Part 1 of 2
Doctor Fate looked Death in the eye and he blinked... it had been a nightmare of a day.
He was surrounded by friends, his comrades in the Justice Society standing with him against the forces of darkness that now opposed them. Yet even with the Society's strength and power, against the might of the one called Darkseid they had been found lacking... and now it was Fate and his friends who were the ones surrounded, dozens of starcraft from another world firing upon them with nothing other than pure malice and it was all that Fate could do to keep the assault from turning his allies to ash.
Raising both of his hands to the skies Fate called upon all of his god given power and placed all of it into a shield that covered his friends in a dome of glowing light which immediately began to strain and crack under the amount of firepower being sent its way. Gritting his teeth under the helmet, Kent Nelson kept his hands raised and turned his neck to his friends.
They were in worse shape than he was.
Kneeling upon the moon dust ground Hawkgirl rested her unconscious fiance upon her knee, one of her arms holding the man's head up while the other hang limply at her side, broken. Hawkman had suffered a blow to the head during the battle and it was the first time that Kent had ever seen him get knocked out. Wesley Dodds, the Sandman was similarly resting upon the ground, looking weary from the battle as he almost calmly rubbed the top of his head, dangling his infamous sleep gas gun between his fingers. Jay Garrick was standing to Kent's left and was simply staring at the ships firing upon them from behind the safety of the shield, silently awed as one of his hands held the other's broken fingers. Alan Scott was standing at Kent's right, his own attempts at creating a protective shield with his magical power ring were already shattered by the onslaught... and ahead of Kent Nelson stood Darkseid, the angry god who had utterly humiliated them in his assault.
The New God hadn't even stepped onto the Earth and he'd already claimed it. Slowly Darkseid's eyes, normally as black as coal but now beginning to glow, began to spark with bright red embers that turned into two blazing red infernos.
"NO!" Doctor Fate yelled as the twin Omega Beams shot from the Lordgod's eyes and began to speed towards him and his group. A terrified tone filled his voice and he felt everyone's eyes fall upon him. "No!" He yelled again, his thoughts becoming a silent prayer. "I will not allow this! Lords of Order, please! Protect us! Protect u-"
And in a quick blip of white light Doctor Fate and the rest of the Justice Society disappeared. The sole reminder of their battle being the golden helmet that now rested where its owner had once stood... the helm itself similarly vanishing seconds later.
When Alan Scott opened his eyes, temporarily blinded by the white light, he wished he'd kept them shut.
"Where are we?" He muttered aloud whilst observing the vast, mystic desolation that lay before him. When Alan didn't get a response from anyone he looked behind him to find that he was completely and utterly alone. He looked to the floor he was stood upon and found it to be a small slab of black rock hovering as if on puppet strings in an ocean of green space. "Am I dead?" He wondered, again aloud as if someone were listening.
With a glint of green light from his power ring Alan levitated into the air, taking care to stay above the rocky platform he'd appeared upon which appeared to be slowly drifting forward, it was as if he was in a tunnel, Alan noted... and as his eyes slowly adjusted to the light he noticed other similar rock slabs floating by in the distance. Upon one platform almost a mile away he noticed a figure, difficult to make out and from his ring he created a giant green hand which gripped the distant rock and at its creator's command gently pulled the platform over. Alan was relieved to recognize Doctor Fate as he placed the rock and its occupant next to his own platform, the two rocks drifting peacefully next to each other.
"Am I glad to see you!" Alan said, smiling as he landed back atop his own platform. Doctor Fate merely nodded respectfully, his cape flapping gently in a very chill breeze. "Where are we, Doc?" The Green Lantern asked, fear from the previous battle now leaving his body and replaced by sheer curiosity. "Is this Hell?" Fate simply shook his head and, to Alan's surprise he removed his helmet and placed it upon the ground. The poor guy looked tired, his skin pale and heavy bags that hung under his eyes.
"While it is a purgatory of sorts, Alan..." Never once had Fate only used Alan's first name. "It is not Hell." A faint, dark smile passed over the man's lips. "We have to be dead to get to Hell."
"Are you alright, Fate?" Alan asked, wondering if perhaps the Doctor's earlier injuries, again at the hands of Darkseid, had perhaps resulted in some kind of brain damage. "You seem... different."
This time a full blown grin passed over the Doctor's face as if Alan had just told him a hilarious joke.
"Oh I'm not Doctor Fate." He said. "I'm just the poor fool that wears the helmet... the name's Kent Nelson as I think you know." The two shook hands though Alan was somewhat confused. "Now. I passed our teammates on the way here and it might be a good idea to pull them here before it's too late."
Alan did as requested, this time sprouting several different hands that shot off separately and began to reel in their own different platforms. While that happened, Alan looked at his teammate and asked what he meant by 'before it's too late'.
"We're in a pocket dimension, Lantern. The closest one Lord Nabu could find on such short notice... you really don't want to know what happens here." Content with the answer, Alan simply focused on his task and merely responded with a:
It took several minutes to reel the others in and the whole time Alan couldn't help but notice how nervous Kent was behind him, staring at his helmet upon the ground, but once those several minutes had passed the six members of the Justice Society stood reunited, all of them stepping onto Alan's platform with the exception of Hawkman who still lay in an almost comatose state... yet it wasn't Hawkman that drew Alan's concern.
"Jay." The Lantern said cautiously. "You're shaking." The Flash seemed surprised by the statement, but as Alan drew close to his friend he found that he was correct, the Flash's hands were in fact shaking at an incredible speed, almost phasing out of existence. Quickly, even by the speedster's standards Jay shoved his hands into his chest in attempt to cover the things up.
"N- no they're not." He said, stammering slightly as he spoke. It was then that the Sandman, standing to the left of Jay took note of an equally concerning fact.
"Jesus." He muttered, voice echoing across the cosmic tunnel. "Jay, your hair's gone white!" Pulling off his tin helmet the Flash looked at his reflection and was shocked to find that the temples of his otherwise brown hair had turned completely white!
"W... wow." He said, forcing a smile. "W... would you look at that." The speedster stammered once again, his shaking hands rattling the helmet as they held it. Concerned, the Sandman and the Green Lantern crowded around their friend, both placing hands upon seperate shoulders.
"It's alright, Jay." Alan said.
"We're here for you, buddy." The words seemed weird coming from the Sandman's mouth but that didn't make them any less genuine.
"Tha... thanks fellas." Jay placed the helmet back upon his head and let out a sigh, sounding almost tired. "Something about that Darkseid guy just seemed to shake me... I-"
"Gentlemen." The three men turned to see Hawkgirl glaring at them, feathered helmet adding to the anger that filled her eyes as Hawkman still lay at her feet. "Might I say that while we're standing here chatting, not only may my husband be bleeding internally but the angry alien that just cut through us is more than likely tearing through the planet that we all call home." A silent shiver passed through the team as they all realized that what Hawkgirl was saying was true.
"Don't worry." Kent Nelson hovered a good way above the ground in a cross legged position, almost as if he were meditating. It was only now that Alan noticed his mystic armor had been replaced with a smart, business suit attire. "Fate has intervened." The rest of the team congregated around their mystic ally, Hawkgirl gripping her lover's waist and placing his arm over her shoulder as if she were carrying him. "I spoke with my Lord Nabu, and though saving our lives drained him greatly the Lord of Order used the last of his power to enact a protective barrier around the Earth."
"Did Nabu die?" Sandman asked, masked voice hiding any concern he might have been feeling.
"Simply resting. However we're on our own for now."
Alan stepped towards Kent, a worried look crossing his face which he hid from the rest of the team.
"Can you get us home, Kent?" He asked. Concern flashed across Nelson's face for a second, just a second, and he immediately replaced it with a more positive expression. He clicked his fingers, dropped to his feet and donned the helmet of Nabu which did nothing to alter his appearance, its mystical energies seemingly drained.
"Well, Nabu won't be able to guide me... but I can certainly try my best." He answered, hands performing a mystical sign which he carved into the air before them. "I'm still a gifted sorcerer, even without the helmet's power." From the sorcerer's circular sign a blue, glowing portal as wide as a plantation gate emerged, a swirling vortex which whipped violent winds from its depths. "Who's first?" Nelson asked.
Unsurprisingly nobody volunteered.
Jay stepped from the portal with an air of caution, eyes alert for any sign of potential danger. Seeing nothing but the blue of the Earth, the black of space and the grey of the moon he began to relax.
"Thought I'd come out with a squid for a head..." He muttered nervously. A moment later Alan stepped through the portal, cape floating gently behind him. His eyes locked on Jay and out of concern he quickly asked:
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine." Jay lied, his broken hand still aching terribly and his body shaking as his nerves rattled inside. "Please, Al. Stop asking. I'm not a kid." The Lantern's eyes narrowed and he said nothing more about the matter. Instead he stepped forward and looked out to the Earth.
"Didn't get to appreciate it until now." He said, almost to himself. "Do me a favor, Jay..."
Jay, who had been busy inspecting his new hair color heard his name mentioned and responded with a confused:
"Run around the moon, make sure there's no sign of Darkseid or those... demon... things."
Doing as asked, Jay began to move at such terrific speed that he kicked up pieces of rock from the ground as he ran. It took him about ten minutes to do so but by the time he arrived back at where he'd started the rest of the team were waiting for him.
"Anything?" Sandman asked as Jay skidded to a halt in front of him.
"Yeah, actually..." The Flash said. "It's weird. There's an American flag on the other side... and a couple of weird vehicles."
"Strange..." Kent Nelson muttered, not referring to what Jay had just said. He looked at his gloveless hands and the eyes under his helmet widened slightly. "I sense... I sense a..." There was an orange flash around the man's body and when the light vanished Kent's business attire had been replaced by Doctor Fate's golden armor, something that should only have been possible with the power of Nabu.
"Kent? Are you alright?" Hawkgirl asked. Yet Kent Nelson didn't hear her... he was too busy screaming to listen.
"No!"He yelled, panicked beyond belief as he raised his hands as if trying to protect himself from some kind of wild animal. "No, please! Someone..."He stumbled desperate towards the group and out of concern Jay zipped over and tried to help steady his friend.
"Doc? Are you alright?"
And then Kent Nelson vanished, a flare of light erupting around his body that sent Jay flying backwards through the air where he landed with a painful thud. When the speedster looked up the light had vanished and so too had the Doctor. The rest of the Justice Society looked at where their teammate had been standing in shock and horror.
"What the hell just happened?!" Jay yelled.
Reality spit Kent Nelson out into Oblivion, and Oblivion cast him into a place all too familiar.
Finding himself lying upon a cobble stone floor Kent raised his head, blood dripping down his nose. He felt completely bewildered and like an elderly person with dementia he wasn't too sure where he was... but he vaguely recognized his surroundings.
"The... the Tower... of Fate!" He gasped upon discovery. As soon as he spoke something wrapped around his legs and hoisted him into the air, something that he would later learn to be black, floating chains. He dangled upside down from the ceiling and looked at the figure of his captor.
"Speak, intruder!" The captor commanded, voice bellowing and Kent found himself looking at a man... a man wearing a golden helmet. He gasped and the man spoke again. "Speak imposter! Speak and reveal yourself to Doctor Fate!"
And this nightmare of a day just seemed to keep getting worse.