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Twenty Dead Hitlers [IC]

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Freedom Point Naval Base

Saturday, March 2nd

10:32 AM

 

It felt strange to Cannonade that a hangar should have a waiting area. On one level, it was kind of obvious - there needed to be some sort of rest area for the mechanics, or staging ground for politicians who wanted to see what their funding was going towards. But a part of him thought of bases like this as all business, no lollygagging. And here he was. Lollygagging. 

 

It was weird watching business go on all about him. There were the naval staff walking about, in service uniforms, fatigues, or coveralls. Then there were the AEGIS officers who'd commandeered the hangar, dressed in their uniforms and protective shades. And then... there was him. Just sitting on a bench, drinking a cup of coffee, hoping the helmet didn't draw too much attention. Every so often, one of the enlisted men or women looked his way; he returned a casual salute, and hoped to God he didn't look like an ass doing it. 

 

This wasn't exactly his idea of spending a Saturday morning. But the call had come in from AEGIS, seeking a representative from the Liberty League. Cannonade knew that Edge was out of town doing disaster relief for UNISON (and trying to spin it as a double date for Nina), while Wander and Midnight were off on a romantic rendezvous of their own. So he'd been the one to step up for the task. But so far, he hadn't really been told much about what it was. He was just told to wait for the other "experts" to arrive so that "the matter" could be discussed. 

 

Hope these experts know something I don't. 'Cause right now, I don't have a goddamn clue. 

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Jeni slightly resented having to be here, she decided. She'd made great progress in trying to reassemble the chrono-spatial link back to the chronopod's core, which should let her get back to her ship to fix it.

 

But then they'd requested an "expert", and apparently she met the criteria. So she'd been dragged down to this place when transports for crossing water still had to float in the water. What was wrong with hovercraft?

 

And there was this odd guy in the waiting area she'd been directed to, wearing what looked to be street clothes and a... helmet? Jeni tilted her head to one side, it disconcertingly going a little too far to the left. Her too-green eyes fixed on Cannonade. And she held out a hand. "Jeni Frey. The Scholar. You are?"

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A slight tingle in the inner ear preceded the sight of a region of space warping into a man-sized spherical shape.  An infinitesimally small image of a man appeared in the center of the sphere, rapidly expanding as he emerged from the wormhole into the hangar waiting area.  The figure, recognizable for his sharp clothing and chiseled looks from his many (mostly positive) public appearances, regarded the two as the warped region behind him evaporated.

 

"Ah, Cannonade!  You were mentioned by name; good to see you again!," he smiled as he extended a hand to the working-class hero.  After giving a firm shake, he turned to Jeni, "and you must be the other expert they said would be here!  I.. hrm... I'm sorry, I don't believe we've met," he extended a hand to her, still smiling and warm, and fully expecting her to realize who he was.

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Cannonade locked eyes with the woman. There was something odd about the angle of her neck... He shook his head. The coffee probably hadn't kicked in yet. He got up and extended his hand. "Cannonade," he said. "Just... Cannonade." He was kinda impressed by the fact that the woman didn't really rely with a "nom de guerre" - then again, maybe she did things differently. "You got any idea why we're --" 

 

He was cut off by the sight of space folding in on itself, and the emergence of Dr. Archeville. Joe paused a little bit when he saw the guy. He knew that the doctor hadn't been in control when he'd gone on his rampage, that something from one of the darker parts of the world was trying to turn him into a hand puppet. But he still remembered the madness that had broken out on the streets of Southside, and somehow, the truth didn't seem to offer much comfort in perspective. 

 

"Good to see you too, Doctor," he said, returning the handshake. "Gotta say, I kinda feel like the odd one out here. Guessing this is the point where someone comes out and says, 'I suppose you're all wondering why I called you here today...'" 

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Jeni wasn't visibly perturbed by the spatial manipulation technology. Or by the blond human who emerged from the mini-wormhole. "Jeni Frey. And you are?" She took the man's hand to shake. While she'd been studying earth science and technology, she didn't know enough to tell the man from sight, and nobody had said the man's name. "I suppose I am an expert, but on what topic they're asking me... I don't know." She shrugged.

 

"My main fields are genetics, and I suppose spatio-temporal mechanics, but I'm more familiar with the second in a medical way, really." The alien woman wasn't really an expert on time travel, but by Earth standards, she supposed she qualified. 

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She really doesn't know who I am, does she?  I'm mildly intrigued (and the tiniest bit hurt) by that...

 

The man bowed and swept with his free arm as he shook Jeni's hand, "Herr Doktor Viktor Archeville, fraulein, and I am most pleased to meet you."  He released her and clasped his hands before him, "I am an expert in many fields, though my own work with spatio-temporal mechanics have been mostly theoretical."

 

Mostly, though not entirely. And what practical experience I have had was quite

 

"So, here we three are, called upon by AEGIS, yet none know exactly why?"  He raised a hand to his chin, holding the other behind his back, "What that matter might be is a conundrum itself, I'd say!"

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"Then allow me to solve it." A red-haired woman wearing a white labcoat over an AEGIS uniform stepped out from the back area of the hangar, holding a clipboard in her hand. "Dr. Catherine Brown, forensic pathologist. And I'm aware of your credentials." She scanned the various heroes, locking eyes with each. "Dr. Frey. An expert in biology, with a familiarity of the effects of temporal mechanics on a being's physiology. Dr. Archeville, whose disciplines I don't need to mention. And Cannonade. Given your access to Liberty League archives and WWII knowledge, you might be able to help us with if something like this has happened before." 

 

Cannonade raised a hand. "Wait, wait. First - you think we've got what AEGIS doesn't? And second - what exactly is 'this'?"

 

"If you'll follow me, you'll find out. Trust me, it took us a while to wrap our heads around it, too. You're getting the pertinent beats."

 

She led the trio through the plastic curtain into the main area of the hangar. Save for a few traces of engine grease, it had pretty much been cleaned out. At the far end stood twenty gurneys, all with plastic tarps drawn over their contents. Some of the contents were disturbingly small...

 

"The first body was found under the timbers of the Boardwalk at around 6:20 PM last night," Dr. Brown said. "Brace yourself." She lifted the tarp to reveal a badly burned body, red muscle and black remains. "Two teens went under to neck and found him. FCPD thought they had a real freak on their hands. They did an autopsy, scanned the dental records, and started sending them around for results. At around midnight, they got a result - from a body that was found at 8:42 PM in The Fens."

 

She moved on to the next nearest gurney and lifted the tarp. The man was young, perhaps in his late teens, with short black hair, a somewhat bulbous nose, and a bullet wound in his chest. "Shot to the heart was C.O.D. for this one," Dr. Brown said. "They found him dressed in military regalia, too. World War I regalia." 

 

"Wait a minute... this has gotta be some kinda sick joke..." 

 

"Hell of a lot of effort for an April Fool's day gag." Dr. Brown split away to retrieve one of the further gurneys. She wheeled it back towards the heroes and lifted the curtain just enough to reveal the head. It looked just like the young man, only with about twenty years added on. He was slightly leaner - not exactly in the healthy sense - his hair had grown a bit longer... and he'd grown a distinctive, toothbrush-thin mustache. 

 

"Fingerprints match in all viable cases. Dental records match in all viable cases. DNA matches in all viable cases. Say hello to Adolf Hitler. All twenty of them." 

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"That's..." Jeni blinked at the cavalcade of chronologically conveyed corpses. "That's impossible. That's a temporal paradox. The same individual's death, within one timeframe, simply cannot be done, the timeline'd fracture or revise itself so only one of the deaths would be true." She frowned down at the oldest body. From what she'd read of Earth history, this man had been an absolute monster.

 

"I'd need analytic instruments to be sure, but I'd hazard these aren't all from this timeline. Someone's taken them from others and brought them across to ours." She looked across at the two men who'd also been brought in to consult. "Or, for an alternate explanation, perhaps they simply altered bodies genetically to be Hitler."

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