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Interlude: Out of Time

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Megan awoke in an almost featureless white room. She could barely see where the walls and ceiling began and ended. A soft light filled the room. 


A bookcase, antique and filled with tomes she recognised, swam into view. 


Then the soft leather couch she was lying on. 


Then an oak desk, and leather chair, the man, an old man, sitting on it, maybe seventy or eighty, bald, weathered but healthy, and somewhat familiar...


And Anders, the same Anders, standing by her aside. 


"Welcome to base time..." said Anders. 


"Please try and relax. The null beam has only minor side effects. You may experience a mild headache but we have taken the liberty of administering a minor sedative and painkiller..." he explained, slowly and as friendly as he could. 

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Megan blinked as her vision blurred slightly, as she tried to remember what had happened back in the conference room in Katastrof Castle. As the memory came back to her she sat upright, probably a bit faster than she should have as she felt her head swim slightly and heard the voice of the man who had been speaking to her when she had been hit by…what did he call it, the null beams.


Despite the haze in her head, the blonde mind was racing, going through things hundreds of time faster than a normal person could. Great, what the hell is going on. She thought as she noted that she had her bag in which her Velocity costume was hidden. Of course, it was not much use to her at the moment. Did he say 'base time?' She asked herself. Wonderful, time travelers.


Focusing back on "Anders," a scowl came to her face. "Who the hell are you? What is the meaning of this kidnapping?" She yelled.

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Anders backed of, just slightly, and involuntarily. 


"Please, be calm" he said, a slight uneveness to his voice creeping in. 


"This appearance is not my own. It is just for convenience sake. I was the man impersonating Mr. Ekland. Mr. Ekland himself is under heavy sedation for the moment. He will not be harmed, and we will implant suitable memories once this issue is over with" he explained. 


He gestured towards the old man sitting by the desk. 


"Mr. Harrow will explain..."


Indeed it was him. Robert Harrow, now an old man, but with the unmistakable looks of the English Lord. 


"Even by my, rather arbitrary perspective, it has been a long time, Megan..." he said, a voice characterised by steely control. 


"I can't explain anything. It is indeed debatable whether I should explain anything. But you deserve some truth, even if I must curtail it, or even bend it" he said, staring at her with clear eyes. 


"I am from the future. Where you and I were married. Where a certain stopwatch gave me some exceptional insights. For instance, I know you are Velocity. Together, we fought crime. So long ago now. Together, we had a child..."


"Bear in mind this is not your future. Or may not be. It is only one of a near infinite number of paths that thread out before you. But it a dangerous one. Our child was, to put in straightforward terms, mad. His powers, cosmic, even by the standards of the godlike heroes that walked the earth in our day. He nearly wrecked our reality. He was called Collapse. And yes, time and space did just that around him..."


He frowned, unsettled by the recounting. 


"Collapse must never be born. Do you understand? We must never be together. The stopwatch...must be stopped. That device has brought the two of us together. It is designed to do that. It's power cannot be controlled, at least not fully..."

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Megan looked over at the older Robert in surprise when "Anders" introduced him, though somehow she knew she should not be.  The blonde young woman felt a sense of dread creep over her as he gave his brief explanation about the life he had led with another version of herself.  Oh, I so do not need this right now.  She thought to herself after he finished.  Bad enough how hard it has been getting over my breakup with my Robert, now to hear about a possible future were we were married and had a child…


After the older Robert finished, Megan put one hand to her forehead as she closed her eyes a moment.  She then opened her eyes once more and focused on the older Robert.  "I, Robert, even if I were to believe your story, and I have to say, kidnapping me is not really a good start to earning my trust, what do you expect to do?"

"Like you said, what happened to you and the other me might not be my future.  I am no expert, but I have heard a bit about time travel, and how going back to change something only creates two divergent timelines.  How can you truly stop your past from happening in any other timeline?"

"And in any event, I pretty well messed things up with my Robert, so I am not sure there is much chance of us ever being married.  And as for having a child…I don't know about your Megan, but I there are times I can barely stand waiting in line for nine seconds.  I have serious doubts about my ability to be able to handle being pregnant for nine months."

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The elderly Harrow smiled. It was a tired, even cruel smile. His eyes were weary and hard. 


"The Many Worlds Hypothesis. as I believe it is termed in your time. Well, my time too..." he replied. 


"Under normal circumstances, you would be right. But with our awful son, Collapse, the laws cease to apply. There are, it is true, an infinite number of possible universes. And an infinite number of me's talking to an infinite number of you's. But Collapse's power is beyond normal comprehension. Our mad son is able to...well...collapse...entire strands of the future. As far as we are aware, there is only one of him in the entire multiverse. Or perhaps to say, all versions of him are as one. Even we don't fully understand his power or the maths behind it. The little we do not is quite terrifying..."


He looked drawn. 


"No. He must be stopped from ever existing. We plucked you from the nexus of probabilities where Collapse could be conceived. And is vital that we do so. Under no circumstances must you or me ever get together. And, I am aware of the fact this means my own existence would normally terminate. Fortunately, this null time we are in shields us from such disturbances. But eventually Collapse will rend this extra-temporal zone to shreds...."


He rose. 


"I am left with a dilemna, Megan. As far as we can tell, the Stopwatch is designed to get you and Harrow together. I therefore am presented with a difficult position. Normally, I would not take the risk of putting you back into that time stream. You cannot speak of the future, and you present a risk of...the unthinkable happening. However, the Stopwatch and...me...must be stopped. Some of our agents are trying to do so at this very minute...well, relatively speaking. But..." he paused. 


"...I know how powerful and capable you are. Our agents are too. But...we may need you..."

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Megan listened to the older Robert as he began explain more.  "You mean you kidnapped my from my time stream."  The blonde corrected at one point with a slight irritation in her voice.  "Again, not the best way to get me to believe anything you have to say."  And I certainly don't plan to let me keep you here for however long you might feel is necessary.  She thought.


When he finished, she closed her eyes and rubbed her temples again, a part of her wishing this was just some bad dream.  Damn it.  Didn't Katastrof mention Robert having some strange 'artifact?'  She thought to herself.  That must be this stopwatch thing.


Opening her eyes, she looked back at the older Robert.  "Okay, so, this 'Stopwatch' thing, that gave you some sort of powers or something.  Who made it?  Our son?"

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"That is one theory, yes. Possibly the best theory. Our so..Collapse..is, however, somewhat insane from his own powers. His perceptions are so distorted. Whilst his power is great, his focus is not. Could he have created the Stopwatch? it is certainly possible. It shares many of his characteristics. There is, like him, only one Stopwatch in the multiverse. Or rather, all Stopwatches are one, linked together..."


He scratched his head. 


"The advanced science of the far future at my fingertips..and yet I still do not fully understand the mathematics of this..." he said, irritated with himself. 


"As for the Stopwatch, it is keyed to my own being. Or rather, to any Robert Harrow. In possession of the Stopwatch, I, or any Robert Harrow, is able to control the flow of time - stopping it or speeding it up. If he has it, he will be faster even than you...for all your speed, you cannot outrun time..."


"But that, as they say, is just the beginning. Or the end. Or the middle. Its all a bit relative here. The Stopwatch is in some way keyed to you, and Collapse, and myself. And we cannot penetrate why..."

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Megan listened to the explanation from the older Robert, such that he could give.  It seemed there were a lot of unknowns, which made her wonder somewhat what Robert and whomever was helping him, had in the way of a plan.


"Okay, so you don’t totally understand what you’re up against.  Nothing quite new there, that tends to be how things go a good bit of time."  The blonde replied.  "But, what is your plan if you are able to get a hold of this stopwatch?  I mean, if Collapse did not create it, who would and why key it to us?"

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"You ask questions I cannot answer" shrugged old Harrow, unhappily. 


"That is why we have intervened at the juncture we picked you out of. The Stopwatch, Robert, yourself, all in one space-time area. It is fragile and dangerous. You see the dangers, the possibilities?"


"If we can find out more at this point, it opens the possibility for future intervention. Or past intervention. But at this moment, or relative-moment, we are somewhat ignorant. That is why we have placed several agents there. You are no doubt aware that our agents are trained to interfere minimally - they act in stealth or by impersonation, and do minimal damage. You, of course, will be under no such restrictions. Provided I do not expand any further your knowledge. The more information I give you, the greater the potential for you interfering with the past. You appreciate the conundrum, I am sure..."


He paused and massaged his head. 


"In any case, you, being from that time space area, are at much greater liberty to act than our agents. And you particular abilities lend you considerable effectiveness. So, I am inclined to take a risk and return you..."

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Megan sighed slightly at the older Robert's either inability or unwillingness to explain more to her.  She did appreciate the problems he was facing in this, though she was still not entirely certain she should truly trust him.  The problem was, there really was not easy way he could earn her trust, or even could have if his agents had come to speak with her instead of kidnapping her as they did.  Of course, even the mere possibility of what he was describing was troubling, and not just because it involved a son she potentially could have with Robert.


"Well, if it eases your concern any, as I somewhat mentioned before, I have not spoken with my Robert in about nine months.  And the only person I have even been thinking about sleeping with in the last month certainly wasn’t him."  Then, in the blink of an eye, Megan was no longer sitting down, but standing next to the couch, dressed in her Velocity costume.  "So, what is it you would want me to do?"

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"I cant entirely say. Partly because I don't know. Partly because I can't let you know, because if you know, you may act on the knowledge..." he sighed. 


"Yes, this agency is a headache..."


"The one thing we must stop happening is you and I...err...getting together. Procreating, whatever. Every version of collapse is the same, or he is every version. The more you can prevent him from happening in any future, the less powerful he becomes. Potentially, even, he won't be driven insane, a dream I hardly dare hope..."


"So that is what I ask you. Make sure that does not happen. And before you ask, there is more here than just your intentions. The stopwatch is keyed to you and I. And it is powerful. It could transport me back to when we first met. It could rewind time. We don't know. And given its power, it could even be used to steal your DNA and create a child out of utero. So, be alert..."


"We have all the time we need here. But I have said as much as I feel I am able to...are you ready?"

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Velocity almost rolled her eyes as the older Robert was rather vague about what he expected her to do, and why he was being vague.  But when he turned to what she had to prevent, and struggled slightly on how to describe it, the young woman could not help but give a little laugh, despite the seriousness of the situation.

"Still can't just be crass about it Robert?"  She said with a small smile.  "I mean, our first meeting on Ibiza appeared at the time to be nothing more than a one nightstand."  But then her smile faded as he mentioned that the Stopwatch might just be able to take her DNA and create Collapse without any of that.


"Alright, I will have to be careful then."  She replied, much more serious once again.


Taking a deep breath, she gave a nod.  "I'm ready.  I guess putting me back near the facility Robert and the Stopwatch are supposed to be at would be best."

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"That seems a good a place as any" agreed Robert, as he sat back in the chair. 


"Very well, we will replace you back there. Our agents are in place and will be briefed on your status. Please bear in mind the need to keep intervention in the past to the barest minimum"


As he spoke he seemed to get fuzzy in image, and Megan started to feel drowsy. 


"Incidentally, you are not actually here. Your real body is under sedation in a secure facility. This is just a virtual reality construct we have projected into your head. We are scanning your brain and of course we will be selectively deleting some - ries. The process is quite pre - except for - before we send - back. Please do - be alarmed if - holes in what - recall. And some of the  - scussion - we ju - had - selectively - emoved. "


And with that, Megan fell into a non-slumber...


Continued in Stopwatch

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