DC Comics Presents: Killing Roy Harper
Chapter 20: Superman and the Wardens
By Christopher W. Blaine
DISCLAIMER: Superman™ and all other characters and situations used in this story are ©2002 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for fan-related, non-profit entertainment only. This original story is ©2002 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author
The Time-Guardian was the first to note the silence.
For a few moments, he reflected on it. How long did he exist in silence when all sentient life had died off and he had waited until time ended. How long ago was that? He didn't remember anything about that time other than the silence. "The grave is silent," he murmured.
He tried again to look into the time stream in order to see his future, but again he was disappointed. The Time-Trapper had fixed it so that some of his powers did not work correctly in this dimension. He could change that, he supposed, but what was the purpose? Soon, he would be in the Prime Universe, living the life he deserved.
The life that had been taken from him.
He chuckled as he realized that even after everything he had done, after all that he had seen, he still had so much to learn. Recently, after lengthy discussions with Alexi, he came to realize that his belief that the Earth-1 Roy Harper had been chosen to live was wrong. Everyone got to die after the Crisis; everyone except the Psycho-Pirate. That left so many possibilities open to him. How would everything have turned out if his theory had been correct?
He moved over to the status monitors and saw that the lower levels had been breached. He saw nobody on the screens, but he was sure that his Legion had abandoned him to confront the heroes alone. That was fine with him. At the end of time, he was destined to be alone; how he got there was of no consequence.
The radar system detected someone flying in from the north and he assumed his former lover, Shyla, was coming to exact some sort of revenge for his throwing her to the side for the now-deceased Donna Troy. He still regretted killing her, but there was no choice. Their child would have taken away part of his abilities, perhaps even trapping him on this crazy world.
He thought about hurrying downstairs and killing the prisoners, but then he figured that the cells were the first place the invaders would go. He didn't want to confront them there, better here in the meeting hall.
He looked around one final time, realizing that this time tomorrow, it would all be over. He would be living his life somewhere else, giving up living as an immortal with no future to live as a mortal with no past. If he was successful, then he would grow old and die and he wondered if he was ready.
He wondered if he still had a soul.
A bruised and battered Nightwing was the first hero to enter the chamber, still recovering from the effects of being chained with Kryptonite. The leader of the heroes, it made sense that he would be the very first to throw himself into death's embrace. "Welcome, Van Zee of Krypton," the Time-Guardian said, beckoning the hero in.
Nightwing said nothing but instead tried to fly. He fell to the floor with a thud, spent. Two winged humans them flew in, one, the male, armed with a wicked mace. The Time-Guardian recognized Hawkman, but had no idea who the other woman was. She was obviously Native American and he was briefly reminded of his youth on Earth-2. His father had been killed in a plane crash and a local tribe took in young Roy Harper.
Hawkman swung and landed a killing blow, but it had no effect because the Time-Guardian generated a temporal field around his body. The mace's head aged a billion billion years in less than one second and simply became free atoms. He struck out, swinging his fist through various time shifts, increasing its speed to the point that when it hit, ribs turned to powder and organs were squashed.
Hawkman cried out in pain and flew into a wall. The woman came at him next, trying to distract him from the attack coming in the form of Wonder Woman. This Amazing Amazon reminded him of the one he knew in his childhood, but he knew that she, like the life he had loved so dearly, were nothing more than memories now and when he passed from this life, they wouldn't even be that.
Wonder Woman's expert use of her magic lasso probably made her a formidable combatant against your everyday villain. The Time-Guardian was anything but that. If he had been wearing his black armor or carrying any of a variety of weapons he had stolen from a thousand lifetimes, he would have most likely engaged her in physical combat.
"You have corrupted everything that is good in the universe; slain children in the name of Order! You are chaos incarnate!" she cried out, letting a golden hoop fly towards the Time-Guardian.
He caught it with reflexes honed by years of archery training and held it firm. "My powers are magical in nature my dear Amazon; your lasso has no effect on me. You might as well be throwing common rope."
She grunted and tugged guessing that he was about to try the same thing. Her muscles bulged and he fell ungracefully. Immediately, he was back up, smiling. "A valiant effort, but all for naught. Give this up; it isn't worth dying over!"
"You! You were once a hero!" Dawnstar called out as she landed full force onto his back. Again, he fell down more from surprise than actual damage. "It is a calling, a noble vocation where one puts the lives of others before their own!"
"All he has ever been concerned about is his own life, the selfish bastard!" Super-Woman said from the doorway. She was helping Nightwing to his feet. "Ah, the proverbial scorned woman returns!" the Time-Guardian laughed.
"I was your lover, Roy," she said, the thought now making her sick to her stomach, "but I was never scorned! That would indicate that your refusal to take me as your bride meant that I missed out on something, that I had a reason to be scornful!" She sat Nightwing down without taking her eyes off of the Time-Guardian. "You never had anything to offer me!"
"I gave you life!" he cried out, ducking a punch from Wonder Woman.
"By Rao! I will not stand for this blasphemy any longer!" Super-Woman cried out, launching herself at super-speed towards her adversary. His time field came to life and she passed by him as he moved through the milliseconds to the side. As she tried to stop, he path took her straight towards Dawnstar.
Even with her enhanced senses, the former member of the Legion of Super-Heroes could not avoid the red and blue missile coming at her. Super-Woman managed to decrease her speed enough to keep from killing Dawnstar, but the impact knocked her cold.
Wonder Woman was no so easily fooled and she began assaulting the Time-Guardian with the skills of a warrior born. Though he had studied various forms of the martial arts in his lifetime, he was unprepared for the savage finesse of Wonder Woman's attack. Within one short minute, she had managed to draw blood.
The Time-Guardian was not completely defenseless or without the ability to deal out similar punishment. An ugly bruise had already formed between Wonder Woman's ample breast and she knew another heart punch type attack would break her sternum. Her left thigh was also red from several kicks it had received.
The Amazon gave a roundhouse kick that made the Time-Guardian stumble back into the waiting arms of Super-Woman. The Maid of Might applied a bear hug, but her lack of experience kept her from lifting her quarry off of the floor. The Time-Guardian planted his feet firmly on the ground. His head slammed back and caught her in the chin. Tears immediately formed in her eyes and her hold relented after another blow.
Kid Flash slowly made his way in, supporting both a battered and bruised Aquagirl and a half-asleep Dark Flash. He saw what was happening and called out. "Hey, how about you and me dance?"
Kid Flash nodded. "And I'm not alone," he said with a smile. From behind him, Cheshire and Arsenal stepped out.
The Time-Guardian's eyes flared with blue lightning and he backhanded Wonder Woman to the side. She crumpled to ground without a sound. Super-Woman made a move but suddenly stopped. Her eyes went up to a great skylight, made of a material devised by the late Alexi Luthor, and beheld as an angel seemed to descend. The glass broke and it rained like small pieces of reality down upon them. A figure floated down, a large man with a billowing cape. He landed between the Time-Guardian and the others.
"Superman?" the Time-Guardian asked, his voice suddenly quiet. "You're early."
He folded his arms over his chest. "No, I'm late." He looked beyond the Time-Guardian to Super-Woman. "Are you alright, young lady?"
Super-Woman stared at the man with the familiar face crowned by gray hair, just a hint of black at the top. This was Superman, but it wasn't. This was a man whose presence radiated pure power and charisma. His wizened eyes drifted slowly back to the Time-Guardian as she answered. "Yes, sir."
He nodded. "Good. Would you please see to Diana?"
Wonder Woman croaked out a response. "I'm her mother."
He let a small smile cross his face. "Of course, my apologies." He then returned his attention to the man in front of him. "This must stop now, Roy."
"Ha! Alexi is going to be sorely disappointed that I'm going to kill you myself," the Time-Guardian laughed. "You may have been the big thing on our world, Clark, but you're nothing compared to me."
Superman seemed unimpressed. "I'm not here to prove who is tougher than who; I've never been about that and you know it. That has never been the way of a hero."
"You sanctimonious bastard! You ran away with Alexander Luthor to live! You got to live and the rest of us got to die!" Blue sparks shot from his clenched fists. "Some hero!"
"This will stop now."
The Time-Guardian screamed. Waves of time and anti-time warped around them, shimmering the air like waves of heat coming off a desert highway. Superman started to move, to try and force the former Speedy's hands down, thinking that they were directing his power, but he suddenly felt himself being torn asunder. Hundreds of copies of Superman appeared all overlapping each other, each one slightly different. Some had the same costume; others had a marginally altered "S" on their chest. There were even some female versions.
Kid Flash guessed what was happening. "He's breaking him down into pure Hypertime, creating reality upon reality using him as the template! Eventually the strain of creating so many alternate timelines will cause an implosion!" That would then result in the death of the elder hero and though he didn't know exactly who this Superman was, the fact that he wore the big "S" was all he needed to know.
He started running, generating a bubble of pure Speed Force that let him plow straight through the time waves. He pierced them at super-speed and was past the Superman and in the Time-Guardian's face in the blink of an eye. "You son of a bitch! You destroyed my world!"
The two men fell back as Kid Flash put his hands around his enemy's throat. "Die you bastard!" the hero cried as he applied more pressure. His own connection to the Speed Force held off the Time-Guardian's assault.
More pressure was applied and the Time-Guardian grunted. He could not be killed in such a manner but having an inferior copy touching him so was angering him beyond measure. "Get off of me you thing!"
Kid Flash beat the Time-Guardian's head on the floor. "Go spit!"
Bringing his fist underneath, the Time-Guardian punched hard into the stomach of Kid Flash. The hero had no choice but to let go and was then forced off with another punch. The Time-Guardian was up and kicking the downed hero when someone called out to him.
"Let's end this," Arsenal said as he directed Cheshire to help the stumbling Superman.
Okay, Harper, Arsenal thought to himself, this guy has taken out Hawkman, Wonder Woman and Superman. Now would be a good time to kick his ass.
"This has always been about you and me," Arsenal said as he pulled a composite bow off of his back. "It's not about power. It's not about changing history. It's about which one of us is the real deal. You say it's you. The universe says its me."
The Time-Guardian's form shift and suddenly he was clad in the Speedy costume he had started his career in. It had been the costume of the partner of the Earth-2 Green Arrow, a hero that had served as a member of the Justice Society of America. He had been lost in time as one of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. He had died as a young boy.
"I was first. There is no disputing that fact. The powers that be chose you over me."
"That's such a load of crap, you know that? You are the biggest whiner I've ever seen. You might be immortal, but you sure need to grow up. God, I wasn't this bad when I was a teenager!"
The Time-Guardian pointed at him. "No, because you were too busy being a dope-fiend!"
"Yeah, I did drugs. Yeah, I had a kid out of wedlock with a woman whom I love more than life itself and she turned out to be a mass murderer." He pulled out an arrow and notched it. His counterpart grabbed a longbow from out of the time stream. "Sure, maybe I do sleep around a little too much with fantastically beautiful women…"
"Too much debauchery," the Time-Guardian said as he selected an arrow from his quiver.
"Says the guy who had a Kryptonian mistress. I suppose if she's white, it's all right. Forget your roots?"
A sneer was the only reply. "You try so hard to be like me."
"Dude, I'm nothing like you."
The Time-Guardian let loose with his shaft. It was split in two halfway towards Arsenal by his own missile. "Case in point."
Arsenal's arrow lodged into the Time-Guardian's shoulder, but he disregarded it. "A lucky shot."
"I had my eyes closed."
The Time-Guardian pulled out another arrow and notched it. "Really?" He took his aim off of Arsenal and directed it towards Cheshire, whose back was to them as she helped Superman. The arrow shot away.
Arsenal pulled two arrows from his quiver and loaded one. He let it go at the speeding arrow and then brought the other one around to the Time-Guardian. A bare centimeter before the Time-Guardian's arrow struck the unsuspecting Cheshire, Arsenal's struck the head and diverted it into Superman's shoulder where it bounced off.
The Time-Guardian looked down to see another arrow stuck in his abdomen. He called upon his powers and aged the arrows into dust. "You're no match for me. I am the original."
"Yeah, and I'm the upgrade," Arsenal said. "Welcome to Speedy XP, bitch."
The Time-Guardian threw down his bow and marched towards Arsenal. The hero fired off three quick shots, but the time field around him disintegrated the arrows before they could touch him. "This is over."
"Yes," a calm voice called from behind them, "it is."
The man was young and clad in golden armor, curly red hair falling down onto his shoulders. He had an easy smile, a calm demeanor, like a priest ready to give a sermon. "Are you okay, Clark?" he asked.
Superman straightened up. "For someone who just gave birth to a hundred new realities against his will, I feel fine." He wiped some blood from his lip where it had trickled down from his nose. "Getting too old for this."
"You!" the Time-Guardian bellowed. "No!"
Alexander Luthor's voice was like a sweet melody. "You wanted to die, didn't you? You wanted to be with those you loved."
"It explains it all. The failed plans using incapable operatives. Killing all of those people, waiting for God to judge you. Creating a world and then filling it with heroes that defeat you at every turn. Killing your own child to prevent your legacy from continuing." Alexander spread his arms out. "You keep trying to deny it, Roy, but its true. You didn't want to be immortal and you didn't want to destroy the life of Roy Harper. You wanted to be set free."
"No, damn you! I want to live! I want to live!"
"Then why haven't you gone to the Prime Universe? You could go at any time, yet you wait around here for your enemies to pounce on you."
The Time-Guardian's shoulder's sagged and a sound came from his lips that nobody could identify. Alexander stepped forward. "You know I'll stop you. I have the power of the time within me. You have disrupted time too much and I've come to take you with me."
"I had nobody…"
"Take my hand, Roy," Alexander said, offering it. "Take it and come with me. I know you want to do the right thing."
"I'm sorry," the Time-Guardian whispered and then his head popped up. Blue lightning flared from his eyes and he let loose with a storm of time. Alexander stood there in the center of the maelstrom, shaking his head.
The man in the golden armor closed his eyes and brought his hands together. Bright yellow light and orange plasma began to emanate from them. The time storm picked up in intensity, battering away at Alexander's natural defenses. The heroes grabbed a hold of anything they could as they were threatened with being pulled into the center.
Alexander's light began to beat back the Time-Guardian's and the former Speedy screamed in rage and anguish. Through the cascading images being produced, everyone could see the crimes of the Time-Guardian being played out. All of the souls he had condemned to early death cried out to him and he roared even loader against the onslaught.
Colors and sounds whirled, moans and screams bit through the air, piercing wails of sadness as Alexander opened up a gateway. "I was first!" the Time-Guardian screamed.
"That doesn't mean you get to be last," Alexander answered as the gateway opened completely. The Time-Guardian's powers suddenly failed. The voices stopped and the winds died. In an instant, he was gone.
Kid Flash and the Dark Flash immediately started to throw up. "It's okay," Alexander called out as the other heroes went to their rescue. "I put the Time-Guardian in the one place he can't escape."
"The Speed Force?" Arsenal asked.
Alexander smiled and took Superman's offered hand. "I offered him the opportunity to surrender. He refused. Teenagers."
Arsenal scratched his head and then suddenly realized it was over. "My daughter!"
"Is safe. Lian Harper is destined for greatness. Her spirit is strong." He closed his eyes and again brought his hands together. There was a flash of light and then a small, dark-haired girl stepped into view.
Arsenal dropped to his knees and accepted his daughter's joyful hug. Tears flowed freely and all of the heroes had to dry their eyes. Here was the reward for their efforts. All of the sacrifice and pain had been worth it for this moment. Arsenal let her wipe her nose on his costume and he looked up. "How?"
"She came to me when the Donna Troy of this world died. The child she carried was, in spirit, your daughter. It is hard to explain, time often is, but she instinctively knew what to do. She wanted to save her daddy."
Superman looked down as Lian looked up at him. "Look, daddy, it's Grandpa Superman."
The Man of Steel stooped down and rubbed her head, messing up her hair. "I don't have a lot of time, but you think your daddy would let me fly you out of this place. Do you like ice cream?"
"Daddy/" she asked, the horror of the events that just took place being replaced by the prospect of dessert with Superman.
He consented and watched as they leapt into the sky with an "up, up and away!"
"I won't remember anything?" Arsenal asked. The Wardens were seated around the table along with Wonder Woman, Superman and Alexander Luthor.
"Yes and no," Alexander said with an approving nod from Nightwing. "It will all seem like a dream. You have to remember that right now, the Prime Universe is missing its Roy Harper. As soon as you go back, you'll fall back into your life. You and your daughter."
"I've got the jet warming up," Wonder Woman said as she sipped her tea.
"I don't know what to say," Arsenal began. "This has all been too much. I mean, what were the Time-Guardian's real motives? Did the Crisis actually happen? Did it happen the way I remember it?"
Superman leaned forward. "Son, the only thing you need to worry about is raising that very special little girl."
Nodding, Arsenal stood up and accepted hugs and handshakes from the Wardens. "You especially take care," he said to Kid Flash.
The alternate Roy Harper grinned wide and wrapped an arm around Aquagirl's waist. "I'll be okay and don't worry; I'll know if that bastard ever tried to get out."
The Dark Flash stepped up. "We will both know."
"You ever run by Titans Tower, stop in," Arsenal offered. The Dark Flash laughed.
Eventually, Nightwing and the Huntress stepped up. "Uh, Roy, we know that you have to go home, but we'd like to make you an honorary member of the Wardens."
He stepped back. "Really? What do I get?"
Nightwing shrugged. "Nothing."
From the personal journal of A.L.:
It felt good to be doing something useful again and I know Clark was thrilled to be able to get out and stretch. Of course, he beat me home and when I got here, he was laying in that hammock again with Lois.
At the end of the Crisis, I used my powers for what I believed was going to be the last time when I rescued Clark and Lois and the Earth-Prime Superboy. How was I supposed to know I was the catalyst that would start Hypertime? Perhaps I should have waited a while longer; if I had, maybe I would have been able to stop Speedy from the beginning.
It doesn't matter now; time is restored and the restrictions on my powers have been put back into effect. I'm still amazed at the courage found in the soul of Lian Harper. One day, the universe will certainly shake at her presence.
I managed to broker a deal between Nightwing and Dominus to allow for dual-ownership of the rift for the next seven years that also included a truce between the Wardens and the Legion of Doom. They share stewardship and perhaps a few more souls from the Crisis will get a second chance.
I still cannot be happy, though, as I remember that trapped in the Speed Force is someone who had been given a second chance and threw it away. Pity poor Roy Harper, the young boy who never got to be a man.
"I wish I could stay and I know I have to go," Roy said. "I'm so confused."
Cheshire smiled and laid her head on his bare chest. "I'm going to miss you, you know that? I've never met a man like you."
"I'll always be in your dreams, babe," he responded.
"Hey! Wake up!"
Roy Harper sat up straight, his head moving back and forth. "It's about time," Oliver Queen said, holding a mug of steaming coffee. "Can't handle your liquor, can ya?"
"I'll take youth over experience any day," he said as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Man, that was a weird dream. Ollie, have you ever heard of the Composite-Superman?"
"Is that made with rum?"
Roy fell back onto the pillow. He was inside Oliver's apartment in Star City. One of many. "Where's Lian?"
"Daddy! Papaw Ollie is making chili for breakfast!"
"Great. Tell you what, leave the coffee and give me a minute, okay?" Oliver agreed and set the mug down on the nightstand before scooping Lian up. They disappeared into the apartment proper, a conversation on the benefits of beans for the heart going on between them.
Roy rolled over and reached down for his pants and rummaged through them for his cell phone. He sat up and dialed in a number that he knew by heart, a number that the U.S. government would kill to have. There was a pause and then it rang.
It picked up before the second ring. "Yes."
"Roy? Is Lian alright?"
"Yeah. I just wanted to call." He paused. "I wanted to hear your voice."
"You have to stop doing this to us," she responded with a sigh. "You have to move on. If not for yourself, then for Lian."
"Like you'd let anyone else be her mommy."
"Roy. This is killing you, I can tell from your voice."
"I just wanted to tell you…that…that…I'll…"
"I know. You'll love me forever. I love you too."
The line went dead and Roy Harper put his arm over his eyes and silently cried.
Two eyes looked out, a set of evil orbs staring into the abyss. Two eyes belonging to a very confused and quite insane being that had lived until the end of time and back stared out into the time stream.