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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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Nightmare in Colour

Chitin 20/20 Hindsight Vignette

 

Greater Freedom City, 20XX

 

“Danger! Poison!”

 

The billowing green mist obscured the intruder as the lab’s in-house security forces opened fire, forcing them back to a safer distance and sending up sparks where the corrosive gas ate into sensitive circuitry. Only the silhouette of their scuffed black armour could be seen racing down the hallway, fluorescent overhead lights glinting off of gunmetal spikes. They turned to look back just long enough to show the red glow of their helmet’s X shaped visor before sliding under the next security checkpoint door before it could slam closed.

 

“Stand down. I’ll handle this.” The green cloud dispersed ahead of the Carapace Corp officer who’d responded to the alarm as he spun his lance sidearm like a fan, the speed assist of his glossy white and mirror sheen armour accelerating it into a blur of movement. He gave the guards a reassuring thumbs up with his free hand while snapping his lance to a halt in the other. “Everybody goes home to their families today. That’s a Carapace Commitment.” The tilt of his head gave the distinct impression he was winking behind the large oval lenses of his helmet.

 

The intruder grabbed a protesting scientist by the collar of his lab coat and tossed him into the wall at the back of the control room, cracking an expensive looking touch screen whiteboard in the process. Yanking out a universal jack, connected by a brightly coloured ribbon cable to the wrist of their armour, they connected to the terminal in front of them and began typing furiously on the projected holographic keyboard, swiping repeatedly in the air to dismiss warning pop-ups with the motion controls.

 

Just as the pneumatic locks on the door to the adjoining chamber disengaged the ribbon cable was sliced in half by a lance strike that only barely missed the intruder. Sparks sizzled against their patch-emblazoned leather jacket as they vaulted over the terminal bank to avoid Carapace’s follow-up swing. Landing in a crouch next to a small pyramid of fuel tanks they produced a red capped cylinder, gave it a vigorous shake and slammed it lengthwise into the cobbled together components attached to their belt.

 

“Danger! Flammable!”

 

A gout of flame erupted from above their wrist with a low roar, encompassing most of the control room and bathing it in angry orange light. Carapace calmly lowered his lance to point at the centre of the conflagration and racked the slide back with a satisfying clack.

 

Drop your weapon!The expanding blaze reversed course as it was sucked into the tip of the lance. The converted energy traveled up the length of the sidearm in a cascade of reds and oranges, up his armour’s arm and across the chest plate in a stylish starburst pattern. Copy! Paste! Go!

 

“You know what this means, right?” the peacekeeping officer asked not unkindly, tapping a finger to the centre of the pattern.

 

 “Sure,”  the intruder’s voice rasped through their helmet’s heavy audio filters.  “Means I don’t have to feel bad about this.”  Hooking a booted toe under the edge of one of the fuel tanks they popped it into the air like a soccer ball before launching it at Carapace with a spin kick. Simultaneously they gave a new, blue capped canister a rattling shake and shoved it into their belt.

 

“Danger! Under pressure!”

 

The shockwave struck the tank midair and pierced it, each of the armoured combatants leaping away in opposite directions just before it exploded. The control room’s equipment came crashing down all around Carapace, who had just enough presence of mind to use himself to shield the unconscious scientist. Pinned under the weight of a fallen bank of supercomputers, his heads-up display rapidly adjusting for the afterimages of the explosion, he strained to make out the intruder through the shattered remains of the window to the adjoining chamber. “Hnh! Who-- who are you?!”

 

 “Chitin Runner Canister.”  They stepped onto the pad of the experimental and clearly no longer top secret temporal shunt machine. The startup sequence already locked in by the malware they’d uploaded, the damaged readout to their left read ‘2021’. As a blinding blue light engulfed them and a rising hum filled the room they added,  “But all you need to know is I’m the one who’s going to kill Ryder Fujioka.” 

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Watchdog and Daystar 

January 20, 2021 

Inauguration Day 

 

Corinne's apartment 

New York City 

 

In stories, standing up to people who are hurting you always works. Maybe they turn out to be a big baby and run away crying, maybe you beat them up and that's the end of that chapter, or maybe you just win them over with your sweet words. But that's not always how it works in real life. And that's not how it worked when I told my parents I wasn't going to be their tool anymore. 

 

Judy wasn't entirely sure how it was Corinne was altering the nature of the pizza slice in her hand so that she could actually taste it and digest it, but it was working and that was all she cared about. The inauguration was on at her insistence and she was watching the crowd with a skeptical eye, pointing out the foibles of all the figures she recognized. "Oh he farts real bad when he thinks nobody is paying attention, but everyone is just too polite to say anything because he's on the Supreme Court. Oh Lord have mercy, how long is this poet going to go on?" 

And those were hard times. I wasn't alone, though. I had my family - my sisters, who chose to side with me over our mother and father until we could make them see some reason - and I had the family I helped make when I was in school. You already know some of them. It wasn't easy, but I found my way through it and became the woman I am today. And I had my God, even if sometimes His voice was very hard to hear. 

 

Leaning back against the far wall of the room, Ashley shot a glance out the window long enough to confirm that the street detail was still there. Watching the outgoing child of a soon-to-be former President wasn't exactly a high-prestige posting for the Secret Service, but she was confident in her own ability to handle anything that was going to happen. She watched Judy sit on the couch between Corinne and Danica and let herself, well, not relax, but let herself think that everything was going to be okay. Just one more semester, and everybody was free. She caught Judy looking at her; and Judy smiled. "There's always room for you here, Ashley." 

 

The lesson I finally had to learn was that the real power isn't the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or set things on fire with a wave of your hand. And it isn't winning an election or having people call you "Madame President", either. The real power is what you connect what you do with who you are. If you're worth anything at all, you have to ask yourself what you're going to do. Are you going to live your life hiding your light? Because you think you have to, or because somebody told you you should? Or are you going to let it shine - and shame the Devil with your light? 

 

"Ah don't even know what they're gonna do with our rooms; maybe turn them into grandkid spaces? Look at all of them!" The new President's family was big and boisterous as only Freedom City Irish Catholics could be. O'Connor's gonna be the first great-grandpappy President if things keep going!" The girls watched the inauguration of the first female Vice-President, and maybe a few tears were shed then, and then watched as the sitting President took the opportunity to introduce his successor. Judy stared as her father spoke without saying anything, then said softly, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" She wiped her eyes, then watched the rest - and the Inaugural Address of President O'Connor without a tear. 

 

So I let it shine. Here, and out in the stars, in His name and in ours. And we have shamed the Devil, and every last person, place, or thing that's tried to hold us back. I know you'll keep shining your light into the darkness even after I'm gone. May all the gods you believe in be with you tonight - I know mine will be. 

 

From the retirement address of Judith Claudia Cahill 

-The Founding Mother of United Earth 

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Nevermore II

Nevermore never more?

---

 

Alright. This wasn’t Charlie’s first rodeo. This was Freedom City, but it looked different from the Freedom City he knew. That meant either a dimensional shift or time travel.

 

He was standing at a rooftop in the middle of the city, wearing the pants he had slept in and not much else, so it had happened in his sleep. The sky was bright, the air tasted clean, the entire place seemed futuristic. So, the future or a more advanced dimension? The rooftop was clean, empty. A little building with a door to let people in and out, nothing else.

 

No way was Charlie being here just a random thing. Was it the Mesa messing with him? Something else?

 

“Are you gonna stay out there the entire day, or do you wanna come inside?”

 

Charlie reached for a utility belt that he was not wearing. Muscle memory kicked in while he turned around and saw… nothing? The voice had come from a speaker that he could see. Someone had to be watching him, right? But he couldn’t see any cameras. Of course, this whole place seemed pretty advanced…

 

“The door. Try the door. Come on, I’m not gonna hurt you, you’ll be home before you know it.”

 

All alone on a rooftop in the future or some other world, a voice asking him to try the door, in just pants and nothing else? Yeah. Charlie didn’t like that plan at all, but what choice did he have? He didn’t have any of his gear, scaling the building would be difficult at best, probably suicidal, but he cou-

 

“If you wanna spend the little time you got here on a rooftop, be my guest. I’m kinda busy anyway. But you will probably regret. Come on, Charlie.”

 

Charlie froze for a second. Alright, mystery guy from another world or the future knew his name. That was… something. With a defeated sigh, he relaxed his stance and moved towards the door and… it didn’t have a handle.

 

“Really? Is this your idea of a joke or something?”

 

The voice was quiet for a second. Charlie could swear he heard a chuckle from the other end.

 

“Put your hand on the door, then follow the stairs down. I’ll be in the command center.”

 

Yeah, alright then. He could do that. Not much choice, besides freezing out here anyway.

 

The moment Charlie’s hand touched the door, he felt a slightly warm sensation under his palm, like a head lamp moving over it. As soon as it had started, it was over, and the door opened.

 

“Stormcrow identified. Note: Chronological irregularity. Chronological safeguards overridden.”

 

“Stormcrow?”

 

Alright, alternate world, then. Maybe. Why did this place identify him as Stormcrow if not, right?

 

The door slid to the side, revealing a staircase. The walls on the way down were covered with pictures of heroes. They were not publicity shots or anything like that, but seemed more like the work of an amateur. Candid shots, like someone that looked like a giant dragon scarfing down a whole cake, with a robot behind it pulling at its tail. A man that could look like Alek, but much older, scowling from behind an armored cowl. So many more. Men and women flying. A man in a sleek armor, holding his hand out to create some kind of shockwave. A woman with shadows. Someone that looked like Callie. Older than Charlie knew her, but younger than the headmistress. A group of heroes standing around a man in a cowl with a bird on his chest, his arms crossed. If anything, the last one seemed like a bunch of friends posing together. He recognized more than a few from the previous pictures.

 

At the bottom of their, he reached a larger room, filled with screens. A man was standing in the middle of the room on a small podium, he turned and moved, looking at different screens, talking to a number of people all at once, from the sound of it. The screens were showing conflicts. The dragon man from the picture fighting some larger, black dragon to a standstill. Someone manipulating paper to grasp around a shooter’s gun, pulling it away. A large woman barreling through a wall. Some were together, some were in different locations.

 

The man in the middle of the room was wearing a cape and cowl that hid his eyes behind stylized light blue glasses, with a large bird, a raven or something like it, on his chest. His mouth was visible, and despite how he switched conversations almost constantly, Charlie could see that he was smiling. It was a confident smile.

 

“The dragon’s left wing has a small tear, aim for that. He can’t do anything without the gun, get it away and get the hostages out of there. The red wire. They’re coming in from the West, there’s an exit to the South, so get the data out of there. No, you do not want to try the Atlantean Dragon Tail, its too spicy for you. I said the red wire.”

 

The man was obviously coordinating or assisting a bunch of operations all at once. It was kind of overwhelming, to be honest. How could he keep track of it all? Charlie stood still and stared. Should he interrupt? Say something?

 

“Hey, don’t worry. You’ll be gone in a moment, but wanted to give you a look first.”

 

He froze when the man spoke. He was looking directly at him now, smiling.

 

“What is this place? Who are you?”

 

He knew already. Of course he knew.

 

“C’mon, you know that. We’re perceptive like that, right?”

 

The older Charlie tapped the side of his head and grinned.

 

“I call it the Crow’s Nest. Pretty cool, right? Don’t worry, this isn’t all we do now, but we’re kinda good at it. Nothing like a helpful little guide in the ear to help our friends, right?”

 

Charlie crossed his arms.

 

“So what is this, the future? You’re who I’ll end up being?”

 

The older man grinned, then shook his head.

 

“Maybe? Time’s weird, man. To me, you’re the past that’s happened, there’s no changing that. To you, I’m the future that might happen, but you can make any kind of choices and it won’t end up that way. I’ve studied all that, spent some time with some people from Atom Academy trying to map it out, but everything just kept branching. I remember coming here and meeting me, but who’s to say that you’ll make the same choices as me? You’ll be the one that get to find out about all that. Exciting, right?”

 

He was cheerful, at least. He was happy.

 

“You got about 30 seconds, then you’re gonna go back to your own time. Got a question, now’s the time.”

 

Charlie looked up at his older self. The Crow’s Nest. Helping his friends out like this. It was… It was a lot.

 

“Is it everything I wanted it to be?”

 

The older Charlie’s grin widened.

 

“Oh yeah. That and more. You got good times and bad times ahead. Focus on the good, don’t let the bad bring you down, and you’ll do just fine.”

 

Charlie blinked, and he was back in his room at Claremont.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Justice 

Meet Miss Step

---

 

“C’mon hon, keep up!”

 

Robin looked ahead, where the other woman was dashing around the costumed crooks. They were dressed in grey shirts with a big white and black clock on the chest. The woman was maybe a few years older than her, dressed well… 70’es was the word that came to mind? Her bright purple pants were wide at the feet, but otherwise tight. Her black boots had high heels that did not seem to bother her at all while she was running or kicking on of the costumed crooks in the face. Her purple pants were not really pants, they were parts of an entire suit that covered her top but left her arms bare, with a long cleavage. She wore a short white cape and white gloves, with a familiar pink amulet hanging from her neck, and a purple domino mask. She had long red hair, flowing freely. The woman was smiling as she pulled some kind of gadget, a large futuristic looking gun, out of a rainbow portal and shot a freeze ray of some sort at one of the bad guys, leaving him frozen in place.

 

What was this? Who was this woman? Why did she have something that looked like Robin’s amulet and did the same thing?

 

It didn’t matter. These were clearly bad guys, and even if Emerald looked different, Robin was still Justice, and she still had her armor. She fired the Justice Buster to the right, almost without a care. A portal opened, the force blast instead ending up shooting one of the crooks with the clocks that was about to clobber the other super hero.

 

“That work for you?”

 

The woman grinned back at Robin, putting her blaster back into a portal and pulling out a staff.

 

“Sure, hon, but a bit violent, don’t ya think? Didn’t know anyone else could make portals like me, how’d you do it?”

 

She swung the blaster at a man, pushing it into his guts, making him bend over. The grin slowly froze as she saw robin moving about in her full armor, creating portals and shooting through them as she went.

 

“Those look an awful lot like my portals, hon.”

 

The costumed woman leapt over one of the multitude of costumed crooks, swinging her staff out and stopping it inches from Robin’s face.

 

Robin froze. Her armor could probably take a hit from that staff. The A.I. was already calculating just how much force would be needed to get that staff away. The woman didn’t seem to have any powers besides the portal and all those gadgets she pulled out…

 

“Ya somebody from the other side, hon? Don’t like me using the place for storage?”

 

Slowly raising the Justice Buster to the side, Robin pulled the trigger once, shooting a freezing ray to the side. She opened a portal, the ray entering it, then opening behind the woman, shooting the bad guy that had been sneaking up on the woman.

 

“I’ve never even seen you or your gadgets before, lady.”

 

The woman laughed, then spun to the side, swinging her staff in a wide arc, hitting a few of the bad guys along the way.

 

“Alright, that’s fair! Give me a hand with these guys, then! We’ll talk after, seems like we got a few things in common, hon!”

 

Wait, really? That was it? That was all Robin needed to say and then she’d stop asking questions? That was… so weird. Didn’t she have any kind of distrust at all? Robin guessed she had been like that at some point, but that was before Mars, and everything else that was going on in Emerald and…

 

The sound of someone hitting her armor brought Justice back to the now. Or the past. Or the future. Or wherever she was. The guy that had hit her stumbled back, clutching his hand.

 

“Really? You thought hitting me would work? Have you seen the kind of armor I’m wearing, buddy?”

 

Fire, release, shoot. A cold blast to the chest sent him down. Miss Step was whirling around, rapidly switching between a staff, another ray gun, a lasso… she was good, she was fast, and the more Robin listened and watched, the more familiar she seemed.

 

Not one to be outdone, Robin kept pulling the trigger, sending various blasts into portals all around her, raining down on the bad guys. It felt pretty good to have someone like this, someone that was clearly bad guys, nothing ambiguous like the Ultio Suits or anything like that and…

 

Before Robin knew it, they were done. The bad guys were down, with Miss Step leaning on her staff with a huge grin plastered on her lips.

 

“That was somethin’ else, hon. How’d ya get the portals to work like that? I can only pull stuff in and outta mine.”

 

Robin just stared for a second. Why did she seem so familiar? And why did she have an amulet just like hers? And everything around them, and…

 

 “What year is it?”

 

The woman looked puzzled for a second.

 

“Aww, is this your first time time travellin’?”

 

There was a slight laugh to her voice, but there was nothing mean about it.

 

“I guess that explains your fancy armor. It’s 1977, hon. Is everyone dressed like that where you’re from?”

 

Wait. 1977. That amulet and, mask or not… Robin knew where she had seen the woman before. She knew her.

 

“Grandma Dottie?”

 

She shouldn’t have done that. She probably shouldn’t have said anything like that, should have kept it to herself, but Robin couldn’t help it. She just blurted it out, while moving clasping a hand up in front of her mouth.

 

“Grandma?”

 

Miss Step sounded confused. Not really surprising, right? Her entire tone had changed from playful to dead serious over the course of seconds.

 

“Wait, wait. Time travel. You’re… my grandkid? That’s…”

 

Then Justice was gone, as suddenly as she appeared. For a moment, Miss Step stood still, just looking at where the armored heroine had disappeared.

 

Then she laughed.

 

“Ha. Figures. Of course. That had to happen, right? I’ll look forward to meeting you, hon.”

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Forever Boy

Spring

---

 

Pan knew the red haired boy that stood before him.

 

Of course he did.

 

After all, it was him.

 

The other Pan was curious, his smile spreading just a tad too wide for a normal human as he looked at Pan, waiting for him to speak.

 

Pan looked around for the moment. This was Neverworld. He was sure of it. He could smell it, he could feel it, but it did not seem quite like any place in Neverworld that he quite remembered. When was he? 

 

No matter, he was forever. He knew that he could not remember everything. Or perhaps, it was something yet to come?

 

And yet, Pan could not shake the feeling that it was strange that he could not remember meeting himself. Perhaps it was simply things yet to come?

 

”Hello,” Pan finally said to the other Pan.

 

“Hello,” the other Pan said back to Pan.

 

They stood on a ship that was flying through the air. It was covered in glittering Pixie Dust. It was majestic, as it soared upon the sky. The other Pan was at the helm. By his side were two teens and  young child: A girl and two boys. A multitude of teenagers ran had stopped what they were doing on the deck of the ship to stare at the other Pan and his double. Pan could hear a faint ticking in the distance, far behind the ship. Looking back, he could see a massive creature with a long snout towering across the lands below. He could hear a scream, the scream of a man, coming from its yet open mouth.

 

It was the Crocodile. He was sure of it. How was it there? It should not be there. This had never happened. He knew that it had never happened. This was not something he could forget. This was not how he remembered the Crocodile. He had been with the Lost Heroes. They had lost. The Hooked Man had stood before him. There had been no glowing ship, there had been no girls, no boys, no… This. This was not something he had experienced yet. The ticking cloud was distracting Pan. It was difficult to think, to form words, to figure anything out. He could swear the sound was growing louder.

 

“Who are you?” he finally asked, as the shock slowly slipped aside. “This is Neverworld, but, it is not Neverworld. It is… It is different.”

 

The other Pan smiled and stepped from the wheel, letting one of the boys take it. The older of the two. Where were they headed? Away from the Crocodile, surely, away from the screaming man.

 

“I am you,” the other Pan replied, tracing a hand across a rope on the glowing ship. “Pan the Forever Boy. But not quite the same, I think.” The other Pan moved closer, walking across the ship to reach Pan, stopping before him. He leaned forward towards Pan. He smiled, that smile that was just a bit too wide to be quite human. “Yes, I think we are the same, but not the same.”

 

The other Pan knew something. He knew more about what was going on than Pan did. He laughed lightly at Pan’s obvious confusion. “I know, I know. It is all very confusing. Do not worry, in time, you will understand. Spring is ending. Summer is on the way. Everything is becoming warmer, brighter.” He smiled. “I suppose it is time for things to change, yes?”

 

The ship shook. It was like a wave washed over it. The ticking clock was growing louder still. Pan held his head. The ticking noise, it was too much. It was so much. It felt like it was everything. A clock, ticking on, counting down. “Spring? Summer? What are you talking about? You are not making any sense. Tell me what this is, now!” Pan raised his voice. He was almost yelling. He felt angry. His usual smile was long gone. Was he this infuriating? No, this one, this other Pan, was something else, was he not? He was him, but not him. “Tell me what is happening, now!”

 

He was almost shaking, while the other Pan just smiled. The others around him had started reacting to something. The one kid was still holding on to the wheel, but the other were climbing to the end of the ship, to stare at something behind them. There was commotion on the deck. Shouts and curses were being thrown around. Pan did not hear them, only vaguely senses that something was going on around him. And that insistent, ever present ticking. Louder and louder, banging on his skull.

 

“All stories end, Forever Boy. Summer becomes fall. Fall becomes winter. Winter to spring, and back to summer. Everything ends, everything changes. Nothing can stay the same forevermore, as much as we might want it to.”

 

The other Pan seemed more solemn now, the smile slowly fading from his lips as he looked behind Pan, to whatever was happening behind him and the ship.

 

Around them, Pan saw the sky crack. He saw the clouds break. He saw the sun splinter into millions of brightly burning shards. Below, he saw the lands shift and turn. Destruction in their wake.

 

“This is my final triumph. I have saved the Darling children. Captain Hook is defeated. Aboard the golden ship, I ride into the sunset, to the final reward. I am at the end of the spring, at the end of my story. And perhaps it is time for something new to take its place.”

 

Behind the cracks, Pan saw bright, white light. An impossible canvas behind it all, a promise of something else, something as of yet unrealized. An unpainted canvas, a story yet to be told. Pan could not tear his eyes away, try as he might. He was spellbound by the empty white, by the story that had yet to unfold. He wanted to look behind, he wanted to see what was happening behind him, but he could not. All he could hear was the ticking sound, ever louder, ever closer.  

 

“I have made my peace. It is time for something new, it is time for the summer. You should leave, while you can.”

 

Pan felt himself fading. The ticking sound was like thunder in his ears by now.

 

“Perhaps not even a Forever Boy is forever, after all.”

Edited by RocketLord
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Little Mermaid II

Nazi Punchin' Mermaid

---

 

Things weren’t going great, to be honest.

 

Tanks were rolling through the streets in countryside, flanked by soldiers in grey uniforms with red armbands with Swastikas. Of course Mette knew what they were, but why were they here? And why was she here?

 

She had seen some signs. She was in Southern Jutland, and these were obviously Nazis. She could see some scattered resistance from soldiers with Danish flags, but they weren’t really much of a match, especially not with the guy with the big hammer and the wolf guy on the Nazis’ side.

 

Mette recognized those, too: Members of die Übersoldaten. She had watched them on the news, they were soldiers during the second World War, so… she was time travelling?

 

Yeah, alright. Why not. The former Little Mermaid said she had time travelled once or twice, why not Mette too, right? Just a little time travel, had to be like some kind of super hero initiation thing, right? Just meant Mette was up for it now and… No, no, it wasn’t alright at all.

 

Time travel was weird, she shouldn’t do anything, right? Stay put, figure out a way to get home, don’t affect things at all. That was the way to go, right?

 

The man with the hammer swung his hammer and a hill disappeared. Mette was pretty sure that he was Thor or something like that.

 

"Fandens også."

 

Mette was already in costume when she condensed the moisture in the air around them to a powerful water blast aimed directly at the big guy with the hammer. He barely had time to look up before he was thrown back, while Mette leapt from the hill she had been standing on, landing on top of him.

 

”Velkommen til Danmark, dit røvhul.”

 

She punched him in the face once. Got a few more punches in before she was tackled to the side by the wolf.

 

Mette felt the claws racking across her arms, felt his hot breath. He was strong, he had momentum, but she was stronger. She could get him off in a second, then…

 

Mette’s train of thoughts were broken when something threw the wolf off her. He yelped, tumbling across the ground before quickly stopping himself.

 

A woman offered a green-clad hand to Mette, quickly pulling her up and… She was not alone. Mette’s jaw just about hit the ground.

 

”Det er umuligt…”

 

Two women stood before her. One of them wore a short dark blue dress, long light blue opera gloves and leggings, a darker blue domino mask and a short dark blue cape. All of the darker blue had a white snowflake pattern added. The other... It looked like an older version of Mette suit’s, to be honest. Red and white, green scales, looked like an old timey swimsuit. She was the one that had just helped Mette and…

 

“Flot dragt,” the woman in red, white and green remarked to Mette, before stepping past her.

 

“Koncentrer dig, Havfrue.” The woman in blue was far sterner, more focused. She looked down at the German soldiers and waved her hand. The sound of breaking glass was followed by glittering shards falling on the soldiers.  Some screamed in fear. Others clutched their chests, their bodies soon covered by ice.

 

The woman in green moved, leaping at Thor. She got a few good hits in before he blew her away with a hammer strike. He was laughing, saying something in German about liking her spirit. Mette leapt into action, following the woman and crashing into the Thor.

 

”Lad hende være!”

 

He was ready this time, and he was laughing. The wolf came at her again, while the woman in blue waved her arms, blasting him back with a focused stream of ice. The wolf groaned and roared, but stood up despite the cold. He said something in German. Something about eating the blue woman’s entrails. It was all very nasty and sick. The woman in green created a wave of water that collided with the cold, creating a solid ice pole that slammed into the wolf.

 

The woman in blue yelled something nasty in German, then the fight went on.

 

While Mette and the two women fought against the two Übersoldaten, the battle raged around them. The Danish soldiers really were no match for the German forces, and soon, they were driven back. Slowly, but surely, Thor and the Sea-Wolf started to overpower the two women. Mette tried to help. She really did, but die Übersoldaten were too strong. She could stand her ground, but not much else… and not while keeping everything else safe.

 

A German soldier approached with a gun to a Danish soldier’s head. Reluctantly, the three women stopped fighting, while Thor and the Sea-wolf looked too happy about the situation, like they knew something that the Danish heroes did not.

 

“Aufhören zu kämpfen. Hör mal zu.”

 

The German soldier’s tone was commanding. Certain. He pushed the gun against the Danish soldier’s head as he smiled at Mette and the two women.

 

“Jeg… De… Der er nyt fra København. Tyskerne truer med at bombe København. Vi skal overgive os med det samme.” He was stammering, stumbling over his words, but, it seemed genuine.

 

“Giver vi op?” The woman in green sounded like she couldn’t believe her own ears. It was just an impossible thought to her.

 

Mette gasped. She knew this. She remembered this, from her history classes. Was this why she didn’t know anything about these two women? Where they super heroes from before the Danish hero purge during the occupation? The woman in green, she had to be using the Little Mermaid book, and the other, she could be a predecessor to the Snow Queen, and… did the previous Mermaid know about this?

 

 “Nej…” The woman in blue was shaking, while Thor leered at her. “Jeg gør det ikke. De bomber os til helvede lige meget hvad vi gør! Jeg overgiver mig ikke til dem! Se på dem! Hør på dem? Tror du at stopper før de bestemmer over alting? Jeg gør det ikke!

 

Something was wrong. Mette could feel it. She was disappearing. Leaving. She tried to yell, but she couldn’t. Tried to warn the women.

 

They couldn’t hear her anyway.

 

The frozen soldiers, the ones that had grasped their hearts… The ice that surrounded them were turning black.

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Muirne felt sick looking around. It was night and she was in a park in what looked like Freedom City, but it looked like some future version from a science fiction show. She remembered being sent into the past with the Magic Mesa, had she been sent into Freedom City's future? How did it happen? How far? Would she know anyone or was she alone again? Could she ever go back? Questions rattled through her mind and she stabilised herself against a tree. She tried breathing exercises as her panic increased. What should she do? She had to start from the beginning again! Her gauntleted fist smacked into the tree. How the hell was this fair! She'd finally been getting a life! She had friends, even a boyfriend and now she was thrown into the future again!?
A few birds flew away as her scream tore through the night.


Muirne trudged along the path a few minutes later, suppressing the shadows writhing inside of her as she walked. She needed a plan. Some of her schoolmates would probably be around, discounting the possibility of them being killed. Pan immediately sprang to mind as the ‘Forever Boy’ but there were others too. Eira, being a robot wouldn’t have died of old age. Luke was also probably still alive, being a dragon.


Could she really face Luke after disappearing for however many years though? She pushed the thought aside and kept walking. Minutes passed before her walk was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice. “Shit, it’s Shadowborne!”


She stopped. It didn’t take her long to spot the source, a pair of men wearing full face masks were looking at her from the broken front of a store, a pickup truck loaded high with what she could assume were stolen goods. “Naw man, she’s way too young. Must be a cosplayer or summat.”


Muirne blinked. She was surprised that anyone would recognize her, especially if she’d been missing. Although it gave her a more general idea of when she was, but did she run into the one pair of uber-super geeks to know who she was? They exchanged a series of gestures between each other, several towards her before a paper-scissors-rock game, ending in the smaller of the two slowly approaching her like a skittish animal.


“Alright girlie, please don’t scream or nuthin’. We ain’t gonna hurt ya, just take the stuff an’ go ‘fore the heroes arrive.” Muirne slowly backed up as he approached, holding her shield between herself and the man, and using it to hide her spearhead in case he charged. He was slowly gaining ground on her given his longer legs. She was about to stab the man when a pair of shadowy arms reached around him and dragged him away and her mind immediately knew what those arms belonged to.

 

A Shadowbeast.

 

The man was dragged back screaming and chaos ensued as writhing shadows covered the street, marked by both men crying out in fear and pain, before silence settled, both men unconscious and tied up. In between them stood a figure that Muirne quickly recognized despite being wreathed in the writhing shadows that so characterized the Shattenwelt.
Herself.


Muirne’s apparently older self looked at the fallen criminals before turning to her asking “Are you alright, miss- Oh.”


Yeah that was a fair reaction… Muirne relaxed her stance. The guys recognizing her made a bit more sense if she was apparently active in Freedom City currently, although she was confused about the timeline in that case, although she supposed it meant that she got back to her own time.


Her older self looked sheepish for a moment before putting her fingers to her ear. “Stormcrow, Shadowborne here. Yeah. Yeah I know. I got two guys for pickup and my younger self, so just give me a minute. Yeah, thanks.” She took her hand away from the earpiece that Muirne could now see. “I suppose you have questions?”

 

Muirne nodded numbly, before blurting out the first and probably dumbest question. “Stormcrow?”

 

Her future self grinned slightly before saying “Codenames.”

 

She scowled, that wasn’t- Oh. Her palm met her face and she groaned. She meant it was Charlie. “I don’t know much about time travelling, but isn’t this sort of thing supposed to break reality?”

 

The older heroine smiled. “Thankfully it hasn’t? I remember being in your shoes years ago, so I can only assume it’s fine.”

 

“So I’ll end up being you one day?”

 

“Maybe? Stormcrow says that from your perspective we’re a possible future, while from our perspective you’re the past and so can’t be changed.”


”So wait, you met your future self, who was you, then eventually you grew up to be your future self, and met me, who is your younger self but it’s not a set thing that I’ll become you despite meeting the you I might become?”


The future Shadowborne sighed. “Believe me I’m as confused as you are. Just… Just don’t question it okay?”


Muirne frowned confusedly, before slumping her shoulders in defeat. “Okay.”


Her other self smiled guiltily. “If I remember correctly you only have enough time for a couple more questions before you go back to your own time so make them good ones.”


Muirne looked at her suspiciously. If she’d been here before then didn’t she already know what was going to be asked? Or were things changing already? Was she looking for the same questions that she’d asked or different ones? “What did you ask?” The question came tumbling from her mouth before she could think about it, and her future version smiled.


“That. Now stop and think. What do you want to know?”


Muirne frowned. Did she have to be so cryptic about everything? No. Stop. Think. She probably shouldn’t ask about things that involve other people since that would put expectations that might not be met, or worse, negative ones that would. So something that would only affect her? Well, there was one thing… 


“How did you do all that stuff without transforming? You had Shadowbeast arms and the street was covered in shadows and everything, what did you do?”


The future hero nodded. “Take the power that’s inside you and instead of letting it envelop you, control how and how much of it passes through you. You can let it flow to a part of your body,” She demonstrated, her hands turning to claws. “Or let it flow out of you.” The shadows flowed off of her hands, becoming a small bubble of cold and darkness before dissipating.


Muirne scowled. She had tried that back in her village, and that was why she held the shadows seperate. The darkness and cold flowing through her hurt and everyone had agreed that it most likely meant that it was harmful to do in that case.


“Did the pain go away then?”


Her future self smiled sadly, looking suddenly older. She reached out and lay her gauntleted hand on her shoulder, before Muirne found herself back in her time.


Not a trace of her visit remained but she was sure she could feel the hand on her shoulder.

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Argonaut

Killing me Softly

 

 

Yves Zermeño felt refreshed after her shower.  She was now in the changing room of the Iceberg, having gotten the honor of being chosen for this year’s rugby team.  AEGIS agents partaking in the annual Blood and Guts Bowl had to practice at night.  UNISON may have less funding, but their agents would go to any lengths to gleam an edge from the AEGIS rugby team’s practice routine.  “Hey, Yves we’re headed to Bourbon Ben’s.  See you there right?”

 

“Yeah, give me a minute.  I have to finish a report on this Armadillo Man guy.  Legal says he wants to be referred as the Long Nosed Bandit.  Because apparently that’s a more important detail than he set three supermarkets on fire. “   The other agents laughed at Yves explanation while she followed closely behind towards the door out of the changing room.

 

As she exited through the doorway, Yves felt a sense of vertigo.  A sharp yet oddly nostalgic pain in her abdomen.  And…a blaring in her ears.  As multiple armed agents ran past her Yves came back to her senses and took a quick look around her teammates had all disappeared.  Replaced to the new crowd of AEGIS agents in what looked like dated gear.  Quickly attributing the noise to a Condition Black alarm.  There was a major attack-no catastrophe was in order.  And all agents were to leave the base and perform rescue operations.  Director Powers would normally have a separate hidden set of orders for those with an “alternative jurisdiction” like Argonaut. Only Yves hadn’t received any orders.  In fact, she couldn’t recognize any of the agents running past her. Running back into the changing room, Yves quickly realized she couldn’t find her armor.  Why do I constantly find myself in situations in which it would be convenient to have this inside my bones again?  Just what is going on?

 

“Agent are you deaf?  Head to Strike Zone Delta!”  A voice called out with a stern tone from outside of the changing room.  Turning her head, Yves recognized Agent Darla Hatfield.  Darla Hatfield who died in 1993.  During the Omegadrone Invasion.  The same invasion that brought Yves to Earth. No.  No.  No.

The Freed Drone suddenly felt a sharp pain in her chest.  Hyperventilating she pulled herself up to her feet.  Shaking with every step towards the formerly deceased Hatfield. Anxiety. As a drone disconnected from the voice of Omega, Yves was all too familiar with what derealization felt like.  Able to navigate her body forward she simply nodded as Hatfield tried to give her a comforting pat on the shoulder.  Likely thinking that Yves was afraid of dying.

 

And for good reason.  Upon exiting the sub-basement and making her way to the surface, Yves completely blackened sky.  The signature black and red flames of the Omegadrone’s jet boots coating the sky in plumes of smoke.  Waves upon waves of soldiers.  And while it was true that in this moment Yves felt something akin to overwhelming fear, she would welcome death as a mercy.  Because, she knew there were some things far worse than dying.  Steve had warned her about a similar phenomenon he once experienced sending him back to this time.

 

In another life, Yves served as an Omegadrone Shocktrooper.  Shocktroopers were a front-line invasion force, but not necessarily an assault force.  Similar to Terminus Probots that acted as an initial reconnaissance for an invasion.  Shocktroopers would act on information gathered by the Terminus and target infrastructure.  Mixed in with the waves of Omegadrones they could attack targets while blending in with the waves.  Yves looked around.  She hadn't done her job yet.  That was the past version of her, hadn't fully crippled the power grid in the city yet.  There was time to act.  She quickly ran over to the nearest APC that had yet to fully fill up and tapped on the window.  As soon as the agent lowered the door Yves quickly spat out, “There is Eternity, whence flowed Time, as from a river, into the world."  The driver’s eyes quickly widened.  Before finally he couldn’t help but ask. 

 

“Do we win?”  Yves knew he had to be a rookie.  Not just because the man was baby faced, but because instead of getting a Chrono based team to vet her, he broke protocol and asked an outcome once she said the passphrase to indicate herself as a time displaced AEGIS agent. It was only the first night of the invasion and there were probably many wondering that same question.  And many who never learned the answer. 

 

Just shup and drive me to the Mayor’s residence.”  It was a strange request, but the driver nodded and opened the rear door for Yves to enter.  Yves couldn’t take back the lives she took on this planet.  Let alone countless others while working as an agent of Omega.  And though it was difficult to find her breath.  Even if this whole experience was a dream.  At the very least she could try and do some good.

 

But, to do that she needed a weapon.  Her armor and pike hadn’t traveled to the back with her.  Although her biometric modifications were still working, her ocular display was flooded with the less than the friendly word of Physician friendly.  The air reeked of entropy and death the closer they sped downtown.  Yves made sure they sped.  Downtown looked like a warzone.  Because it was one.  Buildings turned to rubble.  Fires raging.  And O’connor’s family residence was a distant memory.  In the next four days all of downtown would be flattened.  At least until that...spirit rebuilt it.  “I don’t think the mayor’s home.”  Yves cracked a smile and leaned over to whisper to words in the agent’s ears. 

 

“We do.”  Immediately aft3er she slammed his face against the steering wheel with enough force that the air bag actually fired into his face.  Ensuring he was unconscious.  Then only after grabbing his service pistol did she exit the vehicle.  Making it a few steps before turning around to fire a shot at the gas cap of the APC.  It didn’t explode, but it did trigger an emergency protective shield to keep the unconscious agent safe.  Where she was going he couldn’t follow.  By the time Yves was a field agent, AEGIS had long obtained a blueprint of O’connor’s home.  And with it the route to reach the wine cellar that housed a compartment that held O’Connor Sr’s antigravity harness, costume, and gauntlets.  For one night only, the Freedom Eagle would fly again.  Looking back on it now, she never once asked the higher ups at AEGIS which agent was responsible for bringing her in alive all those years ago.

 

Edited by Brown Dynamite
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Wander and Singularity (Uncredited for Singularity) 

Continued from Part One 

 

Deciding to get out of the past was one thing, but actually making a plan for it was something else. Erin had gotten a lot better at planning and tactical thinking over the near-decade she'd spent as head of security for HAX, but she still didn't count herself as an idea person. If they'd had to save this timeline from some terrible threat, she'd have at least known where to start

 

“Maybe we should go to Freedom City anyway,” Jessie offered. “Even if a lot of people you know now are too young or somewhere else, the Freedom League is still there. They might be able to, you know, use science.” She waved a hand vaguely, making the old tire swing sway and creak.

 

It wasn't a bad idea. Erin knew it wasn't fair of her to be surprised when Jessie had sensible ideas, especially after all this time. Hell, Jessie was less than a semester away from graduating college, which was a lot more than Erin had ever managed in both the “intellectual pursuits” and “doing sensible things” fields. It was still hard not to think of her as the broken shell she'd dragged off Anti-Earth a decade ago, the one who hadn't even recognized her own face in the mirror or known what year it was. Maybe it was easier to think of her that way than as yet another person with Erin's face running around and living their own life. Jessie's equilibrium was still very fragile in places and she'd probably never reach truly “normal,” but she was so much better than she'd been. That made her even harder to relate to.

 

“It's a possibility,” Erin acknowledged, “but we should hold off a little bit. Survival guides say that if you're lost, the first thing to do is stop walking. With any luck, we left some kind of trail when we disappeared. People are going to be looking for us. It'll be easier if we're here for them to find.” Also, given the experiences she'd had with the Freedom League, from being disbelieved in the aftermath of the fight with Omega to being passed over for a slot year after year, she kind of preferred not to deal with them if she didn't have to.

 

“Has anything like this happened to you before?” Jessie asked. She nudged the ground with her foot, sending herself swinging and spinning at the same time. “Getting lost in time?”

 

“No,” Erin admitted. “I got lost in space that once, though, and Trevor and Mara found us. I know there was a thing with time slips a long time ago, but I didn't get sucked in, for once. And a guy I know went through a portal and came back an hour later but he'd been there for ten years.”

 

Jessie's eyes widened. “I don't think I want to do that.”

 

“Yeah, me neither,”

 

Another few moments of silence, broken only by the creak of the swing. “Let's go inside,” Jessie finally said. “If we're out here too long, the neighbors might see.” Erin didn't really want to go back into that house, especially not when it looked like this, so perfectly like she remembered it, but she couldn't deny that they'd had some very nosy neighbors back... now. “Okay, but we can't mess with anything. We don't want to disrupt the time stream.”

 

(Rest of story hidden under spoiler text for length) 

Spoiler

Being back in the house was as weird as she'd thought it would be, but there was nothing to be done about that. Erin decided to risk helping herself to a sheet of copy paper and a pen that had fallen behind the desk anyway to start drawing up ideas for escape. Mara was even younger than she was, so contacting her was out. Quark would still be a kid, and even if she tried, she wouldn't know where to find him. Miss Americana was a robot so it was hard to say how old she was, but that didn't help her much. Doctor Archeville was still in Germany and secretly possessed by evil spirits. Doctor Atom might be able to help. He'd helped before, in vastly different circumstances, but she suspected it would be harder to get in touch now. Could they go to Uncle Aaron? It had been years, but she thought she could probably find his compound in California if she really tried. He was a weirdo, but he was a smart weirdo, and he knew people. A possibility. And yes, there was always trying to talk with the Freedom League.

 

It took longer than it should have for Erin to realize that Jessie wasn't in the living room with her anymore. The television was still playing CNN, but under that she could hear the soft creak of footsteps upstairs. Well, hopefully Jessie wasn't going to be hiding in any closets this time, because that would definitely surprise the hell out of the White family of this era. “Jessie?” she called, walking up the stairs. “What are you doing?”

 

There was no answer, but Erin followed the soft noises of movement to the master bedroom. The scent was the hardest, she'd learned years ago; it was impossible to step into this room and not be overwhelmed by the smell of perfume and shaving cream and deodorant and detergent that all mixed together to be so uniquely her parents. It was enough to have her pausing in the doorway before stepping all the way in. Jessie was sitting crosslegged on the floor, looking very much the oversized child in her fuzzy flannel pajamas, methodically sorting through the contents of the wastebasket. “What are you doing?”

 

Jessie didn't look up, instead unscrunching and studying an old piece of paper. “Nothing,” she said, setting the paper aside in a small pile separate from the empty cans and bits of wrapper that was most of the trash.

 

Erin counted to ten. She resisted the urge to say “you're digging through the trash,” knowing that Jessie's next response would be to ask why she'd asked if she already knew. Knowing oneself was really not all it was cracked up to be. “What did you find?” she asked instead, walking over to see for herself. It didn't look like much. The broken chain of a necklace, a post-it note about a doctor's appointment in September, an empty stick of deodorant, the handwritten shopping list she'd just added to the pile.

 

Jessie shrugged, still not looking up. “Mementos,” she said.

 

“Mementos?” Erin repeated blankly.

 

“If they're in the trash anyway, they don't count,” Jessie pointed out. “Nobody's going to miss them.”

 

“We can't- you can't-” Erin couldn't even put words to what was wrong here, how messed up it was to pick things out of the trash in this living monument to the dead-but-not-dead that they were stuck in. “This isn't even our universe!” she finally managed. “We're not even from here!”

 

“I haven't got a universe,” Jessie pointed out calmly, looking over a piece of junk mail before consigning it to the waste pile. “Psyche asked Dr. Atom for me once, and he thought that my universe probably branched from yours a few hours or days or minutes before the Tyranny Syndicate picked me up, and collapsed after I was gone. She told me that most alternate universes are like that, little deviations that collapse back in on each other, and it's only if someone from outside does something to-” she waved a hand, trying to find the word, “to manifest it, that the alternate timeline becomes real at all. But my universe was probably about six hours long and centered in Oklahoma City, and I don't have any real parents.”

 

“That doesn't make sense,” Erin pointed out, feeling just enough uncertainty to make her edgy. “You can't not have parents, you had a life, we had a life. You grew up exactly the same as I did, I know you remember.”

 

“I have your memories,” Jessie corrected stubbornly, picking her way through a small sheaf of old bills. “You grew up, you had a life, you have the memories, and I got copies from Eve and Psyche so I could stop being crazy. All of it belongs to you; it's not mine.”

 

“Oh come on!” Erin exploded, suddenly, unreasonably defensive. How selfish did that make her sound, what kind of monster? “You can't seriously say I-”

 

“When you went to heaven,” Jessie interrupted in the implacable way that their mom had always used, the one that always worked and Erin had hated, “did they ask about me?”

 

“What?” Erin asked dumbly, thrown by the non sequitur. “Who?”

 

“Mom and Dad,” Jessie explained patiently, inexplicably adding a voided check to her keepsake pile. “You told me that after you helped stop the invasion of heaven, you got to see them and talk to them. You said they were happy and safe and not lost, so I know you got to talk with them for a little while. Did they ever ask about me?”

 

Erin's mouth went dry as her stomach abruptly dropped. “Jess,” she began, “they can't see what happens on Earth, they couldn't have known-”

 

“I know,” Jessie cut her off. “Why would they know? The White family has one older daughter, in every universe. Only one. You feel it too, isn't it why you couldn't live here with them? You went to heaven, and you found the parents you lost, from the universe you came from, and you know that someday when you die, that is the heaven you get to go to. It belongs to you.” She looked up, finally, and her eyes were shiny with tears she wasn't going to shed. Erin knew that particular face really well. “Would you want to spend eternity feeling the way you did when you lived in this house on Earth Prime?”

 

Knowing what to say was never Erin's specialty, and this was no exception. Jessie didn't seem to expect an answer anyway. “If there's a heaven for every universe, and we all end up where we're supposed to be, then if I ever somehow manage to make up for everybody I've killed and hurt, I'm going to go to heaven and it will be empty.” She smiled humorlessly and looked down, two tears plopping onto the insurance flyer in her lap. She put it in the toss pile. “I told Aquaria years ago that it was okay for her to pray that I would get eaten up first by Hydra and Dagon along with all the true believers. I mean, seems like it actually beats the alternatives, right?”

 

The silence stretched, uncomfortable and leaden. “But anyway,” Jessie finally said, “it doesn't really matter where the mementos come from. I like having the memories.”

 

Erin cleared her throat. “Look,” she finally said, “I don't know a lot about heavens and dimensions and all that. I don't know if you're even a little bit right. But I know a guy in Freedom City who's a for-real angel, born in heaven and all that bullshit. If nothing else, I can talk to him, make sure he keeps an eye out. You're never going to wind up in empty heaven or eaten by some monster god, I swear it,” Her voice was clipped, even harsh, and she couldn't help it. “We've come too far for that. I didn't pull you out of hell once just to let you go back again, ever.”

 

She turned on her heel and headed for the doorway. “Clean up whatever you're not keeping,” she ordered. “No more sitting around. It's time we start working on how to get out of here.”

 

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Ghost

Greatest Hits

---

 

Casper felt like he was falling. Deeper and deeper, spinning towards a strong gravitational pull. Try as he might, he could not escape. Something was pulling him on, deeper and deeper into…

 

The extradimensional looking glass was meant to look into other dimensions. It would show the scientists at ASTRO Labs other worlds, letting them study everything and anything about those other worlds. It was almost too good to be true. And it was.


Casper stared at the looking glass before him. He had seen this before, just like this, on that day, so many years ago. What was this? Why was he here again? then it malfunctioned again, his body was saturated with a strange energy. It stung, but it passed quickly and then…

 

Ghost was flying through the air, passing through walls and obstacles, anything in his way. The audience cheered, he was a hit, everyone loved him and then…

 

Bullets were flying around him, and Ghost was tearing through the shooters. They might as well not have been there at all, as he passed through them, leaving them stuck in walls or the ground, or writhing on the ground. He finally found the man he had been chasing. Cory Cotton. Casper stared at him, holding him up by his shirt, one hand pulled back ready to end him for good. Cory had hired him for the TV show in the first place. Cory had been the one to trust in him. Cory had been part of the group that had hit ASTRO Labs and killed Doctor Palmer and then…

 

A golden fist passed through Ghost’s face. Dr. Midas. How many times had he fought that guy? Was he the one that did this to him? Casper stared at the golden armor and… wait. He knew this one. This was the first time had had fought Dr. Midas. That janky old golden armor, it looked more like a golden barrel than anything else. Midas had no idea how to handle him back then, just kept throwing punches, didn’t even have any blasters in his armor yet. Just thought he could go in and be unstoppable, nobody could touch him, but Casper had been able to ghost through the armor and get to him inside it and then…

 

Casper stared up at Jessie. He was on one knee, a ring that had cost him months’ worth of savings in a box in his hands, held out to her. She was smiling, her hands in front of her face, tears of happiness streaming down her face. Oh god, Casper had almost forgotten that smile. That wonderful smile, it was almost too much to bear, knowing all that would happen, knowing everything they would experience, everything to come and then…

 

The Wordsmith shouted something about knives, and they appeared. He threw them at Casper, and they managed to cut him, somehow. So that was what this was, then. Going back through fight after fight, reliving the past, every fight, every high point, every low point. Great. Just great. As a the Wordsmith threw some more weapons at Ghost, he spun out of the way, evading them, went in close to take him down and then…

 

Ghost was thrown back by the force of the blow. Half his face felt numb. His white costume was stained red. Casper struggled to his feet, looking up at the guy in front of him. Cameron Christopher Carter had always been a thorn in his side. Whenever Ghost did something good, he’d make sure to rant and rave about him, making him out to be the bad guy. This was one of those bad times, when everyone thought Casper was a bad guy. The guy called himself Ecto. Some kind of ghost hunting bounty hunter or something like that, and he believed that Casper was a bad guy, and a real ghost. It was great, just great. Of course he knew how to touch a ghost, and he was strong. Liked to beat up ghosts with his bare hands. He had Casper cornered inside a burning building. No way out but through him. They were not alone, either. People crying out for help, crying out for Ghost to save them, and here he was, wasting time fighting Ecto, and then…

 

Casper stared at Carrie, holding her for the first time. She was crying, but it didn’t matter. She was calming down already. Nothing else mattered right now. She was here, she was so tiny, so vulnerable, so absolutely perfect. He would never let go, he would never let anyone hurt her. He would always be here for her. Casper smiled softly at the tiny little girl in his arms, and then…

 

The snow was cold on his face. Casper slowly opened his eyes, looking up. How much longer? How much more did he have to relive? How was this happening? Why was this happening? He didn’t want to do it anymore. Pulling himself up, he looked ahead and froze in his tracks. The snow was red. Not just Casper’s own blood, either. It was Freezeburn. Of course it was Freezeburn. He was laughing, freezing his victims in their tracks before breaking them. Casper could see his own breath, as he pushed through the pain and the cold. He had to stop him. With a yell, Ghost threw himself at Freezeburn, and then…

 

"I will eat, devour and consume you. Run in terror, fear and horror. You cannot defeat, slay or conquer me! I am invincible, indestructible, unkillable!" Casper stopped. Ecto, Wordsmith, Freezeburn, and now… Thesaurus Rex. He felt like laughing. Finally someone easy. Thesaurus Rex stood at his full height before Casper, a massive Tyrannosaurus Rex with a tiny top hat and a monocle. Casper never figured out how he got either on. He smiled behind his mask, leapt at Thesaurus Rex, and then…

 

“I’m sorry, Casper. I love you, but I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this to Carrie, just waiting around for the day when you’re not coming home. You’re always trying to save everyone, except for us.” More than anything else, hearing Jessie’s words was the final straw. Casper screamed at the heavens, and then…

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Torpedo Lass
"After all, all space is, is another ocean..."
----------

 

Somewhere on some beach someone wakes up... seemingly washed ashore. Although this wasn't unusual for this woman, she always has a habit of taking to sleep while in the water. She brushes off her white bodysuit and red vest, pulling back the hood of said suit she looks up. It was night time and things were lit up by the moon, but all that this woman said was "what in the hell?"

 

Her name is Mary Masterson, and she's been on strange journeys before, but this took the cake. "That definately doesn't look like the Moon I know..." Indeed it wasn't. All the craters were in weird spots, the basalt basins that were called Mare were in strange configurations and more wide-spread. The odd moon even looked larger... or closer than the moon she knew of. Then she looked at the sky, the stars were completely in the wrong place. In fact nothing about this place beyond the palm trees, the sand of the beach, and the taste of the salty water were familiar... but even they seemed off. The palms looked more like a Pine doing an impression of a Palm tree, the sand had a reddish tint to it, and the grass seemed to shimmer in the night.

 

She looked about, scratching her head as this strange place only made her even more confused... was she dreaming?

 

Had to be.

 

She slipped the bag off her back, something she kept personal effects and useful equipment for emergencies that could be worn like a backpack with how it was designed, pulling out a small personal distress radio she turned it on and started to speak into it, set to channel 9. "Is there anyone on this frequency?"

 

There was a crackle when she took her hand off the "push to speak" button... silence, and the occasional pop was all she heard until...

 

"This channel is not a civilian public frequency, it is for emergency use only."

 

Wherever this was, they followed international standards... if this was earth. She turned on the distress beacon she kept on her vest. "I would believe waking up in a unfamiliar place after washing up on some beach counts as an emergency?"

 

Silence again, then a sigh. "I read your signal... primative channel, but it's a solid ping. I'll be right there at pioneer beach in a moment..."

 

'Finally someone is gonna explain to me all this...'

 

There was the sound as if diamonds were clinking against each other or falling snow behind her.

 

"Unusual clothing... skin-tight hycrocarbon based polymer fabric, similar concept to the vest, air bladder flotation kit, I wager?"

 

Torpedo Lass turned around, and saw a woman wearing a armored, but skin-tight suit of her own, but also a helmet with a clear faceplate that was lit. It was a woman, or at least somoene who expressed as such. "Humans haven't used kit like this since the 21st century...

 

"W... wait... 21st century? Oh boy."

 

"Ma'am, this is the 179th century. Planet Llŷr."

 

She walked over to the open bag and started rummaging.

 

"You know, miss armored lifeguard of space Wales..."

 

"You know the origin of the name for this world... You're a human, aren't you?"

 

Torpedo Lass was getting impatient. She held her arms out as if to show it was obvious as the armored woman looked at a stowed news paper. "February 27th, 2021... Gregorian reckoning, not Holocene reckoning."

 

Torpedo Lass was completely bamboozled.

 

"Knowing the protocol dealing with time travelers I've probably at the very least put the time line at risk even answering you."

 

Mary just sat on the sand. "To be fair, I didn't think I'd be waking up in the future... Wait... 179th century... I think I heard about the Holocene calendar once, the year then at least is 17800, correct?"

The armored woman took her helmet off revealing pointed ears and purplish hair similar to Mary's, even down to the glowing phosphorescent eyes. "17821, or more 17821.2.27 Earth Standard Date."

 

"The name is Mary Masterson." The armored woman said, holding out her hand.

 

"W... wait, that's my name!" Torpedo Lass said. That is when she quirked her eyebrow. "Do you have a Tacname?"

 

"Torpedo Lass." She said, only seeing the armored woman crack her shoulders before sitting down, poking at a orange package. "It's been almost 15,900 years."

 

Torpedo Lass leaned forward. "There is no way you could be me."

 

"I am... I remember this night. Well now I do, it's been so long that..."

 

"How the hell did I get the ears? And why the armor?"

 

The armored future version of her grinned. "It was a phase, there were loads of crazy things people did with their DNA in the 26th Century."

 

"Wait... I've been around THIS WHOLE SPAN OF TIME?"

 

"Yep, loads of adventures in between, some I've forgot it's been so long."

 

"Why the armor then? I mean I can block bullets."

 

"Can you stop high-energy particle beams?"

 

Torpedo Lass gulped.

 

"The armored future her pulled the string on the yellow package, popping out a life raft." Seesh... yea you're definately me. Always over-prepared.

 

"Well considering I'd be called in to do a rescue at any time." The armored Mary held up a finger. "Considering I'm spaceworthy now and can fly around in space it's a pretty good tradeoff too."

 

"Why space?" Torpedo Lass asked, almost child like at this point.

 

"Hasn't anyone ever told you that Space is just another ocean?"

 

Then just as the two stared at each other, that comment hanging in the air a bluish whirlpool of energy appeared between them. A blue gloved hand stretched out with a notable british accent. "Oi! That's enough of that, finally figured out where you were positioned in space time trackin' the paradox energy. Time to head home, Miss."

 

The armored woman looked over to the portal. "Typical... that pink haired interloper's back again."

 

"Hey... you mean Time Agent."

 

"Shush you... Anyways past me... time to pack up."

 

"Hey you were the one going through my crap in the first place..."

 

It took some time, but eventually the thoroughly modern Mary was happily floating about on 21st Century Earth's ocean, looking over the feed of daily interest regarding ship traffic around her. An apology note left for her by her mysterious time-chauffeur. If she didn't show up there, Mary would have been trapped in the 179th century, creating a paradox since she would never return to 21st century Earth, her 179th century counterpart wouldn't be on that planet. Seems the glitch was caused by some experiment the time traveler was working on, seeing if she could detect "time eddies" in space. It sort of triggered a time-space rift right where Mary was sleeping.

 

Time Agents should learn to leave well enough alone... she thought, chewing on some MRE for breakfast. Then she turned around and for a moment she thought she saw the pink-haired Time traveler sitting behind her in the raft before everything went black.

 

When Torpedo Lass came to, she was unaware of what had happened. Her memory of her strange encounter... only a dream.

 

And a headache. She grabbed her half-eaten MRE... "Okay that was one hell of a dream."

 

She continued eating her breakfast as the sun came up on the 28th day of a unremarkible February in a so far unremarkible year on a remarkible planet. Unaware that she even had an accidental encounter with herself... or at least she wouldn't know it was real until it happens nearly 16,000 years later...

 

Edited by The Sailor
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Hologram

 

When Paige woke up, she was not in her bed. This was not exactly an unprecedented occurrence; Paige had slept in lots of weird places between her turbulent youth, life with Richard, life in Hollywood, and the rigors of parenthood. It would be tough to beat the nights she'd slept in the bedding displays at Sears as a teenager or the uncomfortable bunks that made up transient quarters on the Freedom League's orbital base, but the thing about those was that she knew she'd wake up there when she'd gone to sleep. Going to sleep in her bed and waking up elsewhere... that was hardly ever a good sign.

 

Waking up in an alley was an especially not-good sign, though again it was not entirely without precedent given her misspent young adulthood. Paige grimaced as she peeled herself up off a few sheets of damp cardboard and sat up, wishing for the spine she'd had as a nineteen year old. Even when she woke in alleys, she usually had some idea what she was doing there Had she been mugged? Was it some sort of kidnapping? Amnesia, mental tampering? Anything was possible in Freedom City.

 

Automatically, she reached out to Richard over their mental link. Where are you?

 

There was nothing for a shocking moment, not anywhere in the vicinity, then nowhere in the city, the region... there! She arrowed in on the familiar mind and was met by a sudden bizarre wash of nonsense, babble, impressions. It felt more like the links she'd made with their children as infants than- oh. Flexing her power, Paige looked through Richard's eyes. She saw wooden bars and a flimsy white mattress pad, and beyond that, a cheap motel room so horrendously outdated that it even made Paige's brain wince. Sitting on the bed was the Clock Queen herself, Anna Cline, in her full regalia and looking much younger than Paige herself.

 

Goddamn it,” Paige muttered, withdrawing her mind and trying to blink away the headache as she stood up. At least she had clothes on, a pair of sturdy mom jeans that she refused to admit were never going to be cool and a Discovery Channel hoodie she wore when the house was chilly. She was probably going to be hideously out of place, but it still beat naked. Making her way to the mouth of the alley she saw, as she'd expected she would, a full living-color-and-sound-and-smell panoply of Freedom City, 1963.

 

Just looking at it made Paige want to groan again. She hadn't enjoyed this era the first time around, no way was she hanging around for a second dose. It would be all right, she reminded herself. They had a contingency plan for this. She just had to get Richard the message, in exactly the way he'd insisted it must be delivered. If only her husband weren't such a damn nerd...

 

Paige looked around, caught her bearings, and went to find the nearest Western Union office. Dear Richard, if my calculations are correct, you will receive this letter immediately after I go missing from 2021. First let me assure you I am alive and well...

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Lady Horus 

The Prophecy Fulfilled

February 2021 

 

In retrospect, Anna supposed she should have told the heroes of Freedom at some point about the forthcoming temporal disturbance but frankly she had more important things to worry about. First came carefully lining up the outfit she needed; a rose-patterned dress with a frilled collar that had been out of date when she was a girl, neatly polished patent leather shoes, and a gold-framed version of the bifocals she still hadn't admitted to needing to anyone else yet. It was a damn dowdy thing, she decided studying herself in the mirror, but when you had powers over time you had to respect it or it would abandon you when you needed it the most. And part of that meant that she had to do the things she already knew she was going to do. There was no changing those. Even when you wanted to. 

 

She stopped by a couple of stores in Bedlam before she found the cat calendar and made a point of crossing out the dates with an old-fashioned black fountain pen she'd found in an antique store, a gift she'd been planning to give to Richard before she remembered what she was going to use it for. She talked with Esperanza about what to do if something went wrong and she never did come back, she talked with Nightingale about the same, and she waited. She waited and waited, and when the day came she was up early pomading her hair and eating her breakfast bar when she felt the trembling through the timestream that meant an imminent disturbance. 

 

-

 

She was standing and ready when the wave took her, hurling her back in time and across the country, depositing her in a Freedom City hotel lobby almost seventy years earlier, when members of Troublemakers, Inc. were about to have one of their last confrontation with the Liberty League, including her first real battle with the man who had been her arch-nemesis, her friend, her bitter enemy, and maybe Richard's father in a reality where things had worked out better for everyone. 

 

She turned away from the mirror she was facing and found herself facing down a tall, blonde, perfectly built dreamboat of a man in a sciency jumpsuit, himself facing down a pretty, leggy blonde who'd decided to rob a jewelry expo in a bikini - not a great strategy unless you can run back to your hideout every couple of seconds to drop the loot. A time machine crackled in the corner, a sizzling-white-fire blue machine that looked vaguely like a telephone booth, producing the temporal ripples that had brought Anna to this particular spot at this particular moment. 

 

"And you see, if you continue down this course-" Dr. Tomorrow was saying grandly "-this will be your fate!" 

 

"Hi, honey," she said, smiling and spreading her hands, enjoying the look of surprise on hero and villain's face alike. This, she had learned later, had not been in Tomorrow's plan at all. "I'm you from the 21st century! Look!" She held up the calendar and smiled, the date showing February 12, 2021. "I'm what you'll grow into! I'm eighty-seven years old!

 

And then Anna Cline, Calendar Girl, nineteen years old, screamed in terror at the sight of the hideously aged version of herself, with the visible wrinkles on her face and the hair that was obviously bottle-blonde, never her natural platinum at all, dressed like a grandmother instead of a millionaire jewel thief, an old lady with probably a bunch of fat grandkids in the suburbs instead of a rich husband even-. "Oh Jesus Mary and Joseph, take it away!" she covered her eyes with perfectly manicured fingers. "I'll be good, I swear!" 

 

But she never was. 

 

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Glamazon

Nostos

 

Thaelia had awoken in a much different Freedom City than she was prepared for.  She had finally come by to pack the last of her stuff from the Freedom League Special Circumstances Housing to fully transition to sleeping in the new residential section of the Atlantean Embassy. But one thing led to another and after having one too many barrels of drinks with her Grue neighbor Thaelia had decided to fall asleep.

When she awoke, she found that her apartment had been changed drastically.  It looked like a rundown hotel with generic pictures.  Even the dorms back at Claremont looked more luxurious than what was in front of her.  Not that Thaelia was exactly a creature of comfort.  She did, however, wonder where any of her belongings had gone.  Not many would be brave enough to steal from someone with a genuine chance of lifting the building they were standing in.  Stepping outside of her apartment to try and get her bearings a teenage girl crashed right into the statuesque demigoddess.

 

Thaelia quickly reached out to catch the girl before she fell.  “Please help!”  The teen pleaded while holding back tears.  That was when Thaelia heard the shouting coming from around the corner.  Without missing a beat, she swiftly tossed the girl inside of her apartment and awaited the sound of the commotion.  Taking the chance to note that the hallway and apartment numbers had also changed.  Architecturally the building the looked the same, but something was definitely amiss.

 

Four men came around the corner.  They were wearing expensive Italian suits and confidently brandishing pistols.  A heavyset man snarled as he looked around the hallway and leaned up towards Thaelia.  “Look at the legs on this one.  Hey toots!  ‘Ave you seen a girl come through here?  She’s Oliverti’s girl if you catch my drift?”

 

Thaelia did not in fact catch his drift.  But, did not appreciate the foul stench of cigar smoke that escaped his lips as he spoke and pushed him back.  “The Daughter of the Seas has extended protection to one in need recently.  If she wishes to speak to you, there will be no issues.   Otherwise, you may take your leave.  Lest I present to you a gage most glamarous.”

 

“What?”

 

“I think she knows something boss.”  A thin wiry man called out from the back.  His face flushed with as much confusion as the other three.

 

“Oy, don’t think I won’t shoot a broad, do you know where you are?  This hotel’s only neutral ground for the right people. “ Taking another look at Glamazon he noticed the armored bits of her  clothing and sneered.  “Your types ain’t even allowed in the city.  So I’mma ask again.  Where’s the girl?”  Raising his pistol above his head he tried to threaten Glamazon by leaving the firearm flush with her temple.

 

Quicker than he could even think about pulling the trigger, she had already slammed her head into his.  As he recoiled in pain, she put more force into a kick which sent both him and one of the men careening through a wall into a nearby apartment.  “The gage has been cast, prepare yourselves for the most glorious of gifts.”

 

The remaining two attempted to shoot Thaelia.  Although, she made no attempts to avoid the gunfire.  If anything, she was leaning into them.  Each bullet flattening on contact with her divinely resistant flesh.  “Learn the folly of your ways in the hospital!”  With transonic speed, Thaelia appeared in front of both men and grabbed each of their faces with her palms.  Quickly and inelegantly, she slammed them both with enough force to tear through the floorboards.

“You are safe now.”  Thaelia called out to the teen who had requested her assistance.  The teen was visibly flabbergasted.      

 

“Are you crazy?  They’re in the mob.  You can’t just.  Oh my god, I did this.  I got us both killed.  I’m so sorry.”  The girl spat out practically in tears once more.  Thaelia simply laughed confidently.  The thought of death from people brandishing firearms having not once entered her thoughts.

 

Although not particularly a history buff.  Especially when it came to the Surfacers history.  Thaelia did attend school on the surface.  And could at least remember some rudimentary history.  The Moore Mansion was one nickname given to the hotel back when it was essentially a haven for Organized Crime.  The former mayor had no ties to the property, but his banning of superheroics had made seizing the Cline building possible.  “Slow down, explain everything.”

And so, the teenager did.  Her name was Andrea DiRienzo.  She was a freshman at the university and Raphael Oliverti, a high figure in the mob had taken an interest in him.  She had spurned his advances until finally tired of being rebuffed Oliverti sent his men to collect the girl and take her to the Cline Building.  Frightened and backed into a corner, Andrea stole a firearm from the man guarding her.  A struggle occurred when he tried to take it back and she ended up shooting him.  Despite whatever intentions Oliverti had for her before, now there was an execution order out for her.  And she had no evidence, not even the firearm in question as far as seeking a legal recourse.

 

Through Andrea’s story Thaelia had learned that she had been sent back almost forty years into the past somehow.  Given time and the right ingredients she could create a ritual to return to her own time.  But, she couldn’t start work on her return path without ensuring the girl’s safety.  Or rather she would not.  Though not one for thinking her actions through all the way, the Atlantean princess did know that anything she did in public would come down even harder on the heroes of the time.  However, if there was someone in need directly in front of her.  She had an obligation to help.  “I would see this fiend crushed beneath my heel.  First, let us obtain you passage.”

 

And so, Thaelia protected Andrea from the top of the Cline building to the bottom.  Shielding her body from bullet after bullet.  And just all around relentlessly and without regard knocking out the armed men that came after her.  Littering the entire stairwell with bodies and bullet holes as they made their way down.  When they reached the lobby of the hotel there were police sirens blaring.  With the effulgent red and blue lights indicating that the police knew they were there.  So Thaelia calmly led the frightened Andrea outside.

 

As the police demanded they surrendered themselves and that both would be under arrest, Thaelia frowned.  “It seems this is where we must part.”  The Glamazon grabbed Andrea by her clothing.  Before launching her well above the roof of the building.  In fact, she launched her outside of the city’s airspace.  If one were to look closely a gold and blue blur would recover move past.  Disappearing as quickly as it had appeared.  But, afterwards Andrea never came back down. 

There was at least one other piece of Freedom City history that the Atlantean had taken care to remember.  Looking around Thaelia stared at the Freedom City Police Department who all now had their weapons drawned on her.  “Now, I must return home.  Either take your leave.  Or I shall present to you a gage most glamorous.”

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Nightscale.

 

"Cwiofyr"

 

What’s this scent?  It was familiar wasn’t it? Sweetly familiar Breakfast! Mom’s waffles…. Yeah. Not a common occurrence in the Landers household, but a welcome one for sure. Is this Gabbo's birthday? Dads? Did I forget? No way!

 

Whatever. He wondered if his 'bro was awake already. The little scamp somehow managed to match Luke’s own appetite, pretty impressive given that Gabriel was fully human. So yeah, he definitely needed to precede him. Luke smiled there was no better way to start the day than with mom's waffles (well...).

 

That said. He didn’t exactly remember going back home the night before. Yeah right? He and Leon have been up until late to- He turned again on the bed. Speaking of the bed, this wasn’t his bunk at the trailer wasn’t it? The mattress was too soft and too wide, king sized or something. What the hell?

 

He stood up, suddenly. You are not in Kansas anymore, Luke. Yep and that wasn’t his room. Hell their entire trailer could fit in this place. He stepped down from the bed, his bare feet landing on the white and black marble floor. The cold marble floor. Shit. What the hell was this place? Looked luxurious though. Like one of those mansions up in Bayview. That freakin’ bed looks more expensive than all our stuff put together… Again. What! The! Hell!

 

He stepped outside, a hallway, again black and white marble. Paintings on the walls. Dark apocalyptic scenes. Shadowy terrors, just out an H.R. Giger fever dream. Tasteful… He scoffed. The scent of waffles was still there though. Worthy of more investigations for sure. He followed it to the source. A kitchen. Without thinking he stepped inside.

 

“Who the hell are you. Young man?” The sharply dressed woman inside admonished him, brandishing a large kitchen knife. How could he blame her? Being surprised by a strange teenage boy, one that by the way was wearing just the boxers he went to sleep in. “F*ck”. He instinctively covered himself, cheeks burning already.

 

“I…”

 

“You better have a very good explanation. The master is going to be here soon.”

 

She was… Familiar. Wasn't she?

 

“Mom?” Luke ruffled the hair on the back of his neck. Yeah, she was wearing some kind of black, well tailored, uniform, her hair cut short, in a way that he had never seen Johanna Bowers ever wear, but it was definitely her.

 

She stared back at him, or better gave him that disapproving glare that got under his skin, the one that a son could recognize everywhere. “You must have confused me for someone else boy. But you better go. And fast. He doesn’t like whe-”

 

Steps. A flash of fear darted in the eyes of the bizzarro Ms. Bowers. “Mom? I didn’t know that you had a son…” A voice remarked sarcastically from behind the door. “That’s remarkable.” The tone sent a shiver down Luke’s spine. “We must celebrate the good news.” He continued sarcastically.

 

Luke clenched his fists. He hadn’t seen this guy yet, but definitely felt the impulse to punch that cocky tone out of his throat. When he finally got inside the kitchen though, it was like staring at a mirror. Darkly.

 

The newcomer was wearing just a pair of black designer gym shorts, the scent of sweat suggested that he had been training until a moment before. Built like an athlete, he walked in confidently, like he owned the place. Not unlike Luke himself, there was ink on his skin, but his tats weren't meant to celebrate a relationship (or just to look cool) like Luke’s, instead intricate arcane symbols adorned the man’s chest arms and shoulders, forming a complex pattern of spellwork on his flesh. His bright, green eyes met with Luke’s. It took just a moment for them both to know.

 

“He is no one of importance. I was about to deal with him.” Johanna remarked, her posture confident, but Luke could catch a hint of fear in her voice.

 

The young man ignored her. “I disagree. You for sure are something, man.” He smiled. Now of course he appeared fully human, for now, but Luke felt like fangs would definitely fit well on that grin. “And have a lot of explaining’ to do…”

 

He… I… Me…

 

Altern-Luke smirked What? He recognized that smirk. F- He managed to dodge at the last second. But he could not avoid being showered by broken tiles and debris when his double’s left fist broke through the wall behind it like it was made of tissue paper. “Hey knock-off…” Luke taunted.

 

His double literally growled at him.

 

Luke raised his guard. “Wai-'' This time he wasn’t as lucky or fast. Altern-Luke crashed into him, pushing them both in the room nearby. Through the wall. Soon the two were rolling on the floor, wrestling for control. Evenly matched, neither could easily prevail, easily anticipating each other's tricks. Their eyes met again, both now just burning pools of solid gold.

 

Why the hell is he smiling? Ahh sh- Luke could feel the warmth radiating from his opponent's chest as flames rose from his throat. How? Other-Luke smirked.

 

A split second before he was invested with a wave of molten gold, Luke headbutted his opponent in the chest as strong as he could, his double flinched, forced to suddenly expel all the air from his lungs, together with its deadly payload. The room was now engulfed in flame. 

 

They both jumped on their feet. Luke was the first though, his double was struggling to regain his breath. It was his chance now. A shout though, drew his attention away from his copy.

 

“Mom!” He dashed in the kitchen, the fire had crept there too. He needed to help her. Now. He could feel some movement behind it. Damn! He was about to brace for impact. But his double skipped right past him. “Wha-” Then the realization struck. Altern-Luke hadn’t dashed inside to go after him. They were there for the exact same reason. “You… care?” His double gave him a fiery stare, of course he did.

 

“You two. We need to deal with this mess.” The two boys looked toward Ms. Bowers, then each other, then the burning room. “Staring won’t extinguish the flames. You know?” A sarcastic remark took both boys off guard.

 

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

 

The scent of smoke was still in the air, but somehow the waffles’ had managed to overpower it. (Maybe because Luke was stuffing his face into one). He was now sitting at the same table with his… well his double who was similarly intent in devouring his meal with passion. 

 

They have been civil with each other, for the most part, although neither could resist throwing the other an angry glare from time to time, especially now that the adrenaline had stopped flowing and they could both feel the consequences of each other’s fists. Christ this is weird.

 

“So, you are saying that in this other reality, me and George actually adopted you Cwiofyr?” Johanna shook her head, her gaze shifting toward the other boy. Again, Luke could recognize the glint in her eyes from the way his mom looked at him, or at Gabriel. Maybe these two weren’t so different after all. “Yeah and by the way, you choose a way less ridiculous name for me I must say.” He chuckled, although if a glare could kill he was sure that with one aimed at him by his double he would have been dead on the spot. 

 

“Or a more majestic one. I mean, Luke the dragon? Not exactly intimidating.”

 

“Oh we didn’t. It was the master.”

 

“Master?”

 

The world faded to black, before he could hear the reply. He blinked, trying to clear his eyes.

 

The luxurious kichen was gone. So were the waffles. And his alternate self. His not-mom. He was in the Cafeteria now, sitting at a table. Still just in his boxers, bruised, covered in filth... "Crap." Please be a dream.

Edited by Nerdzul
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Fleur de Joie 

 

Stesha knew she wasn't the most observant superhero around, but the fact that it took her almost ten minutes to notice the time slip was a little embarrassing. In fairness, she was deep in the most exciting part of her novel, which had fortunately come along with her, and mornings on Prime when she could simply enjoy a few private hours with a book were few and far between. Also in her defense, it wasn't as though she landed in unfamiliar surroundings. It was simply that when she finally looked up at the end of a thrilling chapter, she was in her old apartment and didn't notice that it wasn't correct until she reached for her tea and found the cup was gone.

 

That small discrepancy was finally enough to reboot her brain. This was not her sunny and open little place in the DuTemps building, half home and half Prime HQ for the nonprofit that funded Sanctuary's needs. This was the cluttered and cozy space she'd chosen when she'd first moved to the city, crammed with plants and with barely enough room for one person, let alone three. Or more often two. Stesha's breath caught in her throat as she took in her surroundings. It all looked exactly like she remembered, shelves of plants crowded up near the window to catch every scrap of light, walls covered with photos of family and friends. Wedding pictures had pride of place above the dining table, surrounded by photos from Amaryllis' newborn photo shoot. Once the shock cleared a little bit, that was at least helpful for gauging when exactly this was. She hadn't really expected being thrown ten years back to be even more disorienting than being thrown a thousand years forward.

 

The place looked empty at first glance, but experience had taught Stesha to be wary. Without knowing who was behind this or why, anything could be a trap. She crept carefully around the back of the sofa and into the living room, and still managed to nearly trip over her own leg. Past-Stesha was deeply asleep on the sofa, face-down with one cheek mashed against the cushions and one leg hanging off the side. Stesha remembered these days very well, when tending to an infant human and an infant planet all at once had sapped even her superhuman stamina. Sleeping in the bed by herself had not felt good, but the couch had hosted some very intense naps. She had to smile down at her past self. She looked like a complete dork, but a very comfortable one.

 

A small noise from the hall caught her attention instantly. This, too, was familiar, an awake baby trying to decide if it was time to cry. Stesha hurried down the hallway and into the bedroom where Amaryllis, maybe all of four or five months old, was fretting in her pretty white crib. Stesha felt her heart melt instantly. It seemed like yesterday her daughter had been small enough to hold in one arm, and now she was close to Stesha's own height. And she loved how bright and brilliant and outgoing and fun Amaryllis the fourth grader was, but oh, how she missed cuddling a baby.

 

Stesha knew it was probably a terrible idea, but her arms did not check in with her brain before she was scooping Ammy out of the crib, as easy and practiced a motion as if she'd just done it an hour ago. A quick check revealed a dry diaper and the half-closed eyes meant her daughter was probably not quite ready to be awake, despite her protestations. Smoothing her fingers over down-soft green curls, Stesha walked with her to the window and let the sun shine on them both while she hummed a Russian lullaby she'd learned from her own mother.

 

Sun and song and rocking did their work, and soon Amaryllis' scrunched and fussy little face relaxed back into slumber. That was nice, past-Stesha could probably use all the nap she could get. Mindful of the risk, Stesha ever so carefully laid the baby back down in her crib to avoid even the possibility of an accidental trip to the future. Even so, Stesha stayed at the side of the crib and watched until the disorienting pull of time took hold once more.

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Foreshadow II

A little bit of Foresight

 

“Well.  So much for it being my turn.”  Erick Sloane had simply stepped out of bed to tend to their crying child.  Well Natasha wasn’t crying yet.  But, he had forewarning that it was about to happen.  What he hadn’t been given warning to was finding himself shirtless in pajama pants in the middle of a futuristic looking city.

 

Vehicles were flying overhead.  Dozens of Shard-height towers adorned the Skyline.  The sky was clear as could be.  All but a skyscraper sized circular structure housing some sort of wormhole.

“Hm.  Time travel?  Seems like the most likely outcome.  I suppose I can’t rule out dimensional travel either.  Am I even in Hertfordshire anymore?  No wait that’s St Paul's.  Guess I’m in London…and the London Eye got an upgrade.”  Erick openly mused while walking around.  Jumping and rotating in mid air to avoid a hover car from hitting him in the middle of a rainbow-colored transparent street.

 

Erick sighed.  At least being sent into the past he could leave some sort of message for the future.  That was when two robots with a wheel where one would expect their legs to be rolled up to Erick.  “Attention:  You are being cited for public indecency please present your citizenship identification.”

 

“Okaaay, prudebots.  I have pants on.  At least, I don’t feel a breeze.  It’s surprisingly warm for London.”  Erick joked not exactly intimidated by the sudden appearance of robotic officers.

 

“Failure to produce identification.  You will be detained so this can be sorted at the station.  Please present yourself to be detained.”  Erick was amused by the kindest offer to be arrested he had ever received.  Before back flipping with perfect timing on to the roof of another hover car as it came by.  In mid-air that was when he noticed the giant sign with his surname.  Sloane.

 

In Bloomsbury next to what could only be described as some sort of Space elevator was a tower with the name Sloane on it.  “Okay, so I’m not keeping score or anything.  But, I do think that beats that rinky library David got named after him in Claremont.”  Erick didn’t have time to appreciate his joke as he heard the nearby sound of sirens.  Apparently some things had not changed in the future.  London was notorious for having eyes everywhere.  And while that was likely still true in the future.  It wasn’t impossible to stay out of sight.  Sticking to every dark surface he could find, Erick silently made his way to the building he might have played some part in giving a namesake too.

 

When he arrived at Sloane Tower he took his time to disable the security on the door and made his way inside to the lobby floor.  What he gathered was that at some point his Venture Capital firm moved from its tech basis and became a pure Social Capital firm.  With the success that his and Dee’s Helix Foundation had as PR they were able to provide support to millions in need over the years regardless of whether they were empowered or not.

 

It wasn’t the worst outcome when seeing a giant tower with one’s name on it.  Though, it did seem a little extravagant.  Especially next to the strange space elevator thing.  Eventually, Erick was able to find why that was.  Apparently, at some point Earth’s relationship with the Lor increased to the point that a wormhole was built in three locations on Earth.  And the firm extended their mission statement intergalactically.  Which helped to narrow down what year it was. 

 

Unfortunately accessing the elevator required a keycard, which he didn’t have on him.  But the directory in the lobby did point to a bar across the street.  Which wasn’t exactly a design choice that Erick would have picked.  So he decided to check it out.  Hoping that they did not carry a no shirt, no shoes no service policy.

 

When he entered the bar, Erick was surprised.  There was no bouncer in the front, the building was lit up by floating purple cubes and neon blue tables.  And there were only two people inside a female bartender washing a glass.  And a blonde hair man with his back turned to the entrance.  He appeared young but not too young.  Presumably in his thirties or forties and currently reading a paper…in the dark of this dimly purple lit bar.  “You yanks are always late,” the man suddenly said without turning around.

 

“You were expecting me.”  Erick asked stepping into the center of the bar and getting an appreciative once over from the bartender who stayed silent.

 

“So this is a Khanate Ale.  Covers the taste.  I whipped up a quantum concoction and mixed it in the ale.  Tastes like arse, but long as I didn’t bodge it will get you home so quick you can tell the missus you were just popping out to get a bit of fresh air before brekkie.  Oh right, no secrets between you cause of the mental link thing.  That must be such a bother, innit?”

 

“Not at all.  But, you say if I drink this it’ll send me right home?”  Erick’s intuition wasn’t warning him of any pending danger.  Still he made sure to peer over the bar to see if there was anything he should be cautious of.  And also a mental image of the newspaper date and all.  The front page being a female Foreshadow having saved a family from a burning building.  It was intriguing.  But, not so much to take him away from home.

So rather than stretch it out Erick took the glass and downed the ale. 

 

“Don’t worry, I never bodge it. Congratulations on becoming a dad by the by.  You must be right chuffed.  I’ll give you one more spoiler before you go.  When you’re deciding on where to go on vacation for your youngest fifth’s birthday.  Don’t pick Jakarta.”

 

“Younges-“ Before Erick could finish the word he felt the unmistakable desire to vomit.  Clutching his stomach and opening his mouth he lurched forward.  Only to find himself falling out of his king sized bed.  The sound of his daughter crying in the background.  I know.  I know.  It’s my turn to get her.

 

       *               *             *

 

“So you going to tell your sister that he was here?”  The bartender finally asked. 

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The Immutable Betsy Brooks

When you’re between the Moon and Vibora Bay

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but there’s this guy called Jacob that sweet on this girl called Bella. I know right and the crazy thing is that he’s a werewolf, and right now she’s not taking it well. And guess what idiot is trying to talk her out of the shack to talk to her sudden wolfman boyfriend.

 

Even worse thank to some wanker messing around with time, or some similar superhero shenanigans, I end up back in the bloody shack as well. Luckily, I’d passed out from a few hours celebrating something, I think the New Year or it being a Thursday, so I wasn’t going to face another werewolf in just my unmentionables.

 

Oh yeah forgot to mention this was the Night of the Wolves when random bloody people became werewolves at sunset, from the magical scuttlebutt it was some mystical dimensional bull but even without a hangover it was well above my pay grade. Cause I still had the problem of a teenage girl about to go all furry in this tiny shack around a complete stranger.

 

“Hi Bella, you don’t know me yet, but one of me is standing out there with Jacob, who’s a bloody great catch I may add.”

 

The young woman who had been almost incandescent stopped and looked at me open mouthed, shocked into silence by my sudden arrival and comments. This was good anger was something that we didn’t need right now, luckily, I couldn’t yet see the werewolf taking over, so I had some time to cope with this surreal conversation.

 

“Deep calming breaths right now, think relaxing thoughts. I know it’s a big shock to find out your boyfriend isn’t what you thought he was but trust me he’s a great catch. You’ll understand very soon but I need a few moments with myself.”

 

Before she could react to this new information, I strolled over to the door gently open it and putting out my hands in surrender. I didn’t expect trouble but, in these circumstances,, I didn’t want to risk anything. The first thing I couldn’t help but miss was the tall wolfen frame of Jacob, then the tinier form of the one with the much better hair. I walked over to stand in front of the younger (but a whole month) me, who embarrassingly was wearing the same clothes as I was. If they ever make a TV show about my life it’d make the effect easier at least. Its probably not the time to say but I have a few good casting ideas if the Networks want to pick things up…

 

“So what is it this time?” younger me, lets call her Betsy Two

“Time travel…” me Betsy Prime “Somethings gone all wonky, guess I shouldn’t say when just in case…” I raised a finger to shut down the next question “… no lottery numbers or football results just in case I bugger up the timeline any more than it is.” We grinned at each other; I can’t claim I’ve matured in the last few months.

 

Looking up I could see the rays of the day sun beginning to slip below the horizon, trouble was about to start for a lot of people. I could at least make it easy for one person, well two or more depending on how you counted multiple Me’s.

 

“Hey wolf boy! Bella going through some changes right now and needs all the help she can get, go to her and show her just how much you care.”

 

He didn’t need much convincing and bounded all excited like toward there make out shack she’d been hiding away in for the day. Me Two narrowed her eyes and gave me a judging look, it was a good look that I should use more often.

 

“Did you just change history?” she, I, asked.

 

“Only a smidge there’s some werewolf curse going around and Bella’s feeling the effects right now, there would have been some posturing and threats but the two would connect in the end. Whatever happened will be over by dawn so those crazy kids will be fine.”

 

“So, pub?” I knew me so well.

 

“We better not just in case trouble kicks off, that girl had a temper before becoming a werewolf.” Reaching into my jacket I fished out a bottle, well half bottle, of Jacks from the previous night’s entertainment (or not, all that timey-wimey crap). Taking a swig I passed the bottle to my younger self “I doubt the timeline will come crashing down if you drink future booze.

 

“So hows the far future of… ?”

 

“Next year, just, nothing big after werewolf night….”

 

“Not that I’d tell you!” we’d both said in unison with a laugh. We toasted this, not that we needed a massive excuse right at the moment.

 

The moon was a bright and full and two Me’s got drunk and share the best bawdy songs, I may have inadvertently started the whole Sea Shanty thing, mostly to drown out the howls of two werewolves getting very friendly with each other. With the free flowing of booze at some point I passed out, to be fair I had a head start on my younger self, luckily, I woke up to find I was back in my little office and it was now again the far future year of 2021.

 

To be honest I can’t be sure that it wasn’t some alcohol fuelled dream, for now I’m not going to chase down anyone involved to check the story, no instead a nice strong black coffee before finding out exactly what this New Year has to offer for me.

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