by Dan Swanson, based on a concept by Tynnechris
“Why did my parents have Green Lantern’s power ring?” cried Hawk Lad.
“You can get the whole story from the video when we get back,” said Greenfire, speaking from the computer he currently inhabited. “Short story — when Amgov nationalized the Starheart and Green Lantern’s lantern back about a hundred years ago, they tried to nationalize Green Lantern, too — the third Green Lantern, Shayera Scott. She wouldn’t stand for it, and with the last wisp of power in the power ring, she escaped to Feithera. She eventually married a descendant of the famous Feitheran hero Northwind, and, well, you know what happens after that — a couple generations later, here you are!”
Horus was stunned. “I’m descended from Northwind, and I’m part-human? No wonder I’m so different from the others.”
“That ain’t the half of it, pal!” continued Drake Burroughs. “You got more heroes in your blood than Canary knows curse words. On your human side, three generations of Green Lantern, Harlequin, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Silver Scarab, Wonder Woman, Odysseus, Fury, and Silverbird! And you and I are almost like cousins! How cool is all that?”
Suddenly, the lights went out. Greenfire kept talking but sounded a little strained. “OK, cuz, time for us to ditch this guided tour of the world’s most scenic underground city north of the Arctic Circle. Some genius realized that they ought to cut power to the whole city to stop all the fun and games I set up. So things oughtta settle down soon. We got what we came for, so I’ll pop into the ring, and you call home for our ride, will ya?” A green mist seemed to seep out of the apartment computer, then it drifted across the room and vanished into the power ring, which immediately glowed bright green.
“Gernsback, please open a boom tube at our coordinates!” Horus used his subspace communicator — and within seconds, he found out the bad news. The Stealth Squad wouldn’t reach Earth for another day or so.
“Drake, we need another plan.” There was no answer. “C’mon, Drake, stop fooling around.” Still no answer. “Scree!” Horus screeched; it was a Feitheran hunting cry. If he had to do it alone, well, he was a Legionnaire. He slipped the memory module into the safe deposit box and slipped the box into his pack. He looked at the ring for several seconds, then finally slipped it on his finger.
“Green Lantern Four,” he whispered. He spoke slowly and painstakingly as he repeated a famous oath:
“And I shall shed my light over dark evil, for the dark things cannot stand the light, the light of the Green Lantern!”
Make me immune to Globlass guns! he thought, commanding the ring, and was satisfied when a green mist floated out of the ring, surrounded him, and then seemed to be absorbed by his body. He strolled to the balcony and then launched himself into the air, climbing as strongly as possible.
His deliberate climb attracted the attention of two members of the Flight Patrol soaring high overhead, and they quickly intercepted him. “Flier! Remain at this level and identify yourself!” one screeched at him.
He ignored them, so they shot him with their stunners. No effect. They attempted to close with him so they could engage with other weapons. They were both spinning bolos, and one had unlimbered a large net with his other hand. Their normal tactics were to entangle an opponent with the bolos, then wrap him in the net, and they were well-trained in these maneuvers. The Flight Patrol included the strongest fliers in Feithera, yet Hawk Lad easily pulled away from them, and despite their vaunted skill, he casually avoided the bolos. And then he was above them, climbing strongly, and they were unable to close the gap despite their struggles.
“When you report how you two were so easily outflown, tell them I mean no harm. I want only to exit and return to the world outside.”
“To return from exile means death!” one outraged cop screamed at him.
“Not today!” Horus squawked in satisfaction, winging up and away with powerful, confident strokes.
He realized he felt good — better than he could ever remember. He had easily outflown two members of the elite Flight Patrol and avoided their infamous bolos, a trick they had picked up from Hawkman centuries ago. He remembered, years ago, watching in awe as the Flight Patrol flew in formation in parades, performing difficult aerobatic routines and showing off their highly trained precision flying. Well, he was awed no longer.
Over the past few years, first at the Legion Academy and then as a member of the Legion of Justice, Hawk Lad had undergone flight training virtually every day. Strength, agility, endurance, maneuverability, dog fighting, and combat against flightless opponents — and whatever other tortures General Urbane, his staff, or Canary could design. To Horus, this training had originally seemed redundant; after all, teaching a bird to fly seemed like selling ice to the Inuit people. But he had quickly become very frustrated.
Hawk Lad was the only current or recent Legionnaire who flew using wings. The energy-powered fliers such as Equal, the Bronze Blonde, Princess Prime, Greenfire, and Star Lass were apparently unaffected by acceleration or inertia, and they could easily outmaneuver him or beat him in any race. It had taken years before he finally had won a training exercise by outthinking his opponents rather than by outflying them.
And now, back in his lost home, that constant training was paying off. He was easily able to outfly the best Feithera had to offer. Hawk Lad often felt like the weak link on Legion missions, and it was gratifying to realize how Legion training had improved his capabilities.
They must have called for backup. From several directions armored flying vessels were racing toward him. The Feitheran equivalent of light tanks, these vessels had armor and weapons more deadly than globlass devices, each disgorging a dozen armed Flight Patrol fliers. One of the vessels fired a warning shot at him; no stun beam this time but a small cannon.
A giant glowing green hand reached out and caught the shell, harmlessly smothering the explosion that followed. A glowing green sphere sprang into existence around Hawk Lad, and he continued to float upward. Beams sizzled out against his green shield, explosive shells exploded, nets, bolos, spears, and bullets bounced off, and he ignored them all. Within seconds, he reached the artificial blue top of the sky and passed through, rising into the rock roof of the cavern like a green-shrouded ghost. Eventually, the solid rock around him changed to solid ice, and after another while he flew out into the sky of the outside world.
Why should I wait around here for the Stealth Squad? he thought. As a Feitheran, he had an extremely accurate sense of location, and he knew from history that Green Lantern had been able to cross interstellar space.
“Drake, I need your help!” he said, concentrating on the ring. “Let’s return to Knight Base!” He ordered the ring to take him instantly to Knight Base, and he thought he could feel Drake’s mind trying to help.
There was a tremendous boom, and a circular hole opened in the sky in front of them. Horus flew into a dark green tunnel in the sky; the walls shimmered with patterns that were almost imperceptible and constantly changing. The other end of the tunnel seemed to be millions of miles away, and it rushed toward them at frightening speed, and only a second or so later they exited into the transporter room of Knight Base.
Canary and WildCat were stunned that their teammates had returned so quickly. Gernsback went into something of a computer snit, because up until then, he had been the only known power able to generate a boom tube. After Horus told his story, there were a lot of questions about Drake and the power ring.
“Can you communicate with him?” asked Canary.
“Not sure,” replied Hawk Lad. “I thought I sensed his mind, but I didn’t hear any thoughts.”
“Can he use his power via the ring?”
“I don’t think so. Unless I commanded it, the ring seems to be quiescent.”
“You don’t suppose we could leave him in the ring, do you?” Canary asked. “Sorry, forget I said that. It’s just that a Green Lantern would be so much more useful than Greenfire.”
“Scree! Gina, that’s not funny!” Horus screamed at her. “He can hear you!”
“Just kidding. Can you get him out of the ring?”
“We won’t know until I try.” Hawk Lad flew off down the corridor into Drake’s lab and aimed the ring at the empty containment suit. A green glow formed about the ring and coalesced into a green cloud, which floated across the room and into the containment suit. Horus tossed the ring through the open faceplate into the suit, then closed the faceplace.
“Let me at her!” Burroughs screamed in a voice so powerful the walls actually shook. “I’ll put her into a damned ring!” He started flying toward the door, but Hawk Lad grabbed him. “Out of my way, feathers! When I’m done with her, you’re next! I can’t believe you used me like that! Overriding my will like I wasn’t even there!” He pulsed with energy, and Horus was slammed back against the wall.
“You can’t imagine how demeaning it is to have to carry out someone else’s wishes like a slave — worse than a slave; a slave can at least refuse. You thought, I acted. It was like I didn’t exist. No, worse, because I was aware the whole time but couldn’t do anything about it.” As he spoke, green energy flared from his suit, and each flare shattered or broke something in the lab. Several flares struck Horus, battering him to the floor.
“Drake! I kept both of us from being captured!” No response. “I put the ring inside your suit so it can’t happen again!” Greenfire turned slowly to look at him. “You said we were cousins!”
Greenfire waved his arm, and Horus was pushed out the door by a wave of green energy. “You get away from me, and stay away. And tell Canary she freepin’ better leave me alone for a while, too!” The door slammed in Hawk Lad’s face.
“Freepin’ great!” Canary sighed sarcastically when she heard this from Hawk Lad. “Just another fun day in the Legion of Justice!”
For their spy mission to Earth, the Legion Stealth Squad chose the Legion’s biggest cruiser, the Aurora. It had more room than they needed, which would be nice for a four-day trip, but it also had the best shields and stealth capabilities available. This was supposed to be a secret mission, not a fight.
Rexford Tyler was gushing about the Aurora’s stealth capabilities. “No sensor I’ve ever seen can pierce this stealth field! This ship could land on top the Presidential Palace, and Security wouldn’t know it until the roof collapsed. We’re invisible in every spectrum of light we can measure, and the inertial drive is silent in atmosphere.” Rex was positively gloating now. “Amgov has suppressed detection technology for almost three-hundred years — now they’ll pay for that!”
His younger brother Randall Tyler wasn’t so sure. “C’mon, Rex, you know why we’re going to Earth — we think Amgov is hiding knowledge of temporal physics from the public, and even from top scientists like you. What makes you think they aren’t hiding superior detection technology as well?”
Perhaps he was just naturally suspicious. The two bickered during most of the trip, but they spent as much time as possible during that trip trying to improve the Aurora’s stealth capabilities. Chemique spent a lot of time working with Gernsback, programming various evade-and-escape routines into the cruiser’s autopilot. If their stealth failed, and Amgov defenses detected the Aurora, either the autopilot would save the cruiser or not, but there could be no useful human intervention. With speed-of-light weapons and a battle theater less than a quarter-second across, any battle could easily be over before even the most intent human could even notice it had begun.
As well, Chemique kept the team busy with strategy-planning sessions and a lot of virtual reality training simulations. A big topic of concern in the strategy sessions was whether General Urbane would expect the Legion to return to Earth looking for suppressed technology. Given the advanced technology they had encountered so far in the extrasolar community, why should they Legion return to Earth and risk the consequences of capture when advanced technology was available at much lower risk everywhere else? It was Rand who pointed out that trying to outguess Urbane was more likely to lead to doom than taking some extra precautions. So they made their preparations based on the assumption that Amgov Security would be expecting to encounter the Legion of Justice.
Where they should look was another hotly debated topic. Rex was certain he knew the location of the place they began to call the suppressed technology center; Rand was as certain that Rex’s knowledge would lead them into a trap.
“You have to assume that Urbane knows everything you know,” was his reasoning. “If you’ve figured out something, it’s virtually certain you were following clues that he left for you!” Rex was extremely angry over this line of reasoning, but Chemique found it compelling — and she was the leader of the Stealth Squad. So they evolved a plan to locate the suppressed technology center without depending on clues Urbane might know about.
Finally, it was time to put their insertion strategy to the test. They reached the Solar System, and Randall placed the Aurora in solar orbit near Mars, where they monitored incoming star-freighters. There were usually several a week, and they didn’t have long to wait. With their extrasolar stealth systems on high, they matched course with a freighter and flew alongside until it reached one of the Earth-Orbital Transshipment Space Stations owned by Amgov. The Wanderer cruiser then moved off slowly, with its stealth system turned up high and all other systems turned off or down to minimum.
In their small, darkened control room, the four Legionnaires anxiously monitored their instruments, feeling rather helpless. Whether the stealth systems held or not, for the time being they could do nothing more than observe.
“Aurora is being painted!” Rex stated, a combination of dismay and awe in his voice. His ego was punctured as well — he had almost believed, deep down, that his own improvements to the already advanced stealth technology of the Wanderer cruiser would make it undetectable by anything Amgov might be hiding. “Target lock! Autopilot initiating evade-and-escape programming.”
The Aurora’s shields went up as the useless stealth system went offline. On a standard Wanderer cruiser it took just under seven seconds to charge the hypermotor for the first hyperspace jump. Rex and Rand had improved the latency time for the Aurora to just over three seconds. Could the cruiser’s shields — aided by the escape and evade programming newly upgraded by Chemique and Gernsback — keep the ship intact for those infinitely long three seconds?
Six laser beams blasted from nearby Guardian satellites and converged on the cruiser. The ship’s inertial drives were flaring, seemingly at random, as the autopilot jinked and juked, trying to avoid being skewered by those impossibly fast swords of brilliant green light. The Aurora’s own lasers fired back, and two of the Guardian satellites were destroyed. Before anyone could cheer about this, another half-dozen Guardian satellites dropped out of stealth and added their fire. All of this occurred in the first half-second.
The cruiser’s shields were by now almost saturated, and the tactical computer was forced to divert power from the ship’s weapons to shields. The cruiser’s original shields would have been overloaded and collapsed already, but Rex and Rand had been able to strengthen them considerably. The autopilot managed to slip the Aurora closer to the space station, and about half of the lasers had to stop firing to keep from hitting friendly targets. Taking advantage of the shadow of the space station, the Aurora blasted directly away from Earth at its highest possible acceleration. Guardian satellites from farther away joined the battle as they came into line-of-sight for the cruiser. There was only another two seconds to go. Rex’s instruments showed that the shields were straining but should be able to hold, barring something unexpected.
General Urbane was a belt-and-suspenders type of guy, and the designers of Amgov’s defenses had to satisfy his requirements for backup systems in case the front line failed. The Guardian satellites weren’t Amgov’s only orbital weapons. There was an array of larger, much more powerful lasers mounted on the space station, and now that the cruiser was in a position where those lasers could be used without risking damage to the Earth below, these weapons were brought online. Each station-mounted laser was easily several hundred times more powerful than the weapon in a Guardian satellite, and the cruiser’s shields didn’t have a chance. Her hypermotor flared, but there had not been enough time to build up the power necessary to hyper-jump — and the Aurora and everything aboard it was vaporized virtually instantaneously, no questions asked, no attempt at contact, no mercy.