|GREEN LANTERN THRALLS OF THE DRAALS
Author: David Peattie PM
Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner seek answers to questions about Hal Jordan! Please review!Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 10,107 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Published: 09-12-03 - id: 1517484
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GREEN LANTERN in
THRALLS OF THE DRAALS
By David Peattie
The story started on a chilly October night, in the New York City sports bar called Warrior's.
The bar was owned by Guy Gardner, who, during his adult life, had been a gym teacher, a social worker, and a super-hero…first as a member of the Green Lantern Corps, and most recently as a shape-changer called Warrior. As one of the few super-heroes on Earth who didn't see the point in maintaining a secret identity, Gardner had named the bar after his heroic "nickname" and had even themed the bar after his career and that of his allies in the super-hero community.
It was after "last call" and the bar was closed, but still occupied. That was because there was a poker game in progress in the employee lounge. This, however, was a very select poker game, with equally as select participants. Bar owner Gardner was one of them, and there were three others.
Those others didn't seem, at first glance, to have much in common. They were all men, but of differing ages, social strata and occupations.
Gardner, for his part, was in his late thirties. He had reddish hair in a bowl cut that made most people think of Moe Howard, the "leader" of the Three Stooges. The fact was, though, that he'd had it done that way years ago because that was the way Ernie, the teen sidekick of the 1940's patriotic hero General Glory, wore his hair, and over the years he had simply seen no real reason to change it. Guy had always idolized General Glory, and had been honored to work with the man years later when the General briefly came out of retirement and allied himself with the Justice League; at the time, Guy had been the team's resident Green Lantern.
The second man at the poker table looked to be in his mid-to-late sixties, though he was in fact pushing 90. His blonde hair was now fading to white, and although he was quite fit for his age, there were still telltale signs that he was past his prime. His name was Alan Scott, and he lived in Gotham City, New Jersey, where he was the owner and head of the Gotham Broadcasting Company. He was also the super-hero currently called Sentinel, and had, at the start of his career, been the first Earth hero to call himself Green Lantern.
The third man was an African-American named John Stewart, who worked as an architect. During his lifetime, he too had been a super-hero, first as a member of the same Green Lantern Corps that had also included Guy Gardner, and then later, as a
member of the rival spacefaring police agency called the Darkstars. Now, though, he was retired from both avocations, but remained friends with "those who had worn the ring" before and since. Like Guy, John was also in his late thirties.
The fourth and final man at the game was the youngest, barely into his mid-twenties. His name was Kyle Rayner, and he made his living as a graphic artist. He was also the last surviving member of the Green Lantern Corps, and the current hero wearing that name.
Because of the bond these four men shared as Green Lanterns, there existed a sense of camaraderie between them not unlike that shared by former members of the same military unit or by former police officers who had spent many years serving together. One of the ways in which that bond continued and strengthened was that they habitually met at Warrior's once a month, for a card game and male bonding.
At these gatherings, a frequent topic of discussion was a fifth man who had served as a Green Lantern of Earth, but who was sadly no longer with them: Hal Jordan, a former test pilot for the Ferris Aircraft Company of Coast City, California. Coast City itself was no longer in existance either, and in a way was at the heart of why Jordan was not among the living any longer as well.
During a time when Jordan was away from Earth on Green Lantern business, a bloodthirsty alien conqueror called Mongul came to Earth, seeking revenge on Superman, the hero who had defied him months before. Finding that Superman was, at that time, believed to be dead, Mongul had decided instead to take his revenge on the Earth itself. Allying himself with another of Superman's old enemies…former rocket scientist Hank Henshaw, whose mind now occupied the body of a damaged Superman robot…Mongul had made a bid to destroy the entire planet, but was stopped by the returning Superman and several other heroes; however, in the process, Coast City was completely obliterated.
Upon his return to Earth, Hal Jordan learned of the city's destruction, and his guilt over not having been there to help protect it cost him his sanity. In a frenzied effort to restore the city…not just its destroyed buildings, but the callously murdered people as well…Hal had stolen additional Power Rings from his fellow Green Lanterns, injuring and even killing many of his former comrades at arms in the process. He had wanted the rings to increase his power, to a level where he could undo what Mongul had wrought; and when he felt he had enough rings, he went to the planet Oa…home of the Guardians of the Universe, who empowered the Green Lantern Corps…to charge them with as much power from the Great Power Battery as he could. In this, he was opposed by the Guardians, and in his mad anguish, he killed most of them as well. By the time Hal was finally stopped by the other heroes of Earth, only one Guardian, named Ganthet, was left alive. Likewise, the Green Lantern Corps had been destroyed, its surviving members powerless now that their rings had been shattered in the war with Jordan.
For his part, Jordan himself continued to be a menace for a while. Still hoarding the nigh-unlimited power of the Great Battery within himself, Jordan…now calling himself Parallax…still sought ways to undo the injustices he felt had been done, ways to change history so that his vision of order and justice would prevail. Each time, he was opposed and challenged by the heroes of the Earth; finally, Jordan found a way to atone for his actions by re-kindling Earth's sun, which had been extinguished by a gigantic, semi-sentient weapon called the Sun-Eater. This required him to expend all the power he'd gotten from the Great Battery, and without any reserves to protect him from the hard vaccuum of space, Jordan died…proving himself a hero one last time.
Usually, it was Kyle Rayner who began the talk about Jordan at these poker games, an indulgence that the others allowed him. This was because it was Jordan's actions as Parallax that led to Rayner becoming the last Green Lantern in the first place.
During Jordan's initial rampage, the final surviving Guardian…Ganthet…had come to Earth with the sole existing prototype for a new, improved Power Ring, intending to give it to a worthy Earth person to wield in battle with Jordan. Unfortunately, Ganthet had been pressed for time, and didn't have the resources to perform what he felt was a proper search; thus, he felt compelled to press into service someone who lacked all the right qualifications for the job. That person had been Kyle Rayner. But even the hasty choice of Rayner had proven wise, for Rayner had, over the months that he'd had the ring, matured into a true hero, and an excellent wearer of the Green Lantern uniform.
Tonight, though, the talk had not been about Jordan…at least, not as yet. Instead, the conversation had been about family, sparked in large part by the fact that Kyle had begun a romance with Alan's daughter, Jennie-Lynn Hayden…aka Jade.
Jennie-Lynn was Alan's daughter from his first marriage, to a woman named Rose Canton. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Rose had been a split personality; as Rose, she was a sweet, loving woman who wouldn't hurt a fly. But when her alter ego of the Thorn took over, she was an evil, plant-controlling demoness, and in this guise, she had over the years done battle with many of the 1940's super-heroes…including a number of Alan's comrades in the Justice Society of America, and chiefly, his longtime friend Jay Garrick, aka the Flash of Keystone City, Ohio.
During her courtship with Alan, Rose was blissfully happy, and her Thorn persona stayed submerged. But on the night of her wedding to Alan, Rose's Thorn personality finally broke free, and Rose was barely able to exert enough control to keep the Thorn from killing Alan in his sleep. She fled, leaving Alan with no clue as to why she'd left or where she had gone, and the heartbroken hero had buried himself in his twin careers for years to come. It was only when the young adult Jennie-Lynn, and her twin brother Todd, sought him out at a JSA meeting that Alan learned he was a father at all.
The two siblings, and a collection of other young adult metahumans, had brazenly come to JSA headquarters to petition for membership in the group. The supernatural power ring energy Alan had used for years as the first Green Lantern had permeated his genes, and he had passed that along in his seed to Rose Canton on their wedding night. When this encounter left Rose pregnant, the eldritch energy also took up residence in the twin fetuses she carried, and thus, as they entered their teens, both Jennie-Lynn and Todd began to manifest superhuman powers. In Todd's case, the black magic manifested as an ability to control shadows, which he used as Obsidian. With Jennie-Lynn, the sorcery took the form of a green energy similar to that used by her father's power ring, and was so much a part of her body that it turned her skin a deep green. Thus, when she began her own crimefighting career, she took the name Jade.
For a time, both Jade and Obsidian served as members of a hero team called Infinity Inc. which was composed of many of the sons, daughters and proteges of the JSA members. Since the team's break-up, she had been at something of a crossroads, and had for the most part pushed super-heroics onto the back burner. Through her relationship with Kyle, she was easing her way back into it, though she'd recently lost most of her powers.
At any rate, this complex relationship had started the conversational ball rolling for that night's poker game, and had blossomed into discussing Alan's relationship with his current wife, Molly; then John's all-too-brief marriage to Katma Tui, a woman from the planet Korugar who had served in the Green Lantern Corps, and his current romance with Merayn Dethalis, another woman from another world whom Stewart had worked with in the Darkstars. When it came Guy's turn to contribute to the conversation, everyone had expected him to reminisce about his own romances…first with Kari Limbo, a woman of gypsy descent who had also been psychic, but who ultimately broke up with Guy because of his volatile (at the time) personality; and then with Tora Olafsdotter, aka Ice, a heroine from Norway who had been a member of the Justice League until her death during a battle with the Overmaster. But Guy didn't talk about his love life; instead, he steered the conversation back to Alan's children…specifically, Todd.
Upon finding herself pregnant with Alan Scott's children, the Thorn went into hiding and gave birth to the twins in secret, under an assumed name. She then gave the infants up for adoption and fled again, remaining in seclusion for many years. Eventually, Todd was adopted by James Rice and his family, while Jennie-Lynn wound up with Julian and Myrna Hayden.
Although Jade had grown up in a loving environment to be a well-adjusted woman in spite of her powers, Todd had found himself in an abusive home, with his adoptive father James Rice being a mean-spirited drunk half the time. As a result, when Todd's own powers began to manifest, they were linked to his darker emotions and eventually began to consume and overwhelm him. Only a few weeks before that night's poker game, Todd's sanity had finally snapped, and Alan, Jade and Kyle had been forced to intervene
to stop him from going on a violent rampage. In the end, Jade had felt she had no other choice but to sacrifice her own powers to stop Todd. This was something of a sore point between Kyle and Alan, though they tried to move past it.
Guy, though, had never been quite so sensitive, and though both Kyle and Alan had been trying to steer the conversation back away from Todd's antics, Guy seemed to be fixated on the story. Finally, Guy sat back with a haunted look on his face and said quietly, "I know how Jennie feels, having a brother that you want to help but can't reach or fully trust."
For a few beats, confusion reigned on the faces of the other three men. Then John Stewart's eyebrows raised with the evolution of an idea, and he said sympathetically, "Oh! You're talking about your older brother, Mason…"
Stewart's comment referred to Mason Gardner, the first of the Gardner siblings and a man who had always been one of Guy's childhood heroes. Mason…or Mace, as Guy called him…could do no wrong in the eyes of their father, who had himself been an abusive drunk. This led Guy to have a certain amount of sympathy for Todd Rice's situation. But Mace had never been as perfect as his father envisioned him to be; he nearly got thrown out of school for smoking marijuana, and after flunking out of the police academy, Mace fell in with the members of a paramilitary group and, using the identity of Militia, became a mercenary. He had recently been killed in a battle between Guy and the organization Mace belonged to. It was these events that John Stewart was thinking of as he sympathetically put a hand on Guy's shoulder.
"No," Guy said with a sigh. "It ain't Mace I'm talking about now. It's Joe."
Once more, puzzlement held Guy's three poker companions in its grip. Smirking at their discomfiture, Guy finally elaborated.
"A little while after Mace's death," he began, "I ran across an alien race called the Draals. They were kidnapping various members of the Corps and cloning them, then sending the clones back to each GL's homeworld. At first, the clones were completely perfect copies, right down to their personalities; but the trick was, their minds were inherently unstable, and would eventually turn evil. The goal was that the clones would then use their power rings to cause untold havoc, and when it was all over and the dust settled, the Draals would come in and take over."
"Nice guys," Alan remarked.
Raising his beer mug, Guy made a saluting motion in Alan's direction to acknowledge that he'd gotten the sarcasm. "Oh, yeah. Real little charmers. And after they took me
prisoner, they did the same thing with me: they made a clone of me, and gave him my power ring, then turned him loose on Earth."
The power ring Guy spoke of, in this case, was not the Oan ring he had used as Green Lantern, but rather the Qwardian yellow ring that had previously belonged to a long-time enemy of the Green Lantern Corps named Sinestro. Sinestro, who hailed from the same planet Korugar as John Stewart's late wife Katma Tui, had himself been a member of the Corps until his power corrupted him and he was banished to the anti-matter dimension of Qward. Striking an alliance with that realm's rulers, the Weaponers, Sinestro had been given a yellow power ring that drew its power from being near an Oan power ring, and had been an implacable foe of all the Lanterns from then on until his death years later.
"Wait a second," Kyle interjected. "Are you telling us that this "Joe" is your clone, the one the Draals made of you?"
"He is," Guy confirmed. "He came to Earth, joined the League on a case, and then murdered an alien refugee the League was trying to protect…on the grounds that the other aliens who were after him might do worse damage to Earth if we kept protecting him."
"I read about that incident," John noted. "You had a hard time convincing people it was a clone of you later on."
"Yeah," Guy continued. "I would have been able to do it a lot sooner if I hadn't had to escape from the Draals first. But without my power ring, that was pretty hard to do."
Guy took another gulp of beer. "But I did manage, and with the League's help, Joe was finally brought down and I got my ring back. But since then, I've felt kind of responsible for Joe. I'd like to help him, see if it's not possible to reform him. Guess old social workers never die, do they?"
Another slug of beer, followed by a guttural belch. "Anyway, that's my way of sayin' that I know what you and Jennie are feeling with Todd and his situation. Of course, Todd's problems run a lot deeper than being cloned by the Draals."
Everyone at the table nodded in agreement with this, and then Kyle muttered, "I wonder if Hal ever ran into them…"
As he spoke, Kyle reached for the catsup bottle and added some more of it to his hamburger, which he'd been munching on intermittently as the game went on. By the time he was ready to take another bite of it, he'd noticed that an awkward silence had descended over the gathering.
Looking up at their blank faces, Kyle asked in puzzlement, "What? Did I get some on the poker chips, or something?"
Alan, Guy and John then looked at each other, as if to verify that they were all thinking the same thing. Then they looked back at Kyle, and John broke the silence by declaring, "Kyle, I think you may have hit on something…"
Thus it was that, the following day, Kyle…now clad in his Green Lantern costume…and Guy Gardner headed out into space towards the sector where Guy had last seen the Draals. Both heroes were enveloped in a sheath of green energy from Kyle's power ring, protecting them from the harshness of outer space and providing them with oxygen to let them both breathe. The ring energy even let them talk to one another.
Not that they had all that much to say to one another on the trip. They weren't mad or feuding with each other, far from it; rather, they were both taciturn because their thoughts were preoccupied with the mission at hand.
Kyle's comment the night before had gotten Guy and the others thinking. They were all keenly aware that Hal Jordan's actions as Parallax had been utterly unlike the man he had been before…and he had seen tragedy strike close to home in the past without losing all his marbles. Was it possible that the Hal who had become Parallax was not the real Hal Jordan? Was it conceivable that Hal had been captured by the Draals, as Guy had, and that he had been replaced by a clone…and the clone had become Parallax? It seemed like a long shot, but the concept was too important to be discounted without investigation. Since Kyle was the only one with a working Oan power ring left, and since Guy was the one who had dealt with the Draals last, they were the logical choices to do so.
There was another aspect of the mission that neither one of them wanted to bring up. If it developed that Hal had been captured and cloned by the Draals, and that the clone was the one who ultimately became Parallax, that information would help to clear Hal's name in the super-hero community…something that shouldn't be under-estimated. But it would also bring up the question of where the real Hal was. Neither Kyle nor Guy could think of any reason why the Draals would have kept Hal alive after cloning him and sending the doppelganger back to Earth...but their mutual respect for him, and in Guy's case a real friendship, made them hold a glimmer of hope in their hearts that they would be able to rescue Hal and return him to Earth and his family and friends.
Finally, Kyle checked his ring's readings and compared them to the star-chart Guy had given him before they left Earth. The point where Guy had last encountered the Draals was fast approaching. Kyle told Guy this, and they both increased their alertness.
When they at last reached the proper coordinates, they halted and looked around. No starships of any kind were in evidence, at least not visually. This was not entirely
unexpected; Guy had warned Kyle that the Draals could have easily taken a powder, not wanting to be around when Guy told the other heroes of Earth about them.
Kyle was about to command the ring to check for some kind of trail to indicate where the Draals had gone to, when Guy noticed something unusual about a particular spot in the space to their right. Namely, that no stars were visible in it.
Kyle told his ring to scan that area on all possible wavelengths, and it immediately picked up the outline of a starship on infrared and radar both. Peering over Kyle's shoulder at the ship's outline, Guy confirmed that it matched the configuration of the Draal ship.
"I should've guessed they might be cloaked," Guy grumbled.
Kyle wasn't about to berate his comrade about it, since Kyle hadn't thought of it either. Instead, he simply pointed out, "They must have seen us out here by now. But they haven't done anything."
"Well, I agree that they must know we're here," Guy replied. "But maybe they don't know that we've found them yet."
Kyle thought that sounded a bit weird, but he couldn't figure out any other reason why the Draals weren't responding to their presence. Shrugging, he said, "Well, I'll soon take care of that!"
A mental command to his power ring, and a green beam gushed out and quickly formed itself into the shape of a jackhammer. This was directed at a tender-looking spot on the ship's hull, and upon making contact, it began to drill away at the hull so fast that it soon became a blur. Kyle and Guy weren't able to hear the noise it made, since sound doesn't travel through space, but they could guess that inside the ship, the racket was deafening.
They didn't have to wait long for a response this time. Suddenly, the ship appeared in front of their eyes like magic as the cloak was dropped, and a hatch at the ship's underbelly opened up. As it did so, the first of a squadron of four smaller craft came out.
Kyle mused that while he hadn't been a Green Lantern for very long, he was certainly seasoned enough to know an attack in the making when he saw one. He also realized that while he himself could probably fight off the small fighter craft, Guy was pretty much a sitting duck. Oh, on dry land, his Warrior powers made him a match for nearly any foe; but hanging in space, he was more liability than anything else. Kyle and Guy exchanged glances; Guy was thinking the same thing. That glance also served to let them both know that they were on the same page in terms of how to proceed with their counterattack.
A silent command went to Kyle's power ring, and it propelled Guy's green-sheathed form forward and into the opening at the ship's belly. He settled to the floor just seconds before the portal closed.
Meanwhile, Kyle himself was now facing the four fighter craft on his own. Not that it worried him overmuch; in fact, he found himself grinning. He was fully aware of the fact that the Draals…if, in fact, that was who he was facing…were tough opponents, who had proven themselves capable of capturing and killing Green Lanterns before. He had no illusions about this being an easy fight. It was just a part of the Green Lantern make-up to be an adrenaline junkie, to be at one's happiest when up against nearly impossible odds. It was a rush you had to experience first-hand to fully understand.
Another thing that made it interesting was that while Kyle had to try to fight his foes without killing them, they were under no such limitations. So he had to walk the dual tightropes of saving his own skin while simultaneously preserving theirs. Life had certainly become challenging since he'd met Ganthet in that dark alley a few years ago!
As the four ships converged on him and began firing their laser-beam based weapons in his direction, Kyle commanded his power ring to create a shielding around himself that would block the beams from getting through. This had become almost second nature to him by now. Then, noting where the gun ports on the ships were, his next power ring action was to form several pair of emerald toenail clippers, which he used to snip off the barrels of the guns…rendering the guns themselves helpless, because without their barrels to provide focus, the laser energies would do more harm to the Draal ships than to Kyle if they fired again.
Kyle knew better than to wait to see what they'd do next, though. It was uppermost in his mind that if these were the Draals, they had dealt with Green Lanterns before, and were not to be underestimated. Best to keep them disoriented, he felt.
Thus, Kyle decided to go on the offensive. His power ring blazed to life again, creating at his command a thin cue stick, the kind one plays billiards with. Taking careful aim with it, he knocked one of the ships backwards and at an angle so that it hit another one, which in turn caromed off a third, leaving all three damaged and their pilots dazed.
"Nine ball, corner pocket,"Kyle thought smugly. "But wait a minute…weren't there four of them a second ago?"
Kyle's unspoken question got a blunt answer then, as the fourth ship…which Kyle had momentarily lost track of…came up behind him and brought to bear another weapon. This one emitted an energy-net, which encircled Earth's Last Green Lantern and swiftly entangled him. That wouldn't ordinarily be a problem, except that the energy strands also seemed to be absorbing his power ring's energy!(10)
"Damn it!",Kyle thought as he thrashed around, unable to pry the clinging energy web away from him. "My ring isn't having any effect on this stuff! And if it keeps eating the ring energy like it is…pretty soon, I won't even have enough juice to maintain my space
shield and its air supply! Looks like they have me trapped…for now!"
Holding up his hands in the universal gesture of surrender, Kyle grudgingly allowed himself to be taken inside the mother ship by the four smaller craft.
As this had been going on, Guy Gardner had found his own hands full after his own arrival inside.
The hangar bay where he'd landed was filled with additional fighter ships, of the kind that Kyle Rayner was grappling with. Various uniformed extra-terrestrials were scurrying around, only to stop their action in shock and awe as Gardner came among them. Gardner recognized the aliens immediately.
"These are the Draals, all right,"he thought with grim satisfaction. "I'd remember those ugly little suckers anywhere!"
Swiftly, one of the Draals recovered his senses enough to hit a wall switch, that closed the hangar bay doors. The four fighter craft that had emerged already were apparently going to have to handle Kyle on their own; Gardner hoped he'd be able to keep it that way.
As the other Draals in the hangar bay recovered their wits and began to converge on Guy, an impish…some would say malicious…grin broke out across his face. Not only was Guy just as big an adrenaline junkie as Kyle was, but there were few things he loved more than a good fight.
"Thanks for the warm welcome, folks," Gardner said, caring little if they understood him or not. "Let's party!"
As he said this, Gardner willed his body…the result of a pairing between an Earth woman and a man from the distant planet Vuldar years before…to begin morphing into the living weapon that had brought him fame as Warrior. As the change began to take place, he quickly sloughed off his outer clothing and stood clad in the skin-tight costume he normally wore in his Warrior guise.
This essentially consisted of tight red spandex covering his legs, feet and lower torso. The upper part of his body was bare, except for a series of stark blue and red stripes in strategic places along his chest and face. These stripes were not make-up, but natural body markings that were a part of his Vuldarian heritage…a sort of hereditary war paint.
Another part of the change was that his body took on extra mass, pumping up his muscles. His upper torso, arms and legs expanded to nearly twice their normal size, and the corresponding adrenal rush was so intense that Guy had to really clamp down on
himself to avoid going into a berserker rage. If he were to give free reign to these feelings, he would be as likely to mow down his friends as well as his enemies.
Perhaps most impressive, though, was that in addition to the extra muscle mass, his arms continued to change, into the shapes of weapons. Guy's left arm morphed into a plasma rifle, capable of firing blasts of energy; his right arm transformed into a hefty and menacing-looking club.
With a sweep of his right arm, Guy took down a trio of Draals with one blow, knocking them backwards into a bulkhead. As he did so, he took casual aim with his left arm and raked the area to that side of him, stunning those Draals his plasma-blasts hit and sending the others scurrying for cover.
Taking full advantage of his element of surprise, Warrior continued his sweep of the hangar bay, scattering the Draals before him like hapless stalks of wheat. He was so caught up in the fun and the glory of his battle that, much like Kyle Rayner outside, he failed to notice that someone was sneaking up behind him. This someone was a Draal warrior who had with him a hand-held weapon, of the same type that was mounted in the fighter ships; the one that fired an energy net, capable of entangling an opponent and of leeching away any non-biological energy sources that foe was using.
The Draal took aim and fired. The energy-net wrapped itself around Gardner tightly, pinning his arms to his sides. Guy grunted and struggled, but could get no leverage to free himself with, even by returning his arms to their normal human appearance. He thought about using the plasma gun variation to blast a hole in the flooring, so that he could escape the Draals long enough to work his way free, but the net's energy absorption capabilities were interfering with that, too. Rendered helpless, Warrior was soon as much a prisoner as Kyle Rayner was.
For a few moments, Gardner allowed himself to hope that Kyle was faring better and would soon burst in to rescue him. That hope faded when he saw the hangar bay doors open again, allowing the fighter ships to return and ushering the captive Green Lantern in with them. Gardner's heart sank.
Under armed guard, the energy nets were taken away and replaced with shackles that also absorbed energy. As an added precaution, the Draals took Kyle's power ring from him and put it under lock and key. The two Earth heroes were then taken to the ship's brig, and locked in separate cells.
After their Draal captives had left the brig area, Guy and Kyle took stock of their situation and themselves.
"You okay, kid?", Guy called out.
"Physically, I'm fine," Kyle Rayner replied. "But if we get out of this, I'm gonna use the ring to create a giant foot and kick myself a few times for letting myself get caught off guard."
"Don't sweat it, junior," Gardner said sympathetically. "Happens to the best of us." He didn't add that, in fact, that was how he'd been captured, too. He figured there was no sense in letting his own pride get any more damaged than it already was.
"Speaking of getting out of here," Kyle went on, "any ideas about that?"
"Funny you should ask," Warrior said with a smirk. "I'll get back to you in a minute."
Steeling himself, Guy willed himself to change from his Warrior form back to the more human-looking Guy Gardner. As he did so, his body mass decreased, to the point where his shackles were now too big to fit him. They fell to the floor with a clatter.
Getting out of the cell itself was another problem, though. Rather than the still-standard cell doors of Earth that were composed of metal bars, the Draal prison cells had energy fields to keep prisoners inside. But Guy had an answer to that, too: he simply picked up the energy-absorption shackles he'd been wearing and tossed them at the energy field.
No sooner did the chains touch the field, than the reaction started. The energy absorbing capabilities of the restraints reacted violently with the energy field/cell door, creating a series of loud hissings and cracklings worse than Rice Krispies on steroids…and a light show that most heavy metal rock bands would be impressed by. When it was all over, the energy field had dissipated as if it were never there, and Gardner simply strolled out of the cell as casually as if he were on his way to the local grocer's. He then began looking for the master control that would open Kyle's cell as well, and as he passed the Green Lantern's cage, he smiled and waved.
Kyle, who had seen and heard part of the escape, made a show of applauding. "Nice job," he said admiringly. "Remind me to hire you for my next Fourth of July fireworks show."
"You couldn't afford me, kid," Gardner replied sardonically. After a few moments of searching, he found the control switch he was looking for, and threw it. Noiselessly, the energy field keeping Kyle confined disappeared, and Kyle stepped out, slowed down somewhat by his chains.
"Thanks," Kyle began. "But I'm not sure I'll do you much good like this."
"Not to worry," Guy soothed. "I've got you covered."
Once more, Guy mentally triggered the change that transformed him into Warrior. He then willed the index finger of his right hand to become a file, and he used it to saw through the shackles holding Kyle prisoner. When that proved to be taking too long, he switched tactics: he turned his finger into a lock-pick and fished around inside the tumblers of the chains until they unlocked, allowing Kyle to slip free of them.
That having been accomplished, Guy took the chains a safe distance away and then came back to Kyle.
"Okay, kid," he said. "Now that those energy shackles are far enough away from us, you ought to be able to summon your power ring back mentally!"
Kyle knew this was true. It was a feature that the Guardians had begun building into their power rings back when Hal Jordan had been a Green Lantern, anticipating that their Corps members would have a need for that if they and their rings were ever separated. It had come in handy for Jordan…and for Guy, Kyle and other Lanterns…many times since.
As Kyle began concentrating, trying to contact the ring and activate its homing feature, Guy Gardner began to pace the brig area nervously. It would be just like the Draals to have some sort of alarm feature that would let them know if the cells in the brig were forced open or shut down...and if they did, then they already knew that Guy and Kyle were free and were probably on their way down to the brig already. If that was the case, then time was of the essence.
In his pacing, Guy passed by another cell, which he'd assumed was empty. He was therefore quite shocked when he heard a voice issue from it…and even more surprised when he found it was a voice he recognized.
"Guy?", the voice croaked weakly. "Is that really you?"
Gardner spun to face the speaker. Even though he and Kyle had come all this way to investigate the possibility, Guy had never really let himself believe it could be true…but here it was, staring him in the face.
That face was worn, more haggard than it had been the last time he'd seen it. Physically, the man was as complete a wreck as Guy had ever witnessed. But the features were unmistakable.
The man in the cell, still wearing his own set of energy sapping shackles, was Hal Jordan.
"Holy Hannah," Guy muttured. Then, recovering his wits, he marched into the cell and used the same lock-pick trick he'd employed to free Kyle from his shackles, setting Jordan free as well. Upon his release, Jordan nearly collapsed into Gardner's arms, so weakened was he.
"Guy," Jordan rasped. "So much…to warn you about. So much…need to know…"
"Take it easy, fella," Gardner said worriedly. "I know about the Draals, and their GL cloning tactics. I was a victim of it, too. How long have they had you here?"
"Don't know," Jordan wheezed. "Lost track…"
"Yeah, well, I got a fair idea myself, so don't sweat it. We've gotta get you out of here and up and running again."
"We..?", Jordan echoed.
"Yeah, I brought a friend along," Guy went on. Looking over his shoulder, he called out, "Hey, kid! How's it coming?"
As he said this, Kyle's power ring entered the brig area, sailing through the air directly towards Kyle's waiting hands. He clasped it eagerly, put it on his finger, and gloried in the rush of power he felt still surging through it. He mentally thanked all the gods of the universe that the Draals had not drained it of its energies, then walked over to join Guy.
"There you are," Kyle said with relief. "And you found…is that really him?"
"It's Jordan, all right," Guy confirmed. "They haven't treated him too well. But I think he can travel, if we take turns supporting him."
Jordan, for his part, took in Kyle and his obvious Green Lantern uniform and ring, and although he said nothing at first, his eyes were clearly full of questions. Kyle, for his part, couldn't help feeling somewhat guilty.
"Um, Hal," Kyle began stuttering, "About this…"
His strength returning gradually, Jordan cut him off. "No need, son. I know I've been out of action for a long time. The Guardians probably assumed I was dead…and selected you to take my place. No hard feelings!"
"Uh, yeah, something like that," Kyle replied. He wasn't sure how much of the real story he wanted to give Jordan…not while the man was in such lousy physical shape, anyway. There would be time enough for that later.
"Well, we'd better start thinking about getting out of here," Guy pointed out. "I'm surprised that the Draals aren't all over us…"
At that moment, the doors to the brig burst open, and a squadron of armed-to-the-teeth Draals poured in.
"…already…", Gardner finished quietly.
"Be careful," Jordan warned. "They've got weapons that can absorb energy…"
"We know," Gardner gritted. "We were prisoners, too, remember?"
Kyle, for his part, was already on it. Now that he knew what the energy-net guns looked like, he trained his power ring on them and melted them into slag before any of them could be fired. Then he formed a scoop-shovel with the ring, and pushed the Draals back out the door. Warrior and the still-weakened Jordan followed.
Quickly realizing that Jordan was unable to adequately defend himself, Kyle used his ring to form a sheath of healing energy around the man. The energy aura was designed to replenish needed nutrients in Jordan's body and speed up his natural healing process, and thus offset the rigors of captivity he had endured. It would also protect him from being harmed any further if one of the Draals should happen to slip by either Kyle or Warrior.
Then the fight began. Kyle put another protective aura around himself, and one around Guy for good measure. The two men then put their fists and their martial skills to work, punching and kicking and battling their way through the phalanx of Draals. But the numbers began to work against them both; no matter how many Draals they dispatched, there always seemed to be more joining the fight. Ten minutes into the battle, Guy finally figured out why.
"Their cloning gear!", Guy cried out. "That's why we're so badly outnumbered…they keep cloning more of themselves!"
"Well, then, we've gotta take that gadget out!", Kyle responded, stating the obvious.
Matching thought to deed, Kyle used his ring to form a wedge of green energy around himself and his two comrades. With all the muscle and will they could muster, they surged forward, tossing Draal warriors to either side like a boat cleaving its way through ocean waters. Once they were clear of the small Draalian army, Guy turned around and,
with his left arm morphed into a plasma rifle again, blasted a hole into the ceiling above the Draals. The falling rubble blocked the aisleway so that the Draals could not get past it to give chase.
The three men took advantage of this breather to get their bearings, and Kyle asked his companions where the cloning apparatus was. Gardner and Jordan both told him that the machinery was located in a room two decks above where they now were. Kyle's ring then let the three become immaterial, and they passed upward through the ceiling, making their way up to the required level.
It wasn't long before they'd found their way to the cloning chamber. But there, they found more surprises. One of these was that the Draals were there waiting for them.
"So, Guy Gardner of Earth," one of the Draals said. "You have returned to us. We knew you would, sooner or later."
Guy wanted to say something defiant and clever. Nothing came to mind, though, so he stayed silent.
"We knew," the Draal continued, "that someday, you would come back to interfere with our goals. And we have prepared for this."
The Draal spokesman then gestured, and two of the other Draals in the room moved aside to reveal a closed door. The door opened, and out stepped a naked man who looked exactly like Guy Gardner.
"Son of a…", Gardner spat fiercely. "You creeps cloned me again!"
"We did," the lead Draal confirmed. "And we have taught this one many things. Things we learned from continuing to watch you on Earth." He snapped his fingers, and an amazing thing happened. The clone began to morph its body into various shapes, just as Guy was able to do.
"We were fascinated to learn of your Vuldarian heritage," the Draal went on. "We are working on ways to make Draal-Vuldarian hybrids even as we speak. When we perfect the process, our armies will be unbeatable."
He grinned evilly. "And we shall have you to thank for that. We also appreciate your coming back to us, so that we can study your DNA further. It will help us greatly to fine-tune the process."
"Not if I can help it!", Guy retorted. Once more shifting his right arm into a plasma rifle, he lunged forward and prepared to fire a devastating burst at the cloning machines
nearby. But before he could do so, he found his aim thrown off by a blow from the club-arm of his new doppelganger. The outraged Guy had no choice but to begin grappling with his clone.
"Kid!", he called out, referring to Kyle. "It's up to you! Trash that thing!"
For his part, Kyle had already figured that step out. But once again, before this could take place, a new squadron of Draal clones swarmed into the room, guns drawn.
As he had done before, Kyle formed a scoop-shovel with his ring and used it to propel the Draals out of the room. But more of them kept arriving and putting pressure on the ring's barrier, and it wasn't long before Kyle started breaking out into a sweat.
"I can't keep this up forever!",Kyle thought grimly. "But if I let that shield down, they'll be all over us! I need back-up…but Guy has his own problems right now!"
His mind racing, his gaze shifted to Jordan, standing off to one side, looking as if he felt stronger…and anxious to help any way he could. And then Kyle realized that there was a way Jordan could help.
"Hal!", Kyle called out. Jordan instantly whipped over to the younger man's side.
"You've thought of something?", Jordan said hopefully.
"Yeah," Kyle agreed. "This ring I've got is a newer model the Guardians came out with. It has the ability to duplicate itself, as well as not having the anti-yellow weakness! So I can make you a power ring of your own…and you can charge it with the battery I carry along my back! It's been here, invisible, all along!"
"Son, you're amazing!", Jordan grinned. "Let's do it!"
Struggling to maintain his concentration on the barrier, Kyle willed his ring to create another power ring, which Jordan eagerly took and slipped onto his finger. Kyle then willed his power battery to become visible. Jordan touched the ring to the battery, and began murmuring his long-memorized oath under his breath as he did so.
"Not to be a nag," Kyle pointed out, "but we're kind of pressed for time, here!"
"Understood," Jordan replied with a nod. "I'm done here, anyway!"
He stepped away from the battery, sent a command to his newly charged ring, and was immediately enveloped in a shimmering green aura. When it faded away, Hal Jordan's
Draalian prisoner garb was gone. In its place was the uniform that Hal had made famous so many years ago as the first member of the Corps to operate on Earth.
Once more, Hal Jordan was Green Lantern!
"All right, son," Hal said brightly. "Let's really show them who they're messing with!"
"Good to have you back, Hal," Kyle grinned.
"Great to be back," the older man replied.
Just knowing that Hal Jordan had his back gave Kyle a second wind. At Hal's nod, he let his barrier drop and allowed the Draals to come steadily pouring into the room again. But as they did so, Kyle created a swirling green tornado that had boxing gloves all along its surface, and he sent this fist-filled whirlwind straight at the swarming Draals. The fists battered the Draals, knocking them senseless, and Jordan dutifully came along behind his younger counterpart, sweeping them into a pile with a ring-created broom like so much dirt.
As the influx of Draalian clones began slowing to a halt, Jordan turned his attention to the cloning machinery behind him. Without a word, he sent a series of green axes flying into the device, hacking it to pieces.
"NOOOO!", the Draalian clonemaster shrieked. "All of our cell samples are in there! You have not only smashed our plans to clone other captives, you have doomed our entire race! Without our cloning capabilities, we cannot reproduce!"
That brought Jordan, and Kyle, who had finished off the last of the warriors for the moment, up short.
"Say what?", Kyle demanded.
"It is true!," the Draal scientist went on. "Our race became sexually sterile years ago, from exposure to radiation we absorbed in our space travels. Even as we searched for a cure, we perfected cloning to ensure that our race could survive. But now we shall all die out once the current generation is no more!"
"Sounds like the same boat the Rannians are in," Kyle mused, remembering his meeting with the people of the planet Rann in the Alpha Centaurii system. The Rannians had sought to cure their own reproduction woes by importing men from other planets to serve as "stud horses" and to impregnate Rannian women; their first and only success in doing so had been with Earth-born archeologist Adam Strange…who had taken up permanent
residence on Rann, and who had become their resident hero. Kyle, and many of the other Justice League members, had visited Rann and worked with Adam many times.
Jordan, for his part, also sympathized. "It may be possible for us to help you find another way," he began. "On Earth, there are many brilliant scientists, and the Green Lantern Corps has been exposed to advanced technology all over the galaxy…"
"The Draals do not accept charity!", the scientist spat. "What we want, what we need…we take!"
As he said this, he darted backwards to a wall panel, where an ominously large red button was prominently on display. He pressed this, and loud klaxons began blaring all through the ship.
The noise made Gardner, who was still dueling with his Warrior-clone, pause in his battle and look concerned.
"Uh-oh," he said as he caught his breath. "That can't be good!"
"It is not!", the Draal clone-maker declared triumphantly. "It is the self-destruct mechanism for this ship! In less than ten of your minutes, this vessel will blow itself and everyone in it to mere atoms!"
"Good God, man," Jordan exclaimed. "Why doom yourselves like that?"
"If we cannot survive on our own terms, Earth man," the Draal sneered, "then we shall not survive at all! But at least I can die knowing I took you three with me!"
"He's completely insane,"Jordan thought. Still, there was no time to try and change his mind.
"Kyle!", Jordan barked. "Guy! We've got to get started evacuating this ship…"
"It will do you no good," the Draal scoffed. "My people are trained for this. None of them will allow you to remove them from the ship. Indeed, they will do all they can to prevent you from fleeing as well!"
As he said this, he pressed another stud on the wall panel, and one of the Draalian energy-absorption nets dropped from the ceiling onto Jordan. It immediately began leeching away the power ring energy Jordan had been using to continue healing his injuries and to protect himself from further physical harm, and Jordan collapsed to the floor, moaning with pain.
Panicking, Kyle called out, "Guy! Change partners!"
Gardner didn't question his younger comrade's order. Instead, he broke off the fight with his clone and moved to help free Jordan from the net. This was something Kyle wouldn't have been able to do, without the net draining more energy from his own power ring. But what Kyle could do was to keep the Warrior-clone busy so that Guy could untangle Jordan. He immediately moved to do so, but found that the clone had been learning how
to fight better as the battle went on. His arm morphing into a plasma rifle again, he began to fire repeatedly at Kyle from a number of different directions, forcing the Green Lantern to fight a purely defensive battle. It was all Kyle could do to keep the plasma bursts from hitting him…he couldn't spare any effort towards fighting back, as yet.
Meanwhile, morphing his left arm into a pair of scissors, Gardner had swiftly succeeded in freeing Jordan from the energy net. By this time, though, the power ring Kyle had created for Jordan had been drained of its energy and would not work again unless it was recharged. Jordan stood and tried to resurrect the shielding around himself, but found the ring utterly unresponsive.
"I was afraid of that," Guy sighed. "I'll go back to dancing with my double and Kyle can get you charged up again!"
So saying, Guy moved away from Jordan to resume his battle with his clone. But before he had gotten more than halfway across the room, the Draal scientist snapped his fingers and barked out a command in his native Draalian, which only he and the Warrior-clone understood.
Upon hearing this command, the Gardner-duplicate stopped firing plasma bursts at Kyle Rayner. Instead, he turned towards Jordan, morphing his other arm into a spear-gun, and fired. Though both Gardner and Rayner cried in unison, "NOOOOO!", and both moved to try and stop the projectile, they were too late. The spear found its mark, piercing Hal Jordan's unprotected chest and plunging out through his back.
Horrified, Gardner turned to face the Draal. "You ugly slimeball! You're goin' down next, and then I'll finish off my evil twin here!"
He began to advance towards the Draal, but the now-cowardly alien pressed a third stud in the wall panel, opening a secret passageway into the bowels of the ship. He ducked through it and closed the door, barring pursuit for the moment. As for the Warrior clone, it remained motionless, not knowing what to do with his master gone.
Guy was inclined to charge on through and give chase, but Kyle convinced him that there wasn't time. "We've gotta get off the ship and get Hal to a doctor…", he began.
The mortally wounded Jordan cut him off, though. "No…time, son," he wheezed, flecks of blood mixing with spittle. "I'll…be dead…before you can…make Earth."
"Not as fast as this ring flies," Kyle hastily assured him. "We'll take off now…"
As he said this, he willed the ring to surround himself, Hal, and Guy in an energy sheath to protect them from the rigors of space, and also to renew Hal's healing aura. The ring flared green for a moment, then grew dark.
"Damn it!", Kyle fumed. "My ring's out too! Of all times…"
"Your battery!", Guy reminded him. "It should still be able to recharge you!"
"Right!", Kyle replied, willing the battery to become visible again.
"Not…going…to make it," Jordan wheezed again. Spurts of blood were now coming from his lips with every word. "But…as long as…you're recharging, s-son…do me one…last favor."
"Anything, Hal," Kyle assured him.
"Say…my oath…while you do it."
Kyle gulped, the emotion of the moment threatening to overwhelm him. "It'll be my honor."
Mentally summoning the battery to him, Kyle touched his power ring to it and began to re-charge.
"In brightest day," he began, "in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight! Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power…Green Lantern's light!"
As the ring once more flared and flashed with energy, Kyle turned back to his comrades, intending once more to re-establish the healing aura around Jordan. But the ashen look on Guy Gardner's face told him he needn't bother.
"You're a few seconds too late, Kyle," Guy confirmed. "He's gone."
The ship shuddered, then, and a fierce rumbling sound came to their ears.
"Looks like we'd better be going ourselves," Kyle sighed. Guy nodded in agreement.
Without another word, Kyle willed his ring to form its protective shield around them both, and they lost no more time in leaving the Draal ship. As they soared through space away from the craft, it exploded, sending debris in every direction. But thanks to Kyle's power ring-created shield, this space shrapnel never even touched them.
The trip back to Earth was made in relative silence. Neither man felt much like talking after their experiences. They had mourned Hal Jordan once before, when the clone that had been Parallax nobly sacrificed its life to rekindle the Earth's sun some months before; now they had to repeat that ordeal. It didn't get any easier the second time.
The following night, back on Earth, Kyle and Guy met again at the Warrior's bar with Alan Scott and John Stewart, and told them of what had happened. Both men sat in somber silence as they listened to the story.
"Poor Hal," Alan sighed. "To have had the life he did, and then to die like that. But at least he died in space…he always did like it out there."
"At least," Stewart put in, "we can all rest easier knowing that the true Hal was never a killer. He died the way he lived…a hero to the end."
"That's a comfort for us, all right," Guy agreed. "And for all his other friends as well. But I don't think that's quite the way Hal would want us to remember him."
The other men looked at Guy with mild surprise, each one's face asking the same question: how would Jordan want to be remembered?
"He'd want to be remembered as someone who always tried to do the right thing," Guy continued with a small smirk. Smiling, his three comrades nodded their heads in agreement.
"To Hal Jordan," Kyle said, raising his beer mug in a toast.
"To Hal Jordan," the others echoed, and they clinked their mugs together and drank to their friend's memory.