by Doc Quantum and Immortalwildcat
The members of the Green Lanterns Corps began to spread out all throughout the galaxy, especially to the Solar System, where they began the tedious process of liberation of the planets from the Alien Alliance. Already several fleets had turned back to their own empires after the forceful overthrow of their leaders, who had been found to be under remote telepathic control. Most of the members of the Alliance had been disgusted at being used in such a manner, one which would have left them with less power in the end than they had before they had begun.
Back on Oa, the chamber of the Central Power Battery was eerily silent, except for a slight humming sound. The few remaining members of the Green Lantern Corps and the Darkstars looked on as the Guardian, Herupa Hando Hu, and his opposite number in the Controllers faced each other, their energies clashing almost silently. Each had no physical contact with the other, but the signs of struggle could begin to be seen on their faces.
“Woo-hoo!” In orbit around Oa, Kilowog rejoiced as he saw news-vid from around the galaxy of the Alien Alliance armada leaving the planets and space they had conquered as one body. Already the Green Lanterns were making their presence known everywhere the Alliance had been. There were a few scuffles here and there with individual ships that attempted to fight against them, but the Alliance was now no longer coordinated as it had been. Its head had been cut off, and teamwork between its members simply did not exist any longer. Truthfully, it could have never easily existed between such diverse alien cultures. Small battles over territory between Khunds and Gordanians had already broken out here and there until the Green Lanterns calmed them down and sent them on their way.
Even Green Lanterns from other galaxies far, far away were had begun to stream in to help with the work that needed to be done once they had discovered that their power batteries were working once again.
Kilowog leaned back in the chair he’d made with his power ring and allowed himself to relax for the first time in a long while.
Although from the viewpoint of an outside observer the battle of the minds between the Controller and the Guardian was rather quiet and uneventful, the mindscape on which the showdown was taking place was far from calm.
A panoply of color splashed in tumultuous waves against a much-calmer but resistant green. The green shot back like jet streams in a sky of red, blue, and yellow. Their thoughts, abstract and indescribable to mortal minds, dashed against each other’s resolve:
Destroy all that is evil.
Evil must be contained.
Containment merely allows evil to flourish.
Destruction of that which is evil often destroys much that is not.
Free will gives evil a foothold.
Free will gives one the chance to make a decision against evil.
Decisions that affect all cannot be left to lesser minds.
All minds must be free to make their own decisions.
The only way to ensure peace in the universe is to force it.
It must be shown that peace is a better way, but to force it will only cause rebellion against it.
Rebelliousness is a product of free will.
Rebelliousness is encouraged by the lack of free will.
All life must be controlled!
No. All life must be guarded and allowed to develop.
The battle continued in abstract as the others in the hall waited in silence for it to end, for the winner to emerge triumphant. The fate of Oa seemed to rest on its outcome, though few doubted what that outcome would be. And, after a few more moments, it ended. The light and the energies dimmed and faded.
The Guardian and the Controller stopped, the latter hanging his head as if in shame, though whether it was the shame of his actions or the shame of defeat that caused this was not known.
Herupa Hando Hu spoke. “It is finished. The war is won.”
“Are you sure you will not stay, my friend?” Qatar Hussein stood in a doorway, watching a tall, spindly figure moving erratically around the suite. Items were tossed haphazardly onto a large bed in the middle of the room where a pair of large suitcases sat.
“Oh, yes, indeed, Qatar. Your newfound celebrity among the world leaders is great for you, but not so good for me. If you’re going to be one of the good guys, those busybodies in Gotham City might just expect you to turn me over to them.” The Joker paused in his packing just long enough to give his benefactor of the past year and a half a grin. “Not that I don’t trust you, old buddy, but the temptation of favorable trade with Uncle Sammy and the grand ol’ European countries could be too much for you.”
The Quraci leader considered this. It was true; after his missiles, loaded with the Joker’s deadly nerve toxins, had proved successful against the alien invaders, Qurac was being hailed as one of the saviors of humanity. Ironic, he thought, considering the fact that I would be happiest with the western nations wiped from the globe. Still, what better way to lay a trap for the western devils than by posing as their ally for a while. “It is as you have said; the temptation would be great.”
“Oh, don’t give me that long face, Qatar! We can still part as friends.” The Joker walked over to a wardrobe and took a small box from it. “In fact, I’d like you to have these, as a token of my appreciation for all the support you’ve given me.”
Hussein took the box and opened it. Inside, several dark cylinders lay lined up. The rich aroma of fine tobacco filled the air, an odor he recognized. “Your private stock of Cubans. You know I love a good cigar.”
“Of course you do, and Fidel still sends me a box every few months. Please, enjoy these, and think of me every time you light one up.”
“I shall. Now, the American woman is waiting to interview me for their television, so if you do not mind…?”
“Go, go, enjoy your time in the spotlight. You’ve earned it!” The Joker turned back to his packing, throwing anything and everything into the suitcases.
An hour later, a car pulled away from the Presidential Mansion. In the front passenger seat rested a small, battery-powered television set. A black-and-white image of Qatar Hussein and Barbara Rivers flickered as the Joker drove the car-baked roadway. “So, Mr. President, is it true that you will be visiting the United States soon?” asked the famous television reporter.
“No, Miss Rivers, I have no desire to leave my little paradise here. The President of the United States has indicated a desire to meet, but if we do so, it shall be either here or in a neutral country. We are finding common ground, but not so much that I would come to your country.” Hussein reached into his uniform jacket and pulled out a cigar. His other hand struck a match on the sole of his boot, and he raised it to the twisted cheroot as he raised it to his mouth.
“But surely, you must want to visit America and plead your case for foreign aid.”
“Nonsense.” Hussein took a long drag from the cigar and exhaled it directly at an incredulous Barbara Rivers. “We do not need your country’s aid, though we will take any money they wish to offer.”
In the car, the Joker raised an eyebrow. “Oh, this is too good. Two at once! I couldn’t have done this better if I planned it!” He gunned the engine and sped away from the capital city.
On the screen, Hussein brought the cigar back to his mouth and inhaled again, the end glowing brightly. Suddenly, the picture on the television set changed to electronic snow.
As the sky behind him lit up with a huge fireball, the Joker erupted with an uncontrollable fit of laughing.
Most of the Earth-based Green Lantern Corps had returned to Mogo with a few other Green Lanterns, including Meadlux and Valura Tur-Thol. Mogo had recharged its own ring by the use of its battery, which was now reconnected to the functioning Central Power Battery, and had welcomed the Green Lanterns back into his care one last time before they each went home. The Alien Alliance was in the process of being dismantled, something that seemed to be going along peacefully enough. Disarmament procedures would soon begin in many parts of the galaxy, though the balance of power between the empires and various planets needed to be preserved in order to prevent any one power from taking advantage of another power’s weakness.
“It all seems so… so anticlimactic,” Green Arrow finally said between bites as the group was enjoying a well-earned meal provided by Mogo. “The invasion has been stopped, but only one of the Controllers is going to be punished for their actions? Doesn’t seem right to me at all.”
“I know what you mean, G.A.,” said Hal Jordan. “It stinks. It really does. But neither the Controllers nor the Guardians want a true war between themselves, something which would definitely result if all the Controllers were made accountable for one of their members’ actions, even though they seemed to have given their tacit approval of those actions. There’s really no telling who would win such a war, and I’m not sure any of us would want to find out. The true losers of such a war would only be the rest of us in the universe, caught in the middle.”
Ch’p paused from munching on a few acorn-like nuts and said, “But I still can’t understand why so many former Green Lanterns refuse to come back into the Corps, now that the Guardians are back.”
“Unfortunately, it seems that there’s been a growing number of Green Lanterns who’ve become disillusioned with the Guardians for quite some time now,” said John Stewart. “Ferrin Colos was just one of several. I don’t think any of us here, except maybe Meadlux, truly realized to what extent that disillusionment had gone.” He took a bite of a fruit and added, “And I, for one, wouldn’t put it past the Controllers to have been partly responsible for this unrest within the ranks for a while now. They may not have caused it, but they sure as hell could’ve aggravated it.”
“In a way, you can’t blame them for wanting to break away from the GLC,” said Salaak. “We’ve seen more instability in the Guardians and the GLC in the last few years than we have seen in several centuries’ time. Why, before our generation, the Green Lantern Corps had never even stepped foot on Oa. The Guardians had always maintained a professional distance between Guardian and Green Lantern until recent years. So many changes in such a short amount of time, relatively speaking, hardly makes the Guardians look stable.”
“But to side with the Controllers? It doesn’t make sense!” said Green Arrow.
Meadlux joined them then after overhearing the conversation. “From what I’ve gathered, Green Arrow, the Darkstars refuse to be controlled by anyone any longer, whether they be Guardians or Controllers. They have, however, begun talks with the Controllers with the idea that the latter will provide the equipment, weapons, and funds in order to set up a new police organization along more structured lines than the Green Lantern Corps, one which has greater flexibility in its numbers and a greater capacity to deputize according to need.
“However, the Controllers are ultimately isolationist in nature and seem more interested in ensuring that the evil that slips past the eyes of the Guardians is stopped at least by others. They won’t be dealing directly with the new Darkstars organization at all — not that the Darkstars would ever allow that — but they seem willing to agree to provide all the physical needs of the new organization on the condition that the Darkstars prevent any kind of evil from spreading out of this universe to their own dimension or any other universes which they protect. Most of the Controllers are isolationists who seem to want to leave this universe in the hands of peacekeeping organizations to do their work for them rather than getting their hands dirty with the nasty business of interference. As well, there is a small faction of ex-Green Lanterns who refuse to join either group, preferring to go it alone or find other avenues of unemployment.”
“The Corps is going to need a lot of rebuilding,” Hal Jordan said sighing as he took a sip of his tea. “Not only to replace all the members who have fallen in battle or decided to leave its ranks, but also to rebuild the great deal of trust the Guardians have lost in recent years. The upcoming summit the Guardians mentioned should hopefully go a long way to begin addressing these questions. I know I’ve had my own problems with the way the Guardians have traditionally run things over the years.” Green Arrow smiled at this comment.
“I’m already plannin’ what I have ta say at the Green Lantern summit,” said Kilowog. “Seems t’me we’ve needed a big plannin’ thing like this fer a long time, somethin’ all of us have a say in, not just the little blue guys. Maybe everythin’ that’s happened to ’em recently has shaken ’em up a bit. Changed their views on things.”
“The sad thing is that much of this needn’t ever have happened, as far as I can see,” said Black Canary. “Why is it that it takes something like a disaster to wake everyone up to the facts? Just look at all the Green Lanterns who died on Oa, not to mention all those shadow creatures who thought they were fighting for their lives back there! That Controller had told them they’d all be slaughtered by us if they were captured — the joyful reaction they had upon being informed of the truth by the Guardians was incredible! They were literally dancing in happiness when they learned they not only weren’t going to be harmed but would be given a new home of their own. Reminds me of the Japanese civilians during World War II who had been repeatedly told that the American soldiers were monsters who would slaughter them all if they surrendered, only to find out that it wasn’t at all true.”
“Right,” said John as he finished his meal, “and the Guardians have assigned Katma to find those shadow creatures a new homeworld. From what I’ve gathered, their own planet had been destroyed in the Crisis, and they were the only survivors, saved from death by the Controllers and used for this purpose. The blue guys sent Katma off to contact Rot Lop Fan of the Obsidian Deeps to find a suitable planet there for the shadow creatures, since she was the one who recruited him into the GLC.”
“I’ve never met Rot Lop Fan,” said Meadlux. “Has he ever attended any meetings?”
“Not as far as I know,” said John. “I’ve never met him, either, but he sounds like an interesting guy, according to Katma. The Guardians had sent her to recruit him into the GLC, as the Obsidian Deeps needed a Green Lantern. Only problem was — Rot Lop Fan was a member of a species which has no eyes and communicates only by sound and touch. There were a few communication problems — it’s not exactly easy explaining the color green or exactly what a lantern is to someone who has no eyes and can’t see either color or light of any kind. Finally, she had to come up with a new name for Green Lanterns — he’s the one and only F-Sharp Bell of the F-Sharp Bell Corps.” John laughed. “If there’s anyone who can figure out the best place for the eyeless, sonic-based shadow creatures to live, it’s Rot Lop Fan.”
“Are the Guardians really back for good, though?” said Salaak. “It would be nice to have some stability returned to the Corps after the tumultuousness of the last few years.”
“I think they will be back for good, but they’ve also got a few new responsibilities,” said Valura Tur-Thol, speaking up for the first time among them now. “You’d have no way of telling, but those Zamarons are very, very pregnant!”
“No way of telling is right,” said Hal. “The Oan fetuses exist in wombs similar to tesseracts — an area of space which is much larger on the inside than it is on the outside — so that the Zamarons will look the same as always up until the day they give birth. I have no idea whether Oan birth is the same as human birth, and I’m not about to ask. Like they explained when they left us two years ago, the Guardians aren’t truly immortal — they have finite life-spans and need to begin raising the next generation to take over for them by the time they get too old to continue guarding the universe. But I wonder how much of the Zamaron warrior spirit will be in them? And how many of them will be male, and how many female? Dinah might slap me for saying this, but — it’s hard to imagine the idea of female Guardians of the Universe!”
“You men — you’re all alike!” said Black Canary, playfully punching Hal in the arm as the guys laughed. The group stayed well into the night until Katma Tui joined them later, and it was time to return home. The invasion was over. The Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern Corps was back. The rebuilding would now begin.