by Starsky Hutch 76
Todra Than-Ol had been crushed beneath a ton of golden rubble. She realized she was dying, but the ring couldn’t lift the debris to be able to carry her to get medical attention.
“You are dying,” the ring said to her telepathically.
“I know,” she responded.
“This unit is unable to save you due to the impurity which gives it a vulnerability to yellow.”
“I know,” she said, grimacing in pain.
“It is time to find your successor.”
“Go ahead,” she said, coughing.
A beam of green light shot out from her ring. It extended all the way to the other side of the world, where a group of settlers had founded the island of New Vathlo. I was standing with my father as he spoke to the chief architect on the development of the capitol city. My father had been the head of a diplomatic contingent from Vathlo stationed in Kandor when Brainiac shrank the city. Now that they were on Rokyn, they sought to recreate the splendor of the old island nation, and everyone of Vathlo Island descent was urged to settle there.
I listened with fascination as these two wise and powerful men discussed the development of our society. Suddenly, they both turned to me with an expression of shock on their faces, and the room began to take on a greenish tint!
I let out a cry of alarm as I found myself being pulled out of the window and up into the sky, enveloped in a green glow. I was pulled all the way across the ocean to the spot where Todra lay dying.
Upon seeing her, I immediately ran to the slab under which she lay pinned. As hard as I tried to lift it, it would not budge.
“It’s no use,” Todra said. “I’m dying anyway.”
“Then why was I brought here?” I said in anguish. It pained me to see her suffering. “Just to watch you die?”
“The ring has chosen you,” she said, coughing up a spray of blood, “as my successor.” With that, the ring enveloped me in a green glow once more, and my clothing was transformed into the uniform of the Green Lantern Corps.
“Are you kidding?” I yelled. “I’m just a kid!”
“You look like you’re around seventeen. I wasn’t much older than you when I followed my father into the Phantom Zone out of loyalty to him. And unlike me, the ring doesn’t make mistakes,” she said, smiling through her pain. “You’re old enough. You’re… you’re the one. You’ll be fine.”
And with that, she passed on. My first task with the ring was to bury her and use the surrounding rubble to create a monument befitting a hero. For her gravestone, I built a statue of the winged goddess of love, Yuda, carrying Todra into the heavens.
There was a moment of silence as Valura Tur-Thol concluded her story.
“Todra Than-Ol lived a hard life,” Nightwing said. “But she died a hero.” Everyone in the room nodded in agreement. “You have a lot to live up to, Valura, but I think you’re up to the task.”
“I hope so,” Valura said. “I don’t want to let anyone down.”
“All any of us can hope for is to not let anyone down,” Superman said, smiling reassuringly.
An alarm suddenly sounded, and Nightwing pointed to the large viewing screen on the wall. “They’re back for another round of attacks!” Everyone raced for the door to go into action.
Brainiac was barely conscious of the actions upon the surface of Rokyn. He had directed a subroutine to monitor those developments and then cut himself off from the ship. He was too preoccupied with what General Vrag had said earlier. Since then, he had run several system-wide checks upon his programming for possible errors.
After his first data analysis, he had come to a startling realization. The Master Programmer, whose destruction he had dedicated himself to since his rebirth, was 99.99985% likely to have been the Anti-Monitor.
That this conclusion had indeed startled and then angered him presented a new quandary. His old self, as much as he had denied it, had possessed human emotion. He had thought that a flaw in his programming due to contact with the dying Coluan scientist that the Computer Tyrants had used to pattern his mind to appear more human. For this flaw to still appear even after he had been broken down to his component molecules and reborn, it obviously went far deeper than that.
He remembered the hand that had flung his disembodied form from the beginning of time back to the present during his rebirth — the very same hand a scientist of Maltus had once encountered on his own search for the origins of creation. “Statement: This entity… I — I! Damn it all! Not this entity! I was reprogrammed! Changed! By the Anti-Monitor, no less!”
Brainiac lifted his skeletal hand up and looked at it. From the cameras in the room, he could watch his own skull-like face looking at it. He banged his skeletal fist down on the arm of his command chair. “Two years after his destruction, and I’ve still been acting like his puppet. First the Computer Tyrants, and now him!”
Why had he said that? The Computer Tyrants were the ones who had created him. He owed his existence to them. Why would he put them in the same category as the Anti-Monitor? This bore further analysis.
The fists of the Supermobile connected with the two armored figures, sending them both flying across the city and into the nearby jeweled mountains. A gust of super-breath from one of the front vents sent a third Madaxite soldier crashing into a fourth one.
The blonde heroine known as Valor was having her own struggle with one of the armored warriors. She threw up force-fields every time the armored figure delivered a punch and increased the gravitational field around her fists as she hammered away at the armor. The armored man’s actions continued to grow more desperate, and the eyes behind the glass eye-slits of his helmet began to glow red.
Two crimson arcs shot out, and the glass shattered. The armored man let out a bloodcurdling scream, and he jerked off his helmet, bringing his hands up to his punctured eyes. Suddenly, he paused and gasped, “F’kash! What have I done?” He suddenly began to plummet like a stone from the sky of Rokyn.
The wounded man collided into another armored Madaxite soldier on the way down. The two crashed through the New Kryptonopolis Museum of History.
Valor streaked down after the two fallen enemies. Nam-Ek, seeing this from his position on the ground, also raced in pursuit. He threw open the two enormous metal doors, charging into the main hallway.
Nam-Ek looked up as Valor entered through the hole in the domed ceiling of the main hallway. They both stared at the spot where the two Madaxites lay writhing in agony upon the gold-tiled floor.
Valor and Nam-Ek the Rondor cautiously approached the two soldiers in damaged battle armor. The first man with no helmet and ruined eyes lay gasping like a fish as he convulsed. The second convulsing soldier was trying to close the large split in his armor created when the first soldier impacted with him. He no longer appeared to possess the super-strength needed to push the metal back together.
“What’s wrong with them?” Valor asked.
“I — I don’t know!” Nam-Ek said, bewildered.
General Vrag flew into the air lock of Brainiac’s skull-ship and removed his helmet. From there, he entered the lab with the intentions of running a routine diagnostic upon his armor. As he entered the room, his jaw dropped at the sight of his second-in-command and lover as she toyed with one of the many bottled cities in the room.
“F’kash, Malevola! What do you think you’re doing?!”
“These are supposedly thousands upon thousands of tiny little people in here,” she said, tipping the bottle with her finger. “Can you imagine the sheer panic they must be feeling right now? It must be like the mother of all earthquakes.”
General Vrag’s face contorted into a snarl, and he briskly crossed the distance to where she was and laced his fingers into her corn-rowed hair, jerking her out of her seat. “And did our partner give you permission to play with his toys?”
She reached back and tried to pull his hand away from her hair. “Partner? You are a fool if you think he considers us his equals. We are just flawed humans to be used as means to an end!”
“So what? If that end provides our world with the means to finally pay Daxam back for isolating our ancestors on a barren world simply because they refused to obey their silly laws, then what of it?” General Vrag said. “I’ll not have your recklessness jeopardize everything. I could just see Brainiac having put something into those suits of armor that could cut off the supply of yellow solar rays to our army, sending them crashing to the ground. I won’t risk the lives of my men to your stupidity!” He jerked her hair for emphasis, pulling her closer as he eyed her fiercely.
Malevola’s fingers snaked through the loops of the rings that pierced the outside of one ear, and she jerked his head closer as well. Her eyes, heavily lined with black eyeliner, were filled with fire. The two locked into a passionate kiss and fell to the floor of the lab, clawing at each other like animals in heat.
Brainiac began the task of reviewing all past logs of emotional experiences. He searched his memory banks for the earliest recorded incident of his manifesting human emotions. It had been when the youth, Vril Dox, had chosen to escape rather than take part in the charade of pretending to be his son to further his façade of humanity as the Computer Tyrants had planned. The emotions he had felt then had been anger, disappointment, and a sense of betrayal. Why, he did not know. Even the Computer Tyrants had considered it an unimportant setback. It was one that had cost them dearly, later, when Vril Dox had led the revolution that had deposed them. That, too, had inspired a peculiar emotion in him: shame.
Strangely, the logs did not have this as his first manifestation of emotion. That first manifestation took place during the procedure in which the Computer Tyrants had used a dying scientist to pattern his mind. When he sought to find the reason for this emotion, he found that this file had been sealed.
“The Computer Tyrants had sought to keep me from accessing these memories?!” Brainiac exclaimed. “Well, their attempt was that of twelfth-level intellects to stop a tenth-level intellect. I have long since surpassed my creators.” Within a fraction of a nanosecond, he was past the barrier.
Once reliving the memories, he found himself lying on an examination table surrounded by the Computer Tyrants. Next to him was the shriveled form of the dying scientist, a shriveled, bearded little man who looked much older than his years thanks to the disease that consumed him. Brainiac turned and looked at the man in the process of transference. The memories rolled back a few minutes earlier, and he was seeing his robotic form through the eyes of the dying scientist. And he was afraid. So very, very afraid.