Titans West: Girl Talk, Chapter 1: Dark Future

by Martin Maenza

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“I just don’t get it!” a woman with permed red hair and a tight yellow costume said. “What are the odds you’d happen by just as I pulled that heist?” From her hands a glow of pinkish energy formed. She thrust her arms outward and hurled two deadly bursts of matter-transforming energy.

In the air, a golden-skinned teenage alien in a white blouse and short green skirt easily dodged the blasts. “Face it, honey,” Arisia said. “You just have bad karma.” The blasts hit the side of one of the nearby buildings, and the concrete outer facing began to crumble and slide. Arisia saw the results, and from her power ring she projected a small scoop shovel to catch the debris and harmlessly put it down.

Shimmer took the opportunity to flee. “No sense in staying to fight,” she muttered to herself. “That’s what I get for coming to San Francisco in the first place. I’d heard a rumor that Gizmo had taken up residency here, but I haven’t been able to find him. Time to blow this town!”

“Hey, get back here!” Arisia said. Her ring pulsed, putting up an emerald energy barrier right in the villain’s path. She hoped it would make the woman stop.

“Whoa!” Shimmer shouted as she tried to slow down. However, she was running too fast and almost slammed into the barrier when her yellow boot disrupted the energy. “Hey, I like that!” Due to its impurity against the color yellow, the emerald energy proved to have little resistance to Shimmer’s costume. She continued right on through.

“Fudge,” Arisia said, pouting as she began to follow in pursuit.

The fleeing villain hurled a few more blasts behind her as she ran. “This should keep little Miss Lantern busy,” Shimmer laughed.

Arisia and her power ring did their best to keep the destruction to a minimum and to keep the innocent bystanders on the street safe. “She’s getting away!”

“I’ll just duck into a big store and lose myself in the crowds,” Shimmer said to herself as she crossed the street. “And just to be safe, I’ll leave a little chaos behind.” The woman took aim at a cable car that was approaching.

“Uh-uh,” a voice called from above as a white boot nailed the back of the villain’s head. “Those are symbols of our city. You can’t touch those.”

The energy blast discharged as Shimmer fell forward. Instead, it struck a fire hydrant, turning the metal to dust and causing water to burst forth into the air.

The woman rolled on the ground so she could turn to see her attacker. “Who?” she asked of the costumed young woman in blue and white.

“I need to speak with my public relations man,” Dove joked. “You would think I’d be recognized by now.”

No one will recognize you when I’m through with you!” Shimmer said sneering as her energy began to build around her hands again. She let off a blast, but the heroine dodged the first one. She fired again, but Dove once more moved quickly aside.

“Tsk, tsk,” Dove said. “You’re so predictable with your shots. Right then left.” She leaped up and perched on a small ledge just above the store front. “You really need to mix it up a bit if you plan on hitting anyone.”

“Aargh!” Shimmer exclaimed in disgust. “I’ll bring you down permanently, even if that whole building has to go with you!” She raised both her hands above her head to hurl a large blast. But nothing happened.

Dove smiled. “Gotcha!”

Shimmer looked up in shock to realize why her blast hadn’t done anything. Her hands, which were bare in order to allow her to use her powers, were both encased in two round, interconnected spheres of emerald energy. The villain then began to lift slowly off the ground. “What the–?”

Arisia was there in the air, drawing Shimmer up by the emerald energy spheres she had created. “Your costume might be a problem for me, but your hands aren’t.” The heroine turned to Dove. “I’ll haul Shimmer off to the authorities and then meet up with you in a bit.”

“Sounds good,” Dove replied. Her alien friend took off into the air with the cursing woman in tow.

***

Dawn Granger unlocked the door to her apartment and opened it. “Here we are,” she said as she escorted a young woman with short blonde hair inside. “It’s not much, but it is comfy.”

As Dawn closed the door, Arisia looked around. It was a small studio apartment with a combined kitchen/living room area. It was nicely decorated, and the bookshelves were full of various types of texts. The kitchen was clean and had a few small appliances on the counters.

Dawn put her purse on one of the stools near the kitchen counter. “My bedroom and the bathroom are back through there,” she said, gesturing to the little hallway on the far side. “Feel free to make yourself at home.”

“Thanks,” Arisia said. She sat down on the couch, finding it to be comfortable. She gently brushed out the wrinkles in her short, navy blue skirt. “You really have a nice place here.”

“Thanks,” Dawn said as she fussed in the kitchen. “I like the fact that it is close to campus. My mother sends me a check monthly to cover the rent and such, but she’s also been pressuring me to get a job to cover the rest. Like I have time for a job, what with classes and the hero thing and all.”

Arisia smiled. “For sure. I feel the same about my modeling. Always going here and there. Never having any time to just sit in one place and relax.”

“That’s part of the reason I invited you over for lunch. I thought we could have a chance to kick back, do some girl talk and get to know one another. As the other new kid on the T-West team, I thought we might have some stuff in common.”

“I’m glad you did invite me, Dawn,” Arisia replied. “It’ll be nice to have someone to talk to that isn’t also checking me out, you know?”

Dawn laughed. “I hear that.” She moved over to the couch and sat. “So, while the water is boiling, I thought I’d ask you something that came to me: since you were already a member of a team before, why’d you decide to join ours?”

Arisia bit her lip; she was hesitant at first to answer the question.

“Well,” Arisia began as she fidgeted in her seat. “I guess it was because Charley asked me to. You know, a chance to hang with folks my own age and stuff.”

Dawn looked at her intently. “I suppose that is true,” she said, “but I think there’s something more. I mean, you’re a Green Lantern, and you were hanging with a whole team of them down near Los Angeles. To just up and leave a group like that in order to hang with our little outfit, well that doesn’t quite gel with me.” She took one of Arisia’s hands gently. “I’ve got an eye for things, and I don’t miss much. Something tells me there’s more to the story.”

Arisia swallowed and then looked in Dawn’s eyes. What she saw was someone who appeared to be genuinely concerned and wanted to help. The alien girl had been keeping things bottled up now for a while, and it just might be good to talk about it with someone else.

“Well,” Arisia said as she stood up. She began to pace nervously as she spoke, and the heels of her navy pumps clacked on the hardwood floors as she walked. “It’s a number of things, really, that kind of all came to a head recently.” She turned back to her blonde friend. “Dawn, promise me you’ll not say a word to anyone else.”

“I promise.”

Arisia half-smiled. “OK, then here goes. You know I’m not from Earth, right? I come from a world called Graxos IV, and my father was the Green Lantern from that world before I took over. Anyway, early on I met the Green Lantern of Earth; our space sectors are neighbors, so that’s how we first got to know one another. We worked a lot together, and I felt myself becoming attracted to him.

“Well, after the Crisis last year, when the Guardians announced that the G.L.s were now free to do as they wished, a number of the Corps members decided they were heading back to Earth. I jumped at the chance to go, in part so I could be near Hal — I mean Green Lantern. It seemed like a good idea at the time, you know? Working side by side, seeing each other daily. I figured maybe he’d, like, you know, develop feelings for me, too.”

“That makes sense,” Dawn said. “Then what happened?”

Arisia continued her tale. “Well, turns out Hal saw me more like a kid sister than a woman. That hurt a lot, you know? It’s like my feelings for him didn’t matter given the apparent age difference. But something happened not long after that gave me a way around it. Rick Flag of the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency called the Green Lantern Citadel seeking Hal’s help. Since he wasn’t around, I went instead. Turned out that a man named Rip Hunter, who was known as the time master, was trying to save some of the heroes who died during the Crisis. Well, we only ended up saving Supergirl, who later turned out to be an impersonator, but during the trip back we were all hit with chronal energy.

“Well, Rip Hunter, Rick Flag, and his assistant Karen Grace all grew younger and were now in their mid-twenties, around the same ages they were when they began their careers. As for me, well, let me explain. Our power rings work off our will power, and I guess my hurt feelings and my longing to be treated like a woman got the better of me. I unconsciously willed for the ring to make me a woman, and that, combined with the chronal energy, aged me somewhat. I was now a grown woman around twenty-one.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: The Return of Supergirl.]

“Did that work? Did it get his attention?”

“Kind of, but not the way I hoped. Even though my appearance was changed, he could still only see me as I was. He simply didn’t feel the same way about me as I did him.”

“So what did you do?”

“I kind of ran, Dawn,” the elfin alien admitted. “It wasn’t a very mature thing to do, but I was hurt and confused. I started to hang out with some of the heroes from the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency for a time. Captain Comet, Dolphin, and the rest of the Rehab Squad were very friendly to me. It did help me to forget about my problems for a while. But I kind of knew I couldn’t do that forever. After seeing my fellow Green Lanterns in action when we all battled back that alien invasion earlier this year, I kind of started to miss them. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad: Strange Visitors.]

“Then, while working on a case with Superman this summer, I had the opportunity to assist some heroes from the planet Thronn. (*) In doing so, whatever my ring and that chronal energy had done to age me was reversed. I again found myself back to my old, youthful-looking self. On Superman’s advice, he suggested I might want to get involved with the fashion industry as a model. He knew I was a designer of sorts on my homeworld already but thought I could be successful in front of the camera as well. He even put in a good word with Artemis from the New Titans, who does fashion photography.”

[(*) Editor’s note: DC Comics Presents: Superman and Arisia: To Honor and Obey and Kill.]

“Sounds like everything was back to normal,” Dawn said. “So what changed recently?”

Arisia swallowed again, paced another moment more, then sat down.

“Well, things seemed to be fine with the Green Lanterns. I got really busy with modeling, so I wasn’t around them all the time. That helped out the situation a lot. Hal was busy with the JLA as well, so that helped us keep things going a bit smoother. Less chance for any awkward moments, you know?”

Dawn nodded.

“But then something happened that really changed things,” Arisia began to explain. “Turns out the Justice League met a few heroes from the future, a possible future, anyway. It’s kind of confusing. (*) Anyway, one of the heroes was a Green Lantern named Kyle. According to him, turns out he’s the only Green Lantern left in his time period.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice League of America: Time, See What’s Become of Me?]

“The only one?” Dawn asked. “How can that be? I thought there were thousands of Green Lanterns spread across the universe.”

“That’s the upsetting part!” Arisia said. “At first, he was kind of vague with all of us, not wanting to reveal any specifics about things from his future. Kind of like that movie Back to the Future, you know? The one with J. Michael Fox?” Dawn nodded.

“So, we were all fine with his not saying anything to us; we respected him for that. But after he and the other heroes went back home, Guy Gardner shows up at our Citadel. Guy’s a tad obnoxious, you know, so we don’t take him too seriously, even though he was given a ring by the Guardians. But Guy shows up and says he’s got a tape that Kyle told him to deliver to us so we could see it.

“On the tape, Kyle starts out saying he’s leaving us this message behind, even though he says the others cautioned him not to reveal anything. He says that even though his present and our future might not exactly be the same, he thought he’d leave us some information, anyway, just in case. A warning to try to spare us some headache and pain.”

“Uh-oh,” said Dawn. “And I take it the tape had just the opposite effect.”

“Totally!” Arisia exclaimed. “According to his history, Kyle says that Katma Tui will be killed in battle by the Star Sapphire, and that her lover John Stewart will be so distraught because of it that he ends up destroying a whole planet of people.”

“Wow,” Dawn said softly.

“And that’s not the worst part! He then goes on to say that Hal would totally go off the deep end when Coast City gets destroyed, going on a quest to gather up all the active Green Lantern rings for himself. Kyle said Hal would even end up killing many of the G.L.s including Kilowog as well as Sinestro, destroying the Central Power Battery that gives us all the power, and would end up becoming a villain named Parallax!

“Did he say what would happen to you?” Dawn asked.

Arisia nodded and got quiet. “Yes. Because my ring no longer functioned, I didn’t have any way to defend myself when some creep named Major Force showed up. Kyle said that Force would…” Arisia’s voice faltered for a moment as she remembered the words from the tape. “…that Force would kill me like he killed Kyle’s girlfriend.” Like she had the first time she heard the words, Arisia began to tear up.

Dawn handed her a tissue then began to comfort her with a hug. “There there, Arisia,” she said softly. “It’s going to be OK.”

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