#28 (39): Love Lost Pt. 3 (Wilkins / Nicol) Nov 22, 2011 15:37:40 GMT -5
Post by Admin on Nov 22, 2011 15:37:40 GMT -5
PREVIOUSLY, IN GREEN LANTERN:
Hal Jordan is a father; his daughter, Jessica, born after a one night stand with Chloe Sullivan. I know. Roll with it. Guy Gardner is a Green Lantern, the second human partner of Hal Jordan after the dearly-departed Hank Henshaw was murdered by Mongul a few months back. Wonder Woman tried to save him with the Purple Healing Ray but it didn’t stick. Move on.
Now, Rann has been subjected to an interstellar attack by an entity calling itself The Predator. What does this megalomaniac want? What’s his connection to the Star Sapphires?
* * *
“Is Hal J-Jordan there?” The voice on the other end of the line was feeble, tear-soaked, and Chloe struggled to identify who this woman was, calling in the dead of night.
“He’s not, no. Can I ask who this is?”
“Chloe? It’s, it’s…” The voice struggled to collect itself, there was a loud sob, and Chloe realised who it was.
“Susie?” she asked, tentatively. They’d met a few weeks back; Hal had taken Chloe and Jess to visit his brother, Jim, and there Chloe had met Susie Jordan. It had been a lovely day, picnic in the park and getting to know each other. Hal hadn't spent much time with his younger brother since the death of Jack, the eldest of the three boys. It was like a weight had been lifted.
“Yes, it’s me. I… I tried his apartment; it was disconnected… and then I remembered he was with you, in Smallville, or, uhh, flying about, and… Chloe, it’s Jimmy... there's been a horrible accident-- Hal needs... needs to know!"
Issue Twenty-Eight: Love Lost
Part Three: "Sapphire Souls"
Written by Charlie Wilkins
Cover by Kraig Nicol
Edited by Mark Bowers
The city of Ranagar was a wasteland. Ash whistled up in the winds, scorched earth in every direction. Every now and then a gutted structure was visible, but whatever had done this had done it well-- the capital city of Rann was gone. A crater where a blossoming society had once thrived.
"Any survivors?" asked Guy Gardner.
"Zeta radiation is disrupting most of our scans," said Hal Jordan. "Oa have dispatched a science squad to run a full planetary diagnostic. God damn, Guy, it happened right in front of me and I couldn't stop it."
Guy said nothing, keeping his thoughts aimed squarely at the matter at hand. "Whoever did this changed the course of an asteroid storm. Kept them hidden from Rann's planetary sensors until it was too late to stop them. That sounds power ring, Highball."
"Yeah," nodded Hal. "I saw who did it. Armoured, big, purple energy washing over his body. He looked distorted... powerful. Something about it... his... voice? I recognised it, but my ring, it can't even get a bead on what it was, let alone who." As he spoke a green construct was built from Hal's memories, and Guy leaned forward to inspect this new villain.
"Mean-looking bastard," said Guy.
"That's not all, listen to this." Hal's ring played the final words of the creature, before Hal was shunted back to Earth:
<"Adam Strange of Earth, and of Rann. Your heart holds great love. To threaten that love would be a crime. To steal it, a worse offense. So, to save you, to protect your heart from the ravages of time and outside influences--">[/b] The image flickered as the landscape began to crack. <"--is to end it.">[/b]
"Love? Oh, hell," said Gardner. "Star Sapphires?"
"Sounds like," said Jordan. "Damn, this shouldn't have happened to Adam."
"He kind of set himself up for this kind of thing, Highball. He was a big deal this side of the universe, big damn hero and all that. I met the man a time back, we fought side-by-side with those Titan kids*... he fought hard and we deserved the win that day."
"He was hanging up his jetpack, Guy, he didn't want the idea of losing his family on his mind-- and I have to agree with him!" Hal's ring sparked with excess will and agitation. "He was training the police force. He was going to get himself settled." Hal exhaled, and then saw the sky flush green as a cadre of Lanterns arrived from subluminal.
"Hal!" boomed Kilowog, as he landed in front of the Lanterns. "You won't believe what's happened."
"Rann was decimated?" offered Gardner.
"There's something in space. Some kind of... wall. And it's surrounding 1416."
"Sector 1416?" repeated Jordan. "1416 is Sapphire territory. What kind of wall?"
"A crystalline barrier. We've got the Sector Lanterns studying it, but it seems to be growing. You were first on scene, you want to head on over with your partner and take a look?"
Jordan turned to Gardner. "You with me?"
"Have been so far, ain't I?" said Guy. "Thanks, Kilowog."
"No problem, poozers. Be careful."
The two flew past the science squad and headed into one of the subluminal tunnels that would take them to Sector 1416.
*Check out Teen Titans #60-62 "Into the Cosmic Night for the story!
"This wasn't supposed to happen," said the Predator, looking down at Queen Aga'Po, chained up in violet energy, "not really. A fluke of coincidence. But it's your fault, nonetheless."
"You... can't..." strained Aga'Po, "you can't..."
"Your Corps is now my Corps," chuckled the man, "no two ways about it." He ran a hand through his hair, and then looked down at his fingers as they fizzled with purple energy. "You can't possibly imagine how this feels."
There was a noise outside, in the Central Power Battery Chamber-- electricity racking across the walls and bouncing back down. Aga'Po cringed. "You're... perverting... all we've sought to accomplish!"
"What you sought to accomplish? Please!" The Predator's eyes glistened as he began to talk. "You were jealous. Jealous of your long-abandoned loves, the 'Guardians'. They had a Corps so why shouldn't you? And you strove to create something good, something that would make you better from the situation, but you can't achieve anything out of jealousy, especially considering where you claim your power comes from! Love! Oh, I'll show them love, Aga'Po. You built a lantern, tempered love into a weapon, and that's not right. You wielded it well, for a time, but you can't coalesce all that energy and not expect something else to be born from it." His eyes darkened, but the glint was still there. "I love you. I love them. I love everyone. But sometimes love is a bitch, and love hurts, and I'm all of that now." He leaned in close to the blue-skinned queen, her large, unblinking eyes watering at the edges. "I am everything."
It was apparent something was wrong as soon as the two Green Lanterns approached Sector 1416, the subluminal passageway suddenly reacting as if it were experiencing extreme turbulence. "What's going on, Highball?" asked Guy, as he barrelled down the tunnel, his aura flickering dimmer.
"Drop out, Guy! Something's--"
The entire corridor of space exploded, fragments of blue light shattering and flying away from the two Green Lanterns. They lost control of their trajectory, flying blind for a moment, before coming to a stop in front of a twisted labyrinthine violet maze of crystalline hard light. "What the Hell?" Guy scratched the top of his head, and rubbed his nose. "What just happened?"
"The corridor broke down, hard," said Hal. "That's never happened to me, I don't know about you."
"They've locked down the sector-- we can't even get in!"
"Looks like... and not only that--" Hal looked down at his ring as it spewed information into his head, "the barrier is growing."
"How is that--?" Guy paused, and approached the wall, placing his hand against the surface. "What the--?"
Hal Jordan followed, and Guy's ring focused in on a section of the wall. "Good God--"
Encased in the crystal were two Green Lanterns, their eyes wide, frozen perfectly in space. "They've got two of ours--!"
"Contact--" The wall shunted, splintered and shattered, and then moved toward the two Green Lanterns. They floated back, but tendrils of violet light shot toward them, and tried to grab at their limbs.
Guy threw up a rock-solid shield and the threads danced off the surface, but not before they tried to thrash around the edges, tried their best to grab at the fiery-tempered Lantern."Holy--"
"Contact Oa," said Hal, "this is spreading, and we’ve got to lock it down, make sure we don’t lose anyone else. It was like it was sentient, and if light is sentient, then that’s a kettle of fish I’m not even prepared to think about."
"What about you? What are you going to do?"
"We need to figure this out, we need to--" Hal was interrupted as a blast of light throbbed into view in the crystal wall. A hole was forming. "What now--? Shields up!"
A group of Star Sapphires flew through, and levelled their rings at the two Lanterns. Hal and Guy were outnumbered. They had their rings running hard, sparks guttering from the fringes of their shields. They were prepared to explode out if needs be, let their emerald light do what it had to, and in the confusion take down their opponents. The two airboys didn’t need to communicate. Their intent was clear.
“Hal Jordan, your presence is requested on Zamoran, said the lead Sapphire, her eyes glazed pink, her ring connected to the other Sapphires’ by threads of thin light. She spoke sharply, but her words didn’t seem to fit in her mouth. She wasn’t herself. Hal knew about possession, and he knew how it felt, and he knew it when he saw it.
"Yeah? By who? How’s your Queen?"
The Sapphire’s head lolled to the side. "Aga’po is not our leader. Not our corps guardian. Never was, never more."
Hal turned to Guy. "If I’m not out in six hours--"
"You can’t be serious!"
"I’m a very serious person, Guy. You know that. If I’m not out in six then bring Kilowog, Stel, Salaak-- bring the Corps, and blitz this place. Burn it down. Do you thing, yeah?"
"You know I will, Highball," said Guy, and he drifted away, his aura still burning bright.
"And look after Chloe," said Hal, before the six Star Sapphires and himself warped back into the wall, and it sealed up.
"Hell!" barked Guy. "Hell!"
Hank Henshaw's hand rested gently on Carol Ferris's shoulder. "I need you to hold onto something for me."
Carol turned to him. They were in her apartment, she had fallen asleep in his arms, and he'd just stayed there with her, gently stroking her hair. "What is it?"
"I'm scared," said Hank slowly. "I'm scared I might go again. Be taken away by... by I don't know who." He shivered. "But you always believed in me. Kept me in your heart, even if you didn't know it."
"I'll do anything," said Carol, "anything you want, just... don't go."
Hank opened his hand, and a slither of violet crystal glowed in the dim light of her bedroom. "Keep this close to your heart, and I'll never be far."
Carol smiled, and took the sapphire happily.
Hank Henshaw just smiled.
Inside Sector 1416:
Space burned violet, and the lone Green Lantern was flanked by six Star Sapphires as they headed to the centre world of the system. The crystalline wall surrounded an impossible amount of space, but surround it it did, so Hal didn't question it. How it had formed and how it acted was beyond the Lantern, but he decided not to think too much into it, and focus all his energies on whatever awaited him on Zamoran itself.
They landed in the middle of a large courtyard, flowers winding up the walls, the greenest grass paving toward the central chamber of the majestic concave at the centre of their city. Charred footsteps led toward the doorway. The air was eerily still, and the Star Sapphires flanked the entrance. "Here," one said slowly. "He will see you now."
"Not wanting to take my ring away? Not wanting to make it harder for me to kick your asses?"
"It makes no difference," said another Sapphire. "He will see you now."
"I'm glad to finally see you, Hal Jordan," said the man positioned on the throne before the Central Power Battery. He wore a silver helmet with purple streaks down the side. Jordan couldn't see his eyes, only his lower jaw, and what he saw were sharp teeth, stubble covering his chin where exposed. Piercing black dots shone through the metal of his helm, and a thick smile covered his lips. "It's been an eternity."
"What did you say?" asked Hal, leaning close, cupping his hand to his ear. " 'Cause I've never met you in my life." He leaned back. "So, this decor is interesting," he looked around the central chamber, at the blast marks and the cracks riding up the walls. Something big had gone down here.
There was no light in the Central Power Battery mounted upon the skin of Zamoran. No flickers of light, no embers, it was simply darkness, and the only violet light in the chamber came from the chest of the looming, silver-haired presence, grinning broadly, sat on his throne, the Star Sapphires scattered around his feet. They moaned quietly, weak and hurt, but they made no move to fight their apparent captor, they merely lay sprawled, their eyes moving lazily from the Green Lantern to their apparent ruler.
“What have you done to these people?”
“Took away their responsibility, what does it look like?” replied the man. “Took their will power away, their heart. I hold it in the palm of my hand…” He clenched his fist, and tilted his head to the side. “You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you? Taking and breaking hearts…”
"You don't know me," retorted Jordan. "What do you want?"
"What do I want?" The armoured fiend rose from his seat, and pointed an angry finger at Jordan. "I want my life back! The life you stole from me!"
"Who the hell are you?" asked Green Lantern.
"I died, but am sat here, basking in the radiance of love," said the man, leaning forward, "the twice-lived man, the final light in the darkness. In blackest night..." He laughed. "You can call me... the Predator. For I am all that, and more."
Hal swallowed hard. The Predator. He remembered a visitor from the future, and the words she left him with. “He calls himself the Predator... we don’t know anything more than that. But he comes to Earth. And he takes Jessica.*” This was all he had been fighting to avoid. This is what he'd sacrificed so much to face. Standing before him. Grinning like the cat who had got the canary.
* Justice League #37
"You're under arrest," Green Lantern said slowly. "For mass murder."
"For Rann? You wouldn't understand, Hal. I was saving love! You have to understand that. The universe would have corrupted them. Ruined what Adam and Alanna had built together. I saved them." The Predator smiled, and patted the head of one of the Star Sapphires that was sprawled at his feet. "I've saved all of them." He looked around, and then leaned forward off his throne. "Can you keep a secret?"
"If I have to," replied Hal Jordan. <Power levels at 96%,> whispered his ring, directly into his head. Targetting systems readied themselves. A thousand invisible bullseyes appeared all over the armour of the Predator.
"Do you know what this is?" The Predator suddenly held a glowing emerald sphere in his left palm, and it danced and melted over itself, constantly moving, constantly in flux.
"Not particularly." His ring ran a scan covertly, but the AI buzzed and sparks flew from the centre of the jewel wildly. "Auugh!"
The Predator shook his finger, and smiled again. "This is the willpower I've drawn out of the Star Sapphire Corps. It's how I've kept them obedient. Under control. I can extend my influence through their rings but I found that they weren't at all... accommodating. They fought my control. So I took away their will. They are my puppets until I decide they are otherwise." A Star Sapphire moaned at the Predator's feet, and he looked down, smiling. "They are what I wish them to be."
"You bastard. These people... they don't deserve this treatment. I thought before that the Zamorans were mad. Insanely trying to fight against the Guardians for some past mistreatment, but they were... they were lovers once, and they were rejected, and it hurt them. Being immortals, you gotta lot of time to let that love fester into something else, and that's you, isn't it? You're the dark side of it all, and you grew like goddamn mould in their Central Power Battery. You're nothing but an infection."
"The never-romantic gets it! You understand how rejection can grow like a cancer in your soul. How jealousy can fester and build. How love isn't all it's cracked up to be, when it's not a mutual agreement between one and another." The Predator laughed then, the imposing force of nature now stood tall in the chamber. "I am power," he said. "Love conquers all."
"I can beat your ass with my bare hands if need be," said Hal Jordan sharply. "Let these people go. I don't know who you are, or what you want, but you're not going to get it."
The sphere of contained will moved roughly in the Predator's hand. "Hmm. You've not changed, Hal. I have. But you... you're still the same arrogant bastard you always were. Doesn't matter if you're a family man or not. If you're settled or a roaming man about town. You're still arrogant like sin. Come on, Highball, call me a liar."
There was something in the Predator's voice then, a lilt, a familiar quality, but Jordan couldn’t put his finger on it. "Who the hell are you?"
"I am the one you abandoned, Hal, the one you left to die. I saved your life and you saved mine-- we were supposed to be partners! And you left me alone and I died an agonising death." He patted his chest. "They stole my heart, Hal."
"Sonofabitch," whispered Jordan. He remembered the corpse. He remembered the hole in his chest. He remembered Wonder Woman and the Flash and Guy Gardner and Carol Ferris, and he especially remembered... "You... how is this possible?"
"God technology," said the Predator. "I didn't even think it possible. But the Purple Healing Ray of the Amazons? The one that Wonder Woman exposed me to when I was fighting to live? It did something. Supercharged my soul and sent it hurtling like a rocket through space. My will keeping myself whole. I was a life force, pure and untainted, and the Healing Ray put me somewhere that would hold me tight and keep me safe until I could emerge, and face the universe." He removed his silver helmet, and smiled. His face was gaunt, his eyes black with purple irises, but it was recognisably him-- Hank Henshaw, resurrected. "You shouldn't have let me die, Hal. I'm a changed man."
"I didn't-- Why do you think I let you die?" said Hal. "You were my partner, and I... I didn't let it happen! When I heard what was happening I flew back to Earth as fast as I could! Mongul had Coast locked down! I just.."
"You just got there too late," said Henshaw, taking a step forward. His being crackled with a snap of purple light. "But you always had time to push me down into the ground. To mock me. To deride me. I was in your shadow, Hal, and you knew it and you propagated it. All I wanted was to be my own man, but you took EVERYTHING!"
"I... Oh, shut the hell up," snapped Jordan, "that's bullshit. They said you were going to be better than me, Hank, Kilowog saw it, Salaak saw it, they saw in you something I never had, and you were just too paranoid to let that sink in! Stop being so self-deprecating and get over it!"
"Heh," said Henshaw, shaking his head. "You kept Carol away from me, and I know what happened when I died. You dumped her. Left her by the wayside. Took up with that Sullivan woman. Beautiful women, all around, but you wouldn't let me have the one I loved."
"Oh, Jesus," Green Lantern aimed his ring at the Predator, and shook his head. "I'm not doing this. I'm not gonna rationalise myself to a crazy dead man. Hands in the air, creep; power down."
"Power up," snapped Henshaw, and he hurled the emerald sphere at Jordan, and watched as it shunted into his being. Hal screamed as his ring exploded with light. His brain exploded with a thousand voices, and he realised that it wasn't just their wills that the Predator had stolen from the Star Sapphire Corps, but their consciousness-- a thousand alien screams for help echoed in his skull, and his ring sparked and hissed as he tried to form a coherent thought. "I'm the Predator, Jordan. Now and forever. I'm going to take from you what is yours and make it mine, and you can do nothing to stop me."
"Shhhuttt..." Jordan grabbed Henshaw's leg, and looked up. It took an agonising amount of concentration to do so, but he brought his ring up to the Predator's body. "Uppp..." He blasted, and the Predator shattered into a million laughing pieces. The pain was throbbing through Jordan's head but he rolled to his side, and gasped for breath. Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! Help! screamed the voices in his head. "I... oh... God..."
"You think I would be so stupid as to tell you I was going to do something before I even did it?" said one of the Predator fragments on the ground surrounding the Green Lantern. It twisted into a shard of light, and Hal saw the Predator's grinning face, and... Smallville? "I'm not even here, Hal, I'm on Earth. I can see your daughter, Hal. I can see her sleeping."
Hal's eyes jerked open and he howled in anger. The excess willpower shot out of his body and rumbled through the central chamber of the Zamoran complex, and reverberated through their power battery-- suddenly the Star Sapphires were screaming, clutching their heads and looking horrified. Green Lantern pulled himself up, and readied himself for a fight. They wouldn't stop him. They couldn't. "Green Lantern emergency! Justice League emergency! He's on Earth! The Predator is on Earth!"
"The... the crystalline wall is preventing outside communication," said Queen Aga'po, struggling to her feet from where she had been hunched behind the throne. "You need to hurry, Lantern..."
"Don't try and stop me," said Green Lantern, powering up his ring.
"Stop you? And watch the loss of a great love?" Aga'po followed the Lantern up into the air, and matched his speed. "The Predator was not us, Hal Jordan, and we are not the Predator-- we did not share any sort of goal. He was the bitter, twisted side of our power-- I shall rendezvous with your Corps-- there is no need for war, not now."
Green Lantern pulled away from the deposed leader of the Star Sapphires. His ring screamed along with him, and his momentum and thrust built up, higher and higher. Faster faster faster faster, he thought, and his ring abided. Faster! The wall was in his way. Thick and impossibly high, surrounding an entire area of space-- Nothing is going to stop me nothing is going to stop me not even this wall not even not even-- The wall exploded into a million shards, and Guy Gardner, and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps members that had assembled outside it, watched as an emerald comet shot toward Sector 2814
"Holy-- was that-- was that Highball?" asked Guy Gardner. "How's he going so... guys! Guys! Follow him!"[/color]
* * *
Chloe sat at the foot of her bed, and closed her eyes. There it was again. The scritch-scratch of something not quite right. She had honed her mind to this. It was her sixth sense. Ever since her Wall of Weird back in Smallville High, ever since the Torch and Clark and Pete and... something wasn't right.
High above, someone watched.
He had watched them mourn him. He was there at the funeral, invisible. It was a true test of his prowess. He had transcended their limitations. Risen above their preconceived notions of who he was and what he was capable of. And now he was more than all of them. His body had become a power battery. His soul sparked and smouldered with the purest form of love. He had dived head first into the Central Power Battery on Zamoran, and emerged reborn, revitalised-- resurrected.
The energy fluctuations that had racked the Predator for the past few days were under control now. His constructs refined. His mind clear. This is what this was about. Proof of status. Of being supreme. He followed her because she was Hal Jordan's. And he wanted her now. He had wanted Carol Ferris, but her love hadn't been enough for Hal, so why should it be enough for him? But the love Hal had for Chloe... Oh, the Green Lantern might not want to admit it, but it was pure, and it was full and brimming... the Predator had to have it.
He clenched his fist. Felt the violet energy crackle over his body. He smiled, and focused, and tore the Kent Farmhouse to shreds. Smoke billowed up into the air, purple fires raged, and there, clutching her child, was Chloe Sullivan-- defiance burning in her eyes.
"Who... who are you?" she asked, clutching Jessica tightly against her chest, as she confronted the seething, convulsing mass of purple energy that had burned itself through the wall of the room.
"Son of the dawn of the universe. Burning out from across the galaxy. Brother of the Great Darkness. Light and pain and loathing. You know me, Chloe Sullivan, beloved of Hal Jordan. Your hearts sing for each other. Your hearts sing for the product of your affair. A thing of lust. Of sweat and the throes of passing. Your child. She is nothing. I am everything." His eyes burned black, his uniform a strange bastardisation of the Green Lantern flight suit, seemingly physical, violet light flowing over where emerald once was. "I'm the Predator. And I'm here... for your child."
To Be Concluded
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