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All Ways of Contending

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Date: May 24th, 2009. Sunday.

Though they honored heroes of all stripes, Memorial Day weekend was nothing particularly special to a German and a man from the depths of space. So it was a good weekend for Doctor Archeville to play host to the space-traveling Dark Star, the better to get a handle on exactly the way the man of energy's powers actually worked. While the two men worked down in Doctor Archeville's laboratory, up in the skies of Hanover a small, discreet flash of light opened up to reveal the figure of a man in a shining bronze suit of armor.

His entire body covered in bronze, Ancient Greek lettering moving freely across the metal in a slow, turning riptide, the man in the sky hovered over Hanover for several long moments before pressing a few buttons on the wrist of his suit. Not long afterwards, every electronic device in a three block-radius capable of broadcasting a signal spoke the words:

"Doctor Archeville. I would speak with you. Please step outside."

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Archeville had been in the middle of testing Dark Star's telekinesis-- in particular, how precise he could get by trying to thread a needle -- when the burst transmission came across.

Who dares?!

Only one way to find out.

Yes: wire the house to emit a pulse of gamma particles and see what falls from the sky!

I was thinking more along the lines of checking the cameras and sensors.

Archeville spat out something unintelligible in German, then spoke a string of commanding words into the air. The large pillar of monitors in the center of Archeville's laboratory flickered off from the scores of things they were monitoring to focus on the source of the burst transmission.

"... Daedalus?"

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Dark Star looked up and over at the Doctor at the outburst, not understanding. "Hmm? What was that Doctor?" He glanced over at the big monitors and his fainlty glowing white eyes widened slightly with recognition. "Daedalus? Really? It's been a few years since I met him; just after he helped take down that Khan fellow. Were you expecting him?"

He 'let go' of the Doctor's testing equipment and drifted over to the man easily. "He's being rather loud," he said to himself before turning to the Doctor. "Would you mind if I came up with you? I have only met him a few times but he is notable hero."

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Hunh... okay, this got interesting enough for us to go out in person to investigate.

Right, but we are going in calmly, not with guns blazing.

Archeville was surrounded in a light blue glow as his belt activated and allowed him to fly out of the laboratory and out towards an exit. "Dat's not Daedalus," he called back to Dark Star, "und I haff no idea vhat he vants. But your accompaniment vould be appreciated nonetheless. In particular, I could use a detailed scan of him, if you do not mind. Keep in touch via gravitic pulse."

Very soon, they were both hovering in the skies of Hanover, about 100 feet from him. Archeville placed his electromagnetic screwdriver to his throat, which was set in a way that it greatly amplified his voice, "Who are you, und vhat do you vant?"

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The golden man removed his helmet, revealing a weather-beaten face topped by short black hair and a scruffy beard graying at the temples. He was of indeterminate age, somewhere between thirty and sixty, with black eyes that seemed ancient indeed. "Ah, you have your Phaeton with you. Marvelous." When the man smiled, his face spoke volumes. "I am Odysseus. I have come to speak with you on a matter of great importance. Will you fly with me, or would you prefer to conduct your business within your chamber?"

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'Photon'? What? Clearly this is Daedalus from the Nonsense Dimension.

Or you need to clear our left ear: Phaeton is the son of Helios, Greek God of/personification of the Sun. Given Dark Star's appearance, this isn't too hard a misidentification to make. This could be a Daedalus from any number of alternate Earths.

Like Evil Not-Science Earth?

Archeville stroked his chin, "it vould be rude of me to turn avay someone who has clearly come qvite far to see me." He gestured downwards, towards his home, "come, let us meet on de patio. Most of mein neighbors are at deir jobs or avay on vacation, so ve should be able to speak in de open mitout too much interruption, enough for you to explain yourself before I decided vhether or not I vill allow you into mein home."

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Odysseus, if that was who he truly was, made a perfect landing on Doctor Archeville's patio. "Crafty man," he said sociably, "I have indeed come a great distance to speak with you. Both of you," he added in Dark Star's direction. "You are both of age as men. You remember when the dark lord Omega came to your world, yes?" He waited patiently for both men to speak.

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Dark Star was a little confused but followed the Doctor out with a nod. And true to the request, he focused his energies and attempted to determine what he could of this figure.

Listening to them just confused him more. Odysseus? Phaeton? Say what? Dark Star had been a scientist, albeit a minor one, in his 'prior life' before becoming this. He had no idea what was going on. "What? You can to speak with me? Us? About what?" He shook his head. "I was not present for those events. I've read a little about them though."

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The next line out of his mouth better not be 'Hail Omega!'

If he were one of Omega's agents, I don't think he'd be acting the way he is: Omega tends to be a sledgehammer, not a chisel, and so do his agents.

We'll see...

Archeville tilted his head, as if both nodding and shaking his head simultaneously, "I vas not present for de Invasion itself, but I am qvite familiar mit it. Secondhand recounts are a poor substitute for firsthand experience, but it should be enough for us to aid you, Herr... Odysseus, vas it?"

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"Yes," said Odysseus gravely, "if Omega comes again to your world, are you prepared to resist him after the death of your greatest champion? Gentlemen, comrades, with the loss of the Centurion, can you truly hope to resist the greatest threat to all life along the Cosmic Coil? Tell me truly." Odysseus sounded deeply skeptical of the very idea, not a little pessimistic about the survival of Earth-Prime in yet another war with the Terminus.

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I knew it, he's a spy from the Terminus, come to test our defenses and weaken our resolve!

Or he's from another reality that narrowly averted Annihilation, and is trying to reach out to help others.

"I believe ve are, ja," Archeville said firmly. "Ve lost many dat day aside from Centurion, ja, but since deir loss, many more haff come to de front and shown a dedication dat vould make Centurion proud. Also, our sciences und technologies have progressed by great strides since de Invasion, such dat ve should be able to detect an incoming assault better dan ve could den, und teleport critical resources und manpower to needed zones mit much more speed und accuracy. It is mein belief dat dese advances in particular shall be of greatest aid to us, as it is mein understanding dat Omega und his kind rarely make any sort of technological progress or innovation on deir own, relying on de same technologies -- powerful as dey are -- for decades, centuries, or even millennia before changing... or, more likely, before assimilating und adopting some freshly-gobbled technology."

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Odysseus scratched his bearded chin, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Wouldn't it be better to pool your resources with another world's?" Odysseus inquired thoughtfully. "There are whole legions of realities along the Cosmic Coil who want to keep themselves safe from the armies of the Terminus, but lack the will and skill to do so. If your world and another were to begin working together, the cycle of alliance could begin." He rose smoothly as he spoke, his plans ringing out in the voice of a natural-born leader. "The multiverse itself united as was Greece in the days of Alexander, a single, unified whole of states arranged against the terrible empire luring on their border. You both know it; you know the stellar empires of your world," he said with a nod to Dark Star, "and you your world's deep history. A bundle of spears can survive, even kill, where one would be broken."

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Dark Star listened to them speak, saying little and just paying attention to what was and wasn't said. The alternate reality stuff wasn't much of a shocker really. There were theories in abundance on that score; not to mention a few hard and concrete facts!

Dark Star nodded at the idea though. Fighting evil, no matter where it was, was what was important. He was a trusting sort, yes. But that didn't make the concept of the discussion any less valid. "Pardon, but is that what you're proposing? That we join together with another alternate universe? Or we go there and help train? I am of course willing in either case. If there is something I can do to stop such tragedy from taking a single life, of course I will help and do whatever is in my power to stop it."

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See? I told you he-


"True, but a splinter can kill just as vell, if in de right place," Archeville replied.

"Your idea does sound meritorious, Herr Odysseus," he said as he rose to maintain eye level with the visitor, "but... vell, vhat assurance do ve haff dat you are who you claim to be? For all I know, you could very well be an agent of Omega, attempting to lure either me or several of dis vorld's heroes into a trap. Or you could merely be here to test us, see how far ve haff come since de last Invasion, sizing us up for an upcoming assault."

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"I assure you," replied Odysseus, "I am no agent of Omega. I am here to make sure that my world, and yours, never need to fear the Lord of the Terminus again." He smiled. "What I propose is that we work together to unite our respective worlds. Two entire peoples working together, fighting together, striving together, to build a better world where no man need fear being cast adrift on the tides of fortune. A place with justice for all. What do you say?"

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Waait a sec....

Oh, what now?

He came to us - to us!

... yes?

Which means he thinks we're one of the dominant players, a mover & shaker! Ha!

... what happened to the 'we don't trust him' thing?

Well, obviously he can't be all that bad if he came to us first.


Archeville was silent for what seemed like an eternity. "I vould say," he finally replied, "dat dis is not a decision I, alone, can make. Dis is someding dat should be handled by de Freedom League. Mein ego und pride are not such dat I vould presume to speak for de vorld, much less de entire dimension!".

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He wondered at the Doctor's reluctance and suspicion but gave a mental shrug. It seemed the Doctor just took a little longer to get to obvious decision. The downside of having so many options he supposed.

Dark Star shrugged. "I can only speak for myself. The idea is a worthy one. What do you need from us or how is this going to work?"

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Odysseus began to pace at this, walking around and making the grand gestures and voice movements of a king. "Your world has been divided for far too long, don't you think? A hundred nations, a million superhumans, each of them allying or conflicting with the others as their mood suits them. Do you have a Centurion now to rally your people behind if Omega shows up again? Or a Freedom League whose leaders are all spokesmen for one nation? For one purpose?" He turned and looked back at Doctor Archeville and Dark Star. "You have touched the robe of the universe itself, Doctor Archeville, in your scientific studies; Dark Star, in many ways you are the universe. What I offer you is a chance to lead your world into strength and unity. Keep the Freedom League, let them guard your planet once you have given it the strength and the unity to survive the threats to come. Let today be the beginning of a new order of things on this planet; an order that belongs to you and your people."

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Dark Star frowned for a moment. "Perhaps I wasn't clear when I said the idea was worthy. I am obviously interested in helping and saving lives. So, please, tell us what you have in mind, specifically, and what you need from us. I might not be much of a leader, but I'll do whatever I can to help protect people." He shrugged his shoulder a little. How could any hero turn down the option of saving and protecting innocents? That was their calling; to put themselves forward and use their abilities for the betterment of all.

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"And you, Herr Doktor Viktor Archeville?" inquired Odysseus. "Will you join me in unifying your world behind a common purpose? In ushering in an age of scientific and thaumaturgical progress the like of which you've never known?" He smiled, extending a hand in friendship. "I would give you the title your family rightly deserves."

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Yes! YES!!! By Newton, YES!!!

Wait wait wait wait wait - you feel that? That tingle in the air, the faint whiff of ozone?

What are you- yes, well, I do now, but I don't- oh, that fink! He thinks he can swat us away if we refuse?

Well, possibly, though that's more likely a protective fiel-

We'll show him! No one threatens us in our own home!

Well, technically, we're not in our-

Gets our hopes up like that... how dare he?!

I... we... wait, what?

Archeville began to extend his hand towards Odysseus', as if to clasp the offered hand, then stopped mid-way, and closed his hand into a loose fist. "I dink dat you activating an extradimensional energy field reveals many dings, none of vhich bode vell."

His other hand, which had been moving towards the controls on his Gravimetric Belt, entered the sequence needed to activate his Force Field.

"At best, you are simply heading back to your dimension of origin to report our reluctance in allying. Slightly vorse dan dat, you are going back to file a report on vhat intelligence you haff managed to gather. Slightly vorse dan dat... vell, it vould be rude of me to presume immediate hostilities, dough as you can see I am not so diplomatic as to eschew some personal protection."

Opening a portal to just blast us with trans- or otherdimensional energies? Or some sort of dimensional shield?

Or just summoning reinforcements. Wait a moment....

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Dark Star paused. "Doctor? If we're to work with other realities, wouldn't he need the field?" He wasn't sure why the Doctor was so hesitant or what he knew. He trusted the man of course, he was a hero after all. But he was confused all the same. He'd follow the man's lead though Dark Star was still hoping that good would come of this.

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"Oh, have I offended your hospitality?" replied an apologetic Odysseus. "You will forgive me, my friends," he said as the power around his armor slowly faded, "I sought only to take all of us to my home world. There I might show you the unity I wish to help you build on this world; and the wonders we might create together from that. Surely that is no great crime, is it?"

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See? He is a good guy, he just wants to show us around!

Show us to our doom! Don't do it!

We are going!

Archeville let out a long sigh, indicating that he'd been holding his breath in anticipation. "Forgive me, Herr Odysseus, I did not mean to come across as so... paranoid. You haff been a excellent guest, und I haff been a poor host. If de invitation is still open, I vould very much like to see your vorld und meet your associates."

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A flash of light transported the two superheroes from Earth-Prime to an entirely new place. They found themselves standing atop a high columnar tower reminiscent of the Pyramid Plaza cast in the style of the Ionic Greeks, though the city below was clearly not Freedom City. The assembled heroes were standing on a lovely plaza on the roof of the massive building, a boisterous place with marble fountains and pools, where handsome people in togas passed by to and fro, smiling cheerfully and giving a Greco-Roman style salute to Odysseus as he landed with his newfound companions. "All hail Prince Odysseus!" one man who bore a suspicious resemblance to Sebastian Stratos called

"Gentlemen," said Odysseus boisterously, "welcome to Athens! The city of the past is the capital of the future, or so I like to think." He smiled and threw his arm around Archeville's shoulder, pointing out to the city surface beneath. "Will you fly with me to see the glories of the city below? Or would you prefer to get there under your own power?" As he spoke, he turned to Dark Star. "As for you, Master Phaeton, if you go exploring I suggest you limit yourself to Europe. My fellow princes may not be quite so hospitable as I am to a new face."

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