Obsidian watched for the hunter as Steph Harrigan paused just outside the oval cast by the strange sun. She didn’t want to stand in front of the light, presenting a perfect target for the rifleman. She took a deep breath, then threw herself through the opening. She rolled to a stop on a wide ledge. A stream of lava rolled past beneath her feet. Todd Rice flowed through the opening, easing against the wall on the other side of the door.
“Shut this, and maybe that will buy us enough time to get away from these guys,” Todd whispered, hoping the hunter didn’t have ears like Superman.
“I’m with you there,” said Stephanie, hefting her rifle. The pair took to the air. Steph fired at the cave entrance as she flew up. The cyan globes caved that wall and overhanging roof in. She watched the stone cascade down in a pile of rubble.
“Let’s jet,” said Obsidian. “I don’t think that’s going to hold him for long.”
“Don’t talk — just do it,” said Steph, climbing up. Her eyes scanned for the Locusts she expected to burst from thin air as she jacked the empty ammo tube from the rifle. A quick examination of her belt told her she was out. She dropped the useless rifle into the chasm.
“What’s wrong?” asked Obsidian, watching the rifle fall into the flowing lava.
“Out of ammo,” Steph said. “I guess we’ll have to rely on our wits now.”
Quatrain climbed out of the underground network. He settled his rifle on his back. He played the escape across the inside his visor. That seemed to have gone well. Quatrain pressed a control on his wristband. Another flying disk turned on, took to the air, and coasted around obstacles to get to him. He jumped aboard the platform. The vehicle soared away from the massed Locusts.
He looped to the other side of the catacombs. His quarry had taken to the sky in a huge canyon that had a river of magma flowing through its bottom. He spotted their trail easily. He took up a position two miles behind them. He expected they would stop and rest after the treatment they had received from their captors. When the two did, he would, too. Sooner or later, they would lead him to the Guardian’s castle. The Light would order his Locusts in to massacre everyone present. That would settle the fight for this fractured world. Then Quatrain could get his pay and move on to another job.
Green Lantern found the massed soldiers forming into three long skirmish lines. Platforms with cannons floated into position. Alan Scott’s fiery aura seemed to set off a panic as every weapon in sight turned his way and fired almost as one. The hero from Earth flew straight up, dodging the multiple projectiles heading for him.
A small platoon erupted out of the neat lines. They fired at Green Lantern as they flew up. He smiled, his willpower lifting him faster than the armored troopers’s jets. He concentrated, and a wall of green flame materialized in front of the lead soldiers. They crashed against the sudden barrier like birds against clear glass. He watched them drop before he flew away.
Alan held his lantern in front of him. The green flame had singled out something for him to follow. He soared across the sky. He had a feeling his lantern was leading him to Todd.
He then heard a dragon’s roar and looked around. The green soldiers had fielded three planes. He paused in place, lifting his lantern in an arc of flame. The jets fired at the Green Lantern, but the energy packets bounced off his shield. Alan willed a trident in place. The tines ripped through the planes, holding them in the air. He dispersed the trident, and the jets fell when they were released. The pilots flew free until a giant green boxing glove knocked them out of the air.
“I always did like the old glove trick,” Green Lantern said to the empty sky. He turned and flew after the invisible trail he had detected.
Alan caught up with Todd and a green trooper after a few minutes. He smiled when he saw his son. He hid his surprise at the return of Todd’s shadow powers. “Who’s your new friend, Todd?” said Alan.
“It’s me,” said Stephanie Harrigan. “Nice to see you again.”
“Sorry,” said Alan. “I didn’t recognize you in that getup.”
“That’s OK,” said Steph.
“This place has a major problem, Dad,” said Todd. “This guy has got an army back there, and he’s ready to use it.”
“I saw it,” said Alan. “Let’s catch up with the others, and we’ll compare notes then.”
“Did Jennie-Lynn get her power pulse back, too?” asked Todd.
“No,” said Alan. “I have a feeling that we’ll learn the truth soon enough. Your mother can sense the triplets and can lead us to them. That’s where the man who took your powers will be.”
“Then we can finally go home,” said Todd.
“As soon as we get the kids back,” said Alan. “Let’s join the others and get to it.”
“Right behind you,” said Steph.
Quatrain watched the meeting from a place of concealment. He listened to their conversation as he fell back in behind them. Obviously they knew nothing. They were tourists on a safari. The trio met with another group. The older female pointed, telling the group the babies were that way. A bubble of green surrounded the seven. It flew in the direction the woman had pointed. Quatrain floated after them.
Messages flitted across his visor as the Light’s army advanced. The Locusts would encircle the Guardian’s position. Then the Light would win the war in one fell swoop. Quatrain knew that this world would be broken down in constituent parts and used to increase the Light’s powers. It was just a job like any other.
Quatrain stopped when he saw that the group had paused at a rocky promontory floating away in the sky. The caped leader passed them through the wall. Quatrain examined the stone face for openings as he sent back a coordinate for the Light. There had to be a door to kick in. He concentrated on the target, searching for weaknesses as he waited for the army to join him. Brute force would decide the day for the Guardian.
The hunter wondered who was trapping who as he waited for the Light’s cohorts to arrive and begin their bombardment on the flying island.
Green Lantern kept up his force-field up as he passed his extended family and guests through the stone wall they had encountered. A man in plate armor stood in the hall, holding a staff in a defensive in front of him.
“Keeper of the Starheart?” the soldier asked.
“Yes,” said Alan Scott, dispersing the bubble. A frown crossed his masked face briefly. “I am called the Green Lantern.”
“The Guardian is waiting for you in his tower,” said the soldier. “If you follow this hall, take the right set of stairs until you reach Landing 4. Turn left and walk down until you see a spiral staircase. He will be at the top of the tower.”
“Thank you,” said Green Lantern. The soldier nodded, then marched away.
“The Guardian is expecting us?” said Todd.
“Let’s talk to him and see what’s going on,” said Alan, taking the lead.
“I’d say they are getting ready for a fight,” Steph said, taking off her helmet. Sweat and blood marked her brow.
A group of soldiers hollered for the group to get out of the way so they could drag a truck of drums past. They pulled the load out of sight as fast as they could drag it. “Which side are we on?” whispered Hank King.
The group followed the guard’s direction. Preparations flowed around them as smoothly as sergeants could order enlisted men. Alan used his lantern to move things along when the path became obstructed with a mobile cannon. The tower they wanted was devoid of any movement at all.
Green Lantern paused at the heavy crystal door that stood at the top of the tower. He raised his hand to knock. The door slid away from his touch. “Come in,” said a crackling voice.
A pillar of green flame stood in the center of a wide, spacious room. It became a man in green armor, face trying to be human, but not quite succeeding.
“I am the Guardian,” said the emerald knight. “I see that you are a keeper of the Starheart.”
“I’m the Green Lantern,” said Alan. “We have come about my children.”
“I am aware of that,” said the Guardian. “I have been keeping them safe since I took them. I expected you sooner than this.”
Alan glanced at Molly. She hid her relief at the news. “You took my ring, also,” said Green Lantern.
“I expected you to follow the link between the pieces of the Starheart,” said the Guardian.
“The children?” asked Alan.
“Insurance that you would come.”
Quatrain stood at ease. He had picked out several entrance points into the floating castle. The Locusts were setting up their cannons around the orbiting rock. Bombardment would begin as soon as the Light arrived. He had picked out a point where he could blow out a wall and enter on his own. A battle between two armies was not what he wanted to be involved in. He wanted to get to the head of the enemy and cut it off.
The hunter spotted the Light’s halo lift over the horizon before he saw the being’s transport. He waited for the transport to reach its landing spot. Command messages filtered through his visor. The various weapons on the field whined to charge up. Then the battle began with a blinding discharge from one of the walking cannons. Quatrain watched the rock collapse under the plasma discharges. The floating castle skated away from the energy packets. The hunter smiled at the unforeseen complication.
The Locusts took to the air in a green and yellow wave. The walking artillery got to their feet and ran after the moving target. Quatrain stepped on the accelerator of his own hovering disk. A chase was what he wanted, not a herbivore slaughter.
Quatrain flew by the pursuing Locusts. He worked the remote before he leaped to the floating rock. He dug into the stone with his gloved hands, then climbed to the spot he had picked for his entrance. He reached under his tabard and pulled out a flat square. Spreading the square across the rock, he used a single finger flick to ignite the material in a flash. The stone poured away in a stream, and a crystal wall stood out underneath the cleared area.