Showcase: Strobe: Rings of Ire, Chapter 3: Order Out of Chaos

by Dan Swanson

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“Too bad, but you’re a little bit late, Power Ring!” said Jim Chisholm as the super-villain came into view. “Sinestro never did figure out that I put a barrier around his ring that prevented it from absorbing green ring energy whenever you used your ring. I got him so angry, he used up all the energy in his ring, and without his ring power, he wasn’t much. Come to think of it, he wasn’t much even when he was fully powered. I hope you are tougher than he was; I haven’t had much of a workout today!”

What Jim didn’t say was how surprised he had been to catch Sinestro with such an elementary trap. When Sinestro’s destruction beam had flared from Jim’s shield, and Sinestro’s vision had been momentarily blocked, Jim had used his power to make himself invisible again, then created an illusionary Jim Chisholm behind the failing shield. Sinestro had wasted his power blasting at the illusion, and when his ring had run out of power, it had been trivial to capture him. It was hard to believe that the legendary Sinestro, who had at one time been the most decorated Green Lantern in history, had fallen for the invisibility gimmick even once, but he had fallen for it twice at the hands of a newcomer. It didn’t make much logical sense, and indeed Jim sensed more to the mystery. He reminded his subconscious to keep working on the problem as he prepared to take out Power Ring.

“Good thing for me my ring don’t work the same way the creep’s ring did! You’ve go no chance of me running out of power before I cream you!” Power Ring began his attack.

Power Ring, never having been known for subtlety, immediately created two giant fists and started hammering away at Jim. In turn, Jim created two arms of his own and used them to block or deflect Power Ring’s blows. No matter how hard he tried, Ring couldn’t lay a hand on Jim. He was starting to sweat, and it was obvious that Jim was hardly making any effort at all.

Suddenly, the green hands transformed into a glowing sphere around twenty feet across, with Jim in the center. Power Ring increased the thickness of the sphere to several inches, then started to contract it. Inside the sphere, Jim created what looked like a child’s jack, but each leg was five feet long, and instead of being blunt and round, each leg was shaped like a giant sword blade. The green sphere contracted until it reached the tips of the swords, and then, as it became smaller, the swords began to cut into the skin of the sphere. A little smaller, and the swords ripped through the sphere. Jim then constructed two hands that reached into one of the tears and completely ripped apart the sphere.

Power Ring was becoming angry and frustrated now. He created a ring of giant floating cannons on the ocean surface, and they started blasting away at Jim. Calmly redirecting the shells so that each shell missed him, Jim then hit another one of the cannons. Power Ring, perhaps taking a cue from one of Sinestro’s earlier attacks, changed all of the cannons into laser blasters. Jim simply surrounded himself with a mirrored shield with a complex shape, and each laser beam was reflected off the mirrors back into the blaster that fired it.

At this point, Power Ring’s fury overcame him. Rather than do battle from a distance, he was going to beat the crap out of Chisholm with his own hands. He should have known better after watching Sinestro battle Chisholm — Sinestro was afraid to get his hands dirty, and that was why he had lost. Even before he gained his magic ring, Power Ring had been a dirty fighter, and nobody he’d picked a fight with had beaten him.

Power Ring surrounded himself with a suit of glowing green armor, with spikes on all the joints, so that he looked a lot like a green Oakland Raiders fan. He then flew directly at Jim Chisholm, who probably wasn’t prepared for a direct attack. Power Ring bashed him in the head, sending him tumbling backward through the air, head over heels. Jim had never fought a real aerial hand-to-hand battle before, and he hoped to move the battle to a more familiar venue. He instantly created a floating boxing ring and landed in the middle of it. Power Ring landed next to him and started swinging.

Jim surrounded himself with a thin shield. He was more interested in mobility than the protection armor could provide, but he did want to protect himself against the spikes on Power Ring’s armor. Power Ring swung a roundhouse right toward Jim’s head. Jim swept his arm up, helped Power Ring’s punch miss his head, and tripped the villain as he stumbled by. “Did you learn to fight from Wildcat?” he asked with a grin.

While Power Ring was down, Jim stomped on his green helmet, using his power to increase the force of the blow. The villain staggered to his feet and lunged at Jim, attempting to wrap his arms around him. Jim swayed to one side, and Power Ring fell past him. As he passed, Jim drove the back of his elbow into the middle of the villain’s back, again using his power to increase the force of the blow. Power Ring was driven to the floor, and his head bounced. “That’s gotta hurt!” Jim said with a grin. “Good thing you have that armor on!”

Power Ring was starting to get a little groggy now, but he wasn’t finished yet. Staggering to his feet, he charged Jim with his head down like a bull, using his ring to increase his speed. Just before he reached him, Jim grabbed the villain’s shoulders, sat down, and kicked Power Ring in the stomach with both legs. Power Ring collapsed around his stomach, and then was thrown high into the air. The villain was about to land in the water, but instead Jim created a pile of glowing white pseudo-rocks under the falling Power Ring.

The villain landed flat on his stomach, and again his head struck the rocks underneath him. Even with the protection of his helmet and armor, this was just too much, and he passed out. His armor faded away a moment later. Jim encased him in a new spherical cell, gathered up the similar cell containing Sinestro, and flew off.

JSA Headquarters is the only place I know of where these guys will be safe. As he flew off, Jim realized that his subconscious must have put all the facts together and come up with an answer.

When he arrived at the JSA Brownstone, Jim immediately contacted Doctor Fate, who appeared quickly. “I need your help, Doc! I just captured these two, and I think they are Green Lantern and Corona, ensorcelled by Wotan!”

As Doctor Fate prepared to cast a spell to investigate, both heroes were surprised to hear a deep voice, seemingly emanating from the air.

“Although I am not totally pleased with the outcome of this little game, Jim Chisholm, it wasn’t completely unamusing. Since you have part of the answer, I give you the rest.” They heard a sound like fingers snapping. “There are other matters that now require my attention. Until another time…”

“Wow, Doc! You guys play with some weirdoes!” said Jim. He suddenly noticed a change in his prisoners. “Look! These guys aren’t G.L. and Corona, after all!” Indeed, their costumes had changed to normal clothing, and their skin colors had changed. The former Power Ring was a dark-skinned man, and Sinestro appeared to be a dark-skinned Asian, probably Korean. Other than skin and hair color, both men’s appearances were very similar to Rower Ring and Sinestro. “I wonder who these poor guys are?”

Doctor Fate cast a spell. “They are just normal men, and they retain no memories of their experience.” Somewhere Wotan smiled as he mystically sensed Fate’s words. “But they are still wearing power rings. Their rings are Green Lantern’s ring and Corona’s ring, which were also mystically disguised! Our comrades might be in danger!” Quickly, Fate removed the rings and handed Corona’s ring to Jim. He cast a spell, and both disappeared.

A moment later, Doctor Fate appeared in Alan Scott’s study, where he found his friend lying, still unconscious on the floor. He quickly used magic to determine that Green Lantern had not suffered any serious injury, then transported both Green Lantern and his magic lantern back to JSA Headquarters. When he arrived, he was contacted by Jim, who had found Corona in a similar condition. Fate brought Jim, Corona, and her own magic lantern back to headquarters.

Using both Dr. Kent Nelson’s medical knowledge and his mystical arts, Doctor Fate then ministered Green Lantern and Corona, bringing them both back to consciousness. During this time, Red Robin and Wildcat came into headquarters. When they awoke, Green Lantern and Corona were given their rings back, and they told the story about their attacks.

Examining the magic lanterns, Doctor Fate determined that both were magically created phonies. He cast a spell on both rings, and both of the real lanterns appeared, drawn from wherever Wotan had secreted them by Fate’s spell. After some magical tests by Fate determined that these were indeed the real magic lanterns, and that there were no further booby-traps, Green Lantern and Corona both recharged their rings.

“While we’re clearing up loose ends, what about these guys?” Jim asked about his prisoners.

“As they have no memories of this incident, we should return them to their own lives,” said Fate, casting a spell to do so.

“Hey, Doc, speaking of returning to our own lives, is there anything you can do about my house?” asked Jim. “Those two completely trashed it. There was a lot of stuff in the house that I’ll never be able to replace. And I’m not sure my insurance covers damage by super-villains!”

“Indeed, Jim, I do think I can help,” said Doctor Fate. Jim blinked, and the two of them were standing in the ruins of his house. “A spell of contagion, coupled with a spell of attraction, and all of the shattered pieces should draw together nicely.” Fate cast his twin spells, and Jim watched in amazement as his house reassembled itself perfectly. It looked like a video of the destruction run backwards. “This is, in fact, a primary example of the purpose of the magic of order — bringing order from chaos!”

“Doc, I can’t thank you enough. I don’t know how I can ever pay you back.”

“I don’t expect you to, young Chisholm. Instead, ‘pay it forward’ — help others, and they will help others in their turn, and I will be paid back with interest.” With that, Fate gestured again, and they were back at JSA Headquarters.

“Now I must confer with our colleagues, Green Lantern and Corona,” explained Fate. “We need to protect their lanterns of power so that no such disaster can ever happen again. Red Robin, you have great experience with security systems; I suspect we would appreciate your assistance as well.”

With that, Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, Corona, and Red Robin left, leaving Jim Chisholm and Wildcat alone.

Jim hung out with Wildcat for a few hours, even though they both seemed a little embarrassed in each other’s company. “Hey, ‘Cat, want to see my first super-hero battle? I’m interested in your opinion of my techniques.” He used his power to create a big screen TV, and he and Wildcat watched the battle.

“Pretty cute line, that one about me training Power Ring!” Ted Grant laughed. “Even I’ve gotta admit that the mook’s move looked a lot like mine, the first and only time I took a swing at you! Similar results, too! But I thought Aikido was supposed to be non-violent?”

“Sorry, Ted. My masters have taught me that Aikido is largely a defensive art, but there are some times when force is needed to combat force. If you study the action again, you will see that I never initiated any of the violent exchanges between myself and my opponents.”

Wildcat thought that was funny. “What about stomping on that guy’s head? And what about that pile of rocks you created after you threw him inta the air? Looked like you initiated violence both times. What would your masters say about that?”

“I am shamed to admit that, while my masters have told me that I have achieved an impressive level of mastery over the physical skills, they find me somewhat… deficient in my appreciation of the philosophy of Aikido. They despair that I will never master the finer points of the philosophy.” Jim said this in a very crestfallen voice. Ted was sure he caught a sly twinkle in Jim’s eye. “Other than my philosophical shortcomings, what did you think of the fight?”

“I think,” said Ted carefully, “that you thoroughly trashed those two jerks and made it look easy! Remind me not to tangle with you again! Say, what would you think of giving me a few lessons?”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather learn from someone with a more advanced mastery of the philosophy of Aikido?”

“Kid, after over fifty years of bustin’ heads, ain’t much gonna change my philosophy — hit the other guy harder, faster, and more often than he hits you! But maybe if I could pick up some of them moves of yours, I could maybe make the other guys miss me a little bit more often. The way I see it is, this old ‘Cat ain’t too old to pick up a few new tricks!”

With a grin, they shook hands and headed off into the gym.

Continued in The Brave and the Bold: Johnny Thunder and Strobe: Another Manic Monday

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