#20 (31): Secret of the Star Sapphire (Wilkins / Byrnes) Sept 19, 2009 17:11:32 GMT -5
Post by Charlie on Sept 19, 2009 17:11:32 GMT -5
Issue Twenty: "Secret of the Star Sapphire!"
Written by Charlie Wilkins
Cover by Jessica Byrnes
Edited by Kevin Feeney
That same dream again. The same one as every night for the past-- what...? "I've had the same dream for the past year, Carol. I can't shake it. I tried everything-- Kilowog, he... he taught me all kinds of sleeping techniques, to try and help me shake whatever cobwebs are stifling my subconscious, but, Jesus, I don't know what to do."
Carol Ferris was lying next to Hal Jordan as he stared up at the ceiling, his glowing emerald ring illuminating the darkness of the bedroom. "What happens?"
Hal Jordan wanted to tell her. He wanted to tell her he saw the world burning. He saw scorched Earth every which way, and disgusting slithers of golden light piercing the flesh of his comrades-in-arms. The Green Lantern Corps, once mighty and strong, only now rebuilding after their near-destruction at the hands of Darkseid's agents, were ground into the dust, power rings searching for new bearers, but finding no one. The Justice League was torn to shreds, and Hal once again powerless in the midst of it all, and in his arms... her... Hal wanted to tell Carol everything, but alas...
"The end of the world. The end of everything." Hal laughed softly, before removing his ring and placing it on the bedside table beside him. He finally turned back to Carol, and kissed her. "I need to man up. Everyone worries. I'm a superhero. A space cop, patrolling an entire sector of space... I think I'm allowed anxiety dreams."
"I'm always here, Highball," Carol said, as she wrapped her arms around him, "if you need to talk, ever... I'm here."
Hal Jordan shivered. He'd never been one for monogamy. He'd always ran away from commitment, but Carol Ferris was something else entirely. He thought he loved her. And that was something that scared him. His life had been the airforce, before the accident that lead him into becoming the Green Lantern of Sector 2814. Now his time was split between test piloting for Ferris Air, and trading blows with supervillains with a mad-on for authority figures. He shouldn't be scared by a little commitment, should he?
"I know," Hal finally said in reply, as he closed his eyes, "thank you."
* * *
The words left hers lips lazily, the glowing purple gem embedded in her skull throbbing as she spoke. An alien sun set over an alien city of pure crystal beauty, and the councilwomen assembled looked to their War Queen as she spoke. "Love conquers all."
They repeated the mantra, and then went to business; an elegant alien woman stepped forward, her long face and pale blue skin glistening in the lavender light of their home. "Have we all felt it? The emanations from Earth?"
"Yes. Doubt muddies the water-- doubt is what the Green Lantern Hal Jordan feels."
"Hal Jordan is no longer the final Green Lantern. The Corps has been reignited. The Central Power Battery recharged and rebuilt."
"He is tied to our fates as much as we are theirs. The Guardians of the Universe will always be connected to the Sisterhood of Zamoran."
Jillian Pearlman, War Queen of the Zamorans, and Star Sapphire, rose from her throne, and the glowing purple gem that controlled her body, her thoughts, her intentions, began to spread across her naked body, until she was encased in a suit of purple armour. "Then it is time. Time for the Green Lantern of Earth to meet his demise. For the balance of the universe to be shifted."
"Go forth, our War Queen," said the councilwomen. "Go forth and defeat the Oan centurion! For Zamoran!"
* * *
Hal Jordan awoke at dawn. An old habit he was struggling to break since he left the Air-Force. He was careful not to wake Carol, and slipped on his ring. He needed to shake the night off of his mind, and so, silently, using his ring to muffle the sounds around him into nothingness, he left the apartment of Carol Ferris, and shot into the sky, the molecules of his clothes shifting into his Green Lantern flight suit as he hit the lower atmosphere. His ring's forcefield cleaned him up nicely, the feeling of an atom-close clean better than any shower-in-the-morning he could experience (barring the ones where he was joined by Carol-- or any other lady friend) and made him ready for the day ahead.
"Ring, how are we doing this fine Californian day?"
Abin Sur's voice replied, talking directly into his mind, and Hal rolled across the clouds, taking in the world below. This was why he flew. This was why he was a pilot. <Power levels at 36%. Weather optimum for flying.>
"I know, right?" He careened down, picking up speed, the wind lapping into his face, and he concentrated on blocking out that feeling-- and his forcefield abided. "Any messages from Oa? From Kilowog? From Hank?"
<No sub-space transmissions from Oa, or Sector 647. Green Lantern 2814.2 is currently off-world undertaking Honour Guard training in Sector 0.>
Hal grinned. Hank Henshaw was loving being part of the Green Lantern Corps. Carol was angry that her second-best pilot was now spending most of his time off-world, but she knew it was for a good cause-- the safety of the entire universe-- but it didn't help her mood. "Tell me something I don't know..."
<The emerald light will be extinguished at the hands of the greatest of them all.>
Hal Jordan froze, and came to a full stop over the San Joaquin River. "What?"
<No sub-space transmissions from Oa, or Sector 647. Green Lantern 2814.2 is currently off-world undertaking Honour Guard training in Sector 0.>
Hal shook his head. "No, ring, you just said--"
<Incoming sub-space transmission:> Kilowog's face sprang up above the middle of Hal's ring, and began to talk. "Hullo, ya big poozer! 'Fraid this ain't a social call, we got some weird spacial anomalies headed your way, Hal. Looks like some kind of subluminal space channel, but ain't like nothin' we got logged in the Book of Oa. You might wanna check that out before one opens up in the middle of one of yer tectonic plates! It's nothin' you can't handle by your lonesome, but if you need any help, best be calling for it ASAP, 'fore it might escalate. "
"Sure thing, Kilowog. Whilst I've got you on the line--"
"Can't talk, Hal, got the new rookies planet side, but I'll be sure to drop ya a line when I'm done for the night. Can it wait?"
"I guess..." said Hal, before he tapped his ring. "Speak later." The transmission cut off, and Hal concentrated. "Alright, ring. I want you to run a full diagnostic on yourself whilst we do this, but don't be cutting out on me. In fact, best I recharge now, so we don't get any surprises when we're space-side-up." Hal held his ring up, and strands of light began to spread across his fingers. He typed something into mid-air, as if there were a console before him, and then a spacial rift opened in front of him like a safe, and he took his Power Battery out from inside. "You ready, baby?" He kissed his ring, and then held it into the heart of the Battery. "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight-- let those who worship evil's might, beware my power-- Green Lantern's light!" His ring was enveloped with light, and it absorbed a healthy dose of energy before the crackling subsided-- when the light show was over and done with, Hal placed his Battery back in it's home, and sealed the rift. "Charge?"
<Fully charged at 125%, power levels holding.>
"Alright, keep running full operations diagnostic. Predicated time of completion?"
<Full operations diagnostic complete in thirty seven minutes.>
"Then let's sort out this subluminal weirdness and get you sorted, baby. Kilowog uploaded coordinates, I'm sure? So let's head on up, and put our thinking hats on. Tune into 106.7 FM, let's get some music going, and let's get this done." Green Lantern shot up into orbit and out of the gravitational pull of the planet. He was suddenly in space-- quite simply, quite easily-- and he loved it. He took his moment to reacquaint himself with the logistics of the situation, and then found himself sailing toward where Kilowog's information upload told him to be.
Space was rippling. It was almost as if the universe was a grand river, and a waterfall was churning down into it. "Yeah, something definitely isn't right here." Hal watched the swirls of space move, and had his ring begin to process the information being sent out by it. "Well, this is weird." Hal had the information uploaded straight into his mind, and something became quite clear-- this wasn't a natural occurrence. This was almost a man-made spacial event, as if it had been shunted near Earth-orbit, and left to wreak havoc.
"How long before things get a bit dangerous for my home down there?"
<Spacial anomaly will reach Earth within 48 hours.>
"I want a machine," said Hal out loud to himself, "something to reverse the effects of the spacial anomaly that will soon be in Earth-orbit. When the anomaly touches said machine, a light show will occur-- the international space station will witness the most brilliant space-set fireworks display known to man. I'm imagining this machine right now--"
A construct began to form in front of Hal, and he smiled. He was almost meditating-- a practice suggested to him by Tomar Re-- and as such, the construct formed fluidly. He didn't have to imagine individual aspects, the thought came to him fully, he simply had to push it into existence. When his eyes opened, the machine was there, and with another thought, it began to move toward the anomaly.
"--And there you are, you beauty."
The machine went to work. Tendrils of energy lashed from it's insides toward the anomaly, and it was almost as if the area of space the strange event was taking place was being lashed down and dragged inside. Emerald chains were formed, and suddenly the two creations were intertwined, one overlapping the other, and then the fireworks began. Emerald explosions harmlessly erupted as the anomaly was dismantled by his ring, and Hal couldn't help but smile.
"It's good to be me."
"Not for much longer."
Green Lantern didn't know where the familiar voice was coming from, but he turned too late to see the glowing purple punch cascade toward him. He was thrown backwards into his own construct, and his concentration was broken. The machine broke down, the anomaly was suddenly free, and it had Hal Jordan in it's snare. Hal's vision was suddenly hazy, he couldn't see straight, but he realised who was talking.
Time seemed to slip right by him. He looked at his ring, and saw globules of energy sap out from the centre of it.
<Charge compromised: 67%, 55%-- punch-out protocol engaged-- >
Hal was suddenly rocketed out of the anomaly. He had trained his ring well-- under advice from Kilowog he'd gotten to know his ring intimately, he'd uploaded personal controls keyed specifically for him. The first few were obvious-- continuous scan of Earth skies. He wanted to know if something was coming. Others were less obvious-- invisible warning beacons set throughout Sector 2814. An emergency escape charge hidden away inside his ring, available only in express emergencies. And this-- the punch-out protocol-- was to ensure that if he was ever in a tight situation his ring would shunt him out of it. A kick on the afterburners, get him away from whatever had him snared, just give him enough breathing room to think.
And think Hal did.
Jillian Pearlman had been kidnapped by the Zamorans. Declared their Queen. Made into their Star Sapphire. The gem that gave her the amazing powers she was using against Hal at this very moment were very much like those given to him by his Oan Power Ring. Devastatingly powerful when used well. And she was using that gem like she'd been born to--! The brainwashing must have ran deep, and Hal knew that she was going to play for keeps. He'd faced Carol before when she was under the gem's control, and he'd been able to help her kick it's influence due to their relationship-- but he didn't have the bond with Jillian that he did with Carol... so what now? Removing the gem could be dangerous, for Jillian and for the space around them... who knew what protocol's the Zamorans had?
"Cowgirl, you've been gone a long time..." Hal threw up a shield as Jillian slammed down a purple dagger. "You're looking good for a brainwashed zombie."
"'Cowgirl', 'Jillian Pearlman', these names are inconsequential. I am Star Sapphire-- now and forever." Her armour twisted, energy blasts began to slam down on Green Lantern, and Hal knew that he had to end this before she got hurt-- or even worse, he did.
"I refuse to believe that--!"
But then, realisation dawned upon Hal. He didn't know this woman. He didn't know who she was. What she was capable of. That's why, in the end, the Star Sapphires had gained her instead of Carol-- he fought tooth and claw for Ferris, but for this woman... who he hardly knew... he'd not even tried. He hadn't fought to the ends of the universe to get her back. He hadn't done his all. He'd simply... let it go.
Star Sapphire smiled coldly. "Your God. Yes. It is best you make your peace with him now. Because there will not be time later."[/b]
"Honey," Hal looked up, and his smile returned, "you really don't know me at all, do you?"
His forcefield shifted and twisted around him. Tentacles of emerald energy burst from the surface, and wrapped around his attacker.
"You got it in your head I'm a good little Green Lantern, doing the beck and call of the Guardians. You are so far from right it's embarrassing."
His grip tightened around Jillian, and he restrained her head upwards, sealing her head up in a protective bubble for her-- and his-- safety.
"I'm not here to play a role in your 'age old conflict', or whatever bull£$%^ you're spewing this month. I'm not going to be guided by your sense of destiny, but know this--"
Needles of emerald light began to dig into Jillian's flesh, and she cried out inside the forcefield that held her captive.
"You threaten this world, you threaten me, then we have a problem."
The gem was prised free from Jillian's face, and her armour retracted instantaneously, and she was left floating naked in space. Hal kept her safe and warm in a protective bubble, and he turned his attention to the spacial anomaly behind him.
Hal's machine returned, and it went to work instantly, doing away with the rift immediately and sealing it up tight. He was thinking hard-- working up a sweat, and knew that he needed to get to the root of this problem.
Green Lantern took the former Star Sapphire in his arms, and headed down to Earth, straight for STAR Labs Coast City division, and landed in the courtyard of the compound. The Star Sapphire gem floated in a containment bubble, ricocheting off the surface of it's new prison, as it attempted to escape. Medics rushed out to meet Green Lantern, and he looked at them sternly.
"This woman has been held prisoner for over a year in an alien colony. She's been brainwashed, and deprived of any human contact. I don't know how she'll react to being separated from the parasitic gem that kept her alive in that place, but it's gotta be better than living as a shell of yourself. Get her well, people, I need to deal with this thing."
Hal motioned toward the gem, it's attempts to escape growing louder and louder.
"If you need any more information, you know how to get a hold of me." And with that, he shot back into high-orbit.
"How did Star Sapphire arrive in Earth-orbit?"
"Yeah, they've used this trick before, dragged me over 3 light-years from Earth to take part in their little slagging match between those-who-would-be-Sapphire... can we do the same? Piggy-back to where the Sapphire came from?"
With the Star Sapphire itself banging about behind him, Hal nodded, and stretched his fingers out. "Let's dance."
The Oan Power Ring went to work, and began to open a dark portal-- similar to the one that stole Hal Jordan from Ferris Air the year previous-- that lead to Zamoran. Hal grit his teeth and stepped through, his foot landing on alien soil.
No sooner than he arrived, spears were levelled directly at him, and the Green Lantern simply shook his head. "Seriously?"
With a thought, his ring disarmed all the Zamorans around him, and he put up his hands. "I come in peace. I know you weren't expecting that. I knew you were expecting my head on a pike, but no. I don't play those kind of games. I won't play by your rules."
"What have you done with Star Sapphire?"
"No." Green Lantern pointed a finger at the regal alien who had spoken. His ring whispered into his mind.
<Identity: Queen Aga'Po, leader of the Zamoran People>
"No...?" repeated Queen Aga'Po, arching an eyebrow.
"You don't get to ask those questions. You kidnapped her. You brainwashed her. She's home now. Where she belongs. What I want to know is why? Why your obsession with the Guardians of the Universe? With your insistence that I battle your champion? I don't like prophecies, and I don't like what you're selling!"
"Because, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, we are the Guardians of the Universe."
Hal was silent for a moment, before speaking up once more, a slight chuckle in the back of his throat. "...What?"
Aga'Po smiled slyly. "The Guardians were not always such. They were not always the emotionless, logical automatons they are now. They used to be a race of people just like any other. Male. Female. But they started dissecting their emotions away from their souls. They thought that willpower was all you needed to live. We, the Zamorans, disagreed. We thrive because of our emotions. So we left Oa, and travelled here, and as such, have become something so much more than the Guardians of the Universe. We don't claim to be something we are not. We are protectors of the heart. You must know this, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, love conquers all."
"Please. Next you'll be telling me love is a battlefield. I just realised, after that piece of expository boring-ness, that I simply don't care anymore. Know this-- Sector 2814 is off limits to you. Earth is off limits to you. Trespass, and that is an act of war. As Honour Guard of the Green Lantern Corps, I hold that right."
"I'd be careful, Green Lantern Hal Jordan-- do not speak for your masters, especially in the affairs of the universe."
Hal was again silent for a moment. He thought about what he was about to say, and then finally said it. "You're right."
"Yes. You won't be committing an act of war against the Green Lantern Corps, or the Guardians of the Universe. No. You'll be committing an act of war against me. And I promise you, that if you try me... you'll discover that my patience is not all it's cracked up to be." Hal Jordan aimed and fired the Star Sapphire gem into the hard ground in front of him, and then slowly stepped back through the portal to Earth. It sealed up behind him, leaving the Zamorans alone on their world.
"So. That was their greatest. Their shining beacon of light in the universe."
"Yes," said Queen Aga'Po. "A very interesting specimen."
"I wonder," said a councilwoman, "if the Guardians knows what lies beneath the skin of their Corps. And I wonder what will happen when we reveal it to them."
"All in good time, sister. We must adjust our plans. We have a Star Sapphire gem to recalibrate. We have a mission to complete. Then... and only then... shall we face the Green Lantern Corps, and our old blood."
* * *
<Full operations diagnostic complete.>
Hal Jordan looked at his ring as he flew back toward Coast City. He'd visit STAR Labs later in the day. It was barely a new day, and already he'd declared war on an entire species. One claiming to be remnants of an old bloodline of the Guardians of the Universe? He'd have to talk to Salaak. This could get ugly. "Speak to me."
<Ring operating at optimum capability. Power levels at 40%.>
"Then what was that you were saying earlier? About the emerald light being extinguished?" Hal shook his head. "I didn't imagine that. I didn't. I know that."
<There are no records of any exchange taking place between Ring 2814.1 and Lantern 2814.1. Suggest sojourn to Mogo?>
"No," said Hal Jordan, as he landed on Carol Ferris' balcony, and took off his ring. "No, I'll figure this out for myself. And then... then..." his words were barely a whisper as he climbed back into bed. "And then we'll see where we can go from there." He held Carol tightly, at that moment, and tried to think pleasant thoughts. None came.