The Inheritors/Alterverse

© Eldric

Inheritors Chapter 8:

Alterverse – Sentinel War Prologue, Part 1:

 

The Starchild’s Gift, Part 1

 

Alterverse – the Sentinel’s Lair – Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

Elise Zoldar stood at the window of the Command Center, gazing out at the night sky, towards her home world in the Andromeda Galaxy.  An Andromedan Shantar by birth, Command Assassin Zoldar had the heightened strength, invulnerability, and senses that went with it.  And Elise was even more unique.  As a command assassin, she should have been the coldest of the cold.  But her soul was no longer purely Shantar; it was half human, containing the essence of Daria Lane Scott, the wife of the first Green Lantern of this Earth—Alan Scott.

Unusual for her, she simply stared into the darkness.   Then, spotting her, Selina Kyle, the Oracle (and sometimes Batgirl) of Alterverse Earth, slowly approached.

“Elise?”  She leaned against the railing with her friend.  “You seem troubled tonight.”

Elise nodded just slightly.

“We’ve lost something and I don’t know what it is.”

“I don’t understand?”  Selina puzzled.  “We’re doing what we have to.  This place is leading the meta charge against the forces of darkness.  There is more power on this world than the Kayzik swarm would ever expect.”

Elise swept her hair back over her pointed ears.  A small woman, she looked up to the taller Selina.

“But that’s not it.  Yes, it’s about power.  But that’s not all it’s about.  And we’ve lost something.  We’ve lost our sense of direction.”

Selina scowled, nodding agreement.

“But we’re doing what we have to.  There is no other way to win this war.  And Alan leads the charge.  Wasn’t that what your legend said?  That you would know the Champion of the Green Flame by his power and his leadership?”

Elise furrowed her brow, turning to Selina.

“No.  That was part of it, but not all of it.  And I wonder if we haven’t gotten two legends confused.”

Reacting to Selina’s confusion, Elise tendered an explanation.

“In terms of pure power, both Alan and Linda qualify as Champions of the Green Flame.  That’s not the problem.  But there are intangibles that come with the legend.  Power or no, Linda is not mature enough to be the Champion.”

“Elise...”  Selina began to rebut.

“Selina,” Elise continued, “as much as we may love Linda and we respect her courage, she isn’t an adult.  She’s a cute, somewhat spoiled child with more power than she knows what to do with.  And we’ve done a lousy job of guiding her.  Usually, she makes a decision and we clean up after her.”

Selina sighed.

“I know.  But it isn’t as if she doesn’t do her share.  And she’s wonderful with Helena and Kal-El.”

“She’s a wonderful teenager.”  Elise nodded.  “But that’s what she is.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  Except that she has enough power to core the planet.”

Selina caught sight of motion in the darkness as a wolf howled and moved on.

“But she has you, and Alanna, and Alan to guide her.  And Alan is the Champion of the Green Flame: returned from beyond the grave to save this world.”

“Is he?”  Elise pondered, “I mean, I’m crazy about the man.  But he’s not the same man that Daria Lane fell in love with.  Something is missing.  I know he’s a loving, caring man.  But he’s not the same man who walked out of that train wreck 70 years ago.  And I want that man back.”  She turned to Selina.  “Is that so wrong?”

Selina gazed back into the darkness.

“I can’t say.  I wanted the same thing from Bruce Wayne for so many years.  And I got it.  And I have no regrets.”  She looked back to Elise.  “But Bruce fought magic-induced insanity.  Alan may simply have grown and changed over time.  He did live an entire mortal lifetime somewhere else.  And you don’t just forget that.  The lessons of that life changed him.”

Elise nodded, smiling slightly.

“I just wonder if one or both of us has lost our roots.  And I keep finding myself wondering if he really is still the Champion of the Green Flame.  And if he isn’t, whether he ever could be again.”

Selina started to reply, but then remembered the one trait that made Elise Zoldar an extremely dangerous adversary.

“Elise, you wouldn’t waste your time on a discussion like this.  You’re sensing something through the old gift.  What?”

Selina thought she saw fire in the Commander’s eyes as Elise answered with certainty.

“Selina, I sense the presence of a Champion’s soul.  It’s coming.  That’s all I know.  I just wish I knew it meant.”

“Maybe Alanna?”  Selina hinted.

“No.”  Elise answered.  “Her destiny lies elsewhere.  This is something else.  I wonder why it scares me so.”

Selina couldn’t answer her.

 

The Inheritors’ Universe – between Earth and Oa

The Huntress powered through Hyperspace with Troia and Kid Flash in tow.  Faith listened as Donna Troy discussed what little they already knew about Darkseid’s strategy and tactics.  Faith smiled as Dawn Allen asked what the Guardians of the Universe might be able to add to their knowledge.  

The unintended heir to Alan Scott’s power, Faith had always felt somewhat uncomfortable around John Stewart’s almost omnipotent supervisors.  But the Guardians and the Inheritors shared common enemies.  And the Guardians had offered to assist with the Inheritors’ strategies to eject Darkseid’s henchman, Mongul, from their world.  Used to dealing with smaller-scope missions, complex strategies were not usually Faith’s forte – but she had come to respect Donna’s skill with them. 

The emerald comet passed another solar system.  Then, as they closed in on Oa, they heard John Stewart over their JLA comms.

“Guys, I hate to ask this, but could you divert?  One of our colleagues, Arisia of Graxos IV and Sector 2813, is trying to clean up after a freighter that ran across a space/time discontinuity.”

Faith looked at Donna and Dawn, who both nodded encouragement, before she answered.

“Sure, John.  Glad to help.  But how will we find her?”

“Drop your shields in the green spectrum.”  He requested.  “But only near your JLA comms device.”   As she complied, they spotted a glow around her comms device.  As she brought her shields back up, he explained.  “Present from the Guardians.  That will allow you to use your flame to communicate with and track members of the Corps.  It won’t work for anyone else.”

“Thanks, John.”  Faith answered, before commanding the device.  “Find Arisia, you piece of junk.”  Her companions snickered.  She could also tell that John wasn’t alone; she had tickled more than one Corps member’s funny bone—if they even had bones.

She sensed a direction and, recognizing the urgency of the situation, increased her speed.  Green Flame flowed out of her eyes.

“We should be there in ten minutes.  Maybe less.”  She continued to accelerate.  A Hell of a lot less, if I’ve got the power.

“John, this is Troia.  What are we facing? And why us?”

“Troia, this is K’ryssma of the Green Lantern Honor Guard.  Space/Time is a mess in Arisia’s vicinity.  Worse, we have a foolish tourist company that painted their vessel solid yellow.  That means that we can break it in two with an asteroid, but we can’t fix it.  We have other Green Lanterns on the way, but you’ll get there much more quickly.”

They could feel themselves start to decelerate.

“Arisia?”  Donna called.  “This is the Huntress’ team.  I’m Troia.  Status?”

“It’s a bitch.”  Arisia answered.  “I’m trying to keep an environment on these folks, but the Space/Time distortion is causing the ship to grow, shrink, and move.  Worse, the gravity is gone within the ship.  And this space is playing havoc with my ring.”

As Faith dropped out of Hyperspace, her eyes returned to normal.

“Arisia, this is Troia.  There are three of us.  As soon as we get there, take over our environment.  We’ll help you catch the floaters.”

“If I’m still alive in eight minutes.”  Arisia fussed. 

“Look over your right shoulder.”  Donna countered.  “Now.”  

Arisia watched them fly by.  As Faith’s Emerald Fire surrounded the ship, Arisia released her own shields around the ship and picked up Donna and Dawn.   They moved out towards the civilians who had been floating near the shields.  One by one, they caught the floaters and deposited them within the ship.  Once Donna and Dawn had completed that mission, Arisia put them inside the ship and covered the huge opening in the ship’s side.  She watched them herd the ship’s passengers farther inside.

“Huntress, your folks have done their job.”  Arisia transmitted.  “Anything I can do?”

“Sure!  But hang on just a minute.”  Faith gritted her teeth.  “You’re right about the screwy space.  I’m holding the ship, but it’s not easy.  If I take this thing into hyperspace, it’ll shatter.”  She cursed.  “Damn, this isn’t easy at all.  Donna?  I’ve got to straighten this mess out before we move it.  Can you get the passengers away from the region of the breach?”

“Done!”  Donna answered.  “In a Flash!  It’s all yours!”

Faith considered her next move.

“This is stupid.”  A pulse of emerald fire burned the yellow covering off the ship.  “Really stupid.”

“Don’t I know it!”  Arisia passed her, immediately understanding Faith’s plan.  “I’ll take the bow.”

And I get the rear end.  Great!  Faith snorted.  She floated midway back from the breech. 

“Ready!” 

They both brought their power to bear and the ship began to buckle and heave.   Slowly and carefully, the two Green Lanterns straightened the ship, repaired the structural damage, and sealed the tear.  With a final ‘clunk’, the ship righted.

“Huntress.”  Arisia called.  “The ship’s engines are operating.  With the breach sealed, the gravity generators can operate, as well.  The crew will move the ship out of this space.”   As the ship’s engines fired, it began to accelerate under its own power.  Then, Arisia sent a green tendril into the ship and Donna and Faith soon appeared in the tendril.  “I’ve got your friends.”

“Thanks, Arisia!”  Faith sped towards her, taking Donna and Dawn back into her Green Flame. 

“Thanks, guys, for a well-done save!”  Arisia nodded.  “Corps Command, this is Arisia.  We got it done.  I’ll follow the ship home.”  She turned to say farewell to the Huntress.  That’s odd.  They were here just a second ago.  But now my ring gets nothing.  Ah, well. They may have been in a hurry.  I’ll check in with the Corps to make sure that’s all there was to it.

“Corps, this is Arisia.  The Huntress’ team just disappeared.  I can’t find a trace of them.  Are they on their way?”

“Arisia, this is Corps.  Their transmitter has ceased to function.  Follow the ship, we’ll send in an investigative team.”

Regretfully, Arisia flew back to the ship.

 

Somewhere….

Are those colors or sounds?  Faith struggled to stay conscious.  She could tell that Donna was fully conscious, but Dawn was already out.  Gotta hold it together.  Wish I had a GL ring – I’d love the auto-protect.  She gritted her teeth.  Wouldn’t do a damn thing for my passengers, though.  Is that Earth below?  Gonna hit hard.  Get those shields up!  Protect them!  Faith felt her shields slam something hard and then her world went black.

 

Alterverse Earth – Sentinel’s Lair

“This is odd.”  Selina Kyle announced.  “I have three energy signatures that seem to have impacted Earth.  One hit Smallville, Kansas.  One is about a mile from the portal to the Rock of Eternity.  And the final one is near a new settlement, three miles from here.”

Diana of Themyscira overheard them. 

“Home for one day and the fun has already begun.  I’ll take the one close to my portal.”

“Call the Kent farm.”  Elise ordered.  “I’ll get the one in our neighborhood.”  She ran towards the signal.

 

Alterverse Earth – the portal for the Rock of Eternity

Donna had seen Faith struggle to retain consciousness in the odd space.  Then, they seemed to separate.  The Green Flame had protected Donna until the end of the flight.  She had rolled hard when she hit the ground, but otherwise suffered no ill effects. 

Activating her JLA comms, she heard no response, but left her comms open so that her companions could more easily contact her.  She would have to wait until they reported in, or until Faith located her.  I wonder if our comms even work here. I bet they don’t.   Then, she heard a too-familiar voice behind her.

“Well, well, well.  What do we have here?  An imitation Amazon perhaps?”

 Donna turned to see the woman who had been her life’s inspiration.

“Diana?”  She stumbled for words.  “But you’re dead!”

“And you’re a fraud!”  The Alterverse Diana marched towards Donna, grabbing Donna’s wrist.  “Now, surrender before I break you in two.”

I’m not on my Earth.  Donna thought to herself.  Either there’s another Earth in the universe, I’m dreaming, or this is not our universe.

Donna jerked her wrist free.

“I think there has been a mistake here.  We can…”  She had no chance to complete sentence before Diana kicked her in the stomach.

“I’m the only Amazon left alive on this world.  And someone has created you to play with my mind.”

She’s not listening.  And she’s not my Diana.  Donna expertly parried Diana’s next attack.

 

Smallville, Kansas – the Kent Farm

“Iris?”  Dawn roused as she heard someone else’s name being called.  “Iris?  Wake up!”  Someone had taken hold of her; someone who wouldn’t let go.  “Iris?  We have to go track down a UFO for the Lair.”

Dawn opened her eyes.  She looked up at a young woman who seemed to be her age.  The young woman did not seem out of the ordinary in any way, except that she was green.

“Who are you?”  Dawn asked.

“Me?”  The young woman smiled.  “I’m your friendly, ever loving Champion of the Green Flame, Linda Scott, also known as Jade!”  She fired Green Flame into the sky to make her point.  “But you know that, Iris.”

I’m having a bad dream.  Dawn grimaced.  Either that or Faith’s sense of humor has taken a turn for the worse.

 “Ok, who am I supposed to be?” 

“Iris Grayson, Kid Flash.”  Jade answered with concern.  “Dick’s sister.  Are you all right?”

Dawn looked up.

“No, I’m not.  I’m Kid Flash.  But I’m Dawn Allen, not Dick’s sister.  Although I’ll admit there are worse fates in life.  Dick’s a neat guy.”

“Whew, that’s a relief.”  Dawn heard her own voice and looked up to see her own face and costume.  “Gee, Linda, I didn’t realize all your other friends were so stunningly gorgeous!”

Linda reacted immediately, tapping her comms.

“Lair, I have a problem.”

 

Not far from the Lair

Elise inspected the indentations in the vegetation.  Something hit fairly hard.  Bounced off some bushes.  And now it’s escaped.

She jumped up into a tree.  Yup, something has been here.   She spotted indentations in branches that no human could perceive and then jumped into the next tree over.  Not very heavy, whoever it is.  Someone who moves easily in a forest.

She looked over to the next tree, gazing into the eyes of a bobcat.  An effect of the depopulation of this planet.  The predators run more freely.  There are wolves, here, too.  But I think I’ve been had.  Someone is teasing me.

She leaped from tree to tree, following a trail through the trees.  Crisscross pattern.  I’m being watched by an expert, who knows to stay down wind.  I can’t get a scent.

Elise heard a noise in a tree farther ahead.  Now I know where to head.  She began to leap through the trees.

Then, she heard screams below her.

Damn.  A Kayzik patrol attacking the settlement.  I should just let the Kayzik march off with them, but that’s not what we’re about.

“I’m coming!”  She yelled.  “Hang on!”  She hoped the humans would still be coherent when she arrived.

Hearing the screams grow more fearful, Elise unsheathed her sword’s Xentronium blade.  Damn, damn, damn.  My instincts are running wild.  I wonder why?

She entered the battle scene, standing between the Kayzik patrol and the humans, who began to attack her from all sides.  The humans changed back to J’Dinn Chameleon warriors.  Then she felt the Glamour of Kayzik Necromancers sweeping over her, stealing her consciousness.  Damn, a trap.  Custom built for me.  At least three Necromancers backing up this patrol.  Can’t fight it off for long.

Elise focused all her power on her sword, swinging wildly.  Keep going.  Just keep going.  Her world went black.

 

Three minutes later

The blackness gradually lessened and Elise found herself awakening.  Where the Hell am I?  She looked up to see a young woman standing over her, with her size but of a lighter build.  The young woman wore an odd costume, dark hair blowing in the breeze.  The woman leaned on Elise’s sword, gazing down at her with raised eyebrows.

“Welcome back to the real world, I think.”  Her new companion stated with wry wit.  “My people skills must be deteriorating.  I’ve never had someone run into an enemy camp just to avoid me.”

Elise groaned.

“I thought it was a human camp under attack.  Didn’t realize it was a trap.  The Glamour got me before I could get away.”  As her vision cleared, she realized the sword was covered with Kayzik/J’Dinn blood.  You are far more than you appear, young lady.  What are you? Why do you look like Alanna Scott Kyle? And where did you get that exotic accent?

“Glamour?”  Her companion teased.  “I’ve heard of some odd attractions before, but glamorous those creatures will never be!”  She chuckled.  Then, responding to Elise’s sudden look of skepticism, she asked.  “Is their Glamour some type of mind control?  And who or what are these uniquely soulless creatures?”

Elise stood up, gazing at the carnage around her.  The entire Kayzik patrol lay hacked into pieces.  Elise tracked the path of her companion’s footprints.  She left nothing to chance.  Each step planned and deliberate.  Not a single move in jest.  I wonder if those creatures felt fear?   She stood up and gestured for her sword.  Taking it in hand, Elise walked through the site towards a clean J’Dinn tunic.  She used it to clean off the sword, before putting it back in its scabbard.

“The Kayzik swarm holds most of this universe.  Earth is an occupied world.  In this universe at least, the Kayzik are a single colony with a single hive mind.  Their queen is somewhere out there.  My people have been fighting them for millions of years.  Until quite recently, we have been losing.”

She grimaced.

“The Kayzik are a Mystic threat.  They capture planets solely to steal the life forces of the sentient natives to power their conquests.  They bleed the captured planets almost dry and then cull the worlds again every so often.  The bigger the life force of a sentient, the more power they get out of it.  My life force would have been a treasure for them.  Yours, even more so.  What we call Glamour is their form of mind control.  The victim loses all ability to resist, or to remember anything that occurs while under control of the Glamour.  Unfortunately, a Kayzik necromancer has enough power to overcome anything that doesn’t have a specific genetic immunity or access to Mystic Power.  And I don’t mean magic.  I do mean full Mystic Power.”

“Well, that does explain why these creatures seemed so soulless.”  The Huntress replied.  “And I thought my world had problems.  We were on our way to Oa when we stopped to help a Green Lantern.  I think we got tossed through a space time discontinuity.  I do have two companions I need to find.  And my comms badge doesn’t seem to work here.”

Elise heard her comms beep.

“Commander, this is Oracle.  Jade has found a second Kid Flash.  The girl is absolutely frantic.  Wants to know where someone named ‘Faith’ is.” 

Elise nodded.

“Open Comms to Jade and Wonder Woman.”  She heard a slight pop, then the sounds of battle.   “Diana, this is Elise.  Stand down.  Now.”

“This imitation Amazon is…”  She heard Diana.

“The real thing.”  Elise answered.  “Just not from this universe.  Mind your manners, Di.  She’s not an obnoxious Shantar Warlord.”

Elise heard the sound of the battle end and motioned to Faith, who spoke into Elise’s comms device.

“Guys, this is Faith.  We seem to be with friends.  I’ll see you soon.”

“Roger.”  Elise heard an unfamiliar voice.

“Don’t be long.  Please.”  Elise thought she heard Iris Grayson’s voice, but understood she hadn’t.  She signaled Selina to limit the conversation to the Oraclke console before reaching a hand out to Faith.

“Miss Scott, I’m Command Assassin Elise Zoldar of the Shantar Empire.  Most call me Commander.  Please call me Elise.”

Faith took her hand.

“Faith Powers Scott.  Most call me the Huntress.  Interesting that you’ve guessed my last name.”

Elise smiled with satisfaction. 

“Didn’t start out as the Champion of the Green Flame, did you?”  She stifled a chuckle when she heard Selina squawk.

Faith shook her head sideways.

“It’s a power I have.  It’s not who I am.”  She frowned with concern.  “Can we get back to the rest of the group?  I’d like to make sure my friends are all right.  I’m responsible for them being here.  And Dawny sounds worried.”

Elise heard Selina answer back with the volume so low that only Elise’s enhanced senses could pick it up.

“Is this what you saw 70 years ago?”

 

The Sentinel’s Lair

Donna, Faith, and Dawn found themselves looking at the ghosts of family and friends.  Wonder Woman.  The original Flash.  Catwoman as Batgirl and Oracle.  Iris Allen, who could pass for Dawn.  The Kryptonians:  Lyla Lerrol, Kira Jor-El and Kal-El.  The Shade and Jade: Alanna and Linda Scott Kyle.  Mary Marvel.  Kent and Jeffrey Nelson: the original and current Dr. Fate.  And one more.

Green Flame charged the command center and the Sentinel appeared.

“Hi guys!”  Alan Scott inquired, “What have I missed?”

“Daddy?”  Faith stumbled.  “But you’re dead!”  Then, both cold reason and disappointment crossed her features.  “I’m sorry.  Now I know what Donna felt.  I’m Faith Scott, the Huntress of my world.”  She slowly held out a hand.

“Alan Scott.”  He answered with uncertainty.  “Pleased to meet you.”  He took her hand…and felt a chill.

Elise watched his movements.  You feel it too, don’t you?  You feel like you’re staring at your own ghost, and you don’t know why.

 

Not long after

The Shantar Lair medic, Dr. Jenna quickly herded the Inheritors into the infirmary.  During his examination, he conferred with Kent Nelson, the former Dr. Fate and current Shazam Wizard.  Together, they checked the three and reported their results back to Elise and Alan. 

“Donna Troy is a healthy and extremely powerful Amazon.”  Dr. Jenna reported.  “And that’s the simple one.  Now it gets confusing.  I had to call Iris Grayson in before I could close out the examination.  Dawn Allen and Iris Grayson are identical.  Right down to the most infinitesimal code within their DNA.  Not a bit of difference.  They are identical counterparts from different universes.  You can’t even code a detection device to tell the difference between them.”

“And she’s not even the most unique case.”  Kent continued.  “We tried to analyze Faith.  Our equipment couldn’t do it.  It couldn’t decode the DNA.  And it even reads yours.”  He looked at Alan.  “But it doesn’t read hers.”

“As near as we can tell,” Dr. Jenna continued, “she’s a meta with the plant powers she claims.  She said that her mother was someone called Rose Canton, the Thorn, from the land down under.”

Alan’s eyebrow went up.  Very interesting.  Charming accent. 

Kent continued.

“But she doesn’t tap a Starheart for her emerald fire.  That mystic power is actually a part of her.  She generates it.  It’s a natural part of her biology.  It doesn’t appear to be on a par with the powers that you and Linda tap, but it’s completely self-contained.  And she seems to be able to tap other mystic power sources for very short periods of time.  Very interesting.”

 

The Lair Command Center

“How about a spar?”  Selina looked down at the Huntress.  “I might be a little out of shape, but I’ve still got height, weight, and experience on you.”

“Sure.”  The Huntress answered enthusiastically.  “I could always pick up a trick or two.  Always useful when you fight larger opponents.”

I have to see this.  Elise chuckled to herself.  This will be interesting.  Batgirl vs. Huntress.  Then a conversation across the room caught her attention.

“Dawn, why don’t you come with us?”  Jade suggested.  “Quick run to San Francisco.  We’ll get back in an hour or so.”

“Sure!”  Dawn smiled.  “Let me tell Faith.”

“You don’t have to tell anyone!”  Iris stated.  “We’re adults and she’s not your mother.  Besides, they know you’re with us.”

Dawn hesitated and they saw a strange expression cross her features.

“I’ll be right back.”  Dawn walked to where Faith stood.  After a few seconds, she returned.

“Now, we can go.”  She charged westward and Linda and Iris followed her.

Elise walked to the window.  Invulnerable, she still felt a chill.

 

Above the Lair

“Diana?”  Donna leaned against the railing.  “Did you have the same problems with your Hippolyta as I did with mine?”

Diana stood off to Donna’s side, gazing at her.

“Not until the end.  But I was her only child.  And I knew she loved me.”  She pursed her lips.  “Hippolyta may be many things, but she is not a coward.  Sometimes she did things for reasons I did not understand, but there was always a reason.”

“I wish I understood.” Donna scowled.

“Donna,” Diana continued, “you must understand that Hippolyta has two roles.  She is our guide and mentor, but she is also the sovereign of the Amazons.  And those roles are not always in sync.  In your world she may be bound to first protect the Amazon colony.  But her personal wishes may be different.”

Diana smiled.

“Hippolyta is cagey.  She may plant a seed that she does not expect to come to fruition for years.  She may negotiate agreements that seem to be to the benefit of others, but are actually to her benefit.  And if I recall, you said that she was the first Wonder Woman of your world.  Diana was the second, but served that role exclusively for a much longer period of time.  There may be ties to Hippolyta’s friends in the Justice Society that will allow your mother to act again.”

Donna scoffed.

“After Diana managed to get herself killed?  And I almost did?  I was exiled for resuming the fight.”

“You have to do what is right for you.”  Diana sympathized.  “And I think you made the decision you had to.  Your Diana would have seen it the same way.”

“Thank you, Diana.”  Donna accepted the compliment.

“But you don’t understand Hippolyta.”  Diana reinforced.  “You really don’t.  And you’re not alone, believe me.   Now, let’s get downstairs.  I understand Selina is going to spar with Faith.  I won’t tell you what the betting is.”

 

Five minutes later, training facility

Faith stepped out, sans costume.  Watching her walk towards Selina, Alanna pondered the young woman.  The original fresh-faced kid.  Almost another sister for me.  But so different from the rest of us.  I understand Linda, but I don’t understand you.  And I’m not sure I like you.

“We seem to have attracted quite an audience.”  Faith remarked to Selina.

“They want to watch me thump the latest also ran.”  Selina psyched.  “Don’t forget, I’m Batgirl.”

Faith smiled slightly.

“We should do our best not to disappoint them.  Hopefully, I’ll at least be able to last for a few moments.  Well, we should at least provide a pleasant environment for your admirers.  Shall we give these folks a chance to breathe some healthy air while we’re at it?  We could spar outside.”

“All right.”  Selina chuckled.  “Why not?”  They walked out of the training facility.

They found themselves under a grouping of trees and began their sparring, while the Amazons looked on from nearby.

“This isn’t a fair fight.”  Donna remarked with a smile.  “It only seems that way.”

“True,” Diana smiled, “Batgirl is quite good.  The best non-meta I’ve ever seen.”  She grinned.  “So how did that little thing get the Chutzpah to call herself the Huntress?”

“She didn’t.”  Donna answered.  “The locals did, after she kept mowing them down.”

Surprised, Diana looked down at the fight.  Selina had made an imperceptible error and found herself flying through the air.  Faith waited patiently for her to brush off the footprints.  Angry, Selina chased Faith into the trees.  Selina regained her self-control, but not quickly enough and Faith knocked her out of the tree.

Elise remarked to Alan.

“Do you understand what you’re seeing?  She killed a patrol of Kayzik without using her Green Flame.  She used her strength and speed, my sword, and the skills she learned from her Amazon friend.  And that was it.”  She scowled.  “When was the last time Linda opened a door without using her powers?  Or Alanna?  Or you?  What happened to the man who swore that he would never become his powers?”  Elise drew in a sharp breath. 

“Alan?  What happened to your internal compass?  It’s not there anymore.  Not like before.” 

She looked up at him with a great sadness in her eyes. 

“Not like before.  Whatever happened to Alan Wellington Scott, the railroad engineer who had so many dreams so long ago?”

He didn’t answer her.

Elise pretended to watch the sparring.  The Huntress had made a slight error—or so it appeared.  Selina took advantage, but the Huntress recovered much more quickly than she should have. 

Selina felt cobwebs leave her mind.  I’ve been fighting like I’m the superior fighter.  I have to drop my overconfidence.  She’s not forcing my errors.  I’m making them because I’m sloppy.  And she’s playing cat and mouse.

Selina redoubled her efforts.  Slowly, she fought Faith to a painful draw and after a few more minutes, they both signaled the end of the spar. Exhausted, Selina offered a question.

“Are other people dumb enough not to take you seriously?”

Faith laughed.

“I try not to take myself too seriously.  I figure what I do will speak for itself.  I don’t have anything to prove.  Not really.”

As Selina led her towards the showers, Elise addressed Alan.

“I know you plan to take them to the Great Portal tomorrow, so that they can find their way home.  But she has a lesson to teach us.  I hope we can understand what it is.”

Alan frowned.

 

Later that evening

Elise passed Selina, who seemed to almost be attacking her console.

“Selina, you seem unsettled.  Anything in particular?”

Selina scowled, almost growling.

“I’ve been had, Elise.  The flying mouse got pounced by the cat and she didn’t even see it.”

Elise shrugged.

“What do you mean?”

Selina smiled wistfully.

“Did you notice the dance?  Faith let me clobber myself during the first part of the spar—and I did a good job of it.  But in the later part of the spar, I seemed to be battling blow for blow.  Well, guess what… that was no accident.  She matched me blow for blow, exactly.”  She tapped her console.  “I read your report… and I talked to Dr. Jenna.  She never once used her natural speed during our spar.  She fought the battle entirely on my terms – not hers.  Otherwise, that fight would have lasted less than a minute.”

Selina stood up.

“Interesting woman.  Used just the exact level of power necessary to make her point.  She had no intention of winning the spar – she didn’t have any reason to.   She just wanted to be taken seriously as a person – not just as a Green Lantern.”

Nodding agreement, Elise smiled slightly.

“A threat?”

Selina smiled brilliantly.

“More than you know.  Elise, there are those who speak volumes by what they don’t say.  This is one of them.  Five feet three inches tall.  And every inch a Champion and a Lady.”

Elise nodded with a grin.

“High praise coming from you.”

Selina bit her lip.

“I want you to remember something.  All of the Green Lanterns I’ve ever met were offered their power by somebody or something else – they were all chosen to carry the power and gifted with it by some other Agency for its own reasons.  But that woman is a Green Lantern born.  No Starheart, no Phoenix, no trip from Krypton – her power is absolutely and uniquely hers.  And she will make no pretense otherwise.”

Elise scowled, confused.

“What are you trying to tell me?”

Selina smiled viciously, advising.

“This is the real deal.  Keep her here as long as you can.  You want to clean up Alan’s act?  Put this woman together with Lyla and watch what happens.”

Elise returned her smile.

“The thought had crossed my mind.”

“I thought it had.”  Selina chuckled.

 

The Kent farm – Smallville, Kansas

Lyla welcomed the three visitors from the Inheritors’ Universe.  What an interesting group.  Donna seems Diana’s match.  Dawn and Iris are almost identical, except in some aspects of behavior, but the Huntress has no true counterpart.  She is certainly not the counterpart of Linda, Alan, or Alanna.  Still…

“Thank you for having us.”  Faith greeted.  “I’ve always wanted to learn more about Krypton.  Our friend, Sam, has textbooks and nothing else to tell him about his home.  We’d love to hear some stories to take back.”

Kira grinned, nodding affirmatively.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place!  I can tell you tales of five different Kryptons – two within my friends’ mother Kara’s universe of origin, one in a place called Otherverse, one in a place called the Multiverse, and the one in this universe.  They’re each a bit different.  And we’ll do better than just tell you stories – we’ll send you home with some documentary tapes.”  (Elf note: Supergirl’s Multiverse Earth 1: A Little Detour.)

“Five different Kryptons?”  Dawn choked.  “Five?”

Kira laughed. 

“I get around.  But truthfully, I’ve never set foot on any of them.  Only Mother has.”  She pointed to Lyla.  “Mother is the only survivor of Krypton’s explosion.  And she did it the hard way.”  Kira acknowledged her mother with a nod, then turned back to Faith.  “Gee, I’m looking forward to this!”  She smiled as Diana joined the small group.

“You don’t think I’d miss this?”  Diana grinned as she sat down next to Donna.

 

Several hours later

Donna had long since left with Diana, while Dawn and Faith chatted with Lyla, Kira, and Kal-El.

“So, let me see if I understand this.”  Kira questioned.  “You work with the Oracle Network of your world?  And that network is world-wide.”

“It’s getting that way,” Faith agreed, “Nightwing and Talon, Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon, plus Lois Lane run the operations on the network.  The Atom, my Dad—Ray Palmer, keeps it up and running.  Donna is one of Dick’s oldest and dearest friends.  We try to help out where we can, but I think we’re in the way more often than not.”  She smiled wryly.  “Between Donna, Dick, Barbara and Lois’ brain power, the rest of us just kind of struggle to keep up.  Pretty soon, they’ll put us out to pasture to graze.  MOO!”

Kira laughed.

“I know how you feel.  It hasn’t been too long since I’ve really gotten my act together.  My Mom has been great.”  Kira immediately sensed Faith’s discomfort at her words.  “Did I say something wrong?”

“No.”  Faith smiled bravely.  “You didn’t.  I just miss my Mom.  I guess that’s a good thing.  That’s how you know people are important to you.”  She changed the subject.  “How about showing me the rest of the farm?”

Kira led her out of the door and Kal followed eagerly.  But Lyla put a hand on Dawn’s shoulder as the other three left, prompting Dawn to gaze up at the much larger woman.  Ok, well if God is a woman, this is the woman she would be.  Six feet tall, blonde, heavy, powerful build, and there isn’t an ounce of fat on her.  Lyla smiled warmly.

“My friend Selina says that most people are easy to understand.  They have the depth of tissue paper.  But you could tunnel half way to China before you had begun to scratch Faith’s surface.  Care to explain what she meant?”

Dawn sighed.

“I stop trying to understand Faith a long time ago.  She took me in when my mother was murdered.”

“I’m sorry.”  Lyla offered genuinely.

“Thank you.”  Dawn smiled.  “She saw me through my grief and put me back together.  I just wish someone had been there for her when her mother was killed.”

“What happened to her?”  Lyla asked.

“My world deeply resents metas, or at least, usually does.”  Dawn answered.  “Let me start at the beginning.  A meta-hater named Lex Luthor killed every meta he could find, including both our fathers and our Wonder Woman.  Once he was done, a creature from outer space called Mongul invaded under the orders of someone called Darkseid.  Over time, Lex Luthor has managed to blame the invasion on the deceased metas he killed who were no longer available to defend Earth.  I’ve never understood how he managed that.”

“How horrible!”  Lyla expressed sympathy as Dawn nodded agreement.

“The meta war happened when Faith was five.  Her mother, a poor insane meta, managed to keep them both alive for another five years.  Then townspeople almost captured them both.  Faith only survived because her mother sacrificed herself to give Faith the opportunity to escape.  Somehow, alone and on her own, Faith found her way to the Huntress Wood and waited for her mother to come to her.  Of course, she never did.  Faith still cries at night for her mother.  She thinks I don’t see it, but I do.”

Lyla’s features softened even more.

“Was there anyone to care for her?”

“No.”  Dawn answered.  “But the Wood called to her and protected her.  A mountain lion, of all creatures, took her in.  And she had the Thorn powers.  Soon she became a local legend, and more.”

Dawn smiled with pride.

“When Faith was eleven years old, Ray Palmer fled into the Wood.  For whatever reason, Faith chose to defend and protect him.  That was the beginning.  Together, they founded the Oracle Network and Barbara Gordon became the operations lead.”

“Eleven?”  Lyla asked incredulously.

“Eleven.”  Dawn confirmed proudly.  “She’s defended the network and its operators ever since.  And she is acknowledged for her role as founder.  All three founders must approve any new nodes and she’s caught more than a few that shouldn’t have been allowed.  At fifteen, she took me in.  At twenty, she took in our Superboy and Nightwing.  Then things turned weird.” 

Lyla waited for Dawn to continue.  But, also sensitive to the younger woman’s emotions, Lyla handed Dawn a small towel.  The younger woman dabbed her eyes.

“Several months ago, Ray and Barbara sent me on a mission I had no business accepting.  Everything went wrong and I got caught.  Mongul himself broke my legs so I couldn’t run away.  But the Wood had open comms to me.  They heard everything.  As I lay there on the floor, Faith panicked.  Ray told me that he had never seen her so afraid.  And then, whatever passes for adrenalin in her body kicked into high gear.  And the Emerald Fire burned for the first time.”

Dawn dabbed her eyes again.

“Somehow, she kept her wits about her.  By the time she was done, Mongul thought Luthor had attacked him, Luthor had no idea what happened, and I was home safe and healed.”  She sniffed.  “She did the same thing for my cousin Wally, who was in even worse shape.  So I’ve got family, now.  But I always have.”

Dawn relaxed slightly.

“Once the Emerald Fire raged, we had no doubt who her father had to be.  And one of his friends, Molly Mayne, has befriended both of us.  But Faith has no true family, not really.”  Dawn smiled slightly.  “That’s ok.  As long as I’m alive, she’ll be part of mine.  Because I know how much she loves me.”

Lyla looked through the walls out towards the barn.

“They’re still out there with the Kents.  Your friend will return with so many Krypton and Kent stories that Sam will never want to hear the word Krypton again.  Let’s go see what they’re up to.”  She guided Dawn outside.

Dawn found herself engaged in an animated conversation with Kira and the Kents.  But soon after, she looked around and realized neither Lyla nor Faith was present. 

“Krypton.”  Kira whispered.  “My mother’s DNA is a little different from ours.  She has just enough invulnerability to fly under a red sun.”

“Krypton?”  Dawn asked with surprise.  “What would they find there?”

“Privacy.”  Kira answered.  “Mother is a very private person.  She feels she’s found a kindred spirit. I can see it in her eyes.”

“Kindred spirit?”  Dawn asked.

“Mother never knew her parents.”  Kira replied.  “She grew up in what you would call an orphanage.  I don’t know what you told her, but I have never seen that look in her eyes before.”  She smiled kindly.  “You did something good today.”

Dawn smiled sweetly.

Half a galaxy away, two women of different worlds from different universes offered the first words of their unusual friendship.  Xerxes the 17th would write about it: ‘an odd friendship, it would seem.  But all miracles are odd in some way.  We note them, we appreciate them, and we are grateful that we do not have to understand them.  I would not analyze their friendship.  I simply stand witness to it, and to the survival of the Continuum, which bears witness to their faith in each other.’

 

Hawksbill Peak, Skyline Drive, Virginia

Donna sat with Diana in the concrete structure that perched at the peak of the mountain.  Called the Byrd’s Nest, it provided a spectacular view of the skies above.  A world without open cities, no electric lights dimmed the view of the horizon and Donna could see every star in the sky.  To her horror, she could also see the floating Kayzik pyramids orbit the Earth.  She realized that despite the Sentinel’s presence, this Earth remained a wholly conquered world.

“I don’t understand, Diana.”  Donna questioned.  “With all the power you possess, you can’t just shut the Kayzik satellites down and keep them from rebuilding?”

Diana sighed.

“Alan believes that if we free Earth, we’ll simply invite the entire Kayzik fleet to attack.  And even we don’t have the power to take on the fleet.  More than likely, the Kayzik would destroy this world, rather than keep fighting for it.”

Donna scowled.

“Your sole responsibility is to this world and you can’t do better than hide here?”

Diana grimaced.

“Not easily, Donna.  We try to work with the Resistance to minimize the casualties from the Kayzik hauls, but we can’t eliminate the kills – the Kayzik would grow too suspicious.  So, we live in an uneasy truce: looking for our opportunity to reduce the Kayzik presence on this world.  But to win this world, we have to win others.  Alan says we’ll have to take most of this Galaxy to ensure this world’s freedom.”

“And you believe that?”  Donna inquired.

Diana gazed at Donna with narrowed eyes.

“I have worked with the Imperial Senate.  I do believe that Alan’s strategy is an effective long term strategy, but I do not share his belief that the best way to free Earth is to wait until this Galaxy is free.  Nor do I share his belief that the Shantar plan to provide more than token support.  They have their own problems, and frankly, Earth isn’t their priority.”

Donna nodded knowingly.

“But that’s not your choice to make.

“No.”  Diana frowned.  “Unfortunately, it isn’t.”

Lost in thought, they were silent for a while.

“Diana?”  Donna asked. “Tell me about Alan and Jade.”

“Alan,” Diana answered, “is the Champion of the Green Flame of this universe.  His body was killed in our 1941 and the Starheart shuffled him off to another universe for an entire lifetime.  His soul was damaged in transit, but seems to have been repaired.  About a year ago, he was returned to this universe by the Starheart.”

“What’s a Starheart?”  Donna inquired.

Diana laughed.

“Odd that you don’t know, with Faith running around.  A Starheart is a mystic energy force.  It is dedicated to the preservation of life, but is completely mad.  It can’t act on its own, so it requires a Champion.  And it guards its champion zealously.  Jade’s power comes from the Starheart of another universe.  She was built to host it, but even her enhanced life force is barely enough to contain it.  And she is tied to the Starheart that operates the Great Portal in the Kayzik home universe.  That Portal can open a pathway between its universe and most of the other universes we know, including this one, and probably, yours.”

“This isn’t their home universe?”  Donna shivered.

“No,” Diana answered.  “But the Starheart of that universe used Linda to kill them off there, so they will spread no farther.  We of this universe still have the task of ridding our universe of them.”  She shrugged.  “They’ll use the Great Portal to get you home tomorrow.”

“So,” Donna asked, “just how much power does little Miss Perfect really have?”

Diana chuckled.

“No more than Alan in this universe.  But once they leave this universe, she has the edge simply because she carries her own power source.  Don’t judge her too harshly, though.  For all her naïveté, Shirley Temple has done the best she could.  It’s simply going to take her a while to grow into her role.”  Diana scowled.  “I just don’t know if the universe has that kind of time.”  She sighed.  “Something is coming.  And I don’t know what.”

“Kira seems really nice and very competent.”  Donna smiled.  “I’m surprised she isn’t more at the forefront of your planning.”

Diana smiled.

“She will be.  She was on the receiving end of a mad god’s fury for quite some time.  She’s recovered well.  Her mother has done wonders for her.  Of course, she’s done wonders for her mother, too.  Seeing them together, I truly miss Hippolyta.”  She scowled.  “But there is no point in depressing myself.”  Turning towards Donna, resolve burned in her eyes.  “Care to see the Rock of Eternity?” 

“Certainly.”

They launched into the sky.

 

Sentinel’s Lair Observation Deck (Under the Command Center)

Alanna Scott walked down the steps to the observation deck and found Linda Scott chatting with Iris Grayson.

“So, Squirt!”  Alanna called her sister.  “What do you think of our new acquaintances?”

“I don’t like them.”  Iris answered.  “If Dawn is supposed to be me, why is she so stuck on keeping Faith happy?  I’d never lose myself like that!”

“You know, Iris,” Alanna grinned viciously, “I love the fact that you bring such consistency to my life.  No force in this universe could slow down the fastest mouth alive.”

“If you don’t want my answer,” Iris retorted, “don’t ask the question.”

“Is your name Linda?”  Alanna queried, which brought no answer from Iris. Linda, slow to answer, stared out the window.

“She’s not like us.  Faith, I mean.  Gaea doesn’t know what to make of her.  Faith’s flame sources from somewhere inside her.  And that terrifies Gaea.  No one is supposed to be both the source of power and the champion of the flame.”  Linda sighed.  “And Donna is the only one of the three I really like.  Dawn is ok, but you’d think she would be spending more time with us.  Instead, she spent the night with Lyla’s family.”

Alanna scowled.

“Linda, you have an open invitation at the Kents.  Why didn’t you go?”

Linda looked up.

“If they had wanted us there,” she answered with certainty,  “they would have invited us.”

Little sister, sometimes things aren’t just about you.  Alanna grimaced.  It just seems that way a lot.  Almost always.   And we’ve got to change that.  You have no sense of perspective.

“I wouldn’t judge them too harshly.”  Alanna suggested.  “They weren’t lucky enough to grow up with the two of you at the center of their existence.”

“Well,” Iris snipped, “they’ll have to get over that real fast now, won’t they?”

“Iris,” Alanna shook her head, “I was teasing.”

“Oh.”

 

The following morning – the Kent farm

Dawn helped Kal carry in eggs from the chicken coop.   Arriving in the kitchen, she handed the basket to Mary Kent and walked back to the living room to look out the window.  Staring out, Dawn felt a hand rest lightly on her shoulder.

“Good Morning, Sleepyhead!”  Dawn turned to tease Faith.  “You were out late.”

“I know.”  Faith smiled.  “Donna will probably have me put on restriction.”  She chuckled.

“I’d like to see that!”  Dawn grinned.  “I still remember the arguments you had with Ray.  I always wondered if you were going to expel him from the Wood!”

Faith laughed.

“I was truly tempted.  But we always knew that we only disagreed.  We didn’t hate each other.  Speaking of which, I wanted to say how proud of you I am.”

“Me?”  Dawn wondered.  “What have I done?”

“The best you could.”  Faith acknowledged.  “You’ve found yourself in a totally alien environment and you’ve conducted yourself extremely well every step of the way.  You’ve done well, Dawn!  I’m very proud of you.”

Dawn said nothing, but Faith could feel her relax.  They looked out the window together and watched John Kent walk in towards the farmhouse.  Behind them, Lyla nodded approvingly.  Setting the example.  And I thought I was supposed to teach you that.

 

The planet Dega Five – The Zanik Household - Dawn

Still yawning and programming the household food processors, Kendra Zanik called to her family from the kitchen.

“Breakfast is ready.  Time to get ready for school, girls!”

Her husband, Zanik, stepped down the stairs to join her, embracing her from behind and blowing in her pointed ears.

“Mmmm,” she hummed. 

“I forgot to ask you.”  He admitted quietly.  “Did you hear anything from your sister?  Any chance of that family reunion?”

Kendra laughed.

“They’ve been pretty busy at the Lair, lately.  And Elise says that Linda still hasn’t forgiven Zanna and Janna for the way they treated her.  She won’t come back without Kilowog.”  (Ed note – Alterverse, Book 1 – Winter Vacation).

“Girls!”  Kendra turned towards the stairs and called.  They heard the girls step down the stairs and stepped away from her husband, rolling her eyes.

“What is it with you?”  Zanna fussed at her sister.  “That eyeshade just does not do!  Our friends will avoid us all day!  Maybe all week!  Maybe for-ev-er!”

“But this is the latest!”  Janna replied.  “Even Koto of Janatala wears it.”

“Koto wears it?”  Zanna’s eyes opened wide.  “Then I have to…”

An alert blaring from the household communications cut their conversation short.

“Priority alert!  Kayzik invasion fleet is inbound!  All citizens are ordered to report to battle stations!”

They stared at each other in shock.

“There was no warning?”  Zanik asked as he bolted out the door.  “I love you!  Be careful!”

Kendra grabbed both of her daughters.

“Now you pay back that high-priced education.”  She pulled them out the door.  “We’re going to the armory.  And you’re going to put all the power that comes with your Andromedan Shantar heritage to use!”

“They’re going to make us carry weapons?”  Zanna said with disgust.  “I do hope they color coordinate.”

Sighing with frustration, Kendra pulled her daughters into a crowded transport. 

“I can’t believe you don’t get this.  We may all die today.  Our corpses may litter the street by the end of the day.”

“Gross!”  Janna emphasized.  “Blood would so clash with my outfit.”

“And burn marks would so spoil your looks!”  Zanna added.  “I don’t know what would be worse:  the grief it would cause me, or the shock of seeing such violation of fashion!”

I pray they are just teasing to relieve the tension.  Kendra grimaced.  Otherwise I may be tempted to feed them to the Kayzik, myself.  As the transport stopped at the armory, Kendra and her daughters ran towards weaponry checkout.  In line, she tapped her comms, opening communications with her father, Warlord Zoldar.

“Dad?”

“What is it, Daughter?”  She heard her father’s voice from New Oa.

“The Kayzik are invading this world, Dad.”  Kendra answered.  “I don’t know how long I’ll have outgoing comms.”

“Understood.”  Zoldar acknowledged.  “I will call your mother as soon as I call Elise.  I love you, Kendra.”

“I love y…”  Kendra heard her comms disrupt and shut off.  Turning, she read the overhead monitors and gazed at her daughters.

“Good bye, girls.  You have to report over there.”  She pointed over to a group of school girls.  “Now, I have to go!”  She embraced them quickly and forced herself to walk away.

“Reserve Lieutenant Kendra Zoldar Zanik?”  She heard her name called.

“Here!”  She ran towards a senior officer.

“We need you in the center of the city as quickly as possible.  We’re expecting incoming there.  Hold out as long as you can, then escape.”

“On my way!”  She ran for the transport.

Behind her, her daughters found themselves issued swords and blasters.

“That so clashes with your eyeshade!”  Zanna warned.  “Maybe you should leave that blaster behind.”

“I wonder if the Kayzik know how to color coordinate!”  Janna grinned.  “Perhaps it will shock them into submission!”

“I would not doubt it.”  Zanna answered as they were herded into another transport.

 

Sentinel’s Lair – twenty minutes later

“Alan,” Selina called, “Mary and Jay are on the way.  Are you sure you don’t want me to contact the Kent farm?”

“No.”  Alan answered.  “Our only hope lies in a space battle under a red sun.  Let them know what we’re doing, but after we’ve left.”

“Alan!”  Elise spoke forcefully.  “Your strategy doesn’t make sense.  Why not free the planet and let the fleet take it from there?”

They felt a breeze.

“What planet?”  Mary and Jay Garrick appeared and Mary walked towards them.

“Mary,” Alan called up a hologram, “we have a major problem.  Elise’s sister lives on a small planet in a very small galactic cloud—the Garjan Cloud.  Up until now, the three inhabited worlds in that cloud have been firmly under Shantar control.”

“What is a galactic cloud?”  Jay asked.

“It’s a miniature galaxy.”  Elise answered.  “Much, much smaller than the Milky Way.  The one cloud isn’t all that big or all that strategic.  My sister lives on Dega Five, the largest world within the Garjan Cloud and the one with the spaceports.”

“So do members of our family.”  Dr. Jenna and his daughter Garja entered the room.  “We can give you a layout of the planetary systems.”  Garja walked back to her console.  The Shantar woman displayed the cloud with the inhabited worlds colored red.

“You’ll notice this is a young cluster of stars,” Garja commented, “as opposed to the Dalran Cloud that adjoins it.  Mary and Jay, the Dalran Cloud contains the Ogeslaz military base.  It’s a major distribution point for the Kayzik and it is very heavily armed.  Up until it hasn’t been too much of a problem – Hyperspace between the two is filthy.  There are only two working approaches between the two clusters. And they were easily defended.”

“How,” Jay asked, “do you know how many working approaches there truly are?”

“Dalran used to be ours.”  Garja answered.  “The Kayzik took it forty years ago.  We stopped them at Garjan and we’ve held the line there ever since.  And Garjan does have one significant strategic value.  If you claim the Cloud, you get clear launching pads to several lightly defended Shantar galaxies.”

“What about the Dalran Cloud?”  Alan asked.  “Strategic value?”

“Take the Cloud,” Garja answered, “and you wind up with a strong advantage for us.”

“But let me be the first to say it is a poor idea.”  Jerik, the Lair historian, and Garja Jenna’s cousin, entered the conversation.  “Dalran is too heavily defended.  Yes, you remove the threat to Garjan cloud, but at what cost?  You would be fighting alone with no chance of relief.  The fleet can’t approach until the threat to Dega Five is neutralized.”

“Noted.”  Alan answered.  “How well are their other approaches to Dalran defended?”

“They aren’t.”  Garja acknowledged.  “We have nothing to threaten them.  Boss, there is only one inhabited planet in that cluster and that planet is under a red sun.  But the Kryptonians could blast at a distance.”

Alan scowled.

“But we don’t have time to coordinate.  We have to move, now.  The Kayzik will need ten hours to take the planet.  We have to stop them before that occurs.  And the best way to stop them is to eliminate the threat!”

“Dad,” Alanna urged, “why can’t we just fight the battle on the planet?”

“Casualties.”  Alan answered.  “This isn’t like New Oa.  It’s a much larger and more heavily populated world.  And the Kayzik learned from our last adventure.  They are flooding Dega Five with Necromancers.  That means that we have a world of sheep, which will be only too glad to walk straight into our battle zones.  No, the better way is to shut the attack off at the source.  And that means Dalran.”

“We’re with you, Dad!”  Linda emphasized.

“We’re ready.”  Mary agreed.

“Yes, I’ll go.”  Alanna confirmed.  But every instinct I have says this will end badly.

“And me!”  Jay confirmed.

“No, Jay.”  Alan responded.  “This will be a space battle and an ugly one.  It’s just the four of us.  Elise, we’ll be moving.  We won’t drop out of Hyperspace until we get there.  Hope to talk to you in about ten hours.”

And then Alan, Alanna, Mary, and Linda vanished in a flash of emerald fire.

Frustrated, Elise closed her eyes.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  She reached to her comms.

“Lyla, I’ve got a class ‘A’ crisis.  I need you, now.  Bring Kira and your guests.”

“Coming.”  Lyla responded. “Out.”

“Diana,” Elise activated her comms again.  “I’ve got a class ‘A’ crisis.  I need you, Kent, Jeffrey, and anything you can find that flies.”

“Roger.”  Diana responded.  “Bringing Donna as well.  Out.”

“Iris,” Elise activated her comms again, “show time, youngster.  We need you.”

“You’re calling me?” Elise heard.  She had to chuckle.  “Ummm, Kid Flash on the way.  Out.”

 

Sentinel’s Lair Conference Room

Diana, Kent, Jeffrey, Iris, Lyla, Kira, and the Inheritors joined Elise, Jerik, and Garja Jenna in the conference room.

“And that’s what I know, so far.”  Elise explained, clearly agitated.  “Alan took Mary, Alanna, and Linda and headed towards the Darjan Cloud.  I couldn’t talk him out of it.”

“Damn!”  Extremely angry, Lyla cursed.  “Stupid!” 

“Mother?”  Kira asked.

Turning away from Kira, Lyla burned red with fury.

“Elise, what do the records show about Dalran?” 

“Not as much as I would like.”  The Shantar woman admitted.  “Just a basic structure.”

“And what is the Shantar protection level for Dega Five?”  Lyla asked.

“One garrison of ships,” Elise answered, “about three hundred on planet fighters.  Why?”

“There was a reason we tried so hard to hold that cluster.”  Lyla recalled.  “There are far more hyperspace paths from that cluster to Shantar space than we acknowledge.  Elise, it’s the perfect launching path into fourteen separate galaxies.  Rao, guide us, we have a real problem.”

“Fourteen?”  Elise asked with shock.

“Seal room.”  Lyla ordered the computer and the doors clamped closed.  “Contact the Commanding Warlord, Shantar High Command, on my authorization.  Priority Omega.”  She stood up.

“Lyla?”  Elise asked.  “What are you doing?”

“My job.”  Lyla answered crisply.

“Office of High Warlord Jantar.”  They heard a response.  “How may we assist?”

“I need to talk to Jantar.”  Lyla spoke crisply.

They heard humor in the voice at the other end.

“So does everyone with a complaint.  And who should I say is calling?”

“Commander Lyla Lerrol, Krypton.”  Lyla answered.  “Designation - Starchild.”

“Starchild?”  The voice on the other end questioned.  “Impossible.  Please hold while I perform an identity check.”

Lyla waited, clearly irritated by the delay.

“Identity confirmed!”  She heard from another staff member in the High Warlord’s office.  The first staff member spoke again.

“Ma’am, thank you for your patience.  I will put you through immediately.”

Lyla ignored the room full of stunned expressions as the hologram of the Commanding Warlord appeared.

“Lyla?”  The Warlord appeared startled.  “We thought we had lost you.  How did you survive the explosion of Krypton?”

“Long story, Sir.  The same accident that ended my career also removed my link to the planet.  The House of El rocketed me off Krypton before it exploded.  But making contact has been a problem.”

She scowled.

“What happened on Dega Five?  We were supposed to keep a full Fleet around the Garjan cluster.  It’s your Achilles heel!  Worse, it looks like our friends the J’Dinn discovered too many of our secrets.”

He sighed groaning.

“I don’t know.  We’ve been infiltrated.  We’re investigating.  We do know that they shut down the warning systems for the planet.  They weren’t even noticed until some of the Kayzik craft bypassed the planetary defenses.  Worse, they shut down the warning systems for the entire cluster, not just the planet.  Our fleets have been blocked from making any Hyperspace jumps towards the cluster – and if the other worlds in the cluster are not under attack yet, they soon will be.”

Lyla scowled.

“If you can locate ‘Q’, please do it.  I’ll need his help.  In the mean time, I’ll be contacting the Guardians.   Then I’ll be working on a game plan.  I’ll be in touch.  Starchild out.”

The High Warlord nodded.

“Understood.  I’ll have my staff ready to expedite your requirements.  We’ll notify the Guardians to expect your call.  Jantar out.”

The hologram vanished and Lyla turned to her startled companions.

“Now you know why there was so little in my military records.”

“You’re that Starchild?”  Elise asked in amazement.  “Not just the Kryptonian Starchild, but that one?”

“Yes.”  She frowned.  “That one.”  She reactivated her comms.  “Starchild to Guardians’ Complex.  I need Astra and Hal Jordan if they are available.”

“Hal Jordan, Lyla.  How can I help?”

“Hal, I need Astra to head for Dega Five.  I need a status report I can trust.  Have her broadcast back to me, personally.  I’m going to be moving.”

“Done.”  Hal answered.  “Anything else?”

“Yes.”  Lyla answered.  “Back up the fleet.  We’re going to make a mess when we hit.  And you know what I mean.   I’ll need every Green Lantern you can find.”

They heard the mirth in Hal’s voice.

“I do.  We’ll be there.  Jordan out.”

She reactivated her comms.

“Kal, honey, this is Mom.  Can you bring Krypto here?”

“Sure Mom!”  They heard the young Kryptonian answer.  “See you in a second!”  And then they heard a whisper of wind.

Lyla drew a deep breath.

“Zor-El wrote a series of papers on the psychology of the Kayzik hive mind.  I used that work to form the basis of a series of tactical moves.  I didn’t think my work was all that good, but it caught the eye of the mysterious ‘Q’.”

She walked over to a screen.

“‘Q’ was an absolutely brilliant strategist.  So brilliant, in fact, that very few could apply any of his work.  But for some reason, he was interested in my work in developing maneuvers for the Kryptonian forces.  I collaborated with him to develop a series of battle plans for the Shantar.”

Elise chuckled with amazement.

“I can’t believe this.  You wrote the Starchild maneuvers?   No wonder High Command was so anxious to talk to you.”  She laughed.  “Lyla revolutionized the way the Shantar fight the Kayzik.  That’s why their tactics have changed so drastically.  We never lose anything like a fair fight.  And her work made it possible.”

“Don’t forget ‘Q’.”  Lyla protested.  “We collaborated.  I didn’t work alone…‘Q’ provided the strategy.”

“No wonder Grandfather looked out for you.”  Kira smiled with pride.  “You took his work and turned it into something that truly mattered.  You earned your place in the House of El.”

Lyla smiled warmly. 

“Thank you.  That means more than you know.”  She turned back to her screens.  “Kent, I need to find a way to kill the Kayzik glamour on Dega Five for fifteen minutes.  Faith can pull it away from the planet if you can focus it into her.  Can you?”

Kent nodded.

“Yes.  Between Jeffrey and I, we can.  And we can do a little more.”  He grinned.  “On the way back out, we’ll change it so that it works on the Kayzik…”

Faith scowled.

“I don’t do real well with sources of power except my own.  Hellfire made me ill.”

“I understand.”  Kent replied.  “We’ll limit your exposure and we’ll make it as palatable as possible.  Plus, you won’t have to completely suppress the Emerald Fire.”

Jeffrey nodded.

“It will be tricky, but we can do it.”

“Good.”  Lyla replied.  “This is what I want.  Kira, if this is a major offensive, the Kayzik will be rounding up Terrans, as well as sentients from every other conquered world.  I’m determined they won’t benefit from the world that grants our shelter.  I want to leave you here with the Kids Flash and Kal.  Your job is to keep the Terrans away from the Kayzik.”

“We can do that.”  Kira acknowledged.  She seemed to look through the walls before tapping her comms.  “Oracle, this is Supergirl.  Round up the usual suspects.  And I need to know where all the Kayzik patrols are.  I do mean all.”  She looked at the Kids Flash.  “Ladies, we have much work to do.”  The doors opened long enough for the three of them to leave.  At the same time, Krypto entered the room and sat down at Lyla’s feet.

“Fire power.”  Lyla answered as she scratched his ears.  “This is what happens.  The mystics pull the glamour off the planet.  Donna, Diana and Jay, you’ll get instructions on what to clean up.  The GL Corps will assist as soon as the glamour is neutralized.  And then we’ll let the fleet clean up after us.  Then Krypto and I will be charging the Hyperspace routes.  Once we’re done and the routes are clear, the fleet will guard them.  And then we have one more mission.”

“Isn’t that enough?”  Kent smiled.

“I wish it were, Kent.”  Lyla answered.  “But once we hit, we’ll be able to contact our teammates.  And we may have to retrieve them.”

“Do you think they made a mistake?”  Donna asked.

“No.”  Lyla answered grudgingly.  “Alan had the right idea.  And their attacks will give us the time we need to succeed.  But they don’t know enough about the Ogeslaz base to win.  Elise, if you do hear from them, send them the file I’ll leave for you.  It’s very detailed and the Kayzik would not have changed the defensive structures.  Not much anyway, I hope.”

She turned to the assembled group.

“I don’t command any of you.  This is a volunteer operation.  But are you willing?”

“We’re in.”  Kent gestured towards Diana and Jeffrey.  Diana gave him an irreverent look and mussed his hair.  Then, she nodded her approval.

“I’m in.”  Jay agreed.

“Donna?”  Faith asked.

“We’re in.”  Donna agreed as Faith nodded her approval.

Lyla relaxed visibly.

“Thank you.  We leave in fifteen minutes.  I’ll wrap up our loose ends by then.”   Lyla released the door and turned back to the comms.

 

To be concluded in: The Starchild’s Gift, Part 2

 

-- Story written and copyrighted (C) 2002 and 2006 by Eldric

-- and may not be reprinted without permission. 

-- Otherverse and Supergirl's Multiverse, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,

-- are original creations of Dylan Clearbrook

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-- are original creations of John P. and Jason G respectively.

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