Friday, July 27, 2012

JLA Classified: Cold Steel #2 (2006)

The JLA mechs briefly engaged the Voruk warships in outer space, before flying down to Penumbra, where the Voruk lacked shielding to follow. Only armed scouts could handle the "Infinity Coil," so they were sent in, while Mhak-Lord Gordoruk ordered the creation of "our beloved God-of-Storms."

Aquaman's shields had been damaged, so his ship fell to Penumbra in a heap. Superman struggled to fly "a bloody skyscraper, here." Everyone managed. Maiko deployed from Batman's ship in a probe to repair Aquaman's shielding. Green Lantern discovered his "power ring's gone all funny," not functioning effectively. Flash noticed flying "black snakey things" floating amongst the still world. In space, the Voruk's many warships were sacrificed to create one massive craft, but not without sorrow and salutations.

J'Onn J'Onzz was concerned about the snakes. "I can't touch them telepathically. It's like there's nothing out there." They were "spooked" by fire from the Voruk scouts. Tsaru ordered the Ghoji to fall back, even their outcasts, but Maiko refused. "I won't run away, Tsaru Kar. I am not-- not afraid." She chastised, "Death without Shai-Tar's blessing? You compound your crime!" Superman protected them with his four arms and twin blades. Wonder Woman noted Maiko's bravery. Batman observed, "He's got nothing left to lose." Aquaman's shields and consciousness were brought back online.

Martian Manhunter took a hit, terrifying his young co-pilot, Gaida. Light emanated from her eyes and mouth, until her mind exploded. J'Onn melted into near nothingness before struggling to collect herself. "She went off like a bomb. I've never felt such a powerful mental attack... If I had been slower erecting a defense--" It was Wonder Woman who checked in on J'Onn, and quizzed Tsaru Kar on what had happened. "She was just a child... Her noble heart would not be restrained."

The Ghoji had long tried to telepathically probe Voruk ships, but "protective scarring" had foiled them. Using her magic lasso as a conduit and a psychic pulse from the Martian Manhunter, an "oscillation pattern" was broadcast that saw the Voruk probes rain down limply from the sky. This afforded Wonder Woman time to press the resistant Tsaru about Gaida's death.

The God-of-Storms arrived, providing plentiful distraction. Batman managed to blind it, while Aquaman penetrated the craft. Wonder Woman used her lasso to draw information from the organic behemoth to feed Aquaman. The Sea King exited his mech to swim within. Between the snakes and the behemoth, Batman, Superman and the Flash were wrecked. The Martian Manhunter soon joined Aquaman inside the God-of-Storms, investigating a hunch. "It began to dawn on me, when Gaida died, what the Ghoji's Shai-Tar really was. Not a god, but a psychic weapon. Gaida harnessed the energy of her own body to fuel a violent psychic attack. The ultimate vengeance for a powerless people." Hearing this psychic projection, Wonder Woman realized "Not so powerless, evidently. The Ghoji sacrificed themselves in the thousands, during the invasion. That's what you told us, isn't it Tsaru? And those Voruk who survived infected others of their kind." The Voruk who suffered from Shai-Tar either killed themselves or spread their painful psychic illness to their families, whom they would likely kill to save them from the agony.

Tsaru argued that the Voruk were slavers guilty of every crime she had attributed to them, and deserving of their endless torment. Aquaman and Martian Manhunter began healing the race, which Tsaru saw as unchaining a beast from the glorious bounds of her goddess. "One more mention of Shai-Tar, or the barbarism of the outsiders, and I swear to you, Tsaru-Kar-- I'll wind you in Hestia's cord, and show you what you really are. It wouldn't match the agony you inflict on your victims, but I warrant it would be enough to drive you mad... Trust me. Not one more word."

The Infinity Coil collapsed, and all hell broke loose. It was revealed that it had been a gate, but instead of connecting two points in space, it looped one back on itself, causing a compression in time. Too long destabilized, it was now rending reality. The snakes were shadow anomalies, and the best hope was to redirect the gate. It would require "a stardrive of massive proportions," and Aquaman pointed out, "We're swimming in it." The God-of-Storms had existed in some form for nearly nine hundred years, so Tsaru Kar had to telepathically convince it to sacrifice itself, against Wonder Woman's protestations. "Shai-Tar is the only way. The Ghoji god and the Voruk god. Together they will cast down the shadows." Mhak-Lord Gordoruk refused to abandon ship, and would pilot the God-of-Storms to its death alongside Tsaru Kar.

The mechs still standing looked on as the deaths of gods ended the threat of annihilation. Wonder Woman ripped open her hatch. Martian Manhunter passed through his. Heroes and survivors looked out at the new dawn, while a bird sang.

"Chapter Two: The Sleeping World" was by writer/painter Chris Moeller

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