Chapter Eleven: Hope and FearThe strength that Batman felt coursing through his veins was phenomenal. The ring was feeding him information, telling him how to use its power, begging for its golden light to be unleashed. Begging to bring fear.
As Batman understood it, the ring’s functions were activated and controlled by his imagination and his ability to induce fear in others. He lived on the fear of criminals, and the more they felt, the brighter his light would burn. He would begin his crusade through the streets of Gotham anew-
He heard movement, and came back to the present. Luthor was preparing to make a run for it, down the hall. He would not get away.
The fear of criminals...
Batman knew what Luthor was capable of, and of just some of the heinous deeds he had already done, the lives he had wasted. It was time to put his ring to use.
Luthor ran, and a swarm of screeching bats, all made of yellow energy, soared into him. In mid-air they became a set of hands, then chains binding Luthor’s arms and legs.
Batman flew up close, and lifted Luthor into the air.
“I know what you and Fine are doing, Luthor,” he said. “And I know all about your arrangements in Central City, and about that satellite you have flying over Kansas, and with the Devil Ray. I know your secrets.”
He threw the still-shackled Luthor down the hall. His prisoner cried out when his back slammed into a wall. Yellow straps appeared around his mouth, silencing him.
“You fear the people,” Batman continued. “You fear what a few men and women with great power can do, and you plan to strike us off.”
He tore off the straps by hand. They floated away for a moment, then disappeared into less than air.
“What was in the wreckage that is so valuable? A weapon? Is that was the ‘K-metal’ is? Because you know, Luthor...now, I have a superweapon of my own.”
Power at 96%.
Batman ignored the ring. He still had enough power left to finish the job.
Power at 93%.
A bolt of blue streaked down the corridor. Batman was torn through a wall, and out into the open air. His concentration broken, Luthor’s shackles vanished.
Batman looked down at his ring. It was spitting out yellow sparks, like an angered snake.
Power at 86%. Bruce Wayne of Sector 2814, you are advised to return to Qward for-
“Drop the ring, Batman!” He knew that voice. Where he had only heard it on the Batcave computer, now the speaker was here in the flesh, floating above the ground in front of him. His clothes were the same, but now he was bedecked entirely in blue, with a strange symbol on his chest. A symbol similar to that on Batman’s chest, and on his yellow ring.
Bruce Wayne of Earth, you are advised to return to-
“Drop the ring!” Superman shouted, and brandished a ring of his own, on his right hand. A blue ring.
(Click for detail)
Blue Lantern ring detected. Parallax Corpsman 2814, return to Qward immediately-
Superman rushed forwards and grabbed Batman’s left hand, trying to pry the ring off his finger. Batman could feel his hold on it slipping and lashed out, sending yellow sparks into Superman’s eyes. It gave him a moment, long enough to break free from the distracted lantern and flip back, sending out a large, yellow fist. It crashed against Superman’s chest and shattered.
Power at 75%. Why was his power fading so quickly?
“Batman, the ring is wearing you! You have to remove it!”
“And you’d know all about controlling power, wouldn’t you...Clark?”
Batman turned and flew up, only to be pulled down by his heel and slammed into the grass. Superman pinned him down and pressed his blue ring against Batman’s yellow ring. There was a flash of green as the energies meshed, the yellow fighting back against the invading blue but slowly being absorbed.
Power at 66%...power at 50%...
Batman screamed in anger and threw out all the energy he could, a wave of bright yellow that sent Superman flying into the side of the university. “You hypocrite!” screamed Batman. “This is my chance to make a difference! With this power, I can bring crime in my city to a definitive end!”
Superman pulled himself out of his crater in the wall. “At...what cost?”
Power at 33%.
“There’s nothing I have to give that I wouldn’t gladly sacrifice for the cause! Can you say the same?” Superman stayed silent as he flew at the yellow lantern, and before Batman could react, Superman had spun at inhuman speed and caught him in a headlock. He pressed his ring to Batman’s, and their energies were at war once again.
Power at 20%...14%...5%...
The yellow light died, and Superman pulled away. Its energy almost depleted, the ring flew straight off Batman’s finger. Batman’s yellow uniform faded, leaving his old black suit behind.
Before the yellow ring could disappear, Superman focused and fired twin jets of searing heat. The ring, fully deactivated, fell to the ground.
Without the ring, Batman slumped, and Superman unceremoniously dumped him on the grass as he took off his own ring. A figure walked out of the shadows - a strange, grey-skinned being, who took back the ring and gave Superman a respectful bow.
“My many thanks, Son of El. Without a green ring to give mine full functionality, I would not have been able to withstand the yellow lantern’s attacks for long.”
“Well, be more careful next time,” Clark chuckled. “You won’t always have a Kryptonian around to lend a hand.”
Superman watched as Saint Walker donned his ring and regained his radiant Blue Lantern uniform.
“What will you do with the Parallax Corpsman?” Walker asked.
At that moment, Batman sprung to his feet. Superman whipped around and fixed him with a severe stare.
“We need to talk.”
The Batman said nothing. He threw up a smokescreen from his belt and ran off into the shadows. The fallen yellow ring was also gone. Superman was about to follow, using his x-ray vision as a guide, but a gentle hand fell on his shoulder.
“Let him go. The ring is useless without a power battery, and he was acting under Parallax’s influence.”
But deep down, Superman knew that wasn’t entirely true. Now he knew for certain: the Batman was more of a threat than anyone had ever imagined.
(Click for detail)
He turned to see Luthor standing in the doorway.
“And now you see why I need your research, Fine,” Luthor growled. “But I don’t expect to be kept in the dark, if we are to continue our arrangement.”
“You mean our partnership, Lex. The original deal has changed, and I require your Metropolis facilities to continue my...work. Consent, and I shall tell you all that you wish to know. The truth, and nothing else. Do we have a new deal?”
Luthor swallowed his pride, along with his fears of Fine’s true nature.
“We have a deal.”
To be continued in Volume II
That's it for Volume I of Countdown to Justice! Thanks for reading, and I hope you've enjoyed it thus far. Volume II begins in February, and I will soon be uploading a summary and behind-the-scenes look at Volume I, so (as ever) stay tuned!