Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

By: C.W. Blaine (darth_yoshi@yahoo.com)

DISCLAIMER: Green Lantern, the Justice Society and all other characters and situations are ©2001 by DC Comics Inc. and are used herein for fan-related, non-profit entertainment purposes only. This original work of fiction is ©2001 by C.W. Blaine and may not be reproduced, archived or posted without the express permission of the author.

Some people have been quoted as stating that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; at least that was what most of the assembled members of the Justice Society were thinking as they watched the dreams of an old man come apart at the seams.

The evening had started with such innocence. Former mystery writer and mystery-man Jonathan Law, known in the 1940's as the Tarantula, had worked for months setting up a Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/You-name-it party for former members of the All-Star Squadron. In World War 2, the Justice Society of America had disbanded, but President Roosevelt had commissioned the creation of a new super-team to protect American shores during the war. The All-Star Squadron had been composed of nearly every active super-hero at the time.

In the decades since the war's end and the disbandment of the team, many of the members, through various means, were able to retain at least part of their youth and continue the proud traditions established in that Golden Age. Others, like Law, aged normally and now he had very few years left ahead of him. His exercise regime over the years had added years to his life, but there was no way to avoid the inevitable.

During the summer, he had happened upon the idea of gathering all of his friends from those bygone days together to celebrate the holidays. For many, it would be the first time they had spoken since at least the 1950's. For others, it would be a chance to say some final words.

Justice Society chairman Mr. Terrific, the second man to carry the title, was more than happy to allow the party to be hosted in the JSA mansion in New York. Older members, including the original Flash and Hawkman, set about finding as many former members as possible of the "old team". It was difficult, but Jonathan Law, when he saw how many people showed up and brought their families along, was more than satisfied with the results.

That was until the Spectre showed up.

During most of the twentieth century, the mysterious Spectre was considered the most powerful super-hero alive, until it was determined that he wasn't actually alive. The Spectre was, for all intents and purposes, an angel of judgment who inhabited the form of a mortal. That mortal had been police inspector Jim Corrigan.

That was not the case now.

Jim Corrigan's spirit had finally traveled on to the reward so justly deserved and the Spectre was merged with the spirit of a fallen hero. The hero had been Hal Jordan, the second Green Lantern. Many called him a man without fear and he served as an inspiration to the whole super-hero community for many years. However, Jordan eventually went insane and used his powers to try and reshape the universe and set himself up as God. Though he eventually regained his senses and sacrificed his life for humanity, his betrayal left a dark scar in the do-gooder community.

Indirectly, he was responsible for the deaths of some of the oldest members of the Justice Society, so it was ironic that he now shared the "body" of one of the team's founding members.

"You don't seem to understand, Jordan," Wildcat said, poking the Spectre in the chest. "This is a get-together for All-Star Squadron members and family only. You don't count."

The voice coming from the green-cloaked, pale-skinned being was soft. "But the Spectre wants to be here, if you can understand that."

"I don't give a rat's butt!" Wildcat exclaimed, and slowly others began to nod slowly. "You aren't Jimmy Corrigan so you ain't part of the JSA!"

"The fact of the matter is that you make some of the other members uncomfortable," Alan Scott said. The hero had been the original Green Lantern, before changing his name to Sentinel and had served as a mentor of sorts to Hal Jordan early in his career as a Green Lantern. It was an insane Hal Jordan that eventually destroyed Scott's ring, but it was to no avail; the mysterious magical powers of Scott's ring had been absorbed into his body and now he wielded the so-called green flame without the ring just as easily.

"But, you've accepted my help on missions." There was an actual hurt tone to the Spectre's voice.

"Of course we did!" Wildcat said, his hands moving with each syllable. "I'd take Per Degaton's help if it meant saving the world. We take help from all kinds of people, but that doesn't make them members."

The Spectre cast a glance over at one of the newest members of the Justice Society. He was a tall Middle-Eastern man clad in a black and gold uniform. "You would accept a murdering pagan into your fold, but would deny a former member access?" His voice was becoming more cryptic, indicating that the Spectre's personality was overriding Hal Jordan's.

"Black Adam is a member because he wishes to atone for his actions while he was under the control of another," Mr. Terrific said, stepping away from Libby Lawrence, the former Liberty Belle, and her daughter Jessie Quick. "Also, we don't criticize anyone here for their religious beliefs. Third, as chairman of the team, I decide who is a member and who isn't. If you have a problem with that, spooky, then you and I can discuss it outside. It seems to me that the Spectre resigned his membership some time ago."

"Enough!" Alan Scott said, a green energy field surrounding his body. He floated over to come between the Spectre and Mr. Terrific. "Hal, you have to leave. They're all correct in that you were not invited because."

"You dare to judge me?" The Spectre's form took on a consistency of smoke and he seemed to grow as large as the room itself. "What right have you to question the right of the Voice to choose a mortal host for my essence? I can see the arrogance in your hearts!" his voice boomed. Some started to take steps back and younger members were being pushed out of the room. The senior members, along with their chairman, stood their ground however. "For most of you, I can discount your feelings to ignorance and fear, but you Alan Scott."

"Look in my soul all you want, Hal, and you'll find the ideals you should have upheld! Maybe its time you found out exactly how I feel about your death-rebirth-redemption motif!" Scott began to rise and simply passed through the ceiling. The Spectre gazed at the remaining heroes with death's head eyes and then followed Sentinel out of the mansion.

"Is this a good thing?" Mr. Terrific asked as he turned to the Flash.

Jay Garrick, the man in the red and blue costume, removed his Mercury-style helmet and wiped his brow. "This was something brewing for awhile, Mike. Alan was deeply affected by the decimation of the Green Lantern Corps and Hal Jordan's fall from grace. I think he saw something in Hal that reminded him of himself and he didn't like it."

"Maybe we should follow them?"

"Good luck," Wildcat said, grabbing a beer from a refreshment table. "They're both former Green Lanterns.they can go anywhere in the universe."

The Coast City Memorial contained a brazier that burned a green flame, in honor of all of those who fell before the destructive might of Engine City. An alien conqueror, Mongul, had come to Earth in hopes of converting the entire planet into a base of operations; a mobile base. To that end, he decided to implant a giant engine into the planet surface, but Coast City stood in the way.

Without a second thought, he leveled and burned away the city, killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process. Coast City had been the home of Hal Jordan and when it needed him, he was somewhere else, fulfilling his duties as a member of the Green Lantern Corps. When he attempted to use his power ring to bring the dead back to life, the Guardians of the Universe, the beings who administrated the Green Lantern Corps, stopped him.

In rage, Hal traveled to Oa, the home world of the Guardians and killed the members of the Corps and nearly every Guardian. He then entered the central power battery and absorbed the awesome energies until he became like a god. His insanity reached new levels as he tried to reshape the universe into his own warped image and it took the combined might of every super-hero on Earth to stop him.

Alan Scott stood next to the flame, awaiting Jordan's arrival. He couldn't think of him as the Spectre, for the Spectre he had spent decades working side-by-side with was no more. The little bit that made him tolerable, that piece that was Jim Corrigan, was gone and having Hal Jordan in place of it was not the same thing.

"Why do you find it so hard to believe I would be this upset, Hal?" Alan said as the Spectre materialized before him. "You had a great power and you tried to use it for selfish reasons."

"I tried to save lives."

"No, you tried to change history. My God, do you realize that I can't be sure if the history I know of is the history that is supposed to be. Nobody knows to what extent you changed things Hal. You were a hero and heroes know that sometimes, you have to let things be."

"Do you think its that easy, Alan?" the Spectre asked, switching to the handsome form of Hal Jordan in his Green Lantern uniform. "Don't you have any inkling of the power you and I have wielded.that we continue to wield. I was only human, Alan, and I was grieving and those damn Guardians tried to take away my only recourse. I snapped. I've apologized to everyone and everything, even to God, and I've tried to make up for it."

'That's no excuse! If you wield the power, you have to responsibly. You can't put your own selfish designs first. You have to think about the larger picture and you didn't do that. Yes, I question God's decision to give you the power of the Spectre."

"I see.so you think someone else would have been a better choice, someone who doesn't understand the human weakness."

Sentinel pointed a finger at Hal. "Yes, exactly. If your job is to met out punishment, then you must do so objectively!"

"I suppose you think you could do a better job."

"I wouldn't do something as foolish as try to rewrite history."

The visage of Hal Jordan faded away to be replaced by the ghostly form of the Spectre. The angel waved a hand. "Let us see if you are worthy of such judgment Alan Scott."

The first thing that Alan Scott noticed was how clean the air was; a clean he had not had the pleasure of breathing since at least before 1950. In fact, the high oxygen content was making him slightly dizzy, but it was a welcome discomfort. The sun was up high and he could immediately tell he was somewhere warm and friendly. He took in a deep breath and opened his eyes.

The beauty of the field before him was breathtaking and familiar and he had to fight the urge to simply go running off into the high grass. It was something he was fond of doing as a boy and adulthood had robbed him of the pleasure. There was a scent to the clean air and he would have sworn it was summertime.

Next to him, the Spectre had taken Hal Jordan's form, sans the Green Lantern uniform. Clad in a simple, if not out of date, set of work clothes, he made no smile or frown. It was as if he were watching a television program.

Alan ignored him for the moment and tried to figure out where on Earth they were, since it was wintertime. The area they were in was definitely not tropical, but was instead very much like Gotham County, back in the 1920's, before the industrial parks. Alan Scott had grown up in the city proper, but spent his summers on his grandmother's farm just a few miles outside the city.

He was about to satisfy his curiosity by asking Hal when he heard the distinct sound of children laughing. He held off for a moment, just to see if the children would speak and he could tell what language it was. Through the summer haze, he could see the grass parting as one of the youngsters made their way to where he and Hal stood.

He looked down and saw he was still in costume and he wondered briefly if Hal had made them invisible. The child, a boy of about ten or so with tussled blond hair came running out of the high grass, screaming with delight. He smiled and then realization hit him.

"No.."

As the boy ran through them, answering Alan's unspoken question, another child, a girl of even younger years with the same colored hair, clad in a simple white dress, came running after the boy. There were tears of absolute joy running down her face and Alan went pale. He whirled to Hal. "You bastard! You god damn bastard! We're in the past, aren't we?" Hal said nothing and his face was not that of the former super-hero and test pilot, but of the angel of judgment. "Take me back now!" Alan ordered, green flames surrounding his eyes. When Hal made no move to do so, he shoved the man back. "Take me home or I swear I'll deliver you to Heaven in pieces."

"I don't understand, Alan, this should present no problem to you; after all, you're the hero of control." There was an actual smirk on Hal's face.

"This isn't right, Hal! How could you possibly know about this? I've never told anyone.anyone! How could you know?" The answer came to him almost immediately as he realized that such things would not be hidden from one such as the Spectre. Whatever the angel knew, Hal Jordan knew as well. "This doesn't mean a damn thing! We're just a couple of spirits like out of Dickens'; we can't do anything."

"On the contrary, Alan, if you want to intervene.you can."

"No! I won't fall for that! Now get me the hell out of here!"

Hal seemed to ignore him and he turned to look at the children running. The girl tripped and fell while the boy turned to laugh. He was a happy child, taking nothing seriously and everything for granted. "How much did you love your sister, Alan?"

Alan's eyes misted over as he watched the little girl get up and start chasing after the boy again. "Her name was.is Alice and I loved her more than anything else in the world. She was everything to me. My father was always away, trying to find work and my mother was so sick." He wiped something out of his eye. "Every summer, we would come to my grandmother's farm and spend the whole time together. I suppose with dad gone I tried to take the role of man-of-the-house."

The children headed to a large tree with a simple rope and wood plank swing on it. "I won't interfere," Alan said, a tremor in his voice.

"How did it happen, Alan? A simple accident.you let her climb the tree and she fell. You couldn't stop it because, at the time, you didn't have the ability. Here, now, as a grown man, possessed of the green flame of the Green Lantern, you can stop it. Just as an adult, you could step over there right now and tell them to go home and your sister will live."

Alan shook his head slowly, but caught the small voice in the back of his mind urging him to go on and save his sister. Her death had been a major turning point in Alan's life. After that, he would dedicate his life to making the world safer. He would go on to college and get his engineering degree and go to work for the railroads as a safety inspector in a time when safety wasn't anyone's concern.

Even after he found the magic lantern and put on the costume and mask, his sister's death and how senseless it had been followed him wherever he went. Because he had allowed her, that one time, to climb into that tree, because he had failed to use good sense and judgment, she had died when the limb broke.

Now, in an attempt to prove he was like everyone else, Hal Jordan thought he could play devil's advocate and tempt Alan into using his powers to save his sister.

It was working.

"You have more power than you can possibly imagine, Alan, the power, literally, over life and death. With the green flame inside of you, there is very little you cannot do. For years, you have handled the responsibility well, never asking for anything and now you have the opportunity to correct a past wrong."

Alan looked over and his heart missed a beat as the scene that he had played out over and over in his mind was put before his eyes. He saw the grin on his young face and even mouthed the conversation that was taking place between his younger self and his sister. "No."

"Fine, then we'll do nothing and that young child will die for absolutely no reason."

Alan shook his head and tried to use cold logic to subdue the emotions starting to rage inside of him. Threatening to burst through, they caused his facial muscles to twitch and he felt sick to his stomach. Like a magnet, the scene drew his eyes and he caught himself trying to fly over to the children.

He saw her climb and the memories of so many decades past flooded into his brain. Every emotion he ever felt in the presence of his beloved sister assailed him, his synapses going into overload. He imagined what her life would have been like had she lived.

What would she have said of him becoming Green Lantern?

Of his failed marriage.

His son?

He heard a scream and reflexes honed over many years took over. With the merest of thoughts, the green flame erupted from deep within him and cast him in an emerald glow. It surprised him to discover, after all of these years of believing otherwise, it was actually he that had screamed as Alice had fallen and not she. He knew that through the application of his will, he could achieve near light speed velocity, plenty of time to rescue his sister.

His analytical mind played over the scenario, chastising him for falling for the mechanisms of the Spectre/Hal. This was different, though. Hal Jordan tried to raise the dead, defile and cheapen what it was to be alive. Here, Alan was saving a life that was not yet gone.

It was a solid argument.

He could hear the crack of her neck, the sound vibrating through his body and soul. His eyes flew open and he looked to see the Spectre had a hold of him in a massive hand. "No, Alan Scott, you may not use the power bestowed upon you for such things. Your sister's death was foretold long before her birth. On this day her name appeared in the Book of Life and she was granted access to Heaven."

"You bastard! Let me go, Hal!" Alan was spitting as yelled, his voice barely carrying over the screams of his younger self as the boy cradled the cooling body of the little girl. "You son of a bitch, you have no right! Let me go, or so help me, I'll show you what real power is!" With that, the energy aura surrounding Alan began to push out, forcing the Spectre's hand open.

If the spirit was impressed by the display, it did not show it. "Does anger and fury course through you, little mortal?"

"God damn right it does, you devil! You."

Alan suddenly caught his breath and they were once again at the Coast City Memorial. Hal Jordan stood there, a sobering look on his face. Alan collapsed onto his knees and vomited onto the ground. "Why did you do that to me?"

"Of all of the people in the world who might understand what it was that I went through, I thought it would be you, Alan. You understand what it's like to possess such power, how tempting it is to use it to try and make things better. All I wanted to do was save all of those innocent people. I would have died for them."

"This was different.you have no idea how much my sister meant to me, how it affected me."

"I lost everything, too. NO matter what I did, I couldn't get it back. You were ready to kill me, Alan, you were so angry. The difference this time was that I could stop you; the Guardians could not stop me.

"My point is this: don't judge me for doing something that you damn well know you would do given the opportunity. That is the message I want you to take back to the JSA. It's easy to say you won't do something until you're in that situation."

"Go to hell," Alan said, wiping his mouth.

"I see that you're still angry.I know, I've been there. I'll leave you now, Alan, but remember what I said. Don't think for a second that because you represent justice that you have the right to judge others. Don't place yourselves on high pedestals because the fall is harder."

Without waiting for another rebuke, the Spectre left and Alan Scott found himself weeping uncontrollably.