"In Brightest Day..."
Archive: Ask first, please.
Fandom: DC, modern comicverse. A month or two after the "Mageddon" storyline, preceding "Tower of Babel." See endnotes for more.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics, no infringement intended or money made by use.
Part the First.
"We need to decide what to do with it," Superman began, and predictably, the Batman said what no one else would.
"Perhaps we simply shouldn't. Jordan went insane with power. Rayner..." he paused for a moment to choose his words, "...came to live up to the responsibility, I'll admit, but he still acquired the ring by *accident* and he might have as easily been incapable of handling it. I'd just as soon see the thing destroyed or locked away than risk giving it into the hands of--"
"Of anyone? Do you really so cynical that you believe there isn't a soul on the planet capable of using it effectively?"
Batman whirled and glared. "And how would you judge that, Aquaman? What if we *did* choose someone? Even if we had J'onn read his mind--"
"Or hers," Wonder Woman murmured.
"--that's still not a guarantee. We're talking about handing over a weapon of mass destruction. Who would *you* trust with it? It runs off of willpower; how do you judge that?"
"You said yourself, Batman, Kyle lived up to the responsibility. He saved all our lives." The Flash spoke, defiant, regretting the time he'd spent bickering with the rookie Lantern instead of accepting him on his own strengths. "We *already* know any number of people who could handle it, proven heroes! Why not offer it to one of them?"
In the chair where he had been observing the debate, the Martian Manhunter went still.
"Or me! Me me me!!" Plastic Man grinned and wove his body into another impossible shape. "'cept I bet all that green would clash horribly...."
"There are also those who have held the power before," Wonder Woman added, ignoring Plas, "John Stewart and Jade. Perhaps one of them?"
"We should begin with the basics." J'onn didn't raise his voice to be heard; he didn't need to. "The Earth needs a Green Lantern. The League needs a Green Lantern. Are we agreed on this?"
Five nods and one frown, but not an active objection. Good enough. He'd already made up his mind, and the others could censure him later. "Then I think we should draw on all our resources, and consult the Oracle."
On an alien planet, one found humor where you could. And seeing the expression on Batman's face change so minutely, noticeable under the cowl if you were looking for it, that was worth savoring. It wasn't *funny,* precisely, but then again, how often did one outthink the World's Greatest Detective?
Almost imperceptibly the Dark Knight nodded, perhaps ashamed in light of his previous words; so the Martian Manhunter took the ring and fell, like a child's wishing star, to Gotham.
The letter they found later read:
"I died saving the universe like all good superheroes...."
If you're reading this -- I really don't have to finish that, do I?
I think I've done a good job as Green Lantern. I know some of you think I never earned this, but I learned fast and I think I've held my own.
The thing is, I'm not like the rest of you. Wonder Woman has a mission. Aquaman's protecting his kingdom. Flash loves the thrill of it. Batman's obsessed and won't ever give up. Superman...is just who he is, and that's *good.* And J'onn is the heart of the League. Me, I'm just a guy with a ring. I was lucky, amazingly lucky, to have been given that.
So if you're reading this...that's what I wanted you to know. How *blessed* I feel having been given this chance, this responsibility.
It's been an honor and a privilege.
You and me, dude. >>
The primordial warbringer had drained the power from his ring, leaving him to die in the vacuum of space. He would have, if Metron hadn't appeared in his Mobius Chair to save him. Without his ring, though, what good was he? Nothing but an out-of-work freelance artist. Unless.
<< This is easy, Rayner. It's just willpower. Your willpower against a monster bomb from the end of time.... >>
In the end, it had nothing to do with power batteries and energy charges. His *will* powered the ring, it always had, and he'd be damned if some Thing from Outer Space got the best of him!
<< I'm finally starting to feel like Green Lantern, too. >>
He found Superman, chained in the guts of the warbringer. If *he* could fall...anyone could. And there wasn't any more time. If Mageddon could be damaged, distracted, Superman could escape. Superman *had* to escape, to be hope for them all.
This thing was a weapon. So, in the end, was he. Kyle accessed the full power of the Oan power ring...focused through his willpower, through his mind.
<< He unleashed the power ring's full energy... his *mind* is gone.... Kyle is dead but he HURT it! >>
<< Fight it, Clark, Kyle just *died* to buy you a moment! >>
It was enough.
Her sensors alerted her to a presence in her sanctuary, analyzed it, recognized him as a friend. "Come in, J'onn."
"Barbara. Are you well?"
"I'm fine." Barbara Gordon, the Oracle, turned in her wheelchair to quirk an inquisitive eyebrow at him. "You usually don't drop by for social calls. What's up?"
"I came to give you something, if you want it." There was no point in dissembling. He approached, oddly quietly for such a large man, and held out his hand palm up.
In his hand was a ring, THE ring, unmistakable. She stared in shock, not processing it. Behind her, one of her monitors beeped; she glanced back, automatically relayed the information there to Black Canary, and closed the connection.
Barbara turned back to him. "J'onn, you can't be serious!"
"You can't just walk in here and...offer me...." she laughed suddenly, though there was no humor in it. "What *is* this? Another round of playing 'tempt the girl in the chair'?"
"You know, I hope, that I would never do any such thing." Speech was such a clumsy thing. He reached out delicately with his mind. ~ May I? I will not intrude. ~
There were very few who Barbara trusted fully, anymore. He was honored to be among them. "...all right."
He "said," less in words than in images and emotions, ~ When Neron and Prometheus offered to return you the use of your legs, you judged the price too high. And rightly. This, too, does not come without cost. But I can think of no one better suited to the responsibility. ~
He kept his word and did not trespass, but the jumble of her thoughts pushed at his shielding. Aloud, she said, "This isn't happening right. There should be a spaceship crash, or at the very least a desperate blue alien...." The cynicism was only defense, and they both knew it. "What did you guys do, put names in a hat?"
"...No." The discomfort of misleading his allies was too much for mindspeech. "There was some--discussion--as to the disposition of the ring."
She snorted. "I can imagine. Batman wanted to bury it, didn't he."
J'onn didn't need to answer that. "I made a preemptive decision."
"*You* did?! I--" her voice trailed off. When Barbara spoke again, it was without inflection. "Go away, J'onn, and let me think."
He leaned over and placed the emerald ring on the desk, next to her keyboard. Whichever one she reached for...
"Whatever you decide, you will always be a valued member of the League."
She didn't reply, staring down at the ring.
Hours passed until dusk, when the residents of Gotham saw a green streak go across their sky. Since it was neither a Batsignal nor a weather balloon painted with a psychotic clown's face, they quickly forgot it.
Invisibly, outside the Clocktower, the Manhunter smiled.
The ring had agreed with him.
Not in words, of course; the Oan power rings rings were only sentient to a point. They knew enough to judge if their bearer was worthy by some otherwise-immeasurable standard, and little else.
But had it not agreed, Barbara Gordon would never have been able to use it, and that was proof enough. Not that he'd had any doubts, not after the September case and her agonizing choice--or necessary lack of one--then. Not after she faced down both Prometheus and the devil Neron and refused their offers to heal her paralysis, not after all the other crises she had confronted with the League and come through so brilliantly. And before that, how she had remade herself into Oracle into the first place, refusing to let her injury stop her from fighting in whatever way she still could.
This was, he thought as he flew from Gotham, not even as much as he might have wished, for her sake. With the ring Barbara could fly; but she still could not *walk.* She would have to give up the relative safety and anonymity of her Oracle's mask for the constant demands of the JLA. As they had been so-painfully reminded by Kyle's death, all of their power was no guarantee that they could meet those demands without sacrifice.
He could only hope she would find the rewards worth all of that.
A wishing ring, to make dreams come true.
It wasn't much of a decision, not really. Perhaps it had almost been inevitable that her hand, seemingly of its own accord, would eventually reach out to pick up the ring glinting greenly on her desk.
What was this, that it should be offered to her? A reward for a job well done. Late-come compensation for the loss of her mobility. Simple need of a body to direct this ring's, this weapon's power. Jonn's pity--or more likely, his impenetrable alien compassion. Fate, or destiny, or karma.
It settled easily on her finger. She looked at it a moment more, calmly appraising, nearly detached; then reached out with her mind, and *pushed.*
She rose out of the chair, suspended in an aura of green.
It was both simpler and more difficult than she'd thought, and she knew why. Simpler, because--well. It had taken no little willpower to survive what the Joker had done, to *keep* living, to become Oracle, to make herself indispensable despite her broken body. Pride might be a deadly sin, but it also kept her going.
More difficult, because the ring had been drained by Kyle's last, overwhelming act of will. She glanced around and saw the battery J'onn had left by the door. She knew how this worked. Another mental *flex* and the battery lifted, floating toward her. Barbara held out her hand and touched the ring to its smooth surface.
"In brightest day," she whispered, then stopped, because she wasn't Green Lantern, not yet. At the moment she was only a woman with a magic ring.
It wasn't, of course, magic. But since her will focused through it would make things happen, it was near enough to make little difference.
It wasn't magic, because had it BEEN magic, it might-- she might have been able to--
But as the saying went, who needed to walk when you could fly?
The window was open. She went through it, heedless of gravity and pushing fast, the ground a blur beneath her. She was far past Gotham before she thought to cloak herself from radar and simple sight. She wasn't ready for the world to see her.
She was barely ready, she understood, to see *herself* like this. It was too much to encompass all at once: the potential of it, the power, the responsibility. Kyle hadn't realized all that it meant when he was given this ring. She had a considerably better idea through her knowledge of what the Green Lanterns, all of them, had accomplished. And knowledge was her strength.
Some part of her was wryly amused that she was dealing so analytically with the whole situation, but then, that had become her primary mode. Her best way of coping. So in the week that followed she pulled up every casefile, every mention of the Green Lanterns of Earth. She scoured her sources for information about Oa, Sinestro, the original power battery, the Green Lantern Corps members of a hundred worlds. It all came down to this, right here, right now: a single ring, the legacy humbling in its immensity.
Barbara regretted that she hadn't been more forbearing of Kyle's awe in the face of all that history's weight. And thinking that, she made one more journey out of Gotham, this time taking care to cloak herself from the start. Likely the Batman already knew; very little happened in his city remained unknown to him for long. But if he did he was leaving her to adjust to this in her own time, and she was grateful for that.
She visited Kyle's gravestone, deep in the night. He had been buried as his mother wished, near his family's home in California. In front of that pitiless stone with its immutable dates, Barbara remembered the talk around the hero community when Kyle had gained the ring. There was some discussion of taking it from him, by force if necessary, simply because he was an unknown quality with the most powerful weapon in the galaxy on his finger. Unsurprisingly, Superman had argued against that. Surprisingly, so had Alan Scott, even as conservative as he was. In time Kyle had proven himself, and had even been invited into the reformed JLA.
As Barbara Gordon, she'd never met him. As Oracle, she remembered a handful of nights when he was on late monitor duty, and they had amused each other playing online games or talking idly about nothing in particular. She'd known about the murder of his girlfriend Alex, about his stop-start career as an artist, about his friendship with Connor Hawke, about his relationships with Donna Troy and Jenni-Lynn Hayden-Scott, about--
She'd known about more than she realized, and far less than she should have. Hindsight being what it was.
All she could do now is make sure he wasn't forgotten; and the best way to do that was to live up to the legacy he'd upheld and the responsibilities of the power. She wasn't Green Lantern, not yet. Not until seven other people agreed that she was.
So very quietly she researched, and practiced, and waited until she was ready for them to know.
J'onn spoke before they could react, or perhaps attack. "Welcome, Green Lantern."
The others stared, first at her, then at J'onn as his words penetrated. All except the Batman, standing silently on the other side of the room.
"Gr--" her voice caught. Dammit. "Green Lantern, reporting for duty."
"J'onn." Superman's voice rang through the chamber. "Would you care to explain, please."
The Martian Manhunter sat in his accustomed spot at the central table, hands calmly folded before him. "We agreed that the League needed Green Lantern. Both I and the ring itself" --he emphasized those last words slightly-- "knew that this lady was the best suited for the job."
Superman just stared at him. Wonder Woman stared at *her,* appraising. The Flash looked--upset, perhaps angry that Kyle had been replaced so "easily." Plastic Man pursed his lips and whistled soundlessly, looking between Superman and J'onn. Batman said nothing. And Aquaman had started to shout.
"Who *is* this? How dare you make this decision without consulting us!"
Superman stepped in to mediate. "I agree with Arthur; you should have asked us, J'onn."
"I realize that." He would have said more, but Barbara was tired of being discussed in the third person. She drifted down to "stand" a half-inch above the floor and walked forward by manipulating the green aura around her.
"I'll answer for myself, if you don't mind." She looked at Aquaman and let the mask dissolve from her face. She heard Wally West gasp in recognition, but that could wait a moment. "You all entrusted me with your secrets, so I think it's only fair that I trust you with mine."
"My name is Barbara Gordon. Once upon a time I was Batgirl." Heads turned at that to glance at Batman, standing stoically on the other side of the table, but she went on. "Then a grinning green-haired son of a bitch took a gun and blew a hole in my spine, and that was the end of that." She took a deep breath. "I should have died then, but I didn't, and after awhile I was tired of being useless so I learned how to manipulate computer systems, and with those I could do just about anything. Except walk, of course. But all the secrets are there if you know how to find them, and it was an easy next step to becoming the Oracle--" another startled round of expressions circled the room--"and as the Oracle I am already a member of this League." She caught Aquaman's eye and held it. "And if I now choose to exchange one chair for another, are you going to say no?"
He stared at her unblinking, and then said very calmly, "Objection withdrawn," and sat.
Before anyone else could speak the Flash had zipped over and kissed her on the cheek. "God, Barbara, this is amazing." He was smiling from ear to ear. "Does Robbie know yet?"
She laughed. "No. Let me tell him, okay, Wally?"
"Yeah, 'course." He hugged her impulsively. "This is--I'm just so thrilled. I can't think of anyone I'd rather see wearing that ring."
"Down, boy." But his enthusiasm was infectious, and she took a moment to hug him back, grateful for his friendly presence. She'd known him since the early Titans days, through Dick, and she'd always liked him. Over his shoulder she mouthed "Thank you," at J'onn, and caught the answering twinkle in his eye.
Wally stepped aside as Superman and Wonder Woman approached.
"Barbara, I hope you don't take what I said before as any kind of indication you couldn't do the job...J'onn should have asked us, that's all. But I agree with his choice." Superman smiled, and she returned it.
"I understand. I hope I can live up to his trust."
He nodded, blue eyes clear and honest. "I don't have any doubt of that."
As she blushed he moved aside and Wonder Woman took his place, gently grasping her arm in greeting like one of her Amazon sisters. "Welcome, Barbara."
"Call me Diana, please. I'm pleased to meet you at last. Your work as Oracle has been indispensable to the League."
Barbara nodded. "You know, I've been thinking that the JLA still needs an Oracle. I've got someone in mind--"
"I could do it!" Plastic Man turned himself into an old-style fortune-telling machine, complete with red crystal ball. "Just a penny for strategic advice. Batsy! You first!"
She started to laugh at the sheer irreverence of it, and he grinned and transformed himself back into his usual form.
"Seriously. Very cool. The JLA needed a sexy redhead, 'cause West just wasn't cutting it." Before he could say anything else, a shadow fell over them both. Plas stretched out a foot and slid about fifteen feet out of the way.
How odd, he seemed...diffident, as if he didn't quite know what to say to her. "I'll...miss your help as Oracle."
That wasn't easy for him to admit, she knew. "I'll still do what I can. I'd like to arrange a replacement." But there was something else here, something bothering him.
Batman nodded slightly. "About Gotham--"
"Gotham is *yours,* I get it, you needn't worry about the new hero in town disrupting your authority." She'd be angrier if she didn't know what that was to him, but still....
"I.... I think you'll do a fine job." Which was about as much as she could expect, and perhaps more.
"There's just one thing," Wally said.
She glanced over at him. "What's that?"
"The oath," he said solemnly, "you're not a GL until you say it properly."
"Oh. Well...all due respect to my immediate predecessors, I prefer the original." She cleared her throat a little self-consciously and said,
"And I will shine my light over dark evil,
Wally grinned. "Alan will be thrilled."
Superman called the meeting to order, and she took her seat with the others -- *her* seat, the one with the lantern on it that rested in a tower on the Moon and not a wheelchair in a tower in a city ruined by chaos.
Welcome to the Justice League, Green Lantern, she thought; and smiled.
Notes and Disclaimers:
The original idea of Barbara Gordon, Green Lantern is NOT mine.
It first appeared in the "Created Equal" prestige mini--unfortunately, not one of DC's best efforts. (*Infinitely* preferable to the recent atrocious "Act of God," however. *Shudder.* But I digress.) Basically, in "CE" all the men on Earth died, leaving the women to run things. Whee. And there was a Green Lantern ring just lying around, waiting to be picked up....
I turned the page and stared, absolutely stunned. You can see the illustration that did it below.
The idea wouldn't let me go. Mini-series aside, how could this happen in canon? How would everyone react? How would *Barbara* react? And--damn, wouldn't she make an amazing GL? The woman *defines* willpower.
Thanks to Dannell, Carmen, Falstaff, and Matt Nute, who all provided encouragement and advice. Apologies to Kyle Rayner--I tried to save you, but it turned out you were too dedicated to quit. I'll make it up to ya sometime.
This story is far from over.
Addendum: I got the first oath in there, but not the second -- indulge me. ;)
In brightest day