by Vendikarr DeWuff
Jared Stevens recognized this place. It was his training area in the ancient tomb where he found the scarab embedded in his chest. He had no idea how long he had been here, since time flowed differently here, but he did see what caused him to appear here.
Standing near him was a giant blue beetle and a beautiful Mediterranean woman, dark-skinned with classic features. And they were arguing.
“Your time on Earth is done,” shouted the beetle.
“As was yours, but you found a champion to your mission. Am I not entitled the same?” she replied.
“You seek to possess, not assist,” said the beetle. “My champion does his work of his own will, not mine. There is a difference.”
“You no longer require sacrifice?” she asked the beetle.
“My mission was ridding the world of evil. All evil he stops is my sacrifice. A sacrifice doesn’t require a death,” said the beetle.
“Bah! You understand nothing of sacrifice, bug. For it to be a sacrifice, there must be loss. The loss of evil is no loss at all.”
Jared stepped forward to speak to the godlings. “There has been a loss. I gave up the life I led before this to fight evil. I have devoted my life and time to the azure beetle’s mission.”
Tanit stared at him, then turned toward the bug. “Bold, isn’t he? Imagine a mortal daring to speak to us like that in our time.”
“It is part of why I like him,” said the beetle. “He is his own being. That is what you would deny the one you would inhabit. Find one to worship you of their own will.”
The goddess thought for a moment, then said, “I think I will. I want him–” She pointed at Jared. “–to carry out my mission as well.”
“Impossible!” exclaimed the beetle. “Find your own mortal. This one serves my cause.”
“As he will mine, bug. The earth is in pain. It needs its earth mother. That is my job. Allow your champion to worship me by sacrifice in his work for you, and I will work to heal the earth.”
“Wait a minute,” said Jared. “Don’t I have a say in all of this?”
“Of course you do,” said the bug. “But know this — if you don’t do her bidding, she will seek another champion. And her champion may not be as pure of heart.”
Jared shook his head, then nodded briefly. “I will work for her as well. But I won’t deliberately kill. I will use her dagger in my work, and she will taste blood.” He paused, then said, “That is the only way it’s gonna work.”
“Done!” said the goddess. “Now you had best return. Your fellows await you.”
With that, Jared felt himself slipping away, then began to wake.
Jared found himself laying on a bed with silken sheets, still dressed and still clutching the spear. His eyes popped open as he looked up into the eyes of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He had just looked into the face of a goddess, and she couldn’t compare to the angel hovering over him. He felt bound to her. It was strange. He had never believed much in love at first sight. But here she was, his other half.
And he could tell that by looking into her eyes, she felt the same way. Logic be damned; they were meant to be together. He tried to speak, but his throat felt hoarse. She gave him a drink of water, then he sat up on the bed.
“Shiera,” he asked. “Is she OK?”
“Yes, she woke a day ago,” said Jennifer Morgan. “Queen Tara is showing your friends the city. I can send one of the guards to bring them back, if you wish.”
“No. I’ll see them soon enough. How long?”
“You were asleep for three days, but not really asleep. A trance of some kind?”
“Something like that. It’s hard to explain.” He moved up a little closer to her, her scent captivating him. He sighed, then noticed the spear in his hand. He stood and broke the dagger off of the staff and placed on the table beside the bed. “Guess I’ll have to make a sheath for that,” he said.
“I can sense that the evil has left that artifact. How did you do it?”
“I made a deal. I promised the goddess I would use it in my mission. Damn, now I serve two gods. And I always liked being my own boss.”
Jennifer walked up to Jared, the energy in the room undeniable. She placed her hand on his and stepped into his arms. Jared placed a hand on her hip and moved her closer. Their heads tilted slightly, and they kissed.
Jennifer Morgan stood at her mirror, brushing out the tangles in her hair. He then put down her brush and fastened the top of her blouse. She turned and looked over at Jared Stevens, who sat at the edge of her bed, pulling on his boots. She had never been so impulsive before, but it just felt right. She walked over to him and sat beside him on the bed.
Jared turned toward her and smiled as he pulled the second boot onto his foot. It had never been like that before. Just thinking about it made him smile again.
“Your friend Alex and I believe we can get everyone home,” she said. “His abilities are still there, but he just can’t seem to bridge the vibrational barrier. My magicks showed me there are traces of the energy that helped bring him here still in his body. I can use my magic to intensify it. You can all go home.” She sounded more than a little disappointed.
Jared looked at her with regret, not regretting what had happened, but that he would be leaving her. The words star-crossed lovers ran through his head. He had to go home. There were people depending on him. Alex, Carter, and Shiera were his closest friends. They needed him. And he had his mission, as much as he hated it at times, especially now.
He stood, and she stood with him. She stepped forward, and he took her into his arms, and they just held each other. The hug both lasted forever and ended too early when they heard the door open as the others returned. Alexander Lane smiled at first, but then a look of disappointment flashed across his face. Jared could tell that Alex did not approve.
“This city is amazing,” said Carter Hall, who apparently hadn’t noticed Jared and Jennifer’s embrace. “It’s a living archaeological exhibit. Why, I could spend the rest of my life exploring this place.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Shiera Hall, taking her husband’s hand and letting their fingers intertwine. Then to Jared she said, “I am glad you’re up on your feet. And I wanted to thank you for saving me from Tanit. Alex told me what he has learned from the Monitor’s files. I owe you my life.” She walked over to Jared and gave him a hug and kiss on the cheek, then went back to her husband.
“All that remains is for us to go home. Is everyone ready?” asked Alex.
“I suppose so,” said Jared, who looked around and added, “Say, where’s Grell?”
“He’s in another room here in the palace,” said Alex. “Queen Tara said he could stay here while we toured the city. I imagine he’ll want to say goodbye. He’s grown attached to us, it seems.”
They gathered in the garden near the palace as Jennifer Morgan cast a spell on Alexander Lane. “That should increase the energy levels. Go and create your portal,” she said.
Monitor nodded and created the portal. A shimmering black pool materialized before them. Jared took both of Jennifer’s hands in his, leaned forward, and kissed her gently, and walked through the portal, only to emerge on the other side.
“Doesn’t work, Alex,” said Jared as he walked over to his friends.
“It should have worked,” said Alex. “The magic should have done… Uh-oh… that might be the problem.”
“What?” asked Jared and Carter at almost the same time.
“Jennifer magically amplified the energy. It might be that the energy is now magical in nature and cannot affect Jared. We need to try again. Shiera, will you go first?”
“Of course,” said Shiera, “But first…” She walked over and gave Jared another hug. “If this works, I won’t be seeing you for a while. Take care of yourself,” she said to him. When she walked past Jennifer, she whispered, “You take care of him, too.”
Jennifer smiled and watched as the portal once again appeared. Shiera stepped through it and was gone.
“Where did you send her?” asked Jared.
“JSA Headquarters. Seemed appropriate, somehow.” Alexander Lane looked at his friend and said, “Jared, I can’t just leave you here. I’ll send Carter through, and then we will work this out together.”
“Alex, just go home — I’ll be fine. There is ancient Atlantean technology here that may help me get home. Or else I can pass over to Earth-One and get help somehow. I’m living proof that travel between Earths is still possible, just very difficult.”
“You sure?” asked Alex.
“Yes, I am. You guys go ahead.”
Carter Hall grasped the hand of his friend and associate. “Jared, go to the Justice League. Tell them what happened. They can get you home somehow, I know it. But first…” Carter unfastened his belt and handed it to Jared. “Take my JSA signal device.”
As he handed the belt to Jared, Carter said, “We’ll need to vote on this, but as chairman of the JSA, I am granting you full membership and naming you JSA liaison to the JLA. Go to Metropolis and find Superman. He can set you up with the Justice League.”
Jared stood there stunned at the honor bestowed upon him. He grasped the belt firmly and choked back tears of joy. “I’ll do that, Carter. I’ll tell them everything that’s happened on Earth-Two since travel was blocked.”
With that, Carter hugged the young man and then turned to Alexander. “Young man, if you are going to continue to act as Monitor on our world, there’s no more need to work in such secrecy from us. You and the JSA need to talk. We could certainly use your help.”
Alexander Lane nodded and watched as Carter Hall stepped through the portal. He looked at his friend one more time, then he also entered the portal. The black hole faded away, just leaving Jared and Jennifer standing in the garden. At that moment, Grell came running into the garden. “Where they go?” he asked.
“They went home. But it looks like I am going to be around for a while. At least until I head for Earth-One.”
“Good,” said Grell. “I like having you around.”
“So do I,” said Jennifer Morgan, a mischievous smile aimed at the young man.