Happy New Year's 2013!
CHAPTER 2 – Rescue Mission
Ring level at 20%. Cautionary measures advised.
Thaal was racing against the time. He needed to hurry towards the comm tower. The ring was nearly out of energy. Most of it was already being expended by just flying to the top of the tower.
Danger, ring level at 10%. Recharge of ring advised.
"I would like to recharge my ring, but unfortunately, given the circumstances, I can't!" Thaal responded, annoyed. He flew harder and faster to his destination,"I'm nearly there!"
Six hours ago.
"The other instructors have their different styles of training recruits. If I'm not correct, I suspect Ermey is taking his squad on a crash course in the wilderness. Fentara's probably trading fists with his squad in the hazard simulation training room. I, on the other hand, feel that the best training comes from on the job." Abin began.
"We're aiding you on one of your missions, correct?" Thaal threw out casually.
"Well, er—yes, in fact. I was just going to say that." Abin answered a bit surprised. Then he continued, "The planet we're heading to is a hotly contested territory between two planetary powers. They have been at war for several years now. The civilian population, unfortunately, have been caught between the crossfire. It doesn't look like it'll die down anytime soon. I've received a distress signal from a refugee camp near the war-zone. Our mission is to evacuate all the refugees from the area and if possible the entire planet."
"Wouldn't it be better if we stop the war instead?" Said a small rookie, she was the only female on their squad. "If we stop the war, then we won't have to evacuate the refugees."
"We're only rookies! We shouldn't go fight a war!" Protested another rookie, whose brow-less eyes were deeply furrowed.
"What? Are you afraid of death?" A burly rookie taunted him.
"I'm not afraid of anything! I wouldn't have gotten this ring if I was." He answered, his brow-less eyes now blazing confidently.
Thaal paid little attention to their bickering. Determined to redeem himself after the disastrous preliminary training, he thought up a plan of action while Abin briefed them.
"I understand each of your sentiments, but we are strictly prohibited from interfering in the affairs of other states. That includes a war that doesn't involve the Corps."
"Well, we should involve ourselves in their war! We could save more lives that way!" Said the small rookie, suddenly inspired.
"Yeah!" The other rookies shouted in agreement.
"No. The Guardians of the Universe will not allow it. We are outsiders, so we have no right to interfere in their conflict." Abin said with finality. "Here, we've made it."
The planet finally came into view. From orbit, the squad found it to be quite beautiful. It was a splendid mix of lush green continents and a lavender sky. But the vision of beauty disappeared quickly when they reached the dark side of the planet. Everywhere they could see, the land was bombarded with fire and explosives. Where a city that may have stood tall and proud been, now lay in ruins. Abin led them to an enclosed area in the ruins and gave them another set of instructions.
"I have said it already, our mission is to evacuate the refugees from this planet. No matter what your feelings towards the war, you are not to be involved in the fighting. If you come across a soldier from either side, do not engage them. Only use your ring to defend yourself if you are forced into battle. We don't want the two armies aiming their weapons on Oa in retaliation if they suspect involvement from the Green Lantern Corps. Understood?" Abin instructed.
"Understood." The squad of rookies nodded.
"This is a stealth operation. I would prefer if none of you are caught." Abin pulled forth a holomap from his ring. "Now, let's link rings first," the squad put forward each of their ring-bearing hands, "I came to this planet prior to your warm-up session on Oa. I've already met with the organizer of the evacuation and promised her I'd bring more help, so if you see civilians trying to interact with you, chances are they're apart of the evac. Abin maximized an area of the holomap, displaying numerous blinking lights. "These highlighted areas are places other refugees are hiding. I only want you all to head to these areas." They unlinked rings; Thaal's ring now warmer from the info exchange.
"Once we gathered all the refugees, we bring them here, right?" The small Lantern pointed to the distress signal. "I understand, but then what do we do with them? That area on the map is in the middle of nowhere."
"There's a great deal of activity going on several miles under our feet. My ring indicates large quantities of metallic compounds and a what may be a fusion reaction core being shifted around in an underground bunker. All resources appropriate for a nuclear weapon or... a star ship." Thaal had scanned the area earlier while flying behind the rest of the squad.
"That's very prudent of you Thaal," said Abin, pleased, "but don't worry, there's no weapon making underneath the ground. It is in fact a star ship."
"Why are they even building a ship underground? Wouldn't both of the opposing military factions have noticed?" One confused rookie asked.
"They're building it to escape, obviously," said the burly rookie.
"It would have been easier if they had hired some ships from a protective escort agency or a mercenary organization. If they had enough money to build a ship, they would have enough to hire someone. Protective escort agencies and mercenaries can provide that service for a fee," the brow-less rookie suggested. "Not to mention they get professional protection."
"The key word is 'fee.' Mercenaries are fickle and unreliable. They follow no rules and will likely turn on you if an enemy offered a higher price. Escort agencies may be more reliable but less courageous. They won't work with much incentive knowing that they're in the middle of a war. The Green Lantern Corps asks for no fee. Not to mention we are more competent in providing protection." Thaal reasoned. He had made enough trips off Korugar to be aware of such activity.
"Great reasoning again, Thaal," Abin said smiling. "And concerning the ship building, they were able to hide their activity namely because most of this planet is covered in radiation. One empty area is no cause of alarm when more suspicious areas would raise concern. Also if they had hired protection, either military forces would fire on the alien ship. Like Thaal said, the hired ship is more likely to save themselves than those that pay them."
The squad absorbed that bit of information, then looked at Abin awaiting orders.
"Alright, if that's all, then we head out now. We'll all meet back here," he pointed to the distress signal one last time, "at the break of dawn. Work quickly and efficiently, but more importantly, work willfully."
The darkness and silence filled the air with a sense of foreboding. The wisest choice was to not fly out in the open and depowering now may be an invitation for death.
"Ring, is there any way I can use my powers without radiating light any brighter than a lamp?" Thaal figured since his suit was made of bands of light, it would very easily attract attention. He can only hide for so long in the alleyway.
"The ring possesses properties of luminosity that can be controlled at will." It said to him.
"Luminosity? Like a star?" He asked absentmindedly.
"I need to dim the lights on my suit... Stars are brighter when their surface area is greater... Maybe if I reduce the areas of light my suit shines, it would appear dimmer..."
Before Thaal could finish his thought, a chilly breeze passed him, causing him to hunch over and rub his hands for warmth. When he looked down, his entire suit was several times darker than he last remembered! It seems that his train of thought was recognized by the ring and manifested in physical form, even when he didn't have an inkling of how to perform the action.*
"How did you do that?" A voice startled him from behind. Instinctively, he aimed his ring ready to fire on the intruder.
"D-don't shoot! It's just me!" The small Lantern pointed to her white circle, then to her face. Her eyes looked apprehensively at his ring.
"You startled me." Thaal sighed with relief as he lowered his left hand. It was nothing, but why did she have to follow him?
"I didn't mean to." She said apologetically. "It seems like you knew exactly what you were doing back during our debriefing. I thought we'd have a better chance of survival if we stuck together."
That mode of thinking was wise. They were on a hostile planet, and most of them were inexperienced to boot. "Hmm... I guess you're right. Do you have a name?"
"Oh! Yes. I'm Yenima." She answered with a smile. "And you're Thaal. I remembered Abin calling you several times."
"Yes, Thaal Sinestro. But, I would rather you referred to me as Sinestro." Thaal wasn't comfortable with so many strangers referring to him with his given name. It seemed too personal. He bristled a bit when Abin Sur called him by his given name, but he gave him a pass due to the fact that he was a senior Lantern.
"So? Could you show me how you did that with your suit a moment ago?" She asked, eyes rapt with attention.
The rest of the night passed by fairly quickly. It was fortunate that Yenima and he had discovered that little trick with the suit. Moving from one place to the next was made tremendously easier. When Thaal saw the earliest signs of the sun's rays upon the horizon he quickened his pace. Loading the last group of refugees to the meeting site, he said to Yenima, "I bet we finished up much more quickly than the other recruits—"
Thaal and Yenima turned towards the sound of the shout. One of their fellow recruits, the big burly rookie, was tumbling down a hill, having been blasted by enemy fire.
The group of refugees screamed, terrified by the turn of events. Yenima tried to calm them, "Don't panic everyone! Follow me to the entrance in the underground bunker. I'll be back soon."
Thaal nodded. Then he turned his attention to the sudden barrage of fire. Creating a shield, he flew towards the injured Lantern.
"They spotted me. I'm sorry." He said shaking.
"Did you manage to gather all the refugees from the area you scouted?" Thaal said while increasing the area of his barrier.
"I think I did. I went a moment ago to check but got caught. No! I'm sure everyone is safely out of harm's way!" He answered confidently, firing heavy blasts at the enemy.
Thaal strengthened his barrier. "This place is no good for a fight. We're out in the open! You make a shield for both of us. I'll contact Abin Sur and the others—"
"There's no need Thaal." Abin Sur answered from above. He fired well aimed shots at the last few troops. Two other rookie recruits followed him from behind. "This is unfortunate, but not unexpected. Did all of you manage to rescue the refugees?"
"I'm sure there's no other refugees being left behind. Now we need to concentrate on defending ourselves from the enemy troops." Thaal informed Abin.
"Right. But there's a problem. The enemies have some kind of energy dampening weapon. I tried to make constructs with my ring, but the device seems to obstruct its usage. I was lucky Abin came in time to help me." The browless rookie said dismally.
Abin paced around momentarily before turning to the group and said, "I wonder just what the extent of that energy dampener can affect our ring's powers. The troops outnumber us, and we have to protect the refugees. We can't waste any of what's left of our ring's energy." He took a deep breath before continuing, "I will draw away their fire. Meanwhile, all of you stay here and if you can, signal for help."
"What?! That's suicidal for you!" The burly rookie protested.
"Abin, before I returned to the bunker, I saw a communication tower just west of here. We could send a distress signal from there." The browless rookie informed him.
"Very good. I'll go there then—"
"No." Thaal held up a hand, rejecting his his proposal. "You are the senior most Lantern amongst us. You shouldn't do anything that would put your life in jeopardy."
"It is precisely because I am the senior most Lantern here that I must make sure each and every one of you must escape alive." He answered sternly.
"Being concerned for our safety doesn't mean you should risk yours. Besides, we are here because you want us here for on the job training. How are we to learn if you keep us away from the action?" Thaal returned his stern gaze, then continued, "We can go with your plan. You can distract the enemy. Everyone here can stay to protect the refugees. Meanwhile... I will head to the communication tower to send the signal."
Abin looked at him for a long time before nodding reluctantly. "You need to broadcast a wide signal; enough to reach two or three sectors. Don't drain your energy on combat. It's very risky for you to go alone I will accompany you when I finish with the troops."
"I'll get the signal out before you finish." Thaal rose into the air.
Abin smirked, "Good luck."
Thaal flew towards the designated location on his map.
"Ring level at 20%. Cautionary measures advised." The ring commented.
His ring chose now of all times to suddenly run out of energy. I suppose that little trick with the suit sapped most most of its energy.
The tower finally came into view. But Thaal noticed something else. There were several glints in the distance. Several yellow glints. It would appear the tower was already being protected by the troops; from which army, he didn't know. And worst, they were familiar with the yellow weakness. All of them were covered from head to toe in yellow tinted armor. And all of them aimed their weapons at Thaal.
Thaal took a sharp turn upward, flying as fast as he could to the top.
"Danger, ring level at 10%. Recharge of ring advised." The ring commented again.
Thaal was growing angry and anxious. Dodging shots and dancing between lasers took an effort. He would very much have liked to blast them all into whatever afterlife they believed, but he had to remain focused. At last, he saw the top—
One of the troops, piloting a yellow mech, burst through the topmost level and into Thaal. Thaal was now furious, despite a throbbing headache, he conjured a dozen bazookas and fired relentlessly at the mech. He heard an explosion. It might have been destroyed, but he didn't care. Reaching the console, he ripped open a panel and put in his ring hand. Using his free right hand he sent in instructions for a distress signal. Then he waited. He could feel energy being sapped from him, minute by passing minute. The ring updated him on its energy levels.
"Danger, ring level at 1.7%. Seek a Lantern battery for recharge immediately."
"Here's a battery! Charge up recruit!" A familiar voice rang in Thaal's ears. He turned to the sound of help. Lantern Ermey and his six recruits arrived just in time.
*From Green Lantern #3 (Jan 2012) Vol 5, Sinestro tells Hal to dim the lights on his suit for a stealth mission on Korugar. This situation in my story is my attempt to explain how he did it.