The green aircraft flew relatively low in the sky, the roar of its engines, the only mechanized sound heard. The craft tore through the thick atmosphere of the now dead planet. No ordinary vehicle, this one was composed of pure will. The will of it’s pilot intent on understanding an enemy before a confrontation.
“Analysis completed. Alien entity appears to be an uncatalogued life form.”
“Just what I wanted to hear. ‘It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.'”
“Please clarify command, John Stewart.”
“Never mind, Ring. A bit of Earth humor. Go on.”
“The scans indicate the creature is primarily composed of interwoven fields of energy with a subatomic structure interacting directly with the fabric of space. There is microscopic particulate matter of an undefined nature which may comprise the physical body of the Entity. “
“Is that how it manages to play havoc with our sensory sweeps. It can decide it’s here one minute and gone the next?”
“Such an unusual physiology gives it unknown capacities regarding its relationship to space-time. Since it is interacting at the Planck level of the of the universe, it may be capable of warping space-time directly.”
“Excuse me Green Lantern? Er, do you have a name?” The Dirne citizen looked pretty indistinguishable from any other member of their species. Bilaterally symmetrical, they appeared cosmetically similar to humans but their physical structure showed generations of genetic manipulation. Their super-sensitive skin was rust colored, with tiny variations too tiny even for the human eye to recognize, but the Dirne claimed they had over five thousand color shade distinctions.
Dirne faces were smooth with only eye indentation and no external ears, their slightly larger heads housed a powerful multi-lobed brain. Descending from an aquatic environment, their entire body was a sensory organ whose collective light absorbing capacity was ten thousand times human acuity. A patch of their skin the size of a dime, could perceive as effectively as a human eye with 20/20 vision and hear as well as a cat, well within the 40,000 Hertz range.
Recorded data storage showed the Dirne wore loose-fitting diaphanous robes, which gave them the ability to perceive each other fully and interpret their changing radiation signatures, another more subtle and yet advanced communication. By vibrating membranes near what humans would call their vocal cords, the Dirne could communicate using sound. Much slower than human speech, their vibrations were rich in nuance, each tone having a specific meaning. To human ears they sounded much like crickets. From inside their environmental suits, they must have been feeling as blind as bats.
“You can call me John. John Stewart of Earth.”
“Please call me, Faran alb Dine. I am the chief engineer of the power facility you rescued us from. We have tried to be patient while you have performed your investigations but I believe we may be able to help. May I interact with that display you are using?”
“Sure. Ring, grant access and create a viable interface for Faran alb Dine and her associates.”
“In progress. Converting visual data. Interface developing. Translating. Complete.”
Faran stared intently and then motioned to her fellows who leaned over from their seats. Stewart altered the information display into a three dimensional structure capable of being seen by everyone. At first silence and then as if an insect swarm had invaded the tiny ship, untranslated chittering commenced.
“Okay, calm down. One at a time. Faran? Something you want to tell me?”
“No, John Stewart of Earth. I do not want to tell you.”
“You can tell me, or I can have the ring go second by second and translate your conversation. As a Green Lantern we record every interaction we engage in. I would prefer you tell me and make it easy for me to understand.”
“How much do you know about your omni-device?” Faran asked.
“The power ring? Enough to use it. Enough to exercise my will over its programming.”
“It’s underlying technology?”
“Honestly, very little. The Guardians are so advanced, their technology might as well be magic to me. We are trained in how to use the ring, what its limitations are, how to get the best performance out of it and how to be the best Green Lanterns we can be. It converts our conscious will into physical intent. The underlying technology only matters to species who can actually understand how it works and even they admit to being a bit baffled at times. So if our problem requires me to understand the fundamental underpinnings of my ring, we’re in trouble.”
“Then I shall endeavor to make this as simple as possible. I recognized the energy signature of the creature because it utilized the same technology we do in our power plants. It used “inflation energy” to power its transformations and destruction in our environment.”
Inflation energy, I remembered being taught the Universe was once smaller than an atom and when it engaged in the Big Bang, it expanded faster than the speed of light. This energy was called “inflation” and as the universe expanded, this was the energy of that expansion. As far as we knew, inflation was still happening, moving everything in the universe farther apart.
This energy would be nigh infinite and inexhaustible. It could also be potentially unstable if not properly understood. A mistake would make an antimatter accident look like Pop Rocks.
“We mastered antimatter, thousands of years ago but to allow us to develop faster than light ships, we needed better and more efficient energy. We crosses the threshold to zero-point energy and this gave us new realms of matter and energy transformations. Though there were minor accidents during the development, within a few lifetimes, we were able to harness these energies with no risk to ourselves or our civilizations. Imagine our surprise to discover others had learned to use similar technologies but not always for beneficial means. The Malthusians were also utilizing this energy and one of them even tried to harness it directly from the First Source.”
She meant the rogue Guardian, Krona. He altered the fabric of the Universe causing rips and shears across time and space distorting and folding the universe in upon itself several times. On Earth, these disruptions caused the parallel universes we are rediscovering. “Those problems were corrected by the Malthusians; we call them the Guardians now.”
Farad’s tone became strident and short. “Those corrections, as you called them, distorted time and space for worlds across our galaxy and my people were nearly wiped out as these perturbations caused our power supplies to become unstable and destroyed entire planets in the wake of that work. We never forgave the Malthu, er Guardians for their hubris and when their Manhunter experiment went rogue we knew we had made the correct choice in avoiding their organizations.”
“What does this have to do with our problem now?”
“On Dirne, we have a saying: ‘A problem not studied is a problem unsolved.’ I shall present you with a conundrum. Compare these two signatures and I shall identify one. This one is your omni-device, your power ring. Note the distinctive and unique energy curve, inflation energy transformation and non-baryonic matter display. Your device converts dark matter and dark energy into a matrix of energy able to be manipulated by your intent. The constructs generated appear to be only as real as the interface user perceives them to be. Each user can affect the underlying reality based on their level of understanding. Since the constructs you create are made from non-baryonic matter, as soon as you stop concentrating on them, they return to their naturally non-material state.”
Wow. A better explanation than the Guardians ever gave. Complete with graphics.
“I think I understand. Each user affects reality based on their understanding of it. If you are not a scientist, you visualize what you want and then the ring attempts to make it happen utilizing the inherent preponderance of dark matter and converting dark energy into conventional energies. The conversion process is normally energetic the same way converting matter into energy produces more energy than would be readily apparent.”
“Correct. Now look at this second signature. Does it look familiar?”
It did. But its amplitude was far greater than anything on the first curve. It was at least one hundred times more powerful. “This can’t be right. Nothing doing this could possibly exist. Ring, confirm hypothesis.” The ring was silent as it ran its analysis and in less than a minute, it’s reply was exactly what I didn’t want to hear.
“John Stewart, the hypothesis is potentially flawed. The Great Battery of Oa has a similar profile and amplitude. Such artifacts would be extremely rare but completely within the potential development of Guardian science.”
“Do you recognize this as a Guardian project?”
There was a pause, perhaps a tenth of a second before the reply: “This information is classified. Any attempt to access such data further will be reported to the Guardians.”
“Now do you understand why we didn’t want to tell you? If we are correct, you are facing a creature, likely of Guardian design, whose capacities dwarf your own. Capable of utilizing constructs and energy conversion technology on a scale ten times your own.”
A timer indicated a two minute countdown to arrival at the predefined coordinates. As the six of them approached the underground facility, they could see spears of smoke forming around the base, forming into more substantial shapes. Humanoids made of grey smoke. They approached the entry points on the above ground station. Doors refused to open preventing the smoke forms access. The smoke tore at the doors and in a few seconds reshaped themselves until they could pry the doors apart.
Sparks flew and the contest between the smoke entities and the security doors was never in doubt.
“Any bright ideas? Now would be a good time.”
“As a matter of fact, we do. But we will need time to implement it.”
“In other words, you need me to stall for time.”
“If we survive, we need to tweak your translation matrix. We need you to “delay the enemy” while we work on a countermeasure to its power manipulation abilities.'”
“Stall for time. How much do you need?”
“At least ten minutes.”
“Stall for time with an enemy at least ten times as powerful as I am. Keep him from noticing you and killing me. Piece of cake.”
“Translation error. Don’t be late.”
John exited the craft after conferring briefly with Farad alb Dine. He floated down to the smoky grey forms attempting to penetrate the security doors. The alien it seemed was all to eager to mock him. “Green Lantern of Earth. Your help has been invaluable. What I seek is buried deep directly below me.”
“Funny. I was hoping the exact same thing.”
I can’t believe I am about to take a page from Guy’s book. On the other hand, a stopped clock can be right twice a day.
With his ring flaring and bleeding wild energy, John Stewart severed the bonds of local matter beneath the creature and inserted antiparticles in their place. The resultant antimatter explosion could be seen from space and liberated a percentage of the atmosphere in the blast; an environmental catastrophe John hoped to repair. If he survived.
The Farad alb Dine and her fellow scientists stopped working; they were at some considerable distance and protected by John’s ship construct, in momentary horror as the light from the explosion ended.
Knowing it would not be enough, they worked feverishly as the wisps of the smoke-like alien began to reform in the tortured ruins.