for a time, his grief somewhat abated through the experience. Now, though, he had been mortally wounded by one of the shadow creatures and lay dying in Hollika Rahn’s arms.
“I-I know… that my time is alm-m-most d-done,” he said, his strange yellow eyes somewhat dimming. “All I wish… is f-for you to thank m-my… ring-brother, the Green Lantern… of Earth.”
“You’ll be able to thank him yourself once we’re done,” Hollika Rahn said, not believing it herself. Tears flowed down her pink cheeks.
“Cry n-not for me, ring-sister,” Dalor said after a moment, a slight smile on his face. “I… I go now to b-be with my d-darling wife, a-and my son…” The strength suddenly left his body, and he fell limp in Hollika’s arms.
“No!” Hollika Rahn whimpered. “W-why must there be such death? Such destruction?”
“It is the way of war,” said Meadlux. He looked at her after a moment and added, “I am sorry for your loss. We’ll have many dead to bury from this day, but we need to finish what we started.”
Hollika nodded and gently laid down Dalor’s body on the ground next to her, placing a sheet over his face. Uttering a mystical chant in her native language as she closed her eyes and touched his face, she sent his soul to the gods and then turned her mind back to war.
Misa Pomus’ arms and legs were exhausted as she crawled up along the wall of the Citadel, unable to use her jet-pack for fear of getting caught by the countless shadow creatures surrounding the area below. From what she had seen, they had surprisingly good aim for beings with no real vision. She figured they used some kind of sonar-like bouncing to see objects before them, which explained the high-pitched whistles that continued even after the bulk of what seemed to be the actual communications had for the most part ceased. Had they heard her, they would very easily have been able to home in on her with their sonar.
The young Imskian had finally crawled to a good enough height on the Citadel wall that she was able to see a battle going on nearby. It appeared that Meadlux and his crew were trapped and unable to advance any farther, especially now that the shadow creatures had cut off their reinforcements and had themselves been reinforced.
She continued to look around and saw a lizard-like Green Lantern slowly creeping toward this area of the Citadel from the other direction, having apparently come from the direction of the Great Battery itself. He couldn’t see it, but while he was stalking one shadow creature, another was waiting as if to ambush him. She had to warn him.
Green Lanterns were fearless. At least, that was their reputation. But even the bravest of Green Lanterns had some trepidation at potentially sacrificing their lives in order to save another. Still, it needed to be done.
Misa threw herself off the wall of the Citadel and engaged her chemical rocket-pack, enlarging herself as she did so. She shouted toward the tailed Green Lantern, “Hey! Look out! Behind you!”
She felt a hundred shadow creatures homing in on her from her voice. And already they were shooting off bullets and arrows into the air in her direction. She shrunk herself in an attempt to make herself a harder target, but it was only a matter of time before they deployed a shock weapon with a wide target range. She was a goner.
Valura Tur-Thol sped back and forth from the ships to the various pockets of Green Lanterns and Darkstars fighting for their lives. She was their desperately needed supply line as well as messenger. It frustrated her, though, that she wasn’t allowed to take a more active role in the battles. As a Kryptonian from Rokyn, theoretically she had the power to end all the battles herself. However, she had almost no experience with her newfound powers, and the enemy they faced was still largely unknown. She had been assured by the other Green Lanterns that kryptonite still existed in large quantities throughout the galaxy after the explosion of Krypton many years before her birth had scattered fragments of the planet in every direction.
As if to confirm this fear, she had been shot by an arrow with a green kryptonite tip. Luckily, it had only torn a hole through the fabric of her uniform, but she had swooned and fallen to the ground before getting rid of the piece of kryptonite. She had literally become as weak as a puppy until an Imskian had taken it out of her presence. And now, via her x-ray vision, she had spotted those strange energy constructs near the Central Power Battery Hal Jordan had called Controllers. Who knew how powerful they were? It was likely that they knew more about Kryptonian physiology than she did.
She swooped over a group of Darkstars and dropped a large handful of supplies, returning the wave of thanks she was given by the grateful troops. If only she were able to help in a better capacity, but she could not afford to get shot by any more kryptonite-tipped projectiles. She had to keep each regiment of troops informed of their specific objectives in light of the constantly changing situations, since no radio signals would work while the energy-dampener over Oa was still working.
After passing by Lightray and helping round up a pocket of trapped shadow creatures, she heard a female voice cry out, “Hey! Look out! Behind you!”
Valura didn’t seen any dangers immediately around her, but she was quickly able to home in on the source of the voice. It was her Imskian friend. “Hang on,” she muttered as much to herself as to her friend and sped in that direction. Just as she arrived and grabbed the shrinking Imskian, a shock wave threw her into the air. She was unharmed, and Misa Pomus had been shielded by her invulnerable body.
“What the–?!” Misa exclaimed when she was finally able to speak. She looked up to see her savior and smiled.
“Remember when I said I owed you one?” Valura said, grinning.
“Consider it paid,” Misa said, returning the smile. “Now, listen — these shadow things seem to be mobilizing around the Citadel to prevent it from falling into our hands, and they seem to be congregating particularly in one place. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to learn the reason, but Command needs to be told.”
“Hold on a moment,” Valura said, frowning in an attempt to use her x-ray vision. “Ah. I see the shadow creatures, but I don’t see what they’re… Oh, hold on… they seem to be guarding something, but I can’t quite see through it. Why can’t I see through it?”
“Can you see anything else around it that might give us a clue?”
“I’m not sure, but I suppose whatever they’re guarding might be surrounded by walls lined with lead or some other substance which my x-ray vision can’t see through. If only Superman were here; he’d know what to do.”
“You seem to be doing fairly well for yourself despite your inexperience, Kryptonian,” laughed Misa.
“I’m not a Kryptonian. Not really. I’ve never even seen Krypton. I was born in Kandor, and I am one of the founders of Rokyn. I’d prefer to be called a Rokynian, if you don’t mind. Well, actually, I’d prefer to be called Valura.”
“Call me Misa,” the Imskian replied. “Now, let’s get back into this war.”
Valura Tur-Thol flew back to the ground and dropped Misa Pomus off at Command Center, where she told her story to the strategists there. Then the rookie Green Lantern from Rokyn flew back into the midst of battle with another armful of supplies. This wasn’t the most glamorous job in this war, but it was necessary. And the siege of Oa continued.