by Immortalwildcat and Martin Maenza
Hal Jordan and Kari Limbo had driven all night and day, stopping only briefly for meals; they were trying to reach Fox Hollow as quickly as they could. Hal hadn’t allowed himself to sleep, instead staying awake with Kari so she wouldn’t lose the focus necessary to keep Carol’s memories in check. When they reached the small town just after nine o’clock, Hal spotted the diner on the main street and pulled into an empty spot near the door.
“Let’s recharge our own batteries before we start asking around,” he told Kari as he woke her from a light slumber. Together they walked in and looked around.
Inside, a big bald man glanced out through a serving window from the kitchen and told them to take any table. “Carrie will be out in a moment to take care of ya, folks!” he called.
They located a table and plucked a pair of menus from their spot behind the napkin holder. Hal flipped the two coffee cups on the table upright and placed them near the edge, hoping the waitress would fill them first. As they concentrated on the menus, the waitress did stop by with a coffee pot in her hand and poured the steaming dark liquid into each cup. “I’ll be right back for your orders,” she said as she moved off to check on another table.
“God, do I need this!” exclaimed Hal as he reached for the cup. He took a long drink, breathing in the flavorful steam off the cup at the same time. “Mmm, yeah, just the thing.”
Kari reached for a small pitcher and the tall container of sugar. “I don’t know how anyone can drink coffee black like that,” she said as she doctored her own cup. “So, where do we go after this? Find the lumber company or start asking around town?”
“This place is dead center of downtown. I’d lay odds that either the waitress or the cook know him.”
“Know who? I’m still kind of new around here, but my fiancée knows most of the folks.” Hal turned to find the waitress standing at his elbow, pad in hand.
“We’re looking for a guy who drives trucks around here, goes by the name of–” Hal stopped in mid-sentence as he looked up at the waitress. “Carol!”
“What? Who are you — Oh, my God! You know me?” Carrie Ford dropped the pad and pencil, stumbling back into an empty table. “Dear Lord, you look so familiar! You know who I am?”
Confusion followed in the diner, with Marty coming out of the kitchen to see what was wrong with his waitress, and Hal and Kari both trying to explain who “Carrie” really was and for what they had come to Fox Hollow.
“Lemmee see if I understand what you’re saying here,” said Marty. “You say that Carrie, here, is really a lady executive named Carol Ferris from Southern California. You’re telling me that she lost her memory because of some nut-ball super-villain, and that this lady–” He indicated Kari with a jerk of his thumb. “–can give her back her memories. Is that right?”
“You’ve got it, sir,” replied Hal, recognizing that he was on the other man’s turf and thus doing his best not to antagonize him.
Marty crouched down in front of Carrie, who was sitting down and wiping tears from her eyes. “What do you think, kiddo? You think we can trust these two?”
“I’m not sure what to think. They’re the first people who’ve ever given any sign of knowing me since I’ve been here. I didn’t let anyone but Red, Jess, and you know about my missing past.”
Just then, the door of the diner burst open. “I heard there was a commotion down here, and came as quick as I could! What’s going–?” Red Crawford skidded to a stop, taking in the scene. Carrie, sitting with a tear-streaked face. Marty, hunkered down the way he always did when he talked to someone having trouble. And two strangers, standing to either side, their concern for Red’s bride-to-be clearly evident on their faces. “Good God, Almighty! You know her, don’t you?”
One of the strangers, the man, stepped forward and extended a hand. “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that you must be Red. Hal Jordan. I’m an old friend of Carol, um, that is, Carrie’s.”
Red returned the handshake absently. “Red Crawford. Nice meeting you.” He stepped over to Carrie and knelt next to her. “You OK, hon?”
“Oh, Red, I don’t know. They say they know me, and they can restore my memory.” Carrie looked imploringly into his eyes. “What do I do?”
“I don’t know yet, but we’ll get it figured out.” Red looked around. “All of us. Together.”
A few hours later, Red and Hal sat together on the porch of Mother Borden’s Rooming House. Inside, Carrie/Carol sat with Jess Borden and Kari Limbo, trying to recover from the surprising discovery of the morning.
“Before I recognized her, Carrie said something about a fiancée. I assume that’s you?” Hal watched as the other man nodded, his mouth turning up slightly at the corners. “Congratulations!”
“You don’t really mean that, Hal,” said Red with a grin. “You didn’t come all the way up here just because Carol’s a friend, or even your boss.” He chuckled. “Gonna take some getting used to, that change in her name.”
“I won’t argue that. Carol and I, we go way back. We even talked marriage a couple of times.” Hal sighed as he remembered those discussions, which had occasionally turned to arguments about his role as Green Lantern. “Never worked out, though. I guess she was just waiting for the better man.”
“That’ll all be for nothing if your friend gives her her memories back, though, won’t it? She’s not going to remember me.”
“You’re mistaken. According to Kari, returning Carol’s memories won’t change her memory of what she’s experienced since last year.”
“You sure about that?”
“Kari is sure. And I trust her with my life.”
Red leaned back in his chair. “So, tell me, what is Carol like?”
“Intelligent, dynamic, strong-willed. A real classy lady when she’s up for it, and a wonderful person to share your time with.”
“Sounds a lot like the Carrie that I know.”
Hal smiled. “Not surprising. I’ve dealt with some amnesia cases before, and the basic personality usually remains when everything else is gone.”
“Then I guess all that’s left is to convince Carol.” Red got up from the rocking chair. “You coming in?”
Hal looked away, gazing down the street. “No, it’s better if you convince her yourself.” Hal paused a moment, then continued before Red could open the door. “Red, I saw the look on your face when you came in the diner, and how you talked to her. You really do love her, don’t you?”
“More than I ever thought possible,” replied Red in a quiet voice.
“Good. I want her to be happy.”
Inside, Carol looked up as Red came in. “Red, honey, I think I’ve decided, but I want your opinion.”
“It’s your call, baby, but for what it’s worth, I trust them.”
“So do I.” Carol turned toward Kari Limbo. “So, when can we do this?”
“I could do it now, if you wish,” replied the Romany psychic.
“No, I don’t think so,” interjected Jess Borden, Carol’s landlady. She had been sitting in quietly, taking in the conversation between Carol and Kari. “You’re pretty much exhausted, Miss Limbo. I don’t know much about psychics and such, but I figure if you’re going to be messing around with something this delicate, it’s better if you do it on a good night’s rest.”
“I hate to say it, ladies, but I think Jess is right,” said Red. “Can you put them up for the night?” Jess nodded. “Then how about we do this tomorrow morning? Is there anything you need?” he asked, looking at Kari.
“Just a quiet place.”
“I know just the place. Tell me, Kari, do you and Hal know how to ride?”
It was midmorning when the two couples rode up the wooded path. Red and Carol rode on Cambridge, and Hal and Kari rode on Chestnut. Both couples had been quiet since they left Red’s stables. In each of their minds, thoughts raced of what this morning might bring.
I know Kari can help me, but will I be able to handle the fallout?
Is there any way I can spare Carol of the hurt and pain of her past while still helping her?
Yesterday, I was on the top of the world, but will today turn out to be the worst day of my life?
It’s Carol’s choice what she does with her life, but we have to let her make the decision with all her faculties.
The two horses reached the edge of Misty Hollow. “Whoa,” Red called out to the magnificent creatures. They knew his voice well and responded.
“Wow,” Hal said as he looked out at the tranquil wooded area before him. “Amongst all this wonderful countryside, this place is so beautiful.”
“It was an old lumber company clearing area many years ago,” Carol said, restating what Red had told her the first time he brought her to the place. “It was allowed to be left alone, to renew itself. I think Mother Nature did a fine job restoring it.”
Kari nodded. “This place is a good one,” she said. They all started to dismount. She turned to the brown-haired man. “Hal, I think maybe this will go better with just the two of us women here.”
“Are you sure you’ll be OK?” Hal asked.
“I am,” Kari said confidently. “I think it will be better for everyone involved.” She saw that Red and Carol were talking quietly. Inside, she knew this would be a painful process, one best not to be witnessed by either man who loved Carol so much.
“Are you sure about this?” Red asked Carol. “You know it’s really up to you.”
“I know,” the dark-haired woman said. “Believe me, I sat up all night in bed going over every angle of this.” She took his hand and held it to her cheek. “Red, I have to do this — for me, for you, for us.”
Red nodded. “All right,” he said. “But just know this: no matter what happens, it doesn’t change my feelings for you.”
Carol nodded. “I know. And that’s a comforting thing.”
Kari approached the couple. “Excuse me, you two,” she said softly. “But I think Carol and I better get started. Red, if you wouldn’t mind going off with Hal, I would appreciate it.”
“But…” the man started to protest slightly.
Carol took his hand again to calm him. “It’s OK,” she said. “I trust Kari. I know somehow that she knows what is best in the situation. It’s more than woman’s instinct that tells me this.”
Red nodded. “OK,” he said reluctantly. He joined Hal at the horses, they mounted, and the two rode off for the east ridge.
Kari turned to Carol. “Are you ready?”
“Let’s get started,” Carol said with only a faint hint of trembling in her voice.
Carol Ferris laid on her back on an outstretched blanket, the same blanket upon which Red proposed to her the day before. She was very still, her eyes closed and her breathing normal. Kari Limbo knelt near Carol’s head and leaned forward, placing her hands upon the woman’s temples. The psychic began to concentrate so she could gather up her will and the stray psychic impressions to be focused back to their home.
Thoughts of a mustached man flowed forth, someone stern, yet in a caring way. “Carol, you need to be ruthless to survive in the business world! If you act like a pretty, helpless flower, the competition will see that and eat you for lunch!” Carl Ferris had always wanted a son, and groomed his daughter as he would have a boy to carry on his business.
Thoughts of other strong individuals pushed through. “You have been chosen to be our queen, and thus you must act in accordance to that role! Do not disappoint us as heir to the Zamaron throne!” The warrior women from the alien world of Zamaron had selected Carol to be their figurehead leader, assuming she could stand up to the challenge.
Thoughts of love and desire swirled in. “If only I could get Green Lantern’s attention. He would be the perfect catch in a man.” These were indeed Carol’s thoughts for a long time after the new hero appeared in Coast City. She found him to be the perfect bachelor to pursue.
That changed. “Carol, you know as the chosen Green Lantern of this space sector, I have a duty to the Guardians of the Universe to uphold. I can’t turn my back on that for my own personal desires. I’m sorry.” Once she learned that Hal Jordan and Green Lantern were one and the same, she discovered there was much more to the pilot than she had once thought. He was a complex man who wrestled with his own hard decisions, but it didn’t comfort her to be second choice.
Savage thoughts ripped through, ones of pure ruthlessness. “You don’t need him! I can be the hero and the man you’ve always wanted! One who acts as your protector and showers you with the attention you deserve!” The Predator, a silver-armored mystery-man, intrigued her and caught her interest very quickly. But it was only natural, for the Predator was a manifestation of her own mind brought about by the star sapphire power she’d rejected so long ago. The Predator would do anything for her, even kill Hal Jordan. She couldn’t let that happen.
Again, another aspect of her persona barged in. “No, Hal! I am no longer the weak woman who once followed you around like a lovesick puppy dog! I am now, and forever, the Star Sapphire, rightful queen of the Zamaron race! I reject you, your love, and the world of my birth!” This one was a hybrid of what the Zamarons awakened in her and the Predator one that had been created as well.
“No! That is not your right! It belongs to me and only me! You stole the power from me not too long ago; I’m just reclaiming what was mine!” It was another woman’s words, one similar to Carol and yet so very much different. Born on two different worlds in two different social orders, both were given a fate to follow. The two also shared one other thing: the tainting of their very souls by the Zamarons’ star sapphire gems. The power that corrupted them also made them fierce competitors for a throne so far away.
As all the pieces were falling into place, the psychic knife that cut them away to begin with was revealed. A mind so alien and so feral, one nothing like that which Kari had ever encountered before, was exposed. “Such sweet memories! Oh, the things they reveal to me! They could indeed prove useful someday!”
Sweat beaded off of Kari’s brow. She tried her best to focus on these thoughts, to reveal their owner if possible. She wanted to know who did this to Carol, so that perhaps Hal could provide some form of retribution some day. She gritted her teeth and concentrated.
The response was a backlash into her brain! “Aaa-aaahhh-hhh!” Kari screamed. She broke contact with Carol and fell backward.
Carol’s eyes snapped open at the sound. “Kari?” she asked. She sat up and saw the woman on the blanket, grasping her temples. “Kari? Are you OK?”
The psychic used all her abilities to clear her head. In a moment, she opened her eyes and saw Carol staring back at her. “I am fine,” Kari finally said, taking the offered hand and rising to her feet. “The bigger question is… how are you?”
The look that Kari saw on Carol’s face was a different one. It was not the type of look she’d seen over the last day or so on Carrie Ford. The woman seemed to carry herself a bit differently, and her eyes seemed more intense and focused. Kari also saw something more, a bit of hurt. With her past memories restored, Carol seemed to be wrestling with some emotions.
“I’ve been better,” Carol admitted. “I am just feeling a bit… torn.”
Kari swallowed. “I’m sorry about that,” she said. “I really wanted to try to make this easier for you. But once we started, the process of restoration was out of my control. Whether you wanted it or not, it all had to come back to you.”
Carol nodded. “I know. And I don’t blame you. It’s my life, and I have to live with the past.”
“What about the future?”
“I don’t honestly know yet.”