Disclaimer: I do not own "Injustice 2" or any of it's characters. They are property of DC Comics. No profit is being made from this story.
"I can help him. Keep those Betas busy."
Superman nodded and flew off. Although the Betas newly-developed force field was resistant to his heat vision it was still easy enough for him to simply tear the bio-mechanical drones apart. As he battled his way through the horde of automatons he heard Batman's voice as he tried to reason with the mind-controlled Swamp Thing.
"Swamp Thing, hear me. Your power's being used against you! Against the Green!"
Swamp Thing was unmoved. "Brainiac is now the Green's protector" he replied in his deep, rumbling voice. "It will live forever, preserved in his collection." He fixed Batman with an intense stare.
As he drove his fist through the chest of another Beta Superman heard Batman cry out in pain. He spun around to see that the Caped Crusader was hunched over with his arms around his stomach and his face locked into a pained grimace. Superman was about to use X-ray vision to see what was wrong with him when…
Batman screamed in agony as wooden branches burst out of his stomach, tearing apart his body armour in the process. He fell to the floor as a tree grew up from inside his body, leaves rapidly spreading across the branches. His eyes stared ahead sightlessly, pupils dilated. Superman heard his heartbeat cease.
Batman was dead.
"NO!" Superman cried.
Overcome with rage he unleashed a torrent of searing heat vision against the remaining Betas. Once again they raised a force field but this time the ruby-red beams tore right through it, incinerating them where they stood and filling the air with the stench of hot metal, burned circuitry and charred meat.
The initial surge of rage receded slightly and Superman willed himself to focus. He couldn't let his anger distract him, not if he wanted to save Earth from Brainiac. There would be time to mourn Bruce later. He faced Swamp Thing.
It's not his fault. Brainiac is controlling him he reminded himself.
"Aboard this ship the Green will live forever" said the plant elemental.
"As a digital copy. It won't be real" Superman pointed out.
"All nature is data. It can be stored with no loss of fidelity" Swamp Thing replied.
"That's Brainiac talking. Time to get him out of your head."
But even as he spoke Superman knew it would not be that easy. Swamp Thing was far too powerful, even he could not defeat him. What he had done to Batman made that all too clear. But there was another way to stop him…
Superman turned and flew away, smashing a hole right through the ship and out into the cool air. He sped away in a blur of red and blue.
In another part of the ship Brainiac noted his departure with mild curiosity. It was unexpected but it made no difference to him.
Superman came to a halt high in the sky and looked down. Below him was the Louisiana bayou, a vast expanse of bright green vegetation and sprawling waterways. The oxygen-rich air was fresh and clear, so different from the stale atmosphere he'd endured for five years in his cell. Despite the gravity of the current situation he couldn't help but admire the natural beauty before him.
Enough. This is no time for sight-seeing.
Within less than a minute his super-senses had located the person he'd come to see and he flew down.
Standing in front of a large cluster of colourful flowers was a beautiful young woman wearing a short-sleeved red top and blue short jeans. She had light skin, blue eyes and most strikingly, long white hair with two black streaks in her bangs. Her name was Abigail "Abby" Holland nee Arcane and she was Swamp Thing's wife.
Abby turned and looked up to see him hovering in mid-air. A brief look of fear flitted over her face before she masked it with a calm expression. Most people wouldn't have noticed it but most people didn't have his super-senses.
There was a time when the sight of me made people's eyes fill with joy and hope rather than fear he thought sadly.
"Superman" she said. "What brings you here?" Her voice was casual but although she hid it well he could hear her heartbeat quicken, could see the subtle physiological changes that preceded the fight or flight response.
He thought back to the countless times he had helped people in danger and how he had spoken to them, trying to imbue his voice with that same feeling of reassurance.
"Don't be afraid Mrs Holland. I mean no harm" he said as he touched down on the grass. To his relief Abby relaxed slightly but was still wary.
He quickly explained the situation with Brainiac. When he explained how Swamp Thing was under mind control her eyes widened.
"Alec's in trouble" she said.
"Exactly. I need you to come with me. It's the only way to break Brainiac's control over him."
She nodded. "Okay. For Alec."
Superman flew them back to Brainiac's ship and entered through the hole he had punched while exiting. Fortunately it was still in Earth's atmosphere. He touched down on the metallic floor and carefully set Abby down.
Swamp Thing had not moved from the spot where he had last been standing. Batman's body lay only a few feet away, as did the destroyed Betas. Superman silently vowed that once Brainiac had been stopped he would give his old friend a proper burial. Bruce deserved that at least.
Abby's face paled at the sight of the carnage but she composed herself immediately. "Alec" she said.
Swamp Thing raised his head and started to lumber towards them, his face unreadable.
"Be careful" Superman warned.
"I will" she replied. She slowly walked towards Swamp Thing. As she did so he stopped and stood still.
"It's okay Alec" she said gently. "I know you're in there and you're fighting this. More than anything I know you'd never hurt me. I trust you with my life. I love you Alec."
She put her arms around him and hugged him tightly. After a moment he returned her embrace.
"Abby" he said, his voice filled with unmistakable love and tenderness. "Thank you for freeing me."
Superman smiled fondly. He was reminded of himself and Lois and though there was a stab of hurt he was surprised that what he mainly felt was warmth. It had been far too long since he'd allowed himself to think of the good times.
Swamp Thing let go of Abby and looked around, his expression becoming puzzled. "What is this place?"
"Brainiac's ship" Superman replied. "You were under his mind control."
He nodded. "Yes, I remember now. He must be stopped before he destroys all life on this world."
"Exactly" Superman agreed. "Will you help me to stop him?"
"Count me in too" said Abby.
"Thank you both."
Just then he remembered something. "Hold on a minute."
Superman flew off and returned a second later carrying the unconscious body of Firestorm. He laid him carefully down on the floor.
"Brainiac's controlling him too. Mrs Holland, can you help him?"
"I'll try" she said unsurely.
"You are strong Abby. I know that you can free his mind" Swamp Thing reassured her.
"Thanks Alec" she said with a warm smile.
Abby knelt down, closed her eyes and placed her hand to Firestorm's brow. She could sense two minds struggling weakly against an oppressive weight that was crushing them down. It was too heavy to lift so instead she concentrated on eroding it bit by bit. As the weight lightened the two minds fought harder.
"It's working. Firestorm's brain patterns are changing" said Superman as he used X-ray vision to observe the alterations to the young hero's brain waves.
A few moments later Abby opened her eyes and removed her hand. Firestorm groaned and sat up. His jaw dropped as he saw her.
"Whoa, am I in Heaven?" he asked.
She laughed. "Sorry but I'm married."
"Oh, I'm sorry" he said bashfully.
"And thanks for getting Brainiac out of here" he added as he tapped his right temple.
They both stood up. Firestorm's expression turned grim as he noticed Superman.
"Easy" said the Man of Steel. "If we're to stop Brainiac we all have to work together."
Firestorm frowned but nodded. "All right. Lesser of two evils I guess. So where is he?"
"I don't know. The ship's walls are lined with lead" Superman explained.
"A logical precaution when dealing with Kryptonians" a voice echoed around the chamber.
They all spun around to see Brainiac being lowered from the ceiling by two metallic tentacles attached to his back. He touched down on the floor and the tentacles detached, withdrawing back into the ceiling.
"Where's Kara?" Superman demanded.
"Being vivisected. She has already taught me much about the nature of your powers" Brainiac answered.
"No, she's alive" said Abby. "There's someone else nearby, a woman. She's very afraid but she's all right."
"You and Swamp Thing help Kara. Firestorm and I will deal with Brainiac" said Superman firmly.
"As you wish" Swamp Thing agreed.
The two of them hurried off while Superman and Firestorm faced off against Brainiac. As the battle raged, Swamp Thing and Abby quickly made their way through the ship's dark, twisting corridors.
"Ugh, I hate this place" she commented.
"Indeed. This vessel is cold, sterile, lifeless" Swamp Thing agreed. "It seems impossible that any being could willingly inhabit such a place."
"Well we are talking about someone who wants to basically put entire cities in jars and then blow up the planets they came from. He's clearly not the picture of sanity."
"That is true."
More Betas appeared before them but before they could attack Swamp Thing transformed his fingers into vines that wrapped around the bio-mechanical drones and crushed them into scrap.
"Nice job" said Abby.
Finally they came to a door. Abby nodded at it and Swamp Thing casually bashed it down. Inside they found a terrified Kara AKA Supergirl manacled to a grotesque operating table. Standing over her was a Beta that was slowly lowering a glowing energy scalpel towards her forehead.
Swamp Thing lunged forwards, his arm morphing into a huge wooden club. The Beta whirled around just as he swung and smashed its head in. It crashed heavily to the floor. Swamp Thing then broke Supergirl's restraints.
"Are you okay Kara?" Abby asked.
"Y, yes, I'm okay" she replied shakily as she got up. "Thank you both for saving my life."
"You are welcome" Swamp Thing said. "I am Swamp Thing and this is Abby Holland."
"He's my husband" Abby said with a smile.
"Nice to meet you" said Supergirl.
Just then the entire ship lurched. The room began to shake as if in the middle of an earthquake. Supegirl's eyes bulged, her super-senses alerting her to what had happened.
"The ship's falling! We're going to crash!"
As the shaking intensified Swamp Thing sprouted roots from his feet that punched through the floor, anchoring him in place. He held onto Abby firmly and she put her arms around him while Supergirl hovered in place. Everything not bolted to the floor, including the Beta's carcass, was flung wildly around the room, crashing and clattering off of the walls.
"Kara, please take Abby to safety" said Swamp Thing calmly.
"I'm not leaving you" Abby said firmly.
"I will be fine" he reassured her. "Please go."
"Wait" said Supergirl. "I think we're decelerating. The ship's pulling up."
Sure enough the shaking ceased and the loose pieces of debris went still. Swamp Thing retracted his roots and Supergirl's feet touched the floor.
"We're slowing down. Now we've stopped" she said.
"I guess this means we won. We should get back to the control room and find out what the situation is" Abby suggested.
At the control room they found Firestorm looking down warily at a large rectangular metal box. He looked up as he saw them.
"What happened here?" Swamp Thing asked.
"Superman managed to put Brainiac down for the count. Then he told me to put a lead container around him to block his signals to his Betas." He pointed at the metal box. "Looks like it worked. Only problem was without Brainiac the ship started falling. Superman flew out and brought us all down safely."
Supergirl smiled. Maybe there's still hope for him she thought.
"So… it's over then?" she asked.
"Not quite" said Superman as he flew in. His expression brightened as he saw Supergirl. "Kara you're all right!"
"I'm fine Kal" she replied. "Swamp Thing and Abby saved me."
Superman turned to the plant elemental and his wife. "Thank you both so much."
"Happy to help" Abby replied. "Hold on, what do you mean by "not quite?""
"The cities Brainiac stole have to be returned." He pointed at Brainiac's chair. "The ship is controlled by pure thought. I considered taking control of it when it started falling but if something had gone wrong the cities could have been wiped from the ship's memory. Now that we've safely landed I'm sure I can get it to work."
"Kal it could still be dangerous to you" Supergirl pointed out.
"I have to try. I can't leave those people trapped in there." Before anyone could say anything else he sat in the chair, took hold of two dangling cables and held them to his temples. Instantly the cables crackled with energy and Superman screamed as it flowed directly into his brain.
"Kal!" Supergirl cried out.
They all watched with baited breath as Superman stopped screaming and his face twisted into a look of intense concentration as he fought to create a mental link to the ship. After a moment the crackling ceased and was replaced by a steady flow of white energy pulses down the cables.
"I think it's working" Abby whispered.
No sooner had she spoken then holographic images of the stolen cities appeared before them. As they watched the holograms disappeared one by one.
Outside, a beam of blue light flew out from the ship. The digitisation process reversed itself as the cities and their occupants re-materialised exactly as they had been.
Back in the control room everyone turned as they heard booted footsteps. Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Black Adam and Aquaman all entered.
Just then the light pulses stopped and the cables detached from Superman's head. With a groan he slumped to the floor. Wonder Woman and Supergirl hurried over as he got up.
"You're okay" said Wonder Woman.
"I thought it was too late, but I can feel the heartbeat of Atlantis. Brainiac's work is undone" said a relieved Aquaman.
"Not all of it" Superman answered. "There are still cities trapped in the collection from the worlds Brainiac destroyed."
Flash started to reply but stopped as he noticed someone was missing. "Wait, where's Batman?"
Superman lowered his head, unable to meet his former comrade's eyes. "He's dead."
Most of the heroes gasped in disbelief. It seemed impossible but they all knew it was true. Superman had never been a good liar. As the initial shock passed they lowered their heads sorrowfully or at least respectfully. All except one.
"Good" said Wonder Woman coldly. "With him out of the way we can rebuild the Regime."
Everyone glared at her, disgusted by her utter callousness. Superman shook his head.
"What do you mean no?" Wonder Woman asked in confusion.
"The Regime was wrong. It was the worst mistake I ever made" he said firmly. "I wanted to protect the world, to keep people safe. But I went too far by becoming a dictator."
"What are you talking about? Everything you did was to keep people safe" she protested.
"Like killing Billy? Or ordering the destruction of cities to make a point?" Superman answered, his voice filled with self-loathing. "I let myself become a monster. I see that now."
Wonder Woman's face twisted in rage and she drew her sword. "You weak, spineless fool!"
In a murderous rage she flew right at Superman. He sidestepped her wild slash and landed a devastating haymaker to her chin that launched her backwards. She hit the floor and lay still, out cold.
Black Adam and Aquaman assumed fighting stances, Aquaman with his trident at the ready and Adam with his hands raised, crackling with electricity. Flash, Firestorm, Green Lantern, Supergirl and Swamp Thing all stepped protectively in front of Abby and faced the two, assuming their own fighting stances. Superman stood between the two groups.
"Arthur, Adam, stand down" he said.
After a moment both of them lowered their arms. Even Black Adam knew this was a fight he couldn't win.
"Very well. I will return to Kahndaq and leave the affairs of the outside world to you" he said.
"I will do the same for Atlantis" Aquaman agreed.
"I wish you both the best" said Superman.
"The same to you" Aquaman replied as the two of them departed.
"So now what?" Flash asked after a moment.
"Now we get Brainiac and Diana secured, then I go back to my cell" Superman answered.
"Kal…" said Supergirl hesitantly.
"I have to Kara" he replied. "I have to pay for what I've done." He pointed to the "S" symbol on his chest. "This was meant to give people hope. I made them afraid of it. Now you must redeem it Kara."
"I will. I promise I will" she said tearfully as she hugged him.
Soon afterwards Swamp Thing and Abby had returned to the Louisiana bayou. Before he went back to his cell Superman paid them one final visit.
"I can't thank you enough" he said. "Not only did you help save Earth but you helped me realise how far I had fallen."
"You're welcome but what do you mean?" Abby asked.
"I knew that seeing you would break Swamp Thing out of mind-control because the same thing happened with me and Lois" he explained. "But when I saw you together I truly realised for the first time that she would be horrified at what I'd done in her memory."
"But you finally realised that and admitted it" Abby pointed out. "I think she'd be proud of you for that."
"Indeed" said Swamp Thing. "Love forgives."
"I appreciate that. I really do" said Superman. "Well I have to go now. Take care of yourselves."
"Same to you" Swamp Thing replied.
They waved to him as he flew away and disappeared into the horizon.
"I really feel for him" said Abby. "He did awful things, but he only did them because he lost the person he loved."
"Grief can drive men to commit terrible deeds" Swamp Thing agreed. "I do not wish to think what I may be capable of if I ever lost you Abby."
She smiled. "Then let's make sure you never have to find out."
"Yes, most certainly" he agreed.
With that they vanished into the swamp as they headed home.