The gun barked once. A thunderous boom that shattered the darkness. The bullet was, of course, far too fast for him to see.
What really surprised him was that he didn't feel it ether. Just one loud sound. One final boom to end a life.
It seemed so slow to him; the very fabric of space-time itself constrained to allow him to live as long as possible. As slowly, ever so slowly, he knees buckled. His chest heaved. Blood poured from the hole punched into his right lung. No pain. That was what he would remember later.
No pain at all.
Once, there had been heroes. They had been glorious and they had been mighty and most of all, they had been unbeatable. They had names like Magicman, Guardian, Justice. Dependable names. Names which would inspire hope everywhere they went.
The heroes had been so important. So much more important than anyone really gave them credit for until the war. That war he did not know so much about truth be told. It had never really concerned him; beginning and ending when he was a small child. All he really knew for sure was that once there had been heroes and now there were none.
He hit the ground.
Now there was pain. A rolling ocean of pain that swept across his body, he would have screamed, but the bullet lodged in his lung wouldn't even let him do that. He could say that each breath was like being impaled on a lance of fire, but that'd be an understatement.
So this is what it was like to die...
Marco had devoted himself to the life of a good person. In fact, he'd done it so much that he could no longer really be referred to as a good person and one would have had to capitalise it. And one oft he benefits to being a Good Person was that they did not die of being shot in the dark allyway somewhere in the slums filled with scum and the damned.
They just didn't...
How had he ended up like this? Such questions must surely be common to those on the verge of death like himself. Most people must have felt their emotion stir and scatter; exploding like a cheap firework. He wasn't like that. He kept control always. Rigid,, iron control even now.
Even in death.
He was not about to die.
He knew that. He was not going to die. His task was not finished. He was chosen.
Chosen by blood, chosen by fate. Chosen by destiny. He was the hero that the city needed. No, he was the hero that all mankind had needed.
Had he been born a few decades earlier; he would have been a hero. He knew that. He'd have gotten powers somehow. He'd have donned the custom and he would have been a hero. Fighting and destroying the evil that threatened society at every level. For as long as he could remember, that drive had burned in him. Even when he was a child. Even before he knew what the term ''hero'' meant. He'd been born for it, it was in his blood.
But most of all, he had faith that it was his path.
Heh. A tool. He'd always thought. Nothing more and nothing less...except...
Except for that one thing. That single concept he held enshrined deep within his heart. Marco was perhaps a hypocrite of a very high order for, though he despised faith and those driven by it to extremes, it played a far larger role in his own life than he would ever have liked to admit.
Not faith in the gods... for gods were a thing that a man could not rely on and were known to desert you when they were most needed.
Not faith in man... for man had long since proven himself unworthy of faith and in need of guardians to shepard him.
Nor faith in any government, organisation or guild. For all these things were born of man and therefore inherited all of his weakness and fault.
The one thing that he had faith in. The one thing that he could truly believe in was him. He had always known that he was going to do big things; that he was going to change the world and to make it a safer and better place. That had been his goal for his whole life and it was in this one thing that his faith burned. Hotter than a sun; harder to kill than a blackhole. And utterly without flaw.
He WOULD do this thing. He would do it if it took up his whole existence. And often he knew that it would take just this.
Halfway across the city, his faith was noted. A tiny comit of blue light changed course and came angling towards him. Surrounded by its corona of blue illumination, the Lantern Ring intoned.
All will be well
The ring tracked the location of the wounded man and sped towards him. It was a high grade Power Artefact crafted and maintained by Oan technology. Its purpose was to seek a bearer. And now it had found what it judged to be a worthy soul. And maybe if things had been as they seemed, it would have found him and he would have been all that he dreamed of.
But alas, fate as it so often does, had other plans.
From the skies, descended a spear of light. It caught the Blue Ring a glancing blow and sent it spinning off course. The Blue Lantern Ring – a device that in theory could not be halted by any means known to any living being slowed.
White Ring Detected. It noted to itself. Connection Overridden.
For there was one light that ranked above blue on the emotional spectrum. That light which it was programmed to give way to should both rings seek the same person. The second – new – ring descended from the skies on a brilliant bolt of searing light. For a brief instant, it was as though a second sun hung in the sky.
This ring was white. The colour of life. The colour of the emotional spectrum itself. The most highly placed of all the Power Rings and the rarest. And once more, were that all it was, things might yet turn out for the best.
But this ring was not like the others of its kind.
And so it was that a man bleeding to death from a gunshot wound was confronted with a glowing ring of brilliant light.
Destiny Awaits. The Shining Light is waiting for you.
The ring slipped onto his finger and he was transformed. His hair becoming a grey-white tone, his clothes vanished; replaced by a white unicorn embellished with a symbol of the White Lantern Corp.
He held up the ring in his hand. Examined it with traces of marvel.
"So this..." He said slowly. The ring's knowledge filling him up like an empty vessel. " Is how the universe is..."
And that, more or less, is how Marco died.
Something else continued for a time.
But it was certainly not the man who had been shot.
The man - no, no man not now – the White Lantern drew his power about himself and raised his rig to the skies.
"Sometimes justice must be cruel."
"Sometimes an angel's wings must be stained with blood." Came the answer that he knew would await him. A flash of light; a portal and out stepped a woman. She was beautiful in an ethereal kind of way. Such was the effects of the White Ring he now knew. It was the ring of life and in wearing it, one became preternaturally healthy. It wasn't even that it added anything. Only enhanced what was already there. Marco himself had changed so much that he was almost a different person in body, as well as in mind.
"Marco Tippalan." She said, her voice was soothing and calm. Yet the undertones were unmistakably as hard as steel. "You have been found worthy. You are one of the few who have."
"I am." Marco said, merely confirming what both already knew. For the ring would not have come to him were he not. He understood that now, understood it because the ring had flooded him with new knowledge. With new concepts and new ideals. The man he had once been had died. The man he now was was so different that it was not even funny. He was utterly unrecognisable. Changed in the blinking of an eye.
Such is the curse of the White Light.
"You will help us." The woman said, continuing. "You will bring life to the universe. Our power will join with ours. We will annihilate the old order."
"Marco. Welcome to the New White Lantern Corp."