The mistake most people made about the ring is the idea you always know when it’s working.
Most ring wielders didn’t consider this while they were using it. Today, I put the idea of invisibility to the test. There was a reason I opened with an antimatter explosion. It meant the enemy had no idea what I was really doing and gave the false impression I didn’t have anything else in mind. Nothing focuses your mind like avoiding antimatter. Yes, it used a lot of power. Something I could not easily stand to lose.
Against an enemy this powerful, I may as well get the first shot in.
It took two minutes for the Entity that had the signature of the Great Battery of Oa to pull itself together. You can do a lot in two minutes. Floating in the stratosphere, I completed my efforts and scanned the battlefield.
I needed to make sure the creature would be where I wanted him at just the right time. I wasn’t sure if the Dirne could pull off what I needed, so I had to work my fight like they couldn’t. They were scientists, not warriors, I couldn’t depend on them in a fight.
Checking the ring, I was already down to thirty percent of the energy I charged up with and my next efforts would tax me even further. I hoped the Dirne were as good as they said they were or this was going to be ugly and short.
I detected the Entity reforming at the site. As I hoped, the explosion would dig into the crust of the planet but by tailoring the force of the explosion, more was directed upward than down. The crater was four kilometers into the surface of the planet but the entity reformed right over the pit, so what it wanted was, as I suspected, still deeper than that. Good, this would give me time and room to work.
I envisioned a B-52 bomber on a carpet bombing and watched as a Stratofortress appeared in the cloud layer over the site and began dropping its payload. I didn’t expect it to hurt the alien, I expected it to distract it by spreading the damage and keeping it off-balance. The five hundred pound explosives did exactly what I hoped they would do, disrupt the battlefield. This would be good for another thirty seconds. Just needed another two minutes.
Then I heard it’s telepathic taunt. “No stranger to war are you, Green Lantern? Good. It has been a while since I had someone to play with. Let’s play.”
I peeled right as the anti-aircraft fire exploded all around me. It’s using flak? Why? It felt like the real thing, the black smoke and shrapnel tore into my personal force field. Dodging, I began my next assault.
The Stratofortress disappeared as two A-10 flew an X pattern dropping their emerald napalm across the battlefield. I could feel the heat even as high up as I was. I could see the black smoky structures of the flak cannons disappear under the bombing assault. Then both A-10 vanished as ground to air missiles struck them. As I escalated the damage, he was changing the nature of his attacks. He was keeping the battle even. He was toying with me.
The bombing run completed and spent, the A-10’s crashed to the ground as the real things might, hoping they might distract the enemy further. They did exactly what I wanted them to. The wide smoky form had been replaced with a roughly man shaped black cloud, about fifteen feet tall.
No more wispy disjointed vague smoky targets, now a single thing to concentrate on.
Nice. Just needed another minute so. Activating stage two.
Snipers appear on a number of distant hills, each preparing their shot, and I needed to give it to them.
Flying slowly overhead, I increase the strength of my personal shield. “Play? This isn’t a game.” I needed to distract him.
“But it is. You see, where I hail from, we learn war from the time we are old enough to walk. Do you want to hear my story Green Lantern? Or should I just kill you ignorant of what you face?”
“By all means, enlighten me.” Better for me to snipe you while you talk.
“We hail from a galaxy many times larger than yours; a trillion stars would be a conservative estimate. Imagine a galaxy filled with fecund worlds each with life waiting to seek its place in the early Universe. Your Darwin would be pleased to know, such a galaxy would be the ultimate expression of his theorem, ‘Survival of the fittest.'”
He wasn’t letting me get bored while he lectured me. His technique slowly improved, his control of his energies shattered my energy shields and he kept me on the move, just barely one step ahead of him. His speed was steadily increasing. Had to take my shot while I still had one.
“Each of us vying for resources on our home worlds and soon spreading out to take over those worlds weaker than ours. We were a galaxy of supremacists, each sure of our place at the top of the chain of interstellar life. We took no prisoners and for ten million years we waged war.”
Three green constructs appeared, as snipers from Vietnam, with the visual equivalents of .50 caliber sniper rifles. But the payload was more diverse. Smart rounds split and swarmed over the battlefield, some striking, many missing. It split his attention from me while he fought and I used that time to focus my will. All of these were feints, but I was beginning to think he knew this. I had never seen anyone who could fight like this. And I knew some of the best fighters in the business.
“Warfare, it was our milk when we were children, our mechanized worlds of war when we were young, as we aged, we became leaders of battles, generals leading armies of billions. And even in our infirmary, after thousands of years if we were successful, we chose to end those lives in glorious battle as suicide warriors in strikes against enemies which had proven immune to conventional warfare.”
He had the raw power of Kilowog, the ferocity of Guy Gardner, the creativity of Kyle Rayner, he was a maestro of destruction. No more time to play around. It was time to get serious or die.
I created a regiment of constructs to split his attention. Every kind of ordinance I could imagine, everything I had ever seen, anything I thought I had ever wanted on a battlefield, I was going to push my ring to its limits.
“Green Lantern, John Stewart, you are exceeding the energy distribution protocols. At this rate, you will exhaust your ring energy in a matter of minutes.”
“At this rate, we don’t have a matter of minutes. Shut up and pour it on.”
My soldier constructs poured on the firepower, their weapons flared with the renewed surge of energy and he was pushed back to where I want him to be. He was on the defensive. His shields were obscuring everything from his line of sight. He never saw it coming.
I took off seconds before the area was pelted by meteors the size of Buicks. They used to be much larger but they lost a lot of weight on their way here. White-hot, each glowed like a star.
Stolen from a nearby meteor swarm, they had been accelerated to ten percent the speed of light. Even a near miss would release megatons of energy. I had to wait until nearly the last second because I didn’t want to spook him.
I rode the shockwave of explosions and the Johnny-come-lately sonic booms from their re-entry. But I was much slower than earlier. No where near fast enough. Miles away, the shockwaves overcame my ring temporarily and I skipped across the tundra, battered, bruised before I came to a complete stop.
I shook my head and looked at my ring. Less than five percent of power remained.
Death from above. Never liked using that trick, but against someone whose abilities acted like a power-ring with ten times my ring’s profile, fighting ring to ring was simply stupid.
Kilowog would call it creative use of my surroundings.
Smoke and ash were everywhere. Radiation levels were elevated and this area would not be a safe place to be for long. My personal force field flickered on and I took to the air to return to the scene of the crime. I surveyed the damage and realized it would take a dozen GLs to correct the environmental damage I caused today.
The smoky form was lying still on the ground and I surrounded it with a prison field to isolate it. I had never seen such a life form before, so I wasn’t sure what it would take to confine it. I just erected the strongest field I could muster.
In hindsight, I realized I made a mistake. The ground beneath me reshaped itself and battered me from behind. Other giant sized fists appeared from the ground and battered me to the ground. I erected shields, none were strong enough. I was kicked around the battlefield like a soccer ball.
“Ring power, down to two percent. Recommend withdrawal.”
“You think? We’re past that.”
A few more seconds and there was no fight remaining in me. Holding me in a hand made of sand and smoke, he held me up to his eyeless face before continuing. “Your Machiavelli was noted to say: ‘Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.’ I have enjoyed our battle, John Stewart, your facility with war, was most excellent. Your species may have lasted a few millennia where we’re from. But you would eventually be killed, because you lack follow through. You assumed a downed enemy was a defeated one; a grave tactical error.”
I tried to refocus my ring, but there was no response.
“Now, now. You’ve provided me with marvelous sport. You used every strategem someone in your position should use, textbook really. Your execution was flawless. You should be proud. Against someone with my background, to even cause me momentary distress is an accomplishment. But you’ve been properly and soundly defeated. Accept your death with the graciousness a great warrior should exemplify. Do you have any last words before you die?”
“Go to Hell.”