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My father was a doorknob licker, his father was a doorknob licker, and I'm a doorknob licker. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
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Hey, now, can we get some likes for our Lord and Savior, the Dark Prince Satan?


None of your damn business.

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Cromica C21
Space Sector 2814

Hal settled in with a bottle of D’Bari bourbon and his reading material for the night. He propped his feet up on the jailhouse desk and cracked open the bottle. The prisoners in the cells were fast asleep. A few of them were snoring loudly, a few ripped off the occasional fart. Hal turned out the snoring and did his best to ignore the smell. He poured the whiskey into a tumbler and set the bottle on the desk. He took a sip and sighed with content when he felt the burn. He polished off half the glass before activating the HUD projection on his ring. Data scrolled past his eye. It was everything the GLC had on Korvus Melm, Cromica’s first chief constable.

Jelcs provided Hal with what he knew about his old boss earlier. So far Hal’s info was a match for what Jelcs knew. Melm served as a cop after a long career in the Shi’ar Imperial Navy. What Jecls didn’t know were the finer details. A lot of it was redacted, but Hal could see a pattern forming. Chief Petty Officer Korvus Melm serves with distinction for over thirty cycles and takes a job as a security consultant for a company known as Imperial Solutions. Innocuous sounding on paper, like all front companies were. Records with the company were as spotty as those of the Shi'ar Empire, but it showed Melm traveled around the galaxy doing work for Imperial. He was still employed by the company up until the day he died. He never officially quit before heading to the wilds of Cromica five years ago.

Five years, thought Hal. Just five years ago. Hal always assumed Melm was part of the so-called pioneer faction like Jelcs, people who were here before the dark matter discovery put the sleepy little system on the map. It looked as if he showed up just as the rest of the miners, conmen, and shady types came to town looking to make a quick buck. Something about that made the niggling feeling in the back of his mind stronger. There was something there. He just had to go deeper.

He scrolled on to the information about the night Melm died. Jelcs was the author of the incident report. It was concise, informative, and actually told a linear narrative. Jelcs mentioned something before about working in his home planet’s legal system. It seemed to Hal the clerical side of law enforcement came naturally to him. Hal checked the timestamp. Written just a few hours after the body's discovery. That made it even more impressive to sit down with it fresh in your minds and file an objective report about your boss’s murder.

Melm caught a blaster bolt to the back of the head in some gravel back alley. A drunk miner found his body in the middle of the night. Almost pissed all over it. It was a good thing he didn’t since the miner was a Crazathi. His hydrochloric based piss would have destroyed any potential evidence. Not that Jelcs recovered anything usable. He could write a good report, but the guy wasn't much of a detective. Hal examined the few pictures Jelcs took.

Shots of Melm’s body up close, close-up on the wound. His arms were splayed out like he hadn’t expected it. But with the gravel nobody could have snuck up on Melm. Not unless he were deaf. Hal swiped over to another shot of Melm’s outstretched arms. He saw a small tattoo on the skin between the thumb and forefinger. Hal zoomed in and saw what it was clearly.

“Son of a bitch,” he said softly.

He knew who killed Melm and he knew exactly why.

Space Sector Unassigned

“No mind games, no tricks. This is a simple message to you and the people of Rann. With one Lantern, we destroyed your entire fleet. With two Lanterns? Who knows what damage we could do. End transmission.”

The members of the Galactic Council stared down at the two Green Lanterns as the recorded transmission ended. The Thanagar representative was the first one to speak. She cleared her throat and raised an eyebrow.

“Senior Lantern Sinestro, do you deny this was you on the recording?”

Sinestro stood and made sure his yellow eyes did not veer from the representative's eyes as he spoke.

“No,” he said with his head held high. “That was me fulfilling my duty as an officer of the Green Lantern Corps.”

“With threats?” said the Skrull.

“A Lantern is missing,” replied Sinestro. “Has been missing for a very long time now. Her disappearance is related to the Rannian government. We have asked nicely, we have followed diplomatic protocol time and time again, only to be rebuffed.”

“We have released our report to the Council and your Corps,” said the Rannian premier.

“But is found lacking,” said Ronan. “It is heavily redacted and the missing Lantern is barely mentioned. Also missing, I might add, is what exactly your navy was doing above Bion that day.”

“That was a rogue military maneuver,” said the premier. “I would remind the Council of that, and I would also remind them that the report had to be redacted in the name of Rannian Security.”

“It’s more obfuscation,” cried Sinestro. “More games. Does the Council now see why I use threatening words? Sometimes that’s all these people understand.”

The premier stood on his feet and began to yell at Sinestro and Sinestro yelled back. The entire Council shouted enmasse and Ronan banged his gavel in a futile attempt to bring things to order. The din was cut short. The conference room fell under an eerie silence. Each person in the room had their mouth covered by a thick green film. All of them except one. Salaak quietly rose and came to the middle of the conference room.

“I apologize for my impertinence,” he said with a bow to the Council. “But I would like to ask the premier a question.”

He faced the Rannian. The Council continued to make muffle noises from behind their gags. Sinestro stayed quiet and watched.

“The Corps have reports that not only was the fleet above Bion that day sanctioned by you and the New Men, but that its purpose was not martial at all. They were on a scientific mission. Is that true?”

The film disappeared from the premier’s mouth.

“How dare you silence me, do you know what I could-- mmmppp!”

“Answer the question,” Salaak said as he made the gag appear back on his mouth.

“No!” yelled the premier when his mouth was free. “It was an unauthorized military invasion. Admiral Kaskor took it upon himself to try to expand our territory with his fleet.”

Salaak nodded. His dark eyes gave away nothing. He crossed all four of his arms and glanced towards the council before continuing on.

“But yet I had a chance to read a Corps report from our science teams," he said. "They came back to the area where the battle with Lantern Cruz occurred a few months later. Even a full Oan year removed from the incident, our team discovered high outputs of ionic energy, high outputs of quantum quarks, and a very dense blanket of hyper accelerated particles. Does any of this mean anything to you, premier?”

“No,” he said much too quickly to have even thought it over. “Why should it?”

But Sinestro saw that it meant something to members of the Council. They’d stopped their protests and watched on in silence. Salaak even removed their gags, but they had yet to notice they could now speak.

“Because,” said Salaak. “All those things I just mentioned? They are just three of the key ingredients to making a portal to the Negative Zone.”

“No!” screamed the premier. “We would never violate galactic law like that.”

“Prove it,” said Ronan. “Release the unredacted report.”

“In the name of Rannian security I cannot do that,” said the premier.

“Experimenting with any Negative Zone technology has been outlawed for a whole generation,” said Salaak. “And the consequences of breaking that law are very dire.”

“Three fifty-five,” said Sinestro. He looked at the Council before turning to look at the Rannian delegation. “That is a number the GLC will never forget. We lost three hundred and fifty-five Lanterns pushing the Annihilus Wave back into the Negative Zone. The single greatest loss of Lantern life in our history. And now thanks to the hubris of the New Men of Rann he could come back.”

More crosstalk between the group. This time, they listened as Ronan banged the gavel.

“Let us recess,” said Ronan. “The Council will discuss matters in private. Premier?”


“The full report will be released to us to read over in the recess, or you and the people of Rann will suffer the consequences. Am I being clear?”

He gulped. “Yes.”


The Council rose and went to deliberate. The Lanterns were left alone in the room with the Rannian delegation. Sinestro looked in their direction, softly shaking his head. The revelation explained a lot about what went down above Bion and why the Rannians had the stones to go after a Lantern in combat. The fallout of attacking a Lantern were far lesser than being caught with N-Zone tech. But it raised an even bigger question.

Where exactly was Jessica Cruz?

Unknown Planet
Unknown Sector

Jess felt good to be wearing pants and shoes. They weren’t in the best condition and their previous owner had probably died in them, but it was clothing all the same. Earlier her two saviors sped her out of the camp while other women in dune buggies raided the encampment. They crossed desert for what felt like hours before finally arriving at another encampment, this one actually showing signs of vegetation and water.

The two women kindly but firmly escorted her to a mess hall for food and water. For the first time since Oa she had hot food and cold water. They brought her clothes and boots to change into once she was done. The two women who rescued her deferred to an older woman as she came into the room. She carried no rank insignia, but Jess was pretty sure she was the leader of this place.

“Did they touch you?” she asked without preamble.

“No,” Jess said after swallowing the food in her mouth.

“I just worried,” said the woman. “I mean, you’re an alien and hideous, but they don’t have much in the way of standards.”

“Hideous?” Jess asked.

“I don't meant offend.”

The woman’s eyes fell on Jess’ ring hand. She thought she was going to say something about her swollen and red knuckles, but instead she reached out and traced her fingers along the dead power ring.

“I’ve seen this symbol before,” she said. “A long time ago. I don’t know where, though. But not this place.”

“And where is this place?” Jess asked. “And what’s going on?”

“We’re currently on the edges of the Great Desert. Everything past where you were? Endless desert. So endless those that go into it, either by choice or by force, are never seen again. We’re on the edges of the war here, but the fighting is just as fierce. Let me get a map...”

The woman ordered one of the other two women to get a map. Endless desert, thought Jess. Things that went in never came out. But she had, hadn't she?

“Our land is embroiled in war, has been since long before we were born. They say the entire world is, but who knows? We barely have contact with those that are on the other side of our realm. The war is multi-sided and messy, but it boils down to two main factions: The Oligarchs and those that serve them, and the Grand Republic. Or what’s left of it.”

“Who do you serve?”

The woman looked offended.

“The Republic, of course. Those cretains we rescued you from? They serve House Doolan, just one of the many oligarchs who horde resources and material for themselves.”

One of the women came back in with a rolled up piece of parchment. She unfurled it and laid it on the table in front of them. Jess looked down. She did a double take before she jumped out of her chair and put her hands on her head.

“No... no. No. No.”

The map on the table in front of her showed over a dozen different territories across a vast land. That was new. What wasn’t new was the shape of the land. She'd seen it time and time again all through school. It was a map of North America.

She was on Earth.

Just not her Earth.
I find this request funny. If only I could think of some onomatopoeic phrase to describe it...
Beat me to it. Well, son of a lich!

Unnamed Moon
Cromica System

Space Sector 2814

“Run! Run! It’s going to collapse!”

The ground and walls of the mine shook and vibrated violently. Rocks fell from above. The miners dropped their tools and started to run back up the shaft. The low gravity gave them longer strides and jumps, but their bulky space suits inside the tight space nullified that advantage. It was slow going back up for the pack of two dozen. They were all pressed together and going as fast as they could, but the vibrating increased and the rocks that began to fall were growing larger and jagged. One miner screamed as a chunk of ceiling smacked against his helmet. The blow cracked the visor in a large spider-web patter. The miners around him held their breath and waited for the glass to burst, but it held.

They were a half kilometer below the moon’s surface and it would take them far too long to get back up. Two dozen men all packed in together under this moon’s surface. This would be where they would die and be buried. The rumbling intensified and several of the miners bowed their heads and prayed to their gods for safe passage to whatever was waiting on the other side.

Green light poured in from the entrance and snaked through the shaft. Emerald support beams formed and took the weight of the collapsing ceiling and walls. The miners looked on in awe as the collapse stabilized.

"Stop gawking and start moving," one of the miners shouted.

The pack hurried out of the shaft and found Hal waiting for them at the mouth. His face was screwed up in concentration as tendrils of energy oozed from his power ring and down the mine.

“You load sixteen tons, what do you get?” He sang. “Another day older and deeper in debt.”

He broke the connection and the energy disappeared. The ground shook violently and the now empty mine collapsed. He looked at the miners and winked before he started to fly away, still singing.

“Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store.”

The two masked robbers hurried out the bank towards the waiting hovercraft. Someone somewhere was screaming Probably from inside the bank, one of the robbers thought. They’d been a little too rough with the clerk. But if he’d just listened and handed over the credits they wouldn’t had to beat him so bad. They’d gotten an okay score from the robbery, nearly ten thousand credits, but not what they’d hoped for. The miners must have come to town early and cashed their payslips.

They were almost to the hovercar when a shot rang out. They stopped in their tracks and spun around with their blasters aimed. Hal was there with a green shotgun in his hands.

“Fellas,” he said. “Gonna need you to drop those weapons and surrender nice and slowly. Sudden moves have been known to result in a sudden loss of life.”

Hal and Jelcs stood outside the jail and watched the construction crew work. They were working because the little two cell jail was now in dire need of expansion. The cells were packed to the brim with criminals yet to be processed. The provisional government was busy creating a criminal justice system with judges and lawyers, but that took time. At least Jelcs had more help. Three people came forward to volunteer as deputies not long after Hal started working and more were asking to be considered for auxiliary support. Hal remembered when he first arrived Jelcs couldn't pay someone to join him. How times changed.

Hall saw Del’vin walking down the street with his usual pack of gun thugs protecting his flanks. A thick bandage on his forehead covered the nasty wound Hal inflicted a few weeks earlier. He waved Del’vin’s way and saw the executive frown and keep walking as if he hadn’t seen Hal at all. The Kree’s foul mood disappeared when Ergol came into his view. Del’vin towered over the short little green-skinned man with the round belly. Del’vin seemed to be using every bit of his charm as he talked to the head of the provisional government.

“Ergol better not make any sudden turns,” said Jelcs. “Del’vin’s head is so far up his ass, a sudden move is apt to break his neck.”

Hal chuckled and shook his head. He had very little doubt as to what Del’vin was talking about. Two days earlier the Kree Empire officially offered the provisional government the choice of annexation into the empire. Pax Mining was a private company, but nobody could question where their loyalties lay. Kree who went abroad were expected to represent the Empire and further its goals. It made Hal wonder if someone like Del’vin would moonlight for Imperial Intelligence. Soft hands and a mouth that spewed bullshit. He seemed the government type. Ergol managed to pull himself away from Del’vin and make their way to them. The little alien held a plump hand out to Hal. Hal took it and was careful not to go too hard with the grip.

“Lantern Jordan," he squeaked. "I just want to thank you for what you’ve done here. It’s not perfect, but Cromica is getting back to that peaceful little planet it was before the mining companies came.”

“I’ve had help,” said Hal. “Jelcs has been doing a fine job. I know he’ll do a great job once I’m done here.”

“Speaking of, I want to invite you both to the meeting tomorrow night,” Ergol said with a smile. ”We’re going to have the vote. I don’t foresee things getting too heated, but… just in case.”

“Of course,” said Jelcs. “I’d be there even if there wasn’t going to be a problem.”

Ergol repeated his thanks and waddled off. Hal and Jelcs watched him go.

“Are you going to keep on with this chief constable thing after I’m gone?” Hal asked.

“I really don’t want to,” Jelcs sighed. “But I may not have a choice. If the Kree absorb us there’s no way in hell they’ll let a non-Kree like me enforce their laws.”

“But what if the system stays independent?” asked Hal.

“Until a better candidate comes along... sure. You know, a real lawman.”

“Don't sell yourself short,” said Hal. “Lawmen aren't born, they're made. You're a chunk of coal, Jelcs. Little polish and some pressure and I think we could turn you into a diamond.”

“I’m no Melm.”

“Yeah…,” said Hal. He looked down the street. Del’vin was back watching them from the front of Pax's office building. He felt something niggling at the back of his mind, something his subconscious was trying to tell him. What it was he wasn’t sure of just yet.

“About Melm…,” he said to Jelcs “Can you tell me all what all you know about him, and all you know about his murder?”

Space Sector Unassigned

Sinestro and Salaak flew towards the Kree homeworld with their escorts on both sides. Per their orders, the two Lanterns journeyed to the very edge of Kree space and waited for the rendezvous. Two battle cruisers jumped out of hyperspeed and instructed them to follow the ships all the way to Hala.

This was how it was any time a Lantern ventured into Kree space. Sinestro didn’t know the whole story. No one really did at this point. The Kree had originally been part of the original great galactic powers who signed the treaty bringing the Green Lantern Corps to life. But hundreds of years before they’d opted out of the agreement and cast the Corps from the Empire. An organization known as Starforce acted as the chief law enforcement agency within their borders.

The cruisers veered away from them as they approached Hala’s upper atmosphere. A pair of fighters escorted them down towards the surface. Their HUD’s pinged a scan. Some invisible eye in the sky had identified the and allowed them access to the planet. Hala had the distinction of being the only homeworld not invaded during the great war billions of years ago. It was a fortress back then and had only become more fortified as the years passed. They flew past massive planetary guns the size of skyscrapers. They were capable of destroying spaceships before they even came within hundreds of miles of Hala airspace.

The two Lanterns were directed to a landing platform where a small party greeted them. Six of the largest, monst intimidatingStarforce officers in their finest armor stood in a semi-circle behind their boss. The chief executive of the Kree Empire, second only to the Supreme Intelligence gave them curt nods.


“Welcome to Hala.”

Ronan the Accuser looked at the two Lanterns. Sinestro stared impassively at him with his arms crossed

“Thank you,” Salaak said with a slight bow. “Thank you for your welcome, Ronan, and thanks to the noble people of Kree for hosting this summit.”

Sinestro continued to stare. He finally nodded.

“Thank you.”

“Follow me please,” Ronan said curtly.

Ronan and the Starforce officers formed a neat little box around the two Lanterns as the group progressed down the halls. To Sinestro it felt more like they were prisoners being led to court than dignitaries given an escort. The notion of this being for their protection was a lie everyone decided to go along with. They were the two people on the planet who needed protection the least. The guards and Ronan were there to protect the planet from them.

They were led into the Accuser chambers. From the way it appeared they were the last ones to show. The premier of Rann and his small entourage were already gathered at one of the two tables facing the dais. The Galactic Security Council sat behind the dais and looked down at them. Representatives from the Skrull, Shi'ar, Thanagar, and Coulan governments were there. Ronan took his place as Kree representative and chairman of the council.

“We are gathered here on very unique circumstances,” said Ronan. “The New Men of Rann have made an accusation that the Green Lantern Corps have threatened and intimidated them, and the Green Lanterns claim that the Rannians are hiding details of an incident between their navy and a Lantern who is missing in action. We will hear evidence and make a resolution. Are both sides ready?”

“We are ready,” said the premier.


“Yes,” said Salaak. “We are prepared to begin.

“Let’s get started.”

Unknown Planet
Unknown Sector

Jessica’s hand was swollen and her finger may have been fractured from repeated blows, but she had to keep going. Hours of slamming into the bar had produced results. About half of the bar’s bottom base was gone. She stepped away when she heard the sound of footsteps. Jess leaned against the wall and slid down it. She tucked her right hand behind her back and remained silent as a guard came in with a plate of food. The man said nothing as he let a metal plate of slop fall to the floor.

She waited until he was out of sight. And then a few minutes more until she was sure the coast was clear. She stood up and started to examine the bar she’d been wailing on with her ring. She gingerly tugged on the bar and saw it would bend, ever so slightly. Jess pulled herself up by the bar and planted her feet on the wall between the windows and pulled. The bar let out a groan as it started to bend upwards. She bared her teeth and pulled harder, her arms and shoulders screaming in pain and begging her to stop. She’d bent it up further and further until it made just enough space for a hole.

She fell to the floor and wiped sweat from her brow. As tired as she was, she had to get up. It was only a matter of time before a guard came back and saw either the hole in the window, or the missing prisoner. She had to wriggle out that window and find some way to put distance between these people and herself.

“Let’s go Cruz,” she rasped. “Up and at ‘em. Once more unto the breach.”

Jess got to her feet and started to push herself through the hole. She grunted and groaned as her body squeezed against the metal bars. She popped out the other side and fell down into the sand. It was twilight now. Two suns had disappeared over the horizon and the third was preparing to follow soon after. She could use the cover of darkness to go… where exactly? At the moment she was surrounded by near identical adobe buildings. She had no idea which way to go and what lay out there. She just knew she couldn’t go back out into the desert. Not again.

The sound of shouting drew her attention. She then heard bursts of gunfire from somewhere distant but drawing closer. More gunfire, explosions following it. Jess started to run across the sand barefoot, but stopped when a vehicle roared around the corner. An armored dune-buggy with a machine gun mounted on the top of it. Both the gunner and driver wore helmets, goggles, and bandanas to cover their faces.

They skidded to a stop in front of Jess. She kept her hands up and tried to figure out how to fight her way out of this one. The gunner pulled down their bandana. The face that looked back at her was feminine. Hard and as sunburnt as Jess’ face, but still a woman.

“A... female,” she said surprised.

The driver pulled down their own bandanna. She too was a woman.

“She looks like a prisoner,” said the driver.

“She sure as hell doesn’t look like one of them,” said the gunner. She looked at Jess and slightly raised an eyebrow. “Come with us if you want to live.”

The Bowery
12:21 AM

Tork rode in the backseat of the unmarked car while Corrigan drove and Drake rode shotgun. Drake was on her phone and currently on hold with someone at City Hall. Like them, Peter Thatcher was a city employee. Not exactly like them, Tork thought grimly. The City Planner's office might as well have been on Mars it was so far away from what they did. City Hall and his coworkers would have all the details about his employment and projects.

“I thought the planner’s office would be closed this time of night,” said Tork.

“I have a contact,” Drake said over her shoulder. “They tend to move heaven and earth when I ask. You give someone some winning lottery numbers from time to time and they go the extra mile for you-- Yeah, I’m still here.”

They left the crime scene and split up. Sister Justine and Dr. Tarr headed back to the 13th to begin research into who or what Goodewitch Young was. While the consultants did the research, the cops were… well, Tork didn’t know exactly. They pulled up across the street from a pub and got out. Corrigan put a sign on the dash marking it as a cop car to ward off any antsy tow trucks.

“Before you ask,” Corrigan said to Tork. “I know a guy and we’re meeting him here.”

“Kavanaugh’s has a reputation among certain people,” said Drake. “It wasn’t always an Irish pub. It’s one of the oldest standing buildings in Gotham. Been around since the 17th century. It's been a public house three times, a post office once, a gentleman's club -- that's 19th century gentleman get your mind out of the gutter -- once, and a crime scene fifteen times.”

“That kind of history,” said Corrigan. “That kind of residual psychic imprint. It attracts those that feed on things like that. Ghouls and ghosts and other Sighted people.”

“The Right Folk,” Drake added. “That’s what they call themselves. Occultist and magic users. They’re little more than hucksters and gypsies, though.”

Corrigan raised an eyebrow at Tork. “But what better place to cultivate a snitch?”

They crossed the street and went into the pub. To Tork it looked like the typical dive bar, same bad lighting and same sad regulars at the bar. Tork did notice a group of strange looking people at a nearby table. They looked to be dressed like hipsters with waistcoats and tophats and petticoats. But he also noticed their clothing was frayed and dirty. They gave the trio of cops a long look and huddled closely together. Tork flashed a crooked grin. He was learning a lot of strange stuff tonight, but he found it comforting that even these so-called Right Folk knew cops when they saw them and gave them a wide berth.

Corrigan and Drake walked to the bar and Tork followed behind them. The two men tending bar were both elderly, bald men in matching shirts and jeans. As they got closer Tork noticed they were identical twins. One of them saw the cops out of the corner of his eye and turned to face them. He crossed his arms and spoke with a heavily Irish brogue.

“Evenin' officers. ‘I’m tall when I’m young, and I’m short when I’m old. What am I?’”

“A candle,” said Corrigan. “Is Craddick here?”

“Yes,” was the bartender’s reply. He turned his attention to Drake. “I shave every day, but my beard stays the same. What am I?”

“A barber,” she said. “Where is he?”

“The backroom.”

The man started to turn to Tork, but Corrigan cut him off.

“That’s all we need, thanks.”

“What was that?” Tork asked as they walked towards the back of the bar.

“That’s why you never ask a fae for anything,” said Drake. “We’re lucky the Kavanaugh Twins only barter in riddles. Some fairies trade exclusively in sacrifice.”

First witches and now fairies, thought Tork. Okay, whatever. He had to keep fighting it if he wanted to stay sane. It was all weird and completely out of his depth, but those glasses of Dr. Tarr’s proved that there was something. He was along for the ride, and thankfully his two guides seemed to know what they were doing. Or so he fucking hoped.

“So, what’s your thing?” Tork asked Corrigan.

“What’s that?”

“Your thing,” he repeated. “Drake here is obviously a psychic or something--”

“Clairvoyant-able,” said Drake. “I'm not reading palms and using a fake Jamaican accent. Please, sarge.”

“Right... she’s that. Sister Justine is some kind of exorcist, Dr. Tarr some kind of mad scientist. What’s your thing?”

“My thing?” Corrigan paused to look at Tork before shrugging. “I’m the normal one.”

They went through a door into a private drinking area. The space held tables and chair, but nobody else. Corrigan stepped forward and glanced around.

“Craddick,” he said. “We know you’re here. Come on out and talk to us. We’ve got a case and we can use your help.”

“Tell us all you know about local witches,” said Drake. “And maybe we can trade some information on certain cursed artifacts.”

Witches, you say?

Tork looked around for the owner of the voice. It reverberated around the round so it seemed there was no point of origin. It was deep and cultured, like a posh Englishman. Then it appeared in front of the three cops.

13th Precinct
1:02 AM

Sister Justine started down the stairs leading into the basement. The 13th was unlike every other precinct in almost every way, but the one way it was especially different was the library. Three long rows of shelving carried tomes and volumes of the written word. The musty smell of books greeted her as she walked through the rows to find what she was looking for.

Not long after joining the GCPD Sister Justine merged her own eclectic collection of books with Dr. Tarr’s. Corrigan had also amassed quite an interesting collection in his time so they stored them all down here for quick reference. Books on the occult, books on history, books on abnormal psychology, and even more abnormal practices of medicine. There was a booklet on how to o a lobotomy next to the Gospel of St. Damien, the only banned book of the Bible written by a devil-worshiper. And beside it was the book Sister Justine was looking for. The thick black binding had no words on it cover. The only labeling came on the spine. The words A Macabre History of Gothamby J. Peter Stowe were laid out in a harsh white text that was only amplified by the pitch black of the book’s cover.

She tucked the book under her arm and started back up the stairs. She passed by Dr. Tarr’s workstation. The doctor had three monitors on the surface of his table. One monitor showed grainy black and white footage of the wolf enclosure at the Gotham zoo, another monitor displayed footage of a colonoscopy in progress, and the third monitor played an episode of the sitcom Bosom Buddies at full blast. On the table before Tarr was an unfurled scroll of Latin text and a crude diagram of a person drawn beside the writing.

“The Romans apparently captured a witchcraft user in 55 BCE during Caesar’s campaign in Gaul" Tarr said as she walked by. "They tried to cut him open to see what gave him his magic… suffice to say they were unsuccessful.”

Sister Justine took a seat at her desk and cracked open the book. A Macabre History of Gotham had been printed fifty years earlier and immediately panned for being sensationalist garbage and soon fell out of print. For them the book was their Bible, the one book the taskforce relied on time and time again. That’s something the new sergeant would figure out soon enough. No doubt Corrigan and Drake were showing him all the sights of their underworld. But that was just one part of it. Their work involved as much reading as it did monster hunting. So much of what they did was tied to history.

She began to leaf through the book for anything involving witchcraft. She found the chapter on the East End Strangler, the curious case of Cyrus Gold’s murder, and…

“‘A Flight of Witchcraft: The Trial and Disappearance of Alice Young.’ Bingo.”

Unknown Planet
Unknown Sector

Jess paced the floors of her cell with her hands clasped behind her back. The small window provided a view of the harsh desert she’d traversed for so many untold days and nights. It was hard to keep track because night was so brief thanks to the planet’s three suns. She still had no idea where she was, but she knew it wasn’t friendly at all.

She’d come to after passing out and found weapons in her face. Rifles that were, surprisingly, still using gunpowder and bullets like they used back on Earth. Two soldiers and a commanding officer stared at her as she realized she was strapped to a metal chair. Her body armor and boots were gone and she'd been stripped to her skivvies. Her ring still remained, though. They would have to cut her finger off to remove that.

“Name, rank, serial number,” the CO demanded. “And what is your purpose on this planet?”

Jess found it odd that she could understand them perfectly. They were humanoid and pretty close to Earthlings, but with a few differences like a more prominent forehead ridge and bigger ears. But just because they looked similar didn’t mean they spoke the same language. She thought when her ring’s battery died the universal translator went with it. Maybe there was still enough of a charge to provide that?

“Jessica Cruz, Green Lantern, 2814.2. I crash landed on this planet and am seeking a way back to the planet Oa.”

She may as well have been speaking Greek from the way they looked at her. That took her back. Even in the most remote backwaters of space they still knew what the Corps was. With these low-level soldiers a Green Lantern may as well be the milkman. They kept asking the same questions over and over again. She waited for them to get violent and rough her up... or do something worse, but they never did. After what felt like hours of going back and forth and getting nowhere they moved her to this cell.

She went to the bars of the window and tugged on them. They were solid metal. Jess cursed and thought back to her training. Kilowog had taught them that their rings weren’t their true weapons. No, the rings were just a tool. It was their minds that were the true weapons. The rings were conduits for their creativity and willpower. Even if the ring was dead, they could still fight and survive. Jess leaned against the abode-like wall and sighed. With her left finger she traced along the engraved corps logo on her ring. Jess stopped and looked down at the ring. Nobody knew for sure, but the rings themselves were supposed to be made of some of the hardest metal in the known universe. Forged from ore that came to be around the time of the Big Bang. It was sure as hell more durable than the metal on the window’s bars. Jess made sure the coast was clear and went back to the window. She put her ring against the bars and pulled it back before punching the bar as hard as she could. She cursed and felt a shock of pain run up her arm. But nothing was broke and on the bar was a small indention of where her ring had smashed into it. Not much, but it was a start. She reeled back further this time and struck the bar as hard as she could.

Sector 0001

“Alright, poozers.”

Kilowog put his hands on his hips and looked at the half dozen Lantern cadets standing in front of him. Children, that was the best way to describe them all. The big Bolovax Vik towered over them, not a one of them would be a hundred chogats soaking wet. They all might as well have had signs on their forehead that blinked “KILL ME!” in bright neon.

“Anyone here know how you become a Green Lantern?”

A bald, pink-skinned Lantern with pointy ears raised a hand.

“Al-X, right?”

“Y-yes,” he said with a slight stutter. “When a Lantern falls in the line of duty… their ring departs the body and searches their home sector for a replacement, someone with immense willpower and the ability to overcome great fear…”

Kilowog crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow.

“Well? Is he right?”

After an awkward silence Kilowog finally spoke.

“Yes, he’s right. Or he used to be. Until recently, at the time of a Lantern’s death or retirement the ring initiates what we call a legacy protocol. And like my eager friend said here, it searches their home sector for a sentient lifeform who can be a suitable replacement. That’s changed. Or at least we are experimenting with the idea of change.”

He narrowed his eyes and continued. “As a concession to the Galactic council, the Corps has launched its first full-fledged cadet program and you six are the first class of that program. And I will be honest with you: I do not want you here.”

He saw looks of horror flash on all six of their faces. He resisted the urge to smile at their discomfort.

“Each and every one of you were political appointees. Plain and simple. You may have qualities that we look for in a Lantern, but the rings did not pick you. You are here to see if the Corps can be ‘modernized’ into an organization with ‘standards.’ Which means some bureaucrat somewhere doesn’t understand what it means to be a real Lantern.”

Kilowog spat at his feet and wiped the spittle from his mouth with the back of his hand.

“But you, on the other hand, will find out very quickly what it means to become a real Lantern. You will suffer, you will be injured, you will have aches and pain, but you will learn, you will get better. You are not wanted here and I do not think any one of you is fit to carry a real Lantern’s jockstrap. I hope each and every one of you prove me wrong.”

He flashed them a smile that had a lot of teeth, but very little warmth.

“Let’s get started.”

Cromica C21
Sector 2814

Screams and the sound of blaster fire filled the air. People ran out the cantina as a drunken miner stumbled out, blaster clamped in his pudgy fist and green blood covering his shirt. He fired off shots into the air before spinning around with the gun.

“The sonofabitch shouldn’t have kept cheating. He was a dirty fucking cheat and he got what he deserved.”

“Stay where you are,” a harsh voice announced.

Four men in navy blue jumpsuits surrounded the drunk miner. They leveled blasters at him. The weapons whined as they warmed up and prepared to fire. The miner may have been drunk, but he wasn’t stupid. He dropped his weapon and put his hands in the air in surrender.

“You’re coming with us,” one of the men said.

“He’s coming with me,” a voice said from behind them.

Hal stood there with his power ringer glowing energy. Jelcs was at his side with his own weapon at the ready.

“Hal Jordan, Lantern 2814.1 and you gentlemen are?”

“Pax Mining security,” said one of the men. “This man is one of our employees.”

“And he committed a crime on a planet under my jurisdiction.”

The four security guards, because that’s what Hal thought of them as, didn’t flinch. They were rent-a-cops with nerve. They seemed quickly forgot about the miner as Hal approached them. They trained their blasters on him and ordered him to stay where he was.

“Four to one,” said one of the guards. "You think that's a smart move?"

“They don’t hire Green Lanterns for their smarts,” said Hal. “And while I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed,” an emerald war hammer formed in his hands. “I can tell you a sledgehammer does a hell of a lot more damage than garden shears.”

“Gentlemen, stand down right now!”

A Kree man steeped between Hal and the Pax security goons. The guards slowly lowered the weapons at his command. Hal noticed his clothing -- the fashionable Kree tunic and pants made out of the finest materials the empire had at it disposal -- and reckoned they cost more than what your average miner made in a year. The man flashed Hal an apologetic smile and extended a blue hand to him.

“Quin Del’vin,” he said. “Executive Vice President, Pax Mining Conglomerate.”

“Pleasure,” Hal said without shaking his hand. “Now, Mr. Del’vin if you don’t mind I have an arrest to make.”

“Now hear me out, Lantern…”

“Jordan,” said Hal.

“Lantern Jordan.” He said with another attempt at a charming smile. “Our employee here has committed a very serious crime, but we are more than capable of handling it. With us being so far away from civilization Pax has taken the burden of enforcing the laws in this system. I think to help with continuity we should take our employee into custody.”

“There’s a new sheriff in town,” Hal said with just the hint of a smile. He’d always wanted to say that. “And civilization is following with him. Your security people can go back to protecting your mines and drilling platforms, Mr. Del’vin. I’ll take it from here.”

Del’vin’s cheerful persona evaporated. The face that was left was cold and stony. He was a man who wasn't used to hearing no. For quite a while he'd been the only authority in this star system. And now it seemed he wasn't a fan of changing that up.

“You might want to ask your friend over there what happened to the last sheriff,” Del’vin snarled, jutting a finger towards Jelcs. “Lawmen on this planet have a bad habit of turning up dead.”

“Was that a threat?” Hal asked.

“And if it was?" He stepped forward with a finger pointed in Hal's face. "Are you going to hide behind your ring and--”

Before Del’vin could finish his insult, Hal deactivated his power ring and swung for the Kree’s head with his right hand. He caught Del’vin flush in the forehead and dropped him to the ground like a sack of potatoes. The thugs raised their blasters as Hal activated his shield and lashed out. An emerald bullwhip cracked through the air and knocked the blasters from their hands in one smooth arc. Three of them cried in pain and stepped backwards. But the fourth started back towards his fallen weapon. Before he could reach it, the bullwhip cracked in the air and lashed him across the face.

“Leave it,” Hal roared, rearing back with the whip again. “Or I will whip all of you within an inch of your life.”

“You’ve made a huge mistake,” Del’vin said as he got to his feet. His fine clothes were now covered in dust and dirt. “The worst goddamn mistake of your life.”

“If I had a one credit for every time I heard that,” said Hal. “Well... I'd be able to afford to dress like you. Get out of here and put some ice on that head of yours, Mr. Del’vin. It looks pretty nasty.”

Hal could see it was already bruising and swelling. Del’vin would have the symbol of the Green Lantern Corps impressed there for a while. The Kree stared daggers at him for a long moment before he turned and walked away without another word. His men followed in his wake. They left their blasters on the ground just like Hal had commanded.

“Constable Jelcs,” said Hal. “Please place our prisoner in custody.”

Jelcs nodded and pulled out a set of cuffs. The miner seemed to have sobered up some watching the drama play out. He went willingly when Jelcs slipped the compression cuffs on his wrist.

“Del’vin is the most powerful man on this planet,” said Jelcs. “Do you think it was a good idea to piss him off like that?”

“Yes,” said Hal. “When people around here see the planet’s most powerful man walking around with a GLC sigil cut into his forehead, they’ll know who did that to him and how serious they are about taming this whole damn system.”

They started back to the jail with the prisoner. The people on the street were eyeballing them as they walked. They gave them a wide berth, but Hal noticed that just as many people were looking on approvingly as those who looked on with either fear or anger.

“I don’t know,” said Jelcs. “Del’vin doesn’t like people telling him what to do. Doesn’t think the law applies to him and his company.”

“The law applies to everyone,” said Hal. “I’ve found if you apply something with enough force, it tends to stick. Some people just need a little more force than others.”

Adolphus Wood Parkway
11:23 PM

“So how does a nun take a job with the Gotham PD?”

Tork glanced out the corner of his eye at Sister Justine. They rode in his squadcar while Corrigan and Dr. Tarr dove ahead of them in a white van leading their two-car convoy. He noticed she worried a well-worn rosary between her long, slender fingers.

“Detective Corrigan,” she said. “He recruited me along with Dr. Tarr.”

“And the Church is cool with you moonlighting with the GCPD?” asked Tork.

Justine paused for a long moment before they shrugged. “My relationship with the Church is… complicated. I haven’t been ex-communicated but I am… never particularly welcomed whenever I interact with their emissaries. The things I’ve done in my past are well within acceptable Church doctrine, but it’s not something they like to discuss. ”

Sister Justine looked over at Tork and stared at him solemnly.

“Are you a religious man, sergeant?”

Tork felt his face flush. He didn’t think she was doing it on purpose, but she had the capability of shaming and embarrassing him. It seemed to be something every sister possessed. “I used to be. But the things I’ve seen since becoming a cop have made that faith erode.”

“The work we do here will make restore your faith in God,” she said softly. “You’ll know He exists… and then you’ll wonder why He allows this world to continue.”

“Again,” Tork said with a sigh. “What kind of work does that to a person?”

“You’ll see,” she said. “If I describe it you’ll laugh me off. The only way to become a believer is to see firsthand.”

They followed Tarr’s van down an off-ramp. They were somewhere on the outskirts of the city. The small, cramped rowhouses of the East End were replaced by comfortably middle class homes.

“What about the L.T.?” asked Tork. “Is he a ‘believer’?”

“He’s a clockwatcher,” said Sister Justine. “Counting down the days left until he takes his twenty year retirement. Lieutenant Haskins is the boss, but you’ll find that Corrigan is the one who really runs the show.”

An unmarked police car with flashing lights sat parked outside a nice two story home. Tork was surprised something gruesome had happened out this way. They were still in the Gotham city limits, but just so. A few blocks away would be unincorporated Gotham County, where an entire generation of working professionals called home. Not the city that their parents and grandparents had been raised in. Good enough to work in and commute to, but not good enough for them to actually live in. Because of that this part of the city was without a doubt the most sleepy and peaceful section for the GCPD to police.

Their small convoy pulled up behind the unmarked. Tork and Sister Justine got out along with Corrigan. Dr. Tarr rooted through the back of the van for some sort of equipment. Waiting for them on the lawn was a dark haired woman in a pants suit. Tork saw the badge dangling around her neck.

“Sergeant Tork, this is Detective Lisa Drake,” said Corrigan. “The last member of merry little band.”

Tork shook Drake’s hand. He saw a curious look flash across her eyes as they temporarily glazed over.

“Club soda and dishwashing detergent will get that stain out…”

Tork furrowed his brow. “What stain?”

“Your coffee stain,” said Drake.

Her eyes focused again and an apologetic look flashed in them.

“Sorry, Sergeant Tork… just, umm... Yeah you’ll see.”

“Did someone reach out to your or did you hear it over the scanner?” Corrigan asked Drake.

“I heard on the radio a patrolman calling in for a potential psych eval on an eyeball wit. That peaked my interest, and it doubled down on the description of seeing someone walking through walls. Then I got here and convinced the uniforms to let us have a look before the coroner shows up--”

“This whole place is covered in orgone energy,” said a heavily accented voice from behind Tork.

He turned and saw Dr. Tarr, a tall and thin man with a receding hairline, thick goatee, and even thick glasses. In the good doctor’s hands was a battered metal toolbox.

“Do you not feel it, Sister Justine?”

Tork glanced over at the nun. There was a worried look on her face and she worked her rosary beads intently.

“Let’s go inside and see what’s going on,” Corrigan said. “Then we can talk about energy, orgone or otherwise.”

The inside of the house was decorated in what could only be called New Age Basic Bitch. Lots of mason jars, signs about home and wine. An unironic Live, Laugh, Love sign hung above a fireplace. In front of that sign, dangling from the ceiling fan, was a dead body. A thin, middle aged man hung from a necktie. He had all the signs of death by strangulation. Bulging eyes with a swollen tongue poking out the corner of the mouth.

Tork had seen his share of hangers, but it seemed like the rest of the group saw something he didn’t. Corrigan scrutinized the dead body while Sister Justine and Dr. Tarr carefully examined the floor beneath the dead man’s dangling feet.

“Who is he… was he?” Tork asked.

“Peter Thatcher,” Drake said as she walked towards the far wall. “Forty-five years old, employed as an architect. The wife was found on the floor right here at the wall, scratching at it and screaming her head off. Said she saw someone go through the wall just as Peter started to swing.”

“No chair,” said Tork. “Nothing for him to stand on or jump off of.”

“Well we know she was telling the truth,” said Corrigan. “We just need to--”

“Wait,’ Tork interrupted. “How do we know that?”

The four members of the squad exchanged looks with each other. Corrigan looked at Tarr and nodded. The doctor placed his toolbox down on the floor and popped it open.

“It appears that you are a man of science, Sergeant Tork,” he said as he rooted through the box. “Like me. Now our colleagues here, they have the gift of the Sight. But for you and I?”

Tarr pulled a pair of glasses from inside the toolbox. To Tork they looked identical to the own thick lenses the doctor wore on his face. The only difference was the greenish tint on the lenses.

“We must adapt.”

He handed them to Tork and raised an eyebrow.

“‘One of the four beasts saying 'Come and see,' and I saw,’” said Tarr.

Tork slipped the glasses on and immediately wished he hadn’t. The entire room had took on a ghostly green aura. He could see Thatcher’s dead body was covered in it, particularly around his hands and neck. At his feet a collection of the energy spiraled upwards in a slow pattern. There were bright green footprints that led to the far wall where Drake stood. On the wall was an outline of a door.

“What the fuck,” Tork said as he took the glasses off. “What is that?”

“It’s what we see, sarge,” said Corrigan. “Drake, Sister Justine, and I. All the time.”

Tork let the glasses fall to the ground. Tarr let out a gasp of concern, but it died in his throat when the glasses safely landed on the carpeted floor.

“Fuck this,” said Tork.

He stormed through the living room and found himself in the kitchen. Tork paced furiously across the hardwood surface. He didn’t notice a half empty coffee cup on the edge of the kitchen island until he ran into it. The cup fell to the floor and spattered his pants with coffee. Tork took a deep breath and laced his hands through his hair. Deep breaths were the key to keeping himself calm and steady. Big breath in… hold it…. Now big breath out.

“We’re not fucking with you,” Corrigan said as he came into the kitchen. “And we’re not crazy… well, we’re crazy, but not to the point that we’re making all this up.”

“So what is all that shit I saw out there?” Tork snapped. “If you’re not fucking crazy, and if you’re not pulling my chain, then what is it?”

“Magical energy,” Corrigan said with a straight face.

“Yeah, sure,” Tork laughed. “You like the Easter Bunny for this?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Corrigan. “This is more the work of an occultist, a powerful one by the looks of it.’

“Makes perfect sense,” said Tork.

He started to pace through the kitchen and shaking his head.

“What the fuck did I get into?”

“This is what we do, sarge,” said Corrigan. “Our unit. On paper, we’re listed as some backroom research squad. But the truth is much more complicated. Sometimes the supernatural forces of Gotham step out of line. That’s where we come in. You may not believe in it, sarge, but that doesn’t matter. It sure as hell exists.”

“James, Francis,” Sister Justine called from the living room. “We found an item of interest, please join us in the sitting room.”

“Just sit back and watch,” Corrigan said. “Watch us in action. If this gets too real or you can’t handle it well… you can always ask the lieutenant for a transfer.”

“Actually, I can’t,” said Tork. “But I’m sure you know that.”

“I looked into you,” Corrigan said as they walked back into the living room. “Anybody who joins my team, against their will or not, I make sure I can trust them before they come aboard. Come on.”

Drake, Tarr, and Sister Justine were gathered around… something on the floor. It was at the base of the wall where the door had been formed. Tork reached down to the floor and picked the pair of glasses Dr. Tarr had given him up. He slipped them on and let the greenish hue fill his vision again. Tis time Tork was ready for it. He and Corrigan joined the others at the wall.

“There’s something here written on the baseboard,” Tarr said. “Looks to be the work of our perp. We can’t make it out.”

“Looks like some kind of dead language,” said Corrigan.

“It’s Old English,” said Sister Justine. “The common tongue of witchcraft.”

“Shit,” said Drake. “An honest to God witch?”

Dr. Tarr pulled another device from his toolbox. To Tork it looked like a basic tablet, but he saw the blood red filter on the tablet’s camera lens. Tarr bent down and snapped a photo of the writing. A few seconds later the tablet chimed.

“The translation is as follows,” he said. “‘Wrath be to the house of Thatcher on this day and time. Be it so that the line ends on this day and time. A curse upon this house and all who shall dwell in it. So be it ordained in my master’s will and covenant, Goodewitch Young.’”

“Yep,” said Corrigan. “Not a dabbler or some asshole with a few pages of a spellbook… a proper incantation and curse. We got a real witch…”

“Club soda and dishwashing detergent,” Sister Justine said to Tork.

“What?” asked Tork.

“The stain, dear,” said the nun. She pointed a finger at below Tork's waist. The upper thighs of his pants were flecked with dried coffee stains. “Club soda and dishwashing detergent is best for coffee stains.”

Tork looked over at Drake. She simply shrugged.

“Tried to warn you.”

You ok my dude?

I just wanted you to know I appreciated the fuck out of that sheet.
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