Disclaimer: The characters seen in this chapter and in future chapters are property of DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Dark Horse Comics, Top Cow Productions, Saban Brands, the BBC, Tite Kubo, Shonen Jump, Funimation, and many more. My partner in this writing, JOUNOUCHI-sama, and I do not receive any sort of profit or other material compensation for writing this story and thrive solely on the satisfaction of our readers and reviewers.
Author's note: This was originally supposed to be one chapter. Of course, introducing all of the characters within the nascent Justice League and giving you, the readers, a feel for them as they are in this universe took longer than I anticipated and I didn't want to make a super-long chapter. As such, the full assembly of the new Zero Hour Justice League and the battle with Parallax had to be postponed to this chapter. Lucky for you, my loyal readers, I'll be able to release both of them as a double feature Thanksgiving Day present to you all as a sign of my appreciation. In the meantime, enough talk, time to get this started.
"The Other Exiles"
Chapter 12: "Zero Hour, Part Two"
Inside the Batjet, Robin and Nightwing got surprised looks from the rest of the passengers. "Wow . . . it really is like seeing double," Roy commented.
"I don't think I really grasped just how much . . . how eerie this whole thing was . . . until now," Donna admitted with a slight stammer.
"Two of you!" Kara exclaimed in astonishment. "And aside from one of you having Kryptonian powers, you're almost exactly alike! Your faces, your movements, your heartbeats . . ." She trailed off, a blush coloring her cheeks.
"Kara, are you sure you're not X-raying us where you're not supposed to be?" Nightwing teased.
Robin looked aghast at Nightwing, while Kara turned slightly redder. "Yes . . ."
Iris chuckled wickedly. "I know, I know . . . two Dick Graysons for the price of one. Sure would be enough to make me happy."
"She from the alternate universe where Wally's a girl?" Robin asked Nightwing. "If so . . ."
"My daughter, actually," Wally corrected. "But you're right about the whole alternate universe thing. She and Nightwing met on his first mission and now they're shacking up across time and space. Beats the hell out of me how he does it."
"You're dressed up as the Flash," Robin pointed out.
"I am the Flash now," Wally replied. "Not exactly how I imagined it to turn out."
Robin turned to M'gann. "Nice outfit, Meg."
"Call me the Martian Manhunter," M'gann replied, as she shifted her hair into a high ponytail and her figure into a more womanly frame.
"Whoa," Robin uttered. "What was that about?"
"Getting serious," M'gann answered.
"Yeah, that's 'serious,' all right," Wally remarked flirtatiously, eyeing M'gann's increased "attributes."
Conner scowled slightly at Wally, and that was when Robin spotted Kyle. "You must be the new Green Lantern Nightwing told me about," Robin remarked.
"Yeah," Kyle replied. "Name's Kyle Rayner."
"Where'd you get the ring from?" Robin asked.
"It was Hal Jordan's ring," Kyle explained, "and now the only Green Lantern power ring that has any charge left since Parallax sucked up all the green energy from the Central Power Battery on Oa."
"Parallax . . ." Nightwing repeated. He gazed soberly at the team he had assembled. "I've got something to confess to you all. Parallax is Hal Jordan."
Gasps of shock, horror, and disbelief rang throughout the Batjet. "How the hell is that even possible?" Wally asked. "I thought Parallax killed Hal Jordan just like he did the rest of the Justice League!"
"The Hal Jordan Parallax killed was a construct created to give the Justice League a Green Lantern," Nightwing explained. "Parallax has been remaking and destroying this universe for who only knows how long. It started when Coast City was obliterated by Mongul and the Cyborg Superman, and when the Guardians of Oa refused to give Hal the power he sought to restore Coast City and everyone in it, Hal snapped. He began attacking the other Green Lanterns and taking their rings to enhance his own powers, cutting a swath of death and destruction through the universe to get to Oa. When he did, he killed the Guardians and drained the Central Power Battery to turn himself into a near-omnipotent being called Parallax, using his new power to try to reshape the universe to his own liking.
"We stopped him before he could succeed . . . in my world, anyway. In this one, he was more than successful, but since the results were never 'perfect' enough for him, he ended up destroying and remaking this world again and again. Because of that, the cumulative effects of what he's done are now threatening to completely unravel reality. Iris and I were sent here to stop it, and the only way to do that is to stop Parallax."
"So our lives . . . all our lives . . . are just lies? Constructs? Figments of a monster's imagination?" Garth uttered in quiet despair.
"No," Donna staunchly denied. "They're not just constructs. Parallax may have recreated this world so many times before, but he is not our god or our master. Our memories, our lives, our emotions, our friends, our families, they're not lies. They happened. We happened, and I will be damned before I let him take that from me without giving him a fight."
"She's right," Kyle agreed. "This world may be a construct, but as a Green Lantern, a construct has to be held together by willpower, so we've gotta show Parallax that we have more willpower than him."
"You haven't even been a Green Lantern for five minutes," Roy dryly remarked.
"I've been a Green Lantern for more than five minutes, thank you very much," Kyle retorted.
"Fifteen?" Roy jibed.
"You guys get along about as well as you did back in my world," Nightwing commented with an amused smile.
"Then let's get to the cave," Robin said. "I've got some things to pick up. Then we can hit the Fortress of Solitude, and visit Hephaestus's forge to get him to whip something up for Donna. If you want to pick up anything from Green Arrow's old armory, Roy . . ."
"Yeah," Roy replied. "But why the Fortress of Solitude?"
"Because there needs to be a Superman," Nightwing said. "And every Superman gets their start in the Fortress of Solitude."
Inside the Batcave, Robin immediately went for the supercomputer and began inputting seemingly random codes. Once he was finished, the computer began to speak. "Optimizing of armor construction in progress," it said in a mechanical voice that sounded suspiciously like Alfred.
One of the walls of the Batcave slid forward, revealing a standing panel with an upside-down crystal dome hovering 8 feet above where a person would be standing. Framing that same standing panel was a pair of computerized panels roughly the height of a grown man, with digital patterns moving across the scanning screens embedded within the panels.
Robin inputted more codes and a costume blueprint began to emerge on the screen of the supercomputer. The costume was Batman's, but with shorter ears, a bat symbol without the yellow circle, a utility belt with a bat-shaped buckle similar to the symbol on the costume's front, and shorter gloves, though retaining the customary blade-like flanges.
"What is that supposed to be?" Wally asked.
"It's like a 3D printer, only better . . . way better," Robin replied. "This is going to make me a new Batman suit, one that'll fit me since . . . I don't exactly have Bruce's physique."
"Yeah, you're all lean and wiry and acrobatic," Iris commented with a flirtatious smirk.
Nightwing chuckled. "Is it possible to be jealous of yourself?"
"Clark used to have those moments," Kara admitted. "With Lois and all . . . oh, God, Lois . . . what am I gonna tell her?" Before she could melt down, Conner put his hand on her shoulder.
"We'll work that out after we stop Parallax," the Boy of Steel said.
"Parallax," Roy repeated. "Still can't believe he used to be Hal. He was like my cool uncle. And Ollie was his best friend and he still . . ." He paused, trying to gather himself. "How many times? How many times did Hal – did Parallax – kill Ollie? Kill Dinah? All of us?"
"Last time was the last time," M'gann answered bluntly. "He won't get another try."
"The Omniverse can't afford him trying one more time," Kyle added. "Otherwise it all falls apart, for everybody everywhere, every when."
As the discussion continued, Robin stepped into the outfitting area, having stripped down to barely anything but his skivvies, causing the young women nearby to do multiple takes. "You're certainly not shy about putting it all out there, Dick," Wally quipped, emphasizing that last word in a very innuendo-laced tone.
"Ha, ha, very funny, Wally," Robin replied, seemingly oblivious to the girls giving him very approving looks when they thought they could get away with it.
"How does he do it?" Roy asked. "How the hell does he do it?"
"I don't even know what I'm doing," Nightwing replied with a shrug.
"Keep telling yourself that," Conner grumbled, sounding a bit miffed at how his cousin and his girlfriend were eyeing Robin.
"Commencing armor construction and fitting now," the supercomputer announced.
"You notice that it sounds kinda like Alfred talking?" Donna wondered aloud.
The first thing to assemble on Robin's body was a frame to hold the armor. Next, the armor itself began to assemble over the framing suit, starting with a full-sleeved tunic for the torso followed by armored pants and a guard for the groin that suspiciously resembled a pair of black briefs. Black boots covered his feet and half his calves, and black gloves with bladed flanges extending from the cuffs covered his hands and lower forearms. Then there was the utility belt, wrapping around his midsection before enclosing with the nearly gleaming bat-buckle front and center.
The armored black cowl covered his face, concealing his hair in its pointy-eared grip and his eyes behind milky whiteout lenses with so many optical enhancements wired into them it wasn't even funny. Finally, the scalloped black cape wrapped itself around his shoulders like the darkest of security blankets, and it might as well have been one, for it concealed everything when properly worn and was heavily armored for how otherwise lightweight it was.
"Whoa . . ." Robin uttered, flexing his hands inside his gloves. "This fits. It really fits . . ." As he spoke, his voice was almost unconsciously deepening into the familiar low rasping growl of the Batman.
"Is that still you in there, Dick?" Garth wondered.
"Yeah, because you sound just like Batman," Kyle added.
"I am Batman," Dick growled, before his lips curled into a smirk. "And I am Dick Grayson as well. That won't fade so easily."
"That's a relief," Donna commented, smiling warmly. "I'd hate to see you fade away behind that cape and cowl."
"I don't fade that easily," Dick replied with an equally warm smile.
"Ok, enough with the mushy crap already," Roy grumbled, but there was no real anger in it, just determination to get out there and stop Parallax from destroying their world again.
"You're right," Dick admitted, and he slipped back into the Batman voice. "Let's go."
Their next stop was Star City, where Roy raided Ollie's armory to put together a veritable arsenal for himself. By the time he was done, he wore a forest green hooded vest and pants with lighter green inset trim and matching archer's gauntlets. A pair of optical lenses similar to a hybrid of goggles and sunglasses covered his eyes and a quiver full of high-tech arrows rested on his back. A smaller crossbow was hidden on his back beneath the quiver and a second crossbow, this one collapsible, was mounted on his right wrist.
"Whoa," Garth uttered once he saw Roy.
"Someone's looking badass," Wally complimented.
Donna slightly blushed, checking out Roy's well-muscled arms bared by his new costume. "Is that how you're going out as the new Green Arrow?"
"Yes, it is, Wonder Woman," Roy rejoined with an impish grin.
"So be it, Green Arrow," Nightwing remarked with an equally impish grin. "Ollie would be proud."
"For the sake of the world, I'd better prove you right," the new Green Arrow replied soberly.
Following that, they visited the Fortress of Solitude, where Conner and Kara listened to "Superman's Last Will and Testament." Out of respect, Nightwing had made sure everyone in the nascent Justice League let the two Kryptonians be while they listened to Clark Kent's final words. When they finally came out, their faces were full of steely resolve, puns fully unintended . . . and they had dressed themselves in new costumes.
Conner's was modeled after Superman's, but the "S" was sharper and more angular, not to mention set in a black background. He also wore a red belt in place of red trunks, and the suit seemed almost armored in places. Kara's suit was also modeled after Superman's, with a similarly sharp-angled S-shield, but longer, nearly thigh-high red boots and a leotard with a red bottom as opposed to a blue half-shirt and a red miniskirt.
"Really showing off those legs, huh, Kara?" Wally remarked, eliciting a cold stare from Kara.
"Keep your eyes in your head, Wally, unless you want a refresher course on what mine can do," Kara retorted, though a smile did creep up on her face.
Nightwing chuckled. "What are you gonna call yourself, Kara?"
Kara smirked. "I'm too old to be calling myself Supergirl." She let out a confident chuckle. "It's Superwoman."
"She is Superwoman, watch her soar," Iris quipped.
"Superwoman," Donna repeated, as if tasting the word. "I like it."
"And let me guess, Conner, you're Superman," Batman surmised.
"That would be the size of it, yeah," Conner confirmed.
M'gann gave a comforting look at the newly minted Superman. "You'll make him proud, Conner."
"Thank you, M'gann," Conner replied with a gentle tone. "You'll make J'onn proud, too."
The new Justice League took a trip to Themyscira, with Superman, Batman, the Flash, Green Arrow, Nightwing, Kyle, and Garth staying in the Batjet out of respect. As such, Donna was accompanied by Iris, Superwoman, and the Martian Manhunter onto the Amazons' island, greeted by Hippolyta's guards – and Artemis.
"I see you brought more women this time," Artemis dryly remarked.
"I'm here for the forge to equip myself for the battle to come," Donna replied.
"Very well," Artemis responded. "Phillipus will escort you." At that, she gestured to the dusky-skinned Amazon woman in gold warrior garb. The woman nodded and escorted Donna, Kara, Iris, and M'gann to the forge.
"You might want to stay outside, Meg," Kara advised, remembering the Martian hypersensitivity to flame or intense heat. M'gann nodded, feeling the heat from the forge even from outside, and hung back as Donna, Kara, and Iris entered.
The three young women found a young-looking brunette working over the forge. "Hard at work, I see," Donna greeted.
"Yes . . . it helps me focus," Io replied.
"I understand . . . how important Diana was to you," Donna spoke in consolation.
"She was important to all of us, Donna," Io answered calmly, though there was a slight tremor in her voice. "And I've been hard at work, as you put it, making you some new armor. Better armor. If you're going to be Wonder Woman, as the denizens of Man's World called her . . ."
"Yeah," Donna admitted.
"I never understood the proclivity in Man's World for such sobriquets," Io admitted.
"They sound cool," Iris replied simply. "That's why."
"Cool, huh?" Io repeated, sounding intrigued. "I suppose by that, you mean 'awe-inspiring' or 'impressive' or 'striking.'"
"Yeah, those work, too," Iris conceded.
Io finished quickly enough, revealing Donna's armor to her. "You're welcome to try it on. I just cooled it, though, so you might want to be careful."
Donna gently and gratefully took the armor from Io and donned it in a version of Diana's familiar spinning transformation. When it ended, Donna could be clearly seen in a red bustier with black starfield print, an eagle-shaped golden breastplate, and a red battle skirt. Golden armor covered her shoulders and golden combat sandals covered her feet and wrapped around her calves. A golden tiara with sharp edges and a red star in the center covered her forehead and golden war bracelets covered her forearms. Completing the ensemble was a gold lariat with divine energy practically vibrating off it.
"How does it feel?" Io asked.
". . . Powerful," Donna replied almost breathlessly.
"You look like you just had one hell of a rush," Iris observed.
"Feels like it, too," Donna admitted. "But I'm ready." She looked back at Io. "Thank you, Io. I'm ready to be Wonder Woman now."
"You sure are," Kara agreed with an approving smirk.
"As I am certain," Io supplemented, smiling with wonder.
"Whoa, you're glowing, Donna!" Roy exclaimed when he saw the new Wonder Woman reenter the Batjet.
"Really, Roy?" Donna asked with a raised eyebrow. "Is that the best you got?"
"No, seriously, Donna . . ." Roy uttered. Calming himself somewhat, he went on. "That new armor really brings out your best features."
Donna chuckled. "You sure know how to make a girl feel beautiful, Roy." She spotted Garth. "When'd you get the new outfit, Garth?"
Garth was wearing a wetsuit that had a black stripe outlined in white running down the middle of the entire outfit. The sides and sleeves of the wetsuit were colored red, and the outsides of the wetsuit's pants were colored blue, corresponding to his old colors as Aqualad. In the center of the wetsuit's waist was a silvery "A" buckle in the style of what had once adorned Orin's Aquaman costume.
"While you were getting busy in Themyscira, Dick flew us out so we could have Garth make himself a new outfit," Wally explained.
"Getting busy?" Kara repeated skeptically.
"Uh, yeah . . . bad choice of words," Wally admitted sheepishly.
Iris chuckled. "I would have asked about that, but I didn't want to get my head knocked off. It's way too pretty to be an ornament."
Nightwing chuckled slightly, but his expression soon hardened to the point of nearly mirroring the new Batman's. "It's time to get serious. These are the ultimate stakes here, and all reality's on the line. You ready to be the Justice League this world needs?"
Resolve could be seen in the faces and eyes of everyone on the jet in spite of how relaxed they had seemed before. "We're ready," was the short response from Conner, the new Superman.
Batman nodded stoically, his jaw set in an expression of grim resolve. "Let's save the world."
It didn't take long for them to find Parallax, as he had gone directly to Coast City and was radiating emerald energy like a twisted beacon. "Parallax!" Superman declared. "We know who you are, we know who you were, and we know what you plan to do! We also know one more thing – we will stop you!"
"Conner, Conner, Conner," Parallax mocked. "And all dressed up in Daddy's clothes, too." He snorted. "Just because you're dressed like him doesn't make you Superman. I should know, I fought beside him for years."
"And you murdered him!" Superman roared angrily. "Just like you murdered the rest of the League! Just like you murdered this world, so many times!"
"Ah, the newbie tell you that?" Parallax asked mockingly. "Did he get that story from the Guardians? Arrogant little blue men, thinking they could master the universe with no input from puny-minded mortals like us. Showed them, didn't I?"
"Murderer!" Kara roared and flew at Parallax at full hypersonic speed, shattering the sound barrier as she intended to do to Parallax's jaw. Alas, Parallax warped into insubstantiality before rematerializing to grab her by the cape, pulling so hard he was practically choking her with her own cape. Undeterred, Kara glared straight at him and her eyes literally burned into him with her heat vision, forcing him to let go of her as she twisted in midair for a powerful kick to his face.
"Nice try," Parallax taunted, and created green chains to ensnare her. "For the record, I appreciate your new taste in costumes. Kryptonian war garb, perhaps?"
Martian Manhunter telekinetically assaulted Parallax, bombarding him with psychic force blasts that practically disintegrated him . . . only for the disintegration to actually be Parallax dispersing himself. Visible as only a noxious green cloud, he engulfed the Martian Manhunter, who generated a telekinetic force field around herself as soon as she was aware of what he was trying to do. Just in time, too, as the Parallax cloud ignited itself in an attempt to set her on fire, something averted, if barely, by her force shield. However, the heat was something that could not be as easily deflected, and both M'gann and Parallax knew it.
Fortunately, so did Superman, and he flew into the cloud and spun at super-speed to force Parallax to disperse his cloud form. As Parallax dispersed, he rapidly reformed into his human shape and punched Superman hard enough to send him flying across the city. At that same moment, a concentrated tidal wave crashed into Parallax at the direction of the new Aquaman, Garth, only to be dispelled by radiating emerald force coming from Parallax.
Two red blurs attacked Parallax, the Flashes Wally and Iris, circling and striking again and again too fast for most to follow. However, the dual accelerated assault hit a sudden block when Parallax shifted his density to become as hard as diamond, knocking both speedsters for a loop, particularly as Parallax hit them so hard they made craters in the ground.
At that moment, an explosive arrow flew at Parallax, aimed right for his cloaked head . . . only for Parallax to catch it and throw it right at Donna, who blocked it with her war bracelets. Said bracelets formed an energy shield upon being clashed together, a shield that was able to deflect the detonation from the arrowhead. Despite her defense, Parallax charged through the explosion to punch Donna, the force of the blow almost more than the aegis field could withstand. Eventually, the barrier shattered with such a shockwave that it blew both Donna and Parallax back.
"Didn't that ring choose you for a reason?" Batman asked Kyle back inside the Batjet.
"Yeah," Kyle muttered in response.
"Then go in," Batman ordered. "This is no time for fear."
Kyle stared at Batman for a moment, contemplating those words, and then flew out of the jet, glowing brightly. That glow began to take a more definitive shape, resembling a high-tech armor bearing a lance and riding some kind of gliding machine. As the construct armor more fully assembled itself over Kyle, he accelerated faster and faster until he was in striking range of Parallax.
"Hey!" Kyle shouted as he moved to stab Parallax with the lance, only for Parallax to disperse the lance. "What the –?!"
"I've got a lot more experience with that emerald energy than you," Parallax taunted. "And a lot more of it in me than whatever you've got in that piddling ring of yours."
"This 'piddling ring' stands for something!" Kyle retorted. "Something you betrayed!" He attempted to attack again, only to be blocked by Parallax's shield, which the emerald-powered entity then rammed into Kyle's face.
"The Guardians betrayed me!" Parallax snapped. "I gave all I had, but the condescending little bastards just looked down their noses and were content to let millions of lives go lost because 'that was just the way of things!' Well, no more! I define the way of things now, and if you stand in my way, you can die!" With a blast of emerald energy strengthened by his rage and hate, Parallax blasted Kyle and the rest of the Justice League far away.
At that moment, a blur flew from the Batjet and rammed into Parallax with hypersonic force. Not stopping there, the blur ricocheted off a nearby skyscraper and struck Parallax again, repeating the process across the wreckage of the battlefield until Parallax put it to a stop by punching the blur in mid-strike, revealing that it was a hyper-acrobatic Nightwing. Knocked to the ground by the sudden impact, Nightwing barely had time to roll back onto his feet before Parallax was on him again.
"I see you . . . I see what you are . . . you're not from this universe . . . you are an interloper, you and the girl Flash," Parallax snarled. "You were the one who brought them all together, weren't you? Filled their heads with ideas of stopping me, of defying me, of standing up for their universe even though I was the one who created this universe. You're fighting a lost cause. I will not be stopped, and a universe with no fear, no pain, no suffering, no loss . . . will be in my grasp."
"And no choice!" Nightwing retorted, striking Parallax with a powerful burst of heat vision that singed even Parallax's defenses. "Just to let you know, you've got a special parting gift coming down for you!"
Parallax looked up and saw a glowing star growing bigger and bigger in the sky. His eyes narrowed as he realized what that "star" actually was. "Dick Grayson, you suicidal idiot," he whispered menacingly.
Indeed, the star was the League Watchtower, removed from Earth orbit and crashing down at terminal velocity toward Parallax. "A fitting end," Batman declared. "As the Justice League died by your hand, you die by the hand of the League. If hell will take you, Parallax, see you there."
And then the Watchtower crashed into Parallax with such a massive detonation that it nearly flattened the entirety of Coast City's midtown. Nightwing had barely been able to evade the epicenter in time and even then he was roughly buffeted by the residual shockwaves. In the end, his costume was torn and his mask had been almost burned off. Calming himself for a moment, he listened for the heartbeats of the rest of the Justice League and Iris, and was relieved when he saw a faint green glow.
"Kyle . . ." Nightwing murmured.
"Wow . . . didn't know I could do that," Kyle uttered underneath the green energy barrier that encompassed the Justice League, even a Batman in scorched armor and a singed Green Arrow.
"Willpower, Kyle," Batman remarked. "It's all about willpower."
"Speaking of willpower, who told you to pull such a suicidal stunt?" Donna angrily asked him.
"Nobody," Batman replied.
"You really think that's gonna kill him?" Martian Manhunter asked.
"No," Batman admitted, "but it should slow him down, make him burn up his reserves."
"You'd better be right," Wally groaned, "because it doesn't look like he's ready to stop."
Indeed, Parallax was far from ready to stop. His form rose like some kind of hellish green specter, advancing furiously upon the Justice League. "Why is it that none of you understand what I'm trying to do?" he asked bitterly.
"Maybe because it involves tearing down our world and taking all of reality down with it!" Green Arrow answered defiantly.
That response prompted Parallax to throw a blast of green fire at the insouciant emerald archer, intent on making him the first example of what happened to those that defied him. However, the Green Arrow was guarded by the Green Lantern, who took the fire blast ring first. "What are you doing?" Donna asked.
"Parallax got his power from absorbing all the green energy in the Central Power Battery," Kyle explained. "I'm taking back as much of it as I can!"
"You want my power, newbie?" Parallax taunted. "Then take it!" With that, he began pouring more green fire after Kyle, the intent obviously being to overload Kyle's ring and burn it out if not kill Kyle himself on account of how much power he was trying to absorb. Kyle just kept on absorbing Parallax's power.
"It's all about willpower, right?" Kyle asked, though it sounded more like a statement than a question. "You're expecting my willpower to run out before yours does, aren't you, Parallax? Not gonna happen, dreg!" As he shouted those last four words, the emerald fire he was channeling from Parallax coalesced around him into a viridian inferno that completely engulfed him.
"What is this?!" Parallax exclaimed in astonishment.
"In brightest day . . . in blackest night . . . let no evil escape my sight," a voice that sounded like and yet unlike Kyle intoned from within the emerald flames. "Let those who worship evil's might . . . beware my power . . . Green Lantern's light!" With those final three words, the green flame surrounding Kyle dispersed in a violent blast, revealing a rather changed Kyle Rayner.
No longer did he wear his customized Green Lantern uniform. Now, he wore a skintight black costume with a glowing green circle framed by green trim on his shoulders that formed a lantern's shape around that circle. The black of his costume was covered in a starfield pattern akin to that on Donna's Wonder Woman armor, and his face had itself become obscured by a starfield-patterned black mask. Green cuffs wrapped themselves around his wrists and ankles, and a single strip of green encircled his waist.
Parallax gaped at Kyle in shock, as did the rest of the Justice League, amazed at the transformation that had occurred in him. "What the hell are you?" Parallax furiously inquired.
"I'm the Green Lantern!" Kyle declared, his voice echoing as he made that claim, a claim accented by a brutal power ring-enhanced uppercut to Parallax's jaw, so quick that even the Flashes were hard-pressed to see it coming. The punch knocked Parallax half-across the city, and Kyle was far from done, as he sped across the city in a flash of green to meet Parallax halfway and kick him back the other way. Not intending to stop so easily, emerald chains sprouted from Kyle's aura and grabbed Parallax, holding him fast for Kyle to do a slingshot maneuver leading into a brutal kick with both feet that sent the fallen Green Lantern crashing into the ground, making a crater even bigger than what he'd done to Wally and Iris.
"How are you doing this?!" Parallax asked.
"Willpower!" Kyle responded. "It's what makes a Green Lantern a Green Lantern, something you don't know as much about as you thought you did! If you did, you wouldn't have turned on your fellow Lanterns! If you did, you wouldn't have killed everyone in the Justice League! If you did, you wouldn't be trying to remake the universe over and over as if you were God!" Throughout his speech, he accented each "you did" with a brutal ring-powered strike to Parallax, whether with his fists or with his constructs. "My will is stronger than yours, Parallax! That's why you won't win! Even if you beat me, you won't win! Because I won't give up! Ever!"
With that final declaration, Kyle summoned a legion of what looked like insect-armored warriors that lunged feet-first at Parallax, landing powerful flying kicks to his midsection before Kyle struck the finishing blow with his own emerald energy-charged flying kick, felling Parallax once and for all in a blinding flash of emerald light. Surprising Iris and Nightwing, the emerald light began to give way to a purer white light, and they heard a familiar voice speaking through it: "It's time to come back, you two. You're not needed in this universe anymore. They can take it from here."
"Wait!" Iris tried to shout, but it was swallowed by the brightness of the white light.
"Parallax might not even –!" Nightwing tried to protest, only for that to also be swallowed by the flooding white light.
"– be down for the count!" he finished in desperation, before taking stock of his surroundings and noticing that he and Iris were inside a wrecked house that they recognized as Buffy Summers' residence. They were also surprised to find two of Buffy standing together, one otherworldly and radiant like Nightwing knew their boss to be and the other more down-to-Earth in her appearance, not to mention looking like she'd been through one hell of a fight. They saw their fellow Exiles looking a bit worse for wear, although Spider's symbiotic suit seemed to have morphed into a chitinous armored shell. More surprising still was the sight of what looked like a new member of the team, a young brunet Japanese man with reddish-brown eyes, as well as a blue British police box in the living room alongside a slightly disheveled-looking brown-haired Caucasian man.
They weren't the only ones surprised, though; the more earthly Buffy and her associates were also gaping at them in astonishment. "Why are you dressed up like Superman?" a redheaded girl, the Potential Slayer now turned real Slayer Vi, asked.
"Um, 'Nightwing' was technically a Kryptonian legend," a short blond man, the nerdish Andrew, offered as explanation, while his eyes kept drifting to Nightwing's lean frame in the skintight black costume.
"Vi, Andrew, that's Nightwing," Spider stated. "He's our leader. And if you must know, he's just as much the Nightwing you know as we're the Spider-Man you know."
"Yeah, sure," Vi uttered, sounding a bit embarrassed.
Iris looked skeptically at the subtly glowing Buffy. "Were you the voice telling me and Nightwing we weren't needed in that world anymore?"
"Yeah," Omni-Buffy admitted. "Nice to meet you, Iris West."
"And I'm guessing you're the one who put this team together?" Iris went on.
"I am," Omni-Buffy answered simply.
The "dark Slayer," Faith Lehane, looked Nightwing up and down, her eyes roaming his lithe form. "Gotta say, you look even better than in the comics."
Xander was himself eyeing Iris with wonderment and bewilderment. "Wow. Lady Flash. Girl Flash. Been a while since I saw one of those. Uh . . . it looks good on you. All red and . . ."
Iris giggled at the flustered Xander. "You're cute."
Nightwing scowled, but then he figured this was Iris's way of getting back at him for all the female attention he had unintentionally accrued while in that other version of the world he'd once known. It still didn't prevent him from feeling annoyed and jealous.
"Ah, the Woman Who Rides the Lightning and the Boy Wonder who now carries the legacy of Krypton," the disheveled man remarked in a whimsical tone. "Charmed to make your acquaintance. You can call me the Doctor."
"Doctor who?" Iris asked.
"Oh, yes, that old joke," the Doctor brushed off her question. "Being a TV program in this world raises some rather disconcerting existential questions, but I suppose it's the same for the rest of you. And I can always visit the casting director and ask them to make a redhead the next me."
"'Next me'?" Iris repeated, confused.
"Like all Time Lords, I can regenerate every so often, and when I do, my appearance and sometimes my personality change," the Doctor explained. "Oh, I still have the same memories and identity, but I can be very different from how I was previously."
"Like the time you were an arrogant jerk in an ugly jacket?" Xander offered.
"Not in those terms, but yes, that would be one way of describing it," the Doctor answered.
"My name's Kazuma Yagami," the brunet Japanese man introduced himself. "I'm told you're supposed to be our leader."
"Yeah," Nightwing admitted. "What's the Doctor doing here?"
"Suffice it to say that I will be your travel guide throughout time and space and I will be your advisor in the ways of extraterrestrial life," he replied in that same whimsical tone. "When you've lived for nearly a thousand years, you see – and do – a lot of things."
"And people?" Kennedy asked mischievously.
"I decline to comment," the Doctor answered. "Right now, we have an army of Turok-Han, the ancestors of the modern vampire, gearing up to eat humanity alive and kick off an apocalypse. We're not going to let that happen, are we?"
"Don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds like the kind of thing I definitely wouldn't let happen," Nightwing agreed.
"Yeah, and after that, can I stop off to get some new glasses?" Iris wondered. "That jerk Parallax broke mine."
Nightwing chuckled slightly. "Yeah, I'll get you some new ones after we stop the Turok-Han."
Iris cracked a wicked smile. "Then let's beat some Turoks into dust!"
Faith let out an equally wicked smirk. "I think I'm gonna like you."