Green Lantern: Hearts Afire, Book 1: New Friends and Old

Green Lantern of Earth-1: The Five Earths Project

Green Lantern

Hearts Afire

Book 1: New Friends and Old

by Immortalwildcat

Cast adrift without her memory, Carol Ferris must depend upon the kindness of strangers in the form of Red Crawford and the folks of Fox Hollow, Oregon. Meanwhile, as Green Lantern begins his search for Carol, he runs into an old flame who may be able to help find the former Star Sapphire!

***

Continued from Secret Society of Super-Villains: Reclamation, Book 3: A Clash of Queens

The sound of shifting gears echoed through a narrow canyon in Northern California. With a low roar, a pickup truck climbed the steep highway leading up from a valley. A tall aerial whipping in the air above the cab snatched brightly colored leaves from low branches and sent them swirling through the crisp autumn air.

“Why don’t I remember ever seeing fall colors like this before?” asked a strikingly beautiful woman in the cab of the truck.

Beside her, the driver, a rugged-looking man with red hair and the weathered skin of a man accustomed to spending most of his time outdoors, reached for the gearshift. He put the truck into higher gear as he crested the hill. “Well, I’ve known quite a few folks who get all wrapped up in their jobs, so’s they never notice the finer things in life. That’s one of the reasons I moved out here from Birmingham.”

“I guess so, Red. I must not have been much of an outdoor person.” The brunette leaned back in her seat, rubbing her temples. “This is just so frustrating!”

Red Crawford tried to reassure her. “Take it easy, kiddo. When we get up to Portland, we can drop by the hospital and see if they can help you out.”

“Yeah, maybe. Though if I was the kind of person who didn’t take time out to enjoy this,” she gestured out the window, “then maybe I don’t want to find out who I really am.”

The woman who was up until two days before Carol Ferris sighed and turned toward the window.

***

In the Coast City offices of Ferris Aircraft, two men discussed the mysteries surrounding their boss.

“I had a call from the FBI this morning. Apparently, someone got into Carol’s home a couple days ago, the same day those two guys were asking around here for her.”

“They called you? Why not her father?”

The short, swarthy man with the telltale signs of Inuit blood smiled. “Because I have a friend on the investigation. Jack Nelson worked security here at Ferris a couple years back, before he was accepted into the FBI. He was here when you were off finding America, Hal.”

“I take it he’s not so crazy about old Carl, either, eh, Tom?” Hal Jordan smiled. “I don’t suppose this burglar left any clues about her disappearance? After all, it’s been a year now.” The smiles faded as the hard reality settled around them once more. Carol Ferris had been a boss and a friend to both men, as well as a lover to the man who had been Ferris Aircraft’s lead test pilot.

“Well, what about — you know?” Tom nodded his head toward Hal’s hand, resting on the arm of his chair.

“Nada. I tried her office and her home, and it didn’t turn up anything out of the ordinary.” It was the green-tinged watch on Hal’s wrist, a watch in appearance only. In its true form, it was a ring, a weapon through which Hal channeled near-limitless power as a member of the Green Lantern Corps.

“Funny, I always sort of figured you had some sort of mental tag or something on your friends and family with that thing.” Tom Kalmaku, one of the few people in the world aware of Hal Jordan’s double identity, shook his head. “Sure would come in handy about now, buddy.”

“I did that for a while. Carol found out, and man, did she give me hell for it. Said it was an invasion of her privacy, and a violation of her rights, and a sign that I didn’t respect her as a woman, and…”

“Enough! I’ve heard that little tirade before from Carol; I don’t need it echoed from you!” Before Tom could say any more, there was a knock at the door. “Come on in!”

“Excuse me, I’m looking for — Hal!” A short, slender woman with a dark complexion popped her head in the door, then opened it wide to come in and grab Hal in a big hug.

***

“There it is. It ain’t fancy, but it’s home!” Red set the brake and shut down the motor of his pickup truck.

The woman he knew only as Carrie looked uneasy. “Your house? But I thought–”

“Oh, don’t you worry yourself. I just need to drop off this paperwork and call my boss, then we’ll head into town.” He saw the look in her eyes. “You don’t even have to come in. You can take a stroll around behind the house, if you like.”

Carrie’s eyes dropped to look at the paving stones at her feet. “I, uh… that is, thanks, Red.” As he loped up the steps of the low, wide log cabin, she followed the path as it curved around behind the rustic home. As she walked, she saw another similar building behind the first. Rather than conventional doors and windows, this one had wide, sliding doors. Through one of them, she could see the moving forms of several horses. Adjoining the building was a large corral, where two roan mares chased each other around in circles. She walked slowly toward the corral, taking care not to spook the animals within. If asked, she could not have told you how she knew to do this; it just seemed the proper thing to do.

After spending the night in separate hotel rooms the night before, Red and Carrie had decided against stopping in Portland to seek help for her lack of memory. Red noted that it didn’t seem to affect her day-to-day living, and in a moment of total self-honesty, Carrie admitted that she truly did not want to know her past if it should turn out that she had done something awful. They agreed that they would wait a while to see if her memory returned on its own. Then, if it did, they would figure out what to do.

As she thought back over that conversation, held over coffee, eggs, and biscuits in a diner two hundred miles away, Carrie smiled. Red had never pushed either way, letting her consider the options that lay before her, and letting her make the decisions. He was supportive and encouraging, but not pushy or arrogant. She didn’t know if it was the amnesia, but somehow she knew that this wasn’t something she had encountered from a man before. She liked it.

“Heh. I figured I’d find you back here. Never met a woman who could resist horses.” Carrie turned to see Red leaning over the railing of a porch at the back of the house.

“Bring a lot of them out here, do you?”

“Nice try, pretty lady, very nice try. No, I’m no paddock Casanova. I grew up on a horse farm in Alabama, and every girl that ever came out there got all misty-eyed over the horses. Me, I keep these two here for my own riding pleasure, and rent out stable space for other riders.” Red looked out toward a distant pasture. “It’s kind of nice to have some folks out here on the weekends now.”

Carrie couldn’t help but notice a bit of excess moisture at the edge of one eye, but she didn’t comment on it. There was time enough for that later.

***

A bemused Tom Kalmaku sat at his desk, watching his best friend being flung back against a wall by this tiny woman. He hadn’t gotten a very good look at her face before she hurled herself upon Hal Jordan, but he was pretty sure of her identity. When Hal finally managed to discreetly get his hands between their bodies and push her back a few inches, Tom’s suspicions were confirmed.

“Good morning, Kari, so nice to see you as well!” he exclaimed, rising from his chair with a broad grin on his face. “I see you remember my associate, Mr. Jordan.”

Kari Limbo turned toward the sound of his voice. “Oh, Tom, hello! I didn’t mean to ignore you, but I was so excited at finding Hal so quickly. How are you?” Turning back to Hal, she took a step back. “I’m sorry, Hal. I hadn’t intended to be quite so, um… enthusiastic. Are you all right?”

Hal rubbed the back of his head for a second. “Nothing that won’t heal. Wow, Kari, I can’t believe this. What’s it been — three years?”

“At least! I knew you had come back here, but until recently, I wasn’t sure if I should look you up again or not.” Kari sat down, leaving Hal to stand against the wall. “After Guy recovered, I realized that I had no reason to remain with him. He had changed so much, that he just wasn’t the man I loved all those years ago. I’ve been traveling with the Kane Circus for the last year and a half. Last month, I met someone who made me realize that I had unresolved business to take care of. Actually, we both did.” Kari paused as she thought of Silver St. Cloud. (*) Hopefully, that lost soul was on her way to Gotham City to deal with her own problems. “I hope you don’t mind, but I just arrived in Coast City this morning, and I thought I’d find you here.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Blue Velvet: Dark Clouds, Silver Linings.]

“Mind? Of course not!” Hal reflected briefly on this woman, whom he had tried to shut out of his memory for the past few years, the woman he had loved as deeply as he ever did Carol Ferris, the woman he had been prepared to marry before they discovered that Guy Gardner, her former love, was being used by Sinestro in one of his many myriad schemes for revenge against the Earth’s Green Lantern. When Guy was crippled by Sinestro and required constant care, Kari had taken it as her own personal duty to help him. (*) But for that turn of events, this woman would likely be his wife right now. Not, he thought to himself, a wholly unpleasant prospect.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “My Ring, My Enemy,” Green Lantern v2 #116 (May, 1979), “Sight of the First and Second Kinds,” Green Lantern v2 #117 (June, 1979), “The Steel Vengeance,” Green Lantern v2 #121 (October, 1979), “With These Rings,” Green Lantern v2 #122 (November, 1979), “Mission of No Return,” Green Lantern v2 #123 (December, 1979), and “The Secret of Sinestro,” Green Lantern v2 #124 (January, 1980).]

***

“Here we are — beautiful, downtown Fox Hollow,” said Red Crawford. “On the right is the post office and the fire station. On the left, you have your police station, the town hall, and drug store. Up ahead, at the intersection, is Marty’s Diner, home of the best flank steak west of the Rockies. Right next to it, you’ll find Mother Borden’s rooming house, as safe a place for a pretty lady to rent a room as you’ll find anywhere in the country.”

“Wow, here I am getting the dime tour, and I haven’t been able to pay so much as a penny on this trip.” Carrie looked around at the rustic, roughhewn buildings of Fox Hollow, Oregon.

“Well, if you don’t mind, I’d like to see if we can make a little change in your financial status, starting right now.” Red parked his truck in the lot alongside the diner, and in they went. “Hey, Marty!” he called as they walked through the door, heedless of a half-dozen people at tables and booths around the restaurant. “You find anyone to replace Lou-Ann yet?”

Through a pass-through window, a large man was visible in the kitchen. He looked up, seeking the source of the voice that had called his name. “That you, Red? No, I ain’t got anybody yet. Why, you know someone what’s interested?”

As Marty came out of the kitchen, Red gave Carrie a little push forward. “Sure do. Marty Falk, meet Carrie… um…” Realizing that neither Carrie nor he had any idea what her last name truly was, Red looked for inspiration. He found it in a mirror above the counter, in which he saw the tailgate of his truck, sitting quietly in the parking lot. “Ford. Carrie Ford. She’s kind of new in town, and could use the job.”

Marty put out a hand that was remarkably clean, considering his work in the kitchen. “Nice ta meetcha, Carrie. You ever worked as a waitress before?”

“Sure, here and there.” After all, if she hadn’t done it before, how hard could it be, right? She would find out, soon enough.

***

By the end of the evening, Carrie Ford regretted her earlier thought. Even in a small place like Marty’s, it was hard keeping up with all of the customers and their orders. The tips made it worthwhile, though. By the end of the evening, she had made enough to pay Red back for the cost of the hotel room the previous night and the cost of her meals. Not that he would accept it, of course. He stubbornly refused to take her money until Jess Borden, owner of the rooming house next door, came into the diner. He then took Carol’s money and handed it to the landlady as a downpayment for Carrie’s room.

“Did anybody ever tell you that you are totally infuriating, Red?” asked Carrie as they sat in the closed diner, enjoying the last of the evening’s chocolate cream pie with Jess and Marty.

“Honey, I think everybody in town has told him that. Don’t let it bother you none. It’s just his way.” Jess Borden was a big woman of indeterminate age. “When he came out here fifteen years ago, he rented a room from me. Told him that he could pay cash, or work it off in chores. He’d pay me for his room, then put in twenty hours a week fixing up my place on top of his job for the lumber mill.”

Red shook his head. “Wasn’t any big deal. Just a few steps that needed fixing, and such.”

“Well, you folks can swap tales all you like; I need to get home and get to bed. Mindy’s coming in to do some baking first thing, but I still have to be here for the breakfast crowd at five o’clock. Jess, you’ll lock up for me?” Marty hefted his big frame up from the table.

“Sure thing.”

“What time do you want me here tomorrow, Marty?” asked Carrie.

“For the time being, I’ll keep you on the lunch and dinner shift. After a couple weeks, we’ll see if Sarah wants to switch off and let you take the mornings for a while. Good night, all.” With that, Marty was out the door and gone. Jess got up, gathered the plates and glasses, and shuffled off to the kitchen.

“So, will I see you tomorrow?” asked Carrie.

Red Crawford looked at her and smiled. “Sure, I’m in here for lunch most days. And if you want help finding your way around, just let me know.” He rose, offering his hand. “Walk you home?”

Carrie smiled, her face lighting up the night in the way that Carol Ferris’ smile had lit up boardrooms in Coast City. “I was hoping you’d ask.”

***

In the days that followed their impromptu reunion, Hal Jordan and Kari Limbo spent a lot of time getting reacquainted. They fell into the habit of having dinner together, and Tom was always glad to see her arrive at his home with Hal. However, Tom Kalmaku was no dummy.

He knew that this wasn’t an old couple getting back together again, especially with the mystery of Carol Ferris hanging over them.

“You’re absolutely right, Tom. I’m glad to see Kari and all, but no, we aren’t resuming our romance. We got that straight the first day she was back.” Hal and Tom were sitting in Tom’s office again, in-between test runs on the solar-powered jet that Tom had developed. “In fact, she’s leaving this afternoon.”

“Leaving? Where’s she going?”

“Searching for Carol. Over the past few days, I’ve been filling her in as much as I can about places that Carol traveled, things she liked to do, what she’d be likely to avoid. Kari’s talents give her a great advantage in a search like this. Her ability to sense emotions, as well as her fleeting glimpses of future and past lives, should help her to locate Carol if she’s anywhere on this Earth.” Hal shook his head ruefully. “I can’t believe she’d do something like this, though, after everything we went through.”

“Sounds like she still cares, buddy. Can’t argue with that, can you?”

“Not at all, my friend. Not at all. Kari seems to have found a comfortable spot in life. Who knows? Maybe Carol has done the same thing somewhere.”

Tom reached over to grab his friend’s hand. “One can hope, Hal. One can always hope.”

Continued in Showcase: Carol Ferris: Hearts Afire, Book 2: Love in Bloom

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