Nightwing: Out of Time 4 – The Final Conflict
By Christopher W. Blaine
DISCLAIMER: Nightwing™ and all of the characters and situations previously copyrighted by DC Comics Inc. remain the property of that entity and are used without permission for fan-related entertainment only. This original story, and all original concepts and creations contained herein, are ©2004 and the intellectual property of Christopher W. Blaine.
Titan was the first of them to arrive.
To human standards, he was godlike; to the gods he was a sight to behold. Tall, muscular and blessed with the hair of his mother, he was a hero by any visual standard. Those that knew him realized very quickly that in his heart he was a hero as well. His legacy demanded him to be a protector of the innocent.
From his father and mother came his looks and if he were to assign responsibility for his amazing, greater-than-human powers, he would attribute them to his Amazon heritage. His mother had been a princess of the Amazons and she had loved his father, a mere mortal, with all of her heart. An unlikely pairing, they had been passionate about their feelings and their romance had nearly torn the super-hero community apart in the early twenty-first century.
When his father started to age, his mother left him, unable to stand by and watch the man she loved wither away and die. She begged her mother to allow his father to come live on Paradise Island, as the uninformed of the outside world called it, but Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, had refused. No man could step onto the island home of the Amazons, regardless of the circumstances.
That had left Titan in a precarious position, but he was fortunately old enough when it all happened to live on his own. As such he was fortunate enough to never have witnessed his mother's eventual suicide when his father had died a broken, lonely man.
His father, Dick Grayson, had been a super-hero, starting as Robin the Boy Wonder and eventually becoming the one-man fighting machine Nightwing. Nightwing and Titan's mother, Wonder Woman, had fallen in love when they investigated a case that for some strange reason Titan could not recall the details of. Two years after that case had started, Titan had been born in the Watchtower on the moon.
He smiled. The first Earthling born on the moon.
Now he was standing on a rock, or at least what he perceived to be a rock, in the middle of the time stream. All around him, ghostly images of things that had happened, were happening or were to happen floated by him. He did not know why he was where he was or how he had gotten there, but his father had taught him patience. His grandfather, the Batman, had reinforced it.
The second person to arrive was Lightning.
She had the same blonde hair that was characteristic of her mother's family but her eyes were of the more gypsy heritage of her father. She wiped her hands on her long bare legs and stooped over to control her breathing. Running wasn't hard for her; she was in constant contact with the Speed Force. The problem was she hadn't eaten in days as she had been busy working a case with the Justice League. Even now she was sure that her comrades were facing certain doom and she was standing in the middle of time.
The large man that came over to her was exceptionally handsome but she got the feeling she was looking at a cousin or something akin to that. He was definitely non-threatening just by his manner of walk and the easy smile on his face. It was a smile she was sure several women had swooned before.
He spoke to her with the same accent she had heard Wonder Woman use. "You seem as lost as I am," he offered.
She nodded but stayed bent over. She had not expected to break the time barrier and it had taxed her stamina. She thought about reciting the formula, the special equation that allowed members of her family to focus on the Speed Force, but she resisted. The Speed Force could heal her but her father had taught her sometimes it was good to feel pain. It let you know that despite your wondrous powers, you were still human. "I'm Lightning, a member of the Justice League of America," she said offering her hand.
"Really? I'm Titan and I'm a member of the Justice Society of America." He took her hand and gave it a reasonably firm shake. It felt like touching his sister and he immediately dropped the charming act. "I don't remember there being someone like you in the team."
"Well," she observed with an eye to the "sky" that was above them. "We could be from different time periods." She told him what year she thought it was. His response was a few years before. "I would have remembered someone like you, though," she said giving him the once over. He was too damn big to not notice.
"Perhaps we come from different realities," he offered. "On my world, such a thing is called Hypertime."
Lightning stood up and shook off the last of the pain. "Hey, buddy, I'm a speedster. Time travel and alternate realities are what make our day." She took a look around at where they were. "I've never heard of a rock in the middle of time."
"There are those who feel it is called the Rock of Eternity," another voice said.
Darkwing was the third to arrive.
Clad in a costume that both Titan and Lightning found extremely familiar, the man of Asian features approached them. "There are legends of this place on my world," he said in a clam voice. Lightning noticed immediately that the man moved with a grace that she envied. He was fluid, as if he were performing a martial arts exercise with every movement. "Forgive my interruption, but I heard you speaking as I arrived."
"I don't suppose you recognize him?" Titan asked Lightning. She claimed to have never seen him, but the costume was very close to Nightwing's, only darker. "I was about to say the same thing," Titan said with a smile. What a lucky coincidence that they both knew whom the original partner of Batman had been.
Titan put a thumb to his chest. "Nightwing was my father," he said with a proud smile.
"You're kidding, right?" Lightning asked. "Nightwing was my father and I sure don't remember growing up with you."
"Alas, Nightwing was also my father," Darkwing added. He looked at both of them. "I can see a family resemblance in all of us."
Titan didn't bother to comment on the fact that at least one of them was of Asian descent. But then he considered what the smaller man was saying. Lightning, with her long blonde hair, was obviously full of Caucasian blood while Titan had the olive skin of his mother, who was of marginal Greek origins.
"My mother was Wonder Woman," Titan told them.
"It explains your massive size," Darkwing said before revealing that his mother had been Katana, once a member of Batman's Outsiders.
"My mother was Jessie Quick," Lightning added. "She and my father met when they were together on the Titans."
Within twenty minutes of discussion, not only had the three decided that each one of them came from a different timeline, but two more "children of Grayson" also joined them.
The Gardener, a semi super-hero, reported that his mother had been Poison Ivy, a criminal. He alleged that his mother had captured Nightwing once, trying to lure the Batman into a trap and somehow they had ended up in bed. "The poisons my father absorbed from their lovemaking killed him," he said at the end of his tale.
Titan looked especially worried as he contemplated killer sex. Next to him, Jade Lantern, an obvious member of the Green Lantern Corps, threw back her long hair and explained that her mother had been the original Jade of Infinity, Inc.
The conversations eventually turned to why they were there and how they had arrived. All of them confessed that they had been involved in matters totally unrelated to time travel and the Gardener flat out refused to accept that he had been picked for some cosmic crisis. "I make plants grow; it isn't like I'm going to save the universe," he said as he pulled out a stick of beef jerky.
"I'd figure you to be a vegetarian," Lightning commented.
"Right, eat my playmates. It would be the same as you gobbling up a kitten."
"My power ring can't find an edge to this rock we're on," Jade Lantern said. She reached into one of her belt pouches (many of them could not believe a Green Lantern had a utility belt) and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. The Gardener frowned and started to complain about the burning of innocent plants. She shrugged and lit up.
Titan fanned the smoke away and Darkwing shook his head. "Standing around and breathing poor air will do nothing to resolve our current situation."
"Of that, you are correct, but I wonder if you are willing to do what it takes to change what is and what will be," a cryptic voice said to them. Stepping out of the nothingness in front of them stepped a young girl, all of fourteen perhaps. She was a striking beauty with long red hair and eyes that seemed almost glasslike in their color of green. Everyone agreed that if she continued to develop beauty as she was, by the time she was an adult, no man would be able to resist her charms.
The only disarming characteristic she had was her voice. It was like something from a grave. It unnerved some of them as she spoke. "I am happy to see that all of you were able to make it across the threshold intact."
She was clad in form fitting jumpsuit that was black and yellow with a white cloak over that. Looking at her, everyone got the impression of someone very spiritual. "There are some who cannot pass over so easily."
Titan and Lightning stepped forward. Lightning was the first to address the young girl. "Who are you? Do you know why we are here?"
"You are here because this is where you need to be," the girl said. She smiled and had it not been for the coldness of her voice, it would have likely warmed their hearts. "We are all connected, all joined spiritually by the soul of a great hero."
"We've kind of guessed that all of us have the same father," Lightning said. "Only we aren't from the same timelines."
"Yes," Titan added, trying to make sure he wasn't left out of the conversation. He guessed that of had been raised with a sister, she would have been very much like Lightning.
Jade Lantern threw down her half-smoked cigarette. "We're all from different Hypertime realities."
"Yes, for a lack of a better term, Hypertime appropriately describes what separates all of you from each other," the girl told them. "I am called Oracle and I am a traveler through the passages that are unseen. I am a mutant, a randomly selected metahuman whose parents, Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon, were totally normal."
"You don't know the Barbara Gordons we know then," Darkwing said with a chuckle. "My father used to call her a wildcat."
"My mother said she was a bitch," Gardener added.
"That doesn't explain why we're here, except I bet it has something to do with our father…or fathers," Jade Lantern interjected.
"You are correct wielder of the ring of order," Oracle said. "All of us represent portions of a life that could have been, but was not to be. We are the products of wishful thinking and flights of fancy, travelers in the brooks that are fed from the river of time."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Gardener asked, scratching his head. Jade Lantern, who had already decided she liked her plant-loving relation, nodded her head.
"Look, I have to listen to all of this cryptic crap whenever I try to contact the Starheart," she began. "Can we cut the crap and get to the heart of it all?"
Oracle inclined her head, while Titan threw Jade Lantern a stern look. He wanted to say something to her but then he realized that both she and the Gardener simply represented the free spirit, rebellious side of his father. It had been that side of his personality that had caused him to eventually break free of the Batman and establish himself as Nightwing. Darkwing personified the rigid discipline that their father exposed himself to as he got older. "Of course," Oracle said.
She stepped towards the entire group, her arms hidden in the sleeves of her robes. "All of us are children of liaisons that were not meant to occur in the true scheme of things. We represent the lives that the hero Nightwing would have helped create had he been inclined to follow certain paths. In truth, none of us truly exist except in alternate realities."
The Gardener touched himself. "I'm as real as real can be. I breathe, I love and I laugh. I speak with the plants and they talk back to me."
"Being alive is not the same as being real," Oracle offered. Titan looked at Lightning, who shrugged. She didn't really understand it either.
"I've traveled through Hypertime before," Jade Lantern said. "I'm sure Blondie there has as well. We are still real…"
"No, you are alive and you exist, but you, like me, are the exception and not the rule." Oracle waited for some more comments and when she received none, she continued. "In the true stream of time, there is a man named Nightwing, who still has to find true love and still has to find his true place. In the flow of time, that is the way it is supposed to be, but there is a problem. A villain named Per Degaton engaged in battle with Nightwing and in the course of that fight, Nightwing was thrown from a time machine into the time stream."
"I remember my father talking about that," all of them except the Gardener said. They all looked astonished.
"But not all of you should remember it; in fact, at least one of you, Titan, is the product of what occurred afterwards. Nightwing fell through time, passing through reality after reality, making holes and causing his Hypertime duplicates to spill into the main time stream. For several months now, all of your realities have been part of the one true path of time."
"So, the real Nightwing is still falling through time, from where he was thrown from the time machine?" Darkwing asked. "Will this not continue to cause disruption?"
"It will draw more and more energy from the time stream, eventually causing the start of entropy, the end of time, over one billion years before it is supposed to happen," Oracle told them. "Untold lives will be lost because of it."
"You said I'm a product of all of this," Titan said. "Does that mean my reality is not supposed to exist?"
"You can bite me, scary-chick," the Gardener said. "My reality is my reality and as far as I'm concerned, this has nothing to do with me."
"How can you say that?" Lightning shot back. "This is our father we're talking about! All of our fathers!"
Oracle turned to Titan. "In the true time line right now, the events that led to your creation are occurring. While searching for a girl he suspected was his daughter, Nightwing entered a romantic relationship with Wonder Woman."
"Yeah," Lightning said as she turned slowly towards Titan. "It was during that little fling that my mother let my father know she was pregnant."
Soon the others were telling their stories, even the boisterous Gardener, and they started to find links here and there that connected them all to each other. "But none of us grew up with the other, so we have to come from different time lines."
"Except they are now blurring together…"
"And you see the true problem," Oracle said. "We must gather together to preserve not just time, but our own realities and everything we know. We must return things to the way they are supposed to be. Only we can do it because we are the only ones who have a true stake in the outcome."
"Don't forget the billions of lives at the end of time," the Gardener snorted. He didn't particularly care for people very much but he didn't hate them either. He just didn't concern himself with things that would take place trillions of years after his death.
"What must we do in order to restore order to the universe?" Jade Lantern asked, suddenly serious.
"First, Nightwing must be stopped from his fall through time. Second, we must rescue a young girl who is completely innocent from Per Degaton. Lastly, we must return this child to her proper time. She, like Nightwing, is being pulled through time as well and soon other realities will merge and it will speed entropy up even more." Oracle took a deep breath.
"Her name is Black Robin."