Post by lissilambe on Sept 10, 2008 13:20:05 GMT -5
Jim Jordan drove against the heavy rain, his twin boys asleep in the backseat, his wife squinting to make out the map that charted their way. The only sound was the furious action of the wipers against the wind and rain.
“Honey, don’t you think it’d be easier to stop somewhere, and wait until morning?” She yawned deeply, glancing back at her sons. “Jake and John are both out of it, maybe they have the right idea?”
Jim’s eyes never left the road. “Suze, honey, if you want to sleep, go ahead. I’ve made the drive from Santa Fe back home tons of times. I have to get there, and soon.”
“Why the rush though, I thought we were moving down next month?”
“No time like the present,” Jim offered. Seeing the anger in her face, Jim sighed. “The truth is that I know Hal. And no matter what is going on, if he had gotten the messages I sent, he’d at least call back. He loves me and he loves Jack, and if he’s not calling back, something is really wrong.”
“Jim, for the love of God,” Suzanne’s voice rose in the tiny car. “Your brother is a super hero, he’s in the Justice League, don’t you think he can take care of himself?”
“Shhh.” Jim furiously tried to quiet her. “Do you want the kids to hear that Uncle Hal is one of them?” He shuddered. “Anyway, I just got this feeling, okay? My big bro is in trouble, and he needs me, I just know it.”
* * * * * * * * * *
<Subject’s willpower has been severely compromised, inhibiting power ring’s function above emergency levels>
Scowling, Hal considered the words of the ring.
Compromised? What is that supposed to mean? What did that psycho head-voice-thing do to me?
“Ready to go not-so-super hero?” Carol ran back out of the hanger and up to Hal. “Ever figure out what’s going on with the ring.”
Hal hesitated. “No, no idea,” he lied. “Guess it’s just on the fritz.”
Carol raised an eyebrow, but didn’t press the matter further. “Hank’s waiting in the car. He insisted on driving.” She rolled her eyes.
“You never even let me drive that car.” Hal started towards the hanger with Carol.
“I know, but he said it was a matter of ‘national security.’ Bull, if you ask me.”
Hal smiled down on her, and they joined Hank in the Mustang.
* * * * * * * * * *
Ohm had a headache.
Not the “a few beers too many watching the game with the boys” dull headache, but more of an “ear-splitting, pulse throbbing, never should have done the 10th round of tequila with the Brazilian sorority girls/volleyball team” splitting headache. Since he didn’t come to surrounded by half-naked women, he had a lot of questions running through his head. How the hell had he gotten out of prison? What happened to that squirrely little guy who was trying to interview him? Why was he back in the NCB offices? And how the hell was he sleeping standing up?
Looking around, he answered one of his questions quickly, as the tiny little man who had tried to interview him – Howard? Harold? – was asleep behind Chris’ mahogany desk. Chris, who was nowhere to be seen. Shaking off the effects of the headache, Bowman tried to walk out the door, get out of the office, but suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. Feeling himself being lifted from the ground, he is slowly spun until he faced the small man he had so quickly disregarded initially. From his vantage point now above the impressive office, he could see his former employer Chris, splayed on the ground on the other side of the desk. But the mask of abject terror on his face wasn’t the most disturbing thing in the room.
Hector Hammond was.
For the first time, he really looked at the jumpy little man who had tried to interrogate him. But, the scared weakling he remembered was gone, replaced by someone similar, yet at the same time, dramatically different. Still diminutive, his head was stunningly bald now, the only hair on his head being a small mustache. Something had scorched his skin, leaving it a burnt, puckered color, with the texture of beef jerky. The most distinctive feature, however, was not the raw skin, but the engorged skull. His beady eyes were almost swallowed by the enormous cranium, yet the glare fixated on him was complete in its control. He struggled against the invisible force that hung him in the air, helpless.
“Ah, Mr. Bowman,” Hector’s gaze never left the flailing metahuman. “I am so glad to see you that you have returned to the world of moving parts. A little disappointed, perhaps, that you seem so eager to take your leave.”
“What-what do you want from me?” Ohm strained against unseen bonds.
“Nothing really. I have already driven this city to the brink of madness, taken over the mind of the ‘fearless’ Green Lantern, and now, I’m taking my telekinesis for a spin.” A sly smile crept across his face, as a thin trickle of blood seeped from his nose. “All in all, I’d say this has proven to be a fairly successful little test of my abilities.”
“Uh, so, uh, what do you need me for?”
“Frankly, I don’t.” Hammond strode around the room, using his telekinetic abilities to keep the electric meta looking at him at all times. “But, I have use of your powers and your mind for now. While crude and feeble, respectively, I am able to make use of them as a distraction.”
“I’m a distraction?” Ohm felt the tickling on the edge of his consciousness, as Hector’s psychic presence reasserted itself.
“And hopefully a good one,” Hector looked at his watch. “Since the hero seems to be on his way here, now.”
* * * * * * * * * *
“This is it.”
The Mustang came to a screeching halt outside of NCB’s regional offices.
“This is where all the police bands are the loudest.” Hank cut the engine, staring at the streets lined with fires all around him. “Good thing the radios in the cars stayed live through all this.”
All three looked out as a new crowd moved towards them, throwing assorted debris through storefronts and office windows.
“Then up we go.” Hal nodded at his companions and headed into the building.
The lobby of the building was deserted, but spotless; this was the one place the teeming masses had left untouched by their rampage.
“Wow, I guess this guy likes his television.” Carol looked all around them, at the many awards the station had won.
“Ok GL, you had a peek inside the big bad’s head, where do you think he’d be?” Hank asked Hal.
Unspeaking, Hal scanned the building directory, until he came across the answer.
“42nd floor,” he said walking to the elevators. “Programming director’s office.”
The three shared a grim look as they headed into the small metal box, and headed upward into the unknown.
* * * * * * * * * *
The large door swung open, and Hector smiled softly.
“That was much faster than I thought.” Mentally, he pushed Ohm in position to slow down the expected intruders.
Just as quickly, Ohm was unconscious, a circle inscribed with a lantern newly imprinted on his chin. Hector frowned slightly now.
“Well, that was faster than I thought too.” He regarded the three in front of them with little more than curiosity. “First, I suppose, away with the spares.” At those words, Carol and Hank both fell to the ground, unconscious.
“I thought they were immune to your powers.”
“To my broadcast general psychosis, maybe,” Hector stood from the chair. “But none can resist a direct assault from my telepathic talents. As you and I already figured out.”
“Who are you?”
“A nobody,” Hector shook his head. “Not like you Hal Jordan. No, I’ve never thought I was special…unlike you.”
“I-I don’t think I’m special.”
“Don’t lie to me!” Hector’s voice reverberated in Hal’s head. “Don’t forget, I’ve been in your head, I know how you tick.”
“I knew you would say that.” Hector’s small smile returned, as the air around him danced with energy. “Allow me to teach you better.”
In a flash before Hal’s eyes, the office vanished, replaced by bleachers, a screaming crowd, and a football field. The game had just ended, and the teams were headed back into the locker room, save for one player still being interviewed at midfield.
“Remember this?” Hal turned to see Hector, head now normal sized, dressed in a three-piece suit. “What? Oh, well, this is the astral plane, and you appear however you view yourself…” He glared down at Hal’s dingy bomber jacket, faded jeans and sneakers.
“Well,” Hal blushed slightly. “What’s going on down there?”
“Ah, well, you have just won the state title, and they key play was a pass from you to a receiver down the middle of the field for the win. Do you remember how that post-game interview went?” Hal shook his head. “Let’s look.”
The scene suddenly shifted, as Hal and Hector’s vantage point moved from the bleachers, to right beside a seventeen-year old Hal Jordan, grinning after the big win.
“—game tonight Hal, and what a play near the end. An amazing catch by your little brother Jim.” The interviewer moved the microphone closer to Hal. “What was the most memorable part of that play for you?”
“Well, to be honest,” Hal carried the air of complete confidence, even then, radiating through his happiness, “the toughest part of the play was getting free to get the throw off. Once I was able to do that, all Jimmy had to do was catch it.”
“Too proud to share the spotlight with your own brother? Never once considering how your words would affect young Jim?” The scene shifted to Jim’s car in the parking lot, listening to the interview on the radio. Jim slammed the steering wheel, as he cut the radio off.
“He never showed up to the post-game party…” Hal shook his head. “I never knew he heard that.”
“Because your pride blinded you to the truth. Blinded you to anything but your own self-interests.”
“No, I was just a kid…” Hal backed away from the scene. “I’m not like that--”
“Anymore?” Hector scoffed. “Of course you are.”
The scene shifted around again, this time to a few weeks back, at Hal’s mother’s funeral. Hal turned to Hector, lunging for him.
“How dare you!” The smaller man vanished from his grasp, and appeared on the other end of the cemetery.
“Temper, temper, Jordan.” Hector waved his finger tauntingly. “Your memory, but I’ m still stronger than you here…now look. Even the death of your mother was all about you.”
It’d been a long few months recently. Parallax escaping. Black Hand. Checkmate. The Society. And after all that… this.
“Why didn’t you tell us, Hal?”
He turned. “Excuse me?”
“Why didn’t you tell us she was sick?”
“Jim.” He looked at his brother, who was red in the face, his fist shaking. “I didn’t…” He turned to the grave, where the coffin had just been lowered. “I didn’t… know. Mom…”
“You should have been there, Hal. You should have been there for her! For us! Not running about chasing tail and flying your stupid planes like Dad!”
“Your own brother recognized your self-indulgence…your own inability to even look out for your own mother!” Hal’s head hung in shame. “Your own brother hates you!”
“Bad move, bastard.” Hal’s voice was barely a whisper, brow furrowing in concentration. “Ignoring the next day, are we?”
The scene shifted again, this time to Hal’s apartment, where Jim and Hal stood.
“What is this, Jordan? More abandonment from big brother Hal?”
“I really shouldn’t stay. I told Suze that I we’d head back to Santa Fe as soon as we could.” Jim rubbed the back of his head. “I mean, the kids have school, and you can talk to the lawyers and stuff--”
“I know, but I wanted you to know that you were right.” Hal exhaled slow. “I haven’t been around a lot, but there is a good reason, now.”
“Yeah right, you always say that.” Jim put his beer down. “Look, I really gotta go.”
“Jim, the reason I’ve been so busy is because I’m Green Lantern.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Yeah, and I’m the Flash. Hal, I don’t blame you for Mom, or Jack, but this is just…”
The room erupted in green light, and when it subsided, Hal was clad in the green and black of the Corps.
“Woah…” Jim stepped back from his brother. “The vanishing, the absences…you’ve been saving the world?”
“I guess I’m selfless.” Hal shrugged. “Don’t let word get around.”
“All those things I said, Hal,” Jim started, but was enveloped in a hug from his big brother. “I’m really sorry…”
The scene shifted again to an abandoned airfield, cool breeze through the air.
“What was that supposed to be? Showing me how the ring has changed you for the better?” Hector scoffed.
“I’ve always been this man, that’s why the ring chose me.”
“Please. Your fearlessness has stemmed from a lack of concern for anyone but yourself. It always has.”
Suddenly, the stands near the airfield were filled with people, and Hal saw a younger version of himself talking to his friends.
“My Dad’s gonna be flying. He’ll show you how cool all these planes really are.”
“Whatever Jordan. He’s flying, but what’s it have to do with you?”
Shooting a passing glance at his mother and brothers in the stands, Hal continued. “I’m his favorite. I’m going to follow in his footsteps, he even let me wear his jacket.” He proudly popped the collar of the old Air Force bomber jacket, as the scene froze.
“YOU ALWAYS THOUGHT YOU WERE CHOSEN! ABOVE ALL OTHERS, YOU REGARDED YOURSELF. EVEN AS A CHILD!” Hector’s ranting boomed through the mindscape. “FEARLESS? EVEN WATCHING YOUR FATHER DIE DID NOTHING TO TEMPER YOUR RECKLESSNESS! FOREVER DESTINED TO TAKE FOR GRANTED EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE AROUND YOU!”
“You’re wrong.” A green glint sparkled in Hal’s eye.
As the plane came closer and closer to the surface of the Pacific, Hal noticed that something was horribly wrong. The plane wasn't pulling up, and there was a trail of black smoke coming from one of the engines. In the grandstand control room Hal could hear Mr. Ferris shouting into a phone...
"EJECT! DAMMIT MARTIN, EJECT!!!"
But at the last possible moment the plane pulled out of its dive. The crowd went wild and Carl Ferris breathed a sigh of relief as the PA system crackled back to life.
“Martin Jordan taught me the importance of being the best, of out-performing the next man.”
“And you sully his memory by caring only about yourself! You inherited his pride, but not his concern for others.”
“He also taught me,” the glow intensified, beginning with his eyes, which shone bright on the astral plane. “The consequences of not being the best. Of not always being on your game.”
"Ladies and gentlemen... Martin Jordan!" the crowd cheered again as the plane soared over their heads. Hal jumped off the bench and raced up the stairs toward the back of the grandstand to see what his father would do for his next stunt.
"Martin... put that plane down immediately! The stress that dive caused could tear you apart..." Carl Ferris spoke into a phone. The young girl standing with Carl looked in Hal's direction and waved at him. He smiled and waved back when the sound of another sonic boom shook the stands. Hal looked back in the direction of his father when the concussion hit, knocking him backward and shattering the glass in the grandstand control booth. Carol and the crowd below screamed.
In the instant that he looked away, the plane had plunged, nose first, into the ground. His father was gone.
“You come here, and tell me that I am selfish, that I don’t care about anyone, that I only think of myself.” The light in his eyes intensified with each word.
“You say that pride drove me to take the lead and be the best. That day I watched my father die did something to me. They say I'm fearless, but actually I'm very afraid. Of getting beat. Of backing down. Of chickening out. That fear just blows all the others away.” The light from his eyes was blinding now.
“My Dad was the best, that’s why he pulled that plane away from the stands.” The light was covering his entire body, replacing the bomber jacket and shirt with the familiar black and green of the corps.
“I’ll never get beat, back down, chicken out. That’s why I was chosen. That’s why I’m the Green Lantern!” Suddenly, all the light coalesced from around him, and focused on his right hand, as the ring appeared on his astral form.
“Now get out of my head!” The eruption of green forced even Hal to slam his eyes shut. When he opened them, he was back in the NCB building, Hector’s distended head on the ground in front of him, drooling slightly. He turned to watch Carol and Hank pick themselves off of the carpeted floor.
“What-what the hell happened?” Hank reached out to steady Carol, but Hal grabbed her first.
“What happened is,” started Hal, “I’m back. Right, ring?”
Abin Sur’s voice rang out, almost happily.
<Ring now operating at full capacity>
* * * * * * * * * *
“It’s hard to believe that two days ago, this city was literally on fire.” Carol accepted the glass of wine from Hal’s hands.
“It’s even harder to believe all the credit Green Lantern is getting for this.” He took a seat on the couch, arm around her. “I mean, it all really took place in my head in an office. Makes one wonder if someone wasn’t cluing them in on what happened.”
“Well,” Carol tried to ignore his implication, but allowed herself a smile anyway. “What next GL? Everyone knows that you saved the day, that you rescued us from the clutches of evil. You’re Coast City’s guardian angel.”
“Firstly, I think I better round up all those guys who Hammond busted out of Draper’s.”
“Hal, I was joking.”
“Yeah, I know.” Hal stood up from the couch. “But I’ve been slinging this ring for a while now. And I think it might be time to change a few things.” He looked down at the ring. “First, starting with this,” he said, pulling it from his finger, throwing it out the window.
“Hal!” Carol leapt from the couch. “What the hell are you--” The ring glowed brightly, and shot back in the window, past her head, and onto his finger. “Real cute, Highball.”
He grinned. “This baby is all mine again. No more Black Hand taking control, no more Hector Hammond stepping in the way of my will. It only works for me, my brain waves, my will power.”
“Is that it?”
“There is one other thing.” Breathing deeply, Hal powered up the ring, and a uniform covered his body. The all black body suit was highlighted by silver gauntlets on his forearms, leading to green rivets up the arms. His chest was covered in green which lead to a point at his waist, with the glowing symbol of the Green Lantern Corps on his chest.
“Well, what do you think?”
Carol smiled. “I think you look great. Now, if I can just get you out of it…”
“Let me run just two quick errands.” He kissed her softly on the lips. “And then I’m all yours.”
“Hurry back, flyboy,” Carol called out into the night sky after her super-hero boyfriend.
* * * * * * * * * *
Hal banked north over the rebuilding city. Initially, they had been resistant to let him help, but he and Barry had been allowed to do just enough to make the mess manageable. He smiled, thinking about the city he had always called home, that had embraced him in his new role of protector.
This really is home. Every street, every building feels like old friends. Hal looked down at a particular house, moving vans still in front, lights showing movement in the living room. He couldn’t help but smile. And even family can’t stay away. Heading even farther north, he passed over the field where he had watched his father die. And some family will be here forever.
Spotting the car he was looking for, he lowered himself to right outside Ferris Aircraft’s main hangar. Knocking softly, he started to let himself in, when a voice behind him startled him.
“Lookin’ for something?”
Hal turned to see Hank standing, grease over his front, big wrench in hand. Hal raised an eyebrow, and Hank shrugged.
“Not like it would help.” Smiling, Hank put down the wrench, and wiped his hands. “Nice suit. What’s on your mind, GL?”
“Well,” Hal exhaled, knowing this wasn’t going to be easy. “I wanted to say thank you for helping me out a few days back. If you hadn’t knocked me out of that haze…”
Hank waved him off. “Look, don’t sweat it. You save the world daily, I got to help once.” He turned to walk back to the plane he was working on.
“But you did.” Hal spun him back around. “You trusted me, and I think it’s time I trusted someone.” The domino mask over his face slowly faded. “Let’s try this again: I’m Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of Earth,” he said, hand extended.
Hank stood, shocked look on his face. Slowly, he grasped the other man’s hand. “Pleased to meet you…again.”
Suddenly, their hands grew blindingly hot where the ring touched them both.
They each let go and jumped back, but the ring still was hot on his finger. “This is new..."
The ring glowed brightly, and a burst of energy leaped from it, and into the hands of Hank Henshaw. Still bright, but not burning him, a soft voice echoed from the light in his hands.
<Hank Henshaw of Earth, you have the ability to overcome great fear>