Prologue: 19th Nervous Breakdown
The ironic part of time-travel, Batman realized, wasn't the fact that at one moment he was standing on the Watchtower's transporter pad next to Green Lantern and Diana then a millisecond later transported backward in time to 1853 in pursuit of Chronos, the self-proclaimed "time thief". As one of the world's foremost engineers and scientists, Batman was comfortable with both the theory and practical parts of time-travel. After dealing with the Clock King in Gotham and Vandal Savage's attempt to alter the course of World War II, Batman was comfortable fabricating the technology which allowed him, Lantern and Diana to chase Chronos wherever he journeyed in the time continuum.
While he was comfortable with the fact that he was in control of both the science and engineering responsible for their time travel, the real irony was the welcome feeling of lunacy, no, the veritable insanity, that raced thru his mind as they traveled to 1853. Even more surprising was the manner in which his mind embraced the insanity; like old friends intent on renewing a long-lost acquaintance.
Two years prior to this journey, six of his seven original League teammates had traveled through time to thwart Savage's takeover of the Nazi regime. Upon their return, Batman had taken copious notes of the side-effects resulting from time travel, logging them into the computer for future reference. He'd even re-interviewed Clark after his return from Savage's future world, asking for a comparison of the experience between Toyman's tachyon beam and Savage's time machine.
Unfortunately for Batman, none of his teammates had either thoroughly or accurately described the dreamlike sequence that followed the gut-wrenching acceleration through the time portal he'd constructed on the transporter pad at the Watchtower. His mind sifted through various analogies that he might choose to log into the computer upon his return. Initially settling on the feeling of an onion being peeled back layer by layer, he dismissed the comparison, looking for a more visceral anecdote. He finally settled on a theory that time travel must be a similar experience to birth as the effects on his pysche were jarring enough so that he was suddenly generating feelings of sympathy for Joker's dementia.
'This is why scientists theorize the memory of childbirth is wiped from our memories.' He grimaced (or his mind imagined him grimacing if it was possible to do so while your essence is being stretching across 150 years) as his body continued accelerating through the time stream. 'It would be too traumatic for newborns to remember their births therefore their memories are wiped. Denial is a normal subconscious response to stress. The other six must have wiped the trauma from their memories.'
The man who prided himself in maintaining control over every situation he encountered found time travel to be increasingly debilitating. In fact, as the very core of his being was stretched along the teseract, he found a surprisingly large part of his mind wanted to go insane: Quickly.
'I didn't anticipate the time-jump would have such an effect on me.' He mused, then the newly insane part of him decided that he needed a good scream. As much as anything, the rationale for the scream seemed to be a desire to celebrate the surreal images of history flowing before his eyes. His rational mind fought for control like a drowning man fights for air, trying to suppress a budding desire to release a really good scream, but it didn't work. So he screamed like a lunatic at Arkham while his psyche tore itself to shreds.
Feeling his body release a primal energy he didn't know he had, the intellectual part of Batman desperately fought to preserve what was left of his sanity before it was left behind like an afterthought in the teseract. As his mind was coming apart at the seams, he needed an anchor to help him maintain his sanity. 'Diana,' he thought immediately. Desperate to maintain a hold on reality, he perused his memories, locking onto a particularly memorable exchange with Diana a month before.
They surveilled the Gotham Museum, waiting for an alleged heist by Intergang.
Diana peered down at two couples emerging from the Iceberg, a look of regret flashing across her face.
"Don't you ever wish you were down there?" she lamented.
"I'm down there all I need to be." Batman replied with a dismissive wave.
"Yes, but its just a job to you…I'm talking about going down there and having some fun. Maybe…maybe with someone special." Her eyes narrowed as she considered how pointless the exercise had become. "No, no dating for The Batman. It might cut into your brooding time."
He considered her for a moment before responding with a speech that she knew he'd probably rehearsed a dozen times to make it sound just right.
"One, dating within the team always leads to disaster.
Two, You're a Princess from a society of immortal warriors and I'm a rich kid with issues…lots of issues and
Three, if my enemies knew I had someone special, they wouldn't rest until they'd gotten to me, through her."
Diana crushed the head of the gargoyle to pieces, a poignant reminder her strength was more than sufficient to deal with any of his foes, including the formidable Bane. "Next?" she taunted, trying to determine the real reason why they couldn't date.
Bruce whipped his head back to the rear entrance of the Museum, spying a cloaked figure trying to pry open the back door. "There!" he barked, firing the grapple and gliding down the D-Cel line a moment later, thanking Intergang for their impeccable timing.
Bruce's disembodied mind fixated on that conversation as he slipped through time. 'Why did I rehearse those reasons for not dating her for an hour prior to meeting her on the building?' he wondered. He didn't have a good answer at hand when a maniacal laugh emanated a moment later from the depths of his mind. His rationale mind shuddered as the sound was eerily reminiscent of the Joker. 'I'm losing it.' He thought with panic. Fighting to regain a sliver of rational thought, his mind searched for an acceptable answer to the question he knew had no good answer. Luckily, his search for a plausible answer was interrupted a moment later when the two halves of his mind; the sane, rational part of him, and the newly insane part of him who could not accept time travel, were thrown back together in the form of his body in 1853.Chapter 1 – Time is on my Side
The Justice League (and in particular Batman) had become aware of Chronos activities on March 1, 2005. There was no mistaking his arrival and departure from the National Archives with both the Declaration of Independence and the original copy of The Constitution tucked under his arm. The video discs showed Chronos performing the thefts, but no one could tell how he'd managed to get past the phalanx of security. Batman spent twelve hours trying to determine how the thief has managed to steal those items without tripping any kind of alarm, narrowing the thief's modus operandi to either teleportation or time travel.
In the succeeding days, the self-proclaimed "Chronos, the Time Thief" (the thief actually left a calling card behind with that logo embossed in golf leaf to celebrate his thefts) made an indelible mark. Chronos engineered a series of high-profile robberies during the next two days, ranging from stealing two Van Gogh paintings worth $100 million from a small museum in Brussels to a $100 bill engraving mold stolen from the United States Mint. With the mold, the thief could churn out brand new $100 bills without detection as long as he changed the serial numbers. Until the U.S. Treasury could design a new engraving mold (a painstaking effort for the artists employed by the Mint), Batman estimated Chronos could print more than six hundred billion dollars of new bills.
Sitting in the Cave as Interpol announced the thefts, Batman immediately placed a bid for the mold on E-Bay, reasoning that whoever was responsible for the theft would be more interested in selling the mold than setting up an industrial printing press necessary to make the actual $100 dollar bills. He wasn't surprised when he got a counter-offer within fifteen minutes. Replying immediately, he set up a meeting place in Gotham's lower east-side docking districts then contacted Lantern and Diana, asking them to meet him at the designated location. He slipped on a disguise, somewhat of a cross between Matches Malone's street-thug and Bruce Wayne's playboy images, trying to appear both reputable and disreputable at the same time. He drove a non-descript sedan for the occasion, not wanting to attract undue attention with the Batmobile. Bruce/Matches arrived at the drop point twenty minutes later. Diana and Lantern waved at him from the rooftop of a building 200 meters away, then hid out of sight behind a chimney.
Chronos appeared out of thin-air a second later. Bruce's first thought was Chronos must be wearing the heaviest armor of any villain yet to face the League, then Batman realized the man was wearing a backpack large enough to contain a mobile power pack. It was roughly the size of the one Booster Gold used to travel back to their time and as such looked to be capable of warping space-time. Chronos also sported two shoulder-mounted lasers which appeared to track with his helmet as they swiveled to the same side where he cocked his head.
'Just like the Clock King,' Bruce thought, recognizing the local distortion of space-time which was quickly dissipating around the time-traveler. 'Now I know how he does it.'
Bruce made a show of being taken aback by the man's dramatic entrance, shielding his eyes and cowering to reinforce the act. He stammered a few times, taking great care to alter his voice. Bruce addressed the man with a Philly-accent as the rest of America always seemed to automatically feel sorry for people from that part of the country.
"You the seller? Where's the molds?"
"I'm the seller all right. Name's Chronos if you haven't heard of me." Chronos countered. H was unimpressed with the buyer once he'd placed the accent, then mentally relaxed his guard once he spied the cheap wool suit the man was wearing. 'Great,' Chronos thought, shaking his head in disgust. "Another moron from Philly. What a waste of time and effort.' He sighed then decided to go through the motions since he was here. "Are you Malone? Where's my money?"
Bruce/Malone flipped him a scrap of paper. "Numbered account in the Cayman Islands. Already has a billion in it. As soon as we've got some kind of proof that you have the molds, my employers will transfer the rest in and we'll give you the lock-out codes."
"Of course I have them!" Chronos replied with a sneer. "Didn't my arrival give you a clue of my capabilities? Besides, you are in no position to bargain."
"Neither are you!" Bruce/Malone barked in Batman's voice. "Now Lantern!"
Lantern's emerald energy sliced through the air a millisecond later, encapsulating Chronos in a green plasma bubble. Chronos laughed then shook his head as he realized the League had set him up.
"Batman, I presume?" Chronos asked, eyebrows raised at his captors. "Such a pity. I thought the bid for the molds was extremely fair. Well" he laughed, manipulating the wrist mounted computer on his left arm, "Back to square one. See you in the future!"
A blink of the eye later Chronos disappeared. There hadn't been an overwhelming energy discharge or any other means to overwhelm the green plasma. It was simply as if Chronos had blinked out of existence. Bruce walked forward to where Chronos had stood just a second before, probing the ground for evidence. Finding nothing, he turned to Lantern and Diana, who had now joined him on the docks.
"Can the Ring track him?" Bruce asked curtly. "He's a time traveler."
"Let's try it," Lantern replied doubtfully. "Where did he go?"
"The question is more like 'When did he go', I think." Bruce replied, stripping off the tweed jacket and tie to reveal his Batman uniform underneath while slipping on the familiar cowl. "Start tracking any displacements of energy, starting from where you had him contained. Time travel takes an enormous amount of energy. There should be some kind of residual signature."
"What can I do?" Diana asked with a frown, noting in her own mind that her powers were almost useless against a time-traveling criminal.
"Fly me back to the Cave as fast as you can. I've got some equipment there which may come in handy."
The flight to and from the Cave took them ten minutes. Flying in a familiar position side by side, they entered the Cave via the entrance normally reserved for the Batwing. Diana had waited patiently in the 'museum' portion of the Cave as Batman rifled through a drawer, ultimately producing a batch of palm-sized mechanical devices of an origin she didn't recognize.
Bored watching him stuff the devices and additional circuitry into a duffel bag, she took a moment to survey some of the trophies and other memories taken from villains he'd bested during his reign as Batman.
"Funny," she said, moving the giant penny into its original position. It had lain on the floor the past year since Flash had used it to take out two Thanagarians. (Inwardly she wondered why he hadn't bothered fixing most of the damage still visible from that battle). "I've often wondered why a man who's never demonstrated an ounce of sentimentality would have such a large museum commemorating his victories."
Batman's eyes flickered over her head for a moment. Zipping the duffel bag shut, his patience was already wearing thin. "Like I said, I've got issues. Can we go now?"
They touched down on the docks two minutes later and found the sullen Lantern they'd left a few minutes earlier replaced by a Lantern grinning like a cat who just eaten a canary. His ring had formed a circular tube about six feet in diameter, running around a perimeter at least forty feet.
"What did you find?" Batman asked, then nodded at the green tube surrounding his teammate. "I'm assuming you rigged up a superconductor?"
"Muons." Lantern replied with a grin, nodding at Batman's deduction of the tube's origin. "My ring can track the muons from his displacement field. What have you got there?"
"Some of the toys I took off the Clock King a few years back." Batman replied, eyes narrowing as he considered the information. "Basically localized time displacement fields."
Kneeling, Batman reached into the duffel bag and removed a disk-shaped mechanical device he'd taken from the Clock King two years before. He raised it up to shoulder height next to Lantern. "Can you interface your ring with the circuitry embedded in this device? I'm hoping the circuitry will assimilate the muons and point us in the right direction."
"You got it." Lantern replied, then altered the flow of the plasma to incorporate the device. Two seconds later the circuitry in Clock King's device sprang to life. The gyros inside took a few seconds to warm up. As soon as they were spun-up, the device emitted a light chirp which increased in tone to a steady beep a few moments later as Lantern changed the flow of the superconductor, raining the muons into the sensor mounted on top. A light on the face of the device changed from red to green a moment later. Lantern and Diana looked up at Batman expectantly however as usual he maintained his stoic silence.
"Where to next?" Lantern asked with a shrug at Diana, perplexed by his teammate's quiet reaction.
"When to is more like it." Batman replied, examining the readout on his pocket computer. "Mid 19th Century by these readings. I'll have to go back to the Watchtower to be more precise."
Diana and Lantern waited silently as their teammate scanned through the feedback on his handheld computer, then both of them saw his posture quickly stiffen, usually a precursor of bad news for the Dark Knight.
"What is it?" Diana asked with concern, moving in to look over his shoulder at the readings.
"The muon particles Lantern gathered are disappearing at an exponential rate. The half-life of the particles are only 20 minutes."
"What's that mean?" Lantern asked.
Batman ignored his teammates question, instead opting to trigger the comm. link in his ear. "J'onn. We need immediate transport. Watchtower." He looked at them as they started to dematerialize, noting "We've got five minutes before we lose his trail."
Within a second the three Leaguers were standing on the teleportation pad on the Watchtower. As soon as they materialized Batman triggered his comm. link a second time. He immediately set off towards the Monitor Womb, leaving Diana and Lantern in his wake. "Superman and Flash please report to the Monitor Womb. We have a priority situation."
John and Diana looked at each other in frustration for a moment then rolled their eyes in frustration. Quickly, they rose up and flew after their teammate towards the Monitor Womb. When the three of them arrived, Flash and Superman were waiting next to J'onn.
"What's up?" Flash asked expectantly.
"J'onn, can you pull up a file on the computer labeled 'Clock King, Subdirectory Time Piece'?" Batman asked, taking up station over the Martian's shoulder as he pulled the file off the JL computer drive.
Within a second the specifications of the device were displayed on the monitors over their heads. Batman toggled two keys to increase the scale of the device so it would be large enough to accommodate three people.
"Superman. Flash. I need your high-speed assistance in replicating this device according to these specifications. You have five minutes to build it or we'll lose our ability to track this "time thief" into the past before we lose his trail entirely."
Flash and Superman both opened their mouths to protest before Batman interrupted them. "Now would be a good time to start, gentlemen. I suggest building it on the transporter. It's the most accessible source of high energy on the Watchtower."
They both managed a weak shrug of their shoulders before they disappeared at lightspeed.
J'onn looked at his teammate then started making a series of calculations from the data displays on Batman's computer. "From the looks of your data, I calculate Chronos has escaped to California in 1853."
"March, 1853, to be precise." Batman countered a moment later, handing him his own calculations. He turned and strode back towards the transporter pad, barking over his shoulder as he walked. "John, Diana. You're with me."
J'onn was surprised by Batman's choices for mission members. "Are you sure you don't want Flash? His speed could be invaluable for this mission."
"These devices will help us move like Chronos. We won't need Flash." Batman explained, clasping a device onto their left arms as they walked. "However they're not powerful enough to get us back 150 years."
"So once we get there and capture him, how do we get back?" Lantern asked, wondering if he was being brought along on a one-way suicide mission.
"With your ring." Batman replied gravely, pointing at another device J'onn had provided them, courtesy of Booster Gold. "Save as much power as you can."
A moment later they returned to the Transporter where their time machine was being assembled at superspeed. "Almost done." Superman's disembodied voice informed them. A computer next to the transporter control was projecting a three dimensional holographic image over their heads which allowed the speedsters to check their work. A second later the device was complete. Flash smugly flipped a power switch on the transporter console he'd rigged up, then the time machine started humming. Its power requirements were enormous and the overhead lights actually flicked above them for a moment before the Watchtower's redundant power systems came on-line.
Batman looked at his computer to ensure they could still track Chronos in the time-stream, then walked over and took his place on the transporter pad.
"Aren't you even going to test it?" Flash asked, amazed the Dark Knight's would rush to try the time machine without testing it first.
"No time." Batman replied, then looked at Lantern and Diana. "You two coming?"
Author's Note: This story came to me once I read the plot summary for Episode #12 and #13 of JLU: The Once and Future Thing. According to the Cartoon Network web-site, The Once and Future Thing is a two-part episode whereby "In #12, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern chase a time traveling villain (identified as Chronos by another source) to the past, where they team up with the greatest heroes of the Old West. In episode #13, the JL's adventures take them forward in time to a rebuilt Gotham City, where they join forces with that era's Batman and his superteam: the Justice League Unlimited."
When I read that summary, my mind immediately thought RETCONN (Retroactive Connectivity Decision)! There are at least two Batman Beyond episodes (plus a Static Shock eppy?) which present a continuity problem (not that Timm has ever stated for a fact that BB is definitely in the continuity of his universe): Out of the Past (#44) and The Call (#50 & #51).
In the 44th episode of Batman Beyond 'Out of the Past", an older Bruce Wayne (probably in his mid to late 70's, though his age is never expressly stated) and his new apprentice, Terry McGuiness (who assumed the mantle of the Bat) attend a Broadway musical based on the life of Batman. It was Terry's treat for Bruce's birthday. The musical was so bad Bruce got up and left during the first act. That being said, one aspect of the show struck a chord: Bruce's days as Batman were in the past and his age and impending mortality weighed on him like an anchor.
Returning to the Cave that night, Bruce perused some photos of his past loves, including Zatanna, Catwoman, Lois Lane and even a picture with him cuddling with Barbara Gordon (though thankfully none of us have ever seen an eppy where Bruce puts the moves on Nightwing's main squeeze). The scene is a poignant reminder of Bruce's mortality and the loves he has let slip out of his grasp. Shockingly, the best known love of his life, Talia Head, the daughter of Ra's al-Ghul, interrupts his introspection by bringing him the same meal they'd shared in a café in France years before. Along with the food, Talia brought an offer which Bruce couldn't resist: immersion in the Lazarus Pit to restore his youth.
After a restoration from a dip in the Lazarus Pit, Terry and Bruce ultimately discover that Ra's had programmed his brain into his daughter's body but was actually looking to take over Bruce's newly rejuvenated form. Ra's palace was destroyed in the ensuing battle. Upon return to the Cave, Bruce looks at a picture of him with Talia in happier (and younger days) and whispers "Rest well, Beloved." Terry interrupts him and before Terry can speak, Bruce says "She was a very special woman." Terry's reply back to Bruce: "THE special woman?" Bruce's curt reply, "Are you going on patrol tonight?" let his apprentice know that the conversation was over.
Later in that continuity, in episodes #50 and #51, Terry McGuiness receives an invitation from a slightly older but still powerful Superman to join the Justice League Unlimited. In addition to Superman, Warhawk, AquaGirl, Big Barda, Green Lantern and Micron are members of the League. Unbeknownst to the League, Superman was under the control of Starro, an evil parasite in control of both his body and mind. Batman Beyond is invited to join the League, helping fill a gap in its rapidly depleting ranks (occurring as Superman is assasinating them one by one). After an epic battle between Supes and BB, BB ultimately removes Starro from Superman's body, returning Superman to the side of truth, justice and the American way.
My problem with the above is:
Why wasn't Wonder Woman in that group of past loves for Batman? and
Why is the future Batman (Terry McGuiness) leading the JLU in the future? What happened to Supes?
Answers to be found in the next chapters! Enjoy!
BTW: I may take some liberties with these characters to fit my plot line, but as I always like to say, not as many liberties as Bruce took with Diana last night!