Issue #9, Sep. Yr 2
By Dave Marshall
Apollyon City, The Apolloplex Arena
“Thank you for coming tonight. It’s good to see some of us still value common sense and reason while false prophets walk among us poisoning the land with their gospel of diversity!”
The packed Apolloplex Arena applauded wildy.
“Lady Liberty’s blood no longer runs pure thanks to the ceaseless infusion of immigration in the last century! Her conscience has been seared by the hot irons of their tainted, pagan moralities! She wanders about now like a wanton whore, nodding her approval at every shameful act committed in the name of freedom! Those who uphold the old ideals are demonized by the courts and the media! But that comes as no surprise, my friends! Dr. Eule spoke of such times years ago, but he also promised it would be a time of great rejoicing for it means the Owl... will fly once more!”
The frenzied crowd rose to its feet and cheered passionately.
Dr. Damon Hinkle straightened his collar and looked over the assembly. He smiled, then slammed his fist against the ornate podium in front of him. “Brothers and sisters, the time has come for war!”
The crowd erupted a third time with thunderous approval. The applause grew even more raucous when the Society of the Owl logo flashed upon the Power Point screen behind him.
“Such has been the scene for the last two hours here at the Apolloplex Arena where Dr. Damon Hinkle has used the speaker’s podium as a bully pulpit for his message of intolerance! Dr. Hinkle...”
“Cut!” Jennie Hayden swept her hands through her hair in frustration. “Felicity, this isn’t an editorial piece. Stick to the facts..... please!”
Felicity Barnes yanked the cardioid microphone bearing the WABS logo away from her mouth and motioned over her shoulder to Dr. Hinkle on the floor below. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t let the bastard get to me. Give me a moment.”
The cameraman looked on helplessly and shot Jennie a pleading glance.
Jennie sighed. Felicity was right, men like Hinkle made her blood boil too. Still, their job was to report the news and not color it with personal opinion. “I’m not asking you to agree with him. Just be professional. Can we take it again from the top?”
Felicity walked over to the concourse railing and looked out over the crowd below. Dr. Hinkle brought them to their feet once more. She turned and faced the camera. “Damn right we will!”
Jennie wanted to bring a field reporter along to do this story, but Felicity wouldn’t hear of it. It was good to work with a woman with such passion and fire. She smiled at the determined anchorwoman and nodded. “Okay....in three, two, one....”
Felicity allowed the camera to pan over the worked-up crowd before zooming in on her. “Such has been the scene for the last two hours here at the Apolloplex where Dr. Damon Hinkle has elicited strong emotional response from a captive audience. Dr. Hinkle is the second generation leader of the “so-called” Society of the Owl...”
Jennie winced, but motioned to keep the camera rolling.
Felicity continued. “It is believed the Society’s roots can be traced back to the days following World War I when....”
The Apolloplex shook violently, slamming Jennie into the wall behind her and to the ground. The blast immersed the building in sudden darkness, knocking out all but a few emergency lights. Most of them were in the hallways, but they allowed enough pale light to creep into the concourse for Jennie to get her bearings. Felicity lay unconscious beside her. The cameraman lay to her other side, his neck obviously broken. Still groggy, Jennie crawled over to the steel railing and looked below. The scene was gruesome. The neon glow of Apollyon’s modest skyline invaded the arena through a hole gutting its southern end. It was just enough light to illuminate the floor. Faces frozen in the horror of sudden death pleaded for help that would never come. The air smelled of burnt flesh and discharged explosives. As the anguished cries and groans of survivors filtered into her ears, Jennie wasn’t sure which group had the most to be thankful for, the living or the dead. The cries were mercifully drowned out by the wail of approaching sirens from outside.
Jennie heard a creaking noise, like the one sailors describe just before the sea claims a reeling vessel. The mournful song of the gutted arena ended when a massive pillar supporting the southern end of the concourse collapsed, sending tons of concrete and steel to the floor below. It buckled in sections like oversized dominoes. As the toppling concourse wound its way toward her, one thought gripped Jennie’s mind. Felicity!
An emerald glow burst forth from Jennie’s hand and enveloped the fallen newswoman. Jennie rose into the air, but wasn’t sure she could carry even Felicity’s lithe frame in her weakened state. She whispered a “thank you” to the heavens as Felicity moved from the floor and floated behind her. With the newswoman in tow, she sailed over the chaotic scene and made her way through the large hole in the disemboweled building. She landed near the 15th Avenue entrance and brought Felicity to rest on the sidewalk beside her. Finally, unconsciousness claimed her reeling mind and her head hit the sidewalk also.
Ancient China, 5th Century B.C.
The man dumped an armful of kindling into a crude circle of polished stones on his dirt floor. Today he would touch that world again. He hoped. He knelt and carefully arranged the small sticks into a neat pile at the center of the perimeter. Once he was satisfied the arrangement would allow a fire to breathe, he retrieved a flint from the folds of his robes and struck it against one of the smooth stones. The flint flared to life and he lowered its flame to the kindling. The dry wood was stubborn, but it began to glow as he blew across it gently. The glow gave way to a steady, determined flame that spread rapidly. Once the fire breathed a life of its own, the man smiled. < “Sufficient.” >
He stood and walked across the small room to a rustic, bamboo-framed table and retrieved a red, fabric pouch. Returning to the fire, he pulled the drawstrings loose and reached inside. < “And I will listen when you share your wisdom. Guide me in all I do.” >
He pulled his hand free of the pouch and dropped a handful of pink powder onto the flames. A billow of fire erupted from the circle. Two more times, he repeated the incantation and sprinkled the mixture of gunpowder, herbs, goat’s hooves, and blood into the fire. And listened.
< “My loyal servant.” > The voice was loud, almost deafening. Still, it was the first time the ancient ones spoke in many seasons. The man dared not complain.
< “Your servant Chang awaits your command, my Master.” >
The voice was quick to respond. < “I have need of you Chang. Three days hence an object will fall from the heavens to your village. Do not be frightened, for it is both your salvation and destiny. Follow my instructions carefully. For if you do not, you will surely die. However, if you do as I command, the glow will bring you not death, but power! More power than you have ever dreamed possible!” >
< “What kind of power?” > Chang asked.
< “The power to make your thoughts reality,” > the voice replied.
< “Forgive your servant’s ignorance but how will this help you?” >
The Voice hesitated. Chang felt as if two lifetimes passed in the silence, yet anticipation made him giddy like a young girl first opening the flower of her love. If this great being spoke the truth, there would be no more floggings at the hands of angry mobs who failed to appreciate the arcane. His every thought warped into reality sounded like a fantasy, but....
< “The trivial power is of no consequence to me. It pales in light of my own, but I require it to bridge the portal between our worlds. I shall make you prince of both worlds if you agree to my bargain. Should you betray me, I will use the power to slay you where you stand!” >
Chang wasn’t interested in being the prince of two worlds. The power alone would be enough. < “I am listening.” >
< “When you stand before the object, repeat the following incantation before it flames, ‘Dan I llahs dehs ym thgil revo live, rof eht krad sgniht tonnac dnats eht thgil...eht thgil fo eht neerG nretnaL.’ You will hear from me no more until I reach your world.”> A vaporous hand appeared and etched the strange words into the clay walls of his modest home, then disappeared. A voluminous silence filled the room as the next few moments passed, as if in a dream slowly unfolding. Amidst a blanket of ashen remains, a lone glowing ember cast long shadows on the words etched into the wall. Chang studied them carefully, pronouncing the confusing syllables in a hushed whisper. The sounds were alien to his ear, yet posed no trouble for his tongue. He turned his attention once more to the fire, puzzling over the rapid consumption of the firewood. Or…did his conversation with the Master last much longer than he thought?
He ran to the door of his shanty and threw it open. A cold wind stung his face sending shivers down his spine. He was surprised to see the quarter moon disappearing over the peaks of the Himalayas. It was nearly dawn, but surely his conversation with the Ancient One had been fleeting. No more than a few words. Yet the moon begged to differ.
Chang shut his door slowly and shuffled to the bamboo table once more, taking up a large gourd filled with water. He returned to the glowing embers and doused them. The dying blaze hissed defiantly as the water licked up its remaining life. Chang relished the sound.
It was time to rest. If his benevolent god could master time itself, then perhaps his other claims were true as well. Yes, rest. The next few days demanded careful attention and preparation.
Apollyon City, Wingate Memorial Hospital
A nurse poked her head through the door. “Mrs. Scott, you have a visitor!”
A visitor? Alan! Molly turned her face away from the spoonful of cream of wheat a young, blonde-haired candy-striper was trying to feed her. Breakfast could wait. Molly was looking forward to seeing her husband. Since waking up she had longed for him to hold her and tell her everything would be ok. She tried to speak, but found that her stroke had drawn her face into a mass of uncooperative muscle and nerves. Instead of speech, an embarrassing, incoherent grunt sent drool running down her face. The candy-striper wiped her mouth.
Alan entered the room and.... Stupefied horror swept over Molly. The man standing before her wasn’t Alan. This man was much larger, and looked menacing. His face retreated into the mysterious shadows underneath the brim of his dark hat. He was a strapping man, rendered even more hulking by the oversized coat draped over his shoulders. He walked with the aid of a silver-tipped cane topped with a carved bear-shaped handle. Molly tried to scream, but instead her mouth filled with unintelligible babble. She covered her face with an alien, drawn-up hand that seemed to belong to someone else, an old woman. It couldn’t possibly be hers. Could it?
The candy-striper pulled Molly’s hand away from her face and forced it to the bed. The young girl then grabbed the television remote and pushed the nurse call button. “I’m sorry sir, but you seem to be upsetting the patient.”
The man said nothing. Instead, he moved closer to Molly’s bed.
An LPN appeared in the doorway. “Sir, you’ll have to leave.”
The man acknowledged the nurse but didn’t reply. He turned his attention back to Molly. She cringed. His gaze made her feel so vulnerable. It reminded her of the recurring nightmare in which she found herself naked on the subway, but no one seemed to notice. Why should she care if some stranger saw her this way? Yet he seemed familiar somehow, but that was crazy. Wasn’t it? Surely it was the stroke! Or the drugs! Was she hallucinating or seeing ghosts? The hulking figure removed his hat and held it over his heart. His face was old, a wrinkled study in experience and pain. He sported a few sprigs of white fluff above his ears. A thin, greying moustache was waxed into place forming a suave handlebar that framed his persimmon mouth. When he finally conjured a smile, he looked sad like the Emmet Kelly figurine Alan bought her for her last birthday. A tear welled up in his eye when he finally spoke. “Marishka?”
Molly managed to gasp even through her tightly-drawn lips. She had not heard that name in years. She looked into the man’s eyes. Suddenly, he didn’t look so old, as memories began to undo the damage Father Time had inflicted upon his face. Dark, curly hair appeared on his head, hanging in ringlets most women would die to run their fingers through. Two rows of perfect, white teeth filled his mouth as years melted from his face. The jawbone seemed more square somehow and that deep dimple returned to his prominent chin. The moustache....well, it pretty much looked the same, except it wasn’t as grey. Molly tried to speak but couldn’t.
“Yes...in here! Hurry, he may harm the patient!”
Molly saw security enter the room over the man’s shoulder. She tried desperately to warn him, but could say nothing. She cursed her twisted mouth for betraying her, as a large black man and a smaller white man pulled her visitor from her bedside. He resisted them, but the strong, young men proved more than he could handle. He reached out to Molly in desperation, but the security guards forced him further away. Molly cried out stop them, but the growing crowd of doctors, nurses and security mistook her garbled pleas for cries of terror.
“Get that man out of here!” a doctor ordered above the clamoring din. “Give the patient something to calm her!”
The medical staff rolled Molly onto her side and gave her an injection. She was angry for only a few minutes before she was claimed by a fitful sleep.
Apollyon City, Outside the Apolloplex Arena
Green Lantern landed near the main entrance of the Apolloplex on the Broadmoor side. He overheard Chief Westingmore talking to a crowd of reporters and wondered where his own people were.
“Those in need of medical attention have been transported to local hospitals with emphasis given to severity of injury,” Westingmore said, all the while puffing away at one of his ornate pipes.
“Would you care to speculate how many did survive?” someone called out.
Westingmore shook his head. “Too few. I’m sorry, no more questions.” He turned away and walked toward Green Lantern.
“Chief Westingmore...” the throng of reporters were persistent, raising their voices as one.
Westingmore whipped around, facing the reporters once more. “No more questions! Is that understood?” The media sharks backed away.
Green Lantern was impressed. It was one thing to wield such authority over one’s own people, but he had never seen anyone handle the press in such a manner. Even the big shot reporters from Atlanta and Metropolis backed away.
Westingmore pulled his pipe away from his mouth and faced Green Lantern. “I was wondering when you would get here.”
“I came as soon as I heard,” Green Lantern answered. “How bad is it?”
“Total loss. The taxpayers won’t be too happy about this one.”
“I’m sure the victim’s families will be even less happy,” Green Lantern answered tersely. “Any leads?”
Westingmore withdrew his pipe from his mouth. “Two crimes were committed here tonight and the first wasn’t the explosion. This Hinkle guy could serve as the poster child for hate-mongers. Anybody could be responsible.” Westingmore knelt at a large chunk of concrete and found a round, tin button with Hinkle’s picture on it. The words ‘For A Pure Nation’ encircled his image. “Stupid son of a bitch! Stupid, stupid son of a bitch.”
Green Lantern wasn’t sure stupid was the right word for men like Hinkle. Dangerous was more like it. A hot-bed of controversy was bound to follow wherever he went. He was glad WABS sent their top team to cover..... “The news crews... Did they make it?”
Westingmore shrugged his shoulders and stood as he puffed on his pipe. He studied Green Lantern as if he wondered why a super-hero was so interested in newshounds. “A few of the WCLO team were killed. The WABS team was luckier though. We found the green-skinned girl and Ms. Barnes on the sidewalk. Fella inside wearing a WABS jacket didn’t make it though.”
Green Lantern composed himself, taking care not to express too much interest in the situation. “I see. Anything I can do here?”
“You have some trick in that ring of yours that could help us locate bodies in the rubble?” Wesingmore asked.
Green Lantern’s ring glowed as a pack of emerald bloodhounds leaped from its face. They began to sniff around the rubble.
Westingmore smiled. “Nice, but don’t most dogs have four legs?”
Four legs? What was Westingmore talking about? Of course dogs have four legs. Green Lantern looked closely at his canine constructs. A few of the dogs were missing paws. With a little extra concentration the deformed bloodhounds sprouted limbs. He turned to Westingmore. “At least they’re not shooting pool.”
Over the course of the next two hours, the dogs uncovered several more bodies from the ruins. Green Lantern kept a keen eye on his creations. At times, some lost their tails. A few suddenly became headless. Others seemed to lose their form altogether and fade. At last, the rubble was thoroughly searched.
“Lend a hand with the clean-up effort?” Westingmore asked. “We could always use a giant green scoop to clear the mess away.”
Green Lantern shook his head and rose slowly into the air. With his power acting up there was no need to take a chance on flying over the city with a few tons of steel and mortar. “I’m sure Public Works will do a fine job without me. Excuse me, Chief.”
Rising higher into the night sky Green Lantern puzzled over his constructs. Was it the Starheart energy failing? Nothing of this nature had occurred since his power was internalized. Or maybe the ring was at fault? It was a mystery, but one that would have to wait. Alan Scott owed his daughter and Felicity a visit, and it was time to deal with Molly’s situation as well. He flew by the granite clock on the Morton Union and Trust building. It was 4:30 am. Visiting hours began at 9:00. He needed to rest.
< “Death falls from the skies! Flee! Flee!”>
The woman’s shrill voice brought good news. The episode with the Ancient One was not a dream. Chang rose and studied again the strange words etched into his wall. Not that he needed to practice them. For three days the peculiar sounds had consumed his every waking moment. When dealing with the ancient magic, one could never be too careful. He took a deep breath and exited his shanty. The time had arrived.
A crowd of curious onlookers gathered around the strange object, some swearing that it was a blessing and others sure it was a curse.
< “I refuse to look at it with my eyes!”> cried an elderly man who cowered low to the ground. Several others followed his lead. None dared approach it.
Chang turned up his chin at them. Such weak-minded fools, but he could use that weakness against them once the object endowed him with the power. He approached it slowly. The impact left it imbedded in a small crater at the center of the village. A small gully scarred the ground in its wake. The object was split apart allowing a liquid metal to seep from its heart and fill the gully. Chang could hardly stand before the immense heat it radiated.
<“Look! Chang the lamp-maker approaches it without fear!”> yelled a man Chang recognized as a bread-maker. Chang couldn’t help but take notice of the impudent fool’s outcry. He would let the man live and bake bread in his palace once he assumed command.
The pool of liquid metal began to glow. No! Chang hoped he hadn’t wasted too much time gloating to complete the incantation before the power flamed to life. “Dna I llahs dehs ym thgil revo krad live, rof eht krad sgniht tonnac dnats eht thgil..eht thgil fo eht neerG nretnaL”
The ground shook violently once the incantation was complete. Villagers ran in every direction, and Chang alone stood in the middle of the street cackling like a madman. The clouds above him began to roll angrily, sucking their own vapors back into themselves like powerful, dark fingers disappearing into an angry fist. A hole opened in the center of the clouds. The void filled with blue flame that burned so brightly Chang could not gaze upon it directly. He studied the rift in the sky. Its depths held constellations unfamiliar to his trained eye. From the center of the cosmic storm stepped a figure who grew rapidly in size. His crimson skin lent the clouds a bloody, sorrowful hue. A goatee framed the thin features at his chin. His maniacal eyes burned with the intensity of ten thousand fires and were highlighted by thick eyebrows that joined with his sideburns and trailed down either side of his face. He looked to be even larger than the Himalayas.
Though it was hard to take his eyes off the majestical being watching him from beyond his own world, Chang turned his attention once more to the fallen object in the center of his village. It spoke.
“Three times shall I flame green! First...to bring power! Second... to bring life! Third...to bring death!”
Chang smiled. “It has come as he said. The power is mine.”
The voice of the Ancient One bellowed throughout the Himalayan valley. “Not completely. See now how the metal cools. Take it and fashion a lamp from it. It will be the source of your power. But remember your promise to me! Though the power I grant you is great, mine is greater. I can slay you even from this side of the doorway should you betray me. Now go! Fashion the lamp, for you will need to be at full power to open the portal. The power must travel across your centuries, so be patient.”
Without warning, the rift collapsed in on itself and disappeared into the heart of the blue flame.
A few frightened villagers made their way outside once more. Ignoring them, Chang knelt and picked up the cool metal. Being a lampmaker, he instinctively ran his hands along the crude ore to test its malleability. He was surprised to find it was easy to work. Though cool, it occasionally flamed with an intense emerald glow. The crowd parted for him as he walked to his home. He could hear the murmurs but they were of no concern to him. He had a lamp to make...a very special lamp.
Wingate Memorial Hospital, 8:30 AM
“About time you showed your face.”
Alan Scott smiled at his daughter. “You knew I’d be here.”
“Of course you did.” Alan didn’t care for Jennie’s tone. Surely she didn’t blame him for Molly’s difficulties. “Look, Jen. The last few months have been...difficult.”
Jennie raised the head of her hospital bed up to meet him. “Difficult? I’ll tell you what’s difficult! Difficult is not being able to walk, or talk, or to feed yourself! Difficult is needing a candy striper who is barely out of her training bra to wipe your ass! Where the hell have you been? ”
“Maybe I should come back later, when you feel better.”
Jennie poured herself a glass of ice water. “I feel fine, but there is a scared, lonely woman on the floor above us and all she wants is to see you and know that you’re there for her. What the hell is wrong with you?”
The air conditioning unit kicked on, breaking up the silence between Alan and his daughter. “I....I don’t know.”. He buried his face in the palms of his hands and sobbed. “I don’t want to lose her.”
Jennie threw back her covers and got out of bed.
“Jennie, what are you doing? You shouldn’t be up. The doctor...”
“The doctor said I have a few cuts and bruises but no worse for the wear. I’m not the one who needs attention right now.” Jennie pulled Alan into her arms.
Alan cursed himself for running away. He never needed Gotham City or Ted’s damned asteroid. He needed his family’s love and support. Why didn’t he lean on Jennie sooner? Or call Todd? Did he really think his business as usual approach would fool anyone? They could make it through this together, but for once he had to let go of his pride and allow someone else to be stronger. His daughter’s hand swept through his blonde locks.
“It’ll be ok. Go to her. She needs you more than I do,” Jennie said.
Alan pulled away gently from Jennie’s embrace. “Thank you,” he said, and kissed her on the forehead. “Thank you for being with her.”
Jennie smiled. “Hey, I love her too. Give her a kiss for me.”
Alan peered over her shoulder to the young woman asleep in the bed beside Jennie’s. “Felicity going to be ok?”
“I think so. She received a concussion and broke her collarbone when she hit the concourse railing. Thank God it was there.”
Alan nodded. “Yeah. Tell her I asked about her.”
“I will. Now go.”
Alan left the room. Standing in the hall, he looked around the hospital. It was so clean and sterile. He walked to the elevator and pushed the button with the arrow pointing up. The stainless steel doors slid open and he stepped inside. Once the doors closed, he pushed the button for the 5th floor. The elevator jerked to life as the hidden system of motors, pulleys, and cables went to work.
The unsettling sensation in his stomach as the elevator came to rest reminded him to straighten his tie for Molly. She hated to see him wearing a crooked tie. He smiled as he yanked on the knot. She was so particular with his looks. A pleasant chime announced that he had arrived at his floor. The doors opened and Alan stepped out into another hallway. He looked around and found the nurse’s station. A large man named Henry was on duty and directed Alan to Molly’s room. He paused outside her door and steeled himself. With a deep breath, he pushed it open slowly and was greeted by the flickering of her television set. “Good morning, sunshine.”
Molly turned to him. She managed a crooked smile as a tear ran down her left cheek.
Alan rushed to his wife’s bedside and took her in his arms. It felt so good to hold her. “I’m sorry, baby. I should have come by sooner. I was....confused. Forgive me.”
Even though Molly’s hug was weak there was no denying the tightening of her arms around him. “Yes,” she whispered.
“We’ll get through this. I promise you. Lie back down. It’s not good for you to push yourself,” Alan said. He gently laid Molly back in her bed and brushed a wisp of grey hair from her face. “You’re so beautiful.”
Molly covered her drawn-up, shriveled mouth.
Alan took her hand and pulled it away. “No. You don’t have to hide from me. I love you.” He leaned over and kissed her.
Suddenly, a puff of black smoke erupted in the middle of the room, causing Molly to jerk in her bed. It only took a thought for the Starheart energy within him to clothe Alan in his Green Lantern costume. He projected a verdant dome around Molly’s bed. No one was going to hurt her.
“I’m really sorry to barge in like this!”
Green Lantern recognized the voice. It was Zatanna. The young girl stepped out of the thick cloud of acrid smoke. She looked as if she had been fighting Superman in a cyclone. “Zatanna! Are you ok?”
The dome disappeared from around Molly’s bed.
“You’ve got to come with me, now!” said Zatanna.
“Now’s not a good time,” Green Lantern answered.
Zatanna looked worried. “It has to be.”
The young mage looked worried. Lantern sighed. “This had better be good.”
Zatanna leaned forward. “I would never violate your privacy like this otherwise. It’s life and death. Yours!”
Green Lantern had heard those words before. He was unmoved, but he respected Zatanna. She was obviously frightened and he knew very little frightened her. He turned to Molly. She nodded to him. “Ok Zatanna, I’ll go. Where is it we’re going?”
“To close the door to the other side of the world.”