Kyle Rayner sat in his New York City apartment wondering where his girlfriend Alex DeWitt had gone. It had been over two days since he had seen her. She hadn’t left Kyle a note, phone number, or anything. Where the hell has Alex disappeared to? Kyle thought to himself. Well, I can’t wait for her all day. Maybe if I walk around the neighborhood, I might just bump into her. With that, Kyle left his apartment and went walking the streets of New York.
He didn’t know for how long he had wandered around. It was Sunday, and there were vendors with booths everywhere. It was getting almost dark when Kyle noticed a jewelery store. Hmm, Kyle thought. Maybe if I get Alex something nice, she will forgive me for whatever she’s mad at me about.
As Kyle entered the store, he noticed a slightly overweight man sitting behind the counter. “Well, hello, sir, and what are we looking for today?” the man said with bright crooked grin.
“I’m looking for something for my girlfriend, but I haven’t got a lot of money,” Kyle said as he looked around the shop.
“Are you looking for anything in particular? An engagement ring, for example?” As the man said those words, an eerie feeling went through Kyle.
“Ah, uh, no, it’s not that serious,” Kyle blurted out. “At least not yet.”
Kyle’s attention was drawn to an display case in the center of the room. In the case was a red gemstone in a silver setting. The thing was oval-shaped and about three inches tall and two inches thick. The gem had many facets covering it and curved into a elongated hemisphere. Kyle approached the case.
“Oh, I see you have noticed the floor piece. Nice, isn’t it?” the funny man said. “It belongs to the store’s owner, but it’s not for sale,” the man snorted.
Kyle got a closer look at the gem. He started walking around the back of the case when two masked men with guns burst in. “Nobody moves, and everything will be all right!” one of the masked men said as he and his companion pointed their weapons at Kyle and the funny man, respectively.
The largest of the two gunmen approached Kyle, grabbing him by the back of the head. “So you like the trinket in the case, do you, punk? Well here, take a closer look,” the gunman said as he slammed Kyle’s head into the glass case, shattering it and forcing glass and the gem to become embedded in Kyle’s forehead. All Kyle could feel was the searing pain of the glass embedded in his face and forehead. Suddenly, the pain went away, and there was a feeling of calm.
“These men should be punished,” said a soothing voice that came into his mind.
With that, Kyle stood and looked at the two gunmen. “Drop your weapons, both of you!” Kyle commanded. Acting like zombies, both men dropped their weapons. “Now, go to sleep!” with that command, both men fell into deep slumber.
“There must not be any evidence that we were here,” the soothing voice said in Kyle’s head.
With that, the display case and its remnants disappeared as if they were never there. Kyle looked at the gunmen. “You will not remember my presence or the presence of the gem.” The gunmens’ heads nodded, but their slumber was undisturbed.
“We must leave before the authorities arrive,” the voice said to Kyle. As the voice had instructed, Kyle nonchalantly walked out onto the streets and went home.
Shortly after, the gunmen awoke, not even noticing that they had been asleep. The one named Charlie continued cleaning out the display cases as his companion kept his gun held on the funny man behind the counter. Just as the gunmen started to leave, a group of police officers burst into the front and back of the shop, surprising them. The gunmen surrendered with no bloodshed.
After a few minutes of questioning by the police, the funny little man locked up the store. As he was walking down the street, he reached into his pocket and fingered a small pouch of diamonds. “Well, a bargain is a bargain.” He smiled to himself and disappeared into the night.
Kyle Rayner awoke with a splitting headache. He was lying in his own bed but had no recollection of how he got there. The last thing he had remembered was walking through the streets of his neighborhood close to dark.
Entering his bathroom, he turned the faucet on and splashed his face with water. He grabbed the towel from the towel rack and dried off his face, then looked into the mirror. What Kyle saw in the mirror caused him to stumble, falling back into the bathtub and bumping his head.
“Well, Mr. Rayner, I see even with one of the most powerful weapons on Earth, you are still a bumbling fool.” The stunned Kyle turned to see a slender man standing in the doorway to his bathroom — a slender man wearing black and sporting a top hat and cane.
“Who the hell are you, and what the hell are you doing here in the first place?” Kyle demanded as he slowly pulled himself out of the tub.
“I, my slapstick friend, am the answer to your prayers,” the man in black smirked. “I gave you the power to win the heart of your one true love.”
“My one true love! Have you done something to Alex?” Kyle lunged at the man in black, only for him to deftly step aside, letting Kyle slam into the wall on the other side of the hall.
“If you would just give me time, young Raynor, I may just explain things so that even you will understand.” The man in black walked into the apartment’s living room and took a seat in an easy chair. “Mr. Rayner, do you remember receiving something from a stranger recently?”
“No, not that I can — Hey! Wait! There was that man in the alley with those lightning-thingies. He gave me a yellow ring,” Kyle said in realization.
“And where is that ring now?” asked the man in black.
“Uh, well… I gave it to Alex!” Kyle blurted out. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Lantern: Emerald Renaissance, Chapter 3: Corona.]
“Yes, you gave it to Alex,” the man in black replied. “Now what has Alex done with it? You don’t know, do you, my clueless friend?” Again the man in black smirked. “Well, why don’t you turn on your TV and find out, eh?”
“OK, but I still don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kyle said as he reached for the remote.
Kyle Rayner pointed his remote control toward his television, then stopped. Why am I listening to this weirdo sitting in my living room, he thought to himself as he looked across the room at the man in the black long-johns, wearing a top hat and carrying a cane. “Who the hell are you?!” Kyle asked the man. “What are you doing in my apartment, and how did I get this bicycle reflector stuck to my forehead?”
The man in black snorted. “I, my dear Mr. Rayner, am called the Shade. You’ve heard of me, haven’t you?” The Shade looked at Rayner and, when not given a comprehending sign, continued. “And as I said before, I am here to win you the love of your life.”
“Could you be a little more vague?” Kyle asked as he scratched his head. “You said it had something to do with the ring I gave Alex.”
“It has everything to do with the ring,” the Shade said, smiling. “Just turn on the news and see what I am talking about.”
Kyle flipped on the television and changed the channel to CNN. The female announcer continued. “This videotape was taken by a tourist outside of the brownstone headquarters of the Justice Society in Gotham City. As you can see, the Spectre suddenly pops into view and collapses. The rest of the JSA gathers around him, and it seems that Doctor Fate says something to the gathered heroes. As suddenly as the Spectre appeared, the JSA vanish, leaving these unidentified individuals standing in their absence.” The camera focused on a beautiful blonde wearing a white and yellow costume.
“That’s Alex!” Kyle exclaimed as he rushed to the TV screen for a closer look, the rest of the report ignored. “What’s she doing with the JSA?”
“She’s using the ring you gave her,” Shade explained. “The ring is special. It has powers similar to the one worn by Green Lantern. Alex went in search of him for training.”
“Well, what has the ring got to do with this thing embedded in my forehead?” Kyle asked as he pointed to the large red gemstone.
“Mr. Rayner, do you think that someone with the power of such a mighty artifact would have anything to do with a dilettante like you?” Shade asked snidely.
“Alex loves me!” Kyle returned.
“She does, does she?” the Shade retorted. “Then why did she leave you without leaving a note or even a phone number where she could be reached?”
“She was busy,” Kyle retorted. Is this guy screwing with my mind? Kyle thought to himself.
“You see, Mr. Rayner, with the Powerstone, you and Alex are on an even playing field,” the Shade continued. “You will be equals, instead of a young woman with a bright future and an out-of-work artist — a shiftless dreamer.”
That last remark stunned Kyle. I can’t take this right now. It’s just too much. I’ve got to think about this. I wish I was somewhere else, Kyle thought to himself, and suddenly he appeared outside of the coffee shop owned by his landlord.
Kyle walked in, but no one seemed to notice the gem embedded in his forehead. Radu Stancu, the owner of the coffee shop, waved him over. “Hello, young Kyle. The usual?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Kyle slunk into a booth to wait for his coffee. He had some serious thinking to do.
This Shade guy is trying to convince me that Alex doesn’t love me, Kyle thought. He’s saying that I’m some big doofus that she would leave at the first chance.
Radu brought Kyle his coffee and sat across from him. “You look troubled, young man. Want to talk?” he asked.
“No, Radu, this is something I have to work out on my own,” Kyle sighed. He drank his coffee and began to think of a solution to his problem.
Well, I’ll just have to go to Gotham and find out, Kyle thought to himself. He paid for his coffee and walked out of the shop into the adjoining alley.
Let’s see what this baby can do, Kyle thought to himself.
A warehouse in Gotham City:
Three figures stood in front of a monstrous piece of machinery. It looked like a large dome made of black spiderwebs. At the top of the dome was a platform on which were two seats. In front of the seats were four tubular-shaped hand-holds. Each of the four tubes were directed at a central point on the floor of the platform. At this central point was a crystal made of some unknown violet substance.
The three men began to talk. “Now tell me again how this contraption works?” Ian Karkull asked as he looked at Wotan.
Wotan, a man with green skin and all the facial features of the Devil incarnate, toyed with his goatee and glared at Karkull. “One more time! When you, Ian Karkull, and the one with the power of the Starheart — be it Green Lantern or Jade — when these two are seated on the platform, with hands in the hand holds, the energy that is provided by you, Karkull, and the power that is siphoned from the one with the Starheart, are directed at the converging crystal. When the powers are combined through the crystal, it then sends that energy into the dome and those standing in it.” Wotan sighed and rapped his knuckles on one of the dome supports with a loud clang.
“I just don’t want to take any chances,” Karkull said, sneering at his old ally.
“Life is a chance, Ian,” the third figure chuckled. This one was dressed all in black with a close-cut black beard.
“You are very perceptive, Wizard.” Wotan nodded his head to the Wizard. “There is one more thing you need to know. The magics of this device are random and may not stay within the dome. All those who do not wish to go through the rejuvenation should stay well away, unless they are immortal, that is.”
“I’ll notify our allies of this, Wotan, and thank you for your assistance.” The Wizard walked through a door that just appeared in front of him.
“Karkull,” Wotan said, “have your team ready to procure a wielder of the Starheart powers.”
“They are on standby,” Karkull said, grinning. “They’re going to go after Jade. She makes the easier target.”
“Yes, she is not as powerful as her father yet,” Wotan mused. “She’s such a pretty little thing. Too bad she will have to be sacrificed.”
Kyle Rayner stood in the alley outside his apartment building. He was going over the last few hours in his mind: going for a walk to clear his head after his girlfriend Alex disappeared on him; waking up the next morning with this weird red gemstone embedded in his forehead; the strange man in black who called himself Shade and had been in his apartment; Kyle seeing Alex on TV at the JSA Brownstone, with the magic ring he had given her; Kyle wishing he was somewhere else and appearing outside of the coffee shop owned by his landlord. Did the gem do that or was it Shade? Kyle seemed to be trapped in a very weird dream. All he knew was that he had to talk to Alex, and no one was going to stop him.
He thought of an image of the JSA Brownstone and willed the gem to take him there. Nothing happened. Damn! Kyle thought to himself. It must have been Shade.
Kyle returned to his apartment, but the Shade was nowhere to be found. He grabbed a baseball cap, which covered up the gem. What did Shade call this thing? Kyle thought to himself. The Powerstone — yeah, that’s it.
Checking his wallet, he realized he did not have enough for a bus ticket. Well, I guess I’ll have to hitchhike, he thought to himself as he grabbed his coat and walked out the door.
Kyle was walking down the street when he saw a man polishing a souped-up car. “Hey, nice ride, man,” Kyle said.
“Thanks, dude,” the man said.
“This your car?” Kyle asked.
“You bet your ass!” the man replied. “The sweetest ride around.”
“Sure wish I had a car,” Kyle sighed. “I need to get to Gotham City ASAP.” Kyle felt the Powerstone pulse on his head and saw a rose-colored light envelop the young man.
“Yeah, man, hop in.” Before Kyle knew it, he and the young man were headed south on the Jersey Turnpike.