by Martin Maenza
In the comfortably furnished lounge on one of the upper floors of a Los Angeles skyscraper currently owned by multimillionaire businessman Loren Jupiter, a brown-haired young man lay asleep on one of the couches, a blue blanket gently covering the lower portion of his body. Occasionally, he would let out a snort as he slumbered in this pre-dawn hour.
A young woman with short and spiky blonde hair, orange-tinted skin, and pointed ears sat in a nearby chair, watching his sleeping body in the glow of the television at the end of the room. The volume of the television had been muted and close captions enabled, allowing the teen to watch without disturbing her boyfriend.
Arisia knew that young Hal Jordan needed his sleep; as Air Wave, he had been running about the globe the last few days assisting others as they continued to fight the attacking alien forces from the Vegan system and beyond. But, every night, Hal returned to Los Angeles to check on her and to be with her. His dedication made her smile, but only for a moment until she felt a twinge of pain in her side.
Less than two weeks ago, the young woman had been injured in a battle, ending up with a broken arm, a couple broken ribs and a twisted ankle. (*) The later was the first to heal as well as the swelling going down and any bruises starting to clear. Still her one arm was in a cast. Arisia, along with the four teenage heroes in training, had gotten caught off guard by a costumed powerhouse. Without her power ring to assist, the teens were overwhelmed and defeated. Arisia and Prysm were the ones hurt the most.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Titans West: In the Face of Adversity.]
Prysm was still in a coma. Arisia felt bad about that — responsible. Had she discouraged the others from going out, none of this would have happened. Neither she nor Audrey would have gotten seriously injured.
She was about to rise and move about a bit when something on the screen caught her eye. It was one of the anchorpersons for GNN; the text at the bottom of the screen identified her as Miriam Hennessy.
Arisia rose from her chair, moved closer to the set, and turned up the volume slightly so she could hear the words. This seemed too important to try to read the scrolling text at the bottom of the screen.
“…a transmission from the distant planet Oa has revealed the powers behind this invasion of Earth and apparently of several other planets in this galaxy as well. Captured armada ships have been receiving a broadcast sent through unknown means to all Alliance ships. This broadcast seems to reveal that a group of allegedly near-omnipotent aliens calling themselves the Controllers are the ones who had manipulated the creation of the Alien Alliance in order to gain control over first this galaxy and then the entire universe itself.”
Arisia’s eyes grew wide. Oa? The Controllers?
Miriam continued to speak to the camera as images appeared on the screen. “Apparently, the Controllers are a splinter group of Oans and closely related to the Guardians of the Universe, the race behind the Green Lantern Corps. The two factions separated from one another millions, perhaps even billions of years ago. The following is a bit of the footage that has been made available to news agencies around the world.” The scene showed the Green Lanterns in the main hall, facing off against the Controllers. Then, suddenly, the Guardians appeared in a brilliant flash. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Invasion, Book 3: The Return.]
Arisia recognized many of her friends and allies from the footage, including a certain brown-haired man. “Hal!” she exclaimed aloud.
The figure on the couch stirred. “Huh? What?” he said groggily. “Arisia, you OK?”
“I’ll be right back!” she said as she hobbled out of the room.
Young Hal Jordan sat up, rubbed his eyes, and tried to focus. The light of the television drew his attention in the still-darkened room. “What’s going on?”
Arisia appeared back in the room with an object held in her right hand. “Victory, I hope,” she said, putting the object, a green, lantern-like device, down upon the table. Then, with her right hand thrust toward it and her emerald ring touching the device, she took a deep breath.
“In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight,” the alien girl began the oath. “Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power: Green Lantern’s light.” A glow came from the receptacle and passed upon a charge to the ring. Arisia’s face was as bright as ten suns, feeling a sensation whose absence had left her with an unsatisfied yearning all summer. “Yes — they totally did it!” The power of the Green Lanterns was again hers to wield.
“Who did what?” Hal asked. “I’m confused.”
“Your cousin Hal!” Arisia squealed. “He and the other G.L.s must have made it to Oa and found out what was going on. They must have gotten the Guardians to return, too, totally stopping whatever it was that was blocking the Central Power Battery from flowing to the rest of our batteries.”
Hal nodded, realizing she was referring to his namesake cousin and Earth’s famed Green Lantern Corps member. “You’ve got your power back, then.”
“Yes! Yes, I do!” She rushed over to her boyfriend.
He carefully put his arms around her and hugged her softly. “Baby, that’s great!” Hal said. “This calls for a celebration!”
Arisia shook her head. “Not yet,” she said. “Come on.” An emerald beam rose from her ring and created a small platform beneath their feet. With ease, it lifted them both a few inches off the ground and ferried them out of the room.
Hal realized that Arisia’s injuries had caused her problems walking. It only made sense for her to fly now that she could. “Where we going?”
“The med lab,” Arisia said. “I want to see if maybe my ring can help reach Prysm’s mind. If we can help her out of her coma, then that’s the least we can do.”
Hal nodded. It was good to see the old Arisia back, confident and strong. Being out of commission and powerless these last few months had caused her to suffer some serious self-esteem issues. But with the emerald energy again at her fingertips, she was quickly returning to her old self. And she wanted to help heal a friend who was hurt on her own watch.
Perhaps things could finally return to normal.
Half the world away and a day later, in a very small Central European nation located just north of Czechoslovakia, a male voice bellowed through the corridors of the royal castle. “Cassandra, my pet, where are you?”
“Here,” called the dark-haired woman from the sitting room. She was dressed in a purple gown made of lightweight material with an ornate jeweled pendant hanging down from a chain about her neck and resting on her ample chest. She didn’t bother to get up from her chair, for she knew the man would find her soon enough. For now, she continued to read from a hardcover book.
In due time, the man with the unkempt black hair dressed in a blue uniform with orange piping and a red cape appeared in the doorway. In his arms were a bundle of periodicals. “There you are! Have you seen them yet? It is marvelous!”
“Seen what, Bito?” Cassandra De Granaco asked as she looked up from her book.
Bito Wladon, also known in the western world as infamous criminal Sonar, dropped the bundle on the table before her. “The headlines! The articles!” He snatched one of the newspapers from the pile and opened it to page twelve. “Modora — her glorious name in bold type!”
Cassandra stood and looked at the offered article. Indeed, there was mention of the small European nation in the second column. Sometimes as Modora-Granaco, others just as Modora. But sure enough, the name of their country, joined last Fall in a marriage between two ruling parties, was in print. “Good,” she said simply and started to sit.
“Good?” Sonar asked with surprise. “Good? Is that all you can say? Good?”
Cassandra lowered her eyebrow but held her tongue. She did not appreciate her husband’s current tone, nor would she tolerate it if she did not have to. “What more should I say, Bito? The newspapers covered the recent invasion and our nation’s role in helping to defend Europe. I would expect that of them if they were to do an accurate job reporting.”
“Hmmmph,” Sonar grunted. “You do not see the significance of this, my dear. This…” He shook the paper, and the pages made a slight rattling sound in the air. “…will show the world who we are and our place of importance! Why, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the telephone ring, and it being some big reporter wanting to interview me.”
Cassandra rolled her eyes slightly. She hardly put much credence in the media personalities. They were more likely to get their heads blown off or imprisoned, all for the sake of chasing down a story. As far as she was concerned, every one of them got what they deserved for butting their noses into other peoples’ business. “Whatever you like,” she said flatly.
“And not just that,” Sonar said, now pacing about the room. This was the way he liked to think — move the body and move the mind. “I am considering appointing one of our people to represent us in the United Nations back in America. After all, Modora’s voice should be heard and her interests protected. Who knows how much our population will swell after this?”
Just then, a voice called from down the hall. “Your Excellency, Your Excellency!”
“In here, Szackas,” Sonar called out, recognizing the voice.
Professor Andrei Szackas entered the room. The man was in his early thirties with short brown hair. He wore a lab coat over his brown pants and shirt. “Sire, I had on the late afternoon news while I was in my laboratory going over things. Modora was mentioned.”
Sonar’s face lit up. “See, I told you, my dear,” he said, turning to his wife. “The world has discovered our glorious nation and cannot get enough. This is a cause for celebration!” He went over to a small cabinet, opened it, and withdrew a glass carafe full of a dark liquid. He then took out three glasses. “Szackas, you will join us in some selatka, yes?”
The professor hesitated. The native homeland drink from Modora was strong and not one he readily enjoyed. His parents back in the United States would try to get him to force some down some during holidays, but it often made him sick the next day. Still, to say no to the emperor could prove to be deadly. If it was choice between a horrid headache and Sonar’s wrath, there was little option. “Perhaps just a little…”
Sonar sloshed the liquor into the three glasses. He handed one to his wife and one to the scientist. “We shall drink to the invaders!”
“The invaders?” Cassandra questioned. “Those destructive aliens? Why?”
“They have brought to Modora many things,” Sonar explained. “Opportunity, fame, and technology!” He raised his glass. “They have been driven out, mostly by enemies of our nation, but Modora shall still reap the benefits of the actions!” He downed his drink in a single gulp and slammed the glass down on the table firmly.
Szackas took his cautiously, like a child would a harsh cough syrup. He could feel it sting slightly as it went down his throat, bringing the terrible memories of his youth sharply back into focus.
Cassandra drank hers by the by, all the while pondering her next move. Here they had invested so much time, effort, and money into the nucleo-sonic armor. While it had served them well as the army defended the nation and others in recent weeks, that was not its intended purpose. Cassandra De Granaco saw it for what it truly was: a way to seize more power. If her foolish husband no longer shared that vision, then she would need to remove him from the equation. If he no longer would be the puppet in her grand scheme, then he would be eliminated.
“What’s the big rush, Dwayne?” a figure in a red and white costume said as he stuck to the shadows, his voice lingering on the name in a bit of a singsong manner.
The tall and muscular figure in the gray prison uniform spun around. While his flowing blonde locks had been cut short when he was incarcerated, Dwayne Wainright was still an attractive figure of a man. He frowned slightly, and his eyes crackled with a spark of crimson energy. His late-night escape through the California countryside was about to be cut short.
“Where are you?” he snapped as he looked about in the darkness. “Too chicken to face me, Hawk?”
“Nah, I’m a chicken-hawk!” the voice in the darkness said.
Wainright spun around, having thought something moved past him. The partial moon wasn’t enough to brighten the clearing.
“I hunt chickens!” Hawk’s voice called again.
“You’re the chicken if you won’t face me!” Wainright yelled. “‘Fraid I’ll whup your butt like I did on the beach?”
There was laughter. “Riiight…” The costumed figure leaped out into the clearing and stood confidently before the fugitive. “Let it go on record that Hawk isn’t afraid of anyone, especially you, Summer Ditz.”
“Sudden Death!” Wainright corrected him. “I’m Sudden Death, and this time we go mano-a-mano! Without your friend around to help like last time, you’ll lose!”
“Is he serious?” another voice called. Wainright turned as a female with flowing white hair dressed in blue and white appeared from the shadows.
“What? A chick?” Sudden Death asked. “Who’s this? Your sister?”
“Something like that,” Hawk said with a smile.
“Don’t mind me,” Dove said as she perched on a fallen tree trunk with ease. “I’m just here to watch.”
The villain grinned. “Yeah? We’ll you’re about to watch your buddy eat dirt! Then I’m catching the freight train when it passes by to head on into L.A.!”
“What, you going all Hollywood on us?” Hawk asked as he charged in for a punch.
Sudden Death took the blow and stumbled backward with a smile. The energy about his eyes seemed to spark more. He knew well that all he needed was to store up enough kinetic energy in order to generate a huge explosive blast. He just had to get the hero to dish out a few rounds first.
“That’s always an option,” the villain said, “but I got bigger plans first! I hear Superman’s laid up in a hospital down there. I plan to blow that big blue boy scout to kingdom come!” He bent over and picked up a huge boulder, hurling it toward his foe.
Hawk ducked and rolled, avoiding the thrown object. “Let’s see how you do against someone who can fight back first,” he said. Suddenly, in the far distance, the sound of a train whistle could be heard. Hawk turned back to his foe and smiled. “And you better be quick about it, or else you’ll miss your train!”
“I ain’t missin’ nothin’,” Sudden Death vowed. He started for the path that led down to the trestle below.
“Not so fast!” Hawk said, grabbing him by the shirt and pulling. “The only place you’re going is down–” The hero slammed the man to the ground. “–hard!”
Sudden Death swept his feet about, trying to trip Hawk up.
The hero leaped out of the way. “You wanna play, you gotta stand up and fight!” Hawk said.
“Fine!” The blonde started to rise.
“Uh-uh,” Hawk mocked. “Didn’t say ‘Simon says’!” He brought his fists down hard, again knocking Wainright to the ground. “Wanna try again?”
“Aaargh!” the fugitive growled. “You’re making me mad!”
“Mad enough to explode?” Hawk asked. “Go ahead. Make my day!”
Sudden Death roared and charged the hero. Hawk slammed him hard to the side. The man tried again, and the hero retaliated once more. The pair went back and forth like this for a bit. All the while, Dove watched the exchange closely.
The villain was breathing heavy. “You gonna… dance, or you… gonna fight?” he huffed.
“I can go all night,” Hawk bragged. “How’s about you? Sounds like you went all soft in prison. How you expect to beat Superman when you can’t take me?”
“I’ll break you!” Sudden Death roared.
“You’ll miss your train,” Dove interjected. Just then, a train whistle sounded, and there was a loud rumbling in the air. “Looks like the 11:45 is right on time.”
“Nooo!” Sudden Death yelled. He started to run past Dove.
She stepped to the side gracefully but kept her right foot out just enough to trip up the fleeing man’s feet.
“Whoooa!” he exclaimed, tumbling forward uncontrollably. Wainright fell over the edge of the cliff, his body bouncing down the rock-embedded and sloped incline. With each hit, he grunted and ooophed in pain.
Hawk and Dove stood at the edge of the cliff and looked down. The young heroine’s head bounced up and down slightly with each hit.
Hawk just watched her and smiled. Then, from the bottom of the cliff, there was a loud explosion. He shook his head. “You’re dissspicable,” he said in his best Daffy Duck impersonation.
Dove laughed. “Just go pick up the trash, and let’s get out of here.”
“Right,” Hawk said. He slid down the hill with his feet turned slightly to the sides, kicking up dirt as he went. When he reached the bottom, there was Sudden Death, collapsed from the powerful discharge. “See, Dwayne, told ya.” He hoisted the body onto his shoulders. “I think if we hurry, we can getcha your old cell back…”