by Brian K. Asbury
Founding a new world isn’t easy. Adjusting from being unable to expand from a single city, due to having absolute limits on your available space imposed by (from your perspective) immense glass walls, to suddenly finding you have a whole world to move out into, requires a massive adjustment of mindset. It was hardly surprising, then, that in the first few years of their freedom, the people of the former bottle-city of Kandor did not move out much into their new world of Rokyn from the place where their city had been restored to its original size. Besides, with so many of Kandor’s buildings having been destroyed in the expansion, there was a great deal of work to do to return the city to its former glory.
Their first few years on Rokyn had been anything but easy for other reasons, too. A succession of alien attacks, a crime wave perpetuated by former Phantom Zone criminals, and other catastrophes had all taken their toll. However, the population had at last begun to move beyond the overcrowded suburbs of Kandor to found new cities such as New Kryptonopolis and New Argo, conurbations that were small as yet compared with the rebuilt Kandor, but which were rapidly growing. There had also been a massive program of landscaping to recreate some of the wonders of old Krypton, including the Jewel Mountains and the Fire Falls.
There was plenty of work in an expanding world like this for a man like Tan-Jay. There was little use in expanding if the population could not grow sufficient crops to feed itself, and that meant a reliable supply of water in the form of rain. A drought could be catastrophic for a population just starting to become established in a dozen new locations across the continent.
Krypton, of course, had global climate control. That was a mammoth task, requiring a vast worldwide network of weather-control stations both on the ground and in orbit. It would probably not be feasible here yet for decades — but on a smaller scale, it was certainly possible to regulate the climate over relatively small crop-growing areas around the new cities.
But, as with everything on this world as yet, there were problems. Resources were still in short supply and high demand, and had to be shared between many projects going on simultaneously. Which was why, Tan-Jay reflected with a sigh, the contractors who had built this weather-control tower on the outskirts of New Argo had taken shortcuts with its construction, resulting in frequent breakdowns and malfunctions. Lately it had taken to delivering showers of basketball-sized hailstones, causing damage not only to the crops but to the robots tending them. The superintendent had been almost hysterical on the visicom. One more like that, he had said, and the entire operation would be ruined. Ruined!
All in a day’s work, thought Tan-Jay as his jetpack carried him up to the access panel at the summit of the tower. It’s obviously the size/temperature regulator on the fritz again. Changing a simple capacitor will put the problem right for now, but the whole regulator unit really needs to be torn out and replaced, or I’ll be up here again in another few weeks, patching up yet another minor glitch.
He flipped open the panel and extracted the offending capacitor. Taking a replacement from his utility belt, he pushed it into place — but there was a sudden bright flash.
Great Rao! he thought in a split-second. It’s an overload! There must be another component malfunctioning besides this!
That was all he had time to consider, as electricity surged through him and his equipment harness. His jetpack crackled and died.
He plummeted toward the ground, desperately hitting the controls, willing the jetpack to start again. It can’t end like this, he thought. It can’t…
The ground rushed up toward him…
And then there was a blaze of emerald light. His fall slowed, and he found himself being deposited gently upon the ground. He looked up to see a young woman descending toward him. He smiled as he recognized the symbol on the green, black, and white uniform that the dark-skinned, brown-haired newcomer wore. “Green Lantern!”
“That’s me,” she said, alighting beside him. “Are you all right? That was some jolt you took.”
“I’m fine,” Tan-Jay said. “I wasn’t grounded, so it didn’t do me any direct harm. Pity the same can’t be said of my equipment,” he added, releasing his harness and dropping the burnt-out jetpack to the ground.
“Never mind. I’ll give you a lift back to the city, if you like. I’m sure the Weather Control Bureau will reimburse you for your damaged equipment.”
To her surprise, Tan threw back his head and laughed. “Well, now, this is an irony, isn’t it?”
She frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Me — being rescued by you, Green Lantern!”
Valura Tur-Thol, the new Green Lantern of Rokyn, pouted in annoyance. “Why is that ironic? I’ve never met you before in my life!”
“I know you haven’t,” said Tan. “Say, would you like to have dinner with me?”
“Oh, puh-leeze!” sighed Valura. “I’ve just met you, and you’re coming on to me? I don’t believe it!”
“No, no, you misunderstand,” said Tan. “You’re a very pretty young lady, but I’m a married man. I’m not trying to hit on you. It’s just that I’d like to show my gratitude for the rescue, and I have a story to tell that you might be interested in. You could say that I and that symbol on your chest… well… have a history.”
“I don’t understand,” said Valura.
“Well, you know you’re not our first Green Lantern?”
“Of course,” she replied, recalling the fate of her predecessor, the tragic Todra Than-Ol, who had died bravely trying to protect New Kryptonopolis from an alien bombardment. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Superman: Rokyn Attacked, Chapter 2: Successor.]
“Well, would it surprise you to learn that you weren’t even the second?” He pointed to himself. “I had that honor before anyone!“