“Why Molly and Linda?” Edmund asked Kent Nelson as they monitored the Cosmos.
“There…” Kent interrupted, “see that? Those are shadow creatures…see the mystic signatures?”
“Yes,” Edmund confirmed, squinting at the images in the hologram. “Nasty little critters…didn’t leave much behind on that planet. Do you know anything about this probability?”
“I don’t,” Kent admitted, “and I don’t know why they were attacked. But I want to try to track the shadows back to their origins, so we can reconnoiter. Any information is better than what I have now.”
“Over there,” Edmund pointed. “The shadow creature just vanished. Can we follow?”
Kent concentrated, manipulating his hologram.
“No, I can’t see in. But I have an entry portal, and that’s more than I’ve had. It should be a usable point of entry for Molly and Linda.”
“You didn’t answer my earlier question,” Edmund pressed. “Why Molly and Linda?”
“Am I looking for opportunities to put them together?” Kent revealed, “sure…I see a lot of both of you in her. But they are the right mix for this mission. Molly has years and years of stealth operations behind her. Linda knows what we’re looking for; she’ll know what’s important.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Edmund changed the topic, his brow showing his concern, “why does Linda speak the way she does? Is it to keep people from figuring out how bright she really is?”
“You can thank the Danvers for that,” Kent’s expression displayed rare regret. “Linda suffered tremendously in their care. The Kayzik glamour so affected their minds that Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, took her into the Underworld to protect her from their further physical and mental cruelty.”
“I did not even suspect…” Edmund shook his head sadly.
“Hades did not let her return to the mortal world until he knew Alan would be here to protect her.” Kent explained. “Hades knew Linda had a role to play, even if he did not know all of it. Linda had a nice scar at the top of her head, right above Broca’s area of the brain that governs speech. She struggles to speak at times, but that doesn’t mean her mind is missing a damned thing. But that’s another reason Linda has abandonment issues.”
“Has anyone tried to help her?” Edmund asked.
“Lyla used her power to heal the physical damage,” Kent confided, “but the speech patterns are set…the problem lasted for too long.”
“And we all expect so much of her…” Edmund took in a deep breath.
“Don’t make the mistake of pitying her,” Kent warned. “She doesn’t need it. Speech problems or no, her life has become one grand adventure and she no longer worries what people think of her. She knows she’s loved, but the two of you do frustrate her. Just remember that despite her appearance she really is an adult. She doesn’t need your parental oversight. Offer her your friendship instead and you’ll have a ball with her.”
“You’re ruining your reputation, Kent,” Edmund noted, “you’re acting like you care about your champions.”
“I may be a manipulative bastard,” Kent replied, “but I’m not a complete psychopath. I care about my champions first of all, because they are the people who have already earned my respect.”
“Catch me if you can!” Linda Kyle taunted her parents and Kent Nelson. BAMF! She disappeared, reappearing across the room, the smell of brimstone wafting across the room.
BAMF! Edmund disappeared, appearing behind her.
“Boo!” He shocked Linda and surprised Kent.
“Hey!” Linda reacted, turning to gaze at Edmund behind her.
“Take a lesson, Kiddo,” Edmund advised. “You’re my kid, too.”
“Huh,” Linda replied, failing to hide a slight smile. “Can you do demon?”
“Do you really want me to try?” Edmund countered.
“Probably best not…” Linda admitted, grinning. She gazed back at Molly. “You ready to go?”
“Why not?” Molly replied sardonically. “I’ve been to Hell with lots of demons. Traveling with only one demoness should be a refreshing change of pace!”
“Huh?” Linda stared back at her mother, before grinning slightly, as Molly approached.
“I think you finally got her,” Kent chuckled.
“About damned time,” Molly growled humorously as she grabbed Linda. Then the two of them vanished into a shadow, which then appeared to dissipate.
Molly flashed into the probability Kent targeted. Fortunately, that probability had a direct entry from the Rock of Eternity, saving Molly from having to discover a more direct route or to make use of the Great Portal.
Stepping out onto an Earth that looked so different from Alterverse, Molly allowed Linda to step out of her shields. Molly had chosen an uninhabited area of North America. In this particular world, there were few population centers. Only scattered tribes of Indians roamed the North American continent.
“Yep, this is a newer Earth than ours,” Linda noted, seemingly drawing into herself. “Not a whole lotta people.”
“What’s with the Green Glow?” Molly asked as she spotted a flicker of Linda’s power around them.”
“We got germs, bacteria, viruses, and other things that might not be so good for the natives here,” Linda explained. “Don’t wanna do more harm than good. I wanna make a couple a’ stops before we follow the shadows…I wanna know if the shadows have attacked Krypton or Daxam.”
“I’ve heard the names,” Molly admitted. “Lyla’s family is from Krypton, but Kira grew up on Daxam?”
“Yeah…” Linda confirmed. “The House of El on Krypton makes lotsa friends and enemies. I know we gotta stay hidden, but if Krypton’s been hit, we know something fears the House of El. An’ I gotta problem if they’ve been hit.”
“Alright,” Molly agreed.
“Wish I could use my powers to do something when we get there,” Linda fumed, “but I think they’ll be lookin’ for us.”
“Damn,” Linda cursed as they gazed down at the surface of Krypton. “This isn’t good…that’s supposed to be Kandor down there.” Linda pointed down to the wreckage of what had been a city. Heavy explosives had taken down the buildings, the star ports, the elevated roadways. Bodies lay out in the streets, with no one to bury them.
“We’ve got company,” Molly warned Linda, pointing to other approaching shadows. She faded farther from view, minimizing their exposure.
“I wish I coulda done something,” Linda shook her head. “A few years ago, I woulda tried. I still kinda think I’m a coward for not take’n ‘em on. But this is a whole lot bigger than one battle. We gotta go while the portal’s open.”
“Sounds wise,” Molly agreed. “I wish we could help that world, too.”
“We gotta know what’s on the other side o’ the Portal,” Linda implored as Molly headed towards the source of the shadow warriors. “Wish I could send feelers, but we gotta stay hidden…why do I think I’m gonna be where my Starheart can’t reach me?”
“Probably because you are,” Molly agreed. “Hey, what’s that?” She pointed to an approaching emerald glow.
“Green Lanterns,” Linda announced with pride. The Lanterns exited hyperspace, taking on the shadow warriors. The shadow warriors chose to depart, not staying to take on the increasing number of Green Lanterns. “Hooray for the home team! But now we gotta make sure we can follow the shadow warriors home. They’re gonna do everything they can to hide ‘til they’re gone.”
“Got one,” Molly jumped to Hyperspace.
“Any idea where we are?” Molly asked as they left Hyperspace just outside a large solar system surrounding a yellow sun.
“Pretty sure I know,” Linda relayed, “gotta wonder why Kent didn’t say anything, though. This makes things a lot worse.”
“Where are we?”
“That’s Oa,” Linda explained, pointing to a large world. “Home of the Guardians of the Universe. I could stop there an’ get a free meal,” she smiled. “This universe still got hope. But if the portal opens on another Oa, that one don’t.”
Molly increased her speed, still following the shadow warriors, still keeping them hidden, if just barely as they approached the portal.
“Both sexes,” Molly observed. “Equal opportunity employment of the worst kind!”
“Hey!” Linda complained, “You’re holdin’ me kinda tight.”
“Not nearly as tight as I want to…” Molly admitted before she plunged into the portal. And they were gone.
“I’m seeing another incursion of Shadow Creatures,” Edmund entered Kent Nelson’s study. “Don’t know if you are ready to act.”
“Let me see what you see,” Kent followed Edmund towards the hologram that displayed the incursion. “This is a problem…one of the universes we track…a place called the Wasteland. “Hmm…”
“What was that?” Edmund asked. “Felt almost like an alarm.”
“It was,” Kent admitted. “Good news for a change. I can see into the Multiverse. Looks like the teams are about to unite…good.”
“Good?” Edmund questioned.
“Yes,” Kent assured with a grin. “I have one of my best agents in the middle of this and no one suspects who she is. But now I need to pull in all of Linda’s teammates from the Sorority—that won’t make Kara Zor-El happy, because I’m going to snatch her twins.”
“Is that wise?” Edmund asked.
“Probably not, but that team has the most experience with the Wasteland. These are Linda’s buddies. I wish she were here to send with them, but even without her, that team is very capable…very bright young women.”
“I hope you are right.”
“Me too,” Kent frowned as he watched the Wasteland incursion. “This is bad…there seems to be a conflict between the Manhunters and the Green Lantern Corps of that universe. That’s two different fronts for the Corps at once. The Sorority has friends in that Green Lantern Corps.”
“Manhunters?” Edmund prodded. “What are they?”
“The Manhunters are androids created by the Guardians of the Universe to enforce order,” Kent explained, bringing up a hologram of a typical Manhunter android. “They proved too unstable and unable to make the judgment calls necessary to know when to stop enforcing order. In many universes, they destroyed an entire sector of space. The Guardians of the Universe deactivated them prior to chartering the Green Lantern Corps. Occasionally, they reactivate and cause problems for the Corps. The timing on this little escapade could not be worse.”
“But still, you need to know, either way, since that is a friendly probability.” Edmund suggested.
“More of interest,” Kent suggested, “it was Chasity Hudson’s responsibility for a while. Carol Danvers, the Warbird, originated in that probability, so we have a continuing obligation to her as an operative.”
“She has my sympathy,” Edmund offered, “I hope that Earth is the least of their targets.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Kent glowered.
(Continued in Sorority: Ragnarook)
“Oh my,” Molly exclaimed as they exited the portal, moving closer to the yellow sun that greeted them. She loosened her grip on Linda, who turned her attention to the sun’s solar system.
“That had ta be Oa,” Linda deduced as they got closer to the planet. “Dollars ta donuts the shadow warriors goin’ through here to an Antimatter Universe.”
“We’ve been lucky they haven’t seen us so far,” Molly concluded. “I don’t know if our luck will continue to hold.”
“Gotta simple theory,” Linda offered as they arrived at the shattered remains of what had been Oa, “they’re just not looking for us...got no reason to as long as we stay out of their way.”
“Not really the most observant bunch of jokers,” Molly considered, floating down through the asteroid belt.
“Looks like the place blew up a long time ago…” Linda sensed as they got closer. “Need ta use just a trace of my power, see what I can sniff out.”
“That’s a bit risky,” Molly counseled. “You could be tracked. Maybe on the way out?”
Linda drew a deep breath, gazing at the Oan moon. Shadow warriors seemed to be bursting forth, traveling just outside the moon’s orbit, then vanishing again.
“Wonder how many portals go through this universe into others,” Linda gazed into the distance. “Yep, more of ‘em.”
“Really don’t like being here, kiddo.”
“Wish I had a coin to flip,” Linda shook her head. “Danger is that all hell might break loose on the next stop an’ we might not get a chance ta stop here. We might be lookin’ for any available portal outta here.”
“Let’s go to Earth,” Molly suggested. “If we don’t find anything, Krypton.”
Linda raised an eyebrow before nodding her agreement.
“Too much right with that idea…” She mumbled, not seeing Molly’s smile.
“Milky Way Galaxy looks so different…everything looks so different,” Linda announced. “I’ve seen lots of ‘em and they look pretty much the same as far as the stars go. But there ain’t much here…whole galaxy devastated.” Linda glanced around as they traveled. “Our sun is only 5 billion years old…hmmm…legend has it that Krona of Oa opened the door to the Dawn of Time about ten billion years ago. If something big and ugly got out…I wonder if Krona fell through the damned window…be just my luck.”
“None of this makes sense,” Molly groused as they approached Earth’s solar system. “Not here at all…”
“No surprise,” Linda nodded. “Nothin’ at the Dawn of Time to stop the Anti-Monitor…he probably figured out that some positive matter had to continue to exist, otherwise his universe couldn’t. Shadow warriors are his specialty.”
“You’re sure making a lot of assumptions,” Molly warned.
“An’ my power of knowing right and wrong isn’t guaranteed here.” Linda agreed. “But I gotta go with what makes sense. An’ we gotta go to Qward next.”
“Before we do, let’s scout for exits out of this probability that are closer to the portal to the negative universe. We might have to jump fast.”
“Huh…” Linda acknowledged. “Not so bad for a newbie!”
“I think that was supposed to be a compliment,” Molly responded.
“My bad,” Linda chuckled, “real good for your first scouting mission. I know where a lotta my brains come from.”
“Finally…” Molly muttered.
“I feel like hamburger meat,” Linda complained as she and Molly exited the portal into the negative universe.
“I don’t feel much better,” Molly agreed, “but at least we made it. Crap…traffic is heavy here. I’m going to circle back behind the portal…should provide more cover.”
“…thought I was the one with the toilet mouth,” Linda needled as Molly repositioned them.
“Sorry to shatter your illusions, dearie,” Molly rebutted. “I taught your sister how to curse…tried to, anyway.”
“Hah!” Linda chuckled as she gazed down to the planet below. “…filthy ugly world…shadow warriors pouring out of it…constant traffic to and fro.”
“I feel like shit,” Molly sighed. “I felt better, dead.”
“…let’s get away from this world…” Linda suggested. “Probably called Qward. Sure hope we don’t run into an Anti-Monitor and his buddies.”
“I think that was Krypton…still not used to mirror image navigation,” Linda remarked. “Just another asteroid belt, now.”
“Should we try for Earth’s equivalent?” Molly asked.
“Daxam,” Linda considered. “I gotta know if shadow creatures come off that world. …curious about Earth, sure, but a Daxamite shadow creature…we gotta know.”
“Oh crap,” Molly and Linda mouthed in unison as they watched shadow warriors ascend and depart from the surface of a world that mirrored the continents of the Daxam Linda knew.
“Gotta be native to Daxam,” Linda fussed. “Couldn’t survive gravity…”
“Kiddo, I’m not feeling any better,” Molly warned. “I can’t stay in this universe too much longer…it’s doing something to my insides. Might be because of my return from the great beyond.”
Linda gazed at her mother.
“Life force is strong…not weak at all.” Linda responded with concern. “Don’t think it’s a power set change. Lannie’s power set changed as soon as she was cut off from the Portal Universe.”
“Great! I can be a shining angel, too!” Molly enthused sarcastically. “No thanks!”
“Not likely,” Linda pondered. “Lannie was healed by the primordial fire of the Huntress Wood. You and me been touched by it, but not like that. I gotta wonder if you got a powered form we ain’t seen yet, but we’re gonna…”
“Taking off for Qward before that happens,” Molly lifted above the star system, jumping into hyperspace.
“I’m feeling a little better,” Molly admitted as they fell out of hyperspace above the world of Qward. “There is the nearest out if we need one,” she pointed towards a heavily traveled transit route on the moon of the planet.
“Good ta know,” Linda commented.
“I’m up for this if you are,” Molly offered as they gazed down at the planet.
“This Anti-Monitor won the battle at the beginning of time,” Linda commented, “had an awful lot of time to figure out how to cause problems. Gotta know what he’s up to. If we get caught, we run for the portal on the moon.”
“You make it sound so simple,” Molly chided.
“…not,” Linda rebuked, “I’m running on batteries…too far from my Starheart. But I’m betting I can find a source of soul fire, or something’ like it, ta power my other form.”
“Good luck with that…”
“Yeah…” Linda muttered. “We been lucky so far, cause no one is lookin’ for magic users here. We just kind of blend in.”
“And we’re not likely to be that lucky where the big boys live…”
Down they flew towards the planet below, passing by the moon and watching the shadow warriors enter the portal they had spotted.
“Down there,” Molly indicated, “that is probably the ugliest castle I have ever seen. It makes no sense; there is no cohesion to the architecture.”
“Seein’ mystic energy,” Linda warned. “Whaaa…”
“Sorry,” Molly apologized, pointing into the distance. A large male blue-skinned figure with a receding hairline flew off the planet. Shadow warriors followed him as he passed through yet another portal into the positive matter universe.
“Wonder if that was Krona,” Linda muttered. “Bet he really did fall through the damned window into the Dawn of Time…Moni let him live ‘cause he did not think he was worth killing.”
“Don’t have a high opinion of him, do you?” Molly chided.
“…original village idiot…” Linda mumbled.
They moved down towards a large opening in the castle…something like a courtyard, with two huge monoliths in the center. As they closed in on the Courtyard, Linda and Molly realized the monoliths were moving, with smaller beings moving around them.
“Something is wrong with me…” Molly complained as she continued to descend, “worse than before…”
“Hold on…get you out of here,” Linda spoke with concern. They had passed into the planet’s atmosphere…Linda could breathe without using her powers if she had to.
“Nekron!” Molly screamed in shock. “I can feel him as much as see him.”
“He’s pointing to the moon…his portal,” Linda explained, trying to calm her mother.
“I feel my body fighting Nekron’s presence,” Molly warned as her shadow faded, pushing Linda away. “Sorry, baby, I can’t fight this anymore…I love you…” Her consciousness quickly faded and her eyes closed.
Now dead weight, Molly dropped like a rock towards the planet, immediately gaining Nekron’s full attention.
Linda fought her instincts to become Jade, shifting instead into her demonic form and diving towards her mother.
“Mama!” Linda yelled as she approached. “We’re in trouble! Wake up! I need you!”
“A delicious life-force! It will be mine!” Nekron screamed as he flew towards them, blasting necromantic energy at Molly.
“Suck it down!” Linda screamed as she diverted Nekron’s necromantic energy pulse from Molly, firing it back him.
“No…” Molly forced herself to consciousness. Her skin shifted color until it turned absolutely translucent. She aimed her hands towards Nekron. Nothing appeared to happen until Nekron halted in flight.
“Miserable gnat! I felt that!” Nekron bellowed as Linda spotted an oddly colored spot on his skin. He reached for Molly,
“Negative energy pulse,” Linda mumbled as she caught up to her mother, snatching her away from Nekron’s waiting hands. “…what the hell are you doing here, Ugly?” Linda wondered as her leather wings pushed her through the atmosphere, holding tightly to her mother with all her demonic strength.
“You will obey me!” Nekron screamed. “You will do as I say!”
“Stay away from her!” Molly awakened more fully, aiming at him again, as a new spot of color appeared on his skin.
“You will die!” Nekron grabbed at Molly in anger, only to see Molly and Linda vanish.
“Not how I wanted to do this…” Linda mumbled as Jade replaced Demoness and she phased slightly out of phase with reality, taking Molly with her. “No help for it now.” Linda flew towards the moon, aiming for the portal to the positive matter universe. Molly fell into a deep slumber, not rousing again. “Aw, crap,” Linda cursed.
She sensed Nekron firing another energy bolt, dodging it just before she rematerialized, pulling Molly through the portal with her, and emerging on the moon of Oa. The shadow warriors had spotted her, quickly converging on her. But as Nekron began to emerge through the Portal, Linda spotted the other portal the shadow warriors were using to access another, unknown universe.
“Now, my minions!” Nekron bellowed, “take them!”
BAMF! Linda vanished with Molly, reappearing at the other portal and flying through it. The shadow warriors pursued, reaching for her, not realizing they had made a critical error.
“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!” Linda felt energy flowing freely from the Great Portal Starheart, warming her and dramatically increasing her power levels. Shadow warriors screamed in agony as her power ended them. She shone with the brilliance of a sun, forcing the shadow warriors to back away, seeking the darkness, hiding behind the moon of the large planet just below them.
Linda realized that the portal had indeed opened over Oa, but her flame revealed that there were no signs of life on the planet. Automatic Oan communications from the planet below accessed her Alterverse Oan power ring and downloaded the details of the death of the last of the Green Lantern Corps. She would review them when she could…she had more immediate problems; Molly had begun to move again.
“Molly…Mama, are you ok?” Linda tended to the rousing Molly.
“Where are we?” Molly asked, struggling to stay awake.
“We’re in a universe we call the Wasteland,” Linda explained, “good ‘cause the Great Portal opens here an’ I got full power. Bad ‘cause there’s no life on Oa and there should be. An’ people I know on that Earth are in the line of fire.”
“You will not escape me!” They heard the voice of Nekron as he emerged through the Portal. “I have taken this universe and I will take you!”
“Yeah, about that,” Linda retorted. “Hold on, Mama…Boom Tubing to Earth…from there, we’re headed home.”
An emerald construct appeared, showing what appeared to be an Earth and Moon under attack by the shadow warriors.
“Doesn’t look good,” Molly observed.
“Won’t be staying very long,” Linda flew them through the Boom Tube, arriving on the other side. “So long, Chuckles!” She missed Nekron’s reply when she dispersed the Boom Tube construct.
“So tired,” Molly closed her eyes as Linda’s power ring relayed a distress signal she could not ignore.
But now shadow warriors had detected their presence and began to mass for battle, ready to obliterate them if they could. How many would gather? Hundreds? Thousands? With Nekron right behind them?
“I’ll keep you safe, Mama…I promise,” Linda gently placed her mother in stasis. “…hope you can still love me if you ever realize just what I really am.”
The shadow warriors had gathered…hundreds of them…casting some kind of spell, or at least trying to.
She almost felt sorry for them…almost.
She wondered what the Parallax version of Hal Jordan who inhabited the Great Portal Starheart would think of her…were they really any different?
More shadow warriors began to gather…the more the better…the fewer who would remain on the world below to trouble the peoples of Earth.
Linda reached into herself, accessing the parts of her will that few suspected were far more than mortal. She felt the presence of what had once been a small sliver of the left-over essence of the Phoenix. That spare essence had been necessary to re-anchor her soul after Gaea, the mad Starheart, had murdered her. Both Linda’s soul and mortal form had to be rebuilt before she could return and that sliver of essence had provided the necessary glue to hold her together.
At the time of her resurrection, she had no knowledge of the Phoenix essence and she believed she had begun to age normally. But the soul-fire that drove Linda’s natural demonic half triggered a constant, continuing, and increasingly more powerful rebirth of the Phoenix essence, forcing what had been a little sliver to grow exponentially over time. When she finally realized and accepted its presence, the growing essence reversed and ended her aging as it magnified the force of her will.
Linda waited as even more of the shadow warriors approached, readying to breach what they probably perceived as her pathetic little shielding that had lasted far too long already.
“Die,” her eyes burned red as her Phoenix-reinforced willpower commanded the power of the Great Portal Starheart. A ball of negative energy extended from her, expanding outward, engulfing the nearest shadow warriors, disintegrating them as they began to retreat. She drove her power outward, killing ever more of the creatures, male and female, until there were no more in range.
She descended, following the distress signals downward. Before this day, she had taken great care not to reveal her increasing power levels. But the distress signals requested rescue and they would be answered. She wondered if Hell would have any mercy for any of the shadow warriors who got in her way.
She wouldn’t bet on it.
(Concluded in Sorority; Ragnarook)
End—Continuum Wars II Prologue Part 2: Journey to Madness