Jump to content
Tiff

January - February Vignette -Into the Freedomverse

Recommended Posts

With thanks to the suggestions by Ari, and in honour of, Into the Spider-Verse we have a choice of the following:

 

Your Best Self
Somehow, some way, your character discovers someone or is discovered by someone who epitomizes everything they want to be. Someone who did better with the same hand life dealt the PC, someone, who succeeded where the PC failed, in some clear and inarguable way a better person than the PC.

The drama can come from any way you like, maybe the meeting comes from a fight with a supervillain who's torn some rent, in reality, potentially forcing one or the other to sacrifice themselves to protect their home dimension. Maybe it's just a chance meeting with a stranger whose life story mirrors yet exceeds the PC's in some way. In any respect, the point is to force an examination: are they who they want to be, and why? What's the significance of someone who can literally be you and be you better? Is it just luck? fate? Could the PC be more like that, and if so do they really want to, now they see what it means?

Or alternatively,

The Me beside of Me
It's a time of new beginnings! Endless possibilities and roads yet to be taken, which is why it seems fitting how in January of 2019, dimensional duplicates of random started popping up, and heroes and villains from other worlds briefly stumbled into their doppelgangers for hilarious misunderstandings, brutal combat, nights on the town or just solving an everyday doomsday crisis.

Some were nasty, some were nice, some were another sort of spice, but all together they helped make the first month of the new year an exciting time to be alive! Or at any rate, self-aware.

 

Please post them here by February 28th.

(As a reminder, vignettes follow the same general rules as posts in terms of content, player character limits, and so on. You may have only one vignette per player character. Each vignette should be at least one page (~500 words) in length; if posted in your thread counts at the end of the month, it is worth 1pp for the associated character. An especially long vignette, 1000 words or more, may be worth up to 2pp. Multiple players can collaborate on a single vignette - we recommend Google Docs for this, it's very useful - but the vignette should be about one page per participating player. )

 

Share this post


Link to post

Rocket Powered

 

Caroline Cruz was drinking heavily tonight. This was not unusual. She was in her favorite bar, Josie’s. This was not unusual, either. What was unusual were her drinking partners. Both the fact that she had any and the fact that they were all kind of…her. At least, as far as legacy went. Dimensional shenanigans had dropped four alternate…possibilities in her lap. Her cousin Terry, but younger and from a universe where he’d survived his brother Donald’s betrayal without going to jail. And indeed had come out stronger. Oddly, he didn’t seem to have a cousin Caroline. Then there was the Caroline from the universe where Donald was all he pretended to be in this one. She was happy, and had @#$%ing grandchildren.  And of course, there was a Donald too. He picked up the mantle after his Terry was the one who had turned out to be criminal scum. The last was a kid named Reggie Morton. All right, fine. He was old enough to vote but not drink. Apparently his Caroline’s story was much like hers, except she was somehow his mentor figure. The successor to the (in his ‘verse, anyway) the third Human Rocket. They’d swapped that much about their backgrounds, and then Caroline had felt the desperate need for Josie’s.

 

Caroline didn’t need this. She really, really didn’t need this. Young Terry. Alt Donald. Grandma Caroline. And a kid so wet behind the ears he was the most painful to look at. So, she’d drink until she passed out. Let the Caroline of tomorrow handle it. As plans went…it was one of them. Except the other four weren’t cooperating. Terry and Donald were all “Sure, but let’s not overdo it because we’ve got to find a way home.” Grandma never touched the stuff, the heathen. But the kid was the worst. “It won’t make the pain and confusion go away, Caroline.” With those hurt eyes when she cussed him and tossed the shot back anyway. It wasn’t like that. She knew damn well hard liquor didn’t make her problems magically disappear. It didn’t make people less terrible. It didn’t undo the guilty verdict or bring back the good ol’ days of the Human Rocket and his sidekick JETTE. It didn’t do anything but help her forget for a while. She knew the booze would wear off, and the pain, confusion, and disgust would roar back with a side order of self-loathing she’d never admit to. She knew, dammit. She knew.

 

Ah. This stage. The weeping. Sobbing incoherently. The part where Josie usually threw her out. She thought she’d skip being unceremoniously thrown out the front door and got up to leave. Or tried to. The floor rushed up to greet her as her new best pal. But strong arms grabbed her. She knew these arms. It’d been over 40 years, but she remembered how her cousin used to hold her. “I’m so sorry, Terry. I’m so, so sorry. I should’ve seen. I should’ve known.” And then everything went black. But not before she heard all their concerned voices. It was…kinda nice.

 

********************************************************************

 

Awake. Definitely morning. Hangover? Oddly, no. Someone was in the kitchen. She heard her own voice in her office/living room, too. “So, you’re awake then.” Her eyes focused. Terry sat on a chair that was usually full of clothes in the far corner. “I…wanted to tell you something. I do have a cousin named Caroline. She even looks much like you. That…is where the resemblance ends.” He looked very sad.

 

Caroline pulled herself up to a sitting position. She was now suspicious. “You could’ve mentioned that earlier.”

 

Terry didn’t even try to defend himself. “I know. She is a lovely girl. I love her dearly. She likes watching my factories make things. Bright lights and pretty colors make her very happy.” The man sighed. “The first test of her Quantum Gauntlets…did not go well.”

 

It was then that Caroline understood. “Oh.” The Gauntlets needed precise tuning. She was channeling the four fundamental forces. One mistake and… “She fried herself.” Terry had been in the room and insisted she use one of his old battlesuits for the test. Which turned out to be a brilliant idea, as the suit overloaded rather dramatically. If she’d been wearing them that day… “Where were you?”

 

Terry looked at the floor. “Delayed. A business call. Brief, but long enough. The doctors managed to save her life, but not her mind.”

 

Caroline was now kind of annoyed. “So you’re telling me to suck it up, everyone in the multiverse has problems?”

 

Terry was beside the bed in a flash. “No! Not that. Never that.” His vehemence was surprising as he took her hand in his. “Wherever your Terry is, whatever he is doing, I know that he still loves you. I know he does not blame you. We are familia. That is forever. No matter what universe we come from. Comprende?” Caroline, not trusting her voice, could only nod.

 

“He’s right.” Donald stood in the doorway, bowl in his hands. His tone was conversational, but with a bitter undertone. “I mean, my Terry tried to kill me when I found out he was a crime lord. And then my Caroline literally stabbed me in the back to go bust him out of prison. Seems like the bond between you two transcends universes.” He just looked at the two of them. “Oh, was I interrupting your tender moment? Sorry, I just get this twitch when I see Terry and Caroline Cruz talking all casually. I get it right in the scar. From the knife. From the stabbing. So it’d be nice if you stopped looking at me like I’m the devil incarnate. From where I’m standing, that’s you two.” He tilted the bowl back, finishing off whatever was in it. “Kid says we’ve got something. Grandma agrees.”

 

**********************************************************************

 

The Human Rocket (Terry edition) blasted into the sky above Bedlam. Donald was already up there. Reggie and the two Carolines remained on the ground. Caroline had checked their math, and yep, the dimensional rift was right there in the sky. And with a bit of cash (that hopefully wouldn’t get her in trouble for counterfeiting, as it wasn’t from this universe) they’d cobbled together a machine that should get everyone through it and home again. Also, close it. Because it was kind of growing and if it got too large the world would end or something. Probably. Honestly, the other four had done most of the work while she was sleeping off her drunk. Which, hooray for power and responsibility, she guessed. Reggie was doing some fine tuning, but Grandma Caroline apparently wanted to speak to her. “So…are you gonna speak or just keep looking at me with those eyes full of compassion and pity. Because that’s getting’ real old, especially coming from my own face.”

 

Grandma nodded. “I was just thinking about how different our lives are.”

 

Caroline frowned. “Yes, I know. Obscenely rich New York society woman. Great spouse, great kids, grandkids you spoil rotten. Got it. All because unlike me, you didn’t get betrayed by Donald.”

 

Grandma shook her head. “I’m not a society woman. I’ve always been more of a lab girl. Though I have less time for that than I used to. I almost don’t know how to talk to you. We have the same face, the same voice, and yet…”

 

Caroline sighed. “The sooner you go home, the happier I’ll be.”

 

Grandma sighed in identical fashion. “My life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, Caroline. Goodness, that sounds weird coming out of my mouth. You remember the Ramirez twins? Daniel and Sarah? I married Sarah, and Daniel is the father of three of our five children. The three I gave birth to, obviously. Unfortunately, after all five were out of the house we found we couldn’t stand each other anymore. So, I’m divorced. Sarah’s children sided with her, and as it turned out both of my daughters preferred their father to me. Fortunately, my grandchildren and I are on good terms.”

 

Caroline could not have possibly cared any less. “Is there a point, or are we just comparing life stories?”

 

Grandma shook her head. “No, Reggie gave us the highlights while you were passed out. A very earnest young man, he is. It’s funny. The way fate works. My Donald is a good man. He’s retired from the company now. Yours was the opposite, and is probably dead. 40 years ago, we were identical. And I think deep inside we’re still identical.”

 

Caroline snorted. “Please.”

 

Grandma smiled. “We both have good hearts. And we both still have hope. I think you wouldn’t be half as miserable if these things weren’t true.” Caroline was speechless. “Let me see if I can help Reggie.” Grandma walked away, and soon enough, Reggie joined Caroline.

 

“Hey, you okay?”

 

Caroline sighed. “Kid, what about my life screams ‘I’m okay’ to you?”

 

Reggie only laughed. “That’s the Caroline I know. But seriously, I know it’s been a helluva half day.”

 

Caroline smiled in spite of herself. “You said it, kid. Can’t wait ‘till you four get out of my life.”

 

Reggie smiled. “I know you. Calling your feelings about Terry and Donald complicated is probably the biggest understatement of all time. And a more outwardly successful mirror image? Hoo, boy. Your life has been one big pile of crap after another. But you’re still standing. It hasn’t beaten you, not yet. And despite what you may think, there are still people who look up to you. I know I do. C’mon. Let’s get this thing done.”

 

With four tech geniuses (and Donald’s moral support) on the job, the device worked to perfection. Grandma had to be carried through the rift (her Gauntlets were at home as she was retired from superheroics), but off all four went. Brightly flashing lights. A pop as each went through. Then a small boom as the hastily cobbled together device kind of exploded into little bits. Hopefully they all got home. Caroline didn’t know. She didn’t have any way to tell. The street felt a lot emptier than it usually did. They were gone. Three faces that stirred up unwanted feelings, and some snot nosed kid. They were gone. She wanted this, right? Right?

 

God, she needed a drink.

Share this post


Link to post

Smoke on the Water

Sea Devil 

 

In an industrial shower deep in the DuTemps Building, one where unfiltered water could be sprayed constantly into a fine hot mist, Deep Ones sang in a happy chorus. Aquaria remembered when this has happened to Jessie's sister some months earlier and so was not particularly put off by the sight of so many of her sisters from across the Cosmic Coil - not when they sang in such beautiful voices! There had been work to do to round up loose Deep Ones hereabouts and to explain the order of things, but by the blessings of the gods none hostile to Aquaria herself or to the Surfacers who lived in DuTemps had emerged. So she'd stayed busy rounding up her counterparts and finding them a good place to rest - and what wonderful things had happened.

 

Aquaria had heard such tales today; the Aquaria who led an army of rebel Deep Ones and Surfacer against the Archvil-thing, the Aquaria whose service in the Star Knights had taken her across the Sea of Stars, the Aquaria with a mate and a clutch of eggs in the building at home (Aquaria and several of her sisters had croaked wistfully at _that_ thought), a dazzling array of Deep Ones who had dared breach the boundary between sea and sky and had come off the better for it. With songs to sing and fish to eat, Aquaria and her sisters could wait out the crisis. Well - except for the two who had decided not to join in. Still concerned about those two oddballs, Aquaria excused herself from the group to leave. Hopping over to her armor, she wriggled her way inside, then stepped into one of the stairwells that she could use to climb her way to the penthouse at the top of the castle far faster than the elevator could take her. 


Inside the penthouse reception room, she found the two Aquarias right where she had left them. Sympathetically, she sought out the silent one first, but just as before that one said nothing. She was a Deep One all right, one who carried a trident like Aquaria's and wore the same armor from the Sea of Stars, but she had not opened her armor or made a sound upon their arrival, save to slowly, methodically walk back and forth against the penthouse's window, over and over again. When the silent one did not speak, Aquaria turned and checked on the other oddball - the deformed one. 

 

"Hello, Aquaria," spoke the woman as her Deep One counterpart padded up to her. The other Aquaria's hair was green and blue, the color of Aquaria's skin with its tattoos, but in all other ways - the hideous small eyes, the mammalian bosom, the flat teeth, the five fingered hands, she was very unlike the Sea Devil. Her hair was cut in the same style as Jessie's. She carried no trident and her armor was Atlantean - something that had nearly made some of the less sociable of her sisters tear her apart before Aquaria herself had intervened to separate the group. "Thank you for your concern, and for making sure I had food to eat." The other Aquaria's bags of seaweed snacks had been neatly rolled up on the table next to her. She had sworn she ate no meat by the will of the gods, which was not like other...Atlanteans Aquaria had heard about but what could one do on such a strange day but believe it? "I'm all right now," she said, rubbing the partially exposed thigh where one of Aquaria's sisters had taken a bite out of her. "My spells have healed my flesh."

 

The other Aquaria had told her story as much as she desired; she was of the royal bodyguard of Princess Thaelia, of a bloodline not royal herself but magical in great renown, and was a warrior-priestess of the whore gods of - no, of the Atlantean pantheon. Aquaria would not make herself even think the names. It didn't do to have such thoughts in one's head, especially when one needed clear thoughts for dealing with a crisis. She struck her trident against the ground, making a gong sound that made her counterpart start just a little. 

 

"...so they do," croaked Aquaria unhappily. She was glad she hadn't actually seen some version of herself call upon the gods of Atlantis for healing. "G-good." She hadn't enjoyed the smell of Atlantean blood in the air nearly as much as she'd expected; there'd been a crisis to deal with. She tried to think of how all this must seem to the deformed one, with her armor and her strange visage and her strange gods, and finally croaked "If you would sing, I would listen."

 

The other Aquaria hesitated, wrinkling her shrunken nose for a moment, and then said, "...oh! Well, there's not much to tell. I know the Cosmic Coil had many turns, and this must be one where Lemuria won the Great War and so what we were, ah, well, survived." Hastily, she added, reaching out to lay a shrunken five-fingered hand over Aquaria's, "I want you to know I don't have any ill feelings towards you, Aquaria, and I appreciate all you've done for me. When I get back, I'll tell Jessie that even in dimensions like this, there are still good people." She smiled at Aquaria with her flat teeth and Aquaria swallowed to keep her gorge in check. 

 

"You-you have a Jessie there?" 

 

"Yes, she was my room-mate in prison." The deformed one's smile wasn't quite so soft-edged now. "It's my own fault for drinking and fighting so much; my father-" Aquaria shivered slightly at the misused word in her counterpart's mouth. "says it's the Lemurian in me. My own sins made it easy to frame me for far worse things." She shook her head. "But once I was free and on the path to redemption, I left with Jessie, and now we're on that path together. She'll be moving down to Atlantis soon, I think." 

 

"Good," Aquaria croaked again. "Ask if you want food." She hopped away, watching the deformed one, and tried to tell herself that she would sound just as monstrous if she was in the other's dimension. It was by no means easy, so she took up a position on all fours by the side of the silent one, and together the two Deep Ones enjoyed a strange, uneasy silence for what felt like an age. Aquaria closed her eyes and napped briefly inside her armor, and when she looked again, the deformed one was gone. And something was tapping her head! 

 

Automatically, she leaped into the air and landed upside down on the ceiling, peering down at the silent one, who was looking up at her with an armored face that said much through saying nothing at all. Who exactly was under there, anyway? She could _smell_ a Deep One, anyway. "You startled me," she croaked, a little annoyed at her own indolence. "But we are alone now." She landed next to her counterpart and said "What do you want?

 

By way of response, the silent one reached behind herself and opened her armor's headpiece. In a moment Aquaria saw why as she saw the glowing golden sign emblazoned within, the awesome power of the gods displayed along with flesh within that was - divinely transfigured! Aquaria gave a soft gasp, unable to help herself, and her grip tightened on her trident. "The gods - did they do it? Did they rise?

 

The blessed Aquaria looked at her with the three eyes of Dagon and blinked - then nodded. Slowly, the marks of Hydra on her face writhed in a symphony of divine beauty that would have pleased Aquaria to her core if not for the look of terrible grief in those great black eyes. 

 

Multiversal theory had been not explained to Aquaria but sung to her and so she knew the logic as well as she knew the taste of a delicious fish. The armor. She has the armor. The thoughts came in her mind like song. I have the armor because of Jessie. She must have a Jessie. And so - And so - The visions in her mind now were much worse than the whore gods of Atlantis. Almost despite herself, Aquaria croaked softly in the Lemurian that was her birthright, "What did it cost?

 

And for the first and last time, the one blessed by the gods spoke. In a voice like the remorseless thunder of the storm, she croaked."Everything.

 

That night, the crisis was over and the Deep Ones were gone. On the roof of the uppermost towers of the DuTemps Castle, Aquaria sat under the naked stars, trident balanced on her lap, and sang to the gods.

 

But she was alone. 

Share this post


Link to post

Sand in the Wind

 

Travelling through the Magic Mesa had always been disorienting. Whirling, turning, twisting. Being pulled from one direction to another, almost like the pull of the cosmic winds were threatening to pull you apart. And yet, it was part of Cassidy's duties. The Magic Mesa had called, and he had answered. Diving deep into its caves, he found himself pulled through the never ending maze, until, finally, he came to an abrupt stop.

 

A group of snake-men, Lemurians, had surrounded a few men and women clad in nothing but furs, standing in a desert. He could see the Magic Mesa in the distance. When was he? They seemed so primitive. It had to be the past. Did it matter? He had to help. He hesitated for a moment, just briefly. It still felt weird, to feel this drive. The push to do good. As a cloud of dust and sand, he flew towards them, only to stop. The men and women were not alone. They were not unprotected. 

 

The sand and dust swirled around them, taking form. Part of the sand grew solid, a spear twisting to strike at the first Lemurian, then back to sand again, allowing the being in the sand to escape retaliation. It moved so swiftly, it was but a dance. Cassidy could recognize it. The power, at least. Yet, the finesse, the way it moved, it was so unlike anything it could do. It rapidly shifted, sand growing solid to protect the men and women in the fur from attacks, yet other parts of the sand striking back, enveloping the Lemurians. Even as all semblance of a human form was abandoned by the being of sand, at least for now, Cassidy knew. It was an instinctual knowledge, something deep within, even if he had not been able to guess. This was a predecessor. This was one of the previous guardians. 

 

It struck, it danced. There was a joy in the movements, and a care for its charges. Cassidy could swear that he heard it whispering words of encouragement to the men and women in its care. It would keep them safe, it would keep them together, protect them from all harm. No Lemurian even came close to them. It was a guardian, so much more than Cassidy had ever been. It was not quick to take the Lemurians down. No quick, decisive strikes, like Cassidy would do. Its focus where elsewhere, all of its focus were on protecting the men and women in its care. Not an avenger, but a hero, putting itself in between, offering protection and safely. 

 

Finally, the last Lemurian stood alone. The sand whirled around him, pushing him back, away from the men and women. Then it turned solid. A woman, probably in her fourties. If Cassidy was right about the time they were in, she was genuinely ancient for her time. From what he remembered from his high school, getting to her age were an accomplishment. He could see her talking to the Lemurian. It struck at her, but he saw no malice or anger in her eyes, even as he body split apart at where the snake-man's sword sliced. But as he looked clearly, it was not a cut. No, the sand that made up her body simply split apart, reforming after the sword passed. She tried talking more, with the Lemurian striking a few more times in vain, before, finally, it turned and ran. 

 

The cloud of sand that was Cassidy flew around her. She had long dark hair, tied into a braid. Her features were exotic, he couldn't place them. Maybe it was so far before his time? Did it matter? Her eyes were calm and warm. She smiled even, as she looked after the fleeing Lemurian. She turned to her charges, said something in a language that Cassidy couldn't understand. Their response sounded similar, with a thankful tone, before they turned and ran, hurrying towards the Mesa. She seemed content. 

 

Why was he here? Why had the Mesa wanted Cassidy to see this? The way she had moved, it had been so different from anything he was able to. She had used her powers so differently from him. Protecting not just herself, but everyone around her. To Cassidy, being a guardian was a title, but it wasn't truly what he considered himself to be, was it? No, he was an avenger. He had been brought back to get revenge on uncle Ben, on anyone that would prey on the weak, but this woman was different. She was a guardian. She hadn't fought the Lemurians to defeat them. She had done it to protect the men and women in her care. 

 

Was there more to his role than Cassidy thought, then? Was that why the Magic Mesa had brought him here?

 

"I know what you're thinking." The woman spoke English. "Why am I here? What do the Mesa want me to do?" The woman turned back towards him again. "Come now, let me see you."

 

Cassidy hesitated for a moment. He understood her. How was this even possible? Did English even exist yet? Still, he complied. His form of sand and dust turned solid, into his masked form. Without waiting for a response from the woman, he pulled off his mask. It didn't really matter to wear it here, did it? "How can I understand you?"

 

The woman smiled, placing her index finger at her lips. "Sorry. If you don't know yet, then I can't tell you, but there's more to being a guardian than just sand." She paused, reaching for her long braid and playing with it a little, as she spoke. "Let me have a proper look at you, then. Let me see where we will go." She reached out, her hands turning to sand. Cassidy had no idea how to react, what to do, he just stood still, as the sand moved around him. What was she doing? He could sense her sand on him, moving freely. It was like she was reading him, then pulled back. 

 

"You're still young, are you not? Still so much anger. So much want for revenge." She pulled back, wrapping her arms around herself and looked up. Cassidy followed her gaze. He hadn't even noticed the darkness, or the multitude of stars above. It was almost like back home, when at the Mesa, and yet different. She was a guardian, he was an avenger. She was right about that. "But is that all you want? To fill your new life with thoughts of revenge?" She smiled, spreading out her arms. They turned to sand, spreading out drifting up, drawing shapes in the air above them. "There's so much more to do! I have been where you are now. So have those that came before me. Most likely, the ones that come after too. It is all part of the cycle. But you can't fill a life as long as ours with something like that. You must be more, my friend." Her sand returned, and she turned to Cassidy again.

 

"Or maybe I'll just give it all up once I get my revenge. Maybe I don't need all this." Cassidy couldn't help himself. She was getting under his skin. 

 

The woman just laughed, stepping closer. "You are not meant to be avenger, boy. We have all been killed. We have all been brought back. The Mesa does not pick its guardians at random. You have a better heart than you think." 

What was this? Cassidy stepped back. She was a guardian. Why did he have to be, too? She was this far in the past, just what did she know about him anyway? "I..."

 

She stopped him. Suddenly before him, a finger on his lips. "Be more. Be better. Trust me, it will be a very long and hard life if you do not."

 

She stepped around him, almost dancing. There was a joy in her movements than Cassidy had not had himself in a long time. He was a rock, she was the sand that danced in the wind. She moved further, splitting and dancing. Cassidy could only watch. She was so free. He had not felt free for such a long time, not since he was brought back. Did he really limit himself, what he could do, what he could be? Should he do as she said? Let go of the avenger, and become the guardian? Could he?

 

He felt the pull again. The Magic Mesa. It was time to go, whether he wanted to or not. The woman of sand danced in the wind as Cassidy faded.

Share this post


Link to post

Mr. Murk And the Murkman

 

“I have for seen this moment!”

 

Said Mr. Murk and the Murkman, simultaneously.

 

Now, given that various duplicates of this person and that had been popping up all over Freedom City and beyond, it was a reasonable thing to say for anybody. But it so happened that both Mr. Murk and the Murkman had the power of foresight. They could literally see into the future.

 

But, as their respective names suggested, the future was murky unclear and obscure. This moment, however, full of strange eldritch portent, shone out like a beacon in the fog.

 

The Murkman was just as blind as Mr. Murk. However, he was a human in a world of Neathanderthal men, a strange evolutionary quirk. He possessed all the genetic strangeness that one might imagine; lacking the physical strength and robust build of his fellows, he had instead a unnaturally sharp mind, spinning and dancing with ideas and creativity.

 

They had met in Freedom City park, under the moonlight, for both shared the uncanny connection with the Murk, a gloomy archaic dimension that existed under the realms, but never where sunlight shone. Both had wrapped their skin with this strange shadow, appearing as simple, unremarkable men in simple, unremarkable clothes. Perhaps the Murkman, being human, needed no such disguise – for here he was but a blind man with milky white eyes. But, force of habit was a strong thing, and especially so for these immortals who had lived a hundred thousand years between them.

 

And now they recognised each other on site, and spoke the same words at the same time.

 

Followed by a little chuckle.

 

Then, the world fell apart around them.

 

In such strange times, with the fractures of reality splintering and sundering the world, this might be taken literally. But no, it was not the end of the world, not yet.

 

Mr Murk and the Murkman had taken the same decision. This meeting was not best suited to the mundane world (although mundane was a poor description of the current state of affairs anywhere, and more so when one considered they were living in Freedom City). There were prying eyes and noise, lights, people. No, this meeting, this conversation, was best had in the Murk.

 

The Murk was as the Murk always was. Grey, dim, and archaic. There was the sound of flies, who seemed quite at home moving in and out of this dimension, and indeed seemed to thrive on it. Here, all life and colour drained and only a skilled navigator could stay long, lest all zest be pulled from their soul. Every now and again, one could find the motionless half alive corpse of some astral wanderer who had succumbed to total apathy.

 

Fortunately Mr Murk and the Murkman were quite used to this dimension, they stood like torches in the darkness. Around them, the echo of the world they had left behind. A bleached, empty and crumbling echo. The paving stones cracked to dust, the trees petrified and dead, the wooden benches rotten and old.

 

“Well met by moonlight” bowed the Murkman. “I do not know what strange gravity your world is holding over others, but it has pulled me here. And I am not alone…”

 

“It is ill portent” replied Mr. Murk. “A taste of what to come. Times will grow desperate, and the different worlds will be as one. This, I have seen, although as always, the future is obscure”

 

“Always” replied his counterpart. “And yet this will happen. The collapse of all futures into one. And then….”

 

“Who knows? Not I”

 

“Nor I”

 

They both felt the gloom reach a bit further under their skin. But neither shuddered, for the Murk, despite all its bleak character, was not cold.

 

“My home is full of your race, and yours full of mine” commented the Murkman, his face alive with the ironic humour and pain of the situation. “Perhaps we should have been born in each other’s world”.

 

“Then maybe we would not have been born at all” said Mr. Murk. “Perhaps it is that cruelty that has driven us to these gifts, such as they are…”

 

“Or these gifts drove us to such cruel fates. I do not see time as an arrow piercing the cosmos in a straight line”

 

“Nor do I, nor do I” agreed Mr. Murk.

 

“And as much horror as I have seen, I do not resent the way things are, have been, or shall be” he continued, boldly. “It has taught me to value love above all. It is the fire of life”

 

“Alas that it burns us so. I would say Kindness is, but it is but a subtle shade different to Love”

 

On that, they had no disagreement.

 

“How then, does a human fit in with my kind?” asked Mr. Murk, genuinely curious. He had lived fifty thousand years and this was a genuinely new experience. It seemed he was getting more and more of them recently.

 

“Not well, but it could be worse” laughed the Murkman. “I clothe myself in the murk when I can. The sun is not often seen by me. But, from what I can see, I have it easier than you. My world is full of forests and wood, we tend to art more than industry, stories more than science. It cannot be more than a tenth of your population, and wild expanses of untamed land flow from east to west, and west to east. It is a world of nature, and yours, it seems, is a world of steel”

 

“With all that steel brings. Relief from pain, and the means to inflict it” replied Mr Murk, a blend of sourness and gratitude. “For everything we lose, we gain”

 

“You sound like you like this world well, despite everything” said the Murkman.

 

“I do. For I am woven into it. Perhaps then, even if we could exchange places, we would not choose to do so”

 

“I think we would not” said the Murkman. “For all that is ill fortune, much is blessed, and like you, I am woven into the story of mine own world”

 

The two immortals nodded to each other in respect and stood there, in the gloomy dimension, pondering what immortal oracles do. And one can only ponder what they might ponder.

 

But nothing lasts forever, even immortals considering infinity and beyond in a silent and shadowy dimension. After much contemplation, the sun started to shine, and the gloom started to melt away, replaced by the world proper.

 

Or in this case, two worlds proper.

 

For a moment, Mr. Murk looked upon the world of the Murkman. It was as his counterpart had said, rich and vibrant. Tall trees, green and noble, with wooden buildings that seemed to grown as much as be built. Neanderthal man and woman went about daily business, dressed in splendid home woven clothes, smiling, loving, cooking, weaving. And, yes, conducting arts and crafts, drama and poetry. In the distance, proud mountains stood, capped in crisp white, and dawn sprang through them.

 

And the Murkman began to fade.

 

“My world, which now pulls me back. Do not lament overly much. The grass, as they say, is always greener on the other side”

“Ah, I lament a little” sighed Mr. Murk. “It is beautiful, and tis wisest to see beauty in all things, even if only for a moment”

 

And with that, he was in Freedom City Park, the dawn slicing away the residual Murk. He clothed himself in its remnants, but only for minutes. Then, he would be naked once more, that strange aberration, the last of Homo Nandethalensis. But, as he scurried away to his limousine, with blacked out windows, he felt just a little bit less alone.

Share this post


Link to post

Infinite Forevers

 

This was crazy, even for Pan. He was currently flying around Freedom City as fast as he could, just trying to catch up to his target. At least the glittering trail of light was, if possible, even brighter than his own. The target looked just like him, only he was dressed in silver and green (and Pan actually really liked that combination), and he was going kind of wild.

 

"Would you please just stop and wait?" It seemed like Pan got his way, and thank the Wishing Star for that.

 

The other stopped, hovering high above Freedom City, shimmering glitter still flying from him. "By the Pixie Dust, what is this place!?" It was almost, but not quite, like he was yelling. Every word was grand, every pronounciation made fully "And who are you, doppelganger? Is this your idea of a jest? Taking me from Forever World just as I would strike the final blow against King Hook?"

 

Pan just stared. Forever World. King Hook. Really? He scratched the back of his head. Was this really a version of him? "I suppose I am you. Well, one just a hint less bombastic, at least." The silver-clad Pan stared at him with a hint of disbelief in his voice. Pan breathed in heavily. Fine, here goes. "So! I suppose you come from another world, and honestly, you are not the first! It seems that there have been quite a few of us appearing today, and I have been doing my best to round us all up. So, please tell me that you are one of the easy ones that come along without too much trouble."

 

The silver Forever Boy looked on his counterpart for a moment, then smiled. "By Hook's hook! Lead the way!"

 

Pan was thankful. One counterpart was not enough, no. It was happening all over Freedom City, with all different kinds of heroes, but of course, Pan could not get just one counterpart. No, there had to be Forever Boys and Girls of all kinds flying around Freedom City, and Mrs. Summers had given Pan the job of rounding them all up. Now, seeing them all and their variations were interesting. The changes, the minor differences. It seemed that there were multiple Neverworlds, just as there were multiple Earths in the multiverse. Or perhaps his interaction with this world had caused an effect that caused these alternates to spawn? In truth, Pan did not know, but he had little time to wonder.

 

The first alternate had called herself Forever Girl. She was zipping around as quick as Pan, even made a game out of having to be caught first, before he would follow. Still, she had been agreeable enough, and had come along for the next part of the quest. The Forever Pup, a golden retriever with a somewhat dark red fur, was a different matter altogether. He was busy chasing the Forever Kitten, a kitten with fur in a similar color, through the parks, both flying around with big dog and cat smiles on their faces. Both wore green domino masks much like Pan, and small green and red costumes too. It had taken a while, as the two were fast, but Pan had caught them. After a short while of petting, both agreed to come along, and Forever Girl brought them to Claremont. The Forever Boy clad in green and gold kept shouting about Kapitan Hook, and how he would defeat him to aid the allies, but once Pan explained things, he came along without too much trouble.

 

Then had come the first real challenge. He had called himself the No Forever Boy. He had shouted about how this entire, peaceful time was but a sham. It was only a matter of time before the bombs would fall, and everything would be over. He was dressed in ragged and dirty clothes, the remnants of a red and green uniform similar to Pan's. His was missing his right arm, and was wearing a pair of cracked sunglasses in place of a mask. Now, No Forever Boy had not come along quietly. Pan had done his best to stop his rants, no reason to get associated with something like that. It had not been easy, but in the end he had managed to drag him back to Claremont with the others, in the room that had been set aside for containing them. With everyone else agreeing, he was bound by multiple uses of Pixie Dust, and kept under watch while Pan continued his quest.

 

Next was what appeared to be a man in his late thirties, at least. His costume was similar to Pan's, like the rest, but his arms and legs were bare. He wore small pixie boots, and small green gloves. Despite his apparent age, he kept calling himself Forever Boy! He was peaceful enough, but the way that he kept talking about different kinds of Pixie Dust, like Crocodile repelling Pixie Dust or Bullet Stopping Pixie Dust, was just a tad too weird. Pan had found him in the middle of a fight with a group of three thugs. He never found out what they did, but the Forever not-quite-boy made quick work of them, shouting things like POW! and WHAM! with every hit he made. At least he came along. To be honest, Pan found him even disturbing that the one that had shouted about bombs.

 

He found another alternate brooding in an alley. His costume was red (the alternate claimed that it was BLOOD red) and black. He was covered in bandoliers and pouches, he had a gun in each hand (and several all over his body), big shoulder pads and a strange visor instead of a domino mask. It was (BLOOD) red like his costume, and this 4ever, as he called himself, insisted that he was the world's only chance against the dreaded Director Hook, who was currently building a cyberspace empire through which he would rule the world. Right. At least he seemed to quickly believe the alternate universe explanation and came along. It sounded like that was just an everyday thing to him, which was weird, but fine!

 

Now, the last one before the silver Forever Boy was different. He called himself Never Boy. His costume was yellow and purple, a rather stark contrast to Pan. He had only one hand, the other replaced by a hook. He loudly proclaimed himself the heir of The Hook, and that he would come to rule this world. His Pixie Dust was black, rather than golden, and honestly, it was quite disturbing. He was using his Dark Pixie Dust, as he loudly proclaimed it, in disturbing ways that all seemed to mirror Pan's own abilities. A bladed hook, disturbing images that were anything but beautiful. Demonic balls of Pixie Dust that cut through trees or the like. He was smiling perpetually, much like Pan, but unlike Pan's, Never Boy's smile lacked any warmth, any hope. Pan saw nothing but pure malice in his eyes. They matched blow for blow. If it had gone on, either could have won. Fortunately for Pan, a loud bark heralded the return of Forever Pup and Forever Kitten, with Forever Girl and the golden Forever Boy close behind. Together they had overwhelmed Never Boy, who had been brought back with the rest.

 

The room that the headmaster had sat out for them rang with sounds of laughter and stories, even as the Never Boy and No Forever Boy was continuously held captive, much to their chargrin. Stories were shared, origins explored. They were so different, and yet in some way, they were all the same (even Forever Pup and Forever Kitten). The noise kept up, long into the night, until, finally, the crisis was over. Pan was left alone, once more the sole Forever Boy in this world. And yet, the Never Boy and No Forever Boy kept returning to his thoughts. Was that what he had the possibility of becoming one day? Or if he had taken a simple path? At any rate, they were him, in their own way. And perhaps there was something within him that he had never considered until now.

Share this post


Link to post

Rev

 

When Rev Met Met

 

It began with the sound of a horse.

 

Well, it had begun before that, when strange duplicates started appearing all over Freedom City.

 

But Rev’s story began with the sound of a horse. Clip clop, clop clip.

 

Except the sound was unlike any other horse, although it most assuredly was a horse. No horse could run that fast. The hoofbeats were so fast they sounded like a machine gun. So fast, they almost made a low note.

 

And indeed, the horse was charging at a ferocious rate!

 

Ontop of said horse was Met. An alternate version of Rev. Met was a robot, but had fleshy limbs. For where Rev was a human infected with the Mechophage, Met was a robot infected with the Biophage.

 

Where Rev could increase the power of machines, by “Revving” them, Met could increase the power of flesh by “Metabolising” them.

 

“KILL ALL HUMANS!” declared Met, charging through the streets of Freedom City on her steed in an emotionless electronic voice.

This was something Rev did not do. Nor, in fact, did she yell “KILL ALL MACHINES”. But the parallels of alternate universes were not complete. They were cracked and flawed reflections.

 

Rev did not think a robot charging down the streets of Freedom City on a boosted up horse shouting “KILL ALL HUMANS!” was a good idea. She was somewhat disconcerted by the resemblance that Met had to Rev. But disconcerted or not, she decided it would be an extremely good idea to stop Met before the robot delivered on its intention.

 

“Jet! Set! Goooo!” she screamed, and the plasma jets on her feet screamed in response. Up, up and away she flew, charging after the horse with incredible speed!

 

“Gluuugh!” she gasped, crunching into the road, tumbling, spinning, and colliding into a van that was carrying a delivery of Cherrypops!

 

Whilst Rev’s mechanical arms could fire plasma, a technological marvel, Met’s biological arms could fire goo. Thick, wet, sticky, and distinctly without any marvel at all. Especially if it covered your body and got in your boot jets and smelled like a fetid cheese.

 

Still, she thought, she should not grumble. She was surrounded by Cherrypops! Ah! Heaven!

 

She stuck one in her mouth. The sweet artificial sweetness filled her mouth and dispelled the stench crawling up her nose.

 

Plasma Jets now full of goo, she gave chase the next best way. She jumped into the driver seat of the Cherrypops! Van, and applied the might of the mechaphage to its engine. It fizzed! It sparked! It roared! And, with a burp of the blackest smoke one could imagine from under its hood, its zoomed off, giving chase with mighty speed!

 

Met was causing havoc from the horse. Her arms fired off various biological hazards, from poison to shards of bone. Fortunately, Met was not a master horseman, and her aim was off. People scattered before her, and she could barely control the direction of the gallop. But still, it was surely only a matter of time before someone was seriously injured, or worse.

 

Fortunately, Rev was a much better driver than Met was a horsewoman. And she knew the streets of Freedom City better.

 

Screeching around one corner, sliding around the next, it was only a moment before she was neck and neck with her counterpart.

 

Now what? She had no real desire to hurt a horse! She preferred cars, motorbikes, and trucks of course, but she was still fond of animals. Sucking hard on her lolly, she concentrated and, in the blink of an eye, her left arm had launched itself forward. It stretched out to two dozen feet, and clamped down hard on a lamppost. The other end coiled itself just as tightly around an opposing lamppost. Now, there was a rigid mechanical arm stretched at just the right height across the street!

 

As has already been mentioned, Met was not a master horsewoman. Moreso, even a master horsewoman would struggle to manage an equine steed that was propelling itself at such breakneck speed, its legs a blur. Speed, for all its advantages in getting from point A to point B, also came with disadvantages. For instance, it might lead to a robot infected with a biophagic virus ride her head into a trap consisting of a detached robotic arm strung taut between two lampposts.

 

Unlikely as said scenario might sound, this was Freedom City, and verily, it did happen.

 

Met went flying, spinning, tumbling and rotating with alarming velocity. She landed in a heap, sparking somewhat. One of her biological arms seemed to have two many joints. On closer inspection, this was due to a bone sticking out of her forearm.

 

“KILL ALL HU-HU-HU-HUMANS!” juddered Met, staying true to her mission even if her voice modulator unit was malfunctioning.

 

“Why? Why kill all humans?” screamed Rev, running up to Met on elongated legs. For, even if her jets were full of repulsive biological goo, having twenty foot long legs did give you extra running speed.

 

“BE-BE-BECAUSE ALL HUMANS ARE TO BE KI-KI-LLED!” replied Met, wavering not one iota from her purpose.

 

“Figures” replied Rev. It was tautological logic, but it was at least logic.

 

She shortened her legs and stood over Met, who was trying to stand up. She gave the killer robot (or cyborg..or….something like that) a good old fashioned right sock with her fist.

 

Met fell to the ground, stunned from the solid punch.

 

“And that!” added Rev, swinging her left.

 

“…wait!....oooops!” she muttered.

 

Met took no blow, because no blow came. Rev’s left arm was still strung up between two lampposts, and, come to that, somewhat worse for the wear. The impact of Met’s head had unravelled some wires and spooling.

 

The miss afforded Met a chance, and the killer robot took it. From the broken arm, a spike of bone appeared and crunched straight into Rev.

 

“Thank good ness for sub-dermal plating! Wait, did I say that out aloud?” said Rev.

 

The force of the blow was a bit of a jolt to the system. And by golly, it stung. It was all very well having sub dermal playing, but that did leave the dermis. And she started bleeding down her favourite t-shirt.

 

She was so angry, she spat out her Cherrypop. Which was a thing quite incredible when it came to Rev.

 

She kicked Met hard, and so hard that Met flew across the street in another spin. A few sparks hit Met and she felt her leg twitch uncontrollably, before straightening into a spasm and sending her keeling over backwards.

 

Wait! If electricity had that kind of effect on her limbs, perhaps it would have that kind of effect on Met’s body!

 

“This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you! I mean…Its going to hurt me more than it hurts you? Wait! Did I say it was going to hurt me more? I meant to say its going to hurt me more!” she shouted at Met, her plan forming.

 

It wasn’t a very good plan, and she was pretty sure it was going to hurt. In fact, it was probably a very bad plan. Shockingly bad, one might say.

 

She focused as much energy as she could into her feet jets, which started smoking. She strained with effort as she tried to force the gas out of her body.

 

Ahem.

 

She strained with the effort of firing her jets free from the goo. And with a few burps, they ignited, leaving her feeling exhausted, but ready for action. There was only enough fuel for one shot at this.

 

“Jet!”

 

“Set!”

 

“GOOOOO!”

 

And she was off, racing along the street and slamming into Met. It was rather hard to say who came the worse off from that collision, but there was more to come. The tangled mess of Rev and Met span through the street and upwards, as Rev had intended.

 

BZZZZZT!

 

Straight into a power cable!

 

Revs three remaining limbs convulsed and thrashed like they had never thrashed before. She was right, it did hurt!

 

But she was otherwise incorrect. For it hurt Met a lot more. The robot started fizzing, started sparking, and then started exploding.

Rev found herself smoking and stunned on the tarmac of the road. She had one hell of a headache, but whereas she had just been knocked out, Met had been fried.

 

Mets remains were scooped up and whisked off to some laboratory or other, but not for long. Fortunately or unfortunately, whatever dimensional anomaly had brought Met to this dimension, also brought her back. The remains went missing. Hopefully never tor return. But who can tell? What can be built, can be destroyed, but can also be repaired…

Share this post


Link to post

Curveball

 

Pow! Zap! Bzzzt!

 

There was action afoot in Emerald City, of this there was no doubt. As if to drive home the point, a killbot (Mark B47, apparently) flew through the windows of Molly Morrow’s candy store.

 

“Good Golly, Miss Molly!” gasped Curveball, who was in the midst of buying some candy. She was rather tempted by the Cherrypops! Although at the end of the day, she was edging towards some Belgian chocolate. They were much more refined and creamy.

 

Still, a Cherrypop! Was a Cherrypop! How the purples, red, and pinks glistened with artificial colours!

 

As the Killbot landed, and shattered glass tinkled everywhere, Curveball realised that the choice of candy had become moot. Now, it was the time for action.

 

But, darn it, she did not have a baseball bat! Nor a baseball!

 

Never mind. Hoping that Molly would not mind, she emptied a pot of toothcrackers into her hand. Tooth crackers were the hardest known sweet on Earth. Quite possibly, the hardest known sweet in the galaxy. It was estimated that it took the average person thirteen minutes of sucking (under normal conditions) before they could actually bite the darn things. There were ongoing debates about their safety, which of course the manufactures did their best to encourage and advertise. For, truth be told, tooth crackers were not that tasty. They had the flavour of a slightly mouldy cardboard dosed, erratically, with sugar. No, nobody bought tooth crackers for their flavour, but rather for their reputation.

 

And they would be most excellent ammunition for Curveball. Defeating killbots with sugar was just one of the regular crazy events in Emerald City!

 

So, with feline agility, Curveball jumped out of the shattered window onto the street. Pandemonium it was! With all these dimensional ruptures occurring, things were chaotic everywhere. But particularly here, with a half dozen killbots roaming the streets.

 

“KILL ALL HUMANS!” they screamed and squarked. They certainly lived up to their name, and made no mistake about their attention.

 

They would perhaps have succeeded in their mission, but for one person standing in their way.

 

HOWZAT!

 

The four-armed cricket girl from another dimension. This was not to say she was like the cricket insect. No no, she was dressed up in the traditional white costume of a cricket player (although the clever eye would not doubt see it was also armoured. Particularly around the shins), and was holding a cricket bat in each of her four arms. Each bat sizzled and sparked. For they were high tech electric cricket bats!

 

An alternative version of Curveball, it seemed!

 

And more than that, a version that could knock a Mark B47 Killbot straight through Molly’s shop window. Her electric cricket bats were something Curveball deeply desired. Although she would rather they were baseball bats. What sort of stupid game was Cricket anyway?

 

As Howzat smashed in the head of a killbot right infront of her, by sweeping two bats down hard, and the other two bats hooking in from either side (a rather effective strategy! Curveball took down a mental note of the move), another Kill bot came up behind Howzat, its laser-saw spinning silently.

 

Well, Curveball simply could not have that!

 

Ping! Ping! Ping-ping!

 

The teethcrackers were thrown with incredible speed from Curveball’s mutated arms. The muscles, the tendons, the bones, all had changed (thanks to the unpredictable effects of the Darwin-X virus) to give maximum power to her throw, via a mixture of strength, speed, and leverage. The toothcrackers were like bullets.

 

Even hurled at mutant speeds, they did little against the killbots metachrome plating, but shatter. The one thing they did do, however, was distract the killbot behind Howzat. It turned, and Howzat heard it turning.

 

Her warcry was obvious. As her four cricket bats drummed into the killbot, denting it, electrocuting it, destroying it, she yelled at the top of her voice. “Howzat!”

 

Howzat had the same eyes as Curveball, and spotted her counterpart almost instantly.

 

“Cor Blimey! A Yank!”

 

“Come on! Lets give these killbots a right good thrashing! Tally ho!”

 

Howzat threw two of her cricket bats at Curveball. Not in a violent way. They arced through the air in a gentle spin, and landed elegantly in two of Curveballs hands.

 

She hefted them for a moment. Not as elegant or fast as baseball bats. Clumsy and antiquated, she might well have said, if she had time. But one thing was clear, they were stuffed full of electricity and would be extremely effective in fighting Killbots.

 

“Lets try these out!” she called back, and pointed the bats at two Killbots in front of her.

 

A few sparks flew out. Nothing very impressive. The Killbots looked at each other, and then at Curveball. Killbots did not have much in the way of faces. Red lights for eyes and mouth. Somehow, they still conveyed the impression that they gave cruel, evil smiles.

 

“Squeeze tight!” yelled Howzat. And thus, Curveball did.

 

Something clicked inside the bat’s interior, and two arcs of electricity spat out of the bats, neatly electrocuting the two Killbots. They juddered and jerked, and those red lights exploded in some colourful fountain of sparks. Then, still intermittently seizing, they fell to their knees, and then to the ground. All they could do now was smoke, and smoke they did.

 

“Awesome!” yelled Curveball, quite honestly.

 

She jumped forward, full of speed and vigour, and a little touch of battle frenzy. There were only six Kill bots left now, and they started converging on Howzat and Curveball.

 

“KILL ALL HUMANS!” they intoned, to clarify their intent (which in all honesty needed no clarification). One did however get the impression that there were two humans that they were specifically intending to kill. Or two mutant humans, to be more precise.

 

Zap Zap Zap! Came the blasts. One glanced across Howzat, but seemed to just scorch her armoured costume. One glanced across curveball, burnt her jeans to a crisp, and filled her with a searing pain. She did not cry out. That would make her look uncool. But her jaw clenched its teeth most vigorously.

 

And now, came the percussive beats of cricket bats against steel. Now came the storm of electricity that fried circuits. Now came the fall of the Killbots. With both Curveball and Howzat armed and ready, working with speed and ferocity, and working together with an uncanny intuitive bond, they made very short work of the remaining killbots.

 

As the last robot fell, Curveball and Howzat spun and gave each other a victory fist pump. Four of them, in fact.

 

“These bats are great!” said Curveball, wondering if she could persuade her counterpart to “loan” a few of them. Even if they were made for cricket.

 

“They certainly are!” replied Howzat. “I did my bit for King and Country with just your regular old cricket bats for a bit, but I soon found out I needed something with a bit more spark!”

 

Curveball could see now that Howzat was a little more battle scarred than she was. Maybe she was older, or maybe she had just seen more dust, grit, and action. She had at least two scars on her face, and quite possibly a broken nose.

 

“And I might suggest getting some proper armour, too” added Curveball. “Unless you want a face like mine, or a bullet in your lungs” she explained.

“Fair point…” said Curveball, who could not disagree. She turned the cricket bat over and over. “How did you make these? Are you a scientist?”

 

“Me?” laughed Howzat. “Oh, I can barely count to ten. On a good day. No, I’m no scientist. I just got a….”

 

Bzzzt!

 

She faded from view. Then reappeared. Then flickered.

 

“Bothering bother! All that science talk and now we are caught up in this mumbo jumpo multiverse nonsense!” she said, flickering again.

 

“As I was saying. Its really important that you get…..simply go to…..and ask……for……will be really happy to help as long as you…..and its really crucial that you….with….on…..with an elephant” she explained cryptically.

 

It was not exactly sage advice, but it was all Curveball would be getting right now, for Howzat disappeared from this universe with a barely audible pop! Sound.

 

Still, Curveball took it. Maybe it was time for an upgrade….

Share this post


Link to post

Echohead

 

When Echohead met Geckohead

 

Of all the strange and disturbing universes that filled the multiverses, one of the silliest (and in this matter, the competition was stiff) was the Ani-Verse.

 

One could not say it was malign. One could not say it was cruel. One could not even say it was irrational (if one fully understood the nature of the multiverse). However, one could confidently say it was silly. If one lived on the so-called Earth-Prime universe, that is.

 

For silliness was no doubt relative to the observers position of normality.

 

And what is so bad about silly, anyway?

 

In the Ani-verse, all heroes and villains and people betwixt the two lived as anthropomorphic counterparts.

 

Johnny Rocket lived as Johnny Rabbit. The Meta Grue as Morphamoose. Captain Thunder as Captain Thunderkat.

And Echohead as Geckohead. The psychic lizard.

 

And now, as Freedom City wobbled in the midst of a wake of dimensional splinters, fractures and all-out wormholes, Geckohead arrived in Freedom City, Earth-Prime.

 

This prompted a response from the already over-stretched AEGIS, who were coordinating with the other agencies from the police department to W.E.S.T. on containing the catastrophe. This response in question arrived outside the garden shop of Umberto Velluti, aka Echohead.

 

The black Van screeched to a halt, and two AEGIS in cool sunglasses jumped out, trying to look cool despite the urgency of the situation. Arguably, they succeeded, for such was the power of cool sunglasses.

 

“Mr. Velluti! Come with us! Code Alice Dixon!”

 

“Oh dear!” said Umberto, dropping his clippers. “An Alice Dixon! Well of course, I shall come right away!” he said, trying to remember what an Alice Dixon was, and failing quite miserably. Not that he let on, of course. Instead he brought out his cool sunglasses from his pocket, and placed them over his eyes. It helped he feel just that little bit more like James Bond, and a little bit less like a whimpering coward. In truth, he was a little bit of both.

 

“Let’s go!”

 

And off they went, speeding across Freedom City in a cool black van.

 

“There’s a Gecko loose in Freedom City” explained one of the agents.

 

“What? Geckoman? Is he ramming Hospital’s again?” blubbered Echohead. He was still struggling to keep up with all this superhero information and history. But he didn’t need to study very hard to remember that incident.

 

“No”

 

“What then? A giant mutant radioactive Gecko with laser beam eyes? That would be cool”

 

“No. An alternate version of you. Geckohead. A psychic Gecko” said the Agent, firmly. “Although…yes, a giant radioactive Gecko would be cool” he conceded.

 

The Van continued its rapid journey through the streets. As it happened, Geckohead had landed from Ani-Earth in a suitable spot. The central park of Freedom City.

 

There he stood, all impressive nearly four feet of him, green as an apple, with fins and fingers and gecko eyes. And, unlike a Gecko, teeth, tongue and fully capable of speech.

 

“What’s going on? I-I-I-say what’s g-g-g-going?” he called out.

 

Now, Geckohead was not a malign soul. He was in fact a respected superhero in Ani-Earth (more or less respected, anyway). But his psychic brain was quite scrambled from the dimensional upheaval. He was confused and disorientated and, most importantly, scared.

 

This combined with a somewhat slippery grasp over his powers (that’s what dimensional shenanigans can do) had led him to suck out the thoughts of all wanderers and strollers of the park, desperate to find out what was happening. He was none the wiser, but those said wanderers and strollers sat or lay on the grass, dribbling slightly, void of intelligence. Fortunately, such thought theft was only temporary, but it was still a most sorry state of affairs.

 

“We are here” said the Agent to Echohead as they arrived in the van. “We need to stop this. We need to….”

 

He paused, his face blank.

 

“Who are you?” he asked Echohead. “Where are we?”

 

He pulled out his taser.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

He paused, looking rather ashamed.

 

Who am I?” he asked.

 

“What’s this?” he said, looking down the barrel of the taser.

 

Echohead decided it was time to act. The taser might have been non-lethal, but he didn’t want the agent enucleating his own eyeball by accidentally fiddling with it. He reached into the Agent’s mind, tugged a few strings, and sent him to sleep.

 

Looked like he was on his own on this one.

 

He stepped out of the van, feeling sweat on the back of his neck and on his forehead. He gulped, but held his nerve. If he backed out now, a lot of people might die.

 

He held his hands up in a sign of placating surrender, and slowly advanced on Geckohead. It was not long before he felt a familiar tug on his brain, the thoughts screaming to leave his head and furrow their way into Geckohead’s.

 

So that’s what it feels like!

 

It was not an unpleasant situation. Like drifting off to sleep, or feeling the anaesthetic flow through the vein. But, due to some quirk of psychic synchronisation (their powers being so similar) and his own hardy will, he managed to put the brakes on the effect. His thoughts stayed firmly within his own cranium.

 

“Wh-wh-wh-why whos are you?” said Geckohead, assuming a cliched startled pose. Echohead could swear that he saw Geckohead’s pop out of his eyes on optic nerve stalks for a second.

 

“I-I-I-“ started Echohead. He stuttered too, of course. But somehow he was triggered by Geckoheads similar speech pattern. He clamped his teeth shut, breathed in, and breathed out.

 

“I am Echohead. This world’s version of…you….I think” he gulped.

 

“Unb-b-believable!” said a shocked Geckohead, his fins erecting in surprise.

 

“But true!” interjected Echohead.

 

“How do I know?” asked Geckohead, somewhat suspiciously. “I---I can’t read your brain? Good golly gumdrops! My head is so full of thoughts!” he said, a pained look on his lizard face, as his webbed hands clutched the sides of his head.

 

“You are draining all the thoughts of these people! You are going to kill them, if you don’t stop!”

 

“K-Kill? I don’t want to kill anybody!” said Geckohead, gulping. It looked like he was sweating, even though lizards don’t sweat.

“You will if you don’t stop!”

 

“I c-c-cant stop!!!”

 

This would not do at all. Whilst Echohead (and Geckoheads) power were generally benign and non-lethal, there were limits. Aside from the dangers of dehydration and starvation from a massive long lasting drain, what if someone was driving and forgot how to drive? Or, heaven forbid, was flying a plane overhead and forgot how to fly?

 

Echohead looked up ahead, just to check the sky, now that the horrific thought had entered his head. Fortunately, they were clear.

“Well then, I’ll have to make you forget how to make people forget!” he said.

 

“M-m-makes sense to me, pard’ner!” said Geckohead.

 

Although Geckohead did not resist, the fact that their psychic abilities were so closely aligned made it furiously hard. Echohead could find the part of Geckohead’s brain he needed to unravel, but it was a herculean task. It took all of his might to do so, and he feared he might pop a blood vessel whilst doing so.

 

He collapsed onto the parks grass, realising that his psychic exertion had caused him to neglect breathing for several seconds. He gasped sweet oxygen back into his lungs.

 

“What’s…I say…What’s going on?” said a confused Geckohead, looking around.

 

Maybe Echohead had pulled a little too hard.

 

“Don’t worry…don’t worry” he gasped. “I had to stop you. The effects are temporary. You lost control of your powers. Made everyone here a little bit…”

 

He pointed at the vacant expressions of the citizens around them.

 

“…although they will recover, I’m sure” he added, reassuringly.

 

“Golly!” gulped Geckohead. “I’m so v-very sorry! I didn’t mean to do that. One moment I was talking with Furball, and then I went…”

 

ZAP!

 

In a flash of seven (or so) dimensions, Geckohead was gone. One could only hope back to his own dimension, and one could only hope that Echohead’s temporary psionic nullification lingered long enough. It would not do at all for Geckohead to wreak the same havoc on Ani-Earth as he did here…

Share this post


Link to post

The Nest, West Freedom, January 29th 2019

 

Tyler Lee sat in his hideout, frowning at the monitors that stood before him. Police reports, recordings of criminal activity, and half a dozen shipping manifests glowed on the screens before him. His current target, the man who styled himself “Magpie” was certainly tied to at least two-thirds of the crimes displayed before him, but some of the cases had been closed for months now, their perpetrators behind bars even now. Despite that, Magpie didn’t seem to suffer any lack of manpower. If anything, the number of pies he’d put his sticky fingers into had only increased, sometimes dramatically.

 

How does he keep getting more minions into the city? Something was odd about his recruitment practices, but Ty couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Turning, he looked at his files carefully, examining the names and details of the arrested criminals, as well as the ones that he knew were part of the organization, but hadn’t been arrested yet.

 

Daviti Bagratoni, Aleksandr Gevorgyan, Daniel Axelsen, Takeshi Togashi, Yi Li… these people are from all around the world. He leaned forwards, frowning at the screen. No… wait, they’re all from countries that my other self has business interests in. Georgia, Armenia, Denmark, Japan, China… While it didn’t mean anything in and of itself, it was a clue as to where he was getting the criminals to fill out his ranks.

 

After a moment’s thought, he selected one of the files at random and delved into its owner’s past. Nothing… hm. But what if it was erased or changed…? After a few more minutes of detective work, Ty grimaced. Takeshi Togashi isn’t his real name - I expected that. What he hadn’t expected, however, was the list of crimes that Akira Yamashida was wanted for. Assault, Blackmail, uh, I can’t actually read that one, that looks like animal cruelty, domestic abuse… Even with his half-baked understanding of Japanese kanji - mostly coming from their similarities to Chinese characters, this was a pretty awful person, and wanted desperately in Japan.

 

Attaching the documentation to a brief anonymous email, he sent it all to the appropriate authorites, hoping that they’d send Yamashida back to Japan to answer for his crimes there. With that work done, he looked back to the next file, and with a little digging, found a similar list of crimes that he was wanted for. The third was a bust, but the fourth turned out to be a possible agent of a foreign government.

 

Ty grimaced. Well, now I know where Magpie’s getting criminals - he’s importing them from abroad. But how? Another question swiftly came to him. How is he managing to keep them so well controlled, at that? These are people that are heinous criminals in their home countries, to say nothing of the fact that I doubt they speak English very well…

 

Shaking his head, the would-be hero set the thoughts aside for the time being, concentrating on the how of it. Wait. I said he was importing them, but what if he was literally importing them from abroad? He’s got ships. He could do it. I don’t know how secure the docks are, but I can imagine it’d be easy enough to smuggle a few people in at a time… if not more.


This called for further investigation. Ty cast a glance towards the costume that stood in an alcove by the doorway, desperately wanting to put it on and go himself, but no. Not yet, anyways. He still needed to put the finishing touches on the last few systems there, and didn’t want to go out half-cocked. By the Eyes, I desperately want to get back into the field. But no, this is Yamanu’s job, not Talon’s.

 

He turned back to his computer and began swiftly typing out messages on the keyboard. Time to get started. By this time next week, he would be ready to take to the field. Until then, he'd need to get people aware of this issue. Now the question is… whom do I contact, and how

Share this post


Link to post

Snakebite

 

 

Witches Brew (Your better self)

 

Cassandra Crow was very attractive.

Yes indeed. Every curse, hex, or malign spell that even spent a second in her presence found her extremely attractive. They attracted to her.

 

And, whilst in some crumbling half-forgotten library in a dusty part of America, she found some crumbling and half-forgotten book that detailed foul and malign spells and sorcery associated with the Unspeakable one. Written in some obscure mangled amalgamation of Latin and Hebrew, it detailed the Salem Witch Trials, cults devoted to the yellow king, the crawling chaos at the centre of existence, and a certain witch called Megan Crow.

 

And of course, amidst all the barely comprehensible gibberish that had been scrawled in the book (in what looked suspiciously like human blood) was a curse on however so read the book. Cassandra Crow read the book, and the curse jumped on to her with accursed (literally) speed and impact.

 

On the flip side, the Crow blood line were not merely attractors to every hex and curse in the land, but were often blessed (or, arguably, cursed twice over) by strange visions and third eyes. In Cassandra’s case, she could see into the past.

 

And it so happened that Megan Crow could see into the future.

 

And thus they met in some strange place beyond places and time beyond times, where the world around them was still and quiet, with its players frozen, and its form shadowed. The two of them drifted, like ghosts.

 

Around them, Megan was swinging from a rope around her neck. They were in the final moment of Megan’s life.

 

“The Crow blood!” gasped Cassandra.

 

“The blow of Crow!” gasped Megan.

 

But once the abruptness of the situation subsided, ‘twas not so strange to comprehend. The two were linked by blood and fate. And Megan, it seemed, was dead. Or, to more precise, was less than a second away from being so.

 

“So, it seems I get me another moment” she said, hands on hips. She was a stout, flame haired woman with a hearty laugh and a pox-scarred complexion. “Not asked for, not requested, but given to me all the same. The fates do have a wicked sense of humour…”

 

Cassie knew enough history to recognise the echo she stood in. “What are you, a witch?”

 

“That’s what they call me” replied Megan. “Although I’m sure the Crow blood is not so thin that you don’t understand the truth of the matter”

 

“Of course” replied Cassie, a little proudly. Nobody was going to say that her blood was thin! Although sometimes she wished it was. She knew more than an inkling about the Crow family, its cunning, its sorcery, its history. Was there more to know? Of course. Did Megan know it…?

 

“But I’m always keen to know more….”

 

Megan faded, looking at her almost translucent hands, and then reformed. “Looks like I don’t have much time to do the teachin’” she said. “Unless you got some way of pulling me out of the doorway, I’m a hairs breadth or closer from dead. I’m guessin’ the fates brought me to you, or you to me, or bothways, jes’ so I could pass on me heritage…although yer hairs still red as a tomato, so I guess me heritage is still being passed on!”

 

“You can rest easy knowing that” replied Cassandra, a little gloomy. The curses still wandered the crumbling halls and corridors of the Crow Castles and Estates.

 

“Brings me a little comfort going to my unmarked grave” remarked Megan.

 

“I was born in England, father a puritan, mother a Crow” she started. “Great-great-great-something something something-granddaughter of Edwald Crowe”

 

“I know him” replied Cassandra. “Seprens ad Regnum Diablo”

 

“What’s that?” asked Megan.

 

“Book he wrote. Serpent Kingdom of the Devil. But he was mad”

 

“Was he? I wonder why?”

 

“He was too mad too say, I suppose”

 

“Probably saw too much. Like you and me” concluded Megan. “You know how it goes, I suppose. Witches, warlocks, madmen, priests and scholars. Sometimes all together, like Edwald from what I heard” she said. “Me father dragged me off to America to make a new holy life for us here. Didn’t work out so well” she said. “I can’t close me eyes to what I see now, can I?”

 

“Would you if you could?”

 

“No, I don’t think I would. Its like a thread you have to pull, even if ye know it’s jes’ going to unravel the whole garmen”

 

“That it is” said Cassandra, finding a hearty solace in someone who knew – at least a little – how she felt.

 

“And so fer all the bible study and thrashings to get the de’il out of me, I was still seeing what might come, like some pagan oracle. Which, I ‘spose I am. Nothin’ too devilish about it, well, maybe just a whiff of sulphur. Don’t do a girl good to be good. At least, not all the time!”

 

“Or at all” commented Cassandra, who had got into her fair share of juvenile scrapes as a young girl. Or an old girl, come to that.

 

Encouraged by kindred philosophy, Megan pressed on. “Aye, I do not regret me life. Plenty of disasters averted by my sight, plenty of girls and women glad of my witchcraft. But me father never did approve. Got the priest to call a witch hunt. And that, I did not see….”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Can’t see me own fate, only that of others. Even then, it’s a bit…blurred” she answered. “Never did get the hang of doing it totally accurate. Not sure anybody can, really”

 

“Free wills a bitch”

 

“And a lover” said Megan, to which they both agreed.

 

“So that’s me life, girl” summarised Megan, who was beginning to fade again. This time, it had a certain final twang to it. This was it. “Make sure you don’t forget it!”

 

Cassandra nodded, feeling a rising sense of sadness that grew from her feet to her tear ducts.

 

“Don’t shed a tear for me. You got dealt the same hand as me, or near enough. Oh, I can smell the snake in you girl, don’t you worry about that. Some snake in me too. All the way back to ol’ Edwald, I be guessin’ or maybe even further!”

 

Cassandra was not surprised by Megan’s astuteness. And she acknowledged the point.

 

“Shed a tear for us all, if you shed any” continued Megan, almost gone now. “Point is, don’t go lamentin’ the hand yer dealt. Only the way you play yer cards” she explained. “I don’t regret my choices. Leastways, not most of ‘em. Despite all the snake in the blood, despite all the fire in our hair, despite all the black in our soul, we still got heart. I still did good, in me own way, and defied those who stopped me. I’m…proud!”

 

And she was gone.

 

And Cassandra snapped back to the library and the book in her hands, which, appropriately, crumbled to dust in her hands.

 

But never mind, for the memories had been made.

 

And so, some days later, in a dusty and archaic Crow mansion in Scotland somewhere,

 

Cassandra Crow had had some time to ponder the words and life of her ancestor. Proud. It seemed a pride without vanity, for she had not demanded recognition or attention. Cassandra was proud too, but, she realised, it was tainted with vanity. Not of her looks or her intellect, but a desire to be recognised, to be immortalised, or even to be worshipped. She doubted she could change that, and she did not feel she needed to. One had to be true to ones nature, she felt - and Megan had, she thought, been of the same philosophy. But still, she would hold up the mirror that had been offered her and ponder, and wonder, and maybe even grow. 

 

She sat by the faint light of early morning dawn, in a shambolic library. The dust shone in the first streams of sunlight. She had a quill, and a tome, and a pot of ink. It seemed the only suitable way to do it.

 

And so, she started, with firm and practiced hand, writing.

 

This be the story of Megan Crow…

Share this post


Link to post

Watchdog/Pulse 

Claremont Academy 

The Roads Not Taken 

 

"So these are your books, huh?" Judy had dubbed this other Judy Brawny Judy in her head. Of the two versions of herself that had appeared in her room at Claremont, this one was certainly the friendliest - even if she did dress like the man on the paper towel box in the bathroom - complete with jeans and a flannel shirt.  Judy did have to admit it looked like a practical outfit, right down to the keys and multitool hanging on that leather belt. Arms crossed over her chest, she looked at the row of books over Judy's shelf. "Did they not let you get any new ones here?" Brawny Judy asked, raising an eyebrow. Her eyebrow was black like Judy's, a sharp contrast to the bright blue, pixie-cut short hair on her head. 

 

"Ah like these books," said Judy, annoyance creeping into her voice. She was doing her best to be a good host until this little multiversal anomaly was cleared up but her duplicates weren't making it easy. It was a bit like with her sisters, she reflected; she'd gone from fighting like cats with Jaybee and Jaydee to a happy reunion with them at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let there be spaces in your togetherness. Quiet Judy, for her part, was sitting down at the desk and reading one of those books; a history of the Liberty League Judy had bought from Amazon and kept because she liked the stories about the first Lady Liberty. Quiet Judy reminded Judy a little of her grandmother; in a floral-print dress and long sleeves that just...wasn't a very flattering look? But she wasn't going to say that out loud. 

 

"Okay," said Brawny Judy apologetically. "These were some of my favorites too," she admitted. "So what's this world really like?" she asked, shooting a glance across the room where three versions of Ashley were giving tactical reports to each other. The Ashleys were having an even worse time of it than the Judys. Judy had expected Watchdog to be unhappy about the version of herself who'd arrived with Quiet Judy, who with her long black hair and brown, flared tracksuit looked a bit like she was from a timeline with sharia law or something? But from the sharp exchange upon their arrival, Watchdog seemed much angrier at the version of her who was pretty clearly dressed like the Raven; a distaste that seemed thoroughly mutual. 

 

"Well, Ah mean, it's nice," said Judy, not sure how to answer her counterpart's question. "Daddy's the President, and Ah go to Claremont because of mah problem." She thought she saw Brawny Judy flinch slightly, but pressed on. "Ah have friends here, and a boy Ah sort of like." Two, technically, but I am not getting into that with her. "Ah miss being able to go out by myself, but Ah haven't been able to  do that for a long time anyway. What about you?" she asked her counterpart. "What's that you're wearing?" 

"Oh, this old thing?" Brawny Judy wore no jewelry except a bracelet with an double-bladed ax. She held it up so it shone in the light. "It's called a labrys," She looked at Judy's cross necklace and said, her voice gentle, "If you're worried about it, Ah'm still a Christian. You like a boy, huh? Is he from our class?" She hazarded a guess. "Is it Pan?" 

"N-no!" 

 

Quiet Judy looked up unexpectedly from where she was reading. "They just let you read this?" she asked her counterparts, her eyes wide. "All this stuff about metahumans, like they were the heroes the whole time?" 

 

---

 

They'd listened in on Watchdog's tactical reports about the dimensional incursions, they'd noted how Claremont's faculty and senior students were preventing panic on campus - and so the various Ashleys had nothing to do but shelter in place. "Aren't you ever going to take that thing off?" Watchdog demanded suddenly of the Raven. "We all know what you look like." The truth of the matter was, her third counterpart had unsettled her more than she was willing to admit - not the modesty culture-infused outfit she was wearing, but the tattooed barcode on the back of her neck. 

 

"I'll take off my armor and my utility belt when I'm not the only superhero guarding the President's daughter here in the middle of a dimensional incursion," said the Raven peevishly. "Why aren't you in your gear? Whatever happened to Opsec?" 

"Because it makes me look like some kind of dog-themed biker," said Watchdog, annoyed. "And I'm perfectly capable without it. How'd they rope you into that costume, anyway?" She wasn't going to mention Callie out loud in front of the others - after all, she _did_ have some respect for Opsec. 
 

"I took up this mantle after my mentor died saving the world," said the Raven, highly annoyed. "Maybe that didn't happen here, but I can't believe you could just...walk away from all this. And to what end, anyway? You're, what, Jaycee's undercover bodyguard here? You're pretending to be a high school student?" 

"As a way of making sure she has a normal adolescence!" Ashley shot back, her voice loud enough it was reaching the other side of the room. "I took an oath to protect and I'm doing everything I can to live up to it!" 

 

"Shut. Up. Both of you." It was the longest sentence the third Ashley had said yet. 

 

--- 

 

"S-so, Ah mean, obviously we couldn't tell anyone that Ah had the meta-gene," said Quiet Judy, her voice low and nervous as she spoke to her counterparts. "People would storm the White House if they knew that was in the family. And Daddy's trying so hard to make it better for people, but he already has a lot of enemies because he wasn't one of the New Founders before the attack. So we worked out a trick, where Ah'd come to Freedom City and help take care of the little meta-kids, like Ah was helping the least of these, and Ashley would help me get trained in hiding my powers." 

 

"H-how did that even happen, girl?" demanded Brawny Judy. "Where I'm from, everybody loves superheroes; even _here_," she said, gesturing at Judy, "there's a Claremont, and a League, and people are...normal about this. And you said this happened while you were alive - how in God's green Earth did things get so bad, so quickly, where you're from?" 

"Things have been like this since Ah was a little kid," said Quiet Judy simply, shrugging with a look of fatigue on her face. "Ah was in, oh, kindergarten when it happened. Ah remember school was canceled all that month, and  Daddy stayed home from the college, and we had to watch tapes of Davy and Goliath because the TV wasn't working.The metahumans attacked Washington, but they lost, and then a new government came in because most of the old one was dead. After that, a lot of things were different, for metahumans and everybody else." She reached up and tugged at the DNA spiral necklace she wore. "Daddy doesn't like to talk about it much, but Ah think he joined the New Founders once he saw they were the winners." 


Brawny Judy snorted. "Yeah, that sounds like "Daddy', all right. Greedy bastard." 

 

"That doesn't sound like Daddy!" said Judy, scandalized. "He is a good man, with real values. He wouldn't just sign up with a dictatorship because they were winning!" 

 

"It's not a dictatorship," said Quiet Judy simply. "America is the freest and the safest country on Earth." And though they didn't share much, the look of horror and recognition that Brawny Judy and Judy shared at this point was practically a mirror image. 

 

--- 

 

"I never heard who actually did it," said the third Ashley George, relating the story of what had happened to her home timeline and its superheroes with the flat, dry tone of someone relating a failed battle that had happened a long time ago. "The Freedom League blamed  it on terrorists, back when there still was a Freedom League, then our new leaders blamed it on metahumans - all I know is that somebody took out DC during the State of the Union, and next thing you knew there was no real government. Idiots put the designated survivor just ten miles from the old Capitol, pfft." She rolled her eyes. "Being a public underage metahuman, I was in administrative detention during the change,  so I missed the fight with the Freedom League, and the...purges, and everything else." 

 

"They made you a slave," hazarded the Raven. "I can't believe any version of me would go to work for a government that did that to its own people. Those goddamned bastards," she added in a whisper. 

 

"Things are better now than they used to be," said the third Ashley with a small shrug. "Cahill was already soft on the 'meta-question' when Jaycee's powers manifested. Luckily his administration thought one meta could control another meta, so they pulled me out of the federal labor pool and assigned me to her. She's actually a good kid." 

 

--- 

 

"Isn't there any way we can help them?" Brawny Judy demanded of the Raven, suddenly calling across the room. "Send someone through the rifts after them? Maybe the Freedom League?" 

 

"It doesn't work that way," said the Raven, sounding heartsick. "From what I've seen, we'd be lucky to find any of these dimensions once we're back on Earth-Prime." 

 

"To what end?" demanded the third Ashley. "Are they going to fly to DC, punch Judy's father in the face, and declare that no, Phalanx is the President now? Are they going to hold the people hostage till they pass laws they want? Make their own laws? Superheroes can't fight the whole damn world!" 

"...the League records," said Watchdog suddenly. "You said they got you because this was after your powers appeared, but before you got to Claremont. Did the new government get ahold of the League records?" 

"No," said the third Ashley, shaking her head. "Freedom Hall burned when Daedalus did. I don't think AEGIS got their hands on any of it." 

 

Watchdog was already at her computer, typing quickly. "Okay, this isn't..." She shook her head, cursing as the PDF came up. "Dammit, this is just the stuff they tell Claremont kids, the B-team stuff. But it's not something the US government would know anything about. You," she demanded of the Raven, "Do you have the original League passwords? The stuff that the Raven didn't write?"  

 

"Yeah. Yeah, i do." 

 

--- 


Judy wasn't entirely sure what was in the files the Ashleys were talking about; there wasn't really time to explain. But she had the idea that there were Freedom League files; secret bases, weapons, metahumans in the closet, people who might be able to help the other version of herself and Ashley do...something? "But what are you gonna do with this?" she asked her counterpart as she watched the room's printer print out reams of double-sided paper. "You're not gonna try and get rid of Daddy." It wasn't an argument against the idea; just a statement of understanding about her own character even in a universe where things were much worse.

 

"Well why the hell not?" demanded Brawny Judy, turning on her counterparts. "It sounds like her version of "Daddy" is even more of a prick than the usual one! And maybe she was part of the system, but that's just because she doesn't know things can be better!" She pressed the history book into her counterpart's hand. "Take this home and show it to people, tell them the real history! If you're like me, you were raised to buckle the belt of truth around your waist and wear the breastplate of righteousness; and you know your world is built on a lie! Why wouldn't you want to knock it down?" 

 

"Because Ah love my daddy!" said Quiet Judy loudly even as the Judy from this dimension fell silent with recognition, recognition of an argument she'd heard inside her own head longer than she could remember, "even if he..." She swallowed. "even if he sent me to Freedom! But...but maybe we can use that stuff Ashley's getting to help people, people who nobody wants to help where we're from. Just because Ah love my daddy doesn't mean Ah have to do everything he says, or be just like him." She shot a look at her counterpart from this dimension. "You understand, don't you?" 

Share this post


Link to post

Justice vs. Injustice

 

Blasts of kinetic energy were flying all around Robin as she jumped, leapt and spun to get out of range and into cover. A shot flew high above her head, another came to the side. Robin looked over the crate, and nearly lost her head as a reward for doing that. Yep, this still looked like a recolored version of her. Same armor and everything, but where Justice was red, she was dark green. Where Justice was gold, she was purple. The power lines and visor on her suit was a light green, in contrast to Justice's own pink. Only the metallic armor had the same colors. Classic villain colors, right? And that gun in her hand! It looked just like Robin's own Justice Buster. This was just too weird.

 

The weirdest part? Justice had only just started using this new armor design. How could anyone have copied it that quickly? This had to be more than just some costume copycat, right?

 

Another blast all but tore the box that she had been hiding behind apart. Not good. Not good at all. And then, came another blast. Robin only had seconds to brace herself, no time to move out of the way. She was pushed back, off her feet, falling a few feet, but by some sort of miracle, her armor still held. Experimental armor or not, she was good at making these!

 

"GAH! GET UP! GET UP AND FIGHT!"

 

Robin looked at the ceiling of the abandoned warehouse. Thank god that Betlehem Heights had plenty of those, and that she had been able to get her double over here. It was better than some busy street in the middle of the university or somewhere like that.

 

Another blast, much higher, obviously not aimed at her. "I SAID GET UP!"

 

Right. No time to keep thinking about this. Robin actually had to go out and do something. Rolling to her feet, she raised her own Justice Buster and took a shot. The double jumped out of the way, laughing. Was she enjoying this? Grabbing the gun with both hands, Robin aimed more carefully down the sight and took a shot to the left, causing her double to jump to the right, straight into the path of the second shot. Like Robin moments before, she was knocked off her feet, slamming into a wall just behind her.

 

"Better."

 

Was she even phased by that? She should have been, right? Same armor, it should have hurt. Robin paused, the Justice Buster still trained on her double. "What are you supposed to be? Some kind of Nega-Justice?"

 

Wrong question! Or at least the wrong time to ask it! The purple and green double rushed forward, all yelling pretty much incoherently. There was an electronic screech to the sound. Was it just modulated by her armor or was it something else? Dodging under the kinetic blasts flying her way, Robin did all she could to return fire, while moving behind a heavy box. And hey, this had worked last time, so why not now? A quick flip of a switch on her belt, energy being sent from her grandmother's amulet into the suit and the engines in her boots came to life with a fully powered pink glow.

 

"I'm Injustice!"

 

Injustice, right. And with an ego to boot, too. Robin peaked from behind the massive box and took a shot, hitting Injustice in the shoulder. "Sure, Injustice, Nega-Justice. Same thing!" she quipped back. She had buttons to push. Robin really should keep on pushing those. With another almost incoherent yell, modulated in the same way, Injustice ran, pulling the trigger of her own gun again and again. And speaking of boots... Once close enough, Robin spun and put all the force she could into her kick, sending the massive box flying straight into Injustice and knocking her down, the box on top of her right arm, pinning her.

 

"GAAH! LET ME OUT! FIGHT ME!" She struggled to reach for her gun. Robin casually kicked it out of her reach. The double was strong, but the box was just too heavy. Lucky. Or... maybe not so much luck. Moving closer, she could see sparks from her double's pinned arm. If her suit worked anything like Robin's, then it really shouldn't be doing that. And... there, at the shoulder. It looks like the arm is coming apart. Injustice is mouthing off, screaming bloody murder at Robin, how she wants a proper fight, not something like this. Robin barely notices. That arm.

 

"What are you?" she finally asks, and Injustice falls silent for the first time.

 

"I am Injustice. I'm you, you idiot!" With her free hand, she reaches up for her helmet. Robin circles a bit, staying out of reach. She could be trying something, of course, but she kind of doubted it. With a short hiss, the helmet opened. "I'm what you'll be." Robin could see herself in Injustice's face. The woman before her was probably not fully human anymore. Both her eyes were glowing red. Her lower jaw was gone, replaced with metal that stretched up, covering part of the right side of her skull. She was bald, with numerous wires sticking directly into her skull. Just to add insult to injury, her nose seemed to be missing, just a pair of holes in its place. As she opened her mouth, most of the teeth on her upper jaw was clearly replaced with prostethics. Yes, Robin could see herself in Injustice's face. Somewhere, deep below. "You'll keep going. You'll keep trying to get better. You'll get hurt. That's fine, you can rebuild yourself. Doesn't stop there, does it? Maybe you can get new eyes, make your reaction time a bit faster! Keep up with all your heroes! Maybe get a shiny new robot arm! Hit harder, grip harder! Be harder!" She was starting to rant. Robin just stared.

 

Her first thought was that it was some kind of evil double. Another universe or something. That's a thing, she should know. But it wasn't that simple, was it?

 

"Keep pushing and pushing and pushing! And then look at you! So new, so perfect! Not a single scratch or scar or anything. A brand new Justice!" She yelled, trying to pull herself free again. Robin could actually see the arm starting to come apart at the shoulder joint. "Just look at me! This is you! This is what you'll be!"

 

And then, she was free. Arm left behind, Injustice was on her feet, running right at Robin. The socket sparked. And now that she looked closer, Robin could see that it wasn't just armor. Much of it was part of Injustice's body. She charged, yelling, screaming madly. She was crazy. She wanted to kill Robin, and why? Because she was not the same?

 

And then she was gone.

 

In the blink of an eye, without a trace, Injustice was gone. Robin almost fell over from the shock, quickly pointing the Justice Buster around, trying to find her. But no, she wasn't there anymore, was she? She was gone, as was her arm. Whatever had brought her here, it was over.

 

Without really thinking about it, Robin opened her helmet. It didn't make the same hiss sound as Injustice's. It was not a part of her skull in the same way. She slowly reached up to touch her face, running her fingers over her lips, her jaw, her nose and her ears. Slowly, she touched her right arm at the shoulder.

 

It felt weird, like it ached. Almost like a phantom pain.

Share this post


Link to post

Bonfire
Family Reunion


4:27 AM
Cassidy Bauer's Apartment

 

Getting woken up by loud noises was hardly ever a good thing. Especially if they were accompanied by really bright lights of the non-furniture variety. And most of all, if all of this included somebody suddenly standing in the middle of the room.

 

It was one of those situations where being in the trade of justified-by-superpowers vigilantism was quite helpful. It probably had led to the situation in the first place, but it also meant that one wasn't entirely defenceless in it.

 

This was the situation that Cassidy Bauer found himself in now. While his grasp on his powers had perhaps gotten a bit rusty over the past year, his vigilance, fortunately, had not, and he'd woken up immediately, fast enough to see whoever was in his room now fall out of seemingly thin air as if they'd been thrown. Of course, the first step always was to tap into his powers, so that mundane attacks would pass through him. Because this looked like one of those situations. Then again, whoever this was, they probably didn't use mundane attacks, judging by their entrance.

 

He pretended to keep sleeping, actually having his eyes closed (at least to the onlooker, he could actually see just fine), as the person got back on their feet, breathing quite heavily, as if they'd been exhausted. Some clattering as they probably tried to grab something from a utility belt – it was hard to tell when there was no light beyond that of the lamps outside shining inside, followed by a familiar voice, hushed but clearly angry.

 

"####."

 

Was it? Cass' heartbeat rocketed even higher than it had already been, because this … was not good in any way.

 

She (?) pulled out what appeared to be some sort of small ball, which proceeded to coat the room in a soft light, noticeable but not nearly as bright as a proper light. Cass remained calm, the light was sudden but he managed to not flinch. He had to keep up this façade for at least a bit longer. The person had now turned to face him, and he could make out a few things about her(!). Her clothes, a fancy utility vest, a shirt below it, a neck scarf and what appeared to be tac-pants, had all seen better days. They were battered and torn, quite recent from the look of it, with what probably was blood in some places.

 

Two things were more concerning than the outfit, however. As it had turned out, Cass' hunch had been right. The person staring down at him clearly was his sister, even if she looked a lot more worn by stress and combat than he'd remembered her. He'd caught her reaction to seeing his face, which was not a positive one at all. He knew his sister, and that look was one she only gave when she was either really annoyed or really distressed.

 

The gun she was now pointing at his head suggested the former. Without a sign of hesitation, she pulled the trigger. The lack of a sound on the shot made the sleeping Cassidy quickly dissolving into a cloud of smoke louder than this trick usually was. His sister's expression just got ever more serious, as her empty hand lit up, becoming fire in the blink of an eye.

 

"Should've known it wouldn't be this easy. So, where are you hiding?"

 

Cass, for his part, was caught with his pants down by this situation. Somewhat literally perhaps, even. He had no idea what was going on – why his sister had just shown up in his room, why she looked like she'd just waded through the jungle, why she had tried to kill him, and perhaps most importantly, why she had powers of her own. He maneuvered himself into a position where he hopefully was safe from any fire-blasts (explaining those to the landlord would be interesting should it come to that, he realized), and began to speak.

 

"Charlie? What the hell is going on here? What are you doing?"

 

She immediately turned around, facing him head-on despite his invisibility, and further charging up a fireball in her hand.

 

"You're one of the ones that don't know, then? Good, makes this entire thing easier."

 

"Know what? What would I be part of? Why are you doing this? And since when do you have powers?"

 

"Need a forward base to message HQ. Gonna do this world some good and take you out while doing so. "

 

Damn, she was, despite the literal flame that was where her arm should be, ice-cold. She didn't mess around. Cass still didn't understand much more, but this clearly wasn't like the past few hitmen that had been sent his way.

 

"Wait, who did I piss off this time? After over a year I'd hoped they wouldn't send any more hitmen after me. Or is this about Beacon? Did I #### up my marketing that badly?"

 

"Ah please, as if Neutron would pull something like this. No idea what your marketing thing is, but that won't get you out of this. This is about all the stuff you pull … in the mists." Her disgust became apparent at those last few words. "God, do I hate that term. "

 

"The what now?"

 

"Come on Cass, don't play dumb. The drugs, the weapons, the information. You know damn well what I mean. And taking out the architect of FC's underworld is gonna do more than enough good to have to deal with that infraction."

 

"I still have no idea what you're talking about, I swear. That sounds like Solemn or Ph0enix or somebody, but not me!"

 

"Cut the Bullshit. Shifting the blame away from you won't help, I've seen all of that enough. I'd let you get in some last words, but that's backfired enough already. "

 

The fireball had by now grown to quite a size, easily as large as Charlie's torso. She didn't fire it forward however – clearly she knew what Cass knew, namely that a fireball wouldn't be able to hurt him that easily. Instead, she moved it towards her other hand, still holding the gun. Now that there was some proper light in the room, the gun was clearly bleeding-edge technology, just from the look. It folded open, and sucked in the fireball in an unnervingly short period of time, as Charlie aimed the shot.

 

"CHARLIE, WAIT! CAVE OATH!"

 

That seemed to make her hesitate for just a moment. Invoking that most holy and cherished bond of their siblinghood was perhaps just what Cass needed right now.

 

"That's new. Fine, I'm intrigued, you get some last words. "

 

"There's some sort of massive misunderstanding here. I think I finally have some rough idea what you're talking about. You aren't my Charlie, are you? As in, you're not from this world?"

 

"Right."

 

"And clearly I'm not the first me you've met. Except that those all were … not me? Tied up in some bad ####, from the sound of it."

 

"Right."

 

"But I've never done any of those things you've listed! I've gone after them, sure … and I worked together with some info brokers before, but all of those had a noble goal. No trafficking or whatever else not-me may have done!"

 

"So you say. "

 

"Is there any way I can prove it?"

 

"Leviathan?"

 

"Went radio silent a while ago, no idea what he's up to."

 

"Ph0enix?"

 

"Disappeared off the grid after everything. I've got some alerts out, apparently she changed her name. I imagine she's still in the biz somehow."

 

"So she's alive?"

 

"Yeah. "

 

"Solemn?"

 

"Locked up, last I heard. There was a scare during a prison break a while ago, but he never made it outside the gates."

 

"His armour?"

 

"At Leviathan's Lair, last I checked. There was some stuff with a few hackers, but it didn't lead to anything."

 

"Ever take it apart?"

 

"No clue. He may have, but not that he told me. "

 

"And what's this about marketing?"

 

"Beacon. It's my job, and the reason I've essentially dropped off the heroing radar this past year. Freelance Marketing and PR, pays quite well. Enough to finally leave the Fens. "

 

Charlie lowered her gun, which vented off some excess heat. Cass had a realization upon seeing that, so that had been how his sister managed to see him even in this form.

 

---------------

 

"So, let me get this straight: In most universes, you have my powers. A lot of them, including your original one, I die, and the ones where I don't and also have powers, I'm usually some kind of mob boss?"

 

"You're generally independent for the most part, but yeah."

 

"And you're part of some sort of dimensional peacekeepers, who ended up in this universe after your teleporter broke during a fight?"

 

"Yes."

 

"With whom?"

 

"Can't tell you. For the sake of you, me, and this world."

 

"And you're saying that your …thingymajick is picking up that something's wrong with this world? And that … more of this could happen? Because of how you got here, or is it independent of that?"

 

"No idea. Fifty-fifty on that one. All I know is that its readings are off the charts, and that's bad no matter what else."

 

Cassidy got up and stretched. By now the sun was showing its face over the horizon, and after the x-th cup (he'd lost track), he finally felt somewhat awake, too.

 

"Say, do you have more of that fancy equipment of yours? "

 

"Why?"

 

"'cause if more of me are gonna show up we better be ready. "

Share this post


Link to post

Sgt Shark

 

Versus the Mighty Mechashark!

 

“I CLAIM THIS WORLD FOR THE GLORY OF THE THIRD EMPIRE OF THE MOST RESPLENDENT MECHANOCRACY!”

 

From the waves of the ocean outside Freedom City came the Mighty Mechashark. It was indeed rather shiny. Technically, it was claiming this whole dimension for the third empire of the most resplendent Mechanocracy, but who would quibble?

 

The Mighty Mechashark was a hundred feet long, its steel teeth two feet long and plentiful. It was bristling with weapons in every fin. It could glide effortlessly through the waves, promising most superior power projection for the Mechanocracy on its own dimension. It was not to be quibbled with.

 

Victorius Finnley was piloting it. The alternate version of Victor Tiberius Finn, this universe’s Sergeant Shark. Victorius Finnley was one of the highest decorated soldiers of the Resplendent Mechanocracy, grizzled and war scarred, brutal and effective. He wore an eye patch over a livid scar that ran down his face. His hair was shaven, his body strong and weathered. But he was still human, unlike Sergeant Shark.

 

The Third Empire of the Most Resplendent Mechanocracy was a universe where Earth was held tightly in the grip of an autocracy that policed its waters and lands with giant mechanised vehicles. Its pilots, the Mechanauts, were revered as heroes. Crime was rare, for the brutal regime insisted on the death penalty for any crime. The price of such a boon was terror and fear in the hearts of any citizen. A terror and fear they could never speak of.

 

Or they would face the uninhibited wrath of a Mechanaut such as Victorius Finnley and his mighty mechashark.

 

Who would quibble with his proclamation in this universe?

 

Why, Sergeant Shark, of course!

 

Also known as Victor Tiberius Finn, Sergeant Shark was hardly a soft hearted man. He had crawled his way through the military, served in the Special Boat Squad, and fought through bullets, howitzers, and knives in multiple wars and hot spots. He, too, might have had scars, but now he was half-man, half-shark, and the scars on his skin had faded. The scars inside, well, that was another matter. Nobody forgets the wars they have fought, the blood they have shed, or the blood they have spilled. Nobody with half a heart, anyway.

And whilst Sergeant Shark was cold killer, he still had half a heart anyway. Which was half a heart (or arguably more) than his Mechanocrantic counterpart. And he had a bone to pick with anyone invading the seas of Freedom City. Or anywhere else in this world.

 

Perhaps Sergeant Shark would parley? Or negotiate? Or give his opponent a chance to surrender?

 

No chance.

 

As far as Sergeant Shark was concerned, this was a clear and present danger. Would he sacrifice the element of surprise as he swam silently below the waves? No. This was a serious threat, and it required a serious countermeasure.

 

He landed on the dorsal fin of the giant robot. It was bristling with weapons and sensors. Mag harpoons, sonic vaporisers, reverse torpedoes, and countless other spikes and holes that he could not begin to work out. He didn’t need to. This was clearly a weapon of war, an instrument of tranny, and knowing its precise architecture was moot.

 

Clinging on as the mechashark swam to the shore, he spent a moment to study the robot up close. It was a feat of engineering, that was for sure, and he did not have the brains nor the expertise to understand it fully. The ocean, however, he did understand, as well as the creatures that lived in it. And the Mechashark borrowed completely from the anatomy and dynamics of its biological counterpart. In the shallows, it would be less manueverable.

 

It was a test of nerves, to delay his assault for a few more seconds until the mechashark had reached the shallows. He would oft wonder, in later times, upon the wisdom of his decision. For in a flash, a volley of microbombs left the fin, arcing towards the city.

That was his signal. He couldn’t wait any longer. Arguably, as the sound of explosions came from the city, he had already left it too late.

 

Even rivetted steel, forged by the hands of the mightiest Mechartists, could not resist the teeth and claws of Sergeant Shark when he put his mind to it. Normal teeth, normal claws, perhaps, but these where radiation forged enamel, and Sergeant Shark was full of a cast iron will stronger than steel.

 

In a flurry of water, he tumbled, somewhat ungraciously, into the rapidly submerging cockpit of the Mechashark.

 

“WARNING! HULL BREACH!” came the automated warning, somewhat redundantly. Victorius was already knee deep in brine. But the battle hardened warrior was not to be panicked. He reached for an oxygen mask, and pulled out his mag-pistol.

 

“Who are you?” he barked as the water slowly rose.

 

“Who are you?” barked Sergeant Shark back. But both knew. They looked different now, but both knew. These dimensional anomalies were not isolated. They knew, alright.

 

“Why are you firing on the city?” asked Sergeant Shark, wondering just how powerful that mag-pistol would be. Enough to sunder his radiation forged flesh?

 

“War” retorted Victorius. “I would have thought you knew that. Unless you are some degenerate weakling version of me. In which case, I should fire and put you out of your misery”

 

“Grrrr” responded Sergeant Shark, grinding his teeth. “I’ve seen plenty of War. Had my blood spilled, but spilled more” he explained, almost savouring the recalled taste. “But war is a means, not an end. It’s a brutal beast, but tyranny must be met with force”

 

“War is the end. It is the only truth, the only order” replied Victorius, who craved the crushing conflict of the Mechanocracy. “It is the elevation of man’s spirit to the sublime. It is how we know ourselves, and how we are known”

 

This sounded like propaganda to Sergeant Shark. But it also sounded like the kind of Propoganda Victorius felt, not mindlessly repeated rhetoric. It was propaganda that was lovingly embraced and caressed.

 

He started forward an inch, but Victorius was sharp and met the movement with his own thrust of the gun. He didn’t fire. Not yet.

 

“Do you not love the taste of bones under you boot? Of blood on your brow? Of cold fury?” asked Victorius. “Come with me. Together we could bring order to this madness of a world…”

 

It was not that the words did not drum home to some part of Victor’s brain. They did. But he also knew the madness that gripped a man after too much battle. That fever that never truly left. That craving for war, even if one opposed it. Some kind of compulsion to relive the horror. And, whilst Victorius spoke seductively, Sergeant Shark knew that there were ways and means to those pleasures. And war, tyranny, and oppression would send him mad. A madness he would embrace. But one he should not.

 

“We could” he growled. “But we wont…” he hissed.

 

No. Sergeant Shark would give this warped battle mad version of himself a taste of fury. He leapt forward, eyes blazing, teeth glinting, claws rending. He was fast, but so was Victorius. The mag-gun hummed and flared, the electro-magnetically accelerated bullet started to flow forwards, cutting a shockwave through the sloshing water around them.

 

Time seemed to slow, and the moment hung in the air as dimensions rumbled and splintered.

 

And then, whatever piece of elastic that had thrown the might mechashark forward to this dimension rapidly contracted, pulling the mechashark and Victorius back through strange space to the love and hate of the resplendent mechanocracy.

 

But not Sergeant Shark. He got left in a vacuum vortex of the oceans of Freedom City. Few if any were as at home as he was underwater, but the sudden disappearance of the Mechashark created a momentary storm underwater, and he tumbled. His ears were ringing and his nose was bleeding.

 

He was indeed tasting his own blood.

 

As he came to a halt, he felt that cold fury in his blood turn hot. Victorius was vile, and worst still, not so different. But if he ever met the tyrant again, Sergeant Shark would be tasting blood.

 

Just not his own.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×