Copyright (C) 2014 by Kevin L. O'Brien
Differel is relaxing in her boudoir, reading one of her father’s collectable comics, Blackest Night, about the war between the Black Lantern Corps and the other Corps. She gets to a two-page spread showing a battle-royal involving members of all the Corps. She feels herself drift as her vision falls into the page...
...and she finds herself in the uniform of a Green Lantern fighting a battalion of armored soldiers with energy weapons. She doesn’t recognize the strangeness of the situation, but reacts as if she has been a GL for years. She incapacitates several platoons when several more supported by tanks force her to seek cover. She hears a voice asking if she needs help, and she sees Sunny dressed as a Blue Lantern. Sunny scoops up the troops and deposits them inside a ruined building, then generates blue oxen that overturn the tanks. Differel and Sunny then work together to stop the invaders and drive them off. Differel asks at one point if Eile is around. When Sunny indicates she is, Eile appears dressed as a Star Sapphire to dig a furrow to stop more tanks. The three of them finally break the back of the attack, and the invaders retreat. Eile takes off to pursue them and make sure they leave, as Differel and Sunny mop up any resistance.
A bolt of red light hits Sunny and slams her into a wall, knocking her unconscious. As Differel turns to confront their new adversary, she sees a beam of red light coming at her, and barely gets a shield up in time. The beam slams into her and pushes her back as her boots create furrows in the concrete. The beam cuts off, but before she can recover a cat appears in front of her. She sees that it wears the uniform of a Red Lantern with a Power Ring on its tail. It swipes at her with its paws, forcing her back, then it regurgitates blood, which starts to burn through her shield. Before it can penetrate, however, the RL is bathed in indigo light. It breaks off its attack, moans as if in pain, and displays sorrowful contriteness, but then it recovers and looks off to its right. Lady Margaret, dressed as a member of the Indigo Tribe, hovers some ways off. The RL snarls, but can’t fire back. It turns and streaks off to get away.
She thanks Margaret for her assistance. They see to Sunny, who is regaining consciousness. Eile rejoins them, stating the soldiers got on transports and escaped. They realize that the presence of a RL egging the invaders on poses a grave threat. Differel wants to get back to Oa immediately to report to the Guardians, and Margaret offers to take them there. They join hands and they teleport upward into space. Along the way they appear to come to a halt, and in the same instance they remember who they are. Differel also recognizes the cat. His name is Macavity; he had been one of the stable cats for a few years awhile back. He had just shown up one day, and then disappeared. She always wondered what happened to him. The Princess in Orange appears dressed as an Orange Lantern, and explains that this is a new game. She suppressed their memories in the beginning so they could work effectively together and get used to their new roles, but now they are normal except for being Lanterns. Differel asks about Macavity, since the Carcosan Royal had agreed not to use anyone still alive except for them four. She confirms that Macavity is dead. He had been driven off the estate by a younger, stronger tom, and he had been killed shortly after by a fox. As usual, there is a point to the game, but they must figure it out for themselves. She can’t help them; in fact, they won’t see her again until the very end, one way or another. Oh, and they will be joined by two others in due course. She disappears, and they continue on.
They materialize in Memorial Hall inside the Green Lantern Corps Headquarters. They are greeted by three Guardians, who sensed them coming. They thank Eile, Sunny, and Margaret for aiding Differel, and take their reports. They wish to meditate on it with the other Guardians, so the ladies go to the Dining Hall to get something to eat. Unfortunately, the "Earth" food, while nutritious and filling, looks unappetizing, but they choke it down without complaint. They discuss their situation at a private table. Even as they decide they have no choice but to play along, other GLs join them, being curious of Eile, Sunny, and Margaret. One is the spitting image of Victor Plunkett. He and three others challenge them to a game in the Hazard Simulation Facility, a GL version of Capture the Flag. The game is close, but as Differel moves to seize their opponent's flag, her ring suddenly loses power and she falls. Victor catches her before she hits the floor.
Victor takes her to the Infirmary while his companions arrange guest quarters for the others. It turns out there's nothing wrong with her; her ring was contaminated by the RL's red rage light, and lost power as a result. The only way to decontaminate it is to recharge it from the Central Green Power Battery. Victor takes her there, and she does it, while reciting the GL oath: "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, Green Lantern's light!" As corny as it might sound, as a child it inspired her to become Director despite misgivings. Even so, it works; the RL rage taint has been exorcized.
Victor invites her to have dinner with him at Guy’s Place, a restaurant that serves real Earth food. There she notices Eile and Sunny at a communal table, hamming it up with other GLs as they trade tall war tales about their exploits, and Margaret sitting alone with a huge GL with a face like a cross between a pig and a bulldog. She and Victor talk, and it becomes clear to her that they are friends and lovers, which makes her happy. After dinner they go to Victor's room; he is a trainer of new recruits and lives on Oa. It isn't long before they remove their rings and go to bed together.
They are awakened before morning when Differel's ring signals her, and she discovers the Guardians are summoning her to the Meeting Hall. When she arrives she finds Eile, Sunny, and Margaret arriving as well. From the looks on their faces she realizes she wasn't the only one who got laid. She figures the Girls were with each other, but when she asks Margaret, all she says is that she was with "Kilowatt", and that it was a blast. Differel smirks at the odd name, until she realizes she means Kilowog!
The Guardians then appear and state that stopping the cat RL has high priority. Differel is relieved of her other assignments and assigned the task of locating the RL. She is to capture it if possible, but the use of deadly force is authorized. They have already spoken to their counterparts on Odym, who have released BL Sonne Hiver to assist Differel. She may choose two others. Eile volunteers, saying that the current queen of the Star Sapphire Corps has made her a free agent after Sunny helped them stop Agent Orange from seizing the Central Violet Lantern Battery. Differel asks Margaret to join them, and she reveals that Indigo-1 had foreseen a coming trial that would involve them all, and had assigned her to aid Differel however she could.
At that moment, the Guardians receive a Spectrum-wide mayday alert. They explain that while the seven Lantern Corps are independent, and some are enemies with each other, the Central Power Batteries impose a psychological imperative on all ring-wearers to provide mutual and cooperative aid anytime the Emotional Spectrum is itself threatened, even if they are members of opposing Corps and bitter enemies. It’s happened only twice before. They play the message; it is from a Sinestro Corp member fleeing an attack fleet. He is calling to his fellow corpsmen for help, but for some reason the Central Power Batteries are broadcasting it to all Lanterns. This takes priority even over Differel’s mission, and they instruct her and her companions to answer the call. They join hands, and the Guardians wish on them the blessings of the Universe. Margaret then teleports them to the location of the attack.
They arrive some distance ahead of the column. Using her ring, Differel identifies the YL being pursued by a couple of dozen large heavy fighters. She sends Eile and Margaret to outflank them and strike from behind, while she and Sunny hit them from the front. As Sunny shields her, she takes out the fighters’ engines and weapons. One fighter hits the YL, and Sunny englobes him before his power ring shuts off. Differel then shields them as they retreat, but the fighters are very strong. As they threaten to overwhelm them, Macavity appears and attacks the fighters. He is too small and maneuvers too quickly for the fighters to hit him, and he runs interference as Differel and Sunny get the YL away, though he targets the cockpits to kill the crews. Eile and Margaret cut their way through the squadron and join in the defense, but larger, heavier warships appear. Even with their combined power, they cannot defend against that kind of firepower. They locate a nearby debris field. Eile creates a construct, which the fleet destroys, but in doing so they release a cloud of violet dust that obscures their sensors. They turn invisible and flee for the field, hiding inside a large chunk of debris. The fleet passes them by, but then a Lantern appears. They do not recognize his Corps, and his ring emits black light. He scans the area, but appears to find nothing, and eventually the Lantern moves on after the fleet.
Sunny creates a larger globe and checks the YL. He’s mostly unhurt, but he is unconscious. However, Differel recognizes him as Billy the stable boy. They discuss what to do, with Macavity contributing by creating constructs with his ring. The safest, most logical course would be to return to Oa, to get medical treatment for Billy and so he can give his report to the Guardians, but none of them take it seriously. They may not be true Lanterns, but they still understand that each is expected to exercise her own judgment in how to handle assignments. A Lantern that always runs home at the slightest trouble or setback for further instructions is of little value to any Corps. They were given this assignment, and it is their responsibility to see it through, using their own skills and resources. Even going for reinforcements is tricky, since without proof of the difficulty they face they could be considered cowards; a well-trained, experienced Lantern should be able to handle the majority of missions on her own, and they are four, six if you count the RL and Billy. That should be enough to stop universal Armageddon.
The next best option is to proceed to the closest Sector House, but that is two days away, even using wormholes to traverse the distance. A delay of even just four days could spell disaster. They are on site now; they need to find out what's going on immediately, before it gets out of hand. Unfortunately, only Billy can tell them that, and he needs time to recover. That means some form of shelter. Macavity displays a sector map, and indicates a nearby system with a marginally habitable world. They decide to make for it. Before they leave, however, they discover that the debris field contains the remains of a battle fleet, but strangely there are no bodies.
Macavity creates a wormhole, and they arrive in the system. They proceed to the planet, and when they scan it they discover that the atmosphere is breathable, at least for a short while, but it’s cold; not too cold, but they will need some way to warm themselves. A belt of dense forest runs around the equator, which is the warmest place on the planet. More importantly there are no signs of intelligent life. Macavity scouts ahead, and signals when he finds shelter: a huge tree with a hollow space inside. They collect firewood, and Macavity ignites it with some of his napalm blood. They cover the opening to hide the firelight and keep the warmth in, and shut off their rings to avoid detection.
Sunny uses her ring to heal Billy and bring him around. At first, Billy seems entirely in character, but then he recognizes Differel and becomes confused. Finally he remembers everything, and freaks, shouting about the PiO. Differel and Macavity manage to calm him down before he flies off. She explains that the PiO has shanghaied all of them for a game, and they need to keep their heads if they are to persevere. Macavity displays images that show that he too had been briefed by the PiO, who offered him a chance of revenge against the other stable cats. Billy apologizes for panicking, but he states that while he remembers what happened and what he’s supposed to be, he doesn’t understand what’s going on. He doesn’t know what a “Green Lantern” is. Margaret and Macavity second that, and even the Girls declare that they would like to know more; all they know is from cartoons like Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League.
So Differel gives a brief lecture on the history of the GL comics: their beginning in the Golden Age with Alan Scott; their revamp in the Silver Age with Hal Jordan, which introduced the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians of the Universe, Oa, Sinestro, and Star Sapphire Carol Ferris. The series went through several major changes and revamps over the years, but the most recent in the mid-2000’s involved the introduction of the Emotional Color Spectrum and the creation of the other Corps based on it, along with introducing Dex-Starr of the Red Lantern Corps, an Earth housecat.
The Spectrum runs from red, through orange, yellow, green, blue, and indigo, to violet. The emotions they represent are, respectively, hatred/rage, avarice, fear, willpower, hope, compassion, and love. Each Corps derives its power from those emotions, such that a Sinestro Corps member can control his ring through his control of fear, while a Blue Lantern does the same but by channeling hope, and so forth. Which explains their Corps assignments. All her life she has spent training and disciplining her will so that she can overcome any enemy she comes up against. Billy once helped her on an assignment, during which he conquered his own fear and used fear against their opponent. Macavity had been a particularly aggressive and nasty stable cat, seemingly full of anger, who let no one get close to him except Billy. Sunny’s defining feature is her capacity for hope, while Eile’s is her capacity for love, especially for Sunny. Margaret may have been shoehorned into being an Indigo Tribe member, but she has shown growing compassion for other people as her responsibilities with the Order have increased. The only emotion not represented in their group is avarice, but there never was more than one member of the Orange Lantern Corps, and he never cooperated with the others, which might explain why the PiO is refusing to be involved, if she is playing the part of Agent Orange.
Every Lantern has a Power Ring, charged from a Power Battery linked to the Central Power Battery for each Corps. They all know what their rings can do thanks to the information imparted by the PiO, but there are certain abilities unique to each Corps that they all should know about. A Green Power Ring can absorb the energy of the Indigo Light of Compassion, thereby making Differel immune to its parasitic power. A Yellow Power Ring can instill fear in others, even another Lantern. A Red Power Ring can infect another being with uncontrollable rage, even another Lantern. It also replaces a Red Lantern’s blood with a form of plasma energy that acts like napalm and acid combined. RLs can regurgitate their blood and shoot it at an opponent. It can burn through anything, including another Power Ring’s protective force field, and contaminate the ring, causing it to drain power at an accelerated rate.
In contrast, a Blue Power Ring grants the wearing immunity to the Orange Light of Avarice and the Red Light of Rage, and while all Powers Rings have a limited cellular regeneration capability, a Blue Ring can heal virtually anything; it can even restore a Red Lantern to normal. Also, a Power Ring will continue to operate until it runs out of energy. The basic powers, such as the force field, flight, and displaying the costume, can be sustained for 24 hours, but the advanced powers use more energy, so the rings deplete faster. As such, normally a Lantern needs to recharge his or her ring as often as possible, but a Blue Ring feeds off the collective hope of the Universe, so Sunny never needs to recharge her ring, though she can seriously deplete it if she isn’t careful. As an added bonus, the Blue Ring can charge any outside power source, including other rings, just by Sunny being hopeful. So as long as they stay close to her, all of their rings will stay charged like hers. An Indigo Power Ring allows its wearer to emulate any color of the Emotional Spectrum and renders her untraceable by other ring wearers. It also allows her to instill compassion in others and grants her a limited healing ability, but only if the patient feels compassion. But her ring is secondary to her staff, which acts like a Power Battery. Margaret can not only recharge whenever she wants, she can use the staff like a ring, which will never run out of energy. Finally, a Violet Power Ring allows its wearing to detect love or heartache in others, and grants her immunity to avarice and rage like a Blue Ring.
However, the rings also have weaknesses. Aside from the need to recharge outside of the influence of a Blue Ring, they impose an emotional dependency, meaning that if the wearer ever lost his sense rage, or his mastery over fear, or her willpower, hope, or compassion, or her capacity to love, the ring will abandon him or her and seek a new more worthy wearer. In addition to that, the Yellow Light of Fear can weaken a GL’s powers unless she can accept and control her fear, and she is vulnerable to rage. The Blue Light of Hope can in turn weaken a Sinestro Soldier’s power, while the Indigo Light of Compassion can do the same to a RL. Also, a RL is vulnerable to hope or love, and the ring overwhelms his mind with extreme rage, but more importantly the Red Ring keeps him alive, so if it’s ever removed he will die. A Blue Ring cannot work at full capacity without willpower, so outside of the influence of an active Green Ring it is limited to the most elementary of its basic powers. Indigo Rings tend to subvert the wearer’s willpower, which is why the Indigo Tribe cannot influence a GL. And a Violet Ring can overwhelm a Star Sapphire’s mind, making her almost psychotic in her pursuit of spreading love throughout the Universe.
Margaret complains of a headache after the infodump, so Differel asks Billy to explain what happened. He expresses a desire to eat, seconded by everyone else, but they have no food or water. Sunny gets an idea and opens a pocket dimension inside her ring. Yelping in triumph, she pulls out a bag containing sandwiches and bottles of water; there’s even a pouch of moist cat food. As they eat, Billy relates how during a routine patrol of his sector he detected a battle between space fleets. He arrived too late, but detected the trail of the departing fleet and followed it to a backwater solar system. Before he could get close to the primary planet, however, he was spotted by a squadron of fighters, forcing him to flee, but not before he detected an Emotional Spectrum color like nothing he had ever felt before. It had no emotion; it registered as no color and felt like death. Differel realizes that should sound familiar, but when she tries to recall, she finds a gaping hole in her memory. She suspects the PiO excised something she already knew but isn’t supposed to know now.
It seems a foregone conclusion that they will return to investigate, and with the six of them employing their strengths and covering their weaknesses they should get through. But first they should rest for a few hours, and they should take turns keeping watch. Differel also suggests that when each of them takes their turn, that they contact their respective headquarters and alert them to the situation, even have them have reinforcements standing by. She offers to take the first watch. Sunny produces a thermal blanket so she doesn’t have to use her ring, and she goes outside and levitates into the crown of the tree. Once she settles herself she puts in a call to Oa. To her surprise, Victor replies. He states that he was worried about her and so volunteered to help man the communications center in case she called. She explains the situation; he asks if she needs help. She states it may turn out to be nothing, but if not, the fewer Lanterns put in danger the better. She states that if she does not call back in three days she is in trouble, or dead. He warns her about the Sinestro Soldier and the RL, but she states she trusts them, which puzzles him. They exchange expressions of affection and she disconnects the signal.
Margaret appears, surprising her. She expresses concern as to whether she’s alright. When she asks why, she explains that she must be under greater stress than anytime in the past. It’s one thing to defend an entire country; now she’s protecting the Universe! Or at least a big chunk of it. She assures her she is fine, and she leaves her in peace, but when she is alone she remembers that the PiO’s previous games put her in situations that pushed her to the limit of her endurance and beyond. She can’t help but wonder if this is another of those situations.
After an hour she awakens Margaret and lies down to sleep. After what seems like an instant later Macavity, the last in the relay, awakens her. They slept for six hours, enough to rest them. They extinguish the fire, Sunny passes out breakfast bars, and they take off, with Billy opening a wormhole to take them to the star system. They emerge in the Oort Cloud and proceed inward into the Kuiper Belt. They flit from comet to asteroid to planetoid, staying hidden, but they pause as they approach the point where Billy had been discovered. Differel sends out a search probe and discovers an early warning net, and there is no guarantee their ability to turn invisible will protect them. Margaret gets an idea. She has them assemble close and englobes them, hoping her ability to escape detection will protect them as well. It seems to work as they penetrate the net without raising an alarm, but she maintains the globe as they continue in system. A warship enters the system; they hitch a ride beneath it and let it escort them to the primary planet. As they approach they notice it has been almost completely urbanized, but whereas there is one modern city, the rest appears to be slums. At the center of the city sits a citadel similar to that of GL headquarters on Oa, but this one has a beam of black light shooting up into space.
As the warship maneuvers into a spacedock, they move away down to the planet’s surface, in one of the districts surrounding the city. Fortunately there are plenty of places to hide, and they take refuge inside an abandoned warehouse. They decide to split up into three teams: Eile and Sunny, Billy and Macavity, and Differel and Margaret. They disguise themselves with their rings, and agree to meet back in 12 hours to report and get a recharge from Sunny. Differel and Margaret change their disguises to throw off anyone following them, and haunt bars, just watching and listening. In one, a hawker extols the virtues of membership in the local defense force, and a few patrons sign up. Even as they consider trying to infiltrate, three individuals enter. They are dressed like Lanterns, but wear all black and are surrounded by a black aura, and their bearing reminds Differel of Zombies. They begin circulating, pausing briefly at each table, but when the people cringe or cover their heads they move on. Differel and Margaret decide to leave, but as soon as they stand up and make for the back, the Black Lanterns spot them and chase after them. Margaret blasts one, slamming it into a far wall, and Differel takes the head off another, but both recover almost instantly. They both spot the glowing black rings on their finger. They flee into a back alley, then split up. Differel distracts the BLs and they chase after her. They continue to track her, even after she turns invisible, but at one point manages to topple an empty building on them. As she makes her escape, she is pulled into a dark alley. She fights back, and finds Victor. He had reported her message to the Guardians, but when he expressed concern for her safety, they sent him to keep an eye on her, and intervene if necessary. They head back to the rendezvous place, and find the others waiting for them, all except Margaret. They also encountered BLs, who seemed to be searching for them.
BLs break into the warehouse. The Lanterns fight back, but are surrounded, and nothing they can do can hurt a BL. They do not use their rings, they just attack en mass like regular Zombies, but they shake off or regenerate any kind of damage, even decapitation. Macavity uses his blood attack against one, and it is completely destroyed, but before he can attack another a black beam comes out of nowhere and blasts through his chest. He is thrown away and just seems to disappear. The black beam takes them out one at a time, with Differel being the last. She is blasted and knocked off her feet. Before she loses consciousness, she sees a BL walk toward her, and she recognizes it as the human form of Grendel, the Fomorian wizard-king who invaded Britain.
Differel awakes inside a dungeon cell with everyone else except Macavity and Margaret. She quickly realizes her ring is missing. They discuss their situation, trying to figure out what to do, when the door is unlocked and a squad of soldiers demand they come out. They are normal people rather than BLs, but whereas Differel, Victor, Billy, Eile, and Sunny are not helpless without their rings, the soldiers have energy weapons, outgunning them. So they comply without complaint. They are taken to what appears to be an audience chamber. There Grendel confronts a group of people begging for mercy while armed soldiers and BLs keep them contained. Two soldiers drag a woman forward and force her to her knees. Grendel tells her she is to be part of the greatest army that will ever exist, greater than even the vaunted Green Lantern Corps. He points a fist at her, and Differel spots a black Power Ring on one finger. A black beam shoots through her chest, destroying her heart as with Macavity, and she falls back, dead. Then Grendel projects a globe above her, and intones, “The Blackest Night falls from the skies; the darkness grows as all light dies. We crave your hearts and your demise; by my black hand, the dead shall rise!” A new ring forms inside the globe. When the globe disappears, it hovers over the woman and intones, “Magdol Payn of Bayweil Four – RISE!” It then places itself on the hand of the dead woman. She becomes surrounded by a black aura, the gaping wound in her chest regenerates, and a lantern uniform covers her, black as night. She stands and joins the other BLs, as the rest of the people wail in torment.
Grendel spies Differel and her crew, and commands that the rest be taken back to their cell; he will finish with them later. He has them brought forward, then dismisses the soldiers, but not the BLs. He surprises them by telling how the PiO pulled him out of the transdimensional limbo where he had resided when destroyed by Vlad Drakulya, and offered him a second chance to become total ruler, not just of earth, but of the whole universe. She took him to a barren, lifeless world and guided him to a ruined temple. In its heart lay The Ring. Despite her warnings he claimed it and put it on, and the power of death filled him and consumed his emotional energy. He now seeks to raise an army of the dead that will allow him to scour the universe of life and emotion, beginning with this world, the first he encountered when he left the world of death, but with the intent of moving on to other worlds once he has converted everyone here. Towards that aim, he is also raising an army of the living to conquer new worlds and make them ready for conversion. Their presence jeopardizes his plan, but also presents an opportunity he cannot ignore. The rings he produces from the hearts and emotional energy he takes from each person he kills can only create inferior rings, just powerful enough to reanimate the corpses, regenerate their injuries, and give them certain basic powers, such as a protective aura and the power of flight. However, by sacrificing a hundred of these inferior rings he can create rings like his own, but they must be given to current ring wearers. If they accept of their own free will they will become like him, and they can go to other worlds to continue the process in his place. Moreover, he can use them to infiltrate their own cores, to spy, commit sabotage, and select individuals that can be given true rings of their own. He regrets the loss of the Red and Indigo Lanterns, but feels there will be other opportunities later. He wants them to be his first recruits. He offers them power, rewards, privileges second to none if they agree. Victor immediately refuses, declaring he will never give in to evil. Grendel replies, “Pity”, and raises his hand to kill him. Differel objects and convinces him to give them some time to think it over; some of them may be willing but for fear of criticism; others may be hesitant; and others still might be persuaded. Grendel grants them until morning a few hours away.
When they are returned to their cell, Victor accuses her of being a traitor, but she ignores him and consults with Eile, Sunny, and Billy. They know she stalled for time, but they can’t think of any way to use it. Differel asks if any of them have hair pins. Eile has a couple that she uses to help keep her dyed forelocks in place. Differel then goes to the cell door and tries to pick the lock. She expresses the wish that Margaret was with them. Not only would she be alive, she’s a better lockpick than her. She works for a couple of hours, trying to open the lock with little success, when she hears a hissing sound. She steps back as blood burns its way through the lock, and then the door swings open, to reveal Macavity alive and well, with Margaret behind him. Differel then remembers that the Red Power Ring replaces the heart with itself, so a RL’s greatest vulnerability is also his greatest strength. She also notices the guards are lying on the ground, but she quickly determines they are in fact asleep.
Margaret gives them their rings, and Sunny charges them all to double capacity while chanting, “In fearful day, in raging night; with strong hearts full, our souls ignite. When all seems lost in the War of Light, look to the stars -- for hope burns bright!” They mutually agree that they must escape to warn their respective Corps, but Victor wants to free the unconverted captives, and when Differel agrees the rest go along with it. As they make their way to the main cell, Margaret explains that she traveled while invisible, but also discovered that if she suppressed her emotions the BLs were unable to detect her. They try it when the encounter a group of BLs. At first it doesn’t seem to work, but when Macavity dodges away, the BLs follow him and ignore the others. He takes them out with his plasma blood and they make it to the cell. They subdue the human guards and break into the cell. Victor englobes the prisoners and Differel pile-drives through the ceiling, and they escape as the others run interference. BLs try to intercept them. Though still seemingly invulnerable, their attack mode is still the same, so holding them off is sufficient. During the battle, however, Differel discovers that cutting the Black Power Rings off the bodies renders the BLs into corpses again, which can then be destroyed. The rings slowly regenerate their wearers from whatever tissue they are still attached to, but it gives them a weapon.
Victor drops off the prisoners and they all escape into space. They agree that they need to get Margaret safely past the defenses so she can teleport to the Indigo Tribe, and they can in turn alert the Corps and bring back reinforcements. Margaret does not want to desert them, but Differel persuades her, saying that the BL threat must be eliminated before it can spread. As they reach orbit, they encounter the system fleet. Victor takes the lead and they blast their way through. However, it was merely a distraction to allow the BLs to regroup. As they attack from the front and sides, keeping everyone busy, a group come in from behind and attack Margaret. Sunny warns Differel, and together they fight them off. They accidentally hit the same target simultaneously. Almost immediately the BL shuts down, but when they stop their attack it reactivates. They try again, and again it shuts down. Margaret then shoots it, and its ring implodes, taking the corpse with it. They quickly try it on others, and they discover that Differel plus any other Lantern can temporarily shut down a BL, but no combination of the others can do the same. They split into two groups of three: Differel, Sunny, and Eile, and Victor, Billy, and Macavity; with Differel and Victor with Sunny and Billy incapacitating the BLs as Eile and Macavity destroy them. They blast through the BL blockade, and when clear Margaret teleports away.
Since Margaret cannot be tracked, Grendel should not know she’s gone. If they flee, he may pull up stakes and reestablish himself somewhere else. So they decide to stay so as to make him think he can still catch or destroy them. They attack the orbital port, drawing fighters to them. They drive them off and follow them back to their bases in an asteroid belt, which they also destroy. More BLs show up, and they decide to make a last stand. Though their ability to destroy the BLs gives them a distinct advantage, there are so many of them that they press closer and closer. Then Grendel appears. He can attack only one triple at once, but that reduces their firepower, and the BLs come to within grappling distance.
Margaret then appears, shouting “Tor lorek san, bor nakka mur, natromo faan tornek wot ur. Ter Lantern ker lo Abin Sur, Taan lek lek nok--Formorrow Sur!” As soon as she finishes, more Indigo Lanterns appear echoing “Nok!”, each with dozens of Lanterns from the Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, and Violet corps. Margaret orders them to form up, Green with Blue and one other. Then she tells them to attack. They fly in, attacking the horde of BLs, forcing them to turn on the corps. That allows Differel and her companions to take on Grendel, but she sees Margaret teleport away. Even with all of them together, Grendel is too strong to defeat, and he is immune to the triple color attack. He almost overwhelms Differel, but Victor intervenes, and Grendel kills him. Enraged, Differel attacks, but Margaret’s voice warns her not to give into rage. Instead, to concentrate her will and suppress all her other emotions. Differel closes her eyes and gets control over her emotion, and feels her will empower her as her other emotions subside. She englobes Grendel, trapping him, and the others add their strength as well. He is trapped, unable to act, but it isn’t enough. Then Margaret appears, and she has the Princess in Orange with her dressed as an Orange Lantern. They add their power, and the globe turns white. Grendel screams in pain, but he remains unharmed. However, his BLs begin to self-destruct, and the process accelerates like a chain reaction, until they all disappear in a single flash.
As the last of the BLs destroy themselves, Grendel summons more power, changes into his horrendous form, and breaks the white globe. The massed Lanterns converge on him and attack, but he seems invincible. Differel and the others are ready to join the fray when the PiO englobes her. Suddenly she remembers everything that she had been unable to recall before. She tells the others that life is the answer. Rather than suppress her emotions, she embraces them. She englobes herself with her green energy and merges it with the orange energy, turning her greed into a hunger for living. Margaret englobes her, and Differel turns the indigo energy into compassion for all living things. Sunny is the first of the others to catch on. She englobes Differel, and she turns the blue energy into hope of the victory of life over death. Eile is next, and Differel turns the violet energy into love for all intelligent life. Billy adds yellow energy, and Differel conquers her own fear of death’s final victory over all and turns it against the agents of death and destruction. Finally Macavity adds his red energy and Differel conquers her own rage, turning it into the determination to fight for the preservation and expansion of life. Her ring turns white, and she becomes a White Lantern.
Margaret orders the other Lanterns to back off as Differel confronts Grendel. Each creates a swords, and they engage in a vicious sword duel. They appear to be evenly matched, but whereas Differel’s emotions would have been a handicap before, they have become her greatest strength. Grendel cannot defend against them, and they gradually weaken him. Finally Differel shatters his sword blade, breaks through his protective lobe, and plunges her sword into his chest. The full emotional spectrum floods his body, and the Black Power Ring slips off his finger and flies off. He gives her a look as if of gratitude for restoring his “humanity” as he fades back into the limbo the PiO took him from.
The others collect around her, believing the fight is over, but the PiO tells them that as long as the Black Power Ring is loose, it can start the whole process over again. It must be found and taken back to the death world where Grendel found it, but only a White Lantern can do that. However, Differel has a choice. She can stay and track down the ring, and the others can stay as well to help her, or she can transfer her ring to another, but that would expose her to space and kill her, and she cannot transfer the ring if another Lantern protects her with an energy globe. However, Differel decides there is no viable choice. She goes to Victor’s body, but first slips his ring off his finger and places it on her hand, then removes her White Power Ring. In the few seconds she has before she blacks out, she places her ring on him. Sunny then englobes her and recharges Victor’s ring, and she becomes a GL again. At the same time, the White Power Ring surrounds Victor with a white glow, and a voice cries out: “Victor Plunkett of Earth; live!” Victor revives and becomes a White Lantern. He immediately understands what he needs to do, but first he asks Differel to come with him; he can remake her a White Lantern, having been one already if even for a short time. She states that nothing would please her more, but she has responsibilities she cannot forsake. He accepts that, and they kiss. He then salutes his former GL colleagues and expresses the hope that what was accomplished this day may lead to an end to the bitter rivalries and a future of peace. He then takes off in pursuit of the Black Power Ring.
As the Corps see to their wounded and dead, the PiO offers the others a choice: to return or stay. Everyone elects to return except Macavity, who would simply be dead, or subsumed in the newly formed Ka of his next life. He wishes to stay, but not as a RL. He regrets his former life of aggression and violence, and is happy for having had the chance to redeem himself. He fights off the rage of his ring and it leaves him. Sunny englobes and heals him, but at the same moment a new Blue Power Ring forms. Declaring, “Macavity of Earth; your heart is full of Hope. Welcome to the Blue Lantern Corps”, it slips onto his tail and he becomes a Blue Lantern. He bids farewell to all and heads off to join the other Blue Lanterns assembling to return to Odym. The rest say good bye to those they wish, then the PiO englobes them and Differel’s vision fades out.
She startles awake, as if having dozed over her book, but when she checks the time hardly more than a few minutes have passed. The pages flip randomly back and forth, then fall open to a page where the PiO stares out at her. As the Carcosan speaks, speech balloons form displaying her words. She congratulates Differel on another successful game. When she asks what the point was, the PiO states there was none; she just wanted to play out “Blackest Night” as she would have done it. Differel asks: “That’s it?! No vital life lessons, no Aesop, no desperate race to save the universe? You just wanted to rewrite the bloody comic?!” The PiO replies why not, since she has the power to do so. Differel remarks that it wasn’t better than the original. The PiO gets indignant, puts her fists on her hips, and replies that everyone’s a critic. She then gives Differel the raspberries and the book closes. Almost immediately, however, it reopens. The PiO states she almost forgot, and throws something at her, saying, “Catch!” It comes out of the page straight at her and she catches it out of reflex. The PiO says, “Sayonara!” and the book closes again. Differel looks at the object and sees that it is a Power Ring. Mischievous curiosity overcomes her, and she slips it on to see what might happen.