Once upon a time (okay, it was 1988), the universes almost ended. And it almost happened in my home town.
Yes, I know the universes almost ended in 1985 too. And in 1994. And in 1996. But it's really all the same. When the universes almost end, you can see it from any time. What happened, as nearly as I can tell, is that another universe almost occupied the same space as ours. Which is one way that Big Bangs get started. And whenever that happens, it becomes Time Zero no matter what time it used to be.
When it happened, I was going home from a business trip to meet my brother. We both made it, but I made it twice. There were two of me. One had slipped over from that other universe. To complicate things, the other me had superhuman powers. And I didn't.
And to complicate things further, a motley collection of superhuman warriors made it there too. There was a super-strong martial artist, two mages, and a mutant. One of the mages was male, everyone else female.
And to complicate things further still, some prick of a War God had collected the largely superhuman us there, to send us on a mission. We were supposed to pick up mystic artifacts of some sort, and give them to him so he could reverse a universal merge. We brought back everything he needed, even though there were people opposing us. But then we had to wait in my condo, for the War God to send for us. Which conveniently gave our opponents time to attack us. Like it was scripted or something.
They had a telekinetic, two strong guys, a mage, an Amazon queen, and two others I never recognized. Overall, they were more powerful than us. I was good in a fight back then, but hardly superhuman. But our mages slowed them down enough for me to talk them into a truce. It seeemed they'd been given this same sort of bogus mission from some other War God. We all decided to talk to my War God together.
Of course, this led to a big fight, not all of which I understood. My best guess is, the two supposed War Gods were collaborating. And they had even more superhumans and other villains working for them. Basically, we survived and made it home, and the universes didn't die. Or at least mine didn't.
I wrote this down once, then forgot about it. The mages told me I'd forget.
But now, I'm a mage of sorts. You may have read about my adventures, now that I can spread the stories using computers. Since 1988 when I first had this problem with universes, I've become more in tune with other worlds, particularly the world of dreams. I've had to face killer robots and escape a city of Death to get this power, so it's not something I would have done on my own. But life is like that.
Some people, who are in a position to know this stuff, tell me I am potentially North America's most powerful Dreamtime mage. This doesn't do me a lot of good when fighting superhumans, but it has its uses. For starters, my mom and dad both died since then, and I summoned them both to give them proper goodbyes in dreams. As superpowers go, it's a keeper.
Besides that, I've learned I can draw upon electrical powers, in a limited sort of Thor way. I can channel ambient electricity, and use it to fly, if there's enough of it around. This seems to be a gift from Odin (or whoever it is that gives Thorpower), I'm not sure why. Maybe he's taken pity on me, because he knows what I have to go through with enemies of Asgard.
Anyway, there I was, trying to travel from Tampa to Providence in June 1996. And I landed in Gotham City International Airport. For the second time. The first was when I came from Huntsville, in August 1988.
From prior experience, I know what to do when unexpectedly landing in a different universe: namely, find a taxi fast, and bolt. This trick worked the last time. But this time, airport personnel had us blocked off. It seems this was Gotham City 1988, so my 1996 flight got some special attention.
After a couple of hours, an official came for me, and took me into a side room. A Middle Eastern woman was in there, who was dressed much like Xena Warrior Princess (with maybe a bit more coverage). She seemed to know no English. But the official spoke something which sounded like Greek, and she nodded. Then he told me I was being taken for special processing. So I nodded. Some times you just have to go with the flow.
So we got into a limousine together. It had an official dashboard revolving light, so it never stopped. The driver ignored our questions, and drove to what looked like Fort Adams State Park in Newport. We couldn't get out; we both tried. The woman showed me she had a respectable dagger ready. I approved, but I couldn't match her. (I've given up smuggling large knives onto planes.) But I showed her a penknife, and shrugged. She shrugged too.
Then she pointed at herself, and said, "Zenobia".
This led me to a bunch of questions. The original Zenobia was an actual warrior queen in the time of the Romans. (And quite likely the inspiration for Xena Warrior Princess, by the way.) Probably the Zenobia riding with me was a namesake, dressing up for the role. But, since I know no Greek nor Latin, and she wasn't responding to English, I had no way to ask. All I could do was introduce myself, "Wyatt". By mutual consent, we called me "Hiat".
We drove inside the fort, where the driver let us out. (The lady first, of course.) There were five other people there, some of whom I recognized. There was Morningstar the famous superheroine, who was dressed in street clothes except for a mask. There was Crusher Joe Corrigan the famous pro wrestler, in a pinstripe suit and trenchcoat. There was Titan the famous bodyguard, in his working clothes. And two others I didn't recognize, though they looked familiar: one blue woman in a cape and Spandex, one big white man with Mohawk hair and Spandex with an atom symbol on front. Oh boy, superhumans.
Then some War God appeared, and started talking about seven power objects, of which we only had two. Boy, this sounded familiar.
I tried to object, but I couldn't speak! There were shackles on my mouth!
I wasn't the only one who saw them, either. Zenobia looked at me, shocked. She shouted something, which made all the heroes turn around. But they didn't notice a thing. And the War God ignored us.
So, off we went. Again. Crusher Joe jumped; the other superhumans all flew. Zenobia and I were left behind.
Fortunately, though, there were high-tension power lines with lots of electricity. So, as Morningstar turned back to pick us up, I lifted on my own. And Zenobia clung on to me. So I got to carry us both. I've had less pleasant tasks. Especially since my power-line levitation trick worked with passengers, making them as weightless as I. You learn something new every day.
Fortunately, we headed north along power lines. Toward Douglas, Massachusetts. Somehow, I figured.
And it was cold, and rainy. And I was dressed for Florida. And Zenobia was dressed for Syria or some such place.
But then a brown object came and wrapped itself around us. My favorite trenchcoat! It seems my summoning power was working just fine.
Near Douglas, we had to stray east of the main highway to stay with the power lines. My condo is west of said highway. So, the rest of our team got there ahead of us.
When we caught up, I saw the height of the action as I remembered it. Our side had mostly been neutralized by a spell which canceled out any superhuman powers not related to magic. Morningstar was fighting to overcome it, and had managed to levitate onto my balcony and keep me (no, keep my enemy younger self) from whacking her with a mace. Definitely time to end it.
The trouble was, I barely made it. My condo is not near those major power lines which let me levitate gracefully. I followed the household lines in fairly fast, but not powerfully. I stumbled onto the picnic table on my balcony, where younger Wyatt was standing. Zenobia landed more gracefully. Which is fortunate, because my double dropped his mace and attacked us.
Luckily I'd been holding Zenobia on my left side, which faced him. So I had some defense. In 1988 I was quite the martial artist. Not any more. But it seems my Middle Eastern companion was something of a warrior queen herself. She just stood there and parried him.
Then I stood up, and yelled Stop. My younger self stopped. Even in 1988, I'd heard my recorded voice, so my double recognized me.
But oops, I had more than one double here. My superhumanly powerful extradimensional doppelganger who was on the roof jumped off to try to grab Morningstar. But Zenobia jumped to meet him, deflected him, then threw him into the ground. She landed back on my balcony.
Then the famous rock star Vara Hosea came out from the living room. What the hell? I was expecting an airline stewardess. Odder still, she seemed to know me, and she asked me what was going on.
Suddenly I couldn't speak again! Shackles reappeared across my mouth. And Ms. Hosea saw them too. She got the other side to quiet down. We ended up inside, drinking my 1988 beer. Too bad I wasn't a homebrewer then.
Apparently Vara Hosea was secretly a mage. And there was another mage with her, but again he was different from what I remember (which was a guy with a pentagram carved on his chest). Together, the mages got rid of those shackles on my mouth.
Then we started introducing ourselves, and saying what year we thought it was. The other mage knew Greek, which was good enough to bring Zenobia into the conversation. And he knew two other year-numbering systems, which came in handy. The results were:
So... there we all were, again. Fourteen superhumans in a two bedroom condominium, with a few hours to kill before our War Gods sent someone to pick us up at 3 AM. And this was the second time I'd done this. The first time, I was busy trying to plan an assault without knowing what to expect. This time, I just made sure the mages knew how not to give mystic power objects to meddling War Gods.
Then I went off to bed, so to speak. Luckily I'd acquired a taste for sleeping outside. But people couldn't just let me sleep.
First, Vara Hosea insisted I sit in on the war council. It seems I will be a respected ally of hers, in the future when I am a better mage. (She even likes me enough that she asked me to call her Vara.) And I suppose it made sense for me to be in on the planning, since I was the one person who'd already been where we were going. But everyone else wanted to be on the council too. (Except for Frances and Morningstar who staked out a bedroom, and Crusher Joe and the extradimensional me, who went off drinking. They had the right idea.)
Then, we couldn't just agree to banish the original power items and fool the War Gods with duplicates like the last time. Vara liked the idea, but MANIC 6 and Titan both wanted to hook the originals up to portable lab devices and take them into battle. In the end, they hooked them up to lab devices but left them behind.
Vara Hosea and MANIC 6 didn't agree on much of anything. Vara didn't seem to like him much, and she was reluctant to tell me why. She just told me not to trust him. So much for coordination among us mages.
Then my brother wanted to talk to me. I guess he just couldn't believe I wasn't a shaved-head martial artist like I was in 1988. Speaking of whom, Me 1988 didn't want to talk to me. He was busy hitting on Jill Stern. Titan didn't seem happy about that for some reason, but he was busy.
Nucleon and the Daughter of Darkness kept to themselves, so they didn't stand between me and bed. I made it outside with some blankets then. But this left Zenobia. MANIC 6 had given her an English to Greek translator earplug. Too bad we didn't all have Greek to English plugs.
She clapped her hands on my shoulders and said something in Greek. I clapped my hands on her shoulders in return, and said, "I don't understand you, but thanks anyway."
Then she shrugged, and laid down. Well, of course. She'd be used to sleeping outside. So we slept together, in the literal sense.
When I woke up, it was 3 AM or whatever ungodly hour we were supposed to meet the War Gods. I knew, because the horses from the War God chariot were breathing on me. And everyone else was coming. So I just stumbled on board with everyone else.
When we arrived at War God Land, the chariot let us off in a hallway, then pulled away. Doors closed behind it, and other doors opened in front of us. Whoopee, we'd planned on going forward anyway.
So we stepped into a large circular chamber. Just like the last time. Both the War Gods were there. Just like the last time. But there were other villains with them... and they were different. Last time, the toughest one was some unstoppable mystic warrior named "Juggernaut" who mostly fought mutants. This time, the toughest was the Mad Axeman from Venus. That is, the original Mad Axeman who was stronger than any Earthling, shot acid from his pores, and cleared a 10-foot wide area of all vegetation from Tennessee to New Jersey before he died. If I'd had a choice, I'd have faced "Juggernaut" instead.
Of course, the War Gods realized we weren't bringing them the power objects. Of course, it degenerated into a brawl. It was going about the same way as before; that is, we seemed to be winning against the minions, as long as the War Gods themselves didn't join the fight. Our four strongest (Crusher Joe, Titan, Jill Stern, and one of me) managed to knock the Mad Axeman through the marble floor, then help the others.
Then, when I was trying to figure out what was going on, Zenobia shouted "Hiat!" and pulled me down a side stairway. Before I knew it, I was downstairs. Looking at my own basement. With a big lab device sitting there, with all seven power objects attached, which apparently MANIC 6 and Titan had set up while I was sleeping. And several mythical-looking monsters were guarding it. It seems the Gods were interested.
Zenobia tugged my arm once again, in the direction of the device. Then she charged.
What to do? Charge too? Summon? Dispel? Hey... Thorpower.
I held out my arms, so my coat could fling itself off. It went to pick up Zenobia. Then I electrified the floor. All the non-flying creatures got zapped. Zenobia finished off the rest.
Then she flung herself at the lab device, and said something in Greek. Nothing happened.
I decided, it was definitely time to get rid of this thing. One of my longest standing powers has been to jump between universes. Usually involuntarily, but on occasion I control it. It seemed like a good time to try.
A sphere formed around the device, pushing my hands and Zenobia's away. Inside the sphere, we saw the battle we'd just left. I said, "Well then."
The weaker War God had been thrashed, but the other one was filling the chamber with energy bolts. Jill Stern was flinging one of me into Vara Hosea out of the way of harm, but most everyone else was being struck down. And the War God was bragging about how only the mystic master of an entire dimension could operate some device he had hidden.
But suddenly everyone stopped, and looked up at me. My own words "Well then" were still bouncing off their walls.
The War God said, "No. It can't be him. IT CAN'T BE HIM!" And he shot a bolt of force up at me. I jumped back.
But Zenobia was still holding on to the device with one hand. With the other, she pulled me back in. And she said (and I understood):
"This mage has the power - and I, Zenobia, have the will."
Then things started falling apart. Luckily, they fell apart inside the sphere first. Our allies fled, as the last War God was sucked into a newly-formed ruin where his temple had been.
But then we couldn't hold on to the sphere either. We flew away from it, and from each other.
The last thing I said was "Oh shit", or something of the sort. The last thing Zenobia said was, "Well fought, mage!"
The End (for now, because stories never really end.)