Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. Any similarities with the real world are purely coincidental. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Notes about this story can be found on my profile.


Act II

Captain Hammer (Pathways and Shadows)

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(What would you do if you could repeat a single day? If you could change a single event, and alter the outcomes of a thousand different tragedies? Would you rise to the challenge, as an good hero should? Or would you do nothing at all?)

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Captain Hammer awoke to his third Saturday in a row.

Now, this wasn't exactly a normal occurrence, but in this age of television and hour-long dramas, who could blame Captain Hammer for his lack of shock? The Groundhog Day Effect was, after all, something one saw in popular media all the time: a single day, repeated indefinitely until some disastrous event was avoided. Captain Hammer had, in fact, read several comic book issues on the subject – being a superhero meant being knowledgeable of his genre, even if he would rather be working out than reading.

And thus, Captain Hammer picked his fantastically muscular self up out of bed, slamming his fist on to his alarm clock so that he could hear the gears within it cracking as it was silenced. He stood up, stretched, and smiled at himself in the mirror as he got dressed.

He still couldn't figure out what he was supposed to do.

The day he was reliving was a day that he had considered to be perfect. There had been no crime – no great evil had been committed, no dastardly plot had been even mentioned, let alone defeated or left victorious. No resident had cried out despair. Nobody had, to his knowledge, cried out for their savior that day.

But regardless of his confusion, Captain Hammer put on his brightest smile as he left his house, a fantastic piece of architecture that, shaped like a hammer, of course, loomed over the city. During the afternoon, its shadow would cover three city blocks. As he stepped outside, the glare from the midmorning sun reflected in to his eyes. He squinted until he was far enough from the tower that the sunlight no longer glared upon his face, think all the while of, for the second time, the events that would, and should, transpire that day.

First, Captain Hammer would mull around the city until, upon reaching a particular crosswalk, he would help a poor, elderly specimen cross the street. After posing for photos to commemorate his dashing charms, he would then make haste to the Mayor's humble abode (not nearly as amazing and ultimately awesome as his own), and "convince" him to allow the Caring Hands Association the use of a particular building that would be, until Captain Hammer so kindly pointed out its significance, left alone or even slated for demolition. Then, he would go to the laundromat, pick up his totally-amazingly-hot-bookish girlfriend Penny, and the two of them would return to the Hammer Tower and have sex.

That last thing had been his favorite part.

#

The fourth saturday.

"Captain Hammer, are you feeling alright?" asked a small girl as he patrolled the city. She was a wide-eyed, youthful looking child, though her dirtied appearance, most likely the result of a few hours terrorizing some sandbox somewhere, made Captain Hammer all the more eager to hightail it out of the slums.

"Of course!" he said, flexing his muscles and putting on his most dazzling fake smile. This seemed to reassure the little girl, who smiled her most truthful smile, in juxtaposition to Captain Hammer's façade.

This was the fourth time he had seen it, and the second time he had even made contact with her. The first day - he first time he had lived through it, at least – he had ignored her completely, regarding her as only a speck in the dirt, something upon which great men like him spat or stepped with finality. Really, he found that his feelings hadn't changed, but now there was no way to avoid interaction.

She ran off, and Captain Hammer sighed with relief. He didn't like dealing with people other than the press, the mayor, Penny (oh beautiful, pale skin and delicate curves!), and his idiot of a nemesis. Somebody took a picture behind him, the flash of a camera pervading the edges of his vision, and Captain Hammer turned to pose; there was no need to let his loyal fans down.

#

The seventh saturday.

Already, the day was almost over, as if his sense of time degraded as each set of twenty-four hours passed by, now in more whirs than ticking moments. He and Penny (delightfully red-apple lips, that graceful smile...), just the two of them, walking hand in hand in to the Hammer Tower ,where a night of intrigue and passion awaited them... Though this was the seventh time it had happened, Captain Hammer found that he enjoyed it no less, even after a week of having to take Penny's hand, of opening the door and closing it behind them, as walking through all of his crime-fighting equipment and listening to his girlfriend's "ooh"s and "ahh"s.

The two of them ended up, after an hour of meaningless drabble (the seventh hour of it, and thank God it was over), in the Hammer Bedroom. Penny sat down on the bed, intimidated slightly by the hammer-themed bedpost and the many, many awards that lined the walls. She looked so cute when she shivered.

Without waiting for any sort of consent from his guest, Captain Hammer sat down on the bed beside her, his bulk pressing down on the covers, and held Penny close to his chest.

"Well, now, shall we?" he said, and what he was implying was obvious. But then, something changed; Penny did something she had never done before.

She pushed away. Something had changed.

"I'm not sure if this is a good idea," she said. She was looking down, hands clenched, her features both bashful and firm. "It seems like we're going too fast."

Penny looked as though she was squirming in her seat, shifting uncomfortably as Captain Hammer leaned against her. It was different.

Something had changed.

Captain Hammer found himself split in to two very different trains of thought. One was excitement: it was different! Penny had never refused him before – she was far too enamored with his fantastic, heroic appeal to offer up any sort of refusal. Already a week's worth of this moment had passed by, and only now was Penny asserting her rights as a human being. The other part of him, the far more natural set of processes in his mind, was just slightly disappointed, and longing, and could only stare in to Penny's wholefully pure eyes...

He gave in to that instinct.

#

The twenty-fifth saturday.

Captain Hammer groaned, weariness apparent in every over-proportionate joint in his body. The medication he had taken hours ago, to stave off the absolutely horrid headache he had woken up with, was starting to wear off, and he felt the undeniable throb of restlessness and dull pain pull at the back left side of his head.

He was still missing something – he knew it, felt it somewhere in his heart that he could no longer ignore – but was unable to find it. Little things were changing, but by bit, but none of them could pull Captain Hammer in to tomorrow. In his head (while he wasn't gushing over his own amazingness or bathing in the praise of other – he enjoyed it even as the days repeated) he mulled over his small, small mental list of the things that had changed:

The most drastic change, of course, was that Penny was almost completely unwilling to comply with his advances. But that was a situation that, with proper wooing, was easily remedied...

Small events happened out of order, sometimes: the lady who he helped to cross the street would sometimes glance at him mistrustfully, and other times she would grasp his hand entirely in her will. Sometimes the photo-shoot went off without a hitch, and sometimes it was a disaster. Sometimes it was sunny outside, and sometimes the sky was bleakly overcast.

But it was always (and this frustrated Captain Hammer endlessly, maddeningly) the same date.

#

The forty-third saturday.

Or, at least, he thought it was – he often found himself losing count. For all Captain Hammer knew, it could be the fiftieth saturday, or the ninetieth saturday, or the thousandth saturday. It seemed that, through the constantly pervading feelings of frustration, he didn't care much what day it was, as long, tomorrow, it would be over. He had resorted even to, in order to see what single thing he needed to change, repeating each day in almost exactly the same manner as he did on the first. By replicating each event, he hoped to find the one thing that would thrust him in to tomorrow.

This saturday was one of a particularly fervent, negative sort. All things had turned to the negative – the woman seethed, the photos were a disaster, the armored car was robbed successfully, the sky drizzled on and off with rain, and all other manners of small catastrophes – and Captain Hammer found the world to be a much darker place in reflection of his own personal Hell. When he finally made it to sunday, he decided, he would personally destroy half the city in retribution for his trials.

But he was headed to the laundromat, now, where a single event that always occurred never failed to fill him with satisfaction. Penny would be there, smiling, radiant, and Captain Hammer would sweep her off her feet, and that poor excuse for a villain -

The doorbell made a faint "Ping!" as he entered, creating a firm and purposeful blockade between Dr. Horrible, dressed rather convincingly as a civilian, and any hopes for escape.

They exchanged pardons, Dr. Horrible refusing to look Captain Hammer in the eye, probably in order to hide the obvious, evil glint within them. In such simple clothes, Dr. Horrible almost looked human. But Captain Hammer knew that, as soon as he was alone, that mask would slip off and, donning his mediocre-at-best supervillain outfit, Dr. Horrible's malevolence would shine through his obviously faulty good intentions.

"Billy, this is Captain Hammer," said Penny, introducing them for what she believed was the first time. She was flustered, her delicate features pinkened like a freshly cut flower, though about what Captain Hammer had never been able to decipher.

Billy? "Oh! Billy!" exclaimed the Captain. He forgot so easily that Billy was the name Dr. Horrible used when masquerading as a functioning member of society. "The laundry buddy. Well, it is very nice to meet you."

More pleasantries were exchanged. When Captain Hammer announced that the Caring Hands Homeless Shelter would indeed get their poor, decrepit building, Penny was ecstatic, as usual. She gave Captain Hammer a light peck on the cheek, an act which no longer held any sort of heavy significance, and ran off to complete her laundry before the two of them would walk off in to the now brightening sky.

Captain Hammer, seizing his moment, pulled Dr. Horrible close, as if to impart upon him some great secret. I know that you have something to do with this.

"Well, it was sure nice to meet you...Doctor." Dr. Horrible's gaze hardened.

There was something wonderfully melodious about taunting the Doctor. It was a constant in all senses of the word: a constant whispering in his ears, a constant satisfaction at watching Dr. Horrible squirm, a constant pleasure when he walked out that door with Penny at his side, not once looking back. That singular feeling buzzed through the air like song, a melody to which he could almost hear the lyrics. 'Cause I believe there's good in everybody's heart... Captain Hammer, too busy with his own amusement, duitifully ignored the sound of Penny's voice in his memory.

"You got a little crush, don't you, Doc? Well, that's gonna make this hard to hear..."

Briefly, Captain Hammer noted the harshness of his words. Had he been so cruel before, the first time he had confronted the Doctor, or was he filled with extra malice just today. wanting so badly to vent is frustrations? Once again, Captain Hammer, pushed down any opposition to his actions, the churning in his gut that responded negatively to his enmity brutally forced down, though it was hardly even a whisper anymore.

"I'm gonna give Penny the night of her life, just because you want her...and I get what you want." Dr. Horrible was shaking in anger, now. Was that hatred in his eyes? Rage? Or was it that spark of evil, that darkness that Captain Hammer had always known, without a doubt, was there? "See, Penny's giving it up. She's giving it up hard. 'Cause she's with Captain Hammer – and these," he whispered, holding up his fists for good measure, "are not the hammer."

He spun on his heels, even making sure to explain himself in detail to the fuming villain, before Penny took his hand in hers and the two of them left the laundromat in bliss. Captain Hammer felt, despite all the torment of the last endless days, a brief moment of relief. Even if Penny struggled tonight, even if tomorrow was still saturday and things went wrong yet again, even if he still could not identify what to change to save him from this cycle, breaking little Billy-buddy always made him feel better.

He never noticed that Billy stood there, unmoving, as they left. He never noticed the ceasing of the Doctor's shaking, which was replaced by a calculated calm. He never noticed Dr. Horrible's frown turn to a grin that would probably make Bad Horse whinny with anticipation.

It's a brand new day...

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(They were blinded by selfishness, always acting out for their own motives alone, and it was in that manner that the tragic cycle of their little play continued indefinitely.)