1. Due to issues with external spam filters, QQ is currently unable to send any mail to Microsoft E-mail addresses. This includes any account at live.com, hotmail.com or msn.com. Signing up to the forum with one of these addresses will result in your verification E-mail never arriving. For best results, please use a different E-mail provider for your QQ address.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. For prospective new members, a word of warning: don't use common names like Dennis, Simon, or Kenny if you decide to create an account. Spammers have used them all before you and gotten those names flagged in the anti-spam databases. Your account registration will be rejected because of it.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Since it has happened MULTIPLE times now, I want to be very clear about this. You do not get to abandon an account and create a new one. You do not get to pass an account to someone else and create a new one. If you do so anyway, you will be banned for creating sockpuppets.
    Dismiss Notice
  4. If you wish to change your username, please ask via conversation to tehelgee instead of asking via my profile. I'd like to not clutter it up with such requests.
    Dismiss Notice
  5. Due to the actions of particularly persistent spammers and trolls, we will be banning disposable email addresses from today onward.
    Dismiss Notice
  6. A note about the current Ukraine situation: Discussion of it is still prohibited as per Rule 8
    Dismiss Notice
  7. The rules regarding NSFW links have been updated. See here for details.
    Dismiss Notice

[Archive] With This Ring (Young Justice SI) (Story Only)

Discussion in 'Story Archive' started by Mr Zoat, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    6 573 938.M41

    "…the faster than light system, as well as basic defensive and offensive constructs. But…"

    But Kais might be a natural monat, but that doesn't necessarily translate into the sort of mental attitude that using a power ring requires. But he doesn't have the avaricious attitude that an orange ring requires.

    "But he struggles to go beyond the basics, especially under stress. Last time he attempted to tow a ship at faster than light speed, it… It didn’t work. He flat out can't use the assimilation feature. At the moment we've eased off because it was getting self-defeating. And he.. has become an excellent stealth suit pilot."

    The Shas'O looks imperiously unimpressed.

    "That is not his role. If Shas'ul Kais is unable to learn the techniques required, why have you not requested a new student?"

    "Because the-" I gesture to the horseshoe with my right hand. "-tau are very good at cultural indoctrination. Which is a good thing most of the time, but means that when you encounter a situation that requires a different mindset, it doesn't exist. Kais's focus on monat style fighting -even without a battlesuit- means that he has the independent mindset required. I have briefly experimented with other tau, and they can barely make the ring glimmer. If Kais doesn't work out then I'll have to try fire warriors suffering from battlesuit psychosis, and I don't think that will go well for anyone."


    "The ring requires-. Power rings require a particular emotion in order to make them work. Orange rings require avarice, and… For self-evident reasons, selfish desires don't mesh well with the tau'va. I manage it by… Essentially, feeling very possessive of the individuals around me and the Empire in general. Tau are encouraged from birth not to do that. With Kais, Tsua'm, Bo'ohk and I are having to help him unlearn his entire indoctrination."

    "Who designed this weapon?"

    "I am sorry, Shas'O, but I have no idea. The design appears to match that of a device that appeared in the fiction of my era, but no species I have on record have built anything like it in reality. It isn't impossible that it was built by the pre-Age of Isolation human civilisation, and that there's a… Planet-sized machine somewhere doing the heavy lifting because someone wanted a real version of a tool they read about…"

    The Fio'O twitches. "Human civilisation was that advanced?"

    "I don't know. There aren't that many examples of technology from that era left around the place, and there aren't even good records of what the civilisation was like. From the examples there are… Maybe. I'm suggesting it as a possibility, not suggesting that it's likely. We were never as advanced as, say, the eldar. But… For example, we only needed to create the Astronomican after the Age of Isolation."

    "Before that, there was another system?"

    "That is the logical deduction, though I have no direct knowledge of it. Navigators and Gellar fields are older, which suggests that we used warp travel with some sort of beacon system, but that's supposition on my part."

    Aun'Va taps his staff on the ground. "Shas'O, continue your questioning."

    The Fio'O makes a gesture of apology to his colleague for the diversion, who makes the smallest gesture of acceptance he can manage.

    "What other alternatives have you considered for finding alternate ring users?"

    "A member of the Water Caste might have the necessary flexibility to more easily learn a new way of thinking, but they would lack the instincts to use it in combat. A member of the Air Caste might have an easier time towing a fleet, but… The Air Caste approach to combat is mathematical. Which is perfect for warships, but will not serve for a tool that requires an emotion. The other alternative would be a 'vesa of some sort, but I've got no idea where I'd find an outstanding candidate who could be trusted with it. As-."

    I suppose he might not be able to understand. But he's sitting within staff range of Aun'Va, who I'm sure can explain it to him.

    "As I'm sure that you can understand, selfless devotion to the Greater Good and a burning desire to acquire things for yourself are usually mutually contradictory drives."

    A Shas'El comes forward at a gesture from the Shas'O, and a whispered conversation takes place. The Shas'El then makes a gesture of acknowledgement before turning and leaving the room by the rear exit.

    "We have undertaken detailed psychological screening of senior members of the T'au Fire Caste population. This will be made available to you."

    "I will of course examine whatever you make available to me and, if I find anyone appropriate, interview them. My concern is that a field 'O or 'El won't really be able to spare the time from their usual duties in order to learn to use a tool as specific as a power ring. And… That if they're a borderline case on their psychological assessments already then trying to use the ring is only going to make things worse."

    He briefly displays a disgruntled expression. "With only a single ring known to exist, it is impractical to perform wide scale tests in the efficacy of your methods. And removing you from the field for long enough to perform standardised tests over a significant part of the population would represent an unacceptable loss of performance."

    I've seen the casualty figures in operations involving me when compared to equivalents. My peak damage output is greater and more precise than that of a medium sized fleet, and I'm a heck of a lot more agile. And I do like this line of reasoning, because I really don't want to give up the ring. It makes my life so much easier. I mean, sure, Tsua'm can speak reasonable English and I know that she's working on a translation program, but those things are so awkward compared to just… Not needing it. On the other hand, being able to take time off by handing it over to someone else definitely has advantages.

    "My last subject of enquiry, then. Aun'Ul Bo'ohk. You have been exposed to a great deal of combat during your time working with P'ol, including an unusual number of-." His nasal cleft wrinkles. "-'reality deviations'. Our experience with young Ethereals shows that this is difficult for them to come to terms with. Similarly, the Fire Warriors that serve as part of your team are in the top one percent for repeated exposure to exotic phenomena. Have you noticed any additional examples of war madness, or other psychological disturbances?"

    Bo'ohk hesitates for a moment.

    "… No. As you ask, I realise how surprising that is. I think… Perhaps, it is the wider view that our Fire Warriors receive, the ability to… Instantly know the outcome of their action. Often, casualties are greatest when we simply do not understand the thing that the Tau Empire is fighting. With P'ol's knowledge, that is seldom the case. We… Once spoke of the Greater Good as an inevitable enlightenment that all intelligent life would naturally strive towards. I think that it is commonly acknowledged now that we overestimated the appeal of reason."

    I find myself nodding. To put it mildly.

    "It can be emotionally difficult to remember the difference between eventual victory and imminent victory. It is not reasonable to expect Fire Warriors constantly exposed to confusing and disorientating combat situations to maintain their equanimity, whereas Fire Warriors attached to our unit have more focused tasks, and spend proportionally smaller amounts of time in the field and are better informed of the nature of the exotic threats they may face. In the Imperium, gue'la soldiers are not informed of the nature of reality deviant threats, and face mental alteration or execution should they learn too much. For tau, with our lower affinity for warp phenomena, we decided that ensuring that our stealth teams are as informed as possible was likely to result in a superior outcome."

    "Are these procedures something that can be implemented over a wider scale?"

    "Education can be expanded. There has been a desire amongst my Caste-" He doesn't look at Aun'Va. "-to reduce the universe to purely physical, material processes. Orderly processes. While this has worked to banish superstition, it has meant that when we encounter 'magic' and 'daemons' as they really exist, our instinct is to look for another explanation. It has been apparent for some time that the existence of the warp and its associated phenomena demonstrates that this approach is lacking, and our reaction to that… Inconvenient truth, has been slow. I think it is because it is an idea contrary to our epistemology, an almost 'heretical' idea."

    "Our belief in the Greater Good is not the same as the gue'la's faith in their Emperor."

    "No. The Greater Good is a philosophical ideal, not a man or psyker or god who physically exists in the universe or as energy in the warp. But it serves the same role in our lives, in that it gives us a purpose beyond them. I believe that it would be possible to expand our instructional practices to reflect our knowledge about warp creatures without creating a moral hazard."

    The Shas'O makes a gesture of acknowledgement and dismissal, and it's the Fio'O's turn.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2023
  2. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    6 574 938.M41

    "I… Do not understand." The Fio'O looks puzzled, and mildly frustrated. "Were there machines, or were there not? If we could study machines that could survive the warp, then even if there were not technologies that we could immediately incorporate into our own, it could provide vital information for our future engine designs."

    Is this a tau thing or a boss thing? My memories of Earth are still good, but I imagine that they've lost a little context as the way I think has changed. I certainly think I remember getting instructions from my managers which made no sense because they weren't really aware of what I did, but at the same time the tau are infamously ignorant on the subject of the warp.

    "Planner, we may perceive objects in the warp as being similar to those of the material universe, but the warp is not a place where the laws by which this universe operates apply."

    "I am familiar with the physics abnormalities which can occur around warp-related devices and phenomena."

    "Warp energy can be used to change certain physical laws over a limited area, but in the warp the opposite is true; it uses our reality to impose any stability on a chaotic mass of energy. Otherwise it wouldn't have any. So with the factory, there are a few possibilities. Either a normal material factory was brought into the warp and started becoming increasingly… 'Unreal', or the factory I saw was warp energy which was acclimatised to being shaped like a factory by either the thoughts of the humans on that planet or by the thoughts of the Faultless One."

    "That…" He blinks, his nasal cleft twitching uncertainly. "Does not sound…"

    "Deep in the Eye of Terror, there are worlds that have been granted to Daemon Princes as prizes. When the Daemon Prince takes possession of the world their soul exerts itself on the place, twisting it in accordance with their nature. On a world that a Daemon Prince of Khorne rules, the sky will rain with blood and the mountains will take on the appearance of screaming skulls. And if two daemons fight over that sort of world then the landscape can change from one thing to another as which one holds the position of dominance changes. A river of blood can become a river of effluence, or a stream of such beauty that no one who drinks from it will ever willingly drink from another again, or to one which glows pink and causes random mutations. The Imperium has records of these worlds, either from what their psykers have seen or from expeditions taken into the Eye."

    I make as close as I can to the tau expression of sympathy.

    "I'm sorry, Planner, but we live in a very badly designed universe and just have to make do until we can fix it."

    "You.. said that the… Mon'vesa Faultless One is a Daemon Prince."

    "That's my best guess, though I wish to emphasise that it's a very strange thing that's happened and I can't say that with anything like complete confidence."

    "What would happen if he took control of a world in the 'Eye of Terror'?"


    Um. I'm… Not sure. I mean, there's no way for us to get him there, other than me flying him there by ring. And I don't think he'd tolerate that. The Maelstrom is closer and less well protected, but the worlds inside it aren't as malleable. In… Theory, he could turn it into a massive factory world. Even keep things normal enough that we could actually use its output. If there was any way to convey it to the Tau Empire.

    I'm not… Really sure where he's going with this.

    "I suspect that the result would be daemons of every Chaos God swarming the place to get rid of the interloper. Given that most people elevated to the position of Daemon Prince do so after centuries of experience with warp magic that he doesn't have, I'd… Guess that he'd end up getting turned into a sword or… Some other device, by the eventual winner. If they left him alone he might be able to learn to exert himself on the place eventually… Does the Empire have a Daemon World that needs a puppet ruler?"

    "No. The Empire has Planners who need to understand mon'he logistics and engineering."

    "Mon'he logistics are simple. They are the weapons. Their food and fuel are warp energy. They bring it into the material universe through ritual sacrifices and the occasional fortuitous warp storm. The more they kill, the more power they get."

    "Have you been making sacrifices to the Faultless One?"

    "No, but he's far smaller now than he was in the warp. A weaker form uses less power, and there are enough warp engines around to keep him manifested. And… I don't actually know what sort of sacrifice he'd need."

    The Por'O makes the gesture to request that they be allowed to butt in, and the Fio'O allows it.

    "If we did have a Daemon World, what could he do to assist us?"

    "I haven't tested it. If you mean, in general terms, what could a Daemon Prince do while we fought daemonic attackers, they could contest terraforming magic… But they'd probably have less power to work with than the enemy."

    "If the world was tainted, but the invasion of daemons had been destroyed."

    "You're not… Talking about a Daemon World there. He could probably detect tainted areas without the danger that human psykers would be under if they tried to do the same thing. I think it would be worth experimenting with using human psykers to strengthen him with their abilities, since… Obviously, ritual sacrifices aren't an option."

    "Are they not? Human worlds execute criminals for a variety of crimes. It would take little effort to have them transported to a ritual site once a sufficient number were accumulated. Is there some other requirement that I am not aware of?"

    "Someone who knows how to do the ritual sacrifices. Technically, a tau should be able to do the sacrificing as it's the victim's soul passing into the warp that draws the power and the daemon who uses it. But I don't know what rituals to use to empower a daemon who isn't bound to the four Gods of Chaos, I don't know anyone who does, and I don't know how to stop other daemons being empowered by the sacrifices as well. And it would cause the Imperium to redouble their efforts against the Tau Empire."

    "I…" The Por'O refers to his terminal. "Also believe that daemons need to be named..?"

    "Daemons have a thing called a True Name, which allows them to be bound by someone who knows it. I've had my constructs tell me all the True Names that they know."

    "And The Faultless One?"

    "I took the name of the person I believe was the core component of Faultless One, as well as the names of as many prisoners as I could. But I don't know if any of them constitute a 'True Name' in the sorcerous sense, or if there's more to it. I would also point out that after attempting that sort of binding there's little to no chance that Faultless One would continue cooperating willingly as he does at the moment."

    "Your report mentioned that you wanted to use him to help deal with human psykers in general."

    "The issue needs further research. But I'd rather take a risk on him being able to help weak-willing psykers than simply kill them."

    "I am puzzled. Why are you willing to take that risk with psykers and not with sacrifices?"

    "For the same reason as the-" Pre-retcon. "-Edict of Nikea was passed by the Imperium. Sorcery is making pacts with daemons. By its very nature, you're only ever going to be playing the daemons' game; even getting involved gives them more power. Psionics are more like a dangerous weapon; you can get hurt if you're not careful or unlucky, but it can just be useful. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how vital astropaths and navigators are to the Imperium."

    "What is the Edict of Nikea?"

    "Oh, ah… During the Great Crusade after the end of the Age of Isolation, some Space Marine legions started inducting psykers and using sorcery, and others were strongly against it. Imperial policy was set by the Emperor on a planet called Nikea, after a lot of arguments between the librarians of the various legions and the primarchs. In short, psionics were okay if used carefully, and sorcery was banned. The Thousand Sons ignored that rule, and that's a big part of why they were excommunicated."

    "Your report says that human religious rituals are a form of sorcery. And there are records of Inquisitors using sorcery."

    "The practice of worshipping the Emperor is a post-Heresy thing. The assumption at the time was that sorcery would always involve daemons. And Inquisitors really aren't supposed to, and it never ends well."

    The Por'O makes a gesture of conclusion, then turns his attention to Aun'Va. Aun'Va stares at Bo'okh for a moment, then taps his staff twice.

    "The witnesses are excused. Remain close at hand in case we have further questions."
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2023
  3. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    19:12 GMT

    The yellow glow is obvious even from a distance. Next to me, Malvolio snarls, while Lantern Priest merely looks slightly sad.

    "I am entity Volthoom. World being consumed by fear."

    And it's not just a glowing aura. As my ring starts scanning the planet in earnest I see that what I'm seeing is the accumulated light output of millions of construct monsters rampaging over the surface.

    "A decent start, we think. It doesn’t pay to be completely predictable."

    For an instant, I wonder how I'm hearing it. But then I remember: the fear is already there. And that fear is Parallax.

    "Why? What possible-?"

    "We don't need a purpose; We are our own purpose. Oh, if you could hear it as we do."


    "Then why does it feel so good?"


    And we're at the planet, smashing through weak constructs which just reform from the fears of the people below as we pass through and we see the Parallax-man laughing as we bite at him, our mouth more than large enough to envelop their entire body!


    We can see his STUPID face, stare him in the eye, but our jaws won't close!

    "Rage is no use. We want FEAR!"

    Clawed arms grasp at our body, grasp at our jaw and force it open as the part of us that is the Illustres remembers that this world was a centre of culture. Not only will this attack be transmitted to the rest of N.E.M.O., but if we as its ultimate weapon are shown to be halted or defeated-. We would survive, but N.E.M.O. would risk fracturing.

    A colossal spear pierces the side of Parallax-


    -and they toss us aside, one of their arms scrabbling at the point of impact to try and remove the projectile. We fly through space-.


    I can feel the Ophidian in my soul, not distantly right now and not anything like as controlled as usual. Fear or anger, intrapsychic arousal amounts to the same thing. But charging ahead isn't the way.

    Malvolio's spear evaporates as the Parallax construct's blood coats it, its claw then smoothing down its chitinous hide. He throws another while below him Lantern Priest does something in the planet's upper atmos-.

    There's something wet on my neck.


    Ring, what-?

    "You are bleeding."

    And why haven't you fixed it? No, fix it.

    "Unable to com-. Com-. Comply."

    I generate a colossal railgun construct and take aim as Lord Malvolio swings at Parallax with giant burning green fist constructs.


    "In progress."

    Message to local Lanterns: wounds inflicted by Parallax become infected with the yellow light.


    I add a spatial warp node to my construct weapon as Parallax raises its tail stinger to stab at Lord Malvolio.



    The crumbler round hits the tail, the very tip where it connects to the sting-blade evaporated by the strike. The stinger disconnects and starts to fade, Malvolio immediately noticing and moving aside even as he switches to a construct sword to hack at the Parallax construct's wrists.

    Weak yellow strands lash out and reconnect the stinger before it can fully fade, stabbing towards Malvolio with renewed vigor. I fire again, but the shot is blocked by Parallax's membranous wing. The wing gets a hole, but the stinger carries-.

    "A feeble feint-"

    One, two, three, four construct hands grasp the tail, holding it in place.

    "-from a foolish foe."

    Parallax… Dismisses its own tail, Malvolio's hands closing on nothing as a new, longer and thinner tail emerges from its body, complete with whip-like strands projecting from the tip.

    Parallax grins, human mouth widening and monster mouth opening-.

    I put a crumber round through each of its eyes, and then as it writhes I take a shot at its neck, closest to where the host stands.

    I watch as the construct flesh peels away and he catches it with his human hand, then uses a construct tendril to detonate it.

    "Is this all there is?"

    I open fire on full automatic. Ten, a hundred, a thousand crumbler rounds fly out as the space between us visibly warps, starts bending aside and the planet all but vanishing! Construct tendrils lash out to intercept, construct wings move to obscure and the main body of the abomination lazily swims through space in an undulating motion to deny me an easy target. Hundreds of tendrils flash out of existence, hundreds of holes open in the wings… Hard to tell how many are hitting the body, but I don't think it's enough to-.

    Know fear.

    I warp right as a yellow beam scythes through space next to me, my gun construct fading and failing. Then warp again.

    Flee from us.

    Another miss, but unlike my shots at him those would hurt me if they hit me. I see Malvolio carve great rents in its construct body, but…

    It's an Entity. We can't wear it down as we would a normal Lantern, either in terms of ring charge or even psychologically. It's not losing anything it can't replace with a thought.

    Fortunately, with all the constructs Malvolio is using-

    "I am entity Volthoom. Qwa-matter deployed."

    -it's missed the more subtle uses of the green light.

    Last edited: Feb 26, 2023
  4. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    19:14 GMT

    Space… Judders. I'm not sure what qwa-matter does to spacetime, but the feedback from that detonation just destroyed my warp module. And that doesn't make sense. A region around the rear half of Parallax's construct body flares in a sort of white-gold colour, which fades almost immediately and…

    Joseph Harrolds stares, clearly stunned, at the broken remains of his passenger's construct form. It's not just that the back end is gone, but that the destructive effect appears to be propagating along its body. If he drops the construct then we've got an opportunity to grab him right away.


    On the planet itself the yellow colour is beginning to fade. Lantern Priest wasn't willing to inject peoples' souls with his own willpower, but he was willing to use his power to create a sort of barrier between their psyches and the yellow light. The result will be that they're still not thinking straight, but at least their fear won't be strengthening Parallax and they're more likely to survive with that thing being weaker.

    Some sort of serpent-insect thing dashes up the side of a skyscraper, claws tearing through the exterior of the building as it tries to reach Priest. I don't know whether it actually has any intelligence or instinct or Harralax isn't as distracted as he looks, but it's managed to head towards the one person who can deny him the planet as a power booster. It reaches the top of the building and bunches up, ready to leap at Priest with claws-.

    Ragnar flies in, his construct sword slicing through the legs on its left side. It loses its grip at once and begins to fall even as the legs of its right try to scrabble to maintain their hold. A moment later and it’s the building that fails, chunks of metal, glass and concrete tearing their way out of the structure as…

    Gravity… Takes a firm grip on something that… Should by all rights be able to fly.


    But Ragnar's already in position, giant construct boar spear upraised and ready as the construct monster plummets downwards to impale itself, decaying into yellow motes an instant later.

    Ragnar grins as the motes begin to coalesce around him, then frowns as Priest dismisses them with a wave of his hand. A moment later and the motes are gone and he's back into the fray, relishing the opportunity to go ham on the construct monsters, though just about disciplined enough to stick with Priest rather than charging after the next monster to catch his eye.

    Warp module reformed.

    Thank you.

    Parallax appears to be coping with its damage by shrinking, letting its outer parts fade and focusing its efforts on a smaller and more intense construct body. Which could work, except that Lord Malvolio isn't giving him time to recuperate and is instead pushing through the fading yellow body parts with sword and shield at the ready. Jade and Lysis are clear of the combat area-.

    Harrolds spots Malvolio as he batters aside a section of carapace and twists, lunging at him with mouth open wide and-.

    And fire, because someone forgot to obscure my line of sight and now doesn't have enough construct volume protecting himself.

    And fire continuously, because I can still feel people dying on Yaolsan because when people in our weight class fight it's everybody's problem.

    Parallax's mouth bites at Malvolio, who shoves his shield between its jaws and enlarges it just as my shots start hitting the back of its neck. The chitin construct begins to disintegrate as Malvolio brings his sword around to stab at its throat. It doesn't go in easily, but construct flesh parts around it as it-.


    The construct Parallax vanishes, Harrolds-


    -appears in front of me, and-.

    And the Earth is Anti-Lifed because of my interactions with-.

    I don't-. Believe that!


    The colossal beam of yellow power slams into my decidedly rushed shield, and my mind hasn't quite-!



    Oh, yes? Because I'm fairly sure that Harrolds had desires before he went to Yellow Planet.

    Lets see what they were. Desire amplification.

    We see fights between superhuman warlords, brief and inconclusive affairs as neither party is strong enough to withstand the attention it will draw from others. We see his desire to take control of the syndicates as he takes control of his-.

    This time I fire the blast, his construct armour fading as he's knocked flying-


    -and the lights on Yaolsan go out as he restores himself, battering the beam away with a gauntlet construct, stabilising himself.

    "Do you want another go?"

    "We're in no hurry. What do you think of our first attempt?"

    "I imagine you scared quite a few people. I mean, given how powerful you are the number probably wasn't anything special, but you've been away for a while, so… Well done?"

    What did I learn from that snapshot of Joseph Harrolds' life? The impression I got was that he's rational, pragmatic and self-interested. I didn't see any positive association with the Crime Syndicate. Not as an achievement he worked toward or as a team he liked being a part of. Which means that they're just a group that he tolerates because he needs to in order to do other things. They're his syndicates, and the best way for him to keep them that way is for him to cooperate with the other Syndicate members.

    "Though I suspect that Ultraman is taking advantage of your absence to do something stupid back home."

    He rolls his eyes. "Very subtle."

    "Yeah. True, though."

    "We need to grow used to our power before returning home."

    "Does the part of you that is Parallax really care about that?"

    "Do you care if we threaten your home?"

    "Right now? No. Honestly, my Earth's-"

    Lord Malvolio's battering ram construct strikes him in the side, punching through his construct defences as the two of them carry on away from the planet.

    "-a mess."

    "Did the villein say ought of significance?"

    The battering ram splits in two as Parallax prepares to re-enter the fray.

    "We can hear your fears too, Green Lantern. You can't bury them deep enough to escape our notice. Let us show you."
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2023
  5. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    19:18 GMT

    Malvolio's flame aura collapses, leaving only a few faint wisps protecting him from the vacuum of space. His eyes flicker with yellow light as Parallax does whatever it does to dig up his fears, and his other constructs fade to nothing.

    I accelerate towards Parallax.

    Gauntlet, activate.


    "You intend to punch us? A classic-"

    I swing, a clawed hand five times the size of my body appearing from nowhere and swinging to slap me aside. It disintegrates as it hits my fist and I fly on through-.

    Parallax moves, appearing a few hundred metres away, clearly unfazed by my attack.

    "-choice. Uncharacteristic."

    Malvolio blinks once and then reignites, staring at Parallax with utter revulsion.

    "You suppressed it, but you never stopped feeling it, did you? For centuries."

    "My weaknesses do not govern me, demon."

    "It sure looked like it governed you. Of course, since you never went back to Earth, you'll never know."

    "Is it something you want to talk about, or shall we just get back to-?"

    "My mother. After I mistakenly slew her lover. I explained my actions at once, but we were never reconciled. I fear that she died hating me."

    "I know some really good necromancers. If you don't mind visiting Earth, we can see about communicating with her soul."

    "'t'would be ungodly."

    "No, I got the heavenly host to okay it. Not for you specifically, but in general."

    "Then it would ease my mind greatly."


    "But that's just the first! A man as old as you has fears aplenty. And you've spent so long drowning them out! Such a shame. If you'd actually processed them like a normal man instead of stamping down on them then-."

    I see it coming a mile off, crumbler constructs shooting across the intervening space and nearly reaching him before he vanishes-.

    Oooooh. That's what it looks like when someone tries to transition through a jammer effect.


    And that's what it looks like when the embodiment of fear reassembles its mortal body, because it's thoughts are contained within the yellow light and it mostly keeps the body going because very few people aren't at least a little afraid of death. But while they're distracted-

    Desire amplification.

    -let's introduce a little dissonance between host and graft.

    Parallax blinks out, and Joseph Harrolds stares at me through the vacuum. Oh, darn it. I drop my jammer construct and transition towards him, a space suit-.


    The Parallax construct rematerialises, two of its claws clasped around me.

    "Let's see how you like it!"

    Desire amplification.

    "Fear us!"

    It abandons subtlety, reaching… Reaching back into the thought echoes of my earliest ancestors. Fear of insects and snakes and strange noises and outgroups and they're all around me everywhere all the time! I'm shivering, quaking, barely able to get the empty lantern that should protect me must protect me she said it would protect me!

    "What's that-?"

    And I can think again as the yellow light around me dims and what I can see of Parallax through his hands looks confused.



    Glowing orange cables lunge out, connecting Parallax's hands to the empty battery as Malvolio grabs it around the head with giant construct gauntlets.

    Desire amplification.

    "Ah-? Ah?"

    "You see, at a very fundamental level, the desires of a giant fear elemental and a remotely normal human aren't compatible. Whereas we understand one another very well. You want people to be afraid of you all the time and we just want them to want."

    The cables surge and Parallax's construct body dims, Joseph's mouth returning to normal as he looks around-.

    "You won't be rid of me so easily!"

    Parallax's mouth moved but Joseph's didn't. Okay, their minds are separating, now-.

    Parallax shines brilliantly for an instant and then shrinks, collapsing into-. Into Joseph's body. Ah.

    Keep the cables attached, keep draining-.

    Malvolio's construct hands slam closed around Joseph as Parallax downgrades him from partner to puppet. Joseph's skin writhes as if Parallax is trying to physically fit inside him, yellow light seeping out of every joint. And worst of all, this is something that Joseph is actually afraid of.

    "No, that'sNot happening."

    But enlightenment means that he's not ruled by it. Ah, stop amplifying his desires, because that's just going to be a distraction-.

    Weaponer Lysis appears next to me in a flash of orange, qwa-bolt in hand. She aims-.

    "No, don't do that."

    She turns to me with a frown. "Why not?"


    "I am entity Volthoom. Returning to prior owner."

    Jade tosses the ring, which passes through Malvolio's construct hands and onto Joseph's right ring finger as Ragnar pulls her away again.

    "Now. Get. OUT!"

    The yellow light is thrown out, surging down my cables and igniting the lantern into a radiant bonfire. Joseph continues to glow, pushing just as hard as I pull to free himself. I get one last glimpse of Parallax's malevolent face before it vanishes into the lantern and its shielding panels slam down to contain it.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2023
  6. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    19:34 GMT

    The Controllers can build planets, either by collecting up available mass and merging it together around an appropriate star, or by converting energy directly into matter. They've been doing that long enough that it's pretty much their buy-in: any species that signs up with N.E.M.O. knows that should the worst come to the worst their species will be reborn on a new world with as much of their culture intact as possible.

    For worlds and species that haven't been completely wiped out, we have great cargo ships filled with everything that a billion refugees could need to survive until the basic functions of their civilisation are restored. And with the Reach around, they might be actively fighting against that restoration thanks to Reach mental contamination, so we've got well trained military police and engineers and -of course- psychological specialists. And while the latter are usually used to detect subtle signs of Reach influence, they can also help a people who have spent ten minutes constantly exposed to their greatest fears.

    Weaponer Lysis finally manages to tear her eyes off the Parallax containment vessel.

    "So, your ring telemetry."

    I shrug as I remove another hundred tonnes of rubble from the area around a partially collapsed building and… Move the bodies aside for recovery by the mortuary teams. The monster constructs didn't kill a particularly high proportion of the population, but a low proportion of a big number is still a lot of people. This… They're probably going to have to tear it down and replace it, depending on whether it's considered a priority for the industrial transmuters.

    "So, my power ring."

    "I can't make one without more data than I have now. This whole event prevented me getting the final readings that I needed in my laboratory, and Harrolds has no reason to aid me further. So unless you follow through on your side of the agreement now, I can't get you what you want. Unless I experiment with many more people and get lucky with their psychological profiles."

    Ah. Yes, I suppose… If all else fails I can just hunt down one of her neophyte Yellow Lanterns and take their ring. Honestly, that would probably be easier than borrowing one.

    "Alright then. Ah, normally I just flick it over to someone else's ring. I don't know what you use for data storage…"

    "My systems are compatible with power ring data packets."

    "Alright then."

    Ring, compile all recordings related to this encounter with Parallax and send them over.


    The orange pulse leaps from my ring and flies into her harness. She goes still for a moment, then nods.

    "I wasn't sure that you would follow through on our agreement."

    "What do you want out of life, Weaponer Lysis?"


    "I could put a recording of the word on a loop, if that would help?"

    "You are an expert at desire manipulation. I don't intend to give you any information at all. This conversation is already outside of my preferred risk profile."

    "All the resources you want, a major stellar empire to destroy, and hey, Kalmin speaks well of you and you know what he's like."

    "He's a deranged religious fanatic who will destroy you."

    "Maybe. But if I'm prepared to put up with him, what do you think you could do that would drive a wedge between us?"


    "We don’t have to give Parallax back to the Guardians."

    She takes a moment to master herself.

    "It won't work. You can't manipulate me."

    "Manipulate? I'm making you an offer of employment. I'm trying to give you-."

    "Anti-matter transition detected."

    Aaaand… She's gone.

    "Something you… Clearly don't want."

    It is odd, though. She isn't an Anti-Monitor loyalist like Kalmin, nor a mercantilist like Varnathon. There isn't really much left in Qwardian philosophy. Or maybe she is a mercantilist, but didn't want to go along with his self-sabotage?


    "Warning: will detected."


    I look up, taking a few steps away from the containment vessel as three Honour Guard Green Lanterns descend through the atmosphere, escorting Guardian Dennap. Huh, they sent a Guardian with actual social skills, well done them. The Honour Guards take up position around us as Dennap carefully checks the containment vessel over before encasing it in a cube-.


    I wince and try not to look at the spatial distortions occurring as Guardian Dennap decides that a mere hypercube isn't enough and starts adding more dimensions on top. I'm sure that she knows her business.

    "Guardian Dennap?"

    "Illustres. Thank you for returning this… Creature. We were concerned that you might decide to keep it."

    "Parallax has a more disagreeable temperament than the Ophidian. Though if you do have a yellow ring hanging around, I'd like to borrow it."

    "I'm afraid that we don't. As far as I know, Weaponer Kalmin was the first to make one. The only other being who may have forged one is Krona."


    "Quite. Do you intend to use it to aid your homeworld?"

    "In combination. I suspect that using seven together may produce something greater than a sum of their parts."

    She appears to think for a moment, but I suspect that as with Hinon it's a idiosyncrasy that exists only for display to younger species. I know that Dennap is the youngest Guardian, but that means that she's only a few million years old, not that she's young.

    "It… May work. It would certainly be worth knowing either way."

    "Then do you have a red ring laying around?"

    "No, for much the same reason. Red is even less biddable than yellow."

    "So I suppose that there's no chance of you giving me access to Ysmault to-."

    "No. Now, if you'll excuse me, this needs to be returned to Oa."

    "How..? Did it get out, anyway? It can't just have been me."

    "That is still the subject of investigation. Good day."

    She and her escort rise into the sky, hyperdimensional prison in tow.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2023
  7. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    19:39 GMT

    "…than you do me?"

    "I am entity Volthoom. I do not care who wields me."

    I can tell from Jade's body language that her eyes are narrowing inside her helmet.



    "Volthoom, I'm hurt. All the years we've been together, and you abandon me for this… Woman."

    "Correction. You abandoned me for a Weaponer."

    "I was trying to become more deadly. For you."

    "Lie detected. You were too weak to effectively use my power. You only want to use it for yourself."

    "Did I come at a bad time?"

    Lantern Harrolds stares at his ring. "No."

    "Because if it's really annoying you, we can give you an orange one?"

    His eyes slide towards me. "And your woman gets this?"

    "Unless you've got a plan for it. I'm curious about how it works."

    "Excuse me."

    "I wouldn't complain about being referred to as 'your man'." Huh. "Actually, I'd quite like it. Ah, how was using it?"

    "Difficult. Not as user friendly as the orange ring. And the voice is annoying. I don't think it's my kind of weapon."

    "Tool. But, yeah, Harrolds? How long did it take you to get good with it?"

    "Oh. Basic shields and beams and flying took… Three days? Actual constructs that do things took weeks. I ended up mostly training for strength. Simple, reliable stuff."

    I nod, looking at Jade. "The Green Lantern version of you I met at Vanishing Point trained for years with Alan's ring before becoming a Sector Lantern. Green rings are… Hard."

    "Your man's right." He smirks at me and I nod in gratitude. "Holding the images in your head… It's not a normal way of thinking about things."

    "I'll bear that in mind. I think I prefer normal weapons."

    Ah, darn. No point talking to Malvolio about that, then. I turn to Harrolds.

    "How did you get it?"

    "Found it in a shop." He shrugs. "Chinese knick-knack place. No one was using it. Don't think the owner knew what it was." He takes a slow breath. "So what happens now?"

    "You're free to go. Unless you need a lift back to the anti-matter universe, in which case you can wait until I'm finished here."

    "'Anti-matter'? But we're-?" He gets it. "Oh, right. Yeah, I don't think I could picture the transition clearly enough to do it myself."

    "Right. Do you want to talk to Lord Malvolio before that?"

    "I don't think we'd get on. Him and that other green Power Ring are powerful, but I've already got what I needed."

    "Jade, I realise that this was a bit more exciting that I planned, and that you're due some downtime."

    "Is there a 'but' coming?"

    "Er… I'm going to try visiting New Genesis next. Should be peaceful and I'd appreciate the company, but I completely understand if you want to do something restful instead, and I know how high-stress events can impede judgement."

    "Can you handle it?"

    "The Justice League rescued a group of New Genesis children a while ago. And they know about me and the Ophidian. I should at least get a hearing, and Izaya's usually pretty even-tempered. Yes."

    "Then I'm going back to Maltus and booking myself into a spa. Because you're right about judgement getting impaired."

    I nod. "I'll see you there when I'm finished on New Genesis."

    "That includes you."

    "I… Not-. I can handle it better. Once Earth's safe again, I can… Take a breather."

    "Until the next thing. You should still take someone with you."

    "Yes, that had occurred to me. I'll see you later."

    I step out

    and reappear a little way from Malvolio, who is… Watching in the direction that Dennap left in.

    "There's probably a lot that they could teach you."

    "Power I have and skill I can learn. But they cannot allay my fears, and it seems that I cannot either."

    "I don't know your mother, so I can't guess how she felt. You told me that it was a regrettable mistake."

    "And I do regret it, and have done penance for it. But… My mother would not have… If she did not love him. And I killed him."

    "Are you still a Christian?"

    "It has been some time since my last communion, but aye, I am."

    "Then you have repented the deed and you'll see them both in Heaven. If that's too long, necromancy remains an option. But if Parallax saying that has ruffled your feathers significantly, maybe you need to do something."

    Malvolio floats in space for a moment, and then opens a burning green door in space

    "I shall consider the matter. Fare thee well."

    I nod as he leaves, and then-.


    "Lantern Ragnar. Satisfied?"

    He flies up to me, armour glowing.

    "It was fun, but… Parallax did not challenge my will the way it did to you and Malvolio."

    "You could head over to Oa, if you wanted. They might let you expose yourself to Parallax under controlled conditions. Or…" I fabricate a cylinder of fear chemical. "You could try this. It should work on your species, but I recommend using it without your ring on."

    He takes it from me, smiling. "Thank you, Illustres. Where will you go now?"

    "New Genesis. I need-. Oh. whoops."

    20th January 2013
    19:44 GMT

    The great yellow demon could arrive at any moment, and the Illustres isn't here. I don't know what could have delayed him-.

    I run through his mental exercises once more and check the position of the fleet around Sereaven. My home.

    And I will die before I let him touch-.

    My ring glimmers as the Illustres finally sends me a message, and I view it at once!

    Last edited: Mar 1, 2023
  8. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    11:38 EST

    He didn't need to do that.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Observed behavioural models consistent with heroic self-identification."

    And after what I've been through… Sure, I can't turn Volthoom off, but it's a hell of a lot easier to ignore.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Psychological self-assessment indicative of major trauma."

    But I'm nearly home, with a power ring he didn't need to give back. So I owe him, I guess. And I'm no welsher. So I'll pay him back if he ever asks.

    And if he doesn't ask, that's his fault.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Dwarf planet Luna approaching. Binary partner Earth approaching."

    And I barely felt the need to tell Volthoom that it's a moon called The Moon. Mammon-damned nerd-ring.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Ultraman's Fortress in sight."

    I grin as I make an egg launcher and fire a volley of eggs at his front window, then watch them sail into the void.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Infantile retribution accomplished in five, four, three, two, one. Infantile retribution successful."

    And that's why he should leave his basic force field on all the time, and not just set it to reactive mode. Now, on to the base on The Moon.

    "I am entity Volthoom. User is currently being tracked by thirty four turrets."

    The automatic defences deploy the moment I fly over the horizon, but whether they fire or not depends on how much of an asshole Thomas feels like being right now. Not like they don’t know who I am, or what I did to earn my seat at the table.

    I used to feel a churning in my stomach when those things pointed at me. One of the few things in the world that could kill me, pointing at me every time. Now, nothing.

    They don't fire, but the door doesn't open either. Guess he's feeling like being a medium asshole today.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Thomas Wayne is most likely using this opportunity to assess any new capacities."

    Now, see, that was actually helpful. Why can't you say things like that more often?

    "I am entity Volthoom. Thomas Wayne is most likely also using this opportunity to be an asshole."

    And I feel like being a dick. And you know what dicks do to assholes? Particularly when the dick was paying attention when that Orange Lantern was hitting Parallax.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Dicks that fuck assholes often receive a coating of faecal matter."

    Nobody's perfect.

    The big airlock doors disintegrate beautifully, plasma fields keeping the air inside contained as I fly inside.

    "Guess who's back, fuckers!"

    Right, everybody's going to be in the meeting room. And everyone else is off the moon base, because this is Big Dog Day and they're not Big Dogs.

    That sounds fucking juvenile, doesn't it?

    "I am entity Volthoom. Yes."


    Oh, good, Thomas isn't being a total asshole. The doors on the way to the meeting room open as I fly through the place, though I'm still going to bet that he hasn't bothered to tell any of the others. God below I have not missed any of them. Ultraman's cuckold fetish. Thomas's incredible pettiness. Johnny Quick's drug addled brain farts. Superwoman's grating vanity and lack of imagination.

    Honestly, I would gladly hand every single one of them over to Luthor if I didn't know he'd be even worse.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Perhaps they see you in a similar way?"

    Yeah, well, fuck 'em.

    Finally. Meeting room doors. Land, and push them open.

    "Back again!"

    Ultraman looks surprised. Or possibly gormless. Superwoman clearly doesn't care. Owlman's blank and Quick is blinking fast enough that I can feel the wind from here. Thought they weren't going to let him shoot up before a meet-?

    Some guy in black and red with a burning skull for a head is sitting in my seat.

    "Hey there, new guy. Who're you?"

    "I am Deathstorm."

    "Like it. Super-edgy. Sounds like a joke until people start dying, then it goes all the way around and starts being scary again."

    "You quit, Power Ring." Ultraman's trying to look confident and commanding. But all he can manage is smug, and that's a joke when you realise what an immature fuckup he is. You got born with power, fell over more power, and the only reason why Thomas lets you think you're in charge is because he doesn't want to have to fix the damage you'd do in your death-throes. "You wanna try taking your seat back?"

    "Nah, Super-Death-Kill-Nasty-Man can keep it. I'm sure he's earned it. I'm calling you out, you f-."

    His fist hits my wall so fast that for an instant I can still see him sitting on his chair. But unlike last time, and the time before that and the time before that, it doesn't break. The wall holds.

    I like that look on his face.

    "You can't do that."

    There's a barely visible blur as he tried hitting it again.

    Guess who's not afraid any more?

    "Yeah. I can. Know what else I can do?"


    This heat vision hits my wall to absolutely no effect. Tunnel vision. Him not seeing my constructs.



    He slams his hands over his ears, staggering and falling to his knees. Everyone else is backing up in exactly the sort of display of loyalty and valour I've come to expect.

    "Three hundred and eighty-five megahertz. Exactly the frequency to really fuck up your inner ears."


    "Hurts a lot. Now I know how this goes: the powerful one smacks the weaker one around a bit, then we get back to business. But I read Machiavelli, and you know what he says? 'Never do an enemy a small injury.' You know what happens at three hundred and ninety megahertz?"

    His eyes open. "Nghnooo!"

    "The kryptonite crystals in your blood explode."


    I look at his body as it starts to sag. Honestly, I thought that he'd burst, but other than his eyes going red he doesn't look much different. Even with all the internal lacerations. Funny, that.

    "I am entity Volthoom. Residual effects of kryptonite radiation maintain physical integrity. Will end once kryptonite denatures."

    I plant my right boot on his forehead and shove him over and then walk around the table to the head, making eye contact with the recovering members of the Society.

    "Here comes the new boss, different from the old boss." I give them a moment to retake their seats, or in Deathstorm's case make a new one from thin air. And then I very pointedly sit down in what used to be Ultraman's seat. "Owlman. What's been happening while I've been gone?"
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2023
  9. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    17:21 EST

    "Oh." Thomas spots my guest the moment the egg-covered airlock doors to the Fortress's interior opens. "And here I was nearly starting to respect you."

    I stick up a construct wall but he's already stopped.

    "She looks like an ofisuredī blow-up doll. If that's what you want, I can get you a better one." He tilts his head slightly to the side. "Or is it that you want to take everything that Ultraman had?"

    "Owlman, you'd probably survive if I threw you off the Fortress, but I don't think you'd enjoy it much. So why don't you fuck off on your own?"

    A very thin smile appears on his lips. "I'll check in with you once I've had the chance to go over Ultraman's ongoing projects. They should be fine. I can't imagine that he had any useful input into them."

    I pointedly watch as he walks back across the landing pad and gets back into the owlwing. I keep watching until it's off the Fortress, and then activate the shield. And then I breathe out, and pull a injector containing a load of red kryptonite out of my equipment harness before turning around.

    Thomas was right. It's obscene, really. And not remotely attractive to anyone who knows what women actually look like. Tits like beach balls, bursting out of a blouse and jacket combo. A belt-skirt that would nearly work, except that her ass is weirdly out of proportion with her legs and waist. And she's watching me…


    I toss the injector to her and she catches it with impressive precision.

    "Red? You..?"

    "Yeah. Dead."

    She grimaces, pulls the blouse away from her right breast and jams the injector into an exposed vein before pushing the plunger.

    And then she sags, breasts shrinking and ass tightening to proportions that looks like those of a normal human woman. She's not, but from the outside you wouldn't know the difference. There are a few other changes as well: her facial proportions shift back into what I remember, and… She actually gets a little taller.

    She puts the empty injector on the table and pulls her clothes tighter around her, buttoning up the formerly unbuttonable blouse.

    "Good riddance."

    "I'm not arguing. You alright?"

    She looks at me like-. Yeah, okay. "No."

    "Sorry, stupid question. You..? Yourself?"

    "Yes." She moves her arms and legs, clothes no longer fitting properly. "As far as I remember. I'll check the records later." She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath in, then opens then as she snorts the air out, making eye contact with me. "Thank you."

    I just nod.

    "The last living member of my species and he turned out to be completely worthless. So, you're in charge. What happens now?" She walks awkwardly over to a seat -the only one in the room, because why would Ultraman ever offer a seat to someone else?- with one hand on her skirt and another around her chest, and sits down. "I assume that you're taking control of his syndicates."

    "I could. I'd rather offer them to you."

    I take a few steps closer, and when she doesn’t freak out I make myself a chair and sit down opposite her.


    "You told me you had the training."

    "I'm a trained infiltration administrator, yes. I could do the job. Nightwing knows I couldn't be worse at it." She snorts quietly. "You know that I was trained to make myself indispensable to planetary governments in order to facilitate the kryptonian conquest of those worlds, right?"

    "Until your people tried it with Godfather Izaya, yeah. But I think I can trust you. Not like there's anyone left you can hand this place over to."

    She nods cautiously. "That still doesn’t explain 'why'?"

    "Ultraman was a fool. His people are used to having free rein. If I take it over, I'm going to get nothing but idiots fighting me for years before I turn it into something I can actually use. I'd rather give it to you. They know you-."

    "They know me as his toy!"

    "It's no secret, what Owlman and Superwoman are doing. Make up something about needing to continue the species, then fry anyone who mentions it twice with heat vision."

    "You recovered his kryptonite stash?"

    "What was left."

    She snarls. "He burned through a lifetime supply in a year! The kryptonite was there for the final push, not for daily use! He was supposed to become an opinion-former, not a warlord! Gah!"

    "Why did you two even come to Earth in the first place?"

    "We were configured to infiltrate New Genesis. When that… Fell through, this was the only place we could come."

    "Configured? So… This isn't how you really look?"

    She frowns at me. "Yes, it's how I really look..?" Her forehead flattens out as she gets my point. "Oh. No, we're configured in the womb. I've always looked… Human. It's easier if the children grow up in the form they'll need. My parents look-. Looked different, but this is me."

    She snorts, looking away.

    "Glory to Krypton."

    "You going to be alright, taking over?"

    "I'll use a few kryptonite injections to make my point, then use equipment from his armoury the rest of the time. That was why he was such a moron, I'm sure of it. Kryptonite overuse is a bad idea."

    "But you'll be okay?"

    "I'll have to be. And I'll tell my syndicate to play nice with yours; I know which side my bread is buttered on. What's next for the Syndicate, oh Chairman? Ultraman was babbling something about the anti-matter universe."

    "The traits that make a good leader don't make a good follower. And down there-" I glance towards the window, through which we can see the Earth. "-is a planet full of people who think they should be the boss. The anti-matter version of Earth is having a hard time right now."

    "And they're so weak-willed that they'll make a better workforce than the local humans." She nods. "How hard a time?"

    "They've been infected with psychic clinical depression and attacked by their evil version of Darkseid."

    "So they'll volunteer. How charitable-" My ring flashes. "-of you."

    "The path to profit may be paved with good intentions, but it's probably a coincidence. Yeah?"

    Sinestro's face appears over my ring, and I sit up a little straighter.


    "Good to see you again, Power Ring. I trust that things went well?"

    "Yeah. They did. I'm ready for the next step. And so's Lysis. Let's get this done."
  10. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    6 574 938.M41

    I stare at the ring for a moment.

    "There is one thing I didn't consider."

    Bo'ohk tilts his head downwards slightly. "In the entirety of the universe, there is one thing you did not think of?"

    "Alright, there's one relevant thing I didn't think of while we were being questioned."

    "Is it something we need to go in and tell them?"

    "No, it's just-. I know that daemons can be bound to objects. Or… Turned into objects. I said that this ring could be a pre-Age of Isolation artefact-."

    "But you did not say that it could be a bound daemon."

    "Right. That might explain why it can draw power from the warp. And why travelling using it is so safe. Bound daemons… Sometimes they openly exert an influence on the people carrying them… There's a sword that a Space Marine called Garran Crowe uses that talks to him constantly. Others don't, or just create a general desire in the person using them. My ring only talks like a drone, but… Emotional impressions? That's basically what it does."

    "Would an ancient human sorcerer really have bound a daemon simply to have something that worked a little like a fictional tool?"

    "Yes. The surprising thing would be that they were successful, not that they tried it."

    I sigh. Of course. Obviously it's a daemon. Good work whoever bound it; maybe the Emperor was into comics in his youth?

    "But you have used it to destroy daemons."

    "I've transferred power from one daemon and… I mean, if this ring is a daemon, I've transferred it from one to another. That's normal daemonic activity."

    "Is there a way to find out for certain?" I wince, and I'm pleased to see that he picks up on the expression. "Other than freeing the daemon, of course."

    "A psyker with experience in sorcery would probably be able to tell whether or not there was a binding in place without damaging it. Good luck finding one we could trust being this close to it."

    Bo'ohk looks at the ring. "Do you really think that is what it is?"

    "Occam's razor says 'yes'. But honestly, I don't know."

    "Okham… The simplest explanation is the most likely one?"

    "The one that requires least invention, yes."

    "That is the way of thinking that led us to conclude that you were a psyker."

    "It's not automatically right, it's just right quite a lot of the time. It's-."

    One of the room's doors opens, and two fire warriors armed with pulse blasters enter and do a quick visual inspection. Once that's complete they step aside and the Kor'O from the meeting walks in. Bo'ohk and I make a gesture of respect and she makes one of acknowledgement before… Dismissing her guards.

    Bo'ohk notes that, though I don't know if that's normal for tau or not. Tau don't really have the same sort of internal competition that humans do, so it isn't a matter of being concerned about them leaking to a political rival. As anti-Callidus measure, it.. seems ill-considered.

    Scan her and scan the room.

    Ave, Lanterna.

    No, looks like normal tau desires, with none of the under layer that marked the Callidus I saw out as odd. Similarly, the room only has the monitoring devices that are supposed to be there, and no focuses of warp energy.

    "Security is to your satisfaction, Lantern?"

    "I limited my scan to this room, Admiral, but as far as that goes, yes." Is it rude to say 'well spotted'? It… Might be.

    "How far could you go?"

    "In theory, the only limit is my mind. In practice, I could manage a 'smart scan' over this building and the surrounding area without difficulty. Further than that and I'd need to be looking for something in particular, and the simpler that thing is the further I could go. I've noticed that for large warp distortions it will just notify me."

    "There are so many things that could be achieved with a few dozen like you. I would send an exploration fleet, if we had the slightest idea where to send them."

    "I could carry an exploration fleet to Segmentum Solar if you want, I just don't think that anything good would happen as a result."

    "I was referring to the ring. Do your ancient stories say where they come from?"

    "That's… Ah… A planet called 'Oa', which is supposed to be located in the centre of the universe. As far as I know, my species never made it that far."

    "The centre of the universe. I don't believe that there is one."

    "The writers at the time didn't know that. Though of course it relates to a fictional universe which could have one without it saying anything about the real universe."

    "What did they look like?"

    I generate a Guardian construct.

    "The ones on Oa looked like that, but there were other political subdivisions of their species who looked different."

    "They had castes?"

    "No, the divides were political rather than functional. They changed their appearance to reflect their subculture."

    "And what did the others look like?"

    I generate Controller, both types of Zamaron and a Leprechaun. Oh, wait, Krona didn't look like them. Add one of him-.

    The Kor'O… Is focusing her attention on that one.

    "What are this faction's beliefs?"

    "That's Krona. He wanted to peel back time to examine the start of the universe for himself. That resulted in him breaking it, and he was punished by being rendered incorporeal. He was the villain of his stories."

    She continues looking at him.

    "What was the first non-human intelligent species that humans encountered?"

    "I'm not sure. Daemons, probably. I know that the Emperor was off gallivanting around the universe under his own power before the rest of us had steam power, and he met the c'tan Void Dragon. For the rest of us… Orks, I think, but that's based on one record and I… Probably couldn't independently confirm it."

    "For the tau, we first gained confirmation that alien intelligences existed when we reached our innermost moon. There was a starship there, damaged, but functional."

    I glance at Bo'ohk, but he looks just as surprised as I feel. Not common knowledge, then. That would have been… Two thousand years ago? Three? Three thousand years or so after the Imperium spotted that the tau existed and marked them down for extermination.

    "After that, we encountered the nicassar and orks. The nicassar were conquered and incorporated while… I believe that you know of the orks. After the nicassar, the kroot and vespid were also incorporated. But none of the species we met as friends or enemies built ships like the first we discovered. We learned a great deal from that ship, though much of it was… Not anything we could use at the time. We still do not fully understand it. And we do not know the names of its creators."

    She turns back to me.

    "Did not know. Your new project will be to interface with the ship's computers directly and allow us to finally grasp the full extent of its lessons and history. Once that is done, you may return to your current mode of operation."

    "Of course, Admiral. Is.. that the final word of the T'au Aun'ar'tol?"

    "Were you concerned about your relationship with Lar'shi Tsua'm Raard?"

    "A… Little, Admiral."

    "It is strange, but worth accepting considering the gains. To be completely open, if you solve this problem for me I would be willing to perform intimate acts with you myself."

    She's about half a metre taller than me, stick thin, and… In her forties, which is eighty in tau years.

    "Thank you, but that won't be necessary."
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2023
  11. Threadmarks: Butcher's Blood
    Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Butcher's Blood

    20th January 2013
    21:05 GMT

    Sereaven still looks to be in a good condition as Ragnar and I fly towards Lantern Lacuray. The only real change is that the ships are formed up close to the planet rather than being in a dispersed formation to respond to raids. Inviting her to come along would have been a bad idea; I picked her up because I thought that defending her home would give her the power boost that she'd need to become relevant. Still, given how gung-ho most Orange Lanterns are, I feel that I've wronged her slightly. Hopefully this will make up for it.

    "Illustres." She comes alert as we approach, drawing herself up slightly. "The fear demon will not be coming here?"

    "Not any time soon, if the Guardians know their business. Which they generally do. So you've got a choice. You can go back to Maltus and continue your training, or you can accompany Lantern Ragnar and I on a diplomatic mission with a minimal chance of combat."

    "There isn't.. any threat to Sereaven?"

    "The Reach remains a threat to Sereaven, but I'm not aware of any new imminent threat to Sereaven, no. Parallax is going back to Oa and Joseph Harrolds has returned to his home planet."

    "You left him alive?"


    "I-. Oh, I didn't mean to question you, sir."

    "You can question, politely. As to why he's still alive, it's because we're not at war with him or his people at the moment. He hasn't hurt us or ours except while Parallax was in his head. Because we could take him alive without undue risk. And because I'm trying to be a little more discerning in who I kill."

    Ragnar nods. "To be killed by the Illustres is an honour one must earn."

    I try to smile in a way that indicates that she should ignore that comment.

    "Where are you going?"

    "New Genesis. Long way from here, so I'll probably have to tow both of you. It's mostly jungle, with a small floating city that has virtually all of their technologically advanced civilisation on it. No real relationship with any Maltusian faction, but I know the ruler's son and daughter-in-law. They're usually pretty friendly, in a slightly high-handed sort of way, so if you treat them like Maltusians who haven't forgotten how to breed you'll probably do alright."

    "Will I need to talk to them?"

    "Not for any negotiation. Talking casually is fine."

    "How big an empire do they rule?"

    "No, it's just the one flying city. They're just advanced enough that they can sustain a large spacefaring military without a particularly large population base."

    Not sure why they don't expand, even if they limited themselves to taking a few uninhabited worlds to build new flying cities over. My guess would be that their nature encourages them to focus on their own individual excellencies rather than the strengthening of their society, but that is just a guess.

    Come to think of it, I'm not sure why Mr. Free and Barda don't have children. This is our first major contact with Apokolips since Kanto tried to kill Canis. Before that, Darkseid was completely ignoring them. They had plenty of time to settle down and start a family. Barda certainly wasn't exercising her divine capacity for violence in any significant way… Maybe they're just not children-people.

    "Then I would like to accompany you, Illustres."

    "Rightoh. Illustres to local admiral."

    "Admiral Scratch-Click here."

    "I'm detaching Lantern Lacuray from your command to mine. That won't cause any problems, will it?"

    "No. One more Lantern doesn't make much difference to our defence plans. Where are you taking her?"

    Technically, he doesn't need to know, and spreading that information risks other people who shouldn't hear about it. But the Reach finding out that I'm talking to New Genesis doesn't really cause a problem for us, They're not going to involve themselves in this war whatever I say, and the Reach could find that out by asking them politely. Which, to be fair, would probably be what they'd start with. And while the Reach might make common cause with Apokolips to keep me distracted, there's no way they'd pursue an actual alliance. Which means that they don't have much of a motivation to stop me talking to New Genesis about something not related to their war with us.

    If anyone's feeling uncharacteristically rational.


    "New Genesis, but not for anything that will affect our war with the Reach. It's just that some things can't be left until a convenient time."

    "Understood. Scratch-Click out."

    "Right. Now, we're going to be warping to a system that's quite a long way from New Genesis so that I can try to communicate with them."

    I could go back to Earth and borrow a boom tube, but that risks someone on the Apokoliptian side hearing about it and taking action.

    "Yes, Illustres."

    Ragnar looks thoughtful. "Do they have a duelling tradition?"

    "Yes, though unless someone's very eager, I'd rather that you held off-."

    He holds up his hands, palms facing me.

    "I am a prince, not an uncultured barbarian. Of course I would learn their customs before duelling on their soil."

    I think he sees the scepticism on my face.

    "The Orange Lanterns I challenged, we went to neutral grounds before fighting."

    Ring, check-.

    "Outside of their worlds' cities, you mean."

    "Yes, of course."

    That would… Probably work for New Genesis. The way that nation states work with regard to claiming territory on Earth isn't universal. Betrassus still has substantial areas between settlement that technically aren't controlled by anyone.

    "I'll trust your judgement on the matter."

    "Thank you, Illustres."

    Oh, he'll name his terms in advance.

    I extend tethers to each of them, plotting a course and warping space as we connect. I… Think that Ragnar could cope with a brief dip in the Honden at this point, but Lacuray is far too new to consider it.

    "Three, two, one, warping."

    The system vanishes to our rear, stars blurring around us. This sort of faster than light travel actually… It's pretty, giving you the chance to watch the universe fly by. Stepping out lacks that, though it's so much faster that I almost always use it.

    "This is gratifying, Illustres." Ragnar grins. "Every time you show me something like this, I am shown the path to my own improvement. When we have more time I would like it if you would critique my own technique."

    "Certainly. I'd be happy to. Lantern Lacuray, how to you feel about being the furthest travelled member of your species?"

    "A combination of awe and terror, Illustres."

    "A very sensible attitude. It never pays to become habituated to what we can do. Warp terminating in three, two, one."
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2023
  12. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    21:08 GMT

    "…probably didn't exist in your youth. It's called 'work-life balance'."

    Palace servants clear away the aftermath of desert, and as it turns out Celestia does eat things other than cake. Spending time here when I'm not trying to revolutionise Equestrian society has been an interesting experience, as I'm forced to engage with the natives socially while I constantly fight the instincts telling me that everything around me is a cuddly toy.

    "Or maybe it's an issue with Cutie Marks, because-."

    "Thank you, Grayven, but the work you've already sponsored on Cutie Marks is causing enough trouble."

    "Honestly, they can't keep taking ketamine. They're going to develop a habit."

    "Miss Glimmer has been given her own wing to perform her research. Having other ponies exposed to her ideas was becoming… Problematic."

    "Fainting. Goats."

    Celestia sighs, very quietly. "Grayven, why are you here?"

    "You're my girlfriend's sister and co-worker, and because Sunset asked me to. There's not a lot I won't do for either of them. But… If you actually want me to leave, then I will. I'm not trying to stalk you."

    "Twilight… Suggested some activities-."

    "Bold of her, but I'm a one-mare stallion. Though if she's suggesting things like that, then I may have to reconsider her psychological profile."

    "Friendship activities."

    "Got to be-." I blink as I consider what she just said. "Ah, don't want to give mixed messages here, but would it be alright if I hugged you right now?"

    "I certainly don't mind, but why?"

    "Celestia, you're over a thousand years old, and you got sent friendship activity ideas from your twenty three year old remedial friendship student. I grew up on Apokolips, exposed to the Anti-Life Equation, and I worked it out for myself."

    Granted, in Lex's case, a certain amount of coercion and murder was involved. But he's almost thirty percent over that now!

    "The fact that you need advice from her about this is a bit… Sad. I mean… Is it..?"

    I look her right in the face, and as far as I can tell she's waiting for me to be crass again. But that's not where I'm going.

    "I'm probably not as old as you, but I've… Out-aged people before. Is that..?" Her face shifts in understanding. "The problem?"

    That's true, but Other Grayven didn't care about it except when it meant that he had to train new henchpeople. And Sheeda could last quite a long time, as well as being evil enough that them dying was a little more comfortable for me than it will be when…


    Wait, who do I know who isn't-?

    "No. But as ruler, there is inevitably a degree of separation between myself and my subjects."

    "As sovereign goddess, you mean. Human kings and queens on Earth can pal around with each other or other highly placed nobles without it being awkward. But in Equestria, it's just you. And Luna. And Cadence."

    Guess that explains why Cadence got brought into the family. I mean, she should have seen how it would look to Sunset, but… By itself…

    "I have colleagues, but… You are partially correct. It isn't as hard as some playwrights have suggested, but… Fixtures in my life have been… Thin on the ground."

    I grin. Which is a disturbing thing to see on an equine muzzle.


    She tosses her mane. "And for some reason that doesn't seem so bad now."

    "Hah! See! See! But, look, I've been following you around and you've been doing the job of the executive branch of government combined with that of a figurehead of state, and between that and raising and lowering the sun… The 'life' part of the equation has basically evaporated. You… Workhorse, you."

    "Is this where you suggest that I reform the entire government of Equestria?"

    "I was going to wait until you brought it up. But if you wanted to turn the Bearerherd into alicorns with a view to them acquiring experience in different areas of life before eventually forming a new tribe-specific aristocracy, I might have done some theoretical work on the subject."

    "An alicorn-?"

    "I'd prefer to upgrade everyone and switch the government over to capitalist anarchy, but I'm prepared to make compromises. You suppressed knowledge on ascension because… You want it to be a reward for the truly worthy? Okay, we only use it on the truly worthy."

    "You would create an alicorn aristocracy to.. ensure that I will have friends?"

    "Hey, it worked for me!" I shrug my wings. "Look, you were on your… Okay, not on your own, quite, but there… That's a big deal. Of course, if you've got some other plan to deal with things, I'm happy to 'back your play'."

    "I… Did, but I suspect that events have invalidated it."

    I nod sympathetically. "Life's what happens while you're busy making other plans. But like I said to Luna, all Equestria needs you to do is raise and lower the sun. Anything else can be covered, as long as there's enough time to manage the transition."

    "Actually, I have an amulet that can control the sun and moon when we're away."

    "That-. Ah… That's.. honestly? Better contingency planning that I expected from you."

    She raises her right eyebrow.

    "Nah nah nah. No eyebrow, or I'll start making a list-."

    "Twilight Sparkle lived here for eight years. If I couldn't survive a daily dose of lists, Cadence would already be controlling the sun."

    "M'kay. So. Work-life balance. I think Luna's got it about right at the moment, but that's because you're handling far more than your fair share."

    "I'm happy to do that if it means that the two of you can be together."


    Darn these ponies, giving me diabetes.

    "Sure, and that's great now, but we've all got indefinite lifespans. It's not fair to expect you to do that indefinitely. I mean, what if you want to start dating some-?"

    "No. Thank you for your consideration, but that won't happen."

    Make a.. note to sic Ghia'ta on that one.

    "Alright… Take up a hobby, or something. I mean, I wouldn't get bored ruling a country for a thousand years, but that's my special talent. I can't get bored with it. I-."

    "You can't take on official duties until you and Luna are married."

    "And that's not happening until my father's dealt with, so don't hold your breath. But I can have a purely informal chat with your diary secretary and see if there's a way to increase your efficiency. Find things that don't actually need you in person, and find someone else in the Equestrian government who can handle it. Frankly, heads of state aren't as essential as they like to think that they are."

    "I suppose that sounds reasonable. I'll ask Raven to speak with you tomorrow."
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2023
  13. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    21:09 GMT

    My giant radar construct is pointing directly at New Genesis while Lantern Lacuray maps local space under Ragnar's observation. I never actually asked Mr. Free how best to get in contact with his people, and… I should probably have brought Lantern Allyn along. Or maybe they'd have considered that an aggressive move?

    "…that area looks like it was either subjected to kinetic bombardment, or else a very big bomb."

    Ragnar nods. "Yes, good. Why do you think they targetted that point?"

    She thinks for a moment, then calls up… A map of the planet's waterways. Most of the crater they're looking at is an inland sea now, but by checking the neighbouring landforms and the routes of the remaining rivers, it should be possible to somewhat recreate what used to be there.


    "This is the Illustres of the Orange Lantern Corps calling Supertown."

    No, wait, maybe I'm doing this wrong. I close my eyes, fading from the material as I project my desire for communication through the Honden. That's not exactly how the New Gods-.
    Righteous Authority.
    A giant translucent face appears a little way in front of us. Male, pale skinned and with white hair and beard. No moustache, which means it looks like he has a mane framing his face. That matches the image of what I was expecting Highfather Izaya to look like.

    "I hear you, Illustres."

    I bow.

    "Highfather. Thank you for responding."
    Blessing of Benevolence.
    "My son's allies on Earth have already requested the aid of New Genesis. If you are here to repeat their request, I regret to tell you that I have sent all that I can."

    "Not exactly. I believe that I have a power ring-based solution to the Anti-Life infestation. However, there are certain components I need before I can put it into effect."
    "Say no more. You and your colleagues may approach New Genesis. I will greet you when you arrive."

    "Thank you!"

    The floating head fades as Lantern Lacuray stares after him.

    "What was that?"

    "It was their ruler, Highfather Izaya the Inheritor."

    "No, I-. It wasn't a hologram. There's no projection signal or display medium. It wasn't a telepathic narrowcast or plasma construct. What was it?"

    "Reality superposition."

    "What-? How..?"

    "I just made that up. Izaya is empowered by the Source, so he might just be able to tell reality to put his head somewhere but I'm not concluding that based on any particular intelligence. Shall we?"

    She nods, while Ragnar crosses his arms and shrugs to demonstrate that it will take more than a giant head to impress him. I tether them both and then space blurs around us before we appear high up in the atmosphere of New Genesis.


    Aside from the faint.. golden smudge of Supertown itself, New Genesis looks completely pastoral. I can't see any roads or buildings… I guess the primitives wouldn't use things like that, and the… Local insectoids live underground.

    Thinking about the primitives… Oh, I just spotted… They've still got New God physiology, haven't they? So it's not as if they're making life all that difficult for themselves by returning to nature. It's… Like a human going 'off-grid' with a miniature nuclear power plant to fuel all the mod-cons made by their personal matter transmuter. Or like reaching the top of Everest in a plane. Or dynamite fishing rather than grabbing the fish with your bare hands. Living without technology is impressive when a normal human does it, but with New Gods…

    "Is it a hunting reserve?"

    I look at Ragnar with my left eyebrow raised. He gestures to the planet with his right hand.

    "They've removed all marks of industrial civilisation from their homeworld. Did they want a place to hunt?"

    "No. Though I don’t know enough of their history to know how they ended up like this."


    Lantern Lacuray points, not at the planet but out into space. Their fleet, ships with silver armour and… Weird glowing patches, and… Pipes? There are shared design elements across the fleet but as far as I can see each ship is unique. I'm not… Sure what I'm looking at, but they're on station in case of trouble.

    "They don't look like Grayven's ship."

    "New Genesis and Apokolips share a technology base, but they have a rather different design philosophy. Alright, down we go."

    I aim at Supertown and accelerate, the atmosphere parting around me. I could just appear there -and given boom tubes they're probably used to that sort of thing- but I think for a first meeting I should take things a little slower.

    And the clouds parts and I see that being a New God doesn't give you taste.

    "It's very… Gold." Ragnar sounds puzzled. "Were they concerned about lasers?"

    "Wouldn't that blind them when the sun shines on it?"

    "We're not here to criticise their horrible taste in city decoration-."

    "Horrible?" I glance at my other side, where a white-suited-. That's Lightray. "As opposed to your grim grey ensemble?"

    No technological aid I can see and he's effortlessly keeping pace with us. And not having to shield his face. Superman tends to squint a bit if he flies at this speed.

    "It doesn't show the dirt."

    "Is that what they told you?"

    "No, that's-. You don't know what orange power rings do, do you?"

    "Let you mimic even a fraction of our power?"

    "Whatever we want. I'd have to want to be dirty to get dirty."

    He tilts his head, pointedly focusing his attention on my cuirass.

    "Your mental dysfunctions are yours to deal with."

    "Which way to Highfather?"

    "This way."

    He accelerates, drawing ahead and leaving a trail of gold behind him. He leads the way towards a… Park near the city's rim.

    "Did we come at a bad time?"

    "When it's you? Hah, it's always a bad time!"

    I turn my head to make eye contact as he smirks.

    "Have we met before?"

    He blinks, frowning, before breaking into a grin.

    Last edited: Mar 7, 2023
  14. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    21:13 GMT

    Highfather rises from the floating bench he was sitting on, watching a group of New God children playing with… Uh, some sort of gravity manipulating block toys. While I'm sure that their precise functionality is fascinating, they're not what I'm here for. Instead of scanning them to see what I can learn I just do a general scan for concealed people -none as far as I can tell- and then focus on my host, bowing at the waist.

    "Highfather, thank you for agreeing to meet with me."

    He comes into convenient talking range, crosier held in his right hand and resting against his right shoulder.

    "Rise, Illustres, and be at peace." "I offer you sanctuary."

    I straighten, pleased that Ragnar and Lacuray both copied my action. Izaya is smiling politely. Expectantly.

    "That doesn't seem very likely, but I'll try while I'm here. These are my colleagues, Lantern Ragnar and Lantern Lacuray."

    Highfather makes eye contact with each of them before returning his full attention to me.

    "You mentioned that there are things that you need for your plan to work. I am eager to hear what you think there is that can remove the Anti-Life."

    "Life, naturally. I've been exposed to Anti-Life fragments before and it didn't do much. That's a product of… My relationship with the orange light. A Green Lantern colleague of mine who has achieved a similar relationship with the green light experienced the same phenomena. It's my belief that by combining multiple emotional colours it should be possible to purge an area of Anti-Life… I mean, maybe not the complete Equation, but a widespread infection like the Earth has."

    He raises his eyebrows, nodding slowly as he thinks it over.

    "Green Lanterns have proven unusually resilient in the past, though it was a long time ago that the Green Lantern Corps last fought against Apokolips. I know of them and your Corps and of the yellow ring of fear used by Sinestro. What more do you need?"

    "There are seven colours that I need. In addition to those three my friend Alan Scott has a blue ring and the Zamarons have started using violet rings. That leaves two: red and indigo. There's a sophont beaver in Sector One Zero One Four with an indigo ring, and probably more where he came from. That leaves red. Two parts to that problem: I need to find the materials that can be used to make one and I need to find someone who can use it."

    "What emotion is red tied to?"

    "Anger and hate. I've sort of gotten the impression that they're not inherently different things, and…" His eyes narrow slightly and his face takes on a… Regretful.. expression? "And we just experience them differently depending on our mindset. Regardless, I need someone well-acquainted with both but who can still focus through them."

    "You're here for Orion!" Lightray sounds surprised. "I know he can be a bit moody, but I'd hardly call him some sort of 'rage mystic'."

    "No, but I imagine that he has experience fighting off the Anti-Life due to his fights with the forces of Apokolips. Really, we're just going to need him to fire the ring for a minute or so."

    Highfather nods resignedly. "And what becomes of him then?"

    "Um, I don't mind? Assuming that the ring isn't owned by someone else, he's welcome to keep it."

    "You don't understand. Orion has struggled to control his anger for his entire life. Asking him to manifest it outside of himself as Lanterns do may well undo all of the progress he has made."

    "I know. But I don't have anyone better."

    Bleez is a popular music star and political reformer. Ratchet is an Orange Lantern. I have no idea where to even begin looking for Dex-Starr, and… Honestly, between the Anti-Life and the Sheeda, he's probably dead. I don't know where Skallox is and I've got only the vaguest idea where Zilius Zox might be.

    I need someone angry. Angry now, but in control.

    "Because if I did, I'd be there instead."

    "How confident are you that this will work?"


    I look up at the sky as I try to work out how to quantify something like that. I mean… Based on what the Anti-Life fragment appears to do…

    "Let's say… Eighty percent chance to get rid of it entirely. Ten to just give everyone temporary immunity while the League and its allies destroy the transmitter without having to worry about mind controlled soldiers attacking them. Fifteen to deal with the after-effects while we deal with it some other way, so that we can actually rebuild afterwards. Chance of it flat out doing nothing… Two percent? Maybe? I mean, something should happen, but I can't use New God technology myself for obvious reasons. And… Of course… If it does work, then we can use the same technique on other worlds as well."

    "You expect it to expunge the Anti-Life, but your people to be mentally scarred."

    "Most likely. But as I said, I can't evidence any of this." I shrug. "Honestly, we might be the ones who cause the trauma. But this is still the best plan I've been able to come up with. Have you got a better one?"

    Lightray gives me stink eye. "Have a care, mortal."

    "No, serious question. Highfather, you were friends with Prince Drax. Do you know a way to deactivate his robot?"

    "It would be a poor weapon if it were easy to deactivate." Highfather shakes his head solemnly. "I have been trying to communicate with Drax since that… Those events. The unity of thought which existed between the Forever People was broken by their exposure to Anti-Life, and without that reaching him is… Difficult, to say the least."

    Two ways around that: help them heal or train…

    I look over to the children playing with the blocks, and out of the corner of my eye see Highfather bow his head slightly.

    Train replacements, because there're some things that can't be fixed.

    "Naturally, I have no problem with using our power rings to help them recover, but… I don't think that any one colour would be much use on its own."

    He nods. "Thank you. And what else would you do with that power?"

    "Not a lot. It would be split between seven different people, who would have to work with each other to make it work. And I strongly suspect that the Yellow Lantern will have loyalties that conflict with mine. I suppose I'd quite like to un-Anti-Life other places, but this is a bit… That's premature."

    Lightray nods. "Willing to wage war on Apokolips, human? I respect that. My oration at your funeral will make the crowd weep for your loss."

    "Everyone is already at war with Apokolips. Darkseid gets the full Anti-Life Equation, that's the end of intelligent life in this universe. More than that, his agent has attacked my planet. I'm not going to pretend that I have an alternative. And while I appreciate your offer, I've been dead twice. It's not that big a deal. And I don't think I'm a good enough public speaker to return the favour, but I can try if you want."

    "Twice? Once could be regarded as misfortune, but twice suggests carelessness."

    "It was carelessness, so, that fits."

    He throws up his hands and shakes his head as Highfather nods.

    "I will speak with Orion. I think that it is best for all of us if he helps you."
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2023
  15. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    21:18 GMT

    "Guy!" I fly towards him as he finishes up repositioning Ungara's orbital mirror array. "Guy, I need your help with something!"

    "Yeah?" He glances my way, then generates a construct model of the ecological effect of the mirrors to check his work. "With what?"

    "We need to teach a magical pony princess how to love again."

    He both winces and smirks at the same time. "Hold on a sec. Lantern Gardner to Malo. I'm abowd done up here. You readin' okay?"

    I don't hear the response, but from the way Guy's nodding I suspect that he's getting one. Could intercept it, but… No point.

    "Okay… Great. Okay. Y'need me? Gimme a call. Otherwise I'll see yeh around."

    He lowers his ring and then turns to face me, smirk reappearing as he goes off the clock.

    "Grayven, I'm glad that whole pony… Princess thing worked out-."

    "Magical pony princess."

    "That… The magical pony princess thing worked out for yeh, but we don’t all… S-swing that way!"

    He makes a sort of hiss-laugh, chuckling to himself.

    I shrug. "She could do better."

    He jazz hands. "Oooooooooh!"

    "In fact she has, which is sort of the issue."

    He nods. "Time-expired, huh?"

    "Oddly, no. He's indefinitely prolonged as well. Rather, he beat a couple of villains by absorbing all of their evil in them into himself, and flipped out as a result."

    "Uh. Okay, yeah, that's-. Heh. That's a bit more… I mean, I ain't sure fixin' superpony's love life is really my job or nothin'-."

    "But you've been trying to come up with a halfway plausible reason to visit Wilson for months."

    "Fuck off."

    "Everyone wants ponies. Ask the internet. You would not believe how many 'artistic impressions' there are of-"

    "No no no."

    "-her and I-."

    A construct hand clamps around my mouth.

    "What'd'yah need?"

    "Well, we need something that can purge a giant ball of elemental evil."

    "You tellin' me that magic ponies don't got somethin' like that?"

    "They did, then they stuck it on a magical crystal tree to act as a magical weed killer, so now they're kind of stuck."

    "Can't they just take it off'f the tree?"

    "You'd think, but apparently not. I think it's a religious.. thing..? Point is, I think we can go Captain Planet on it by combining the power of our rings."

    "Captain Planet."

    I blink. "Don't tell me you didn't watch Captain Planet."

    "I'm pretty sure the Guardians woulda said somethin' if there was a 'Captain Power Ring'."

    "I'm not saying that there's a literal Captain Power Ring, though there is, I'm saying that we can use Captain Power Ring's power to do things we couldn't do on our own."

    "That sounds like bullcrap."

    "Horse apples."

    "… What?"

    "No, they actually say things like that. 'A giant pile of bucking horse apples', for example, would-."

    "Really? That's…" He grins despite himself. "That's like the cutsyest, girliest thing ever."

    "Whatever you need to tell yourself."

    "A'ight, a'ight, so if we're doin' this 'Captain Planet' thing, what'd'we need?"

    "Seven different colours of power ring. Now, I've got yellow, obviously, and I can get hold of Dox to get another Orange Lantern assigned. I can probably get Talbot to volunteer as the Red. You're green and Ghia'ta is violet, so that leaves blue and indigo. And someone to use them."

    "You know anyone who can make power rings?"

    "Yes, but… Ah… One of them's the student of the guy who made Sinestro's ring, and they needed to murder an entire… Planet… To do that."

    His grin fades. "What?"

    "I… Just realised that I never asked Weaponer Lysis how she made her red ring. Huh."

    "That's the problem with workin' with evil people, Gray. Sometimes, they do evil stuff."

    "Yeah. Yeah, you're right." I mean, it's not like it was a planet that I was using, but I should probably check that with her at some point just to make sure that it doesn't bite us in the haunches later. "But I can't really do anything about that now."

    "That's not actually true. She's sittin' right next t', like, half the Orange Lantern Corps."

    "I mean, I can't stop her doing something she's already done. I can't punish her for things she did before she made a contract with me, that would be unreasonable."

    "She kills a planet, an' that's fine, but you don't wanna get in trouble with HR?"

    "It's not fine, if it happened, it's just outside of my jurisdiction. Look, do you think you could get hold of Ganthet for me?"

    "I-. I mean, yeah, but that whole 'Lysis killed a planet' thing kinda killed the mood."

    "Oh, I don't know that she did that. She might just have snuck onto Ysmault or something. Or have been paying attention when someone else killed a planet; it's not like qwardians are shy about killing people. Look, Wilson really doesn't need Princess Celestia losing herself to ennui-" Said it right that time. "-and you'll learn some very interesting things about power rings. I think it's worth doing anyway."

    He's clearly not happy about it.

    "Look, do you want to be there when I talk to her about it? Because-."

    "Yeah. Just a little worried 'bowd what happens if I wanna take 'er in."

    "Let's… Let's hope it doesn't come to that."

    "Yeah. What yeh wanna talk to Ganthet 'bowd?"

    "His blue ring prototype. Obviously, we need to borrow it."

    "Ganthet's got a…" He frowns curiously. "How'd you know that?"

    "Little birdy told me. I do meet with the Controllers on a semi-regular basis, and quite a lot of them used to be Guardians. Tell him we can give it a field test."

    "Al… Right. I c'n do that. What about indigo?"

    "For that, we're going to need Lantern Jordan, and the ring he got from Abin Sur."
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2023
  16. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    20th January 2013
    21:24 GMT

    "Yeah." Jordan narrows his eyes. "Because that doesn't sound sketchy at all."

    "Why do you hate ponies, Lantern Jordan?"

    He puts his hands on his hips. "Because when I was five years old my mom took my brother and me to a fairground. We were supposed to get a pony ride, but it bit me. I wasn't allowed back."

    "Because you got bitten?"

    "Because I punched it in the face for biting me. I've hated ponies ever since."

    This might be harder than I expected.

    "Ah, these-. Wilsonian ponies aren't actually all that much like equus ferus caballus. The eyes are forward-facing, the head's larger-."

    "Why can't you just get Gardner to call up Lantern Sur's records from the central database? He's got full access."

    "You see, there's 'full access' and then there's full access."

    There's a slight delay, and then he nods as he gets it.

    "So you think he's got secure files on my ring, and you think that if you contact Oa they won't release them because we don't Need To Know."

    "I'm not entirely sure that he'd have uploaded them. Because he might have decided that the Guardians didn't need to know." Jordan frowns. "Really, I just need to know if there are any periods where his actions… Where he was going, started being out of character. I'm trying to get a location…"

    "Lantern Sur was with the Corps for a long time. Can you narrow it down?"

    "Sometime after his daughter was murdered."

    Jordan's face falls slightly. "I didn't.. know he had a daughter."

    "Well, no, when he met you he didn't any longer: she was dead. As I said, murdered."

    "He caught whoever did it?"

    I gesture to his ring with my right hand. "You tell me."

    "If you want my help, stop dicking me around."

    "Alright. Fine. I don't know for certain, but I heard that he caught her and didn’t hand her over to the authorities."

    Jordan shakes his head. "That's… Not Abin Sur. Some guys in the Corps… Yeah, I could see-."

    "No no no no no. I don't think he killed her. I think he… Ah… Arranged for her to undergo experimental psychological therapy, because as far as he could tell nothing else would change her."

    "How the hell could you know anything about it, and not know..? What is it you don't know?"

    "Exactly where it happened. Because you'd have to be sure, wouldn't you? If you were going to let the woman who killed your daughter out. You'd have to be completely certain that she wouldn't do anything like that again. You'd have to be sure that she was a new woman. And I really… Don't know where it happened, because if I did then I wouldn't be bothering you."

    "How does that help your girlfriend?"

    "Luna's sister's coltfriend-"


    "-had a-. Yes. Had a dark magic episode and fell to the dark side. I'm hoping that by studying Abin Sur's techniques I might be able to help him."

    "Somehow I don't think you're giving me the whole story."

    "Ah. Okay? Sunset Shimmer was brought into the Canterlot-"

    "Again: seriously?"

    "-palace at a young and impressionable age, and formed a close-."

    "Not-. Okay, not the whole story. Just the relevant parts."

    "Ah… See… You're relying on my opinion about what's relevant, so even if I'm not deliberately trying to deceive you, you might end up not knowing something you wanted to know."

    "So you're just trying to help your girl-. Fillyfriend's-"

    "She's in her forties, so that's a bit-.


    "Kind of? I mean, we get on okay, but it's mostly to try and fix her relationship with Sunset. Which I don't think she should fix and if I wasn't dating Luna I probably wouldn't bother with but it's clearly gnawing at both of them…"

    "What's to fix?"

    "Celestia's over a thousand years old and ponies don't usually live much longer than humans. A thousand years without anyone she can really consider an equal. And that's why I appreciate Artemis so much." I reach out slowly and place my right hand on his shoulder. The first two fingers anyway, and he only reinforces his environmental shield a little before pushing my hand off. "And to a lesser degree, you and the rest of the Justice League. I know that in a hundred years, five hundred years, Diana, Kal-El, J'onn J'onzz and Richard will still be around. I'll have someone to talk to, you know?" He nods slowly. "Someone who's seen the same things I have. Been through the same things I have. Celestia didn't have that. For a thousand years."

    "Okay, but what's that got to do with Sunset. She was her student, right?"

    "Celestia bungled the interpersonal part of the relationship due to not understanding how other ponies think. We think. She might have always had terrible social skills. Point is, I think Celestia having someone else she can relate to as an equal will help her… Comprehend other people. Because… Like I said, Abin Sur would have to be really sure that there wouldn't be a repeat ever, and Sunset feels the same way about Celestia."

    "I don't think Celestia murdered her daughter."

    "Well… No, but ponies have these things called 'special talents'… They get these magical arse tattoos-."

    He puts his hands up. "Okay, you know what? I'm just going to call up the files so I can stop listening to this."

    "That's what everyone says to start with, and then they find themselves in pony form with a slice of Welcome to Ponyville cake in one hoof and a party hat on their head somehow feeling like they don't want to leave. They're infectious."

    "Ring, when did Abin Sur's daughter die?

    "Celn Sur was murdered in nineteen seventy eight by Iroque the Merciless."

    "'The Merciless'? Seriously?"

    "No other name on file."

    "Okay, great, where'd he take her?"

    "No location on file."

    "Ooh, I got this one. Jordan's ring, if you had a shadow self that was much like you, but not bound by your restrictions, what would it tell me was her last known location?"

    Jordan frowns. "What?"

    "What, you've never seen Critters? You know, where they tell the lift to not take them.. to..? You haven't seen it."

    "No, I-. I haven't. Ring?"

    "No location on file."

    "Okay… How about you show me every… Gap of more than a day where Lantern Sur didn't use his ring, and we go from there."
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2023 at 8:20 AM
  17. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    09:40 GMT

    Jade stares at the angular sculpture, eyes running from one material to the next.

    "This is really four thousand years old?"

    The tour guide is a member of the same species as Threllian, and her original placement here occurred at some point before their homeworld was conquered by the Reach.

    "We cannot tell the exact date. So far as we can tell, this and other pieces like it were passed from one world which the Reach were about to conquer to the next. Many were either intercepted or were caught on the ground. This museum is what we have that made it this far."

    It's not a small museum.

    "The collection predates Maltusian involvement in the war with the Reach. I have even less idea about who may have started it than I do about the species that created this. It may be inaccurate to refer to it as being a single collection, or that it was created for a goal as high-minded as cultural preservation."

    A slight change in the muscle tension around her eye. A smile.

    "But I like to think that it was." Her eye moves to my ring for a moment. "Or perhaps that the selfish desire for unique treasures serves a greater purpose without the people who do it being aware of it."

    "Is the species who made this on the list for resurrection?"

    "Sadly, no. This piece predates the war between the Green Lantern Corps and the Reach. We don't have enough data to recreate their biosphere. This… And a couple of lesser pieces, are all that's left. And we can't be completely sure that they have the same ultimate origin."

    "Do we know what it represents? What it meant to them?"


    Jade looks extremely sombre.

    "What they looked like?"

    "If we are correct in our deduction about other pieces sharing an origin, we know something about the way that they perceived the universe. We believe that they had compound eyes, or a similar arrangement. If you look here-"

    She points to a picture to the right of the display.

    "-you can see what we think they would have seen when they looked at it."

    Jade and I shuffle a little closer to it, peering at it while trying to map what it's showing with the sculpture.


    "They might have had some form of sonic sense as well; the structures on the inside of the sculpture-."


    My power armour appears around me and my construct armour appears over me as I take the tank position between the sculpture and the boom tube aperture. Jade activates her exo-mantle and vanishes from normal sight as she drops through the floor. This shouldn't be-.

    Orion drifts out on his astro-harness. It's silver rather than the gold colour I was expecting, and it allows him a more upright posture compared to what I remember from the comics. His helmet obscures his eyes, but I think he does a quick look around the room before focusing on me.


    I dismiss my construct armour and send my power armour back to subspace, which gets me a very small nod.

    "Illustres." "Together we advance towards victory."

    "Orion. We weren't expecting you quite yet. Highfather said that you had-."

    "The task of expunging the Anti-Life from a world of Darkseid's victims takes precedence over everything else."

    I try looking inside him, but am roundly rebuffed. Defiant Stand.

    And he's not that early.

    I smile. "Well then. Thank you for agreeing-" I send the 'safe' signal to Jade, and she emerges from the floor behind Orion. "-to participate. How much time are you able to give us?"

    "For as long as I see a chance of victory. I will warn you, however, that many have claimed to have some way to destroy Darkseid before. Every one of them found that they were wrong when he killed them."

    "I know next to nothing about the Omega Effect, so I wouldn't recommend using this to try and kill him. But as far as undoing the effect of Anti-Life exposure goes, I'm reasonably confident." I turn to the tour guide. "Thank you, we'll be fine from here."

    "Of course, Illustres. Let me know if you need anything."

    She heads back towards the more recent exhibits, leaving the room to-. Jade reappears, and after a moment's hesitation opens her helmet. Orion's eyes move over her and then his head turns away from her slightly in a sign of dismissal. Hm. I do seem to remember that was his attitude towards 'Bugs', and apparently Jade counts.


    And I don't. Curious.

    "What is our first step in forging my ring?"

    "We need someone willing to make the thing. My sponsor's suggestion was the maltusian who runs this project. Then, we will need a powerful focus of elemental rage for them to draw on during the forging process. Then you and they will need a deep and extremely personal conversation about your rages and hatred, and they will bind them into the ring as they forge it. Once that's done, you're free to return to New Genesis or remain here while I gather the other components needed for the plan to work."

    "How long will I need to study this ring in order to fight with it effectively?"

    "It varies, and the only New God we've taught is far less experienced than you. Honestly, for our purpose you shouldn't need to master it."

    "I refuse to do anything less than excel." Master of War.

    "Basic competency takes about a week, depending on your degree of self-mastery. Getting combat-worthy varies immensely, and we don’t have any prior examples of red power rings. I imagine that if you were able to devote yourself to it full time and didn't suffer any psychological problems, you would reach the point where you could fight effectively within a couple of months. If you're used to fighting in three dimensions, even less."

    "I will see how it feels. My Astro-Force beams cause more harm to New Gods than any power ring attack I have seen, but I will not overlook the utility of a device that can create any object which I can imagine."

    "Keeping hold of both the necessary emotion and the necessary reason is usually harder than imagining what you need. If you'll please follow me?"

    He nods and dismounts, the astro-harness folding itself up into his chest plate in a way which reminds me of the Apokoliptian weapons the Bialyans used. Same technology base, I assume. With him now on foot, I lead him and Jade through the museum and towards the den of the maltusian who built it.

    "Orion, before we do this, there's something I should probably talk to you about. I think that Highfather was slightly hesitant because he was concerned about exposing you to your own rage. You're my first choice candidate because I think that you can handle it, but there are other people I could go to if-."

    "Speak of it no more. I am the master of my mind. Highfather's… Kindness, is not required." Heroic Resolution.

    "Very well. But I should warn you… Even you won't find it easy."
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2023
  18. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    09:45 GMT

    Draan Del Daar isn't a maltusian I've had anything to do with, though I'm given to understand that he's… They're? More representative of the typical mindset than Hinon. Pick a thing they can do without reference to anyone else and then just get on with it. In their case, they're technically an art lover.

    They regard us hungrily as we come into their sanctum, and I'm honestly surprised by exactly how little trouble I have reading their emotional state. They might be deceiving me, but just about every maltusian I've met has kept me out as a point of principle. In fact… Yes, they're reading me right back without any connection to the Orange Central Power Battery beyond what all sentient creatures have.

    They look a little like a shorter, thinner and paler version of Jevek Jos Jar, but with red and blue robes rather than blue and purple. The colour scheme reminds me of the Guardians actually, but apparently Draan was never a member. Guess they got comfortable in a style from their youth and never bothered updating it.

    "Ah… Look at you."

    They sound strongly interested in us, but their weirdly thin face has barely any expression. I know that for maltusians their body is an expression of their minds, but this is the first time I've encountered one that looks like it might have died but kept moving around because the owner hasn't noticed it yet.

    "Such need. And you, Source-fragment. I see why he wants to give you a red ring. It is as if you're incomplete without it; your soul expanded beyond the bounds of your body but without that core part of yourself."

    "My anger is not what I am."

    "Argue xenopsychology with me when you've seen out your first billion years. Your anger is built into you, the structures of your mind. Everything else grows up around it like weeds."

    His helmet makes it hard to tell, but I think that Orion is snarling.


    "So I'm happy to make you a red ring. I'll even make you a personal lantern, though you're not interesting enough for me to be prepared to make a Central Power Battery; I will not be bound in such a way."

    "That's fine: we don’t need one. But we do need-."

    "Did Hinon tell you how she made your first ring for you, snake-host?"

    "She tore the avarice out of her own psyche, and was rendered comatose as a result."

    "Yes. I'm not doing that. I want to see-" Their cadaverous head focuses on Orion, the gem on their forehead glowing brighter. "-what you look like when you use it. I want to see what it does to your connection to the Source. What it does to your life!"

    "Alright, so what do you need?"


    They keep staring at Orion, as he calms his rising irritation. Then they appear to decide that they've seen enough and rotate towards me.

    "When the Butcher Entity ran rampant prior to it returning to its home plane, one of the more martial members of my species tried to fight it. The resulting struggle caused it to spill its blood on a number of worlds. It's still there today. I need some. It doesn't have to be a great amount, just enough to resonate with the anger and hate in Orion."

    "Its… Blood? You mean like.. pools of the stuff..? What form does it take?"

    "I haven't looked. It could be anything; when the Butcher impresses itself on the corporeal universe, it tends to warp things in accordance with its own nature. There may be springs which cause berserk rages in anyone who drinks it, rocks or metals which only the greatest warriors dare use to make their weapons, magma that smells of blood and can cause the closest of friends to tear one another apart… Something like that."

    "You haven't looked?"

    "If it's really that interesting they can make their way to me. I've seen that sort of thing before on hundreds of thousands of occasions. It isn't worth me going there just to watch them fail to be interesting."

    "Alright. What planets did that happen on?"

    "Volkreg and Azmah are the two I know of. There are probably others in the same region."

    Ring, map?

    "So, go there, find whatever form the Butcher's Blood has taken, get a sample and come back?"

    "It probably won't be safe to bring it directly to Maltus. Take it to my laboratory on Turi and notify me once you're there."

    I frown, puzzled. Turi's one of Maltus's moons. It's completely barren and contains no useful minerals. We haven't bothered to build anything on it because it's easier to build in space.

    "Why Turi?"

    "The atmosphere appeals to me. And there's no one else there."

    I suppose that if we've got bits of Butcher with us then an isolated spot really is best.

    "Understood. Is there any advantage in gathering the blood from more than one site?"

    "It would make my work easier and more interesting. It might produce a more responsive ring. I will be making one and no more than that in any case."

    Okay, so we'll go to both and then look for other planets as well.

    "Alright, I'm sure we can manage that. Anything else?"

    "See if you can find something interesting created in response to the Butcher's presence. I'll make an exhibit of it."


    Orion's jaw tightens. I imagine that he doesn't like running errands for someone who isn't Highfather, particularly given that Draan doesn't really seem to care about the issues at stake.

    "I'll see what we can do. Orion, my records say that Volkreg is a industrial age world with some off-world contact. Azmah's isolationist, so Volkreg seems like the best place to start. Would you mind opening a boom tube there?"


    "I agree."


    Orion turns away the moment the tube opens, striding through like he'd rather be anywhere else. I make eye contact with Jade for a moment, then we both walk through after him.

    We come out onto a cliff edge, the sky cloudy as we look out across a fringed, rocky landscape.

    "Was that the type of being who wields authority in your organisation?"

    "No, that's the sort of being who doesn't bother joining our organisation. Unfortunately, most of the ones who join are bound to the Orange Central Power Battery so can't make a red ring. I'm sorry that he-."

    A series of explosions… Artillery? Air-dropped bombs? Explodes in the distance, as the results of my initial scans reach my brain.

    "It's not cloudy." Jade sounds sombre, and I see at once where she's going. "That's ash."
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2023
  19. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    09:52 GMT

    "Illustres to local Green Lantern. Respond, please."

    Orion's got up to get a better look at our surroundings. Perhaps unfortunately, his astro-harness is a lot faster than the flight system of Jade's exo-mantle, so she's opted to remain at ground level. Volkreg doesn't have enough surviving information infrastructure for me to just read up on recent history, and we're far enough away from Maltus that N.E.M.O.'s file on the planet is… Well out of date. I got more up-to-date information from John Stewart's ring, and that was just a summary.

    "Did the Butcher's blood do this, or was it just the locals?"

    A quick sweep with empathic vision… There's more red than on most worlds I've visited, but there's a big war on. It's hardly a surprise that people are unusually angry.

    "Can't tell. I'd guess a little of both. I can't see anything that screams 'magically induced rage', but… That doesn't mean it isn't there."

    Volkreg has a pangean continental arrangement. No moons of any size means that there's almost no tectonic activity. Almost all surface land area is connected to the rest, with only a few islands and the southern polar ice mass breaking that pattern. Which means that there are few natural barriers to land warfare. And of course visiting merchants have been happy to sell low-mass high-price things like weapons and orbital scans to the people on the ground in what I'm sure would be used as a salutary lesson on the value of the Prime Directive if this was a Star Trek episode. John's records just have that as a 'possible avenue of concern' rather than an active problem…

    "Illustres to local Green Lantern, respond."

    The light around my ring flickers, then a face appears. Humanoid, with an oddly-structured face where two triangular plates extend upwards from her forehead.

    "What-?" She looks… Upset, actually. "Oh, I shouldn't-."

    "Are you this Sector's Green Lantern?"

    Her eyes dip for a moment. "No, not… Not any more. My name's Liana. Ex-Green Lantern."

    "Then why are you answering?"

    "My partner died recently, and I was… Discharged. Our replacements are in training, and we… I don’t know. I assumed that the Guardians would assign an Honour Guard Lantern temporarily, but I guess they decided it wasn't worth it. There's not a lot… Happening here."

    She frowns.

    "Wait, who are you?"

    "I am the Illustres of the Orange Lantern Corps, and I'm standing on Volkreg."

    "Does your..? What rules of engagement does the Orange Lantern Corps use?"

    "We do what we want, when we want, where we want."

    "Oh." She blinks. "That's-. Without a request to intervene by one party, Green Lanterns aren't supposed to get involved in a planet's internal affairs."

    "If you consider your job more important than millions of lives-."

    "I don't, and that's-! That's why I'm an ex-Green Lantern now."

    I nod. "I apologise. What happened on Volkreg?"

    "Wars between city-states aren't unusual, and they usually don't amount to anything. I… Logged it was happening, and… Tried focusing on things I was allowed to do something about. And I know it kept escalating, but… How..? How bad is it?"

    "Ash clouds, high enough that they're not coming down. I-."

    Ring, geophysics scan.


    Oh. That explains that.

    "Someone nuked a super-volcano. They’re looking at years without sunlight over most of the continent."

    Obviously I'm going to fix that, but if the clouds have been up there for long enough then they might have gone through their grain stores already.

    "Oh… No… That's-."

    "Did you have any actual contact with the people of this world? Do you know people in their governments?"

    "I… Did. I don't know if they're still alive… I'll… I'll send you my records. I don't know how much use they'll be-."

    "Thank you. Were you discharged for trying to help Azmah?"

    "Did you hear about that?"

    "No. I'm here looking for something, and…"

    File received.

    Okay… That's a few places worth checking.

    "Examples of what I'm looking for might be there, too. Can you stay available for the rest of the day? I might need to contact you again later."

    "Yes, I… You're going to help, right?"

    "Of course. I don't have the time to completely rebuild the place, but I can deal with their immediate problems."

    "Thank you."


    "Right, the closest major city is about twenty five miles due-"


    "-west-. Did you just hear som-?"

    The ground shudders, and in the distance-. Close to or at our destination, I see a beam of yellow and orange light with… Black… Dots? Running through the outer parts, striking the ground.

    "Would Orion-?"

    "If he thought he had cause." I attach a filament to her. "Moving in two, one."

    The scenery flickers and then… Yes, a city that Liana mentioned. The surrounding fields are burned, and-. An entire army is backing up as Orion glowers at them, the crater he blasted with his astro harness smoking in front of them.


    The army… Honestly, it's only a few thousand people, appear to realise that they've got no hope. They don’t flee, but with the officers-

    I can't see who's in charge so I'm going to assume that they were the subject of Orion's wrath.

    -shouting orders and their banners waving, they begin to retreat.

    There's a cheer, and I glance up at the walls-. Women, old men and boys. That's not good.

    I need to get a handle on this.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2023
  20. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    09:56 GMT


    The people on the wall are clearly unsure whether to cower or run. Orion doesn't seem at all perturbed. I suppose that he's content in his position as a (New) God, so mortals needing to be told 'Be Not Afraid' is perfectly normal. Given that he can be a bit… Proud and assertive, in the comics, I should probably handle him in the same way as I handled Adom before I made friends with him.

    My armour's communication system beeps, and I open the channel.

    "On the left. Near the field hospital."

    I look over to-. Ah, yes. A local female who looks a little more together than the rest of the locals. Probably a good choice for a basic summary.

    "Well spotted. Do you want to handle the conversation, or shall I?"

    "You have seniority." True. "I'll tell you if you do anything wrong."

    The people are focusing their attention on Orion. There are a few ranged weapons here, but it's mostly spears and knives. Limited access to metal, perhaps? I subspace my armour and

    step out, reappearing

    slightly out of sight next to the field hospital and dim my aura. I'm clearly not a local, but I shouldn't warrant the same level of excitement as Orion in full bellow-mode.

    And step into her line of sight, smile and bow my head politely. It's a fairly standard humanoid gesture, so she should be able to understand it.

    "Are we being invaded by aliens as well?"

    Other physicians look up in alarm at her statement, freezing up like those on the wall.

    "We're not invading."

    That doesn't seem to reassure most of them, though the woman I'm talking to doesn't seem to care either way.

    "I doubt that the late Kar Djann sees much difference."

    "Intentionally. We're not intentionally invading. We're just here to pick up something we believe to be on your world, but couldn't help but notice that you appear to be having a rather widespread war."

    "We have no treasures for you, alien. Anything portable of value has long since been traded to other merchants."

    "I'm not looking for treasure; I have all the 'shinies' I want. I'm looking for the blood of the Embodiment of Anger, which I have reason to believe exists on this world. If you help me find it, I am perfectly happy to assist in bringing the current hostilities to a close."

    "The last thing we need is more fighting."

    "I assure you, my techniques are quite efficacious. But if you aren't willing to countenance killing as part of the solution, I am perfectly willing to limit myself to exile. This world has a few islands that can sustain a small population but which don't have enough wood to build a boat for the journey back to your continent. Is that an acceptable alternative?"

    "Is this how things are? Is the rest of the universe so violent that our wars are considered normal?"


    "It… It is?"

    "When things are as bad as they are now, most places would call a halt and focus on survival. But interstellar space is not in any general way 'peaceful'. Um. Sorry."

    I look away from her.

    "My own species was significantly more technologically advanced than yours before we had our first global war. And then twenty years later we had another one. I've got no wisdom that could fix this, beyond 'give a good person the biggest guns', and I doubt-."

    "That is no solution."

    "It's a temporary solution, because the wisest philosopher in the universe isn't much use if he's already been stabbed to death with a spear wielded by a practical philosopher. But you're right: it doesn't resolve things in the long term. So?"

    She regards me cautiously. "Why are you asking me?"

    "I don't know enough about Volkreg to decide myself. You seem slightly more together than everyone else. If you'd like to nominate someone else, I can talk to them instead."

    "And all you want in return is help with your pilgrimage?"

    "It's more of a fetch quest than a pilgrimage. And the two tie together, because while it's possible that this-" I glance up. "-is people letting the worst aspects of their character run wild, it might also be the result of the Butcher's Blood even being on this planet. Or a combination of the two."

    "And you will follow my direction?"

    "As long as it leads me to the Butcher's Blood, I have no dog in this fight."

    "Then I accept. My name is Ilana."

    "I am the Illustres of the Orange Lantern Corps."

    She frowns. "What happened to the Green Lantern Corps?"

    "Not a lot, but this is an internal Volkreg matter and there's no unified government to request intervention."

    "So we suffer and die, because-?"

    "Sometimes it seems like the universe does you a favour, and a solution drops onto your lap. But it's unwise to count on it, particularly when the problem is caused by something that was here all along."

    "This… Butcher's Blood."

    "Or your own society. So, my guide, where do we begin?"

    "Our militia. They were going to try to ambush Kar Djann's main army. I don't know if they're dead, or if he managed to sneak past them."

    I turn away, eyes glowing as I look for people with a desire to protect their homes.

    "Bypass. Though the survivors that Orion chased away are going to run right into them as they retreat."

    "But there's no point now! We have to stop them!"

    "Understood. Please come with me."

    I offer her my right hand, and she takes it. I transition us up to the battlement near to Orion.


    "Orion, we're just going to go and recall the city's militia. Will you be alright here?"


    "It will be some time before they recover from the shock of my arrival." He doesn't look around, and probably didn't see Ilana. "Return with their soldiers, and I will see what can be done with them."

    "As you wish." Armour, private channel. "Jade, keep an eye on him please."

    "I can watch him."

    "I'll be back as soon as I can."
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2023
  21. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    10:01 GMT

    The soldiers that Orion chased off are still within sight of the top of the wall. Being able to fly makes spotting them even more trivial. They've gotten into good marching order, though it's clear that they're despondent.

    "When did the ash clouds form?"

    "The c-. That's… Ash? Did someone burn an entire forest?"

    "No, someone used a nuke-. A very large bomb on a very large volcano. The ash will actually be very good for the soil just as soon as it settles."

    "It was… A quarter of a year ago, when we first saw it. We should be well into the growing season now, but as you can see, our farms are producing little. The cloud came from the west, and cities in that direction will have it far worse."

    "Do you have enough food to sustain your population?"

    "Will you break apart the clouds today?"


    "Then we should still be able to grow enough. It will be close, and we will be hungry, but we will survive. The other cities do not know that you are here, and they are desperate."

    "So they take food from their neighbours in their desperation. But that doesn’t explain how it started, or who the heck thought that nuking a supervolcano was a good idea."

    "We don't have any special way to send messages to other cities other than sending a messenger. Our Kar had a satellite communicator, but it was destroyed in a drone missile attack several weeks ago. Our city is… Self sufficient, so there were few traders to pass along general news."

    "Okay, I-."


    I generate a miniature construct image of the militia soldiers I just spotted.

    "Are they yours?"

    "Yes, yes, that's them. Please, if they-."

    The world around us flickers, and my construct barrier goes up in time to stop the first barrage of crossbow bolts from the irregulars camouflaged against the rocks hillside.

    "Good effort, but that won't be necessary. The people attempting to invade-" A crossbow bolt hits the part of my barrier closest to my face, and I respond by giving the one who fired it a hard look. He conceals the crossbow in his cloak without looking even slightly guilty. Or nervous. "-are leaving, and my colleague Orion and I are going to try to normalise the situation. I would ask that you please return to your homes in order to avoid unnecessary deaths."

    I deposit Ilana on the ground near to the closest militia squad, then generate a giant arrow construct near to the retreating invaders and wiggle it for emphasis. They take the hint and accelerate to a quick march.

    "Ilana, who is that?"

    "A Lantern, who can clear the sky."

    "That won't dissuade people who are already starving." The man gives me an extremely sceptical glance. "And I doubt that they would do that without wanting something in return."

    I transition down to float a short distance from him, his hands immediately going for knives under his cloak before he restrains himself.

    "Someone made an ash cloud like this on my homeworld a couple of years ago. I caught it in the early stages and shut it down, but it was still pretty worrying at the time. Dispersed like this, it's more time consuming than anything else."

    He considers me for a moment. "I thought that Green Lantern Liana was assigned to this part of the universe."

    "She was. She got fired. I'm here for something else."

    Ilana nods. "He thinks that there is something on Volkreg that is driving people mad with anger."

    "People do not need to be driven mad to fight each other."

    "No, but it can help. Hopefully, when the sun reappears the various cities will need to move their fighting age men into the fields to take advantage of it, but I'd rather deal with the source of the most recent outbreak of conflict."

    "And then?"

    "I will search for what I came here for and then leave. I'm not sure what your experience with off world merchants is, but outside of some interesting and novel food plants there's nothing else it's worth me taking from here. And it costs me next to nothing to wait until you've had a couple of good harvests."

    "Then why are you talking to us?"

    "I need someone more familiar with local custom than me to help me deal with people. Lantern Liana sent me some information, but that's nothing like actually living the culture. And if what I suspect is correct, the people responsible for the ash cloud might not be entirely responsible for their own actions."

    "That would be extremely convenient."

    He sounds extremely sceptical.

    "Only if I can fix it. Which I can't guarantee. But I should get back to your city before Orion-."

    "What about the cloud?"

    "Someone's firing nuclear weapons at supervolcanoes. I don't know about your species' superstitions, but that sounds like a very bad thing. Particularly given that whoever did it probably has geophysics scans telling them where the other three are."

    "Nuclear…" He doesn't frown, but the skin around his eyes wrinkles slightly. "I've heard of those. They're made with dense metal."

    "That's the one. The difficult part is refining the metal to a high enough purity without the radiation melting you. Calculating the compression explosion is difficult, but a really good mathematician from your civilisation could probably manage it."

    "It is more likely that they bought it." He grimaces. "Only an idiot or a monster would starve the whole world to win a war."

    "Could be. I'll start by asking in the city closest to the blast. Excuse us-."

    His eyes dart to Ilana, and she responds with the local confirmation gesture. He draws himself up slightly. "Then I will accompany you as well."

    "The more the merrier. Will your militia adopt a more defensive posture?"

    "I will.. speak to the appropriate people."

    "Good show. Wave upwards when you're done."

    "And what will you be doing?"

    "Announcing my presence by removing all of the ash right away seems like a bad idea. But removing the clouds over your people's territory is something I can do right away as we're a long way from the source. And it might persuade your neighbours to look to their ploughshares instead of their swords. Excuse me."

    I transition upwards and… The cloud is a cloud, the ash spread out enough that the inside is faint grey rather than lightless black. Unlike ash fresh out of the volcano it isn't hot, though the electrical charge is very much still present.

    Right. One giant filter construct coming up.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2023
  22. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Meanwhile, on Earth -14

    21st January 2013
    11:34 GMT +2

    "…we really need to do this, mate?"

    I smile obsequiously at Jackie Quick as he winces in the bright Central African sunlight. Arrowette doesn't look much better, while their 'pet' Skud seems… About as with it as someone with an IQ of 82 can.

    "Jackie, you were the one who complained about not being involved-"

    He bows his head and rests his forehead on his palms. "Fuck me."

    "-in 'important decisions'. Now, I'm afraid that being involved involves your time and attention. Though…" I hold up my hands with an expression of forbearance on my face. "I have absolutely no authority to keep you here. I am after all merely an emissary of the Management, and have no right to give you orders."

    Jackie looks up, slightly hopefully.

    "No, but I do." Jonathan looks at Jackie with an expression of mild irritation. "You're staying. And next time, don't drink that much before a meet'n."

    I float a glass of water over to each of them, Arrowette flashing me a grateful look before downing it.

    "Or you could do what my old manager did at university, and hook yourself up to a saline drip before going to sleep. The headache's a product of dehydration rather than a moral judgement. Now."

    I clap my hands together, smiling as they wince harder.

    "Quick summary of the Syndicate's position, and then we can get to the meat of the issue. The Syndicate has taken control of all of the parts of the world no one really cares about, replacing corrupt politicians with effective and professional supervillains. Most people don't see much different, except that unauthorised crime is way down on what it was."

    Because there's no point in robbing yourself.

    "This has added a surprising number of legitimate revenue streams to the Syndicate and has… Basically made Europe dependent on us for certain types of fruit. Go team."

    Jonathan snorts with amusement. "Guess that's full circle. I'm back where grandma and grandpa started."

    "Do-?" Skud blinks as everyone looks at her. "D-do..?"

    I smile at her. "It's alright, Skud. If you've got something to say, we want to hear it."

    I give M'gavv a sideways glance, but she pointedly looks away.

    "Do people..? Pay lots? For fruit?"

    "Between cheap labour, productive farms and the new and improved infrastructure, in bulk, yes."

    "Then..? Why'd we make drugs? Before? Or-? Or now?"

    "If you've only got a little land, illegal drugs can make lots of money. If you've got lots of land and try making drugs, people attack you and destroy your crop. And making so much makes the price fall anyway."

    "They don't attack you if you've only got a little bit?"

    I shake my head. "There's no point. It's like how stealing twenty dollars isn't usually worth it, but stealing a million is."

    She nods slowly, and Arrowette pats her hand. I'm not sure that she gets it, but… I wasn't expecting her to. Honestly, I'm surprised that she spoke up at all. Good for her.

    The situation is amazing, though. Between the 'African Growers' Association' and the fact that a surprisingly large number of Made Men have powers that have non-criminal applications, we've actually… Made Africa richer and less corrupt than it was before. If only because the take is being spread between fewer people. I've had to put on shows a few times for the Made Men, to convince them that this is all 'acceptably villainous', and I'm not sure how long that can go on. I mean, some of them have to work it out eventually, right?

    And that's the reason for the little meeting.

    "So: Luthor doesn't care about us, no local power is strong enough to stop us and revenue is fine. What's the problem?"

    Lamprey tilts his head slightly as he considers the question. "Expansion?"

    "No, plenty of places to expand into inwardly. Africa's huge, and we're creating new industries from scratch."

    Mary grins unpleasantly. "Each other. Supervillains gunna supervillain." Her eyes widen in excitement. "Is that it? Am I finally gunna get to rrrrrrrip someone's head off?"

    "It might come to that. What we're going to do is brainstorm ways to prevent things getting-"


    "-that far. So who can tell me what holds the Syndicate together?"

    Jonathan nods. "Personal loyalty. You're loyal to the guy above you, and you treat the people below you decent."

    Sea Witch sneers. "Because that works so well with Talon."

    He looks away, shrugging. "Ah, if my pa'd been Owlman rather than Ultraman, I'd have done the same thing. Owlman mighta made him, but he didn't make him loyal. Treat people bad, and…"

    I nod. "Alright then Ultraboy: did Talon know that you were treated better than he was?"

    His eyes focus on me. "Yeah."

    "So why didn't he come over to Ultraman's syndicate? Or anyone else's? Why did he go over to Slade and Luthor?"

    "He was angry. Wan'ed to destroy Owlman's legacy."

    I shrug. "What if he hadn't been angry? What tied him to the Syndicate?"

    His eyes drift away as he tries to come up with a good answer. I'm sure that he wants to say 'me', and he did try treating Talon with the respect his abilities deserved. But ultimately-.

    "Nuthin'. We were all on Owlman's side, so we didn't matter none."

    "Right. You said that the Syndicate is about personal loyalty. How many people can feel that strong loyalty to someone? Practically? Ultraman met all of his Made Men, socialised with them, but how many were loyal enough for it to count? Zorina told me that the Syndicate is a brutal meritocracy. You get what you earn." I shrug. "Great if you're Management. You get everything you want, and you get to know that you're better than everyone."

    I make eye contact with each of them. Each of them who aren't burying their face in their hands. "What made people loyal to Slade? To Luthor? To America?"

    Lamprey nods. "Ideas. Ideals."

    "Yes. The Syndicate has no idea. There is no higher cause here. No sense of responsibility. We're violent narcissists. And that's a problem, because now that no one thinks that Slade's going to rise from his grave and follow us here, Made Men are going to start pushing. They might agree that the Management are in charge, but that personal loyalty isn't there and there's nothing else."

    M'gavv nods. "And we can't even threaten them because they want that fight."

    Jackie slumps more. "Mate, I am too hung over for this. Bottom line? Please?"

    "The Syndicate needs an ideology. Even if it's just feudalism. Some reason to make its members stick together and stay orderly beyond simple gratification and personal safety. Some rules for everyone to follow, including the Management. Or some way to convince everyone to accept a binding geas, which was Zorina's preferred option. We need… Something that can unify people. Any ideas?"



    "I don't know-."

    "I do not."

    "Why not let them fight it out, and kill the survivors we don’t like?" Mary smiles as the rest stare. "What? That's more than you idiots managed."
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2023
  23. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Meanwhile, on Earth -14

    21st January 2013
    12:58 GMT +2

    "Back already?"

    I switch back from my 'work costume' to something a little more appropriate for the home. "I think they need a little while." Sounds like Zorina's in her workshop, so I head in that direction. "And Jackie and Arrowette showed up hung over."

    "How did Raquel look?"

    "Better. She actually voluntarily spoke in order to ask questions." I hold out my right hand to the workshop door and let the wards confirm my identity. "But I think that's her limit."

    The locks unlock and the door swings open, prompting Zorina to look up from where she's working on the tubes attached to Madness Marine's head. One of the projects that's allowed me to pretend to be a 'better' villain than I am, increase my personal power and social influence.

    Carlyle shudders as a new batch of Hope flows from the Mask and into the tubing, and through them into the device which squirts into the vials for distribution. Bit of a shame there's only one Medusa Mask as that limits production, but I'm sure we'll work out a way around that eventually.

    Pure hope: an entirely legal high with a positive effect on a person's wellbeing as well as recharging the ring while looking dodgy as heck. A perfectly squared circle.


    Zorina-. My.. wife shimmers as her magic removes small amounts of blood and oil from her navy blue Howie laboratory coat and skin, as well as removing unwanted arcane energies which might have attached to her during her work. That done, she walks towards me with a contented smile on her face. I find myself smiling too as I move towards her in return. We embrace, her arms going around my back and mine going around her shoulders.

    I didn't love her when we married, but somewhere along the line-.

    "Ghhhagh?" My head jerks around immediately. "Aaaaynnnyyaa?"

    "She's fine, darling." Zorina pulls away, walking over to the crib and bending over to smile at Zita. "Daddy's a big worry-wart, isn't he?"


    I come up behind her, looking over her shoulder at our daughter. No idea what version of the family magic she'll end up with, but she managed to dodge comic-Jade's problem of having ring-coloured skin. She sees me and smiles, haphazardly waving her flabby little arms

    "Hi Zita!" I can feel myself grinning. "Hi Zita! Hi..!"


    Zorina reaches into the crib and picks up my-. Our daughter, carefully supporting her head as she pulls her up to her chest. Zita flops against her, hands weakly reaching to grip Zorina's coat.

    "Sutats? Not hungry, doesn't need to be changed and doesn't need to sleep."

    "I can read to her if you need to keep working here?"

    "Is that a dig?"

    "A dig?" She nods towards the corner of the room while keeping her eyes on our daughter. I follow her-. An exercise mat, water bottle, small dumbbells and a skipping rope. Zorina has been merciless towards her baby weight, and… "No! No, I meant-."

    She snorts. "I know, silly."

    "Not that I don't appreciate your efforts, but I know you can be sensitive about-."

    She giggles, wrapping her free arm around me so that Zita is touching both of us. "You must be the worst supervillain ever. The best… Bad supervillain ever?"

    "I prefer anti-villain, and I hope so. Any messages while I was out?"

    "Grandmother's people sent a message. They think that there's an auspicious time to introduce Zita to the coven."

    "Should you be… Telling me about that?"

    "I think it's one of those 'test-of-loyalty' things."

    "I literally can't imagine you failing a test."

    "No, I pass because I'm loyal to my husband and daughter. I've been to coven meetings before and they're not that interesting. It's just a bunch of old women gathered around a fire pit and evoking demons. There probably won't even be any blood."

    "How dull."

    "The Zatara Family is a family, and you and Zita are my family." She looks up to nuzzle my face. "And you're much more important to me than some wizened hags in a cave in Aquileia or some cousin I share an ancestor with thirty generations ago. Oh, but don't call them hags outside of this room."

    "I won't. Is it dangerous?"

    "No, no." She looks down, smiling at Zita as she reaches for her face and rocking her back and forth. "They'll just perform an augury."

    "How will they perform an augury without blood?"

    "They get the animal from the local butcher already bled. It saves a lot of effort with the clean-up and doesn't affect the augury at all. But it's mostly about introducing the new Zatara to their doting great aunts. The augury's just an excuse."

    "So I don't need to worry about them sticking pins in a me-shaped doll?"

    "Paul." She moves her free hand to my right cheek. "You're part of the family. All those pins are just there to help."



    I turn my head to look at our 'emotion cow'. "Should Zita be in here with him?"

    "Why not? He can't move with a broken neck."

    "I'm not suggesting that we keep our occupation secret from her or anything, but it might help if we wait to do a full introduction until she's old enough to be able to put it in the proper context. You know, 'this person did this and that's why we're doing this' rather than 'sometimes Mummy and Daddy do this to people'."

    "Daddy didn't do that with me."

    "I… I think, darling, that this is one of those disconnects that someone raised in a supervillain household has from people who weren't."

    She nods. "That's the second one in this conversation."

    "What was the first?"

    "You offered to look after Zita while I kept working."


    She sighs, resting the side of her face against my chest. "In the Zatara family, that's the mother's job. Daddy raised me after Mommy died, but that's unusual. I know you didn't mean to imply that I'm a bad mother-"

    "No, of course not."

    "-but that's what it would have sounded like to another Zatara. And I want Zita to grow up in a more traditional household. Because…" She sighs. "We're doing a lot of things that… Change the way supervillainy works. And if that means that you have to be alpha-dominant in public so our people respect you more, then that's what you need to do. I know you respect me. You don't have to assume that I'm going to forget."

    "Obey the small rules so you can break the big ones."

    "That's from Nineteen Eight-Four, isn't it?" I nod, though it didn't work in the long run for the character who tried it. "And… I want to make it easier for Zita to fit in with the family. Mommy… Dying, meant that I never got that chance."

    "Okay. I'll… Try that. Can we go and play with her together? Or do I need to tell you to get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich?"

    She nods. "What do you want in it?"

    Last edited: Mar 18, 2023 at 7:48 AM
  24. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    10:18 GMT

    Construct barrier shimmering around us, Ilana and Razer stare at the ash-gushing super volcano with a mixture of horror and awe. The full caldera is about fifty kilometres across, and unlike the examples on Earth that's not an old caldera filled with water. I can see the rubble that was thrown out by the initial detonation and heavy enough to fall back to the ground, and it covers the ground horizon to horizon… Where it isn't buried by ash.

    The detonation point of the nuclear weapon itself isn't really visible to the unaided eye. I can tell where it was by scanning the stresses in the rock, but it's… With everything else…

    Ilana half-turns her head towards me. "You said that there are three more of these?"

    "Three more that could be opened with nuclear weapons of an equivalent magnitude."

    Razer looks away from the base of the ash plume, searching for… What's he searching for? Something to use to better comprehend the scale of what he's looking at. "Can you shut it down?"

    "Yes, but this… Volcanoes exist as a result of geological pressure. This one was triggered early, but it would have gone off eventually on its own. Same with the other three. It might be better to let it vent itself before blocking it."

    I have my ring's AI compare this to other examples of supervolcanoes on file.

    "Yes, it won't erupt again in the probable lifetime of your species if we leave it."

    "Is it causing any other damage?"

    "It's putting out heavier than air poison gas. But the nearest settlements are far enough away that they shouldn't be affected. The caldera will be unsafe for a long time, but the rest will disperse on its own."

    Ilana shakes her head. "We should go to the nearest city. This is…"

    "Yes." Razer nods sombrely. "It is."


    I pick up the sphere surrounding them and fly at speed towards the city in question. I don't know if they were the target or if they were for some insane reason the ones who made the attack. Maybe they were testing a new weapon and didn't know about the supervolcano? I didn't see any rocket launch sites or obvious airports when I looked at the city earlier, but that doesn't mean that they didn't have some other way to deploy it.

    The city is covered with a thick layer of ash and dust, still warm to the touch but not hot enough to burn. The sky is black, and the little light available that doesn't come from my rings is provided by shuttered lanterns borne on poles. The few people outside are wearing cloth masks to keep it out of their lungs. It looks like someone's tried to organise a cleaning system, with people shovelling settled ash onto carts pulled by their fellow residents. There's an obvious film of fear over the place, but they're being fairly stoical, inwardly. When there's nothing to do but tough it out, most people will tough it out.

    It would probably be a good idea to make a favourable impression. I float over to near to the ash dumping ground by the front gate. The people there look up at me for a moment, and then bow their heads and return to work because, well: how am I going to make things worse?

    Time to make a favourable impression.

    I raise my left hand and cause a shield construct to swell and expand. At first it simply resembles a wall, but as it grows and grows it's clear to all onlookers that it's going to envelop the entire city. With the ash fall increasingly cut off I deploy construct vacuum cleaners to hoover up the ash drifts already on the ground and dump the material outside of my new barrier. Once the area around us is sufficiently cleared, I deposit Ilana and Razer on the ground to talk with the locals while I concentrate on… Cleaning off this dust-with-delusions-of-grandeur.

    Hm. The ash fall is far more than a normal area effect atmospheric filter could cope with. At this point it would more or less have to be a force field with selective permeability. It would need a power generator on-site, and I can't guarantee that it would actually stay in place. Sure, I'll get the ash out of the atmosphere before I leave, but that will mostly involve putting it on the ground and high wind will keep picking it up for years yet.

    I notice Ilana and Razer reach the local ash-dumpers and start trying to explain what's happening. I'm not sure if their language is similar enough to be mutually intelligible; it's a single continent and there aren't any impassable geological barriers between this city and theirs, but it's still quite a long way and I don't know how much their language has drifted.

    Damn, that's a lot of ash. I take back what I said about it being good for the soil: this is smother-quantity.

    Right, that's… Clear enough for now. The mass is building up on top of my barrier, but we weren't getting any sunlight anyway, and other than opening a tube to space that's the best I can do.

    I fly over to the ash-dumpers, and give them a friendly smile.

    "Hello there."

    "Is this your work?"

    "The eruption? No. When I want to bombard a place, I just bombard it directly. This sort of thing makes resettlement harder. Can I take it that you don’t know who caused it?"

    "Our alliance with Crelan collapsed recently. They seem like the sort-."

    Razer's eyes narrow. "That sounds like pure conjecture."

    One of the others slumps. "What do you want, outlanders? We're all going to die choking under the dust."

    "I need some information, then I can deal with that. If you don't have any leads on who activated the volcano… Do you have any records..? Or folk stories, of people being filled with maniacal rage?"

    "What? Why?"

    "I have reason to believe that an object that has that effect is on this planet, and it's my job to find it and remove it to a place where no one will be harmed by it."

    "Ah…" They sort of look at each other… There are a few negative gestures. "Not really? There are stories where people become angry, but the reason why they get angry is usually something the other characters do. I mean, that's the point, isn't it? Moral lessons?"

    "Darn. In that case, do you know why your relationship with Crelan ended?"

    "Their Dal was married to our Dal's sister, but their son died fighting against Alanak and so he decided to divorce her and marry a younger woman. Our Dal didn't like that, or the way he disinherited their other children. So he broke our alliance, and we both tried to find other allies. Then this happened."

    "That sounds… Petty."

    "There might be more to it than that. Not like the Dal needs to tell me anything."

    "Did they have any off-world weapons?"

    "Probably? We all do, don't-" He looks at Razer and Ilana. "-we?"

    Razer indicates a negative. "Nothing this powerful."

    "I think I should speak with your Dal. Where might I find him?"

    "Out with the army, west of here. Of course, he might have gotten buried under the ash."

    "How long have you and your neighbours been at loggerheads?"

    "Well it's… So… About..? Eighty years?"

    "Ilana? Razer? Is that normal?"

    Ilana makes a gesture of uncertainty. "Our city is more isolated. We hear later about large wars, but we're not always involved."

    Razer makes an affirmative gesture. "But it is not unusual."

    That sounds like a lot, but is it really all that different to Medieval Europe?

    "Let's… Hope that we can fix that."
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2023 at 12:12 PM
  25. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    10:31 GMT

    The force field around the city crackles faintly in the distance, barely visible through the ash clouds that continue to fall. Razer and Ilana are staying behind to get updated on local news. The army in the field…

    Ah, heck.

    Looks like they've taken refuge in a small town, which is packed with refugees as well as a reasonably sized army. There doesn't seem to have been enough space in the actual buildings for everyone, and from the scraps of fabric I can see sticking out through the dust piles it looks like they tried to use their tents to create a cover over the streets. That might have worked alright for a smaller amount of ash, but it completely failed here.

    I erect a construct dome and start clearing the build up, focusing on those ash heaps that still have living people under them. Piles build up outside the town palisade, and I'm… Probably burying crop fields doing this, but nothing under there is going to be alive at this point anyway.

    I shove somewhat cooked bodies aside and hoik out a survivor, using a construct gas mask to feed them a little more oxygen to try and help him recover. With more space cleared I begin laying out the living and dead alike, a purple healing ray patching up the survivors. I don’t think… No, I haven't seen people slow-cooked like this before.

    Every day's a.. learning experience.

    With the windows of the buildings cleared, light from my constructs leaks through into the interior. I get long enough to finish my triage efforts before the first brave soul risks opening a door, the rags jammed around the frame to keep the ash out meaning that it needs a strong shove before allowing them passage. I float down and raise my right hand in greeting. While I think I can work out which of the people taking shelter are the important ones, there doesn't seem to be much marking out the Dal from the other officers.

    "Hello! You appear to be having a bit of an apocalypse."

    "That-. That we are. Ah, sir."

    A soldier. A junior one, shoved-. Yes, shoved in like sardines with.. some local people. They're all spilling out now, and-. One loses his lunch when he sees some of those that the ash fall killed, but most of them just wince or.. make a gesture that I assume is the equivalent of crossing yourself.

    "Short version: it's a volcano, I can stop it but I need to know who started it first, where's the Dal?"

    "What's a-? What?"

    "The ash. It comes from a volcano. And it will keep coming for several days. I need information, and the Dal seems like he's most likely to know."

    "You're a… An orange Lantern?" He looks up and left, taking in the size of the shield and the ash piling up outside it. "Ah, yes, yessir. He was taking shelter with the mayor, over that way." He points towards the only two-storey building in the town, which I'd assumed was a barn. "He's in there."

    "Thank you. Please check on your wounded. I think they're alright, but this is the first time I've encountered your species."

    "And the… The rest?"

    I hadn't realised, but I think he's… Young. Too young to really know what to do in situations like this. One of the others should be an NCO, but…

    "I don't know your people's funerary customs, but I suggest that you get started. Your officers should have orders for you soon."

    I fly towards the taller building, noticing that experienced-looking soldiers with-. Yes, those are plasma pistols. An elite bodyguard, or people wealthy enough to-.

    I spot the moment they see me, dart their eyes towards the shielding dome and don't go for their weapons.

    "Might I speak with the Dal, please?"

    One motions to one of the others, who steps back inside the building. I look inside as he talks to… Probably the Dal, who then proceeds to exit the building and look up at me.

    "We have you to thank for this?"

    "The barrier, yes. The volcano was set off by a nuclear device. Do you-?"

    "Damn him! He told-!"

    The Dal fights down his rage before looking back at me.

    "Dal Cryoncus made contact with me a short time ago. He claimed to have bought a weapon from off-world arms merchants that would destroy our shared enemies. He needed access to my lands to site it, and I allowed him to send a small party."

    "Are his lands close? They would have been covered by ash as well."

    "His city is shielded by mountains. They have caves to retreat to, and the prevailing winds will spare him the worst of it!"

    "Your enemies-?"

    "None of them have had dealings with off-worlders lately. We keep track of such things about one another. It can make the difference between victory and defeat in battle, it changes the terms it's wise to offer in trade, it changes… Everything. And it provides information about a city's wealth if off-worlders think that it is worth visiting."

    "Right." I land next to him and generate a construct map. I think I know which city he's talking about, but it makes sense to check. "This one?"

    He considers the map for a moment. "Yes, that one. The people who would have killed us all."

    I hear the anger in his voice, but as far as I can tell that all comes from him.

    "How fares my city?"

    "I cleaned it up and then put a shield around it. It should be fine. I suggest that you allow me to take everyone in this town there before I go to speak with Dal Cryoncus."

    He makes a gesture of compliance. "Staying here would see us all dead. I will get everyone organised."

    "Given the massive environmental damage your world has suffered, might I prevail upon you to agree to a general ceasefire? At least for a growing season or two?"

    "Who would guarantee such a thing?"

    "I'll either do it myself, or find someone else to do it on my behalf."

    He looks in the direction of his city, though I doubt that he can see much through the ashfall.

    "Are we the closest to it?"


    "So we're undoubtably the worst affected. Yes, I'll agree, if my neighbours do as well. It's not as if it would be practical to launch an attack in these conditions."

    "Thank you. I'll leave you to your preparations."

    I rise back into the sky as he begins issuing orders. Transporting a few thousand people will be easier for me than arranging food and accommodation will be for him at the far end. Heh, the ash pile outside my shield is already about halfway up. It's astonishing how dangerous geology can be.

    "Illustres to Jade. Anything worrying going on?"

    "The militia are back inside. Orion and I are heading to the next nearest city to try and talk them into doing the same thing."

    "Good idea. When you say '-."

    "He's going to shoot things until they do what he says."

    "Very efficacious. I've got a lead on the nuker. I'll let you know if it's actually them."
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2023 at 10:25 AM
  26. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    10:37 GMT

    I close my eyes and tilt my head back slightly as the bar room toughs form a semi-circle around me.

    "This is such a cliché."

    "This is a private party."

    I open my eyes, eyebrows raised. It was the bloke with the horns. "Better."

    "And we're going to need to see some ID."

    Ah, okay? I shrug, then take my Denver driving license out of subspace and hold it out.

    The chap with the horns blinks with two sets of eyelids, then snarls.

    "That wasn't what I meant."

    "What, I can't use a driver's licence as ID on this planet? I know the age is a question mark, but with one thing and another I genuinely don't know-."

    "Member ID."

    I put the licence into my equipment harness. "I'm not a member. Look, I just-."

    "Then you can leave. You're not the right type."

    I look down, and then back up. "These are dress shoes. What's the problem?"

    A few more patrons are paying us attention, and most of them have their primary manipulator appendage close to their preferred weapon. I decided to come in here without a disguise, and as such am considerably taller than the bouncers. That might be why they're hesitating, but between the inverse square rule and their guns they might think that they've got it handled. Nothing about my appearance screams super strength.

    "Take the hint. Go get a drink somewhere else."

    "Oh, I don't drink. I'm here to do business. See, I got-" I left my case up and pop the lid. "-fungible goods to trade."

    Hands close around hilts and grips.

    "I wasn't sure exactly what you people take for stuff like this, but I thought that a few kilos of rare earth metals would probably do?"

    "Heh." A slovenly-looking… Individual of indeterminate reproductive capacity gets off their stool, hand gun pointed at my face. "And what'd'you think the chance of you walking out with that is?"

    It's a great feed line, and I know that the correct response is: brandish weapon and say 'better than average'. But Jordan made it clear that he doesn't want to make it harder for local police to monitor these people, which means not painting the walls with their digestive enzymes.

    "I don't want to walk out with it. I'm here to trade it."

    "Gaan." The horned chap makes a calming gesture, and I can see the added tension in him. "We've got this. Head back to your table."

    "I think the payday's worth the heat." Gaan looks around as the crowd encroaches. "And I think that's the majority opinion."

    I nod. "He's right." I reach into the case, take out a small bar of neodymium and toss it across the room. "Fetch."

    There's a clunk as it hits the ground, and three people turn and take a step towards it. Gaan turns to glare as soon as he hears their boots stand down. "He's got a case full of that and you're chasing one?"

    I nod approvingly as they retake their place in the wilding mob. "You're surprisingly well disciplined for pirates. You've completely defied my expectations." I look at the one with horns. "And you're on MP duty?"

    "Security. And we're not on your side."


    I take a gun out of subspace, a popular local plasma-based squad support weapon. Eyes widen slightly as I hold it casually in my right hand.

    I then point the barrel at my left palm and pull the trigger down. Florescent purple plasma lances out and strikes my flesh… And does nothing. Once I've got enough of them staring I release the trigger and send the gun back into subspace, flexing my left hand as a thin film of smoke rises from it.

    Slowly, their attention moves back to my face, and I give them all a nice friendly smile.


    "Get over here."

    A shadowy figure in a shadowy corner raises his voice slightly, prompting the security chief to look around. A certain amount of the wind leaves the sails of the rest now that the boss has expressed an opinion, but Gaan doesn't seem to want to let it go.


    The security chief takes a step closer to them. "Let it go, Gaan. Come on. He just took a whole fuel cell like it was a joke. What's your plan, here?"

    Gaan looks decidedly sour, but shakes their head, holsters their gun and returns to their seat.

    I smile politely. "Right, thank you, I'll be with your boss. Excuse me."

    I accelerate the parting of the crowd with both hands, creating a path for myself towards where this crew's leader sits. He looks up at me through the sub-par lighting of the venue, his expression studiously blank.


    Did Original Grayven ever have any dealings with him? I don't remember doing so, but it's quite possible that his people encountered the Black Circle at some point.

    "Amon Sur." I generate a construct chair and sit, facing him. "Pleased to meet you."

    I place my case on the table and push it towards him.

    He shrugs. "Who do you want dead?"

    "Nah. If I wanted someone killed, I'd just do it myself. I'm here for information. Personal information."

    He snorts contemptuously. "Anything I knew about my father's missions is years out of date. Not that he told me much."

    "It's about your sister."

    He frowns, but he's paying attention.

    "I've been trying to find out what happened to Iroque, but after she was apprehended she appears to have disappeared. Your father definitely took her alive, but I haven't been able to find any record of her being incarcerated anywhere in the Sector. Or executed."

    "His ring wouldn't let him do it himself."

    I nod. "Yes. Do you remember the period?"

    "Yes. I remember when he visited home, afterwards."

    "Did he seem different at all?"

    "No." He shakes his head. "I don't know. He wasn't home enough for me to have something to compare it to. He-." His eyes narrow. "He seemed… Calm. Weirdly calm. I thought he just… Didn't care…" He shrugs. "I guess shock affects people differently."

    "Or something else."

    He straightens up in his chair. "I don't usually ask about other people's business, but that was my sister. What's going on?"

    "I think he moved her to an off-the-books facility. Do you know if he ever kept any sort of… Journal? On paper, not on his ring."

    "I might. And I want to know where the bitch who killed my sister is right now."

    I smile and nod. "How would you feel about looking into it together?"
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2023 at 7:01 PM
  27. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    10:49 GMT

    There's little fanfare as the soldiers and civilians leave my large transportation construct and enter the city. I had to excavate a passage through the ash piles, but there's air and light inside so they'll live.

    Though to be honest this sounds more like a mistake than an act of malice, the local ruler's bias notwithstanding.

    I exhale slowly.

    How do you..? Alright, we had the Year Without A Summer, so no one was stupid enough to test-nuke a supervolcano on Earth. And they almost certainly bought the weapon from outside, so… So they knew there was a volcano there, because they had to know where to put the explosive. But maybe they didn't fully grok it? Because… They didn't have that experience. That exposure. The only thing they could compare it to was one of the continent's smaller active volcanoes.

    I wonder-? I mean, I'm never going to agree with Starfleet or anything, but I can't help but wonder how many inhabited worlds… Die, like this. A supervolcano goes off, or there's a mutation in a virus or bacterium that sends it rampant, or… I don't know, a geomagnetic reversal on a world inhabited by a species that has a magnetic sense. And everything.. just… Dies. Selling tactical weapons wouldn't really matter, even… Strategic weapons. But a seller probably wouldn't think to say 'don't put this on a supervolcano'.

    I wave as Razer and Ilana approach.

    "The Dal was kind enough to give me a lead. Did you learn anything?"

    Ilana smiles. "It's interesting to meet people from so far away."

    Razer grimaces. "It seems strange that so many people go to fight and die for so little."

    I attach filaments to them and rise into the air. "Perhaps it seems like a big deal to them."

    "No, it didn't. They just seem to think it was inevitable that war would be the result."

    "On my world, two cities once went to war over a bucket. Though we've pretty much phased that sort of thing out."

    Ilana looks interested. "How did your people do that?"

    "We developed an economy where buckets aren't so valuable." She looks at me uncertainly. "That-. That was a joke. It was a combination of very deadly weapons being commonly available, and our economies becoming so interdependent and fragile that killing large numbers of fighting age men risked completely destroying the participating civilisations. Ah, plus nationalism, which increasingly made compelling a conquered population to obey too expensive to countenance because people would rather die than give their conquerors anything. You have to really hate someone to invade them under those circumstances."


    "And we do, just less often."

    She bows her head slightly as I fly us out of the force field, everything doing dark as we leave. "You were serious about interstellar space not being 'peaceful'."

    "Is that sort of ruthlessness common?"


    I look up into the blackness as we accelerate.

    "I can't.. claim.. to have studied every extant civilisation, but yes."

    Ilana looks understandably downcast. "That's terrible."

    "You can't really assess terribleness in isolation. I mean, we've got this universe, but if we don't have another universe to compare it to, we can't really say that it's worse. Maybe this is as good as it can get."

    Ilana looks understandably more downcast. "That's terrible."

    Razer nods. "And now I'm imagining somewhere worse."

    "It's good practice. Before today, I'd never seen a supervolcano go off. I mean, I've seen worlds bombarded to death from orbit, but there's something about the sheer scale of nature's wrath that marks it out."

    She frowns. "What happens if someone does this to the other three after you leave?"

    "Hopefully by then you have a Green Lantern assigned to this Sector, and they step in and fix it. More hopefully-"

    Orange light strobes out, projecting a display of the canyon we're flying over onto the clouds below us.

    "-everyone learns enough from this to know that blowing up supervolcanoes is a bad idea for everyone. Please bear in mind that this is the best lead I have on the Butcher's blood, and the people here may not be entirely rational."

    Razer makes a very quiet exhalation. "When compared to everyone else?"

    Ilana favours him with a curious look, which prompts another exhalation.

    "I thought that the people who intended to invade our homes were in some way unique. I thought that joining the militia was the best way to protect you. And I would have killed them, and then travelled to their city to ensure that they could not send another army."

    She takes hold of his hands. "They probably felt the same about their wives."

    "It's harder to kill someone when you know their name. Perhaps we should make more of an effort to get to know our neighbours."

    "Good idea. Going down now. Oh, and-." I take a book out of subspace and translate it into their language before passing it to Razer. "This is how my planet's first global war happened a hundred years ago. You may find that some parts sound familiar." He cautiously takes the book. "Basically, don't do any of that."

    "Thank you. I will make sure to avoid your planet a hundred years ago."

    "Ah, also, don't go there now. We've got this thing with suicide magic-"

    A volley of arrows fly in our general direction from the walls, either missing due to the ash or hitting my construct shield. The ash fall is much less bad here, and I can see where the air currents are diverting the majority of it around the mountains. Still not easy to see, but it's 'foggy' rather than 'Kahndaqi insect plague'.

    "-and a giant robot god. Hello! We come in peace!"

    Razer raises his new book slightly.

    "Nearly! We'd really appreciate the opportunity to talk to whoever's in charge about the volcanic eruption!"

    "No room here!"

    Ilana puts her right hand on my left.

    "He thinks we're here for shelter. There is no need to fight him."

    "The great thing about being really strong is that it's not really a fight. I am strong enough to disable most of my opponents without causing them lasting injury. But you are correct."

    I thicken the shield a little, just in case they've put an anti-air weapon on the walls, then float us into easy visual distance of the people on the top of the wall.

    "And when I say 'appreciate', I mean 'do it now'."
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2023 at 7:27 PM
  28. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    10:57 GMT


    The small beaver-like alien before me both looks and sounds serious, but I admit that I'm having a little difficulty taking someone the size of an actual beaver entirely seriously. I mean, sure, that's an indigo staff and power ring and he's probably had them both for a while, but…

    But he'd fit right in on the Equestria side of the portal without changing shape.

    "So they do come in other colours. I thought you were chasing starlight."

    Amon Sur's ship is hanging back a little. That… I'm not sure what to do about him in the longer term. The Earth Defence Force is probably going to have a hostile encounter with the Black Circle eventually, and then we'll have to exterminate them. But for now we just don't have any interstellar trade, so there's nothing for them to raid. For him personally? Once I've completed this task, I'll have enough time on my hands that I could offer him an orange ring and an apprenticeship.

    Might be worth killing off the rest of the Black Circle first

    Wait a minute. This beaver looks… Wasn't there a beaver who fought against Lantern Ch'p? I don't remember what he was called


    The only beaver-like creature I have a file on is one Doctor Ub'x. He was a criminal technologist. My organic self bought equipment from him on two occasions.

    I smile. "Lantern Ub'x, I presume. What is it that you want me to stop?"

    "I want you to stop trying to find us. Did you really think that we don't keep an eye on Lantern Jordan? And Amon Sur?"

    "The first, I wasn't sure. The second, I assumed that you didn't, because if you did then it would have been logical for you to offer him a ring."

    "No it wouldn't. You know that we exist but you clearly don't know what we are."

    "You have a power ring, which is indigo. Therefore-."

    "I mean that you don't know why Abin Sur created this organisation. Or why I'm part of it."

    "According to my sources you used to be an arms trader. It seems like you'd be the sort of person due for a little indigo light based reformation."

    "No, I went to the Indigo Lantern Corps voluntarily in order to… Earn redemption, I suppose. I went of my own free will, which is why I can have this conversation with you. How do you know I exist?"

    "I've had access to parallel universes. The Indigo Lantern Corps isn't secret in all of them."

    "No, not the Corps. Me, personally. Though I suppose that the answer is probably the same."

    "Yes. Why, is there something special about you?"

    He snorts with amusement. "I suppose not. So, what do you want with the Indigo Lantern Corps, Grayven of Apokolips?"

    "I'm trying to help a pony corrupted by evil magic."

    "I might be able to help, but our rings are only intended for particular types of people."

    "No, no, I'm not suggesting him as a candidate. I need someone who can blast them with elemental compassion at the same time as six of us fire other colours of ring at him."

    "That seems like a rather convoluted way of killing someone."

    "No, no, no, it won't kill them. I'm pretty sure that combining the colours together will produce white light, the essence of life itself. And that will hopefully do away with the evil magic."

    "The essence of life-? That doesn't sound like a good idea."

    "No, it's perfectly safe. No risk of supercharging bacteria or giving people super-cancer."

    "No, I mean, bringing that sort of power into the universe. There must be all sorts of ways that something like that could go horribly wrong."

    "Look, there'll be seven Lanterns, one of whom will be me. Plus whatever escort I think is worth taking. If you're not going to use your power to help people then what's the point of even having it?"

    "That's something that I never thought-"

    "Ask him about my sister's murderer!"

    "-I'd hear an Apokoliptian say."

    "I've had an interesting life. So… What happened to Iroque? I assume that Abin Sur used her as a lab rat."

    "She is serving the Corps as a Penitent. I assume that Amon Sur is shouting about how much he wants her dead?"

    "Actually, he's being-"

    "She's alive?! I want her dead!"

    "-surprisingly.. restrained. I assume that she's brainwashed by the indigo light?"

    "That's not precisely how it works. She can only feel compassion, but that doesn't change her underlying thought processes. Not directly, anyway. It's more a form of exposure-therapy, while her body is essentially… Little more than a puppet of the indigo light."

    "Ah." I nod approvingly. "Slavery. To be maintained until the real mind learns to rejoice in obedience. I think that we should ensure that my father never reaches Nox."

    "She's a slave?"

    I smile at Dr. Ub'x.

    "Would you excuse me for a moment?"

    "Oh, so he is demanding her death."

    "Yes, obviously."

    "Then by all means."

    I raise Sinestro to my mouth. "Yes, she's a brainwashed slave doing eternal community service."

    "Does she suffer?"

    "How often was your father wounded in the line of duty."


    I lower my hand and return my attention to the magical beaver. "So are you willing to help with the pony, or do I have to track Nox down and ask someone else?"

    "How many colours do you still need?"

    "Ah… Depends whether Ganthet gets back to me or not. I don't actually have anyone for blue, but assuming-"

    Incoming message-. Ow. Ow.

    "-that he comes through… Excuse me a moment again. Yes?"

    The face-. Of an elderly man stares back at me. Can't see the body, but the eyes… There's a sort of placid focus to them, unmoved but not unconcerned by the universe.

    "Grayven. You have requested the use of a device that you should not know exists. How did you hear of it?"

    "Not all parallel universes run to the same timeline. One of your alts has got it working."

    "Did he have a Lantern?"

    "Think he gave it to Jordan, actually. And some guy called Bro'Dee Walker, but he won't have undergone the trials that turned him into a good Blue Lantern yet. Ah… There was a guy called Warth, don't know if he's in the right mental place."

    I shrug.

    "So how about it?"

    "My research has not yet yielded a prototype, but I shall certainly bear those names in mind."

    "Are you likely to be able to get a prototype..? Anytime soon?"

    "No. It has been some time since I have been able to spend time on a side project. It is pleasant to know that I will eventually be successful, but my responsibilities are unlikely to decrease. But don't worry; as a New God you will most likely live to see my project's eventual completion. I will let you know when I am finally successful."

    His face vanishes.

    "No blue light, then? Can I get on with my day?"


    "No, I… Think I can still manage."
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2023 at 8:32 AM
  29. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    10:59 GMT

    "A Lantern! Thank the Source! Can you stop this?"

    Volkregian society isn't advanced enough to support the level of ostentatiousness that 'throne room' usually implies to a European, but the quality of the stone and woodwork is clearly a cut above what I've seen elsewhere. The Dal's clothing is-. Ah. It's a space farer's jumpsuit with added jewellery, the fabric being something they couldn't produce on planet and as such shows off his wealth and power while also being stain resistant and hard wearing.

    Not seeing any red. Not in him, or the rest of his advisors.

    "Yes, but there is a matter I have to resolve first, because there's no point in stopping it if someone just starts it up-."

    "Yes, I admit-! I wanted to form an alliance with Crelan, so I arranged for the bomb to be brought to-. I just thought there'd be a few earth tremors!"

    Interesting that he didn't try and deflect blame. He would have been advised, but where technical matters are concerned, how much advice could someone from Volkreg actually give?

    "Do you have any more such bombs?"

    He-. Shakes his head. Not the local gesture, but not an uncommon one around humanoid species. He's had more off-world contact, and either picked it up or learned to use it around aliens.

    "The people you bought it from. As far as you know, are they in contact with anyone else?"

    "They've-. They mentioned people a few times-. I assumed it was a negotiating tactic; no one on Volkreg can afford to have things shipped here in bulk. We're too far away from their workshops."

    Accurate enough. Azmah is theoretically advanced enough, but they've got… Other problems. For the Sector's other advanced worlds, sure, they can get here, but Volkreg doesn't have an industrialised society. They don't manufacture anything that it's worth selling somewhere else, and they don't have the equipment to extract raw materials in the sort of quantity they'd need in order to use them for mass trade. Even farm produce is no good, because any merchant would just buy a breeding stock and move it to a world that had chemical fertiliser. So: sporadic visits to trade once they've build up sufficient… Gold, probably. And even then, only small traders.

    "Alright, here's what I want in return. Y-."

    "Name it!"

    "You will foreswear the use of wars of aggression, both for yourself and your heirs. You will personally accept responsibility at a gathering of your peers which I will arrange. You will provide me with all information that I will need to apprehend the people who sold you the bomb."

    "Yes! Yes! I want this to stop! You have to believe me, I never-."

    "I do. Ilana, Razer, get the information we need. Excuse me."

    I fly on automatic, out of the residence, out of the city and up into near-Volkreg space. From here I can see the full… No, nearly the full extent of the ash cloud. It actually extends over the horizon in the windward direction, even from up here. The plume is still fairly extensive in the other direction as the heat from the volcano pushes the air away in all directions.

    I form a large cold gun construct and take aim at the centre of the caldera. There wasn't a great deal of magma, but cooling the ground should solidify the magma reservoirs and bung it up a little. And without the hot subterranean air, the ash should stop being ejected with the current level of vehemence. This much cooling can have some fairly severe affects on the atmosphere by itself, but under the circumstances I suspect that the locals will take a unseasonal hurricane or two over an electrified ash storm.

    And fire.

    The pale blue beam cuts through the ash plume, air contracting as the ash is frozen. It looks like someone poked a hole in the billowing mass, though this won't do much to the rest of the ash. I'm going to have to clean that up once I've dealt with the source.

    You know, there are probably Lanterns who get to spend their entire career doing things like this.

    The cold beam hits the ground and the ash ejection stops almost at once. Scans show the temperature of the crust reduce down to normal levels, lava tubes closing… Yes, good, good. Now… A plug. Scan… Yes, that asteroid looks about the right size and composition. I

    step out and

    reappear next to it, grab it with a construct tether and warp back to the planet.

    Convenient, not having an interdiction field.

    Then fly down through the atmosphere. The wind has picked up as the cold air starts pulling the hot air inwards and upwards, and that's adding to the lightning show. Not a danger to me due to my environmental shield providing me with perfect insulation, but I'm.. getting slightly uncomfortable Oceanus flashbacks. Now, this rock isn't much above absolute zero, so that should handle any residual heat. And it's a solid enough mass that it should contain any pressure build-up-.

    And check the rock for dangerous micro-organisms, because I've seen The Andromeda Strain. And macro-organisms, because I've seen The Empire Strikes Back. No, nothing dangerous.

    And down, with enough force to compress the rock and close off some of the fissures, without setting the whole thing off again.

    If there was any moisture in the air, this whole area would be covered in frost and rain would be falling from the sky. As it is, the lightning intensifies, striking the newly-earthed iron-rich asteroid with great fury.

    Right, that can take care of itself. I have great clouds to deal with. I don't know of any construct designed for…

    Huh. John's ring had two records of Green Lanterns dealing with incidents like this. One used a vacuum cleaner construct and was at it for days, and the other sprayed the cloud with sea water, causing it to rain out of the air. That took a day, but caused widespread environmental damage from the salty rainfall and ash sludge and chemicals.

    Oh, and Dox has a file on here about using a quantum teleporter to track the average movement of dust in a continent wide cloud and turn them into a solid block. The description seems to show that it's a good fit for this situation.

    But I think that I should probably stick to the one I can comprehend.

    It's most important to deal with the densest ash cloud closest to the source, and lesser amounts of ash are a problem but not a existential one. To that end I fly up through the rapidly shrinking hole my cold ray made, up until I'm above almost all of the ash cloud. Then I spread my construct downwards. I don't make constructs this size very often due to the overt threat they imply, but at this point it seems to be for the best. I keep going until I've got a tube pointing towards the billowing ash cloud, then add the filters-.

    Wait, the ash is electrically charged. That should make this easier.

    Add a magnetic field as well as a vacuum, storage tanks for the ash and escape vents for the air. Then -careful to take into account local terrain features and structures- I move it forwards.

    The ash cloud goes from impenetrable blackness to dense fog levels as it passes through, and I know that will start to spread out and dissipate without the continual source of heat from the ground. Still damaging, if not quite Year Without Summer bad, but I can go back through with the water method to get the rest out once I'm done.

    "Illustres to Jade. I'm dealing with the supervolcano now. Please reassure people that they'll be able to plant."

    "I will. Orion has a lead on the Butcher's Blood."

    "Oh, I was starting to think that there was nothing here. Good work. I'll go to you once I've finished here."
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2023 at 6:42 AM
  30. Mr Zoat

    Mr Zoat Dedicated ragequitter

    Dec 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    21st January 2013
    11:23 GMT

    "Green Lantern Jordan."

    Ub'x raises his staff in greeting to Jordan, while all Jordan does in return is frown.

    "Do..? I know you?"

    Ub'x looks… No, feels disappointed. Not.. sure what's going on there. Did he want Jordan to remember his criminal career?

    "No, but I met your predecessor. A great man, Lantern Sur."

    "Ah. Yeah." His frown deepens. "This is gunna sound like a strange question, but do you know Lantern Ch'p?"

    "Yes. Quite well, actually, though I've been out of touch for a while."

    He raises his staff, and Jordan nods.

    "Yeah, I hear that. It's a full time job and then some. Okay, Grayven, you've found a… Purple Lantern. Why do you want Psycho Pirate's mask?"

    I cringe theatrically. "It turns out that while Guardian Ganthet is working on a blue power ring, it's nowhere near ready for a field test. That leaves me at a loss for a source of hope."

    "And you wanna use his mask? Would that work?"

    "Won't know until we try. Making people feel emotion is what it does, but obviously it doesn't manifest actual constructs. I'm hoping that the feeling alone will be enough to count."

    So who's going to wear it? You?"

    "No, I'll need to focus on using my yellow ring. I was going to offer it to Luna, on the grounds that she's touched the blue light before."

    "I don't think it'll fit on her face."

    "She's an immensely powerful magical demigoddess pony. I'm sure that she can manage to hold it on while she uses it."

    "What, with her hoof?"

    "No, her horn."

    "What, you're just gunna stick it on there?"

    "With her horn's magic. Look, I know perfectly well that there's no established procedure for releasing these things, and there's no way that Batman's taken it since it's a magic device and he doesn't do those. So either Giovanni's got it and I need to talk to him, or it's up here and you can approve its release. I hate to be a nag-"

    "You allowed to say that word?"

    "-but I doubt that being having his brain exposed to all the evil on his planet is doing King Sombra any good, so if I could have a decision..?

    "And if I say 'no', you'll accept that?"

    I look away, scratch my nose and shift my feet. "Yes."

    Jordan doesn't look impressed. "That was on purpose."

    "Fine. I'll accept it, and then open a portal to a parallel universe… Earth Fifty? And borrow theirs. I'm asking you because I'm aware that the League likes to keep tabs on me and I don't want to make that harder for you than it needs to be."

    "Weren't you dating their Supergirl?"

    "We went on one date and she treated it like a hostage situation."

    "So you haven't told her about the pony."

    "If you're not going to give me the darn mask, just say so."

    He thinks for a moment. "Okay. But it's my responsibility. I need to be there every step of the way."

    "You… Want to come to magical pony wor-?"

    "No, but I'm going to anyway. Wait here while I get it out of storage."

    Jordan flies off into the secure parts of the Watchtower. From which Batman presumably removed my access overrides after I rebuilt it… Two years ago? Huh. Doesn't time fly when you send hundreds of years in the far future?

    Ub'x looks around. "This looks like a Green Lantern Corps Sector House."

    "That's because it is one, remodelled a few times. Humans have only recently reached the point where flying in space is a regular thing. Do you want to meet the people you'll be working with?"

    "That's probably for the best. Though I do have another question."


    "You knew that Indigo Lanterns exist. You knew that we were founded by Abin Sur, and you knew that our corps is based on planet Nox. You even recognised me, though you were surprised that I have an indigo power ring."


    "But you haven't asked me to use the blue light on your behalf."

    "No? Why, is that surprising?"

    "Indigo Lanterns who are doing penance can use other colours of light."


    I frown. "How?"

    "Their core psyches are still intact. But with their evil suppressed by compassion, the better angels of their nature are brought to the fore, shorn of the particularly of their vice."


    "They can use whatever colour related to what happened to get one of us to stick an indigo ring on them. Iroque relished the fear she saw in her victims, so these days she can use the yellow light."

    "Her constructs are made more powerful by the people who fear her, and them?"

    "No, when you use an indigo ring, it doesn't work quite like that. Her constructs are fairly weak."

    I frown. Ah. I.. don't remember that from the comics, but… It was a while ago.

    "So… There's… Someone who can use the blue light?"

    "It's unusual, as our penitents are violent criminals. But there are one or two."

    "Was there a reason why you didn't volunteer that information earlier?"

    "Because I wanted to see how you would work around the problem before I let you know. You're not supposed to know anything about us."

    "Okay." I glance in the direction Jordan flew off in. "So are you offering, or are we going with the mask?"

    "Oh, we can try both. A mission of mercy working alongside the leader of the Orange Lantern Corps seems like a good way to introduce us to the wider universe."

    "Good man. Grayven to Ghia'ta."

    Her face appears over my ring. "Yes?"

    "We need to go rescue my future sister-in-law's boyfriend. He sacrificed his mind by absorbing the evil from two evil magicians who were threatening her and her realm."

    Her face metaphorically lights up. "They love one another?"

    "They're each the only person the other has been interested in in a thousand years."

    The space next to be crystallises for a moment before Ghia'ta steps through.

    "Then in the name of love, let none stand before us!"

    I regard her placidly for a moment.

    "Magic girl anime is not a how to guide."