Hal Jordan, the first Green Lantern of Earth, flew over the California sky as gracefully as any eagle. In the distance he could see the Coast City skyline looming. Yes, there were other cities that were larger and more spectacular, but those didn’t matter. They couldn’t fill him with the same emotions or the same feelings. After all, Coast City was home.
He flew quickly over the city in much the same way he often did, so that he could see his childhood home, then the homes of his brothers Jim and Jack. He could see his sister-in-law Janice working out in the yard. Hal smiled for a moment and then flew skyward, heading for Los Angeles.
The Green Lantern Citadel gleamed in the sunlight, an emerald beacon among a city of stone and steel. The sunlight made it sparkle as though it were a jewel in some ornate crown. As he landed, Hal was literally knocked over by an exiting Katma Tui. He could see that she had been crying, but she swiftly took flight and vanished into the clouds. Hal barely got to his feet when John Stewart came flying out the door as well.
“John! What in the name of Oa is going on?”
John stopped for a moment, just hovering in the air. His face was a mix of anger and shock and disbelief. “Hal, I — I — I need to get my Kat-lady.” John, too, vanished into the clouds above.
As Hal entered the Citadel, he saw Kilowog just standing there. He could see his friend’s fists clenching and unclenching.
Just then, Arisia came into the room. She hadn’t been there for a while, having joined up with Titans West. She, too, had been crying.
“Kilowog, Arisia, what’s going on? What happened?”
Arisia couldn’t even look at Hal, the man with whom she had once been madly in love. Her voice trembled as she spoke. “It’s in there,” she said, nodding toward the conference room.
Hal approached the two Green Lanterns, placing his hand on Kilowog’s arm. “‘Wog, what’s wrong?”
“Ya better get that hand offa me, Jordan, if you still want to have it in five seconds.”
Hal watched as Kilowog and Arisia vanished in an emerald glow. He was totally lost now. What in the world was going on?
As he entered the conference room, Hal saw one lone figure sitting there, remote control in hand, his feet propped up on the table. “Guy Gardner. I should have known. What the hell have you done?”
“Jordan, I ain’t never liked you. I’ve always thought you were a wimp, but not after what I heard today.”
“Guy, what in the name of all that’s holy are you talking about?”
“Pull up a chair, Jordan. Yer gonna love this,” Guy said, hitting the play button.
Hal walked over to Guy and pulled him up from his chair by the lapels of his jacket.
“No games, Guy. Tell me what’s going on before I kick your butt all across the room.”
Normally, Hal would have expected disgust or anger or defiance to flash on Guy’s face when he was confronted, but this time Hal saw something he never expected: a momentary flash of fear. Guy pushed Hal away and regained his composure.
“Like I said, Jordan, it’s all on the tape. You ready ta watch, or do you wanna fight? I’m game for either.”
Hal sat down. “Just play the damn thing, Gardner.”
Guy picked up the remote and pressed play. The video screen came to life with a picture of the future Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner. And Hal Jordan saw what his fellow Green Lanterns had already viewed.
Ten minutes earlier:
John Stewart, Katma Tui, Kilowog, and Arisia watched the tape as Guy Gardner sat behind them. Kyle Rayner’s face appeared on the screen.
“Um, hi. I’m really not sure where to start. I just finished talking with Superman and Hippolyte and Connor, and they all agreed that even though this isn’t exactly the same Earth we come from, we still shouldn’t reveal too much about the future, just in case. Problem is, I don’t think I can do that. The future doesn’t have to be carved in stone, does it? Especially when you know something bad is going to happen. I’ve got it within my grasp to spare all of you some heartache and pain, and I want to do that. I guess I’ll start with Katma first.”
“John, what does that mean, he’ll start with me first?” Katma Tui looked up into her husband’s eyes with some trepidation.
John just hugged her more closely. “I don’t know, darling, but remember — the future isn’t set in stone.”
“Hey, Stewart — shut yer damn yap. I’m trying ta listen,” Guy said from the back of the room, munching on popcorn and drinking a beer.
“You don’t have to be here, Gardner. You can leave anytime you want,” John said with more than a little disgust in his voice.
“Look, the kid sent me the tape and asked me ta bring it here. I tried ta play it back at Conglomerate Headquarters, but it wouldn’t work. An image of kid crab-face showed up and said he had it keyed ta only work here at the Citadel. So shut yer yaps.”
“A few months from now, Katma will be killed in a battle with Star Sapphire. It’ll send John into a tailspin that he’ll never really recover from.”
“My God,” John said, holding Katma even more tightly.
“A few months later, John will be involved in a mission to the planet Xanshi. Because of what happened to Katma, and the guilt that John feels, he’ll fail to save the planet from being destroyed. A few years later, while John is in charge of Oa, which becomes a sort of mosaic world at this point consisting of cities from many different planets, Ch’p gets killed. I’m sorry, but I don’t know any more details than that.
“Guy’s going to have a final showdown with Hal that results in Guy giving up his ring. But he’s not out of the game for long. He’ll journey to Qward and hijack Sinestro’s ring, and then — and then we get to Hal.”
Guy Gardner stood up and threw his popcorn at the screen. “Give up my ring? To Jordan? No f–“
Kilowog put his big hand on Guy’s shoulder and sat him back down. “Shut up, poozer. Just sit down and listen.”
“I know Hal told you about how we kept calling him Parallax, and how we told you that Parallax was the greatest enemy the Green Lanterns ever faced. We told you that Parallax took on Hal’s appearance, but that wasn’t entirely true. You see, Hal and Parallax are one and the same.”
In the present, Hal Jordan said, “What? Gardner, why the hell didn’t you wait for me to get here before you started the tape? This is obviously some sort of joke. I could never become a villain. Never.”
“I didn’t see the point in waitin’ on ya. ‘Course, after seein’ the tape, I guess we should have, but oh, well. This ain’t no joke, Hal. And just wait ’til you hear what you do.”
Ten minutes ago:
“It started when Mongul, an enemy of Superman, destroyed Coast City. They defeated Mongul, sure, but at what cost? All that had been Coast City was now a smoking crater. Hal’s whole family, with the exception of his brother Jack and his wife, died with the rest of the city. That included Guy’s old girlfriend, Kari Limbo, but not Hal’s. Carol Ferris was on the road with some guy named Tom whose last name I can’t pronounce. Oliver — Green Arrow — tried to help Hal deal with the loss, but it was too much for him.
“He used his ring to try to recreate Coast City, but that got the attention of the Guardians of the Universe. Yeah, they came back. They told Hal that it was a violation of his oath to use his ring for personal gain. Hal didn’t like that very much, so he headed to Oa to confront the Guardians. Along the way, he fought and defeated every G.L. he encountered, stealing their rings. Some died. After he arrived on Oa, he confronted the Guardians and went face to face with his friend, Kilowog. Hal killed him.”
John, Katma, Arisia, and Guy looked at their friend, but Kilowog remained emotionless and unmoving.
“This left the Guardians no choice. They released Sinestro from the Central Power Battery and armed him with a power ring. It didn’t matter. In the end, Hal defeated Sinestro, not with a power ring, but with his bare hands. Hal snapped his neck. Hal then went into the Central Power Battery and took all its power. He became Parallax. Hal Jordan had destroyed the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps, or so he thought. With their final dying breaths, the remaining Guardians transferred their powers to Ganthet, the last Guardian. He was determined that the Green Lantern legacy continue. So I’m not just Hal’s successor. I’m the only Green Lantern left.”
“Oh, my God,” Hal gasped, not really sure what to say.
“There’s more,” Guy replied.
Ten minutes earlier:
“This didn’t go unnoticed. When Hal stole the Guardian’s power, Guy, who was wearing Sinestro’s yellow ring, experienced a massive power surge; he became almost as powerful as Hal. That’s how Sinestro’s ring worked — off of Hal’s. The other G.L.s’ rings, those who hadn’t confronted Hal, stopped working as well, like Arisia’s. So Guy, Arisia, the Martian Manhunter, the Ray, Wonder Woman, Captain Atom, and Alan Scott — whose ring did still work — went off to find out what happened.”
“Not now, Guy,” Arisia said, putting her finger to her lips.
“Hal defeated them all easily, except for Guy, but in the end Hal defeated him as well. He destroyed Sinestro’s ring, lest Guy learn how to control all that power. He would have threatened Hal’s plans. I tangled with Parallax a couple of times, and then he tried to remake the universe in his own image. He almost succeeded, but thanks to a small group of heroes at the beginning of time, we barely managed to defeat him.
“If it’s any comfort, Hal finally redeemed himself, at least in some people’s eyes. He sacrificed himself and his power to defeat a creature called the Sun Eater that had almost destroyed the sun. Hal stopped it and reignited the sun, but at the cost of his life. He died a hero.
“Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. Arisia was killed by one of Captain Atom’s foes, Major Force. That same scum killed my girlfriend, Alex. Guy and I confronted him later, after Guy had gained new powers as the Warrior. Guy ended up killing him in combat.”
The five Green Lanterns just sat in stunned silence.
“So why am I telling you all this? Well, partly because I can. I don’t want all of you to live these horrible destinies, especially Hal’s. I would have given anything to have been one of you instead of being a Corps of one. I realize that your present is not my past, but from what Guy, John, and Alan have told me, your past is very similar on my world. That means that Parallax could very well be Hal’s future. I hope that’s not the case. If any of you have to die, I hope you go out as heroes, not the way you did on my world.”
And then the tape went silent.
Katma Tui stood and ran out of the room.
Hal Jordan just sat there in disbelief. It’s not true. It couldn’t be.
“Hal.” Green Lantern looked up to see John Stewart reenter the room.
A pained look crossed John’s face. “Don’t. I think for the time being, you’d — you’d better just leave, Hal. We all have a lot of thinking to do.”
“But, John,” Hal said pleadingly, “I’m not Parallax. I never could be.”
“Are you sure? According to Kyle, his Hal Jordan was every bit the hero you are, and yet he became Parallax. Can you honestly say it couldn’t happen to you? We just need time, Hal. The others just found out that they’re dead in Kyle’s time, and that you killed Kilowog, not to mention half the Corps and the Guardians and Sinestro.”
“I’m not saying to leave forever. Just for now.”
Hal looked at John for a moment and then at Guy. Silently, he turned and walked out the door. He took flight and headed toward Coast City.
Dear God, what do I do now? Hal thought to himself. Is the specter of Parallax going to haunt me forever? Is he really inside of me? Am I doomed to become him? And what if the others can never look me in the face again?