Robert watched the two interact… the concern and affection of old friends, even at their age. It was a feeling he knew little if, though he understood it in principle. There was a connection there. He felt himself for the first time really wanting to experience that kind of camaraderie for himself. Unfortunately, the feeling that overtook him was of a different nature.
“Isn’t that sweet” a whispered voice said to the black-cloaked teen. Robert glanced to one side and saw a movement in the shadows and the glitter of gold, like light flickering from a shard of avarice. “A lovely story of boy meets girl meets boyfriend.” Another wave of emotion struck Robert, even without him reaching out for it. It surrounded him, centered on a tiny point to his right, but its power was overwhelming.
The emotion had many names: Avarice, Greed, Envy. But in Robert, a young man who had very little experience with people his own age, much less girls his own age, it manifested under another common name: Jealousy. And the emotion hit him like a bullet train.
Such an in-rush of emotion would be terrible for the psyche of any teenaged boy. But Robert wasn’t just that… he was a boy housing a dark power — a power fueled by emotion. A power he was forced to keep under constant control. And that control was suddenly taken from him.
“Get away from her!” he growled, the sound quiet but audible. The trailing “er” was drowned out, however, by the sudden roar of energy as a black vortex sprung into existence between Scotty and Lily, throwing them both backwards across the basement and into opposite walls. “You can’t have her!” he shouted, eyes blazing green beneath his deep hood.
As Velocity and Teen Lantern began to recover from the sudden attack, they could see Requiem hovering between them, facing Scotty, his body surrounded by a chaotic storm of black tendrils, burning the ceiling, walls, and floor wherever they touched.
“What the…” Scott’s ring blazed and an emerald force field pushed out, meeting the ebon tendrils in a shower of black and green sparks and flying embers.
As he fought against the onslaught of black energy, Scott looked around for Lilly. “Velocity! What’s wrong with your new boyfriend?” Teen Lantern yelled at the Silver Speedster.
“I don’t know,” she shouted back over the roar of the eerie black storm. “But I didn’t know what was wrong with you a few seconds ago either.”
But that didn’t mean she was going to let her new friend hurt Scotty. “Requiem, please stop. Nobody’s gonna hurt anyone anymore.” In a sudden blur of silver she raced toward her big-green-brother’s side, determined to make her words true. Before she could reach him a black wall appeared in front of her, bending itself to wrap around her like a creepy oversized blanket.
Snuggled in her inky cocoon, the voice that spoke to Lilly dripped with frenzied fear. “The adults are gone. There’s nothing you can do. This is all going wrong and you can’t stop it.” The words came faster and faster, speeding up with her heartrate. “You can’t even stop your friends from fighting. You’ve got to get out of here… before it gets worse.”
The Silver Speedster began to shake. It was awful. And she was trapped. Her breath came in short trembling breaths. She was shaking faster and faster, panic washing over her in waves. “It’s gonna get worse,” she whimpered, unaware of movement until her shaking vibrated her through Robert’s dark blanket and she landed on the floor.
Suddenly a burst of light appeared from the sky and quickly enveloped most of the area. The light was mostly harmless, except it tossed Robert backwards knocking him off his feet.
As it dissipated, a young man in a dark purple costume with a gold pentagram insignia appeared at the light’s source in the sky, waving a strange looking glowing wand.
“Need a hand?” He smirked to Scott and Lilly.
Wide-eyed, Lilly scooted backwards away from the new figure. “Who… who are you?” He’d hurt Robert, who was hurting Scotty, which just proved that she was right: things were getting worse.
“I’m… Starman.” He said hesitantly, Kyle Knight realized that this was the first time he had referred to himself as that name. He wasn’t quite sure he had earned it. The newly coined Starman landed and offered Lilly his hand to help her up.
Meanwhile, Teen Lantern and Requiem continued their standoff, with the fiery green light burning away the shadows in some places and the shadows engulfing the light in others. “Can the introductions, Vel. Still need a hand here!”
The young ring bearer was beginning to look strained. There was sweat on his brow and he was bracing his left arm, which seemed to be shaking slightly, with his right. It seemed the darkness was beginning to overtake the light.
“Yes off course… Green Lantern? Anyways, what’s the deal on Tall, Dark and Grumpy here? New villain?” Kyle said levitating slightly, than whizzing around to Robert’s opposite side; Golden light coming at him from one end and emerald light from the other.
“No!” Lilly put a hand to her head, forcing her thoughts to slow down. “He’s not a villain. Something’s wrong here.” She was as sure of that as she was that Scotty was her brother.
Kyle for the first time took a long hard look at Robert. He seemed hazy, blurry, and that was even with two light sources on him at once. He didn’t fit quite right in Kyle’s field of vision. It was usual for Kyle to see casual echos of the dead around people but around this guy he could barely see anything else.
Kyle started to back off his assault but he heard something all of a sudden.
“Giving up? Come on you can do it!” Came a whisper from a nearby alley.
Suddenly Kyle’s head swam, he could do this. He could beat this guy, he could win! He was Starman after all, he had the title, the esteem, time to show it!
Suddenly he turned his cosmic-rod back on the black cloaked teen full force blasting him to the ground, nearly taking Teen Lantern with him.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got this!” Kyle said proudly, a luminescent glow emanating from his body.
“Are you going to let glitter-boy get away with that?”
“Just one more kid in a costume trying to upstage you…take away her attention.”
“They’re going to lock you away. You’ll be all alone.”
“The shiny one called you a villain…”
“You’re destiny will consume you.”
“You will never have what they have…”
Whispers from all directions, tugging at his emotions. They were taking away his control. And that control was the only thing holding back the wave of darkness that was born into him at the Dark Angel’s whim. “Enough!” Robert rose from the floor, arms outstretched, as he roared the word. Anger, fear, and avarice tore at his, stripping all semblance of logic and discipline from his mind. Only chaos remained, and Chaos was the thing that Robert feared most.
The boy’s black cloak flew open and blackness tore through from the Shadowlands into the world of light. Hundreds of half-substantial ravens swarmed around Lilly, attacking Scott like darts of pure rage in order to “protect” her from her friend. Bolts of black “lightning” began charring the walls, tracing lines of ash wherever they touched. And black tendrils with taloned hands lashed out at “Starman,” slamming him back into the wall while shifting his consciousness in and out of the Shadowlands, exposing the lightbearer again and again to an endless, empty, freezing darkness wherein nothing could exist beyond despair.
A globe of pure, nearly-impenetrable hostility encased Robert, his own subconscious acting to protect him from the energy he was releasing, while the tiniest sliver of superego held fast to try to protect the world from Lord Chaos, the monster he held within him. The dark god fought to be released, and what was left of Robert was doing all it could to prevent the beast he was raised to become from breaking free. “Enough!,”he cried again, and the bank shook on its foundation as concrete began to crack beneath.
Outside the structure, lances of black struck out, blowing streetlights and power transformers for an entire block around the building. Parked cars lifted from the ground and found themselves hurled away from their spaces, alarms blaring as they struck buildings and poles. Windows shattered, silent alarms began to call for authorities who were no longer a part of this reality, and the veil between this dimension and the distant realm of Azarath shuddered.
Inside his sphere of darkness, Robert curled into a ball within his cloak, and his raw power, unhindered, continued to strike out of its own accord.
“Don’t take that from the likes of him, you’re Starman! The Starman!”
“Filthy criminal is making of mockery of you! On your first real mission!”
The voices swirled in Kyle’s mind. He whipped his cosmic rod forward creating a counter-force to Robert’s darkness. The Light poured out of him in an almost explosion, the cosmic rod looked as if it might crack under the pressure.
The young Knight’s eyes narrowed in on Requiem. The surreal haze that lingered all around him, the double vision that came with Kyle’s special sense didn’t bother him anymore, he was focused on defeating him now not figuring out why he read as both dead and alive.
Kyle floated forward still producing the veritable wall of light at Robert, the force of his energy was blocking the others back as much as Robert’s shadows.
All the while figures from the corners and hallways of the basement moved around them, their shining masks all that the others saw, however briefly, before they moved back.
It didn’t take Hawkgirl long to find the bank and fly into the building, mace ready in her hand and her eyes searching for the familiar faces of her friends. Inside the building it seemed vacant and she was about to think quiet when a loud noise that seemed to come from beneath the floor changed that notion. Her green eyes scanned for a way down and she half ran/half flew to the stairwell, shoving the large heavy metal door open and ran as quickly as she could down the flights of steps till she reached bottom.
Throwing the door open she was immediately greeted with the sight of two guys going to blows with each other. Thing was, she didn’t recognize them but she had a feeling that they weren’t the enemy here. Catching a glint of gold from the corner of her eye she spotted a shape and the first thought she had was,‘There’s something to smack down.’ And flew towards it, giving a grunt as she swung her mace at the head.
Suddenly the irrational prideful thoughts Kyle had been flooded with vanished. It left him momentarily dazed until he found himself focused on the now exposed gold masked figures that surrounded them. The anger that still filled his mind now had a new target.
“Who are you to mess with my head?” Kyle screamed as he refocused the energy from the cosmic rod at one of the mysterious figures.
Without thinking, Teen Lantern said “Vel, hit the one on the left.” Knowing he wouldn’t be able to see her moving so fast if she listened to him, he turned his ring on the unoccupied villain. Green energy spewed forth like an emerald flame thrower and engulfed the Psycho Pirate.
Velocity was moving the instant he stopped speaking. She raced around the masked figure, wondering if it said something about her that she enjoyed punching him so much. But it seemed justified. They’d caused all this trouble, messed with minds, and really done something bad to her new friend. As the Psycho Pirate fell to the floor at her feet, she looked around, hoping to see that everything was back to normal.
Kyle came to rest back on the floor, his mind finally clear again. He saw one of the nearby Pirates edging towards an exit and sprang forward grabbing him by his collar.
“Not so fast Johnny Sorrow-lite”
Hawkgirl jumped back, watching with wide green eyes as Velocity sped around and took care of another one of those gold masked creeps. “How many of these freaks are there anyway?” She asked aloud, trying to pinpoint another one nearby.
“Erin! I’m so glad you’re here!” Realizing what she’d just done –again– Lilly clapped a hand over her mouth. “We’ve got what… four? And…”
She looked around the room again. Four masked bad guys down, she, Scotty, and the new guy were back to normal, but Robert… “You guys. This isn’t right.” She pointed at the dark bubble that hid the shy boy from them.
“I don’t know what it would do to him if I just started shooting energy beams at it…” Kyle said scratching his head.
“Then don’t do that. Please. He’s on our side.” She took a step closer to the inky black sphere and felt a shiver run through her. “We have to help him.”
“I want to, really, I just don’t know how. I mean, I wish…” Kyle’s voice drifted off, ‘I wish I was a genius like grandad’. he finished in his head.
“You can do it Kyle, just think.” His grandfather’s voice reverberated in his ears.
“You’re friends with him, right? The whole time he went off, it was an exaggerated version of his affection for you.” Kyle said turning to Lilly, “I think you should talk to him.”
”Or I can just hit him and see if that doesn’t work.” Erin suggested giving a smirk and a small shrug of her shoulders but making no real move forward to carry it out. If talking was going to help, then she hoped Lilly knew the magic words.
“I think we’re done hitting.” But there was something about Erin’s suggestion, Erin’s very presence, that brought a smile to her face. Just a second or two ago, she’d caught herself feeling irritated at Starman’s suggestion. Now, with her friends here, it seemed like the sort of simple solution that would actually work. They were in this together, learners in a new situation. “We’ve done the fighting each other thing. I think now’s a good time to try that talking idea.”