Author: Meta Ray Mek PM
Tomar-Tu is kidnapped by a Red Lantern, who coerces him into helping her in a quest for "just vengeance" against a member of the Sinestro Corps. He must face the difficult morality of the situation, all while trying to stay alive at the same time.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - Chapters: 2 - Words: 8,439 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 07-17-12 - Published: 05-24-12 - id: 8147158
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Sector 0, Oa
Kyle glanced at his hands, which had pruned over from his interaction with the bucket of water and wet sponge in his hands. He couldn't fathom how Salaak's office could get so dirty, when he was known for his meticulousness in other matters. He decided it wouldn't be wise to ask.
"Lantern Iolande, I am forwarding the coordinates to Pyrope. Lantern Natu will be waiting for you there." Salaak turned to face another screen. "Lantern N'gila, please report to Lantern Voz and await his instructions."
Upon observing that Salaak was facing the opposite direction from him, Kyle took a moment to roll off of his knees and sit down. He wasn't sure how long it had been since he'd stretched his legs, but judging by how oddly relaxing his knees felt afterward, it had been quite some time..
"Rayner, your second break is not for another twenty-two minutes," said Salaak.
Kyle groaned. "Oh come on. I can't stretch my legs after being on my knees the last few hours?"
Receiving no pithy retort from the slyggian, Kyle resumed the arduous task of scrubbing the baseboards. He hadn't ever spent this much time around Salaak -and he wasn't sure he ever wanted to again after this-, but he'd begun to notice a few things about him.
One was that he never seemingly took a break at all. Kyle had been there for close to four hours now, and not once did Salaak step away. As he brushed the sponge back and forth on a pipe covering, his mind wandered to how he could possibly function.
"So..." Kyle drew out the word long enough to get Salaak's attention. "do you ever take a break?"
Salaak narrowed his eyes at him. "If this is an attempt to weasel your way out of your punishment, you are not doing an effective job of it."
"No, I'm completely serious. How are you able to function without a break?"
There was no immediate answer.
"Fair enough," mumbled Kyle. "Sorry for trying to make a casual conversa-"
"In case you haven't noticed by now, Earthman, I am working. I have no time for your meaningless chatter that only serves as a distraction from both your duty and mine," Salaak snapped.
Undeterred by his superior's waspishness -and perhaps desperate for some form of conversation to allay the silent boredom-, Kyle decided to shift the conversation to another subject altogether.
"You know, I haven't heard you talking to Tomar-Tu at all recently," Kyle quipped.
Salaak pressed several buttons on a screen to his right. "That is because he hasn't checked in recently. I've received word that the Theta alert for Xudar has expired three hours ago, but I've come across no accounts that indicate what happened to Lantern Tu, or the Red Lantern for that matter."
Kyle knelt down onto the floor, resuming his work, as not to draw the slyggian's further ire.
"You're saying they completely dropped off the grid?" he asked.
"So it would appear. Regardless, Lantern Tu is a seasoned veteran of the Corps, as you very well know," Salaak responded casually, as he dragged his spindly fingers across a screen to his upper right. "I am certain he's handling the situation appropriately."
Sector 2815, Nitram XII
Tomar-Tu's fellow Lantern, Arisia Rrab, once told him that Nitram XII was best described as "2815's neatest kept junkyard", which in reality, was a tongue-in-cheek lie. It was in fact, a veritable scrap heap, filled with downed freighters and ships from all matter of races. Mountains of metal as far as the eyes could see, some still visible even amidst the chalky haze.
"You're sure Romat-Ru is here?" Anan-Su asked, her voice an eerie calm.
"My ring traced several Sinestro Corps members to this location. Romat-Ru may have been one of them," he said.
He felt Anan-Su's warm, bony hands grip one of his shoulders. Tomar-Tu hissed through the corners of his beak at her nails dug into his feathery skin.
"'May have' is not an acceptable answer," she growled. "He's either here, or he's not."
He wrenched his body to the right as her grip tightened. "Arrrgh! I can't say for sure if he is or not! My ring's scanner tracked some of the Sinestro Corps' location to this planet, and that's as far as I know!" Tomar-Tu yelled. "It's not an exact science!"
"Well, do better," she spat. "We haven't got time to waste!"
Expecting for her to slay him then and there, he paused mid-flight. Despite the glower to her eyes, she did not retaliate. Rather, she let him go and allowed him to fly on ahead. Between feeling thankful or concerned right now, he opted for the former.
Ring Capacity at 25 percent.
At the same time, his power ring was tipping the scales in the direction of the latter. The charge, after tracking and FTL travel between sectors, was bottoming out. He was well aware that if a window of opportunity to escape or request help wasn't going to come up anytime soon, he would have to make one.
And if there was one "escape trick" he'd picked up on from the humans -particularly Gardner and Rayner-, it was to initiate a one-sided conversation.
As they soared through the hazy skies above the junkyard, Tomar-Tu waited until just the right moment to initiate conversation.
"What exactly happened to your niece and nephew?" he asked.
Stopping mid-flight, she glared at him. "Excuse me?"
"Ever since we left Ysmault, I've been thinking about what you said in regards to your niece and nephew," Tomar-Tu explained, halting a foot away from her. He turned to face her. "What ha-"
"Twins, aged five years old." Her hands balled into tight fists. "Zel was the nephew, Ciel was the niece. I was their Aerieguard; watching them while my brother, Anan-Dar, and his wife ran their floral shop. I had other priorities one day, so my brother stayed home to watch them. They went off to play with some of their friends that same afternoon."
The red light in her eyes faded. Her blood-red eyes shed no tears; yet the scrunch of her brow, beak corners pursed, and the way her shoulders trembled were a pitiful substitute.
Her voice had lost its acerbic edge. "They never came back home."
Tomar-Tu felt a pang of remorse in his chest. For a fleeting moment, he nearly regret his intent to escape.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
Anan-Su ignored him by instead eyeing the palm of her right hand. "We eventually found them, and their friends, lying dead at the base of a cliff near Cori-Dae Lake. My brother's family was torn with grief. Dar was so distraught, he attempted to end his life," she continued.
Anan-Su inspected the red ring that rested on her middle finger. "And that was when everything changed."
Tomar-Tu nodded slowly. "Forgive me for asking this, but was it actually proven it was Romat-Ru who killed them? I'm in no way trying to diminish the pain you feel. Believe me, I know what it's like to lose a family member to murder. But Romat-Ru typically kidnaps his victims and hides their bodies. He doesn't leave them out in the open like that."
"The killer was never found. I have every right to suspect it was that bastard, though." Anan-Su's beak curled into a snarl. "Who else on Xudar is known for killing the innocents among our people?" Blood trickled down from the sides of her mouth. "Besides, even if he didn't, he still has to pay for what he's done. No exceptions!"
"If he's one of the reasons for your rage, then what will you do once you kill him?" Tomar-Tu asked. "Surely, you can't hold on to that rage forever."
Her eyes lit up. Veins bulged around her eye sockets. "I'll continue to protect the innocent, that's what I'll do," she snapped. "Even if that bastard is dead, that doesn't mean the unjust crimes against children will stop completely. There's children who needhelp and protection. Not just on Xudar; but everywhere in the galaxy!"
"But you don't have to do that with brutal violence! There are other ways you can help abused and neglected children," Tomar-Tu insisted. "You could become a Child Protect-"
Anan-Su waved her hand in his direction. "I have my reasons. My rage is far more useful than pushing papers behind a desk and being stonewalled by bureaucratic red tape. Atrocitus gave me a gift, and it's one I don't plan to squander. I intend to be the salvation of those who cannot defend themselves, just as you pride yourself on being the protector of our sector," she hissed through a gritted beak.
Gripping him by the collar, Anan-Su stared at him intently.
"This conversation is over," she barked. She shoved him away. "Now find Romat-Ru so we can be done with this."
Without warning, her ring blinked. Gauging her less-than-neutral reaction, Tomar-Tu could tell she was not in the mood to speak with the others in her group, including Atrocitus, whom she highly revered.
"This better be good," she grumbled. She held aloft her hand, turning her attention away from him. "Anan-Su reporting in, what is it?"
He recognized the translucent individual as Bleez. It was hard to not recognize her, as her distinctive bone wings and cowl set her apart from the others in their Corps.
"Bleez," Anan-Su grumbled with contempt. "What do you want?"
"Atrocitus has yet to return from his little adventure with the Indigo Tribe. He sent me back to get reinforcements," said Bleez. "Razer told me you decided to go on your own little adventure, too, hm? One that included bringing a Green Lantern to Ysmault?"
Tomar-Tu observed as Anan-Su spewed blood at the hologram out of frustration.
"That's between Atrocitus and I," she roared. "not you!"
Sensing an opportunity to escape, Tomar-Tu edged away from the area. He held his breath, hoping that none of them would notice. Anan-Su seemed to be more wrapped up in exchanging barbs with her immediate superior anyhow.
"Fair enough. I know how personal vendettas are. But a involving a Green Lantern? You are either very brave, or very stupid." Bleez placed a pointed fingernail to her lower lip. "I'm leaning more towards the 'stupid' end of the scale."
Anan-Su made a guttural noise that was a mix between a growl and snort. "Shove it! I'll accept full responsibility for what happens with the Green Lantern. Not that you need to worry. I've practically got him wrapped around my fingers at this point."
"You may want to check your fingers, then." Bleez chortled.
An explosion rang in the distance. Tomar-Tu's head jerked to the side, realizing his departure had not gone unnoticed.
With his heart pounding feverishly inside his chest, he forced himself to remain collected. Tomar-Tu sped downward into the canyon, and flew as fast as he could. A cursory glance behind him showed that his captor had not yet caught up with him, but the light from her outburst nearly blinded him.
"You..." Anan-Su spat, her voice echoing throughout the valley. "YOU..." Her screams became garbled, with only scant few words being decipherable. Most which were xudarian epithets. "YOU BASTARD! HOW DARE YOU! HOW DARE YOU GO AGAINST YOUR WORD!"
Ring Capacity at 15 percent.
With little power to spare, Tomar-Tu landed on the ground and took off running.
Holding his ring up to eye level, he contacted the first person he could think of.
"Kyle! Kyle!" He shook his hand. "By Ion's light, answer me!"
Sector 0, Oa
"Rayner, I do believe it is time for your scheduled break." The four-armed alien tapped a screen to his upper right. "You have forty-five minutes allotted for one meal, then you have one hour left of service."
Kyle floated down from the rafters above, holding the pail and sponge in both hands. "And then I'm free to go after that?"
He could see Salaak roll his beady eyes. "Yes."
"Awesome." Kyle slapped his hands together in anticipation. "Uh, I didn't bring a lunch, so I'm gonna head over to the cafeteria." He thumbed in the direction of the door. "Is that going to be a problem?"
Salaak sighed. "It will only be a problem if you lollygag and lose track of time, as I fully suspect you will do. I will have no choice but to add however many minutes over you waste to the last hour of your servi-"
Kyle's ring beeped, startling both of them.
Incoming transmission from Lantern Tu.
"Tomar! Where have you been?" Kyle exclaimed, as he turned his ring on. "You haven't checked in at all since you left!"
"Sorry, Kyle! I had to contact the first person I could think of," the xudarian said through heavy breathing. "Is Salaak there?"
Salaak's lower right hand gripped Kyle's wrist. "I am here." His voice was calm, but firm. "Lantern Tu, what is your current status?"
He dragged Kyle over to his work station, hooking his ring up to the largest of the screens present. Upon projecting the transmission to a larger screen, both watched as Tomar-Tu weaved through a row of rash piles.
"You know that Red Lantern? She jumped me back on Xudar. Took me to Ysmault." Tomar-Tu paused to catch his breath. "It gets worse after that."
"She abducted you? Most distressing." Salaak scrunched his brow as a flurry of fingers tapped and pressed the glowing screens that surrounded him. "I'm getting a reading that your ring's capacity is lingering around ten percent. Where's your power battery?"
"Really, Salaak?" Tomar-Tu snapped. "You honestly think they would let me take one of those to their homeworld?"
"Hm. Point taken." The slyggian pressed buttons all around him. "I've traced your location to sector 2815.I will relay a distress signal to Lantern Arisia. Doubtful a Red Lantern would be capable of tracking you by ring-"
"With all due respect, sir," said Tomar-Tu, under heavy breathing. He pulled back from off-screen a hand, and was now gasping for air as blood oozed between his fingertips. "I think we've sorely underestimated their intelligence."
Kyle and Salaak stared at one another for a second, bewildered.
"What do you mean by that, Tomar?" Kyle inquired.
"What if they're not as mindless as we've come to believe they are?" Tomar-Tu coughed. He wiped away blood from his mouth. "What if-"
Salaak pointed a finger at the xudarian. "With as low of a ring charge, your first priority should not be pontificating absurd notions, and instead be finding shelter until Arisia arrives. How you go about that, I leave to your discretion."
Sector 2815; Nitram XII
Without a second thought, Tomar-Tu switched off his ring. His torn uniform disappeared into thin air. He had little time to be embarrassed over the fact he only had on shorts and a long, hip-length tunic he'd worn to bed.
The pebbles and trash cut and poked his bare feet and legs as he ran. He felt blood trickling down one of his calves. It was either suffer that, or use his natural ability to fly and run the risk of being seen and brought down from the air by way of acidic vomit. Tomar-Tu had quickly decided that, in the current situation, cuts and scrapes on his feet were negligible at best.
"YOU LIAR!" He could hear garbled screaming intermixed with the words. "YOU'LL PAY FOR GOING BACK ON YOUR WORD, LANTERN! YOU'LL PAY!"
Climbing over toppled crates and side-stepping shattered glass; Tomar-Tu felt his heart skip several beats as the shrill cry of Anan-Su echoed in the distance.
After several more minutes of aimless running, Tomar-Tu ended up a clearing besides a slope, with no visible shelter.
"There has to be a place I can hide!" Tomar-Tu exclaimed.
Tomar-Tu fell to his knees. Not out of any sort of despair or hopelessness, but out of exhaustion. His lungs ached, and his limbs felt rubberized. The xudarian didn't want to give up. He refused himself to even entertain the very thought. Those were not traits of a Green Lantern, especially those of his father.
Though he had grown up not knowing Tomar-Re as his father during the formative years, he had heard of his exploits and legendary feats. And surrendering all hope in dire situations was not what he was known for. And that would not be something Tomar-Tu wanted to be known for, either.
"Come on, Tu. You survived the Manhunters. The Sinestro Corps War. Even the Black Lanterns!" He told himself as he rose from the rocky ground. His knees buckled, yet he was determined to stand, one way or the other. "One Red Lantern should not be giving you this much trouble!"
He walked towards the cliff's edge, while wiping sweat from his brow. Out in the horizon, he could see an illuminated red dot flying haphazardly, coupled with the occasional explosion.
One such explosion wasn't too far, and from a chain reaction, caused a minor earthquake.
With weakened legs, Tomar-Tu could not maintain balance, and fell down. He found himself rolling down the slope of the cliffside, which may or may not have had a large plate of metal buried beneath it, he couldn't tell. A scream attempted to come out of his mouth, but no sound could be made. The air was sucked clean from his lungs until he came to a rolling stop.
Once he regained his bearings, Tomar-Tu happened upon a makeshift cavern before him, formed from the remnants of commuter-class starships, with half of one ship submerged in water that was colored a repulsive-looking orange-brown mix. Sketch as it was, -and not very sturdy in appearance- it would provide temporary cover, he thought, however dangerous it appeared on the outside.
Another explosion rang in the distance.
"I'LL MAKE YOU SCREAM, LANTERN!" Anan-Su shrieked."I'LL RIP YOUR HEART OUT FROM YOUR CHEST!"
Without warning, Tomar-Tu experienced a brief flashback to the torture he'd suffered at the hands of the Manhunters on Biot so many years ago. His blood ran cold as he unwittingly recalled the brutalities he endured. Metal claws raking across flesh. Electrical shocks at any given moment. His overall person, violated in ways he had long suppressed in the depths of his memory.
"I'LL PLUCK EACH FEATHER FROM YOUR WINGS AND TEAR THE FLESH FROM YOUR BONES, LANTERN!"
Stumbling inside, Tomar-Tu happened upon a side room off to the right. It was dark, and half underwater. There was at least several crates stacked up just high enough, so that they were above the sludge water. It would have to do, he thought.
The water, however gross, was a welcome shot of cold against his feathery skin. With what little energy he had left to spare, Tomar-Tu hoisted himself on top of the crates. He pressed an arm against the wall to maintain balance as the crates bobbed precariously in the water.
Feeling that he was in a safe spot, the xudarian allowed himself to let his guard down. Curling up into a fetal position, Tomar-Tu pressed his right hand over his chest. All he could do now, was wait -and hope- for Arisia's timely arrival.
Sector 2815, Graxos IV (Surface)
As she spoke with the blue and black clad slyggian, Arisia Rrab did her best to contain her joy at having a Blue Lantern in her sector. Up until that morning, Arisia was only familiar with the Blue Lanterns in a passing sense. She'd crossed paths with a couple of them on some occasions -namely, their leader, Saint Walker-, but not often enough for her to be intimately familiar with their modus operandi. All she could infer, from what Kyle Rayner had said, was that they could recharge their power rings without need of a battery.
"How does it feel to be one of them, Sister?" Arisia asked. "I know when I first joined my Corps, it was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Though... I'm guessing your group probably doesn't have to go through boot camp."
Tariro's lips pursed together, indicating deep thought. "Well, seeing as I've only been an official one for a whole day, I'm afraid I'll have to get back to you on that one. I will say this," she floated up into the air. "being a Child Protection caseworker never gave me the opportunity to learn how to fly!"
Arisia could tell this was to be the beginning of a good partnership between the two of them. After all, how many Green Lanterns could say they had a Blue Lantern in their sector at this point in time?
The second she opened her mouth to speak, -once the laughter tapered off long enough for her to catch her breath-, the familiar beeping of Arisia's ring brought everything to a screeching halt. Even Tariro was aware of the sudden mood shift, and her expression changed to one of concern.
"Excuse me, I've gotta answer this," she said. Arisia held up her hand to below eye level. "What's the situation, Salaak?"
The translucent image of Salaak took a second to respond, as she knew he happened to catch a glimpse of Tariro standing beside her, judging by the fleeting look of disgust on his face.
"Lantern Arisia, I'm forwarding a distress signal from Lantern Tu's ring," said Salaak. "He and a Red Lantern are currently in your sector, on Nitram XII."
Her eyes widened. "A Red Lantern, here? Wait..." Arisia scrunched her brow. "What happened to Tomar-Tu?"
"All I could infer from him was that he'd been captured by this Red Lantern and held captive on Ysmault for the five hours he was incommunicado. He was unable to divulge further details at the time I'd spoken to him." Salaak then pointed at the Blue Lanterns. His voice became pointed. "You are to cease dallying with them and assist Lantern Tu at once."
The hologram of Salaak then vanished. Arisia pressed a hand against her brow. This day became a lot more complicated, she thought.
Arisia. Sector 2815. Intel Uploaded.
"Miss Rrab, I understand your organization's leadership does not fully trust us just yet." said Sepdifer. "However, Sister Tariro and I are willing to help you and your teammate in whatever way we are able to."
"I appreciate the offer, but one of them alone is dangerous enough. And while this would be a good opportunity for hands-on experience, with one of them involved," She gestured a thumb in Tariro's direction. "I don't want to put her in mortal danger so soon."
"With all due respect, ma'am, I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself!" Tariro said in a polite, but stern manner. "I might not have ever gone to boot camp, and I'm pretty weak with firearms, but I do know some self-defense techniques!"
Arisia couldn't help but laugh. "Spoken like a true slyggian."
"Besides, we can charge up your rings, right?" Tariro added. "Well, with the two of us, you and your friend will be able to stop that Red Lantern before you can say 'grizzlespit'!"
Sepdifer rested his hands upon Tariro's lower shoulders. "Miss Rrab, time for your friend is running out. Allow us to help you. Please."
Realizing that her newfound allies would not take 'No' for an answer, Arisia charged up her ring. "Alright. Nitram XII isn't that far. Stay close to me at all times until we find Tomar-Tu. When we do," she pointed to Tariro "I want you to stay with him while Brother Sepdifer and I take care of the Red Lantern. Got it?"
The Blue Lanterns nodded as they too charged up their own rings.
Arisia shot upwards to the sky, gesturing for them to follow her. "Move out!"