Location Unknown, Space
Celestial bodies danced across the black canvass of space as if guided by a divine hand. Suns rose, set, and rose again on planets too numerous to count as their unsuspecting inhabitants went about their perfectly ordinary lives. All was at peace in the cosmos until its stillness was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a crimson scythe. It tore through the darkness with intent and left behind it a blood red streak that seemed to scar all that it came into contact with.
Aboard the crescent-shaped ship was J’onn J’onzz. The Martian was immersed in a deep sleep. He had long since stopped staring out with wonder at the stars as they went about their balletic journey through the dark. For J'onn there was no beauty in it anmoyre, only pain. It had been a hundred million years, more perhaps, since he had held his youngest daughter’s hand and pointed out the constellations to her, her absence was ever present. Not even sleep provided the Martian with respite from it.
On his way back to his ship, J’onn’s thoughts had turned to the boy on Jiden-V again. “There’s been enough death for one day,” he had said. At that moment with the Kymellian’s hoof resting on him, the Martian had felt the weight of their suffering. Though he was but a boy, J’vanna had seen and endured terrible things: things that ought to have compelled him to urge J’onn on, to bid him to make the Centaurians suffer a thousand times over, and yet he had done the opposite. It had puzzled J'onn. Perhaps if he had seen into the hearts of those J’onn had sent to their deaths, he would have understood that some wickedness could never be allowed to go unpunished.
The Martian had managed to exorcise the doubts from his mind by the time he'd reached his craft. It was the lone connection J’onn had left to his homeworld. A living, breathing bio-ship psionically connected to its pilot. No civilisation before or after had been able to replicate the psychic link his people had established between pilot and ship. Were they to have asked, J’onn would have explained that what they lacked was not ingenuity, but desperation. The Green Martians had pooled cutting-edge technology with ancient and wicked magic to will the bond into existence, running roughshod over their traditions to do so – but it had been for the most noble of causes.
An unexpected judder caused the sleeping J’onn J’onzz to wince. With the disruption there had come a stabbing pain in the Martian’s side. The tank he was floating in shook slightly but steadied once the pain subsided and the green liquid he was immersed in began to calm. Though his body was at rest the Martian’s mind was in turmoil.
He could see his home planet as clearly in his mind’s eyes as the day he had fled from it. The screams of his wife and children rang in his ears until his heart pounded so loudly that it could be heart from outside the tank. Every recollection was as painful as the first time. My’ria’h on that plain holding K’hym and T’ania against her whilst the White Martians approached. J’onn watched on helplessly while their whole world burned. Even now his throat grew hoarse remembering how he had screamed to them, and how his strong, beautiful, loving wife had confined him to their ship and bid it leave their world with her last action. He was out of orbit when he felt his children slip from this world into the next, followed by My’ria’h’s rage burning brighter than any star ever could. It too was extinguished by those monsters.
It was to this ship, propelled by My’ria’h’s love, that J’onn owed his life. Where millions of Green Martian crafts fleeing their world had been gunned down, J’onn’s survived. It would be millennia before he realised that his had been the only one. In his desperation to escape and return to his wife and children, J’onn damaged the ship's navigation system, and still bound to My'ria'h, the ship proved unable or unwilling to respond to his demands. Once rage subsided and grief set in, J’onn succumbed to his grief and entered a catatonic state. His unpiloted ship tore through space for millions of years before the Martian finally rose – and was forced once more to grieve for his lost loved ones.
Still the ship forced J'onn on an unwilling pilgrimage. Celestial bodies grew old and withered, passing from one life into the next, replaced by those with limbs less wizened by their eternal dance. Suns were born, died, and born again on planets whose inhabitants took their first mewling steps onto dry land and in a blink of an eye depleted those same planets of their resources. It was only when J’onn’s grief turned to rage that the Martian found meaning again. The Martian would wield the scythe. He would make those that razed Earths and murdered innocents fear him.
Once J’onn had entered into that deadly compact with himself the ship’s pilgrimage came to a halt. J’onn was not a superstitious man, but even he could not deny that he took the ship's stoppage as an endorsement for the lethal justice he intended to dole out. It would not be long before he learnt that striking a man’s mind with madness was a far more effective form of punishment than extinguishing their meagre lives.
All the while J’onn’s mind remained focused, determined. The passage of years were as nothing to a Martian. Thousands of years turned to millions and all the while the Martian's crusade continued. Empires rose, Skrull, Kree, and Shi’ar all fell at his hands in equal measure during their demented scramble for territory, and the toothless Green Lantern Corps, serving order whilst all the while claiming to defend justice, proved too enmeshed in politics to investigate J'onn's existence.
A deep and throaty alarm roused the Martian from his sleep. His green eyelids slid back and revealed red orbs resting in sunken sockets. “Existence,”
J’onn thought to himself as his feet pushed the dark green liquid apart for a few moments. The Martian listed eerily through the liquid and his green arm passed through the hardened glass tube encasing him seconds before. One of J’onn’s huge green hands hit a switch and the tube began to drain leaving him stood covered in globules of swampish gunk. If it bothered J’onn he did not acknowledge it and instead calmly walked towards a monitor to assess his vitals.
They were good. What few wounds J’onn had taken on Jiden-V had healed without complications and it seemed that the little problem he had encountered on D’bari last month had gone. He reached his hand down to deactivate the monitor and stopped abruptly upon noticing something was amiss. Without warning, his hand had passed through the station. The Martian looked down at his hand, which in the last second or two had become faint, and tried to touch his fingers against one another with no success. Growing perturbed, J’onn looked to his other hand for confirmation that it was some trick of the mind but no such reassurance presented itself.
The Martian wasn't sure why or how it was happening but it appeared that he was phasing out of existence. There was only one person J'onn knew that might be able to help him. He let his ghostly hands fall to his sides and instructed his ship to change direction at once. <Denuvi-VII.>