Hunters of Justice (RWBY/DC)
Chapter 50: The Green Light of Will, Part 3
When Professor Ozpin first returned from Brainiac's latest interrogation much earlier than usual, that was the first sign something was amiss. But, when he initially told those around him that something called the Green Lantern Corp were assaulting Brainiac, his claims weren't at first believed. Especially when he said that Brainiac seemed somewhat afraid, or at least worried that he could lose against the larger than expected force. It was shortly after that, when the first tremors began to be felt and shook the city to its very core, that Ozpin's claims began to be taken more seriously. With each passing moment, as the tremors increased in strength and volume, more and more began to take notice. The final nail in the coffin was when Brainiac himself emerged to plug himself into the terminal inside the city chamber, and less than an hour later a squadron of six aliens wearing green and black uniforms burst in. Despite having never seen them before in their lives, and slightly surprised at how human two of them looked, the first cheer rang out as soon as the reptilian Green Lantern shot forward to battle Brainiac, followed by the rest of the Lanterns in its party.
By now, cheers were erupting across the entire city of Vale. Not just from within Beacon, although those were the voices Ozpin could make out the clearest. Rather, the entire city was paying attention, their eyes glued to the battle unfolding just beyond their reach. Every so often, Ozpin would look out from his balcony to see hundreds of students standing on rooftops across Beacon, climbing poles and trees, or simply crowding around plazas just to get a clearer view. With each blow the aliens inflicted onto Brainiac, their cheers grew louder and more rapturous. For the first time in months, Ozpin had a genuine smile on his face. He didn't know how this battle was going to turn out, but the fact that the Green Lanterns managed to get people this far inside Brainiac's vessel spoke volumes.
"Yes, beat that green-skinned bastard!" a male voice rang up from the bottom of Beacon's central tower, echoed by hundreds of other students nearby.
"Did you see that?! Holy shit!" another added as the orange-skinned woman with pointed ears formed a massive cannon around her arm, which she used to fire a shell into Brainiac's chest. The ensuing explosion sent Brainiac skidding back along the ground, but he was able to use his tentacles to keep himself upright. A moment later, the burly, pink-skinned alien who appeared to be the ringleader tackled Brainiac to the ground, where he began to hurl fists surrounded by green brass knuckles.
"Yeah, get him, Pinky!" the students cheered, and when Brainiac kicked him off and punched the bird-like alien in the stomach, the cheers turned into boos.
As much as Ozpin wanted to join in the celebrations, he couldn't let himself. Instead, with only a satisfied smile on his face, he silently watched the battle unfold with Long Memory held out in front of him, both of his hands balanced on its top. Beside him, the remains of his inner circle watched with bated breath, their eyes studying everything they could see.
"Those hardlight constructs…how are they doing that?" Winter Schnee asked as the human-like male formed a trio of sawblades that he sent flying towards Brainiac, all of which were deflected by his armored forearms.
"The power of will, if Brainiac is to be believed," Ozpin answered, remembering his last full conversation with him. "The Green Lantern Corp somehow managed to learn how to bring it into reality, to use it as a weapon."
"Extraordinary," Glynda Goodwitch breathed out, her voice filled with awe and nearly childlike wonder. Just like the first time Ozpin had displayed magic to Glynda all those years ago, when he first brought her into his trusted inner circle.
Truth be told, Ozpin was in awe as well. Not just at seeing the applications of weaponized willpower in action, but at the ease and creativity that the Green Lanterns were using it with. It was easy to see that these Lanterns were very powerful and skilled. Perhaps even more so than most Maidens across Remnant's history. The sheer variability of what the Lanterns were able to bring onto the field, even from just this short glimpse at them, spoke stories of their true potential. The arsenal of an entire army and fleet, merged into one singular being. Combined with what Ozpin had previously been told of their mission of intergalactic peace, it was clear that they would've been valuable allies for Remnant. Both against Brainiac and perhaps even the homegrown threats that plagued their world and risked destroying everything Ozpin had built over his many lifetimes.
But that was far beyond them now. Perhaps in another time, had things gone radically different. Now all they could do was hope that the Lanterns' efforts would be enough. For just as it was clear that the Lanterns were powerful, it was equally clear that Brainiac matched or even surpassed them. It came as no surprise to Ozpin. He had been forced to converse with the alien tyrant for months, and he was well aware of Brainiac's tremendous physical strength and intellect. Neither of which could be discounted. Had any individual Lantern fought Brainiac on their own, there was no doubt in Ozpin's mind that they would certainly have perished in the struggle. Yet the fact there were six working together in concert gave them a chance at victory that couldn't be dismissed, even if Ozpin didn't know the exact odds of success.
"Come on, win. Please," Ozpin heard General Ironwood quietly, desperately beg as he kept his fist clenched near his face. Something that, before Brainiac, Ozpin would've never thought he'd hear James say. His eyes were glued to the battle, never once leaving it as they darted among the combatants. Ozpin recognized the look he was giving. It was a studious, calculating, and appraising stare that any general would give when analyzing a pivotal battlefield. He wondered what James was thinking, but figured now wasn't the time to ask. It would have to wait until the battle was over, no matter which way it ended.
"Professor," Winter spoke up, catching Ozpin's attention. He turned his head to look at her, and he easily recognized the worried expression on her face. She took a breath, then asked, "Do you…think they're going to win?"
Ozpin didn't answer at first, then turned to look at the fight just as Brainiac punched the pink alien in the face. Rather than fall, the pink alien stood his ground then retaliated with a powerful punch to Brainiac's face that whipped it towards the cities. A moment later, a splatter of purple blood impacted across the bottle, causing yet another round of cheers to erupt across the city. Looking at this, Ozpin smiled and nodded, then turned to look back at Winter. Now both Ironwood and Glynda were looking at him expectantly, and Ozpin met all of their gazes as he smiled.
"I think they are," Ozpin admitted. "Perhaps not in this battle, but if there's anything that the Green Lanterns have proven this day, it's this: Brainiac isn't invulnerable. He can bleed, and that means we can beat him."
The others regarded Ozpin for a moment, then Glynda smiled and nodded in agreement. Winter, meanwhile, gave a polite and firm nod of acknowledgement before looking back at the battle. James, however, didn't openly respond at all, instead turning to look at the battle without doing anything. Ozpin couldn't help but raise an eyebrow, then dismissed it for the time being. Right now, they had more important things to worry about.
Blocking yet another blow from the Green Lanterns, Brainiac quickly analyzed their movements and combat strategies. It was a familiar routine to him by this point. Although he rarely ever physically took part in battle himself, preferring to let his drones and warships do the fighting for him, on the rare occasions he did Brainiac took the opportunity to evaluate what his opponents were doing. Knowing your enemy was the first step in defeating them, after all, and Brainiac prided himself on knowing everything there was to know. If not at the moment, then eventually after intense study and experimentation.
He had fought Green Lanterns before, so he was able to use that fundamental knowledge against the six fighting him now. Of those Lanterns, he only personally recognized two of them. Kilowog was infamous across the universe for his storied career as a Green Lantern field agent, and Brainiac had known for some time now that he had transferred into becoming a drill instructor for new recruits into the Corp. Out of all the Lanterns currently facing him, Brainiac viewed him as the most dangerous. An assessment that was proven as the last Bolovaxian generated a cannon that braced itself against his arms and chest, then fired a shell at Brainiac that he was only barely able to deflect with a careful whip of his tentacles. A moment later, the other Lantern that he recognized used the distraction Kilowog had made to come down at him with two swords. They cut and carved gashes into the tentacles, but the material was durable enough to survive the blows then whip Tomar-Re back.
Unlike Kilowog, where their current fight was their first encounter, Brainiac had fought Tomar-Re before. Not in person, but via his forces during his first attempt to preserve Krypton. The doomed planet had been in what the Guardians of the Universe designated as Sector 2813, the region of space that Tomar-Re patrolled. He had personally intervened and assisted the Kryptonians in driving Brainiac back during that engagement, an act that prompted Brainiac to keep a close eye on his activities. Afterwards, he had attempted to save the planet from its destruction through the use of stellarium to absorb the tectonic pressure, but as he was en route the star Ariel had gone supernova, delaying him significantly. Not that it would've mattered in the end. Stellarium was exceedingly rare across the universe, and the paltry amounts that Tomar-Re had gathered would've only bought Krypton a century at most, doing nothing to avert its inevitable fate. By the time he finally arrived, Brainiac had already completed Krypton's preservation, leaving nothing but the shattered remains of the planet in its wake.
Even if Tomar-Re had no inkling of Brainiac's preservation of Kandor, it was clear that their previous encounter was driving him. The Xudarian's face was warped with rage, and he was attacking Brainiac with an unrelenting fury. That anger, while making his attacks powerful, also left him easily predictable. His attacks were telegraphed well in advance, allowing Brainiac to dodge or redirect them towards one of his allies. Most of the time Tomar-Re would hastily cut them off in time, but occasionally the attacks would land, knocking a Green Lantern back and giving Brainiac more room to breathe.
That being said, Brainiac knew it would be the height of stupidity to focus purely on that and not acknowledge the threat both he and the rest of the Lanterns represented. A single Green Lantern was worth an entire army or fleet. There was a reason the Guardians merely needed just over 7200 Lanterns to defend the universe. Now there were six facing him all at once, alongside the five-hundred in total currently assaulting his vessel. It was a far from ideal situation, and it was taking Brainiac everything he had just keep a handle on what was going on around him.
Ducking underneath a laser blast from the female Graxosian, Brainiac shot a tentacle towards her that wrapped tightly around her waist. Swinging her around like a flail, he slammed her into the Rannian male, only for the Lizarkon to free them with an overhead chop from an axe. That axe was quickly replaced by a large machine gun that took both hands for the Lizarkon to carry. He fired the weapon at Brainiac, and the bullets bounced off of his armor plating to no effect.
Realizing that the attack was simply a distraction, Brainiac quickly whipped around to catch Kilowog's oncoming fist in the palm of his hand. He then threw a punch of his own into Kilowog's stomach, knocking the air out of his lungs and causing spittle to shoot out of his mouth. As Kilowog fell to his knees and clutched his stomach, gasping for breath, Brainiac lifted him up by the neck with one arm then hurled him towards Tomar-Re who was flying down for another attack. Kilowog's body slammed into him at full force, sending both into the metal bulkhead. As they fell down beneath the platform, Brainiac turned his attention to the others, only for the Graxosian to come from the side and land a punch to his cheek.
Quickly grabbing her, he brought her head down into a rising knee, then as she bounced up he punched her away. Her flailing body skipped along the ground before coming to a stop at the edge of the platform, the hardlight rails the only thing that prevented her from falling off. Brainiac didn't have time to focus on her, however, as the other Green Lanterns assaulted from both the front and the back at the same time. One wrapped his body with thick chains, immobilizing him, while the other hit him in the face with a large hammer. Brainiac was sent twirling through the air from the force of the blow, but he was able to land on his feet and immediately grab both Lanterns with his tentacles, slam them against each other repeatedly, then hurl them across the room.
While he was fighting the Lanterns with his physical body, Brainiac continued the wider defense of his vessel. His last remaining vessel, as all of the support ships he had constructed had been destroyed. Wirelessly connected to the construction and deployment of drones against the Green Lanterns, he kept a careful watch on his reserves. They were draining fast, with a sizable portion already eliminated. He would have to conduct a full assessment once the battle was over, but either way it was a tremendous set back. That being said, he was still confident that, with the losses the Lanterns had obtained, he'd still be able to come out on top.
A more pressing concern was the other fight he was in. As he was fighting the six Green Lanterns in the heart of his ship, Brainiac was also directing the movements of Project P.E.N.N.Y. using the malware he had installed into its remote access function. So far, much to his irritation, he was having mixed results. On the one hand, he had near complete control over Project P.E.N.N.Y.'s body, easily directing its arms, legs, and built-in weapons as though they were extensions of his own body.
On the other hand, however, Brainiac found himself completely unable to even begin to tap into the Maiden powers that the gynoid had, indeed, inherited from Fria following her passing. They were still active, as the magic was what was powering it now that the Dust had gone inert. Yet every attempt he made to replicate what it had done to his drones on its own resulted only in failure. That left him only with the control over the blades housed in its back, and without the Maiden powers to provide thrust, he was forced to traverse the zero-gravity battlefield by harpooning the abundant ship pieces and asteroids to swing the momentum of the gynoid's body, or reel-in to the floating debris using the anchored cables before pushing off once more. It was an inefficient, clumsy process, making Brainiac regret the decision not to replace the Dust power cells with those of his own design. Had he done so, he might've been able to have it fly back under its own power with the thruster configuration the gynoid had discovered with its weapons.
Even more than that, though, while he had control over the gynoid's body he had no control over its mind. Try as he might to access her memory banks, it somehow managed to keep kicking him out. At the same time, every moment he spent fighting the Lanterns was also shared by its attempt to regain control of its body. Already there were dozens of instances where Brainiac had attempted to attack the Green Lanterns only for Project P.E.N.N.Y. to usurp control at the last moment, allowing the Lanterns to either get away or deliver an attack of their own.
It took him some time to fully understand why his normally insurmountable hacking attempts were being met with failure. Then he remembered the main reason he was interested in the gynoid in the first place. Unique from any other automaton in his possession, Project P.E.N.N.Y. possessed a soul. A soul created from a split off fragment from its human creator, but that soul had transformed into its own entity. Its own person, by Remnant's standards at least. Undoubtedly that made all the difference, and was likely why Brainiac was finding such incomprehensible difficulty. For even though the fundamental structure of the gynoid was familiar, the soul was even now an unquantifiable enigma, providing enough complexity to greatly hinder his best efforts. If he had to guess, the Maiden powers were connected to its soul, and since he could not control that with code alone no matter how hard he tried, that left the Maiden powers outside of his reach completely.
He filed that information away for later, for now wasn't the time to dwell on it. Returning his attention back to the three simultaneous battles, Brainiac was finding it somehow more difficult than expected to keep up with all three at once. His personal evaluation had noted his combat effectiveness had decreased by a noticeable amount. That was probably the reason the Lanterns were able to land so many hits against him, as well as further explaining why he couldn't completely control Project P.E.N.N.Y. Had he been focusing on just one, or even two at a time as he normally did when he connected himself to the ship during any engagement, he might've been able to perform normally. But splitting himself into three directions at once was proving to be an inefficient strategy, one he didn't have an answer to at the moment.
Either way, Brainiac refused to let this stop him as he continued to press the attack, catching the Lizarkon's right arm then slamming his elbow onto the extended joint. The Lizarkon roared in agony as the broken limb dangled by his side, only for him to quickly pull the ring off his unresponsive right hand and place it upon his left. A moment later, a copy of one of Brainiac's own aerospace drones crashed into him, sending Brainiac skidding back once more.
Hastily jumping back to avoid another of Raven's sword swings, Qrow parried away Vernal's thrown weapons while flipping in midair. Landing on his feet, he was immediately met with an onslaught from his twin sister. Their swords clashed against one other, their movements so fast that one could barely even make out what they were doing. The only indication of their swords striking against one another were the shower of sparks raining around them, accompanied by loud clangs of metal striking metal.
Unwilling to let her 'dear leader' do all the work, Vernal attacked Qrow from the flank. Firing laser beams from her weapons, she forced Qrow to break off and deflect them with Harbinger's blade. This allowed Raven the opportunity to slash at Qrow's back, making him gasp in pain. Before she or Vernal could follow up with another blow, Qrow reconfigured Harbinger into its scythe form and bashed Vernal away with the top of its blade. He pulled the weapon back and swung, hooking Raven with the curve of the scythe before hurling her away. As she flew through the air, she transformed herself into a raven, then flew back around before transforming back into her human body to strike at Qrow again with a two-handed, overhead swing. Qrow managed to block it, his feet digging and sliding back against the ground, then he pushed her away before leaning back to dodge Vernal's thrown weapons.
The trio of fighters had been locked in this deadly game for some time now. Qrow didn't know how long, exactly, they had been doing so. Keeping track of time wasn't exactly high on his list of current priorities. All he knew was that his exhaustion was beginning to catch up to him. Weeks of only the bare minimum of nutrients, combined with fighting nonstop for several hours, didn't leave him much to work with. If he didn't end this battle soon, it might become impossible to escape and reunite with Penny.
At the same time, though, the cynical and frankly realistic part of him said that, by now, there was no point in trying to escape. He already ensured Penny had everything she needed to know, and judging by the massive explosion he heard and felt across the ship he hoped that she had already made her own exit. Unlike Penny, Qrow had no way of surviving in the vacuum of space, so reuniting with her had likely become impossible at this point. Unless a miracle happened, it was unlikely that Qrow was getting away. It wasn't a thought he liked to admit, but he hadn't survived this long by refusing to recognize what was right in front of him.
No, by now it was too late for Qrow to escape. Even if he managed to beat Raven and Vernal, there was no way he'd be able to fight his way through Brainiac's army of drones to wherever the alien boarders were holding up. Assuming they were still alive. If not, Qrow would be by himself, where he would inevitably fall and be killed, if he was lucky. Knowing this, Qrow resigned himself to doing the one thing he could do, which was frankly something that he should've done years before. While fighting the entire Branwen tribe was far from ideal, it did give him a perfect opportunity to shove their entire ideology right down their throats so they could choke on it. And of course he'd do it the way he knew best: by being an aggravating jackass.
"You know," Qrow began as he ducked under then parried another pair of blows from Vernal and Raven, "for a group so focused on strength, the fact that you're struggling this much against one guy says a lot!"
"Grrgh!" Vernal growled, rising to his insults and responding with a flurry of slashes. Qrow backed away from them all, then spun past the hurled weapons to kick her away.
"I have to ask: when was the last time you actually fought against someone who could fight back?" Qrow asked with a smug smirk on his face. Blocking another of Raven's swings with Harbinger held up in one hand, he turned to look at her then added, "It's a bit of a difference between picking on people who can't defend themselves and an actual Huntsman, isn't it?"
"Shut up!" Vernal shouted, and with a roar she fired her weapons at Qrow once more. Turning himself into a crow to avoid the beams, he landed on one of the upper platforms and held his sword at the ready, facing them head on as Vernal and Raven jumped up to join him.
"What are you getting mad at me for? Is it because I'm right?!" Qrow angrily shouted as he parried both fighters' blows.
As they continued the melee, Raven tried to say, "Don't lecture me, Qrow! Everything we did-!"
"Oh, spare me the excuses! I've already heard it thousands of times! The last thing I need is to hear it again from you, of all people!" Qrow spitefully interrupted, locking Harbinger in place with Omen and Vernal's weapons. Glaring into the eyeholes of Raven's mask, he rebutted, "Attacking defenseless people who are only trying to survive doesn't make you strong, it doesn't mean they're weak, and it especially doesn't mean they're asking for you to show up and take everything they own for yourselves! The only thing it means is that you and this pathetic excuse for a family are nothing more than a bunch of Brothers-forsaken parasites!"
Knocking them away with a yell and a horizontal swing of his scythe, Qrow leaped down towards his opponents with a snarl on his face. Rapidly switching between both of his opponents, the trio descended into yet another brawl. Only this time Qrow was on the offensive, which was a welcome change of pace. As they fought, Qrow took the time to analyze Vernal's and Raven's fighting styles. Raven, as he expected, was matching him blow for blow. It seemed that years of her almost exclusively preying upon hapless villages in the nearly lawless regions of Mistral had done little to dilute her skills. Which made sense, what with all the Grimm they undoubtedly had to tangle with during that time. Having dozens of self-centered and violent criminals hanging around in one place outside the relative safety of the kingdom's walls weren't conducive to keeping the Grimm away. Strangely, she hadn't brought her Maiden powers into the fight yet, but Qrow had to guess that she wanted to avoid harming her protégé.
Compared to the rest of the Branwen fighters, Vernal clearly stood head and shoulders above them all. They had fought recklessly, practically shooting from the hip and relying purely on strength of numbers rather than personal skill. But not her. Vernal was nearly matching Qrow blow for blow, but that was likely only because she had Raven for backup. Had it just been a one on one fight between the two of them, Qrow had no doubt he would've easily won. Based off his own personal experience, Raven had likely noticed Vernal's talent at an early age, then took her under her personal wing. The two were close, and Qrow wondered if Vernal was the only person in the entire tribe that Raven gave a damn about.
Still, despite the momentary turn in the battle, Qrow knew he couldn't keep up this two-on-one engagement forever. If he did, eventually they would wear him down, and he would fall. He had to tilt the odds further in his favor even more if he were to even stand a chance. The best way to do that, he knew, would be to remove one of his opponents from the fight altogether. While taking out Raven would be preferrable, as she was easily the stronger of the two, Vernal was an easier target.
Zeroing in on the young woman, Qrow launched into a furious assault. Harbinger became nothing more than a blur as he swung and stabbed, Vernal barely able to block some of them. The rest slammed against her body, making her cry out in pain at each blow. Raven attempted to come to Vernal's aid, but Qrow was letting his Semblance go all out. As she swung, her red-tinted Burn Dust blade was struck by one of Vernal's lasers as Qrow ducked beneath a desperate reaction shot, and the blade explosively shattered in her hands. Raven didn't let the backfire or the status of her weapon inconvenience her for long as she sheathed her hilt into its scabbard, automatically attaching a blue Ice Dust blade that she swung at Qrow as she pulled it out.
But Qrow anticipated this, and grabbing Vernal's arm he pulled her towards him. He then turned them both around, letting Vernal take the blow that was meant for him. Vernal cried out in pain as the blade slashed diagonally across her chest, from shoulder to waist, and Raven cried out, "Vernal!"
Taking advantage of her momentary slip in attention, Qrow violently kicked Vernal in her back, sending her flying out and crashing into Raven. The two women bounced around the ground, sprawled on top of each other. But, as Vernal tried to push herself off the ground, Qrow was on her immediately. He swing Harbinger down into her like a golf club, sending her crashing into a platform. She rebounded from the metal block, the air leaving her lungs as her Aura flashed. She fell to her knees in a daze, then hazily looked up as Qrow rushed towards her. She tried to raise her weapon at Qrow, but he was suddenly replaced by a swooping crow that spiraled around her last shot before Qrow shifted back and side-kicked her in the head. The blow proved too much for her to handle, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she fell over and her Aura broke, slipping into unconsciousness.
Breathing heavily, Qrow stared down at Vernal's limp body for a few moments, then huffed and shook his head. Muttering under his breath, he turned to his silent sister and said, "Alright, now it's just you and me, Raven. No more hiding behind your flunkies now. Of course, that's all you've been doing for the past eighteen years when you left your real family for them, so I understand if it's hard for you."
Raven said nothing at first, instead staring at Vernal's body. She then slowly tilted her head to look at Qrow, and her fist clenched tightly. Reaching up to grab her mask, she ripped it off and threw it to the side, exposing her face for the first time since the fight started. To Qrow's surprise, her eyes were clenched shut in anguish, and her teeth were grinding together. It lasted for only a moment, though, before her eyes shot open, now sprouting blazing maroon flames out of the sides.
Qrow's irises shrunk as a gale blasted out from his sister to push all of the unconscious bodies out to the edges of the room, and he muttered, "Oh, shit!" before he dived away.
A moment later, a jet of fire shot out, striking where Qrow previously stood. The metal boiled away from the intense heat, and she continued her unrelenting assault as Qrow was forced to do nothing more than desperately dodge. Now that she was the only person left on her side, Raven no longer had to worry about collateral damage, something she ruthlessly exploited as she sent hurricane force winds against her brother. He attempted to hold himself steady by stabbing Harbinger into the ground, using it as a brace as he held the shaft as tightly as he could, but Raven merely took the opportunity to attack him yet again, this time with a giant ice spike that she formed from underneath his chest.
The air was knocked out of his lungs as Qrow was sent flying upward, slamming into the ceiling. For a brief moment, he seemed to float in midair and his Aura flickered, then he began to fall back down. As he did, Raven flew up, the wind unfurling behind her as she rose higher into the air. Stopping just above him, Raven concentrated fire in her hands, and Qrow barely had time to turn into a crow to let the intense winds carry him away. A moment later, a massive column of fire shot through the air, striking against the sealed door and quickly boiling right through. The fire continued through the layers of the ship, melting and destroying everything in its path before it finally stopped.
Where it ended, Qrow didn't know as his body was slammed into the wall just as he turned back into a human. His left arm landed awkwardly on the edge of one of the platforms, and the blow proved too much to bear and his Aura finally broke. As it did, he heard a loud crack, and he let out a cry of pain as the bone in his arm broke alongside it. Clutching the now unresponsive and useless limb to stem the pain, Qrow could barely sit himself upright, his back against the blocky platform, before suddenly the point of Omen's blade was thrust right into his face. It stopped mere inches away from his nose, and he stared at it for a moment before slowly shifting his gaze up to Raven.
The Branwen twins said nothing at first, merely staring at each other as the winds finally died down. The flames around Raven's eyes didn't dissipate, though, but Qrow wasn't focusing on that. Instead, to his surprise, he saw that her eyes were glistening with unshed tears as she angrily looked down on him.
"Why?" she seethed through gritted teeth. "Why? Why did you make me do this? You knew from the beginning that fighting us, fighting me, was pointless. Yet you did it anyway, and now look what's happened."
Qrow didn't answer her question at first, then narrowed his eyes and stared into her own. Hissing from the pain, he answered, "Well…I guess I didn't have anything to lose."
"You could've lost your life!" Raven refuted and snarled. Looking away from her brother for a moment, Raven blinked away the tears that were threatening to flow out as she tried to maintain her persona.
She then looked back at Qrow, and angrily shouted, "Brothers dammit, Qrow! You always do this! Picking up a hopeless cause, throwing your life away, and for what? So you could die doing Ozpin's bidding? It doesn't matter if it's against Salem or against Brainiac, it's all the same! We can't beat them, yet you choose to fight anyway! You abandoned everything that we came from, for a man who's leading you to your death as you fight his war! A war he can't win! None of us can!"
Raven looked down at her feet, and whispered, "You should've come with me. You should've accepted my offer. You…you made me do this to you…"
"…I didn't make you do a damn thing, and I sure as hell didn't abandon you," Qrow rebutted, venom in his voice. Raven shot her head back up to him in shock, and he spitefully continued, "You abandoned us, and frankly I don't care if you think the fight I'm waging is pointless. At least I'm fighting for something bigger than myself. When's the last time you could say the same?"
Refusing to speak another word, Qrow glared at his sister as she stared back. Her eyes were turning red, and for a moment her lips quivered. But almost as soon as the crack in her visage formed, it was cast aside as Raven once again became consumed by fury.
Thrusting Omen back in front of his face, Raven ranted, "It doesn't matter what you think! The only thing that matters is that Brainiac can't be beaten, and there's nothing you, Ozpin, or anyone can do to-!"
Raven was cut off mid-sentence as a giant green hand came out of seemingly nowhere to slap into Raven from the side, backhanding her away from Qrow. His eyes widening in shock, Qrow shot his head over to the door, where he saw the green hand recede towards a lone figure that strode into the room. At first, the figure was obscured by shadow, but as it approached the light, Qrow could make more of it out. To his shock, he saw that it was a human man wearing a green and black uniform, with an insignia proudly displayed on his chest that was stylized like an old-fashioned lantern. He was holding up a clenched fist, a glowing green ring shining from it.
"Okay," the man said in perfect Vytalian as he floated upward, his body glowing green, "I think I've heard everything I need to here."
Picking herself back up, Raven shot around to face the man and spat, "Who the hell are you?!"
"Hal Jordan, Green Lantern Corp," the Green Lantern introduced himself as he stared Raven down without an ounce of fear or hesitation, "and you are under arrest."
Flying through the corridors of Brainiac's mothership, Hal blasted apart any drone that got in his way without once looking back. He had no time to dally, for at that very moment his brothers-and-sister in arms were fighting for their lives against Brainiac. A foe that Hal was supposed to subdue and bring to justice. It was no secret that, out of the entire Green Lantern Corp, Hal Jordan ranked among its top members. Perhaps even the best currently in the service, especially after Sinestro's fall from grace. That wasn't just Hal's ego talking, either. There was a reason he was selected to lead the team that would finally take Brainiac down.
But now that plan was completely shot to Hell. Not only had Brainiac removed himself from the bridge entirely, likely predicting the Lanterns would storm through, he had also disabled the bridge's central systems. Stel and the others were having a difficult time trying to bring them back online, just so that he could tap back into the central mainframe to shut the mothership down entirely. Then Brainiac had to make it even worse and show up at the city chamber right when Kilowog's team arrived. While Kilowog and his team were no pushovers, by any means, they weren't meant to fight Brainiac. Out of all of them, only Kilowog himself and Tomar-Re had much of a chance. Had they not been there, Arisia, Kol, and Sarn would've been practically lambs to the slaughter.
They'd still be if Hal didn't make it to them in time, which was why he was going as fast as he could. Speeding himself up with a projection of the Batmobile, he ran over any drone in his path. A few managed to get out of the way, but Hal simply had his coworker's car drop a few hi-tech mines that exploded in the drones' midst well after Hal himself got away. He couldn't afford to waste time taking them out himself. Every moment spent doing so was another he could've used to get to his teammates faster.
That need for speed was what made Hal leave the rest of his team behind to secure the bridge. Hopefully, by the time he got to the science labs, they'd have accomplished their secondary goal. If not, at least they had a backup plan. Namely, break all the shit they could on their way out, as Guy so succinctly put it when he initially brought it up. While Hal would've described it somewhat differently, the end result was the same.
Coming upon a round intersection, Hal was met by a swarm of drones popping in from every adjacent hallway. They raised their plasma cannons to fire upon him, but with a scowl on his face Hal yelled, "Out of my damn way!"
He drifted the armored car into a power slide before phasing out of it like a ghost, letting it continue on into the metallic horde. They broke apart against the sweeping Batmobile copy even before he had it self-destruct for good measure, fracturing under the strain of the onslaught into thousands of tiny pieces. Something that, Hal noticed, was becoming a pattern regarding Brainiac's forces. The last-remaining Coluan in the entire universe clearly fell into the quantity side of the quality versus quantity argument, and there were certainly merits to such an approach. Against an opponent completely caught unawares, unable to mount an effective defense by the time the drones were overrunning their cities, it was frighteningly effective. Not only that, but compared to most denizens of the universe, including most of the people who called his own world of Earth home, those drones could outmatch them individually.
But quantity can only take you so far. If he came across opponents who were ready for him, perhaps not specifically but in general, they might be able to push the metal hordes back then launch a retaliation of their own. That was what was happening right now. The Green Lanterns had dealt with Brainiac before numerous times, so they knew how he operated. For the most part, outside of a few hiccups such as the one he was trying to rectify now, their attack against Brainiac was going well. At the very least, Hal knew Brainiac wouldn't be destroying any planets this day. Hopefully never again.
For that, though, Brainiac had to be captured first. So, as the coast cleared again, Hal prepared to fly off once more. He only managed to pass through a few hallways and make it to yet another intersection, though, when a high priority message beamed through.
Stopping in midair, Hal brought his blinking ring up to his face then listened as Kyle's voice rang through, "Hal, did you find the—damn it! Guy, she's coming up on your left! – Did you find the escapee?!"
"What escapee?" Hal replied, his eyes widening in confusion. After a moment, he hit himself on his forehead as he remembered that Kyle had sent a message to the boarding team about an escapee pinned down somewhere on the ship. Hal had been so preoccupied with getting to Kilowog that he completely ignored it.
Shaking his head while idly forming a pair of automatic turrets that gunned down the drones attempting to take advantage of his immobile state, Hal answered, "No, I haven't found him yet. Been a little busy at the moment!"
Punctuating his point, he hastily ducked underneath a plasma bolt, then fired a homing rocket into the offending drone without even looking. It exploded in a ball of green smoke and fire, leaving nothing but scrap in its wake.
"Well, you need to find him!" Kyle shouted, and in the background Hal could hear the sound of intense combat going on.
His own worry rising, Hal asked, "Kyle, what's going on out there? Talk to me."
"Another escapee, a sapient gynoid named Penny, managed to break out of Brainiac's ship!" Kyle quickly explained. "But he implanted a virus into her and now has near complete control over her body. Guy and I are trying to take her down right now!"
"Damn it!" Hal cursed. Flashing a scowl, he immediately added, "Do you need help?"
"We can handle this!" Kyle insisted. "What you need to do is find her friend! He's the reason she got out in the first place, and I do not want to think about what Brainiac will do if he gets his hands on him again."
Biting back another curse while simultaneously adding more automatic turret constructs to defend himself, Hal pulled up his map of Brainiac's ship. He was about halfway to the science labs. Just a few more floors and he'd be there. But, as he looked at the condition of Kilowog's team, he grimaced as he took note of their injuries. None of them, even Kilowog and Tomar-Re, were looking good, with Kol even having a broken arm. At the same time, they were still putting up a fight, what with all the ring discharges they were giving off.
Shaking his head, Hal replied, "I'll look for him after I get to Kilowog's team! They're fighting Brainiac right now, and I'm almost at their position!"
"If you do that—shit!—then the other escapee might get killed!" Kyle pointed out, firing his ring at something, presumably the hacked gynoid. "It didn't sound like he was in a good spot when they got separated!"
"Damn it, Kyle!" Hal spat, throwing his arm to the side while forming an MP7 PDW to fire on a few drones with. "If I don't get to the others, then they could die!"
"If you honestly think I'm going let this poozer kill me, you and I are going to have a discussion once this is over," Kilowog chimed in, the sound of a fist striking metal behind his voice. "Don't worry, we can handle ourselves for now. Go rescue this person!"
Hal grimaced. Even with Kilowog's permission, it still didn't sit right with him to leave his teammates behind. He spoke back up and added, "I know that, but that's not the only issue! I don't even know where the hell this guy is, and Brainiac's mothership is a labyrinth. I'd be trying to find a needle in a haystack, only the hay is trying to kill me and I'm blind. Where am I even supposed to start?!"
As the question left his lips, a giant jet of flame shot right through the metal bulkheads in front of him, catching Hal off guard and incinerating the remaining drones caught in its way. The fire came down from the ceiling diagonally, melting through the floor as it continued its destructive path. As the flame died down, Hal could only stare at the two scorched and smoking holes it made, then slowly turned his head to look up through the one in the ceiling.
"What was that?!" Kyle asked, having apparently heard the commotion. Hal said nothing at first, merely blinking his eyes as he tried to comprehend the timing of the event. Part of him wanted to dismiss it, to keep going to Kilowog and face Brainiac alongside him and the others. The rest, however, couldn't help but note the possible connection, and so with a groan he hung his head.
"…Something just came up," Hal finally answered. "Gonna go check it out. I'll be right back."
Shutting off his communications, Hal grumbled under his breath, "I swear to God, if it turns out this'll take me to this guy I'm going to lose my mind…"
Flying up through the hole quickly but carefully, Hal took note of the damage it had wrought. The fire, magical in origin from what he could tell, had burned through dozens of layers and floors of Brainiac's ship. Nothing critical was damaged, but it spoke volumes as to the power behind it. Narrowing his eyes and picking up the pace, he reached the end of the devastation where he found himself at a destroyed door. Smoke filled the air, obscuring his view of the room on the other side.
But he could clearly hear voices, and a distraught woman called out, "Brothers dammit, Qrow! You always do this! Picking up a hopeless cause, throwing your life away, and for what? So you could die doing Ozpin's bidding? It doesn't matter if it's against Salem or against Brainiac, it's all the same! We can't beat them, yet you choose to fight anyway! You abandoned everything that we came from, for a man who's leading you to your death as you fight his war! A war he can't win! None of us can!"
The woman paused, then whispered something under her breath that Hal couldn't quite make out. As the smoke began to clear, Hal could see a man and a woman staring each other down. Dozens of unconscious human bodies were strewn across the room, some of which were groaning in pain and discomfort while others were completely unresponsive. The still-conscious man was clutching his forearm, while the woman was staring him down and pointing a katana-like sword with a blue blade at his face.
Whatever the woman told him, the man growled and venomously replied, "…I didn't make you do a damn thing, and I sure as hell didn't abandon you. You abandoned us, and frankly I don't care if you think the fight I'm waging is pointless. At least I'm fighting for something bigger than myself. When's the last time you could say the same?"
The woman was taken aback for a moment, then regained her composure and snarled, "It doesn't matter what you think! The only thing that matters is that Brainiac can't be beaten, and there's nothing you, Ozpin, or anyone can do to-!"
As soon as she pointed her weapon back at the downed man, Hal came to a decision. Whoever this lady was, she was clearly working for Brainiac, and he'd be willing to wage an entire year's salary to say that the man she was threatening was Kyle's other escapee. The man he was searching for. Knowing he had to act fast, Hal sent out a massive green hand that struck the woman's side, sending her flying away from the man and slamming her into a metal block.
"Okay," Hal said, his eyes narrowed as he floated upward through the smoke and into the room itself, "I think I've heard everything I need to here."
From the corner of his eye, Hal saw the injured man look at him with shock and surprise. Which made sense, he couldn't have been expecting someone like Hal to show up. At the same time, the woman picked herself back up and shot around to face the man. Anger twisting her face, she spat, "Who the hell are you?!"
"Hal Jordan, Green Lantern Corp," Hal firmly introduced himself, raising his arm back to where his clenched fist was raised near his head, "and you are under arrest."
The woman looked at him incredulously for a moment, then her eyes flashed as red flames sprouted from them. Magic began to swirl around her hands, and a heavy wind picked up around the room. Unflinching as he stared her down, Hal glanced over at the injured man who was trying to pick himself back up off the wall. But the heavy wind was making it difficult for him, and with his clearly broken arm it was even worse.
Without even saying a word, and not giving the woman a chance to retaliate, Hal formed a massive anvil over her head then dropped it on her. She barely had time to look up before she was crushed and pinned underneath, the massive weight forcing her onto her belly. She looked up incredulously at what was restraining her, then with wide eyes she turned to look at Hal as he made his way over to the man she was threatening.
"…What?" she muttered in disbelief, unable to move while Hal crouched near the man then formed a cast over his arm.
"Here, that outta help until we can get you actual medical attention," Hal said. The man looked at the cast Hal made for him then glanced over at the anvil the woman was still trapped underneath. Now that Hal was closer to them both, he could see something of a family resemblance. Similar facial structure, eyes, hair color, and skin tone. If he had to guess, these two were brother and sister, maybe cousins.
After a moment, the man shook his head then said, "You know what, I'll take it."
Hal couldn't help but chuckle and replied, "That's the spirit."
Offering a hand to help him up, Hal gently pulled the man to his feet. He swayed for a moment, but was able to maintain his footing. Staring into Hal's eyes, he nodded then said, "So your name's Hal?"
"Hal Jordan," he confirmed with a nod. "You?"
"Qrow Branwen," Qrow introduced himself with a wince. He then tilted his head to his still pinned but now struggling sister and added, "That's my… That's Raven. She's working for Brainiac and doing his bidding. Has been for quite some time now."
Hal couldn't help but note the obvious omission. Recognizing the family squabble for what it was, he nodded in sympathy then turned to face her before replying, "Certainly sounded like it. You're lucky I found you in time. You can thank your friend Penny. She's the one who told us you were in here."
"Penny got out?" Qrow breathlessly asked, his eyes going wide as did Raven's. They widened even further when Hal nodded, and a smile began to grow across Qrow's face while Raven's began to fall.
"She did. Managed to meet up with a few Lanterns outside," Hal answered, then frowned and added, "There's been a complication, but my friends are handling it. I'll go over it later after we get you out of here."
A flash of worry crossed Qrow's face, then he straightened himself and nodded. As a tremor shook through the ship, he then asked, "What about Brainiac?"
"A couple other Lanterns are fighting him right now where the cities are being housed," Hal confirmed, causing Qrow to smile yet again while Raven fell further into despair underneath her anvil, which now was beginning to show some cracks. "I was actually on my way to reinforce them when fire shot through the ship, which led me here."
"…That so?" Qrow asked as he glanced over at Raven, who caught the implications as well. Turning his attention back to Hal, Qrow nodded then said, "Well, ain't that a stroke of luck?"
"Certainly seemed like it. I don't think I would've found you if I hadn't been in the right place at the right time," Hal admitted. The fact that he likely wouldn't have even been able to properly search the ship in the first place didn't have to be said, though. Qrow seemed to take him at his word and nodded, then looked at the cast keeping his arm still.
Looking back at Hal, Qrow then asked, "Before we get the hell out of here, I gotta ask: which kingdom are you from, and how come we never heard of this Green Lantern Corp before all of this?"
"Kingdom? I'm from the United States of America," Hal answered, confusion his voice. Before Qrow could respond, the anvil pinning Raven to the ground suddenly shattered as a torrent of magical energy erupted from her.
Acting immediately, Hal formed a kite shield to protect himself and Qrow from the explosion, then placed himself in front of the injured man as a furious Raven looked down on them both. With her sword in hand, Raven flew down to strike at the Green Lantern, only for Hal to meet her head on with a sword of his own. He winced from the force of the blow as pain shot through his arm, but with the protection of his ring it was only a minor discomfort at best.
Pushing her away with a flat hand, Hal formed a minigun and began to fire upon Raven. Blocking the hail of bullets with a flurry of sword swings, she sliced her sword towards him. A wide, horizontal beam of ice soared through the air, which Hal broke apart with an overhead hammer swing just before it could meet him. Flying higher into the air to match her altitude, Hal formed an M1 Abrams tank that fired its main cannon at Raven. Her eyes widened at the appearance of the vehicle, and she barely had time to twist her body away as the shell fired. It struck the metal wall behind her, making the entire room shake and echo.
Trying to buffet Hal away with hurricane force winds, she found that he was completely unaffected as he flew against the wind towards her effortlessly. Almost as though it wasn't there at all. Her face fell as Hal fired a submachine gun at her from one hand, forcing her to deflect the small green bullets away before he closed the distance. Catching a sword swing with a jaws of life he conjured like a gauntlet over his hand, Hal Jordan shattered the Dust blade while punching with a boxing glove over his other fist into her face, sending Raven tumbling back and crashing into the top of a metal block.
As she picked herself back up, watching as Hal formed a pair of gunships to fire upon her, Raven was forced to soar back up on a whirlwind to avoid their missiles. Dropping her weapon's hilt, she instead brought her hands together with concentrated power before the blade of a massive ōdachi made of compacted ice extended multiple times her height above her. She raised up the improbably long blade with ease, filled it with crackling electricity for good measure, then cut both helicopters out of the air with a shout.
"…Well then," Hal said and raised an eyebrow as the pieces of the gunships dropped and faded away around them, and the Spring Maiden brought the magical weapon back to a ready position, before he bared his teeth in an exhilarated smirk. His ring blazed as his hands wrapped around the hilt of his own equally large sword construct, though this green blade had a more European claymore design.
"En guard," he taunted the seething woman, and in a blink the giant weapons crashed against each other.
As downright fun this fight was shaping up to be, Hal started having second thoughts about this approach quite quickly as they exchanged a flurry of savage blows. While he'd become proficient in wielding numerous kinds of weapons in his career as a Lantern, it was clear that this woman was far more practiced in sword fighting. And while the power of his ring let him match her in strength, she was also superhumanly fast. Though as she parried his sword out of position, and didn't take the opening to hit him, it seemed that she wasn't all that committed anyway.
He was able to meet her gaze as they locked their blades together, and behind the fire and the anger, her eyes just looked conflicted to him. She glanced between Hal and Qrow, who stared up at them with an expression of fierce vindication, and she ground her teeth before shoving Hal away.
Hal prepared to switch his giant sword for something else to counter the next attack, but instead Raven let out a forlorn scream and flash-boiled her ice construct into a massive cloud of steam that consumed the entire room. Both Hal and Qrow were forced to avert their eyes, then Qrow stiffened as he heard the distinctive sound of a portal ripping open behind him, followed by the flapping of wings that sped away from him to the tunnel melted into the rest of the mothership. The steam was quickly blown away by a massive fan Hal had constructed from his ring. When it cleared, there was no sign of Raven, only a single black feather falling down onto the floor at Qrow's feet as he turned around. Qrow looked at the feather in recognition, grimacing as he let it lay while Hal was confused as he shot his head around to try and find her.
"Where the hell did she go?" Hal wondered aloud. Scanning the area with his ring for any magical signatures, he was prepared to give chase, only for him to hear Qrow huff to catch his attention.
"Let her run," Qrow suggested, letting out a resigned sigh. "That coward isn't worth it."
"…Alright," the Green Lantern relaxed before looking around at all the other incapacitated people left scattered around the chamber. Hel then asked, "Are the rest of these people with you, or…?"
"Hell no, these scum are all hers," Qrow scoffed as he sneered at the bandits, his good hand twitching before he dismissed them. "They made their bed with Brainiac, so let them lay in it."
Hal looked at the injured man for a moment, then nodded in agreement. Right now, getting themselves out of Brainiac's vessel was of the utmost priority. Floating down to escort Qrow to the extraction zone, he waited as Qrow picked up a discarded weapon. It was a large, two-handed war scythe, yet to his surprise it shifted into a tonfa. The mechanism seemed familiar to Hal, despite having never seen it before in his life. He did feel that he had heard about something similar on Earth. In fact, the name Qrow Branwen felt familiar as well, yet he couldn't put his finger on it.
Resolving to find out where he remembered those things from later, he picked a surprised Qrow up in a green bubble then flew them both out of the room as fast as he could.
Cursing under his breath, Kyle Rayner hastily encased himself with a bubble to protect himself from a hurled asteroid as big as he was. Explosions and laser fire were going on all around him, but for the most part Kyle didn't concern himself with it. Instead, his attention was squarely on his opponent right in front of him. Of course, calling the poor girl his opponent wasn't entirely accurate. Ever since the fight began, the young-looking gynoid named Penny had been enthralled by Brainiac, controlled by a virus he had implanted into her. When he did, Kyle didn't have the faintest clue.
All he knew was that, based off the Green Lantern Corps' prior experience with Brainiac's technology, the virus was embedded deep within her code. Deep enough to where even their best technicians on Oa would have difficulty removing it. Brainiac's viruses were like cancer to computers. Once it got in there, practically only a complete wipe could clear it out completely. Even then, depending on how you did it, that might not be enough. For artificial intelligences, it was even worse. If you didn't proceed with the utmost care, you risked destroying the person embedded into the code that you were trying to save.
That was what was happening to Penny at that very moment. Her once vibrant green eyes glowed an ominous purple as Brainiac directed her body to pull itself to the floating remains of one of his aerospace drones with her swords. When she landed, the force caused the drone to spin, but a moment later Penny launched herself back with a powerful jump. In the zero-gravity environment they were fighting in, the force of Penny's jump caused the drone to fly straight towards Kyle. He immediately cut it apart with one swing of a laser sword, then continued chasing her down.
"Kyle, hurry it up! I don't know how long I can hold these bastards off!" Guy shouted above the chaos, prompting Kyle to glance in his fellow Lantern's direction.
At first, Guy had been flighting right alongside Kyle, working in concert with him to subdue Penny. Whatever power she previously displayed against Brainiac's forces was nowhere to be seen when Penny was forced to face them, something that Kyle counted among his blessings. Only able to use her natural strength and the swords on her back, Brainiac had quickly found that Penny was outmatched by the two veteran Green Lanterns. Any attempts for her to escape were cut off, any attacks on one left the other able to retaliate on their behalf. Penny had managed to get a few good hits in, and Kyle had to admit that they hurt like hell, but for the most part he thought the fight was going well. That they'd be able to subdue Penny then work on removing Brainiac's virus from her systems in a much safer place.
But apparently Brainiac had also noticed this disparity, for it wasn't long before entire flights of aerospace drones were sent in their direction. Firing yellow-tinted lasers at the Green Lanterns, they were forced to break off and deal with them. This allowed Penny ample opportunity to make her escape, jumping and pulling herself to different bits of debris back towards the mothership, or even grappling onto some passing drones like sled dogs to be speedily pulled along towards the mothership in one scary instance. Until her elemental powers made another appearance by destroying the connected drones with channeled lightning, leaving her body tumbling forward before Brainiac latched onto something else. Seeing this, Guy had taken it upon himself to deal with Brainiac's reinforcements while Kyle went after Penny.
That was what Guy was still doing now, destroying every drone around them with ruthless efficiency. Not by blasting them apart with lasers or autocannons, or even smashing them apart with giant bats as Guy tended to do. Instead, Guy was creating hundreds of Baltimore Ravens linebackers to literally tackle the drones like human missiles. Even for Kyle, it was hard to wrap his head around, but Guy was making it work and it was keeping the drones off his back. So Kyle accepted it, then focused on taking Penny down.
"Let her go!" Kyle yelled as he launched a net at Penny. Just before it made contact, however, Penny sliced it apart with her swords. Turning herself around, she landed on the side of an icy comet, waiting for Kyle as he zoomed towards her, his fists outstretched.
Catching Kyle as he slammed into her, she was driven into and through the comet, shattering it into several small chunks. As they flew by, Penny harpooned several with her swords, then swung them back towards Kyle like they were flails. The chunks of ice slammed against his back and stomach, making him wince in pain before the green flickers from her eyes flared in time with sudden bursts of fire, which knocked the swinging weapons away from him while melting the ice blocks into harmless clouds of frost. But that didn't stop Penny's body as she curled herself up then kicked him in the chin. Kyle was momentarily launched upward, while Penny herself floated downward. As she passed a slab of twisting, flat metal, she pierced the debris with her swords, stopping her momentum. Penny then pulled herself in, standing on the side of the debris with three of her swords serving as anchors, the rest outstretched behind her like tentacles.
"Project P.E.N.N.Y. is mine," Brainiac's voice insisted as it spewed out of Penny's mouth, her purple glowing eyes boring into Kyle's own as he flew back down towards her. "Your efforts to rescue it are misplaced, as is your compassion."
"Big talk coming from the guy possessing an innocent girl just trying to get away from you!" Kyle rebutted, landing on the slab to stand opposite Penny. She narrowed her eyes and crouched slightly, lowering into a combat stance. But before she could do anything, Penny's body twitched and spasmed for a moment. The purple eyes turned green, and her impassive face turned desperate yet again.
Taking this as a sign, Kyle said, "I know you're still in there, Penny! Keep fighting!"
Before she could say anything, Brainiac resumed control over her body, then Penny launched herself towards Kyle, even as the girl's will formed a wall of ice between them. Brainiac simply smashed her body through the makeshift barrier while thrusting forth a sword in an attempted stab, which Kyle was forced to twist to the side in order to dodge, then duck underneath a follow up swing from another. When a third attempted to swing up and stab the Green Lantern through the gut, Kyle kicked himself off the debris and soared over Penny. Forming a large-barreled paintball gun, he fired fist-sized balls onto her back. The impacts rocked her, and the orbs popped to coat her in thick globs of a glue-like substance that hardened to a sort of rubbery cement, but Penny remained standing as she slowly turned around to face him. At the same time as she started ripping the immobilizing goo off of her body, she wrapped the cables of her swords around Kyle's leg, then slammed him into the metal slab she was standing on.
Landing with enough force to dent the metal, Kyle immediately fired his paintball gun into Penny's face. It was enough for her to lose focus, allowing Kyle the opportunity to slip away. As he did, he threw a boxing glove into Penny's chest, sending her skidding back and off the platform into the void of space. Kyle grimaced as he flew forward, eager to reach her, but as he did Penny latched onto the body of a deceased Lantern then used it as a springboard to launch herself away while pulling off the glue on her face. At the same time, the body was hurled toward Kyle, who carefully caught the corpse then gently pushed it to the side.
Angrily shooting his head at the possessed Penny for the utter desecration that Brainiac was forcing her to do, he raced after her. She landed on a rocky asteroid, this time with all of her swords out and pointed towards Kyle. As he approached, she threw the swords out towards him, forcing the Green Lantern to roll back and forth in order to avoid them. On the last, however, Penny yet again wrapped the cord around his arm, then pulled herself towards him in order to deliver a powerful uppercut. Launched back, Penny wrapped yet more cables around his limbs so that she could angle herself to kick him in the chest with both feet at the same time. Kyle was launched back, crashing into a small rocky asteroid chunk and shattering it further.
Undeterred, Kyle formed a massive boombox which immediately activated. Vibrating green pulses shot out, shaking everything in its wake including Penny. As she shook, Kyle noticed that she grimaced in obvious discomfort, but he couldn't tell if that was Brainiac or Penny herself. Either way, he used the moment to perform a flying tackle that slammed her into the asteroid she was standing on. Pinning her to the ground, Kyle threw a quick trio of light punches, intending to daze her before using his ring to immobilize the possessed girl, but just before he could throw another punch his fist was caught by her hand. She then reached over to grab the back of his head and pulled down to meet her own. Unlike Kyle's punches, her head-butt was filled with as much force as she could bear. Which was a lot, as Kyle had come to find out.
Trying to break free, Kyle found more of his limbs trapped by the cables, further pinning him in place. Penny, meanwhile, continued to whale on Kyle, now hurling both of her fists into his body. Unable to defend himself, Kyle prepared to form a construct with his ring to push Penny away when, much to his surprise, Penny's body twitched yet again.
"No!" Penny's actual voice screamed out. The cables loosened, allowing Kyle to push himself away. As he did, he saw Penny tightly grip her head and retract the blades back towards her, but before they could be returned to their compartment Brainiac once again reasserted his control. He had Penny look at herself curiously as the rock of the asteroid on either side of her prone body sprouted to encase her from the neck down, but even now Kyle could see her head twitch.
"The gynoid's resistance is…perplexing," Brainiac noted, and Kyle couldn't help but scoff.
"It's because she's alive," Kyle declared, his body growing brightly as he floated upward, "and no amount of coding can make you control that!"
Penny furrowed her brow, then Brainiac ominously remarked, "We will see about that once this is over."
The still free swords stabbed down like chisels into the weak points of the stone coffin, and Penny kicked herself off of the asteroid to slam into Kyle, leaving a crater and dust cloud in her wake. They tumbled through the void, grappling and throwing punches at each other. Trying to avoid deliberately harming Penny, Kyle's blows were relatively light, meant mostly to disorient and further break the connection Brainiac had over her body. Penny's, however, were full of lethal intent, each blow sending pain throughout Kyle's body. If it weren't for the shield his power ring was forming around himself, Kyle knew he'd be dead in just a single blow. For all the power it gave him, at the end of the day he was still human. Horrifyingly, he noticed that the artificial flesh covering Penny's body, already weakened and partially destroyed from the harsh environment of space, was being shredded away with each blow. Clearly, Brainiac was telling the truth when he told them that Penny's physical status didn't matter so long as he got her back.
Knowing he had to end this before his ring ran out of charge, but not knowing how, exactly, to do that, Kyle kept up the brawl. Alternating between offense and defense on the fly, Kyle formed a taser then jammed it into Penny's stomach. The electricity coursed through her body, making her spasm and twitch as her circuits were nearly overloaded. But Brainiac merely wrapped a cord around Kyle's neck, causing the electricity to flow into him as well. Kyle cried out in pain, dissipating the taser to stop the flow. Brainiac used the opportunity to wrap more cables around him, tightening Penny's grip on his neck.
Kyle suddenly found it hard to breathe, and he began to claw at the wires currently trying to garrote him. Penny, meanwhile, stared at him with a cold, dispassionate gaze as she coiled the wires around him even tighter. Of the twelve blades connected to her, four were wrapped around him. One around his neck, threatening to choke him out. Two more on his arms, preventing them from being moved at all, while the last bound his legs together at the knees. Completely immobilized, Kyle could only watch as Penny raised the remaining eight swords behind her, the tips of their blades aimed squarely at his face.
Then, just before they could be thrust into him, Penny once again regained control. Her eyes turned green, and she shouted, "No! You will not hurt him!"
Kicking Kyle away from her, she seized each of her swords with a chaotic mix of ice, rock, and air to pull them as far away as possible, and the cables rebounded as they were fully stretched out. As her body continued to spasm while the two intelligences fought for control, Kyle saw that they became wrapped around her arms and legs.
"Submit!" Brainiac ordered, Penny's eyes flashing purple as he attempted to move her joints in an unnatural, aggressive fashion that they weren't designed for.
But Penny started to regain control once again, and her body's spasms caused the cables to further tighten around her as a green energy field flickered around her body. As Kyle started to fly back to lend aid, Penny began to shout, "No, I will not! I cannot! This…is my body! Not yours!"
Just as Kyle reached her, a massive surge of magical power erupted from Penny's body, causing Kyle to stop and shield himself. Arcs of lightning fired from the tips of her fingers, striking any nearby aerospace drones that weren't already being tackled by green, hardlight linebackers. She screamed at the top of her lungs, and her body continued to twitch and spasm as the field around her body shattered, and Brainiac desperately tried to regain control over her.
It was then that Kyle noticed that the wires were digging into her damaged limbs, and the struggle between Penny and Brainiac was only winding them tighter and tighter. His eyes widening, Kyle yelled out, "Penny, stop! Before you-!"
But it was too late. The world seemed to freeze as, with one final, painful jerk, Penny's limbs could no longer sustain the strain they had been put under. Like garrotes, the wires cut through the metal skeleton underneath the fake flesh, and Penny's eyes turned green as she gasped in surprise. All at once, her arms and legs were bisected by their joints, causing them to float away from the gynoid, along with the Floating Array as the taut wires snapped and ripped out of her back compartment, leaving her as little more than a head and torso. Shocked, Kyle saw one final flash of infuriated purple, then the connection between her and Brainiac was cut. Briefly, Penny looked at Kyle, and a relieved smile graced her lips before she began to shut down, the lights around her eyes starting to fade as her face became passive and her irises widened.
"No, NO!" Kyle shouted, then flew over to Penny as fast as he could.
Grabbing her, Kyle turned her around to look at her damaged back. Quickly finding what he could only assume was a charging port, he hastily formed a car battery with jumper cables, then connected Penny's power cell to it. Electricity began to flow, and he turned her back around to look at her face. At first he saw nothing, and with a heavy heart he felt that he was too late. Then, much to his surprise and relief, he saw a faint green symbol that was identical to those on the hilts of her swords start blinking in the center of Penny's eyes.
"Holy shit, what the hell did you do, Kyle?!" Guy demanded as he flew over, a look of horror stricken across his face.
"I didn't do this," Kyle answered, sighing and shaking his head. "Brainiac kept trying to take control of her. She…resisted, and in their struggle this happened."
"…Fuck," Guy muttered, his face falling before he loudly gulped. "Is…is she still alive?"
"I think so," Kyle confirmed with a small nod, although he wasn't entirely certain. "We'll need to get her to a field hospital first to confirm, but I think she's alive. Just in a powered-down state."
"Like a coma?"
"Yeah, like a coma," Kyle said. "But we should keep her connected to a power source. We have no idea how she works, and I'm not going to risk the chance that we can't bring her back online if we let her shutdown completely after all this damage. Call it a gut feeling, but Penny…she seems different somehow. Can't quite put my finger on it yet."
Guy looked at a despondent Kyle and the mangled remains of the girl they were trying to save, then scrunched up his face and shook his head. Releasing a sigh, Guy Gardner looked back at Kyle then pointed with his thumb over his shoulder to the nearest hollowed out asteroid.
"Come on, let's get you two out of here," Guy said, then flew forward to escort Kyle and Penny's hopefully just unconscious body out of harm's way.
It happened in an instant. One moment, Brainiac was connected to the gynoid's mind, struggling to regain control while it did everything in its power to push him out. Control over its body went back and forth, stretching Brainiac's concentration to its limits. So focused on fighting Project P.E.N.N.Y.'s mind with his own, Brainiac never even noticed Floating Array's cables wrapping themselves around its limbs due to the chaotic and incessant movements their struggle was causing. In the vacuum of space, there was nothing to keep them still, and their connection to the gynoid's body left them with only one place to go. By the time he realized the danger, it was too late as the Aura shield broke, and the massive surge of magical power expelled from Project P.E.N.N.Y. provided the necessary force for one final pull.
With only a momentary strain, the cables cut through its body. This generated an intense feedback loop as its pain receptors flared. Brainiac had connected himself to said receptors in order to accurately respond to the Green Lantern's attacks, unable to physically feel but able to sense any pain the gynoid would've felt. Unfortunately for him, such an intense feedback from the gynoid getting dismembered was too much even for him, and with a jolt the connection was forcibly severed.
Instinctually letting out a cry of pain, Brainiac clenched his eyes shut as the holes on the back of his head sparked. He stumbled backward, releasing his hold on the female Graxosian's throat at the same time. Noticing this, Kilowog immediately tackled Brainiac to the ground, pinning his arms and legs underneath him before hurling powerful punches into Brainiac's face. Each blow drove the tyrant further into the ground, denting the metal more and more as loud clangs reverberated across the chamber. Brainiac tried to push him off, but thick clamps were suddenly attached to his wrists and ankles, binding him to the floor. His tentacles shot out, attempting to stab into Kilowog's body, but Tomar-Re caught them with a giant fist before sawing completely through them. The tentacles became nothing more than sparking stumps, and they receded back into Brainiac's body.
Throwing one final punch that left Brainiac in a daze and with a split, bloodied lip that was spewing purple ichor, Kilowog stood back up as more bindings were thrust onto their opponent. Breathing heavily, Kilowog said, "Keep that poozer down."
"You got it, Kilowog," Arisia said, keeping her ring trained on Brainiac. Taking a step back, Kilowog took the moment to inspect the aftermath of the fight.
The platform they were on was heavily damaged, with the hardlight rails flickering in and out of existence every few seconds. Large holes had been blasted through the metal floor, exposing the deep chasm underneath them. Along the walls, sections of hull had been broken off, exposing the nearly organic-looking machinery underneath. The only sections of the chamber that weren't damaged was the terminal Dkrtzy was still working on, protected by a profusely cracked bubble that looked seconds away from shattering completely, and the bottled cities themselves. Whatever glasslike material they were made out of, they were durable. Several times, Kilowog or one of his Lanterns had been hurled into them, yet not only did the bottles not break or even so much as form a crack, but the contents housed inside the bottles weren't moved at all.
More importantly, Kilowog looked at the status of his Lanterns. All of them, including himself, were severely damaged. Each breath Kilowog took made his lungs feel as though they were on fire, and he was pressing his hand into his side to stem the pain from a particularly nasty bruise. Trickles of blood were coming down from his brow, and his cheek was swollen and turned into a dark shade of purple. But he was among the lucky ones, for the other Lanterns were in even worse shape. Both of Isamot Kol's arms had been broken by Brainiac, forcing the Lizarkon to use his power ring with his tongue through a broken jaw. Vath Sarn, with a split lip and a limp walk, could barely stand upright, and each moment looked as though he was about to fall over. It was taking all of his will just to remain standing, but he did it anyway, too stubborn to just hover with his power to support his weight. One of Arisia's eyes was swollen shut, her neck partially bruised from when Brainiac tried literally choking the life out of her, and based on how she was gingerly favoring her side she might have had some cracked or broken ribs as well. For Tomar-Re, he was in the best shape outside of Kilowog himself, but even he was breathing harshly and his body was covered in large bruises and open wounds.
It was clear to Kilowog that they only barely managed to take Brainiac down, but at the same time he could see that the Coluan warlord was still struggling to free himself from his bonds. Were it not for the constant reinforcement repairing any damage to the clamps his struggles made, Brainiac would already be back in the fight. Yet, at the same time, Brainiac had taken a tremendous beating. Perhaps the largest he'd ever had in certainly a very long time. His face was bruised and bloodied, with several patches of flesh torn off that exposed the extensive cybernetics just underneath the surface. The armor encasing his body was dented, sparking along several areas as exposed wires met the air. As he looked Brainiac over, Kilowog could take pride in what they accomplished, but until the Coluan was thrown into one of the Sciencells back on Oa he refused to view this as a victory.
"Dkrtzy, how are we doing?" Kilowog asked as he limped over to the terminal. With the hostilities ended for the moment, Dkrtzy RRR took down its protective shield, then rapidly blinked in response. Understanding it completely, Kilowog replied, "Glad you were able to get some information out of there. What about the cities?"
Dkrtzy once again blinked, and Kilowog nodded before walking back over to the still struggling Brainiac. Snapping his fingers at Arisia, Kilowog said, "Dkrtzy's about to unlock the cities. Get ready to grab one."
Arisia nodded fervently, then flew over to the nearest bottled city while Kilowog took her place. As he did, he heard a loud bang coming from the other end of the science labs. Shooting his head over, Kilowog frowned as he noticed the impromptu barricade keeping the hordes of Brainiac's drones out was severely dented and almost completely broken down. In the chaos of the fight against Brainiac himself, Kilowog had completely forgotten about the army trying to break inside. Now that things were calm, however, they could no longer be ignored. With the current status of him and the other Lanterns, there was significant doubt in Kilowog's mind that they'd be able to fend them off.
Frowning, Kilowog spoke into his ring and asked, "Alpha Team, what's the status on taking down those drones?"
"We are encountering difficulty," Stel reported immediately. Behind him, Kilowog could hear the other members of Alpha Team fending off more of Brainiac's drones trying to take them down.
Biting back a curse, Kilowog replied, "Can you shut the drones down from there, or at least stop their production?"
"Negative, not from this console. It appears that such commands can only be directed by the system's primary user," Stel answered, and Kilowog immediately shot his head back towards Brainiac. Snarling at the Coluan, Kilowog debated for a moment whether he should attempt to force Brainiac into shutting the drones down, but he knew that would be a wasted effort. There was no way Brainiac would even consider doing so, especially now.
Shaking his head, Kilowog replied, "Grab what you can then bug out. You've done all you could."
"Acknowledged," Stel replied, then exited the line. Nodding to himself, Kilowog planted his foot onto Brainiac's chest to pin him down further into the metal floor, then lowered himself so that he could glare right into Brainiac's face.
"You're not getting away this time, you son of a bitch," Kilowog spat, borrowing a phrase from Hal's homeworld. Brainiac responded only by locking his gaze with Kilowog's, then narrowed his eyes.
"Don't be so certain," Brainiac replied. "You cannot safely extract me nor any of the cities in time, especially in your current state. All of your Lanterns are heavily injured, and my forces are about to break in. When they do, you won't be able to fight them all."
"You've already underestimated us, and look where that got you," Kilowog growled, then straightened himself as he noticed a flash from Dkrtzy.
Understanding the signal immediately, Arisia excitingly called out, "Got it!"
Forming a pair of giant tongs that gripped both sides of the bottled city, which housed a species that reminded Kilowog of giant bees from Earth, Arisia carefully removed it from its invisible tether, ignoring Brainiac snapping his head towards her and commanding her to stop. As she did, said tether became briefly visible, an ethereal blue that looked more like air than an actual piece of machinery. When the city was physically disconnected from the ship, a small spark rang out from where the connection ceased.
Then, before anyone could react, there was a brief flash from inside the bottle. It lasted for only a moment, it wasn't bright enough to force any of the Lanterns to avert their gaze. But Kilowog immediately wished that it did, for when the flash subsided they noticed to their horror that the contents of the bottle was now completely barren. What was once a city filled with hive-like buildings was now empty, clear, devoid of any evidence that life was held there.
"Wha…what?" Arisia stuttered, holding the bottle in her hands. The other Lanterns looked at it in horror as the bottle slipped out of Arisia's finger, where it landed onto the platform. It rolled over, coming to a stop at Kilowog's feet, and the moment seemed to stretch into eternity as he looked down upon it.
In a rage, Kilowog leapt back onto Brainiac and threw a punch into the Coluan's face, then roared, "WHAT DID YOU DO?!"
Taking a deep breath, Brainiac emotionlessly replied, "I did nothing. You disconnected the city from my preservation matrix and ignored my warning against doing so. The storage capsules cannot be powered on their own, and without access to power they shut down, wiping anything held inside."
Seething, Kilowog formed a punch dagger in his hand and screamed, "YOU BASTARD!"
"If you kill me, my ship will automatically power down," Brainiac calmly revealed just as Kilowog prepared to stab Brainiac in his head. The rest of the threat went unspoken, but it was enough to give Kilowog pause.
Looking at the emotionless alien with horrified disgust, Kilowog turned to look at the grief stricken and inconsolable Arisia. Tomar-Re was trying to comfort her, and she was openly sobbing into his chest. Kol and Sarn looked ready to chop Brainiac apart for the travesty they just witnessed, but like Kilowog it was only the confirmation of what would happen to the rest of the cities that prevented them from doing so.
They then heard yet another bang coming from the barricade, and Kilowog looked up to watch as the edge began to separate from the inner hull. Arms and hands were inserted into the gap, trying to pry it apart and grant the drones entry.
"Alright then, we've gotta move," Kilowog declared as he fell back on his drill sergeant role to try to pull himself together. "All of you just worry about keeping this savage contained. I'll get all of us out of here. Even if we don't know how to take the cities yet, as long as we get Brainiac into custody it's just a matter of time until we either get it out of him or work it out ourselves."
He snarled at Brainiac as the others prepared to blanket him in layers of restraints, then growled, "I told you, we're taking you in."
Brainiac narrowed his eyes, then forced his shoulder off the floor. A moment later, something shot out from under his body, and Kilowog saw it was a robotic tentacle that the Coluan had kept in reserve. It latched onto one of the nearest bottles in a blink, and when Sarn reflexively prepared a construct to cut it off, the Coluan snapping his intense gaze to him was all it took to give the Rannian pause. The tension was so thick it was difficult to breathe as Brainiac focused back on the team leader.
"Will you?" was all Brainiac said. The implication was clear, and none of the Lanterns present could do more than growl as Sarn retracted the conjured blade.
Kilowog's eyes widened, and he looked down at Brainiac, then the others. His mind raced as he tried to determine what their best course of action was. Based off what they now knew, it stood to reason that taking Brainiac into custody was the best way to safely free the cities without destroying them.
But that was easier said than done. In their current states, they would have a hard enough time as it was getting back to the extraction zone, and undoubtedly Brainiac would make it even worse if they brought him with them. If he broke free from his binds, which he was more than able to, he'd immediately attack them, and in such a confined space there was no telling what he could do. More importantly, he would likely prioritize even more of his drones onto his exact location, drowning them in metal bodies. Then there was also the bottled city he was effectively holding hostage, even if Kilowog had a sinking suspicion that Brainiac wouldn't consider it that. If they tried moving him, millions would die.
Once again, Kilowog looked at his team and how injured they were. If he asked, he knew they'd agree to carry Brainiac out without question, but as a leader their well-being fell on him. With all the other Lanterns they lost this day, they could scant afford to lose more. His mind raced as he went over the variables, going over scenario after scenario, all the while the drones outside continued breaking in. After what seemed like an eternity, Kilowog came to a decision, and he prayed to whatever Gods were listening that it was the right one. At the very least, their backup should be arriving soon, and hopefully he'd finish the job for them.
Biting back a curse and hot tears, Kilowog stood back up and yelled, "Lanterns, fall back! Now!"
The other Green Lanterns looked at Kilowog in surprise, some of which looked like they wanted to protest. But, at the same time, they knew the exact same things he did, and so with great reluctance from all of them they nodded in agreement. Crowding together, Kilowog formed a bubble around all of them, then with the combined power of their rings they shot forward, past the barricade and through the army of drones on the other side as they raced towards the extraction site, leaving Brainiac and the cities behind.
When Hal got the word that the Lanterns were bugging out, it came as no surprise to him. It was clear that they had done all that they could, and just because they were pulling out of the ship itself didn't mean the battle was lost. Indeed, judging by the explosions he heard and felt across the ship as he and Qrow made their escape, there were still plenty of Lanterns in the fight.
Still, that didn't mean Hal couldn't go out of his way to help his comrades out even more. Luckily for him, not only did Qrow readily agree to help, but he was also the one to suggest cutting through a drone manufacturing bay on their way out. Given how the guy had apparently been experimented on by Brainiac for weeks, Hal couldn't blame him for wanting some payback.
It also helped that the man had powers of his own, and knew how to use them. They hadn't had time to fully go over the specifics, what with them being in the middle of an active warzone and all, but the powers apparently gave Qrow enhanced strength, durability, and a healing factor. His arm was still broken, but he could move it around slightly at the very least. Qrow's power also caused things around them to keep going wrong, and more than once Hal saw something explode just in the nick of time or one of the drones make a costly mistake, helping the two warriors in their escape. Though he asked Hal to keep his distance during this, since it was apparently too indiscriminate to rely on.
"How's that door coming?" Qrow asked as he chopped Brainiac's drones apart with his complicated weapon.
"Almost through," Hal replied, cutting down the door to the manufacturing bay, using a high-intensity laser from his ring.
As Qrow bisected a drone vertically down the middle, he glanced at Hal then asked, "So…you're an alien?"
"Yep," Hal confirmed, continuing to cut through the metal door. "As are you to me."
"Yet you're also a human, like me?"
"You'd be surprised how many alien species look like humans," Hal said with a nonchalant shrug. "Don't really know why myself. Never met another species who also called themselves humans, though, even with the translation, so that's a first."
"Joy," Qrow muttered, then ducked underneath a cable to chop it apart, followed by stabbing the offending drone in the head. "By the way, Earth is a dumb name for a planet. Might as well call it 'Dirt.'"
"Ha-ha, haven't heard that for the thousandth time," Hal joked with an amused smile on his face.
He had only known Qrow for a short time, but already Hal was deciding that he liked the guy. Qrow was gruff, rude, and not at all polite. More than once had Qrow offered a snappy remark about the, from his perspective, insane things he was having to deal with or learn about from Hal. Something that Hal himself had plenty of experience with. God only knows how many times he was stupefied with all the things he had learned or seen during patrols out in the universe, things that made life on Earth seem small and simple. Yet, at the same time, Qrow was more than able to accept and adapt to the situation, not to mention the fact that he was a tremendous fighter. Even with only having one fully usable arm and looking absolutely ragged, he was still kicking robot ass like there was no tomorrow.
At the same time, as Hal watched Qrow defend them from the horde, he couldn't help but think that what he was doing looked awfully familiar. As though he had been told about something which fit this exact description. Yet, for the life of him, it was hard to form a complete connection. Probably because of the chaos of the battle, leaving anything less than a point to point connection hard to make out. Once the battle was over, Hal decided he would ask Qrow more directly, try to figure out why he seemed so familiar despite the two of them having never met before in their lives, but until then he'd just go with it.
"We're through!" Hal yelled as he finally got the door open. He and Qrow rushed through, then Qrow sliced through a terminal on the other side. This caused the door to short circuit, sealing shut behind them and preventing the drones from following. Given this moment to breathe, Hal and Qrow looked at each other for a moment, then at the manufacturing bay around them.
"Jesus Christ…" Hal muttered, his eyes widening at what he was seeing.
"Brothers have mercy…" Qrow said at the exact same time.
All around them, stretching from floor to ceiling, was an assembly line of drones in various states of progress. They were being carried on hooks, with electronics and weaponry being installed into their bodies via robotic limbs not unlike one would see at a car factory. The components, from what they could see, were being 3D printed from massive vats carrying liquefied raw material. But that wasn't what caught their attention. Instead, it was the beginning of the process that horrified them.
Rather than the drones starting from a basic robotic skeleton structure like any other robotic soldier they had seen, instead the pair watched as organic beings were rapidly grown from fetus to adult before their very eyes in vats filled with green fluid. Each of the beings were Coluan, perhaps even clones of Brainiac himself, but unlike him their cybernetics were minimal. Devices and tubes were being implanted into the earliest stages of their growth along their skulls and spinal columns, jutting out of their flesh as pointed black protrusions. At first, neither Qrow nor Hal could understand exactly what the devices were used for, but when their gazes shifted to the fully grown yet unresponsive adults being carried out of the vats and onto the assembly hooks, their purpose became horrifyingly clear. Especially as they watched the muscles and skin being surgically removed, grafting the machinery onto their bodies and connecting them to their still intact nervous systems. Their discarded flesh was being dropped into vats, where they were being melted down so that the process could continue all over again.
"Oh my God, that's how he's making them," Hal muttered, causing Qrow to look at him for clarification. "Brainiac, he's…he's flash cloning braindead Coluans for their nervous systems, then…turning them into his drones. That's why they're so advanced. He's…using the body and corrupting it for his own ends."
"That…bastard," Qrow seethed, his teeth grinding against each other and his fist tightening around Harbinger's hilt. Looking at Hal, Qrow said, "Let's blow this place straight to Hell."
"You read my mind," Hal said, lifting up his clenched fist. He then fired blocks of explosives shaped like C4 that attached themselves to various points along the room. Qrow, meanwhile, took his sword and began chopping the machinery around the room apart.
They couldn't stay for very long, as the door they entered through was beginning to be broken down, and some of the freshly made drones were being dropped off the assembly line into their midst. Taking that as their cue, Hal and Qrow destroyed the drones in their way then blasted their way through the door on the other side of the manufacturing bay. Picking Qrow up with his ring, Hal carried them both to a safe distance, then clicked the detonator he had made for the explosives. A loud bang, followed by a burst of air and wave of heat washing over them, caused the entire ship to violently shake. But Hal was able to keep them both steady.
Looking at each other, they gave a supportive smirk and nod before continuing their escape. It wasn't long before they could hear sounds of combat in front of them, with hisses of plasma fire being punctuated by bullets, missiles, and lasers.
As they rounded a corner, Hal yelled out, "Friendlies coming in!"
"Acknowledged. Clearing route," C.H.A.D. replied as he shifted his fire towards the column of Brainiac's drones heading their way with his double-barreled minigun. A storm of gunfire tore the robots apart, allowing Hal and Qrow to safely make their way over and join them.
"Where's the rest of Alpha Team?" Hal asked, joining C.H.A.D. in holding the drones off.
"They extracted through the bridge's observation ports," C.H.A.D. answered.
"So they broke a window and jumped out?"
"Well, I guess that's one way of getting off this ship," Hal remarked, continuing to fight the drones by forming four auto turrets that were attached to the ceiling and walls, gunning down anything in their line of fire.
Qrow, meanwhile, was immediately getting inspected by one of the other Lanterns in the room. There were several dozen of them, all of varying shapes and sizes. The one currently tending to him looked like a glowing woman, her bright orange skin shifting and morphing before his very eyes until she looked like a beautiful human woman.
"You have a hairline fracture on the radius of your left arm," Xrill-Vrex calmly said in a soothing voice. Looking at him with a faint smile, she added, "You should be fine, but don't move your arm. We don't want you aggravating it."
"…I'll see what I can do," Qrow said as the alien woman moved away from him to inspect the others.
Qrow took the opportunity to glance around the room he was in. There was a massive hole leading out into space in the wall behind them, kept open from the ship's attempts at self-repair and with explosive decompression kept at bay by a pair of Lanterns filling the hole with hard light. Just as Hal described, the Lanterns were exceedingly varied. Some looked like humans, just with different colored skin or extra parts that reminded him somewhat of those cheap sci-fi stories he used to watch with Tai on TV. Others were much more alien, humanoid in form but having scales for skin or bird-like beaks on their faces. More than a few, though, were much more outlandish, with one who was literally a giant head with arms and legs sticking out of him. Another looked exactly like a squirrel, firing explosive nuts and acorns at the drones trying to get to them. If he focused, he could even see a Lantern the size of a wasp, and which looked like one too, dive into the body of a drone and stab its way out from the inside with a glowing green stinger.
He then turned his attention to the other refugees the Lanterns were tending to. Qrow had long suspected that he wasn't the only captive onboard the ship, Penny and Fria notwithstanding, and it was sobering to see that he was correct. Malnourished and clearly traumatized aliens were huddling around each other, trying to stay near other members of their species for comfort.
At first, he couldn't see any other humans in the group, causing his heart to sink. Then, as he noticed a woman with bright purple hair and purplish-grey skin stand up to inspect another refugee, Qrow noticed a familiar head of white hair. Hair that belonged to a clearly human woman, her back turned to him.
"Oh God, Winter?" Qrow muttered, immediately concluding that Brainiac had somehow captured her after Raven sold him out.
But, when the woman turned around in recognition of the name being called, he could see that it wasn't Winter Schnee. The woman was far older, looking to be a few years older than Qrow whereas Winter was in her early twenties. She did share the same eyes, with hers having wrinkled bags underneath. Wearing a plain white pair of scrubs that left her forearms and feet exposed, it wasn't hard for Qrow to get a good look at her face and recognize her.
He had never met this woman in person before, but he and practically anyone on Remnant knew who she was. She was Willow Schnee. She recognized him as well, or more likely figured out he was the one who called out her daughter's name. With surprising determination, she marched over to him, and Qrow couldn't help but notice that she was carrying a thick metal pole in her hand. A scarred hand, making him wince. How long had she been stuck in here, and why hadn't he or Ozpin known about it?
Then he mentally slapped himself. Of course he couldn't have known. With the cities more isolated from each other than ever before in their history, the only information they had about how the other cities were going came from what Brainiac told them. Unless they used their limited questions to ask about specific people, they couldn't know that Brainiac had captured Willow Schnee. Likely for several months, judging by her appearance.
As she drew closer, however, Qrow could see that she had her hand wrapped around another. The hand belonged to a terrified and confused boy with short, unkempt white hair that looked like it hadn't been properly cut in quite some time. It was harder for Qrow to recognize the boy, but soon the name Whitley Schnee came to mind. The youngest son of Jacques Schnee. Like his mother, he too was wearing a set of plain white scrubs and was holding a metal pole, the same kind of plain rod of alien alloy Brainiac had granted Qrow in combat tests. But, at the same time, he was in much worse condition. Small scars and the faded marks of healed bruises could be seen across his body, telling numerous stories of the torments Brainiac had subjected him to.
Everything fell into place for Qrow after that. Back in Vale, they had wondered why Brainiac had never gone after Winter Schnee, as the Schnee Family Semblance was an intriguing outlier in the subject of Semblances. He easily could have, but he never made a move against her. The only time he did was when he was apprehending Penny, with Winter merely an obstacle. With Willow and Whitley Schnee marching up to him, the answer was now clear. Brainiac didn't capture Winter Schnee because he already had two prospective bearers of the Schnee Family Semblance to test on directly, meaning Winter had become his control.
"You know my daughter?" Willow asked, and Qrow winced as he stood up and nodded.
"I do," Qrow answered.
"Where is she? Is she still alive? Is she with you?" Willow immediately demanded to know, and Qrow nodded affirmatively.
"She's still in Vale, or at least she was when I was taken out. I don't know what happened after that," Qrow confirmed, and a wave of relief crossed over the mother's face. It then hardened again and she narrowed her eyes, idly glancing towards the battle still waging just outside in the hallway.
"If you were in Vale with Winter, then what about Weiss?" Willow desperately asked.
Qrow was about to answer, then an alien shout rang out as drones exploded upward from the floor. The Green Lanterns nearby turned around to engage them, but Willow acted first. Immediately forming a glyph in front of her for a ghostly Boarbatusk to charge forth from, she had the summon ram into the drones and demolish them under its feet while goring others with its tusks. Whitley, meanwhile, brought up a pale blue Aura with visible concentration before charging a drone that was menacing some other alien civilians. With a terrified and barbaric yell, the gangly boy began smashing the drone apart with his metal rod, making up for his untrained swings and undeveloped muscles with Aura and adrenaline-fueled strength.
The other drones were quickly dispatched by the Green Lanterns and Qrow, and Whitley barely acknowledged the unintelligible and shaky thanks from the prisoners he'd helped as he shuffled back to his mother, who protectively placed herself next to him. She hesitantly fussed over him, as though she wasn't sure how to comfort him, but was trying to make the effort regardless. More of the picture became clear to Qrow, and once again he cursed Brainiac to rot in the darkest pits of Hell for what he had done.
As Willow looked expectantly at Qrow he answered, "Weiss got out. She and her entire team, with another team of Beacon students with them."
Willow stared at Qrow in silent disbelief, then happy tears began to flow out as she smiled for perhaps the first time in months. Before she could say anything else, they heard shouting and footsteps as more Lanterns rushed into the room. This group was led by a big, muscular alien with pink skin and a face that reminded him somewhat of a bulldog. A bulldog with large tusks coming out of his lower jaw. He was carrying five other Lanterns in a bubble, two of which looked just like humans with alien skin tones and pointed ears on the girl. There was also an alien that looked like a humanoid crocodile, with both of his arms and jaw broken, alongside one that Qrow couldn't tell if he looked more like a humanoid fish or bird. The last alien took Qrow completely off guard, as it was literally a floating Lantern insignia that constantly shifted and pulsated while keeping its general form.
"Everyone's here! Let's move!" Hall yelled.
At once and without question, the Lanterns still able to move at full effectiveness grabbed the refugees and those Lanterns who needed assistance in large bubbles. Due to their proximity, Qrow was picked up by Hal alongside Willow and Whitley, and together they shot out of the hole in Brainiac's ship as though it was a cannon.
"Gods…" Qrow muttered as he finally witnessed the true scale of the battle that had been unfolding.
The Green Lanterns had caught Brainiac in the middle of a dense asteroid belt, with many of the asteroids being completely broken apart. Thousands if not millions of pieces of rock, ice, and metal floated aimlessly in the void, crashing into each other before bouncing off in opposite directions. The mangled husks of Brainiac's support ships, monstrosities which needed practically all of Atlas' fleet just to take down one, all floated lifelessly and inert. Brainiac's ship was also extensively damaged, with plasma venting from all over the mothership. Hundreds of Green Lanterns were fighting his vessel along with mopping up the rest of his aerospace drones, which had trickled down to a light stream thanks to the damage Qrow and Hal had wrought on just one of his manufacturing bays. More importantly, though, Qrow could see dozens of dead bodies floating in space, punctured and mangled from the damage they sustained. Both from Brainiac's forces, and from the harsh realities of space.
The fight wasn't over yet, but it was obvious even now as to who the true victor was. A wide smile broke out on Qrow's face, and he could see the other Lanterns in their bubbles cheering at the sight. Qrow wanted to join them, but until Brainiac was brought to justice he refused to do so.
Then, much to his surprise, he saw the remaining Lanterns near Brainiac's ship fall back. Confused, Qrow prepared to ask Hal what was going on, then Hal received a message from his ring. Qrow couldn't understand what was being said, but clearly Hal could as he smiled.
"Took him long enough," Hal remarked, causing Qrow to raise an eyebrow.
"Took who long enough?" Qrow asked.
He immediately got his answer as, straight out of the void, a massive planet of the same type and general composition as Remnant just appeared before them with a green flash, completely dominating their field of view with its sudden proximity and scale. Qrow struggled to comprehend what just happened as the black void of space was replaced with an alien horizon. For a brief moment, nearby asteroids were pulled towards the planet, with those nearest to it entering then burning up in its atmosphere. Then a bright green shimmer enveloped the world, blocking its gravitational effects from reaching everyone else. As it did, Qrow watched as the flora of the planet converged into a thick band along its equator, forming the symbol of the Green Lantern Corp in its center.
"…Okay, what the fuck is this?" Qrow asked, echoing Willow's and Whitley's silent thoughts, and Hal could only smile as a massive construct began to form out of the center of the Lantern symbol, deploying a box to envelop Brainiac's entire ship.
Brainiac stared at the planetoid in silent shock and horror. He knew exactly what this was. Anyone familiar with the Green Lantern Corp knew of its most powerful member. This wasn't just a mobile planetary base powered by a Green Lantern Power Core. This planet was a Green Lantern named Mogo, and was one of the most powerful beings in the entire universe. While the force the Green Lanterns had brought to bear against him was much larger than expected, he never once considered the prospect that Mogo himself would join. After all, its sheer mass and gravitational field often proved too much for other solar and planetary systems to handle the disruption, restricting its movements to avoid unnecessary danger. Yet clearly Mogo had decided apprehending Brainiac was worth the risk, albeit after some obvious preparation to ensure it wouldn't wreck the system too much. Brainiac idly wondered if that was the Green Lanterns' plan the entire time; disable his ship then have Mogo arrive to apprehend him.
He immediately checked his options, his mind working at light speed as Mogo began trapping him in a massive box. According to his ship's diagnostics, Brainiac's offensive capabilities were almost completely destroyed, not that they could've done anything to Mogo even at full strength. Out of hundreds of laser batteries installed, only a few dozen remained online. The raw materials needed for drone production were down to only twenty-five percent capacity, with one of his bays destroyed entirely. His ship's thrusters had been taken out, leaving him nearly stranded, and with all of his support ships destroyed there was nothing Brainiac had left to continue to fight with.
Brainiac immediately knew what he had to do, an act he hadn't had to perform in decades. Especially never to this extent. Seething, Brainiac activated his ship's emergency FTL drives, and just before the box closed around him, he warped away, leaving the battle behind.
Qrow could see but not hear the other Lanterns cheering as Brainiac retreated. A mood that he himself joined in alongside Hal, whooping and hollering in jubilation. While they hadn't captured Brainiac, they had sent him running away with his tail between his legs, and that was enough for him at the moment. It proved Brainiac wasn't invincible, that he could be beaten, and that was something Vale and the people of Remnant desperately needed.
The celebration didn't last long, however, and soon the Lanterns began the process of cleaning up. Debris was being collected, Lanterns working in concert with one another to push the objects into giant green dumpsters or items of a similar nature. Others were carefully recovering the bodies of their fallen comrades, and Qrow offered a silent prayer to whoever Gods they belonged to. After performing the ultimate sacrifice to save them, it was the least he could do.
Soon, Hal carried them down into the planet surface, diving down through the sky before landing at a large emerald city where other Green Lanterns were gathering. The city itself was large yet dense and organized, sitting within the natural landscape rather than against it. Pulsating towers and buildings of various architectural styles stood side by side with one another, which Qrow could only assume were taken from the diverse worlds the Green Lanterns themselves hailed from. In the exact center of the city was a massive lantern sitting atop a pedestal made from thick vines wrapped around each other. The center of the lantern was glowing green, and from its glow came forth the entire city itself as more buildings were sprouted up in a matter of seconds.
Taking them to a hospital, the next hour was a blur of activity before Qrow found himself staring out over the landscape of a super-powered alien world from a balcony. Letting the breeze caress his face and breathing the first fresh air in months, he tried to comprehend everything that had happened to him just in the past few hours. It was utterly insane to think about, even now after it was over. To think that the day had seemingly started off like any other, comparatively speaking of course.
"…I need a drink," Qrow muttered under his breath.
As soon as the words left his lips, he heard a faint rumble as the earth underneath the balcony shifted, forming a column that rose up to meet him. On top of the column, an earthenware cup was formed, with vines trailing up and curling over its top to form a faucet. Out of that faucet came a dark liquid, which Qrow recognized immediately as beer. When it finished filling the cup, he idly looked at it, then shrugged, took the cup, and had his first drink of an actual alcoholic beverage for the first time in months. Compared to the moonshine he had been subsisting on previously, the drink in his hand might as well have been ambrosia.
"Thank you, Mogo," Qrow said, giving a nod and raising his cup before taking another drink.
"You're welcome," a booming yet surprisingly soft and gentle voice spoke around him as the green building he was staying in flashed.
Once again, Qrow found himself struggling to comprehend what he was experiencing. The fact that the planet he was standing on was literally alive and sapient astounded him, and its effortless construction of an entire city made of pure emerald light spoke volumes towards the power Mogo wielded. Qrow was immensely grateful that such a being was on their side.
"May I join you?" he heard Willow ask as she approached.
Qrow looked over at her, seeing that she was now wearing a pair of green and white scrubs to replace what Brainiac forced her to wear. He nodded, not moving from his position as she leaned over the railing next to him. Mogo asked if she would like a drink as well, and a few moments later she was nursing a glass of red wind with him.
At first, neither of them said a thing, simply basking in the peace and quiet. The first that likely either of them had in a very long time. Then, after a few minutes of watching more and more Lanterns land onto the planet, Qrow asked, "How's your son?"
"Their doctors are checking him now," Willow confirmed, her face passive yet her voice carrying an edge to it. "Brainiac forced him through so much pain, trying to unlock his Aura through combat and danger alone to see how his Semblance would develop. He only got his Aura to activate recently."
Biting back a curse, Qrow shook his head then asked, "When were you taken?"
"Two weeks after Atlas fell, give or take. Time has become…difficult to track after that," Willow answered, then her face warped into a rictus of abject rage as she glared into her reflection in the wine. Her fist clenched, and her teeth ground against each other as she spat, "My husband, he just…gave us away when the drones came into our home. They didn't even have to deliver any threats or enter the manor, Brainiac wanted us so he surrendered his own family without hesitation, just to save his own damn skin!"
She viciously threw her drink away with a shout of loathing before slamming her fist against the rail, and the bright green material flashed as the force was carried away. Qrow said nothing as Willow breathed in and out heavily as she glared at the cup as it sailed off from the balcony, the red liquid scattering through the air before it all fell into the ground below. Then, after a few moments, she took one final deep breath and apologized, "I'm sorry for that, Mogo. That was unbecoming of me."
"No harm done," the voice said with gentle understanding. A new cup and vine rose up to replace the beverage, then Willow signaled him to wait.
"Actually…could I just have some water instead, please?" she quietly requested. While Mogo didn't physically react, Qrow looked at Willow with consideration in the pause before the glass was filled with cool, clear water which she took with a self-conscious thanks. The blue-eyed woman took a deep draught and sighed before continuing in a mutter, "It took everything I had to keep my son safe. I wasn't even allowed to awaken his Aura for him. Life has been…hard, for the past few months. Harder than anything I've ever experienced."
Qrow looked at Willow, then nodded respectfully and added, "I'm sorry you had to go through that. My sister sold me out to save her own skin, too."
Willow mirthlessly chuckled and shook her head, then held up her glass to him as she replied, "Looks like we both come from broken families, don't we?"
"Certainly seems that way," Qrow admitted with a rakish grin as he clinked his cup to hers in a toast, then he and Willow looked back out into the city beyond them.
Minutes of nothing but comfortable silence passed between them. The silence was only broken when Hal Jordan and the other Lanterns from Earth entered the room. Qrow and Willow turned around to look at them, both Remnantians knowing why they were there since Willow and Whitley had been present when Qrow had been told about Penny's situation. At the same time, Qrow saw that while Kyle and Hal's uniforms were mostly similar, with only the placement of the Green Lantern logos and the shape of their frankly useless, in Qrow's opinion, masks, Guy's was by far the most radically different. His uniform was a green sleeveless vest with a thick collar that was partially unbuttoned, with light grey gloves and dark green boots. His pants and undershirt were black, and a light grey belt was wrapped around his waist. Like Kyle, his insignia was proudly displayed on the left side of his chest, but unlike the others he didn't bother with wearing a mask. Given how radically different his unform was, Qrow got the feeling that Guy was a bit of a loose cannon who played by his own rules.
"How's Penny?" Qrow immediately asked. When he had heard about Penny's condition, he was furious. Not at the Lanterns, who were forced into a difficult situation, but at Brainiac for his subterfuge. He was also angry at himself for not realizing Brainiac would've done this earlier. Had he done so, they might've been able to do something about it.
"Stable, but the virus is in there too deep. We can't get it out without potentially killing her," Kyle remarked. "Even if we could, the damage it's done is too severe for us to repair. Not even with what the Guardians have back on Oa."
"Is there anything you can do?" Qrow asked, desperation seeping into his voice, and when Kyle shook his head Qrow's heart fell. But then Hal stepped forward, causing Qrow's attention to shoot over to him.
"But, luckily we do know a guy back on our homeworld who's part Mother Box. He's a master of programming and technology. If there's anyone who can get rid of the virus and repair her, it's him."
Qrow sighed in relief and hung his head forward. It was a faint hope, admittedly, but frankly that was all he had left at this point. Willow put a comforting hand on his shoulder, then took the opportunity to clear her throat and politely step forward, prompting the other human Lanterns to look at her.
"I haven't had the chance to properly thank you yet for what you've done for me and my family," Willow said, then respectfully bowed. "You have my eternal thanks. If it weren't for you, I don't think my son and I would've left that ship alive."
"Don't worry, ma'am. We weren't going to let that happen," Guy said, crossing his arms and leaning back. "By the way, I don't think I caught your name, Ms.…?"
"Ah, where are my manners?" Willow replied, standing back upright and smiling towards their saviors. "My name is Willow Schnee."
"Well then, Ms. Schnee. We're happy to…" Guy stopped, then his eyes widened in recognition. Both Qrow and Willow were confused, especially when Guy's attention shot over to Qrow and he quickly asked, "You said your name was Qrow Branwen, right?"
"…Yes?" Qrow answered, not quite certain where Guy was going with this. His confusion rose when Kyle's eyes widened as well, then both men turned to look at Hal Jordan incredulously.
"What?" Hal asked, not understanding why his colleagues were looking at him like he had missed something obvious. It took him a few moments, then his eyes widened in recognition as well, and he muttered, "…Oh."
"Oh? What do you mean, 'oh?'" Qrow asked in suspicion, and Hal cleared his throat before turning to look at Qrow and Willow.
"This may be a bit soon, but what was the name of your planet?" Hal asked, prompting Qrow and Willow to look at each other.
After a moment, Qrow looked back at the Green Lanterns then answered, "Our homeworld was Remnant. It was destroyed by Brainiac five months ago."
"Why?" Willow asked as Qrow narrowed his eyes. Then, as Kyle began to speak, Qrow felt as though his heart was about to stop.
"Because five months ago, eight teenagers from a planet named Remnant arrived on Earth via a Boom Tube to escape Brainiac's clutches," Kyle answered. "Does Team RWBY and Team JNPR mean anything to you?"
It had been several hours since the battle ended, and Vale was caught in a celebratory mood. The outcome of the battle had been obvious, with the Green Lanterns having clearly won and Brainiac being sent running. All of Beacon was currently partying, with students and teachers dancing, making music, and having somewhat of a feast. Nothing too extravagant, and definitely not something comparable to what they would've had before Brainiac arrived, but it was still something to enjoy.
For the first time in months, Professor Ozpin felt satisfied. Until he was brought out of the bottled city of Vale again, he wouldn't know the specifics of how much damage Brainiac had taken, but from what he could see just from the city preservation chamber, it was extensive. Possibly enough to prevent another "preservation" for quite some time.
"We won…" Glynda muttered as she looked over the school. "The Green Lanterns beat him."
"That they did," Ozpin affirmed, giving his direct subordinate a firm nod.
Winter looked at Ozpin then cleared her throat before saying, "This is certainly good news, but we all saw what happened to that city when these…Green Lanterns removed it from the ship."
"Yes. It was…just as I feared," Ozpin replied with a heavy sigh. "I had hoped that I was wrong, but clearly I wasn't."
"That's going to complicate things," Winter pointed out. "The Green Lanterns were prepared to kill him, but they couldn't because of that failsafe. If they can't find a way to remove the cities without destroying them, we'd be fighting Brainiac with one hand behind our backs."
"I agree," Ozpin replied, tapping his cane along the ground as he walked. "It is certainly quite the dilemma, one that I don't have an answer to yet."
"Should we attempt to press our advantage while we can, strike Brainiac as he's vulnerable?" Winter suggested, and while it was a tempting offer, Ozpin shook his head.
"Unfortunately, I don't think we can," Ozpin replied. "We still don't have a way to eliminate him without threatening the other cities, especially now that we know for an absolute fact that doing so would destroy all that we're trying to save. Sadly, all we can do right now is bask in what this victory means. Brainiac is not invincible, and if we keep working we can beat him."
Winter and Glynda looked at Ozpin for a moment, then nodded in acceptance. Before either of them could say anything, though, they heard James mutter, "Working with what?"
"James?" Ozpin asked, turning his head to James Ironwood. The Atlesian general and headmaster was leaning against the wall, staring out through the window and his back turned to the others.
"I said, working with what?" James repeated. "In case you haven't noticed, we're still trapped in this damn bottle. If what you're saying about the Lanterns was true, even throwing the largest force they ever gathered against Brainiac didn't change that."
"I'm certain they can track him down again. They did it before, and next time—" Glynda began to suggest, only for Ironwood to slam his fist against the wall and dent the wood.
"There's not going to be a next time!" James shouted, turning around to look at them with bloodshot eyes. "Ozpin already confirmed that Brainiac has largely been able to stay away from them for centuries. That means the only reason the Lanterns were able to ambush him in the first place was because, somehow, they got a lead."
"If they got a lead once, it stands to reason they can get it again," Glynda pointed out, but James shook his head.
"We can't count on that," James rebutted, pointing his gloved finger at the deputy headmistress. "All we can count on is what we know of Brainiac's behavior and how he'll respond. I guarantee that, after a loss this big, he's going to react and we're all going to pay the price. This was our one chance to be rescued, and it failed. We're still here."
Everyone in the headmaster's office stared at each other, none saying a word. Ozpin pursed his lips, able to understand exactly where his friend was coming from. Truthfully, he feared the same thing, but there seemed to be more than that going on. The normally stoic and composed general seemed steps away from a full on mental breakdown. But, after a few moments, Ironwood closed his eyes and sighed.
Straightening himself out, James said, "Apologies, I…lost my composure there."
"It's alright, James. I understand completely," Ozpin said, "and I agree. This was our best chance for others to save us, and in that regard it failed. It's unlikely that it's going to happen again, so for now we're going to have to trust in ourselves to see us through this long night and into morning."
James said nothing, then nodded to himself as, for a brief moment, his eyes seemed to lose color. It happened so fast that it was hard for anyone, even Ozpin, to realize that it had happened. But notice it he did, and Ozpin felt worry bubble up. James then excused himself, walking away into the elevator where Winter hastily joined him. Soon, only Glynda was with Ozpin in the office, and together they stood on the balcony overlooking everything. Neither of them said anything, trying to hold onto the hopeful atmosphere Brainiac's beating had given them.
After some time had passed, Ozpin and Glynda heard a twang as Raven appeared, opening a swirling red portal that she silently beckoned Ozpin to go through. Turning around, he immediately noticed Raven's disheveled state. Physically, she looked unharmed, but he recognized the look of someone who was questioning everything they had done and believed until now. Giving a knowing smirk, Ozpin entered through the portal without question, where he saw that the entire Branwen tribe were in various states of consciousness. Those who were still standing were busy tending to the others, and all of them sported injuries ranging from bruises to broken bones. Ozpin recognized his agent's handiwork, and his smile grew.
"Qrow and Penny got out, didn't they?" Ozpin asked, and Raven didn't answer. He didn't need her to, as her silence was more than enough. If they hadn't, she would've spitefully told him so.
Together, they walked through the heavily damaged mothership. Wires were exposed and sparking, and the dismembered corpses of hundreds if not thousands of drones littered the floors. Breached sections of the hull were being sealed off, a faint force field the only thing that prevented the air from being sucked outside. Throughout it all, Raven never once said a word, and Ozpin didn't say anything to her either. There was no need, for the events of the day had done more than enough.
Soon, they entered the bridge, and Ozpin was left alone with Brainiac. As before, Brainiac was hooked into the bridge's terminal, only this time a holographic depiction of the mothership was displayed. Most of it, roughly ninety percent from what Ozpin could see, was blinking bright red, with the rest of the ship either a darker shade of red or orange. Some were outright black.
"You wanted to see me?" Ozpin called out. Brainiac didn't say anything at first, uncharacteristically silent. It took a moment for Ozpin to realize that the supposedly emotionless Coluan was absolutely seething. After such a defeat, it was hard to imagine him doing anything but, and it made Ozpin's smile widen.
Finally disconnecting himself from his ship, Brainiac said, "Yes. We never finished our game before we were…interrupted."
Ozpin looked at the now activated holographic chess set, displaying the exact point where they had left off. He said, "That we did. I believe it was my turn."
"It was," Brainiac confirmed, then joined Ozpin at the table.
Silently, the two men played their game, and after a few moves there was a winner. Unlike every other time, however, it wasn't Brainiac. Instead, it was Ozpin, switching from the gambit he'd been setting up in the beginning of the game to checkmate the Coluan in an expectedly direct maneuver. Taking it as a symbol as Brainiac stared blankly at the board, he smiled and leaned back in his chair, smugly looking upon Brainiac as he pondered what his question would be. Brainiac looked at him with enraged eyes, but otherwise didn't say anything and let him proceed.
"Hmm, what to ask?" Ozpin spoke to himself. After a moment, he nodded then turned to Brainiac and said, "Well, after seeing you experience such a…crushing defeat at the hands of the Green Lanterns, I suppose there's only one question: what are you going to do now?"
Brainiac said nothing at first, then waved his arm to the side. The chess set shifted, becoming another representation of the ship itself. He began to speak, "My mothership has suffered extensive damage, and my resource stores have been mostly depleted along with the majority of my remaining drones. All of my support ships have also been destroyed, leaving me with only what I currently have on hand. I estimate I am only at twenty-percent combat effectiveness, while I managed to kill 107 Green Lanterns and injure another 80 out of the 500 strong force sent to apprehend me."
"A devastating blow to your operation," Ozpin remarked, silently praying for the salvation of the poor souls who lost their lives this day. Brainiac didn't respond to that, but his face did grow darker.
"Current estimates suggest that it will take thirteen to fourteen months to fully repair my vessel and replenish my forces," Brainiac revealed. "Until then, I will not be able to conduct any more preservations."
Ozpin smiled at the news, but when Brainiac's face somehow darkened even more, Ozpin's face fell.
The alien tyrant continued, "In the meantime, it has come to my attention that my forces and strategy have been proven to be…inadequate. More extensive research and tests must be conducted as I reevaluate my doctrine, and the results will be used to enhance my forces as they are replaced. I will ensure that this never happens again."
While the implications of Brainiac's words went unsaid, Ozpin understood them regardless. He couldn't help but nervously gulp, knowing that for all the exploitation and suffering everyone under his rule lived with up until now, it was about to get much, much worse for them all.
Here's what everyone has long been waiting for, the grand conclusion to The Green Light of Will! An arc two years in the making, finally completed. This is something we've been dying to write for years now, and I couldn't have done it without the help of NaanContributor and Jesse K.
Brainiac has experienced his first true defeat in the story. Not only that, but Qrow, Penny, and Willow and Whitley Schnee, managed to be rescued by the Green Lanterns. I'm certain many of you didn't expect Weiss' mother and brother to be on the ship, and to be fair neither did Qrow. But Brainiac isn't out of the fight yet, and you can be certain that he's going to ensure the next fight he's in will be stacked in his favor.
To answer your guys' common questions, I first must reiterate that none of the main RWBY characters will become Lanterns of any kind. That is a story in and of itself, and would go against what I've been doing thus far with the story. So, no. Penny will not become a Green Lantern nor be powered, outside of her current comatose state obviously.
I, too, wish that there was fanart for this story. I've thought of commissioning it myself, but I figure that's a bit too self-congratulatory. The other pieces of fanart myself and my co-writers have gotten, one of which is my profile picture actually, were given to use by fans and it feels better that way to me and the others. Maybe one day we'll get some fanart for Hunters of Justice as well.
Also, yes Black Adam is played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as he is in the upcoming movie. This was decided before we got the first trailer. Why do you think I had him rock-bottom Jaune onto the hood of a car? Plus, you know, he's the People of Kahndaq's Champion.
By the way, I have an announcement to make. Do not expect another chapter of Hunters of Justice for the rest of the year as I work on catching up with my other stories. After writing nothing but HoJ for over a month, I need a bit of a break from it. I plan on updating Familiar Evil and Dust and Echoes twice before I touch HoJ again. In between those chapters, there will be updates to Outsiders.
Let us know what you all think, and I hope you enjoy! If any of you have a TV Tropes account, any assistance in updating the TV Tropes page would be greatly appreciated.