The Continuum War 2
“I don’t know what else to do, Lex,” Superman spoke to his boyhood friend, Lex Luthor while they both glanced down at the infant in his arms. “Lanie’s birth made us all believe that Lois and I could have children with DNA from both of us. And now, this is happening.”
“I wish I had something, anything to tell you,” Lex emoted as he gazed at his friend. “Every test I’ve run says confirms what we already knew. Little Lana’s DNA is unraveling. She has days at most before it kills her.”
“Hal and Arisia said the same thing,” Superman acknowledged. “Diana has asked her people to say a special blessing, to give Lana a small gift of Amazon power, but not even that has done much to slow down the deterioration. And I have nowhere else to turn.”
“How is Lois holding up?” Lex asked with concern.
“Certainly no better than I am,” Superman admitted. “We have Lanie and we are so blessed to have her. But Lanie was conceived under the influence of Mxyzptlk and his magic. Somehow, that made Lanie’s existence possible in a way that we can’t duplicate. And now, Lana pays the price for our folly.”
“I wish there were something more I could do or say,” Lex tried to comfort his devastated friend. “I swear I will do everything I can to come up with an answer.”
They continued their conversation, not knowing that they had an unseen observer.
You Oafs! You cannot possibly repair this damage, without causing even more injury to the child, the observer considered, and now that I have the information I came for, I will distract you, so that you don’t have time to try.
Mercy Luthor’s rapid exit had not gone entirely unnoticed. Mxyzptlk had been observing from other parts of the ship and had followed Mercy to the cargo hold. Briefly, he had considered jumping through the portal, but he had known better. Whoever was generating the portal would be prepared for someone like him.
No matter, he had learned other things that set his mind at ease. MVP-2 was out of range, even if the probability device managed to fire again. Lanie Kent, the Power Girl of that probability, remained the sole surviving version of the original Lanie Kent. He had kept his promise to ensure her survival. And now, with Lanie safely out of the way, he had much more freedom of action.
The Angel had actually managed to motivate and lead the remnants of the Legion to take out the Guardians. Ha! The imp felt more than a measure of revenge at that outcome.
But then, no one but the imp knew the truth about Alexis Graves. He knew that Alexis was on the cusp of discovering the truth…memories from the original probability…of her first life.
Frankly, he had been disappointed that no one else had guessed. But then, he had carefully laid a trail that prevented anyone from discovering the truth. The original Phantom Zone criminals had known, but they had been wiped out the second time the probability device fired. Their replacements remembered almost everything…but not his secret.
He turned his mind back to the campaign. The Legion had provided the means to end the remaining Manhunters to the Sentinels who, frankly, had taken too long to make use of it. Why, the imp was not sure. Overabundance of caution, he assumed.
But then the final battle with the Starheart had not begun either. He planned to be there for that…the Starheart had his energy, the energy he needed to return home. Of course, now that he no longer had to track Lanie, his concentration was much less divided and his personal store of energy had begun to grow. Not nearly as much as he would have liked, but he was much less ashen in appearance.
He wondered if the Starheart had chosen a champion. Would they encounter that champion soon? Who would it be? Lexie Luthor would have been his first guess, but she was under Brainiac’s thrall. Otherwise, Lexie seemed to be the embodiment of the avatar of Ares, the god of war. But Lexie was back on Earth, and Earth was in a part of MVP-3 that was disconnected from the region of Oa.
Frankly, with the Angel safely off Earth, the imp no longer cared whether the timeline changed again in the vicinity of Earth. As Ellen Starr was not native to MVP-3, she would have to exist in some form in the follow-on version of Earth. And the imp cared little for anything else on the planet.
“This is insane,” Jennifer Walters-Gand complained as she and Arisia Fentura flew with Faith Scott. Now outside of MVP-3, they transited the Bleed, focusing on the current state of the Multiverse probabilities. “I can’t see how you have any idea where you are.” Images had sounds, noises had smells, pinpricks of light…never mind.
“We’re seeing multiple probabilities at once, aren’t we?” Arisia deduced.
“Yes,” Faith agreed, “pieces of MVP-3, 6, 7, and 8 and a mix of chronal energy from the probability device. She projected her power in front of them. “I’m translating what I am sensing through a mystic sense. I guess you could call it an off-brand infra-red for want of a better term, which I’ll try to translate back into normal vision.”
An image projected in front of them of four universes, whose boundaries had begun to shred. In places, they were beginning to overlap.
“I don’t know what is causing this,” Faith admitted. “This is strange. Unlike Crisis of Infinite Earths, these universes are slightly off…solar systems are not in the same place, so the merging will not necessarily cause everything to blow up.”
“So,” Jenny posited, “these universes could merge, but because most universes are nothing but empty space, they could actually come together as a single universe with four Earths.”
“Potentially, five,” Faith related. “Something else is getting mixed in. See it, over there?” She pointed to an odd shape that appeared to be sandwiched in between Earths 6 and 7.
“Strange,” Jenny concluded. “Earth 6 used to be Earth X, sort of a reverse Earth, where the Nazis won. Earth 3 was also not a happy place. But I don’t think there was much at all to Earth 7, the one-time Earth 4. Except for Captain Atom, all their heroes were minor-leaguers. You get the Shazam Family on MVP-8, but that is about it.”
“Not Superhero Central,” Faith shrugged. “If there are any extra superheroes to be found, they would certainly have a place on one of those Earths.”
“No Starhearts except the yellow one,” Arisia noted, “and no Oa except the one the kids took over. No Green Lantern Corps except the four Lanterns we’ve dropped in.”
“We still have to figure out what we want from the Controllers,” Jenny considered as she gazed back towards MVP-3. “Do we trust them enough to take on the Guardians’ role? I’m not sure we do, even if their folks tend to be the good guys. Right now, I’m pretty comfortable with the kids being in charge on Oa.”
“Even though their leader is the imp’s protégé?” Faith asked mischievously.
“I doubt he had much to do with raising her,” Jenny responded, shrugging.
“No…,” Faith agreed, a thoughtful look in her eye, “but all of this is too convenient.”
Arisia gazed at her with concern.
“You think he has some kind of dark motive for what he is doing?”
“No,” Faith replied with certainty, “quite the opposite.”
“Well,” Jenny considered their options, “it looks like the imp and maybe the Starheart are yours to resolve. The Power Battery is mine…with Arisia’s help, I’m going to try to turn it to our uses. I’ll need Kara and Karik. We’ll send the rest of the team, less Steve and Helena to keep the Manhunters away from us and from Oa. They’ll be available for your work and to keep an eye on this universe’s Commander Arisia Rrab’s fleet.”
“Works for me,” Faith agreed. “Are you sure you won’t need Steve and Helena?”
“Actually, I will need Steve,” Jenny explained, “but you’ll get him back, soon enough.”
“Me and my big mouth,” Jenny flew with Arisia towards where Kara and Karik Gand waited with the yellow Power Battery.
“It should work,” Karik commented as he scanned the battery. “There are no fail-safes that would prevent energy of a different frequency from being stored in the battery. Once it’s done, I’ll reconfigure the transmission arrays to broadcast to a frequency compatible with my power battery.”
“Really sounds like a job for Senturia,” Arisia observed. “I’m ready and willing.”
An emerald green light approached them: Steve Rogers, the mystic Green Lantern. Not only did his ring not have a weakness to yellow, it had other capabilities as well.
“I’m ready,” Steve announced. “I’ll block you off from the other Arisias. Their life-forces won’t pass through my shielding.”
“Excellent,” Jenny commented as Steve’s mystic shields formed around Jenny and Arisia. Jenny touched Arisa and the two of them drew together as they formed Senturia, this time with only one Arisia. Soon, there was only the Super Sentinel standing before them.
His work done, Steve dropped his shields and stepped back.
“Thank you, Steve Rogers,” Senturia’s double voice sounded. “I am now ready.
Mxyzptlk sensed spells being cast. Curious, he wandered towards them, while keeping his presence hidden. Ah…the Rogers girl…Helena Wayne Rogers was it? She resembled the MVP-2 Helena Wayne, but was not an exact duplicate. What was it about this girl that had attracted Steve Rogers so, when the MVP-2 Helena had not had the same fortune? As that Helena had been more mature than this one, the imp was more than a bit surprised. (Note: Inheritors, Chapter 20, Sentinel Rising)
Witchy woman, the imp laughed to himself, only beginning to understand the mystic arts…obviously not an experienced practitioner. She was not even aware of his presence. Well, it was time for him to check on Alexis.
He turned to float away only to realize he could not. He had been trapped. The young woman had blocked his usual escape routes. She gazed up at him, a slight smile on her lips.
“So you’ve come to keep me company while my dashing husband is off running errands?” Helena asked innocently. “You are either very brave or very foolish…or both,” she teased.
“Unhand me,” the imp retorted.
“Soon enough,” Helena promised as she waved him towards a chair. “Float or sit, your choice. The rest of the gang will be here in a minute.”
“You are far too young to manipulate this kind of magic,” the imp charged.
“Perhaps I am,” Helena agreed. “But I remember the lessons of more than one life-time.” Her eyes bore into him. “And one of those lessons is never to be too obvious about how much power you really have. Or how much speed…” She chuckled.
Senturia focused her concentration towards the yellow power battery. She recalled Jenny’s battle with the shard, which had formed the basis for the Otherverse power battery (Otherverse, “A World Without Heroes”).
Would this be harder or easier? Senturia’s double consciousness believed it would be easier as she began to focus, to change the frequency of the energy in the battery. She increased her concentration, feeling the energy in the battery fight her. Was it somehow conscious? Was it tied to the Starheart?
No, Senturia decided. She was looking for a villain, when she only faced the inertia of the battery. This would be hard because of the amount of energy involved. There was no real foe, except for her own self-doubt.
Senturia focused on nothing but the energy of the battery…changing the frequency. It still seemed to be fighting her but slowly, slowly, she felt it change. The energy began to take on an increasingly emerald hue. The transmission of yellow energy to the Manhunter batteries had now been stopped; those batteries only retained the power that had already been broadcast to them and nothing more. They would run out within days at most.
Senturia forced the energy into the green spectrum, focusing on the frequency in Karik Gand’s ring and making a match. There…she felt the energies in resonance. She slowly withdrew from the battery, her work now completed. The battery shone an emerald green hue, as she had expected. Senturia split into her component parts, which would now need at least a nap to recharge.
Jenny kept her eyes open long enough to watch Karik do his work. The battery now transmitted to the Green Lanterns’ individual batteries, leaving the Manhunters without any hope of a power source.
The Manhunters were already dead. They simply did not know it.
“Ah, my dashing husband has returned,” Helena announced as Steve Rogers phased through the wall of the room where Helena waited with Mxyzptlk.
“Hello, imp,” Steve greeted, “you have just learned the same painful lesson it took me years to fully understand.”
“And that would be?” The imp queried with a touch of disdain.
“Never, ever underestimate the Batman’s daughter. It is not wise.” Steve replied with good humor. “Especially not one with Merlin’s power.” He chuckled.
“You proposed of your own free will, as I recall,” Helena retorted, smugly.
“Of course I did,” Steve responded, “I knew what was good for me. And I was finally smart enough to realize it.”
The imp watched the interplay with interest. There was kindness in their words and they did not seem angry with him…quite the opposite. What then was their motive for holding him?
“As soon as Faith returns,” Steve informed the imp, “we’ll need to work together to neutralize the Starheart.”
“I’ve tried to do that for more than two decades,” the imp spoke with anguish, “but it has too much of my power. If I could have, I would have returned to Zrfff.”
“We don’t think that is possible,” Helena advised to the imp’s horror.
“Why not?” Mxyzptlk questioned, unexpectedly shivering.
“This isn’t your original universe,” Steve explained. “We believe that you are native to the predecessor universe and that you are likely one of only two actual survivors of that original universe. Everyone else was duplicated. Even Lanie Kent was a duplicate of the original. When the probability gun fired, all the other originals ceased to exist. Your Zrfff no longer exists. That’s why you have never been able to return.”
The imp slumped in his chair.
“I had always feared that was the case,” he admitted. “I should have been able to return even without most of my power. Failing that, I should have been able to return to this universe’s counterpart of my original world.”
“Which may not exist, either,” Faith Scott phased into existence just across from him. He glared at her, shrinking back from the mystic Sentinel.
“What are you?” He questioned. “You are not human…just mystic energy…with some kind of a mystic symbiont.”
“Oh,” the Pendragon Sword appeared in her left hand, “you mean this? Certainly has proved to be useful.”
“I’m sure it has,” he retorted, glaring at it.
“Ah,” she finally responded, willing the sword back to its appearance as a ring, “you think I’ve come to attack you. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We simply want to get to the bottom of what happened and why. Then we need to decide how to moderate the Starheart. We’ll start that discussion later.”
“I’ve told you what happened,” the imp protested, “Ellen Starr has the whole story.”
“Really?” Faith rebutted his words. “You make me realize how fortunate I have been. My own adoptive father was never afraid to show me how important I was to him, or how much he cares.”
He gazed at her, his eyes narrowing.
“You know.” He stated flatly.
“I know how my Dad feels about me.” Faith responded, “and I sense some of the same vibe from you. Lana Kent? If that’s what her name originally was?”
“Lana Lane Kent,” the imp confirmed, “Lane after her older sister and her mother. The Kryptonian moniker would have been Lana Kal-El,” He drew in a deep breath. “Strange, I’ve hidden that for so long…Are you going to tell her?”
“I suspect she will figure it out soon enough,” Faith surmised, “especially when her human half breaks out at just the wrong moment.”
“It’s just as dangerous as her Kryptonian half,” the imp smiled with pride.
“I have no doubt,” Faith agreed, “her Kryptonian heritage limits her magic. Her human heritage would free it.”
“I pity the poor fool who tries Green K on her,” Helena mused. “It would likely force her into her human aspect. And that aspect would reflect the power of Themyscira, unless I miss my guess. And that would be a result of what you did to save her.”
“You told Brandy what happened as a result of your actions,” Faith offered, “but not why you did it. And that was simply to distract Superman while you saved a doomed life.”
“Her sister, Lanie Kent, was a hybrid child who was part human and part Kryptonian,” the imp explained. “She survived because my magic was involved in her conception. But without that interference, Lanie would not have survived. But that didn’t stop Superman and Lois from using the Fortress Computer to try again,” he shook his head disdainfully. “The Fortress Computer gestated a child, but the child was doomed to die within days. Still, they allowed the child to be born and shared its presence with a few close friends.”
“But you found you just couldn’t let the child die, could you?” Faith deduced. “Circe aided you?”
“She needed an old enemy taken out for just a short period of time,” the imp explained, “with a spell that would vanish in days. And I needed the opposite. I needed to stabilize Lana Kal-El’s DNA until I could take her home to Zrfff and fix her problems permanently. The release of the Phantom Zoners was meant to keep Superman busy while I stole off with Lana. She was hidden in my arms when I pushed the button. And, despite everything else that went wrong, I took her back with me when I said my name backwards.”
“I can’t believe how badly you bungled all of this,” the scientist-councilor accused Mxyzptlk, “and all for a child who has no chance?” She gazed at the dying child the imp had brought her. “You don’t have enough viable DNA left to hold the child together.”
“Actually,” the imp replied with assurance, “I do. I have the mother’s full set of DNA. I also have the father’s full set of DNA.”
“That’s not enough,” the scientist-councilor advised. “The human DNA cannot stand on its own and the Kryptonian DNA is not complete. The ‘X’ equivalent chromosome cannot simply be duplicated; it contains a fatal error that will kill the child if not paired with another sex-based chromosome.” She shook her head with frustration. “I don’t know enough to alter it as I could some other chromosomes. Worse, the human DNA appears to have been altered in ways that I cannot diagnose.”
“Circe,” the imp considered as he gazed down at the child. “And the Amazons had also done…something.”
“What do you want to do with this dying child?” the scientist-councilor pressed. “Leave it in stasis and destroy it, or take it out and let it die naturally.”
“Neither!” swore the enraged imp. “I will not allow her death. I will not.”
“You are wasting my time,” the scientist-councilor charged, preparing to step away.
“I have,” the imp announced, “I have the complete set of DNA of both Kryptonian grandparents. That includes the Grandfather’s ‘X’ equivalent chromosome, as well as the ‘X’ equivalent chromosome that the father did not inherit from his mother.”
The scientist-councilor gazed back at the child with renewed interest.
“You have more than two months before you can return to their world, Mxyzptlk. When you do, your first task must be to retrieve the probability device. Is that understood?”
“Yes,” the imp agreed. “I will take it as soon as I return. My first task.”
“See that you are prepared,” she charged. “And now leave me. I will see if there is something I can do with this pile of genetic goo you have dropped in my lap.”
“Her name is Lana,” the imp retorted. “She is a person and she deserves that respect.”
“Mxyzptlk, you are ruining your reputation. Now leave me.”
“You asked to see me?” Mxyzptlk greeted the councilor-scientist as he entered her workspace. He was disheartened to see the stasis chamber had been turned off for some time. He braced himself for the worst.
“The child’s DNA was almost incomprehensible in places,” the councilor-scientist recited to the imp. “I can’t imagine what its progenitors were thinking,” she shook her head sadly. “This has been the challenge of my career, but I think we have stabilized her.”
“She lives?” Mxyzptlk’s eyes widened with wonder. “She lives!!!! How…how were you able to save her?”
“You did the hard work,” the scientist-councilor admitted, “when you obtained multiple sets of Kryptonian DNA and had the child hexed.”
“What do you mean?”
“We pumped in the grandfather’s ‘X’ equivalent chromosome,” she explained, “and it caused the Kryptonian DNA to stabilize. We made edits to the fatal chromosome, based on the Grandmother’s other chromosome…it was minor enough that it would be attributed to genetic drift.”
“And that stabilized her?” The imp’s voice filled with hope.
“We were not done,” the scientist-councilor explained. “We could have reset the human DNA to delete its alterations, but we suspected there were reasons not to. We were correct. The human-half has a somewhat extended lifespan, courtesy of the Amazon Nation, so we limited our alterations to the Kryptonian DNA…just a few edits…ridiculous that she would have to breathe in space or lose her power instantly under a red sun. Permanent loss of power to gold Kryptonite? What were they thinking? And the solar energy processing? So inefficient…and such an easy change to make. And that awful propulsion method for getting into Hyperspace…easy to fix.”
“Can I see her?” The imp pressed.
“There is more than one ‘her’,” the scientist-councilor reminded. “We had two sets of DNA in the same body and Circe’s hex in the mix. The hex makes the whole thing go…”
“Can I see them?”
“I seem to have confused you, an easy enough thing to do,” she surmised sarcastically. “There is only one physical form at a time. The default appears to be Kryptonian, but be wary of the human half…it will make itself known.”
He nodded quickly as she continued.
“I hope you know how to change diapers on an invulnerable, super-powered child.” The scientist-councilor warned him as they walked into another room where a sleeping child floated above her basinet.
“I will learn,” he promised.
Mxyzptlk shook his head sadly.
“My only consolation…Lana got the help she needed. We did quite a bit of DNA grafting. Her Kryptonian aspect is more powerful than her father was…she flies through space without need to stop to breathe and she can jump into Hyperspace within the gravity well of a sun without damage to the sun. And her human aspect has a strong component of Amazon power, thanks to Wonder Woman and Circe. Circe was certainly as good as her word.” He drew in a deep breath. “I brought her back when I returned from Zrfff. She was still inside my shields when the probability device triggered.”
“So,” Steve summarized, “like you, she is a survivor of the original probability, and her DNA carries over into each new timeline. Unlike you, her memories were much more impressionable and she had less to remember. So she doesn’t remember much before this timeline.”
“Yes,” the imp stared sadly away. “I have been able to safeguard her without her knowledge. But now she has grown into her power. And if the timelines change again, she’ll know.” He shook his head sadly. “But none of this makes up for the other problems I’ve caused…so many dead because of me.”
“On the other hand,” Faith considered, “in absolute terms, you created three probabilities and only lost one. With the exception of Earth, MVP-1 and MVP-2 suffered little for the experience. Even on MVP-3, there are many lives that would never have existed otherwise.”
“Faith!” Helena counseled with surprise. “The original probability ceased to exist. All those people lost their existence.”
“Yes, they did,” Faith agreed. “And there is nothing we can do to change that. We can only move forward. Those who live deserve the best chance for a real future.”
“Including Lana Kent and Ellen Starr,” Steve Rogers chimed in, understanding Faith’s gambit. They needed the imp’s cooperation. They would not gain it by antagonizing him. Helena caught his gaze, slowly nodding in agreement.
The imp watched thoughtfully.
“I assume you need my participation and the results may not be pleasant for me,” he deduced.
“I have to take out the Starheart,” Faith agreed. “I can change it, or I can find a way to dump it into the bleed. Either way, I will neutralize the consciousness that resides within it. As I suspect that its consciousness is merely a segment of what yours had been, I’m willing to gamble on reuniting you with it. But I can’t tell you what the result might be.”
“You don’t have that kind of power,” the imp protested.
“I have powerful friends,” Faith conveyed. “And I can focus their power wherever I need it, if that’s what I have to do.”
“You seem very sure of yourself,” Mxyzptlk commented sarcastically. “What makes you think that you can play god? I have learned the hard way that there is always a price for such foolishness…”
Faith sighed, shaking her head before glaring back.
“I know well the cost,” she allowed her human appearance to transform into the Flameling, a brilliant column of living fire, “and I have no regrets having paid it. There is always a price for power. The question is, could you live with yourself after walking away?”
As her light dimmed and she resumed her human appearance, he gazed back at her.
“What must I do?”
The four of them floated hundreds of millions of miles solar system away from the Starheart. The Starheart shone like a small sun, broadcasting its evil towards them.
“Does it know we’re here?” Helena asked from within Steve’s bubble.
“Maybe,” Faith answered. “I suspect it doesn’t see us as much of a threat. We have no obvious power on its level. It may simply be curious…or…”
A blast of yellow energy came from behind them.
“So there is a champion,” Steve grumbled. “My turn, if you can safeguard Helena,” he vanished, leaving Helena in Faith’s care.
“Hey!” Helena protested as he vanished. “Good luck, Steve,” she wished in the direction of his departure.
“At least we know there aren’t Daxamites or Kryptonians to contend with,” Faith commented, “not in this universe.”
“Aren’t you worried?” The imp asked. “The Champion is likely to be much more powerful than Steve Rogers.”
“Steve knows what he’s doing,” Helena emphasized, “don’t worry.”
Steve flew off to the side of the path the yellow energy bolt had taken, attempting to flank the yellow Starheart’s Sentinel. At the same time, he tasked his ring for an image of that Sentinel.
The ring provided an image of a woman with orange skin and black hair.
“Tamaran?” Steve asked the ring.
“Apparently so,” the ring responded.
“I wonder if it’s this probability’s version of Koriand’r’s evil sister, or an equivalent.”
“Hold, fool!” A woman’s voice broadcast through his ring. “Surrender now and your death will be far less miserable than it will be otherwise.”
Steve immediately realized that the Sentinel would quickly determine his position by learning where his ring received her message. He vanished, moving to circle behind his starting location, while willing his ring to blank out its energy emissions. At the same time, he left an energy-emitting hologram at the site where he had received the Sentinel’s signal. The hologram would run out of energy in just a few minutes, but that was more than enough time.
The Sentinel flew towards Steve’s previous location, locating the hologram.
“Another one of those foolish Green Lantern creatures, with a weakness to my yellow energy,” Komand’r analyzed. “You’ve bought yourself a quick death.”
She fired the Starheart’s energy towards the hologram, focusing on her prey, reveling in its absolute destruction.
Then Steve fired a yellow energy bolt towards her, placing her in stasis before she had a chance to react. He would not kill her: not yet.
“Starfire’s sister,” Steve returned to join the rest of the team with his captive. “I can feel the Starheart attempting to break my stasis.”
“If that’s the best you can do in the way of another woman,” Helena teased, “I suddenly feel quite secure.”
“I’ll be more than happy to dump this one into a nearby sun,” Steve commented. “A bit too bloodthirsty for me.”
“Mxy, it’s our turn,” Faith warned the imp.
“Oh, joy,” the imp responded. “I hate acting responsible.”
“Steve,” Faith warned. “I need you to back away. I’ll have to gate in and I don’t need you in the line of fire.”
“Got it,” Steve backed away with Helena and Komand’r. Faith flew in the other direction with the imp.
“I can sense the Wood at the moment,” Faith commented, “which means I can phone a friend or two.”
“Hopefully a very powerful friend or two,” the imp responded.
“Oh, yes,” Faith promised confidently. She boom-tubed an opening to the middle of the Starheart. The imp followed her through.
As the opening closed, Steve knew he and Helena were out of the battle. Soon, he felt the Starheart ease the pressure on Komand’r’s stasis. It had other more pressing problems, much more urgent than the fate of its unconscious, but safe, Sentinel.
The imp felt unaccustomed fear as they arrived in the center of the Starheart. The Pendragon Sword had made its appearance as Faith opened a gateway to her home universe. The Wood? No…
“I’m ready, Princess,” the imp heard the voice of Diana of Themyscira, realizing quickly that Faith had brought another Starheart into the battle.
“Hal?” Faith asked as another Gateway opened.
“Ready,” the imp heard the voice of Hal Jordan, the Parallax Starheart, as Faith transformed into a living column of fire.
The imp felt the yellow Starheart begin to focus its power towards the Flameling. And then he felt nothing.
“…my priorities for the investigation,” Lara Gand consulted Alexis Graves and Hal Jordan as she readied to interface with the Oan information systems.
“I think…” Alexis began.
“Come back here!” Mxyzptlk called as an infant Alexis sped away from him at super speed. “Lana Kal-El! You need a clean diaper!”
Alexis floated in the air, attracted by a flying transit, preparing to follow the shiny object.
“Lana!” Then she heard him mumble, “two more days and you’re Lex Luthor’s problem. I just have to retrieve the probability device before some idiot manages to fire it!”
“What?” Alexis gazed at her companions. “Did you sense any of…”
“Lana Lane Kent,” Alexis felt the imp’s fading presence, “I could not be more proud of you…”
And then Alexis knew the imp was gone.
Steve and Helena watched the Starheart almost double in size, before collapsing back to its previous size. The color changed momentarily to orange, then red, violet, and blue, before stabilizing with a greenish hue. Emerald mystic energy glowed brilliantly on the horizon as a boom-tube opened, revealing Faith Scott.
“It’s done,” Faith acknowledged. “The imp has been reunited with his energy and the Starheart has a new start. Mxyzptlk’s personality may resurface one day, but that could take a while. In any case, he learned some very significant lessons before reuniting with the Starheart’s Energy.”
“What happened to the old personality?” Helena asked as Steve considered whether to release stasis on Komand’r.
“It was a fragment of the imp,” Faith explained. “Unfortunately, it was the absolute worst fragment. But now it’s back where it belongs. I wish the imp well.”
“Think we’ll hear from him again?” Steve pondered.
“No doubt,” Faith considered. “Probably when the Starheart selects a new champion. We need to turn this one over to the Darkstars. Then we need to chat with Alexis Graves. She needs to know the truth, if she doesn’t already.”
“That could add quite a load of guilt that she doesn’t deserve,” Steve cautioned.
“She needs to know,” Helena countered. “If she doesn’t hear it from us, she’ll hear it somewhere else.”
Steve nodded in agreement.
“And the imp has certainly done penance for his crimes.”
“I think we’re done here,” Faith deduced as she gazed around. “Our next priority has to be to help Jenny react to the merging probabilities.”
The Sentinels, Jenny and Arisia, trailed Kara and Karik Gand as mother and son carried the now-green Great Power Battery back to Oa. The Guardian Ganthet trailed at a respectful distance. Jenny wondered if he felt qualms about approached the killing field that Oa had become. Of course, this Oa was not like any other Oa any of them had encountered and these Guardians were the worst of the lot.
Arisia had notified her counterpart on the Legion/Green Lantern team that the Battery was on its way. That team would have responsibility for protecting the power source. As it would now directly feed the batteries of Hal Jordan and the Wasteland Green Lanterns, it gave that set of Green Lanterns the ability to station themselves in MVP-3 permanently.
As the five of them approached the battery’s base, they realized that the Legion/Green Lantern team was no longer alone on the planet. Members of the Oan servant races had returned and were working with the Legion/Green Lantern team to restore the essential infrastructure needed to turn Oa back into a functioning civilization.
Jenny wondered if the attack force had tried to carefully target its damage, so that the infrastructure could be restored fairly easily. She knew the damage had been extensive, especially the damage caused by the three-Arisia Senturia, and that recovery would take some time.
Still, she was glad to see the efforts towards recovery. She wondered what the Guardian was thinking at the moment before realizing that it had to be extremely difficult for him to view any version of Oa in such a state of disrepair.
As they flew close, they spotted Legionnaires on the ground, speaking to and working with the servant races to restore the planet. At the sight of the Battery, the Legionnaires broke off, following the Battery.
Kara and Karik flew towards the four Green Lanterns, each standing equidistant from the others at the site of the Lantern base. The Legionnaires formed an honor guard, just a little farther back, along the ground-level approach to the battery. Curious members of the servant races filed in behind for the somber occasion.
How exactly had Kara Gand arranged this particular conversation? Hal Jordan mused as he joined a discussion between Kara, the Guardian, and Alexis Graves.
“…Must admit that I am surprised by your focus on rebuilding this world, Miss Graves,” Ganthet offered, “your team began the work well before we made the decision to return the Battery here.”
“I wish we had not had to cause such damage,” Alexis spoke with regret. “Evil overlords or no, Oa has so much promise, so much to offer the universe, so much knowledge that can be put to good use to heal this universe. Getting the caretakers to trust us isn’t all that easy, but Lara Gand tells me that Oa has substantial archives that reach almost to the beginning of time.”
“Yes, well…” the Guardian began as he eyed the city. The other Legionnaires and Green Lanterns had resumed their work with their counterparts in the servant races.
“I’m not sure what form of government would work for this world,” Alexis emphasized, “even if we did take the planet as conquest, we can’t establish a government that rules that way for the long term. We’re trying to find common ground with the peoples who maintain this planet. We know we can’t just abandon it or them. If we do leave, then what happens to these peoples and all the knowledge this planet contains?”
“Those are very valid points, Miss Graves,” the Guardian responded as he glanced towards the Green Lanterns, the Great Battery, and a few members of the servant races, before turning back towards Alexis, “what indeed?”
“Yes, we’re staying,” Green Lantern Arisia Rrab answered the Guardian. He had asked to speak privately with her and she had obliged. “We Wasteland GLs want our lives to mean something. We’re the sole survivors of our Corps and almost half of the hand full of survivors of our universe. If we go to a universe with a full Green Lantern Corps, we’ll just be spare Green Lanterns. Alexis said we would make a real difference here and I don’t think we’ll ever have a better opportunity.”
“…and that doesn’t even scratch the surface,” Lara Gand and her new-found staff spoke to the Guardian. “So many atrocities over time…I felt some guilt about this operation before we battled the Guardians, but I feel none, now. They were completely devoid of compassion.”
“I must admit I find that an odd statement for a Coluan intellect,” Ganthet related.
“I am a Daxamite hybrid,” Lara reminded him. “And my first universe ended because of a foe for which compassion and mercy were not considerations. Logic by itself is frequently toxic. The former Guardians of this universe certainly proved that point. I can point you to many examples of their flawed logic. Please, let me show you some of the worst.”
“Guardian?” Kara Gand spotted Ganthet hovering over the city and flew to join him. “You seem troubled. Can I help?”
“This universe has never had any reason to trust its Guardians,” Ganthet deduced. “That disturbs me. In just a short time, the Legion and the Green Lanterns have done more to advance our common causes than the Guardians of this Oa ever did.”
“I wish I could take credit for any of this,” Kara related, “but this was what they chose to do on their own initiative. This is their vision for the future. And, at the moment, this is their planet to do with what they will.”
“If this were my home universe,” the Guardian confided, “I and my brothers would define our own vision and simply order the Green Lantern Corps to do our bidding. Even Hal Jordan would likely eventually submit, now that he has been freed from the Parallax influence. But here I lack the authority. I am not a Guardian of this universe and these Green Lanterns are not obliged to follow my orders. They and the Legionnaires appear to have formed a new team, which pursues its own agenda.”
“Look at it from their point of view,” Kara suggested. “These are people who have lost everything and are starting over. They have nothing to return to; even Lara is a poor fit in my universe. They have a vision to follow that makes sense to them: that gives them purpose. And, while their leader is extremely inexperienced, she is a compassionate and practical visionary.”
“Indeed.” Ganthet drew into himself. “The vision is most worthy, to the point where even I must heed it.” He sighed. “We Guardians usually function as overseers more than leaders, we make pronouncements rather than lead. Until I arrived on this planet, I had planned to depart this universe upon Brainiac’s defeat and the recovery of the Probability Device.”
“But you’ve begun to see what is possible,” Kara deduced, “even here. The work has already begun. And this universe has greater need of you than your own.”
“At home,” Ganthet agreed, “I would continue to be one among the many, overseeing an established Green Lantern Corps. But here, no such entity exists. So I will have to consider what is possible and I will have to reach out to the Controllers to see whether we walk common ground. Is a Green Lantern Corps, or an expanded Darkstar presence, what would work best? I do not yet know. But the Darkstars have supported Ms. Graves and her work in the past. Perhaps that is how we start the conversation…”
Alexis flew over what had been the Guardians’ complex. The Green Lanterns had quickly removed the debris, which meant it was time to develop a plan to rebuild the facilities. Perhaps Nura Nal, the Dream Girl, would be best to lead that effort. Nura could see the future of the project, quite helpful for bringing it to fruition.
“Ms. Graves?” Alexis heard the voice she recognized as Steve Rogers broadcast over the Legion ring her team had fashioned for her. “We’d like a few minutes of your time. We have some information you need to know. We’re over Oa now. We’ll come to you.”
“All right,” she agreed. “I’ll wait just above the Battery.”
“Works for us.”
“You said you had information I needed?” Alexis asked as Steve and Helena joined her.
“We have a long story to tell you,” Helena confided earnestly, “starting with your real names at your true birth: Lana Kal-El and Lana Lane Kent…”
Alexis Graves flew towards the emerald sun, stopping on its periphery before plunging into it. Entering, she felt the chaotic energies bouncing around her. She supposed she could have tried to use her Legion flight ring to add to her native invulnerability, but she had intentionally left all of her technical gear on a nearby asteroid, where the emerald energies would not damage it.
She had been surprised to learn about everything the imp had done or arranged for her. She felt no small guilt in learning just why the imp had released the Phantom Zone prisoners.
Alexis now had a new appreciation of the desperate dance the imp had carried out to keep both her and the surviving Lanie Kent safe. How many times had she not realized that the timeline had been reset again? Did that mean that the eldest of Lex Luthor’s clones, Lex Jr., had never actually existed? That troubled her.
She wondered if there was any real point to her trip to the Starheart. In the end, it really didn’t matter. She had come for her own reasons.
“I don’t think I’ll ever understand just how much you love me,” Alexis began. “You spent so much time hiding from me and not letting me know just how much you really care. I will always wish you had been the one to tell me.”
“I know you didn’t want my parents to die and I know you’ll live with that horror forever,” she continued. “I will always wish with all my heart that I had grown up as their child with my big sister Lanie and I know how much you wanted that for me, too.”
“But I want you to know that I forgive you and I love you for how hard you tried to make things right. I hope you find peace. And I don’t regret being your secret daughter. Goodbye, Mxyzptlk. I pray that someday we will meet again and you will tell me how you really feel.”
She waited for a moment before departing, unsure whether her words had meaning to anyone but her.
“I’ll be back,” she promised, knowing she would find reason to return. She flew out of the Starheart, stopping only long enough to retrieve her gear before accelerating into Hyperspace.
But behind her, dormant mental energies realigned, initiating thought for the first time, considering her words. The creature’s glow shifted ever so slightly towards the blue end of the spectrum as it reached out with its cosmic senses into the universe, considering the full scope of its responsibilities and wondering how it could best use its power to safeguard all of the lives that remained within the probability.
As it watched the Angel fly through Hyperspace back to Oa, it felt both awed and comforted by the young woman’s compassion. The Starheart felt an unaccustomed sense of peace as it began to plan its next moves.
-- Story written and copyrighted (C) 2016 by Eldric
-- and may not be reprinted without permission.
-- The Continuum Worlds Concept is a joint creation of
-- Dylan Clearbrook and Eldric.
-- Otherverse, Multiverse, Primalverse. and Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes,
-- as depicted in the Continuum Worlds, are original creations of Dylan Clearbrook.
-- Alterverse, The Inheritors and Rising Starr, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
-- are original creations of Eldric.
-- Wasteland, The Sorority, and Otherverse 2.0, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds
-- are original creations of Nomad (Jake H.).
-- The Realm and The Web of Shadows, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
-- are original creations of John P. and Jason G./ Andrew Shields respectively.
-- DCM: The Merging, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,
-- is an original creation of Chip Caroon and the stories therein remain
-- the property of the respective writers.
-- Some characters in Continuum Worlds stories are original creations
-- of Dylan Clearbrook, Eldric, Michael Liebhart, Jake H., Jason G.,
-- Andrew Shields, Kyle M., Brian, John P., DTO, or Jason Froikin and may not
-- be used without express permission of the respective author.
-- All DC characters are property of D.C. Comics.
-- All Marvel characters are property of Marvel Comics.