She gazed down from what she could only consider a cage, a ledge from which she could not descend. Had she retained the powers of Elise Zoldar, she could simply have jumped, with no concern of how hard she landed. But with only Igraine Pendragon’s power, she could do little.
Igraine Pendragon, she snorted as she gazed around the notch that held her. Familiar fixtures: a bed, a chamber pot, a table, a clothes cabinet, and little else graced the ledge and the walls on three sides. A very attractive cage, she imagined, especially in comparison to the rest of the hellhole in which she had awakened.
She watched other life forms pass by her notch, none of which stopped to greet her…or dared to stop to greet her, she surmised.
Igraine reached out to sense with her otherworldly senses. Never well-trained in the arcane arts, she had never developed her power. But that did not diminish the fact that the power had always been part of her, the part of her that had always resisted Emrys/Merlin. His stench of evil had always alarmed her, but it would not be until long after her death that Igraine would understand all of what Emrys had taken from her, then and in the present day.
report and another; Alan Scott struggled to consume all of the information that
crossed his desk, but knew he could not.
But his now world occupied a critical link in the transporter system between solar systems in the Milky Way Galaxy. While a world could live in ignorance and isolation, that only meant that the residents of the world could not speak for their own resources, could not defend their rights. And Alan would not allow that to happen to his world.
More so, while the battle for the Milky Way Galaxy had been won, the planning for the greater battle for the universe had only just begun. Information supplied by so many sources flowed in to the Alliance Heavy Cruiser in orbit above his world—even the god Hades, the Guardians, and the Shantar had provided what they could, allowing Querl Dox and the Alliance computers to identify the arms reaching out from the Kayzik Hive and probable locations for the Queen.
Rogue Zorel, Linda Kyle, Chasity Hudson, and Hallie Jordan had been dispatched to investigate one such location. Rogue commanded the team and would designate location of the probes. Jade and Hallie could manifest Boom Tubes to get the four of them close, but once they got close, they would have to drop into hyperspace.
bothered him that he could not clue his entire Lair staff into the full extent
he wondered how many members of his staff could even imagine the damage caused
Exhausted, Alan rested his elbows on his desk and placed his forehead into his hands, closing his eyes for a moment.
He was into late middle-age, much older than most of the populations of his kingdoms. Still, Uther Pendragon remained vital, in extremely good health. He stood in his private meeting chamber, attached to the quarters that he and Igraine shared. She had already gone to bed, having helped deliver Margause’s newest son by Emrys.
Uther would have to designate an heir soon and pondered his decision. He had no children that he knew of, certainly none born since his marriage to Igraine, who he dearly loved. Her son Caldor had served him well; a good man who had earned Uther’s trust. Unfortunately, he had reservations about Caldor, who had never married…would Caldor have the same problem designating an heir in future years?
He could designate one of Margause’s children, with Emrys as guardian. But he distrusted Emrys. He could designate one of Elaine’s children, but neither she nor King Nentes had been part of the Castle Tintagel for many years.
And now he had heard an odd rumor, that he had sired a son who would soon succeed him. He knew there was no truth to the rumor, suspecting Emrys was behind it, but not able to guess Emrys’ reasons.
He heard the door open behind him, knew by the footsteps that Emrys had entered the room. Emrys had been a mage and a useful councilor, but was a poor warrior. Fortunately, Uther had learned the lessons of the battles of his past—the Saxons were no longer a threat. He wondered why he believed that Emrys was.
“Emrys,” Uther turned to face his councilor, “it is late. What troubles you so much that you had to leave your new son to discuss it?”
“Why,” Emrys smiled as he launched a spell towards the king, “your death. You have served your purpose. But I want you to know what I have done to you before I kill you and my son assumes your throne.”
Uther felt paralysis as the spell took hold. Unable to move, he could only watch as Emrys gloated.
“You stole Igraine from me,” Emrys accused. “She would have been mine, if not for you.”
‘I don’t think so,’ Uther attempted to mouth.
“I was forced to settle for Margause,” Emrys sneered, “almost as pretty as her mother in her prime. Still, she was not the only woman who bore me children. Behold your daughter Morgan…living in a hut…with my children.” He presented an image of the daughter Uther could no longer remember, with her children surrounding her in a small cabin.
Uther struggled as Emrys returned his memories of Morgan, realizing what Merlin had done to him, to Igraine, to the kingdom.
“The boy,” Emrys exclaimed, “he looks so much like you…the blonde hair you and I share, not his mother’s red hair. I shall call him ‘Arthur’. His mother calls him ‘Ethan’, but that is of little import to me. Oh, don’t worry…Morgan has no more memory of her time at Tintagel than you did of her.” He stood smugly watching the small family in the image moving, chatting. “She makes a rather good peasant, does she not?”
The door to the hut opened and another woman entered.
“My Queen, Avalon needs you.”
With those words, Emrys angrily ended the image.
“It is time for you to die, Uther,” he growled, aiming a spell at Uther’s throat. “Your life-force will power the spell that will make Ethan the son of Arthur Pendragon.”
Uther felt his life-force leave his body. But as he did, he knew that Emrys had failed to obtain his final revenge. Uther died knowing that his missing daughter, Morgan, had become Queen of Avalon, a powerful ruler and sorceress in her own right…rumored to be in Emrys’ league. Emrys would not have the easy time he believed taking her son.
But Uther’s last thought was for Igraine, the great love of his life, who would discover his lifeless body in the morning. Igraine…
“Alan!” He roused from his dream, hearing Igraine Pendragon’s voice. “Alan! I am alive. I no longer have the power of Elise Zoldar, but I live. I do not know my circumstances, but I do not believe I am in imminent danger. I love you, Alan.”
And then the voice was gone.
Cruiser, the Doiby Dickles
represented the upper-end of the mid-grade ships of the Myrg Fleet. Much larger than a Light Crusier,
it had still passed easily through the Great Portal on the way from Avalon
Earth to Alterverse Earth. But much too
large for Boom-Tube transport, it served to provide a mobile headquarters to
The Doiby Dickles provided facilities
fit for the Aristocrats of the Milky Way Galaxy, luxuries for the senior
leadership of the
Faith held a steaming mug in her hand as she faced the Holograms broadcast into her work-area. High Warlord Amanda Zalar and Warlord Zoldar glanced at her as she chose to sit on her desk rather than behind it.
She heard the door open behind her, not bothering to gaze towards the sound. There was only one person who held the authority to open the door without her permission.
Lannie Kyle stopped to pour coffee, before reaching for one of the chairs facing the desk, turning it to face the holograms and easing into it.
“I am sorry I am late,” she apologized to the holograms before taking a sip of her coffee. “I’m standing in for the Sentinel this morning.” As she took a second sip of coffee, she turned to Faith, “I swear, Lady V, I am picking up your bad habits. Did I miss anything?”
“I was explaining that we are still not ready to officially re-establish communications with the Empire,” Faith relayed, “this conversation is very off the record.”
“Sounds good to me,” Lannie shrugged, “we’re all part of Elise’s extended family.”
“Very much so,” Zoldar agreed. “We know you are doing what you must, but we wanted to make sure you knew that your warnings are bearing out.” He gazed at his mother, who spoke next.
“Our situation is becoming very confused,” Amanda replied. “We’ve lost much of our communications with the Dalran Galactic Cloud and have lowered communications capability with Garjan Cloud, where Kendra and her family are stationed. We’ve increased the deployment of defenders in that direction, but we are clearly running out of time.”
“Worse,” Zoldar added, “Those are not the only sites. We have half a dozen similar stories…all semi-isolated areas of settlement. We are moving forces into all those areas, but we do not know how long we have.”
sipped her coffee while bringing up the image of the Hive border with the
Shantar Empire. She superimposed the
“Here, this is a Shantar frontier galaxy…this isn’t, but these are, Faith.” Lannie watched as Faith lightly bit her lip, concentrating.
“Querl Dox, Lyla’s friend ‘Q’, warned me they might react this way,” Faith drew in a sharp breath. “These points, here, here, and here are likely invasion points.” She next pointed farther away from the center of the border. “These three are too far from the Central Hive and likely to be decoys. But you are also likely to see invading forces here, here, and here, if you divert to defend the decoys.”
“You seem certain,” Amanda observed, “upon what do you base your analysis?”
Faith and Lannie gazed at each other, with Faith wordlessly granting her assent to Lannie’s next words.
“When Daxam became ground zero,” Lannie explained, “we were forced to appeal to our friends from several different universes.” “A small team of heroes from this universe, the Inheritors Universe and the Multiverse attacked the Kayzik on Daxam, preventing the Hive from taking advantage of the food source. They had the most dangerous job of all…they had to hold the line and they did.”
meantime,” Faith informed, “Querl Dox joined with a team of
“It would appear,” Amanda Zalar suggested, “that the offensive is about to begin regardless.”
Lannie agreed, pointing the hologram of the Milky Way. “But no longer fully supplied and now denied
one of their transit routes. Before
Daxam could be fully exploited by the Hive, the
“While we do not yet fully control this galaxy,” Faith added, “we have successfully isolated it. The swarm has lost this galaxy as a food supply and, potentially far more disastrous for the Hive, as an integrated part of their transit structure. There is only so much capacity moving up and down any arm of the hive. While loss of a single galaxy will not completely sever any links, it will sow confusion.”
Amanda and Zoldar glanced at each other before gazing back at the Terrans. Slowly, Amanda pointed back to the hologram of the Milky Way Galaxy.
“You took an entire galaxy from their hands in under a day?”
“Our resources are more than a bit stretched,” Faith seemingly bypassed Amanda’s question, while answering it, “we are limited in what we can move into this galaxy and we must use an experimental technology to transit, which brings its own limitations. At the moment, we are reinitializing the Empire infrastructure, with some support from Empire warriors that we retrieved from stasis. We have about two-thirds of the infrastructure operational. In the near future, when we fully open communications, we will work with you to make sure those warriors can return to their families.”
“Yes,” Amanda acceded, “they have been in stasis no less than seventy years.”
“In the mean time,” Faith added, pointing at the lines leading from the Milky Way Galaxy, “the Hive has lost a food supply and transit routes, weakening its connection to these potential invasion sites.” She pointed to the places she had identified as decoys. “However, we suspect the Hive is far too committed to its invasion to stop…which means it will be much more focused on quickly harvesting Shantar Worlds for food.”
“Amanda,” Lannie injected, “you should know that we have captured more than a few J’Dinn agents. They have confirmed much of what we have said—there is going to be a major invasion and this little setback will not stop it. They don’t know the key invasion points, but they know along which hive tentacles the invaders will launch. And Dalran is clearly in the scopes of more than one of them.”
“Very much so,” Faith confirmed. “Amanda, Zoldar, we are more than willing to share any information they divulge to us. In return, we need to know what you can tell us about the forces they deploy, so that we can map the Hive and its behaviors. When the time comes, we may wish to discuss what we can do to force them farther back out of your space. This galaxy is safe enough for the moment, but its long term future depends on a joint resolution to our common problems.”
“We understand,” Amanda replied, “we will be in touch when next we can break away.”
“Thank you,” Lannie acknowledged, “we wish you well. Please let us know what you hear from Kendra.”
“We will,” Zoldar assured, his concern evident in his brow. “We will.” The holograms faded out, leaving Faith alone with Lannie.
“What do you think?” Faith asked. “I can’t read them as well as you.”
“I think they’re drooling to learn about our tech,” Lannie confirmed. “They’re choking back their astonishment of what we accomplished, and they are going to be scrambling to confirm and act on our analysis of the invasion points. But I don’t think they realize what our true intentions are.”
“Good,” Faith sighed with relief before turning back to the hologram of the border between the Hive and the Shantar. “The more resources the Shantar draw away from the Central Hive, the easier our job will be.”
Warlord Zoldar stood from behind his desk, gazing at the hologram of his mother, High Warlord Amanda Zalar.
“What do you think?” Amanda asked him.
“Frankly,” he responded, crossing his arms over his chest, “I believe everything they said, but they aren’t telling the entire story. They certainly didn’t explain how they transited the galaxy so quickly, or how they took out those bases. Still, they did provide an interesting clue…completely isolate the hive members and they cease to be operational. I wonder what the borders of the isolation zone have to be.”
“I agree,” Amanda replied. “We are obviously being manipulated by the Princess. She tells us what she wants us to know and what she thinks we need to know. But we do not know what the Sentinel’s teams will be doing in the short term and we do not know her long term goals. While she could remain here indefinitely, that seems unlikely. Still, an entire galaxy is quite a prize—even that one.”
“Hmmph,” Zoldar offered, “Alan I usually understand. Linda is easy…bright but not complex. Lannie has always been less obvious and I think the Madame Commander is even less so. Still, I have yet to catch any member of the Scott family in an out-right lie.”
“Or can we simply not perceive of the truth?” Amanda pondered. “One day, will we look back on this conversation and wonder why we did not deduce what is so obvious to them?”
“I can’t disagree.” Zoldar relayed. “I do note they have not asked for or offered much in the way of assistance.”
“Neither did we,” Amanda admitted, looking at the holographic maps originally projected by Lannie and Faith. “I will have these routes analyzed. I suspect we’ll find that the Scott girls are correct, as much as it galls me.”
“…nevertheless,” Faith related to Lannie with a wicked grin as they walked down the corridor towards a large conference room, “I suspect they are not overly fond of doing business with me.”
“I suspect not,” Lannie agreed, smiling slightly. “But that’s fine. We don’t want them to have the chance to manipulate Dad. He’s holding up, but he’s closer to Zoldar than any of the rest of us. Right now, that would work too much against us.” They stopped to turn down another corridor. “They suspect we’re not on the level, but they don’t know why…which is right where we want them.”
“Unfortunately,” Faith sighed as they walked, “it leaves us having to do most of our planning away from our Shantar allies in the Lair. Still, it has its advantages. The team focused on galactic restoration is not distracted by what we are doing here…probably a good thing.”
The violet Boom Tube opened, revealing Rogue, Hallie Jordan, Chasity Hudson, and Linda Kyle. Linda’s bubble surrounded them, enabling easy communications, as they flashed through the Star Sapphire’s Boom Tube.
“Ugh…” Rogue commented as she flew through, focusing her telescopic vision downward. “This is bad news.”
She pointed towards several solar systems in the Galaxy below, each thick with movement. Yellow suns burned down on each of the solar systems.
“See it, Chas?” Rogue questioned the young Wasteland Supergirl. “Big buildups, thick with those critters. Looks like a bunch of artificial worlds circling those suns. I bet the queen is on one of those worlds. Shall we take a closer look, Kiddo?”
“Wait,” Linda interrupted, a look of distaste on her features as she gestured. “We got problems.”
“Sugah, that’s an understatement…” Rogue observed, “but what’s got your knickers in a twist?”
“Hallie,” Linda requested, “please leave the bubble for just a sec…I can’t explain this…I need to show them.”
“Ok,” Hallie flew through the side of the bubble, floating just outside of it in her own violet-encased glow. Then her features lost sense of purpose, becoming vacant, empty, just before she vanished.
“She’ll be all right,” Linda explained, gazing at Rogue and Chasity. “But I needed you to know that there is something wrong in this space. It can’t get through my shields, but once you’re out of ‘em, I can’t protect you. Chas, we need to know if you’re all right when you phase.”
“All right,” she agreed, preparing to phase as Hallie reappeared in the bubble.
“That was bad,” Hallie exclaimed. “As soon as I lost consciousness, I dropped into astral mode and I was ok…just took a few seconds to recover.” She peered into Chasity’s questioning expression. “I’m not like you. My default is astral…when I fall asleep at night, I vanish from the physical plane. Plays hell with my love life.”
“Okay,” Chasity swallowed, “let’s see how all right I am.” She invoked the power of Kitty Pryde, her distant ancestor, appearing to vanish while phasing though the side of the bubble.
“I’m tracking her,” Hallie concentrated her Star Sapphire powers. “She doesn’t seem to be in any trouble…at least not as long as she stays phased. I’ll catch up to her.” Hallie dropped out of real space, flashing into astral form as she followed Chasity towards one of the central solar systems.
“Let’s head in the opposite direction,” Rogue suggested to Linda. “we’ll know we’re in the right place when we can’t get any closer. Besides, our job is just to map this place.”
“Too bad I probably don’t have the power to just blow it up…” Linda agreed.
“Even if you did,” Rogue countered, “we need to make sure it’s the right site to blow up.”
“Come in,” Alan called in response to the knock on his office door. The door opened in response to his call. As he gazed up, Selina Kyle Wayne and Garja Jenna entered his office, settling down into chairs that faced his desk.
Alan gazed at the two women, both of whom had served him faithfully for more than seven years. Garja Jenna, the Shantar warrior, had served Elise for many years before that. Selina served as the coordinator of on-planet efforts and had strong ties to the resistance. She was the reigning Batgirl of this Earth, as well as first cousin to both Lannie and Linda Kyle on their father’s side.
Selina had once withheld her knowledge of a serious threat to herself and her cousins, a fact that had angered Alan at the time. That secret masked the activities of the mad god Ares, who had already attacked Lyla Lerrol and her son Kal-El, before attacking Selina, Helena, and Lyla’s daughter, Kira Jor-El. The hard feelings had lessened over time, but still had never completely faded.
The door sealed behind them as he waited for them to speak.
“Sentinel,” Garja began, “I must report that I have a dilemma of conscience. My duty to my people requires me to report my suspicions, but my duty to my commander dictates otherwise.”
“What kind of dilemma?” Alan leaned back in his chair, giving her his full attention. Selina broke the silence.
“We’re not stupid, Alan.” Selina interrupted. “That ship floating above this planet isn’t just there for its health.”
colleague means to say,” Garja injected with a smile, “is that you have an
unparalleled task force headquartered on that vessel. And the fleet it commands is no longer
focused on the immediate task of freeing this galaxy. Yet, no part of that force
“And what are our next steps?” Alan asked, now intrigued.
“Killing the Queen,” Selina injected, “for some reason you now have to…you are reacting as if you no longer have a choice.”
“My people,” Garja explained, “are reacting as if they are countering the immediate threats of invasion alone. They do not yet suspect that they are merely distractions for the true battle; that you believe the Hive must die, and die now. And that your team will kill it. My people certainly have not begun to plan for life after the hive.”
“Boss,” Selina probed, “we know there is a good reason for what you’re doing. We just want to know what it is.”
He gazed at each of them before smiling. Garja had not sugar-coated the situation; an Empire officer, she had chosen to risk her career to hold this conversation. He tipped his head towards Selina.
“Now I suppose I’m the one who has held on to a secret longer than I should have.” With a flash of emerald fire, the room emptied. Emerald fire raced towards the portal of the Rock of Eternity.
“Um, Alan,” Selina questioned as they entered the portal, leaving real space, “where are we going?”
search of the truth,” Alan explained as they approached the Shazam Wizard’s
Castle. “Besides, I want to know if
A shadow flickered elsewhere in the same region that held Igraine Pendragon, the woman who had been both Elise Zoldar and Daria Scott. Retaining a small part of power from her past life, the shadow moved easily throughout the realm. She knew that the master of the realm would brook no interference from her, but she knew as well that she had little capability to offend. Her life-force had begun to fade almost a decade prior. She would not be long for this place…soon to shed the last of her power, she would be free to move on.
Her companion had been in this realm far longer than she, but had taken longer to dissipate. She knew that he had held on, awaiting her arrival, hoping that they could eventually move on together, free of the cancer that had killed him and the residual effects that had eventually killed her.
She flickered across the nearby realm, returning to find him standing puzzled with a woman she did not know. Very attractive, the woman appeared to be struggling to speak.
“Edmund?” The shadow landed, taking on a more visible form as she gazed at their visitor, an attractive woman, blue-eyed with blonde hair. The woman’s words still sounded to be gibberish in the shadow’s language: no words that she understood.
“One second, my love.” Edmund concentrated, pulling just enough power from the surrounding environment to power a small spell. Concentrating, he cast the spell, then spoke. “If you can understand me, I am called Edmund.”
“Yes,” the woman nodded her head, “whatever you have done is working. I greet you. I am Allura and I have come to seek your assistance.”
remained inside Linda’s energy bubble, guiding the younger woman across the
solar systems that appeared to be of interest.
Rogue’s vision powers quickly surveyed the traffic patterns of the
Hive. She captured and mapped logistics
information within data processing units supplied by the
Finally satisfied with the validity of the information, Rogue smiled at her teammates.
“Girls, we’ve got it,” she nodded with authority, gesturing. “Now we just need to get far enough from here to make a phone call.”
“I wish,” Linda glared back at the systems they had mapped, “that we could try to take ‘em out by ourselves. A few years back, I wouldn’t have hesitated.”
“A few years back,” Rogue gazed at her with a firm expression, “I would not have asked for you to be part of this team. Now let’s get away from this bug-farm.”
In response to her words, a violet Boom Tube gated open in front of them.
Lt. Kendra Zanik reported to Military Headquarters in her district, stopping only for a moment to gaze at the monitor screens she passed.
“We’ve heard we’re not the only target,” she heard a somewhat familiar voice pass behind her. “The Green Lanterns are now picking up Kayzik signals all over the frontier…” The voice vanished as a door closed behind it. She stepped towards a counter to pick up her weaponry and was surprised to be issued a regulation blaster rifle, a weapon so heavy and so deadly that only an Andromedan Shantar could carry it.
“We’re hearing it’s ugly, Lieutenant,” the clerk at the counter explained. “We hear there are reinforcements inbound, but we don’t know who is going to get here first—our reinforcements or the Hive.”
“I guess I know who is in the lead,” Kendra grimaced, looking at the weapon. “If I fire this thing, I’ll take out at least four city blocks.”
“Ma’am,” the clerk replied, “you’re one of five people on the planet who could survive the blast. If High Command says give it to you, I’ll give it to you. I just hope I’m nowhere near when you use it.”
“Then don’t get near the spaceport,” Kendra warned, not waiting for her formal orders. She didn’t need them—her job would be to prevent the Swarm from making use of spaceport capabilities. Her task—to destroy the Spaceport and everything in it as soon as the Swarm landed.
She knew the odds were not in her favor…but then that would be too much to hope for. And no chance of a rescue from the Sentinel’s Lair this time; not with that Galaxy in shambles.
“That’s all of it.” Rogue’s image broadcast to Querl Dox, Ray Palmer, Duncan MacLeod, and Admiral Argus Tui. “Should we head back, or stay put?”
“Excellent work, team,” Ray praised. “I think this is just what we needed. The power readings are especially important.”
“Yes,” Admiral Tui agreed. “We can fit our models to this information. I think we’ll see vulnerabilities we can exploit.”
“Agreed,” Querl Dox nodded as he began to step through the information correlated by the Away Team. “Please continue to monitor the traffic flows. They are…most interesting.”
Zoldar gazed at the holographic screens that surrounded him. Leading a small task force, he sat in the
rear of a scout-class ship as the pilot jumped through Hyperspace, closing in
on one of the probable invasion points suggested by the
mother, Amanda Zalar, had immediately vetted the
information gained from the
Shantar were ready for war…always ready.
Yet as he flew with his thousands upon thousands of fighters towards the
frontier, he experienced a chilling realization—he had no clue what the outcome
A galaxy freed from the swarm in a day…a day! Alan Scott had called on the gods and they had willingly responded. What would all that power do next? Set its sights on another galaxy? Or something else?
Donna Canton MacLeod stepped towards a small lounge adjoining the senior officers’ quarters. Comfortably furnished, it provided a semi-private gathering and resting area for the senior leadership. She watched her cousin gazing out the lounge windows, lost in thought.
Donna had no doubt that Faith knew she was there and would soon acknowledge her presence. Several moments later, her patience was rewarded as Faith turned towards her.
“A half-penny for your thoughts,” Donna chimed in an ancient English accent, bringing a brief smile of recognition from Faith.
“Just thinking about who created the Kayzik Swarm,” Faith offered. “The chill in my bones tells me we are going to find Emrys behind it all. I wonder how many universes he’s destroyed and why.”
“If he is still a necromancer,” Donna replied, “he derives power from the act of murder…murder of an individual or a universe.”
“Imagine,” Faith shuddered, “a being that awaited the creation of universes, just to suck the life out of them. Such a being would only see universes as little more than batteries, as sources of power to be consumed and discarded.”
“I wonder,” Donna suggested, sitting next to Faith. “Would the swarm transmit its energy to said being? Is that its purpose?”
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Faith replied with distaste. “The J’Dinn would be a more recent addition, laying the groundwork for Swarm invasions.” She sighed, “Lannie and I need to follow the trail of the machines that have addled the Guardians. They broadcast from the Bleed—the region between universes.”
“Be careful, Faith,” Donna warned. “If Merlin is at the bottom of this, you’re a big target.”
“Am I?” Faith queried, “Anna did more to frustrate Merlin than Morgan. And, when push came to shove, Morgan and Merlin shared some objectives. Both wanted Arthur on the throne. Morgan can’t even take credit for killing Emrys.”
Donna shook her head, gazing out into open space.
“We both know that Emrys hated Uther. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both Lyla and Elise vanished from our universe. There is a reason for it…perhaps because our universe was originally part of a different Continuum than this one.”
“Ladies,” they heard the sound of Karik Gand’s voice behind them. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.” They turned towards him as Faith raised an eyebrow.
“Rather hard not to, Beloved, when you possess super hearing,” Faith acknowledged the Daxamite with wry humor. “All three of us are guilty of it to some extent, even though your hearing is far better than ours.”
“I’d like to offer a theory,” Karik gazed at Donna and Faith. “We’ve all been under the assumption that we who existed in that earlier Pendragonverse have been the intentional targets of whomever and whatever is attacking our universes: that so much was aimed at us as a group.”
“Karik,” Donna agreed, “I’ve certainly felt like I’ve been in the crosshairs of someone’s gun for some time.”
“Then perhaps we overvalue our importance,” he rebutted, leaning against the front of a makeshift bar, “and we misinterpret our roles.” He gazed at Donna’s look of disbelief.
“Then how do you explain the False Guinevere who bit me?”
“I didn’t say you weren’t important, Donna,” Karik emphasized. “I just think it is for a different reason.” He looked towards Faith, who stepped towards the bar, jumping up and sitting on it not far from where Karik stood.
“I have wondered if we were being guided in some way,” Faith admitted, “and by whom.”
“Think of it this way,” Karik offered, “what if…what if the horrors that inflicted our universes were not directed at us? But what if there are other unseen hands guiding us, bringing us together to fight this battle against our now common foe?”
“An interesting idea…” Faith pondered. “I wonder who would be maneuvering us as a group, and why?”
“I think,” Karik pointed to the Pendragon ring on Faith’s left hand, “that you possess a clue. Morgan never had any kind of a sword with those abilities. Yet that one clearly belongs to you…it’s a tool we still don’t understand but with one very obvious function.”
“Which is?” Faith held out her hand, allowing the ring to transform into sword.
“It grants you the power you need to survive in the afterworlds.” He gazed at the sword. “It has some rudimentary intelligence, but appears to have no other desire than to keep you safe. That is odd enough. But physically it manifests as if it is made of a very rare Kryptonian metal; Kiranium.”
“Interesting,” Donna considered. “When the Continuum was birthed, Kara Gand, Sam Kent, and Karen Kent were pushed into it with you, reborn into new lives with their previous extraordinary power levels. Three different Krytonians from three different pre-crisis Kryptons, all of whom re-emerged during a single life-time. And they all participated in Pendragonverse…as did Karik…and Empress Ramia. Ramia confirmed it…she remembers Morgan and Guinevere.”
“When Morgan died,” Karik drew in a breath, “both sides realized that her sacrifice had saved both Krypton and Daxam. Both sides understood that each could now destroy the other’s homeworld. That forced an armistice, a truce. A war of millions of years ended that day, and Kar Gand of Daxam was forced to admit how much of a fool he had been.” A look of shame crossed Karik’s features.
“Karik,” Faith flashed her sword back to a ring before reaching for him, touching his hand, “whatever Morgan was, ultimately even she died. She died for what she believed in, yes, but she died, releasing her life-energy in the process.”
“She may not have.” Karik explained to her astonished expression. “When she vanished, all of the energy and mass of the weapons vanished with her. There was no corpse, no radioactive fallout, nothing. And that is quite impossible. And that is the mystery of Morgan Pendragon.”
“Wow,” Donna interrupted, “something happened. But let’s refocus this conversation. According to your theory, we’re not the cause of the problems of our universes; we’ve been gathered together to be the response.”
“Yes,” Karik admitted. “So many of us were part of the miracle that ended that ugly war. We’re part of an extended family. And we all know what it means when things go horribly wrong. We’re uniting because we believe we have to.”
“And we’re lucky to find other allies,” Donna rose and leaned on the wall beside the window, “The Multiverse crew and Chasity Hudson from Wasteland.”
“Actually, Chasity is one of us, part of the Pendragon dynasty,” Faith replied. “Morgan met her not long after Gwen’s death. She faced some interesting challenges.”
“You owe me a story,” Donna gazed at her.
“Yes,” Faith agreed, turning to look down the hall, “As soon as we have time to breathe.”
“Yes,” he replied as he approached. “We need to gather. We have as much information as Rogue’s team could provide.”
“Is Alan coming?” Faith prompted. “He would want to participate.”
“The Alterverse Batgirl and a Shantar officer,” she observed. “I’ll have to assume they figured out enough on their own to force Alan to bring them into the planning.”
Faith firmly nodded her appreciation.
“Then we should do our best to make
it worth their while.”
“It’s the waiting that’s hard.” Rogue gazed down at the swarm from Linda’s bubble, watching the traffic patterns beneath the solar systems below. “You know, as restless as you normally are, I’m surprised just waiting here hasn’t been harder on you.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” Linda replied, gazing at the star systems before turning back to Rogue. “The truth of it is that if we quit, our team won’t get the information it needs. So we wait.”
“I’ve always been curious,” Rogue hinted, “does it bother you to have such a strong sense of the truth?”
Margause prepared to welcome her husband, Emrys, home after another day at the court of the King. Her life, as she knew it, had been reasonably happy. The affairs of the King’s Court frankly bored Margause. She had been much more interested in so many other things…her children, fashion, attractive young knights at court.
In her youth, she had been beautiful. Even now, no one would dare call her a hag. Still, the years and the children had had some effect. She was very proud of her children, mostly sons. She felt fortunate that all her sons looked like her husband; one or two might not have belonged to him. Emrys’s age had an effect on life in their bedroom, leaving Margause with appetites that the great Wizard could not satisfy. And even at her age, Margause continued to receive attention from younger men.
She had been the eldest daughter of Igraine and Lord Gorlois, and had been stepdaughter to the great King, Uther Pendragon. During Uther’s reign, she had caught the attention of Emrys, now known as Merlin. He seemed satisfied enough with her, but their relationship had always seemed distant. Still, acknowledged as half-sister to King Arthur, she held significant rank at court, even if she took no part in its affairs.
Of course, she had her frustrations…Her mother’s death had affected her greatly and her husband offered little consolation. Instead, Emrys focused so much of his energy countering Morgan of Avalon and her daughter, Anna, while guiding the King. Their own children had never received so much of his attention: Mordred and the rest. In the same vein, she had little to do with those of Avalon; she had an uneasy feeling in their presence: as if there was something about them she should remember, but did not care to.
“Husband,” she greeted as he entered their quarters, “this has been a late evening for you.”
“I did not wish to keep you from your latest paramour,” Emrys growled, “not that he will live much longer.”
“Paramour?” She searched for a way to divert him, to safeguard her latest conquest. “Surely you jest? How could I have eyes for anyone but you? After all of the children I have borne you?”
“Fortunately,” the aged wizard regarded her with little humor, “they were all my children. Otherwise you would not have lasted this long.”
“Are you accusing me of misrepresenting the truth?” Margause pressed, hoping to derail the conversation, “if I were not faithful, the children would not look so much like you. Have you been so faithful to me?”
“The truth?” Emrys’s anger got the better of him. “The daughters of Igraine Pendragon have brought me nothing but misery. Elaine was bad enough, but dealing with Morgan is almost as bad as dealing with you!”
“Morgan is not…” Margause began to argue.
“See the truth for what it really is, unfaithful wife!” He aimed a spell at her, returning her early memories of Morgan. More, for the first time she understood who Arthur and Anna truly were, children of her sister and her husband. “See the truth—always see the truth, ungrateful wife!” He cursed her—no longer would she be able to avoid facing the truth in any manner. As she grasped with new-found knowledge, he stormed off to their chambers, preparing for sleep.
She reeled with the implications of what she had learned. She now knew that her husband had chosen her as a surrogate for her mother and for her ties to the royal family. Morgan was her half-sister and Morgan’s children were sired by Emrys by force.
Margause now knew that she had been nothing but a tool for her husband. He believed her to be weak and incapable of independent decision. He manipulated his children to idolize him by giving them little attention and demonstrating little love when he did, leaving them craving for more.
She now knew she had married poorly to a man who would do nothing but take from her and her family—who would only act for his own advantage. A man who would continue to do nothing for his children—and she had allowed it. She wondered how many of those she loved had paid the ultimate price simply because they irritated him. Worse, how many life-forces had he stolen to further his own schemes? Her father? Uther Pendragon? Her mother?
She felt a new-found determination spreading through her: a sense of force of will she had never believed could be in her. She knew she had a responsibility to those she loved, a responsibility to stop the monster. Now understanding how he viewed her, she realized that he feared nothing from her…a dangerous miscalculation.
She waited until she heard him snore, the sign that he had entered a deep sleep. With a clear conscience, she pulled her dagger out of its sheath, stepping towards his bed to watch him sleep. With no visible expression, she felt for the sharpness of her dagger’s blade. Satisfied, she quickly drew her blade across his throat, severing the arteries, veins, and windpipe, keeping the blade jammed against the windpipe as he awakened to struggle for breath, his blood spurting violently from his body, staining his bed and the floor around him.
As he lost consciousness for the last time, she let loose of the blade, then smeared blood on both of her hands. She began to scream as if facing a non-existent attacker, placing her hands on Emrys in such a way that it would appear she had tried to save his life.
With what she now knew, she would have no regrets over the death of Emrys. And there would be no serious inquiry into Emrys’s death. She knew full well she would get away with his murder. No one would consider her capable of such an act…and too many would benefit by his death.
She could only hope to begin to counteract his evil, and take comfort in the fact that the energy of his own death, at least, had not gone to further his own schemes.
“Linda?” Rogue jostled her, “your bubble almost vanished.”
“What? Oh…” Linda asked, strengthening her bubble as she turned to look at Rogue. “I got an answer for you…I’d rather know the evil and fight it than let it pass by me in my ignorance—too many people get hurt that way. I learned a hard lesson a long time ago…one I wish I’d learned much sooner. Maybe I see things a little too much in terms of black and white. But at least I see them.”
“Well said,” Rogue complimented.
Kira Jor-El scanned Querl Dox’s formulas, based on the grasp that he alone had of universal physics. She gazed over at Ray Palmer, the Inheritors’ lead scientist, who struggled with many of the same concepts. For not the first time, she appreciated her mother’s genius—Lyla Lerrol’s unique ability to understand Querl Dox’s theorems and present practical application.
She knew she was being hard on herself—Lyla had developed her collaboration with Querl over the span of a decade, had had the time to develop her insightful ways. But now Kira had to perform the same function, with no time to learn and a very frustrated Querl Dox on her hands.
The twins were on their way—Kara Zor-El’s half Kryptonian, half Coluan girls—they were brighter than she was, she knew that. Still, they would likely have the same difficulty deriving practical application from his theorems.
Lost in thought, Ray’s voice caught her by surprise. He had walked towards her from the other side of the lab and now sat beside her.
“Kira,” he gently suggested, “I think we’re being too hard on ourselves. We’re trying to put Querl’s theories into operation to solve our problems. But that may be the wrong approach. We know what we have to do to win—we’ve already proved that the theory works. We just need to see if there is anything else that Querl’s theories offer us that we can apply.”
“But he’s given us so much to investigate,” Kira countered, “How do we winnow it down to what will work?”
“We focus on the basic problem,” Ray suggested. “We need to move ships and heroes even more quickly than we’ve ever moved them before. And we need to target mystic anomalies with ship sensors. Finally, we need to be able to jam the Swarm’s mind-control capabilities once we enter the home galaxy. We focus on those problems and look for what might apply.”
“Ah…” a smile crept across Kira’s features. “Now I remember what Mother once said. She actually used very little of Querl’s work. She focused on her problems at hand and what she could find in his theories that might apply. Translating those theorems wasn’t all that easy for her, so she had to know what she was looking for before she researched. Once she grasped that, she could dissect and apply his work.”
“Yes,” Ray offered, nodding, “that sounds like a good approach.”
“Still,” Kira offered, “I really wish she was here.”
“We all do,” Ray comforted, “but you’re making more progress than you realize—even Querl has remarked on that.”
“Thank you, Ray,” Kira breathed in deeply before returning to her work. “Boom Tube dispersion patterns as focused through a neutron star…I wonder. What do you think, Ray? We might be able to increase distance by…”
“Faith?” As the MacLeods headed towards the conference rooms, Karik turned around to gaze at her. “Aren’t you coming?”
“Not yet,” she explained, gazing outside of the vessel. “I need to run a quick errand first. Would you like to join me?”
“Sure,” he offered. “I’ve been a bit too cooped up here. I would love a change of venue. Where to?”
“Avalon…” Faith grinned mischievously before activating her comms. “Donna, this is Faith. I’m going to be a little late for the planning session…”
is Avalon,” Karik Gand remarked as he and Faith landed on a small island not
“Or a couple of them,” Faith agreed as she gazed around the small island. “This universe had the typical Arthurian legend—the same as our home universe. The Morgan of this world is the daughter of Lord Gorlois.”
“You see something?” Karik suggested. “I am seeing very odd energy patterns.”
“Yes…” Faith’s clothing shifted into garb of the Middle Ages. She now wore an emerald dress with no shoes. Her eyes glowed as they walked towards a small hill. “Good Day,” she announced as they slowed, “I believe I am here by invitation.”
“And you are?” An ancient woman appeared from the side of the mountain. She stood tall—taller than Faith, but not as tall as Karik Gand. Her alert eyes took both of them in, quickly dismissing immediate intent of threat.
“The Lady Veridian,” Karik responded quickly, “rightful heir to Pendragon and Avalon.”
“Pendragon and Avalon?” The woman chuckled, “I have my doubts of that.”
“I suppose I would as well,” Faith smiled at Karik with a raised eyebrow. “But he speaks of our world, not this one.” Her signet ring flashed, the sword now in her hand with the Pendragon crest upon the hilt. “In a past life, I was Morgan Pendragon, Queen of Avalon before I was Queen of Britain. I would have approximately been your counterpart, I believe. In this life, I remain the blood heir to Pendragon of my Earth.”
“Indeed,” an elderly man’s voice approached from within the cave. “Our apologies…my runes showed the re-emergence of the House of Pendragon. We were seeking the rightful heir.”
“That would explain the invitation,” Faith smiled knowingly. “I wish you well in your search. You may wish to begin with the Sentinel, the resistance leader of this galaxy. He is the counterpart to my father—source of my birthright. And in that first world, he was Uther Pendragon.” She glanced thoughtfully at them. “When did you first see an indication that an appropriate heir had become available?”
But as she spoke those words, she realized that she spoke to no one—the other three had frozen in place. No other sounds reached her; Faith knew she was outside of time.
“A single pebble,” she heard a woman’s voice and turned towards it. She faced a strongly built woman with a bow in her hand and a quiver of arrows across her shoulder. “A single pebble cast into the wind…” Faith knew the woman to be the goddess Artemis, but the resemblance to Lyla Lerrol could not be denied.
“Lyla,” Faith countered quickly, “is my dear friend Lyla an aspect of you?”
“In a way, Morgan,” Artemis replied gently, “she has a gift of my power as several more of your friends have been gifted by my fellow Olympians.”
“Alan, Jay, Mary, among others,” Faith agreed. “But I am no longer Morgan. My soul left that mortal shell so long ago.”
“So much you do not understand, do not remember,” Artemis sighed sympathetically, “so much even we did not remember until recently—so much danger hidden from us, even here.”
“No wonder—this galaxy has been on the brink of extinction for some time,” Faith retracted her blade back into its ring form as she gazed at the goddess, “how could you focus elsewhere, especially with so many of the gods in this pantheon killed or disabled? I wish I understood why the Terran gods were attacked so directly, when that same approach was not used on other worlds.”
“Because we were such easy targets,” Artemis admitted, “and one of our own was so easily co-opted. My brother Ares saw glory in the war and an opportunity for power. His dream was realized, but now even he no longer benefits from it.” She shook her head regretfully. “But I have allowed the conversation to drift, Lady Pendragon. You need to know that those Emrys has recently taken from us must be reclaimed. More, if Chasity Hudson enters the realms beyond while still alive, there will be consequences. Her life-energy derives from the Wasteland, while her physical form is of Otherverse.”
“Morgan,” Faith heard the voice of the Kryptonian goddess Lorra, “Chasity is as much of Krypton as Terra. She must remain in the Realms for the Living or the Wasteland will fall to Emrys much more quickly than it should.”
“Please understand,” Artemis spoke once again, showing no surprise at the appearance of Lorra of Krypton, “the key to controlling Emrys is to ensure he cannot force universes to fall before their time, so that he will not be able to add too quickly to his power. An undue surge of power will greatly increase his ability to menace the worlds of the living.”
“Daughter,” Lorra suggested, “do not alert Chasity to her situation. That would cause complications for my…counterparts. But do not send Chasity home or keep her out of the action. And do not allow her to leave this realm except to return to her own.”
“Thank you for the warning,” Faith inclined her head. “Is there anything else you can tell me?”
“Yes,” Lorra replied, “you bear the Pendragon Sword, hand-forged by Rao and others I am not at liberty to name. It will suffer no other owner. There is a reason…remember that.”
“I shall.” Faith promised. “Can you tell me what the purpose of the sword is?”
“You will have to rediscover that for yourself,” Lorra smiled confidently. “Remember, daughter, that there have been many who could claim the title of the Champion of Life. In that way, you are not unique. But the manner of your end marked you in a way none had ever been marked before…and as such, you are the bearer of the first talisman of power…but only the first…”
And then they were gone. As Faith felt time begin again, she stepped back towards her previous position, transforming her ring to sword once more.
“When did you first see an indication that an appropriate heir had become available?” She asked as her companions began to move once more.
Donna MacLeod watched the discussion unfold. Theorems of quantum stars, battle formations—too much, too much, too scattered. Forty team members from the various planning teams gathered together. She noted that neither Faith nor the Fleet Admiral, Argus Tui, were present, both likely avoiding the session to allow for free discussion at the working level. That left an apparent power vacuum, with Querl Dox attempting to explain his complex theorems, while the rest of the team struggled to keep up.
Tempers began to flare as the stress of the pace and the enormity of the mission added to the burden. Finally, Duncan MacLeod rose from his seat, stepping towards the front of the room.
agree on a framework for this discussion, shall we?”
nodded appreciatively. While
“That was kind of you,” Karik observed as he and Faith rose into the sky, leaving the Islands of Avalon behind.
“They’ve done so well,” Faith remarked, “hiding Avalon from the Kayzik and so many others. Avalon…I shall have to return here someday to see what they’ve done with their young Arthur. I was glad we could help them find him…an orphan, someone who could use a second chance…just like them. I wish I could stay for the meeting.”
“But their Arthur,” Karik explained as they rose through the atmosphere, “not yours. I could see that in your eyes.”
“Yes,” Faith agreed. “Karik, I don’t think we will find him…not in this lifetime.” She shook her head sadly. “I hope I am wrong.”
“Would Arthur understand the stars?” Karik suggested. “What would his place be in our reality? Would you simply step down and expect the stars to accept him as your replacement?”
“I suppose not,” Faith observed, “but it is a lovely fantasy.” She shook her head, again. “Karik, I have to tell you that something else happened down there…”
“What,” he chuckled, “you were visited by someone besides Lorra and Artemis?”
“How did you…” She began to ask.
“I think Lorra wanted me to remember,” Karik explained. “We can both keep an eye on you-know-who.”
“Good,” her expression shone with relief, “I would appreciate that.”
“No problem,” he promised. But now I know even more about that sword…forged by Rao? And the Goddess Lorra calls you daughter? Now I am certain, Beloved. We have been placed here. And our reward is that we have been placed together.
I suspect the nature of that sword. And if I am correct, I dare tell no one, not even you, for your own safety.
We will be meeting Emrys soon, I fear. All Hell will break loose when we do. I just wonder if it will break apart as well.
It was a fairly small set of quarters, the quarters in the Lair that had been hers and had been kept by the Sentinel for her visits. A blonde-haired Lannie Kyle stood in the doorway of the room, with Wally West at her side.
“I remember the first time I saw this place,” Lannie explained. “I was known as Alanna then. My mother had breathed her last on the same day I first met Alan Scott. My poor Mother…”
“I can’t pretend to know how you feel,” Wally comforted. “I learned of my parents’ death while I was Lex Luthor’s ‘guest’.”
“I loved my mother,” Lannie smiled, gazing at him, “I suppose I was so very much like her…I was her clone. We both had blue skin and black hair…the only ones on this world like that. After my father died, she raised me alone. I miss her so much.”
Wally held her more tightly, not speaking, waiting for her words.
“She protected Linda by hiding her from an ancient evil that stalked my father’s family.” Lannie shook her head. “I did not know I had a sister until more than a year after my Mother’s death. Poor Linda…she only met our parents once…a special meeting well after their deaths.”
“I remember the story,” Wally related. “Ares was after the cosmic key. Fortunately he did not get it. But Linda met your folks on another plane of existence before returning here. I am sorry you could not have been there.”
“Me too,” Lannie agreed. “Everything my mother dreamed of has come true…but she did not live to see it.” She stepped into the room, sitting on the bed and patting on the bed beside her. “I was so horrible to the Sentinel and he was so patient even though he had so much to adapt to himself. He’s had to do so much.”
She put a hand up to her face, suddenly fighting back tears, the rage.
“And now at the moment of his greatest triumph, the fates have stolen his true love. I swear, Wally, we are going to find her, as soon as we can.”
“We’ll all help,” Wally assured her. “You have a team from several universes just waiting to help.”
“I appreciate that, Wally, it’s just…” The beeping of her comms device distracted her. “Lannie Kyle.”
“Lannie, this is Donna. The planning team is done and ready to present. Alan wants you up here as soon as you can get here.”
“Coming,” Lannie agreed, “I’ll be there shortly.”
“Go,” Wally urged, “they need you now and we have all the time in the world.”
“When this is all over,” Lannie gazed directly into his eyes, “I want a big wedding. I’ve earned it, I deserve it. And I won’t take no for an answer.”
“All right,” Wally agreed with a grin, “I’ll be happy to watch you coming down the aisle.”
“You better!” She kissed him before shifting to her powered form and vanishing, flashing through the Lair and into the heavens.
I wonder who will walk you down the aisle, Wally mused, what a pretty bride you will be.
MacLeod stood in the center of the room, facing Alan Scott, who sat with Faith
Scott and Admiral Argus Tui to his right and Kara Zor-El and Lannie Kyle to his
left. The remainder of the planning team
sat along the right and left sides of the room.
Holograms floated in the air behind
what the basic strategy must be,”
Alan smiled ruefully.
“You’re suggesting that we use the fleet to sever the Kayzik home Galaxy from all of its nearby galaxies—effectively ending the immediate threat to most of the universe.”
Alan nodded, thoughtfully, gazing at the hologram intently.
“Do we have the resources to pull this off, and can we get them there in time?”
“We have the resources,” Admiral Tui answered. “Now that the transporter system works relatively well across this galaxy, I would estimate that we need to hold one squadron in reserve in case the Kayzik find another route into this galaxy. That squadron would continue rescue work while the bulk of the fleet makes the journey to the Kayzik home worlds. We would have more than enough ships to launch this offensive, as well as another operation we would like to discuss.”
“Another operation?” Alan queried. Faith nodded at the Admiral before standing.
“I asked for a plan,” she admitted, flashing a hologram of the Garjan Galactic Cloud, “to safeguard Dega Five with minimal resources. If we begin our operation while the main fleet is in transit, it will divert swarm attention, not to mention add significant confusion to the mix.”
“We should discuss that operation in private,” Alan informed, “after the briefing is complete.”
“Agreed,” Faith inclined her head before turning to Kira Jor-El. “Kira has made interesting use of Querl’s energy theorems. Kira, this would be a good time to explain the theorems as they apply in this universe, along with the proof of concept.”
“Glad to,” Kira stood, activating a hologram. “This is how we are going to move the fleet farther and faster than we ever thought possible.” She brought up a hologram of the Milky Way Galaxy. “This is an X-Ray star…”
The room seemed far too empty after the planning team had departed, leaving only Faith, Lannie, Kara Zor-El, and Admiral Tui standing in the room with Alan to provide counsel for his final decision.
And then the room appeared empty—Alan, Faith, and Lannie combined their powers to take the small group out of real space. Faith pursed her lips before speaking.
“The gods have certainly been active in our lives recently,” she growled. “Karik and I encountered Lorra of Krypton and Artemis while at Avalon this afternoon. They informed us that we must reclaim our people who have been stolen into the afterworld.”
“Both Lyla and Elise?” Kara questioned.
“That would explain a lot,” Alan crossed his arms, glancing at Faith with raised eyebrow. “I received a telepathic message from Elise this morning. The Starheart confirmed it was real.” He raised his hand in answer to their unspoken questions. “She claims to be fine, and in no immediate danger. She believes she is the guest of Emrys, or whatever he has become.”
“You people make serious enemies,” Kara shook her head, glancing at Faith. “He’s had billions of years to let go.”
“He probably didn’t go looking for us,” Faith recounted. “It may be the other way around. Karik posited that we have been aimed at him. Of course, now that we have reached critical mass, he has certainly taken notice of us.”
“What else did they tell you?” Alan probed. “Anything pertinent?”
“Yes…” Faith added. “Chasity Hudson is one of ours, even if she does not remember that. But she is also part of the soul of the Otherverse—if she dies here, Future Otherverse may die with her.”
“Paradox,” Kara mused, “she is tied to Paradox, a friend who is tied to the soul of Otherverse. That would explain it. I would be tempted to send her back, but I suspect that Lorra told you not to rock the boat.”
“Essentially, yes,” Faith agreed. “She also suggested that my sword was a talisman of some sort. It was the first, but not the only one, created.”
“I wonder…” Alan pondered. “Lannie, remember the Cosmic Key we used to toss Ares and company out of the Continuum at the end of the battle for Lyla’s family? What we called ‘The Search for Kal-El’?”
“How could I forget,” Lannie shivered. “Selina and I carried the two halves of the key within us. It got our fathers killed. Our great-grandfather had split it in two to hide it from Ares and hid half in each of them. When they died, it passed to Selina and me. Selina knew what it was…I did not.”
of great power,” Alan mused, “I wonder what
question,” Kent Nelson’s voice joined them in their bubble as the Shazam Wizard
appeared with Steve Rogers at his side.
In response, Faith raised her left hand, holding it away from her body. The key shifted its shielding, refocusing towards Faith’s ring.
And then, in a flash, the cosmic key vanished.
“What happened?” Steve asked as a look of determination crossed Lannie’s features and she vanished.
“Hopefully, we’ll soon find out.” Alan suggested.
“No,” she replied, “it has not. It offers to perform certain functions and provides certain augmentations to my internal power in the afterworlds, but otherwise seems content simply to be where it is. I have learned that it was hand-forged by Rao and his Allies, but that is all I know of it.”
suspect its counterparts are not so benign,”
“You might want to inspect Donna MacLeod’s sword as well. It has some very interesting properties. I do not believe that it began life as Excalibur.”
“All well and good, but we’ve drifted off subject. Faith, tell me about Dega Five.”
“Glad to,” she agreed. “Lannie discovered devices that are jamming the Guardians’ thoughts. We know that they are powered though portals from the Bleed. We know we have to disable those devices to allow the Guardians to fully react to what is at hand. Those devices are not far from Dega Five.”
“So,” Alan deduced, “you plan to shut down the devices on the other side. Do you have any certainty of success?”
“Unknown,” Faith admitted. “The other alternatives are to take out all of the devices from this side without taking other action, or taking out the devices on this side in addition to attacking their sources of power. There are half a dozen of them in all.”
“I prefer the combination approach,” Alan explained. “Destroy the projectors from this side while taking out their sources of power in the Bleed. I realize that we can’t involve the Oan Green Lanterns in that task until it’s done, but we have enough Kryptonians to do the job. And I think you need to fill out your invasion task force.”
“I will do so,” she agreed. “One of my concerns is that we will not know the full scope of the mission until we are on the other side. We may or may not find a way to our teammates.”
“Wait a minute,” Kara interrupted. “Will their portal provide transit for our team members, or do you have to ‘jump’ into the Bleed?”
“Lannie did not see a transport capability,” Faith replied, “she thought we would have to jump under our own power. That’s why I was looking for a small team at most. We’re going to be jumping into the Bleed and I don’t know how far in.”
“In the meantime,” Admiral Tui interrupted, “the main fleet will be Boom-Tubing to the Kayzik home galaxy. Once we cut the home galaxy off from its child galaxies, we’ll need to plan for the assault on the home worlds. At the same time, the squadron charged with disabling the projectors will first drop off two teams: the first team who will destroy those devices and the second team that will jump into the Bleed. Once the first team completes its mission, the squadron will collect it and jump to the Garjan Cloud, adding to the defenses of Dega Five while the Bleed team completes its mission. The squadron will wait as long as possible before it jumps back to the main fleet.”
“All right,” Alan explained, “the six devices should be destroyed by Steve Rogers, Sam, the twins, Kara Zor-El and Kara Gand. At the same time, Faith jumps with her team—Lannie, Mary, and Donna MacLeod.”
“Why not send a team of Kryptonians over?”
“Mass,” Alan explained, “their invulnerability and strength in part comes from the fact that their bodies are so dense. Since she’ll have to jump, rather than gating between nearby universes, she’ll have to balance weight with power.”
“That will work…” Faith agreed solemnly.
At the peak of the mountain, Cassie Sandsmark Trevor loaded a crossbow and aimed it at a pie-plate hanging from a tree. Donna Kent, the Inheritors’ Wonder Woman, held the crossbow bolts for Cassie as Donna’s Father, Logan, and Collin Denworth watched from a little farther away.
“You’re getting the hang of it!” Donna Kent relayed to Cassie. “It’s a great weapon when you want to send the very best…silently.”
Logan, the Alterverse Wolverine, praised his daughter. Both Father and Daughter bore noticeable
antipodean accents, but neither seemed odd to Collin, who was a native of
Collin grunted noncommittally and turned back to watch the women.
“They are not fond of me,” Collin shrugged, “and I am comfortable with that.”
Collin’s eyes narrowed as he faced the Wolverine.
“I’m not a nice man and I’m no one’s hero,” he growled, “so don’t expect me to get teary-eyed over my past. I won’t. All I’m guilty of is trying to survive in a world gone mad. If I understand your history, then I’m not the only one.”
“No,” the Wolverine pulled a half-smoked cigar out of his pocket and lit it, taking a long draw on it before turning back to Collin. “But then, I never sent others in to do my dirty work.”
did,” Collin admitted, “repeatedly. I
wasn’t raised in the Outback,
were you the first time you killed someone,”
“Six,” Collin replied. “He was four times my size and he had a knife. Patsy MacDonald and I were huddled together on a cold winter night under a blanket in a box at the back end of an alley when he found us. No one we’d ever seen before, but that wasn’t unusual. His eyes had death in them. He wanted what little we had and he was going to take it. But we knew that even if we gave him everything we had, he would still kill us. One way or another, he was going to leave us dead.”
“You don’t know that,” Wolverine argued, “he might have settled for your box and your blanket.”
“No,” Collin disagreed. “He would have killed us just to dispense with witnesses. We’d seen that look before. There are men who do things to children that should not be done…he had that look in his eyes.”
“He went for Patsy first, ignoring me. I could have run, I suppose, but I did not. Instead, I found a crowbar and I swung it into the back of his head.” Collin’s eyes darkened. “The sight of his exposed brains repulsed both of us. But instead of doing the Christian thing and burying him, we stripped his clothes and knife and moved our box away from him. Wasn’t long after that, the gangs recruited us. For the first time, we had food in our bellies, warm clothes, and a safe place to sleep. Trouble was, the other gangs wanted what we had: our territories, our supplies, our weapons. And so it went, the never-ending gang wars. And those of us who showed leadership skills gained increasing responsibility…I won’t apologize for that.”
“Perhaps,” Collin, annoyed, replied flippantly, “I’m simply doing my best to lead her astray, to the dark side. Perhaps I’m hoping she can introduce to me to King Arthur, so I can chop his head off and use it for a bowling ball. Or perhaps I’m just…”
of light blinded
“What?” He heard Collin speak as Cassie and Donna ran towards him, “what are you? What do you want?”
An odd mechanical voice rang in his ears.
“You must be reclaimed.”
“Cosmic Key showed up here!” Lannie Kyle’s voice approached. “Wally! I need you now!”
“Too late…” Donna called. “He’s gone…”
“Collin?” Cassie choked as she gazed at empty air. “Where did that thing take Collin?”
Alan floated in the air, gazing over the legion of Superheroes he had chartered to save his universe: the Kryptonians: Kara and Scooter Gand, Kira Jor-El and young Kal-El, Kara Zor-El, the twins, two versions of Krypto, and Sam Kent. The Amazons: Diana of Themyscira, Donna Troy Kent, and Cassie Sandsmark Trevor. One Daxamite: Mondra Lessis, the Mon-L of Alterverse. The mystic powerhouses: Kent Nelson, Veridian, Mary Marvel, Steve Rogers—the IV Green Lantern, Dr. Fate—Jeffrey Nelson, and Helena Wayne, the Raven. The three members of his Lair team, Garja Jenna, Jerik, and Selina Kyle Wayne stood off to one side. Alan could not help but chuckle at the looks Selina gave Helena, who in her full Raven gear presented Selina with a view of her own daughter’s future.
The two Cosmic-powered Multiverse Sentinels stood off to the far side of the group, just behind Lannie Kyle, Wally West, Dawn Allen, Jay Garrick and Iris Grayson. Lannie stood in her human form, eyeing Alan intently. Alan knew she had not been able to track Collin Denworth into the Bleed and felt more than a bit frustrated by that.
None of the Alterverse Oan Green Lanterns had been part of his planning; Alan had asked all the Alterverse Oan Green Lanterns detailed to him to continue their work in the Milky Way Galaxy. He did not doubt their competence, but he could not afford to have any Alterverse Oan signaling devices on the battlefield, where they could be easily tracked—at least not yet.
Faith worried him. The Fleet Warlord, she had requested a mission far away from the bulk of the fleet. Not only that, but she had offered no resistance to his tailoring of her mission. With that thought in mind, he had chosen teammates for her that could work closely with her, but could also survive alone without her, even in deep space, until help arrived.
The goddesses had referred to her as Morgan Pendragon. That had been true in their previous life, but not necessarily in this one. That was the ace in the hole…he hoped it would be enough.
She was no longer Morgan Pendragon, no more than she was the Helena Wayne of a long-ago Earth 2, firing crossbow bolts to anchor the lines she used to swing from building to building. Alan considered the image oddly comforting until a question came to his mind. What had happened to the crossbow at the end of time? Prior to the rebirth of the Continuum? Alan shivered involuntarily—if Faith’s sword did what he now suspected, it indeed had quite a history.
Shaking his head, he gazed back down at the Karas as they listened to the twins discussing Colu. After a moment, he began to speak.
“Thank you everyone for your continued efforts on our behalf. I have considered the plans brought to me. The mission is approved for T minus two hours, on my mark. Godspeed, everyone.”
“I am Allura Zor-El of the world of Krypton of our universe,” the blond-haired woman explained to the wizard and the shadow. “The paths of our loved ones have crossed and now the master of this realm has attacked them because of it. They are trapped in this realm, even though they still live.”
“What?” The shadow argued, “that is impossible.”
“Apparently not,” Allura disagreed. “He has my daughter, Lyla—Kara Zor-El. She remains unconscious, but still alive.” Allura gazed into the shadow’s eyes. “He has also claimed your mother, Daria Scott.”
“My mother,” the shadow argued, “died before I was born. I did not even meet my father, Alan Scott, until the day of my death. And I died of old age.”
The shadow solidified completely. Her dark grey hair caressed the dark blue skin of her shoulders. Her face reflected her years—she had not been a young woman and did not appear so now. Edmund appeared much younger than she did, but then she had survived him by fifteen years. Allura, on the other hand, appeared to be in her late thirties. But then, she was not Terran and would age differently.
“Molly Scott,” Allura charged, “mother of Alanna Scott Kyle and Linda Scott Kyle, or as they are known to the world of the living, the Seeker and Jade. Even now the dark master of this realm moves to destroy our universe. But now, others have entered the game and so must we.”
“Really?” Molly questioned, “and how do we do that?”
“Once freed of the restrictions of this part of the realm, we would manifest our full powers,” Allura pointed into the distance. “As it stands, you know where the exit is and can reach it, but cannot get through it. I cannot reach it, but I could get through it once transported there.”
“Agreed,” Edmund nodded his head. “We can get you there. If you can get the door open, we can go forward.”
“I have to ask,” Molly pressed, “we are all just shells of our mortal selves, fading until we are no more. What drives you so?”
“I am the last of my Krypton in these realms,” Allura explained, an earnest expression on her countenance, “almost the last of my kind. Lyla is my daughter, but a child I did not acknowledge for many years. By helping her now, I can make up just a little for what I did not do for her during her life.”
“How did you not acknowledge her?” Edmund asked.
“On Krypton, children are borne of genetic manipulation and artificial wombs,” Allura explained. “Each married couple gets a pair of twins and one pair of twins only—Zero population growth. The only exceptions are children created illegally and replacements for a deceased twin. My children were Lara Zor-El and Jor-El.” She shook her head sadly before continuing.
almost lost Lara once. Thankfully, she
recovered. But, without our knowledge,
another child had been spawned to replace her.
I did not know who she was until much later. Lyla Lerrol’s last
name is that of a city—she was raised an orphan. But, years later, when she almost died saving
the city of
“Why?” Molly asked. “Why punish her that way?”
“Her DNA had changed as a result of her injury,” Allura explained, “for the first time in millennia, a Kryptonian could leave the planet. Our neighboring planets did not fear us only because we could not leave our world—we were tied to it. But now, one of us could. So, before she could learn of her circumstances, she was banned from space-flight, stripped of her position and retired. Not long after, she became a fair actress. My husband encouraged her to take the name ‘Kara Zor-El’ for her acting career—a very generous gift—other actors took the names of the great houses at their peril. But still, we could not claim her…not until the very end.”
“How,” Edmund asked with genuine curiosity, “did you know she was yours?”
“She is too much like me,” Allura smiled, “I was the result of an illegal experiment. Even on Krypton, I had enhanced abilities. Here, let me show you.” She stood next to Edmund, reaching under his legs to pick him up.
“Hey!” He protested as she lifted him off the ground and jumped high into the air, with Molly following. He gazed far down to the ground, then turned back at Allura. “How far?”
“About a quarter mile at a jump,” Allura explained. “I have some enhanced speed, but I can’t actually fly. Hold on, this will get bumpy.” She landed, immediately pushing off for another jump.
“The portal,” Molly explained, “the portal is over there, about a half mile up.”
“You jump,” Edmund offered, “I’ll create two platforms for you to jump onto.”
“Got it,” Allura agreed as she landed once more before jumping in the direction Molly indicated. As Molly pointed, Edmund created a magical platform for Allura to land on. She did, holding a quarter of a mile into the air.
“Over there,” Molly pointed towards a gap another half mile into the air. She flew up halfway, motioning Edmund to create another platform. As he did, Allura jumped for it, landing easily. “Once more,” Molly flew for the portal, floating seemingly without support. Allura easily jumped to the portal. The three of them stood on the lip of it as Allura opened it easily. She gestured to them to enter, but did not follow.
“Go on,” Allura explained. “You’ll know what to do. And when you find them, please tell Lyla that her mother loves her.”
“Aren’t you coming with us?” Molly asked. “We don’t have your knowledge, your understanding.”
“No,” Allura added gently, “where you are going, I cannot follow. I have used the last of my strength, my substance. I can hear Zor-El calling for me…”
And they watched her fade, closing the portal behind them. Then they knew they were alone.
“What do you think?” Edmund asked Molly.
“I don’t know,” Molly answered. “But I sense she is gone from here…she has moved on.”
“Weird,” Edmund observed, gazing at her.
“I can’t disagree,” Molly shifted to shadow form, hovering above him while eyeing him.
“You’re looking a little younger,” Edmund explained. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“Watch it, Buster!” She chided with good humor.
Alan stood on the bridge of the Defiant, the light cruiser that would serve as the flagship for the upcoming battles. The Doiby Dickles, too large to travel via Boom Tube gate, would remain in orbit above Earth, protecting the planet and supervising the ships that would remain to protect the Milky Way Galaxy. Alan watched as the Defiant generated a Gate, leading its squadron of Light Cruisers and Destroyers to the next jump point. He knew that thousands upon thousands of ships would be making similar jumps, each beginning the day-long journey to the Kayzik home galaxy. This was a trip that normally would have taken months at the top end the Shantar could move materiel, but Boom-Tube technology, combined with Kira Jor-El’s more recent theories would push the trip to less than a day.
Her adaptations to Querl Dox’s theorems had been validated and cross-checked by Kara Zor-El’s twins. Maps of the known universe provided the details of the locations of the X-Ray stars that could be tapped to accelerate their journey. The Navigation consoles had the maps and would do the work of piloting the ships to the congregation point, far above the Kayzik Home Galaxy, where the fleet would rendezvous with Rogue’s team.
One other squadron had jumped in a different direction; Faith’s escort squadron, whose targets would be the Kayzik attacking the Garjan Cloud, while its passengers would target the devices that overwhelmed the guardians’ consciousness.
This was it…the final campaign for his universe had begun. And nothing would ever be the same again.
Alan thought once more of Elise before Duncan MacLeod called him aside.
End—Operation Alterverse, Part 4
-- Story written and copyrighted (C) 2009 by Eldric
-- and may not be reprinted without permission.
-- Otherverse and Multiverse, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
-- are original creations of Dylan Clearbrook.
-- Alterverse and The Inheritors and their associated universes, as depicted in the
-- Continuum Worlds, are the original creations of Eldric.
-- The Realm and Shadowverse, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
-- are original creations of John P. and Jason G respectively.
-- Some characters in Continuum Worlds stories are original
-- creations of Dylan Clearbrook, Michael Liebhart,
-- Jake H., Jason Froikin, Eldric, Jason G, or Andrew Shields and may not
-- be used without express permission of the respective author
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