This is the original, uncensored
and unpublished version of Chapter 13 (Originally Chapter 14) of the
Kingdom Come novel,
Elliot S! Maggin.
Copyright © 1997 Elliot S! Maggin and DC Comics.
"To the Fortress?" he asked her.
"No, I don't want to go back there. Right here," she said.
"Is it private enough?"
"They're our friends."
"Is it safe?"
"Green Lantern builds good gyroscopes. They'll accommodate."
Superman and Wonder Woman spent the past week adding eighty-four souls to the informal roster of the Justice League and making a note of only nineteen among those with whom they met who needed further persuasion. Both of them needed a break.
The satellite New Oa was named for Oa, the lost world at the geographic center of the Milky Way where the Guardians of the Universe made their home and headquarters for eight billion years. If the light of the original Oa's nameless star were much brighter, it would still be visible to astronomers on Earth who looked back over forty million years of time to see it. We knew that Oa—as well as the Guardians themselves—were gone, their star gone nova and their planet vaporous. We knew this because the interstellar paramilitary force they once founded and directed, the Green Lantern Corps, now drifted on of its own weight like the movements of the stars themselves. A handful of individual Green Lanterns thought to bring some order to the force over the years, and tried to take command. For the nature of the far-flung Corps, however, no one could find an effective way to keep track of all three-thousand-odd ring-bearers, each of whom had a sector of the Galaxy in which to keep order him- or herself. Alan Scott never either aspired to command or thought it was necessary. When they retired or before they died, Green Lanterns generally managed to pass on the accouterments of their power to someone worthy—or at least potentially worthy.
Astronomers did not have to look far to see New Oa. It was the name that Alan Scott, the oldest and last surviving Green Lantern of Earth gave to the city-sized satellite that he built to patrol the skies. It completed an orbit of the Earth tracing the ninetieth longitude line in precisely one sidereal day: twenty-three hours, fifty-six minutes, four and one-tenth seconds. People with good eyesight could see it unaided as it crossed their countries. The day Alan Scott began construction on it—and of necessity the assembly took only six days—the hushed word in aerospace circles was that it was some sort of reconnaissance craft of an alien civilization. When the word of this suspicion started to spread on the nets—and that took about four days—Magog took it upon himself to check the place out himself.
Magog encased himself in the protection of his confederate, the malleable metal-fleshed android called Alloy, and propelled himself up to find the enormous satellite nearly built. Green Lantern, tired and weighed down with work yet to come, was in no mood either for little leaguers or their games. When the pair were close enough to see, Green Lantern stood on a wing of the most extended platform and waved Alloy and Magog away.
They kept coming.
Green Lantern continued working on an engineering problem, chalking up calculations on a big ray-energy blackboard he hung in front of him in space, as Magog and Alloy sidled up beside him, circled him once as if trying to figure out what he was doing. They looked over the satellite as if by looking at it they could see whether it was something to which they could reasonably object. Then with Alloy's protection Magog drifted over toward Green Lantern who struggled with a three-headed monster of a math problem on his big blackboard in space, and Magog tapped him hard on the shoulder.
Absently, Green Lantern loosed a curved shoot of energy from his ring—like the tendril of a spider plant looking for a sinecure—which widened as it left his ring to make an enormous funnel. In the space between Magog's first tap on Lantern's shoulder and the attempt at a second one, the funnel enveloped both Magog and his android friend, sealed around them with a dense cushion forming inside, and sucked them back earthward just fast enough for the G-force of it all to put Magog unconscious.
At the nearest point on Earth's land surface—a small island, as it happened, off the southern coast of Alaska—a great green trumpet like that of a cornucopia touched down within sight of Sanaz Tunari's bait and tackle shop. Sanaz snatched up a little disposable camera from his counter and came running down the icy path to the phenomenon to see what he could see. The funnel touched down on the beach and burst open, depositing Magog and Alloy ungracefully on a blanket of fresh snow. Magog shook his head awake, got his footing with the help of the android's shoulder and said, "Well, I don't think that'll be a problem for us, do you?"
Alloy shook his head and neither of them bothered Green Lantern again. Sanaz' pictures made it into every sleazy tabloid on the Pacific Rim and with the found money from that, he built a new house behind the bait shop. And up in space, tracing the path around the globe of the ninetieth meridian, Green Lantern sat watching out for alien invasions until the day Superman and Wonder Woman asked to use New Oa as the Justice League's new headquarters.
There is no such thing, I learned from my late friend Wesley, as elephant privacy. Wesley was a compendium of generally useless but always interesting information. I tried to put his observations on elephant privacy to use in a sermon but there was no avoiding the essential frivolity of the analogy in order to make my way around it to the point—whatever that might be. But here is the basic idea:
Elephants are extremely intelligent animals. They are also undeniably huge. When two elephants are moved to enlarge the herd there is no place they can go to find privacy: no tree wide enough, no rock big enough, no corner isolated enough. If elephants required privacy for the procreative act, then the species would have become extinct long ago. So the occasion has become a highly ritualized party for the herd at large. The entire circle of family and friends of the celebrating pair of elephants howl and bellow and pound down the bush out of boundless joy over the wonderful thing that this pair are doing for the community.
Stomping and trumpeting. Stomping and trumpeting.
That, according to my friend Wesley, is what elephants do.
"You feel that?" Red Arrow asked Green Lantern.
"Mmff," Alan Scott told his navigator-in-training.
Years ago, the least favorite way Red Arrow's mentor had of spending his time was to mark it in the Justice League satellite. Green Arrow—Ollie Queen, who raised Roy Harper and trained him in archery and derring-do—sniffed and groaned whenever it was his turn to warm the helm of the old geosynchronous satellite that drew a line around Earth orbit at the Equator just as this one plots and re-plots the ninetieth meridian. Roy Harper, however, was finding in early middle age that there was something very elemental about space flight, something that fed his soul, something to which he was as suited as a baseball is suited to the air. Green Lantern rode the rhythms of space as well as any man alive and Roy could have no better teacher.
Still, there was that shaking—that troublesome quivering, it seemed of the entire rambling structure.
"Don't you feel it?" Red Arrow asked Green Lantern.
"Turbulence," the old ring-wielder said and adjusted a stabilizer.
That struck Roy as odd, and he told the older man so. "There's no turbulence in a vacuum," he said.
"Here," Lantern said and spun a dial about twenty degrees to the left.
And the orientation of the satellite itself shifted so that the Earth below jumped from a little crescent of ocean at the bottom of the big window in front of Roy—to fill his frame of vision. In a moment he felt sick.
"No, you didn't fix it," Red Arrow insisted, but he could not finish the sentence before he ran out to the corridor where he crossed paths with Donna Troy coming in.
She looked at him questioningly for a moment as he careened into the vacuum-suction water closet off the corridor tube, then poked her head into Green Lantern's navigation bridge.
"Alan?" she asked the big man. "Is there something wrong?"
"Wrong?" Lantern asked. "What could be wrong?"
There was a lurch of the craft. Lantern's hands were off the controls and Donna could see the image of Earth rattle in the window, then shift back.
"That," she said.
"Like I told Roy," Alan Scott deadpanned, "turbulence."
"We're in space, Alan."
"That's what he said."
"Well what is it?"
The big man shrugged.
"Well where's it coming from?" as the rattling of the satellite became markedly pronounced, like the slow and steady rocking of an oceangoing vessel. "Can't you figure out where it's coming from? You've got a power ring for heaven's sakes."
"All right, all right!" Green Lantern huffed as Red Arrow stumbled back into the room. "Hey Roy, is that why they used to call you ‘Speedy'?"
"Amusing," the former Speedy wiped his lower lip.
"All right, kids," Lantern said, "there's a yaw on Inspiration Point."
"Inspiration Point?" the former Wonder Girl asked.
"The observation deck," Roy answered. "The old man's having childhood fantasies. Calls this navigation bridge the Playroom."
"Second childhood," Lantern said as he spun a pair of switches like the dials on an Etch-a-Sketch.
"More like fifth or sixth," but Roy was cut off by the craft's sudden dip.
The colossal satellite tumbled end over end in space like a dervish and it was all Donna and Roy could do to keep their stomachs intact.
"They make pills for that now, kids," Green Lantern said as he continued playfully to violate the stability of the craft. Both these "kids" were well into their forties. "Hey go check out Inspiration Point for pressure leaks or something. I dare you."
And Roy and Donna giggled and held their stomachs like kids up and down on a moon bounce as they crashed and shoved their way along the corridors and convection chambers of New Oa.
"I decided someday I want to live here," Roy called to her somewhere along the way.
"This is pretty nice," Kal-El said as the New Oa satellite spun up and around and the Earth and the Universe swirled by the observation window at every crazy angle the stomping and trumpeting superhero in the Playroom could think of.
"Ever try it on a tilt-a-whirl?" Diana asked him.
"A what?" Kal wanted to know.
"A tilt-a-whirl," she said. "One of those big rotating cylinders on the backs of carnival trucks. They spin. Make centrifugal force. Pins you against the wall."
"You like getting pinned against walls?" he asked. "I can do that."
"He has been scrupulously secretive about his personal life for all of his life," the Spectre said to me, "yet you knew that these two were not life's companions. You knew right away that there had been someone else. How?"
"I told you, Spook. I'm a minister. Men and women. Life and love. Relationships. It's my stock in trade."
"I do not understand it," the Spectre admitted. "Any of it. It has been so long since I was incarnate and I have so filled the time with deeds and experiences. That was why I asked to impose upon your wisdom for this mission."
"What don't you understand? Relationships?"
"Among humans. They are so complicated. I am sure that I never experienced one of the magnitude that these two have, yet you imply that this pales against the experiences of their youth."
"Its magnitude is no less, perhaps," I said. "Youthful loves are different, is all. There is less of the intellectual sharing than these two have, but more of the emotional and physical sharing."
"Their physical and emotional sharing is quite furious," the Spectre observed, accurately. "When first I introduced you to Kal-El and Diana, you said that women scare men. I do not remember this from life."
"Perhaps I was saying," I observed, trying not to smile, "that such a woman as this would scare me. Superman seems not to be scared. Certainly, though, he was scared of Lois. Did you know her?"
"I did. I even met her once, shortly before she left mortal life."
"Really? What was she like?"
"Like this one," the Spectre said, indicating Wonder Woman. "Unafraid. Unpredictable. Not like the mortal women I remember."
"Would you say that Lois might have been a woman suited only for life with a very strong and sure man?"
"I do not know."
"This woman Diana," I said to the Spectre, "is very much unlike the public persona of the Wonder Woman I remember."
"How is that?"
"The Wonder Woman of my youth was a kind of icon. She appeared from nowhere to solve problems. Her tools were persuasion and intimidation, as much as her sword or her magic lasso. This woman is not so monolithic. She is complex. Certainly she is intimidating, but she's thoughtful and intellectually honest. And she is unpredictable. I think Kal-El was genuinely surprised when she asked King Arthur to provide a prison for rogue metahumans. And he was also surprised when she told him that her sisters on Paradise Island took away her diplomatic portfolio. I just don't think a young man—even a young Superman—could be wise or brave enough to enter her intimate world. This is a mature relationship."
The Spectre looked. This was a mature relationship?
"These are people who come together only after doing a lot of living," I said. "Only after being vulnerable and disappointed a lot. After loving and being loved a lot. Both of them. A woman this formidable needs a man who's weathered, sanded down around the edges—or she needs to be with no one at all. And a man this weathered needs someone capable of making him forget the ghosts of his own sad stories—or he needs to be with no one at all."
The Spectre looked at them some more, with clinical interest. I looked away, mostly.
"Then again," I said, "I may be wrong."
"You may be wrong? You have been correct consistently. I have learned much from your insight," the ghost said.
"But you are telling me that in the realm of human relationships there are no definable rules. Is that possible in the context of God's Creation?"
"I'm not saying anything of the sort. Certainly there are rules. We are just not smart enough to know what they are."
Looking for the source of the strange instability of the New Oa satellite, and fighting the gyrations in space with which Green Lantern responded to it, Roy and Donna reached the door of the observation deck. Donna was about to press the panel to slide it open when Roy stopped her hand.
"What if there's a pressure leak?" he asked her.
"There'd be a warning flashing."
"But what if the warning system is down. Lantern didn't know what was going on, did he?"
"I don't think so, but he didn't really say."
"Well you hear that bumping and grinding? It's from in there for sure."
"Okay, then let's open the door."
They did ...
... and then quickly closed it again. From behind, a thin beam of heat vision fused the jamb shut and it would stay that way until either of the people inside wanted it open.
Donna leaned back against a wall and put a hand over her mouth, but she had to take it away to grab a handhold when Green Lantern suddenly started the satellite rolling again.
"Do you think Lantern really knew?" Roy asked.
"Yeah, I think he really knew," Donna answered. "And I think he's laughing his head off right now."
In fact, that is precisely what Alan Scott was doing just then, as he spun the dials and stabilizers around and around and the satellite pitched and yawed and spun and spun and spun, stomping and trumpeting: the Elephants' Dance.