#19 (30): The Mourning After (Palmer) Feb 4, 2009 14:34:23 GMT -5
Post by Charlie on Feb 4, 2009 14:34:23 GMT -5
Don't read this issue before reading Green Lantern Corps: Liberation #5!
Issue Nineteen: "The Mourning After"
Written by Dan Palmer
Cover by KEROGA
Edited by Charlie Wilkins
The fires raged all around, as the once glorious fields burned through the night. For the first time in ages, Oa enjoyed a peaceful night, even while her surface remained littered with the scars and debris of the battle that had raged just hours before. The survivors were holed up in the remaining barracks, some of which had been field converted into infirmaries to tend to the multitude of injured. These small triage and housing centers were the only buildings left standing in Krona’s murderous wake.
Hal had come to the mountain to take in all that had happened since Krona had assumed control over Oa, and all it had taken to get it back. Staring into the blackness of space above, his voice was almost a whisper.
“Ring, how many total rings are active right now?”
<Eight Power Rings connected to the Central Power Battery right now. Seven are present in Sector 0>
Hal frowned, and counted in his head. Me, Hank, Kat, Tomar, Wog, Mogo, Salaak…
“Arisia’s ring came back online when the Guardians sparked the battery. She’s headed back to her sector in the morning.” Hal turned to see Kilowog’s massive frame joining him on the mountain top. “She managed to hang on to it even when trapped underground. One of the few.”
“How did this happen?” Hal’s eyes carried back over the barren wasteland before them. “One second, an ages old peace keeping force, the next, refugees on our own planet, stripped of our rings, our dignities…and too many of us, our lives.”
“We got caught sleepin’.” The Bolovoxian shrugged his mighty shoulders. “We got complacent, we let our guard down, and we got caught by a better prepared fighting force. But now we’re back, and gonna be better than ever.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Hal took a deep breath, and steadied his resolve. “So what now? We start bringing back the surviving Lanterns, and move on?”
Kilowog shook his head. “Ain’t that many Corpsmen ready to just walk back in that easy. First, ain’t a lot of the old guard still around. And second, if they are around, can’t ya see at least some of ‘em getting used to civilian life? Partoo was the exception, not the rule, poozer.”
Silence fell at the mention of their fallen comrade – one of many.
“Nah, I think we’re gonna get the forges started up again, and start recruiting,” Kilowog continued. “Whenever they say it’s time.” He motioned to the newly erected Citadel that the recently returned Guardians had holed themselves in.
“Yeah, whatever they say,” Hal’s voice trailed off a bit, but when he continued again, it was with his usual vigor. “Race you once around the planet?”
“You know that speed is tied to yer will, not yer size, right?”
“Hey, if you’re scared, just say so.” Hal’s signature confident grin split his face, as they took off
at top speed in twin explosions of green.
Lobo was pissed. He’d been shifted sideways into a different universe, dragged himself back into the right one, had to kill his way back into his motorcycle, and now, at his favorite bar, they were out of his drink.
“Gave the last of it out a few cycles back, sorry Lobo.” Ralph kept wiping clean the same mug, with the same dirty rag he always had. Though he ran a bar filled with the dregs of the universe, the most dangerous organics ever spawned…Ralph was never nervous. Not when the bounty hunters who frequented got into shoot outs. Not even Lobo at his fiercest had made the bar owner sweat yet. “As I recall, your old sparrin’ partner Warrior came in and took our last stores of that Czarnian ale.”
“ARE YOU SLAGGIN’ KIDDING ME???” Lobo lost all semblance of control, lunging at the bar, his massive fists bending the very metal of the bar. “I’m the last fraggin’ Czarnian, and you give the last our ale ever barrelled to some Earth-monkey with a magic ring.” He reached in his jacket, pulling out a length of chain.
“You know Warrior,” Ralph shrugged. “Man had creds, knew what he wanted, who am I to stand in his way?”
“Unbelievable. UNBELIEVABLE. This bastich steals my bounty, sends me to Q-Word, and drinks the last of MY DRINK!” Lobo was in at full boil now. “I’ll tear this place apart, and everything else apart until I get my hands on that mutt! DAMMIT RALPH, LOOK AT ME!”
As the bartender looked up, his eyes filled with real fear for the first time since Lobo had known him.
Bout slaggin’ time, Lobo thought smugly. A little fraggin’ respect around here.
“You…you…you’re back.” Ralph’s voice trembled as he fought to form words.
“What, I been talkin’ to myself this whole time?” But it was then that Lobo realized that Ralph was looking past him. Turning, he saw a big yellow creep in purple armor standing behind him. Smirking, he swung to knock out the stranger….and flew right through the hologram.
“If you calm your temper Czarnian, I believe I may have the way for you to extract your vengeance.”
“Well, well, well…”Lobo dusted himself off and rose from the floor. “Finally, somebody’s talkin’ some sense around here.”
Katma Tui’s morning was spent preparing the medicines for those still recovering from the Battle of Oa. As the sun crept over the horizon, she turned to welcome it and noticed a familiar energy signature outside the window, one that she had seen quite a bit of in the past few hours.
“What are you doing out here?” She walked out the side door to find Hank Henshaw in full Corps uniform , watching the construct playback of the last few days from his ring.
“When I got up, no one else was moving, so I came outside to analyze the battle.” He finally powered down the playback, and turned to Katma for the first time. “Did I wake you?”
“What..no..of course not.” Katma stuttered in response. In all her time in the Corps, none had ever outworked her or her mentor Sinestro…and that included waking up earliest. “Why do you review the recent battle? To honor those who fell?”
“Actually, it’s a bit more selfish than that,” Hank’s eyes returned to the construct in front of him. “I want to – need to – be better. I’ve only had the ring for a few days, and a couple of training sessions with Hal” –Katma rolled her eyes – “and I want to figure out how to get as good as you and the other Lanterns I’ve seen.”
“Well, I can appreciate a desire to better oneself,” Katma allowed herself a smirk. “But, how about you help me in the med center for now.”
Hank hesitated, and took Katma’s outstretched hand, leading him to the makeshift hospice. As they crossed the threshold, both their rings crackled, driving their hands apart, and filling the silence with an unfamiliar, yet powerful voice.
<All Lanterns on Oa, your presence is required presently at the main citadel. We await your arrival.>
“What the hell was that?” Hank eyed his ring suspiciously.
“Not what, Earth-monkey.” Katma strode back out of the bunker. “Who.”
“Who, then?” Hank looked away from his ring, and jogged to catch up with Katma, who paused with an almost amused look on her face.
“Slow down Carol, screaming isn’t going to help anything.” Jim gripped the bridge of his nose between his forefingers, while holding the cell phone a respectable distance from his head. After a beat or two, he slowly replaced the phone to his ear. “So, what happened?”
“What happened?” Carol was trying to keep herself calm, taking a deep breath, speaking in controlled, measured tones. “Your low-down, no good, can’t leave the past where it belongs brother happened.”
“What is it this time?” Jim poured himself a fresh cup of coffee behind his desk. He had been running interference for Hal since they were teenagers, and had mastered the art of attempting to exonerate his brother, while buying time to appraise Hal of the situation. With Hal light years away…this would be a unique challenge. I really thought this time was different Hal.
“His pregnant ex-girlfriend is THIS time. She showed up at my door, claiming that she had to talk to him about some Green Lantern thing…”
“Well, Carol, how do you know that it wasn’t about a Green Lantern thing?”
“Because her stomach was sticking out halfway to San Diego, and she seemed so shocked I didn’t know. Which means he kept it from me. Which means he had a reason to keep it, because he is just keeping me as a placeholder, he loves her and…”
“And maybe for once, Hal was actually thinking.” Jim exhaled, relieved that this time actually was different for his big brother. “Hal’s been fighting with how to tell you about this since he found out. At least, since you guys got serious. I’ve known Hal all his life, and when I tell you that he has been more forthcoming and honest with you than ANYONE else, I mean it.”
“But why wouldn’t he…”
“Because he wanted it to be perfect. He wanted you two to be in a great place, and for everything to be calm and the timing to be right. It’s just that these last few months haven’t been at all.”
“And now, he’s off saving the universe.”
“Again.” Carol exhaled, as her rage subsided. “Well, maybe she did come here to talk about some Lantern thing.”
“What did she manage to get out before you threw her out?” Jim and Carol shared a small laugh.
“Something about a Sinestro…”
Hal shifted uncomfortably in the large assembly hall. He had never been one for pomp and circumstance. He had missed his high school graduation four wheeling with friends. He spent his graduation from the Academy holed up with a blonde he met the night before in Pancho’s near Edwards. Tiffany? Or was that Sandra? Shaking his head, he nudged the 8 foot tall Bolovoxian next to him.
“What’re they waiting for?” Hal whispered a little too loudly, and the other assembled Lanterns turned on him fiercely. “Sorry!”
The room echoed his apology unforgivingly, and he glanced up at the assembled Guardians, seated in the style of an atrium with all eyes on the Lanterns assembled. The room glittered a yellow, almost golden sheen, and there were two red banners hanging that bore the symbol of the Green Lantern Corps, much like the robes Guardians. Finally, one of the newly returned Guardians of the Universe rose from the throng, and directly addressed those present.
“Lantern 674, Lantern 1417, Lantern 1418, Lantern 2813, Lantern 2814.1 and Lantern 2814.2, we the Guardians are forever in your debt.” Emerald energy flowed freely around the red-robed Guardian of the Universe, as he floated barely above them amongst his brethren. “Your bravery and will in the face of great--”
“AHEM.” The whole room turned to see an irate Guy Gardner waiting in the doorway. “So, I’m not on your little intercom system, so I don’t get invited to your little meeting, and my role in saving your little blue asses don’t even get mentioned? I DON’T THINK SO.”
“Watch who yer talkin’ to Pooz--” Kilowog was stopped in his tracks by an explosion of yellow energy.
“I’ll deal with you later, big man,” Guy called out, as he strode to the seating area of the Guardians, “but first I got a bone to pick with these here smurfs. Especially the one that was talkin. Um.” Guy scratched his head. “Which onna you was talkin?”
After a beat, another Guardian continued.
“As my brother was saying, your combined efforts –all your efforts-in the just passed crisis will be forever recorded in the book of Oa,, preserved for all time.”
Slowly, Guy floated back to the ground, joining the visibly angry Lanterns. He blew a kiss at Katma, who, in turn, could not have looked more revolted.
“Furthermore, should you choose to accept, you are all welcome to be counted among the ranks of the Green Lantern Corps Honor Guard. A position to which many aspire, but few attain.”
As an excited ripple flowed through the assembled Green Lanterns, until the whole group was knocked back by a rapidly extending yellow force field.
“That’s it!” Guy Gardner’s ring sparked like a leaky faucet, as he uncontrollably knocked over all the Lanterns he had stood with. “I come in, save your little band of boy scouts, and now you’re recruiting them and me to some special unit of yer little corps? Forget that…Warrior, OUT.” In a flash of yellow, he sped from the citadel before anyone could react.
“Stupid Earth-Monkeys…”Katma Tui dusted herself off as she regained her footing.
“Can it Kat.” Kilowog exhaled hard, as he helped up Salaak. “It’s done.”
“Um, quick question.” All eyes turned to Hal, who had his hand raised like a child in a classroom. “What exactly does this ‘Honor Guard’ entail?”
“Your fellow Lanterns will better inform you on this great accomplishment, Lantern 2814.1. Do know that this is not an accolade doled out lightly. So sayeth the Guardians. So it shall be.”
Almost on cue, the assembled Lanterns turned towards the doors that led back to Oa’s surface. Hal lingered, staring up at the Guardians, until a hand grabbed his arm, dragging him out, until all he saw were the two massive doors slamming behind them.
“You gotta be kiddin me Jimmy! That’s classic.” Ace Morgan’s feet were up on his desk, phone to his ear. “The one time that brother of yours is on the up and up…”
“Hey Ace.” He was so startled, he almost toppled out of his chair, as through the door, sans a knock, and now sitting across from him was Carol Ferris.
“Uh, Jimmy, I gotta run. I’ll call later.” He cautiously cradled his phone, and regarded his new visitor. “You aren’t going to unleash that famous Ferris rage on me now, are ya?”
“No, Ace.” Carol tried to sound tough, but her smile betrayed her. “But I am here to talk about your nephew, and that Ms. Sullivan.”
“Now, you know Ms. Ferris,” Ace took his feet off his desk. “We Air Force boys ain’t much for snitchin’.”
“Nor would I expect you to flip on your favorite nephew; no, what I’m talking about is the Green Lantern business Chloe brought to my table.”
“Jim was right, there isn’t anyone left in Coast City who don’t know he’s the Green Lantern.”
“Nevermind; I’ve known about Hal’s ring slinging habit since the beginning.”
“So you know that Chloe was assigned to reporting on Hal?” Ace nodded, while Carol threw up her hands. “You men and your secrets…”
“What’d she say Carol, something about the DEO watching him, curious about the Hammond thing a bit back?”
“No. It seems that, um, during a prisoner transport, an energy surge was recorded and they lost Sinestro.”
“What?” Ace’s chair slammed into the wall behind him as he leapt from it. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, why?” Carol was genuinely confused. “Hear Hal tell it, he’s just some mope that he handled, no problem.”
“No problem?” Ace dialed frantically. “Carol, this guy was the greatest GL ever…and he’s nearly killed Hal twice. You can’t always listen to everything Mr. Abundance of Confidence says.” As the phone connected with Hal’s voicemail, Ace began relating everything.
Hal glanced down as his ring vibrated on his middle finger. Ignoring it, he joined his fellow Lanterns outside, as they chattered excitedly.
“Kilowog, weren’t you Honor Guard before…”
“Before Krona knocked out all our lights, Kat?” Kilowog nodded. “Salaak and me both. Basically, you don’t just serve once sector you…”
Kilowog’s voice trailed off as Hal crept away, until he was again facing the double yellow doors that lead to the Citadel that housed the Guardians. Taking a deep breath, he gambled that the Guardians did not know that his ring was effective against yellow, rendered himself immaterial, and snuck back in.
“…and even in our absence, our wayward relations have yet to act.”
“Perhaps they wanted to wait until we had returned.”
“How would they know such a thing?”
“How do we know such things?”
“The Book.” All twelve voices rang out in unison, until one voice broke away:
“We are no longer alone, brothers.”
Hal’s breath caught as he felt 12 sets of eyes settle on him, just inside the door of the Citadel of the Guardians. Steadying himself, he tried to talk, but was cut off before he could speak.
“The caretaker of the Torchbearer.” A different Guardian spoke each line, disorienting Hal, until they all finally spoke at once.
“We owe you our lives.”
“Uh, you’re welcome.” Hal swallowed hard now, and addressed the recently returned Guardians of the Universe. “I’m not sure how conscious you were of what was going on with Kyle while you were…umm… inside him? Anyway, when we were are Mars, fighting Mongul…”
“We remember.” Their unified voices echoed in the hall.
“Yeah, well, so do I…I remember my ring not deciphering the writing on the walls, I remember not knowing how or why Mongul got locked up. But mostly, I remember your power abandoning him when he needed it!” Hal felt anger welling up in his chest, as his ring glowed brightly in the darkness of the room.
The assembled Guardians’ eyes never left his, and they spoke again as one.
“You should not challenge those more powerful than you., Hal Jordan.”
He felt himself teleported out of the Citadel, and back to the same cliff he and Kilowog had been on the night before. Once he oriented himself, the single voice of a Guardian sang in his head once more.
“Might does not necessarily make right, Hal Jordan. Never forget that.”
As the words faded, so did the war torn landscape. Up sprang green fields and revitalized trees over the recently broken ground. The vast fountains and courtyard outside of the Citadel of the Guardians were restored to pristine conditions. And even the land surrounding the Central Power Battery had returned to it’s original status. It was almost as if the war to retake Oa had never happened. Hal looked down at his fellow Lanterns outside the Citadel, marveling at the Guardians’ display of power. While he felt trepidation at such a exhibition, he could almost hear the awe the others were feeling. In fact he could hear it…
“Hey, HIGHBALL! Earth to Hal!”
“Got lost in thought Hank, my bad.”
“Must have been unfamiliar territory, huh?” The hologram of Hank laughed at his own joke. “Just thought we should head back home. Feels like about that time.”
“Good thinking,” Hal started as he took off from his perch. “I’ll be right there.”
Lobo was still pissed. And this time, he had someone to blame, and subsequently hit. But as he unleashed his best punch, the futility of the action became readily apparent. The blow resulted in nothing more than a dull, resounding noise echoing through the quarry, and a badly damaged hand.
“Are you quite finished?”
Lobo curiously regarded the figure he had renamed “Big Yellow Creep”, and backed away holding his hand.
“Look, all I’m sayin’ is you call Lobo for a job, Lobo does the job. But this, this ain’t what Lobo had in mind.” He motioned to the scene before them, hundreds of bloodthirsty mercenaries working excavation machines, doing work that you would never imagine a mercenary doing.
“Trust me, you will all be paid handsomely, and when we reach our goal, there will be enough fighting to satiate even your legendary bloodlust.”
“I don’t normally throw in without knowin where I’m headed, ya Big Yellow Freak.”
“Well, know that my word is better than all the credits in the universe. When I promise bloodshed, I mean to cause a lot. Oh, and Lobo?” The hulking figure seized the Czarnian around the waist with one massive hand, squeezing until Lobo was on the fringe of consciousness.
“My name is Mongul.”
“Yeah, looks like we gotta get back.” Hal and Kilowog were somewhat cordoned off from the rest of the Lanterns and Hank, as the Lanterns of 2814 prepared for the journey back to their sector.
“Hey, I’m just glad you poozers got that Code Zero. Hank said he’d debrief ya on the Honor Guard stuff.” Kilowog frantically shook Hal’s hand. “You guys really turned the tide.”
“Yeah, us and Kyle.”
“Ah, slag, that reminds me.” Kilowog reached into his rucksack and pulled out a crisp folded Green Lantern flag, badge facing out. “He’ll get his spot in the crypt, but I thought his people back home…”
“Thanks, ‘Wog.” Hal took the flag delicately. “I’ll be sure they get it.”
Hank made his way over to the two of them, having bid farewell to Katma and the others.
“Ready to get going?” Hank strode over to them.
“Can’t believe you trained this poozer all by your lonesome.” Kilowog shook his massive head.
“I don’t think I did too bad with him.”
“C’mon, he’s all brute force. Let me train him, I’ll help him get to the subtlties of the ring, stuff you always seem to overlook.”
“Ahem.” Hal and Kilowog turned towards Hank. “You both know I can hear you, right?”
“Anyway,” Hal grinned. “We really better get going. Stay bright out there ‘Wog.”
“You too little poozer.” They touched rings, and Hal and Hank headed upwards, and out of Oa’s atmosphere.
“You ready to be debriefed on the requirements and duties of an Honor Guard Lantern?” Hank asked, as the inky blackness of space crept by their green forcefields.
“Sure am Hank.” Hal generated a construct pillow and blindfold, kicking back in a ring-generated recliner. “I’m all ears.”