My name is John Stewart. I am Green Lantern of sector 2814.
Wait, let me rephrase that.
I am one of four Green Lanterns for this sector. The best known is Hal Jordan, the most obnoxious is Guy Gardner, the most powerful is Kyle Rayner. I am the other Lantern.
Rarely talked about except in certain circles. But I don’t mind. Earth isn’t the only game in town, anymore. Out here, where the stars grow far apart and civilization is hard to find, everyone likes to know there is a bit of order in a chaotic universe.
People call us space cops, but we are more than just cops. We are the Peace Corps helping people improve their chances at civilization in an increasingly hostile universe. We are the Red Cross bringing aid to planets in need, repairing damage caused by natural phenomena. While we don’t provide financial aid, the rings allow us to help with rebuilding efforts, for the few Lanterns with any architectural talent. When the times demand it, we are the Marines; first on the beach bringing the pain to invaders who would trade in sentient life, steal necessary resources or even entire planets.
I’m not complaining either. To paraphrase the only credible line from Sergeant Apone in Aliens: A day in the Green Lantern Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!
If we only actually got paid. The Guardians think the privilege of being a member of the greatest law enforcement agency in the galaxy is reward enough.
And damn their little bald blue heads, they’re right.
I wouldn’t trade this job for a barrel of gold monkeys.
Maybe for two barrels. Okay, three barrels, for sure.
I once thought I was the most likely of the four to stay on Earth. After the Color Wars, I realized I didn’t have much left holding me there. Being a bit of a workaholic, I directed my energies into the only thing I had left. I know what you’re thinking. I could have given up the ring. It’s not like there weren’t already enough GLs out there to do the job. Seventy two hundred Green Lanterns and a smattering of others Color Corps out there doing whatever their rings and their disposition allowed.
Space is big. Plenty of room out here. Too much space to be flying around and hoping you are going to run across anything by accident. Star Trek spoiled the hell out of me. Had me thinking I would just run across something every week. Not a chance. Space is like an ocean without a border. You don’t run into anything out here by accident.
I collapsed the four dimensional construct I had been sitting inside of floating above Oa. After what we’d been through recently, I needed to be close to Oa, but not too close. I was about ready to take my show on the road again. Policing the spaceways required technology, time and patience. I spent the last week in meditation on my planetary buoys in the inhabited star systems in 2814.
I created this system, allowing me to monitor activities across my entire sector without having to spend too much time wandering around. These were more useful when I was spending more time on Earth, but there’s no reason they can’t be as useful now. I designed the first one while I was on Oa with Salaak, back when I first became a Lantern. Back in those days, the Guardians monitored space using their big blue brains and just told us where to go.
Didn’t seem very efficient to me. I also wondered what would happen if the Guardians were to go on vacation, or got an attitude, or decided to spend a week in the bathroom. Space is so big, it simply didn’t make sense to me how we could cover such a wide area, even with the capacities of the ring, it took time and effort to reach distant locations at the edge of your sector.
Seeding these self-replicating drones across the sector, each could monitor inhabited worlds and report back to Oa using entangled communications, instantaneous, no matter how far apart they were. It took years to seed the planets but I thought it was worth the effort. While the Guardians won’t admit to it, I figured out my designs were becoming standard issue in the new Corps.
The signal relay technologies were invisible to most planetary star systems and those with the capacity to find them were asked if they wanted the support of the Corps. If they said no, we didn’t seed their worlds and would respond to requests, as fast as we were able, once we learned of their dilemma. It could take weeks, or months. If you lived on the fringe of our sector system, it might take up to two years using our fastest technology.
Today, it appeared one of those worlds wanted to chat. Half a dozen years ago, Dirne IV had originally refused our request to seed their planet. Three years later, something changed, perhaps local politics and a request for a signal relay was made and granted. I used to fly by when time permitted and their worlds always seemed peaceful and prosperous. I received the message from one of the new Guardians who politely requested I head to Dirne IV and investigate a planet whose technology would have made them a galactic power, if they weren’t so isolationist. The case seemed different than the standard ‘protect my planet from this incursion, Green Lantern‘ mission so common to our duty roster.
These were the missions I enjoyed the most. I love ring-slinging as much as the next Lantern. I think I was made for more than that, though. Diplomatic missions, science, and investigation ranked higher on my list than our standard, ring ‘construct: mace’ bash alien head. Can’t head out without a full charge. Never knew who you might meet. Reaching into my subspace pocket, I pulled out my Lantern. I could mooch from the prime battery on Oa but I was just not feeling all that social today. Everyone was still raw from the Darkest Night. Getting off of Oa was just what I needed.
“In brightest day, in blackest night, let no evil escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!”
Putting my lantern back, I located a hyperspace corridor heading to Dirne IV. There were several in that area, the star system of the Dirne ran through a cluster of populated worlds several light years apart.
The hyperspace corridor I used criss-crossed my sector at various points and was faster than making my own wormholes. Used less energy too. Dropping out of the hyperspace lane and what I saw was wreckage; tens of thousands of ships. I also couldn’t orient myself visually. The star Dirne Prime was not visible, but its gravitational tug was evident. In fact, no stars were easily visible, as if I was seeing them through a smoke or particulate matter.
“Ring, activate defense protocols. Extreme configuration. Cloak against broad spectrum EM detection.”
“Personal shield, layered, cloaking field activated.”
“Run a covert, tight beam sweep of the area, out to maximum in system range of 5 AU, short range scan first. No tachyons. At the first indication of activity, drop sweep and range to target.”
“Acknowledged. Such a slow sweep will take hours.”
Looks like we missed the party. “We’ve got time.”
The hyperspace corridor was a construct designed to let ships enter Dirne space at this location. Judging from the debris, the Dirne had blockaded this point. I recognized the Dirnese ships from the Oan database. It’s what I didn’t see that worried me more.
There were ships everywhere, but none of them belonged to the enemy.
Whoever did this didn’t lose a ship.
I stole a bit of scanning bandwidth back from the ring and listened on what would be local com traffic. Nothing but silence. I swept the entire spectrum and the only thing I found were data-drive satellites attempting to share their collected with the ground computers. Nothing on the ground moved either.
The planet, Dirne IV was silent as the grave.
Then I had a terrible realization. What if this is an internal affair? Maybe there were no alien ships because this was a civil dispute.
“Ring, I need a confirmation and a local scan. Is there any indication there would be another species or civilization’s energy signature, residue, or weapons residue remaining? I need to confirm the hypothesis of this being a civil war? Did these ships destroy each other?”
The ring’s answer was not illuminating, nor satisfying, “while there is evidence of friendly-fire. Ninety-eight percent of these ships were destroyed by a means of energy damage which killed the people, but left the ships behind.”
“What was the last population survey of the planet Dirne IV?” I dreaded the answer. Being able to make this many ships indicated a fantastic infrastructure in this local star system alone.
“They were last surveyed by the Guardians, three hundred cycles ago. The planet below was host to 15 billion sentients. Relatively underpopulated, most of the people living there were engaged in scientific preservation of what is believed to be their planet of origin.” The Dirne had spread throughout this entire star system, taking over the four inner rocky planets and two dozen moons and asteroid bases. The total species population was 438 billion, calculated to a three decimal place margin of error.
Nothing like precision.
My ring continued, “The completed scan of the star system indicates there are no active bases left on the planet and most of the closer worlds are also inactive as well. The farther moons and worlds will take tachyon scans to confirm and are not advised under our low visibility profile. Anomaly detected. Subspace rift, transitioning into c-space.”
“You will find no sign of life anywhere here, Green Lantern of Earth. I have seen to that. A blight on the face of the galaxy has been destroyed.”
There was a reason I didn’t see Dirne Prime. Whatever this object was, it was big, bigger than a planet.
It’s so big it blocks the light of the star. Dirne IV and I are inside of it…
Jump to Rebirth (Part 2)