by Dan Swanson, partially adapted from Justice League of America #74 by Dennis O’Neil and Dick Dillin
Deep in space, the two remaining spaceships floated a safe distance away in the shadow of the comet. Kell Orr of Xenon flew up to the floating mountain and began to push against it, at first gradually and then with increasing force. He pushed through the surface rubble deposited by the meteor showers that had smashed there earlier and soon reached the original surface. This proved more durable than the rubble, and he began pushing even harder. When the rock began to crack, he backed off a little and then continued to apply a steady force. He didn’t have to change this thing’s orbit a lot, and he didn’t have to be too picky about which direction he pushed. On board the two ships, Regor of Uuz and Tharka the Superwoman used sensitive instruments to measure the shift of the comet’s orbit. Finally Tharka signaled Kell to stop; his job was done.
“Good work. You’ve changed the orbit enough that it will now miss the Earth by around sixty-five million miles, making its closest approach late in the Earth month of March. And its orbit won’t bring it back until 2441. We can’t predict the next orbit accurately enough to determine if the Earth will be in danger then, but Terrestrial civilization should be advanced enough by that time to deal with it if they have to.” She didn’t know it, but this particular comet would be spotted by Earth observers several months from now, and, per longstanding tradition, would be named Comet Bennet (also C/1969 Y1) after the amateur astronomer who first discovered it.
As Kell had accelerated the comet into its new orbit, some of the loose rubble from its surface had drifted away into space. Although the twins were invulnerable to the environment of space and didn’t need their helmets any longer, they hadn’t yet developed the power of flight. Larre and Karre were zipping around by using the rocket belts from their spacesuits, smashing these smaller rocks into dust fine enough for the comet’s feeble gravity to pull a shroud of dust along with it on the new orbit. Before they re-entered the ships, Kell, Larre, and Karre used their heat-vision to burn the dust off of each other. With their preparations completed, all they could do was wait. If Regor was right, they wouldn’t have to wait for long.
On Earth, Superman of the JSA was just delivering the last words at the funeral of Larry Lance, when he was rudely interrupted by maniacal laughter. The mourning heroes looked up to see Aquarius sitting atop the private observatory of Ted Knight, slapping his knee and roaring. “Puny mortals — amusing!” his coarse, gravelly voice thundered mockingly at them. “You think life is so valuable? You give me great mirth!”
“You murderer!” Black Canary screamed at the giant demon. She tried to race to the attack, but Wonder Woman held her back.
“Dinah,” Wonder Woman of the JSA said gently to her long-time friend, “there’s nothing you can do.”
“But we can do something — and we will!” Superman of Earth-Two vowed grimly.
“Or die trying!” the Green Lantern of the JSA added in his own determined voice.
Aquarius fled into the sky, his laughter booming behind him. “HA HA HA! Come, mortals! Amuse me more! Frolic with me before I tire and extinguish you!”
The Green Lanterns provided transport for their non-flying friends, and most of the heroes took to the sky, giving chase to their new enemy. “Aquarius is speeding for the astral gate leading into Earth-One!” Doctor Fate notified his friends urgently. The two Green Lanterns each vowed to stop him, but the true danger seemed lost on them. “The situation is worse than either of you realizes!” he warned them. “If we allow Aquarius to bring magic from this universe to yours, the balance of forces will be upset…” He paused dramatically for a second before his thunderous voice boomed forth a prophecy of doom. “…He could rend the fabric of existence! All humanity could perish in a final spasm of hideous insanity!”
As the heroes chased Aquarius into the astral corridor, they crashed into a trap he had set for them, a space-warp that trapped most of them and put them instantly into suspended animation. After a quick but fierce struggle, the Green Lanterns managed to escape by combining their will power. Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of Earth-Two, convinced Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Earth-One, that they must deal with Aquarius on their own. The others were too emotionally compromised by the death of Larry Lance and recent events to be able to do what must be done. Hal agreed, saying, “If we return, we can rescue our companions.”
“And if we don’t,” Alan said grimly, “it won’t make any difference.”
The two emerald warriors taunted and insulted Aquarius until he was so enraged that he turned back from the entrance to Earth-One and blindly pursued them into the antimatter universe, roaring his anger. The green auras projected by their power rings protected the heroes from contact with any negative matter, but Aquarius had no such protection — and he died in a fiery paroxysm of annihilation when he couldn’t escape a swarm of meteors made of negative particles that exploded upon contact with his positive particles. The Green Lanterns were buffeted by a tremendous explosion such as neither of them had ever before witnessed as Aquarius vanished in a searing blaze of brilliance.
For the Justice League, the rest of the case was routine. The Green Lanterns rescued their fellows, and they all returned to the estate of Ted Knight. The JLA took their leave and returned to Earth-One, with one surprise — Black Canary asked to go with them to get away from the bad memories and the ghost of her husband, which she felt would forever haunt her if she remained on this Earth. The heroes in the Justice League gladly welcomed a new member.
After the JLA left, Green Lantern dropped in on Ted Knight. Starman was bruised and battered from his fall, which to him had occurred only a handful of hours ago, though to Alan Scott it had been two long, harrowing weeks. Ted was puzzled when he’d heard the whole story.
“The cosmic rod certainly has the power to protect its wielder from antimatter,” he stated, speaking slowly and painfully. “In fact, I used it to create an antimatter duplicate cosmic rod which Ultraman stole from me when we first battled the Crime Syndicate of America. (*) Aquarius seemed to instinctively know how to use it. He should have been able to protect himself in the negative universe just as well as you and Hal.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Most Dangerous Earth of All,” in Justice League of America #30 (September, 1964).]
Green Lantern was thoughtful. “Now that you mention it, I don’t recall him using it against us at the end.” He held up his fist and stared at the ring. “Ring, show us the last battle with Aquarius.” In three-dimensional images, the two heroes watched as the Green Lanterns yelled insults at the energy being in the corridor between the universes. “Freeze this scene. Zoom in on Aquarius.” The figure of Aquarius expanded, and they could see that, in fact, he was no longer holding the cosmic rod.
Ted immediately rolled his legs off the bed and tried to sit up. He got about halfway and groaned painfully, then with second effort and more painful grunts, he sat upright. Green Lantern was dismayed. “Ted, you shouldn’t be getting up.” He reached out and put his hand on Ted’s shoulder.
“I have to,” Ted gasped out desperately between moans. “This whole thing, Larry’s death, Canary leaving, the world vanishing — it’s all my fault for being careless and letting Aquarius take my cosmic rod. If it hadn’t been for Doctor Fate and the Justice League, I would have been responsible for the destruction of every human on Earth! I must get the cosmic rod back before anyone else can misuse it!”
“C’mon, Ted, you know that’s not true,” Green Lantern insisted. “Aquarius was evil, and he would have caused death and destruction without your Rod.”
Ted interrupted him, his growing anger allowing him to ignore his pain. “That’s total nonsense, Alan. Aquarius has the power of a star — but the cosmic rod lets me control the power of the stars! I should have been able to handle him myself.” He stood up quickly. “After almost thirty years, I should have figured–” He hesitated and tried to continue. “–figured out some way…” He abruptly sat down, lowered his head to his knees, and wrapped his arms around his head. “Ultraman stole it, too. Why didn’t I learn?” His voice was almost inaudible. After a moment’s silence, he looked up at his old friend.
“Alan,” he begged, “I need you to use your power ring to heal me.”
“What?!” Green Lantern gasped incredulously. “I can’t do that!”
“Bullspit! You say it’s a magic ring, and I’ve seen Doctor Fate and the Spectre use their magic to heal other people. So, use your magic ring to heal me. Alan, I’ve never asked you for any favors before, but this is something I need.”
“Doctor Fate is a mage who has studied magic for millennia, and the Spectre is a mystical being of almost unlimited power,” the Emerald Warrior argued. “As a magic user, I just don’t measure up to either of them. I don’t understand how the magic of the ring works, any more than you do. I just tell it what to do.”
“So tell it to heal me!” Ted insisted.
“Seriously, Ted, it could be dangerous,” Alan warned. “Charles and I have talked about it, occasionally, and he’s concerned that there could be long-term side effects. The ring doesn’t have a blueprint for how your body should work, you know. And there might be residual magical traces left in your system.”
“Damn it, Alan, you know I don’t even believe in magic. Are you going to help me or not? If not, go away and stop distracting me!” Before Alan could say anything, he continued, “There is a blueprint readily available! Order the ring to compare my injuries to your healthy body and use yours as a healthy template.”
Green Lantern reluctantly relented. Ted lay on one bed, Alan on the other, and a green glow surrounded both of them. After a minute, a vertical green plane about five feet tall and wider than both beds formed at the foot end. It moved toward the head, parting like the surface of a pool of water as it moved over the footboards. The surface was dappled in different shades of green in a pattern that would be recognized as fractal in just a few years. When the plane reached the feet of the heroes, it brightened, and the pattern started to shift. It became much more dense closer to the bodies of the heroes and faded away near the edges and the center of the plane. Two distinct patterns developed, and to Alan they initially appeared identical, but he looked closer and could see that although they shared a common form and were recognizably related, the smaller details were often quite different.
“Must be the ring’s representation of the genetic code,” Green Lantern guessed, his engineer’s curiosity aroused. “And those black spots that lighten as the plane sweeps forward must represent problems or injuries.” He realized that Ted’s basic pattern was too complex for him to be sure whether it was changed by the passing of the plane. He was fascinated by the black spots in his own scan. “That one must represent the hairline fracture I got playing football in high school,” he mused, and was astonished when it faded and vanished. “I wonder if I’ll still be able to predict the weather?” The plane vanished when it reached their noses.
“I didn’t want to take a chance with our brains, Ted,” Green Lantern explained. “Never know what the side effects might be of joining our minds with magic. If you’ve got a concussion, it’ll have to heal on its own.”
“Thanks, Alan, I feel fantastic.” Ted still had a headache, but he wasn’t going to let Alan know. “I’ve got to get to work.”
“You know, I feel great, too,” Alan commented. Maybe I should try that sort of thing more often, he thought to himself. To Ted, he continued, “I think I’ll stick around for a while, if you don’t mind. Maybe I can be useful.”
“Thanks again, pal.” Ted stuck out his hand, and the two heroes warmly and sincerely shook hands. Due to their similar energy-based powers, they had always felt a kinship, and this helped them feel closer than ever.
Alan followed Ted as he rushed into his office. Ted picked up a lamp from his desk and began pulling it apart. Green Lantern was startled when dismantling the lamp revealed what was clearly a cosmic rod, though it was longer and more slender than the one Aquarius had stolen. “I keep several of them available. They’re all a little different, as I’m always experimenting. This one has some features I want to test out, including one that makes it more difficult to steal. This one is tuned to me. If anyone else tries to use it, it stops working.”
“Nice!” his friend said with admiration. “So what do we do now?”
“Now, I’m going to find the other C-Rod,” Ted vowed. He raised the cosmic rod and issued a mental command. The Rod pulled at his hand until it was pointing skyward. “It’s up there and getting farther away. I’m going after it!”
“The Aquarius we destroyed must have been a phony,” Green Lantern yelped in anger. “I’m coming along. I want another chance at that monster!”
Ted quickly changed to his costume, and the two red-and-green-clad heroes rocketed away on their mission of vengeance.