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.

"In Brightest Day..."
by Kerithwyn

Part the First.

Act I: Deciding the Fate of the World.

When the mourning was over, there was still the matter of the ring.

"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.

Act II: Previously, At the Edge of Armageddon.

<< I'd die to save this place...I'd die a hundred times over for every living thing on this planet if that's what it takes! >>

The letter they found later read:

"I died saving the universe like all good superheroes..."

I hope.

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.

--Kyle Rayner
Green Lantern

It was World War III. It was the spirit of conflict and death. It was Mageddon.

<< Okay.

Mageddon, huh?

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.

Act III: The Color of Temptation.

"Yeah, Dinah, give me a couple of seconds and I can have some names for you."

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!"

"Why not?"

"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.

Continue To Chapter Two

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