by Dan Swanson
Star Lass clenched her left fist and raised it toward the ceiling. A stream of green energy flashed through the black sphere surrounding the two foes, lighting up the interior of the sphere, and it streamed into the ring on the middle finger of Star Lass’s left hand — Green Lantern’s ring.
I feel like I ought to be reciting an oath! thought Theresa Knight, so she did, sort of.
“Whether a sunny day or a starlit night, I’ll always try to do what’s right!”
She didn’t really have time for more.
A green aura grew from the ring and surrounded her, filling the bubble with green light. She floated up off the floor and aimed her arm at Cosmivore. There was a burst of green energy from the ring, and a green cannon-shell flew toward the villain. It burst harmlessly off a golden energy sphere. In turn, Cosmivore pointed her arm at Star Lass. A pulse of yellow energy flowed down her arm and fired at the hero, bouncing harmlessly off the green shield that now surrounded her.
Star Lass formed a giant green hand that closed around Cosmivore, trying to crush her. Cosmivore’s spherical shield grew spikes like the head of a giant medieval mace, and the more tightly the green hand closed, the more it was shredded by the golden spikes.
The golden glow pulsed again, filling the room, and then contracted, sweeping the air behind it and compressing it into a glowing sphere the size of a golf ball, which dropped to the floor. Before Star Lass could succumb to the effects of the vacuum, she willed the ring to envelop her in a green that maintained a comfortable environment around her. She fashioned a green handgun and fired a laser at her foe, whose golden aura scattered the beam, briefly filling the room with bright green light.
A golden ice cream scoop took a hunk out of the floor and then collapsed into a golden box with the metal and carpet fragments inside. Star Lass aimed a green corkscrew at the golden box. She didn’t know what Cosmivore was trying to accomplish, but if the villain thought that box was important, Star Lass was going to break it open. The corkscrew struck the box and shattered into thousands of pieces, each of them looking like a miniature of the original. Most of them faded away as Cosmivore attacked again.
The villain sprayed Star Lass with a stream of marble-sized energy pellets that exploded when they contacted the green aura. There wasn’t enough energy in these small explosions to hurt Star Lass, but the myriad of explosions confused her. She concentrated and redoubled her shield, and this gave Cosmivore time to launch another attack. The jaws of a giant golden C-clamp were now threatening to crush the green energy sphere surrounding Star Lass. She concentrated, and braces like green I-beams formed inside the green aura, resisting the crushing pressure. A giant yellow hand appeared and started turning the crank on the clamp, and again the jaws closed, slowly but inexorably. A giant green squeeze-can appeared over top of Star Lass and drenched her spherical shield with Marvel Mystery Oil, and her shield popped from between the jaws of the C-clamp.
She quickly created a giant green power drill and aimed it at the black bubble surrounding herself and her foe. Cosmivore couldn’t allow her to break out — this would allow her cosmic rod to recharge, and against the combined power of the cosmic rod and Green Lantern’s ring, the evil android would have no chance.
Cosmivore created a giant pair of wire cutters, but before she could cut the power cord on the drill…
There was a tremendous explosion right at Cosmivore’s feet. The unexpected blast tore the android to shreds. Star Lass, who had been expecting this explosion, was unaffected by it. The black bubble failed, and cosmic energy again flowed through Star Lass.
She turned her attention to the fight between Canary and Vandal Savage and prepared to assist her teammate.
The women that Rexford Tyler was following looked back and saw him. Some of them ran away faster, while three turned to confront him. They shouldn’t have been able to even see him while he was uptime. There must be something affecting his power. He concentrated, trying again to activate his power, and he felt the bump that normally accompanied moving from normal time to uptime, and his vision dimmed as expected, but still they advanced.
“Who are you? Why are you attacking our leader?” one of them asked. That tore it; there was no way the sound of her voice could have reached him if his power was working. He released his power and felt the jolt that normally accompanied his return to the present, and his vision cleared. He’d have to worry about his malfunctioning ability later; now he had to deal with these angry women.
“Stop! I’m Timepiece of the Legion of Justice from the twenty-third century. We’re trying to prevent Vandal Savage from destroying the world.”
“The world is his to do with as he wishes. You shall not stop him!” They continued to advance. They didn’t have any weapons, but any normal human could be dangerous to the paralyzed Timepiece if his power wasn’t working.
“I said stop, or I’ll have to stop you!” the hero threatened. They didn’t slow down. “Not another step!”
“Or what?” the closest woman sneered. “Show me!”
Rex sent a mental command, and his chair began backing away, but there wasn’t much corridor behind him. “Shield!” he yelled, and one of the chair’s waldos touched a switch. A gently sparkling globe of force enclosed him and his conveyance. The lead woman touched it, and she was jolted backward, flying into her companions and smashing the three of them to the floor. She was unconscious.
“Sorry, I warned you.” His voice was apologetic. “Way-high voltage, no current to speak off. It won’t kill you, but I’ll bet you won’t be touching it twice!”
The other two got to their feet and ripped apart their flimsy garments, wrapping their hands in layers of cloth. They began punching his bubble, and the flimsy strips protected them completely from shock. This attack had no effect; the shield could protect him from this level of attack forever. Still, Canary had told him to rescue the women and any other humans on board this yacht. He couldn’t stay here long; he needed to find the others. He commanded the chair to start moving slowly forward.
Rather than moving aside, one of the women forced her way between the sphere and the passageway bulkhead, screaming as she was trapped against the electrified bubble. Short exposure wouldn’t kill her, but Timepiece wasn’t sure about prolonged exposure. Her agonized screaming and the twisting, jerking, and convulsions of her body sickened the hero, and he commanded, “Shield down!”
The unfortunate woman slid to the ground, mercifully unconscious, and her companion leaped onto the hover-chair. She unbalanced it, and it rolled to one side and then crashed to the deck. She wrapped her arms around Timepiece and started to drag him from the chair. The lower half of his body was ripped from the cavity of the chair, tearing loose a number of umbilicals that connected Rex’s body to the chair’s life-support systems. He screamed in agony and was unable to issue any understandable vocal commands to the chair’s systems.
The pain drove him to intense effort, and his arm lifted. His fist wobbled through the air toward his belt and then collapsed as if he had no more strength. His teammates would have boggled at this — Timepiece had lost the use of his limbs years ago and hadn’t moved them since. With great effort, he dragged his hand across his belt, and it snagged on a switch. Suddenly, the pain in his lower body vanished.
Now that he didn’t have to fight the pain, Rex could concentrate on controlling his new exo-skeleton. So far, only the arms worked, and he’d had very little practice with the mental controls. He couldn’t use his newly mobile arms by just willing them to move; he had to think out each and every move and frame a series of simple commands.
While he was still incredibly clumsy, the motors in the exoskeleton made him stronger than a normal human. He managed to grab both ankles of the woman who was dragging him, and she stumbled and fell. He crawled up her body until the weight of the exoskeleton, some three times the weight of his own body, pinned her to the deck. A little cautious experimentation, and he was able to knock her unconscious without, he hoped, doing her permanent damage.
Even though he was using mechanical muscles to move around, Rex was almost exhausted by now. He dragged himself to the arm of the chair and touched the keyboard button that guided it to automatically right itself, and dragged himself onto — but not into — the chair.
The lack of pain in his lower body was not a good thing. He’d activated a small chip that was implanted in his spine, and that chip blocked physical sensations. But he could have broken bones and torn muscles, and he could be bleeding in multiple locations, and he wouldn’t feel it. In fact, he could see that a pool of blood was growing around his lower body. He had to get to a medical facility as soon as possible. He painfully dragged a device from a pocket on the chair and dropped it, then activated his communicator.
“Canary — I couldn’t… reach the… people on board. Combat… damage. I’ve activated the… beacon. Returning to Knight…” He was silent for several seconds. “Base. Gerns — med-bots to the transporter… room. Stat.” He vanished.
From the instant they had arrived in the twentieth century, Horus knew that the Legion mind-shield was not going to work. The memories invading his mind were not being forced on him by an outside force, so the mind-shield was useless. Rather, they were bubbling up from areas of his mind that were normally hidden from him.
Once again he was experiencing memories from his prior incarnations. He tried to focus his mind, concentrating on his current identity and pushing all other memories away, but it was very difficult to know which of the many scenes in his mind was from the present and which was a memory. They all seemed equally valid, and some were a lot more interesting than others. He could once again feel himself slipping away helpless into dreams and hallucinations. All the techniques Canary had tried to teach him last night were too new and unfamiliar to help him.
“Yeeeooowww!” Someone had just pulled a handful of feathers from one of his wings. His mind snapped into focus on the pain — but it vanished instantly, and he was back in the present. Canary stood in front of him, a smug look on her face.
“Focusing your mind while fighting mental chaos, whether it is an attack or what you are experiencing, is very difficult. It can take many months of practice before it becomes second nature. But this little gadget–” She pulled a small device off the back of his neck; he hadn’t even realized it was there. “–will help. Whenever you start to drift off, it will give you a zap just like that one. That ought to pull you right back to the present! It’s one of General Urbane’s most clever inventions. I clipped it to your neck last night.”
“You could have warned me!” he snapped at her.
“I could have,” she agreed cheerfully. “But Urbane says it works better in the long run if you aren’t aware of it until the first time it is needed.” And it had worked. Before they had been in 1988 for more than ten minutes, he had been zapped five times — and the intervals between the zaps were getting longer.
But now, in the present, seeing Hawkgirl streaking toward him was too much for Horus to overcome. He had shared many lifetimes with this woman, and the memories started flowing. Their first lifetime in Ancient Egypt, another in Britain, yet another in the Old West, the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. He was awed by the suddenly revealed grandeur of his thousands of years of existence, and the many wonderful lifetimes he had shared with this beautiful woman.
“Yeeeooowww!” Once again, feathers were pulled from his wing. He jerked upright and saw the iron ball swinging at his body and tried frantically to dodge. The ball impacted his chest, knocking the wind from him and driving him backward. His body harness absorbed some of the blow, and the deep layer of feathers protected him somewhat — but if that blow had hit him squarely, it would probably have killed him.
Hawk Lad slapped his hand to his thigh and grabbed his new weapon, discovered last night in one of the weapons storerooms on Knight Base. It was a cylinder similar in size to his own forearm and made of some unknown metal. He twisted it, and it expanded into a seven-foot staff. Nemesister screamed and launched herself at him again. He painfully sidestepped and swept a blow up into her chest. She tumbled, then rose and then ran toward him rather than trying to fly.
Nemesister was not a skilled combatant. The purpose of her power was to render her opponent incapable of fighting back. She would then disable or kill that opponent with a single vicious blow. And she was not used to having giant wings — they brushed the ceiling and floor, impeding her movements, and the extra weight hanging behind her put her consistently off-balance. She desperately swung the morning star weapon. Hawk Lad blocked, and the chair wrapped around his staff — and then he flicked the staff, easily pulling the morning star from her hands.
He reversed the motion of the staff and, with a backhand type of motion, drove the end of the staff into the android’s chest, lunging toward her and using his wings to add even more power to the blow. She slammed backward, and her mechanisms must have been damaged, as she once again changed shapes. She reverted to her natural shape, seemingly a faceless, featureless mannequin. She paused for just an instant as she tried to adapt another image from his mind, and that pause was deadly.
Hawk Lad slipped both hands to one end of the staff and swung it like a baseball bat. He struck the side of the android’s head, and the head broke free. The body fell to the floor, and the head flew across the room. He turned to aid his companions.