#18 (29): Storm Warning (Palmer / Biermann) Jan 13, 2009 16:25:13 GMT -5
Post by Charlie on Jan 13, 2009 16:25:13 GMT -5
Carol Ferris slept soundly, if not a bit lonely. Again. The downsides of the super-hero boyfriend, she thought to herself. But these past few days had been strange, even for Hal. Right, Hal is the last surviving member of an intergalactic peace keeping force, and in command of the most powerful weapon in the universe, and I think something is weird here.
Hal’s phone rang, cutting into her thoughts, and through the silence of the apartment. Hoping it was him, she leaned over his side of the bed, and removed the phone from the cradle.
“Hello?” The grogginess was apparent in her voice, but her answer was met with only silence. “Hello?” She glanced at the caller id, which of course displayed unknown number, and the phone went dead.
She considered the receiver in her hand for a second, torn between confusion and anger.
You better have a damn good explanation for this one Jordan.
Issue Eighteen: “Storm Warning”
Written by Dan Palmer
Cover by Jonathan Biermann
Edited by Charlie Wilkins
Issue Eighteen: “Storm Warning”
Written by Dan Palmer
Cover by Jonathan Biermann
Edited by Charlie Wilkins
<Code Zero. All available Lanterns, report to Oa immediately.>
“What the hell’s a Code Zero?” Hank couldn’t tear his eyes away from the ring, and the summons it again issued. As he asked the question, both he and Hal’s rings stopped flashing, and darkness enveloped them both.
“It’s the worst of the worst.” Hal sighed heavily. “Kilowog said that if the hinges ever came off of the universe, this is the call that would come through the ring. I need to get to Oa. Now.”
“You mean we?” Hank ground his fist into his other open hand. “Universe is coming apart at the seams? I want to be on the front line.”
“Look, this isn’t training in a lakebed, this isn’t test driving a new plane, hell, this isn’t the hairiest combat situation you can ever imagine. This is the fight to save the Corps, to save the universe. And you are not ready.” Hal turned to power up his ring, but was stopped by quickly erected construct chains securing him to the ground.
“No.” Hank stood, unflinching against Hal’s efforts to free himself from the chains. “I wear this ring, I wear this badge, I will do my part. Am I clear?” Hal squinted, really seeing Hank for the first time. The pure determination, the rage on his face was unmistakable in the ring light. Never before had he seen, or felt, such strength of will in anyone. Not in his most powerful moments. Not in his many interactions with Alan Scott. Not even in any of the senior Lanterns he had met in the Corps. “Am. I. Clear?”
“Crystal.” As the bonds faded, Hal rubbed his wrists where he had struggled against the restraints. Regarding Hank curiously, he pulled both of their batteries out of subspace, and handed Henshaw his, while never breaking eye contact. “We better charge up before we go.”
“Look,” Hank pulled his ring from the front of his power battery. “I just know that this is the right thing to do. I know that you’ll need me, and I know I can help. That’s all I want. To help.”
Hal smiled and nodded as they recited the oath in unison. The desire to do good can be powerful, as he well knew from his associations in the Earthbound metahuman community, not to mention his adventures with the Corps. But even as he convinced himself of Hank’s good intentions, there was something he could not shake about his new sector partner.
“So,” he began as they finished charging their rings. “Ready to try to explain this to the boss lady?”
The phone rang again. Again, it cut through the silence of the room. But this time, not quite into Carol’s thoughts. Since the first time it had rang over an hour earlier, she had stared it down as if it had threatened her. Okay Carol, just play it cool.
“Who the hell is this?!?” Carol screamed into the phone, cursing her inability to maintain the cool she so desired.
“Carol?” Hal’s voice came through crystal clear, as if he were in the room with her, just like it always did when he called using the ring. “You okay? I was afraid--”
“Afraid of what? That your little ‘side project’ would call here and that I would find out about you and her, and that I would interrupt your plan to leave me and that…”
“I was afraid I had woken you up Carol.” Hal had to cut her off. “I thought we agreed no more Lifetime movies before bed?”
“Glad to see you can maintain your sense of humor at four in the morning. Were you planning on coming home tonight?”
“Well, that’s gonna be a problem.” A small construct version of Hal appeared on the nightstand next to the phone, which Carol quickly hung up. “That’s better. I was calling to let you know that I won’t be coming in until further notice. Something big is happening off-world. Really big.”
Carol swallowed hard. Whenever Hal talked like that, she knew there was the distinct possibility that the man she loved might not be coming back this time. That he could die on some distant planet alone, and that she would never know.
“Well, that’s just great. I guess Hank will be getting all your reps tomorrow.” She smiled, using humor to cover her genuine concern.
“Well, honey…that’s the other thing I’ve been meaning to tell you.” As Hal hemmed and hawed, his construct form was joined by one of Hank Henshaw, clad in the classic Corps uniform. Carol’s hand flew to the bridge of her nose.
“You mean to tell me that I employ 7 pilots, my best two of which are also space cops, and will be unavailable for the foreseeable future?”
“Did you just call me a good pilot?” Hal grinned from ear to ear.
“Go flyboy. Be safe.” The constructs faded, and Carol knew that sleep would not come easy, no matter how tired she was.
“That could have gone worse.” Regarding Hank’s raised eyebrows, Hal shrugged. “I mean, she didn’t attack the construct or anything.”
“So, um, what now?” Hank’s ring sparked brightly as his anxiety and readiness to leave bled over into his will power.
“Now, we hit the friendly skies.” As the two of them took off just under the speed of sound, Hal continued to explain how they would travel as they broke atmosphere and sped up. “The ring is intrinsically linked to Oa, so it knows how to get there, even if you don’t.”
“How far is the trip?”
“Over 50 million light years away.” Hal drank in the shocked look across Hank’s face.
“You do realize I was head of R&D for NASA? That I’m pretty much an astrophysicist? That a distance like that is not only highly improbable, but totally unreachable through even faster than light travel?” Hank’s skepticism was apparent as they passed over Mars’ orbit.
“Which is why we’ll be traveling subluminal, as soon as it’s safe.”
“Outside the gravity well of our solar system, so we don’t throw any planets out of orbit, so that we don’t destabilize the whole system, and kill our home planet. Once we’re at the appropriate distance, the ring will take us subluminal all on it’s own.” Hal loved taunting Hank with just enough information to frustrate him.
“Okay then, what is the appropriate dist--” Hank’s last words were lost as the ring sparked brightly, and he felt what seemed like a strong tugging on every molecule in his body. He strained to turn his head to see Hal smiling alongside him, features stretching and vanishing into a bright green portal, just as he was.
And in a flash of light, they were both gone.
The ancient cruiser crept along the inky blackness of space, well above the speed of light, but not fast enough for the lone occupant of the bridge. Since utilizing the artifact to track his ultimate goal, the ship could not move fast enough for her master and his desires. Fueled by rage, he sat silently, awaiting something, anything to tell him that they approached his ultimate goal, when a console long forgotten sparked loudly.
<Green Lantern ring exiting space sector 2814>
The pilot of the vessel considered the alert carefully before acting. This could mean that the Lantern was now after him, or it could mean that something else had driven him to abandon his post.
“Where is he going?”
<Last readings have Oan energy signature en route to sector 0. No evidence is apparent that Green Lantern knows that his tracking device has been reverse engineered >
A toothy grin filled his face. The Lantern had no idea what he was up to still, and soon nothing he could do would matter.
“Proceed on current course computer,” snarled Mongul. “And let nothing delay reaching our destination. Once there, let him come, let any come. For none shall stand in the way of my conquest!”
Hank came to with memories of the expansive blackness of space dancing through his head. When he opened his eyes however, all he saw was a tunnel of pure white on the other side of his ring generated force field.
“Morning sleeping beauty.” Hank raised his groggy head to see the grinning visage of Hal Jordan staring back at him. “You sure are lucky that the ring is on auto pilot; you were out like a light. And the vomit? Ew.”
“Yea, well…” Embarrassed, Hank was at a loss for words.
“Relax, the first jump is rough on everyone. Truth be told, you handled it better than I did.”
“Where…where are we?” Regaining his bearings, he could finally appreciate his surroundings. The bright white tunnel was actually made up of the multitude of colors they were passing at their amazing speed.
“Subluminal space.” Hal said nonchalantly. “Basically, there is a whole network of pathways the ring can utilize that are below normal space, and allow for travel between parts of the universe at a much faster rate than we would be able to otherwise. It’s pretty cool.”
“By the Guardians, what else can go wrong?” Katma Tui flew from the upper atmosphere of Oa, chasing the inert body of Ion, while dozens of Manhunters chased her from behind. Reaching her power ring out, she was able to catch Kyle Rayner before he slammed into the ground, and floated down next to him. Looking up with Ion in her arms, the sky was blotted out by the Manhunters bearing down on them.
“No man escapes.” Their unified, drone-like voices filled the sky, as Katma secured Ion under a shield, and steadied her feet.
“Who’s trying to escape?” As the words left her lips, she whispered a quick prayer in Korugarian, and flew into the oncoming weave of androids. Through the monotony of the red and blue metal menaces flashed the brightest of green. Scythes and beams of pure energy sliced through each Manhunter, while the shield on the ground held, and energy danced around her.
To watch her move so gracefully, yet so deadly would have been like poetry. While one beam pushed back a main wave of attackers, smaller tendrils snaked off, burning through metal flesh like a hot knife through butter. Seeing her willpower as indomitable, the surviving units redirected their attack, this time focusing on her protective shield over the fallen Ion.
Subluminal space may have been the fastest way to travel, but it wasn’t much in the way of scenery. Being in space, millions of miles from home was exciting, and beyond Hank’s wildest dreams, but he had to face facts...he was bored.
“How much further?” His voice awakened Hal from the cat nap he was sneaking while they approached Oa. Readying a witty retort, Hal seemed genuinely surprised when his ring began sparking, signifying their arrival.
“Looks like we’re here.” Hal’s voice turned deadly serious. “Let’s ride it in a little bit more; if we can pop out close to atmosphere, we won’t have to wait as long to approach.”
“Isn’t getting so close, leaving so fast a little...dangerous?”
“Yeah,” Hal admitted. “But it’s the only way to ensure that we can be undetected in our approach, while getting a full speed drop on the enemy.”
“Huh. Even your risky ideas are thought out a little bit. Who knew?”
“Don’t let anyone know I think things through.” Hal allowed himself a grin. “Salaak would be pretty disappointed.” Smile erased, he and Hank exited subluminal space and in to the fray.
“No man escapes.”
Katma was on the surface now, all her focus on maintaining the shield around Ion and herself, as the Manhunters pounded down on the sphere of energy. Their blows were ringing in her ears, a thin trickle of blood coming out of her left. She was simultaneously trying to rouse the comatose Kyle Rayner at her feet, maintain her focus to keep up the ring-generated shield over the both of them, and retain consciousness so that they would live to see another day.
I’m not the praying type, she thought. But will whoever looks over wayward warriors in their hour of need, please feel free to intervene.
Almost on cue, the sky above their protective dome seemed to split; the sea of blue and red above at first flickered with, and then was surrounded by green. Their attention turned, and Katma’s mechanical foes turned from to their new target. Air rushed into her lungs, and she realized she had been holding her breath during the assault, as construct Earthern planes filled the sky, and a familiar voice rang out from her ring.
“Katma, tighten up that shield, and cover your eyes. It’s about to get bright up here.”
“Jordan?” She closed her eyes tight as her voice took on the tone usually reserved for Jordan: heavily annoyed, but with just a touch of reverence and awe. In his limited time with the ring, he had performed feats beyond that of the average Lantern.
“The one and only beautiful; I missed you too.”
His voice cut out as the space above the shield was suddenly filled with a blinding green light, and when it subsided, scarred and melted pieces of Manhunter rained like a cleansing storm.
“Show off,” Katma muttered under her breath as she removed the bubble she had been crouched under, generating a force field around Ion to move him into the clear.
“Ah, you know you love it.” Hal descended, another Lantern close behind him.
“You changed your uniform.”
“Salaak will have your ring for this.”
“Anyway,” Hal fought to change the subject. “Katma Tui, this is my alternate...”
“Another Earth-Monkey.” Arms crossed, Katma was less than impressed.
“His name,” Hal continued, “is Hank Henshaw.”
“Pleased to meet you ma’am.” Hank shook her hand hard. “Hal has told me much of your expertise with the Corps.”
“No, but he told me that flattery was the best way to make you shake that resentment you seem to have for, well, everyone.”
“Very funny Jordan,” Katma’s voice raised, ready to rage at the Lantern who called 2814 home, but turned to see him not laughing at her expense, but knelt at the side of Kyle Rayner. “He was fighting valiantly, and his power just seemed to...give out.”
“It’s happened before...and he always snapped out of it.” His voice wavered slightly, as rage crept in. Rage at the Manhunters. Rage at Krona. Mostly, rage at himself for letting this kid, his responsibility, out of his sight. “Ring...”
<Positive life signs. No detection of Oan energy>
“Stay here with him. Go nowhere until he wakes up.”
“Hank, please. Stay here with these two. When Kyle wakes up, I’m sure Kat has her orders.” She nodded curtly beside him. “Ring, locate Krona.”
<15.2 miles due west> Abin Sur’s voice matched Hal’s own grim mindset.
“Then that’s where I’m going.” Hal’s badge on his chest shined brilliantly as he powered up his ring. “Whenever the Torchbearer decides to stop power napping, you three take out that factory. Hank, follow Katma’s orders to a tee, and you’ll be fine.
An explosion of green, and Hal sped off to the battle against Krona. While Hank and Katma watched him head off, they never noticed the figure approaching them from behind.
“So,” Kyle yawned loudly and stretched his arms. “What’d I miss?”
Carol Ferris was a little more than frustrated. All day, she had been juggling pilots, answering investors, explaining to certain pilots why they were pulling double duty, and not going to be paid for the extra time in the air. Tom Kalmaku had just reluctantly left her office after telling her that the meathead she let take the new prototype had somehow shredded both engines, and wrecked it.
But, Tom had said, at least no one was hurt. If only...
The phone ringing cut through her headache.
Oh, and how could I forget.
Someone had been calling the Ferris Aircraft offices all day, hanging up without saying a word. Carol suspected that it was her mystery caller from last night...and before lunch...and after lunch. Frustrated, she finally picked up the receiver.
“Ferris Aircraft?” She forced her most pleasant voice, but at 5 o’clock, it was audibly strained.
A short pause ensued, and a decidedly female voice answered. “Miss Ferris, this is DEO Agent Chloe Sullivan. We need to talk about one of your pilots, and his suspected involvement in extraterrestrial activity.”
Chloe Sullivan. The name rang a bell or two. Too many of the wrong bells. But still, Carol attempted civility.
“Sure, when is best for you.” To Carol’s surprise, her answer came not through the phone, but through her opening door.
“How about now?” Chloe was ready for Carol to fly off the handle, but something had stolen Carol’s famous wit, as her eyes were fixated on Chloe’s swollen stomach.
“Oh, wow.” Chloe mentally cursed how much worse this whole situation had gotten. “We really do need to talk."