by Dan Swanson
When no attack came, Aquarius felt a stirring of hope. Maybe he’d fooled them after all. He cautiously extended his mystical senses, and as far as he could tell, there were no living beings within at least a million miles. He’d managed to escape.
“I live! I go to rest on my temporary home, where I shall make my plans and recharge my power. I almost destroyed those meddlers once, and I have learned what I need to know to wipe them all out the next time I encounter them. Once they are destroyed, I will send another duplicate to that other universe, and this time there will be nothing to distract it. With the wonder stick, I will destroy any who oppose me!”
He came out of his ball, unaware that he had unconsciously started to glow with the color he’d been as a star, a blindingly bright and sharp electric blue. He hadn’t felt this good in eons, perhaps not since he’d been exiled. To celebrate, he launched into a series of acrobatics, loops, rolls, whirls, and maneuvers that could never even be attempted in a gravity field, while laughing uproariously. Eventually, he realized he’d gone well off course and was burning a lot of energy. He damped down his flare and used the wonder stick to locate the comet so he could resume his flight.
His joy evaporated instantly, and a volcano of rage erupted within. The comet was no longer on orbit to smash the Earth! Aquarius instantly accelerated to his top speed, seething with rage. Was there no end to the interference of these cursed mortals? Would the never stop hounding him, and leave him in peace? He would punish them, and they would suffer as no mortal before them had ever suffered. “With this wonder stick their destruction is certain!” he crowed to himself. “I can perform even feats that were denied to me as a star!”
“I’ve plotted the course the cosmic rod is following,” Green Lantern willed a radar screen into existence, and it showed several things. A small green rocket showed their position, and far behind them now was a blue circle indicating Earth. Far in front of them was a very small red circle, and between their rocket and the red circle was a small white humanoid shape connected to the red circle by a dotted line. “I’m assuming that Aquarius somehow survived the negative dimension and still has the Rod. The red circle indicates a comet; I don’t recognize it. Should we assume it’s his destination?”
“The odds of a very small object following a random course at high velocity through space intersecting a slightly larger speeding object four thousand million miles away with bulls-eye accuracy are astronomical,” Ted commented. “Even Green Arrow couldn’t make that shot. That has to be his destination.” He looked at the display again. Can you put some numbers up there? Velocity and distance?” Numbers appeared on the screen, and Ted did some calculations in his head, then adjusted the thrust provided by the cosmic rod. “We’ll get there the same time he does.” He paused, thoughtfully. “As soon as I can make it small enough, I’m going to put a computer into the C-Rod.” He was already trying to visualize the technology required. Transistors wouldn’t be small enough — someone will have to develop a method of putting thousands of transistors in a single component the size of a quarter.
Alan had seen that faraway look before. “Hey, Ted!” he laughed at his friend. “We’re chasing a dangerous super-villain here; I need your mind on the job at hand!”
With his mystical senses vastly diminished by his low-energy condition, Aquarius didn’t see the attack coming in time to dodge. Three small spaceships floating near his comet all blasted at him with powerful weapons. He was struck simultaneously by a powerful maser beam and a tightly focused beam of x-rays, followed an instant later by a bolt of electricity many times more powerful than a Terrestrial lightning bolt. Aquarius was instantly surrounded by a kind of flickering, glowing coronal discharge, and he writhed in seeming agony.
Inside his thoughts, Aquarius was laughing manically. What total fools these mortals are! he roared inside his head. I was born a sun; energy such as this surged through me like the blood of life! Again my enemies aid me as I grow stronger! He used the wonder stick to absorb the tremendous flow of energy that was bathing him.
“Cease fire!” Tharka the Superwoman yelled over their radio link. Aquarius’ thoughts were so strong she’d received that last one even though she had damped her mental powers as low as they would go. “He’s soaking up our power!” she yelled frantically. “We’re only making him stronger!”
Tharka, Regor of Uuz, and Kell Orr of Xenon were each stationed on one of the small spaceships Aquarius could see; they weren’t real ships but decoys, a thin skin of metal salvaged from Regor’s ship plated over rocks sculpted into the correct shapes by Karre and Larre. Tharka and Regor were firing real weapons they had dismounted from her ship, while Kell Orr was using his x-ray vision. The twins were some thousands of miles away in the real ships with strict orders to go to Earth for help if necessary.
The beams and lightning stopped, and Aquarius silently howled his rage into the vacuum of space. He had hoped his seeming pain would fool them longer. He directed some of his new power through the cosmic rod.
At the exact instant he formed the intention, Tharka knew what was coming next. Once again she yelled into the radio, “Ditch!” even as she was fleeing from her decoy ship at her top speed. A bolt of energy flashed from the cosmic rod, and one of the decoys exploded.
“HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!” Aquaris was once again roaring laughter into the vacuum of space. He hadn’t felt this good in ages. “Thus all who oppose me perish!” He was already aiming the cosmic rod at another of the small ships when Kell Orr burst from the flying debris of the first one. The explosion had shaken him up, and his costume was torn and tattered, but he rocketed toward the space monster. Aquarius started in disbelief — he recognized this man! He’d already fought two others, identical in features and seemingly in power. How many of him were there?
In that instant of hesitation, Kell Orr slammed into the giant being — and bounced off, as he discovered that the body of Aquarius, which seemed so flimsy that stars could be seen through it, was at least as invulnerable as he was. Before he could recover, Aquarius blasted him again. Unlike Superman, who had been knocked out by a similar blast, Kell Orr was staggered but unharmed.
That blast was as powerful as that which hurt the other one of him, Aquarius was thinking frantically. He realized he’d made a mistake — he’d imbued his duplicate with most of his mystical energy, and the wonder stick couldn’t recharge energy of that type. His body would only recharge itself with rest. It must have been the magic that stopped the other one, magic that he was now missing. Before Kell could recover, Aquarius grabbed him in a beam of force from the wonder stick and commanded it to blast him as far away as it could.