by Brian K. Asbury
Snowflakes began to settle on the heads of the miserable-looking group of aliens as they sat huddled on the ground, watched over by the Squire, Firebrand, and the Bowman of Britain. Surprisingly, the number of Dominators was very small — only six among a crew of almost fifty, and half of them discless scrapelings. The rest of the aliens were a mixed bunch, ranging from a few Khund security guards to exotic species from a dozen or more different planets. Apart from the Khunds, they were all apparently slaves.
“So what happens to them?” said the Squire.
“Well, if I had my way, we’d dump the lot of ’em on an asteroid somewhere and turn the time-slowing field back on for… oh, let’s think… just a gentle ten thousand years or so?” said Firebrand.
“With or without the bomb?”
Firebrand offered no reply, but the smirk on her face betrayed what she was thinking.
“Actually,” said the Bowman, “Salaak has said he intends to take the Dominators and the Khunds to someplace called Oa and let them stew in something called a sciencell for a while. The slaves will be returned to their own planets if that’s what they want.”
“I don’t think the Rocket Reds are very happy with that,” the Squire said. “Their leader is arguing with Salaak again.”
“So what’s new?”
Indeed, fifty yards away in the shadow of the Dominion ship, the four-armed Green Lantern and Rocket Red #1 were having a difference of opinion. “The ship is contraband, and I am authorized to confiscate it on behalf of the glorious Soviet Union,” said the Russian. “My squad and I will oppose any attempt to move it elsewhere with whatever force we deem necessary.”
Salaak was so close to the armoured Soviet that his breath was steaming up the man’s face plate. “This ship is packed with weapons of mass destruction — including, if the archer is to be believed, a device capable of defoliating an entire landmass. Given your species’ fondness for killing each other with the technology you already have, there is no way I am going to allow you access to the ship or any of its contents. They go back to Oa with the prisoners, and the Guardians can decide how to dispose of them when they return!”
“We have bested you once, Green Lantern, and we will do so again if we have to. We know your weakness, remember!”
Salaak grunted. “You may think you’re a match for one Green Lantern, human — but how about four?”
“What are you talking about?”
The alien Green Lantern pointed up with one of his four hands. Three points of green light were approaching at incredible speed, and within seconds grew into the recognizable shapes of John Stewart, Katma Tui, and Driq.
“Ha!” muttered Stealth to Godiva as the trio landed. “Now he sends for reinforcements!”
“Sorry we’re late,” said John. “We needed to take care of a little problem in Coast City first.”
“Is this the ship?” asked Katma.
“Do you see another one?” Salaak grumped. He turned back to the Russian. “Well, human?”
Rocket Red #1 slowly looked each of the newcomers up and down before turning his attention back to Salaak. “It seems I have no choice. But do not think that you have heard the last of this!” He turned away to rejoin his squad.
“There’s that settled,” Salaak said.
“OK, then,” said John. “Let’s get the prisoners loaded up and be on our way. It’s a long way to Oa.”
“Wait a moment,” said Stealth, rushing forward to join them. “Before you take off, can I ask a favour?”
“What is it?” Katma Tui asked. She regarded the white-clad girl with interest. “You’re clearly an extraterrestrial — do you need a lift back to your homeworld, too?”
“Not at the moment,” Stealth said. “I’ve some unfinished business here on Earth to take care of. But from what I know of those ships, they carry three warp-capable shuttles. If I could scrounge one of them, I could get back to where I want to go when I’m ready without putting any of you to any trouble.”
The Green Lanterns looked at each other questioningly. “You’re the man on the spot, Salaak,” said Katma. “Any objections?” Salaak merely gave a complicated four-shouldered shrug. “I don’t see any problems with that then, provided you don’t take anything else from the ship.”
“Thanks,” said Stealth.
“But I will get the shuttle from the ship myself, just to make certain, and I will also ensure that there are no weapons on board.”
Stealth sighed. “Spoilsport. Don’t you just love trusting types?” She turned to Lodestone, who was standing nearby. “Looks like I’ll be parting from this distinguished company, then, honey. How about you? Care to hit the skyways with me?”
Rhea Jones reddened, remembering the exchange they’d had in the bedroom that morning. “Uh… no, thanks, Stealth. I was thinking of, y’know, hanging with the team a while. I kinda like being part of something for once in my life.”
Stealth moved to her and kissed her on the lips, causing her to blush even more brightly. “Well, if you ever change your mind, babe, just give me a whistle.”
During this exchange, a thoughtful Godiva had moved up to the group of Green Lanterns. “If you’re giving away shuttles,” she said, “the Paladins could certainly make use of one. Lack of transport was, after all, the reason why we had to call on you G.L.s for help in the first place.”
“What?!” The words exploded from Rocket Red #1, who stomped back up to confront Salaak. “You deny us our rightful prize, and yet you give away these shuttles to all and sundry who ask? This is an insult to the loyal socialist peoples of the Soviet Union, whose citizens — in the shape of ourselves — banded with you in the cause of comradeship to–”
“Oh, shut up!” shouted Salaak. “All right! There are three shuttles! Stealth can have one, the Paladins can have one, and you can have one! All right?”
“Well, this is small compensation for–”
“However, if you don’t shut up,” snapped Salaak, “I just might take you to Oa with the prisoners so you can get to know them and their technology more intimately. You’d be amazed how intimate a cell can be!” Rocket Red looked as if he were going to reply, but evidently thought better of it and stalked away back to his teammates. Salaak turned to John and Katma, who were trying to stifle hysterical laughter with little success, and said, “but — I am disabling the warp drives on two of those shuttles. We don’t want trigger-happy humans blundering all over the galaxy!”
“Anything you say, Salaak,” chuckled Katma.
Shaking her head in amusement, Godiva walked away to convey the news to the Knight and Cameo, who were standing some distance from the main group. “Hey, you’ll never guess,” she began. “I persuaded the G.L.s to let us have a…” She paused. Both of her fellow Paladins looked extremely worried. “What’s wrong?”
The Knight turned in her direction. “We need to get home, and quickly. I’ve been trying to raise Percy on the radio since the Dominators surrendered.”
“He isn’t replying? Perhaps he was called away.”
“No,” said Cameo. “We just managed to get Chivers, the butler. He says he can’t find Percy anywhere, and there are signs of a break-in.”
“Percy wasn’t ‘called away,’ Cas,” said the Knight. “It looks as though someone may have abducted him!”