GREEN LANTERN Issue Nine (49): "Chaos Rises" Written by House Of Mystery Covered by Matt Erkhart
Kyle Rayner floated in complete silence in front of the broken, decaying husk of a Sun that had gone out in the universal sector closest to him when Evil Star's machine activated.
He considered the swirling, invisible strands of energy that were left in the wake of the galaxy-wide upheaval. He thought about what could be done.
Emanating from Kyle's body were threads of white light. At a glance, an observer might think that the threads were from the aura that surrounded him, similar to a Green Lantern's, or a Star Sapphire's, but the threads were part of him, and they tangled him up with the universe, empowering him to a degree he had never known before.
"Kyle, are you all right?" asked Katma Tui.
She approached him slowly, the bright light of his costume almost blinding him to her.
Stel nodded in agreement, his robotic eyes unfazed by Kyle's aura. "You have been floating there for hours, surely we must regroup on Oa with the Green Lantern Corps--"
"The Green Lantern Corps...." Kyle blinked. "I had..." He clicked his fingers. "I could hear it, the signals being transmitted across the void. Here."
Kyle opened his hand, and the face of Salaak appeared, fuzzy, flecks of static washing over his visage.
"This is a Priority White transmission. All active Green Lanterns are to remain grounded until lines of communication are restored."
"What...?" said Katma, shocked at the transmission Kyle has conjured from nowhere.
"To those of you that think it wise to take advantage of the stars going out, I advise against actions detrimental to peace in our universe. Our memories are long. And the Corps remembers those who threaten the lives of innocents."
"It repeats," said Kyle. "Salaak is smart, if the universe turns on it's head again, we don't want the surviving Lanterns dying in the vacuum of space on their way to Oa."
"Will it happen again?" asked Katma.
"I hope not. Fixing it this time is giving me a headache as is."
"Oa is defenceless against the Red Lanterns then, isn't it? Who will go to help them? Who will support the Corps?"
"I can speak to the stars, Katma. I can speak to planets that glow in the tapestry of space. I have sent for help. Now, let me concentrate, please, I need... I need time... if we don't reignite the suns, then even more helpless beings will die in the dark."
Miri Riam wiped tears from her eyes as she approached the two of them, hanging in front of the dead sun. "I can feel so many... so many hearts broken... so many loves dying out..."
"Kyle--" started Katma.
Kyle shook his head harshly. "What good is a universal taskforce dedicated to peace and justice if there isn't a universe to protect? What good can be done if the universe is dead?"
Kyle reached out his hands, and began to whisper to himself as the threads of white light surrounding him began to throb, and began to reach out to the husk of a Sun before him.
"So let me see if I can get this straight. The Red Lantern Corps aren't from the future, they're from another dimension. And they came here to stop Hal Jordan from going power mad-- too late, heh-- and creating some kind of galactic empire and enslaving the universe? Except in this dimension our Hal Jordan was too mopey to go all Emperor on the galaxy, so they wasted a journey?"
"Nail on the head, Guy," said Jordan, gripping the controls of the Interceptor tightly. "Perceptive as always."
"Though Guy, I don't think mourning for the daughter you thought dead counts as being 'too mopey', don't you?"
"Eh," Guy waved Arisia away. "But don't you think this whole journey was a waste of time?"
"They don't feel the same way," said John.
"How far from Oa are we?" asked Sinestro.
Hal checked the readings on the main console of the Interceptor. "Minutes."
"Faster than subluminal," said Sinestro.
"Not by much," said Hal. "I just wish ring-to-ring communication was working, so we could warn Oa."
"Let's just hope the damage isn't too severe," said John.
"Let's hope," said Hal.
The Interceptor zipped into Oa's orbit, and Guy looked over Hal's shoulder. The Central Power Battery of both the Green Lantern Corps and the Star Sapphires were extinguished. There were flickers of light across the surface, emerald and violet, but nothing like the world that Arisia and Guy had left behind less than a day ago.
"Good God," said John. "Where are all the lights?"
"Taking us down," said Hal.
The Interceptor landed on a strip of clear ground, and the Green Lanterns disembarked. "How long before the Red Lanterns break subluminal?" asked John.
"I put it at an hour," said Hal. "I pushed the Interceptor as hard as I could, and it still took us half a day. Those tunnels may link all the Sectors to each other, but they're still galaxy-wide. We've got time."
"That's--" John paused. His ring was bubbling with energy. "Ah, what now?"
"Overcome," said John's ring, in Hank Henshaw's voice.
"Huh," said Hal, leaning over slightly to look at John's power ring. "I forgot your ring used to belong to Henshaw."
"It's been playing up every now and then," said John. "I rang diagnostic after diagnostic, but it's fine. But it says things..."
"'Things'?" said Sinestro. "Your power ring responds to your thoughts and yours alone. It should not 'say things' other than in answer to your commands."
"I know, I know," said John. "But--"
The ground beneath the Interceptor began to shake. The Green Lanterns, along with their Star Sapphire allies, floated up. Gardner turned to Sapphire Karom. "Get Noss outta here, she's wounded."
Karom didn't argue, and Noss looked up with dull, heavy eyes. "Stay... safe..."
"Yeah, we ain't got much choice in the matter," said Guy.
"Get to Salaak," said Hal, pointing at Arisia and Guy. "We've got this."
"What?" said Guy.
The ground continued to tremor, until it swelled up and shattered the Interceptor into a dozen twisted pieces.
It was like the surface of Oa was coming alive, and it didn't like what was sitting on its back!
"Go! You've got intel, we've got this," said Hal, cracking his knuckles.
Arisia grabbed Guy's hand and he nodded as she looked him in the eye. The two of them darted off, leaving Jordan, Sinestro and Stewart staring down whatever it was beneath them.
"Can you hear that?" asked Stewart.
"Like metal bending," said Jordan.
"No," said Sinestro. "Not like metal bending, I know that sound--"
The earth erupted, and blue and red metallic figures sprung out, launching themselves at Sinestro and Stewart.
<NO INVERSION ESCAPES!>
"Manhunters!" said Jordan, throwing up a shield in front of his face. "How?!"
"I thought these creeps were taken care of years ago?" said Stewart, fighting off a Manhunter as it clambered across his ring aura. Its energy staff was buzzing with power, and it flew down against the emerald shield Stewart had erected.
<Power down your ring, Hank Henshaw. No Inversion escapes!> said the Manhunter attacking Stewart.
"--Huh?" said John, surprised at the Manhunter's words. He swatted it back, and then blasted it into atoms with his ring.
"Doesn't look like that's the case," said Hal. "Hey, Sinestro--"
<Sinestro / Legion Virus / Threat level - High>
Sinestro was multi-tasking. A dozen or so Manhunters had zeroed on him, and he was calculating the best trajectory for what he was about to do. He smiled, and two dozens constructs sprang out from his aura and began to go hand-to-hand with the Manhunter units.
"These are not Mark 1 Manhunters," said Sinestro. "They have been upgraded. And their identification software is corrupt. I am no longer infected with the Legion Virus. John Stewart is not Hank Henshaw. I do not think so, at least..."
"But who would upgrade them?" asked John, battling a Manhunter back toward the hole they had flooded out of. "What's down there?"
"And what's an Inversion?" asked Hal. "Guy's going to get the Corps together, back-up will be here any--"
The fragmented pieces of the Interceptor began to swim together, the white and green hull turning grey, fuzzy, then it began to rear up as it was transformed into a giant-sized, red and blue Manhunter.
<NO! INVERSION! ESCAPES!>
"Get down that hole and figure out what the hell is going on here," said Hal. "I've got this." He reinforced his aura and began to think big. Constructs formed across his body. If the Manhunters were going to go big, so could he--
"That's my ship you Manhunter bastards! You're not going to get off easy this time!"
John didn't even bother asking Hal if he was sure.
Kyle didn't know if he was even capable of reigniting the Sun in front of him. But if he had learnt anything from Kilowog, from Sinestro, from Hal Jordan, it was that if he could imagine it, if he could paint it on the canvas of his mind, it was possible for him to bring into creation.
"Ring-to-ring communication is still down," said Stel. "Sapphire Riam, are you having any luck?"
"No," said Miri. Her red hair was littered with greys. She was breathing hard, her every exertion draining her. "None, there's nothing..."
Stel opened his hand and enveloped Miri in an emerald sphere. He slipped through the shield and joined her inside the warm, safe space. "Sapphire Riam, you needn't use your ring, I can provide for both of us."
"I don't want to be a burden," said Miri.
"You are not a burden," said Stel. "Your ring operates differently to our own, does it not? You are drawing on some internal power source?"
"My heart," said Miri.
Stel cocked his head to the side, a mechanical tic of curiosity. "Is that power not finite?"
"I pray it is not," said Miri. "I pray for my sisters, my brothers, I pray that is not the case..."
"AH!" Kyle grabbed his hand in shock, as sparks of energy began to flow out of him. "Hot! Hot!"
Katma shot to his side, and then realised why he was reacting with such surprise. "Kyle! We have to get clear!"
The Sun before them was begin to flicker up again. Gasses and fire were swarming together. The dark strands of energy that remained in the wake of its extinguishing were becoming some else entirely.
"I did it," said Kyle. "I imagined it, and it happened!"
"And if we're not clear soon we'll be kindling," said Katma, grabbing Kyle by the wrist and pulling him away, down to the planet they had landed on hours earlier.
The sight was amazing. Katma had never known a Green Lantern capable of reigniting a dead Sun. She glanced around the empty, black space around them, the impossible absence of light-- the utter absence of starlight was a clear indicator that the extinguishing of stars was unnatural, that it was never meant to be-- and was amazed when the stars began to reappear, one by one.
The Sun in front of them burnt bright.
The Star Sapphire insignia formed across its surface in lashings of violet, impossible fire.
And then, superimposed on top of that, the Green Lantern Corps' own brand.
"We're here," said Kyle, his eyes bubbling with energy. "We're here to protect you."
Sinestro and Stewart dove through the flowing legion of Manhunters, battling past them as they headed down the chasm that had split open to signal the genocidal robot's arrival.
Some Manhunters split off to fight the two Lanterns, but they were dismantled by a glance from Sinestro, his ring working in perfect unison with his thoughts.
Stewart was impressed. Even after being trained by Kilowog for six months, there was still a slight delay between thought and ring, but Sinestro didn't have that problem.
The further down they got the fewer Manhunter units they faced. They passed through a shimmering emerald portal and were suddenly in the middle of a massive chamber, the walls lined with walkways and holes in the walls. Cells.
"Damn," said John. The ring on his finger flickered with light and his aura faded, his controlled flight take a dip in height as a result. "Did you feel that?"
"Our rings are being influenced by some kind of dampening field," said Sinestro. "Keep your thoughts tight, don't let your aura waver."
"Got it." John looked around the empty, cavernous area they had arrived in. "What is this place?" asked John.
[/span]Sinestro's lip curled. "I think--"
<No Inversion--!> A Manhunter emerged from a cell the two of them were not paying attention to, it's green eyes flaring, but Sinestro interrupted it with an emerald blade across the head, splitting its central unit in half.
"--It's where the Inversions live," said Sinestro.
The Korugarian took a step forward and examined one of the empty cells.
The wall nearest the walkway he was stood upon had an emerald border to it.
"Ring, what does this contraption do?"
< // connection to the Book of Oa is down //>
"Hrm. It's a prison," said Sinestro. "And with the Central Power Battery down..."
"Prison break," said John. "My God. How could this be down here and we didn't know?"
"The Guardians of the Universe kept their secrets well," said Sinestro.
"YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE DOWN HERE!"
Sinestro wasn't fast enough this time. A yellow and purple blur swatted him against the inner wall of the cell he was examining, the strength behind the blow concussing him and knocking the Lantern out immediately.
Mongul grinned. "Our guards caught scent of an even mightier meal than us 'Inversions', Lantern."
"Yeah," said John, levelling his ring at Mongul. "Who might that be?"
"The scourge of the Green Lantern Corps, ally of Parallax and plague maiden of the Legion virus. You should have heard their databases buzzing."
John glanced at Sinestro. His first mistake.
John Stewart's ring aura faded ever so slightly, the dampening field consuming the area wearing on the two Lantern's power rings.
In that split second of distraction a razor sharp shard of bone pierced his temple, entered his brain and killed him instantly.
The creature that had descended from the ceiling clattered next to the fallen Green Lantern and retracted the organic blade that was sheathed inside its wrist. It had a dozen or so limbs arranged over its back, not an ounce of fat over its frame, only sharp, jagged bone. Ribs emerged from its chest like a claw, its head was small and grey, and scarlet blood covered its hand.
John Stewart's blood.
"Ddddonnnnneeeee," it hissed.
"Good work, Ripper," said Mongul. He took one look at the deceased Lantern and smiled.
"This is where the Guardians imprisoned the universe's worst," said Mongul. His hands were behind his back as he bent over to look down at the puddle of blood pooling around Stewart's head. He glanced toward the cell that he'd thrown Sinestro into. "Myself. Other cosmic horrors that have threatened the sanctity of the universe. They called us Inversions. I will wear that title like a badge of honour as I burn this universe down!"
"Overcome," said John's ring.
Mongul grabbed Sinestro by the leg and pulled him out onto the walkway.
<Ring status report: Green Lantern 2814.1 deceased.>
"My fellow Inversions!" Mongul bellowed.
The yellow-skinned criminal held Sinestro up over the side of the rail bordering the walkway. The veteran Green Lantern dangled wildly without anything but Mongul's grip keeping him from the baying hordes of Inversions below.
"I have a gift for you! Long thought lost, but returned to us like a gift from our gods... Thaal Sinestro, Green Lantern of--"
<Space sector scan 2814 for-- bzzzzt--> The transmission from John Stewart's ring was cut short and replaced with a different voice. "I am found."
The ring slipped off John's finger and vanished into the crowd of Inversions that were flocking in the immediate area.
Sinestro was upside down, purple blood dribbling from his nose and mouth and down into the pit below.
<You have the ability to overcome great fear.>
There was an explosion of emerald light in the middle of the Inversions, sending the villains and monsters scattering over the rails of the walkways, back into cells, chaos rising up in the ranks of the escaped prisoners.
<Welcome back to the Green Lantern Corps.>
The crowd cleared and revealed Hank Henshaw, clad in his Green Lantern uniform, rubbing his wrist as the power ring on his hand flared up.
"Hello, old friend."
"Henshaw," said Mongul. "What a change of colour scheme for you."
"Put the Green Lantern down on the walkway slowly and put your hands behind your head," said Henshaw. He levelled the ring at Mongul's head.
Mongul flipped Sinestro up and grabbed him by the head in his other hand. "Or what?" Mongul's grip tightened around the unconscious Sinestro's head. "I'll tell you what. I'll break Sinestro's neck and then I'll put you out of your misery. How does that sound? I'll kill you quick."
"Please, just stand down," said Henshaw. Even energised by the power ring, even with a year's worth of grime and dirt removed by the emerald aura in a matter of seconds, he looked weary, tired of everything he had been through these past twelve months.
Mongul laughed. "I grow bored of your mouth, Henshaw. If this were any other time I'd find other uses for it, but--"
Henshaw sent a beam of light through Mongul's head, killing him instantly. Sinestro fell to the ground, and stirred from his unconsciousness.
Henshaw sent his ring aura outward, sending the Inversions scattering down, some to the ground and some over the edge of the walkway. He ran over to Sinestro, and pulled him to his feet.
"Stewart? What? You're not," said Sinestro. His eyes landed on John's corpse, a few steps away from where Sinestro himself had been attacked. "Oh, no."
"You're Sinestro," said Henshaw. "I'm Hank Hen--"
Without hesitation, Henshaw blasted at an Inversion that was made up of fur and teeth. The blast sent him backwards into one of the cell's on the far side of the large underground complex.
"Quiet!" said Sinestro. He moved over to John’s body and his rang sprang into action, surrounding Stewart in an emerald shield. Shards of bone and brain were picked up by threads of light emitted by Sinestro's ring.
"What are you doing?" asked Henshaw.
Sinestro said nothing. His ring was working, putting John's head back together like it was a jigsaw. The aura held the fallen Lantern in stasis, preventing decay and decomposition to set in.
"You don't think..." started Henshaw.
Sinestro shot a look in his direction that shut him down, and Henshaw fell silent.
Hank looked at the ring on his finger and gripped his wrist tightly. Stewart was deceased. The ring was back on it's previous owner's finger. But Stewart was dead. Hank was a Green Lantern again, but John was dead.
"I can repair the damage," said Sinestro. "I can put him back together. But the trauma... to bring him back... to start his heart..."
"There's been too much death already." Hank removed his ring and passed it to Sinestro. "My ring contains John's personality."
Sinestro nodded, placed the ring on John's finger, and then his own ring sent lines of light into the latter's body. There was a flash of light and the aura around Stewart's body throbbed.
Beads of sweat ran down Sinestro's face, and the Inversions began to gather, sensing weakness. Some got close and Henshaw felt something in his chest drop. He was powerless, unable to fight back if they attacked with anything other than his fists.
The hole in John's temple vanished. The ring on his finger flashed, and his eyes flashed open, his pupils glowing green. "What. What.” He tentatively touched the side of his head, and odd feeling tingling at his temple, and looked at the blood that covered his fingers. What just happened?"
"Less talking, Stewart," said Sinestro. “The day isn’t over yet.”
John looked at Henshaw and his eyes widened in shock. "You?"
Henshaw swallowed hard. "I'm sorry."
"Why?" said John.
"Both of you!" said Sinestro. "Less talking!"
The Inversions swarmed closer. The mechanical buzz of the Manhunters became audible. They were returning to the hole they'd emerged from. They were coming back for Sinestro and Henshaw.
"No back up is coming," said Sinestro. "Stewart!" Sinestro grabbed John's hand, and slammed his ring into Stewart's. There was a spark, and a small, contained explosion of energy that blinded Henshaw billowed up from the impact.
A brand new power ring spun into existence from the impact, and darted onto Henshaw's hand. A new Green Lantern twice in one day.
<Hank Henshaw. You-->
Sinestro shook his head and cut off the automatic transmission. "Not now! Now we fight!"
The collection of monsters the Guardians kept secret surged forward, and the three Green Lanterns batted them back in unison, giving them some breathing room.
"How'd you just do that, Sinestro?"
"I'll show you all one day. It feels like the Corps have forgotten some of our secrets," said Sinestro. His eyes tightened into slits as a mechanical grinding began to fill the chamber. "The Manhunters have our scent again."
Above them the portal that allowed them access to this place shimmered, and dozens of Manhunter units descended.
Henshaw smiled. His ring felt light. Streamlined. Perfect. "I don't know how they managed it but some Qwardian Weaponeers down here and they managed to grab a Manhunter unit, hacked it's programming so they could dictate who the Inversions were. Mongul flipped the script, told them to make the Green Lanterns the enemy."
"It's your voice I've been hearing for months, what's going on there?"
Henshaw raised his ring and took a shot at a Manhunter, sending metal shredding outwards into its metallic brothers. "I'm a pragmatist. I cloned my personality into my ring, hid it under the subroutines that give the ring the former bearer's voice. You must be my successor?"
"John," said Stewart.
"Hank," said Henshaw. "Though you knew that. You probably know the worst of it..."
"If it's anything like what I just experienced with Guy, it was never your fault. But you were speaking through my ring--" John blasted at two Manhunters that were clawing toward them, and pushed a group of Inversions back into the crowd. "How?"
"Survival instinct," said Henshaw. "I never wanted to die." He blasted at the incoming Manhunters. "Never. I hear... I hear I've done terrible things. Terrible things under the influence of the Predator. That wasn't me. But the Guardians... saw me as a..." The three Green Lanterns were blasting away, completely surrounded by monstrous Inversions and hordes of Inversions. "This isn't going to work!"
"We shut the portal, we trap these things down here, don't we?" asked John.
"Yes," said Sinestro.
"Go then!" said Henshaw. "I'll keep them occupied!"
"We can't leave you!" said John. He took a step forward, but then realised something--
The Manhunters weren't going for him, he was just getting in their way. They were more concerned with Henshaw and Sinestro, who were busy battling away for their life.
"They don't seem to have a taste for me," said John. "What does--"
Sinestro rolled his eyes. He enveloped Stewart in a construct and sent him hurtling toward the portal. John exited with a pop, while Sinestro and Henshaw kept up their barrage.
"The entrance," said Sinestro.
Henshaw nodded and in unison the two Green Lanterns destroyed the portal that separated the Oa and the prison.
"Now it's just us and them," said Henshaw, as the Inversions massed around the fringes of the battle, and the Manhunters swarmed overhead.
"Think green thoughts," said Sinestro, as their enemies descended upon them.
The Manhunter that had formerly been Hal Jordan's spacecraft, the Interceptor, was a smouldering pile of junk on the surface of Oa.
Jordan himself floated down to the ground, his ring searching for nanite traces of the Manhunters, but they had shot back down into the ground not soon after John and Sinestro had taken the battle to the cybernetic menaces.
Hal was about to join his comrades in the hole when Stewart came hurtling out, an emerald sphere bleeding away as he hit the sky. "John!"
"Godammit," said John, clutching his wrist. "The idiots!"
"What?" said Hal.
"Sinestro and Henshaw, they're taking on a whole prison down there--"
"What?" repeated Hal. "Henshaw? What's Hank Henshaw got to do with any of this?"
"He... he's been down there all this time," said John, realising the misery Henshaw had inflicted on Jordan's life a year ago, "he's the reason my ring has been playing up."
"Okay, well," said Hal, before Guy Gardner and the Green Lantern Corps descended on their location. "It can wait. I guess."
"Hal, what the hell happened here?" asked Guy. Beside him was Salaak, along with the hundreds of Green Lanterns and Star Sapphires that were left alive after the Central Power Battery went dead.
"Manhunters," said Hal. "We had an infestation."
The mention of Manhunters sent rumblings across the present Green Lanterns. The Manhunters-- led by Krona, the Mad Guardian-- had been behind their last major defeat. A pact between Darkseid, master of Apokolops, and Krona, the renegade Oan, had led to the destruction of the Central Power Battery.
And if the Manhunters had returned...
"Left over from Krona's occupation of Oa?" said Arisia, asking the question every veteran Green Lantern had on their minds.
"No," said John. "But they're still a threat-- Sinestro and Henshaw are down in the prison, they're holding the line, but--"
"Henshaw?" spat Guy. "Since when is Henshaw a problem? Didn't the Guardians execute his sorry ass when the..." He paused, facts falling into place. "Shit. Oh, shit. It wasn't him. Jeez, it was never him," he slapped himself on the temple. "The Predator rode him like he rode me, he was innocent. Where the hell is he now?"
"Down there," said Hal, pointing at the jagged hole John had flown out off. "With Sinestro."
"Sinestro?!" repeated Salaak. "Hal Jordan, it is wonderful to see you wield a ring again, but your return also heralds the return of Hank Henshaw and Thaal Sinestro, two of the greatest threats the Green Lantern Corps ever faced?"
"Past tense," said Hal. "They're okay. They're good. Apparently. Sinestro helped save the life of my daughter, and Henshaw... well. I still need to figure that out for--"
The sky above Oa went dark.
The dark clouds that gathered overhead began to bleed.
The previously clear, silent atmosphere crackled with menace.
Hal Jordan looked to the sky, and cursed. "Too late."
The Red Lantern Corps arrived with an almighty explosion, Atrocitus at the front of his army. Their rings poured energy down on the grounded Green Lantern Corps, and their rings boomed with a thousand alien voices, all vowing to end their enemies once and for all.
<You made it!> bellowed Atrocitus, his joy at seeing his most hated foes palpable from the intonation from his ring. <My most hated of foes! Now you get to see Oa burn in the crimson light of the Red Lantern Corps!>
"Guy?" said Hal, looking over to his former Sector partner. "Time for one hell of a speech."
"Hey, don't worry, I got this one," said Guy, clinking his ring to Hal's.
The mass of gathered Green Lantern Corps looked up at the Red Lantern Corps, their auras strengthened by their will and resolve. Crimson light burned into their shields, smouldering through the protective shell they'd erected.
"Hey, Atrocitus!" said Guy. "Fuck you!" He stuck up his middle finger and grinned.
"Ah, not what I had in mind," said Hal, shaking his head.
"You're boring," said Guy. "How about this--" He looked back at the Lanterns that stood assembled behind him, their rings raised and throbbing with light. "You know what ya gotta do. C'mon you Poozers, LIGHT THEM UP!"
The emerald shield exploded outward, razor sharp shards of emerald energy flying toward the Red Lantern Corps.
Guy and Hal shot straight up into the sky, their intent clear, and the two of them collided hard with Atrocitus, sending the leader of the Red Lantern Corps spiralling through his own men.
The two humans concentrated on taking this guy out, bullets pouring from constructs straight from their imaginations, boxing gloves, girders, straight up barrages of pure energy, the two men were in unison, trying their best to bring an end to the Red Lanterns' attack.
<Your willpower pales to my rage!>
"Yeah well," said Guy, the three of them bursting out of the atmosphere and diving into space. "I'm gonna give you one place to shove that rage of yours. Up your--"
Atrocitus grabbed Guy by the face and threw him deeper into space, cutting him off mid-threat. He turned his attentions to Hal, who put some distance between himself and the Red Lantern.
<How does it feel to wield the green again?>
"Damn skippy," said Jordan, his mind racing with options.
No, came the steadfast voice in his head. You only need one. Make it count.
<I'll tear that ring off your finger,> said Atrocitus.
"You're welcome to try," said Jordan.
"Such verve, such bravado, I'm almost sad I couldn't be there myself to watch you banter each other to death."
Atrocitus and Jordan were surprised to see the yellow-construct form of Parallax stand before them, his being crackling with energy. <Who dares?!>
"I DARE!" said Parallax, his arm stretching out to reach Atrocitus, grabbing him by the thick, pink throat. "You came here vowing to end Parallax before he could ruin your life. Well. You made one mistake. You went looking for the wrong Parallax, Red Lantern."
"Back off, creep," said Jordan, blasting the yellow construct into fragments.
"I'm doing you a favour," said the shattered face of Parallax. "Even after all this time, after all the betrayals, I'm still cleaning up the Guardian's messes! You know what that makes me? The first Lantern. The greatest--"
"I'm sick of your face," said Hal, vaporising the remaining pieces of Parallax's construct. The image the villain had conjured was gone, cast back to the cosmic winds.
<Where is that fiend--?!> growled Atrocitus.
"Gone," said Hal. "Atrocitus, you have to end this. We're no threat to the universe, and we're not threat to you. Please, call of the Red Lanterns."
<He was scanning me, reading my bio-signature, said Atrocitus, ignoring Hal's please. He shook his head, discarding the confusion of the attack. He turned to Hal. His ring generated a bloody, fiery sword from it's inner workings.
"Fine then," said Hal, his own emerald blade forming from his ring. "War it is."
Evil Star was slumped over, unable to find the will in himself to move his limbs. The gremlins were scuttling across the walls and ceilings, having removed the wreckage from the ruined monitor that their master had built. When they approached him to ensure his health he lashed out lazily, driving them away.
"So close," said Evil Star. "So close to ultimate power."
"You... you have... great love... in your heart.."
"Who... who said that?"
Evil Star blinked, the empty sockets of his eyes squishing with the movement. He pulled himself up, and the gremlins cowered in the dark, the bright lights that had suddenly filled the underground laboratory terrifying them.
"You... have ultimate love... for yourself.."
"Who is that?" repeated Evil Star.
The Predator entity descended from the ceiling slowly, on threads of dim, violet energy. Less like a hound, now more like a spider, the creature was a ghastly amalgamation of known and unknown horrors.
"I need... shelter.."
"What's, what's," said Evil Star, spinning around in his blindness.
The Predator grabbed Evil Star by the head and wrenched him up. The entity was smaller than his last appearance on Earth, weakened, about nine feet tall but with spindlier limbs and a thinner, gaunt, elongated face. Evil Star thrashed about but was unable to get free from the grip of the creature. The Starband he used to extract the life force from other beings was a burnt out husk, unable to project or pull energy, so he slumped, and began to laugh.
"Come on then," he said, opening up his arms, "take shelter! I'll protect you! I'll be your home!"
The Predator raked it's claws across Evil Star's face, tearing away the man's mask. It dug one of it's talons into Evil Star's empty right eye socket, and then began to dig away at the bone and flesh.
The Predator purred as it went about it's work and as it made enough space, it began to move inside Evil Star, taking up residence behind the villain's eyes. Evil Star thrashed about but didn't scream.
Evil Star had accepted his fate, and refused to cry out, but that didn't stop the pain being so immense.
As it slipped inside him, the Predator sealed up the wounds it had created, and Evil Star fell to the ground, blood pooling around him.
"Yes," said Evil Star. "I feel you. I feel it."
He touched his face, and looked at the blood that caked it with his one good eyes. The gremlins screeched from their hiding places, and began to move out toward their master slowly.
"Hello, my pretties."
The gremlins looked up at Evil Star, with his one, violet eye glowing out at them. They shrieked, and then scuttled to meet their master.
Evil Star clicked his fingers, and a purple flame flicked in the dark above his left hand.
"I have become," he said, before going quiet. "There's more..."
He raised his right hand and beads of emerald light began to twist and turn around him.
"Well, you are different, aren't you? You're not from around here..."
The emerald light erupted around Evil Star, who drew it into himself, his skin smouldering under the pressure.
"Future power," said Evil Star, a new eye forming inside the formerly empty socket. "Future emerald energy," he said, watching it dance over his skin. He blinked, a green eye glinting the dark. "What are you? What are you?"