by Doc Quantum
“Beings of the Green Lantern Corps, join me,” said the helmeted Controller after his impassioned speech. “Together we can build a universe free from strife, from fear, from any kind of evil. Though you are flawed creatures barely able to wield the wondrous power the Guardians lent you for many millennia, you are after all on the right side in the battle of good versus evil. Prove your hatred of all things evil by joining my cause to liberate this universe of it and in so doing right the wrong that Krona and we Oans unleashed upon the multiverse so long ago now.”
The Green Lantern Corps and the Darkstars had been silent during this speech, almost mesmerized. To some extent this was the Controllers’ doing — their influence over lesser minds was great but not perfect. The determined minds of the Green Lantern Corps and the Darkstars were unable to be fully controlled due to their strength of will, but some already disillusioned by the last few years’ events were swayed in their thinking.
Finally, Meadlux spoke. “You talk about liberating this universe from evil,” he said. “And I sympathize with your intentions, for all of us here have been scarred by evil in the past and have dedicated our lives to battle that evil. But to subjugate the will of the entire universe… to control people as one controls a mechanical object… to take away individual will and replace it with your own, effectively making people nothing more than robots… that is truly evil. Everything you’ve done so far has only heightened the spread of evil, hastened it further than it’s ever gone before. Based on the results of your actions thus far, only disaster can result.” Meadlux paused for a dramatic moment, and then added, “It is the duty of every Green Lantern and, indeed, every good creature in the universe, to resist evil in all its forms. And what you are doing, Controller, is evil.”
Several murmurs of agreement erupted into the room, though it was far from resounding. The Controllers merely watched and waited.
One who wore a Darkstar uniform spoke up. “I am Ferrin Colos of Zamba. Although I, too, agree that the Controllers’ recent actions have been a mistake, it seems to me that they are willing to combat evil at its source, to put an end to it. Can we say the same? Could the Guardians, if they were here? Where were they when the Qinoori raiders attacked my planet, killing millions of Zambans, including my own wife and daughter? Where were they?! They had sent me away from Zamba on a mission and left no one to protect my world. And they’ve since abandoned all responsibility to us, to the universe, to protect it from evil such as that. Do they really wish to fight evil, or are they merely interested in keeping us in our place?”
Several other murmurs of agreement erupted as Colos finished, this time more loudly.
“Surely you can’t be serious,” said John Stewart suddenly, taken aback by the number of people — mostly Darkstars — nodding their heads in agreement with Colos. “The Guardians have kept the peace in this universe with the Corps for more than three billion years!”
“But where are they now?!” shouted Colos. “And what good are the Guardians or the Green Lantern Corps if attacks on our homes are still allowed to happen? There is an old saying on my world: the proof of the pratakkos is in the eating. In other words, the results of the Guardians’ actions, or inaction, as the case may be, have been disastrous: the Multiversal Crisis was only one of the latest proofs of either their ineptitude or their hypocrisy. Guardians of the Universe, indeed…”
“Nonsense,” Meadlux replied haughtily. “The Guardians are not gods — they cannot be held responsible for every unfortunate incident that occurs in the universe. And although they have governed the Corps until recently, they have never attempted to take away our free will, preferring to allow us to each guard our sector as we see fit, only occasionally alerting us to a particularly great danger elsewhere. Instead of interfering in a given world by forcing it to bend to their will, the Guardians let it find its own way to a better society, only sometimes pruning back the forces which have potential for great evil. Has this not proven to be the best way?”
“Yes!” several Green Lanterns shouted in agreement, while quite a few Darkstars booed in disagreement. The Controllers continued to look on without any apparent reaction to the situation, their faces completely inscrutable.
Somewhere in space onboard an Alliance ship:
“Can you believe this dregg? Everything we’ve been fighting for has only been so these cursed Controllers can gain control over the whole universe, including us!” one Khund warrior named Grekk said to another in the cockpit of a Khund cruiser; they’d just seen the footage of the Controller’s speech on Oa. “I tell you, K’ergan, we ought to turn this ship around right now. I, for one, don’t want any part of a war in which I don’t get to keep the spoils of victory!”
K’ergan nodded resolutely. “The battle has been glorious, but the warrior should take part in the battle’s victory, not merely those who planned it. We have the blood on our boots to prove our valor. Can they say the same?”
“That’s it,” Grekk grumbled. “We’re going back to Khundia right now. To hell with this war, and to hell with the Controllers!” He moved the ship forward and downward until it was positioned to move in nearly the opposite direction, back to Khundia.
Almost immediately, a beeping sound came through the comm system. The face of a Khund general came on the screen. “Turn this ship around immediately. The invasion continues.” His eyes seemed to be glazed over, obviously under mental domination. “Turn around, or you will be blasted out of the stars!”
Grekk looked at K’ergan, then switched the comm screen off. He continued on course. As he had anticipated, his bluff paid off — the general did not waste the time to chase after him. Within the next several moments, other Khunds had seen this and did likewise. This would not be remarkable in almost any other society, but the Khunds were known for their militarism and for their obedience to leadership. To see the bulk of the Khund fleet refuse to follow the orders of their general was unheard of.
More than a few mutinies occurred on this day throughout the Alliance fleet. The speech of the Controller had seemed to be having the opposite of its desired effect.
There seemed to be an almost complete division in the GLC between the members who wore the standard Green Lantern uniform and those who wore the Darkstar uniform, although there were a few exceptions on both sides. The Darkstars of Earth and a few others sided with Meadlux and the Green Lanterns, while a few of the Green Lanterns in uniform had sided with Ferrin Colos and the bulk of the Darkstars, who had lost their patience with the ways of the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps as a whole. They were Darkstars in more than name only — their lights had truly burnt out. This strange forum of aliens once united under a single banner and now seemingly split in two in more ways than one had become little more than a shouting match. Each side became more stubborn and firm in its position as the argument continued. Throughout it all, the Controllers remained silent and imperturbable.
“The Guardians have always governed us with wisdom and restraint — not because of self-pride but because of responsibility to all creatures! Can’t you see that?” Meadlux shouted, though his voice was barely heard in the cacophony of shouts from both sides.
“They left us, Meadlux! They abandoned the universe!” Ferrin Colos shouted back at him in a fiery tone of voice. “As far as we’re concerned, they’ve abdicated any claim they had over us! They don’t deserve to be the Guardians of the Universe any longer! They’re no longer worthy of that title — they never were!”
“What is going on here, John?” Green Arrow said to his ally. “The more they argue, the more divided they’re becoming! And look at how smugly those Controllers are standing there, enjoying it all!”
“I know,” John said grimly. “It seems that a division in the Green Lantern Corps has been growing for some time now, according to several G.L.s I’ve spoken with.”
“Do you think they might have had something to do with it?” Katma Tui pondered.
“That might just be it,” he replied. “I wouldn’t put it past the Controllers to do this.”
“Circles within circles,” Black Canary muttered.
“What’s that, pretty bird?” Green Arrow said.
“Well, it seems to me that the Controllers must have a reason they’re not using their full power over us, or why they don’t force the continuation of the invasion. They’ve certainly got the power to keep it going and perhaps even win it. But they seem to want to convince us to join them voluntarily — or at least some of us.”
“And unfortunately, it seems that many are listening,” Katma finished.
“What I mean is that — they’re still planning, still manipulating, even now that their universal invasion plans have been exposed.” Black Canary frowned in thought and paused for a moment, then added, “Have any of you ever considered that the Controllers wanted it to happen this way? What if this whole invasion was a ploy to divide the GLC, and perhaps even bring the Guardians back?”
“In that case, I hope the second part of their plans work — I’ve never been their biggest fan, but even I admit we need the little blue guys right now more than ever,” Green Arrow said glumly.
Meadlux and Ferrin Colos were literally shouting at each other at the same time now, Meadlux futilely trying to use reason and logic to make his arguments, while Colos appealed to the raw emotions that held far more sway over the majority of beings everywhere, as all politicians knew.
“You’re making a fallacious argument,” Meadlux was trying to shout. “The Guardians are–”
“Your Guardians aren’t here!” Ferrin Colos countered passionately. “They went off to make out with the Zamarons, remember? Where are your Guardians now? Where are they now?”
“We are here.”
The booming voices that spoke as one resounded through the hall, silencing every creature there. It was the Guardians of the Universe. All twenty-two of them were clothed in their red robes but shone through them like pure, radiant light of a greenish hue. It was a beautiful sight to see. Behind them were twenty-two Zamarons also clothed and also bathed in pure light, this of a purplish hue. Hal Jordan and Valura Tur-Thol floated beside them, their rings glowing green with power. The sheer brilliance and beauty of the host of Guardians and Zamarons in the hall completely obscured the glow now emanating from the Central Power Battery itself.
“It’s about time,” John Stewart whispered to no one in particular as he smiled at the sight.
“Guardians!” shouted Meadlux, who smiled broadly for the first time in what seemed like far too long. The sight of the host of the Guardians of the Universe and the Zamarons was a wonder to behold. They returned in a similar way to the way they had left almost two years previously, though in a sense this was much more serious.
“Green Lantern Corps,” began one Guardian who broke away from the group and addressed the audience, “we have returned… this time for good. Your assistance is now needed throughout the galaxy and, indeed, the universe. You may recharge your rings directly from us.”
The bulk of the audience, nearly everyone who wore a Green Lantern uniform as well as a few Darkstars here and there, now held their power rings proudly before them and recited the time-honored main oath of the Green Lantern Corps:
“IN BRIGHTEST DAY, IN BLACKEST NIGHT, NO EVIL SHALL ESCAPE MY SIGHT! TO THOSE WHO WORSHIP EVIL’S MIGHT, BEWARE MY POWER — GREEN LANTERN’S LIGHT!”
There was an electric excitement in the air. Everyone knew that this marked the end of the chaos of the last two months. The Guardians of the Universe had returned to set things right again. However, most of the Darkstars in the hall refused to recharge their rings at all, but removed them and held them up only so that they could return them to the Guardians. They were glad that this universal invasion was at an end, but they had long ago begun to become disillusioned about the Guardians. To their minds, this was a case of too little, too late.
“Green Lantern Corps,” the Guardian began once more, “we have seen the situation the galaxy is currently in from the dimension we have made our home since we left Oa — we have seen that the Alien Alliance is at this very moment beginning to break apart. But you now need to encourage the final dismantling of the Alliance and the dispersement of its armada. As well, the gravitational and electromagnetic fields of the Warworld, though it is destroyed, still threaten the planets of the Sol system of Earth. The pieces of the Warworld must be each taken away to the far reaches of the universe and melted down for peaceful purposes. Such an obscenity must never be allowed to be built again.”
Many Green Lanterns took to the air, their power rings glowing as brightly as the smiles on their faces. Even the Darkstars of Earth had changed their uniforms to those of the Green Lantern Corps as soon as their power rings enabled them to do so.
“Hal, you did it!” Green Arrow said, patting his friend’s back as he and Valura Tur-Thol rejoined them.
Hal Jordan grinned and looked at his Rokynian comrade-in-arms. “I couldn’t have done it without Valura. She got me into the Battery and ensured that we made it safely to the Guardians in time. Keep an eye on this young G.L., people — she’s got potential.” Valura Tur-Thol just smiled appreciatively.
“I also couldn’t have done it without our little Protean friend, here,” Hal said as he walked up to what looked like his perfect double in every way. His double managed a smile but did not speak. Valura had managed to switch this telepathic, shape-shifting creature from the Antares system — which was similar in cellular structure to Mogo — with him just as she had picked him up at super-speed and enabled them to break into the Central Power Battery itself. “Mogo couldn’t have done a better job than this little fellow.” The shape-shifter from the Protean Planet reverted to its natural shape, that of a small, formless pale blob of protoplasm. “Superman once mentioned to me that he’d met these creatures in the future — I figured one from the present would come in handy for my mission as my double.”
“Well, I’m off, guys,” John Stewart said as he took to the skies. “The sooner this Alliance is broken up, I say, the better. Meet you back at Mogo later?”
“Sure,” said Hal, waving.
“I’m going to talk to the Guardians about the shadow creatures as soon as I can,” said Katma Tui. “Something needs to be done about them.”
“Let’s just hope the Controllers don’t give the Guardians any more trouble,” Salaak said glumly.
The Controllers had remained completely still as the Guardians returned, but the Controller who had made his speech now stepped forward in challenge toward the Guardians who were the size of mice compared to him. There was no sign of anger on his face, though inwardly he was seething.
The Guardians as a group moved forward to meet his challenge, hovering in formation. A few of the Guardians flew over to the other two Controllers who remained where they had stood. The questioning look they held on their faces was obvious. “Well?”
“We are merely here in the capacity of observers,” one of the two other Controllers spoke, the other one remaining silent in agreement.
Most of the Guardians backed away, but the Guardian who had spoken earlier — one Herupa Hando Hu — remained to meet the challenge of the Controller. They had known each other as youths. Herupa had been the student of Krona before the Great Evil was unleashed upon the universe, while the other had always been one to remain behind the scenes, at least until now, plotting and scheming for a day such as this. It would be a battle of the minds, then, between the representative of the Guardians of the Universe and the self-appointed representative of the Controllers.
No words were audibly spoken, but the energies of the two began to emanate brightly as they hovered before each other in a final showdown.