Justice League of America: A Matter of Conscience, Chapter 1: Fallen Astronaut

by Libbylawrence

Return to chapter list

Continued from Justice League of America: Time, See What’s Become of Me?

Green Lantern flew through the air in the direction of Coast City. The test pilot usually relished the feeling of flight, but this day the experience brought the fearless hero no comfort. Hal Jordan’s mind was troubled. While he felt no fear, he did feel concern and considerable self-doubt.

That videotape Guy Gardner showed the other Green Lanterns revealed that in a possible future I become as bad as Sinestro, Hal thought. I betray my ideals and friends, and I bring about death and loss for all of them. Now, I know the scenario of Kat’s death at the hands of Star Sapphire may have only been some warped reflection of the plot Sinestro used to try to convince John that Kat was dead. The death of an adult Arisia at the hands of a foe of someone called Major Force is unlikely anytime soon, since she has reverted back to her proper age, and I’ve never heard of any villain called Major Force. I can even doubt that John would ever become so rattled by events that he would destroy a world by accident. I mean, even when faced with such a dire possible future, the man was as steady as a rock. The Guardians picked him well.

The Guardians picked me, too. They also selected Sinestro, though, and he went bad. Could I be headed for the role of villain? Is my future going to be as dark and tragic as the one described on that tape from the future? I’ve got to resolve this matter! My friends don’t want me around. I’ve got to talk to Tom. He’ll help me get some perspective.

At that moment his JLA signal device beeped, and he abruptly changed course to meet up with two of his teammates. The Flash greeted Hal as warmly as ever before. Nubia nodded her stern and taciturn approval as well.

Nubia saw the Wonder Woman of that dark future, he thought. That Hippolyta had dark hair and looked nothing like the Amazon queen I’ve met. That has to be some comfort to me.

“Well met, Green Lantern!” Wonder Woman greeted him. “We be few in number, but I feel confident our combined prowess will avail us to overcome any odds!”

The Flash grinned. “That’s Amazon for hi!

Green Lantern clasped Wally West’s arm and asked, “What’s wrong, son?”

The Flash noticed his friend’s somber manner and became serious. “G.L., Steel was on monitor duty when the computer picked up a distress signal from halfway across the galaxy,” he explained. “You, Nubia, and I are to check it out.”

Green Lantern nodded in approval. Good, he thought. Action is what I need. A chance to do what I’ve always done so well. I have to prove that I am not that man from the future vision! His silent thoughts were reflected by his grim demeanor.

Wally was worried. He knew Hal well and had always considered the foremost Green Lantern to be the super-hero’s super-hero. Hal and Uncle Barry set a standard of courage and success that I aspire to reach, he thought. I know that something is bugging him. I hope he can shake it. It worries me to see a guy like him so troubled.

Green Lantern used his power ring to lock onto the distress signal. He warped himself and his allies through space until their protective emerald energy bubble hovered directly over a massive starship.

“Man! That ship makes Manhattan look like Blue Valley!” said the Flash.

Nubia said nothing, but the Amazon princess eyed the huge craft with something akin to awe. “It is larger than any structure on either Slaughter Island or Paradise Island!” she whispered.

Green Lantern nodded and said, “Nubia, it is as big as any craft I’ve encountered, but remember it’s friendly. The ship met our friends a while back.”

“The ship?” asked the Flash. “You say the ship met our friends, not the owners or the builders of the ship?”

“Correct,” said Green Lantern. “Hospital Starship One is fully automated. Robot servers and computer systems run the craft. For all of its hulking size, it’s nothing more than an alien high-tech hospital — a MASH unit in space, if you will.”

“I just did a super-speed search of the ship, or most of it, anyway,” said the Flash. “G.L. is right as usual. Nothing but computers and blinking control panels.”

“Justice League of America, we welcome you aboard our craft,” said a computer voice. “We recall your service to our systems before, and an appeal to your satellite was the most logical tactic in our present dilemma.” The machine then addressed Nubia. “Wonder Woman, we thank you for returning to us in a time of system failure or programming error. Our program directive is as always: to heal and rescue any injured member of our creator’s species!”

“You mistake me for my sister!” said Nubia. “She aided you in the past?”

“Right,” said Green Lantern. “Diana, Batman, Zatanna, Atom, Reddy, and Hawkman were the League members who last encountered this hospital craft. It wrongly confused an injured Batman with a member of its race and altered our friend’s body until he became an alien-human hybrid for a brief time.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Star Fall,” Justice League of America #202 (May, 1982).]

“The computer must not have the programming needed to differentiate between one humanoid and another,” said the Flash. “No wonder it thinks of Nubia as being Diana. The curves and costume spell Wonder Woman to its systems. Uh, no offense meant, Nubia.”

Nubia snorted and said, “Be that as it may, how may we aid this craft?”

The computer monitor lit up and revealed a pink-hued world that was located just beyond the other side of the craft. “This planet houses our fallen astronaut,” intoned the computer. “We seek to recover him after his eons in suspended animation. He crashed upon that world, and we have sought his craft ever since. He should live on within suspended animation, or so we anticipate based upon his logical course of action.”

“So, why can’t you retrieve him?” asked the Flash. “The locals resist your efforts?”

“My ring detects a strong mental energy from that world,” explained Green Lantern. “If the occupants project such a purely mental or psychic nature, then no wonder the medical craft so dedicated to healing the body is stumped by such beings and what they represent.”

Nubia nodded. “Any culture wrongly dedicated to either the physical or mental arts must suffer in the end.”

“We shall go down to the world below and try to rescue your lost hero,” vowed Green Lantern.

The computer hummed and said, “Our thanks, Justice League of America.”

The trio of Leaguers soon reached the world below and found it to be a pleasant, fertile world of green fields and lush plant life. The atmosphere was like that of the Earth, so Green Lantern could drop his energy bubble and allow his friends freedom of movement. This seemed of great importance to both the always-restless Flash and the warrior princess Nubia.

“Green Lantern, another super-fast search picked up no life forms,” said the Flash. “Do you think our aliens exist as purely mental beings?”

“I would scorn such a life,” said Wonder Woman. “As I said, a balance of physical activity and mental progress is needed for the perfect warrior!”

Could that future from the tape be true? Green Lantern continued to wonder. Will I develop the ruthless drive to achieve my goals at any cost that marked that other Hal Jordan? What can I do to stop such a change?

The Flash noticed how self-absorbed his friend was, and he tried to bring him out of his deep thoughts. “G.L., I did find out that the crashed ship is here, but it’s enveloped in some kind of glowing light. The ship and, I’m guessing, the occupant are in the middle of the biggest field. I see no signs of crash damage on the land, but it could have faded over the eons since the craft first landed. Do you think our alien Buck Rogers is still OK in suspended animation like the medical ship claimed?”

“I’d say it’s possible, Flash,” replied Green Lantern. “The science that made the medical craft was highly advanced. Take us to this location.”

They followed the speeding Flash until they reached an elevated platform. The metal ship that rested upon this platform matched the design of the much larger Hospital Starship One. The charred wreckage was peeled back at certain damaged spots, and a crystal-like case enclosed a hulking humanoid figure.

“That’s the pilot,” said Green Lantern. “His vaguely ursine appearance is like the alterations that happened to Batman when the medical ship tried to make him one of that race.”

“I’m glad that he told you about the case, or we’d all be a bit lost,” said the Flash.

“I suggest we merely transport the craft back to the larger medical ship and be done with the matter!” said Nubia impatiently.

The Flash shook his head. “Nubia, I feel a type of vibration. It’s something strong and getting closer. I’d wager it could be some of the natives making themselves felt!”

Green Lantern’s ring flashed. “Right you are, Flash. They are nearly pure mental energy! I would suggest we just let them read our thoughts and intentions.”

Nubia drew a gleaming sword and said, “We shall, but we must be ready for any attack! They seem to have made a shrine of sorts of the one we seek to rescue!”

“Yes, they worship the fallen astronaut,” said the Flash. “He’s been here for eons, and they know so little about physical beings that he must have become an idol to them over the years.”

Green Lantern, the Flash, and Wonder Woman all shuddered as a powerful force touched their minds. For a moment, a white light seemed to blind them all, and then each one saw something else entirely.

Return to chapter list