by Martin Maenza
The two Green Lanterns whirled around, Driq almost falling over himself as he did so. They saw a dark-haired female approaching them. She had features like those of a Caucasian Earth woman, but she was garbed in armor of differing pink colors. Salaak had a feeling he had seen her someplace before, but a lot of the Earth humans looked alike to him.
“I killed him!” Star Sapphire admitted. “But it appears he doesn’t know when to lie down and play dead!” Violet energy surged from the gemstone in the center of the woman’s headpiece, and a concentrated beam of force shot toward the two Green Lanterns.
Salaak barely managed to dive out of the beam’s way as it exploded the ground upon which they were standing. He was able to throw up an emerald shield in time to protect himself from the blast. His comrade, however, was not so lucky. “Driq!”
The reflexes of the other Green Lantern seemed to be severely impaired. He barely had time to notice the oncoming attack before the beam connected to him directly. “Phraaa-aaah!” he cried out. The force of the violet energy hit him like a rocketing comet, pounding him directly into the dirt. As the dust settled, the alien’s body lay in a twisted heap.
Salaak recovered and saw the fate that had befallen his fellow Corps member. “Who are you, and why do you attack us so?” he demanded to know. “What have Driq or I done to you?”
Star Sapphire laughed wickedly. “You personally have done nothing to me. But this one…” She gestured to the still-unmoving heap on the ground. “…this one I found spying upon me. I was about to leave my world of Zamaron, only to be confronted by him. He claimed he had been assigned by Hal Jordan to keep a watchful eye on my actions.” Her eyes narrowed, and her gemstone pulsed with energy. “This angered me even more than I already was!
“As my ship attempted to leave orbit, he used his power ring to impede my departure. We battled in space, and his ring was no match for my warrior training. I left his body for dead, like so much space dust, while I proceeded to Earth.” She glanced at the heap with disdain. “Obviously, he was not as dead as I thought. Now that has been corrected!”
Salaak stood his ground. “Your actions will not go unchallenged. For when you attack one member of the Green Lantern Corps, you attack us all.” Emerald energy lanced forth from his ring.
Star Sapphire laughed as her gemstone countered the emerald beam with its own formidable energy. “So noble, and so predictable!” she spat. “The Guardians’ teachings have marked each of you like a rancher brands his herd of Texas cattle.” The beams of energy met head on, making the battle a contest of wills.
She continued her assault on both fronts. “But the Guardians did more than that. They stripped each of you of your self-identities, garbing you in the same uniforms and providing you all with the same weaponry and the same weaknesses. They took away your individuality, reduced every race within the ranks to equals.” The violet beam started to overpower the emerald one.
“But not all races are equal!” Star Sapphire’s beam surged and knocked the purple-skinned Green Lantern back. “Some races are naturally superior to others!”
Salaak caught his balance. “Well, if you want to look at it that way,” he countered. “Some people can be so negative.” He punctuated his statement with a strong emerald blast, but it shattered off of her own violet energy sheath. “What we may lose due to conformity, we make up for in determination and will.” He was about to strike again when an emerald spark caught the corner of his eye. “Eh?”
Both combatants now saw it. An emerald glow around the body of Driq had begun to grow brighter. It encompassed the whole crumpled body, and then a limb twitched. This was followed by a few more twitches in other limbs, and then finally Driq’s body slowly stood up once more. His body looked a bit more worse the wear due to the blast he had taken, but he appeared to be moving once more.
Star Sapphire fumed. “He should be dead!”
Salaak was curiously surprised, since he, too, silently concurred with the woman. He looked down at his ring. “Power ring, please confirm Driq of Criq’s condition.”
The ring bathed Driq in its energy before responding, “The entity known as Driq of Criq, despite all physical appearances, has expired. It is his power ring that keeps the body animated.”
Salaak turned to the woman. “See what determination and willpower is capable of?”
“Argh!” Star Sapphire exclaimed as her violet beam shot forth. It sliced through the nearby tall trees, showering large upper sections down upon the resurrected Green Lantern and burying him. “I don’t have time to deal with this! I’ve come for Hal Jordan!” She turned back to Salaak, ready to strike. “Where is he?”
“I knew it,” Salaak grumbled. “Once more one of Hal Jordan’s old enemies comes to attack us.” He barely dodged a violet beam as it shot toward him. “Maybe it was a mistake to come to this world after all.” His own ring projected an emerald hand to try to catch the woman who was dead set on a battle.
“It is a mistake to protect Hal Jordan!” Star Sapphire barked. Her violet energy pushed against the emerald fist, attempting to break herself free of its grasp. With a surge, freedom was once more hers. “This is the last time I ask! Where is he?”
“I am not Hal Jordan’s keeper,” Salaak responded flippantly. This resulted in another blast from Star Sapphire, one that slammed into him and temporarily distracted his sight.
Star Sapphire used the opportunity to rush the alien. Grabbing him by his lower left arm, she twisted it hard. As she forced it behind his back with one hand, she smacked him upside the head with her other forearm, which was covered with armor.
Salaak hadn’t expected a physical attack from the woman. Up to this point, she had used only her gemstone’s energy, which he had confidently countered. But now she was fighting like a warrior trained for combat. She slammed his head into the ground, and he felt the arm that she held firmly pull from its socket. “Ooof!” was all he managed to say.
“Where is Hal Jordan?” the woman screamed. Her booted heel was placed firmly in the alien’s back, keeping him down. “Tell me now, and your death will be less painful!”
Still Salaak refused to reveal anything about Hal Jordan. Even though he could tell her what she wanted to know, he kept his mouth silent. All Green Lanterns were brave by nature and loyal to their fellow Corps members.
“Very well,” Star Sapphire spat. “You leave me no choice!” Her gemstone began to glow, but she hesitated.
Salaak watched out of the corner of one eye as the expression on her face changed from pure anger to slight curiosity. Then he observed something odd as the woman began to talk, but not to him.
“What? How can this be?” She paused for a brief moment as she appeared to be listening to a voice no other could hear. “Very well, then! I shall come to you!”
The Green Lantern felt the pressure release from his back as Star Sapphire quickly took to the air. He rolled over, trying to get a shot at her with his power ring, but she had already rocketed off into the sky under her own gemstone’s power and was gone.
Salaak tried to lift himself off the ground using his arms, only to be reminded by incredible pain from his injured left arm. “Just great,” he sighed as he used his ring to levitate himself off the ground. “Zox! Now I’ll have to tend to my own wound.” He started toward the Citadel when he saw a movement out of the corner of his eye.
A large section of cut tree rolled off a pile, followed by another. Beneath the pile, a green glow exploded and pushed the remaining wood aside. Driq of Criq rose from the ground, more worse the wear than before. “Fraaa-aamp?” he asked, looking around curiously.
Salaak stared back at his fellow Green Lantern, not really understanding the question. “Oh, fine, come along!” he said. The two made their way back inside the building.
It was very late that evening when Hal Jordan approached the Green Lantern Citadel from the air. He wore his Green Lantern uniform and arrived with the aid of his power ring’s emerald energy. “Whew, that space mission with the Justice League lasted longer than I had hoped,” he said to himself. (*) “I’d better check in with the others.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: A Matter of Conscience.]
Hal entered the front door of the Citadel. “Hello? I’m back!” he called out. As he moved across the room, he barely had time to step out of the way as a hurried form rushed past him with a tray. While he didn’t recognize the individual, he knew the uniform and emerald glow. The figure led Hal to the recreation room. “What’s going on? Who’s this?”
Salaak looked up from the recliner he was sprawled out upon. “Ah, you’ve returned, Hal Jordan,” the purple-skinned alien said. He took the can of soda from the tray and nodded to the one holding it. “You forgot the chips, Driq.”
Hal looked from Salaak to the other. “Driq?” he asked. “As in Driq of Criq?”
The other alien turned to Hal Jordan and said, “Phhhyttt.”
Hal was taken aback by the outburst. He then realized the alien looked as though he had been through a tremendous battle. His body was battle-scarred, and his costume was torn. “When I last saw Driq, I had asked him to keep a periodic eye on Zamaron,” Hal said. “What’s happened to him?” He turned back to Salaak and noticed one of the Slyggian’s arms in a sling. “And what happened to you, Salaak?”
Salaak turned from his movie. “What? Oh, you had a female caller this morning. She happened to us.”
“A female caller?” Hal asked. “Who was it?”
Salaak sighed as he knew he would not be getting back to the television any time soon. “I never caught her name,” he replied. “She looked like this.” Salaak’s ring flashed, creating a life-sized, three-dimensional holographic image of the woman.
Hal Jordan’s jaw dropped as he stared at the image of the armored woman. Even done up in emerald green energy, Hal recognized the face. “Star Sapphire… Carol? What’s she doing back on Earth?”