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20/20 Hindsight - Janurary / Februrary Vignette 2021


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You awake on what should be a new day of a New Year to find that everything is somehow wrong. It doesn’t take you long to discover that you have been cast adrift in time, some by only a few years some by decades and even centuries.

 

Where you’ve ended up depends on you, some to consider however are:

 

  • Somewhere in your own timeline, in the past possibly before or at the point of gaining your power, or even a potential future you.

  • Meet a legacy version of your superhero identity, maybe one from the past or even from the future.

  • One of the vital events of the history of superheroes.

  • One of many events from the site, though obviously ask if you want to involve other players characters.

  • Miss an earlier vignette? Nows your chance to take part!

 

As time is unstuck you can change history as you wish, though as is the norm you can choose to have something have changed when things return to normal.

 

Remember to be respectful if your dealing with real world effects, and to keep things to the normal PC-13.

 

Your time travel shenanigans should be posted no later than the 28th Februrary 2021.

 

(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.)

 

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Miss Americana

 

(I have taken a couple of liberties with this time-travel related prompt, but there is definitely time traveling! Also, for anybody who was not present for our last time travel vignette in 2011, this story will make more sense after reading this vignette.)

 

The worst thing about having an inhumanly gorgeous superpowered robot as one's public face, Gina decided as she put a third coat of fingernail polish on Miss Americana's perfect digits, was definitely the maintenance required. It was easy enough to get Miss A's wardrobe professionally tailored, now that the money was no kind of problem, but she couldn't trust that a manicurist might not notice imperfections in the finger joints while paying such close attention. And of course ding removal and paint touch-ups were out of the question. Sure, people knew now, but it was a matter of principle. Gina had gotten surprisingly good with tiny little paintbrushes over the past decade or so, much better than she'd ever been at using makeup brushes on herself.

 

To occupy herself while she worked, she had the robot reciting its diagnostic results while it ran self-scanning subroutines. There was nothing particularly interesting, but it was still just a bit odd to hear the information come from a voice she thought of as her own. With all ten nails finally done, Gina set her curling iron to heating up and then turned to enter a few notes about possible upgrades. Tucked away in her basement lab, with Steve working a night shift and Jonathan Coulton playing softly in the background, it was all very quiet and peaceful... until it wasn't.

 

The flash of light made Gina jump but failed to blind her, but the accompanying boom was not at all kind to her ears. The immediate whooping of her intruder siren also didn't help. Without even needing to think, she brought every camera and defensive weapon in the lab to bear... on a couple of Great White Hunters straight out of classic Hollywood, except nerdier and with some very weird-looking steampunk gadgets fixed to their khaki suits and pith helmets.

 

“What the hell?” Gina demanded.

 

The man, taller and definitely nerdier of the pair, jumped as she addressed him, then raised an honest-to-god vacuum-tube raygun on her. Gina was so delighted she almost forgot to wonder if it could hurt her. She wanted to see it really badly. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask when he shouted “Vile kidnapper! I've come for my wife!”

 

“What the hell?” Gina said again. “I haven't kidnapped anybody! Who's your wife?”

 

“Marcus!” Gina jumped again, then spun to see the goddamned bot sitting up on the exam bed, smiling at the newcomers. She was not supposed to be doing that.

 

“Anna, darling!” The man, Marcus apparently, shoved the raygun into his female companion's hands and ran over to Miss Americana. He cupped her face in both hands, and rather than activating a proximity subroutine and shoving him away, the damn bot allowed it. “We were so afraid for you! Louise and I have been searching since the moment you disappeared, but at last we've found you and you can come home!”

 

“That's so sweet of you!” Miss Americana trilled, one of a few dozen programmed responses. The Miss Americana AI was closer to Siri than to Sharl, designed to cover any lapses if Gina were to fall out of gestalt with the robot during use. It was not exactly a sophisticated interface. “Tell me more about that.” This didn't seem to bother the man any, who grabbed the bot up and hugged it.

 

“What...is...happening” Gina asked slowly, looking from the crazy man cuddling her robot to the possibly-slightly-less-crazy woman with the pith helmet and raygun still standing near her. The woman handled the raygun like she was more used to a conventional weapon, but almost certainly knew how to shoot. She looked kind of unhappy with the whole situation, Gina, Marcus, robot and all. “Who are you people?”

 

Marcus was pretty busy either feeling up the robot or checking her for injuries, so the woman took over introductions. “My name is Louise Morgan and that is Marcus Wainwright, my... associate.” That word was packed with enough feelings to raise Gina's eyebrows. “We're here to collect Anna, and you will not be standing in our way.”

 

“I think it's pretty likely I will be,” Gina countered, not getting up from her stool, “but I'm desperate to know the story here.” Her eyes lit up. “Oh my god, does this have something to do with the ring she came home with after the time slip? Have you been looking for her all this time?”

 

“I have not eaten or slept in five months,” Marcus declared grandly, half-turning from the robot. “Not until I perfected the mechanism to track this poor lost lamb through time and space!”

 

“Five months, huh?” Gina asked. “It's been ten years on this end, so... nice try, I guess?”

 

His jaw dropped as he looked to Miss Americana. “Ten years? It cannot be, she looks the same!”

 

“Marcus, you have not eaten in five months,” Miss Americana said warmly. “You should take a break and have a meal.”

 

Gina's eyes narrowed. “You... wait a minute. You married her, right? You've gotta know she's not human. Didn't you notice the-” She made a vague gesture towards her own torso and hips, vaguely suggesting all the nonstandard anatomy that would be pretty obvious without the robot's elaborate wardrobe. “The lack thereof? Didn't you guys ever get naked?”

 

Marcus drew himself up, looking offended but also weirdly nervous as he glanced at Louise. “My Anna and I enjoyed a relationship of the purest platonic love and affection! To sully that bond with vulgarity-”
 

“Wait just a moment!” Louise cut in, looking offended.

 

“I- that is, I mean... in this particular case,” Marcus stammered. “What you and I have is totally different, which is to say... nothing we have together would be possible without Anna...”

 

Louise cut him off again, the raygun wobbling for just a moment as though she weren't sure she wanted to keep it trained on Gina. It was Gina she addressed, though. “Of course we know she isn't real, even if it took this brilliant fellow nearly a month to catch on. The repeated phrases were odd enough, but the way she lost power after staying in a dim room for too long was a bit of a giveaway. He's just hoping that if you believe in the power of love, you'll let us have her back without a fuss.”

 

“Louise!” Marcus cried, dismayed. “How could you?”

 

“How could I?” Louise demanded, the gun dipping in her hand as she turned to face him. “How could you, Marcus? I never should have gone along with your farcical idea in the first place. I love you, and I don't care what society thinks of me having a career! You didn't have to marry some... some automaton just because your parents approved and she wouldn't get in our way! And then, just when I thought we could finally be free of her, you became obsessed with getting her back and starting all over again! Is it me you love, or her?” The pith-helmeted woman was yelling now, the gun waving wildly. Gina watched in complete fascination, but made sure to nudge the lab's defensive fields to nullify whatever the raygun might shoot, whoever it might be aimed at.

 

“Louise, my darling, you know my feelings for you are deeper than the seas and truer than the north star!” Marcus proclaimed. “My parents' backing is vital to the continuation of our work? Would you have me support our research as a coal miner or a penniless tutor?”

 

“If your love for me is so deep, then why is 'Anna' your beloved wife while I remain your “associate?” Louise demanded. The robot was watching the byplay as well, Gina noted, with a vacuous sort of delight. She was going to have to tinker with those facial expressions some. “Are you so ashamed of me, even in the farflung world of two thousand twenty?”

 

“Of course not!” Marcus suddenly abandoned Miss Americana entirely, bounding back across the lab to seize Louise by both wrists. The gun fell, making Gina dive out of the way, but it merely clattered to the floor and made a sad little “phoo” noise as something inside it shattered. “I could never be ashamed of you, my darling, not in two hundred years, not in two thousand! I believed that you approved of my plans with Anna; had I but known how I would make you feel-”

 

“I thought I could bear only loving you in private!” Louise cried passionately, “but I was wrong! Every loving word you speak to that clockwork woman is a dagger in my chest! I don't know how I can bear it any longer!”

 

“Then you will never have to!” Marcus promised. “We shall leave her in the future and never speak of her again!”

 

“Are you leaving?” Miss Americana asked. Gina thought she might look, impossibly, slightly offended.

 

“I apologize for intruding on you, strange future-person,” Marcus told Gina, sketching an awkward little bow. “I see you have taken fine care of the clockwork woman who helped my beloved and I find happiness, and I thank you for that. I beg of you to give her a good home here, while we return to ours.” He turned to his companion with a tender smile. “Are you ready, my love?”

 

“Oh, more than.” Louise pulled him down for a passionate kiss, just as another bright light and loud boom stole the pair away.

 

In the echoing silence, Gina sat very still for a moment, then looked at the robot. Miss Americana looked back, her smile blank and banal. “You, young lady, are grounded.”

 

“Okay,” the robot chirped.

 

 

 

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Wander and Singularity (Uncredited for Wander)

 

 

Jessie was having a good dream that night, a circumstance rare enough that it was extra-disappointing to be woken by a sudden fall from the sky. It couldn't have been from too high up, no more than thirty or forty feet, because by the time she woke to the feeling of wind on her face, she was also experiencing the feeling of grass in her mouth and painful impact on her body. The whole thing was enough to stun her for a few moments, so that she was still immobile when something next to her started moving. And swearing.

 

“Goddamn you Mark Lucas, if I find out you've been messing around again I'm gonna-” Jessie tensed until she recognized the voice, her own voice but not, growly and crabby but not hurt and not particularly scared. Erin's voice got softer as she came closer, feet sounds quiet in the wet grass. “Jessie? Hey Jess, you okay?”

 

Jessie pushed herself up to all fours and then to seiza posture, brushing grass off her blue flannel pajamas. “I'm okay,” she assured her double. “Are you?” Erin didn't look too much the worse for wear aside from a grass stain on one cheek and crunched leaves in her hair. She was wearing little shorts and a men's dress shirt that had probably been black before all the grass clippings. It was hard to tell since it wasn't quite dawn and there weren't many streetlights wherever they were. “What happened?”

 

“I don't know,” Erin said grimly. “But I don't think it can be anything good. Look where we are.”

 

Jessie rose and took a closer look at their surroundings, her breath catching in her throat. “Home,” she murmured. Even after all this time, it was still the first word that came to mind when she saw the pretty blue two-story house on its nice neat lawn, basketball hoop over the garage, a trio of painted pumpkins on the front stoop. “How are we in Seattle? I was in Freedom City, I swear it.” She tried her best not to get nervous. Technically she wasn't on parole anymore, and the suggestion that she always let someone know if she were going to travel was just that, a suggestion.

 

“I was too,” Erin agreed, her voice still flat and tight. “We didn't just get moved across the country, though.” She flicked a glance Jessie's direction and looked momentarily unsure. “What was the date when you went to bed?”

 

That was sometimes a hard question, but not today. “January 2, 2021,” she rattled off immediately. “The day after New Year's.” There had been a party at Eve's house at the top of the tower, and it had been fun! Jessie had managed to last all the way until midnight too, with only a couple of long breathers in a bathroom to collect herself. On New Year's Day she'd showed Aquaria how to make black eyed peas even if the Deep One would not try more than a taste, and they'd decided not to take down the Christmas tree quite yet because it was so pretty. She'd spent the rest of that day and most of the night painting it so she'd remember it, which was probably why she'd been so tired this evening at bedtime. “What about for you?”

 

“Yeah, me too.” Erin blew her breath out in a huff. “Look at the house. It's got Halloween decorations on it. Not to mention they took that hoop down years ago and put new shutters on the upstairs windows.”

 

“It looks just how I remember,” Jessie admitted.

 

“Yeah, I know,” Erin agreed grimly. “That's what I'm worried about. Come on.”

 

(Spoiler-cut for length, click for the rest of the story!)

Spoiler

The two women crept towards the house in the dim predawn light, Erin taking the lead with no hesitation. “We need to find out exactly when this is, and then how we got here and how we get home. Have you got anything useful on you?”

 

Jessie rummaged through her pajama pockets and produced a blue pastel chalk, two dog treats, and a scrap of paper with the words “milk, cereal, bagels, LOBSTERS” scrawled on it underneath a sketch of the Christmas tree. “Not really,” she admitted.

 

Erin didn't even have pockets so she was in no better shape. “I guess we should be grateful we're both wearing clothes,” she muttered. “This way, Dad never remembered to lock the cellar door.” As they crept around the side of the house, she swiped the morning paper from the front stoop.

 

Another minute of sneaking and they were both inside, tiptoeing around stored planters and the old croquet set. Jessie's head was starting to hurt with the warning ache she got when she spent too long poking around in her repaired memories. Even though she and Erin had shared a childhood and even though Eve and Alex had worked hard to seamlessly splice in whatever they could of what was lost, something in her brain wanted to reject the implanted memories like a poorly matched organ transplant. Being in a house that triggered so many memories just made it worse. Erin looked uncomfortable too, but not like she was ready to bolt out the door. Instead, she pulled the string to turn on the overhead bulb and unrolled the paper. Her caught breath raised the hairs on the back of Jessie's neck. “November third, 2006.”

 

“The last day of school,” Jessie murmured. Even her fractured memories captured that date clearly. “I never even got to go back and clean out my locker.”

 

“Yeah, exactly,” Erin nodded. “The story comes out today about that school in Michigan and everything shuts down because nobody else wants to see a whole classroom sick at once.” She actually laughed at that, but it was an agonized sound that made Jessie hug her own elbows.

 

“How are we even here?” Jessie asked after Erin fell silent. “I mean, why would we be here now?”

 

“I don't know,” Erin admitted. “Maybe we're supposed to fix something. Maybe somebody sent us here to teach us a lesson, or maybe it's just some cosmic accident.” She set the paper down and scrubbed hard at her face with both hands. “I talked to a lot of people the first couple years after everything happened. Everybody told me that time travel couldn't solve anything, that the best I could do was make another divergent timeline that would have another Erin living in it. It wouldn't actually prevent anything that already happened to me.” She looked up, met Jessie's eyes. “But I don't see how we can't try now that we're here.”

 

Jessie thought about that. There were already so many versions of them running around in the multiverse, but nearly all the ones they'd met were the result of the same catastrophe in one form or another. Maybe it would be good to have one more world with an Erin who never got hurt. She nodded. “What should we do?”

 

Erin hesitated. “I'm not sure. I don't exactly have my usual resources to call on here and now. I could call Trevor, but he's barely out of middle school. And Travis...” She shook her head. “We can figure something out once we know what we're facing. Right now we need to get a TV and computer and see what's happening out there. Once all of these people go to school or work, the house will be empty, so we'll sit tight.”

 

It was hard to sit tight, huddled under the cellar stairs with Erin, her ears easily able to pick up voices from the kitchen. Jessie vaguely remembered that in the present, the future present, the basement was finished and there was a little rumpus room down here, but now it was all Christmas decorations and hand-me-down clothes. Trying to distract herself, she began rummaging in a box marked “old toys” and pulled out a handful of Beanie Babies.

 

“Look,” she told Erin, “do you remember these?”

 

Erin definitely looked like she was stifling an “of course I remember those, you would not remember them if I hadn't given you the memory” but all she actually said was “ssshhhh.” Jessie sighed and put the toys back, defiantly shoving the crab beanie into her pocket at the last moment. They were hers, more or less, and Aquaria would get a kick out of it. If they ever got home.

 

“Listen,” Erin told her, still in a whisper. “We don't know what we might have to do to stop the plague. It's not very likely anybody's going to listen to us, at least not right away. We might even have to fight if things go bad. Are you ready for that?”

 

“I guess?” Jessie offered, also in a whisper. “I mean, at least you and I aren't going to get sick like the other heroes, right? Maybe they'll listen to Uncle Aaron more if they have us for living proof.”

 

Erin's face went blank-surprised for a second, then she rubbed her hands over her eyes again. “Yeah, that's actually... that's a really good point. He can be our first stop once we get out of here. We'll get him, then we get to Doctor Atom in Freedom City, and we don't move until they take us seriously, whatever it takes.”

 

It seemed to take forever for all the noises upstairs to stop. Neither of them had a watch and there was no sunlight so there was no real way to tell how long they waited, but at last the dishwasher noise clicked on and Dad's heavy footsteps went out the back door. Then it was quiet. They waited awhile after that, but the silence was making Erin even twitchier than Jessie so eventually they gave up and dashed up the stairs. The kitchen was neat and smelled faintly of soap, but Erin looked around like it was something disgusting she'd never seen before. Jessie gave her two minutes to stare blankly at the floor in front of the kitchen sink, then nudged her arm. Erin flinched.

 

“We need to go watch TV,” Jessie reminded her.

 

For a second, Erin looked like she wanted to hit something, maybe even Jessie, but she sucked in a breath and pulled herself together. “Yeah, let's go to the living room.”

 

Jessie did remember how to work the remote control with no problem, even though it was the ridiculous one with a million buttons that Mom always complained about. She almost went to Animal Planet just on reflex, but that wouldn't be useful. The TV Guide channel took her to CNN, where the top story on everyone's lips was... some pastor getting arrested.

 

“Who's Ted Haggard?” she asked.

 

“No idea,” Erin replied, studying the news with a furrowed brow. “But he definitely shouldn't have done all that meth. Or that hooker. What the hell is this? Where are the top stories?”

 

“I think that is the top story,” Jessie offered, just as confused. “That, or the Congressman resigning, or Cory Lidle smashing his plane into a building. I don't remember that either,” she added.

 

“Let's check the computer,” Erin insisted. Computers were a lot slower in 2006 than Jessie had remembered, plus there was only one of them in the entire house since Dad took his laptop back and forth to work. While Erin muttered and threatened to smack the machine, Jessie wandered around the den, touching photo frames and little mementos on the desk, looking at their old school portraits.

 

“I wish I had my phone,” she mused. “I'd take some pictures of these so we could have them.” Erin had a few photo albums she'd managed to save from the ruined house before the whole world dissolved, but most of these pictures weren't among them. She wondered if it would be okay to steal a few photos, if they were going to be changing the future anyway. It was probably still wrong, even if it wouldn't cause a paradox.

 

“Finally!' Erin exclaimed. “Here we go... no, it's the same garbage. Nobody is talking about the flu at all. What the hell?”

 

“Check the CDC,” Jessie offered. “Maybe Wikipedia? Maybe people don't want to talk about the flu.”

 

“All I remember is people talking about the flu,” Erin countered, but she navigated that way anyway. The CDC was worried about a new strain of bird flu that had killed fifty-six people and a lot of birds in Indonesia. There was nothing about a new fatal flu strain, nothing about coming quarantines, nothing about safety procedures or shortages or testing. “There's nothing here.”

 

“How could this be the last day of school if nobody even knows about the flu?” Jessie asked, trying her best not to wring her hands from the growing anxiety. “How could they not know about the flu by now? We all knew about it, even Megan and her friends. It doesn't make any sense!”

 

Erin stared into the computer screen. “Yes it does,” she finally said. “It makes perfect sense, because we got sent back into the past, but we didn't get sent back into our past. This is what happened on November 3, 2006 on Earth Prime. There's nothing to stop, because nothing ever happened. It was just a normal day. 'Scuse me.” She stood up from the computer very carefully, brushed past Jessie, and walked out through the kitchen and into the backyard. Through the den window, Jessie could see her drop to her knees and punch the ground hard enough to sink her hand to the wrist. Biting her lip, Jessie turned off the computer and followed her out.

 

By the time Jessie got outside, Erin had freed her hand from the ground and was sitting crosslegged, brushing dirt off her fingers. She looked like she didn't want anybody to talk to her for the rest of forever, but Jessie could ignore that. She walked over to the old tire swing and gave it an experimental tug before climbing onto it and hooking her feet through the middle. “It's probably good,” she offered. “That it's a normal day, I mean. Isn't that a better thing to have happen than all those people dying?”

 

“Of course it's good,” Erin snapped. “It's not like I wanted there to be a plague. I just thought maybe... I thought maybe this time there's be a chance. But there isn't, and there's never going to be one. I'm like Charlie Brown and that goddamned football, only the football is an entire planet full of people and I'm way too old to keep falling for it! It's just... it's all so stupid.”

 

“Yeah,” Jessie agreed. “The whole universe is very stupid. Bad things happen all the time for no reason, and even if we manage to fix them, anybody who's ever been to another dimension has to think about how maybe somewhere else, it didn't get fixed. But there's nothing we can do about that.” She rocked her body, sending the tire swinging gently back and forth. “Nobody can fix everything. We know there are versions of us out there who have it really bad, and lots who died, and lots of worlds we'll never even know about. But you saved me, and I have to believe that's important, even if just to me and not to the multiverse. It means something.”

 

The creak of the swing was loud in the silence that followed. Jessie was okay with silence. Sometimes it took a long time to sort out the right thing to say. Sometimes the right thing to say never showed up at all. Finally Erin took a deep breath. “Yeah. Yeah. We fell out of time and landed in a universe that maybe we don't need to save for once. I'll take it as a win. So all we need to do now is figure out how to get home.”

 


 

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REBELLION

End of the Road


---

 

Why was the sky so dark?

 

It should be morning by now. Maybe some grey clouds blocking the sun, but nothing like this. This darkness was complete, like it was suffocating the sun itself.

 

Wait.

 

Why was the sky there?

 

It should have been a ceiling, not a dark sky above him.

 

Then, the rain began, and Elliot opened his eyes. He wasn’t in a bed anymore. He was somewhere else, lying on something hard. He was on a rooftop somewhere. The rain was starting to come down hard on him by now, it would be pouring within minutes.

 

Elliot sat up, then stood. How did he get here? Where was this, even? The cityscape around him was familiar, and yet, not quite. It looked like Emerald City, but not quite, not anymore. It had changed from when he last saw it. Skyscrapers stretched to the sky, lit up by advertisements and holographic lightshows. Flying cars moved in the distance. What was that? It was his city, but not… Not the way it should be. Changes like that didn’t happen overnight, so what had happened?

 

He heard noise from the alley below. A struggle, a fight. Good. Something simple. Moving to the edge of the rooftop, Elliot pulled his mask from his pocket and put it on. His entire body went dark as he leapt from the rooftop, catching on to a wall and sliding down, before leaping from it to land heavily on the ground in the middle of the fight.

 

Elliot froze. He should have looked before he leapt. A lone man, clad in blue suit and with a fedora, was fighting against a group of armored men. The man moved among them, twisting and turning. They never even came close to hitting him, while he brutally tore them apart. One armored man went flying into a wall. Another man was thrown into his friends. It was a brutal, one-sided fight, and Elliot barely saw it. He was completely focused on the man in blue. The man whose face was completely black, with only glowing white eyes.

 

The fight ended as quickly as it had begun, with the lone man holding up one of the armored men. He was silent, his white eyes almost appearing to look into the armored man’s soul. He screamed. He was unconscious before he hit the pavement when the lone man dropped him.

 

“About time.” The lone man turned to Elliot. He crossed his arms. “You’re late.”

 

“What?” Elliot found himself at a loss for words. The man knew he was there, and he was late? Late for what?

 

The man raised a finger, pointing at his own head. “C’mon, we’re smarter than that. I’m you, you’re me.”

 

“What?” Elliot was still at a loss, but he was slowly regaining some hint of composure. “How… what?”

 

“Don’t know. Not important. You won’t be here long, anyway.” Walking up close, the Future Rebellion put a hand on Elliot’s shoulder and pulled him up straight. “Stand straight. Shut up. Listen to what I’m telling you.”

 

Something felt off about the future Rebellion. Elliot could not quite place it. He felt… resigned? Hopeful, but bitter? It was… weird.

 

“What’re you talking about? How is that not important? What is this, time travel? Psychic dream thing? What?” Elliot was yelling. He knew that. He did not care.

 

“You’re at the beginning of our story. I’m at the end. It’s that simple. Now, are you ready to listen?”

 

Elliot felt a raindrop falling on his cheek. Then another. The rain would be heavy before long. He stared at his older self, remaining silent.

 

“Good. Can’t tell you everything. Things have to happen. The Chamber is real, they’re out there, controlling the city. Don’t let up, don’t ever hesitate. They are monsters. They will do monstrous things. All for them. All to gain more power, to secure their stranglehold on the city. They won’t ever let up. You can’t either.”

 

Future Rebellion looked up. His lips parting to reveal a glowing white silhouette where his mouth should be. “They’ll be here soon.” He scoffed at the thought. “You can’t do it alone. Find allies. Trust them. On your own, you die. It is as simple as that. Dig deep, find the evidence. Don’t be rash. If you give them the slightest chance, they will destroy you. As simple as that.”

 

Elliot stared at his future self as he paused again, looking up. More men in the strange armors, on the rooftops all around them. There was a sort of motif to them. He feels like he should recognize it.

 

“Chessmen. Cyborgs wearing old Ultio tech.” His glowing white mouth twisted into a smile. “Dangerous in numbers. Keep on your guard.”

 

Without a word, the Chessmen dropped into the alley, some with guns, some with blades, all swarming towards Rebellion. The future Rebellion moved with purpose. He threw a baton. It ricocheted among the Chessmen, before falling back into his hand. He moved with purpose, with clarity, fighting his way through them, his fear aura in full effect. Elliot could almost feel it, as he fought back against the horde.

 

Suddenly, the future Rebellion was behind him, sending a Chessman to the ground with a kick. “You’ll need WonderTech. Find the right allies that can do that. Every advantage you can get, find it.” Elliot looked at his hands. He felt weird. Something was happening. The older him seemed to pause, considering his words carefully. “Find Tomiko in Jadetown. She will… care about us. Just one voice is enough to wake the sleeping giant, but you will need all the help you can get.”

 

And then the younger Elliot was gone.

 

Rebellion stared at the spot where his past self had stood a second ago. The rain was feeling heavily now. He held a hand to his side, put it up to look at the blood. Hopefully his younger self had not seen the knife he took for him.

 

This was it. The end of the road.

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Echoes of Legacy

Crimson Tiger

Mali clutched her knees. Her breath was ragged, her eyes, wide. She had traveled through dimensions, she had seen strange sights that most would never believe. She had fought alongside powerful people. What she had not ever expected was to travel through time. She had met her great-grandfather. She had met the Black Tiger. She knew how he died. She knew why he died. She knew the answer to a mystery that was nearly a hundred years old. It was a sight she would never forget.

 

She had somehow slipped through time. She had landed in Bangkok, decades ago. From the chill of a Freedom City winter to the sultry heat of a Bangkok summer.

 

Her great-grandfather was the tallest man of Thai descent she had ever met. He was over six feet tall, and looked every bit like the warrior she had imagined. She knew he was past his prime, but he still looked terrifying. She didn't know if she could take him. Despite her youth, her experience, and her application of 21st century science to the art they both practiced, the Black Tiger was a living legend.

 

He had listened to her bizarre explanation. When she showed him a few family techniques, he was convinced. He had written those techniques down in a cipher and had never taught them to anyone. He was planning to. He hadn't gotten around to it, and never would. She knew that his notes would be translated some five years after his death, and would form the foundation of the style she now practiced, the Benjawan family branch of Muay Thai.

 

They moved in concert. His blows were so precise, so powerful, that he crumped everyone he punched. He was a machine. He was a breathtaking fighter, a poet with his feet, knees, fists and elbows. He had allowed him to fight with her. She must accept that he was to die that night.

 

She watched him throw armed men around like ragdolls. She watched him disarm them, throwing rifles and pistols away. She watched as her great-grandfather, pushing 50, kicked a man straight through a solid wooden door and stalk through the frame. She couldn't fathom fighting him in his prime. He had reach, he had power, he had experience. Even if she won, it would be rough.

 

He had gotten a simple note earlier that evening. A massive cache of opium was moving in to Bangkok that evening. He didn't know who sent it, and he did anticipate a trap. He was the Black Tiger, and time was catching up to him. What better way to die than to do what he loved?

So she stayed behind as he entered the last room. She shrank into the shadows as the gunfire rang out. Black Tiger was a master of Muay Thai, an absolute terror of a combatant, a man to fear. He was, however, a mere mortal. There were fits of gunfire, she could tell they were semi-automatic pistols, or revolvers. When silence filled the air, it took everything she had in her to avoid crying. She would have to find a way to go back home, to keep this dark secret. Black Tiger died walking into a trap. He died being shot by a dozen men with a dozen guns, and his body was tossed into the water. That was the end of her great-grandfather. That was the story she would tell her parents.

 

The truth, however, was different. No voices spoke out when the gunfire ended. She didn't hear the shuffling of feet, or the movement of bodies. There was nothing but silence. She crept around the corner and peeked into the room.

 

He was standing in the middle of the room with a grin on his face. Somehow, against all odds, he won. Her experience as a crime fighter showed her the secrets. He hadn't walked into the middle of an ambush. He had peeked in, shattered the light in the center of the ceiling, and bolted into the shadows. The men had all turned to follow his movements, but in the darkness they were inexperienced, and he was a master. They had spread themselves out to make sure he would arrive directly in the path of their shots, but that gave him room to move. Her great-grandfather had taken down ten armed men who intended to ambush him.

 

“I won.” He grinned. “I thought maybe that your presence here was a clue, like you were here to see me to my grave. So I thought about how I might die. I peeked through the door and saw them standing there. Then, all I had to do was...”

 

He began to dissolve into particles of light. He stared at his hand, blinking as every part of his body separated from the others. He didn't scream, he didn't cry out, the last look on his face was a strange, fascinated look on his face, and then a broad smile.

 

Over the next week, she did research into the night Black Tiger died. According to family history, he had gone on one last mission. They found a bunch of armed men knocked unconscious, and seized a great deal of opium. Her great-grandfather, however, was nowhere to be found. The assumption was that he died sometime later that night.

 

The facts matched. Black Tiger did not die that night. His great-granddaughter arrived from the future, accidentally altered the future slightly, and saved his life. Then, because he was now a paradox in time, he vanished. Maybe that's how it worked? She knew alternate timelines existed. Did she actually create one of those? If so, how, and why? She would need to speak to someone who understood time travel and alternate dimensions far more than she did. She did eventually fall asleep. Now that she had some questions she could ask, she had a problem she might be able to solve.

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