“You took our children for insurance?” cried Molly Scott. “What kind of monster are you?”
“I am what I am,” said the Guardian.
The castle shook under an unseen hand. “What’s going on?” asked Green Lantern. Light flared around his lantern.
“The Light has arrived,” said the Guardian, gesturing at his window. “We have been dueling each other for some time.”
The group moved to the window. Below the opening, the mass of green soldiers were firing into the rockface. “Why don’t you go out there and stop them?” asked Green Lantern. “You obviously have the power.”
“I’d like to see your tactics first,” said the green knight. “The first time I confronted them, I was wounded.”
“My children first,” said Alan Scott. “Then I will think about helping you out of your problem.”
“Agreed,” said the Guardian.
He gestured one of his creations to life. The black shadow vanished into a gleaming wall. It returned moments later, holding the triplets in its arms. It handed little Sarah, Adam, and Megan to Molly and Jennie-Lynn Hayden, whose own skin changed to its normal green color at the contact. Jade looked up, smiling as the shadow wrapped around her and the Harlequin. When it vanished, so had they.
“What did you do?” Brainwave demanded, the air around Hank King’s head boiling in anger.
“I sent them back to Earth,” said the Guardian. “I have no need for them.”
“Calm down, Hank,” Frances Kane said, gripping his arm.
“Do you have a need for the rest of us?” asked Obsidian.
“If you wish to leave,” said the Guardian. “I will arrange transport for all of you after the battle is settled.”
“So we’re hostages,” said Steph Harrigan.
“That would be one way to put it.”
“I can just take us out of here,” said Green Lantern.
“Go ahead,” said the Guardian.
A beam of bright light emitted from the pursuing army. It sliced through the stone outer wall and crystal inner walls. The castle shook as part of it fell away in a slow tumble.
“What was that?” asked Steph.
“That was the Light,” said the emerald knight. “His Locusts will be able to board us at will when they catch up.”
Green Lantern rubbed his chin. His eyes searched the invading troops for an answer. He watched their movements before an idea hit him. “Steph,” said Alan. “Let me see that helmet.” She tossed the helmet to him. He examined the interior and smiled. “Let’s see what happens when I do this,” Green Lantern said, aiming his lantern into the helmet.
Light raced through the channels. Locusts fell over as the light was converted to sound at the other end. Half of the soldiers dropped before filters could stop the signal. The rest paused in disorientation before orders could get them moving in the right direction.
“Impressive,” said the Guardian. “What about the rest?”
“I’m open to suggestions,” said Green Lantern.
“I tried the multiple-man approach the last time I confronted the Light,” said the Guardian.
“Multiple man?” said Alan. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like that.”
“I noticed you create objects,” said the Guardian. “This is what I meant.”
The glowing knight spread his arms wide, and a flood of shadow-men erupted from his green form. The creations flew through the wall, swooping down on the Locusts. A riot broke out in the middle of the advance as the shadows and green soldiers attacked each other.
“Army in a can,” remarked Green Lantern. “How was this stopped?”
“Watch,” said the Guardian.
The Locusts reorganized themselves into firing squads. Rifles pointed at the shadows as they flailed about. Green soldiers and shadows were destroyed under the multiple crack of the weapons. A beam of light erupted again. It blazed through the Guardian’s tower, shaking the crystal walls. Shards fell out of the ceiling, snapping against Brainwave’s shield as he spread it over his friends.
“That was how I was wounded,” the Guardian said.
Green Lantern frowned at the sound of rock collapsing. He reached out, inserting flaming jacks to hold up the walls. “This place is going to collapse if he keeps hitting it like that,” Alan said. “We have to get out of here.”
“Where do you think we can go?” asked the Guardian.
Quatrain wandered the halls of the castle. He dodged the guard where he could. He killed them when he couldn’t. He knew he was on the right track when he spotted the fiery supports holding a tower’s walls upright.
The hunter paused at the door to the tower apartment. His long rifle was in his hand when he kicked the door open. He swung it to aim, trying to decide who was the most dangerous person he saw. He settled the barrel on Frances Kane and fired, his cannon opened to fire the largest amount of energy it could channel.
The beam impacted on target, and Frances vanished in a birdlike corona. Debris flew as the aura ate at the floor and air. Then the scene calmed, revealing an angry Frances Kane.
“Are you all right, Fran?” asked Todd, rushing forward.
A wave of a glowing hand sent him crashing into the wall. Green Lantern stepped forward, but a glowing green hand fell on his arm. He looked at the Guardian, who made a wait gesture with his other hand.
Quatrain assessed his chances as he tried to think of a new strategy in the face of immolation. “I didn’t know you were involved in things, Phoenix,” he said. “I thought you were still gathering pieces of the Starheart.” Steph grabbed Todd’s arm and pulled him out of the expanding bird of fire.
The hunter realized he had said the wrong thing when he saw the wings of fire reach for him in a cascade of burning air. He threw himself backward through the door as the wings sliced through the crystal walls after him.
Frances Kane turned, Quatrain in her blazing grasp. Her hair flowed straight up from her head as the bird image flickered around her. “Years of work wasted,” she said, squeezing the hunter. “Thrown away by a bounty hunter with a big mouth.”
“You faked everything, didn’t you?” asked Hank King. “There was no silver ring, was there?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Jade and Obsidian: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Chapter 2: The Silver Lantern and Ring.]
“Frances Kane was someone I replaced,” said the Phoenix. “I had hoped to get in close to the wielders of the Starheart, earn their trust, and then get rid of them one by one. Now I shall have to improvise.”
Brainwave extended his bubble around Steph and Obsidian. A fiery bolt hit the field. All three flew through the air. The field went out as the group hit a wall.
A cluster of shadows fell on the Phoenix like thrown rags. It was enough to make her lose her grip on the dazed Quatrain. She turned, the icon around her screaming. The fiery blast cut through the Guardian in an instant.
“I even had a fake blood sample to be tested,” the false Frances said, marching toward Alan Scott. “All ruined by a chance meeting.”
“I think you need to calm down, Frances, or whoever you are,” said Green Lantern. “If that army gets in here, you will be in just as much trouble as the rest of us.”
“I’ll be on my way back to Earth as soon as I take your lantern and ring,” said the Phoenix. “The Light won’t know I’ve even been here.”
“It’s not going to be that easy,” vowed Green Lantern.
“Yes, it will,” said the Phoenix, flame erupting from her body.
Alan Scott raised his lantern as the flame pushed him through the window.
Quatrain looked up from the floor. Scorch marks burned across his light armor like tiger stripes. His feathered hat had vanished down the tower’s stairs. His situation depended on the remaining three to defeat the Phoenix before she turned her attention on him. That wasn’t likely in his opinion.
He pulled a metal ball from his belt. He thumbed the switch on it, then threw the ball at the Phoenix as she turned to dispense with the younger members of the party. The grenade went off with a sonic boom and a bright flash. That was enough to put out her aura for a moment.
Quatrain smiled, glad he didn’t tell the amateurs they had to press the advantage he had given them. The redheaded male reached out with his mind. The Phoenix flew into the wall at his telekinetic urging. Then the shadow he had taken to be the Guardian’s flowed over the downed fire demon. When it pulled away, the Phoenix was down and out.
The bounty hunter got to his feet, flicking a square at the Phoenix. It wrapped around the wielder of the Starheart in a flowing motion. Sedatives dumped into the Phoenix’s system through her skin. That would hold her until the Light gained control.
“Now for you three,” said Quatrain, smiling.
“You have to be kidding,” said Obsidian. “You couldn’t take us if you wanted to.”
“Are you sure?” said the hunter.
Green Lantern hit the stone wall, covered by his green flame. He bounced twice before he could get enough control to take to the air. He flew up, regaining his composure.
A mass of muscle on a flying surfboard slammed into him. He hit the floating castle again, then bounced away. The human bear turned, trying to run him down again. He brought his lantern up, a triangular shield forming in a second. The attacker bounced away, spinning in place.
Green Lantern took aim, blasting a column of green flame at Sauvage. The torturer tried to fly out of the way. The flame blasted his legs as he ascended. The muscleman spun head over heels before a giant green fist slammed him into the rock face. Sauvage tried to pull away from the shallow crater. A green hook lifted him clear and threw him to the ground that was skating by below. Sauvage hit and stayed where he lay.
The Locusts concentrated their fire on the Green Lantern. The spherical orbs exploded off his shield, shattering it. He flew into the rock in a waft of green mist. The green soldiers closed to make sure he was dead. A walking tank paused beside the fallen Sauvage. A team dragged the torturer inside the mobile artillery.
Obsidian scrambled for an idea. His opponent had shown a Robin-like resourcefulness. He would only be easy compared to dealing with a Green Lantern. A wave of invisible force cut the air beside Todd Rice, and the gold musketeer leaped out of the way. His hand flickered out, hurling small orbs at the trio.
Brainwave raised his shield to block the grenades. The first one hit in a blinding flare and sonic boom. The shield collapsed under the disorienting assault. The follow-up grenades hit the trio, dropping them to the floor. Hank and Todd went out like snuffed candles.
Steph Harrigan’s bonds wrapped around her loose armor, pinning her down. She glared at the hunter as he smiled at his trussed-up victims.
“It has been a pleasure, my lady,” said Quatrain. “Now, with all the major enemies accounted for, the Guardian’s troopers will be meat for the Locusts.”
“I’m going to get you for this,” Steph declared, trying to wriggle out of her thin shackle.
“Not in the thirty seconds it will take the Locusts to fly up here and begin cleaning this place out,” said the hunter, smiling. “I have heard the Light has a harem. I am sure that is where you will be sent with the Phoenix.”
A small laugh erupted in the air. A post flared into a column of green flame, which changed into a knight holding a fiery sword. The blade swept across the three from Earth, severing the bonds and washing the sedative out of Hank and Todd’s systems.
Quatrain turned to deal with this new threat, but a wave of green flame blasted him into the wall. He slumped when he hit the ground, his breastplate visibly dented from the blow.
The Light raised his hand. Motes concentrated into a glowing extension of his usual aura. A beam cut through the fortress again. Things were going better than he expected.
His Locusts flew from the human in a blast of green flame. The Light pointed at the obstacle in his way. Motes sparked around his index finger. The beam struck the glowing figure’s round shield, shattering it in an instant. Green Lantern flew into the air, pushed by exploding rock. The Light watched his foe hit the ground.
“Make sure he’s dead,” the glowing man ordered his troops. A squad broke off from the attacking wave to carry out their order. A pillar of green flame erupted out of the broken ground. When it sank back out of sight, the keeper of the Starheart was gone.
“So Quatrain was wrong for once,” the Light said. “The Guardian is alive. They won’t keep us at bay for long.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” said an ink-black shadow bursting from under the Light’s platform.
He saw blank-white eyes as it covered his halo in darkness. He tried to summon his power to blast clear. Fear ran rampant through his brain. Hysteria blotted out conscious thought. The shadow lifted from the stricken leader. The Light saw a double image of green flame. Then the emerald guardians willed him off the planet of Thanagar.