It had been approximately a month since the rather unorthodox and informal end to the Red Lantern attack and invasion. Oa had, for the most part, settled back to its normal rhythm. Only now there was one more beat in said rhythm, a constant coming and going of supply and personnel ships ferrying back and forth from the Forgotten Zone. One such ship had docked only a few days ago, one familiar to the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, Hal Jordan, as were its occupants. When he had arrived back on Oa after a much-deserved break and several dinners with Carol, funded by him, to make up for…well…everything, he had been summoned to the hangar bay of the Interceptor. Surprised enough, Hal found not only Kilowog and Aya waiting there, but also a very tired looking Razer.
"Jordan!" Kilowog called, "Welcome back! Surprised to see you alive. Thought that Carol of yours would have skinned you or something for that little 9-month disappearance."
"Yeah, well, let me just say my bank account is still hurting from having to make up for it in dinners." Hal said, and then turned to their Red Lantern companion. "What's got you so exhausted?" Razer turned a half-hearted glare towards the human Lantern, but almost all of its impact was cut by the yawn that almost immediately followed.
"Guardian Appa Ali Apsa has…requested that the Interceptor act as his personal ship for trips back and forth to the Forgotten Zone." Aya answered in his stead, "Naturally, Zilius Zox insisted the same luxury be afforded to him. And Razer-"
"Razer," the Red Lantern cut in, "was somehow convinced to act as a 'goodwill envoy' along with them, and has had to deal with both of them for almost a month now." Hal winced. Interacting with Appa for anything longer than a few minutes was enough to wear on him, but the Guardian combined with the hot-air-filled beach-ball that was Zilius Zox? Too draining to even consider.
"You sure you aren't a Green Lantern?" Hal asked, and when the other three gave him questioning looks he continued, "Dealing with Appa and Zox for that long? Must take more willpower, I think, than most Green Lanterns I know have."
"Wrong kind of willpower," Kilowog added, an amused grin on his face, "But yeah, I agree with you on that."
"Actually, correct type of willpower or not, you would be impressed with the amount of willpower Razer demonstrated by restraining himself when Guardian Appa Ali Apsa referred to myself as 'a mere nav-computer'." Aya piped in. there was a short, loud bark of laughter from Hal before he stifled himself.
"That's actually an impressive feat." Hal said, but any further comment was cut off as the doors to the hangar bay slid open and several Guardians entered, followed by Green Lantern Salaak. A familiar and generally bad-tempered Guardian floated forward: Appa Ali Apsa.
"Now, I hateto send you all out so soon after all of your recent heroics," said the Guardian, not sounding even the slightest bit like he meant it.
"Uh-huh," Hal Jordan muttered, not sounding even the slightest bit like he bought it. Next to him, Razer rolled his eyes dramatically.
"But," Appa continued, ignoring the reactions, "seeing as the near entirety of the Green Lantern Corps are all either still returning from off-planet, or are preoccupied with other work, this task falls to you thr-" He noted a pointed glare from the three male figures standing before him that Hal could only imagine was like Razer's reaction from the aforementioned 'computer' incident in triplicate. "Ah…four."
"So what's the mission?" Hal said. Appa turned his head and Salaak stepped forward. Using his ring, the four-armed Lantern projected a star-map. the Maelstrom asteroid belt, with its newly punctured gap visible in the distance, loomed not far from a small planet.
"This," Salaak began, "is Border Planet 1546-S-1. It is small, and uninhabited, and like all planets and stars bordering the Maelstrom, we have it under constant surveillance. Recently, however, we have noticed some strange scan readings which we are unable to identify or analyze."
"Your assignment," Appa concluded, "is to take the Interceptor, go to Border Planet 1546-S-1, investigate this anomalous reading, and report back with your findings. Red Lantern Razer is to accompany you in the likely case that this reading has something to do with rogue Red Lantern forces." With that the Guardians turned and floated their way out of the hangar bay.
"Good luck." Salaak added, before he followed. the four looked back and forth between themselves and nodded, then made their way up the boarding ramp and onto the Interceptor.
"This should be quick." Kilowog said. "We'll be back in no time, long as Jordan doesn't get us stranded again."
"Hey, that happened one time!"
"Yeah, and we're still technically recovering from it!"
"Why am I even going? As a Red Lantern, the Guardians hold no authority over me, no matter what he thinks."
"Because you're officially part of the crew now, kid!"
Take-off didn't take long, as the crew was already well-versed in the workings and handling of the Interceptor, having spent the better part of 9 months aboard the ship. they settled into their accustomed seats and smoothly lifted off. Once they had made it off of Oa, the ultrawarp drive was activated and they settled for the relatively short trip thanks to the technology.
"So how goes reconstruction of the Forgotten Zone?" Hal asked, spinning his seat to face Razer. the Red Lantern answered without taking his eyes off the control panel before him.
"Slowly, but that is to be expected. We've successfully re-instated destroyed governments on at least three of the least effected planets and we're working on forming an interplanetary governing body with the help of the Star Sapphires and your Iolande of Betrassus. And thankfully some of our members are more versed in government than Zox. I shudder to think of what would happen if he was involved in the finer points of the negotiations."
"What about your planet, Razer?" Aya inquired. Razer stared at her for a moment, a look that Hal couldn't quite read.
"Oh yeah, we never did see your planet while we were out there, did we." Kilowog interrupted, then added, "Never really crossed my mind before but you're from the Forgotten Zone too." Razer let out a 'hmph' and crossed his arms, turning his chair finally to face the other three.
"My planet will have to wait. It's much deeper into the Forgotten Zone than any that we visited. Though there was talk of my leading a small force of Red Lanterns to attempt to overthrow the warlords sent there by Atrocitus and set up a base government to replace them." He grimaced. "But that was before I was grabbed to play bodyguard to the two most annoying individuals in the universe."
"We'll get you back to help your planet in no time after the mission." Hal replied. A small beeping interrupted any further conversation and they all turned back to their control panels.
"We've arrived." Razer reported from his station. Hal scanned his instruments, preparing to exit ultrawarp by flicking a few of the switches. Over at his station, Kilowog's hand hovered over a button, the last step to successful exit of the ultrawarp tunnel.
"Coming out of ultrawarp in 5…4…3…2…1…" at the end of the countdown, Hal pointed to Kilowog. the button was pressed and the rainbow tunnel of light around them slowed and faded smoothly until they found themselves back in regular space. Looming before them was a Border Planet 1546-S-1. From this close they could see that the small planet seemed fairly lush and green for an uninhabited planet, appearing covered with massive forests.
"Hey, looks pretty nice from up here," Kilowog said. "Let's get down there and investigate."
"Scanning for suitable landing site," Aya said, as Hal steered the ship to orbit the planet looking find some sort of break in the thick tree cover. Suddenly the ship's alarm blared. the crew jumped to attention and began searching for the cause.
"No projectiles detected!" Razer called above the blaring alarm.
"Nothing alive out there attacking either!" Kilowog yelled back.
"then what's happening?" Hal asked.
"Sensors indicate a sudden strong magnetic field," Aya reported. "It seems to be interfering with the engine components. We will have to land, and it will not be pleasant."
"I got this," Hal responded, reaching instinctively for the ship's steering controls. Razer and Kilowog immediately braced themselves. As Hal began to steer the Interceptor for a low-angle approach to the planet, the engines flickered and the ship dropped several feet. In the five seconds of drop, Razer and Kilowog suddenly went from bracing themselves to clinging desperately to their chairs, to avoid being thrown from them they would claim if asked.
"the affected engine components are becoming more unstable by the second, Lantern Jordan," Aya announced. "If we do not land soon, we will likely lose all power to the engines."
"Gotcha, land soon or we'll hit land soon, working on it," came the response. "Entering the atmosphere." And with a rumbling jerk the whole ship began to shake. Flames were visible along the exterior as the friction built from atmospheric entry. And then suddenly they were skimming along the surface of the planet, not far above tree-level.
"PULL UP! PULL UP!" Kilowog screamed as they skimmed the trees.
"SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN!" Razer cried at nearly the same time.
"WORKING! ON! IT!" Hal yelled, straining with the controls. the Interceptor shook, but gradually by gradually slowed. then engines flickered once more, and suddenly stopped completely. the ship lowered and began to skim the trees again, with Hal desperately trying to assert some sort of control, even without the engines, but the Interceptor had no ailerons or other external steering methods beyond those afforded by the green energy it ran on.
Bouncing off the tops of the trees repeatedly, the entire ship tipped forward and plowed nose-first into the jungles of Border Planet 1546-S-1.