#29 (40): Love Lost, Pt. 4 (HoM / Jarin) Dec 13, 2011 15:30:58 GMT -5
Post by Admin on Dec 13, 2011 15:30:58 GMT -5
Have you ever thought what it would be like if you lost the person closest to you?
How about your daughter, your son, your mother or your father?
What if you were helpless to help them? You were a hundred miles away? Hell, imagine if you were right next door, and your loved one was dying? And you were going about your day, minding your business, none the wiser to what was going on?
Now, imagine you knew. Imagine you were an impossible distance from the person you loved more than the world, and you knew that someone had a gun to their head. Their finger on the trigger. Put yourself in that position, and imagine what you would be feeling.
Hal Jordan had been a Green Lantern for going on five years now. Five years of fighting cosmic parasites, demonic forces, empowered lunatics and madmen, and he had loved every moment of it. The emerald ring on his finger allowed him to turn his imagination into reality. If he thought it, it could happen. That ring allowed him to do anything. He was a member of an intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps. And he loved every moment of it.
Hal Jordan was also a father. His daughter, Jessica, was the light of his life, and he would have done anything for her. Jessica’s mother, Chloe Sullivan, had fallen into his life almost by accident. She was an agent of the Department of Extranormal Operations, and she had been investigating Hal Jordan. Against their better judgement they had gotten to know each other. Then one night they got drunk. A one night stand had ensued. Nine months later...
Hal Jordan had never planned on becoming a father. The very thought of getting some woman pregnant, having to take responsibility for that? Terrifying. But when he saw little Baby Sullivan, when he held that newborn in his arms, he knew that there was never going to be any question, he would be the best father that he could be.
At this moment in time, Hal Jordan was hurtling through space. Minutes earlier, he had been on the planet Zamoran, he had confronted the mad Hank Henshaw, resurrected and empowered by the purple energy of the Star Sapphires. Hank Henshaw, the former Green Lantern of Earth, the former NASA astronaut, the former Ferris Air test pilot, and the former friend and partner of Hal Jordan.
Hal Jordan cast aside every thought that raced through his head. He focused his willpower. He was laser-focused and intent to fly. That was all he could afford to be. But then a face would drift across his mind’s eye, and he would shiver, and he would grit his teeth. He saw Jessica Jordan’s face, and he would know he wasn’t flying fast enough.
The Final Issue
Love Lost; Conclusion
Words: House Of Mystery
Cover: Joey Jarin
Edits: Mark Bowers
The Final Issue
Love Lost; Conclusion
Words: House Of Mystery
Cover: Joey Jarin
Edits: Mark Bowers
The Space Exploration and Detection Platform ‘Alpha Nine’ shifted in the dark abyss of the universe. The crew were alerted to something moving in the recesses of space by a loud red klaxon that shuddered through the metal corridors, and they hurried to their positions. Signals were sent to Earth, alerting the mission control back down in Houston that there was some kind of ‘space quake’-- a thunderously silent shockwave of momentum and movement-- headed directly for Earth, and that they were going to attempt to track the direction and speed.
Colonel Alan Mitchell, mission-commander, looked away from the readings on his screen, and looked out of the teardrop window into space. And then he blinked. He saw the ‘space quake’, and didn’t know what to make of it. It was headed straight for them, a great emerald inferno of movement, tendrils of light flexing out of the afterburn of the thing. “What... is that?” The satellite rocked as the inferno got closer. It was headed straight for them. “Oh, God. Oh, no-- Commander Morgan, Commander Morgan, tell my wife and my baby girl--” The unidentified flying object curved beneath the platform, and the entire structure of the craft vibrated, but held together. “Oh. Oh, God. It.”
“Colonel Mitchell, do you read?” screeched the static-drenched voice of ‘Ace’ Morgan, head of the project, as he leaned out of his chair back in the control room on Earth. “What’s going on?”
“It... it missed us. It moved. It... Holy God... we’re alive. We’re alive. What was that?”
‘Ace’ Morgan watched as the images from the platform’s cameras were relayed back to Earth. “Someone contact the Justice League. One of theirs is headed home, riding hard. That was Green Lantern--” ‘Ace’ isolated an image at the centre of the glistening green inferno, and zoomed in. The rest of the staff watched as a face, racked with pain and agony, teeth clenched and sweat pouring down the brow, brown hair matted down to the scalp, became clear. “--Something’s terribly wrong.”
Hal Jordan saw red. His body screamed at him to stop, to slow down, and he abided in small ways, dodging planetoids and satellites, trying his best to avoid inhabited planets and craft. He’d never flown this fast before. Never flown this hard. He had to get back to Smallville. Had to get back to his family. The communications he tried to send out to the Justice League, to any nearby Green Lanterns, came out as horrific static, too much energy being spent on his speed. His thoughts raced. He had to get there. He had to get home. He had to save his daughter, had to save Chloe-- He ground to a stop as he passed the moon, cut off his ring’s propulsion, and went into freefall over America. He guided himself awkwardly, and then connected hard with the ground.
<Massive [Star Sapphire = ‘Predator’/Hank Henshaw?] energy discharges recently released> His ring was buzzing pure information straight into his brain. He blinked, absorbed it, and swallowed hard as he surveyed the chaos of the immediate area. Kent Farm was a smoking ruin, purple fires raging unnaturally across the entire breadth of the acreage. What was once a farmhouse was a gutted wreck. Green Lantern moved forward tentatively, his ring attempting to douse the inferno raging all around.
“Chloe? Chloe?” There came no answer. Why would there? He felt an almighty darkness build inside him, hurt and fear for what had happened when he wasn’t there to protect them. “Where are they?!”
<One life sign detected,> whispered Hal’s ring. Abin Sur’s voice was hushed. Alive. <Fading fast, Hal.>
Hal surged through the wreckage, his ring moving the debris away as he stormed forward. His fingers dug into the ash and the fire, and he pulled away what his ring hadn’t gotten to yet. He forgot how to breathe when he saw Chloe Sullivan lying in a broken wreck on the floor, burned, bruised, unconscious. Her breathing was ragged, barely there, and as Hal began to think up ways to get her to safety, she crumpled. Her body simply gave in, and the bubbles that were forming in the blood at the corners of her mouth dribbled to a stop. There was no movement. No sound.
”D’you even hear that?” asked Guy, as Kilowog, Arisia and himself shot toward Sector 2814. They were running moments behind Hal, not running as fast, not pushing themselves like he could. ”That static? What is that?”
”I don’t know, poozer, sounds like it could be yer connection to Jordan’s ring?” Kilowog grunted. ”Slow it down, stretch it out. That’s compressed information.”
Guy blinked, ignored the white points of light stretching through the topaz tunnels of subluminal travel they were hurtling past, and felt the static unravel inside his head.
”--The Predator is Hank Henshaw and he’s going after Jessica and Star Sapphires he conquered and enslaved and he’s going after Chloe and they’re not safe I didn’t leave anyone with them there’s no one to protect her and I need to be there I need to get back I was scared this was going to happen I feared fear don’t can’t won’t live with this and Henshaw won’t live to see the dawn if he kills her if he touches her if he goes near her--”
The message was pure unadulterated stream of thought from Hal Jordan. Guy swallowed. His ring sparked and buzzed. He began to pull away from Kilowog and Arisia.
”Gardner?” said Arisia, watching him push himself harder. His ring flared, more and more energy being pulled into it. ”How are you--”
There was a massive explosion that engulfed Kilowog and Arisia, a bright, incandescent purple inferno that rattled through their forcefields and sent them barrelling back into the bleakness of space. Kilowog was caught by the split-second thinking of Arisia, prevented from bouncing lightyears away from their intended target-- ”What was that?”
Kilowog rubbed his eyes, and a low growl left his thick pink lips. A massive, violet wall was separating Sector 2814 from the rest of the universe. Guy Gardner was floating behind the wall, his hand pushed up against the barrier. Kilowog and Arisia were on the outside looking in, and the fact made no sense to them.
They couldn’t hear Guy’s transmission. His ring was sparking, energy still being used, but his signal wasn’t getting through the wall. He looked back to where the Earth would be, and then back to Arisia and Kilowog.
”Another of the Star Sapphire’s barricades?” Arisia asked, looking toward Kilowog.
”Can’t be, apparently they’re on our side,” said Kilowog. ”It’s The Predator, has to be, the thing that’s causing all the trouble across the universe. Does this thing go all around?!”
”You need to go,” Arisia said to Guy, pointedly. He was following her lip movements, and she spoke slowly, and he nodded. ”You need to go save Hal. That’s on you.”
Guy nodded, and then headed off in the direction they had all intended to reach.
”Good luck,” whispered Arisia.
”Everything is different now,” said a Guardian.
The Citadel was full. A contingent of Zamorans were stood in the centre, and floating above were the Guardians, green and purple light meeting like fireflies in the night sky. There were sparks of energy, nothing dangerous, nothing threatening, but it was there nonetheless.
“We acknowledge that,” said Queen Aga’Po. “But we’re not in the wrong. Do not expect us to apologise.”
”The Predator entity poses a grave threat to our Corps, and to your people,” said another Guardian. ”Utilising the dark concentrate of your Central Power Battery, a former Green Lantern, 2814.2, Hank Henshaw, has become as powerful as our former Torchbearer, Ion, Kyle Rayner.”
“This was never meant to happen,” said Aga’po. “We excised that element from our hearts to better ourselves, we thought that without jealousy... love, our love, would be more effective... but we were mistaken. To remove it gave it acknowledgement, power. I fear... I fear that removing it gave it the sentience it required to draw your Lantern to itself.”
“We should never have driven you away as we did,” said a Guardian, much to the surprise of everyone else. There was a long silence, and then another Guardian began to speak, calmly, peacefully-- and above all, honestly:
“We exorcised a part of ourselves when you left Oa. Something we have recently found returned to ourselves.”
“...I don’t understand,” said Aga’Po.
“We must defeat The Predator,” said Ganthet, emerging from the Guardians. “Then the future of the universe must be decided.”
Guy Gardner hit the atmosphere. “Highball, where are you?”
There came no response.
”Hal, come on, what’s--”
”You always did go running to him. Like a good dog.”
”Henshaw,” snarled Gardner. ”What happened man? What the £$%^ are you doing?”
”Come visit me, why don’t you? And I’ll tell you a story about a good man who was let down and died a bloody death because of it. Moral of the story-- spoilers-- you don’t let me down, Gardner. You don’t let me down or you die.”
Guy shot down toward Coast City. The city was silent, caught between the disaster zone that it had been in the wake of Mongul’s attack-- and Henshaw’s death-- and the reconstruction efforts. But not only that, jutting through the buildings and ground were huge sapphire barricades, tearing through scaffolding and pavement, skyscrapers and make-shift shelters.
Gardner approached carefully. He didn’t know what to expect. From his vantage point in the sky he saw a massive crater crackling out from the middle of the city, and burnt into the ground was the insignia of the Green Lantern Corps. Stood in the middle of the lantern was a man shrouded in purple and silver. Guy landed in front of him, and readied himself.
Hank Henshaw cradled Jessica Jordan in his thick arms. “Glad you could make it.”
Jessica was asleep. Hank held her close, and the air shimmered around her. A shield. Guy couldn’t storm in, ring blazing. He felt something rise up inside him. What was that? Fear?
“Give me the girl.”
“I don’t think so,” replied Henshaw. “The fun is only just beginning.”
Gardner pushed the feeling in his chest down. “Please, Henshaw...”
“You want me to hand her over? Why? Why do you even care? You want so much, and you know what, so do I! You let me die!” Hank shuddered with power, the violet shield on his chest throbbed, and Jessica stirred. Henshaw smiled and gently cooed the child back to sleep. “You let me die,” he repeated again, slowly.
“I didn’t,” said Guy.
“Hal Jordan got himself quarantined on Oa, and he left you in charge. So he’s to blame, too. In fact, I blame him more than you. Because what did I expect? You and him, you had history, and to be honest, you had more experience with the ring, but when you leave a complete and utter idiot in charge, I wasn’t going to survive the experience was I?”
“I don’t know what this is,” said Gardner, motioning to The Predator, “but you’re not right, Hank. You’re not. I’ve been through this with Legion, these things, they get inside your head. The power, it makes you wrong in there, but you can overcome it. I did. Hal did--”
“I made this happen!” Henshaw threw his hand up and blasted Gardner back. Guy was about to retaliate when Hank held up Jessica in front of him. The shield around her dropped. A wry smile formed on Hank’s lips. “You even think a blast my way and I’ll snap her neck.”
Guy put up his hands. “I’m not blasting. I’m listening.”
“Then listen to this. You see the crystal all across the city? That’s not for show. That’s digging into the crust of the planet and in a few hours’ time it’ll begin to tentacle out. Indestructible. Only I can turn it off, see?” He tapped his head. “You’re going to have to kill me to stop it. Do you have it in you?”
“You’re not Hank Henshaw anymore,” said Gardner, “you’ve made that clear.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.” Hank laughed. “The world at stake. You, finally able to save the universe on your own terms-- because Guy, you know I won’t stop here-- you, finally out of Hal Jordan’s shadow.”
“I’m not in Hal’s shadow,” said Guy. “That’s your hang-up. Not mine.”
“Oh, we’ll see,” said The Predator. He held Jessica out, and sealed her up in a violet bubble for her own protection. “Shall we dance?”
Guy’s power ring sparked. He threw himself at Henshaw, all instinct and will, with no purpose but to take this monster down. Henshaw sealed Jessica up in another energy sphere and threw her up in the air and Guy was distracted for a split second.
What should I--?
Hank took advantage of that moment and crossed the distance between the two of them impossibly fast. Unable to react in time, Gardner winced as he felt a fist slam into his back like a jack hammer. He felt blood rise up his throat but swallowed it down.
Guy growled under his breath and looked over his shoulder from where he lay. The purple sphere hung in the air, Jessica fine inside, but Guy knew that could change at any moment. He was flat on his front, Henshaw towering over him. “I’m not impressed yet, Gardner.”
The Predator slammed his foot down on where Guy was laying-- concrete shattering under the force of the blow-- but Gardner had already rolled onto his back, aimed his ring up, and shot a power beam straight into Henshaw’s face.
Blood and gore spurted upward and The Predator was still, his hands twitching. “How about that?” snarled Gardner, as The Predator fell flat on his back. A red mist hung in the air over Henshaw’s face, and Guy pulled himself up and looked down at his felled enemy. “How about that?” No movement. Nothing. He looked up at the sky, where Jessica floated, and felt his brow furrow. The sphere was still glowing.
A low, guttural noise spilled out from behind the gory mess that was Henshaw’s head. The last breath taken by the monster leaving the same way it came in. A death rattle if Gardner had ever heard one.
“Hhhhhha... ha... ha...”
“No...” Guy swallowed, prepped his ring-- every piece of rage, frustration and anger he had felt for the past couple of months packaged up in emerald-- and fired again at The Predator, but Henshaw’s hand shot up caught the beam, crushed it in his grip, and Guy watched his energy barrage dissipate. Completely ineffectual. Completely useless. “...way...”
“You should see your face.” Henshaw wiped the blood from his own, and Gardner stumbled back. There was a darkness beneath Henshaw’s mask, but a flicker of something... white, razor sharp... the image cleared in Gardner’s head, it was Henshaw’s mouth, but for a second, at the right angle, at the right moment, there was something monstrous there, something terrifying under the surface. “Did you see mine?” Henshaw punched Gardner in the chest, straight through the aura that should have protected the Green Lantern, and Guy flew backwards, straight into one of the derelict buildings nearby.
“Oh, God...” Guy couldn’t move. His chest was on fire. His ring spluttered and sprayed sparks, but he couldn’t think, he couldn’t get past the red haze that now floated in his head. He touched his chest where Henshaw had punched and saw blood on his fingertips. His head lolled back and he nearly blacked out, but the figure of Henshaw in the hole Gardner had just been punched through dragged him back.
Gardner encased the room in a shield, effectively locking The Predator out, but Henshaw pushed his hand against the construct, and Gardner could see the splinters showing immediately. His willpower was wavering, Henshaw was too powerful. It couldn’t end like this. The construct crumbled. Guy pulled himself up and swung hard, but Henshaw caught the punch, twisted down and Gardner heard the crack exploding from his arm. Gardner staggered back, pain now fully interfering with his ability to conjure up a construct, but with all his will he threw another punch, powered by his ring, but Henshaw simply grabbed Guy’s arm at the shoulder and elbow, wrenched down, and then grabbed the Green Lantern’s head. With his fingers spread evenly across Gardner’s face he began to push... and Guy Gardner began to scream.
“No,” whispered Hal. “No.” His fingers dug into the ash and dirt beneath him. “I refuse to accept this,” he stumbled up off the floor and then fell against Chloe, his hands holding her face up. “You’re alive. You’re not dead.” His ring buzzed, and his aura flared. “I refuse to accept that.” He held her close, and felt a sob rise up in his chest. “If... I believe it...” He tensed up, and his ring shivered up his arm. “If I believe it, if my will power is strong enough...” He gagged, something twisting in his guts. He was suddenly aware of a heavy feeling all around him, like the air had solidified, and his every movement was pushing up against a great wall. “If I believe you... you’re...” Blood dribbled down from his nostrils. He tasted a copper tang on his tongue. “You’re alive.” His ring sparked and threads of light touched Chloe’s skin. He felt light then. And the air was drowning him, burying him, and he didn’t know what to do, but he knew what he had to think. “You’re alive.”
<Life signs present. Ring charge at 3%.>
Chloe coughed, a deep, echoing cough that shook Hal out of his own pain. She looked up at him through dazed, bloodshot eyes, and her limp hand ran across his temple. “He... got... her...” And then she was gone, passed out, back into the welcome arms of life and the darkness of unconsciousness.
Hal swallowed, and fell beside her. He was running on fumes. Jessica wasn’t here. Hank had Jessica. He looked up at the night sky, and saw that the darkness of space was tinged purple. He rolled onto his front, and pushed himself up. He staggered backwards, nearly falling back down. Ambulance sirens blared in the background. He reached into the dimensional lock that held his power battery and pulled it out. “This is it,” he whispered. “Him or me.” He pushed his ring into the cavity inside the battery, and began to whisper his oath. “In brightest day...” His uniform was no longer a mangled mess. It repaired itself instantly. “...in blackest night...” His ring flared and burned brightly. “...this is for my daughter.” He closed his eyes, breathed in deep, readied himself for his next move-- and then he looked down. Guy was contacting him. He didn’t want to take the call. He was trying to think. He opened up the communication link to his partner. “...I need help, Guy.”
”I know you do, Hal,” the voice was definitively not Gardner’s. Hank Henshaw’s smirking face was illuminated in emerald in front of Jordan. Gardner was nowhere in sight. ”But Guy’s not available right now.”
“What have you done, Henshaw? Give me back my daughter!”
“Nuh-uh, Hal, I don’t think we’ll listen to what you want right now. I want you to come to me. I’m in Coast City. The place I died, remember? I want you to come down here and say hello. But I want you to know that if you don’t face me like a man I’ll kill her without hesitation. I’ll snap her neck before you can think to stop me. So you come and say hello, all civilised, and we’ll talk this over like men.”
The ring transmission went dead.
“Coast City,” whispered Hal Jordan. He was off like a shot.
Coast City was riddled with crystalline constructs, you could barely see the scorched buildings and gutted office buildings that were left after Mongul’s invasion of the city. Hal landed in the centre of the city, a scorched Green Lantern symbol crawling outward toward the rest of the city. “What happened here?”
<Seismic activity detected.>
Hal stumbled back as the ground erupted and a pillar of crystal ascended toward the sky. Jordan said nothing. He trudged around the construct, and toward an area of recently-disturbed earth. There were signs of ring discharge all over. The scorch marks looked wild, one-sided. Henshaw versus Gardner.
“This is my masterpiece.”
Hal spun around, but he couldn’t see Hank. The voice was coming from nowhere. And it was The Predator’s. Guy was nowhere to be seen, Jessica was still missing.
Hal felt rage build inside him. He felt it flow through his body, he felt it take hold. “Give me my daughter, you bastard!”
“It will never be that easy. This battle? This war? It won’t end the way you think it will.”
“Then let’s end this!” Jordan was screaming now, shouting into the sky. He pulled off his ring, and threw it to the ground. “Kill me! Just kill me and be done with it!” His uniform faded into nothing, he was just a man in a flight jacket, powerless against a force of cosmic horror.
Henshaw emerged from a building across the way, gutted by the brutal artillery of Mongul months ago. “Oh, look at you.” Jessica was sleeping his arms. Hal considered his options. His ring was on the floor in front of him. All he had was his fear. His anger. No hope. No chance. “Put it back on.”
“What?” Hal hesitated.
“Put your ring back on. When I kill you, I want you to have been able to put up a fight. It won’t count for anything. But it’ll make you less of a failure, won’t it?”
“It’s impossible,” whispered Arisia, her hand pressed against the purple crystal barrier that was keeping the Green Lantern Corps from their comrade-in-arms. “It doesn’t make sense and not even our most powerful blasts can get through it...”
“Quit your whining,” growled Kilowog. “Jordan got through it back on Zamoran. It’s possible. All we’ve got to do is will our way through it.” Kilowog’s large fingers pushed against the cold, hard surface of the wall. A dozen Green Lanterns floated behind him. Since Gardner had become separated from them they hadn’t stopped blasting. Their power rings didn’t even dent the barrier. “I’m sick of these frakking barriers keeping me from where I want to be. Always the biggest bads on one side and the Corps on the other, I’m sick of it.” Kilowog breathed in deeply. “Hal needs our help.” He pushed his ring hand against the surface of the wall. “Gardner, too. We don’t know what they’re facing... and with this wall standing between us...”
“But what can we do?”
Kilowog closed his eyes. He was used to blunt force getting the job done, but he’d been trained to do more than just that. He thought about his times fighting alongside Sinestro and Abin Sur. They favoured the softer arts of the ring, manipulating things on a base level. Kilowog liked hammers. He thought about Abin. He thought about Thaal. And then he pushed. He pushed his hand into the surface of the crystal. He thought about how he could displace the energy of the barrier but at the same time move through it. He didn’t want to destroy it, no, he wanted to become part of it, move through it, become part of it, move through it, and then...
There was a soft popping noise and he opened his eyes. He could see Earth undistorted by the sheen of pink energy that had separated him and the rest of the Sector for the better part of an hour. He turned back, and saw Arisia looking at him wide-eyed.
She was trying to talk to him. He could tell. “Think through it,” he said, and she nodded. She pushed her hand against the wall but couldn’t break through. “I’m headed in. Wish me luck.”
“You’re talking crap,” said Hal, as he crouched down, picking up his ring. “Give me my daughter.” The ring slipped onto Hal’s finger. Nice and easy. His uniform formed over his body. Readings streamed directly into his brain. Ring charge at 145%.
“So this is your daughter,” said Hank, holding Jessica close. “Do you think she deserves a future?”
The ground around Hank Henshaw’s feet exploded upwards in a cacophony of noise and green light-- the villain stumbled into the gaping wound that had just opened up around him, and vanished into the darkness.
Hal Jordan looked up at the sky, and Kilowog was floating there, his ring having just caused the earth to come up and engulf Henshaw.
“You’re not alone, Jordan,” bellowed Kilowog. The drill sergeant of the Corps landed next to Jordan. “What’s going on--?”
“Godammit, Kilowog!” Jordan tried to push past his comrade but Kilowog grabbed him by the shoulder.
“What the frak, poozer?”
“He’s got my daughter, Kilowog! He’s got Jessica! Let me--” Coast City shook. The purple constructs jutted out, down, in every direction, crashing through buildings, piercing the ground and clawing at the sky. “What now?”
A construct formed over Kilowog’s ring. “Whatever it is that Henshaw’s doing, his constructs are travelling through the crust of the Earth... within an hour the Earth will shatter...” The emerald construct of the Earth cracked and broke apart, and Jordan turned to Kilowog.
“We need to stop him,... You go, I’ll--” He tried to come up with a plan, some scheme to save the day, but nothing came to mind. His words failed him.
“NO” The Predator exploded out of the ground, and the two Green Lanterns were on him, their rings projecting cages. Kilowog and Jordan worked in tandem, their rings linking them without words. Their constructs multiplied around Hank-- paper-thin but impossibly hard. More and more walls were shunted around their enemy, the density increasing.
Kilowog focused on the task at hand-- containment-- but Jordan’s concentration wavered, his constructs flickering as they generated. “Jessica--!” Hal looked at Kilowog. “Where is she?!”
Hal’s ring answered with the voice of Abin Sur. <Only one life sign within the construct; Hank Henshaw [deceased] Green Lantern 2814.2 [inactive] ‘The Predator’>
“Then where?!” Hal looked down at the chasm The Predator had just flown out from. His ring searched for all possible hiding places, searched for any sign of Jessica, but there was nothing. “WHERE?”
“Jordan, your constructs, you need to focus--” shouted Kilowog.
The Predator shredded the Green Lanterns’ constructs, the energy roaring away from his throbbing purple body. He grinned at Hal Jordan. “You won’t hold her again, Hal. I promise you that.” He clicked his fingers and Jessica appeared from nowhere, encased in a protective energy sphere. “And now we have an audience.”
“Leave the kid alone, Henshaw!” Kilowog drove his shoulder into The Predator, pushing the villain to the ground below. The Bolovaxian grabbed the sphere containing Jessica, and shot away, his ring working to release the child from her prison.
Hal flew between Kilowog and The Predator, and unleashed a thousand energy beams that should have torn through a god, but, when the emerald dust cleared, The Predator grabbed Hal’s arm, broke it with one tug, and then swatted him away.
“If you insist on this course of action, then you die with her, Kilowog--!” The Predator lifted up his arm and, from the darkness of his costume, black tendrils shot out, purple light coruscating around them. Kilowog pushed his ring hard, trying his damnedest to break Jessica out from the prison. He sealed the purple construct within a construct of his own thinking, trying his best to protect Jessica.
Hal threw himself up from where he had landed, his arm hanging loose at his side. He tried to think about a sling, something to keep it from swinging around and causing waves of pain from rolling up it, but he wanted Henshaw dead. He wanted to destroy him. To put him down. Solid beams of power flew from his ring and straight into The Predator, hoping to distract him from chasing Kilowog and his daughter, but Henshaw laughed at the pathetic attempt to harm him. A construct shot out from the villain’s hand and snagged Jordan by the leg then threw him into the ground. “Come on, Hal. You can do better than that. Your daughter’s life is on the line here.” Energy lashed over Hal’s limbs and bound him to the ground. “Watch. Watch and die inside.”
Kilowog glanced back over his shoulder and was struck in the back by a purple construct. Hal throttled his ring, concentrated on the Earth he was bound to, and thought about it breaking, crumbling, and his ring did the rest. He was free, and he had to save his daughter. Nothing would stop him.
The Predator floated over Kilowog. “I’m afraid you won’t be seeing the dawn, poozer,” hissed Henshaw.
“I once told Jordan, hhff--” Kilowog dodged a razor sharp construct, still clutching Jessica close to his chest, “that you were better than him... Did he--” another construct, another close shave for the Green Lantern, “-- did he ever tell you that?”
“No,” growled The Predator. He unfurled a finger slowly at Kilowog. “You’ve lost so many Green Lanterns, Kilowog, I wonder what they would say to you now, seeing you like this?” He fired a white-hot beam of light at Kilowog’s head, causing the drill sergeant to howl. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t focus. His will was gone. He tried to think.
A mighty crystal dome shot up around the three of them, sealing them up tight. Then images began to flicker off the surface of the dome. Kilowog squinted.
“Abin?” Abin Sur stepped out from the crystal, and walked slowly toward Kilowog. The Bolovaxian cursed himself as the construct of his old friend kicked him, his naivety at Sur’s appearance overtaking the need to ask why is he purple? More and more fallen Lanterns appeared from the dome, and all of them attacked Kilowog in utter silence. Blood dribbled from Kilowog’s lips. He tried to protect himself but there were dozens-- hundreds?-- all attacking, all trying to get a piece of him.
The Predator clicked his fingers and the constructs snapped back into the dome.
“What do you think?”
“S-so he didn’t t-tell you? G-good,” chuckled Kilowog, “I only s-said you was better ‘cause I was t-trying to rile him, make him pick up his game. ‘Cause for all your ability, Hank... you were second, no, heh, third class, when it came to Hal Jordan.”
“NAAAAAAA-- “ Henshaw’s face contorted, razor sharp teeth revealed themselves from the darkness, a nightmare of galaxy-wide proportions trying to push its way out of Hank’s fragile human frame, and then he threw up his hand, a construct formed, and he drove it through Kilowog’s chest, straight through his heart, and out the other side. “You are nothing but a speck, a piece of dirt under my shoe, I will kill you a thousand times, a million times, and devour your soul! Use your bones to pick my teeth andddd... gah... too much... too much...” Henshaw righted himself, and looked down at Kilowog’s dead body. The emerald construct around Jessica Jordan evaporated, and Hank picked her up. “Hello, princess.”
“Hank, please...” Hal Jordan couldn’t believe what he had just seen. Kilowog’s chest was a gaping hole. His ring had already left his finger., searching for a new bearer. Kilowog was gone. “Enough killing, please. Let’s end this, you and me... like you want to.”
Only Hal Jordan, Hank Henshaw and Jessica Jordan were left in the ruins of Coast City.
“You’ll never learn, Hal. I’m going to have to force you to understand... you can’t always win.”
“Says you,” said Hal.
“Still the optimist. Still the ass. Come on, you think you can stop anything. Stop anyone. But you’re wrong.”
“You don’t know me, Henshaw, not anymore. You lost that right when you threatened the universe! Threatened my family!”
“Of course I know you!” laughed Hank. “We were partners! I know you well enough to say that you’re dying inside. I just killed your beloved Kilowog. Your pet alien. Your... heavy. I tore Guy Gardner’s brain from his head somewhere over there, too.” He motioned over his shoulder to a broken building. “Not only that, but I’ve been picking apart at your family, too. Did you hear?”
Chloe. Hal knew about Chloe. But his family? Who else? “Hear... what...”
“I flipped your brother’s car off the highway. Him and his boy, spread across the road, a bloody stain*. You had only just left him, at your mother’s grave. Oh, sorry about that.”
*Green Lantern #27
“That was you.” Hal shook his head. He didn’t look at Henshaw. He focused his eyes on Jessica. Still sleeping. So peaceful. This whole situation was maddening. Henshaw couldn’t hurt her. He wouldn’t even...
“And then your broodmare. Chloe Sullivan. What a happy accident she became, am I right?”
“You screwed her, you knocked her up, and you’re such a gentleman, such a... ‘good guy’, that you stayed with her! God, the ol’ Jordan instinct must have been screaming to run, run, run away, I’m sure.”
“You really don’t know me.”
“Well, no more happy accidents with her. This is the only one you’re going to get. She’s dead, Hal. I killed her.”
“It didn’t stick,” said Hal.
“Oh?” The Predator arched an eyebrow. “Good for you.”
“Listen to me, Hank. Just listen. Kill me. But just get Jessica to safety. You have to do that. You were a hero before, you can do it again...”
“I’m not exactly the man I was before though, am I? I’ve got this... thing inside me, wanting to claw its way out. And all I’ve got to hold on to, all the humanity that’s left, is screaming kill Hal Jordan, so I think I’ll do that. But first.”
Henshaw held Jessica in one hand, and he drew his other hand up, as a child would if he were pretending to be a composer. A single, dramatic finger quivered in the air. He tore down with that finger, and the air split open. There was a thunderous sound, and Jessica woke up, and began to bawl. Henshaw dropped Jessica Jordan through a hole in reality, and sealed it up tight.
Hal Jordan was on him just as the tear in space sealed shut with a calamitous roar. Green constructs exploded from Hal’s torso directly into Henshaw, but The Predator just laughed, not even fazed by the assault. Hal was multitasking, his sheer horror at what happened informing both his attack and the secondary operation his ring was running-- special anomaly scanning apparatus was springing up in the air where The Predator had shorn open the sky, trying to open up the hole, trying to bring Jessica back.
“WHY?” Hal screamed, as The Predator just laughed. Henshaw was gone. Any remnants of humanity were gone, all that was left was the cosmic horror he had become. A monster in a human suit. “WHY HER WHY NOT KILL ME WH-”
The Predator put his palm straight up into Hal’s throat, and the words stopped flowing from Jordan’s lips. The Green Lantern gagged; his ring fluctuated, but still operated.
“You let me die. I kill you. Or I don’t. That’s really up in the air. I kill you or I kill the world or I do both. Or neither.” The Predator’s mouth was filled with razor sharp teeth. There was a change overcoming him. His being crackled with power. The constructs embedded into the city shuddered.
Hal clutched his throat. “Why?”
“I am the all-powerful force of nature that the Green Lantern Corps refused to acknowledge,” said Henshaw, his each step causing the ground underfoot to fuse to glass. His body was twitching, two beings, one form, the broken human body of Hank Henshaw, and then, somewhere inside, dying to get out, a beast, an animal, talking like it was a human being. “I am love incarnate, and I can see things you could not possibly imagine. Life lines. The potential for change and hurt and love and pain that each decision of the heart can lead to. I can see that now, and when I saw Chloe Sullivan, I saw nothing but darkness in her future with you. And I saw your daughter, your poor little dead daughter, and I saw that with you as her father she would be a lost little girl with no hope of happiness from this point, to her end point. So I did the only logical thing. I made sure she wouldn’t suffer because of you.”
“No,” said The Predator, “I am love.”
Hal realised something then. He had fought so hard to be a father and at the same time, fought so hard to stay a Green Lantern. He had juggled the two, and he had let them both suffer for the decision. He had pulled back from the responsibility of the Corps, sure, but with the ring on his finger, he would never be far away from trouble. The Predator had to be stopped. He had to be put down. Then Hal would pay for his own failings. But right now, a cosmic beast was chained to a human form, it was drilling toward the Earth’s core, and it was going to crack the planet in two. Mourning would have to wait.
“What do you have to say to that?”
“You’re something I could never be,” said Green Lantern. “I realise that now.”
“You’re alone.” Hal aimed his ring at The Predator. “You’re tearing my life apart because yours is so empty. Because, let’s be honest... no one really cares that you died.”
The Predator smiled smugly. “You’d be surprised.”
“I doubt it.” Hal unleashed his power beam. It collided squarely with The Predator’s chest, but didn’t faze him. It was a decoy, the physical force of the blow a distraction while Hal’s ring fully analysed The Predator’s body. The ring whispered information incessantly into Hal’s ear. Power signature matches that of the ‘Star Sapphire Central Power Battery’. Full breakdown as follows-- Skip --Physical body appears human-- transformed by exposure to cosmic energies-- Weak points, come on, weak points! The Predator trudged forward. Power-- corrupt? Magenta energy spewed off around The Predator’s body as he approached his attacker. “...You’re like Ion.”
“The Rayner kid?” The Predator sniffed the air like a snob, flaring his nostrils at the suggestion. “Pathetic. A failed experiment. Dead and buried.”
“No, not like that,” Hal grunted. His ring finger felt like it was on fire. He could see his costume smoulder and burn as his aura intensified. The air crackled and popped. He was pouring so much will into this blast, and as he pushed his thoughts and feelings into the ring, things begin to drift away from his being. All the negative emotions. All the pain. He was giving himself heart and soul to the ring.
The Predator laughed again, long and hard. “You can’t even hurt me, Hal! You can’t even begin to!” He put out his hand, and caught the energy in his palm, pooling it into a sphere as he had on Zamoran.
“I...” Hal hesitated. He was trying to hurt The Predator. That wasn’t the right way. That wasn’t the solution. Henshaw was self-sustaining. A living power battery. Blasting him wouldn’t work.
Hal thought about Kyle Rayner, the Torchbearer, Ion, the human power battery. Ganthet had stored the power of the Green Lantern Corps within Kyle to protect that energy from the grasp of Darkseid. Not only that, but Ganthet had placed the essence of the Guardians of the Universe within the young man. So much power, unimaginable, inside one little man on a little planet in a backwater Sector. The Green Lanterns left standing after Darkseid’s attack on the Green Lantern Corps were drawing power from Kyle, from his soul, and that changed things. A human power battery.
The purple energy was captured by Zamorans, the female mates of the Guardians of the Universe. They were looking for a power more terrifying than that of the Green Lantern Corps, and they found it. They made the connection between that power and love. That power caused negative thoughts which they purged from their Central Power Battery. The husks of negative purple energy were now inside Henshaw, and he had then gone on to absorb the rest of their energy. But all Henshaw was now was a power battery.
A Green Lantern power ring was meant for one thing. The storing and eventual projection of the energy contained within the Central Power Battery. Hal knew that things could change. Central Power Batteries could be kids with hopes and dreams, and they could be child-killing murderers with nothing but death on their minds. But what if Hal believed his ring could store a different kind of energy?
“In brightest day,” he started. He started slow, but with the first line of that mantra spoken, he felt his ring tug him forward. He held fast. “In blackest night.”
“What--?” A tentacle of energy began to pool out of The Predator’s chest. He hissed, his molars clacked together as he tried to tense, to draw his power back inside himself.
“No evil shall escape my-- “ The strand of energy drawn out of Henshaw’s chest shot into Hal’s ring, and Jordan felt his arm shake under the pressure. Henshaw was screaming, and in his rage blasting all around the city. “-- my sight-- “
“You’re going to kill me again,” growled Henshaw. He threw himself forward, and began to pummel Jordan, who strengthened his aura, tried to take the punches, but the blows caused what remaining windows left in Coast City to shatter. He felt his flesh tear under the attack. “You’re going to die first!”
“Let those-- aauuuu-- “ Hal’s arm was on fire. His nerves felt like they were electrified. Nothing felt right about this, but Henshaw’s body was changing, rippling, fluctuating, and his power was still being drawn out of his being. “LET THOSE WHO WORSHIP EVIL’S MIGHT BEWARE MY POWER”
“AAAAAUUUGHHHHH!” Henshaw felt something snap inside him. The purple energy crawled out from his soul and funnelled into Hal’s ring. Suddenly all the armour and the terror and power that had sustained Hank Henshaw during his reign of terror as The Predator was gone, and he was just a man, panting, sweating, bleeding from the ears and nose.
Hal’s eyes were filling with black spots. His heart was racing, pounding against his sternum. He could barely breathe. There was a noise coming from his power ring, a high-pitched whine, and it shunted Jordan’s eyes back into focus. His costume was a wreck, purple crystals forming armour over parts, corrupting the pristine blackness of the sections around his sides. His white gloves-- where not torn-- were covered in vines of mauve, spreading from his ring and out. As his vision cleared he could make out cracks forming all over the surface of the supposed indestructible power ring on his hand. The sound coming from his ring intensified, so much so that Hal was compelled to pull the ring from his finger and throw it in the air.
Jordan watched as it exploded in a fury of green and purple. The giant crystalline constructs Henshaw had willed into existence began to contract and shrink, and suddenly the world was quiet, leaving only Hank Henshaw gibbering on the floor, and Hal Jordan standing triumphantly over him.
“Green Lantern’s light,” whispered Hal Jordan.
“Hal...?” spluttered Hank Henshaw. He was wearing the torn and shredded remains of his Green Lantern uniform, the last thing he wore before his death at the hands of Mongul. “I...”
“You took my daughter, you sonofabitch,” said Jordan. He grabbed Henshaw by the collar and dragged him up. “I-- did-- nothing-- to-- you--!” Each staccato growl was punctuated by a punch to the face. “YOU TOOK MY DAUGHTER” another barrage of punches. Henshaw wasn’t putting up a fight. He coughed and bled and took each punch. “YOU TOOK HER FROM ME”
“What... happened?” murmured Henshaw, blood dribbling through split lips and broken teeth. “...Did we... did we win...?”
Hal dropped Hank and watched the disgraced Green Lantern clutch feebly at the floor. Broken. Battered. Shattered into a million different pieces. “You don’t remember.”
“NO” Hal grabbed Henshaw’s shoulders, spun him round to face him. “YOU DON’T GET TO” He punched him again, but each blow was increasingly weak. The fight was gone from him.
”The Predator entity took hold of Hank Henshaw’s broken consciousness.”
“Extrapolated memories. A life. Made connections and assumptions based on a dying man’s thoughts.” The Guardians of the Universe floated around the scene, twelve of them in all. Flanking each one was a Zamoran. Beside Ganthet was Aga’Po, who looked mournful. The Zamorans were silent.
Arisia and a spattering of Green Lanterns, that had come flying at the alarm sounded by Kilowog earlier, had landed by the Bolovoxian’s body. Arisia was kneeling next to the fallen drill sergeant’s corpse, weeping. Hal felt a lump build in his throat. He had lost... so much... He had lost Jessica. Chloe was barely alive. And Jim and... Kilowog and... “That doesn’t... make him... innocent...”
”Hal Jordan-- Green Lantern 2814.1--” The diminutive Oan descended upon Jordan slowly, and placed a small blue hand on the Green Lantern’s shoulder. ”We are sorry for the loss of your daughter. Your ring upload shared the events of the day with us. By the time we shattered the barrier with the assistance of the Zamorans... it was too late.”
“You don’t... have... to make excuses...” said Jordan. “Just bring her back.”
”We are unable,” said one Guardian.
”The Predator was more powerful than we could have imagined, the dimensional tear it opened is untraceable,” finished another.
“Then get him to tell you!” said Jordan, pointing a trembling finger at Henshaw. “He knows! He sent her there!”
“He will not remember,” said Queen Aga’Po. “The Predator and Hank Henshaw are not the same person. The experience has broken your former comrade. I doubt he will ever remember what has transpired here.”
“Then he gets away with it?” Hal could feel his rage building. “HE KILLED MY DAUGHTER.”
”He has killed worlds,” said a Guardian sharply. Ganthet glared at him after he had finished speaking. ”We do not mean to belittle your loss, Green Lantern...”
Ganthet put out his hand, and spun a Green Lantern power ring from the ether. ”Your ring was destroyed in your battle with The Predator. Please accept this replacement, Hal Jordan. You have always been a loyal and reliable member of the Green Lantern Corps. We--”
“I can’t... I can’t save her?”
“Your daughter is gone,” said a Zamoran. “A hole in your heart.”
“More than--” Hal caught himself. “I can’t save her? I... but with the ring... I can do anything...”
“You cannot save her, Hal Jordan,” said Ganthet. “I am so sorry.”
“Then what good is the ring?” Hal Jordan pulled himself together, and looked away from the Guardians of the Universe. “I can’t do this. I can’t...”
Hal Jordan began the long walk home without his power ring. “...I can’t...”
Guy Gardner was not breathing by himself. The Oan technology that kept his body working was clicking away, and he was being monitored by the best medical Lanterns the Corps had.
“He has experienced severe cranial trauma.”
Arisia had found him broken and battered, his skull cracked open, his brain only alive thanks to his ring running on automatic. They had flown back to Oa as fast as they could, but even an optimist like Arisia had her doubts. But Gardner clung to life, stayed alive against all the odds. First Kilowog, and now Guy? She wouldn’t let him die. She wouldn’t allow it.
“Probable brain damage has occurred...”
All he needed to do now was wake up. Then they’d know the extent of the damage done to him at the hands of The Predator. He had to wake up. He had to...
“Do we know if he will wake up?” asked Arisia. “What else can we do?”
One of the Green Lanterns, who in their civilian life was a doctor, shook her heads. “Only time will tell. We can only fix the body. The damage already done? Even we cannot fix that...”
Guy Gardner’s hand twitched imperceptibly. The doctors didn’t notice his fingers close into his palm. They didn’t see the fist form.
Carol Ferris felt an ache in her soul. A part of her was missing. Hank had to leave. She understood though, he had to. Hank had come to her in her time of need. Not even Hal had done that. Hal had rejected her. Told her she was crazy. But she knew better.
Hank loved her.
He had proven that.
The ring on her finger was the final gift he had given her before he had gone to war. The war to save love, he had called it.
The purple power ring whispered to her. Told her everything would be okay.
Told her that the time was coming.
Told her that The Predator would come and save her.
Chloe Sullivan hadn’t slept since the attack. She’d felt odd since she woke up in the hospital. She had been attacked by The Predator, she remembered the sound of her bones breaking, her body shutting down on her. She remembered the sight of her daughter being taken from her. She remembered very little since that. There was a darkness. And a light, and a tunnel, but instead of pearly gates she heard a voice willing her back. She remembered Hal’s face. Then more darkness. After that, she woke up in the hospital. The doctors were baffled. She was fine. A minor concussion, some minor internal injuries. The oddity, if you could call it that, was that the injuries were consistent across her body. The same amount of damage done in equal amounts across her entire body, all at once. She’d be fine. But she felt odd nonetheless.
“I’m... I’m so sorry.”
There was a voice from outside her room. She turned, and saw Hal Jordan standing there. He was bruised and battered, and his arms were empty. Chloe felt tears well up inside her. Their daughter was gone. Taken from them. Hal embraced her tightly, and she squeezed him back, but they both knew they wouldn’t be able to console each other. She looked up at him, through the tears, and ran a hand across his temple. She swallowed down the lump in her throat. Tried her best to collect herself.
She was failing.
“Your... your hair... it's gone... grey.”
The service for Kilowog lasted well into the night. His body was interred into the crypt of the Green Lantern Corps, beneath the surface of Mogo. Dozens of Green Lanterns wanted to be there, but Salaak would not allow them to leave their Sector unattended. The Honour Guard still standing lit a torch in memory to him. On Oa, in the Citadel where the Guardians of the Universe would survey the world, a lantern appeared, another light to remind them of the one lost for their mission of peace and order. They would not comment on it, but with heavy hearts they knew that the world was less of a place for the loss of another Green Lantern.
The day after, and Salaak was debriefing the last of the Green Lanterns Kilowog had trained previously. One by one they filtered through the halls of Oa, until there was only one left. Salaak looked him up and down, and then began to speak.
“Green Lantern of Earth. Green Lantern 2814.1. For the time being you will be the sole Green Lantern of your Sector. The Guardians of the Universe are entrusting you with the protection of 2814 while they evaluate the status of the planet. Do you understand your role in the coming months?”
“Serve and protect,” said John Stewart. “I understand.”
Salaak nodded at the statement. “Go home, John Stewart. And good luck. Do the Corps proud.”
John Stewart’s power ring lit up, and started the long journey home. A new chapter was opening for him, and he would be remiss to not make this new beginning count.
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