by Dan Swanson
All five of the strange visitors from other planets were again gathered in the command room of the Zavoy when Tharka realized she was hearing, very faintly, what sounded like several people talking in the next room. But that couldn’t be! There was nobody out here except her new friends, and she could see them all. She concentrated on her life-radar sense and quickly confirmed that there were no other beings within her range, much less in the next room. And as she concentrated, the voices seemed to grow louder. But now she realized that she wasn’t hearing these voices as sounds; they were appearing directly in her mind.
The girl of destiny had put a lot of effort into improving her mental powers over the years, hoping that meditation techniques she’d studied from across her world might help develop her life radar into true telepathy, so she wasn’t totally unprepared for the sensation of voices in her mind. It seemed a strange time for such an evolution to occur, but who could explain why so many things happened when they did? She closed her eyes and studied her mental map, and somehow she was able to link each of the murmuring voices to one of the stars in her head that represented her companions. Larre’s thoughts, if that’s what she was hearing, seemed to be sharper than those of the others, and when she discretely looked his way, she noticed he was furtively staring at her.
She started to laugh, but instantly began gasping in pain. She’d realized where Larre had been staring, which seemed to have given her mind just the hint it needed to fully translate his thoughts, and suddenly it was as if a dike had let loose. Thoughts cascaded into her mind, the thoughts of a thirteen-year-old boy staring at a beautiful woman. She wasn’t offended — people had been staring at her throughout her life, and somewhere inside she’d been aware of the many reasons for those stares. But she was amused, and so she laughed, and then the thoughts of the others slammed into her mind as well, and she’d gasped in confusion. Who would have ever thought that being able to hear other people’s thoughts would be so chaotic and confusing? With the thoughts of everyone around her jumbled together, she couldn’t make out anything coherent, even her own thoughts. She was starting to panic, but somewhere inside she knew how to handle this — she made a mental effort, and the alien thoughts simply vanished. The woman of the future mentally thanked the Infinite Force and the wise mystics who’d taught her to turn off her mental senses years ago, and gave thanks again that the old technique still worked with this newly manifested telepathy.
“What’s the matter?” Karre spoke before any of the others. It took Tharka a second to get her concentration back while concern started to show on the faces of her friends.
“I’m not sure,” she spoke cautiously. How would her new friends react to being cooped up with someone who could read their minds? “My mutant mind gives me some of my powers,” she reminded the others, “but it seems as if the full range of my powers is still developing. It’s as if I sometimes get mental growing pains, and soon afterwards, I discover that I’ve evolved a new ability.” This was the absolute truth, although the only other time she’d had mental growing pains had been over twenty years ago and soon afterwards that time had been several weeks, not several seconds as had happened today. Why now? she wondered silently. Could it be my exposure to these other super-beings? I wonder if my telekinesis has been affected. She figured she’d test it later in privacy.
“Great Krypton!” Kell Orr exclaimed. He was using his super-vision to scan space in the direction of Earth. “Something’s coming our way!” At super-speed, he focused the modified electronic telescope to show everyone what he was seeing.
In abject terror, Aquarius fled into space at the highest velocity he could command from the wonder stick. He’d been a fool to imbue that idiotic duplicate with so much of his energy. If it had succeeded in drawing the mortal heroes through the astral corridor into that other universe, he would have been rid of them all. After that, he’d planned to rest on his comet until it approached the Earth, recharging his store of energy at leisure with the wonder stick. When the comet reached Earth, he would be at full power with no heroes to stand in his way, and he would have his revenge.
But the duplicate had failed and been destroyed, and the heroes and that other universe were untouched. They would figure out his ruse and be after him soon, and he was so weak they would hound him until they destroyed him.
“What was that?” he screamed in panic as his mystical senses touched something moving at high speed coming toward him. He blasted it with the wonder stick, and a small piece of space debris disintegrated. “I can’t afford to waste any more power!” he babbled fearfully. Something was sneaking up on him. He whirled around to blast whatever it was behind him, but there was nothing there. Now virtually petrified and sobbing with fear, Aquarius curled up into a ball wrapped around the wonder stick and made himself as small as possible. He ordered the wonder stick to make him look like just another meteor and continued to speed through space. But a close observer might have wondered why a tiny meteor was constantly shivering as if wracked with miniature earthquakes.
Green Lantern and Starman made a quick stop at Alan Scott’s residence so Alan could use his lantern to recharge his power ring. Ted Knight had witnessed this short ceremony before, but it never got old for him. In a sense, he found the whole thing as invigorating as Alan did — after all, reading of Green Lantern’s exploits was one of the reasons he had first donned the Starman uniform.
Standing before the table, Green Lantern made a fist with his left hand and slowly extended his arm until the power ring on his middle finger came into contact with the green lens of the of the lantern.
“I shall shed my light over dark evil.”
Tendrils of emerald energy emerged from the lantern and swirled around Alan until he and the lantern were both wrapped in a glowing green flame.
“For the dark things cannot stand the light.”
The light within the lantern began to pulse until it was keeping perfect time with Alan’s heartbeat.
“The light of the Green Lantern!”
The moment the final syllable had passed his lips, there was a noiseless, forceless explosion of green energy that erupted from the lantern, and the green flame expanded to totally fill the small room. It then began to shrink, condensing and glowing more brilliantly as it condensed and transformed into a green stream flowing into the power ring. To Ted, it seemed as if time was standing still, and this transformation was taking a long time — but when the last wisp of green energy was absorbed by the ring, he knew the whole process had taken only a few seconds.
Ted couldn’t help but grin at the smile that appeared on Alan’s face once the glow that had surrounded him faded. More than anything, that smile showed the true mark of Alan’s long association with the magical Green Flame of Life. He wondered if perhaps he should create some kind of ritual around the cosmic rod to continually remind himself what he was fighting for. Alan stood still for several seconds, and his look of rapture quickly faded. As always, there was work to be done.
“Say, Alan, we’re going a long way out. What if it takes us more than a day?” Ted was worried. If Green Lantern’s ring ran out of power in deep space, it could cause them real problems.
“I’ve been waiting for a chance to try out a new trick,” Alan responded with a sly smile, knowing he was about to one-up his friend, “something I recently picked up from Hal. Check it out.” He unleashed a green beam at the lantern, and a transparent glowing green globe formed around it. The globe and the lantern floated off the table, shrinking as they approached Green Lantern. They vanished as they touched the emblem on his chest. “Miniature pocket universe; it’ll follow me wherever I go. Neat, huh?”
Ted’s face showed his incredulity — a pocket universe? He was already trying to figure out how to achieve a similar effect with the cosmic rod; he knew he’d obsess over it until he came up with a neat trick of his own. “Since you’ve got a way to carry stuff with us easily, why don’t we make one more stop and get my cook to pack us lunch and dinner?” he suggested. “I know your ring can cobble up a meal, but nothing like what Mrs. Karle will whip up. It won’t put us much further behind.” Green Lantern agreed, and they headed for stately Knight Manor once again.
Green Lantern was thoughtful as they flew, making some plans for their mission. “Why don’t you provide propulsion, and I’ll do life support?” he said.
“Good idea,” Ted agreed, having been thinking the same thing. The power ring would provide more comfortable surroundings than he could create with the cosmic rod. “I’ve always wondered what top-end velocity I could achieve with the cosmic rod if I didn’t have to split power between life support and propulsion. I’ll bet I can get a hundred G’s if you can deal with the acceleration effects.”
“Pretty hot stuff — let’s see if I can handle it!” Green Lantern said, accepting the challenge, then frowned. “Won’t that get us up to relativistic velocities in a hurry?”
Ted did some quick calculations in his head. “It would take around eight days before we reached one percent of light speed. We’ll be out of the solar system in less than three days. I propose we don’t chase him any further than that.”
Green Lantern agreed. Mrs. Karle, Ted’s fantastic cook, put together enough food to choke an elephant, and Ted felt as if they were even again. And he’d have some new trick the next time they got together. Green Lantern added it to the pocket universe.
“No time passes in there,” the emerald gladiator boasted. “These will still be hot — or cold — when it’s time to eat.”
Finally, they lifted out of the atmosphere. Green Lantern formed a comfortable vehicle around them, with plush reclining swivel chairs and private facilities, and they populated a green refrigerator with some snacks and cold drinks so they wouldn’t have to open the pocket universe every time they got thirsty. Finally, they rocketed toward the stars, guided by one cosmic rod tracking its missing counterpart.