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Annual #1

 

 

The Sentinel

Issue #3,


Apollyon City Chapter 3: "It Proceeds..."
By Dave Marshall


 


Spring finally gave way to Summer across the Allegheny Valley. Polly Blackbear was glad, for the Summer brought forth the glorious raspberries she loved to eat.

Polly sneaked out of her village before sunrise, relying on her keen eyesight to guide her through the foggy dawn. The others would be coming soon, and she would have to leave. What was that name they called her in whispers and hushed giggles? Irish Dog? Polly cursed her fiery red hair and light skin, and began picking the berries. She had little trouble filling her basket.

The gentle rolling of distant thunder interrupted her thoughts. The Wise One said it would not rain today. She looked up. There were no clouds in the early dawn sky, but the steady thunder continued to roll in an ominous crescendo. Polly grew still, as the ground itself began to tremble with an increasing fury.

Pollyís first inclination was to run, but found her legs paralyzed with a fear that beat back her senses. Her arms hugged the crude, straw basket to her chest. Never in her sixteen years had she tasted such fear. The virulent screams of angry men rode high on the waves of deep resonate thunder. Polly sought refuge in the berry patch.

Just after she secured a safe hiding place, white men rode by on horses. Not just a few, but many white men. The ones who said her tribe would have to leave the Village by the Waters. They were headed toward her home. They passed within ten feet of her, but were so driven by their purpose they didnít bother to look in her direction.

Finally, the last one passed. Polly stared after his horse for several minutes. She wanted to run deep into the safety of the woods. However, the others would have to be warned. They were the only family she knew.

Polly rose to her feet, and found her arms and clothing covered in the dark, red juices of the raspberries she had crushed into her chest. It looked like...blood! Startled by the sight, she broke into a run, taking the short cut by which she originally came. Her mind raced with thoughts of her mother and step-father. Pollyís mother would be waking soon to breast feed her younger sister.

What was that smell? She was too late! Thick black smoke floated over the tops of the Sycamore trees. Gunshots rang out! Polly could hear people screaming. She wasnít sure what to do, but continued running toward the village. She gasped when she reached the clearing at the villageís edge. The glorious longhouses that set her people apart from the others in the Confederation were engulfed in angry tongues of flame. Men on horses chased down the braves of the village, who were taken unaware by the early attack, and shot them before they could mount their horses. The Wise Oneís broken body lay stretched out on the ground, his blood and brains spilling to the earth. All around her, destruction and death reigned supreme.

Once the threat of the healthy men was removed, the white men turned their attention to the women, children, and elders. One by one, they fell. One of the young girls who teased Polly about her red hair, ran from her familyís home. She was naked. A white man followed after her and forced her to the ground. A small part of Polly rejoiced as the white man pounded away at the young girlís womanhood. Served her right!

Polly forced back such wicked thoughts, and crumpled to the ground. She was both repulsed and fascinated by the scene unfolding before her. Her heart broke that life, as she knew it, was over. Tears rolled down her face as she beheld the destruction. She knew her step-father was dead. He would be fighting if he was alive.

A glimpse of the familiar caught Pollyís eye. Several yards away, her mother tried to escape into the woods with her baby sister.

"Mother!" It was no use. Pollyís` mother was too far away and the melee drowned out all but the sound of horsesí hooves, screams, and gunfire. The brave woman almost made it into the woods before her lithe body arched forward with the force of the bullet that slammed into her. As she fell, the baby was hurled through the air. A large sycamore tree halted her flight. Her lifeless, little body slammed to the ground.

Polly watched in horror as her family was killed. No, not all! Her little sister wriggled on the ground as blood gushed forth from her gashed face. Rushing into the din of confusion, Polly made a bee line for the baby. Unfortunately, she did not see the stump from one of the small trees the braves had cut back to clear land for gardening. She fell face first to the ground, striking her head on a tree stump. She struggled to maintain consciousness. Approaching hoof beats rang in her ears, but she couldnít bring herself to run. Polly turned her head. Through glazed-over eyes, she saw a manís boot hit the ground as he dismounted the horse.

The man walked over to where she lay and kicked her lightly, then pulled her up by her fiery red locks. He pointed a pistol in her face. "Well, well, I found me a pretty young half-breed! Whatís wrong darliní? Ya not even gonna put up a good fight?"

The man rolled her over. "Jesus! Youíve done been shot girl! You ainít no good for what I wanted ya for!" He spit on her. "Not even worth the bullet it would take to put you out of your misery!" He dropped her head back to the ground.

The man walked back to his horse. In a moment, both he and his horse disappeared. The excitement died down. In a few minutes, it was over.

The sun came out. Through heavy eyes, Polly stared up at its morning radiance. "...vengeance...." At last, Pollyís eyes mercifully closed.

A Cell Somewhere in Apollyon City, Sometime

"No! No! Please, let me out! I've changed!"

The cacophony that was Morris Peel's own voice filled his ears.

The warden regarded his prisoner with contempt. "Go to jail! Do not pass go! Do not collect two hundred dollars! What part of that do you not understand, Peel?"

Peel tugged helplessly at his cell doors. "Warden, please. I served my time! I'm a banker now, a community man."

The warden's gold teeth reflected the light from the single fifty-watt bulb that lit Peel's cell. "Yeah, you served your time alright, scum. What was it? Five years? Out on parole in three? For cold-blooded murder?" The sinister warden leaned into his prisonerís taut face. "You were the trigger man all along, weren't you Peel? You did it, and now you'll face justice! My justice!"

"J-J-Justice was served. I-I-I did the b-b-books. H-H-Hank was the muscle!"

The warden pointed to a gold Star of David hanging from his neck. "Yeah, and my family's real big on Christmas! Of course you did it, Peel. You managed to keep it hidden all these years, but I know. I know everything about you. That's most unfortunate for you, too. See, I intend to be your judge, jury, and executioner!"

Peel's eyes grew large.

The warden laughed. "You'd better look out your window at the sunshine, banker man. It's the last daylight you will ever see."

Peel fell to his knees. "No! Please!"

Gotham City, Offices of WGBC, the next morning

Bob McNamara paused at the opulent wooden doors. Should he knock, or just go on in? He was never quite sure. Mr. Scott didnít like to be interrupted while watching his old films. His boss could sure be a strange man at times. Why couldnít he just use a VCR like everyone else? He was just like his father. Bob sighed.

Though still unsure, Bob thought it best to knock. His knuckles rapped against the heavy oak doors, sounding more like a child knocking than an adult. No one replied.

Bob leaned into the left door and pushed. Slowly, it yielded to his weight, and what little muscle he carried on his wiry frame.

The Screening Room was dark. The only light emanated from a single 35 mm projector high overhead, and splashed onto a large screen at the front of the room. The clackety-clack sound of film winding through the projectorís antique gears filled the room, every bit as much as the action on the screen. A black and white film flickered on the screen at the front of the room. The crown of Mr. Scottís head was barely visible above the back of the plush theater seats that sat in two neat rows of twelve each. Bob approached him slowly. "Excuse me, Mr. Scott? Weíre just about ready to get this room now."

Alan Scott jumped, startled by the noise. "Oh Bob, you scared the wits out of me! Didnít hear you come in!"

Bob could feel the heat rising to his cheeks. "I- erĖthat is...."

"Oh come on Bob! Youíve worked here too long for that. Spit it out!"

Bob nodded. "I...er...knocked. I guess you didnít hear me."

Alan laughed. "I guess not. Here, let me cut this thing off." He stood and walked to the back of the theater where he ducked into a small projector booth. The images and sounds faded away. There was a moment of silent darkness, before the lights slowly came to life. Alan yelled from the projector booth. "Now, whatís that you were saying?"

Bob tugged at his necktie. "Weíve packed up everything else, sir. The movers are ready to start in here. That is, if you donít mind."

Alan stepped out of the projector room and shut the door. He picked up his briefcase and met Bob in the aisle. "Mind? Bob, do you know the first movie I ever watched here in my little theater?"

Bob winced. Oh no! Not a pop quiz! He would have to hire an assistant to keep up with such things! He shook his head. "No sir. I donít."

Alan looked around at his theater. "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Fine movie, you ever see it?"

"No sir. It sounds...."

"It was the movie I just turned off."

Bob put his hands behind his back and cracked his knuckles. Oh great! He just ruined a moment! "I didnít mean to interrupt..."

Alan put an arm around Bobís shoulder and patted him on the back as they walked toward the doors. "Nonsense. Iíve seen it many, many times. Nothing goes with change like a good Jimmy Stewart picture. Just give me a few minutes to wind the film, and say goodbye to the old place."

Bob pushed against the oak door once more. It seemed a little lighter this time. He turned to tell Mr. Scott about the new screening facility in the Apollyon location, but decided instead to leave him with his memories. .

Bob smiled and pushed the door open. Once in the lobby, he retrieved a small, black book from the pocket of his jacket and pulled a pen from his shirt pocket. In the book, underneath his grocery list, he wrote:


Note to Self:

Hire Assistant

Rent a few Jimmy Stewart movies.


Mercy Hospital, Apollyon City, Room 347A, 10:51 p.m.

The Sentinel watched the miserable worm of a man as he writhed on the hospital bed. What could have reduced an otherwise intelligent man to this broken heap of humanity? Of course, Peel's condition was much like Stinsonís the night before. The Sentinel shook his head. Something was missing, but what?. "Is there any link between Peel and Stinson?"

"They both serve on the city council," Chief Westingmore replied. "Could be coincidence, but maybe not. I have some men checking it out already."

The door to Peelís room opened. A young, fresh-faced officer stepped inside.

Chief Westingmore excused himself from the Sentinel with a glance, and acknowledged the young officer. "You got something Ray?"

The young officer peered to first his superior and then to the Sentinel several times. He cleared his throat. "Y-Yes sir! Mr. Stinson....passed away ten minutes ago."

Chief Westingmore donned his coat and hat. "Dammit! Now, we have a full-blown murder investigation!" He turned to the officer. "You may go, Tanner."

"Sir, thereís more. The mayor and two more council members have been found and seem to be affected by the irrational fear as well."

The Sentinel stepped forward. "Sir, do you want me to..."

Chief Westingmore nodded. "To be honest, Green Lantern, Iím in a tight spot here. I can use all the help you have to offer."

"Sentinel."

Westingmore looked confused.

"Sentinel. I donít mean to be rude, but Iíve been the Sentinel for some time now."

Westingmore blushed, but recovered well. "Iím sorry. Sentinel it is, then. Right now, I would take Impulse."

Apollyon City, La Belle Cuisine, 8:30 p.m. the following night.

"To new success!" Alan Scott raised his glass and smiled at his wife.

Molly lifted her glass in accordance with her husbandís toast. "To success," she echoed.

"Iíve been all over Apollyon now, Molly. I think youíll like the city. Thereís a little park on the east side of the city you may find interesting. Thereís a few monuments that show life here in the pre-Apollyon days. Did you know this was once Iriquois land? As far as the eye can....Molly whatís wrong?"

"I feel like a fish out of water, Alan. This is all so different for me. I know Gotham, but this place is so...different. I donít know..." She wanted to tell him how badly she missed their apartment back in Gotham City, and how her friends were there. Everything that made her feel young was in Gotham as well; her old haunts, the spot where Alan admitted years later to falling in love with her; her family home. Now, she would spend her days in that soapbox Alan found at the last minute. Still, if it would make him feel useful again, it would be worth it. Besides, Apollyon was a wide open television market.

Alan took a sip of his Merlot.. "Of course itís different. Itís smaller. The architecture is newer, the..."

Molly shook her head. "No. I mean..." She looked around the room. She cast her glance in the direction of their waiter. "There! See our waiter? He couldnít be a day over twenty-five. If this were Gotham, he would soon be collecting Social Security. This city is so...young, Alan. Why I bet he...."

Alan began to fade away as Molly spoke. She pushed her chair back from her table and screamed. "Alan? Alan?"

The young waiter rushed to her side. "Excuse me Míam can I help you?"

Molly fought back her fear. Alan always referred to such incidents as "work hazards". Damn! She looked at the young man and collected herself. "No, thank you. Iím fine. My ... son must have stepped out to the restroom while I wasnít looking. Heíll be back in a few minutes." Molly crossed her fingers underneath the table.

Somewhere. Someplace.

Alan Scott was enveloped in darkness. He lay flat on his back on a hard surface. Focusing his will through his ring, he illuminated his surroundings. The thick darkness continued to mock him, but at least he could see, if only faintly. Still, he was unsure where he was.

"Welcome, Alan Scott! Or should I call you the Sentinel? Such a pretentious name! I liked Green Lantern much better!"

The voice was cold and malicious to Alanís ears. Chill bumps raced along his spine. "Letís cut to the chase, whoever you are. Whatís your game?"

"Game? I donít play games Alan Scott. As for my name, men call me Beelzebub! Now where was I? Oh yes, I remember. What is that weakness again? Magic? No. The color yellow? No! No! Thatís the other Green Lantern! Wait! I know! Wood! Like the pine coffin I placed you in to prepare you for burial!"

So that was it! Alan pushed against the sides of the coffin.

"Itíll do you no good," Beelzebub mocked. "Still, struggle is you must. I sense that your struggle is more with the darkness itself. What is it about the darkness that haunts you so?"

Inside the box, Alan allowed the emerald flame to outfit him with his Sentinel uniform. He formed a pry bar with his ring and set the teeth in the small crack between the lid of the coffin and the coffin itself. The stubborn lid didnít budge.

Beelzebub laughed. "Did I mention that the box is shrinking each second? I wonder what happens when youíre too big for the box? Will you be crushed? Or will you just shrink away?"

Alan pushed against the coffinís lid with his own strength. Sometimes he envied the Green Lantern Corpsí rings. Wood was so common, but then again, so was yellow.

Beelzebubís laughter filled the air. "Soon my shadow will fall over this city, and all will know what it is to fear me. You will not take what was promised to me!"

Inside the coffin, Alan continued to push against the stubborn coffin lid. Either it was budging, or his shoulders were breaking. He wasnít sure. "I donít believe you understand how things work in this country, Beelzebub! The people of Apollyon own the city! Whatever rights you claim are null and void by the will of the people," Alan replied through clenched teeth. The coffin shrank smaller.

Another roar of laughter escaped Beelzebubís lips. "The will of the people? They ceded the city by an act of their own will."

Inside the coffin, Alan smiled through gritted teeth. Beelzebub unwittingly reminded him of the first rule of the super-hero business. Work with what you have. Alanís ring was ineffective against the wood, but it was his will that focused the ringís energy. Maybe he relied too much on the gift destiny bestowed upon him those many years ago. Alan allowed the glow of the ring to fade and darkness to reign in his coffin. He pushed against the lid of the coffin with all his might. No, with more, his will. He was well-versed in focusing his will through the ring, but now he channeled it into his muscle. The lid would move, and he would be free!

"You have grown silent, Alan Scott. Have you accepted your fate and my destiny?" Beelzebub taunted.

The coffin lid flew into the air! The Sentinel raised from the box with the emerald flames of justice burning in his eyes. "Not in a thousand lifetimes, monster!"

Over several decades, Sentinel had witnessed many faces of evil. In all those years he never encountered a being as physically intimidating as Beelzebub. Silhouetted against a burning backdrop of orange tongues of flame, he was nearly twelve feet in height. His head was crowned with two long horns. He stood on cloven hooves. A long, thick tail coiled around from his backside and lay curled in front of him to his left. The tail branched off into three serpentine coils, each with a human head at the end. Large, dark wings stretched from his backside and spread out, eclipsing Sentinel in their black shadow. Eclipsed in the demonís shadow, the Sentinel tasted his deepest fears welling up inside him. He fought to force them back.

Dark rows of razor-like teeth appeared in the demonís mouth. "So your will is everything it is said to be. Yes, youíll do just fine. Now away with you, until I call for you again!"

In an instant, Alan Scott materialized in a restroom stall. He could hear light jazz filtering in from the adjoining room. He looked down to find himself clothed in the same clothes he wore earlier. He was back in La Belle Cuisine. He exited the stall and caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Satisfied that he looked presentable, he returned to the dining room.

Molly was still at their table. She saw him from across the room. She looked relieved. Alan reached the table and took a seat.

"What happened where did you go?" Molly asked.

Alan shook his head. "Iíve been to hell and back. We need to leave. I have an old friend to look up." Alan left a generous tip on the table and more than enough to cover the meal.



Coming in Issue #4---"It Abides" Rounding out the cast, Alan and Beelzebub Part 2, and an appearance guaranteed to bring a little "magic" into your life. Be here!



So youíre still with me? What the heck was all that at the beginning of this issue, and how does it tie-in to the "It" arc? Questions? Comments? Feel free to send them and Iíll try to answer. First, I want to answer a couple of them for you.

1. Whatís going on here Dave? Donít you know Alan doesnít use a ring anymore?

Of course I do. I will be addressing this question soon. Hopefully, youíll enjoy it.

2. Issue #1 stated Apollyon was a new city. Issue #2 and up show it being seven years old.

Whatís up with that? I would love to offer a sense-shattering answer, but the truth is I just didnít notice until #2 had already went to press. I rushed the story in to save the series from cancellation and somehow missed that tiny little detail. I prefer my version of the story. I donít believe it will hamper continuity too much to retcon that trivial piece of information. After all, at seven years old, Apollyon is still very much a "new" city.

That pretty much wraps things up for now. Send your questions/comments to An "oops, wrong company no-prize" to the first person who can give me a plausible out for my second point above.

David.

 

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