V2 #4 (44): Then and Now (Wilkins / Jarin) Jun 19, 2013 14:50:44 GMT -5
Post by Charlie on Jun 19, 2013 14:50:44 GMT -5
Charlie wrote thirteen issues of Green Lantern fan fiction and then forgot how he did it, so suddenly an ongoing series ended abruptly!
Charlie hasn't been able to string a sentence together he's been proud of since January!
Charlie is trying to stretch his writing muscles again and what better way than writing something he loves?
Wait, that's not what you wanted? Then try this--!
PREVIOUSLY IN GREEN LANTERN...
Hank Henshaw was Green Lantern. A former astronaut turned test pilot, Hank was recruited by Hal Jordan himself and showed himself to be one of the greats, until the galactic despot known as Mongul came to Earth and murdered him, laying waste to Coast City simultaneously.
But that was not the end of Hank Henshaw's story... exposure to the Purple Healing Ray of the Amazons and a cosmic fluke opened his body up to possession by the Predator entity, a creature grown from the twisted side of the Star Sapphire's love energy!
The Predator, wearing Henshaw's face, began a campaign of terror against Hal Jordan, assaulting his brother and nephew, desecrating his mother's grave, assaulting Hal's love, Chloe Sullivan, and kidnapping his daughter, Jessica!
Before Hal could face Hank, Guy Gardner stepped up, was beaten within an inch of his life, and left in a coma... And then Hal and Hank finally met face to face one more time. Their battle was brutal. Hal was able to defeat the Predator, but the losses were too great. Kilowog was dead. Jessica Jordan was lost. Guy was taken back to Oa for intensive care. Hal, unable to rescue his daughter, retired from the Corps.
And even before then-- Sinestro was posessed by a yellow power ring created by the mysterious and monstorous Parallax, the first Green Lantern and their ultimate enemy! Sinestro escaped Parallax's clutches but was forced to obliterate himself rather than submit to Parallax's control!
Even further back-- Kyle Rayner was the Torchbearer, the only living being in existence able to internalise the entire Central Power Battery and the life forces of the Guardians of the Universe! Kyle sacrificed his life to reignite the empty Central Power Battery, return the Guardians of the Universe to the land of the living, and defeat the rogue Guardian Krona and his Manhunter army!
Issue Four: "Then and Now"
Written by Charlie Wilkins
Cover by Joey Jarin
Edited by Alex Vasquez
Coast City was a ghost town. After the repeated attacks from beyond the stars, her citizens had scattered, moved as far away as they could, leaving a formerly bustling, prosperous city empty. The skyscrapers had been rebuilt. The roads repaired. It was just like it had been, but at the same time, lifeless, a shell of her former glory.
A man ran through the streets, the only sound in the air his own footfalls on the snow fall from the night before and his ragged breathing. The man had done this every day for the past six months, without fail. He had ran. The man known the stars and he had known love and now he had neither, all because of one day, one monster, and one choice.
Hal Jordan came to a stop in front of the spot where Hank Henshaw-- no, he corrected his thoughts, the Predator-- had murdered his daughter. He pulled his hood down and ran his hands through his thick, unkempt hair. He had been running for six months, and he didn't intend to stop. He wiped the sweat from his brow and scratched his unruly beard, then ran away in the opposite direction, the cold air filling his lungs.
Hal Jordan had nothing.
Sector 0 – Oa:
"The universe still stands," said Salaak, staring up at the stars. He stood atop the Citadel, the highest point on Oa, the galaxy turning around the universal point that was Oa. "We are still here."
"Are you surprised?" asked Katma Tui, standing behind him. The two of them were alone up there, but there were sparks of light darting about every which way, the Green Lantern Corps going about their training, their business of protecting the universe.
Salaak turned, his alien features belying none of his feelings. "The Guardians are gone, the Zamorans with them. The first time in... incalculable centuries... that the Guardians of the Universe have not had a hand in the operations of the Green Lantern Corps. I cannot tell if we have failed, if they have gone so far."
Katma placed a hand on Salaak's thin shoulder. "The Corps stands until the last one of us falls." She paused. "That sounded ridiculous, sorry," she laughed quietly. "We're doing well, Salaak old friend. We have faced threats, we have faced enemies, and the Guardians have not been here in any capacity other than spirit. Let's take it one day at a time."
Salaak nodded and patted Katma's hand. "It is all we can do."
<Lantern Salaak,> a transmission sparked up from Salaak's ring and he recognised the face of the Green Lantern trying to contact him as Shorm, referred to by most as the 'desk sergeant' of the Green Lantern Corps. The tentacle-covered Lantern worked closely with the bear-like Voz to manage the Sciencells, the Oa-based prison for the worst the universe had to offer.
"What is it, Shorm?"
<Honour Lantern Rrab is insisting on seeing you at your earliest convenience. She is currently with Honour Lantern Gardner in Sector 1416.>
"I will see her when she returns," said Salaak. "I wonder..." He paused. "Thank you, Shorm."
The transmission cut off and Salaak turned to Katma. "Arisia has been most concerned about Guy Gardner since he emerged from his coma."
"I'm well aware," said Katma. "He's not been himself."
"Indeed," said Salaak. A spark of violet light caught his eye and he turned to view the other side of Oa. The Star Sapphie Central Power Battery was situated just within sight of the Citadel, and the Star Sapphire Corps themselves were flitting about the sky just as the Green Lantern Corps did around their own Central Power Battery. "What a universe we live in."
"You have concerns?" asked Katma.
"We have the same goals, the same aims, and they have done nothing but support our efforts since they took up residence on Oa. The last proclamation of the Guardians of the Universe before they left for points unknown. I am considering inviting some of their number into our Council."
"If this were a year ago, then perhaps yes, I would have agreed, but now? They want what we want, peace in the universe. And with the Predator gone... its influence over their Corps removed... we should honour their change of heart."
"Ha," Katma shook her head. "You do make me laugh, Salaak."
"It was not my intention," mused Salaak. "Have you--"
"Salaak!" Another Green Lantern joined them atop the Citadel, glowing brightly before their aura vanished completely and they were simply walking toward them on the metallic surface. "Katma, good, it's good you're here too--"
"What is it, Boodika?" asked Salaak.
Boodika was taller than Salaak, with deep, purple skin and a shock of curly black hair atop her head that touched her tail bone. Her ring pulled up an array of data that she drew Katma and Salaak's attention to. "I've been conversing with Stel and the Science Corp, and they've discussed something very disconcerting."
Salaak squinted at the construct Boodika had created. "Enhance?" The construct enlarged, and Salaak's brow furrowed with concern. "This is the power output of the Central Power Battery, am I correct?"
"Yes," said Boodika. "every day the energy output exceeds the 100% standard for six hours, it's been barely perceptible but there's been a steady increase for the last twelve months. Started small, barely a fraction of a percent, but the last few days, it's been rising upwards of tens every time."
"What does it mean?" asked Katma.
"We don't know, but it should be possible. I have the Science Corp working on it right now."
"Interesting," said Salaak. "Could it be the proximity to the Star Sapphire's Central Power Battery somehow enhancing the output?"
"I'll ask the Science Corp, and keep you appraised, Salaak," said Boodika. She bowed slightly, and then shot off back in the direction she came in.
"I wonder," said Salaak. "Katma, let us address the Star Sapphires, and see if they have had any similar issues."
Sector 2814 – Location – Unknown:
The Gremlins crept about the dark, nattering to each other as they worked on the large machinery they had been constructing for the last few weeks. It was a twisted, angular machine that would make little to no sense to any earth minds that stumbled upon it, but it made perfect sense to the man behind it.
"Now for the secretest ingredient," said Evil Star, laughing maniacally as he finally finished harvesting the last slither of Element X from the Mother Boxes he had gained from his deal with the Apokoloptikan group he had worked with weeks before.
"Ready ready ready" hissed one of the Gremlins.
"Time time time" crooned another.
"Yes!" said Evil Star. "And soon the universe will go dark and I shall glimpse the future of every galaxy, every timeline, every potential endgame! And with that knowledge, I shall be able to do things none before me have ever been capable of doing!"
"Lantern Lantern Lantern"
"Ah, yes, John Stewart," said Evil Star, as he stood from his work bench and embraced the darkness his Gremlin legion crawled around within, "I shall have to deal with him in the only way I know. "Oh, what fun I shall have with him.
"Die die die"
"Yes," hissed Evil Star, "that or worse."
Sector 1416 – Nebula Nine:
"Why isn't Chaselon here, Guy?" Arisia was racing after Guy Gardner. The two of them were on the trail of a collective of Barrioian pirates who had stolen the Obsidian Mark from the diamond world of Valloria. Nebula Nine, a thick, intergalactic collection of weird energies and space matter, was playing havoc with their ring's ability to scan the immediate area. It had been under quarantine for the past century, but the pirates had sneaked in, and were currently nowhere to be found.
"Couldn't care less for that diamond faced failure. He was supposed to keep Nebula Nine locked down, it's one of his Sector roles, and he went and failed, didn't he?" spat Guy, his ring spluttering and sparking with energy and he pushed for it to scan the area. "'Sides, when ol' Guy Gardner can't do the job of a floating crystal head, then that's the day we all hang up our rings. I just gotta' remember to get him up on charges when we're back on Oa!"
Arisia said nothing. She moved the energies of her ring inward, enhancing her naturally sharp sight so she could pick through the spacial distortions that littered Nebula Nine. There were swirls of colour all around her, and her mind wandered back to the yellow-powered Legion entity and the corrupting energies that overtook a large majority of the Green Lantern Corps a few years back. She thought about Guy Gardner and the last yellow Legion power ring that twisted him inside out... and she thought about Hank Henshaw, about Predator, and how all she wanted to see right now were the stars, and not the backside of the preening jackass that Guy Gardner had become.
"I got nothin'." Guy spun around and came to a full stop. "What about you?"
"Guy!!" The previously hidden pirate space craft careened into the back of Gardner, sending him spinning deeper into Nebula Nine. Arisia threw her ring up and projected an emerald shield just as cannon fire flew wildly toward her. She bit her lip, steeled herself, and pushed the shield forward, artillery shells glancing off the smooth surface of her shield and falling inert into space.
"Power down your weaponry," growled Arisia, doing her best impression of the departed and dearly missed Kilowog, a note of sadness in the back of her voice, "you're facing two members of the Green Lantern Corps! You're not getting out of this in one piece if you put up a fight!"
There was a static shriek over the internal comms within her ring, the native tongue of the Barrioian peoples, that her ring nigh instantaneously translated. <We are not afraid of a little girl and a pinkling, Corps or none, so you bests be powering down your rings befores we blows your mushy brains out your softs!>
I tried, thought Arisia. She was about to send constructs into the cannon array, quietly and quickly dismantle their weaponry, when she heard a roar over the ring-- Guy Gardner returned to the battle, tore through the hull of the pirate ship, spun around and headed straight for the bridge. Atmosphere vented from the hole he had just created. Arisia threw a construct up that redirected Guy against the hull, glancing the plating but not doing any further damage. Her minute constructs wrecked their weaponry and she was about to plug the breaches Gardner had caused when she saw violet energy enrapture the damage and seal the ship shut. She glanced up and saw two members of the Star Sapphire Corp descend toward them.
"Arisia, what the hell do you think you're--" Guy clutched his head and grimaced, then looked up at the Star Sapphires. "Uugh, what are they doing here?"
The lead Star Sapphire had bark-like skin, leaf-like hair, and spoke with a voice that reminded Arisia of the way the wind used to drift through the branches of the sugar forests back on her home world. "Your actions would have condemned these crystallines to death, Green Lantern. There was no need to breach their hull the way you did. There were better ways."
"Not from where I'm standing!" barked Gardner. "I'm an Honour Lantern, you pink-ringed loser! I don't need to listen to a word you--" Arisia put her hand on Gardner's shoulder to pull him away from the conversation, but he pulled himself free. "Get offa' me, Arisia! Now listen--" He grit his teeth, and slapped the side of his head, "just listen, I ain't, I ain't in the mood for this bull crap, so fly home, all right? I got what we came for," he held up the Obsidian Mark and then pushed it against Arisia's ring aura so it popped in front of her, "Arisia, take this back to the High Guard on Valloria, I got some thinking to do. Jesus H..." Guy burst into a sub luminal tunnel and vanished from sight.
Arisia clutched the Mark closely and floated toward the Sapphires. "I apologies for the behaviour of my fellow Lantern. He has not been himself--"
The Star Sapphire put up her three-fingered hand. "There is no need," she said, "it is obvious that your friend is not well, that much is abundantly clear. You would do well to address that before he does irreparable damage to his reputation, or the reputation of the Green Lantern Corps."
Arisia said nothing.
The tree-like Star Sapphire's colleague, a short, blonde male with a barbed spine and grey skin, was encasing the Barrioian pirates in violent crystals. When he was done with his relatively quick task, he looked at Arisia and smiled warmly. "We shall take these thugs to their home world, where their magistrates can deal with them accordingly."
"Thank you," said Arisia. She managed a smile and then headed toward Valloria, Obsidian Mark in hand. She held her ring to her mouth, and began to transmit. "Lantern Shorm, this is Lantern Rrab. I need to speak to Lantern Salaak with the utmost urgency."
Sector 0 – Oa
There were places on Oa that only the Guardians of the Universe knew about. Secret prisons that the worst creatures in the cosmos were condemned; deep, dank pits that warped the perception of just how far they go, just how vast they are. These oubliettes were the lowest point you could find yourself when judged by the Guardians of the Universe, a place that you did not return from once found guilty of whatever heinous, intergalactic crime you had performed. Sustained by the Central Power Battery, without the need for sustenance of sleep, these monsters were kept in the dankest pits of the planet, locked away for the rest of their natural lives. Constructs patrolled regularly, their integrity ensured by the Central Power Battery itself. There would be no escape.
Mongul clenched his chained fists. He felt the cartilage pop and grind between his joints. He imagined what it would be like to burst the skull of a Guardian open with his bare hands, the way their yellow blood would pour over his digits. He thought about that most of his time down in the pit. There wasn't much he could do but think about, other than horror and revenge.
Mogul had been sent down here after his pillaging of Coast City. A paltry thing in his line of work, but there had been Green Lanterns involved. He had slaughtered nearly every man, woman and child in the city. He had beaten one Green Lantern and killed another. That was his line of work. Coast City was a thing of revenge though. A slash and a claw and a bite against the Green Lantern Corps, and the man who defeated him and represented their all. When you can't kill a collective, you kill a one, and Hal Jordan would have-- should have-- been that one. But no, the other one, the silver-haired man, Henshaw, he died at Mongul's hands.
And now Mongul was here. Bound by more chains than one could imagine. Trapped.
In the dark.
"I don't know why you're looking so glum," hissed a voice across the way, in a cell directly in front of Mongul's.
"Hrm?" Mongul looked up from his hands, the shackles clacking with the movement.
"Cosmic terrorists, genocidal monsters, genetic freaks," the voice was steel and strength, a hint of rumbling anger bubbling up from the back of the speaker's throat.
Mongul squinted. He was diminished without the enhancement technology that had ran through his body for the majority of his lifespan. The Guardians had removed every killing device, every murder object, from his being. He was strong. He was durable. But he had been better and he could feel that absence like an itch in the roof of his mouth.
Hank Henshaw took a step forward from the shadows and pushed his hands against the emerald shield that separated each of the inmate's cells from one another. He was wiry thin, long, silver hair meeting a beard that touched the middle of his chest with ease. He too was covered in chains, every joint locked tight, his wrists nearly drawn together by a short length of green energy that sparked against the surface of the cell shield. He wore the regalia of the Predator, the demonic entity that was created by the negative aspects of the Star Sapphire's Central Power Battery. Black flight suit, silver armour with dull, purple undertones, scuffed and scratched by the prison term down here.
"I'm not one of you, and yet here I am."
"The Lantern Henshaw," snarled Mongul, "I killed you."
"And yet here I am," said Henshaw. "In Hell. With you. And all these other horrors."
"My imprisonment has just improved immensely," said Mongul, standing for the first time since he was placed here, over a year back. His movement was restricted, but he took a defiant step forward, the cells weighing down his movements. "If this is Hell, then I am your devil, am I not? Punishing, tormenting," he laughed loudly, and a swarm of constructs descended toward his cell. They moved through the thick emerald shield that kept the cell locked down like it was air and shocked Mongul with electrified rods, and when the creature was subdued they popped back out of the cell and resumed their patrol.
"Poor bastard," said Henshaw, irony dripping from his words. He headed back into the shadows to his cot, and took a seat.
Mongul was on the floor and barely conscious, smoking rising from the points of impact and his mouth, his purple blood pooling on the floor around his head.
"I don't know why I'm down here," he said to himself, "I know what they said I did, but that wasn't me," Henshaw exhaled. "So I've only got one choice. I'm going to escape. And I'm going to bring this whole god damn Corps to its knees."
Sector 2814 – Earth – New York
John Stewart was hard at work staring out of a window. His latest client had left the office an hour ago, he'd taken down the specification for what they wanted from the firm, and now he was trying to figure out the best way to approach the project. He valued this quiet time, away from the intergalactic battles and the super villain showdowns. He enjoyed staring out of a window, and letting his brain tick away without the power ring sparking up with some warning of impending attack.
John was left alone by his colleagues at the architecture firm-- a corner office, a big pay cheque, and an emerald power ring all doing their job to alienate him from those who had been here longer than he-- and he didn't particularly care to complain about it. He had met with Rand and Jermaine in the aftermath of a bio-terrorist attack in New York, when some lunatic had released an airborne virus that transformed anyone exposed to it into Solomon Grundies. It was just as mad as it sounded. Rand liked the idea of having a Green Lantern under his roof while Jermaine was a bit apprehensive, but Rand had a habit of overpowering anyone with sheer enthusiasm, so that was that, and here was John Stewart.
"John?" Teresa, one of the grad students who currently did all the boring work around the office instead of what they wanted to do, e.g. Design buildings for the future, was at his door. He looked toward her, pulled away from his thought processes, and smiled. She didn't look comfortable at all.
"Hi Teresa, how can I help you?"
"There's someone here to see you." Teresa responded quickly, before John even had a chance to finish asking his question. Everyone was nervous around him. They'd all heard the stories of collateral damage when it came to superheroes. How you either end up dead, irradiated, or transformed into some kind of monster. Teresa smiled to the best of her ability, and then ducked back out of the door.
"Who... is..." John was half out of his seat when Senator Bradley Roth entered. "Oh. You."
Bradley Roth had been through the wars with John. Literally. They'd seen action across the world, before John gained the ring, before Bradley earned his senate seat. He was grinning that politician grin and he had his hand outstretched as he made his way across the room.
"Yes me, you mensch, don't be an asshole."
John considered Bradley's hand like it was made of dirt but then laughed, took it in one swoop, and wrenched the Senator forward into a hug. The two men jeered each other, old friends reunited after some time, then quietened down, John offering the Senator a seat.
"How long has it been, Bradley?" asked John.
"Too long. I saw you on the news when those Boom Tubes opened up above Central Park, crazy shit, am I right?"
"You're not wrong," said John, tentatively. "That was a few weeks back though, being a Senator keeping you busy?"
"Not too far off," said Bradley. "Now look, John. I'm half here for a social call, the other half of me is on government business. You know I don't like to bullshit around, so I'll be up front about that."
"Of course," said John. "So cut the crap and get to the latter, what's wrong?"
"You're a war hero, John. You've fought in both the first and second Iraq wars, you played a role in the Apokolips Invasion some years back, and now you're a ring-slinging sonofabitch."
"I take offence to that last part--"
Bradley put his hands up. "If you feel the need to, but look at the track record for human Green Lanterns. You've got three pilots, one a hot-headed ass, another who's an anger management nightmare, and the other a NASA prodigy turned freak of nature, at least according to the latest Justice League intel. Then there's some kid who hasn't been seen for God knows, and we lost another great in Alan Scott with that Fourth Reich madness, but he wasn't one of your 'Corps', was he?"
"How do you know all that?" asked John.
"Your boy Hal Jordan worked closely with the DEO way back, I've had briefings from King Faraday, the former Director, but that's beside the point," Bradley waved the point away, and leaned back in his chair, "we want to establish a relationship with you, John, just like Hal did. Help us with situations our men can't handle. You're a superhero, we want to help you get to where you're needed."
John bristled slightly. "I never worked with Jordan, but I've reviewed all his mission logs, and I have ot tell you, Bradley, the relationship he had with the DEO was not the best one."
"The concept is sound, the execution up to you," said Bradley, "Hal was a hot-tempered son of a btch and I've known you long enough to understand that you take the long view. We've got men and women overseas dying because our human enhancement initiatives always end up, some how, being usurped by some mad scientist or some terrorist group, but overseas, the Middle East, the Russians, their enhancement initiatives are thriving in the dark and under the sand, and it drives me mad."
"I can't help you, Bradley," said John.
Bradley shot out of his seat and towered over John. "You're an American, John. Act like it. You're a Marine, that doesn't stop when you take your discharge papers, it's in your blood, so damn well take responsibility."
John slowly rose out of his seat, his Green Lantern uniform replacing his work clothes, his ringed fist being brought up level with his face. "I'm a Green Lantern, Bradley. This symbol here?" He patted his chest. "Doesn't mean America, it doesn't mean Russia, it doesn't mean Iraq or England or any one place in the world. It means Earth and it means this universe. Don't ask me to take sides."
"And what if I do?"
"Then you'll lose more than just a friend," said John, regretfully. He motioned toward the door, and shook his head regretfully. "Now please, I've got a deadline."
"This isn't the end of this conversation, John," said Bradley as he approached the door. As he was halfway out, he bristled against a man who was moving into John's office. "Hey now, what where you're--" He swallowed his words as the man laughed in his face. "...What?"
John's ring flared up danger. The man who entered his office had a shock of red hair and wore a large brown coat that was obscuring anything underneath it. "Can I help you?" John asked, his ring running diagnostics and coming up empty. Whatever was going on with this man, his ring couldn't pick anything up.
"I was looking for, heh, Hal Jordan," snarled the man, "or even, yes, or even Guy Gardner, he'd have done nicely. But I'm going to have to settle for you, black, blackest Lantern." The venom in his voice was toxic, his stutter careful, considered, but steeped in madness.
John didn't get angry or raise his voice. He pointed his ring at the man, ready for anything. "Let's take this outside, son. There are civilians here." John shot a look at Bradley, who understood in that second and ran into the bullpen, trying his best to usher as many people out as he could.
"Your old friend Parallax wants complete destruction," said the man, each syllable wavering in intensity and intonation, his voice that of a madman, of someone completely wrong in the head. "All I just want is a little chaos. To spread what's in here," he slapped himself in the temple, "out there," and then waved his hand out across the skyline visible behind John.
John's ring fed information into his head with a voice he'd grown use to since he'd taken up his duties as a Green Lantern. The voice of Kyle Rayner, recorded prior to his death reigniting the Central Power Battery and his defeat of Krona, gave him a direct line to the Book of Oa, the font of knowledge back on the origin world of the Green Lantern Corps. <Subject identified as Alex Nero, see sub files linked to Sinestro, see sub files linked to Parallax, danger level – unknown, caution level – high.>
"Son--" repeated John, but it was almost too late.
"I am not your son and you will never know safety in this universe again!" Alex Nero dropped his coat and revealed that he was wearing a flight suit similar to John's own, but instead of green it was orange, and instead of a symbol representing a cause, there was a fire crackling in his chest cavity going all the way into where his heart should be. "This universe will burn."
Then he detonated.
Sector – Unknown – Planet – Unknown
"You need to focus!"
The boy zipped between the branches of dense forest that surrounded their training camp, every now and then stones bouncing off the emerald shield he projected around his body. He cursed every soft pop of contact, knowing he had failed this phase of the simple test set by his mentor.
"Says the one who trained for a decade! I've only been training with you for a year! And before that, Jeez, I didn't have any training! Cut me some slack, after all this time, please!"
Below him his mentor growled to himself, understanding his student's defiance, seeing himself in every act the boy was actioning. "Will Mongul 'cut you some slack'? Will Parallax? You've got power inside you, boy. You need to harness it, you need to use it!" He had set the course himself, choosing a narrow tunnel of foliage for the student to travel through, the motion traps activated by a slight change in wind speed nearby. He didn't need a power ring to be a tactical genius, but he felt naked without one.
The baby in his arms pulled at his long, unkempt moustache and he looked down at her sternly. She giggled, and he couldn't help but smile. "Hush, little Soranik." Thaal Sinestro had never imagined himself ending up as a nursemaid or the trainer of a human capable of harnessing powers beyond even the Guardians themselves, but here he was, without a ring, missing a finger, lost on the edge of the universe. And up above--
"Kyle! Come, you've done well. Let's head back to the camp."
Kyle Rayner swooped down in an emerald blur, and landed next to Sinestro. He was exhausted, the last six hours dedicated solely to his training, and even though he had been doing that now for the past year, it still wiped him out each time. "You're going to be the death of me, Thaal."
"You started strong," said Sinestro, as the three of them headed back through the forest. "But as your boredom grew, so did the mistakes you made. You need to maintain your focus throughout these exercises. Consistent application of will and exertion is key to being a strong Lantern."
"Not exactly a Green Lantern though, am I?" said Kyle, holding up his hands, rotating them to demonstrate his lack of power ring. "I still don't understand how we're here, how I'm still able to do all the things I did before I reignited the Central Power Battery."
"Then let us again look at the evidence before us," said Sinestro.
The three of them arrived at their camp, and Sinestro lowered the baby into the cot Kyle had constructed a few nights after her arrival to this world. The two men turned to each other, and Kyle sparked up a fire nearby, ready for the long alien night ahead.
"You arrive here after your battle with Krona, displaced in space. You are able to survive without food or water. Six months after that, I arrive after my confrontation with Parallax." Sinestro looked down at the scorched stub of his ring finger. He felt the phantom twinge of a power ring sending lengths of energy through his nerves and into his brain and allowing him to unleash more than anyone could imagine. He pushed that thought down. The stars do not correspond to any I have experienced during my tenure with the Green Lantern Corps, so I believe we are within the Forbidden Zones, not patrolled by and outside the jurisdiction of the Guardians of the Universe. Sixth months after my arrival, this human child, female, arrives."
"Are we on limbo? Have we been dead along?" Kyle shrugged and then held out his hand. "Other pieces of information: One, I can't access the Book of Oa to confirm our location. Two, I can't break atmosphere without falling back down to the ground. Three, we've been able to survive here without food or water since arrival. This place is like paradise."
"I believe the answer lies with you, Kyle.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Rayner, “I dunno about your theory, it's a bit mad, don't you think?”
“You have been touched by greatness,” said Sinestro, “Parallax harnessed some semblance of the same, unbridled power when he was the first Green Lantern, and I believe trace elements of that are now infused with me due to my... possession... by Parallax's yellow ring. When you were at your lowest and your life was on the verge of being snuffed out, on some subconscious level you willed yourself to safety. Here. When I was in the same position, our wills linked, and I arrived here too. But my one fear...”
Sinestro pointed to the sky, and the crimson spacial distortion that hung there. “The scar.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” said Kyle. “It's been here since I first arrived, like I said before. I just don't know what it could be, and my ring is no help.”
“It is not natural,” said Sinestro, “but this is uninhabited space. We see no warp trails, no sign of life other than our own. And you, you, Kyle Rayner, have the power of the Central Power Battery inside you. Still. You need to live so you live. You need to keep us alive, so you do. This whole planet could be--”
The planet shook violently, and the child began to cry.
“Was that you?” asked Kyle, hesitantly.
“No,” said Sinestro, collecting the baby he called Soranik in his arms. “How do you feel?”
“Fine, I feel fine, why?”
“For a moment I feared that if you doubted the existence of this place it might cease to exist. We would have exploded in deep space immediately, but... I was wrong.”
“You're a pessimist, Sinestro,” said Kyle, projecting an emerald shield around them as aftershocks shook the entire area.
“I was possessed by a monster,” said Sinestro, “I'm allowed to fear the worst.”
Above them, the spacial distortion that had been silent and still for months began to flex. It spread out across the sky until it looked like a spiral with jagged spikes jutting out of it. The entirety of space around the distortion began to drain of colour, until black became white.
“What is that?” asked Kyle as a telescope construct formed in front of him and Sinestro stepped in front of him, looking through the viewer. “What do you see?”
“Movement...” murmured Sinestro. “I see... by the Gods...”
“What is it?” asked Kyle. “C'mon,” he created another construct, this time miniaturised, like glass lenses over his eyes. The entire area was maximised, he could see something emerging from the tear in space. The first thing to emerge looked like a demon, red-skinned and wearing a flight suit similar to his own as Ion, albeit armoured around the shoulders and sides. Instead of green it was red. The symbol on the creature's chest resembled the jagged wound that had split open in the sky above Sinestro and Kyle. And on the creature's finger was a ring of purest scarlet.
“What are they?” whispered Kyle.
“Lanterns,” whispered Sinestro, “Red Lanterns!”
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT TIME IN GREEN LANTERN: "THE CRIMSON SCAR"