“So this is where you grew up? Why is it in such a state of disrepair?”
Connor Hawke, Oliver Queen, and Dinah Lance now stood on the grounds of what was once stately Queen Manor. It looked more like a bombed-out shelter in a third world country. Oliver picked up a piece of rubble and tossed it.
“My naïvete cost me all this. See, Connor, back in the day I was just another super-hero running around in green long-johns. I’ll admit it: I wanted to be the Batman. I had an Arrowcar, an Arrowplane — hell, even a damn Arrowcave below the house here. It makes sense for Batman to have a cave. Bats live in caves. What the hell was an Arrowcave, anyway?” Ollie laughed at himself.
“Then I met a man named John DeLeon, and it all changed. I was slowly becoming more socially conscious, realizing that I was just a dilettante with a talent for the bow and arrow just playing a game. Unfortunately for me, while I was off discovering myself and making Green Arrow the hero he is today, John DeLeon was robbing Queen Enterprises blind. He framed me for embezzlement, and, well, I just let him do it.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “In Each Man There is a Demon,” Justice League of America #75 (November, 1969).]
“Ollie, you know there was nothing you could have done differently,” Dinah said, putting her arm around Ollie.
“Yeah, I know, pretty bird. And I don’t regret it. I mean, I never would have gone off with Hal across America — might not have even pursued you at all. I might never have discovered Roy was a junkie if it weren’t for you. I wasn’t a very good dad to him.”
Connor spoke up. “Don’t say that, Oliver. Roy couldn’t have loved both of you any more if you had been his true parents. I know he blamed you at the time for his heroin addiction, but that’s also why he went to Dinah for help. He couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing you.”
Ollie smiled. “Glad to hear that you know Roy. Funny, I always thought he’d be the one to replace me when I was dead.”
Connor stammered for a moment, not sure what to say. “Oliver, I — I–”
“S’OK, kid. Wasn’t hard to figure out. I mean, a new G.L. is easy to understand. We got half a dozen or so on Earth. I’m sure Hal finally took that leadership spot in the Corps the Smurfs were always after him to take. But me? There’d only be a new G.A. if I was dead.”
Connor was in complete shock, but before he could respond, the estate began to spin, and Connor felt ill. He could barely make out Oliver and Dinah also falling to the ground. As the three heroes struggled to stand, Connor noticed a figure hovering above.
Dinah also saw him.
Black Canary could barely stand her ground as Count Vertigo landed before them. The landscape seemed to shift and shimmer at will. Before she could react, Vertigo was suddenly upon her.
“You thought you had seen the last of me? I never forget my debts.”
Vertigo was moving forward to strike Dinah when Ollie came out of nowhere and somehow gained enough balance to at least stumble into the villain. The two men tumbled to the ground. The Canary managed to land a kick to Vertigo’s mid-section as she helped Green Arrow get up.
“Excellent. But you are no match for my newly enhanced powers,” Vertigo said as a high-pitched whine started to ring in Dinah and Oliver’s ears. They clutched them for a moment as the world began to spin again.
A few feet away, behind some trees, Connor Hawke finally regained his balance (after having vomited what was left of Oliver’s chili). Using the tree, he stood himself up and looked out to see Oliver and Dinah writhing on the ground in agony.
“No… gotta stop Vertigo…”
But before Connor could take another step, he saw Vertigo step in front of him, and the world became a kaleidoscope again.
Vertigo smiled oddly as Connor fell back to the ground. Oliver struggled back to his feet. Using his bow as a club, the emerald archer hit Vertigo in the back of the head, knocking the Vlatavan count away from Connor. Vertigo fell to his knees, yet he didn’t make a sound. When he turned back around, Vertigo had an inhuman look in his eye, but Green Arrow’s distraction provided Dinah with enough time to get her head together. As Vertigo raised his hand, Dinah planted her feet firmly on the ground and let loose her sonic cry.
It had no effect on Vertigo.
“Try a different frequency, pretty bird. Vertigo must have come prepared.”
Connor saw through his blurred vision that Vertigo was advancing on Oliver and Dinah. With a supreme effort, he closed his eyes and removed an arrow from his quiver. Notching it on his bow, he pulled back on the string, eyes still closed, and let the arrow fly like snow falling from a tree branch. He then collapsed, exhausted.
The arrow sailed through the air and skewered Vertigo’s left hand. The villain looked stunned for a moment; then a crackle of electricity sparked all over his body, and he disappeared in a flash of light.
Green Arrow and Black Canary rushed over to Connor.
“Are you OK?” Dinah asked.
Connor smiled weakly at them both. “I am fine, but Vertigo…”
Ollie scratched his head. “Damndest thing I’ve ever seen, kid. When your arrow pierced his hand, he lit up like a Christmas tree and vanished. Speaking of which, why’d you use a regular arrow, anyway? A boxing glove arrow or a sleep gas arrow would’a worked better.”
Connor just laughed.
“I have heard of you. You fought my sister, Diana.”
The Silver Swan smiled at the two Amazons. “I am sure you thought you’d seen the last of me, Wonder Woman, but the Silver Swan repays her debts.”
The Swan swooped toward the two Wonder Women, who both ducked out of the way. Nubia quickly threw her lasso, but to her surprise, the Silver Swan caught the loop and, with a speed to rival the Flash, flew back outside, dragging the amazing Amazon with her.
“Nubia!” Hippolyte yelled as she chased out after them.
Outside, the Swan flew higher and higher, dragging Wonder Woman with her. She suddenly stopped, her wings flapping enough to hold them suspended in midair.
“I command you to return me to Earth. You must obey!” Nubia shouted as loudly as she could.
The Silver Swan looked down at her prey. “Of course. You are not Wonder Woman. You are the other. I will return you to Earth.”
And the Silver Swan let go of the lasso.
As she began falling rapidly toward the ground, Nubia cursed herself for not being more specific.
And on the balcony of Nubia’s apartment, Hippolyte saw the Silver Swan dive-bombing toward her. The queen of the Amazons drew her sword and knew she had to time her move just right.
The Silver Swan approached at a phenomenal speed, using gravity to its natural advantage. She began her sonic song as she got closer to Hippolyte. Swift as Mercury, Hippolyte removed her tiara with her other hand and flung it with all her might at the Silver Swan. It connected with Swan’s head, causing her to lurch backward. At that moment, Nubia’s lasso suddenly encircled the villain and began to pull both women down. The Swan struggled mightily against the lasso, but it was no use. She slowed Wonder Woman’s plummet enough that the amazing Amazon was able to swing around and land squarely on the Swan’s back.
They continued to fall, but not where Hippolyte had hoped. Standing on the ledge of the apartment’s balcony, Hippolyte herself jumped and grabbed the Swan’s legs, changing the trajectory of the fall enough that all three women landed in the pool of the adjacent building.
Hippolyte was the first to surface, gasping for air as she did. Nubia was next. The two Amazons lifted themselves out of the pool and waited for the Silver Swan to arise, but the water settled, and she did not.
“Something’s wrong. I must go back and rescue her,” Nubia said, jumping back into pool. She swam toward the bottom and the large indent that was there, but there was no sign of the Swan anywhere. Nubia surfaced, and Hippolyte pulled her out of the pool.
“It appears that she’s vanished,” Hippolyte said as she retrieved her tiara, which had landed nearby.
Nubia took a towel offered by one of the onlookers. “It was very odd, Mother, as though she was the Silver Swan in name only. She called me ‘the other.’ What did she mean by that, I wonder?”
Hippolyte smiled. “I believe she mistook me for Diana, which is also a cause for question. And did you just call me Mother?”
Nubia paused for a moment, realizing what she had done. “Hippolyte, I’m sorry. You don’t even know me, and that was very presumptuous of me.”
“No, it was not. Diana was my only child. I would be honored to have you as my daughter. I only wish that Diana and I could have gotten along as well as you and I do so naturally. Many are a mother’s regrets when she loses a child.”
For the first time in a long while, Nubia felt as though she truly had someone she could call family. Perhaps her own Hippoltya was worth forging a closer relationship with.
Kyle Rayner stared in awe at the man before him — the legendary renegade of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro of Korugar. In Kyle’s time, Sinestro had been killed in service to the Guardians of the Universe, trying to prevent Hal Jordan from stealing the energy of the Central Power Battery. Hal had snapped his neck. In one fell swoop, Hal had replaced Sinestro as the greatest success and failure the Guardians ever produced. Guy Gardner and John Stewart of his time had told the young ring-slinger many stories of the Korugarian villain. It hadn’t prepared Kyle for actually meeting him.
“Did you think that you had truly vanquished me, Jordan? If nothing else, Sinestro always repays his debts.”
Without another word, Sinestro’s ring created a thousand golden wasps and sent them toward the two Green Lanterns. Kyle seemed paralyzed, and Hal realized it was up to him. He quickly knocked Kyle out of the way.
“What are you doing?” Kyle yelled as Hal slammed into him.
“Getting you out of harm’s way. Sinestro’s got a swarm of killer wasps after us.”
Kyle extricated himself from Hal and pointed his ring at the oncoming swarm. “Watch this.”
The young Green Lantern’s ring formed a giant can of Raid and began to spray the wasps, which quickly dematerialized.
Hal’s jaw dropped. “Your ring — it can affect the color yellow.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t have the yellow weakness or the twenty-four-hour limit like yours. In fact, It’s a lot more like Sinestro’s.”
Sinestro appeared above the two Green Lanterns. “I don’t know how you accomplished that, Jordan, but I won’t make the same mistake twice.”
The sky suddenly grew dark. Hal and Kyle looked upward to find a mountain of stones held aloft by a golden platform that promptly disappeared; the stones headed right toward the two Green Lanterns who wouldn’t get out of the way in time. The last thing they heard was Sinestro laughing.
Sinestro stood impassively in front of the pile of boulders. He was unmoving. His head cocked slightly, as though a switch had been turned, and then he lifted his ring and pointed it at the debris, scanning for his hated enemy.
The stones exploded outward. Sinestro’s ring formed a protective bubble, deflecting the smaller pieces as they pelted against the force-field. Kyle Rayner stumbled out of the rocks, his costume torn here and there.
“You survived,” Sinestro said with a leer. “I am impressed. But I did not come here for you — only Jordan.”
“Your avalanche caught us by surprise, Sinestro. Hal’s dead.”
Sinestro suddenly went stiff again, his head cocked to the side. “I do not believe you. Show me the body.”
Emerald chains shot out of Kyle’s ring and entwined the renegade. Sinestro created a golden torch and began to burn the chains off, when something slammed into him at Mach One from behind. Both Sinestro and that something collided with the mountain of rubble from the avalanche, with the Korugarian bearing the brunt of the impact. That something, of course, was Green Lantern.
“My head is going to be ringing for days!” Hal said as Kyle helped him back to his feet.
“Looks like we fooled Sinestro pretty well,” Kyle said. “What do we — Hey! He’s gone!”
Hal and Kyle looked to where Sinestro’s body had been, and there was now nothing there but rock.
“Scan for his energy trace, Kyle. My ring can’t detect it, but yours might.”
Kyle concentrated for a moment, his ring glowing brightly. “It ends right there, as though he teleported away. He was unconscious, though. What was Sinestro’s game, anyway? From all the stories I’ve been told, Sinestro always had a master plan.”
“Kyle, I hate to tell you this, but that wasn’t Sinestro. It might have looked like him, talked like him, even acted like him, but it wasn’t him.”
“If not Sinestro, then whom?”
“I’m not sure, but let’s head back to the Citadel, and we can compare notes with the others. Maybe they had a similar experience.”
The two Green Lanterns headed skyward.