Green Lantern / Starman
Part Two: Light Lunch
by Matt "Stars" Morrison
[This story takes place shortly after the events of Green Lantern #81 and between the events Starman #27 and #29. It is after the funeral of Hal Jordan, sometime in early February.]
Jack Knight swung the car door open even before Kyle stopped the engine. He was still marveling at the fact that Kyle's ring managed to completely replicate an old Caddie convertible right down to a working engine.
"So you just read the plans once, and now you just think about them?" Jack asked. Kyle nodded in confirmation as he put up the car top.
"Yeah of course I had to read up on engines before it would work right I mean, it would still move if I wanted it too. It could fly if I wanted it to. But there's just something comforting about hearing the engine roar when you're driving a car." Kyle said with a grin.
"You sound like a teenager after getting his first car." Jack said, returning the grin as he reached into the back seat and grabbed what looked like a leather golf bag. It was actually a special case his father built for him to house his cosmic rod.
"Well, I never got to have a car when I was a teenager, so I'm just making up for it now." Kyle replied as they both turned toward the doors leading into the Marina Diner. Kyle eyed the bulky case as Jack shouldered it. "Do you really need to bring that in with you? It should be fine in the car."
"I keep carrying it around with me all the time now." Jack said. "Never know when something is going to happen. I might need it."
"Oh, come on," Kyle said. "You told me yourself that Opal is pretty dull except for the occasional bank robbery and the even more occasional super villain. What are the odds that one of them would pick today to make a debut here?"
Norman Wrigg grinned to himself as he finished packing up the last of his tools, thinking of how he had gotten to this day. He was an ordinary man with an unremarkable past. He'd been a straight B student through his school career. He'd gone into electrician school upon graduation, having long had a knack for things electronic. Still, Norman was cursed in that he wanted more. Oh, he wanted the money, power, and love of women that most young men wanted but he also wanted something more. Something that would make him stand out. He wanted to have superpowers.
In fact, Norman knew he had superpowers. He could feel that somewhere inside him, he had some kind of power to exploit. But he had no way to prove it. He'd read that many heroes who were born with a superpower didn't find them until they underwent some kind of stressful trauma. Of course that didn't do him much good. For all he knew, for every person who fell off a building and then discovered they could make themselves fly through sheer force of will, there were about ten who discovered that they could read minds just before their brains were splattered across the hot pavement, frying like meat on the grill.
"I hope you don't mind grease." Jack said as he sat down in the booth across from Kyle.
"Mind? You're kidding me." Kyle said in amazement. "I practically live off of the 99 cent fast food menu. Best thing to happen for the starving artist community since the invention of non-toxic crayons."
"Oh yeah I forget how many of us bohemians dropped dead in the 50's from wax food poisoning." Jack grinned as he looked around the diner. "Speaking of 50's, what do you think of this place?" Kyle glanced around the room and nodded approvingly. The place appeared to be an old 50's dinner in every detail; from the large bar with several metal spin-stools bolted to the floor in front of it to the Formica-topped tables in the green cushioned booths.
"It's giving me Happy Days flashbacks." Kyle replied. 'Of course your jacket and haircut aren't helping much, Fonzie."
"No no . heeeeeeeeeey, with a long 'a' sound."
"No, I mean what is wrong with the 50's look?" Jack said indignantly.
"Nothing." Kyle said. "I was making a joke. Or are Power Rangers not allowed to talk?" Kyle asked, referring to Jack's insulting his own fashion sense about a month ago at Hal Jordan's funeral.
Jack simmered a bit and then smiled. "See, this is why I like you Kyle. Well, part of it. Most other people would just tell me to piss off if I insulted them as a joke. But you give back as good as you get."
Kyle nodded. "Well, I'd like to think there's a lot more to us being able to hang out than my being good at snappy banter."
A waitress walked up. The two men both ordered cheeseburgers and fries with a soda. Once the waitress was gone, the two continue to talk about their work.
"Anyway, yes there is more to it than that it's that we're both smart, witty guys. I like my friends to have that much in common with me."
"Well, that's not all we have in common." Kyle replied as he sipped his soda. "We're both artists or practicing artists. You do anything new, by the way?"
"Nope still not inspired." Jack sighed as Kyle nodded sympathetically.
"I hate it when that happens. Anyway, it's not just our wit. I mean, we're both the last in a long legacy of heroes. We both use weapons that are powered by otherworldly means "
"I'm sure my dad would love to hear you describe his life's work as otherworldly."
"Well, not everyone is walking around with a starlight-powered stick."
"Not yet." Jack said with a smug grin. "He's working on it though. Starlight powered cars and all that."
"Cool. Maybe I'll be able to get a real flying convertible in time for my mid-life crisis."
That's what his girlfriend Roxanne had called it when he told her what he had in mind: a mid-life crisis. "Ex-girlfriend," Norman thought to himself bitterly as he checked the wires on the suit one more time. She'd left him shortly after he'd told her about the plan, which he came up with shortly after he'd found out about The Complex.
He'd been having more than a couple drinks at a local bar when somehow, he wound up talking to a man about his life long dream of having superpowers and just knowing he had them. Well, the man had some connections to other connections and those connections could get Norman tested by The Complex.
The Complex, he found out, were a group that had been secretly researching genetics for years but hadn't really made any major advances until the dropping of the Dominator Gene Bomb proved the existence of the metagene. After that, various organizations began to discretely offer various services to those who wished to be tested for superhuman potential or those who wished to develop that potential: for the right price, of course.
It had been Norman's intent to use his life savings, the money he made selling his business and a loan he received after mortgaging his house, to pay for the test to prove that he was indeed a metahuman. Then, he'd develop whatever power it was that lay in waiting. Roxanne thought he was crazy and dumped him over the phone.
He didn't care though. Once he had power, he'd have women begging for his attention.
"So how are things with you and the Wonder Girl?" Jack asked, tossing a French fry into his mouth.
"Good as ever." Kyle replied between bites. "This is a good burger."
"That's why we came here best diner in town, just like I told you." Jack said as Kyle nodded in agreement. "So, what have you been up to?"
"Painting, job hunting, saving the world. You know, the usual." Kyle said with a shrug.
"The typical life of the post-modern twenty-something vigilante" Jack nodded.
"Still haven't found a shop?"
"Well, I've found one but there's some problems. Namely, the guy who owns it won't lease to me because of my "life-style choice"." Jack said with a sigh.
Kyle raised an eyebrow. "Umm Jack, is there something you're not telling me?"
Jack looked at Kyle. "Not that kinda lifestyle choice!" he said. "Me being a superhero."
Kyle oohed. "Well, I didn't think not that it would matter if you were "
Jack nodded. "You were just afraid I invited you down for a weekend so that we could become more than friends. Well, I'm not dating a new girl, in fact."
"I wasn't even afraid of that . So what's her name?"
"Nice name "
"Yeah I've got a picture of her from our first date. I can show it to you once we get to my apartment."
"Cool. Anyway, you were talking about the lifestyle choice "
"Right", Jack continued. "See, the insurance rates on superheroes with open identities is slightly steep in the same way that Barry White has a slightly deep voice. Add in the fact that my last shop got blown up and I'm what the industry calls quote, a high-risk candidate, unquote."
"Which means that unless you get some more cash, your shop is quote, screwed, unquote." Kyle nodded.
"Talking of superheroes and women," Jack changed the subject, "you don't happen to know Jade, do you?"
"You mean the first Green Lantern's daughter?"
"Well, I don't know her we've met once or twice, but I wouldn't say I know "
"Okay, okay " Jack waved a hand. "So you don't have her number handy?"
"No, but I can probably get a hold of Alan and ask him."
"If it comes to that, I can ask Alan through my dad." Jack hummed as he sipped his soda.
'Whatever. Why do you ask? I thought you were seeing someone "
"Ha ha . It has nothing to do with wanting a date. Though she is kinda cute in a Yvonne Craig as Marta kind of way."
"Okay, Dennis Miller you lost me." Kyle said.
"Sorry it was a Trekkie joke."
"The old one."
"The old one? It's the Original Series, you heretic!"
"Okay, the Original Series. Sorry, but I never got to see it as a kid and I've always had a low tolerance for William Shatner anyway "
"Fair enough anyway, Jade looks just like this one actress who was supposed to be a woman from Orion."
"Little too much backstory there, buddy" Kyle grinned. "So why are you asking then?"
"She called me a few months ago and asked me to do her a favor talking to you I just realized I never got around to calling her back."
"And I thought I was absent-minded about deadlines "
Jack snorted in defense. "Well, she never gave me a number to call back she just asked me to go looking for Solly in the sewer and make sure he was okay because she heard he was in Opal."
"Solomon Grundy big white skinned zombie guy?"
"You don't need to describe him Alan told me about him a few times stories of times past."
Jack nodded. "Right. Anyway, I found him but he's disappeared again."
"Why did she want you looking for him in the first place?"
"They're friends "
"Wow beauty and the beast. Guess it's true what they say about savage animals and beautiful women?"
"No, for some reason now he's docile gentle nice, even." Jack said. "Come to think of it, I should probably try to call Alan too. He knows more about Grundy than anyone maybe he could figure out why he was so violent before and now he's not "
"Couldn't hurt " Kyle nodded as he slurped the last of his soda. "But Alan would want to hear about it anyway how one of his oldest enemies has changed."
He couldn't be changed. That was what the doctors at The Complex had told him. It turned out he had been all too right about having some kind of amazing secret in his genes. The problem was that it did him no good. It turned out that Norman had what the doctors called "a cemented metagene". In plain terms, they told him that he had a metagene that granted him the power to prevent his genetic structure from being changed or altered in anyway. The scientists were all very excited about the discovery, since with this code it gave them a way to make sure that all of their work couldn't be undone by other genetic scientists working to disable hostile metahumans. But a fat lot of good it did Norman Wrigg, who wanted nothing more than to be special and then found that the way in which he was special meant he never could be special in the way he wanted. Wrigg was frustrated at first, it little mattering to him that The Complex was so pleased with the discovery of his cemented genes that they were willing to take care of him for life. Everything in his life that mattered was gone. His dreams, his business, his home and his relationship with Roxanne. All of them had been given the red light.
"Roxanne! You don't have to put on the red light!" the duo sang in exaggerated soprano voices, a parody of the singer on the radio in Kyle's car. The two continued to sing along with the song until it was over as the drove to Jack's apartment.
"I love that song " Kyle grinned.
"I never pictured you to be the Police type." Jack said. "I mean, with the Nirvana T-shirt and all."
"Well, that wasn't my favorite type of music back in the 80's. But my mom listened to it all the time when I was a kid and she took me with her to clean houses. I built up a taste. I love all the songs they did about a guy being hopelessly obsessed with a girl." Kyle said. "In fact, I think about Donna every time I hear "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic".
"Yeah. I wish Sting would go back to doing more romantic songs instead of all the message songs and folk ballad stuff he's been doing lately not that I don't like that stuff too but it's not a hard choice. 'Can't Stand Loosing You" vs. "The Munificent Seven." Jack replied
"Exactly." Kyle nodded as he slowed the car, approaching a red light. The radio piped up another song, Copacabana. The two young men groaned in unison as Jack reached for the station change button.
"I'll get it." Jack said. "I know all the good stations. What do you want? Hard rock? Alternative? Oldies, Light Jazz or modern jazz?"
"Whatever you want." Kyle said as he looked up at the light. "Nice to know we've got options "
There were other options, Norman had pointed out to him by one of the scientists. True, he didn't have the genes to acquire power but there were those who did just fine with devices. That was when Norman realized that with his electric knowledge he could build some kind of device or weapon something that would make it like he had the powers of a metahuman. He left The Complex shortly after, with a fat bank account under an assumed name. From there he began to research every costumed person who didn't have a power just a device. Eventually, he began to focus upon the Rouges Gallery of The Flash. He read about Heatwave, Captain Cold, The Trickster, Mirror Master and numerous other criminals who had nothing going for them but their brains and a weapon. Of course money was no concern for Norman now but he wanted the power that was denied him by the world and genetics. And that was when he hit upon the idea. Everything in his life that he every truly wanted had been denied: given the red light. So Norman decided to make that the motif of his devices. He would become The Red Light.
"This light's lasted for over a minute " Kyle grumbled.
"Weird", Jack said as he looked at the cars beginning to line up behind them. I know this light it's usually fast."
Of course Norman knew he wasn't quite ready to fight The Flash he was too fast for him. So Norman had gone to Opal City for the first test run of his equipment. Norman knew the only superhero there was the new Starman, and he thought it fair that an inexperienced superhero against an inexperienced villain. All of this Norman thought of as he put down his toolbox, his last final adjustments on the machine complete.
It was a simple idea and the technology already existed. All he had to do was boost the power and the range. With a bright smile, Norman moved to the bathroom to take a shower before changing into his costume. With his device activated, all that remained now was to wait for some attention and then make his demands.
"Three minutes something is wrong " Kyle said as he looked up at the light and then at the intersection. Four roads met at a cross and each of them had a red light.
"No kidding " Jack said, yelling a bit to be heard over the honk of horns behind them.
"I think I'd better get to the police station and talk to Clarence " Jack reached into the backseat and grabbed his bag, fumbling with a zipper on the side where he kept his goggles.
"Clarence?" Kyle asked.
"He's the special police liaison to me and any other superhero passing through Opal." Jack explained as he removed the goggles from his rod case and slipped them on over his eyes. He then began to remove the rod itself.
"Really?" Kyle said looking at Jack thoughtfully. "Maybe I should put in an appearance too," he said as he glanced at his ring.
Jack bit his lip for a moment. As much as he had once hated the idea of being a superhero, he had now come to revel in it. And like many heroes he was a little territorial about his city. Still, Kyle was his friend and the two got along well enough. Besides, there wasn't really a way he could say no without it seeming rude.
"Maybe " Jack sighed. "But I've got to admit I'm used to working alone "
Kyle nodded. "Me too, but having someone to watch your back can be handy sometimes. And I know how you feel. This is your city and you don't like anyone else squatting in your turf. I feel the same way about the Village sometimes "
Jack nodded. That made it a little easier.
"Okay but how we get there? I mean, we can't leave your car here blocking traffic, and it'll look a little weird for you to change into costume here. We can't get off the roads."
"Roads?" Kyle said with a grin. Instantly the car began to shift, the lowered top of the car rising up to cover them. The emerald mass shifted and reshaped itself somewhat, the interior staying much the same, except that Jack noticed a box came up behind the back seat that read "Flux Capacitor". He then looked out the window and examined the car. Sure enough, the Caddie had reshaped itself into a DeLorean. Grinning, Jack turned to Kyle and finished the movie phrase with him as the car began to lift off the ground.
"Where we're going we don't need roads."
By the time they got to the station, the green car had shifted again. This time it resembled Harrison Ford's police spinner from 'Blade Runner'. A fitting vehicle to land in, Kyle thought. The two landed on the police station roof, where Clarence O'Dare was waiting for them.
"How did you know we were coming up here?" Jack said, partly shocked.
"Got a few calls about two men in a flying green DeLorean." Clarence grinned a bit as he took the cigar from his mouth. "One of them said that one of the men looked like you, so I figured you'd be on your way up here sooner or later."
"With or without the car." Jack nodded as he looked to Kyle. "Clarence, this is Green Lantern."
Clarence nodded. "I guessed. You don't have a guy who calls himself The Red Light hassling you in New York, do you?"
Kyle shook his head. "No why?"
"That's the name of the fruitcake whose claiming responsibility for every traffic light in Opal City going red." Clarence sighed as he took another puff on his stogie.
"Tell me you're kidding." Jack said.
"Stars, I wouldn't joke about something like that."
"No, I mean tell me you're kidding about a guy calling himself The Red Light claiming responsibility for this." Jack said with a roll of his eyes.
Clarence shook his head. "That's what he said. He also said that unless the city pays him ten million dollars by sundown tomorrow, we'll experience massive gridlock forever."
Green Lantern raised a hand. "Umm excuse me. Is this really a big problem? I mean, I know that not having traffic lights is going to be a little inconvenient but if you shut off the power to the lights, that would stop whatever he is doing to change them."
"Yeah, but then we'd have to have a cop at every crossing directing traffic until the city got around to putting 4-way stop signs at ever intersection in town." Clarence said.
"Which would cost a lot more than ten million dollars, counting overtime for the cops, construction and however many people sue the city for injuries caused by there not being working traffic lights." Jack nodded. "I'm guessing that you did a trace on the guy's number?"
Clarence nodded. "Pay phone in Old Town. Near the Historical District
"We've got an idea. You know how the city just installed those special sensors in all the lights?"
"The ones that look for a tracking device built into fire engines?" asked Green Lantern.
Clarence nodded. "State of the art, city just spent a mint on them. Not enough people follow the traffic laws about moving to the right lane and stopping when they hear a siren. So someone invented this thing that you put in the light that looks for a signal emitted from a tracking device in each fire engine. When the engine comes with a certain distance, the light turns red in all directions so that the engine can be assured a clear path."
"So presumably someone took a tracker and boosted the range so that all the lights in town would pick up on the signal and switch." Jack said, as he looked at his rod. "This guy sounds like he's itching for a fight. I mean he probably knew we could trace the call, even if it was a pay phone between that and using a corny name, I think he wants to get found."
"How do you want to handle this?" Kyle said looking at Jack.
"I'll go check the pay phone. If this Red Light guy is looking for a fight and hanging around there, he'll be expecting me to come for him. I wouldn't want to disappoint the nut."
"I dunno got to be something the police can find for you to do probably who knows how many wrecks that the tow trucks can't get to " Jack said as his rod began to glow with a yellow light. "Just think of something."
Kyle nodded without a word as Jack flew off, watching for a second before turning to Clarence. "I just thought of something is there any way you can get me a map "
Jack landed next to the pay phone. He didn't have to wait long as a metal globe with a glass circle was thrown a few feet towards him just before he landed. Jumping backwards, Jack created a forcefield around himself as he watched the globe. Thankfully, it didn't explode. Nothing came out of the device but a flash of light. Red light, Jack guessed, unable to tell through the tint of his anti-flare goggles. But even though he could tell the color of the light, he didn't need to know who had throw the globe. Jack glanced toward the direction the device had to have been thrown from.
A costumed man stood in the entrance to an alley, a frown evident on his face. He wore a simple red mask around his eyes, the rest of his body covered by a black suit, with red polka dots.
"That's no fair you're not supposed to be wearing protection." The Red Light said. "You're supposed to be staggering around blind."
"Yeah. If I remember my high school health class lessons correctly, it's not wearing protection that will make you go blind. Or maybe that's something else. I don't see how it relates to us, except that judging by your outfit, you're blind." Jack said with a smart grin. "Well, that and one other thing "
"What's that?" said the Red Light, stopping in mid motion. He was reaching for a laser (red light, of course) pistol that hung by his side.
"Well you want to do this "Fist Full of Dollars" style, huh?" Jack said as he glanced to the man's hand. "That's the way you want it, we can do this like a calling out."
"Fine by me " the Red Light said. "Just tell me what's the other thing you noticed?"
Kyle flew above the city, a large, rolled-up map in his hands. He kept flying upwards until he reached a point where he could look down on a part of the city and see as much as possible, but still make out the various streets.
"I hope this works " he thought to himself as he a large green desk materialized in front of him. Taking the map, he unrolled it and pinned it to the desk. Once he was satisfied that the map was secure, Kyle Rayner looked at the map and began to run his eyes across it, his mind focusing upon each intersection that Clarence hadn't put an X on as his eyes met it.
"You aren't wearing protection either." Jack grinned as he flipped a switch on the rod. Bright yellow light flared forth from the tip of the cosmic rod. The merely masked Red Light screamed in shock as he closed his eyes and turned to avoid the blinding glare. Before he knew what hit him, Jack had run the distance between them and threw a kick into The Red Light's stomach, knocking the wind from him. Falling to the ground, he gasped as Jack placed a foot on his back, keeping The Red Light pinned as he took the man's laser.
"Nice toy. Captain Power, right? Used to have one when I was a kid." Jack said mockingly as he privately wondered to himself what one of those would cost now and what Kyle was doing now. "Now speaking of toys where's the one you're using to control the lights?
Brad Walker sighed to himself as he looked up at the light. The radio news had told the story about how some costumed criminal was responsible for all the lights being red. Luckily, that would be a good excuse for his boss as to why he had been late getting back from lunch. Unluckily, Brad had found himself stuck at one of the few major intersections that had not yet received an officer or fireman to redirect the traffic. He probably could have walked to work by now, but Brad was a stubborn man. Besides, the way his luck was running today the lights would start working shortly after he'd left, and tomorrow he'd find himself with a ticket for obstructing traffic. Brad had just turned his head to change the radio when he heard a barrage of honks behind him, looking up he saw why.
In front of the traffic light, a large green sphere hovered. The sphere glowed with a green light that was visible even in the brightness of early afternoon. As Brad blinked at the light, a voice on the radio cut in through the music.
"This just in. Opal City Police advice that anyone who is still caught in traffic who sees a green glowing sphere in front of a light, treat it as any other green light and keep moving forward. " said the announcer.
Smiling, Brad put the car into gear and began to pull forward. A second later, he was forced to slam the breaks on as the green sphere hovered to the right, moving to the other crossing street that it was okay to move. Brad sighed and banged his head against the steering wheel. The day wasn't getting any better.
"And so Starman saved the day and beat the Red Light," said the chipper blond anchorwoman, smiling in a pleased way at the pun she had just made. "But he was not the only superhero who deserves our thanks "
"Here it comes." Kyle said with a grin as he glanced at Jack. The two were sitting on a couch in Jack's apartment, watching the six o'clock news.
"Well, duh." Jack said as he rolled his eyes. "As if it were some other superhero" he grinned slyly as Kyle shot him a quick glare before turning back to the TV.
The anchorwoman continued. "Until the Red Light's gridlock device could be located and shut down, the new Green Lantern assisted Opal City Police in their efforts to control traffic by lending his own green light to those crossroads that didn't have an officer to control the traffic."
"New Green Lantern?" Kyle said with a raised eyebrow. "Been a while since someone called me that."
"I wouldn't worry they just stopped calling me the new Starman two weeks ago and to most of the folk in this town, Alan Scott is still Green Lantern." Jack said reassuringly. "I still can't believe that you did it, by the way."
"Neither can I. If Clarence hadn't gotten a hold of that city map and then helped me X out all the corners that didn't have someone redirecting the traffic gah, my head still aches a little "
"No, not the fact that you split your focus fifty ways at once. That I can believe. I cannot believe you would do something that utterly cheeseball."
"Well, what can I say? I can't believe that we went up against a guy who was going to ransom the city by causing a few hundred pile-ups. I can't believe that you managed to beat him just by making a flare and then knocking him down."
"Yeah " Jack nodded. "And I still can't believe that you did that."
"Well, it's a good thing I did since it took you three hours to find his device and disarm it." Kyle said, sounding somewhat defensive.
"That's how long it took for him to come to. He kind spaced out after I caught him, like I dunno, like he was dreaming. Once he woke up, he told us that the thing was in his apartment and where it was oh, and he also swore he would have his revenge blah blah blah insane ranting stuff."
do you always get these kind of guys in Opal?"
"No actually, I usually fight demons."
"No, seriously I haven't told you about Freak Town, yet?"
"No but this sounds like a really good story "
Thanks to everyone (too many to list) who encouraged me to fight my writer's block and keep trying to finish this story. Thanks also to everyone who managed not to laugh as I described the concept for The Red Light and did not try to have me committed for thinking of the strangest, oddest and saddest super-villain since the Ten Eyed Man.
All characters and scanned artwork are DC Comics
This story is © 2000 by Stars Morrison
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DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.
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