I’ve watched Darklight kill me a few times now. Times when I had my attention diverted, or was asleep, or even just when I was in a spot that didn’t have my armor. The walls turned into a cinematic experience with surround sound and optional 3D glasses when she left for her hunting expeditions. It was, I admit, boring. She’s hurting people; there was often some collateral damage to another timeline. She didn’t care. It was easy not to care, knowing it was “just” a copy. In my more cynical youth, this would have just reinforced my dislike of superheroes who claim the moral high ground but sacrifice whoever they want. Now, it disappointed me that I really am a better person.
Still, she hasn’t gone after my family. Walked in this last time with the head of an alternate of mine, showing it off as a proud trophy. “Looks pretty stupid, doesn’t it?”
I shrugged. “It’s not me. That’s a version who never hurt you. You’re a very petty and small-minded person, aren’t you?”
“You just want to fuck with me,” she responded, tossing the head aside. It trailed blood behind it on the floor, little splatters getting on the container I was trapped in.
I waved dismissively. “You’re not even murdering kids yet. What, you don’t want to go kill my daughter?”
She stared at me for awhile.
“Anyway, back to my petty point. Time is at your fingertips and anything you do, you will never face the consequences.And you’re obsessed with me. Artificial Intelligence wants to rule Earth and all of time, murdering uncountable innocents, and wipe out everyone with superpowers. You want to go back in time and humiliate me. What will it take to get you to help save all of time?”
Darklight crossed her arms over her chest. The black costume that covered up her burns had some dried stains on it, mostly red. I’m glad there was a couple barriers keeping me from smelling her. She didn’t say anything though.
“You’re not hurting me the way you want, and I bet you’re realizing it’s not as fun as you expected. You want to go back and live your life? Do it. You can get healed easily.”
“You know what? Kill yourself,” she said.
I held out a hand like we were going to shake. “Deal.”
“What?” she asked, sounding surprised to me.
“If it’ll get you and the rest of your friends to help save everything, I’ll do it. Time, place, method, what have you.”
The time ended up being… IDK, ten minutes later? I don’t know how you measure “time” in a place that’s supposed to be “outside time”. Everything about time travel falls apart the moment I try to make sense of it, but the idea that time doesn’t exist in a place just doesn’t fit otherwise nothing there would advance from one event to another. I’d be seeing past and future versions of me in this cell, filling it up like a cage full of bunnies on Viagra.
That was how long it took before Darklight, Human Sloth, Miss Tycism, Venus, Captain Lighting II, and Lone Gunman all stood there. A cup of something that smoked floated in front of Miss Tycism. “This is the deadliest poison known to human alchemy,” she explained. “They call it Absolute End.”
“Take off your helmet and drink it all,” Captain Lightning II ordered.
I unsealed my helmet and popped it off, shaking out my hair. I dropped my helmet on the floor and held out my hand. One quick teleport later and the cup was in my hand.
“She won’t do it. She’s chickensh-” Lone Gunman started to say. He stopped because I’d brought the cup up and was downing the gag-inducing stuff within. Pretty sure I tasted some mercury and cinnabar, but it was so bad that the taste alone nearly toppled me. My throat and mouth began to warm up and ache. Anything touching anything else felt like sandpaper scraping that skin. I coughed and held up a finger, then lowered it once I had control.
“Ok, now will you please do your jobs as fucking heroes and save everyone.”
The bunch seemed stunned, except for Lone Gunman. He turned to Captain Lightning. “That was a trick somehow.”
Lightning shook his head. “There was no trick or illusion. All nanomachines are suppressed. I can see moving through her tissues already.”
I held my hands up in a faux-modest Venus de Milo pose. “Paint how you see me,” I said, then coughed some more.
The walls turned deep red. One wall crashed inward under the hull of a pointed metal hull. The bunch of Slayer-recruited heroes were pulled away from the breach, along with me.
We ended up in a larger area, another huge white room. Jaguar Slayer really likes the emphasis on overwhelming purity and cleanliness. Not a good sign in my opinion, but I was a walking deadwoman anyway. Jaguar Slayer felt so safe around me, even the container walls were gone. So was my helmet, though.
I really fucking hated that I’d done that for a bunch of assholes who didn’t deserve my help, but what I really did it for were the assholes who do, like my family. They can find a close enough me and manage Alexander. I was nothing in all this but some weird pawn with a tracking device somehow hidden on me. I didn’t want to die, though. Really did not want to die.
Others were waiting there. Another Iron Maiden armor, along with that blind guy in the robe, along with one or two I didn’t recognize. Instead of that one hairy clawed guy, they had some dude who looked part cat and a young teenager with spines sticking out of her body. The area behind them looked a lot like a smaller, enclosed version of the part I saw. No grass, no sky, and this one central building that reached up to the ceiling had a red dot that set its gaze upon us. In front of that was a statue of an loincloth-clad warrior with a spear. A voice boomed out of the red dot. “Ready yourselves. Gecko’s companions have walked into the seat of my power and my trap.”
The group looked at me. I looked at them. My eye twinged a bit, and Human Sloth winced away from it, so I must have been looking about as shitty as I was feeling.
Darklight shook her head. “No. I got what I wanted.”
The statue was fast as hell. It was a robot that raised its arm and threw the spear right at Darklight. That spear wasn’t for decoration and I very nearly didn’t get my body in front of it when Jaguar Slayer tried to hit Darklight. It speared my armor and right on through, but it slowed enough that it didn’t go into her. Or maybe it never would have gone into her and I’m a fucking genius at murdering myself. No, wait, she caught the spear. Dropped it, too.
“Ow,” I said.
She knelt beside me. Venus rushed over, too. “Can you stand?”
I shook my head, which hurt the back of my neck. “No, but I was barely able to do that before the spear.” I raised a hand toward Darklight. “With great power, comes…”
“Jesus, you don’t take anything seriously,” Darklight said. Fine, I won’t finish, but I was going to tell her it comes with mad ass.
Venus looked around, then back at me, then to Darklight. “What are we doing? What have we done for revenge?”
“I don’t know,” Darklight said, “But we don’t have to do it anymore.”
“Three votes,” Human Sloth added from where he stood nearby.
“Yeah,” Captain Lightning II jumped in.
Lone Gunman didn’t say anything, but Miss Tycism looked between the group and Jaguar Slayer’s bunch.
Interrupting all of this is when a modern metal frigate came riding up along the floor, honking its horn. It flew a flag that depicted a skeleton holding another skeleton at gunpoint with an AK-47 and stealing Blackbeard’s famous pirate flag. A crew of dark-skinned pirates stood, some cheering, others aiming at various people around.
“Avast Antivirus!” called one pirate, what appeared to be a fish’s head poking out of a shirt. The arms were covered with sleeves and gloves, and I couldn’t see what the foot situation was there. “Where’s that big-headed computer cunt anyway?”
Mobian Jr., whose jolly roger shirt even looked too straight and clean, poked his head up. “And Psycho Gecko.”
“Arr!” the fish cried out. “Hand over the lizard maiden and no one gets hurt.”
I’d have laughed if I wasn’t busy shitting my pants. Darklight grabbed me and pulled the spear out, flying me over to the ship. The rest of the bunch came running up. “Here she is. Any room for more aboard?”
“And split the booty even more?!” the fish gasped in astonishment. Or maybe for breath.
“Nobody’s splitting my booty unless I say so,” I said. I raised a finger to object, but then the nail fell off and the finger was bruising. “Also, I could use a doctor. Or something.”
“Get her to the brig’s status cells,” ordered Wattson, rushing over to reach for me. The robot was gentle with me. Still ended up jostling me some, but I decided to close my eyes because of how much the light hurt.
“You said something about a trap?” I heard the blindfolded man ask.
“There is a problem. My innumerable armies of the damned and demented don’t seem to be responding,” Jaguar Slayer said.
Qiang laughed. I’d recognize that laughter. “I’m real glad you kept the timeline where I failed to destroy that essential data, Slayer. We couldn’t have done it if you’d purged it.”
“Inconceivable,” Slayer announced.
“Conceivable!” My not-yet-conceived son Alexander countered. “You can’t bring in reinforcements unless we allow it. You can’t escape unless we let you. You’re through. We made you build the flaw into yourself and waited until you invited us in, thinking you were the one doing the trapping.”
“This ends now, Jaguar Slayer. And thanks to Gecko, you can’t erase anything leading up to it,” Mobian Jr. announced. Hey, it was nice to get the recognition. An antidote would be better. Then, more softly, “You’re welcome to sit this one out.”
“No,” Darklight said.
“Yeah,” Venus added, “We’ve got some penance to do. This ends now.”
I cleared my throat. Not to make a point, there was just a lot of blood in there. I had to spit some up. “Might I suggest we have that enthusiasm about this poison I drank?”
“Why would you do that?!” Alexander asked. His voice came closer.
I shrugged. “Seemed like the thing to do. Was hanging out with Socrates and Rasputin when that old philosopher asked us if we wanted to do some shots. Peer pressure’s a bitch.”