Chapter 10: "Rewired and Reloaded"
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox Studios, and Dark Horse Comics. Spider-Man, Rogue, and Deadpool are the property of Marvel Comics and Marvel Studios. Rose Wilson, Nightwing, Iris West, and others you may recognize from the DC Universe are the property of DC Comics and Warner Brothers. Ian Nottingham and Sara Pezzini are the property of Top Cow Productions. Psycho Red and Tommy Oliver are the property of Saban Brands, while Grimmjow Jeagerjaques is the property of Tite Kubo, and The Doctor and the Dalek belong to the creators of Doctor Who. Kazuma Yagami is the property of the creator of Kaze no Stigma. i do not make any money or receive any other material compensation for the writing of this story, this is purely for personal entertainment and the enjoyment of any readers who stumble upon this.
Realizing that they were outmatched against Parallax, Nightwing and Iris had retreated to the Batcave, where Nightwing immediately began patching data into the supercomputer to track the Titans of this plane of reality. "What are you doing?" Iris asked.
"We need a new Justice League," Nightwing replied. "To do that, we have to find them all. Roy, Garth, Donna, Wally, M'gann, Kon-El . . . whoever got Hal's ring . . ."
"And Robin," Iris added. "You, technically speaking."
"Yeah . . ." Nightwing muttered. How am I going to tell them that their mentors are dead, and that they're going to have to step into their boots to stop Parallax from destroying this world?
As though sensing his thoughts, Iris placed a comforting hand on Nightwing's arm. Nightwing didn't verbally respond, but he did relax at her touch and look back at her with a softened expression. "Come on. I think I know where to start."
A young man dejectedly tumbled out of the nightclub, tossed out on his rear end by the bouncer who'd had to break up the fight that had ensued between him and a much burlier man with jealousy issues regarding his girlfriend. All the young man had meant to do was say hi, toss back a couple of drinks with her, and compliment her on the artistry of the acrylics on her nails. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, had thought he was trying to steal her away, and when liquid courage had made him a little too loose with his opinions of the boyfriend's possessive attitude . . . ass-kicking ensued.
That was how Kyle Rayner, down-and-out comic strip artist, had been forced out of the club. His buddies, the guys who'd suggested he come here in the first place, had left him on his own long before, off to get lucky with some girls they'd picked up. That left him to wait for a cab or a train or whichever would be cheaper or even available this time of night.
Alas, as he was about to make his decision, he felt something smack him hard in the head, as though it had been thrown at him, and rather forcefully at that. Whoever had done it had a strong arm, but who'd want to throw something at him? Maybe it was the jealous 'roid addict come to settle the score more permanently. Kyle turned, ready to get this beating done and over with so he could go back to his loser life – and he found something he wasn't expecting at all.
It was a small green ring, glowing brightly . . . with the insignia of the Green Lantern. "What's this?" Kyle asked. "Some kind of joke?" In spite of his skepticism, he picked up the ring, looking at the lantern symbol inscribed into its front. "I don't know how you got here, but the real Green Lantern needs you more than I do."
"Kyle Rayner of Sector 2814. You have the ability to overcome fear. Welcome to the Green Lantern Corps."
The ring had forced itself on Kyle's finger and engulfed him in green light that catapulted him through the skies, through what felt like time and space itself . . . and into the ruins of what had once been Oa. "What the hell happened here?" Kyle asked.
"Parallax is what happened, young Terran," an infinitely somber voice responded, prompting Kyle to turn and see a blue-skinned small man in red-and-white robes bearing the symbol of the Green Lantern. "He was one of our own . . . but he grew desperate, wracked with the grief of great loss, and in his grief and rage and terror, he invoked forces beyond measure, beyond control, and lost himself in them, becoming the monster that killed the Green Lantern whose ring you bear now."
"Who are you?" Kyle asked. "Did you bring me here?"
"It was not I who brought you here, young Terran," the blue-skinned, red-robed small man denied. "The rings are hardcoded to bring those they freshly recruit to this place, to Oa, where they can be trained to harness their power to its fullest potential and protect the universe, or at least their sector of it. Alas, Oa has been destroyed, wiped out by Parallax and nearly all of its Lanterns slaughtered."
"Are there others like you?" Kyle wondered.
"Once . . . but they are dead now . . . even my Sayd . . ." On those last words, the small blue man in the red robes grew even sadder in his tone, as though this Sayd had been especially dear to him.
"I'm sorry . . ." Kyle murmured. "Who was Sayd?"
"Not important right now," the red-robed blue man answered bluntly. "There will be time for me to mourn her loss later, provided you act to stop Parallax. You are the only one who can. With the Central Power Battery through which we harnessed the Green Light of Will damaged and depleted by Parallax's incursion, you are the only Green Lantern with the power to fight him, and fight him you must. His intention is to break our universe apart and fashion together a new one of his own grim design, something that must not be allowed to happen again!"
"Again?" Kyle echoed. "You mean this Parallax already did it once?"
"Yes," the red-robed blue man admitted. "It is only so often that a universe can be disassembled and reassembled, and each time it rapidly accelerates the entropy of that universe. Should he succeed in doing it even once more, that entropy would not only be the end of this universe, it would bleed into others and destroy them as well in a chain reaction that would ultimately be the death of reality itself!"
"The stakes . . . are that high?" Kyle wondered. "It . . . it feels like one of those Doctor Who episodes I always loved watching . . . but it's real, isn't it? And what makes you so sure I can stop it?"
"The ring chose you for a reason, Kyle Rayner of Earth," the blue man answered. "It saw something in you, something that could equal or even surpass the spirit of its previous bearer. You, Kyle Rayner, will be the torch-bearer of the entire Green Lantern Corps. Not only Earth, not only this universe, but all universes are in your hands now – whether we live or die is dependent on your choices from herein."
Kyle said nothing for a long time, and then he sputtered. "You know my name?"
"The ring told me," the blue man replied. "And as long as we are on the subject of names, mine is Ganthet."
"I can't promise anything," Kyle confessed. "I've never been good at anything but letting my imagination run wild and scribbling it onto a piece of paper. I'm no hero. I'm not the kind of guy who's gonna walk off into the sunset with the girl in his arms and the bad guy laid out for the cops to find. That's not my style . . . but where I'm at now, there's something more important than my style, or what kind of loser I am. If I have to wear this ring until somebody better than me comes along, that's cool, because I'm going to make sure this universe lasts long enough for someone better than me to come along!"
"Then recite the oath, Kyle Rayner," Ganthet commanded, bringing forth a green lantern with a glowing core where a light bulb should be. Kyle placed his ring at the glowing core of the lantern, and began to speak words that flowed off his tongue as though they were a pledge he'd spoken all of his life.
"In brightest day, in blackest night, let no evil escape my sight . . . let those who worship evil's might, beware my power – Green Lantern's Light!"
Fully charged with the power of the Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner's scuffed jacket and pants, along with the shirt underneath, changed into a skintight black suit with green shoulders that tapered down into green stripes running down his arms that stopped at needle points on the backs of his hands. On his chest was a stylistic representation of a green lantern, an oval core centered between narrow trapezoids framing it from above and below. Around his lower torso were angular green lines framing his abs and stopping only to wrap around the insides of his knees. New lines extended from the tips of his feet and ran up his shins to wrap around the outside of his calves just below his knees. An armored green visor wrapped around his eyes, hiding them from view and large enough to partially conceal his face.
"Whoa . . ." Kyle uttered once the transformation was over. "I wasn't expecting this . . . did the other Green Lanterns wear anything like this?"
"The ring responded to your unique traits and shaped your uniform accordingly," Ganthet replied. "It is your time now, Green Lantern of Earth. Go forth . . . and save us all."
"I won't let you down," Kyle vowed. "Green Lantern, let's rocket!" And with that proclamation, the new Green Lantern of Earth was indeed rocketing from Oa and back to Earth, to save it, to save the universe, to stop Parallax . . . and maybe to prove he wasn't such a loser, after all.
Back on Earth, Nightwing and Iris were in a three-way race with Wally West, still known as Kid Flash in this reality. It had started when Iris and Nightwing had tried to track down Wally to tell him of his mentor's fall. Wally, being suspicious as he was, forced them into a chase and now they were on their third lap around the globe, passing Singapore for the third time.
"Damn it, Wally, stop!" Nightwing yelled, using a burst of speed to intercede the yellow-and-red-clad speedster and knock him down.
"Who are you, anyway?" Wally protested.
"Your friend, that's who!" Nightwing retorted, frustrated by Wally's obstinate behavior. Then again, it wouldn't be Wally, no matter the universe, if he wasn't an obstinate jerk. He pulled off his mask, letting Wally look him in the eyes, blue meeting green. "Tell me if I'm lying to you!"
Wally looked at Iris. "And who's my fan here?" he inquired in a flirty tone.
"Your daughter from the future, Dad," Iris retorted, slightly freaked by a younger version of her father flirting with her.
"Her name's Iris West," Nightwing replied. "I'm Dick Grayson. Not like the one you know, but still Dick Grayson."
"All right, say I buy what you're selling," Wally skeptically remarked. "You wanna tell me what's going on with that storm up there?"
"It's Parallax," Nightwing replied. "He killed the Justice League. Down to the last man. You guys . . . their protégés . . . you have to carry on the fight for them, or it's the entire universe's ass on a silver platter. He's gonna obliterate it all. Everything you ever loved, everything you ever cherished . . . it'll all be gone if you don't stop him."
"And the Flash? What happened to him?" Wally asked.
"He died, too," Nightwing admitted ruefully. "I'm sorry, Wally . . ."
A look of absolute grief passed through Wally's eyes, before his expression hardened into rage. "Then why didn't you save him?"
"Because I couldn't . . ." Nightwing confessed. "I'm sorry, Wally. I'm so . . . sorry . . ."
"I should have been there!" Wally exploded, his anger turning from Nightwing and focusing inward. "I could have –!"
"You could have what, Dad, died with him?" Iris bitterly rejoined.
"And what do you know about it?" Wally retorted furiously.
"More than you think!" Iris shot back.
Nightwing got between the quarreling time-separated father-daughter duo. "Enough. It's not going to work this way. Wally, you know me, right? My parents . . . I saw them die, too. And I wished, just like you, that I could have saved them. Parallax killed everyone in the League, including Batman. It . . . it eats me up, too. But none of that's going to matter if we can't find a way to stop Parallax from killing this entire universe just like he did our mentors. Please . . ."
There was tense silence for a great many moments, for what seemed like an eternity. Then, finally, Wally spoke. "What do you want me to do?"
Nightwing tossed Wally a ring, and Wally caught it with a startled look once he recognized it. "Change of clothes, Wally."
Nightwing and the father-daughter duo of Flashes sped to Paradise Island, better known as Themyscira, the home of the immortal women warriors known as Amazons. Someone had to break the news about Diana's death at Parallax's hands, to them and especially to her sister Donna Troy and her mother Queen Hippolyta. Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be as easy as that. The Amazons were distrustful of those who came from "Man's World," especially if they were men . . . to the point that it was forbidden for a man to set foot on their island.
The result was the fight currently happening on Themyscira. With speed exceeding that of the messenger god Hermes, Wally, Iris, and Nightwing defended themselves from the Amazons. It wasn't as if the Amazons weren't putting up a fight; for their Ancient Greek aesthetic, their technology was surprisingly advanced, as Nightwing discovered when he was nearly impaled on an Amazon's spear. He'd managed to stop it from fully penetrating, but it still pierced him.
"Magic," Nightwing muttered. "Always magic . . ."
"It also vibrates," the spear-wielding Amazon replied. "Which means it can even pierce through your supposedly invincible personal force field."
"Thanks, I needed to hear that," Nightwing rejoined sarcastically. "I'll remember it for the future." And then he kicked her while catching an arrow tipped in the same magic-enhanced vibrating metal. In a blur of high-speed acrobatics, Nightwing managed to dodge or counter every attack headed his way, although the redheaded Amazon seemed to particularly have it in for him.
"Some things never change," Wally grumbled to himself, noticing the vicious tension between her and Nightwing.
The battle took a sudden turn when Donna Troy, in full Amazon garb, flew out and struck Nightwing in a blur of violent speed. "Donna, stop! It's me! It's Dick!"
As Donna was about to strike again, Nightwing caught her fist and looked her in the eyes. "You don't recognize me?"
"Dick?" Donna uttered. "You and Batman have a falling-out? Why are you wearing Superman's shield? And how are you fighting like this?"
"It's a long story, one I can't explain with arrows and spears and swords coming at us all the time," Nightwing replied. This caused his erstwhile friend to take a look at the situation around her, noticing two Flash-garbed speedsters in the fray as well.
"Wally get a girlfriend?" Donna jibed.
Nightwing let out a sarcastic chuckle. "That's actually his daughter from the future. An alternate future, anyway. I'm also from another universe. Still Dick Grayson, just a little different."
"A little different?" Donna repeated wryly.
"Princess!" the redheaded Amazon shouted. "Do you mind actually fighting this intruder instead of bantering with him?"
"He's a friend, Artemis!" Donna retorted. "So everyone stop, now!"
Amazingly enough, they stopped, albeit more out of confusion than actual weariness. That was when Queen Hippolyta came forth in her royal Amazon garb, looking at the tableau before her. "What are men doing on this island?" she asked with imperious indignation.
"We are here to pass a message!" Nightwing declared. "A force of evil known as Parallax has come to this world intent on utterly sundering it! He has already slain the Justice League, Princess Diana amongst them! That is what we came to inform you of! Wonder Woman has died in battle against Parallax, fighting to the last breath to protect the world she cherished!"
"Diana's dead?" Donna uttered disbelievingly.
"You lie!" Artemis, the redheaded Amazon, shouted angrily.
"He's not a liar!" Iris declared just as angrily.
"Amazons . . ." Wally muttered.
"Look, I can do this," Nightwing said, holding up a calming hand. "Donna, you're every bit the embodiment of truth that your sister was. If I were lying, you'd know."
Donna walked closer to Dick and touched his face, peering into his eyes through his mask. "You're not lying, are you?" she whispered, her voice wavering as grief took over her mind.
"I'm sorry, Donna . . ." Nightwing whispered, before pulling her into a comforting embrace as she sobbed into his shoulder.
"He speaks the truth," Queen Hippolyta conceded with sorrow in her own tone. As much as she wished she could break down and cry like her second daughter, a queen had to maintain her composure at all times when before her subjects. Weakness could not be so much as even glimpsed, or else her subjects would also falter. The tenderness with which this masked man wearing the shield of Man's World's late champion held Donna was not quite that of a lover, but it was more than she had ever come to expect from the male gender.
"I'm sorry, too, Donna," Wally admitted, coming up to hug Donna as well. Once Donna had regained her composure, she looked up at him strangely.
"You're the Flash now?"
"I have to be. Barry isn't around anymore. Someone has to carry on for him."
Donna giggled softly, even if it was a strained sound. "You look good in red."
"So do you," Wally responded.
Wally, Donna, and Dick broke their embrace and turned to look upon Queen Hippolyta, Artemis, and the rest of the Amazons. "Wally West, Iris West, and I came here to seek allies," Nightwing explained. "With the Justice League dead, someone must fill the void, or else Parallax will gain enough power to tear this world apart and recreate it anew in his own twisted image. That can't be allowed to happen, for Diana's sake, for Barry's sake, for Bruce's sake . . . for the world's sake! The world still needs its heroes, and the world especially needs a Wonder Woman." Nightwing's gaze rested meaningfully on Donna when he spoke those last words.
"Dick . . . are you . . . ?" Donna asked, before turning to Hippolyta in uncertainty.
"I have felt it as well, my daughter," Hippolyta admitted. "The man with you speaks no lies, and the world outside still needs an emissary of peace to counteract the warlike ways of the men who rule it. You may go forth, Donna . . . go forth and save this world."
Donna smiled sadly at Hippolyta. "Thank you, Mother. I will do you and our people proud."
After recruiting Donna, the next order of business was finding Garth. To that end, Nightwing gave specialized diving suits designed by Batman to Wally, Donna, and Iris, while taking only an oxygen mask for himself. While his Kryptonian-powered body could withstand the depths of the ocean, he still needed to actually breathe, especially if he was to speak while underwater. With those preparations made, the foursome hitched a ride in Batman's submarine, Nightwing at the controls and steering the submarine.
As they approached the Atlantean city of Shayeris, Atlantean sentries approached them inside what looked like enclosed waverunners. "State your purpose for coming here, surface dwellers," the lead sentry ordered over a channel.
"My name is Nightwing, and I am bringing with me two Flashes and Wonder Woman," Nightwing declared. "We are here to see Garth, the regent of this domain. Will you let us pass?"
"You will be escorted and closely monitored," the sentry replied. "If we suspect that your intentions for seeing Prince-Regent Garth are less than honorable, you will be dealt with summarily."
"Harsh, aren't they?" Wally remarked.
"We are willing to accept those terms," Nightwing declared.
In summary order, they were escorted to the palace and then throne room of Shayeris, where Garth was present with a beautiful white-haired girl that Nightwing recognized as Dolphin, who looked well into pregnancy if her swollen belly was anything to go by. "These are the four who requested to see you, my liege," the sentry announced. "Do you recognize them at all?"
Garth smiled softly. "Leave me with them, but stand guard outside."
"Yes," the sentry acquiesced and departed with his subordinates.
Once they were gone, Garth's expression softened further. "Donna, Wally . . . nice outfits," he remarked.
"Thanks," Wally replied. "Dick got them for us."
"Dick . . . ?" Garth repeated, looking at Nightwing searchingly, which Nightwing took as a cue to remove his oxygen mask and eye-mask.
"Yeah, Garth, it's me," Nightwing admitted. "Only not quite the 'me' you'd know."
"What happened?" Garth asked.
"It's a log story, not really important right now," Wally replied. "Short version is that they're both from alternate realities, only one of them is our buddy Dick and the other is my daughter in the future."
"Name's Iris," Iris introduced herself. "Nice to meet you."
"This is my wife Dolphin," Garth introduced the white-haired woman beside him.
"It is nice to meet you, since you seem to be such good friends of my husband's," Dolphin remarked.
Donna smiled warmly at Dolphin, focused particularly on her swollen belly. "First child?"
"Yes," Dolphin confessed with a beatific smile. "We're going to name him Cerdian."
"Ah, so you know already . . ." Donna commented, still smiling gently.
Wally whispered in Nightwing's ear, "Is it just me, or were they right about pregnant women being even more beautiful?"
"Who's 'they'?" Nightwing whispered back sardonically. "Don't tell me you're starting to develop a 'thing.'"
"No, man, just pointing something out," Wally replied.
Nightwing sighed before putting his serious face on. "Garth, I came here to tell you . . . Orin is dead. Aquaman is dead. I'm sorry."
"Orin's dead?" Garth repeated, shocked and disbelieving. "How?"
"Parallax," Nightwing answered, "a monster that corrupted the Green Lanterns' power to use it against this entire world. He killed everyone in the Justice League – everyone. And we need your help, to form a new Justice League so we can put a stop to him before he destroys this entire world."
Dolphin's expression hardened and her tone turned colder than an arctic glacier. "Get out. I'm not going to let you rope my husband and the father of my child into a suicide mission."
"Dolphin . . ." Garth spoke, trying to calm her.
"I understand," Nightwing acknowledged. "He has a growing family to look after, along with a kingdom. Believe me, if I could find a way to do this without him, I would . . . just for that reason alone. I've seen what happens when fathers never make it back to their families, the toll it leaves, the hole that never quite gets filled again . . ." His own expression hardened. "But this isn't about what any of us want. It's about what this world needs, and this world needs its heroes – Garth being one of the most important. Dolphin, if this world dies, you and the man you love will never be able to see your child for the first time, hold him in your arms, watch his first steps, hear his first words, guide him through life as he grows older . . . and not just you, but so many others like you will never get that chance, either." He looked Dolphin in the eyes, blue meeting violet. "Please . . ."
Dolphin was the first to look away, unable to bear the sincerity in his eyes. She then turned to Garth. "You can go . . . so long as you come back to Cerdian and I. We need you just as much as the world does."
Garth kissed Dolphin gently. "Swear on my magic, I'll come back to you both."
In another universe and another time, the other Exiles were in dire straits. Kazuma Yagami, wind mage extraordinaire, was about to be finished off by a point-blank Cero to the face from the Sexta Espada Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez. Spider, once known as Peter Parker and Spider-Man, was immobilized by the vibrating sonic sword embedded inside him and about to be finished off by the assassins Deadpool and Ravager. Tommy Oliver, the Green Ranger, had been violently trounced by Psycho Red, and Rogue, the fusion of Kitty Pryde and Anna-Marie, was trapped in the myriad of memories absorbed from the aforementioned Grimmjow. With the exception of Sara Pezzini, who was still mired in her battle with Ian Nottingham, none of them were in much of a position to put up a fight.
Then a pulse of bright light emerged, forcing the Weapon X assassins back and even causing Buffy, Faith, and the rest to take a few steps back. "Those are my Exiles," a familiar voice, albeit reverberating with power, declared. "I'd rather not see them broken. And speaking of things I'd rather not see broken . . ." Her voice deepened further as she turned upon the Weapon X assassins. "Get out of my house!"
Following that demand was an explosion of luminous power from the source of the voice, blasting the other-dimensional killers out of the Summers household and out of this reality. Once it died down, those remaining inside the house could see clearly just who was behind it – and with the exception of the Exiles, they were very amazed. It was none other than Buffy herself, glowing radiantly with untold power and almost angelic in her beauty.
"Hey, guys . . . long time no see," the glowing Buffy replied, smiling.
"Oh, hey, Buffy . . . and Buffy . . ." Kazuma remarked. "Wow . . . this is like one of those dreams guys have that they're not supposed to cop to having under pain of getting pain from women for being pervs." He chuckled. "By the way, thanks for the save. Getting face-palmed to death by that psycho wasn't looking like fun."
Buffy just looked very curiously at her luminescent doppelganger, who smiled slightly at her. "Wow . . . you're . . . radiant . . ." Andrew uttered stupidly.
Xander would have given Andrew a bitingly scornful look, but he was too busy gaping at the other, glowing Buffy. "Put your jaw back up, Xander, your drool's staining the carpet," was the mordant jibe from Anya.
The first thing Spider registered when he woke up was that the house had been completely fixed up, as though the fight had never taken place. The second thing he registered was that he wasn't feeling sonic vibrations ripping him and the symbiote apart from the inside anymore, although the symbiote had retreated into him, leaving him wearing naught but boxers. The third was that with the exceptions of those that had actually died, everyone looked fine. The fourth was that their foes had somehow disappeared, and fifth and perhaps most importantly, there was a blue British police box in the epicenter of the living room, and a slightly scruffy-looking man standing outside of it, looking around with undisguised wonder and curiosity.
"Uh, what happened?" Spider asked, pretending that he was oblivious to Vi's, Dawn's, and Faith's – not to mention Andrew's, he noted with a slight shudder – furtive glances at his near-naked form.
"Ask boss lady," Rogue replied. "She came swooping in like an angel of vengeance and raised hell on those Weapon X guys."
"Pretty much," Omni-Buffy admitted.
"Oh, and the guys are all being drooling idiots, Spidey," Anya added. "Just thought I'd mention that in case you started wondering why your cute hiney has been sitting in a suspicious stain on that carpet."
"Hey, we weren't that bad . . ." Andrew protested lamely.
Spider quickly got off the ground. "Ok, Buff, now that you're here, we've got a question. What happened to Nightwing and Flash?"
"So the DC Universe characters are real, too?" Andrew asked, again awestruck.
"They have another mission," Omni-Buffy stated. "That's why I had to separate them from you. They're still alive, if that's what you're so worried about."
"Thanks for the answer," Spider muttered.
"Wait, Nightwing?" Vi asked. "The original Robin? Batman's first sidekick? Superhero heartthrob of the DC Universe?"
"Um, slightly different Nightwing," the de-morphed Tommy, looking rather shell-shocked from his fight with Psycho Red, wryly remarked.
"He has Superman's powers," Omni-Buffy replied. "And he is involved with the Flash my team picked up in their first adventure."
Dawn blushed at the thought, as Faith began to smirk, and Vi was about as red as her hair. "The Flash is a girl, by the way," Omni-Buffy clarified. "And Nightwing has Superman's powers because of Lex Luthor's attempt to transfer those powers to himself, which ended up killing Superman and nearly driving Nightwing nuts with guilt until he started wearing his symbol to cope. Like I said, he and Flash are on another mission."
"A Power Ranger!" the scruffy-looking man exclaimed excitedly when he saw Tommy, drawing attention to himself. "I've never actually had the chance to meet one in person before! Zordon I've encountered, Rita Repulsa I've fought, but never have I met an actual Power Ranger for myself!"
Tommy looked up blearily at the excitable man. "Who are you?"
"Call me The Doctor," the man replied with an amiable smile.
"The Doctor?" Andrew repeated. "Excuse me, but you're no Doctor I've seen before. Unless this is one of those new regenerations."
"How do you know about Time Lord regeneration cycles?" the man asked suspiciously.
"You're a TV show in this world," Spider replied dryly. "We all are. Us, Rogue, Sara, Tommy, Kazuma, Nightwing, Flash . . . we're fiction to these people. Of course, they're just as fictional to us. And yet, we all coexist in some form of reality or other."
"Us?" The Doctor repeated. His expression turned somewhat stern. "Young man, you should probably get that thing off you as soon as possible. It's not very healthy for your psychological or physical well-being."
"Thanks for the warning," Spider answered sardonically. "But we've got nothing left to lose."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that, Mr. Parker," The Doctor rejoined grimly.
"I gotta ask," Kazuma said, "what happened to those psychos?"
"I sent them back where they came from," Omni-Buffy responded. "By the way . . . you guys want to know what really happened to Willow?"
"All the dark magic she'd absorbed, when it conflicted with the magic she absorbed from Giles, it made her implode," Xander replied with sadness in his tone.
"No, that wasn't what happened," Omni-Buffy replied. "She was killed by another Weapon X operative, the Scarlet Witch."
"Scarlet Witch?" Rogue echoed. "Wanda?"
"From a reality where the chaos magic she'd been infected with years prior caused her powers to evolve to the point she could warp reality with a thought," Omni-Buffy replied. "It drove her insane, and the one who assembled Weapon X brought her in as her ace in the hole, her trump card, her ultimate solution to any mystical or cosmic problem."
"Weapon X?" Spider repeated. "That's what they call themselves?"
"Yeah," Omni-Buffy replied.
"Who sent Scarlet Witch to kill Willow?" Dawn asked furiously.
"You did, Dawn," Omni-Buffy admitted sadly. "The Dawn of my world, the world I originally came from, had her powers as the Key unlocked in a way that would allow her to keep her human form . . . but it . . . it did something to her mind, unbalanced it. And then came the 'equal and opposite reaction' thing, with her assembling her own team of Exiles to 'fix' things that had gone wrong in the Omniverse. Only her Exiles had no problem with killing or collateral damage . . . they even relished in it. She called them Weapon X because that was what they were – a weapon."
Dawn let out a choked gasp, horrified at the idea that she, or at least a version of her, had killed the girl she'd adored. Buffy wrapped her arms around her, attempting to soothe her. "What is going on here?" she asked.
"A lot," Omni-Buffy replied. "The Omniverse is unraveling all over the damn place, and I had to bring together a team to stop it because I'm not allowed to directly intervene, The Powers That Be preferring that whole noninterference bull-crap and all. Unfortunately, the Dawn of my world decided to solve that problem in her own way, and her way involves going over a lot of dead bodies. That's why Spike ended up dead, that's why Willow ended up dead . . . that's why Faith could've ended up the same way."
"What's he got to do with this?" Vi asked, looking at The Doctor.
"Simple, he's gonna be your new ride," Omni-Buffy replied. "The First is still assembling its forces, isn't it? Well, it's about to get a very big and very unpleasant surprise. . . ."
"Wonder how that chap will feel about running across a Time Lord," The Doctor remarked.
"Is the TARDIS really larger on the inside?" Andrew asked, looking at the seemingly innocuous yet out-of-place police box with unrestrained awe and curiosity.
"It is," The Doctor replied.
"Cool!" Andrew uttered.
"Then what are we waiting for?" Sara asked. "We've got a mission to finish, don't we?"
Omni-Buffy walked up to her earthly counterpart and Faith and gently tapped them on the forehead. Nonetheless, the gentle taps caused both Buffy and Faith to shiver and then convulse with light pouring out of their mouths and eyes. Immediately, Dawn, Giles, and Xander started toward Omni-Buffy. "What did you do to them?" Dawn asked.
"Gave them the power to tackle that army of uber-vamps The First is raising," Omni-Buffy replied. "And that power goes through the entire Slayer line, at least for now."
"Yeah . . ." Vi uttered, shivering like someone who'd just had her first kiss. "That's some power, all right. It's like my bones are shaking."
"Mine, too," Rhona admitted.
"Three," Kennedy joined in. "Feels like . . . someone kissing you right on the spot . . ."
"Hell, yeah," Faith agreed. "That's what I'm talking about."
"Gotta admit . . . it feels incredible," Buffy added. "Tingly, too. Like mouthwash."
Spider let his symbiotic suit form over his body, but it had taken a new, deadlier form. There was now chitinous armor over his chest resembling a hybrid of a spider and a ribcage, as well as over his shoulders and around his forearms, knees, and calves. The eyes of his mask were now just as black as the rest of the mask, visible only because of the white lining around them.
"Whoa . . . what's this?" Spider wondered aloud, startled at the new form his suit had taken. "You've . . . we've . . . evolved, haven't we?"
"Well, I'd better get ready, too," Tommy remarked. He stood up and drew his golden Power Morpher and thrust it out. "It's morphin' time! Dragonzord!" Jade fire and electricity clashed around his body before dispersing to reveal him in full Green Ranger uniform.
Sara let the Witchblade expand to cover her body, its organic metal shredding her clothes and replacing them with form-fitting silver-black armor. Her eyes briefly flashed an eldritch golden color as she smiled with wicked anticipation.
"I guess we're all ready to go, huh?" Rogue commented.
"Ready as we'll ever be," Kazuma replied, his eyes starting to shine with an unusual blue light.
"Let's get this over with," Faith said. "We've got uber-vamps to smash in."