ISSUE NUMBER EIGHT
Written by Barry Reese
What Has Come Before: Hal Jordan, the greatest of the Green Lanterns, has reclaimed his place as one of Earth's greatest heroes. Foiling plots by Malvolio and the Fearsome Five, Green Lantern has also helped restore his love to sanity: Carol Ferris now controls the powers of Star Sapphire, without any of the murderous tendencies usually associated with that identity. To celebrate their new happiness, Hal and Carol have made plans to be married -- but dark events loom large before that happy day: Carol has been captured by Deathstroke the Terminator, who is seemingly in the employ of Carol's own father; and Hal is journeying to OA to answer questions about his commitment to the role of recruitment officer for the Corps....
Hal couldn't suppress his smile as he watched N'ixxle Pew go through his flight training exercises. The Mexxon had been recruited by Hal just a few weeks ago, but he was showing incredible promise. "I told you he was a natural."
The Guardian named Nalhartin nodded gravely. "You have always shown an ability to look inside the heart of another sentient being and find his calling, Hal Jordan. That is why you would have made an excellent Guardian."
"I... Thank you." Hal sighed and scratched at the back of his head. "I'm sorry if I let you down. I really wanted to give the Guardian thing a try, but... Ganthet was right. I'm not ready."
Nalhartin nodded, his blue-tinted features looking reserved. "The day may yet come, Hal Jordan. We Guardians are nothing if not patient." He glanced up at Hal, pushing his hands into the folds of his red robes. He saw that Hal had turned his own attention away from N'ixxle Pew and that he was now watching some of the Zamaron fighting instructors. "Your nuptials have caused quite a stir amongst our female companions."
"Carol Ferris possesses one of the Star Sapphires. She is a potential queen for them, at least under their traditional system of government. We have encouraged them to move away from such old-fashioned notions, but it is difficult."
"I've never really understood why the Zamarons would seek out off-worlders to be their queen. It never made much sense really."
"The Zamarons developed a culture based upon strength, Hal Jordan. There were many factions within their society, as well -- and in the early days, civil war was a strong possibility. The four largest factions came together and created a compromise. They would pool their resources and create five gems of great power, inspired by our own work with the Green Lantern rings. These gems -- the Star Sapphires -- would be scattered to worthy offworlders. Of these four, a contest would be held... and the survivor would rule the Zamarons, until such a time as they wished for a new leader."
"So they ruled with the permission of the Zamarons, in other words."
Nalhartin began moving towards the large Citadel that housed the Guardians, speaking as he did so. Hal kept pace at his side, his long legs easily keeping up with the shorter Guardian. "Exactly. When Carol Ferris attracted their attention, their hope was that she would eventually return to the Zamarons and slay the other pretenders. Only one of them is known to us -- Remoni-Notra, who eventually sought out Carol to defeat her. During her stint on Earth, however, she was unable to find any trace of the Star Sapphire either on Earth or in Carol's mind, for the Zamarons had removed those memories at that time. She instead joined one of the Terran villain organizations* and is still present there."
(*In the old Secret Society of Super-Villains series. In our continuity, she also appeared in Justice Squadron # 7-9)
"I think the Justice Squadron dealt with her," Hal agreed. "So the Zamarons are still interested in Carol leading them? Is that why they're interested in our marriage?"
"It is the symbolism of the union that is important. You represent us. The male part of ourselves who have ruled OA for so very long. Carol Ferris represents the Zamarons. A marriage between the two of you is seen as symbolic of the union we have forged with our female companions."
"Interesting," Hal said. "So does this mean they'll want us to get married here on OA?"
"It has been discussed, yes. More likely, however, they will just choose to mark the occasion with some sort of ceremony of their own."
Once inside the gleaming citadel, Hal put his hands behind his back and asked "So... What's the purpose of the meeting today?"
Nalhartin led the way into the grand meeting place, where a number of Guardians and Zamarons were gathered. Also present was Kyle Rayner, the young man who had succeeded Hal as the Green Lantern of Sector 2814. "I believe you made us a promise, Hal Jordan. One that has not been truly kept."
Hal grimaced at those words, but he didn't deny them. When he'd left the care of the Guardians, it had been with the promise that he served as a recruiter and trainer of Green Lanterns. He'd lived up to that with N'ixxle and a few others but most of his time had been spent back on Earth -- an Earth that already had a Green Lantern to watch over it.
Ganthet, the last of the original Guardians, stood up when he saw them enter. The other members of the Council followed suit, many eyes going to their elder. "Welcome, Hal Jordan," Ganthet said, in a voice that contained many levels of concern and disapproval. Hal had known Ganthet for many years and much more intimately than he'd known any other Guardian. "We have asked you here today to discuss your role within the Corps... and the question of who is best suited to patrol Sector 2814."
Hal cast a quick glance at Kyle Rayner, but the other Green Lantern stared straight ahead.
It was going to be a long afternoon, Hal realized. He hoped that Carol's day was starting better than his was....
Carol Ferris felt intense pain shoot through her limbs, seizing hold of her heart and seeming to pull it in a thousand different directions. She sagged back into the electronic bonds that restrained her, sweat pouring off her body. She still wore her Star Sapphire costume, though the eye-mask had been removed from her face.
Deathstroke and Carol's 'father' had taken her from the grounds of Ferris Aircraft, locking her away in a room at a small house outside the city. She'd tried to resist, but Deathstroke had always been ready to swat her back down. And now she was locked up to some sort of device that channeled her Star Sapphire energy back at herself whenever she tried to use it. She couldn't help but wonder how Hal could do this sort of thing -- risk his life in battle again and again. He's got to be crazy, she marveled. But not as crazy as daddy.
Carl Ferris stepped into the room, still leaning heavily on his cane. He looked much older than when he'd left on another of his around-the-world vacations and had put on about twenty pounds. He didn't carry the weight well, either, as it made him look bloated and ill. He looked at her with pity in his eyes. "Carol. I've gone over the financial records. You've done well rebuilding Ferris and its ties with the government. Now that we've got that psychopath in office, it's a boom period for anyone who can build warplanes. You've always had a head for opportunity."
"Why are you doing this? Let me go...."
"Not until you're ready to listen. You're a headstrong girl, I know. If I let you out of that contraption, you'll shoot me with an energy beam and then call Hal to come and rescue you."
Carol couldn't avoid hearing the disgust in her father's voice when he'd said Hal's name. "Daddy, Hal and I are going to be married and--"
"The hell you are!" he bellowed, stamping his cane on the floor. "I've come to the inescapable conclusion that all we've lost is because of that man! He'd brought villains down upon Ferris Aircraft again and again, causing millions of dollars of damage. He's broken your heart more times than I can count. And he failed to save Coast City. How many died there, darling? The bodies will never be fully counted!"
"You can't blame Hal for that! He did everything he could to prevent--"
Carl backhanded his daughter across the mouth, sending a spray of blood from her lip. She stared at him with wide eyes, trembling. He'd never struck her before, not even as a child. Something as simple as a spanking was abhorrent to him. Uncivilized.
When Carl spoke, his voice was firm. "I'm not the man I once was, Carol. I'm more. And I'm going to re-take my company and make it just as strong as I am. And I'm going to protect you -- from yourself and from that man." His eyes blazed. "You better damn well believe it!"
"We broke up and I don't want to go back to Earth. It's that simple."
Hal could hear the pain in Kyle's voice and he knew from the stiff way the younger man spoke that the pain he felt was deep. Hal had been there too many times to count, too... it was the voice of a man who had lost a very special woman.
Ganthet stared down at Kyle, looking disappointed. "You are not just the Green Lantern of Earth. You represent an entire sector. You wish to ignore your responsibilities to all the other residents of 2814?"
"That's a little harsh," Hal said, speaking up. He could see Ganthet look towards him and knew that he'd made a mistake. He pressed on, regardless, because Hal never let fear of the future stop him from doing what he felt was right. "He's not saying he wants to quit the Corps -- though I've done that myself, over a woman -- he just wants to be reassigned. And I think I know why you brought me here today... so that I could offer to take over. Kyle and I can swap jobs and it all works out."
Nalhartin shook his head. "You have misunderstood, Hal Jordan. You were, indeed, expected to witness the reassignment of Sector 2814 to another. Kyle Rayner shall be allowed to serve in some other capacity," Nalhartin glanced at Ganthet, who frowned but said nothing. "We considered a number of replacements, including yourself. But in the end we have decided that we would like to hold you to your earlier promise. We need you to recruit and train -- and I have argued that your ties to the Justice League's new cosmic organization will allow you to travel far and wide, finding new Green Lanterns."
Hal felt the wind drop out of his ails. "But... I'm getting married. That will require me to remain on Earth for long periods and--"
Ganthet seemed surprised. "We assumed your wife would be joining you. As Star Sapphire...."
Hal blinked and the laughed. Carol... a superhero? The idea seemed ludicrous... but then again, she did have the powers... and it would let them work together. "I hadn't considered that. Maybe I should have."
Kyle managed to remind Hal of something that he'd ignored before. "What about Sector 2814? Who's taking over? Jade? John Stewart?"
"Nah," someone said. "Not any of those chumps. They decided to turn to a real Green Lantern for a change."
"Oh, no," Hal whispered, shaking his head. "Not--"
"Guy Gardner," Guy finished for him. He stepped up, smirking. His oversized boots, jacket-style tunic and bowl-haircut were likes flashes of a painful past for Hal. "Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Jordan."
"I was there, Carol. In Coast City." Carl Ferris had his back to his daughter now, staring out the window. His voice sounded far away and the hand that clutched his cane seemed to tremble.
"What?" Carol shook her head. "That's not possible. You were supposed to be in Paris--"
"I came back early. As a surprise to you. I was there when Mongul dropped those... those Carnage Globes or whatever he called them." Carl looked into his daughter's face, seeing tears forming in her eyes. "It's true, my dear."
"But how could you have....?"
"Survived? I didn't. I died, along with seven million others."
Carol felt her heart thud in her chest. The way he spoke, the look in his eyes... he meant it. "Daddy, you're really scaring me."
Carl stepped closer to her, stroking her cheek. "I only want what's best for you. And Hal Jordan is not it. If you weren't so swayed by emotion, you'd realize that, too. I... I had a revelation, after I died. I went to Hell. It was everything you ever heard or read about, only so much more as well." He turned away from her, looking out the window. Deathstroke was leaving, having gotten his money and caring nothing else for what happened. Carl wasn't sorry to see him go -- he was a mercenary, with no honor -- and while Carl understood capitalism, he also valued integrity. Which made his own descent to Hell seem all the worse. "I thought I was a good man, in the end. I'd done many terrible things but Hell? Not me. Not Carl Ferris. And yet, there I was. Suffering like you cannot imagine. The pain... the things I saw... the things I heard. They will stain me forever."
Carol swallowed hard, having forgotten all attempts at escaping. As her father spoke, she saw images form in her mind and she knew without a doubt that they were somehow coming from the older Ferris. She saw him being stripped of his clothing, his skin and his dignity. Demons and monsters, some wearing the faces of men and women he'd known, came forward to claw and cut at him. He saw his failures and his sins over and over -- but overreaching it all was his inability to protect Carol and his business. He'd squandered both.
"While I was there, I found a friend. Someone whose own life had been tainted by contact with Jordan. He's the one who started it all, you see. Started my descent. Started my friend's. When Neron came to us and offered a second chance, how could we not accept it? We deserved it, both of us."
Carl turned back to his daughter, his eyes looking sunken and lost. "He doesn't want me to mention him. He asked me not to." Ferris sneered. "But that's not important. I'm back, with power like you've never imagined. I don't even know how to tap into it all yet... but I will. As soon as I've finished doing Neron's work, I'll be able to manifest here fully and so will my friend. I've been looking over the books so I'll be ready to take over Ferris again. And I'm watching you." He wagged a finger at her. "Don't forget, Carol. Daddy's making sure you're being a good girl. Stay away from Jordan or I can't promise you won't be caught in the crossfire. I love you, princess."
Carol realized that the room was becoming engulfed by acrid smoke. She feared that the building was on fire but the smell of brimstone and the rolling clouds began to dissipate almost immediately... and when they were gone, so were the cuffs that bound her.
And so was Carl Ferris.
Carol rubbed her wrists, wondering if she had imagined some or all of this... but no, she wasn't crazy and the pain in her arms were testament to her father's actions. He wasn't human anymore... he was serving a demonic master, all in preparation for his ultimate return.
"I'm going to save you, daddy... someone, someway. I promise."
Next Issue: A good old-fashioned superhero wedding is approaching, but there's a few things to handle before the big day. Namely: the bachelor party! Join us as Ollie Queen throws the party to end all parties! Will Hal even make it to the ceremony on time? Plus: Carol Ferris seeks help in determining exactly what's happened to her father. Prepare yourself for a roomful of guest-stars!
I hope you guys like what I've done with Carl Ferris... It's different, I know, but I think it makes for an interesting villain (victim) and that will lead to some great emotional storylines for Carol. You'll note that I didn't reveal the identity of his 'friend.' This will be coming soon, don't worry. As for what dark work Carl and his friend are doing for Neron... that, too, will be revealed soon.
Up top, you'll see that Carol's pic is right there with Hal's. What do you guys think of the heroic Star Sapphire. Should she join Hal's Justice League? Should this series be retitled Green Lantern & Star Sapphire? Let me know!
Next issue is the wedding preparation. Issue ten sees the big day. Your invitation's in the mail!
Keep in touch,