by Brian K. Asbury
Hal Jordan was strapping himself into the seat of the primitive airplane. The cockpit was still open, so I simply flew in. At my small size, I was no more noticeable by him than a mote of dust. He had not yet put on his flying gloves, so I was alarmed to note that his hands were bare. Where was the fabled power ring that he wielded as Green Lantern?
This didn’t make sense. Surely Jordan would not leave such a powerful artifact unattended elsewhere. It must be about his person somewhere!
I flew back apace and scanned him with my x-ray vision, to no avail. The ring was not visible in any of his pockets, tucked into his shoe, or anywhere else on his body. Or was it? Perhaps it had the power to become invisible? My time observing Jordan on the Earth Monitor had been of necessity limited, so there were probably quite a few things I didn’t know. Maybe this was one of them!
I summoned up my other vision powers, including infrared, and suddenly there it was, sitting on his finger all along! I flew down again, still keeping that power switched on, and I alighted on the ring itself.
The gem seemed vast to one as tiny as I was — the size of a sports stadium or even bigger! I considered my next move. Should I speak to Jordan? Obviously, he would not hear my voice as it was, but I had the powers of super-ventriloquism and super-shouting at my disposal now. I had never used either of these powers before, but my ultra-solar-enhanced brain instinctively knew how to use them.
I decided against it, however. I didn’t know Jordan, and he might misconstrue my action as an attack. Besides, he was not costumed as Green Lantern at the present time. I was sure that the sallow-skinned youth knew the secret of his double identity, but I didn’t know about the dark-haired woman who was talking to him, apparently giving him instructions.
So, I decided, I would put my original plan into action. I wasn’t by any means certain it would work, but if it didn’t, no one would know about it, and I wouldn’t end up looking ridiculous.
I moved to one edge of the great gem and focused my heat-vision on one spot. Nothing seemed to happen, so I turned up the intensity… higher, higher, higher. Oh, come on, I thought. You can’t be indestructible! Come ON! I concentrated, willing the stone to react to my heat-beams — and suddenly it happened.
A tiny chip of emerald stone, no bigger than my thumbnail, broke away from the main body of the gem. I quickly snatched it up and held it in the palm of my hand. Away from the still-invisible ring, it was now clearly visible and glowing softly.
I had done it! I had obtained a fragment of the Oan power ring — a fragment so tiny that Green Lantern would never even notice it was missing!
I couldn’t see myself, of course, but I imagine that I was grinning like an idiot as I flew up, up, and away from Jordan’s airplane, out of the hangar and accelerating northward. I could scarcely believe that it had worked, and without any hitch at all! I had the thing I had come for.
I halted over a range of mountains and scanned down with my x-ray vision. It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for — a small seam of platinum-iridium ore, doubtless the remains of an ancient meteorite. I swooped down, focusing my heat-vision to smelt the ore, and I shaped it with my bare hands into a ring to hold my precious tiny sliver of gemstone. Slipping it onto one of my fingers, I continued on my way back to the Arctic.
In seconds, I was reentering Superman’s Fortress of Solitude and making for the room where he kept Kandor’s bottle. I had decided not to test my new acquisition until I got there, but now I alighted on the floor of that room and looked down at my hand. The ring continued to glow softly. Would it work? It had to!
I concentrated, willing the ring to bathe me in its emerald energies, and I felt my body changing… expanding… growing in all directions. Soon I was taller than the plinth on which the bottle stood. Seconds later, my head was passing the neck of the bottle itself. Then the process stopped.
I whooped with delight. It had worked! The sliver, now as big as its parent gem, had the same capabilities as the original ring. I was full-sized, for only the second time in my life — the first, of course, having been when Than-Ol had briefly enlarged the bottle city a few months before.
It would do the trick! If the ring could enlarge me, it could also enlarge the whole of Kandor! I pointed the ring toward the bottle…
Then I drew it back. That would be crazy — I couldn’t enlarge Kandor in here! Also, it would be only fair to warn everyone first. The Council would need to decide where would be a suitable place to restore us to full size. Perhaps they would prefer it not to be on Earth at all.
It was a little frustrating, but I willed the ring to reduce me again, and flew up to the bottle. I entered the airlock in the stopper for what I believed would be the last time.
It seemed strange to be strapping on a jetpack in readiness to fly down to the surface, after soaring around the Earth under my own power, but I had felt my super-powers fade within seconds of reentering Kandor’s environment.
Now garbed in my civilian clothes again, I entered the lower lock and launched myself into space, activating the jetpack as I did so. Then I found myself laughing. I shouldn’t need this now! I reversed course and reentered the lock. Switching off the jetpack, I looked down at the ring pulsing gently on my finger. Concentrating, I willed it to alter my appearance so that I was now clothed in a uniform similar to the one Hal Jordan wore as Green Lantern — albeit with a few Kryptonian touches, such as a green headband.
I then launched off again, this time not activating the jetpack but willing the ring to enable me to fly — and it worked! I found myself flying through the late-dusk sky of Kandor just as easily as I had flown on the outside!
Laughing, I began my descent. Should I go straight to the Council Chamber? I decided against it as the artificial sun was dimming. The Council members would all be on their way home by now; there would be plenty of time to talk to them in the morning. No, I decided to show off my new acquisition to the woman I loved first, so I flew down to Nenia’s apartment near the Eastern Park, one of the green spaces that the Council insisted on keeping intact despite the growing demand for housing space. Not that I disagreed with that policy, as the parks were loved and appreciated by everyone, and were a reminder of what we once had and hoped to regain. In fact, I was confident that we would have all the green space we needed very soon!
I landed on her balcony and rapped on the window. Seconds later, she was staring out at me in astonishment. “T-Tan?” she gasped as she let me in. “Is that you?”
I nodded. “Great Rao!” she exclaimed. “You did it! You actually did it! You stole Green Lantern’s power ring!”
I grinned. “Not exactly, my love. This is just a tiny fragment of the ring — one so small that Green Lantern will never miss it. But it works just as well as the real thing!” And I demonstrated by changing my ersatz Green Lantern uniform back into my Kandorian clothes.
Nenia slumped back into a chair, dumbstruck. Well, not quite dumbstruck. “What have you done?” she whispered. “Does anyone else know about this?”
“Not yet, Nenia. I intend to go to the Council tomorrow morning.” I held up the ring. “It will work, my love. This ring is capable of enlarging Kandor, I’m certain. I tested it on myself, and it worked perfectly.”
She considered this. “But there’s a big difference between enlarging one man and doing it for a whole city, Tan! And you said that’s just a tiny piece of Green Lantern’s ring. Will it have enough power to work on the whole city?”
“Why shouldn’t it?” I said, slightly miffed that Nenia didn’t seem to share my excitement. “A Green Lantern power ring can do anything!”
She got up and started to pace around. “I’d heard that it can’t affect anything yellow. There are lots of yellow things in Kandor, Tan.”
“Um.” I hadn’t thought of that. “We-e-elll… all right, that might be a minor setback. It might delay the day of liberation while the Council organizes a program of repainting everything yellow in another color, but…”
“The telepathic hounds? They’re yellow, Tan. You can’t repaint them. And what about other animals and birds which are yellow? What about people with blond hair?”
I threw up my hands. “I don’t know. For Rao’s sake, you can’t expect me to think of everything! But I’m sure they could be dyed temporarily or something. Wouldn’t it be worth it?”
“I suppose. But you’re going to have to take things like this into consideration when you take this to the Council, dear. And Rao knows what they’ll say when they learn you stole that ring fragment. They might consider it dishonorable.”
“Right.” I felt thoroughly deflated.
“Oh, don’t look so disconsolate,” she said, putting her arms around me. “It’s still very clever of you to do this, and I’m sure ways can be found around these little snags.”
“You still love me, then, even though I’m a thief?”
“Of course. Come on. Let’s eat, and sleep on it. I’m sure it’ll all look clearer in the morning.”
And indeed, we did sleep on it. But if any ideas had come to me overnight, they were dashed into pieces when a piercing scream from Nenia woke me out of a deep slumber.
I leaped out of bed. “Nenia, what is it?”
She was standing by the window, pointing out toward the park. “Tan… Tan… I don’t believe this. It can’t be happening!”
“What can’t be happening?” I rushed to her side.
“A dragon, Tan! There’s a dragon rampaging around the park, and it’s burning everything in sight!”
“No! That’s impossible!” I cried. “Flame-dragons are extinct! There can’t possibly be one here!”
Nenia was running from the window. “We’ll all be killed! What are we going to do?”
I called after her, “Nenia, this can’t be real!”
“Can’t it? I could feel the heat through the window, Tan. Even if the dragon isn’t real, the fire is! Get away from there before it sees you!”
She was right: I could feel the heat. I started to back away, but then I stopped. What was there to be afraid of? Whatever this menace really was, I had a Green Lantern power ring on my finger. There was no need for me to run when I could fight!
I willed the Green Lantern costume which I had created for myself to appear. “Tan!” cried Nenia. “What in Rao’s name are you thinking of? You can’t possibly be meaning to–!”
“Oh, but I am,” I said, giving her a reassuring smile. I willed the ring to move me through the wall. It was a bizarre feeling, but it was good to know that the ring still worked as effectively as it had on the previous day. Launching myself into the air, I flew straight toward the dragon — or whatever it was. It was more likely, I thought, that it was a robot of some sort. “Hey, scaly!” I taunted. “Try your fires on me!”
I had a clearer look at the dragon now. Five times the height of a man, it was an enormous winged dinosaur with glistening green and orange scales and a wingspan that seemed to cover half the park space. It seemed to understand what I was saying, and it turned its huge, ugly head to face my direction — and breathed fire straight at me.
I really don’t know what I had been expecting to happen. Maybe I was too used to wielding Superman-type powers, and I was expecting the ring to work the same way. I don’t know. I tried to dodge, but I didn’t have the super-speed that a yellow sun would have endowed me with. I was much too slow, and found myself engulfed in searing red flames.
Thank Rao they weren’t yellow flames, that’s all I can say in retrospect. As the fire washed over me, the power ring suddenly flared of its own accord and surrounded me in a protective green bubble. If it hadn’t, that would have been the end of my brief career.
It panicked me momentarily, though. I flew straight up, out of reach of the dragon’s fire, and I didn’t stop until I was high above Kandor’s highest towers. Even though the ring’s automatic protection had kept me cool, I was sweating profusely.
“That’ll teach you to be overconfident,” I muttered to myself. I looked down; the dragon was flying up towards me, climbing slowly with its clumsy wings, but clearly determined not to let me get away.
All right, I thought. This time it’s my turn! I swooped down to meet its challenge. It flamed again, but I formed a huge umbrella with the ring to deflect the flames away from me. Lunging past it, I willed a gigantic fist into being and ordered it to strike the dragon with all the power the ring could muster.
That was a lot of power, I quickly found out. The startled dragon was flung back nearly half a mile by the blow, narrowly missing one of Kandor University’s science towers. It started to fall, stunned, but checked itself and struggled to gain height again, sending another blast of flame in my direction. Grinning, I overtook it and belted it again, flinging it back toward the park. Then, racing after it, I formed a second giant hand and clapped both of them together with the dragon in between.
That did the trick! It fell to the ground with a thump that could have been heard from the Council Chambers halfway across the city. I descended after it… but pulled up with a start.
The dragon was lying in an ungainly heap, its limbs at unnatural angles — and blood was pooling beneath it! “It’s real?” I breathed. “It’s alive — or was? Not a robot?”
This really was impossible. Kryptonian flame-dragons were extinct. It couldn’t…
I gasped. The dead dragon was changing before my eyes — shrinking and turning to stone. Within seconds, there was a broken statue lying in the indentation made by the fallen dragon. I recognized it — it was one of the statues flanking the south gates of the park, the other being a Winged One.
I landed alongside it. Such things didn’t happen. Statues didn’t come to life. What in the world could have caused this?
And then I found out. A voice rang out behind me, chanting in a language unfamiliar to me, and I turned around to see a being such as I had never seen before!