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Annual #1

 

 

Issue #11, Oct. Yr 2

"Birth"

By David Marshall


Cold. So cold.
The night air cuts like the teeth of a thousand piranhas.

Green Lantern pulled his cape around him and stood to his feet, noting the pain in his joints. His hands looked old and tired. No, they were old and tired! He was old and tired, an elderly man. It felt peculiar to not feel the tongues of the Starheart’s flame burning within his being. Only a pale, green luminance camped around the face of his ring. For the first time since he was a young man, the emerald fire was doused in his soul. Opening the portal drained him. That’s why Zatanna insisted he not aid her in the battle against the Warlock.

I hate magic!

The elderly Mr. Scott looked around. He was outside a village at the foot of a large mountain range he guessed were the Himalayas. If what Zatanna told him was true about time never passing in the Eternal Now, then he supposed he was outside Chang’s village in the sorcerer’s own time. He moved into the village, careful to stay in the shadows.

Great! Magic and time travel!

So now he was just an aged Alan Scott in the Green Lantern's costume? The situation suited him just fine. He only wished Molly could see him, but she couldn’t. She was back in Wingate Memorial fighting the stroke that crippled her body. Would he retain this advanced age when and if he returned to her? Could they finally settle into a quiet retirement together? Or would he once again be forced to pose as his own son? Either way, he loved Molly and whether young or old, he promised to get back to her. Alan gazed into the nighttime sky and marveled at the heavens. The Milky Way was clearly visible thanks to the absence of man-made lighting that filled the towns of cities of the future. An explosion of light in the constellations caught his attention. Something was falling from the sky! The object grew larger until Alan heard an explosion in the heart of the village. There was no time for subtlety. He couldn’t let Chang get to the Starheart first. He moved through the village as quickly as his worn legs would carry him. At last he found the site where the Starheart crashed.

A crowd of onlookers was gathered at the village market in their nightclothes. They pointed to a glowing, green meteor that cut a swath through the dusty streets of their small community. Some bowed in reverence before it while others stood gawking at the sight. The Starheart! Alan felt as if he were witnessing his own birth. It was a peculiar feeling. But what was he supposed to do? He had no powers.

Alan thought of the Justice Society and chided himself for making poor excuses. Several of his old comrades possessed nothing more than a sense of justice that drove to do what was right. Wes Dodds. Al Pratt. Ted Grant. They always found a way to prevail. He would have to as well even without the power to wreck a world at his command. A man interrupted his thoughts by announcing something to the crowd while pointing to a tall man approaching the scene calmly. Alan couldn't understand the man's ancient Chinese but one word was clear to his ears - <"Chang!">

Was Alan too late? He couldn't give Chang the time to utter the reversal spell. He didn't want to stir the crowd anymore than they already were, but the future fate of Earth depended on him stopping Chang.

Chang knelt before the flaming meteor and took it into his hands. The crowd marveled at his bravery or foolishness, whichever they took it to be.

No! Alan raced toward the sorcerer and cursed his elderly legs for not having more speed. He couldn’t allow Chang to open the portal.

"Dan I llahs dehs...." Chang began the incantation.

Alan pushed himself, willing his legs to pump faster.

"...ym thgil revo live, rof eht krad sgniht..."

Just a little further.

"... tonnac dnats eht thgil..."

"<Look a demon!>"

Alan heard someone cry but could not understand. He was attracting attention now, but he could not fail. Chang noticed too and tried to hurry his spell.

"...eht thgil fo..."

At the last moment, Alan leaped through the air, knocking Chang to the ground.

"<What is the meaning of this old man?>" Chang demanded.

Most of the already-frightened crowd dispersed quickly. Only a few curious onlookers remained to watch Alan struggle with the sorcerer.

"<This cannot be!>" someone yelled. "<This one wears the Lamp of Oa!>"

The Starheart began to cool as Alan struggled with Chang. Alan tried to use his weight and the impact of his dive to wrestle the sorcerer onto his back, but Chang was able to turn the tables on him quickly. The sorcerer landed a series of hard right hands to Alan's face. Alan fought as best he could, but Chang pressed his advantage. He was no spring chicken either, but quite younger than Alan. "<Fool! The rock cools now! Perhaps it's not too late still, if I can rid myself of you! >" A final blow closed Alan's eyes.

Apollyon City, Wingate Memorial Hospital

The rhythmic shuffling of the man’s feet in the hallway filled his head with the ghosts of old songs, long forgotten. He would see Molly again. She had to know the truth! Every second she remained ignorant endangered her life further. He would not be dragged away again. Remembering the unpleasantness of his last visit, he approached the nurse's station in the main lobby with caution.

He removed his hat and cleared his throat, making the nurse look up. “Excuse me madam, Nikolai Bolnikov to see Mrs. Alan Scott,” he slurred with a heavy Eastern European accent.

The nurse tapped her pen against her desk. “Aren’t you the man security escorted out of here yesterday?”

“Yes, that was me. That was a misunderstanding, for I am an old friend of Mrs. Scott. I was merely trying to see her.”

The nurse retrieved a manila file and opened it. She scanned the contents inside. “An old friend the family apparently doesn’t recognize. I’m sorry sir, your name isn’t on the list her family left for us. Only approved visitors may see her.”

Nikolai Bolnikov sighed. “Please madam, it is of utmost importance that I see Mrs. Scott.”

The nurse picked up her phone and punched the intercom button. Her voice filled the hospital’s quiet hallways. “Security to 103, please. Security to 103.” She replaced the receiver on the phone. “I suggest you go quietly this time, sir. Mrs. Scott is in no condition to see old friends, announced or otherwise.”

“It was unnecessary to call security. I’ll leave on my own. May I leave something for the family?” Nikolai retrieved his wallet from his coat and removed a business card from a slot inside. “Please see that Mr. Scott gets this.”

The nurse took the card. “Mr. Scott is away on business, but I’ll see that his son gets it.” She waved off the arriving security officers. They looked irritated at being called to the lobby for nothing, but left without grumbling.

“Thank you Miss. I’m in no hurry to reacquaint myself with their bully tactics.”

The nurse’s phone rang. “Excuse me, sir. I have to answer this call. Will there be anything else?”

Nikolai shook his head and turned to leave. “No, that is all.”

Apollyon City, Wingate Memorial Hospital, Room 1017

Jennie Lynn Hayden paused at the door and sighed. She hated hospitals, but it seemed she was spending a lot of time at this one lately. She poked her head inside. “So how are you feeling?”

Felicity sat up in her bed and pushed away the tray of cafeteria food before her. “Jennie! Thank you for coming!”

Jennie made her way to Felicity’s bedside and accepted a hug.

“I’m fine. Doc said I’d be out either today or tomorrow. And you?” Felicity asked.

“A few scrapes and bruises, but fine otherwise,” Jennie answered.

Felicity muted the volume on her television. “Damned soap operas! I haven’t watched them since I was a junior in college and they still haven’t discovered Lexi’s evil twin!" she laughed. "So what’s up?”

“I just wanted to stop by and see how you were doing ...and to praise one hell of a newswoman.”

Felicity brushed the compliment aside with a nervous laugh. “Nearly getting killed suddenly makes me a hell of a newswoman?”

“No. The way you handled yourself just before the explosion. You channeled all that negative energy to rise above your...”

Felicity held up a hand in protest. “Save it for someone else! I was just doing what a great director told me.”

Jennie took Felicity’s hand and smiled. Neither woman said anything, but they didn’t have to. A common thread bound them together now. The tapestries of their lives were forever sewn together by surviving one night of terror. Jennie squeezed Felicity’s hand. “What do you remember? About the explosion?”

Felicity returned the squeeze before freeing her hand. “Nothing really. Just waking up in pain. The doctor said the concussion was more serious than my collarbone and ribs, but my body begs to differ. One makes me sleepy and the other keeps me from it.” Both women laughed before Felicity settled back onto her bed. “You saved me didn’t you?”

“What do you mean?” Jennie asked.

“You’re Jade, aren’t you?” Felicity asked.

Jennie bit her lip. Would she ever be able to put the whole super-hero thing behind her? “Yes, I am. I mean...I was. I hoped to leave my spandex days behind me and move on with my life, but like Kermit said, ‘It ain’t easy being green.’”

“You can't hang it up. No matter how hard you try,” Felicity answered.

Jennie laughed lightly. “Oh? When did you become such an authority on superhero retirement plans?”

“Old family secret,” Felicity laughed. “Anyway, I was awake enough to know Alan stopped by to see us. I didn’t realize you were so close to his family.”

Old family secret and now this? Felicity moved from topic to topic like a roomful of schoolgirls at a slumber party.

“We go...way back,” Jennie stammered. Felicity was a good newswoman. She was getting way too close to the truth.

“Is he always so...complex?” Felicity asked.

“Complex? He wrote the book on it! Would you like me to get you a soda or something?” Jennie asked.

Felicity charged past Jennie’s attempt to change the subject like a bull seeing an eyeful of red. “Too complex to handle a woman in his life?”

“What?” Jennie asked numbly. She wasn’t expecting that question. Felicity couldn't have caught her more off-guard if she had smacked her up side the head with a two-by-four.

“Do you think he has room in his life for the right woman?” Felicity asked again. “I know he’s busy with getting the station off the ground, and getting moved to a new city, and all. Then there’s that mess with his mother...”

She’s not his mother dammit! Jennie wanted to scream.

“...but he’s so fascinating. I know you’re close to his family, but have you noticed how sexy he is? That square jaw and that blonde hair and his body! My god! What a body! I bet he works out every night to maintain that physique! I can’t take my eyes off him.”

Jennie wanted to hate Felicity at that moment. She wanted to call her a tramp and tell her to leave her father alone, but none of those were valid options. Besides, Felicity had no way of knowing Alan was married and that Molly was his wife and not his mother. All she knew was that he was a good-looking, wealthy man who seemed available and, as she put it, fascinating.

“I don’t think he is available,” Jennie answered with more venom than she meant.

Felicity recoiled into the harbor of her blankets. “I’m sorry. I’ve upset you.”

“I’m not upset,” Jennie lied. “You just took me by surprise. That’s all.”

“No, I’ve upset you,” Felicity insisted. “How dumb can I be? Yeah, some newswoman I am. How could I not see... the two of you? Congratulations! I didn’t mean to step on your toes.”

The situation was spinning rapidly out of control. “No! I didn’t mean... He’s my... We’re family! Distant relatives! You thought he and I?...” Jennie forced a weak laugh from her throat to downplay the suggestion.

Felicity settled back into her pillow. “Now I feel silly! I wish I would have just kept my mouth shut.”

Whatever closeness the two women felt earlier was long gone. The only sound to be heard was that of a small baby crying in the hallway and two women discussing the best place to change a diaper. Jennie knew she couldn’t hold Felicity’s feelings against her. After all, she was innocent of wrongdoing and ignorant of the truth. She also knew she would have to discourage Felicity from pursuing a relationship with her father. “I suppose he is good-looking and all, but I’ve heard that he has a woman in his life.... a mysterious stranger.”

“It figures,” Felicity replied. “The good ones are all taken, but don’t think I’m going to stop trying.”

Jennie laughed nervously. “You just worry about getting better and getting back to work. There’s too much testosterone on the set without you.”

Ancient China

Alan awoke to the sound of men screaming. He sat up quickly despite the throbbing pain in his head and surveyed his surroundings. He was glad Atom or Wildcat didn't see him take a beating at Chang's hand. They would rib him about relying too much on the ring. He tried to stand but someone grabbed him before he could get to his feet.

"<He is awake now, Sensei!>"

Alan struggled against his captor to no avail. He was too weak from both age and his fight with Chang.

An elderly man approached. His face was tranquil but his eyes were a study in the art of malice. The man finally spoke. "<Tell me who you are! Why do you wear the Lamp of Oa on your chest?>"

Oa? Alan shook his head to clear the cobwebs. Did he hear the man right? Did he say something about Oa?

"<Answer me!>" the man yelled as he back-handed Alan across the face. The blow split his lip.

"Oa?" Alan asked.

The man grabbed Alan's face and peered into his eyes. "<Yes, Oa!>"

Once again Alan heard someone scream. He peeked over the hoary man's shoulder and saw two men fighting. Their combat was fascinating, attacking one another with a flurry of blows and kicks and blocking them even more gracefully. They struck at one another with the fury of an electrical storm. Even the Bat would have a hard time keeping up with them. Finally, one of the combatants landed a blow. Blood spewed from the eye of the other man as he fell to the floor and screamed. The winner held the other man's eyeball aloft along with a bloody mass of nerve and sinew. What kind of madhouse was this?

The elderly man regained Alan’s attention by clutching his throat. "<What do you know of Oa?>" The man squeezed tightly with surprisingly strong fingers.

Long, sharp nails sliced into Alan’s throat. He thought his eyeballs were going to pop out of his head, but he knew his captors wouldn’t kill him while he had information they needed.

The man released his grip on Alan’s neck.

The man who restrained Alan loosed his hold as well and Alan sunk to his knees. His lungs fought for breath as he raised himself to his knees. "I can't understand you," he replied. He then pointed to the lantern on his chest. "Oa?"

The elderly man nodded. “<Oa!>”

Alan was confused, somehow his captors knew of the Guardian’s homeworld. Perhaps his captors could be more than a superstitious obstacle. Perhaps they could be persuaded to help if he could somehow communicate with them. "Chang! Oa!"

The elderly man jumped back. "<Chang? Oa?>"

Alan nodded. "Yes, Chang! Oa!"

The man grabbed Alan's neck again and gripped tightly. The room began to spin as Alan began to succumb to the lack of oxygen. He was unsure what the old man said right before he passed out, but the concern in his voice was evident.

“<To the house of Chang my brothers! We must not let him unleash the Guardian's power here on Earth! Slay him quickly! For no man escapes the Manhunters!>"

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