The probe ships of the Prime were immense.
Twice the size of the moon at a quarter of the orbital distance meant they were easily visible from the planet’s surface.
They meant to surprise us. It worked.
But now that I was clear on a plan, I wasn’t about to back down now.
The male Caretaker walked over to us and knelt down before Faran and I. “You have no reason to trust us; we have wronged you and cannot undo what has been done. We are now in need of your assistance. Without it, in a matter of minutes we shall all perish.”
“We are not in a position to absolve you of your guilt, Master Caretaker. As far as helping you, anything we do in the next minutes will be to save what remains of my people and their world. The question should be, can you do anything to help while we attempt to right this wrong?” Faran’s body language spoke of intensity and the line of her mouth seemed grim and determined.
It felt like the wrong thing to say at the moment, but I had to ask, “Do you two have names? If we need to coordinate, I would hate to call you what I think of you.”
The male responded, “You may call us Builder and Destroyer, for that is what we are to our people. She creates the way, and I destroy anything opposing her will.”
The female caretaker laughed out loud, the first sound of levity since our conflict began. “His language is crude, so he barely has words for what we do. I am the Will and the Word, the Shaper of Worlds, the Creator of Truth, and he is, in our language, the Breaker of Laws, the Unrelenting Force, The Soul of Destruction. Those would be closer to our true names.”
I pinched the nerve between my eyes trying to forestall a headache. All the aliens in the universe, and I get the poet conquerors. “Destroyer and Builder it is, then. Not against poetic license but shorter callsigns are better.” The Destroyer smiled while he looked at his sister. The more dire the situation, the happier these two seemed to get.
It was good to see everyone so upbeat, so I went ahead and asked the question that needed asking, “What’s the plan? How long can we expect them to wait before attacking us?”
Builder seemed to look skyward toward the new twin moons and then she said, “They will be another half hour, in your time, before they fully appear in our space. They are currently in two locations, one there, the other here. Their causality drive will eventually complete the transition and then they will be fully here and able to unleash their abilities upon this world.”
“How are they able to communicate with us?” one of Faran’s choir piped up from behind the group. A short fellow who up to this point had said very little other than being a voice in the energy-dampening song heard earlier.
Builder answered “When we expanded your awareness, and made it possible for you to see them, the trace was able to be formed because your awareness was untrained and left a reality trace they could use. Following this disruption, they were able to send communication directly into our minds.”
“Reality trace?” It was clear this guy was a scientist. That wasn’t the first question on my mind.
“Our abilities allow us to transcend much of what you call reality, in a fashion similar to the Oan omniweapon. We have the ability to view our universe without affecting the quantum layer of reality. Our ability allows us to see reality without affecting it. Unfortunately we do this without conscious effort and by expanding your senses, we forgot you still believe the universe responds to quantum interaction. You saw them, and by seeing them, affected them and allowed them to follow you. But don’t be upset, they were on their way here. The energy output and signatures of the Guardians War of Light convinced them we might be here and they were already altering their course to investigate.”
The Destroyer added, “They were unsure if we were all here, so they only sent two probe ships to check. If they were completely certain, more, many more would have arrived. Our best hope lies with deception.”
I think I understood what he meant, but this would require someone on the front lines. “You want to convince them you two were the only one’s here and move your people while they verify.”
“Very good, John Stewart, our battle together has given you new appreciation for deception. For our plan to work, it will require the ultimate sacrifice. We will have to engage them.”
Faran and her choir looked at me. I knew my duty, I would not allow them to come to further harm. “How would that even be possible, you said they weren’t all here yet?” I was still trying to catch up to science in the conversation.
Another member of the choir spoke this time, a woman, her voice, soft and lilting but filled with the authority of her understanding. “They are using a technology which allows them to violate what we believe is a principle of the universe, that an object can only be at one place at one time. But for them, that is not necessarily true. While they are transitioning, they are in both places and yet in neither completely. What the Destroyer is suggesting is we destroy the space-time region they are attempting to occupy and snap them back to the spot from whence they came. They will have to recalibrate their technology and during that time, the Builder will be able to transfer her people.”
Apparently shocked by the level of understanding the Builder approached the choir and stood in front of them. She made a gesture of obeisance “We have done a great wrong by you, my children. We will make it right. John Stewart, I will need your ring.” She held out her hand and I placed my hand in hers. Our hands began to glow and my ring glowed even brighter. “Your ring’s recharge is keyed to a somatic, sonic litany. Please utilize it now.”
I looked at Faran and bade her to come close, putting her ring next to mine and began: “In brightest day, in blackest night, let no evil escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.” I felt my ring charge instantly. This was no ordinary charge either. This was an amplified thing, similar to the effect given when a Blue Lantern was nearby. My ring was supercharged.
“Now, you and my brother must go. The work being done now must be done by scientists. She reached out to Faran and took her hand.”
I reminded her, “You’ll need a connection to the Great Battery of Oa.”
With her entire body glowing with the green power she replied casually, “I have it.”
I have to ask one more time. “Will it provide the computational capacity necessary? Without hurting anyone, without damaging the Battery or the Lanterns dependent on it?”
“Yes.” Then she began reciting some complex mathematical formula which began to form in the air around her and Faran’s family chorus. In a matter of minutes the air rippled with scientific symbols I had no chance of understanding. The Destroyer and I took to the skies as his power seemed to renew and he matched me easily.
My ring chirped “Incoming priority signal from Oa.” Don’t have to guess who this is…
“2814-3, this is Guardian Kem. Your ring is engaged in an unauthorized connection, access and utilization of the Great Battery’s resources. Your computations encroach upon classified Guardian projects and indicate you are potentially being compromised by an outside agency. You will respond at once!”
In for a penny, in for a pound. “This is John Stewart sector 2814. I am activating my Honor Guard protocol for access to Oan resources on a priority one mission to save an entire species and their respective planetary biosystem. The planet is about to be under attack from a Guardian level threat. Please allow the computations to continue unabated.”
Guardian Kem barely batted a metaphysical eye before responding in my mind, “That cannot be allowed to continue. These calculations indicate the possibility of an energy release capable of rendering the entire Dirne star system and twelve nearby stars, physically unstable enough to rewrite local physics.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your allies are about to negate physics making it possible to bypass fundamental laws of the local universe, processes like gravity would simply cease to exist. Without the fundamental force of gravity, stars expand unchecked, their fusion processes could be interrupted or they may even explode if instead gravity increases. Matter as you understand it may simply cease to exist. You have no idea why or how they are doing these things. Regain control of your ring at once.”
“I can’t do that.” All I can see is Xanshi in my mind, millions of voices shouting out because I did nothing. Could do nothing to save them. Not this time.
“You can’t or you won’t?” The tone of the conversation had turned unpleasantly confrontational. Guardian Kem had the sound of someone about to do something rash.
I’ve had about enough of this. “I won’t. Furthermore, you haven’t even listened to why I’m doing this. You sit on Oa and backseat drive while I have to risk my life making a judgment call about a threat you probably have known about for centuries but didn’t see fit to even brief me on before sending me on this mission. If I go into the Book of Oa, would I find an entry on the Prime, their super-galaxy, their ability to create energies similar to the Green Power, their ability to alter reality on a scale similar to your own? I bet I would. So before you berate me or threaten to turn off my ring and abandon me here, how about putting your immortal super-powerful brain in my shoes and make a decision on something other than the immoral calculus of what’s best for the Guardians and instead think about someone else for a change? Isn’t that why you put us out here because you lack the emotional capacity to care about anything? Does that even include us?”
There was no response from the ring as we exited the atmosphere and increased our speed and our approach to the Prime world-weapons. They would be fully realized in less than ten minutes. We had ten minutes to destroy two objects with the subjective power of the Great Battery of Oa.
The Destroyer increased his speed and telepathically reached out to me. “Your masters limit your capacities while claiming you use the most powerful weapon in the universe. Have you ever truly used your ring in a way that utilized what you know, what it knows and what you could truly do if your capacities were unleashed? You use your weapon as little more than a club to beat your enemies to death using radiation or kinetic energy transformation. Have you ever wondered what could be done if you simply forgot what you know and became one with the power itself? Allowed it to suffuse your body, your mind, expanding your physical and mental capacities? Or is your training designed to limit your capacities for development?”
I thought about the question and I considered how we trained new Green Lanterns, basically the same way we have always done, project your will, envision a physical thing from your culture, from your worldview and recreate it using the Green Power. Was there another way?
The Destroyer began to glow with an energy level similar to when I first met him. He continued, his telepathic voice more resonate as he became the power he truly was, “The answer is one you need to find in the next two minutes because despite what your masters believe, wielding what you believe to be the mightiest weapon in the universe will not be enough. Your ring is a toy we give to our children.”
His last transmission to me was not inspiring. “You will have to do better than that.”
My ring decided to share the final bit of good news for the day. “Your connection to the Great Battery is being prioritized for shutdown. It will take ten minutes for the shutdown to propagate to our location. In ten minutes you will have no powers at all… This shutdown will include all copies of your ring made in the last 24 hours.”
Yep. Good news.
Rebirth © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved
John Stewart, Green Lantern® and all related properties are trademarks of DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (A Time Warner Company)