Cyborg said to herself. "I may have more than one brain, but I am Victoria Stone."
She fought to take control of her new body.
She could hear her father, Irons and Charles talking, trying to explain their actions to the reporters, White and Olsen.
John Henry was saying. "Inactive microscopic machines were discovered in the wreckage of the Metropolis Manhunter Incident."
"The party Lex Luthor held." Jimmy Olsen said.
"Yes, and samples were brought to S.T.A.R. Labs for analysis." Sarah Charles admitted.
So, Victoria thought, this had been her father's work. Attempting to decipher the Androids Alien science. Now her hybrid cybernetic body existed because of this Manhunter technology.
It was the logical explanation. Why else would she feel so drawn to obey the Manhunter's Machine-god?
Equally Irons was right. She had to fight.
"No." Vic shouted again.
From within her she heard the now familiar sound again, "Ping" and with it the desire to die at the feet of the Machine-god evaporated as fast as the command had arrived. Purged from her in blaze of light – of volatile energy. It was like she being healed from the inside out.
It was a brilliance that made her body glow from within, and a rainbow of colours danced under her skin.
"What did you do to her?" Jimmy Olsen asked, his face betrayed compassion and concern for her; brave and selfless given their collective peril.
Silas Stone gasped "You see the device's volatile energy reactivated the inoperative nanites." Her father tried to explain his work. "We found that the nanites automatically rebuilt damage; damaged tissue, damaged machinery, whatever – it didn't matter, once reactivated by the devices energy they just worked." He shook his head. "When I saw my daughter so hurt,... I had to try."
"Device?" Perry asked anger in his voice. "What device?"
"I know dad. You had to try." Vic said to their surprise. "And I'm okay now. I'm back in the driving seat of this body you gave me." Vic rose powerfully to her feet, smiling a broad grin. It felt good to be in control once more.
The 'Ping' she had heard was short duration as a sound, but it represented a great deal of information.
"I contain 'The Device' now." she told them.
Irons coughed. "It's in you?"
"Wait, what is this all about?" Jimmy asked. Perry shrugged exasperated.
"It's the energy of creation in a box, the spark of life bottled; captured and contained." Vic replied. She restarted her image projection. "It's a fusion of magic and science." Vic said. "It's not unlike this realm of Olympus in that sense – in a way they are related."
"The nanites must have rebuilt you using whatever was close by." John Henry concluded. "The advanced technology of the Containment vessel." Irons stated. "Now I understand the nanites somehow co-opted 'The Device' itself."
"And here I was thinking that the Manhunter's had gotten hold of it." Sarah Charles said.
"For the Love of God, and the last time. What is 'The Device'." White asked.
Sarah Charles shrugged. "We don't know for sure Perry - look it was recovered alongside a powerful ancient artefact, don't bother asking, I know, I know.. but even if I did know what that artefact was, I couldn't tell you, hell I shouldn't be talking about this now, but given what's going on..." She hesitated.
Perry folded his arms and frowned.
Sarah sighed and continued. "Well 'The Device' was a small gold box. Strange markings on its surface. Unfathomable and indestructible. It was kept in the Black Room at Area 51 until the Starro incident."
"That everyone remembers. The public début of the Justice League." Jimmy recalled.
"Seriously?" Perry replied. "And I thought the Black Room was just conspiracy nonsense." White then grunted. "So I guess S.T.A.R. Labs got this box after that."
"Yes." Sarah agreed. "Post Starro there was pressure from on high to come up with something – anything to combat that kind of Alien threat. All manner of forgotten and buried projects were reactivated."
Vic had learned a great deal from that latest 'Ping'.
'The device' that had first spoken to her using her mother's voice, was another worldly power.
Vic now had a name, or at least in English a translation of 'The Device's' title; Mother-Box.
Cyborg then said. "Symbiont power source is by mutual consent is a New Genesis Mother-Box."
"Which means?" Irons asked.
"A sentience. It speaks to me occasionally." Vic replied. "Well it 'Pings' at me any way." Cyborg made an approximation of sound. "And that noise isn't just a note - it's a data stream, and somehow I can understand, as if it were a thousand words, not just one sound."
"Fascinating." Irons replied. "And this New Genesis Mother-Box is related to this reality – to Olympus?"
"Not exactly." Vic interpreted her Cyborg memory. "Not this realm - but something, somewhere very like it."
"Another alternative reality you mean?" Jimmy speculated.
"Perhaps young man." Sarah Charles agreed. "I wonder how it came to Earth?" She asked.
Victoria wondered that too.
"Ping!" Vic felt a swell of maternal memories and emotions towards someone bright and beautiful. "A visitor to Earth seeking answers. Seeking Wisdom." Cyborg said, adding. "Accessing Mother-box records; New god emissary Obsidia." The image Cyborg was projecting changed to images which appeared to be from Earth's past.
"That looks like ancient Jerusalem." Perry stated.
Cyborg's said. "An ebony Queen from the south as she visits a Red King famed for his wise rule. Gifts are exchanged, a slight of hand is performed by one concealed among her entourage. This is the New-god Obsidia, she places a golden box, the device, amongst the Queens tributes to the King."
"'The Device' is to record data." Vic said.
"Dark painted lips meet the ruddy face of David's son; Solomon the Wise embraces Sheba's queen. Her gifts of gold are taken to the newly constructed Temple; to the eyes of Zadok the High Priest. The box is picked a bearded man, his hair distinguished by grey. "Ping" goes the box. The man frowns, He studies the strange golden markings on its surface, before saying. "Ahimaaz my son, clear this place."
"Alone behind closed doors within the sanctuary Zadok hurries behind the veil, something unspoken compels him perhaps the certainty of faith. The High Priest enters the inner sanctum."
Cyborg continues. "Zadok approaches, careful lest his hands touch it, and feel the wrath of the incredible energies contained within. Carefully he drops the golden box the final hairsbreadth and onto the lid. There the Mother-Box rests under the wings of two sculptured golden Cherubs, that decorate this gilded wooden trunk.
Vic hears Jimmy gasp in exclamation as the projected image changes as time shifts into fast forward, becoming a blur of images. Then snap shots appear from the Mother-Box's recordings. "Flames rise and swords fall, but no hand can reach out and take back the small golden box, not even the New-god to whom it belongs. Obsidia is repulsed by the power of the relic. Then Jerusalem falls to Babylon." Cyborg explains.
Vic snaps her consciousness out of these memories. Her mind is reeling and she is as amazed as the others.
"That was the Ark." Jimmy Olsen said. "As in – of the covenant, Ark." He turned to Perry and Sarah. His face full of excitement. "I guess we know those stories about the Black Room were true after all." He grinned broadly.
Hades individual gift was a double edged sword, both literally and figuratively. The dark god had chosen his Knight and Champion. He had chosen Bruce and Talia, and part of that compact was for each one a weapon, a god-forged blade, and all the magic that came with that.
The child stood before them, and in each hand a blade, presenting the hilt to Bruce and Talia, inviting them to accept his favour.
"Poseidon has chosen King Orin called Arthur, and his Queen Mera." Hades told them. "So I have chosen you."
Batman understood the concept, but the result was another matter. For Diana, Arthur and Mera had been elevated to the status of gods, giants besides the titans of Olympus, fighting against and alongside the vast vessels who had become Warriors on both sides of the conflict.
"So Hermes has chosen your fast footed Flash." Hades added.
Bruce hadn't seen Barry, giant or not, but given his effective invisibility it was to be expected.
"The balance is tipping; all it needs is a push." Hades told them. "Your tactics are sound, you must take the fight to the Machine-god, but to do that you need the right tools."
The Batman felt a sense of relief. He did not want to be elevated to the status and size of an Olympian Titan. The Dark Knight looked at the god-forged blades. They were as black as Hades eyes, with razor sharp edges.
Tools were something Bruce could relate to. "We've come this far." he said as he looked at Talia. She nodded. "Together." She said.
They grasped hold of the black on black swords.
The transition was instantaneous once more, this time Bruce and Talia were plunged into the midst of battle.
Magic resonated around about them. Zatana and Circe's spell illuminated up the light less interior of the Machine god. The Dark Knight found the sword Hades had given him not only connected him to Talia, allowing them to share their thoughts, enabling them to work as one, it also protected him from the hostile environment on the Machine-god's interior. The digestive acid attacks from the defensive spheres did not penetrate the dark mist that clung to both Talia and him. A supernatural armour.
Moreover the Batman recognised that Hades had not acted unilaterally. The sword recognised the fingerprints of the other Olympians.
Zatana wore armour bearing the eagle and owls of Athena. Oliver Queen the Cresent Moon of Artemis and her Hound Helm. The Black Canary had been granted the bright sigil of Apollo's golden harp; fitting as in his armour she could use her fearsome Canary Cry, the sonic attack shattering the cybernetic defenders. The Hawks used their wings like knives; their maces were enhanced by Nth metal energy too, shattering the internal walls above them. They had gained no additional armour, they had that mystical metal in their blood, rather each wore a fragrant rose; Aphrodite had chosen them, and granted them her magic here. Lastly the Champion of Ares was not one of their number, or from Terra First, or Team Luthor, although Deathstroke had pretended to be in Lex's pay. Slade Wilson wore the colours of the God of Blood-lust. He wore his helm and carried his shield, moving with his power, his sword was devastating in its destruction of the enemy's defenders and the substance of the Machine-god's being. For the first time the Batman could see an end to this war in sight. With their attack the vast Necromantic-cyborg edifice shook, for the first time the Machine-gods relentless growth abated.
The living vessel Metropolis was still enraptured by the Undead giant's siren call. Vic thought about the consequences; what happens to me, to the others, if the Metropolis Vessel reaches the Machine-god?
"Death for all, followed by absorption of all."
"Vic what's wrong?" Silas Stone said, his voice troubled.
Vic realised she had been concentrating on her internal dialogue. Outwardly appearing to shut down. Thinking about this dilemma, Vic's anyaltical engine provided an answer.
"Recommend delegation to systemic artificial intelligence nodes."
Of course, she thought, I have more than one brain; I can tell the cybernetics associated with my tongue and voice box to converse with my dad and the others. I can really multi-task.
She laughed inwardly.
"Are you all right?" John Henry asked.
"Yes, sorry – I'm fine." Victoria told them. "I am currently observing the Manhunter Collective." As she spoke Cyborg's metal armour reappeared. Like thousands of pixels turning to mercury, she stood ready to fight. "Well as good as a machine-girl can get."
"Combat ready." Her internal voice chimed.
"Seriously what now?" John Henry asked interpreting her change in appearance as confirmation of an external threat.
Vic reconsidered her opinion of this man. A consequence of my augmented memory she admitted that he was both brave and clever. "Now we have to work out how to stop this ship killing itself and killing us with it." She told Irons.
The big man's face registered shock, but he simply replied. "How can I help?"
Vic's delegated the answer to her Cyborg systems; the analytical engine crunched options, then Cyborg continued outlining how to link the lab's computers with the ship. John Henry and her father listened and acted. At the same time her Cybernetic Immuno-defense system was manufacturing nanobots to fabricate that connection. Meanwhile Vic's conscious mind was focused on the Collective. Another independent intelligence was piggybacking into the Manhunters link to the living vessels hive mind; searching for something.
Her analytical engine concluded. Justice League is the force behind the Rebellion of Metropolis' sister ships – specifically the Martian Manhunter; Jo J'Onzz is broadcasting.
Vic smiled inwardly, the League had organised the rebellion.
She could hear Jo J'Onzz appealing directly to their 'Metropolis' Vessel to come over to rebels' side; to embrace life not death.
Her Cyborg Systems identified 'Metropolis' as one of the larger vessels among the metamorphosed warriors. The tactical analysis was that this ship was a key player, and a leader.
"Opening Comm sub routine."
"Mother-box telepathic interface established."
"Jo." She began. "I'm currently aboard this living spacecraft from Metropolis." She paused.
Outside herself she was telling her Father and Irons about why there were rebels fighting for the Olympians. Her voice was saying "The Justice League."
Inside she felt the Martian's telepathic mind centre in on her consciousness.
"By the Twin Moons of Ma'aleca'andra!" Jo exclaimed. "How can this be?"
"The lost Mother-box of Obsidia." The Martian asked Vic, her thoughts carried surprise and wonder. "Are you her – it is a long time since Obsidia visited Ma'aleca'andra."
"Ma'aleca'andra is Martian Native – extinction event prior to Homo Sapiens- designation for Sol's fourth planet, Mars." Her augmented Memory informed her consciousness.
"No, I'm not Obsidia." Vic replied to the Martian, she felt embarrassed and awestruck.
"But surely a New-god from New Genesis?"
"I'm Victoria Stone from Metropolis."
Vic continued saying. "I have tapped into this animals neural net, I think I can communicate directly with it..."
"Wait you are human." Jo interrupted. Vic felt her thoughts brushed by the probing mind of the Alien Telepath.
"I am a collection of things, biology and technology. Believe me it when I say this was a bigger a shock for me, than you."
Vic communicated her understanding of what she was.
"Cyborg." Jo said. "Can you connect me to the Metropolis vessel?" she asked. Caution was evident through her thoughts, as was hope, and a measure of faith.
"I can. If you're ready."
The Martian Manhunter's mind reached out to the intelligence that was this living vessel. Sharing with Metropolis the truth about the Machine-god's protocol 666.
"Warning. Warning. Incoming – Manhunter Android." Vic's internal voice calmly announced.
Cyborg's systems reacted faster than Vic's human consciousness, her right mercurial hand reformed into a glowing energy cannon. Vic found she was reacting as if by instinct. The Android burst through the wall of chamber. The Manhunter showed scant regard for the structure of the living vessel. The Collective demanded absolute loyalty. The machine's target was Vic.
"Conclusion: Attacking Android means to sever telepathic cross link with this vessel."
"No sh.." Vic cursed through clenched teeth as the cannon roared. The energy was as volatile as the fire that had consumed her body only a short while ago. I can measure in minuets back to the time when I was human, Vic thought as the fire engulfed the machine.
Like wax the metal melted and exposed darker internals.
As the Android fell on her it reforged itself, time and time again in those few moments. By the time the machine hit her, it was moving like a bullet. Red hot metal was sent spraying of molten metal over the ruins of the stolen Laboratory.
John Henry Irons grabbed Sarah Charles and Silas Stone. Pushing them clear, he turned his broad still naked back to the fire. Hot metal fell on him like rain. His skin burned.
The reporters took cover behind a lump of broken concrete.
The Android was no longer humanoid, like its god any resemblance to the human form that the Guardians had used as their template millennia past, was abandoned in the heat of battle. The writhing collection of limbs smashed into her Cyborg body, crashing not into her exactly but a projection of her armour. Cyborg systems had extended, without her needing to ask, a vast curved shield, appearing to be made of pixels of mercury. It was a web of tiny machines, manufactured internally by her Cybernetic Immuno-Defence system, and deployed at incredible speed; the nanites meshed together creating a wafer thing physical shield that was charged with repulsive energy.
At the same moment Vic received confirmation that the Martian Manhunters telepathic plea had been successful. Jo J'Onzz had delivered in a moment a concentrated stream of consciousness, memories of evidence, the collective memories of the rebel hive mind, and the individual awareness's it represented. Vic grasped why this message was so compelling it was emancipation from nameless enforced slavery into independent freedom of life. The desperation of the Android's attack made cold logical sense; sentient life was an anathema to their Collectives absolute dictatorship.
Driving the Manhunter back Vic smashed the machine into the shell floor. Metal broke and twisted, other liquid like mercury ran in pools. Thrusting her right hand into the pooling liquid Cyborg delivered a backwash of nanites. The microscopic robots replicated and converted the broken Manhunter material. Attempting to reassemble Vic caught the reforming torso with another burst of volatile energy from her left hand. The Torso buckled, and broke. The Android was down.
Vic span around, a burst of light alerted her. Her senses zoomed in on the brilliance, it was short lived. In the space was smoke, and the smell of iron. A muscular but ugly giant of man stood there, he would have been taller still but for misshapen legs. The stranger carried an oversized blacksmith's heavy hammer.
"Hephaestus." Her inner voice declared.
Wonder Woman was the first among the Olympian Champions. First to be elevated, and the first to reach Olympus' realm. The Princess of Themyscira, had fought the longest in this reality, beside the Amazon's gods, from the outset when the balance had been in the Machine-god's favour, when the Undead-giant had grown into the towering machine of death.
Diana now sensed everything was in the balance. She kept her mind tuned to her native Amazonian Mental Radio, and her ear ready to hear the telepathic enhanced comm signal from the Justice League. Even now she could see the battle turning, the once superior numbers of the enemy forces had been whittled down, by attrition and defections to the rebel cause.
Diana gave a yell above the clamour of battle. The time of their victory was coming closer.
In the melee she had lost her shield, but it left her hand free to wield her golden lasso which was a weapon in and of itself.
Then Martian Manhunter communicated across their alliance, telepathically linking the League, the Hive mind to Amazons and the Atlanteans.
"I have been empowered by Demeter, goddess of the Harvest." Jo J'Onzz broadcast. Her telepathic images revealed the Olympians choices of individual and occasionally paired Champions; each selection made sense given the symbols and nature of both gods and the persons called.
Jo J'Onzz had joined the fight inside the Machine-god. Again she shared mental images that showed they were winning, breaking down and destabilising the vast structure that was this Grey Tower of Death.
Yet Diana took no pleasure in this grand gesture by Olympus. She recognised the truth, this was a desperate act. The gods were nothing if not personification of power, relinquishing that power to human agents was like wringing a damp cloth to extract the last drops of moisture. It was a means of exploiting the last of their reserves of godly power.
It was not only victory that was close at hand, but also defeat.
Wonder Woman in that moment understood the battle – the balance could tip either way.
She watched as goddess Hestia sent her sacred flame souring across the Elysian Fields, as gift to the Green Lanterns. She saw via her mother's thoughts across the Amazon Mental Radio how the goddess of the Hearth was using Ganthlet's other worldly power ring to channel her godly fire into the individual power rings of the corps.
If nothing else it confirmed that this green Power ring was magical in origin.
The mystery deepened, but Diana had not time to ponder such questions, for her the battle continued. She decided to shoulder the truth alone. Let her friends revel in their new powers, and enjoy their god-forged weapons. She trusted their commitment. There was nothing to gain in sharing her doubts. The knowledge that their fates were balanced on a knifes edge.
Diana leapt over the violet beast with the appearance of a dragon; why she wondered had this violet energy entity been the hardest of these spectrum beings of raw emotion for her to defeat. Her tiara forged from the discus of Apollo flew outwards slicing through the purple dragon, the creature roared and staggered, but it did not fall. Again its mouth filled with fiery energies snapped at her heels. She knew Superman was deep within the Machine-god leading the fight to reach the heart of the Undead-giant, and the truth. She now believed their future rested on his success, the exposure of the self-styled Cronus for what he truly was.
Truth and Justice meant a great deal to Diana. Only peace and love mattered as much.
She thought of Kal, and in unexpected and irrational anger Diana span her golden lasso far further than she intended, it proved to be a happy accident. The golden line wound out, coiling to almost impossible lengths, snaring around the dragons spines. Then from above the mighty hand of Zeus delivered lightning to her left and right. Crash and crash, in a split second, causing the free spinning golden line snagged the Orange eel like energy beast, winding around the writhing snake, so it too was held fast.
Diana wondered was this act intentional – was this the will of the King of the gods? If so why wait until now to reveal it. Why had Zeus chosen this moment to intervene?
The truth was simple, she told herself, it is always about balance. Now the King of the gods, had tipped that balance in her favour. She read this as his royal command.
Wonder Woman rose again from the muddy ground, the long line snapping around the horns of the red bull like beast.
As the vast red energy entity pulled against the magic unbreakable golden cord, Diana shouted out. "Hera give me Strength!" It was her favourite cry of desperation.
Yet when Hera's replied Diana was awestruck. Hera never answered her. Her god-mothers and Hermes, who had each blessed her as a baby - yes, but Hera never.
"Well done child." The Queen of the gods had said. Her words carried little warmth, but there was truth in them. Diana was convinced of it - this was the god's plan. This was what she must do.
Zeus' other hand brought the great Sickle of the Ages down past Diana, and so pinned the Indigo octopus by three of its twitching limbs. Wonder Woman danced past the preternatural blade, and extended her snare. Above her Zeus smiled like a proud father.
Wonder Woman leapt high once again. Zeus struck unexpectedly, brushing her sword with his sacred weapon, a glancing blow, one she took as a passing salute.
Had she the strength to wrangle all seven energy beasts? Wrestling the Red bull alone had been a herculean labour.
Diana twisted and danced past the green leviathan, as the vast beast tried to slip past her golden fishing line, but she snagged this entity by its tail. The vast green whale was wilful, but Diana felt her strength grow even as she fought it to a standstill. It was then she realised what Zeus had done. As she brought her right hand to her lariat she saw she no longer held her sword, but rather the great stone Sickle of the Ages. It was this sleight of hand exchange that confirmed her fears. She whipped the line of her lasso outwards again snagging the yellow beast of many hideous faces.
The balance had not just tipped, it had wobbled. Zeus had given her the most awful of weapons, the blade that had dethroned his father, and grandfather. It was a terrible burden of both power and trust.
The blue bird was the last energy entity still free. She cast forward her limitless and unbreakable line, but this beast had air under its wings, and sped from her. Wonder Woman felt hope slipping away.
Then the world turned. Literally the whole of Elysian Fields folded in and on itself. One moment the bird beast was disappearing blue into endless blue skies, and then it was hurtling back to her. The blackness of the damp earth engulfed them all, threatening to swallow everything, bury the living and the dead. Wonder Woman's lariat encircled this flying blue flame, the last of the brilliant beasts, was tethered to her.
As the blackness close around them all, the truth became clear to Diana through the magic of her golden lasso. These creatures of raw emotion were part of an emotional spectrum that in turn was part of a greater whole, absolute unified power.
In the blackness, one by one the brilliant beasts burned all the brighter. Then their light surged along the shining lariat as if it were a golden cable to Diana. The energy passed through her bodily as Wonder Woman acted as a conduit for these primal emotions given form. These incredible energies now surged into the Sickle of the Ages. First red, then orange, then yellow, then green, then blue, and last violet.
There was now absolute blackness. The still cold embrace of damp dank black earth.
Then the Sickle of the Ages burst into a brilliant white light, and this was all Diana could see, a burning star like brilliance, that in turn waned until the ancient godly weapon became visible once more. The Sickle was no longer a crude stone tool but it had been magically reforged.
This renewed weapon burned with a fearsome light.
It was a bright adamant Falcata, it's blade pitching forward to the point, with a concave edge, but convex top, a shape that gave this unique sword devastating momentum. Used in anger it had the power of an axe, but having the properties of a sword.
Then the world turned upside down once more.