Sinestro and Salaak rose along with the Rannian delegation as the Galactic Council made their way back into the chambers. The group sat in deliberation for hours and, apart from the occasional raised voice, gave no indication of which way their decision might fall.
“After careful consideration, the Galactic Security Council is ready to make a ruling,” Ronan announced to the parties. “Senior Lantern Thaal Sinestro, in light of the recording we have no choice but to reprimand you for conduct unbecoming. You are hereby banned from personally overseeing any Green Lantern peacekeeping operations in Space Sector 3120 for a period of two Rannian years.”
Sinestro began to comment on wether the Council had the authority before a gentle touch from Salaak silenced him. He could almost read his fellow Lantern’s thoughts: A mere slap on the wrist, the Corps will continue to uphold order in that sector even without your involvement.
“Now, as to the actions of the New Men of Rann.”
The premier wiped sweat from his forehead as he awaited what was in store for his planet.
“Based on the unredacted report given to us, we find that you are indeed guilty of experimenting with outlawed Negative Zone technology. Your punishment will be in the form of trade sanctions on the planet Rann and economic embargoes for a period lasting a Galactic year.”
Sinestro narrowed his eyes. It was surely bad news for Rann’s economy… but was that it? No mention of Jessica Cruz, of the attack and potential murder of an active Lantern. The Negative Zone tampering was the bigger crime, but still… no justice for the Corps?
“Furthermore, the Council hereby orders that all Negative Zone research and technology be turned over to us for proper disposal. A bi-partisan group of observers will investigate the planet and oversee Starforce as it handles the technology--”
“Starforce?” Sinestro and the Rannian premier, along with the Skrull delegate, all yelled at once
“I’ll be godsdamned if I let a bunch of Kree get their paws on Negative Zone tech,” hissed the Skrull. “Things tend to go missing when you lot start handling weapons.”
“WIth all due respect,” said Salaak. “This is one of the matters the Corps was made for. Interstellar disputes like this we act as a neutral third party. We should--”
“Yes,” Ronan said tightly. “I am aware of the Green Lantern Corps’ responsibilities…” He cast an eye towards Sinestro. “Apparently better than some of its more senior Lanterns. With the matter of the missing Lantern, this subject has proven to be one the Green Lanterns are too emotionally invested in to act without bias.”
“Oh, so now you mention Lantern Cruz,” said Sinestro. “As justification to whittle more power away from us.”
“The Senior Lantern will watch his tone,” the Shi’ar representative said.
“No,” said Sinestro. “The Council will watch their
tone. You all sit in your conference rooms and talk, talk, talk, talk. You chatter nonstop of politics and treaties. Without the Green Lantern Corps, you’re all nothing but bloated bags of gas--”
“Lantern Sinestro,” said the Thanagarian. “You will at once cease--”
“Your power, your safety, your entire existence rests upon the Corps. You are allowed your cushy lives because we are out there in the void, keeping the monsters at bay. When the Annihilus Wave swept through the galaxy, who heeded the call? Was it the Kree? Was it the Skrulls? How about the New Men?”
Sinsestro laughed and jerked a thumb at the symbol on his chest.
“Silence” shouted Ronan. He stood and leveled his gavel at the Lantern.
“Sinestro,” said Salaak. He placed a hand on Sinestro’s shoulder. “Calm yourself.”
“No,” Sinestro said as he shook off Salaak’s touch. “We were the ones who pushed Annihilus back into the Negative Zone.”
“Ronan to Staforce,” the Accuser said into the comm in his ear. “Place Lantern Sinestro under arrest for contempt.”
Sinestro continued. “You are right I have contempt, Accuser. When the Black Order began to wipe out the outlands of the Norma Spiral Arm, who stopped them? It wasn’t Ronan the Accuser, and it wasn’t Starforce. It was Thaal Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps. Time and time and time again we save an ungrateful and uncaring populace.”
He sneered at the group of politicians who sat on the dais above him.
“Three thousand Lanterns throughout the entirety of the galaxy. All of them at my disposal, ready to follow my orders. If we can contain the likes of Annihilus and Thanos, what chance do you stand?”
A half dozen Starforce members rushed into the chamber with their weapons at the ready. Ronan now gripped his cosmi-rod and it hummed with energy. Sinestro surveyed the Starforce officers around him with a neutral look before he glanced back up at the dais.
“You all serve at my
pleasure, never forget that.”
He thrust his ring out and disappeared from the room in a flash of green light.
Cromica C21Space Sector 2814
Hal surveyed the packed room from the back. Most of them were Cromica pioneers, the first people who made the planet their home long before any natural resources were found. A few mining executives mingled with the crowd in the meeting hall. He saw Quin Del’vin among them. A button with the Kree Empire’s jagged triangular symbol was pinned to the breast of his expensive tunic. It was pointless to try to hide his allegiance at this point. Now he wore it openly with pride.
Jelcs and his deputies worked the corners of the meeting hall and kept an eye on the crowd. They all carried blasters on their hips and a cudgel if a more hands-on version of crowd control was needed. Ergol and the other five members of the planet’s provisional government came in to applause. They each took seats at the little table as the room buzzed with conversation.
“The question has been called as to what to do with this planet’s future,” Ergol said over the noise of the crowd. “Do we remain independent, or do we take up the Kree Empire’s generous offer? As always, we will hear the thoughts of the citizens of Cromica. If you’d like to address the assembly, please form a line and we’ll take any comments you’d wish to make.”
Hal stood with his arms crossed and listened to the line of people step up and state their case for either independence or imperial annexation. Some argued that their was safety in the vast empire’s network. Others argued that the pioneers of this planet came here to break free of their old worlds and live their life in a quiet peace. Joining with the Kree would end that. Some preached that the Kree would bring a financial windfall with them. One old hermit claimed that blue skinned people were against his religion. That caused a very spirited response from a Volux who, while not a Kree, still had the same blue skin. Jelcs and his men were able to separate the pair and cooler heads prevailed as the meeting resumed.
“I'd like to ask someone who has a greater context of the galaxy,” Ergol said to the room. “Someone who might have witnessed the dangers of a truly independent star system. Lantern Jordan? Would you offer an opinion on the matter?”
Before Hal could speak Del’vin was on his feet.
“All due respect to the chairman, but I think it’s a little out of order for Lantern Jordan to comment. He is a neutral party in this matter.”
“Like a broke clock, Mr. Del’vin happens to be right this time,” said Hal. “I am here to keep the peace and enforce the laws. My opinion is… irrelevant.”
“We understand,” said another member of the government. “But you’ve become a trusted member of this community in your time here, Lantern Jordan. There are several of us who would like to hear your opinion.”
“And your protest will be duly noted, Mr. Del’vin,” said Ergol.
Members of the crowd murmured their approval. Jelcs was among those nodding. He flashed Hal a discreet thumbs up. Hal cleared his throat and walked towards the center of the room. Del’vin stared daggers at Hal as he rubbed the back of his neck.
“Well… I guess the big question is this: When you all came to this planet is this what you had in mind? I know you’re all here for different reasons. You may have come here looking for something -- be it god, or peace, or a lack of nosy neighbors -- or you may have come here because you were running from something. But whatever your reasons, I can bet the Kree didn’t factor in them. I’m a Lantern and I’ve never had the pleasure of patrolling Kree space, but I do know enough about them to know that if you go with them, this place will become a Kree colony. You’ll get all the good and every bit of the bad. They won’t kick you off the planet, but I’m sure you all know how Non-Kree are looked at in the Empire. Second-class citizenship is the price for that safety and security. Jelcs and his men will be replaced by new people, probably the same guys who work for Pax now. You’ll be off-limits to my jurisdiction. Just the Starforce goonsquad. And they only serve one thing: the Empire. Never the people.”
“Enough of this,” Del’vin said as he stood. “If he is going to talk, then I should get a chance. All races and species are treated equally in the Empire. Kree controlled government and law enforcement is just part of our system. And what would you rather have? One reckless Green Lantern who enforces laws on a whim, or a trained and capable agency like Starforce protecting your planet?”
Del’vin’s appeal was met with silence mixed with a few soft snickers. Hal crossed his arms and arched an eyebrow.
“It’s funny Mr. Del’vin mentions Starforce. I imagine he’s very familiar with their reputation since he’s part of them.”
Murmurs from the crowd as Del’Vin did his best attempt to look confused.
“I don’t even know what Lantern Jordan is implying. If he has some sort of proof, then maybe he should share it.”
“He’s not the only Starforce agent who has been running around here, though. He had a precursor. Korvus Melm.”
Hal projected a photo from his ring as the meeting broke out into more murmur and raised voices. It was the crime scene photo of Melm. Hal had cropped out the gory parts and instead focused on the tattoo on Melm’s hand.
“It’s odd, really. A Shi’ar with a tattoo on his hand that appears to be in Kree script. Not everyone is versed in the tongue so we may need a translation. Mr. Del’vin, you read Kree, right? What am I saying? Of course you do. Mind telling me what that says?”
“‘Service… Duty… Honor,’” Del'vin mumbled.
“The Starforce motto,” said Hal. “Something all Non-Kree members of Starforce have to carry around for the rest of their lives. Like a brand, a way for Kree to know that they are a-okay.”
Hal saw the look of confusion and sadness on Jelcs’ face. He felt bad. It seemed that his hero had feet of clay. It was like telling a kid that Santa Clause wasn’t real.
“Why did you kill Melm, Mr. Del’vin?”
The noise of the crowd vanished. All eyes were on the Kree as he looked around.
“I didn’t kill anyone, Lantern Jordan.”
“After he left the Navy, Melm joined a security company. Records are shady, but I was able to trace it all the way back to a parent company: Pax Inc. Which, among other things, is the parent company of Pax Mining. You and your whole company are just another arm of the Empire, Del’vin. Melm was still employed by your company until the day he died, and he shows up here just after the mining operations begin. Melm was sent here to keep an eye on things and lay the groundwork... but something went wrong and you had to step in. Did you kill Melm because he went native? He took the job as chief constable and was getting too cushy? Thought he could just quietly slip away and all would be forgotten? But it never works that way, right? You cannot leave Starforce alive, doubly so if you’re an outsider. All things must serve the Empire. Anything less is treason. Punishable by death.”
Hal saw Jelcs approaching Del’vin out the corner of his eye, one hand on his blaster. “Mr. Del’vin,” Jelcs said tightly. “I need you to come with me.”
“You put one hand on me, you will regret it,” Del’vin said softly.
Jelcs ignored Del’vin’s warning and reached out to put a hand on his shoulder. Del’vin snarled and flicked his wrist. Hal saw in slow motion as a hidden mechanism strapped to Del’vin’s forearm deposited a small blaster into his palm. He growled and aimed the blaster at Jelcs’ head as he pulled the trigger.
The crowd gasped and jumped back as the blaster fire erupted. Jelcs looked on in stunned silence at the blaster bolt. It hung in mid-air, just inches from his forehead and encased in green energy. Hal whipped his fist back and the blaster energy dispersed in the air overhead.
Jecls and the rest of his deputies surrounded Del’vin with their weapons out. The Kree dropped his small blaster to the ground and raised his hands in the air. Hal walked through the crowd towards the small encirclement.
“You take one swing at me, Jordan, and you will kick off an interstellar incident,” Del’vin spat. “You have no authority over Kree. You can’t touch me. Just try and you’ll see. You have no jurisdiction over me. I am protected, I am Starforce, I am--”
Jecsc cold-cocked Del’vin and dropped him to the floor.
“You are on my
planet,” said Jelcs. “And you are under arrest for attempted murder.”